1 Corinthians Overview

1 Corinthians Overview

Who wrote the book?
Paul’s authorship of this epistle is widely accepted in the scholarly community, though it was not the first letter Paul wrote to the Corinthian people (see 1 Corinthians 5:9). We know that the Corinthians misunderstood an earlier letter from Paul (5:10–11), though that letter has not survived. Therefore, it is Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians that we know as 1 Corinthians—the first letter to the Corinthians that God inspired.

Four years prior to writing the letter we know as 1 Corinthians, the apostle had spent eighteen months in Corinth, so he was intimately familiar with the church and many of its congregants. The recipients of the letter must have understood the letter’s significance, not only to their own circumstances but for the church worldwide. In AD 95, Clement, the bishop of Rome, wrote a letter of his own to the Corinthians in which he invoked the authority of Paul’s instruction in 1 Corinthians. Only a few decades after its origin, this letter to the Corinthians had traveled outside of Corinth and was considered authoritative beyond its initial Corinthian context.

Where are we?
Paul had been in Ephesus for more than two years on his third missionary journey when he received a disturbing report of quarreling within the Corinthian church, a report he received from people associated with one of its members, Chloe (1 Corinthians 1:11). The church he had founded so recently (Acts 18:1–17) had already developed deep divisions, a situation that required immediate action. Paul penned his letter in AD 55, just as he was planning to leave Ephesus for Macedonia (1 Corinthians 16:5–8).

Why is First Corinthians so important?
First Corinthians contains a frank discussion of the church and the issues that impacted real people in the first century. The Corinthian church was corroded with sin on a variety of fronts, so Paul provided an important model for how the church should handle the problem of sin in its midst. Rather than turn a blind eye toward relational division and all kinds of immorality, he addressed the problems head on. In his bold call to purity within the Corinthian church, Paul made it clear that he was willing to risk the good opinion of some in order to help cleanse the sin that tainted the church.

What’s the big idea?
First Corinthians addresses reports that Paul received from Chloe’s household, as well as a letter he received from the church itself (1 Corinthians 7:1). In this letter to the church at Corinth, Paul covered a number of different issues related to both life and doctrine: divisions and quarrels, sexual immorality, lawsuits among believers, marriage and singleness, freedom in Christ, order in worship, the significance of the Lord’s Supper, and the right use of spiritual gifts; he also included a profound teaching on the resurrection.

The line of thought that joins these topics together was Paul’s emphasis on Christian conduct in the local church. The apostle expected that Christian people would live according to Christian ideals, or as he told them, “You have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (6:20).

How do I apply this?
Corinth was a large, international metropolis, filled with people from different backgrounds. Idol worship to gods such as Aphrodite was particularly prominent in the city, though Corinth contained numerous temptations far beyond her temples. In this sense, Corinth was very much like a modern urban area, containing unending opportunities to engage in sinful behavior without any apparent consequences.

Such a community clearly had a negative influence on the Corinthian church. But notice that Paul’s instruction to the believers was not to retreat from their city. This was not Paul’s vision for the church then or now. Instead, he directed us to live out our commitment to Christ ever more faithfully in the midst of nonbelievers. Paul expected that we Christians would shine our light into the dark places of their world by worshiping in a unified community that was accountable to one another. He expected that we would settle our problems internally, that we would encourage one another in the pursuit of purity, and that we would strive together by holding tightly to the hope of our bodily resurrection to come.

What can you do within your local church to make this kind of community more of a reality?

Romans Overview

Romans Overview

For centuries, the faithful descendants of Abraham according to the flesh—the Jews— looked forward to God’s decisive intervention to restore the nation of Israel to a right relationship with Him. This was the hope of the prophets, who eagerly anticipated the Lord’s work to fulfill His covenant promises of salvation and make His people into a holy nation (Isaiah 52:1–9). Yet this redemption was not intended merely for the Jews. In the day of Israel’s salvation, “all the ends of the earth see the salvation of God” (Isaiah 52:10), and the nations would serve the Lord (Micah 4:1–5).

During the first century AD, our Creator acted to keep His covenant promises and save His people from their sins in the person and work of Jesus Christ (Mattthew 1:21; John 3:16–17). Thus was born the Christian church, which grew steadily and rapidly among the Jews in the earliest days of its history (Acts 2:42–47). The conversion of one of these Jews—Saul of Tarsus—marked a decisive point in redemptive history, for this former Pharisee brought the gospel to the Gentiles with a zeal that few could match. Saul—better known as Paul the Apostle—was not the first person to preach the gospel to the nations; nevertheless, his work preaching the good news of salvation, discipling converts, and planting churches was the means by which the Holy Spirit realized the promise that all people would benefit from the gospel. Once Paul understood that Israel’s restoration and salvation were accomplished in Christ Jesus, he knew that it was time for the Gentiles to come en masse to worship the Lord of Israel. So, he went out on several missionary journeys to establish Christian congregations, and he instructed them by means of epistles.

Paul’s epistle to the Romans is the most influential of these letters. Its teaching has sparked reformation and revival throughout church history whenever people have grasped the Spirit’s message through the pen of the Apostle. Often called Paul’s magnum opus, Romans was written sometime in AD 57–58, probably from Corinth. This was the end of his third missionary journey, and the Apostle was on his way to deliver monies collected from the Gentile churches to the Jewish church in Jerusalem. After Jerusalem, Paul wanted to stop in Rome to meet the church there before going on to preach the gospel in Spain (Romans 15:22–29). He wrote his letter to the Romans to introduce himself to the church there and to explain the message he preached throughout the world.

Acts 26-28

Acts 26-28

“When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment.” ~ Acts 27:1

It was determined by the counsel of God, before it was determined by the counsel of Festus, that Paul should go to Rome, because God had work for him to do there. A helpful exercise to build our trust in the Lord, is to trace all of the twists and turns in our life, and look at how the Lord has used them to grow us. Similarly, if we consider the circumstances surrounding our salvation in particular, it should give us reason to never complain. We were lost and in a very desperate place, and if the Lord had not revealed our absolute need for Him, we would still be there (Colossians 2:13). God’s history for each of His children is particular, and was planned before He even spoke creation into existence.

Consider Ephesians 1:4 ~ For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

Acts 23-25

Acts 23-25

Acts 24:27 says, “When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, but because Felix wanted to grant a favor to the Jews, he left Paul in prison.”

Why would God not “bless” Paul here, and allow him to be set free? If struggles in this life, whether they be physical or financial, are from a lack of faith, then why did Paul have to suffer? Surely his faith was stronger than that of anyone reading this post. Examples like this completely destroy the prosperity gospel. In addition to the numerous passages in scripture where suffering and trials for the believer are assumed, actual examples of people of great faith who suffer are the rule not the exception in God’s redemptive history. Most importantly, our Savior suffered, and told us that we would as well.

In John 15:20 we read:

Remember what I told you: “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.

Thankfully, this life is not where our hope lies. If we have an eternal perspective grounded in biblical truth, we’ll know that trials are from the Lord, and are part of this life so that we would grow in trusting Him.

Specifically, James 1:2-4 tells us:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Acts 19-22

Acts 19-22

“When it was time to leave, we left and continued on our way. All of them, including wives and children, accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray.” What did they pray about in Acts 21:5? How would you pray in this situation? For a safe trip and nothing else?

Our prayer life often treats God like a cosmic genie, and we rub our prayer lamps to ask for things we want, without an eternal perspective. We can certainly ask God for anything, but when the focus of our prayer is on earthly needs, we lose sight of how big God is and how small we are. God doesn’t need us to pray to Him. He wants us to pray so that we’d display our need for Him, and humble ourselves. Prayer is a form of humility, and the way we pray matters. In fact, the content of our prayers reflects our theology, and when we mainly ask for earthly things from God, it reveals our lack of interest in things above.

Thankfully, the bible teaches us how to pray. While we don’t know exactly what was prayed in Acts 21:5 based explicitly on this text, we can reference how Paul prays elsewhere in scripture to have an idea. Below are the 40 prayers Paul prays, which give us a perfect model for how we’re to pray since these prayers are inspired by the Holy Spirit. Notice the pattern of focusing on spiritual things.

Romans 1:8–10 8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.

Romans 10:1 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

Romans 15:5–6 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Romans 15:30–33 30 I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, 31 that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. 33 May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

1 Corinthians 1:4–9 4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Corinthians 16:23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.

2 Corinthians 1:3–7 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 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. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 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. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

2 Corinthians 2:14–16 14 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. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?

2 Corinthians 9:12–15 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. 15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

2 Corinthians 13:7–9 7 But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. 8 For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. 9 For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for.
Galatians 6:18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.

Ephesians 1:3–5 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

Ephesians 1:15–23 15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Ephesians 3:14–21 14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 6:19–20 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Philippians 1:3–6 3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:9–11 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Philippians 4:6–7 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Colossians 1:3–14 3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, 7 just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf 8 and has made known to us your love in the Spirit. 9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Colossians 4:2–4 2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. 3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

1 Thessalonians 1:2–3 2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Thessalonians 2:13–16 13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. 14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last!

1 Thessalonians 3:9–13 9 For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, 10 as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith? 11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

1 Thessalonians 5:23–24 23 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. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

1 Thessalonians 5:28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

2 Thessalonians 1:3–5 3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. 4 Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. 5 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering—

2 Thessalonians 1:11–12 11 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, 12 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 2:16–17 16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

2 Thessalonians 3:2–5 2 and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. 4 And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

2 Thessalonians 3:16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.

1 Timothy 1:12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service,

1 Timothy 2:1–3 1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,

2 Timothy 1:3–7 3 I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. 4 As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. 6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

2 Timothy 1:16–18 16 May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, 17 but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me— 18 may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day!—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.

2 Timothy 4:22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.

Titus 3:15 All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all.

Philemon 4–7 4 I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, 6 and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. 7 For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.

Philemon 25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Acts 9-18

Acts 9-18

Herod’s death is recorded in Acts 12, and the Jewish historian, Josephus, also records the same. He describes this occasion when Herod met with the people of Tyre and Sidon in what we now call Lebanon. These people were dependent upon Judea, and especially upon Galilee, for food. So when the king came out, dressed in his royal robes, they flattered him. When he spoke to them they cried out, “Why, this is a voice of a god, and not a man!” And this pompous, vain king believed them. It is almost incredible — the tragic, twisted mentality of a man like this, who could actually believe that he had so much power that he had become a god.

But this was not uncommon in those days, nor is it in our own day. This, of course, is exactly what happens in any man’s mentality when he begins to think of himself as what we call a “self-made” man. Sometimes you talk to men who own a lot of property and they will tell you, “Well, I worked for it. I produced it all myself. Nobody helped me.” They are falling into the same tragic error as this vain and fatuous king who imagined that he had power in himself to operate. But Luke tells us that he was immediately stricken by an angel of the Lord, and he was eaten of worms and died. I do not know what Luke’s exact diagnosis is here, but some sudden catastrophe befell Herod and, as Josephus tells us, within two or three days he died.

What does this mean? This is God’s way of demonstrating the ultimate folly of the person who thinks that he can live without God, who thinks that we are not dependent people. This is the tragedy of mankind. You can frequently discern from listening to others that, as a people, we imagine that we have what it takes to produce all that life requires, and that we do not need anyone or anything else — especially God. The great tragedy is that, more often than not, in a sense, we are saying to God, “Please, God, I’d rather do it myself!” We want to do it all ourselves. But God often strikes to remind us that our very life, our very breath, all that we have and are, is coming from him, and that we are fools to think that we can exist and live, act and react, on our own. This episode shows how blinded, how distorted, how tragically twisted becomes the thinking of men who depart from a sense of dependence upon God.

Acts 5-7

Acts 5-7

In Acts 6, we see the creation of the positions of Elder and Deacon within a local church. It would be very easy to read this as though the apostles were saying, “We’re too good to serve tables. After all, we’re apostles. Let’s pick out seven flunkies who can do that, while we devote ourselves to the tremendously spiritual work of prayer and preaching the word.” If you read it that way you completely misread this passage because that is not what they did at all.

Remember that these apostles had been in the upper room with the Lord Jesus. They had seen him divest himself of his garments, gird himself with a towel, take a basin of water, and wash their filthy, dirty feet. They had heard his words, “the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves….” (Luke 22:26). They were not, in any sense, downgrading the ministry of serving tables. They made this decision on the basis of a difference in spiritual gifts. Here we have a very clear example of the way the early church assigned duties upon the basis of the distribution of gifts by the Holy Spirit.

The glory of this church was that they were conscious of the superintendency of the Holy Spirit — so aware that the Lord Jesus himself, by means of the Spirit, was the head of the church. He was apportioning gifts, giving certain ministries to various individuals and sending them out, giving the orders. All through this book of Acts you can see tremendous manifestation of the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Here, then, they recognize that he had given various gifts. The apostles understood that their gift was that of an apostle. They were to lay the foundation of the church, for it was given to the apostles to lay foundations. That foundation is the Scriptures. It is on the Scriptures that the church rests. The minute the church departs from these Scriptures it loses its strength, its light and understanding, and its ability to operate. That has always been true. Whenever the church has rested upon the foundation laid by the apostles, the truth as it is in Jesus, the church has always had strength, power, and grace.

Therefore it was necessary that the apostles give themselves to the ministry of apostleship, which involved, “prayer and the ministry of the word.” As they met together in prayer they learned and understood the mind of God. The Spirit of God reminded them of things which the Lord Jesus had taught them, and they in turn imparted this to the church. At that time, none of the New Testament was in writing. Yet all of the truths which we have reflected in these New Testament pages were being uttered by the apostles as they taught the people from place to place. They taught them what we now have written down for us. And all we have, of course, is the word of the apostles. This whole New Testament is nothing but the word of the apostles given to us. So it was essential, as they understood it, to devote themselves to this.

Acts 1-4

Acts 1-4

The marks of a true church must be tested finally against the teaching of Scripture, which is the sure instruction of the Apostles and the inerrant Word of God. Protestants have traditionally agreed on two marks: the right preaching of the Word and the right administration of the sacraments. Many list church discipline as a third mark of the church. Others make it part of the right administration of the sacraments, as discipline determines who may receive these means of grace.

The right preaching of God’s Word is an obvious mark of the church. Without faithfulness to the foundation of Christian belief, no group can rightly call itself Christian, let alone a church. Summaries of the essential teaching of Scripture such as the Nicene Creed and Westminster Confession of Faith can assist us in determining whether a particular church accurately preaches the Word. Sacraments are visible words of God, so their right administration also marks a true church. Today’s passage proves that the earliest Christians affirmed these two marks of the church, for the first New Testament church devoted itself to Apostolic teaching and the breaking of bread (the Lord’s Supper) (Acts 2:42). Word and sacrament, rightly administered, were the emphasis of the Apostolic church, and so they must be our emphasis today.

True churches are identified by their faithfulness to the Word of God, not by their size or influence in the community. A church that hears and obeys Scripture cannot help but reach out to the society around it, but the mere presence of programs or a gathering of professing believers does not necessarily mean a church is present. As believers, let us call our churches to remain faithful to God’s Word and to administer the sacraments rightly and regularly.

John 16-21

John 16-21

John 21 includes an intense private conversation between the Lord and Peter that the apostle John was allowed to overhear. Even though Peter was still very tender from his devastating failure during the events leading up to the crucifixion, when he denied knowing Christ, Jesus welcomed him back.

But it was a welcome accompanied by truth. Jesus had work for him to do. He refused to sugarcoat the reality of the life to which Peter had returned. Jesus basically let him know, “This is going to be hard, Peter. If you’re going to follow Me, the way won’t be easy. Feeding My sheep is going to take everything you’ve got.”

When Jesus said, “Where you do not want to go,” we know what He meant because of John’s side note: “(This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.)” Jesus could see what Peter would face in the future and He knew His disciple would endure.

Church history records that in about AD 65 Peter was executed in Rome under orders from Nero. By the end of his life Peter had been on the road for several decades proclaiming the gospel. He had penned a couple of New Testament letters and probably been Mark’s main source for the second gospel. Peter had a great life of serving God, but he had a tough finish.

Following Christ is not easy. Our Lord never hid that fact. But following Him is best. We’re not sugarcoating anything here. The Christian life is not always smooth going, but it is exactly what we were designed to do and be. It’s the real life. It’s the best life you can possibly have: giving your life to Jesus Christ, living for Him, obeying His Word, having fellowship with His people, and serving in His kingdom.

You don’t know what lies ahead for you. Jesus does. He won’t tell you beforehand, except to assure you that whatever happens, He will be with you every step of the way. He has made that promise (Matthew 28:20) and He will keep it.

John 1-15

John 1-15

In John 4, Jesus interacts with a woman at the well. She came to the well at midday, not out of choice but out of necessity, for the other women would not tolerate her presence in the cool of the morning. The well was usually deserted during the hot hours, but on this day a man was sitting there. Then she noticed that the man was a Jew, and Jews hardly ever ventured so far into Samaria. But then, most surprising of all, for the Jews have no dealings with Samaritans, the man turned to her and asked for a drink. She was flabbergasted, and rather than fulfilling the request she paused to ask why this man was violating so many social customs.

“Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, “Give Me a drink,” you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.’ ” Thus, the woman at the well came face to face with Jesus and He began teaching her how to find eternal satisfaction.

Just as Nathanael had doubts about Philip’s claim that Jesus was the Messiah, this woman was skeptical about Jesus’ ability to supply living water. “ ‘Where then do You get that living water?’ ” she asked. Jesus didn’t answer, but began to describe the wonderful qualities of His living water in comparison to the water in the well. The living water, He said, would satisfy forever. That got her attention, for she was a hedonist, a seeker after pleasure, spending her life in search of something to satisfy her. And so she asked Him to give her a drink.

“Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband.’ ” She had to admit she had no husband, to which Jesus replied that she had had five husbands and now had an illicit relationship. That raised Him, in her estimation, to the status of a prophet, and she brought up the topic of worship. Jesus then spoke to her about true worship, and when He was finished she ventured to mention her theory that Jesus might be more, that He might be the Messiah the Samaritans, too, were looking for. And Jesus, in a rare self-disclosure, said, “ ‘I … am He.’ ”

We’re never told whether the woman accepted Jesus’ claim. She went back to town and asked the men whether Jesus could be the Christ. Many of the people did believe on Him. But the woman had been the first of that town to see and hear Jesus. He offered Himself to her as living water that would satisfy always. Did she drink?