Bible Studies for Life
Jeff Pennington, senior pastor
First Baptist Church, Smyrna
Since this pandemic started, I have sought to cultivate a grateful heart by thanking God for the unexpected blessings that He has sent to me and my family along the way. One of ways the Lord has cared for me is through the time my wife Alison and I have spent running and walking together.
For many years my time on a trail near our home has been my “me” time. But now, that which at times felt like a laborious chore has become a highlight of my day. No matter how hot the weather or stressful the circumstance, our time spent exercising has not only nourished my heart, but helped me stave off some unwanted pounds. Exercising by myself has its benefits, but doing it with my best friend is far better.
This truth should not come as a surprise. God made us for fellowship. For all of eternity, with the exception of Christ’s death, the Trinity has enjoyed perfect fellowship within the Godhead. As image bearers, we reflect this fellowship through living our lives in community with others.
Don’t misunderstand me. Ultimately, we place our dependency on King Jesus. And still, one of the primary tools the Lord uses to grow and shape us is the benefit we receive from one another. Many have shared with me that they have enjoyed drinking their coffee and watching a livestream service from the comfort of their living room. I understand the appeal of worshipping in pajamas with a coffee in hand, but this “me” time will always have its limitations.
Not being able to worship corporately during the Coronavirus Crisis, though the right thing to do, was and is a product of the fall. There is nothing natural about it, and it is not the way God designed life to be lived. While we should be thankful for technology, it cannot come close to the joy and strength we receive when we gather together as the church. Simply put, we need each other.
When we study Paul’s letter to the church of Ephesus, we learn of how richly our heavenly Father has blessed us. Moreover, we study the specific ways we draw strength from one another as a part of the local church.
Ephesians is written similarly to Paul’s other letters. The first three chapters give us the letter’s theology while the last three explain how we apply that theology to our lives. Whenever we need to be reminded of our identity in Christ, a study of Ephesians is a great place to turn.
Throughout the opening two chapters, the repeated phrases “In Christ” and “in him” highlight the beautiful ways that God has lavished us with His love and grace. Then we come to 5:8-21. As Paul describes a Christian’s need to live honorably, wisely, and humbly, he shows us how these areas of life are strengthened through the relationships we cultivate within the church.
We need each other to live honorably
Verse 8 describes the beautiful transformation that takes place in the life of every true believer. Just reading this text should make you want to get up and immediately share your faith.
We used to live in darkness, but thanks to Jesus, we do so no longer. Verses 2-3 explain how the sin that used to rule over us now has no place in our lives. God has rescued from this curse of death, and the life-giving light of Christ now shines on us (verse 14).
These verses hold for us a wonderful truth. With deep affection, we help each other discern how to live in a way that is honorable and pleasing to God. If we do see sin in the lives of our brothers or sisters, we lovingly confront them by exposing their sin so that they are not devastated by the shameful consequences it is sure to bring.
It is never good for any of us to live in the secret dark places where sin bounds. We need to help each other live in the light.
We need each other to live wisely
During these months of the pandemic, I have asked God to give me wisdom. I’m sure you have prayed this way too. Wisdom in verses 15-16 is of the utmost importance to Paul, for the days he described are much like our own.
Let’s make this real and personal. The pandemic is enough to cause us to pray the second-to-last verse in the Bible: “Come quickly, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20). But now, when we think about city blocks declaring themselves to be autonomous zones, racial protests, and riots in our streets, our longing for Christ’s return has only intensified. All of these reasons are why we must walk in wisdom, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil (16).
The Greek word translated into English as “time” is kairos. Rather than describe time as seconds, minutes, and hours, kairos speaks of a measured, fixed season. As we lean on one another to live wisely in this season, it serves us little good to bemoan the evil of the time in which we live. Rather than wallow in self-pity, our conversations are better served by encouraging each other to make the most of the time God has given us. Every drop of our energy needs to be spent bringing greatest glory to our Savior.
This is the way we need to encourage each other. It is also the way we need to fervently pray for one another.
We need each other to live humbly
At first blush, Paul ends this section of Ephesians by stringing together matters of little relation. In three short verses, he writes of drunkenness, the Holy Spirit, congregational singing, thanksgiving, and humble submission. A brief summary of these verses demonstrates why they are profound.
We should not be controlled by wine, but rather, the Spirit of God should control us. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit in this way, we gather together and sing God’s praises. We soon grow to love and respect those with whom we sing, and the preference we grant to others is sourced in our worship and reverence of Christ.
These verses cannot be carried out at a distance. They require us to live in deeply committed, worship-filled fellowship with one another.
We need each other. God designed us to live this way. “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb. 10:25).