Paul’s Letters

1 corin 15 58

The third division of the New Testament includes the 13 books called the Pauline Epistles – which are letters that Paul wrote.  Many of the letters are written to churches which Paul had visited or heard about during his 3 missionary journeys.  As it turns out, the issues that troubled churches 2,000 years ago, are so similar to the issues of our churches today: immorality, false teachers, disunity, the need for wise and godly leaders, and more.  The final four letters are written to individuals – pastors and friends of Paul.

Here is a general overview of each of Paul’s letters…

 

Romans – Righteousness – The Romans Road

Written to the church in Rome (which Paul had not yet visited) to explain God’s plan of salvation.  Some have called a selection of verses the Romans Road as they lay out how to be right (righteous) before God: Romans 3:10, 3:23, 5:8, 6:23, 8:1&2, 10:9 & Acts 2:38

 

1st & 2nd Corinthians – Warnings & Replying to False Teachers

Written to the church in Corinth (a large, immoral city in Greece).  1st letter warns against factions, immorality, jealousy, lawsuits, marital issues, misuse of spiritual gifts and public worship, etc.  Chapter 13, the Love Chapter, teaches us how to love supremely.  Chapter 15, the Resurrection Chapter speaks of the hope we have for a future resurrection.  In 2nd Corinthians Paul defends himself against false teachers attacking his integrity and credibility.

 

Galatians – Faith & Freedom in Christ

Written to the churches in the region of Galatia (Turkey) to correct the teaching that the new Gentile Christians had to follow the whole Old Testament law to be saved.  Instead, with God’s grace and our faith in Christ we can be free from the Law and the power of sin.  We are not free to disobey Christ or practice immorality.  We are to use our freedom to serve God and others.  See Galatians 5 – Fruit of the Spirit

 

Ephesians – One Body of Christ – The Church

Written to the church in Ephesus  which Paul had visited several times, and even stayed for 3 years during one of his trips.  Paul encouraged the church to remember they were the body of Christ, to keep Christ as the head and work together as a body does, also to stand strong against evil forces with the full armor of God (chapter 6).

 

Philippians – Rejoice!

Written to the church in Philippi when Paul was in jail.  He was thanking the church for a gift they had sent while also encouraging them to remain strong when persecuted and to be joyful in all circumstances.  The 4 chapters include ‘joy’ (or a version of the word) 16 times.

 

Colossians – In Christ Alone

Written to the church in Colosse to stress again that the church must not mix worldly and pagan beliefs with the good news of Jesus Christ.  He wrote about Jesus, the Son of God – the head of the church and the only way to God’s salvation.

 

1st & 2nd Thessalonians – Jesus is Coming Again

Written to the church in Thessalonica (Greece) which Paul had only visited for 3 weeks before being forced out by a violent mob.  Timothy had reported to Paul that the church was doing well despite the persecution – but needed a few clarifying points.  One of which was they must control their bodies in holy and honorable ways.  Also, false teachers were teaching that Jesus had already returned to Earth so Paul gave more details on what Jesus’ return would be like (which everyone would see and know) and said to keep working until then.

 

1st & 2nd Timothy – Paul’s Words to Young Pastor Timothy

Perhaps some of Paul’s last letters – one more opportunity to pass along godly council to one who would continue the work of making disciples.  Timothy had been a helpful companion on some of Paul’s missionary journeys, and Paul had sent Timothy to pastor the church in Ephesus.  Now Paul was writing to help solve some of the church’s problems, including legalism and false teaching.  He also listed qualifications for church leaders.

 

Titus – Paul’s Words to Church Leader: Titus

Titus had travelled with Paul and Timothy.  Then Paul left Titus in Crete (an island in the Mediterranean Sea) so that he could, “straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town as I directed you.” (1:5).  And, since the people of Crete were known for being liars, evil brutes and lazy gluttons (1:12), that was a big job to do.  Paul described again the qualities to look for in a church elder.  He told what to preach to various people and to teach God’s people to do good (a lesson we still need today for sure).

 

Philemon – Paul Urges Philemon to Forgive Onesimus

Philemon was a wealthy landowner and the church in Colosse met in his house .  His slave Onesimus had run away – and met Paul while he was in house arrest in Rome.  Paul shared the good news with the run away and Onesimus accepted Jesus – and knew he had to return to Philemon.  Paul wrote to Philemon interceding on Onesimus’ part – asking him to forgive Onesimus and to welcome him back as a helpful brother in Christ.  We are reminded of our need for forgiveness and our need to forgive, and that all are brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.

 

There are so many timeless truths, warnings and nuggets of encouragement in Paul’s letters.  And they are even more meaningful when we remember they were written by the man Paul of the book of Acts, as he was teaching and preaching about the Son of God as found throughout the 4 books of Gospels and prophesied of during the Old Testament.   God’s Word has a beautiful, orderly progression to prepare God’s people for salvation and to love and serve Him and others.  And Paul’s Letters are a wonderful piece of the puzzle.

 

Keep Reading His Word!
Marcia Railton

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The Good News Gospels

john 20 31

Throughout the Old Testament we read of God’s work with His people.  The ups, and the downs.  His plan through the ages.  And through it all – there were prophecies, predictions and foreshadowing of what was coming – a Savior who would take upon himself the sins of all men and make a way for mankind to be reconciled (brought back together) with God.  Some have counted over 350 Old Testament prophecies of Jesus that are fulfilled in the New Testament, everything from: born in Bethlehem, came out of Egypt, praised while riding on a donkey, performed miraculous healings , not a bone of his body broken, etc…. Jesus fulfills everyone.  He is God’s plan that began in Genesis, or actually before the creation of the world.  And, we have not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 accounts of his life, ministry, teachings, death, and resurrection in the Old Testament – they are the gospels.  And here’s a little bit about each one:

 

MATTHEW – Old Testament Prophecy Fulfilled in Jesus

Matthew is an excellent link between the Old and New Testaments because Matthew is writing particularly to the Jews to convince them that Jesus is the promised Messiah from God, the same Messiah that the Old Testament prophets had said would come.  Matthew, who knew his OT well, included 53 direct quotes and 76 other references to the Old Testament. Matthew, originally a tax collector, left his work to follow Jesus’ call.  He became one of Jesus’ 12 Disciples who were Jesus’ closest students and followers.  His new life mission was to persuade the Jews that the Savior they had been waiting for had arrived and his name is Jesus.  This book is an excellent introduction to Jesus!  Here we read of Jesus’ geneology, his birth, the visit from the Magi, his baptism and temptation, the calling of the disciples, and the great Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7).  Many more teachings (often about his favorite topic – the coming Kingdom of God) and miracles are included.  Then Jesus is put to death so we can be forgiven, and then miraculously resurrected 3 days later.  In the final verses the resurrected Jesus tells his disciples to go into the world and make disciples.  And that is just what Matthew did when he wrote about the man who changed his life.

 

MARK – To the Gentiles: A Suffering Servant Has Come

This is the shortest of the 4 gospel books, packed with action, and perhaps written first.  The author, perhaps called John Mark, was not one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, but was likely a close associate of Peter.  It is thought that Mark listened to all of Peter’s preaching about Jesus and carefully recorded them in what would become the book of Mark.  Mark would also accompany Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey.  This book was written to a Gentile (non-Jewish) audience – perhaps specifically the church in Rome, at a time (60 AD) when powerful Rome was persecuting Christian believers.  It was important that the church be strong in their understanding of who Jesus was and what he did.  In the book of Mark we read of Jesus healing the sick, controlling nature and battling the powers of Satan.  And yet, the Jewish leaders plot to kill him (and do), his neighbors don’t understand him and his family thinks he is crazy.  Jesus is the Ultimate Suffering Servant – with his life – and his death.  Mark is perhaps preparing the church for a little suffering of their own.

 

LUKE – Jesus is Savior of ALL – Jew and Gentile

The author, Luke, was likely a Gentile by birth, and a well-educated doctor.  He also was known as the missionary Paul’s dear friend and fellow missionary.  His introduction states: “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.  Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may now the certainty of the things you have been taught.” (1:1-4).  Luke was writing to not only tell of Jesus, to strengthen the believers’ faith, but also to assure people that Jesus had come to save the lost – both Jew and Gentile.  He is the only gospel writer to include several parables (one of Jesus’ favorite ways to teach using earthly stories with earthly meanings) including: the Good Samaritan, and the Prodigal Son.

 

JOHN – Jesus is the Son of God who Saves

The author is likely John, the son of Zebedee, the brother of James, and the one sometimes called, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”  John and James had left the family fishing business when Jesus called them to follow him.  They would become 2 of the 12 disciples.  This gospel is the most unlike the other 3 gospels.  Over 90% of John is not found in the other gospels.  John does not include any of Jesus’ parables, or his birth or temptation or ascension.  Instead, he emphasizes who Jesus was – the Son of God.  He includes only 8 miracles, 6 of which are not recorded elsewhere (including water to wine and the raising of Lazarus).  John includes many of Jesus’ “I Am” statements explaining Jesus and his mission.  “I am the good shepherd” (10:11).  “I am the bread of life” (6:35).  “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (14:6).  And John is the only author to include the Upper Room Discourse (chapters 14-17) which was Jesus’ last teaching to his 12, as well as his prayers for himself, his disciples and all believers who would follow – including you.

 

 

How many people today think they know who Jesus was – but haven’t read the gospel accounts?  Read them to see God’s plan in action.  See for yourself Jesus’ love and compassion for the lost, as well as his insistence for a changed life (go and sin no more – John 8:11).  See his love for His Father and his commitment to God’s Word and His Will.  See his excitement and teaching about the Kingdom of God and who will be a part of it.  To properly carry on your mission from God – you MUST be in tune with what Jesus’ mission was.  Find it – in the gospels – and you too can share in God’s good news – for yourself and for your hearers.

 

Seek His Mission,

Marcia Railton

 

Come back tomorrow – we will have just one book to cover as we see the history of the early church.  What will they do when Jesus is no longer in their physical midst?

Keep Racing!

matt 24 13

In the wonderful theological “comparison” that’s the parable of the sower (Matt. 13; Mark 4; Luke 8), Jesus said that salvation is a process which must begin, continue and persist to the end. It all depends on an initial intelligent acceptance of the “seed” Gospel of the Kingdom as Jesus preached it. Only those who maintain faith and obedience to the end will be saved (Matt. 24:13).

Salvation for New Testament Christians is like a race. The goal, salvation, “is now closer to us than when we first believed” (Rom.13:11). We are “being saved” now (1 Cor.1:18; 15:2), and we were saved “in hope” (Rom. 8:24), and we will be saved at the return of Jesus.

You don’t win a gold medal when the starting gun goes off and you don’t graduate from the university at orientation. Salvation is a race to the end and the stimulus which gets us started is the Gospel of the Kingdom, which imparts to us the energy of God Himself (1 Thess. 2:13; John 6:63; Gal. 3:2).

-Anthony Buzzard of Restoration Fellowship (http://focusonthekingdom.org/)

ON PURPOSE – Evangelism

Luke 15 6b

The past five days we have been looking at how to live our lives on purpose.  We don’t want to drift through life not accomplishing what God has prepared for us to do.  We don’t want worldly goals that pull us away from what really matters.

First, we looked at the Greatest Commandment and said that to love God is to worship God.  Next, we discussed the importance of following Christ by being a devoted disciple: the on-going process of becoming mature in Christ (discipleship) which begins with time in God’s Word – and will include other godly habits as well.  And, a disciple remembers they are not alone but are connected to other disciples as the body of Christ so they are eager to fellowship with and encourage one another.  Life in the encouraging body leads to seeing other’s needs and being willing to use our God-given gifts in ministry to others.

So far, we have created an individual who deeply loves God, is growing in their walk with God’s Son, has healthy connections to the church family and seeks to serve others.  That is a GREAT and beautiful start!  But, too often, we are content to stop right there and remain committed to just these 4 purposes – and stay inside our safe little church bubble (myself included).

When church members were surveyed, 89% said, “The church’s purpose is to take care of my family’s and my needs… Only 11% said the purpose of the church is to win the world for Jesus Christ.” (Purpose Driven Church – Rick Warren – p 82).  And we wonder why the church isn’t growing.  This selfish, inward focus is not healthy, and is not what God intended for us as individuals, or as the church.

The Great Commission did not tell us to just go and BE a good disciple – it commands us, “Go and MAKE disciples of all nations.”  It is not enough to only be concerned for my own salvation.  To truly love God and others includes a desire to share a great and glorious God with those who are lost and hurting and oblivious without Him.  God wants His lost sheep found and most often he chooses to use people to do that.  Only God can save the lost, but He relies on us to share the good news.  Read Luke 15 to see God’s heart for the lost – and pray that becomes your heart, too.

When Jesus said, “Come, follow me” he wasn’t just inviting you to his church pew on Sunday morning.  He said, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19.).  He is asking you to invite others to your church pew.

Who do you know who needs to know God’s saving power and plan?  Who do you know who is not ready for Christ’s return and the Kingdom of God?  Start by naming them and then praying for them and watching for God-given opportunities to speak and act with God’s love and truth.  Then, jump in there and do it.

For Him,

Marcia Railton

 

The Big Sea Adventure

Acts 27

acts 27 20

I love this chapter! It reads like an exciting adventure novel full of rising suspense, anxious expectation, unfortunate loss, and desperate hope. Now I don’t know a lot about sailing, but it sounds like as soon as they board the Alexandrian ship things don’t go so well. In verse seven we see that they had to sail slowly for a “good many days and with difficulty.”  They arrive at Cnidus with difficulty and then they arrive at Fair Havens with difficulty. This voyage is a lot harder than it should have been and they have lost a lot of time. Verse nine clues us in on the time of year it is by saying “the voyage was now dangerous, since even the fast was already over.” Matthew Henry’s commentary says that it was now late September. They knew they would need to stop soon for the winter because it wasn’t a good time to sail anymore. And Paul warned them to stop, but they weren’t listening to a prisoner’s advice at this time. The captain wanted to get around to a better location for spending the winter.

Isn’t this nice plot development? There is some nice character development, too. Let’s consider the nameless centurion for just a minute. He was in charge of the prisoners and he had already previously “treated Paul with consideration and allowed him to go to his friends and receive care.” Sure, he didn’t listen to Paul’s warning that they should stop travelling, but it seems reasonable to think that the centurion knows a fair amount about Paul. He probably went to the hearing Paul had with Agrippa. He saw the faith, love, and determination of a prisoner unlike any other prisoner he had ever been in charge of I would wager.

The storms get worse. The despair rises and Paul speaks up to assure everyone that God will save them, but not the ship. He tells them to be courageous. Soon, it looks like land is approaching and, while this is good news, a new threat is upon them. Can they safely make it to land? Some try to jump ship and this time it seems like the centurion listens to Paul when he says the men must remain in the ship in order for everyone to be saved.

We are approaching the climax of the story and Paul tells the men to eat and strengthen themselves. He encourages them and thanks God in front of all of them during a time of intense uncertainty. When day breaks will they see land? Will they be able to get to it? The next day finds the ship stuck and being torn apart by forceful waves. The soldiers think they need to kill the prisoners so they don’t go free. This seems like a reasonable plan, but the centurion steps up to protect Paul. What a climax! The ship is tearing to pieces, death is perilously near, and everyone must jump overboard. And the story ends just the way I love for a good story to end; with a happy ending! All 276 on the ship “were brought safely to land.” Was it all just physical salvation? Is there a future salvation for some who witnessed firsthand the power of God? Here is where the reader must speculate and come up with his/her own assumptions.

-Melissa New

What are You Waiting For?

Hebrews 9

Hebrews 9_27 28

Good morning!

Today’s chapter starts off with some details about how the tabernacle was set up.  It gives some great descriptions of exactly what it would look like and makes it very tangible for readers.  I love the little aside that the author gives at the end of verse 5 when they write “But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.”  It makes me smile because I imagine someone who is so excited about sharing everything they have with the Hebrews, but has to contain themselves because they know they have more important things to discuss.

Now on to the “more important” things!  At this point people would’ve known what priests had to do when going into the Most Holy Place and recognized the sacrifice that was required.  The author here is giving the background information for the rest of the message to show the significance of Christ.  It is explained that priests no longer had to go to a place made by humans that required continuing sacrifice of animals for forgiveness; Christ was able to enter the Most Holy Place by one sacrifice to obtain eternal redemption (vs. 11-12).  This would’ve been a big deal in this time!

Verse 14 and 15 are great verses to meditate on for this chapter!  “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ… cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” What a great verse to give us some perspective!  We have a Savior who offered himself as a completely perfect sacrifice ONE TIME for the redemption of our sins that should’ve led to death.  And why? So that we can not only serve the living God, but also so that we can be set free from our sins and receive eternal inheritance (vs. 15).  That is simply amazing, friends!

There is so much more in this chapter that we could really unpack, but I don’t need to write a whole book so we’ll finish off with the final verses 😊

When we look at verse 27 there are two really big pieces that we need to recognize.  The first is in verse 27 which reads “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…” This key factor on the morality of humans is one of the many reasons Christianity differs from other religions.  Here it says that people get one life to live, they die one time, and after will face judgment.  The second piece shows me that people have a lifetime to seek forgiveness for their sins.  It doesn’t say that we will face judgement after we do that one really bad sin, or that by the time we reach a certain age, etc.  We will face judgment after death.  With that in mind, we aren’t all guaranteed a long lifetime to seek that forgiveness.  Are you living each day as if you could be judged the next moment?  Are you continually serving the living God and asking for forgiveness when you fall short?  Those can be some sobering questions to ask yourself.

Finally, in verse 28, we get a glimpse of that hope we have.  “…And he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”  Jesus is coming again!  I want to be one of those who are waiting for him, and I hope you all do too!  Today, how can your actions, thoughts, words, and choices reflect that you are waiting on Jesus’ return?  Or, how can you encourage a brother or sister in Christ and remind them of his second coming?

-Sarah Blanchard

 

Kingdom Ticket – Paid

Will You Accept the Gift?

Hebrews 5_8,9

Hebrews Chapter Five

Hebrews chapter seven is known for being the chapter about Jesus being our high priest.  However, that theme is found in previous chapters, including chapter five.  Jesus being our high priest is one of the main themes of Hebrews.  God appointed Jesus to be our high priest.  Verse one shows us that the purpose of a high priest is “to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin.”  Jesus being our high priest acts on our behalf in relation to God.  He is our mediator between us and God.  Jesus being our high priest also offers a sacrifice for our sins.  A normal high priest like Aaron needs to offer sacrifices for his own sins and the sins of others.  However, Jesus had no need to offer a sacrifice for himself because he was sinless.  Rather, he offered himself up to be our permanent sacrifice for sins.  That is a sign of a high priest who loves us dearly.

One would think that since Jesus was perfect that he would not suffer.  However, Jesus “learned obedience through what he suffered,” (Heb 5:8).  Jesus truly did suffer when he was here on this earth.  Two examples that come to my mind are when Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died and when Jesus sweat tears of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane before he was crucified.  It’s through experiences like this that Jesus learned obedience.  It’s through experiences like this that we too can learn obedience.  It’s often through the most difficult times in life that people draw closer to God.  Job is a great example of this, as he lost nearly everything he had in one day.  However, he responded by worshipping and praising God.  He was brought closer to God and learned obedience through his suffering.

In verse nine, we see that “being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.”  Jesus truly was made perfect, and he was sinless.  He was the last person in the world who should have had to suffer on the cross.  However, because of his and our Heavenly Father’s great love, he did die and suffer on the cross.  Through his suffering on the cross, he became the source of eternal salvation!  Jesus paid our way to go to the Kingdom!  All we have to do is accept the free gift of God of eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.  Unfortunately, not everyone is going to accept that free gift.  Verse nine states that Jesus is “the source of eternal salvation to all WHO OBEY HIM.”  To accept the free gift of eternal life, we must obey Jesus.  We accept the gift through obedience and faith.  Similar to what we talked about yesterday, don’t belittle the consequences and meaning of sin because eternal salvation is granted to those who obey Jesus, not those who disobey.

Similar to the chapter break between chapters three and four, the chapter break between chapters five and six is an awkward break.  At the conclusion of chapter five, the author of Hebrews is talking about the difference between elementary and mature doctrines, and he continues the talk in chapter six.  The author compares the elementary and mature doctrines to milk and solid food.  A baby needs milk, and adults eat meat.  New Christians focus on the elementary doctrines, whereas the mature Christians should focus on the more mature doctrines.  Since it’s a weird chapter break, I also want to sneak peek to verse one as well.  Hebrews 6:1 states, “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity.”  Throughout the first six chapters of Hebrews we have seen some good proof to suggest that the Trinity may be false.  This is good proof as well.  Many people who claim they believe in the Trinity cannot even explain the Trinity themselves because it is so confusing and complex.  They have to use extra biblical illustrations to describe the Trinity.  The Trinity is anything but an elementary doctrine.  It is one of, if not the most, complicated doctrines out there.  However, the author of Hebrews states that the doctrine of Christ is supposed to be elementary.  Jesus being the Son of God does sound like an elementary doctrine to me, not the Trinity.  This is just some food for thought (pun intended).

I hope you have a great day!

In Christian love,

Kyle McClain