Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Sep 26 2013 - Ephesians 4:17-5:2 – In the school of Christ

Do you sometimes think, "I wish I could have been around in first century Galilee. It must have been so wonderful to listen to Jesus as he taught the crowd. How wonderful to have been one of his hand-picked group of disciples who were instructed by him"?

Paul, writing to Christians at Ephesus who had never seen Jesus in the flesh, speaks of them as being in the school of Christ. This is what it means to be a Christian: one whom Jesus has chosen to be his disciple; chosen to follow Christ and learn of him.

The Ephesians had spent all their lives learning. They had grown up in a society which was marked by all sorts of ungodly behaviour and their lives had been shaped by such behaviour. But this is not what you've learned from Christ, says Paul (4:20). You are now in a new school, learning how to live the life of the kingdom as you follow the Lord Jesus. The Holy Spirit "with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption" (4:30) is your personal tutor. Do not grieve him by falling back into the manner of life that characterised you previously.

Our eldest daughter is a teacher, a head teacher in fact. She has a saying she often uses and which we have come to associate with her; "It's all about learning." Her concern is not just that teachers teach but that pupils learn and that the teaching should be conducted in a manner that promotes learning. I'ts a bit of a passion with her.

And so it is in the Christian life. "It's all about learning": learning of Christ; learning from Christ; learning to live for Christ; learning to be like Christ. Among the many lessons to be learned, this chapter finishes with one of the most challenging, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (4:32). This is one of the key areas where it shows how well we have learned Christ. We are learning to “live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (5:2).

Nor are we to be solitary pupils – many of these lessons cannot be learnt alone; they are displayed in our relationships with others. The church is the classroom where we are to learn together of Christ. I do not mean simply by listening to sermons on Sunday, any more than those growing up at Ephesus learned their “futile way of life” through lectures. We are to learn and grow through every aspect of our life together and by encouraging one another.

Many years ago, when I was studying for A level maths, I and one other boy in the class would compete with one another to see how many mathematical problems we could solve. We spurred one another along in our learning, seeking to outdo each other. And so it should be in the Christian life. We should spur one another on in learning Christ and seek to outdo one another in becoming more like him. 

How are the lessons going? How are we learning Christ together?

Heavenly Father, thank you that you have not dropped an immense textbook from heaven, commanded us to study it and threated us with end-of-term exams. You sent your Son from heaven as a revelation of your love and compassion. Help us to learn of him – to see in him the pattern for the life you call us to lead. Help us by your Spirit to learn well and to encourage one another in our lessons, not in fear of failure but knowing that we have been accepted as your children through Christ’s saving work. May our lives attract others into the school of Christ.

Peter Misselbrook