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Sunday, October 31 2021

God created man, male and female, and designed them to come together in marriage (Genesis 1:26–27; 2:24). He has the answer for every struggle in marriage and family. To accept God’s answers, one must begin with humility before the Creator and Designer of the home. For the church family, Christians are to humble themselves before one another in reverence of Christ (Ephesians 5:21). This is what the apostle Paul means by commanding believers to submit to one another. The Greek word behind “submit” means to set oneself below others, to subordinate. The instruction to put self below others is a command to humble oneself. In his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul taught, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3–4). This is selfless subordination.

With the instruction for Christians to subordinate and humble themselves before other Christians, the apostle Paul instructed wives to subordinate to their husbands “as to the Lord” in everything (Ephesians 5:22–24). In other words, wives are to humble themselves before their husbands as they do before Christ without exception. Women may have various reasons for not wanting to behave humbly toward their husbands, but God commands humility in marriage to affect the husband (cf. 1 Peter 3:1–6). In Genesis 3:16, God predicted that woman will long for her husband but he will rule. In other words, those who rebel against the humility that God commands will not be victorious and will not accomplish what one wants. Unless wives humble themselves before their husbands, they have not yet fully submitted to God. Furthermore, humility is essential for women to obey God’s command to respect their husbands (cf. 5:33). Christian women need to respect their husbands in front of family and all people.

What about husbands? God instructs husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25). As Christ gave Himself for the church, husbands are to give themselves for their wives, and thus husbands are the head of the wife for the purpose of keeping her holy (5:26). Husbands are not the head of wives as dictators but as servants (cf. Mark 10:42–45). The apostle Paul noted that Christ makes the church holy with splendor and without spot and blemish (5:27). Therefore, husbands imitate by seeking and leading their wives in pure and holy living.

Husbands are to imitate Christ by loving their wives as their own bodies nourishing and cherishing her (5:28–30). In other words, he is to provide and be warmly affectionate to his wife. God assigned this role of the husband from Genesis 2:24 as the apostle Paul noted, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Ephesians 5:31). The apostle concluded by instructing, “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33). God has provided a basis for the husband and wife in the home according to His original plan. Children need to see their father’s affection and care in loving his wife, and children need to see their mother living respectfully toward her husband. This is the only way to maintain the home, restore marriage, and secure their children going forward. 

Furthermore, the apostle Paul instructed children to obey their parents and so honor their father and mother (6:1–2). This command comes with the original promise from God that those who honor their parents will do well in life and live long (6:3). The apostle concluded with commanding fathers not to provoke their children to resentful anger but rather to discipline and train them according to the Lord (6:4). Fathers are essential to establishing discipline and training children according to God’s way. The greatest influence of the faithfulness of children is the faithfulness of their fathers to the Lord.

Thank God for designing the home and giving Christians instructions for marriage and raising faithful and holy children. The Bible is the ultimate book for life that gives the answers all people need and can use to live with increasing love, joy, and peace.

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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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