At the core of the Christian’s job is the task of discipleship. We read this clearly in our Lord’s pre-ascension words:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18–20)
The following article was previously published as and originally titled “Disciple-Making is Ordinary Christianity” by Erik Raymond
What does it mean to make disciples? A disciple is a learner and a follower of Jesus. When we make disciples we are working to see people who do not follow Jesus come to follow him (conversion) and then teaching them to faithfully follow Jesus in every area of their lives (maturity).
Many Christians hear this and file it away in a cabinet of idealism. Sure, I’d like to disciple people but I really can’t. They feel like discipleship is above their pay grade. Is this true? Is discipleship something that only pastors, elders and the “mature” do? Or is it for everyone?
Here is my main point: disciple-making is ordinary Christianity. It is fundamental to it. Like learning to count and say your alphabet in the natural realm, there is scarcely any part of the Christian life where discipleship does not touch. In so far as Christianity is a community faith, it is a disciple-making faith.
There may be a dozen different paradigms flying around when you hear discipleship. Some people insist on reading a book, meeting for coffee, eating a meal, working out, etc. All of these may aid the work of discipleship but they are not a prerequisite for or the necessary substance of it. Jesus never gave us a program for discipleship but he gave us his example and a broad, far-reaching command to do it. As a result, we have great freedom and a great burden for discipleship.
What does it look like? When Jesus commands us to make disciples he intends for us to live our lives in obedience to him in the presence of other people (believers and unbelievers). This intentional living seeks to show others the worth and the power of Christ. In short, we let people in to see how we live out the Christian faith.
LET ME GIVE YOU SOME EXAMPLES:
Discipleship happens when a guy wants to be married but doesn’t have a game-plan for how to go about it. He asks another brother for guidance and help. This brother takes him out for lunch and talks through some biblical and practical principles. He then commits to pray for him, to be available for questions, and to meet occasionally to talk about his progress.
Discipleship happens when a mom with two toddlers drops something off that she borrowed from another sister at church. During the exchange they get to talking and the young mom expresses her feelings of fatigue and failure to measure up to her perceived standards of motherhood. The other woman listens to her, reminds her of Scripture, prays with her, and then continues to come alongside of her for encouragement in the gospel.
Discipleship happens when a dad points out a scantily dressed lady and tells his teenage sons that what they see is not beauty. He explains to them what beauty is as it relates to God’s character and will. He continues to tell, show, and emphasize the true beauty that God delights in (1 Peter 3:3–4).
Discipleship happens when a brother notices another brother is running hard after his job and neglecting his family and ministry. He comes alongside of his brother to remind him of the true and lasting treasure, and the proper perspective on work.
Discipleship happens when a mom is at the park with her children. At one point the kids become unruly and she patiently, graciously but faithfully, disciplines her children. There are many watching eyes around her. Both the believing and unbelieving women are intrigued. Conversations begin and soon the fruit of the Spirit points to the matchless worth of Christ.
Discipleship happens when a home-school mom breaks away with free time only to go to the same coffee house hoping to make new friends and open doors for sharing the gospel.
Discipleship happens when a single woman senses another single woman’s discontentment in being single. She makes it a point to come alongside of her for encouragement in the goodness of the gospel.
These are just everyday, ordinary occurrences. In fact, I picked them from the ordinary lives of people in our church family. It is this ordinary work that pushes the church ahead toward maturity while protecting her from spiritual shipwreck.
But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. (Heb. 3:13–14)
Discipleship is the ordinary practice of believers. You could say that Christianity is more than discipleship, but it is not less. We are our brother’s keeper. It’s in the job description.
This article was previously published as and originally titled “Disciple-Making is Ordinary Christianity” by Erik Raymond
“Letting go and letting God” isn’t always comfortable.
It is more than likely that if you have ever taken the risk to share your anxiety within the Christian community, you have heard some counsel in the form of the Apostle Paul’s exhortation in Philippians 4:6. Paul says to the “holy people” at Philippi, “Do not be anxious about anything.” It’s a very powerful verse, a favourite of mine, and one that Christians have turned to time and time again when they experience anxiety. But what if it’s just not that simple?
I believe that when we cite this as the cure-all to one’s anxiety, we mean very well. In fact, many find comfort with the recitation of these six simple words. But in our attempts to help others and perhaps deflect our own anxiety and feelings of helplessness, we can inadvertently communicate the wrong message.
This article was taken from the book “The Anxious Christian: Can God Use Your Anxiety for Good?” by Rhett Smith
Rhett Smith says; often in my counselling practice, a Christian will come in to tell me they have tried to follow the “biblical counsel” of others to not be anxious, but their anxiety doesn’t quite seem to dissipate.
“Is something wrong with me? Am I a bad Christian?” they desperately ask me. “No, nothing is wrong with you,” I tell them. “What if God is using your anxiety to speak to you? What might God be saying to you?”
When we discourage others from safely expressing their anxiety, then we are essentially saying to them that anxiety is a bad emotion and that it is something to be done away with. It communicates to them that perhaps something is wrong with their Christian faith, and they begin to internalize the message, “I’m a Christian. I’m not supposed to be anxious.”
Kierkegaard referred to anxiety as our best teacher because of its ability to keep us in a struggle that strives for a solution, rather than opting to forfeit the struggle and slide into a possible depression. It would be nice if our lives and our Christian faith did not involve any struggle. But to believe that—and to perpetuate the belief to others that somehow the struggle with anxiety is un-Christian—is a mistake.
We are not the first people to struggle with anxiety and the emotions that surround it. In fact, as Christians, we come from a long line of people who have struggled with anxiety and have gone into hiding, putting on masks, in the process becoming less of who God created them to be. In the opening pages of Scripture we see that when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit from the tree of knowledge, both of their eyes were opened. In that moment, their instinct was to fight or flee, which is what most of us do when we are faced with anxiety. In their anxiety, Adam and Eve chose to blame each other, flee from the scene, hide and cover themselves up. I can only imagine the anxiety that the two of them must have felt as they hid from the Lord, waiting to be found out. Every sound coming from the Lord as He made His way toward them must have filled them with a growing sense of dread. As Scripture records: Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” (Genesis 3:7-10)
When faced with anxiety, we feel exposed, naked and vulnerable. Hiding and covering up is typically how we respond when we feel those things.
God has not only created us, but He has created us as free beings, and in our freedom we are given possibility and choice. I would like for you, for a moment, to imagine God freely calling you toward His good purposes. And as you journey in that direction, you may find yourself caught between the present and the future. That in-between place of the present and the future can create all kinds of anxiety because of the freedom of choice God has given us in our life. Perhaps we are anxious because the experiences of our past have shaped us in such a way that we dread making a free and deliberate choice. Or perhaps the mere possibility of making a wrong choice has left you feeling anxious.
Anxiety is, therefore, both the cost and gift of our identity as free creatures in relationship to God. We have choices. Without freedom, and the anxiety it entails, we are just slaves—yearning for safety and security and grumbling at God rather than living the anxious journey through the wilderness toward freedom.
IT’S TIME TO GET UNSTUCK
Maybe during your life journey, you feel as if the plans and purposes that God has for your life are not congruent with the life you are leading. And no matter how many times someone quotes to you Jeremiah 29:11 (“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”), you just don’t feel at peace in your heart. What many people forget to tell you is that in verse 10 of that same chapter, the Lord says that Israel will go through 70 years of exile and slavery in Babylon. Talk about anxiety! But God would use their time of trouble to draw Israel closer to Him. It was during that time of exile that God continually reminded His people that He was their God and that when they sought Him with all their heart, He would listen and deliver them out of captivity.
Anxiety beckons us to not allow our lives to get stuck in a rut. If God gives us freedom and allows possibility, then just maybe God has hardwired anxiety into us as part of those choices. Perhaps anxiety is a paradoxical feeling offered up to us as a gift that propels us to seek after Him and to continually grow in the process.
Perhaps anxiety is an act of grace because it encourages us to face our fears so that we can then choose to freely follow God where He is calling us.
This article was taken from the book “The Anxious Christian: Can God Use Your Anxiety for Good?” by Rhett Smith
OCTOBER 31ST APPROACHES (AGAIN)
Our city wants to become the “Haunt Capital of the World”. Each year local businesses award large prizes to the ‘best dressed home’ (or school) in keeping with haunted Halloween traditions. It’s impossible to not notice the darkened transformation of our town especially in the days leading up to end of the month. As ghoulishness and gore are amplified, sometimes literally, most shrug off the deathly horror scenes and say “Oh, well” yet a number respond with “Oh, hell”.
Across the street, a mother dresses her kids for Trick-or-Treat. Her daughter is dressed like a pirate. Her son looks like Dracula, complete with blood stains on the sides of his mouth. Their house is highlighted with typical Halloween decor: grave stones, skeletons emerging from the earth, jack-o-lantern on the porch, and bed-sheet ghosts hanging from the trees. This family also regularly attends church and calls Jesus Lord.
Down the road a mother hides her kids inside a lightless home for the evening. She even forbids the use of any decorations, including pumpkins, in order to not associate with Halloween. Her children neither take-in nor hand-out candy. Every year she reminds her children about the demonic elements of Halloween and warns them that there is nothing ‘happy’ about ‘Happy Halloween’. She religiously rebukes any fellow Christian who would even attend a local “harvest party” or anything that remotely resembles a festival held on October 31. Her family also faithfully goes to church and calls Jesus Lord.
I believe neither of these views is the best way for Christian families to navigate the day called Halloween. I will expand that thought later but first…
When dealing with anything in human cultures, Christians have a number of choices. Here is a helpful way to discern cultural issues: receive, reject, or redeem.
• Receive — There are things in culture that are part of God’s common grace to all people. These are things Christians can freely receive. Paul and Silas could walk the same Roman roads and sail in Roman ships alongside any pagan without any tarnish on their consciences. Today, I can appreciate the electric lights in my home just like my neighbour and not feel guilty that the power company isn’t owned by Christian people. I can buy my produce from the grocery store without the concern that the farmers are heathens.
• Reject — There are some things in culture that are inherently sinful and cannot be transformed to be used for the Lord’s purposes. Paul might have eaten pagan meat sold in the marketplace, but he would not attend a pagan temple and drink the cup of demons. This is not a perfect example but nonetheless, today, a building that once was a gambling casino can be bought and turned into a Christian bookstore, but a casino can never become a “Christian casino.” The very nature of this kind of enterprise furthers sinful activity, and this must be rejected by Christians completely.
• Redeem — There are other elements of culture that are often used for sinful purposes but Christians can mine these elements for truths that can be celebrated, reclaimed, and redeemed for God’s purposes. During his speech in Athens, one of the most polytheistic cities in the world, Paul could quote from pagan poets and prophets and even make use of a pagan altar. Paul was redeeming—taking back—from paganism truths latent in their religious celebrations and cultural customs and using them for God’s glory.
This three-fold outline can help Christians navigate cultural events like Halloween.
A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF ALL HALLOWS EVE
The name “Halloween” comes from “Hallows’ Eve” or “All Saints’ Eve.”
As far as the Christian back-story of Halloween is concerned, the day has its origins in the earliest centuries of the church. As early as the mid-second century, the church celebrated and remembered its martyrs, at times dedicating special days to remember their deaths. As the number of special commemorations multiplied; the idea of having a common day for all martyrs gradually evolved.
The earliest known celebration of “the Feast of All Martyrs” was in Antioch in mid-fourth century, falling on the first Sunday after the feast of Pentecost (which is, by the way, the same day the Eastern Orthodox Church still celebrates All Saints’ Day). Similar festivals were celebrated in other locations on different days. Over time, this celebration started to embrace not just martyrs but all saints. It was a time when the church celebrated Jesus’ victory over death by remembering the faithful saints who had gone before them.
On May 13th, 610, Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon, the old pagan temple, to the Virgin Mary and “all Christian martyrs.” He removed all its Roman idols and hauled 28 cartloads the bones of various martyrs and saints from the catacombs to a huge basin beneath the altar of the building. As ghastly as that seems, he dedicated that day as “All Saints’ Day.”
Over a century later, Pope Gregory III (731-741) moved All Saints’ (Hallows) Day to November 1 to honour the saints of St. Peter’s church. In 835, Pope Gregory IV officially fixed the date for worldwide observance. Some believe this move was made to coincide with Samhain, a Gaelic harvest festival celebrated at the same time, though others doubt the Pope was even aware of this celebration. This pagan festival was held during this season as it was believed that the veil between our world and the spirit world was very thin, allowing the demonic spirits to easily move back and forth. Rituals and feasts were held and the souls of departed relatives were invited to come. Regardless of the Pope’s intentions, in time Samhain and All Hallows Eve eventually co-mingled, leading away from the original intent into the variety of Halloween traditions we have today.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO ‘REDEEM’ HALLOWEEN?
For some Christians, the notion of “redeeming” Halloween will sound ridiculous. How can something so rife with demonic symbolism be redeemed? Perhaps this is just one of those things that fits into the “reject” category. Is there anything positive to redeem? Bare with me and please keep reading.
Undoubtedly, Halloween’s pagan roots, Druid led pagan sacrifices, rituals to commune with the dead, Celtic deities, and the questionable origins of trick-or-treat and jack-o-lanterns are all ungodly and dark. I’m quite aware of all these facts and I’m not asking you to embrace any of these pagan practices.
IN MY OPINION
1. Almost all modern Halloween traditions are rooted in ungodliness. However, the mere fact that our modern Halloween practices are distant echoes of pagan traditions does not, therefore, mean Halloween as a cultural holiday is unredeemable. Remember, to “redeem” something in our culture means to admit it has been used for evil but to reclaim the truth within it, utilizing it for God’s purposes. Not all Halloween activities are redeemable, but in my opinion some possibly are.
2. Modern Halloween traditions are a far cry from their ancient or medieval origins. There are a few elements of Halloween that, in my opinion, have already been ripped away from paganism and redeemed as something wholesome. Let’s face it, the connection between Druids dressing as ghouls and our children dressing up as a character from Veggie Tales is tenuous, at best.
3. It’s important to note that this issue is a matter of conscience. If you read Romans 14-15 and 1 Corinthians 8-10, it seems clear to me that Halloween is a “disputable matter,” and it will probably continue to be so.
4. Do not become prideful about our approach on the subject. While we should feel free to discern ourselves and discuss these opinions, we should remember that looking down in a prideful way towards other Christians for differing views is just as sinful in my opinion as a child dressing up as a demonic vampire.
Many Christians reject Halloween outright for very good reasons; others attempt to redeem it, but do so in questionable ways; others have altered the holiday in ways that demonstrate the mindset of a missionary to our modern era.
Do you believe Halloween can be redeemed? Does your family do anything special on October 31st that honours the Lord and reaches out to others?
October is Clergy Appreciation Month. Here’s an awesome opportunity to do something (insert guilt) we should have been doing all year long, me included: Stop and pause to express our thanks to our pastors.
This is an original, true story written by Bill Allison. It’s very powerful.
If you are a pastor, consider this my small token of appreciation to you for your commitment to ministry.
If you’re not a pastor, why don’t you forward this blog post to your pastor today with a personal note of thanks?
IN HONOUR OF LONG HAUL PASTORS
My Encounter with “Moses”
By Bill Allison
Something crazy and God-like happened to me on Sunday, September 12, 2004, during my ministry to the community of Chrisman, IL (population 1,200). The churches in that town rallied together for a combined church service in the city square in the morning–and later at an evening youth service. God showed up…and he was looking for me.
The scene: After the morning community service. I’ve finished speaking, and I am simply connecting with the people of Chrisman in the city square:
“Ninety-eight years old tomorrow?” I asked incredulously.
“That’s right, I’ll be ninety-eight years old tomorrow,” said the man in a voice that could barely be heard. He looked much stronger than his voice sounded.
“What did you do for work?” I asked.
“I was in the ministry for seventy-two years. That’s why you can barely hear me. Over the years, I preached so much that I preached my voice out.”
I don’t know exactly what happened in my heart at that moment other than to say that it was like an electrical shock ran through my body. God got my attention. Here was the man that I hope to be some day–a man who faithfully preached God’s Word until his voice finally gave out.
I asked curiously, “Were you married?”
He said, “I was married to the best minister’s wife in the world. We were married and did ministry together for seventy years.” He looked away from me for a moment and continued, “She has been in Heaven now for the last four years.” He looked to his right and left and said, “Two of my sons are with me today.”
It began to dawn on me that I was in the presence of a man I want to be like with all my heart. I was not about to lose this opportunity. So I went into sponge/learner mode as fast as I could–determined not to lose one bit of this opportunity to sit at the feet of this experienced godly man. “What advice would you give to a young preacher like me?” I asked sincerely.
Without a second of hesitation, he said, “Preach the Word! That is exactly what I tried to do my whole life. So I say preach the Word!” I’ve read this exhortation in Scripture many, many times. Even at my official commissioning and licensing for the ministry, the same words were said. And they were meaningful to me then. But somehow, coming from this gentle senior saint, it felt like it was coming from Moses himself!
Thinking back to a conversation I had with a very discouraged ministry friend last week, and knowing that the number one reason many leave vocational ministry is because of discouragement, I asked, “Were you ever deeply discouraged during your seventy-two years of ministry?”
“Yes, I was discouraged from time to time. But it was God’s Word that kept me going. I knew God wanted me to preach his Word since I was fourteen. I preached my first sermon when I was seventeen. Throughout my life, God’s Word has sustained me–even during the discouraging times.”
Again, I’ve heard this, knew this, and even said similar things. But somehow, because of his years of experience with walking with God, his authentic words drilled deep into my heart.
Other people from the community began to approach our small circle and engage me in conversation. I watched out of the corner of my eye as this man and his two sons slowly walked away. My heart began to race. I was filled with urgency. I MUST ASK THIS MAN TO PRAY FOR ME! The man and his sons were about twenty-five yards away from me when I suddenly ran to them. I did not mean to be rude to the people who had gathered around me, but I HAD to do this. When I caught up with them, I said from behind them, “Sir, will you please put your hands on me and pray for me?” I could not believe those words came out of my mouth. But I felt COMPELLED to have this man pray for me.
He turned around to look me right in the eyes. His eyes widened and he immediately placed his hands on my shoulders and, in that sweet, raspy, and worn out voice prayed the most beautiful quiet prayer of blessing I have ever heard. He prayed that I would flourish in my relationship with God, my wife, and my kids. He prayed I would be faithful to preach the Word. He prayed God would bless me and my ministry beyond all I could ever ask or think–for God’s glory. As he prayed I quietly began to weep. I was thinking two things: 1) This must be what it was like to receive the blessing of a patriarch in the Old Testament, and 2) Am I nuts? Am I starting to unravel emotionally here? The answer to this last question–yes. But as crazy as this whole deal was–I KNEW God was in it–and I am glad I listened to the Spirit’s voice and promptings.
When he pronounced the “amen,” his two sons and I looked up–and I could see one was weeping like I was–and the other was also glassy-eyed. I made eye contact with the man of God and as I went to say “thank you” I could not get the words out because a flood of new tears came. I finally regained my composure, shook the man’s hand in gratitude, and watched them walk away.
Frankly, God did something so deep in my heart in this brief encounter with this senior saint that I am still processing it. But it was deep and it was God–and I will never forget it. In some strange God-way, I feel like I received a blessing from Moses himself.
As is often the case, I went to minister, but ended up getting ministered to.
Copyright 2004 Bill Allison. Permission is granted to copy and send this to others, but not for commercial purposes.
First Adam vs. Last Adam
In the Bible, Paul called Jesus the “Last Adam” because he is the remedy for idolatry and the redeemer of humanity, where as the first Adam was the source of idolatry and the down fall of humanity.
–The first Adam turned from the Father in a garden; the last Adam turned to the Father in a garden.
–The first Adam was naked and unashamed; the last Adam was naked and bore our shame.
–The first Adam’s sin brought us thorns; the last Adam wore a crown of thorns.
–The first Adam substituted himself for God; the last Adam was God substituting himself for sinners.
–The first Adam sinned a ta tree;the last Adam bore our sin on a tree.
–The first Adam died as a sinner;the last Adam died for sinners.
According to the Bible,we die in Adam but are born again in Christ: “For as in Adam we all die,even so in Christ all shall be made alive”.
–In Adam there is condemnation, but in Christ there is salvation.
–In Adam we receive a sin nature, but in Christ we receive a new nature.
–In Adam we’re cursed, but in Christ we’re blessed.
–In Adam there is wrath and death, but in Christ there is love and life.
ARE YOU IN ADAM OR IN CHRIST?
This is incredibly important because, literally, your identity and your eternal destiny hang in the balance of whether you’re in Adam or you’re in Christ. You’re born in Adam as a sinner and you’re born again in Christ, who is the Saviour.
None of us are individuals alone. None of us are isolated. None of us stand alone. We’re part of one of two groups, one of two families, one of two teams, one of two nations: those who are in Adam, and those who are in Christ. Here’s how Paul says it in 1 Corinthians 15:21–22. “For as by a man came death,” that’s Adam, “by a man has also come the resurrection of the dead,” that’s Jesus. “For in Adam,” there’s one team, one group, one category, “all die”, but in Christ,” (here’s today’s big idea), “in Christ shall all be made alive.”
Who do you think you are?
God says that you’re created and you’re an image bearer. You’re made to mirror Jesus. Therefore, your true identity is not yours to create. It’s given to you by God. The real question you need to know the answer to is, “Who does God say that I am?”
There are only two categories of human beings: those who are in Adam, and those who are in Christ. Are you in Adam or in Christ? In Ephesians 1, Paul says that if you are in Christ, you can be faithful, you are blessed, you were chosen and made blameless, you are forgiven, you can know the will of God, you are reconciled, you have an inheritance, you have hope, and you have the Holy Spirit.
In Adam or in Christ
The Bible speaks of identity as being in Adam or in Christ, so much so that the Bible speaks of believers being in Christ no less than 216 times. Just the Apostle Paul himself, in the thirteen letters of the New Testament that he writes, he talks about us being in Christ. He’ll use language like, “in him, in the Beloved, in Christ,” 216 times. Let me say this: anyone who tells you something 216 times, number one, it’s important, number two, they’re afraid you’re going to forget it.
Do you know how many times the New Testament says that a Christian is a Christian and uses the language of “Christian”? Three times. The Bible says that your identity is ‘a Christian’ three times, and that your identity is ‘in Christ’ 216 times. It’s one of the primary ways, if not the most common way, that God refers to a Christian.
Here’s the difference between being in Adam and being in Christ: at the cross of Jesus Christ, he traded places with us. He literally traded places with me. All of the death, all of the shame, all of the condemnation that I deserve went to Jesus. All of the forgiveness, all of the love, all of the grace that Jesus rightly has as the sinless Son of God comes to me. What that does is that changes our identity.
I want you to see this
If you are in Christ, you are in Christ’s position and Christ is in your position. He suffers and dies so that you might be blessed and live. Do you believe that God the Father loves the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you believe that he is kind toward him, and gracious toward him, that his ear is attuned toward him, that his affection is devoted to him? I have great news for you. If you are in Christ, you stand in the position of Christ. You are loved as Christ is loved, you are blessed as Christ is blessed, you are embraced and adored as Christ is embraced and adored. I want you to see this so that you’ll live from your identity in Christ, that you’ll realize that you’re free from religion and trying to perform for God. You’ll be free from shame and condemnation, because all of that is taken care of for you by Christ and is available to you in Christ.
WHO WROTE THE BOOK?
For a brief time at the end of his second missionary journey, and then for more than two years on his third missionary journey, Paul ministered to the church at Ephesus (Acts 18:18–21; 19:1–41). During his time in this city that housed the famous temple to the Greek goddess Artemis, Paul saw many converted to faith in Jesus Christ and many others who opposed his preaching in the synagogues and homes. One prominent silversmith, Demetrius, who made implements for the worship of Artemis, found his business suffering greatly because people were converting to Christianity. The ensuing near-riot led Paul to leave the city, but only after the apostle had done much to stabilize and grow the Christian community there.
Where are we?
Paul wrote the letter to the Ephesians sometime in AD 60–61, around the same time he wrote Colossians and Philemon, as he sent all three letters by the hand of Tychicus, accompanied by Onesimus (Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7–9; Philemon 1:10–12). It was during this time that Paul sat in Rome undergoing his first Roman imprisonment (Ephesians 3:1; 4:1), making Ephesians one of the four epistles commonly known as the Prison Epistles. The others are Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.
Why is Ephesians so important?
Second Corinthians and Galatians abound with personal touches from Paul, either about his own life or that of the recipients. Ephesians, on the other hand, stands at the opposite end of the spectrum as one of Paul’s most formal letters. While Galatians offers instructions particularly important for those churches overrun with legalism, Ephesians deals with topics at the very core of what it means to be a Christian—both in faith and in practice—regardless of any particular problem in the community.
What’s the big idea?
Paul divided his letter to the Ephesians into two clear segments; applying the truths of the first makes possible the actions and lifestyle of the second. Paul spent the first three chapters of the letter discussing God’s creation of a holy community by His gift of grace in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The members of this community have been chosen by God through the work of Christ, adopted as sons and daughters of God, and brought near to the Father through faith in His Son. All people with this faith—Jews and Gentiles alike—were dead in their transgressions and sins but have been made alive because of the person and work of Jesus Christ.
While Paul was not responding to a particular theological or moral problem, he wanted to protect against future problems by encouraging the Ephesians to mature in their faith. So after laying out profound theological truths in the first half of the book, Paul made his purpose clear: he expected that this community of faith would walk in accordance with its heavenly calling (Ephesians 4:1). As a result of the theological realities Christians accept by their faith in God, several practices should follow in their relationships within the church, in the home, and in the world.
How do I apply this?
The book of Ephesians hits on a wide range of moral and ethical behaviours, designed to ensure believers are living up to our heavenly calling. As we continue in our faith from day to day, month to month, and year to year, the temptation to get comfortable will always exist. However, Paul presented the gift of God in Christ and the benefits we receive so clearly that we cannot help but ask ourselves if our lives reflect that reality as they should.
How have you grown in your Christian life since you came to faith in Jesus Christ? The latter half of Ephesians makes clear that spiritual growth occurs primarily in community with others, iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17). Your Christian “walk” (in other words, your daily life) is to be characterized by unity, holiness, love, wisdom, and perseverance in spiritual warfare.
Maturity yields benefits in believers’ moral lives, but it extends far beyond that as well. Increased maturity benefits the community at large, leading us as Christians to present a more consistent witness to the working of God in our lives as well as protecting us from the harmful divisions and quarrels that have plagued so many communities throughout history.
Join us at Bethel Church in Lindsay ON. and follow along on our biblical voyage to and through Ephesus.