My Home Church, Ninevah Christian Church, beginning Sunday, April 30, 2017, and ending Wednesday, May 3, 2017, read God’s Word cover to cover. Members of the congregation signed up for 1/2 hour slots around the clock to participate. My wife Pat and I signed up for Wednesday night at 6:30-7:30 PM.
I went first because I cannot always read the full half hour. I made it about 15 minutes. This is such a powerful experience and it is difficult to explain the emotion that you experience reading God’s Word out loud. And to double the blessing I got to read in Ephesians, one of my favorite letters from Paul. I read from chapter 2:11 to the beginning of chapter 5.
Pat and I have talked about the experience as we left the Church Wednesday night. She reminded me that we tend to skip over the salutation to get to the meat of the letter. I had not really thought about that before, but she is right. I know I will read those few verses almost skimming over them. So this morning I read it carefully, and something stood out.
Ephesians 1:1-2 (ESV) 1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul is very specific in who he is addressing and that shook me a bit. I have always understood the letters were to the Church, but Paul selected a very specific subset. He singled out, “the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus.”
That is specific. It was not just a letter to the Church of Ephesus, but the saints that are faithful in Christ.
I looked up saints in my Strongs and read the definition. It gave me the Greek words that I will spare you. The definition is intense.
Saint – sacred (physically, pure, morally blameless or religious, ceremonially, consecrated): — (most) holy (one, thing), saint.
So, this letter was to the church in Ephesus but Paul singled out the most serious believers, who were following Jesus, as his audience. That is humbling. As I pondered these words I was struck by the emphasis. It was clear to me that Paul wanted to make certain that no one in the Church felt the council of this letter was beneath them. At the same time it had to be a little bit of a punch in the gut to those that felt they were falling short.
This letter was for the WHOLE Church, and everyone needed to pay it heed. The more I thought about it the more I realized how desperately I need the Word of God. I was struck this morning by a passage in Ephesians 1
Ephesians 1:11-14 (ESV) 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
I read that passage and realized how easy it could be to take things for granted and get caught up in the work instead of the Word. But this letter was addressed to the ones who, “when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
Paul’s audience was not a subset that might not be living in accordance to the example of Jesus. It was to every member of the Church.
This morning I was so sure what I was going to write about. But the Holy Spirit reminded me of something very basic. The Lord says so much through Paul in this letter. Powerful and all-inclusive guidance; He reveals the mysteries that had not been told before. But what the Holy Spirit reminded me of this morning is that there is no room for complacency.
He showed me that the Word of God is a living manuscript that I must stay engaged in. It is not a book you read a time or two and set aside. It is a living text that shows me something every time I open it. But that is not the amazing thing.
The amazing thing is that as certain as I might be about what I want to gain from it or share God may have another plan and His is always the best plan… always.
Heavenly Father, help me that I might never take Your Word for granted or become complacent in my study. Thank you Lord for this living Word that is always fresh and new every day.
I am so thankful for Your grace and mercy. Thank you for Your Word.
In Jesus name I pray, Amen!