Sunday, April 29, 2007


Ephesians 5:24 "Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything."

“Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” Paul compares the submission of wives to their husbands to the submission of the church to Christ. How does the church submit to Christ? Happily. Willingly. Faithfully. Constantly and consistently. Dependently. In this way the Christian wife submits to her husband.

But one more thing. Look at what Christ has done for the church. In a very real sense, Paul is actually elevating the status of the wife! The Gentile woman in Ephesus had no real rights at all. She was expected to stay in the house almost all the time unless she went out with her husband. She did not have rights of citizenship. She was not an important part of the guild or the temple. She was looked down upon and mistreated by all the men of the society. They were often in conflict with their husbands.

Paul is telling Christian wives that they are no longer to live like the Gentiles. They will no longer be in a position of servitude to society in general. They are to be devoted to their husbands and they are to offer their submission to their own husbands, not to society. They are no longer mere property, owned by their husbands. They are partners in their marriages and they can share with their husbands by voluntarily offering their submission to them. Paul says that Christian wives have great personal value. Christianity did not subjugate or oppress women when it came into Greek society. Christianity liberated women and elevated their status in both the home and the community!

Our society makes it very difficult for Christian women to offer submission to their husbands. Women are pressured to go out and live their own lives, to make something of themselves. Feminism cries out for women to shake off the centuries of oppression. The liberation movement demands erasure of the gender differences and wants complete equality. If Paul were writing today he would say, “Don’t live like the world lives. Be filled with the Holy Spirit and willingly and lovingly submit to one another. Christian wives, celebrate the high status given you in Christ and offer your submission to your husbands as an act of your worship of God.”

What if your husband isn’t a Christian? What if he is a selfish brute? What if he takes advantage of your submission and is completely unworthy of it? Those are very difficult circumstances. All I can give you are the words of Peter, “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives” (1 Peter 3:1, 2). In those cases your loving submission is not only an act of worship offered to God but also a powerful tool for the Spirit to use in the life of your husband.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


Ephesians 5:23

"For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which is is the Savior."

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have had a Christian wife tell me how hard it is for her to submit to her husband. It is abundantly clear that there are many men out there who are certainly unworthy of their wives’ submission. I would like to look at what Paul says specifically to men in my next series of posts. But in 5:23 Paul hints at the kind of husbands Christian men should be, “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.” We should strive to be men who are worthy of our wives’ submission.

“Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.” How did Christ serve as the head of the church? He gave everything to the church to the point of his own death! Every day of his ministry on earth Jesus was serving the church! Every decision he made was for the welfare of the church. He loved the church so much that he only did what was best for her! Jesus laid down his life to be the Savior of the church. Jesus was completely devoted to serving the church.

I am so grateful that my wife is gracious enough to offer her submission to me even though I often fail to be worthy of it. But if we want to be men who are worthy of our wives’ submission then we have to follow the example Jesus set for us. This is extremely difficult because we are fallen and selfish men! But with God’s help we can learn to serve our wives as Christ served the church. What kind of man makes a woman proud to submit herself to him? He looks out for his wife’s welfare. He seeks to do the things that are best for her. He is willing to lay down his own interests for her happiness. He is committed to being a servant-leader. Men, if you want your wife to offer her voluntary submission to you I suggest you be a man worthy of her submission! Be her protection. Be her provision. Treat her as the most important person in your life. Listen to her. Care about her emotional needs. If you will do these things you will make it much easier for her to offer her submission to you and you will help her in her walk with God.

(This series is being simulposted at Bluecollar where most of the discussion is taking place. Please use the link in the sidebar.)

Friday, April 27, 2007


Ephesians 5:22

Paul writes, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” Remembering what we said about Christian submission, we apply it to this statement. Christian submission is voluntarily choosing to give up one’s will and rights for the benefit of another. In this case, Paul is telling the Christian wife that her submission is voluntary. Submission is something she offers willingly to her husband. Obviously, submission is not something that can be demanded or required so a husband does not have the right to demand or require his wife to submit to him!

Second, submission to her husband is an act of worship and submission to God on the part of the Christian wife. Paul says, “Submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” Often this has been misinterpreted to mean that the wife is to submit to her husband just like she would submit to the Lord! Paul does not mean that. He means that when a woman desires to submit herself to the Lord then she will offer her submission to her husband. It is an act of worship and reverence for God.

Third, the Christian wife’s submission is conditional. What do we mean by that? Do we mean that she just picks and chooses the situations in which she wants to offer her submission? No. It means that a Christian woman does not offer unthinking submission to her husband. If the husband were to ask the wife to do something that went against the word of God she would not do it. She cannot disobey God and blame it on her husband. The Christian woman first submits to God and then submits to her husband. Her submission is conditional because she must offer her first submission to God.

Fourth, the Christian wife’s submission is exclusive. In other words, the only man she offers her submission to is her husband. In some churches the leadership tries to put the women beneath all the men by using this verse. This verse cannot be interpreted to mean that all Christian women are to submit to all Christian men. Paul’s clear intent is to address Christian marriage, not gender roles in the church.

(This series is being simulposted at Bluecollar where most of the discussion is taking place. Please use the link in the sidebar.)

Thursday, April 26, 2007


Ephesians 5:22 "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord."

Remember the key to interpreting a passage of the Bible: context, context, context. An examination of the context will make the meaning of this passage clearer. Paul is in a lengthy discourse in which he is challenging the young Ephesian Christians to think about the way they live their lives. They are no longer to continue living the way they used to live before they were Christians. They are to live differently from the Gentiles who live around them. (Ephesians 4:17) Now they are to live like Christians. Their marriages are supposed to be different. Their marriages are to be a testimony to their Christian faith.

Paul mentions many ways in which their lives must change. There are so many things to be considered that it seems impossible! They must be wondering how in the world they are going to make so many and such significant changes in their lives. Paul explains that as well. He knows these young Christians will not be able to change their lives so drastically in their own strength. So Paul tells them that their only hope is to depend on the strength of the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18) They need to be filled with the Spirit and the Holy Spirit will give them the strength and guidance to live like Christians.

One of the big changes that must take place is in their relationships. Before they became Christians they just looked out for themselves. They were willing to do whatever it took to advance themselves, enrich themselves, and improve their own standing in the community. But Paul tells them that they have to change all that. Now that they are Christians they need to learn to submit to one another. (Ephesians 5:21) They need to willingly surrender their own rights and will for the benefit of the body of Christ. The nature of Christian relationships is to give preference to one another. Christians want to put others before themselves.

This is the context of the verse we are studying, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” When he speaks to Christian wives he is telling them they are to no longer live like Gentile wives. Their old perspectives on marriage have to be taken off and they have to put on Christian perspectives. They should no longer do whatever they want within their marriage; they should be filled with the Holy Spirit and live like women who are following the Spirit. In their marriage relationships they should willingly seek to promote their partners by serving them.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Ephesians 5:22 "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord."

For many generations this text has been misunderstood and abused. Abusive husbands have wielded it like a club over the heads of their wives, trying to find a biblical text that supports their bullying. Lazy husbands have used the text to try to force their wives to wait on them hand and foot. Husbands with authoritarian issues have used it just to feed their own need for importance. We have to understand at the very beginning, and of course our wives already know this, that men are sinful. Christian men are still fallen and sinful people. We are not above trying to use the Bible to make it say what we want it to say.

The problem, just like so many problems, goes back to Adam and Eve and the fall. Following their sin, God pronounced a curse upon them and all mankind who would follow. In Genesis 3:16 God told Adam and Eve how their sin was going to affect their relationship and all marriages yet to come. Speaking to Eve he said, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” At first glance, this just seems to be a curse for the innocent woman who wants her husband. However, when God tells Eve that her desire will be for her husband, he uses the same word that appears in Genesis 4:7. Cain is angry that God accepted Abel’s offering but did not accept his. God tells Cain, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” Eve’s desire for her husband is a desire to own or to control. God is telling Adam and Eve that their relationship will be a struggle for leadership. Eve will want to control Adam and Adam will dominate her with his strength.

It is easy to see why Ephesians 5:22 is so misunderstood and abused! Sinful men twist it to mean what they want it to mean in order to help them have dominance over their wives. Fallen women hate it because it appears to give the dominance they want to their husbands!

Radical feminists don’t like this passage either. They don’t want to be seen as different from men. They want equality in everything. They don’t want to have any considerations made for gender differences at all. They misunderstand this passage because it appears to them to put women under men, making them something less than men. The people on the opposite extreme make this same mistake. They are hierarchicalists. In other words, they think along the lines of a hierarchy. They think that God has established roles and authority on something resembling a ladder. Those who are highest on the ladder have the ultimate authority and everyone else is below them. When these people look at this passage they see a higher and lower situation. Husbands are higher and their wives are beneath them. They don’t understand that Christian submission is not a matter of over and under or above and below. Rather, it is a matter of all believers seeking to serve and promote one another at the same time! Both the feminists and hierarchicalists misunderstand what Paul is saying here.

Monday, April 23, 2007


The failure of the institution of marriage is one of the most serious developments of the last forty years. The family is the cornerstone of our society. When the family erodes and deteriorates the society is going to follow. Our society is actively dismantling marriage. When marriage is tossed aside to the curb the family disintegrates. Divorce has become commonplace. I can remember being in elementary school in the 1960’s and hearing the shocked whispers that the parents of one of the kids in our class were getting a divorce. Today, families are so splintered and complicated that it is refreshing to a teacher to have a student who comes from a traditional, nuclear family! Even Christian marriages are breaking up with fearful regularity.

The entire concept of marriage is questioned by our society. It is seen as a manmade institution which reflects the logical development of evolution and civilization. People see it as no more than the legalization of a natural human drive, an instinct, an impulse. It is called outdated. It is despised as a Puritanical, religious institution that no longer serves postmodern society.

Christians believe marriage was created and instituted by God. We say that our marriages are directed by God and that we are instructed in marriage by his word. We believe marriage reflects the relationship of the Holy Trinity. We profess that marriage also images the relationship of Christ and his church. What does the Bible say about marriage? What does it teach us about our roles and relationships in marriage? Will the teaching of the Bible help me to have a happier and more successful marriage?

Ephesians 5:22-33 is one of the best known passages of scripture about marriage. Paul addresses the roles and attitudes of Christian wives and husbands. He talks about the spiritual significance of marriage. He compares the relationship of the husband and the wife to the relationship between Christ and his church. This passage is often read at weddings. However, it is often quickly forgotten and it is frequently misunderstood and abused.

Ephesians 5:22-24: “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”

Sunday, April 22, 2007


Ephesians 5:21 "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ"

The first thing the Bible says that humbles me and helps me learn to submit to my brothers and sisters in Christ is, apart from Christ we are all equally lost. As Paul has said so eloquently right here in Ephesians, we were all dead in our transgressions and sins. When we come into the body of Christ we have all come from exactly the same place. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9). If we recognize that we have come to Christ solely by grace then we have nothing to boast about. We all started at the same place and none of us is worthy of taking a higher position than another. Once we come to this understanding we will find it much easier to submit to one another and put others before ourselves.

This same truth shows us that we have no grounds to set ourselves up as judges of others. I am no better than anyone else. I have no right to make myself a judge or to give myself authority over others. I need to realize that I could very well be wrong and you are right. I have no righteousness of my own so I cannot choose a higher position and start telling you what to do. The Holy Spirit works in me to show me what I really am and that serves to open up my understanding and shut my mouth!

There is another truth that will help me learn to submit to others. I am part of the body of Christ along with all other Christians. It is not all about me. I cannot act like a completely free and independent agent. The things I do have an effect on my brothers and sisters in Christ. I am literally connected to other Christians so there is nothing I can do to elevate myself or to try to make myself more important. At the same time, if I try to elevate them and make them more important then I will be lifted up along with them. If I concern myself with their rights and with their welfare then I will have my rights and welfare taken care of as well!

Finally, we have the example and commands of Jesus to help us. On the night he was betrayed he met in an upper room with his disciples to celebrate the Passover. After all were seated Jesus rose from the table and took his clothing off. He wrapped a towel around himself and proceeded to wash the feet of his disciples. He took the position of the lowest servant in the household. He subordinated himself! He submitted himself to the disciples by making them more important than himself and by working for their welfare. When he was finished he said to them, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). Just a little later that same evening Jesus said to them, “A new command I give you; Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34, 35). If Jesus was willing to give us such an example of submission and if he commanded us to love one another, then surely we can submit to each other and love each other.

Friday, April 20, 2007


We have already seen that the natural, fallen person is unable to submit to God. If he cannot submit to God then he will not be able to do what Paul is saying here. He will not be able to submit to others in the body of Christ. Just because we have become Christians does not mean that all of our old attitudes have fallen away. We find it is not easy to submit to others. We discover we still have a number of attitudes and behaviors that fight against submitting. It will help us if we can identify these things because then we can work at putting them away and make progress toward submitting to one another.

It is our natural instinct to think automatically of ourselves before we think of anybody else. Who else does a non-Christian have to look out for him? It’s perfectly natural to think about oneself. It’s a matter of survival. But the Christian has the body of Christ. He is part of something huge. He has a whole world of brothers and sisters who are supposed to be looking out for him. But our selfishness is something that keeps us from submitting. When we think it is all about us we have no reason to look out for anyone else.

One of the characteristics Americans have always admired is rugged individualism. We honor and respect the man who can take care of himself without depending on anyone else. I’m reminded of the Simon and Garfunkle song that has the lyrics, “I am a rock. I am an island. And a rock feels no pain. And an island never cries.” When we value individualism it is impossible for us to submit to other people. Of course Christians are still individuals. We don’t give up our individuality when we come to Christ. But we can no longer think of ourselves as individuals who never touch anyone else or who never allow other people to touch us!

Another thing that keeps us from submitting is our insistence on our rights. We have all known people who seem to be completely taken up with making sure they get their rights, with making sure they don’t get cheated out of anything. They are the people who are always saying things like, “I know my rights!” or “I’ve got rights you know!” Such people are completely taken up with themselves. They want to make sure they get everything they can get and everything they want. Such self-promotion prevents us from submitting to one another.

When a person is too sure of himself he finds it impossible to submit to others. This is a person who thinks he is always right. Why should he submit to other people when he is the one who is always right? But he can certainly understand that others should submit to him! This person tends to be very authoritarian. He has to be in control of every decision. He can’t accept any kind of criticism. If someone disagrees with him then that person is bad and divisive. Everyone should listen to him and do what they are told. This person really has problems when it comes to submitting.

These attitudes make it hard for us to submit. We have to deal with them. Gratefully we have the teaching of the Scriptures to help us deal with our wrong attitudes and develop attitudes that will help us submit.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Ephesians 5:21 "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ"

We are talking about the idea of submitting to one another in the church.

One of my sons recently enlisted in the Air Force. When a person enters the military he surrenders his own personal rights, his own will, and his personal self-interest for the good of his comrades and for the bigger cause, his country. He intentionally accepts authority over himself for the welfare of the whole, the greater good. So he is no longer free to come and go as he pleases. He cannot take vacations whenever he wants to. He has submitted himself to authority and must request permission to do things he wants to do. It is possible that he may even have to put his own life in danger for the good of his comrades. Imagine a military establishment where a person could join up and choose whatever rank he wants. The attitude Paul is looking for would mean that you would enlist and then choose a low rank, putting the good of others before your own good.

How about another illustration, this time from the sports world? When I was in college we had a decent basketball team, not a great one. We did have an excellent shooting guard. He was one of the best players in the league. The problem was that he didn’t seem to know how to pass the ball. It was his senior year and he was closing in on a number of school scoring records. If another player passed the ball to him it was like throwing the ball into a black hole. It was never going to come out again! He launched shots from all over the court but he made less than half of them. Our team would have been better and would have won more games if he had learned to surrender his own interest in scoring records and submit his skills to the betterment of the team as a whole. He didn’t know what it was to submit his own desires to the team and give precedence to others.

Worldly societies don’t change. They still recognize and value rank and order. There are still certain proprieties and bits of etiquette that the world requires. In spite of the fact that these worldly orders exist they cannot be allowed to exist inside the church. Those Christians who hold high status in the world are included in Paul’s teaching. They are to submit themselves to their brothers and sisters in the church.

For example, slavery existed almost everywhere in the Roman world. It certainly existed in Ephesus. Imagine a situation where both the master and the slave had become Christians. They would belong to the same fellowship of believers. Paul would tell them to be filled with the Holy Spirit and submit themselves to one another. They would willingly surrender their own wills and rights and then give preferment to the welfare of the other. The master could not act as if he owned his brother in Christ and the slave could not take advantage of his freedom in the church body to treat his master rudely. And what if the slave were to become an elder in the church? What would have to happen then? And how then would the master be required to treat his slave?

Monday, April 16, 2007


Ephesians 5:21
"Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ"
The Greek word for submit is hupotasso. It appears often in secular Greek and it carries the meaning of “to lose or surrender one’s own rights or will.” One could be forced to submit or one could submit voluntarily. In the New Testament the word appears thirty eight times and carries several English translations in addition to “submit.” It is used in relation to Jesus Christ and it is used in relation to human relationships.

Luke 2:51 says the boy, Jesus, “went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient (hupotasso) to them.”

Philippians 3:20, 21, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control (hupotasso), will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Jesus has the power to make all things submit to himself.

Paul says something similar in Ephesians 1:22, “And God placed all things under his feet (hupotasso) and appointed him to be head over everything for the church.” God the Father subordinated all things to his Son, Jesus. He made all things submit to Jesus.

But then we have a number of cases where hupotasso is used to describe human relationships. In these cases it means “to submit oneself.” In secular Greek hupotasso was used to describe rank and order and authority. But in the kingdom of Christ it takes on a new meaning. Paul and the apostles use this word to describe a readiness to give up one’s own rights and will for the sake of others and to give precedence to others.

This meaning can only be applied to Christians because outside of Christ such attitudes are impossible. For example, Paul writes in Romans 8:5-7, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit (hupotasso) to God’s law, nor can it do so.”

The mind of the unregenerate person, the unsaved person, is set on what it desires for itself. What does fallen man desire? Honor, respect, power, authority, rights, freedoms, etc. He demands them. He is willing to fight for them. He is out for number one. He is hostile toward God because he does not want to submit to any authority other than himself. In fact, Paul says, the unconverted mind cannot submit itself to God’s law. It is not capable of doing so. Because of his sinful mind the unconverted person cannot submit to nor please God.

In Romans 10 Paul writes about his passion to see the Jewish people come to faith in Christ. “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit (hupotasso) to God’s righteousness” (Romans 10:1-3). The Jewish people are very religious. They have a kind of zeal for God and for religious things. They are very pious. But they are so proud of their zeal and piety that they are unwilling to submit to the true righteousness that comes only from God.

So there are two reasons unconverted people will not and cannot submit themselves to God: their sinfulness and their self-righteousness. They will not submit or surrender their own wills and their own rights to God or to anyone else. It is completely contrary to the nature of a fallen person to submit his own will and rights to someone else and to subject himself voluntarily to another.

But Paul has told his Christian readers they are different; they are changed. We are no longer to live in the old ways. In other words, we are supposed to be willing to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. And the kind of submission God requires of his people can only be achieved by dependence on the Holy Spirit. That is why Paul closely connects the command to be filled with the Holy Spirit with this all-important teaching about how Christians are supposed to relate to one another. For those of us who are in Christ, submission takes on a whole new meaning. While our society continues to demand a certain rank and order, in the kingdom of Christ we submit to one another.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


To the faithful few...

May I direct your attention to a terrific post? My friend who goes by Doulos Christou has hit the nail on the head over at his blogsite, No Pearls Before Swine. You will find a link to his site in my sidebar. Please go and read his most recent post. He has put my heartbeat into words!

He has even fewer readers than I do so he would be greatly encouraged by your comments. He has worked hard on his series and deserves some recognition!

Thanks in advance!


Sunday, April 08, 2007


I find it fascinating how often the subject of man’s “free will” becomes a matter of discussion. At our men’s Bible study last week the subject arose again. We had an exhilarating conversation. I love the discussion but I don’t quite grasp the problem it seems to raise for some folks.

For some reason, people think they can contradict the sovereignty of God by citing man’s “free will.” Or, they say that God limits his sovereignty when it comes to “free will” so as not to offend the freedom of his creation. (Is that an oxymoron or what? What in the world is “limited sovereignty?”) Or, they say that “free will” is obvious because if we did not have free will then we would be no more than puppets. This is invariably followed by some human being making a statement about what God wants or does not want, like, “God wants us to love him and worship him by our own ‘free will,’ not because he forced us to.” (Why do people think they have to speak for God when he is perfectly capable of speaking for himself and does so very well in the Bible?)

I would like to suggest that there is mystery involved here. Just because you can’t figure something out doesn’t mean there is a problem. The Bible makes it perfectly clear that people make their own decisions and that God controls the hearts of men. I was reading Exodus in my devotions the other day and came across these passages:

Exodus 9:12, “But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said to Moses.

Exodus 9:34, 35 “When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts. So Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the LORD had said through Moses.”

Exodus 10:1, “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these miraculous signs of mine among them’”

I could go on and on showing how God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and how Pharaoh hardened his own heart. I wasn’t there and I have no proof but I doubt that Pharaoh and his officials struggled over this and said to each other, “We really want to let the Hebrews go but God is forcing us to change our minds and keep them here against our will.” God hardened their hearts because God is sovereign over the hearts of men. (Remember that he controls the hearts of kings!) Pharaoh and his officials hardened their own hearts. It makes perfect sense to me.

“But,” people say, “salvation is different. God wants us to choose him of our own ‘free will.’” There it is again. “Free will.” Where do we find this in scripture? I know this; God says that the unregenerate person is controlled by the flesh and that the mind of the flesh is “hostile toward God. It does not submit to God’s law, NOR CAN IT DO SO. Those controlled by the flesh CANNOT PLEASE GOD.” Romans 8:5-8

So God wants us to come to him of our own “free will?” He wants us to do this because it is pleasing to him? But the Bible says the unregenerate person cannot please God! So if we are capable of coming to him of our own “free will” then that would NOT be pleasing to him, since we cannot please him.

Does not God clearly say that he will remove our hearts of stone and give us a heart of flesh and put a new spirit in us? (Ezekiel 11:19) What is the problem here? God did not give Pharaoh a new heart but hardened his heart of stone. Pharaoh hardened his own heart freely and made his decisions accordingly. God gave me a heart of flesh and put a new spirit in me and I made my own decisions accordingly.

I never felt like God was treating me like a puppet. I never said, “I really would like to be a Christian but God won’t let me. He keeps hardening my heart.” And I never said, “I never really wanted to be a Christian but God forced me to be one by giving me a new heart.”

I come to this happy conclusion: God is sovereign over all things, including my heart and my mind. He has given me a new heart and has put a new Spirit in me. He has done all this and somehow he is very happy with me anyway!

Saturday, April 07, 2007


Ephesians 5:18

"Do not get drunk on wine...instead, be filled with the Spirit"

Notice first that Paul makes this statement as a command. He commands us to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit. Clearly then, this is not just an experience we are supposed to seek. It is not something we go forward at a church meeting to receive. It is not something that happens to us up at camp. Neither is it something that we sit around hoping to receive. We are not to pray for it and then sit idle waiting for it to happen to us. There is something for us to do! We are responsible for being filled with the Spirit!

In a couple of places Paul warns us about doing things that would hinder the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. In Ephesians 4:30 he talks about grieving him, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” That Greek word “grieve” can also be translated “irritate, offend, insult.” Paul makes this command right in the middle of the passage in which he is exhorting us to live holy lives and avoid lying, anger, stealing, filthy language, and sexual immorality. How do I grieve the Holy Spirit? By allowing myself to continue to participate in the sinful activities that he opposes! The Spirit constantly urges me to stay away from such behavior. If I ignore his ministering and continue to be controlled by these things then I grieve the Spirit.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:19 Paul writes, “Do not quench the Spirit.” Paul’s words paint a picture of the work of the Spirit in our lives. He is like a fire burning within our hearts; a fire that consumes the waste of our sinful lives and urges us on toward holiness. The Spirit points at sinful things in our lives and calls us to throw them on the flames and let them be consumed. But what if I resist his conviction? What if I refuse his direction in my heart? Then I will be quenching his flame, putting out his fire. I will certainly become hardened to his prodding and deafened to his whispering. I will eventually become impervious to his work in me. So if I want to be filled with the Spirit then I must fight against my flesh and against temptation. I cannot be filled with the Spirit if I grieve or quench him!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Ephesians 5:18

"Do not get drunk on wine...instead, be filled with the Spirit."

What does Paul mean when he tells us to be filled with the Spirit? Just what does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? There are many examples in the Bible of people upon whom the Spirit of God came to enable them to do something special and powerful. But that is not what we are talking about.

We are not talking about an experience. We are talking about a way of life! The verb tense Paul uses indicates that he means we are to continue being filled with the Spirit. It is an ongoing way of life. When a person’s mind is completely taken over by someone or something we say he is filled with that person or thing. For example, a person whose mind is filled with his work is a workaholic. A sports fanatic has his mind filled with his favorite team or athlete. New parents’ minds are on their newborn so we say they are filled with their baby. A girl who has fallen in love is full of her boyfriend.

One of my lexicons says a person can be “filled with the powers and qualities of another.” When one person is completely taken up with another person he can become influenced and shaped by that person. You see this among children. When a boy idolizes another boy in the neighborhood you might see him trying to act like him and do the things he does.

Now Paul says, “Don’t be under the influence of wine but make sure you are under the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit.” In other words, our personalities are to be influenced by the Spirit of God. Our minds are to be taken up with him. Our hearts are to be filled with him. Our wills are to be influenced by him. Just as a drunk surrenders himself to the control of the alcohol so we are to surrender ourselves to the influence of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, April 01, 2007


Ephesians 5:18

"Do not get drunk on wine...instead, be filled with the Spirit"

Paul is teaching the young church in Ephesus how they are supposed to live now that they are Christians. They have undergone a radical change. The old man has died and they have experienced new birth. They are now very different from their friends and neighbors. Paul says they are to live differently. They are to live lives worthy of the calling they have received (4:1). They are to no longer live as the rest of the Gentiles do (4:17). They are to put off the old man and put on the new man which is created to be like God (4:24). They are to be imitators of God and live lives of love (5:1, 2). They are to live as children of light (5:8). They are to live wisely (5:15). But how are they supposed to make such dramatic changes in their lives? How is it possible? We come to the peak of Paul’s teaching on living the Christian life in 5:18, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”

It is fascinating how Paul juxtaposes getting drunk and being filled with the Holy Spirit. Drinking parties and drunkenness were a normal part of the lives of the Gentiles in Ephesus. When Paul draws the contrast and comparison between getting drunk and being filled with the Spirit, his readers would quickly make the connection. When a person is drunk he is not in control of himself; he is under the control of the alcohol. He cannot think well and he makes very foolish decisions. He loses his inhibitions and does all kinds of things he would not do if he were sober. Paul tells his readers they should not be filled with wine anymore; instead, they should be filled with the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit should be the one controlling the Christian person. The Holy Spirit helps the believer think and make wise decisions. The Spirit counsels the Christian regarding the kinds of things he should and should not do. The Holy Spirit is the person who fills the follower of Christ and enables him to do all the things Paul has been exhorting him to do.

So, how does the Christian change from doing all the things he used to do and begin doing the things that God wants him to do? He obeys Paul’s command and makes sure he is filled with the Holy Spirit. This is the essence of Christianity. This is the thing that makes the difference between Christians and non-Christians. That which makes a person Christian and that which makes him so different from unbelievers is the Holy Spirit who has taken up residence in his life. This is how Christians have a relationship with the Almighty God. This is how we are authentically connected to Jesus Christ. This is the thing that makes non-Christians think we are lunatics. They say, “Those crazy Christians! They claim God has come and taken up residence in their lives! They actually believe God is living in them and guiding their lives! That is certain proof that they are insane!” It is also certain proof that God has truly given us rebirth and new lives in Christ!

Are you aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life? Do you know what it means to listen to his counsel and follow his directions? Do you recognize his voice? If not, then how do you really know you are a Christian? If so, then you have assurance that you are a child of God!