"He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His Name's sake" (Psalm 23:3b).
In Ephesians 3, Paul is preaching "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (v. 8). From the beginning of chapter 4, he gives teaching regarding the way in which we are to live the Christian life - "I ... beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called" (4:1).
This pattern of teaching - "the unsearchable riches of Christ" followed by living the Christian life - is precisely the pattern we find in Psalm 23.3 - First, "He restores my soul", followed by "He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His Name's sake."
In Ephesians 4:1-5:14, Paul gives practical teaching regarding the Christian life. Once you have received "the unsearchable riches of Christ", you must live the Christian life. Once your soul has been restored, you must follow the Lord in the paths of righteousness.
In 4:1-16, he lays special emphasis on the unity of the Church. We are to move forward together. It is a sad situation when some are making real spiritual progress while others are lagging far behind them. God wants to lead us in the paths of righteousness for His Name' sake - not just some of us, but all of us.
From 4:17, he emphasizes the moral standards according to which the Church of Jesus Christ is called to live. We are not to live like unbelievers (4:17). We are not to be like those who are spiritually asleep (5:14).
God wants to lead us in the paths of righteousness for His Name's sake. He will not rest content with the beginnings of spiritual restoration - "He restores my soul." 'I've been born again. I can give my testimony. I can tell you what the Lord did for me." The Lord listens to all of this, and He says, 'That was then. What about now?' Are you walking in the paths of righteousness now? or, are your best times - spiritually speaking - well and truly behind you? This is challenging teaching from both David, the Psalmist, and Paul, the Apostle - If your soul has been restored, then you must walk in the paths of righteousness. If you have received the unsearchable riches of Christ, then you must live a life worthy of your high calling.
How does God lead us in the paths of righteousness? He leads us forward together. He sets each one within the fellowship of His Church. In the life of Christ’s Church, the ministry of the Word is to take central place. In Ephesians 4:11, Paul draws attention to the ministry of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Building on the teaching of the apostles and prophets, the teaching of Scripture - Old Testament and New Testament, we are to preach the gospel, teach the Word of God, apply the teaching of Scripture to the specific circumstances of the people who gather to hear the Word. All of this is vitally important for the spiritual growth of the Church.
The purpose of such ministry is described in Ephesians 4:12-16. As the Lord leads us in the paths of righteousness for His Name's sake, what is He seeking to achieve in our lives?
There are three very important lessons here: (1) Spiritual growth is growth in Christ. (2) Spiritual growth is growth into truth and love. (3) Spiritual growth is growth in service.
(1) Spiritual growth is growth in Christ (Ephesians 4:13,15).
We must remember that He is the Head, and we are the body (Ephesians 4:15-16). He leads, and we are led. He leads us in the paths of righteousness. we are led in the paths of righteousness. remember this: He leads. we are led.
- He does this by leading us to Himself. Christ is our righteousness. he is our righteousness at the very beginning of faith, when we are justified by faith, put right with God through faith in Christ.
- He is our righteousness throughout the whole course of the Christian life. Through Him, we are sanctified. He works in us, making us more like Himself.
- He will be our righteousness in God's eternal Kingdom. This is the glorious hope to which we look forward. We shall be like Him. By God's grace, we shall "attain to ... the fulness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13).
(2) Spiritual growth is growth into truth and love (Ephesians 4:14-16).
We need truth. we need love. Not one without the other, but both together.
There is a devil. He is always trying to lead us away from the truth and into error (Ephesians 4:14). If he cannot lead us away from the truth, he will try to lead us away from love and into indifference.
"Speaking the truth in love", we must "give no opportunity to the devil" (Ephesians 4:15,27). God says to us, "Put off your old nature .. put on the new nature, ... created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:23-24).
The devil says, "You are not a new creation." We must not believe the lie of the devil. We must confront him with the truth of God - In Christ, I am a new creation. God has restored my soul. Now, He is leading me in the paths of righteousness.
If we are to be led in the paths of righteousness, we must learn to "walk in love", to "walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:1,8). If we are to walk in the ways of the Lord, we must have no time for the "silly talk" of the world, the "empty words" of "the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 5:4,6).
We must build our lives on the sound wisdom of God's Word of truth. love for God will only grow when it is nourished by the Word of God. This strengthening of our love for God is essential if we are to be led in paths of righteousness for His Name's sake. This is God's purpose for us. He nourishes our souls with His Word. He strengthens our love for Him. He leads us in paths of righteousness for His Name's sake.
(3) Spiritual growth is growth in service.
We are to be workers for God - not only workers for God, but workers with God; not only workers for God and with God, but God working in us and God working through us.
God has given us the ministry of the Word, ministry based on the Scriptures, the testimony of the apostles and prophets, so that we might be equipped for the work of ministry.
In Christ, we are not to called to laziness or idleness. we are to workers for the Lord, servants of the Lord. We are to work for Him, always remembering that it is He who is at work within us as we offer our lives to Him in service.
There is a great difference between knowing the right things and doing the right things. A working man sets his alarm clock. he knows that, when the alarm sounds, he must get up and go to his work. If, however, he keeps ignoring his alarm, he will soon be unemployed. He will no longer be a working man. If he doesn't learn his lesson, he will quickly move from being unemployed to being unemployable.
In God's Word, there is an alarm which calls us to wake up and start working for Christ. Here is God's alarm - "Awake, o sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light" (Ephesians 5:14). God's alarm is sounding - for you, for me, for all of us. It is not only an alarm to the unconverted. It is also an alarm, which calls Christians to wake up, to be alive to God, to walk in His light. He will not lead you in the paths of righteousness unless you are willing to be led. For His Name's sake, let Him lead you in the paths of righteousness.