Tag Archives: transformation

Bible Overview Project: Jude

Jude by Joseph Novak

Jude: If ever the world is burned to ashes in a nuclear holocaust, let the last human being recite the epistle of Jude, and die.

(Ben Myers’ #CanonFodder Summary) 

Jeffrey Kranz’s Overview of Jude

Jude came from an important family:

  • The Lord Jesus Christ was his brother
  • Mary was his mother
  • James, the church leader was also his brother

Jude hadn’t always believed in Jesus (Jn 7:5;Mk 3:21), but after He rose from the dead, things changed. The world changed (Acts 17:6). His brother changed. Jude changed.

Now he shared this glorious salvation with people all over the world: Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female—all united in Christ. He  wanted desperately to write about it. But he couldn’t.

The church was facing a more pressing issue: people were creeping into the church unnoticed (Jd 4). These were not “seekers,” nonbelievers who were genuinely curious about Christianity.  They claimed to be believers. But they denied the exclusive authority of Jesus, twisting His grace into a license to sin all they wanted.

They were infiltrators. They indulged in sexual immorality, greed, and grumbling. They rejected the authority of the apostles, angels, and the Lord. They caused churches to split up into opposing factions.

The children of God needed to keep their eyes open for this kind of behavior in the churches. So instead of writing about the salvation they shared, Jude wrote a brief, hard-hitting letter to the churches of the world.

In just 25 verses, Jude covers a few important points for Christians to remember:

  • The threat to the faith. The ungodly people are perverting the grace of God and denying the only Master, Jesus (Jd 4). God will judge them, just like He has judged the unbelievers in the past (Jd 5).
  • Characteristics of the ungodly. Jude compares these unrestrained, divisive people to unruly angels, Sodom and Gomorrah, Cain the murderer, the profit-hungry Balaam, and the rebellious Korah. Jude brings in examples from both the Old Testament and other nonbiblical writings.
  • The apostles’ warnings. The church had been dealing with false teachers for a while—some people were even pretending to be apostles of Jesus, with the authority of Peter, James, Paul, and John (2 Co 11:13). The apostles had warned that “mockers” would arise, causing doubt and division in the church.

But Jude is more than just a detractor. He doesn’t just write a list of red flags. This is a letter that urges the Christians to “earnestly contend for the faith”—to fight long and hard on behalf of their Lord. And Jude tells them how to combat this attack:

  • Build themselves up in faith. They are to pray in the Holy Spirit, maintain themselves in God’s love, and wait for eternal life in Jesus.
  • Show mercy to others. They should have mercy on those who doubt, even on those who are stained by sin. They’re to be rescuers, snatching some out of the fires that will come.

Jude is a call to fight, but it’s not like any other battle cry in history. It’s a charge to delight in God and show mercy to others. This is how the church fights valiantly for the faith: by loving God and showing mercy.

Theme verse of Jude

[. . .] I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. (Jud 3b)

Jude’s role in the Bible

Jude is the seventh and last of the General Epistles (or Catholic Letters), the writings of apostles to the church at large. While Paul wrote to specific congregations and individuals, Peter, James, John, and Jude wrote to broader audiences across the Roman empire. We’re not sure when Jude was written.

Jude’s content mirrors the second and third chapters of Peter’s second letter. We don’t know if Peter borrowed from Jude’s letter, if Jude borrowed from Peter’s letter, or if both men were drawing from a prior discussion. Both letters, however, warn the church of two dangerous influences:

  1. False teachers who lead the people to indulge in sin
  2. Mockers who dismiss the idea of Jesus’ return

One major difference between the two books is Jude’s use of apocryphal literature (Jewish writings outside of the Scriptures). Jude mentions events that aren’t recorded in the Bible, such as an argument between Michael the Archangel and the devil over the body of Moses, or Enoch’s ancient prophecies. These examples come from the Assumption of Moses and First Enoch. Jude’s intended audience was familiar with these pieces, and therefore would have appreciated the references.

But Jude also relies heavily on the inspired Scriptures, especially Genesis and Numbers. Jude references all sorts of Old Testament figures and events, including:

  • The Exodus from Egypt (Jd 5; Ex 12:51)
  • The generation of Israelites who died in the wilderness (Jd 5; Nu 14:35)
  • The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Jd 7; Gn 19:24)
  • Cain, the son of Adam, who killed his brother (Jd  11; Gn 4:8)
  • The prophet Balaam, who tried to curse the Israelites in exchange for money (Jd 11; Nu 22:31–33)
  • Korah, who rebelled against Moses and Aaron, but was swallowed up by the earth (Jd 11; Nu 16)
  • Enoch, the descendant of Adam and ancestor of Noah, whom God “took” from earth before he died (Jd 14; Gn 5:24; Heb 11:5)

Jude is only one chapter long, and it’s the fifth shortest book of the Bible (Third John is the shortest).

Quick outline of Jude

  1. The ungodly contending against the faith (1–16)
  2. How we should contend for the faith (17–25)

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Bible Overview Series: 3 John

Letters of John by Joseph Novak

3 John: Oh my dear friend, I need to see you face to face to tell you what love means. Love can’t be sent by mail.

(Ben Myers’ #CanonFodder Summary) 

Jeffrey Kranz’s Overview of 2 John

Gaius knows the truth. He was baptized by Paul and traveled with him (1 Co 1:14; Acts 19:29). Later, he hosted Paul and a local church (Ro 16:23). Now he’s earned a reputation for his hospitality among the Christians (3 Jn 5–6). And hospitality is a good, powerful thing: the apostle John says that by supporting these men, we join them in their work for the truth.

Sadly, not everyone is like Gaius.

The power-hungry Diotrephes is stirring up strife in Gaius’ church. He’s rejecting John’s earlier letter, babbling accusations against the apostle, and even excommunicating church members who welcome other Christians into their homes (3 Jn 9–10).

When truth is rejected, fellowship is fractured.

This won’t do. Jesus has commanded Christians to love one another (Jn 13:34), and John writes to Gaius to let him know three things:

  1. Gaius is doing the right thing, even though Diotrephes is condemning hospitality.
  2. Gaius should not imitate what is evil, but instead imitate what is good (3 Jn 11).
  3. John is coming to straighten things out.

John will soon arrive to put things right in person (3 Jn 14). He’ll hold Diotrephes accountable for his words and deeds (3 Jn 10). Soon, John will arrive.

And there will be peace in truth (3 Jn 15).

Theme verse of 3 John

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. (3 Jn 4)

3 John’s role in the Bible

In addition to this one, John wrote two other New Testament letters, a Gospel, and possibly the prophetic book of Revelation. He was a leader in the early church, and he probably wrote his documents after most of the other New Testament books were already written.

Third John is the sixth of the General Epistles (or Catholic Letters), the writings of apostles to the church at large. While Paul wrote to specific congregations and individuals, Peter, James, John, and Jude wrote to broader audiences scattered across the Roman empire. Second and Third John, however, are written to specific audiences.

Third John is the shortest book of the Bible: only 219 words (in its original Greek).

This letter repeats many themes from John’s first letter, and Second John reflects these themes as well. Third John shows us what happens when people follow sound teaching . . . and when they don’t:

  • When Christians walk in truth, joy abounds (3 Jn 4). When someone in the church rejects the truth, everyone hurts (3 Jn 19).
  • When Christians support one another, they share fellowship in the truth (3 Jn 8). When someone seeks his own power, the fellowship is at risk (3 Jn 9–10).

Overall, the three letters from John give us an idea of what the apostle thought was most important at the time: sound teaching, obedience to God, and brotherly love.

Quick outline of 3 John

  1. Praise for walking in truth (1–4)
  2. Praise for loving the brethren (5–8)
  3. Caution regarding Diotrephes (9–12)
  4. Anticipation of a visit (13–15)

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Bible Overview Series: Titus

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Titus by Joseph Novak

Titus:  Don’t adapt the gospel to your life. Adapt your life to the pattern of the gospel.

(Ben Myers’ #CanonFodder Summary) 

Jeffrey Kranz’s Overview of Titus

The churches on the island of Crete need leadership, correction, and order. Establishing churches is Paul’s forte, but Paul doesn’t sail to Crete to organize things. He already has someone on the island he can trust.

That man is Titus.

Titus is Paul’s partner in ministry (2 Co 8:23), a Gentile (Gal 2:3). Like Timothy, Titus is Paul’s child in the faith—he was introduced to Christ through Paul’s ministry (Ti 1:4).

Paul had left Titus in Crete with a purpose: to set up order in local churches (Ti 1:5). This short epistle unpacks that concept in Paul’s list of things Titus should do:

  • Appoint elders (Ti 1:5–16). Paul lists the qualifications of overseers: they’re to be upright, responsible, not divisive . . . there’s a whole list of things Paul expects of church leaders.
  • Instruct people to be sensible (Ti 2). Men and women of all ages have their parts to play in the church. Whereas the Cretans are known for being “liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (Ti 1:12), the Christians are to live sensibly, which in turn glorifies God (Ti 2:4, 8, 10).
  • Encourage good deeds (Ti 3). The Christians are saved, and they should behave like it—but why? Paul concisely argues for godly living: we do what is right in response to God’s kindness to us in salvation (Ti 3:3–7).

The book of Titus is a short guide to setting up order in the local churches of first-century Crete, but today it still gives us a theology of counter-cultural Christian living.

Theme verse in Titus

“For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you [. . .].” (Ti 1:5)

Titus’ role in the Bible

Titus is the last of Paul’s pastoral epistles—letters written to church leaders he knew. In contrast, most of Paul’s epistles were written to entire congregations. Paul also wrote to Timothy—twice.

Titus is clearly a man that Paul has come to trust. Paul seems to have begun planting churches on the island of Crete, but Titus is specifically responsible for maintaining Paul’s standard of teaching in that area. Titus’s role is similar to Timothy’s (which you can learn about in Paul’s first and second letters to him), but he seems to be facing different cultural challenges—namely the Cretans’ undisciplined lifestyles.

Titus gives us a concise argument for good deeds: the people of the Church should behave differently from the people of the world because God has changed them. Though we don’t all attend church in Crete, we have undergone the same transformation:

For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,  whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men. (Ti 3:3–8)

The church behaves differently because God has made her different.

Quick outline of Titus

  1. Appointing counter-cultural elders (Ti 1)
  2. How the counter-cultural church should behave (Ti 2:1–10)
  3. Why the counter-cultural church should behave (Ti 2:11–3:15)

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Our Posture Towards Death

The following was a sermon given on Sunday, November 20th, 2016 at Nelson Covenant Church.

Today many within our community are still in shock at the news of the tragic death of Devon Dunkley this week.  Devon’s family is part of our sister church at the Junction, and he was a part of our youth group for many years.   This past Wednesday Blair invited me to share from the Scriptures at our youth group, and I thought it would be important to pass along those thoughts to our entire community this morning.

We have record of an early Christian community in the ancient city of Thessalonica.  These were new believers in Jesus, and after experiencing a series of deaths within their community, they were seeking to understand how they were supposed to process death as believers in Jesus.  Paul addressed their questions in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18:

13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

What is our posture towards death?  How are we called to live as Christians in the face of death?

The first thing that must be said, is that We MOURN. We MOURN the loss that comes through death. 

“13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.”

Notice Paul doesn’t say, “You’re Christians—so you shouldn’t mourn!”  He says, “I don’t want you to grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.”  Paul wants these early Christians to know that they will grieve and mourn, but their grief and mourning will take on a different shape.

I’ll expand on that in a second, but let’s stay on this first crucial point:  Christians MOURN the loss that comes from death.  Death is a monster, because it takes someone from us who was an image-bearer of God; someone who was valuable and loved, beautiful and good.  That’s why it’s important—critical—to mourn.

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Jesus taught, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4.  In the kingdom of God it’s not a virtue to remain stoic and unfeeling in the presence of significant loss.  We are not more spiritual if we can keep sorrow at bay, nor are we stronger if we manage to keep our grief contained and controlled.

Jesus wept in the face of tragedy.  When his cousin John was beheaded, Jesus mourned.  When Jesus was informed that his close friend Lazarus had died, he wept.

That we can allow the searing pain that comes from losing a loved one find expression through our tears and our crying out to God…reveals we are becoming more like Jesus, not less.

Christians mourn in the face of death.

But there is a second thing that must be said.  In the face of death, We MOCK. We MOCK the powerlessness of death.  Paul continues:

14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

And in 1 Corinthians 15:22–26 Paul declares:

22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

 

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I’ve been reading through St. Athanasius’ On the Incarnation (written in the 4th century).  In a chapter on the resurrection Athanasius shares how he has witnessed the truth of Jesus’ resurrection transform how the Christians of his day responded in the face of death.  Specifically, he highlights how the resurrection has led to Christians “despising” death (and by “despising” he means mocking/belittling).  Listen to his words:

A very strong proof of this destruction of death and its conquest by the cross is supplied by a present fact, namely this. All the disciples of Christ despise death; they take the offensive against it and, instead of fearing it, by the sign of the cross and by faith in Christ trample on it as on something dead. Before the divine sojourn of the Savior, even the holiest of men were afraid of death, and mourned the dead as those who perish. But now that the Savior has raised His body, death is no longer terrible, but all those who believe in Christ tread it underfoot as nothing, and prefer to die rather than to deny their faith in Christ, knowing full well that when they die they do not perish, but live indeed, and become incorruptible through the resurrection.

“There is proof of this too; for men who, before they believe in Christ, think death horrible and are afraid of it, once they are converted despise it so completely that they go eagerly to meet it, and themselves become witnesses of the Savior’s resurrection from it. Even children hasten thus to die, and not men only, but women train themselves by bodily discipline to meet it. So weak has death become that even women, who used to be taken in by it, mock at it now as a dead thing robbed of all its strength. Death has become like a tyrant who has been completely conquered by the legitimate monarch; bound hand and foot the passers-by sneer at him, hitting him and abusing him, no longer afraid of his cruelty and rage, because of the king who has conquered him. So has death been conquered and branded for what it is by the Savior on the cross. It is bound hand and foot, all who are in Christ trample it as they pass and as witnesses to Him deride it, scoffing and saying, “O Death, where is thy victory? O Grave, where is thy sting?

If you are a Christian, you serve a King who has broken death and trampled it underfoot.  When Jesus was resurrected, he overcame death’s power and signaled the beginning of the end of death’s rule and reign over God’s good creation.

Therefore, those in Christ are no longer held hostage by death’s power.  Death is a defeated foe, so that we now live without fear, knowing that “We are confident…and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:8.  Even more astonishing than the hope of life after death, is the hope of life after, life after death.  The Christian’s ultimate hope is that one day Jesus will return and bring full Restoration and Redemption to this broken world.  Then his kingdom will be fully established within the context of a new heavens and new earth, and “‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

In light of this great hope, Christians mock death, seeing it for the temporary inconvenience that it is.

And so death causes us to mourn, but it ought never cause us to despair.  Christians must never be frozen by the fear of death, nor overwhelmed by a misunderstanding of its grasp.

Because of what Jesus has accomplished–for you, for me, for Devon–death does not have the final word.  It has been swallowed up in the life and victory of King Jesus; a life and victory that Devon now knows fully, even as he is fully known (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:12).

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Bible Overview Series: Colossians

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Colossians by Joseph Novak

Colossians: God assembled all the pieces of the universe as one huge jigsaw puzzle, a perfect picture of Christ.

(Ben Myers’ #CanonFodder Summary)


Jeffrey Kranz’s Overview of Colossians

Paul had never been to Colossae, but he’d heard from a good friend that the church in that city was blossoming in faith and love. They’d been rooted in Christ—but young churches had been misled before. Paul desperately wants to encourage the church and head off any persuasive arguments from false teachers, so he writes them a letter.

The brief book of Colossians is all about who we are in Christ. In the first two chapters, Paul teaches the Colossians who they are in Christ; in the last two chapters, he instructs them on how to walk in Christ. Paul emphasizes the mind throughout the book—the better the Colossians know what they believe, the harder it will be for someone to persuade them otherwise.

This letter is still a profound, encouraging word to us today for several reasons:

  • We, like the Colossians, have never met Paul face-to-face (Col 2:1)
  • We continue to face persuasive arguments that contradict sound Christian doctrine (Col 2:8).
  • We need to remember that our lives are hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:1–3).
  • We should walk in a manner worthy of the Lord Jesus (Col 1:10).

If we know who we are in Christ, we’ll have a much better idea of what to believe and how to behave.

Theme verses of Colossians

“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.” (Col 2:6–7)

Colossians’ role in the Bible

Colossians is the seventh of Paul’s letters. Of the 27 New Testament books, Paul wrote 13. Nine of these book are letters to local churches (like the one in Colossae).

Paul makes a few statements as to why he wrote this letter:

  • He heard about their growth and wants to encourage them (Col 1:3–8)
  • He wants them to walk in Christ and remain established in their faith (Col 2:6–7).
  • He knows false teachers are trying to lead them astray (Col 2:8, 16, 20).

Like his letters to the Ephesians and Philippians, this epistle is meant to encourage the Colossians to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel (Eph 4:1; Php 1:27; Col 2:6). Whereas Philippians focuses on the believer’s attitude and Ephesians focuses on how to walk as part of God’s family, Colossians emphasizes the believer’s mind (Col 2:8; 3:1–2). Paul addresses what Christians should know (Col 1–2) and what it looks like to set our minds on things above (Col 3–4).

Quick outline of Colossians

  1. Who we are in Christ (Col 1–2)
    • Christ: our head (Col 1)
    • Christ: our God (Col 2)
  2. How to walk in Christ (Col 3–4)
    • Christ: our life (Col 3)
    • Christ: our Master (Col 4)

 

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Bible Overview Series: Philippians

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Philippians by Joseph Novak

Philippians: Even in chains, Paul is freer than wild horses. Even in prison, his joy is boundless as the skies.

(Ben Myers’ #CanonFodder Summary)

Jeffrey Kranz’s Overview of Philippians

Life was hard in the city of Philippi. The Christians were being persecuted for their faith. Paul, their first teacher, was in prison far away. One of their key members had fallen deathly ill. They had worked for the sake of the gospel ever since Paul first shared it with them—and the work was really hard.

And in the middle of all this, Paul tells them to rejoice. Why?

Because God is at work.

The book of Philippians is one of Paul’s most encouraging letters. Paul commends the Philippians for their earnest work in spreading the Word of God. He tells them how much he longs to see them. He warns them about potential pitfalls. He coaches them on dealing with hard times, and provides examples from his own life, other Christians, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

No matter what, the good news of Jesus will advance. God will complete His work in the Philippians’ lives. His children will have all their true needs supplied. Paul will continue to minister to them.

And that’s reason to rejoice.

Theme verse of Philippians

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Php 4:4)

Philippians’ role in the Bible

Philippians is the sixth of Paul’s letters. Of the 27 New Testament books, Paul wrote 13. Nine of these book are letters to local churches (like the one in Philippi).

No book of the Bible focuses on joy like Philippians. The imprisoned Paul hears that the Philippians are going through difficult circumstances:

  • They were being persecuted for their faith (Php 1:28)
  • Other teachers were trying to trouble their friend Paul while he was in prison (Php 1:17)
  • Their friend Epaphroditus had gone to visit Paul but had fallen very sick (Php 2:26–27)
  • False teachers were trying to submit the Gentile believers to the Old Testament law (Php 3:2)

Despite all these hardships, they were still doing their part to spread the gospel—even sending Paul a gift to provide for his needs. Paul writes this letter as a response to all this.

Like his letters to the Ephesians and Colossians, this epistle is meant to encourage the Philippians to joyfully walk in a manner worthy of the gospel (Eph 4:1; Php 1:27; Col 2:6). Whereas Ephesians focuses on how to walk as part of God’s family and Colossians focuses on the believer’s mind, Philippians focuses on the believer’s attitude. And Paul drives his point home: of all the books of the Bible, Philippians has the highest concentration of the words translated “rejoice” or “joy.”

Quick outline of Philippians

  1. Rejoice! Christ is our life (Php 1)
  2. Rejoice! Christ is our example (Php 2)
  3. Rejoice! Christ is our glory (Php 3)
  4. Rejoice! Christ is our strength (Php 4)

If you found this blog post helpful, please consider donating to help offset the costs of running this site. I will never have ads or charge a fee. However, it takes a lot of work to keep this site up. Thanks!

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Bible Overview Series: Ephesians

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Ephesians by Joseph Novak

Ephesians: When the human race had split apart, God (who loves to renovate) took wood and nails and fastened it back together.

(Ben Myers’ #CanonFodder Summary)

Jeffrey Kranz’s Overview of Ephesians

You’re a Christian. Now what?

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians has the answer. The church at Ephesus (a city in the Roman Empire) had been established during Paul’s two-year stay (Ac 19). They heard the call, they believed, and they turned away from their old idols and practices—even if it was costly (Ac 19:19). Now Paul writes to remind them of where they stand in the family of God, and how to behave as members of that family.

Paul calls attention to three major themes: grace, peace, and love. God has shown these to the Ephesians, and Paul calls the readers to be imitators of God (Eph 5:1); therefore, we are to treat one another in like manner.

  • Grace. We’re saved by God’s grace—His favor which we could not deserve (Eph 2:8–9). Paul encourages the church to deal graciously with one another in turn (Eph 4:25–32).
  • Peace. We naturally deserved God’s wrath (Eph 2:3), but He has adopted us through Jesus (Eph 1:5). Furthermore, he has united the Jews and non-Jews in His Son, establishing peace between all parties (Eph 2:14). Now, the church is to preserve peace and unity with one another (Eph 4:3).
  • Love. God showed His love through Jesus (Eph 2:4), and Paul commends the Ephesians for the way they love one another (Eph 1:15). He prays that they be rooted in love (Eph 3:17) and encourages them to continue walking in love (Eph 5:2).

The call of Christ is a call to action, and Ephesians lays out God’s desire for your spiritual walk like no other book of the Bible.

Theme verse of Ephesians

“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” (Eph 4:1)

Ephesians’ role in the Bible

Ephesians is the fifth of Paul’s letters. Of the 27 New Testament books, Paul wrote 13. Eight of these book are letters to local churches (like the one in Ephesus).

Paul wrote Ephesians to accomplish two things:

  1. Describe the Christian’s calling. The first half of the letter focuses on the Ephesians’ calling. They were chosen by God, sealed with His Spirit, and saved by His grace. The church was mostly Gentile (Eph 3:1; 4:17), and didn’t have the historical relationship with God that the Jews had, but Paul assures them that they are just as much a part of God’s family as the Christian Jews are (Eph 2:19).
  2. Prescribe the Christian’s walk. The second half teaches how to “walk in a manner worthy” of the Christian’s calling (Eph 4:1). Paul outlines what the Christian walk looks like in various facets of life.

Like his letters to the Philippians and Colossians, this epistle is meant to encourage the Ephesians to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel (Eph 4:1; Php 1:27; Col 2:6). Whereas Philippians focuses on the believer’s attitude and Colossians focuses on the believer’s mind, Ephesians focuses on how to walk as part of God’s family.

Quick outline of Ephesians

  1. Our calling in Christ (Eph 1–3)
  2. Our walk in Christ (Eph 4–6)

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Bible Overview Series: 1 Corinthians

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1 Corinthians by Joseph Novak

1 Corinthians: When the last trump sounded we didn’t hear it. We were too busy arguing and bragging about our spirituality.

(Ben Myers’ #CanonFodder Summary)

Jeffrey Kranz’s Overview of 1 Corinthians

The church in Corinth was in trouble. They were divided. They were immature. They were abusing the sacraments, spiritual gifts, and each other. The apostle Paul had founded this church earlier (Acts 18), and when he hears of the young church’s struggles, he writes them a letter.

And it’s a bold one. He tackles the issues the church faces, reprimands them for their shortcomings, and encourages them in love.

First Corinthians is not a step-by-step guide to solving church problems, however. Instead of telling the church precisely what to do, Paul proposes a new perspective: put God’s glory first.It’s the key to overcoming these struggles.

  • The Corinthians were fighting each other, with one faction claiming Paul as their leader while others claimed the eloquent Apollos, the original apostle Peter (Cephas), or the Lord Jesus Christ Himself (1 Co 1:12). Paul reprimands them for their immaturity (1 Co 3:3), and points to God as the one who deserves glory, not His servants (1 Co 3:5–7).
  • The church was condoning sexual immorality: one man was sleeping with his mother-in-law (1 Co 5:1) and others seem to have been seeing prostitutes (1 Co 6:16–18). The church was not judging their own based on God’s Word; rather, they were taking their disputes with other Christians to the secular courts (1 Co 6:5–7). Paul’s direction: recognize God’s authority and glorify Him with the physical body (1 Co 6:19-20).
  • The Corinthians had written Paul with questions about what they were at liberty to do in marriage, divorce, eating and drinking, and the like. Paul gives detailed responses on each topic, but sums up the Christian philosophy: “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Co 10:31 ESV)

Unlike Romans and Colossians, 1 Corinthians is a letter written to people Paul knew well. Paul’s familiarity is very obvious in this letter, especially in his fatherly language (1 Co 4:14, 21; 11:1–2).

Two of Paul’s New Testament letters are written to the church in Corinth. In Second Corinthians, we see Paul’s relationship restored with his children in Christ.

Theme verse in 1 Corinthians

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Co 10:31 ESV)

Why 1 Corinthians was written

Second Corinthians is the third of Paul’s letters. Of the 27 New Testament books, Paul wrote 13. Nine of these book are letters to local churches (like the one in Corinth).

The Corinthian church was divided over several issues, and Paul writes to put things back into proper perspective. One could think of First Corinthians as “Christian Living 101” or “Church for Dummies.” And since Paul addresses questions from Corinth, this letter contains one of the rare direct Q&A portions of the Bible.

Quick outline of 1 Corinthians

  1. Paul greets and encourages the Corinthian church (1 Co 1:1–9).
  2. Paul corrects them in areas of immaturity (1 Co 1:10–6:20)
    • Quarrels over leadership (1 Co 1:10–4:21)
    • Dealing with the church’s lack of judgment on sex and legal disputes (1 Co 5–6)
  3. Paul addresses issues the church raised in an earlier letter (1 Co 7–10)
    • Marriage, divorce, and virginity (1 Co 7)
    • Eating meat used for idol worship (1 Co 8–10)
  4. Paul calls the church to order
    • Head coverings and authority (1 Co 11:1–16)
    • The Lord’s Supper (1 Co 11:17–34)
    • Using spiritual gifts (1 Co 12–14)
    • Understanding the resurrection (1 Co 15)
    • Instructions for greeting other Christians (1 Co 16)

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What Makes Community Distinctively “Christian”?

In Mark 3:13–19 we find Jesus bringing his disciples together and appointing 12 to be his apostles.  The text, while seemingly a straightforward list of names, gives many important insights into the nature of Christian community.

13 Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. 14 He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15 and to have authority to drive out demons. 16 These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), 17 James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”), 18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

I know this seems like a list of names and not at all relevant to what we’re talking about, but there’s actually 5 things embedded in this passage that should radically challenge our understanding of Christian community:

1. Christian community is Jesus-centred.  This might seem like a no-brainer, but a lot that is named Christian community isn’t centred on Jesus and his gospel.  Jesus centres the community around himself, so we should be leering of any other expression of community that is grounded in something other than the person and work of Jesus.

If Jesus isn’t the centre of our gatherings, an idol of our own making–even a well intended one–will take his place.  And that move will spell certain doom from the outset.  Bonhoeffer, commenting on the temptation to centre our quest for community on an idealized vision of what could/should be instead of the person of Jesus is dynamite here:

“Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than they love the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest and sacrificial. God hates this wishful dreaming because it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. Those who dream of this idolized community demand that it be fulfilled by God, by others and by themselves. They enter the community of Christians with their demands set up by their own law, and judge one another and God accordingly. It is not we who build. Christ builds the church. Whoever is mindful to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it, for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it.” Life Together

 2. Christian community is based on comraderie, not chemistry.  Jesus gathered together people who had little common affinity.  Scratch that:  Jesus actually gathered people who were natural enemies!  A tax collector and a zealot!? There would have been no love lost between a collaborator with Rome (Matthew) and a zealot (Simon) who is seeking to overthrow Rome and use violent means if necessary!

What is Jesus doing?!  He’s showing us a different expression of community; one that speaks to the heart of God’s intentions for the world and the gospel itself.  Jesus does not expect this group to like each other, but he gathers them together to learn to love–starting with loving those you honest wished weren’t part of the group.

That means we shouldn’t expect Christian community to be founded on chemistry and sympatico.  Sure, we will develop friendships within our churches, small groups, etc., but when Jesus forms communities he does so on the basis of camaraderie.  Camaraderie is a feeling of trust, a bond created by a shared goal or experience.  It runs deepen than chemistry.  It goes beyond a convenient collection of complimentary personality types.   When a group is grounded in comraderie, you don’t have to be best friends with everyone in the group to know you have their support.  Therefore, genuine Christian community doesn’t mean you’re best friends with everyone and the group never expereinces any friction or conflict.  What it does mean is that there is a driving experience (Jesus’ call, salvation, and Lordship) that holds the group together and teaches the group to value and love each other.

3. Christian community is a means, not an end.   Jesus calls many disciples to himself, but he appoints twelve as apostles. Why?  He’s rebooting Israel.  “I’ve called you together…for a (re)newed mission!  You are blessed to be a blessing!” (cf. Genesis 12:1-3).  Christian community is always a means to a greater end (i.e. glorifying God and forwarding his mission). When the experience of community becomes the end we’re chasing, it poisons and rots things from the inside out.

 4. Christian community is a commitment to “one another.”  Christian community isn’t driven by the question, “what’s in it for me?” but “how can I be a blessing to others?”  This means a radical commitment to what much of the later epistles spell out in the “one another’s”:

  • Love one another (John 13:34, 15:12)
  • Outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10)
  • Live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16)
  • Serve one another (John 13:1-20; Galatians 5:13)
  • Bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2)
  • Forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32)
  • Submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21)
  • Be honest with one another (Colossians 3:9)
  • Encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
  • Confess to one another (James 5:16)
  • Pray for one another (James 5:16)

On a later occassion Jesus gave his disciples a new command:

John 13:34 “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Christian community comes into being when a critical mass of people in a church/group/fellowship begin asking “how can I creatively love and serve these brothers and sisters?” instead of, “when will this group meet my wants and needs?”

5. Christian Community is consistent.  One characteristic that should define Christian community is that it is consistent.  Jesus called his disciples together into a new way of life where they were committed to doing life together as they learned under him.

Today, my sense is that far too many Christians do not take seriously their communal responsibilities to one another.  The first believers met daily for encouragement, prayer, support, study, etc., and while I acknowledge that model isn’t doable for most of us in our contexts, I don’t think our default position should be, “I’m committed until something better comes along.”  More and more of us are rationalizing going to church every 2nd or 3rd week.  We show up at youth group if/when we want.  We sign up for a small group but attend sporadically.

And after weeks/months/years living inside of this lifestyle of casual commitment, we wonder why our experience of Christian community is so thin–or even non-existent?

I don’t think anyone would ever accuse me of being a legalist, but I think it’s important to recognize that it’s become very easy to place gathering together with other Christians consistently far down the priority ladder.  Which makes sense if church is something you fit into your agenda.  But it doesn’t make sense if through gatherings like Sunday worship, small groups, bible studies, etc., Jesus is seeking to reshape your life around his agenda.

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Second Week of Advent: Tuesday, December 10th

Today’s Advent reflection is from Kristi Gringhuis, Grindstone church’s Coordinator of Worship Arts.

As a mom, I have just a glimpse of how much God loves me. When I think about how much I love each of my kids, it’s crazy to think that God loves them even more. And to think that He loves me so much that He was willing to send HIS own Son – to earth – to die for MY sins, that is an example of CRAZY LOVE.

But He’s given me this amazing gift, and as great as that is, I’m challenged to ask myself: Am I sharing this love with the people around me? Am I looking to God as my perfect example of what it means to love others, and am I living His love out, or am I just hoarding His love, going about my business, doing what I think is important? Especially in this busy season, am I willing to stop to do the things that God is wanting me to do, even if it’s not part of my original plans?

1 John 4:7-12 — “My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love — so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about — not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God. My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us —perfect love!”

I came across something this week that said: “It’s only because [Jesus] came into the world that we even have a clue what loving well looks like. It’s only because [He] lived for us and died for us that we can boast of being sincerely and deeply loved from the heart … from [His] heart … Joy beyond all delightings … peace beyond all understandings … hope beyond all imaginings … Jesus loves you deeply from his heart … and there’s nothing you can do about it! You can’t add to his love for you and you can’t diminish his love for you. You can simply enjoy it … be changed by it … and share it with others.”

I want to close my reflection with a verse from a song that I found this week:

Make me an instrument of Your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is darkness let me shine light
And may Your love cause us to open up
Cause us to open up our hearts
May Your light cause us to shine so bright
That we bring hope into the dark
Hope for the hopeless
Your love is
Strength in our weakness
Your love is
May we love as You love Amen.

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