Sermon Quick Notes – Ephesians 4:28

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. (Eph. 4:28 ESV)

We were created in God’s image to exercise dominion through work.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
(Gen. 1:26-28 ESV)

When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground—then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Gen. 2:5-7 ESV)

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. (Gen. 2:15 ESV)

The command to subdue and have dominion over the earth is a portion of the Lord’s creation blessing to man and woman.  The imperative in Gen 1:26-28 IS the blessing.  The purpose of “keeping” (guard, protect, preserve) the garden is inherently other focused – it begs for the question “keep for what?” to be asked and answered.

And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Gen. 3:17-19 ESV)

Blessing tarnished by Fall.  Dominion tarnished by pain and the suffering of sweat and toil required to exercise it.  And all for what?  Death and dust.

Redemption restores the blessing of work.

But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph. 4:20-24 ESV)

The old self may now be put off  along with its essential partner—the “former manner of life” that is “corrupt through deceitful desires.”  Note the constant presence and contrast of honesty and deceit throughout these verses (4: 14, 15, 21, 22, 25, 28, 31).

Sin in life leaves no real inclination to follow after God. The call of the Lord in Ephesians 1 is strong. Work is part of God’s call. Easy to think of work and job as yours. Even work means we have been called by another to serve.

Redemption and its destruction of the power of the old self leads to the restoration of work life.  The old self thief takes sustenance through thievery and exercises dominion over things that are not his. By contrast, honest labor produces gifts from God and blessing that overflows such that there is enough not only to sustain but to share with anyone in need.

The reference passages right there in your English bible show who are the beneficiearies of the restored work in the passage.  Look at the beneficiaries of this work in the reference passages.

The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor.  All day long he craves and craves, but the righteous gives and does not hold back. (Prov. 21:25-26 ESV)

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” (Acts 20:35 ESV)

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Gal. 6:9-10 ESV)

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. (Heb. 10:32-35 ESV)

The work of the new self is honest work.

The continual theme of honesty in Ephesians 4 arises again in this verse. What does honest work mean here? The thief’s work is both dishonest to others (taking things that are not his own) and himself—a soul destroying theopraxis expressing through life a belief in Satan’s lie:   “God is insufficient to provide through my effort so I must provide for myself by taking the fruit of the efforts of others.”  This deeply ingrained selfishness is a feature of the old self that exhibits a real lack of love fundamentally antithetical to the new self.

The thief only provides for himself—what is mine is mine and what is yours is mine. The called laborer of God provides for himself and others—what is mine is God’s and what is God’s is ours (and indeed everyone’s—the Christian is constitutionally incapable of being taken advantage of).  The mindset behind thievery is inconsistent with unity in Christ in the church because it sows a lack of trust in the community—thievery sows a need to lock doors which encourages a what’s mine is mine mentality.

Concerns:  Sermon started at 9:20 and we got to the “so that” (50% of the verse) at 9:58.   Then we spiritualized it a little bit, going quickly to how it reminds us of the One who was rich and for our sake became poor and did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.  I am certain that Paul meant it very practically.  What does the part of the verse after “so that” mean for us in our neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, etc.?  I also felt like we spent a lot of time on things that are tangential or not even in this verse and these things were a distraction from the force of a verse that is simultaneously simple and profound.

Vogler 08.19.18


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