Did you have a great day yesterday? Today’s post is coming directly from Philip Lee in Indonesia. Please read, enjoy and then always remember to pray for Philip and Maggie and their work in this beautiful country!
A few weeks ago I told Lori that I would be willing to share my personal story with the SOAP method and today I will do that along with sharing my observations from Ephesians 4:9-10 I’ll skip over some of the details for the sake of time, but it was in January 2008 that I began to use the SOAP method to study the book of Romans. Initially I was covering one or two paragraphs at a time and only coming up with a few simple observations and application points. I knew there was much that I wasn’t seeing. I was coming up with lots of questions that I didn’t know the answers to. I found some things very difficult to understand. But I stuck with it. Every night for several weeks I sat down with my Bible and a journal, began by praying for understanding and then read the passage, made my observations and tried to come up with application, followed by a closing prayer. After a few weeks things began to come together. And it wasn’t just a change in my head. As I began to realize that I’d had a very faulty understanding of who God is, who I am, what Jesus accomplished through the cross and resurrection, and what it means to live as a Christian my thinking began to change.
As the written word of God corrected my thinking my life changed. Assurance replaced doubt. Peace replaced fear. Joy replaced guilt and shame. Freedom replaced bondage.
Soon I noticed a desire developing from within to share what I was learning. Within a few months I was making plans to enter seminary. Several years later I’ve completed most of my seminary work but the SOAP method is still my method for study. I know a lot more than I did in January 2008, but whether for personal study or preparation for teaching/preaching I still start with the Scripture, make observations, interpret those observations (which is the unspoken step in SOAP), make application, and pray.
So my encouragement is whether you’ve been in the church for many years and know the Bible pretty well or are a relatively new believer studying the Bible on your own for the first time – keep going! It may seem overwhelming at first, but if you are a believer the same Spirit who inspired the words of Scripture dwells within you and can give you understanding if you come to the text with a sincere desire to learn and have your mind and heart transformed. And the more you study and learn the more you’ll understand, the more you’ll see how all the parts of the Bible fit into one glorious whole. It takes time and some effort, but it is worth it and I am convinced there is nothing more valuable in the life of a believer.
Now, on to Ephesians 4:9-10 (ESV): (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) The pattern of human celebrity or success is usually to start from nothing, rise to prominence, and after peaking begin a long, steady decline. Jesus followed an opposite pattern. He was elevated above all else from eternity past until humbling himself in becoming man with all of mankind’s limitations, becoming obedient even to death on a cross, and now once again is elevated to the highest place.
I see a very strong correlation between these two verses and what Paul described more fully in Philippians 2:5-11. But how does this relate to the giving of gifts Paul mentioned in the previous two verses?
Jesus told the disciples in John 16:5-7: But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
Jesus came down to Earth, accomplished His work, then went back up to Heaven. He did not leave us alone though. He sent the Spirit in His place, the Spirit who dwells within every believer and gives the gifts Paul mentioned in yesterday’s verses (4:7-8).
Some encouragements that come out of 4:7-10 taken together: In the incarnation (descending), death, resurrection, and ascension Jesus has completely and finally defeated sin and death and reconciled us to God. The Psalm Paul quoted in v. 8 (Psalm 68) is about God coming down and defeating Israel’s enemies then ascending back up Mt. Zion. Connecting the Psalm to Jesus both reminds us of Jesus’ deity and the greater reality of Christ’s ultimate victory that Israel’s military conquests point us to. Jesus is now and always will be sovereignly reigning over all things, which is the meaning of “that he might fill all things” in v. 10. (I had to consult the commentary on that one.)
With sin and death defeated and Jesus on the throne, He sent the Spirit to give us the gifts we need to live united as one in the body of Christ. The instruction to live in unity with other believers sounds difficult (and is!), but He has given us everything we need to do it. He has given each of us exactly what He wants us to have for the growth of His church.
What are your thoughts?