I began what I had hoped to a series of responses to a Martyn Lloyd-Jones (MLJ) Ephesians study we had begun through our TRIHOP friends. (You can find the original 2 in the series here, about how we look at Scripture and here, about who we are in Christ.)
I fell off from it for quite some time, but as I have been continuing with the study and have been so encouraged by chewing so thoroughly the MEAT of Ephesians 1, I want to pick back up again. I am learning that it’s not always about never lapsing with something, but that it’s so critical to pick back up and keep going. “Failures” happen, but the key is to not let our failures, real or imagined, stop us from pressing onward.
So, back to Ephesians.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul begins every one of his letters with these words or a blessing very similar to this one you can read here in Ephesians chapter 1 verse 2. Every letter. I looked.
These are like Paul’s characteristic opening remarks. Like Johnny Cash starting his concerts in his booming bass voice, “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.” Paul always starts with, “Hey this is who I am (Paul, an apostle, etc), and this is who you are (Saints, faithful in Christ), and GRACE and PEACE to you guys.”
Unlike Johnny’s characteristic opener that caused people to erupt in cheers, we face the constant temptation to just quickly pass over these words as customary greetings that are just polite things to say.
But, just stop. Check this out from the Doctor (MLJ) himself: ““The Apostle does not use words such as this lightly and loosely and thoughtlessly; it is not a mere formula which he uses automatically at the beginning of a letter; the words are charged with profound meaning.”
In every chapter, Martyn Lloyd-Jones makes some kind of statement like this reminding me not to take any word of this Bible we hold lightly but to gaze long and lovingly at each phrase and press the oil out of it that it would enliven my heart.
I mean, why would Paul repeat these words in every letter if they weren’t full of meaning to him? And, thinking beyond Paul, if truly the Holy Spirit inspired all of the Scripture, then that means the Holy Spirit wants to breathe on these words as much as any others in the Bible. He didn’t fail to inspire Paul’s greetings, giving Paul free rein to make whatever opening or closing remarks he wanted.
No, these words are meant to be meaningful and a powerful blessing. These aren’t words that Paul coined as simply his catchy greeting for his letter-writing ministry. These words express a heart-felt prayer and a burning desire in Paul. He loved the people he was writing to and he wanted them to know, to experience the grace and peace that come only from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
So, let’s zoom in on these words and chew on them a little more carefully.
Grace. We throw this word around a lot, but what does it really mean? Grace is nothing less than miraculous favor from God. Favor that we do not deserve and could never earn. “Grace is the origin and the source and the fount of everything in the Chrisitan life,” writes Martyn Lloyd-Jones. It is God’s love stooping down to us; His kindness that we could never, ever procure on our own.
And, Peace? Peace is often primarily defined by an absence of something. The absence of fighting, war, strife. Or, it’s known as rest or quiet. But, truly the Biblical idea of peace is UNION. Union after separation.
If grace is the beginning of our faith then peace is the end of our faith. PEACE…this is the purpose of our Christian life. This is what a Christian life should produce!
Okay. Good. I like things defined, so we’ve defined things. But, why do we need these things so badly that Paul would pray it for and speak it over every person in every letter he wrote?
We don’t really understand grace and peace until we understand the Fall. Not the season that is usually marked by falling leaves. The Fall of man as recorded in Genesis chapter 3. Because of Adam and Eve’s choice, we are all infected with sin. Which means, we are at war with God. This also leads to people being at war with one another, and even at war within ourselves.
Because of the huge disobedience of people to God, because we reject Him and do not listen to Him, we deserve the punishment the righteous God would dish out. YET, in spite of all of this, God is FULL of GRACE and He STILL looks on us with favor through the work of Jesus Christ.
Because of His amazing grace, God has made peace. Not just the absence of fighting with Him, not just the absence of war with our fellow humans, not just absence of turmoil within ourselves. PEACE. The opportunity for RELATIONSHIP with God through Jesus; unity with other people like we can’t produce through men’s peace treaties; peace within ourselves.
And, we’ve really already seen this, but it’s worth it to ask the question: How do we have access to this amazing gift of grace and peace?
Through the source of everything in life: God. Which God? What kind of God? OUR Father. To all Believers, God is not just the Father of Jesus, but He is OUR Father. For those who have known the goodness of a loving earthly Father, He is Heavenly Father. For those who never knew an earthly father’s name, much less his love, He is Father. For those who wished they hadn’t known their father’s name because there never was any love from him, He is Father. He is our Father. Father who gives grace and peace.
And, this grace and peace flow to us from the Lord Jesus Christ as well. Jesus is so central in every step of redemption. In every blessing God pours out. It is all because of Jesus. Because of the work He accomplished on the cross, dying and shedding His blood so that our sins could be covered and we could become righteous in God’s eyes. The only way we could come back into relationship with God, the Righteous One.
Look at how Paul refers to Him: the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord: Jesus is the Master, the Boss, the Leader.
Jesus: His very name means salvation! Salvation has a name, it is Jesus!
Christ: This means “the anointed one.” The rightful king, the descendent of David who reigns on David’s throne forever.
The Lord Jesus Christ. Through this one we have access to GRACE and PEACE.
Thank you, God, our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ for this amazing gift.
Now, will we live like we truly have been blessed with an amazing favor and an indescribable peace?
Ginny Wall led worship. We were a smaller group than usual because of all the sickness going around at this time. We took some time to pray for healing and protection for the ones who are sick and prevention for those who are not sick! We are so thankful for Ginny’s ministry to the Lord. She chooses songs so prayerfully and they are always powerful to lead us in worship.
We have been really digging into Revelation 4 and 5 to find fuel for our hearts. On this night, Matthew shared about Revelation 5. He began with words about why we are looking at Revelation 5 and how it fuels our hearts to understand this picture we have of what is happening around the throne. He opened up the first half of this chapter talking about the details that God has chosen to reveal in these Scriptures. These things really do make our hearts alive and bring steadiness to us in times of trials as we face difficulty in our lives personally as well as facing the Great Day that will come when Jesus returns to end this current age we are living in.
We prayed for needs we knew existed, particularly for health concerns.
What a great time gathering! In the midst of a busy month full of holiday activities, we carved out some time to pray, worship, learn about the celebration of Hanukkah, and “gather some oil” for our own hearts.
Linda Edwards began our time together with several Christmas hymns. “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” and “Angels from the Realms of Glory” were two not so familiar songs that struck our hearts this year with their powerful lyrics.
After these songs, Matthew shared a great message helping us all understand the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. We were in the midst of the Hanukkah celebration at the time of the meeting so it seemed an appropriate time to enjoy jelly donuts along with our coffee and learn about this Jewish festival that often gets confused as “Jewish Christmas,” which it is not. We watched a helpful and humorous YouTube video (Hanukkah || Mayim Bialik), that explains this event on the Jewish calendar.
Matthew then read from an article "Christ in the Feast of Hanukkah by David Brickner of Jews for Jesus) explaining not only the historical facts about the Maccabean revolt against the Greek rule of that day to purge the temple from Greek desecration, but also the connections Jesus had with Hanukkah. Matthew also wrote some Hanukkah reflections in a December Blog, Hanukkah Reflections 2017
We watched a few fun videos about Hanukkah by the Maccabeats (Candlelight & Miracle & Latke Recipe). The point of this was to see that Jewish people are faithfully remembering this historical event, but they are missing the LIGHT who has come.
Matthew’s main point in sharing all of this about Hanukkah was so that we would gain a heart of love for God’s people Israel. We also gain understanding of the struggles they have faced as well as their culture and customs. We realize the beauty of Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. He shared a great word of wisdom that although we don’t necessarily agree with everything that the political nation of Israel does, we want to always be in agreement with God’s plans for Israel, the Land and the People.
In the story of Hanukkah there was a miracle of oil that Jewish history tells. After the Jews drove out the Greeks who were polluting their place of worship, the Jews cleansed the temple. They only had enough oil for 1 day, but the oil miraculously lasted 8 days, long enough to allow them to prepare more oil. This has an application for us as we have talked about pressing out oil. We do our part of seeking the Lord and studying the Word, but ultimately, we look to Him for a miraculous supply of oil in our own lives.
Ginny Wall and Ian Wilson both led us in worship focusing on having oil in our lamps and on Jesus as our light.
We prayed for impartation of God’s heart for Israel as well as having oil.
Matthew or Julie Wine