The passage before us is a treasure chest of truth. Paul contrasts the spiritual knowledge of the believer (“to know”), with human knowledge (“passeth knowledge”). We are living in a time when a high premium has been placed on intellectualism. Technology is advancing so rapidly that a product is barely to the marketplace before it is obsolete. Human knowledge has progressed to the point where man has now created small micro chips, the size of a pencil eraser, that can store volumes of information. While man glories in his accomplishments in the area of high tech, God is still the infinite One in knowledge overall. I read recently that if man were to build a computer capable of performing the functions of the human brain (memory, reasoning, thinking, functional control, etc.) it would have to be the size of the Empire State Building. How would you like to carry that around on your shoulders? While human knowledge has benefited us all in areas of medicine, science, and travel, man through human wisdom can never know God nor understand the things of God (I Cor. 1:20,21).
Those who are saved, however, have at their disposal a spiritual knowledge that far surpasses human knowledge. Having the eyes of our spiritual understanding opened, we are now able to comprehend the Word of God. It is from God’s Word that we first learned of the love of Christ. It was Christ’s love for us that sent Him to Calvary to die for our sins, to redeem us back to God (Rom. 5:8). His love also keeps us secure, for as the Apostle says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Rom. 8:35). The love of Christ constrains us or motivates us to serve Him. We can never repay what he has done for us, but out of gratitude for what He has accomplished for us we should desire to live for Him (II Cor. 5:14,15). With this knowledge of the love of Christ we can enjoy the fullness of God.
To know God through Christ and His redeeming work is to be rich indeed.
The Scriptures have much to say about the infinite riches of God. They tell us of “the riches of His glory” (Rom.9:23; Eph. 3:16), “the riches of His wisdom and knowledge” (Rom.11:33), “the riches of His goodness and forbear-ance and longsuffering” (Rom.2:4) and “the riches of His grace (Eph.1:7; 2:7). God would have us enjoy these riches through faith in Christ, who died for our sins.
We should rejoice continually that God, in addition to being rich in wisdom and knowledge and in glory and power, is also “rich in mercy” (Eph.2:4) and that “the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him, for whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom.10:12,13).
To St. Paul, the chief of sinners, saved by grace, God revealed the greatest riches of all. Paul said: “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints is this grace given, that I should preach among the nations the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph.3:8). These riches include, among other things, “all the riches of the full assurance of understanding” (Col. 2:2). How wonderful to have an intelligent understanding of God’s plan of salvation and of all He has purposed in His heart of love for those who accept the salvation He has provided through His beloved Son!
True riches are not comprised of material things. The Scripture calls these “uncertain riches” and warns us not to trust in them (ITim.6:17). True riches is “to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge” and so to be “filled with all the fulness of God” (Eph.3:19).
We believe that the King James Version of the Scriptures best conveys the sense of the original language. The modern versions change the phrase "faith of Christ" to "faith in Christ" throughout, which overwhelms the passage with redundancy. Paul never intended the emphasis to be upon what man has achieved, but instead what the Savior has accomplished on his behalf. The apostle here is clearly contrasting these two phrases.
We are not justified by keeping the law, rather we are declared eternally righteous by the faith of Christ. It was Christ's faithfulness that is the basis of our justification. He faithfully carried out the will of the Father to provide redemption through His finished work at Calvary (Heb. 10:5-10). While salvation is a free gift given to all who place their "faith in" what Christ has done, He being the object of our faith, it was at great cost. The payment to rescue us from the eternal consequences of sin is the precious blood of Christ. Only those, however, who place their faith in Him have the forgiveness of their sins (Eph. 1:7).
You heard me! Don’t study dispensationalism, study the Bible dispensationally. Rightly dividing the Word is the key to understanding the Bible, but what do you do with a key? You don't study it. Once you know how it works, you use it to unlock the lock for which it was designed. Well, once you understand the principle of right division, use it to unlock the Scriptures it was designed to open to your understanding.
If you are a grace pastor or teacher, don’t teach dispensationalism, "preach the Word" (2 Tim. 4:2) dispensationally considered. Brother Les Feldick has done a tremendous job of reaching people with the truth of the rightly divided Word, grounding them in it, and helping them grow in it, all by simply teaching through the Bible, verse by verse, "according to the revelation of the mystery" (Rom. 16:25). The saints to whom you minister can flourish under the same type of ministry.
So whether you are a grace believer or even a grace pastor, don't study the grace message. If that's all you do, you will never be able to answer the challenges our opponents raise to the truth. But the man of God who has studied every verse they cite in its context will be thoroughly equipped to "fight the good fight of faith" (1 Tim. 6:12), "war a good warfare" (1 Tim. 1:18), and "please Him who hath chosen him to be a soldier" (2 Tim. 2:4)
Of all the wonderful Scripture passages on the eternal security of the believer in Christ, this is perhaps the most blessed of all.
“[Having] heard the Word of truth you believed,” says the Apostle, and “[having] believed, you were sealed.” Now a seal speaks of finality and permanency, whether it be the official seal on an important document, the seal on an electric transformer or the seal on a jar of preserves. But the most blessed fact of all is that the believer in Christ is “sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.” Mark well, he is sealed not by the Spirit but with the Spirit; the Spirit Himself is the seal.
Here, let us say, is a woman sealing jars of preserves with wax. The jars are sealed by the woman, but with the wax. Thus the humblest believer is sealed with the Spirit. It is He Himself who keeps us safe in Christ through all eternity.
And this is but the “earnest,” the first installment, “of our inheritance” (Ver. 14), for the Spirit keeps us secure in “this present evil age” so that “in the ages to come” God might show “the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (2:7).
Little wonder the Apostle closes this passage on our security with those appropriate words: “To the praise of His glory” (1:14).
What some theologians have called “the perseverance of saints” is not our perseverance at all, but God’s faithfulness. We have not persevered; He has preserved us by His grace for His glory.
Many years ago, my good friend Pastor John Fredericksen gave me a plaque engraved with this text, a plaque that sits on my desk here at Berean Bible Society to this day. As I labor for the Lord, it is such an encouragement to me to know that, no matter what, my labor is not in vain in the Lord.
But if that be so, why did Paul tell the Galatians,
And what about what the apostle told the Philippians:
And don't we find the same thought in I Thessalonians 3:5?
If it was possible that Paul's labor for the Lord might have been in vain, how could he tell the Corinthians that their labor could not be? How could the labor of a godly apostle be in vain, but not the labor of the carnal Corinthians?
We believe the answer is found in the context of the verse, where right before telling the Corinthians that their labor was not in vain, Paul spoke to them about the Rapture (I Cor. 15:51-57). In that day, when we stand before the Lord at the Judgment Seat of Christ, no believer's labor will be in vain, for all of our labor for Him will be richly rewarded.
And so it is that, if the Galatians persisted in their legalism, if the Philippians continued to do things with murmurings and disputings, if the Thessalonians abandoned the faith, Paul's labor among them would have been in vain in this life, but not in the next life! And if you are feeling discouraged about your labor for the Lord because people whom you have led to Him have departed from the faith, or believers to whom you've introduced the grace message have turned their back on that blessed truth, you too can rejoice that your labor is not in vain in the Lord!
We once had a friend named Richard, a handyman who fixed small motors and engines. He had a faithful dog that kept him company everyday in his shop. This dog excitedly jumped to greet Richard, and then followed him around like a shadow, giving him affection, and acting like she thought he was the best man in the world. One day while observing all this, I complimented the dog. Richard smiled and said, "You know, she's the same every day and after all these years, she's never complained once."
It's a shame more people don't have the same kind of disposition that Richard's dog had: a good attitude. But it is possible. Remember God's prophet Daniel? When Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem, Daniel, along with others, was taken captive to Babylon. In this process, he was forcibly stripped of his freedom, homeland, name, and ultimately his manhood (Daniel 1). He was placed in the charge of "the prince of the eunuchs" (1:7), which meant he was castrated to make him a safer subject in proximity to the king and his realm. Daniel could have responded to all these brutal events with anger and resentment, but he didn't. The queen described Daniel as one who had "an excellent spirit" (5:12). It was because of this quality that Daniel had been elevated to "master" of the king's magicians and astrologers. As the king observed Daniel, he elevated him further for his good attitude. Daniel 6:3 states, "Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm."
A famous preacher once commented that he believed attitude was more important than facts, education, money, circumstances, failure, or skill, that it will make you or break you.* Proverbs 17:27 says it this way: "He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit." Like Daniel, each of us can make a conscious choice to have a good spirit, or attitude, no matter what our circumstances. We can choose not to complain, be bitter, resentful, or negative. We can choose to exalt our Savior with not just a good attitude but with "an excellent spirit." Is this going to describe you today?
The Apostle Paul had much that he yearned to teach the Hebrew believers — wonderful truths that would have thrilled their hearts — but these truths were “hard to be uttered,” or difficult to explain to them, since they were “dull of hearing.” The word “dull” in Heb. 5:11 really means “slothful,” or indifferent (as in Heb. 6:12). They were not merely hard of hearing, as we say, but were too lazy, too indifferent, spiritually, to pay attention. They were not sufficiently interested.
This is always a serious condition in the light of the fact that “God hath spoken,” and that disobedience to His Word will be judged (Heb. 1:1,2; 2:1-3). Yet, alas, this is the condition of the professing Church today. The great majority of religious people are not sufficiently interested in what God has said to engage in diligent, prayerful study and, like those of Paul’s day, still have to be taught “the first principles” of the Bible. They have remained babes, spiritually, unable to digest anything but “milk,” and so remain “unskillful in the Word of righteousness” (Heb. 5:12-14).
What has brought this condition about? Is it because our Bibles are being burned and the Church persecuted for reading it? Is it because God is unwilling to lead us further into His truth? Most assuredly not. It is because so many men of God in high places no longer have the single passion to know God’s Word and to make it known. They could be as greatly used of God in teaching the Scriptures as their predecessors were, but they are “slothful of hearing” and hence can present their hearers with little that is of true value.
This, in turn, is reflected in the religious masses. They “love” their Bibles, but not enough to study them diligently and become workmen whom God can approve. Let us not be numbered among these. Rather, let it be our one great desire to gain a clear understanding of God’s Word, rightly divided — for His sake, for our own sake and for the sake of the needy souls about us.
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: