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The Gospel of Relationships

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One man at the rear of the church waited in silence. He came late for the service, sat on the floor, listened to the sermon, and took seriously the invitation that all who have accepted Jesus could participate in the open Communion that Adventists celebrate. But he knew no one; no one knew him. He eagerly waited for someone to invite him. But he seemed poor, friendless, and on the wrong side of the caste line. His position seemed desperate to himself and embarrassing to the saints in that small church in a small town in a country where caste still defines community.

Which of the saints would offer to be the partner for this lonely man? Who would rise by stooping? The elders were busy organizing the details. The deacons were busy, fetching water from the only tap outside the church. And others . . . ? Levites and the priests are extremely busy people, not to be disturbed by trivia of this kind.

Suddenly Ravi Anandan went over to the visitor and walked with him to the basin. Ravi knelt on the cold concrete floor, cradled his partner's shoeless, dusty feet, and washed them in the clear cool water, which instantly turned a muddy brown.

One month ago Ravi would have done no such thing. He would not have allowed even the shadow of that man to come anywhere near him. Touching him would be touching the untouchable, and touching the untouchable is an act of religious impurity and social repugnance.

What happened? One month ago Ravi accepted Jesus. As he studied the New Testament, the image of the broken wall in Ephesians 2:12-16 moved him deeply. Walls or Jesus? It had to be one or the other, not both, for Jesus came to tear down those walls—walls that have caused and still cause so much hatred, misunderstanding, and suffering in this world.

Ravi chose Jesus over those walls of which he was once so proud. The result? He would reach out and touch the untouchable.

That newness, that embrace, that unity in Christ is what makes the Epistle to the Ephesians a gospel of new relationships. It was John Calvin's favorite letter. William Barclay calls it "the queen of epistles." E. J. Goodspeed finds it "a great rhapsody of the Christian salvation."

We can study the Epistle for its theology, ecclesiology, or Christian sociology, but one thing we cannot escape: Paul's confidence in the new creation God has wrought in Christ and its ultimate triumph in the great controversy. From God's choice of us from "before the foundation of the world" (Eph. 1:4) to the battle "against spiritual hosts of wickedness" (Eph. 6:12, NKJV) to the promise that Jesus is "able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us" (Eph. 3:20), the Epistle resonates with the power of grace, prayer, and faith.

And it is with that spirit of prayer, of grace, and of faith that we must approach the study of one of the great love letters of the Bible, the book of Ephesians. It's our prayer, too, that when done, all who study not only will understand better what motivated Ravi to reach out and touch what he once deemed untouchable but also will experience for themselves the life-changing power of the gospel as it works in their hearts.

John M. Fowler, author of this quarter's study guide, is an associate director of the General Conference Education department. A native of India, John spent many years in denominational service in Southern Asia before coming to the General Conference, where he worked with Ministry magazine before going to the Education department. John is married and has two children and two grandchildren.

Contents:  (all lessons may not be posted)

No. Study


Oct 1 The Church at Ephesus  (KJV)  (NKJV)


Oct 8 Ephesians:  Themes in Relationships  (KJV)  (NKJV)


Oct 15 What God Has Done  (KJV)  (NKJV)


Oct 22 Praise and Prayer  (KJV)  (NKJV)


Oct 29 The Church:  God's Workmanship  (KJV)  (NKJV)


Nov 5 The Church Without Walls  (KJV)  (NKJV)


Nov 12 God's Mystery:  The Universal Fellowship  (KJV)  (NKJV)


Nov 19 Unity Amid Diversity  (KJV)  (NKJV)


Nov 26 Living the New Life  (KJV)  (NKJV)


Dec 3 The Christian Walk  (KJV)  (NKJV)


Dec 10 Christian Relationships  (KJV)  (NKJV)


Dec 17 The Christian Warefare  (KJV)  (NKJV)


Dec 24 The Christian Armor  (KJV)  (NKJV)


Dec 31 The Christian Communion and Conduct  (KJV)  (NKJV)

Giardina Sabbath School Study Helps

Jerry Giardina of Pecos, Texas, assisted by his wife, Cheryl, prepares a series of helps to accompany the Sabbath School lesson. He includes all related scripture and most EGW quotations. Jerry has chosen the "New King James Version" of the scriptures this quarter. It is used with permission.  The study helps are provided in three wordprocessing versions Wordperfect; Microsoft Word;  RTF for our MAC friends (this is now a zip file); and HTML (Web Pages).

Last updated on November 3, 2005

Editorial Office: 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, MD 20904.
Principal Contributors:  John M. Fowler
Editor: Clifford R. Goldstein
Associate Editor: Lyndelle Brower Chiomenti
Publication Manager: Soraya Homayouni Parish
Editorial Assistant:  Larie S. Gray
Pacific Press Coordinator: Paul A. Hey
Art and Design: Lars Justinen
Concept Design: Dever Design

Copyright 2005 by the Office of the Adult Bible Study Guide,
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist. All Rights Reserved.

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