Each week, we offer daily Scripture readings and thoughts in our
Grow • Pray • Study (GPS) Guide.
Season of Pentecost: A Life Worthy
St. Paul’s UMC
GPS: Grow, Pray Study Guide for the week of
August 1–7, 2021
To gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a deeply committed follower of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. To be able to recognize your experiences of God and to discover God in new and different ways.
Take us from where we are, to where you want us to be; make us not merely guardians of a heritage but living signs of your coming Kingdom; fire us with passion for justice and peace between all people; fill us with that faith, hope and love which embody the Gospel; and through the power of the Holy Spirit make us one. That the world may believe that your name may be enthroned in our nation, that your church may more effectively be your body, we commit ourselves to love you, serve you, and follow you as pilgrims not strangers. In the name of God our Creator Jesus our Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit our Advocate, we pray. Amen.
Monday, August 2, 2021 Read Ephesians 4:1-16.
Beginning in chapter 4 through chapter 6 verse 20, this letter now gives practical instructions for Christian living. In chapters 4 through 6 the letter suggests ways of putting this love into practice in order to maintain Christian unity. These chapters also assume that the church (the body of believers) will reflect God’s work of unification. As you read through Ephesians 4:1-16; make a list of what you see as instructions for Christian living. How are you living out these instructions as an individual? How are you helping St. Paul’s be an example of these instructions? Are you doing anything which would be dividing relationships in your personal life or in the community of believers’ life? What can you do to correct this behavior so it’s unifying?
Tuesday, August 3, 2021 Read Ephesians 4:1-3.
In Ephesians 3:1 Paul mentioned being “the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles.” “Beg you to walk of the calling you were called,” is the central theme of the rest of this letter. It’s an appeal to live up to the high calling to which God has called them. Having been invited by God to a high calling, these Christians need to “walk worthily of the calling.” Both Old and New Testaments use the word “walk” as we would use the word “live.” In other words, Paul is pleading with these Christians to live their lives in accord with their Godly calling. What would it entail to “walk worthily of the calling with which you were called”? A complete answer would fill many pages, but Jesus gave an excellent summary statement:
“‘You shall LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD with all your heart. (and)
‘You shall LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR as yourself.’
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
(Matthew 22:37-40; Mark 12:29b-31; see also Luke 10:27)
Wednesday, August 4, 2021 Read Ephesians 4:2. “with all lowliness and humility,”
Lowliness is not often seen as a virtue today. As Christians, we are called to emulate Christ, who “existing in the form of God, didn’t consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, yes, the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8). Prautetos (humility) is the kind of graceful spirit that comes from a deep faith that God is good and will prevail in the end. We might talk about such a person as the strong, quiet type.
“with patience” (makrothymia) (v. 2c). The word makrothymia suggests endurance or steadfastness rather than a passive kind of waiting. It withstands adversity without quitting. It endures opposition without striking out at the opponent—or, at least, without striking out too quickly or violently. It possesses the strength of rock-steadiness.
“with one another in love“(agape) (v. 2d). The word anechomenoi means “to bear” or “to endure” or “to exercise patience or restraint.”
Every relationship requires bearing, enduring, and exercising patience or restraint. That is true in marriages. It is true in churches. It is true in friendships. It is true in work environments.
A cautionary note: We should not suggest that people bear with one another in every circumstance. Parents should not bear unacceptable behavior by their children. Victims of spouse or child abuse will need to escape from the situation when danger dictates that. When dealing with an alcoholic or drug addict, “bearing with one another” often becomes co-dependency and enabling behavior. Alcoholics and drug addicts don’t need enablers. They need people to hold interventions and lovingly but firmly confront them. We can act in agape love—a concern for the well-being of the other person in all matters. Who in your life do you need to extend agape love?
Thursday, August 5, 2021 Read Ephesians 4:4-6; Deuteronomy 6:4-5.
The key word for verses 4-6 is “one.” These verses continue the emphasis on unity begun in verse 3. The body mentioned here is the church. Ephesians 4:6 refers to Deuteronomy 6:4-5; the foundational creed for Israel. This is the key to our unity. We, the church, might see things very differently, but we have one God whom we worship and who directs our lives. The “all” in this verse, in its original context, would have meant Jews and Gentiles, but in our world today would mean black and brown and white—Asian, Indian, and American, all who believe Christ is the Messiah. Who do you have trouble including in the One body? Pray for God to help you to see them as a beloved child of God.
Friday, August 6, 2021 Read Ephesians 4:7-10 & Romans 12:4-8.
In verses 4-6, Paul emphasized our unity. Now he acknowledges our diversity—the grace given to each of us—distinctive grace made to measure, just as a custom-tailored suit is made to measure. (Read Romans 12:4-8 for the list of gifts)
“Therefore he says, ‘When he ascended on high’“ (v. 8a). Paul is quoting Psalm 68:18, which says, “You have ascended on high. You have led away captives. You have received gifts among men.” In its original context, this psalm celebrated victory over God’s enemies—and a triumphal procession bringing the spoils of victory, including prisoners, up Mount Zion to the temple, the dwelling place of God. Paul relates this verse to Christ, who “ascended on high…, led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.”
“he led captivity captive“(v. 8b). As noted in the comments on verse 8a above, Psalm 68 pictured a triumphal procession. Now Paul uses that imagery to picture Christ’s triumphal procession with freed prisoners in tow. Paul told the Roman church, “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Romans 8:2). That’s the sort of thing that this Ephesians verse celebrates.
“Now this, ‘He ascended,’ what is it but that he also first descended into the lower parts of the earth?“ (v. 9). Verses 9-10 have also occasioned lots of scholarly comment. For the sake of our lesson today, we are going to look at one scholarly idea: Some believe that descended and ascended refer to the Incarnation. The best expression of this idea is found in Philippians 2:5-11, where Paul says that Christ Jesus existed in the form of God, but “didn’t consider equality with God a thing to be grasped.” He “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, yes, the death of the cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him, and gave to him the name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
“that he might fill all things“ (v. 10b). Earlier, Paul said that God “put all things in subjection under (Christ’s) feet and gave him to be head over all things for the (church), which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23). Christ has the power to “fill all things”—to meet all needs—to give each person the grace needed (v. 7). Thank you, Jesus, for descending and ascending.
Saturday, August 7, 2021 Read Ephesians 4:11-16.
“to a full grown (teleios) man” (v. 13c). The word teleios is sometimes translated perfect, but the idea here is maturity—being a full-grown adult. While children are charming, adults who have never outgrown their childish ways are less so. “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child. Now that I have become a man, I have put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11). The goal of Christian nurture is that believers might grow into mature spiritual people.
“to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ“ (v. 13d). This is the goal of Christian nurture—that we become like Christ.
“that we may no longer be children, tossed back and forth and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error“ (v. 14). We begin life with limited ability to assess possible trickery. As we grow, we attain experience (often the hard way) that makes us wiser and better able to resist temptation. The goal of Christian nurture is to ground us doctrinally so that we can stand our ground when others seek to derail us.
“but speaking truth in love“ (agape) (v. 15a). It is a great challenge to speak the truth in agape love—the kind of love that puts the welfare of the other person first. One temptation is to speak the truth so sharply that it wounds rather than heals. The opposite temptation is to avoid conflict by avoiding difficult conversations. Speaking the truth in love is a Godly thing. Truth spoken in love stands a chance of being heard, whereas truth spoken without love is almost certain to be rejected. One of the goals of Christian nurture (vv. 11-13) is that we come to a point where we can speak the truth in love.
“we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, Christ“ (v. 15b). What are the “all things” in mind here? The virtues mentioned in verse 2 would certainly apply: Lowliness, humility, patience, love, unity, and peace. Unity, faith, and knowledge of the Son of God (v. 13) would also apply. None of these things is likely to come to us easily. At best, we will spend our lives growing into spiritual maturity.
“from whom all the body, being fitted and knit together through that which every joint supplies (dia pas ho epichoregia haphe—by every supporting joint), according to the working in measure of each individual part, makes the body increase to the building up of itself in love“ (agape) (v. 16). The body mentioned here is the church—the body of Christ, who is the head of the church. The individual parts are connected by joints or ligaments that make it possible for them to work together. In what ways are you living up to the “calling you have received?” In your work? In your home? In your relationships? At St. Paul’s?
Resources: Bible by God, UMC Lectionary resources, Commentaries on Ephesians 4