Christians possess riches unknown to the world. Our heavenly treasures abound, and we praise God for the spiritual bounty He gives us in Christ (Eph. 1:3). We do not measure our wealth in dollars, land holdings, stocks, bonds, commodities, or other material possessions. All these riches are fleeting and attended by sorrow (Eccl. 5:10-17). Spiritual blessings are beyond the reach of moth and rust and thieves (Matt. 6:19-20). Here are just some of them: (1) Redemption from sin by God’s grace (Eph. 1:4-14). We are chosen, adopted, accepted, forgiven, saved, given an inheritance, and sealed. (2) Full assurance of understanding in Christ (Col. 2:2-3). His disciples abide in His word, know the truth, and are freed from sin (John 8:31-32). (3) Prayer (Phil. 4:6). Our Father hears the prayers of His children, so we continue earnestly in prayer (Col. 4:2; 1 Thess. 5:17). (4) The church (Eph. 1:22-23). We are members of Christ’s body and, therefore, “members of one another” (Acts 2:47; Rom. 12:4-5). What a rich blessing to be brothers and sisters together in Christ (Matt. 12:46-50). (5) An eternal inheritance (Eph. 1:18). Peter assures us it is incorruptible, undefiled, and reserved in heaven for us (1 Pet. 1:4). (6) A living hope (Eph. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:3). Our hope secures our souls because Christ arose from the dead (1 Cor. 15:19-20; Acts 24:15). (7) Joy (Phil. 4:4). We rejoice in the Lord always, in good and troubled times (James 1:2-4). God does not add sorrow to those He enriches (Prov. 10:22). The world tries to do so, but we are of good cheer because Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33).
Gallup reported this week that “U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time.” “In 2020, 47% of Americans said they belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque, down from 50% in 2018 and 70% in 1999” (news.gallup.com). New Testament Christians know the spiritual value of being members of a local body of saints (1 Cor. 12:12-27). The Lord arranged local churches for our spiritual edification (which includes worship), the spread of the gospel, and relief of needy Christians (Acts 2:42-45; 4:32-35; 11:22; 20:28-35). Churches of Christ assemble on the first day of the week to offer God worship “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). Scripture shows how true worship honors God and strengthens Christians in the faith (1 Cor. 14:26; Eph. 5:19). Therefore, membership in a local church is a responsibility of great importance to Christians (Acts 9:26-28; Rom. 16:2). Being a member of a local church identifies each Christian as part of a working group of believers striving to do God’s will (Rom. 12:4; Eph. 4:16; Rev. 2-3). Christians will be active members of faithful congregations (there is no floating membership or “membership-at-large” in the New Testament). May each Christian be committed to fully participating in assembled worship and the other scriptural work given the local church by the Lord (Heb. 10:24-25).
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4–6, NKJV).
God made “us alive together with Christ” when we were dead in our trespasses and sins (v. 5). Three questions arise as we consider God’s tremendous work of saving sinners. (1) Why save us? Three elements of God’s character answer why God saves sinners: His mercy, love, and grace (v. 4-5). God’s mercy is rich, His love is great, and His grace is available to all (Titus 2:11; 3:4-5; 1 John 4:10-11). Without God’s mercy, love, and grace, we would all face the wages of our sins, eternal death (Rom. 6:23). (2) Who is saved? The “us” who are made “alive together” constitute the church, the body of Christ, the household of God (Eph. 1:22-23; 2:14-22). The Lord adds saved people to His church (Acts 2:47). Therefore, the church is essential; it is the saved ones (Eph. 3:10-11; 5:25-27). (3) Where is salvation? Salvation is “in Christ.” Sinners are raised out of the death of sins to “sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (v. 6). The “heavenly places” signifies the spiritual relationship of salvation in Christ. In the “heavenly places,” we have fellowship with Christ, every spiritual blessing, and we stand with Christ in the battle against the devil and evil (Eph. 2:6; 1:3; 6:10-13). God still The riches of God’s grace continue to be proclaimed in the gospel to everyone, offering salvation “by grace…through faith” (Eph. 2:7-8).
28 he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: 29 “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; 30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation 31 Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, 32 A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.” (Luke 2:28–32, NKJV)
Simeon was a just and devout man waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promised hope (Lk. 2:25). God promised he would not die before seeing the Lord’s Christ (Lk. 2:26-27). His praise of God with the child Jesus in his arms directs our attention to the wondrous salvation God brought to the world in Jesus. I’m impressed by Simeon’s repeated mention of things that belong to God. Perhaps you will be, too. 1) Your servant (v. 29). Simeon viewed himself as God’s servant. What an excellent way to see ourselves (Mk. 10:43-45). 2) Your word (v. 29). Simeon saw God keep His word and was ready to die. Trust in God’s word prepares us to depart the world in peace. 3) Your salvation (v. 30). God is the preparer and provider of salvation, deliverance from our enemies of sin and death (Isa. 49:6; 52:10). The Savior has come, and His gospel proclaims salvation to the whole world (Mk. 16:15; Rom. 1:16). 4) Your people Israel (v. 32). The Messiah came into the world through the nation of Israel, blessed among the nations (Rom. 9:4-5). But now, regardless of race and nationality, Gentiles and Jews are called by the gospel “to the mountain of the Lord,” “the house of the God of Jacob,” the church, the “Israel of God,” the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Isa. 2:2-3; Acts 2:47; Gal. 6:16; Col. 1:13; Gal. 3:28-29). Praise God for His spiritual provisions of salvation in Jesus, the Savior of the world (1 Jno. 4:14).
The apostle Paul continues the theme of Christ’s preeminence by noting His relation to the church and His power over death. The headship of Christ over His church immediately draws our attention to the authority of Christ and His prerogative to oversee and direct His church (Matt. 16:18; 28:18). All things concerning the church are “under His feet,” subservient to Him (Eph. 1:22). The church does not belong to us; it belongs to Jesus. The church is composed of Christians; each one is a member of His body (Acts 2:47; 1 Cor. 12:12-13, 26-27). The church of Christ is His body and is valuable because Jesus loved it and died for it (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25-29). To devalue the church is to devalue Jesus Christ. Christ also has power over death. He is the beginning (the origin, the source) of resurrection. Without Him, there would be no power over death. As the “firstborn from the dead,” His resurrection attests to His power and superiority over death (Acts 2:24, 30-32; Rom. 1:4). “Alive forevermore,” Jesus has “the keys of Hades and of Death” (Rev. 1:18). With just a few sentences, the Holy Spirit has made the case that Jesus Christ is King, Redeemer, Creator, Firstborn over all creation, Sustainer, Head of the church, and Supreme Victor over death (Col. 1:13-18). Jesus has preeminence in all things. Our faith is secure, our salvation is sure, and our hope is complete in Christ.
13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13–14, NKJV)
The letter to the Colossians displays and describes the preeminence of Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:13-20 details His primacy and our incentives to entirely submit our hearts and lives to Him. Today’s passage unequivocally states that Jesus has a kingdom and, therefore, a King (v. 13). It also views Jesus as the Redeemer whose death gives forgiveness of sins (v. 14). The kingdom of God (also called the kingdom of heaven, Matt. 13:11; Mk. 4:11) exists today. Therefore, Jesus is now reigning as King (Heb. 1:8-9). The Son’s kingdom is the church He built, the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 16:18-19; Heb. 12:28). Sinners escape the “power of darkness” (sin and death) by entering “the kingdom of the Son.” This transfer from the spiritual realm of darkness to the Son’s kingdom happens when the Redeemer’s blood is applied to the sinner, forgiving his or her sins (Col. 1:14). The blood of Jesus is the ransom price paid to deliver sinners (1 Tim. 2:6). Redemption is only in Christ (v. 14; Acts 4:12). The gospel calls sinners to Christ for forgiveness through His blood. When sinners believe in Jesus Christ, repent, and are baptized into Christ, the blood of Jesus washes away their sins (Acts 2:37-41; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:26-27). Jesus, the King, and Redeemer, continues to save sinners. He is worthy of our undying praise and devotion (Rev. 5:8-14).
We necessarily infer when we see a building that someone built it. A house does not build itself. Its design, foundation, supports, and construction reflect its builder’s intelligence, skill, and purposes. The Scriptures apply this simple principle to God. 1) God built the universe (Gen. 1:1; Job 38:4-6). NASA just landed a spacecraft on Mars. That engineering feat did not happen by chance. It was the result of the skillful use of knowledge. Likewise, the heavens and the earth do not exist by chance, but by the Creator’s intelligent design and power. 2) God built marriage (Gen. 2:21-24; Matt. 19:3-6). Marriage between one man and one woman for life is God’s design for societal order and spiritual development (1 Cor. 7:1-5; Eph. 6:1-4). Human distortions of the builder’s plan and purposes of marriage disrespect its Architect while jeopardizing souls (Rom. 1:24-32; Eph. 5:22-33; 1 Pet. 3:1-7). A return to God’s teachings about marriage strengthens families, societies, and souls. 3) God built the church (Matt. 16:18; 1 Cor. 3:9-11). The church’s teachings, organization, and work have been sliced and diced by the will and doctrines of men (Gal. 1:6-10; Col. 2:8, 20-23; 1 Tim. 4:1-3). Christians are God’s house if we remain faithful to Him (Heb. 3:6-14). Therefore God, the Grand Builder of all things, deserves our honor, respect, and obedience.
27 All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You. 28 For the kingdom is the Lord’s, and He rules over the nations. (Psalm 22:27–28, NKJV)
King David looked beyond his rule over Israel to the kingdom over which his seed, the Messiah, would rule (Psa. 89:3-4, 34-36). The nations would turn to God and worship before Him (Matt. 8:11). Christ’s messengers, the apostles, called the nations to the Lord’s kingdom by preaching the gospel of the kingdom to the world (Isa. 2:2-3; Matt. 13:18-23; Acts 1:8; Rom. 1:1-7; 16:25-27). Preaching the same gospel continues to draw people of every nation to worship before the Lord and King, Jesus Christ (Acts 2:32-41). The church built by Jesus is the kingdom of prophecy (Matt. 16:18-19; Mk. 9:1; Col. 1:13-14). Christ the King adds lost souls to His church (His kingdom) when they believe and obey the gospel (Acts 2:40-41, 47). King David knew God rules over the nations of men (Psa. 22:28). We (and our rulers) do well to remember the Lord God is Sovereign of every nation, and He rules in the affairs of men (Dan. 4:25, 32, 35). History is a boneyard of kingdoms, weak and strong. God’s kingdom is the only one that endures (Dan. 2:44). The Son of God reigns today at God’s right hand in righteousness (Psa. 110:1-2; Acts 2:33; Heb. 1:8-9). The gospel calls us to bow our knee to Jesus to be blessed by Him with salvation. To fight against Him and His gospel brings inevitable, eternal defeat (Psa. 2:10-12; Rom. 2:4-11; 2 Thess. 1:6-10).
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25–27, NKJV)
Paul uses marriage to illustrate the relationship between Christ and His church (Eph. 5:32). We gain essential insight into the love a husband is to have for his wife from it. 1) Christ’s love for the church was sacrificial (v. 25). He gave Himself, His life, for her. There is no greater love (Jno. 15:13; Rom. 5:8). Husbands live (and are willing to die) for their wives. 2) Christ’s love for the church was purposeful (v. 26). His every act was unselfish. The salvation and spiritual safety of the church was foremost to Him. Every husband can improve his marriage by keeping his wife’s welfare as a fundamental priority. 3) Christ’s love for the church is constant (v. 27). Christ did not love for a day, a season, a moment in time. His love endures with the hopeful expectation of the church’s eternal glory (Rev. 21:1-4). Likewise, a husband vows “for better or worse” with a commitment to be constant and faithful to his wife. He is helpful as she tackles life, rejoicing in her triumphs and enduring in his affection. Her holiness drives his decisions. She is his life and love, and he cherishes her (Eph. 5:28-29). A God-fearing husband learns the love of Christ for the church and gives that love to his wife.
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. (Ephesians 5:22–24, NKJV)
Secular feminists think this is sexism, male chauvinism, and bigotry. This is a gross misunderstanding and misrepresentation. The relationships of every organization or institution include roles and assignments that enable it to function successfully. Without such structure, relationships fray and falter. So it is with marriage. God-given roles in marriage accomplish their God-given purposes (Gen. 2:18-25). The husband’s role in marriage is to be a servant-leader. He is “head of the wife” like Christ is to His church. The wife’s response to his role is submission. She willingly puts herself under his leadership, not as a fearful slave to an overbearing tyrant, but as a respectful helper who respects and trusts his leadership. Husbands strengthen their marriages when they step up and become spiritual leaders in their marriages. Wives strengthen their marriages when they respect and help their husbands do so. These divine assignments are not about superiority and inferiority. They are about mutual love and respect with Christ at the center of the marital relationship. Unselfish service is at the heart of successful marriage.