Friday, 4 December 2020

Romans Chapter 3

 


In Chapters 1 and 2, Paul sets out why everybody—the entire human race—is under God’s condemnation, non-Jews because they suppress the truth by their wickedness (1: 17) and the Jews because they possess God’s law but don’t obey it (2: 27).

In Chapter 3, Paul concludes the case for the prosecution, so to speak, and begins the case for the defence.

He continues…

3: 1-4

Then what’s the advantage of being a Jew? Is there any value in the ceremony of circumcision? 2 Yes, there are great benefits! First of all, the Jews were entrusted with the whole revelation of God.

3 True, some of them were unfaithful; but just because they were unfaithful, does that mean God will be unfaithful? 4 Of course not! Even if everyone else is a liar, God is true. As the Scriptures say about him,

“You will be proved right in what you say,
and you will win your case in court.”
So, if the Jews with their Law and their direct line to God and the gentiles, with their natural conscience, both get the same deal with God, then what’s the point of having the Law? This is where Paul begins Chapter 3: Then what’s the advantage of being a Jew? (v.1)
  • How does Paul answer this?

The Jews have the ‘whole revelation of God’, which is a seriously big deal. Verses 3 and 4 need unpacking a bit.

Paul is still answering the question. He says this:

  • Just because some of the Jews were unfaithful, God is still true, and his word is also true. In a chaotic world where most people are powerless, that is an important thing to know. There is something solid to stand on.

  • Then he quotes Psalm 51—that is, David’s confession—which says:
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say,
and your judgment against me is just.

(or, in the version Paul quotes, ‘You will win your day in court’.)

Even if you’re the one being proved guilty, at least you know what the truth is. You’re not being judged against some made-up standard.

Notice that Paul is only interested in proving God to be true—even at his own expense. He isn’t interested in people looking for a way to justify their behaviour. As far as he’s concerned, Chapters 1 and 2 cover that—people suppress the truth in wickedness and end up under condemnation.

Verses 5-8 pose an important question about the righteousness of God.
“But,” some might say, “our sinfulness serves a good purpose, for it helps people see how righteous God is. Isn’t it unfair, then, for him to punish us?” (This is merely a human point of view.) 6 Of course not! If God were not entirely fair, how would he be qualified to judge the world? 7 “But,” someone might still argue, “how can God condemn me as a sinner if my dishonesty highlights his truthfulness and brings him more glory?” 8 And some people even slander us by claiming that we say, “The more we sin, the better it is!” Those who say such things deserve to be condemned.
Probably some of us have struggled with questions like this, and some teachings about God’s grace can sound a bit like this. The more I sin, the more righteous God appears. Paul will develop the point in later chapters.

Paul dismisses the argument (v.8), and he’s right for two reasons:
  • God’s righteousness isn’t defined against our sin. He is righteous anyway because he’s God. Even our very best deeds are tainted.
  • Since I am unrighteous, I cannot presume to judge God, anyway.
  • What do you think about this?

Verses 9-20

In this section, Paul uses quotations from the Psalms and Isaiah to underline the fact that all people, Jews and non-Jews, are under the power of sin. The Jews are not ‘better’ than the others in this, but they ought to have better information.

Well then, should we conclude that we Jews are better than others? No, not at all, for we have already shown that all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are under the power of sin. 10 As the Scriptures say,

“No one is righteous—
not even one.
11 No one is truly wise;
no one is seeking God.
12 All have turned away;
all have become useless.
No one does good,
not a single one.”
13 “Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave.
Their tongues are filled with lies.”
“Snake venom drips from their lips.”
14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “They rush to commit murder.
16 Destruction and misery always follow them.
17 They don’t know where to find peace.”
18 “They have no fear of God at all.”

19 Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. 20 For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.

Paul has previously made the point that the Jews have the Law of Moses and everyone has the ‘natural law’ that God has written into the creation.

One way of looking at this ‘natural law’ is that everyone has certain moral standards that they live by.
  • What are these moral standards?
  • Do we succeed?
Paul draws from several Old Testament places (Psalms 14; 53; 5, 140, 36 and 10, and Isaiah 59) to show that everyone is a sinner and deserves condemnation, their talk is foul, he says, and their hearts are full of murder and destruction.

Of course, only the Jews have the Law, but it spells out for them what should be clear to everyone, that people don’t know where to find peace and they have no fear of God at all.

In fact, Paul concludes, that The law simply shows us how sinful we are.

For people serious about being godly, this is a great advantage.

That really concludes Paul’s case for the prosecution.

Everyone is a sinner, not that they have merely messed up once or twice, but their whole orientation is away from God.

  • The Jews are no better than the Gentiles, but they have the great advantage of having God’s law ‘spelled out’ for them in the scriptures.
  • No-one has any excuse before God, but especially not the Jews.

This is the Bad News—now he goes on to present the case for the Defence—the Good News.


Verses 21-31
But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. 22 We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.

23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26 for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.

27 Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. 28 So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.

29 After all, is God the God of the Jews only? Isn’t he also the God of the Gentiles? Of course he is. 30 There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. 31 Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfil the law.
In the final section of the chapter (21-31), Paul comes to the point he’s been building up to. God has made a way for us to be righteous without having to keep the law.
v.22 We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.
This is the solution to everyone’s basic problem.

It isn’t sufficient to say that God is righteous, so he condemns the whole human race to destruction. God can do that: but it doesn’t benefit him. He made us to glorify him in life, not in death.

Also, at some level, everyone wants to be right with God (or the Universe, or whatever). We are always trying to find ways to excuse ourselves—to justify our bad behaviour, even when we really know this is pointless.

Who are we kidding?

The more we try to make ourselves feel better, the more we condemn ourselves.

But it’s okay. We don’t have to live under condemnation. And we don’t have to go around comparing ourselves with other people.
v.23, 24 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.
  • Do you agree with Paul that ‘everyone has sinned’?
  • How do we sin?

(Sin isn’t really about doing bad stuff – that’s a symptom of sin – it’s really about making our own stuff more important than God.)

A lot of people don’t understand why Jesus needed to die. They don’t get the sacrifice thing – it is quite foreign to our way of thinking.

But sin—disobedience to God—requires death. Something has to die. In the Law of Moses, an animal died as a representative, a substitute.

And Jesus is the perfect substitute, the perfect sacrifice … as John the Baptist cried out
Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
(John 1: 29)
Some people struggle to believe that Jesus died as the punishment for our sins—but it is a central part of the Good News message.

v.24
God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins
Despite our sin, God makes us right—he justifies us—through Jesus’ death.

Jesus is the only person who never deserved to die—the only person who wasn’t a sinner, yet: 
God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
(2 Corinthians 5: 21) 
God made the world perfect, ‘very good’ (Genesis 1: 31) and that included the people. As part of this perfection, God gave Adam and Eve free choice; he gave them an instruction not to eat the fruit of a certain tree because If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die (Genesis 2: 17). 

They chose to do it – and so death came into the world – also lies, shame and deceptions.

In choosing to ‘eat the fruit’, they chose to become judges in their own right, always choosing between good and evil, rather than simply enjoying God.

The result of this is death. Physical death: most obviously, the murder of Abel (Genesis 4: 8, and that everybody dies), also spiritual death: the whole human race became separated from God.

Outside of God, we are judged by our ‘knowledge of good and evil’. We know right from wrong. Of course, we are found guilty and we die, separated from God.

Think about this.
  • Do you believe that you are guilty before God?
  • Do you believe that everyone, even ‘good’ people, are guilty before God?

We know right from wrong – yet we choose wrong, sometimes, at least.

Nevertheless, God loves us. He loves every person born into the world with the same intensity with which he loves his own Son, Jesus. He is not prepared to see us all die in unbelief.

So, Jesus came. v.25:
For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.
When we accept by faith that Jesus died in our place, we are ‘saved’. As the old King James Bible puts it (1 Peter 3:18):
For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.
In Romans 3, Paul gives us two key ideas:
  • Grace: the idea that God acts to save us purely out of his generosity and love, and not because of anything we could do to deserve it, and
  • Faith, which is how we get access to God’s grace.
He also gives us the key teaching, that Jesus died as a sacrifice for sin in our place. He died instead of me.

And that’s huge!

Romans Chapter 2


Welcome back to our study of Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians.

As before, I’m going to drop a series of discussion questions. Some of these will have very straightforward answers that you can find in the text. Some of them will be less clear-cut, but it’s important to talk about and explore these things together as we grow in our knowledge and understanding of Jesus Christ.

There are two mistakes (at least) that we can make as we read this chapter.
  • We can look at it with our ‘Christian’ understanding of God’s grace, and misunderstand what Paul is saying.
Paul is developing his teaching about grace, but he doesn’t really get to the point until Chapter 5—so, have patience! At this point he’s explaining why we need grace.

  • We can easily misunderstand what Paul means by ‘Law’. This is a bit confusing because he seems to mean two things.
On the one hand, he means the Law of Moses, the Torah – the Ten Commandments etc. This is a very specific body of teaching the Jews had but the Gentiles didn’t.

On the other hand, he is talking about the ‘natural law’ of God, that everyone has because it is evident in the Creation (Chapter 1: 18-20). This is our basic sense of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ that we mentioned last time.

Paul makes little distinction between these, for example in Chapter 2: 14, 15.

The Case for the Prosecution Continues …

Verses 1-4 

Paul carries on from the previous chapter. Remember, Paul has been talking about people who know the truth about God but reject it, so God has ‘abandoned them’ to do whatever badness they have in mind. Now, he’s talking mainly to people with a Jewish background.

You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things. 2 And we know that God, in his justice, will punish anyone who does such things. 3 Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God’s judgment when you do the same things? 4 Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?

People from a Jewish background—much more than anyone else—with their knowledge of the Law of Moses and God’s promises, have no excuse when they do bad things.

Let’s just take two things in Paul’s list in chapter 1 verse 29 (Paul does like a good list!): quarrelling and deception.

In the Jewish law, people didn’t have to like one another, but if they had a dispute, they were supposed to take it to a judge for a decision. They weren’t supposed to get into personal disputes.

And deception is in the 10 commandment where it says (Exodus 20: 16) that they should give false testimony—and of course, that is about the intention to deceive.

  • Why does Paul say that the Roman Christians deserve God’s judgement?

Moving on… 

Verses 5-11 
But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed 6 He will judge everyone according to what they have done. 7 He will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good, seeking after the glory and honour and immortality that God offers. 8 But he will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and instead live lives of wickedness. 9 There will be trouble and calamity for everyone who keeps on doing what is evil—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. 10 But there will be glory and honour and peace from God for all who do good—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favouritism.

You see, it’s not really anything to do with religion. God doesn’t really care what you call yourself, but He’s all about people who will reflect his glory and love in the world. So, it matters how you live; what decisions you make from day to day. It matters how you treat each other and how you regard Him.

(It’s easy to jump ahead here and say that it’s all ‘by faith’. Paul will make that point, but the basic thing is that he wants us to live in a way that pleases him.)
  • (5-11) According to Paul, how does God judge people?

Verses 12-16
When the Gentiles sin, they will be destroyed, even though they never had God’s written law. And the Jews, who do have God’s law, will be judged by that law when they fail to obey it. 13 For merely listening to the law doesn’t make us right with God. It is obeying the law that makes us right in his sight. 14 Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. 15 They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. 16 And this is the message I proclaim—that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone’s secret life.
Wow, verse 12 seems pretty hard!

But Paul has already established that ‘they are without excuse’ in the last chapter—and here he goes on to say (vv.14 and 15) that if they do what they know to be right, they won’t be condemned. Verse 16 is the point: the day is coming when God … will judge everyone’s secret life. And this is why Jesus’ teaching is different from the Jewish Law. That was all about what you do; Jesus is all about who you are.

Paul talks a lot in verses 12-16 about ‘keeping the law’. Again, this appears to go against what we know of the Gospel, and what Paul himself goes on to explain in the next couple of chapters. But remember what Jesus said about being angry and committing adultery in Matthew 5: 21-30. It’s what’s in your heart that matters. This is what he is saying in verses 14-16.

Verses 17-20
You who call yourselves Jews are relying on God’s law, and you boast about your special relationship with him. 18 You know what he wants; you know what is right because you have been taught his law. 19 You are convinced that you are a guide for the blind and a light for people who are lost in darkness. 20 You think you can instruct the ignorant and teach children the ways of God. For you are certain that God’s law gives you complete knowledge and truth.
  • What was the role God intended the Jews to have?

Verses 21-24
Well then, if you teach others, why don’t you teach yourself? You tell others not to steal, but do you steal? 22 You say it is wrong to commit adultery, but do you commit adultery? You condemn idolatry, but do you use items stolen from pagan temples? 23 You are so proud of knowing the law, but you dishonour God by breaking it. 24 No wonder the Scriptures say, “The Gentiles blaspheme the name of God because of you.”
So, the Jews were supposed to be guides for the blind and lights for people who are lost in darkness (v.19), but Paul says—just as he did at the very beginning of the chapter—'you say it’s wrong to do these things, but you do them anyway.’

It’s great to have a high moral code, but it’s useless if you don’t keep it.

The Jews had a law about marriage and adultery (not so much the Gentiles, adultery is basically sleeping with someone else’s wife). It’s a gross betrayal of trust.

So, knowing this, if you marry someone, and promise to be faithful to them forever (or until one of you dies), and then you later go and marry someone else, you have betrayed her. Have you not? 
  • What is Paul’s particular message to the Jews (verses 19 and 20)?

Verses 25-27
The Jewish ceremony of circumcision has value only if you obey God’s law. But if you don’t obey God’s law, you are no better off than an uncircumcised Gentile. 26 And if the Gentiles obey God’s law, won’t God declare them to be his own people? 27 In fact, uncircumcised Gentiles who keep God’s law will condemn you Jews who are circumcised and possess God’s law but don’t obey it.
The Jews have a very strong sense that they are special—God’s chosen people—and the Christian Jews had this idea too. But Paul is making the point that having all this knowledge of God is only any good if it’s actually put to use in a person’s life.

  • What does this mean: (v.27) … Gentiles who keep God’s law will condemn you Jews who … possess God’s law but don’t obey it?

Verses 28 and 29
For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. 29 No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by the Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.
This is the point that Paul has been developing through this chapter. God isn’t interested in your religious label or affiliation, or whether you were born into a particular tribe. True, Jewishness was a great privilege because it brought the Law of Moses and all the promises that went along with it; it provided an opportunity to know God—but if the Jews haven’t used these advantages, then their Jewishness actually becomes a hindrance and brings a greater judgement.

  • (28, 29) Paul takes the Jewish Law very seriously, as he points out in Chapter 11. He is proud of his Jewish heritage, however, how does he define Jewishness in these verses? 
  • Looking back through chapters 1 and 2, which verses stand out particularly? Why?



Sunday, 22 November 2020

Ephesians Study: 2: 1-10



Paul has been talking about the authority that Christ has established by rising from the dead and ascending to heaven, and that the church—his body, his earthly expression—is central to this in some way. 

He continues with another long sentence, overflowing with passion. 

Ephesians 2: 1-10 

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us // up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 

There’s a before and after thing going on, BC and AD, hinging on v.4 but God. 

Children of Wrath (vv.1-3) 

Ephesians 2: 1-3

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 

Paul is blunt. You were dead in trespasses and sins (v.1). A ‘sin’ is an error or a shortcoming (hamartia), a ‘trespass’ is like a boundary violation, or breaking a particular law (παράπτωμα)—they are both sufficient to kill us: All have sinned; the wages of sin is death. 

This was the whole story of our lives. We were all in bondage to sin of one sort or another, and in particular the prince of the power of the air (v.2), otherwise known as the accuser or ‘devil’ (diabolos 4:27; 6:11). 

The diabolos, the prosecuting counsel, has us bang to rights—and we know this. We are utterly lost outside Christ. I think it’s hard for us to see how lost that is, but Paul takes no prisoners: 

You were dead… 

We recognise that once we were in this state and that Christ has transformed us. We are redeemed! 

By ‘you’, Paul means the Gentiles, but in reality (v.3 like the rest of mankind) everyone was in the same condition. We, and everyone else outside Christ, are sons of disobedience, the children of wrath. 

  • ‘You were dead’. In what respect is this true? 

But God (vv.4-7) 

4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus 

We said at the end of Chapter 1 that Christ is risen from the dead and exalted to the Right Hand of the Father, and that we are his body. He has all authority in heaven and on earth and that power is situated in us, his body, the church. 

So, God … made us alive together with Christ … and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus… (vv.4-6). We should probably take a moment with that. 

Even though we’re in Christ, we have a problem understanding the magnitude of what God has done for us, of what he has invested in us. 

  • We struggle to believe in anything supernatural and, honestly, it makes us a bit uncomfortable. 
  • We don’t think we deserve any favours from God. (We’re right, but this is grace. And it’s not really about favours for us, anyway.) 
  • We think that, somehow, we have to grow the kingdom of God by our own efforts, which is just a silly idea. 

He has made us alive together with Christ and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in just the same way as he did with Jesus (1: 20) 




He made us alive 

He gives us life; we are born again from an incorruptible seed (John 3: 16; 1 Peter 1: 23) so that we can produce everlasting fruit (John 15: 8, 16; Gal 5: 22, 23). God’s original commission to the Man and the Woman was to be fruitful (Gen 1: 28); he has made that possible once again. 

He raised us up 

Romans 6: 4: just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 

Romans 8: 11: he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. 

Compare: Col 3: 1 

So, is this now or is it yet to come? 

Clearly the resurrection of the body that Paul describes in 1 Cor 15 is yet to come, just as Jesus’ kingdom is yet to come. But also, as Jesus kingdom is here now, as we walk under his sovereignty, so as we bear witness to his resurrection, his resurrection lives in us. 

He seated us with Christ (cf. 1: 20) 

Colossians 1: 1-3: For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 

This is what makes martyrdom not just possible, but sort of inevitable, at least in the teaching of the apostles. 

‘We were dead’, Paul has told us, and we have ‘put to death’ that ‘dead’ life and we have ‘put on Christ’ (Romans 3: 14; Gal 3: 27). 

Remember John 14: 1-7

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 

  • What are the implications of this for our lives? 

v.7 

… so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 

There are two things here. 

First, God is showing his amazing grace to the whole of his creation, the demonstration of his love in bringing life out of death and order out of chaos. 

  • A demonstration to the world. 
  • A demonstration to the Powers. 

As we’ve just seen. 

And second, we are the beneficiaries of this. We live in this reality. 

vv.8-10 

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 

Saved by grace vv. 5 and 8

… by grace you have been saved (v.5) … For by grace you have been saved through faith (v.8) 

Paul uses the perfect tense; this is something that has been completed. We have been saved. That work is done, and it was nothing that we did. We believed: that’s it. 

This reinforces the sheer enormity of God's mercy, love, grace, and kindness which has brought about such an altered state of existence for Christians. 
Richard Carlson 

Let’s take another moment to consider the narrative of this. We were dead in our sin; subject to the prince of the power of the air; children of wrath; but God because of his character (because he is rich in mercy, and in his grace—remember Exodus 34: 6: The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness) has made us alive, raised us up and seated us with Christ. 

  • Where is Christ (Eph 1: 21)? 
  • Where are we? 

His workmanship (vv.8-10) 

This reminds me of Adam and Eve in the Garden with God—his workmanship created for good works. He has re-created us through Christ. 

We were dead, but he has given us life, he has raised us and seated us with Christ. Literally, there was nothing we could do to help this process … we were dead. 

vv.8,9 this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 

So… Why has God done this

For good works 

While our own efforts can get us nowhere, in Christ it is a different matter. 

First, he works in us… 

We are his workmanship; God is re-establishing the order of his creation in the church. When we pray ‘Your kingdom come’, this is what we mean. 

Second, he works through us… 

He created us for good works. 

We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 

Isa 26: 12 

O Lord, you will ordain peace for us,
for you have indeed done for us all our works. 

I think several things flow logically from this. You may disagree, in which case, please do so. 

1. God’s holy people are the means by which Jesus’ power and authority is revealed in the world until he returns. 

2. The church, the community that they establish, is like a bridgehead of his kingdom in this world. 

3. The church is under Christ’s authority—in fact it is Christ’s authority. We are no longer under the authority of Satan. 

We could say a lot more than this, but you get the idea. Of course, all kinds of practical problems immediately arise, some of which Paul will address in the rest of the book.

Ephesians Study: 1:15-23

Ephesians 1: 15-23 (ESV) 



For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all. 

First response: 

  • What things immediately stand out to you? 
  • If Paul were standing here now, what would you ask him about this letter? 

This is another passage written as a single sentence, this time building to a crescendo of glory;  it is one of a couple of ‘apostolic prayers’ in this letter. 

  • Why does Paul write his prayer into his letter? 

Paul is both praying for them as he writes, and also providing a model of ‘strong’ prayer. 

Paul’s Prayer 


1. For this reason (15). Paul’s prayer springboards out of his celebration of God’s revealed mystery in Christ in the first section of the Chapter. 

2. He links himself to the Ephesian believers (15): I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints. 

3. He gives thanks for them (16): I do not cease to give thanks for you. 

4. Then he prays for their spiritual insight (v.17): that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him… 

…and then for three specific things: 

5. that you may know … the hope to which he has called you; 

6. what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints (v.18), and 

7. what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe (v.19). 

Let’s unpack those a bit to see what we can learn from them. 

This is the kind of prayer that has the potential to change our lives. Paul is encouraging the Ephesian believers, and us through them, to align ourselves with the risen Christ. To see things from his perspective, and to see our lives in the context of his victory. 

Paul has heard about them 

In the New Testament we see quite a lot of the churches in Asia (modern day Turkey). In Revelation 1-3, written about 20 years or so after this letter, we see a very mixed picture. Some of the churches are doing well, even in the face of hot opposition, others are compromising or seem apathetic and comfortable. In Revelation 2: 4 we learn that the Church at Ephesus has abandoned the love they had at first. 

… but this is not what Paul has heard: 

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints (v.15). 
  • How can we be sure we haven’t abandoned for ‘first love’? 

Their faith is more than a set of beliefs, it is making them stand out as distinct in their culture. They love God’s people, and this is a sincere commitment to put other people’s well-being ahead of their own … which is what Jesus did for us. 

He does not cease to give thanks for them. 

Paul is praying for them regularly. Prayer isn’t supposed to be about crisis management—Remember Tim, he needs our prayers. Of course, we should pray for people who are facing difficulties, but maybe it’s more important to pray for people when they are not having problems. 

And Paul is giving us a template here, a model prayer. 

He prays for their spiritual insight. 

[I pray] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him… (v.17). 

‘The Spirit of wisdom and revelation’ is a strong phrase. What does it mean? 

Paul doesn’t pray for their circumstances. He might have prayed that they would be spared persecution, poverty or sickness—but he doesn’t. Instead he asks for the breath of God (the Spirit) to give them wisdom. Specifically (vv.8-10) this is about making known … the mystery of his will … as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in him [Christ]. 

And revelation. That is: ‘the ability to see things that are hidden’, through their relationship with Jesus Christ. 

In part, this is the same thing, to understand the will of God, but also, they—and we—must understand what is going on around them, spiritually. 
  • Are they struggling against Demetrius the Silversmith (Acts 19: 24)? 
  • Are they struggling against evil men, or the demonic spirit of Artemis, or Caesar? 
  • Or the Roman governor, or the religious Jews? 
As they witness for Christ in the great city of Ephesus, they need a strategic picture, a sense of how we fit into the big picture. And so do we in the Dove Valley, or Stoke on Trent, or wherever we find ourselves serving Christ. 

  • How do we see our strategic position? 

Paul goes on to pray that the eyes of their hearts would be enlightened. This is in line with the Spirit of revelation, but more specifically: 

Hope 

That you may know what is the hope to which he has called you… 

In other words that their present circumstances, good or bad, won’t define their lives, that they will live in the light of their salvation. This is important for their spiritual health. 

We need hope for ourselves, but (as we shine like lights in the world), we must also be a source of hope to others. 

  • How can we be a source of hope to others? 

Inheritance 

what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints …

Much of the Bible speaks of inheritance. A promise of inheritance is what defined Israel—and in v.14 Paul has mentioned their inheritance, which the Holy Spirit guarantees. 

This is a big topic—too big to do anything like justice to here. I know I promised to look at it this week, but I’m going to put it on a back burner right now and hope of being able to pick it up again at another time. 

But suffice it to say this: 

There is our inheritance in Christ, which Paul mentions in vv. 11 and 14) … and there is Christ’s inheritance in the saints (that’s us), which is what he is talking about here. 

So, finally: 

Power 

what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe… 

We like the idea of power. The power to get wealth, right? The power to defeat our enemies. Gifts of power in the church? 

What power is Paul talking about here? 

  • The power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him at the right hand of the Father. The power that transforms death into resurrection life. 

That is—our death, as well as Christ’s. Check Gal 2: 20. 

  • The power over every ‘name’ anywhere, ever. Paul contrasts the present age and the age to come, where the risen, glorified King Jesus, who isn’t tainted by sin, is already invading the present age though his people. They don’t see it fully, yet (and they will lose their ‘first love’), but this is why they need the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. 
  • The power to take ordinary people—the most tragic and broken people—and make them life-givers. 
  • It’s a hope beyond the present world; the power to heal and transform sin into eternal life. 

This is the kind of thing we should be praying for each other. 

In the dark and brutal world of Ephesus in the pagan Roman Empire, the ‘church’, this little community of Christ-followers, were demonstrating what the kingdom of God was like. 

  • There, Caesar reigns. Here, Jesus reigns. 
  • There, the ultimate power is the fear of death. Here, the ultimate power is self-sacrificing love. 
  • There, the winner takes it all. Here, we especially value the broken, the poor, the isolated, the weak and the infirm. 

The Powers 

He raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 

We’ll discuss these in more detail later (cf. 2:2 and 6:10-20). 

As Paul teaches us very clearly in Philippians 2, Christ Jesus was in the place of God and ‘emptied himself’, descending to the lowest place, embracing death, and so God has raised him up to the highest place. 

He—Jesus—is the ultimate authority in the universe. 

And finally 

He put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all (vv.22, 23). 

How do we start to understand that? 

Christ’s ultimate authority in the universe is expressed through the church. He takes ordinary flawed people like us and makes us his dwelling place. (He takes our mess and makes it his message.) 

We (take a good look around) are the mean of delivery for God’s power in this world. The body of Christ: the demonstration of God’s sovereignty to the world. And this is also a demonstration to the heavens. 

This is incredibly deep and far-reaching. The church is the place where Jesus is king—the literal kingdom of God. 

The church is the place where every aspect of earthly ‘power’ comes under the sovereignty of Christ.

But we do need to have a conversation about how we understand that word … church. 

Ephesians Study: 1: 3-14

Ephesians 1: 3-14 (ESV) 


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. 

Paul’s style 

The first thing we notice in reading this passage is that it’s very dense. Paul packs a lot of big ideas into a very short space. There is a vivid intensity to the writing that his hard to see through. It’s as if he’s taken the whole of the Book of Hebrews and crushed it into 12 short verses. Huge ideas seem to tumble over one another in their excitement to be heard. 

The second thing we notice is breathlessness—especially if we are reading aloud, and especially if we’re using an older or a more formal translation. This is literal breathlessness. Verses 3-14 are written as a single sentence in Greek, though most translations break it up. As we read it, it can be hard to find a pause to breathe. 

  • Why would Paul open his letter with such a long sentence? 

There is a strong element of performance in this. As a Pharisee, Paul had probably been trained as an orator. While most of his Jewish peers would have been literate (not so much the Gentiles he’s writing to), they would not have had easy access to texts. Texts had to be hand-copied onto hand-made paper or parchment and were therefore very expensive. So, he engages with them through the spoken word. 

At the start of the letter, he seeks to grab the audience’s attention. 

In 6: 21, 22 it looks as if Tychicus is being sent to them with the letter. One can imagine him and Paul rehearsing how he was going to deliver it. 

What’s Paul Saying? 

We will have to break the section down into smaller pieces to get much sense out of it. 

William Barclay says: 

[The section vv.3-14] is so long and complicated because it represents not so much a reasoned statement as a lyrical song of praise. Paul's mind goes on and on, not because he is thinking in logical stages, but because gift after gift and wonder after wonder from God pass before his eyes. 

So, Paul, towards the end of his life, is writing to encourage and build up the young church at Ephesus, and he is still overwhelmed with excitement and amazement at what God has done. He’s like a kid in a sweet shop. He wants the receivers of the letter (including us, at 1900 years remove) to experience what he is feeling. 

We are Chosen: vv.3,4 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. 

Jesus said: John 15: 16: You did not choose me, but I chose you… 

If we chose God first, that would give us a position of supreme power, and it would reduce God himself to the level of a man-made idol. 

Isaiah 44: 13-17 
The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. 14 He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar, and the rain nourishes it. 15 Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. 16 Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” 17 And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!” 

That’s ridiculous! 

God is not an idol, and cannot be reduced to a man-made representation. 

The only reason we get to ‘choose’ God at all, is because he is God! He made us to fellowship with him in purity; he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. 

  • What are the consequences for our faith that God chose us? 

God has chosen to bless us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places… 

We’ll talk about this more when we look at the first part of Chapter 2. He has chosen to ‘speak a good word’ to us. 

God has chosen us to be holy and blameless before him. 

Like priests… in fact, exactly like priests. 

  • How were OT priests chosen? 
  • How were they prepared for service (roughly)? 

They were different—separated—by birth and by function. When they were ‘priesting’ they were also physically distant because they were holy. 

In the modern Western church, we do not see ourselves as separate from the world. In fact, we have made an evangelistic point of appearing to be like the world. 

For the early church in a place like Ephesus, believers—saints—had no doubt that they were different. If they lived out the teaching in this letter, they would be startlingly different from their neighbours. This fact might well have cost them their lives. 

  • How important is holiness? 

God’s Plan: vv.5, 6 

In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 

We often allow ourselves to become hung-up on the word ‘predestined’, but actually, Paul is reiterating what he just said, that he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world

Where does this leave our free choice and our moral accountability? 

That’s a fair question, and a very big one. We are not going to do it justice here, but… 

God created us with a purpose—to be holy and blameless before him, and all that that entails. We bear his image, and we shine like lights in the world … but only in so much as we choose to. 

The prevailing situation on earth is that, without taking very positive steps to be disciples of Christ, we remain conformed to the pattern of this world. 

He chose us, but we must reciprocate that choice continually. This is why Paul repeatedly tells the people he corresponds with to live like this, not like that, as we shall see in chapters 4 and 5. 

I don’t want to go into the Roman practice of adoption, except to say that it was to do with inheritance rights. As in some cultures today, adults could be adopted and then groomed to become an heir (example: Julius Caesar and Octavian). 

God, our Father, has adopted us to be joint heirs with Christ. 

Gifts vv.7,8: 

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 

He has ‘lavished’ his grace upon us (I’m thinking of salt and vinegar on a round of fish and chips and the thought is making me hungry). He lavished his grace, but not carelessly. He did it with wisdom and insight (or discretion). 

As a result, we are we are redeemed or ‘saved’; our trespasses (moral sins) are forgiven

  • What does ‘redemption’ mean to you? 

The Meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything vv.9,10: 

[He has made] known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 

If Ephesians has one single key verse (it’s debatable, but) I think it’s v.10 

What is the purpose of ‘all this’—of everything that has ever happened? If God is the all-wise, omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent Creator, his creation must necessarily have a purpose. 

Let’s park the idea of ‘things’ for a moment, and think of what is currently disunited … those are the things that he is in the process of uniting in Christ. Let’s think that through for a few moments. 

  • What divisions are we most aware of right now? 

Ethnic, religious, cultural, economic, political. Hurts, traumas, family rivalries, disagreements and dislikes. Arguments and disputes. 

And then the spiritual ‘things in heaven’… 

This is the mystery of his will. A ‘mystery’ in Scripture is something revealed that has hitherto been hidden. God is showing us something amazing. Barclay says: 

all history has been a working out of this process. Paul says that through all the ages there has been an arranging and an administering of things that this day of unity should come. 

Jews and Gentiles: vv.11-14 

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. 

The word translated as ‘plan’ here is oikonomia—literally, household management or stewardship. This is what God has been doing since the Fall—and what the descendants of Adam should have been doing. 

‘We’ here refers to Jews. Paul is writing as a Jew, and we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory, so the Jews who believed in Christ got there first, and in him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. 

Actually, the Gentiles knew this already, because it was obvious to them. Having received the Holy Spirit and a hope in Christ, so that their lives made sense; it was the Jews among them who were struggling—and that’s why Paul put this in.

Ephesians Study: Introduction

Handle with Care 



As evangelicals, we believe that the Bible is the ‘Word of God’. We believe that the truth about God and his creation is revealed through the pages of Scripture. 

That’s a very big belief—and it’s good to think about what we mean by it … and I’m sure that we each have our opinions. 

However, it’s quite easy to confuse the whole counsel of God with my current understanding of the truth. Or with what Pastor So-and-so used to teach, back in the day. 

It’s likely that we have a base-line understanding of ‘truth’ or ‘God-knowledge’ that was established some time ago, a sense of ‘orthodoxy’ or ‘sound teaching’, and that everything we hear now has to be compared with it to see if it measures up to that standard. 

But that isn’t really reliable. 

It’s much safer to assume that our grasp of the truth is only small, and that God is very, very big. We should approach his Scriptures with humility. 

So, here is the challenge: how can we understand what the Bible, or its authors—or its Author—is saying to us, and not import our own pre-existing ideas? 

There is always the danger, when we read the Scriptures, that we simply reinforce our opinions. We must try to avoid this. 

Thomas Long writes: 
“Fundamentalists, charismatics, social activists, feminists, evangelicals, traditionalists, liberationists—all of us, in fact—go to the texts of the Bible and return with trophies that are replicas of our own theological image. It is no easy task genuinely to listen to the voice of Scripture rather than merely to hear the sound of our own echoes.” 
  • How can we understand what the Bible is saying to us?

When we read the Bible, it ought to challenge us deeply. It should be an uncomfortable thing. It is declaring God’s holiness, and we have a way to go yet. 

Most of the people who reject Christ reject the image of him that we present and not the real Christ that the scriptures reveal. So, we must teach ourselves a habit of open-heartedness toward what the Spirit of God might be saying to us, as we read. 

Reading the Letters

As I said, we believe that the Bible is the ‘Word’ of God—that it is ‘God-breathed’ (2 Timothy 3: 16)—in much the same way that God’s breath (or ‘Spirit’) was present in the creation (Genesis 1: 2) and put into Adam (Genesis 2: 7) to make him alive. 

So, as we read the scriptures, we expect God to ‘breathe’ into us and give us life too. 

Nevertheless, we have a tendency to impose our own views, our own interpretations, and our own culture onto the Bible. This is especially true of the NT letters, where the writers address their audiences very directly. It’s easy for us to assume that ‘you’ means ‘us’. 

It kind of does. But we are (literally) reading the mail of people who lived 1900 years ago. The world we live in is very different from the world Paul inhabited. 

So… 

The apostles’ letters were written to interpret the teaching of Jesus to certain local churches in the Greek-speaking Roman empire. We stand in the same place in the biblical story as these people, but we live in a very different cultural setting. 

It’s a bit uncomfortable to say that in an Evangelical church, but it must necessarily be so. As we read a text like Ephesians, we have to translate Paul’s teaching into our own context. 

I think there are three basic steps we should take in any Bible study. 

  • First:
we should think about the book’s original audience:

    • What language was the Letter to the Ephesians written in?
    • When was it written? …and how was the world different then? Are there ways in which it hasn’t changed? 
    • What kind of writing is this?
    • Who wrote it?
    • To whom was it written?
    • What was its original purpose?
    • How would its original audience have understood it? What lessons would they have taken from it? That’s a really big question—but a very important one.
The answers to some of these are quite obvious, others less so. No matter how much study we do, we will never really get inside the skin of the ancient Ephesians, but we should definitely consider the questions. 

  • Second:
What lessons does it hold for us now?

There will be some timeless Spiritual truths, but other things might need to be interpreted differently in our context. An example of this might be ‘slaves’ in Chapter 5. 

  • Last, but definitely not least:
What is the Holy Spirit saying to me today?

How is God breathing into me as I read this?


The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians

Overview

Ephesus was a big city on the Aegean Coast of what is now Turkey, a bit south of modern Izmir and roughly opposite where Samos is. It had roughly 100,000 people, and something like half of them would have been slaves. It was a port, and a political and cultural centre, it was also home to the library of Kelsus and a famous temple to the goddess Artemis. 

Now, its ruins are dominated by its 25,000-seat theatre, its paved streets, and its large civic buildings. 

Content

In this letter, Paul summarises the gospel, particularly as it relates to the formation of the church (i.e the community of Jesus-followers) and explains how it should impact every aspect of our lives. 

One of the big themes in the letter is the way God uses the church to challenge and frustrate the dark spiritual powers that rule the present world. 

Chapters 1-3 recap the Gospel story:

  • God raised Jesus from the dead and exalted him to his Right Hand; he has done the same for his church. 
  • In Christ, God has united the Jews and the Gentiles into one family. 
Chapters 4-6 give the practical application of this: 

  • Therefore, be united in Christ and live appropriately. 
  • Put away the ‘old’ and put on the ‘new’. 
  • Worship God with singing.
  • He gives instructions for Christian households, and finally,
  • He gives instructions for resisting evil spiritual forces.

Ephesians 1: 1

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:

Paul introduces himself as an apostle of Christ Jesus. 
  • What is an apostle?
(Mark 3: 14; Acts 26: 16-18; Acts 13: 1-3)

The recipients of this letter are ‘the saints’ ‘in Ephesus’ and ‘faithful in Christ Jesus’. 

  • What’s a ‘saint’? 

They are called ‘saints’ (hagioi) because they have been made holy by the Holy Spirit within them (1 Cor 3: 17; 6: 19). 

Only God is holy. If we are going to be holy, it is only through his intervention by Christ’s cross. He makes us holy; in fact, he has made us a temple for the Holy Spirit (compare: Ephesians 2: 19-22). 

Ephesus’ 

In some manuscripts, the name ‘Ephesus’ is left blank, so that this could be used as a circular letter. 

  • What other circular letter in the NT was sent to Ephesus?

Friday, 3 July 2020

Covid 19 Guidelines for Returning to Church


This is a boiled-down version of the Government’s guidelines for re-opening places of worship, as they apply to the Dove Church.

From the 4th of July, we will be able to gather in church to worship, subject to certain restrictions and guidelines. 

General Points


There is no 30-person-limit in place, but everybody must be able to ‘socially distance’ at all times. The rule is 2 metres or ‘1 metre plus’.

The guidelines suggest arranging an ‘informal community behaviour agreement’. If you have any particular suggestions, please share them.

The underlying principle behind the Government’s guidelines is to ensure the safety of the public—including ourselves.

Services should be as short as reasonably possible. Afterwards, participants are encouraged to ‘move on promptly’ (we won’t be serving coffee for the first few weeks).

The service in church will necessarily be truncated, though there will be opportunities to share in prayer, testimony, etc., and to hear a message. Sung worship will not be included in the service. As usual, we will include it in the online version, which will be available on YouTube from Sunday evening.

(The songs will be recorded following the service.) 

Hygiene

  • All ‘shared surfaces’—tabletops, counters, light switches, door handles etc. will be disinfected before and after the service.
  • The hand-towels will be removed from the toilets; these have been replaced by electric hand-dryers, and paper towels will also be available.
  • Hand-gel is available throughout the building, and a ‘touch-less’ gel-dispenser is (or shortly will be) located outside the toilets.
  • We won’t be using hymn books—we also recommend that people bring their own Bibles, rather than using the red ones in church.
  • Tablecloths will be removed from the round tables to allow easier cleaning.
  • Soft toys for children that are hard to clean will also be removed.

It isn’t feasible to provide ‘one way’ access to the building, so we request that everyone is very polite and ‘gives honourable preference to one another’ to avoid blocking the lobby.
Test and Trace

We will be taking the names of everyone who attends church in order to provide contact details in case anyone does contract the virus.
If you are symptomatic

If you develop symptoms of Covid-19 (a new continuous cough, a high temperature or a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell) you should not attend, but self-isolate at home with other members of your household. 

Face coverings


Evidence suggests that wearing a face covering does not protect you. However, if you are infected but have not yet developed symptoms, it may provide some protection for others you come into close contact with.

Face coverings are not a replacement for social distancing, and hand washing, etc.

Masks are available if you wish to wear them:
  • Thoroughly wash your hands before putting them on and taking them off.
  • They should cover the mouth and nose and fit well around the face.
  • Face coverings should not be used by young children or those with respiratory conditions.

Other vulnerabilities

  • Those of us over 70 years of age are advised not to attend, regardless of any other medical conditions.
  • If you have a health condition such as diabetes or hypertension that would make you particularly vulnerable to this virus, we strongly advise you to stay at home, even if you have not been ‘shielding’.

And, of course, if you or a member of your household becomes symptomatic, you must self-isolate for two weeks.

In spite of all this, we are absolutely delighted to be able to worship in church again. Please join us if you possibly can.