4th May 2021 Canvey Methodist Church Bible Studies

Canvey Island Methodist Church Bible Study- 

Tuesday 4th May 2021.

 

Studies From Ephesians. 

 

The Church- The Body of Christ.    

 

Welcome to this week's Bible Study, the fourth in this series from St Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church. In this series we have sought to explore the metaphors that St Paul used to describe the church. In week one we saw the church described as “The People Of God”; In week two came the glorious and ethereally wonderful description of the church as being “The Bride of Christ; Last week saw us delving meditatively into how the church must always be “Rooted in Love”. This week, we are to look at how the Church is “The Body of Christ” in today’s world.

However, before we turn the page on to this exciting picture of the church, here are your comments from last week. I am grateful to Anne and to Sue for sharing their thoughts.

 

Pondering together. Last Week's Theme-  Being Rooted in Love.

 

Anne expressed an appreciation of the meditative South African Lumko Style of reading scripture. “ It allows God time to refresh and bless us through his word- Thank you so much for this week's Bible study, l was truly blessed using the Lumko method”. Anne.

 

Sue commented : “In this passage in Ephesians, Paul’s prayer is that we may grasp the immensity of God’s love and that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  

The passage describes this great love that God has for us.  For me, even though this great love is described so fully, it is just too much to take in.  And when I have thought and meditated on the greatness of God and His immense love, because it is so beyond my understanding, it has caused me in the past to have doubts.  But, further thinking and prayer has shown me that I can’t expect to fully understand God’s greatness and even though I can’t take it all in, I have been led to believe that God is in everything and is everything. I know that God is great and He loves us beyond measure. 

This passage makes me think of the chorus – ‘You are beautiful beyond description’, which follows  ‘Too marvellous for words, Too wonderful for comprehension’.    

I think of these words from the chorus sometimes when I try to focus on the greatness of God and they help me understand that humanly I can’t possibly grasp or understand God’s greatness, power and love but to realise that it’s by faith, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit, that I can believe.  Maybe, in agreement with Paul’s prayer, we should pray daily and ask to be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Could you imagine being filled to the measure of all the fullness of God?!! That would be so wonderful.  Sue  

 

Again my thanks to Anne and to Sue. Here is the beautiful worship song that referred to : let’s pause to praise our loving Lord as we sing.

 

You are beautiful beyond description.  

https://youtu.be/Zj13RBN5-H8

 

Week 4: The Body of Christ 

 

Have you ever noticed that at the end of each year, as soon as the feasting and Yuletide celebrating is over, (and the Christmas decorations have been packed away), that as the new year dawns, TV, magazine and newspaper advertising all turn immediately to extolling the benefits of diet plans, healthy eating, Weight Watchers and gym membership etc etc etc. 

Bodies,.........we’ve all got them and they come in all shapes and sizes. With our bodies we enjoy exercise, physical strength, many kinds of enjoyable activity and challenge. We shake hands(in normal times), we sing (in normal times without masks ), we dance, we enjoy the blessings of touch, smell, hearing, sight, and taste. When we are young, for most people, everything in our bodies works well, and we seem invincible. However, when sickness strikes and with advancing years, our bodies start to creak a bit and to protest. 

I remember well my dad once asking me to dig over the vegetable patch in our garden at our family home in Fairlop Avenue when I was about twenty five and he was sixty. He said that he didn’t have the stamina to do it any more. To me it was an easy job and I didn’t really understand what having to slow down a bit felt like. Now, of course I do. 

I expect we will all have experiences of having to cope with limitations of sickness, injury or pain, where our bodies just don’t do what we would like them to do! What good news it is then, that when God looks at us, He sees whole people, irrespective of age or health where all are valuable and important in the work of establishing His kingdom in the hearts and lives of people today.

St Paul uses the illustration of the Church being like a body, with all its parts fully functioning in unison. Here is the passage which, this week, I have taken from two different Bible translations which I hope that you will find enlightening.

 

Ephesians 4:1-16.  New International Version

 

Unity and Maturity in the Body of Christ

 

4 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it[a] says:

“When he ascended on high,

    he took many captives

    and gave gifts to his people.”[b]

9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions[c]? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Footnotes.  a.Ephesians 4:8 Or God.  b.Ephesians 4:8 Psalm 68:1.  c.Ephesians 4:9 Or the depths of the earth

 

Ephesians 4:1-16.     The Passion Translation

Our Divine Calling

 

4 As a prisoner of the Lord,[a] I plead with you to walk holy, in a way that is suitable to your high rank, given to you in your divine calling. 2 With tender humility and quiet patience, always demonstrate gentleness and generous[b] love toward one another, especially toward those who may try your patience. 3 Be faithful to guard the sweet harmony of the Holy Spirit among you in the bonds of peace, 4 being one body and one spirit, as you were all called into the same glorious hope of divine destiny.

5 For the Lord God is one, and so are we, for we share in one faith, one baptism, and one Father. 6 And he is the perfect Father who leads us all, works through us all, and lives in us all!

 

The Grace-Gifts of Christ

7 And he has generously given each one of us supernatural grace, according to the size of the gift of Christ. 8 This is why he says:

“He ascends into the heavenly heights

    taking his many captured ones with him,[c]

    and gifts were given to men.”[d]

9 He “ascended” means that he returned to heaven, after he had first descended from the heights of heaven, even to the lower regions, namely, the earth. 10 The same one who descended is also the one who ascended above the heights of heaven, in order to begin the restoration and fulfillment[e] of all things.

11 And he has appointed some with grace to be apostles, and some with grace to be prophets, and some with grace to be evangelists,[f] and some with grace to be pastors,[g] and some with grace to be teachers.[h] 12 And their calling is to nurture and prepare all the holy believers to do their own works of ministry, and as they do this they will enlarge and build up the body of Christ. 13 These grace ministries will function until we all attain oneness into the faith, until we all experience the fullness of what it means to know the Son of God,[i] and finally we become one into a perfect man[j] with the full dimensions of spiritual maturity and fully developed into the abundance of Christ.

14 And then our immaturity will end! And we will not be easily shaken by trouble, nor led astray by novel teachings or by the false doctrines of deceivers[k] who teach clever lies. 15 But instead we will remain strong and always sincere in our love as we express the truth. All our direction and ministries will flow from Christ and lead us deeper into him, the anointed Head of his body, the church.

16 For his “body” has been formed in his image and is closely joined together and constantly connected as one. And every member has been given divine gifts to contribute to the growth of all; and as these gifts operate effectively throughout the whole body, we are built up and made perfect in love.

 

Footnotes

a.4:1 Paul wrote this letter while a prisoner in Rome because of his faith in Christ. See Song. 8:6.

b.4:2 The Aramaic word literally means “stretching.”

c. 4:8 Or “he captured captivity.”

d.4:8 Or “men were given as gifts.” See Ps. 68:18.

e.4:10 As translated from the Aramaic. The Greek text says “that he might fill all things.”

f.4:11 The Aramaic can be translated “preachers.”

g.4:11 Or “shepherds.”

h.4:11 The Aramaic can be translated “wise orators.”

i.4:13 The Greek literally means “until we have the full knowledge of the Son of God.”

j.4:13 The Hebrew and Aramaic word for “perfect” is gamar, and the word implies that perfection cannot come to the body of Christ without the example and teaching of these five ministries—apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.

k.4:14 The Greek literally means “dice-playing gamblers.”

 

Comment:

 

Several times in Ephesians, St Paul refers to the Church as the Body of Christ:

 

In 1:23. And now we, his church, are his body on the earth and that which fills him who is being filled by it!

 

In 3:6.  Here’s the secret: The gospel of grace has made you, non-Jewish believers, into co heirs of his promise through your union with him. And you have now become members of his body—one with the Anointed One!


 

In 4:4,12,16,25: being one body and one spirit, as you were all called into the same glorious hope of divine destiny. 12 And their calling is to nurture and prepare all the holy believers to do their own works of ministry, and as they do this they will enlarge and build up the body of Christ.16 For his “body” has been formed in his image and is closely joined together and constantly connected as one. And every member has been given divine gifts to contribute to the growth of all; and as these gifts operate effectively throughout the whole body, we are built up and made perfect in love.25 So discard every form of dishonesty and lying so that you will be known as one who always speaks the truth, for we all belong to one another.

In 5:30;     30 He serves and satisfies us as members of his body.

 

We then, you and I, says St Paul, are the continuing presence of Christ in the world today….Wow! Incredible. What trust God has in us. Jesus is no longer here in his own material body, but spiritually and physically he is here in his body, the Church.

 

So what does that mean in practice? 

In verses 1 - 3 of today’s passage, St Paul speaks of his people, the members of the body of Christ, as living their lives in a manner that is worthy of their calling. They are to be humble, gentle, patient, bearing with one another and keeping the unity of the spirit. 

When we serve others then, we do it as Jesus. By implication then, if we don’t play our part then are we then limiting what Christ can do in the world? A challenging thought!

 

St Teresa of Avila captured this thought well in her poem on the Subject of the church as the body of Christ.

 

Christ has no body but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours;

Yours are the eyes with which he looks with compassion on this world.

Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good;

Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world.

Yours are the hands; yours are the feet

Yours are the eyes; you are his body.

Christ has no body now on earth but yours. 

 

St Teresa of Avila 

 

Who me? Surely not! But I’m no Archbishop of Canterbury, what can I do. 

Well, it seems that God’s answer is that there is a part for all to play, and he gives the wherewithal  to get the job done. Here is how St Paul put it in his letter to the Church in Corinth.

 

1Corinthians12:12-31;  (Although the rest of chapter 12 is good too).

 

12 Just as the human body is one, though it has many parts that together form one body, so too is Christ.[t] 13 For by one Spirit we all were immersed and mingled into one single body.[u] And no matter our status—whether we are Jews or non-Jews, oppressed or free—we are all privileged to drink deeply of the same Holy Spirit.

14 In fact, the human body is not one single part but rather many parts mingled into one. 15 So if the foot were to say, “Since I’m not a hand, I’m not a part of the body,” it’s forgetting that it is still a vital part of the body. 16 And if the ear were to say, “Since I’m not an eye, I’m not really a part of the body,” it’s forgetting that it is still an important part of the body.

17 Think of it this way. If the whole body were just an eyeball, how could it hear sounds? And if the whole body were just an ear, how could it smell different fragrances? 18 But God has carefully designed each member and placed it in the body to function as he desires.[w] 19 A diversity is required, for if the body consisted of one single part, there wouldn’t be a body at all! 20 So now we see that there are many differing parts and functions, but one body.

 

No Competition for Importance within the Body

21 It would be wrong for the eye to say to the hand, “I don’t need you,” and equally wrong if the head said to the foot, “I don’t need you.” 22 In fact, the weaker our parts, the more vital and essential they are.[x] 23 The body parts we think are less honorable we treat with greater respect. And the body parts that need to be covered in public we treat with propriety and clothe them. 24 But some of our body parts don’t require as much attention. Instead, God has mingled the body parts together, giving greater honor to the “lesser” members who lacked it. 25 He has done this intentionally so that every member would look after the others with mutual concern, and so that there will be no division in the body. 26 In that way, whatever happens to one member happens to all. If one suffers, everyone suffers. If one is honored, everyone rejoices.

 

One Body with Different Gifts

27 You are the body of the Anointed One, and each of you is a unique and vital part of it. 28 God has placed in the church the following:

First apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then those with gifts of miracles, gifts of divine healing, gifts of revelation knowledge,[y] gifts of leadership,[z]

and gifts of different kinds of tongues. 29 Not everyone is an apostle or a prophet or a teacher. Not everyone performs miracles 30 or has gifts of healing or speaks in tongues or interprets tongues. 31 But you should all constantly boil over with passion in seeking the higher gifts.

 

Sound advice for us all. Not all of us are apostles or teachers or “up the front” but we all have a responsibility to grow to maturity together. I liked the motto of the old Castle View School on Canvey when our daughters were there. It was “To be the best that I can be”, not a bad moto for us in the church as well, perhaps. Although we might add “With God’s help”. Although we will never be exactly like Jesus in this life, in his letter to the Ephesians, St Paul encourages us to aspire to be as full of God as it is possible for a person to be. And God is on our side in this. When we ask God to fill with His Spirit and gift us for the tasks ahead he will. Praise the Lord. 

 

Points to ponder

 

-Three times in Ephesians, St Paul uses the phrase the “fullness of Christ” or the “fullness of God” 

 

1:23.which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

3:19. and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 

4:13. until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

 

What do you think this phrase means? How do we attain the fullness of Christ? 

 

- To function properly each body part needs to be connected to the other parts of the body and particularly to the head. How can we stay connected to Jesus and to each other in a way that sustains us and helps us be Christ to the world? 

 

- Thinking about our church, how do we embody Christ in our local community? Ask God to show you how best to serve, that the church may itself serve more effectively.

 

-If it helps in your thinking and praying about service use the outline below to write your gift where you think God might be equipping you to serve:

e.g. People who care for others might mark on the hands or heart,

People with gifts of speaking / teaching might mark the head or mouth, People who have creative gifts might mark the hands etc etc.

For those of us who don’t know how we can serve or use our gifts, use this occasion as an opportunity to ask God to reveal this to you.

 

 

A prayer: 

 

Lord God, we thank you that you trust us to be the body of Christ in our community. Thankyou too that this is your work and that you always equip all whom you call to undertake tasks in the work of your kingdom of love. Help us to have open hearts, hands and minds and a willingness to receive from your Holy Spirit all that He wishes to bless us with.

In Jesus Name we pray Amen.

 

As always, please do let me know how God has blessed you through his word. May our experiences of God continue to bless and inspire us all as we share them together as the Body of Christ at Canvey Methodist Church in Waarden Road. Are looking forward to seeing you on Sunday as we gather together to worship Almighty God as the Body of Christ.

 

In Christian Love

 

Colin