Monday, June 22, 2009

The First and Second Letters to Timothy


Even though Paul’s letter was originally intended for Timothy, an early leader of the ancient Christian church, his words and message are directed to all believers in the gospel message, “according to the command of God our savior and of Jesus Christ, our hope”. 1Tim1:2 This letter is considered to be instructions for us, If we reject the message of the gospel and the instructions of Paul, we might “suffer the shipwreck” of our faith as others who reject instruction. 1Tim1:19

Chapter 1: Warnings against False Teachings
Paul warns believers concerning false doctrines, myths and genealogies, which “promote empty speculations rather than God’s plan”. 1Tim1:4 In other words, as believers we should know better than to believe in myths, superstition, old wife’s tales, racist ideologies or any other type of story or doctrine contrary to the gospel message. Even if there is a claim that it is God’s message- don’t believe it. For example, there are some false religious cults that promote certain races as others- considering some races to be God’s chosen people. For example, Hitler and the Nazis, as well as other subtle cults such as Armstrongism and Mormonism, claim that Anglo Saxon white races have an advantage in God’s favor over others. They will go to great lengths to trace their ancestry as if it gives them an advantage. But as Jesus himself said, God can turn a stone and make it an ancestor of Abraham if he wished to. An unhealthy focus on geneology or ancestry is contrary to God’s will. Furthermore, do not believe anyone who places an unhealthy emphasis on the observance of the law either. Many modern cult groups do this as well. But, we know we can only be saved by faith in God’s grace- not our own merits- lest we rob the cross of its power. And to further expand upon the erroneous idea that one may be saved by the law- Paul goes on to explain that those under the curse of the law are the nonbelievers! Not the believers! The law is not meant for the believer but the nonbeliever: the unholy, irreverent, murderers, sexual immoral, homosexuals, fornicators, liars, and perjurers to name a few. Yet there is hope for such filthy people- as there was hope for Paul, all of us who used to be apart from God because Jesus came to this world to save sinners. He saved Paul and he saved us who believe as well.

Chapters 2 and 3: The Source of Church Teaching and Traditions

If you ever wonder why in church prayers are offered on the behalf of presidents and world leaders, its because Paul suggests that we pray for anyone in authority and power. This is because God wants everyone to come to come to the truth and be saved. Women should dress modestly, so as to not call attention to either their wealth of physical attributes. “Good works” serve much better as a cloak, than do expensive materials and jewelry. Women should not preach over a mixed congregation that includes men- this is not to demean women, but a recognition of God’s natural order. An overseer or leader of the church must have certain qualifications. For example he must have only one wife- which is obvious. Also how he manages his household must be considered as well- if he can’t even manage his household in a moral and competent matter, how can he be trusted in managing am entire church? Common sense tells us he shouldn’t be a new convert either, and have a good reputation as well. Deacons, another position of authority in the church, must meet the same qualifications as well. In general, leaders must have qualities consistent with biblical principles: self control, faithfulness, respectful, and honest… to name a few.

God was manifest in the flesh as Jesus, this is considered to be God’s great mystery which has been made known to us as believers and preached everywhere.

Chapter 4: Hold Fast to the Gospel Message

A few more points to remember about false teachings: if anyone tells you it is against God’s wishes to marry and to avoid certain foods- don’t believe this. “Everything God created is good, and nothing should be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving”. 1Tim4: 4 We must train ourselves in increasing our faith rather than doing works of pointless “sacrifice”. Regardless of your age, continue in your faith and the teaching of the gospel message. “Be conscientious of your teaching… for by doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.” 1Tim4:16

Chapter 5: Interpersonal Relationship Advice

Paul offers practical advice in interpersonal relationships and church responsibilities: discipline, widows and elders are discussed. A warning is issued against the problem of favoritism and of the importance of avoiding the sins of others as well.

Chapter 6: Warnings Against False Teaching and Wealth

Once again, Paul places more emphasis concerning his disgust for false doctrine and pointless disputes from the first chapter. Concerning false teaching, Paul considers such individuals as “having a sick interest in disputes and arguments over words”. 1Tim6:4 And, furthermore, the consequences of these meaningless disputes which are encouraged by false doctrines and false teachers are quarreling, envy and evil suspicions, to name just a few! Furthermore Paul goes in to say that the individuals behind such arguments are “men whose minds are depraved and deprived of the truth” 1Tim6:5

We should remember to be content with the necessities of life: food and clothing. After all when we die, we can not take our wealth and material possessions with us! “But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains”. 1Tim6:9-10 And furthermore, to those who are wealthy, Paul warns such people not to set their hope on wealth. Rather, he admonishes them to be generous with their wealth.

In closing, Paul emphasizes for the third time, to avoid “irreverent, empty speech” and false doctrines which are cleverly disguised as knowledge. Timothy, as well as every believer, is expected to seek righteousness and godliness. We are to “fight the good fight for the faith….to which you are called”. 1Tim6:12


Chapters 1and 2

Perseverance is Worth the Eternal Reward:

As in his first letter to Timothy, Paul emphasizes the same themes: enthusiasm for the gospel and warnings against false doctrines. “For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness but one of power, love and sound judgment.” 2Tim1:7. Therefore just as he said in his letter to the Romans, we should not be ashamed of the gospel message. Despite our fears, we need not worry even when faced with persecution, because the Holy Spirit will give us the strength we need to share the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Just as Paul declares he was appointed as an apostle/ teacher, we are called to spread the good news of the gospel with the same fearlessness as well! With the Holy Spirit we can get the strength we need to remain loyal and strong. Paul’s purpose is that he may share the message of God so that all those who believe may obtain salvation. Our suffering will pale in comparison to our eternal reward in heaven. Any suffering we endure for the sake of the Lord’s message will be more than worth it, in the end!

Avoid False Teachings and Disputes:

One of the favored pastimes is debating and disputing. This can happen with family, friends, church members and even strangers in an internet chat room! Most of these debates are driven out of selfish pride. Paul cannot emphasis this enough- concerning the dangers of false teachings and the disputes that follow, In fact, empty speech, false teaching and arguments do much to encourage godlessness. Concerning false teachers and their false words, Paul explains “their word will spread like gangrene” 2Tim2:17. What this means is that false teachings and the evil fruits of false teaching have the potential for much damage! Not only are false teachings something to avoid- it is important to flee from “foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing they breed quarrels”. Many think it is good to engage in debates, they take pride in their so called abilities to exchange words, and to prove themselves right. But Christians should never ever do this! “The lord’s slave (Christians) must not quarrel, but must be gentle with everyone, able to teach, and patient, instructing his opponents with gentleness” 2Tim2:24-25. It is up to God to act on a person’s spirit- an argument will not do it, only God. So even if you feel you are justified in arguing or debating with others concerning the bible, or whatever the case may be- remember that is not the way to win souls for Christ!

Chapter 3: Bad Behavior and Phony Religion

In the last days, “people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of religion but denying its power. Avoid these people!” 2Tim3:1-5

False Christians Condemned!

In addition to a long list of negative, yet common deplorable qualities we see in the world today, listed by Paul in this passage, the final one “holding to the form of religion, but denying its power” is among the most deceptive and prevalent danger of modern day society. Many people today claim to be religious- and in fact they may claim to be Christian, to boot! But, how many of these same so called “Christians” actually believe the words of the bible- very few! They are just phony “Christians”. How many of these self proclaimed, counterfeit “Christians” believe the gospel message? In fact many deny the bible to be true- saying it is no more real than a book of fairy tales, or Greek myths. Many household have bibles in their homes but do not even read them. Their bibles collect dust on the book shelf, or in dresser draws, held in the same esteem as Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Many individuals and families attend church services, yet they place more regard for man made tradition and philosophies than the very word of God! They will even show shame when confronted with the true message of God. Yet, they will attend religious ceremonies and religious rituals, not advocated by God. And by attending such blasphemous, idolatrous rituals they will feel they have satisfied their religious quota, feeling smug and righteous just like a Pharisee! Their false pius rituals will not save them, their phony righteous sacrifices and good works will not save them, their tithes and their money will not save them either! Their religion is false and empty, and it is these individuals and churches that will say “Lord, Lord” and in return, Jesus will say to them “depart from me for I never knew you”.

False Teachers and Imposters on the Loose in the Last Days

With the passage of time, we draw closer to the “Last Days”. This is not to be considered the same as a superstitious urgency that the end of the world is going to happen tomorrow. In fact, Paul warned the Thessalonians about this problem. Instead, Paul’s message is just to serve as a warning of what will come at the end times. Remember since the time of Jesus and Paul and the early Christian church, over 2000 years have passed. That is quite a bit have time. And it is obvious that even within the past generation and furthermore - even within the past twenty years, societal moral standards have relaxed and indecency has become more celebrated and prevalent in modern society than ever before in history! There are so many people who are spiritually dead- they are spiritual vacuums just waiting to engulf anything that meets their fancy. Those who are dissatisfied, idle, bored or angry are prime targets. The ignorant and naïve, and those with hardened hearts and “burdened down with sins, led by a variety of passions” are empty receptacles waiting to be filled with false teachings and doctrines. Beware of what you fill your mind with. If you don’t fill yourself on the truth of God, watch out, and be warned. Be on the watch because so many are caught off guard and fall prey to false teachings. “Evil people and imposters will become worse, deceiving and being deceived”. 2Tim3:13. But what is the solution for this? The answer is this: “Continue in what you have learned and firmly believed…that you have known the sacred scriptures, which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Jesus”. 2Tim3: 14-15

Chapter 4:

In conclusion, Paul tells us:”proclaim the message: persist in it whether convenient or not”. He tells us that there will come a time, and that time is now, when people will not listen to the message of God, they will ignore sound doctrine in favor for whatever ridiculous teachings and popular ideas that suit their own selfish desires and needs.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Bible Commentary Romans- Thessalonians Completed

I am pleased to announce that I am almost half way through my bible commentary on the new testament letters. Romans - 2 Thessalonians is complete and posted. Please look through the archives starting with April to find my earlier posts.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

1 and 2 Thessalonians


Chapters 1, 2 and 3: The Power of the Message

The gospel message is not simply words, but it represents the power of the Holy Spirit as well. This power gives of stronger faith, boldness and assurance- even in the face of persecution and hardship! It has the power to turn the spiritually dead from worship of false gods and idols, to the service of God: it is the power of salvation from death to eternal life, through Jesus. Paul, as an example, did not need special words to deliver the gospel- all that was needed came from the Holy Spirit. With humility, he shared the gospel, forsaking his personal needs. In imitation, we should forsake our own personal gain, seeking to comfort and encourage each other as well as those to whom we share the gospel message. Sure there will be those who persecute those who seek to share the message of the gospel, just as the ancient prophets and Jesus were also persecuted. But, to those who hinder the message of the gospel, the message of salvation, they had better watch out, because they will suffer the consequences! So remember, stand firm in your faith! When you are persecuted for the sake of the Gospel, remember you are in good company.

Chapter 4: Worthy Behavior

Remember to strive to please God, and do not be involved in sexual immorality or other offenses. Don’t you know you are called to live in a life worthy of the Holy Spirit that dwells within you! Heed these warnings and flee from transgressions and impurity. Other words of advice: mind your own business- don’t be a gossip or busy-body! That isn’t godly behavior either. Also it is good to be self sufficient and hold a job so as not to be a burden on others. In other words- don’t leech off of someone else’s hard work, get up and work- don’t be lazy!

Chapters 4 and 5: Death, resurrection & Jesus’ coming

Paul refers to death as “sleep”. Unlike those who don’t believe in God, and who don’t believe in the gospel message- death represents fear and the unknown. They are ignorant of death. To an atheist, death represent the end- the ceasing of life. To nonbelievers, death is met with grief and sorrow, because they have no hope whatsoever in eternal life and heaven. But we have hope. For us believers, death does not represent the end, but the beginning of eternal life! Just as we believe that Jesus rose from death, we too will rise from death. Even if we die, we will rise from the dead. And for those who are still alive, when Jesus returns, we will be caught up to meet with Jesus in the air as he descend to earth from heaven. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first”. 1Thesalonians:4:16. So why should we fear death? There is no reason for us to worry about dying- even if we know that death will come soon due to terminal illness or age. Paul says himself- in fact he commands us to “encourage one another with these words”. If this was not trustworthy and true, why would we be told to encourage each other with these very words. So remember, if you are feeling the weight of your mortality, if you are worried or depressed or fearful of your own death, read these words over and be encouraged!

Remember this: the day of the Lord- in other words, the day Jesus returns a.k.a the Second Coming of Christ, will come when we least expect it. We will not know in advance! It will come just as a thief in the night! So we must be alert of this and aware that it may happen when we least expect it. Keep this thought in the back of your mind. Remember the armor of God that was discussed in a previous letter of Paul? We must remember to wear the armor of our Lord. We must remember to live a life worthy of our faith. Weather we live or die it does not matter! Regardless we will be with the Jesus. Those who die are at no disadvantage. Remember that! Those who live have no advantage. Whether we live or die, we will live with the Lord. We should be encouraged by these words and we should encourage each other with these words as well.

In conclusion, live a life worthy of your calling and remain strong in your faith and hope. Pray and be thankful. Test anything you hear so as to make sure it is consistent with the word of the gospel. There is no need to fear death. When you feel discouraged or fearful, remind yourself of the gospel message.


Paul felt the need to write a second letter to the congregation in Thessalonica as a follow up. Apparently after writing the first letter, Paul got word that some members of the congregation were taking the message of the second coming of Christ to the extreme. Furthermore, many opportunistic false teachers were going about, scaring or troubling naive believers with stories of an imminent return.

Chapters 1,2 and 3: The End times

Remember this: those who reject the gospel will “pay the penalty of everlasting destruction away from the Lords presence” 2Thessalonians 1:9 But for those of us who place our faith in the message of the gospel, we will be considered worthy of God’s kingdom. Remember it was said that the return of Jesus will be unexpected, and we will not know when it will happen. Therefore we must be aware of this. But do not be paranoid or naïve either. This does not mean it is happening today or tomorrow either. If someone says with certainty that it is imminent- don’t believe it! On what basis should you believe someone who makes a claim that Jesus will return on a specific date? Furthermore, on what basis should you believe anyone’s claim that Jesus has already returned? Don’t let yourselves be troubled by such stories! (For example the Jehovah’s Witnesses not only claim that Jesus already returned- albeit invisibly and without the knowledge of believers- but they claim that the end of the world is imminent and have made many false prophecies to boot!) Therefore don’t quit your job! Don’t pack up and abandon your homes and families and responsibilities! “Do not grow weary in doing good” 2Thessalonians 3:13 There is no excuse to suddenly become irresponsible! Therefore if you see a fellow believer in faith acting this way, remind him of his priorities. Don’t follow in his footsteps!

Keep in mind, certain things will happen before Jesus returns. Before Jesus returns “the apostasy” and the “man of lawlessness” which is Satan will be revealed. More specifically, there will be a public figure- the antithesis of Jesus, the embodiment of evil and of Satan- who will falsely declare himself to be God. This evil figure will deceive many with miracles and “magical” tricks. He will use every “unrighteous deception” he can, to fool those who are already perishing. Remember the first chapter in Romans, where Paul explained that those who are perishing refused to believe in God, despite the proofs of God that are all around! Remember that the unbelievers willingly exchanged the truths of God, denying them, in favor of lies! As a consequence their conscious was dulled and they succumbed to every base and filthy desire. Well these same non-believers, the spiritually dead- will be the ones who are deceived by Satan. They will fall prey to Satan’s deception and believe his lies! But those of us who are believers, strong in our faith will not be deceived! We need to remember to hold faith to our faith and the gospel message.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Philippians and Colossians


Chapter 1: Paul’s purpose- the promotion, establishment and defense of the gospel.

“He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” Philippians 1:6 Believers will continue to grow in knowledge and discernment, knowing what really matters in contrast to what is really unimportant. Believers will bear fruit and in the end through God’s grace, be considered pure and blameless. Regardless of intent, the most important thing is that the gospel message is proclaimed and spread to everyone. Sure, it is possible that some spread the message who are not sincere, but do it out of rivalry or pride to get attention- but if the message they spread results in more believers, then that is what matters! Faced with two choices: life or death- each has its own purpose or benefits. “I have the desire to depart and be with Christ- which is far better- but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you.” Philippians 1:23 Even though Paul would prefer the option of death, to fulfill his desire to be with the Lord, for the sake of the gospel, and of those who need to hear the message he has an important reason to remain alive.

Chapter 2: The Importance of Being Humble

Just as Jesus (in the form of God) was humbled when he came as a man submitting to death on the cross for our sake, we must also be humble; making sure to act as if we consider others more important than ourselves. Just as Jesus was glorified- we too will be blessed by our humility as well. ‘Hold firmly to the message of life”. Philippians 2:16, and remember that we are like bright starts in a dark, starless world. Therefore we must strive to live our lives according to God’s purpose. Seek the interests of Jesus Christ- not your own!

Chapter 3 and 4: Life in Faith and our Future Hope

Be on the look out for “evil workers” which are false teachers and hypocrites. In his earlier letters, Paul spoke about false teachers who twisted the gospel message and he also wrote about the “Circumcision party”, who required new believers to first convert to the Jewish religion and subsequently submit to the Jewish laws - including circumcision. Paul considers this simply to be a mutilation of the flesh- since it has no value in the purpose of salvation. We can not be saved by our works or by following the law, but by faith. The new circumcision is this: faith- it is a spiritual circumcision of the heart and spirit not of the flesh. So there is no point in boasting in your heritage or your works. Even though you may be disappointed that these do not count as an advantage- be sure of this- by placing your faith in God you gain so more which should more than compensate for your disappointment. Do not live as enemies of Christ as many do, who reject the gospel. They focus on worldly and earthly things. Their selfish desires and pursuits of the flesh control their lives. In this world there are many enemies of the gospel and just as we share in the glories of Christ, we will share in the sufferings too. “But our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ”. Philippians 3:20. We must remember to persevere and not be discouraged, keeping our eyes on our future glory. We should always be encouraged by this and we have a reason to rejoice as well. “Don’t worry about anything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God. “ Philippians4: 6 And finally, all believers must meditate on what is important to the Lord. We need to dwell on things that are just, pure, commendable and moral. Do not dwell or imitate the evils of the non believers - in this dark, faithless world- which are really the enemies of Christ because they rejected the message of the gospel. We need to concentrate on the fruits or manifestations of the Holy Spirit within us.


Chapter 1

Our Hope in Heaven:
Believers in the gospel message look to heaven for their reservation of hope and happiness. The message of the gospel offers to all believers the hope of heaven. Heaven is our inheritance. Knowledge of God’s will through the Holy Spirit gives us the spiritual understanding and wisdom we need to live in a way worthy and pleasing to God. We were rescued from darkness into the kingdom of heaven. We must remember to “remain grounded and steadfast in the faith” and not shift “away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard”. Colossians 1:23

The Importance of Jesus:
As the image of the invisible God, creator of everything in heaven and earth, head of the church of all believers, Jesus is the means by which we are reconciled to God. Paul, the messenger of the gospel has done his part in making known to all, the gospel, its lessons so that believers may mature in their knowledge. Jesus Christ, often referred to the mystery of God, is where all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge may be discovered.

Chapter 2: Be Wary of False Teachings

We must be on guard against false teachings no matter how persuasive they appear to be. We must not be swayed by philosophies, theories and arguments which are based on human tradition and human reasoning. Through Jesus we are saved and it is not through worldly wisdom or works. While we were spiritually dead in our sins, Jesus’ death erased the debt that we would have been required to pay ourselves. The price that should have been ours to pay, was borne by Jesus when he died on the cross. Because of this, we should not be concerned about worldly teachings and traditions which are useless in attaining salvation. Therefore, when such worldly teachers and followers of manmade traditions criticize us and tell us what we as believers should do, we should ignore them. Those who believe in works and human traditions as they way, rely on ascetic practices- in order to give the outward appearance of authority and religion- when in actuality- they could not be farther from the truth. If anyone insists that you follow anything contrary to the message of the gospel- don’t believe it and don’t follow it. This includes when people try to tell you that you must worship angels or follow special rules. Also if anyone claims to have supernatural access to the spirit world or so called visions- don’t believe that either! We don’t have to follow special rules about food or any other tradition that is not found in the gospel message. These special rules to not compensate for your sins or fleshly indulgences. Don’t let false manmade practices and traditions and superstitions disqualify you from knowing the truth of the gospel message! Salvation can only be found in the gospel message alone- through God’s grace and not by what we do.

Chapter 3 and 4: Life as a Believer

When living your life as a believer, seek what is above: holiness, love, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, thankfulness, gracious speech and patience and disregard your past sins which included the following: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, greed, anger, slander, filthy language, lying and malice. We are a new creation in Christ so we should act like it! Remember whatever good we do or say, it should be in the name of Jesus. In your personal and professional relationships, remember humility, compassion and honesty. And last, but not least, remember to pray that more may hear the message of Christ so they too may be saved. We should all pay attention to the ministry.

Thursday, June 4, 2009



Paul’s letter to the Ephesians focuses on the life of a believer. Paul compares and contrasts the life of a believer to that of a nonbeliever and urges all of us to abandon our former way of life in favor of our new life in the Spirit.

Chapter 1: Many Blessings Through Faith in Jesus: Wisdom is Revealed!

As believers we are favored by God and deeply blessed. We are blessed with salvation, grace, forgiveness, wisdom and understanding. And to us, God has made known the “mystery of His will”. What this means is this: in contrast to the unbelievers as described by Paul in his letter to the Romans (as well as other letters too), where as the unbelievers have difficulty understanding due to their hardened hearts and conscious, we have the aid of the Holy Spirit which aids in our understanding of God’s will and message of salvation. To those who do not have faith, who do not believe and who are not saved- those who do not have the Holy Spirit, God’s wisdom is simply foolishness or nonsense. In other words to those who are perishing, it is a mystery or a puzzle- something that they cannot possibly understand. Keep in mind, this is a choice. Those who do not believe have consciously rejected God’s message of salvation. Those who refuse to believe have willfully rejected God as explained in the letter to the Romans. But to us, as believers, God’s mystery is unraveled or solved! We are enlightened. We can understand it- it is not concealed from our understanding! “In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation- in Him when you believed- were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. He is the down payment of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory” Ephesians 1: 13-14 This is a short sum up of the purpose of the gospel message: the delivery of the message, which is God’s word, leads to belief and salvation. But not only this! We receive the Holy Spirit as well. The Holy Spirit acts as a guarantee or a deposit as proof of our future inheritance or salvation. In the future we will redeem what is coming to us- that is- we will redeem our salvation and the “glorious” spiritual riches and blessings that await. Once again, we must never forget Jesus is the reason for all of this! Jesus is our Savior- our Messiah! God has given complete power and authority to Jesus, through whom we are saved.

Chapters 2 and 3:

Life Through Jesus- Rejection of the Works of the Flesh; the Spirit of Disobedience

Before we placed our faith in Jesus, we were spiritually dead. In other words, we were essentially dead. We were dead in our sins, Prior to hearing and accepting the gospel message we were part of this world, living in our sins. The ruler of this sinful world, referred by Paul as the “atmospheric domain” is Satan. In contrast, as believers, we live according to the Heavenly domain where our hope and our sight is focused. Satan is the spirit which works and lives in those who do not believe. Those who are not believers live and walk in the spirit of disobedience in contrast to believers who walk in the Holy Spirit. Those who live and submit to the spirit of disobedience, live according to sinful fleshly desires and actions just like we used to before we accepted the gospel message. Those who walk in the spirit of this world, Satan’s world, with the spirit of disobedience are subject to God’s wrath. But for us, who believe in the gospel message, and have accepted the gift of redemption through Jesus, are saved from the wrath of God. We are no longer children under wrath, but children under God. “God, who is abundant in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in our trespasses. By grace you are saved!” Ephesians 2:4-5 And furthermore, in the future, God has in store for us, immeasurable blessings and spiritual riches. We cannot even comprehend what is in store for us in heaven! “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift- not from works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians2: 8-9 The salvation we receive is not dependent on what we do. It is not earned based on our works or accomplishments but based on God’s grace alone. In other words it is a gift from God, not something we have earned. But even though we can not work for our salvation, nor can earn it or pay for it, we still are saved for a purpose. We are to use this gift from God for good works. As a result of being saved we should desire to walk in the Holy Spirit and reject the worldly spirit of disobedience. We should exchange our fleshly desires and fleshly works for good desires and good works.

In sum, through Jesus, we who used to be spiritually, dead, who used to walk in the spirit of disobedience (regardless of whether we claimed to be a Jew or Gentile), we are saved. It does not matter what we used to be- without Jesus we were dead in our sins and through Jesus we have life. In contrast to the Old Testament, in which the Jews were distinct from the rest of the world (known as the Gentile world), through faith in Jesus, all are made the same- it does not matter what your heritage was. God reconciles us to Him through Jesus Christ.

Paul explains that in the time of the Old Testament, in other words, before the time of Jesus, the previous generations could not have known the good news of the gospel- the salvation, which was revealed and freely given through Jesus. Through the Holy Spirit, the apostles of the gospel message have revealed the mysteries of God. And furthermore, this saving message is intended for everyone, not just a select nation or a select group of people. Jesus is essentially God’s purpose for mankind. It is the means by which we can be saved.

Chapters 4,5 & 6: Our New Life

As believers in Jesus, Paul once again urges us to walk or live in a way that is worthy of our calling. In other words as he explained earlier, we must not walk or live as we used to when we were spiritually dead- when we used to live according to our fleshly desires under the yoke of the worldly spirit of disobedience. We are called for a better purpose and that is to walk in the Holy Spirit. The expression “walk” refers to a way of life. Our new way of life should be to seek the gifts of the Holy Spirit such as love, humility, gentleness, mercy and patience. And through the Holy Spirit, we may be called to serve through different gifts or different areas of service in accordance with God’s will. For example, some believers may be apostles, teachers or pastors. There are different tasks or ways that believers may be used to spread the message of the gospel and also in continuing the education of believers as well. But all belong to the body of Christ, which is the church of believers. We need these various specialties here in this world, which serves as a time of growth and maturity in the wisdom of the word of God, until the time comes when we all reach full wisdom and maturity. We still must be aware that false teaching and false teachers threaten to confuse us and distort the message, and to combat this, we must persist in the knowledge of the word of God. We must be continually educated in the word of God. And this is the reason we need believers to specialize in different services. As a whole, each specialty works toward a unified church.

Again, Paul repeats himself: we must abandon our previous fleshly way of life as we used to live. In other words, the life of the unbeliever is futile. The understanding of the unbeliever is limited and darkened. They are ignorant of God and their hearts are hardened. Remember the first chapters in the book of Romans! This is important and it is repeated again here: the unbelievers of this world willingly rejected God. Their hearts are hardened and calloused! They would not know what goodness was even if it hit them over their heads. And because of their hardened hearts and their willing rejection of God, they have willingly succumbed to the spirit of disobedience, the works of the flesh: impurity, promiscuity and all types of filth and sin. When we accepted the gospel message we were saved: we replaced our former corrupt lives for a new life in Christ. We became a new person, a new creation! We rejected the lie, and everything that is false in favor of Truth! And once again we are reminded to walk in the spirit. It means this: we must no longer live in the fleshly desires which is sin. We must no longer lie or become angry. And if we do become angry, we must not submit to the temptation to sin in our anger. “Do not let the sun go down on your anger, do not give the Devil an opportunity” Ephesians 4:26. If we had bad habits or sinful ways we must try to overcome them. We shouldn’t steal, lie, use bad language, insult or slander each other. We should not get drunk which leads to recklessness. “Sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you… And coarse and foolish talking or crude joking are not suitable, but rather giving thanks. For know and recognize this: no sexually immoral or impure or greedy person, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of the Messiah and of God.” Ephesians 5:3-5 These are bad things. We need to show love, kindness and compassion for one another in imitation of that which God has shown for us. We must give thanks to God and submit to each other. We must read the scriptures: psalms and hymns and discuss the bible with one another.

This is so important, that Paul cannot emphasis it enough “Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk” Ephesians 5:15 - as believers we must walk in the Holy Spirit or in the Light. We must reject the spirit of darkness which is the spirit of disobedience. Remember the qualities of the Holy Spirit and compare them with the qualities of darkness! Commit it to memory and reject the works of the flesh. Paul has described the fruits of the spirit as well as the works of darkness enough times. We know what they are and we know the difference. “Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Ephesians 5:10 To all nonbelievers, the message is this: “Get up sleeper and rise from the dead” Ephesians 5:14. To those who are spiritually dead, it is as they live in the darkness, it is as if they are asleep. They need to be woken up, and brought to life. Their dark and evil deeds will be brought to the light and exposed. Believers need to expose it here in this lifetime, and in the next lifetime, nothing whatsoever will remain secret or hidden as everything concealed will be revealed to the shame of those who rejected the message of the gospel.

Paul addresses different types of relationships that involve the potential for the abuses of power with suggestions of how to ensure these relationships are pleasing to God. He warns those who have the upper hand in a relationship to not abuse their authority or power. A man should love and respect his wife, parents and children must respect one another as well as slaves and masters. Essentially the message is this: in God’s eyes we are all equal and regardless of our position- whether we have authority over another or we submit to another in this world, neither have an advantage in God’s eyes and all have a responsibility to obey God’s will.

The Armor of God:

As believers we are in a constant battle with Satan a.k.a “the evil one” - the master of this world. Just as armor protects a soldier in battle, the armor of God will protect the believer against Satan (which is the Devil) “Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil” Ephesians 6:11 These qualities are analogous to armor which serve to protect us from false doctrines, false teachers and fleshly desires: truth, righteousness, readiness for evangelism, faith, the word of God (the bible), and the awareness of our salvation. These qualities protect us. The word of God is as effective and powerful as a sword, against the false teaching or “flaming arrows” of Satan. We should remain alert and pray at all times. We need to be always ready and always on guard.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I review for Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers

100 Bible Stories 100 Bible Songs by Stephen Elkins

100 Bible Stories 100 Bible Songs created by Stephen Elkins and illustrated by Tim O’Connor is a wonderful resource that brings the bible to life for young children. Containing a selection of 100 stories and two music CDs, this book- especially the songs- is sure to capture the attention of young children and parents as well! Familiar songs such as “he’s God the Whole World in His Hands” as well as “O How I love Jesus” are included. The short bible stories, approximately one paragraph in length are actually mini- bible stories in which actual bible references are included. Alongside each story, is a simple color illustration and a one sentence summary analogous to the one line moral lesson that you would find at the end of the tales by Aesop. Also is a short one line application of how a child may put into practice the morals and lessons learned from each bible story. Best of all each bible story has a coordinating song that compliments the specific story. Even though the music CDs compliment and reinforce the stories from the book, the music CDs are not dependent upon the book. In other words, the CD is best listened to separately from the book as the musical lyrics of the music are not contained in the text of the book. The music at times seems overly cheerful- and a bit to sing songish.  But that will appeal to very young children.

Overall, this book of stories is best suited for very young children under age of 3.  The cartoonish art is very simple. I would have preferred more bold, better quality illustrations.  I feel that the colors seemed a bit washed out. A little more attention to the art would greatly improve this children's bible story book.  The text is oversimplified, using the word happy for example in place of blessed.  On one hand, the word choice is easier for a very young child.  But the fact that the word choice deviates from the intended meaning make this a bible that children will quickly outgrow.  Once your child reaches pre-school, its probably time to pack away the book.  This is a bible that children will quickly outgrow.  The fact that this is a thorough collection of stories makes it a good choice for a toddler's first bible.

As a member of the Thomas Nelson Review Blogger program I was pleasantly surprised at this children’s book/CD collection and would recommend this for anyone with very young children!