“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it“ (1 Corinthians 3:10). Paul emphasizes over and over again that his labors were “according to the grace of God.” In other words, we can only do what God enables us to do. We are only as strong or skillful or successful as God’s grace working in and through us. Have we been blessed to persevere in Christian service for several years or decades? We are
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16). Paul is speaking here to Christian believers, to those who have trusted their past, present, and future to Jesus as their Savior and Lord. And Paul reminds Christians that the Holy Spirit within us now gives us the true witness that we are his. The Spirit, it is important for us to recognize, is not lying to us. This is not merely some pep talk that the Spirit gives us, in order to make us feel better:
Paul, in the middle of a praise-hymn to God in Christ, makes the astounding claim that He is “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think,” because of the power that is working in Christian believers (Ephesians 3:20). God is able! He is able to do what we ask; he is able to do more than we think; he is able to do above all that we can ask or think. And this doesn’t just mean that God is capable of answering more prayers than we are asking; it also means he is answering
True faith is an act of the will, in the sense that God gives us a new will in the new birth, along with faith (John 1:12-13; Ephesians 2:8). God does not make us robots; he successfully woos our hearts. Faith is not merely an act of the will, because it is also the act of the Holy Spirit in our souls, drawing us to Jesus Christ, and bringing us to trust in him as he is revealed in his Word (James 1:18).
I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27). Paul, writing to the church at Corinth to correct their problems, confesses that he himself has to be careful to avoid sin. In fact Paul intimates he goes to great lengths — disciplining his body, keeping himself under control — to avoid the pitfalls of willful sin. But why? Did Paul not believe in the perseverance of the saints, or in the eternal security of believers?
Paul tells Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12) and to “wage the good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18). Clearly conflict is to be part of our Christian life — but conflict with whom or what? We will search the Scriptures in vain for the idea that the conflict is supposed to be with other genuine Christians. It is a conflict with sin, with Satan, and with false doctrine that undermines the fundamentals of the Christian faith.
Godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6). What do you need right now? What would make you genuinely, blissfully, permanently happy if you just had it right now? Ultimately, the answers to that question fall into one of just two categories: either “gain is godliness” or “godliness is gain.”
Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied” (1 Samuel 17:45). David was victorious over Goliath because he trusted the invisible God with very real and visible and impending problems. But remember this! It is easy to look at someone else’s successful battle, after the fact, and take for granted the outcome.
Those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified (Romans 8:30). Here Paul lays out the Ordo salutis, the order of salvation. He describes for us the consecutive steps by which God accomplishes the work of redemption in each person’s life.
Do not fear, only believe (Mark 5:36). As you read this, you may at this moment be filled with hope and expectation … or you may be filled with dread and anxiety about the future. Either way, Jesus’ simple words to a suffering man speak volumes. Jesus invites us to rest in him, now and always. But why should we trust Jesus? How can we be certain that he has our best in mind, or that he is working for our good?
Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God (Genesis 6:9). In the midst of the Flood narrative, in which we are told that God saw all the world as corrupt and decided to destroy every breathing creature, we read in contrast that Noah was righteous, blameless, and walked with God. From there, of course, we learn that out of all humanity, only Noah and his family were saved from the Flood. The obvious question that this passage forces on us is this: what kind of person escapes the judgment of God?
Jesus paradoxically describes those as happy who are poverty-stricken in their souls. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). As upside-down and inside-out as this may sound, if we believe Jesus then we certainly want to know what he is talking about. What does it mean to be “poor in spirit”?
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain (1 Corinthians 15:1-2). Paul’s expression of the Christian gospel in 1 Corinthians 15 is well known as one of the chief apologetic passages in the New Testament.
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.
The old British divine Matthew Henry refers to the practice of praying God’s Word back to God as “wrestling with God in his own strength.” For this reason, I love to peruse the Bible for prayers to make my own. And one of my favorite passages to pray is Psalm 25. As we look forward to a new year, I don’t know what changes, purposes, or opportunities await each of us, but I am confident that “good and upright is the LORD” and that, “therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and