Of all the revolutionary ideas found in the Bible, one that should shake us and wake us up is that God turns enemies into friends and is uniting people of radically diverse backgrounds into one beautiful and loving family.
The Bible is full of revolutionary ideas. This should not surprise us. From the first word of Genesis to the final word of Revelation, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe is speaking. He is sovereign, all-powerful, glorious, and his ways are not our ways. When God spoke at the beginning of all things, the heavens, the earth, and all of creation sprung into
existence out of nothing (see Genesis 1-2). This is stunning beyond description. One day the Spirit and the bride will say, “Come” and all of history will be rolled up like a scroll (Revelation 22:17). Amazing!
Sometimes we read the words of God contained in the pages of the Bible and forget how counter-cultural and shocking they were at the time they were written—and how shocking they still are today. Instead of being amazed, we pass over these ideas as if they are common. Because they are familiar, we forget that they are revolutionary.
Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). This call runs counter to our human nature and is as shocking today as it was when Christ declared it some 2,000 years ago. John wrote, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16). What depth of love could have moved the Father to offer his precious
Son for us? James wrote, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10). God’s call for each of us is to put aside our own personal pride and look first to the needs of others. These words are revolutionary in the culture of our day.
We find these similar staggering words in the opening of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ … he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” (Ephesians 1:4–5, Ephesians 8–10, emphasis added).
God chose before the foundation of the world and adopted us into his own family. The Almighty Creator has made known to us the mystery of his will. And He desires to bring unity to all things under Christ. He is birthing a family of diverse people who will be a loving and united family today and forever. This vision bears the seeds of heavenly revolution!
Think about what it would look like if local Christian congregations became a picture of beautiful diversity and radical unity. What message would this send to the world around us? What would onlookers learn about our God just by looking at us?
Play the video segment for session one (see the streaming video access provided on the inside front cover). As you watch, use the following outline to record any thoughts or concepts that stand out to you.
- Churches in the first century were trans-cultural and were socially, economically, and racially diverse
- The precious blood of Jesus not only forgives sins but also unleashes the heavenly power needed to create a family out of people from every tribe, people group, and nation
- Separate ingredients or a wonderful salad—which will it be?
- All people (Jews and Gentiles) can be reconciled vertically to God and horizontally to each other through Jesus
- The grace of Jesus creates a new and diverse family that is blessed beyond description (Ephesians 1:1-6)
- God makes enemies into family through the redemption offered in the blood of Jesus (Ephesians 1:7-10)
- God turns enemies into friends by sealing us with his love in the power of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:11-14)
- God turns enemies into a loving family when we keep our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus (Ephesians 1:15-23)
Take a few minutes with your group members to discuss what you just watched and explore these concepts in Scripture. Use the following questions to help guide your discussion.
1. What impacted you the most as you watched Derwin’s teaching?
2. What are ways that churches today are taking Jesus-honoring steps forward in embracing diversity in the family of God? Why is it important that we continue making this a priority in the life of the church?
3. How is the Church made more beautiful, strong, and effective when we view it more like a salad than just the individual ingredients that make up the salad? What do we miss out on if we don’t celebrate and embrace our differences?
4. Read Ephesians 1:1-6. What are some of the blessings God brings into our lives and his church when we learn to walk in unity? How have you personally experienced one of these blessings?
5. Read Ephesians 1:7-10. Of what are we set free through the blood of Jesus? How should this transform the way we live as individual Christians and as the family of God?
6. Read Ephesians 1:11-14. When we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and filled with the Spirit, we experience power for transformation. How have you experienced the Holy Spirit doing one of these things in your life:
- Helping you follow God’s purpose and live in His will?
- Helping you live with confident and growing hope?
- Letting your life bring praise and glory to God?
- Empowering you to walk in unity with believers who are different than you?
- Helping you live with awareness of the heavenly inheritance that is yours?
How can your group members specifically pray for you as you seek to grow in one of the areas listed above?
Each session, you will be given a key verse (or verses) from the passage covered in the video teaching to memorize. This week, your memory verse is from Ephesians 1:3: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Have everyone recite this verse out loud. Then go around the room and ask for any volunteers who would like to say the verse from memory
What will you take away from this session? What is one practical next step you can take to walk in harmony and unity with Christians who are different that you?
Close your group time by praying in any of the following directions:
- Thank God for the wonderful diversity in his people (and Church) all over your community, nation, and the world. Lift up praise for specific ways God has made people unique and beautiful.
- Confess where you have been fearful or resistant to embrace believers from different tongues, tribes, nations, and backgrounds.
- Pray for unity in your church, the churches in your community, and in the body of Christ around the world. Ask God to use the unity of his people to be a shining light in our dark world.
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Let us know your thoughts on the Ephesians study. We’d love to hear from you!