1-20-19 Happy New YOU! – God’s Starfish Community

kthomasCommunity Study

Scripture

Ephesians 3: 14-21 (NRSV)
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

 

Context

The letter to the Ephesians is traditionally considered one of Paul’s “Prison Epistles.”  It is a powerful letter to Gentile believers in western Asia Minor (Turkey), revealing the “mystery” or secret purpose of Christ, who broke down the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile through the cross, creating one new humanity.  Paul indicated that in former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, by now has been revealed through the apostles and prophets:  “that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Ephesians 3:6).

This leads to the prayer of praise and petition above in verses 14-19 (one sentence in Greek!), followed by doxology (vv. 20-21). By reflecting on the mystery of God’s plan to include the Gentiles and to make God known now via this One New Humanity (the church!), Paul resumes the prayerful mode of chapter 1. Some scholars think that the prayer is part of a baptismal liturgy.

This prayer presents four petitions for the recipients: (1) that they be strengthened in their inner being;   (2) that Christ dwell in their hearts; (3) that they have power to comprehend the extent of God’s work; and (4) that they know the depth of the love of Christ.  The concluding doxology (vv. 20-21) then offers both praise and an implicit call to action, for by the power at work within us [God] is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine!

– Adapted from the New Interpreters Study Bible, pp. 2093-2094

 

Questions about the Scripture

1. Sitting in a Roman prison in such a polarized world, Paul may have been tempted to despair. Yet he writes confidently of what God has done in Christ to bring down divisions and bring God’s people together to do amazing things.  What do you think accounts for his hope as he writes this letter from a Roman jail?  As you face obstacles in a challenging world, how can you grow in this confidence?

2. In that polarized world, how significant was the symbolic presence of a church is coming together as “one new humanity” in Paul’s day. How can our church (or LIFE Group) be such a witness in a polarized world today?

3. What does Ephesians 3:14-21 say about how we can make a difference, practically speaking, in the world today? In other words, what “starfish” is waiting for you today?

4. Consider the last phrase in verse 20 – “More than all we can ask or imagine.” What can you imagine for yourself (Happy New You) in 2019?  What can you imagine for the church (Happy New You ‘All’ – Starfish Community) in 2019?  Pray together as you offer these ‘holy imaginations” to God.

 

Community & Personal Action Items

Over the course of this week together, let’s challenge ourselves to do one (or both) of the following actions:

1. Make A Difference. Are you the only Christ-follower in the office where you work? What about at school, or in your own neighborhood? Maybe you’re the only Christian in your family.  No matter where you find yourself, God has work for you to do!  Pay attention to the people around you this week.  Make a proactive effort to come alongside someone in your life and offer them a listening ear or a word of encouragement.  God created you to make a difference right where you are!

2. Remember.  Memorize the following verse this week. Then discuss its meaning and application with your family, friends, or small group.

 

MEMORY VERSE  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” — Matthew 25:40 (NIV)