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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.

Posted by: Scott J Shifferd AT 07:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
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).

Posted by: Scott J Shifferd AT 07:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email