20th April 2021 Canvey Methodist Church Bible Studies

Canvey Island Methodist Church Bible Study- Tuesday 20th April 2021.

What Is The Church?    

 

The Bride of Christ.

 

Studies From Ephesians.

 

Welcome to this week's Bible Study. As promised here are comments received to the first week of this study series from St Paul’s letter to the Ephesian Church.

 

From Cathy:

“Last week one of the questions asked us to list a set of ' I am...' sentences. It's quite a long list.

I am:

Blessed, Holy, chosen, blameless, adopted, redeemed, gifted Grace, forgiven, lavished with wisdom and understanding, able to praise God's glory, included, guaranteed inheritance and given the Holy Spirit.

In verses 18 and 19 Paul prays that the eyes of our hearts will be opened.' Open the eyes of my heart Lord' is one of my favourite worship songs. It's asking us to see not just with our eyes but with our hearts too.

Our normal seeing (well mine anyway) is to judge on appearance. This is not God's way, his way is to see (really see) the whole person as and to react to them with a Father's love.

When I worked at the School sometimes I worked with difficult children and I would sometimes try to think how I would react if they were my child, it does change your perspective. Just as the Lord's prayer asks us to forgive others as we have been forgiven I think it would be great if we could see others as adopted into God's family as we have been. This makes each of us chosen, special and greatly loved”.

Open the eyes of my heart Lord- https://youtu.be/idQ1n3cdgfo

 

Thankyou Cathy:

 

From me:

 

“Last week, St Paul, through his letter to the Ephesian Church, got us all thinking as to who we are as the people of Christ; who we each are as individual people. 

He reminded us that because of Jesus, each one of us is special in God's eyes and St Paul gave us quite a long list of why and how that is. Here’s a reminder and, it is really a mind blowing list:

 

We are blessed, 

We are chosen, 

In Jesus we are seen as Holy and blameless.

We are Made alive in Christ, 

We are seen as adopted children of God with the same rights, status and responsibilities as joint heirs of God.

We are saved by Grace

We are raised up with Christ and seated in the heavenly realms with and in Jesus.

 

So if ever you are feeling a bit down, remind yourself of all of these incredible ways in which God sees you; each of us is loved and held close to the heart of Almighty God.

 

So if that is how God sees us as individuals, how does he see us collectively as a group of people meeting as Church? 

 

This is the subject of today’s Bible Study from Ephesians”.

 

Week 2- The Church, The Bride Of Christ.

 

To set the scene.

 

Some two years ago I received an intriguing Birthday gift; one of these “Where did your ancestors come from” type DNA testing kit. The results were rather interesting and revealed my genetic heritage as being 59.8% English (South and Eastern England), 34.7% North and West European (French,Dutch,German) and 5.5% Scandinavian (Sweden, Norway and Denmark). 

The English part came as no surprise to me, neither did the North and West European element of the result, (because I knew that Huguenots were part of my ancestry on my fathers side).  However, what was a surprise to me was to know that somewhere deep in the past, lurked a Scandinavian link in my family tree. 

I suspect that my genetic experience is not unique in the UK because these British Islands have been a melting pot of cultures, tribes and nationalities over hundreds, if not, thousands of years of invasion, trading, population movements and migration.

When it comes to the Church of Jesus Christ, our identity goes far beyond genetic makeup. I remember being very impressed by how the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, reacted when newspaper reports published a DNA expose that placed him as being the illegitimate son of Sir Winston Churchill's private secretary. Justin Welby’s simple and gracious reply to this was to say that, 'I know that I find who I am in Jesus Christ, not in genetics, and my identity in him never changes'.

This is essentially the message to be found in Ephesians. We are made complete by Jesus, and together we are as one, a unity of family that supersedes all else; nationality, culture, wealth or background. Hallelujah! This is how today’s Bible Reading so eloquently expresses this truth. 

 

Bible Reading: Ephesians 2:11-22 and 3:1-13;

 

 Jew and Gentile Reconciled Through Christ

 

11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

 

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

 

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

 

God’s Marvelous Plan for the Gentiles

 

3 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—

 

2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

 

7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

 

St Paul saw everyone, irrespective of background, as an equal member of the church because of Jesus. This might, in our inclusive world, seem obvious but back then, in the first century, this thought was revolutionary and very controversial.

For St Paul to include the Gentiles (non Jewish people) in his teaching, in his evangelism, and in the churches that he was linked to was cutting edge and counterintuitive to his culture and upbringing. As a Pharisee, St Paul would have been taught from infancy to fear and dispise Gentile culture. In fact he would have thanked God in prayer every day that he was not a Gentile. His encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus completely transformed that view. In the verses we have read we catch a glimpse of that complete turnaround. Instead of thinking that only the Jews were the chosen people, St Paul talks about his calling to the Gentiles and more, the mystery that both Jews and Gentiles are heirs together of the kingdom of heaven.

Later, in Ephesians 5:32, Paul uses the metaphor of marriage to describe the close relationship between Christ and the Church.

 

Eph5:32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

 

And in Revelation, another writer, St John talks explicitly about the church being the “Bride of Christ”.

 

Revelation19:7,21:2,21:9, 22:17,- v7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 9 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

 

St John goes on in effusive language describing how this Church, the “Bride of Christ” would be world wide, no longer limited to the Jewish nation alone but rather, drawn from every nation, tribe, people and language. 

Revelation 7:9; -   9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.

 

The image of the “Bride of Christ” is a measure of the overwhelming love of God for all human beings across the globe. In the church, God is drawing together a truly global family; all the colours of humanity will be present in God’s holy bride.

 

St Paul called the action of the grace of God saving all cultures in Christ (and not just the Jews), a mystery. And it must have seemed a complete mystery to his Jewish listeners because all revelations before this had emphasised how the Jews, as God's chosen people, were to live apart and separately from everyone else. For them, (and for us), Paul defined this mystery of God's Grace: 

Ephesians 3:6 - This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

 

Pondering Together:

Here are some questions to ponder and share (emails, notes, texts, and phone calls welcome)

 

1). What are some of the challenges of bringing together into one church two very different groups of people like the Jews and the Gentiles?

And what are some of the benefits?

What attitudes do people need for it to work?

 

2). What divisions (if any) exist in our society that parallel the split between Jews and Gentiles in Paul’s day?

What would reconciliation between those groups look like?

How might these verses from Ephesians impact the way we relate to or pray for those groups?

 

Prayer:

 

Almighty God, we pray for all in our nation and local community who belong to different cultures and ethnicities. May they be touched by your Holy Spirit that all will know your great love for them. May our church be a place of welcome, of safety, of learning and of unity in worship as today’s “ Bride of Christ” in this place . Amen.

 

Reflection during the week.

 

Revelation 7:9-10-  The Great Multitude in White Robes

9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

 

Pray for your friends, our nation, our community, and for the world. 

End with:

Creator God, who desires to include all in your family, the Church, May our church be a place of welcome and love for every nation, tribe, people, age, and language . Amen.

 

Finally to conclude:

 

I wonder if our picture of God’s Church is sometimes too small. Here is a clip from Cannon J.John which I hope will widen our view, as well as to raise a smile.

 

https://youtu.be/L6TGxKvSqH8


 

In Christian Love

 

Colin