Sabbath School Lesson for October 20-26, 2018
The book of Ephesians focuses on unity, helping us to understand how to have unity in Christ…
- What are some of the spiritual blessings involved, and how does God use predestination to determine who will receive them? (Ephesians 1:3-14–Sunday’s lesson)
- What does breaking down the wall of separation mean?–ch. 2:14 (Ephesians 2:11-22–Monday’s lesson)
- How do we become one body in Christ? (Ephesians 4:1-6–Tuesday’s lesson)
- Why are special spiritual gifts given to some church leaders? (Ephesians 4:11-16–Wednesday’s lesson)
- How do improved attitudes affect our everyday relationships? (Ephesians 5:15-6:9–Thursday’s lesson)
We understand that unity is the purpose of the plan of salvation. God, from the beginning, has desired us to be at one with Him and to be united with each other. Unity of the whole universe is the goal and expresses most precisely what God’s will has been, is, and always will be for His created beings.
But, Satan has put forth every effort to thwart this unity. We’ve seen some of his tactics described, in both the Old and the New Testaments. But this week, we will zero in on Christ’s part in achieving this unity. Paul adamantly expressed the concept of being “in Christ”, particularly in his letter to the Ephesian church.
This week we will study and find out just what this unity with Christ means to all of our relationships, and how we can become part of God’s grand plan of salvation for all. With God’s help, we can achieve this worthy goal of unity.
Memory Text: “Having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth–in Him.” Ephesians 1:9, 10 NKJV
Let’s not fail to notice the breadth of this unity. The verse says, “both which are in heaven and which are on earth”. God wants to unite all His creatures throughout the universe, and it sounds like there is a designated time for this achievement–“in the dispensation of the fullness of the times”.
Also, don’t overlook the fact that those who are gathered will be “in Christ”. Evidently, Christ plays a pivotal role in this event. Let’s now explore what Paul revealed about being “in Christ”. Could this be our key to unity?
Sunday: Blessings in Christ
Belonging to a family is probably one of the sweetest ways to express what it means to be united with fellow believers. Although the practice has fallen away to a certain extent, there are still church members who think of and call each other “brother” and “sister”.
Along with our redemption, we are given the privilege of becoming adopted as sons and daughters of God. We are all called to be His representatives, to share His offer of salvation with anyone who will accept it.
There are some verses in this first chapter of Ephesians that speak of predestination:
- “having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself…” v. 5
- “…being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.” v. 11
Some have thought these verses mean that God has predestined all beings to either be saved or lost and there is nothing we can do to change that determination. There are, however, many other Bible indicators that do not support this concept.
Certainly, God desires that all be saved (He is “not willing that any should perish” 2 Peter 3:9), and He knows who will be saved and who will not (1 Peter 1:2 speaks of His “foreknowledge”). But He has left that choice of whom to follow up to us. Joshua 24:15 says, “…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…”. It is therefore OUR choice, not God’s.
John 3:16 helps us to see this: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Besides, there are many other texts throughout the Bible that tell us to pray for wisdom, health, unity, forgiveness, even our enemies. If these things were already predetermined by God, why would we be told to pray for them?
Yes, God has many spiritual blessings to give His children, not only as a reward of their unity, but in order to foster more unity.
Read Ephesians 1:3-6, Romans 8:28, and 2 Timothy 1:9. For what has God called or chosen us, and why did it happen before the foundation of the world?
Read Ephesians 1:11 and Romans 8:17. In what ways do we share Christ’s inheritance? What does it mean to be a joint-heir with Christ?
Read 1 Timothy 2:6 and 2 Peter 3:9. How do these verses, along with John 3:16, lead us not to believe in the doctrine of predestination, as some men understand it? What about the idea that some churches teach that everyone will be saved?
Monday: Breaking Down the Wall
Moving on to the second chapter of Ephesians, we are reminded by Paul that both Jews and Gentiles are accepted by God (Ephesians 2:11-13), and what God is really interested in is for our hearts to be circumcised (Deuteronomy 30:6). When Gentiles are in Christ, when His blood has covered their sins, they can have the same hope and assurance of salvation as their Jewish counterparts.
This must have been quite significant for Gentile believers, who were accustomed to sitting separately from Jews when they visited the synagogue. The Messiah had come to break down that wall of separation (Ephesians 2:14), with the purpose of unifying the followers of God, in a way they hadn’t experienced up to that time.
Today, and throughout history, ethnic, cultural, religious, and even gender differences have separated God’s people, let alone the world in general. Someday soon, the disturbing, emotional rifts that disunity has caused, will be healed. God’s church is destined for unity, and we need to encourage that day to come by accepting all brothers AND sisters across the globe as one.
Read Ephesians 2:11-13 and Deuteronomy 30:6. What had most of the Jewish nation failed to understand about circumcision? How did Jesus bring both Jews and Gentiles closer to God?
Read Ephesians 2:14-18 and Galatians 3:28. What three people groups, mentioned by Paul, should have access to Christ? How did their walls of separation in the synagogue promote unequal access? Why did Christ try to break down those walls?
Read Ephesians 2:19-22, Psalms 118:22, Isaiah 53:3, and 1 Peter 2:4, 5. Why was the cornerstone rejected? Who are the other stones that make up the church, and why is it important that they fit together?
Tuesday: Unity in One Body
Chapter three of Ephesians focuses on the mystery of Christ, the purpose of grace working in God’s church, and it closes with a prayer of appreciation for this mystery, for what Christ has done for us through His grace.
Chapter four returns to this need for God’s children to walk in unity. Paul appeals to us to endeavor to achieve this unity with these three spiritual traits…
- all lowliness (humility)
- gentleness (compassion)
- longsuffering (patience)
The word “one” is mentioned multiple times in Paul’s call to be of one Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, and baptism. All of these blessings should draw us together, not apart. These elements will enable us to be one body in Christ.
We see three phases of our unity in chapter four…
- v. 1-3 the present, those traits we should always work on
- v. 4-6 the past, what Christ, through His death, has accomplished for us
- v. 13 the future, when we will perfectly reflect Christ and become the perfect body He desires
Read Ephesians 4:1-3. What character traits will promote unity in the church? Which one is hardest for you, why, and how could you improve in that area?
Read Ephesians 4:4-6, Malachi 2:10, and 1 Corinthians 8:6. What makes God our point of unity? Why is it important that we recognize His supremacy and right to call us to unity?
Read Ephesians 4:13. When do you think this full unity will happen? Why is it important that we keep the goal of full unity before us, regardless of when it will happen?
Wednesday: Church Leaders and Unity
After expressing the one body, one Lord, one faith, one hope, and the rest of it, Paul shifts gears and begins describing how church members have different spiritual gifts. Most of the gifts he lists–being an apostle or prophet, pastoring, evangelizing, and teaching–sound like the features we would expect to see in our church leaders.
But none of these gifts are meant to be used in isolation. They must fit in with the total landscape of a church community, in order to promote church edification and unity. And the saints are not left without their impact. The spiritual gifts mentioned in verse 11 is followed by…
“for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:12, 13 NKJV
So, in essence, we are all being equipped for ministry by our church leaders, so we can most completely reflect the character of Christ. They can’t do the work alone, and we can’t do it without the guidance of these gifts that the Holy Spirit provides our leaders.
Following God’s direction, we can work together as one to complete the work of evangelizing the world and spreading the gospel. This is the most loving and effective way for it to happen, and should be our constant mission as a church body.
Read Ephesians 4:7, 11-13, 1 Corinthians 14:26, and Colossians 1:24. Why is the church considered the same as Christ’s body–what would they have in common? How do all the saints benefit from the special gifts for leadership that are mentioned in Ephesians?
Read Ephesians 4:14-16 and Colossians 2:19. What hazards does the church face when there is not unity among them? How does Christ, the Head of the church, hold the church together?
Read Matthew 20:25-28. What two kinds of leadership are described in this passage?
Thursday: Human Relationships in Christ
It’s impossible for the church to attain the full unity that God desires when we see homes, marriages, and worksites full of strife and unhappiness. The improved relationship we experience with God and with fellow believers must be seen throughout all our relationships with others.
Respect and submission, requiring both love and humility on our part, must fill our hearts entirely for true unity to thrive. This achievement is only possible when we are filled with the Holy Spirit.
Chapter five and six of Ephesians draw a picture of what these Spirit-filled relationships look like. True happiness in life occurs when this love and unity is witnessed in every aspect of our lives. It is only then that the church will attain full unity among its members and we will enjoy fully our relationship with God.
Read Ephesians 5:32, 33, Colossians 3:18, 19, and 1 Peter 3:1. Why are love and respect needed on the part of both husband and wife? How does this human relationship mirror Christ and the church?
Read Ephesians 6:1, 4. Why is it important for children to obey? Why is it important for parents to not provoke their children? What is the result of love without respect? What is the result of respect with love? How do love and respect lead to more successful family relationships?
Read Ephesians 6:5-9. In what way do both employees and employers carry equal responsibility for making work more productive? Why are love and respect necessary in the board room, as well as on the factory floor? And why are people so unable or reluctant to recognize this?
No matter how difficult it is for God’s church to achieve unity, this must be the goal of every one of His living stones. We will not always agree on the methods for attaining it, and we may not even agree on what this unity entails, but with the three things Paul mentions in Ephesians 4:1, 2, we can go a long way in our effort to be worthy of our calling.
Those three things are…
- LOWLINESS, or humility–Demonstrating humbleness of heart toward God and our fellow church members is the ingredient first needed in dealing with those who disagree with us.
- GENTLENESS, or compassion–The next step is to tenderly look for ways to understand where the other person is coming from. No one has the same experience or viewpoint on every issue.
- LONGSUFFERING, or patience–Never force your opinion or understanding on another, but exhibit patient forbearance and tender love toward your brother or sister, knowing that this is how Christ deals with us.
When we become masters of these three skills, God assures us that we can be one body, “worthy of the calling with which you were called” (Ephesians 4:1).
Let’s face it…we’ve got a long way to go. But Christ doesn’t give up on His holy bride, and neither should we. By faith, we can move whatever mountain of doubt or fear comes our way. Because that’s His promise. And it’s our key to unity.
Next Week’s Lesson: The Experience of Unity in the Early Church
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
All Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/