January 8, 2012

Week of the First Sunday after Epiphany

Monday

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 1, 3, Prov. 1:7-19, Eph.1
Evening - Ps. 4, 8, Ezek. 1:2-6, 24-28, Jn. 1:1-8

Commentary
Ephesians 1

Verse 16 stands out in Ephesians 1 because it is the only verse that does not mention God directly. Look at the other verses: "an apostle of Christ Jesus," "from God our Father," "Blessed be the God," "he hath chosen," "Christ himself," "in whom we have redemption," all of them have some direct reference to God by name or pronoun. This chapter, and the entire book of Ephesians, is about God. It is about who God is, and what He has done, what He is doing, and what He will do. It is about why He does what He does; why He created us, why He became a Man, why He died on the cross, and why He continues to work in us and in this world through His Holy Spirit. He does all of these things to achieve His ultimate goal; to "gather into one all things in Christ" (1:10).

Most people are accustomed to thinking everything God does is about us, about saving us, loving us, and blessing us. It may be shocking to think that these things are ultimately not about us. Our creation and salvation are all for the greater purpose of the glory of God. Perhaps this means we have to turn some of our thinking around. Perhaps we need to begin to see ourselves as existing for the glory of God (1:12) instead of God existing for our benefit.

Tuesday

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 5, Prov. 2:1-9, Eph. 2:1-10
Evening - Ps. 11, 12, Ezek, 2, Jn. 1:19-34

Commentary
Ephesians 2:1-10

The first chapter of Ephesians ends with the subject of the Church, which chapter two continues. Note that the reference is to the Church, not the churches. The idea that churches exist in independence of one another without accountability, and that the Bible always mentions "churches," but never "the Church" as a whole is false. Paul never considered any of the congregations he corresponded with independent of him, or as anything but a local manifestation of the universal Body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:9-17, for example, is about The Church primarily, and, secondarily, how the church in Corinth is to function within the wider Church. The Church, collectively, is the Temple of God. Local churches are part of the greater Church, all together form the spiritual Temple, or house of the Holy Spirit of God. The Corinthian church had its own ministers, yet Paul, writing from Ephesus in A.D. 57, excommunicated members of that congregation, and told the ministers and remaining members to stay away from them (1 Cor. 5:1-13).

Far from being independent congregations, the Church is God's appointed way of bringing people together in one body in Christ. God is already working in this world to achieve His ultimate goal. Eph. 1:10 is not just something for the end of time; God is at work now, accomplishing His purpose in the Church. The Church is that people which has already become one Body, one Temple, one Family, one Nation, in Christ.

Chapter two reminds us how God has brought us into the Church. There was a time when we lived apart from God, and were under His wrath (2:3). By His own grace (2:8 & 9) and for the purpose of showing the riches of His grace and kindness (2:7) He raised us out of the death of sin and placed us in Himself and in His Church where we are one in Christ (2:6-7, 1:10). Thus, even while we live in this world, we sit in heavenly places and have a foretaste of the great and final goal of God which will one day be brought to its completion. Thus, as His workmanship we are to do the things of Godliness, to which we have been called and for which we have been created (2:10).

Wednesday

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 7, Prov. 3:1-7, 11-12, Eph. 2:11
Evening - Ps. 13, 14, Ezek. 3:4-14, Jn. 1:36

Commentary
Ephesians 2:11

The great purpose of God to bring all things together in Christ is continued by His bringing Gentiles into the Church. The Gospel of Christ is for all who will receive it in faith. Heaven is for all who will enter through Christ. The Church is for all who will believe. In Christ there are no strangers or foreigners (2:19) only one Nation and Household. In Him all believers are being built up into one holy Temple in the Lord (2:19-21). There was a time when most Gentiles were excluded from the House of God (2:11-12). Having chosen to exclude Him from their own lives, God allowed them to live apart from Him, and to reap the just rewards of their sin. But God's ultimate plan of gathering all things together in Christ was not blocked by human rebellion. He gathered Abraham and his descendants, to whom He gave His Word and Commandments, and through whom He would give His Messiah. In the New Testament era He began to bring in the Gentiles. In His New Israel, the Church, all believers, Jews and Gentiles are made one body in Christ. The work of gathering all things together in Christ continues, and will continue until the Last Day, when all of His people will be gathered Home to Him, all of His enemies will be cast out forever, and the heavens and earth will be made new.

Thursday

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 9, Prov. 3:13-20, Eph. 3:1-13
Evening - Ps. 15, 21, Ezek. 3:16-21, Jn. 2:1-12

Commentary
Ephesians 3:1-13

The great and ultimate goal of all the work of God in this world is to gather all things together in Christ. Everything He does, from creating us, to giving His Word and means of grace, to entering into history and dying on the cross, even His daily providential care and guidance in our lives is done primarily to achieve that goal. Most Christians have wrongly been taught to believe God's ultimate goal is our salvation, and that everything He does is done to save us from Hell. In reality, our salvation is a means to accomplish the end of gathering all things together in Christ. It is primarily about Christ, not about us.

It is for the purpose of gathering all things together in Christ (3:1) that Paul has been made an Apostle and sent to the Gentile people. His calling is to bring Gentiles into the body of Christ and the promises of God as full participants with the Jews (3:6).

It is for this purpose that God has brought His people together into the Church (3:10-11). The Church is the people already brought together. The Church Family will ultimately and fully inherit the Kingdom of God, and, indeed, is already dwelling in it. Those not in the Church will still be gathered together in Christ, but in a much different way. They will be gathered together to face His wrath, while the Church is gathered to receive His grace. If we think of the Kingdom of God as a great Castle, the Church is the people who have been elevated to the status of courtiers and friends. Those outside the Church are also gathered, but they are the enemies of God and they are gathered into the dungeon. One day the entire land will be gathered under the authority and reign of the King. Many people will become His friends and will be welcomed into the full fellowship of the Castle. Others will persist in rebellion and hate. They will be thrown into the dungeon. Either way, the King will gather all things together and will reign over all.

Verse 10 again uses "church" to refer to the entire body of Christ rather than a local congregation. In the time of Paul, the Apostles were still living and considered the Church one organisation.

Friday

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 10, Prov. 3:27, Eph. 3:14
Evening - Ps. 6, 26, Ezek. 7:10-15, 23-27, Jn. 2:13


Commentary
Ephesians 3:14

Verse 14 begins a great prayer to the Father of whom the whole family is named (3:14-15). That family is the Church, and it includes those in Heaven and those on earth. Paul prays that the Church will be strengthened with might by the Spirit in the inner man (3:16). This "might" is power which enables us to know what God wants us to know, be what God wants us to be, and do what God wants us to do. What God wants is then given in verses 17-19 culminating in the phrase, "that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." Yes, the ultimate purpose of God is to gather a people for Himself, a people to exist in Christ and glorify Him forever. But those blessed to be part of that People, are given the highest gift God can give to any created being, the gift of living forever in such closeness, fellowship and love with Him it can only be described as being perpetually filled with the fulness (greatness and presence) of God. This fulness will ultimately only be realised in Heaven, but we can know some of it here and now by the indwelling Spirit of God and the means of grace.

Note again the reason Paul prays for these things for the Church. It is not just for the benefit of people. It is "For this cause" (3:14), the very same cause Paul has been writing about throughout this Epistle; the cause of gathering all things together in Christ.

Saturday

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 16, Prov. 4:7-18, Eph. 4:1-16
Evening - Ps. 27, Ezek. 11:14-20, Jn. 3:1-13

Commentary
Ephesians 4:1-16

What does all of this talk about the fulness of God and His gathering a people together in Christ have to do with us in everyday life? Everything! If we are a part of that people, and if we are called into that people gathered into Christ, we are to live our lives in conformity with the will and nature of Christ. As Ephesians 4:1 states the issue, ""walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called. Thus, being the people who live for and in the glory of God is every Christian's vocation. It is your life's work. The remainder of Ephesians is about how to live worthy of your vocation.

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