The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us… (Titus 2:11-12). The grace of God that saves us also trains us. God’s grace teaches us to adorn the gospel with our behavior (Titus 2:9-10), to deny ungodly desires (Titus 2:12), to live well in this present age (Titus 2:12), and to look for the coming of our Savior (Titus 2:13-14).
The fifth chapter of Ephesians opens with the startling, unrelenting admonition to be “imitators of God” (Ephesians 5:1). The word translated imitators is the same word from which we get our word “mimic.” What a command! “Be like God.” How can we take this in? Where do we even start in such a daunting pursuit as God-likeness?
A few years ago the Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a lawsuit with a federal appeals court, demanding that an Ohio judge remove a poster displaying the Ten Commandments from his courtroom. The Americans United executive director explained that, “It’s obvious that he is using his courtroom to advance his personal religious viewpoint. That’s wrong, and the appeals court should say so.” One has to wonder what objective standard the AUSCS is using to decide “right” and “wrong,” having thrown out the Ten Commandments.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). After Paul fervently prayed for God to remove a particular trial from his life, he received an answer.
I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Notice that Paul couches the amazing Christian claim that “Christ died for our sins” in both Scriptural and historical language: “in accordance with the scriptures.”
Of the eight speeches by Paul detailed by Luke in the book of Acts, the address in Acts 20 to the Ephesian elders is the only pastoral one. In fact, it is the only public discourse recorded in Acts that is addressed to a Christian audience—which clearly indicates how purposeful and proactive the early church was in reaching out to the unbelieving world with the gospel!
In Psalm 23 David famously writes, “The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” Though these words are familiar to most Christians, I wonder how much time most Christians have spent actually thinking about what this simple statement means. What truth is David here expressing about God, and what does it mean for us as believers?
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Although there is of course more to the fullness of Christian teaching than the brief creed the apostle Paul shares here, this what comes “of first importance”; this is the heart of the Christian gospel, the essential truths that separate Christians from non-Christians.
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).
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:
James is famous for his bold, convicting rebukes regarding the use of our tongue. But it is important to see that James’ discussion of the tongue is just one illustration of the many ways that we all offend God: “We all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body” (3:2).
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.
In studying through a difficult passage of Scripture recently, I came across a quote from Charles Spurgeon that applies to every passage of Scripture: “My love of consistency with my own doctrinal views is not great enough to allow me knowingly to alter a single text of Scripture. I have great respect for orthodoxy, but my reverence for inspiration is far greater.
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.