Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"New Family in Christ" Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending May 3, 2009

Purpose: To celebrate all that God has done to make us God's own adopted children

Scripture Text: Ephesians 1:3-14 (NRSV)

Ephesians 1:3-14
(3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,(4) just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. (5)He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, (6)to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. (7)In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace (8)that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight (9)he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, (10)as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (11)In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, (12)so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. (13)In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; (14)this is the pledge of our inheritance towards redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

This week's lesson is from the Book of Ephesians, written by Paul, while a prisoner in Rome. In today's bibles the letter is addressed to the church at Ephesus, but the oldest manuscripts are not addressed to anyone in particular, and the book of Ephesians is considered a circuit letter meant to be read by several churches in that area.

The dilemma for Paul is he has two congregations, one is the newly converted Gentiles, and the other is the established Jewish congregations. Paul does not want to see two different churches; he wants one church, one in Christ. He wants the Jews to accept that the Gentiles can become Christians without becoming Jews, and he did not want the Gentiles to be prejudiced against the Jews. This epistle is addressed to the Gentile Christians; Paul had earlier appeased the Jewish element by taking them a generous offering.

Paul sees God as a Great Big Something, in whom there is room for all races, viewpoints and prejudices, and God is able to solve and resolve all of the differences, and bring us all into a relationship with Him. In 3:10 he even hints at other unseen universes. Regardless of what we think, God had an eternal purpose, which was accomplished through Jesus Christ.

Paul had spent three years in Ephesus, but the letter contains no personal greeting as in some of his other letters. In today's text Paul states God's purpose and plan, that includes redemption, adoption, forgiveness, and sealing of a people for God's own possession. This plan had been determined in eternity and was now being brought to completion by the effective exercise of God's will.

The text opens with praise, much as the Lord's Prayer, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”. The emphasis remains on Jesus through out the book. It is in Christ that God's plan has been revealed and accomplished. In verse four we are told “God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love”. It would be a mistake to think God has embarked on some plan to create superhuman beings without flaw or defect. The perfection God has in mind is a perfection of love. When we choose God, through Christ, we fulfill a destiny that was established before the foundations of the world. God chose to redeem mankind, now it is our chance to choose God through Jesus Christ.

In verse five, it says, “He destined us for adoption as his children”, the Greek word rendereddestined here literally means “foresaw”. God becomes both the granter and guarantor for his plan of redemption. Clearly in God's plan his willing and caring come first, but that does not mean our own actions and willing are irrelevant. Note in verse 12, “we who were first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of His glory”. And later it says, “when you had heard the word of truth,.... and believed in him were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit”. Then the Holy Spirit becomes our “pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God's own people”.

God has gone to great lengths, to provide a means whereby we can become part of His family. God's work is done, now it is up to us to accept our new heavenly Father and His plan which includes the work of Jesus Christ, and the forgiveness that is available through His blood.

I think it is important to remember this letter was written to the redeemed, to the church of Asia, to encourage them to enjoy now, through the person of the Holy Spirit, what they would receive later in eternity, to live blameless before Him in Love. Have you responded to God's love? How? If our adoption is offered but declined, where does that leave us?

No comments: