June 02, 2022 ABIDE Devotionals Good Morning A FUTURE INHERITANCE (Click the link below to listen to the audio) https://abide.co/prayer/n3ziul REVELATION 21:7-8 NLT 7 All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children. 8 “But cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt, murderers, the immoral, those who practice… Read More
ENCOURAGE, ENLIGHTEN & EMPOWER
Home Fellowship Churches
Welcome in bringing the Gospel – the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ, Bible Studies, Praise & Worship, & Fellowship Church to every homes.
Home Fellowship Churches is non-denominational Bible churches of Born-Again Christian believers who gather in fellowship with other families in their homes.
In accordance to our three main purposes; ENCOURAGE, ENLIGHTEN, and EMPOWER, we will help and lead the head or high priest of the family with their own family mission statement in conformance to the Home Fellowship Churches Mission Statement.
In every family home, we will continue to establish or plant home fellowship church [family home] based on the following Scriptures:
“Anyone who confesses (acknowledges, owns) that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides (lives, makes His home) in Him and He (abides, lives, makes His home] in God.” [1 John 4:15 AMPC]
“Yet [in spite of the threats] they never ceased for a single day, both in the temple area and at home, to teach and to proclaim the Good News (Gospel) of Jesus [as] the Christ (the Messiah).” [Acts 5:42 AMPC].
“8 [Yes] we have confident and hopeful courage and are pleased rather to be away from home out of the body and be at home with the Lord. 9 Therefore, whether we are at home [on earth away from Him] or away from home [and with Him], we are constantly ambitious and strive earnestly to be pleasing to Him.” [2 Corinthians 5:8-9 AMPC]
“Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.” [Ephesians 3:17 AMPC]
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere – in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” [Acts 1:8]
The Home Fellowship Churches is committed to achieve the three main purposes: ENCOURAGE, ENLIGHTEN, and EMPOWER families to share the Great Commission, preach and teach the Gospel – the Good News – the love and forgiveness of our Lord Jesus Christ, our loving Savior and merciful Mighty God.
First, the Home Fellowship Churches’ purpose is to “ENCOURAGE” Born-Again Christian and spiritual matured believers to bring the church and/or fellowship (not the building or temple) that meets in every homes/houses, gives the families a future focus, a sense of hope, a sense of deep meaningful purpose. This sense of the future becomes more impactful, more powerful than the sense of the past, than what is often called baggage: past traumas, social injuries, past failures, and even the grasp of present circumstances. We will need to work basically on two things: vision – our sense of the future, and purpose driven life – those principles we want to live by so that we value them.
Second, the Home Fellowship Churches’ purpose is to “ENLIGHTEN” the members of the family at home through our Lord Jesus Christ who is the Light of the world. We could begin with the end in mind with a common purpose, a common vision, which is what gets expressed in a family mission statement within the Home Fellowship Churches. We may call it a purpose statement. The most important thing is the collective effort by all in the family to develop a clear sense of what that family is about and values by which it operates. A family’s vision, purpose, and values are more powerful, more significant, and more influential than the baggage of the past or even the accumulated noise of the present. The power of a mission statement lies in the family vision and in a commitment to that vision, to that purpose, and to those principle-centered values.
Third, the Home Fellowship Churches’ purpose is to “EMPOWER” families with the help of the HOLY SPIRIT to create family’s mission statement, a nurturing place of faith, hope and love that will direct and lead our families’ destination guided by our leadership skills with the wisdom comes from God. We received the guidance of the Holy Spirit and God’s Words, and the core values we want to live our lives by walking by faith in God according to His perfect will, hope from His promises, don’t give up, and envision together what lies down the road the way to live in eternity.
The Home Fellowship Churches’ ultimate purpose, vision, and mission is to establish church and/or fellowship in every home with the support and further of family’s mission statement. The family’s mission statement is to propagate the Gospel – The Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ to our loved ones, friends, and neighbors. It is also merely an extension of statement that is based on Habit Two of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People called “Begin with the End in Mind.” It focuses us on the principles of what we want to be in terms of character, and what we want to do about contributions and achievements. It is based upon self-chosen values and principles. This is the supreme value of the process of long-term thinking, long term planning in building powerful family mission statement that surround the accomplishment of worthy purposes for all God’s glory.
- In Hebrews 10:24-25 NLT says, “24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.”
This word encourage means to “stimulate strongly,” “arouse,”. Christians need to spur or stimulate each other in two areas: (1) Love – not an emotion but a choice to act regardless of our feelings. We are to act lovingly toward other believers. (2) Good deeds – works done for the good of others.
Born-Again Christian Believers also must not neglect meeting together. Some Christians (then as well as today) were not going to the church meetings. For whatever reason, these believers were trying to survive on their own. To withdraw from corporate strength is to invite disaster, like an airman, marine, sailor and soldier in battle who lags behind the rest of his/her platoon and becomes an easy target.
Finally, believers must encourage and warn each other. These words reveal that Christians are responsible for each other. Christians cannot be concerned just for their own spiritual well-being; they must also encourage others to keep fervent in their love and active in their service to God. This encouragement should happen especially now that the day of His coming back again is drawing near. This “day” (Jesus Christ’s return) is guaranteed; our Lord Jesus Christ will return. Through the centuries, many Christians have been discouraged because they believed that Jesus Christ should have already returned. But our Lord Jesus Christ has not forgotten, and He has not changed His plans. Christians must live as if the Lord will come back at any moment. Our Lord Jesus Christ must not find us lax in our devotion and preparation.
To neglect Christian meetings is to give up the encouragement and help of other Christians. We gather together to share our faith and to strengthen one another in the Lord. As we get closer to the day when our Lord Jesus Christ will return, we will face many spiritual struggles, and even times of persecution. Anti-Christian forces will grow in strength. Difficulties should never be excuses for missing church services and Small Groups Bible Studies and fellowship. Rather, as difficulties arise, we should make an even greater effort to be faithful in attendance especially in our Bridge Church (https://bridge.church Small Groups. Everyone is welcome regardless of your race, gender, and church membership.
- In 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 NLT says, “9 For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out His anger on us. 10 Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when He returns, we can live with Him forever.11 So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”
Despite persecution and their sorrow over fellow believers who had died, the Christians needed to encourage each other about the certainty of their future reunion with all believers who had gone on before (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) and the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10).
We ought also to build each other up in the faith. Even as one believer receives encouragement, he or she at another time will be in a position to offer it. The mutual giving and receiving in the body of our Lord Jesus Christ keep the church strong against the forces that attack it. We as God’s people always need to stand together as we anticipate our Lord and Savior’s return.
As we near the end of a long race, our legs ache, our throat burns, and our whole body cries out for us to stop. This is when friends and fans are most valuable. Their encouragement helps us push through the pain to the finish line. In the same way, Born-Again Christians are to encourage one another. A word of encouragement offered at the right moment can be the difference between finishing well and collapsing along the way. Look around you. Be sensitive to others’ need for encouragement, and offer supportive words or actions. Amen!
- In 1 Thessalonians 5:14 NLT says, “14 Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.”
While the leaders have special responsibility to guide the church, believers are not exempt from their responsibilities to care for one another. Paul singled out three groups in this church and “urged” the believers to look after or deal with them – each in a different way.
First, they are to warn those who are lazy. The word “warn” is also in 1 Thessalonians 5:12 and means to firmly admonish. They were to warn the lazy, idle believers. The word translated “lazy” is used only in the letters to the Thessalonians (see also 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 7, 11) and seems to have been a particular concern for this church. The Greek word translated “lazy” (ataktous) was used for soldiers who would not stay in the ranks. These people had set themselves outside the prescribed pattern for the church – everyone else was working and serving, but they would not. The problem with idle people is that, because they are not busy enough with valuable activities, they usually stir up trouble of one kind or another. These people need to be warned to get back in line and to use their God-given gifts in service for the Kingdom.
Second, they are to encourage those who are timid. The lazy need to be warned, but the timid need to be encouraged. The “timid” are the fearful people who lack confidence – perhaps in themselves or even in their faith. They have become discouraged or worried, possibly by persecution or by the deaths of their fellow believers (1 Thessalonians 3:13). These people need loving instruction from their fellow believers to calm their fears and to build their confidence.
Third, they are to take tender care of those who are weak. The word for “take tender care” is antechesthe (also translated simply as “help”); it pictures the action of holding on to these people, wrapping arms around them, clinging to them. This is the kind of help suggested for the spiritually “weak,” those weak in faith, those in need (such as financial need) or those who might be struggling with the sins associated with paganism that Paul wrote about in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8. These might be struggling, needy, or immature Christians who need the arms of strong fellow believers to guide them, give them support, and let them know they are not alone. See also Romans 5:6; 14:1; 1 Corinthians 8:9.
Finally, being patient with everyone is the glue that holds the relationships together. In any group where a variety of people come together and are expected to be a loving family, godly patience will be required of everyone. The word for “patient” (makrothumia) is also translated “long-suffering.” This is an attribute of God (Exodus 34:6; Psalm 103:8), a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22), and a characteristic of love (1 Corinthians 13:4). God is patient with people, and so Christians should be. In addition, God has given His Spirit to help us also, His people be patient with one another. Amen!
- The Hope of the Resurrection – In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 NLT says, “13 And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with Him the believers who have died. 15 We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet Him ahead of those who have died. 16 For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. 17 Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. 18 So, encourage each other with these words.”
The Thessalonians were wondering why many of their fellow believers had died and what would happen to them when our Lord Jesus Christ returned. Paul wanted the Thessalonians to understand that death is not the end of the story. When our Lord Jesus Christ returns, all believers – dead and alive – will be reunited, never to suffer or die again. Amen!
A question to Paul from the Thessalonian believers regarded the Christians who have died. The believers had been taught that our Lord Jesus Christ would one day return and take His people to Himself – every believer should be ready for that return at any moment. Apparently, in the interim, we as Born-Again Christian Believers awaited our Lord Jesus Christ’s return, some of us had died. The Thessalonians were wondering why this had happened before our Lord Jesus Christ return, and what would happen to those who had died before He came back. Some may have feared that believers who had died would miss the Kingdom. No doubt, the thought that their loved ones would not be with our Lord Jesus Christ caused them great sorrow.
This contrasts strongly with Paul’s view (1 Corinthians 15:53-55; Philippians 1:21-23). Paul wanted the Thessalonians to understand that death is not the end. When our Lord Jesus Christ returns, all believers – dead and alive – will be reunited, never to suffer or die again. Believers need not be full of sorrow like people who have no hope. Paul recognized that the death of loved ones naturally results in grieving; but when Christians grieve for Christians who have died, there is a difference. Their grief is not hopeless. While the pain is real, the fact is that these loved ones will be seen again as the following verses describe.
In Verse 14 described Believers can have hope in the resurrection because of what happened to our Lord Jesus Christ. Because our Lord Jesus Christ died and was raised to life again, believers can also trust that those who have died will also be resurrected (see also 1 Corinthians 15:12-20). Then, when our Lord Jesus Christ comes, God will bring back with our Lord Jesus Christ all the Christians who have died. Believers who have died are with the Lord already! They are presently with God and will come with our Lord Jesus Christ. They haven’t missed out – in fact, they are enjoying God’s presence. Second Corinthians 5:8 and Philippians 1:21-22 teach that believers go to be with our Lord Jesus Christ at death.
What did Paul mean when he wrote, I can tell you this directly from the Lord? Either this was something that the Lord had revealed directly to Paul, or it was a teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ that had been passed along orally by the apostles and other Christians. Nevertheless, there was no disputing what Paul was about to say. He wanted these believers to understand that neither the dead nor the living would be at any disadvantage with regard to our Lord Jesus Christ’s return. All believers will share the blessings of the resurrection. Those who have died are already with our Lord Jesus Christ and will be with Him when He returns (1 Thessalonians 4:14); those who are still living when our Lord Jesus Christ returns will not rise to meet Him ahead of those who are in their graves. Instead, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves first. Knowing exactly when the dead will be raised, in relation to the other events at the Second Coming, is not as important as knowing why Paul wrote these words. He wrote them to challenge and motivate believers to comfort and encourage one another when loved ones die.
This passage can be a great comfort when any believer dies. The same love that unites believers in this life (1 Thessalonians 4:9) will unite them when our Lord Jesus Christ returns and reigns for eternity.
The Second Coming will occur in God’s timing. He alone brings it about. Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Lord Himself, will descend from heaven, for that is where He has been since after His resurrection (Acts 1:9-11). Our Lord Jesus Christ’s return will be unmistakable. No one will miss it, for He will descend with a shout, with the call of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. Whether these are three different ways of referring to one sound, whether they happen simultaneously, or happen in sequence is unknown. But these sounds will herald His return.
Paul used distinctive imagery associated with the end times. An archangel is a high or holy angel appointed to a special task. Clearly, the angelic hosts will be taking part in this celebration of our Lord Jesus Christ’s return to take His people home (Mark 8:38). A trumpet blast will usher in the new heaven and earth (Revelation 11:15). The Jews would understand the significance of this because trumpets were always blown to signal the start of great festivals and other extraordinary events (Numbers 10:10).
After the dead have risen from their graves, the believers who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. A reference to “clouds” in the Bible often symbolizes the presence of God (Exodus 13:21; 14:19; 19:16; 24:15; 40:34-38; Mark 9:7; Acts 1:9). There are differing views about whether this taking of the believers and the Second Coming of Christ occur at the same time, as noted below.
Clearly, all believers – whether they are alive or have died at the time of our Lord Jesus Christ’s return – will be together with one another and with the Lord forever. This supernatural event will cause a great reunion among believers who are alive and those who have already died. Both groups will experience our Lord Jesus Christ’s return together. This joyous reunion will go on forever.
This Verse 17 provides a clear picture of what is called the “rapture.” But Paul does not say exactly when this will happen in relationship to the other great event of the end times: the tribulation. So, there are three main views regarding the timing of the rapture with respect to the tribulation:
1. Pre-tribulationists point to the period of tribulation (described in Revelation) that occurs before the Second Coming of Christ and believe that the rapture of the believers will occur before this time of tribulation. They believe, therefore, that believers will be in heaven while the earth goes through a time of great tribulation. This view sees the believers meeting our Lord Jesus Christ in the clouds, but places His Second Coming as later.
2. Mid-tribulationists say that the rapture will occur at the mid-point of the time period of tribulation. The believers will be on earth for the first half of that time of tribulation but then will be raptured and will escape the last half, which will be a time of intense suffering. This view also sees our Lord Jesus Christ’s Second Coming as a separate and later event.
3. Post-tribulationists believe that the believers will remain on the earth during the time of tribulation prior to our Lord Jesus Christ’s Second Coming. Then, when our Lord Jesus Christ returns in the clouds, believers will be caught up to be with Him.
While Christians may differ regarding the timing of this rapture, all believe that it will happen and that it will be a joyous reunion of all believers, living and dead. Paul’s point was not to give his readers a timeline or a literal description of how all the end-time events would fit together. Instead, he wanted to reassure the Thessalonians that their fellow believers who had died would not miss out on our Lord Jesus Christ’s return and eternal Kingdom.
The Thessalonians did not need to continue worrying about the spiritual state of those who had died. Paul explained to these believers that being dead or alive at the return of our Lord Jesus Christ would make no difference, for our Lord Jesus Christ would bring all His people together to be with Him forever. Instead of worrying, we should comfort and encourage each other with these words. Even in the face of death, we as Born-Again Christian believers know that our Lord Jesus Christ is ultimately triumphant. Amen!
- In 2 Corinthians 13:11-14 NLT says, “11 Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet each other with Christian love. 13 All of God’s people here send you their greetings. 14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
Paul wanted these believers to be able to rejoice. Then he said they must change their ways. Foremost in Paul’s mind was that the church leaders of the Corinthian congregation would take charge by disciplining the unrepentant (2 Corinthians 13:2), silencing the false teachers in their congregation (2 Corinthians 11:13), and restoring the repentant to church fellowship (2 Corinthians 2:7). Paul knew that the disruption the false teachers had caused in the Corinthian church would create disunity – they needed instead to encourage each other. They should seek opportunities to build each other up in the faith (1 Corinthians 1:10; 12:7, 12-14). With his brief commands to live in harmony and peace, this Verse 11 sums up Paul’s exhortations in his earlier letter for the Corinthians to unite as one congregation under the God of love and peace (see 1 Corinthians 12:27). They were to put their disputes aside and join together under our Lord Jesus Christ’s leadership to advance His heavenly Kingdom.
Paul encouraged the Corinthians to greet each other in Christian love. By alluding to the greetings of all the Christians, Paul was reminding the Corinthians that other congregations throughout the Roman Empire were trying, along with the Corinthians, to be unified under our Lord Jesus Christ. There were congregations across the eastern Mediterranean that shared the same faith and the Spirit that the Corinthians had. Although these believers were miles apart, all Christians were united through the Holy Spirit under our Lord Jesus Christ’s authority.
Paul’s final blessing on the Corinthians invokes all three members of the Trinity – God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Although the term “Trinity” is not explicitly used in the Bible, verses such as this one show that early Christians believed that there were three persons in the Godhead (see Matthew 3:17; 28:19; Luke 1:35).
With this final Trinitarian benediction, Paul was giving the Corinthians a model from the Godhead of how to be unified in love. Through the Spirit’s empowering, they, too, could begin to imitate in their congregation the grace, love, and fellowship that the Godhead already enjoyed. It was by Paul’s commitment to the Corinthians – through good times and bad, through rejection and acceptance – that Paul hoped to bring the Corinthians back into the full enjoyment of our Lord Jesus Christ and Christian unity. Amen!
- In Romans 1:10-12 NLT says, “10 One of the things I always pray for is the opportunity, God willing, to come at last to see you. 11 For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord. 12 When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.”
Paul also prayed that he could visit these believers. For a long time, Paul had wanted to visit the empire’s capital city, but he had been prevented from doing so (see also Romans 1:13; 15:22; Acts 19:21; 23:11; 28:14-16). Here Paul expresses his continued desire to go, but only if God willed it. Having prayed so often for them, he wanted to visit them in order to minister to them. Paul proposed a trip to Rome to serve, not to be served. He fully intended that his visit would benefit the believers there.
What spiritual blessing did Paul want to share? This was not a particular empowering to do something; rather, it was an insight or teaching based on the needs that Paul would find when he got to Rome. It would help them grow strong in the Lord. This letter to them certainly worked toward that end, but Paul also hoped that the spiritual effects of his intended visit would be powerful and mutual.
Paul prayed for the chance to visit these Christians so that he could encourage them with his gift of faith and be encouraged by theirs. As God’s missionary, he could help them understand the meaning of the Good News about our Lord Jesus Christ. As God’s devoted people, they could offer him fellowship and comfort. Paul makes it clear that he will not come as simply the teacher and giver – he will be open to be given to and encouraged as well. When Christians gather, everyone should give and receive. Our mutual faith gives us a common language and a common purpose for blessing one another. Amen!
- In Romans 15:4 NLT says, “4 Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.”
The Scriptures (here referring to the Old Testament) were written and preserved for future generations. Our scriptural knowledge affects our attitude toward the present and the future. The more we know about what God has done in years past, the greater will be our confidence in what He will do in the days ahead. We should read our Bible diligently to increase our trust that God’s will is best for us.
How does the Bible give us hope and encouragement? (1) God’s attributes and character constantly remind us in whom our hope is based (Psalm 46:1-2). (2) The biographies of saints who overcame great obstacles give us examples of what can be done with God’s help (Hebrews 11). (3) The direct exhortation of Scripture calls for endurance and speaks encouragement (James 1:2-4; Hebrews 12:1-2). (4) The prophetic statements support our hope for a wonderful future planned for us in eternity (Romans 5:1-5).
Paul admonishes strong believers not to please themselves but to please God and others. Scripture records stories of those who pleased God, those who didn’t, and those who failed but learned from their mistakes. We are to endure as our Lord Jesus Christ endured and be encouraged by the examples of other believers. This gives us hope as we wait patiently for God’s promises. Amen!
- In Proverbs 12:23-27 NLT says, “23 The wise don’t make a show of their knowledge, but fools broadcast their foolishness. 24 Work hard and become a leader; be lazy and become a slave. 25 Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up. 26 The godly give good advice to their friends; the wicked lead them astray. 27 Lazy people don’t even cook the game they catch, but the diligent make use of everything they find.”
Wise people have a quiet confidence. Insecure or unstable people feel the need to prove themselves, but wise people don’t have to prove anything. They know they are capable, so they can get on with their work. Beware of showing off. If you are modest, people may not notice you at first, but they will respect you later.
A prudent man knows when to speak and when to remain quiet (Proverbs 12:23). The lazy man neglects essential responsibilities (Proverbs 12:27). The diligent make wise use of their possessions and resources; the lazy waste them. Waste has become a way of life for many who live in a land of plenty. Waste is poor stewardship. Make good use of everything God has given you, and prize it. Amen!
- In Numbers 6:24-26 NLT says, “24 ‘May the Lord bless you and protect you. 25 May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. 26 May the Lord show you His favor and give you, His peace.’“
A blessing was one way of asking for God’s divine favor to rest upon others. The ancient blessing in these verses helps us understand what a blessing was supposed to do. Its five parts conveyed hope that God would (1) bless and protect them; (2) smile on them (be pleased); (3) be gracious (merciful and compassionate); (4) show His favor toward them (give His approval); (5) give peace. When we ask God to bless others or ourselves, we are asking Him to do these five things. The blessing we offer will not only help the one receiving it, it will also demonstrate love, encourage and enlighten others, and provide a model of caring for others. Amen!
- In Ephesians 3:6-9 NLT says, “6 And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus. 7 By God’s grace and mighty power, I have been given the privilege of serving Him by spreading this Good News. 8 Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, He graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ. 9 I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning.”
Paul’s job was to explain to everyone this plan (see Ephesians 3:2). All people were to know that it pleased God at this time to make known or bring to light his secret plan.
In case anyone missed his point, Paul explained exactly what that secret plan entailed. While the early prophets had written of the inclusion of Gentiles with Jews (see, for example, Isaiah 49:6; 56:6-7), their writings were interpreted that the Gentiles could become proselytes. Proselytes are new converts to a doctrine or religion.
The extent of this inclusion and the radical change – the Jews and Gentiles having an equal share – was not even considered. No one ever knew this until God revealed it to Paul and the other New Testament apostles and prophets. This inclusion of Gentiles with Jews can happen because both have believed the Good News. Also, both are part of the same body and so are united into one unit under our Lord Jesus Christ, the Head.
Finally, both enjoy together the promise of blessings through our Lord Jesus Christ. They will be fellow partakers and copartners in receiving the coming blessings promised in God’s Kingdom (2 Timothy 1:1).
The carrying out of this explanation of the mystery occurred as Paul and the other apostles taught God’s great purpose in our Lord Jesus Christ and as the church itself took root and grew. For Paul, explaining God’s plan was at the core of his selection as an apostle. Paul understood that he was born at a specific time to fulfill a specific purpose – revealing this mystery that God knew the plan all along but had kept it a secret until the appropriate time. God, the Creator of all things, was at work both in the former creation and the new creation. The same God is at work, and His plan was in place before the creation of the world.
The unity Paul described above can only happen when the Gospel message is preached and believed. This Good News refers to the message of our Lord Jesus Christ as Messiah and Savior of all who believe – whether Jews or Gentiles. Paul had been given the wonderful privilege of serving God by spreading that message. Paul did not seek this job description, nor was it given to him on the basis of earned degree or merit.
Paul explained that his servanthood was by God’s special favor and mighty power. Paul had actually been working for the “other side” when God called Him.
Paul had rejected our Lord Jesus Christ as the Messiah and had actively persecuted Christians. Obviously, God had not called Paul on the basis of his goodness or apparent faithfulness! God made Paul a key messenger of the Gospel in the early days of the church. Yet Paul realized that he could not have fulfilled this mission without God’s favor and power – the Holy Spirit within him.
When Paul described himself as the least deserving Christian there is, he meant that God’s favor alone had saved him, the one who had hated and persecuted all who followed our Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing in Paul merited such favor; Paul knew this and was utterly amazed at what God had done. God had chosen him and had saved him for the special joy of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul considered telling others about our Lord Jesus Christ to be like sharing “treasures.” To the Gentiles, who had been excluded by the Jews from participation in God’s Kingdom (Ephesians 2:12-13), these treasures were unfathomable.
Paul’s job was to explain to everyone this plan (see Ephesians 3:2). All people were to know that it pleased God at this time to make known or bring to light His secret plan. The carrying out of this explanation of the mystery occurred as Paul and the other apostles taught God’s great purpose in our Lord Jesus Christ and as the church itself took root and grew. For Paul, explaining God’s plan was at the core of his selection as an apostle. Paul understood that he was born at a specific time to fulfill a specific purpose – revealing this mystery that God knew the plan all along but had kept it a secret until the appropriate time. God, the Creator of all things, was at work both in the former creation and the new creation. The same God is at work, and His plan was in place before the creation of the world.
- In Matthew 5:14-16 NLT says, “14 “You are the light of the world – like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”
“You are the light of the world.” As salt makes a difference in people’s food, so light makes a difference in their surroundings. Our Lord Jesus Christ would later explain, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t be stumbling through darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Our Lord Jesus Christ’s disciples must live for Jesus Christ, shining like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. They are like lights in a dark world, showing clearly what our Lord Jesus Christ is like. Because our Lord Jesus Christ is the light of the world, His followers must reflect His light. Amen!
- In Ephesians 5:12-14 NLT says, “12 It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. 13 But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, 14 for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”
While believers should stand for the truth, they ought not get caught up in empty talk and gossip about the shameful actions of sinful people. We should not promote or dignify sin by even so much as discussing it. What the ungodly people do in secret becomes clear for how evil it is – all it takes is some light. Nothing can hide from the light piercing through darkness. Believers are the “rays” of that light. By our actions (Ephesians 5:8-12), we become instruments of light, exposing the dark acts of sin. Believers who shine out in a dark world will expose evil. Their mission is to invite unbelievers to renounce their life of sin and come into our Lord Jesus Christ’s light so that they, too, can step into the light.
This quotation is not a direct quote from Scripture but may have been taken from a hymn well known to the Ephesians. The hymn could have been part of a baptismal hymn that was sung by the congregation for a new convert when he or she emerged from the baptismal waters.
For the new believer, coming out of spiritual death is like awaking from sleep, and coming into spiritual life is like greeting the sunshine – who is our Lord Jesus Christ. The hymn seems to have been based on Isaiah 26:19; 51:17; 52:1; and Isaiah 60:1. As the prophets appealed to Israel to awaken from its state of darkness and death, so Paul was appealing to the Ephesians to stay awake, stay alert, and realize the dangerous condition into which some of them had been slipping by listening to false teachings.
- In Philippians 4:13 NLT says, “13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.“
Paul’s contentment was not gained through stoic self-discipline. Instead, it was through our Lord Jesus Christ alone. In context, the word everything refers to the list in Philippians 4:11-12. In every possible circumstance, Paul could truly be content because he did not let outward circumstances determine his attitude. Our Lord Jesus Christ was giving him the strength to continue with his ministry and the work of spreading the Gospel whether he had plenty or was in need. Paul had complete confidence that, no matter what the circumstance, our Lord Jesus Christ would give him the strength to meet it.
This verse can be divided into two halves. The first half is, “I can do everything.” To stop there and pull the words out of context would imply the idea of self-reliance, cocky self-assuredness. That’s the kind of message we often hear from motivational speakers: “You can do anything you want if you put your mind to it.” But that’s not what the verse says. The last half reveals the source of our strength: Jesus Christ. God wants us to accomplish much for Him in this world, but only through our Lord Jesus Christ. Instead of trusting our own strength and abilities, we must rely on our Lord Jesus Christ and His power, the Holy Spirit.
Paul’s confident words can be spoken by every Christian. The power we receive in union with our Lord Jesus Christ is sufficient to do His will and to face the challenges that arise from our commitment to doing it. Amen!
- In Ephesians 6:10-13 NLT says, “10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. 18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.”
Be strong with the Lord’s mighty power refers to strength derived from God, not strength we humans have to somehow obtain. The words “be strong” describe continual empowering of the Christian community. God’s strength and power are part of the Kingdom blessings available to God’s people. The power that raised our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead empowers God’s people as we prepare for the spiritual battle we must face on this earth.
God empowers His people, but He does not send them into battle unarmed. God’s people must put on all of God’s armor (see also Romans 13:12). The panoplia, or full armor, means complete equipment, head-to-toe protection, both defensively and offensively. This gear was for hand-to-hand combat.
This “armor of God” was mentioned in the Old Testament. Isaiah 59:17 describes God as wearing the breastplate of righteousness and the helmet of salvation. Paul wrote this letter while chained to a Roman soldier. Certainly, the soldier’s armor must have brought this metaphor to mind. Paul described a divine and complete “outfit” that God gives believers in order to provide all we need to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil. The Devil rules the world of darkness, the kingdom opposed to God. “Stand against” was a military term meaning to resist the enemy, hold the position, and offer no surrender. The Devil will not fight fair; he uses subtle tricks and schemes. Our ability to stand firm depends on our use of the armor.
Born-Again Christians are fighting against evil – describing hand-to-hand combat. But we are not in an earthly military campaign – our battle is not against people made of flesh and blood. Instead, we battle the demons over whom Satan has control. Demons work to tempt people to sin. They were not created by Satan because God is the Creator of all. Rather, the demons are fallen angels who joined Satan in his rebellion and thus became perverted and evil.
The descriptive words reveal the characteristics of these enemies as well as their sphere of operations. Rulers and authorities are cosmic powers, or demons, mentioned in Ephesians 1:21. These spiritual beings have limited power. They are invisible to us, operating in the unseen world. The mighty powers refer to those spiritual powers who aspire to world control. They are evil (of the darkness) and they currently rule this world. The wicked spirits in the heavenly realms refers to the demons’ dwellings, planets and stars, from which the demons control the lives of people. Paul used the names of groups of evil powers not so much to establish classes or distinguish demonic powers as to show the full extent of Satan’s warfare.
Here is a host of spiritual forces arrayed against us, requiring us to use God’s full armor. These are real and powerful beings, not mere fantasies. Born-Again Christian Believers must not underestimate them. The Ephesians had practiced magic and witchcraft (Acts 19:19), so they were well aware of the power of the darkness. We face a powerful army whose goal is to defeat our Lord Jesus Christ’s church. When we believe in Jesus Christ, the satanic beings become our enemies, and they try every device to turn us away from Him and back to sin. Although believers are assured of victory, we must engage in the struggle until our Lord Jesus Christ returns because Satan constantly battles against all who are on God’s side.
Born-Again Christian Believers’ response to the reality of this warfare should be to use every piece of God’s armor. The armor is available, but the believer – soldier must use it. We would be neglectful to do otherwise, for the battle is real, and we are Satan’s targets. Only with the armor will believers be able to be standing firm, a word describing standing against great opposition; indeed, it would be impossible to stand on our strength alone.
Christian soldiers must be able to hold their ground and not flee or surrender under Satan’s attacks. The time of evil refers to the hours of trial that have within ourselves the seeds of the last and greatest trial. Born-Again Christian Believers must be prepared for every day’s conflicts with the forces of evil.
In order to stand our ground in the heat of battle, we as Born-Again Christian Believers need every piece of God’s armor. The order of the pieces listed in the following verses is the order in which a soldier would put them on. First, fasten the sturdy belt of truth around your waist. This belt, also called a girdle, was about six inches wide. Probably made of leather, it held together the clothing underneath as well as holding the other pieces of armor in place, such as the breastplate and the sheath for the sword. It may have contained a “breechclout,” an apron that protected the lower abdomen. It may have also braced the back in order to give strength. When the belt was fastened, the soldier was “on duty,” ready to fight. A slackened belt meant “off duty.” Christians, however, must face each day with a fastened belt, ready to fight the battle when needed. As the belt formed the foundation of the soldier’s armor, the truth is the foundation of the Christian life.
When the enemy, the father of lies (John 8:44), attacks with His lies, half-truths, and distortions, we believers can stand firm in the truth.
Next, the soldier must put on the body armor of God’s righteousness. The body armor was a large leather, bronze, or chain-mail piece that protected the body from the neck to the thighs. Protecting the vital organs, no soldier would go into battle without his body armor. Often this had a back piece too, protecting the body from hits from behind. Righteousness provides a significant defense; it gives the evidence that we have been made right with God and that this righteousness has been given us by the Holy Spirit.
Satan seeks to thwart righteous living. When the enemy, the accuser (Revelation 12:10), tries to convince us that we are not really saved, that we just keep on disappointing God, and that we’re “poor excuses” for Christians, we can stand up to him because of the righteousness we have been promised through our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen!
A soldier wore special sandals or military shoes that protected his feet without slowing him down. Roman soldiers had special shoes made of soft leather with studded soles. This allowed them to march farther and faster as well as giving them facility of motion in battle – they could dig in and hold their ground when in hand-to-hand combat.
Believers also need special shoes—peace that comes from the Good News. Believers can stand firm, with peace, even in hand-to-hand combat, because they know that they are doing right and that they are on the winning side. Christians are in the battle both with the inner peace our Lord Jesus Christ has already given and the desire to produce that peace in the hearts of others. This can only happen as we share this “Gospel of Peace” with those who have not yet heard and accepted it. When the enemy, the deceiver (Revelation 12:9), offers false ways to peace or tries to get us to focus on our concerns and fears, we Christian soldiers can stand up to him. Amen!
The soldier needed to also carry extra protection in the form of a shield. The image was taken from the Roman shield, a large oblong or oval piece, approximately four feet high by two feet wide, made of wood and leather, often with an iron frame. Sometimes the leather would be soaked in water to help extinguish fiery arrows. The ancient “flaming arrow” or “fire dart” was made of cane with a flammable head that was lighted and then shot so as to set fire to wooden shields, cloth tents, etc.
For Christians, this shield is faith – complete reliance on God. Faith means total dependence on God and willingness to do His will. It is not something we put on for a show for others. It means believing in His promises even though we don’t see those promises materializing yet. When the enemy, the ruler of this world (John 12:31), sends his fiery arrows of temptation, doubt, wrath, lust, despair, vengeance, problems, and trials into our lives, we can hold up our shields and stop them. Faith gives us the strength to stand against Satan with firm courage, even when he uses his most fearsome weapons.
The helmet protected the soldier’s head. Helmets were made of leather and brass, or sometimes bronze and iron – no sword could pierce a good helmet. Isaiah 59:17 describes God wearing a helmet of salvation. Believers’ salvation, already accomplished, will be consummated when our Lord Jesus Christ comes to claim His own. With the assurance of salvation protecting their minds, Christians can stand against Satan’s attacks.
As a blow to the head often means death, so a person without hope of salvation will be easily defeated by the enemy. When the enemy, the Devil (1 Peter 5:8), seeks to devour and destroy God’s people with empty or evil thoughts, trying to get us to doubt our salvation, we can trust in the protection of the helmet. Our salvation will be accomplished, for God has promised it.
Finally, the soldier takes the sword of the Spirit – the only offensive weapon mentioned. This refers to the short sword used in close combat. The sharp, short sword was one of Rome’s great military innovations. The Roman army was called the “short swords” because of its use of the short swords in winning battles. The sword’s double edges made it ideal for “cut and thrust” strategy. The Holy Spirit makes the Word of God effective as we speak it and receive it. The Holt Spirit gives the Word its penetrating power and sharp edge. Our Lord Jesus Christ’s use of God’s Word in His temptation prompts our use of it against Satan (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10). With the Holy Spirit within, believers have the constant reminder of God’s Word to use against Satan’s temptations. When the enemy, the tempter (Matthew 4:3-4; 1 Thessalonians 3:5), tries to tempt us to do evil, we have the power to send him away with the Word of God. The Holy Spirit will bring the Words to mind.
In Ephesians Chapter 6, Verse 18 described although not naming another “weapon” in the believer’s armor, does continue the thought of Ephesians 6:17. As we take the sword of the Holy Spirit, God’s Word, we must also pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Praying in the Spirit means that the Holy Spirit helps us when we pray (Romans 8:26); the Holy Spirit prays on our behalf (Romans 8:27); the Holy Spirit makes God accessible (Ephesians 2:18); the Holy Spirit gives us confidence when we pray (Romans 8:15-16; Galatians 4:6). He inspires and guides us when we pray. He helps us communicate with God and also brings God’s response to us.
Paul was not calling prayer a weapon; instead, he was giving the how-tos for taking up the armor described in the previous verses. We must not underestimate Satan’s forces. He will strike in different ways at different people; thus, we need to pray “all kinds” of prayers, allowing for all kinds of requests. Satan will attack at various times, but he will always be attacking someone. Satan will attack when we least expect it, so we need to stay alert to prayer needs when they arise. Satan will rarely let up if he thinks he can win the battle, so believers must be persistent in praying, no matter how long it takes.
No believer is exempt from being Satan’s target – Satan demands battle against his enemies (believers). Thus, all Born-Again Christians everywhere need our prayer support.
How can anyone pray at all times? Make quick, brief prayers your habitual response to every situation you meet throughout the day. Order our lives around God’s desires and teachings so that our very lives become a prayer. We can make prayer our lives and our lives a prayer while living in a world that needs God’s powerful influence. Amen!
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