(If you would like to receive Pastor Harris’ weekly sermons via e-mail, Click here)
Faith Bible Church, NY
June 8, 1997
Hearts Knit Together
This morning we conclude our study of Ephesians, 47 messages taking just over a year. We have learned a lot, been encouraged and challenged.
As Paul concludes this letter he puts in a personal message to the Ephesians about the coming of Tychicus (Τυχικὸς) and then ends with a beautiful salutation. The commentaries say little about this – usually just a page or two, but there is something very significant here that I want you to understand. That is why we will spend a whole sermon on these concluding thoughts rather than just making a couple of quick comments at the end of the last sermon.
21 But that you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you. 22 And I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts. 23 Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with [a love] incorruptible.
COMMUNION WITH ONE ANOTHER
First I want you to see the importance of personal relationships to Paul. As Paul concluded the section dealing with Spiritual Warfare in verse 18-20 he stressed the importance of prayer for one another. We have a very deceptive enemy and we cannot stand against him in our own abilities. We must do so relying on the power of the Lord working within us. It is a spiritual battle and so it must be fought with spiritual resources. Therefore, we must be in prayer ourselves and have other people praying for us. That is why in verse 18 Paul states that With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.
But Paul does not end here with a just a general statement about the need to pray for one another. He makes it very personal in verse 19: and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
Paul asks them to pray for him personally – and somewhat surprisingly in an area we would think Paul was already very strong and not in need of much prayer – boldness in proclaiming the gospel. Too often we tend to pray only for a person’s weaknesses and not their strengths, yet as Paul shows here it is vital that we pray for a persons strong areas as well. Why? Again, we come back to that basic principle that the Christian life is to be lived in the power of the Spirit of God and not in our own power. A Christian trying to serve the Lord based in his own abilities and strength does not glorify the Lord as he ought.
Paul states this point in a clear and somewhat dramatic way in 2 Cor. 12 7-10. Paul had what he states as “a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me – to keep me from exalting myself.” No one is exactly sure what this thorn in the flesh was – speculation ranges from poor eyesight to some particular individual, but whatever it was it bothered Paul. In verse 8 he prays to the Lord three times that God would remove it from him. Now remember, Acts records the Lord using Paul to bring physical healing to quite a few individuals including raising Eutychus (Εὔτυχος) from the dead (Acts 20:9-10). Paul had no lack of ability, faith or trust in God, yet verse 9 records that the Lord does not give an affirmative answer to Paul’s request – showing again that healing is the Lord’s hands, not that of man.
What the Lord says to Paul here is significant. Verse 9 – “My grace is sufficient for you, fo power is perfected in weakness.” Paul’s response is equally significant, “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
For the Christian, life is to be lived in God’s power and not our own because life is about bringing glory to God, not ourselves. We need to pray for one another’s apparent strengths as well as weaknesses. Have you ever considered that a person’s apparent strength is not because of any natural ability but because God’s grace to those who are weak? 1 Cor. 1:18-31 is clear on this point. It is not the wise, the mighty and noble according to the flesh that God has chosen, but the base, the despised, the weak that no man can boast except in the Lord Himself.
It is for these reasons that Paul asks the Ephesians and all the other churches that would read this letter, to pray for him. Paul gives specific requests but he also does something else to facilitate even more personal prayer, and this is where we pick up our text for this morning.
Verse 21: Paul sends Tychicus (ôõ÷éêïò) so that they could receive a more detailed report of Paul’s circumstances and how he was doing. Remember, Paul is in jail and the Ephesians are concerned for Paul. Paul had spent three years with them and they had a great love for him. Let’s face it, when you care about someone a postcard is not enough. You want either a detailed letter or a personal phone call. Well, they did not have phones then, so a personal ambassador was the next best thing. This is why Tychicus (Τυχικὸς) was sent by Paul, to “make known everything known to you,” that they “may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts.”
Who was Tychicus (Τυχικὸς)? He is mentioned several times in scripture. We first find mention of him in Acts 20:4 as one of the group of men that were going to accompany Paul in his journey from Greece back through Macedonia on his way to Jerusalem. Tychicus (Τυχικὸς) along with Trophimus was Asian,which was that part of modern Turkey adjacent to the Ageaen Sea, so there is some possibility that Tychicus (Τυχικὸς) was from Ephesus or a nearby city. He is mentioned in three other passages – Colossians 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:12 and Titus 3:12 and in each case he is busy going somewhere as Paul’s ambassador. The mention of him in 2 Timothy has him going back to Ephesus again. No wonder Paul calls him a “beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord.”
In these travels, for Paul it is easy to conclude that the communication was not one way but that Paul was finding out about them upon Tychicus’ return. Paul was keenly interested in the lives of those he had ministered to in the past. Most of his epistles were written in response to something that was happening in a particular church. The church at Corinth was filled with strife and factions so Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. Galatia was being troubled by Judaizers so he wrote them Galatians. Those in Philippi sent a gift to encourage Paul and he wrote Philippians to encourage them. Paul wrote Colossians in response to what he learned from Epaphras’ visit there. The testimony of the Thessaloians was making an impact in Macedonia and Achia so Paul wrote them. Then they had some questions about the future so Paul wrote them again. 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon are all personal messages from Paul to individuals. Paul described his great concern to him for all the churches as a “daily pressure” in 2 Cor. 11:28.
Please understand from this that communion, this true fellowship with one another, is extremely important. You cannot live the Christian life by yourself. To do so places you in a vulnerable position of falling away because of the lack of personal ministry to you and it weakens the rest of the body because you are being selfish and neglecting the ministry God want you to have with other people.
Recall if you will the messages some months ago from Ephesians 4. All true Christians are part of the body of Christ and are interdependant upon one another. The purpose of the leadership of the church is not to do the ministry, but to train everyone else to do the ministry because it takes everyone doing what God has gifted them to do for the whole body to be built up, for it to mature.
Eph. 4:16 explains that the whole body is being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. Jesus Christ is the head and we, the body are to grow up in every aspect into Him. We are no longer to be children tossed about by every wind of doctrine, every new teaching that comes down the road, but to be mature and strong. When the whole body is working together the weak parts, the immature parts can be carried along and helped, but if the body is split up and trying to work independently of the other body parts the immature and weak will fall away.
This past week I was looking over the attendance list we keep and I am saddened by those that have fallen away from this body. Sure, some have valid reason for not being here – they have been away for an extended period, they have been ill and are housebound, but those are very few. For the most part it starts by something coming up, missing a couple of weeks and getting out of the habit of coming. But because no relationships have been developed, no one really notices the absence. Soon other things take the place of coming to church or a self-pity starts with the idea that “nobody cares”. The sad part is that there is some truth in that, but the whole scenario starts because people do not care enough to get involved with one another.
I have often said that you will never grow as a Christian if your only Biblical input is what you get here on Sundays. You have to be in the Scriptures yourself. I am not here to entertain you or be your sole source of spiritual nourishment. Imagine how decimated you would look if you ate only a couple of meals a week, yet you think your soul can get by on a couple of sermons and a pastoral prayer per week. You need to become a student of the Bible yourself and find the spiritual nourishment that can only come from your own study.
The same thing is true in terms of our communion with one another. We have a inherent unity with one another and love for each other because of our mutual relationship and love for Jesus Christ. But it takes time and energy to build relationships with one another that go beyond the surface level. You have to be involved with one another in order to truly know what and how to pray for one another. You have to have individual relationships with one another for most of the spiritual gifts to even be used. The gifts that are used publically, like preaching, get a lot of attention, but the strength of the body is not its mouth! A mouth that is not somehow connected to the rest of the body is pretty worthless. There needs to by eyes and ears. There need to be feet to get it places and hands to put into practice what it speaks. Most of the gifts God gives people are not used publically, but privately in individual ministries. Those ministries do not happen without personal involvement with one another.
Paul understood the importance of personal involvement. He wanted to know what was happening in the lives of others and he wanted them to know what was happening in his life. What about you? Would anyone care enough to give you a call to see what was going on and if there was a problem would there be anyone to come and help? Let me put it another way, if you had a problem and needed help, whether physical or just someone to talk to, who could you call and not feel you were being an imposition on them? Who could you say is not just a fellow believer, but also personal friend to at least some degree?
If you do not have those kind of relationships here then you have a problem and the result is the church has a problem too. We are not what God has called us to be. What is the solution? The solution is not for you to moan, whine or complain that no one cares about you, no one calls you or no one has reached out to be your friend. The solution is for you to care, call someone and reach out to be someone else’s friend. You be the one to step forward and make the effort to get together with other people, don’t wait on other people. Paul needed true fellowship. People that cared about him and would pray for him. So do each of us.
The last two verses make up the benediction. Paul’s stated desire for blessings to be upon the Ephesians. There is not much that can be said in way of analysis about what Paul says here because it is both clear and beautiful.
23 Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with [a love] incorruptible.
The benediction reflects the themes of this rich epistle.
PEACE is mentioned throughout. It occurs first in Paul’s salutation in 1:2 – his desire for them to have peace from God the father and the Lord Jesus Christ. In chapter one we find that our peace with God is made because of God’s choosing us from the foundation of the world, His redeeming us to Himself through Jesus Christ and his sealing His promises to us with the Holy Spirit. In 2:14-15 Paul emphasizes that Jesus Christ Himself is our peace, the one that has broken down the walls of pride that separate groups of people, especially as what had existed between Jew and Gentile. In Jesus Christ both are brought together in one body. There is peace, harmony between them and all people. 2:17 indicates that this peace that can now exist between all peoples is part of the gospel message. In 4:3 we find that there is already a unity that exists in the body of Christ because there is only one body, one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of all who is over all and through all and in all. We are to preserve the peace of that unity by walking in a manner worthy of our calling with all humility and gentleness. We are to be patient and forbearing as each person is moved to maturity in living according to the God’s revelation. And then in 6:15 we find that in our standing firm against the devil, one of the aspects of our armor is to have our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. When our foundation is secure – we are loved by God and having been reconciled to Him we are at peace with Him – then circumstances cannot shake us. Regardless of what comes against us in this life, we can be calm in the midst of the storm. We have peace with God.
LOVE is also another reoccurring theme throughout this book. But notice that Paul joins it together with FAITH. The two must walk hand – true love is born out of faith and true faith expresses itself in true love. Back in 1:15 Paul commended the Ephesians because their faith in the Lord Jesus was openly demonstrated in their love for all the saints. 2:8 tells us that it was out of God’s great love that He made a way for man to be saved. Our faith in God is born out of His love for us resulting in both our trusting of Him and our love for Him. God’s goodness to us gives us the security needed to be both bold and confident when facing life’s troubles (3:12,13). The more we have Christ Jesus dwelling in our hearts through faith, the more we are rooted and grounded in loved and able to comprehend.
For comments, please e-mail Church office