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In our last study, we looked at the important role fathers play in the Church. They lead, provide for, and protect the flock of God – that He bought with His own Blood. Now, let’s see what role Christian fathers play in the world.
One of the best examples of what a father does in the world is found in the same section in Ephesians where the Apostle Paul tells husbands to love their wives in the same way Christ loves the Church and died for her, and fathers not to provoke their children to wrath. Before Paul wrote the Ephesian men about being good husbands and good fathers, he wrote them about how to be good examples of Christ’s followers in the world.
Walk in Love
“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” Ephesians 5:1-2
God asks His children to “imitate” Him. The Greek word is mimetai. The meaning is to follow someone in a way that imitates (mimics) the actions of another. The Greeks and Romans were great fans of “mime” theater, so Paul’s readers knew what he meant when he used the word.
God has given me many wonderful pictures of what it means to follow Him. One of the most powerful is through our children. We lived in Michigan when our sons were little, so playing outside in the snow was a great game for us. I remember a morning when we woke up to several inches of fresh snow from overnight. We dressed up in our boots, snow pants and heavy coats and went outside to play. I walked from the back door to the back yard for several yards, then looked behind me to see how the boys were making it through the deep snow. Both of them were stretching out their legs so they could place their boots in the same place I had walked. I had set the path for them and they followed – they imitated me. I remember our younger son falling over in the snow as he tried to step where I and his older brother had stepped. I picked him up and he continued to follow the path we had set in the snow.
That’s a human picture of a Divine calling we have from our Lord Jesus. He took the first steps and established the path for us to follow. He watches out for us and picks us up and sets our feet back on the path when we stumble or fall.
The first step is to “walk in love.” The word walk is peripateite and means “to order one’s behavior in the sphere of, to conduct one’s behavior.” It’s the idea of how a person leads their life – how they live. Paul tells Christians to order their behavior in the sphere of agape – unconditional love. God is Love and He wants us to imitate Him by living a life of loving people with His Love. How did God Love us? “… as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us.” God demonstrates the truth and purity of His Love through giving of Himself. He’s God, so He could just order His angels to give us things as a demonstration of His Love for us. However, God’s Love goes to the heart of apage – He gives of Himself. God “in the flesh” is our greatest example. Jesus lived out His Heart and Mind for all to see and imitate. It was Jesus Who said the greatest commandment is to love God. The second is to love others as ourself.
That’s how God wants Christian men to live their lives – loving others – not just in the things we do for others, but in every aspect of our daily lives. To “walk in love” means everything about our lives is filled with the aroma of God’s Love – “… an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” We are able to do that as we imitate God as dear children.
Walk in Light
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” Ephesians 5:8-11
It’s good to be reminded from time to time that we were once “darkness.” That helps keep us humble. It should keep us from thinking too highly of ourselves. No one is beneath us. We are “sinners saved by grace.” It’s also good to remember what we are – “light in the Lord.” Notice Paul didn’t say that we are “enlightened.” He said we are “light in the Lord.” Many religions teach their followers that they can become gods through the process of following the path to enlightenment. Some teach it can take a lifetime. Some teach it can take many lifetimes. The truth is that no one has anything good enough inside that would allow them to become enlightened through their own efforts. Earlier in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul said they had all been “dead in trespasses and sins” before God saved them. Someone asked what the word “dead” means in the Greek. Simply put – dead means dead. The word is nekrous – dead. It doesn’t mean sort-of-dead … almost dead … close to death … might be dead. It means “dead” – as in having no life in it. An unsaved person is in spiritual darkness and has no ability to save themselves from the wrath of God.
“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” Ephesians 2:1-3
Notice how futile our lives were before God saved us. We were dead and dominated. That’s the contextual meaning of the words “according to” (kata ton). We were dominated by the “course” (aion – the cycle or present round of things) of this world, the prince of the power of the air (Satan), and the lusts of our flesh. I’d say that’s a pretty powerful threesome. In other words, an unsaved person doesn’t have a chance. They are “by nature children of wrath.” Whose wrath? God’s wrath. That’s a scary place to be. So, if unsaved people are spiritually dead and dominated, how does someone get from “unsaved” to “saved?”
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and madeus sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:4-9
We are saved because of God’s “great love” for us! Even when we were dead in trespasses, He made us alive together with Christ. Now that we are alive, God wants us to order our behavior in the sphere of the “light” of our salvation. What does that mean? We imitate Christ Who is the “Light” of the world (John 1:9; 8:12). We are to be “shining” examples of Christ’s Mind and Heart. That means we will shine spiritual light everywhere we go. You are spiritual light in your home, in your neighborhood, at your job, in your classroom, in stores, on the street, at church – everywhere you go, you are light in the Lord, so “walk as children of light.”
Spiritual light produces spiritual fruit – “for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth.” Walking in light means “finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.” We order our behavior in the sphere of what is acceptable to God. What is acceptable to God? He tells us clearly in His Word what is acceptable to Him. We will find things in the Bible that are acceptable to the Lord – and we will find things in the Bible that are unacceptable to the Lord. What do we do when we find something unacceptable? “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” The word “fellowship” (sunkoinoneo) means “to partner with, partake with.” God does not want us to partner with the “unfruitful works of darkness.” That’s not so bad. We just don’t do bad things. Right? It’s more than – “but rather expose them.” God wants Christian men to “expose” (elenchete) them. That means “reprove, admonish, to test, to put to proof, to convict.” The word is 2nd person, plural, present tense, imperative mood, active voice. That means it’s something God wants all Christians to be actively involved in doing at the present time. He wants us to “expose” darkness through our lives. That’s what Jesus did on earth and it’s what God wants us to do on earth.
The very nature of our being spiritual lights in the world means that we will expose evil in the world. It reminds me of a time when I walked into the kitchen during the night and turned on a light. Dozens of cockroaches that were on the floor and counters took off like a shot and disappeared in holes and cracks in the walls. It’s how we discovered that there was a large nest of cockroaches under our house. We called a company that came to the house and destroyed the nest and exterminated the roaches. The first step in ridding our home of that nest was “exposing” the problem. When Christian men order their behavior in the sphere of spiritual light, it will cause a quick reaction from people who are involved in the unfruitful works of darkness. Sometimes those people will scatter, like the cockroaches. Sometimes they will invite Christians to participate in sinning with them. Other times they will attack in a desperate attempt to snuff out the light that has exposed them. That’s what the religious leaders of Israel did to Jesus. They thought that by killing Jesus they could snuff out His light that was exposing their unfruitful works of darkness. What they did was make it worse for themselves (or better depending on your point of view) because Jesus rose from the dead and shined His Light throughout Israel and around the world through the hearts and minds of Christians. Imitating Christ by shining our light will be worse for some unsaved people and better for others.
Walk in Wisdom
“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16
Paul calls on Christian men to order their behavior “circumspectly.” The Greek word is akribos and means “accurately, exactly, diligently, carefully.” Christian men need to conduct their lives in a way that is careful and exact. That means we live with purpose. Our lives are not aimless – they are aimed carefully at the target of pleasing the Lord. The Christian life should be lived with precision. My father taught me how to shoot pistols and rifles when I was a child. I remember the many lessons of aiming the barrel of the gun toward the target, looking through the site to be sure everything was exactly where it should be for the perfect shot. I felt great joy when we would walk toward the target and I’d see a hole in the middle of the bullseye. I knew then that the lessons and hard work had paid off. I had been careful in my preparation and exact in my execution and the end result was precision. That’s what God wants from us – to live precisely for His purpose.
Paul connects the idea of walking circumspectly with wisdom – “not as fools but as wise.” To live foolishly is to live inaccurately, carelessly, without precision. That’s not the life God has in mind for Christians. He wants us to be wise in everything we do. The word “wise” is sophoi. It means to be skilled in forming the best plans and using the best means for their execution. Walking circumspectly with wisdom means to be skilled at living a purposeful life that is well-planned and executed with precision. If you want to hit the target in your spiritual life – (1) plan, (2) prepare, (3) train, (4) practice, and (5) execute with precision.
Ordering our behavior circumspectly in the sphere of wisdom means we “redeem the time.” The word “redeem” is exagorazomenoi and means “to buy.” Paul used the word in Ephesians 5:16 and Colossians 4:5 in the middle voice which means “to buy up for oneself.” What is it that Paul told the Ephesians and Colossians to purchase for themselves? “Time.” How can we buy time? It flies by so fast and there’s no way to hold on to it. Does Paul mean we should spend our time, our sequential moments, more wisely? While that’s good advice, it’s not what the word means. The word Paul used for “time” is kairon. If Paul meant that Christians should spend their seconds, minutes, and hours more wisely, he would have used the word chronos. Instead, Paul used kairon, which means “opportune season.” Paul addressed the need for Christians to take advantage of every opportune season that came into their lives. Kairon will happen during chronos, but instead of marking a specific length of time kairon concerns the “characteristics” of the opportunities that occur during time. The Greeks understood the word kairon to mean “the supreme moment” – that moment when something very special happens. That’s what God wants for Christians to buy up for themselves – those supreme and special opportunities He gives us in our service to Him.
Why is this so important? “… because the days are evil.” Interesting statement – “the days are evil.” hemerai ponerai. The period of opportunity we have for service to God is hurtful. The three primary Greek words for “evil” are kakos, phaulos and poneros. Kakos means that which is evil in character at its foundation. Phaulos means that which is common, bad in the sense of being worthless or contemptible. Poneros means that which is bad and causes harm, pain and trouble. The days in which we live are evil. They cause everyone of us harm, pain and trouble. That’s why we have to buy up for ourselves those opportune seasons where we can make a difference in our pain-filled world. There will be many other times when we won’t be able to buy up opportune seasons because of the reality of the battle we fight here on earth. It might be physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual, but pain and trouble are reality to Christians. As we ask God for wisdom to see the opportunities He gives us in service – those supreme moments – the Lord will open our spiritual eyes and ears and make them known to us. “Redeem the time!”
Men – husbands, fathers, sons – hear what Paul is telling us. If we are going to make a difference on earth as Christians, we need to do it God’s way. Being men the world’s way doesn’t cut it. If we are going to be Christian men, we must be extraordinary. We must live life purposely, strategically and precisely. We must conduct our lives in the continual sphere of “love,” “light,” and “wisdom.” That’s not easy, but Jesus never said it would be easy to follow Him. He just said – “follow me.” As we follow our Lord, as we imitate our precious Savior, as we walk in the steps He first walked for us, we will become what is pleasing and acceptable in His Sight.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”