International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday December 16, 2012
Purpose: To recognize and celebrate the variety of gifts with which God has equipped each of God's people in the body of Christ
Scripture Text: Ephesians 4:1-16
Ephesians 4:1-16 (CEB)
(1) Therefore, as a prisoner for the Lord, I encourage you to live as people worthy of the call you received from God. (2) Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love, (3) and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together. (4) You are one body and one spirit, just as God also called you in one hope. (5) There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, (6) and one God and Father of all, who is over all, through all, and in all.
(7) God has given his grace to each one of us measured out by the gift that is given by Christ. (8) That’s why scripture says, when he climbed up to the heights, he captured prisoners, and he gave gifts to people. (See Psalms 68:18)
(9) What does the phrase “he climbed up” mean if it doesn’t mean that he had first gone down into the lower regions, the earth? (10) The one who went down is the same one who climbed up above all the heavens so that he might fill everything.
(11) He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. (12) His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ (13) until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son. God’s goal is for us to become mature adults—to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ. (14) As a result, we aren’t supposed to be infants any longer who can be tossed and blown around by every wind that comes from teaching with deceitful scheming and the tricks people play to deliberately mislead others. (15) Instead, by speaking the truth with love, let’s grow in every way into Christ, (16) who is the head. The whole body grows from him, as it is joined and held together by all the supporting ligaments. The body makes itself grow in that it builds itself up with love as each one does their part.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
It is good to recall to whom this letter is written, as we stated at the beginning of this series, Ephesus was the second largest city in the Roman Empire, for us that would equate to Chicago today. Chicago is a very diverse city, with a greater number of people from Poland than Warsaw, the capital of Poland. It is also home to many other diverse groups. It was hard to convince the Ephesians that they should all get along with each other, and that Christ was the source for a unity that could not succeed outside of the grace and gifts that Christ endowed to this group of believers.
One body, one spirit called together in “hope”. A hope that rest in the One God and Father who is over all things, in all things, and works through all things. A hope that Christ has overcome death and has journeyed to earth and ascended back to heaven, and because he lives we too will live forever with Him in the home of the Father.
How does God make all of this work for His glory, He gifts us with both grace and gifts. Some are called to specific duties, others are called to assist, to spread peace, to give of their wealth, but we are all called to do something that helps build His kingdom on earth, sometimes it might be just to keep peace, by keeping our mouth shut. From the beginning man has been great at giving excuses, or reason why it won't work, but God calls us to be more mature adults. Our lives need to encourage, as well as teach God's values, not ours or some other persons. The only standard we can use to measure our growth is the standard established by Christ. Today we often hear the words “what would Jesus do?” The standard has not changed. If we are to grow into Christ we need to understand what He taught and what He revealed about God.
As I read this lesson one of the great old hymns of the church comes to mind, not one we sing often, but one that reveals the teaching that today's lesson is all about. “Blest Be the Tie That Binds” written by John Fawcett around 1782. Verse 3 of our lesson speaks of this “unity of the spirit that ties us together.” To me it is the tie that binds.