The progressive Christian life: sitting enthroned; walking wisely; standing firm

In my youth I considered Nee to-Sheng as a model minister of the gospel – better known here in the West as Watchman Nee. He trained and inspired many apostolic teams who established 700 indigenous congregations all over their native China. When the revolutionary, atheistic, communist government took control of his nation they sentenced him to decades of imprisonment for preaching Christ. And, even when he had completed his assigned internment, they kept him incarcerated for the few remaining years of his earthly life.

He never wrote a book, but some of his spoken teaching was translated from listeners’ notes into English and published as books worldwide, such as ‘The Normal Christian Life’. Recently, when I was taking an in-depth look into Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, the title of another Watchman Nee book popped into my mind: ‘Sit, Walk, Stand’, based on the Greek verbs that summarise the theme of each of the three main sections of that epistle. Here are my own current musings in the form of recipes of a wholesome three course meal for hungry readers.

[] A key verb in Ephesians 1:1 – 3:21 is ‘seated’ – Paul used it twice;

[] In Ephesians 4:1 – 6:9, the verb ‘walk’ occurs five times; and

[] In Ephesians 6:10-20 we are told to ‘stand’ five times.

(All references from the English Revised Version.)

  1. Seated . . . in the heavenly places’

Paul reminds his readers that God ‘raised [Christ] from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places . . . And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all’ (Ephesians 1:20-23). And straight away Paul assures his believing readers that God ‘raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places’ (Ephesians 2:6).

If you pay careful attention to the text of Ephesians chapters 1 – 3 you will observe that most of the verbs occur in the past tense and many are used in the passive voice, indicating what God has already done for us and to us. For instance, ‘God . . . has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.’ Also ‘he chose us in him before the foundation of the world . . .  and predestined us for adoption as sons’; and, as we already noticed, raised us up . . . and seated us with him . . . ‘ (see Ephesians 1:3-5; 2:6).

Interestingly, the Greek verb sunkathidzo in Ephesians 2:6, ‘made to sit together’, is a compound of sun = together and kata = down; the kath form came into English in such words as cathedral, the place of the bishop’s ‘seat’ (his ‘cathedra’), from which he would oversee the Lord’s flock in its many local parishes.

These privileges of being raised up and seated in the heavenly places were not produced by self-effort on our part. Believers have been incorporated by God into Christ and consequently they have already died and risen again, ascended to the heavenly realms and sat down enthroned in him! The revelation of (i) one’s present enthronement must register in one’s mind set if one would (ii) walk worthily in this world and (iii) stand firmly against Satan’s brain-washing assaults. Paul clearly indicates this as he launches into the theme of the second section of his letter. ‘I therefore . . . urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called . . .’ (Ephesians 4:1).

  1. Walk in a manner worthy of [your] calling’ (Ephesians 4:1-18)

Paul’s style in these next chapters becomes very practical; he tells us how to walk in ways that worthily express that heavenly calling of ours. In fact, some versions of the New Testament render the Greek verb peripatemi as ‘how to live’, which fits the subject matter of this second and largest section of Ephesians. This verb is the source of the English adjective ‘peripatetic’ [= itinerant]; a peripatetic music teacher travels between several school.

To ‘walk worthily of our heavenly calling’ means: to behave humbly, gently, patiently and unitedly (see Ephesians 4:1-6).  And to equip us to do so, the ascended Christ has given his church ‘apostles . . . , prophets . . . , evangelists . . . , shepherds and teachers’ (Ephesians 4:7-16).

  • Walk thoughtfully (Ephesians 4:17-32)

‘You must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding . . . because of [their] ignorance, due to their hardness of heart.’  We must communicate reality in our conversations with fellow-members, avoiding: cheating in our work life, bitterness, anger, malice and slander; while maintaining a tender-hearted attitude to one another.

  • Walk lovingly (Ephesians 5:1-6)

One main way of communicating love is by how we converse with each other. We must not only eschew illicit sexual activities but also avoid dirty talk and crude joking on such a subject. We should replace that kind of speech with thanksgiving.

  • Walk openly (Ephesians 5:7-14)

‘Walk as children of light.’ ‘The fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true‘addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs . . . and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything, submitting to one another’ in marriage, family life and working life (5:15 – 6:9).

  1. Stand firm’ (Ephesians 6:10-20)

Paul explain three attitudes we must maintain in spiritual warfare

  • Stand armed (12,13a, 14-20)

Many a sermon on this section of Ephesians has been aimed at individual listeners, urging each to arm themselves for spiritual conflict; but the verbs are all plural, as also indicated by the statement we do not wrestle .. . against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places’ (12). Paul also implies that Christ is our armour by the first of his five instances of the preposition ‘in’: in the Lord’ (10), he also points us to: the arena of war: in the heavenly places’ (12); the current era of conflict: in the evil day’ (13); and the various occasions of Satanic attacks: in all circumstances’ (16), including his own imprisonment, in chains’ (20).

  • Stand against (11-13)

Some Bible teachers have believed that we should try to discover the name of every kind of attacking demon. However, Paul obviously implies that we can readily recognise the familiar schemes of the devil’ (11) which do not need rocket science to unveil; Satan may be subtle, but he is never creative with any measure of originality. Nehemiah easily uncovered the tactics of the enemy in the time when he was restoring the demolished walls of Jerusalem (see Nehemiah 4:1 – 6:14). Paul told the church in Corinth: ‘Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive . . . for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his designs (Greek = noemata that could be translated nowadays as ‘mind games’! 2 Corinthians 2:10-11). Later in that same letter he elaborated on this theme: ‘. . . the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.’ How? ‘We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ’ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

  • Stand firm (14-20)

Most of the armour – comprising ‘belt, breastplate, shoes, shield and helmet’ – is designed for defence. We can activate the one item of attack – the sword of the Spirit, which is the word [Greek = rhema, the prophetic utterance] of God’ – by ‘prayer and supplication for all the saints’ (Ephesians 6:14-20).

*Let us live this radiant life in its fullness – thoughtfully, intentionally, unitedly and fruitfully.

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