Monday 7 January 2019

The Epistle for Sunday was Paul’’s Epistle to the Ephesian Church.

In every bible study there are three stages; first you hear or read the passage; the find out what it means; then thirdly consider how relevant it is to us and the Church in the present day.

You have heard the passage read, so let us try to see what Paul was meaning. He is in a Roman prison awaiting trial by the Emperor Nero, and is writing to the Ephesian Church describing himself as a servant of Christ, and sees himself as a prisoner for Christ. He is in prison because he preached to the Gentiles so upsetting the Jews, who had forced the Roman authorities to act against him.

God had originally chosen the Jews to be the people to whom He sent Jesus to offer salvation, but when they rejected Jesus, God chose Paul to take the Gospel to the Gentiles.

Paul was proud of the fact that when Christ called him on the Damascus Road, he had the revelation that God was going to send him to the Gentiles; now both would receive all the blessings meant for the Jews alone, and Paul saw himself, having been given the special privilege of discovering the secret of God’s grace.

He admits he had done nothing to deserve this and had been totally unworthy as he did not claim to be much of a Christian, knowing personally of the way he had persecuted Gentiles and Jews previously before his Damascus Road conversion. He was now able to tell all people of the endless treasures they could have if they turned to see Jesus as their Saviour, which God had planned from the very beginning through Jesus Christ as Lord. Now all the angels in heaven could rejoice that all alike could share the inheritance.

We now have to consider how it relates to us and the Church in the present times. This passage ought to be a lesson to those Church leaders in the West who adopt anti-Israel views and express criticism unjustly in any situation, and have unwisely endorsed a boycott of Israel made goods, when in fact they provided employment for non Jewish citizens. The United States Churches have on the other hand have recognised we Christians and Jews worship the same God, and are part of an ancient Judea-Christian tradition.

Paul was an example to all who are allowed to preach for Christ, he always remembered and acknowledged he had been favoured and never claimed credit or showed pride. He never expected others to look at him or seek praise, and was someone quite a few people I have met could learn from. He was never ashamed of the gospel and suffered mightily for preaching it without spirit of timidity, and never ever failed to acknowledge the gospel’s authority as the Word of God, or support any behaviour or action contrary to God’s commands.

Despite the evil they faced, Paul and the Apostles were following the command of Jesus to make disciples and teach all that He had commanded, and they had much success. They taught that the Bible had the authority and completeness for all things in life; they told of the need for us to be in a proper relationship with God, which was only possible because of the death of Jesus on the Cross so that all who put their faith and trust in Jesus and accepted Him as Saviour would be seen as righteous by God, and the gospel spread quickly without any of the wonderful technological aids we enjoy. Over the years, men added unnecessary and false doctrines which changed the message.

There are various ways we come to know Jesus; through a friend telling us; through a poster carrying a message; but primarily through hearing a preacher. Paul was intent that people could only hear and believe if someone told them, and this was the appointed task and duty of the preacher.

When starting the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther stated, ‘the true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.’ This is the message the Church should now be preaching, but instead too many are more concerned with following an equality agenda which is obsessing the country. Luther’s stance was that any issue which tended to overshadow the gospel must be ignored and abandoned. He recalled the Church to follow the gospel.

Figures have just been released for Church attendance and are frightening; it looks as is the Church is falling apart. We desperately need to recall the Church back to the gospel as we see it flagrantly abandoning the teaching our Lord gave. Until we get back to the teaching of the Apostles there will be little improvement.

We have services of baptism in which we encourage people to make false promises; we tell that ways of living which are expressly deemed wrong in Scripture are perfectly acceptable; we hold funeral services which we infer heaven is open to all irrespective of their lack of belief in Jesus as the only way to God.

We live in a very aggressive secular society, one in which there are numerous minority groups who expect and demand consideration above their proportion. If we are to face the challenges of the day, we have to be people of the Bible, which is why sound doctrine has to be given.

Jesus in His preaching had two effects; He either saved people or upset them. If we study the preaching of Jesus the people did not always go away smiling, even His own disciples walked away from Him at one time. We like to read and hear the stories of Jesus as long as they do not place too much of an obligation on us. But many did believe in Him and went away with a different reaction.

The Bible should be the basis for ALL our preaching, it is the foundation of all truth. We cannot just pick and choose which parts we want, and cast out those which are not popular with society. We should all be preaching on the same lines. We have to also accept that the Church exists primarily for one purpose, to proclaim the Christian gospel. All other activities are subsidiary.

It is good and helpful to have involvement in social activities, but the primary means of bringing people to Christ is through the preaching of the gospel. If we restrict that then we have no claim to be here; people can get social amenities from many sources, they can only get the gospel from the Church.

The Bible states the gospel is the power of God leading to salvation for all who believe. This means more than just believing there is a God, the devil accepts that. It is not enough to just hear and say you believe, it demands a response. God wants all people to turn to Him.

Remember the words of Jesus, ‘for whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this sinful and adulterous generation, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed when He comes in the glory of the Father’.

We all no doubt are ashamed of things we have done in our lives, and the things we have said but wished we hadn’t, and that is understandable. But we allow ourselves to become ashamed of something for which there is no need to be ashamed of.

Let us Christians be as proud of our faith as other faiths are of theirs, remembering there is salvation in no one else than Jesus, for there is no other name under heaven given among men, by which we can be saved.

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