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Sunday, October 24 2021

Christians live in a different way because we think in a different way. For this reason, Paul urged the church, “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds” (Ephesians 4:17 ESV). How are the minds of the Gentiles futile in thinking? The apostle Paul explained, “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity” (4:18–19). In other words, the Gentile nations are darkened in understanding because they are ignorant of God, and they are ignorant because of their hardness of heart. The result of such agnosticism is that God gave them over to sexual impurity and lewd behavior. The apostle expressed the same truth in further detail in Romans 1:18–32. God gives up those who accept a distorted view of Him over to lusts and sexual perversions.

Paul urged these Christians, “But that is not the way you learned Christ!” (Ephesians 4:20). The truth is in Jesus (4:21). The truth of Jesus Christ teaches believers “to put off the old self” that was a life corrupted through deceitful desires (4:22). Learning the truth that is in Christ renews the believer “in the spirit of the mind” (4:23). That renewing of the mind is the putting on of the new person according to God’s creation in righteousness and holiness (4:24).

The renewing of the mind as a new person is more than overcoming sexual immorality. The apostle Paul listed the changes of putting on the new person. These include “speaking the truth” with one’s neighbor and putting away what is false (4:25). Paul taught to be angry and do not sin; no longer steal but rather labor, do honest labor to share with those in need; speak nothing corrupt but what is good for lifting up others; put away resentment, anger, wrath, yelling, and cursing, and be kind, compassionate, and forgiving as God forgives you (4:26–32). This is the disposition and attitude of faithful Christians. This is how the faithful imitate God and walk in love as Christ loved and gave Himself as a sacrifice (5:1–2). For this reason, the apostle taught Christians that fornication, sexual impurity, and lust must not be named among God’s holy people who are the saints (5:3). The mind given to these things will act on them and no longer put off the old self. Furthermore, Christians are not to talk about filthy sexual things, speak foolishly, nor make crude jokes (5:4). Those who do these things have no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ (5:5). God’s wrath will come upon those who act with such disobedience (5:6). The faithful cannot be partners of such evil things (5:7).

Therefore, the apostle encouraged Christians to “walk as children of light” and so do what is pleasing to God (Ephesians 5:7–10). In this way, the faithful must not partake in works of darkness, but instead expose them (5:11). The faithful expose evil by their example of walking in the light and proclaiming the truth. The Greek for “expose” means to point out and correct. These filthy things are sexually immoral and shameful even to speak of (5:12). For this reason, Christians expose what is evil by the light in their walk (5:13–14). Christians are to be wise in how they live making the best use of their time (5:15–17). Furthermore, believers are to refrain from being filled with wine but be filled with the Spirit that produces self-control among other fruits (Ephesians 5:18; cf. Galatians 5:22–23). When Christians are filled with the Spirit, they sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs among themselves with thanksgiving as is contrary to the partying centered on alcohol (5:19).

By being filled with the Spirit, the faithful give thanks to God in the name of Christ (5:20). Throughout Paul’s teaching, he emphasized thankfulness. Thanksgiving is essential to holy living. Thanksgiving to God counteracts various sins. Thankful believers want to please God and obey Him. Giving thanks to God is another fruit of the Holy Spirit. Thank God for giving believers a way to change and live a new life.

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Sunday, October 17 2021

Has God given the church everything that faithful Christians need to grow and mature as a body? Some seem to doubt that the church can make disciples and grow because of the morally corrupt state of the world Furthermore, many believers doubt that any faithful Christians can raise most of their children to live faithful and holy lives to God. Did Jesus give His followers commands that they cannot keep or promises that God cannot fulfill? Certainly not. Christians need to change their thinking and encourage the next generation.

When Jesus ascended to be at the right hand of God, Jesus accomplished much and gave much to His followers to complete the mission of making disciples. The apostle Paul revealed that Christ gave gifts for the church to grow. God’s grace to every Christian comes in measure as Christ gives (Ephesians 4:7). As prophesied, Christ gave gifts to men when He ascended to heaven after He had descended to earth (4:8–10; cf. Ps 68:18). Jesus gave specific gifts to specific people in the church to equip the rest of these holy Christians for ministry (4:11–12). Jesus gave gifts to the apostles, prophets, shepherds (pastors), evangelists, and teachers to equip other Christians (4:11). These leaders received gifts to build of the body of Christ, the church (4:12). The gifts that Jesus gave were for equipping the faithful for ministry. Jesus gave these abilities until the unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God and to the maturity in the fullness of Christ (4:13).

When does this unity and maturity occur? Is this an unattainable goal or something that the church can reach only when Christ returns? The apostle Paul meant this for those the faithful to come to this state then, so the ability for Christians to unite and mature is true now. God has equipped the church. The faithful should and can come to the unity of the faith in the knowledge of Christ and to maturity in Christ’s fullness. The apostle Paul taught this is essential so that believers are not “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (4:14). The equipping of leaders to prepare the church is essential to avoid errors. Many believers claiming to follow Christ seem to shift with every new book or engaging speaker. This would be good if they were drawing closer to God and growing in maturity rather than wanting to hear the next new thing.

Instead, the church needs teaching of the truth for the unity of the faith and the knowledge of Christ. Paul encouraged the church: “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). The faithful grow in every way in Christ as this is the maturity of the fullness of Christ. By growing in Christ, the whole body, the church, is held together by Christ. The church is equipped “when each part is working properly” so that this makes the body grow and is lifted up in love (4:16). The church can grow and should.

Christ has equipped the church. He has given us all that we need to grow and uplift one another and to do so in unity. The church grows when we each do our part. Are you doing your part and working properly? Do you need better leadership and guidance? We have no excuses. We can make changes and fulfill Christ’s mission for the church. Thank Christ for giving us all that we need to be equipped to observe all that He commands.

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Sunday, October 10 2021

Christian unity is very much how we walk in this life in response to the hope of the gospel. To introduce unity, Paul wrote, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1 ESV). The apostle Paul wrote this reminding Christians of God’s greater purpose for them. God calls believers to the hope and glory of the eternal life by the gospel (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:14). How is one’s behavior and calling to hope essential to unity?

Paul urged the church in Ephesus to walk worthily which includes living with all humility, gentleness, endurance, and bearing with one another in love, and this is necessary for striving to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2–3). Unity in the church begins with each believer’s lowly perception of oneself and willingness to bear with other personalities. This is not an easy task. Families struggle to stay together, so the church often struggles too. However, Christian families and the church family have a humbling hope and gentle grace that allows for true unity. Later in Ephesians 4, the apostle Paul taught the church to “speak the truth,” “be angry and do not sin,” “labor doing honest work,” “let no corrupting talk come out,” “let all bitterness and rage and anger and yelling and slander be set aside,” “be kind to one another,” and “forgiving one another” (Ephesians 4:25–32). These behaviors maintain peace and unity in the church family and in our homes. The apostle further instructed holy living apart from sexual sins, how wives and husbands are to love each other, and how children are to honor their parents (5:22–6:4). All of these actions contribute to maintaining the oneness of the church of Christ.

As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are going to disagree about things outside the specifics of the Bible. We may not agree about local policies in the community or trust the same civil leaders. We may not agree about using social media or doing business with certain companies because of their social and political stances. We may have strong opinions about eating certain foods or celebrating specific days of the year. We can struggle to refrain from speaking our minds about these things. Paul taught the church at Rome not to argue over opinions whether about one’s diet, what is best to eat, or what days we esteem as more significant than others (Romans 14:1). The apostle instructed Christians not to judge or offend others in matters of opinion and inferences (14:1–23). Christians are not to have divisions but unite with the same mind and same judgment (1 Corinthians 1:10). God would not instruct this unless we could be one.

Christians are not united merely for being “together,” survival, commerce, or a sense of belonging. What unites Christians in one body is much more. In Ephesians 4, the apostle Paul noted seven core beliefs for which all other beliefs and practices in the church are connected. Paul wrote that “There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (4:4–6). Each of these seven “ones” are essential to make one body of faithful Christians. However, many today say that baptism does not really matter, and so they dismiss the words of Paul and even more so the words of Christ (cf. Matthew 28:19). Baptism should not divide any believers, because there is one baptism and it is essential to unity.

God has given us everything that we need to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. We must strive to maintain the unity with humility, gentleness, and endurance. Thank God for the peace that binds us together in one body as we unite by one Spirit, called by one hope, for one Lord, by one faith, in one baptism, and for one God and Father.

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Sunday, October 03 2021

Is there power in prayer? That depends on whom one prays. No one should think that praying to Allah, Krishna, or any other deity is any more helpful than wishing on a star. Secular politicians would have us pray and praise them. Many mock “thoughts and prayers” claiming that thoughts and prayers do nothing and they, the politicians, need to do more by balancing the rights of citizens. We should not think that atheistic leaders could help us more than our Creator helps us.

Prayer to God the Father of Jesus Christ is powerful because God is all-powerful and He is able to do more than we can ask and think. The faithful trust in God and pray to Him in times of anxiety (Philippians 4:4–7). Why? Because God promises to give peace and strength to the faithful.

Do you bend your knees in prayer to God the Father? In Ephesians 3, the apostle Paul bowed in prayer to the Father (3:14). He humbled himself and so should Christians now. Bowing in prayer is a common posture of Christians in the Bible. Furthermore, Paul prayed to God the Father as Jesus did and Christians should primarily do. In the Letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul noted that the faithful calls out to the Father while noting that Christ and the Spirit make intercession speaking to God the Father on behalf of the faithful (Romans 8:15, 26, 34). In Ephesians 3, Paul prayed to the Father “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” for which Paul was referring to the families of the nations united “in Christ” (Ephesians 1:1; 2:11–14; 3:6).

What power and strength can Christians receive from prayer? The apostle Paul prayed that God give the riches that are “in Christ” to these Christians. He requested God for the faithful to be “strengthened with power through the Spirit in the inner person” (Ephesians 3:16). The faithful in Christ have strength and power from God through the Holy Spirit within each person to comprehend the love of Christ. The apostle revealed in his prayer that this is how Christ dwells in the heart through faith (3:17). Furthermore, Paul prayed that these believers have the faith in Christ so that they are founded and established by love (3:17). Love is the first of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23). That love allows the faithful to have the strength that allows them to be fully able to understand with all the saints the width, the length, the height, and the depth to know the surpassing knowledge of the love of Christ (3:18–19). The knowledge of Christ’s love enables the faithful to “be filled with all the fullness of God” that is to be full of the attributes of God (3:19).

 God does more than Christians can think to pray to receive. The apostle noted in his prayer that God “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). Furthermore, God does this with the power and strength within faithful Christians. Paul revealed that God does this “according to the power at work within us” (3:20). God will not stop doing all these amazing works to His glory in the church and in Christ Jesus. God accomplishes this all as Paul concluded his prayer “throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (3:21).

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Sunday, September 26 2021

God does work in mysterious ways. God’s ways are not the ways of man and humanity’s thinking is not the same as God’s thoughts. God declared, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8–9 ESV). Furthermore, Moses recorded that the secret things belong to God, yet God has revealed many secret truths to His people in His words (Deuteronomy 29:29). Despite many false assumptions, God is not so mysterious that His people cannot know His words.

God has given faithful Christians a foundation to know the secret truths of God. God revealed these hidden truths by Jesus. For the revealing of the mysteries of God, the apostle Paul described his part as having “the stewardship of God’s grace” meaning that he is a manager of God’s house, the church (Ephesians 3:2). In other words, God has given Paul the responsibility of revealing God’s secret truths to His people. The apostle explained that God’s people, the church, are built on the apostles and prophets with Jesus as the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19–22). By this “stewardship of God’s grace,” the apostle Paul gave revelation that is essential to the foundation of the church as Paul expanded upon how God’s grace saves the faithful to be God’s “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (2:10). God has given Paul a duty and responsibility to help maintain His house, the church, and Paul does so by writing Scripture.

What secret truths did Paul reveal from the mysteries of God? The apostle does this work by writing revelation of truth from God (Ephesians 3:3–5). The apostle Paul called these secret truths “the mystery of Christ” and he wrote so that faithful Christians could read his insight into the mystery of Christ (Ephesians 3:3–4). Paul explained that the mysterious truths of God are now revealed to Christ’s “holy apostles and prophets” by the Spirit (3:5). Jesus taught that He would send the Spirit to His apostles, and the Spirit would reveal all truth to them (John 14:26; 16:12–13). All of this supports Paul’s words at the end of his life when he taught that every Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable to make the person of God equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16–17).

For the truth of God’s Word in the Scriptures, Paul recorded the mystery of Christ is that the nations and the Jews partake of God’s promise and are members of the same body in Christ through the gospel message (3:6). The Word of God is recorded for the faithful to read and be united in one body. God made Paul a minister of the gospel message according to His grace and by the working of His power (Ephesians 3:7). Paul recognized himself as the least of saints, yet God gave him grace to evangelize to the nations proclaiming the unsearchable wealth of Christ (3:8). Paul’s role was to enlighten God’s plan for everyone to see what was hidden from the ages in God who created everything (3:9). Through the least to the greatest, God shows the truth of His Word through Jesus that the apostles and prophets have written for the faithful to read and perceive the truth.

For faithful Christians, the ability to perceive God’s mysterious plans of His everlasting purpose is an amazing blessing. God revealed these truths by the apostles and prophets to make known the depths of His wisdom even to the rulers and authorities “in heavenly places” through the church (3:10; cf. 6:12). God did this according to the purpose for the ages that God worked and accomplished by Jesus Christ (3:11). Thereby, the faithful have boldness and access to God by confidence in the faithfulness of Christ (3:12). For this reason, Paul encouraged the faithful to be confident and not to be discouraged because of his trials on their behalf, which are to the glory of those who in Christ (3:13).

Thank God that we can have confidence by reading the revealed Word of God that God kept hidden from the world. We can perceive the secret truths of God given by His apostles and prophets in the Bible. We can make known God’s wisdom because we, the faithful, are the church of Christ.

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Sunday, September 19 2021

What hope is there for various groups of people who are without hope and without God? Paul reminded the Gentile Christians in Ephesus that they were once “separated from Christ” and alienated from Israel because they were the “uncircumcised” and strangers to God’s covenants (Ephesians 2:11–12). Therefore, the apostle noted that they had “no hope and without God in the world” (2:12). 

What is the answer for those separated from God and His promises? The faithful of all nations are now “in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:13). Paul had already noted that all the spiritual blessings from God are for the faithful who are “in Christ” because they heard and believed the gospel. As God promised to bless all nations, God predestined those who are “in Christ” to be holy and blameless by His forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:3–14). No matter one’s ethnicity, followers of Christ are to unite in Christ.

How can many people from different backgrounds unite in Christ? The apostle Paul revealed that those in Christ from other nations were “once far off” but now “have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13). For this reason, Paul declared that Christ is peace because He unites all ethnicities in one body, the church (2:14). Jesus broke down the dividing wall between the Jews and all other nations by annulling the law of commands and ordinances given to Israel (2:14–15). Furthermore, Jesus revealed that He came not to abolish God’s Law but to fulfill God’s Law (Matthew 5:17). Christ brings together people of all ethnicities through the cross (2:16). The apostle noted that Jesus came preaching peace for all people (Ephesians 2:17). Jesus put an end to the hostility of all peoples bringing peace to all nations who remain faithful to Jesus. Through Christ, all have access to God the Father in one Spirit (2:18). While cultures differ, all can unite in Jesus Christ.

What foundation does Jesus give to unite people among all nations? The church has no strangers and foreigners within, but all are members of the household, the family of God (2:19). The church is God’s people built like a house of gathering with “the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone” (2:20). Paul taught that the church is symbolically a house and a structure joined together as a holy temple for God’s dwelling by His Spirit (2:21). In other words, God dwells among His people in this world. Jesus does not separate churches by ethnicity. Christ has set the foundation for all people to unite upon one faith (4:4–6).

What is the conclusion then? Unity for the sake of unity is futile and meaningless. However, Jesus has brought peace and unity among all peoples. Christ is the head over the church as His body and He is the cornerstone of the church (Ephesians 1:22; 2:20). The church has Christ as the foundation of being one body, so we must strive to maintain unity in the bond of peace (4:1–3).

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Sunday, September 12 2021

What is it like being dead, spiritually lifeless and separated from God? Life is empty without God and we feel despair when we can’t find something more to distract us. The apostle Paul wrote to the faithful in Ephesus, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1 ESV). The good news is that this death in trespasses and sins was in the past. However, the apostle uses this state of lifelessness in sin to remind the Ephesian church of where they once were and how they once lived. Paul noted, “You once walked, following the course of this world” (Ephesians 2:2).

Why do we so easily listen to the world and ignore God? In the past and now, many believers listen to the world, the media, and the “experts” over God’s Word. When people follow the world, they are following the ruler and spirit that works in the descendants of disobedience to God (Ephesians 2:2). This is the life of living in “the passions of the flesh” and “the desires of the body and mind” (Ephesians 2:3). The apostle Paul revealed that those living by the way of the world were “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). They were not going to escape justice by God's judgment. No one can escape and release oneself completely from this death without some powerful life-giving influence.

What does the Creator of everything have to give to humanity? God is abundant in mercy because of His great love for humankind (Ephesians 2:4). God makes those who trust in Him “alive together with Christ” when we were once “dead in our trespasses” (2:5). This is salvation by grace. In other words, God rescues the faithful because He favors those who believe and trust in Him (2:5). In this life, God raises the faithful from death in sin to life with Christ (2:6). This is an enactment of Christ’s resurrection in hope of the coming resurrection on the last day (Romans 6:3–7; cf. John 5:28–29; 6:40). Furthermore, God gives us this blessing as we are with Christ who is in God’s heavenly dwelling (Ephesians 2:6). This was all a part of God’s plan to demonstrate “the immeasurable riches of His grace” (2:7). God’s kindness is to make us alive despite the death that we brought upon ourselves.

Of all of God's riches, what has He given us? Paul declared, “For by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). In other words, the faithful are saved now and God’s salvation is His gift to those who trust in Him. The apostle noted that this is not the doing of works of anyone, but salvation is the gift of God (2:8–9). Because salvation is not from our works, no one can boast. Furthermore, God’s grace has made the faithful into God’s “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” and so the faithful walk in those good works (2:10).

The grace of God changes those who believe and accept it through repentance and baptism (Romans 6:3–7). The apostle Paul taught more about the good works that are based on God’s grace and Christ’s salvation from death (Ephesians 4:17–6:9). God’s mission for the church is to do good works and make the gospel known as Paul taught throughout his letter to the Ephesians (3:9–10). Thank God for His salvation through Christ so that we now live to do good works giving glory to God.

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