415. On 1 Timothy 2:1-7. Why Prayer Is Needed For The Whole World. A Reading for Sunday 18 September 2022

There are many Christian believers in today’s world who are crying out to fellow believers to pray earnestly for the nations of the world as well as for their own governments. It is true that many nations around the world are in a perilous state with governments that seem to be out of control and not providing proper care for their people.  

This passage of scripture reminds us that such a situation is not what God wants for His creatures. He wants leadership in all nations to rule in such a way that peace and prosperity abound. He knows for that to happen, leaders need to be prayed for. So He nudges Paul to write this letter to the church in Rome urging the believers there to pray for all people but especially for those in leadership.

A]. We Should Pray For All People. Verses 1,2

2:1” First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.”

It really means praying all sorts of prayers for all sorts of people. We see that in the words used here for prayer. They include:-

  • Supplication [deēsis; δέησις] a petition, prayer, request. It is asking God to supply the need they present to Him in such a prayer.
  • Prayers [proseuchē; προσευχή] prayer in worship; a prayer offered to a Superior One expressing dependency on such a person for their provision. 
  • Intercessions [enteuxis; ἔντευξις] this type of prayer is prayer asking the Lord to exercise His love and care for the people being prayed for. 
  • Thanksgivings [eucharistia; εὐχαριστία] gratitude, grateful language (to God, as an act of worship),  thankfulness, giving thanks. It recognises that God has provided for the pray-er and now they are thanking Him for His provision. 

We Should Pray Especially For Those In Positions Of Authority. Verse 2

2:2 “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.“ God overrules in His world so that some people are appointed to positions of higher authority than others. As Paul wrote to the believers in Rome, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. “Romans 13:1. It means that those in authority owe their position to God’s overruling. But it also means that they are meant to operate under His authority and are not meant to rule using their own wisdom and resources. If they are operating under God’s rule then they will be acting in accord with His character. That will mean that those under their rule will indeed be living “a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.“

B]. Why We Should Pray For All People. Verses 3, 4

It Is A Good Thing To Do. 3 “This is good, and … .“  “Good” is from [kalos; kαλός] meaning good (literally or morally), or better. 

It Is Pleasing To God. … “it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour.” “Pleasing” is from [apodektos; ἀπόδεκτος] meaning acceptable or agreeable. God is pleased when humans come to Him in prayer. It expresses their dependency on Him.

It Is What God Desires. 4 “who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Here Paul expresses the heart of God. The desire in God’s heart is for people to be saved by coming to a knowledge of the truth. He desires that for all people and woos them to receive Him as their Saviour and Lord. 

C]. To Whom We Should Pray For All People. Verses 5, 6

Paul reminded his readers why prayer is so important for the believer. 5 “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” 

In praying to God they were able to do so because of Jesus Christ. He had become man to die as a man for the sins of the world. He became the mediator through His sacrificial death on the cross. Now they could come to God through Him to offer their prayers to God. He was the Messiah 6 “who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.“ “Ransom” is from [antilytron;  ἀντίλυτρον] meaning a redemption price paid to secure the freedom of a slave. Christ’s death for sinners had released them from the penalty, and from the power of sin in their lives. They were now free to live as they should, to the glory of God. 

D]. The Example Of Paul The Apostle. Verse 7

In order to confirm the truth of what Paul was writing, he adds his credentials. 7 “For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” He had been specifically chosen and appointed by God to be an apostle and as a preacher of the gospel message to the Gentiles [like those in Corinth.]

SUMMARY

It is true that prayer is needed for the whole world if it is to operate in a way pleasing to God. This passage sets out a fine template of what believers need to do to bring the desired changes in the world. They are to pray for all people but especially for those with positions of authority. The prayers they pray may be different in character but they are all being offered to God through the mediator Jesus Christ. As such they are pleasing to God for they show their dependence on Him.

The passage also stresses the character of God who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. That is seen in the mention of Jesus as the One Who gave Himself as a ransom for sin. If God has declared His love, mercy and grace to humans in the death of his Son and in offering to hear and answer the prayers of His people then that should motivate them to pray in the way Paul instructs them here.

Blog No.415 posted on Sunday 14 August 2022

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Creation, Evangelism, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Glorification, Holy Spirit, Judgement, Justification, Lectionary Readings Year C 2019, New Covenant, Prayer, Salvation, Sanctification, spiritual warfare | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

414. 1 Corinthians 1:18-24. The World Must Commit To Christ As Lord. A reading on 14 September 2022

It is said that in our modern world that Christianity is losing its influence on individuals and on nations. Humans must not allow that to happen. A Christless community or nation is doomed to fail without His influence. That is why these verses from 1Corinthians 1:18-24 are so important. They describe Jesus Christ as being the wisdom of God and the power of God. 

The Bible has much to say about wisdom. In James 3:13-18 James describes the wisdom of the world as being opposed to the wisdom of God.  He declares that the earthly human wisdom is “earthly, unspiritual, demonic.“ 

“Earthly” is from [epígeios; ἐπίγειος ] from [epí, upon,] and [gḗ the earth.]  It means belonging to the earth and limited by its very nature to earthly ways of thinking.  

“Unspiritual” is [psychikos; ψυχικός] of the lower or bestial nature, natural, sensual. Such knowledge is contrary to the Spirit.

“Demonic” is from [daimoniōdēs; δαιμονιώδης] meaning of the devil. Devilish. It is opposed to the wisdom of God. 

By contrast the wisdom from above [the wisdom of God] is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

Or as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:30, “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” All of God’s purposes were centred in Christ and fulfilled by Him. That’s why Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:18 about the message of Christ’s redemptive activity as being folly to those perishing but the power of God to those being saved.

Christ The Power Of God And The Wisdom Of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18

Paul stressed the power of the gospel message which he calls “the word of the cross.” “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 18. The message about a so-called crucified Messiah made no sense to those whose eyes had not been opened to understand God’s plan of redemption through Christ. It was sheer folly. [Note 1].

Paul in the next verse quotes 2 Old Testament passages to show that God’s purpose was to thwart human wisdom as He established His purposes in His world, 19 “For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’” [Isaiah 29:14, 2 Kings 18:17-19:37.]

Paul then asks a series of questions to show the inadequacy of human wisdom “Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? “ 20. The so-called wisdom of the world is foolishness when compared with God’s wisdom in executing His plan of redemption for the world. [Note 2].

He then followed that up with how God in His wisdom, knowing that the world did not understand the wisdom of God, would in His wisdom bring the message of salvation to those who would believe. “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.“ 21.

Why did so many fail to understand the message of the cross and God’s plan of redemption through Christ? He gives the answer, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom.” 23. It was true that the Jews wanted signs to occur before they believed any message. As Jesus said to the Capernaum official whose son was  ill, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” John 4:48. Fortunately in his case he did believe and saw his son healed by Jesus.  But throughout Jesus’ ministry the Jewish nation as a whole wanted Jesus to establish His credentials by doing signs. Yet as John recorded in John 12:37, “Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him.”

It was true also that the Greeks sought wisdom. But this was the wisdom of human teachers whom they valued for their learning.  But this wisdom was a far cry from the wisdom of God. In fact, their wisdom ignored the wisdom of God. So Paul added, “but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.”

It was obvious that the preaching of a crucified Messiah would be a stumbling block to the Jewish people. Their expectancy was for a conquering Messiah to come to Jerusalem to restore a kingdom where the Messiah would reign in majesty. But the message of a Messiah dying on a cross made no sense to them.  The same message in the ears of the Greeks would have appeared as sheer folly or nonsense.

The success of the wisdom of God

The message of a crucified Messiah might have been ignored or overlooked by most of the peoples of that time, but there were some from Jewish and Gentile backgrounds who heard the message and believed in it, in the crucified Jesus of Nazareth, “but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 24.  

Paul says they were “called.” Every believer is a person who has responded to the call of God through the gospel. They have been called out of the unbelieving world to become the ekklesia, the “called-out ones,” the church, who belong to Christ.

They had experienced the power of God as they embraced the gospel and were made new creatures in Christ.

They had no trouble believing that Christ was the power of God and the wisdom of God.

SUMMARY

It is true that knowledge has expanded in recent years. Many discoveries and inventions have added to our knowledge of the world and we have utilised this expanding knowledge for our benefit. But can the same be said of wisdom? There are many in today’s world who would say that wisdom is a lacking characteristic in many nations and individuals. That is understandable if Christ is our wisdom. If we ignore Him then we are the ones who suffer loss. If nations ignore His claims then they will inevitably become weaker and less powerful. If Christ is our power, then to ignore or overlook Him is to deprive oneself of the power to live as we should to the glory of God. 

Saul as a Pharisee had great knowledge and an abundance of power. But he was a menace to human society when he lived before his conversion. People lived in fear of him and of his anger for Christ’s followers.

It was only when he submitted to the Risen Christ that his life began to have real meaning and purpose. Only then did he discover the power of God in his life. He became a new creature in Christ with a new message. His message was of a crucified Messiah whose victory on the cross had brought a whole new creation into being and who had the power to transform even persecutors into outstanding preachers and pastors of the church. 

May it happen today that people like Saul of Tarsus are changed by the wisdom and power of God to become like St Paul the apostle. It is possible by the love, mercy, grace and power of God! If we become willing to receive Him as Saviour and to enthrone Him as the Lord of our lives in order that He might do in us and through us what God has planned for us to be and to do, for His glory! God is working His purpose out and we can become instruments in His great plan and purpose as we remain totally committed to Him. May it be so, to His glory!

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NOTES

[Note 1]. “Folly” is from [mōria; μωρία] meaning absurdity or foolishness. It made no sense to the natural mind. 

[Note 2]. The “foolish” wisdom of the world in verse 19 is described as such as God Himself had made their wisdom foolish. “Made foolish” is from [mōrainō; μωραίνω] to become a fool, to make look simple. 

Blog No.414 posted on Saturday 13 August 2022.

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Creation, Evangelism, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Glorification, Holy Spirit, Justification, Mental Health, New Covenant, Prayer, Real Life Stories, Salvation, Sanctification, Second coming of Jesus, spiritual warfare | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

413. Christ Jesus Came to Save Sinners. 1 Timothy 1:12-17. A Reading on Sunday 11 Sept 2022

We don’t know if Paul led Timothy to Christ. However, we do know that Timothy had a good knowledge of the Old Testament due no doubt to his mother and grandmother. Paul accepted him as a young protége and became like a spiritual father to the young man. He called him, “my true son in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2).  

Paul wrote this letter to him to encourage him in his ministry. 

Paul’s Thanksgiving For The Grace Of God In His Life. 12-14.

Throughout Paul’s writings, we see that he maintained a humble attitude to his calling and to his ministry. In these verses, he elaborates on the grace of God that was bestowed on him in his coming to faith and throughout his ministry. 

12  “I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service” [Note 1]

However, Paul had not always been “faithful” or a suitable candidate for ministry for God. Here he reminds Timothy of his life before he came to Christ and how it had been the grace of God that had changed him. 13 ”though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief.” 

It was certainly true that Paul had blasphemed against God. Not only by speaking against the testimonies of those who had come to “The Way” but by actively trying to have their voices silenced as he sought to have them thrown into prison. He had persecuted the church and Jesus Himself, as the Risen Jesus said as He appeared to him on the Damascus Road and challenged him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Paul had also been an “insolent opponent.” [Note 2].

One would have thought that such a person could never be forgiven by God having been responsible for so many sins against the church. But Paul introduces the concept of the mercy of God, “But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief.” Paul’s sinful life was due to his ignorance of God and His ways and his subsequent unbelief. It took the mercy of God to change Paul into the man of God that God wanted him to be. It was the manifestation of grace towards Paul that brought the change. 

Paul now turns the focus from his unworthiness to the amazing grace of God which He had poured out on Paul “and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.“ [Note 3]. 

We know the story of Paul’s conversion in Acts 9 where the power of God fell on Paul and led to his belief in Jesus. [We could say that every conversion is an expression of the grace of God leading people from unbelief to belief. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Salvation is a gift deriving from the grace of God and available as a gift to all those who put their trust in Jesus.]

Paul’s Affirmation Of The Death Of Jesus To Save Sinners. 15-16

In the next verse it seems that Paul was trying to encourage Timothy with the certainty of the truth of the gospel message, 15 “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”

This is the gospel in a nutshell. Jesus as the Son of God had come into the world to bring about the salvation of sinners. That is the whole purpose of His incarnation in becoming a human to die for humans. That was the eternal message that both Paul and Timothy had been called by God to share with sinful humans. But Paul knew that of himself he was not worthy to perform such a task. So he added, “to save sinners,] of whom I am the foremost.” It wasn’t false humility on Paul’s part. He had been a great threat to the early church, perhaps more than any other human at the time. But God’s mercy and grace had wrought a miracle in Paul’s life so that the great persecutor of the church had become the great preacher and pastor of the church. 

Paul had come to understand that God’s mercy had been behind His plan to save Him in particular, for it would show that if someone like Paul could be saved, then it was possible for anyone to be saved, 16 “But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” Jesus’ perfect patience meant that He could wait until people were willing to repent of their sins and to give their lives to Him. Believing in Jesus led to having eternal life. 

Salutation. 17

As Paul often did in his other epistles, he broke out into a salutation to God, 17 “To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen.” His words emphasise the uniqueness of God as “the King of the ages “and as “the only God.” He was the only one worthy to receive honour and glory.

SUMMARY

This passage of scripture is important in showing us the character of the apostle Paul. It also shows us the danger of misunderstanding the nature of truth. Paul had been sincere in his persecution of the church but it was a misplaced sincerity, for it had been based on a wrong perception of Jesus as a person and on the contribution he had come to bring to a needy world. It was only on the Damascus Road that his spiritual eyes were opened as his physical eyes were closed. However, from that point onwards his commitment to the Risen Christ was total. That was brought out in his challenging words in Galatians 2:20 where he wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Perhaps one of the other major messages in this reading is the immensity of the grace and love of God. Who would have thought that a hardened persecutor like Saul of Tarsus could be so radically changed by the power of God? No wonder Ananias responded to the Lord’s command to support Paul that he replied, “But Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.’” It needed the assurance of an understanding of God’s purpose in Paul’s life, for him to obey, “But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.‘”  It is a great reminder to us in today’s world, that we should not see any individual as being beyond the grace and mercy of God. Sometimes it is the most unlikely person whom God chooses to be one of His instruments in His purposes in the world. 

NOTES:

[Note 1]. “Appointing.” Is from [tithēmi;  τίθημι] meaning to “place” or “establish” Paul in his ministry and service to God.

[NOTE 2.]  “blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent.” The latter is [hybristēs;  ὑβριστής] meaning an insulter or an injurious person. The only other reference in the New Testament is in Romans 1:30 where Paul is describing those insolent people whom God had given up because they had not acknowledged God.  

[NOTE 3]. “overflowed” is from [hyperpleonazō; ὑπερπλεονάζω] meaning to be exceedingly abundant. It is the only use of this word in the New Testament.

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412. Philemon 1-21 Jesus Sets The Captives Free And Brings Reconciliation. A Reading on Sunday 04 September 2022.

In a book of the Bible containing just 25 verses you might expect that it had little to offer in Biblical truth. But the opposite is the case. We have in these few verses an example of true repentance and a subsequent possibility of reconciliation. 

The story involves a slave who escaped from his master and later became a Christian believer. In the providence of God he came into contact with the apostle Paul and their friendship enriched both their lives. However Paul believed that this slave Onesimus had unfinished business as a runaway slave. He felt he should return to his master. 

This is the background to the letter he wrote to Philemon, the master in question. It urged Philemon to receive him back not as a slave but as a Christian brother. The letter provides a clear understanding of the need for forgiveness from God and the way repentance and faith opens the door for that to happen. Forgiveness from God should lead to the forgiveness of one another. 

The Greeting. Verses 1 to 3

In this greeting we read that Paul is joining with Timothy in writing to Philemon. He addresses Philemon as a beloved fellow worker and also includes in the greeting “Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier” as well as the members of the church who met in Philemon’s home. 

His greeting is similar to that in many of his other epistles, 3 “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Philemon’s Example of Love and Faith Blessed Others. Verses 4 to 6

Paul praised God for Philemon’s faith and love, 4 “I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints.”  Philemon had not only come to love God but he allowed his love to flow through to his fellow saints. 

Paul also prayed for Philemon’s sharing of his faith that it would impact those around him in positive ways. Especially that they might know all the good that they had in Christ in their commitment to Him. 6 “and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.”

The Blessing Philemon Had Been To Paul. Verse 7

7  “For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.” Philemon’s love had blessed Paul because he had heard of the impact Philemon was having amongst believers. Their hearts had been refreshed through him. [NOTE1].

Paul’s Plea for Onesimus. Verses 8 to 21.

Paul’s letter to Philemon had a deeper purpose. It was to bring an appeal to Philemon rather than a command. 8 “Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, 9 yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus—10  I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment.”

Philemon knew who Onesimus was. He had been a slave to Philemon but had escaped and run away. In the providence of God he came into contact with Paul and been converted to Christ. Not only that but their love for each had grown deeply so that Paul called him “my very heart.” [verse 11].

Paul’s description of Onesimus was very generous. He described him as being formerly “useless “to Philemon but through his conversion had become “useful” to Paul and to Philemon. 11 (“Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.”) [NOTE 2]. However, Paul believed that Onesimus should return to Philemon even though he would feel his loss deeply. 12 “I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart.”

Paul had been faced with a difficult decision. Should he keep Onesimus with him or should he send him back to Philemon. As he explained, 13 “I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.” 

Paul realised that God had over-ruled so that Onesimus had come under his influence and been won to Christ. But he believed that he should send Onesimus back to his former master, 15 “For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever. 16 no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.” What Paul is doing here is urging Philemon to forgive Onesimus and to bring him into fellowship as a full brother in Christ and not receive him back as an errant runaway slave. 

In fact, he wants Philemon to offer Onesimus the same sort of reception he would give to Paul himself as a brother in Christ. 17 “So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me.“ But past sins ought to be addressed and not ignored. Onesimus was in Philemon’s debt. However, Paul has a solution he puts to Philemon, 18 “If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self.” Paul was willing to cover any debt that Onesimus might owe to Philemon, if indeed Philemon wanted repayment of what was owed him. Paul added a subtle reminder. Philemon was actually in Paul’s debt. He owed his new life as a believer to Paul who had led him to Christ. 

As Paul concludes his letter he asks a favour of Philemon with the confidence that Philemon will do far more than Paul is asking for.  20 “Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ. 21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. “

Paul fully expects that Philemon will indeed receive Onesimus back as a beloved brother in Christ. That would refresh Paul’s heart. [NOTE 3]

SUMMARY

These few verses in this letter to Philemon reveal a lot about Paul, Philemon and Onesimus. We have Paul sharing his heart with Philemon in what Philemon meant to him. But he also shared his heart about a runaway slave whom he had brought to Christ.  Add this was happening while Paul was in prison.

Philemon seemed to be a faithful godly man who gathered believers into his home to instruct them. As a result they had been refreshed by his faith and his love. 

Onesimus had been blessed by God in coming into contact with Paul in prison. He had been converted to Christ and stayed near Paul in order to serve him. He finally fulfilled the meaning of his name by becoming “useful” rather than remaining useless. 

Throughout the letter God’s gracious ministry to humans is recorded and the possibility of being refreshed by Him as we seek to remain faithful to Him, is evident. 

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[NOTE 1]. “Hearts” here is from [splagchnon; σπλάγχνον] which can mean the bowels or intestines which was seen as the source of deep emotions, often translated as “compassion.”

“Refreshed” is from [anapauō; ἀναπαύω] meaning to take rest or to be refreshed. In other words those who been ministered to by Philemon felt spiritually deeply refreshed as a result of his ministry. 

[NOTE 2]. Onesimus’ name means “useful.” But he had not been useful to Philemon in perhaps stealing from him and running away. “Useless” is from [achrēstos; ἄχρηστος] which is the opposite of chrēstos meaning useful. However now as a believer, Onesimus had become “useful” or profitable [euchrēstos; εὔχρηστος] where the [eu] means good or well or profitable. 

[NOTE 3]‘Refresh” here is the same word as in verse 7. As Philemon had refreshed the saints around him, Paul expects his own heart to be refreshed as Philemon obeyed his wishes and accepted Onesimus in brotherly love. 

Blog No.412 posted on Wednesday 03 August 2022.

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411. Hebrews 13:1-8 and 13:15-16. Sacrifices Pleasing to God. [A reading for Sunday 28 August 2022]

It is a surprise to come to Hebrews chapter 13 after reading through such deep theology in the previous 12 chapters. All of a sudden, we are confronted with a whole long list of ethical exhortations which initially seem to have little reference to the theological truths that have preceded it.  However, in the light of God’s grace that has been shown in the previous chapters, it means that believers as recipients of that amazing grace have obligations or responsibilities they need to fulfil. We look at these verses in the light of those responsibilities.

OUR RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS OTHERS

Brotherly love. 

1 “Let brotherly love continue.“ [philadelphia; φιλαδελφία] brotherly love, and in the New Testament, the love which Christians cherish for each other as brothers in Christ. It speaks of mutual kindness among members of the same family or in the same grouping.

Hospitality to strangers. 2 “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.“ Hospitality has always been a Christian duty and was widely practised in the New Testament church. Travel was dangerous in those times and believers were meant to care about those who had come into unfamiliar places. The Bible has many incidents where people provided for strangers without realising that these strangers were in fact, angels. 

Caring for those who had been mistreated 

3 “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” Christians were to remember that in an imperfect world many people would be victims of injustice. They were to be supported and not just ignored. It was part of showing empathy, the willingness to put themselves into another person’s shoes, “as though in prison with them.” Likewise, those who had been mistreated were meant to be cared for, “since you also are in the body.” Their common humanity meant that they had human bodies just like those who had been mistreated. The need to provide healing for their suffering should have motivated them to seek to do so. 

OUR PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY TOWARD OURSELVES

Our bodies to be free of immorality

4  “Let marriage be held in honour among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” I remember reading many decades ago the comment from a senior Christian writer that the thing that will stand out most in the world, will be Christian marriages. It seems that his words are becoming more true year after year. What is required in Christian marriage is commitment to God and commitment to the one to whom you are married. The person guilty of defiling the marriage bed is either “sexually immoral” or  ”adulterous”. The former is [pornos; πόρνος]  meaning a fornicator whilst “adulterous” is from [moichos; μοιχός] meaning one who is unfaithful in marriage.  True believers always continue to maintain their faithfulness to God and to their marriage partners. 

Our desires to be free of covetousness

5 “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Part of the Decalogue [the 10 commandments God gave to Moses on Mt Sinai] was the command, “You shall not covet.” It is the desire to gain something that doesn’t belong to us whether it be a person or a material object or even a status which we don’t presently possess. 

The writer here gives the reasons why we should not covet. We have to be content with what we have [which is God’s provision to us] and to be content with the promise of His provision and His presence. He will never forsake us. He quotes the words from Psalm 118:6, “So we can confidently say, ‘the Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” Hebrews 13:6. Our trust is to be in God as El Shaddai the “All-sufficient One.” He is more than sufficient to meet all our needs. 

OUR RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS THOSE IN LEADERSHIP

7 “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” The writer to the Hebrews was very keen to have his readers look to other human believers for inspiration as they ran their Christian race. Here he bids them to remember their leaders who had brought the gospel to them and whose faith they could imitate. But he also pointed them to Jesus as the example par excellence of faith. The great thing about Jesus was that He is unchanging, utterly reliable and always able to give them anything they needed for their Christian journey. 

OUR RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS GOD

Finally the writer urges them to focus on God Himself, 15, “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” The writer has already shown in Hebrews that Jesus Christ offered the one complete sacrifice for sin to bring about the redemption of the world. No other sacrifice that humans could ever offer could add any value to that one perfect sacrifice. So why is he suggesting here that they offer a sacrifice to God? The sacrifice he suggests is the sacrifice of praise to God knowing that God loves to receive praise from His grateful creatures. It is “the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” It is the verbal expression of the gratitude that believers feel for God’s working on their behalf to achieve their salvation and for providing them with the necessities of life. 

He adds that there is another sacrifice that pleases God, 16, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” The word used here for “doing good” is [eupoiia; εὐποιΐα]  from a compound of [eu; εὖ] meaning good or well and [poieō; ποιέω] to make or to do. It means doing that which is beneficial for others including being generous to them. These are the sacrifices from God’s people that please Him

SUMMARY

We have seen that the whole theme of this chapter is on the sacrifices that are pleasing to God and on our responsibility in offering them to Him. That involves the following:- 

  • Our responsibility towards others in showing love to them and in offering hospitality to them.
  • Our responsibility to ourselves in living lives of purity in marriage and other relationships. And in being content with the Lord’s provision to us.
  • Our responsibility towards those in leadership by remembering their contribution to our lives and in following their examples of faith.
  • Our responsibility towards God by continuing to offer praise to Him for His mercy and grace towards us and by pleasing Him in doing good to others. 

Blog No.411. Hebrews 13:1-8 and 13:15-16. Sacrifices Pleasing to God

[A reading for Sunday 28 August 2022] posted on Saturday 30 July 2022

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410. The Blessings Of Belonging To A Kingdom That Cannot Be Shaken. Hebrews 12:18-29. [A reading for Sunday 21 August 2022.]

In this passage we are reminded of two major events when believers in Yahweh came into the presence of God but in very different ways. The first was at Mt Sinai where God spoke in a dramatic fashion to the people who had come in a group and where He gave Moses the Decalogue or 10 Commandments. The incident evoked fear in all who were there including Moses.

The second event may have come to individuals at different times as they heard or read the gospel and came to give their lives to the Risen Jesus and entered into the kingdom of heaven. This was described in numerous ways but showed the immensity of what faith secures as one enters the kingdom of heaven by coming to Jesus, by believing in Him. 

A]. The Fear Of Those Who Came To The Revelation of God On Mt Sinai. 22:18-21

Moses had led the people of Israel out of bondage in Egypt to Mt Sinai. Here the Lord came among them, as the writer reflects on that event from Exodus 19-20.

Hebrews 22:18, ‘For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19, and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20, For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.”21, Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”’ 

The writer had successfully described the immensity of all that took place at Mt Sinai and the sense of awe and fear that it inspired among the people of God. 

Now he introduces something quite different with the word “but.” The people of God under the new covenant had come, not to Mt Sinai, but to Mount Zion through their faith in Jesus. That meant belonging to the kingdom of God in all its fulness. It meant that they now belonged to God and to Jesus.

B]. The Security Of Those Who Have Come To Mt Zion and to Jesus. 22-24

In the following verses the writer describes different aspects of the kingdom of God that Jesus had established by the redemption he had accomplished through His life, death and resurrection. Believers now belonged to the heavenly Jerusalem and to all those who inhabited it, such as “innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven.”

But they had also come to God, “[But you have come] to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect.” They had been accepted by Him through their faith in His Son.

Finally, he wrote that they had come to Jesus, 24, “[But you have come] to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” It was a reminder to his readers that Jesus had been the mediator of the new covenant through His sacrificial death on the cross for sinners. This sacrificial death had brought peace with God and accomplished far more than the death of Abel. The shedding of Abel’s blood cried out for vengeance for the righting of the death of a righteous man. Jesus’ blood was far more important. His had achieved forgiveness and reconciliation with God for unrighteous sinners, such as the writer’s readers. 

C]. A Warning To Remain Faithful In Their Time Of Security. 25-27

The writer has shown why his believing readers could rest secure in the knowledge that God had accepted them in Christ. They now belonged to the kingdom of God as His children. However, such assurance should not lead to the neglect of remaining faithful to God, “25, See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26, At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27, This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.”

The Israelites had become fearful at the happenings at Mount Sinai especially as the ground had shaken with the power of God’s voice. Now the writer warns his readers about end-times when Christ returns and there comes the dramatic arrival of new heavens and a new earth by the power of God. All that is not of God disappears and only what belongs to the kingdom of God, remains. 

D]. The Gratitude That Leads To Acceptable Worship. 28

How then should believers live whilst knowing that they are secure because they are in God’s kingdom? With a deep sense of gratitude to God and with the desire to worship Him with reverence and awe, “28, Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”

With a deep sense of gratitude to God

The writer gives the reason for why they should be grateful to God. They had received “a kingdom that cannot be shaken.” Already in verses 26-27 had been the mention of a future shaking with the second coming of Jesus with the proviso being, “in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.” Their place in the kingdom of God and in the family of God would always be secure, no matter the degree of the violence of the shaking that would take place.

With the desire to worship Him with reverence and awe

“and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”

“Offer” is from [latreuō; λατρεύω] meaning to render religious service or to worship God in the observance of religious rites. What they had to offer was “acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.”

“Acceptable” is from [euarestōs; εὐαρέστως] with the meaning of being in a manner of being well pleasing to God. 

Such worship would escape the fire of God’s judgment which would consume all that was not acceptable or pleasing to God. 

SUMMARY

These 12 verses encompass the time between the events at Mount Sinai and the  second coming of Jesus. The first readers and hearers of this epistle had been given a recognition of their place in the kingdom of God. It was all due to the grace of God who had shown the Israelites of old that He was powerful and holy. Believers in the new covenant established by Jesus also needed to recognise both the power of God who in His mercy, had brought them to Himself, and also His holiness. 

The closing verses of the passage in verses 28-29 give the right response to the mercy and love of this powerful, holy God by urging the readers to be grateful for all God had done for them in Christ and to live for Him in lives devoted to His praise and glory. 

There was the final reminder to them that what was not acceptable to God would suffer His consuming fire. 

Blog No.410 posted on Thursday 28 July 2022. 

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Evangelism, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Glorification, Holy Spirit, Judgement, Justification, Lectionary Readings Year C 2019, New Covenant, Salvation, Sanctification, Second coming of Jesus | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

409. Hebrews 11:29-12:2. The Heroes of Faith REALLY Believed. A Reading for Sunday 14 August 2022

In this chapter 11 of Hebrews we see the necessity of faith to please God and to receive His blessings. The whole chapter is a catalogue of people who had faith and through whose faith God did great things.

A]. THE FAITH OF THOSE WHO BROUGHT ISRAEL FROM BONDAGE TO FREEDOM. 11:29-31

The people of Israel under the leadership of Moses

  • 29, “By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned.” At a time when it seemed they were at the mercy of the pursuing Egyptian army, the Israelites stepped out in faith to cross the Red Sea which miraculously opened up before them. Their faith was rewarded and they were saved by the hand of Almighty God who had done this for them. 

The People of Israel under the leadership of Joshua

  • 30 “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.” Joshua the successor to Moses had led the people to the outskirts of Jericho. He was instructed by God to command the people to march around the city 7 times on the seventh day and then to blow the trumpets. It did not sound like a strong military strategy but the people obeyed and blew the trumpets.  As they did so, the walls collapsed, the Israelites took the city, and the victory was won. 

An Unlikely Ally in God’s Purposes

  • 31 “By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.” Rahab had shown her faith in the God of Israel by welcoming and protecting the Israelite spies. Somehow she believed that the God of Israel was powerful and wanted to destroy Jericho. Her faith allowed the spies to do their spying safely and God Himself secured the victory for the Israelites. She allowed herself to become an instrument in God’s purposes and she was saved from death.

B]. THE FAITH OF OTHER FAITHFUL ISRAELITE LEADERS. 11:32-34

  • 32 “And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.“ 

Not only were Moses and Joshua raised up by the Lord, but He also raised up many more people to lead His people during their history. Some of these people mentioned here were mighty men of God but the emphasis in this passage was on the faith they had, that enabled them to do what they did. 

C]. THE FAITH OF THOSE WHO REMAINED FAITHFUL IN SPITE OF HORRIFIC SUFFERING. 11:35-40

In the above we have read of many of Israel’s heroes, but the writer is at pains to include a list of those who were faithful to God but who underwent much suffering for their faith. Many of them are unknown to us but the encouraging thing is that God wanted the writer of this letter to the Hebrews to show that their sufferings were not ignored or neglected by God. He includes them in the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 to show that the world was not worthy of such people. No cry for help was ever ignored by God, no tear was ever shed that escaped the Lord’s notice. No work of faith they had ever completed or attempted to do in faith, would miss out on His reward. 

  • “Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 
  • They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. 
  • They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
  • 39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”

Faith is always rewarded by God but timing is according to His timetable, not ours!

As verses 39 and 40 indicate, the reward for such people was delayed until it could be shared with His people of a later time. As one commentary has remarked, “Although they saw the fulfilment of specific promises in this life (e.g. 6:15; 11:11, 33), none of them experienced the blessings of the Messianic era and of the new covenant. In his gracious providence, God had planned something better for us in the sense that their enjoyment of perfection through Jesus Christ would only be together with us. The writer’s point is to stress the enormous privilege of living ‘in these last days’ (1:2). [New Bible Commentary.]

D]. THE NEED FOR THE EXERCISE OF FAITH FOR BELIEVERS IN ALL AGES

The encouragement of the faith shown in former believers

12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” 

The witness of all these heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 envelops us as we seek to live for the Lord. It’s as though we are in a large library and the pictures and deeds of those who have preceded us in life are hanging like portraits on the walls surrounding us. By their silent witness they are encouraging us in our own faith. 

Our response to this truth

As we are encouraged by their witness there are two things we need to do. 

The first is to get rid of unnecessary baggage, “Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely.” Anything in our lives that slows us down in our Christian walk has to be got rid of, especially sin.

The second thing we are to do, is to “run with endurance the race that is set before us.” All of us as believers have a race to run in life. And we need endurance to run it. We have the witness of the Hebrews 11 heroes of faith to inspire us but the writer tells us to look at a greater example of endurance, “looking to Jesus.” Hebrews 12:2. He then goes on to explain what he means. 

E]. THE EXAMPLE OF JESUS TO INSPIRE US. 12:2

“[Jesus] the founder and perfecter of our faith.” The word “our” is not in the original text for Jesus is the founder and perfecter of the faith. It is He who is responsible for faith in any person and He helps sustain it and bring it to completion in every believer’s life. He is the example par excellence of faith for His whole life was lived with faith in His heavenly Father and in obedience to His Father’s will. 

The writer says that Jesus’ whole ministry was motivated by joy, “who for the joy that was set before him.” Dying on the cross for sinners and offering Himself as the sacrifice to take away the sin of the world, was not going to be a pleasant experience. But doing the will of God and fulfilling God’s plan for the world, was going to bring a joyful result. What was involved in doing the will of God for Jesus to enable Him to experience that joy?

What He Did To Experience His Joy

“[Jesus] endured the cross.”  It is impossible for sinful humans ever to understand the degree of physical and mental endurance Jesus needed as He hung on the cross for sinners”. But it was the spiritual suffering He endured that made Him cry out on the cross, ““Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” His Father had to turn His back on His Son as Jesus was made sin for us. But later his cry of faith was changed to “Father into Your hands I commit My spirit!” as in faith He committed Himself to His Heavenly Father who had accepted His Son’s sacrifice to take away the sin of the world.

His Attitude In What He Did To Experience His Joy

“despising the shame.” It was a shameful thing to be nailed to the cross. The words “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” Gal 3:13 is indicative of what people of that time thought of crucifixion. But Jesus “despised“ that thought [where the word for “despised” is [kataphroneō; καταφρονέω] meaning to think against, or to think little of]. The thought did not deter Him from being willing to suffer and endure on the cross if that was the will of God for Him.

The End Result Of What He Did In Experiencing His Joy

”and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” There can be no higher place than to be seated at the right hand of God. Jesus had fulfilled the Father’s plan for the salvation of the world and was raised by the Father to His place in glory. 

An Amazing Truth We Need To Know

There is a little understood corollary to this truth of Jesus being seated at the right hand of God, which is found in Ephesians 2:4-9 where Paul reminds us that we too have been raised with Christ. God sees us now as being seated with Christ at His right hand in glory. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

It is absolutely amazing to read of all Christ has done for sinners. But it is also amazing that our faith in Jesus has enabled God to bless us with a seat at His right hand, in Christ, in the place of acceptance, honour and authority.

Our response surely to the love and mercy of God and to the faith Jesus showed in dying for us, must be to live for Him for the rest of our lives, as Paul wrote, “And he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” 2 Corinthians 5:15.

Blog No.409 posted on Tuesday 26 July 2022

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408 HEBREWS 11:1-3 AND 11:8-16. WHAT IS FAITH? A Reading for Sunday 07 August 2022

WHAT IS FAITH?

This is a question many of us have asked in the past when we were trying to ascertain whether a particular person [perhaps even ourselves] was acting in faith or in sheer presumption. This chapter helps to clarify the nature of faith. The writer notes the following about faith.

  • “Now faith is the assurance [NOTE 1] of things hoped for.”  Faith is built upon hope. That means in Christian terms, believing in the certainty that God’s promises will come true.  Hope is based on the certainty of God’s character and on the truths of His word. Faith looks in expectancy to the fulfilling of those promises and truths from His word.
  • “the conviction [NOTE 2] of things not seen.“ Jesus spoke to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29. There is a blessing on those who truly believe God in spite of an apparent lack of evidence. Faith allows God to make the invisible become visible in one’s experience.
  • 2, “For by it the people of old received their commendation.” [NOTE 3]. The writer is about to describe the faith of many of the Old Testament saints which made them commendable, acceptable or approved in God’s sight.
  • 3, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” Faith believes that the whole universe was made out of nothing that previously existed. God in creation spoke the universe into being. It was creation “ex nihilo” out of nothing.   

ABRAHAM AND SARAH AS EXAMPLES OF FAITH

The Person Of Faith Responds To God

  • 8 “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.“

Even today we know the tensions of having to move from one location to another. Especially when you realise that you may never return to the familiar background in which you were born and lived. An extra dimension in Abraham’s faith was that when he departed he still did not know where his destination would be. 

The Person Of Faith Sacrifices Everything For God

  • 9, “By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. “

The Person Of Faith Believes That Impossibilities Can Become Possible By The Power Of God

  • 11, “By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”

Sarah had obviously given up hope of bearing a child to Abraham and when she was told by an angelic messenger that she was to bear a child when she was beyond the age to bear children, she initially laughed at the idea [as did Abraham]. But her faith prevailed, and she gave birth to the promised child, Isaac. 

God had said to Abraham when Sarah laughed at the prospect of bearing a child, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Both Abraham and Sarah discovered that human impossibilities can become possible by the Lord’s power when it is according to the will of God.

THE Person Of Faith Believes That God’s Followers Can Believe In The Present For Things To Be Fulfilled In The Future

  • 13, “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”
  • The writer sums up these examples of faith by stating that they all kept looking to God for His promises to be fulfilled in His time and not just their own. They had seen themselves as being dependent on God for His guidance and provision and as having no permanent home until the Lord led them to the place of His choosing. Their security lay in God’s ongoing promises to them and not on His past provision to them. They wanted, by faith, what He wanted for them [a better country] even if it had not been fulfilled before they died. As the writer added, “for he has prepared for them a city.” They would not miss out on receiving the promise of God!

SUMMARY.

It is humbling for believers today to read of the faith of these Old Testaments saints. They didn’t have the written Bible nor the experiences of believers throughout the ages to be encouraged by. They simply trusted in the promises they received by God and stepped out in faith to fulfil His purpose for them. What we have in these verses is the record of how God saw them as faithful and commended them for their faith. 

He was “not ashamed to be called their God.”

As we will see in the next chapter, the writer uses these examples of faith in the Old Testament saints to encourage believers in every generation in their Christian pilgrimage, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1.

———————————————————————————————————-

[NOTE 1.] “Assurance” [hypostasis; ὑπόστασις] is literally “to stand under “and can be translated as “confidence, substance, real being.“  The New English Bible translated the phrase as “Faith gives substance to our hopes.” Faith believes something promised can come true and brings it into being as a reality. It provides the substance to the often unseen reality.

[NOTE 2.]  “Conviction.” [elegchos;  ἔλεγχος] means “proof, conviction, evidence, reproof.” It is used by John to describe the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit as He reveals the sinfulness of sin in the life of an individual. John 16:8, “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” In other words, He will make people realise the reality of what sin is, in the sight of God. Believers will have a conviction of the truths given by God to His people.

[NOTE 3.]  “Commendation.”  [martyreō; μαρτυρέω] means to be a witness, testify, give witness, and here in the passive voice, be well reported of, to be of good report. Here the commendation is given by God for their faith in Him, His word and His promises. 

Blog No.408 posted on Thursday 14 July 2022.

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407. Colossians 3:1-11. Living The New Life In Christ. Reading for Sunday 31 July 2022

There is a tremendous truth that we need to know about and to act on as Christian believers. St Paul reminded his readers in Colossae of this truth when he wrote that the truth is that all believers have entered into a faith-union with Christ in His death and resurrection.

A]. THE TRUTH ABOUT THE NEW SELF AS A BELIEVER. 3:1-4

Paul stated the truth in these words, “If then you have been raised with Christ” believing them to be true. Not only were they buried with Christ in His baptism but they had been raised to new life with Christ in His resurrection. [In fact in Ephesians 2:6 he added that believers had also ascended with Christ in His ascension and been seated in Him at the right hand of God in heaven.] Such was the grace of God for those who repented and trusted in Christ for forgiveness and salvation.

Responding to God’s grace 

Such grace by God requires a human response and Paul states what it is in the following words “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” 

He followed that command with another similar one. 

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.“ [NOTE 1]. 

Believers had to consciously adjust their thinking to concentrate on the more spiritual aspects of their new life and less on the materialistic aspects of their former lives. 

The reason for these commands?

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Their old lives had come to an end through their faith-union with Christ and their new lives were linked inwardly and intimately with Christ. Two truths are joined here. 

I]. One is that the believers’ lives are so linked with Christ’s, that He has become their life. It’s a truth Paul wrote about His own life in Galatians 2:20, when he affirmed, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” When people are willing to die to themselves and allow Christ to fill them with His presence, then it allows Christ to express His life through these bodies which are yielded to Him.

Ii]. The second truth shows what would be the result of their obedience. “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Any future appearance of Christ such as His coming in glory will also be an appearance of them with Him in glory. Paul does not go on to elaborate on this concept but simply saw it as the result of the believers’ faith-union with Christ in chapter 3 of his letter to them. It is a truth that could revolutionise our own lives today if we fully understood it and put it into practice. Paul describes these truths and then using the word “therefore,” he explains how they were to act on it.

B]. ACTING ON THE TRUTH AS A NEW CREATURE IN CHRIST. 3:5-11.

a. Putting To Death The Old Nature

Paul recognised that believers still lived in physical bodies in this material world and needed to act on what God had done for them as new creatures in Christ.

That meant the following, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you.” They were to recognise any aspects of their lives that were not in accord with the will of God and put those aspects to death. He lists them as “sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.“  

Most of these sins are part of the works of the flesh, or the characteristics of the old flesh nature that Paul wrote about in Galatians 5:19-21. They had once lived with those characteristics, “In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.” But no longer were they to do so. “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.“ As new creatures in Christ their outward expressions in their feelings, and even in their speech, had to be different. Because now they WERE different!

b. The New Self Has Been Put On And The Old Self Has Been Put Off

Paul concludes this section by commanding them not to lie to one another, “Do not lie to one another,” but he gives the reason why they shouldn’t lie, “seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.“  NOTE 2]. 

In other words, the old has gone and the new has come. They are now different people from what they used to be. The old self has been put off and the new self keeps on being renewed to be more like Christ in a deeper knowledge given by Christ. 

In a final statement, Paul reminds them that their sufficiency is in Christ and in Him alone, “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” They were no longer to think in human terms or categories but to focus on Christ as their sufficiency and on all they had in Him. They needed no other, nor anything apart from Him, for He was “all and in all!”

SUMMING UP

Again we see that Paul’s ethics are derived from his theology. This section of Colossians chapter 3 reinforces this truth. He points out what Christ has done for His creatures in His death and Resurrection. Then he stresses the implications of those truths for the lives of His followers.  

The theme in this passage is ‘newness.” They had died with Christ in their faith-union with Him and had become new with new selves to put on. That meant being focussed on their new lives in Christ and seeking those things above and setting their minds on them. 

That meant living new lives by the grace of God and putting to death anything in their lives that was not in accord with the will of God. They now were different and had to live out that difference in their renewed lives. 

Paul encouraged them with the reminder that the newness they now enjoyed stemmed from God’s grace in renewing them with the new nature Christ had given them, and that in Him, they had all they needed to live godly lives for Him. 

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[NOTE 1.] “Seek” is from [zēteō; ζητέω] meaning to seek or to desire, while “Set your mind on” is from [phroneō; φρονέω] meaning to exercise the mind, or to set the affection on or to be of the same mind. That meant actively seeking out the higher spiritual truths and setting their minds on knowing them and living by them.

[NOTE 2]. The “new” in “new self ” is [neos; νέος] meaning new in contrast with the old self. However this new self is radically different from the old self because God is renewing the believer with His power.

“Being renewed” is from a different word for “new” and is [anakainoō;nἀνακαινόω] meaning being made fresh or young, becoming radically different. Christ renews His followers to be like Himself as they open up to Him in faith and in a growing dependence on Him. 

Blog.No.407 posted on Wednesday 06 July 2022.

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Creation, Evangelism, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Glorification, Holy Spirit, Justification, Lectionary Readings Year C 2019, New Covenant, Prayer, Salvation, Sanctification, Second coming of Jesus, spiritual warfare | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

406. On Colossians 2:6-15. A Reading for 24 July 2022. 

I remember reading decades ago that the famous Chinese Christian writer Watchman Nee wrote something like this, “When I am reading the Bible and come to a “therefore”, I stop and try to see what the “therefore” is there for, and every time I get a blessing.” As we have noted in previous articles, Paul’s ethics are built on his theology, for true behaviour stems from true belief.

A true belief behaves itself truly. In other words, what Watchmen Nee was saying was that Paul’s “therefores” mark the distinction in his writings from the truths about the person and work of Jesus, and the ethical demands those truths place upon Christ’s followers. 

Paul’s ethical exhortations are never simply plucked out of the air but rather follow on from the truths he has been previously expounding. “This is what Christ has done, therefore this is how you are meant to respond.” That is the case in this passage as well.  As verse 6 says, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.” We bring out the implications of that below. 

A]. OUR RESPONSE TO GOD’S GRACE TO US IN CHRIST 2:6-8.

1.  Walking in step with Jesus. 2:6.

6, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.” 

“Receiving” Jesus is the same as believing in Him. This is seen in John 1:12, where John wrote, “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” Now that they belonged to the people of God they were to walk in His ways. 

Jesus saw that following Him meant walking in the light He had come to bring.  “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12. And in John 12:35, “So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going.” 

The Christian life is a life lived in fellowship with Him, walking with Him in His way.

 2.   Living in union with Jesus. 2:7

The Christian is seen to be in union with Christ as Paul explains in 2:7, they were “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” “Rooted” is a perfect participle denoting the security of the believer in Christ. “Built up” is a present participle denoting the growth helping them to become more established in the faith. Thus there was a need for abundant thanksgiving on their part. All we can actually give to God is our praise and thanksgiving as we offer Him all we are and have!

  3.  Living while being focussed on Jesus. 2:8.

The Colossian believers had been exposed to false teaching that did not give Jesus His rightful place. So Paul warned them, 8, “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.“ The phrase to “take captive” is from [sylagōgeō; συλαγωγέω] meaning to carry away as a captive or to lead away from the truth. False doctrine has that tendency to confuse and to weaken one’s faith. Their solution was to maintain their hold on Christ and not to look for anything adfitional apart from Him.

B}. WHAT WE HAVE IN JESUS. 2:9-15

Paul now adds a wonderful exposition of the truths about Jesus and our relationship with Him. 

1. Christ fills us with His fulness. 2:9-10

It is obvious that any sense of fulness must exist in God alone from whom all things derive and exist. But that fulness exists also in Christ, “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” 2:9. The amazing truth is that believers are also filled with that fulness, “and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. “2:10.

What Paul is saying is that believers have all they need in Christ and need not look to any other source to be filled as they seek to live for Him! 

2. Christ sets us free to live for Him. 2:11-12.

Their baptism had signified a deep spiritual truth, namely that they had undergone a spiritual circumcision in being baptised into Christ and into His circumcision. It was as if they had put off the body of the flesh nature as they rose with Him in baptism. “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, 12, having been buried with him in baptism.“ 2:11-12. They were now free to live as they should.

 3.  Christ gives us victory over sin and makes us spiritually alive. 2:12b-15.

Raised from death to life in Christ. 2:12-13a, In which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13, And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him.”

The significance of Christ being raised from the dead meant that as those who were raised with Him through our faith-union, we too were made alive in Him. 

     4. Forgiven through Christ’s death. 2:13b-14.

Christian believers in every generation have been forgiven of the penalty for all their sins. How? Because Christ bore the penalty for all our sins in His death on the cross. 13b, “having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” 2:13b-14. The condemnation of the law had been fulfilled through Christ’s death and believers could now live under the grace of God.

     5. Christ sets us free from the powers of darkness. 2:15.

Set free from the past, but how can we cope with the pressures of the present and the future? By realising that when Christ died and rose again, we too were raised to share in His victory, “He disarmed [NOTE 1] the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame [NOTE 2], by triumphing over them in him.” 2:15. 

The cross declared outwardly Christ’s victory. He “disarmed” His opponents whilst leaving them alive but weakened in power.

The picture of Christ on the cross was not a sign of Christ’s weakness. Rather it was a glorious public sign that the powers of darkness had been broken and that Christian believers now could have victory in Christ. 

SUMMING UP.

This whole passage is centred on Christ, His Person and His work! In His Person He is shown to be filled with the fulness of God and thus is equal to the Father in the godhead!

His work involved becoming the Saviour for sinners by bearing in His own body the penalty for the sins of the world.  Through their faith-union with Christ they can now walk in victory knowing their sins are forgiven, they are rooted in Christ and can have victory over all the powers of darkness. 

IT IS ALL OURS, BECAUSE THEY ARE OURS IN HIM!

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NOTE 1]. “Disarm” [apekdyomai; ἀπεκδύομαι] means to put off or despoil. 

NOTE 2]. “Open shame” is [deigmatizō; deigmatizō] means to make an example of, to show as an example. 

Blog No.406 posted on Sunday 03 July 2022.

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Creation, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Glorification, Holy Spirit, Judgement, Justification, Prayer, Salvation, Sanctification, spiritual warfare, Temptations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment