Grace Words

A Daily Bible Reader's Blog

Presented by Mike Tune and Amazing Grace International, Inc.

The Indispensable Church – Living, Growing, Ageing, Dying

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household . . .” (Ephesians 2:19).

A variety of terms are used in the New Testament for God’s people — kingdom, church, body, city, and family are just a few. Each of these helps describe who we are and something of our relationship with God. No one of them is adequate for a complete description. I turn now to focus on just one: the “household.”

The word translated “household” means simply “house” and most often in the New Testament it refers to a literal dwelling. But it is also a synonym for “family” and it is in this sense that the local church is called the household of God..

The “Kingdom” of God is eternal. But the “family” of God, as a local body of people, like all families, is not. Families have a life cycle. You begin with a marriage. The family grows as children are brought into it (by birth or adoption). It also grows when those children marry, and even more when the children have children. But eventually, family lines die. Sometimes couples cannot have children, or the children do not get married, or the children do not have children. In time, that line dies. You no doubt know of families slowly, inexorably, coming to an end. It can be a sad thing, but it is a natural thing. It gets sadder when the remnants of the family line stubbornly refuse to plan for an orderly and dignified end.

The same is true for the local family of God. The local church serves as a branch on the great tree of God’s family and every branch, eventually, comes to an end. When a Church fails to bring in new family members or fails to raise new family members from within its own ranks, that family line ages and dies. It’s natural. Sometimes, something can be done: Christians can be roused from their lethargy to share the good news with their friends and neighbors, new people can be brought in, and there is a resurgence of life. But sometimes, the field (to pick up another metaphor Jesus used) where the church is situated is played out – infertile. No matter how much seed you sow, how much you fertilize, there will be no harvest. Sometimes, it’s too late. The remnants are simply incapable of saving the family line. The line is coming to an end and wisdom decrees the inevitable should be accepted and plans made for a dignified and noble end worthy of the people of God.

Until the end comes however, there is something important to remember, and important things to be done – the subjects of our next essay.
Mike Tune

Saturday, November 9. Ephesians 1 – 4

“For he [Christ] himself is our peace, who has made the two one, and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations” (Ephesians 2:14).

Here we have a problem: more than one, actually.

Jesus specifically said: “Do not think I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets: I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).

So did he abolish the law or not? And if he did, precisely what law was it?

Jesus did not come to do away with rules. Paul goes on in Ephesians to law down a bunch of them:
* “Put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires” (4:22).
* “Stop lying” (4:25).
* “Stop stealing” (4:28).
* “Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality” (5:3).

These are just a few.

And incidentally, all of these come from the Old Testament, so what Jesus “destroyed” cannot be the Old Testament.

You should have noticed by now in reading through the New Testament that there was a strong ethnic rift between Jewish and gentile Christians. You see it plainly in Romans and Galatians. Paul maintains that the distinctions between the two have been removed. The identifying characteristics of Judaism (things like circumcision, holy day observance, and dietary laws) have been abolished so that the two, Jew and gentile, could become one. Both have access to the Father precisely the same way – by the Holy Spirit. All these distinctive regulations were in the Old Testament. They are even called “the law” by Paul in Galatians and Romans. But they were not the totality of the law, nor, when they were abolished, did that remove the authority of the Old Testament for Christian living. This becomes evident as Paul cites the Old Testament as the authority for mandating a change of lifestyle when one becomes a Christian (5:14).