The resurrection of Christ is God’s answer to unbelief. The changed attitudes of His followers who saw Him alive after His crucifixion and the revolution in the life of Paul, who saw Him “last of all,” rank high among the “many infallible proofs” of His resurrection. Cowards were made bold, doubters believed, the sorrowing were made glad, the pitiless persecutor became His devoted follower. The broken Roman seal, the empty tomb, the failure of the enemies of Christ to produce the dead body and a hundred other facts add their testimony in confirmation of the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ has been “declared to be the Son of God with power… by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4).
The resurrection of Christ assures us that His payment for sin is all-sufficient and complete, for “when He had by Himself purged our sins [He] sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3). “For by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified” (Heb. 10:14).
Next, the resurrection of Christ gives us a living Savior. Comparing the Old Testament priests with Christ, Heb. 7:23-25 says:
The resurrection of Christ is also the pledge of the believer’s resurrection in glory. In I Pet. 1:3 the Apostle Peter breaks out in a doxology:
And our Lord Himself said what no other could possibly say:
Finally, the resurrection of Christ is a warning to the world of judgment to come:
There are two notable distinctions between the two programs of God regarding the hereafter, both of which have to do with the hope of believers. In the twenty-third Psalm, David, whose hope was earthly, was willing to go, but wanting to stay. Contrariwise, the Apostle Paul taught that believers today have a heavenly hope, and as a result, he was willing to stay for the sake of the Church, but longing to go, which he knew would be much better (Phil. 1:23,24).
A book could be written on misconceptions about heaven. The majority of these have been handed down from generation to generation, but they have absolutely no Scriptural basis. Here are some common examples: we will one day become angels in heaven; Peter stands at the pearly gates to determine who will enter; we will float on clouds, playing harps for eternity; there will not be recognition in heaven. These are well-known folklores that Satan uses to divert attention away from the Word of God.
In the eyes of the world, most everyone who dies goes to heaven. But the fact of the matter is that only those who place their faith in Christ will be the eternal residents of this glorious realm. But will we know one another there?
Recognition in the hereafter is a principle that transcends all the ages and dispensations, whether we're talking about the disembodied state or after the resurrection. For example, Saul knew Samuel when God allowed the prophet to return from paradise years after his death. The rich man of Luke 16 recognized Lazarus, who appeared with Abraham, and requested that the patriarch send Lazarus with some water to cool his tongue.
Paul also makes a strong case that we will know one another in the hereafter. The apostle says to the saints at Philippi,
This particular passage substantiates that our identity will be preserved in the resurrection. After our Lord was resurrected from the dead, He appeared to His disciples in the upper room. When He entered the room, He first calmed their fears with words with which they were very familiar: "Peace be unto you!" They immediately recognized the Lord and rejoiced when they saw Him (John 20:19-21).
Afterward the disciples shared the good news with Thomas, who was not present that day, that they had seen the Lord. Thomas, however, refused to believe it until he saw the nail prints in His hands. Eight days later, the Lord appeared again to His disciples, but this time Thomas was present. When he saw the Lord, he was so overwhelmed by the visitation that he declared, "My Lord and my God!" There was no question whatsoever in Thomas' mind that he had seen the Savior and undoubtedly touched the nail prints in His hands, prints that will forever be a reminder of His death at Calvary (John 20:24-29).
Now, if our Lord's identity was preserved in the resurrection and the brethren recognized Him, then the same will be true of us. This conclusion is based on the fact that our vile bodies will be "fashioned like unto His glorious body" in the coming resurrection. If the Lord's followers recognized Him, there is no doubt that we will recognize one another in the hereafter. Further evidence is presented by Paul a little later in the epistle:
What's in a name? The importance of this question cannot be overstated. Of course, we use names to distinguish one person from another. In biblical times, names had specific meanings attached to them, some of which were in fulfillment of prophecy. Today, as in time past, our names are set in stone; they will be with us for time and eternity. If there isn't recognition in heaven, as some teach, why would there need to be names in eternity? Clearly the names of Euodias, Syntyche, Clement, and the other fellow workers of Paul, are all recorded in the Book of Life. The reason our names are recorded there is that we will be known in the resurrection by name and appearance, even as we are known here.
I look forward to seeing those with whom I've had the privilege of ministering the Word, along with all my family members and friends who believed the gospel. You won't have trouble finding me at that day; I'll be the tall one in the background. Yes, even our stature, voice, personality and mannerisms will all be preserved. See you there!
It seems that everything is going up in cost these days. Nothing comes down; everything goes up — up — up. Wages too are going up, but not as fast as the cost of living, for our dollars are decreasing in value all the time. This is why former President Eisenhower suggested we begin calling them dollarettes!
We should thank God, though, that there is one thing that has never gone up in price — the salvation of precious souls. No price was ever put on this and none ever will be, for several good reasons:
Even in Old Testament times God made it clear that sacrifices and good works could not buy His favor. In Isa. 55:1-3, the prophet cried:
Centuries later, after “the gospel of the grace of God” had been committed to Paul, he offered even better things to those who were willing to accept them. He declared that believers in Christ are…
The Apostle Paul, who had been through one desperate crisis after another, wrote as follows:
How many people have found life going along smoothly for years when, all of a sudden, they have found themselves in the middle of some serious crisis!
Perhaps the sudden death of a loved one changed life completely and presented serious problems wholly unanticipated. Perhaps it was the sudden loss of wealth, so that life had to be completely readjusted. There are hundreds of unexpected incidents that can suddenly bring one face to face with stark and stern realities completely unforeseen.
For believers in the Lord Jesus Christ such crises can prove great spiritual blessings. They tend to draw us closer to our heavenly Father, to cause us to pray more and to lean harder upon Him. They show us the insecurity of all that is temporal and give us a greater appreciation of our eternal security in Christ. They give deeper meaning to the Scriptures we study and even to the hymns we sing. They sanctify and enrich our fellowships.
To those — and only those — who truly love God and are “the called according to His purpose,” all things do indeed “work together for good” — caused by God, of course, to “work together for good.”
This is why God’s Word to the Christian is:
Three times in Rom. 1:14-16, the Apostle Paul uses the phrase “I am,” and each one carries an important message for every true believer in Christ.
First he says in Verse 14: “I am debtor” — debtor to all men, to tell them about the saving work of Christ. But why was he indebted to people he had never even seen? For several reasons.
First, he had in his hand what they needed to be saved from the penalty and power of sin. If I see a drunkard lying across the railroad track and I do nothing about it, am I not a murderer if he is killed by the train? If I see a man drowning and I have a life buoy in my hand but do not throw it to him, am I not a murderer if he goes down for the last time? If I see millions of lost souls about me and, knowing the message of salvation, do not tell them, am I not guilty if they die without Christ?
Further, Paul felt himself a debtor to others, because the Christ who had died for his sins had also died for the sins of others. As he says in II Cor. 5:14,15: “Christ died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves but unto Him who died for them and rose again.”
Finally, the Christ who had died for Paul’s sins, had commissioned him to tell others of His saving grace. Thus he says in I Cor. 9:16,17:
Paul could say further what every true believer should be able to say: Not, “I am debtor, but,” but rather, “I am debtor… So, as much as in me is I am ready” (Rom. 1:15). He was ready to discharge his debt because he had that with which to discharge it — the wonderful “gospel of the grace of God.” And he did indeed make this message known to others with all that was in him.
And now the third “I am”: “I am debtor… so I am ready… for I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth…” (Ver. 16). Paul was always proud to own Christ as the mighty Savior from sin. Do you know Christ as your Savior? Do you tell others about Him?
What's the difference between a piano and a fish? You can tune a piano, but you can't tuna fish!
While you may have never wondered about the difference between a piano and a fish, you may have wondered about the difference in the various types of prayer that Paul mentions in I Timothy 2:1:
The word "supplication" means to ask someone for something (I Kings 8:52; Esther 4:8). Some grace believers are uncomfortable asking God for things, but it is our own apostle Paul who encourages us to "let your requests be made known unto God" (Phil. 4:6). Just try not to be as selfish as unbelievers are when they pray. I once saw a comic strip that featured God sitting at a computer and saying to an angel, "I need to set up a spam filter to block requests to win the lottery!" While Paul says to let your requests be made known unto God "in every thing," the more you mature in Christ, the less selfish your requests will be.
If you're wondering what the difference is between "supplications" and "prayers," don't tell anyone! You see, if you are wondering that, it means you think the word "prayer" means to ask God for things! But there are lots of other things you can say to God in prayer. You can praise Him for His goodness and His grace, or just talk to Him about whatever is on your heart. If you have children who only call when they need something, you know how God feels if all you ever do is ask Him for things.
You can also make "intercessions" to God in prayer. Intercessions are selfless prayers prayed to God solely on behalf of others, the kind of prayer the Lord prays for us (Rom. 8:34).
The final type of prayer Paul mentions is the "giving of thanks." This kind of prayer needs no explanation, but it can usually use some exhortation!
Now that we've defined these prayers, I'd like to submit for your consideration that Paul mentioned them in a specific sequence that reflects the order of spiritual maturity. When you were first saved, your prayers mostly consisted of asking God for things. But as you matured in the Lord, you began to "pray" more, praising God and talking to Him about whatever was on your heart. Then, more and more, the focus of your prayers moved away from yourself to others, and you began interceding for them more than for yourself. Perhaps you've already arrived at the point where you mostly just thank God when you bow before the throne of His grace.
If not, if you've never spent an entire season of prayer just thanking God, I can't recommend it enough. Since Paul mentions it last in this list of prayers that reflects the order of spiritual maturity, I believe it to be the highest form of prayer that you can pray to God.
Our Lord’s appearance to Saul of Tarsus (later called Paul) on the road to Damascus, changed the pitiless persecutor in a moment into the docile, yes the devoted follower of the Christ he had so bitterly hated.
This transformation took place not only because he had now seen the risen, ascended Christ; it was caused also by what he had learned from Christ. From heaven the Lord had revealed to Paul the glory of His finished work of redemption and had sent him forth to proclaim “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).
This is seen in the closing words of the Apostle’s first recorded sermon, delivered at the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia. After mentioning the death and resurrection of Christ, the Apostle said:
Paul never changed this message, but kept emphasizing it wherever he went as well as in his writings. He saw in this truth the answer to man’s condemnation for breaking God’s holy law. Thus he wrote to the Romans:
Mark well: He does not say, “believeth and is baptized.” This was the message committed to the twelve (Mark 16: 16; Acts 2:38). With the ushering in of the dispensation of grace God was manifested as “the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”
When a Christian lady asked us this question many years ago, we knew she was really asking if our church service was characterized by the kind of emotionalism that is found in so many churches. Her question prompted me to do a study of the word worship in Scripture, in an effort to obtain a Biblical definition of what constitutes genuine worship of Almighty God.
A Worshipful Life
Our study begins with God's command to Abraham to sacrifice his only son (Gen. 22:1-4), and Abraham's announcement that he planned to "worship" God in so doing (v. 5). The law of first reference suggests that the Bible's first use of the word worship here defines it as a willingness to obey God no matter how one's faith is tested, a good overall definition even today. And since Abraham indicated that "the lad" was also going to worship, the willingness of Isaac to give his life up at his father's behest (as a young man, Isaac could have easily overpowered or outrun his elderly father) suggests that when we willingly offer our lives as living sacrifices at our Father's behest (Rom. 12:1), this too is an act of worship. We find confirmation of this when the Lord equated worshipping God with serving God in Matthew 4:10.
Years later, when Abraham sent his servant to his homeland to find a bride for Isaac (Gen. 24:1-11), his faithful servant prayed for God's help (vv. 12-14). When he received it (vv. 15-25), he "worshipped the Lord" by thanking Him (vv. 26,27), suggesting that each time we bow to thank God for answered prayer, we too are worshipping Him.
Many years later, the people of Israel "bowed their heads and worshipped" (Ex. 4:31) when they acknowledged that God was honoring His promise to visit and redeem them from Egyptian bondage (Gen. 15:13-16). This leads us to believe that it is a form of worship when we today acknowledge and thank God when He honors promises He has made to us, such as that found in Romans 8:28.
Next, the Bible calls it "worship" when the people of Israel brought "the firstfruits of the land" to God (Deut. 26:10). Thus we believe that God considers it worship when we put God first in our lives. We well remember the day we asked one of the men in our church to help us with some work on the building. This faithful man listed all of the things that he had to do that week, then paused, and said simply, "But the Lord comes first." We believe he worshipped God that day, when he gave Him the firstfruits of his time and effort.
As we come to Judges 7, Gideon "worshipped" God for the assurance He gave him that his little band of 300 would defeat the Midianites (7:9-14). Similarly, when we thank God today for all the assurances we find in God's Word, we believe God is thrilled with this kind of worship.
Then when we consider the patriarch Job, it takes our breath away to see how he "fell down upon the ground, and worshipped" after losing all of his children and possessions (Job 1:20). Here we see worship characterized as a firm resolve to maintain one's spiritual "integrity" (2:9) in the face of even the most horrendous ordeals of life. Add to this how David is also said to have "worshipped" God in the aftermath of his heart-wrenching loss (II Sam. 12:18-20). The worship of God at times like these is a powerful testimony to the lost that we have something they do not possess.
Contributing financially to the Lord's work is probably not commonly thought of as worship, but the worship of the wise men is said to have included presenting the Lord with their gifts (Mt. 2:11), suggesting that giving to the Lord's work is an example of worship that is fit for a King.
We don't always feel like worshipping God when a loved one is sick, and He does not extend to us the same "mercy" He granted Paul and Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25-27). But when the Lord refused mercy to the Syrophenician woman, she "worshipped" Him anyway (Mt. 15:21-25), and her faith and her understanding of why He was refusing to help her touched His heart (vv. 26-28). Surely God's heart is still touched when we are able to worship Him at such difficult times, understanding that when He forbears to bestow such help, it is so that we will "rather" learn to rejoice in His all-sufficient grace, and the perfecting of His strength in our weakness (II Cor. 12:9).
If your heart longs to worship the Lord, but you find it difficult, remember that worship always comes much easier when you find yourself in the place where God has "appointed," just as the disciples did long ago (Mt. 28:16,17). Of course, in this dispensation, God has "appointed" that we suffer "afflictions" for the cause of Christ (I Thes. 3:3), but there is perhaps no time when our worship is more pleasing to God than when we worship Him in the face of such affliction.
A Worshipful Church Service
While we have looked at several ways to worship the Lord, we began by asking if the church service at a grace church is characterized by worship, and the answer to this is a resounding yes! To begin with, when Joshua is said to have worshipped the Lord, he asked, "What saith my lord unto His servant?" (Joshua 5:14). This worshipful attitude of seeking the words of God is the same mind-set we display every time we gather in a grace church to hear God's Word taught, for it is only when the Word is rightly divided that we hear the Lord's words to His servants today.
Then too, remember how the Lord said of the Pharisees, "in vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Mt. 15:9)? Well, if teaching the commandments of men constitutes vain worship, then teaching the commandments of God must be considered true worship! And only grace churches are emphasizing the commandments of God given to us through Paul (I Cor. 14:37; I Thes. 4:2).
This does not mean, of course, that we throw away the law and the prophets, for even Paul himself professed that his "worship" included "believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets" (Acts 24:14). Here we see that we worship God when we go to church and simply believe His Word, His entire Word. Of course, it is only when we recognize dispensational differences and changes that we "worship God in the spirit" (Phil. 3:3).
And so if others have caused you to feel that you don't worship at your grace church, we trust these thoughts from God's Word have helped you to see that, as a grace believer, you worship God in ways that are far more pleasing to Him than those who attend services characterized by mere shallow emotionalism. We feel certain that if Jeremiah were to visit some of these churches, he would post a sign above the door that read: "Hear the word of the Lord, all ye…that enter in at these gates to worship" (Jer. 7:2). Hearing the word of the Lord is the highest form of worship, for when we recognize just who it is that is speaking to us through the Scriptures, we see that this too is a form of worship (cf. John 9:35-38).
A Worshipful Future
Finally, once we draw our last breath and enter His presence, we can look forward to worshipping the Lord in a very unique way. Consider how the people of Israel "worshipped" the Lord after they saw how He accepted their sacrifice (II Chron. 7:1-3). Then think of what a thrill it will be when we stand someday at the Judgment Seat of Christ and see Him accept every sacrifice we have ever made for Him, and reward us accordingly. It will be our highest honor and deepest privilege to worship Him in that day.
In closing, we would be remiss in this brief study of Biblical worship if we did not call your attention to Isaiah 66:23,24, where we read that in the kingdom of heaven on earth, they will "worship" God by going forth on a regular basis, as God says, to "look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against Me." The prophet speaks here of souls in Hell, where "their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched." At the present time, of course, our hearts break at the thought of friends and loved ones suffering eternal torment. But once we reach the eternal state, our minds will be so much like His that we will worship Him by acknowledging that even this most severe of all His judgments is "true" and even "righteous" (cf. Ps. 19:9; Rev. 16:7; 19:2). What a burden this should lay on our hearts to reach these dear ones now with the wonderful gospel of the wonderful grace of God.
In a way the Christian life is a stand; in another it is a walk, and in still another a race.
In I Cor. 15:1 the Apostle Paul writes of “the gospel… wherein ye stand” and in Rom. 5:2 of “this grace wherein we stand,” while in Gal. 5:1 he bids us: “Stand fast… in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.” Perhaps all this is well summed up in his appeal to his beloved Philippians:
But the Christian life is more than a stand — it is a walk (which in Scripture refers to conduct). Once, says Paul, we walked “in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1,2) but having been saved by grace, through faith in Christ, we are now to “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). Thus the Apostle bids us to “walk worthy of the Lord” (Col. 1:10), to “walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16).
But the Christian life is even more than a walk; it is a race. Sad to say, many Christians whose “walk” is consistent and commendable, have never come to look upon the Christian life as a race. These never put enough into it so that it might be said of them that they are running. Yet the same great Apostle wrote, by divine inspiration:
The word “patience” in this passage points up the fact that the Christian life is not a short “hundred-yard dash”; it requires much endurance. Thus we should put into it all that we have. “They which run in a race,” says the Apostle, “run all,” but they do not all receive the prize. Hence the admonition: “So run that ye may obtain” (I Cor. 9:24).
Those who have not trusted Christ as Savior have not even begun to stand, or walk, much less to run a race for Him. These might as well forget rewards until they first accept “the gift of God… eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
God has a plan for each of our lives, a plan that is for our good and His glory. We should not forget, however, that Satan has a plan for the believer's life as well. His designs are for destroying our lives and testimony for Christ through sin, false beliefs, and poor decisions. Paul's mention of "the wiles of the devil" in Ephesians 6:11 teaches us that Satan has strategies, methods, and schemes to make us fall or run away in the spiritual battle. Satan can't take away your salvation (Col. 3:3), but he can destroy your testimony. Like a thief, he can also rob you of your joy in Christ and your assurance of salvation.
After establishing the church at Thessalonica, Paul had tried "once and again" to reconnect and visit them, but it had not worked out. The reason, Paul wrote, was that "Satan hindered us." The Greek word for "hindered" is used of making a road impassable. In the context of athletics, it meant cutting someone off during a race. In a military context, it referred to cutting a trench in front of an advancing army to prevent the enemy's progress. Satan does the same thing in our Christian lives: he blocks the path, cuts us off in mid-stride to trip us up, or impedes our spiritual progress.
We do not know specifically what Satan did to keep Paul from going back to Thessalonica, but we do know that Paul attributed the obstruction to Satan himself. However, we see now how even Satan's hindrance was part of God's providence for Paul's life. God allowed and used Satan's opposition and brought good out of this roadblock which Paul perceived as bad. As He did with the Cross, God accomplished His own purposes, using the devil to do so.
The consequence of Paul's inability to go to Thessalonica was the writing of a letter, a letter that became part of our Bible. This letter, in turn, has resulted in glory to God and, for the past 2000 years, untold multitudes have benefited from Paul's First Epistle to the Thessalonians and have been blessed by its divine truths -- our blessed hope of the Rapture (4:13-18), to name just one. It was because Paul faced a satanic roadblock in his life that we have 1 Thessalonians. We do well to remember this anytime we face a blocked road or barrier in life that we perceive as bad, because God can work to bring something good out of it for His glory and our blessing.
Where do you run to for strength in times of difficulty? Some merely wallow in depression. Others resort to efforts in the flesh. Many simply turn to other people. The tragedy of turning to any of these things or people is that their help or comfort is only marginal at best, and ignores what God has supplied to provide our needed stability.
David found the right answer. He wrote, "This is my comfort in my affliction: for Thy Word hath quickened me" (Psa. 119:50). In the midst of weakness, even when he felt extremely despondent, time spent in God's Word brought him spiritual life, comfort, and the strength that he needed. The extent of the help he received is indicated by his testimony in verse 71: "It was good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statues." Quite simply, he allowed God to meet his need so adequately that his tragedy became a triumph by turning to the Scriptures.
Not only are we to personally find God's Word to be the answer for all our needs, we are also to present the Scriptures to others as the answer to their needs as well. That's what the Apostle Paul meant when he instructed the Philippians to be always "holding forth [meaning to present or offer] the Word of life" (Phil. 2:16). Their ministry to the lost was to be enhanced by the most "blameless" (2:15) conduct possible, as they shared the gospel with others, and applied God's Word to daily living. But their ministry was to be empowered by promoting the Scriptures (not arguments, logic, or platitudes) to the hearts of those with whom they sought to have a ministry. This was the pattern the Apostle Paul left them. He held forth the Word of Life to them; they believed it and were saved. Later his letter further equipped them for their present needs in the midst of suffering. It was this practice of presenting God's Word to others, regardless of the individual need, that made Paul's ministry so effective. God's Word has real power because it is a divine message from the Lord God Almighty Himself.
God's Word is the answer for the need of every human soul. Whether the need is eternal life, answers to current problems, counsel about what to do, comfort in trial, or insight into future events, God's Word is intended by the Lord to be our source of strength and power. Run to it, and encourage others to do so, rather than turning to any other source.
Astronaut John Glenn in politics — running for the U. S. Senate! It seems odd to think of him in a political role, but evidently he feels he can serve his country best in politics.
But did you ever think of Christ’s relation to politics? He came into this world, remember, as a King. The very opening words of the New Testament are: “Jesus Christ, the Son of David…” (Matt. 1:1). This emphasizes the fact that He came from the royal line. John the Baptist had gone forth as the King’s herald, to prepare His way, and the twelve apostles proclaimed His royal rights as they preached “the gospel of the kingdom.” This was all in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy:
Instead of crowning Him King, however, they nailed Him to a cross and wrote over His head His “accusation”: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”
Actually our Lord had come especially, this first time, to be rejected and crucified for the sins of men. Psalm 22, Isaiah 53 and other Old Testament passages had predicted that at His first coming He would be despised and rejected. Matt. 20:28 says of this coming: “The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Our Lord did not die an untimely death; the cross was not a useless sacrifice. He knew that man’s greatest need is moral and spiritual — that his sins must be paid for if he is not to be condemned forever before the court of eternal Justice. So in love He came to be rejected and suffer and die “the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (I Pet. 3:18).
He will come again to judge and reign as all prophecy indicates, but for the present He deals with mankind in grace. Eph. 1:7 says that “in [Him] we have redemption, through His blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace” and Rom. 3:24 declares that believers are “justified freely by [God’s] grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
The Word of God is always relevant--it transcends the ages! If a particular matter isn't dealt with specifically in Paul's writings, we are to defer to a broader principle. For example, you may want to ask yourself the question, will my action or participation in something glorify God? If you have any reservations whatsoever, you are probably skating on thin ice. Paul says, "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (I Cor. 10:31).
Another principle to apply is to "prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil" (I Thes. 5:21,22). Proving has the sense of putting things to a test. If you are remodeling an old house and the steps going upstairs look unsafe, you naturally make sure that the steps will hold your weight before you attempt to ascend the stairs. We wouldn't think of placing ourselves in harm's way--the same should also be true of our spiritual life.
Test: Should we take possession of something that is not rightfully ours? To illustrate, what would you do if you came across a satchel of money sitting beside a park bench? Often, examining the conduct of a servant of God in such matters will help determine whether our actions will be acceptable to the Lord.
When the Apostle Paul won Onesimus to Christ at Rome he could have reasoned that since this runaway slave's slate was wiped clean from past offenses he would claim him as his own. After all, think how profitable Onesimus could have been to Paul in the work of the ministry. But Onesimus rightfully belonged to Philemon, so the aged apostle returned him, along with a letter, to allow his coworker in the faith to make that decision. In other words, he didn't simply assume his friend would understand, he did what was right. The Lord will handsomely reward Paul for his good deed at the Judgment Seat of Christ. What would you do if you found yourself in a similar set of circumstances?
Timothy was a fortunate young man. His father was not a believer in Christ, but his godly mother made up for this lack as, day after day, from his earliest childhood, she taught him the Word of God. As a result he came to know Christ at an early age and later became St. Paul’s faithful co-worker and close associate in making known the wonderful “good news of the grace of God.”
In his very last letter the great Apostle Paul recalls Timothy’s “unfeigned faith… which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice”(II Tim. 1:5).
If only we had more such mothers and grandmothers today, with husbands to help them! If only our American children were not set adrift on a restless sea of human speculation, but were taught the eternal truths of God’s Word, the Bible!
We all need to “know the Holy Scriptures,” not only because they teach reverence for God and build moral character, but most of all because they “are able to make [us] wise unto salvation through faith… in Christ Jesus.”
The theme of the Bible, the Old Testament as well as New, is the Lord Jesus Christ, the riches of whose saving grace are unfolded to us in the Epistles of Paul, the chief of sinners saved by grace. It was to Paul that God committed the preaching of the cross of Christ. He it is who tells us about the riches that flow from Calvary. He it is who tells us, by divine inspiration that:
The term "Christian" is a title that was originally given to us by the world. Notice, the believers were "called Christians first in Antioch." These believers spoke so frequently and affectionately of Christ that the world coined the term Christians. Of course, they meant it in a derogatory sense. The citizens of Antioch were famous for their witty quips; they were the punsters of their day. Since this expression has a Latin origin, it was probably the Romans among them who first assigned this name to believers.
Be that as it may, we have no major objection to believers being called Christians, based on Acts 11:26; 26:28, and I Peter 4:16. Today, however, the word is so sweeping that it includes both believers and religious unbelievers. While a true believer is a Christian, one who calls himself a Christian may not necessarily be saved. With that said, we prefer the terminology "believer," "saved," "brethren," "saints," or "faithful in Christ Jesus." We would also include the designation "grace believers," the sense of which is drawn from Paul's letters, but it should be remembered that not all believers are "grace" as we understand the usage.
There is no place in all this world so wholesome and refreshing as a Christian home, a home where Christ is truly loved and honored.
This writer was brought up in such a home. There were ten of us: dad, mother and eight children. There was lots going on all the time, but a truly happy home it was, for dad and mother never let us get so busy with temporal things that we brushed eternal values aside.
On the basis that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God” (Luke 4:4), we read some small portion of the Bible before every meal, and had family devotions before retiring at night.
Result: all eight children have blessed the dear dad and mother who led them aright, morally and spiritually, and best of all, taught them the importance of trusting in the Savior who died for all our sins. More: five of the children and many of the grandchildren have given themselves for full time Christian service, and have become pastors, college deans, Christian writers and missionaries in various parts of the world.
This is not because we are one whit better than others, but because we have experienced the help and grace of God in our lives. And it all began as, one day, a young American, like Joshua of old, came to a decision and declared:
In 2 Thessalonians 1:1, it's interesting to note that unlike other letters of Paul, he adds nothing to his name. He doesn’t say, "Paul, called to be an apostle"; "Paul, an apostle...by the will of God"; "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ." Those familiar things by which he designates himself are omitted here.
By this he's showing that his apostleship, his call, role, title, leadership and office were not in question among the Thessalonian church, so he didn't need to make any reference to it. But Paul's apostleship is constantly in question today, despite his words in Romans 11:13:
Paul is the apostle of the nations, the Gentiles. Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, magnifies his office. We are to do the same. Paul was called by the will of God for this dispensation of grace. He was called to be an apostle for Christ to reveal to him the revelation of the mystery, the body of truth for this age, and for God to reveal His Son in him according to Christ's heavenly ministry today.
Paul is the one apostle of this dispensation. He is our apostle. Christ has revealed His will through Paul's thirteen letters for us to know what is Christ's mind, will, and heart for His Church, the Body of Christ, under grace. Is there confusion about Paul's role in your church? Perhaps your church knows Paul is our apostle, but makes no mention of it? If Paul wrote a letter to your church, how would he address it?
In the Mediterranean Sea there lies an island which in Paul’s day had a very bad reputation. It’s name is Crete. To Titus, a pastor sent to evangelize the inhabitants, the Apostle Paul wrote: “One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said. The Cretians are always liars…” (Tit. 1:12), and he added: “This witness is true” (Ver. 13). Paul knew this to be a fact, for he had labored among them. Indeed, even secular history bears witness to this trait of the Cretians, for we are told that in ancient times to call a man a Cretian was to call him a liar.
How wonderful that St. Paul had succeeded in establishing a few small Christian assemblies on this island and that Titus was now laboring there as his successor! And how reassuring that to Titus and these few believers, surrounded on every hand by people who could not be trusted, Paul could write about “eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised”!
Thank God, millions have trusted His Word, especially about salvation through the all-sufficient and finished work of redemption wrought by Christ at Calvary, and they have found it to be blessedly true.
In dozens of passages of Scripture God has promised eternal life to those who trust in Christ and His payment for sin. “Christ died for our sins” (I Cor. 15:3). “[He] was delivered for our offences and was raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life” (John 3:36). “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). Take Him at His Word; His promise is good. “GOD, WHO CANNOT LIE, PROMISED.”
I am sure we have all stood breathless as we have watched rescue efforts being undertaken by daring men. One of the more memorable rescues of late has been that of little Jessica McClure from a well shaft in Texas. Jessica had accidentally fallen into an abandoned well shaft and was trapped for two and one-half days without food or water. With her fragile life hanging in the balance, rescue workers labored tirelessly around the clock to free that precious little soul from danger. The heroic efforts of those men and women will be remembered for many years to come. After all, they saved a life.
Another rescue effort that is above all others and deserves our special attention is when God rescued us from the depths of iniquity. Ever since the Fall all of us have staggered under the terrible penalty of sin; sin, that would have sunk a world to the blackness of hell forever. But, while we were under the sentence of condemnation God undertook the greatest rescue effort this world has ever known.
THE BLOOD OF CHRIST
It is important to notice Paul's emphasis here on the person of Christ as he uses phrases such as "In Whom" and "His blood." Why did God send His only begotten Son to redeem us? Why didn't He call on someone from the human race? You see, one from the human race could never save us because sin has condemned the entire race. The testimony of Scripture is true, "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). I could not possibly die for your sins, because I have sins of my own that placed me under the sentence of death. I could not redeem you nor could you redeem me, because we are all in the same boat and it is sinking from the weight of our iniquity.
Understanding that the "wages of sin is death," we conclude that death had absolutely no claims on Christ. But who is this hanging on the Cross writhing in the agony of pain? Why, it is the form of one dying, whose visage is marred beyond recognition--dying for us! To our amazement, it is God's only begotten Son! But this cannot be. He knew no sin; death cannot claim this Holy One of God! True, except for the fact that He was not dying for His own sins, but rather, for our transgressions. Our sins were transferred to Christ and the wrath of God fell upon His Son who voluntarily died our death.
So then, we have redemption through Christ's shed blood. Spiritually speaking, His precious blood cleanses us from the disease of sin that plagues us. Christ was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.
HOW TO BE SAVED
Have you submitted yourself to God's wonderful rescue operation? Dear sinner friend, won't you come to Calvary? It was there that God reconciled the world to Himself. In His infinite love He provided a plan of salvation based on the precious shed blood of His Son. Please bear in mind that, "you must come to Christ in God's way!" He will not accept your good works, church membership, baptism or confirmation. If these things could save us, then Christ died in vain. It was because these things were not acceptable in themselves that God sent His Son to earth to die for the sins of the world.
Lay hold of the Savior, for only He can rescue you from eternal condemnation and bring you safely to the shores of eternal life. Simply believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, that He died for your sins, was buried and rose again the third day (I Cor. 15:1-4).
Many people have been saved and have truly come to know Christ after having been sincere, religious “church members” for years. Though faithful supporters of some earthly church organization they had never experienced the truth of II Cor. 5:17: “If any man [be] in Christ there is a new creation.”It is possible to be a member in good standing of a church organization, yet be outside the one true Church of which the Bible speaks.
This is because the true Bible Church is not an organization, much less a political state. It is a living organism, a spiritual body, with a living Head and living members. Again and again St. Paul, by divine inspiration, calls the Church, the Body of Christ (Rom. 12:5; I Cor. 12:27; Eph. 5:30).
It should be observed too, that the true Bible Church has one Head — not a man on earth, but the glorified Christ in heaven (Eph. 1:22; 4:4,5; 5:23; Col. 1:18). Nowhere in Scripture do we read that any man is to act as His earthly representative as Head of the Body.
How, then, do we become members of this one true Bible Church, the Body of Christ? First, we must acknowledge ourselves to be sinners in God’s sight, for Ephesians 2:16 relates how Christ died for sinful men “that He might RECONCILE both [Jew and Gentile] to God in one Body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.” Thus, when believing sinners are RECONCILED to God by faith in Christ, they are REGENERATED, given a new life, by the Spirit, and by the Spirit are BAPTIZED into the Church, the Body of Christ.
Every one of us should ask himself: “Have I been baptized by the Spirit into the Body of Christ?” Those who have not, do not belong to the one Church which God recognizes. But membership in the true Church is still open. Simply, but sincerely, trust Christ as your Savior. He is the Head of the Church. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). Then associate yourself with some local assembly where Christ is honored and the Bible taught, rightly divided. We will be glad to suggest such a place of worship.
“The Cretians are always liars” (Ver. 12). “God… cannot lie” (Ver. 2). What a contrast! And how reassuring to know that our salvation depends upon the Word of God, who cannot lie!
Our opening passage, above, however, states that God made this promise “before the world [or, “ages”] began. How can this be? There is no indication that He made this promise to the angels, and there was no one else to whom He could have made it — except Himself, and this is exactly the truth of the matter. Have we not all made earnest promises to ourselves?
Before God ever made one promise to any man, He promised Himself that He would provide salvation and all the riches of His grace for sinners through Calvary’s finished work, and the promises later made to men were but progressive revelations of a firm purpose He had already made in His own heart of love. Paul, the apostle of “the mystery,” refers to this blessed fact again and again in his epistles:
“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to HIS OWN PURPOSE AND [HIS OWN] GRACE, WHICH WAS GIVEN US IN CHRIST JESUS BEFORE THE WORLD BEGAN” (II Tim. 1:9).
St. Peter was not wrong when he declared at Pentecost that the last days had begun (Acts 2:16,17). They had indeed begun, but God had a secret plan to give the world a period of grace before putting down its rebellion and sending Christ to reign.
This secret purpose concerning “the dispensation of the grace of God” is the subject of Paul’s epistles. However, it is interesting to see how Peter’s last message explains the reason for this interruption in God’s prophesied program and the delay in Christ’s return to reign. First, he says in II Peter 3:8:
Mark well, this is not our feeble explanation now as to the delay in Christ’s return. This statement was made at the beginning of this time of waiting, at the dawn of the age of grace. But let us go on with Peter’s declaration:
So the delay in Christ’s return to judge and reign should not be counted “slackness” or laxness, but longsuffering. Thus the Apostle goes on to say:
Where did Peter get this information? How did he know about “the dispensation of the grace of God”? Verse 15 explains:
To Paul particularly was committed “the gospel of the grace of God” which we proclaim today (Acts 20:24). Peter recognized this (Gal. 2:2,7,9), and closed his second epistle with the exhortation:
Centuries before Christ, the Psalmist said:
It is doubtful whether the Psalmist understood the basis upon which a just God, through the ages, has so graciously forgiven sins, but this has since been revealed in the Epistles of Paul.
There we read: “God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). But this is only part of the truth, for God forgives sinners, not merely because Christ desires this, but because Christ paid for their sins and purchased their redemption. Thus Eph. 1:7 declares: “In [Christ] we have redemption, through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”
And thus Paul could proclaim to his hearers in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch:
Obviously such forgiveness can never be rescinded or revoked, for it is based upon the full and complete payment of our whole debt of sin by “the precious blood of Christ.”
Sad to say, many people do not feel they need forgiveness, for they have not seen themselves as they truly are in the sight of a holy God, but those who are conscious of their sins and are willing to say with the prodigal son: “I have sinned,” may experience the peace and joy of sins forgiven by faith in Christ who paid sin’s penalty for us.
Here is forgiveness that can never be revoked because it is based on the “one offering [of Christ at Calvary]” by which our Lord “hath perfected forever them that are sanctified [i.e., set apart as His own]” (Heb. 10:14).
MapQuest(R) is an ingenious website that many have probably used at one time or another. Simply type in where you live and where you want to go and, voila! It gives you step-by-step directions to your final destination. Of course, it cannot give you directions on How to Get to Heaven from Your Current Location. Only the Word of God can give us these instructions.
The year leading up to the conversion of George Whitefield, the famous English Evangelist, is a good example of how God will have nothing to do with good works or acts of self-denial for the salvation of a lost soul. Both are repulsive in His sight. Shortly after entering his third year at Oxford, young Whitefield underwent a spiritual crisis. It was said of him:
"The life of God in his own soul was what he craved and must have--but how to obtain it! The thought of his sins caused him to sweat and groan. He shunned all company, wandering the fields and woods, deep in prayer--sometimes lying all night upon the freezing ground. He wore the shabbiest of clothing; his only fare [meals], dry bread and tea. In time even his prayers seemed to become sinful." (George Whitefield and the Great Evangelical Awakening by Anthony Beaurepaire, The Protestant Truth Society, London, England, Pg. 13).
It wasn't until Mr. Whitefield came to the end of himself that he began to reflect on his reading of Christian literature, how it was "not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us." With the burden of his sin greater than he could bear, he turned to Christ, the great Sin-Bearer, and was gloriously saved by the grace of God. In his own words, he gave this touching account of his conversion:
"God was pleased at length to remove the heavy load, to enable me to lay hold on His dear Son by living faith…Oh, with what joy, joy unspeakable, even joy that was full of, and great with glory, and my soul was filled when the weight of sin went off, and an abiding sense of the pardoning love of God and a full assurance of faith broke upon my disconsolate soul!"1
Perhaps you are like Mr. Whitefield prior to his conversion, trying to find acceptance with God apart from Christ. Your defense may be, "I'm not so bad. After all, I've never murdered anyone," as if God will accept you because you never committed the act of murder. But which sin is worse, murder or lying? According to Proverbs 6:16,17, lying is the greater violation of the two in the sight of God--because lying leads to murder! We need to remember and remember well, all sin has eternal consequences for those who reject Christ as their Savior.
Perhaps your pursuit of God has taken you down the path of religious rituals. Surely here you will find favor with God! Interestingly, it is in this area that Satan has done his most effective work to blind men to the light of the glorious gospel. He uses religion! If men think their religious service will gain them acceptance with God, he has accomplished his purpose to keep them eternally damned.
Here is a short list of religious practices that men do, hoping to earn their way to heaven: church attendance, water baptism, first communion, confirmation, reciting the Lord's Prayer, responsive readings, doing the sign of the Cross, confessing and receiving forgiveness of their sins from a priest, etc. Before his conversion to Christ, Martin Luther, the founder of the Lutheran Church, visited Rome, where he climbed the steps of Scala Santa on his knees. The Scala Santa is believed to be the stairway the Lord ascended to reach Pilate's Judgment Hall on the day of His crucifixion. The Catholic Church supposedly had it brought from Jerusalem to Rome.
As a Roman Catholic, at the time, Luther believed such acts of self-sacrifice would increase his chances of entering heaven. But it wasn't long thereafter, in a monastery at Wittenberg, he saw things in a whole new light. As Luther was reading Romans 1:17, where it states, "The just shall live by faith," he paused a moment, and then it suddenly dawned on him that salvation was by faith. Up to that point he had tried to earn his salvation through religious observances, but never felt he had done enough. Now, for the first time, he saw that a lost soul is declared eternally righteous by God through faith on the basis of the finished work of Christ. He was delivered from the bondage of his sins and indescribable joy flooded his heart. So dramatic was the change in his life that Luther went on to be the spark that ignited the great Reformation.
If you would like to get to heaven from your current location, simply believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. We want you to know that God loves you and Christ died for your sins (Rom. 5:8). You see, the day Christ died at Calvary, He wasn't dying for His sins. He knew no sin. Instead, He was dying for the sins of the world--my sins and your sins. God has made a provision for all, but to receive the benefit of this provision you must believe that Christ died personally for you and rose again (I Cor. 15:3,4; I Thes. 4:14). Salvation is in a person, and that person is the Lord Jesus Christ! He alone can save you from your sins!
The story is told of a rather simple-minded factory worker who got called into his supervisor's office for talking back to his foreman. His supervisor asked, "Did you call your foreman a liar?" The man admitted that he had. "Did you call him stupid?" He had to admit to that was true as well. "Did you call him an opinionated, narcissistic egomaniac?" To this charge, the simple-minded man replied, "No, but could you write that one down so I can remember it?"
Of course, no one would ever accuse God of lying--or would they? There must be a reason the Apostle Paul wrote to Titus about the hope of eternal life, "which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began" (Titus 1:2). Why would Paul have to vouch for God's integrity like that? Surely somebody was thinking that God could lie, or it wouldn't have been necessary to affirm the opposite. And it isn't likely that it was Titus.
But Titus was stationed on the island of Crete (Titus 1:5), and the Cretians to whom he ministered used to worship the Greek god Zeus, who is said to have been born in Crete. And according to Greek mythology, Zeus was always lying to his wife Hera to cover up the affairs he had with gods, nymphs and mortal women. So the Cretians needed reassurance that the God of the Bible wasn't lying in promising them eternal life, an assurance that Paul was more than happy to give them in an epistle that became a part of God's written Word.
By the way, did you ever wonder why the gods of the Greeks were such moral degenerates? Why would anyone invent gods who were guilty of lying, cheating, stealing, fornicating, and even killing? It was because if your gods acted like that, it gave you an excuse to act like that! The Greeks invented such gods to justify their own sinfulness! After all, the gods couldn't righteously deny men entrance into heaven because of their sins if they themselves were just as morally depraved!
How different is the God of the Bible! The Bible doesn't justify men by lowering God to their low level of wickedness. The Bible justifies men by lifting them up to God's level! As the Lord Jesus Christ hung on Calvary's cross, God made Him "to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (II Corinthians 5:21). That means if you've trusted Christ as your savior, you have the very righteousness of God. God Himself is no more righteous than you are, for you have been "made the righteousness of God." And that means God can't righteously deny you entrance into heaven, for He has lifted you up to His own level of righteousness.
If that makes you feel eternally secure, say amen!