September 15, 2019
Explore the Bible
Ephesian 2:1-10 (HCSB)
Ephesians 2:1-3 paints a completely hopeless situation. We were dead because of our trespasses and sin. We lived the way of the world, which is ruled by Satan whose spirit influences many to be disobedient.
Something amazing happens in verse 4, “But God…” D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, pastor of London’s Westminster Chapel for nearly 30 years, said, “These two words [‘But God’] in and of themselves, in a sense contain the whole of the gospel. The gospel tells us what God has done, God’s intervention; it is something that comes entirely from outside us and displays to us that wondrous and amazing and astonishing work of God.” Salvation is something God does in Christ, not us (Eph. 2:8).
What did God do? He made us alive with Christ (Eph. 2:5). We were dead, but He made us alive. He also raised us up with Christ (Eph. 2:6). “Raised up” is important. We are raised up “from” our sin and death “to” a new life in Christ. God also seated us with Christ in the heavens (Eph. 2:6). God considers us worthy and has destined us to be positioned with Christ in heaven when we arrive there.
God does all this because He loves us and wants to “display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7). Paul expounded on God’s grace (Eph. 2:8). God didn’t have to save us. He loved us and wanted to. This is called grace, and it is what saved us. Grace is a gift from God. It is not earned or deserved. Even our faith, the conduit of grace, is a gift from God. There is no part of salvation that can be attributed to us. We are entirely God’s workmanship (Eph. 2:10).
Salvation results in good works (Eph. 2:10). The Reformers used to say, “It is faith alone that justifies, but faith that justifies can never be alone.” Faith in Christ is always accompanied with good works at home, at work, at school, at church, in your city and everywhere.
Bible Studies for Life
The key to contentment
Philippians 4:10-20 (HCSB)
More: More food and drinks; more opportunities and success; more salary and benefits; more square footage in our homes; more garages for more boats, cars and trucks; more time off to play with more toys; more gadgets and gizmos. Advertisers attempt to capitalize off of this discontent, “Don’t settle for this when you can have this” or “Why settle for one when you can have two?”
The Apostle Paul said, “I have learned the secret [of being content]” (Phil. 4:12). Contentment in the Greek New Testament is defined as “sufficient in oneself.” The Stoic philosophers of Paul’s day taught that contentment was self-sufficiency. For them contentment was a matter of personal will. Paul did not teach self-sufficiency, “Not that we are competent in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our competence is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5).
Paul elevated contentment to a higher level, “Christ-sufficiency.” Christian contentment is believing that Christ is sufficient for every need. Because he had spiritual resources in Christ, Paul could say, “I can accept all things;” “I can do all things,” and “I have all things” (Phil. 4:11, 13, 18).
Contentment, for Paul, was not complacency based on a shallow philosophical idea that provided a false sense of peace. Paul had to learn how to be content. The word “learn” is from a Greek word which means “to learn from experience.” It is where we get our word for “disciple” and “discipleship.” Contentment is learned; it is part of our discipleship.
Paul had to learn to trust in God’s providence, strength and promises. In His providence, God caused the church of Philippi to be concerned for Paul’s needs (Phil. 4:10). God’s strength was not only a resource for Paul’s contentment; it was also the secret (Phil. 4:12-13). Paul had the promise God would meet his every need (Phil. 4:19).
Warren Wiersbe said, “God has not promised to supply your greeds.” He does promise to meet our needs. We should include learning to be content in our ongoing discipleship.
September 22, 2019
Explore the Bible
Ephesian 2:11-22 (HCSB)
Ephesians 2:11-22 describes hostility between Jews and Gentiles that went back hundreds of years. A Jew would not enter Palestine without first shaking the Gentile dust from his sandals. If a Jewish man or woman married a Gentile, that person’s family would have a funeral because that person would be declared dead to his or her religion, family and God. The Jews called Gentiles the “uncircumcised” (Eph. 2:11). This was a derogatory term. Paul’s distaste for such language is seen in his words “by those called ‘the circumcised’” (Eph. 2:11). It literally means “by the so-called circumcision” (Eph. 2:11).
The Gentiles were alienated spiritually. They were without the Messiah (Eph. 2:12). They had no messianic hope of a Savior. They only had empty promises from pagan deities and philosophies of men. They were excluded from citizenship of Israel (Eph. 2:12). Scripture makes it clear that God had dealt with the pagan nations, and they rejected Him. They were also alienated from the covenant promises of God (Eph. 2:12). These promises would be extended to anyone who would believe in Him, and they would receive the promise of eternal life.
In verse 13, Paul began to describe the beautiful picture of reconciliation that is possible through Christ’s death on the cross. Paul said Christ “tore down the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph. 2:14). This is an allusion to the wall that separated the Court of the Gentiles from the interior Jewish part of the temple. Jesus’ death on the cross tore down the wall of hostility and brought Jews and Gentiles together (Eph. 2:14-16). Through Christ’s death on the cross, the hostility between the Jew and the Gentile has been put to death (Eph. 2:16). In reconciliation, Christ created a “new man” of the two, and it resulted in both being at peace with each other (Eph. 2:13-15, 17).
Reconciliation makes no reference to nationality, race, skin color or gender. With Christ, the only identity that matters is identity in Him. There is only one Christianity. There is only one Lord, and He only has one Church. In Christ, we are all one people.
Bible Studies for Life
1 Timothy 6:6-11, 17-19 (HCSB)
I looked in my rearview mirror and saw the left lane was clear, so I turned on my blinker and proceeded to enter the lane. Then I heard another driver laying on the horn. I swerved back into my lane. I failed to account for my blind spot. One of the biggest blind spots for Christians and churches is materialism. Possessions can give us a false sense of security and can lead us crashing into the depths of sin.
Paul said, “Godliness with contentment is a great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6). “Great gain” does not translate into material gain. The context teaches us that the false teachers in Ephesus were using religion for material gain. The gain of which Paul spoke is “more godliness.” There is a huge difference between using godliness as a means to an end and using godliness as an end in itself.
Paul described the futility of materialism, “We brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out” (1 Tim. 6:7). There is an old proverb that says, “Burial shrouds have no pockets.” You can’t take it with you. Paul said we should be content with the basic needs for living (1 Tim. 6:8). Jesus advised us, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you” (Matt. 6:33). Most of the things we worry about, collect and think we need end up in a storage unit or a yard sale.
Craving possessions and money can lead to our destruction (1 Tim. 6:9-10). Craving more possessions can cause us to wander from our faith and lead us into sorrow. Many possessions require time and energy. They can lead us away from God, our family and our church. I knew a man who got a new boat. He became a new name on the absentee list at church. Careful, it doesn’t take long for possessions to take possession of us.
Paul’s counter to materialism is for us to set our hope on God and store up riches in heaven (1 Tim. 6:17-19).