In Eph 6:21-24, the Apostle Paul comes to the end of his deeply theology, yet wisely practical, letter to the Ephesians. He does so by touching on the main themes of his letter (grace, peace, faith, love) and calling the church – and us – to “love incorruptible”.
Today we come to the Paul’s great letter to the Ephesians (modern day, Turkey). The first half (chapters 1-3) paint a huge cosmic picture of God’s story and purposes in the universe (1:10) which we are all part of. Though sin has broken God’s good creation, God has set out to make all things right thru Jesus Christ (2:1-10). Though his life, death and resurrection, God offers us forgiveness of sin and restored relationship with Him. Together, followers of Jesus form a new redeemed humanity, literally a new society, the church.
In the last half of the letter (chapters 4-6), in light of all that God has done through Jesus on our behalf, Paul calls us to live a life worthy of the calling that we have received. This is life marked by unity, purity and mutual dependency (4:1-16). It is a life spent putting off the “old self”, being renewed in spirit of our minds, and putting on the “new self” (4:22-24). It is a life empowered by the Holy Spirit (5:18) and shaped by the gospel (5:22-6:9). It is a life spent putting on the whole armor of God (6:10-20), which is putting on the blessings and privileges of the gospel of Jesus.
Today, Paul concludes his letter, by giving us insight into the motivation and power behind an ordinary life lived with gospel intentionality.
(Acts 20:4; Col 4:7; 2 Tim 4:12; Titus 3:12)
Q: What could move someone to give up a normal, comfortable life in province of Asia?
6:23-24 An Incorruptible Love
Major themes in Ephesians
- Peace (8x’s; 1:2; 2:14,15,17; 4:3; 6:15,23)
- Faith (10x’s; 1:1,15; 2:8; 3:12,17; 4:5,13; 6:16,21,23)
- Grace (12x’s; 1:2,6,7; 2:5,7,8; 3:2,7,8; 4:7,29; 6:24)
- Love (20x’s; 1:4,15; 2:4; 3:17; 4:2,1516; 5:2,25,28,33; 6:23,24)
Paul opened his letter, as he commonly does, with a welcome of “grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1:2) Grace and peace is possibly the shortest summation of the gospel. We have peace with God via the grace of God. Paul repeats the same sentiment here, though he is careful to emphasize the source of each: love.
Love Incorruptible (lit. undying, immortal)
Here at the end of this great letter, Paul touches on the essence of the Christian faith. That is, that we would love Jesus with love incorruptible; a love that is strong, vibrant, hopeful, undying, life-altering, and vibrant. (cf Paul prayer for love for the Ephesians earlier 3:17b-19a)
“Why is this important?” Because you are going to love something like that. You were born a lover and were meant to pursue, have and love something w/ this intensity. That thing may change from season to season, but there will always be something. That thing/person/idea will have more mass and gravitational pull than all other things in your life. If you follow the trail left by your behavior, desires and emotions you will find it will lead you to your primary object of love. We are not people who can not love or can not worship. We were built to love and worship. GK Chesterton (English author, thinker) “When we cease to worship God…we worship anything”
What are you looking to for a sense of security, makes you feel loved? Most mass, life is orbiting around? Maybe its a relationship, career, money, sexual pleasure, being understood, comfort, control, etc. Whatever you love most will define and shape the trajectory of our life. You love most what is most lovely to you. You glorify most what is most glorious to you. You treasure most what is of greatest worth to you.
In other words, the primary object of love in your life will determine the primary objectives of your life.
Ex. Object: Money. Objectives: Make decisions you believe will maximize your take home, over all else.
Ex. Object: Kids. Objectives: Make decisions you believe will produce the best environment, over all else.
Ex. Object: Career. Objectives: Make decisions you believe will produce most success, over all else.
Ex. Object: Pleasure. Objectives. Make decisions you believe will maximize pleasure, over all else.
Ex. Object: Comfort. Objectives. Make decisions you believe will minimize risk, over all else.
This does not mean that money, kids, career or pleasure are bad things, rather they don’t deserve “love incorruptible”. If any of these are ultimate objects of love they will get in the way of God working in your life.
“Most people, if they have really learned to look into their hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. The longing which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning, can really satisfy. I am not speaking of what would be ordinarily called unsuccessful marriages, or holidays, or learned careers. I am speaking of the best possible ones….the wife may be a good wife, and the hotels and scenery may have been excellent, and chemistry may be a very interesting job: but something has evaded us.” CS Lewis, Mere Christianity, Hope
According to Tim Keller (Counterfeit Gods), there are only a limited # of things to do when you reach this conclusion:
First, you can blame the things that are disappointing you and try to move on to better one’s. Result: That doesn’t solve anything, only keeps you on the cul-de-sac of emptiness.
Second, you can blame yourself and beat yourself up. “I’m a failure…there is something wrong with me.” Result: self-loathing and shame.
Third, you can blame the world. “you know what’s wrong in the world…men.” Result: make yourself hard, cynical and empty.
Fourth, or you can reorient the entire focus of your life toward God.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” Mt 13:44-46
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” Lk 14:26
“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Mt 10:39
“All our labor will be lost. If we spend our lives in the pursuit of temporal happiness; if we set our hearts on riches and seek happiness in them; if we seek to be happy in sensual pleasures; if we spend our lives to seek the credit and esteem of men, the good will and respect of others; if we set our hearts on our children and look to be happy in the enjoyment of them, in seeing them well brought up, and well settled, etc, all these things will be of little significance to us. Death will block up all our hopes and expectations, and will put an end to our enjoyment of these things..Where will be all the worldly employments and enjoyments when we are laid in the silent grave?” – Jonathan Edwards, Works, 17, 436-437
The essence of the Christian faith is to be fully yielded and surrendered to Jesus as primary object of love. That’s what it means to love him most and for your loves to be rightly ordered.
“But, I can’t do it! I’ve tried…”
“We love because he first loved us” 1 Jn 4:19
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom 5:8
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us…made us alive…” Eph 2:4
A Warning (Rev 2:4)
The truth is that our love for God is nominal because deep down we believe that God is a nominal lover. Our lack of love has less to do with being lukewarm, stagnant or ambivalent and more to do with not seeing God rightly – in all his grace, goodness, glory and love. He wants to lead us out of comfortable, affluent, safe lives to deeper trust, Spirit-led risk and incorruptible love of Jesus. He doesn’t beg us to give him a little slice of our lives. He commands everything from his followers, because he has given everything for them. Radically loved people, love radically. This is biblical Christianity. The Bible calls for ordinary, yet radically loved people, like Tychicus (and us), to give up our lives to the One who gave it all up for us.
Q: What would you life look like if you lived with gospel intentionality, motivated by love of God?
“I am a son of love, an object of love, a monument of love, of free love, of distinguishing love, of peculiar love, and of love that passes knowledge – and [how could I not walk in love]” – John Bunyan, All Loves Excelling, 122