This series of posts pertains to the life of the Apostle Paul and the way Jesus Christ lived in him. Since God has no favorites, his life in Christ is a pattern for Christ's life in you. (I also have three completed books available for browsing or free download on the Downloads page.)
God, in Christ, leads us in triumphal procession (Day 21)
An excerpt from Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth:
'When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia. But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.'
2 Corinthians 2:12-17
“When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there…”
Here Paul spoke of a time on his second missionary journey where he was forbidden by the Spirit to preach in Asia and Bithynia (Day 9). In Troas, Asia, where he was called to preach in Macedonia, he felt in his spirit a door opened for him and an urging to go to Macedonia, where he built churches in Philippi (Day 9), Thessalonica and Berea (Day 12). Paul certainly followed the Spirit of God when it came to where he should minister on any given day.
“...But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere…”
As God’s stewards, God speaks through our lips. Yet, we are not peddlers of (or those who corrupt) God’s word and the gospel, trying to alter it in such a way as to sell life in God as one sells some product. In fact, most of the ministry that Christ has for us to do cannot be done from behind the pulpit or from social media posts.
In the risen, regnant Christ, we have been made the righteousness of God. Christ’s righteousness was characterized by a lifestyle that produced victory in every situation, and He is our example. Since His sacrifice was a triumph rather than a failure, Christ, who Himself was led by the indwelling Spirit of God that connected Him to the Father, also makes such victory possible for us, led by His indwelling Spirit, which connects us to Christ and the Father. Christ has always been victorious over evil, sin, sickness and death. Christ is now enthroned with all power and authority, and we are alive in Him.
Recreated with and in Jesus Christ— and having taken on His own ministry as members of His body, we are always led in triumphal procession! Christ dwells in us, never leaving us. Christ touches with our hands, walks with our feet, embraces with our arms, hears with our ears, and sees with our eyes. In Christ, our tread is the march of the conqueror—we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37) because our God fights for us when we act on our faith. In Christ, our song is the song of victory. In Christ, our crown is the crown of glory.
In Christ, we need not even fight, but only to enforce His victory in all things on the basis of His finished work. It is legally finished on the basis of His bruised body at the whipping post and His blood shed for us on the cross. In Christ, we should expect to overcome, and we should not allow any opportunities to demonstrate the love of God pass us up. Christ didn’t let any any such opportunities pass Him up. Following Christ’s lead, we do unto others as we would have it done unto us (Matthew 7:12). He showed us what that looked like in His ministry; He taught the disciples to do just as He did, never suggesting they could do less.
Having already been anointed by the earnest of God’s Spirit that dwells in us (Day 20), we are all commissioned and empowered by God to carry on Christ’s work as ministers with the Spirit of God as our absolute guide. We don’t need a special leading from God to obey His commandments. Instead, if we desire to join God in His work and to see Him manifest His presence, we need to line up with His commission and keep His commandments. This is our spiritual worship and reasonable service; it’s on His terms.
“...as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.”
First, our words in and of themselves are actions based on choice; we speak out of the abundance of what is in our soul and our character (Matthew 12:34). Regarding our soul, the thought patterns and strongholds we have built up in our minds have been built up by our choices.
Second, our spoken words are powerful. We see this from the examples of Jesus’ life, Peter’s life, Paul’s life, considering what was accomplished by their spoken word (e.g., Matthew 17:18-20).
Third, our words are spoken in the presence of spiritual beings, including God, who will judge us according to what we have spoken (Matthew 12:36-37, Acts 3:4-6, Acts 14:8-10).
Fourth, as children of God, stewards of what is His, and representatives of His in this world, we speak and we act on God’s behalf.
With our mouths, we can bless (praise) God and bless others. We can speak life (zoe), light, and love (agape) from God’s word. With our mouths, we can sow good, from which we will reap good, or we can sow what is bad, from which we will reap what is bad. With our mouths, we can speak what is in our unrenewed minds or we can speak from the mind of Christ; we have been made one with the Lord (1 Corinthians 2:16, 6:17). With our mouths, we can speak from unbelief, or we can speak from faith. We can forbid and we can permit (Matthew 16:19). We can choose to say things that wound ourselves, wound others, and grieve the Spirit of God that dwells in us. The Holy Spirit chooses not to act against our will, so we may quench the Spirit by what we choose to say (1 Thessalonians 5:19), which at times expresses our will and our belief about what is to happen.
Since we are all in Christ and are commissioned by God to go and make disciples, carrying on Christ’s own ministry until He comes again, we should be careful about what we choose to say, speaking what is in accordance with God’s word, His nature, and His report (Isaiah 53:1, Romans 10:16), speaking of the triumph of God rather than the defeat, in all of its forms, that was characteristic of our lives before we were in Christ.
Prayer: Jesus, I thank You for Your triumph in Your life and ministry, in Your death, in Your resurrection, and in Your glorification. Father, thank You for who You have made me in the glorified body of Christ Jesus. Thank You for making me righteous. I seek first Your kingdom and Your righteousness. Spirit of God, I submit myself to Your leading. Spirit, I honor You and I trust in You for spiritual results— for victory after victory. Christ, I will follow You always in Your triumphal procession until everything is put under Your feet.
Suffering, healing, and the promises of God (Day 20)
Thus begins Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth:
'Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many… I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea. Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.'
2 Corinthians 1:1-11,16-24
“…Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God that is at Corinth…”
Paul, identifying himself as an apostle, or church builder, wrote this second letter with his traveling companion Timothy (from Lystra, Galatia in present day Turkey) rather than with Sosthenes (from Corinth, Achaia in present day Greece). He wrote to all the saints in Achaia that he visited during his second missionary journey. Drawing on resources available to all in Christ’s body, he first blessed the readers and hearers of his message, a cherished part of the body, with the grace and peace of God from the Father and the Son. He did not ask God to give them grace and peace; instead, as a steward, Paul gave it on behalf of God, knowing it was in His will.
“…Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction...”
Paul’s expectation was that those who had publicly identified themselves with Christ would share in Christ’s sufferings, as Paul had, and would also receive the comfort of the Father of mercies, the God of all comfort. The affliction and suffering Paul spoke of related to their rejection and persecution as believers. This suffering is a result of the will of unbelievers toward followers of Christ, and God does not usually force those made in His image and likeness to change their will. As such, today there is always some cost in following Jesus. In certain parts of the world, Christ followers tend to experience much more persecution, in ways similar to that experienced by Christians in Paul’s time. In any case, Jesus called believers to rejoice in the persecution they receive (Matthew 5:9-12). God comforts us in this suffering, drawing us near to Him. Stimulated by our faith, God may also deliver us and shield us from some effects of persecution (Isaiah 54:19, Luke 10:19, Ephesians 6:16).
“For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself…”
The affliction that Paul spoke of next was different: Paul and some of his traveling companions became sick while traveling in Asia, despairing of life and feeling as if they received a death sentence that was beyond their strength to endure. This infirmity caused them to depend upon God, the One who raises the dead. Paul, in particular, had consecrated himself to God in a threefold manner: spirit, soul, and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23). He had encouraged other believers to do the same.
Trusting in God as their healer (Exodus 15:26), Jehovah Rapha delivered them from their deadly sickness. Paul suggested here that believers are to set their hope on Him and expect such deliverance. The believers prayed for them at the time of their sickness, also expecting God to deliver them. The result of God’s mercy and faithfulness in answering prayers to heal is to be thanksgiving. We depend upon God, and He is faithful.
While God does not necessarily deliver believers from all suffering or affliction related to persecution from their obedience as followers of Jesus Christ, it is His will to deliver believers from suffering and affliction due to sickness or disease. Trusting in Jesus as our deliverer and our healer, we can expect to recover. We can know it is not finished until what is written has come to pass: “by His wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
“For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus [Silas] and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him…”
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ brought the fulfillment of all of the promises of God to God’s people. In the new covenant, God’s people changed from the faith-filled, who had been mostly among the people of Israel, to any who would put their faith in and choose to follow Jesus. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham:
'I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” '
Through Jesus, all nations of the earth are blessed, as all of them will contain parts of God’s church. Since in Christ, the church possesses the gate of God’s enemies (Matthew 16:18), which attempt to withhold good from people, they now have access to all of the goodness that God desires to unleash to His people (Colossians 2:13-15). In Christ, we in the church have all of the promises of God that are received by faith. The Apostle Peter put it the following way:
'His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. '
2 Peter 1:3-4
Through God’s promises, we become partakers of the divine nature of God, and we are given all things that pertain to life (zoe) and godliness. It is God’s will that as we seek to be made like Jesus Christ in all things, cooperating with the Spirit of God, God will conform us to His image, and we (in the church) will take on His characteristics, including His own kind of love (Romans 8:29). These characteristics are the fruit pleasing to God.
In Christ, we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3), made as heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17)! In Christ, we may trust that our prayers of faith are answered, saying Amen, or “so be it.” Abiding in Christ, we trust His words:
'Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. '
'If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples… These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full… You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. '
Four times in close succession, Jesus said we will receive from Him whatever we ask (aiteo)! Aiteo is translated as ask, desire, beg, require, crave, or call for. Everything we desire or crave for God’s glory, we shall receive, when believing that it is ours in Christ, according to His word. This makes our joy full.
If it’s in His word, it is His will. It is settled. Let us hold onto His word, knowing what the end result will be, until He performs it.
“...And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee…”
In Christ, the entire church is anointed of God. Thus, we in the church need not seek any other anointing. We need not wait for a feeling; but rather, we need to step out in faith, believing God’s word: “May it be unto me according to Your word” (Luke 1:38). We are heirs of God, having what He has. As our proof here, we have been given the Spirit of God as a guarantee, or as an earnest. An earnest was in past times embodied as some soil from a plot of land that had just been purchased. This is what the Spirit of God is to us: a taste of things to come as heirs. As previously mentioned (see Day 18), the taste includes “words” of revelation: wisdom, knowledge, discernment; the power of God in faith, healing and miracles; inspiration from God in prophecy, tongues, and its interpretation.
Prayer: Glory to You, God, for the breadth and depth of Your goodness to us in Christ Jesus. Thank You for connecting us to You that we may share in the fullness of life with You, as You have planned. Thank You for the richness of the gift of Your Holy Spirit. I depend on You for all things, my God, my deliverer and my healer. Thank You, Jesus, for Your finished work. Thank You, God, for the opportunity here to join and be identified with Christ in all things, even in persecution.
Love is at the center of God and the building up of His church (Day 19)
In the midst of a discussion of manifestations of the Spirit of God in the church in Chapters 12 and 14, Paul wrote the following:
'If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.'
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Paul’s discussion of manifestations of the Spirit continued:
' Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church… So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church. Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue. '
1 Corinthians 14:1-4,12-19
Paul next moved to prophesying:
'Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet… Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit… But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.'
1 Corinthians 15:24-25,45,57-58
Near the end of his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote:
“Let all that you do be done in love.”
1 Corinthians 16:14
“... Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast…”
1 Corinthians 13, often read at weddings, is the clearest expression in the Bible of Godlike love (agape). The chapter starts by considering the motivation for the good works that we do. If they do not originate out of Godlike love, none of our good works for God matter, even if done through God’s Spirit (see Day 18 for a discussion of spiritual gifts). God seeks that His benevolent love would move to the core of who we are, how we respond to Him, and how we respond to others. In this, we would come to truly reflect God’s own image and nature; we are His glory.
The Spirit of God spoke through Paul to describe God’s unending love within a person the following way: rejoicing with the truth, kind, patient, bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, enduring all things. God’s love in a person does not envy, boast, or rejoice in wrongdoing. It does not act arrogantly or rudely. It does not become irritated or resentful.
Do you want to be loved this way?
Do you love others this way?
Everybody wants to be loved this way: to know the love of God for them and to have it expressed by others to them.
Only our cooperation with the sanctifying work of the indwelling Holy Spirit, our Helper (John 15:26), can cause us to love the way Jesus Christ loves. Jesus didn’t just love His family and His disciples—those closest to Him; He saw and He loved the multitudes, and, because of His love, He took responsibility for them and He did good to them. He went about showing us how to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. He gave of all that He had available from the Spirit of God that dwelled in Him, connecting Him to the Father.
When we are new creations in Christ, our will is our own, and we may still submit to be led by our spirit, our soul (mind), or our body. Godlike love is what the Spirit of God has put into our spirit in our new creation. It is not soulish, so it is not motivated by fear, reciprocity, reason, nor self-interest. It is not just a love between equals nor even the natural love of a parent for a child. It does not stem from passion or need (eros), which is not steadfast. We can only truly love when we know it’s not about us at all.
When we cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit in us to grow in benevolent love (agape), we take on more and more of God’s divine nature of good will toward all. We come to think of others the way God does, considering what redemption has made possible for them, knowing God may change them even as He is changing us. So we do not think poorly of others, nor do we take offense at them, no matter what they may do to us or those we love. Our old self that would have taken offense was crucified with Christ and no longer lives. Christ now lives in us, and so we come to genuinely desire God’s best for them; we do for them what we would want done for ourselves. This is His command— to love as He has loved.
“...For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away…”
This world we find ourselves in contains a mix of good and evil, the result of God and of Satan and their kingdoms. (Let us not deny the existence of Satan nor the effects of sin. To do so would attribute the evil to God and deny the truth of Scripture.) God in His perfection is the source of all of the good, and, by His Spirit, He has revealed glimpses of truth at times (as discussed on Day 18). In these times where the Holy Spirit has already been poured out on all who are in Christ, much of His story has been written and revealed to us, showing us the depth of the wisdom and the love of God.
Each of us is fully known by our Creator God, made in God’s perfect image and likeness. When we were children, we did not know this; even when mature in faith, we only see, through faith in God’s word, part of what God has in store for us in His plan. Our faith has eyes to see who we are and what we are to do today, and we hope in the promises of God for tomorrow, knowing how good God is. With faith in God’s word as truth, we are enabled to see ourselves as God sees us. Knowing who we are and what God has for us to do, we as the church are able to reflect God to the world around us. Knowing it is love (agape) at the core of His image, we are primarily supposed to reflect that love in everything we say and everything we do. God meant for His church to meet the needs of the world.
“...Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.…”
We are not to ignore the way the Spirit of God desires to work in the world because we think it is weird, because some people have abused it for their own gain, because we have agreed with others who have said God does not work that way anymore, or because we do not want to live the kind of consecrated life that welcomes the Holy Spirit to become manifest. Manifestations of God’s Spirit in His church are the supernatural means provided through God’s Spirit in us to share His love, presence, and power with unbelievers and to build the church up in love. There is something in each one of us that is excited about and that welcomes the supernatural. The Spirit’s ways are God’s ways, and God is passionate about building His church. God wants His Spirit in His church, Christ’s new, glorified body, in fullness, just as the Spirit was in Christ in fullness during His earthly ministry (John 1:16, Acts 10:38, Ephesians 1:23, Ephesians 4:13, Colossians 1:19). Thus, we are both to pursue (agape) love and to earnestly desire these manifestations of the Spirit of God among us.
“...So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church…”
We are to pursue more of the fullness of God in ourselves, as it is His will to conform us more and more into the perfect image bearer, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:19,29). While we pursue this, we are to get up and use the abilities and the spiritual gifts God has given us, seeking above all else to excel in building up God’s beloved church. Aligning ourselves with God’s purposes and plans, this is where God wants us to principally put our time, attention, energy, and resources. He has made His will for us clear through His Word. In doing this, we please God and we invest in what is eternal. We participate together in building God’s kingdom for His glory. We are faithful to God’s command to go and make disciples. Christ’s glorified body in the world continues to do what He did before, yet in multiplied form.
Have you come to love God’s church like He loves it?
“...Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful…”
This counsel from Paul reinforces his teaching to the Thessalonian church of the separation between spirit and soul (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Paul also understood and experienced within his spirit a processing center other than the conventional one associated with one’s soul: the mind. It is the spirit. The mind and the spirit can operate independently, or they can operate at the same time, one not interfering with the other. Tongues and prophecy originate from our spirits, which are connected to the living God. Out of our spirits, we can pray or sing praise. Paul had conscious choice regarding what he would do in his spirit, just as he had with his mind. He spoke in tongues more than the rest of the Corinthian church, which was a source of edification and strength to him. It set him apart.
Regarding the interplay of our soul and spirit, Paul taught that believers can fan into flame, or stir up, the gift of God that is in us, the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 1:6). Notice that He did not teach we were to wait for the Spirit of God to stir us up, or to wait for the Spirit of God to fall. Paul fanned into flame that gift of God that dwelled continually in him, perhaps principally by speaking in tongues more than all of the Corinthians. If you are in Christ, the Spirit of God dwells in you continuously! Paul also taught that it was necessary for us in the church to choose to cooperate with the Spirit of God to put on Christ, intentionally taking out of our spirit that which God has put there in His new creation within us (2 Corinthians 5:17), taking off and replacing our old self with the new (Ephesians 4:22-23, Romans 12:1-2).
“...Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet…”
Paul prophesied that the plan of God the Father is for Jesus Christ to continue to reign with authority at God’s right hand, bringing freedom and doing good to destroy the works of the devil (Genesis 3:15, Acts 10:38, 1 John 3:8), until all of Satan’s kingdom is under His feet. Jesus Christ does this through the authority given to Him by the Father based on His finished work, which empowered the church in Paul’s day and continues to empower God’s church today. We are in His body, and, in Christ, every rule, authority, and power is under Christ’s feet, or it is soon to be put there.
‘...Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit…’
While we were in submission to Satan (along with his world system) and self, our spirits were dead. Yet, Jesus Christ became a life-giving spirit that overcame Satan in every rule, authority and power. When we identify with Jesus Christ on His terms, we receive the resurrection life of God (zoe) that restores our direct connection to Him, that restores our position as sons and daughters of God, and that is able to conquer any effect of sin and death. We are the royalty of God, His own family. We are in Christ’s body, having become one Spirit with Him, enabled to plug into His own soul (mind, will and emotions)!
“...But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ…”
Paul encouraged all of the church to be steadfast in the faith of Jesus and to be about the work that Jesus and His disciples had to date been about. In Christ, set about to do all of God’s will and His word, we can expect to be victorious, just as the seventy disciples were when they returned from what Jesus sent them out to do (Luke 10:1-24). And they didn’t yet have God’s Spirit living in them as we do!
“...Let all that you do be done in love…”
Near the end of Paul’s letter, he reminded the church to align themselves with God’s heart as shown best through Jesus: “Let all that you do be done in love.” This starts with thinking on God’s steadfast, committed, covenant love and forming thought patterns that start from God’s love. It is enhanced by daily prayer wherein we can seek to be infused by God’s own love and compassion. As part of the answer to our prayers, we then need to speak out of love and act out of love, rather than our own prejudices or negative behaviors, seeking to actualize God’s love plan in the lives of others. As Christ’s body in the world, we are the stewards and the ambassadors of God’s love. We are to continue His ministry to demonstrate God’s love. His love is to become our consuming passion.
Prayer: I praise You, Lord God, for love is at Your core and You love so completely. Your perfect love is what I need. It is what everyone needs. As I abide in You, I pray that You would perfect me in Your love and perfect my church in Your love. Cooperating with Your Spirit, I seek to build up Your beloved church. Help me, Spirit of God, to reflect Your kind of love to everyone that You have put around me. Be glorified.
Paul's teachings on communion and spiritual gifts (Day 18)
Paul continued his first letter to the church in Corinth:
‘For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.’
1 Corinthians 11:23-34 ESV
“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many... But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body…And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.”
I Corinthians 12:4-14, 18-20, 26-31 NKJV
Jesus taught the following regarding communion before it came to His first communion with the disciples:
'So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” '
In communion, the bread Jesus blessed represented His body that was broken for them, the bread of life. Jesus taught there is eternal life in it.
About this body, Peter wrote:
'He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. '
1 Peter 2:24
The wine represented Jesus’ blood that was shed, the blood of the new covenant, the New Testament, that changed everything for humanity.
“...Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner…”
Paul taught that we should examine and judge ourselves in communion with the Lord, and that the body, the bread of life, should be discerned, as it impacts our health in this world: “anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” It is hard to take this statement any other way than Paul wrote it. Regarding this body of Christ, His first body in the world, that bore our sins on a tree, Peter taught, “By his wounds you have been healed.” This is a work that was finished because of Christ’s wounds (Isaiah 53:5, Matthew 8:16-17). Jesus Christ regularly healed people as part of His ministry; at one time He referred to this as the children’s bread (Matthew 15:22-28). The Apostle Peter regularly healed people in demonstration of the gospel in order to build the church and make disciples, just as Paul did (e.g., see Day 6, Day 14). (For more on Peter’s life, see my book Experiencing Jesus through Peter.) Discerning Christ’s body, any who are in Christ, having become children of God, are able to stand in faith on the benefits of Christ’s finished work for them, taking it as done. We can take God at His word (Romans 4:16-24).
Regarding Christ’s new, glorified body in the world, Paul wrote, “But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.” Let us also discern this body of Christ! If you are in Christ, you are part of Christ’s glorified body. Whomever God has joined to Himself in Christ, let us never try to separate from His body. God loves the unity of His church; Christ died so all of His family members might live in Him and with Him! As Christ commanded, let us never hold anything against a brother or sister, but instead pursue peace (Matthew 5:9,21-26,43-48). Jesus Christ desires that His body be healthy, and His sacrifice enabled this to happen, empowered by the indwelling Spirit of God.
Communion is also to be taken as means of intimacy, of abiding in Christ: “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” He is the True Vine, His followers are the branches, and the Father is the vinedresser (John 15:1-5). In the kingdom of God which has come upon us in Christ, it continues the intimacy Christ had with His followers in the upper room. The kingdom is no longer near; instead, it has come with the new covenant of His blood, “the fruit of the vine,” shed for us. In Christ, God makes us intimately at one with Him in covenant relationship, generously giving to us what is His. This is consistent with what Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, “ For all things are yours…all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (Day 17).
“...There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.…”
God has all power and all miraculous ability, yet in this life He chooses to manifest Himself and His power in certain ways. The ways of the Spirit haven’t changed significantly between the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the present time. Some in the church are hesitant to (or insistent not to) put focus on supernatural works or gifts of the Spirit through believers because there have been many related abuses by Christians and those who would call themselves Christians in the past decades. Just because some have misrepresented Christ though does not mean we should try to throw out the practice of the Spirit’s supernatural working altogether. God gives these manifestations of His Spirit for the building up of His church, and Christ’s body should be welcomed to function as God would have it to function. It’s also noteworthy that the Bible only refers to these functions of the Spirit of God in a believer as gifts in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, and the Corinthian church was not well functioning.
“...for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit…to another discerning of spirits…”
God gives not only diversities of natural knowledge and wisdom to believers but also pieces, or words, of supernatural revelations of wisdom, knowledge and discernment to them. When any of God’s servants, including Isaiah, prophesied about the future, foretelling what was to come, it was the Spirit of God who gave them wisdom about what was to come. In a number of his letters, Paul also foretold what would happen in the last days (e.g., 1 Timothy 4:1). When God’s servants were given knowledge of things present through intuition from God, such as Elisha’s knowledge of the plans of the Syrians (2 Kings 6:12), it was through words of knowledge. When Paul showed the ability to discern spirits, such as the spirit in Elymas the magician (Day 5) or the one that told the future in the woman who followed Paul around (Day 9), this discernment was given to him through the Holy Spirit. All of these revelations are given to God’s servants— those who have taken on God’s will as their own. We might also refer to them as sons and daughters rather than servants; they are of the family of God, doers of His word (Luke 8:21).
“...to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles…”
When they lived by the faith of the Son of God (Galatians 2:20, KJV), the Spirit of God worked through the apostles, Paul included, in power. Having the kind of faith Jesus has is a work of the Spirit of God in the life of a believer. This kind of bold faith protected Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:17-25) and Daniel in the den of lions (Daniel 6:10-23). It was by Paul and Silas’ faith that they were freed from prison (Day 9). It was by the faith of the apostles that Paul was raised up after he was stoned— and also healed (Day 7). It was by faith that Paul was protected when he was bit by the viper (Acts 28:3-6). It was through faith in Jesus’ name that Paul healed the cripped man (Day 6) and so many at Ephesus (Day 14). It was by the miraculous power of the Spirit that Paul caused Elymas to be stricken blind for a time, causing the governor to believe that the gospel was true (Day 5). It was also miraculous that Paul was present in spirit with the Corinthian church at a time when he was not physically present (1 Corinthians 5:3-5).
“...to another prophecy, …to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues…”
God gives these spiritual functions of inspiration—prophecy, tongues, and interpretation of tongues— for the building up of the church in love. The Spirit of God causes believers to speak out of their spirits in poetry of a different language than they know, and the Spirit causes them to understand the tongues spoken from the spirit of others through their own spirits. Tongues are for the worship of God and for the spiritual edification of the believer. With interpretation (i.e., when understood by a hearer), tongues can also be a sign for unbelievers. Tongues are the only new manifestation of the Spirit in the New Testament, as Jesus told His disciples before He left that those who believe “will speak in new tongues” (Mark 16:17). Referring back to Paul’s description of the work of the Spirit in believers, in such tongues or in their own language they may prophecy. Prophecy might be viewed as speaking in tongues with interpretation. Functions of prophecy may include edification, exhortation, and comfort, the speaking of truth, or foretelling. As part of prophecy, the Spirit of God may provide revelation through words of knowledge or words of wisdom. Prophecy should be judged according to Scripture (1 Corinthians 14:29).
“…But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills...”
The Spirit of God was manifested fully in Jesus Christ during His ministry. Through the Spirit, Jesus had revelation from God, including the Spirit’s wisdom, knowledge, and discernment; power, including acts of faith, healing, and miracles; and inspiration, including prophecy. The Apostle John wrote that “For from his fullness we have received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16). Thus, those who are in Christ may receive the fullness of His Spirit as well. Paul is one example of this, having demonstrated all of what he labels here to the Corinthian church as the gifts of the Spirit. It is the Spirit who distributes these gifts among the members of Christ’s body. The commonality among believers that have the Spirit of God is that Christ is their head, and they are seated in Him in heavenly places, all connected directly to God. We exist in two places at once, connected by the Spirit of God.
“…For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.”
In Christ, the prophecy of Joel 2:28-29 has been fulfilled, God’s Spirit having been poured out on all flesh: sons and daughters, old and young, even on the male and female servants. The body of Christ is meant to be united and to function together, each member a vessel of equal value that carries the treasure of God. The Spirit of God is channeled into all of us, just as pictured in Zechariah’s vision of the church as a golden lampstand, burning brightly (Zechariah 4:2-14). Our connection to God was there represented by golden oil pouring from the two olive trees, representing the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ. (For more on this or on Joel’s prophecy, see the introduction to my book God’s Love Plan in Jesus and the Church: 40 Days in the Old Testament.) In Christ, we are united by the love of God and also, in sanctification, by His other character attributes, the fruits of the Spirit, that God has shared with us. Partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), we were born again for great things! Whomever God has joined to Himself within the body of Christ, His beloved bride, let man not separate (Mark 10:9).
“…And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues…”
An apostle is someone who, like Paul, starts new churches, making disciples of Christ there. Prophets edify, exhort, and comfort those in the churches that are built, contributing to God’s will to make disciples. Teachers sow God’s word, also contributing to this same purpose. Others in Christ’s body are also important to its functioning together, including those God has provided to help and to administer. Paul says that we should covet or earnestly desire the “better” manifestations of the Spirit of God. It’s not really about what we get from God though; Paul was about to point to the most excellent way, which is God’s love.
Prayer: Jesus, thank You for body bruised for me and Your blood shed for me so that I could abide in fullness of life (zoe) within You. Thank You, Father, for loving me so much that You drew me to intimate connection directly to You in Christ. Thank You for generously giving me what is Yours through Your own Spirit. I honor You, Spirit of God, and submit to Your leading, that Your will may be done through me and Your beloved church, according to Your ways. Praise be to You, my God, three in One.
God's temple, fellow worker, and steward (Day 17)
Paul continued his letter:
“But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. 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. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”
1 Corinthians 3:1-2, 4-23 ESV
“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful…Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God…Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.”
1 Corinthians 4:1-2, 5, 18-20 ESV
““Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
1 Corinthians 6:13-20 ESV
In these three chapters, Paul said that we in Christ’s church are God’s temple, God’s fellow worker, and God’s steward. If you are in Christ, you are God’s steward, God’s fellow worker, and God’s temple.
“...This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful…”
A steward is a servant that manages all of the affairs and property of another in their absence. Paul suggested that since God has shown us truth through the Spirit of God, we are stewards of what God has shown us. It’s not meant to be kept to ourselves. Christ commanded all of His disciples to go and make disciples as His witnesses. Though Jesus passed off this great responsibility, He said that He would be with them always; they would have the presence and power of God from the indwelling Holy Spirit as a sacred trust (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8). The trust is for everyone whom the Lord calls to Himself (Acts 2:39). As stewards, the gospel and the Holy Spirit aren’t the only things entrusted to us by God, but they are the greatest. Every good and every perfect thing is from God (James 1:17). This includes our time, energy, effort, attention and resources. What will we do with all that God has entrusted to us?
God’s fellow worker
“...So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one…”
From the account of the Great Commission in Mark 16:20, the disciples understood themselves to be God’s fellow workers: “And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.” The accounts of the apostles’ ministries in the book of Acts, including Peter and Paul, show the continuation of the church’s work together with the Lord.
It is not just the apostles that were God’s fellow workers, but the entire church, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For we are God’s fellow workers.” According to Paul, our work as the church is to cooperate together in obedience to God to do His word. Some of us plant the imperishable seed of the word of God (1 Peter 1:23). Some of us water it. God causes the word to grow. In this, we each play a major role in the sowing and reaping that brings the growth of God’s kingdom of heaven in the world. Note that the action that enables the growth to happen is entrusted to us who have been connected to God in Christ. With renewed minds regarding who we are and what is our responsibility, we are to pray to the Father as Jesus led us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Then we are to play our part in that work by cooperating together in action, meanwhile expecting God to be faithful to do what He said He would do.
“...For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ…”
Paul also compared our work in the Spirit to that of building upon a foundation. For any life that we build into as a good work of God, new life in Jesus Christ is the foundation. Discipleship unto maturity in Christ is a major effort, and God most often uses different believers to invest in new believers along the way. This is our main spiritual work: to build upon the foundation of God’s saving work in the lives of others.
Yet, aside from this work, we may build things into people that are not eternal as we influence them. Aside from this work, we tend to spend time building kingdoms of our own, unrelated to the building of God’s kingdom. Aside from this work, we tend to each pursue our own purpose, plans, objectives, dreams, agenda, mission, priorities, ideas, vision and will, rather than God’s. Will we choose to take on and advance God’s interests and His kingdom, building on the foundation He has laid at great cost?
“...each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it…”
The Day where God judges believers will disclose the kind of investments we have made with our time, energy, effort, attention and resources. All will be brought into the light, and the purposes of our heart will be disclosed. Everything that is not built on Jesus Christ, the Chief Cornerstone and the incarnate Word of God—God’s imperishable kingdom seed, will be burned up. What we have done in obedience to God, according to His will and His kingdom purposes, will affect our commendation from God and our reward. These are the wages that Paul spoke of for our labor as God’s fellow workers.
“...I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power…”
For this important kingdom work, we as fellow workers have been made stewards of God’s Spirit, our Helper (John 14:26, John 16:7), and, therefore, stewards of His power (dunamis in Greek). Regarding this power, Paul said, “For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.” God’s Spirit in us is stirred up to work with us by our acts of faith in obedience to God’s word and the Spirit’s leading; our faith is the Spirit’s catalyst. As such, Paul expected that God’s fellow workers could be discerned not by what they said, i.e., their message, but by how God confirmed the message they chose to speak, while expecting His power and accompanying signs to follow. Paul was speaking to a church where many were immature (Paul called them carnal, or of the flesh). They were only speaking as if they were mature. Paul later prophesied that we could expect the same in “the last days,” for there would be many “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:5).
“...Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?...”
While the Pharisees saw healing of people’s bodies on the Sabbath, their most sacred day, as transgression, and even Christ’s disciples waited until the Sabbath was over to bring people to Him for their bodies to be freed and healed (Mark 1:32), Christ did not hesitate to free and heal people at any time on the Sabbath. Our bodies are created by God in His own image and likeness; they are sacred to Him. Your body is sacred.
When we are made alive in Christ through our profession in faith to follow Jesus, Christ comes to live in us. The presence of Christ in us causes not only our spirit and our soul to be sacred, but also our body. God’s will in Christ’s atonement is to make all of us who are steadfastly committed to love Him at-one with God, our bodies included.
As fellow workers obedient to God’s will to go make disciples, Christ’s atonement also makes us victorious over sickness (Matthew 8:17). The Spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead dwells in us, so He will quicken our mortal bodies (Romans 8:11)! Jesus came to give us resurrection life and for it to be abundant (John 10:10). The living God wants to fill your body with life and strength.
“…he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him…”
When we choose in faith to join ourselves to the Lord in covenant relationship through identification with Jesus Christ and His finished work, we are joined to the Lord as one spirit with Him! One spirit with God! Connected to God, we are in Him and He is in us! We are seated with Christ in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). This is your position in the spiritual world right now, i.e., the real, eternal world, as seen with eyes of faith (2 Corinthians 4:18).
“...You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
In Christ our Redeemer, we have no right to ourselves, nor a right to continue in sin (1 John 3:6-10). Our faith is to be in our Creator and Savior. God has called us to be holy as He is holy. As we have already been made righteous in Christ, we are ever empowered through the Spirit of God to be victorious, including victory over any temptation to sin. Having been set free from the slavery of sin and from death (Romans 8:2), we are empowered in cooperation with the Spirit of God to put off the old self (Ephesians 4:22-24). As Paul also did, we seek to turn every situation into glory to God.
Prayer: I praise You, God, that You have set me free from sin and death, replacing this with Your overflowing life. God, thank You for Your sacred trust in me as a steward of all You have given and entrusted to me. I praise You for Your goodness to have also made me a fellow worker with You, the Almighty God and Creator of every good and perfect thing. I thank You for Your great love for me, that You have sought to make me one with You forever, sharing with me what is Yours. I seek to bring You glory in all things.
The mind of Christ (Day 16)
Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church continued:
“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”
1 Corinthians 2:1-16 ESV
“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom…”
As in the first chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul again stated that he made no effort to impress or entertain the church with lofty speech or wisdom. Instead, he lifted up Jesus Christ and the power of the gospel, centered around the cross of Christ. Paul did not put on a false front (as an actor or “hypocrite”), but he was transparent and authentic with them. Paul was not about lofty talk when it came to sharing the gospel, but, instead, he demonstrated the power of the gospel through the Holy Spirit, consistent with Jesus’ command in the great commission (Mark 16:15-20) and consistent with the way the apostles before him were sharing the gospel (e.g., Acts 4:29-33). By faith in Jesus’ name, the demonstration of the gospel included healing the sick (Day 6, Day 14) and other miracles (Day 5, Day 7, Day 9) that showed God’s love and goodness in tangible ways to His beloved. God’s way from the beginning of New Testament times has been the simple proclamation and teaching of the gospel along with demonstrations of His power. This is what Paul and Barnabus told the churches about when they returned from their first missionary journey (Day 8), and it is what led to the explosive growth of the church from the time of Jesus’ ministry through the end of the accounts in Scripture. It is God’s pattern for sharing the gospel with the world in order to reconcile it with Him (2 Corinthians 5:18-6:1), since Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). God is still the Great I AM (Exodus 3:14).
“...Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age…”
Paul spoke here of two types of wisdom, the natural wisdom of mankind and the wisdom of the Almighty, all-knowing God. Through the ages up until the time of Christ Jesus, the wisdom of God had been hidden. Bits of His plan in Jesus had been uttered by the prophets in “words” of wisdom (1 Corinthians 12:8, KJV), but no one really understood what God had planned, including any rulers of the Jews and Romans at the time of Jesus.
‘...But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit…’
The section of Scripture Paul quoted here is from Isaiah 64, which begins, “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down.” In Christ, God has done just this! We need not ask God to do it again! Jesus told His disciples that the Spirit of God would no longer be with them but it would be in them after He went to the right hand of the Father (John 14:17). The Apostle Peter said this promise is for all believers, including those who were far off (Acts 2:39). In Christ, we are connected directly to God in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit! This is the wisdom of God already made manifest. This same Spirit of God that is in us is also in Christ and in God the Father. Meanwhile, as a lover of threes, God created each human as tripartite as well: spirit, soul and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Each part of us is sacred to God. Each of our spirits, connected to God and made alive in Christ, is invisible and undetectable, yet it searches our thoughts, just as God’s Spirit accesses His thoughts. This suggests a spirit-mind connection both in us and in our Creator. Our mind is not the same as our brain; rather, it makes use of our brain, somewhat similar to the way the software operates together with the hardware in a computer. Yet, our minds and brains are much more sophisticated than any software or computer ever made by man.
“...Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God…”
Having the Spirit of God in us, we are taught about and understand the things freely given to us in Christ by God. In Christ, we have in our spirit, which has been made fully alive by the resurrection life of Christ, His very nature and characteristics. I wrote about what has been made ours (as the church) in Christ in my book Identity in Christ: 33 Characteristics of His Church. What God has given to us as partakers of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) includes life (zoe), righteousness, faith, wisdom, love, grace, mercy, peace, joy, humility, power, strength, authority and hope. What He has given, we are to take in faith as ours. Taking it as ours, we are to put it on in cooperation with God’s Spirit. As good trees, are we to exhibit this fruit of the Spirit, the characteristics of God’s own nature, showing that we are His. Furthermore, God is the Giver; He has made us to be givers. In Christ, the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and we are to freely and generously give in every way as we have freely and richly received (Matthew 10:8, KJV, 2 Corinthians 9:11).
“...The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him…”
As Paul later wrote to the church at Corinth, the god of this age (Satan) has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot hear, see and understand (2 Corinthians 4:4). Instead, when the gospel and Christ are preached and taught, these unseen things are regarded as folly.
‘...The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.“For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.’
God gives all of Himself when we give Him all of ourselves. We are made one with God in Christ according to God’s will. This is one more thing God has freely given through the gift of His Spirit living in us: the mind of Christ. The very mind of Christ! The mind of Christ is the mind of the Spirit; we are able to plug into the Spirit’s mind. God gives it to us in sanctification insofar as we have put on Christ (out of our spirit, putting it into our soul) and our minds are renewed (Ephesians 4:22-23, Romans 12:1-2). Our minds are each renewed insofar as we believe and act on the word of God. The Apostle John said that the anointing that we received from God abides in us and teaches us about everything, if we abide in Him (1 John 2:27). This mind allows us to test and discern what God’s will is. God’s word is His will, and Jesus Christ, God’s Word made flesh, came to show how to do His word. He also came to live in us in order to renew our minds and to empower us to do His word just as He did it.
As Christians who have been born again of the Spirit of God, it’s also possible for us to live without renewed minds; just because we are born again with all the parts of God (given this side of heaven) does not mean we ever mature and learn how to use them. An infant also has all the parts— fingers, arms, toes, etc.— but needs to grow up. Even so, we can remain carnal or soulish (led by the desires of our own body or soul) rather than choosing to grow up into the image of Jesus Christ. Or we can give part of ourselves to sanctification, becoming partly renewed. This is to be double-minded (Matthew 6:24, 2 Corinthians 11:3, Colossians 2:8, James 1:8,4:8). Even Jesus’ disciples were double-minded before they were filled with the Spirit of God and they chose to abide in God. This persistent state of a double-mind explains Jesus’ frequent rebuke and expression of frustration with His disciples (e.g., Mark 4:40; 6:37,50; 8:33, 9:19; 10:38; 11:22-24;14:30,37-38; 16:14).
The commitment we make in salvation to make Christ Lord should be seen instead as a commitment to cooperate with the Spirit of God to have our minds renewed. It’s the only way to make Christ Lord and to love God with all of our soul (mind, emotions, will) and strength. It is by renewing our mind to the mind of Christ that Christians are transformed to do the work of God in the world. Yet, mind renewal takes consecration, just as following Christ despite the costs takes consecration. It’s rare. Let’s be rare! It will bring heaven to our souls and those of others.
Prayer: I praise You, God, for Your great wisdom and plans. Thank You for loving me so much that You desire intimate connection with me in covenant relationship. Thank You for sharing with me what is Yours, even Your thoughts and Your mind. Thank You for making me such an integral part of Your loving mission to the world to unite men and women with You in relationship. I give myself fully to You and Your work.
God's wisdom in Christ (Day 15)
Next we begin a detailed look at Paul’s letters to the Corinthian church, starting in 1 Corinthians:
“Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, 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: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but 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. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.””
1 Corinthians 1:1-31 ESV
“Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus…”
Paul called himself an apostle, one who starts and builds churches, which he certainly was. It appears Sosthenes was traveling with him when he wrote this letter. This is probably the same Sosthenes from Corinth that is referred to in Acts 18:17. He was the ruler of the synagogue at Corinth before he was won over to Christ. Paul called all members of Jesus’ church saints. Paul said a blessing of God’s grace and peace over the church to start his letter to them; as part of Christ’s body, he believed he could direct more of the rich, godly resources of the body, including grace (charis) and peace (eirene), to other members of the body, through his prayers. From the Greek (per Strong’s concordance), God’s grace brings with it joy, God’s good will, His loving kindness, strength, increase in faith, maturity and bounty. God’s peace includes tranquility, safety, prosperity, contentment. Paul discipled them and encouraged them toward sanctification, not just salvation.
“...I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus…”
Paul was thankful for these believers having received life in Christ. In Christ, they had what is Christ’s through the Holy Spirit, including the gifts that Paul described more in Chapters 12-14 of 1 Corinthians. One thing God gives to believers is knowledge, both natural knowledge and supernatural knowledge from the mind of the Spirit. God also enriches their speech for the proclamation of the gospel, as with Peter once he was filled with the Holy Spirit (beginning in Acts 2). For example, Luke recorded that the ruling Jewish council in Jerusalem was impressed with Peter’s speech in his defense to them: “Now when [the council] saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished” (Acts 4:13). This clearly didn’t happen as a result of Peter’s education; it was of God.
‘...I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you…’
As Christians, we can have the same mind, the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), which is the mind of the indwelling Spirit of God. This is what Christ wants for His new body that operates throughout the world; it is God’s will. The young believers in the Corinthian church instead were divided, each following their own minds and their own wills. Focused on individualism rather than oneness, they found reasons for difference instead of reasons to come together as one body that functions together to God’s glory. They became divided according to those who brought them to know Christ; yet, Paul wrote to them that this did not matter. It is the presence of the example of the one living Christ in these men that mattered. All of the Corinthians believers were saved and baptized in Christ, and they were each to put on Christ. The church needs to focus on lifting Jesus up, doing the word of God, and cooperating in an effort to please God. Christ’s body in the world cannot function effectively to do the word and the will of God when it’s divided. Instead, the Spirit of God is pleased to work mightily when there is unity. Let us cooperate with the Spirit of God to put on Christ’s mind, to align our will with God’s will, to align our emotions with God’s emotions. As members of His body, this is to become one with Christ in soul. It is completely unnatural and counter-cultural, but so is Jesus Christ. We are predestined to be conformed to Jesus Christ in every regard (Romans 8:29).
“...For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power…”
The Greeks, including those who lived in Corinth, greatly prized wisdom and eloquent speech. Paul did not regard himself as someone who spoke eloquently. It is quite likely that he spoke openly to the masses without preparation, instead relying on the Spirit in him to speak. Paul had already filled himself with God’s word, and the indwelling Spirit is to bring everything to our remembrance (John 14:26). Based on these words of Paul to the Corinthians, it seems he would have discouraged any practice of “sermon tasting” or any effort to appeal to such an audience. Instead, he taught that the word of God and the cross of Christ have power on their own; they need no embellishment to appeal further to intellectualism or any soulishness. The gospel will be rejected by the perishing and it will be embraced by people of peace, or those who have been made receptive to the implantation of God’s word in their lives.
‘...For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? …‘
Paul’s high regard for the authority of God’s written word is conveyed in his words, “...it is written.” Paul spoke against the wisdom that was prized among the Greeks, teaching it is truly wise to view our lives from an eternal perspective. God has all wisdom. A proper understanding that God is the One who will judge us is the beginning of true wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). An understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the foundation of wisdom upon which one can build anything that lasts beyond this brief life. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul referred to a passage from Isaiah 29 about some that honor God with their lips yet whose hearts are far from Him (v. 13) because they live in sin and do not believe God sees them (v. 15). They do not understand their position in the created world: God is the potter, having all understanding, and they are the clay (v. 16). In the day of God’s judgment, any who are not made righteous through their faith will perish along with the wisdom and discernment they think they have.
“...but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God…”
Those who are called in these times of the New Testament will understand the truth of the atonement of Jesus Christ when they hear it. Christ Jesus’ finished work is the central event of all time in our world created by God, all of history having led up to this moment of victory. Faith in Christ’s finished work channels the power of God to make everything right.
“...But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise…”
God, the potter, has always purposely used jars of clay to accomplish His purposes. Clay is easily breakable, and it is a common material of low intrinsic value. Without God, we can do nothing of significance. God’s design is that all glory is to go to Him. God has used anyone willing, and He will use anyone; He is no respecter of persons. It is our faith in the good intent of God, the word of God, and our oneness with God in Christ that sets us apart.
‘...And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God…’
In God’s wisdom, His plan after the fall had always been to make a perfect way back to a full relationship with Him (Genesis 3:15, Genesis 22:17-18, Ezekiel 16:63). Any that are in Christ are connected to God, made alive in Christ through His resurrection. In Christ, they have what He made available to all heirs of God, including redemption, righteousness, and sanctification. The first two are immediate from the act of confessing Jesus Christ as Lord. Sanctification is a process whereby what is made available in our spirits at the new birth—sanctification in Christ— is worked out in cooperation with the Holy Spirit in us (Ephesians 4:13,22-23, Romans 8:28-29).
Prayer: Thank you, Father, for the treasure of life with you in Jesus Christ. Holy Spirit, I cooperate with You to be formed into the image of Jesus Christ, according to Your will for me. God, thank You for the opportunity for oneness with You. Jesus, thank You for Your finished work for Your church that made this possible. I will love Your church as You love it and seek to build it up to bring You glory. I will join You in building it up to function as one body with one mind.
Paul's stay in Ephesus during his third missionary journey (Day 14)
The following passages describe parts of the beginning of Paul’s third missionary journey:
“After spending some time there [at Antioch, Syria], he departed and went from one place to the next through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.”
Acts 18:23 ESV
“And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all. And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily. Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.”
Acts 19:1-22 ESV
“After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia. When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece. There he spent three months, and when a plot was made against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus. These went on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas,”
Acts 20:1-5 ESV
‘And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” ...’
At Ephesus, Paul baptized some believers into the new covenant, sharing with them the message of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, as Peter had done in Samaria (Acts 8:17) and Caesarea (Acts 10:34-48). In Caesarea, the Holy Spirit came upon those gathered at Cornelius’ home as Peter was preaching and teaching the gospel message. These Gentiles were speaking in tongues and extolling God. At Ephesus, the infilling of the Holy Spirit occurred as Paul laid hands on the new believers. This caused them to speak in tongues and prophecy. It’s likely that Luke, the writer of Acts, didn’t record every similar incident that the Holy Spirit manifested through tongues and prophecy as the apostles traveled to spread the gospel.
“...And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God…”
Paul stayed for years in the port city of Ephesus, preaching about the kingdom of God and teaching the word of the Lord. At this time of Roman rule, it had become a major center of trade and culture, perhaps second to that of Rome.
“...And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.”
The apostle Paul continued the ministry of Jesus, preaching, teaching, healing, bringing freedom and doing good to many. The source of Paul’s power, confirming the gospel message he spoke, was that of Jesus’ finished work on the cross, ‘that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “He Himself took our infirmities And bore our sicknesses.”’
Matthew 8:17 NKJV
Moreover, Jesus had told His disciples to expect such extraordinary miracles in their ministry: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
John 14:12-13 ESV
Not only was the life of God in Paul healing and delivering those he ministered to in person, but he was able to put that life into pieces to fabric so that other believers could use them to minister to those who needed it. As Paul had freely received from Christ, he freely gave (Matthew 10:8, KJV).
‘...Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this.’
The miraculous works of Paul became well known. Some Jews watching what he did started to try to use his main method, invoking the name of Jesus. Peter had also described the source of the power to a Jewish crowd: “And his name—by faith in his name.” Peter was referring to “the Author of life,” Jesus Christ (Acts 3:15-16), who was in him. Peter and Paul both knew they were anointed of God when they received the Holy Spirit and they had received power through that baptism (Acts 1:8). Further, they were obedient to the command of Jesus to all disciples recorded in Mark 16:15-18. Jesus had told them what they would do in His name when they proclaimed the gospel, which included casting out demons and healing the sick. These apostles were bold, and they expected God to confirm the message they spoke by accompanying signs.
‘But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them…’
Jesus gave authority to use His name in His stead to His followers (John 14:13-14). The sons of Sceva were not His followers, so at least on this occasion an evil spirit caused a man to resist, overpower them, and harm them. This incident became known all over Ephesus. The spirit knew Jesus Christ, to whom all authority had been given. The spirit recognized Paul and knew it would have to submit to him, yet these men had no authority nor protection. This event caused the fear of God to come on the people, particularly those who practiced magic.
“...So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.”
The word of God is sown into people’s lives as seed when they hear the truth of the gospel. When it is sown in good soil and watered, the imperishable seed grows, according to the ways of the kingdom of heaven. The implanted word must be received (or taken; lambano), believed, and held onto, although the devil will try to take it (Mark 4:15). When held onto, it prevails mightily, as the tree that grew from the mustard seed (Matthew 13:32). The growth of the church experienced at Ephesus was powerfully enabled by God. When the word of God is preached and the power of God is evident to all, there is explosive growth. This is God’s pattern. The word is God’s blueprint to make things right on earth as they are in heaven. God continues to almost exclusively use His followers to sow the seed of the word of God, as He did in the time of Paul.
“Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him…”
Paul made disciples in part through taking with him on his missionary journey people from the churches he had planted in Macedonia, Galatia, and Asia. The followers of Christ were willing to go.
Prayer: Thank you, God, for the resurrection life that is in me from Your indwelling Holy Spirit. Thank You for the responsibility and authority You have given me as a believer in Christ Jesus. Your Word never fails to carry out what it is sent to do. You make everything right. Jesus, You are the Author of Life, and Your name is above every name in heaven, on earth and under the earth. Blessed be Your Name.
Paul's letters to the Thessalonian churches (Day 13)
Thessalonica, located in Macedonia (present day Thessaloniki, Greece), was one of Paul’s many stops on his second missionary journey. Here are some selections from his letters written to the church he started there:
“We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.”
1 Thessalonians 1:2-7 ESV
“…but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.”
1 Thessalonians 2:4 ESV
“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”
1 Thessalonians 5:12-24 ESV
“To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 ESV
“As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good… Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.”
2 Thessalonians 3:13, 16 ESV
“We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers...”
Paul truly fell in love with those in the churches he planted. Paul loved them deeply just as God did, constantly mentioning them in prayer to God. Surely he was bringing them before the throne of God, asking that they would become mature in faith and in likeness to Jesus. Those in the church had already come to a place of faith, hope, and love. Paul viewed the signs and wonders that the Spirit of God did in power, confirming his preaching of the kingdom and the word of God (Mark 16:17-20, Acts 4:29,33), as evidence that they were loved and chosen by God.
“...You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord...”
The young believers in the church were to imitate those who were mature in the faith, Paul included, as they imitated Jesus Christ. According to Paul, all believers are predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29). It’s first helpful (or perhaps necessary) to see Jesus, the Anointed One, in a man (human) though. Because Paul was a good example of Jesus living within a man, perhaps they could see Jesus in themselves. Further, Paul desired that they would become such an example to others in nearby churches. The affliction that the Thessalonians experienced very likely had to do with resistance they encountered from others in Thessalonica, Jews included, just as Paul experienced resistance everywhere he went.
“...but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.”
Paul’s understanding was that those who are in Christ, himself included, were Christ’s ambassadors, entrusted by Him to carry on His own ministry in multiplied form (2 Corinthians 5:20). They were not to concern themselves with pleasing anyone around them, but instead were to seek in all things to please God. Paul saw his daily choices as tests from God. The same is true for us; do our choices reflect that we mainly aim to please God, ourselves, or others? (Philippians 2:4,13,21) This life is a test (e.g., see Matthew 25:34-46).
“...We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you...”
Paul’s comments here were directed to build up the church, encourage unity, and spur on the church to follow Christ in doing good (Acts 10:38). He expected them to exhibit fruits of the Spirit’s work in their character: love, peace, patience, goodness.
“...Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you...”
God’s will for those in the church is that they abide in Christ, exhibiting the fruits of the overflow of the Spirit of God in their lives, in their community, and through their good works. In Christ, they are connected directly to God, prompting continual prayer. Christ’s life was characterized by continual prayer, and followers of Jesus are to grow up into Him (Romans 8:29). In Christ, those in the church have the joy of the Holy Spirit, prompting continual rejoicing in God and thanksgiving to Him in all circumstances. Their prayers should also be characterized by praise and thanks.
In Christ, the supernatural gifts of the Spirit are at work within the church community (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). Prophecy is a gift of inspiration from God meant for exhortation of those in the church. Since the minds of those who would prophecy can be affected by their own thoughts or other spirits, Paul asked the church to test prophecies, holding onto what is good. Really he asked them to test everything, applying the knowledge and discernment God gave through the word of God and the Spirit of God alive in them. If they were careful to abide in Christ rather than living for themselves, and also careful to speak good and speak out of faith rather than unbelief, they would not quench the Spirit. As followers of Christ, this required giving all of their lives to God—every part, not holding anything back. This applies to everyone in Christ. The Anointed One lives in us (1 John 2:5-6,20,24,27)!
“...Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”
Given over to Him, He makes every part of us sacred: spirit, soul and body. The three parts of us are united with the three parts of God.
Spirit. The Spirit of God dwells in us as a habitation! We are in Christ, seated in Him (Ephesians 2:6), and He is in the Father. We should let the Spirit of Christ out of our spirits, inviting the Spirit into every part of us.
Soul. We can invite the Spirit into our soul. Although God renews our spirit at the new birth, our minds are not renewed which entirely explains the problem among identifying believers in the world today. Our minds can be remain unrenewed, leaving us in bondage, or they can become partly renewed. Yet, the Spirit wants all of us. In God’s work of sanctification, which is God's will for each of us, we can cooperate with the Spirit of God to renew our minds (Romans 12:1-2, Ephesians 4:22-23, Colossians 3:9-10), conforming our minds to the mind of Christ in us (1 Corinthians 2:16). According to John Wesley, sanctification is to have the mind of Christ and all of that mind. It represents that best we could have. Yet, God will not force us to do what is actually best for us. When God renews our minds with our cooperation, we become led by the Spirit through our spirit (Romans 8:14), rather than being led through our own soul (mind, will, emotions) or our body (flesh). We also take on the emotions that the Spirit of God does, loving what and whom God loves, being grieved by what grieves God, rejoicing with those who rejoice, or even experiencing righteous anger as Christ did on occasion. Cooperating with the Spirit, we experience in our soul the peace and joy that God has placed in our spirit at our new birth (Romans 8:6,14:17).
Body. We can invite the Spirit of Christ into our bodies, becoming members of His body (the Greek word is soma), of His flesh (sarx), and of His bones (osteon ostoun) (Ephesians 5:30 KJV). We can invite the indwelling Christ to be our healer (Romans 8:11,26). Jesus, the Word of God incarnate, is life and healing to every part of us (Proverbs 4:22). We should not submit to the bondage of sin that brings death if we have been freed by sin and its effects by the living God (Romans 8:2). That is, if we desire to follow Christ, make disciples as He has commanded, we can expect God to give us the health and vitality to do so unhindered until the time comes for us to die. The Spirit is life and strength to us. Further, as we seek to preach the gospel and make disciples in obedience to Christ's words, expanding His body and enabling its growth, we can also bring this life to others.
“...To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power...”
Paul prayed for the Spirit God to work in power through every one of the works of faith that those in the Thessalonian church attempted in their resolve to do good. What kind of works require the power of the Holy Spirit? It’s especially those that continue the ministry of Jesus Christ, as described by Peter: “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”
Acts 10:38 ESV
Again, Paul continued Jesus’ ministry as an ambassador, as though in Christ’s stead, and he also expected those in the church to do so (1 Thessalonians 2:4, 2 Corinthians 5:18-20). He saw believers as jars of clay that carried the power and message of God in them, “so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 4:7,15). God’s power confirmed the message they spoke through signs and wonders, the Lord working with them (Mark 16:17-20).
“...As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good…"
Paul saw it as his mission and the mission of the whole church, Christ in them, to do good as Christ did good (Acts 10:38), yet in multiplied form. After his glorification, Christ has a new body that is able to do more good across the whole earth. Paul prayed for God to give this body of Christ peace (shalom) in every way. Shalom also implies wholeness, completeness, harmony, prosperity, welfare, security and tranquility. It stems from God’s perfection and divine grace.
Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for inviting me to be a coworker with You. I am humbled by Your confidence in me and desire to bring You glory. I rejoice in Your love for me and Your goodness to me. Thank You for sharing with me what is Yours, including the mind of Christ and Your peace. Jesus, I receive what You give, including Your healing. My trust is fully in You, creator, giver and sustainer of life. I pray for those You have caused me to know in Your church, that for them You may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by Your power. Be glorified.