“For the Perfecting of the Saints”

Lesson 39 - Ephesians

 

Introduction

 

What do a thread and a rope have in common?  Well, both are made of fibers or strands of material.  How are they different? The thread is a single strand, while the rope is made of many strands woven together. So which of these objects is stronger? Obviously, the rope.

Like the piece of thread, we are weak when we depend on ourselves. However, like the rope, we can be stronger when we are united with others in faith and righteousness. In his epistle to the Ephesians, Paul emphasized the importance of “perfecting … the saints” and reaching a “unity of the faith” (Eph. 4:12-13). This lesson discusses how, as families and as a Church, we can work toward perfection and unity by trusting in the Savior, following the apostles and prophets, developing strong families, and putting on the whole armor of God.  The process of “perfecting … the saints” (Ephesians 4:12) requires us to increase our faith in Christ, follow the teachings of the apostles and prophets, and protect ourselves from the wickedness of the world.

 

The dispensation of the fulness of times

 

Eph. 1:10 In the first chapter of Ephesians, Paul spoke of “the dispensation of the fulness of times”.  A dispensation of the gospel is a period of time when the Lord has at least one servant on the earth who holds the keys of the priesthood and is authorized to administer the gospel. (See Bible Dictionary, “Dispensations,” 657-58.)  The dispensation of the fulness of times is the dispensation that began with the restoration of the gospel and organization of the Church through Joseph Smith.

President Gordon B. Hinckley commented on why our dispensation is referred to as the fulness of times: “You and I are experiencing the profound and wonderful blessings of the dispensation of the fulness of times. In this day and time there have been restored to the earth all of the principles, powers, blessings, and keys of all previous dispensations” (Ensign, May 1992, 70).

Eph. 1:9-10 Paul said our Father in Heaven would “gather together in one all things in Christ” in this dispensation. Think about what that means and you will realize that some things that are being gathered together in our day include the scriptures, Church members, records of the dead, and families that are sealed in the temple. We help in this gathering process by proclaiming the gospel, helping to perfect the saints, and participating in the work of redeeming the dead.

 

Jesus Christ as our cornerstone

 

Compare Eph. 2:12 and Eph. 2:19. In these two verses, Paul described the changes that took place in those who had accepted and followed the Savior. Consider how you have seen these same changes in yourself or others and how your association with other Church members as “fellow citizens” in the gospel has blessed your life

Eph. 2:20 Paul taught that Jesus Christ is the “chief corner stone” of the Church. A cornerstone is a foundation stone placed at a corner where two walls meet. The cornerstone is essential for the strength and unity of the structure. Jesus Christ has been the cornerstone of our faith as he has strengthened us and taught us how to become united in the gospel.

Eph. 2:20 and Eph. 4:11-14 Paul taught about the importance of apostles and prophets as the foundation of the Church along with Christ. Living apostles and prophets are essential to the true Church for the perfecting of the saints, the work of the ministry, the instruction and improvement of the Church membership and organization, and providing truth.  One teaching from latter-day apostles and prophets that helps us progress toward perfection and unity is the Proclamation on the Family.  Others are found in the Ensign magazine and prophet’s teachings.

President Boyd K. Packer taught: “The ministry of the prophets and apostles leads them ever and always to the home and the family. … The ultimate purpose of all we teach is to unite parents and children in faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, that they are happy at home, sealed in an eternal marriage, linked to their generations, and assured of exaltation in the presence of our Heavenly Father” (Ensign, May 1995, 8).

Eph. 4:5 Paul taught that there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism”, meaning that we need to be unified in a knowledge of gospel truth.  It is important that we be unified in our understanding and teaching of the basic doctrines of the Church to have one Lord and one faith and one common covenant of baptism.

 

Unity between husband and wife and between parents and children

 

Eph. 5:22-29 Paul used a comparison of marriage and Christ’s devotion to the Church when he described the relationship between husband and wife.  Husbands and wives can learn from this comparison to help them develop greater love and unity in their marriage.  Think of specific ways Jesus has shown his love for the Church and how each way can be applied to marriage.

President Spencer W. Kimball taught: “Can you find in all the holy scriptures where the Lord Jesus Christ ever failed his church? … Was he faithful? Was he true? Is there anything good and worthy that he did not give? Then that is what we ask—what he asks of a husband. …

“… Can you think of how he loved the Church? Its every breath was important to him. Its every growth, its every individual, was precious to him. He gave to those people all his energy, all his power, all his interest. He gave his life—what more could one give?” (Men of Example [address delivered to religious educators, 12 Sept. 1975], 4-5).

Eph. 6:1-3 Paul counseled children to honor and obey their parents. This counsel is more important than ever in today’s world.

Eph. 6:4 Paul counseled parents to bring up a child in “the nurture and admonition of the Lord”. Parents nurture children spiritually by teaching them the gospel principles of faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost among other important teachings.  Loving parents can follow the Lord’s example when admonishing children by doing so in love and patience.

Paul’s counsel to parents and children helps strengthen family relationships and maintain unity in the home when it is applied.  Latter-day apostles and prophets have given us counsel regarding families in general conferences, in other meetings or firesides, and in Church magazine articles.

In “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that “happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities” (Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102).

 

Putting on “the new man” and “the whole armour of God”

 

Eph. 4:24 Paul encouraged the Ephesians to “put on the new man” and become a true follower of Christ by changing the natural man to one who abhors and avoids all sins.

Eph. 4:21-32 Some characteristics of people who have become “new” through the Atonement of Jesus Christ include telling the truth, avoiding anger toward others, laboring honestly and diligently, using uplifting and holy language, avoiding evil and malice, and being kind and tenderhearted, forgiving and loving to one another.

Eph. 6:10-12 While exhorting the Saints to put on the armor of God, Paul warned them against many kinds of evil influences. We all know of the evil influences in this life that must be opposed and avoided.

Eph. 6:13-18; D&C 27:15-18 The different pieces of what Paul calls the armor of God include loins girt about with truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the shield of faith. Review these verses carefully and think about what each piece represents.  Each piece of the armor of God is intended to protect us against the influence of Satan. We must put on this armor each day.

 

Conclusion

 

The Lord established his Church, with apostles and prophets, to help us become like him and return to live with him. We need to strive together for the “perfecting of the Saints” by following Paul’s teachings in Ephesians.