UNDERSTANDING FIRST JOHN
AUTHOR: From the earliest times, all three letters have been attributed to the apostle John, who also wrote the Gospel of John.
DATE: The books were likely written at about the same time, between AD 85 and 95.
PURPOSE AND SUMMARY: First John is addressed to an unidentified group of believers. First John 5:13 indicates that the author writes in order that the readers might know the certainty of God’s love and His promise of eternal life.
It is believed that the aged apostle John wrote 1 John sometime between the years of AD 85 and 95, probably in Ephesus. Unlike the other apostles, he does not address this letter to any particular church or person. He writes to all Christians, old and young (see 1 John 2:12-14). He calls Christians by the Greek word teknia—which means “born ones”. John told us why he wrote his Gospel: so “that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31). The epistle of 1 John appears to have been intended as a companion to the Gospel of John. Thus we find the word “believe” running all through the Gospel of John, and the word “know” running through this epistle. The word “know” is used more than 30 times in this letter.
John was the disciple whom Jesus loved. He stood close to Him on the cross at Calvary. He looked into the empty tomb on that morning of the Resurrection. On Patmos, he was lifted up by the Spirit and saw a door opened into heaven. John gives us his witness, or testimony, of these facts. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life”—Jesus (1 John 1:1).
JOHN 1–3: RIGHT BEHAVIOR
John gives us seven tests of Christian behavior, of our walk with God. The test is this: If we say one thing and do another, we are not living as Christ would want us to, in full fellowship with Himself.
Test #1—Walk in the Light. “If we claim to have fellowship with him [the God of light] and yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth” (1 John 1:6). Light reveals sin. Your sins will keep you from fellowship with Christ, but fellowship with Christ will keep you from sinning.
Test #2—Admit You Are a Sinner. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). You cannot walk with God and practice sin in your life at the same time. God keeps showing us the sin in our lives. On the cross He redeemed us from the penalty of sin once and for all. But He let us know, too, that if we confess our sins, He keeps cleansing the sins that creep into our lives by our contact with this world. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Test #3—Obey God’s Will. “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4). If you say that you are a Christian and do not obey Him, you are a liar. The one who is a true Christian is the one who keeps God’s commandments.
Test #4—Imitate Christ. “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked” (1 John 2:6).
Test #5—Love Others. “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now” (1 John 2:9). Love changes a person. Love makes us have a concern for the welfare of others. God speaks of our feelings toward others as personal attitudes. There are three chief attitudes toward others: (1) hatred, which is murder (see 1 John 3:15); (2) indifference, or no concern, which is akin to hate (see 1 John 4:20-21); and (3) love. Love shows itself in different ways (see 1 John 2:9-11; 3:14): physically, in concern for the welfare of others (see 1 John 3:16-18); and spiritually, in concern for the souls of others.
Test #6—Keep Apart from the World. “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). We live in a “present evil world” (Galatians 1:4). All sins may be put into three categories: (1) “lust of the flesh”; (2) “lust of the eyes”; (3) “pride of life” (1 John 2:16-17).. Temptations come through the body and its appetites and passions.
Test #7—Prove Christ Is Righteous by How You Live. “If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him” (1 John 2:29). Those who are in Christ will bear the same fruit in their lives that Christ bears—and that is righteousness. “Everyone who commits (practices) sin is guilty of lawlessness; for [that is what] sin is, lawlessness” (1 John 3:4, AMP). If we know Christ is God dwelling in our lives, we will not “practice sin.” “Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (1 John 3:6,9).
1 JOHN 4–5:11: RIGHT BELIEF
Four Basic Beliefs
First, we must believe “that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh” (1 John 4:2; see also 5:20-21). Jesus is the incarnate Lord. This is the first thing we must be sure of. We must believe that when Jesus walked this earth, He was God clothed in human flesh. He took upon Himself the form of a man so that He could die in our place, bearing our sins on His own body on the tree. John records, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). Most people at the time did not think that this One “in the flesh” before their eyes was God. They called Him a blasphemer when He claimed to be equal with God: “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). For this they put Him to death.
Second, we must believe in the deity of Christ (see 1 John 4:15; 5:5). The liar is the person who denies that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah (see 1 John 2:22). The Old Testament prophets told us the Messiah was coming. The angel chorus said that the baby born in Bethlehem was the Messiah who had been prophesied. Simeon saw Christ in the baby (see Luke 2:25-35).
Third, we must believe that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (1 John 4:7-11). Love turns our hearts away from ourselves. We cannot really love God without loving others. So we become channels of blessing to those around us, because of what God is in us. Nothing could influence our lives as much as the love of God, for “God dwelleth in us” (1 John 4:12).
Fourth, we must believe that Christ is our Savior (see 1 John 5:10-12). Christ was sent to be “the propitation [or atoning sacrifice] for our sins” (1 John 2:2; 4:10; see also Romans 3:25), because sin barred people from God’s love, “for the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). So Christ took the judgment of sin on His own body on the cross and made it possible for God to righteously show mercy. Propitiation is the satisfaction by Christ’s death of the whole demand of the law on the sinner. Propitiation is the cause of life, for through the sacrifice of Christ we have everlasting life (see 1 John 4:10). “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:10-12). Our Supreme Test Love is the supreme test of our Christian faith. “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death” (1 John 3:14).
John states the rewards of life in the last verses of chapter 5:
• Assurance of eternal life—1 John 5:13
• Power of prayer—1 John 5:14-15
• Power of intercession—1 John 5:16
• Victory—1 John 5:18 (see also 1 John 5:4-5)
Source: "What the Bible Is All About", Dr. Henrietta C. Mears. All rights reserved.
Understanding Second Peter
Second Peter Portrays Jesus Christ, Our Strength
AUTHOR: Second Peter 1:1 specifically states that the apostle Peter was the author of 2 Peter.
DATE: Second Peter was written toward the end of Peter’s life. Since Peter was martyred in Rome during the reign of Nero (AD 54-68), his death must have occurred prior to AD 68. It is likely that 2 Peter was written between AD 65 and 68.
PURPOSE AND SUMMARY: This letter was a reminder to the readers of the truth of the gospel, which they had received, and it was a warning against the attacks of false teachers who pervert the gospel. Peter urges believers to remain steadfast, even in persecution, and reminds them that the Lord will keep His promises to them. He speaks of the coming Day of the Lord and of the necessity of keeping themselves “in peace, without spot, and blameless” (2 Peter 3:14). Peter’s first letter was to console; the second, to warn. In his first letter, Peter was trying to encourage Christians who were suffering persecutions from without. In his second letter, he is warning them of dangers within the Church. Christians need moral courage even more than physical courage. It is our duty to do right under all circumstances, with no qualification and no hesitation. To stand up for truth is often more difficult than to go into battle.
Examples from the Bible of people who did exactly this are found in Joseph (see Genesis 39:9), Nehemiah (see Nehemiah 5:7; 6:1-16), Daniel (see Daniel 1:8) and Paul. Peter, in warning against the dangers from within the Church, urges the believers to grow strong “in grace, and in the knowledge” of Christ (2 Peter 3:18). Christian knowledge is the best way to overcome the false teaching that was creeping in. We obtain knowledge of Christ through His Word It is indeed “a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).
In 1 Peter, we heard about suffering. In 2 Peter, we hear about knowledge. Simon Peter, “a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ,” is the writer of this letter (2 Peter 1:1). The first name, “Simon,” suggests his old, unstable nature. The name “Peter” (meaning “rock”) suggests the new nature Christ had given him. He calls himself “a servant.” Peter speaks again to the younger Christians in the faith. He urges them to look toward heaven while dwelling for only a season in the world. He says that he has written both letters to “stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance” (2 Peter 3:1). He talks about the readers as those who have obtained “like precious faith with us” (2 Peter 1:1), Peter’s faith was kept through Christ’s prayer for him: “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32).
2 PETER 1: CHRISTIAN VIRTUES
Seven steps go up from faith, and the last one is love. To faith add goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love (see 2 Peter 1:5-7). Peter says that “he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off” (2 Peter 1:9). Spiritual certainty produces stability in life; therefore,“ye shall never fall” (2 Peter 1:10). He says, “so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:11).
Prophecy and Experience
Peter, like Paul, was conscious of his approaching death. “Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle” (2 Peter 1:14). Because he knew he was about to leave them, Peter wanted to remind them of what he well knew. He had personally witnessed the glory of Christ. God Himself had borne testimony of His glory and honor, and Peter had heard the voice from above say, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (2 Peter 1:17). Peter sheds light on the inspiration of the Scriptures (see 1 Peter 1:10-12; 2 Peter 1:4,16-21; 3:15).
2 PETER 2: FALSE TEACHERS
In 2 Peter 2, Peter tells of the coming, influence and doom of the false teachers. Christ warned us of this (see Matthew 7:15; 24:11,24), and we have listened to Paul’s words about them to Timothy (see 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 3:1-9).
Deeds of False Teachers
Peter warned the Church about false prophets:
• “Privily shall bring in damnable heresies”—2 Peter 2:1
• “Denying the Lord that bought them”—2 Peter 2:1
• “The way of truth shall be evil spoken of”—2 Peter 2:2
• “With feigned words make merchandise of you”—2 Peter 2:3 • “Walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness”—2 Peter 2:10
• “Despise government”—2 Peter 2:10
• “Presumptuous are they, selfwilled”—2 Peter 2:10
• “Not afraid to speak evil of dignities”—2 Peter 2:10
• “As natural brute beasts”—2 Peter 2:12
• “Speak evil of the things that they understand not”—2 Peter 2:12
• “Count it pleasure to riot in the day time”—2 Peter 2:13
• “Spots they are and blemishes” in society—2 Peter 2:13 •
“Sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you”—2 Peter 2:13
• “Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin”—2 Peter 2:14
• “Beguiling unstable souls”—2 Peter 2:14
• “Have exercised with covetous practices”—2 Peter 2:14
• Are “cursed children”—2 Peter 2:14
• “Have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray”—2 Peter 2:15
• “Are wells without water”—2 Peter 2:17
• “Clouds that are carried with a tempest”—2 Peter 2:17
• “Speak great swelling words of vanity”—2 Peter 2:18
• “Allure through the lusts of the flesh”—2 Peter 2:18
• “Are the servants of corruption”—2 Peter 2:19
Peter says false teachers “[deny] the Lord that bought them” (2 Peter 2:1). They deny the blood atonement. “And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you” (2 Peter 2:3). Peter declares with no uncertainty that destruction will be the end of false teachers who cover themselves with the cloak of the Church (see 2 Peter 2:3-9).
2 PETER 3: CHRIST’S RETURN
Peter reminds the Church of the things Jesus had said concerning His return. People of Peter’s time misunderstood what Jesus had said and thought His return might happen during their time. Peter tells them that time is nothing with God: “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise. . . . but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Peter reminds the skeptics that a flood did drown the world once, and Christ likened His coming to the flood (see Matthew 24:37-38). But next time, God will destroy the earth by fire. Then “new heavens and a new earth” will emerge (2 Peter 3:13). “There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night” (2 Peter 3:3-4,10). Peter’s last word of warning is a notice for us to be cautious: “Beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness” (2 Peter 3:17).
Knowledge and Growth
“Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
When there is no growth, there is no life. The foundation of growth is the knowledge of Christ. As we grow in the knowledge of Christ, we grow in likeness to Him.
Source: "What the Bible Is All About", Dr. Henrietta C. Mears. All rights reserved.
Understanding First Peter
First Peter Portrays Jesus Christ, Cornerstone of Our Faith
AUTHOR: First Peter 1:1 identifies the author of the book as “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.”
DATE: The book was likely written between AD 60 and 65.
PURPOSE AND SUMMARY: The themes of the letter bear Peter’s imprint. His speeches recorded in Acts indicate a similar attitude toward persecution and suffering. The letter here reflects a time of suffering and trial. The widespread persecution of the Christians by the Roman authorities was the occasion of the “fiery trial” (1 Peter 4:12). The writer admonishes his readers to a life of purity and of godly living and exhorts them to steadfastness and faithfulness. The word “hope” is found in 1 Peter 1:3,13,21; 3:15. Another word (in one form or another) is used more than 15 times in this short epistle: “suffering”—the suffering of Christ and of Christians in following Him. More than 20 times Peter mentions the joy and glory that are ours who have received God’s grace; this number outweighs the number of times he mentions the suffering of Christ and of the Christians who follow Him.
Peter had become a leader of the apostles and was their spokesman. He belonged to the inner circle of the three friends of Christ. He was the preacher at Pentecost. The first 12 chapters of Acts are centered around this apostle and his ministry to the Jewish people. He died a martyr’s death, crucified under the Roman emperor Nero, sometime before AD 67. According to tradition, at his own request, he was crucified with his head downward, because he considered himself unworthy to resemble his master even in death.
1 PETER 1–2:10: CHRISTIAN ENCOURAGEMENT
The life of faith is described at the beginning of this letter. God has “begotten us again” (1 Peter 1:3). At the end, there is “an inheritance” for us; and to assure us of it, we are “kept” by the power of God (1 Peter 1:4-5).
• Jesus Christ “hath begotten us again unto a lively hope”—1 Peter 1:3
• We have in reserve an imperishable inheritance— 1 Peter 1:4-5,10
• We are protected by the power of God—1 Peter 1:5
• We are being purified to make us fit to stand with Christ—1 Peter 1:7
• We have salvation for our souls—1 Peter 1:9
• We have a gospel that “angels desire to look into”— 1 Peter 1:12
• We have a great hope—1 Peter 1:13
• We have redemption through Jesus’ blood— 1 Peter 1:18-19
• We are “born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God”—1 Peter 1:23
• We are “built up a spiritual house”—1 Peter 2:5
• We “shall not be confounded”—1 Peter 2:6
• We “are a chosen generation”—1 Peter 2:9
• We will have a “crown of glory”—1 Peter 5:4 Peter says that Christians exhibit characteristics of several different things:
• “Babes”—desire the milk of the Word (1 Peter 2:2)
• “Lively stones”—built into the temple of life (1 Peter 2:5)
• “Priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices” (1 Peter 2:5)
• “Strangers”—keep themselves unspotted from the world (1 Peter 2:11)
• “Pilgrims” (“exiles,” NIV)—good deeds along the way (1 Peter 2:11)
• Citizens—render obedience to rulers (1 Peter 2:13)
• People—honor all people in the fear of God (1 Peter 2:17-18)
• “Servants” (“slaves,” NIV)—subject to Christ (1 Peter 2:18)
• Sufferers—patient, committing all to Christ (1 Peter 2:20-21)
• “Stewards” (1 Peter 4:10)
• Those who “speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11)
“Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). “Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). “Love one another” (1 Peter 1:22). “Being born again” (1 Peter 1:23). We must “[lay] aside” several things (1 Peter 2:1) - “all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings” (1 Peter 2:1). We are called “newborn babes” (1 Peter 2:2).
Hesays, “I beseech you . . . abstain from fleshly lusts” (1 Peter 2:11). We are to influence others by what we say and do: “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles” (1 Peter 2:12, NASB). “[Live] as free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God” (1 Peter 2:16).
Peter tells his readers how to live their lives (1 Peter 2:17):
• “Honour all men”—honor others.
• “Love the brotherhood”—actively care about every Christian
• “Fear God”—show God that you revere and stand in awe of Him; such “fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10).
• “Honour the king”—show respect for your government.
A Call for Patient Endurance
One of the most convincing and powerful demonstrations Christians can give that they have a newborn life is patiently enduring wrongs and injustices (see 1 Peter 2:19-20). That is when we manifest the grace of God. That is what Christ did while He was on earth, especially by His submitting to His crucifixion and death. This is what His followers are to do as we “follow his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). Being patient while undergoing undeserved punishment is one way of testifying for Christ. Such suffering by Christians, without retaliation or defense, is a vicarious example of the atonement made by Christ on the cross (see 1 Peter 2:24). Suffering patiently is noble because it is Christlike (see 1 Peter 3:17-18; 4:12-16).
A Call for Right Relationships
We find in 1 Peter 2–3 some instructions for the various relationships in our lives. First, there are some personal instructions (see 1 Peter 2:1-12). Next we find instructions for our social relationships. Servants should obey their masters with respect, not only those masters who are good and considerate, but also those who are arbitrary. In 1 Peter 3:1-7, relationships in our homes are described. “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands” (1 Peter 3:1). This means a wife should show unselfish devotion to her husband so that she wins his love and admiration.
A Call for Happiness
Peter tells us that we can be happy in a world that is wretched: “For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil” (1 Peter 3:10-12). He quotes Psalm 34:12-14.
A Call for Preparedness
Another important command is given in 1 Peter 3:15. This is for every one of us: “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” Always have a testimony.
1 PETER 4:12–5: CHRISTIAN TRIALS
Trials resulting from loyalty to Christ are inevitable. 1 Peter 4:12 – 13: “ Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”
James Portrays Jesus Christ, Our Pattern
AUTHOR: The author of the book of James is James, also called James the Just, who is thought to be the brother of Jesus Christ (see Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3). James was not a believer until after the resurrection (see John 7:3-5; Acts 1:14; 1 Corinthians 15:7; Galatians 1:19). He became the head of the Jerusalem church and is mentioned by Paul as a pillar of the church (see Galatians 2:9).
DATE: The book is probably the oldest book of the New Testament, written perhaps as early as AD 45, before the first council of Jerusalem in AD 50. James was martyred in approximately AD 62, according to the historian Josephus.
PURPOSE AND SUMMARY: James addresses the letter “to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad”—to Jewish believers throughout the Mediterranean world—and is the most Jewish in style and form of any of the New Testament books (James 1:1).
James insists that good works, not empty words, are the mark of a person who has saving faith. James says that anyone who claims to have saving faith but whose life lacks any evidence of doing good in keeping with that claim actually has dead faith—which is not true saving faith at all. “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22).
GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF JAMES
The book of James is the most practical of all the Epistles, and has been called “A Practical Guide to Christian Life and Conduct.” This book is the Proverbs of the New Testament.
A Strong Prayer Life
James begins and ends with a strong encouragement to pray (see James 1:5-8; 5:13-18).
James calls himself “a servant of God” (James 1:1). He accepts this title as a description of what his relationship was to Jesus. This reveals real humility, because nowhere does James refer to the fact of his earthly relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ, his brother.
James says his epistle is written “to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” (James 1:1), to those who lived outside the holy land, those whose location was well known at the time. Like Hebrews, it is addressed to the Jewish believers in Jesus. The Jewish people to whom James wrote had not ceased to practice their religion, even though they had embraced Jesus as the Messiah. They thought and taught that all that was necessary to have salvation was to believe that Jesus was the true Messiah and Savior
JAMES 1:1-21: TEMPTATIONS BUILD CHARACTER
“Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations” (James 1:2). God uses our trials to give us blessings (see James 1:3). Christ’s purpose for our lives is that we will be perfect and complete, wanting nothing. Testing of character comes from God (see Genesis 22:1), but temptations to do evil never come from Him; they come from the adversary through our own corrupt nature (see James 1:13), appealing for us to meet a proper desire in an improper way (see James 1:14). Instead of wrong things coming from God, we find that only good and perfect gifts come from above, from the Father who never changes (see James 1:17).
James says, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations” (James 1:2). Then he adds, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation” (James 1:12). There is no greater satisfaction than to know you have resisted temptation victoriously.
JAMES 1:22–2:27 OUR ACTIONS REFLECT OUR FAITH
Works do not save us, but they are evidence that we are saved. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40). What you do is evidence of your salvation. Keep faith and works in their proper place. James says in effect, “The faith you have is the faith you show”: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). Faith that does not express itself in works is of no value. Just as a body without a spirit is dead, so faith is dead without actions (see James 2:17).
JAMES 3: OUR WORDS REVEAL OUR FAITH
Our speech reveals what we are and who we belong to. It expresses our personality more than anything else. Anyone who controls his or her tongue, James says, is a perfect person (see James 3:2). If a person has mastery over his or her tongue, the most difficult part of our being, the person will easily be able to control his or her whole nature. The tongue, though small, is very powerful. It can determine the course of human life. Remember, this same tongue can be used to testify for Christ and praise His holy name. The tongue is the unruliest member of the body, and it is for that reason that God chose the sign of speaking in tongues as the evidence that a person has received the Holy Ghost.
JAMES 4: SUBMISSION BUILDS FAITH
Our desires must always be submitted to the will of God. God promises to answer prayer, but He will not give to those who would use it to satisfy their own pleasures instead of to glorify God (see James 4:1-3). Four times a form of the word “lust” is found in the first five verses of James 4 (KJV). This word “lust” can be translated “pleasures.” This helps give meaning to these verses and furnishes the clue to the teaching they contain.
Overindulgence in pleasure is sinful:
1. There are “wars and fightings among you” (James 4:1)
2. Your desires result in “war in your members” (James 4:1)
3. “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:3)—overindulgence in pleasure always affects our prayer life.
4. “Ye adulterers and adulteresses” (James 4:4)—how a lover of pleasure degenerates in his or her Christian walk.
James provides the key for overcoming these:
“Submit . . . to God” (James 4:7).
“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8).
“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord” (James 4:10).
Then God “shall lift you up” (James 4:10). 4. “Friendship of the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4). Jesus said, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). Do not be subject to the devil. When the devil is resisted by those who have surrendered themselves to God, the devil flees (see James 4:7).
JAMES 5: PRAYERS SHOW FAITH
Anyone in trouble should pray.
Anyone sick should send for the elders of the church and be anointed with oil by them, and the elders should pray for the one sick (see James 5:13-14). “And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him” (James 5:15).
Anyone who has wronged another should confess the fault to the one wronged (see James 5:16). The prayer of faith demands a confession of sin and a will surrendered to God.
“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).
This epistle closes abruptly but on a high note: James points out that a Christian who finds someone erring from the truth and restores that person, rescues that person. Although only God can save a soul, He uses human instruments to accomplish it: “He which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (James 5:20).
Source: "What the Bible Is All About", Dr. Henrietta C. Mears. All rights reserved.
Hebrews Portrays Jesus Christ, Our Intercessor at the Throne
AUTHOR: Although some include the book of Hebrews among the apostle Paul’s writings, the identity of the author remains unknown. It is believed that the epistle was written by one of Paul’s close associates, under his direction.
Regardless of the human hand that held the pen, the Holy Spirit of God is the divine author of all Scripture, and the Early Church fathers recognized the letter to be divinely inspired (see 2 Timothy 3:16).
DATE: The Early Church father Clement quoted from the book of Hebrews in AD 95, showing that the letter had been written at least by that time. Furthermore, evidence such as the fact that Timothy was alive at the time the letter was written (see Hebrews 13:23) and the absence of any evidence in the letter showing that the Temple sacrificial system had come to an end (as it did when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70) suggests that Hebrews was written before AD 70.
PURPOSE AND SUMMARY: The letter to the Hebrews portrays Jesus, who gave Himself up as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world, as the great high priest from the line of Melchizedek (see Genesis 14). One of the Bible’s only extended definitions of faith occurs in Hebrews chapter 11 and is followed in chapter 12 by the description of the “great a cloud of witnesses,” the heroes of the faith from the pages of the Old Testament (Hebrews 12:1). This book was written to Jewish believers, probably in Jerusalem, who were wavering in their faith. The book of Hebrews shows that we can not understand the Old Testament without the New, or the New without the Old.
HEBREWS 1–4:13: THE SUPERIORITY OF CHRIST THE MAN
Nowhere are our Lord’s deity and humanity so emphasized as in Hebrews 1 and 2. As our great high priest, Christ is able to understand all our needs, because He was a perfect man. He is able to “be touched with the feeling of our infirmities,” because He was “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). He is able to meet all our needs, because He is perfect God. He is able. Two great truths are taken for granted by the author of Hebrews: the existence of God, and the fact that He reveals Himself to us.
Jesus and All Others
The Lord Jesus Christ is greater than any prophet:
• He is the Son of God—Hebrews 1:2
• He is “heir of all things”—Hebrews 1:2
• He created the universe—Hebrews 1:2
• He is God—Hebrews 1:3
• He sustains all things by His word—Hebrews 1:3
• He cleansed us from sin—Hebrews 1:3
• He “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high”— Hebrews 1:3
•The Lord Jesus Christ is greater than angels (Hebrews 1:4–2):
• He is worshiped by angels—Hebrews 1:6
• He is the eternal God—Hebrews 1:7-12
• His throne is forever—Hebrews 1:8
• He is the ruler of the coming age—Hebrews 1:11-13
The Lord Jesus Christ is also greater than Moses (Hebrews 3): greater than Joshua (Hebrews 4): greater than Aaron (Hebrews 5). Christ sacrificed Himself to cleanse us from our sins; He is the only One who can intercede for us with God.
Jesus and the Law
Many Jewish believers in Jesus were confused about Christ’s ministry on earth. They thought He had come to enforce the laws Moses had given. But Christ is His own lawgiver. Joshua could not lead the children of Israel into this perfect rest and trust in God, but Jesus did.
Two Great Warnings
The first few chapters of Hebrews have two warnings that all Christians should heed:
1. Do not neglect the great salvation that is offered to us, not by angels, but by the Lord Himself. Listen to what Jesus says (see Hebrews 2:1-4).
2. Do not “[depart] from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12).
HEBREWS 4:14–10:18: THE SUPERIORITY OF CHRIST THE PRIEST
Hebrews 4:14 is the beginning of the book’s main theme, which is expressed in Hebrews 8:1: “Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest.” Christ has been compared with the prophets, angels, Moses, Joshua and Aaron; but the most important comparison is with Aaron, the high priest. The author shows that the priesthood of Christ is greater than the priesthood of the Levitical law. The central point in the book is Christ’s eternal priesthood and His sacrifice that atoned for the sins of the world. “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).
The Superiority of Christ’s Priesthood
The Tabernacle was earthly, and the high priest entered into the holy of holies once a year. But Christ has entered “in once” into the heavenly sanctuary (Hebrews 9:12). 3. Jesus Himself is the sacrifice. He offered Himself as a lamb without blemish to cleanse us. The repeated sacrifices of the Old Testament were perfect animals. They could not take away sins. Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself needed to be offered only once, and He did atone for our sins. Christ is called our high priest. What does that mean? Sins cut people off from God. No sinner could approach God. The way had been closed since Adam and Eve. In the Old Testament, a representative, the high priest whom God appointed, could come into God’s presence only once a year after sacrifice for the sins of the people had been made. He would offer the blood of calves and goats, not only for the sins of the people, but also for his own sins, for he, too, was a sinner. He then would go into the holy place and then on beyond the veil into the holy of holies where the Ark of the Covenant rested. Here was the mercy seat, and here God met people through the mediator, the high priest.
Our Approach to the Throne of Grace
Jesus is our high priest. He entered into the heavenly sanctuary, God’s presence, bearing the blood of His own sacrifice to cleanse us from our sins and to give to us eternal salvation. His blood had to be shed, for “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12). “It is finished,” He said on the cross (John 19:30). This is why we can “enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way” (Hebrews 10:19-20).
In Hebrews 9, the Lord’s three great appearances stand out:
• Past—on the cross— “but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (verse 26).
• Present—at the right hand of the throne— “now to appear in the presence of God for us” (verse 24).
• Future—in the clouds of glory— “and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (verse 28).
HEBREWS 10:19–13: THE SUPERIORITY OF THE HIGHER REALM
Beginning in Hebrews 10:19, the writer tells us the kind of life we should live because of Christ’s work as high priest for us.
• Lay aside every sinful habit and anything that would be a hindrance—Hebrews 12:1-2
• Have patience—Hebrews 12:1
• Endure chastening—Hebrews 12:11
• Follow peace and purity of heart—Hebrews 12:14
• Always look to Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith”—Hebrews 12:2
A life pleasing in His sight will be made possible by the Lord Himself: “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21).
Source: "What the Bible Is All About", Dr. Henrietta C. Mears. All rights reserved.
Understanding Titus and Philemon
Titus Portrays Jesus Christ, Our Pattern; Philemon Portrays Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Master
AUTHOR: Titus identifies the apostle Paul as the author of the book of Titus.
DATE: The epistle to Titus was written in approximately AD 66. Paul’s many journeys are well documented and reveal that he wrote to Titus from Nicopolis in Epirus. This letter may have been written between the first and the second letters to Timothy.
PURPOSE AND SUMMARY: This is a personal letter written by the apostle Paul to a young minister whom he had left on Crete. Like the Timothy correspondence, the letter to Titus is practical and discusses the everyday problems confronted by a young church leader. The importance of good works is stressed in this epistle. Not that we are saved by good works, but that we are saved for good works. Here also God presents His ideal for the Church and its officers and members. The epistle to Titus was written by Paul. Titus was bishop of Crete (see Titus 1:12-13). Paul had given Titus a difficult task before, that of settling the differences at Corinth and persuading the Church to do the right thing in the matter of divisiveness. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians shows how successful Titus was in this mission.
Titus was a Gentile, and likely one of Paul’s converts during the early years of the apostle’s ministry. He accompanied Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem 17 years after Paul’s conversion. When Paul heard that Apollos was about to go to Crete, he took the opportunity to send this letter to Titus (see Titus 3:13). It is full of practical advice to the young pastor, giving him directions for church administration and warning him against the heretics of his day. He asks Titus to come to him and to report about the condition of the church on the island. Although this is a personal letter, it undoubtedly was meant to be read to the church also. The letter is very much like Paul’s first letter to Timothy, being written about the same time and dealing with the same subjects.
TITUS 1—WORKS FOR CHURCH OFFICERS
Paul presents himself in this scene as the “servant” of the Lord Jesus Christ and then as His “apostle” (Titus 1:1). Paul refers to himself as someone bound to serve Christ. )f his apostleship he says: “According to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; in hope of eternal life” (Titus 1:1-2).
Paul had left Titus in Crete to oversee the work of the church organization there. He was to set things in order and ordain elders in every city on the island (see Titus 1:5). What kind of officers the church should have is carefully detailed. Only a man of character should even be considered for the position. He must be above reproach in his home life and in his personal life and also be true to the Word (see Titus 1:6-9).
The bishop (overseer or elder) and pastor are to set good examples for the people. He must have only one living wife, but he is not compelled to be married. Because a minister is judged by his family life, he must rule his own children well; if he cannot rule his own household well, he cannot rule the church of God (see 1 Timothy 3:5). He must be a man of moral courage and sympathy. He must be a good teacher and encourage others by his teaching.
TITUS 2–3—WORKS FOR CHURCH MEMBERS
Paul believed that doctrine must be expressed in life, so he had a word to Titus about the aged, the youth and the slaves:
• The Aged: Older men are “sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience” (Titus 2:2). Older women are to “be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things” (verse 3). They in turn are to train younger women to become good wives and mothers (verses 4-5).
• Youth: The young are to exercise self-control, and be examples of a noble life (verse 6). • Slaves (Servants): Servants are to obey their masters, be diligent and faithful, and give satisfaction; they are to not contradict and not steal (verses 9-10).
In Titus 2:11-13, Paul gives us the three Ls for life: 1. Leave the old life. 2. Live the new life. 3. Look for that blessed hope and glorious appearing of Christ.
Paul says we are saved by “his mercy” and “justified by his grace” (Titus 3:5,7). But because we have been saved at such a cost, we should show it by good works.
God did not save us as a result of our good works but through His grace and according to His mercy. He cleansed us by His blood and gave us a new life by His Holy Spirit. Because of that, we are to do good works:
• “In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works”— Titus 2:7
• “Zealous of good works”—Titus 2:14
• “Ready to every good work”—Titus 3:1
• “Careful to maintain good works”—Titus 3:8
• “Learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful”—Titus 3:14
Paul urges citizens of the Kingdom to be good citizens of the country under whose flag they live. Every Christian should obey their civil rulers and authorities (see Titus 3:1-2; Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17).
AUTHOR: Philemon 1 reveals that the author of the book of Philemon was the apostle Paul.
DATE: The book was written in approximately AD 60.
PURPOSE AND SUMMARY: This shortest of all Paul’s letters was addressed to Philemon (although two other persons are included in the salutation). Paul entreats Philemon, the master of Onesimus, a runaway slave, to receive him back as a brother in Christ (see Philemon 16-17).
This very personal letter reveals not only the concern of the apostle for a converted slave but also a practical demonstration of brotherhood in Christ, where “there is neither bond nor free” (Galatians 3:28).
Christian love and forgiveness are given prominence in the book of Philemon. The power of the gospel in winning a runaway thief and slave and in changing a master’s mind is clearly shown here. It is a personal letter from Paul to Philemon. Only one chapter—only 25 verses.
In this letter, Paul intercedes with Philemon for his runaway slave Onesimus who had stolen from his master and made his way to Rome. There he had been brought face to face with Paul and had been won to God. Paul sent him home and pleaded with Philemon to take him back. He makes himself personally responsible for the debts that Onesimus owes, asking that they be charged to his (Paul’s) account. He wished to save the runaway slave from the severe and cruel punishment he deserved according to Roman law. Paul sent his letter with the slave so that Onesimus would not encounter his master alone.
PHILEMON—PAUL’S PLEA FOR ONESIMUS
Paul, the “the aged,” was not old so much from the passing of years as he was from work, anxiety and eagerness of spirit (Philemon 9). He was only about 60, but he was a prisoner, and as such he appealed to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus. Paul speaks of himself, not, as in the letter to the Colossians, with the authority of an apostle, but as a friend to a friend. He says of Philemon that he is “our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer” (Philemon 1). Paul slowly approaches the main purpose of his letter. He points out that the “unprofitable” servant now will be “profitable” (Philemon 11).
Paul’s action with regard to Onesimus is an illustration of the Lord’s work on behalf of the sinner. Paul does not minimize the sin, but he pleads for forgiveness for the sinner on the grounds of his own merit in the eyes of Philemon, his friend. More than that, he makes himself personally responsible for the debts of Onesimus: “Put that on mine account” (Philemon 18). This is the message of the gospel, for Christ took on our sins when He was crucified.
Source: "What the Bible Is All About", Dr. Henrietta C. Mears. All rights reserved.
Understanding Second Timothy
Second Timothy Portrays Jesus Christ, Our Example
AUTHOR: The books of 1 and 2 Timothy were written by the apostle Paul according to 1 Timothy 1:1 and 2 Timothy 1:1.
DATE: The books were written in AD 63 and 66, respectively.
PURPOSE AND SUMMARY: Along with Paul’s letter to Titus, 1 and 2 Timothy are known as the Pastoral epistles, which address the pastoral and leadership issues that Titus and Timothy oversaw in the churches of Crete and Ephesus. These letters cover such topics as the duties and qualifications of elders and ministers, the inspiration of Scripture, the treatment of widows, and the expectation of God’s reward for obedience and endurance. “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3).
• In 1 Timothy, Paul advocates a straight gospel—in 2 Timothy, a straight life.
• In 1 Timothy, Paul in effect says, “Guard the doctrine, which is our message from God”—in 2 Timothy, Paul in effect says, “Guard the testimony, which is our life from God.”
Second Timothy is a letter of Paul’s, written from his last imprisonment in Rome, in which he himself says his course is “finished” here on this earth (2 Timothy 4:7). What ground had he covered? In answer to this question, note every city and province and island that Paul visited (there are at least 30 of them). To how many thousands had he preached Jesus Christ, in those different locations? In how many languages had he testified for Christ? How many of his letters have found a place in the Christian Bible? Are these letters still being read?
After writing his first epistle to Timothy, Paul was arrested again, in Greece or Asia Minor, and went back to Rome, this time as a criminal (see 2 Timothy 2:9). While waiting in the Roman dungeon for “the time of [his] departure” (2 Timothy 4:6), he wrote this last letter to Timothy. His arrest had been so sudden and unexpected that he had had no time to collect his books and parchments or even to take his warm cloak with him (see 2 Timothy 4:13).
This second imprisonment was very different from the first. Then he had his own rented house; now he was kept in close confinement. Before, he was the center of a large circle of friends, accessible to all; now he was alone (see 2 Timothy 4:10-12). Before, he had hoped for freedom; now he was expecting to die (see 2 Timothy 4:6). Paul had already appeared before the Nero, but his case had been postponed (see 2 Timothy 4:16-17). He expected his case to be heard during the coming winter and wrote urging Timothy to come immediately and bring Mark with him. He asked Timothy to bring with him the things that Paul had had to leave behind (see 2 Timothy 4:9,11,13,21). Being uncertain whether Timothy could get there before his death he wanted to give him his last words of warning and encouragement. It is well to remember that this is Paul’s last writing! His pen was to be dry forever after this.
This epistle is very personal. He mentions 23 individuals. Although alone and facing death, he forgot himself in thinking of others.
2 TIMOTHY 1—A WORSHIPING HOME
Parental example is the greatest tool in raising children. We must first guard our testimony in the home, which is the training center for Christian life. This is also the hardest place for a young person to begin, because many young people today do not have a strong Christian influence in their homes. The problem youth have today often has to do with their parents: Too many parents are missing from church; they never hear the Word preached or taught and the family altar is unheard of. This kind of a home produces spiritual and social illiterates.
Timothy had been reared in a Christian home with his mother, Eunice, and his grandmother Lois. Paul mentions these women by name and commends Timothy for having had early religious training in a worshiping home (see 2 Timothy 3:15). Paul remembers Timothy’s faith that “dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also” (2 Timothy 1:5). Someone has said, “When you want to make a great person, start with his grandmother.” Whatever may be the value of that observation, one thing is sure—when you want to build a Timothy, you must begin while the child is still a toddler.
Paul calls Timothy “my dearly beloved son” (1 Timothy 1:2). It seems clear that the youth was led to Christ by Paul during Paul’s first missionary journey. Since Timothy was a Christian from childhood, it is no surprise that Paul saw in Timothy a man of promise as a minister in the Early Church. He in fact became Paul’s understudy. Timothy possessed fine qualities, backed up by excellent training. He had a good reputation in his own church, and he was the constant companion of the apostle Paul. He knew the Word of God and made use of it in his life and teachings (see 2 Timothy 3:14-16). He demonstrated a spirit of unselfishness in his service. He was given great responsibilities by Paul, who at the end of his life turned over his work to Timothy. All of this to a large degree was the result of his early training in a Christian home (see 2 Timothy 1:3; 3:15; 4:6-12).
Rely on Sound Teaching
Timothy is addressed as a “man of God” (1 Timothy 6:11). What does that mean? Godliness comes from the Word and prayer, God speaking to us and our speaking to God. Manliness includes truth in the mind, love in the heart and righteousness in the life. Manliness is due to godliness. The grace of God makes a man godly and then proceeds to make him manly. No man ever lived a life of such constant abiding in Christ as Paul. Now that he was about to leave the Church he had established, he is concerned about its future. He is warning the Timothy that from now on, he must stand alone in directing the Church. Paul’s son in the gospel, now perhaps 35 years of age, must emphasize above all things a doctrine that is true and sound, for “grievous wolves” had already begun to play havoc with the Church (Acts 20:29). The key verse is 2 Timothy 1:13: “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” Paul’s life was characterized by an unceasing effort to guard in its purity the priceless treasure of the Christian faith. He wanted it kept untarnished.
We live at a time when deeds are counted above doctrine, but Paul’s teaching was that conduct must be based on creed: “As [a man] thinketh . . . so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). Wrong thinking makes for wrong acting.
Develop Your Gift
Timothy had one of the gifts of the Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 12), but Paul noticed that he seemed to have been neglecting to use it. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul says, “Neglect not the gift that is in thee,” and in the second letter, Paul writes, “Stir up the gift of God” (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6). How about your gift? Have you let God tell you what it is? Cultivate whatever God has given to you. Remember, everyone has some talent. To be sure, some have five talents, others two and others only one. But develop and use whatever gift(s) you have.
We find in 2 Timothy 1 one of the apostle’s “I know’s.” It is a verse that gives us great assurance: “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:12). The psalmist said, “Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:5). Second Timothy 1:12 is the natural follow-up.
2 TIMOTHY 2—A HERO’S SPIRIT
We must “endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ”—in and away from home, in school, at the office—wherever we are (2 Timothy 2:3). This is our field of service and discipline. Here we are to stand the test as one who “needeth not to be ashamed” (2 Timothy 2:15). Paul says, as a faithful steward, “commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).
Suffer your hardships courageously and with the spirit of a hero. Don’t just endure! For somebody who was a good man, Paul endured the cruelest of suffering. He was charged as a criminal and was put in chains. But he was glad to suffer anything, just so the gospel would not be chained. He reminds Timothy that he is worshiping a living Christ: “Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to the gospel” (2 Timothy 2:8). Even though his body was bound, Paul’s mind was thinking of eternal glory.
Paul urged Timothy to keep away from foolish discussions, for these only breed quarrels, and a Christian should not quarrel (see 2 Timothy 2:24). Do not argue about the Christian life. The best argument for Christ is a victorious life. God gives us a sure foundation on which to build our lives—the foundation laid by God (see 2 Timothy 2:19). It “standeth sure,” for that foundation is Christ (2 Timothy 2:19). All who build on it are secure, because “the Lord knoweth them that are his” (2 Timothy 2:19).. In Christianity we are God’s children and He knows every one of us: “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:30). He calls us by name.
2 TIMOTHY 3—THE ENDURING WORD
When the battle is on and your faith is being assailed, stand firm and strong. Fight effectively by living “godly in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:12). During every engagement, let us wield the Word that is the sword of the Spirit. Let us be soldiers “thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:17).
Paul’s catalog of first-century vices sounds like a list of twentieth-century vices (3:2-5):
• “Lovers of their own selves”—not lovers of God (verse 2)
• “Covetous”—those who will do anything to gain possession of what they want (verse 2)
• “Boasters [and] proud”—those who take pride in self (verse 2)
• “Blasphemers”—those who take God’s name in vain (verse 2)
• “Disobedient to parents”—no respect in the home (verse 2)
• “Unthankful”—no gratitude, taking everything for granted (verse 2)
• “Unholy”—those who care for neither God nor people (verse 2)
• “Without natural affection”—mothers taking the lives of their own children; divorce courts full; pornography and homosexuality rampant (verse 3)
• “Trucebreakers”—those who make meaningless promises (verse 3)
• “Lovers of pleasure”—those who pursue self-gratification (verse 4)
• “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof”—shadow without the substance of Christ Jesus (verse 5) There is only one way to be strengthened against all the vices that tempt us today. We find it in 2 Timothy 3:14-17. The Scriptures will make us “wise unto salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15). Jesus met His temptations by the Word of God. We can do no better.
2 TIMOTHY 4—THE GOOD FIGHT
To endure to the end and look back over a hard and bitter fight and say, “I have won!”—that is enduring as a good soldier. Life’s last hours for Paul were full of glory. He forgot that lions in the arena, flames at the stake or nails on a cross might end his earthly life at any moment. His good fight was ended, his long hard race was run, and now only the memories of a noble life gave him great peace.
Paul closes this letter with a farewell instruction to Timothy before God and Christ who will judge him and who will return to establish His kingdom on earth: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season. . . . For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2-3). He then summarizes his own life and imminent reward: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
A Glorious Crown
The “crown of righteousness” that Paul will receive is also for us—“unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8). We, whose achievements are much less than Paul’s, may yet share in Paul’s destiny. Surely the “crown” that gleams before us should spur us on to a new and more diligent service in His name. Do we long for His appearing?
Source: "What the Bible Is All About", Dr. Henrietta C. Mears. All rights reserved.
Understanding First Timothy
First Timothy Portrays Jesus Christ, Our Teacher
AUTHOR: The books of 1 and 2 Timothy were written by the apostle Paul according to 1 Timothy 1:1 and 2 Timothy 1:1.
DATE: The books were written in AD 63 and 66 respectively.
PURPOSE AND SUMMARY: Along with Paul’s letter to Titus, 1 and 2 Timothy are known as the Pastoral epistles, which address the pastoral and leadership issues that Titus and Timothy oversaw in the churches of Crete and Ephesus. These letters cover such topics as the duties and qualifications of elders and ministers, the inspiration of Scripture, the treatment of widows, and the expectation of God’s reward for obedience and endurance.
The key verse in 1 Timothy is 3:15: “Thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God.” Realizing that behavior is based on belief, Paul stresses sound doctrine. First and 2 Timothy and Titus are the three Pastoral epistles, written to ministers in charge of important churches instead of to the churches themselves. Both Timothy and Titus were given explicit directions for shepherding the sheep, for guarding the churches after Paul should be called “home,” as he knew he soon would be (see 2 Timothy 4:7-8). Timothy had been entrusted with the government and supervision of Ephesus; and Titus, of the church at Crete. Because Timothy was a young man, we expect to find in Paul’s writings to him valuable suggestions for other young men who are living the Christian life, but we also find helpful suggestions for those who are older in years.
The two letters to Timothy contain admonitions that are useful today. With so much information available so easily, it is well to recommend to young people the faith of their fathers and to warn them against “oppositions of science falsely so called” (1 Timothy 6:20). It is well worth it to tell them to “war a good warfare; holding faith, and a good conscience” (1 Timothy 1:18-19). And when sports threaten to consume the major portion of a young person’s interest and time, it is good for young Christians to remind themselves that “bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). And who can hear Paul’s words to his young associate without hearing him say across the years to today’s young people that whatever it costs, “keep thyself pure” (1 Timothy 5:22).
Among the most enthusiastic of Paul’s converts of Lystra were Eunice and her son, Timothy, and Paul calls him “my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 4:17). During the impressionable days of Timothy’s boyhood, while Paul was visiting Lystra, the people first tried to worship the apostle and then tried to take his life. He saw him heal the cripple, heard him as he appealed to the multitude and then saw him stoned and left for dead. But the next day, Paul got up and again went into the city. When Paul came back to Lystra on his second missionary journey, he took Timothy along as his companion.
After long years of training under this man of God, Timothy was left in charge of the church at Ephesus. Paul had won a vast multitude to Jesus during his stay in Ephesus. In the succeeding years, the number of converts increased tremendously. Within the next 50 years, so many of the non-Christians turned to Christ that their idolatrous temples were almost entirely abandoned. This brought Timothy face to face with serious problems. Think of him being left in the church to take the place of a man like Paul. How unworthy he must have felt! He leaned on the apostle for advice and direction.
While Timothy was in charge at Ephesus, Paul wrote his two letters to Timothy—letters of instruction and guidance indeed to Timothy, but also as a handbook for Christian pastors for the centuries to come. Paul told Timothy to deal severely with false teachers, to direct public worship, to choose church officers and to work with all classes of people found in the church. But most important of all, Paul told him that he must lead a life that would be an example to all. Timothy had a hard task.
One of the things to remember about this time of the Early Church is that there were no church buildings. Groups of Christians met in homes. No churches were built until about 200 years after Paul’s day and not until the Roman emperor Constantine the Great put an end to the persecution of Christians. This meant that there would be hundreds of small congregations, each with its own pastor. These pastors were called “elders” (Acts 20:17). In these letters to Timothy, each is called “a bishop” (1 Timothy 3:1; “an overseer,” NIV). Timothy’s work was with these various pastors. Remember, there were no bible colleges to prepare leaders. Paul had to train his own men. Even though there were no buildings and no colleges, and also in spite of continued persecution, the Church grew by leaps and bounds.
1 TIMOTHY 1: SOUNDNESS IN LIFE
Paul calls Timothy his “own son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). It is clear that the young man was led to Christ by Paul and that he was an example of someone who had been brought up in a home in which the Scriptures were taught. This is the kind of Christian experience we need to emphasize today as not only possible but also as the expected norm.
Warnings Against False Teaching
Even in that first-century Church, Paul was called on to warn his young co-worker Timothy against the false teachings that are much like the false doctrines of this century. When he left Ephesus seven years before, Paul had warned the church members that savage wolves would ravage the flock (see Acts 20:29-30).
Now the wolves were there in full force, presenting young Timothy with his worst problem. There has never been a day when the Church has been free from false teachers who present new and strange doctrines. They are hard to combat because they base their teachings on parts of God’s Word, but they do not “rightly [divide] the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) and interpret it as a whole. What the Church needs today is instruction in the vital truths. Above the teaching of the Law and “fables and endless genealogies” (1 Timothy 1:4), Paul puts “the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust” (1 Timothy 1:11). Therefore Timothy must safeguard against any other doctrine. Fables and legends should never be mixed with the gospel! Paul warns Timothy to hold on to “faith, and a good conscience” (1 Timothy 1:19), because these save people from spiritual shipwreck. Paul speaks plainly of some people who, having put away faith and a good conscience, have suffered both spiritual and temporal shipwrecks, ruining hopes for both worlds. Paul advocated soundness in life. He realized that a person may believe the Word of God completely and yet live a life far from its truth.
The Best Way to Fight Error
In this letter, Paul says that the best way of fighting error in life is to live up to the standards set down in God’s Word. Remember, many of us are the only Bibles others ever read. Christians have to live better than other people in this world if their testimony is to count. How we live our lives either commends Jesus Christ to others or drives them away from Him. How often have we heard, “Well, if that’s what Christianity does for a person, I don’t want any of it!” Paul wants Timothy to live a life that will demonstrate the truths he preaches. He challenges Timothy to be a good soldier for Jesus Christ.
What Timothy preached was empowered and made mighty by how Timothy lived. Timothy is charged to “war a good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18). This suggests a military campaign and all the responsibilities of the officer in command. Paul humbly declares, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15). This statement gives us a glimpse of the man who probably did more for Christ than any other throughout the ages since the world began. But here he is on his knees, struck with the feeling of his own unworthiness. Although Paul was once a blasphemer, God in His grace had appointed him an apostle; and although Paul had persecuted Jesus’ followers, now he proclaimed Jesus’ love. The closer we get to the heart of Christ, the more we realize our own unworthiness. The reason many people do not have a sense of sin is that they are not near to Christ. Paul did not realize how sinful he was until he was brought face to face with his Lord and Savior. After their meeting, Paul felt that his miraculous conversion was intended to be an example of how God can save and use the “chief of sinners”. Read 1 Timothy 1:2-15.
1 TIMOTHY 2–3—DIRECTIONS FOR THE CHURCH
The Church has a great calling - on not only to plead with people to turn to God but also to plead with God the cause of people. Read what Paul says: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Yes, he tells us to pray for rulers. It is well to remember that Nero was the emperor of Rome at this time! Under Nero, Paul was imprisoned and soon would be beheaded. This proves to us that we must pray for bad rulers as well as good so “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (1 Timothy 2:2). Remember when we pray that God “will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:4-5). Paul makes clear that when we pray for someone, we can go straight to God for that person. Our Lord Himself is our mediator.
Finally, let all who pray be clean in conduct and pure in character (see 1 Timothy 2:8-10). Let us lift up “holy hands” when we pray (1 Timothy 2:8). That means that we should come to the Lord with a heart that is cleansed, not filled with pleasures or needless obsessions (see 1 John 1:9).
When we think of church officers, we usually immediately think of the church board or leadership committee. Paul tells us the kind of people that really ought to be holding positions of leadership. If the Church is to fulfill her mission of proclaiming the gospel and praying for all, then it must be governed properly and know the real reason for its existence. Paul describes two officers who should direct the church—the bishop (“the overseer,” NIV) and the deacon (minister)—and outlines the requirements for both offices, which were to be complementary to each other.
We find as we look at 1 Timothy 3:2-7 that the overseer, or pastor, must be a man of blameless character, “the husband of one wife,” not quarrelsome, not greedy for money. He must be a skillful teacher and make his own children obey. He must not be a new convert; otherwise, his head might be turned with pride. He must have a good reputation in his community. It is important that the Church have the right leadership. Good pastors lead a church forward. How we need good and faithful shepherds today!1 Ministers must have the same moral qualifications as elders or pastors. This office is not inferior, just different. A minister must be as carefully chosen as the pastor.
Paul gives us a description of the Church and states her purpose: “the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). The Church upholds all truth in the sight of people. She is the only earthly institution to which Christ committed the preaching of the gospel. (Paul also tells us how Christians “oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God” [1 Timothy 3:15].)
1 TIMOTHY 4–6: DEALING WITH VARIOUS PEOPLE
Paul says, “In the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1). Those false teachings will tell you that to be holy, you must not marry and not eat certain kinds of food. But let us not ban that which God has given to us for our good. People are always trying to find what they can do to inherit eternal life (see 1 Timothy 4:2-5).
Paul goes on to say, “If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 4:6): Lead a godly life, for “godliness is profitable unto all things” (1 Timothy 4:8). True religion is an appeal to common sense. God says it pays, because in one way, Christianity is a business: It asks us to get out our account books, to study the current prices, to consider the possibilities of profit and loss, and decide the question, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). Paul, after “going over his books,” found that what he had counted as “gain” was “loss.”
Does it pay to invest in the Christian life? Does it pay from the standpoint of life right now? God says it does. Christ says, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).
For the Pastor
Paul says to young Timothy and to all those who may be ministers, “Don’t think entirely in terms of the physical, how you can please your body.” Everyone usually thinks in terms of having fun, of doing things. Paul says that “bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). Start living for eternity! “Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).
Carry conviction and command respect. In order to do this, give much attention to your reading and preaching and teaching. The best way to combat any error is by reiterating the simple gospel truth. “Give thyself wholly to” the Scriptures (1 Timothy 4:15).
If a person is to succeed in the ministry, all of the person’s strength must be poured into it. Ministry demands the whole person, the whole time. The way a minister treats his or her flock is of vital importance. Each church member must be dealt with wisely and fairly. Widows must be cared for. Those going astray must be admonished. In other words, sin can never be allowed to get by in the Church, no matter who is guilty of that sin.
Paul even remembers the Christian slaves. They must be taught. Those who serve unbelieving masters are to let their service be a testimony to these unbelievers. Those who serve Christians should not take advantage of the relationship simply because they are fellow believers. Love should make them serve better.
For All Believers
“Fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). Christ appeals to all men and women to show courage. The Christian life is not a thing to be entered into lightly. We must fight if we intend to be conquerors. But it is a “good fight.”
Source: "What the Bible Is All About", Dr. Henrietta C. Mears. All rights reserved.
So many people see the Bible as puzzle pieces scattered on a table without the box.
They can tell you bits and pieces of stories they have heard in church, but rarely do they see the Bible as a whole, because we rarely just sit back and look at "The Big Picture".
Each week, we will take a book of the Bible and simplify it's main message, in order to help you understand the Bible as a whole. We will also mention a few main themes / lessons found in each book of the Bible. We are not trying to get too deep or even focus on one particular story, but rather tie the puzzle pieces together, so your personal study is more clear and enjoyable.
We will be using the book, "What the Bible is all About" by Henrietta C. Mears to gather our notes.
We recommend you purchase this book and use it for study. Order here.
Understanding Second Thessalonians
Second Thessalonians Portrays Jesus Christ, Our Returning Lord
AUTHOR: First Thessalonians 1:1 and 2 Thessalonians 1:1 indicate that the apostle Paul wrote these books, possibly along with Silas and Timothy
DATE: The books of 1 and 2 Thessalonians were written in AD 51-52, soon after the founding of the Thessalonian church, and are among the earliest letters written by the apostle Paul
PURPOSE AND SUMMARY: These letters give Paul’s answers to some basic problems disturbing the Christians in Thessalonica. The major themes of these letters are living pure and holy lives in Christ, the resurrection of the dead, and the events preceding and accompanying the return of Christ. This is the second epistle about “the blessed hope,” or the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Thessalonians were forward-looking people. Paul talks to them about what is uppermost in their minds and thoughts. The first epistle says, “He is surely coming again.” The second epistle says, “But work and wait until He comes.” The second coming of Christ is mentioned 318 times in 260 chapters of the New Testament. Because of this, we see how important this subject is. We read the prophecies of the Old Testament with deepest interest, to find out about our Lord’s first appearance on this earth. We should be just as interested to discover what the New Testament teaches regarding His second coming “in power and great glory.” He said He was coming again: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again” (John 14:3). He intended for His disciples to understand that His second coming would be in as literal a sense as His going away.
First Thessalonians tells about Christ’s coming for His Church. The coming of Christ should be cleared up a bit in our minds. One day Christ will come to take away His Bride, the Church. He will not be seen by the world at that time, but those who are His, including the dead in Christ, will be “caught up” to meet Him. This is the teaching of 1 Thessalonians. After a period of seven years of tribulation for those left on the earth, Christ will appear to the world with His Church to establish His throne on the earth; then all the people will see Him, and He will exact judgment on His enemies. This is the teaching of 2 Thessalonians. His coming, then, includes both of these two events, seven years apart. We as Christians are looking for the first event. The world will not see Him until the end of the seven years (2 Thessalonians). Between the two events, the Jewish people will reoccupy their own land; the gathering of the Gentile nations against them will take place; the Antichrist will become the world ruler, and he will make a covenant with the Jewish people and break it. Following this will be the great tribulation (see Matthew 24:21-22). Then Christ will come with His saints and angels and set up His kingdom on this earth with Jerusalem as the center.
This second letter was written almost immediately after 1 Thessalonians. In addition to their trials and persecutions, the Thessalonian Christians were “shaken” and “troubled” by deceivers who made some of them believe that they were already passing through the great tribulation and “that the day of Christ is at hand” (2 Thessalonians 2:2). Paul tries to clear up the difficulty. When war is threatening and sorrow seems to cover the earth, people always wonder if they are in the end times, or tribulation. This second epistle to the Thessalonians is good to read so that these errors in our thinking can be cleared up. The church at Thessalonica was carried away with the expectation of Christ’s glorious return. The message here is something like the Lord’s word to His disciples in Acts 1:6. You remember their question, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” “Leave that with Me,” Jesus in effect replied. “Do your day’s work and wait. The Kingdom is coming.”
2 THESSALONIANS 1: THINK CLEARLY WHILE WAITING FOR CHRIST’S COMING
Silas and Timothy are mentioned again in the salutation of this letter. From this we can gather that this letter followed the first rather quickly. These two aides were still with Paul. Paul commends the young Christians at Thessalonica before he rebukes them. Let us always first look to see if we can find something to praise in those we plan to criticize. Paul did this often. He noticed that the promise of the Lord’s coming again had inspired the Thessalonians to a growth in faith and in “patience” (2 Thessalonians 1:4; see also verse 3). They knew that when Christ came, wrongs would be righted and the Lord would deal with those who had oppressed them (see 2 Thessalonians 1:5-7).
How does Paul describe the coming of Christ? It will be sudden and startling. “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels” (2 Thessalonians 1:7). This is no mild appearing for those “that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:8). It will be very different for His own. We read that unbelievers “shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” but that Jesus will “be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe” (2 Thessalonians 1:9-10). Remember the promise of the two angels as Jesus went into heaven. Read Acts 1:11. A contrast is shown between the glorious destiny of believers when Christ comes and the punishment of the wicked (see 2 Thessalonians 1:7-12)! Many believe that Christ will not come to set up His kingdom until all the world is converted, but verses 7-12 of this first chapter seem to destroy this view. Read them carefully and you will find that the emphasis is on the fact that the coming of the Lord will be a terror for the disobedient. The world has not seen our Lord Jesus since it crucified Him. He has been hidden from its view. But one day He will appear to the whole world.
In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul says that at first Christ will descend from heaven and, with the shout of the archangel, the Church will be taken away to be forever with the Lord. At that time He will be seen only by His own, His Church. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Here in 2 Thessalonians Paul says Jesus will appear to the world “in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ”. 2 Thessalonians 1:8).
First, He comes to take His own out of this world. They “shall be caught up” to meet Him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Then He appears for judgment (see Jude 15). “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:29-30). Christ is coming in the air for His saints, and later He is coming to the earth with His saints to set up His kingdom: “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory” (Matthew 25:31).
2 THESSALONIANS 2: IGNORE FALSE TEACHINGS WHILE WAITING FOR CHRIST’S COMING
The Thessalonian Christians were suffering great persecution, and some of them had begun to think that the day of the Lord was already present and that they were passing through the great tribulation that Christ had described as the terrible time that would precede His coming. They were confused and were listening to wrong views about how soon His return would be. The reason for this was that a forged report of some sort, supposed to have come from the apostle Paul, had reached the church and added fuel to the fire (see 2 Thessalonians 2:2). But Jesus had told the disciples, “See to it that no one misleads you” (Matthew 24:4, NASB).
His coming is “the blessed hope” of the Church. His coming is “at hand” because it is the greatest future event, but it may not be immediate because God must finish His plan before He comes (2 Thessalonians 2:2). The “man of sin” must be revealed first and “the mystery of iniquity” must work itself out (2 Thessalonians 2:3,7). The “man of sin” is the Antichrist mentioned by Daniel the prophet and by the Lord (see Daniel 7:25; 8:25; 11:36; Matthew 24:23-24). In Revelation 13:1-8, John tells about him. The Antichrist is a counterfeit Christ. Satan in a last desperate effort will try to imitate Christ. The world would not have God’s man; now they must have Satan’s man.
Events Before the Day of the Lord’s Judgment
The Lord’s coming will be sudden, but “sudden” does not necessarily mean “immediate.” The Thessalonians were to wait expectantly for the time when the Lord would gather His children to Himself. Jesus tells us to always be ready. The “day of the Lord” is “at hand” but it will not come until certain things take place. Paul describes several things that must happen first. A great “falling away” from the faith will occur (2 Thessalonians 2:3). In fact, Christ asks, “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). This is the picture of the Church preceding His return—a falling away, a great apostasy. The world acknowledges Christ to be a teacher, but not the Savior. “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12). These are perilous times. Scoffers will arise and ridicule the idea of Christ’s return. The “man of sin” must be revealed (see 2 Thessalonians 2:8). The Antichrist will be revealed before Christ appears to the world. But not until the Lord has caught up His own will the lawless one come into public view (see 2 Thessalonians 2:8). This “man of sin” who will oppose God, is described in 2 Thessalonians 2:4. The “man of sin” will open his campaign against the Lord. When Christ comes, He will find the Antichrist ruling with great power and signs and lying wonders. It will be a time marked with strong delusions. This is Paul’s prediction of the Antichrist: The sin of man has its final outcome in the man of sin. Read Matthew 24:24.
Jesus will destroy the Antichrist. The Antichrist—“Christ’s counterfeit”:
• Will establish himself in Jerusalem—Matthew 24:15
• Will make war with the saints—Revelation 13:7
• Will be worshiped as God—2 Thessalonians 2:4
• Will do signs and lying wonders—2 Thessalonians 2:9
• Will work for only three and a half years—Revelation 13:5-6
• Will be cast into the lake of fire at Christ’s coming—Revelation 19:20
God’s Plan for the Present Age
Does Paul teach that the world is getting better? Is it true that the preaching of the gospel is going to win the whole world for Christ? If so, has the gospel failed? What is God’s plan for this present age?
The gospel has not failed. It is accomplishing just what Christ intended it to accomplish—the gathering of His people around the world, the Church. On the other hand, there is this “mystery of lawlessness” working (2 Thessalonians 2:7, NASB), a development of anarchy among all classes of society. Don’t be disheartened. When Jesus returns, He will find the Antichrist carrying out his satanic plans. From the description of the man of lawlessness in the Scriptures and his diabolical use of “signs and lying wonders,” we do not see how that and the millennial glory could exist together (2 Thessalonians 2:9). But it is just as God said it would be. Indeed, the darkest clouds that are gathering are but harbingers of the day that is surely coming when our Lord Himself will return to take up the reins of government.
Instructions for the Faithful
The time of the Second Coming is to be left with God. The delay in the Lord’s coming gives us real opportunities for service. We might have two wrong views of the Lord’s coming. Either we become restless and troubled because of having to wait so long, or we grow idle because we know that when He comes He will right every wrong and overthrow iniquity. But both of these attitudes are wrong. We are not just to stand and wait, but rather be prepared for service, making ready for the glorious day when He will come.
Paul gives some instructions to the Thessalonians:
• “Stand fast” and don’t be influenced by false teaching—2 Thessalonians 2:15
• “Hold the traditions which ye have been taught”; in other words, don’t lose any of your foundation truth—2 Thessalonians 2:15
• “Comfort your hearts”—2 Thessalonians 2:17
• “Stablish you in every good word and work”—2 Thessalonians 2:17 2
THESSALONIANS 3: BE DISCIPLINED WHILE WAITING FOR CHRIST’S COMING
After instructing the Thessalonians, Paul asks for their prayers (see 2 Thessalonians 3:1). His heart was burdened and he needed their fellowship. He had great confidence in their faith.
Then Paul points out that our Lord’s delay gives us several opportunities:
• Be loyal to Him—2 Thessalonians 2:15
• Evangelize the world—2 Thessalonians 3:1
• Pray for His servants—2 Thessalonians 3:1-2
• Patiently wait for Him—2 Thessalonians 3:5
• Live a holy life—2 Thessalonians 3:6-14
The hope of Christ’s coming stimulates but doesn’t excite; sobers but doesn’t depress. It is a balanced doctrine. Some thought that because Christ was coming, they would just withdraw from business and not work, claiming the right to be supported by the brethren who had money. The attitude on the part of these men was absolutely wrong, and Paul asked them to look to him for an example. He never ceased to labor while he was preaching to them. He laid down a great principle of life: “If any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Any view of Christianity that makes an individual neglect working for a living is not of God. Although Paul always advocated charity toward those in need and spent much time taking up offerings for the poor, he was very severe in condemning the able-bodied person who could but would not work. He forbade the Church to support these and even urged the Church to withdraw fellowship from such people.
Source: "What the Bible Is All About", Dr. Henrietta C. Mears. All rights reserved.
Understanding First Thessalonians
First Thessalonians Portrays Jesus Christ, the Coming One
AUTHOR: First Thessalonians 1:1 and 2 Thessalonians 1:1 indicate that the apostle Paul wrote these books, possibly along with Silas and Timothy.
DATE: The books were written in AD 51-52, soon after the founding of the Thessalonian church, and are among the earliest letters written by the apostle Paul.
PURPOSE AND SUMMARY: These letters give Paul’s answers to some basic problems disturbing the Christians in Thessalonica. The major themes of these letters are living pure and holy lives in Christ, the resurrection of the dead, and the events preceding and accompanying the return of Christ.
The second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is the truth Paul presents in these two letters to the Thessalonians, and it would be missing the mark not to recognize this fact. The two epistles contain 20 different references to the coming of the Lord. This is the hope of the Church. It is mentioned in the closing of every chapter of 1 Thessalonians: “To wait for his Son from heaven” (1 Thessalonians 1:10); “in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming” (1 Thessalonians 2:19); “in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints” (1 Thessalonians 3:13); “caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17); “I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). In view of all this, should anyone bother to ask whether Christ will come again? Christ’s first coming was sudden and a surprise to the philosophers of His time. We learn that His second coming will be no less surprising. Paul, accompanied by Timothy and Silas, had spent only three Sabbath days at Thessalonica on his second missionary journey (see Acts 17:2); but during that time he not only founded a church, but he also grounded it firmly in the faith. In the time he was there, Paul also created a great stir. His enemies accused him of having “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).
On account of this charge of treason, the brethren sent the apostle away. He went on to Berea and Athens and Corinth. It was from here that he wrote this first letter to the Thessalonians and sent it by way of Timothy. We know he had only been gone a short time, for he said he was “taken from you for a short time” (1 Thessalonians 2:17).
During Paul’s stay in Thessalonica, a great number came to believe in Jesus (see Acts 17:4), and the church grew to be composed mostly of Gentile rather than Jewish believers. Paul began at once to feed this church with the meat of the Word. He talked of the Holy Ghost (see 1 Thessalonians 1:6), and of the second coming of Christ (see 1 Thessalonians 1:10). Being greatly concerned about the young converts, Paul sent Timothy from Athens to strengthen their faith and to bring him news of how they were getting along. Timothy brought back a favorable report that was a great comfort to the apostle-founder of the church. However, Timothy had discovered that some faults needed to be corrected. The church members at Thessalonica held some false views concerning the Lord’s return. They were worried about some people who had died, fearing that they would not have any part in the rapture and glory of the Lord’s return. Others were so overwhelmed by the expectation of Christ’s return that they were neglecting their daily tasks (see 1 Thessalonians 4:10-12).
Wishing to correct these wrong views and to inspire and comfort these new converts, Paul wrote this epistle. First Thessalonians is an intimate epistle. The letter is a heart-to-heart talk. Paul gets very close to his brothers and sisters in the church and the words “brothers and sisters” occur more than a dozen times. It is a message of comfort and instruction to those who are in the midst of persecution. There should be nothing doubtful or divisive about this “blessed hope” of our Lord’s return (Titus 2:13).
1 THESSALONIANS 1: INSPIRATION WHILE WAITING FOR CHRIST’S COMING
If you wish to know how to get on with others in Christian work, just go over the things Paul said and did under the guidance of the Spirit.
• Paul did not try to please others in ways that displeased God.
• Paul did not try to capture others by flattery.
• He was not covetous of what others had.
• He was not seeking glory for himself out of his work.
• He kept at his task day and night.
• He always encouraged others.
This is the kind of service the Lord Jesus would have us render in His name. Loving as Paul Loved In his greeting to the Thessalonians, Paul includes his friends and fellow workers, Silas and Timothy. Silas had been with him when he founded the church at Thessalonica, and Timothy had been his special messenger to them, carrying the news of their progress and reporting their needs back to Paul at Corinth. Paul knew the secret of friendship so many of us would like to possess. The Bible tells us how to have friends: “There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). This is just what Paul did. He loved people, and he always acknowledged others in his service and expressed appreciation for their part in every work done.
Praying as Paul Prayed
“We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers” (1 Thessalonians 1:2). Do we follow up our new converts as Paul did? Paul’s converts were in more than a score of different cities, yet he carried all of them in his heart and kept in touch with them.
We have been “allowed of God” to be entrusted with the gospel (1 Thessalonians 2:4). Paul sets forth in this letter the intensity of his ministry, his willingness to die for his new converts, and his dealing with each one. But first Paul thanks God for this church. The beauty of this church did not consist of a building of mortar and stone but of people. (1 Thessalonians 1:1).
Paul is very pleased about the growth these young converts had made. He holds them up as an example everywhere he goes: “Ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia” (1 Thessalonians 1:7). Already their zeal has made a profound impression all over Macedonia and Achaia (Greece), and everyone is talking about the way God is working in the church at Thessalonica.
This is what everyone in the world is looking for—Christians who live the Christian life, who act out what they believe. This is just what the Thessalonians did. Nothing was mentioned about the condition of their finances. But their faith in God was known “in every place” (1 Thessalonians 1:8). Their missionary enthusiasm for making the Word of God known had been felt all through Greece. They were what every church should be.
Life in Three Tenses
In two verses, 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10, Paul tells us how to live:
• In the past tense
• In the present tense
• In the future tense
In the past tense, we are “turned to God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9). The believers at Thessalonica “turned to God from idols” (1 Thessalonians 1:9). There must be a personal turning to God from sin and unbelief if one is to become a child of God. To turn to God we must forsake the idols of our lives—everything that would divide our affections or hinder us from following Him with our whole heart.
In the present tense, we are “to serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9). The Thessalonian believers “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9).
In the future tense, we are to wait for Him (1 Thessalonians 1:10). The believers at Thessalonica believed that Christ would come again, as He had promised. This was called “that blessed hope” (Titus 2:13). The prophets of old waited for the coming of the Messiah for many generations before He came, but “when the fulness of the time was come,” Christ did come (Galatians 4:4).
The Church may have to wait a long time for His promised second coming. Because of the wait, many have lost the vision and hope. But in the fullness of time, Christ will come again, as He had promised.
1 THESSALONIANS 2: SERVING WHILE WAITING FOR CHRIST’S COMING
Paul gives us these descriptions of his services at Thessalonica:
• “Not in vain”—1 Thessalonians 2:1
• “We were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel” in spite of contention—1 Thessalonians 2:2
• Not from “deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile”—1 Thessalonians 2:3
• “Not as pleasing men, but God”—1 Thessalonians 2:4
• “Neither at any time used we flattering words”—1 Thessalonians 2:5
• For God’s glory, not “of men sought we glory”—1 Thessalonians 2:6
• “As a nurse cherisheth her children”—1 Thessalonians 2:7
• Affectionate—1 Thessalonians 2:8
• “Labouring night and day”—1 Thessalonians 2:9
• Backed by holy living—1 Thessalonians 2:10-12
• Successful in its results—1 Thessalonians 2:13-18
Paul preached to please God, and lived to convince people of the truth of his preaching. His conduct commended his preaching. He was not a flatterer, nor did he seek wealth. He came as simple as a child and as gentle as a nurse caring for little children. He was never idle but toiled night and day. Giving the Thessalonians this example of his own life, he pleaded with them to make their daily lives worthy of the name “Christian,” urging them to “walk worthy of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:12). A Christian’s walk is a Christian’s life.
Paul looked forward during these trying days to the “Lord Jesus Christ at his coming” (1 Thessalonians 2:19). Paul’s greatest reward, after he has seen the Savior’s face, will be to present to Christ the young converts of his ministry, letting them share in the glory of His advent. They will be his “crown of rejoicing” (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20).
1 THESSALONIANS 3:1–4:12—HOPING WHILE WAITING FOR CHRIST’S COMING
First Thessalonians 3 describes Paul’s labor of love among the brethren. Paul was aware of the strain under which the members of the church at Thessalonica were living. He sent Timothy from Athens to encourage them even though they suffered persecution. Timothy had brought back the good news of their “faith and charity” (1 Thessalonians 3:6). In the midst of their persecution and suffering, Paul flashed the light of that day when they would be made “unblameable in holiness,” when they will be changed in a moment at the return of Christ and His holy ones (1 Thessalonians 3:13). The test of any hope that a person has is what it does for that person now. Paul told the Thessalonians that the coming of the Lord should be an incentive for several things:
• Right living—1 Thessalonians 3:13
• Consistent walk—1 Thessalonians 4:1
• Purity—1 Thessalonians 4:3-7
• Love—1 Thessalonians 4:9-10
Paul urges personal purity and a life that is consistent with their testimony (see 1 Thessalonians 4:1). This is the place where most Christians fail. Let us strive to have our ideals beyond reproach. Our attitude toward each other should be one of love.
Remember the two commandments Jesus gave: “Love the Lord thy God,” and “Love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:37-39; Mark 12:30-31; Luke 10:27). Paul charges us to “increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men” (1 Thessalonians 3:12; see also 4:9-10). Paul also urges us not to live a life of idleness while waiting for Christ’s glorious appearing (see 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).
1 THESSALONIANS 4:13-18: COMFORTED WHILE WAITING FOR CHRIST’S COMING
The Dead Will Rise
There is much comfort in these few verses that end with “wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). There is comfort because of His sure return. The Christians at Thessalonica were disturbed because of their mistaken ideas about Christ’s return. They were under the impression that Christ’s return would be soon, and they were worried about what would happen to those who had died. What part would they have in His coming and kingdom?
When Christ returns to earth, He will not come alone: “Even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him” (1 Thessalonians 4:14). What a meeting that will be! Death does not end everything. Parents and children, husbands and wives, loved ones and friends will be united. How anxious we are to know that “ours” will be in that happy crowd. Those who have Christian loved ones who have died should not give way to undue sorrow when they lay them in the grave, for they have a double assurance from Christ’s Word. When Christ comes, He will greet the believers who are dead first and bring them with Him (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). When the archangel sounds the trumpet call of God, announcing the Lord’s coming, then “the dead in Christ shall rise first” to meet Him (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Then those who are alive and remain will be “caught up” in the clouds to share with them the glory of His coming and to “ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17-18). “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Christ does not say He is going to send the messenger of death to bring His Bride (the Church) home. He is coming Himself! “This same Jesus . . . shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). And “they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30).
The second coming of Christ was the hope of the Early Church, just as it should be for us. The greatest fact of the past is that God came the first time, as a man, and died on the cross to free us from the penalty of sin. The greatest fact of the future is that He is coming again, as King, to free us from the presence of sin (see Matthew 24:42).
The Living Will Meet Him
“Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Paul assures us that all will not die before He comes. “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). “And so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Made like Him, we will eternally be with Him. He has gone to prepare a place for us. “I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also”.
1 THESSALONIANS 5: WATCHFUL WHILE WAITING FOR CHRIST’S COMING
Christ’s second coming will be like the coming of a thief in the night or like the flood in Noah’s time. The world will know nothing of His return. They scoff at the idea. But Jesus said there would be signs before His coming so that watchful believers will know when the time is drawing near. Over and over again, Jesus told His disciples that His coming would be “as a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2; see also Matthew 24:36,42; 25:13; Mark 13:32-37; Luke 12:40; 21:25-35). He warned His disciples to always be alert. This should be their duty and their attitude. “Watch and be sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:6).
The hope of Christ’s return does not mean a life of idleness. Activity should be the theme of our lives, as Paul reminds us again in this chapter of 1 Thessalonians. “Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not” (Luke 12:40). Every morning when we get up, we should say to ourselves, Be ready for the Lord’s return, for He may come today. Every night our closing thought should be, Will I be ready for the Lord if He comes before I wake up? (see 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13). Don’t live to be ready to die, but live so that you may be ready for Christ’s coming (see 1 Thessalonians 5:4-8)!
Paul encourages us to always have hope.
• “Rejoice evermore”—Thessalonians 5:16
• “Pray without ceasing”—1 Thessalonians 5:17
• “In everything give thanks”—1 Thessalonians 5:18
• “Quench not the Spirit”—1 Thessalonians 5:19
• “Despise not prophesyings”—1 Thessalonians 5:20
• “Prove all things”—1 Thessalonians 5:21
• “Hold fast that which is good”—1 Thessalonians 5:21
• “Abstain from all appearance of evil”—1 Thessalonians 5:22
Colossians Portrays Jesus Christ, Our Life
AUTHOR: The apostle Paul was the primary writer of the book of Colossians and possibly also Timothy according to Colossians 1:1.
DATE: The book was likely written in AD 60, when Paul was under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:14-31).
PURPOSE AND SUMMARY: The Colossian letter is well known for its teaching about the treasure of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” through the indwelling Holy Spirit (Colossians 1:27; see also Romans 8:9-10). In the letter, Paul insists on the fact that Christ is Lord of all, creator of all things, and the One through which God is reconciling all men and women and all creation to Himself. Colossians emphasizes these truths partly to refute Gnosticism, a growing heresy in the Church.
This letter begins, like 12 others, with the name of Paul and is addressed to Gentile believers. It was likely Epaphras who founded the church at Colosse, which was located about 100 miles east of Ephesus (see Colossians 1:7). It consisted of Gentile Christians. Philemon was a member. Paul kept in close touch with the people and was greatly beloved. Epaphras went to Rome to tell Paul about the heresies that were creeping into the church. These false teachings took Christ off the throne and denied His being the headship of the Church. To help answer the heresies, Paul sent this letter back by Epaphras. He writes especially about the preeminence and deity of Christ, for Christ is truly God. Ephesians and Colossians were written about the same time, while Paul was under house arrest in Rome. They both contain great doctrines of the gospel, and were meant to be read aloud in the churches. They are very similar in style, yet very different in emphasis.
• Ephesians talks about all believers, calling them the “body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). Colossians talks about the head of the body, Jesus Christ.
• In Ephesians, the Church of Christ is the main concern. In Colossians, the Christ of the Church is emphasized. Both are needed. There cannot be a body without a head, nor a head without a body.
Notice this all the way through Colossians—“Christ,” “Christ,” “Christ.” Heresy had broken out in the church at Colosse, misleading the young believers by calling for the worship of angels and a strict observance of Jewish ceremonies (see Colossians 2:16,18,21). This heresy actually involved a mixture of Jewish, Greek and Oriental religions, and necessitated this letter from Paul about the truth of the supreme Lordship of Christ. This epistle draws a faithful portrait of Christ in all His glory and dignity. Christ Our Head Christ is all in all. The basic failure of the Colossians was that they did not hold fast to the Lord.
The place Christ holds in any religious teaching determines whether it is true or false. Some thought in Paul’s day, as now, that Jesus was only a man and that Christ was the divine Spirit that came at Jesus’ baptism and left Him at the cross. This meant that Christ did not die but that Jesus died.
Many of the Epistles were used to answer the heresies that crept into the early churches everywhere. The gospel, by this time, had been taken to “all the world” and had been “preached to every creature which is under heaven” (Colossians 1:6,23). Thirty-two years after Christ’s death, the gospel had reached the whole Roman world. It needed only one generation to establish the Church as a worldwide fact.
The Church’s position “in Christ”:
• United in Christ—Colossians 2:2
• Complete in Christ—Colossians 2:10
• Dead in Christ—Colossians 2:20
• Buried with Christ—Romans 6:4
• Risen with Christ—Colossians 3:1
Christ Our Life
“And your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). This epistle tells us that Christ is our life and we are complete in Him (see Colossians 2:10). The Christian life is not a creed or a system of teachable laws or a certain kind of worship but a life that is Christ’s very own within you.
Christ is all in all:
• In His deity—“the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15)
• In creation—sovereign Creator of the universe (Colossians 1:15-16)
• In preeminence—before all things (Colossians 1:18)
• In redemption—reconciling the universe through His blood (Colossians 1:20-22)
• In headship—over all principalities and powers (Colossians 1:18; 2:14)
• In His Church—“the head of the body” (Colossians 1:18; see also 2:19)
• In His indwelling presence—the Christian’s hope (Colossians 1:27) God has given Christ preeminence in all things (see Colossians 1:18).
• In Romans we are justified in Christ.
• In 1 Corinthians we are enriched in Christ.
• In 2 Corinthians we are comforted in Christ.
• In Galatians we are free in Christ.
• In Ephesians we are made alive in Christ.
• In Philippians we are joyful in Christ.
• In Colossians we are complete in Christ.
Colossians presents the glorious culmination of it all: “And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power” (Colossians 2:10). We are “complete in him” (Colossians 2:10). We are “rooted and built up in him” (Colossians 2:7); we are in effect grounded and settled.
We discover the facts of this building process in the four chapters of this book:
• Building “downward”—rooted in Jesus, “grounded and settled” (Colossians 1:23). The deeper life is rooted in eternity. It begins in Him who was in the beginning with God. God gives eternal life.
• Building “upward”—“built up in him” (Colossians 2:7). The higher life is the life Jesus is living for us at the right hand of God, and living in us, for “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Galatians 2:20).
• Building “inward”—“hid with Christ” (Colossians 3:3). The inner life is all the life we have as Christians. It is the life “hid with Christ” in God. It is life real and sufficient, for we are “complete in him” (Colossians 3:3; 2:10).
• Building “outward”—“walk in wisdom toward them that are without” (Colossians 4:5).
COLOSSIANS 1: THE DEEPER LIFE
Paul opens this letter as he opens so many: “We give thanks to God” (Colossians 1:3). He rejoices in the good news from the brethren scattered abroad in the various churches he founded. Notice that Paul’s favorite words to use are “faith,” “love” and “hope” (Colossians 1:4-5). He wants everyone to have faith in Christ, love toward others and hope of heaven. Paul tells us the secret of the deeper life that we as Christians should have in Christ: We are to become “grounded and settled” (“established and firm,” NIV) in Christ (Colossians 1:23).
Next, Paul presents a glowing description of the mighty Christ, the superior One. He is “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28). We find in this first scene that not only are we in Christ but also Christ is in us: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). This is what it is to be a Christian: living in Him, and having Him live in us.
In closing this scene, read Colossians 1:9-14, Paul’s prayer for the Church. He expresses his desire for all Christian believers:
• That they might be filled with a knowledge of Christ’s will. He wants us to know how to live a Christlike life, for the fullness of Christ’s wisdom will keep us from error—verse 9
• That they might walk worthy of the Lord, fruitful in work, increasing in knowledge—verse 10
• That they might be strengthened with might so as to be able to withstand all temptations—verse 11
• That they might be thankful—verse 12
COLOSSIANS 2: THE HIGHER LIFE
“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: rooted and built up in him” (Colossians 2:6-7). Paul always wants our walk and life to correspond with our belief. If we have been rooted in Him, let us grow up in Him. If we have been founded on Him, let us be built up on Him. All of these are proof of a changed heart. Then we are to build downward, “rooted . . . in him” (Colossians 2:7). Being rooted in Christ means that we draw our nourishment from Him, just as a plant can only grow if it is in life-giving material. We are built up in Him. We have our foundation in Him. Every structure needs a foundation.
Next we must build upward, “rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith” (Colossians 2:7). The Christian life starts with a foundation in Christ and then grows in His grace and gifts. The higher you go with the Lord, the steadier is your disposition, the less disturbing are temptations and the smoother is your everyday life.
All the life we have as Christians—the real and satisfying eternal life—is the life “in Him”:
• Walking in Him—Colossians 2:6
• Rooted in Him—Colossians 2:7
• Built up in Him—Colossians 2:7
• Brought to perfection in Him—Colossians 2:10
• Dead with Him—Colossians 2:20
• Risen with Him—Colossians 3:1
• Hidden with Him—Colossians 3:3
Paul tells us in Colossians 2 that Christ is all-sufficient: “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). This is a tremendous truth for us to grasp. In this Jesus, who walked on the earth, dwelt the whole Godhead. But more than this—in Him was the fullness of the Godhead. This is a powerful statement of the oneness of God.
We also see in this chapter Paul’s personal concern for the Church at Colosse. He longs for the Christians there to be secure and firm in their beliefs so that the shrewd philosophers and legalists of their day won’t shake their faith. The best way to be protected from the snares of the world and its philosophy is an understanding of the perfection of Christ, for He is all and in all.
Some of the popular philosophers of Paul’s day were teaching that people are unworthy to approach Christ directly and that they needed to approach Him by means of angels (see Colossians 2:18). But Christ said that He is the only mediator between God and people, adding, “I am the way . . . no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Paul rebukes the Colossians for their failure to recognize the supremacy of Christ as the only mediator between God and people. Paul reminds us that when Jesus died on the cross, He freed us from the law.
COLOSSIANS 3: THE INNER LIFE
Building our life cannot be only downward, “rooted . . . in him,” but upward, “built up in him”; our building must also be inward (Colossians 2:7). Let the world know that Christ is your life. We find that our new life in Christ makes us less interested in the things the world offers. We become dead “from the rudiments of the world” (see Colossians 2:20). We find ourselves “hid with Christ”; and as we know Him, we discover, one by one, the beauties of the Lord Jesus: “mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering” (Colossians 3:3,12). “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16). It will make a difference. Paul tells us to put the old nature to death (see Colossians 3:5-9). After we receive our new life in Christ Jesus, we must “mortify therefore [our] members which are upon the earth” (Colossians 3:5).
A Christian’s conduct is what other people see you do. Just as clothes can indicate what kind of a person you are—careful or careless, a soldier or a civilian, a king or a commoner—so outward expression will show whose you are and whom you serve (see Acts 27:23). Now Paul thinks of our new nature in Christ as putting “on the new man” (Colossians 3:10). Let us “put on” the virtues of this new life, such as tenderness, kindness, humility, patience, forgiveness and love (see Colossians 3:12-14).
COLOSSIANS 4: THE OUTER LIFE
Colossians 4 introduces another phase of our life in Christ, the outer life. We found we must build within, cultivating the virtues of the new life in Christ, but we also want our new life to be seen and felt among others (see Colossians 4:5). This is the way we present Christ to the world. Remember, “Christians” mean “little Christs.” Biographies of Christ are not written by great authors. Christ’s life did not end when the Gospels were completed. Christ is living in us. His life is told today in living epistles that are known and read by all people who see us
Source: "What the Bible Is All About", Dr. Henrietta C. Mears. All rights reserved.
Philippians Portrays Jesus Christ, Our Joy
AUTHOR: Philippians 1:1 identifies the author of the book of Philippians as the apostle Paul and possibly also Timothy.
DATE: The book was written in approximately AD 61, when Paul was under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:14-31).
PURPOSE AND SUMMARY: In this letter, which is a message of joy, the apostle Paul expresses his gratitude for the Philippians’ love and material assistance. The epistle is uniquely significant because of its presentation of the humility of Jesus as a model for us. Its practicality is also observed in Paul’s advice to Euodia and Syntyche to try to work out their differences and “be of the same mind in the Lord” (Philippians 4:2).
The epistle to the Philippians was written to the first church founded in Europe. Paul was called there by the vision and the cry, “Come over into Macedonia, and help us” (Acts 16:9). Paul urges the Church to have Christian unity and joy. This letter shows how unity among Christians can be broken. Christ is the secret of joy. “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord” (Philippians 3:1). Then there is a pause. Paul tries to think of some better last word to speak, but he can’t seem to find it. Finally he cries out, “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). This is joy in the midst of troubles and problems. Paul and Silas, you remember, sang in the jail there at Philippi at midnight when their backs were bleeding and sore! Paul is rejoicing now as he writes this letter, in effect under house arrest, for he knows that his detention was helping him to spread the gospel. He could reach some in Caesar’s household that he otherwise never could have brought to Christ. He urged his Philippian converts to rejoice because they were allowed to suffer for Christ (see Philippians 1:29). “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). The words “joy” and “rejoice” occur in this epistle more than 15 times. “Joy” and “rejoice” and “all” are the words to underline. “Be glad” is Paul’s exhortation. We are commanded to rejoice. We break a commandment if we do not rejoice, for joy drives out discord. It helps in the midst of trials.
Paul mentions the Savior’s name some 40 times in this short epistle. Some of the most wonderful things concerning Christ and the Christian life are here. So that your life may be purified, dangers avoided and progress made, Christ must be your joy, your trust and your aim in life. Paul tells us of his own joyful triumph over trying circumstances because of his trust in Christ.
PHILIPPIANS 1: JOY IN LIVING
Paul loved to call himself the servant (really a bond servant) of Jesus Christ. Christ had made him free and now he wanted to serve Him as long as he was alive: “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:1). That is the reason he says, “For to me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21). Notice when Paul writes his letters that he puts his name first. How sensible this is, for the first thing you do in opening a letter is to turn to the end and find out who wrote it. Although his movements were restricted, Paul could pray for his friends. “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy” (Philippians 1:3-4). Paul lived to intercede for others. All Christians should always remember others in their prayers. He reassured others. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6). This confident statement assures the church that God is working in us to bring about our sanctification.
Although Paul had to remain in his house, people came to hear him preach. The Roman guards were so interested in the gospel that they spread it around. This encouraged others to be bold in preaching, and many found Paul’s Christ.
PHILIPPIANS 2: JOY IN SERVICE
Paul says that the wonderful example of the Christian life that we must follow is Jesus Christ. We must imitate Christ, for although He is Lord of all, He became servant to all! Paul urges the Philippian church to complete his happiness by living together in love and unity. Is there anything more Christlike for Christians to do? “Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded” (Philippians 2:2). “In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” is an astonishing phrase; in other words, “Be willing to be third” (Philippians 2:3). We must always bear in our thoughts the example of Jesus Christ (see Philippians 2:5-11).
Paul says, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus,” which is self-forgetting love. Although Jesus was God, He humbled Himself. Christ took on not only the form of a man but also the form of a servant. Then He humbled Himself even more: He who was author of life became obedient to death. But even more than this, He faced death on a cross, a degrading way to die. This must be our spirit (see Matthew 16:25). Paul is practical as well as profound. He never leaves us in the clouds. He never separates knowledge from action. Christianity is both creed and life. A creed without the right conduct amounts to little.
“Wherefore, my beloved . . . work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). “Work out” means “live out”—not working for salvation, but showing the works of salvation. God has a plan for each of our lives as He had for Jesus. We must live out that plan. It is an entirely personal matter. No one can do it for somebody else. God plants in our hearts salvation—great, divine, wonderful and to be lived out. Happy is the person who finds God’s plan for life and actively participates in it. Christian experience is not something that is going on around you, but in you. “Christ liveth in me” (Galatians 2:20)! “Do all things without murmurings and disputings” (Philippians 2:14). Paul is saying, “Don’t be grouchy! You can’t glow if you are!” Having committed your life to the control of the Lord, you are under orders not to murmur or complain! “If God is supreme, why did He allow this thing to happen?” should never pass your lips.
Paul shows us, too, that there is a sacrificial side of the Christian life. That which costs nothing amounts to nothing. Paul feared his work might be “in vain” (Philippians 2:16). So much in life is done in vain. The Christian life should be a sacrifice if we are to follow Christ. Does your faith cost anything? But if Christ is our example, then we see that there is no cross without a crown. If we suffer with Him, we will also reign with Him. We are God’s lights in a dark age. No flame can shine brightly when it is filthy. The Christian who brings honor to the Lord must be faultless, innocent and not blameworthy.
PHILIPPIANS 3: JOY IN FELLOWSHIP
Paul tells the Philippians that the duty of all Christians is that they be joyful. A long-faced Christian is the worst advertisement for Christianity. The world doesn’t want a greater burden; it wants a light heart. How can a Christian be joyful in a world so full of sorrow? Paul tells us in Philippians 3:1, “Rejoice in the Lord!” Saul of Tarsus, a man rich in religious education, who had every honor and privilege, was an earnest searcher after truth and blameless as far as the Law was concerned. One day Christ found him on the way to Damascus, and his whole being was changed (see Acts 9). His eyes were opened. He discovered in Christ a store of spiritual wealth that made him count all that he had as trash (see Philippians 3:7). He became willing to gladly sacrifice everything and counted the treasures of this world as nothing in comparison with Christ. He became willing to lose everything to gain Christ. He had a new standard of values. He had a new reason for life. Christ had stepped in between Paul and his old ideals and made him change the headings at the top of his ledger page. He erased “gains” (credits) and wrote “losses” (debits). This was his choice in life. Paul had weighed both the world and Christ and remembered the words of the Lord Jesus: “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
In Philippians 3:12-14, Paul tells us that every person’s life is a plan of God! If I only do one thing in life, I should carry out this plan. Neither the successes nor failures of the past must keep me from pressing on today: “I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency” (Philippians 4:13, AMP).
Here are some of the ambitions of Paul’s heart.
• “That I may win Christ” (Philippians 3:8). Christ had won him. Now he wished to win Him as a daily prize.
• “That I may know him” (Philippians 3:10). There are degrees of knowing Him.
• “And be found in him” (Philippians 3:9). To be found in Christ is to be blameless and complete.
• “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3:10). The power of the gospel is in a risen Christ.
• “That I may know . . . the fellowship of his sufferings” (Philippians 3:10). This means a life consecrated to Him, even willing to die as He did.
• “I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12). He wanted to know Christ’s purpose for seizing him on that road to Damascus.
• “I press toward the mark for the prize” (Philippians 3:14). The higher the calling, the greater the prize. Do you know that your citizenship is in heaven, that you have been born from above? Read Philippians 3:20-21. We should live as citizens of a better country, a heavenly Kingdom. Don’t love the world or the things of this world, but be loyal to Him who rules. When Christ comes, He will change these bodies of ours into bodies like His own—fit for His heavenly kingdom. Christ’s residence was for 33 years here on earth, but it did not naturalize Him as a citizen of earth. Let us not forget where our citizenship is. Remember Paul’s advice in Romans 12:2: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
PHILIPPIANS 4: JOY IN REWARDS
“Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand” (Philippians 4:4-5). This blessed hope of Christ’s coming again casts its gracious influence over all of life. Paul prays that the Christian may have joy at all times and not be worried by cares. The way to be anxious about nothing is to be prayerful about everything. The prayer of faith must be a prayer of thanksgiving because faith knows how much it owes to God. Put your prayers into God’s hands and go off and leave them there. Do not worry about them. If you do this, then the peace of God will stand guard over your heart and mind. Guard your thoughts! Thoughts determine your life! “As [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).
Paul tells us what to think about and remember: “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8). Paul expressed his gratitude for the loving thought that had prompted the church at Philippi to send him gifts. He was especially happy about their gifts, not because he needed them, for he had “learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” with Christ (Philippians 4:11), and he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him. But their gifts meant “fruit that may abound to your account” (Philippians 4:17). He opened God’s bank account to them: “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
Source: "What the Bible Is All About", Dr. Henrietta C. Mears. All rights reserved.
The Bible is a book, written by men, inspired by God, tested through time and verified by our faith.
II Timothy 3:16 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
The Bible was written in different countries and cultures, without a single contradiction.
The Bible was written by kings, fishermen, poets, teachers, prophets, government officials, doctors, and underprivileged people.
The Bible contains the oldest and most reliable records of ancient history ever written.
Some doubt the Bible:
If you doubt the validity of something, the most common solution to resolving the question, is to study and test it's message.
This is exactly what generations have done over and over, and yet still today, millions of Christians trust all 66 books of the Bible to be the actual Word of God!
Time and again, its narratives have been shown to contain a remarkably accurate account of people, places and events of bygone ages.
The Bible is published in over 2,000 languages and dialects, and the number of Bibles produced far surpasses anything ever printed and published in the history of mankind. It remains the world’s best- selling book every year.
The Bible was originally written in Hebrew and Greek:
The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew, the Jews original language.
Bible historians tell us that the Jews language changed from primarily Hebrew to Greek, due to the hundreds of years of foreign invasion.
Therefore, the New Testament was originally written in Greek, the most common language in the time surrounding Jesus and His church.
The King James Bible:
In the year 1611, one of the most popular and accurate Bible translations was published into English.
This was a literal word transfer, as well as why so many have a hard time reading in the King James Version, in comparison to some of the more modern versions.
We recommend using the KJV for study, along side more modern versions, for simple comprehension.
Think of it like this -
Reading a modern version, is like paraphrasing the King James Version to your friends, so they will understand it better.
The problem with the paraphrasing, is that it puts all interpretation in the hands of the paraphraser.
This is why we study the Bible and not just read the Bible . . .
In order to extract the truth from the Bible, we must -