Happy Easter!

This week I am not going to post anything new. Since 1 May 2020, we have had series in Acts, Amos, Colossians, and 1 Corinthians. Here’s how to catch up on posts you have missed: If you are using a computer, you can choose the post you want to read by looking on the right […]

I will be taking a break from posting for the next few weeks. I wish you a blessed Easter. If you want to read more devotional studies, please explore the books we have read since May 2020.

  1. If you are using a computer, you can choose the post you want to read by looking on the right hand side of the webpage and choosing either ‘Studies’ (click on the drop down box to select a book of the Bible) or ‘Archives’ (click on the month and then date). Or you can type the Bible chapter you are looking for in the Search bar.
  2. If you are using a phone or tablet, you will find ‘Studies’, ‘Archives’, and ‘Search’ when you scroll to the bottom. (It might take a long time, depending on what kind of device you are using and its settings. Sorry, I am yet to figure out another way of doing it.) Click on the study or date you want, or type the chapter into the Search bar.
  3. If you get the posts into your email inbox, you can find the link at the bottom to get to the website, then go through the same processes listed above.

Ephesians 6:10-24

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Today we conclude our studies in Ephesians. Paul’s final greetings are in 6:21-24, although there is a little hinge to it in 6:19-20. The main bulk of today’s content is found in 6:10-18, the famous ‘spiritual warfare’ passage. Paul makes clear that this is his last major theme of the letter by using a signal word, tou loipou, which is best translated in English as ‘Finally’ or ‘In conclusion’.

He begins with what is now a familiar root word in the letter: dynam-, from which we get dynamite, but is usually translated as power, ability, strength (cf 1:19; 3:4,20, and it is also used in 6:11,13), and two other words which have similar meanings. In order to be strong, we must put on God’s armor. This will enable us to stand against the devil and other evil spiritual forces. In some parts of the world we read and believe these words, but they don’t have the same impact when you don’t live in a society where spiritual forces are palpable. Living in Asia, we are more aware of evil which rises and dances on particular days and in particular areas. It is against these things that we struggle, not the local people or their governments, although evil sometimes manifests itself in them.

Standing against evil attacks requires truth, righteousness, and faith. We are protected by our salvation which is already won through Christ, not of ourselves, and we are prepared to share this with others, by wearing gospel shoes which announce peace with God and with one another. The word of God – most likely, revelation which comes from God (which is found most reliably in the Bible) – is portrayed as the Spirit’s sword. Lastly, persevering, constant, intercessory prayer for others will enable us to stay alert and watchful for the enemy (cf Luke 21:36).

Paul then begins his swing into the conclusion, by requesting prayers for himself, especially that he will be given words to boldly make known the mystery of the gospel which we learned about in 3:2-12, and for which he is in prison. From there he has sent his beloved and faithful servant Tychicus with this letter (cf Acts 20:4), to tell them about Paul, their old pastor (cf Acts 19:1-10), and also to encourage them. Finally, he leaves them with peace, faith, and love – all important themes of the letter – from God, and grace with all who love Jesus incorruptibly.

Prayer: God, by your Spirit, enable me to put on the armor that protects me from evil and helps me stand firm in the love of Jesus. Thank you for all that I have learned through studying this letter, your word, especially about peace, love, and faith.

Armor of God Print | Etsy

PS. We will be on a break from posting for the next few weeks. Please take time to explore old posts.

Ephesians 6:1-9

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This passage is the second half (actually two-thirds) of the section which we started reading yesterday. Paul deals with three pairs of relationships: wife and husband (5:22-33), children and parents (6:1-4), servants and masters (6:5-9). In each relationship, the ‘client side’ is addressed first, then the ‘patron side’. Put another way, husbands, parents, and masters have a responsibility to take care of wives, children, and servants. Wives, children, and servants have a responsibility to honor and obey their husbands, parents, and masters.

Children’s obedience to their parents is commanded in the law (Deut 5:16), is the right thing to do, and is rewarded with the promise of a long life. (Although presumably a short life does not necessarily signify that a child dishonored their parents.) It may be argued that there are situations in which obeying parents is not the right thing to do, such as when a parent tells a child to break the law. I take comfort, as the child of non-believing parents, in the tiny phrase ‘in the Lord’ (6:1), which seems to set a condition for filial obedience, that it should fall within the Lord’s will and purpose.

In case you aren’t convinced by this tenuous argument, the next verse makes clear that Paul is addressing Christian parents, who should nurture their children in the Lord Jesus’ discipline and instruction. Fathers are specified in 6:4, because (in my experience) they need this instruction: Don’t exasperate your children. What is it about dads, that they need this constant reminder? I guess they were annoyed by their dads too, and it’s just something about the Y chromosome that insists on provoking their offspring to anger. Hear it, dads!

As you probably already know, douloi can be translated as ‘slave’ or ‘servant’. I’m choosing the latter because of the very negative connotations of the former. Paul is thinking about workers here, not condoning slavery. He wants them to work faithfully and with sincerity, as if they were serving Christ – not just when the boss is watching (or in our case, perhaps reading reports), but always. Again, as with the children, a reward is promised for obedience. Do good, receive good. It is plain and simple.

Masters are also commanded to do good by their workers, not threatening them in a way that would make them fear. As with the fathers, we can infer that Paul is addressing Christian masters, who know that they also are servants of a much greater Master, who is Lord of both themselves and their servants. He will call everyone to account, and he is not going to look at the face or status of a person to decide how to reward them. God is the great equalizer of status, as creator, ruler, and judge of all.

Each of us can find ourselves in these verses, whether as husband or wife, child or parent (or both!), worker or boss (or both, again). The application is clear: do good, and honor those who are responsible for you. God, who is over all, is watching and will issue a just reward for our behavior.

Prayer: Lord God, thank you for the relationships that you have put me into. Help me to live appropriately and well in that status in which I am. May your name be honored above all as I serve faithfully wherever you have placed me.

Do Not Provoke Your Children” - ppt download

Ephesians 5:21-33

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The passage we are reading today is only the first half of the next major section (5:21 – 6:9), which is about relating to one another within the Christian community; there is just too much good stuff in there to cover it all in one reading. You may wonder why we are starting with 5:21 instead of 5:22, where many English versions (eg ESV, NASB) start a new section. This is because 5:22 doesn’t have any verb of its own, but depends on the verb ‘submit’ which occurs in 5:21. The two verses are not only related to each other semantically, but also grammatically. The heading over this whole section is: ‘Submit to each other in fear of (or reverence for) Christ’. It is unlikely to mean that our motivation for submission is fear of punishment, but that part of honoring Christ is submission to one another, or in another word, humility.

5:22-24 focus on the wife’s role. Notice that it is addressed to wives, not to husbands. Paul does not say that men are to make their wives submit to them, but that wives should willingly lay down their right to lead to their husbands. We cannot escape the picture of headship painted here, as much as some of us may want to. There has been a lot of effort spent in trying to say that ‘head’ means something different that authority, but that is in fact the main sense of the word. Whether we agree or not, Paul’s concept of marriage – although not the roles of men and women in general – was that husbands ruled their wives, just as Christ rules the church.

If that seems too awful, the next verses depict an even more difficult role for husbands (5:25-33). They are to love their wives, even to the point of giving up their lives for them. (I am reminded of Deut 24:5, which we read a few weeks ago.) Loving their wives is, in effect, loving themselves. As is said: ‘Happy wife, happy life’. If you love your wife well, husband, your own life will benefit. I would add, if you love her well, she will have no problem in submitting to your leadership, because she will be confident that every decision you make is in her best interests, not your own. There’s a challenge!

As happens so often in Ephesians, Paul gets distracted from his intent (in this case, instructing husbands) by his passion for theology – describing God. His focus here is on Christ and his love for the church, which led him to lay down his life as a sacrifice (cf 5:2) to make her pure, holy and blameless. Christ feeds and cherishes his bride, his body, the church. Click here for a beautiful song which describes this poetically.

Paul then quotes Gen 2:24, which Jesus had also quoted (Matt 19:5), as further evidence of the union of husband and wife in one flesh, just as Christ and the church are unified as one body. That is indeed a great mystery, whichever one he is talking about! This subsection concludes with a summary: let the husband love his own wife, so that the wife might fear/respect her husband. Notice the order created by the subjunctive clause (hina, translated as ‘so that’ or ‘in order that’): it is the husband’s love which inspires the wife’s reverential submission.

If only we could make these instructions a reality in our marriages, we would see them thrive. A wife’s problem is often that she wants power but doesn’t get it (cf Gen 3:16), and a man’s problem is that he wants respect but doesn’t get it. If the husband genuinely loved his wife, always putting her needs above his own, she would easily respect and obey him, just as she does with God. Easier said than done, sadly.

Prayer: Father God, I pray for husbands, that you would help them love their wives in a way that helps their wives want to submit to them. I pray for wives, that you would give them husbands who love them as Christ loved the church, giving his life up for her.

When I say I want a biblical wife What people think I mean: I want a wife  who is passive and subservient What I really mean: I want a wife who is
This one is just for a laugh. 🙂

Ephesians 5:1-20

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In this section we again read, as in the previous section (4:17-32), a contrast between two kinds of people. We also learn in the first two verses how living a good life in love is an imitation of God (the Father) and Christ (God’s Son). Just as children are like their parents, so should we, as God’s beloved children, be like him. Christ demonstrated the kind of love we should imitate by giving up his life to God as a sweet-smelling sacrifice. We will hear more about this in 5:25.

The things listed here which characterize evil behavior may be summarized as: sexual immorality, impurity (or uncleanness), desire for more (or greed), obscene or foolish talk or ribaldry. Those who live this way are described as sons of disobedience who are in the dark doing fruitless deeds. They have no inheritance in Christ’s kingdom and will be subject to God’s wrath.

In contrast, those who are set apart walk in the light, and expose those things done secretly in the dark. Their words should consist of thanksgiving, and issue forth in song. They are wise instead of being foolish, understanding God’s will and knowing what brings pleasure to him, illuminated by Christ’s light. The fruit of this light is goodness, righteousness, and truth. Paul charges these holy people to walk in the light, be filled with the Spirit, and redeem the time, in the sense of saving it from evil that might otherwise overwhelm it.

There are some obvious points of application here, both positive and negative: Give thanks, sing to the Lord and to each other, seek wisdom and understanding; don’t get drunk on wine, don’t participate in fruitless activities, don’t be deceived, don’t talk or do evil. On the less obvious side is 5:11-13. Expose evil. Paul is not saying not to talk about it in 5:12, but highlighting how indecent it is (the same Greek word is used in 5:3, translated as ‘obscenity’ or something like that). Evil is brought out into the open, its secrets exposed, by the light of Christ. God does not ignore it but challenges it and judges it.

These days in my home country there is a debate going on about how involved Christians should be in exposing injustices against women. Is it feminism? Is it none of our business? Should we leave these things to the lawmakers? Would it be better for the church if we swept institutional abuse of children under the carpet? Of course, I’d rather think about and focus on “giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:20) because that is easy in comparison. But someone has to redeem the time in these evil days.

Prayer: Lord God, let me be as one walking in the light, whose life is exposed by the light of Christ and exposes his goodness to all. Give me wisdom to know what pleases you, and so live like Jesus.

Catch-Up Day

There is no new reading today. Take the time to catch up on anything you have missed, or try reading the whole of Ephesians in one sitting.

It’s easier to find old posts or search for specific chapters using a computer or a tablet. The books we have studied so far are: Acts, Amos, Colossians, 1 Corinthians, Daniel, Deuteronomy and Ecclesiastes. These can be found in the Studies section by clicking on the drop-down ‘Select Category’. If you’re on a phone, you’ll have to scroll down down down to the bottom to find the studies, archives and search bar.

Ephesians 4:17-32

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In this passage, Paul compares the lifestyles of the ‘Gentiles’ with those who know Christ. Paul is clearly not using the word ‘Gentiles’ in the same way here as he was using it in the previous two chapters. He is not describing an ethnic group different from the Jews, but rather all those people who have had no knowledge of God and his laws.

It is fascinating to see, in this section about behavior, the number of times Paul refers to facets of the mind: thinking, understanding, ignorance, learning, hearing, teaching, truth. In their alienation from God and hardness of heart toward him, the Gentiles are futile in mind, darkened in understanding, and ignorant. Paul also uses the idea of callousness, a loss of the sense of feeling, which primes them for wanton and shameless impure, covetous sensuality because they don’t feel any pain, either their own or the person they are hurting.

By contrast, those who learned Christ, who heard him and were taught Jesus’ truth, have put off that former way of life, the old person corrupted by deceitful desire, and put on the new person, created in true righteousness and holiness. They are thus renewed in the spirit of their minds. Notice that right living comes from right thinking. Right thinking comes from true teaching, especially the teaching of Jesus. We are to learn from him, cast off our former way of life that was for satisfying ourselves with no feelings for others, and live as though we are God’s new creation.

This looks like truthful and uncorrupted speech which is good for building up the body (cf 4:15). There are no angry, slanderous, or malicious words. Followers of Jesus’ teaching may become angry, but they do not allow those feelings to tempt them to sin. Instead, they forgive one another, knowing that they themselves have been forgiven. Rather than calloused hearts they have tender ‘guts’, which is an image of compassion, leading to kindness. Righteous people do not steal but work honestly, doing good with the hands and sharing the proceeds with the needy. Living like this will not bring grief to the Holy Spirit who has sealed them for redemption.

May we learn from Jesus how to live so that his community is built up in love.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, that I have been forgiven for my past way of life and hard-heartedness. Help me to live with the knowledge of Jesus and so to walk in a way that is kind, honest, and gracious. In this new life, keep me from sin and let me reach that great day of redemption.

How to fix your callused, gross, crusty gym hands - 9Coach
A calloused hand from coach.nine.com.au

Ephesians 4:7-16

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In this section, Paul is noting that despite the fact that we are all one and living in unity, the Christian community is actually diversely gifted. 4:7ff is strongly linked to 4:1-6, both linguistically and conceptually, and I am discussing them on two different days only because there is too much material for one day.

4:8-10 are another ‘excursus’, or aside, similar to 3:2-13, where Paul was somewhat distracted from the main thrust of his argument by an important idea raised by the words he used. In this case, the words are ‘give gift’. Paul is reminded of Psalm 69:18, which talks about the gifts the victorious God received from his conquered captives. He turns it here for his own use, thinking of Jesus as the victor, conqueror of sin and death, who does not receive gifts but gives them to his people. Jesus won the battle against sin and Satan by descending into the grave in his death, but ascending to the right hand of God the Father on high. He therefore becomes the supreme authority, who fills all things (cf 3:19).

It is Jesus who fills his church, by giving the gifts that are necessary to build up the body. The gifts named here are all related to sharing the word and guidance of God, and their impact is to enable the saints – that is, people in the church – to do the ministry to which they have been called. The overarching purpose is still unity in the faith (cf 4:3) and knowledge of the Son of God (cf 3:19). In this way we become complete, having the maturity of the fullness of Christ.

Thus we will be mature and no longer like babies who have to be carried. Without the teaching and preaching gifts listed above (4:11), members of the church can be carried away, figuratively, like corks on the sea or feathers in the wind, by false teachers who try to deceive them. But being truthful in love is what will bring growth to the body. With Christ as the head, the body is joined and held together, and builds itself up as each part functions in the way that it has been designed.

The application is clear: God has given you gifts to use for the building up of his church, the body of Christ. Using your gifts will enable the whole church to grow towards maturity. Some people have particular ‘word-related’ gifts; these are to be used not for their own glory, but, in love, to enable every member of the body to fulfill her or his calling. The leaders of the church are not the only ones with a ministry; their role is to equip each person to do the work to which they are called.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord God, for giving me a gift to use for building up your church. Help me to know what it is and to use it for your glory and the strengthening of your community.

Ephesians 4:1-6

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With this passage Paul begins the ‘Therefore do’ application section of the letter, after three chapters of ‘Who you are and Who God is’. Some scholars call it the ‘paranaesis’, or exhortation. It is also sometimes expressed using the grammatical term ‘imperative’, as opposed to the ‘indicative’.

He exhorts them to walk, or live, worthy of their calling to the family of Christ. That looks like humility, gentleness, and patience. To ‘bear with one another’ means to put up with, or suffer patiently, others. How easy it is to say these words, and yet how difficult to successfully do them! But this is precisely how we zealously guard the unity of the Spirit. We are bound together (syn-desmo) in community, just as Paul is bound by his chains (desmios); there is a word play in 4:1 and 4:3 which is sometimes lost in translation.

The idea of ‘unity’, oneness of the Spirit, is carried further along the track of Paul’s train of thought. One Spirit, one body, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. There are not two different spirits or two different faiths for the different ethnicities in the people of God, just as they all share in the one family, being from the one Father (cf 3:14-15). Although their cultural heritage might be diverse, they are to be united in the hope of their calling to follow the Lord, Jesus. God sees no difference, and has authority over all, and lives in all equally.

This unity must be demonstrated in the way we live, which is why we are called to humility and patient endurance of each other. In a Christian community of diverse cultures, genders, experiences, and giftings, such as that to which I belong, it is more important than ever that I relate and respond to others in a way that preserves unity and peace. This is the calling to which I have been called.

Prayer: Lord God, Father, Son and Spirit, thank you for calling me to this faith community. Help me live in such a way that I preserve its unity and peace. Enable me to walk in humility, gentleness, and patient endurance.

Q&A With Chair of New Ad Hoc Committee on Diversity, Inclusion, and Ethics  - IEEE Spectrum

Ephesians 3:14-21

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In this section Paul returns to how he started out the chapter: just about to pray for his readers. There is a lovely wordplay in Greek that we miss in English: He bows his knees before the Father (patera) from whom every family (patria) is named. This is significant not only for its linguistic beauty, but because we were just learning (in 2:11 – 3:13) about God’s plan for the world including both Jew and Gentile – that is, every nation, or in more biblical language, every family (cf Gen 12:3). The God of the Jews is the Father of all.

His prayer to God (3:16-19) is one of those purple passages in Scripture which deserves memorization. How often do we pray like this for our family and friends? I think a diagram might help us to digest it better.

Unfortunately I am not any good at drawing, but if someone can make this look awesome and post it in the comments I’m sure we would all be very grateful. Just working on it yourself might help you identify the core elements of the prayer.

The last two verses (3:20-21) are what has come to be known as a doxology, those words that are often spoken at the end of a church service. Essentially, they are simply a word to give glory to God, but again, as in 3:16-19, what depth of words! God is able to do more than we can ask or imagine. I can imagine a lot! The word used here which is translated as both ‘able’ and ‘power’ (same as in 3:16) is the word from which we get the English ‘dynamo’ and ‘dynamite’. It is power to make something happen. He has the power, and that same power is working in, or energizing, us. That is simply amazing. If God’s power is what powers us, we can do anything according to his will. Glory to God!

Prayer: Thank you for your power which empowers me. Help me to know the full extent of your love, and dwell in my heart forever, so that I might be filled with all your fullness. For your glory!