Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest (John 4:35). Soon after beginning his public ministry, Jesus turns to his small band of disciples and speaks these words. He goes out of his way to grab the attention of his listeners before making a simple statement.
When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Galatians 4:4-5).
We wish to see Jesus (John 12:21). These were the words of the Greeks who approached the apostle Philip when they came to the feast at Jerusalem. It is interesting to observe that these Gentiles were seeking Jesus while the Jewish leaders were plotting to put him to death. Their appearance points to the bringing in of the Gentiles and the blessing of the gospel they would soon enjoy.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11). How much do your worldly friends really love you? Movie or music stars you look up to? The employer who wants you to devote your life to climbing the corporate ladder? The cars, gadgets, carpet, or designer outfits you spend so much time dreaming about or delighting in?
My beloved, flee from idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14). Idols have a way of disappointing those who trust them. Because only God is God, everyone and anything that we put before God will fail us. Nothing and no one is as strong and faithful and good as God.
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:4). There is a theological point to make from this verse, because Paul is thanking God for his grace to believers. As he does continually in his letters, Paul is reminding the saints at Corinth that their faith, and their faithfulness, is by God’s grace and through Jesus Christ. Yet there is also a personal point not to be missed in this passage:
Although we often think and talk about God being good, loving — and even wrathful — the truth is that God is also supremely, perfectly, and always happy. One of the best modern equivalents for the idea of “blessedness” in the Greek language is “happy.”
Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4). The great sin of the city of Babel is not tower-building, or unified labor toward a societal goal. The sin of Babel is the sin of seeking independence from God.
You became an example to all the believers … [because] the word of the Lord sounded forth from you (1 Thessalonians 1:7-8). What is the church of Jesus Christ supposed to look like? There are many different descriptions given in Scripture, and many different saints and congregations held up as examples to follow.
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). We have no idea how deeply damaging the unconfessed sin in our life is. But we also cannot imagine how powerful and wise God’s forgiveness and cleansing will be.
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours (1 Corinthians 1:2). Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is an epistle written to straighten out a church with a host of serious problems. Yet as such it is helpful and enlightening and inspiring to see how Paul the theologian addresses his deep, rich theology to specific, messy, practical issues as Paul the pastor.
We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). What a sweeping, staggering claim this is! And yet Paul says we can know for certain that all the details of our lives are working together for our good, as believers in Jesus Christ. How do we know this?
We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Corinthians 1:23-25).
Puritan pastor Richard Baxter took an old Latin phrase and popularized it in his day, in English. It is simple, but profound: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” Why was Baxter so concerned to see Christians publicly, charitably, doctrinally unified? Baxter, writing in 17th century England about the evil effects of division in the church, made this observation:
The God of all grace [has] called you to his eternal glory in Christ (1 Peter 5:10). God is the God all grace, but he is not all grace — he is also holiness, wrath, justice, and strength. It is for this reason that the only way to go to God or receive blessings from him is through the way he has provided in Jesus Christ.