Last week’s lesson was about the importance of becoming unified as a church. The Apostle Paul
continues that idea in this week’s lesson by instructing us how to accomplish that. God is a God of order. For things to work well, we must follow that order. After Paul reminds the Ephesians of who they are in Christ, assuring them of God’s grace, he cautions them to remain faithful to Christ. There is an urgency in this Scripture. His very mention of “no longer being tossed about by every wind of teaching, cunning, and deceit,” indicated some might have struggled with their theological views. A great spiritual danger is becoming complacent about the Word of God. The enemy requires only a small crack in our resolve to sneak in and cause havoc. Therefore, Paul reaffirms the principle of how we grow and become strong enough to stand against the attack of the enemy.
He reminded the believers that there were those who had been specially called and anointed by God with certain teaching gifts and given the responsibility to communicate the truth of the Gospel. They were the only ones to whom they should listen. Although everyone in the body had gifts, only certain ones were gifted to teach: apostles (those who had actually seen Jesus — only John and Paul in this congregation) prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. These were the ones responsible for disciplining the members. The prophet was to rightly teach the Word of God and the spiritual significance of it; the evangelist brought the lost in the community to the body; and pastors and teachers took care of each member. These four, working together, built up and equipped the church body to stand faithful.
Apparently, some members of the church were listening to outside voices and were becoming confused in their theology. They were “tossed about by every wave of teaching, human cunning, and techniques of deceit.” This was destroying the unity of the body. Paul reminded the leaders (prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers) they were to continue to speak truth to those tossed about but to do it in a loving way.
Paul had spent a great deal of time in Ephesus. Scholars believe he first lived and served there around A.D. 52-55. The book of Ephesians was written around A.D. 61 while he was imprisoned. Why am I mentioning this? In our lesson, Paul was attempting to douse a fire in the church that could eventually destroy the sanctity of the congregation. In a mere six years, this church went from excited new-born believers who were burning evil books, to a group who were tossed about by false teachings. Biblical warnings come only when there is danger and Paul had heard stories of those who were questioning Jesus’ teachings and being tempted by a teaching that required something other than grace. The enemy was on the loose. Sound doctrine needed to be foremost in the minds of the people if they were to stand against him. He reminded leaders of their responsibility. He reminded the congregation of God’s order while begging everyone to not be afraid to speak truth to those spreading lies. Did they listen? History would show they didn’t.
Paul’s last letter was written to Timothy, one of the pastors in Ephesus. It was written around A.D. 66, 14 years after Paul first established the church there. He wrote, “But know this: Hard times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (CSB) He goes on to tell Timothy in verse 10, “But you… Timothy” Timothy had stood firm while the church had let its guard down.
Have we let our guard down? Have we become complacent about our doctrine and beliefs? Perhaps we have focused on things that don’t matter and perhaps we too are listening to the voices of the world. We need to stand strong in the Word so we won’t be tossed about by every wave of teaching. Will we heed the warning? As for me, I long to hear, “But you…”
I never dreamed I would live in a world where the words found in II Timothy 3:1-5 would come to fruition.
Grace is a conference speaker, author, and member of First Church, Clinton.