Bible Study Archive
Jonah and Jesus 17.10.20
Matthew 12 v 38-42
Real faith is about trusting Jesus ......the One who died,was buried and then rose again.....rather than any impressive signs.
Read Matthew 12 v 38-42.
In what two ways does Jesus respond to the demand for a miraculous sign ? (v 39)
. Only a wicked and adulterous generation would seek a miraculous sign.
. Only one sign would be given ....... "the sign of the prophet Jonah".
Jesus calls His generation "wicked" because their demand for a miraculous sign shows that they trust in signs rather than in Christ Himself. The Lord's generation is "adulterous": they are more attracted to impressive displays of power than to the One through whom God has chosen to work.
Jesus says that He will give his generation just one sign: "the sign of the prophet Jonah". He wants people to understand what will happen to Him as being similar to what happened to Jonah.
What are the key similarities between the experiences of Jonah and Jesus?
. The fish and the tomb. Both places of desperation and death.
. The Timings. Both of them were in the places of death for three days and three nights. ( Jesus was dead from Friday to Sunday ,and in the way Jews counted part days and nights as whole days and nights, this was three days and nights).
. God's action for Jonah and Jesus. God didn't leave either man in the depths, but brought them back to where living people dwell.
.The effect on others. Jonah's deliverance led to Nineveh hearing his preaching, and repenting. Jesus' resurrection leads to us being able to know that He is God's Christ and being able to know Him as our Saviour.
What are the important differences?
. Jonah didn't literally die; Jesus did.
. Jonah's near -death experience was because of his sin. Christ's real-death experience was because of other's sin.
. Jonah didn't choose the fish,but the Lord chose the cross!
. Jesus' experience had a better ending than Jonah's......He was raised to life; Jonah was vomited out!
. Jonah's obedience came about as a result of his fishy experience, while Jesus' experience resulted in the cross (Romans 5.19)
. Jonah's preaching had a huge effect on the whole of Nineveh; Jesus' preaching (and that of His people) was massively opposed after His resurrection (though Acts records episodes where thousands of people did repent).
The only "sign" Jesus gives people is His death, burial and resurrection.
How should His example here shape our approach to witnessing?
We, like Jesus, should keep the focus on the events of His death, burial and resurrection. That's where we need to point people and where we want to head to in any conversation about our faith.
Jesus suggests that the Ninevites knew about Jonah's near-death, near-resurrection experience in the sea and the fish (Luke 11.30)
What does verse 41 remind us that Jonah did next, after the fish vomited him out?
Jonah answered God's call to go and preach in Nineveh.
How did the Ninevites respond to this?
They "repented at Jonah's preaching".
Christ's point is :if they did this when Jonah preached to them, you should do the same when I preach to you!
What is Jesus' warning in verse 41 ? Why will it be fair for the "men of Nineveh " to do this?
The "men of Nineveh" will condemn Jesus' generation, because Nineveh responded better to Jonah than Jesus' listeners had to Him. This is despite the fact that Jesus is "greater than Jonah and that Nineveh was a pagan city which never heard such preaching before, whereas the Jews are supposed to be God's people, so those listening to Jesus really have no excuse!
Look up Matthew 25 v31-33. How does this passage underline the warning of 12 v 41?
"Judgement" refers to the final judgement which will happen when Jesus returns and separates His people from those he doesn't know. This is when our eternal
destinies will be determined.
In verse 42 Jesus says the Queen of the South (also known as the Queen of Sheba) will condemn His generation at the final judgement.
Read 1 Kings 10 v 1-10
Why did the Queen of the South go to meet Solomon?
Because she had heard of his relationship with God.
How did she respond to Solomon's wisdom?
She was overwhelmed (v 5),recognised that it was God who had given Solomon all he had (v 9),and praised the Lord herself.(v 9)
So why, according to Jesus ,will the Queen of the South condemn Jesus' generation? (Matthew 12 v 42) ?
The Queen responded better to Solomon than Jesus' generation had responded to Jesus. The contrast is all the greater because Jesus' wisdom is greater than Solomon's. (see Colossians 2 v2-3),and she, unlike Jesus' listeners, but like the Ninevites ,was a pagan.
How have we seen this truth in Jonah (compare the pagan sailors and Ninevites with the prophet Jonah)?
Jesus' point ,that the Gentile Ninevites and Queen of the South responded better to God than His Jewish contemporaries, is very similar to the point made by the author of Jonah. In Jonah 4,the pagan Ninevites repented and were saved from God's judgement, whereas Jonah was left sulking and angry, opposed to the merciful character of God.
To think about........
What is the right response to seeing "the sign of Jonah" in Jesus' life, and hearing His preaching (in our generation as well as His)?
Listen to His preaching and so "repent and believe His good news (Mark 1 v15).
Looking back over our time in Jonah, what has Jonah's experience taught us about our evangelism?
. To look at our hearts......are we grudging evangelists like Jonah, or are our hearts compassionate like God's ?
. To expect God to do wonderful things......as He did in the boat for the sailors and in the city for the Ninevites.
. To be encouraged that our best can be good enough......God used a single sentence of Jonah's to convert a shipload of pagan sailors.
. Not to think that we deserve God's grace more than others.
Both the Lord Jesus Christ and the author of Jonah want their hearers not to have false confidence for finding favour with God, but instead to rely wholly and only on God's grace......His undeserved kindness and compassion.
Next week there will be no new study and our Zoom session on Weds. Oct. 21 will be a catch up and discussion of our overall response to the book of Job. Why not join us to share what God has taught you through this series....or questions (if you have any). As always the meeting ID is 737 2295 9656 and the password in 3NZjXF.
The following week on Oct. 31 there will be the introduction to a new study ......"Revelation.....Heaven's Perspective". Do not be put off this challenging book which will take us up to Advent. Tim Chester, the author of the "Good Book Guide" we will be using, writes.........
" Imagine looking up close at an impressionist painting . All you can see are strokes of paint and dabs of colour. It's hard to make sense of it. However, take a step back and the picture becomes clear. What emerges is not just a scene but the mood it evokes......and that's how we should approach Revelation. Look at the detail and it's all a bit perplexing, but step back and look at the big picture and Revelation not only becomes clearer ,but can grip our imaginations."
Lesson learned? 10.10.20
Jonah 4. 5-11
We are getting near to the end of this prophetic oracle which highlights the sickness that blights humanity.......sin. Here we see Jonah's utter selfishness that he cares far more about a bit of shade than he does about the destiny of 120,000 people! Be prepared; the book finishes with a question ,and we are left hanging...........
Read Jonah 4.5-11.
Jonah leaves Nineveh and waits at a safe distance "to see what would happen to the city" (v5). What might Jonah be hoping for?
He seems to be still hoping for God's judgement to fall upon Nineveh, anticipating another Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19.24-25). So he wants to be well away from the city when God's judgement falls.....but he wants to gloat and be there to watch.
What is surprising about Jonah's hope, in the light of 3 v 10?
God has already "relented and did not bring about the destruction on Nineveh that he had threatened". Jonah knows this from 4 v1. He hopes that God will repent of His compassion and destroy Nineveh anyway!
So what makes Jonah very angry in this last chapter and what makes him very happy?
. Jonah is very angry when God's mercy is extended to non-Israelites in a big matter, them not being destroyed (v 1-4)
. He is very angry when God's mercy is withdrawn from him in a small matter: the plant (v 5-9)
Note that in both these cases Jonah is angry enough to want to die.
. Jonah is very happy when God's mercy is extended to him in a small matter (v 6). He wants a God who is merciful to him in giving him what he would like (a bit of shade) as well as what he needs (rescue from drowning);but he also wants a God who does not give mercy to others, even in what they most need (saving from judgement).
What does this show us about Jonah?
His utter selfishness and his sense that he deserves God's help while others do not.
His priorities are directly opposed to God's.
If you would like to explore more.......
Read Mark 11 v 15-17.
What made Jesus very angry? What does tell us about Jesus?
How were Jesus' priorities and the cause of His anger, the opposite of Jonah's priorities and what made him angry?
To think about......
The things that make us most angry and most happy offer insight into what we REALLY care about.
Jonah was hoping chapter 4 would be about Nineveh learning their lesson through being judged. However, it turns out that God wants chapter 4 to be all about Jonah learning a lesson, through the events of v 6-8.
Have a look at Jonah's response in v8.What do you make of it?
Jonah wants to die again! He is so self-absorbed and petulant.....and incredibly rude when God withdraws what He gave in the first place.
What do verses 9 and 11 have in common?
They both contain a question from God to Jonah.
What is the right answer to God's first question (v9)? Why?
"No!" .It's God's plan,not Jonah's (v 10). Jonah should have been thankful when he had it and accepting when he didn't......
What is the right answer to God's second question (v 11)?
What reason does God give why this is the right answer?
. v 11.More than one hundred and twenty thousand people (+ cattle!) live in this great city.
. The people who live there are spiritually ignorant and God cares about people who are spiritually clueless.
Why do you think the book of Jonah ends with this unanswered question left hanging?
. The question leaves the ball in Jonah's court. Pagan sailors have come to fear God; pagan Ninevites have repented; but will Jonah come round to seeing God's way of things?
. God's question is probably meant not just for Jonah......but for the reader to ask him or herself. Will we be persuaded of the rightness of God's character and compassion for unlikely recipients of mercy? Are we concerned that people, even those who have wronged us, hear of God's mercy?
(I am reminded of the US army chaplain who was given the task of taking the Gospel to convicted Nazi war criminals, prior to their executions and following the Nuremburg trials.
At least one repented.)
If you would like to explore more........
There are striking similarities between the book of Jonah and the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15. 11-32
Pick out the similarities.
What's the cliff-hanger at the end of both stories?
Thank God for His compassion, mercy and love.
Ask God to help you with the challenges of Jonah 4.
THE CLIFFHANGER QUESTION.........
Did Jonah come to share God's heart of compassion for pagan's? We'll never know.
So the real cliffhanger is ........Will we?!
There will be our usual Zoom session on Weds October 14 to discuss this study .......to which all are welcome.
The Zoom ID is 737 2295 9656 and the password is 3NZjXF.
Next week we complete our study with a session on "Jonah and Jesus".
How are the two related?Check out the study to find out.
Repent, relent, Rage 3.10.20
Jonah 3 v 1- 4 - v 4
There are three mini-sections in this passage; and it's worth noticing before we begin that they're closely linked to the first three sections of the book, which we have already looked at.
So, as we study 3 v 1 - 4 v 4, we'll compare each section with the section from earlier in the book to which it is linked.
1 v 1-3: God commissions Jonah: Jonah flees God. 3 v 1-3a: God commissions Jonah again: Jonah obeys.
1 v 4-17: Jonah talks to pagan sailors: Jonah is saved. 3 v 3b-10: Jonah talks to pagan Ninevites: Ninevates saved.
2 v 1-10: Jonah's grateful prayer about his salvation. 4 v 1-4: Jonah's angry prayer about Nineveh's salvation.
Read Jonah 3. 1-3a.
What is going on in 3 . 1-2?
These verses describe Jonah's re-commissioning. The phrase "a second time" reminds us
that there is always a second chance.
What is the difference between here and 1 v 2. Why the change?
The two are very similar ,but in chapter 3 Jonah is given no content for his message, the focus being on the need for him to simply obey God. Has Jonah learned to get on with doing what God says?
What is the difference between Jonah's response in 1 v 3 and 3 v 3a?
In 1 v 3 Jonah disobeyed the word of the Lord; in 3 v 3a he immediately obeys the word of the Lord. In 1 v 3 Jonah headed towards Tarshish, in the opposite direction to Nineveh; in 3 v 3a he finally goes where God wants him to.
To think about........
When God gives us a second chance it's a sign of His mercy, giving us another opportunity to be a part of His plans. Are there areas in your life where you feel that God is giving you a "second (or third or fourth!) chance?" Will you obey Him this time?
Are you the kind of person who gives others a second (or third or fourth!) chance?
Read Jonah 3 v 3b-10.
The summary of Jonah's preaching in verse 4 is short; only five words in Hebrew! However it is clear that judgement is coming within forty days. (it is worth noting here that the number forty in scripture signifies the time it takes by God to teach someone something.....as in the forty days and nights that Jesus was in the wilderness and the forty days that Noah and his family spent in the ark on the waters)
How did the Ninevites view Jonah's words in verse 5a?
They recognise Jonah as a true prophet,who is speaking not his own words ,but the word of the Lord.
How does the narrator summarise the Ninevites' response to Jonah's message at the beginning of verse ten?
God saw that the Ninevites had turned from their evil ways; he knew that their repentance was heartfelt and genuine.
What external signs do the Ninevites show that they have repented? (v 5-8)
. "A fast was proclaimed"
. All of them put on sackcloth (v 5)
. Everyone repents....even the king. (v 5-6 )and the beasts (v 7-8)
. It is a "complete fast"....from both food and water.
. The king makes the fast official. (v7-9)
. The fast is not just "religious" and a ritual, but is accompanied by a change in behaviour.(v 8 )
Note on fasting.......
This is a much neglected spiritual practice among Christians today, but it is a spiritual discipline which Jesus himself practised.( Matt 4 v2)and one he expected his followers to observe. (Matt 6 v 16-18; Mark 2 v 20).Fasting helps us not to be ruled and dominated by the demands of our bodies and reminds us that our deepest hunger should be for God.
Compare Nineveh's response to the word of the Lord with Jonah's response in 1 v 3. Whose response is better and why?
There is no contest! Nineveh's response is a lot better. Jonah does not respond in obedience, whereas everyone in Nineveh,from the king to the cattle repents fully and immediately.
The structure of the book of Jonah encourages us to compare his time in pagan Nineveh (3 v 3b-10 )with the earlier section about his sea voyage with the pagan sailors (1 v 4-16).
What are the similarities between these two sections? For what purpose has God used both Jonah's disobedience (in running away) and obedience (in going to Nineveh)?
The big similarity between chapter 1 and chapter 3 is that in both Jonah has been used by God to extend mercy to non-Israelite pagans.
God uses Jonah's disobedience to show mercy to the pagan sailors and he uses Jonah's (grudging) obedience to show mercy to the pagan Ninevites.
Read Jonah 4 v1-4.
How does Jonah respond to God's mercy on Nineveh?
. He is furious (4 v1).
. He's so upset that he says that he would rather die than live. (4 v3)
How does this compare to his response to God's mercy to him in chapter 2?
There's a striking contrast between Jonah's thanks for himself being saved and his fury that others are saved.
What does this show about Jonah's heart?
Jonah still does not share God's desire to show compassion. He wants God to be only the God of Israel and not the God of pagans.
.........Does Jonah not understand who God is, or does he not like who God is?
Jonah really does understand God's gracious and compassionate character, but he doesn't like this compassion when it is flowing to non-Israelites.
Read Exodus 34. 6-7 to discover why Jonah's sin is so serious. God's mercy to the Ninevites is an expression of His character. Jonah, in hating God's compassion, is hating God himself.......that's serious.
Jonah asks God to take away his life (v 3) . How might we expect God to respond?
In judgement. Jonah might find himself back at the bottom of the sea!
How does God respond? (v 4 )
He talks to Jonah and asks him a question.
How does this show us what God is like?
He is hugely patient! He's not only being compassionate to Nineveh, but also to his angry, unloving........and very rude prophet!
To think about.........
Are there areas where you, like Jonah, want God to be different? Remind yourself that God is God and he doesn't change. When we are out of step with God, we are the ones who need to change.
. For what this passage has shown you about who he is.
. For what this passage has shown you about what he's done for people.
. To help you to see where you need to repent and enable you to do so.....
. To help you to confront any other challenges this passage has posed to you.
THE CLIFFHANGER QUESTION.......
Will Jonah listen to God? Will God run out of patience with Jonah?
We will finish our reading of the book of Jonah next week......but not our study. The next session is entitled "Lesson Learned" and we will be reading Jonah 4. 5-11. As always there will be a Zoom session to discuss the passage on Weds October 7 at 10.30 to which everyone is welcome.....why not give it a try? The Zoom ID is 737 2295 9656 and the password is 3NZjXF.
Jonah's Fishy Faith 26.9.20
Read Jonah 1.17-2.1
1 v17 and 2 v10 bracket this section. What happens to Jonah in these two verses?
Jonah is rescued from Death by a fish. He's swallowed and then vomited out onto dry land.
Look at 1v17;4 v 6 and v 8. Which word is repeated and who does it ?
The word is "provided" and it is God who does it.
Now look at 1 v 4,v 7 and 2 v 10. What are all these verses teaching us about God?
in 1v 4 the Lord sends a great wind on the sea . In 1 v 7,God controls the casting of lots (see Proverbs 16 v 33). In 2 v 10, God commands the fish to vomit Jonah out on dry land. The Maker of the sea and land (1 v 9) is clearly in continuous, comprehensive control of His entire creation, down to the smallest detail.
What does Jonah's prayer in 2 v 1-9 teach us about the purpose to which God put his power in this situation?
2 v1-9 is Jonah's prayer of thanksgiving for God's mercy in rescuing him. Jonah knows that God's actions in 1 v17 and 2 v 10 ,bracketing this prayer, are done in order to have mercy on him . God uses His great power to have great mercy.
To think about .....
Is it sometimes difficult for you to give God the credit for situations in which He has helped or delivered you? What work in your life do you need to thank Him for today?
How does Jonah's prayer in 2 v 1-9 emphasise how desperate was his situation?
. He was "deep in the realm of the dead" (v 2). As good as dead.
. The waters were surrounding him (v 5).
. He was trapped and held fast by seaweed. (v 5)
. He sank as low as possible. (v 6)
What does Jonah know about why this happened to him?
. Jonah knows "you (God) hurled me" (v 3).....they were "your waves".
. He knows he was far from God (v 4)
. The sailors threw him in, but his near-drowning was God's purpose and God's judgement. (1 v 12,15)
What was Jonah's response?
He "called to the Lord" and "called for help" (v 2).He prayed for mercy from God who was judging him.
What was the turning point in Jonah's life-threatening plunge?
Verse 6b. Note the use of the word "but "at the beginning of the sentence....it signals a contrast with the previous thought. Jonah's direction (literally) changes here. He has been going down, down, down (v 3,6a) but now God hears Jonah and brings him "up' from the pit.
Remember where Jonah is as he says this prayer. What is strange about the plans he is making in v 4 and v 9?
Jonah is confident that he'll look at God's temple again while he's still drowning (v 4) and while he is lying inside the fish, deep underwater (v 9)
What does this tell us about Jonah's faith?
It is a remarkable picture of trust in God's, pre-deliverance. Jonah believes in God while he's drowning. His prayer of thanksgiving for deliverance is prayed to God from inside the fish, certainly not a place of safety, comfort, and total deliverance! He trusts and thanks God during his rescue, rather than only after it is completed.
..........At this point, what does Jonah rightly understand about God's salvation?
Jonah "gets" that God can and has saved him and that only God can do this; he possesses remarkable faith in God to save him from drowning in the sea.
Look at v 8-9. What does he still not understand?
In v 8, Jonah is looking down on pagans who don't know God: those who "cling to worthless idols". He doesn't realise that God's mercy extends to pagans. There's great irony here, because as Jonah is being narrow-minded, the pagan sailors he's just met,have given up their "gods" and are worshipping God for saving them from the storm (1 v16),which is exactly what Jonah himself is planning to do (v 9).God has been working not only to save Jonah ,but also to save pagans, but Jonah's so caught up in his own rescue that he doesn't think about this.
If you want to explore more.......
Read Ephesians 2. 1-10
Now compare what God did for Jonah with what He has done for Christians through Jesus. What are the similarities?
Look at Jonah's response to God's deliverance in v 9. What does this show us about how we should respond to God's deliverance in our lives?
We should acknowledge that salvation is all about what God has done (v 9),and we should trust in and thank God for rescuing us while he's doing it, not only after. He might use uncomfortable circumstances to bring us to eternity and we should praise Him during tough times, or while He's helping us, rather than when those times are over. That's hard!
. For the way He has encouraged you in the past.
. To help you to trust Him before He saves you from a difficulty ,not only after.
. To see that you are every bit as much in need of God's mercy as anyone else.
. To help you with any other specific challenges which have come up as you have studied this section.
The cliff-hanger question.......
The "wicked" people of Nineveh have been facing destruction since 1 v 2. Will Jonah now go and warn them? And what will they do to Him if he does?
Next week's study is entitled "Repent, Relent, Rage" and we shall be looking at Jonah 3 v 1-4 v 4. As always there will be a Zoom session on Wednesday Sep. 30 to discuss any issues or insights. Do join us! . The Zoom ID 737 2295 9656 and the password is 3NZjXF. We look forward to seeing you ......we are a friendly bunch��
Judgement and Mercy 19.9.20
Jonah 1 v 4-16
To understand and imagine this passage properly, we should feel the violent rocking and swaying of the ship ,hear the fury of the crashing waves and the ship's timbers about to break apart ......and taste the salty seawater which is overwhelming the ship...........
Read Jonah 1.4-16
What happens on board the ship? How does God deal with Jonah's rebellion?
God sends a storm that causes the pagan sailors to learn from Jonah about the one true Lord, the God of Heaven, the Creator of the land and sea (1 v 9). The pagan sailors come to fear and worship this Lord ( v16).God deals with Jonah in judgement . He is thrown into the raging sea.
Jonah realises that the storm is from God and has been caused by his own rebellion (v 12). Jonah seems to think that he'll die in the sea if he is thrown overboard. The sailors don't want to do this (v 13),believing ,like Jonah, that he'll die if thrown into the waves, so they ask the Lord not to hold Jonah's death against them.(v 14). Jonah's suggestion works. ( v.15)
How does v 4-6 emphasise the ship's desperate situation ?
. There is a great wind upon the sea (v.4)
. The sea is so rough that the ship is threatening to break apart. (v.4)
. Even the experienced sailors are so afraid that each cries out to his own god.(v.5)
. The sailors try to lighten the ship by throwing cargo overboard.( v.5 )
. The ship's captain comes down to the hold to wake up Jonah ( v.6 )
What are we told about the religious views of the sailors ?
They are pagans who worship various gods ( v.5 ) Jonah boarded the ship at Joppa, a Philistine (pagan ) city.
How do you think Jonah feels about these sailors?
They're pagans and we've already seen that Jonah will go to great lengths to escape God's plan to show mercy on them ( 4 v 2-3 ). These are the kind of people Jonah despises ( 2 v 8);OK as travelling companions, but not as recipients of God's mercy.
In the light of this, what is surprising about the way they treat Jonah?
They are remarkably good to a man who despises them! They continue to try to row to the shore, putting their own lives at risk, even after Jonah tells them to throw him into the sea (v 13-14 ). And they're willing to listen to Jonah when he (rather grudgingly) tells them about Israel's God.
To think about .........
Jonah's behaviour looks even worse when we compare it with the actions of the pagan sailors. Sometimes our behaviour doesn't match up to the standards of those around us who are not Christians. Does this challenge you? Are there any areas of your life where this is happening? If so, what are you going to do about it ?
Fear is a significant theme in this passage; note each of the three times fear or terror is mentioned in verses 4-16.
. v 5: The sailors are afraid of the storm.
. v 10: The sailors are terrified of God.
. v 16: They "greatly feared the lord"
What progression do you see? And what does this tell us?
They move from being scared of the circumstances beyond their control ( the storm) ,to fearful of the God who sent the storm, to respecting and praising that God. Their fear is turning to worship.
By what names is God referred to in this section?
. v 9.Jonah refers to God as "the Lord". This is the Hebrew name "Yahweh “or "I AM", God's covenant name (Exodus 3.13-15)
. v 6. The captain thinks of the God Jonah worships simply as "your god”, one among many.
. v. 14. The sailors pray to God using the covenant name twice....and by v. 16 they're worshipping the Lord.
What is surprising about the way the pagan sailors come to know and fear the Lord?
God uses His unwilling ,rebellious prophet to bring these pagans to know and respect Him!. Jonah does for the Pagan sailors exactly what he's trying to avoid doing for the Ninevites. God can use anything to bring people to see who He is and to worship Him.
Think about where we leave the main characters, Where is :
. Jonah, God's prophet? Drowning in the sea having run from God.
. The pagan sailors? Safe on land instead of dying at sea.(It's likely that they would have been on land to make their sacrifice.) v 16)
. God? Right where we'd expect Him to be ruling over everything from His heavenly throne room ,controlling and using events.
Read Mark 2. 13-17 and Luke 15.1-2,11-32.
God is eager to reach the "unreachable ": Jonah is the opposite.
Think about how God's character is displayed in this section. What hope does it give us as we try to share our faith with those who don't know Jesus?
There's no one who God cannot reach with the truth about himself and no one He cannot use to do so.
Our attempts at talking about Christianity can often feel halting and inadequate. How does Jonah's answer in v 9 encourage us?
Jonah's answer isn't persuasive or detailed.....and his motivations are all wrong! However it tells the truth about God and God uses it.
Is there someone you're not talking to about Jesus because you just don't think they'll ever respond? Why not pray about it and look for an opportunity to talk about your Christian faith.
......ways in which this passage has challenged you and pray that God would change you to become more like Him.
The cliff-hanger question.....
Is there any hope for the drowning Jonah?
(You probably know the answer to this ,but at the time he and the sailors didn't!)
Next week's study is entitled "Jonah's Fishy Faith" and we will be looking at Jonah 1.17-2.10.The Zoom session to discuss the session will be on Weds Sep 23.Do please join this session which is open to everyone ,with the opportunity to discuss any thoughts raised by the study. The meeting ID is 737 2295 9656 and the password is 3NZjXF.
Running Away 12.9.20
This opening passage is meant to shock us! Jonah, God's prophet , refuses God's call ; and what's worse ,it's because he doesn't want his enemies to be forgiven. These three opening verses chart Jonah's disobedience and external fleeing as he tries to go in the direct opposition to God's call.....West to Tarshish instead of East to Nineveh.
What do we know about Jonah? (......actually very little)
Read 2 Kings 14.23-27
Jonah was a prophet the son of Amittai (see Jonah 1.1).He prophesied during the reign of King Jeroboam II, of Israel (782-753 BC).and his prophecies about Israel's expansion were correct.
Why is it significant that Jonah's prophecy about Israel's expansion was fulfilled?
The test of a true prophet is that his words always come true (Deuteronomy 18.21-22) Jonah was a true prophet.
What would we expect Jonah to do if God gives him another command?
We would expect him to obediently proclaim that word, as the task of a true prophet is to speak forth the words that God commands him (Deuteronomy 18.18).
Read Jonah 1.1-2
What does God command Jonah to do?
Preach against Nineveh (1.2) This means that Jonah is to make known Nineveh's sins and proclaim God's coming judgement upon them (see 3 v4).The inhabitants of Nineveh have behaved sinfully and have offended God. In chapter 3 v 8,10 the "evil ways" are emphasised; it is the same Hebrew word translated "wickedness" in 1 v 2 of Nineveh with the urgent need for them to turn from their wickedness.
Let's look at the background........
Nineveh was an important city in the Assyrian Empire, an ancient superpower that had subdued Israel in the past and would eventually conquer Israel a few decades after Jonah's day. The Assyrian kings used various forms of grisly torture to subdue and frighten enemy nations and also required regular payments from conquered peoples. In 841BC,50 years before Jonah's time Assyria demanded payment from the king of Israel and in Jonah's day was its most feared enemy.
In the light of all this, how do you imagine Jonah might have felt about God's command to "preach against Nineveh" ?
. Jonah might well have been afraid for his life, venturing 500miles away from home and
into enemy territory.
. Jonah might be eager to "preach against" an enemy of his country....he had already correctly prophesied ill tidings for Syria (2 Kings 14.25). Perhaps he'd relish the opportunity to do the same for Nineveh.
To think about........
Who are the people or groups who we easily think of as enemies?
Are there any groups or types of people who might think the church sees them as enemies?
How do we react when God prompts us to do something quite inconvenient or difficult?
Do we tend to obey God joyfully; or follow him grudgingly; or simply ignore Him? What excuses do YOU make?
Read Jonah 1.3
How does Jonah respond to God's command?
Jonah sails to Tarshish in the Western Mediterranean.....in the opposite direction to Nineveh, which was 500 miles NE of Nineveh.
What do you think of Jonah's actions here?
We're obviously meant to be shocked! It's like the beginning of a symphony with a jarring, discordant ,disturbing burst of instrumental sound .We are on the edge of our seats right at the beginning of this story....aghast and appalled......Jonah refuses and runs?! It leaves us asking:" "What could possibly be leading God's prophet into such disobedience? How will God respond?
If you want to explore more........
Read Exodus 3.1- 4 v17; Isaiah 6 v1-13; Jeremiah 1 v 4-19.
How do these prophets respond to being called to do something hard?
The big question now is: What could possibly account for such wilful disobedience on the part of God's prophet?
Read Jonah 4. 1-2
Why does Jonah want to escape from his commission to "preach against "Nineveh? How does he understand the ultimate purpose of his task?
4 .1-2 shows that Jonah flees from God not from a fear of losing his own life, but from a fear of saving the lives of the pagan Ninevites! He is opposed to God's gracious and merciful character. He wants the Ninevites to be judged by God, not repent and be forgiven. If he doesn't go they'll not be warned and they'll definitely be judged! Assyria is Israel's enemy and Jonah clearly does not love his enemies. From the beginning of the book we see that God's prophet hates God's plan. Jonah was happy to prophesy God's blessing for Israel (2 Kings 14.25) ,but he can't stand the idea that God wants to forgive and bless Israel's enemies.
Are there any ways in your life in which you are currently resisting God's direction and living at cross-purposes with the Lord? Think about why you're not getting on with obeying him; what it would be like to live His way ,and what exactly you need to ask Him to help you with so that you can get on board (pun intended!) with His plans.
. That His word is so frank ,showing us what God's people are really like.
. That His plan is to bless all peoples, even those like Nineveh, who despise Him and His people.
. That He uses people to fulfil His purposes.
. To help you repent over the areas of your life in which you are currently resisting Him.
. For a heart like His that yearns for all peoples to know life with Him.
. To give you confidence that there is no one you know that His grace can't reach and change.
THE CLIFFHANGER QUESTION...
Will Jonah get away with defying God ?
The study next week is entitled "Judgement and Mercy" when we will be looking at Jonah 1.4-16. The follow-up Zoom session, to which everyone is invited ,is on Weds. Sep 16 at 10.30. The Zoom ID is 737 2295 965 and the password is 3NZjXF. Do join us!
The Depths of Grace 5.9.20
Introduction to the book of Jonah
We shall be using another of the "good book guides" in our studies, written by Stephen Witmer.
How about sitting down and reading this short book in its entirety.......there are only 4 chapters!
Why study Jonah?
This book is one of the most famous in the whole bible: but the message of Jonah is one of the most ignored. It is an odd book....we have a great fish (the bible doesn't say a whale), a rebellious, mean and nasty prophet, a "vine" which grows big enough to provide shade for Jonah in a day, a "worm" which rapidly eats the "vine" and "beasts" who are commanded to fast and repent. If you find all this pretty unbelievable (of course all things are possible with God) it might be easier for you to think of the book, as was once suggested to me as "a prophetic oracle in parable form".
Let's look at Jonah in the historical context in which it is set......
.785 - 760 BC (approx)
. Jonah son of Amittai
To whom written
. Israel....and all God's people everywhere.
. Jonah preceded Amos and ministered under Jeroboam II, Israel's most powerful king. (2 Kings 14. 23-25). Assyria was Israel's great enemy and Israel was conquered by them in 722 BC.
This is a story about one man, the prophet Jonah, and of his experiences of living among and speaking to pagans who knew next to nothing about the God he worshipped. Unlike the other prophetic books the focus is not on Jonah's words but on Jonah the man. It is a story of storms and sailors, rebellion and rescue, preaching and protest; a story full of cliff-hanger endings. It's the story of the most reluctant evangelist in the bible.
Falls easily into 2 parts....
. Jonah forsakes his mission (1.1 - 2. 10)
. Jonah fulfills his mission (3.1 - 4.11)
Chapter 1 is about the sailors and chapter 3 about the Ninevites.
Chapters 2 & 4 revolve around Jonah's prayers.
The narrative of the book is based around opposite reactions and humour and irony are used to critique character flaws. Everything is "upside down". Today we would call this style of writing "satire”.(Don't say that the bible doesn't have any humour.....)
The book's relevance for today......
Local churches increasingly find themselves existing in pagan cultures, where the truth about God is not much more than a distant memory. In the workplace, amongst friends ,and even within the family, many believers feel alone, isolated and ill-equipped to survive as Christians, let alone speak out about God.
This short book encourages us as we see the effect of Jonah's preaching on pagan sailors and city-dwellers, but at the end challenges us about how we view those who don't know God and about our own attitudes to evangelism.
Most of all though, this is a story about God himself. We meet the God of great grace towards "outsiders" and of great patience with the "insiders". We discover that God is the most committed evangelist of all. We meet the God who, as Jesus, lived as a man and who pointed to the experiences of Jonah to explain the gospel significance of his own death and resurrection.
These 6 studies hardly mention the "big fish" at all ! However they will help you open up the book of Jonah, discover more of the amazing character of God ,and to be encouraged to share the heart of the greatest evangelist......the Lord Jesus Christ himself.
We begin the first study next week reading Jonah 1. 1-3. which is entitled "Running Away". There will be a Zoom session on Wednesday Sep. 9 at 10.30 to share and discuss. The meeting ID is 737 2295 9656 and the password in 3NZjFX. As always everyone is very welcome, whether you are a member of All Saints or not. The session lasts around 40 mins, but you can come and go at any time.
No Bible study this week.......but we will be starting studies on the book of Jonah next week. Why not use this week to catch up on the studies in Ephesians which you may have missed........
There will be a zoom session as usual on Wednesday Sep 2 at 10.30 to chat about/discuss any issues raised in our studies on Ephesians. This session is open to everyone whether or not you are a member of All Saints ,Walton on the Naze. The Zoom ID is 737 2295 9656 and the password is 3NZjXF (many apologies as the password was wrongly printed last week).
The Introduction to Jonah will now begin on Sat Sep 12...............
Spiritual Warfare 23.8.20
Ephesians 6. 10-24
In this final section Paul reaches his dramatic finale to the letter. He begins "finally" because, far from being a random diversion,or disconnected afterthought, this passage is actually the glorious climax to the Ephesians......and it is all about spiritual warfare. The Christian life is one of standing firm against spiritual attack by "wearing "our gospel convictions as we fearlessly proclaim Christ's victory to those around us.
Read Ephesians 6.10-20.
What does Paul tell us to do? (v 10)
"Be strong"(literally "be strengthened") in the mighty power of God.
How does he tell us to do it?(v 11)
By putting on the "full armour of God".
Why do we need to do this? (v 11-12)
We need to stand against the "devil's schemes" (v 11). We are in a spiritual battle involving "flesh and blood enemies" (false teachers/persecutors/those who mock us) and we need to stand our ground. Our protection will be our heavenly armour.
Read Revelation 12 v 9,12;John 8 v 44; 1 Peter 5 v 8.
What do these verses tell us about the devil and his aims?
He is active on earth, filled with fury and seeking to lead the whole earth astray. He is a liar, seeking to "devour" Christians by convincing them not to trust Christ as their Lord and Saviour.
Read Luke 11 v 14-22; Colossians 2 v 13-15 ; John 3 v 8.
What do these verses tell us about what Jesus has done to the devil ?
Jesus brought God's kingdom to earth and began to overpower and throw out Satan. Being more powerful than Satan he was able, on the cross, to remove Satan's ability to use God's law against us (by demanding God punish lawbreakers justly) and so the spiritual forces of evil are now powerless to take us to hell. By his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus has destroyed the power and work of Satan.
Read Revelation 20 v 7-10.
What will eventually happen to the devil ?
This is a complex passage,but the main emphasis is that the devil will resist God to the end, but that eventually he will be utterly defeated and punished.
It is easy to make too little, or too much of the devil. Some of us are oblivious to satanic powers because we are influenced by the rationalistic materialism of our culture. There is also the opposite risk of becoming dangerously obsessed with spiritual warfare, and being far too afraid of Satan. We need to understand "the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work" (1 John 3.8 )
What does victory in this spiritual warfare look like? ( v 13-14 )
The battle ground will be everyday life and we are required to "stand firm". The devil will try to stir up doubts and divisions among us, but our goal is to survive,hold our ground and stand firm in gospel convictions.
Look at the armour we are to "put on" in v 14-17.....note that this is not a list of actions.
This is the armour that Jesus himself wore as he resisted the temptations of Satan (Matthew 4.1-11),and utterly defeated him on the cross. This is the armour of a Roman foot- soldier. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation and the word of God are all ways of describing the impact of the gospel .....God's full armour, which our champion and commander Jesus wore into battle with Satan.
What does it look like to "wear" this armour?
It is to remember, believe ,and live by the truths of the gospel. When the devil attacks us, suggesting that God is not good, or trustworthy, or that his word is not clear, it is a gospel conviction that will protect us ,enabling us to stand firm against the devil's lies and sin in some way. Note that all items of armour here are for our defence except one......"the sword of the spirit" which is God's living word, for attack. When Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness, Satan used God's word against him (out of context!). Jesus responded with the spirit's sword, saying each time "It is written......". Matthew 4(v 1-11 )
What final piece of "armour " does Paul identify in verse 18?
Prayer. Notice that this is....
. Regular "on all occasions"
. Varied "all kinds"...whether urgent, single sentence, family, "arrow," prayers at the start/end of the day, in church, prolonged (at important decision -making times).
. For other believers "for all the Lord's people".
Why is it so powerful? (look back to 1 v 19b-22; 3 v 20-21)
The power we ask from God as we pray is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead......and is able to do more than we could ever think or ask.
Why is Paul asking for this kind of prayer? ( v 19-20 )
Paul is in prison (v 20) and may feel tempted to be fearful and keep his mouth closed.
Read Ephesians 6. 21-24.
Paul uses three words in his final farewell. Let's look at them more closely........
. Peace (v 23) This is the wonderful reconciliation with God and with each other,for which Christ died and by which we are gathered together under Christ in his church. Christ "is our peace" satisfying God for our sins. Peace well summarises the eternal blessing of salvation in Christ that results from the mystery of the gospel.
. Love (v 23) God's eternal plan reveals that our great, impressive and all-powerful God is also a God of compassion and love. How immense is his love for us! (3.18).
. Grace (v 24) Grace is undeserved and extravagant kindness. (Remember God's Riches At Christ's Expense). God's plan is not only to gather us into his church to display his wisdom in the spiritual realms, but "in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus" (2.7). Since our salvation comes entirely from his grace, all glory must be given entirely and eternally to him alone.
To think about ........
In what way is your praying for the gospel to be preached part of God's great plan for the world?
How can you encourage others to pray as in v 18-19 ?
How has God's triumphant plan , revealed in Ephesians, to gather everything under the risen Christ as displayed in his churches shaped your view of:
. The purpose of your local church?
. Your safety from Satan's attacks?
. The glory of evangelism?
Identify how Paul's words in Ephesians show you how and what to pray.
Praise God for the peace, love and grace that you have received.
For all "the saints" ie. God's people.
This session concludes our study of Ephesians; next week we will be venturing into the Old Testament, to look at the book of the prophet Jonah. We shall be using our usual "Good Book Guide, "this time written by Stephen Witmer. John Piper, the well - known American minister, bible scholar and teacher recommends this book...in his words....
" Stephen Witmer opens up to our minds and hearts the amazing grace of God and shows us how ultimately, it's Jesus who makes that grace possible for us. Biblically rich and personally accessible, these studies remind us that the story of Jonah is also the big picture of the bible.....the depths of God's grace".
Our first study will be an introduction to the book; meanwhile,
next week Weds August 26 we will have our usual Zoom session to which everyone is very welcome, whether you attend/are a member of All Saints, Walton on the Naze or not.
Zoom ID is 737 2295 9656 and the password is 3NZjFX.
At Home and at Work 15.8.20
The Introduction and also the summary of this section is verse 21:" Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ". For those of us in Western 21st century cultures, we need to realise that the bible teaches that "our role does not define our worth". Submitting to someone else does not mean we are worth less than them. Submit = to arrange yourself under someone's authority.
This cannot mean that all Christians should submit to each other(which is impossible).Instead Paul shows us three areas where Christians are, depending on circumstances, called to submit....and where other Christians are called to lead with authority. Each command comes with a gospel -based explanation and motivation.
Read Ephesians 5.21-33.
Within marriage what are wives instructed to do? (v22)
Submit. Wives should follow the leadership of their husbands. This is not enforced, servile oppression, but voluntary. Husbands are not called to make their wives submit.
What is her model? ( v 24 )
The submission of the church to Christ. The church submits to Christ gladly and joyfully. We follow Christ's lead because we understand that his rule is for our best; we know that he loves us sacrificially (which is what husbands are called to do).We trust that he is guiding us wisely and so we respond with respect and thankfulness. This does not mean that Christians lose their personalities /never think for themselves/ask questions and we will not always find it easy or natural to submit. However, a wife's submission should be "as to the Lord"......as part of her service to Christ in this world.
It is important to make three biblical qualifications at this point:
. Submission is always conditional upon obedience to God.....so if a husband demands his wife disown or disobey Christ, she should not submit to him.
. Submission is not mindless......it does not mean never holding an opinion or making a point (see Mark 14.35-36)
. Submission is not about ability or value.....men and women are both made in the image of God (Genesis 1.28). To have a different role does not mean to have a different value. God does not love ministers more than cleaners!
What does Paul tell husbands to do? (v 25)
To love their wives, and their leadership must flow from love. Note that the command to love is repeated 3 times. (v 25,28,33 ).A husband is to be committed to loving his wife by serving her through leading her.
What is his model? (v 25-27)
Christ himself. Christ loved the church by giving himself up, even unto death. (v 25). A husband should sacrificially give himself to the good of his wife; to love her for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health......not just providing for her materially but giving himself to her, physically, emotionally and spiritually. The aim of a godly husband's love is his wife's best interests, which Paul explains from 3 aspects of Christ's love....
. Christ died to make his people holy (v 26). ie. devoted to God.
. Christ died to cleanse us from sin.
. Christ died to present us to himself on the last day as "radiant"(v 27)....without any stain, wrinkle, or imperfection.
Paul says that this should be the chief goal for his wife ....not short term happiness, but long term holiness, cleansing and radiance in Christ.
What does Paul talk about in verse 31?
Human marriage. Paul quotes from Genesis 2.24.
What does he then say he's talking about in verse 32?
"Christ and the church". Paul's deeper focus is not upon our marriages, but rather the gospel; that people of every background are being united to Christ.
How does this help us to avoid making too little and too much, of marriage between a man and a woman?
Western culture assumes that marriage can be redefined according to society's opinions. Entering it is seen as a temporary decision rather than a life-long promise...if it does not make us happy we are free to walk away. As Christians, we understand that marriage is a God-given union and a life-long commitment. It is also part of the way in which the mystery of the gospel, the wonder of Christ's love for his people and his peoples' glad submission to him, is displayed to the heavenly realms and to the world.
This passage also reminds us not to make too much of marriage or family, as it is only for this present life. It is a picture of a much greater reality ....the relationship between Christ and his church. So we must not make marriage an idol, where it becomes too important and compromises our obedience to Christ and our commitment to his church. If we are not married, or in a difficult marriage, we need to remember that we can still enjoy eternally, the greater relationship that marriage pictures.
Read Ephesians 6.1-4
What are children who are still living at home to do?(V 1)
Obey your parents. Children should fully comply with their parents' instructions. Children need masses of disciplined love (not indulgence), but also loving discipline (not bullying).
What does it mean for adult children to obey verse 2?
The word "honour" means serious respect and is commonly translated as "fear" or "reverence". This means respecting parents' wisdom and seeking their advice. It means practical care and support and not showing disrespect in the way that we talk about them.
What are Fathers (and mothers if there is no father around) to do and not to do? (v4)
. To "bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord". These means nurturing and nourishing, implying long term relational care. Training means "corrective discipline" and "instruction of the Lord" means godly parents will make time to read the bible and pray with their children.
Note here that Paul is not saying that it is the parents’ job to make their children be Christians, but it is their job to ensure that their children grow up understanding the gospel and what it means to follow Jesus.
. To not "exasperate your children". This implies no severe or relentless discipline, harsh demands, unfair rules or constant criticism or humiliation. The aim of all parents is to consciously resolve to enjoy their children as precious gifts from God for a short season.
Read Ephesians 6.6-9.
Paul is speaking here to slaves and their masters....but there is much for us to learn from the principles he gives for our workplaces today.
What should motivate our hard work as employees? (v5-8)
. We are to obey our bosses as slaves of Christ (v 6). We should serve others in our work as a part of doing God's will from our hearts. Whatever may be our work we can do it wholeheartedly as a part of our service to our Lord.
. We are "serving the Lord, not people" (v 7). Whether we are farmers working the land, or a part of a large IT company, we can all work, in our own small way to help govern God's creation.
. "The Lord will reward each one for whatever they do" (v 8). Even though an earthly master may not notice or care what we do, our Lord sees everything, including our motives for doing it and will delight to reward us in heaven. Christ is so generous....with a bonus in heaven among "the incomparable riches of his grace" (2 v 7 )
What should we not allow to motivate us? (v5-8)
. Personal advancement (v6)
. A boss/colleague watching us. We must strive to work hard when there is no one to see us
. What do bosses need to remember? (v 9)
They have a master too and they are accountable to God. Our God doesn't show favouritism; he will not reward bosses more in heaven because of their better education or expensive clothes. They will not be rewarded for their status, but for the way they have faithfully served God.
How would this shape the treatment of those working under their authority?
. They would treat them in the way they would like to be treated.
. They will not threaten or intimidate their employees, nor take advantage of their power over them.
. They will still lead, using their authority well and wisely for the good of everyone.
If you would like to explore more.......
Read Mark 10.42-45 and note how Jesus explains the difference between how the world uses authority and how members of his kingdom use their authority.
To think about.......
How can you support members of your church in their marriages, as parents and in the workplace?
. For those you know who are struggling in their marriages.
. For those in your church who are preparing for marriage.
. For those you know who are parents.
. For those whose work is hard, tedious or dangerous, that they may know that whatever they are doing ....God sees and will reward their faithfulness.
Next week will be our last session studying Ephesians and we will be looking at Ephesians 6.10-24,which is entitled "Spiritual Warfare". As always there will be a zoom session on Weds. Aug 19 to discuss and pray about the issues raised in the study.
The zoom meeting ID is 737 2295 9656 and the password in 3NZjXF. The session lasts around 30 min. and everyone is very welcome, whether or not you are a regular member of All Saints, Walton on the Naze.
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 6.6.20
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 30.5.20
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.