Tossed To and Fro
Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
Because of the times in which we now live, when we share the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we should no longer share it with just those who make no profession of faith in Jesus Christ, but with all people, regardless of their professions of faith.
And, the reason we must do this is because so many people are being led astray, and they are following after “another gospel” and “another Jesus” other than the gospel and the Jesus of the scriptures.
And, not only must the truth of the gospel be shared with all people, regardless of what faith in Jesus they outwardly confess, but we must also refute the lies of those humans, who by their cunning, craftiness, and deceitful scheming are leading the masses to another gospel, which appeals to human flesh.
And, again, this is because so many people are buying into the lies, and they are believing the lies over the truth. And, those lies include the obliteration of the true gospel and the convincing of people that the truth is the lie and the lies are the truth.
And, so we can’t assume that everyone who confesses faith in Jesus Christ truly knows God and has truly been born again of the Spirit of God, for many don’t and haven’t.
So, in probably the majority of cases, at least here in America, we have to get people to “first base” before we can even begin to lead them all the way to “home base.” For, they have to have the correct foundation to build upon before they can begin to grow in their walks of faith to maturity in Jesus Christ.
But, “first base” isn’t as elementary as a lot of people make it out to be. And, the fact that they make it too elementary, I believe, is a huge reason that so many who profess faith in Jesus never grow to maturity.
So, as followers of Jesus Christ, we need to be those who are speaking the truth in love to the body of Christ, as well as to the world, because so many within the church are being tossed to and fro, and they are believing the lies, and they are rejecting the truth.
And, so they don’t truly know God, and so they aren’t truly saved from their sins, and they don’t really have the hope of eternal life with God, either. For, their faith is from the flesh, not from God, and their assurance of salvation is based in a lie, not in the truth.
Giving Themselves Up
Ephesians 4:17-19 ESV
“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.”
Let’s begin here with the gospel message that has been most popular in my lifetime, which is 70 years.
It lays out the scriptures regarding who Jesus is (God, the Son of God), and how he died on a cross for our sins, and rose from the dead, and ascended back to heaven, and sent his Holy Spirit to indwell his followers, and how one day He is coming again to take his own to be with him forever.
And, it talks about sin and our need to be saved from our sins so that we can go to heaven one day. And, then it talks of our need to invite Jesus “into our hearts” to save us (to forgive our sins so we can go to heaven one day). And, it may or may not include the teaching that we must repent of our sins, and even there it may only use “repent” in the sense of “confession of sin.”
So, some people listen to this message, and so they invite Jesus into their hearts (some for real, some not), and they may or may not confess their sins, but they believe that Jesus has now forgiven them their sins and that heaven is now guaranteed them, case closed.
And, thus, growing to maturity in Christ, though recommended, becomes optional, for whether or not they ever grow past their initial confession of faith, they still believe they will go to heaven when they die.
But, this passage in Ephesians tells us that we must not only confess our sins, but that we must leave them behind us, gone, no longer in control of our lives, no longer enslaving us. We must be free from slavery to sin.
We aren’t supposed to live any longer like we did before we believed in Jesus. Those who live that way have hearts which are hardened towards God. They are alienated from the life of God. Do we get this?
If we continue in willful habitual sin against God, as a matter of our life course, after we confess him as Savior and Lord of our lives, our hearts are hard towards God, and we are alienated from Him and from the life of God, in our lives, that could be ours through genuine God-given faith in Jesus Christ, which submits to Christ as Lord of our lives.
The Truth in Jesus
Ephesians 4:20-24 ESV
“But that is not the way you learned Christ! — assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
But, in today’s world, and within today’s modern institutional church, the simplistic gospel of my era pales by comparison to the gospel that is being taught today, with regard to simplicity.
For, now people are being told that all they have to do is accept God’s grace, i.e. that Jesus died to save them from their sins. Or, all they have to do is acknowledge who Jesus is, or they just have to repeat some words after someone else and they are told they are now saved and going to heaven, and it can’t be taken away from them.
And, many now are going way beyond that by saying we don’t have to repent (turn away from our sins), that we don’t have to obey Christ and his commandments, and we don’t have to submit to Christ as Lord. For, they say, that is “works-based” salvation and we are not supposed to add works to our salvation. And, then they go on the offense against those of us who are teaching the true gospel which says we must die with Christ to sin and that we must live to Christ and his righteousness.
But, again, we can read right here in Ephesians 4 that the truth of the gospel, that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord, is that we must put off our old self, our old sinful nature, which belongs to our former way of life. We must, by the Spirit of God, put it to death. We must die to sin and self and to the corruption of our sinful nature which craves after deceitful desires, so that we can now live in freedom from slavery to sin and to Christ’s righteousness (See: Rom. 6:1-23; Rom. 8:1-17; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; Tit. 2:11-14; 1 Pet. 2:24).
Then, we need to be renewed of the Spirit of God in the spirit of our minds, in our thinking and believing. We need to be turned from darkness (sin) to light (righteousness), and from the power of Satan to God, so that we can receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 26:18).
It is like doing a 180. We were going one direction, now we have turned, and we are now going the opposite direction, by the grace of God, and in his power at work within our lives, as we cooperate with that work. And, then we must put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
But, none of this is done in our own flesh. None of this could possibly be done in the flesh, for it is of the Spirit of God, not of the flesh of man. We can never regenerate ourselves. All this is saying is that we have to submit to our Lord, and we must do what he says, and we must cooperate with his work of grace in our lives. For, we are saved by God’s grace THROUGH FAITH, and that faith is realized in what we do.
But, it doesn’t end there. We don’t just die to sin and self once, be born again of the Spirit of God, have the promise of heaven when die, and then live however we want. For, the NEW SELF we must put on is surrendered to God, lives in submission to Christ, walks in obedience to his commands, and daily dies to sin and self, and lives to Christ and his righteousness.
For, we read in Romans 8 that we must walk (in practice) according to the Spirit of God and no longer walk according to our sinful flesh if we want to have eternal life with God. And, it tells us that if we walk (in practice) according to our flesh, that we will die in our sins, instead. So, know the truth, believe the truth and live the truth (Rom. 8:1-17; 1 Jn. 1:5-9).
By Ann Aschauer
So shine on through the darkness;
Be the salt and light for all your world.
Live for Jesus, ’til you see Him,
And your faith has its reward;
Shine on through the darkness;
Let His love shine through you all your days.
Go and win your generation for the Lord.
c 1990 Ann Aschauer