works, doctrine, love

In preparation for Sunday, I wanted to share this:

Good works and pure doctrine are not adequate substitutes for that rich relationship of mutual love shared by those who have experienced for the first time the redemptive love of God. – Robert Mounce, The Book of Revelation, NICNT

As we pursue truth, let us also pursue love.

Sunday night, we’re looking at Revelation 2:1-7. Join us.

reflections: Ephesians chapter one

Well, our new service, South Shores Remix, has now had its second service and I am very encouraged and excited for the future of this branch of South Shores Church. It has had great support from the pastors, staff, and congregation and I look forward to what new joys the next service will hold. That said, in two Sundays we have covered the first chapter of Ephesians (in two parts) and I’d like to reflect on some key ideas that have stuck with me:

Ephesians 1:1-14

  • God is generous. As Paul lists out all that God has planned, worked out through Christ and given through the Spirit, I am overwhelmed by God’s generosity (freely gives, according to his pleasure, because of his glorious grace) that is to our benefit and His glory. It’s my hope that we (me too) will see God’s generosity as the pattern for our (my) own generosity.
  • We have every spiritual blessing in Christ. If you are “in Christ” then you have it all. Not some, not part, not a chance of getting a little more… you have everything. Upon trusting in Christ you can know that you have been chosen, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, let in on the purpose of the whole plan, sealed, and given a down-payment guaranteeing and giving a taste of the full inheritance (ie dwelling with God). And all these blessings are only found through Christ Jesus.
  • Good doctrine leads to good praise. Paul had an incredible knowledge of God and what God has done… and he praised him wildly. The 202 word sentence of verses 3-14 is a rapidly growing snowball of theology and exaltation because Paul couldn’t separate the two. We shouldn’t either.
Ephesians 1:15-23
  • Be thankful for other believers. It is a simple part of this chapter, but to me it speaks volumes: “ever since I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you.” We too should be thankful for other Christians.
  • Pray for other believers. Paul doesn’t stop at being thankful for them, he prays for them. He prays a deep prayer that fits exactly with their needs. And their needs are our needs.
  • We need to know God and know His blessings. Sure, Paul tells us about God and he lists out the blessings, but his prayer is that the people reading would grow in their understanding of them and their direct experience of those blessings. This week I discovered a new function on our church copy machine: guided book scanning. Now, this machine had always had this capability, but I didn’t know about it, and I certainly hadn’t put it to use. Paul wants us to know these blessings (found in verses 3-14) and put them into use (because we already have them… all).
  • God has power for those who believe. What kind of power? The kind of power that raised Christ from the dead and placed him in authority over everything. Power that shows we too will conquer death and will join as co-heirs with Christ. Even when we’d like to see more of God’s power working right now in the thing we need right now… we need to rest knowing that He has shown His power and taken care of the most important things of all (death and an eternal dwelling place with Him).
I hope that you too are being encouraged and challenged by this great letter of Paul. Keep reading, keep praying, and keep expecting God to continue to work in you as you seek after Him.

you’ve got to pray

I don’t remember exactly how old I was when we made the road trip (10 maybe?), but I do remember my tunes.

It was during Christmas break and my family of four loaded into the suburban and made our way north to Washington and then over to Idaho to visit family for Christmas. What did I listen to in my Sony Walkman? My beloved MC Hammer tape, Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em.

Now, we will set aside the various questions of how did I end up with this tape, why did my parents let me listen to this tape and whether or not I had my own home-made “Hammer Pants,” and move on to what is important: prayer.  One of the hit tracks from this tape/album (second to “Can’t Touch This”) is a song entitled “Pray.” Now, if you search this on YouTube or grab the lyrics online, I don’t recommend you build any sort of theology of prayer around this (it tells you more about pop hip-hop culture in the early 90s than it does prayer). However, I will always remember the much repeated line, “You’ve got to pray just to make it today.”

It’s true. Prayer is necessary, and often forgotten. This coming Sunday we’ll be studying from Ephesians 1:15-23, where Paul gives thanks for the faith of his readers and reminds them that he is praying for them all the time. Then he gives what he is praying for them… it is powerful. Here is a quote from Peter T. O’Brien, New Testament scholar, that was meaningful to me as I prepare to teach on this passage:

“[Paul] recognizes that the Christian growth of his readers, as well as the furtherance of his own ministry of the gospel, is wholly dependent upon the living God, who gives generously to his children when they call upon him in prayer.”

Take time today to go before the Father in prayer; He gives generously to his children.

“That’s why we pray.” (thank you Reverend Hammer)

resources: on election

Ephesians 1 has a lot to say about God choosing a people and carrying out a plan. While I tried to do my best to tell you what I think the Bible teaches (in my message Sunday night… sorry if you missed it, we’ll start recording the audio next week). Here are some links to some other (smarter) minds that do a great job dealing with the issues of election and predestination. If you only read one, choose John Piper’s sermon on Romans 9:6-13, it is fantastic (you can read, play the audio, or download it to listen to later).

John Piper – Sermon on Romans 9:6-13 – “Unconditional Election and the Invincible Purpose of God” (incredibly rich)

Before we can be justified we must believe on Jesus Christ. But before we can believe on Jesus Christ we must be chosen and called. God does not choose us because we will believe. He chooses us so that we will believe.

Kevin DeYoung – Blog Post – “What is the difference between election and predestination”  (short and sweet)

And yet this notion of divine superintendence is not meant to undercut personal initiative and responsibility.

Joe Thorn – Blog Post – “Like a Man on Fire” (in case you worry that God choosing/electing takes away the importance of evangelism)

Man’s total depravity moves me to preach Jesus Christ because I know that there is no hope for a man to find his way to God, accidentally or intentionally, on his own.

RC Sproul – Video Series – “Chosen By God” (6 college level lectures – I have only seen a part, but I trust him throughout)

I know God is under no obligation to save anybody, and I know that God does save somebody. God is God. And God reminds His people of one crucial principle of divine sovereignty… the divine principle… ‘I will have mercy upon whom I have mercy.’

video: a simple look at Ephesians

Here is a little video Robert Mayer and I put together to help give an introduction to Paul and the purpose his letter.


In case you didn’t catch it all… here is the script:

Ephesians. Ephesians is a book (well, a letter) written by a man named Paul to the church in Ephesus.

Of course, Paul used to go by Saul and as Saul, he wouldn’t want to write nice letters to the church. He was more of the “breathing out murderous threats (Acts 9:1)” type. Then Saul had a blinding experience that opened his heart to the truth of the Savior. Jesus changed everything. Now Saul is Paul, and Paul is preaching Jesus in the synagogues, the street corners, on top of hills and in homes. Nothing can stop Paul from telling people the Good News about Jesus.

And he also writes letters. Lots of letters. To the churches in Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Phillipi, Ephesus and more. Paul writes to encourage, equip, inform and challenge the church to be the church. Some of the letters he wrote while visiting other churches. Others he wrote while under arrest for preaching the Gospel. Ephesians is one of these letters, dated to around 62 AD, while Paul was imprisoned in Rome.

So once again, Ephesians is a letter written by a man named Paul to the church in Ephesus.

Now Ephesus was big. Big in size and big in importance. It served as the capital for Roman Asia Minor and was a leading center of commerce. It even contained one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, called the Temple of Artemis. This actually got Paul in some hot water, stirring up a riot because his preaching was cutting into the lucrative idol making business – read more about that in Acts 19.

But Paul’s letter, while given to the church in Ephesus, does not speak much to any local problems or situations. Some say this is because the letter was meant to be shared with many churches, not just those in Ephesus[1]. Either way, we benefit, because Paul’s writing in Ephesians speaks clearly to the incredible work of Jesus and His incredible love for the Church… not just one church, but all who believe in Christ who make up the universal Church. It explains who Jesus is, what He did, and why it makes all the difference.

So we make Paul’s prayer, our prayer: “that out of God’s glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ (Ephesians 3:16-18).”

Ephesians: a letter written by Paul to the Church… about Jesus. To sum it up… Jesus loves the Church, to the praise of God’s glory.

[1] Why I think Ephesians was not to just Ephesus.

This is why I didn't do the actual drawings on the cards... just concepts.

a little deeper: “at Ephesus”

Last night we broke in. But we didn’t get arrested. In the 2000 years that have passed since Paul’s writing (and imprisonment) Christians (specifically American Christians) have a lot more freedom in regards to breaking in to the Bible and breaking out the Good News of Jesus. I recognize that a lot has changed in America since its founding and even since the 1950s, but I am still grateful that we can hold publicly announced meetings like last night and the people attending don’t have to fear being arrested. (By the way, it was our first “South Shores Remix” and it went great… thank you for those who prayed and thank you for those who came and served).

Now, last night’s study had a lot going on… Paul was dense, and so was I. Though I don’t tend to get many (any) follow-up questions after I teach, I do like to imagine that I do. One of the questions I imagined from this study is: “Derick, in my Bible it calls the book “Ephesians” and it says “at Ephesus,” so why do you think it wasn’t meant for just that church?”

That’s a great (albeit, a little contrived) question… so let’s take it a little deeper:

First, a word about manuscripts… since there was no Xerox for the majority of the history of the Church, the copying of Biblical books and letters has been done by hand. Great pain-staking detail was given to this task, but inevitably, over time, human error would creep into some copies. This could be by accident (ever copied something down only to find that you wrote the word “the” twice?) or by intention (ever copy something down that seemed odd and try to make it sound a little “better?”). The wonderful thing is that there is a wealth of manuscript (handwritten copy) evidence for the entire New Testament. Not only are there many, many copies available to cross check, but we can even track these copies through different locations and theological traditions, and even into other languages. This gives our modern scholars a wealth of evidence to make sure that what we have is the actual thing. When they bring the differing manuscripts together they give extra points to the one that is older, the one that is harder (people like to make changes to make things easier, not more difficult), the one that is shorter (people like to add), and the one that better explains how the other one came from it (and not the other way around)… (there are other factors too, but I’m working off what I remember from my Intro to Exegesis class which I took pre-baby… so I’m keeping it simple). And just in case new evidence arises, or scholars aren’t settled on the issue, the editors of your English Bible put little foot notes, or margin tags that note whether certain words are disputed or not and why.

One of the early manuscripts... a papyri known as P46. Pictured here is Romans 16.

“at Ephesus” contains the note: “Three early mss (manuscripts) do not contain at Ephesus”

What does that mean? Well, there are certain older manuscripts that tend to win most wording battles… and these ones don’t say those words. But that is not the only problem…

The letter itself does not have some of the similar hallmarks of other Pauline letters. It is not very personal and it does not speak to any specific situations going on in the church of Ephesus that need to be addressed.  (In 1 Corinthians we see him addressing theological division in the church (calls them “infanfts” – ouch), in Romans he greets many specific people, and just read Phillipians 4 to see some warm love and personal interaction).

One potential solution (that I tend to agree with) is that Ephesians was a circular letter. This doesn’t mean that the shape of the letter was round (since that would hardly solve our problem), but rather that it was intended for many churches in Roman Asia Minor. But, do we have any evidence of letter sharing? Of course:

“After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.” Colossians 4:16

There are some scholars (but not the majority by any means) that think this could be that letter, since an old heretic (Marcion) of the early church quotes from Ephesians, but refers to it as the letter from Laodicea… (personally, I tend not to trust heretics much further than I can throw them – and I’m not very strong). And so the sharing of letters between churches is documented, but Colossians was still first sent to the church in Colossae and the manuscripts testify to this, why not Ephesus? Or better yet, why “at Ephesus” in the majority of manuscripts, but not the early ones?

Well, if it was intended as a circular letter it is possible that it was attached to Ephesus as the primary recipient because it was the chief city of the area. And possibly Ephesus became the primary city to go about distributing copies of Paul’s incredible letter.

So, who cares? What does it matter if this is a more general letter or a specific one to a certain city. Well, when studying the letters of the New Testament (epistles) you need to study the location and the events going on in order to help you understand the nuances of what Paul is saying to them. In Ephesians we do not need to do this quite so much. Everything Paul is saying to them (in a first century lens) is very easily applied and understood by us as well. So, in the midst of all this manuscript stuff and circular letter business is the hope that you can sit down, read through this short letter and successfully begin to know God better, Christ better, the Church better and therefore how you must live. It is a good letter, and it is intended for us as well.

Read it this week… all the way through in one sitting (six chapters, 15-20 minutes).

cling to the crucified

After a long day of work… this song brought me incredible peace. May it do the same for you. Bask in it’s rich view of Christ.

Artist: Indelible Grace Music (performed by Jeremy Casella)

Album: Wake Thy Slumbering Children

Cling To The Crucified

1. Cling to the Mighty One, Cling in thy grief
Cling to the Holy One, He gives relief
Cling to the Gracious One, Cling in thy pain
Cling to the Faithful One, He will sustain

Chorus: Cling to the crucified, Jesus the Lamb who died
Cling to the crucified, Jesus the King
Cling to the crucified, Jesus the Lamb who died
Cling to the crucified, Jesus the King

2. Cling to the Living One, Cling in thy woe
Cling to the Loving One, Through all below
Cling to the Pardoning One, He speaketh peace
Cling to the Healing One, Anguish will cease

3. Cling to the Bleeding One, Cling to His side
Cling to the Rising One, In Him abide
Cling to the Coming One, Hope shall arise
Cling to the Reigning One, Joy lights thine eyes

© 2007 Kevin Twit Music (ASCAP).
All rights reserved.

Listen to it here.

A right view of God leads to right worship… more on that this Sunday at 6:30 PM in the Chapel at South Shores.