301. “Halleluia, I belong!” Praying through Ephesians. Ephesians 3:1-6. Epistle for Epiphany Jany 6th 2019

“Halleluia, I belong!” is the cry of the person who discovers that in coming to faith in Christ, they now belong to God’s people. His people whom He has called to Himself through the ages. Paul in this chapter wrote about the mystery of the gospel that God had revealed to humankind through Paul and other apostles and prophets. It is “good news” about belonging, for those who feel or have felt they didn’t really belong anywhere. What an incredible joy it is to discover that one belongs to the eternal purpose of God for His world as Paul previously reminded us in Ephesians 1:4, “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” Wow! Chosen in Him! Chosen to belong to Him before the world was even made!

THE PASSAGE FROM EPHESIANS 3. [3:1-6]

Eph 3:1 “For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

A SUGGESTED PRAYER BASED ON EPHESIANS 3:1-6

“Lord, We thank You for the truths You have revealed to us in Ephesians chapter 3. We thank You that You have revealed to us, that as believers, we are fellow heirs with all Your faithful people throughout all generations. We thank You that we belong to the one body of Christ throughout the world and throughout human history. We thank You that we are partakers of all the promises that You have given to those who trust in Jesus.

Empower us by Your Holy Spirit to show our gratitude for Your grace to us by living in the way You want us to live, now and forever. AMEN!

NOTES ON THE PASSAGE FROM EPHESIANS 3:1-6

“Mystery.”

  • What is a mystery in the New Testament? The Greek word is [mystērion, μυστήριον] which means an open secret for those who have eyes to see. But it had to be revealed by God. It was not humanly possible to be discerned apart from Him.
  • How was it revealed? It is truth made known by God’s revelation through chosen people being the apostles [including Paul himself] and prophets.
  • What was the mystery? Paul here lists three aspects of the mystery about believers, about those who belong! They are:-

“Fellow heirs.”  The phrase is also mentioned in Rom 8:17 where we are seen to be fellow heirs with Christ Himself as well as with other believers from Jewish or Gentile backgrounds, “and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” What is His, is ours in Him! Wow! As Paul reminded the believers in Corinth, “For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” 1 Cor 3:21-23.

“Members of the same body.”  The “body” of course, is the body of Christ. It is composed of all who put their trust in Christ throughout the ages. How exciting to meet up with believers from various parts of the world and to discover that we all belong to the one body of people throughout the world for whom Christ is central. We belong to Him, and to one another in Him!

“Partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” This Greek word for “partakers” [symmetochos, συμμέτοχος] is only used twice in the New Testament. The other occurrence is in Ephesians 5:7 where believers are warned not to be partakers of, nor to share in false teaching. Here however the emphasis is on the privilege of believers as being sharers of the blessings flowing from the promises of God which found their fulfilment in Jesus. As Paul wrote, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” 2Cor 1:20.

What a privilege to belong to Him! What treasures we have in Him!

Blog No.301 posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Thursday 8th November 2018

Posted in Bible verses. Comments, Creation, Evangelism, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Lectionary Readings Year C 2019, Prayer, Praying our way through Paul's letter to the Ephesians, Salvation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

300. An Outline Of Ephesians Chapter 3. The “Mystery” of the Gospel

Everybody loves a mystery.  Especially are they excited when they work out the answer to a mystery! The Bible talks about a mystery. It was a hidden mystery. It was an unexpected mystery. But it became an open secret [for those with eyes to see].

What was the mystery and what application does it have for us in our everyday lives today?  The mystery has been revealed and Yes, it does have a lot of application for millions of people in today’s world. Surprising news! Incredible news! But true!

Paul used the word for “mystery” [mustērion, μυστήριον ] on 20 occasions out of the 27 occurrences in the New Testament. He described this mystery in his letter to the Ephesians. He begins in chapter 1 by saying that the mystery has been revealed according to the riches of His grace,  “which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” Eph 1:8-10. The mystery is that God wants to bring unity, cosmic unity, to His universe through Christ.

It is very helpful to see how he used the word in this chapter 3 of Ephesians. In fact, the chapter could be built around the following outline, based on the word “mystery.” [I hope to examine the whole chapter in greater detail in future articles.]

1].        GOD’S MYSTERY ABOUT UNITY IN CHRIST WAS MADE KNOWN BY REVELATION TO THE APOSTLES AND PROPHETS

Eph 3:1  For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—

Eph 3:2  assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you,

Eph 3:3  how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly.

Eph 3:4  When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ,

  • Eph 3:5  which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations
  • as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.

2].        WHAT GOD’S MYSTERY IS ALL ABOUT! UNITY IN CHRIST!

Eph 3:6  This mystery is that the Gentiles are

  • fellow heirs,
  • members of the same body,
  • and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

3].        PAUL’S PART IN REVEALING THE PLAN OF THE MYSTERY BY THE GRACE OF GOD

Eph 3:7  Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace,

  • which was given me by the working of his power.
  • Eph 3:8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given,
    • to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,
    • Eph 3:9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things,

4].        THE CHURCH’S PART IN REVEALING THE MYSTERY OF UNITY IN CHRIST!

Eph 3:10  so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

  • Eph 3:11  This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,
  • Eph 3:12  in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.
  • Eph 3:13  So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

5].        BELIEVING PRAYER FOR BEING FILLED WITH THE FULLNESS OF GOD IS BASED ON THE TRUTH OF THIS MYSTERY OF UNITY IN CHRIST!

Eph 3:14  For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,

Eph 3:15  from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,

Eph 3:16  that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you

  • to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
  • Eph 3:17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—
  • that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
  • Eph 3:18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints
    • what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
    • Eph 3:19  and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,
    • that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

6].        A DOXOLOGY TO THE GOD WHO REVEALED THE MYSTERY OF UNITY IN CHRIST!

Eph 3:20  Now to him who is able to do

  • far more abundantly
  • than all that we ask
  • or think,
  • according to the power at work within us,
  • Eph 3:21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Blog No 300 posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Tuesday 11th November 2018

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Creation, Forgiveness, OUTLINE OF EPHESIANS, Prayer, Praying our way through Paul's letter to the Ephesians | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

299. Sorry! Saying “Sorry” Unfortunately Doesn’t Bring Full Closure To Some People. Is there another way to bring closure for people who have been deeply hurt or abused?

The Australian Federal Parliament recently held a ‘Sorry Day’ to express the sorrow of Australian citizens for the abuse suffered by children at the hands of perpetrators in many organisations over the years. it was hoped that if the Federal Parliament of Australia said “Sorry” it might help to bring about closure in the lives of abuse victims. It appears that many people were initially helped by the process. There were others though who expressed their reservations about the whole procedure.

Many folk have since asked questions such as these, “How many times must people say sorry before those who were once abused feel there is closure?” Or “How much money has to be given to some abuse victims before they feel they have been fully compensated for their abuse?”

They are difficult questions to even raise, let alone answer. However it has to be said that it is better to err on the side of generosity when dealing with those who been victims of abuse than to treat them with too much suspicion. Some of the stories I have heard from people over the years made me wonder how anyone could have survived what those people went through. They may have survived but by no means were they left unscathed.

DAMAGE AND PAIN ARE REAL

Many of us know in part the tremendous pain of those who were once abused. Lives have been severely damaged and some destroyed. Huge human potential has been lost as those who could have contributed greatly to our human society, had their confidence and feeling of self-worth destroyed. They felt, as a result of the abuse, they were nothing and had nothing to offer.

The damage of abuse is seen in many areas of human lives. One major impact is the psychological damage done to victims. Many of them even decades later still carry the emotional scars of their abuse. Others can still feel the pain of the lashes of a cane or lash across their body and some even have the physical scars as evidence. Unfortunately others were affected spiritually when their abuse happened in a religious organisational setting. Many of them have said that they wondered how God could have allowed such horrible things to happen to them. Their picture of God remains a distorted or even a grotesque one.

In my dealings for over 50 years with abuse victims it became obvious that many of them remained emotionally marred by their experiences of the abuse they suffered.  Others became remarkably free of the negative impacts coming from their abuse. How?

TWO INJUSTICES EXIST AT PRESENT

  1. The injustice done to the victims. If abuse did happen, then they were indeed the victims of  injustice. Whilst ever their cases were not being addressed they remained the victims of injustice. Every survivor needs to have their story listened to, attentively, compassionately! As much help as is humanly possible should be offered to those who suffered genuine abuse.
  2. The injustice being done to individuals in organisations in which historical abuse once took place. The organisations may have been religious organisations like churches, schools or youth groups etc. However the present individuals in those organisations were not responsible for the abuse committed in the past. The present individuals in those groups may be extremely sorry for what happened in the past and express their sorrow that it happened by saying “Sorry” to the victims. However they can’t apologise for or ask forgiveness for themselves for crimes they themselves never committed. Blaming people for something that wasn’t their fault is also injustice.

INJUSTICE MUST BE DEALT WITH, BUT HOW?

We may hear cries such as, “Someone’s got to pay for what happened! Justice demands it!” Or “The evil the abusers did has to be punished!” True statements but the truths behind them may be very difficult to implement.  In many cases the perpetrators who did the abuse are no longer alive. There is no way they can be punished for their crimes except by having their names recorded as perpetrators of abuse. It would be unfair to impose some form of punishment on their families when none of them may have been involved in the abuse. [Unless of course the perpetrator of an abuse gained financially from their victim as a result of the abuse. One would think any financial gain that was taken from a victim should be restored to the victim.]

ONGOING APOLOGIES AND FINANCIAL COMPENSATION

It could be argued that the effects of abuse are both short term and long term. Until the pain and associated shame has come to an end there would appear to be a need to continue in giving apologies and financial compensation to help ease the pain. But obviously it can’t go on forever. There has to be closure at some point, at least for some individuals who are open for it.

Is there another way? How can justice be met and closure become a real possibility in the lives of lives of abused victims?

THE HUMAN REALITY

Justice has been done. It is possible for people to be set free from the traumas of the past and be able to move on in life. But how?

The following are a number of truths that exist in reality and not just in our human imagination. But they are truths that have to be acted on in order become real in any individual’s life.

TRUTH NUMBER 1. Justice has been met. The punishment for all types of sins [including all forms of abuse] has been carried out.

  • God the Creator had a remedy for the human situation. He knew from the beginning that His creatures would fail to live as they should. They would harm each other as they exercised their freewill. He indicated that human sin was horrific in His sight. Sin had to be atoned for by sacrifice.
  • He instituted a whole sacrificial system which showed that all forms of sin would need a sacrifice to remove the guilt of sinners.
  • The sacrifices were all prototypes of the One sacrifice that would cover the sins of the whole world throughout all generations
  • Jesus was seen as “the lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” It was always in God’s eternal plan and purpose that He as the Son of God should fulfil all the prophecies of the promised Messiah and be made sin for humankind.
  • Jesus did make that one perfect sacrifice for sins that would remove guilt forever. As the writer to the Hebrews wrote, Heb 10:12 “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”
  • The benefits of the one atoning sacrifice exist in Him alone. Forgiveness for all sin and eternal life. They can only be received in Him. Eph 1:7 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”
  • They are being received in Him daily by individuals throughout the world.

TRUTH NUMBER 2. Healing and release have become available for the abused  

  • Every person needs forgiveness and it is possible for them to experience it. Paul wrote in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Every sin is a sin against God as well as against our fellow human. But the good news is that God made forgiveness available, as the next verse indicates, “and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Christ has died to set people free of the penalty their sins deserved. Forgiveness is available in Him and because of Him.
  • Not only can we experience the release of being forgiven ourselves but we can also experience the release of being forgiving. St Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.“ The great significance of this verse is that the word used for “forgiving “and “forgave” is [charizomai; χαρίζομαι] which comes from [charis] meaning grace, God’s unmerited favour towards us.  God “graced” us with forgiveness when we put our trust in Christ. We didn’t deserve it and we couldn’t earn it.  No amount of money could buy it. It was an act of sheer grace towards us. In forgiving us He gave us something we could never earn nor deserve nor purchase.
  • We are to forgive in the same way as He forgave us. That is, we are to forgive that other person, bestowing on them a gift they could never deserve, earn or buy!
  • However our sin against other humans is not in the same magnitude as our sin against God as the Perfect One. If God is willing to forgive us of so much, then we need to forgive others of their sins against us which are [by comparison] so much less, even though those sins may have been absolutely horrifying with devastating consequences for us.
  • That is the point of the parable of the Unforgiving servant where a servant is forgiven by his master of a debt of billions of dollars, Mat 18:27 “And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.” But when that servant found another servant who owed him just a few dollars, he did not show pity. He did not release him. He did not forgive the debt. He had him thrown into prison! The master heard of this injustice, called the servant in and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ Mat 18:32-3.
  • If God has forgiven us of billions then we must forgive those who sinned against us of so little by comparison. For our own sake. Holding bitterness and unforgiveness against anyone means that we remain in the prison of our negative emotions. There can be no closure when we refuse to close the book of debts we think that person or those other people owe us. The very sad truth is that the when we refuse to forgive that person who hurt us, they still have some control over us. Our negative thoughts about them may bring back much of the pain we initially experienced from their abuse.

TRUTH NUMBER 3. Forgiveness is a choice

I have been amazed in ministry to see how some people who have been through the most vile and horrific experiences at the hands of other people, have become wonderfully free.  For all of them, their healing and release began with a choice. A choice initially to get their lives right with God by asking for His forgiveness and help. Then later, and sometimes much later, a choice to forgive the person or persons who had hurt them so much. Having experienced the joy and release of being forgiven by God they found that they became free to release that other person in forgiving them. Forgiven of billions, they were now able to forgive others of far less [by comparison.]

TRUTH NUMBER 4. Forgiveness is a must! For any sort of closure!

Forgiving someone doesn’t mean that we are condoning what happened to us. It isn’t lessening the degree of the damage done to us. It isn’t saying that the perpetrator is no longer guilty. [They remain guilty until they repent of their sins before God and find forgiveness in Him.]

It seems to me that this is really the only way to find closure from the pain of the memories of the ghastly things that have happened to us in the past. If our attitude is such they we are convinced that the only way we can be free and find closure is by getting that other person or those other people to say “Sorry” to us and to beg for our forgiveness, or pay us a whole lot of money in compensation, then we may never find any sort of release or closure. How often have they got to say “Sorry” to us? How much money do they need to pay to us in compensation?

In short, our release and healing is not dependent on what the other person or persons may do. Some may never say “Sorry” to us. Some may never give us any form of compensation. Rather it is dependent on what we decide to do. Sad! Inconvenient, but true!

A true story. Gertude [not her real name] came to see me. She had been sent by her minister in another denomination. She was Eastern European, depressed with a serious cancer. She was in a bad way. When she began to tell me about her life in Europe I could see why she looked back with deep sadness. As a young woman she had been badly burnt.  As a result she was wrapped in bandages from head to toe recovering in the same room as another young woman who was ill. Suddenly the door of the room burst open and a number of advancing Russian soldiers burst into the room. Finding an attractive young woman lying there they took turns in raping her while the wrapped-up “mummy” had to listen to the screams. Eventually the soldiers left leaving her untouched and the other woman violated and deeply traumatised. Gertrude had a very deep case of ‘survivor guilt’.  She felt guilty that she survived while the other woman was so badly treated. Later on, she was to suffer her own indignities and traumas which had left her with many lingering horrific memories.

Just before she came to see me, she had become a Christian and had asked God to forgive her and to heal her.  She wondered how she could ever lose those memories. And how could she ever forgive all those people who had abused her during her life? We talked about healing and forgiveness. She recognised that she needed to forgive her abusers so that she could become free of unhelpful murderous thoughts she often had towards them. She began to realise that she could choose to forgive them or she could choose not to do so. When she indicated that she needed to, and now wanted to forgive them so she could know healing I suggested a plan for her to follow. She could get a notebook and write down the names of the people who had hurt her over the years. Then she could come back to me later and she could bring the names in the book before the Lord as she forgave each one in turn.

Gertude returned a few weeks later. As I met her in the counselling room I was rather taken aback at the size of the large folder she was carrying. She smiled and said “There were more people than I thought there were!” Then she added those reassuring words, “But I have already brought lots of those names before the Lord and forgiven them. I just have a few more to bring before Him with you now.“

In my presence she asked the Lord to forgive her for holding unforgiveness towards a number of people. Then she began to forgive the remaining people one by one.  When she had finished I prayed that the Lord would bring her rapid and complete healing. Then we went outside where there was a large metal drum. She tore up all the sheets of paper that she had brought and set them on fire. For about an hour we remained there while she stirred the ashes with a long metal pole. When only ash remained we parted and as she left it was obvious that she was a different woman to the one who had come a few weeks earlier.

Some months later her minister rang and said, “What do you do to Gertrude. She a completely different woman! She has a clean bill of health as well.” She had allowed God to heal her. Forgiveness brings healing. Emotional, physical and spiritual healing.

Gertude had been violated and hurt perhaps more than most of will ever be in life. But she refused to see herself as an ongoing victim. She chose wisely. She chose to seek the Lord and His blessing and healing. Then she chose to do something about the bitterness she had had towards a number of people. The end result was a healed transformed woman whose change had amazed her minister.

Probably in the days to come we will have other “Sorry days” when we will be asked to say “Sorry” to victims of some form of abuse. We may have had nothing to do with that abuse but it is helpful for those abused to hear someone say “sorry!” Their pain does need to acknowledged.

But wouldn’t it be wonderful if some of those who heard our Prime Minister say “Sorry” to survivors of abuse a few days ago, didn’t feel the need to hear it again because they had experienced the release and healing that Gertrude experienced. That will always be my prayer for those who have been deeply wounded by the sin of some fellow humans.  Gertrude, as well as many others, have shown me that when they seek the Lord’s help in seeking to be forgiven and forgiving, He can do miracles!

Blog No 299 posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Thursday 25th October 2018

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298. A COMPILATION OF PRAYERS BASED ON EPHESIANS CHAPTER 2

In a series of recent articles I have looked at successive passages from Chapter 2 of the Epistle to the Ephesians and recorded some notes on those passages. I also composed the following prayers that were an attempt to pray back to God what He has revealed to us of His character, plans and purposes in those scriptures. [For convenience readers will find that clicking on the Blog numbers in the titles will take them to the original articles.]

EPHESIANS 2:1-7. A SUGGESTED PRAYER. Thanking God For The Freedom He Gives Us In Christ. [Biblical Text, Prayer and Notes are found in Blog No 293]

 “Heavenly Father, We thank You that though we were dead in our sins, You made us spiritually alive in Christ.

We thank You that when we were held in bondage by our three main enemies, You brought us liberty.

  • You set us free from the power of the enemy around us, the pressure of the unbelieving world, as we began to trust in You.
  • You set us free from the enemy against us, Satan and the powers of darkness, so that we became free to live as You wanted us to live.
  • You set us free from the enemy within us, our old nature, so that we could live for You by Your grace and power.  

We thank You too that in Your great love and mercy for us, You made us alive with Christ and made us to sit with Him in the place of honour and acceptance at Your right hand.

We thank You that You have shown us, and will continue to show us in the days ahead, just how much You love us.

Accept our grateful thanks for all Your mercies to us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN!”

EPHESIANS 2:8-10. A SUGGESTED PRAYER. Thanking God For The Salvation He Offers To Us As A Gift In Christ. [Biblical Text, Prayer and Notes are found in Blog No 294]

“Gracious Father,

We thank You for Your amazing grace so freely bestowed on us.

We thank you that when we could do nothing to save ourselves, You sent Jesus to save us.

We thank You that our salvation didn’t come to us as a reward for our good works. Rather in Your mercy and grace, it came to us as we received salvation as a gift in Him.

We thank You that You have made us for Yourself as Your own possession and that You have a created us to fulfil Your eternal plan and purpose for us.

We thank You for the good works You have prepared for us to walk in. Give us the wisdom to know Your will for us, and the ability to walk in Your ways, in the power of Your Holy Spirit.

We ask this in Jesus’ name. AMEN!”

EPHESIANS 2:11-13. A SUGGESTED PRAYER.  Thanking God For The Joy Of Belonging To Him And To His People. [Biblical Text, Prayer and Notes are found in Blog No 295]

“Oh Father, what it a joy it is to belong to You and to Your people. We thank You for all You have done through Jesus’ death on the cross to bring us back to You. We thank You that we are no longer separated, no longer alienated and that we have a sure hope because we belong to You. We thank You that You are our God and that we are now Your people.

Lord Jesus, we want to show our appreciation for all You have done for us, by enthroning You as our Lord and by serving You as our Master.  We pray these things in Your own precious name of Jesus. AMEN.”

EPHESIANS 2:14-16. A SUGGESTED PRAYER. Thanking God That Hostility Between Humans Can Come To An End, In Christ. [Biblical Text, Prayer And Notes Are Found In Blog No 296]

“Heavenly Father, we thank You that Jesus died to brings us back to You. We thank You that He has made it possible for people from all backgrounds to live in unity in Him. We thank You that in Him we all belong to the one body of Christ He has established in His world. We thank You that forgiveness of our sins and acceptance into Your family are offered freely to us in Him.

Help us to remember the incredible cost it was to Him as He hung on the cross for our sakes, so that we might be wholly committed to Him for the rest of our lives. We ask this in Jesus’ name and for His sake. AMEN.”

EPHESIANS 2:17-22. A SUGGESTED PRAYER.  Thanking God For The Joy Of Belonging! [Biblical Text, Prayer and Notes are found in Blog No 297]

 “Oh Lord, what a privilege it is to belong to You and to Your people! When we were nothing and had nothing of eternal value, You enabled us to hear the good news of what Jesus has done for us. We thank You that when we put our trust in Him, You allowed us to have access to You in prayer by Your Spirit.

We thank You that You have adopted us into Your family and that we belong to You and to all the other members of Your family throughout the world.

We pray that You will be glorified as You take up residence in every part of our lives  and that others may see and experience your presence in and through our lives, as we offer them to You. In Jesus’ name we pray. AMEN.”

Blog No.298 posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Sunday 21st October 2018.

NOTE:- The Compilation of the prayers from the articles on Ephesians chapter 1 can be found here.

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297. Praying through Ephesians. Ephesians 2:17-22. Being thankful for the joy of Belonging!

What a transformation! From being a nobody, to being a somebody! From having nothing, to having a great inheritance. From being an outsider, to becoming someone who belongs! To God! To His people! To being part of His eternal purpose for humankind! What praise is due to God!

 THE PASSAGE FROM EPHESIANS 2:17-22

Eph 2:17 “And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

 A PRAYER BASED ON EPHESIANS 2:17-22

“Oh Lord, what a privilege it is to belong to You and to Your people! When we were nothing and had nothing of eternal value, You enabled us to hear the good news of what Jesus has done for us. We thank You that when we put our trust in Him, You allowed us to have access to You in prayer by Your Spirit.

We thank You that You have adopted us into Your family and that we belong to You and to all the other members of Your family throughout the world.

We pray that You will be glorified as You take up residence in us and that others may see and experience your presence in and through our lives, as we offer them to You. In Jesus’ name we pray. AMEN.”

 SOME NOTES ON THE PASSAGE. EPHESIANS 2:17-22

How Jesus Established Peace.  2:17

  • Eph 2:17 “And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.” The “far off” were the Gentiles who were far off from God, from the promises of God and from the people of God. The “near” were the Jews who had the privileges of being the recipients of the covenants and promises of God, “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” Rom 9:4-5.
  • We saw that Jesus preached good news during His ministry and spelt out the foundation for how peace would be established through His death. For example as He celebrated the Last Supper, He indicated that peace through forgiveness would come through His death, “And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Mat 26:27-28.
  • He promised a sense of peace in giving rest to those who were troubled, Mat 11:28 “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
  • After His resurrection, His first word to His gathered disciples was “Peace!” (Lk 24:36, “As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” See also Jn 20:19, 21.) He said a similar thing a few days later, Joh 20:26 “Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you’.” Jn 20:26.
  • Not only did Jesus speak about peace, He actually accomplished the reality of peace through His death and subsequent resurrection.

 What Resulted From His Efforts To Bring Peace?

  • Common access to God! Eph 2:18 “For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” When people from Jewish or Gentile backgrounds responded to the gospel message and trusted in Christ, they were born again of the Holy Spirit of God. They gained access to God by His Spirit.
  • Incorporation into the people of God and the family of God! Eph 2:19 “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” Through Christ they were no longer outsiders. Rather, they now belonged. To God and to the family of God!
  • Establishment on a sure foundation. Eph 2:20 “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.” The Gentile believers were not just a recent addition to the purposes of God. They too were built on the same foundation as the Jewish believers, especially on Christ as the cornerstone.

What was God’s intention in bringing Jew and Gentile believers together in Christ?

  • To create a holy presence on earth. His presence! By His Spirit! Eph 2:21 “in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” The temple was the symbol of the presence of God among His people.
  • The growth into a holy temple would be numerically as more came to Christ. But it would also be spiritually as they matured together in Christ, Eph 2:22 “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” God living in and among His people! By His Holy Spirit! Indwelling His people.

No wonder Paul wanted his readers in Ephesus to understand just who they were in Christ and what they possessed, in Him!

Blog No 297 was posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Saturday 20th October 2018.

 

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Glorification, Prayer, Praying our way through Paul's letter to the Ephesians, Salvation, Sanctification | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

296. Praying through Ephesians. Ephesians 2:14-16. In Christ, Hostility Gives Way To Peace

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love, It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.” These are the words of a popular song from many years ago. Perhaps it is true to say that our world is in much greater need of love now, than ever before. There is just so much hostility between different groups of people and we wonder if peace can ever become a reality in today’s world.

The good news is that it is possible for such a world to exist. Jesus has made it possible as the Prince of Peace. But there are conditions for that to happen. We read about those conditions in this passage from Ephesians.

THE PASSAGE FROM EPHESIANS 2:14-16

Ephesians 2:14 “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”

 A PRAYER BASED ON EPHESIANS 2:14-16

“Heavenly Father, we thank You that Jesus died to brings us back to You. We thank You that He has made it possible for people from all backgrounds to live in unity in Him. We thank You that in Him we all belong to the one body of Christ He has established in His world. We thank You that forgiveness of our sins and acceptance into Your family are offered freely to us in Him.

Help us to remember the incredible cost it was to Him as He hung on the cross for our sakes, so that we might be wholly committed to Him for the rest of our lives. We ask this in Jesus’ name and for His sake. AMEN.”

 SOME NOTES ON THE PASSAGE FROM EPHESIANS 2:14-16

 Jesus Is The Source Of Peace

  • Eph 2:14 “For he himself is our peace.” Paul, as he wrote, made it emphatic that Jesus Himself is our peace. He as a Person is the agent, the source and the distributor of peace. He was the agent in bringing peace through His death on a cross. He is the source of peace because the peace that exists in Him is to be found only in Him. He is the distributer of His peace as He explained in John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
  • This peace is not just some abstract feeling but is embodied in a Person. When one has received the Person, one has received the peace in Him. That peace can become manifest in our own experience as we allow the Prince of Peace, Jesus, to rule in our lives. If one does not receive the Person, one cannot receive the peace He only offers in Himself.

 What Jesus Did To Establish Peace

  • 2:14 “….who has made us both one.” Paul has been writing about the Jews and the non-Jews, the Gentiles. Instead of an ongoing divide between these two groups, a oneness was now possible, but only through Christ. When individuals from both groups received Jesus as Saviour and Lord they were united in Him because they received the same Holy Spirit to indwell them.
  • “and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” The wall of hostility appears to have been a reference to a wall in the Temple that separated the Court of the Gentiles from all the inner courts. It was a “hostile” wall because it apparently warned of the danger to any Gentile who tried to enter further into the temple. But Christ by His death had “entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” Heb 9:12. The symbolism behind the wall had been taken away and the way was now open for all to enter into the presence of God, through Him. The way for both Jews and Gentiles to enter into a relationship with God if they came through faith in Jesus.

 How Did He Remove The Hostility?

  • Eph 2:15 “by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances.” The law with its commandments and associated ordinances created a great barrier between Jews and Gentiles, for the former were meant to live by that law and to fashion their lives according to that law. The Gentiles were under no such obligation unless they wanted to become people of the law themselves.
  • But a new thing had happened. Jesus had come. He had come to fulfil the law by obeying it perfectly. At last a human had fulfilled the law in its entirety. Not only that but He died on the cross to bear the punishment for all the transgressions of the law. In that sense the law was fulfilled doubly, by His life and by His death. It was as though it had been abolished as a means of drawing near to God. A new and living way had been established by Jesus and could be entered into, through faith in Jesus.

 For What Purpose Did Jesus Remove The Wall Of Hostility?

  • “that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace.” The two of course referred to the Jews and the Gentiles. But Jesus had united them into one new man in Himself. Because they were one in reality, there could be peace between them, in Him.
  • Eph 2:16 “and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility”. The same truth is expressed as in the previous verse, but in different terms. A twofold reconciliation had become possible in Jesus. Believers from Jewish and Gentile backgrounds had been reconciled to God and also to one another through what Jesus had done on the cross in achieving that reconciliation. It meant that as one people united to one another through their faith in Jesus, the hostility could cease. It was inappropriate and unnecessary for the new people of God from different backgrounds to be hostile to one another. They now belonged to one another in the same body of Christ and in the same family of God.

Blog No.296 posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Saturday 20th October 2018

 

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Creation, Forgiveness, Justification, Prayer, Praying our way through Paul's letter to the Ephesians, Salvation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

295. Changing The World Through Prayer. Prayer Based On Ephesians 2:11-13. The Joy Of Belonging!  “Brought Near” By Jesus’ Death

The joy of belonging! Only when one has known the sadness of being isolated and alone can one really appreciate the joy of belonging. In this passage Paul describes a group of people who were nothing and had nothing to boast about [in the eyes of many who believed themselves to be privileged.] He writes to tell them what God had done in His amazing grace and love to make them belong to Him and to His family.

THE BIBLE PASSAGE FROM Ephesians 2:11-13

Eph 2:11 “Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” 

A PRAYER BASED ON Ephesians 2:11-13

“Oh Father, what it a joy it is to belong to You and to Your people. We thank You for all You have done through Jesus’ death on the cross to bring us back to You. We thank You that we are no longer separated, no longer alienated and that we have a sure hope because we belong to You. We thank You that You are our God and that we are now Your people.

Lord Jesus, we want to show our appreciation for all You have done for us, by enthroning You as our Lord and by serving You as our Master.  We pray these things in Your own precious name of Jesus. AMEN.”

 SOME NOTES ON Ephesians 2:11-13

In Ephesians 2:11-13, the Gentiles [non-Jews] are described in many negative terms. However the passage ends on the positive note that those who were once ‘far off’ have been ‘brought near.’

The following are some of the negative terms used of the Gentiles [non-Jews].

  • They were called the “uncircumcision” by those called the “circumcision.” In other words the Jews at the time saw the Gentiles as being different, as not belonging because they didn’t bear the “mark” of belonging, the mark of circumcision.
  • “separated from Christ.” “Separated” is the word [chōris, χωρίς which can mean simply “without.” They were “without” Christ in the world. So are all people until they receive Him. As John wrote in his prologue, He came to His own people but even many of them didn’t receive Him, Joh 1:11 “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” However there were those who did receive Him from among His own people, 12 “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”   The same privilege also applied to the Gentiles who were willing to receive Him. They no longer were without Christ. No longer separated from Christ.
  • “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel.” They were without citizenship in the nation of Israel.
  • “and strangers to the covenants of promise.” Promises had been made to the heirs of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob but they did not apply to those outside that covenant relationship.
  • “having no hope.” Hope is something certain because it is based on the promises of God. It is made real by faith. Faith brings substance to our hopes. But hope is bound up with Christ. Apart from Him there is no hope. In receiving Him, one takes hold of the hope that exists only in Him.
  • “and without God in the world.” They may have been creatures of God the Creator, but they weren’t in a relationship with Him. They existed but did not have a relationship with Him. God allowed them to exercise their free-will in rejecting Him. He was there for them but He awaited their openness to Him before He entered their “personal space.”

“BUT”

What an incredibly powerful and life-changing word! Paul had been describing just how it was when God was excluded from people’s lives but something happened that meant changes were possible. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” verse 13.

  • They were now “in Christ” rather than being “without Christ” or “separate from Christ.” They were now in a relationship with Him as His followers.
  • They were once “far off”. Far off from God. Far off from the promises of God. Far off from the covenants of God. Far off from the people of God.
  • What happened? They were “brought near.” Near to God. Near to His people. Near to His plan and purposes for them. Near to His covenants. Near to His saving grace.
  • How did it happen? “By the blood of Christ.” verse 13. Something major had to happen for that nearness to come into effect. Jesus had to die. It was only His shed blood on the cross that made that approach to God possible. No one else’s! Only His! Extremely costly, but completely successful!
  • The writer to the Hebrews explained the necessity for the death of Jesus, for his readers from a Jewish background, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh.” Heb 10:19-20.

Praise God that when everything seems to be hopeless and there seems to be no way ahead, change is possible. The words “But God” assure us of the possibility of change.

  • Sinners are in a hopeless situation “’but God’ shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom 5:8.
  • When we feel we are insignificant we can be encouraged because we read, “’But God’ chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” 1 Cor 1:27-29.

Once “far off”! BUT GOD! Now we “are near”. Now we belong to Him and to one another in the family of God in Him!

 Blog No.295. Posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Thursday 18th October 2018.

 

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Forgiveness, Healing, Justification, Prayer, Praying our way through Paul's letter to the Ephesians, Salvation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment