FORMERLY, YOU WERE DEAD IN YOUR TRANSGRESSIONS AND SINS

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In a hospital doctors are charged with the confirmation and certification of the death of a patient. Their declaration of patient’s status is normally considered authoritative and final.

In Ephesians 2:1-3 Paul reminds believers about God’s perception of their former condition- when they were separated from Christ. God’s definition of a sinner’s spiritual status is final because he sees beyond the physical.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins…” (Eph. 2:1)

This description also befits or is true of any other person who has not yet come to salvation or received Jesus as Savior and Lord. It is bad news to be called or labeled- dead/lifeless/senseless. It is a serious state, but true. It is a spiritually hopeless condition that needs more than a rescue strategy. It needs someone who is greater and able to breathe life into our dead bodies.

But how were they dead?

They were spiritually dead when they:

  1. Followed the ways of this world- They were spiritually death when they followed worldly patterns that ultimately lead to death instead of following God’s ways that lead to life. They were dead because they followed the empty, hollow, self-defeating, and deceptive philosophies of men that seek to oppose God. Instead of worshipping the only one and true God who has revealed himself in his Word, they worshiped idols. They heeded the ways of the folly instead of the ways of wisdom. In summary, these patterns made them dead, lost, and without hope.
  2. They followed Satan– They followed the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit that is now at work in those who are disobedient. By not following God, they were definitely choosing to follow the deceiver of nations. They followed the ruler of the kingdom of darkness; getting blinded every step from what God has done in Christ.
  • Sought was to gratify the desires of the flesh– In their lifeless state they did not follow God’s will but sought to gratify their sin nature. And the acts of sin nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and the like (Gal. 5: 19-21).

In this, they rightly deserved God’s wrath; that is, God’s burning anger. They deserved to be punished as their sins deserve.

The message to the church in Laodicea is relevant here. God sees beyond the outward; “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so that you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so that you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so that you can see” (Rev. 3:17-18).

Irrespective of what people say about us, without God, we are dead, blind, wretched, pitiful, poor and naked.  We therefore need a Savior to make us alive, see, clothe and embrace us, and make us rich in God’s terms.

Read Here to find God’s remedy to this hopeless condition.

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THE LEADER AS SERVANT

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There is voluminous literature out there on leadership. Some of the leadership principles and values propagated in these books are Bible-based while others are research based. It is also worth noting that some of these values and principles on each side of the divide have points of convergence and points of divergence (this is for another day).

But the Bible provides rich metaphors that depict the nature of spiritual leadership that is to be exercised in and by the church. Believers in Christ are to embody these biblical values as foundational values for their actions, reactions, and convictions. In this short write-up let’s focus on one leadership motif presented in the Bible: servant.

Leader as Servant

A leader is a servant.

The servant motif traces way back to the OT whereby priests, prophets and kings were seen as servants of God. Like the nation of Israel, they were God’s vessels in which he accomplished his divine purposes on earth.

In the New Testament Jesus referred himself as God’s servant. He came to serve, and to save the lost. He exemplified service by washing the feet of his disciples; performing a typical work of a slave (Lk. 22:27; Jn. 13:4-11). He served the poor, the sick, the despised, and embraced the social outcasts of the society.

A leader who is a servant goes right to where people are. It models leadership from below. Jesus exemplified humility, obedience, and servanthood through his incarnation “but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness “-the kenosis concept (Phil. 2:7-8).

Servanthood is an attitude of the heart. It takes humility, a selfless spirit and a transformed heart for a leader to be a servant. This attitude was in Christ. Therefore, Jesus becomes our example. He redefines what greatness is (Mk. 9:35).

Those who lead should lead by serving. They should not by serving their own interest but the interests of the people they oversee. Those who fail to meet this threshold should never be considered leaders.

Read here for an example of servant leadership.

Read here for another Bible metaphor on leadership.

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THE LEADER AS SHEPHERD

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There is voluminous literature out there on leadership. Some of the leadership principles and values propagated in these books are Bible-based while others are research based. It is also worth noting that some of these values and principles on each side of the divide have points of convergence and points of divergence (this is for another day).

But the Bible provides rich metaphors that depict the nature of spiritual leadership that is to be exercised in and by the church. Believers in Christ are to embody these biblical values as foundational values for their actions, reactions, and convictions. In this short write-up let’s focus on the shepherd leadership motif as presented in the Bible.

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Leader as Shepherd

A leader is a shepherd. And as a shepherd, he has a flock under his care.

But more importantly, it should be noted that this is a communicable attribute from the divine. The shepherd motif presented in the Bible is derived from the character of God.

In the Bible God is revealed as the good Shepherd who leads, feeds, disciplines, and protects his flock (Ps. 23; 100:3; Isa. 10:1-11). Specifically, the sheep in Psalms 23 admits that his Shepherd: satisfies him-makes him lie down in green pastures and quiet waters, restores his soul, guides him, protects, comforts and disciplines him.

Jesus referred himself as the good shepherd (Jn. 10:11,14). He showed through his incarnate life that a good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A good shepherd does not abandon the sheep and run away when he sees a wolf coming. Instead, he protects. He does not allow the flock to be scattered. He gathers and embraces. A good shepherd knows his sheep and his sheep knows him. He always leads from the front. He has good interest of the sheep/followers at heart.

By implication, those who serve on behalf of God, at any leadership position, are also referred to as shepherds (Jer. 23:1-4; Ezek. 34:2-10). They are supposed to shepherd after God; to shepherd in the likeness of God. Shepherds should not be preoccupied with taking care of their own (self) interests but the interests of the flock. Good shepherds strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind the broken, bring back the straying sheep, seek the lost, and rule gently.

Leadership is a noble thing. Jesus commissioned Peter, and by extension the other disciples and believers today, to feed his flock (Jn. 21:15-19); with an ultimate promise of a reward. Apostle Peter later wrote that when the Chief Shepherd appears he shall reward, with unfading crown of glory, all those who have taken good care of his flock  (1 Pet. 5:2-4).  A good shepherd like Jesus leads, directs, nurtures, heals, and guards even sacrificing his life if need be for the sheep.

And so any leadership position should be seen as an opportunity to shepherd God’s people; “not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock (1 Pet. 5:3).

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Hearing God’s Voice: Discerning God’s Will

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“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it.” (Isa. 30:21)

Perhaps you have heard people say God spoke to them and you wonder how that happens.  It does happen, God speaks even today!  God has not left us in the wilderness of life without direction.

He may not communicate through a burning bush the way he did to Moses several centuries ago but he certainly does speak and guide those who look up to Him for guidance and direction. David said of God, “You have made known to me the path of life…” (Ps. 16:11). It is therefore believer’s duty to discern God’s voice amidst many noises.

Below are ways in which God guides or communicates to His chosen ones. We can hear Him through:

  1. His Word

Clearly, God has revealed Himself through his holy Word.

It is through the Bible that we know who God is. In the Old Testament, He revealed himself, among many other ways, through visions and dreams (he can also today) but he now reveals himself through His written word. The Bible also reveals God and his word as trustworthy Guide.

The word of God reveals the heart of God for the nations; the necessity of loving one’s neighbor and more importantly the human story of redemption.

David affirmed, “your word is the lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” (Ps 119:105)

In His Word, God has also made known his will and purposes to every generation. We therefore need to read and study it. Scriptures can speak directly or indirectly to our circumstance, thus providing required guidance. It gives answers on how we need to live as Christians and relate to the external world. God’s requirements and will has been clearly revealed throughout the Bible. For example, we don’t need to scratch our heads on some issues that have already been clearly revealed; through his word we know it is not God’s will to marry an unbeliever (2 Cor. 6:14) or to revenge against our enemies (Matt 5:44).

Scriptures are also able to make us  make us wise unto salvation. We carry out God’s will when we accept and obey His Word.

  1. Circumstance/Life-changing Experience(s)

God allows and disallows various circumstances in our lives. There are no lucks or coincidences in what God does. He uses happenings in areas such as family, finance, job, relationships, education, and/or health to teach us.

Circumstances can also present to us dilemmatic situations that entail open and closed doors.

Also, every situation in our lives happens for a purpose. If the circumstance was an evil intended against us, then we can be sure that God will work it out to bring something good out of it (Gen 50:20; Rom 8:28) for he has good plans for us (Jer. 29:11).

Therefore we need to discern God’s working in various circumstances we go through. It could be for the purpose of our character formation, to challenge us to have faith in God or to manifest His great power in us or to demonstrate the sufficiency of His grace. Some circumstances may come to teach us obedience, to trust, and to rejoice in God. Be teachable in such moments!

The point is, we need not to miss what God is accomplishing and teaching us through our hard times (times of pain, uncertainty, loss, failure etc). You pain is valid; and through it, God is accomplishing something bigger and greater for your good.

  1. Holy Spirit-

Jesus instructed that the Holy Spirit will guide believers into all truth (Jn. 16:13). The Spirit of God, our Guide, reminds us of all truth; illuminates the word of God, and gives assuring inner peace when we are in right direction (Isa. 26:3).

He prompts, impresses, and stirs our hearts thus enabling us follow God’s leading and make right and wise decisions. His working is evident in the book of Acts when he guided Philip, Paul, the church, and apostles.

But it requires that we walk by the Spirit; keep in step with the leading of the Holy Spirit; and be controlled /filled with the Holy Spirit and not wine (Eph. 5: 18; Gal. 5:16, 25).

  1. Godly Counsel

God also uses people around us to advice, teach or shape us. An iron sharpens an iron. That is why fellowship and relationships are important in the life of every believer in Christ. God can teach us great truths on joy patience, faithfulness, self-control by listening to other people’s stories, especially godly people.

The word of God encourages us to seek advice, obtain guidance (Prov. 20:18).

But we ought to exercise care upon seeking counsel; it should be from godly people not from anyone. Godly people are people who are in constant walk with God and are able to discern God’s voice like Eli (1 Sam. 3:9); people who in their walk of faith have matured. Their role is not to determine/dictate God’s will for you but to present God-perspective, biblical insight, and objective approach to your situation.

After all, you are the best person to determine God’s will for your life; not your friends or mentors.

  1. Example of Christ

When seeking guidance, consider the example Christ has given us. Turn to the gospel and examine the life and teachings of Jesus Christ; “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being” (Heb. 1:1). Incarnation of Jesus reveals the Father and the life of Jesus (not just his death) provides us with redemption and an example to follow. Bringing Christ perspective into our situation can bring clarity on the issues involved. Consider using the WWJD approach.

  1. Prayer

We can also discern God’s will through prayer.

The worth of prayer is based on God’s promise to listen; it is what turns prayer from being a monologue to dialogue.

Prayer has other sub-components like adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication. After we have prayed we wait, listen and believe (1Jn. 5:14-15). Prayer time helps us search our heart and realign our will to God’s will. It provides an opportunity to confess of sin that hinders doing God’s will (Ps. 66:18). Godly people across history have always sought God’s guidance through prayer.

Prayer is the wisest thing to do when we want to hear God.

Read Here for Hindrances to Discerning God’s guidance. 

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Hindrances to Discerning God’s Guidance

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The Word of God promises that God will guide us in the way we should go.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go, I will counsel you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8)

While we firmly uphold this promise, we need to take note of some hindrances in discerning God’s guidance in our lives. They are:

  1. Unholy life

Sin separates. It creates enmity between God and man; and in human relationships. A sinful heart does not delight itself in seeking God’s will because God’s guidance involves walking in the paths of righteousness (Ps. 23:3). Sin is a hindrance to surrender, and embracing God’s sovereign rule over our lives.

2. Self will

In the Lord’s Prayer, we are commanded to pray, “Your kingdom come and your will be done…”

God’s will is what we should constantly desire to accomplish or to be accomplished in the world just as it is in heaven. But as a prerogative, we first need to dethrone our own/self will for God’s will to prevail. It is illogical to expect God to be your guide when all you’re doing is holding up tightly to your own will. God is not there to rubber-stamp your ways/will; He is there to guide those whose hearts are fully surrendered to his will.

Therefore, as individuals, we need to overcome the desire to doing things ‘my way’ and let God have his own way in our agendas. Naturally, human will and its way of doing things is conditioned by culture, past experience, and tradition. Dethroning our self will need courage for it to bring forth surrender and humility. An attitude of surrender makes us cede ground/control so as to allow Spirit’s guidance. In order to overcome self-will we need a total surrender and desire to follow God’s path; the way of wisdom and righteousness.

God delights in guiding those whose hearts are loyal to Him and have surrendered their will.

 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.” (Prov 3:5-7)

3. Influence of others-

Being surrounded by a network of people is something good. The value of friendships and relationships can’t be overestimated.

But it matters what type of friends surround you.

Friends come in all shapes and forms. Some friends, in their pride, pretend to know every solution to your predicaments. These ‘professional’ experts in every life-matter can land you into a big trouble because all they have to offer is limited to their experience, convenience, knowledge and predictions. I’m talking about the self-proclaimed ‘professors’ of love/ marriages/health in your life who claim to have power to discern every aspect and detail of your life. Beware of them!

Some friends can massage your ego by telling you what your itching ears want to hear. They can suppress or compromise truth to sustain their friendship with you. They can be economical with truth; or lack courage to confront a situation truthfully. They can also pressure you to make certain decisions.

As a result they become a hindrance towards your discernment of God’s leading in your life. The point is not that you do away with friends, but that you be cautious whom you listen to. They should be godly; friends who walk by faith; people who are able to discern God’s move in your life and offer biblical solutions.

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of God, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Ps. 1:1-2)

4. Ignorance of God’s word

God has given us his holy Word to be our sure guide. It is our life-manual. We consult it when we are in the crossroads of life. It teaches us, corrects us, directs us, rebukes us and leads us in the righteous path. God’s will is revealed in his Word.

But there is a big problem if you are ignorant on what is written in there. Ignorance of God’s word deprives us of having a Christian worldview that in turn influences our actions, reactions, decision, emotions, convictions, affections and how we interpret the world/reality around us.

Ignorance of God’s word makes it hard to discern God’s way or leading in our lives.

5. Busyness of life

Discernment of God’s leading often comes when we spent time off our busy schedules and to have a time of reflection and solitude. From time to time we need to get out of our activity-packed schedules and seek to hear the small still voice of God.

6. Impatience

Sometimes an answer to a prayer can ‘delay’. This will certainly need patience; a fruit of the Holy Spirit. God is not in a hurry; He was, He is, and He shall be. He does things at his appointed time; and his timing even in answering our prayers is the best. Those who wait upon the Lord shall be rewarded and strengthened.

Impatience can breed a fertile ground for self-will. Impatience over God’s promise made Abraham and Sarah in their sunset years to doubt God and execute a back-up plan/plan B to address their childlessness situation.

Discerning God’s guidance may take time, and more time; so developing this fruit of the Spirit is necessary.

7. Fleshly desires– (related to the first one)

Not all of our desires are evil; some can be good.

In Galatians 5:16-21, desires of the flesh act in contrast to the ways of the Spirit. In discerning God’s guidance we need to beware of the lust of the eye, lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (Gen 3; Matt 4:1-11; 1 Jn 2:15); we are not immune to temptations in these areas. You want to discern God’s guidance? keep in step with the Spirit of God by living a holy life.

He will guide You!

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Read here on Hearing God’s Voice and Discerning His will

God’s power is far above your situation

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Every time, life presents varied situations and experiences, some can be highly sophisticated and some less complex.

In all, God allows and disallows various circumstances into our lives.

But in every situation, we go through, God ensures that it common to all men and that it can’t go to a level beyond what we can bear. He also promises to provide a way out so that we are able to overcome (1Cor. 10:13).

He is God who is able. He is all-powerful and sovereign. Human happenings and experiences cannot thwart his divine plan. The hard times you go through in life cannot eclipse his power.

Below are some Bible verses that confirm that your situation is nothing compared to God’s sovereign power:

  • Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.” (Gen. 18:14)
  • I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)
  • Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” (Jeremiah 32:17)
  • For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37).
  • With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matt.19:26).
  • I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:13)

Therefore, commit your impossibilities to Him by trusting and hoping in Him!

Let My People Go! Aspects in Traditional African Culture that Oppress Women  

 

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Jesus clearly announced his mission by quoting from the scroll of Isaiah;

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Lk. 4:18-19).

The good news Jesus brings is holistic; it is not only about salvation but also freedom to the oppressed. His incarnation brought hope to all that are oppressed. He came to the Jewish society that was patriarchal but he did not support systems that oppressed women. In his words and deeds he sought to transform the culture and people’s perspectives on women. Jesus is the Liberator of Women! He liberates humanity out from devil’s lies that seek to dehumanize part of God’s creation.

Many African traditions and cultures, like any other cultures of the world, contain both positive and negative aspects. In many patriarchal societies, women have for a long time suffered discrimination and marginalization. They need liberation from oppressive forces of patriarchy.

Mother’s Day presents an opportunity not just to celebrate women in our lives but to make a resolve to fight those oppressive cultural/traditional aspects that denigrate their God-given image, value, and dignity.

Here are some of the oppressive cultural aspects that still remain a challenge in contemporary Africa:

Child marriages– Many African cultures allow girls to be married at an early age; that means they are married off without their consent or reaching an age where they can make independent choices. In many cases the fathers negotiate their marriage at a young age and once they are in their early teen-age their suitors come for them. This has resulted into girls forcefully dropping out of school for marriage. Furthermore, many girls in such marriages undergo through traumatic experiences and health complications because their body system is not fully formed to engage in sexual activities or to give birth.

Bride-price payment– This mostly plays out during marriage process and negotiations. It is recognized that when a small or no bride price is paid many can assume the woman has no worth. This is wrong cultural aspect because woman’s worth is compared to material wealth. On the other hand, when it is too high the woman can end up being enslaved because of the thinking that she was bought by the husband or sold by the father.

Polygamy (or ‘Mpango wa Kando’) This cultural aspect that has continued to demean women’s worth. In many African societies a man can add another woman without consulting his wife. As a result women married to the same home become co-wives and in most cases the situation results to frequent conflicts between co-wives as well as their children. A lot of women in such polygamous relationships suffer greatly.

Widowhood– When women lose their husbands they undergo through untold suffering in the hands of the deceased husband. In some tribes were women inheritance is allowed, women easily become victims of deadly diseases like HIV/AIDS. The battle in such relationships is always centered on control of property of the deceased and nothing concerning the interests of the widow or the children.

Inheritances of property- Many African cultures do not privilege women to inherit property. All wealth is bequeathed to men. The rock-bottom point is, women are not accorded the same worth with men in inheriting from their parents.

Female Genital Mutilation (F.G.M.)- This is one of the greatest evils that still exists in some African societies. Female circumcision, in a way, seeks to make women sexually subordinate.

Other aspects that I may not find time to elaborate are: stigmatization of single women, unfair grounds of divorce, remarriage, wife-beating, and barrenness in women. In some cultures and marriages, the dignity of a woman is diminished when she cannot bear a child. In worst scenarios dignity can be diminished when she cannot bear a boy child

You will agree that we need to wage war against these traditional aspects and usher women into the freedom that Christ gives. In this, men should arise! #JesusLiberates

 

Maternal Images for God in the Bible

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Hopefully, you are much aware of the biblical description of God as Father. Many feminist and Women’s theologies have attributed this linguistic and literary inclination to patriarchal influence. The Jewish culture in the Bible, like many African cultures, is male-dominated and so full of imperfections and patriarchal tendencies against women. But God’s message in such context sought to affirm female-humanity and denounce negative cultural aspects against women.

Metaphorically, God is severally depicted in the Bible as Mother. Bible does not refer to God exclusively in masculine metaphors rather it uses both masculine and feminine images to describe God. And the maternal images used have a lot to teach us about God.

But we have to clearly and strongly affirm here that depiction of God in these terms (masculine or feminine) is only for the purpose of us (finite) to comprehend the divine (infinite) in terms known to human experience (anthropomorphism). Otherwise God is distinct from his creation. He is above/beyond sexual categories and sexual differentiation. He is Spirit (Jn. 4:24).

Here are maternal images for God in the Bible. You will realize that it greatly helps understand God’s character in new light.

God as Human Mother– (who cannot forget her nursing child):

“For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant.” (Isa. 42:14)

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (Isa. 49:15)

As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” (Isa. 66:13)

God as Mother Bird- (who shelters her children under her wings)

May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” (Ruth 2:12)

I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” (Ps 57:1)

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge” (Ps 91:4).

More significantly, Jesus used this imagery:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! (Luke 13:34).

God sews, and prepares food, clothes- (Gen. 3:21; Ex. 16:4; Neh. 9:21);

“The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” (Gen. 3:21-22)

God is the perfect midwife (Ps. 22:9; 71:6):

From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you.” (Ps. 71:6)

God is the woman who lost her coin– in Luke 15:8-10

God protects (Ps. 131:2; Hosea 11:3-4, 13:8)

Like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will attack them and rip them open. Like a lion I will devour them; a wild animal will tear them apart.” (Hos. 13:8)

Both feminine and masculine metaphors in the Bible enriches our understanding of God and his character. These are personal terms that show us God’s intimacy to His people. It also affirms both male and female humanity. God tenderly cares, is concerned, protects and jealously shelters his people.

May he hide you under his wings!

Praise be to God- Exegesis of Ephesians 1:1-10

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The New Testament letter of Ephesians is one of the profound books with foundational teaching for the body of Christ. The letter addresses both theological and practical themes that remain relevant to the contemporary church. In chapter one to chapter four, the author deals with theological truths needed by the church so that believers in Christ “will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14). The next section, chapter four to six, deals with ethical implications of the teachings presented in the preceding chapters to the inclusive Christian community that comprised of both Jews and Gentiles.

The theological section of the letter primarily addresses soteriological, Christological, ecclesiological and ethical/practical concern in day-day life of a Christian. The author expounds on the doctrine of salvation in chapter one by highlighting key terms like predestination, adoption, and redemption. In chapter two he deals with the doctrine of the church and addresses critical issues such as unity and universality of Christ.

The first part of chapter one (1:1-14) begins with a hymn of praise to God for the spiritual blessing he has bestowed to all those in Christ. The rest of the chapter (1:15-23) is Paul’s passionate prayer for the saints at Ephesus. The believers in this church were already known for their faith and love and Paul further prays spiritual blessings upon them. This piece presents a verse by verse exegesis of Ephesians 1:1-10 with a focus on the Pauline metaphor υἱοθεσία (adoption as sons) in Ephesians 1:5. The ethical and ecclesiological implications will also be explored. We will first begin by looking at the background information of this letter.

Authorship

Traditionally, the authorship of Ephesians has been attributed to Apostle Paul. This view is strongly attested by the Church Fathers like Irenaeus of Lyons, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian. Also, references to Ephesians as a letter of Paul by Ignatus of Antioch as Pauline before his martyrdom in A.D. 115; Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna, as well as the authors of the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas strengthens the claim of Pauline authorship.[1] Further, internal evidence support Pauline authorship. The author identifies himself as Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God (1:1); we also know from the letter that he was in prison because of the gospel (3:1, 4:1). The author makes clear his calling- he is a servant of the gospel to the Gentiles (3:1-9). This description fits Apostle Paul who in many instances pointed out that his calling was primarily to the Gentiles (Gal. 2:7).

But even with above textual attestation, Pauline authorship of Ephesians is still disputed by some scholars today. The debate revolves around words, phrases and stylistic features that are deemed as non-Pauline. These critics cite significant differences between Pauline letters and Ephesians to support their claims. They observe that unusually the letter to Ephesians do not have an introduction thanksgiving and mention of ministry companions, something that is common among Pauline letters that are undisputed.[2]Considering these objections, there are still good grounds to uphold the traditional view that Paul is the author of the letter to Ephesians.

Recipients

The recipients of the letter are identified as believes, in Christ, who are in Ephesus (1:1). (more comments in verse 1 on the exegesis section concerning the reservations critics have concerning the phrase, ‘In Ephesus’). The title also depict that the letter was written to Ephesians. But this is also debated because the title may have been added at a later date, perhaps second century, by copyist or scribes in seeing the need of a title for his letter.[3] Therefore the title “Ephesians” is not a guarantee that the recipients were Ephesians.

The issue of determining recipients of the letter has also raised more problems that relate to the question of authorship. From the book of Acts we know that Paul spent about three years in Ephesus doing ministry (Acts 18:19-21; 19:1-20; 20:31). Together with other ministry companions they established the church in Ephesus. One of the basic assumptions one can make is that within the period of three years Paul must have become well acquainted with the believers in this church and developed intimate relationships with the congregants. But critics have pointed out from the text that the author of Ephesians seems to be unaware of his recipients. For instance, in Ephesians 1:15; 3:2-3; 4:21, the author and recipients do not know each other personally. At least they have heard of one another and are dependent on what is told or written of them. The second objection is that nothing is made specific in terms of conditions or events in the city or church as (as Paul would do in other letters).[4] The author addresses the universal church without laying an emphasis on specifics of this church or city.

But putting all the above views into consideration, the case for Ephesians as the addressees of Paul holds more evidence. Ephesus was a big city and Paul might have written to one of the churches he founded in his three-year period in this great Asia Minor city. The fact that the letter is not personal could be because Paul expected the letter to be circulated among the churches in Ephesus.

Date

The dating of Ephesians depends on one’s inclinations on the authorship and recipients. A choice of Pauline authorship will place the dating of this letter during the period of Paul’s imprisonment in Rome (3:1; 4:1) which is around A.D 60-61. This is the period when other Prison Epistles were written by Paul. Those who dispute Pauline authorship approximate the date to be between A.D 70 and 90, a period which the Pauline letters are thought to have been collected.[5]Based on my inclination toward Pauline authorship, I would favor a date in the early 60s; that is, toward the end of Paul’s life.

In the following section we will look at the exegesis of Ephesians 1:1-10 and then in another blog focus on the huiothesia metaphor in Ephesians 1:5. In the exegesis part, I will give the Greek text (UBS 4th Edition) and offer my translation then a discussion of exegetical issues. The motivations to explore the Pauline metaphor is based on my research interests on the role of υἱοθεσία in understanding Paul’s theology.

Verse by Verse Exegesis of Ephesians 1:1-10

Greek text, verse 1: Παῦλος ἀπόστολος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ διὰ θελήματος θεοῦ τοῖς ἁγίοις τοῖς οὖσιν [ἐν Ἐφέσῳ] καὶ πιστοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ·

Translation: Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God to the saints who are in Ephesus and to the faithful in Christ.

The letter to Ephesians begins with the recognition of the author in verse 1 as Παῦλος. He identifies himself as being ἀπόστολος[6]Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ[7], an apostle of Jesus Christ. His apostleship was received διὰ θελήματος[8]θεοῦ[9] (through the will of God). Paul’s apologetic claim as being an apostle was necessary perhaps because he was not among the twelve disciples of Jesus who lived and witnessed the ministry of Christ including his death, resurrection, and ascension. But he now clarifies his apostolic claim; it was not by his will/choice but by God’s will.

The recipients of the letter are referred to as τοῖς ἁγίοις (the saints/holy) and πιστοῖς[10] (faithful/believing ones). Believers have been granted this status because of their union with Christ; they are said to be ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ,[11]in Christ Jesus. It should be remembered that this was a mixed congregation of both Jews and Gentiles, poor and rich; but because of their faith in Christ, they have now been united in Christ as one despite their cultural, ethnic or religious backgrounds. Their newfound status was not based on their rich religious backgrounds (Jews) or anything in their pagan background (of the Gentiles); what counted was being in Christ. Therefore it is true that “no man is a saint by personal effort; sainthood comes by the consecrating act of God. However, the soul that is ‘set apart’ apart’ by God’s grace has been made ‘holy’ because he has knowingly and willingly surrendered his life to God.”[12]Surprisingly, Paul also referred to believers in the church of Corinth with their imperfections as “sanctified” (1Cor. 1:2).

The geographical location where the recipients of the letter were situated is indicated  as ἐν Ἐφέσῳ; but it is indicated in parentheses because this phrase is omitted in some manuscripts. Barth comments,

“These words are missing in the olderst available Greek MS of Ephesians, also in the original script of codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus {Papyrus 46 and the fourth-century codices Vaticanus (B) and Sinaiticus (S) before the later was corrected}, and in the Minuscule 1739 which appears to have been copied from an early text. The Parenthesized words were also absent from the texts used by Marcion, Tertullian, Origen, and Gregory the Great. But the Syriac and Latin versions (that go back to second century) and the vast majority of extant Greek MSS do contain them.[13]

Therefore there are evidence in either side of the argument but there is more plausible proof that the phrase ‘in Ephesus’ was authentic. As noted, verse one highlights the author and his claim to apostleship as being through the will of God, the recipients and their relationship with Christ and the place the recipients live in.

Greek Text, verse 2: χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

 Translation: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Apostle Paul then passes his greetings to his addressees (ὑμῖν[14]) by wishing them χάρις and εἰρήνη[15]that is ἀπὸ[16]θεοῦ πατρὸς[17]ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ[18]Χριστοῦ[19](from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul uses the personal pronoun ‘our’ (ἡμῶν) to express the fact that all those “in Christ” share the same Father. There are other biblical references where God is referred to as Father (2 Sam. 7:14; Jer. 31:9; Hos. 1:10, 11:1; Jn. 17; 2 Cor 6:18). Fatherhood of God encompasses all those in Christ; that is, irrespective of their backgrounds. In the greetings he uses the Greek χάρις and the Jewish εἰρήνη or (Hebrew-shallom). The two words (grace and peace) are clarified,

“Grace encompasses all the providential acts of God on behalf of undeserving men to initiate and to sustain a saving relationship with Him. Peace, the twin gift, is a state of deep satisfaction and settledness. It is divinely created in the hearts and minds of men who have responded to to the redemptive overtures of God through His Son, Christ Jesus.[20]

It is worth noting that the greeting is a common formula in his writings (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; Col. 1:2; 1 Tim. 1:2). This verse marks the end of the introductory part of his letter.

Greek Text, verse 3: Εὐλογητὸς ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὁ εὐλογήσας ἡμᾶς ἐν πάσῃ εὐλογίᾳ πνευματικῇ ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις ἐν Χριστῷ.

Translation: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.

Paul now begins his letter ascribing praise/blessing to God and Father of “our Lord Jesus Christ,” Εὐλογητὸς ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ[21] τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.[22] The adjective Εὐλογητὸς can be rendered “praised” or “worthy of praise.” The phrase ὁ εὐλογήσας[23] ἡμᾶς[24] refers to the reason why God, the Father our Lord should be praised/blessed. He should be praised because he has blessed the faithful ἐν πάσῃ εὐλογίᾳ πνευματικῇ.[25] Believers in Christ have been given all spiritual blessings ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις[26]ἐν Χριστῷ[27](in the heavenly places in Christ). Here is the logic: the recipients would have asked why they should praise God the Father, and Paul’s answer would be- because he has blessed the saints with every spiritual blessing. Then they might have further asked, if that is the case then where are those blessings and in what way are we blessed; Paul would also respond by saying the blessings God has given them are spiritual and are in the heavenly places (where Christ is seated). He further adds that those blessings to them are specifically in reference to their union with Christ (because they are in Christ).

Greek Text: 4 καθὼς ἐξελέξατο ἡμᾶς ἐν αὐτῷ πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου, εἶναι ἡμᾶς ἁγίους καὶ ἀμώμους κατενώπιον αὐτοῦ ἐν ἀγάπῃ.

Translation of verse 4 : just as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love.

In the same manner believers in Christ have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ (verse 3), they have also been ἐξελέξατο[28] (chosen) in him, ἐν αὐτῷ.[29] The phrase πρὸ[30] καταβολῆ[31] κόσμου[32] refers to the time before creation of the world. It looks at the time-past when God the Father began his salvific work to those that he chose. Believers at Ephesus will certainly be amazed at this lofty knowledge; and at the same time be encouraged by this revelation in knowing that their present experience in Christ did not begin in the present or recent past but in the eternity past.

But apostle Paul is also quick to add that this act of God was for a purpose. The purpose is given in the second part of the verse: εἶναι[33] ἡμᾶς ἁγίους[34] καὶ ἀμώμους[35] κατενώπιον αὐτοῦ ἐν ἀγάπῃ,[36] (to be holy and blameless before him in love). Believers in Christ were blessed and chosen by God the Father so that they can be holy and blameless before Him. It is worth nothing that in verse 1 he had referred them as “saints and faithful”; this was a status they achieved because of their union with Christ. But in this verse, he points out that their calling was (continually) to be holy and blameless. Their heavenly Father who has blessed them with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ is holy and so they should be holy. Their status which was achieved by their union with Christ is also a calling to be continually cultivated. Just as their choosing was achieved before the foundations of the world they still needed to actualize it by living out holy and blameless lives. Therefore God’s work was manifest in their lives by His spiritual blessings and in choosing them to be holy and blameless.

Greek Text, verse 5: προορίσας ἡμᾶς εἰς υἱοθεσίαν διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς αὐτόν, κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ.

Translation: He predestined us into adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.

Paul has emphatically revealed that God the Father has blessed the saints in Christ with every spiritual blessing and chosen them to be holy and blameless in his sight. But He has even done more! He has  προορίσας ἡμᾶς, predestined the believing ones in Christ. God has determined in advance believers εἰς υἱοθεσίαν[37] διὰ Ἰησοῦ[38] Χριστοῦ[39] εἰς αὐτόν.[40] The work of predestination leads to a newfound status for believers: the status of being a son, God’s son. And this is κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν[41] τοῦ θελήματος[42] αὐτοῦ.[43] Predestination of believers achieves them the status of sonship through Jesus, which is accomplished according to the good pleasure of God’s will/decision.

The family metaphor, υἱοθεσία, deserves careful consideration because Paul in this context already used other complementary terminologies for example referring to God as Father. Later in the epistle he also brings up the idea of inheritance as a legal implication of his being a son (Eph. 1:14; and in other epistles where υἱοθεσία is used, (Rom. 8:17; Gal. 4:1-5). In the upcoming blog, I will dig deeper into the Old Testament and the Graeco-Roman context explore the origin and the use of this metaphor. But more importantly to ascertain what background informed his Paul’s use of the term. But we will close this verse by saying, Paul wants believers in Christ to know that they are rich because of the every spiritual blessing given them in Christ. Also, they were chosen in God before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless; and in this verse, believers are reminded that they now have a status of a son; that is, by God’s predestination through Christ. The sonship status into God’s family makes both Jews and Gentiles equal and co-heirs with Christ.

Greek Text, verse 6: εἰς ἔπαινον δόξης τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ ἧς ἐχαρίτωσεν ἡμᾶς ἐν τῷ ἠγαπημένῳ.

Translation: to the praise of the glory of his grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

In verse 6, Paul expresses praise to God εἰς ἔπαινον[44] for what he has accomplished for believers through Christ in accordance to the pleasure of His good will. The phrase δόξης[45] τῆς χάριτος[46] αὐτοῦ (of the glory of his grace) expounds on the greatness of the grace of God in accomplishing all that has been described in verse 3-5. God has freely given, ἐχαρίτωσεν,[47] believers his grace; in other words, in accordance with his pleasure and will. I have translated the phrase ἐν τῷ ἠγαπημένῳ as ‘in the One he loves’; other Bible translations have: ‘in the beloved’ (KJV), ‘in the One he loves’ (NIV), and ‘in the Beloved’ (NAS). The Son whom God the Father loves is Jesus Christ (Matt. 3:17; Col. 1:13). The verb ἠγαπημένῳ (perfect, passive, participle, masculine, singular) can be taken as a substantival participle; and the one referred to in this context is Christ. It is in Christ that God the Father has liberally manifested the splendor of his grace.

Greek text, verse 7: ἐν ᾧ ἔχομεν τὴν ἀπολύτρωσιν διὰ τοῦ αἵματος αὐτοῦ, τὴν ἄφεσιν τῶν παραπτωμάτων, κατὰ τὸ πλοῦτος τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ,

Translation: In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.

Verse 7 explicitly highlights the role of Jesus in God’s overall plan of salvation. According to verse 3 every spiritual blessing was given to believers in Christ. In verse 5, adoption as sons was accomplished through Jesus Christ. In verse 6, God has freely given his grace in the One he loves. In whom (ἐν ᾧ- referring to Christ, the One God loves), ἔχομεν[48] τὴν ἀπολύτρωσιν[49] διὰ[50] τοῦ αἵματος[51] αὐτοῦ.[52] The blood of Jesus brings about redemption of humanity. The second part of the verse elaborates further on redemption. The redemption here refers to τὴν ἄφεσιν τῶν παραπτωμάτων[53] (the forgiveness of sins) that comes through τὸ πλοῦτος[54] τῆς χάριτος[55] αὐτοῦ.[56] The work of Jesus is complementary to the work of God the Father. In Christ there is redemption, the forgiveness of sins which is necessary to the life of the believer because the purpose of God the Father from the beginning was that those in Christ be holy and blameless (verse 4).

Greek text, verse 8-9: ἧς ἐπερίσσευσεν εἰς ἡμᾶς ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ καὶ φρονήσει. 9 γνωρίσας ἡμῖν τὸ μυστήριον τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ, κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν αὐτοῦ ἣν προέθετο ἐν αὐτῷ

Translation: 8.which he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding. 9. he made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which he purposed in Him (Christ).

In Verse 8, Paul states that the riches of God’s grace has been ἐπερίσσευσεν[57] (lavished) on believers. In possession of πάσῃ σοφίᾳ καὶ φρονήσει[58] (all wisdom and understanding), Jesus made known to us they mystery of the will of God the Father- γνωρίσας[59] ἡμῖν τὸ μυστήριον[60] τοῦ θελήματος[61] αὐτοῦ.[62] And that is according to good pleasure of God the Father which he purposed in Him (Christ), κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν[63] αὐτοῦ[64] ἣν προέθετο[65] ἐν αὐτῷ.[66] Therefore Christ came to reveal the mystery of the will of God the Father; he had no independent task from the Father in relation to salvation. The work of each Person of the Trinity does not contradict each other or independent of each other but complementary to each other.

Greek Text, verse 10: εἰς οἰκονομίαν τοῦ πληρώματος τῶν καιρῶν, ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι τὰ πάντα ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ, τὰ ἐπὶ τοῖς οὐρανοῖς καὶ τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς· ἐν αὐτῷ.

Translation: for administration at the fullness of time, summing up all things in Christ, the things in the heaven and things on earth, in him.

In verse 10, the phrase εἰς οἰκονομίαν is an accusative of termination with purpose as the focus. The revelation of the mystery of God was to be effective in its administration at the fullness of time τοῦ πληρώματος[67] τῶν καιρῶν.[68] And the fullness of time will bring about the ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι[69] τὰ πάντα[70] ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ[71] (summing up all things in Christ). That will involve τὰ ἐπὶ τοῖς οὐρανοῖς[72] καὶ τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς[73] ἐν αὐτῷ.[74] This shows the purpose of making know the mystery of His will, bringing everything under one head-Christ. Keener notes,

“It was common Jewish belief that history was moving through many stages to climax, when everything would be put under God’s rule. Some philosophers argued that the whole universe was permeated by God and would be absorbed back into him. Like the Jewish writers who adapted the language of such philosophers, Paul believes the history moves toward a climax of subordination to God, not absorption into him.”[75]

Therefore at the fullness of time, all things in heaven and on earth will be put under Christ. At the summation of all things, every knee will bow down and every tongue confess his lordship (Phil. 2:10,11). All that God began doing in the eternity past, (blessing with all spiritual blessings, choosing us for holiness, predestining us to adoption as sons), will completely and finally be brought to an end at the fullness of time when all things in heaven and on earth will be placed under his authority. The END.

References (footnotes):

[1] R. E. Howard et.al. “Galatians through Philemon,” In Beacon Bible Commentary,” Eds. A.F. Harper et al. Vol. IX. 19-125. (Kansas Missouri: Beacon Hill press, 1965),129.

[2] D. A. Carson, and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005), 482-483.

[3] Howard et.al., Galatians through Philemon, 131.

[4] Markus Barth. “Ephesians 1-3: New Translation with Introduction and Commentary.” In The Anchor Bible. (Garden City, New York: Doubleday& Company, 1974), 10.

[5] Carson,and Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, 487.

[6] Nominative subject.

[7] It can be qualitative genitive to emphasize the fact that he is an apostle of Christ Jesus; he is not a witness according to people or himself (as self-proclaimed apostle). It can also be construed as a source Genitive- to emphasize the fact that his apostleship originates from Christ.

[8] This can be taken as genitive of means. The will of God is the means in which he received his apostleship.

[9] This can be understood best as a qualitative genitive.

[10] Dative of indirect object.

[11] Dative of association. They are referred to as holy and faithful not because of their merit but because of their association with Christ (which has brought a union between the two parties.

[12] Howard et.al., Galatians through Philemon, 140.

[13] Barth, Ephesians 1-3, 67.

[14] Dative of indirect object.

[15] Nominative subjects.

[16] Genitive of source.

[17] Epexegetical genitive- explaining further on the noun θεοῦ.

[18] Source genitive- making God/Jesus Christ as the source of grace and peace. It can also be understood as qualitative genitive to bring the idea that he wishes them God’s grace and peace as opposes to grace and peace that men can offer.

[19] Epexegetical genitive- further explaining Ἰησοῦ.

[20] Howard et.al., Galatians through Philemon, 131.

[21] Granville Sharp rule applies here; the two nouns of the same case ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ are connected by καὶ, the first noun has an article and the scond do not. Therefore πατὴρ referes to the same person (ὁ θεὸς)

[22] Epexegetical genitive explaining further concerning the nominative subject (identified as God and Father).

[23] Adjectival participle (in this case substantival). As Resultative aorist emphasis is put on the conclusion of the action.

[24] This personal pronoun refers to saints and faithful ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ (according to verse 1).

[25] Dative of reference (blessings in reference to that which is spiritual).

[26] I have rendered it here as a dative of place (hence- heavenly places). It could also be taken as a dative of sphere to bring the idea of blessings- in the heavenly realm.

[27] Dative of reference (in reference to Christ).

[28] Inceptive aorist-the focus is at the beginning of choosing.

[29] Dative of reference- to mean, chosen in reference to Him/God.

[30] Genitive of time.

[31] Subjective genitive.

[32] Objective genitive.

[33] Infinitive of purpose.

[34] Predicate accusative.

[35] Predicate accusative.

[36] Dative of reference or manner or reference can fit here-In reference to his love or in the manner of his love.

[37] Accusative of termination with focus on status. Predestination leads to a God-given status of being a son.

[38] Genitive of agency. Jesus Christ is the agent that makes adoption as son possible.

[39] Epexegetical genitive.

[40] Accusative of termination with focus on purpose.

[41] Accusative of manner.

[42] Objective Genitive.

[43] Subjective genitive.

[44] Accusative of termination with the purpose as focus.

[45] Objective genitive.

[46] Subjective genitive.

[47] Constative aorist.

[48] Static present- with focus on the state of things.

[49] Direct object accusative.

[50] Genitive of means.

[51] Objective genitive.

[52] Subjective Genitive.

[53] Epexegetical genitive.

[54] Accusative absolute.

[55] Objective genitive.

[56] Subjective genitive.

[57] Dramatic aorist.

[58] Dative of cause.

[59] Complementary participle.

[60] Accusative absolute.

[61] Objective genitive.

[62] Subjective genitive

[63] Adverbial accusative with manner as focus.

[64] Genitive of possession.

[65] Inceptive aorist.

[66] Dative of indirect object

[67] This can be taken as objective genitive or genitive of measure.

[68] This can be taken as subjective genitive or Genitive of time.

[69] Subject infinitive.

[70] Adverbial accusative with measure as focus.

[71] Dative of indirect object.

[72] Dative of place.

[73] Genitive of place.

[74] Dative of indirect object.

[75] Craig S. Keener. The IVP Bible Background Commentary. (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 1993) 542.

You will be Rewarded

reward

One of the outspoken disciples of Jesus called Peter once raised a genuine question to his Master.

“We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” (Matt. 19:27).

For sure, some of the disciples of Jesus were already economically stable as fishermen before they were recruited into the business of fishing people. Some were tax collectors and formerly had opportunities to make as much money as they wanted through extortion.

But their calling, way of life, and perspectives changed when they encountered Jesus. They literally left EVERYTHING to follow Jesus (for the sake of Jesus). EVERYTHING included: houses, brothers, sisters, parents, children, and fields. To them, Jesus became the single greatest treasure that when the merchant found he went and sold everything he had to acquire it.

And so the question voiced by Peter was an expected concern. What will they gain in return? What will they gain in their giving?

It is very easy to condemn Peter’s question as a question from a materialistic heart. But if you bring this to our experiences you will realize that the question was a genuine one. You see, serving God and people is hard work. It demands commitment, sacrifice, hard work, and a lot of self-giving. It involves GIVING out your time, resources and even your life- everything!

True service isn’t a walk on a park; it involves hard work, self-giving, and emptying of self.

Sometimes you can serve and the people you serve (with) fail to appreciate your efforts. Sometimes you can faithfully serve and people fail to understand what you are doing. Sometimes you can invest you efforts in God’s work and nothing seems to be happening. Sometimes the overtime work you do or the work you perform behind the curtains goes unremembered.

And so the question remains, is following Jesus a loss? Is serving God a poor stewardship of life?

Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses, brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life (Matt. 19:27-29).

I think these very words from Jesus breathes hope and comfort! It is encouraging to know that there is ‘something for us’. The expectation of receiving something from God after surrender of our everything makes it worthwhile to serve/follow Jesus. So there is no loss in following Jesus! In fact surrendering all for Christ is an invaluable investment -for this life, and the life to come.

God’s promise to reward your labor of love is severally reiterated in the Bible:

….Always give yourselves to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58).

a man reaps what he sows…Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Gal. 5:7,9).

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the true love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them (Heb. 6:10).

Keep on serving and keep on expecting God’s reward not men’s commendation.

Life of Abundance