Love for Other Believers
Ephesians Lesson #038
August 11, 2019
“Father, we’re just so grateful to be here. Thankful that You have provided so much for us. Father, we’re thankful that we have Your Word, that we have fairly accurate translations of Your Word, that we possess these, and in many cases, we have several copies of Your Word.
“But Father, we recognize that it’s not enough to simply have Your Word in our possession, but we must internalize it. We must learn what it means, we must read it, we must memorize it, we must internalize and make it part of our very lives. As Jeremiah pictured this, we must eat Your Word for it is good. We must absorb it into every aspect of our being.
“Father, as we study Your Word, we are often challenged with our own favorite opinions, our own favorite sins, and our own favorite beliefs. We have to learn to be transformed, not to be conformed to the thinking of the world around us, not to be conformed to that which is popular or that which is comfortable. But that we might be transformed by the renewing of our mind, as Paul says, and that the only way to do that is to learn Your Word, to study Your Word.
“Father, as we study Your Word today, we pray that You would help us to understand the significance of what we are studying, that we may think about ways to apply it, and that God the Holy Spirit would make clear to us how we are to transform our thinking in relation to what we study. We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
Open your Bibles to Ephesians 1, where we’re going to begin with the next sentence.
We have the opening salutation in Ephesians 1:1–2. Then there is an extended eulogy in the sense of a good saying or a blessing—the Hebrew berachah, a blessing statement—from Ephesians 1:3–14 which is the longest sentence in the Epistle to the Ephesians.
Starting in Ephesians 1:15 we have the second longest sentence in the Epistle to the Ephesians. The focus here is not on what God has provided for us, but the focus is on our response to that and an understanding of its implications as exemplified through this prayer of the Apostle Paul.
We’re going to look at Paul’s prayer. It’s a fascinating study to look at all of Paul’s prayers because they give us examples of how we should pray and what we should pray for. If these are the things that we are to pray for, then that means these are things that we should prioritize in our own spiritual life.
Often when people pray, I think that we pray in rather superficial ways, we think about immediate needs, we think about a lot of prayers related to health issues related to people we know, our own health issues, financial issues, things that are of immediate and pressing concerns in our lives.
But what we have in the Scripture is something that is much more profound: a way of praying about our own spiritual life and our own spiritual growth. We see this exemplified in this next section, which goes from Ephesians 1:15–23.
In Ephesians 1:15–16 Paul says, “Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers:”
In the New King James, it ends that sentence with a colon, which indicates not as full a stop as a period. Other translations will put a comma there. In fact, in one of the Greek texts I looked at, they don’t even punctuate anything, they just leave out all commas and everything else, and it’s just one long sentence.
If you look at some of your other translations, you’ll see that they seem to supply a comma at the end of each particular sentence.
One of the things that’s interesting—you learn little nuances to translations; but there are two things that I always thought were interesting about the King James translation, and that was first of all, it was written to be read out loud. Therefore, they tried to make each verse a sentence.
They couldn’t do that everywhere. That’s one of the reasons you’ll see a comma at the end of each verse. That was originally designed more to inform the public reading of the Scripture to take a pause than it was to mark out syntax. But over time these punctuation marks shifted their significance from marking out how it was to be read out loud to indicating more of a syntax.
We see in these verses one long sentence, most of which is talking about the content of Paul’s prayer. In the opening, Ephesians 1:15–16, which I just read to you, the focus is on the fact that Paul is praying for them whenever he is reminded of them.
It begins with this conclusion “therefore.” He said, “Therefore I also—and then you have a temporal clause, so you don’t get the main verb until you get to verse 16—do not cease to give thanks for you.” The main idea of this whole section is in that independent clause at the very beginning.
Then everything else that we have somehow relates to or feeds into that, as he begins to explain what the content of that prayer is beginning in Ephesians 1:17. So it’s quite interesting to see what his priorities are when he begins this prayer.
In the New King James it begins with “therefore,” and I always point out that whenever you have a “therefore,” you need to see what it’s there for. That translates this phrase in the Greek DIA TOUTO, which doesn’t literally mean “therefore.” Usually, another word is used.
This prepositional phrase is an idiom which has the same sense. It says, “For this reason,” and the Greek TOUTO there is the word for “this,” a demonstrative pronoun, which means it is referring back to something specific. That to which it refers is everything that is said between Ephesians 1:3–14.
We could paraphrase it this way, “In light of all of the spiritual provisions, assets, or benefits which God has given to each of you—that is as members of the body of Christ—you have been appointed and foreordained to a new mission and purpose. You have been adopted into God’s royal family, you have been redeemed and forgiven positionally of your sins, and you have been marked out as God’s own possession by the Holy Spirit, who is the down payment of your future redemption.”
Then he thanks God for them, and pointedly and intentionally prays for them. That summarizes the sense of what we see starting in Ephesians 1:15.
The “therefore” is translated in different ways in different translations. The Holman Christian Study Bible translates it “this is why,” the New American Standard translates it, “for this reason,” as do several others. Those seem to be the primary ways in which this word is translated.
“Therefore, I also …” In the Greek you don’t always have to put a first-person pronoun into a sentence to know who is speaking. The verb itself is a first-person singular, so we know Paul is saying, “I heard,” but he repeats it for emphasis and joins it to a conjunction, so he is emphasizing the fact that “I also …” He’s emphasizing the shift from what God did in Ephesians 1:3–14 to now what Paul is doing for them, as a result of what he has heard about them.
It’s interesting that when we have the word “hearing” in Scripture, it doesn’t just mean to have your ears—your auditory nerves—stimulated. It means to hear with a response. When you tell somebody, perhaps a child or someone else, and say, “Well, you didn’t listen to me,” what you’re really saying is you didn’t do what I said to do. And you find this over and over again in the Scripture that God says, “If you listen to Me, you will obey My Word. If you didn’t obey My Word, then you really didn’t listen to Me.”
This is part of the nuance of what Paul is saying here: that response, once he hears about how God is working in the spiritual life of the congregation in Ephesus, it brings about a response. And that response is to pray for them. So, he is going to pray for them.
It’s a participle in the Greek, and because it’s an aorist [tense], it has the idea of something that has already occurred, and it can be taken as either a temporal participle, which would be translated “after I heard,” and it can also be taken as causal, “since I heard,” and somehow both aspects of that get communicated here. It is after he gets a report on them, then he is going to respond in prayer.
He’s given of a report about their spiritual advance. If we remember our study in Acts and the progression of Paul’s ministry, in his second missionary journey he went to Ephesus, and was there for three years. So, he had a tremendous knowledge of the people who were in Ephesus. But now he is in prison in Rome, and it has been five or maybe six years since he has been in Ephesus.
Over that course of time, they have been very responsive to the Word, and the Holy Spirit has produced a lot of fruit in their lives in terms of spiritual production, spiritual maturity. Also, he has used them to bring many others to a faith in Jesus Christ—understanding the gospel.
During those five or six years, there are many new people there in Ephesus. We also know that (I briefly touched on this at the beginning) that Paul probably wrote this to the church at Ephesus. There is some doubt as to whether the phrase “in Ephesus” was in the original, but it was designed like the Epistle to the Colossians and others to be circulated among the churches in this area of what is now eastern Turkey. It wasn’t only directed to the church in Ephesus.
He is praising them for the fact that they have grown. He has heard good news from them, in contrast to, for example, 1 Corinthians, where he starts off almost immediately reprimanding them for all of the various sins that they are accepting in their congregation. The first two-thirds of that Epistle is correcting problems in Corinth.
In Galatians 1, he just lays into them right away because they have perverted the gospel. They have bought into a false gospel, what he calls “another gospel,” not the gospel that was preached to them. These were epistles designed to be corrections.
Then there were other epistles, for example, the epistles to the churches in Philippi. He had some corrections there, but it was mostly a letter of praise. The first letter to the Thessalonians is also a letter of much praise.
Ephesians is one where he starts off very positively praising them because of what is being produced spiritually in their lives. Ephesians 1:15, “I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus …”
This is interesting because he expresses the object of faith through the prepositional clause “in the Lord,” “your faith in the Lord.” This is used several times by Paul, and it expresses the object of our faith. As we look at this, we have to discern:
· Is he talking about their faith in terms of their salvation in Phase 1, justification?
· Or is he talking about their continued faith and trust in the Lord in terms of their spiritual growth in Phase 2?
There are several times when Paul uses this expression PISTEUO EN, believe in Jesus.
One of the things that comes up when you may be having conversations with people or trying to understand some things, and you may hear some preacher or some pastor make a point about this, that there are two different ways that the New Testament expresses our belief: what we believe in, the object of our faith.
In several passages Paul uses this phrase PISTEUO, which is the verb for faith, and then the preposition EN.
Now it is not as obvious in Romans 3:25 because it’s not translated clearly. This is why you have a bracketed section there explaining it, but it uses that same phrase. It uses the verb PISTEUO, and then the object of the faith is expressed through the preposition EN, “whom God set forth—whom is referring to the Lord Jesus Christ there—as a propitiation by His blood.”
Propitiation has the concept of satisfaction, and that through Christ’s death on the Cross, He satisfied the justice and the righteousness of God.
The phrase “in His blood” is a metaphor that is typically used throughout Scripture: not to the physical properties of His blood, but the shedding of blood is a metaphor for a violent form of death. It goes back to Genesis 9 when God is making a covenant with Noah, and part of that was the establishment of capital punishment: He said if anyone sheds man’s blood, by man his blood should be shed.
The shedding of blood is a metaphor or picture of a violent form of physical death. So literally, what the Greek says here, “whom God set forth as a propitiation through faith in His blood,” that is, through faith in His death. The object of faith then is expressed through that Greek preposition EN.
Colossians 1:4, “since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints.”
This verse is parallel to the one we are reading and Ephesians 1. There are a lot of similarities between Ephesians and Colossians, and this is one of them. He says here, “we heard of your faith in Christ,” and there it’s the preposition EN.
In 2 Timothy 3:15, Paul is praising Timothy and reminding him of the importance, the centrality of Scripture in his life. He goes on to emphasize that it is breathed out by God in the next verse.
2 Timothy 3:15, “and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” That’s the preposition EN.
But in the Gospel of John, John uses a different phraseology. This is where things get into a bit of a discussion or argument with some people, because there are people who say, “Oh, believing has got to be more personal.”
But in John we have the phraseology PISTEUO EIS, “you believe that,” and it’s often translated as “believing in.” Scholars have done a lot of work on this, and in terms of the semantic value of EIS and EN in this kind of a clause, they’re virtually interchangeable.
One of the reasons this comes into play is because people misunderstand faith. Faith is not commitment. Often people, especially those who have been influenced by Lordship teaching, say that belief is commitment. But if you look up in any dictionary, it never gives the word “commitment” as a definition or a word that you would translate faith by. Faith means to believe something. The “something” that we believe is a proposition. It is not something personal.
Often you will hear people misstate the gospel by asking people, “Do you want to have a relationship with Jesus?” Other times you’ll hear people say, “Well, I committed my life to Christ,” or “I decided I needed to have a relationship with Jesus.” They’re emphasizing something personal, but those ideas that I just mentioned are not part of the semantic value of this concept of “faith in”.
When you study faith, faith is always an act of belief where you are accepting something as true. That which you are accepting as true can be stated in the form of a proposition. A proposition is simply a declarative statement.
Any kind of declarative statement is a proposition. You can say there is a Costco over on Bunker Hill and I-10. That’s either true or false. A proposition is always a statement that can be falsified or verified.
When we believe something, this something that we believe is a proposition. The proposition is that Jesus is the Messiah, who died for our sins. You are not having a personal relationship with Christ to begin with. That comes secondarily as a result of having a belief in a proposition: that Jesus died on the Cross for your sins.
The problem is that people say you need to have a relationship with Jesus, but Judas had a relationship with Jesus for three years. His relationship with Jesus was such that the other 11 disciples had no idea who Jesus was talking about when He said, “One of you will betray Me,” because Judas’ relationship to Jesus looked just like their relationship to Jesus.
But Judas was not a believer; that is why he was not saved. He didn’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah. That’s what makes the difference. We believe a proposition, and a proposition is something that can be either verified or falsified.
The result of believing the gospel, which is the salvific proposition that Jesus died on the Cross for our sins, the result of believing that is that then we are made alive, we are regenerated, we are given the righteousness of Christ, we are given eternal life, and we are also adopted into God’s royal family.
That is when the relationship with Christ begins, because now we are spiritually alive, and we can have that relationship. We cannot have a relationship with God if we are spiritually dead. The way to be born again is to believe in the gospel. So, we have these clear statements over and over again in John, and I just picked out a few verses to illustrate this.
John 3:16, a favorite verse that is used by many, many people when they witness, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him—there is the proposition. In Greek it is EIS AUTON [for in Him]. It’s the same verb PISTEUO EIS, not PISTEUO EN, but it means the same thing—should not perish but have everlasting life.”
John 3:18, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
All of these “believe in” statements are using the preposition EIS and not the preposition EN.
John 3:36, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life.” Same preposition.
At the end of the Gospel, John 20:31, “these are written that you might believe that—same preposition, but here it’s translated “that,” “believe that”, and here it gives the content of that proposition—Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”
This is the expression of the Gospel over and over again.
Ephesians 1:15, “… after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus.”
He identifies Jesus here by the phrase “Lord,” KURIOS; and this is a recognition of the deity of Christ.
You will often find those in what we call the Lordship camp saying you have to believe in the Lordship of Christ. When they explain that, what they’re saying is when you’re regenerate, you have to believe that Jesus is your sovereign Lord, and you will do whatever He tells you to do. That’s how they interpret “Lord.”
But the issue in using the word “Lord” to apply to Jesus is that He’s deity. Lord is a term to describe Yahweh, the living God of the Old Testament. When we say “Jesus is Lord,” what we are saying is Jesus is God. It is an expression of His deity.
Our faith is in the Lord Jesus. Notice that in John 20:31, we “believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.” That emphasizes His deity. The phrase “Son of God” does not indicate that God gave birth to Jesus in some manner, but that Jesus is God.
It’s an idiom in Hebrew. If you have somebody who is a murderer, he would be called the son of a murderer; somebody whose life was destructive or they were destructive, they would be called a son of destruction; or if they were foolish, they’d be called a son of a fool. So “Son of God” says that He is fully divine; “Son of Man” that He is fully human.
This is what we have here in the statement “Lord Jesus:” Lord refers to His deity; Jesus is His human name; Jesus who was born as a man in Nazareth.
Then he says, “and your love for all the saints.”
He’s heard about two things; he summarizes all that he has heard in these two areas:
1. Your faith in the Lord Jesus.
I don’t believe this is Phase 1 because he already knew most of them were saved. But he’s hearing how they are continuing to grow and mature in the spiritual life, and that they continue to believe in Jesus after their salvation.
2. He’s heard of their love for all the saints.
The Greek here is AGAPE. AGAPE is a broad term for love. The counterpart is PHILOS. PHILOS also means love, but it has a sense of a more intimate love where you know and have a relationship with the person that you are loving.
They are demonstrating their love for all the saints. The term “saints” refers to those who are believers in Jesus Christ. It’s not a special category of believer. It is a reference to every believer. At the instant of salvation, we’re all set apart to God. The word “saint” comes from the noun HAGIOS, which means “holy” or “those who are set apart to the service of God,” and it applies to every single believer.
In Ephesians 1:2, Paul addresses this epistle “to the saints who are in Ephesus.” That is to all of the believers in Jesus Christ who are in Ephesus.
The concept of their love for all the saints goes back to Jesus’ primary command to His disciples in John 13:34–35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
What Jesus is talking about here is pretty clear. First of all, He says that we are to love one another. This is in distinction to the command in the Old Testament to love your neighbor as yourself, because your neighbor in Israel was anybody else who came into your periphery.
Here He limits this, He is not rejecting the idea of loving your neighbor, but for believers He is focusing this on the loving one another, loving other believers. You are to love one another. In the Old Testament command it was to love your neighbor like you love yourself. But here Jesus is saying you’re to love your neighbor as I have loved you.
The pattern, the blueprint, for love is Jesus. Jesus doesn’t go around in the Gospels with some sort of sentimental, emotional love. You don’t see Jesus with this “sloppy agape” that you hear from a lot of Christians today that is very superficial and where there is no real knowledge or desire to do that which is best for the object of their love.
The best way to define biblical love is that we desire to do that which is best for the object of our love. Now that has to be qualified because what’s best for the object of our love is not what we think is best. That just ends up in personal manipulation.
It is understanding what God says is best. There’s an objective criteria there, it’s not a subjective criteria. We are to love them in that way, and that calls for some spiritual maturity to understand what the issues are there.
John 13:35, Jesus goes on to say that this is the mark of a genuine disciple—not a genuine believer. Because somebody can be a believer in Christ and he’s not showing any kind of love to anybody. He’s out of fellowship, he is in carnality, he’s living according to his sin nature, and he’s just as selfish and self-absorbed as any unbeliever. But for those who are disciples; that is, those who are pursuing spiritual maturity, the standard is to love others as Christ loved us.
In John 15:9–10 Jesus expands on this. There’s a lot that John covers in relationship to love in “The Upper Room Discourse,” John 13–16. In John 15 He says, “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.”
In John 15, abiding in Christ is related to fellowship, to an intimate connection to the Lord as the fruit and the vine. It is a picture of an intimate fellowship, so we are to stay in that intimate relationship, remain in that intimate relationship. But when we sin, we have to recover.
How do we know if we love God? This is a question—in fact, somebody asked me this right before class this morning—how do we know that we love God? Is it a feeling? A lot of people will emote a lot about how they love Jesus and how they love God. But the Scripture says that there is an objective measurement, an objective metric, for determining if you love God.
Love for God is determined by obedience, and Jesus said this several times in several ways. John says it not only in the Gospel but also in the first Epistle; especially 1 John 4 says a lot about the believer and love. Jesus said, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love.”
What does He mean by keeping His commandments? He refers to basically the mandates in the New Testament that relate to the Church Age believer. All of those—whether Jesus said it directly and it’s recorded in the Gospels, or whether it is something that is revealed through the Apostle Paul or Peter or James or John—all of it originates with the Lord Jesus Christ.
“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love.”
But if you don’t keep His commandments, you stop abiding in His love. That’s a lot of what 1 John is about. The way to recover is to confess sin, to admit and acknowledge your sin, and then we are restored to a position of intimacy. But it’s not just a passive thing, like we’re just sitting there on our hands.
We are to be obedient to everything Jesus says to do in the New Testament. That includes aspects of prayer, where we are praying for one another continuously; where we are engaged in being a verbal witness to the Gospel, to those around us; where we are to live a life that does not manifest sins, overt sins, mental attitudes sins, or sins of the tongue, but a life that manifests the fruit of the Spirit.
This is why Paul says in Galatians 5:16 that you are to walk by means of the Spirit, and you will not bring to completion the deeds of the flesh, and then he lists the fruit of the Spirit later. That is produced by abiding in Christ, abiding in His love, walking by the Spirit, walking in light, walking in the truth.
John says the same thing in 1 John 2:5, “But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is being matured—not perfect in the sense of lawlessness, but being brought to its conclusion, its maturation process—truly the love of God is matured in Him. By this we know that we are in Him.” There that is the love for God because if we love God, we keep His commandments.
2 John 6, “This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.”
1 John 3:16, “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
In John 15 Jesus says that there is no greater love a man has than that he give his life for his brother. So, this is the background for what John says in 1 John 3:16.
1 John 3:17, “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”
It has a practical application in terms of meeting the genuine needs of others. This isn’t some kind of emotional response because somebody has manipulated you with guilt or their sob story or something of that nature, but you recognize that there are believers who have legitimate needs.
This congregation has manifested that in a lot of different ways to people in this congregation who have gone through times of unemployment, through times of difficulty. Every now and then I’ll hear somebody tell me, “Well, so-and-so put a tank of gas in my car,” or so-and-so did this or did that. Somebody was contributing substantial amounts of money to help another person who was unemployed, and this is a manifestation of love for one another.
It is not the kind of thing where you pull up at a stoplight, and there’s a homeless person there with a squeegee to try to wipe your windshield, and you feel bad and so you throw a dollar it. That’s not what this is talking about. This is talking about legitimate needs and helping people in a way that helps them move toward spiritual maturity.
This is what Paul is talking about; he remembers them. Ephesians 1:16, “I do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.”
Next time we will get more into this because this really sets up the content of the prayer that comes in the in the next four or five verses.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study Your Word this morning, to be reminded that part of what should be manifested in our lives as we grow spiritually is this love for one another. And understanding what that means, that it’s not talking about emotion or sentiment, but it’s talking about a mental attitude of doing that which is good and beneficial and spiritually profitable for others.
“Father, we thank You for the clarity of Your Word because to truly love someone, we cannot be walking according to our sin nature—which orients us only to selfishness and only to doing what is good for us—we have to be walking by means of the Spirit.
“Father, we thank You that we have the opportunity to see how Paul prayed and what he prayed for, and that we can use that as an example and a pattern in our own prayer life.
“Father we pray that if there’s anyone here listening or anyone online listening to this message, that they’ve never trusted in Christ as Savior, then it would be clear from what we taught this morning that salvation is based on believing in Christ: that He is the Messiah, the Son of God, who died on the Cross for our sins.
“And that by believing in Him we have everlasting life, and that all that is necessary is to believe in Him and instantly You credit us with the righteousness of Christ. You give us eternal life, and we are adopted into Your royal family for ever and ever, and that can never be lost.
“Father, we thank You for all of the many blessings and benefits that You have given us spiritually, and we pray that we may learn to use them and to apply them and to live in light of them in every aspect of our life. We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”