To know God's love and to show God's love
We have finished our rapid tour of God's word .......the bible. This is our last and re-cap session of all we have learned. Let's take a look at where we have been on this journey.......
What promises has God made through the Old Testament?
1: To make a very good world, with people living under God's loving rule.
2: To send someone to defeat the devil and death.
3: To bring blessing to people from all over the world.
4: To deliver God's people from judgement by providing someone/something to die in our place.
5: To give his people an eternal king,to lead his people in obeying him.
6: To bring his people to a wonderful life beyond judgement.
We see these promises fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Read Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 to see how the Old Testament predicted Christ's suffering and death.
Look at Acts 2 . What are the key points of the witness statement we're given about Jesus ( v 22 - 24, 36 , 38 )?
. Who he is: a historical man, chosen by God as the Messiah, proved by miracles.
. What he did: he died as part of God's plan, rejected by humanity. He rose again, triumphing over death.
. How people need to respond: repent......turn back to God......and make a public declaration of loyalty to Jesus. This brings forgiveness and the gift of the Spirit.
Can you remember the title of each session......they begin with successive letters of the alphabet!
Can you remember how Jesus is the way God keeps each promise in his first and second comings?
He is the One who began the re-creation when he came 2,000 years ago and will finish it one day.
He is the One who crushed the devil on the cross by removing his claim on us as sinners and will throw him into hell.
He is the One who makes us God's people, and who will bring us to God's ultimate place of perfect blessing.
He is the One who dies in our place, taking God's judgement that we deserve.
He is the One who is the perfect Ruler, who leads his people in obeying God.
He is the One who, having taken our judgement, takes us to a place where we enjoy amazing blessings in this world.
Read 2 Peter 3 v 2 - 14.
One day Jesus will return in triumph; we are not told when, but there are more predictions about his second coming than there are about his first. We should be ready for that coming, which we are told will be "like a thief in the night". So what should we do as his followers until he returns?
. v 2: Read and remember the Old Testament ( prophets ), and the New Testament (apostles)......what we've been doing over these sessions!
. v 11 - 13: Live holy ( distinctive, different and pure ) and godly ( like God ) lives.....and look forward to Jesus' return.
. v 14: Be " spotless " and " blameless "......that is living good lives and seeking to rid ourselves of sinfulness; be at peace with God and in a right relationship with him ( living under his rule and repenting when we don't ).
Here are the "fruits of the Spirit" which we should all be displaying in our lives. You can read them in Galatians 5 v 22 - 23.
Thank God.......that he always keeps his promises.
Ask God.......to daily remind you of his faithfulness and constant love, and that he will give you grace and the ability to display the fruits of the Spirit in your life.
Trust God ......that he knows what is best and right for you, will provide for your needs, and will guide and lead you into the future.
Next week we begin an exciting new bible study series on the book of Exodus......with its glorious overtones of Passover and the story of Easter. We shall be using a book by one of our favourite "Good Book Company" authors.....Tim Chester. The studies are under the umbrella title of "Liberating Love ", and we will begin with a general introduction. The usual ZOOM session to discuss the recap session will be on Weds March 24 at 10.00 am.
Zoom ID 73722959656
Password is 3NZjXF.
JESUS' RETURN - Revelation 20 - 22
Here in the bible's last book, Revelation, a vision is given to the apostle John. This is not an easy book with its apocalyptic style....but it is fascinating, strange and exhilarating. The early church would have found much encouragement from it, as it spoke directly into their situation of persecution and suffering. In chapter 20 the focus shifts to what the world will be like when its Creator returns......the final act of God's plan.
Read Revelation 20 v 11 - 21 v 5.
What is at the centre of this scene ( 20 v 11, 21 v 5 )?
A throne ( white = pure ). On the throne is God; Father and Son, who has power over all creation and is making "everything new".
What will God shut out of his world? Why is this necessary for the world to be made perfect?
. 20 v 14: Death and Hades. Hades is Greek for "place of the dead. Here John underlines that there is no more death.
. 20 v 12, 15 ; 21 v 8: Basically ....people. here are " types "of people who face eviction from the world....as we look at those mentioned we will know that we have been there.....
. Look back to 20 v 10: The devil, the beast and the false prophet. These represent all evil spiritual powers, including the most powerful....the devil.
. 21 v 4: Tears, death mourning, crying, pain......all signs that life isn't as it could be. One, death, is the end of life in this world.
Re-read 21 v 2 - 7. How is this future event the complete fulfilment of God's promises.......?
. that creation will be "very good" ( Genesis 1 v 31 )? The new heavens and the new earth are amazing .....with nothing bad in them!
. to Adam and Eve, of someone to crush the devil and conquer sin and death ( Genesis 3 v 13 )? The devil, death and sin have all landed up in the lake of fire.
. to Abraham, of a people in a land enjoying God's blessing ( Genesis 12 v 1 - 3 )? This is the ultimate "place" where God blesses his people....drawn from all nations.....as promised to Abram.
. to David, of an everlasting, perfect ruler ( 2 Samuel 7 )? In the new world, Jesus is King, seated on the throne at the centre of both judgement and renewal.
. to the prophets, of a wonderful future beyond judgement (eg. Amos 9 v 11 - 15 )? This is the place that was foretold by the prophets; a place of peace, plenty, and prosperity....together with an unimaginable blessing.
What does verse 15 suggest is the only way out of this eternal misery ?
By having our name in another book.....the " book of life ". Only if our name is found here can we avoid hell.
Read 13 v 8; 21 v 27.
This book belongs to "The Lamb who was slain".....Jesus. How is this the ultimate fulfilment of God's promise to Moses?
Here is the Lamb whose people are not rescued from Egypt but from hell......whose people are to the Eastern Mediterranean seaboard, but a perfect world. The names he died for are all found in this "book".
Read Revelation 22 v 1 - 5
Let's compare this future eternal city to God's original garden creation. How is it similar......or even better?
. Gen. 2 v 9 : Tree of life
. Gen. 3 v 8a, 2 v 15 - 16 : God is very present
. Gen. 1 v 26 - 28 : Made in God's image to rule over his creation.
. Gen 1 v 14 - 16 : Sun created to give light.
. Rev 22 v 1 - 2 : Tree of life....now for the healing of the nations and replaced by God's throne, because everyone there has accepted his rule.
. Re 22 v 4a : We will see God's face.
. Rev 22 v 3b,5b : We will reign as God's servants.
. Rev 22 v 5 : Light comes directly from God.
SNAPSHOT: Revelation 20 - 22
When he returns, Jesus will judge and punish all that is wrong in the world, including sin, death, and the devil. The world will be recreated perfectly , and God will live with his perfect people as their King in this perfect eternal place.
Read Revelation 1 v 12 - 19
This is the beginning of John's vision . How does it give us the certainty that what he has written down is true?
The vision is given to John by Jesus. And Jesus is all-powerful. v 18 points us to the fact that he "was dead.......and is alive forever". The resurrection is where we can find certainty that this Jesus does exist, and that this vision is true and trustworthy. We find reassurance of this throughout Revelation. eg. 21 v 5 ; 22 v 6, 16, 20.
What is the one right response to knowing that this is the future ( 22 v 20b ) ?
"Amen " .....this is true, I believe this, this will happen."Come, Lord Jesus "....the greatest event of any Christian's life will be the day that Jesus returns.
What difference will saying and meaning this make to life now?
This is what Christians are looking forward to and living for .....it gives hope in difficult times, perspective in joy and mourning, motivation to share the gospel.
If you would like to explore more........
Read 2 Peter 3 v 2 - 14
What will happen between Jesus' ascension and return ( v 3 - 6 )?
How does Peter answer these "scoffers"? ( v 8, 10 )
Why has the Lord not yet fulfilled his promise to return ( v 9 )?
What should the Lord Jesus Christ's followers do until he returns v 2, v 11 - 13,v 14.
Spend time...........giving thanks for who Jesus is, and then for the future, he has given his people.
Ask God ...........to remind you of your glorious future, when you have a painful or difficult day.
Trust God .........to let the promise of a wonderful future make a difference to your emotions and your actions.
This is our final study in the series......but next week we will be having a recap on all that we have learned on our whirlwind tour of scripture. As always we will be having a Zoom session to discuss this week's study on Thursday, March 18 at 10.00.
Zoom ID is 737 2295 9656
All comers are very welcome, whether you are a member of All Saints, Walton, or not.
Acts 1 - 2
At the end of Luke's Gospel ,we left the risen Jesus speaking to his followers ,promising them the Holy Spirit ..... "power from on high " (Luke 24 v 49 ). Luke wrote a second volume ,which we call Acts. If the subtitle to Luke's Gospel could be : "What Jesus did on Earth", then Acts would be subtitled "What Jesus did next".
Read Acts 1 v 7 - 11
Look at the map pictured below and note the Areas Jesus mentions in verse 8.
Imagine you are one of the handful of followers Jesus has at this point. How would you feel about the prospect of obeying the second half of verse 8 ?
Here are a few Christians who have probably never left Israel ,who have seen their Master horribly tortured and executed while they deserted and denied him. They are a tiny minority living in Jewish-dominated Jerusalem and are now being told they are about to start the process of Jesus to the whole world. Terror, inadequacy, hopelessness.......spring to mind!
Why would the first half of verse 8 be a great comfort to you?
They are not to have to do this seemingly impossible mission alone, God himself, in the presence of the Holy Spirit will come to them and give them power.
What do the men "dressed in white" say is the next major event in God's plan following the "ascension"?
Jesus will return from God's presence in the same way he entered it . The next event on God's timeline is the return of the Lord Jesus.
Read Acts 2 v 1 - 15 , 22 - 24, 37 - 41 .
In verses 1 - 4 the Holy Spirit comes to these Christians. What do these verses tell us about who he is and what he does?
. A wind-like sound comes from heaven ( v 1 )....the Spirit comes from God.
. The Spirit fills the house ( v 2 )......while he does dwell in Christians ,he is also at work throughout the world.
. They see tongues of fire ( v 3 ). In the Old Testament ,fire is a sign of God's presence ( see Exodus 13 v 8 ).
. The fire rested on each Christian. ( v 3 )and He dwells in all Christians ( there were 120 of them at this point) The fire rests on the Christians ,and yet they survive, unlike in the OT which they could not survive ( Exodus 19 v 20 - 21 ). The difference has been made possible by Christ's redemptive work on the cross, as shown by the veil of the temple tearing (Luke 23 v 44 - 46 ).
. All of them were filled with the Spirit, as is every Christian.
. The Spirit enables the believers to speak in tongues ie. foreign languages. ( v 4 , v 7 - 8 )
How does the Spirit- filled Peter start doing what Jesus had asked in 1 v 8?
He begins to tell people about Jesus .
How do people respond to Spirit-filled Christians?
. v 12 : they are intrigued ,but would like to understand.
. v 13 :they laugh at them.
. v 41 :they listen to what they say about Christ, repent and are baptised, which is a public declaration of their new loyalty to Christ . They have been forgiven and receive the Holy Spirit as a seal of their new life in Christ .......they have become Christians!
Read Acts 2 v 42 - 47.
This is the first Christian church . What do we see here about what church is ,and what church does?
. v 42 : Church is a group of people who listen to the apostles' teaching .
. v 42 : Church is about fellowship ,a family .
. v 42 : Church shares communion and prays together.
. v 43 : The is full of awe at how God works.
. v 44 - 45 : Church members are united sharing everything they have ,and will give up anything they have in order to support one another.
. v 46 : Church meets together publicly , regularly ,and privately .....in church buildings and in peoples' homes.
What is challenging about the word "devoted" in v 42?
This is the Spirit inspired attitude Christians have to their church community.....nothing is half-hearted or moderate and nothing is held back. Church is a priority in the life of the Christian and we should all be a part of a church family.
What does verse 47 tell us about the way God works through his people....and why is this exciting?
As a church worships God and serves one another people are drawn in as they see God at work and through his Spirit people are saved......all very exciting.
So far we've seen God's Spirit -filled people witnessing about his son in Jerusalem . Now read these verses in Acts and trace the progress of the message about Jesus.......
You'll find each on the map above.....
. 8 v 1b - 8 : Judea and Samaria.
. 11 v 19 - 21 : Antioch ....a major city.
. 17 v 13 - 15 , 32 - 34 : Thessalonica and Berea ( large Greek towns). Athens ( capital of Greece and the centre of academia and philosophy in the ancient world. .
. 28 v 11 - 16 , 30 - 31 : Rome ( the capital of the greatest empire the world has ever seen; the centre of the then-known world).
How does Acts show God's people obeying his mission command from 1 v 8 ?
They take the gospel message from Jerusalem ,first from a handful ,and then from a few thousand believers throughout the known world .
How does Acts show God's promise to Abram being fulfilled?
God had promised to Abram ( Gen 12 v 3 )that the blessing of living as a part of his people would come to "all peoples"; in Acts we see this promise being fulfilled, as many nations come to faith in Christ.
SNAPSHOT : Acts - Revelation 19
God has sent his Spirit to live in his Son's followers ,enabling them to tell people about his Son. His church has spread from Jerusalem to Rome and beyond. The mission of God's people today is to be devoted to each other and to witness about his Son throughout the world.
If you would like to explore more.......
We've seen that the Spirit lives in Christians to help us to change the world by talking to people about Jesus the Messiah, but he dwells in us to change us too........
Read Galatians 5 v 16 - 25.
Paul is writing to a church in modern-day Turkey.
What fight is going on inside every Christian ( v 17 ) ?
What kind of things are examples of a lifestyle which is rebelling against King Jesus ( v 19 - 21 ) ?
With what does Jesus Spirit work to replace those things ( v 22 - 24 ) ?
How should Christ's followers try to live ( v 16 , 25 ) ?
How do these verses challenge you ?
How do they encourage you ?
Thank God .......
.....for giving you a place in his mission to have the whole world hear the message about Jesus the Messiah.....and for the power of his Spirit to enable you to do your part.
......for giving you a church to which you can be devoted.
........to give you opportunities to talk about his Son ,and the courage to take them.
Commit to ......
.......praying for people by name that you would like to tell about Jesus.
Next week we will be looking at Revelation 20 - 22 and studying some exciting apocalyptic scripture under the title "In a Perfect World ". There will be the usual Zoom session to discuss this week's study on Thursday March 11 at 10.00pm.
The Zoom ID is 737 2295 9656
Password is 3NZjXF. As always everyone is most welcome.
Jesus of Nazareth
What we've missed...........
After Malachi, the last Old Testament prophet ,God's people heard nothing from God for 400 years. In that time the land was conquered by the Romans.
Then in about 30 AD, a new prophet arrived by the name of John. many wondered if he was the promised Messiah . John wasn't the Messiah ,but was sent by God to announce that the Messiah was on his way......
Read Luke 9 v 18 - 22
What are the options as to who Jesus is ( v 19 - 20 )?
. John the Baptist (Jesus' cousin who announced Jesus' arrival).
. Elijah ( a very important OT prophet)
. another prophet.
.......all of these mean a holy man who is close to God.
. the Messiah;God's chosen ,all-powerful ,eternal ,promised King.
Look at these passages and think about........
. how they suggest that Peter's verdict is the correct one
. how they show Jesus fulfilling a promise of God.
Luke 4 v 33 - 37
Jesus has power over evil spirits. The evil spirit knows that "he is the holy one of God".....the promised "devil crusher".
Luke 5 12 - 16
Jesus can heal effortlessly. Leprosy was a disease which excluded people from the people of God (Leviticus 13 v 42 - 46). Jesus reverses this bringing the leper the blessing of being part of God's people.
Luke 5 17 - 26
Jesus can forgive sins, and proved he has this authority by performing a visible healing.
Luke 7 v 1 - 10
Jesus can heal from a distance!. He does it for a hated occupier...a Roman ,demonstrating that he brings blessing to people from all nations.
Luke 7 v 1 - 10
Jesus can raise someone from the dead in his own power. He can defeat death.
Luke 8 v 22 - 25
Jesus has power over creation; his word controls the weather. He brings this chaotic and imperfect world into calm, peace ,and perfection.
What four things does Jesus promise will happen to him( v 22 )?
. Rejection by the leaders of God's people Israel.
. Suffer death.
. Rise again 3 days later.
Note:in first century Israel,part days counted as whole days....so Jesus rose three days after dying . ie. Friday,Saturday,Sunday.
Read Luke 9 v 23 - 26
How is the life Jesus' followers experience similar to his own?
. They will deny themselves.....following God's way and not their own.
. They will take up a metaphorical cross ( v 23 ) and be rejected by the world.
. They will "lose their life"( v 24 ),being willing to give up anything in life...even life itself, to follow Jesus.
. They will know that by losing their life for Jesus ,they will save their life eternally. ( v 24 )
. They will not be ashamed of Jesus and His words in a world which constantly rejects him ( v 26 )
What promise does Jesus make ( v 24 )
Whoever loses their life for Jesus and letting him be in charge of it .......will save it and with it will have eternal life.
Jesus' prediction began to come true. He was arrested, trie , mocked and beaten, rejected and killed.......but he also predicted that he would rise from the dead............
Read Luke 24 v 1 - 12, 36 - 49.
Jesus has been buried,but his tomb is empty. Why according to the angels ( v 5 - 6 ) ?
He isn't dead ,he's living ( v 5 ); He is risen !
In these two passages, what gives us confidence that Jesus had really risen from the dead?
. v 3 : His body was not in the tomb.
. v 5 - 6: The angels said he'd risen.
. v 6 - 8: He predicted it would happen.
. v 11:The disciples were in no mindset to steal the body......they didn't believe at first.
. v 12: The grave clothes were left behind.
. v 39 : The risen Jesus had flesh and bones and could be touched.
. v 42 - 43: The risen Jesus ate food.
Why should the women at the tomb have known Jesus would rise ( v 6, 7 )?
Because Jesus told them he would...Jesus always keeps his word.
Why should the men in the room have known he would rise. ( v 44, v 46 )?
Because the "Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms" ( the Old Testament) predicted Jesus' suffering and resurrection.
Take a look at Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 and see how they predict Jesus' suffering and resurrection.
What does Jesus promise his followers is now available ( v 47,49 )?
. v 47 : Forgiveness of sins......for all people.
. v 49 : "Power from on high". This is a reference to the Holy Spirit. ( Acts 2. 1 - 4 )
What does the resurrection prove about ..........
. Jesus' identity ? He is who he said he was......Messiah and Emmanuel ..." God with us ".
. Jesus' words ? What he says is true.....and we can trust every word.
. Jesus' promises ? What he promises he will do.
SNAPSHOT: Matthew - John.
Jesus is the one who fulfills all God's Old Testament promises. He calls people to live under his loving rule and brings God's blessing on those who follow him. He has defeated the devil, death and sin. He has risen from the dead to prove that he is the Messiah and to offer a future beyond judgement.
If you would like to explore more........
Jesus said that he would be "rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law" ( Luke 9 v 22 ).....that is ,the leaders of Israel, the people who were supposed to love and obey God. God's Messiah ended up being put to death in Jerusalem ,the capital city of God' ancient people.
Jesus told a story ....a parable....which explained what Israel was doing ,and what God would do in response.......
Read Luke 20 v 9 - 19 .
The vineyard is Israel; the tenants are the Jews .and the owner is God.
What has God asked for ,and how has Israel responded ?
What awful decision does Israel then make ?
What will God do next ?
Jesus' crucifixion is what's being talked about in verse 15.
What should we expect to see happening next ?
How is the story both a warning and an exciting promise ?
Read 2 Corinthians 1 v 20
Choose a particular promise of God and then spend time thanking God that those promises have been made "yes" for you in Jesus.
Tell God how you are struggling to deny yourself to follow his Messiah. Ask God to help you to give up your "wants"in order to live as Jesus "wants".
Our next Zoom session will be on Thursday March 4th at 10.00 to discuss this study as always everyone is very welcome.
Zoom ID is 73722959656
Password is 2NZjXF.
"Hear the Message "will be our next topic ,when we will be looking at the Acts of the Apostles and the early church; as always the study will be available online from Saturday March 6th.
Amos 8 - 9 ; Luke 23
........Once again some long chapters to read this week ; consider doing them one at a time ......meditating as you go.
The Story so far.........
In God's land ,God's people keep rebelling ,and so kept being invaded instead of enjoying blessing. God gave them judges to rescue them ,and has now appointed King David ,who has led the people into obedience and blessing.
What God promised.......
What we've missed: David's son Solomon ,worshipped other "gods" ,not the real one. Sin brought judgement: when he died the kingdom split in two - "Israel" in the North ;"Judah" in the South. Most kings did as Solomon had done and the people increasingly rejected God and his ways.
So God spoke to them through his prophets. There were dozens of them (the bible talks about "schools" of prophets),and the messages of 16 of them are included in the Old Testament. They were all very different, but in different keys, tones, pitches ,and lengths, they all sang the same basic song.
In this study we are going to focus on the message of Amos, a shepherd from Judah who spoke God's word to Israel in around 750 BC
Read Amos 8 v 4 - 14
How does Israel treat obeying God's laws, such as resting on the Sabbath ( v 5 )?
They pay lip service to them ,but their hearts are on other things, namely making money. Their obedience is minimal with no difference beyond the Sabbath and festival days.
How do those with more wealth treat those with less ( v 4, 6 ) ?
They happily tread on them to get themselves to the top ( v 4 ). They see them as items to be bought and sold. (v 6 )
Sum up what God tells Israel he'll do:
. v 10 :He will turn celebrations into times for mourning. : "an only son " would be the great hope of the family ..... so this pictures a time when there is absolutely no hope.
. v 11 - 12: He will withdraw knowledge and understanding of his word. People will realise that they need to hear from God - but it will be too late. Part of God's judgement on a nation that does not want his word is that they won't have it!
. v 14: Death will come to those who worship other gods.
What will be the sign that "that day " of God's judgement has arrived ( v 9 ) ?
The sun won't shine in the middle of the day - all will go dark.
Amos' song to Israel ,part one: judgement is coming.
Read Amos 9 v 11 - 15
What will God do to David's fallen kingdom "in that day " ( v 11 ) ?
Restore it, repair it ,make it as it was before his judgement came.
What will be different about the extent of that kingdom ( v 12 )?
It won't be limited to the borders of Israel . Edom was a nation to the North of Israel (and one of its greatest enemies). God's people will "possess" it - that is live there too .....and they will live throughout the world, in every nation.
What will life be like for God's people ( 13 - 15 )?
Verses 13 - 14 give a picture of plenty and abundance , of the world working for mankind rather than against them (a reversal of the curse of Genesis 3 v 17 - 19). v 15 introduces the whole idea of eternity ,that there will be no more struggle or exile. Clearly by this stage the issue of the peoples' constant sin will have been completely and finally dealt with, though we are given no idea how.
Amos' song to Israel ,part two......Salvation will follow.
Notice it's God who will do these things ....it's God who brings his people there ,and keeps them there. Heaven comes to earth through God's actions, not humanity's.
Three decades after Amos' message ,Israel was invaded by Assyria ,and the people taken into exile. Judah limped on for another century, before it too was obliterated, its people exiled to Babylon. There were few of them ,far from the land and without God's blessing judgement had come.
Yet two generations later ,a few were able to return to the land to rebuild their homes. Salvation had followed ,but the full promise of Amos 9 v 11 - 15 ,and of the whole Old Testament ,remained unfulfilled. The people were few. they had no king. They did not experience the blessing of a life of plenty in God's land.....and they kept on Sinning. The Old Testament finishes with the people still facing judgment for sin ,and still waiting for God to bring them the future he'd promised.
SNAPSHOT : 1 Kings 12 - Malachi
Gods' prophets warn his sinful people that judgement will come....but that salvation will follow. In the exile ,the people will have to leave the land. They return .....but are still waiting for the amazing future beyond judgement that God has promised.
He has fulfilled.........
Read Luke 23 v 38 - 46.
Why is the mocking sign above Jesus' head both ironic and tragic ?
It is because he was the King of the Jews!. He was the perfect Jew who always lived God's way ....and the chosen Jew, God's Messiah. Tragically God's people decided to kill the Messiah.
How does Amos' prophecy help us understand what's happening in v 44 - 45a ?
The sixth hour (in our timings) is midday and this is exactly what Amos 8 v 9 foretold. Ot is a sign that God's judgement has come. A time of hopelessness, withdrawal of his presence (or word)and death has arrived. The shock is , that it is God's Messiah ,Jesus dying under his judgement.
Look at verse 45. What does this show Jesus' death has achieved ?
Everything that was blocking a relationship between God and people ....our sin.....has been dealt with.......
What does the second criminal dying next to Jesus recognise about him and ask him to do ?
That Jesus (unlike him) is innocent and not deserving of death (neither Roman crucifixion ,nor the judgement of God). He asks Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom. The dying thief recognises that Jesus is a King and that his kingdom lies beyond death. Note here that to "remember "in scripture means to act upon it. So here the criminal is saying "Please act to bring me into your kingdom".
What does Jesus promise about his future ?
He will do what the criminal asks for ......to bring him into his kingdom, paradise ,with him.
How can someone experience the ultimate fulfillment of God's promises in the prophets ,such as Amos 9 v 11 - 15 ?
By recognising that Jesus is the King of God's kingdom, the ultimate descendant of David ,and by asking him for a place in that kingdom. All that God has promised throughout the Old Testament is fulfilled in the kingdom-beyond-death of Jesus Christ......so that all God has promised can be experienced and enjoyed by anyone who trusts Jesus to take them there to be with him.
If you would like to explore more........
Read 2 Kings 17 v 1 - 13,18 - 20
What happened ( 2 Kings 17 3 - 6) ?
That's the human perspective, but what was going on under the surface ( v 18 - 20 )?
How is what is happening here the opposite of God's promises to Abraham of people, land and blessing.?
And to David, of a King who would rule under God for ever?
How does this section underline how awful it is to face God's judgement?
Thank God.......that through the Death of his son Jesus Christ ,you have a home with him in heaven for all eternity.
Confess to God that ....... you have often forgotten what it cost Christ to die in our place.
Ask God for his help with ......putting in place some practical things that will ensure that the future the Lord won at the cross becomes something that dominates your thoughts, emotions and decisions each day .
Next week we will be looking at Luke 9,24 and studying the person of Jesus Christ with the title 'God in his world .'
The Zoom session to discuss this week's study will as usual be on Thursday Feb 25 at 10.00......to which of course all-comers are very welcome.
The Zoom ID is 737 2295 9656
The password is 3 NZjXF.
Judges 2 ; 2 Samuel 7; Mark 8 - 9
This is a long study with 4 chapters of scripture to read, so you might like to break it into "bite-size" chunks.
What God promised.......
What we’ve missed : Under Moses’ leadership ,God brought Israel to the brink of the land He’d promised to give them. God kept them from entering that land for 40 years because of the peoples’ refusal to trust and obey him. Joshua became Moses’ successor and led Israel into the land, defeating the people who were living there….......
God’s people are now in God’s land enjoying the blessing of living under his rule and things are going really well.
Read Judges 2 . 6 – 19.
What happened after Joshua died ?
. v 10 - 13 Israel turned away from God and worshipped the "gods" of near-by nations........angering the true God.
. v 14 - 15 God gave them into the "hands" of their enemies.....and they were defeated.
. v 16 God raised up "judges" ( or leaders ) to save Israel from their enemies.
What was the advantage of having a God-given judge (v 18 )?
The judge was the way God had compassion on his sinful, suffering people. During a Judges life,the people were safe from their enemies.
What was the problem (v 19 - 21 ) ?
" The judge died"......and then the people returned to sinning again ( v 19 ),so God responded in judgement (v 20 - 21 ).
In the book of Judges, this cycle repeats itself time and time again. The people sin.....God allows their enemies to occupy the land.....the people cry out to God......he raises up a judge to rescue them .......they enjoy God's blessing under the judge......the judge dies......and the cycle begins again. Each time the cycle goes round, things got a little worse and never quite return to being as good as they were.
Read Judges 17 v 6; 18 v 1 ;19 v 1; 21 v 25.
What does the writer suggest is the basic cause ,and the solution to ,Israel's troubles ?
. Everyone did as they saw fit.
. Israel had no king.
The solution is to have a king powerful enough to lead the people effectively in obeying God and to rule as God wanted.....so that everyone simply did not simply do as they wanted, or thought best.
What we've missed..........
God gave his rebellious people a king .The first Saul, rejected God's commands, but the second, David, was truly God's "anointed one". David loved God and sought to obey him ,when he sinned and failed, he sought God's forgiveness. He led the people in trusting and obeying God.
Under King David, Israel enjoyed God's blessing in God's land under the rule of God's chosen king. This is seen to be the high point of Israel's history.
Read 2 Samuel 7 v 4 - 16.
What will happen to David himself (2 Samuel 7 12a )?
He will die;the "days" of his rule will be "over".
Why does this matter ?
We need a ruler who won't be replaced and won't die. Someone who will have a perfect and unending rule under which God's people will be blessed. David (although great) is not the ultimate solution..
What does God promise about one of David’s descendants?
. v 12. God will establish his rule/kingdom.
. v 13,16. His throne will be established forever. God says David's descendant will " build a house for my Name " ( v 13 ). That is a temple where God is particularly present. This was partly fulfilled by David's son Solomon, who built the Jerusalem Temple. This was destroyed 400 years later, so wasn't the final fulfilment. The ultimate fulfilment was Jesus, who talked about himself as the temple (John 2 19 - 22 ).
. v 14 - 15. This successor will have a unique father-son relationship with God. He will be punished "for doing wrong".......and this is Jesus ,who took our sin upon himself on the cross, although he himself was without sin.( 2 Corinthians 5 v 21 )
What else does God promise David ( V 10 - 11 ) ?
He will give his people ,David's subjects ,an undisturbed home ( v 10 ) and rest from their enemies.
Verses 10 - 11 are a promise God partially fulfilled in David's time.....but they were also pointing forward to what God's people would enjoy under David's never-dying descendant, the "Messiah" or "Christ" of God in his never-ending kingdom.
SNAPSHOT: Joshua - 1 Kings 11. God's people are living in God's land,under God's king , who leads them in living under God's rule. However ,their persistent sin prevents them from fully enjoying God's blessing.
He has fulfilled.........
Read Mark 8 v 27 - 29,9 v 2 - 10.
What does Peter recognise about Jesus ?
"You are the Messiah" or "Christ " (Mark 8 v 29). David's descendant promised in 2 Samuel 7
Read Matthew 1 v 1 - 17. Here we see that Jesus was in David's family tree as well as Abraham's.
How does 9 v 2 - 8 show that Peter is right ?
Jesus is briefly seen in all his heavenly power and glory ( v 2 - 3 ). A cloud, signifying God's presence, appears and the Father confirms that this is his Son (v 7 ),who should be heard and obeyed. God is confirming that Jesus is the Messiah.
Given what God promised David, why is this seriously exciting?
Jesus is the one Israel had waited for ,for 1,000 years. He is the one who will rule perfectly ,forever ,as God's Son and Messiah, rescuing and ruling his people under God. He is the central figure of history.
Remember, the central flaw with both the judges and with David is that ,though they may lead God's people to obey God for a while, eventually they die. Why is what Jesus predicts in v 9 so crucial?
Jesus (referring to himself here as "the Son of Man") would rise from the dead.
Death would not be the end of his rule......his rule will continue into eternity.
If you would like to explore more.......
Solomon ,David's son ,succeeded him as king.
Read 1 Kings 4 v 20 - 34
Pick out the verses which suggest Solomon might be the Messiah ,the fulfillment of God's promises.
Read 1 Kings 11 v 1 - 13
What happened to Solomon ( v 1 - 8 )?
How did God react ( v 9 - 13 ) ?
. That he does not give his people what they deserve ,but rescues them.
. For the leaders of your church ,denomination and state. Pray that God would use them to implement his laws ,to protect the vulnerable ,and to enable his word to be heard.
. To help you not make too much of leaders ,nor too little of them.
. To show you where you are living as you "see fit " ,instead of how he commands, and to change you so that you would know the blessing of obedience.
In our study next week we will be looking at the prophets (not all 16 !) and their role in scripture under the title "Future Beyond Judgement".
There will be the usual Zoom session to discuss this weeks' study next Weds Feb 17 at 10.00 to which ,as usual, all are very welcome.
Zoom ID is 737 2295 9656
Password is 3NZjXF. Looking forward to seeing you !
Exodus 12 ; Luke 22
What God promised.........
What we've missed : Abraham's grandson was Jacob and one of his sons was Joseph, who ended up as second-in -command of Egypt. After a while, Joseph's whole family joined him there.......
In Exodus 1 a new king (or Pharaoh) came to power .He saw that the Israelites (Jacob's family) had become "exceedingly fruitful and "numerous "( v 7 ),and he viewed them as a threat, so he enslaved them and killed all their first born sons.
One boy Moses ,escaped the killings. As an adult, God appeared to him and made him a promise…...
Read Exodus 3. 7 – 10
What does God promise Moses he will do ?
Rescue them from the Egyptians and bring them to a very good land....and he'll do that through Moses. ( v 10 )
What does the Israelite’s problem appear to be and what solution does God offer?
Their oppression and suffering under the Egyptian slave drivers .The solution is that God will free them.
Pharaoh refused to listen to Moses ( 5.2). Even though God demonstrated his power by sending nine plagues, Pharoah still resisted. So God sent a final plague ( 11. 1). We pick up the story as Moses tells God's people what God has commanded him to tell them.......
Read Exodus 12 v 1 - 13.
What do the Israelites need to do ?
. v 3 - 5 .Take perfect year old lamb (the amount is dictated by the size of the family ).
. v 6 - 7. Take care of the lamb and then kill it. Put some of the blood on the door frames of the house.
. v 8 - 10. Eat all the lambs meat, together with bread without yeast in it.
. v 11. Eat the meal standing up,having made yourselves completely ready to leave Egypt.
Why do they need to do this? ( v 12 - 13 )
Because the night they do this God will kill every firstborn son of every family (human and animal) in judgement on peoples' rejection of him and worship of other " gods" ( v 12 ) . When God sees the blood on the door frame, he won't kill the firstborn son.
So what is the Israelites' greatest problem? What is the solution?
God's judgement. The solution is the rescue plan of the lamb that God has provided. Note that the Israelites need rescuing from God and they are rescued by God.
Read Exodus 12 v 28 - 30
What do the Israelites do? ( v 28 )?
Exactly what God has told them to do.
What does God do ( v 29 )?
Exactly what he said he’d do. All the first born not covered by the blood of a lamb…..die.
What does Pharaoh do ( v 30 -32 )?
Exactly what he’d said he wouldn’t do ! He finally allows God’s people to leave.
Verse 30 tells us “there was not a house without someone dead”,but in the Israelite houses the first born sons had been spared…..so how is this verse correct?
In any house with a living first born son, a lamb had already ......died taking his place. In that there had to be a death in every house ......a son or a lamb.
What does this show about how God rescues people from Judgement?
Through someone dying in their place....often called "substitution". In the case of the Israelites a lamb was substituted and died in place of a son. This is how God rescues people from his judgement.....by offering something or someone to take the place of the one who deserves it.
SNAPSHOT. Exodus - Deuteronomy. God has rescued Israel from Egyptian slavery and from his judgement, making them his people and leading them to the place he has promised to give them.
Read Exodus 12 v 14 - 27
What should the people do after their rescue ( v 14, 17, 24 -25 )? Where will they do this, and what should they remember? ( v 25 - 27 )?
Hold a festival which commemorates what God did,in the land God is going to bring them to ,remembering that God rescued them from his judgement and from Egyptian slavery. This festival has two names: Passover ( v 11 ) and the Feast of Unleavened Bread ( v 17 ).
For 1400 years ,God's people living in this land ( which came to be called Israel) shared this festival meal every year at the same time. The same words were said when the bread was eaten and the wine was drunk.....all looking back to God's amazing rescue of his people from Egypt........
.......until at a Passover meal in Jerusalem ,a descendant of Abraham said some different words.......
.......He has fulfilled.
Read Luke 22 v 7 - 20.
How many times is the word "Passover" mentioned in v 7 - 13 ?
Why does Luke do this?
Luke wants us to think about what the Passover meal was all about…....God’s rescue for his judgement and Egyptian slavery.
During the meal Jesus takes the bread ( v 19 ) and the wine ( V 20 )…..but what does he now say they represent?
His broken body and his poured out blood.
Whose blood does Jesus point his followers to…...?
Link this back to the events in Exodus. What does his blood achieve?
His death achieved what the lamb's death achieved....the rescue of God's people from God's people from God's judgement. As the lamb took the judgement of death that the first born deserved, so Jesus takes the judgement of eternal death that we all deserve.
Where is the "land" where Jesus is looking forward to eating the Passover meal (v16,18 )?
'The kingdom of God" when it comes in all its fullness( v 18 ). He's looking forward to eating and drinking in a world where God is once more completely recognised as king.
What does Jesus tell his followers to do ( v 19 )?
To "do this " (share bread and wine)"in remembrance of me" and what he was about to do in dying.
How do his people put this into practice today ?
Just as God's people were to look back to Egypt by sharing a meal together, so now God's people should look back to the cross by sharing a meal together. We do this every time we share bread and wine in a way which consciously remembers Jesus' broken body and poured out blood.......whether we call it Holy Communion, the Lord's Supper, or Eucharist. However frequently and in what situation we celebrate this meal, the crucial thing is to focus on what Jesus has done in dying on the cross for us ,consequently rescuing us from God's judgement.
The Passover in Moses' day was a wonderful shadow ......but still only a shadow of the Passover achieved by Jesus.
If you would like to explore more.........
God, just as he had promised ( 3 v 12 ) brought his people to Mount Sinai (also called Horeb) on their way to the promised land. And there God spoke to Moses.......
Read Exodus 20 v 1 - 17
This section contains the ten commandments......but before telling the people what he wants them to do . God first points out something that he has already done....
What is it ( v 2 )?
What comes first .....being rescued by God, or obeying him ?
Why is this crucial to remember ?
Read through the Commandments . Which does your society generally agree wit , and which does it reject ?
Next week our letter is " E " and we will be looking at "Ever - reigning King " the story of King David. There are 4 chapters to read for next week, so you might like to get ahead and look at them now; they are Judges 2; 2 Samuel 7 ; Mark 8 - 9. There will be the usual Zoom session to discuss this weeks' study on Thurs. Feb. 10 at 10.00am,to which all of course are very welcome.
Zoom ID 737 2295 9656.
Genesis 12, 21 ; John 8
What God promised...........
Read Genesis 12 v 1 - 7
What did God tell Abram to do ( v 1 )?
Leave his country ,community and extended family and go to a land that God would show him.
What did God promise to Abram ( v 1 - 3 )?
. He would show him a land to live in. ( v 1 )
. Abram would become the father of a great nation.( v 2 )
. Abram would be blessed and would be a blessing to others. Every nation on earth will know blessing through Abram (or his family. ( v 3 )
Since Genesis 3 ,humans have been waiting for the man who will defeat the devil, returning humanity to a blessing. God makes promises to Abram (called a covenant and which is a binding agreement).This involves using a member of Abram's family to bring that blessing to "all peoples on earth".
From this point in history we look to Abram's descendants for the one who will fulfill the promises in Genesis 3. The rest of the Bible story is about Abram's family and how God blessed all peoples through one of his descendants.
As we continue our studies through the Old Testament ,wherever we read we should ask what is concealed ?
. How is God working to bring his people (Abram's descendants) to his land to live under his blessing?
. Are we being told anything about what the blessing -bringing descendant will be like and what he will do ?
How does Abraham respond ( v 4 ) ? How is this an example of real faith ?
He goes because God told him to and because he trusts God's promises.Abram's security is simply in trusting and following God.
Look back at Genesis 11 v 29 - 30,and compare with 12 v 2. Why is Abram's response to God's promises particularly impressive?
God promised Abram a vast family and yet his wife Sara could not have children. Abram trusted God to do what was humanly impossible.
Abram made many mistakes,but he continued to trust God and believe his promises. Genesis 15 v 6 says "Abram believed the Lord and he credited it to him as righteousness.
Years pass and Sarah,Abraham's infertile wife reaches her nineties (Genesis 17 v 17 ) ........
Read Genesis 21 v 1 - 7
What do we learn from this passage about how God works?
He fulfills his promises ,but in his own time. Abraham and Sarah had to wait years.
A note here.......many years ago I picked up a good quote from "Better than the witch doctor, the autobiography of a missionary working in Nepal. She said "God often catches the last train .......but he never misses it !"
SNAPSHOT : Genesis 12 - 50. From Abraham God will make a people ,living in his land,under his rule and blessing.Through one of his descendants God will bless people throughout the world.
He has fulfilled..........
Read John 8 v 31 - 44.
It's now 1800 years later ,and Jesus is talking to members of Abraham's family.....but they have a problem (v 34 - 35a ). What is the problem?
They are all "slaves to sin " and couldn't stop sinning even if they wanted. Although physically descended from Abram they cannot be a part of God's family. ( v 35a )
What do they need Jesus to do for them ( v 36 )?
To set them free from their slavery to sin so that they are free to belong to God's family again (v 35b )
What do they want to do with Jesus and what does this reveal about them ( 39,40 )?
They want to kill him revealing that they are not Abraham's children at all.
How are they different to Abraham (v 40 and look back to Genesis 12 )?
Abraham heard God speaking to him ,he believed his word and acted accordingly. These men want to kill the Word who has come from God in the flesh ( John 1 v 14 ).
What does Jesus say Abraham did while he was still alive (v 56 )?
He rejoiced at the prospect of "my day".....that is the time when Jesus would be alive on earth.
So what claim is Jesus making for himself in John 8 v 56?
That he fulfills the promises of Genesis 12.Jesus was the one that Abraham was looking forward to.....
So who today are the children of Abraham (v 39, 56 )and Galatians 3 v 29.
v 39 ;Those who trust God's promises and obey them.
v 56 ;Those who rejoice at the day God's promises are fulfilled to Abraham in Jesus.
Galatians 3 v 29 ; Those who "belong to Christ".
To think about ........
Imagine someone says to you "Of course I'm a Christian . I've been baptised and I was born into Christian family .....and I go to church ". What does John 8 have to say to that view?
Being a Christian is not about being part of a particular family, or community, or having gone through a particular rite such as baptism,or in the Old Testament ,circumcision (Genesis 17 v9 -14 ). By nature we are all slaves to sin and we need to ask Jesus to set us free from that life of sin and to bring us into God's family.
As we trust in him we can rejoice and look forward to life in God's perfect world.
If you would like to explore more.......
Read Genesis 15 v 1 - 21.
Which two of his promises does God underline here(Genesis 15 v 4 - 5, 7)?
What further prediction and promise does God make ( 13 - 15 )?
What does the writer call this binding agreement God makes with Abraham ( v 18 ) ?
For his covenant plan fulfilled in Jesus......and for all that means to us today.
Ask God for help with.........
Following him faithfully, as did Abraham. To stand strong against sin in our lives. To be a blessing to others and we daily serve Christ.
Next week it will be "D" as we look at "Delivered from Judgement" and the story of Passover in Exodus. There will be the usual follow-up Zoom session on this week's study next Thursday Feb 4 at 10.00. This session will be hosted by Peter Edwards so please note the change of log in details......
Zoom ID 954 5558 2174
As always everyone is very welcome whether you are a member of All Saints, or of another church ........or if you don't normally attend a church,or are just exploring the Christian faith.......it would be lovely to see you !
d Promises Kept. 9.1.21
Why study Promises Kept ?
One Saturday, less than a decade after the death of Jesus of Nazareth, a man named Paul stood up in a Jewish synagogue and proclaimed a mind blowing message.
"We tell you the good news ',he said." What God promised our ancestors, he has fulfilled for us,their children ,by raising up Jesus". (Acts 13. 32-33)
These two sentences summarise the whole bible.
The God Paul was talking about is a promise - making God. Throughout history he has made huge, extravagant ,wonderful promises to humanity, to the Israelites and to men such as Adam, Abraham ,Jacob and David. As we see what God did we see the shape of how he will fulfill what he has said, because our God is also a promise keeping God and what says he does. At a particular point in history he fulfilled all of his promises in the life, death and resurrection and rule of one man.....Jesus ,a carpenter from a small Jewish town.
The Bible tells the story of what God promised ,and of how he fulfilled all those promises
will be a whirlwind and breath-taking tour of the whole bible......Genesis to Revelation.
There will not be time to stop at every sight ......only to point out some of the highlights. Over 10 sessions we'll travel from the beginning of the past ,through our present, to the future. Each week there will be passages from the Old as well as the New Testament, this will help us see how the "Old" conceals the " New " and the " New " reveals the " Old ".
Each session we will see what God promised and something of how his promise was fulfilled......
What God has promised ......
We'll look at an Old Testament passage ,seeing what happened in that period of history ,and a promise God made.
.......he has fulfilled.
The study moves to a section of a Gospel ,to see an aspect of how Jesus is the One who keeps that particular promise of God.
Each session will include a "snapshot" ,which sums up what has happened in the period of history at which we are looking.
At the beginning of each session there will be a "Timeline".
This will be familiar to all those who came to the Bible Studies when we could meet in the Parish Church Hall. For each bible study series we had, there was always a timeline on the information leaflet. For this series there will be one for each session so we can recap on what we have seen in previous sessions. We will see the point in history on which the study focuses, the Bible books that cover that period and who the "famous " bible characters are in that particular period. For some sessions there will be a map showing where the action is taking place.
At the end of each study........
There will be some suggestions to explore more. Here we pick up on a part of the bible that lies between the current session and the next .
We need to keep on course.
We will all have questions ,(and hopefully some of these can be discussed at our Wednesday Zoom sessions) ,but do remember that we cannot unpack everything in the passage.
We need to keep it simple.
We will pass by some of the important Bible themes ,because we cannot do too much . "Spiritual indigestion" can be very real if we overload the study.
Some of the passages are long.......
This will be a good exercise for us in getting to grips with some of the "big landscape pictures " in scripture, rather than curtailing ourselves to a few verses. It will also help us to see things "in context", a very important issue when it comes to reading and studying scripture.
So let us pray as we prepare for the next few weeks of study......
Let us thank God.......
. for His word, the bible which speaks His truth to us ,both is the Old and New Testament.
Let us confess to God.......
. our failure to take His word seriously and for not trusting His promises to us in that word.
Let us praise God.....
. for Jesus ,that he was willing to come into this world to fulfill God's promises to us.
Let us ask God.....
. To speak through His word by the Holy Spirit ,to each one of our hearts ,that we might become more aware of His faithfulness ,fulfilled in His promises and trust Him more with our lives.
Next week we begin our studies with "A Very Good World" when we will look at Genesis 1 and John 1. We will be restarting our Zoom sessions next week on Thurs Jan 14 at 10.00am, looking at what we are expecting to discover looking at God's promises to each of us; do join us ......the Zoom ID is 719 2295 9656 and the password is 3NZjXF.
The reign of the Lamb. 19.12.20
Revelation 21 - 22
John has revealed many things to us: the glory of Jesus ; the sovereignty of God over all that happens; the wickedness and evil of the world systems under which we live; the need to remain faithful to Jesus, and our task of world mission and the ultimate judgement of the world when Jesus returns. In this study of the last two chapters in the bible we learn that we will not go to heaven.......heaven will come to us. God will establish his perfect kingdom; the old world will be judged, but those who have been faithful to Christ will enjoy reigning with him for ever.
Read Revelation 21 v 1 - 22 v 5
What is new ,and what has passed away (v 1 - 4 )?
Everything is new, including heaven, earth and Jerusalem. The first heaven and the first earth together with crying, pain, death and illness have all gone. Just think of it ....no need for hankies, hospitals or hearses!!
What will be at the heart of our experience of eternity ( v 5 - 9 )?
Our relationship with Jesus. We will be honoured, celebrated and cared for like a bride. We shall each be comforted and showered with grace. (v 6 )
What is the significance of each element of the description of the new Jerusalem ?
The numbers are staggering . The city is 1,400 miles square and 1,400 miles tall! Everest is 6 miles high. This cube echoes the most holy place in Solomon's temple ( 1 Kings 6. 20). The walls are 144 cubits. Here the point is being made that once persecuted Christians will be eternally secure within these walls. Angelic watchmen are on every gate ( v 12 ) . The jewels reflect the stones in the breast piece (ephod) of the high priest in
Exodus 28. 17-20.Each element speaks of immense wealth.
The picture below depicts the High Priest; Note the 12 precious stones on the ephod ......each one depicting a tribe of Israel.
What is not present in the new Jerusalem ( v 22 - 27 ) and what is the significance of each thing mentioned that will be absent ?
. There is no temple. No need for separation or sacrifice. The Father and the Son are totally accessible. The new Jerusalem is in fact like one gigantic Most Holy Place......where God dwells.
. No sun or Moon. We will have no need of them because God is present to light our path.
. No night and the gates are always open. Closed gates protect from intruders: no need for that here as evil has been dealt with forever.
. Nothing impure. Nothing will be allowed to enter that will spoil it.....for ever.
Look at and think about the significance of v 26.
There is no room for sin ( v 27 )but somehow the glory and wealth of the nations will be incorporated into the new creation. There seems to be some sort of continuity here and that there are redeemable value in aspects of human art and culture.
What is the conclusion to the vision in verse 6? What do you think it will be like?
We will reign for ever and ever with Christ and this will involve engagement and work.
How do people come to be in the new creation (v 27 ) and what does that encourage us to keep doing?
Only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life will be there; those who have received forgiveness through the death of Jesus. It encourages us to ......
. Keep on praying for others.
They will only get to be in the new Jerusalem through God's grace, not their own efforts.
. Keep sharing the gospel with everyone.
The repeated theme of Revelation is to bear the testimony of Jesus.....to proclaim the good news of God's salvation to others.
Read Revelation 22 v 6 - 21.
What phrase is repeated in verses 7 and 12 ? How could this have been true when John wrote Revelation 2,000 years ago?
Jesus still has yet to come some 2,000 years later, but Christians are meant to live knowing and thinking that Jesus will return at any moment (like a "thief in the night"). Yet every day that he delays is another day of mercy and gospel opportunity. Remember that with the Lord " a thousand years are as a day". (2 Peter 3 v 6 ).
What are we to think about the teaching in Revelation ,and what are we to do with it (v 6-16 ) ?
. These words are true. (v 6 )
John's angelic guide says that these words are "trustworthy and true" because they have come directly from God. John also refers to himself by name ( v.9 )because this is a first-hand apostolic report which he both saw and heard.
. These words are to be kept. (v 7 - 9 )
Jesus himself speaks and calls on us to keep his words.....and then we receive the key message.....the command to "Worship God" (v 9 ). This is at the heart of Revelation ;we are to worship God in the face of both the seduction and threat of idolatrous power.
. These words are to be read. (v 10-11 )
Daniel was told to seal up his prophecy because it describes a future time. In contrast John is told not to seal the scroll for the "time is near". In other words, this is not a message for some far off future......this was for John's and for our generation.
. Continue doing right.(v 11 )
Wrongdoers have their end in sight ....let us continue to do what is right.
What final appeal does God want to impress on us( v 17 ) ?
These words are the gospel (v 12-17 ). Jesus will reward everyone "according to what they have done" (v 12 ).
What hope is there for guilty sinners? Certainly not in our own righteousness, but in Christ alone: by faith we wash our guilty stains in his blood and clothe ourselves with his righteousness. Through Christ the invitation comes to us from the Spirit speaking through the church ("the bride").He bids us " Come" ( v 17 ).
To think about ..........
One helpful way to summarise the message of Revelation is to think about the contrast between the two women.......
Babylon the prostitute (chapter 17) .......destined for destruction.
Jerusalem the Bride (chapter 21 )..........destined for glory.
And yet more to think about..........
Do you want Christ to come soon, as he promises to do in 22 v 20?
Do you pray , "Come Lord Jesus" as John does?
. Praise God for the new creation that you will be a part of if you are in Christ.
. Bring before him the things that make you cry or grieve, or give you pain......and praise him that these will be taken away in God's new creation.
. Pray the words of 22 v. 20. Ask that Christ will come soon.
. Thank God for all that he has taught you from your study in Revelation; be specific about what you have learned.
This is our final study in Revelation ,but there will be a follow up Zoom session on Wednesday Dec 23 to discuss this study ;
Zoom ID 737 2295 9656 ,
As always ......everyone is very welcome.
We shall be taking a break over the Christmas and New Year period ,with the on-line bible study resuming on Sat Jan 9. We are hoping that with the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines that we will soon be able to meet again in person in the Parish Church Hall, but until then we will continue on-line.
Just to whet your appetites.......our next study series will be "Promises Kept", and we shall be using a Good Book Guide of the same name by Carl Laferton. Our God is a promise making and a promise keeping God and this series will cover the whole of scripture from Genesis to Revelation. The study is open to everyone ; you do not have to be a member of All Saints ,Walton: we do hope that you will be able to join us in the new year.
The Justice of the Lamb 12.12.20
Revelation 17 - 20
Four more chapters and some pretty terrifying images. Pertinent to John's era the glittering, powerful and immensely wealthy culture of Rome is revealed for what it truly is; evil and opposed to God and his people; motivated by Satan. However, God's judgement is coming and will be terrible, complete, and utterly fair.
Read Revelation 17
What clues are there in this hideous description as to what the figures of the beast and the woman represent?
Cities in John's time were often personified as women. Rome was worshipped as a goddess, but in Revelation she appears as a prostitute, ( v 1) who seduces the world drawing people into her idolatry(v 2). The fact that John is introduced by one of the angels who had one of the bowls suggests that we are about to see the reason for God's wrath.Babylon persecutes God's people ( v 6). She is the manifestation of the power of the dragon, the beast and the false prophet (v 3). A name or mark on the forehead in Revelation indicates a person's true character and hers is clear.....she is the "mother of prostitutes", because her children (inhabitants) share her spiritual adultery.
What is John's reaction to this vision and what's the reaction of those who are not saved? (v 6, 8 )
John appears astonished by the vision and the image of this beautiful, beguiling, bejewelled woman with ruthless, bloody intent. However, John's angelic guide will expose her false glory. The unsaved are also astonished, but maybe adore the strength and power of the beast and the woman.
........and what is your reaction?
What is meant by the phrase "once was ,now is not and yet will come........?" (v 7,8 )
Twice in Revelation 17 . 7 - 8 we're told the beast "once was ,now is not and yet will come" . In other words, the beast manifests itself in one form .......and then passes away and "is not". Throughout history the beast then returns in other guises: Kingdoms rise up and seem solid for a time ( think of the third Reich in Germany/ Communism),then they decline and fall (as did Rome).This phrase is yet another parody of the living God "who is and who was and who is to come" (1 v 8,4 v 8,11 v 16,16 v 5). However God always is.
What becomes of the beast and the woman in the end (v 10-12 ,v 16 )?
They are destroyed by a toxic mixture of internal strife and external rebellion. In 17.10 - 12 the angel speaks of coming kings and transfers of power. This might be confusing , but step back and we see the bigger picture. In Daniel 7 the same language is used to describe successive empires. The symbolic numbers seven and ten in Revelation 17 v 3 and 10 - 12 probably don't refer to specific kings , instead John highlights the way the beast manifests its power in recurring political empires and systems throughout history. The woman "rides" on the beast and "rules" over kings (v 7, 18) . In verse 16 they turn on her and destroy her. The city of Rome was destroyed by the very empire it built in fulfilment of God's word of judgement (v 17). In AD 410 Rome was sacked by the people it once had ruled. This can be applied through successive ages ( think of the falling of the Berlin wall).
Let's apply these truths to today.........
At the end of the day, the world is a prostitute whose calls we must resist. There is only one destiny for those who follow her. We fix our eyes on a different prize.
If you would like to explore more.........
Read Revelation 18
The orgy of chapter 17 has become a wake, as kings, merchants and sea captains, who all grew rich from "Babylon", mourn her destruction.
What is the verdict of Heaven (v 4 - 8 )?
18 v 4 commands Christians to "come out of her" . What do you think that might mean in practice?
Read Revelation 19 v 1 - 10.
The study began with an invitation from the great prostitute to join her in sexual immorality and get drunk on her wine (17 v 1 - 2 ).It ends with a very different invitation.............
What invitation are we given in v 5?
We are called to sing praise to God ( v 5 ) for his acts of judgement and salvation. Every act in the drama in Revelation is accompanied by worship in heaven and 17 v 1 - 19 v 10 is no different, Its focus had been on earth but its climax is in heaven. In 19 v 5 we're to join the song of praise. Whether we choose to mourn or sing reveals our ultimate allegiance.
How should Christians respond to seeing both salvation and judgement?
By rejoicing, which is a theme throughout scripture that judgement, even though it is described in horrific terms, is not something that the people of God should find abhorrent, but will rejoice in. The right thing will have been done by a righteous God.
What invitation are we given in verse 9? What does this mean?
The song of heaven turns into the second invitation which is to the marriage feast of the Lamb. We are invited to be the bride of God's Son. Instead of a woman clothed in the purple of empire (17 v 4), we see a bride clothed in the fine linen of righteous deeds. ( 19 v 8 ). Instead of an invitation to immorality ( 17 v 2) ,we're invited to a marriage (19 v 7 ). In 19 v 9 the angel says to John "Write this".....emphasising that this part of the vision must not be missed; "Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb!". As the angel adds that "these are the "true words of God " he is declaring that I'm not making this up !
How does verse 10 underline the response we are called to make?
John is totally overwhelmed by what he has seen and heard and the incredible invitation he has received. Understandably he falls before the angel but receives a sharp rebuke......only God is to be worshipped!
What are the signs that someone has accepted the invitation to the marriage feast of the Lamb?
v 8.......Praise and glory given to God and performing righteous deeds.
Ask God to help you see the world as it really is; enjoy the good things, but not fall in love with them, or be distracted or compromised by them.
Pray that God would have mercy on our lost world and that we would remain faithful witnesses whatever our circumstances.
Give thanks that we have been given the gracious invitation to be a part of the marriage feast of the Lamb.
Why not use the songs of praise in chapter 19 to express your thanks to God.
A note on Revelation 20 v 1 - 6
The Christian church has always differed in their explanation of these verses with particular reference to the "millenium", basically dividing into "premillennialists", "postmillennialists" and "amillennialists". They differ as to when they think Christ will return......either before or after the millenium (the 1,000 years).
In preparing this overview of Revelation I tend to go for "amillennialism" ; seeing the millennium as describing the present age of the church. The millennium is therefore the period in between the first and second comings of Christ. Amillennialists interpret Revelation 20 in the light of the broader picture presented in the scriptures.
Well done if you have stuck with us as we have dealt with some pretty nightmarish situations in Revelation. Next week we shall have our last study from this amazing book, when we shall be looking at "The Reign of the Lamb",a glorious prospect !. Meanwhile there will be the usual Zoom session to discuss this week's study on Weds Dec. 6 at 10.30 pm .
The Zoom ID is 737 2295 9656 and the password in 3NZjXF. Please note that this is different from last week.
Who do you Worship? 5.12.20
Revelation 12 - 16
Yet again another large chunk of scripture to read with some amazing images! Why not sit down and read it in one go and then think and pray about what you have read before getting down to the detail. Once again we are looking at the "big picture" as described by John. This is also a long study ,so you might like to take it in "small chunks".
Revelation 12 retells the whole of human history as a drama involving three characters: a woman ,a child and a dragon.
Remember that apocalyptic literature is full of symbols.....things that are to be taken figuratively. A symbol can stand for a particular event, person or place and for a more general principle that holds true for more than one event, person or place.
Read Revelation 12.
Who do the characters represent ,and what is their motivation
. The woman could be Mary since she gives birth to Jesus.
. The woman is more likely to represent the people of God as a whole. Isaiah portrays Israel as a woman in childbirth, waiting to bring forth the Messiah. She spans the whole history of redemption. Revelation 12 v 17 refers to Christians as "the rest of her offspring".....the product of the mission of the church .The child is Jesus. Verse 5 quotes Psalm 2 v 9 where God's Messiah receives an iron sceptre to rule the nations. The dragon is Satan (v 9) and is portrayed as terrifyingly dangerous, strong, clever, murderous and with enormous power. However, his vindictive power is channelled through the mechanisms of the state. Such regimes are satanic when they attempt to suppress the word of God, the gospel and to persecute God's people.
It is worth mentioning here, that although Satan is so incredibly powerful, God is all Powerful and that Satan is only a created being.
What does the dragon try to do to the child and the woman's other offspring and how is he thwarted?
He attempts to murder the child and thus thwarts God's plan of redemption. When this fails he endeavours to threaten and destroy the "other children" Ie. the church. However, God protects them and the scene ends with the dragon on the seashore breathing threats fire ,but ultimately unable to do anything.
Does this remind you of incidents in the life of Christ and of the church ?
Verses 1 - 5 refer to the first coming of Christ as a single vent, encompassing his birth, the cross (Satan's attempt to devour the child) and his resurrection and ascension(the child being snatched up to heaven),Throughout history Satan has opposed God’s people and sought to destroy them.
When does the angelic war in verses 7 – 9 take place? What do you think it refers to?
Job 1 suggests that before the coming of Jesus.(It is worthwhile reading this chapter as it is so revealing and unlike any other in scripture).Satan had access to heaven and what he did in heaven was to accuse God's people. He and his angels have now lost their place in heaven ,and Satan can no longer accuse us because God's people are now righteous through the death and resurrection of Jesus. We shouldn't focus on Satan's location but on the death and resurrection of Jesus which has changed the nature of the heavens and the earth forever.
What can Satan no longer do according to verse 10? Why?
Satan can no longer accuse because God's people are now righteous through the death and resurrection of Jesus. The verdict has been given in the high court of heaven; Jesus our advocate (Romans 8.34) has declared us not guilty and there is no condemnation (Romans 8.1).If Satan had won the saints would have been cast out of heaven,but Christ is victorious ,so it is Satan who is cast out and we who are vindicated in Christ. Satan loses his "place" (Revelation 12.8) because we have gained a place.
What is Satan doing now according to verses 13-17?
Verses 12-13 tell us that Satan has been thrown down to earth in a great rage. He is doomed but dangerous. He tries to inflict damage on the victorious Christians and focuses on "The word of testimony" given by God's people which draws others into Christ's forgiveness. As the saints bear faithful testimony through persecution and suffering, they are brought, like their Saviour, at last to heaven.
The one command in the chapter is in verse 12 "Rejoice!". There is no place for apathy and no place for despair.
If you would like to explore more.........
Read 1 Kings 19 v 1- 8. How does Revelation 12 allude to this story and to Israel's 40 years in the wilderness? What does it show us about God's care for us?
Read Revelation 13
What do you think the two beasts represent ,from their description ?
Together they represent the political and military power of empire. In John's case this was seen as the arrival of the Roman armies to conquer Asia Minor. The ten horns, seven heads and ten crowns are a reworking of the images in Daniel 7,in which Daniel saw successive empires. Although the image of the beasts portrays the Roman Empire, it could be applied to any empire throughout history.
What does the first beast do ,and how does the world respond to it ?
This empire utters "blasphemies" (v 5 - 6). It takes the place of God, redefines morality and demands ultimate allegiance. (v 8). Whilst noting that not all power is bad and not all empire evil, I am sure that we can all think of blasphemous empires that have, and still do exist, in our day.
What is confusing about the second beast in verse 11?
He looks like a lamb.....innocent and harmless, in a twisted parody of Jesus. However it speaks the words of the dragon, Satan.
How does it secure it's following?
It is a propagandist, producing signs and images to seduce, threaten, impress and overwhelm the people of the earth. ( v 13 - 15 ). The Roman Empire exercised "soft power" to win over hearts and minds.
How do the two beasts combine to oppress people ......and God's people in particular?
The beasts demand allegiance and that inevitably brings them into conflict with God's people, for we have a competing allegiance. They wage war against the beast (v 7 ).Inevitably Christians are imprisoned and martyred.( v 9 -10 ).The two beasts show how dominating cultures shape their citizens by using both carrot and stick.....acquiescence and you share in the bounty, resist and you're excluded. John's vision invites us to question the propaganda of the second beast and see through its images. It parodies God's wonders. The triumvirate of the dragon and the two beasts form a parody of the Trinity. Through a thousand adverts and glossy magazines the beast says , "All this will be yours if you will bow before me".
What do you think is the significance of the marking on the forehead or hand (v 16 )?
A mark is a sign of ownership. Jesus marks or "seals" his people with his Holy Spirit to show his mark of ownership. (Revelation 7.4,Ephesians 1.13-14,2 Corinthians 1.21-22). Do not look for literal marks such as barcodes or embedded chips as the point is that the beast demands our allegiance, wanting to "own" us.
What do you think is the significance of the number 666 (v 18)
. 666 is the sum of Nero's name in a Hebrew system in which letters were assigned numeric values. If so, John is saying that the wise person realises Nero and his successors are the latest manifestations of Satanic power.
. It may represent one less than the perfection represented by 777. If so, John is saying that the wise person recognises imperial power is not good nor the final word in history. It portrays itself as perfection ....but constantly falls short.
If you would like to explore more..........
Read Ephesians 1. 13-14; 4.30. How does God mark or "seal" those who belong to him? How do we know we are sealed ?
To think about.......
When and where do you feel the seduction of the culture most keenly? What do you find more exciting or thrilling than Jesus? Where do you feel the threat of exclusion most powerfully?
If you are facing Satan's hostility , ask the Lord for the strength to love him and the gospel more than your life.
Pray for your brothers and sisters in parts of the world where being a faithful witness can lead to physical harm and death.
Pray that you would resist the seduction of the world and that your church fellowship would be supportive and nurturing of those who feel this pressure most strongly.
Next week we will be looking at chapters 17 - 20 of Revelation with the title " The Justice of the Lamb". There will be the usual Zoom session on Wednesday Dec 9 at 10.30 to discuss the current study . Do feel free to join us; we usually chat for around 30min before praying about the topic.
Zoom ID is 954 5558 2174 and the
We have found it helpful to talk through the imagery in Revelation, as it can be quite scary.
The Chaos of History. 28.11.20
Revelation 6 - 11
Yes there are 6 chapters of Revelation to read in this study! As you will see, they are full of the most amazing imagery ; it is best to see this section of Revelation as a whole series of overlapping visions. Like me, you might like to read these chapters at one sitting allowing them to capture your thoughts and imagination as you mull them over , before going on to the study. As I read the introduction to this section by Tim Chester he says " a Pandemic strikes panic into us all". Tim was writing in 2019; his words therefore are quite prophetic..........
Read Revelation 6
The opening of the seven seals is the first of several cycles of seven that portray the world's history and its end.
The first four seals : What do each of these four horsemen so (v 1 - 6 )? How many people are affected?
In modern, peaceful democracies this picture might seem very distant, but in many parts of the world today we see external (v 1 - 3), internal conflict (v 3 - 4 ), famine and rampant inflation ( v. 5 – 6 ),and widespread death (v 7- 8).
How does the colour of each horse reflect the activity of its rider ?
White…....suggests conquest (as a white flag symbolises surrender).
Red ….....suggests blood.
Black …...suggests death.
Pale….....suggests a sick complexion of a corpse.
What repeated phrase ( v 2,4, and 8) makes it clear who is in charge?
The Lamb opens the seals. It is Jesus who is in charge of all these things. The way it is expressed here shows that they are the result of his "permissive will ".He opened the seals and gives power to the horsemen to unleash their horrors on a restricted portion of the world's population. Even as these consequences of the fall are permitted to rage throughout the world, their effect is moderated and held back from what it might be......it is the same principle we see outlined in Job chapters 1 and 2.
The fifth seal: what is the significance of who we see in verse 9 and where they are ?
Martyred Christians are seen under an altar in Heaven. Heaven was often seen in Jewish thought as the temple of God ( Habakkuk 2.20). Indeed Hebrews 9 says the earthly temple was a copy of the heavenly one. The altar shows that the martyrs' deaths are seen by God as a sacrifice......they are not "murders" but offerings to God (2 Timothy 4 v 6 ). The martyrs are given a white robe, symbolising their vindication and victory.
What do they pray for (v 10) and what must they wait for ( v 11)?
" How long ?" they cry......but the time has not yet come and there are more martyrs to come: it's a reminder that we are still at war and that we need to live on a war footing.. the weapons of the martyrs in this war are "the word of God and the testimony they had maintained". (Revelation 6.9)
What event is portrayed when the sixth seal is opened (v 12-17 )?
The sixth seal is about the end of the world, the judgement of God on the wicked and the vindication of God's people.
What two reactions are there to this event ( v 10 implied and 15-17 ) ?
The faithful long for it. Those who oppose God will flee in terror, but find no place to hide.
What is the implied answer to the haunting question in verse 17?
No one. When Christ returns in judgement and the sixth seal is opened, all who have rejected and opposed him will fall; all who fear the judgement will wish that they were killed by rockfall, rather than face the living God.
Read Revelation 7
John sees the scene from a different perspective …..the four winds are best seen as the equivalent of the four horsemen…...but here the focus is on the security of God’s people.
How do we know that the number of people “sealed “is symbolic (v 4 – 8, 9) ?
The countless multitude (v 9) shows that these numbers are metaphorical and not (as Jehovah's witnesses teach) literal. The point is, that God's followers are known and numbered and that they will be "marked " or sealed by the Holy Spirit. If we belong to Christ we are utterly safe and will not be forgotten.
What is the significance of their clothes ,and how have they got to a place of safety?
They wear the white robes of the righteousness of Christ and carry palm branches of victory. Despite the immense effort to remain faithful ,they know that by God's grace alone they are saved. The only way to have the "right clothes for heaven' is to ask Jesus to wash our dirt away through his death on the cross. Only the pure and holy can enter into the presence of a pure and holy God.
What blessings do God's people enjoy both now and in eternity?
Confidence and forgiveness, together with the assurance that God will never let us go.
An interesting note on Revelation 8 v 10 - 11.
Quoting from "Chernobyl.....history of a tragedy " by Serhii Plokhy.
The settlement of Chernobyl was first mentioned in a Kyivan chronicle in 1193.It stood on the hunting grounds of the Kyivan princes. Here there grew an abundance of Artemisia vulgaris , a shrub with black or dark red branches. Chornyi is Ukrainian for "black". The shrub gave its name to Chornobyl or Chernobyl.
The common name for Artemisia is .........Wormwood. Reading verses 10-11, many have concluded that this was a prophecy regarding the Chernobyl accident.
The camera angle changes once again. In the sequence of the 7 trumpets we see the same scene in close-up focusing on the experience of God's people in a world where the four horsemen ride........
Read Revelation 11 v 1-13.
Who do you think the two witnesses represent? ( also referred to as olive trees and lampstands, v 4 )
The two witnesses of v 3 are God's people: his royal priesthood. Mission is….....
. a priestly activity ( representing God to the world).
. a royal activity (extending Christ’s reign by calling on people to submit to his authority)
What power has God given to them? Does this remind you of anything from the Old Testament?
To our priestly and kingly roles, we can add a prophetic role, since the two witnesses also allude to great Old Testament figures .......Moses and Elijah. Today we seek to proclaim the gospel which brings eternal life to those who accept it, or eternal death to those who reject; we should not expect people to like us for it!
What happens to them and how do people react? ( v 9 - 10 )
They are killed by the beast from the Abyss......a reference to Satan, perhaps through his influence and control of the persecuting state. The people around treat these murders with celebrations.( This may cause us to remember the horror of the recent Islamic state videos on our TV screens.)
What happens next and how do the people react? ( v 11-12 )
The resurrection of the witnesses in verses 11-12 should not be understood as literal. It presents the truth of history as a whole.....the church is persecuted, Christians are martyred and at times the cause of Christ seems defeated. However the church survives ( even as I type this, I picture the church in Syria and Iraq worshipping God amidst the ruins) and comes back with renewed strength and the cause of Christ continues. God's "secret weapon" in the face of hostile powers are His faithful people,sustained by His Spirit. The church has always been victorious through suffering. Life comes through death.
Where do the witnesses end up?
Ultimately, faithful Christians end up alive in heaven; those who oppose them remain in the earthly city, which is still under God's judgement, as indicated by the earthquake.
What happens in response to the miracle of the raising of the witnesses? What is the significance of that ?
The calamities of the seven seals and seven trumpets do not bring repentance. (Revelation 9 20-21). Instead, the nations fear God and give him glory in response to the faithful witness of God's people....to "the point of death" ( 2 v 10 ). Or perhaps it is the suffering witness of God's people combined with the calamities of history that brings people to repentance. The turmoil of history on its own, represented by the seven seals and trumpets, leads only to judgement. However, the turmoil of history combined with Christian witness leads some to repentance.
Chapters 10-11 take place in a pause between the sixth and seventh trumpets. The sixth event in each of John's sequences describes the return of Christ and the final judgement. The job of the church today is to faithfully bear the gospel message to everyone, as we wait for Christ's return.
. Pray for any situations you know where the horsemen ride through the world, or through your own life. Pray that God would have mercy and use peoples' experience of suffering to lead them to repentance and to faith in Christ.
. Thank God that those who belong to Jesus have been sealed for eternity. Praise him for the certainty of salvation, forgiveness and our ultimate home with him in heaven.
. Ask God to fulfill his purpose of gospel proclamation today. through your church, through missionaries.........and through you.
Next week we will be looking at the topic "Who do you worship" which is an overall picture of Revelation chapters 12 - 16. There will be a Zoom session to discuss this session on Wednesday Dec. 2nd at 10.30am.
ID 954 5558 2174
Many apologies if you tried and failed to make the Zoom session this week ;I had huge difficulties getting onto the site. Do please join us again next week.
A Higher throne 21.11.20
Before you read these chapters and begin the study, why not turn to this wonderful rendering of "Is He Worthy" which is based on the theme we shall be studying . Here is the link https://youtu.be/fs7Kah6wnY8
In these chapters we see some of what we mentioned in our introduction in that, unlike most of the New Testament, here in Revelation we have practical application first and the theology second. The letters to the churches were the application and now we get the big picture.
After relaying the words of Jesus to church in real trouble on earth, John is invited to step into Heaven to gain an eternal perspective on all the difficulties Christian believers face. Then John opens our eyes to an unseen world, just as Elisha prayed for his servant on Mount Carmel. ( 2 Kings 6.14-17 ).We still see history from the perspective of the earth ,but now we can also see it from the perspective of Heaven. We do not have language to describe what heaven is like ,so we are given hints and symbols that hint at how immense and glorious it is The throne is at the centre ,and everything revolves around that . Worship and praise of God is the constant theme that underlies everything.
Read Revelation 4
Who and what does John see in this vision of heaven?
John sees someone seated on a throne surrounded by 24 elders on their thrones. He sees seven burning lamps in front of the throne and four living creatures full of eyes.
What do the various people and objects in the throne room represent?
. The person on the throne: God the Father.
. Seven torches: the Holy Spirit (7 = perfection).
. 24 elders : Symbol of both old and new covenants (12 tribes of Israel + 12 Apostles). Representing the totality of God's people throughout history.
. The four beasts: drawn from Ezekiel's vision of God's throne (Ezekiel 1), together with the 6 wings and songs of the seraphs in Isaiah 6.2-3 represent the praise of all animate creation.
What and who is at the centre of heaven ?
A throne with God seated on it .God is at the centre and is supremely powerful.
What does the reaction of the others present tell us about who this is?
They worship and adore him and give him all the glory. Even the creatures, who represent the idolatrous powers of the day, live in service to him and not themselves.
What do the two hymns that are sung in this chapter tell us about God?
. God is holy
. God always was, is present now and always will be.
. God is the creator of all things.
. He is worthy to receive glory and honour and power.
. Our very existence depends on God.
How would this vision have helped the churches in chapters 2-3?
This is Jesus' response to the claims of "eternal Rome". Rome appeared to rule all the known world, but God rules in heaven.
If you would like to explore more.........
Read Ezekiel 1 and /or Daniel 7.
What elements are the same as or similar to those in Revelation 4 ?
How are these ideas extended to the situation in which John finds himself?
Read Revelation 5
Chapter 4 is like the scenery of a stage. In chapter 5 the drama begins..........
What does John see in v 1- 4? What do you think this might represent?
John sees a scroll with seven seals in the right hand of the one who sits on the throne. ( v 1 ). We are not told what it contains. Here Jesus is seeking to capture our imaginations. Like most of Revelation it is a multi-faceted vision with overlaid and overlapping images which convey multiple meanings at the same time.
Why does John react as he does ?
John sees the mess of the world and there is no one to sort it out. He sees the glory of God in heaven ,but no one is able to unfold God's purposes in history on earth....which seems spinning out of control. Chapter 4 with its harmony of creation is left behind by the chaos of history.
How do the descriptions of the Lamb in verses 6-8 build to show us who John is talking about?
. The Lion of Judah. Genesis 49.9-10
. The Root of David. Isaiah 11.1-10
......these point to the promised messianic King, who restores the kingdom of God. He is a Lion and a slaughtered Lamb. He is a King and a sacrifice.
. He has seven horns : he is perfectly powerful.
. He has seven eyes : He sees everything perfectly.
. The seven spirits (the Holy Spirit) are intimately connected with him.
The Song in v 9-10 explains how the Lamb became worthy . What did he do and for whom?
He died to redeem his people.
How is the lamb different to the other creatures?
Instead of the mighty creatures of imperial power, we have a Lamb. Instead of a victorious general we have the one who has been slain. Instead of the power, glory and wisdom of empire, we have the weakness, shame and folly of the cross. (1 Corinthians 1.18 - 2.5). The King reigns from the cross. The Lamb has all strength (seven horns), all knowledge (seven eyes) and is all present (the seven spirits or sevenfold Spirit). We worship the King who was slain and who has conquered through his victorious death.
What is the overwhelming response in v 11-14 to what the Lamb has done?
The Lamb receives the acclamation of heaven. All creation takes up the refrain in verses 13-14 . The "failure of the cross has turned out to be the turning point of history and is the focus of heaven's worship." Suffering leads to victory .
To think about..........
John's vision reminds us that we are not the centre of the world. This is God's world, not ours. At stake is God's glory ,not mine. Everything exists to glorify God. God doesn't exist to serve me or follow my agenda. You are not in control of your life ......God is and he has the right to order your circumstances as he sees fit. Will you trust in the God who rules and give glory to him whatever happens?
Ask the One who sits on the throne to help you see the world, your life and your church from heaven's perspective.
Give thanks to the Lamb, who was slain and has purchased you for God with his blood and made you a kingdom of priests to serve him.
Commit yourself to serving the Lamb and reigning with him.....whatever that might involve.
There will be the usual Zoom session on Weds. Nov. 25 to chat about and discuss this study; every one is very welcome! I D 954 5558 2174 and the Password is 1PBmV1 .Next week we shall be looking at Rev. 6-11 which is about "The Chaos of History". John's vision in these amazing chapters shows us that God is in control, and is the ultimate authority in the universe.
Seven Dangers Facing Your Church 14.11.20
Note....this is quite a long and challenging study and requires a lot of thought and input, so you might like to attempt it over a period of time.
Read Revelation 2-3
These seven messages are rooted in the specific challenges faced by each congregation. However they are also a word for every church throughout time and today. They are not just what the Spirit spoke to the church then, they are what the Spirit says to the churches now.
Each letter follows a pattern, which starts with one of the elements of the description of Christ in 1.12-16. It is Jesus who walks among his people and who speaks words of encouragement or rebuke to them.
The seven messages have features which are common to most of them......
. a reminder of who speaks to the church.
. a commendation
. a complaint
. a command
. a call to listen to the Spirit.
. a promise to those who overcome.
They each end with a promise that points forward to some aspect of John's vision in the rest of the book. Some of John's readers were facing persecution. 1 v 9; 2 v 9,13. In part John's vision was preparing Christians for what might come, but it was also concerned about Christians who were compromising with the culture. These are " words " that we need to hear today.
Choose one or more of these messages to read and then ask the following questions.....
Ephesus. 2 v1-7
Pergumum .2 v12-17
Thyatira. 2 v18-28
Sardis. 3 v 1-6
Philadelphia. 3 v7-13
Laodicea 3 14-22
. Who is speaking ?
. What does he command ?
. What is his complaint ?
. What is his command ?
. What promise is given ?
What do you think it might have been like to be a part of the church you have chosen to think about? What would have been great? What would have been disquieting? What would have been bad?
How is the description of Jesus particularly relevant to the situation this church faced?
(Look back at the last study to see the meaning of the images applied there to Jesus)
How do you think individual church members might have reacted to the rebuke and the challenge presented to them?
How might the church as a whole have responded?
Read Revelation 2. 8-11
What’s different about this message to most of the others?
Jesus has nothing with which to condemn the church in Smyrna.
What three pressures do these Christians face?
Unlike five of the other churches there is no word of complaint.....just pastoral encouragement for struggling Christians who face the pressures of.......
. Poverty (v 9)
. Slander (v 9)
. Persecution (v 10)
What three assurances does the Spirit give them?
. Christ's presence (v 9)
. God's control (v 10). There is a battle between God and Satan in chapter 12, but God is in control. "10" in 2 v 10 symbolises fullness.
. Eternal reward. (v 8). The crown in v 10 probably refers to the royal crown ….the reward to faithful disciples ,who will rule with Christ.
Look again at Revelation 2-3
What were the different sources of the pressures these churches were under that led to their compromise or failure?
. Personal. A desire for comfort ,an easy life and a sense of pride about what we have, all feature in some of these churches.
. Internal. False teaching within the church, a culture of lukewarmness and immorality that is tolerated.
. Internal. Direct persecution; a culture of hostility.
A Note on Revelation 3.20.........
We cannot read through and study these chapters without stopping to think about this special verse, evoking the image of Holman Hunt's painting "the Light of the World" in our hearts and minds. (See the picture at the beginning of this study). Most of us are familiar with the image of Christ knocking on the door of the human heart. Note that it is dark (and the world is very dark at present) and there is fallen fruit on the ground denoting "harvest and end times". Christ is knocking very gently on the door which is covered in briars and thorns, denoting that the door has not been opened for some time. Can you see what is missing? The door has no handle and can only be opened from the inside.
Christ does not "barge" his way into our lives; he asks to come in as a welcome guest and to enjoy being our company (he wants to eat with us!) We have an amazing God!
Despite all the compromise, lack of love and failure of our churches, Jesus still holds us in his hands. We belong to him and our precious to him.
Give thanks that Jesus loves us so much that he will not abandon us and that he rebukes and encourages us to be faithful and to grow.
Pray for those churches, like Smyrna that are facing hostility and persecution. (Check them out on "Open Doors" website) Pray that they will know the Lord's comfort, presence and blessing.
Pray for your church .......asking God to grant you the ability to repent, both as individuals and as a whole, and to listen to what the Spirit is saying to you.
Our study next week will be based on Revelation 4 & 5 and is entitled "A Higher Throne". There will be a Zoom session on Wednesday Nov. 18 to discuss and share any thoughts on this passage......do join us!. Meeting ID 954 5558 2174.Password 1PBmV1
Everyone is very welcome!
The Lord who reveals 7.11.2020
Read Revelation 1.1-11
What is this a revelation of (v1,see also v19)
This is a message from our Lord Jesus, through his servant John (via an angelic messenger), to each one of us who belongs to Christ, both back then when it was written and to us today. This revelation is not only about the future, but also about the here and now (v 19). The revelation it contains about our future impacts deeply on how we think and the choices we make now. However, essentially it is a revelation of who Jesus really is......and that is the focus of the first study.
What is the five-link chain that has led you to reading it now?
God the Father has given the revelation to Jesus, his Son. Jesus gave it to angels (messengers) to give it to John. John wrote it down for us to read.
According to v 4, what will be the result of us reading this book ? How does this compare with your answer to question 1?
We will be blessed by God as we read aloud these words of Revelation and as we hear them and keep them. As we read it's message we must obey and live out it's words The blessings we receive are both grace and peace.
How does verse 5 fill out our understanding of what being blessed by God's grace and peace mean for those who receive them?
God the Father is the beginning and the end, the almighty one; and he has made Jesus "the ruler of the kings of the earth" (v 5).
If you would like to explore more..........
Read Revelation 22 v 16-19.
What is the big application of the whole book of Revelation ?
What should it cause us to do (v 17) ?
Sevens and symbols.
In this section we encounter the first example of Apocalyptic literature (see the notes in last week's introductory session). This, as mentioned last week, is something peculiar to Revelation and books like Daniel. We know that "seven" is the number of perfection or completeness. So 1 v 4 is simply a description of the Holy Spirit…all present and all-seeing….he is everywhere and sees everything.
What situation do John and the churches he is writing to face (v 9 )?
They are all suffering and he writes as a fellow sufferer in exile on the island of Patmos.
Given what we know about the number seven, what is the significance of the churches listed in verse 11?
Although these churches are named the "seven" suggests that they are meant to represent the whole church. This is a word for all of us for all time.
The mighty Roman empire offered its citizens "peace": a freedom from warfare and a legal system that protected their rights. However "grace" was not evident.....if you opposed the might of Rome and did not give allegiance to its emperor ,you were in danger of being judged and rejected. John's readers found themselves in this situation with their loyalty and devotion to Christ as King and this theme underlies much of the book of Revelation.
Read Revelation 1 v 12-20.
Can you decode the symbolic meanings in this description of Jesus?
What Old Testament images do they bring to mind?
"Someone like a son of man " is straight out of the book of Daniel 7 in the Old Testament. There are many other allusions to the Old Testament in this passage, with symbols designed to impress upon us Christ's authority, his ability to judge, his purity and glory and his wisdom and willingness to fight on behalf of his people.
Where is the figure that John sees?
What is the significance of that?
Jesus stands “among the lampstands”…..not separate or distant from the beleaguered churches of ancient Rome. He is right there with them as they face the tension and pressure of living in an hostile and aggressive world.
To think about …........
What opposition and pressure do you and your church face today?
Suggestion…...read and pray for the work of “Open Doors” in their mission to persecuted Christians.
How will this vision encourage you to be bold and to persevere in your struggle against these powers?
If Jesus holds the keys to death and Hades, we should not fear death. If he is the giver of life we should not believe any other claims that offer a more fulfilling life.
Can you think of any others?
Why is John’s response the only appropriate reaction to seeing Jesus as he really is?
When we see Jesus in all his glory ,our only reaction is to fall down and worship him in love and gratitude, if we have been forgiven and in dread fear ,if we have not. This vision and the feeling it evokes is similar to Isaiah in the temple (Isaiah 6.5) or Peter in the gospels (Luke 5 .8)
How is Jesus' response to John so encouraging for him and for us ?
Jesus' message is "do not be afraid "to His church, as it faces the might of the Roman Empire lined up against it. However note that John has not fallen before the Roman Empire.....it's not Rome that makes him afraid.....it is the risen Jesus. When you see Jesus as he really is you fall at his feet. It's not Rome or its modern equivalents that we need to fear .......it's the mighty Lord Jesus!
How might each of the descriptions Jesus gives of himself encourage John and the churches to whom he is writing as they face hostility and division ?
The Lord Jesus Christ now holds the keys of death and Hades because he both died and rose again. (v 18). Keys are a symbol of authority. A keyholder has control over a building. Jesus has authority over death. He can unlock death and get you out. The state may lock you up and even kill you, but Jesus holds the keys that matter. Imprisonment and death should hold no fear for those who belong to Jesus.
What is Jesus’ relationship with his beleaguered people(v 20)?
Jesus holds the precious stars that are his churches in his hand. He sees it when his people are struggling with threats from without ,or with divisions and fears from within. His angels move among the lampstands to guard and to guide. We are not abandoned, even when things seem at their worst.
To think about.....
What is there in your life that will last? What will truly make a difference in eternity?
. Spend some time praising the risen Lord Jesus . Use some of the descriptions from this passage together with their meanings.
. Pray for yourself as you read the Father's revelation to you. Pray that you would read it rightly .and understand how it comforts, warns and encourages us.
. Pray that you would become faithful witnesses to the grace and peace to be found in Jesus. Ask the Lord to help you to use every opportunity to be a faithful witness to him.
Next week we will be looking at Chapters 2 & 3 of Revelation with their messages to the churches ( and to us today).The study is entitled "Seven Dangers Facing Your Church." As was mentioned last week, there will be no Zoom session next week because of the Remembrance service in the Memorial Garden. Zoom will return next week!
Revelation....Heaven's perspective 31.10.20
Why study Revelation? Do you consider it intimidating, a bit scary, or just plain confusing? There's no need to be scared, but every reason to be excited. In this introductory study to whet your appetite, I hope that you will see that Revelation's message is as relevant and applicable to our lives just as it was 2,000 years ago. As always we will be using a "Good Book Guide" by Tim Chester.
Who wrote it?
The Apostle John.
Where was it written?
On the Isle of Patmos where John is in exile for his faithfulness to Christ.
About AD 95
To whom was it written?
The seven churches in Asia and all believers everywhere.
The persecution of Christians under the Emperor Domitian (AD 90-95) who were struggling to remain faithful to Christ in their idolatrous culture. The Roman Empire was seeking to push them to conformity and loyalty that were impossible for them to hold together with faith in Christ. Put yourself in their shoes and see how Revelation inspires them to remain faithful to Christ, before you apply it to yourself.
What sort of literature do we find in this book?
It is a form of literature called "apocalyptic", with which John's first readers would have been familiar. It can feel like being in the middle of a weird dream, where things don't make logical sense and the pictures shift around from one section to another. This has led to the book becoming a happy hunting ground for bizarre theories and strange ideas. "Apocalyptic" literature uses symbolic imagery to communicate hope in the ultimate triumph of God to those in the midst of persecution; the order is not chronological, but literal.
Apocalyptic literature is also found in......
. Daniel 7-12
These references show a transition phase between prophecy and apocalyptic literature
. Isaiah 40-55, 56-66
. Haggai 2
. Zechariah 1-8
An interesting note......
In the New Testament, we often have theology first and application second. In Revelation it's the other way round.
Symbols in Revelation.
The word translated " made.....known" in 1 v 1 is literally "signified". Revelation is written in the language of "Sign". The book doesn't describe events that will literally take place at some point in the future. It's written in symbols because its aim is not merely to convey information ,but to capture our imagination.
Here is a brief guide to the meaning of some symbols .......
. Seven. Completeness or perfection.
. Six. Incompleteness or imperfection.
. Seven Spirits /sevenfold Spirit. The ever-present complete and perfect presence of God.
. Four. Completeness....especially geographic.
. Horn. Strength.
. Eyes. Sight or wisdom (insight).
. Sea. Forces of chaos. A crystal sea represents complete control over the forces of chaos.
. Living Creatures. Power or imperial powers.
. White Robes. God's declaration of the wearer's purity, righteousness and vindication .
. Earthquakes. Earth-shattering events.
. 1,000. Many.
. 12. Completeness for God's people. (12 tribes of Israel x 12 Apostles)
. 144,000. 12x12x1,000 = completeness x many = God's many people.
. Rainbow. God's covenant faithfulness and mercy.
. Virginity. Faithfulness to God (ready for the marriage of the Lamb).
. Adultery. Unfaithfulness to God.
. Trumpets. Warnings of judgement, victory or battle.
You may like to make a note of these symbols, or print them out for future reference in our studies.
Are you now feeling excited or nervous as we begin our first study next week?
You may be.....
Overly afraid. ......because you have heard it is complicated and that Christians disagree and fight over the interpretation..
Overly enthusiastic.....seeing things in it which are not helpful.
Dismissive........with its focus on heaven, hell, judgement and other difficult doctrines for our age and culture.
That this a message from our Lord Jesus through His servant John, to each one of us who belongs to Christ, both when it was written and for us today. It speaks about the present as well as the future. The revelation it contains about our future impacts deeply on how we think and the choices we make now.
Despite all that goes wrong with our world, God remains in control. And when we see history (literally "His story") from Heaven's perspective, it will encourage us to trust God and remain faithful to the end.
As always there will be a Zoom session on Wednesday Nov. 4th to discuss this session. Please note the new ID and password. Meeting ID 954 5558 2174.Password 1PBmV1. Everyone is very welcome whether you are a member of All Saints or not. There will be no Zoom session the following week as it will be Nov.11 with the (socially distanced) service of remembrance in the Memorial Gardens.
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.