Part 3 continues with the discussion under Eph. 4:16.
I'll quote part of what Richard J. Erickson said regarding unity when discussing Eph. 4:7, 16 ("Evangelical Commentary on the Bible" [Baker, 1989], pages 1027, 1028). "Only on this foundation of unity, ultimately to be found in the unity of God, can the unity of the family possibly come to reality. By the same token, the members of the body, unified in theory but fragmented by nature, could never see themselves brought to union, as God wishes them to be, without the needed tools and enablement. God has therefore given grace to them all (v. 7), to each one differently as Christ has seen fit liberally to apportion (no sense of stinginess is to be associated here with the word apportion [measure]). ... This section [Eph. 4:1-16] closes with a metaphorical model of unity. Like the human body, held together by design, the church grows through the coordinated and cooperative work of its many members, who out of love for the whole contribute their individual efforts toward the good of the whole. But the plan and energy are drawn from the head who watches over and provides for his body. Indeed he lives his own life out through it (v. 16)."
I'll quote part of what Klyne Snodgrass said on Eph. 4:1-16 under the subheading "The responsibility of the individual" ("Ephesians" [Zondervan, 1996], page 212). I recently learned that Snodgrass is a Southern Baptist. Thanks be to God for all the good fruit that comes from that segment of the body of Christ.) "... While it is true that some have a special responsibility to teach and preach [etc.], Paul stresses that every Christian is responsible to build up the church. We have all received grace for ministry [using the word "ministry" in a very full sense] .... ...only as each person fulfills his or her calling is the church truly strong."
I'll also quote part of what Snodgrass said on pages 217, 218. "So often Christianity is presented as if nothing is required of believers. We place so much emphasis on human weakness, on our inability to do anything profitable, and on the necessity of God's actions in salvation that no room is left for human responsibility. The New Testament never gives this impression! ... This [to live like God enables and requires us to live] requires an act of the will and a determination to follow through. ...
... None of this suggests we accomplish anything by ourselves, but life with God and by his help is a life of discipline and effort. ...
... We protest that no one can actually live worthy of this calling and express our fears of perfectionism. The text is anxious about neither; its concern is only that our lives are shaped by God's salvation. Right theology should lead to right conduct. [One major problem is that much of the theology isn't right, very much including the teaching that Christians will necessarily continue sinning until they are glorified.] ... Our understanding of our call must be sincere and honest, going to the depths of our being. ...."
When we think of the growth of the body of Christ, we can also think of the growth that comes with the continual adding of new believers to the church. It doesn't seem that that type of growth is considered in Eph. 4:15, 16, but that type of growth (along with other factors) ensures that the five-fold ministry will be needed until Jesus returns. Since the body of Christ is under constant attack from the world, the flesh, and the devil, one major need is for us to be very careful we don't go backwards and lose any part of what we have attained in Christ (cf., e.g., Phil. 3:16). We can't be passive or static; we must always press on in Christ (cf. Phil. 3:12-15). It causes major problems when those in the five-fold ministry fall backwards (or never get on the straight and narrow path to begin with); they often take many Christians with them.
A Discussion on the Overall Teaching of the Book of Ephesians
Regarding How Long It Should Take for Christians to Become Holy/Spiritual (by the Spirit)/(Relatively) Perfect
It fits the epistle of Paul to the Ephesians (and it fits the entire New Testament) to speak of Christians being, or very quickly becoming, what they (by God's definition) can, and should, and must be as Christians. I bring this up here for two reasons. First, there's a very widespread viewpoint in the body of Christ that it's unrealistic, even unbiblical, to think in terms of Christians abiding in a state of holiness or (relative) perfection. This is, nevertheless, the dominant viewpoint presented in the New Testament. On this topic see my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin." For a start see pages 169-171.
The first paragraph starting on page 171 is especially relevant to the viewpoint presented in Eph. 4:12-16. I'll quote that paragraph here, "Several verses that I have listed do not quite fit the ideal pattern, but they help demonstrate that this pattern does exist. [I'm speaking of the ideal pattern that Christians, even those who are young in the faith, are actually to be set apart from sin and to live for God in an abiding state of holiness/(relative) perfection. The New Testament doesn't present this as an unrealistic or unattainable ideal.] These verses deal with situations in which some Christians were not yet adequately set apart from sin. Four such verses are 1 Thess. 5:23; 2 Tim. 2:21 (both are listed and discussed on pages 178, 179 of "Holiness and Victory Over Sin" under "hagiazo") and 2 Cor. 7:1; 1 Thess 3:13 (both are listed and discussed on pages 182-185 under "hagiosune"). In all four of these verses, the apostle Paul was concerned that this inadequate situation be soon rectified and these Christians become sanctified."
A second reason I mentioned what I did in the first sentence of the first paragraph is that what Paul said in Eph. 4:12-16 (like the four verses just mentioned in the quotation; but unlike the dominant viewpoint presented in the book of Ephesians and throughout the New Testament) doesn't fit the ideal pattern. The fact that many Christians fall short of what we are called to, including quite a few Christians spoken of in the New Testament, doesn't change God's ideal for Christians. Let's set our sights on God's best; let's not try to find out how much fleshiness/worldliness we can get by with and still make it to heaven. That's a dangerous way to think. Furthermore, the Bible doesn't back up the idea that all that really matters is that we squeeze into heaven - we're going to have to answer to God, and there will be rewards, and loss of rewards.
Let's look at what the book of Ephesians says regarding the issue we're considering: We are called, and enabled, to be "holy and blameless before [God]" (Eph. 1:4); "we have [the] redemption through His blood" out of the kingdom of sin, Satan, spiritual death, and darkness (Eph. 1:7); "we have been sealed in [Christ] with the Holy Spirit," the mighty Spirit who dwells in us, who makes us alive, makes us righteous and holy, etc. (Eph. 1:13); the same great power - the resurrection power - that raised Christ from the dead has been made available to us, which enables us to live in/with Christ (Eph. 1:19, 20); God the Father "put all things in subjection under [Christ's] feet"; He then gave Him, with His authority over all things, to/for the benefit of the church (Eph. 1:20-23).
God the Father "made us alive together with Christ...and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places" (Eph. 2:5, 6); "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10); "for through [Christ] we both [Jews and Gentiles] have our access in one Spirit to the Father" (Eph. 2:18); the glorious prayer that Paul prayed for his readers (which applies to all Christians) in Eph. 3:14-19 is very relevant; this prayer included the request that his readers "be strengthened with power through [God's] Spirit in the inner man so that Christ may [fully] dwell [cf. Eph. 4:13, 15] in [their/our] hearts through [the] faith...that [they/we] may be filled up to all the fullness of God"; "Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us" (Eph. 3:20).
Please reread Eph. 4:1-6, especially 4:1-3; these verses clearly spoke of things Paul expected of his readers then, not just after a (lengthy) period of growth; Ephesians 4:17 to the end of the epistle at 6:24 is literally packed with teaching and exhortations written from the viewpoint that we as Christians are to be mature, relatively perfect, righteous, holy, humble, obedient, victorious, etc. NOW, not just at some time in the future; I'll list many examples as we continue with this section: We are to walk no longer as the Gentiles walk in the futility of their mind/way of thinking (Eph. 4:17); we have been taught (and enabled) in Christ to once-for-all lay aside the sinful old man, to be renewed by the Spirit in our mind/way of thinking, and to put on the new man, "which...has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth" (Eph. 4:22-24); then, in the rest of the verses of chapter 4, Paul exhorts his readers to lay aside falsehood (not just gradually taper off falsehood/lying) and speak truth with one another, for they are members of one another (Eph. 4:25); to not give the devil any place in them (Eph. 4:27); to steal no more but to work so they can share with those in need (Eph. 4:28); to let no unwholesome word proceed from their mouths, but only edifying words (Eph. 4:29); to not grieve the Holy Spirit (by failing to walk after the Spirit in the will of God) by whom they were sealed for the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30); to put away all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice and to be kind to one another, tender hearted and forgiving each other (Eph. 4:31, 32). Note that the things just listed from Eph. 4:25-32 are all part of putting off the old man and putting on the new man of Eph. 4:22-24; and note that such things are all part of what it means for Christians to be righteous/holy/(relatively) perfect and that these things promote the unity of the body of Christ.
Throughout Ephesians chapter 5 Paul exhorts his readers to live on a high level, a level that includes being righteous, holy, blameless, (relatively) perfect, mature, and godly; "be imitators of God, as beloved children" (Eph. 5:1) (how's that for a high calling?; it certainly includes walking in holiness and being relatively perfect); "walk in love, just as Christ also loved you" (Eph. 5:2); "immorality, or any impurity or greed must not even be named [as existing] among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting [proper], but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater [who bows before the things he covets], has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these [sinful] things the wrath of God [instead of an inheritance in the kingdom of God] comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them [of the wrath of God]; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn [better, "approving" (with a renewed mind; cf. Eph. 4:17, 23; Rom. 8:5-8; 12:2)] what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness..." (Eph. 5:3-11; Eph. 5:3-8 are briefly discussed on page 186 of "Holiness and Victory Over Sin"); "Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of [redeeming] the time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled [on a continuous basis] with the Spirit...always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ" (Eph. 5:15-21); "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory [better, "glorious"], having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless" (Eph. 5:25-27). The Lamb has been slain. Everything we need to be holy and blameless has been provided (cf., e.g., Eph. 1:3, 4, 7). It's important to see that Paul speaks here (in Eph. 5:22-33) of the church having already been presented to Christ; the two have already become one; we must be faithful to Him now (cf., e.g., 2 Cor. 11:2, 3). In these verses Paul uses Christ's present love for the church, His bride, as an illustration of how the husband should love his wife. Ephesians 5:22-33 are discussed on pages 174-178 of "Holiness and Victory Over Sin."
In Eph. 6:1-9 Paul exhorts children, parents, slaves, and masters of slaves to live as Christians are required to live before God, the Judge; in Eph. 6:10-20 he exhorts his readers to fight the good fight against Satan and his hosts, making it a top priority to maintain truth, righteousness, faith, salvation, prayer, etc. by rightly using the full armor supplied by God. Ephesians 6:10-20 are discussed in my "Paper on Faith" (pages 55-58 of the internet version).
A Discussion on the Meaning of the Word "Hades" in Acts 2:27, 31; the Meaning of "Paradise" in Luke 23:43; and the Meaning of "Abraham's Bosom" in Luke 16:22
I assume, in agreement with many, that Jesus, after His death, went to that part (compartment) of Hades where the believers were. That same place is apparently called Paradise in Luke 23:43 ("And He [Jesus] said to him [the repentant man on the cross next to Him], 'Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in Paradise.' " Luke 16:22 also speaks of that same place (Abraham would have been in Paradise) with the words "Abraham's bosom" ("Now the poor man [Lazarus] died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom...").
In accordance with the prophecy of Psalm 16:10, which was quoted in Acts 2:27, Jesus didn't remain in Hades/Sheol. (Hades is the Greek noun used in Acts 2:27, 31. Sheol is the Hebrew noun used in Psalm 16:10.) He was resurrected on the third day. I believe the translation of the NKJV, "You will not leave my soul in Hades" (Acts 2:27) (or "thou wilt not leave" of the KJV) better communicates the meaning intended by Paul than the translation of the NASB (YOU WILL NOT ABANDON MY SOUL TO HADES). The translation of the NASB leaves some ambiguity: "Abandon" could be understood (rightly I believe) to mean that His soul went to Hades/Sheol, but that He didn't stay there; or it could (wrongly I believe) be understood to mean that His soul never went to Hades/Sheol (which is the viewpoint of many). The BAGD Greek Lexicon (under the Greek verb "egkataleipo," which was translated "You will [not] leave" by the NKJV) has, "leave...allow to remain...the soul in Hades Acts 2:27...."
I'll quote part of what F. Godet said under Luke 16:22 and 23:43 ("Gospel of St. Luke" (Funk, 1881), pages 393, 494). "In Jewish theology, the angels are charged with receiving the souls of pious Israelites, and transporting them to that portion of Hades which is reserved for them. "Abraham's bosom," a figure also common among the Rabbins [Rabbis], denotes either intimate communion in general (John 1:18), or more specially the place of honor at a feast (John 13:23); this is naturally assigned to the newly-arrived stranger. ... Meyer concludes, from the fact that the internment [burial] of Lazarus is not mentioned [in Luke 16:19-22], and from the object [Greek] "auton," "him," that he was transported body and soul to Abraham's bosom. But so early as in the Targum of Canticles, we find the distinction between body and soul: 'The righteous whose souls are carried by angels to paradise.' The pronoun "auton" thus designates only his true self, the soul. The burial of Lazarus is not mentioned, for it took place without ceremony.... ... The contrast to the rich man is evident. No angels to transport his soul; but for his body, on the contrary, a splendid funeral procession." And under Luke 23:43, Godet said, "...this word paradise is applied to that part of Hades where the faithful are assembled; and even in the last writings of the New Testament, the Epistles and the Apocalypse, to a yet higher abode...2 Cor. 12:4; Rev. 2:7. It is paradise as part of Hades which is spoken of here [in Luke 23:43]."
I'll quote part of what Alfred Plummer said under Luke 16:22, 23 and 23:43 ("Gospel According to St. Luke" [T. & T. Clark, fifth edition, the third edition was dated in 1900], pages 393, 394, 536). "Lazarus in Sheol reposes with his head on Abraham's breast, as a child in his father's lap, and shares his happiness. Compare John 1:18. The expression [Abraham's bosom] is not common in Jewish writings; but Abraham is sometimes represented as welcoming the penitent into paradise. [See] Edersheim "Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah," [Vol.] 2, page 280. ... It [Abraham's bosom] is not a synonym for paradise; but to repose on Abraham's bosom is to be in paradise, for Abraham is there...."
Under Luke 16:23 Plummer said (in part), "That Hades does not mean 'hell' as a place of punishment is manifest from Acts 2:27, 31; Gen. 37:35; 42:38; 44:29; Job 14:13; 17:13; etc. That Hades includes a place of punishment is equally clear from this passage."
And under Luke 23:43 Plummer said, "The word [Paradise], said to be of Persian origin, is used in various senses in Scripture: 1. 'a park or pleasure-ground' (Neh. 2:8; Cant. 4:13; Eccl. 2:5); 2. 'the garden of Eden' (Gen. 2:8-10, 15, 16; 3:1-3, 8-10; etc.); 3. 'Abraham's bosom,' i.e. the resting-place of the souls of the just until the resurrection (the meaning here) [I had a footnote: I believe that the believers left Hades behind when Jesus did (about that time anyway); they are now in heaven, heaven in a preliminary (pre resurrection) sense.] 4. 'a region in heaven,' perhaps identical with 'the third heaven' (2 Cor. 12:4)."
I'll quote a sentence from what Henry Alford said on the meaning of the word "Paradise" under Luke 23:43 ("New Testament for English Readers," Vol. 1 [Baker, 1983 reprint], page 442). "The word [Paradise] is used of the garden of Eden by the LXX [Septuagint], Gen. 2:8, etc., and subsequently became, in the Jewish theology, the name for that part of Hades, the abode of the dead, where the souls of the righteous await the resurrection."
I'll quote part of what James Orr said regarding the "Ideas of Sheol" circulating among the Jews in the times that Jesus lived ("Eschatology of the Old Testament" in Vol. 2 of the "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia" [Eerdmans, 1939], page 978). "Generally, however, in the apocalyptic books, a marked change is seen in the ideas of Sheol. It is still the place of the dead, but is regarded more as a state intermediate between death and the resurrection for such as shall be raised; in which righteous and wicked are separated; in which the wicked suffer punishment. The "Book of Enoch" ((I had a footnote: George Eldon Ladd ("Apocalyptic Literature," "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Fully Revised," Vol. 1 [Eerdmans, 1979], page 156) says, "most scholars believe [the books of Enoch] were written between 165 and 64 B.C., but conclusions vary considerably.")) distinguishes four abodes for the departed - two for the righteous, and two for the wicked (21 1-13). One class of the wicked (those already punished in this life) remain there forever, while the others are raised, and pass to the torment of Gehenna (17 2). The righteous are in Paradise - 'the garden of life' (61 12), 'the garden of righteousness' (67 3)."
This discussion continues in Part 4. Then we will go on to discuss Eph. 4:17-32, which are very important verses dealing with righteousness, holiness, and the victory over sin.