Ephesians 1 Part 1–God’s Spirit Our Hope of Glory and Unity

The Book of Ephesians was Paul’s guide to the churches of the significant truths that come with being part of the family of God.  One overriding truth was the idea that from before creation God knew His chosen and wanted to be in a relationship with them.  God wanted to adopt those willing to receive Him. He did not form acquaintances or friendships–He adopted them as full heirs to the kingdom. While there is great diversity among those that came to know Christ, God has called for unity among them.

In addition, God left His Spirit as a mark, a deposit, and a guarantee that those who receive the Lord are forgiven and predestined to spend eternity with Him. His spirit is our hope of glory.  If we trust the Lord, the Spirit will guide and comfort us through good times and bad. It is the Spirit of  God that drives us forward and carries us through the most challenging of days.  We can rest assured that the Lord is with us and draws us to Himself and to each other as a community and a family. Thank You, Lord, for your promise and the Holy Spirit our reminder and guarantee of your covenant with us!
 
God Bless You

 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he[b] predestined us for adoption to sonship[c] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he[d] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

11 In him, we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Galatians 4 Part 2-Living as an Heir, Not as a Slave

Paul was trying to explain one of the most basic truths of salvation by grace. When one is freed from sin and redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice, that person is no longer a slave to sin. What’s more, they are no longer a slave to the law.  As a child of God, one need only accept His salvation and follow His lead. Trying to go back and live a life subject to checklists and scorecards is the same as an heir going back and living in the slave quarters. In that life, one neither is welcome or finds peace. If they could have gained salvation by doing things or keeping rules, they would not need Christ. 
 
To set salvation by grace aside, both then and now is like living as a slave. One can never do enough and one can never experience peace trying to live up to a standard of perfection. We become enslaved to the idea that we have almost made it. Just a little bit better or just a little bit more and we will have arrived. That thought process is an illusion and a lie. The truth is simple–When we ask Christ into our lives, He comes in and forgives us and restores the relationship with God. As we follow Him, He transforms our lives into lives of purpose and selflessness. We become new creations; free from the chains of the law and the chains of sin.  We continue to move forward trusting God to do what is necessary to make our lives complete. It is never about us, our actions or our holiness. It is about trusting and following God’s lead and letting Him do the rest.
 
God Bless You

Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. 23 His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the freewoman was born as the result of a divine promise.

24 These things are being taken figuratively: The women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem because she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written:

“Be glad, barren woman,
you who never bore a child;
shout for joy and cry aloud,
you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
than of her who has a husband.”[e]

28 Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. 30 But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.”[f] 31 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.

Footnotes:

Galatians 1 Part 1–Christ + Is Not the Gospel

The Galatian people were being subverted by Jewish Christians.  They pushed for Christ Plus Judaism–variance in the Gospel. Many Jewish Christians of the time were displeased that the Gospel spread to the Gentiles. There was a council called in Jerusalem and the leadership (Which included Peter, James, and John as well as Paul and others) agreed after much prayer and discussion, that the Gentile Christians were only responsible to accept Christ and follow Him.  They were not subject to Jewish circumcision or dietary laws. In addition, there were groups called Gnostics that believed that one should have Christ + knowledge to be saved. So, Paul again had to address the idea that Christ+ anything (including Knowledge) was not true salvation.
 
So as Paul returned to the mission field, he was being followed and criticized by these Jewish Christians. They claimed that for the Gentile Christians to be truly saved, they had to follow Jewish tradition, dietary and circumcision law.  So Paul was being discredited as an apostle and as a teacher.  In the process, people were being drawn away from following Christ and causing division. So, Paul was calling those teachers out as frauds and telling the church that the gospel remained simply to know Christ and to follow him.  It required nothing extra. It was bad enough that they were undermining Paul’s ministry, but, they were also teaching doctrines that simply did not line up with the truth. 
 
Then and now, our salvation comes from accepting Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives–nothing more. There is no dress code, dietary law, traditional holiday to follow–we simply need to trust God and follow Christ.  Amazingly, that looks different to different people.  The bottom line as Paul spoke it so clearly was that Christ + anything is not the true gospel.  If we begin to make Christianity a rules-based religion, we lose the very essence of grace and freedom.  We have to trust Christ, follow Him closely and honor His will on our amazing journey.
 
God Bless You
 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently, some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Paul Called by God

11 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin.12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.

18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas[b] and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.

21 Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me.

The Letters…Galatians–God Knows How To Pick’ um

Paul was an ultimate Jew. He kept the law flawlessly, trained under the most respected Rabbi. He was a political superstar and he persecuted the church.  Then God got ahold of Paul on the road to Damascus.  There He called Paul out and changed his life. The result was amazingly ironic. Paul was called to spread the Gospel to the Gentiles around the known world. This, of course, was a mission started by Peter. When God sent Him to lead Cornelius, the Roman Centurion, and his family to the Lord.  So Paul set out with Barnabas and the two of them preached the Gospel throughout Asia.  
 
From the onset, Paul had enemies. Many thought him a fraud since he was not an original disciple, others did not like his message since it allowed Gentiles to become God’s chosen without being circumcised or remaining kosher. So, Paul is writing to the churches he visited to reinforce the truth of Christ and the validity of his mission and message.  In the weeks ahead, we will look at several critical themes in walking with God related to faith, family, and grace. Because, as Paul sent these letters to the various churches, they were to shore up what was critical in following God and what was not.  We all will understand more the critical nature of changing our hearts to be like Christ–not changing our diets or checking certain boxes.
 
God Bless You

Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers and sisters[a] with me,

To the churches in Galatia:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

No Other Gospel

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently, some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

2 Corinthians 6 Part 2–The Critical Nature of Being Aligned

It is difficult to do life. Everyday pressures, expectations, and circumstances wear us down and push us to the edge.  It was the same during Paul’s time. People were doing jobs, getting married, raising kids and dealing with life’s pressures and without technology.  In the midst of that, Paul tells the people do not be unequally yoked. As a married couple, it is critical to be aligned. in life, we need to be aligned with those we count on to walk through life with us.  If we are not, it adds a layer of complexity in an already complex situation.  Is it doable, sure! Is it difficult–you bet! Bottom line Paul told the Corinthians–get aligned.
 
In our time, it is equally important to be aligned. Believers should consider faith as a critical component for marriage. If a couple does not share the same faith, it will mean strife at every major event. Going through a crisis together and aligned is often the only thing that allows the family to pass through to the other side. There is little in the world that encourages such alignment. Yet, when we see families aligned in faith, there is so much more harmony and unity in good and bad times.  They operate with a purpose and a perspective that is bigger than themselves. In Paul’s time and now, folks must consider faith a critical component in choosing a life partner and in raising a family!
 
God Bless You

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial[b]? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

“I will live with them
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.”[c]

17 Therefore,

“Come out from them
and be separate,
says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you.”[d]

18 And,

“I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”[e]

2 Corinthians 5 Part 2–New Creations and Christ’s Ambassadors

In all of God’s word, the message of God’s love is clear. From Creation to Revelation, God demonstrates His love for us. Paul was making it clear to the Corinthians–Christ’s death changed everything. When He died for our sin, everything was new.  Men had a brand new opportunity to be reconciled to God. If they chose to follow him, they became new creations–eternal and forgiven. What’s more, newly armed with life and salvation, God’s folks become His ambassadors. They show a life of purpose, peace, and freedom from the world’s grasp. Armed with that, Christians are called to present the message and show the world a life that is not about themselves–but all about Him.
 
That is still the message today.  We are Christ’s ambassadors.  We are saved, made new and armed with His spirit.  We live lives in this world–but, like an ambassador, we represent our native land.  We are citizens of Heaven. While here, we live lives that Honor God and show the world the amazing life they can have in Christ.  We need not beat people with Bibles–we simply live lives that show the world the difference Christ can make.  We are new creations–we must die to the ways of the world and walk humbly in the Lord’s grace. As we do, people will see the value of knowing Christ personally and we will have the opportunity to introduce Him. That is the role of an ambassador! Help me, Lord to represent you and your kingdom!
 
God Bless You 

 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

16 So from now on, we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.21 God made him who had no sin to be sin[b] for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 4–A Priceless Message in Jars of Clay…

Paul is serving up two messages this day. The first message is that the light of God is delivered to those that would believe in a very straight forward way.  There are no tricks, nor is there a lot of pomp and ceremony. The truth is simply that God loves us, but, our sin has separated us from that love. Christ came and revealed God’s love to us and then demonstrated it by His death, burial and resurrection. We must accept God’s gift and follow Christ to restore the relationship with God and have eternal life. While the message is simple, many are blinded to that truth simply because they are not willing to submit or believe in the spiritual aspect of life.
 
The second message is equally critical–as messengers, we are like jars of clay. We are neither glamorous nor are we impervious to the attacks of life or of our enemy Satan.  What is more, as we follow God, we can be assured that we will be pressed down on every side–but not crushed. We will seem perplexed–but not in complete despair. We will be persecuted–but, not abandoned-He will walk through it with us!!! We will be struck down–but not destroyed! We will be containers full of Christ’s Gospel–ready to die; knowing that even in our death–Christ’s gift of life will be revealed.  It is so much bigger than us, so we must live ready to do whatever it takes to reveal Christ to all who might believe!!! 
 
God Bless You

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[a] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.