Sunday, March 16, 2014

Ephesians on a Snowy Sunday

I'm in The Dungeon, as I usually am on a Sunday afternoon, preparing to write. Outside the window I see near blizzard conditions. Rain began yesterday evening, and was supposed to change over to snow around noon. But we left the sanctuary after worship service to head to Life Group, about 10:40, and the changeover was already happening. So far it's barely sticking to the roads, but it surely will by morning, when we should see the temperature around 20 degrees.

Consequently, I'm here an hour earlier than normal on a Sunday due to the storm. I let Life Group out a little early, and I'm not going for my normal Sunday walk in these conditions. So here I am, ready to set my words down for my few readers.

It was my week to teach our adult Life Group today, which was good since my co-teacher went out of town for a funeral. We continue to study Ephesians, and this week was chapter 4, verses 1-16. These are, or should be, very familiar to all mature Christians. The apostle Paul changes focus at this point. The first three chapters contain doctrine, description of salvation, and prayer. Now he changes to practical advice about living the Christian life. In verse 4:1-3 he gives a number of suggestions (commands, actually) about what the Ephesians should do with their lives. In verses 4-6 he talks about the unity that should exist among Christians. In verses 7-13 he talks about the role of ministers in the church. In verses 14-16 he's on to the results of effective ministry.

One interesting item about the book of Ephesians is the relative absence of problems in the church. Paul doesn't address specific problems at all, as he does with the Corinthians and Galatians. Some believe this is because Paul wrote this as a circular letter, to be sent to several churches, or at least passed from church to church. If it really was meant for a number of churches, how do you address specific problems? Or, it could have been that the Ephesian church was relatively free of problems, as close to a model church as you can have. That's certainly possible.

However, in these verses in Chapter 4 I see the makings of some problems. Consider this:
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. (4:14-15)
What can Paul mean by "then we will no longer be infants (i.e. infant Christians as opposed to mature Christians) but that right then, the Ephesian church members were infants? He says "we", including himself in that. This may indicate that Paul is not addressing an actual problem, but rather trying to head off problems he know can develop, before they do develop.

Our class discussion included that there should be infant Christians in every church that's doing what it's supposed to do: sharing the gospel with the lost. So this message should be needed in every church, regardless of how mature the average member of the congregation is. That was a good point class members made.

Paul also said,
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
This, it seems to me, is also an attempt to ward off a problem. In the earlier chapters we learned that the Ephesian church contained Jews and Gentiles, and that this was the big mystery of God, that Jew and Gentile could worship and fellowship together because of the working of Christ. Yet, Paul seemed aware that the natural enmity between Jew and Gentile could break out at any time. They would always have to work at not letting this happen, instead letting the Spirit keep them in a bond of peace together.

The snow as abated a little, as has the wind. It's still coming down steadily, just not as hard as it was before. Time for me to wrap this up and get on to other writing. May God further bless this day of rest for you, and give you his peace.

1 comment:

vero said...

Many Christians should practice this admonition: "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace."