The Mystery Revealed in Christ

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Reading the Word

Ephesians 3:1–13 (ESV)

1 For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Throughout the Old Testament, there are promises of a future day when God would work his salvation for his people. There was the promise of a Savior who would come and a Messiah who would sit on the throne of David. However, no one really knew how these things would be fulfilled. They simply trusted God’s word.

Paul tells us that Jesus is the fulfillment of those promises. He is the mystery now revealed. We should not think of “mystery” as a riddle to be solved, but as something that was not yet revealed. In Jesus, God’s plan of saving his people comes into full view. The Son of God came into the world as a King, but a King who would die for his people to save them and give them eternal life. Paul tells us that God’s eternal purposes are now “realized in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 11). And we are now called to place our faith in Jesus as the fulfillment of those plans. Praise God for his perfect plan!

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To Us a Child Is Born

Isaiah 96 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Isaiah 9:6 (ESV)

6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Take time today to thank God for Jesus Christ, the child who was born into the world to lead us and save us. We have a wonderful King who rules over us in love. Praise his name!

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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God Offers Peace to All

Luke 213 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 2:8–14 (ESV)

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus, the Messiah, had been born, but there was no one to celebrate the event. An angel went out to a nearby field and told some shepherds about what had happened. The shepherds were fearful, but the angels told them that Jesus had been born as a Savior for all people. There was no reason to be afraid, but this was cause for celebration! The angel was then joined by many other angels and they praised God for his grace.

The song of the angels was a praise to God for bringing peace on earth, but it is important to notice that peace was not for all, but for those with whom God is pleased. The Bible teaches that God sent his Son to save mankind, but only those who turn to Christ in faith will be saved. This is how we please God, by believing his word. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that it is impossible to please God without faith.

Our sin has put us at odds with the holy God, but he has offered peace to all who will place their faith in Jesus Christ. This Christmas, be sure to accept the greatest gift ever given.

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So That You May Believe

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Reading the Word

John 20:30–31 (ESV)

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Understanding and Applying the Word

These verses tell us why John wrote his Gospel. He wrote so that readers might know Jesus and believe that he was truly the Christ and the Son of God. John makes his case throughout his Gospel by recording Jesus’ words where he claims to be God and he also makes his case by recording the miraculous signs that Jesus performed to validate that what he claimed was true. Of course, the greatest proof that Jesus was who he claimed to be was the resurrection.

It is often said that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Well, John begins his book by making the extraordinary claim that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). A few verses later, John tells us that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). That is truly a great claim! However, John goes on to provide the extraordinary evidence. He tells of Jesus turning water into wine, feeding a great crowd with only a few fish and small amount of bread, walking on water, healing a man born blind, raising Lazarus from the dead, and ultimately rising from the dead himself. That is extraordinary evidence!

Jesus was God in the flesh and John wrote so that we would know and believe that God had visited mankind and provided salvation and eternal for all who would turn to him. What an amazing Savior!

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Who Is Your King?

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Reading the Word

John 19:1–15 (ESV)

1 Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. 2 And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. 3 They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. 4 Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” 5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” 6 When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” 7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” 8 When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. 9 He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

12 From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” 13 So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. 14 Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” 15 They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

The situation quickly spun out of control for Pilate. He sought to appease the bloodthirsty crowd, but could not. Then he was told that Jesus was not just a man, but one who claimed to be the Son of God. At this revelation, Pilate questioned Jesus and declared his authority over Jesus. However, Jesus told Pilate plainly that his authority was only what had been given to him from above. Pilate again sought to release Jesus, but the crowd would not allow him. It was very clear that Pilate had little or no authority over anyone or anything surrounding this situation. Finally, Pilate asked the Jewish people if he should crucify their King. Shockingly, the chief priests cried out, “We have no king but Caesar.”

After years and years of waiting for the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah, he finally came. However, when he came, rather than a grand welcome, he was largely rejected. Ultimately, he was sent to a cross to be crucified. In the end, the King of the Jews was rejected in favor of Caesar. The kingdom of man was chosen over the kingdom of God. We have the same choice before us. Will we choose Christ and his kingdom or the kingdom of man and its rebellion against God. Who is our king?

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So You Are a King?

John 1837 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 18:29–38 (ESV)

29 So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30 They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” 31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” 32 This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus was accused by the religious leaders of claiming to be king. The Jewish leaders said this because of Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah. They rejected Jesus’ claim and when they brought him before Pilate, they knew that such a claim would not sit well with the Romans because it would be a power grab. The leaders were hoping that such an accusation would make the Romans want to execute Jesus.

Pilate asked Jesus if he was “King of the Jews.” In response, Jesus explained that his kingdom was not a worldly kingdom. It is not made up of geographic borders and military strength. Jesus’ kingdom is made up of all who believe in him and his truth. When Pilate realized that Jesus was not a threat to Rome, he went out and told the religious leaders that he did not find any reason that Jesus should be condemned.

When we read this, it is clear that Jesus was going to the cross even though he was guilty of no crime. The reason the Jewish leaders wanted him put to death was because they had rejected him as their Messiah, even though he was the fulfillment of all that God had promised. But we see how we might be a part of Jesus’ kingdom. When we recognize the truth of Jesus’ words and turn to him in faith, we enter the kingdom of the Messiah, the kingdom of God. And the King in this kingdom is Christ, who laid down his life in love for his people, so that they could have life. What a great King!

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The Desire to Be Great

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Reading the Word

Luke 22:24–30 (ESV)

24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

28 “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, 29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. He was the promised one from the line of David who would reign over Israel and restore it to its place of prominence as it enjoyed during David’s life. To his disciples, this meant that they were going to receive great benefits from their close relationship with Jesus. So, naturally, the disciples argued over who was going to get the most. Who was going to be the greatest?

Jesus told the disciples that things would be different in his kingdom, in contrast to the kingdoms of the world. The world desires power and authority, but the kingdom of Christ cherishes humility and servanthood. Just as Jesus would serve his people by going to the cross and offering his life for others, Jesus’ followers should follow his example and be willing to make sacrifices in service to others. Our goal is not to be greater than others, but to point them to our great Savior.

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The Identity of the Messiah

Psalms

Reading the Word

Matthew 22:41–46 (ESV)

41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,

44 “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet” ’?

45 If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” 46 And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

Parallel Texts: Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44

Understanding and Applying the Word

After receiving multiple questions from the religious leaders, Jesus asked one of his own. He quizzed the leaders about the identity of the promised Messiah. Jesus asked, “Whose son is he?” The response of the Pharisees was that the Messiah was David’s son, which was true on one level. However, Jesus went on to ask why David would call the Messiah his “Lord” if the Messiah was David’s son. Jesus quoted from Psalm 110:1 to make his point, which was a psalm written by David and speaking of the Messiah.

The reason for Jesus’ question was to point out that while the Messiah was a son of David, he was also more than that. David himself points to this truth in a psalm he wrote “in the Spirit.” That David was in the Spirit tells us that his words were Scripture and authoritative truth given by God. The Messiah would also be the Son of God. This would make him David’s Lord. Jesus is that Lord.

Many in Jesus’ day had their own idea of what the Messiah would be and what he would do. Jesus was not the Messiah they expected and he tried frequently to help the people see from the Scriptures that they were mistaken. Some heard Jesus and recognized him as the promised Messiah. Many were never able to accept that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. We must be willing to turn to the Scriptures to see what they say about this matter. Read the four Gospels with an eye on how Jesus fulfills the Messianic promises. He is the one the world has been waiting for.

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Recognizing Jesus

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Reading the Word

Luke 19:41–44 (ESV)

41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

As Jesus drew near to Jerusalem, the people were excited and praised him. However, unlike the crowds, Jesus wept. Jerusalem, the city of peace, was being visited by their Messiah, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), but the religious leaders had rejected Jesus. They did not understand that salvation had come to them in the person of Jesus, God in the flesh. Peace would not be theirs, but the city would be destroyed (as it was in A.D. 70).

The rejection of Jesus by the Jewish religious leaders and many of the people is a warning to us. We must be careful that we do not fail to know Jesus for who he truly is. The religious leaders and the Jewish people had the Scriptures and had been the recipients of God’s grace for many, many years. However, when the promised Messiah showed up, the majority failed to recognize him. We can make the same mistake if we do not know what the Scriptures say. Even Jesus said that there will be many who call out to him, “Lord, Lord!”, but he will say, “I never knew you.” Make it a point to know the word of God. It is through the word that we know our Savior and the Good News of salvation through his life, death, and resurrection. Study it on your own and go to a church that makes the teaching and preaching of the word its priority.

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The King on a Donkey

Zechariah 99 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 19:28–40 (ESV)

28 And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’ ” 32 So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. 33 And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” 35 And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

Parallel Texts: Matthew 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-10; John 12:12-19

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus arrived in Jerusalem on the Sunday before the Passover. As he drew near, he sent two of his disciples ahead to bring a young donkey to him. The disciples went into the village and found a young donkey tied up as Jesus told them they would. When they began to untie the donkey, the owners asked them what they were doing. They replied, “The Lord has need of it.” Surprisingly, and miraculously, this was all that was necessary. The owners allowed them to take the donkey to Jesus.

When Jesus received the donkey he had sent his disciples to obtain, he sat on it and rode it into Jerusalem. As he rode, the people put their cloaks on the ground in the road in front of him and began to rejoice and praise God. They were saying things like “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.” Matthew tells us that the people also waved palm branches and shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” All of this fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 concerning the promised Messiah.

When the Pharisees heard this, they called on Jesus to stop his followers. Jesus should not allow his disciples to say such things. They needed to stop! Jesus’ response was that if the crowds were silenced the stones would cry out. Praise was the appropriate thing for this occasion!

The Messiah rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, which was a symbol of peace. Jesus came not as a warrior King on a horse, but as one who brought peace. This was contrary to the expectation of what the Messiah would do. He was expected to lead the Jewish people to freedom from Rome. However, Jesus came for a greater purpose. He came to deliver the people from their sin by going to the cross as a sacrifice. In doing this, he brought the people peace with God. He was not the Messiah the people expected, but he was the Messiah that mankind needed.

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