Jack Carroll - Ephesians 4

There are many different ways by which the Lord loves to speak to His own people, but there are three ways in particular. He loves to speak by the still small voice within, He loves to speak to His people, and He loves to speak to His people by His word. The real value of the written word is in this, that by the word God can speak to your heart, reach your conscience, and you can prove the wondrous cleansing power of that written word of God.

 

It is not possible for any child of God to make progress in the Way of Life if he neglects the reading of His word. It is not possible to make any progress in the way without prayer. A prayerless child of God is a powerless child of God, a useless child of God. If we neglect habitually seeking His face in prayer and in reading His word, it will not be very long until we become as savorless salt, good for nothing without value to those who are inside or outside of His family and kingdom. Ephesians 4. Read over this chapter at least once every week until next Convention. It is one of the great chapters of the New Testament, and I feel satisfied that if every child of God would read it over once every week as God’s message to your own heart, as we would gather together again next year we would be able to testify of the help this particular portion of God’s word has been to us during the year. In connection with this chapter, I would like to ask you to memorize verse 30. This verse is the key to the right understanding of the chapter, and if we will memorize it and really make it our own it will be helpful to us. If when we are tempted to do the things that would grieve the Holy Spirit of God, if He brought this verse to our remembrance we might be saved from many a foolish word and action. If you will only memorize it and read the whole chapter over once every week until we come back, all of us will get much help.

 

There are at least eleven references to the Holy Spirit of God in this letter to the Ephesians, and Paul was very definite about what our attitude ought to be toward God’s Holy Spirit. He is our helper and the One Who has come to take the place of the actual physical presence of the Son of God. He said before He left them, “It is expedient for you that I go away: but if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you: but if I depart, I will send Him unto you."  The disciples may have wished that the physical presence of Jesus would have remained with them, but that would not have been best for them. His physical presence could only be with them at one time and place, but the Helper He was to send to take the place of His physical presence made it possible for Him to perform the promise He gave when He was leaving them, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” In connection with this Helper Who has taken up His abode in our bodies, this One by Whom we have been sealed unto the day of redemption, Who has come to strengthen us. Paul in writing this fourth chapter of Ephesians said, “Don’t grieve Him, don’t disregard His whispers to your heart, don’t neglect to follow His leadings. Listen eagerly to what He has to say, in order that you may obey Him.”

 

The Holy Spirit of God can be resisted.  In Genesis 6 God had to say to some people, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man: for that he also is flesh.” There came a time when God had to let these people perish. He had done His very best for them but in spite of that they perished because they resisted the striving of His Holy Spirit. There may be some with whom the Spirit of God has striven who have been conscious of their need and convicted of sin and it would be sad if they left here still resisting His appeal. Remember, He has said, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man.” On the occasion when Stephen was put on trial for his life, when he gave his testimony in the presence of the counsel, he closed his defense by charging them with a sin their fathers had been guilty of down through the ages. He said, “Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did so do you.” So it is possible for men not only to resist the Holy Ghost but to keep on resisting until finally He leaves them and they perish eternally.

 

1 Thessalonians 5:19. The Spirit of God can be quenched. “Quench not the Spirit.”  This is rather an odd word to use in this connection. Paul was writing of the fellowship of God’s children when they came together to minister one to another and he may have had the feeling that some who were able to pray and to preach well might be inclined to discourage those who were weaker, and because of a feeling of weakness some would not dare to give their testimony. And as a result of that they might be utterly discouraged and might be inclined to give it up altogether.  Paul wrote to them, “Don’t throw cold water on the feeblest effort of the weakest child of God to express the thoughts God has been seeking to put in their minds and hearts.” We would like to think those who have taken the first step into the family of God, as they now feel their responsibility for taking part in the little meetings that they will not be discouraged because of their weakness, and that none who are older will hinder them. Long prayers are for the secret place. It is a very wise procedure for God’s children when they come together not to tax the patience and the grace of their brethren by preaching lengthy sermons. “Quench not the Spirit.”  The Spirit of God can be resisted, and when we separate from this place the Spirit of God can also be quenched. Then Paul says, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” A great deal has been said to stir our hearts to a deeper, truer love for Him, and I hope it will grow and increase with the years. The truest proof that this love has been increased in us will be manifested by an ever-increasing desire not to say anything and not to do anything that would really grieve this Son of God Who has become to us the fairest among ten thousand and the altogether lovely One. It would be very helpful and profitable to take this verse home with you and use it as a motto to govern your lives and fellowship during the coming year. The main theme of this chapter to the Ephesians is the mutual responsibility that rests upon the ambassadors of Christ and His saints to maintain the unity of the Spirit. If you read it over carefully, you will be impressed with the fact that this is the theme uppermost in Paul’s mind and the great anxiety of his heart when he wrote this letter.  He wanted the servants of God and the people of God, those who would be separated and put into the ministry and those who were still living in their homes and working at their trades and meeting together in the little church to both feel the responsibility God had placed upon them to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  It is most important for those of us who are workers in particular to have clearly fixed in our minds what is the real hope and purpose of all true ministry. If we are not clear about this, and are not aiming at this, then our ministry will not be of very much value. It will have the very opposite effect to that which God has purposed and planned.  If I were asked what is the real object and purpose of all true ministry, I would find a very satisfactory answer in this fourth chapter of Ephesians. It tells that God’s gift to His people is His servants. We are God’s gift to you. The same Christ that descended has ascended and He still gives to men: and whether you recognize the fact or not, God’s servants are His gift to His people. In giving them He has placed upon them a very serious responsibility with regard to their ministry, and this responsibility is clearly defined in Ephesians 4.  All true ministry has a two-fold objective. First of all it brings about in the lives of the individual children of God more likeness to the Son of God: for only in this can the purpose of life or of God be fulfilled concerning us. Many a time we have been perplexed in heart and mind with regard to the welfare of our being. Sometimes we have wished we never had been born.  Men have looked for an answer to this question through many different sources, but no answer has ever been given to men that can satisfy the human mind like that which was given by God Himself in the gift of His Son. “God, Who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past unto the Fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son.” By the lowly life of that Son, the example He gave us of a life that was wholly pleasing unto God, He made clear and plain once and for ever the purpose of God in creating and calling us by the Gospel. That plan was to bring about in our lives the fulfillment of that familiar scripture in Romans 8:28-29. That we might be conformed to the image of His Son. When any of our brothers or sisters stood on the platform to minister to you, if they could have conveyed to your mind their desire with regard to your individual lives, they would have brought this thought home to your heart:  that all God’s dealings with you and all His work in your hearts and lives is to bring about just one result. That result is more conformity and likeness to His Son, a little more likeness to Him this year than last year. That the graces which were seen in Him in all their beauty and perfection might become more manifest in us as we grow older in the Way of Life. I sometimes think of God looking down from Heaven and seeing men and women in a very different light from the way in which we see them. It was said of Michaelangelo that he could see in the rough, unhewn block of marble in the marble, but when he looked at it he saw a completed thing and a perfect quarry the completed statute. Others could see only an ordinary block of thing. Before ever any of our great buildings are erected they are formed in the eye of the architect and those bridges in San Francisco were in the minds of the engineers before the steel was manufactured for their construction. As God looks down from Heaven and sees us as individual lumps of clay, He sees the possibilities that others do not see or recognize, and He says, “If I can just get this man I can make something out of him.” I like to think of Matthew the publican. The Pharisees scorned him and looked upon him as one of the worst in the land. He was a disgrace to his own family, and an apostate from his own church. But God saw in Matthew something different, possibilities in his life that were afterwards realized, and Matthew the publican became Matthew the apostle, and the writer of the first Gospel. Think of Peter cursing and drinking along the shores of Galilee. If we had been there we would have passed him by and said there was a man that was beyond all hope, and that nothing could be done for a man of that type. But God saw just a little different, and the cursing, swearing, drinking, carousing man becomes Peter the disciple and Peter the apostle, the leader of the twelve, and the writer of two books of the New Testament. What about Saul of Tarsus? If we had lived in the city of Jerusalem we would have said he was the most hopeless one in that whole city. He prayed publicly three times a day, was wholly devoted to the church of his fathers, and later became the persecutor of all who called upon Jesus’ name. If we had seen him standing holding the clothes of the young men who stoned Stephen we would have said there was no hope for him. But God saw just a little different, and Saul of Tarsus became Paul the apostle and a slave of Jesus. At the beginning there was not very much evidence that Christ had come to live in these lives. The old life was more dominant than the new, but as we follow those lives year by year we can see that they were surely and steadily becoming more and more conformed to the image of their Master.  They were more like Him at the end of their lives than they were at the beginning, and this is just exactly how God intended it should be.  Then the first objective of all true ministry is to endeavor to bring about in the lives of the individual people of God just this thing: a little more likeness to Him, Who loved us and gave Himself for us. I would not care to go to any Convention anywhere, or to stand in the presence of God’s people to minister to them, unless I was aiming at something. Merely to stand up and say a lot of things does not get you anywhere. A man sent of God has a message to give, it is a very definite message, and he has to have something in line with what God has revealed.  We have no doubt that the ministry that aims at so living and so teaching that more of the life of Christ may be seen in the lives of His people is a ministry in accordance with the revealed will and purpose of God.

 

This chapter does not deal so much with the ministry of the servants of God to His people as individuals, but rather the ministry of the servants of God to His people as a whole. It is a chapter, which emphasizes that the greatest and most serious responsibility resting upon any servant of God is to maintain and to increase the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Any ministry that does not aim at this is a ministry that is not of God, whether it is that of the youngest of us or the oldest. It is a ministry that God cannot and will not bless.

 

In the Old Testament days the Psalmist wrote of this unity that is spoken of. He said, “How good and pleasant a thing it is for the brethren to dwell together in unity.” On the last night the Lord spent on earth, when He poured out His heart to His Heavenly Father, part of His prayer was that His people might be one. I can imagine no greater crime against the body of Christ than for any of us to suggest a word or sow a thought that would destroy this unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  We who are the servants of God have a very serious responsibility in this matter. We have to be careful of what we say and do and what we may write, so that in everything we may contribute our little share to what is so dear to the heart of God. Then as He looks down from Heaven He will see what He is so anxious to see in His people, more likeness to His Son and more unity in His family.

 

The longer I live and the more I know and understand of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God, the more I recognize the difficulties and problems that confront us as His people. These difficulties may be even greater today than they were in Paul’s day. When he answered this great commission and went out to preach the Gospel, he went out into a world that was filled with confusion.

 

There was racial antagonism, the Jews against the Gentiles and the Gentiles against the Jews. There were many different religions that conflicted. There was the circumcision and the uncircumcision that divided and separated people into different classes and orders. Not only that, but there was the difference between those who were free and those who were bound.

 

When Paul was going to preach the Gospel he recognized that if the message was to really succeed in bringing into the family of God men and women who would be one and who would have one mind that all these differences that tended toward separation in the world would have to cease. So then in Christ there be neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, bond or free, but Christ would be all in all.  I think of my fellow-servants going out into the world that is more confused today than in Paul’s day. There is greater religious confusion today than ever. More men are saying, “Lo here and lo there,” and men do not know where to go or to whom to look. When you look into the political world there is nothing but confusion there.

 

Take a look into the social world and it is bad. It was bad enough in Paul’s day, but today it is more corrupt because it is covered over with a spurious Christianity, and real rottenness of it hidden from the eyes of men. It is out into this world that God’s servants are being called. Their call is to bring men and women out of the confusion into a world-wide family and fellowship, where unregenerate days have come to an end. Men forget their races and nationalities and forget their religious and social status in Christ. In little fellowship meetings scattered over the whole world, men and women meet together in His name to minister to one another and to search His word, and they are one in Christ.  Can you tell me any more worthwhile life you could have than to bring about such result, to bring about that which was so dear to the heart of God from the very beginning of the world’s history, that we might contribute a little share in providing that bride for the Heavenly Bridegroom? I wish we who are the ambassadors of Christ would realize the great responsibility that rests upon us and that we would, regardless of cost, endeavor to so minister that we may contribute, no matter what others do, our responsibility toward God and our brethren by seeking to promote the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Any ministry that would tend to do the opposite is a ministry that is not of God.  There are two lists given in this chapter that are easy to remember. One is a list of the things in our lives that would grieve the Holy Spirit of God whereby we are sealed unto the day of redemption, and which would also hinder not only conformity to the image of Jesus but the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. How glad we ought to be that God has not left us in the dark with regard to the things we ought to avoid as well as the things which we ought to cultivate.


One list gives those things which, if we encouraged them in the lives of others, would hurt the Holy Spirit of God. If you really love a person, you hate to grieve or wound them. This word “GRIEVE” suggests the possibility of bringing real grief to the heart of One Who has lavished upon us His heart’s deepest and true love, and Paul says, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God.” What are the things that would grieve His Holy Spirit? It is an ugly list that Paul gives here. He was writing this to men and women who had been professing in the family of God for twelve years. It is surprising when you turn to some of these New Testament letters that the servant of God felt it necessary to write as he did but it is more humiliating to us to recognize that this necessity arises again and again even amongst God’s children and the citizens of His Kingdom. Lying is an ugly word, but Paul says, “Lie not to one another.”  We would like to think that parents are seeking to bring their children up to speak the truth and to scorn the thought of a lie. Character is more important than success in life or the accumulation of wealth. If children are not taught to be truthful, and if they do not look upon a lie as something very grievous in the sight of God and man, there is little hope of them growing up as men and women whose character will amount to very much. As. long as you have human nature you will be tempted to lie. If you yield to temptation you will lie, and in doing so you will grieve the Holy Spirit of God, whereby you are sealed unto the day of redemption. Until you will acknowledge that sin, and purpose to forsake it, there can be none of that fellowship with God. It is because of this possibility that God has provided for us One Who will plead our case before God’s right hand in Heaven.


“Let him that stole, steal no more.” Honesty ought to characterize every one of God’s children. The word of a child of God ought to be such as could be relied upon. In every detail of our lives we ought to be honest, not only with each other but with all men; because if we are guilty of crooked transactions, it will not only reflect on us but on Him Whose name we bear.


Then there is a little trinity given: wrath, anger, and malice.  These are sins of the disposition. Then there are the sins of the tongue. Paul says, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth,” Beware of corrupt and defiling conversations, jesting about things unclean. We have had some very sad experiences in recent years and have known some of our young people to be defiled by listening to unclean conversation, and we are anxious to protect our young people from such influences. If any of your companions, even though they profess, want to discuss with you things that are unclean, we hope you will immediately sever all friendship with that person:  for their influence, little by little, will have a corrupting effect upon you, and perhaps wreck your life, and you will curse the day you ever had anything to do with that person.  Some of our young people are forced to work under conditions where they listen to unclean conversations, but they can close their ears to those things and seek to get it out of their minds and hearts.


Then this chapter deals with evil speaking and clamoring, taking advantage of the presence of others to humiliate another. These are some of the ugly things, which if permitted in your life will grieve the Holy Spirit of God.  The other list given is very different. It gives some of the graces that were seen in all their beauty and perfection in Him Who is the Apostle and forbearance. These are the graces we are to cultivate and to encourage in others by our example and spirit, so that this wondrous work of fashioning us into the image of God’s Son, and uniting us as one in the family of God and in Christ may be completed.  I love to think of the tabernacle in the wilderness in this connection. There were forty-eight boards in it, made to stand upright but not alone. They are typical of the children of God. The boards were held together by four bars. They might be typical of meekness, lowliness, longsuffering, and forbearance. One bar passed through the center of all the boards endeavoring to keep the unity of Spirit in the bond of peace. I have never seen a child of God, whose ministry characterized by these graces and who is honestly endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit, who has become a stumbling block to others.  I would love to think that as we separate, that as our hearts have been stirred by God’s love and mercy, we will seek to avoid the things that would grieve the Holy Spirit of God, and honestly endeavor to have wrought into our lives and ministry by the indwelling Holy Spirit, those graces that characterized the life of Christ. If we do these things, then in the coming year, we will become like God’s Son and contribute more fully to the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There are two verses in this chapter that will help you to understand these things. It talks about the old man and the new man. It says we are to “put off concerning the former conversation the old man, and be renewed in the spirit of our minds.”  This is your responsibility to put off the things that belong to the old man and which are corrupt. And then it says to put on the things that belong to the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. I wonder, have we realized our responsibility in this matter? Are we going to deliberately put off or starve the old man, starve the old nature by avoiding these things which could encourage that nature to manifest itself, and just as deliberately feed the new nature and put on the things which belong to that new life and nature? Some of these things are enumerated in this chapter. It speaks of meekness, lowliness, tenderheartedness, and then Paul finishes the list with these words, “Be ye, therefore, followers of God as dear children, and walk in love, as Christ also loved us, and gave Himself an offering and a sacrifice to God.” On that last night of His life, after Judas had gone out, Jesus spoke to that little group left in the upper room. He did not give them a law to guide them in their future service, but He gave them a new commandment.  He said, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another: as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Their love was not to be in accordance with any standards they themselves might set up, but “as I have loved you.” It was said of John when he was a very old man and had to be carried to one of the church meetings in Ephesus that Sunday after Sunday, before they separated, he would give his little word. And it was always,”Little children, love one another.” Some of those in the habit of meeting in that church asked him once, would he not add something else, but he said, “No, no more is necessary if they will just do that.”


I would leave with you this new commandment “Little children, love one another.” One of the deepest convictions of my soul is this, that if we really obey this new commandment as defined in 1 Corinthians 13, the two-fold objective of all true ministry will be fulfilled in us. We will become more like our Master, and we will be more united in His family.  May God grant that during the coming year, the Scriptures may be fulfilled in each and all of our lives.