One of the most glorious truths of Christianity is the sufficiency of Scripture. God has spoken to us through His Word, and – amazingly – it provides us with everything we need to know God, have relationship with Him, and live a life of faithful obedience. Regardless of our age or race or gender, the Bible is sufficient. Regardless of our background or experiences, the Bible is sufficient. And regardless of our current circumstances and situations, the Bible is sufficient.
Paul begins chapter 3 of his letter to the Ephesians by speaking about the “mystery of Christ” which was revealed to him. As we saw last time, in 3:1-5, Paul focuses attention on the simple fact that the mystery has been revealed – without getting into the content of the mystery at all. In 3:6, however, the focus shifts from the revelation of the mystery to the content as Paul boldly declares: “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (3:6). In essence, the mystery is that the very problems Paul laid out in 2:12 have been radically taken care of through Christ. In 2:12, Paul reminded his readers that prior to Christ, they were “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenant of promise”. Now, however? There has been a radical transformation through the perfect work of Christ.
This past Sunday in Sunday School, we continued walking through Mark by looking at Mark 3:20-30 – a text in which Jesus reveals His purpose of coming to plunder the devil’s goods. Notes and audio can be found here.
And in corporate worship, we continued our sermon series through Revelation by looking at Revelation 5 – a glorious scene in which the Lamb takes the scroll of God’s plans for the consummation of all things in order to bring those plans to pass. Notes and audio can be found here.
Genesis 21 contains three very different stories. One of the three is clearly significant if we are familiar with the larger story, but the others seem relatively unconnected. And yet – like many of the stories in Genesis, they find a place when we remember that the central character is God and not Abraham or anyone else. This chapter and these stories – like the chapters and stories nearby – reveal God to us. They demonstrate His faithfulness as well as His compassion. They do so in order to call us to trust Him and live lives that demonstrate that trust.
Previously, we saw that God is unlimited with regard to time. Even though we – as humans – are bound by the limits of time, He is not. There is another arena in which we are limited while God is not, and that is the arena of space. As human beings we can be in only one place at a time. We must make choices because of the limits of our nature. God, however, is left with no such choices. The Bible is clear that He is “omnipresent” – that is, He is present in all places all the time.
In life, it is easy to equate knowing with doing. More specifically, it is easy to think we have reached great wisdom and maturity because we know about a certain thing or topic even if we never put that knowledge into practice. You might study woodworking or beekeeping or gardening and learn a great deal without ever building anything or raising any bees or planting a single seed. In that case, can you really say you are a woodworker or a beekeeper or a gardener? No, you cannot. A person might have a great deal of knowledge on a particular subject, but if that knowledge is not put into practice, then it is no good. The same holds true for Christianity.
Ephesians 3 presents a slight shift of focus. It begins with Paul preparing to launch – once again, like in 1:15 – into prayer for his readers. Instead, he shifts into telling a bit of his own story. After spending two chapters laying out the glorious and weighty truths of the gospel, he now seeks to encourage and motivate his readers by pointing to his own example. And he begins – in verses 1-5 – with the incredible news that the mystery of Christ with regard to the Gentiles has been revealed – highlighting God’s glorious plan. After centuries and centuries of predicting and promising and foreshadowing, God has finally made known His purpose for this world in its fullness. Interestingly, Paul does not actually reveal the content of the mystery until verse 6. In these earlier verses, he is focusing on the nature and revelation of the mystery itself. This may seem unimportant, but it actually tells us a great deal about how to read the Bible as well as how God has ordained history.
This past Sunday in Sunday School, we continued our journey through Mark by looking at Mark 3:7-20 – a passage that serves to transition from the controversy stories of Mark 2:1-3:6 to the further ministry of Jesus in 3:7-6:6. Notes and audio can be found here.
We also continued our sermon series through the book of Revelation by looking at Revelation 4 – John’s vision of the heavenly throne-room of God. It reminds us that God reigns in the fullness of His glory, and He is praised ceaselessly. Notes and audio can be found here.
After the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Genesis provides us with a couple of small stories that seem relatively unimportant – or at least “off topic” a bit. In chapter 21, we will finally see the promised child, Isaac, born, but before that wonderful story, we are told about the bizarre episode involving Lot and his daughters on the hills outside of Zoar (19:23-29) as well as the disagreement between Abraham and Abimelech (20:1-18). Why are these stories included? At first glance, they seem irrelevant and yet, when seen as “chapters” in the larger story, they begin to make sense because they – like the stories around them – serve to show the character of God while also showing how we should respond to Him. In short, God is gracious and kind to His people – even when they don’t deserve it. And the purposes of God are certain, so we do not have to resort to our own desperate scheming. We can simply trust Him.
Expectations are an extremely important part of life – whether we realize it or not. A great deal of our joy – as well as much of our anger and sadness – actually stems from expectations that do not match reality as it comes to pass. If reality exceeds our expectations, we experience joy. If reality falls short of our expectations, we experience anger or sadness. That being the case, should we care whether our expectations match reality or not? Many assume it is best to simply expect the worst because it will make it very hard to be disappointed. But should that be the stance of a Christian? I would argue not – because we are called to be people of faith, and overwhelming pessimism and skepticism is not faith. As those who have heard from God, we have the truth, and we should walk by faith in that truth. So that said, what should Christians expect? What does God tell us about the world in which we live everyday?