Retreat Epilogue: The Holy Spirit in Ephesians

In our recent three-day retreat in Pennsylvania, we laid a foundation of what the Scriptures teach about the Holy Spirit. In this follow-up lesson and in light of those foundational teachings, we look at Paul's letter to the Ephesians in perhaps a new light, as Paul has much to say about the Holy Spirit, and its role and importance in our lives as Christians.

The Holy Spirit (Pt. 3 of 3): Walking in the Spirit

In this third of three foundational lessons on the Holy Spirit, we build upon Old Testament stories (introduced in the previous lesson) to explore what it means to live a life that is led by the Spirit today. We review the Spirit’s role in leading the apostles to “all truth” and inspiring the Scriptures; and consider how Jesus urges us to pray boldly and persistently for (more of) the Spirit. The Spirit also calls us to live holy lives, as Paul calls us to avoid immorality because “our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit”. Finally, we consider the Spirit’s role in helping us toward one of the toughest challenges of all: the unity of all Christians.

Jesus Prays for Unity (John 17:9-26)

In John 17, Jesus prays that His followers may be one as He and the Father are one. The goal of this unity was so that the world might know that God sent Jesus and loved the world as God loved His Son. Sadly, not only does this unity not exist today, but most Christians ignore this central (and extremely difficult) teaching. This lesson takes a hard look at Jesus' expectations regarding unity, what Christian unity does and does not look like, and provides an example from history to inspire us to strive for the unity Christ prayed for before His death.

The Wheat and the Tares

This lesson tackles a foundational and often misunderstood teaching of the Kingdom of God revealed in many of Jesus' parables, including the parable of the wheat and the tares (weeds). God will ultimately separate the good and the evil at the last day.  This lesson addresses our responsibility as individual Christians to strive to be wheat, good fish, wise virgins, and properly attired guests at the Kingdom banquet. The lesson also addresses our responsibility to address sin in the Church.   

1 Corinthians 13 - Loving One Another

Through the first eleven chapters of his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul addresses significant challenges and problems in the church. In 1 Corinthians 12 he turns to spiritual gifts, their importance in building up the Church, and how essential the Corinthians are to one another.  Now, in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul turns to "a more excellent way" - the way of love. 

1 Corinthians 12 - The Miraculous Gifts of the Holy Spirit & Church Unity

In chapter twelve, Paul turns his attention to the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. What does the Bible teach about the miraculous gifts, including gifts of healing, speaking in tongues, and the working of miracles? Are these spiritual gifts available today? Many Christians understand the miraculous gifts to have died within a generation of the Apostles. But is this what the Bible teaches?  

This passage also paints a beautiful picture of Christian unity within the body of Christ, a major theme in the book of 1 Corinthians. What can we learn from Paul about building a healthy, unified church?  

1 Corinthians 11:17-34 - The Lord's Supper

In this passage, Paul tells the Corinthian Church that some of them are weak, ill, and spiritually asleep (dead) because of their failure to properly celebrate the Lord's Supper. He then explains how the Lord's Supper can bring life.  This lesson is divided into three parts: 1) Paul's rebuke of the Church (with specifics as to what they were doing wrong), 2) Paul's instruction on the Lord's Supper, and 3) Practicals we can glean from the Scriptures in regards to celebrating the Lord's Supper. 

For Further Study

What the Early Christians Believed About Communion by David Bercot

1 Corinthians 8 and 10:14-33 - Lessons for Dealing with Church Conflict (Meat Sacrificed to Idols and Opinion Matters)

Part 1 of this lesson tackles chapters 8 and 10, in which Paul discusses the practice of eating food sacrificed to idols, an issue that is causing division in the church.  While sacrificing food to idols is not common in the United States, Christians face this issue in many parts of the world. There are also important lessons for us to learn in resolving Church conflict.    

In Part 2 of this lesson, we look at two other related passages: Acts 15 and Romans 14.  In Acts 15 we are given a beautiful example of how the Church addressed a difficult issue that could have caused significant division among sincere believers.  Instead, the conflict (and its resolution) brought about great unity blessed by God.  

In Romans 14, we learn what Paul meant (and did not mean) by "opinion matters".  This passage is often invoked by Christians in interpreting Scripture.  It is important to understand how Paul defined opinion issues so we can properly apply his instruction to the Church today with the goal of Biblical unity. 

1 Corinthians 6:1-11 - Christians and Law Suits

In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul speaks the truth in love, calling out the church in Corinth for bringing law suits against each other, instead of resolving their disputes internally.  This lesson addresses whether Christians should ever bring law suits, as well as what a Christian should consider before making a decision to resort to the courts.  We learn from Scripture that God expects his children to resolve disputes in obedience to Christ's teaching and example, a far higher standard than that used by the world's courts.   

1 Corinthians 4 - Building Church Unity and Judging Your Brother

PDF of Lesson Outline

In 1 Corinthians 4, Paul builds on his teaching on church unity from the first three chapters. Paul addresses the Church's boasting, envy, and strife.  This lesson tackles the important questions of what Paul meant when he says not to judge and what he meant when he says imitate me.  This lesson calls us to serve the Lord in humility and without comparing ourselves to others.  

1 Corinthians 3 - Examples from Daily Life for a Stronger Church

PDF of Lesson Outline

In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul uses four examples from daily life to instruct his listeners on church unity, peacemaking, Jesus Christ as the only foundation of the Church, how we will be judged (and rewarded) by God as to how we build the Church, honoring God by how we care for our physical bodies, and the importance of the Holy Spirit.