Ephesians 4:7-16, which begins with “But grace was given to each one of us” (v. 7) and ends with “when each part is working properly” (v. 16), is subdivided into two units. Verses 4:7-10 states that a diverse range of ministry functions is graciously given to the members of the body. Each member receives a gift, but each member’s gift differs from that which is given to other members. Verses 4:11-16 explains how the operation of the diverse range of ministry functions, is to operate for the promotion of unity and maturity.
Verses 1-3 state not only the command: “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” but also the manner in which it is carried out: “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.” Verses 4-6 establish the basis that is in place regarding the command for maintaining unity that the Spirit has created in Christ.
The basis for maintaining unity is explained by a series of seven affirmations. These seven affirmations—labeled with the term “one” to link them to the idea of unity—are stated to sustain disciples in their role in the work of unity. The affirmations are arranged around the Persons of the Godhead: “one Spirit,” “one Lord,” and “one God and Father of all.” All disciples share the same Father, the same Lord, and the same Spirit.
Taking a closer look at verses 1-3, disciples are called to live in a way that reflects their new privileged calling by being, “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” While disciples have received their calling by grace and not human merit, the command is to live in a way that corresponds with their calling. God has prepared His children for good works, “that we should walk in them” (2:10). Disciples have been given new life and placed in a new family. So, disciples are to evidence their new life by living in unity within their new family. Disciples do not make themselves worthy of redemption; however, they are called to live in a way that shows a fitness in how they live out their redemption. While disciples do not earn their redemption, they are to give evidence of it.
Jesus prayed in John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” The Word of God is vital to our sanctification or growth in Godliness. Therefore, we are considering ways to practice the Spiritual Discipline of Bible intake. Having given in our last post some of the advantages of memorizing Scripture, I now wish to turn to the practical consideration of how we can more effectively memorize Scripture. Remember, Scripture memory, for most of us, is not first and foremost about the sharpness of our memory-that is, our ability. It is about motivation-that is, how badly we want to memorize Scripture.
So, with the context for the second half of the book in mind, Ephesians 4:1-16 is a call to walk in unity. God’s will is for His followers to be: “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Being eager means making it a top priority, sparing no effort. But the appeal in 4:1-16 is not just to pursue unity, but also maturity. While the initial call is for unity, there is a direct linkage between unity and maturity: “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (v. 13). Christian maturity and unity are inseparable: maturity is tied to unity while unity is tethered to maturity. True maturity occurs as believers strive together toward unity.
We are considering ways to practice the Spiritual Discipline of Bible intake. Having looked at the practices of hearing the Word as well as reading the Word, we will now consider the practice of memorizing the Word. Bible memorization is a wonderful tool, not only in our own hands for our own use, but even more importantly, in the hands of the Holy Spirit for His use in our lives. However, even though we might remember that the Spirit of God takes the Word of God and changes us in a likeness to the Son of God, many of us still flinch at the practice of Scripture memory.
Mark 15:42-16:8* is the final episode of Mark. Precise time stamps mark the two scenes that compose this final episode. Mark 15:42 notes the start of the Sabbath while Mark 16:1 notes the Sabbath’s conclusion. The first scene (15:42-47) reports Jesus’ burial and the second scene (16:1-8) records the discovery of a messenger in the empty tomb.
Therefore, reading God’s Word is of utmost importance for those of us who desire to behold and become like Christ. We must not leave this discipline to chance. We must be intentional about reading the Bible. Dr. Donald Whitney in his book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, gives three practical suggestions for consistent success in Bible reading. The first two suggestions are straightforward: find the time, and have a plan. We will need to discipline ourselves to find a time. Assistance in being disciplined to read can come from having a plan. There are many pre-arranged plans or you can develop you own. Select a plan that you can reasonably accomplish in the time frame that you have chosen to complete the plan.
Crucifixion was one of the cruelest forms of capital punishment ever devised. Today the cross has become a symbol of adornment. In Christ’s time, the cross was simply shocking, abhorrent, and grotesque. Crucifixion was utterly scandalous, reserved only for those deemed as the worst and lowliest. Yet, Mark’s account of the physical torture of Christ’s crucifixion is vivid but restrained. The physical torture was not sensationalized, but greater emphasis was placed on the overwhelming spiritual anguish that Jesus experienced. Crucifixion as a method of execution fit well with the imagery of experiencing God’s curse as described by Moses hundreds of years earlier, “for a hanged man is cursed by God” (Deuteronomy 21:22-23).
The past two posts we have been a look at the activity of hearing the Word. In this post we will take a look at the activity of reading the Word. As with hearing, reading the Word is a way in which we can practice the spiritual discipline of Bible intake. As a new year is upon us, I pray that the verse, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God,” (Matthew 4:4) would be used to prompt our hearts toward the activity of consistent Bible reading. Remember, the spiritual disciplines are, “those personal and corporate disciplines that promote spiritual growth.”
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