19th of the 11th month 2015/2016
Deḇarim/Deuteronomy 18:9 “When you come into the land which יהוה your Elohim is giving you, do not learn to do according to the abominations of those nations.”
Do not learn to do according to the abominations of the nations! This was a very clear command that was given to Yisra’ĕl when they were in the Wilderness, yet as we know this very clear command was not guarded which resulted in the House of Yisra’ĕl being divorced and scattered among the nations and the House of Yehuḏah being taken into captivity for 70 years. In the great compassion of our Master and Elohim He has given us a way to be delivered from the futile ways of the nations that do not know Him. He is lovingly-committed to the Covenants of promise from which we were once far from and without Elohim in the world:
Eph’siyim/Ephesians 2:11-13 “Therefore remember that you, once nations in the flesh, who are called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called ‘the circumcision’ made in the flesh by hands, 12 that at that time you were without Messiah, excluded from the citizenship of Yisra’ĕl and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no expectation and without Elohim in the world. 13 But now in Messiah יהושע you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah.”
What Sha’ul was clearly reminding the believers in Ephesos, as well us all of us here today, is that we should remember that we were once very far off and excluded from the citizenship of Yisra’ĕl and strangers from the covenants of promise and without a Saviour and Elohim. Having been brought near by the blood of Messiah we are therefore called to remember who we now are. We are the Bride of Messiah and we must live like it and no longer live as we used to when we were excluded from being a part of His Bride!
An often repeated message that we see all throughout Scripture is one of coming out and being separate and living set-apart lives as we are called to pursue apartness. This entails that we do our utmost in making sure that we no longer do as we used to do, when we were strangers to the Covenants of Promise! Why we see this theme, or call, being repeatedly expressed is obvious; because so many who have heard the call to come out are still doing what the nations, who do not know Elohim, are doing! As we allow the Word to cleanse us from all unrighteousness and teach us the set-apart way we must make sure that we do not have any old grave clothes on, so to speak, as we are to put off dead works and be clothed in righteousness as we guard to do all our Master, Saviour and Elohim commands us.
In a message tonight called, “YOU SHOULD NO LONGER WALK AS THE NATIONS WALK!” I would like us to look at some of the words that Sha’ul wrote to the believers in Ephesos and be reminded how we are to be dressed, as a Bride who is making herself ready for our soon coming King.
Please turn with me to Eph’siyim/Ephesians 4:17-32 (Read)
In Ḥazon/Revelation 2:1-7 we are given the message that was to be spoken to the assembly in Ephesos. While they had done many works and had endurance, we take note of the clear thing that the Master had held against them and that was that they had lost their first love. They were commanded to remember from where they had fallen and repent and do the first works! Ephesos was the most important commercial city of Asia Minor. Sha’ul brought the Besorah to Ephesos and stayed there for 3 years and all Asia Minor heard the Good News because of that which Sha’ul did when he separated the taught ones and reasoned daily in the school of Turannos for two years. He later sent Timotiyos to oversee the assembly here. Yoḥanan, in his later years, moved to Ephesos – and this once very vibrant assembly had lost its first love! This letter was written at least 35 years after Sha’ul had established this assembly, which teaches us how quickly true fervent and zealous love can grow cold. But how does it grow cold so quickly? The answer is very simple! When you continue to walk as the nations walk then you will grow cold in your love for the Truth!
In Apostolic times Ephesos contained some influential buildings: The temple of Diana, also known as Artemis, was a temple built to worship the Greek pagan mighty one Artemis, and this temple was included as one of the 7 ancient wonders of the world! The people of Ephesos worshipped Artemis and believed that she had fallen down from Zeus and that the city of Ephesos was the guardian of her temple (Ma’asei/Acts 19:35). Therefore Ephesos was a major centre of false worship!
It also had a theatre, which was the largest structure of its kind to be built by the Greeks and was believed to be able to seat up to 50 000 people. It was therefore a major centre for the arts and theatre. It also had a stadium, or circus, which was an arena where the people of Ephesos witnessed foot races, wrestling matches as well as fights with wild beasts. The competitors were usually criminals who were sent naked into the arena to be torn to pieces by wild beasts. Sha’ul used this as an analogy of how he had fought wild beasts in Ephesos as men do (Qorintiyim Aleph/1 Corinthians 15:32) and teaches us that evil company corrupts good habits. Often the remains of the victims were exposed and put on display at the end of a combat which gives us a vivid picture of what Sha’ul wrote in Qorintiyim Aleph/1 Corinthians 4:9 where he writes how some of the emissaries who were put to death became a spectacle to the world! We take note how depraved this behaviour was and how it pleased the nations to see true believers being made a spectacle of before the whole world.
Some of these games were held in honour of Artemis and in Ephesos there was a man named Demetrios, who was a silversmith, and he had made silver shrines of Artemis that were sold to visitors.
Sha’ul is the one who they got angry with when he persuaded the people that these shrines were worthless and not mighty ones at all. This caused a huge uproar in the city, as they were losing business because of the Good News Sha’ul was bringing. You can read about this in Ma’asei/Acts 19.
Why I am mentioning this to you is to highlight the state of the city and how this was a centre for false worship, arts, sports (including wicked, cruel and blood hungry games) and business! This thriving worldly city had a major influence on the believers. And this is what Sha’ul was clearly addressing in his letter to them. This letter has great significance for us today as we recognise that the world we live in is very similar, in type, to the Ephesos of old.
Sha’ul had taken the Good News and caused many who were once far off from the Covenants of promise and without Elohim in the world, to hear the Good News and be brought near by the Blood of Messiah. This would have caused them to turn away from wicked worldly ways and serve our Master in Spirit and Truth. While this may have begun with great zeal for the truth, it did not take long for many to be influenced once again by the corrupt practices and lifestyles that they had separated themselves from. This is a vital lesson that teaches us the importance for us to understand that while we are in the world we are not of the world; that is to say that we are no longer to do as the nations do and guard ourselves from any form of corruption and defilement of the flesh through compromise!
The call to remember from where you have fallen, given to this assembly in Ḥazon/Revelation2, was a call given to a backsliding assembly to remember the first love of true zeal and committed obedience that they had fallen from, due to the negative influence of the evil that they lived in the midst of! They had certainly done many works and displayed much endurance, yet were clearly being influenced by the wicked culture of the day and had fallen from complete set-apartness! They were trying to live set-apart lives and be dressed in righteousness while still wearing old garments, so to speak. This is the same fault we see with many today, which teaches us the urgency of having ears that will hear and grab hold of the Truth with a fervent love and run in the way of the commands of Elohim and be done with old ways!
In this section of the letter that Sha’ul wrote we take note of his urgent appeal to the believers that he had taught, which was to put off the old and put on the renewed! After having explained the clear structure of the body and how the Master has appointed some to teach, equip and bring His Bride to maturity, so that the body no longer be like children that are tossed and borne about by every wind of teaching and led astray, he began to remind them that they were now no longer to walk as the nations walk.
It must had been extremely difficult to live as a set-apart one of the Master in Ephesos, as the influence of the evil culture of the day and the pressure of the things of the flesh would have caused many of the believers to fall from their steadfast position in the Master and lose that first love of committed obedience, by allowing little compromises to set in and become acceptable in order to fit in to the society in which they lived as they tried to survive.
Those same dangers are as real today as they were back then and we need to continually be on guard against the subtle influence of evil, as it will come through various forms of twisted worship practices and false traditions of man. It will also come through the visual arts, entertainment and sport, as well as the luring deception of money and the various business ways of sinful man that oppresses the poor and needy!
When I say arts, entertainment and sport, please understand that I am not against the wonderful expression of the many talents and gifts that some have but I am simply highlighting the effect that these things can have on a person’s walk of set-apartness, especially when being influenced by worldly tastes that bring no honour and esteem to our Creator. The point I am actually trying to make is that Ephesos was no different to the corrupt and wicked generation that we are living in the midst of today, where false worship, entertainment, sport and business play an influential role one people’s daily lives! Amidst this we find many falling from steadfastness under the extreme pressures of the things of the flesh and here Sha’ul was reminding the believers back then, as well as us here today, that we need to recognise that we are to make sure that we no longer walk as the nations walk!
He then sets forth a clear description of how the nations walk and then teaches us how we are to walk. Our walk reflects our dress! By that I mean that we are able to establish whether a person is clothed in righteousness by the way they walk or by the manner in which they live. We are also able to see if the love of some have grown cold, by the manner in which they live and walk; as what will become clear and obvious is the fact that old ways have not been put off, and when old ways have not been put off then proper set-apartness cannot be pursued but rather becomes corrupted and as defiled as the nations are!
You should no longer walk as the nations walk!
The Greek word for ‘walk’ is περιπατέω peripateō – Strong’s G4043 which means, ‘to walk, behaviour, to conduct one’s self, to make one’s way, to tread with the feet, to make one’s life’, and is the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew root word הָלַךְ hā∙lǎḵ – Strong’s H1980 meaning, ‘to walk, to live, manner of life, cause to live’, which literally speaks of how one lives. It is used as a verb indicating that it is an active expression of one’s life. We are to actively and continually be walking in Messiah:
Yoḥanan Aleph/1 John 2:6 “The one who says he stays in Him ought himself also to walk, even as He walked.”
The nations walk in the futility of their mind and have no proper understanding of the Truth! The Greek word that is translated as ‘futility’ is ματαιότης mataiotēs – Strong’s G3153 which means, ‘vanity, futility’, and this word is used in the LXX (Septuagint) and translated as ‘falsehood’, when Dawiḏ tells us in:
Tehillah/Psalm 26:4 “I have not sat with men of falsehood, nor do I enter with pretenders.”
The Hebrew word used here for ‘falsehood’ is שָׁוְא shav – Strong’s H7723 and means, ‘falsehood, lies, emptiness, worthlessness’. To ‘sit’ is Hebrew is often used as an idiom for learning and what becomes clear here is that we are not to learn the worthless ways of the world, but we are to sit at the Master’s feet and learn His ways so that we can walk in complete set-apartness before Him!
The nations are darkened in their understanding and have been estranged from the life of Elohim because of ignorance! The Greek word translated as ‘ignorance’ in verse 18 is ἄγνοια agnoia – Strong’s G52 which means, ‘ignorance, uninformed, lack of knowledge’. Estranged because of ignorance! The Greek word translated as ‘estranged’ in verse 18 is ἀπαλλοτριόω apallotrioō – Strong’s G526 which means, ‘to alienate, estrange, excluded, be shut out from one’s fellowship and intimacy’; and one who has been estranged is a stranger to the Covenants of Promise and is without Elohim in the world – all because of ignorance!
Have you ever heard people use the excuse of, ‘But I did not know’? Or have you ever found yourself excusing away ignorance or the ignorance of others due to the fact that they do not have the proper knowledge and have been misinformed? We are expressly told in:
Ma’asei/Acts 17:30 “Truly, then, having overlooked these times of ignorance, Elohim now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has set a day on which He is going to judge the world in righteousness by a Man whom He has appointed, having given proof of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
Here Sha’ul was addressing the very religious men of Athens, when he stood in the midst of the Areopagus and began to tell them who יהוה is. They had altars to every mighty one imaginable and even had one with the inscription “TO THE UNKNOWN MIGHTY ONE”, and in trying to appease the whole world they wanted to cover all their bases of many proclaimed worship practices. Sha’ul addresses these men very boldly and makes a very clear and profound statement which clearly declares that ignorance of יהוה can no longer be accepted as an excuse!
Because of ignorance and hardness of heart people are estranged from the life of Elohim!
The Greek word that is translated as ‘hardened’ is the noun πώρωσις pōrōsis – Strong’s G4457 which means, ‘hard, blind, cover with a thick skin, hardened by covering with a callus’, and comes from the verb πωρόω pōroō – Strong’s G4456 which means, ‘to petrify, harden, blind, cover with a thick skin, to harden by covering with a callous’, and metaphorically this Greek word is understood as having the meaning, ‘to make the heart dull, grow hard, become dull, lose the power of understanding’. This Greek word comes from the noun πῶρος pōros which is a stone, or a small piece of stone broken off from a larger one. The verb means, ‘to harden, make hard like a stone, or callous and insensible to the touch’.
The nations have a heart of stone and are ignorant as they do not want to hear the truth as they cover themselves with the thickened callouses of false traditions! We too were once like the nations and hard a hard heart of stone!
When we think of this word in terms of a hard heart and the reference to it being likened to a stone, I am sure that the Scripture that comes to mind is that which we find in Yeḥezqěl:
Yeḥezqěl/Ezekiel 36:26-27 “And I shall give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. And I shall take the heart of stone out of your flesh, and I shall give you a heart of flesh, 27 and put My Spirit within you. And I shall cause you to walk in My laws and guard My right-rulings and shall do them.”
This is a wonderful promise that is given to the scattered House of Yisra’ĕl, that יהוה Himself would gather the House of Yisra’ĕl from among the nations and make His Name known and remove the hardness of heart that had come over a sinful House that had profaned the Name of יהוה, and put His Spirit in us and give us a heart of flesh, causing us walk in His laws and guard His right-rulings and do them! This means that by His Spirit we will be able to understand and not be hardened by sin and lawlessness and be a people who will ‘hear-guard and do’ His commands, that He writes on the fleshly tablets of our hearts, becoming true letters of our Master and Elohim, יהושע Messiah! It is because of is Spirit being poured out and writing His Covenant on our hearts that He now no longer overlooks ignorance as an excuse!
People who are ignorant and hardened become callous. The Greek word used here for ‘callous’ is ἀπαλγέω apalgeō – Strong’s G524 which means, ‘to cease to feel pain, become callous, to be past feeling, to grow or become insensible, apathetic’.
The English definition of the word ‘callous’, according to the Merriam Webster’s collegiate dictionary is, ‘hardened, thickened, feeling no emotion, show no sympathy for others’, and the English definition for ‘apathetic’ is ‘having or showing no feeling and have no interest or concern’. Why I am mentioning this is to highlight that the Greek word used here in Sha’ul’s letter is clearly being used metaphorically to mean, ‘be insensible to honour or shame’, in other words, ‘they could not care less’. This is the exact state of so many in the world today – they just could not care less!!!
We are to care and be concerned for one another, as we are told in:
Iḇ’rim/Hebrews 10:23-27 “Let us hold fast the confession of our expectation without yielding, for He who promised is trustworthy. 24 And let us be concerned for one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging, and so much more as you see the Day coming near. 26 For if we sin purposely after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a slaughter offering for sins, 27 but some fearsome anticipation of judgment, and a fierce fire which is about to consume the opponents.”
Having a ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude can get oneself as well as others killed!
When one does not care it becomes understandable how they can be given over to indecency, to work all uncleanness with greediness! One who could not care less about others is only interested in themselves and will feel nothing when seeing others hurt or destroyed!
The Greek word that is translated as ‘indecency’ is the word ἀσέλγεια aselgeia – Strong’s G766 which means, ‘licentiousness, sensuality’. Licentiousness means, ‘lacking legal or moral restraint, disregard sexual restraint, disregard for strict rules of correctness’. Sensuality means, ‘gratification of the senses or indulgences of the appetite, devoted to or preoccupied with the senses or appetites, deficient in moral, spiritual, or intellectual interests’.
Have you, at times, found yourself deficient in the intellectual interest of spiritual matters? That is to say that if you have found a deficiency for the need to be intellectually engaged in Scripture and the study and meditation thereof then you may be in danger of having been given over to sensuality!
After describing how callous, cold and careless the nations are Sha’ul reminds us that we have not been taught to be like this and this is not how we learned Messiah, who is compassionate, trustworthy and lovingly-committed!
Are there times that you find yourself lacking proper restraint and end up feeling like you could not care less what happens to you or to others? If so, it may be a sure sign that the old man has not been properly ‘put off’!
Sha’ul makes it clear that in order to walk as Messiah walked we must put off the former behaviour that corrupted by deceit!
The Greek word that is translated as ‘put off’ comes from the verb ἀποτίθημι apotithēmi – Strong’s G659 which means, ‘lay aside, put off, lay down, cast off’. In Ya’aqob this word is translated as ‘put away’:
Ya’aqoḇ/James 1:21-22 “Therefore put away all filthiness and overflow of evil, and receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your lives. 22 And become doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
What is abundantly clear in Scripture is that in order to be proper hearers and doers of the Word, and be on guard against deception, is that we have to first put off the former corruption of the sinful flesh, so that we can receive the implanted Word and allow it to bring forth the proper fruit of set-apartness!
The proper putting off and putting on is a clear instruction we see being given to us in Scripture, and in order to properly put on the armour of light we must put off all darkness:
Romiyim/Romans 12:11-13 “The night is far advanced, the day has come near. So let us put off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. 13 Let us walk becomingly, as in the day, not in wild parties and drunkenness, not in living together and indecencies, not in fighting and envy, 14 but put on the Master יהושע Messiah, and make no provision for the lusts of the flesh.”
Sha’ul was not simply content to explain a Truth and leave it, he always applied it to practical living and here in this letter he makes mention of the very things that we are to put off and why!
We are to put off all lying and speak truth to one another for we are all members of each other. This is a very important things he is teachings us here, for lying will only corrupt the garments of the Bride and darken out the light that we are to shine! I was reminded of how Ḥananyah and Shappirah lied about how much they sold a possession for in Ma’asei/Acts 5, and this got them killed! The clear warning that is given to us, as believers today, is that we are not to lie and we can learn a great deal from the events around Ḥananyah and Shappirah as there are believers today who are not speaking the truth about their possessions, so to speak, as they are robbing Elohim when they do not faithfully give as Scripture teaches but rather hold back from doing what is right, possibly due to the fact that the influence of a wicked world has caused them to not throw off the old ways of corruption and deceit and think that they can get away with compromised ways!
Sha’ul makes it clear – the one who stole must steal no more, and if anyone has been robbing Elohim is their tithes and offerings then they should do so no more by putting off the falsehood and deception that reasons away required obedience! Stealing was something that was done by almost everyone in Ephesos in Sha’ul’s day and it was not only the poor who stole but also the rich who oppressed others and Sha’ul warns against any form of stealing as the clear call for a true set-apart one is to be honest and hardworking, so that he can have something to share with those in need, which teaches us the lesson he is giving us here on how we are to be concerned for one another and be on guard against selfishness and a calloused heart. He then expresses how important it is to not let any corrupt word come out of our mouths, but only that which is used to build up the body. In a wicked world that promotes selfishness, slander and gossip is evident among those who harden their hearts and walk in the futility of a lawless mind!
The words we speak will reveal the state of our hearts, whether they have been hardened by deceit or whether they have been renewed by the Spirit!
The Greek word that is translated as ‘corrupt’ in verse 29 is σαπρός sapros – Strong’s G4550 which means, ‘rotten, worthless, bad, unwholesome’, and is used to describe a ‘rotten’ tree, in:
Mattithyahu/Matthew 7:17-19 “So every good tree yields good fruit, but a rotten tree yields wicked fruit. 18 “A good tree is unable to yield wicked fruit, and a rotten tree to yield good fruit. 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Luqas/Luke 6:44-45 “For each tree is known by its own fruit. For they do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. 45 “The good man brings forth what is good out of the good treasure of his heart, and the wicked man brings forth what is wicked out of the wicked treasure of his heart. For out of the overflow of the heart his mouth speaks.”
Our words reveal a lot and will clearly reveal if the old man has been put off or not!
When our speech is not corrupt then all bitterness, wrath, displeasure and uproar and slander will be put away!
Have you found yourself saying things that you should not have said when in anger? Sha’ul teaches us not to sin when we area wroth! How often have you allowed displeasure to cause you to have speech that is corrupt and you end up slandering another? This can be a sign that the old grave clothes are still on or are in the closet, so to speak, and are conveniently put on when one is driven by the deceit of the flesh!
Ya’aqoḇ warns us about how dangerous the tongue can be, and how out of the same mouth can proceed blessings and cursings and this should not be so!
We are to guard our lips and when we put off the corruption of the flesh and walk according to the Spirit our speech will be wholesome and true as our speech is seasoned with salt!
Sha’ul makes it clear that while we were once like the nations, that is not who we now are in Messiah!
Tas’loniqim Aleph/1 Thessalonians 4:3-7 “For this is the desire of Elohim: your set-apartness! – that you should abstain from whoring, 4 that each one of you should know how to possess his own vessel in set-apartness and respect, 5 not in passion of lust, like the gentiles who do not know Elohim, 6 not to overstep and take advantage of his brother in this matter, because the Master is the revenger of all such, as we indeed said to you before and earnestly warned. 7 For Elohim did not call us to uncleanness, but in set-apartness.”
What is made abundantly clear to us is that we have been warned about walking in the way of the nations and must take heed with urgency the need to throw off the old ways and all that entangles, in order for us to run with perseverance the race that has been set before us!
As we consider the words of Sha’ul and the words of our Master to the assembly in Ephesos we would do well to make sure that all the junk of the world that must be put off and cast away be done so without fail in order that we put on the Master and His armour of Light as we guard to walk in His Torah and stand firm in His Word, always ready to give an answer for the hope we have! When looking intently into the mirror of the Word what do you see? Do you still see some old rags and clothes that should have been buried? Do you still have some grave clothes – that is clothes that carry no life of the Master but only darkness?
Perhaps it is time to do a wardrobe check, so to speak, and make sure that the clothes of darkness and ignorance and indecency are thrown out, in order that the implanted Word can bring about the proper fruit of obedience and we are dressed in righteousness and guard our dress code of set-apartness!
How are you dressed? How is your walk?
I will close with the words of Kěpha as we take heed to this clear command:
YOU SHOULD NO LONGER WALK AS THE NATIONS WALK!
Kěpha Aleph/1 Peter 4:1-5 “Therefore, since Messiah suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so that he no longer lives the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but according to the desire of Elohim. 3 For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the desire of the gentiles, having walked in indecencies, lusts, drunkenness, orgies, wild parties, and abominable idolatries, 4 in which they are surprised that you do not run with them in the same flood of loose behaviour, blaspheming, 5 who shall give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.”
יהוה bless you and guard you; יהוה make His face shine upon you and show favour to you; יהוה lift up His face to and give you shalom!