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'Therefore' Bible Study

Therefore, as a prisoner for the Lord, I encourage you to live as people worthy of the call you received from God. Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love, and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together. You are one body and one spirit, just as God also called you in one hope. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, who is over all, through all, and in all.
– Ephesians 4:1-6 (Common English Bible)

This Bible Study was delivered by the Rev. Steve Manskar at the 2017 Annual Conference session. It can be used by small groups or individuals who want to study on Ephesians 4:1-6.

"Therefore" can be an invitation. When people look at the church, at you, they get a glimpse of Jesus and life in God's Kingdom.

Dandelion circle Fragment 1: A word of background

Paul begins Ephesians 4 with a "Therefore." In his writing, when Paul starts a paragraph with a "therefore," what follows is a typical response to what he wrote in the preceding chapters. In this case, Paul has just told us:

  1. Christianity is not primarily about believing in Jesus so that you go to heaven when you die. Rather, it's about living as people who are forgiven, loved, and free to live as citizens of God's Kingdom in the world God loves. (Eph. 1:9-10)
  2. God wants us to be fruitful, experimental, innovative. God wants us to be God's artwork, his poem, in and for the world. (Eph. 2:10)
  3. As Christians, we are meant to be a sign of hope as well as rebuke to the way the world wants us to be. (Eph. 3:10)

» Download the worksheet for this fragment of the Bible Study.

Follow Along

Watch the first fragment of Steve Manskar’s Bible study and fill in the _____.

Rather, it is believed to be a _____ letter that was distributed among several communities.

When Paul starts a paragraph with _____ ...

Rather, it is about living as people who are _____, _____, AND _____ to live as citizens of God’s Kingdom.

N. T. Wright puts it this way: “we are God’s _____ we are God’s _____ ... ”

As Christians, we are meant to be _____.

Reflection Questions
  1. Imagine yourself as God’s artwork. What is God creating in you? Imagine yourself as God’s poem. What message does God want you to speak into the world?
  2. What is one way you can be an active “sign of hope” today?
  3. Consider your church’s past as a prelude. Now is time for the “therefore.” What comes next? What possibilities or new ministries and ways of being are waiting to be claimed?
Stretch in the Spirit

Write a poem or create some other work of art, using Ephesian 2:10 and 4:1-6, as a foundation that tells how God is moving in your life and world.

Dandelion circle Fragment 2: 'A life worthy of the calling' (Eph. 4:1)

Christian faith is about a way of life centered around Jesus – It’s the way of self-giving, self-emptying love. “A life worthy of the calling to which you have been called” is echoed in the baptismal covenant. When we’re baptized, we vow to reject the forces of wickedness, confess that Jesus is our savior, and promise to be faithful to the church, serving as Christ’s representative to the world.

» Download the worksheet for this fragment of the Bible Study.

Follow Along

Watch the second fragment of Steve Manskar’s Bible study and fill in the _____.

The cross that we are to take up is _____ to his teachings, which he summarizes in the Great Commandments.

It is a life characterized by _____-_____ , _____-_____ love.

In response to God’s gift of our place in God’s _____ and _____ in God’s kingdom we renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of our sin.

And, using the grace God gives to us, we promise to serve as _____ in the world.

Reflection Questions
  1. What memories or stories do you have from your baptism?
  2. Consider the three baptismal covenant vows. In what ways have you lived out these vows in your daily life?
  3. Baptism is a community event with the congregation vowing to support the person being baptized in their Christian journey. What role does baptism play in the life of your congregation? How might you more intentionally help people remember their baptisms?
Stretch in the Spirit

Think of a person whose baptism you attended – or someone who you would like to support in their faith journey. Evoking the ritual of baptism, write them a note of encouragement about living a life centered around Jesus. Give or mail the note to them.

Dandelion circle Fragment 3: We are not 'Holy Solitaries'

We make our baptismal vows in community. The Christian life is relational. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, said, “‘Holy solitaries’ is a phrase no more consistent with the Gospel than holy adulterer. The Gospel of Christ knows no religion but social; no holiness, but social holiness.” To address this need to live out one’s faith in relationship, Wesley made sure every Methodist was placed in a small group, called a class.

» Download the worksheet for this fragment of the Bible Study.

Follow Along

Watch the third fragment of Steve Manskar’s Bible study and fill in the _____.

The Christian life is necessarily _____ and _____.

Reflection Questions
  1. In what areas of your life are you tempted to be a “holy solitary?”
  2. What does the phrase “social holiness” mean to you? What are some new or unexpected ways you would like to live a more social religion?
  3. Class meetings were about accountability and growing together as members asked one another, “how is it with your soul?” In what ways could your church grow or strengthen its small group ministries?
Stretch in the Spirit

Do research on Methodist class meetings. Take a field trip to the historic Strawbridge Shrine in New Windsor, to visit the Evans House, where the first class meeting in America was held. What lessons from our history inform our faith today?

Dandelion circle Fragment 4: 'Holy Tempers' (Eph. 4:2-3)

Paul describes the life worthy of the calling to which you have been called using these words: “humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love, and maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” These attributes are mentioned throughout the New Testament, including in Galatian 5:22-23, which identifies the fruits of the spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Wesley calls these virtues of the baptized, “holy tempers,” which are habitual behaviors, thoughts, and feelings aligned with what Paul calls, “the mind of Christ.” (Phil. 2:5)

» Download the worksheet for this fragment of the Bible Study.

Follow Along

Watch the fourth fragment of Steve Manskar’s Bible study and fill in the _____.

Patience, gentleness, and humility are among the virtues that comprise the _____ revealed in Jesus Christ crucified and risen.

Reflection Questions
  1. Look through Paul’s list of the fruits of the spirit. Which of these tempers means something special to you? Which do you find most challenging to practice?
  2. To be worthy of our calling, God urges us to practice humility and bear with one another in love. Is there a situation in your life that needs you to recommit yourself to practice these holy tempers more faithfully? How will you do that?
  3. Ephesians 4 calls the church to unity of the Spirit. In the face of differences, and even conflict, how does your congregation seek and live out unity? Why is unity important for the church?
Stretch in the Spirit

Take time for yourself for a period of silent discernment to consider and journal about the calling to which you’ve been called, and also how your life is, and maybe sometimes is not, worthy of that calling. In what thoughts or practices might God be calling you to growth?

 

Dandelion circle Fragment 5: Our baptismal covenant

These holy tempers enable people to live their baptismal promises to: 1. Nurture one another in the Christian faith and life; 2. Proclaim the good news; 3. Live according to the example of Christ; 4. Be a community of love and forgiveness so that each member may grow in their trust of God and be found faithful in their service to others; 5. To pray for each member to be true disciples; 6. To love and care for each member; 7. To do all in our power to increase their faith, confirm their hope and perfect them in love. Verses 1-3 can be summed up with the word “shalom.”

» Download the worksheet for this fragment of the Bible Study.

Follow Along

Watch the fifth fragment of Steve Manskar’s Bible study and fill in the _____.

It (shalom) is commonly translated as _____.

The church’s role in God’s mission is to be a _____ and a _____ of God’s shalom to the world.

Reflection Questions
  1. Review the baptismal promises as a check list. In what ways do you engage in these promises?
  2. Examine your faith in light of the baptismal promises. In what area might you invite others to hold you accountable and help you to grow?
  3. Within your congregation, how are you living out the idea of shalom within the church? In the community? In the world?
Stretch in the Spirit

Take action. This week, find one specific way to help someone increase their faith. Do one thing (or more) to confirm someone’s hope. Perform one task that will help perfect someone in love.

Dandelion circle Fragment 6: Glimpses into the Kingdom (Eph. 4:5-6)

When people look at the church, at you, they get a glimpse of Jesus and life in God’s kingdom. In verses 4-6, Paul describes the unity of life and mission of the Church in Christ. The oneness of God is reflected in the unity of God’s church. The Triune God is one in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each has a role to play in the church’s life and mission. Paul writes about God’s triune and relationship nature when he writes: “one God and Father of all, who is above all [Father]; and through all [God the son]; and in all [God the Holy Spirit].”

» Download the worksheet for this fragment of the Bible Study.

Follow Along

Watch the sixth fragment of Steve Manskar’s Bible study and fill in the _____.

The oneness of God is reflected in the _____ of God’s church.

Reflection Questions
  1. How would you describe the Trinity to someone new to their faith? Why is having an understanding of the Trinity important?
  2. How do you respond or call upon the Holy Spirit?
  3. During worship and mission experiences in your church, what role does God – Father, Son and Holy Spirt – play?
Stretch in the Spirit

Sometime complex topics are easier to understand through metaphor. Brainstorm and list three metaphors for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When these lists are complete, unleash your inner artist and create a sketch or some other expression of each part of the Trinity. What new understandings does this illustration bring you?

Dandelion circle Fragment 7: The Church must breathe

If the church is like a body, as it says in 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, then it needs to breathe. The Holy Spirit is the breath the church takes in through worship, prayer and sacrament. The church exhales the Holy Spirit when it joins God’s mission of shalom in the world God loves. The church needs to always remember that worship and mission are at the heart of its identity and not programs designed to attract members.

» Download the worksheet for this fragment of the Bible Study.

Follow Along

Watch the seventh fragment of Steve Manskar’s Bible study and fill in the _____.

The body needs to _____ and _____ if it is to live and grow.

The _____ God gives is expressed in the lives of the people of the church.

Reflection Questions
  1. How is your spiritual breath? What are you breathing in that nurtures your soul? What are you exhaling that nurtures the world?
  2. God gave us all unique gifts – do you feel more drawn to worship and prayer, or mission and ministry? What steps might you take to step outside your comfort zone to expand and balance the inhalations and exhalations of your faith?
  3. How does attempting to grow and attract new members get in your church’s way of practicing discipleship? What steps might be taken to realign the leadership and congregation to ensure it is in step with God’s will. 
Stretch in the Spirit

Practice contemplation. Make yourself comfortable and practice deep breathing, making your inhalations the same length as your exhalations. Clear your thoughts. Gradually, as you inhale, focus on one thing you want to attract more of into your life. As you exhale, focus on one thing you want to remove from your life. Do this for a few minutes. Then clear your thoughts again and open yourself up, in the stillness, to listening for God. 

Dandelion circle Fragment 8: One Hope, One Lord

The one hope of your calling and one baptism marks us a citizen of the Kingdom of God. When Paul writes, “one Lord,” he echoes the first confession of the church, “Jesus Christ is Lord.” When we proclaim this, we acknowledge that he is Lord and I am not. But Lordship is not about domination, hierarchy, and oppression. Scripture tells us that Christ’s Lordship is marked by self-giving, sacrificial love, compassion, justice, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Rather than ruling over, Jesus rules alongside as a servant. The true nature of Jesus’ lordship is revealed in the cross.

» Download the worksheet for this fragment of the Bible Study.

Follow Along

Watch the eighth fragment of Steve Manskar’s Bible study and fill in the _____.

When we proclaim “Jesus Christ is Lord,” we acknowledge that he is Lord and we are _____.

His Lordship is marked by _____-_____ , _____-_____ love.

Rather than ruling over, Jesus rules _____ as servant.

Reflection Questions
  1. How have you experienced the “Lordship” of Christ in your life? In what ways does this Scripture broaden or change the way you think about authority?
  2. What does it mean, for you, to proclaim, “Jesus is Lord, and I am not”? What aspects of your life do you find easy to surrender to God? Which are harder to surrender?
  3. What are five or 10 specific ways visitors to your church will notice that your congregation is made up of citizens of the Kingdom of God? 
Stretch in the Spirit

Practice servant leadership. Choose one area or relationship in your life today that feels challenging to you. Approach this situation as you believe Jesus might. How does focusing on your relationship to Christ’s cross affect your perspective? 

Dandelion circle Fragment 9: Loving God – heart, soul, and mind

The one faith in one Lord equips people to claim their freedom. God desires and seeks a relationship with his children. Faith is how God’s children participate in the relationship that begins when we accept God’s acceptance and forgiveness. We receive the gift through justification and live the gift through sanctification. Just as Jacob was transformed physically and spiritually, in Genesis 32:22-32 when he wrestled with an angel, a relationship with God can include struggle and that struggle will transform you.

» Download the worksheet for this fragment of the Bible Study.

Follow Along

Watch the ninth fragment of Steve Manskar’s Bible study and fill in the _____.

We receive the faith through _____ and live the faith through sanctification.

Faith is like _____ with God whose nature and name is Love.

There is _____ body, Spirit, hope, faith, baptism, and Lord because there is _____ God who is in Trinity and _____ with his church and the world.

The Holy Spirit is God at work in each _____.

The three prepositions Paul uses: above, _____, and in reveals God’s triune and relational nature.

Reflection Questions
  1. In what way does your faith bring you a sense of freedom?
  2. How would you describe God’s gift of grace to those who might never have experienced it?
  3. As a church, how do you deepen people’s understanding and experience of prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace?  
Stretch in the Spirit

Engage God. What questions or stumbling blocks might be keeping you from fully engaging in all that God has called you to be. Dive in and wrestle with God, express all your emotions and ask the deep questions. How might daring to struggle affect your faith? 

Dandelion circle Fragment 10: You are God's vision

Paul writes to the Ephesian to remind them of who they are. He wants them to remember they are beloved children of God, saved by grace through faith to be God’s artwork for the world. Their lives are to reflect Christ’s shalom into the world. When you spend time with Jesus, Christ’s holiness rubs off on you, making you holy in the process. Oneness and unity are God’s vision for the church. Unity in Christ does not mean uniformity. Diversity is an expression of God’s amazing creativity. Diversity reveals God’s way of love and life in the world.

» Download the worksheet for this fragment of the Bible Study.

Follow Along

Watch the tenth fragment of Steve Manskar’s Bible study and fill in the _____.

Paul is reminding them who and _____ they are.

When you spend time with Christ, holiness rubs off on you, making you _____ in the process.

The way Paul gets at the divisions present in Ephesus is by reminding them of the _____ of God and of God’s mission.

The church will be open to the grace it needs to be the sign and _____ of God’s kingdom that is breaking out of the world now.

_____ reveals God’s way of love and life in the world.

Reflection Questions
  1. Take a brief self-inventory. What one or two qualities has God specifically given to you that make you feel special and unique?
  2. In what one or two ways do you most hope to resemble Jesus?
  3. Diversity is gift. In what ways is your congregation diverse? How does that diversity strengthen your witness to the community and world? How can you deepen your diversity? 
Stretch in the Spirit

Be the vision. Make the wisdom of Ephesians 4: 1-6 your own and step out to dare and take a risk in God’s name. To what might God be calling you? What specific steps will you take to begin to respond?