Friday, December 14

Ephesians 1:13-14

Reflection:  Take time to read the passage.  Circle or take note of words, concepts, or truths that stand out to you.

Ephesians is addressed to people who are “faithful in Christ Jesus.”  The phrase “in Christ Jesus,” (often shortened to “in Christ,” or “in Him”) is key to understanding Ephesians in particular, and Paul’s theology in general. Some theologians argue that the phrase connotes a “mystical” relationship/communion between and among the resurrected Christ and the members of his body, the church. Other theologians argue that the phrase refers to our present participation in the blessings of the  already- inaugurated- but- not -yet -consummated  “kingdom of the beloved Son” (Col. 1:13) and the “new creation.” (2 Cor. 5:17) Ephesians confirms that these theologians should find something else to argue about, because they are both right!   

Ephesians 1:3-14 could literally be translated from the Greek as one long, mind-blowing, breathless sentence about the manifold blessings we find “in Christ.” Paul caps off the recitation of blessings with Ephesians  1:13-14: “In Him you also, having heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and having believed in Him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit;  this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, culminating in the praise of His glory.”

Note the progression: we hear the gospel; we believe in Christ; the Holy Spirit marks us as God’s people; we inherit the ultimate treasure; we praise His glory. In context, the ultimate treasure is a Who, not a what. Our inheritance is eternal, unbroken communion, fully knowing and loving Christ, as we are fully known and loved. But, we don’t have to wait for the consummation of history to get started on our  calling to praise God’s glory. The Holy Spirit offers a foretaste of eternal communion here and now, in Christ.

Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a taste of your inheritance today.

- Jack Wisdom

For Families:
*What does it mean to seal something?  What is the purpose of sealing things (like letters, doors, food, etc.)?  Why is it amazing that people who hear the good news of Jesus and believe are sealed with the Holy Spirit?  What does it mean to you to know that you have been or could be marked and sealed as Christ’s own forever?  Is there anyone on your heart that you would like to pray for to experience this same sealing?

**Holy Spirit, you overwhelm us with your care.  How is it that we can become one with Jesus and saved for eternity?  Only through you can we experience the promised fulfillment of the good news that Jesus is our Savior, our King, and our Brother.  May we never lose the wonder of it all.  Amen.

Thursday, December 13

2 Corinthians 5:16-19

Reflection:  Take time to read the passage.  Circle or take note of words, concepts, or truths that stand out to you.

16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.  Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.  17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:  The old has gone, the new is here!  18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

Paul’s words to the believers in Corinth literally say, “If anyone is in Christ, new creation!”  Thus the translator is left to supply the subject and verb.  The common choices are “he is a new creation” and “there is new creation.”  Paul has been talking about how we are radically changed by our relationship with Christ.  In vs. 15 he has just pointed out that we no longer live for ourselves.  That’s a radical change.  Then in vs. 16, he remarks upon the change in how we view the world and regard people.  Another quite radical change.  These lend support for the view that Paul was intending to say that if anyone is in Christ, then he is a new creation. 

On the other hand, Jewish writers of that day spoke of the coming of a Messiah that would bring about an end to the old order and introduce a whole new age.  Isaiah wrote, “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth.”  Paul also saw Christ’s death and resurrection as “the divider of history”.   So, perhaps he was truly intending to say that if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come.

I love both options and I am glad that both are true.  I am new.  God is doing a new thing.  Maybe Paul didn’t want us to have to choose between the two.

If we were reading the Greek, we would also see that some of our English translations leave a word out.  Behold.  “The old has gone.  Behold, the new is here.”  I’ve seen it argued that the word is archaic; some translations forego the “behold” and include an exclamation mark instead.  In my mind, I keep behold.   God’s work is something to behold.  That he reconciles us through the sacrifice of His One and Only and makes us different than what we were in our dusty fallenness, that we are part of all that He makes new—this calls us to stand in wonder and behold his lovely Otherness.

- Diana Wisdom

For Families: 
*Think of examples with your family of things that begin one way but end up looking completely different (examples: butterflies, plants, origami, clay pottery).  Talk about how people are similar to your examples, how they can be new creations in Christ.

**Jesus, our Messiah and Creator, without you we are dust.  But, in your beauty, you have recreated us for new life and for glories unseen.  May we ever see you before us and follow you home.  Amen.

Monday, December 3

John 5:39-47

Today’s reading reminds us that Jesus life and teachings must be understood in the context of the Old Testament and a society that had been carefully constructed around God’s law, which had been given to the people of Israel by Moses. Moses’ words of warning- obey God’s law or die (Deut. 30:15-18) were taken seriously by the Israelites of Jesus’ day because they were descendants of those who had survived the fall of the kingdom and the exile (see 2 Kings 25, and the book of Daniel, Nehemiah, and Ezra). Therefore, God’s law governed every aspect of their lives. Circumcision. Food. Clothing. Sex. Marriage. Divorce. Property. Tithing. Religious ceremonies and sacrifices, and the Sabbath. Even so, they had missed the forest for the trees (Matt. 23:24), and Jesus’ words to the religious leaders struck at the very heart of the lie upon which they had built their lives.

Jesus, like Moses, set the issue of life and death before them. He knew that they sought to earn eternal life through obedience to God’s law; he offered them eternal life as a gift and plainly told them that Moses’ writings were really about him, the Messiah. Jesus had come to set his people free, not from slavery to pharaoh, but from slavery to sin. He is the true Passover lamb who died for the sins of his people (John 1:29), and he is worthy of more glory than Moses because he is not just the law giver, but the author of the law itself (Hebrews 3:3). More than that, he is the fulfillment of God's law (Matt. 5:17). This Advent let us remember that Jesus is God’s perfect law incarnate, full of grace and truth, and he alone can save us and give us eternal life.

- Joey Alge


  1. Do you put your hope in things other than Jesus?

  2. In what ways do you try to earn God’s favor and eternal life?

For Families:
Have you ever been told to do something that you really didn’t want to do?  What do you do when your parents or a teacher or a grandparent tells you to do something that you don’t want to do?  I bet your response was the same as the Israelites – they looked like they were obeying God on the outside, but on the inside they grumbled and didn’t understand why they had to obey.  They didn’t understand the heart of God, but Jesus did.

Father, we thank you so much for your Son, Jesus.Help us remember that He is the only one would could fully obey you and fix our broken hearts so that we can live with you forever. Amen