Christ in Ephesus

Christ also is the head of the church, being Himself the savior of the body…we are members of His body.      Ephesians 5:23, 30

Letter writing was laborious business in the days of the apostle Paul, before typewriters were invented.  That is why he asked different churches to share the letters he sent them, just as we are reading and receiving a blessing form those same letters today.

Two of his letters are much alike, those to the Ephesians and to the Colossians.  They are so similar that they are often called twin epistles.  An interesting exercise is to sit down and underline the verses that are almost identical in the two.

The difference between the two (for most twins have differences) is that Ephesians looks at the Church as the blessed body of Christ, and Colossians looks especially at Christ, who is the head of the body.

The fact that Ephesians and Colossians have a great deal in common, and that we are blessed by those same letters today, shows that the chief characteristic of the Church of Jesus Christ is its unity.  There are Christians today whose language we cannot understand if our life depended upon it.  The Christians of some countries are radically different from us, in their way of life.  Yet for all our differences, Paul says that “there is one body, and one Spirit, even as we were called in one hope of our calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all.” (4:4)  Notice exactly how many “one’s” there are in that passage–seven, the complete number, the number of churches in Christ’s candelabra in Revelation.

In these days when there is so much talk about church union, it is wonderful to know that the true Church of Jesus Christ always has been united.  It has different parts, just as there are different parts to our body, but it is always and absolutely one.


Strength In Weakness

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.     II Corinthians 4:7

Any church would be fortunate to have the apostle Paul for its pastor.  But human nature is such that people found fault even with the Lord Jesus Christ when He preached here upon earth.  And so the church at Corinth had all kinds of criticisms of Paul, their former pastor, accusing him of things that were not even true.  It was to answer these criticisms that Paul wrote his second letter to the Corinthians.

Paul might have put these petty people in their place by pointing out that he was in some respects the chief of the apostles; that if it were not for him they would still be hell-bound heathen; and that God had given him the privilege of having a glimpse one day into “the third heaven,”  But what does he do instead?  Paul almost outstrips the Corinthians in pointing out the weaknesses that he possesses, and no one knew his own shortcomings better than Paul, who calls himself the “chief of sinners.”

The great apostle tells the Corinthians that he rejoices in the criticisms he receives, his distresses, persecutions, and infirmities — even his thorn in the flesh, because he has learned through them to depend upon God, and God receives the glory that is due Him, not Paul.

Pray hard today for the men and women who will teach Sunday school, preach, and do church work of any sort in hospitals, mission chapels and elsewhere.  And if, in doing this work, you receive criticism instead of credit, be glad that you are in the company of such as Christ and Paul, rather than of those who receive their reward already in the praise of men.

The Saints in Corinth

Now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face;  now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as I was fully known.      I Corinthians 13:12

Editor’s Note:  Once again, this is a mediation written in 1963 (like all the ones this month).  With that in mind, the author’s thinking evolved over time to the point that he no longer used the word ought or should, finding freedom in Christ from such expectations.  Keeping that in mind, here is the meditation for the 19th of the month.  

Every mature Christian ought to know certain facts about the Bible.  All of us know, of course, that I Corinthians 13 is the great chapter on love, which married people ought to read together regularly.  Another fact we should know is that I Corinthians 15 is the great chapter about Christ’s resurrection and our future one, in new and glorified bodies.  We rob ourselves of much happiness by not knowing where to find such wonderful facts.

First Corinthians also contains an important chapter on whether one ought to marry, and on the proper relation of men to women generally.  Much of our form for the Lord’s Supper is found in I Corinthians 11, and chapter 12 is a lot like chapter 12 in Romans, describing the unity of the church despite all the differences that individual Christians possess.

But the amazing thing about this important Epistle is that it might never have been written if the church in Corinth had not had many problems, imperfections, and some pretty weak Christians in it.  They were quarrelsome about religious matters, careless about communion, quick to go to law with one another, eager to outshine others in church life, and beginning to wonder about the existence of the hereafter.

Yet the thrilling fact is that Paul speaks of these shabby believers as “saints.,”  In Christ the poorest believer is a perfect person in the eyes of God.  He may not be far on the road of sanctification, but he’s going in the right direction and he is making progress.

This Epistle proves again the old truth that God is able to beat a straight blow with a crooked stick, and He makes all things, even our folly and faithlessness, to work together for good.



More Than Roman Conquerors

…if God is for us, who can be against us?…we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.        Romans 8:31, 37

The Epistle of Paul to the Romans is not the first one that he wrote, but it is the first in our Bibles.  (They are arranged more or less according to length, like the Old Testament prophetical books.)  Many Christians heave a sigh when they read Paul’s epistles, especially one like Romans, and lament that they are so deep and doctrinal.

Well, the first thing to remember is that they were written to young churches, new Christians, babes in Christ, so that they cannot be as hard to understand as we imagine.  The second thing to remember is that we do not have to understand every last word or verse in the Bible to get a real blessing from it.  If we will read our Bibles in the same simple, eager way that the early Christians in Rome read Paul’s Epistles, we are bound to be changed people.  After all, we do not have to understand the laws of chemistry and digestion in order to get real enjoyment and even health and strength from our physical food.

Then, too, we ought to make a real effort to understand the deep things of God.  It is a thrill to think God’s thoughts after Him, just as it is exciting to work out a hard problem in mathematics.

Romans can be divided into three parts.  The first section speaks of universal sin; and it is followed by the good news that there is salvation for all those who are in Christ Jesus.  The third part of the book speaks of the saved sinner’s duty to live a life of Christian service.

People were proud to be Romans in Paul’s day; Rome was a conquering country.  But the Christians of Rome were more than conquerors.  Rome has declined into decay, but the Church of Jesus still stands.

Grace in Galatia

Consider Abraham:  He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.  Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.      Galatians 3:6,7

It is not easy to keep the books fo the Bible apart and be able to say how Ephesians is different from Colossians, and Philippians from Thessalonians.  There are, however, little memory devices that can help us somewhat in doing this, and one is to associate the word grace with Galatians.

The Galatians are the people whom Paul scolded for going back to the Old Testament traditions of having special days and feasts, and what not.  This is the book in which he reports the he rebuked the apostle Peter for refusing to eat with non-Jewish people.  Galatians is the book which tells us that Abraham was saved by grace, and that the law, which came four hundred years afterward, could not change the covenant which God made with him and all believers ever afterward.

There are Bible teachers who try to tell us that there are various methods of salvation, so that people in the Old Testament were saved by keeping the law, and we are saved by Christ.  This, of course, is all wrong, for there has been only one way of salvation from the time that Adam first sinned, and that one way is by grace.  But there is something far more serious than believing that salvation could once be earned by works, and that is trying to earn salvation that way today!  All of us would like to attempt it.  We are so independent by nature that we would like to work out our own salvation without God’s help whatsoever.  When the Ten Commandments are read to us, we forget that they are taught us in order to show us our sinfulness, and we think that if we only keep the Golden Rule or live a Christian life, we will thereby earn eternal life.  Nothing, absolutely nothing in ourselves, can save us, whether it is prayer, church going, Bible reading, or doing good deeds.  Salvation is of God and His grace.

After the Acts of the Apostles

…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.               Acts 1:8

Someone has said that Acts is the one book of the Bible that is still being written.  In a way this is true. It starts out by saying that it is a continuation of what Jesus began to do and to teach while He was here upon earth, a work which Jesus is carrying on even today by means of His modern disciples.  While our acts are not being added to the book by that name in the Bible, they are being written down in heaven.  The pity is that we are so slow in carrying out Christ’s command to go into all the world and preach the gospel.  The angels of verse eleven could well say to us today, “Why stand gazing into heaven?”  We have work to do for Jesus, and we had better get busy at it.  (Editor’s Note:  I suspect this is one of those lines that the author would have either deleted or re-written, as we can do nothing for Jesus, he does it through us.)

Acts 1:8 is a neat outline of the entire book.  As the story unfolds you can almost see the gospel spreading out in ever widening circles like the ripples in a pool reading finally to the farthest banks.  The first section of Acts reports the evangelization of Jerusalem, with five thousand people finally belonging to the church.  In this section we are told of the first congregational meeting, the first deacons, the first martyr, the first discipline cases, and the first persecution.  Then “they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria….preaching the word.”  And so the gospel was spread out just the way that Jesus predicted it would be, through it took troubles to bring it about.

The third section introduces a new apostle to the scene.  Peter was the chief character in Jerusalem; Philip is the prominent person in Samaria and environs; Paul is the man whom God calls and qualifies to be the great missionary to the Gentiles.  Now comes the question, Who will carry on the work today?  Who will say, like Paul, “Lord, what will you have me do?”  Who will say, like him, “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision”?

Four Witnesses to One Gospel

These are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.        John 20:31

One reason why we have four so-called Gospels in the Bible is to prove that our faith is built upon solid facts.  Four different men tell the same story from four different angles and they absolutely agree.  One of the “proofs” that the Bible is inspired by God Himself is the fact that not one of the forty human authors contradicts another.  We are not asked to believe something that is unreasonable; there is lots of evidence for our faith in Christ’s death and resurrection and ascension.

Another reason why there are four “Gospels” is that the story of Christ is so rich that no one person could begin to do justice to the telling of it.  So we have the story of the wise men in Matthew, and the Christmas story of the shepherds in Luke.  Matthew records many of Jesus’ parables and the Sermon on the Mount, while John reports the seven “I Am’s” of Christ (can you name some of them?) and gives a detailed account of what Christ said at the supper table the last night of his life.

We have a Savior to whom all the books in the world could not do justice, says John.  More books have been written about Him than about any other person.  Christ is the theme of more music — marvelous oratorios, cantatas, hymns, and anthems — than anyone who ever lived.  Wherever His name is known there is respect for womanhood, compassion for the poor and needy, help for the sick, education for the unlearned, law and oder in the place of hate and fear.

But all these are more or less the by-products of His coming.  Christ came that we might have eternal life, to give His life a ransom for ours.  Many people who read [blogs] like this enjoy the benefits of Christianity but are themselves not really Christians.  Are you?