Friday, November 17, 2006

Missions: Where have we gone wrong?

Book Review

James F. Engel and William A. Dyrness, Changing the mind of missions: Where have we gone wrong?, (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2000).

In Changing the mind of missions, James Engel (founder of Development Associates International) and William Dyrness (Dean of the school of theology and professor of theology and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary) seek to present their findings on the crisis that has arisen pertaining to the North American and Western missions.
The book was divided into seven chapters and begins with a case study on a fictitious scenario of the Global Harvest Mission (GHM) and First Church of Rolingwood to illustrate the dilemma faced by a typical Western church. The first three chapters dealt with the present crisis in missions and where missions have gone wrong. They recognised there is a shift of missions initiative to have moved to the two thirds world. The reason for the closing door on the Western influence of missions in the world was due to their failing in understanding the ‘mission statement’ of Jesus Himself (Luke 4:18-19) and downplaying the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20) to just proclaiming and winning souls rather than making disciples worthy of the Lord Jesus Christ. The way modern missions continuing in their past practices to evangelize are arguable as they were perceived as not moving with time (we are living in a postmodern world!).They are also guilty of reducing the world missions to a managerial enterprise, evangelism void of discipleship and local churches have lost their role in reaching out, and are exiled to just being the fund provider and missionaries’ sender.

In the remaining chapters, the authors call for a ‘gracious revolution’ in missions, which is desperately needed in the postmodern world. Managerial Missiology was criticized as not having foundational biblical truths, and the authors urged a paradigm shift in modern missions thinking, seeing and acting from a kingdom’s perspective. Social transformation need not be abandoned in the pursuance of evangelism, but it should be partnered fully with the evangelism. The emphasis of change is doing things the ‘community’ way where mutuality and accountability of individuals must take place. Only through the community’s life and its obedience to the gospel can “members minister to each other and to the world under the lordship of Jesus”. The authors believed living in the postmodern times have seen the increase in the interest of many in spiritual things. The church therefore is urged to take advantage of this situation, and rise to the challenge to creatively influence the current culture. Missions should therefore be the utmost outcome from the lay people’s initiatives and local church should be restored to its central role in the reign of Christ. All in all, missions need to be reengineered to become relevant in the changing world to respond to the needs of a generation hunger for an experience of God.

This book presents us a fearless critique of Western missions. It is true that the scientific strategies and numerical success were adopted as part of parcel of mission work across the world. For example, most churches in Malaysia that was once planted by missionaries from the Western world are pre-occupied with numbers and methods to win souls. This eventually leads to unhealthy outlook and questioning when a church fails to meet a certain target of conversion. All would agree with the authors on the notion that Western missionaries have done a poor job in making disciples, fulfilling only half the truth of the Great Commission and even worse in bringing social transformation together with our gospel proclamation. The highlight of the need for global partnerships to form between sending mission agencies and the receiving churches are to be commended as we are living in a world of communities where cooperation is much needed between both sides, both to touch lives and to work out discipling process contextualized to a particular cultural context.

In exhorting readers to come back to biblical fidelity, I feel their treatment of the Scripture lacks the balance and objectivity. For example, the authors make Jesus’ messianic statement in Luke 4:18-19 the paradigm for ours as well. This quotation has a messianic nature portraying Jesus as the only one fit to fulfil the Scripture (Luke 4:21), thus the ministry listed could only be fulfilled by our Lord Jesus, and indeed He did. No doubt Jesus was concerned with the physical sufferings of his people such as poverty, leprosy, imprisonment and blindness, but He was clearly more concerned with their spiritual state of poverty and blindness as indicated in John 9:39. Andreas Kostenberger has also demonstrated that the followers of Jesus are not necessarily called to do the same works He did.

Furthermore, as the authors are clearly against a single minded focus on evangelism or ‘just preaching the good news’, their zeal to prove otherwise was not justified with these verses, as ‘preaching’ and ‘proclaiming’ the good news are also mentioned. Using Jesus as the missionary figure in their book was clearly justified but unfortunately, his purpose to call back those who are His to return to Him was not just done merely with setting people free from their diseases or demon possession. Jesus Himself preached (Mark 1:38) and commanded His disciples to do the same (Luke 9) so those who are lost would be saved (Luke 19:10). One would understand the authors’ call for stronger emphasis on making disciples, but not making evangelism as a priority in our mission clearly dismiss all understanding of ‘winning souls’ for Jesus and expanding His kingdom. This also contradicts with the apostle Paul whose primary focus was on preaching the good news. (1 Cor 1:17, 2:4-5; Rom 1:9, 10:14-15). If social ministry is to be the priority of all that Christians should endeavour, we would not be in any way prioritizing the Great Commission which the authors clearly use to argue their case. The priority should always be on souls, as these souls are whom we want to build as disciples!

Engel and Dyrness also said that “the existence of a need in and of itself does not signify a call to ministry”. I think this point is missing the core of Christianity and will effectually undermine, if not terribly misleading to the non-missionary reader. By and large more and more Christians think they need to have and develop some sort of ‘spiritual gifts’ FIRST before serving God. If we are to follow the authors’ proposal to join God where He is working, all Christians are called to ministry as God is working all the time! The world is in dire state of needs spiritually, and if we see an existence of need and do not emulate Jesus’ compassion in loving them enough to minister, we are definitely overlooking Christ’s command to pray for workers to be sent into a field ready for harvest (Matt 9:37-38). In all the technicality of ‘ministry’ and ‘spiritual giftings’, we forget that every Christians are called to evangelise, harvest and be builders of His kingdom.

Engel and Dyrness also points constantly to the differences between the modern and postmodern world and lump all issues raised under the reproach of modernity. There is seemingly an uncritical acceptance and accommodation to postmodern values and realities. But in reality, every era has its own challenges and difficulties just as modernism has. I believed post-modernism can also prove to be dangerous to the health of the church, and not just benefits. Among other things, post-modernism has allowed music to pre-empt the place of theology in defining true Christian worship. Christian rock which adopts its trends from the secular rock n’ roll style are creeping into the church worship service, often goes unchecked of its source and its motivation. Does this kind of worship revolution lead us to greater revelation of the truth, or further away from the genuine worship from the heart, sung through classical hymns and choruses of adoration and thanksgiving? In the name of postmodernism, I think the authors are guilty of redefining mission too broadly thus justifying a compromise of faith and sound theology because of cultural inclination towards ‘feeling’ and relativism.

The authors advocated a paradigm shift of the Western mission thinking to ‘kingdom paradigm’ where they return to biblical fidelity and doing missions the way God initiated. As apostle Paul rarely did his missions work alone, the mission agencies should characterize themselves as modern equivalents of biblical model of teamwork. Discussion on partnership between churches and mission agencies are greatly emphasized. Just like ‘no man is an island’, collaboration among Christian communities of different specialisation and skills should be highly exhorted. This book signifies the importance of ‘making disciples’ of the next generation of believers in order to raise up more Bible-based, Theology-sounded and Word-grounded believers for Christ. This notion will disturb the comfortable Western mission worker. I believed the world of missions is not as dim as discussed as changes and challenges mentioned are not entirely new. Some agencies and local churches are continuing their labour of love, and they are thriving and experiencing record growth in financial support and also in their reaching out to unreached people groups. Whether it is a model based on modernity approach, or model in response to postmodernism- as long as accountability, stewardship, strategic planning and a continuance in following the biblical model of teamwork with fellow saints around the globe is firmly established, the concept of mission will not be obsolete and will continue to flourish from one culture to another. Whether one agrees with the authors or not, it will challenge the minds of mission workers and all those who are connected with them. Maybe a case study of real people in real organisation would have sounded more convincing and compelling to read.

What’s so amazing about grace?

Book Review

Philip Yancey, What’s so amazing about grace? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1997).

In What’s so amazing about Grace?, Yancey opens his book by telling the readers that grace is ‘the last best word’, of which he tries to prove it throughout. Grace is the unmerited favour and forgiveness is the undeserved ‘gifts’ from above. Yancey expounds on what real grace is, based on the Scripture- scandalous. Real grace from God is amazing and incredibly boggling to the mind as it introduces a new theory in math that does not add up. We who deserved wrath received grace we do not toil nor earn. God is forgiving us, who finds it hard to forgive wrongs done against us of the size of anthills, of our mountainous debt! Real grace loves the unlovable, forgives the unpardonable, embraces the outcasts. The church is given this mandate to exuberate this real grace to the world. Sadly, most of us fall short of living what we preach, and many have chosen to be the agents of judgment instead of agents of His divine grace. Yancey, with the telling of histories and contemporary stories, is challenging the partakers of the divine grace to impart grace to the world of ungrace. When this takes place, we taste the incredible freedom from the bondage of unforgiveness and bitterness of our hearts.

Philip Yancey was awarded the Gold Medallion Christian Book of the Year award for this book in 1998 by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. It went on to be an immediate bestseller, for the obvious reason- we experience grace so rarely, let alone linking the word ‘amazing’ with it. This book brings back the biblical concept of grace- the core of Jesus’ message when he was walking on earth. It provokes my mind when all we are asked to do is to receive the love God has for us- accepting it freely. Truly, the world is starving for grace, and it is through this channel of grace, our hunger for love, justice, righteousness are satisfied and finds its rightful place.

Yancey guides the readers gradually to a clearer understanding of grace by using stories, in much the same way Jesus did! The honest stories of ungrace opens our spiritual eyes to see the world is in dire needs of real grace from the one agent that is able to give- the Christian community. Yancey does not provides systematic approaches and methods in giving grace for those whom we labelled as ‘undeserved’, nor does he teaches us how to forgive those who hurt us and brings us resentment. I believe this was left out intentionally -simply because there are no methods to remedy a bitter situation unless there is a change of hearts. ‘I am commanded to, as the child of a Father who forgives’. Utterly simple and utterly confounding. There is no place for grace if there are no potential reservoirs of God’s mercy.

Everyone who read Yancey’s book would be drawn into his genuine approach, his own vulnerability and his honest flaws. His point on churches being legalistic on trivial matters deserves applause. We have much to say against hairstyle, jewellery and fashion trends of our young people, but not a word about racial injustice and the plight of the destitute. Whatever happens to social actions? Whatever happens to exposing our people to contemporary issues of the nation and having an answer (biblically) to them? Have we been so inward looking that we lost the gist of being the light of the world and be the answer to the nation’s plight? This book is especially challenging and fearless in tackling the ‘uncommon’ or ‘unheard’ off issues such as homosexuality, politics, abortion and other tough issues that evangelical Christianity refuse to deal with.

God is a god of grace, not judgment. The church must be the instrument of grace, and not the channel of judgment and wrath. We are defeated of our efforts to shine if what comes out from us is darkness (ungrace), not light (grace). We must rebuke the spirit of distrust that hold the church down for centuries, and it all starts with us:
“Squeeze a rubber bulb, and droplets of perfume come shooting out of the fine holes at the end. A few drops suffice for a while body; a few pumps changed the atmosphere in a room. That is how grace should work, I think. It does not convert the entire world or an entire society, but it does enrich the atmosphere.” [emphasis mine-158]

I am reminded again that we are called to be the ‘aroma of Christ’ (2 Cor 2:15) among the people surrounding us. Let us not forget our calling as disciples of Jesus- to be the dispensers of God’s grace. This reminder to preach grace and forgiveness- ‘the talk’ of the Kingdom of God as the alternative to the pagan kingdom’s eye-for-an-eye concept comes in aptly for my church and ministry. Grace works on two levels. It transforms the relationship between God, and us; and transforms the relationship between the world and us. This book taught me about how the divine relationship can and should transform my earthly relationship with people. God went through such extent to show amazing grace to me, who am I to treat others any differently!

What is left to say now, in the words of Douglas Coupland, who coined the term ‘Generation X’:

“I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem to be capable of giving; to help me be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love.”

Piper, "Let the Nations be glad!"

Book Summary

John Piper, Let the Nations be glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions. 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2004).

Let the nations be glad! is Piper’s offering of a revised and expanded edition of a theological and biblical defense of God’s supremacy in all things. His work’s emphasis is on the application of the sovereignty and supremacy of God towards the area of world missions. Drawing on texts from both the Old and New Testaments, Piper’s basic aim of the book is to demonstrate that proper worship drives missionary outreach.

Part I deals with the purpose of missions (worship), the power of missions (prayer), and the price of missions (suffering). Piper relates missions to the supremacy of God by insisting that missions is not the chief end of the church, worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship therefore is the goal of missions because in missions we aim to bring the nations into the enjoyment or delight of God’s glory. Even more than that, the impetus behind true missionary zeal is a heart that is satisfied in the glory of God. Therefore, worship is also the fuel of missions which leads to a greater worship of God worldwide.

Then, Piper shows the key role of prayer plays in missionary effort. As the proclamation of the Word and deed of Christ goes forth to bring faith and obedience of the nations, prayer is the means to releasing the power of the gospel. Its purpose is to make known to all that the victory belongs to God and for His glory. Prayer is a “wartime walkie-talkie” given by God to call on him for air cover when we are on the frontlines of the battle. Piper closes Part I with a powerful and insightful section on suffering that will inspire many to count the cost of following Jesus. In fact, Piper believes that loss and suffering, joyfully accepted for the kingdom of God, will show the supremacy of God’s glory even more clearly than all worship and prayer combined.

Part II presents Piper’s thought on the eternality of hell, the necessity of the atonement, and the necessity of faith in Christ for everlasting salvation. In this section, Piper interacts with a number of different “theological’ views of eternal punishment, including annihilationism and speaks against the view that speaks of possible salvation of those who are ignorant of Jesus and his saving work (i.e. through other religions yet ‘fear God’). Since the incarnation of Jesus, all saving faith must be fixed on him and salvation is found in no one else but in the Son of God. Piper also deals with the concepts of “reached and unreached people groups”, the biblical phrase of “all the nations”, the Great Commission and related topics.

The penultimate chapter in Part III demonstrates how compassion for the lost is directly related to the passion for God. Here, Piper mainly elaborates on the work of his mentor, Jonathan Edwards (18th century pastor/theologian). If Jesus came not only to vindicate God’s righteousness and uphold God’s glory, but also to rescue sinners from everlasting misery in hell, so the church must follow in Jesus’ footsteps to be motivated the same. One great addition to this revised edition is a chapter on ‘worship’ where Piper clarifies its essence as an individual’s inner spiritual treasuring of the character and the ways of God in Christ, and being satisfied in Him.

Newbigin, "The Gospel in a Pluralist Society"

Book Review

Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1989)

This book is a penetrating analysis of contemporary religious pluralism. It touches many aspects on issues of the gospel, faith, tradition, culture, contextualization, and postmodernism. The one underlying theme may said to be the proclamation of the gospel in a pluralist society which is not domesticated within the assumptions of the modern thoughts, but rather challenges these assumptions and subject them under a new and critical light.

Newbigin develops his thoughts by showing why and how a Christian message can be conveyed and understood in a pluralist society. In religion, a pluralist tends to believe a transcendent is greater than a single philosophy can grasp hold of. He challenges this view by showing the claimants that they are asserting a source of knowledge on their own, establishing for themselves a point of reference which they deny to others. Newbigin also shows the common fallacies which are involved in a true pluralist view that is infiltrated with many assumptions from the Enlightenment and contemporary postmodern thought. There are accepted areas in which truth can be established, such as mathematics. He goes on to show that religion can be of this area of truth, and truth for all.

Newbigin also takes on issues of faith, reason and science. Newbigin’s engagement with Michael Polanyi and Alasdair MacIntyre treats this issue by showing how science does not have a privileged position in the discussion of what counts as public truth. From Polanyi, Newbigin deconstructs scientific knowledge by claiming that it derives as much from a faith commitment to the scientific community as theological knowledge from its own faith commitment. He argues that no one, including scientists or historians can completely stand outside the influences of their particular culture and tradition. All understanding whether religious or moral values, or scientific information involves a certain extent of faith and tradition. Science, for example, is counting on a socially embodied tradition that relies heavily on established doctrine which ultimately requires faith to function. Thus, there is no contention between faith and reason, but rather between different socially embodied traditions, and each attempt to narrate their interpretation of the world from their own rational framework. In doing this, Newbigin puts the whole issue of science and Christianity in a different light. Therefore, Christianity has no obligation to justify itself on the basis of secular reason, but rather must be seen as an alternative form of reasoning based on different presuppositions.

On the basis of this theoretical and social-scientific knowledge, as well as the exegeses of biblical passages, Newbigin contends that the best solution to the problem of a pluralistic culture is the local congregation proclaiming (rather than just defending or explaining) in word and deed the story of Jesus Christ as a story that places human, through a faith commitment in a society that witnesses to an alternative order. Since Christians believe the truth is revealed in Christ, we must form a responsible opinion about truth, committed to it passionately and publish it for all to share. Only in this way can the local congregation both display integrity, and submit one’s truth to the scrutiny of others- to be affirmed and modified. It is not hard to see how this relates to missiology. In terms of this view, gospel requires commitment and proclamation. This leads to a confirmation of its truth in various ways, or it may even lead to a revision of the Christian beliefs and practices.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Suffering Servant

The Suffering servant poem, Isa 53 (52:13-53:12), is one of the most familiar portions of the Hebrew Scriptures.(1) One of the most striking features of this passage is the unparalleled sufferings of the Servant.(2) The poem is divided into five stanzas (3) into three major sections: the servant’s future exaltation (52:13-15), his sufferings (53:1-9), and his ultimate triumph (53:10-12). For this reason, the final parts of Isa 52 is included because 53:10b-12 return to the subject of the Servant’s future triumph in terms reminiscent of 52:13-15, and should be studied as an entire unit.(4)

Who is this ideal servant? Recent studies have shown that many concurred that he is not Israel, because Israel can never restore itself to God and she needs the ministry of the servant. As Whybray and the others, they think that it could mean the anonymous Isaiah (so-called Deuteron-Isaiah) while some disagree as this person could not be merely any human, for he suffers to deliver people from the consequences of their sin.(5) The discussion of his identity is not within the scope of this paper. Furthermore, the Christian’ testimony is that there is one particular Jew who has lived up to the portrait offered by Isa 53, and that is Jesus Christ- the suffering and triumphant servant par excellence. (6)

This paper thus focus to present a Christological reading of Isa 53, both of his person and his work, from the perspective of Jesus himself and the early Jewish Christians attested by the NT documents. Prior to that, let’s look at the portrait of this servant described in Isa 53.

1. The Servant in Isaiah 53

When we look at the structure of the poem, each stanza reveals something different about the servant. He is exalted but shocking (52:13-15), rejected and despised by men (53:1-3), he suffers for sinners (“us”, 4-6), and in the end if he was not dead (although this seems to be the most obvious meaning), he was ‘cut off from the land of the living’ and was buried (7-9), and would receive his reward because through his innocence and righteousness, has made others righteous (10-12). This promise from Yahweh of the servant’s restoration alluded to 52:13-15, which speaks of his future exaltation.

The initial incredulity of the people and their rejection of the servant are both emphasized by his appearance and sufferings. He was a man of humility, without earthly grandeur of reputation, outwardly unimpressive and insignificant. His appearance is not attractive but disgusting (52:14). They simply do not meet the Jewish expectation as they have always viewed Yahweh’s servant as the majestic one.(7) He has none of the outward fascination of power, position, and success. No man would be fascinated with him. On the contrary, they are shocked by his lack of majesty. In fact, sin has been laid upon him (4). His sufferings therefore were even more inconceivable.(8) How could one so weak and so ‘ordinary’ be of any purpose?

There is a crucial development of the poem. Up to the point that the servant was despised by his contemporaries, who considered him stricken and having no significance on them, what they did not recognize at first was suddenly made clear to them. He was bruised and punished not for his own sin, but were in fact for their sins. He suffers not just innocently, but for someone else’s iniquity. This is an altogether new element in his portrait as the earlier servant songs though describe him as suffering; it was not for any third party.(9) This language of taking up and carrying supplies the idea of substitutionary or vicarious suffering, referring back to Leviticus. The sacrificial animal carries the sins of the sinners away so that the offender need not carry them anymore. As the animal dies in the place of the sinner-(10) so is the despised sufferer (the servant) took their iniquity upon himself and so procured healing and peace for them (53:5).

Even more shocking to his contemporaries, was his act of sin-bearing was done willingly and his work fulfilled the will of God. (11) There is a divine purpose in the suffering and death of the Servant. It was by the gracious purpose of Yahweh that he was bruised (10) and he was participating voluntarily in accomplishing it. Motyer understands the uniting doctrinal theme spoken here is “the understanding of the Servant’s death as a guilt offering (10b), a sin-bearing sacrifice which removes sin and imputes righteousness (11-12)”.(12) His death satisfies the needs of sinful people before a holy God, by restoring the broken relationship caused by sin.

Isa 53 does not end with the servant’s death however, because Yahweh intervened on his behalf. This was always the tendency of OT thought that piety and undeserved sufferings like the servant would be rewarded. Although there is no explicit mention of resurrection itself, the explanation of the events after his death indicates that he emerges in triumph, however densely expressed (10-12). (13) His life, far from being futile and barren, will be fruitful because he will see his seed (presumably, his spiritual children), his days prolonged, and he would be crowned with success. The meaning is that the work which consists in the exaltation of the servant is so awesome that people in far-distant places (nations) and exalted circles (kings) will be astonished.(14) Kings and nations will be amazed when they hear this miracle. His greatness and honor will be restored for he suffered for their sakes.

2. Christological reading of Isaiah 53

a. On Christ’s work- his vicarious suffering and death

Its relevance at this point is obvious: it anticipates one who would suffer and be held of no account, whose sufferings would be vicarious, on behalf of others, who would be killed and be accepted by God. There is little dispute that Isa 53 has become influential in the earliest Christian reflection on Jesus’ death.(15) Did Jesus anticipate suffering and rejection for his message and himself -that is, that Jesus saw himself in the tradition of the suffering righteous influenced by this passage? If we take this question seriously, we must ascribe to Jesus the consciousness of having been sent to fulfil this very task of forgiving sins.(16) Let us move from one formal quotation of Isa 53 by Jesus (Luke 22), and then towards other allusions which indisputably speak of his role of vicarious suffering and death.(17)

“And He was numbered with the transgressors” (Luke 22:37) has always been quoted to postulate a belief that Jesus fulfilled the redemptive work of the Servant in Isa 53:12. Jesus quoted this on the eve of his death is surely significant, and also indicates that his mind was preoccupied with that fact that he was going to be punished as a criminal and quoted this passage directly.(18) Furthermore, Jesus quoted with the formula of “It must be fulfilled in me”. From this observation, this quotation is hardly a casual ‘catch-phrase’ that comes out unreflectively. If Jesus saw Isa 53:12 finds it fulfilment in him, we can conclude that he did identify himself with the Suffering Servant. His chosen words emphasize that identification of the sinless with the sinners which was the essence of the servant’s vicarious suffering.

The ideas of suffering and servanthood also come together in Mark 10:45. This saying comes as the climax of the lesson on servanthood Jesus gave to his disciples after James and John’s request for privileged positions in his kingdom. To reinforce his point, Jesus uses his example of voluntary and self-sacrificial coming death which had in mind Isa 53:10ff.(19) Although it is not exact parallel as Mark here is concerned with service to men; but the servant in Isa 53 did benefit people by his suffering, and Jesus did accept his suffering in obedience to God. The connection is close in thought, which is the voluntary giving up of life which is essential to Isa 53.

Besides, the word ‘many’ is most probably an allusion to Isa 53, a deliberate echo to describe the beneficiaries of the servant’s sacrifice. This word would be hardly expected unless Jesus saw himself a parallel to the servant’s mission in the redemptive aspects of Isa 53, whose death will benefit others (including nations). He is sent and in the name of God is here to serve ‘the many’ whose life is forfeited through sin and guilt before God, and to serve to the point of offering his body and life as a ransom to all.(20)

Besides this, one of the clearest allusions is in the sayings of Jesus about the Lord’s Supper. (21) This passage indicates directly that the thought of Isa 53 lies behind the passages we mentioned above, especially the repetition of ‘many’ (Mark 14:24).(22) Although there could be many other OT references to the covenant (such as Exo 24:8 for ‘blood of the covenant’), some of the words are reminiscent to Isa 53:12; “he poured out his life”, “bore the sin of many”. Christ’s work is to re-establish the broken covenant, and this can only be done by him fulfilling the role of the servant in his vicarious suffering and death. Words from Isa 53 were specially chosen by Christ to highlight the vicarious nature of his mission.(23) “This is my body” and “this is my blood for the covenant” (Mark 12:22, 24) are a guarantee of Christ’s existence on their behalf. Jesus grants

“Those participating in the meal a share in the fruit of his vicarious death and causes them to be partakers in the new covenant and candidates for the messianic table fellowship in God’s consummate kingdom.” (24)

Many other scripture passages on Jesus’ actual sufferings recorded in the passion narratives closely tie in with Isa 53. For example, John 12:38 quotes Isa 53:1 regarding the people’s unbelief (cf Rom 10:16) towards his message. Isa 53:7 corresponds to Jesus’ agony on Gethsemane (Luke 22:44), and him wearing the crown of thorns (John 19:5) are signs of his affliction and oppression; “He was led like a lamb to slaughter” corresponds to Matt 27:31 “..and led him away to crucify him”; Jesus silence and held his peace before the Sanhedrin, the governor and king goes parallel with “yet he did not open his mouth”.

In addition to the three formal announcements of the passion in Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:33-34 and parallels, other passages that show Jesus’ consciousness of his mission coming as the servant in Isa 53 are the predictions’ passages: Mark 2:20, 9:12, 10:38, 12:1ff, 14:8; Matt 26:54; Luke 9:31, 12:32-33, 17:25 and many more. Although these are all without reference to any of the OT passages, the content of thought is that he must suffer (Matt 26:54, Luke 13:33) and that he fulfils the scripture (Mark 14:49). The close correspondence in thoughts and not in words between Jesus’ prediction of suffering and death must not be dismissed.

Certainly the early church made this identification and it seems much more likely that they got the idea from Jesus. Peter, one of Jesus closest disciple, no doubt had in his mind Isa 53 when reflecting on how Jesus set an example of suffering without retaliation (1 Pet 1:21-5).(25) Matthew also links Jesus with the servant clearly by his full-length quotation of Isa 53:4 (in Matt 8:17). Acts 8:32ff quoting Isa 53:7 regarding Philip’s preaching of the gospel to the eunuch should also be understood as the confirmation of the work of Christ fulfilling the servant’s task.

Even Paul’s theology of the death of Christ suggests the identification of Jesus with Yahweh’s Servant in Isaiah. For example, there is a direct quotation from 2 Cor 5:21 concerning him ‘who knew no sin’ clearly refers to Isa 53:6. The quotations from Isa 53 found in Rom 10:16 and 15:21 must have referred to the missionary preaching although it does not point to the peculiar work of the Servant. (26)

Other important Christological passages of Pauline epistles are 1 Cor 15:3, Phil 2:5-11 (discussed below), and Rom 5:12ff. 1 Cor 15:3 is the Lord’s Supper (see discussion above), and ‘that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures’ doubtless refer to Isa 53. Rom 5:19 also shows clearly that Paul had in mind the servant in Isaiah, alluding to Isa 53:11 for Jesus made many righteous through his obedience. We must not also forget that Paul was a trained Rabbi who knew the reaction of the Jew to the Christian proclamation of a suffering Messiah. The fact that Paul and Jesus followers continue to proclaim redemption based upon the vicarious suffering of Jesus provides us with the understanding that they did not cease to believe and employ a suffering servant theme that corresponds to Isa 53, which also startle and stumble many. (27)

Therefore, it is really questionable to assume that it would be possible for Jesus to unconsciously accepting the role of the suffering servant and left unaware and not having Isa 53 in mind. The probability remains strong that Jesus entertained an expectation of rejection, suffering, and death which was similar in his perspective with that of the Suffering Servant. (28) Furthermore, I believe and propose then that we can credibly reconstruct a mindset in which the early Christians did come to believe that Yahweh has acted through the suffering of Jesus in whom Israel’s sufferings were focused and carried a redemptive significance.

b. On his nature

Can we also glean ‘Christological’ portrait from the early Christians? I believe Isa 53 is also applied to Christ’s person. Isa 53:2 says the servant was misunderstood because of his unimpressiveness. Surveying the NT texts, they expected Christ to come in pomp and pride but his external appearance, especially with his claims to Messiahship, shocked them. (29) Jesus is but a Galilean peasant, a Nazarene carpenter, the son of Joseph who declared himself as the bread of life, the light of the world, and claiming God as his own Father- all this excited a combination of amazement, indignation, scorn and disgust from different groups of society. He was rejected because he was not such promised deliverer many expected. Even John the Baptist questioned Jesus’ identity! (Matt 11:3).

Men are represented as turning away in disappointment from this tender plant springing out of a dry ground- an unpromising surroundings. Men asked whether any good thing can come out of Nazareth (John 1:46). His birth was described as political impotence and religious decadence. (30) Finally, Jesus was rejected of men as predicted in Isa 53:3, “We don’t want this man to be our king” (Luke 19:14).

c. On his burial, resurrection and exaltation

Another clear allusion of Jesus fulfilling Isa 53 as the suffering servant is seen in his burial. The wicked generation who had a part in Christ’s death intended that his burial be as disgraceful as his death. Nevertheless, God intervened to cause Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man, to beg the body of Christ and bury it in a new tomb, a glorious burial because he is the sinless one. (31)

The consequence of this self-sacrifice is that Christ will see his offspring, fulfil his mission, be satisfied and justify many by his righteousness. Although some do not agree Isa 53:10-11 explicitly predicts the resurrection of the servant, it nevertheless does imply his restoration to life. (32) The fruit of Christ’s death is that he shall see His seed which refers to the household of faith. Jesus brought “many sons unto glory” (Heb 2:10). Christ himself in predicting his death earlier, alluded his death would bring forth much fruit (John 12:24).

Bauckham when interpreting Isa 52:13 rightly spotted the apostle John has taken it as a summary statement of the suffering servant which refers to Jesus.(33) In place of the passion predictions of the Synoptic gospels which record the suffering of the Christ, John has three passion predictions of the Christ being ‘lifted up’: John 3:14-5, 8:28, and 12:32-34. In these Johannine sayings, the lifting up or exaltation has double meaning. It does not just refer to the literal crucifixion when Jesus would be lifted up, but also figuratively means Jesus’ elevation to the status of divine sovereignty over all creation.(34) This then runs well with the understanding of Isa 53 regarding the humiliation and exaltation of the servant would startle and shock many. Therefore, the literal exaltation of Jesus on the cross to humiliate him was the same event that manifest Christ’ identity, thus drawing men to himself.

More precisely, we ask to what extent is this final exaltation of Christ? More than showing Jesus is the suffering servant (and remain a servant) in Isa 53, Paul in Phil 2:5-11 showed us that Jesus also fulfils the eschatological monotheism of the prophecies whose humiliation and exaltation together reveal the identity of the one God.(35) Jesus though is equal with God, through service and obedience and self-humiliation, renounced the outward majesty of the heavenly place for an ordinary human life. This act of sacrifice (he poured himself out) qualified him to have divine sovereignty over all things (exalt him), given by God. His exaltation is thus the highest position- not regaining the equality for he has never lost it, but rather “acquiring the function of implementing the eschatological sovereignty of God”.(36) This is the reward of the servant, Jesus; confession of all humankind that he is Christ the Lord, who saves and justifies many (53:11).


The sinlessness of the servant, his vicarious substitution for others, his meekness, and gentleness under cruelties, his triumph in achieving salvation of those whom he suffered, the circumstances of his burial and resurrection; all find their counterpart and fulfilment in the life of Christ. It is striking however, that when the NT speaks of Jesus in these terms, the contest is concerned not merely with a right understanding of Jesus’ mission, but with his followers’ willingness to walk the way Jesus walked. The quest for the identity of Isa 53 and reading it christologically must not blur our vision to the challenge which this chapter lay before us.

The challenge, or invitation, may be accepted by Israel as a nation or by the church as a corporate body, or by individuals who are willing to take it seriously. While Christians alone believed that only Christ alone met the challenge in the fullest sense, this passage is still relevant and should be speaking to us today.

“So the social order, the strength of numbers, good taste, ordinary human decency, and the justice of God are all in turn called in question by this topsy-turvy, not to say shocking, poem. This is the world that the reader is bidden to give his assent to- or rather, to enter. It is not an obviously appealing invitation.”(37)


[1] I am using Isa 53 as a convenient, though loose, heading to mean Isa 52:13-53:12.
2 Since Bernard Duhm in 1892, vast majority of scholars designate the literary unit 52:13-53:12 as the fourth Servant song.
3 So Oswalt, Motyer, to name a few. Contra Clines who divided into six units in David J. A. Clines, I, He, We & They: A Literary Approach to Isaiah 53. JSOT Supplement Series 1. (Sheffield, UK: JSOT Press, 1976) 11-14.
4 R.N. Whybray, The Second Isaiah. (Sheffield, UK: JSOT Press, 1983) 68.
5 John Oswalt, “Isaiah 51:13-53:12: Servant of All” in Calvin Theological Journal, 40/1 (Apr 2005): 90.
6 John Goldingay, God’s Prophet, God’s Servant: A study in Jeremiah and Isaiah 40-55. (Exeter: Paternoster
Press, 1984) 155.

7 Ronald Bergey, “The Rhetorical Role of Reiteration in the Suffering Servant Poem (Isa 52:13-53:12)” in JETS 40/2 (June 1997): 183
8 Sigmund Mowinckel, He that cometh: The Messiah Concept in the Old Testament and Later Judaism. Trans. G.W. Anderson. (Grand Rapids, MI/ Cambridge, UK: Eerdsman, 2005) 208.
9 Peter Wilcox and David Paton-Williams, “The Servant Songs in Deutero-Isaiah” in JSOT Issue 42 (Oct 1988): 96.
10 John Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah: Chapter 40-66. NICOT series. (Grand Rapids, MI/ Cambridge, UK:
Eerdsman, 1998) 386.

11 J. Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary. (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP, 1993). 432-3.
12 Ibid., 437.
13 N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God. (London: SPCK, 2003) 116. Contra Mowinckel who are quite sure what is here reported is the servant’s resurrection. This reading would be inevitable if we read it Christologically.
14 Claus Westermann, Isaiah 40-66: A Commentary. (Phil: SCM Press Ltd, 1969) 259.
15 J.G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered. (Grand Rapids, MI/ Cambridge, UK: Eerdsman, 2003) 811. Dunn disagrees with the total relevance of Isa 53 in influencing Jesus own mindset in mission, but I think we need to take into consideration that approximately 80 references to Isaiah in the NT that comes from Isa 53 (directly or indirectly) speaks volume into the kind of context that Jesus was operating.
16 Oscar Cullman, The Christology of the New Testament. (Norwich, GB: SCM Press Ltd, 1959) 61.
17 R.T. France, Jesus and the Old testament: His Application of Old Testament Passages to himself and his mission. (London, The Tyndale Press, 1971) 113-114.
18 Ibid., 115.
19 Christopher Wright, Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament. (London: Marshall Pickering, 1992) 154.
20 Peter Stuhlmacher, Jesus of Nazareth: Christ of Faith.
Trans. Siegfried S. Schatzmann. (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 1988) 34.
21 Cf the four passages in the Gospel accounts; Mark 14:24, Matt 26:28, Luke 22:20 and Paul quoting Jesus in 1 Cor 11:24.

22 Cullman, 64.
23 France, 123.
24 Stuhlmacher, 35.
25 Wright, 156.
26 Cullman, 76.
27 Richard Longenecker, The Christology of early Jewish Christianity. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1970) 108.
28 J.D.G. Dunn, “Messianic Ideas and their influence on the Jesus of history” in James H. Charlesworth (ed.) The Messiah: Development in earliest Judaism and Christianity”. (Minn: Fortress Press, 1992) 380.

29 John Brown, The sufferings and the glories of the Messiah: An Exposition of Psalm 18 & Isaiah 52:13-53:12. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1981) 190.
30 W.E. Best, The Saviour’s definite redemption: Studies in Isaiah 53. (Texas, South Belt Assembly of Christ, 1982) 11.
31 Many have said that the word ‘grave’ is metaphorical statement for death, and the word ‘rich’ stands for wicked as word ‘poor’ stands for godly. However, I find this interpretation is stretching the passage’s ideas.

[1] Brown, 303.
32 Richard Bauckham, God Crucified: Monotheism and Christology in the New Testament. (UK: Paternoster Press, 1998) 64.

33 Ibid., 65.
34 Ibid., 56.
35 Ibid., 58.
36 Clines, 62.



Bauckham, Richard. God Crucified: Monotheism and Christology in the New Testament. UK: Paternoster Press, 1998.

Best, W.E. The Saviour’s definite redemption: Studies in Isaiah 53. Texas, South Belt Assembly of Christ, 1982.

Brown, John. The sufferings and the glories of the Messiah: An Exposition of Psalm 18 & Isaiah 52:13-53:12. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1981.

Clines, D.A. I, He, We & They: A Literary Approach to Isaiah 53. JSOT Supplement Series 1. Sheffield, UK: JSOT Press, 1976.

Cullman, Oscar. The Christology of the New Testament. Norwich, GB: SCM Press Ltd, 1959.

Dunn, J.D. “Messianic Ideas and their influence on the Jesus of history” in James H. Charlesworth (ed.) The Messiah: Development in earliest Judaism and Christianity”. Minn: Fortress Press, 1992.

________ Jesus Remembered. Grand Rapids, MI/ Cambridge, UK: Eerdsman, 2003.

France, R.T. Jesus and the Old Testament: His Application of Old Testament Passages to himself and his mission. London, The Tyndale Press, 1971.

Goldingay, John. God’s Prophet, God’s Servant: A study in Jeremiah and Isaiah 40-55. Exeter: Paternoster Press, 1984.

Longenecker Richard. The Christology of early Jewish Christianity. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1970.

Motyer, Alec. The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP, 1993.

Mowinckel, Sigmund. He that cometh: The Messiah Concept in the Old Testament and Later Judaism. Trans. G.W. Anderson. Grand Rapids, MI/ Cambridge, UK: Eerdsman, 2005.

Oswalt, John. The Book of Isaiah: Chapter 40-66. NICOT series. Grand Rapids, MI/ Cambridge, UK: Eerdsman, 1998.

Stuhlmacher, Peter. Jesus of Nazareth: Christ of Faith. Trans. Siegfried S. Schatzmann. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 1988

Westermann, Claus. Isaiah 40-66: A Commentary. Phil: SCM Press Ltd, 1969.

Whybray, R.N. The Second Isaiah. Sheffield, UK: JSOT Press, 1983.

Wright, Christopher. Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament. London: Marshall Pickering, 1992.

Wright, N.T. The Resurrection of the Son of God. London: SPCK, 2003.


Berkey, Ronald. “The Rhetorical Role of Reiteration in the Suffering Servant Poem (Isa 52:13-53:12)” in JETS, 40/2 (June 1997): 177-188.

Oswalt, John. “Isaiah 51:13-53:12: Servant of All” in Calvin Theological Journal , 40/1 (Apr 2005): 85-94.

Wilcox, Peter and David Paton-Williams, “The Servant Songs in Deutero-Isaiah” in JSOT Issue 42, (Oct 1988): 79-102.

Ephesians Part 6

Ephesians 6:10-24

Theme: Stand firm in warfare.
Session goal: To create awareness on the incessant attack of the evil one which will continue until the day of Christ, and to discuss the spiritual warfare of believers and their need to make use of God’s resources for strength against such evil powers.
Target Group/ No of People: Young working adults (23-35 years old)/ 15 people

Outline: (Notes for Bible Study Facilitator are in Italics)


Many of the Ephesians believers had been worshippers of Artemis prior to their conversion. They depended on her for protection. In light of this, the Ephesus’ believers need to realise that in reality Artemis represented spiritual wickedness and Paul in Eph 6:10-20 discusses the spiritual warfare of believers and their needs to make use of God’s resources for strength against such evil powers.

1. Who are our enemies? Who are the rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms?

One of the church’s greatest demands is to discern between the spiritual struggle and other social, personal and political difficulties. We sometimes put too much effort wrestling with human adversaries instead of prayerfully warring against the invisible works of darkness behind the scenes.

2. List down all the six pieces of armour. What does each one signify? What is your strongest piece of spiritual armour? What is your weakest piece of armour? What can you do to strengthen your weak piece of armour?

Briefly explain the significance of each piece of armour. We need to be fully equipped, rather than just have the shield of faith but no helmet, or the sword without the belt of truth. Note: All the pieces of armour have connection with the word of God.

3. What is the mandate of putting the full armour of God? Is it an individual putting of the armour?

The exhortation in Ephesians are linked and directed both to individuals and to the corporate body. This is the dominant theme: the unity of believers thus the whole church is in the warfare together. As the Roman soldier did not fight alone, we too should stand against the spiritual wickedness in heavenly places as a united body. Our mandate in this context is to hold the ground and not to retreat in the face of wicked spiritual demonic powers.

4. Do we keep alert and pray always in all occasions? Have we been praying for all the saints that are in the same spiritual warfare with us? What should we pray for others? What does this suggest about your need of the prayers of other believers? Ponder on all the items we normally bring to God in prayer. Were they material gains? Were they selfish desires? Or were they like Paul, the boldness to declare the mystery of the gospel to all?

Pray together as a group for one another, and ask God to help you keep guard against the devil’s schemes. Pray also for boldness in speech and in deeds to preach fearlessly the gospel of Christ.


Many scholars believe that as the community of believers, we ought to step into the role of the Divine warrior to conquer the hostile powers. However, in Ephesians the body of believers does not appear to be portrayed in the imagery of an army who fight and conquer, rather are enjoined soldiers strengthened in the Lord to stand defensively (not conquer) against the schemes of the evil one. It is not only directed to individuals, but Paul had in mind the community concept. The church as a whole must put on the full armour of God. Prayer causes alertness and alertness keeps believers in prayer. If we are not alert and soften our guard of the evil one, we are blind to dangers and thus see no reason for prayer. We must be enveloped with prayer at all times and be alert with all persistence and petition.

Ephesians Part 5

Ephesians 5:3-6:9

Theme: Walk in love and in the light of Christ, fostering the right relationships.
Session goal: To learn how to walk in the light which pleases God and the proper code on conduct in families and employment.
Target Group/ No of People: Young working adults (23-35 years old)/ 15 people

Outline: (Notes for Bible Study Facilitator are in Italics)


Paul carries on exhorting believers to proper conduct of life. They are to walk in love as Christ has demonstrated by his sacrificial love. They are to walk in light, which pleases God rather than imitating the works of the evildoers in darkness. The later section (Eph 5:15-6:9) deals with the relationships in families and employment where intimacy and constant care can sometimes be trying. However, we have the Holy Spirit to empower us to live in the manner pleasing to God.

1. In terms of contemporary experience, what do you think is the meaning of each kind of bad speech in Eph 5:4? Do you indulge in this kind of speech? Do you think this will affect your testimony to your colleagues in the workplace? If they need to be replaced by thanksgiving, they must be in the forms of ingratitude. So, how are these forms of bad speech show the lack of gratitude to God?

Bad speech not necessarily means only vulgar words or obscene jokes. It could also mean silly talk that may be empty and speculative, even dangerous to our understanding of salvation and God. It refers to futile talk that detracts from the issues of faith and edifying discussion. Instead of flippant speech that dishonors God, we should voice thanksgiving to God for who he is and what he has done. Choose thanksgiving rather than speech that destroy each other. It would also affect your testimony of God in your workplace as people did not see any transformation with the way we speak thus render our faith void and empty.

2. Paul exhorts the believers not be drunk on wine, but be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18). Contrast the lifestyle of someone who is drunk with wine. Why do we need to be filled with the Spirit? Are there any evidences of someone who is filled with the Spirit?

Persons controlled by alcohol no longer control their actions. Likewise, those filled with the Spirit do not have control over their actions, but rather relinquish their will to the Lord and be directed to fulfill His purposes. It is a repeated action of filling by the Spirit no matter where they are or what they are doing. One who walks according to the Spirit does not gratify the desires of the sinful nature (cf Gal 5:16-18). And when one is filled with the Spirit, there are four resultant characteristics: speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music, thanking God and submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.

3. Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ is the concluding virtue in the walk of holiness. Eph 5:22-33 is the expansion of the concept of mutual submission.

a. If you are a married woman, share with the group the benefits of submission to a husband who loves his wife.

b. Why do you think it is hard to submit to a husband that mistreats and takes you for granted? Should we still submit to our husbands in this case?

c. If you are a married man, why do you think it is easier to have submission from the wife if you love her just as Christ loves the church?

d. What do you think are the problems of trying to love your wife if she ignores your leadership?

e. Eph 5:22-33 is God’s pattern of relationships between life- partners. How would you think you could improve on loving your spouses so it would reflect the original pattern God has purposed from the beginning?

4. How has your life benefited from the obedience and honor you give your parents? As parents, have we been diligent in bringing up our children in the training and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4)? Have we been too selfish in wanting to realize our own ambitions into the lives of our children (Examples: exerting our desire for them to be highly paid professionals like doctors, lawyers, architects et cetera)

5. In view of Eph 6:5-9, how can you approach your work responsibilities in a godlier manner? Have we been cheating our employer off the office hours to do personal stuffs (even if it is doing your daily devotional!)? Have we used the company’s resources for our own personal gain? If you are an employer, have you been treating your employees with fairness? Or are you treating them as mere slaves whom you threaten with harshness?


Believers are to walk in love just as Christ’s love compels us to do so. This walk in love includes also the abstinence from the evil practices of unbelievers. The evil practitioners are in darkness. We are saved from darkness into his marvellous light and are called children of light! (Eph 5:8) Therefore, we need to walk right by walking in the light and do not participate in the works of evil one. The instructions given in the household code are God’s formula for spouses, children, parents, slaves, and masters to walk wisely. We need not do by our own strength, and we have to be filled with the Spirit in order to consistently carry out the exhortations in love and in all sincerity; to please the Lord and to show proper love to one another.

Ephesians Part 4

Ephesians 4:1-5:2

Theme: Walk in unity and in holiness.
Session goal: To learn the manner of walk expected of us in this unified body.
Target Group/ No of People: Young working adults (23-35 years old)/ 15 people

Outline: (Notes for Bible Study Facilitator are in Italics)


Paul’s prayer in Eph 3:14-21 paves the way for the practical outworking of their position in Christ, outlined in chapters 4-6 of Ephesians. The revelation of the unification of Jewish and Gentile believers leads Paul to demonstrate the manner of walk expected of this body. They are to walk in unity (guided by love for God) and in holiness. For believer, both unity and holiness are essential. This chapter explains how a believer should not walk (4:17-19), and how they ought to walk (4:20-5:2).

1. Paul urges the believers to walk life worthy of the calling they have received (Eph 4:1). What does this ‘calling’ refers to? Is Paul talking about a special calling? If not, what ‘call’ is that? Share on how you can walk worthy of God in the marketplace.

‘To walk’ here is used metaphorically referring to our conduct or lifestyle. Its connotation is that the believer’s life should be worthy of the gospel of Christ. The conduct must be balanced with one’s call. Calling here refers to a religious call by God. It is often linked with election (Rom 8:28-30). In this present context, Paul might have included also the call to their union into one body, the church. It is again, refers both to individual and the corporate body.

2. The basis for Paul’s appeal for unity is reflected in the series of seven acclamations, each using the word ‘one’ (Eph 4:4-6). What do you think each of the common factors of Christian experience should contribute to your unity with other believers? Which one factor is lacking in our congregation and how this would hamper the unity of believers?

Explain briefly each ‘one’ as listed. Share with them that this treatise of unity is following after the pattern of the Trinity.

3. Paul further elaborates that unity does not mean uniformity. He analyses the means of preserving that unity of the body, by giving various gifts to the body (Eph 4:7-16). Do you understand the 5-fold ministries (or 4-fold as some scholars disputed) and their respective functions? What are the purposes for these giftings? How do you perceive our leaders have equipped our members to function as the body of Christ? If you are a leader functioning in this office, ponder about your current function and see if there is any improvement.

Briefly describe each offices that is to prepare the members for ministry, and to build the body of Christ into maturity, in one unity.

4. Have you put off the old lifestyles and put on the new one, and continually be made new in the attitude of your minds? (Eph 4:22-24) Read through Eph 4:25-32. With what aspect of speech do you have the most trouble in obeying the teaching of the Lord? What change would you like God to make in your pattern of speech in the future, for His glory?

5. Share what the Holy Spirit has done that truly transformed your life since you became a Christian. Are you still experiencing the deceitful and tricky nature of your desires in relation to other people? How have your mindset changed towards possessions?

Summary The Trinity is the integral part of this treatise on unity. The one body of believers are vitalised by one Spirit, so all of us have one hope. That body is united to its one Lord by each member’s one act of fact, and his or her identity with him is in the one baptism. One God is supreme over all and resides in all. All these components are united in the Trinity. God has given means for the body of believers to be united as one, and this could be achieved by God’s own power through the ministry of gifted believers whom Christ gives for the building of the church. The purpose is to bring all members of the body to the unity of faith and to the full stature of Christ; strengthened and growing in living union with Christ, the head of the church. Paul gives specific exhortations regarding the lifestyle of a new person in Christ. Clear contrasts are made between falsehood and truth, sinful anger and anger without sin, corrupt speech and edifying one. Paul urges the recipients to be kind and compassionate to one another, bearing with one another in love, exhibiting the same graciousness that God in Christ had demonstrated toward us.