Galatians Overview

Galatians Overview

Only the Lord knows why He chose Saul of Tarsus to be His chief apostle to the Gentiles, especially as he was in the midst of persecuting Christians. Nevertheless, in choosing to transform Saul of Tarsus into Paul the apostle, God clearly picked a man whose background would benefit him as he worked to proclaim Christ to the nations. We know, for example, that Paul was born in Tarsus, a city known for its learning, and studied in Jerusalem under Rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), one of the most significant Jewish teachers of the first century. Doubtless this education provided him with much of the in-depth knowledge of the Old Testament that he demonstrates in his letters as well as training in the interpretation of Scripture. It also helped him develop his Greek, which would come in handy when it came time to write his epistles.

Including his trip to Rome, the book of Acts describes four different missionary journeys Paul took to preach the gospel and plant churches after his conversion to Christ (13–14; 15:36–18:22; 18:23–26:32; 27–28). As we will see when we study 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, the apostle probably went on one or more additional trips, though Acts does not cover that part of his life. In any case, it is the first journey that concerns us as we begin to study Galatians. During this trip, Paul visited Pisidian-Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra, all cities in the Roman province of Galatia, located in what is modern-day Turkey. Many disciples were made on this journey and elders were appointed, laying the foundation of “the churches of Galatia” to whom Paul would write his letter (Gal. 1:2).

There is a lot of debate as to whether Paul wrote Galatians to the northern part of the province or the southern. We believe he wrote to the southern Galatians early in his career, although the interpretation of the epistle is not affected if he addressed believers in the north. If we are correct, Galatians is the very first letter we have from the pen of the apostle, written about AD 48.

Luke tells us there was much rejoicing as the Gentiles came to faith in these territories (Acts 13:48). The circumstances, however, that prompted Paul to write to the Galatians were not happy ones, as we will see in due time.

Take a moment to read through the entire book of Galatians. As you read this letter, consider some of the themes that Paul returns to again and again. Note that this letter profoundly impacted Martin Luther and his rediscovery of justifying grace during the Protestant Reformation. Pray that your own life might be renewed through a new appreciation of the Father’s grace to you.

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2 Corinthians 10-13

2 Corinthians 10-13

Second Corinthians 11:14–15 contains perhaps the most important bit of information all believers need to remember concerning the nature of Satan and his work. Paul tells us in today’s passage that the Devil “disguises himself as an angel of light” (v. 14). Of course, Satan and his minions are often the direct source of much of the outright perversity and evil that we see on this planet. However, since he is the “father of lies” (John 8:44), the Evil One would much rather approach us in the guise of something good and not something wicked. If he came at us blatantly, Satan would be easy to resist. We are more likely to embrace his lies if he approaches us under the guise of the good.

With respect to his influence on believers, the Adversary comes at us to accuse us and tempt us. The Devil can often appear to us as an angel of light when he works to accuse us. The story of Job gives a good example of the accusatory nature of Satan. Appearing before God on His throne, Satan once accused Job of being upright only because the Lord had blessed him (Job 1:6–11). In like manner, the Devil likes to remind us of our sin, to tell us the Father cannot possibly love us because we always serve Him with mixed motives. This work is very hard to distinguish from the work of the Holy Spirit, who convicts us of our wickedness and makes us feel the pain of offending God as well as the terrible sense that we are absent from His presence. Yet the Holy Spirit always wounds us so that He may bring healing and restoration with the Father (Ps. 147:1–3). Satan’s work of accusation only keeps us away from God and paralyzes us with the horror of sin, preventing us from serving the Lord and others. This is why we must remember God’s grace in the Gospel. True, every sin is deeply offensive to the Lord, but in light of our justification (Rom. 8:31–39) no charge can be laid against us. When we repent, God really does forgive us.

Our Creator is sovereign, not the Devil. As the story of Job also illustrates, anything that Satan does is done only because the Father has permitted it (Job 1:12). Sometimes God lets the Evil One tempt us and assault us, but even in these cases our Lord’s purpose is our ultimate good and His final glory (Rom. 8:28).

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 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.

Titus 1:1

Titus 1:1…”Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.” Sharpening other believers with the truth should be our goal as well. What is the truth that leads to godliness? That we have been rescued by the Father, through the Son’s atoning sacrifice, by the Holy Spirit being placed in us supernaturally. We were spiritually dead, and needed rescued. It’s not that we were floating helplessly, and God threw out a rope, and faith is the hand that grabbed the rope and we were rescued. No, that analogy implies that we had some capacity to save ourselves, which is false. We were dead at the bottom of the ocean, and Jesus dove down and brought us back up and breathed life into us without our doing anything to save ourselves. If we’ve responded with faith and repentance to the gospel, it had nothing to do with our choosing God, and everything to do with God choosing to elect us, out of His abundant grace and mercy. This is the truth that leads to godliness, and any other version of the “truth” does not come from scripture.

Ephesians 2:1-8

1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.

Acts 27:1

Acts 27:1…”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.” 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.

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

Acts 26:20

Acts 26:20…”I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds.” In giving his defense to King Agrippa, Paul is able to share the gospel. This particular verse is extremely helpful for us in our evangelism as well. Sharing the gospel includes the following four key elements: God, Man, Christ, Response (details have been posted previously here under Acts 18:4). All four are equally important, and all four have been watered down in the contemporary American church. Paul clearly includes in his gospel presentation a right response, which specifically describes active repentance and obedience. There is a cost to the Christian life, and any gospel promising ease of life this side of heaven is extra-biblical (outside of the bible). Your life does not get easier when you follow Jesus, and we need to make this clear in evangelism. There is a cost to following Him, mainly that you’ll have to give up your previous life and pursue Him, submitting to His ways in all things. Thankfully, we’re not saved based on our own deeds being perfect, but we have a Savior who was perfect, and laid down His life for our justification before God. But, if we are truly saved, then we will pursue sanctification, imperfectly as it may be (Romans 8:30).

Acts 25:6

Acts 25:6…”After spending eight or ten days with them, Festus went down to Caesarea. The next day he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought before him.” In suffering times the wisdom of the Lord’s people is tried, as well as their patience. Paul was willing to abide by the rules of the law, and to let that take its course. If he deserved death, he would accept the punishment. However, Paul is neither released nor condemned. It is an instance of the slow steps which Providence takes, and often our hopes and our fears are kept waiting on God.