Daily Devotion for January 4, 2011
Eleventh Day of Christmas
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Prayer for the Morning
Oh Lord, most heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who has safely brought me to the beginning of this day; I give you thanks for my creation, preservation, and all the blessings of my life. Grant that this day I fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all my doings, being governed by your will, may be righteous in your sight. Through Christ our Lord, I pray.
Prayer for Grace and Strength
Lord God, I pray that you will fill my heart with the blessing of your Holy Spirit. Grant me this day the strength to be temperate in all things, diligent in my duties, and patient under my afflictions. Direct me in all my ways. Give me grace to be just and upright in all my dealings; quiet and peaceable; full of compassion; and ready to do good to all people, according to my abilities and opportunities. For the sake of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
Community of Prayer
Heavenly Lord, I know I am not alone saying these prayers or reading your Word this morning, but many people unknown to me, from all stations of life, have joined together in this brief moment of devotion. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be among the community of all who pray in the name of Christ this morning, and remain among us always.
Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.
They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom, And talk of Your power,
To make known to the sons of men His mighty acts, And the glorious majesty of His kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.
The Gentiles Receive Christ's Grace
This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles-- for surely you have already heard of the commission of God's grace that was given me for you, and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ.
In former generations this mystery was not made known to mankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God's grace that was given me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.
Notes on the Scripture
Paul is in prison. The reason: for the sake of the Gentiles. He has been arrested for spreading the Gospel among non-Jews. This was Paul's first imprisonment in Rome, about 62 A.D. and about four years after he had visited the fledgling church in Ephesus.
The main point of this passage is the second half of the second paragraph, "the Gentiles have become . . .members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel." The world of the early church was centered in an area defined by the three major cities of Jerusalem, Antioch, and Rome. The area now lying inside the country of Turkey had enormous importance, compared to its situation today.
The primary culture was Greek. Greek philosophy, art and learning were the greatest in the history of the known world; combined with Roman engineering and organization, it was the greatest culture ever known on earth. Religious life was a combination of Greco-Roman gods and local gods, or Ba'als, almost all of which were either physical idols or embodied in physical idols. The Hebrews, on the other hand, were a fairly small colony with weird and mysterious religious and social customs. I suppose one might imagine the reaction of people in San Francisco to a group of Tlingit zealots traveling from Alaska, claiming that God had been made man among them.
So how were the Greek inhabitants of Ephesus, a sizable Mediterranean port on the west coast of Anatolia (Turkey), supposed to react to Paul and his crew? Well, one very important step in their conversion was to make sure that they knew they were welcome. The Jews were notorious for rejecting non-Jews as unclean; a good Jew would not even eat a meal with an Ephesian.
So here, Paul tells the Ephesians that they are 100% eligible to become members of Christ's church. There is not the slightest taint of racial or cultural bias in this new Jewish religious group. Moreover, it was God's plan to include them all along; this was His "eternal purpose".
We must remember, today, God's eternal purpose; to bring all people of all nations into the salvation of Christ, and not as junior members, but as equals before God.