Category Archives: Bible

Faith, love, and hope

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3, NIV)

The Pauline emphasis on the triad of faith, hope, and love is better known from 1 Corinthians 13, but here we see it in what is considered by many to be his earliest letter.

Faith produces work.

Love prompts labor.

Hope inspires endurance.

These are the marks of the church for which Paul is thankful.  The fact that the church has faith, love, and hope is indicated not by its mission statement or preaching, but by its work, labor, and endurance.

This list also bridges some of the supposed divide between Paul and James. We see here as well as in James the linkage of faith and works.

And so, these outward things become for us signs of the inward character. A church that has faith produces works. A church that loves labors. A church that has hope endures through difficulty and trials.

For these marks Paul thanked God for the Thessalonian Christians.

Are you a Bible moth?

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. (Psalm 119:105, NIV)

The glories of the law of God are praised nowhere higher than in Psalm 119, which I have been reading the last couple of days in the morning and evening.

Verse after verse, the psalmist praises the commands, instruction, statutes, and precepts of the LORD. They are a source of hope, a guide to life, and a shield against the many foes and troubles of the psalmist’s life.

What is remarkable to me — as a Christian in the USA in 2014 — is how clear the law is to the psalmist. The psalmist writes of meditating upon the law and pondering God’s precepts, but never puzzling over them. He does not cherish fuzziness. I often feel that our instincts run in the opposite direction. We seem to exalt obscurity when it comes to the law of God and the commands of Christ. We spend great energy looking for ways to stretch meanings or find loop holes. We do not meditate on the law so much as argue with it.

The psalmist does not argue with the law. He argues with God. He calls God to do what God has promised. He asks how God can let so many law-breakers run about with impunity. But all these questions appear to be so pressing precisely because the psalmist glories in the law of the LORD.

I suspect he’d be called a biblicist today. Or perhaps — to bring up an old epithet used against the first Methodists — a Bible moth.

In the preface to his sermons, John Wesley wrote:

To candid, reasonable men, I am not afraid to lay open what have been the inmost thoughts of my heart. I have thought, I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God and returning to God: Just hovering over the great gulf; till, a few moments hence, I am no more seen; I drop into an unchangeable eternity! I want to know one thing — the way to heaven; how to land on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach the way: For this very end he came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. Give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God!

His passion to know and do the will of God remind me of the voice of the Psalms.

Would that people heard such passion in my voice and saw it in my life.

‘Control your own body’

Paul in 1 Thessalonians calls on the church to live in a manner that will please God.

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7, NIV)

This is not by any means a unique passage in the New Testament.

So, how do we interpret Paul’s words here? What does it mean to control our bodies in holy and honorable ways?

Paul on Easter

Some words from Paul on the significance of the resurrection.

Romans 1:1-4

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart fro the gospel of God — the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David and was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 6:3-5

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Romans 6:8-10

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

Romans 8:34

Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died — more than that , who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

Romans 10:9

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

1 Corinthians 15:12-14

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.

1 Corinthians 15:20-21

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.

Ephesians 2:4-6

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 2:9-11

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 3:10-11

I want to know Christ — yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

1 Thessalonians 4:14

For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep.

 

Acts on Easter

Some quotes from the Book of Acts about the significance of Easter.

Acts 2:32, 36

God has raised this Jesus to life; and we are all witnesses of it … Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.

Acts 4:10-12

then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is ‘the stone your builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in on one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.

Acts 10:42-43

He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

Acts 13: 32-33, 38-39

We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus … Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.

Acts 17:30-31

In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.