But God

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And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind (Ephesians 2:1-3).

Paul here contrasts the life of the Ephesian believers when they were unbelievers with their lives when they became believers.

Dead In Sin

Prior to conversion, the Ephesians were dead in sin. They were  unregenerated, unbelievers and sinners born in sin. This is not only true of the believers in Ephesus. It is true of everyone today who is a believer. Previously, you were dead in sin and naturally couldn’t obey God. This is also the current state of every unbeliever. You are a sinner dead in sin who needs life from God: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins”(v1).

Under Satan’s Control

Because the Ephesians were dead in sin prior to conversion, they were by nature under Satan’s dominion. They live to do the bidding of the “prince of the power of the air”(v2). This was not only true of the Ephesian believers. It was true also of the apostle Paul who wrote the letter. See how he uses inclusive language: “we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind”(v3).

Further, this is equally true of any one who has not tasted of the salvation of God. You are in bondage to Satan. You are a child of disobedience. You are under the wrath of God and if you don’t repent, God’s full wrath would be poured on you one day: “because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed”(Rom 2:5).

From vv 1-3, we see the hopeless state of every sinner. He is dead in sin. That is, he has not got the ability in himself to respond to God: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day”(John 6:44). In fact, if left on her own, the sinner would not come to God. She needs help from outside herself. To be dead in sin is comparable to a corpse. A corpse cannot give life to itself can it?

But God

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved” (vv4-5).

“But God”. This juxtaposes God’s ability with our  inability: what we couldn’t do with what God did in our  regeneration. Out of our despondent, desperate, hopeless situation as sinners, hope sprung from God. From v4 onwards, we see the love and mercy of God at display towards the sinner

A New Life

When God intervenes in our deadness, He gives us eternal life. Not only life in this world, but in the world to come. The sinner who once had no hope is now given hope in this life because he is now united with Christ and reconciled to God: “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”(v5). We are seated in the heavenly places. We are citizens of heaven. We have hope now and hope in the life to come. God has purposed  to show us “in the coming ages…the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus “(v7).

All of Grace

This new life is not a result of anything good or meritorious work in us. It is a new life that springs from the love, mercy and grace–unmerited favour– of God :”For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (v8-9).

Would you lay hold of this new life by Faith in Christ? “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

“We Know”: Certainty In Our Beliefs

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Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught (Luke 1:1-4)

There seem to be the perception among some that being sure and certain about one’s Christian beliefs is a sign of arrogance and lack of humility. Sadly, rather, it appears vagueness about one’s beliefs is considered a sign of humility and virtue. Discernment has given way to credulity and superstition.

In the opening words of Luke’ gospel, there are some instructive words worth examining in this subjective anti-intellectual Christian age. Luke’s gospel is an orderly account of events about the life and earthly ministry of Christ written to Theophilus with an objective in mind: “that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:4). Theophilus was the same recipient of the book of Acts: “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach”(Acts 1:1). Do you see what’s going on? This is an “orderly account” of events with the aim of giving Theophilus roots in his beliefs: “certainty concerning the things you have been taught”(Luke 1:3-4).

Do you have certainty in the things you believe? Knowledge solidifies our beliefs. Knowledge gives us certainty concerning the things we believe or have been taught. Knowledge gives us roots; grounding our beliefs! Christianity is not a blind leap into the dark abyss. Christian faith is knowledge driven: “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). It is not commendable to be “clouds without water”.  Zeal without knowledge is spoken against in Scripture (Rom 10:2).

The Bible calls us unto maturity “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you” (Colossians 2:6-7). “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (2Peter 3:18). Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might”

The apostles spoke and wrote words of certainty in communicating the gospel. “We know” and many other phrases connoting certainty are common in the New Testament: “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good (Romans 8:28).  “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments” (1John 2:3). One of my favourite “we know” statements is in 1John 3:2: “we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is”. Further in v.3, we see the benefit of this certainty: “And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure”.

Knowledge leading to certainty in our beliefs has the power to “regulate” our lives. If we know what God requires of us from His word then we are well positioned to obey Him. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples”(John 8:31b).  Knowledge is desirable in our faith walk. We are not called to put aside reasoning in our pursuit of God. In fact, the opposite is true. The Bible calls us to love Him with the totality of our being including our mind and thinking faculties: (Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:36-37, Mark 13:30).

We live in the most anti-intellectual age of history, and even many Christians believe we can compartmentalize faith as a way of knowing completely separate from sense perception and reason. Yet as Augustine told us centuries ago, how could we receive knowledge from God if it were not accessible to the human mind? Could we say that “Jesus is Lord” without some understanding of what the term Lord means, what the verb is indicates, and who the name Jesus refers to? We can’t believe the gospel without our minds understanding it to a degree. [1]

1 :http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/faith-has-its-reasons/

Homowo: Can A Christian Eat Kpokpoi(Kpekple)?

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Between August and September this year, the Ga tribe in Ghana will celebrate their festival homowo. Though I am not a Ga, I grew up in Osu–which has launched its homowo–and one of the fondest memories of those formative years is the celebration of Homowo, a traditional festival of the Gas which “…recounts the[ir] migration…and reveals their agricultural success in their new settlement. According to Ga oral tradition, a severe famine broke out among the people during their migration to present day Accra. They were inspired by the famine to embark on massive food production exercises which eventually yielded them bumper harvest. Their hunger ended and with great joy they “hooted at hunger” this is the meaning of the word HOMOWO”[1]

Before you proceed further, let me tell you my answer ahead of any explanation. My answer is Yes to whether a Christian can eat Kpoikpoi (Kpekle). While working on this article, I checked with a few friends about their views. One answer made me smile: “pray over it and EAT all you can”.

Now, as with every festival, there are celebrations and merry making and one of the highlights of this festival is a special food; Kpoikpoi: “…a Ga delicacy that is prepared during their popular festival Homowo. It is a corn food with unique texture and unusual flavour”.[2]. It is enjoyed with palmnut soup and when there is a leftover, it can be fried to get a crispy texture.

What necessitated this article was an incident which occured recently at work. In a conversation with a colleague who is Ga, I informed her I will be paying her a visit during this year’s homowo celebration to enjoy Kpoikpoi in her home. Another colleague, a Christian friend, overheard our conversation and with shock in her voice, she exclaimed, “You of all people Enoch, I am surprised you are going to eat that”. Knowing what my friend was driving at, I took her aside and we had a discussion on the subject.

Now before the festival takes off in the different Ga communities, the priest, referred to as Wolomi, together with the paramount chief sprinkle Kpoikpoi to the gods thanking them for a bountiful harvest. After this, the festival is officially opened and every Ga household participating in the celebrations prepare their own Kpokpoi. So the common perception is that Kpoikpoi is pagan which in a certain sense is true because it is solely associated with the festival. No family prepares Kpoikpoi on a normal day. The assertion therefore of my friend was that I was going to eat food offered to idols or gods.

Fortunately, the Bible does explicitly address eating food offered to idols. There are some things the Bible is silent on, but this is not one of them. Paul, responding to a question by the church in Corinth on food offered to idols, wrote saying: “Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth— as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father , from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1Corinthians 8:1-6).

Riding on the back of the aforementioned text, I will now address why I said Yes, a Christian can eat Kpoikpoi (Kpekple).

Christian Liberty

Christian liberty “can mean that Christians are freed in respect to such activity that is not expressly forbidden in the Bible. Therefore one can feel free to engage in such activity as long as it doesn’t “stumble” or “offend” another Christian” (Romans 14:12-16).[3]

I begin from the premise that the Bible doesn’t expressly forbid the eating of any food. In answering to the question of food offered to idols, Paul begins from a fundamental truth of Christianity. There is only one God. The Christian acknowledges only one true God who has revealed Himself to us through the incarnate God; Jesus Christ: “for us there is one God, the Father , from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist”.

Any other thing that exists by name as god or Lord, “so-called gods in heaven or on earth”, Paul says is worthless of consideration”. It doesn’t matter! “we know that “an idol has no real existence”. Idols are fake. They are fraud. They have no power. They are simply what they are, idols with no life; “They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them”. (Psalm 115:5-8).

We are emancipated from what Paul calls “weak and worthless elementary principles of the world”(Galatians 3:9). Paul will finally say to the Corinthians: “Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do” (1Corinthians 8:8). What food we eat or don’t eat have no effect on our relationship with God. We have the liberty to eat any food. Unless of course on medical grounds. So on the grounds of Christian liberty, I don’t consider it a moral issue or sin if I eat Kpoikpoi.

However, the same text that gives me my liberty, again puts what I would call boundaries around my liberty. Simply put, I can’t flaunt that liberty when other believers with a weaker conscience are involved. I can’t take a superior stand and consider myself a better Christian than the person who says no a christian can’t eat kpoikpoi or any other ‘forbidden’ food. That will put me in the category of puff up believers without love (1Corinthians 8:1-2). Paul prescribes how we express our liberty when it comes to the eating or not of food offered to idols:

But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged , if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble (vv. 9-13).

In exercising my Christian liberty, not only in food, but in everything I have liberty in, my fellow Christian’s conscience is also at stake. If my liberty will harm the conscience of my fellow believer. I better abandon that liberty out of love for my fellow Christian who has a weak conscience. That however doesn’t mean eating Kpoikpoi in itself is wrong or a sin.