(1 Corinthians 1:1-3)
It is often easy to gloss over the first few verses of the letters in the New Testament as they generally contain things like greetings to the brethren and to whom the letters are addressed.
We are all saints
But it is worth looking at how these greetings are made for there are often insights we can gain from those greetings. And the opening verses of the first letter to the Corinthians is no exception.
As I read this letter before writing today there were two words that stuck out for me and they were “Sanctify” and “Saint” and it is this that we will look at today.
The gospel that was to come through Jesus Christ and the teachings of the new covenant were a mystery to all those who lived before His first coming. But no longer. The mystery has been revealed.
to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. - Romans 16:27
These are the final words Paul wrote to the Roman church as he finished this most informative and significant letter, which God saw fit to provide in His bible for us down to this day.
Nowhere else in the bible is this mystery of the gospel of Jesus Christ so clearly and concisely revealed. The book of Romans lays out step by step how we are to progress in the new covenant as we walk the path to life in Jesus Christ.
In these last verses of Romans 16 Paul warns the church to be aware of those who create divisions and dissensions in the church.
Dissension will break the heart of the church
Paul knew full well that there would be such people come into the church for this was prophesied by the Lord Jesus Christ who said at various times there would be wolves in sheep's clothing come amongst the church. And the mindset of a wolf is to tear apart, divide and kill, and this is what these dissenting and devious people do also.
So let us be aware and look well at the words that Paul wrote here. In the previous verses in my last posts, we saw the importance of harmony in the church and to greet one another with brotherly love. Here we see Paul warning us to be on our guard when that harmony is unbalanced and when the greetings are not returned or are insincere.
In this last chapter of Romans Paul instructs the church to greet various of the disciples in the churches on his behalf. It is clear that these greetings are not a simple formal acknowledgement of those people but rather are a warm, friendly and heartfelt joy the Paul feels for each of these different people.
Greet the brethren
Paul in his humility recognizes the service that these different disciples have afforded both himself and the church. He speaks of sacrifices made and works done by those ones on his behalf and the behalf of many others. Some of these are people we recognize from other writings while others are mentioned only here.
It is evident also that some of these people are well recognized in the early church even though we do not know today who they were or what they did. Consider for instance two of those mentioned,
Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. – (Romans 16:7)
These two were converts before Paul's Damascus Road experience when he came to Christ and these two people were also well known to the apostles in Jerusalem. But what they did and who they were is something of a mystery to us today. And in truth knowing them is not particularly important.
Much of this section of scripture pertains to Paul speaking of his own ministry. The Lord called Paul specifically to preach the gospel to the Gentiles to bring the Gentile nations to the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ.
Sustaining the church
We then see Paul continue ministering in the letters he wrote to the churches he established. These letters defined the processes of the New Covenant; how it works, what it is, why it is the way it is and what they and we today need to learn and understand if we are to come into the fullness of all that God promised to those who seek Him through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.
What we also see in these verses from Romans 15 is Paul's satisfaction with the early church in Rome saying they now had all they needed to be self-sustaining. It is this message too that we need to recognize today for it is quite different to how many modern ministers and ministries operate.
The coming of the Lord Jesus Christ some two thousand years ago was a pivotal point for all peoples of the world. It was the marking of the end of one age and the beginning of the next age, and the precise point at which the change took place was at the death of Jesus Christ.
Hope For All
In His death He issued in and ratified the New Covenant and by it all mankind entered this age of hope.
The prior age was the age of selection through descendancy. It was where those who were chosen to be God's people were selected on the basis of being the descendants of Abraham who was called “the friend of God”. In that age it was the physical, fleshly descendants of Abraham who were the special chosen people of God. And in that age the law was given to rule and control the weaknesses of the people and priests were appointed to teach the people wisdom.
But this all changed at the death of Jesus when the new age came into being. The age of hope for all mankind began.
As Christians we are being trained to live in harmony, first with God and secondly with one another. This is the aim of our call to Jesus Christ, to be able to live harmoniously so that we may inherit he kingdom of God and live in peace with Jesus Christ and God the Father.
Live in harmony
But the enemy is also at work sowing the seeds of disharmony and destruction amongst the brethren of the churches. He would like to see all Christians fail to find a place of harmony where they are following the ways of God, and it is because of the work of the devil that we see the disharmony that afflicts the church and has done so for many years.
This should not be so. It is not right that the brethren of the church disagree. There is much that is taught in the churches that is not based upon the truth of the gospel and the words of the Lord, and it is because of such false teaching and lies in the doctrine of the church that disagreements flare.
So what can we do about it? We may not be able to fix the broad church, but we have a responsibility to ensure that our own standing with God is in harmony with Him. And that is the exhortation that comes through these verses in Romans 15.
What is the Bible? What is it about this book that has made it the number one best selling book of all time?
In my opinion, the bible is not just another book full of interesting stories and rules for living. No, it is much, much more than that.
The bible is the Book of Life. It contains the words of God given to man for the purpose of teaching man how to live in accordance with God's will. It provides teachings, examples, methods and instruction that if followed will lead us to life, both a better life now and a future everlasting life.
No other book written by man can do this or has the power to do this and the reason why is that every other book on earth is written by man. But the bible is written by God. It is the inspired words of God written down and recorded by faithful and just men for the purpose of bringing man back into communion with God.
When Christ Jesus came to the earth He preached the gospel of the good news of the kingdom of God and established the means by which man could be reconciled to God and enter His kingdom.he selected disciples and taught them all they would need to know to make more disciples and to deal with the issues of this life as they walked with Him.
Encourage one another
And then Jesus left. He left because He had no choice but to leave. He had to die otherwise we would not be able to enter the kingdom of God because the new covenant, through which we enter this new life of the spirit, could not come into being without the offering of a perfect sacrifice. Jesus Christ was the perfect sacrifice.
But before Jesus left, he established the brotherhood of Christians that is the church. And one of the key purposes of the church, both as individuals within it and collectively as a body, is to support and encourage one another.
It is a fine line that we walk as Christians for we need to always be aware of what we hold to by faith. There are many things that people believe that have no basis in the bible, and many other things that are held as forms of Christianity that are based on twisted, wrong and even invented beliefs.
Faith vs. doubt. A spiritual contest for your life
The challenge for all of us is to sift the truth from error and hold fast to what is good while we reject what is evil.
But in that process as we learn, there will be doubts. And doubts do us no good at all for doubt is what kills faith. Doubt is the antithesis of faith and while strength in the Lord is based upon faith, doubt brings weakness, destruction and death.