Lesson 4: Sacrificial Love

Revel in your love for God, you whom God has touched! For YHWH protects the faithful but will repay the arrogant in full. Be strong, let your heart be bold, you who hope in YHWH.

–  Psalm 31:23-24 (TIV) 

Devotion: Read Ephesians 3:14-21. There is a difference between reading a book about food and eating a meal when you are hungry. In the same way, love must be experienced to be appreciated. It “surpasses knowledge.” Only those who are “rooted and grounded in love,” whose life emerges from and grows in God as a plant is grounded in the earth, can appreciate the vastness of Christ’s love. If we want to experience more of God’s love, we must spend time with God’s Spirit. The Church should focus as much energy on developing spiritual practices (prayer, meditation, fasting, healthy worship habits, etc.) as it does on theology and intellectual growth. Where and when does the Church teach people to pray? What is the danger of ignoring personal spirituality in favor of biblical and theological knowledge?

Personal Worship Option: What are your favorite movies? Why are they more special to you than others? (funny, sexy, romantic, quirky, mysterious, shocking, etc.) Are you bringing all of your personality, including the off-color parts, to your prayer life? What parts of self do you share with others but not with God?

Dig A Little Deeper:

Read Ephesians 3:1-13. Paul begins a prayer in 3:1 and quickly interrupts it in 3:2 with his thoughts about his Gentile ministry. What can we surmise about Paul’s relationship with the Ephesian Church?

3:14 Paul kneels for prayer, but standing is the more common position (Mk 11:25; Lk 18:11).

3:15 The Greek word for “family” (“patria”) is very similar to the word for “father” (“pater”). 

3:16 Paul uses a similar phrase, “inmost self,” in Romans 7:22, once again referring to our essential personhood. We easily lose touch with our inner self, focusing more attention on our circumstances. What conditions invite or force us to become aware of our inner being?

3:17 “Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” is tied to “being rooted and grounded in love.” What is the link between allowing the Spirit to guide our inner being and loving others?

3:18 The terms “breadth and length and height and depth” are used in Stoic philosophy to express the totality of the universe. Paul might be using them here in an attempt to reach out to Stoics in Ephesus or to dampen their influence on the Church there.

3:19 Likewise, “knowledge” is a key word in gnostic philosophy and an idea discussed in Roman theological circles. His comment that God’s love surpasses knowledge challenges gnostic teachings.

3:20 The Spirit within us can do far more than we can ask or imagine. How might this teaching influence how we pray and worship? How do we incorporate the mystery of God in these areas?

3:21 “In the church” and “in Christ Jesus” are presented as necessary compliments to one another. How would you define “church” in this passage?

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