July 2, 2016
Scripture and Commentary, July 3-9
Ezra 6, Mt. 3
Ezra 7, Phil. 3
We find here the righteousness that will get us into Heaven. It is not our own righteousness. It is not our natural goodness or our good deeds. These are all useless when we stand before the absolute perfection of God. It is the righteousness of Christ alone that makes us fit to abide in the House of the Lord. Everything else is loss compared to this great prize (1-9).
Complacency in following Christ is foolishness. Satisfaction with our progress in grace is folly. Even Paul acknowledges the inadequacy of his own life. Far from satisfied with himself, he presses on toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ (14).
The need for fellowship and association with Godly people is stated (17-19). We will emulate those with traits and tastes we admire. If we admire Godliness, we will seek Godly people and follow their example of faith and piety. If we admire worldliness, self-indulgence, and sin, we will associate others who admire the same things. If their end is destruction, what will our end be if we imitate them? (19).
But our Lord Jesus Christ is able to subdue even our stubborn wills, and to change us into the likeness of His glorious body. This is our hope and goal.
Ezra 8, Mt. 4:1-16
Ezra 9, Phil. 4
It is every member's duty to work for peace in the congregation (1-7). Therefore, Paul exhorts Euodias and Syntyche to "be of one mind." He is asking them to stop fussing and quarreling over issues that don't really matter. He also instructs the rest of the congregation to help. We are not allowed to be sources of strife among God's people. We are to be generous and forgive one another's faults. We are to be humble and quiet and to wage peace within the fellowship.
The things that should occupy a Christian's thoughts are found in verses 8 and 9. How much temptation and sin we could avoid if our minds dwelt on these things continually. Even thinking about such things for short periods each day would have a remarkable effect on our attitudes and actions which is one reason daily Bible reading and prayer are so important to Christian maturity.
All things through Christ? Many misunderstand Phil. 4:13 because they disassociate it from Phil. 4:12. 4:13 is about accomplishing God's will by being faithful in the circumstances He places us in. It is not about getting a promotion at work, accomplishing personal goals, or harnassing the power of God for our own needs. It is about living the life of Christian faith and service. It is about being enabled to overcome temptation. It is about being enabled to pray when you don’t feel like praying, love when you don’t feel like loving, and obey God when obedience goes against your natural desires and inclinations. It is about serving God, not using God’s power to serve yourself.
Nehemiah 1, Mt. 4:17-25
Neh. 2, Colossians 1
Colossians is one of many letters written by the Apostle Paul while imprisoned in Rome in the year A.D. 62. The church of Colossae was probably founded during Paul's ministry in Ephesus, which spanned most of the years of A.D. 55-57. It is likely that he either traveled to Colossae, or that people from that city came in contact with him during trips to Ephesus. Epaphras, probably spent much time in Ephesus studying with Paul before being sent back to Colossae, where he served as the church's rector (7). Paul knew many of the Colossians, and at least two, Philemon and Onesimus became Christians through the ministry of Paul himself (Philemon 10, 19).
We often encourage people to conduct themselves in ways that bring honour to whatever organisation they may be associated with. Perhaps there is no setting where this is more urged upon people than in the family. Everything we do reflects on the rest of the family. If we conduct ourselves with honour, we build respect for our family in the community. If we conduct ourselves with dishonour, we bring sorrow to our family members, and shame to our family name. It is no less true, in fact, it may be more true, that our actions as Christians and members of Christ's body and Church, bring honour or disrepute to our Lord and His local congregation. Like it or not, people are always going to judge your God and your church by your actions and attitudes. So the words of Paul in Col.1:10 are always relevant; "walk worthy of the Lord...being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God."
Many religions owe their origin to a single person, but Christians claim that the "Man" we follow was in every way nothing less than God Himself. Thus, Paul says Christ is the image of the invisible God (15), the creator of all things (16), the head of the Church (18), and the fulness of all things (19). "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn. 1:14). Angels marveled at this. Wise men sought Him at great personal cost and risk. Kings of earth longed to see His advent. Yet, even more amazing than the bold fact that Jesus is God, is the startling, frightening statement that He allowed Himself to be tortured and murdered, and that, in some mysterious way, we have peace with God through the blood of His cross (20).
Peace with God is not mere forgiveness. God has a higher purpose than simply letting us off for our sins. He forgives us to reconcile us. He forgives us to call us back into Himself, to know Him in all His glory, peace, and fulness. He calls us to love and enjoy Him now and forever. He forgives us that He may give us His presence in a way that is so full and so complete it can only be described as "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (27).
Neh. 4:1-12, Mt. 5:1-20
Neh. 4:13-23, Col. 2
Colossians leads us into two important points. First is the danger of false doctrine and false teachers masquerading as Biblical Christianity. There have always been wolves in sheep's clothing, and of such people and doctrines we are warned to beware (8). Paul calls their teaching "vain deceit," the "tradition of men," "of the world," and "not after Christ." He warns that they will spoil us if we follow them. “Spoil," as used in verse 8, means to seduce and lead astray. It is to lead a person into ruin. Such is the end of those who persist in false doctrine.
Second, the Apostle encourages us to be "stablished" in the true faith (7). Paul refers to the doctrines he has taught to the Colossians and to all the Church. His doctrines are simply those taught by Christ, entrusted to the Apostles, and preserved in the Bible. These doctrines keep us rooted and built up in Christ (7). In their truth our faith will abound unto everlasting life.
Let us be plain about the applications of this passage of Scripture. If false teachers lead people to destruction, we attend their assemblies and sit under their teaching to our peril. Therefore, let use make every effort to separate ourselves from them. If sound doctrine enables us to abound unto everlasting life, let us spare no effort to bring ourselves, and those we love, under its influence as often as possible.
Man ever vacillates between the extremes of license and legalism. License is the idea that everything is moral as long it "doesn't hurt anyone." This is rapidly becoming the moral standard of many "Christians" today. Legalism is the idea that keeping a morass of confusing rules about things that really don't matter is the essence of faith and the best way to please God. License makes important moral issues trivial; legalism makes the trivial important moral issues.
Verses 20-23 are about legalism, which false teachers are attempting to impose on the Church in Colossae. Their legalism is not about morality, it is about the Old Testament ceremonial laws. Its main point is the idea that Gentile Christians are required to keep the ceremonial law in order to be saved. They said Gentiles have to keep Passover, circumcision, and the Old Testament dietary rules, or they can't be saved. We can easily see that legalism is a direct contradiction to grace. According to legalism, one is saved by keeping the rules. According to grace, one is saved by Christ's atoning death and righteousness imputed to us and received by faith. Legalism tries to earn Heaven; grace gives it as the free gift of God.
Neh. 5, Mt. 5:21-48
Neh. 6, Col. 3
Verses 1-11 exhort us to receive the gift of God by faith. Paul tells us to stop worrying about ceremonial rules and start seeking the real things of Christ above. He does not tell us there are no more rules. He clearly shows that every part of the moral law is still in force. But he denies that anyone will be saved by his attempts to keep the law. It is Christ, not the law, who is our life by giving us a righteousness we could never achieve through the law. It is our part, then, to seek Him and to set our affections on Him.
The heart of chapter 3 is verse 17. To do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ is to do things that are approved by Him. As He is absolute love, we will be merciful, kind, humble, and meek (12). We will forbear and forgive one another (13). As He is the author of peace we will let His peace rule in our hearts (15). As He is the Word of God we will let His word dwell in us richly. In this way Christ Himself dwells in us filling us with the luxuriant richness of His being.
Neh. 8, Mt. 6:1-15
Neh. 9, Col. 4
One of the most striking features of the book of Colossians is the reconciliation and unity among Christians as seen in chapter 4. Two notable examples of this appear in the chapter.
First is Onesimus and Philemon. Philemon is a Christian in Colossae. Onesimus is Philemon’s slave, who has run away to Paul in Rome. Paul sends him back to Philemon, but tells him to receive Onesimus as a beloved brother, not a slave (Philemon 17-20). Thus, their fellowship in Christ, not the Roman laws of slavery, becomes the basis of their relationship, and the two are reconciled to each other in mutual Christian love. Verse 9 names Onesimus as a faithful and beloved brother, who will help inform the Colossians of Paul’s condition and imprisonment in Rome. Onesimus will carry another letter from Paul, which we know as the New Testament book of Philemon.
Second is Marcus, the son of Barnabas’ sister (10). Barnabas was sent by the Apostles to teach and oversee the new and growing church in Antioch (Acts 11:23). It was Barnabas who brought Saul (later known as Paul the Apostle) to Antioch. Under the mentoring of Barnabas, Saul began to preach and teach in Antioch, as God prepared him for the great missionary journeys that would establish churches in many, far-off lands. Paul/Saul and Barnabas took John, also known as Mark, or Marcus, on their first missionary journey. While in Pamphylia, in southern Asia Minor (modern Turkey) John Mark left the others and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). Paul considered Mark’s departure a dereliction of duty, so, when Barnabas wanted to take John Mark on a second journey, Paul refused (Acts 15:36-41). Barnabas and Paul disagreed so completely they decided to go on separate journeys. Barnabas and Mark went to Cyprus; Paul and Silas went back to Asia. But in Colossians, Paul and Mark are reconciled. Mark is with Paul in Rome, and the Apostle commends his ministry to the Colossians (10).
The reconciliation of Paul with Barnabas and Mark, and the reconciliation of Philemon and Onesimus show how the exhortation to do all things heartily as unto the Lord (3:23) is accomplished in real life as we allow Biblical forbearance and love to direct our thinking and actions toward one another.
Neh. 10, Mt. 6:16-34
Neh. 13:1-15, 1 Thessalonians 1
1 Thessalonians 1
The Church in Thessalonica was founded by Paul and Silas during Paul's second mission journey, and has the distinction of being the second church founded on European soil, probably in the year 51 or 52 A.D. (Acts 17:1-10). Silas is called by his Roman name in 1 Thess. 1:1, "Silvanus." Paul may have written 1 Thessalonians from Corinth, for he mentions in verses 7 and 8 that the Thessalonians were examples to believers in Achaia, where Corinth was located. The letter was written to encourage the Thessalonians, who were under persecution from the very start (Acts 17:5). When Paul was with them, the Thessalonian Christians feared for his safety, and secretly sent him and his companions away at night (Acts17:10). But the Thessalonian Christians stayed in Thessalonica, and their perseverance in the faith was known "abroad" (8). According to Acts 17:2, Paul spent only 3 weeks in Thessalonica, so these new converts, with very little exposure to the Gospel, remained faithful in the face of persecution.
Truly the Gospel came to them in power and in the Holy Ghost (5). Paul does not mean that he used persuasive arguments or eloquent speech to move the hearts of the Thessalonians. He refers to the Spirit moving the people to believe the Gospel and trust in Christ.