Scripture reading for September 25th: Ephesians 4:1-16
It was God’s amazing love that birthed the church from both Jew and Gentile. Paul prayed that the church at Ephesus might be strengthened with power through the Holy Spirit and that Christ might dwell in their hearts by faith. He prayed that this amazing love would establish them and unify them in spite of any previous differences. As he prayed, he knew and confessed that Christ was able to do more than he could even ask or think about! (Ephesians 3:20-21)
God’s plan to save Jew and Gentile through the Gospel was made known to the church. God then raised up an army of those who would equip the church for the works of service that God required to advance His plan. These gift-people included apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. The purpose of these gifts to the church was to equip the body of Christ. God wanted each member of His body to come into unity of purpose and have a full understanding of the Son of God.
When a person is first born again, that person is like an infant baby. They must be fed and cared for so that they can grow properly. Good food with a balance of proper nutrition must be given the infant. They need milk in order to grow. (1st Peter 2:2) In the church at Ephesus, as in other churches, there were some false teachers who might try to persuade these new infants to eat from junk food that they were serving. These false doctrines would toss them about and prevent them from growing up as mature believers in the faith. (Ephesians 4:14) As each appointed part of Christ’s body did their part, the church would grow up to be like their head, Christ.
The church today needs God’s gift people more than ever. There are many opportunities for infants in Christ to be tossed about by winds of doctrine and deceitful counterfeits. Church leaders must use discernment and preach the Word. Evangelists must preach the Gospel of Christ and birth infants. Apostles must plant churches and take the Gospel where it has not be preached. Prophets must expound the Word of God, keeping the church in God’s grace. Pastors and teachers must make disciples and care for Christ’s sheep by feeding and shepherding them. When all work together, Godly growth into the fullness of Christ results!
Scripture reading for August 3rd: Romans 16:8-27
Paul concludes his letter of introduction with some personal notes of greeting showing that although he had never visited the church at Rome, he had many connections. The community of faith is like a family with relationship connections everywhere. Ministry happens through relationship and when someone is born again, they come into a circle of new relationships.
The first woman mentioned was a sister in the Lord, Phoebe. She was called a ‘servant of the church in Cenchrea’. (Romans 16:1) The word for ‘servant’ is ‘deacon’. Phoebe was a friend of Paul’s who probably took his letter to the church in Rome from Corinth.
Priscilla and Aquila were a husband and wife whom Paul met in Corinth. Priscilla and Aquila were originally from Italy and left Rome because of persecution from Claudius, the Roman emperor who ordered all Jews to leave. (Acts 18:1-3) They had evidently returned to Italy and were part of the church there. Paul had been a tent maker with them and worked with them in sharing the Gospel in Corinth. These two had risked their lives for Paul. (Romans 16:3-5) A church was meeting at their house in Rome!
Andronicus and Junias, were relatives of Paul’s who were imprisoned with Paul at some point. Paul indicated that they were outstanding among the apostles and saved before he was. (Romans 16:7) This is the only mention in Scripture of a woman who was part of the early apostles!
Paul listed at least 8 women who were his friends and workers for the Lord. He also listed 19 men by name that he knew in Rome and commended them to the church there. He spoke of them in very personal ways as ‘dear friends’ and ‘like a mother’. He called them ‘saints’ and asked that the church greet them for him with a holy kiss of affection.
Paul warned the church there to be on guard against those who would cause divisions in the relationships that they enjoyed. Each church must be watchful because Satan loves to cause strife and division. (Romans 16:17-19) These who cause strife use smooth talk and flattery to deceive naive people. Paul’s warning was part of his pastor’s heart and years of experience in spiritual warfare. Personal relationship with Jesus Christ forms the basis of our salvation. Personal relationships in the body of Christ are essential for ministry. God knows each person by name!