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Jan 14 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 11, 2015 – Ephesians 4:11-16

A Visit to God’s Worksite

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers . . . Ephesians 4:11

Intro: Let’s take a look at the roadmap to see where we are

Paul painted a wonderful picture of Christian spirituality in chapters 1-3
- then, in chapter 4, he says, in effect, “You must have a spiritual practice”
• this is sometimes referred to as “spiritual disciplines” or “spiritual exercises”
• it is behavior that promotes, reinforces, and externalizes our inner spiritual life
- this practice is surprisingly social (remember how Paul began with humility, gentleness, etc.)
• the one practice Paul has focused on is “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”
◦ the big challenge to unity is our differences — we are not all the same
• but as Paul sees it, the ways in which you differ from me is a gift (to all of us)

For who differentiates you from another? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 Cor. 4:7)
Now you are Christ’s body, ad individually members of it. (1 Cor. 12:27)

◦ we cannot brag of a greater status than others, because what we have is only what we’ve been given
◦ God’s Spirit passes out gifts to each person that are beneficial to everyone

It would helpful to study 1 Corinthians 12, where the body as a metaphor for spiritual community is more fully developed
- the point is the relationship of the parts to the whole
your gifts makes you a gift to others
• you are a gift Jesus has given to the community
◦ and he’s given you “gifts”that make your participation valuable to others
◦ although everyone’s participation is unique, we function as one and move toward one goal

Now we are caught up to verse 11

Paul provides examples, choosing those that would be most familiar to his readers

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Jan 9 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 4, 2015 – Ephesians 4:4-10

Look For Jesus

There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:4-10

Intro: I don’t like breaking up this section–i.e., verses 1-16

It’s too easy to lose Paul’s train of thought
- this is where “verse by verse” teaching commonly slips up
• all verses may be inspired, but not all verses are created equal
◦  that is to say, some verses contain key themes while the verses around them play a supportive role
◦  also, some verses contain “data” (numbers, genealogies, etc.) that do not have the theological weight of others
• at any rate, the Bible was not written in chapters and verses, so the divisions are artificial
◦ as a rule, several verses together form one thought
◦ to lose sight of that main point, it is too easy to overemphasize something that is merely one piece of a bigger idea
- nevertheless, we want to enjoy all that Paul has packed into this passage
• and the only way to do that is to focus up close
• so what we’ll do is alternate our view by zooming out for the big picture and zooming in on the particulars

Paul’s concern (from last week) is that his readers would be “diligent to preserve the unity of Spirit in the bond of peace”
- in verses 4-10, he elaborates on this and answers two questions:
• where do we (believers, members of his church) find our unity?
• why isn’t our unity obvious?

Vv. 4-6, Where to we find our unity? The answer lies in a list of “ones”

One, in these verses, is a point where two or more lives are linked by single factor
- notice that verse 4 begins abruptly, “One body” (the Greek does not have “There is”)
• so he jumps from “unity” into the list, which begins, “One body”
◦ he has already made the connection between the church and the body of Christ (1:22-23)
◦ also, in 2:16 he demonstrated how Jesus had incorporated both Jews and Gentiles in one body
• toward the end of his ministry on earth, Jesus told his disciples:

I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd (Jn. 10:16)

◦ every follower of Jesus, in every place and in every period of history belongs to this one universal community of faith
- we have learned that sharing a common interest forms a bond between people

C. S. Lewis, “The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one.’”

• camping, stamp collecting, and many other interests are potential points for beginning a friendship
• even so, a bond is formed between us when we discover that we share membership in Jesus’ “body”

read more…

Dec 30 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 28, 2014 – Ephesians 4:1-3

The Fruit of Christian Spirituality

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3

Intro: The chapter begins with a “therefore”

It serves as a link to connect what came before to what comes next
- what came before?
• a radiant horizon of spiritual blessing, enjoyed by Christians, which includes average people (“Gentiles”)
• the inner self is prepared to receive Jesus Christ as a permanent resident (3:16-17)
• we become more and more enlightened to a divine love that is infinitely unsearchable
- this is the essence of Christian spirituality

Until now, we have been contemplating the inner experience of Christian spirituality
- an analogy Christian mystics liked to use was that of the sisters Mary and Martha
(Lk. 10:38-42, which can be found in Cassian’s Conferences, for example)
• Mary, the contemplative, sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to every word he spoke
◦ this is one way that our hearts and souls become open, receptive, and responsive to him
• but there is another way that is just as important — Martha who was active in serving
- Paul now walks us into the Martha half
• that is why this chapter begins with “Therefore”
◦ it links the contemplative part to the active part of Christian spirituality
• Mary is joined by Martha
◦ sometimes Christians make the mistake of identifying with either on or the other — the point is, we are both
◦ they do not represent alternative behaviors but alternating behaviors

Thomas Aquinas observed that the contemplative life and the active life go together to form the Christian life. “But just as in every mixture one of the simple elements predominates, so in this mixed kind of life now the contemplative, now the active predominates.” [Now Mary, now Martha]

V. 1, Paul asked us to contemplate, now he asks us to walk

Walk is my favorite metaphor of the Christian life
- walk, because this is a spiritual journey
• walk, because we’re not there yet – it’s a process
• walk, because God walks through the world and asks us to join him
- for Paul, it was meant to give hands and feet to our spirituality

I’m not comfortable with “worthy”
- it sounds like “deserving”

read more…

Dec 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 21, 2014 – Ephesians 3:14-21

 A Goal of Christian Spirituality

For this reason
I bow my knees before the Father,
from whom every family in heaven and on earth
derives its name . . .  Ephesians 3:14-15

Intro: Paul finally returns to what he began in verse 1 before getting sidetracked

“For this …” refers to all he’s said about what God has done for us, the revealed mystery, and life in Christ
- in this section, Paul wants to pray into them all of these wonderful truths (cf. Col. 4:12)
• his prayer reveals the possibilities of the Christian experience of God
• and those possibilities are magnificent

Verses 14 and 15 are preliminaries to Paul’s prayer

The first preliminary: “I bow my knees” – we know prayer is not its ritual form
- yet at the same time, the body is not irrelevant
• physical posture, gestures, and the time and place of prayer are important to the act
◦ these are things that we associate with drawing close to God

Balthazar Alvarez, who at one time was St. Teresa’s spiritual director, described a moment when, “Having placed myself in prayer, I felt that God was there.”

◦ bowing our heads, closing our eyes, and however else we use our bodies serve this purpose; to place ourselves in prayer
- the body is important also when it comes to praying with our whole person
• I don’t believe there is such a thing as disembodied prayer or worship

The next preliminary: the One whom Paul addresses in prayer “before the Father”
- in the Greek text, the “before” is “a preposition of direction” (Strong’s Dictionary) e.g., toward
• Paul was not facing the east when he prayed, but the Father
- a play on words: Father (patera) and family (patria)
• “from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name”
◦ he is thinking of God as Father in the larger context, namely, the Creator of the life of all humankind

[Paul, addressing an audience of philosophers in Athens] . . . as even some of your own poets have said, “For we also are His children” (Acts 17:28)

patronym: the family takes the father’s name
(my theory: the universal last name of humankind is Smith–but it’s just a theory)
• “in heaven…” — a reminder that some of those whom we love are already in heaven
◦ but they’re still family, still connected to us

. . . that He would grant you,
according to the riches of His glory,
to be strengthened with His power
through His Spirit
in the inner man;
so that Christ may dwell
in your hearts through faith;

Vv. 16-17a, Paul’s first request

The essence of this request: that their hearts will become Christ’s home

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Dec 15 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 14, 2014 – Ephesians 3:8-13

 Another Kind of Person

To me,
the very least of all saints,
this grace was given,
to preach the unfathomable riches of Christ,
and to bring to light
what is the administration of the mystery
which for ages has been hidden in God
who created all things;
Ephesians 3:8-9

Intro: We saw that Paul has taken a long detour

In verse 13 it will become clear why he went off-topic
- in referring to himself as a prisoner, Paul realized the reminder could disturb them
• so trailing off from verses 2-12 was meant to reassure them — there was no need to worry

Paul repeats themes that we went over last week
- for a third time he refers to:
the grace given to him (for his ministry)
Gentiles (to whom the doors of salvation were opened)
• made known
- and, for a second time, he refers to his stewardship (translated administration in v. 9)

When themes recur like this, we look for what is added or expanded in the repetitions

Vv. 8-9, Catching his own reflection (in v. 7), Paul backtracks

“To me . . .” of all people!
Paul refers to himself as “the very least of all saints”
- as if he suddenly feels really small
• and in light of the message he carries, he is small
• he works this huge contrast between the messenger and the message
- Paul makes three additions to what he’s said already:

  1. “unfathomable riches of Christ” – unfathomable is a metaphor that means “unable to track”
    - the greatness of Jesus’ wealth is so vast that its limits cannot be explored
    - there’s a spiritual wealth for us in Jesus — there is no reason to live at a low level of spiritual development
    . . . in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge . . . . For in Him all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete . . .  (Col. 2:3 & 9-10)• the spiritual journey is a continual sinking ever deeper into Jesus Christ
  2. “for ages had been hidden in God”
    - Paul said this in verse 5, but in different language — “in other generations was not made known”
    - here we learn, the mystery existed, but it was hidden in God
  3. “who created all things”
    - God working out what was hidden within him
    - he engineered space and time to achieve a goal; namely, to bring humankind to himself

As small as Paul was, the truth he handled was infinite

read more…

Dec 12 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 7, 2014 – Ephesians 3:1-7

 An Open Window to Mystery

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles–if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you . . . Ephesians 3:1 & 2

Intro: Right off the bat we can see that there is something wrong with these two verses

Paul begins a sentence, but does not finish
- he’s about to tell them something he was doing
• but before he gets to the what, he trails off into another thought
• we have to wait until verse 14 for Paul to return and explain, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father . . .”

Nevertheless, already Paul has given us something to chew on
- “prisoner” – defined his situation; he was living in a Roman jail cell
• but in spite of that, it was not Rome that determined the meaning of his life
• wherever he was, whatever he was, he belonged to Christ Jesus
- there are two ways to read everything, whether a book, a person, an event, a period of history, and so on
• one way is to read the outside – the bare words, the obvious, the surface appearance
• the other way is read the inside – underlying meanings, motives, and motions
◦ a truth not visible on the surface – this is having “eyes to see” and “ears to hear”
◦ it’s possible that none of the Roman soldiers who guarded Paul could see that he was the Lord’s prisoner
- the section of scripture we are going over today is based on Paul’s inside reading of God’s word and revelation

It was “for the sake of you Gentiles” that Paul was in prison
- it is his reference to them that gets Paul side-tracked
• from the time of his conversion, Paul had a special connection with Gentiles, forged by Jesus (Acts 26:16-18)
• Paul describes his ministry to the Gentiles as a stewardship
◦ in v. 9 the same word is translated administration
◦ a steward was a trusted servant that a wealthy person would put over all of his household affairs

Who then is the faithful and sensible steward whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? (Lk. 12:42)

- what is it that Paul “rationed” to the Ephesians? “Grace”
• in 1 Corinthians 4:1 it was “the mysteries of God” over which he was a “steward” (as here in v. 9)
• we expend a lot of energy defining grace
◦ for Paul it wasn’t a word to define, but a gift to experience
◦ it is through God’s daily gifts of grace that he puts us where we’re supposed to be

Vv. 3-7, The key thought in this passage is “the mystery of Christ”

The key words in verse 3 are revelation, made known and mystery
- they are repeated in verses 4 and 5, but in reverse order

read more…

Dec 5 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 30, 22014 – Ephesians 2:11-22

A Bridge Where Once A Barrier

Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who were called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands–remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. Ephesians 2:11-12

Intro: Everywhere Paul went in Greece and Asia Minor he planted churches

And every church he planted was racially mixed — Jews and Gentiles
- at that time, there was strong racial prejudice on both sides
• this produced an uncomfortable tension in churches
◦ a tension that was ethnic, cultural and religious
• in some churches it was a more serious problem than in others
- Paul had to teach the members of these early churches a new way of seeing the “other”
• fortunately, Christian spirituality already had a resolve
• one that trains believers to discern appearance from reality

In this section of Ephesians, Paul presents his spiritual in three movements:
v. 11, Remember (where and who you were)
v. 13, But now (consider what Christ has done)
v. 19, So then (realize where and who you are)

Vv. 11-12, “Remember” who you were

Paul immediately locates the source of their tension, identifying it with three words: “in the flesh”
- to define people this way is to follow lines of natural or physical distinctions — by DNA, so to speak
• the reference to Gentiles as “Uncircumcision” was to see them from the Jewish point of view
• as when David described Goliath as, “this uncircumcised Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:26)
- but Paul implies this is a superficial difference because it is made by “human hands”
• circumcision doesn’t get to heart of the real differences between people (cf. Ro. 2:28-29)

What did it mean for us, back in the past (“formerly”) that we were not Jewish?
- God had chosen one people to whom he revealed himself
• he gave them rituals for atonement and also the explanation of the reasons, purposes and functions of those rituals
◦ he taught them how to approach him in worship, how to live with each other, and so on
• and God continued to speak to Israel through his prophets
- there are spiritual ramifications to being born outside of all of that and of not belonging to Israel
• I’ve broken Paul’s list down to six items, although I know the last three should be combined:

  1. Separate from Christ – Jesus came for the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Mt. 15:24)
  2. Excluded from the commonwealth of Israel
    • we would say, “We were foreigners and not citizens”
    • imagine visiting a country where you had no rights
    ◦ no legal representation, no insurance, no voice
    ◦ that is where we, as Gentiles, were in regard to Israel’s life in God
  3. Strangers to the covenant of promise
    • God made several covenants (with Noah, Abraham, etc.)
    • but the wonderful promise of God’s covenant with Israel was, “I will be your God and you will be My people”

    read more…

Nov 24 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 23, 2014 – 1 Corinthians 10:14-18

Communion: A Thanksgiving Meal

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to wise men; you judge what I say. Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a share in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread. Look at the nation Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar.” 1 Corinthians 10:14-18

The warning, “Flee from idolatry” does not speak to our situation as it did to the believers in Corinth
- their everyday world was cluttered with images of Greek and Roman deities
- so they looked to the apostle for insight  in dealing with these sorts of issues

Now concerning the things about which you wrote . . . (1 Cor. 7:1)
Now concerning things sacrificed to idols . . . (1 Cor. 8:1)

We are fortunate that Paul responded to these concerns
- in answering their questions we learn what taking Communion meant to him
- the different ways Christian traditions refer to this ritual draw on different dimensions of its meaning

The following labels highlight various aspects of the ritual and will, I think , give us a greater appreciation for it


The cup is a sharing in Jesus’ blood and the bread a sharing in his body
- for sharing, the King James Version has communion, which translates the Greek word koinonia
- its root is koinos, “common,” “to share in common”
(scholars use “Koine Greek” to designate the “common Greek”–language–in use when the New Testament was written)
- this is how we came to refer to the ritual of the cup and bread as Communion
St. Augustine understood the Latin term to mean “union with”

Earlier, Paul said we are joined to Jesus (“one spirit”) as husband and wives are joined (“one flesh” — 1 Cor. 6:16-17)
- our union with him is renewed every time we eat his bread and drink from his cup

Paul uses of one of Israel’s regulations regarding worship to illustrate this union
- the “peace offering” was a celebration of shalom, offered “by way of thanksgiving” (Lev. 7:11-15)
Part of the sacrifice was consumed on the altar (God’s portion)
- another portion was eaten by the priest and another by the worshiper
- the peace offering restored or renewed the bond between God, his servants, and his people

The Lord’s Table

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Nov 18 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 16, 2014 – Ephesians 2:8-10

The Invitation Of Grace

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10

Intro: In our Sunday night meeting we recently discussed a quote by David Steindl-Rast

“. . . we never start to be grateful unless we wake up. Wake up to what? To surprise. As long as nothing surprises us, we walk through life in a daze.”

- this week we began watching the Romuald conversations, which he began with the statement, “Worship is awe”
• he listed ways that we usually experience awe:

“For example, in nature, in something that takes us by surprise . . . in something that takes our breath away.”

Because these three verses in Ephesians chapter 2  are familiar to us, they do not surprise us
- we read them and do not feel grateful, we read them and do not experience awe
• besides their familiarity, they are the condensed version of some very big themes
• Paul glides through these themes in a couple sentences that in Romans takes two or three chapters to explain
- our goal today is not to try to make ourselves feel grateful
• but maybe we can let these verses surprise us again

I’m going to begin by jumping into the heart of this

The three words, “in Christ Jesus”
- we have already observed how many times “in Christ” (or “in Him”) appeared in chapter 1
• now, glancing back to the previous two verses, we see the phrase there too (vv. 6 & 7)


Albert Schweitzer argued that “Being-in-Christ” was the most common “expression for union with Christ” and that this
“concept of being-in-Christ dominates Paul’s thought in a way that he not only sees in it the source of everything connected with redemption, but describes all the experience, feeling, thought and will of the baptized as taking place in Christ.”

- Jesus entered our flesh and blood existence to forge a spiritual bond with us
• he shared our life with us so we could share his life with him

Christian spirituality entails an increasing awareness of our union with Jesus
- it is to experience the many ways that being in him affects our everyday lives

V. 8, A huge theme is packed into one sentence

The simplest way to think of grace, is gift
- it is a gift that opens doors of opportunity and fits us to meet the challenges that opportunity brings
• grace is a gift that makes impossibilities realities
• grace in the Old Testament was also “favor” (e.g., Gen. 39:4, 21; Est. 2:9, 15, 17)
- did you ever get hired for a job even though you lacked the qualifications for it?
• that is the kind of thing grace does for us

read more…

Nov 10 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 9, 2014 – Ephesians 2:1-7

How We Got From There to Here

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Ephesians 2:1-2

Intro: Our first challenge will be to unravel this impossibly long sentence (vv. 1-10)

E. K. Simpson, “We have here another of Paul’s broken sentences; so that a verb made alive has to be supplied from v. 5 for the initial pronoun you.” (For example, as in the King James Version)

William Barclay, “In this passage Paul’s thought flows on regardless of the rules of grammar; he begins sentences and never finishes them . . . . That is so because this is far more a lyric of the love of God than a careful theological exposition.”

- the theme transcends the constraints of human language – it doesn’t fit any of our familiar categories
• the freedom Paul needed to give passionate expression to his message is better supplied by poetry than prose

Last week we read about the dynamic energy of Jesus’ resurrection that is at work in us
- I introduced Albert Schweitzer’s phrase, “resurrection mode of existence”
• this may have been news to Paul’s readers — “Hey, all I remember is that I decided I would be  a Christian”
• it could certainly surprise anyone who signed-up to become a Christian at a big evangelism event
- let’s imagine that someone has asked ,“Tell us more about this resurrection mode of existence”
• Paul’s answer would be what follows as he revisits our past to show how we got from there to here
• and what he lays out may be different from the way we remember it

Vv. 1-2, “Once upon a time, we were dead”

Paul turns from his depiction of the splendor of Jesus to us, “And you”
- to be dead, in this sense, is to be unconscious – unresponsive – inactive
• we may have known about God, but we had no vital link to him
◦ we were unconscious of his presence, unresponsive to his calling, and inactive regarding his will for our lives
• this is a different kin of spiritual death than Paul describes in Romans 6:11
◦ in our new life with Jesus we are dead to sin, but prior to that we were dead in sin
- “trespasses and sins” are two parts of our death-state
• the first part is our trespasses–that is our slip ups and lapses in thought, word and deed
• the second part is our sins, which means our failures to reach a potential goal
◦ ultimately it is a failure to become the person God designed and desires me to be
- sometimes I get nervous when reading Mt. 25:14-29

Jesus tells a parable about a man preparing to take a journey, but first entrusting a portion of his income to three of his slaves. Two of them were able to put the money they were given to work and both of them doubled the original amount they were given. But when their master returned and interviewed the third slave, he was only able to return the few dollars he had been given and that he had hidden in the ground so as not to lose it. His punishment was that he was no longer allowed to handle or be in charge of anything that belonged to his master. The point of the story: For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.”

• I have to ask myself, “Have I developed my gifts and potential as far as possible?”
◦ In entered the ministry way too young — I started my first church when I was twenty years old
◦ I had not been a good student in jr. high or high school
◦ but in the early, apocalyptic days of the Jesus Movement, an “establishment education” was not required

read more…

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