“AS DEAR CHILDREN”
“Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children”-Ephesians 5:1
In his letter to the Ephesian Church, we find some of the apostles most endearing pleas for Christian living. The order of the epistle is significant. The first three chapters are primarily doctrinal. Concerning these chapters, one scholar called them “The profoundest thing ever written. He sounds the heights and depths of truth.” The last three chapters are practical, dealing with the Christian’s behavior. The significance of this is noteworthy. First, Paul reminds them of the blessings they have received by God’s grace, their calling and election. He reminds them of their fallen condition and the fact that God raised them out of it and gave them an inheritance, reserved in heaven. Then, after he had shown them all that their heavenly Father had done for them through His Son, he pleads with them to become “followers of God, as dear children” and live up to their calling.
This has always been the basis of true Christian unity. Doctrine first, fellowship second. It is sad to see the pragmatic methods adopted by many today who send out letters to find what the world wants in a church and then builds a pseudo church on the world’s desires. Fun and entertainment with a little Jesus mixed in is the outcome. This has greatly harmed the Christian Church. We find the pattern in the New Testament to be quite different. Doctrine was first preached and the fellowship of the saints was the byproduct of like precious faith, not worldly entertainment. The apostles were not there to count heads but rather to count disciples of Christ; they did not assemble for the entertainment and fun, but for the preaching of sound doctrine. Nothing has changed, man is still a bankrupt, guilty sinner and the only remedy for his condition is the sound of the gospel trumpet. True Christian fellowship and unity are the byproducts of shared doctrinal sentiments.
We find another valuable lesson in this order of teaching: the Christian’s obedience is likewise the byproduct of their doctrinal belief. Peter preached Christ crucified by wicked hands. The audience heard and obeyed as they were baptized. Peter’s method was not to attract a crowd by methods, games and entertainment and then try to teach a doctrine. It was a total reversal of what we see in many places today. Paul and Peter both preached Christ and Him crucified for our sins. That was the beginning of their fellowship, not something that they would bring up at a later time! John the Baptist was not working on programs and drives. Nor did he baptize all that came to him. He declared the coming Messiah and genuine repentance for sin. He placed truth above numbers! These great men were not in competition with the church down the street, trying to outdo and outgrow. They preached truth and let the Sheep find a convenient pasture.
This order is found throughout the New Testament. In this same epistle Paul pleads from prison, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,”……calling first, walking in fellowship second! Or, his words to Titus, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world”-2:11,12….same order, grace first, then walking as dear children because of what God’s grace has given us.-Neil Phelan, Jr., Pastor, Harmony Primitive Baptist Church.