Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Ephesians Part 1 - What is in it for Me?

I am going to be doing the first Bible Study on the Book of Ephesians. Let's plan on looking at the first chapter for the first week of the study. We will start the study,Monday, August 28.

Here are my recommendations. We will do one chapter a week, of course one can always go back and make comment on the previous chapters discussions. We will go through one book at a time. The discussions will take part on The Virtual Pew Message Boards, under the Bible Study Threads. Now mind you, I am not the only one who has an opinion. I encourage each of you to pray, ask God to show you what he wants to show you, show you the things he wants you to share.

For practical information I will primarily be using the Contemporary English Version. It is a good translation and is one most everyone can understand. Of course, anyone can use any translation they chose.

A link to look at online translations along with the CEV that I will be using is at the following url:

Bible Gateway

At this particular url there are numerous translations you can use. I will also paste the first chapter at the conclusion of this thread for people to begin looking at.

Please remember, while there may only be a few that enter into the Bible studies, there are many who are reading and looking at our comments.

I would recommend that this week we all look at the background of Ephesians. I will say Ephesians is especially important because it looks at what worked and what Paul at least expected from the church. With The Virtual Pew being in its own infancy, there will be much that we can learn, and much that we can apply towards our online community of faith.

Here are some other interesting tidbits about Ephesians.

Ephesians shows how to build a strong, lasting church, one that is stable and strong. In today’s world with the advent of so many fads, this is critical. With the book of Ephesians we have a blueprint of how to build an effective church. We can see for example what this particular church did that worked so well. We can apply those things to The Virtual Pew or whatever local church you happen to be a part of.

Pauls letter also applies to various situations that can benefit many of those, especially those living in the West, not specific to American, but those entwined in Western thought in general, whether from Greece, Europe, or America. Ephesians will address both the subjective aspects of the Gospel, in other words, what can the Gospel do for me, as well as address the aspect of improving your relationship with Jesus. One may come away thinking, it is as if Christ came just for me after this study is complete.

Paul addresses what it means to have, “life in Christ,” and it brings a measure of depth to the daily expressions of our faith. We can also see how God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit work together to bring about salvation for all of humanity. We will also be given tools and direction as to how to overcome the evil we face and see on a day to day basis.

For those that take the study seriously, they will mature and become stronger in their faith, and in their relationship with both God and others.

The church at Ephesus has been called the “Ultimate New Testament Church.” While many follow concepts of what they believe church should be, Ephesians shows what the church was, and how it came to be that church. I have always thought, “Why reinvent the wheel.” In other words, if we want to replicate what worked in the Bible, we have to do some of the same types of things. Of course understanding the cultural differences and making appropriate adjustments may be needed, but in the long run, we can get the same results if we follow the same plan. If you want to be a part of the Big C, Universal Church that is making a difference, the church that goes beyond denominations; this is a great place to start. While there is value in the local, community, even denominational church, there is much more value in the Universal Church, the Church where I have much in common with the person who may live in Pakistan or some other country.

Regarding Ephesians and the church at Ephesus:

There are no fewer than 20 chapters in all of the NT that describe God’s work at Ephesus and this church. The time frame of that discussion covers 20 years, from it’s beginnings to its well established maturity some years later.

More authors in all of the Bible write about the church at Ephesus than any other church. Luke spoke about its foundation in Acts 18-20, Paul sent two letters to it, Timothy was its early pastor that Paul wrote to, the Apostle John writes about it in the book of Revelation.

How can the world of Ephesus be used to help us out? It is remarkable when looking at this book at how much the world then is like the world now. Ephesus was a world where racism and prejudice was rampant. There was political intrigue and divisions between the rich and the poor. There was the rich, who got what they could at whatever cost it took, even at the expense of the many poor who lived within their society.

Even though there were many poor in Ephesus, the poor were proud, and fought for their rights and fought to live a better life. The church gave a great illustration of how to live in the difficult times, while at the same time, being consistent in their faith. As a result of their staying loyal to their faith, they experienced a great deal of growth, and respect from those in their surrounding communities and societies. They held their own in the market center of which they were located. You see, Ephesus was a very important coastal port that had as a part of its influence individuals from all over the world. In some ways it was the New York City of its day.

Ephesus was a major urban center and Luke stated that the message of Christ spread so far inland that every Jew and Gentile in Asia had heard the message. (Acts 19:10). This church also planted churches all throughout the known world at the time. It is believed by many that the Bishop Onesimus who served here is the same Onesimus that we read about in the book of Philemon in the Bible.

Despite the rapid and successful growth that took place, we should recognize that it took place at a cost. Paul likely gave more time and effort to this church than any other church that he ministered to. He took at least three visits and some believe far more to that to this community. He had a great deal of help in his efforts and later after he was done with the immense amount of work, Timothy took over and the church continued its growth and journey.

Many lay claim to the point that the church at Ephesus is the prime example of how to start, and grow a church. It is with that as a background that we will start our study next week with this book in the New Testament. With the hope and understanding that we can not only grow The Virtual Pew but also grow the community of faith we may be involved in. It is my belief that unless we learn how to be the church, we can’t progress to the point where we can be the church. or grow a church. In essence we have to learn what it means to be the church, and for that example there is likely no better illustration than the church at Ephesus.

Ephesus was a major city in Asia on the Aegean seacoast. Today the ruins of the city are six miles inland as a result of the buildup of suit along the base of the Cayster River. It had a population of approximately 300,000 making it the fourth largest city in the Roman Empire. Ephesus was extremely well off, and an extremely popular vacation spot due to the amount of trade that took place at the ports. It was also a cultural art center. It had numerous monuments, theaters, and temples. The most popular temple was to the princes Diana. There was so much trade in the city that Ephesus started the first world bank. There were mystery cults, occult practices, and emperor worship. There were also popular Christian leaders who pastured there, of course the founding pastor and planter was the Apostle Paul, but the Apostle John and Timothy also had pastoral stints at Ephesus.

The Ephesians church stayed strong of over 400 years. In 431 AD a church council was held that condemned the false teachings called Nestorianism. The church at Ephesus addressed the issues of the day, stayed strong in their faith, and set an example for churches to follow. The Virtual Pew should be no different in the lessons we can learn from this particular church. My hope and prayer, is that over the next week, as we look at the background, study Chapter 1 of the book, that we can come together to begin to address this very important book of the Bible.

As you study, I encourage you this week to look at what history on Ephesus that you can find. We want to know something about the people, the time, the author, and the audience of where this book was written. I also encourage you to think some about the man writing the letter, the Apostle Paul. Then as the week progresses, read, pray about, and think of how we/you can apply the passages we read. I’ll post questions for thought later on but for now we have a good place to start. Enjoy the journey, hop on board as we look at the book of Ephesians, starting off with chapter 1.

(1) From Paul, chosen by God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus.
To God's people who live in Ephesus and are faithful followers of Christ Jesus. (2) I pray that God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ will be kind to you and will bless you with peace!

Christ Brings Spiritual Blessings
(3) Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for the spiritual blessings that Christ has brought us from heaven! (4) Before the world was created, God had Christ choose us to live with him and to be his holy and innocent and loving people. (5) God was kind and decided that Christ would choose us to be God's own adopted children. (6) God was very kind to us because of the Son he dearly loves, and so we should praise God. (7-8) Christ sacrificed his life's blood to set us free, which means that our sins are now forgiven. Christ did this because God was so kind to us. God has great wisdom and understanding, (9) and by what Christ has done, God has shown us his own mysterious ways. (10) Then when the time is right, God will do all that he has planned, and Christ will bring together everything in heaven and on earth.
(11) God always does what he plans, and that's why he appointed Christ to choose us. (12) He did this so that we Jews would bring honor to him and be the first ones to have hope because of him. (13) Christ also brought you the truth, which is the good news about how you can be saved. You put your faith in Christ and were given the promised Holy Spirit to show that you belong to God. (14) The Spirit also makes us sure that we will be given what God has stored up for his people. Then we will be set free, and God will be honored and praised.

Paul's Prayer
(15) I have heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God's people. (16) So I never stop being grateful for you, as I mention you in my prayers. (17) I ask the glorious Father and God of our Lord Jesus Christ to give you his Spirit. The Spirit will make you wise and let you understand what it means to know God. (18) My prayer is that light will flood your hearts and that you will understand the hope that was given to you when God chose you. Then you will discover the glorious blessings that will be yours together with all of God's people.
(19) I want you to know about the great and mighty power that God has for us followers. It is the same wonderful power he used (20) when he raised Christ from death and let him sit at his right side in heaven. (21) There Christ rules over all forces, authorities, powers, and rulers. He rules over all beings in this world and will rule in the future world as well. (22) God has put all things under the power of Christ, and for the good of the church he has made him the head of everything. (23) The church is Christ's body and is filled with Christ who completely fills everything.

Oh Yea, here is that contact information again.
The Virtual PewP.O. Box 17731Wichita, KS 67217

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To become a part of The Virtual Pew, visit, http://www.thevirtualpew.com/ To learn more about me visit http://www.furches.org/ I am also active on MySpace at: http://www.myspace.com/mikefurches I have another blog at http://blog.myspace.com/mikefurches To visit the Hollywood Jesus group at MySpace with membership by numerous Hollywood Jesus reviewers visit: http://groups.myspace.com/hollywoodjesus For a more in depth weekly study and conversation you an visit: http://virtualpewsermon.blogspot.com/ where you can access deeper teaching and ultimately videos for viewing and teaching. You can contact me via email at mike@furches.org or mike@thevirtualpew.com For those interested in knowing more about my own story, contact me for a free e-copy of my book The Keystone Kid in pre-edit form.

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