BIble Study Notes for Sunday August 26th
(You might like to read all three passages first to get a feel for how they might fit together)
The theme of this week’s service is ‘Holding Fast to Christ’ – and we are going to focus on the reading from Ephesians
Read through each text slowly, whilst everyone else listens – (not following in your own bibles) – asking ‘what catches your attention in this passage? Does it leave you with questions?’
[At whatever point you have but a few minutes left for Study, Make sure to leave time at the end to read through in this way at the end – ‘What is Christ saying to his church in these verses?’ is there a message for us at St John’s? Respond in prayer]
1. First we note that the Lectionary has omitted Ephesians Chapter 5 vs 21 – Chapter 6 vs 9 inclusive. Take time to read these verses.
1.1.What does it mean to be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ
1.2.How does being subject to one another fit with contemporary understandings of human life?
1.3.Sunday evenings reading from the Epistle to the Hebrews says ‘Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls and will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with sighing—for that would be harmful to you.’ Such words seem out of place in an non hierarchical society. Is hierarchy one way in which the practice of Christian faith is counter cultural here in New Zealand, or does the church need to learn from the wider world?
1.4. Jesus does not do away with heirarchy, he radically subverts it – those who lead must serve, giving their lives for the flock. We submit to his rule – he is LORD. We readily concur that we can serve Christ in serving one another – is it true that we submit to Christ in submitting to one another?
2. The text we are reading is headed ‘The whole armour of God’
2.1.Without re reading the text ask ‘In what sense do I feel I need God’s armour?’
2.2. What reasons does Paul give for the requirement to put on ‘the whole armour of God’? (remember Paul’s admonition to ‘live as wise . . . for the days are evil’ in last weeks reading Ch5 vs 15-16)
2.2.1.What does Paul mean by: ‘the wiles of the Devil’ (indeed do we believe in the devil?); ‘the rulers, the authorities, … the cosmic powers of this present darkness, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places’
2.2.2.What does it mean to say that our struggle is not against enemies of flesh and blood but against these ‘Powers’?
2.2.3. Jesus and his contemporaries believed that the material world was suffused with the Spiritual and that all physical things which in a sense had a life of their own (politics, economics, the law), were in some sense ‘governed’ by spiritual forces. So Jesus confronts religious, economic and political ‘powers’ and triumphs over them by the cross (Col 2:15). The best known example of this is Mammon – the power of money. Jesus sees this as so powerful he understands that it stands as a False God – You cannot serve God And Mammon.
188.8.131.52.‘We are hopelessly naive about such things’ – Discuss
184.108.40.206.‘The world’s complete inaction over the coming environmental collapse is a clear sign that humanity is held captive by such powers’ – Discuss
220.127.116.11.‘The philosophy called humanism has long been a suitor to man’s pride. It boasts in his natural strength and wisdom, and woos him with promises of grand accomplishments now, and heaven later. God himself has scattered such Babel-builders and proclaimed his pre-eminence for eternity. Confounded for ever be such sons of pride, who trust in the powers of nature as though man with his own bricks and mortar of natural abilities were able to make a way to heaven!’ William Gurnall – The Christian in Complete Armour. ‘We are ignorant and naive about spiritual forces and powers because we have made too much of ourselves and have a poverty stricken view of the majesty of God’ – Discuss
18.104.22.168. ‘[Christianity as properly understood] is subversive relative to every kind of [such] power. . . There is a radical incompatibility between money and Christ. Jesus recommends to his disciples that they have none. Paul shows that it is there simply to be given away. James argues that the money heaped up by the wealthy inevitably results from theft that victimizes the worker. Money is in itself a force of deviation. It is one of the main objects of covetousness . . . the root of all sins and evils’ Jacques Ellul – The Subversion of Christianity ‘Our naivety regarding Money has in large part led the church to its current state’ – Discuss
3. Paul’s remedy is ‘Be strong in the LORD and in the power of His might’
3.2. Why is this necessary, given the nature of the ‘powers and principalities’
3.2.3.He says once again that ‘the days are evil’ vs 13 cf
3.3. In what sense is Wisdom, as we discussed it last week Key to our proper understanding?
3.4.We are then counseled to put on the armour of God – [you may wish briefly to think about David rejecting the armour of Saul but coming at Goliath, in the name of the LORD] – the armour has six elements – Discuss what each one means – what is anything does its ‘armour equivalent’ – belt, breastplate etc. suggest?
3.4.5.Readiness to proclaim the gospel of peace
3.4.8.The Word of God