October 13, 2019
Explore the Bible
Ephesian 4:1-10 (HCSB)
The Ephesian believers were reminded of their calling and encouraged to walk in a way that reflects that calling. Paul used the word “walk” to describe the activities of one’s life. Our lives should give evidence of who we are in Christ.
The Christian life is not meant to be lived in isolation but in community. Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer began his “Life Together” with Psalm 133:1, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers can live together” in unity. Unity was key to Bonhoeffer’s understanding of the Church. Unity of the Church is an important aspect of Paul’s theology as well. There are qualities we should have in our conduct because they promote unity. Our conduct should have the qualities of humility, gentleness, patience, acceptance and love (Eph. 4:2-3). With these virtues exhibited, we are “diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us” (Eph. 4:3).
Paul pointed out seven “one” statements to emphasize the unity of the church. There is only “one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father” (Eph. 4:4-6). These are spiritual realities that unite all believers, but it doesn’t mean there is no diversity in the Church. Each believer has received a spiritual gift by the grace of God (Eph. 4:7). Warren Wiersbe defines a spiritual gift as “a God-given ability to serve God and other Christians in such a way that Christ is glorified and believers are edified.” Diversity of gifts functions to help preserve the unity of the Body.
Too often we allow our personal biases and opinions to cause disunity. In the 17th century, an archbishop by the name of Marco Antonio de Dominis wrote, “In necessary things, unity; in uncertain things, liberty; and in everything, charity.” Some things must be defended at all costs. Some things are open to interpretation, and we should give liberty to differences of opinion. All of our actions should be motivated by our love for Christ and others. It is easier to walk together when each person is looking out for the other.
Bible Studies for Life
God’s will and my will
Romans 11:33-12:2; Ephesians 1:4-6 (HCSB)
The ideas of the sovereignty of God and the human free will are difficult concepts to understand. God is sovereign and completely in control of everything. Paul told us that God has a will for us and it can be known. He wrote, “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2).
I am often asked, “If God’s will is so perfect and so important, why doesn’t He just tell us what it is? Why is it so hard to figure out?” These types of questions are usually links to the circumstances in life we are trying to navigate. Whom should I marry? What career should I choose? What university should I attend? Where should I live? Where should I go to church? God does have a will, a plan for our lives, but He allows us some latitude as we make choices.
Pastor and author John Ortberg explains the reason we don’t always have the clear guidance we seek. He writes, “God’s primary will for your life is not the circumstances you inhabit; it’s the person you become.” If you research the “God’s will” phrases in the New Testament, you will find they speak more to character than to circumstances. It is God’s will that we be “holy and blameless in His sight” (Eph. 1:4). God wills that we develop Christ-like character.
Our holy character development begins with not conforming to this age (Rom. 12:2). Humans are natural conformists. We are good at adapting, fitting in and fading into the background. God wants us to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). When we study and apply God’s Word to our lives, we are more spiritually minded.
Our will controls our minds, and our minds control our bodies. This is why we need to surrender our will to God’s will. When we do, we can discern the “good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”
October 20, 2019
Explore the Bible
Ephesian 4:11-16 (HCSB)
Moving forward in the mission God has given the Church requires effective leadership. There’s an old proverb that says, “He who thinketh he leadeth and hath no one following him is only taking a walk.” Good leaders have a good understanding of God’s calling on their lives and are led by the Holy Spirit to equip the Church to carry out the gospel mission. This was Paul’s focus in Ephesians 4:11-16.
First, he described the apostle. An apostle is one who is sent out to carry a message or complete a task. Next, he described the prophet. Prophets in the New Testament were like those in the Old Testament in that they spoke forth God’s Word to inspire, correct and motivate. Apostles and prophets were no longer necessary after the completion of the canon of Scripture.
The third leadership role was that of the evangelist. The most famous evangelist of our day was Billy Graham. When Graham first started his evangelistic work, there was an emphasis among evangelists on the Second Coming of Christ. Graham said, “I would like to do something great for Christ before He returns.” He had no idea at that time how God was going to use him. Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School, said, “Graham transcended his limitations to become an instrument of divine grace for a world starving for some good news.” Evangelists take the good news of the gospel to the world.
Pastors were the fourth leadership role on Paul’s list. The word literally means “shepherd.” This title is taken directly from Christ’s role as the Good Shepherd. The pastor is to preach, teach, lead, care for and protect Christ-followers under his care. This role is connected to the last role – Teachers are to teach the gospel and related doctrinal truths necessary for spiritual growth.
Each of these roles was given so the Church could move forward in unity. The emphasis is on growing in the knowledge of Christ, training for ministry, becoming unified in faith and reaching a level of maturity in Christ through the bond of love.
Bible Studies for Life
God’s will and the Bible
Psalm 19:7-14 (HCSB)
This is an amazing Psalm. I agree with C.S. Lewis who called this Psalm “the greatest poem in the Psalms and one of the greatest lyrics in the world.” This Psalm describes God’s revelation of Himself through His creation, in the Bible, and in the heart of the believer. Our lesson emphasis is on the Bible, but we need the context of the whole Psalm.
Psalm 19:1-6 focuses on God’s revelation of Himself through creation. David powerfully described creation as a wordless book (Psa. 19:3). Creation speaks constantly, silently and universally, declaring the glory of God.
Using a map of the night sky, I hopped from star to star with my telescope looking for an object I had only seen in pictures, the Ring Nebula. When I finally saw it, I simply voiced, “Lord, Your heavens declare Your glory!”
As awesome as creation is, it is inadequate in revealing the attributes of God and His purpose for creation and in assisting us in determining God’s will for our lives. God’s Word is perfect, or adequate, for this (Psa. 19:7). David gave various titles to God’s Word: instruction, testimony, precepts, commandments and ordinances. He also gave various characteristics of God’s Word: perfect, trustworthy, right, pure, reliable and righteous. Mixed in with these titles and characteristics are the benefits that are available from God’s Word: restoration, wisdom, rejoicing and enlightenment. Charles Swindoll said, “While the Lord isn’t likely to speak audibly to you, He is not silent! He has said and continues to say more than we can absorb and apply.”
God’s Word can be like pure gold, sweet honey and a great reward (Psa. 19:10-12). It can warn us of evil and dangers, keep us from sin, help us to know right from wrong and correct and cleanse us. The key is in verse 11: We must keep His ordinances. Only the Word of God can make our speech and hearts pleasing to God. The study of God’s Word is the most important spiritual discipline, and it is necessary for us to align our will with His will.