Christians are not Chameleons 8.8.20
Christians are not Chameleons.
Ephesians 4.17 - 5. 20
We probably all know that chameleons are an amazing species of lizard that can adapt their appearance to match their surroundings, in order to stay camouflaged and safe.
How might Christians live like chameleons?
. We may be consciously copying someone else.
. We may have a spiritually damaging fixation with salary and status.
. We may have a spiritually unhealthy tendency to approve of ungodly religious opinions,
because of a fear of appearing "judgmental".
. If we're unhappily single or unhappily married we may surrender to selfish self- pity or
indulge our appetites for sexual fantasy, giving in to lies propagated by the media which
claim that we are entitled to sexual pleasure and stunted without it.
Why might Christians live like spiritual chameleons?
To "blend in" and remain safe from criticism and rejection.
How can we tell that we are living like spiritual chameleons?
When unbelievers who have spent time with us are shocked to discover that we are Christians.
Read Ephesians 4.17 - 5.2.
What does Paul mean by "living as the Gentiles do "? (v 17-19)
. To think like non-Christians....."in the futility of their thinking"(v 17) This might mean empty worship/superstitious idolatry/platitudes of popular folk religion (eg. a deceased atheistic relative is "happily smiling down on us"). Or it may be the empty confidence that whichever God exists "he'll look at my good points and let me into heaven".
. To "be darkened in their understanding....separated from the life of God because of....the hardening of their hearts" (v 18). Futile thinking is caused by spiritual blindness. Paul has more to say on this in Romans 1.18 - 21.
. This futile thinking caused by hardened hearts results in a life without sensitivity (the relationship we were created for to have with God), directed by sensuality (shameless debauchery),indulging in impurity (riotous immorality) and being full of greed(insatiable appetites, because sin never satisfies).
Notice that Paul is saying that although as Christians the Spirit has given them new hearts and a relationship with God, they can still think in this futile way and be influenced by these appetites.
What difference does becoming a Christian make? (v 22-24)
. We are to take off our "old self" and reject our previous lifestyle.(v 22)
. Getting "undressed" in this way prepares us for a new attitude (v 23). God's Spirit renews our attitudes through his word. This process begins at conversion ....and continues throughout our lives.
. We must keep practising the "putting on" of our "new self" (v 24).This means to become more like Jesus.
Think about all this as "changing our whole wardrobe". We must be dressed utterly differently to how we were before God saved us.
What distinction between "old self" and "new self" living does Paul highlight in verses 25-32?
. Falsehood vs speaking truthfully. (v 25)
We must be honest and speak the truth about each other....no more gossiping, exaggeration or lying.
. Sinful anger vs (implicitly ) forgiveness.(v26-27)
Sometimes it is appropriate to be angry, such as when people are persecuted for their faith, or when someone has been hurt by someone else in the church. However we are not to indulge our anger so that it becomes self-important righteous indignation. Paul advises a time limit for grievances, so that Satan can't build up divisive factions.
. Stealing and a "taking "attitude vs working hard in order to live out a "giving" attitude. (v 28)
Paul acknowledges that as un-believers we may have "stolen" eg. borrowing but not returning/avoiding taxes. As Christians we are expected to work hard, not over-indulge ourselves and be generous in our giving to our family, the church ,and worthwhile causes. We no longer use our hands to get, but to give.
. Unwholesome talk vs building-up talk. (v 29)
Unwholesome = "rotten". This means vulgar jokes/damaging gossip/spiteful criticism. We are meant to use words that build up and not tear down....words that encourage and strengthen faith.
. No more grieving of the Spirit. (v 30)
Paul refers here to the rebellions of Israel on their way to the promised land. (Isaiah 63 v 10). We who have God's Spirit are not to grieve him by continued grumbling or moral disobedience.
No more bitterness, rage, slander, malice. (v31 )
We are to replace our malicious instincts towards those who annoy/mock/hurt/malign us with the grace that Christ showed towards his enemies......including us.
Who is our great model in living like this? (4.32-5.2 )
God himself. Rather than being chameleons ,we are to imitate God (5.1);especially in demonstrating the sacrificial love he has shown to us....supremely in Christ's death.
To think about........
. What do I need to take off?
. What do I need to put on?
. What changes will that involve?
Ask God to renew your mind and help you get changed, so that you no longer live like a chameleon, conformed to the culture around you, but as a Christian, conformed to Christ, who died to save you.
Read Ephesians 5.8-14.
Paul now turns to an area which particularly applies to us today, where Christians are under great pressure to compromise their faith and behave like chameleons......sexual morality.
What does it mean to" live a life of love"? (v 2)
To give ourselves up. True love is about voluntary self-sacrifice......particularly when it is directed to others' salvation or blessing. Our love is to be Christ shaped, not culture shaped and should be done to please God as a "fragrant offering "ie."pleasing".
What must God's people even indulge a hint of.......? (v 3-4)
. Sexual immorality. This applies to any sexual activity outside marriage. This includes watching porography, reading erotic novels, watching sexually explicit films, lusting......and so on.
. Impurity. This also includes lusting, but also behaviour such as crudeness and drunkenness.
. Greed. An unrestrained desire for material things which leads to covetousness and bitterness.
. Obscenity. Coarse talk and joking, together with conversation that makes light of immorality. We should take care with what we laugh at or smile about.
How does Paul underline the seriousness of these commands in verses 3-7?
. v3 If we want to be in God's family we have to be different.
. v5 Habitual ,unrepentant behaviour of these sorts( ie. a settled lifestyle and not the occasional lapse) means that, whatever we may think we are outside God's kingdom.
. v6 We mustn't think that we can repeatedly disobey God and not truly repent....... and not face his anger.
. v6-7 Given Paul's warnings in v 3 and 5-6 ,we must not become "partners with " those who are disobedient.
Re-read v8-14 .What image does Paul use here to describe what makes a Christian different from others.......
Paul uses 3 images in v 8-9....
. Darkness....we come from it.
. Light.......we come to it.
. Fruit.....as children of God we now grow it!
What should a Christian do? (v 10-11)
Find out what pleases the Lord.
And not do?
Have nothing to do with fruitless, non-Christian ways of living.
Why is it loving for a Christian not only to have "nothing to do "with sinful behaviour, but to "expose it, by living differently?
People around us can see that there is a different way both to think and live and so their assumptions are challenged. By a different lifestyle false premises and empty promises can be challenged.
What else does Paul tell Christians not to do and to do? ( v 18 )
"Do not get drunk on wine". We are to enjoy God's gifts (Ps. 104.15), but not to get drunk.....whether this drunkenness takes place in a town centre, respectable dinner party, or at a friend's home. Then Paul says "do be filled with the Spirit". We are people who "are under the influence "of the Holy Spirit and not of alcohol.
What are the signs that someone is filled with the Spirit?(v. 19.....see also Colossians 3.16-17)
We sing joyfully to one another...to build each other up in the faith as our hearts sing to the Lord.
To think about......
Bible believing Christians often have a reputation for what they deny and reject, but not a matching reputation for gracious generosity towards others......
Is this true of you? How can you live in such a way that people realise that you love them even when your life is distinctly different (and maybe unpopular)?
. For strength to become more like Jesus, who was full of kindness even to those who hated
. Thank God for making you "light in the Lord, with new Christ-like clothes to wear.
. Ask God to help you with those times when you struggle to live for Christ and to change and
Our study next week will be "At Home and at Work” and we will be reading Ephesians 5.21-6.9. As always there will be a Zoom discussion on the passage on Weds. Aug.12 at 10.30, to which all are very welcome. The Zoom ID is 737 2295 9656 and the password is 3NZjXF.
How Churches Grow 1.8.20
In this passage Paul outlines the fundamental principles of how God wants to grow his churches, both numerically and in godliness.....in every generation and culture.
These verses mark the beginning of the second half of Ephesians......
Chapters 1-3 have celebrated God's eternal plan:
Chp. 1. To gather all things in heaven and on earth under Christ, which reconciles us to God and to each other.......
Chp. 2. Through the death and resurrection of Christ......
Chp. 3. To manifest his triumphant wisdom to the spiritual realms in his church.
Read Ephesians 4.1-16
Think back to the content of chapters 1-3. What is the "calling you have received?"
It is a calling to ......
. Praise God as we enjoy our spiritual blessings in Christ (1 v 3)
. Live as God's forgiven children, pure and blameless.(1 v 4-5,7)
. Live under Christ's rule, as one day everything will.(1 v 10)
. Know God better, understand our hope more and experience his power at work in us.(1 v 17-20)
. Do the good works God prepared for us to do as his new-created people (2 v 10)
. Proclaim God's wisdom to the heavenly realms. (3 v 10)
What does verse 1 suggest Paul will be teaching us about in the rest of his letter?
"How to live a life worthy" of this identity we now have as a part of God's family, under Christ's rule, in response to his grace and by the power of his Spirit.
Where do church members have to put their effort? (v 3)
Protecting the "unity of the Spirit" through our "bond of peace". This is our shared experience of adoption into God's family for peace with God and peace with each other in Christ. We must do all that we possibly can to pursue and maintain the unity of our church, instead of fuelling division.
What three attitudes does Paul lay out in verse 2 which we need to adopt and why does each require effort?
1. Being humble. This does not mean being quiet or shy, or always speaking critically of ourselves. It means not seeking to be the focus of other people's care and attention, but seeking unselfishly to promote the good and well - being of others.
2. Being "gentle".(literally "meek").This is not weak, but is best thought of as "strength under control"; to show kindness rather than roughness, compassion rather than force and showing soft encouragement rather than hard bullying.
3. Being "patient". Here we need to be long -suffering of the faults of others and to be slow in rebuking them. Those young in the faith may seem unreliable, lazy or demanding and need to be dealt with sensitively and with understanding, realising that spiritual growth takes time.
How do verses 4-6 underline the special Spirit-given unity we have within our church?
The repeated word here is one. We are united together as God's people because we have so much in common as Christians.
Read Ephesians 4.7-14
What has each church member been given and by whom?
Grace......... ..................Given by Christ.
= God's Riches At Christ's Expense.
. Given that in verses 11-12mPaul goes on to talk about roles and abilities, what does "grace" mean in verse 7?
"Grace" here is not referring to God saving us by grace alone in Christ dying for us, but for his subsequent and additional grace in giving us gifts of ministry: these are not for our satisfaction or reputation, but to enrich the life and service of others in our church family.
The quote from Psalm 68 in verse 8 speaks of the ascended Christ giving his people to the world. So Paul explains that Jesus has not only given to every church the foundational apostles and prophets of the first century (v 11-see 2 v 20).He has also given some people in every church the gifts needed to be "evangelists.....pastors and teachers).
What is the job of evangelists/pastors/teachers?
To equip the people in their church for "works of service"(or ministry/worship).Teachers have been given to the church by Jesus for the equipping of people for many different ministries, which will grow and build up the church to glorify God.
What is the outcome of this? ( 12b-13 )
The "body of Christ" (the church) is built up, It is the ministry (or works) of God's people to build up the church in maturity and unity. As the whole church contributes its ministry, it will grow in "unity in the faith" (v 13). It will become" mature" as it shares a true understanding of Christ as he is revealed in scripture and hence become more like Christ himself. All of us have ministries and so we are all "ministers". Our "paid" clergy /ministers/pastors are there to encourage, challenge and equip us to identify as to how we can minister to our church and to get going with our various ministries......they are not there to do all the ministry.
Read Ephesians 4.14-16
What will a church where every member is contributing to the ministry......
. not do? (v 14). They will not be susceptible to false teaching and following the latest fashion "fads".
. do? (v 15). They will speak the truth in love and as they do so they will grow in maturity and become like Christ. We are all to speak truthfully and lovingly and are to counsel each other as to how the gospel affects our lifestyles/decisions/attitudes. We should challenge fellow believers who we fear are not living according to the truth in some way. However this is not a license for us to say inappropriate things to someone we dislike, or find irritating; or to sit in judgement and exercise control over people. Instead we should seek to bring people to the word of Christ for his counselling, acknowledging that none of us are perfect.
How does the image of the church that Paul gives in verse 16 underline all that he has been saying in this passage?
Each local church is a body, growing as "each piece does its work". The head is the Lord Jesus Christ ....and it all comes from him. The image of the body underlines: the unity of the congregation and the importance of maintaining that unity; the need for every single church member to serve the whole in whatever way they can and bible teachers being like "ligaments", supporting and enabling that body to grow.
If you would like to go further.........
Read 1 Corinthians 12.12-31.
What ideas have you seen from Ephesians 4 does Paul develop in this passage?
How far is verse 26 description of your church ,and your own attitude to others in your church?
So, the three ingredients for a growing church are
To think about............
What part are you playing in:
. Keeping and nurturing unity?
. Contributing your ministry?
. Growing in maturity as you speak the truth in love?
Do you come to church expecting to be served, or to serve others?
Do you see your abilities and talents as Christ-given for your church's growth?
For your church leaders, that they would equip your church to serve and pray about ways in which you are ,or are considering serving.
Mystery revealed - 25.7.20
In this passage, Paul explains that there had been a perplexing mystery troubling Israel for centuries, concerning God's salvation plan......a mystery now solved in a most astonishing ,unexpected fashion.
Read Ephesians 3.1-13
What exactly was the mystery made known to Paul (v 3-6)?
v 4. The "mystery of Christ".......a secret plan that was solved by and revealed in the death of Christ.
v 6. It is that through the gospel, Gentiles and Jews can be saved, without keeping the law of Israel ,through faith in Christ, who kept the law for us and died for our lawbreaking . So now both Jews and Gentiles are......
. Heirs together. (The original text doesn't mention "with Israel"). We stand to inherit God's eternal kingdom ,as part of his new people.
. Members of one body. We are all united as part of Christ's church and we are all equally part of that body. No one is more or less useful or special to it.
. Sharers "in the promise in Christ Jesus". Paul is referring to the empowering of the Spirit, whose presence was promised in the OT as the chief blessing of being the people of God. (Ezekiel 36.26-27) and who now lives in anyone who believes in the Gospel. (Ephesians 1.13-14).
How did Paul know the solution to the mystery(v3,5)?
It was revealed to Paul "by revelation" (v3,5) Paul didn't invent it or "work it out"....God revealed it to him through His Spirit.(v5). Note here that Paul's gospel was not new......the gospel of blessing for all nations in God's kingdom had been announced to Abraham and promised by the prophets.. What was "new" was how God had brought about that blessing, which was the ancient gospel revealed.
What are we heirs to? Read Revelation 22.1-5.
."The river of the water of life" depicts an inexhaustible torrent of life giving spiritual abundance, forever washing us clean and filling us with thirst -quenching satisfaction from the Holy Spirit. (see Ezekial 47.1-12; John.7.38)
."The tree of life" (literally the "wood " of life) symbolises the everlasting deliverance of the cross and the leaves of this tree are "for the healing of the nations". (Revelation 22.2) permanently healing us from the damage of sin in our souls and the decay of death in our bodies. As the tree of life in the Garden of Eden was the source of life that looked forward to the cross on which Jesus was punished for our sins, the tree of life in the new creation looks back to the cross as the source of eternal life.
"His servants )including us)
will serve him', see him and rule with him.
Imagine how all this would have encouraged Paul as he languished in prison in a pagan city.........
What is Paul's role in the revealing of this mystery (v 7-9)?
He is a servant (literally slave) of the gospel (v7) with the particular role of telling the Gentiles "the boundless riches of Christ" (v 8). His task was to explain how through the life/death/resurrection of Jesus Christ, God is able to forgive and give eternal glory to both Jew and Gentile alike.
What amazing truth do we discover about our churches in verses 10-11?
The triumph of God's eternal plan is to gather a diverse people into his kingdom under Christ which is seen in every local church. The local church displays to the heavenly realms "the manifold wisdom of God".
So how does Paul, who is in prison ,see his sufferings (v13) ?
He views them as being necessary for his mission to preach the gospel to the Gentiles and then build up Gentile believers in their faith
How should the Ephesians see his sufferings(v 13)?
Likewise the Ephesians should not be discouraged. The church in Ephesus is a trophy in the cabinet of God's grace to sinners.
Read Ephesians 3. 14-21.
What does Paul ask the Father to give the Ephesian Christians (v 16,18, 20) ?
Notice the repeated word.......power.
What does he ask God to do through the power of the Spirit?
.v16-17. To enable these believers to welcome Christ into their lives so that he can be at home in their hearts. From the moment that we believe the gospel Christ dwells within us by His Spirit.(1.13-14).Note that "dwell" doesn't just mean arrive, but to settle down. Paul is praying that Christ would make himself the centre of their affections/decisions/behaviour. That their lives would change so deeply, that they would become a dwelling place fit for a perfect king.
.v18-19. To appreciate the vast scale and immensity of Christ's love for them. This can only happen through God's power and not our own effort. Paul prays that as we experience more and more of Jesus love for us, looking back at his death for us on the cross and experience his present love for us.....that we will live with the confidence of being a people who are so greatly and infinitely loved.
Why can we realistically hope to become suitable dwellings for the perfect Christ; and truly know the unknowable love of Christ (v20-21)?
........because God is able to do all that we can think of......and more. We can never transform ourselves by or through our own strength of initiative. We can never fully grasp the magnitude of the love God has for us in Christ. However it is not about our ability ,it is about God's and he is more powerful than we can ever appreciate or imagine. He is the God of the impossible.(Luke 1.37)
How do these verses help us when......
. we don't know what to pray for?
. we begin to fear that prayer does not work?
. we feel inadequate as believers?
. we feel that we are unloved or misunderstood?
Remember that Paul is in prison as he prays this joyful ,hope-filled ambitious prayer. Life is never too hard to be able to pray, or pray boldly, either for ourselves or for others. God is never unable to come through for us. We need to challenge ourselves and each other to pray unselfish and ambitious prayers, not based on our own situation ,but on the character and power of the one to whom we are speaking.
In verses 14-19 Paul gives us plenty to pray for, so do so now.
Pray for yourself and for a couple of other Christians for a greater grasp of God's love......
Use the truths of verses 20-21 to praise God.
Next week will be studying Ephesians 4.1-16 with the theme "How churches grow".
There will be the usual Zoom session on Wednesday July at 10.30 to discuss the bible study. This is open to anyone who is interested and wants to share their experiences and /or ask questions. The session lasts around 40 min,but you are free to come and go as you would wish. The Zoom ID is 73722959656 and the password is 3NZjXF.
New Life, New People - 18.7.20
To think about.......(1)
How would you define "grace"? Does "God's grace" make any difference to your daily life? If so what?
Read Ephesians 2. 1-10
Our nature has put us under the power of three "tyrants"(v2-3) . What are they?
1.The ways of this world. We follow a cultural worldview of our sinful race. At present there are two principal worldviews......
."Traditional". A social hierarchy, concerned with duty and good works which rejects the gospel because it does see the need for a Saviour, since good works and dutiful living are enough.
."Emergent". This is self-focused, pluralistic and /or atheistic. It worships idols such as sex, pleasure, power, family, money.......It rejects the gospel because it does not recognise Jesus as Lord.
2."The ruler of the kingdom of the air". The Devil, a hostile supernatural tyranny in Hebrew thinking. Satan exists in the spiritual sphere between earth and heaven....or "in the air". Satan is active in us all and in unbelievers he tempts them with lies causing them to doubt the existence, truth and motives behind God's word. Satan has been doing this since the beginning (Genesis 3.1-7). We'll learn more about satanic powers and Christ's victory over them in chapter 6.
3."The cravings of the flesh". (v3). This means our whole human nature. These cravings include our desperate appetites for pornography or selfish luxury, as well as self-indulgent attention seeking and proud self-glorification.
What was the result of this (v1, 3b)?
"You were dead in your transgressions and sins"(v1). We were all born spiritually dead to God....utterly lifeless and insensitive to our creator; we faced both physical and spiritual death and separation from God in Hell. We were,therefore "by nature children of wrath"(v3),or deserving of wrath. God's wrath, not impersonal or vindictive rage, but God's consistently pure anger towards evil. God is not describing any particular degraded or decadent sector of society.....but all of us.
How do these verses show us the desperate state of humanity?
Not one of us can say that "we are a good person". By nature we are dead....spiritually dead and enslaved to the world, Satan's influence and fleshy desires. We should be facing an eternity of suffering in Hell!
What has God done to rescue us from our plight? (v 4-6)
God's mercy is revealed in three stages of resurrection, with cosmic implications.....
1. He made us alive (v 5)
Through faith in Jesus, we share in his representative death and resurrection as our king.
2. He raised us up (v 6) In our representative king we've already been accepted in heaven where Jesus was raised. When Jesus died and rose, we died and rose with him. Heaven is our future destination.
3. He has seated us with him in the heavenly realms. (v 6)We're already seated with Jesus in his position of authority at the Father's right hand in the heavenly realms. Since he has already sat down, our places are secured by him.
(It is worth noting at this point that an excellent and well known commentary was written on Ephesians by Watchman Nee ,which was entitled "Sit, Walk, Stand")
Why has God done this?.......
So that in "in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace". God wants to spend eternity showering us with blessings!! God's great plan is not just to clean up humanity' mess and rebellion, but forever to pour out a torrent of loving kindness upon us in Heaven.
Which words describe God's character (v4-7)? What does each mean?
*Love (v 4). God's commitment to bless us forever in Christ.
*Mercy (v 4). God withholding the punishment that we deserve because Christ endured it for us in the cross.
*Grace (v 5,7,8).God generously giving us what we need in the obedience of Christ, even unto
*Kindness (v 7). God's compassion in coming down to become one of us, to take our rightful place on the cross.
How are we saved? (v8-9)
Our salvation is entirely God's generous and costly gift. We receive this gift through faith (v8)..God's grace is the whole origin of our salvation. We are not saved by good works (v 9).....as some kind of reward for good deeds, religious performance, or our church ministry (Note here that "good works" is the passport to heaven for both Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons and other cults).
So what is the wrong response to being saved? (v 9)
We've nothing to boast about ....except the cross of Christ (Galatians 6.14)
And the right response? (v10)
We are now created in Christ in order to do good works. We've been recreated by God's Spirit for a purpose....to do the good works God prepared for us to do, in gratitude to him. We need never feel insignificant or useless.
Read Ephesians 2v 11-22
How does v 12 describe the Gentiles' desperate state?
Note; these verses are quite complex.
*They are separate from Christ. (v 12)Gentiles had no share in the benefits of the Jewish people in the great promise of the Messiah ie. the anointed one or Christ. He had now arrived in the person of Jesus.
*They were excluded from citizenship in Israel. (v 12)Gentiles had no rights in knowing God or His covenant promises; His ethical laws, powerful protection or his faithful provision.
*They were foreigners to the covenants of the promise. ( v 12) God made on marvellous promise to Abraham, that he and all his descendants would enjoy the blessings of God's kingdom (Genesis 12v1-3).
*They were without hope and without God in the world. (v 12). In the face of death, there was only despair and no hope because Gentiles had no relationship with God.
What has changed and how has it changed? (v 13-18)
We who were once far away from God have been brought near to God and his people through Jesus' sacrifice for our sins. Christ has united two of the most deeply separated peoples in world history......Jews and Gentiles, into one entirely new people, central to God's plan to unite all things under him (v 14,16). Christ fulfilled all the terms of the Jewish law in his life and then in his death exhausted its condemnation of both Jew and Gentile. Jesus can now preach peace both with God and with each other.....to you who were far away (Gentiles) and to you who are near (Jews). We all share access to our Father on the same basis.....through Jesus (v 18) by the work of the same Spirit.
The Jews used to be able to meet God in the Jerusalem Temple. The Gentiles were excluded.
Where does God now dwell? (v 21-22)
In and with his people......the church....by His Spirit.
On what foundation is this "new "temple constructed? (v 20)
The foundation is the apostles and prophets. The heavenly church, expressed in all its local congregations on earth, is founded upon the teaching of the first century apostles of Christ, who announced the gospel of Christ and the first -century prophets who explained the word of God (see 4.11). The foundation is finished and is sufficient. The cornerstone of the whole building is Christ.
To think about (2).........
How would you now define "grace"? Look again at the truths of v11-22 and v1-10.
Read through v 1-3 and use them as the basis of prayers of confession.
Read v 4-9 and use them to praise the God of amazing grace.
Read v 10 and pray for help to do the good works God has prepared for you. Pray about ways you are struggling to live his way.
There will be a Zoom session on Weds. July 22 at 10.30 to discuss this session. Zoom ID 73722959656 Password 3NZjXF. Everyone is very welcome.
Next week's study will be Ephesians 3 on the subject "Mystery revealed".
Bigger Prayers 11.7.20
To think about........(1)
When you pray or Christian friends or family members, what kind of things do you tend to pray about?
Read Ephesians 1.15-23
What is Paul doing and why? (v 15-16)
He is giving thanks for the Ephesian Christians; for their faith in God and their love for one another. In v1-14 Paul has talked about God gathering His chosen, redeemed and sealed people.....now he gives thanks for their faith.
What is revealing about Paul saying that he has not stopped doing this?
Paul prayed unceasingly/regularly/all the time. Prayer was a constant feature of his life. He was now suffering in prison, but he still prayed for his Christian friends all the time.
Let us sum up the things about which
Paul is praying.........
. v17 That they will know God better, through his Spirit's work in them.
. v18 That their hearts will be dominated and directed more and more by the great hope they have in Christ.
. v19 That they will appreciate the immense power of God that works in them to secure them in faith and for their future.
Who will need to be at work in us if we are to know God better? (v17)
His Spirit. The Spirit of wisdom and revelation, who will bring a deeper understanding of God as he is revealed in His word ,so that we can bet to know him better.
Think about verses 3-14. Why would we want other Christians to "know God better?
Because he is our creating, ruling, electing, redeeming, sealing, glorifying God, who loves us. God is perfect....the more we know him, the more we will know of his love for us and enjoy loving him.
The word "heart "in the bible is not used to describe the organ pumping blood around our bodies, but the centre of physical and spiritual well-being, combining our intellectual understanding and our personal affections .
......with all this in mind, what is
Paul praying for in v18?
That we will be able to see the world in an "enlightened " or Christ centred way. That we will love the things that God loves and trust God to be at work. We are confident that whatever happens we are headed for our inheritance in Heaven.
At the end of v18 Paul says "the riches of our glorious inheritance in His holy people" What does he mean by this?
God has saved sinners (us!) to be ""His inheritance"; we are the most precious thing in His new creation.
What does this tell you about what brings God joy?
We do! God will enjoy our company and shower us with abundant blessings forever. Note; this reminds me of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which answers the question
.....What is the chief end of man? Answer; to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
What else does Paul want the hearts of the Ephesians Christians to know? (v19)
His "incomparably great power".
How should v 20 excite us about the kind of power that is at work in us and for us?
It is a power great enough to raise Jesus from the dead and seat him in the heavenly realms. That same power is now used to enable us to keep going in the faith and will be used to raise us from the dead as well. Jesus has gone before us and we shall follow in his steps.
How does Paul assure us in verses
21-23 that nothing can stop us from being His "inheritance"?
Our Saviour is enthroned far above all evil powers .....above every position imaginable. He rules "for"(ie. for the benefit of) his church (v 22). However small our churches, or however vulnerable we feel, all God's resurrection power is being used to keep churches trusting Christ. There is no one more powerful than our Lord.
To think about ........(2) How do our prayers for Christian friends compare with Paul's prayers for his Christian friends?
Let's get personal........
Don't just pray for your Christian friends to know earthly peace, prosperity, health and happiness. Pray for them to experience the huge spiritual privileges of knowing God better, of knowing the hope to which he has called us and of knowing the power to which he has committed in order to bring us home to be with him.
Write down three prayer requests for others, based on Paul's three prayers in verses 17,18 and 19.
Next week our study will be on Ephesians 2 on the subject of "New Life, New People". This will be followed by the usual Zoom session on Wednesday July 15 at 10.30 .The Zoom password is 737 2295 9656 and the password is 3NZjXF. Everyone is very welcome.
Every Blessing in Christ 3.6.20
Read Ephesians 1.1-14
Read Ephesians 1.1-2
In our last study we learned that this letter was written by the apostle Paul as a general letter to the church in Ephesus, probably to be shared with other local churches. Note that unlike some of Paul's other letters,there is no mention of local people or issues. Paul calls his readers "the faithful in Christ Jesus" (1.1) because this letter especially celebrates the blessings of being in Christ together.
Read Ephesians 1.3-6
What has God the Father done for every Christian?
Why is "every" a stunning word in this verse?
Each believer has received every possible spiritual blessing from God; none are being withheld. Christians have different gifts/ministries/circumstances, but we all possess every spiritual blessing. There is no other way to gain "special" or "extra" blessings, because we already have them all in Christ. We need never feel more or less blessed than any other believer; God has given each Christian everything to enjoy in eternity.
Where do we find such blessings?( look at 3,4,5,6,7,9,10,11,12,and twice in v13)
"In Christ" or "in Him," through Him" or "under Him". We owe everything to God's son. We are blessed personally "in Christ,” to whom we are united by faith. These are fabulous resurrection blessings to all who have put their trust in Him.
Paul spends the rest of the passage (4-14) outlining the top three sensational blessings that we enjoy "in Christ".........
What has God chosen His people for (4) and what destination has he given them (5)?
For "adoption". God has predestined us to be a part of His family forever in eternity.
In this first century Greco-Roman world, a slave was sometimes adopted by a wealthy man to become his son and legal heir.
Bearing this in mind, how do verses 4-5 tell us what an amazing and privileged position every Christian enjoys?
By faith in His son, men and women alike are adopted by the Father to share in Jesus' inheritance. We enjoy a son's privileges, the tender care of our Heavenly Father who provides for our daily needs, pardons our sins, protects us from harm, disciplines us in the way we should go and showers us with undeserved kindness. Our Heavenly Father hears our prayers and he is never forgetful/sleepy/uninterested/powerless to help and support us.
Paul is talking about election and predestination, which are often difficult doctrines to understand and accept. This section helps us with three natural objections to God's election.
. v13 God's election undermines evangelism.
It is through the preaching of the gospel that God calls His elect into Christ, as they hear the message of salvation. We evangelise everyone so that God can involve us in reaching His elect.
. v4-5 God's election undermines humility.
We are not saved because we are more clever or deserving than other people.The decision was made before God even created the world. If we had chosen God rather than Him first choosing us, we could be proud of our wisdom.Our salvation is due only to His gracious initiative.
. v4.See also Romans12.1. God's election undermines any motivation for holiness.
We've been chosen to be accepted by God as holy and blameless on the basis of the holy and blameless life lived for us by Jesus. In gratitude for being saved we are called to gradually become holy and blameless like Him. Election is the reason to be holy!
Let's think about how this applies to us........
How do the truths of v 4-5 .....
. Humble us? God chose us before the foundation of the world.He chose us because He loves us.....and we have done nothing to deserve that love.
. Encourage us for the future? God has not left any part of His plan uncertain or risky. All that happens will be according to His will. There is a sure and certain future awaiting all believers....even now as we struggle with personal failure and addiction/debilitating physical or mental conditions/miserable jobs or unemployment/painful singleness, divorce or widowhood. Whatever we are facing we can be sure that we are children of God now and will be with Him in eternal glory for evermore.
The first great blessing that Paul has shown us is:
That we are chosen for adoption by the Father. Here is the second.....
Read Ephesians 1.7-10
How does v7 explain what we have in Christ?
Redemption....liberation from slavery. We enjoy having our sins forgiven and set being free!
How did we get this?
Through the blood of Jesus .Christ's death liberates us.
If you have time or would like to go deeper into this truth ,have a look at Exodus 12.1-13 ,28-32 and 1 Corinthians 5.7.
We can sum up the second blessing as; We are redeemed by,and for unity under, the Son.
Next Paul celebrates the third great blessing.........
Read Ephesians 1.11-14.
How is the Holy Spirit described in v 13-14,and what do these terms mean?
. A "seal" (v13) was a mark of ownership and protection, which in Roman culture was often branded upon cattle or slaves. God's seal of constant protection and permanent ownership is the Spirit of God himself; like a birthmark on all His children. We are "marked out" and are completely safe from all frightening powers.
. A "deposit" (v 14) is the first instalment of eternal life, guaranteeing the "full payment" of enjoying God in Heaven.
How do these verses give Christians....
. confidence that they will reach eternal glory with God? If reaching eternal glory was up to us, we would have great cause for worry and uncertainty, but God has marked us as His own, we belong eternally to Him and He is in charge of the future.
. excitement about that eternal glory with God? Knowing that the Spirit is merely a deposit means that our current experience is just a taste of what's to come....actually a foretaste of the feast we shall enjoy in God's presence.
So here is our third wonderful blessing that we enjoy in Christ:
"We are sealed for our inheritance by God's Spirit.
To think about.......
What blessings mentioned in this passage have particularly excited you ,and why?
Pray......Thank God for those blessings and whether you are riding on the highest peaks of joy and success, or sinking in the lowest troughs of pain and failure ,ask God to make you continually aware of all His blessings and loving kindness.
Next week.....we will be looking at Ephesians 1.15-23 and the study is entitled "Praying Bigger Prayers".
There will be the usual Zoom session to discuss this study on Wednesday July 8 at 10.30. Meeting ID and password can be found on the website.
Your Place in God's Plan
Today we begin a new study for the Apostle Paul's letter to the Ephesians. We will be using a study guide written by Richard Coekin, who has entitled the series " Your place in God's plan". This session will be a general introduction to the book, setting the scene for all that is to come.........
So .......why study Ephesians?
What is God's plan for this world?
And what is your place and our church's place, in that plan?
God's eternal cosmic plan to unite everything under Christ has been accomplished by Christ's death and resurrection in triumph over satanic powers.....and so every local church is a glimpse of our glorious future when we unite under his rule.
Welcome to Ephesus.
Ephesus is the shopping centre of the ancient world; today it is situated in Western Turkey. It is located at the meeting point of both the major land and sea routes to the East and is a major commercial centre and port. It has a large man-made harbour,connected to the Aegean sea by a narrow channel.
The city is packed with impressive monuments, including the temple of Artemis (or Diana), which was one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. Statues of the goddess can be purchased from local silversmiths. The local stadium is worth a visit, where there are various entertainments and the occasional riot.
The church at Ephesus.
The church here was one of the more prominent ones that were established by Paul. It was founded in AD 53 on Paul's homeward journey to Jerusalem, but he did return a year later ,on his third missionary trip and stayed there for three years preaching and teaching (Acts 19 .1-20). Paul met with Ephesian elders at Miletus (Acts 20.17-38),and he sent Timothy to them to serve as their leader (1 Timothy 1.3). Just a few years later Paul was sent as a prisoner to Rome. In Rome he was visited by messengers from various churches, including Tychicus of Ephesus. Paul wrote this letter (probably around AD 60)to the church at Ephesus and sent it by Tychicus.
Unlike some letters of Paul, this was not written to counteract any problem or heresy in the church. It was a letter of general encouragement with the aim of strengthening the body of believers and was probably read as a "circular letter" to other churches as well, probably for all the churches planted from Ephesus in the surrounding region. (The earliest manuscripts don't include the name of Ephesus). Paul sees these churches like "trophy cabinets " of God’s' victorious grace. Paul explains the nature and purpose of the church,the body of Christ. It was probably written from prison in Rome.
There has been some speculation as to whether Paul was the genuine author of this book. Some have suggested that because Ephesians brings together many of the themes of Paul's teaching, it can be seen as a summary of his thought ,and might have been written by one of his followers ,as a kind of "introduction to Paul" to be read before studying a collection of his work, however there is not a shred of evidence to support this theory.
We can divide the letter roughly into 2 sections.....
* Unity in Christ (1.1-3.21)
* Unity in the body of Christ (4.1-6.24)
In this letter Paul explains the wonderful things we have received through Christ and refers to the church as a body, temple, bride, and soldier. These all illustrate unity of purpose and show how each individual member is a part that must work together with all the other parts.
We will encounter 5 mega themes......
* God's purpose.
* Christ the centre
* Living church
* New family
* Christian conduct.
So as we dig into this letter.........
We will discover precious spiritual treasures for our lives today. These eight studies will deepen our appreciation of God's sovereignty; move us to celebrate God's grace to us; blow our minds with the dimensions of Jesus' love; thrill us with the place of our church in God's plan and show us how we can contribute our time and gifts to it; and explain how in our everyday lives and relationships we can please God and show Christ to those around us.
Please join us next week .......when we will begin to discover God's plan for the world and your place in that plan. The session is entitled "Every blessing in Christ " and we shall be looking at Ephesians 1.1-14.
As always there will be a follow-up Zoom discussion session on Wednesday July 1 at 10.30. Please check the church website for Zoom ID and password details.