Books of the Bible

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God Invites His Children To Participate


to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
(Ephesians 4:12-13 ESV)


Yesterday we learned that Jesus gives spiritual gifts to each and every one of His followers. We also saw four gifts that are given to those who are leaders within the church. The gifts – which are essentially abilities and talents – are to be used to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” and to build up the body of Christ. (As we learned earlier, every believer in Jesus is a “saint”).

Those people who are called by God to teach others about His plan of salvation through Jesus do so in order that those people – their students – will be able to serve others by meeting their needs. In so doing, we are building up the “body” of Christ, which is the collection of all believers. When we evangelize and lead others to faith in Christ we make the body of Christ bigger. When we teach existing believers so that they have more knowledge and understanding we make the body stronger.

Once we are saved we are not to sit idly by waiting for death so we can go to heaven. God gives us a gift to be used, not for our own benefit, but for the benefit of our Christian brothers and sisters. We are all to serve others. And in so doing, we all become closer to what God wants us to be. The Christian life is intended to be one of reciprocal service – people helping people.

God is omnipotent. Certainly, it would be much faster for Him to wave a magic wand over us. But that is not how God works. God invites each of His children to help Him carry out His plans. Just like a little kid helps his dad fix the leak under the sink by handing him a wrench, we help God by utilizing the spiritual gifts He has given us. God does this not because He needs our help. But by allowing us to participate with Him we learn and grow.

Here is another verse that clearly separates the biblical God from all other gods and proves everyone doesn’t worship the same god. Other gods don’t do this. Instead they demand certain behaviors in exchange for a reward in the next life. This is the direct antithesis of the God of the Bible, who invites His children – who are already guaranteed to get into heaven – to participate with Him in what He is doing on earth. How cool is that?

Not all of us are gifted to be church leaders. The other spiritual gifts that Jesus gives are listed in Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12. If you are a believer in Jesus and have been saved by faith in His work on the cross, then you have at least one gift. It is up to you to find out what that gift is and use it to benefit others.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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The Gifts Of Leadership


and he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,
(Ephesians 4:11 ESV)


In today’s passage Paul lists four offices that God has created within the church (His family). The spiritual gifts that allow someone to function in one of these roles was given by Jesus; the “he” in today’s passage refers back to the previous verse. Jesus distributes these gifts to His people as He sees fit and He does so through the power of the Holy Spirit [1 Corinthians 12:11].

Apostles: These include the original 12 called by Jesus to follow Him for three years. It also includes Paul who was called by Jesus along the Damascus Road [Acts 9]. The Greek word for apostle means “one sent forth with a message”. The apostles were given divine revelation directly from Jesus and were tasked with telling others about it.

Prophets: These are people who spoke for God in a predictive sense. They would receive information from God about future events and tell others what action should be taken.

Most scholars do not believe these two offices exist any longer. These offices were probably foundational – they existed only until the church could get started and until the New Testament was written. After that, there was no more need for apostles and prophets.

Evangelists: These are those who have the desire and ability to tell others of salvation through Jesus Christ. The Greek word is ευαγγελιστεσ (pronounced: yoo-ang-ghel-is-tace’) and means one who brings good news. Although all believers are commanded to tell others about Jesus, there are others, like missionaries, who are called to do this full-time.

Shepherd and teachers: In the original Greek these two words describe one office, not two. That office is the pastor of a local church who leads people (shepherds them) by teaching them the meaning of God’s word and how to apply it to their lives.

This list is not exhaustive of all the spiritual gifts that Jesus gives out. It only covers those that are applicable to church leaders. There are approximately 20 spiritual gifts listed in the New Testament. The others can be found in Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12.

Since these gifts were given by Jesus, they need to be taken seriously by the people to whom He has given them. They should also be respected by those of us under the care of those to whom they are given.

Sometimes we expect things from our pastors that we really have no right to expect. We need to remember that they are created human beings just like the rest of us. They are sinners too.

Our pastors and other church leaders are doing the work that God has called them to do. They didn’t choose their calling. God chose it for them.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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The One Who Descended Is The One Who Ascended


Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)
(Ephesians 4:8-10 ESV)


In yesterday’s verse Paul referenced Psalm 68 as a prophetic passage pointing to the one who would conquer, free captives, distribute spoils, and then ascend. Today Paul shows us that this prophecy was fulfilled by Jesus.

Jesus is the earthly name given to the human incarnation of the Son of God. He existed in heaven before time began and then descended to earth as part of God the Father’s plan to redeem mankind [Philippians 2:5-8]. He did this by conquering the penalty for sin. When Jesus died on the cross He paid that penalty for all of humanity. His resurrection from the dead is proof that this penalty had been paid in full.

While on this earth Jesus Himself made it very clear that He had come down from heaven, sent by the Father [John 6:33, 38, 51, 58 et. al]. On more than one occasion He also predicted that He would be killed, come back to life, and go back to heaven, from whence He came [John 3:13-15].

As recorded in Acts 1:9, forty days after rising from the dead Jesus, in front of many eyewitnesses, ascended into heaven, returning to the place where He dwelled before God created the world [John 6:62]. Once back in heaven Jesus was given power and authority over all the earth [Philippians 2:9].

Paul’s point in all of this is to demonstrate that Jesus is the one who bestows gifts to those who believe. It was Jesus’ act on the cross that allowed him to be the one who could give us the gift He gives.

These gifts came at a great cost. Jesus gave up His place in heaven, descended to the earth, was brutally killed for a crime He did not commit, then lay in a grave for three days before being resurrected. Jesus paid a great price to be able to be in a position to grant these gifts.

Anyone who is a born-again believer is a child of God [John 1:12] and therefore has been given a spiritual gift by Jesus (we’ll learn what they are tomorrow). We should, therefore, not take these gifts lightly. We should use them to serve Him out of recognition and thanks for conquering our enemy – sin – so that we, too, can be taken to heaven one day to be with Him forever.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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There Is A Price To Be Paid For Freedom


Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)
(Ephesians 4:8-10 ESV)


Yesterday we learned that Jesus gives a spiritual gift to every believer. In today’s passage Paul will explain why Jesus is qualified to give out these gifts. He does this by referencing Psalm 68.

Psalm 68 describes a king who has just won a military battle against his enemies and is returning home with the spoils of war. In verse 18 the victorious king ascends Mt. Zion. This was a common practice in ancient Israel. Jewish kings would arrive home after defeating their enemy and would climb Mt. Zion, the holy hill in Jerusalem, in a display of victory.

Trailing behind the king in parade would be captives. But these were not necessarily only foreign nationals that had been taken back to Israel to become slaves. Often they were Jews who had been captured by Israel’s enemies in prior battles. The Israeli king is pictured in Psalm 68 as capturing these captives (“taking captivity captive”) – freeing Jews who had been previously captured.

Finally, the king would disperse the spoils to his subjects, notably those that had been loyal to him.

Paul uses this scenario as an analogy to Jesus. Similar to the military king of Psalm 68, Jesus defeated sin (the enemy of all mankind) at the cross [Colossians 2:15]. Later, after this victorious battle, He ascended into heaven [Acts 1:9-11] in a display of victory much like the king climbed Mt. Zion.

Also like the king, Jesus freed captives who rightfully belonged to Him. Human beings are slaves to sin [John 8:34; Romans 6:20] and need to be freed from that bondage. At the cross Jesus reclaimed the human race as His own, freeing us from sin’s oppression [John 8:32].

Finally, after His ascension into heaven Jesus “gave gifts to men”. Just like a victorious human king distributes spoils to his loyal subjects, Jesus disperses spiritual gifts to those who belong to Him, as we learned yesterday. We’ll see exactly what those gifts are in a couple of days.

While hanging on the cross in agony, Jesus looked like a loser. The Jews and Romans thought they had won by removing Him from their lives (sounds like today, doesn’t it?). But their plan backfired on them. Three days later Jesus arose from the grave victorious.

In America we often remind ourselves that “freedom isn’t free” – it has a price. We honor our military personnel who make tremendous sacrifices on our behalf, as well we should.

God’s children need to likewise remember that obtaining our freedom from the bondage of sin was costly. Jesus went to battle for us. He fought a fight we could not fight on our own. And He came out victorious.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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With God, The Giving Doesn’t Stop


But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of the gift of Christ
(Ephesians 4:7 ESV)


Paul has just called believers to unity in the way they behave towards each other. Now he turns his attention to the diversity that exists among believers. God calls us to be unified. But that does not mean that we are all to be the same.

God has intentionally designed each human being differently. And when someone becomes saved God gives that person a spiritual gift – an ability to be used in such a way to further His kingdom on earth. If someone has not been rescued from God’s judgment (that’s what saved means) by God’s undeserved favor (grace) through faith in Christ’s death as his/her substitute they will not have one of these gifts.

Paul will list some of the gifts a bit later in this letter but before he does he reminds the Ephesians – and us – that “each one of us” has one of these gifts. It would be easy for the Ephesians to acknowledge that Paul – a spiritual strongman – has gifts but that they do not. Similarly we need to realize that not only do our pastors have gifts but so does every believer. God didn’t leave anyone out.

Interestingly, Paul uses the word “grace” to refer to these gifts. Grace is synonymous with giving. There can be no grace that isn’t given. God is a giver. He is all about giving of Himself to His children in order to benefit us [2 Corinthians 8:9 et. al]. The spiritual abilities that each believer receives are a gift from God, given to us by His son, Jesus. We do not merit them. We do not earn them. We don’t get to choose which one we receive.

Jesus simply bestows a gift on each of member of His family. That gift is “measured”. The Greek word for “measure” in this verse refers to an instrument used to determine an exact weight or quantity. The spiritual gift of each believer has been carefully thought out. It has been given in just the right quantity, with just the right abilities and limitations. No true believer can say they don’t have a gift or that they don’t have it in the right measure.

Too many non-believers misunderstand God. They think He is demanding. They think He is up in heaven watching over us like a cop waiting for us to mess up so He can punish us. No where in the Bible is God described like that. God is gracious. The definition of grace is “unmerited favor”. Grace is never earned. It is simply given.

God gave His son so that we can have eternal life (i.e. heaven). This was entirely an act of grace [John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9]. But the giving doesn’t stop there. After we are saved God continues to give.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Unity Is Found In God’s One Truth


There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
(Ephesians 4:4-6 ESV)


In yesterday’s passage Paul had called all believers to live in such a way so as to maintain the unity that God had created. Unity amongst believers is a prevalent theme in all that God teaches us in the Bible. This is because unity is an important concept of who God Himself is.

This list of seven “ones” that unify God’s children comprise each member of the Trinity. There is one (Holy) Spirit, one Lord (Jesus), and one God and Father.

Notice that God the Father is “over” all His children in the sense of being sovereign. He is also “through” all – He works through His children – and “in” all – He places Himself in every believer in the form of the Holy Spirit. Here is another verse that equates God with both Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

There is one of each member of the Trinity. All three comprise a single God who manifests Himself in three persons – God the Father, the Son (whose earthly name is Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. They are different, but united. Just as our human bodies consist of different parts that work together, so do the members of the Trinity. They each have their own function but they work in harmony.

Its important to recognize that in this passage God is calling His children to internal unity as opposed to those who don’t believe in Him and the truth He lays out in the Bible. Those who alter God’s truth by, for example, claiming that salvation is not by Jesus’ blood alone as the Catholic church claims, or by claiming that homosexuality is not a sin, cannot live in unity with God’s children because they don’t know God.

While we should be civil and respectful of those with other viewpoints, we should not consider ourselves to be united with such people. Unity is only found in Christ [Philippians 4:2].

There is only one God and only one truth. That truth is clearly spelled out in the Bible. God’s children should, therefore, study the Bible so that we know that truth. Sadly, though, most people, including Christians, know more about celebrities or even fictional TV characters than they know about God.

Knowing the Bible, however, is infinitely more beneficial. When we do, then when we find ourselves dissenting from each other – which will, understandably, happen – we can return to these truths and keep ourselves from becoming estranged.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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None Of Us Are Easy To Get Along With


I, therefore, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live worthily of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
(Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV)


Yesterday we read that born-again believers are to live in a way that reflect who they really are – God’s children [John 1:12]. Just like the child of the Queen of England is expected to conduct him/herself in a way that does not bring shame on the crown, God commands His children to behave in a way that honors Him.

Our behavior honors God primarily in our interpersonal relationships. The words “humility, gentleness, and patience” are all interpersonal words. They describe how we should interact with other believers.

In the first three chapters of this letter Paul discussed how God’s plan is to unite all things in Christ [Ephesians 1:10]. Paul begins the practical portion of this letter with an appeal to unity. It is the responsibility of every believer to maintain unity with every other believer.

That is not to say that we won’t have differences of opinion. We certainly will. Any two people (e.g. husband and wife) will see things differently. And certainly a group of many people will have many opinions and preferences. But disagreement does not have to mean disunity. We can be unified despite our differences and Paul tells us how in this verse.

First, we must be humble. Humility is not a virtue in today’s society and it wasn’t in ancient Greece either. Humility is misunderstood to mean having a low opinion of oneself. But this is wrong. Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself. Humility is thinking of yourself less – putting other people first [Romans 12:3].

We are also to be gentle; we are to have our emotions under control. This does not mean that we never get angry. It means that we get angry at the right things – the very same things that make God angry like sin. And when we do get angry we express it appropriately.

Christians are also to demonstrate patience. The Greek word here means “longsuffering; not seeking to avenge”. We should not seek our own brand of justice. Rather we are to remember that God is in control and will right every wrong.

The summation of these behaviors is that we should “bear” each other in love. This is very interesting. The Greek word for “bearing” means “to endure”. In other words, God tells us to put up with each other. Its not easy to get along with other people, even those inside the church. If it were, God would not have to command us to do it.

None of us are easy to live with. We are all works in progress and we should see each other this way. Doing so is a gesture of love.

Unity and peace are available through the Holy Spirit as a result of Jesus’ death. It is only in Christ that people can find unity. But it is not automatic. It takes work. We need to make “every effort” to preserve that unity in our relationships.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Live A Life Worthy Of God’s Grace & Mercy


I, therefore, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live worthily of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
(Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV)


All of Paul’s letters follow the same structure. The first part of the letter exposes truth about God and about us. It is usually pretty heavy on theology and doctrine. The second part of the letter explains how believers – who are God’s children [John 1:12] – should respond to these truths. Usually this means Paul exhorting us to certain behavior.

This letter to the Ephesians certainly follows this pattern. The first three chapters, which we have just studied, taught us many truths including that we are all born spiritually dead but that God took it upon Himself to make us alive. He did this by offering us forgiveness for our sins. He then made us citizens of heaven. This was all made possible because of God’s infinite grace and mercy that He demonstrated to us through the death of His son.

In response to these amazing things that He has done for us that we could never do for ourselves, God calls upon us to live a certain way. God has saved us from the dreadful penalty of our sins – an eternity in the presence of endless and rampant human sin (we call that hell). Whenever someone does something nice for us we naturally want to do something for them to repay them for their kindness.

The way we repay God (for lack of a better term – we can never repay God) is “to live worthily”. We are to live like the saved people that we are. The Greek word translated “live” here is περιπατεο (pronounced: per-ee-pat-eh’-o) which means “to walk; to conduct one’s self”. The word “worthily” is αξιοσ (pronounced: ax-ee’-oce), an adjective derived from the Greek word for “weight”.

The word picture here is believers are to live lives that are in-balance with the great gift that God has given them through no effort of their own. None of us deserve eternal life and none of us can earn it [Ephesians 2:8-9]. It is a free gift of God. God offered it to us even though we were (and are) undeserving. Our response to that gift is living a life that reflects honorably upon God.

Notice that the verb “live” (“walk” in some translations) is in the present tense implying that we are to constantly do this. For the believer, life is a never-ending effort to live in a way that accurately reflects our standing as forgiven children of God who are now citizens of heaven.

We’ll learn exactly how God wants us to do this as we study the next three chapters of this letter.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Who Would Have Thought?


Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
(Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV)


Yesterday we read the beginning of Paul’s doxology in which he accurately proclaimed that God can do far more than we would ever pray for or even think. God’s children (born-again believers [John 1:12]) are still simply human beings. We are limited in our imagination and, of course, our abilities.

God can use us despite those limitations. When Jesus fed the multitudes He did so with limited human resources (just a couple of loaves of bread and fish) [Mark 6:30-44, 8:1-9]. At the Red Sea all Moses could do was hold his hands up in the air but God parted the waters [Exodus 14]. When we offer God what little we have, He can work miracles. He can do things that we would never have thought of.

When He does He deserves to be given all the glory. Lest we begin to think that we deserve any praise for any of these accomplishments, Paul reminds us that the glory belongs to God in these situations.

But beyond that, the very fact that God is creating a family – called “the church” in this verse – that will last “throughout all generations, forever and ever” is reason enough to give Him glory. That family is built on the work of Jesus Christ.

When someone does something for you that you didn’t ask for you are very thankful, especially if you really needed it. As a result, your estimation of them rises. How much more so, then, should our esteem for God be? He took it upon Himself to save a rag-tag bunch of self-absorbed sinners who paid no attention to Him – and, in some cases, even disavowed His existence – from the self-imposed destiny they were headed for by sacrificing His own life. No one imagined He would do that.

If left to ourselves none of us would ever have imagined that we are sinners in need of forgiveness. But God knew it. And even though none of us asked God to pay the penalty for our sins He did so anyway by sending His son, Jesus, to earth to become sin in our place [2 Corinthians 5:21]. Who would ever have thought of this? Only God.

The very existence of “the church” – the worldwide collection people born-again through the blood of Jesus – is proof of God’s immense love for us and His ability and willingness to do things above and beyond our imagination. This institution will exist for all eternity as God’s family.

For this alone God deserves all the praise and glory we can muster.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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The Incredible Power Of The Holy Spirit


Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
(Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV)


Paul had prayed that his readers, which includes us, would have inner strength, have the indwelling Christ, know His incomprehensible love, and be filled the fullness of God. This may all seem impossible. But with God anything is possible [Matthew 19:26]. This makes sense. He did, after all, design and create us.

But these things are only available to believers (Paul is writing to believers) through the “power at work within us”. That power is the Holy Spirit.

At the moment a person believes in Jesus for necessity and completeness of the forgiveness of their sins, God takes up residence in that person in the form of the Holy Spirit – the 3rd member of the Trinity [Acts 2:38]. God is one God. But He has manifested Himself to the human race in three “persons”: the Father, the Son (whose earthly name was Jesus), and the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit provides power to our lives [Acts 1:8, Ephesians 3:16]. It is through this power that Christians are able to live in a way that the rest of the world cannot. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to hold our tongue when we are being ridiculed for their faith. The Holy Spirit gives us power to love those who hate us. The Holy Spirit gives us power to face tragedy with confidence.

As stated, the Holy Spirit is God. That means the power Paul is talking about is the very same power that created the universe and raised Christ from the dead [Psalm 33:6,9; Ephesians 1:20]. That is some pretty incredible power.

It is that very same power that is inside every born-again believer. And it is currently “at work” in their lives. Notice the verb is in the present tense. We do not have to wait until we get to heaven to experience this power. Granted, we will not experience it fully on this earth. But nevertheless, God, through the Holy Spirit, is working in our lives to accomplish His purpose for us which is to fill us with the fullness of God.

Some expect God to, therefore, only provide us with enjoyable experiences as if He were some genie who waves a magic wand over us. That is not how God works. God is interested in building our character. This happens primarily through adversity.

God calls on His children to experience suffering. We all have a hard time with this concept because no one wants to go through difficulty. But it is only through hardship that we can become better people. When we do experience suffering we (God’s children) can know that He is right there with us – in fact He is inside us – and will comfort and guide us through any situation.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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