Remembering My Creator Volume 4, Number 4, February 22, 2019 Theme: Thoughts From Philemon and Jude

In This Issue

  • “Appreciation, Appeal, and Assurance: Thoughts from the book of Philemon,” written by Hannah Clark
  • Overcoming The Apostates: Thoughts from the book of Jude,”  written by Dillon Jarrett

Appreciation, Appeal, and Assurance

Thoughts from the book of Philemon, written by Hannah Clark

               The book of Philemon is a letter from Paul to a fellow brother in Christ, Philemon. It is very short and was broken down into 25 verses so it’s one of Paul’s shorter letters. Despite its length, it holds a powerful message about forgiveness and accepting those that have come to Christ.

               Appreciation

Verses 1-3 convey Paul’s appreciation of Philemon as a “fellow laborer” in Christ and the church that is in his house. Philemon is described in verses 5-7 as showing love and faith to the saints he encounters and sharing his faith with others. Paul mentions that the “saints have been refreshed by you” (vs. 7). 

This description is one that should be commonly applied to those that are followers of Christ. In having traveled a lot in my life, I know of many I could apply this description to and it fills my heart with gladness. Knowing that there are Christians near and far is very encouraging.

               Appeal

Verses 8-16 reveal Paul’s main reason for writing the letter to Philemon. Paul is appealing to Philemon for the sake of Onesimus, a slave of Philemon. It is not revealed why Onesimus left Philemon but is assumed that Onesimus did not leave on good terms. After leaving Philemon, Onesimus meets Paul and becomes a fellow brother in Christ. Paul likens Onesimus as a son to him but is sending him back to Philemon and appealing to Philemon to take him back. Paul states that Philemon is receiving back more than a slave, but a brother as well.

It is sometimes hard for people to accept those that they felt have done them wrong or that they may not get along with. There is no room for this in the church and when there are those have decided to follow Christ, it is our job to welcome them as fellow brethren; to love and encourage them.

               Assurance

Paul concludes his letter in verses 17-25 by offering to repay Philemon for whatever/however Onesimus had wronged him. Paul has “confidence in [Philemon’s] obedience” that he will accept Onesimus and asks that Philemon prepare a room for him in the hopes that Paul will be able to visit. Paul lists his fellow workers that offer greetings to Philemon and closes his letter.

We don’t have a follow-up account of what happens when Onesimus returns to Philemon, but I would like to think (based on Paul’s account of Philemon’s character) that he welcomed Onesimus back as a brother in Christ and that he worshiped with the church that was in Philemon’s house.

Overcoming The Apostates

Thoughts from the book of Jude, written by Dillon Jarrett

               Jude should become one of your favorite letters if it isn’t already. The depth and breadth of topics included in this divine rhetoric is full of spiritual nuggets. Please take a few moments with me to review Jude in the eyes of our topic, “Overcoming the Apostates.”

               It isn’t coincidence that Judas, most likely the half brother of Jesus (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3), uses a different name to not have any semblance of the infamous Judas Iscariot. One of the most well known apostates, in accordance with prophecy and his own selfish ambitions (Matthew 26: 14-16), Judas fulfills the definition of apostate, “a person who renounces a religious or political belief or principle.” This is the very problem that Jude will address throughout the letter.

               From the outset, it is clear his intentions were to write about the glory of the Kingdom of God and our salvation, “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3). Defending the faith (THE GOSPEL) is a common theme in the epistles (1 Peter 3:15; 2 Cor. 10:5; Psalm 94:16); Titus 1:9; 2 Tim. 4:2; Philippians 1:16; Ephesians 5:11). Yet, Jude felt rather compelled to dive into the discussion that he does. Rightfully so. The Gospel message is something that many had already given their lives for, namely Christ. Allowing others to contentiously, selfishly and inaccurately portray the word of truth was not something acceptable to Jude in his writings. It should not be for us, either. “The faith” doesn’t mean our own personal belief, or faith in the sense of our trust in God. The phrase the faith means “The essential truths of the gospel that all true Christians hold in common.” The faith is used in this sense repeatedly in the New Testament (Acts 6:7, 13:8, 14:22, 16:5, 24:24; Romans 1:5 and 16:26; Colossians 2:7, and 1 Timothy 1:2 are just some of the examples). We must contend earnestly for the truth. “The faith is the body of truth that very early in the church’s history took on a definite form (Acts 2:42; Romans 6:17; Galatians 1:23).”

               Let’s notice how he addresses this problem. “For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 4-7). The apostates were predicted (Isaiah 8:19–22; 2 Thessalonians 2:6–10; 1 Timothy 4:1–2; 2 Timothy 3:1– 9; 2 Peter 2:1–9). This is the first part of Jude’s sermon: Sin Separates and can Sets One’s Fate. One of the scariest notations in this discourse is the idea that these men secretly slipped in among you. That is the danger with ungodly people or those who once with good intentions, abandon the truth for their own desires. They pervert the grace of our God into a license of immorality…deny(ing) Jesus Christ our only sovereign and Lord. This isn’t something his audience didn’t already know, but it needed reminding. He speaks of the Exodus and those who failed to believe after being relieved from bondage. Even the angels are bound to the Lord’s authority and were susceptible to condemnation. He finally points to Sodom and Gomorrah, specifically noting the immorality and perversion. Much could be said about the triplet representation above, but his point is simple: they serve as an example of those who suffer punishment of eternal fire. When we willfully sin and continue in that sin without desire to make our lives write with God, it should not be a surprise what one’s fate will be with those.

               This way of thinking is dangerous. It is toxic. It is ungodly and not fitting for Christians to partake in or EVEN ENTERTAIN. One of the dangers we see today that is prevalent in all avenues of communication (news, government, social media, radio, etc.) is this: on the strength of their dreams, these ungodly people pollute their own bodies, reject authority and heap abuse on celestial beings. It is rather important to note the point he makes next about Michael the Archangel. Much could be said about this angel’s power and history, but the point is clear. Even he understood sometimes it is necessary to engage in spiritual warfare, but also with who’s authority he was in subjection to. As powerful and glorious as Michael is referenced in the Testaments, he would not dare to rebuke with the devil upon his own authority. It was only through God the Father that he engaged. He knew his place. The danger of these individuals addressed in Jude is that, more than anything, they have no respect for authority, especially the one true Lord. Notice how he references them with another rebuke: Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain (Genesis 4:8-9); they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error (Numbers 22-25, 31); they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion. (Jude 11). Jude’s points about these three are a pinnacle point in his argument. The most dangerous aspect of Cain’s attitude was unbelief and empty religion. We fear many attacks on the faith today, but none are more striking and detrimental than vain, empty worship and living. A Christian who is lukewarm or engaging in apostasy is just as dangerous to the congregations of God’s people as the dangers we often label outside our walls. Jude’s second point in this section is: Don’t Sell Your Soul for Materialism. The danger of Balaam’s decisions were that he based them in greed. He was willing to compromise everything for money. Think that is happening today? Selling a message that tickles the people’s ears to fill congregations to the brim? Those individuals spiritually feed their congregations empty plates while trying to convince those people (and themselves) they’re filled (2 Timothy 4:3). Too many individuals are lost in these messages that are sweet to ears, but sour to the soul. To conclude this point, certain men live out the rebellion of Korah (Numbers 16). You could say this is the final straw in some ways. Korah’s problem with Moses was that he had this crazy idea that Moses was attempting to exalt himself about the congregation of the Lord.” (Numbers 16:3). He wanted the authority and ministry of Moses. That was ultimately his problem with Moses: he wanted the spotlight and needed to remove Moses in order to get it. The problem with his intention was that he forgot that Moses didn’t put himself in that position, God did. Korah needed to learn this essential lesson: we should work hard to fulfill everything God has called us to be. At the same time, we should never try to be what God has not called us to be. (Guzik).                The most important principle from Jude’s final point would be this: Apostasy Can Come from Anyone and Any Walk of Life. Cain was a farmer. Balaam was a prophet. Korah was a leader within the nation of Israel. Problems can come from the pulpit, the pews, and anywhere else in the population. The future held for people that choose this path are sad existences. Spots in your love feast. They serve only themselves. Clouds without water. Trees that should bloom, who bear no fruit, not dead once but twice, pulled up from the roots (their perceived foundations.) Like streaking stars, their brightness is brief and always swallowed up in the blackness of the sky, a description of their destiny. A darkness forever that is never ending. He concludes with what Enoch says in prophecy about these types of individuals, “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon

Remembering My Creator Volume 4, Number 3, January 25, 2019 Theme: Thoughts From 1st and 2nd Timothy

In This Issue

  • “The Church and Its Members (1st Timothy Chapters 2-3)” (New King James Version) by Sarah Crawford
  • “The Church & Its Minister (1st Timothy Chapter 4)” by Hannah Clark
  • “The Practical Appeal (2nd Timothy Chapter 2)” by David Bushnaq
  • “The Personal Appeal (2nd Timothy Chapter 4)” by Sarah Crawford

“The Church and Its Members (1st Timothy Chapters 2-3)” (New King James Version)

By

Sarah Crawford

At the beginning of chapter two and end of chapter three, Paul makes an address for all the brethren on the purpose and goal of the church’s conduct.

Chapter two verses 1-4 explain God’s desire for all to be saved and the members role in making supplications, prayers, and interceding on behalf of all people so that we might live a peaceable life in godliness. Later in chapter three verses 14-16 Paul again describes that he has written all these things so that the brethren would know how to conduct themselves in the church for the glory of God. The rest of the scriptures between these two passages go into further detail on how the brethren can specifically fulfill this exhortation from Paul.

Chapter two (vs. 8-15) describes the roles men and women have within the church. It even goes into detail on what they should and should not participate in, which indicates that God has strict expectations in these specified areas. Men are instructed to “pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (vs. 8). This may only be one verse, but there are many concepts described here. Praying everywhere may involve praying in different countries, cities, homes, and can even mean in all areas of an individual’s life. Sometimes we restrict our prayers to times when we are in the comforts of our homes or gathered with brethren, but we must also take confidence in our faith to pray when we are uncomfortable or it is unpopular to do so. This could be at work, with our non-faithful families/friends, or even in an unfamiliar environment around strangers. “Lifting up holy hands” is not a common phrase we use today, but we can understand that how we present ourselves must be with holiness/godliness. This does not mean we are perfect, but rather that our hearts must be sincere in our desire to be pleasing to God. We work towards this by studying His word, embracing the love Christ demonstrated for us, and bearing our burdens with one another to encourage and edify our brethren and non-faithful peoples. “Without wrath and doubting” may seem obvious, but it can be a real struggle for many people. Paul does not say without wrath and doubting over the big problems. We have to practice humbling our hearts and trusting in God so as not to allow our hearts to become wrathful against others over anything, big or small. In my experience, it is not the big things that I have trouble handling, but it is the small things that happen over and over again that wear me down and can corrupt my heart. It may be something as simple as my brothers not replacing the toilet paper roll, but if I am not careful, my heart can become unjustly angry and I can let that anger fester in my heart to the point that I am not leading a godly lifestyle.

These instructions for the men of the church also apply for the women as Paul says in the next verse (vs. 9), “in like manner also”. The next verses on women’s apparel has been interpreted different over time, but I think it is a simple instruction on how women present themselves based on what is in their hearts. It is not wrong to wear jewelry, nice clothes, or braid our hair, UNLESS we do it with the intention of flaunting ourselves. When our hearts are focused on self-serving instead of serving God in good works and holiness, that is when it can become ungodly. Our focus, as women in the church, is not to give glory to ourselves, but to give glory to God in the work He has blessed us with. Today’s culture does not favor the next verses on a woman’s silence and submission in the church because it is often misread with emotional bias. The statements in the next verses are not meant to be offensive, but to give guidance to women on how they can please God in their roles in the church. One good explanation I have heard for women’s silence in the church is this: God calls men to step up and be leaders of His flock while He calls the women to train up the children and practice self-control and submission within the church. These two roles, for a majority of individuals, contradicts their natural inclinations. Many men in the church I have observed tend to be quieter or more conserved in their leadership approaches while many women have input on a lot of things they would like to see changed or addressed. God’s commands for men and women’s roles in the church challenge both sexes to grow in areas they may not be naturally inclined towards. Many women are not naturally good at keeping their thoughts to themselves, unless they practice and train their hearts to allow the men to be leaders. And likewise, many men might defer to their wives at times because it is easier. I know, for myself, I find it challenging to give in on a discussion if I think I have a better position, but sometimes I need to step back and let the man take control so that I can protect his heart as well as my own and that we do not create an unloving atmosphere within the church. Keeping in mind the goal Paul charges us with, to live peaceable with all men, this requires also that the world can see us living peaceably with other members too.

Chapter three discusses two potential leadership roles that the men of the church may aspire to: bishop (overseer) and deacon. Many of the qualifications for these two positions are similar with some noted exceptions; one that deacons must be tested prior to taking on the position. A deacon must also have a wife who is found blameless as he is, which is not indicated with the position for bishop. It is important to note that the word “bishop” as used in the bible is not the same as the bishops we see today in the Catholic faith. The biblical bishop is an overseer of a local congregation working with the members to care for their spiritual needs and must have good standing with the brethren and those outside the church. It is not an unbroken line of charism passed down by the laying on of hands, but rather, it is a position that any faithful man may aspire and work towards. There is no age limit, but the man must not be a novice in the faith and it states in this passage that to qualify as a bishop the man must be married to one wife and rule his house well. These qualifications are important because they automatically single out individuals who are strong in the faith and have demonstrated the ability to lead a family before guiding God’s church. Verse 13 states that these individuals gain good standing and great boldness in the faith, but it requires a great degree of responsibility on their part as they must actively seek to build and encourage the brethren so that others grow to be of service to God and the church. While it is easy to read through these chapters quickly, there is much that we can glean and apply to our personal growth and how to encourage those around us and in our local congregations.

“The Church & Its Minister (1st Timothy Chapter 4)”

By

Hannah Clark

Upon first reading this title, you may think that chapter 4 of first Timothy is in regards to the congregation and its preacher. The section headings in my Bible read “a good servant of Jesus Christ” and “take heed in your ministry” which has a more personal feeling to it. What I needed to remind myself is that this book of the Bible is a letter from Paul to Timothy which means we are essentially reading someone else’s mail. Some of the verses are particular to things happening at that time in history while other verses can easily be applied to us today. My goal in this article is to try and focus on the latter.

Paul begins this part of the letter as warning Timothy that there will be those that will leave the faith due to false doctrines (4:1) which can be seen in the world around us today due to all the varying religious teachings. To combat this, Paul tells Timothy to “exercise yourself toward godliness.” In their time, they only had the Old Testament writings and letters of what we now have in the New Testament. We are blessed to have the Bible readily at our fingertips by means of our phones or a book so that we may more easily gird with the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17).

Verse 10 states how Paul and Timothy “labor and suffer reproach” for their faith in God. This is still true today. Jesus Himself was “despised and rejected” (Isaiah 53:3) and Paul even mentions in his second letter to Timothy that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). It can be discouraging to want to try and teach others due to the backlash that we may face. In this, I am reminded of what the Lord told Samuel in the Old Testament, “for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me…” (1 Samuel 8:7).

We know Timothy is a younger teacher based on verse 12 but is told to “be an example to the believers in work, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” Many know the phrase to “talk the talk and walk the walk” and that’s true in our lives as Christians. In ministering to others, how we follow through with what we teach has a big impact on how others receive the Word of God. I’ve heard so many stories from others that want nothing to do with God, faith, and the Bible due to the hypocrisy of other “Christians.” On the flip-side, I’ve also heard accounts of those that have come to the Lord through the example of another (which leads people to ask questions and want to know more about Christ). Just because Timothy was a younger teacher didn’t make him a less effective minister to others and if we are using Christ as our guide, we won’t go astray in helping others.

Paul finishes this part of the letter (our chapter) by encouraging Timothy to continue in the doctrine they are teaching (which is of Christ). This is a lead-in to the last two chapters of this book in which Paul finishes up his letter to Timothy on how brethren should treat one another. Paul says that in continuing in the doctrine of Christ, Timothy will “save both [himself] and those who hear [him]” (4:16). None can come to salvation without Jesus Christ and our ministering to Christ through the teaching of His word will save others too. Jesus said Himself “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). It is up to us to know the gospel so that we can share it with others so that they may have a hope of eternal life in heaven.

To conclude, this section of Paul’s letter to Timothy reinforces how the older of the congregation are to teach the younger so that we all would be “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17). By reading and studying the gospel, we are better prepared to ministers ourselves to Christ and teach others. We will also be better equipped to bring others to Christ not only by our words, but also by our deeds.  

“The Practical Appeal (2nd Timothy Chapter 2)”

By

David Bushnaq

2 Timothy 2 is a chapter that speaks of the future of the church. It begins with Paul telling Timothy to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Timothy is told that because Paul gives him the charge to find

those who will be teachers, which then teach others so they also can one day be teachers.

Before he can teach others, first Paul tells him the prerequisites he must follow, himself.

He must not allow himself to be entangled with the world to the detriment of his growth, rather he must – as if he was competing in a sport or race – confirm he abides by the rules of the bible so he is not

disqualified from the crown that awaits him, and all who live godly lives.

Now these concepts are not strictly for him, but for all Christians. The examples given imply that his competing isn’t private. Neither should ours be. Those not only in the congregation, but in the world around us should know that we are Christians, that we too strive for the crown.

For one to undergo such a task of finding teachers, one must be strong in the grace. Teaching others in error will almost certainly lead to them also teaching error, and congregations that allow teaching in

errors lead their members to destruction.

How does one demonstrate their strength? By having the ability to “rightly divide the word of truth”, or to accurately handle it. The word “rightly divide” in the Greek means “to cut straight” as if from a guide.

Which means he must be able to, from the guide of the bible, handle disputes or conflicts that may arise.

He must “shun profane and idle babblings” which, of course, suggests that he has the ability to discern what is or is not “idle.”

Timothy also has to demonstrate a different kind of strength as well. He has to find faithful men who also can teach others, and that means he must be able to determine he who also demonstrates a similar strength, or who can be encouraged to reach that strength.

Churches die when men, strong in the faith and knowledge of God’s word, fail to continue the work of those before them in teaching and sharing what they’ve learned. If we do not share our understanding of the bible with those of the next generation, who would? And how could we encourage a better understanding of why what the bible says is so?

There is much being taught about the bible, and just about as much of it is untrue. We may know it, but do the children of our congregations? If they’re told something that is untrue but it sounds or feels good, are they firm enough that they can refute the error?

Paul tells Timothy to search for those able to teach others, but it’s not only those in the congregation who must teach, but the parents as well. Like Timothy was taught by his mother and grandmother, parents must regularly discuss the bible with their children so when the time comes they, as the next generation, can step in. If our parents show a lack of care in the bible and the study of it, in most cases, we will too.

With all of these tools [and more] at our disposal as the next generation {and the generations after mine} there are no excuses for those who are not growing and preparing to support the church when the time comes. This is no mere theory. Godly churches remain so with this pattern. So I challenge you as parents to challenge your kids. Ask them biblical questions and if they don’t know the answers, discuss it with them. Discuss it with book chapter and verse, so when the time comes, they can do the same.

Thank you for reading.

“The Personal Appeal (2nd Timothy Chapter 4)”

By

Sarah Crawford

This chapter starts off with one of the famous sayings by Paul when he charges Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort; with complete patience and teaching” (vs. 2). These instructions are part of Paul’s farewell to Timothy as he knows that there is little time left in his earthly life. Verse 9 is where Paul begins his personal plea to Timothy, urging him to visit soon as time is drawing near for Paul’s death. In this last chapter, Paul concludes the letter with many words of parting directed to specific people. We do not know a whole lot about some of these people, but it is clear that they had significant importance in Paul’s life for him to mention them by name. Luke is the only one with Paul at this point and Paul gives Timothy instructions to bring Mark with him when he visits. This is interesting to see Paul’s change in disposition towards Mark. If we recall, John Mark was chosen by Barnabas to go on a missionary trip with them (Paul and Barnabas) and Paul refused to take Mark because he had abandoned them on a previous missionary journey. Paul was so adamant about not bringing Mark that he and Barnabas went on separate missionary trips instead of traveling together (Acts 15). Yet now we see that Paul calls Mark out by name and says “he is very useful to me”.  It is unclear what changed, but there was such a growth in Mark as a worker for God’s kingdom that Paul wishes him to visit in his last days.

Paul gives context for the location of a few people in the next verses by making simple statements as to where they currently are or have been sent. This gives us topographical placement for people while looking at the big picture. It also communicates to Timothy Paul’s current relationship with some of these individuals. For example, in case Timothy was not aware, Paul lets him know that Demas had abandoned him because of his love for the world. Paul also communicates how Timothy should respond if he comes across these people in verse 14 when he states, “the Lord will repay him for his deeds” referring to Alexander the coppersmith who had worked great harm against Paul. He goes on to defend to the people who deserted him when they faced great persecution and tells Timothy not to hold it against them. This is important for Timothy moving forward because we see Paul as a great support and brother to Timothy, but as he is soon to die, Timothy will face situations where he may not have any support from brethren. Paul strengthens him by encouraging him to find strength and courage in the Lord and be confident in the message of God.

Paul ends the letter with final greetings for Prisca, Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus and greetings to Timothy from Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, and Claudia by name. Paul also encourages the brethren in Rome to greet Prisca and Aquila (Romans 16:3). It is clear that from the multiple mentions of these two that they are very dear to Paul. Earlier in this letter, Paul blessed the household of Onesiphorus for the kindness and generosity shown to Paul regardless of his chains (2 Timothy 1). It goes on to say that Onesiphorus “searched for me earnestly and found me” while he was in Rome. Paul was being persecuted for his beliefs and those who associated with him were also in jeopardy for facing persecution, yet Onesiphorus not only stood by Paul, but sought him out amongst the persecution. This takes a great deal of love and faith in God so it makes sense that he would be one of the few people Paul wishes to send final greetings to. Paul mentions brethren who send their greetings to Timothy, in my opinion, as a way to further encourage Timothy and build his confidence that there are those who will support him once Paul is gone. Paul mentions again at the end for Timothy to come visit before winter, indicating how eager Paul is to see Timothy one more time. The last farewell is “The Lord be with your spirit”. Paul does end many of his letters with similar farewells, but this seems to target Timothy’s weakness. We see earlier Paul’s encouragement for Timothy to preach even though he is younger and not let others discourage him. As a younger brother, Timothy has worked to find a balance between teaching older brethren and still be respectful to his elders, while always serving God. It seems as if Paul is praying that the Lord strengthens Timothy’s spirit to preach as instructed at the beginning of this chapter; “in season and out of season”. This is one great take-home message for us as there are different situations where others may accept God’s word and others may assault us for speaking the truth. But as Paul says, we must “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

Remembering My Creator Volume 4, Number 2, September/October, 2018 Theme: Thoughts From 1st and 2nd Thessalonians

In This Issue

 

  • “Paul Remembers: How the Church was born, nurtured and established (1st Thessalonians Chapters 1-3)” by Randy Sexton
  • “Paul Exhorts: In Holiness, harmony, honesty, hope and helpfulness (1st Thessalonians Chapters 4-5)” by Randy Sexton
  • “Encouragement in Suffering (2nd Thessalonians Chapter 1)” by Hannah Clark
  • “Book of Second Thessalonians Chapter 3” (Reprint) by William C. Sexton

 

 

 

Paul Remembers: How the Church was born, nurtured and established (1st Thessalonians Chapters 1-3)

 

By

 

Randy Sexton

 

A Church is Born (Chapter 1)

The Background of the city of Thessalonica is very impressive. Today it is the second largest city in Greece, behind Athens. During World War I, it served as an important Allied base. The city has a long history. Originally it was known as Therma, but was renamed Thessalonica in 315 B.C. after the half-sister of Alexander the Great. At the time that Paul wrote this letter, 200,000 people lived there. The population was a mix of Greeks, Romans, and Jews. The church here was established by Paul on his second missionary journey (Acts 17:1-15). Paul had only been at Thessalonica “three Sabbath days” (Acts 17:2) before the Jews stirred up trouble and he had to leave. Scripture says “the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea” (Acts 17:10). Regardless, we know that Paul worked at his tent making trade to support himself (1Thess. 2:9; 2 Thess. 3:6-15). Despite his short stay, his teaching was solid enough to leave behind a thriving church. When he left for Athens, Paul told Timothy and Silas to remain behind there and help the new church and then join him later.

 

The Burden that Paul had for his brethren is evident in his writings. He wrote the two letters to the Thessalonians to assure them of his love and concern and to ground them in the doctrines of the faith, particularly with reference to Christ’s return. He recognized that they might be tempted to compromise the truth in the face of severe persecution. He also wrote to encourage them to live holy lives. There seemed to be some confusion among these brethren in regard to the second coming of Christ and about those who had already died. Paul comforts them with what he wrote (1Thess. 4:13-18).

 

The Blessing in the message of 1st and 2nd Thessalonians is the return of Jesus Christ and how this vital doctrine can affect our lives and churches and make us more spiritual. This book is unique in that every chapter ends with a reference to the second coming of Christ (1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:13-18; 5:23). With this emphasis on steadfastness and holy living, an appropriate theme might be: HOLINESS IN VIEW OF THE COMING OF CHRIST.

 

Paul addresses the Thessalonians as An Elect People (1:1-4). Paul is joined by Silvanus and Timothy in Corinth, where he is when he writes this epistle.  They had been with him when the gospel was first preached in Thessalonica. Paul offers his salutation along with a petition for grace and peace. He follows with an expression of thanksgiving for their work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope, knowing their election by God.

 

He recognizes them as An Exemplary People (1:5-7). They had received the gospel not only in word, but in power, in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance. They had imitated Paul and Jesus by receiving the word in much affliction and joy, they in turn had become examples to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.

 

They are further described by Paul as An Enthusiastic People (1:8). They were faithful in sounding out the word in every place, and in the process, the news of their own faith toward God had so spread that Paul did not need to tell others about them. In fact, others were telling Paul of the Thessalonians’ conversion from idols to serve the true God, and how they were waiting for the resurrected Jesus to return from heaven who would deliver them from the wrath to come.

 

The Thessalonians were An Expectant People (1:9-10). Based upon what they had been taught, they were fully expecting the return of Christ. They were known as a people who were waiting for the resurrected Jesus to return from heaven and to deliver them from the persecutions they were suffering then and from wrath to come.

 

A Church is Nurtured (Chapter 2)

“Just as God uses people to bring the Gospel to the lost, so He uses people to nurture the babes in Christ and help lead them to maturity. The church at Thessalonica was born through the faithful preaching of the apostle and his helpers, and the church was nurtured through the faithful pastoring that Paul and his friends gave to the infant church. This helped them to stand strong in the midst of persecution” (The Bible Exposition Commentary, Volume 2 by Warren Wiersbe, p. 163).

 

“Reflections Regarding His Conduct (2:1-12)

Having reflected upon their reception of the gospel, Paul now reflects upon his own conduct while with them. He describes the manner of his preaching as one that was free of guile, deceit, flattery, and covetousness. Seeking not the glory of men, but of God, he spoke with boldness despite conflict, and was gentle among them as a nursing mother would be with her own children (1-8). His manner of life was sacrificial, working hard not to be a burden to them, behaving devoutly, justly, and blamelessly while among them. As a father does his own children, he exhorted, comforted and charged them to walk in a way worthy of God who was calling them into His own kingdom and glory (9-12).

 

Reflections Regarding His Concerns (2:13-20)

Paul then begins to reflect upon the concern that he has for their condition. Thankful for their reception

of his gospel as the word of God and not of men, he writes how they had imitated the churches in Judea

in receiving the word among much persecution by their own countrymen (13-16). Even though it has

only been a short time since he has seen them, he has desired to come to them time and again, but Satan had hindered him. His longing to see them is due to his view of them as his hope, joy and crown of

rejoicing in the presence of Jesus when He comes again (17-20).”

(The First Epistle To The Thessalonians, p. 10, Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2001)

 

A Church Is Established (Chapter 3)

“In the first two chapters, Paul explained how the church was born and nurtured. Now he dealt with the next step in maturity: how the church was to stand. The key word in this chapter is establish (vv. 2 and 13)(The NASB uses the word “strengthen” in verse 2, but many other translations use the same word in both verses-RS). The key thought is expressed in 3:8: “For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord” (Wiersbe, p. 171).

 

“As Paul expresses his concern for their faithfulness, he explains why Timothy had been sent to them while he himself remained in Athens. Fearful that their afflictions might have given Satan an opportunity to tempt them and render his labors with them in vain, Timothy was sent to establish and encourage them in their faith (1-5).

 

Timothy brought back good news to Paul concerning the church at Thessalonica, telling him of their faith and love, their fond memories of Paul, and their desire to see him again. This greatly comforted Paul who was suffering his own afflictions, and he is overwhelmed with thankfulness and joy. Praying night and day that he might see them again and perfect what is lacking in their faith, he offers a prayer that God and Jesus might direct his way to them. He also prays that the Lord will help them to increase and abound in love to one another and to all, and to establish their hearts blameless in holiness before God at the coming of Christ with all His saints (6-13)” (Copeland, p. 13).

 

As we read this first epistle to the Thessalonians, we should be encouraged. Even though we do not face the tremendous physical persecution that these brethren faced, we may be subjected to social persecutions. Young people, you especially may face peer pressure that takes a great deal of courage and faith to resist. I pray that the word of the Apostle Paul to these first century Christians will help you in your walk with Christ.

 

Thanks for reading …

Randy

 

 

Paul Exhorts: In Holiness, harmony, honesty, hope and helpfulness (1st Thessalonians Chapters 4-5)

 

By

 

Randy Sexton

 

As we look at the final two chapters of 1st Thessalonians, the following outline by Warren Wiersbe may be helpful:

  1. How to Please Your Father (4:1-12)
  2. Walk in Holiness (vv. 1-8)
  3. Walk in Harmony (vv. 9-10)
  4. Walk in Honesty (vv. 11-12)

 

  1. The Comfort of His Coming (4:13-18)
  2. Revelation: We Have God’s Truth (vv. 13, 15a)
  3. Return: Christ is Coming Again (vv. 14-15)
  4. Resurrection: The Christian Dead (vv. 15-16)
  5. Rapture: Living Believers Caught Up (v. 17)
  6. Reunion: Christians Forever with the Lord (vv. 17-18)

 

III. Don’t Walk in Your Sleep! (5:1-11)

  1. Knowledge and Ignorance (vv. 1-2)
  2. Expectancy and Surprise (vv. 3-5)
  3. Soberness and Drunkenness (vv. 6-8)
  4. Salvation and Judgment (vv. 9-11)

 

  1. It’s All in the Family (5:12-28)
  2. Family Leadership (vv. 12-13)
  3. Family Partnership (vv. 14-16)
  4. Family Worship (vv. 17-28)

 

Also, as you read the Bible text, consider the following summaries of this good brother.

Chapter Four

“With this chapter Paul begins a series of apostolic instructions related to the Christian’s walk in holiness, especially in view of the coming of Christ. Urging them to abound more and more so that they might please God, he first focuses on their sanctification and the need to abstain from sexual immorality (1-8). He then urges them to increase more and more in brotherly love, even though they had been taught by God to love another and did so toward all the brethren throughout Macedonia (9-10). That they might walk properly toward outsiders, he urges them to lead quiet lives, mind their own business, and to work with their own hands (11-12).

 

Paul then addresses the matter of those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. He did not want the Thessalonians to sorrow over them as others who have no hope. For just as God raised Jesus from the dead, even so He would bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus (13-14). This leads to a description of the Lord’s coming, especially as it relates to how those who are alive and remain until His coming will in no way precede those who have died. Indeed, when the Lord comes from heaven, the dead in Christ will rise first, and we who are alive and remain will at that time be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air, to be with Him forever. Christians should therefore comfort one another with these words (15-18).

 

Chapter Five

“Continuing his apostolic instructions, Paul knows he does not need to write to the Thessalonians concerning the timing of the Lord’s coming, for they know full well that He will come as a thief in the night and with sudden destruction catch many people unexpectedly (1-3). Such should not be the case for Christians, however, for they are “sons of light” and “sons of the day”; therefore they should watch and be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and having as a helmet the hope of their salvation (4-8). Knowing that God has appointed them to obtain salvation through Jesus Christ, they know that whether dead or alive they will live with Christ. Through such hope they should therefore comfort and edify one another, just as they were doing (9-11).

 

A series of exhortations follows. First, to recognize and esteem those who labor among them and are over them in the Lord, and to be at peace among themselves (12-13). Then, exhortations related to our

concern for one another, along with a call to rejoice always, to pray without ceasing, to give thanks in everything, to quench not the Spirit nor despise prophecies, yet testing all things, holding fast to what is good and abstaining from all that is evil (14-22).”

(The First Epistle To The Thessalonians, pp. 16, 20, Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2001)

 

Young people, It is so important for us as we read this epistle of the Apostle Paul to these Christians of the first century, to see application in our own lives. May I suggest the following applications?

  • We should live in such a way that we are examples to others and when they think of us they think of our work of faith, labor of love, and steadfastness of hope
  • We should be busy about planting the seed of God’s word in the hearts of others and, as we do that, we should let the truth of God’s word speak for itself; we should not attempt to use “flattering speech” to persuade.
  • We should always be willing and eager to accept the word of God for what it is and make corrections in our lives.
  • We should continuously be examining our walk in the light of God’s word; so that we improve in those areas where we are weak, and so that we “excel still more” in those areas where we are strong.
  • We should be informed about the second coming of Christ and always be prepared for that day, knowing that no one knows when it will take place.

 

Thanks for reading …

Randy

 

 

Encouragement in Suffering – 2 Thessalonians Chapter 1

Thoughts by Hannah Clark

 

A while back I saw a picture on Facebook with pretty font and at first glance, I thought it said “So weary of the seed.” I scrolled back up to get a better look and realized it actually said “Sowers of the seed.” It got me thinking, how often do we feel weary of living by “the seed” (or the word of God)? How often do we take blessings for burdens? It’s something I’ve struggled with in my attitude of late but am also reminded that it’s not a feeling isolated to myself. Present Christians and those of the first century church in the New Testament all face various trials and tribulations. It’s our attitudes and decision to bend our wills to that of the Lord’s that sets up apart from the rest of the world.

I thought I was just having a rough time but when I look around at my co-workers, they are struggling too (not just physically but spiritually). On tough days, one thing that helps me gain a better perspective is taking a moment to try and help someone else out. It helps me see that I’m more blessed than I realize and am guilty of taking my blessings for granted far too easily. This life isn’t an easy one and that is why we have fellow Christians/brethren so that we can help one another – Christ didn’t intend for us to “go it alone.” The church in Thessalonica worked together for righteousness, despite the persecution they faced.

Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians isn’t long but I love the way it begins. Verse 2 says “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” If that isn’t a way to start a letter, I don’t know what is. Paul then goes on to commend them for their faith and love toward one another and even boasts of the patience despite the “persecutions and tribulations” that they endure (vs. 3-4). There are congregations now, especially in other countries, which face greater persecution than we do here in America. However, in the past and present, there were and are still “those who do not know God” and “those who do not obey the gospel” (vs. 8). Paul states in verse 9 that those people will be “punished with everlasting destruction.” Through suffering, we can find strength in Paul’s words not only to the Thessalonians but also when he told the brethren at Corinth to “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, know that your labor is not in vain” (I Corinthians 15:58).

Paul tells the brethren in 2 Thessalonians chapter 1 that their righteousness will count them as worthy for the kingdom of God (vs. 5) and that God will “repay with tribulation those who trouble you” (vs. 6). The same holds true for us today. Whatever life may throw our way or however the devil may choose to tempt us, our righteousness will be rewarded. And for those that may wrong us as we try to sow the seed, remember what Jesus said in Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”

 

Book of Second Thessalonians Chapter 3

 

Reprint from the Works of William C. Sexton

 

Introduction:  This third and final chapter of this book points to how discipline of people needs to be administered, if and when they do not conduct themselves according to the inspired teachings. This is a matter that is not always carried out, and if attempted, often trouble develops because it is not supported by all members of a congregation.

 

In the first five verses we are told of Paul’s request for their prayers that the word of the Lord would have frees course and that unreasonable and wicked men would not be able to keep it from having it’s effect. In line with that, the Lord would establish them and keep them from evil. He expressed his “confidence” in the Lord to perform His part and enable them to do “the things which” he had commanded them. He pointed to the Lord directing them relative to LOVE and PAITIENCE in “waiting for Christ.” (2 Thess. 3:1-5).

 

He commands them, using the authority of Christ Jesus, “that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother” who walks “disorderly, and not after the tradition which ye receives of me.” He reminds them of how he had conduced himself among them He had not been “disorderly,” among them, eating another’s “bread for naught.” Instead he had labored night and day, that he “might not be chargeable to any of “ them. He could and did call them as witnesses of his behavior. His behavior was not done because he didn’t have the power/right to have their financial support, but he was motivated to be “an ensample,” meaning example of course, for them to “follow” him. He reminds them that while he was with them, he “commanded” them “that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” (2 Thess. 3:6-10).

 

His knowledge comes from someone telling him that “there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.” This was shameful then, as it is today. When people are not busy working to support themselves, they become busybodies, meddling in things that are unprofitable. I believe we need to recognize the evil involved in such a lifestyle, and do what we can to correct them, according to God’s directions. The Bible does not support the lazy person who will not work to support self and contribute to others that  are really needy (Cf. Eph. 4:28; 1 Tim. 5:8). When such people are members of a congregation, they are to be dealt with as Paul here gives directions: “Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.” He tells them not to be “weary in well doing.” That is needed to be reminded when God directs us to take such action, then we need not be worry in such. Even more directly he tells them: “If any man obeys not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.” Notice the aim of such action: It’s to cause a person to see his misconduct and be ashamed so that he can/will return to behaving as the Lord demands! Then a cautionary note is give as to our relationship with that person: “Yet count him not as an enemy but admonish him as a brother.” (2 Thess. 3:11-15).

 

Paul closes this letter by pointing to “peace” that the Lord gives, as He is with them. The “token” of each of his letters is to give his salutation with his “own hand.” Wishing the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” (2 Thess. 3:16-18).

 

Questions

  1. Finally what did Paul request of these brethren as he opens this chapter (2 Thess. 3:1-2)

 

  1. What did he say the Lord is “faithful” in doing (2 Thess. 3:3)?

 

  1. What did Paul have “confidence” concerning (2 Thess. 3:4-5)

 

4). What matter did Paul given direction concerning in v. 6-15)?

 

  1. What action is commanded relative to “every brother” who does walk how (2 Thess. 3:6)?:

 

6.How had Paul conducted himself among them for what reason (2 Thess. 3:7-9))?

 

  1. When with them what had he “commanded” (2 Thess. 3:10)?

 

8.What had he heard about some there and his direction to corrective action (2 Thess. 3:11 12)

 

9.What is the aim of such action, and attitude toward a disciplined brother (2 Thess. 3:13-15) ?

 

  1. How did he close the letter (2 Thess. 316-18)?

Remembering My Creator Volume 4, Number 1, August 31, 2018, Theme: Thoughts From Hebrews

In This Issue

 

  • “Jesus is Superior to Angelic Beings (1:1–2:18)” by Randy Sexton
  • “Warning, a Rest for the People of God (3:7-4:13)” by David Bushnaq
  • “The High Priesthood of Jesus (4:14-10:18)” by Dillon Jarrett
  • “The Full Assurance of Faith (10:19-39)” by Hannah Clark
  • “Sacrifices Pleasing to God (13:1-19)” by John Crawford
  • “Thoughts From Hebrews 13 by William C. Sexton (Reprint)

 

 

“Jesus is Superior to Angelic Beings” (Hebrews 1:1 – 2:18)

By

Randy Sexton

 

Roger Shouse states, in his excellent class material on the book of Hebrews, “Hebrews is considered by many to rank with Romans and Revelation as difficult to understand. Certainly the writer himself believed what he was writing was for the spiritually mature (Hebrews 5:11-6:3). The book contains what is probably the most sustained argument in Scripture. The author makes extensive use of Old Testament quotations and an understanding of the Jewish Scriptures is essential to understanding the book.”

The Hebrew epistle does not tell us who wrote it and various commentators and writers have differing opinions as to authorship. Some believe it was authored by Paul, others Apollos, and still others Clement, or Luke, or Barnabas. Neither does the author of this epistle clearly designate his audience. But he does seem “to be targeting a group of Jewish converts who are facing the temptation of returning to Judaism. The author seeks to show the superiority of the new convenant over the old. The author knows the recipients (Hebrews 5:11f; 10:24f; 1317f), who are clearly a certain group of Hebrew Christians rather than Hebrews in general” (Shouse).

The theme of this entire epistle is that the New Covenant is better than the Old. A Key Verse is Hebrews 8:6: “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.”

“Jews who became Christians faced many hardships. Think about it. Just leaving behind all of the rituals of Old Testament worship would have been hard. They had been doing these things their entire lives. Some were treated as outcasts by their friends and family. Others were persecuted. Because of all these hardships, some considered turning away from Jesus and going back to the Old Law.” (David Banning, A Quick Look at Each New Testament Letter, p. 18)

The primary thoughts in this section of the epistle could be captured under the headings: the supremacy of God’s Son, Warning Against Neglecting Salvation, and the Founder of Salvation. Let us examine these thoughts as presented by the writer of the Hebrew letter.

The Supremacy of God’s Son (1:1-14)

Although God has spoken to His people throughout the ages, the instrumentality He has chosen has varied. And in our case, He has saved the best until last. In these last days He speaks to us through His Son. We may sometimes lose sight of how blessed we are to sit where we do in the “stream of time” and to benefit from those who have lived before us and from the things that “have been written for our learning” (Rom. 15:4).

Warning Against Neglecting Salvation (2:1-4)

To avoid drifting away from our salvation, “we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard.” Because we are prone, as humans, to act from what our hearts and minds dwell on, we cannot NEGLECT what we have learned, and still remain steadfast.

The Founder of Salvation (2:5-18)

The writer of this epistle shows the tremendous things that Jesus has done for us in order to demonstrate the value of remaining faithful. Nothing else can compart to Him. The fact that Jesus left heaven to become a man should make us so very grateful for the benefits that accrued to us.

 

 

Warning, a Rest for the People of God” (Hebrews 3:7-4:13)

By

David Bushnaq

Hebrews 3 shows us that there are two types of people, those who will enter God’s rest and those who will not. We also find just how those who failed to enter God’s rest earned that state. Starting in verse 7…

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, In the day of trial in the wilderness, Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, And saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, And they have not known My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’ ”

We as children of God know that we too, as those who were lead out by Moses can rebel against God if we wish, however as hindsight is 20/20 we also know what awaits us.

Could you believe the nerve of those following Moses? They saw the plagues, they saw the sea separating right and left so they could walk on dry land, but as soon as things got tough, they wished to return to the Egyptians, undoing all the good God and Moses did for them.

“Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

This passage warns, and rightly so, that we can depart from the Living God. In doing so, we lose our salvation, or rest, when this life is over. Not only must we watch out for ourselves, but those in the household of God as well.

We do not have Moses, as they did, but we do have something better. We have God’s holy word and the best defense against deceit is, as Jesus said “it is written.” We must realize where our salvation comes from, and live lives accordingly- steadfast until the end.

Now there is a command for us, we must “hear his voice” and remain open, receptive to it. After all, starting in verse 16 we find that just hearing isn’t enough.

“For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”

This is the finality of life. All will cease- from this life that is. I guess in that regard all will rest, physically, but that’s not the end of it. If we rebel, as those did, our state would be like those who fell in the wilderness. Worse than that, we incur God’s wrath. A wrath there will be no rest from once we die.

So once again, there are two types of people, those who will obey and those who will not. I ask you then, which will you be? We learn that not all died in those 40 years, those who remained faithful did enter the promised rest, everyone else, however, as Matthew 7 states

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

 

http://www.achristiansvoice.com/remembering-my-creator-volume-4-number-1-august-31-2018-theme-thoughts-from-hebrews/high-priesthood-of-jesus-by-dillion-jarrett/             
 Call to Faith and Endurance – The Full Assurance of Faith” (Hebrews 10:19-39)

Thoughts by Hannah Clark

For the passage listed in the title, my Bible contains two division titles, “Hold Fast Your Confession” and “The Just Live by Faith.” I have separated my thoughts to coincide with these headings and hope they will make it easier as you follow along in your Bible.

Hold Fast Your Confession

We are to emulate Christ and one of the characteristics of our Father is that He Himself is faithful. One of the promises made to Abraham was that “all of the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3) Throughout the Old Testament we can see prophecies that foretell the coming of Christ in whom we have salvation. The Hebrew writer even states in chapter 10 verse 23 that “He who promised is faithful.” What a comfort to know that the living God we serve will not forsake us despite how imperfect we are. In this, we can have assurance that our trust in Him will not be misplaced but lead to everlasting life.

The Just Live by Faith

“Therefore do not cast away your confidence which has great reward.” (Heb. 10:35) Our faith will be tested and tried in various ways but in turning to the scriptures, we are warned not to give in. The Hebrew writer includes a warning for those that would turn away in that there is no salvation from sin outside of Christ.

Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Heb. 10:29)

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Heb. 10:31)

Joshua stated in the Old Testament “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) The first century Christians felt a sense of urgency that has been lost over time. They were awaiting the coming of Christ again and preparing His coming. They knew that their earthly possessions were of little value compared to their home in heaven (Heb. 10:34). The Hebrew writer says that they “…see the Day approaching” and that “for yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry.” (Heb. 10:25, 37)  Our lives on this earth may seem long and full of years but that is nothing compared to the expanse of eternity. With the assurance of faith we have in the Lord, we ought to be preparing ourselves for Christ to come again and be waiting to “see the Day approaching.

“Therefore, we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

 

 

“Thoughts on Hebrews 13″               

By

William C. Sexton (Reprint)

 

Introduction: This last chapter of the book to the Hebrews begins with the directions to let brotherly love continue, looking back and remembering, not forgetting some who entertained strangers.

Remembering faithful Christians in “bonds,” is a commendable thing to do. Marriage is described as be “honorable in all,” while the violators of God’s rules in this matter shall be “judged.”(Heb. 13:1-4)

Covetousness is to be avoided, as we are to be “content” with such things as we have. This can be done, if we remember that God has promised that He’ll not leave nor forsake us. Whit that promise, we can know by faith the Lord is our helper, so we’ll not fear what men can do to us (Heb. 13:5-6).

Remember, in the sense that we respect them who have the rule over us. Each of us ought to appreciate the people God has set forth in His church to rule in the sense they are concerned for our souls and are willing to guide us in that which has been revealed, knowing that God knows best and is interested in our well-being! These people have spoken the message from heaven and provide example worthy of imitating, following. We need to look at the results of such living (Heb. 13:7)

We need to recognize the unchangeableness of Jesus, and thus be not carried away with doctrines that are not what God has revealed. The heart needs to be established on the grace of God, rather than being obsessed with carnal matters. In contrast with those who are trying to hold on to the Old Covenant, we have an altar on which they have no right to partake. Those animal sacrifices are no longer doing what they once signified, for Jesus has come and fulfilled His mission. He has accomplished what those offerings of Old could only point to. The appeal is made then for us to go forth committed to Jesus, and humbly carry any and all reproaches that result from our behavior and commitment to Christ. (Heb. 13:8-13).

Christians here are not looking for an earthly city; rather, we are looking for that heavenly place. The “sacrifice” we offer is “Praise to God,” the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. Doing good is to ever be before us. That included understanding what respect we need to give to the elders who watch for our souls. We need to pray for all the servants of God. (Heb. 13:14-19).

Now the God of peace who brought Jesus forth from the dead can make us “perfect in every good work,” as we do His will. The writer appeals to them to accept the word of exhortation, and to “know” brethren who have been “set at liberty.” Salute all them who rule. Grace be with us all. (Heb. 13:20-25)

Questions:

  1. What are we told to continue and remember (Heb. 13:1-2)?
  2. How is marriage described, contrasted with violations of the marriage vowel (Heb. 13:4)?
  3. What is said about covetousness and contentment and why (Heb. 13:5-6)?
  4. What is said relative to them who have the rule over us (Heb. 13:7, 17)?
  5. What is said about Jesus and being carried away with strange doctrine (Heb. 13:8-9))?
  6. What is said about the “altar” we have contrasted with the Old one (Heb. 13:10-13))?
  7. What is said about a city, as distinct to what we are looking for and doing (Heb. 13:14-16)?
  8. What is said about prayer, conscience, and honestly (Heb. 13:18-19)?
  9. What has the “God of peace” done and can and will make you (Heb. 13:20-21)?
  10. What is said about exhortation, knowing certain brethren, and saluting (Heb. 13:22-25)

The Disciplines of Life: Discernment, Decision and Duty

This is the fourth article in our series, The Disciplines of Life. We have studied: Solitude, Discipleship and Dependability & Determination thus far. There are many disciplines that should be evident in the life of the Christian. In this article, we want to look at the disciplines of discernment, decision, and duty.

As we have been emphasizing in this series, these are called “disciplines” because they are not acquired without deliberate effort. Discipline is “Training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360). Please consider …

 

Discernment

One of the disciplines of life that we must develop is that of discernment. As we go through life, we are impacted by people, places and events. We might consider those things stimuli (i.e. something that incites to action or exertion or quickens action, feeling, thought, etc.). As Christians, it is important that we exercise discernment in determining the source of those stimuli; are they of God or of Satan?

 

The writer of the Hebrew letter tells us that we must be disciplined to discern both good and evil and that this is a work of spiritual maturity (Heb. 5:11-14). One who has not fed upon the Word of God, first with the “milk,” and then progressing to the “strong meat” (KJV) of the Word is NOT able to properly make these right decisions!

Think about the contrast we see between the actions of God vs. actions of Satan upon our lives:

Area of Influence God Satan
Our Mistakes Offers the blood of Jesus that washes whiter than snow (Isa. 1:18; 1Jn. 1:9) Takes pleasure in them, especially if his “wiles” have contributed (Eph. 6:11)
Our Motivations Points us to the pathway of self-denial and selfless service (Mt. 16:24-26 Tempts us with self-interests, physical needs, social position, etc. (Mt. 4:3, 8; 16:23
Our Perspective Exalts the present help of the Lord (Ps. 46:1). Reminds us of the promises, whereby we can hope against hope (Rom. 5:3-5). Emphasizes the past, with its mistakes and heartaches. Magnifies our problems, by showing their hoplessness, impossibility, and pail
Our Guide Walk by faith (2Cor. 5:7; Heb. 11:6). Forget the past and reach forward (Phil. 3:13-14). Walk by sight and earthly wisdom (“the counsel of the ungodly” Ps. 1:1).

 

It is so very important, as we attempt to live for Jesus here, that we focus our attention on developing the discipline of discernment. Won’t you be persuaded, dear friend, to do that?

 

 Decision

Secondly, consider the discipline of decision. In the course of a lifetime there are many decisions to be made. Some of these decisions seem very trivial at the time and others may weigh on us because of their importance in setting the future course of our lives.  The Scriptures promise guidance in these decisions to the trusting Christian (Ps. 32:8; 25:9). The “way which you should go” often become more clear after meditation and prayer! Seeking guidance from God before making a decision is never a bad thing!

Of particular interest in considering this discipline is Jeremiah 42:3-10. First consider the context of this passage. “Jeremiah lived during troubled times. He became a prophet during Josiah’s reign (640-609 B.C.). Josiah was the last faithful king in Judah’s history (2Kings 22:1-23:7). His death (2Kings 23:28-30) marked the beginning of the last years of the nation of Judah…. Jeremiah was a biblical theologian…. Whom the Holy Spirit inspired to write fresh treatments of old themes and some ideas that were new when Jeremiah penned them…. the prophet asks people over 100 times to ‘turn around’ or ‘repent.’ ” (ESV Study Bible, pp. 1364-1367).   From this passage we glean three outstanding factors that determine the discipline of decision:

  1. Willingness to ask guidance from God (vv3 and 6, Js. 1:5). They said, “Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God…” We have many examples in Scripture of those who were willing to seek guidance from God before embarking on an important activity: “Moses at the Red Sea, Joshua at passage of the Jordan, Ruth in the village of Bethlehem, David in the wilderness, Nehemiah in the court of the king, Jeremiah in the prison, Peter on the housetop, and Paul on board the storm-tossed sailing craft” (Erdman, p. 40)
  2. Willingness to wait for God’s guidance (v7). They had to wait for ten days for the word of the Lord to come to Jeremiah after he asked God on their behalf. There is a song by Stuart Hamblen that speaks to the need to wait for God. The lyrics of that song are as follows:

Teach Me Lord to Wait

Teach me Lord to wait right down on my knees,
Till in Your own good time You answer my pleas;
Teach me not to rely on what others do,
But to wait in prayer for an answer from You.

 

Refrain:

“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength,
They shall mount up with wings like eagles.
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.”
Teach me Lord, teach me Lorde, to wait

 

Teach me Lord to wait while hearts are a-flame,
Let me humble my price and call on your name.
Keep my faith renewed, my eyes on Thee,
Let me be on this earth what you want me to be

 

  1. Willingness to obey the will of God (v. 10). The word from Jeremiah to the people was, “If you will indeed stay in this land, then I will build you up and not tear you down, and I will plant you and not uproot you; for I will relent concerning the calamity that I have inflicted on you.” This was not really what they wanted to hear. Secretly they desired to flee into the land of Egypt where they would not see pestilence nor warfare; but they wanted God’s approval of their preference.

 

Sadly, in the following chapter we find the description of their failure to obey, “Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the arrogant men said to Jeremiah, “You are telling a lie! The Lord our God has not sent you to say, ‘You are not to enter Egypt to reside there’; 3 but Baruch the son of Neriah is inciting you against us to give us over into the hand of the Chaldeans, so they will put us to death or exile us to Babylon.” 4 So Johanan the son of Kareah and all the [a]commanders of the forces, and all the people, did not obey the voice of the Lord to stay in the land of Judah” (Jer. 43:2-4).

 

The question for all of us is, are we willing to obey the voice of the Lord “whether it be good or whether it be evil.”

 

Duty

“Is there delight deeper or more delectable than that of duty diligently done? To know one’s responsibility, to face its circumstances, both favorable and unfavorable, to follow the line of duty without deviation caused by difficulties or distraction, and to fulfill the task as assigned – all this brings great joy. Between finding out our task and fulfilling the same there lies the discipline of duty, often arduous and difficult, even to the point of impossibility”

(Edman, p. 247).

 

We have many Bible examples of those who responded when the will of God called them to duty. The Apostle Paul obeyed when he was called to bear witness in Rome (Acts 23:11). Abraham went when called to go out to a land that he knew nothing about and had not seen with the promise that he would inherit that land (Gen. 12). Joseph responded to God’s call to become the ruler and benefactor of his brethren (Gen. 39). Moses, though feeling unqualified followed God’s direction to lead his enslaved people from the iron furnace of Egypt (Ex. 3). David said “yes” when God called him to leave his duties as a shepherd boy to become king over Israel (1Sam. 16). Cyrus the Persian became God’s hands and feet to order the restoration of Jerusalem (Ezra 1). Mary humbled herself to become the mother of the messiah, to see the performance of those things told her from the Lord (Lk. 1:26ff).

 

Forces that may oppose our performance of Duty include the wrath of men, the waste of years, the waves of despair, and the wickedness of the Adversary.

 

  1. The Wrath of Men

They plotted to take Paul’s life the morning after the Lord called him to witness at Rome (Acts 23:12-13).  When David became King, the Philistines came up to seek him to thwart that from happening (2Sam. 5:17). When Nehemiah sought to rebuild his city, the adversaries were present with intimidation, innuendo, intrigue, and insinuation, to resist his efforts.

 

  1. Waste of Years

“Paul was taken from Jerusalem to Caesarea on his way to Rome, only to languish for an undefined and interminable period. There was no case against him, but he had no friends at court, nor would he stoop to bribery (Acts 24:26); with the result that he remained immobile in the dungeon. His soul entered into delay and darkness, caused by the negligence and selfishness of others” (Erdman, p. 250). Moses was rejected by his people and spent 40 years in the wilderness. David was hunted by an insanely jealous Saul and spent years fleeing to escape his attempts to kill him. Elijah sat by the brook when Ahab ruled the land.

 

  1. Waves of Despair

Paul did not perish in prison. He was compelled to appeal to Caesar. The indifference on the part of others comes to an end. Moses is called by God to go down into Egypt. Elijah is sent to Ahab. Paul at Tarsus is called to Antioch. “When God’s hour strikes, you will go forward into His will. Not perhaps as you had planned but in a way which He sees is best for you.” (Erdman, p. 251). The Lord often takes the storm out of the life of His children before He takes them out of the storm.

 

  1. The Wickedness of the Adversary

And then sometimes when all of the other forces have failed to hinder the performance of duty, the adversary makes a direct attack. Sometime that may come by sickness (Lk. 13:16), other times by self-pity (Mt. 16:21-25) or by self-sufficiency (1Tim. 3:6).

 

“The Discipline of Duty is not easy nor light, its performance is painful and perilous, but its culmination is delight” (Erdman. P. 253)

 

Conclusion:

Discernment, Decision, and Duty are disciplines worthy of our pursuit! Do you possess them? If not won’t you consider carefully what we have said and determine to grow by adding them to your character?

(Source: The Disciplines of Life by V. Raymond Erdman, pp. 39–43, 167–171, 247-253)

The Disciplines of Life: Dependability & Determination

Dependability and Determination are key disciplines that should be prevalent in the life of the Christian. This is the third lesson in our series, The Disciplines of Life. We have studied: Solitude and Discipleship thus far. In this lesson we want to look at the disciplines of dependability and diligence.

As we have been emphasizing in this series, these are called “disciplines” because they are not acquired without deliberate effort. Discipline is “Training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360). We have also been pointing out the exhortations found in scripture. Paul told the Corinthians, “I discipline my body …” (2Cor. 9:27). Peter wrote to those Christians who were scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, “…prepare your minds for action …” (1Pet. 1:13)

Please  Consider …

Dependability (Lamentations 3:27)

The Strength or Weakness of Mature Years is Determined Largely in the Days of Youth. This includes the following features of one’s character:

  1. The dependability or irresponsibility,
  2. The sturdiness or vacillation of character,
  3. The sunshine or shadow of personality,
  4. The strength or weakness of body

God needs strong men and women, who can bear heavy burdens in dark and difficult days; and they can do so, if they have borne the yoke in their youth”  (Erdman, p. 91).

Dependable Performance of Duties Helps Prepare for the Stirring Service of God

Though sometimes these duties may be “boring” they discipline for further service. Thought they sometimes may be outside our “comfort zones” they stimulate growth. Dependable performance of duties from a young age helps to prepare for the stern realities of life.

What it means to bear the Yoke in one’s Youth

Bearing the yoke in one’s youth means to become accustomed early to do with cheerfulness one’s share of duties, however small that may be at first. It also means to complete one’s assignment conscientiously and thoroughly, even though no one sees us. It means to profit by one’s mistakes and to take correction gratefully. It means to serve for the love of service rather than for reward. To bear the yoke in youth is to be able to bear burdens in later years, and to bring glory to God in doing so.

Bible Example: David

David had a heart that loved God (1Sam 13:14; Ps. 89:20; Acts 13:22; 1Sam. 16:7, 12). He knew his future clearly (1Sam. 16:13).

“David was faithful in the tasks assigned to him, and in the extra opportunities which were available. He was required to care for his father’s sheep, a menial and uninspiring routine. He practiced on his harp upon his own initiative; and he applied himself with good zeal to both opportunities. We know something of his faithfulness to his father in his fearlessness of the lion and bear that attacked his flock (I Sam. 17:34, 35). We need more of that devotion in the duties assigned to children and young people, devotion that will stick to the job despite lions of laziness and bears of boredom. Loyalty to parents and employers, at the risk of loss to ourselves, leads to gain over Goliaths in the large conflicts of later life (I Sam. 17:36-51).”

 Others have as well:

  1. Joseph – called to be a statesman (Gen. 37:5-11).
  2. Joshua – called to be a military leader (Gen. 27: 18-23).
  3. John – called to be a forerunner for Jesus (Lk. 1:76-77; Jn. 1:22-23)

Others did not learn until late in life (but in plenty of time for their real service):

  1. Moses at the burning bush (Exod. 3:1-10).
  2. Simon Peter on the beach of Bethsaida (Luke 5:1-11).
  3. Saul of Tarsus at the Damascus gate (Acts 9:1-6).

Whether they know their life’s calling or not, the most important consideration about the future is to do faithfully what is before them today, for the discipline of dependability demands tasks thoroughly done” (Erdman, p. 95).

Doing their duty today will not leave them in darkness indefinitely. The light will come! (Psalm 112:4; Job 22:28; 23:8-12).Faithfulness leads to fulfillment of dreams, not futility; dependability, to delight of duty.

Now consider another discipline to be developed by all Christians …

Determination (Eph. 6:13)

The story is told that Henry Ford, the pioneer auto manufacturer, was often asked by young people, “How can I make my life a success?” His response was always, “If you start a thing, finish it!” He would then illustrate with a personal example:

“Plausible reasons for quitting are always at hand. Mr. Ford told us one day that when he was making his first car in that little brick building on the alley in the rear of his home, he work away with all the ardor of young enthusiasm looking forward to great results. Then the thrill and interest simply evaporated. Why? He said he had gone far enough on that first car to see how he could build a second and a better one, and the glowing new vision got in the way of his work. What was the use of finishing the car he had started? Some untaught inner wisdom must have warned him, for he forced himself on. He soon discovered he was learning more and more about his second car by going on to complete his first…. Following faithfully on never leads anyone into permanent darkness. But for the quitter, all he is likely to get is a stronger habit of quitting and a lower place to begin again. The man who will not give up, even if he fail of his objective, is led through to another objective; the man who hangs on as if he were paid to hang on can always start again at par or better – he has strengthened himself….Quitting makes a dead end of any road—often just as it was ready to open. Transfer if you must; catch another wavelength; change your level to a higher one, but don’t quit—it is always too soon to quit.”” (“Too Soon To Quit,” W. J. Cameron, the Ford Sunday Evening Hour, January 10, 1937. Quoted by V. Raymond Edmon on pp. 137-140 of The Disciplines of Life.)

Determination to finish what we have begun is a discipline we need!

This discipline is exemplified in the life of our Lord Jesus. At an early age He was about His Father’s business (Luke 2:49). In the strength of manhood He declared, ”My food is to do the will of him that sent me, and finish his work” (John 4:34). When His earthly service was complete He could pray, ”I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (John 17:4); and from Calvary’s Cross rang out His triumph, ”It is finished” (John 19:30).

“Can we not follow His footsteps, filled with His Spirit, to finish the task appointed, with heart aglow and hurrying feet, with strong hands and steady mind, with shield of faith and sword of Spirit, with patience to run the race that is set before us? Can we not trust Him for grace that is sufficient, for strength that is perfected in weakness, for help that is sure, and for faithfulness that will not fail, in order that we may know the discipline of doing our duty? Then it is always too soon to quit” (Erdman, p. 141).

Conclusion:

  1. These are the fundamentals in the deep discipline of dependability”
  • A heart that loves God
  • Confidence of a future life that is in His hands
  • Faithfulness in duty
  • Fearlessness before dangers, in associations, and in the fiery trial of envy of elders
  1. Determination to faithfully run the race that is set before us is a needed discipline.
  2. Dependability and determination go hand in hand to equip the Christian for all good works! May we ever strive to develop them as part of our character.

(Source: The Disciplines of Life by V. Raymond Edman, pp. 91-99, 137-141)

The Disciplines of Life: Discipleship

There are many disciplines that should be evident in the life of the Christian. Paul told the Corinthians, “I discipline my body …” (2Cor. 9:27). Peter wrote to those Christians who were scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, “…prepare your minds for action …” (1Pet. 1:13)

In the N.T. the words connected to discipleship are applied chiefly to the followers of Jesus and describe the life of faith… Discipleship then is the whole process of accepting the call of Jesus, obeying and enrolling in His service, imitating his example, learning his teaching, and serving Him as your master!” (Dictionary of N.T. Theology, Colon Brown, Vol. 1, p.480).

Let’s consider the requirements of discipleship … 

To Be Taught By the Master and Then to Teach Others

 Discipleship means ‘discipline!’ The disciple is the one who has been taught or trained by the Master, who has come with his ignorance, superstition, and sin, to find learning, truth, and forgiveness from the Saviour. Without discipline we are not disciples, even though we profess His name and pass for a follower of the lowly Nazarene. In an undisciplined age when liberty and license have replaced law and loyalty, there is greater need than ever before that we be disciplined to be His disciples.” (Disciplines of Life, V. Raymond Edman, p. 9)

Discipleship is carrying out the Great Commission! (Mt. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:15-16; 2Tim. 2:2).

The gospels detail the 3 ½ years Jesus spent preparing His apostles. “Apart from his atoning sacrifice, the main work of Jesus on earth was to train His disciples on whom would rest the future of the Kingdom of God” (Peter Wilson).

In His prayer to His father, he said, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which you have given Me to do” (Jn. 17:4)

When the apostles were told to “go make disciples” it brought back to their minds the 3 ½ years He had taught them.

  1. Having right priorities in life
  2. Watching out for false doctrine
  3. Being humble
  4. Not being materialistic

We too have a responsibility to the great commission.

“The invitation of Jesus was come and learn of me. The charge that followed was go and teach. Upon everyone who has learned, the Lord has placed the responsibility of telling others what he has learned. When he said to the Apostles, ‘teach them to observe all thing whatsoever I have commanded you,” the command was passed on to those who should obey the gospel. From that time, it has been the responsibility of the baptized disciple to follow that command!” (Let’s Go Fishing For Men, Homer Hailey, p. 7).

The Discipline of Conversion

We recognize our lost state (Isa. 53:6; Rom. 3:23; Gal. 3:22; Eph. 2:3, 12). This discipline is difficult for the natural heart because we don’t like to admit our sin and guilt. It takes a person with a good and honest heart to accept. Condider those who did …

  1. David did (2Sam. 12:13)
  2. Peter did (Lk. 5:8)
  3. The woman who washed Jesus feet with her tears did (Lk. 7:48, 50)
  4. The Publican did (Lk. 18:13)

When we come in faith, He will save us by His grace (Tit. 3:5; Jn. 1:12). He wants to “disciple” – teach and train – those who come to Him (Mt. 11:28-30). Without discipline we are not his sons; but as His sons we need the exhortation of Heb. 12:5-6, even though it may at the time be “grevious” (12:11).

The Discipline of Cost

 Jesus taught the importance of sacrifice in following Him (Mt. 10:37; Lk. 14:26). We must have the same attitude the Apostle Paul had (Phil. 3:8). “This denial of all, including ourselves, is the deepest discipline of discipleship. There are those who are dearer to us than life itself but they should not be dearer than the Saviour” (Eman, p. 7). Two strong illustrations about counting the cost are given by Jesus in Lk. 14:28.33.

The Discipline of Cross-Bearing

 Three things are necessary for us each day

  1. Daily food (for which we are to pray) (Mt. 6:11)
  2. Daily work (in which we are to be faithful) (1Thess. 4:11-12; 2Thess. 3:10-13)
  3. Daily cross (which we are to take up and follow Him) (Lk. 9:23; 14:27; Mt. 16:24). This cross is the denial of self, in the deepest meaning of that word, and of all that life has to offer, in full surrender to the will of God; in the spirit of Calvary’s Cross, to be sure” (Edman, p. 14)
Conclusion:

We must all understand discipleship if we are to do the Lord’s bidding. May recalling to mind the successes of the First Century Christians motivate us to “keep on keeping on!” Are you His disciple? Are you teaching others as you were taught?

(Sources: The Disciplines of Life, V. Raymond Edman; Celebration of Discipline, Richard J. Foster; Sermon Outline by Randy Sexton preached at County Line Rd, St. Joseph, MO, 5/17/1992)

The Disciplines of Life: Solitude

Jesus often separated himself from others to be alone, to pray, to spend time of quiet in the presence of His Father. This was a “discipline” that he incorporated into His earthly life.

Paul told the Corinthians, “… I discipline my body…” (2Cor 9:27) Usually when we think of bodily discipline, we think of diet & nutrition, exercise, and life style. I don’t believe this is what Paul had in mind. (See Foot Note). Peter said, “…prepare your minds for action” (1Pet. 1:13).“Discipline” is “Training the corrects, molds or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360).

These words were written 70 years ago, and are even truer today than they were then, “Ours is an undisciplined age. The old disciplines are breaking down, and the foundations of society appear to be crumbling. The discipline of the home seems to be vanishing in the new psychology which teaches: parents obey your children! The discipline of the schoolroom is becoming anathema, according to the so-called Progressive Education, lest the personality of the child be thwarted by the imposition of a will higher than his own. The old academic ‘disciplines’: mathematics, ancient language, grammar, are being ignored as obsolete and unimportant. Above all, the discipline of divine grace is derided as legalism or is entirely unknown to a generation that is largely illiterate in the Scriptures. We need the rugged strength of Christian character that can come only from discipline: the discipline of spirit, of mind, of body, of society. Otherwise, the home will lose its heart as well as its hearth, the schoolroom its strength, the textbooks their exactness, the Scriptures their sanction” (The Disciplines of Life, V. Raymond Edman, Preface)(underlining is mine).

One of the disciplines that we need to incorporate into our lives is “solitude.” As I have studied men and women of faith from the Bible, I am more convinced than ever of this. One of my favorite authors, who has written about many of these men and women of faith says, “A survey of the Scriptures reveals that those God used greatly were often prepared for those exploits during periods of solitude, quietness, and obscurity” (Paul: A Man of Grace and Grit, Charles Swindoll, p.46)

Bible Examples of God Using the Discipline of Solitude in the Lives of His Servants

Moses (Ex. 2:1-4:31; Acts 7:20-43; Heb. 11:23-29). Moses was positioned to embrace a remarkable political future. As he approached the age of 40, he visited his Israelite brethren and observed one being treated unjustly (Acts 7:23-24). After murdering the Egyptian, he fled to the plains of Midian and married the daughter of a local priest (Ex. 2:11-12). He spent the next 40 years tending his father-in-law, Jethro’s sheep (Gen. 3:1; Acts 7:30). Not until he was 80 years old did God bring him out of obscurity to lead His people

David (1Sam. 16:12-13; 17:34-58 and chapters 18 – 31). Anointed king over Israel as a teen, he didn’t assume the throne until age 30. After defeating Goliath, he spent the next 13 years as a fugitive, hiding in the caves of Engedi from King Saul. During this period of solitude, he wrote some of his beloved Psalms, but mostly he lived in obscurity in the Judean wilderness.

Joseph (Gen. chapters 39 -41). Thrown in jail because of the accusations of Potiphar’s wife (39:19-20), he spent 2 years (41:1) in the prisons of Egypt. “Though his sentence was unfair, Joseph learned much in that cell of confinement” (Swindoll). At age of 30, he was made “ruler” 2nd only to Pharaoh (41:38-43).

Elijah (1Ki. 17:1-16). Elijah stood toe-to-toe with Ahab the King to boldly declare no rain or dew would fall on the kingdom for as long as it would take for them to repent! To protect him from the expected backlash, the Lord hid Elijah by the brook Cherith. During this “brookside retreat” Elijah was renewed and refreshed by God.

John the Baptist (Lk. 3:1-22; 7:18-30; Mt. 3:1-17; 11:7-15; 14:1-12; Mk.6:14-29). “He lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel” (Lk. 1:80). … the word of God came to him in the wilderness and he spent much of his adult life preaching in the there (Lk. 3:1-3)… No distinction, no prominent place of ministry, no compelling message that appealed to the masses. Only years of solitude, silence, and obscurity, which ended when he was beheaded at the request of a silly dancing girl (Mt. 14:3-12)…. Yet, God called him to the desert. He had His reasons and John submitted to the plan” (Swindoll)

The Apostle Paul (Acts chapters 9, 22 and 26). We first meet him as a “raging bull,” persecuting followers of Christ. God interrupts his march to Damascus by striking him blind. “In less than a week, God transformed Saul from a vicious Christian-hating murderer into a passionate preacher…. God’s on-going process of preparing Saul was time away, all alone, to think through the implications of his newfound faith, to begin to know his Savior much more intimately, to come to terms with what it meant to be a messenger of grace” (Swindoll). Read Galatians 1:10-17 for Paul’s further explanation of the events that occurred during this time in his life. “Saul of Tarsus lived with the ever-imposing drive to please people. He lived for the approval of the Sanhedrin; it fed his pride. But all of that changed … Saul of Tarsus was poised to take a top leadership role in the Jewish religion but that all changed …” 9 (Swindoll).

Paul did NOT … 1) Immediately consult with flesh and blood nor 2) Go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before him.

“The Place and Purpose of Arabia – it was probably a vast expanse of desert – a barren wilderness – a thousand days spent alone thinking, praying, wrestling within, listening to God … Paul developed his theology here, meeting God intimately and deeply – “a three-year crash course in sound doctrine from which would flow a lifetime of preaching, teaching, and writing” (Swindoll).

Jesus…

  1. Inaugurated His ministry by spending 40 days alone in the desert (Mt. 4:1-11).
  2. Spent the entire night alone in the desert hill, before choosing the twelve (Lk. 6:12).
  3. Upon receiving the news of John the Baptist’s death, “withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself” (Mt. 14:13).
  4. After the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, “went into the hills by himself…” (Mt. 14:23).
  5. Following a long night of work, “in the early morning, while it was still dark, He arose and went to a secluded place, and was praying there …” (Mk. 1:35)
  6. Other instances in Mk. 6:31; Lk. 5:16; Mt. 17:1-9; Mt. 26:36-46.

The Discipline of Solitude Involves

  1. Being Alone With God Free of Distractions
  2. Meditating on the Scriptures
  3. Deliberately Setting Aside Time
  4. The Patience of Hindered Purpose
  5. The Discipline of Delay

How to Grow Deep

Slow Down and Rethink
  1. Take time to discover what really matters
  2. Focus on lifting the curse of superficiality that shadows your life
  3. Grow roots deep into the soil of those things that truly matter
  4. Rework your priorities and rethink your motives
Be Quiet and Reflect
  1. Silence is rarely tolerated in our culture
  2. As soon as you get in your car, you turn on the radio
  3. How desperately we need to push the mute button on all this noise
Be Still and Release
  1. We often battle pride and prestige and seek a place of power
  2. Richard Foster suggests the following as “steps into solitude”: Take advantage of the “little solitudes” that fill our day – “those early morning moments in bed before the family awakens … a morning cup of coffee before beginning the work of the day … the solitude of bumper-to-bumper traffic during the freeway rush hour …”

 “We can find or develop a ‘quiet place’ designed for silence and solitude.” 

“Let’s discipline ourselves so that our words are few and full. Let’s become known as people who have something to say when we speak. Let’s maintain plain speech: do what we say we will do.”

Conclusion:

Please consider the examples of Moses, David, Joseph, Elijah, John the Baptist, and Jesus. Note how they used periods of solitude to grow their relationship with the Father.

We encourage you to follow in the “footprints of Jesus that make the pathway glow “to “Follow the steps of Jesus where-e’er they go.”

(Sources: Chapter 4, “The Necessity of Solitude, Quietness, and Obscurity,” Paul: A Man of Grace and Grit, Charles Swindoll, pp. 45-60; The Disciplines of Life, V. Raymond Edman; Celebration of Discipline, Richard J. Foster, pp. 96-109)

Remembering My Creator: Vol. 3, No. 5, December 5, 2013

Theme: Thoughts from the New Testament Epistles – Philippians & Colossians

 

 

In This Issue

 

  • “Exhortation to Humble Service” (Phil. 2:1–30) by Hannah & Sarah Crawford
  • “Paul’s Response to the Opponents of the Gospel: The True Source of Righteousness” (Phil. 3:1–21) by Randy Sexton
  • “The Apostle Paul’s Labor for the Gospel” (Eph. 1:3 – 3:21) by Hannah & Sara Crawford

 

 

 

“Exhortation to Humble Service”

(Philippians 2:1-30)

By Hannah & Sarah Crawford

 

 

What is humility and service? To some it may mean obeying our parents and not complaining about what we are asked to do. But in order to truly be active in humble service we must understand what God’s expectations are regarding these works. To gain that wisdom, we can read Philippians 2 and learn the many components of these two words. Humility, mentioned in verses 3 and 8, is described as putting away our “selfishness or empty conceit” and instead to “regard one another as more important than ourselves”. We are given the example of Christ’s humility in verse 8 when He sacrificed Himself for our needs. Just as Christ put His fleshly desires away to save us, we must be willing to put our lusts and passions to the side so that we might care for others. The word “willing” is key in these actions because God does not judge us by our outward appearance, but rather by our hearts (1 Sam. 16:7; Heb. 4:12). Humility is a matter of the heart and is not something that people are born with, but a quality that we learn and grow to understand through practice (Matt. 11:29).

 

Service is a word with many definitions, all of which depend on the context it is used in. We may think of worship services, serving food, or even serving a tennis ball. All of these examples involve a form of action, so we can conclude that service is not something passive that requires little effort on our part. Also, in every instance, service requires more than one person/entity to be involved. It’s not something we can sit in our rooms doing by ourselves. Philippians 2:17, 22, 30 all use the word service in regards to furthering the gospel. Our faith can be used not only as a service to the Lord, but as encouragement and edification to fellow brethren or nonbelievers. Just as our works are meaningless if our heart is not in the right place, faith without works is dead (James 2:17-22). Believing Jesus is Lord and God is our creator means nothing if we do not demonstrate that belief through our actions and lives. In Romans 13:14 we are given the command to “put on Jesus Christ” and by following His examples of humble service we show those of the world how they ought to be living their lives. As Moses condemned the world through his actions, we also condemn the world of their lusts and evil desires through the way we live our lives. We would like to leave the reader with one last command, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,” (Philippians 2:14-15).

 

 

 

“Paul’s Response to the Opponents of the Gospel: The True Source of Righteousness”

(Phil. 3:1–21)

By Randy Sexton

 

The Apostle Paul is one of my heroes. Some of the first sermons that I preached were based upon things that he said. While still a teenager, and while still learning how to stand before a group of people to deliver a message from God’s Word, I developed sermons based on his epistles to various churches. Those passages are some of my very favorite in all of scripture.

 

Philippians contains many meaningful and touching words. My own sons hear me refer them quite often to the words of this epistle when they are mistreating one another out of selfishness. I remind them of the words, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4).

 

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul expresses the special significance that these saints had to him because of their continued support of him and his ministry. Writing from prison, he wants them to know that he is still in high spirits, because of the gospel. He expresses his desire for them to continue to progress in their spiritual growth.

 

In chapter 3, Paul begins to deal with those of his day who diluted the message of the gospel, by teaching that Christians had to obey all of the Old Testament ceremonial laws. He says that their motivation for this opposition is their “confidence in the flesh” (v. 3). He contrasts these opponents with the true people of God. Renouncing fleshly privilege for the sake of knowing Christ, he describes his progress in the gospel. Paul concludes this chapter with a call to the Philippians to follow his example of commitment to Jesus. One way to look at the contents of this chapter is under the three headings: Paul’s past (vv.1-11), Paul’s present (vv. 12-16) and Paul’s future (vv. 17-21).

 

Paul says that righteousness comes through Christ, not from the law. In another place, Paul calls it “letting Christ live in me” (Galatians 2:20). That process of letting Christ live in me is described by Paul in this epistle; he says it comes from God on the basis of faith. In describing all of the earthly privileges that he had willingly given up, he says, “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith… “ (verses 7-9).

 

If my memory is accurate, my very first sermon was “The Four-Fold Secret of Success” based upon the thoughts expressed by Paul in verses 13 – 14 of this chapter, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” The four points made in these verses is that righteousness comes from a sense of personal unworthiness, a singleness of purpose, oblivion of the past and having a spirit of progress.

 

A Sense of Personal Unworthiness

He says, “I do not count myself to have apprehended…” Paul had made much spiritual progress since the day he was baptized into Christ. But he was always acutely aware that it was only because of God’s grace that he was able to be forgiven of his past mistakes. It was through God’s power that he was chosen as an instrument for taking the gospel to the Gentiles. It was not because of the fleshly advantages that he outlines in verses 5 and 6.

 

Singleness of Purpose

He says, “but one thing I do ….” Paul focused his energies. He did one thing. He “pressed on.” A runner that enters a race undecided as to his purpose and direction never wins. A runner’s actions must be decided and effective. In the Christian race, we must make every step count.

 

Oblivion of the Past

He says, “forgetting those things which are behind….” Does it really matter what I have done in the past? In terms of my continued spiritual progress it does not. Our past sins and mistakes should keep us humble, but they should never hinder our forward progress in growing and maturing as a Christian.

 

Spirit of Progress

He says, “…reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul moved constantly forward. He likens the Christian life to running a race in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. His description implies continuous, intense action and movement in one direction – toward the mark. Like a runner, when we reach the mark, we will get the prize. In the Christian race, this prize is eternal life which Paul describes in II Timothy 4:7-8 with these words, “in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

 

We would do well to imitate Paul’s example, as he urged the Philippians, to “keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us … “ and to beware of those who “…walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” (vv. 17-19 – ESV). We would do well to remember the final words of the chapter, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” May the Lord bless you in your walk with Him.

 

 

 

“The Apostle Paul’s Labor for the Gospel”

(Col. 1:24-2:3)

By Hannah & Sarah Crawford

 

Many teachings have admonished Paul as being a great evangelist suffering for the mission of spreading God’s word. And while this is true, something for all of us to keep in mind is that Paul was a man and had faced sins of his own like we do today. We often look up to Paul without thinking ourselves capable of his perseverance and devotion. However we, just like Timothy, as disciples of God are commanded to “preach the word” in 2 Timothy 4:1-2. People will not always tolerate what we say and we may face persecution and suffering as Paul did, but we are still to spread the word. Where many may disbelieve there may also be one or two that fervently repent and seek the Lord. Are we to turn our backs and withhold the truth from those few just because our neighbors and friends might not like what we have to say? In Gal. 1:10 Paul asks the churches of Galatia “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God?” Who are we trying to please with our lives? Matt. 6:24 tells us that “No one can serve two masters” and although the message is directed toward trying to serve God and wealth, we can apply it to our service to God or man. For what reward would we be able to reap by serving man for they cannot grant us eternal life as God can? We must also consider the fact that we are not giving God our best if our devotion is divided.

 

Through Paul’s example from our passage in Colossians we not only see that he suffered, but that he rejoiced in it. Paul’s attitude in serving God was one of joy. James 1:2-4 tells us to “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials” because these trials will test our faith, endurance, and will allow us to fill any deficit of knowledge so that we may be “lacking in nothing”. If we spread God’s word with this attitude then regardless of how people may respond, at the least we will grow in knowledge and understanding that may encourage one another as well. Paul states this as his purpose in Col. 1:28-29 “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ”. True, we are not perfect, but we are capable of striving towards perfection through Christ’s sacrifice that cleanses us of our sins. We are to be encouraged by Paul’s example knowing that the love we have for one another and God will tie our hearts together so that we might labor for the “hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge” through Jesus Christ.

Remembering My Creator: Vol. 3, No. 4, July/August, 2013

Theme: Thoughts from the New Testament Epistles – Galatians & Ephesians

 

 

In This Issue

 

  • “Paul’s Defense of the Gospel Through a Defense of His Apostleship” ( Gal. 1:11 – 2:21) by Dillon Jarrett
  • “Justification by Faith Apart from Works of the Mosaical Law Defended” ( Gal. 3:1 – 4:31) by Sean Cavender
  • “God’s Eternal Purpose in Christ” (Eph. 1:3 – 3:21) by Jordan Shouse
  • “Life in Keeping With God’s Eternal Purpose” (Eph. 4:1 – 6:24) by Hannah & Sarah Crawford

 

 

 

“Paul’s Defense of the Gospel through a Defense of His Apostleship” (Gal. 1:11 – 2:21)

By

Dillon Jarrett

Understanding many of Paul’s writings can be tedious and difficult as Peter explains in 2 Peter 3:15-16 when he states, “And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.” Note the difference in the manner he addresses the Galatians in the 1st and 2nd chapters.

 

That difference is his approach. Often, as in other letters, Paul will begin his discussion with salutations and commendations to his audience. He does not waste any time in this letter, however, in addressing his point and is quite clear on his intentions. He says, “Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me.” There are two distinctions made illustrating where this letter will go in the coming paragraphs. First, who he is “an apostle—not from men nor through man,” and where the validity of his presentations will arise, “Jesus Christ and God the Father.” Secondly, the next sentences regarding his concern for their lack of desire for the truth are made apparent. He states, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed,” (Galatians 1:6-9).

 

When those points are made initially, it only makes sense why he begins to provide a detailed Defense of the Gospel through his Apostleship. Please allow me to explain.

 

Our first explanation comes immediately in verses 11-16. It is astounding to Paul, as it certainly is today in our society, how quickly people depart from the truth by which they were called. In the case of the Galatians, they were swayed by a mockery and a perversion of the Gospel from what it was, God’s word. As we know of Paul along with the other writers of the New Testament, the words, which they spoke unto the early church and unto us today, are from the mouth of God. We know that from many passages such as 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Everything we need to know about God is given to us through his teachings. In the times of the early century, that which the Galatians should have known was directly from the mouth of God, not from the devious and conniving minds of the Judiazing teachers. He makes that point by illustrating it through his background as an apostle. Galatians 1:11-16 state, “For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.” These points immediately address the problem and expose the nature of the teachings they were receiving involving a perversion of the gospel. Notice the points:

1. What he knew of the gospel wasn’t from men.

2. Becoming an apostle was at great cost, but worth it to him based on the result in his life.

3. Everything he learned of Jesus and the gospel couldn’t have come from the other disciples and apostles because he intentionally spent time away from them.

Knowing these three points, the Galatians would need to ask two questions: 1) If he had received the teaching he did, but not from the other apostles, then how could it not be the truth? 2) Would it have made sense for him to leave those old teachings behind in Judaism if it weren’t for a specific reason? Paul again offers more validity to his apostleship (and in turn the gospel) through his next paragraph. He says, “Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only were hearing it said, ‘He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’ And they glorified God because of me.” Again, Paul explains that it wouldn’t make sense for him to have received the teachings of this new gospel if it hadn’t been from Jesus. The timing of everything is important to note as well. Notice the amount of time he spends away before he even consults with any of the other apostles and disciples. Now, in knowing this, again, he portrays more evidence that his teachings and beliefs could not have come from a secondary source. Those who had seen and walked with Jesus could not have given the depth of knowledge he received. There is further evidence provided that even when he made contact with the brethren in Jerusalem, he did not meet with all of the apostles. He only met with Peter and James. The point in all of this is magnified in his final sentence, “And they glorified God because of me.” Why? Because they knew who he was and what he had done. However, for whatever reason, as he had already explained in previous times, this was all for the glory of God. How else could one man receive the depth of teaching he understood without divine revelation.? It is simply this: unfathomable.

 

Our final point in this defense is made in the beginning of the 2nd chapter. We read the following in verses 1-10, “Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” He finally draws the point to a momentary close in these verses. There is reference to more years in service. There is explanation as to why his apostleship was different than those before him in regards to the Gentile brethren that he and Barnabas had taught. He goes on to add that even though strong and influential men opposed them to their face, they did not yield to proclaim the truth. Case in point, Paul was not interested in monetary gain of acquiring anything from his teachings except for this: furtherance of the gospel.

If that meant losing his life and previous reputation, so be it. In contrast, losing Christians to the enemy because their minds had been perverted either in ignorance or stupidity was unacceptable. The Galatians were falling into myths and teachings much like those in Colossae had become prey to. He says in Colossians 2:1-14, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the un-circumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” The Judaizing teachers were something Christ and the Father knew were going to come. Difficulty arose when people had to make a choice. They had to decide who to trust and who spoke the truth. Notice what Jesus says in Matthew 7:15, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” That which the Galatians had received from Paul represented the truth because of its source. The nature in which he becomes an apostle along with the events that follow lead to the conclusion Paul hoped they would understand. Whatever men may speak unto them had to be verified. What they had seen and heard in Paul represented the truth because of his history and again, the origin of his teachings. It wasn’t about Paul. It was about the furtherance of the gospel. This time, the only difference is he found it necessary to make it personal by using his past experience to illustrate a point.

Many words will be spoken to us just as the Galatians had seen or heard in the first century. The question we must ask ourselves as they did when we read his defense is this: Is what I am being taught from the teachings of God or the teachings of men? The question will at many times in your life define your discipleship. Remember who you are and who has called you. He (the Lord) provides all you need in the scriptures. However, those words and teachings will never help you unless you meditate on them daily. So, stay at it and may all the glory and praise be given to our Lord Jesus Christ!

 

 

“Justification By Faith” (Gal. 3:1-4:31)

By

Sean P. Cavender

Paul addresses the issues within the churches of Galatia in a straight forward manner, dealing with the root of their problems (Galatians 3:1-5). They had “begun,” but now were attempting to be perfected by the flesh (Galatians 3:3). These churches had been led astray by the preaching of the Judaizing teachers, who were perverting the gospel of Christ. The Judaizing teachers were adding the requirement upon the Gentiles to keep the Law of Moses as essential in order to be saved. Paul’s frustration is clearly seen as he is dealing with this problem. He then sets forth a strong argument for justification apart from the Law of Moses.

 

Abraham Was Justified By Faith

“Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Galatians 3:6). Paul appeals to the example of Abraham and how he was justified by faith. The conclusion is presented rather simply: those who are of faith are the children of Abraham (Galatians 3:7). The Scripture attests to the justification of the Gentiles upon the condition of faith, and not upon the condition of keeping the Law of Moses (Galatians 3:8). Abraham was justified by his faith in God, not by keeping circumcision and matters of the law. His faith was a remarkable faith, one which was alive, demonstrated, and obeyed. It was faith in God that led Abraham to obedience (Hebrews 11:8). It was by his works that he was justified (James 2:24). This must be the kind of faith that we demonstrate to be justified in God’s sight.

 

The Law Served Its Purpose

Faith in Christ is what justifies a man, but that faith was previously hidden. The law was given in order to bring us to Christ. The Law of Moses was given as a schoolmaster, or a tutor (Galatians 3:24). It was given to teach us of concepts about obedience, sacrifice, sin, judgment, grace, and forgiveness. It also taught the need for a Savior. However, now faith has been revealed and we are no longer in need of the schoolmaster. By the gospel, we are in the full participation and knowledge of the things the law was striving to teach. It is incorrect to assume that the Law of Moses was pointless. The Law of Moses had a purpose, primarily the purpose of teaching. It had a purpose, but now that purpose was accomplished in Christ. Christ came to fulfill the law, not to rebel against the law (cf. Matthew 5:17). After the fulfillment of the law had come the law was no longer necessary. The Law of Moses was incomplete until Christ came. Justification and completion is through the faith in the Son of God (Galatians 3:26; Colossians 2:10; Philippians 3:9). Therefore, the Judaizing teacher is deferring back to something that was always incomplete. In context of the issues that Paul was dealing with, he is rendering the agenda of the Judaizing teachers as incomplete and pointless.

 

Christ Redeemed Those That Were Under The Law

Consider the role of the old law and how it had concluded all to be under sin (Galatians 3:22). Jews and Gentiles had the problems of sin and both groups needed justification. Christ came to redeem all of mankind, but He came to redeem those who were under the law (Galatians 4:5). The Law of Moses had concluded that all were under sin and in need of salvation. Therefore, the law was imperfect due to the transgressions of the people that were under that system of law. Christ came to redeem the people that were under that law. Why would the Judaizing teachers attempt to bind the Gentiles with a system that they themselves needed to be redeemed from? It was irrational and unfair for the Judaizers to require Gentiles keep the Law of Moses to be saved.

 

Justification Produces Liberty

The grandest result from being justified by faith in Christ is our freedom. Those who are binding heavy burdens of the Law of Moses rule upon fear, inequality, and unfairness. Those things are done away through the gospel of Christ. It is by faith that we are made free. Paul presents an inspired allegory based upon Sarah and Hagar, the mothers of Abraham’s children (Galatians 4:24-31). Hagar was a servant of Sarah, the mother of Ishmael. She was not the mother of the child of promise, neither was she free. Sarah was the wife of Abraham, the mother of Isaac, who was the promised child. Paul argues that the justified are the children of promise. Therefore, we are children of the freed woman (Galatians 4:31). The wonderful blessing of liberty in Christ Jesus must never be squandered nor wasted. We ought to appreciate and be thankful for the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Conclusion

Through careful study and consideration of these matters, we can begin to understand the wonderful scheme of redemption. God has acted out of love and grace to free us from our sins. Our justification is by faith in Christ. If we will believe in the Son of God, the promise of forgiveness, and we obey God, then we can be assured of our liberty.

 

 

“God’s Eternal Purpose in Christ” (Ephesians 1-3)

By

Jordan Shouse

 

Paul’s letter to the brethren in Ephesus begins with the description of God’s eternal purpose, which was fulfilled in Christ. This may sound like an intimidating thought, but what it simply means is that God had a plan before beginning of the time (eternal), and it was a plan which came about (fulfilled) through Jesus.

 

It is an impressive thought, that before the beginning of time God had a plan concerning us. Paul would reference this eternal plan in phrases such as:

• “…chose us in Him before the beginning of the world,” (1:4)

• “…predestined us to adoption as sons” (1:5)

• “…having been predestined according to His purpose” (1:11)

• “…which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (2:10)

• “…in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out..” (3:11)

 

Before we were created, before the world was formed, God had a plan concerning the world. God works all things after the counsel of His will (1:11), or according to His purpose/plan. So God has had a plan from the beginning, and has kept to that plan or will in all He does. This ought to reminds us of the wisdom and intelligence of God. His eternal plan involved us, people guilty of sin, separated from God. His plan also involved Jesus. As 3:11 states, the eternal plan was carried out or accomplished through Jesus. Paul would again make reference to this fact through several verses such as:

• “…adoption as sons through Jesus Christ..” (1:5)

• “In Him we have redemption..” (1:7)

• “…which He purposed in Him” (1:9)

• “…In Him also we have obtained an inheritance” (1:11)

• “In Him…” (1:12)

• “…which He brought about in Christ” (1:20)

• “…made us alive together with Christ” (2:5)

• “..raised us up with Him….in Christ Jesus” (2:6)

• “…kindness towards us in Christ Jesus” (2:7)

• “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (2:10)

• “But now in Christ Jesus….brought near by the blood of Christ” (2:13)

• “by abolishing in His flesh….so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man” (2:15)

• “might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross” (2:16)

• “for through Him we both have our access… (2:18)

• “…fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus” (3:6)

• “…which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord” (3:11)

 

As you can see from the verses cited, God’s eternal purpose came about by Jesus. Through His sacrifice upon the cross, God’s plan could be accomplished, fulfilled. This leads us to the question, “What is this eternal purpose which God fulfilled in Jesus?” God’s plan was the redemption of mankind, the forgiveness of their sins through the death of Jesus on the cross, as the atoning sacrifice. Notice how this is described in the words of Paul:

• “…blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (1:3)

• “…would be holy and blameless before Him.” (1:4)

• “…adoption as sons..” (1:5)

• “…to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us” (1:6)

• “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses” (1:7)

• “…having obtained an inheritance” (1:11)

• “…who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession,” (1:14)

• “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins….but God being rich in mercy, because of His great love which He love us, even when we were dead in our transgression, made us alive together with Christ” (2:1, 4-5)

• “raised us up with Him…seated us with Him in the heavenly places” (2:6)

• “…show the surpassing riches of His grace” (2:7)

• “For by grace you have been saved through faith..” (2:8)

• “…you who were formerly far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (2:13)

• “For He Himself is our peace…” (2:14)

• “…might reconcile them both in one body to God” (2:16)

• “…have access in One Spirit to the Father” (2:18)

• “so then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints…” (2:19)

• “…being built together into a dwelling of God” (2:22)

• “to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (3:6)

 

What was the eternal purpose of God in Jesus? It was a spiritual purpose, planned for the reconciliation of man to man (Jews and Gentiles), and of God and man (forgiveness of sins). God had the plan to bring all people of all nations together, united in one spiritual kingdom, His church, forgiven of their sins; a people purposed to offer spiritual sacrifices of worship to God (1 Peter 2:9). Does this plan involve you? Yes! God’s plan to redeem mankind of their sins includes you. God wants you to be forgiven, which He proved through Jesus (Rom. 5:8). God wants you to be in His Kingdom, the church. We belong to a wonderful, loving, wise God who knew what we needed before we were even made, and set about to bring that purpose to completion, even though it involved His Son on the cross. With the cross we have forgiveness, hope, and a future. All of this God purposed from the very beginning. It is His eternal purpose in Christ Jesus.

 

 

“Life in Keeping With God’s Eternal Purpose (Ephesians 4-6)

 

By

Hannah and Sarah Crawford

 

Chapter 4

In the first part of chapter 4 (verses 1-6), we are told how to walk in a manner worthy of serving the Lord and that there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (vs. 5). By doing so, we are an example to others and allow our lights to shine in the world so that others may see the glory of God and come to Him. At the same time, it shows us that we are one in the Lord and that we are to have a sense of unity.

 

This chapter later goes on to say that we each have gifts, “some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers” (vs. 11). At times it is easy to feel that we aren’t as good as some other people in our service to the Lord. Everyone has been equipped “for the edifying of the body of Christ” (vs. 12) and it is up to us to find what we are good at and how we can serve others. Some are great song leaders while others prefer to preach a sermon and some converse easily with others while some are better at working behind the scenes (cards, phone calls, etc.). Each person and their task have a place in “which every part does its share, caus[ing] growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (vs. 16).

 

By putting on Christ, we no longer walk in the ways of the world. We have made a vow to turn away from sin and live our lives in accordance with God’s will. Verses 31-32 convey it well by saying “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

 

We are also commanded not to give the devil an opportunity to corrupt us (vs. 27). Many times we find ourselves rationalizing a poor decision. For example, “It’s okay if I watch this show that uses profanity as long as I don’t say anything bad”. Even if we don’t intend to sin, if we place ourselves in a situation where we know there will be sin occurring then we’ve basically shown the devil to our house and invited him to come in. The old saying, “Bad company, corrupts good morals” is also something we have to watch out for. Just because people we know at work or school are friendly doesn’t mean they act Christianly. By spending extra time at parties or get togethers where we know sin will be conducted, then we have condoned those actions even if we don’t participate in them. Just following God’s word and hoping that others will learn from our example is not enough. We have to stand up to sin and say no. By refusing to take part in these activities we are letting the world know that their actions are not acceptable and what God’s will is.

 

Chapter 5

The section headings in my Bible for the beginning of this chapter say “Walk in Love” (vs. 1-7), “Walk in Light” (vs. 8-14), and “Walk in Wisdom” (vs. 15-21). In walking in love, we must turn from the ways of the world and not emulate them. There are many people that will twist the Bible or totally disregard its authority but we are told to “let no one deceive you with empty words for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them” (vs. 6-7). A majority of the world is walking in darkness, but in following Christ, we walk in the light. Part of that is “finding out what is acceptable to the Lord” (vs. 10) and this requires us to study. This leads to verse 17 which states “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” By doing these things, we can better serve the Lord and one another.

 

The end of the chapter compares the relationship between husband and wife to Christ and the church. “For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body” (vs. 23)…”For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones” (vs.30). This is another reason we are to walk in unity. How are we to spread God’s word and teach others what is right if we, as a group of Christians, are stumbling and lacking in wisdom and knowledge? We must be ready to answer questions and study the Bible with others at any time. We don’t know when someone may be curious about our faith in God, but if we aren’t ready then what will that teach others? We would be sending out a message that we don’t know what we believe or worse, we might turn them away from the gospel and that person’s soul might be lost. Now ask yourself, is losing someone’s soul worth the time you spent playing video games or goofing off on the internet instead of studying the Bible? Our immediate reaction is “No, of course not”, but too many times have we looked back at the end of the day and thought we could have done more. God’s given us specific instruction in chapter 6 on what we can do.

 

Chapter 6

The Whole Armor of God – people put on armor to prepare themselves for battle. The world we live in hosts a spiritual war in which we must be properly girded for combat; this means we must take care of our armor and use our weapons, not neglect them or leave them in their sheath. This is necessary so that we may “stand against the wiles of the devil” (vs. 11) and “be able to withstand the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (vs.13). As mentioned earlier, we don’t know when we’ll be attacked and have to defend ourselves. We must take the time daily to polish our weapons and practice with them so that we will have the skill and tools necessary to overcome the devil and the deceit he’s placed in the minds of others. As Paul said in verses 18-19, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel”.

 

We leave you with this thought, are you prepared with the knowledge and boldness to go out as an example to the world, spreading God’s word?