Filed under: Bible Study
The Lord knew He was about to be betrayed, arrested, sentenced, beaten, mocked, crucified, forsaken, murdered, pierced, and buried. That these things were hours away, however, is hardly evident in John chapters 14-16. Rather than dwelling on His imminent suffering, Jesus concerned Himself with His disciples – teaching, encouraging, and preparing them for what would happen once He returned to the Father. Jesus knew to Whom the victory belonged, so He wanted to reveal everything that was His to those whom He loved. In particular, Jesus emphasized three things:
- Receiving the Holy Spirit
- Bearing fruit
- Making requests in Jesus’ name
In John 14:13-17, Jesus said:
“And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever — the Spirit of truth…”
Jesus promised His disciples that He would not leave them orphans. Instead, He would abide in them, and they were to do likewise. In John 15:4-5, Jesus said:
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”
In verse 16, Jesus said:
“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another.”
Again, in John 16:23-27, Jesus said:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full…In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.”
What were the disciples to ask the Father? Jesus was not specific. On the contrary, they would receive whatever they asked in His name for these reasons:
- That the Father may be glorified in the Son
- Because of their election and lasting fruit
- That their joy may be full
- Because the Father loved them for loving Jesus and believing in Him
By the way, Jesus was specific about what His disciples should ask in Luke 11:13:
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
Before His betrayal, after Jesus had encouraged His disciples, He prayed for them in John 17, making many requests for them. Beginning in verse 21, Jesus prayed specifically for those who would believe in Him through the disciples. How closely are Jesus’ requests reflected in our own?
“Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.”
“Keep them from the evil one.”
“Sanctify them by Your truth.”
“…that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”
“…that they…may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory…”
“…that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”
Filed under: Bible Study
Paul’s life was turned totally around. He described it this way in 1 Timothy 1:12-16:
“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.”
Paul’s identity in the works of law was replaced with an identity in the gift of grace. In 1 Corinthians 15:9-10, he explained:
“For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”
By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote many letters to new churches and fellow laborers. (These letters now account for half of our New Testament.) Whether Paul’s letters were long or short, warm or stern, grace was always his salutation and his valediction. Many of his letters opened with this line:
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Have you considered beginning your emails like that or signing off in the same way he closed 2 Corinthians?
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.”
The point is, because of Paul’s own experience, grace was his first and his last word, no matter what else he had to say. Grace was also the basis of what he wrote in between, as in Romans 15:15:
“Nevertheless, brethren, I have written more boldly to you on some points, as reminding you , because of the grace given to me by God,…”
How did Paul define grace? 2 Corinthians 8:9 describes it this way:
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.”
We don’t know who wrote Hebrews, but verse 2:9 echoes a similar description of grace:
“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.”
2 Corinthians 9:8 explains how God gives grace freely:
“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”
When Paul “pleaded with the Lord” concerning his “thorn in the flesh,” this was the response in 2 Corinthians 12:9:
“And he said to me,
‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’”
According to Hebrews 4:14-16, God’s grace reaches beyond physical ailments and helps us in the midst of spiritual struggle:
“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Consider Paul’s exhortation in 2 Timothy 2:1:
“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”
The following benediction, given (by Paul’s fellow laborer) in 2 Peter 5:10, describes what is accomplished in us by the “God of all grace:”
“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”
So, we join with Paul in 1 Timothy 1:17, saying:
“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Filed under: Bible Study
“We know that the law is spiritual” (Rom. 7:14), and “we know that the law is good” (1 Tim. 1:8). Psalm 19:7 says that “the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul,” and in John 5:39, Jesus said to the unbelieving Jews:
“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.”
In the same way, 2 Corinthians 3:14-17 explains:
“But [the minds of the children of Israel] were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
The Psalmist also spoke of liberty.
“And I will walk at liberty,
For I seek Your precepts…
And I will delight myself in Your commandments,
Which I love.
My hands also I will lift up to Your commandments,
Which I love,
And I will meditate on Your statutes.”
In fact, the book of Psalms begins in this way:
“Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.”
Psalm 119 is the longest psalm; it is a psalm about delighting in God’s law. Verse 11 teaches us that God’s word in our hearts protects us.
“Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You.”
154 verses later:
“Great peace have those who love Your law,
And nothing causes them to stumble.”
The same is written about the righteous in Psalm 37:31.
“The law of his God is in his heart;
None of his steps shall slide.”
When the old covenant was introduced, Israel was told in Deuteronomy 6:4-9:
“Hear , O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
The Holy Spirit spoke of the new covenant in this way through the prophet Jeremiah:
“I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people…For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
The writer of the book of Hebrews explained that this remission of sins is made possible by Jesus.
“But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.”
We know that Jesus hid God’s law in His heart, because it preserved Him in the midst of temptation.
“Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’ But He answered and said,
‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”‘”
Jesus was quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, in which Moses reminded the Israelites:
“So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.”
“Your words were found, and I ate them,
And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart;
For I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.”
In 1 Peter 2:1-3, we are commanded:
“Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”
Psalm 19 told us that the law of the Lord converts the soul. The psalm continues:
“The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Moreover by them is Your servant warned,
And in keeping them there is great reward.”
Psalm 119 borrows the same imagery, in verses 72 and 103.
“The law of Your mouth is better to me
Than thousands of coins of gold and silver.”
“How sweet are Your words to my taste,
Sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
Even Job confessed in his distress:
“I have not departed from the commandment of His lips;
I have treasured the words of His mouth
More than my necessary food.”
Does this describe our hunger for God’s word? Is this how we “eat” Jesus? He explained the lesson of the manna in John 6:32-35.
“‘Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’
“Then they said to Him, ‘Lord, give us this bread always.’ And Jesus said to them,
‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.’”
In conclusion, Isaiah 40:8 comforts us.
“The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.”
Jesus responded to His followers in Luke 11.
“And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!’ But He said,
‘More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!’”
Filed under: Bible Study
According to the following verses, everyone dies because everyone sins, and death is the result of sin. But there is Good News!
The Bad News
Romans 6:23 says that “the wages of sin is death.” James 1:15 describes it this way:
“When desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”
Earlier in Romans, we are taught that “all have sinned” and that “death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Psalm 89 was written by a man named Ethan, who asked God:
“Remember how short my time is; for what futility have You created all the children of men? What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his life from the power of the grave?”
The writer of Ecclesiastes elaborated.
“[There is] a time to be born, and a time to die.”
“Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart.”
“No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit, and no one has power in the day of death. There is no release from that war, and wickedness will not deliver those who are given to it.”
In Revelation 21:8, things go from bad to worse.
“But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
The Good News
2 Corinthians 5:14-15 says:
“If One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”
Acts 2:24 speaks of the same One who “loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” Who is the One who died for us and rose again? The answer is at the beginning of 1 Corinthians 15, where Paul writes:
“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”
Jesus Christ speaks of himself in Revelation 1:18.
“I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.”
If we believe in Jesus, we are given boldness and hope by the One who holds “the keys of Death.” In his most famous Psalm, David sang:
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me.”
Paul said in Philippians 1:21 that “to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” In 2 Corinthians 5:6-8, he wrote:
“So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”
While those who belong to the Lord Jesus are eager to be with Him, Psalm 116:15 tells us that:
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”
In Revelation 14:13, a “voice from heaven” said:
“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”
Are You Victorious?
Deliverance from death is described in Ephesians 2:1 and Colossians 2:13.
“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.”
“And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses.”
Does this describe you, or are you still “dead in trespasses?” Will you face the “second death,” or will you be saved from it? Romans 10:9 explains how to be saved:
“If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Our salvation is accomplished in Christ’s victory, which culminates back in 1 Corinthians 15:
“Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.”
Jesus spoke of two kinds of resurrections.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.”
According to 1 Corinthians 15, the resurrection of life is ours in Christ Jesus:
“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection from the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive…
“So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’
‘O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?’
“The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Filed under: Bible Study
It’s easy to forget that women weren’t always around. If you’re a provisional bachelor, that may be more or less easy to forget, and the following exhortation is worth your time. Imagine, for a moment, a world without women, nor the mere idea of them. Next, imagine being Adam – the only person on the face of the planet! (Still think you’re lonely?) We all know the rest of the story, but read it with fresh eyes:
“And the Lord God said,
‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.’
“…And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.”
Thus, Adam became the first (and most successful) organ donor. Ever since, man has been trying to reclaim woman according to what Evan Wilson (with a rare nod to the French) labels rapprochement. The equivalent Bible phrase is “becoming one flesh,” and the ultimate fruit of this union is the procreation of new saints, as depicted in Malachi 2:9:
“Did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.”
Ephesians 5 is featured at so many weddings because it concisely captures God’s overarching commission to husbands:
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”
Elsewhere in Scripture, this command to husbands is predominantly embodied as:
- Be patient with your wife.
- Make passionate love to her on a regular basis.
My extensive experience of 15 months has shown me that the second of those instructions is impossible to do without the first. I, too, am being sanctified, which is why I’d like to highlight some relevant passages (leaving Song of Solomon to the reader). I’m thankful for both my wife and for God’s instruction and example of how to love her perfectly. What follows is equally good preparation for future husbands. Incidentally, Malachi’s warning against treachery is inseparable from the Bible’s teaching on this subject.
“He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord.”
Deuteronomy 20:7 & 24:5
Regarding soldiers in ancient Israel.
“And what man is there who is betrothed to a woman and has not married her? Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man marry her.”
“When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year, and bring happiness to his wife whom he has taken.”
1 Corinthians 7
Selected instructions to husbands; wives receive the same. Paul gives good reasons for getting married and for staying single.
“Because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife.”
“Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her.”
“The husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.”
“Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
“He who is married cares about the things of the world – how he may please his wife.”
“Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.”
1 Peter 3:7
“Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.”
These verses follow those quoted from Ephesians above.
“So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church…Let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself.”
“Drink water from your own cistern, and running water from your own well. Should your fountains be dispersed abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be only your own, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured with her love. For why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman, and be embraced in the arms of a seductress?”
“Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun.”
Of course, the preceding verses are more than just commands – they are poetry in the vein of Adam’s first words as a newlywed.
“This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”
Are we stuck with sin until we get to heaven? That was the impression of a Christian brother and friend of mine with whom I spoke last week. I looked into it, and this is what I found.
1 John 3: Sin Defined
4 “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.”
There is also a penalty for sin. Romans says that “the wages of sin is death,” and Ephesians says that we “were dead in trespasses and sins.” Not only does sin deserve death, but anyone in sin is apparently dead already. The Good News is found in the other halves of these verses. Romans says that “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord,” and Ephesians says that God makes us “alive.”
John, Jesus & Peter Present: The Gospel
Here are a few instances of the Gospel being preached in the Bible:
John the Baptist
Luke 3:3 “[John the Baptist] went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.”
Paul explains this to some Ephesian disciples in Acts 19:4:
“Then Paul said,
‘John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.’
When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them…”
Speaking with His eleven disciples before ascending into heaven, Jesus said in Luke:
“Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”
When that “power from on high,” the promised Holy Spirit, came in Acts 2, “there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven.” When Peter and the eleven disciples told them about Jesus, “they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles,
‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’
Then Peter said to them,
‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”
What do each of these examples have in common?
- The name of Jesus Christ
- The remission of sins
- The Holy Spirit
These are key elements of becoming a Christian. However, as with my friend, they may be too familiar (or not familiar enough?) for us to realize the miracle that takes place when we put our faith in Jesus.
Colossians 2: Death to Life
Below are some verses, followed by questions answered in the text.
12 “[You were] buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”
Q: What happened to us in baptism?
A: We were buried with Christ, and we were raised with Christ.
Q: Through what were we raised?
Q: Faith in what?
A: Faith in the working of God.
Q: What work did God do?
A: God raised Jesus from the dead!
13 “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,”
Let’s review: God raised Jesus from the dead.
Q: What else did he do?
A: He made us alive with Christ! He also forgave all our trespasses.
14 “having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”
Q: What did God do with the handwriting against us? He did two things:
A: He wiped it out.
A: He nailed it to the cross.
Romans 6: Alive in Christ
Here is another Q&A exercise:
1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?
2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
Q: What did we do?
A: We died to sin.
3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
Q: Into what were we baptized?
A: Christ’s death
4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Q: Why were we baptized into death with Jesus?
A: So that we should walk in newness of life like Jesus
5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,
6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
Q: What happened to our old man?
A: Our old man was crucified. (i.e. killed! put to death! past tense!)
Q: Why was the old man crucified? There were two reasons:
A: To do away with the body of sin
A: So that we should no longer be slaves of sin
7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.
(This is an easy memory verse.)
Q: Did we die?
A: In Christ, YES
Q: What is the result?
A: We are free from sin.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,
9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.
10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Q: To what are we dead?
Q: What are we instead?
A: We are alive to God in Christ!
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.
13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
Q: How are we to present ourselves to God?
A: As alive from the dead!
14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
Q: Are we under the law?
Q: Under what are we?
If you have read this far, then I challenge you to go back to 1 John 3 and read the entire chapter in light of these other verses. Then, read Ephesians 1:15-23, in which Paul prays for the saints, asking:
“That you may know…what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.”
Have Christians been set free from sin in this age? Based on 1 John 3, what does that mean for us, and what does it look like?
From the beginning, man was designed to work. Before sin entered the world, “the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” After the fall, God cursed the ground (not man!), saying, “Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.” Thus was established the earthly economy which we read about in Proverbs and 2 Thessalonians:
“He who tills his land will be satisfied with bread.”
“If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”
In fact, hard work meets more than basic necessities. Proverbs is peppered with passages such as:
“He who has a slack hand becomes poor, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.”
Four times, the Preacher concluded:
“I know that nothing is better for [men] than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor – it is the gift of God.”
Hard work is commanded, praised, and rewarded in the Bible. However, it forbids covetousness, self-seeking, envy, and greed; these lead to defilement, confusion, dissatisfaction, rottenness, trouble, sorrow, and death. Therefore, diligence in obedience and in faith is to be our target. Wealth and enjoyment are God’s fitting reward, but they are not fitting as the objects of our desire. Elsewhere, Solomon, the wisest and wealthiest man who ever lived, wrote:
“Do not overwork to be rich; because of your own understanding, cease! Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven.”
Job was a man who “was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.” He was also tremendously wealthy, but after he lost everything, this is what he said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Paul wrote the same thing in his first epistle to Timothy:
“We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.”
A couple of verses later, Paul warned:
“Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.”
This single verse gives six descriptions regarding the desire to be rich. Can you spot them? They are: temptation, snare, foolish, harmful, destruction, and perdition! Jesus told us that there is something better:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Again, Proverbs exhorts:
“Do not let your heart envy sinners, but be zealous for the fear of the Lord all the day.”
Back in 1 Timothy, Paul urged:
“But you, O man of God, flee [the love of money] and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life.”
If these are the things we are to pursue, then what about our needs? Above, we were given promises regarding diligence. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus also assured us that God will provide:
“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.”
Paul experienced both plenty and poverty. He wrote to the Philippians that Christ’s strength enabled him to be content in every circumstance:
“I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
In the last chapter of Hebrews, the writer relied on the Old Testament to remind him of God’s constant presence in times of need:
“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said,
‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’
So we may boldly say:
‘The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear.
What can man do to me?’”
Since God will provide for every need, John the Baptist told those who came to him:
“Be content with your wages.”
Paul again, speaking of masters and bondservants, taught Timothy a good lesson for our modern-day workplace (substitutions mine):
“Let [employees] count their [bosses] worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed. And those who have believing [bosses], let them not despise them because they are brethren, but rather serve them because those who are benefited are believers and beloved. Teach and exhort these things.”
Paul said that those who teach otherwise are proud, stupid, obsessed with division, envious, suspicious, of a corrupt mind, and destitute of the truth. They “suppose that godliness is a means of gain.” According to the world’s wisdom, this is an easy supposition to make, but it is the wrong conclusion! Instead, Paul then wrote:
“Having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.”
Yet, God blesses many of us beyond food and clothing. For those of us who have money to spare, what did Paul tell Timothy?
“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”
Proverbs contrasts the righteous with the sluggard in this way:
“The desire of the lazy man kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. He covets greedily all day long, but the righteous gives and does not spare.”
Chapter 5 of Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians begins this way:
“Be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us,…But…covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints;…but rather giving of thanks.”
Jesus, following his parable of the unjust steward in Luke 16, gave us an interesting command:
“And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own? No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
This is a powerful statement. If we love God and are loyal to Him, how will we feel about money? Jesus said we will hate and despise it.
A couple of chapters earlier, Jesus told the story of the rich fool, who said to his soul:
“‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’
But God said to him,
‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’”
What was Jesus’s conclusion?
“So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
Let us work hard, thank God, give generously, and be rich toward Him! This is our heavenly currency.