GRACE AND HOPE IN THE BIBLE
THE EPISTLES Romans 1 & 2 Corinthians Galatians Ephesians Philippians Colossians 1 & 2 Thessalonians 1 & 2 Timothy Titus Philemon Hebrews James 1 & 2 Peter 1,2 & 3John Jude
GRACE AND HOPE IN THE EPISTLES
ROMANS The word GRACE is mentioned 22 times in Romans, more than any other Book in the Bible, such is its importance to Paul. Romans is the Book to read if you want to understand the fundamental truths of Christianity. Paul writes: • Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit • With his vast knowledge of the Scriptures • With a deep desire to help Christians understand that we can never earn a right relationship with God because of what we do – we stand forgiven solely on the basis of what Jesus did for us at Calvary. • To share with us the wonderful benefits of the Grace of God Read Romans 5v2 – We have HOPE in God’s Grace Hope – Greek elpis/elpo – it means to anticipate with pleasure, expectation, confidence and faith. We can put our trust in God’s Word in all situations because we hope in the glory of God. What does that mean? God’s glory is the representation of his presence with us, so that: We can know he is with us, whatever we are going through We can have a joyful expectation of living in his presence eternally Read Romans 15v13. God, by his grace has gifted us hope. Q. Do we embrace it, or do we still keep worrying because we have forgotten his promises? Read Romans 3v23&23 and 5v1 – We are JUSTIFIED by grace The Greek word dikaioo/dikaios means equitable, innocent, just. It means that we can be made right (righteous) before God. In the New Testament, righteousness is sometimes translated as ‘justification’. Example: If I want a piece of writing to be good enough for inspection, I will justify the text. That is, I will conform it to neat margins, and make it right. Justification is about God making us right with Himself. We can never make ourselves right with God, it is all about his Grace and Justification. As verse 24 says: We are justified freely, by his grace. However, righteous should result in the right actions – and our actions should reveal God’s grace to others. Q. In what ways might we still try to justify ourselves? Does a mature Christian need any less grace than a new Christian? Read Roman 6v14&15 – OVERCOMING through God’s Grace It therefore follows that, because we are under grace, and God is continually justifying us (keeping us right), we can overcome sin and temptation that comes our way. Sin may be a moral or ethical wrongdoing, but it can just as often be an unkind thought or word, so none of us are exempt. The Law judges us and makes us aware of our sin, but it can never bring us forgiveness and mercy. They only come by God’s grace (See Romans 10v4). Romans 5v20 says: Where sin increased, Grace increased all the more … and will bring eternal life.” We are, and should be, concerned about the increase in sin in our society and around the world. But we should not be despondent. God’s Grace is still sufficient. God’s grace is infinite, and offered to all. See Romans 8v37-39. Nothing can stop God from loving us or from reaching out to us, in Grace. Q. And yet many resist God’s Grace – why? Is it through ignorance, pride, uncertainty, wilfulness, rebelliousness? Romans 6v1&2: CONTINUING in God’s Grace We are not to take God’s Grace for granted! That would be easy, given that we know he will forgive us. We need to constantly be mindful of what a high cost it had – it cost God the painful death of His only Son to free us from the 1
punishment of the Law. Praise God, every time we fall, every time we make a mistake or even deliberately disobey Him, He welcomes us back with open arms (like the Father of the Prodigal Son). That is the outpouring of his Grace – but to sin again would be to undervalue what has cost God everything. The best way for us to show appreciation of his grace is to reflect that grace to others. Q. How can we do this in practice? In what other ways can we show God that we are not taking his grace for granted? Romans 15v15&16 – MINISTERING in God’s Grace Paul was ever-mindful of the Grace of God shown to him, the “chief of sinners”. He knew that he deserved punishment, but God gave him mercy, forgiveness, love and grace. The outcome of that was that he wanted to share the message of God’s Grace with others. Paul also says that we should all be a part of that ministry, because we are all part of the Body of Christ. Read Romans 12v3-8 Our ministry: serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, and showing mercy (grace) to one another. Read Romans 15v5&6 The outcome of this will be unity, motivated by love for one another. Paul’s Song of Praise Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them? For from Him, and through Him, and for Him, are all things. To Him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen. Romans 11v33-36 _______________________________________________________________________
Grace and Hope in Paul’s Letters to the Church at Corinth
1 CORINTHIANS – Grace and Unity In this letter we see the link between Grace and Unity in the church. The church at Corinth was a young church where there were divisions, and people were promoting themselves and vying for position. The church was not in a good place and much of Paul’s letter deals with the problems. Read chapter 1v10 and 3v10-15: We need Grace to work together We are not all the same. We all have our foibles and we all make mistakes. Some are more charismatic than others. Some are naturally chatty, and others are more reticent. When we all work together in harmony, we get the best of everyone’s abilities. And so, Paul warns against following particular leaders, and he warns those leaders against falling into pride. But it can apply to any of us that do any work for the Lord in the church. It is God’s grace that enables us to do any work for him – and it should be for his glory alone. He equips us, he enables us, he works through us for his glory. And if there is a lack of grace there will be a lack of unity. Q. Why is it wrong to think we are self-sufficient and do not need God’s grace? Read chapter 15v10: Paul’s experience of Grace How many times does Paul use the word Grace in this verse? • By God’s grace I am what I am – a sinner saved by Grace • I want to be worthy of God’s grace so that it is not in vain • Therefore, I work hard for the Lord, not in payment but out of gratitude We cannot sit back on our laurels. We, like Paul, must work for the Lord. God does not do it all for us – he gives us the strength and the grace to work for him. Without Him, we can do nothing of long-lasting worth (see again chapter 3v11-13) Read chapter 11v23-28: God’s Grace in Communion Although we often use this passage to focus our minds on the Communion Service (Breaking of Bread/The Lord’s Supper), Paul first wrote it because of misconduct at The Lord’s table. The Corinthians had made it into a shared feast where some had a glut of food and others had little or nothing. Our Lord Jesus was not the focus of the event. Paul was no doubt appalled that a time of loving and sharing had become anything but that. The very words we use describe how the Communion service should be. Some definitions: • • •
The Greek word used: koinonia – means intimate, spiritual, collective participation of the followers of Jesus Communion – means the sharing of spiritual feeling on a spiritual level in relationship with one another and with Christ Eucharist – means the grace and thanks we offer in worship of Christ as one body.
It can be seen that the Communion service is all about celebrating the Grace and Mercy of God, but equally, it is about our shared Oneness and the grace of God working through us to each other. In a church with hierarchies, a church where there is not true fellowship, a church where there is dissention, a 3
church where people vie for position, a church where there is no grace or love – Communion is meaningless. This is why Paul says we must examine ourselves and be in right relationship with each other (v28) before we can be in right relationship and true communion with God. We can only do this by showing each other grace. Read chapter 13: Grace results in love In this well-known chapter love is a grace, something freely given. Paul calls it “The most excellent way” (12v31 or 13v1 depending on your version of the Bible). We should love in the way God loves us – as depicted in these beautiful verses. Love is the ultimate expression of grace perfectly expressed in the verses of this chapter. Verses 4-7 are like a standard against which we can measure ourselves. Don’t worry, we all fall short! But we can all ask for God’s help to do better! Read chapter 16v23: Start and finish with Grace As Christians, we need God’s grace every moment of our journey through life. Paul started his Epistle with grace and finished with grace. We cannot live without it. It is the only answer for troubled lives and troubled churches. Praise God he is willing to give us his grace again and again and again. _____________________________________________________________________
2 CORINTHIANS : Grace in Giving Read 2 Corinthians 8v1-15 : Grace in Giving Verses 1-7: Paul begins with an example, telling us about the generosity of the Macedonian churches who, even in the midst of trials and poverty, gave richly and generously. They saw it as a privilege (v4). So immediately we see that Paul is not talking about the legal requirement of tithing. In fact, he is encouraging us to give in the same way (v7). And interestingly, he calls giving a “Grace” (Greek word: charis) – something we can freely bestow on others. Background : At the time, the Christians in Jerusalem were suffering hunger and poverty, as a result of a famine in Jerusalem. And Paul was sending Titus to Corinth, in Greece, to collect money to relieve and support those who were suffering (8v17). This letter was a “pep talk” to encourage the Corinthian Christians to share what they had with other Christians, who were being persecuted and marginalised by the Romans. The Scenario Today : Many thousands of Christians around the world are suffering poverty, hunger and persecution as a result of famine, pestilence and persecution. In many Muslim countries they do not qualify for aid if they have rejected Islaam. They are only allowed the lowest paid jobs that no-one else will do. They are in the same position as the Christians Paul is talking about here. Therefore, we can easily apply Paul’s words to ourselves. What does our giving show? Verses 8-15 : Paul says it shows the sincerity of our love for other Christians – those we know and those we don’t know. This is because Grace Giving is more meaningful and effective than a legal requirement (tithing). Paul goes on to say that, by grace, Jesus saved us from the legal requirement of the Law. He did it freely and lovingly. And because He did, and we have experienced this grace, then we should be willing to show that grace to others in practical ways. God looks at our heart, not the amount that we give (v12), and our desire to bless one another. The world accepts that there will be rich and poor, the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. But Paul encourages us as Christians to practice equality (v13&14), to share what we have with each other and with brothers and sisters around the world. It is not right that we live in beautiful houses while many Christians are dying from lack of food. Note: There are many reliable and trustworthy Christian charities that we can use to do this. E.g. Tear Fund; Elim Relief Fund; Barnabas Fund; Scripture Union and Bible Society; Missionary Aviation Fellowship (to name but a few). There may also be people in our own fellowship who need a loving gift. Read chapter 9 v 6-15 : Giving cheerfully God loves a cheerful giver (v7)! Our tithe, or our weekly donation to the upkeep of the church and ministry is one thing, but God loves those who give because it makes them happy to bless others by doing so. Strangely, these chapters are not all about money – have you seen the word mentioned at all? It is about supplying the needs of others, but it is also about our service to God and our worship of God (v12). It’s about seeing and understanding the needs of others. It’s about being obedient to God’s prompting. It’s about giving sacrificially, as Christ showed us. Sowing and Reaping: Paul uses this adage to remind us that when we give without worry for ourselves, God will always recompense us. We can never out-give God. (Think of the example of the widow who 5
used the last of her flour and oil to feed Elijah, and then found that she had more than enough to see her through the famine.) The blessing for givers Verse 6: Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, will also supply and increase your store of seed, and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. God’s sufficiency Much is said in this Book about God’s sufficiency. Read 2 Cor 12 v 9&10. God’s grace is sufficient for all our needs. Whether they be physical, mental, monetary – or even spiritual, God’s grace is sufficient. We can and should depend on him, but he expects that we will also be a part of sharing his grace too. Consider these words: It is not what you do with a million, if riches should ever be your lot, But what you are doing at present, with the pounds and pence you have got. ___________________________________________________________________
GALATIANS – Grace Gifts Read chap 1v6&15 and 2v9&21 THE GIFT OF SALVATION Paul said, “I keep in mind God’s grace, for if righteousness could be gained through any other way, Christ’s death was all for nothing!” (paraphrase) If we say we can be right with God by following his Word, or by being good, or by penance, then we make the sacrificial grace of Christ’s death of no value. Paul reminded us in Chap 1v15 that we were saved by grace alone. God, who knew us in our mother’s womb, chose us and called us unto salvation – by his grace. And then Paul acknowledged that he was only accepted amongst the early Christian leaders because of God’s grace on his life (chap 2v9). God’s grace is everything. Without it we would have no hope of true fellowship with God or with other Christians. Paul tells us that we can be justified (made right) with God only by his grace. Relying on anything else, especially pride in our goodness and works, alienates us from his grace. Read chapter 5v4-6. The only thing that counts for anything in God’s reckoning is “faith expressing itself through love” (v6). As far as salvation goes, all our works have no value at all – although that doesn’t mean that we will not be rewarded for them if we have acted out of love, because it is even more important that we should be serving God when we have experienced his great grace. Living under the grace of God, instead of under a sense of duty (“I ought to do this …), frees us from the motivation to earn God’s favour. Read Galatians 5v13-18 and 22-26 THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT Verses 22 and 23 are more commonly called the Fruits of the Spirit. They are a result of God’s Spirit working in our lives to develop Godly character traits. The word grace in the New Testament is ‘charis’ from which we get the word ‘Charismatic’. And we often wrongly use the word ‘charisma’ to denote someone who is inspirational and super-spiritual; someone who can influence the crowds. But the true meaning of the word charismatic describes someone who has charis – grace, i.e. someone who shows favour, mercy, generosity, kindness etc. Our word ‘character’ has a similar beginning. It means the combination of traits and qualities which show the individual nature of a person. And so, these grace gifts in verses 22 and 23 come from the Holy Spirit, into our lives to develop our character traits. They are a gift from the Lord, which enable us to become more gracious, like Jesus Christ, in our relationships with one another. The words vary slightly in different versions of the Bible. The NIV lists them as the following: LOVE – love which is a choice, love that gives without wanting any return, love which seeks the welfare of others JOY – a deep joy, not based on circumstances, but on our relationship with Jesus Christ. A delight in his great mercy. PEACE – the peace of Christ which can be experienced amidst turmoil. A peace which Christians can bring into a difficult situation. FOREBEARANCE – In these days of litigation and wanting our rights, this is a quality of patience which does not let people or circumstances overwhelm us, because we have God’s love and grace in us. It means we can let go, and let God take control. KINDNESS – If one word sums up grace, it is this one; being kind - whoever and whatever we are dealing with. It is being generous, not just with money but in thought and action also. 7
GOODNESS – having morally good intentions and motives – having integrity and knowing the right way to behave. FAITHFULNESS – the ability to stay reliable, trustworthy and loyal – even through trials – being faithful to our calling in Christ Jesus GENTLENESS – being meek and humble – not being “pushy” with others; so that God’s strength can work through us. SELF-CONTROL – the ability to say ‘no’ to fleshly or ungodly desires. Each of these character traits is a Grace. It would be good to stop and evaluate which of these God is working on in our lives; and to ask him for help in the areas we struggle with. They don’t all come to us easily! Praise God that he knows this and offers us the opportunity to accept his gifts of grace. The secret is in verse 25: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit”. Read chapter 6v1-10 – Putting grace into action Verse 1: We should not be critical in our approach to wrongdoers, but spiritual – knowing the mind of the Lord. We should respond to, and see others, as Christ would. Verse 2: We can show grace by carrying each others’ burdens and by helping those who find it difficult to conquer sin and addiction in their lives. Verses 3-5: This is a reminder of the ‘speck and log’ story taught by Jesus. We are all sinners, unworthy of God’s love and forgiveness – but his grace is open to ALL. We should not compare ourselves to others. What is easy for us to resist may be difficult for someone else – and vice versa. If we compare ourselves to anyone it should be to Jesus – he is the benchmark of grace. Verse 6: Blessing and grace work both ways. If we have been helped by a Christians brother or sister, we should in turn bless them. It is not only leaders and mature Christians who should show grace. Verses 7-8: Showing grace and favour to others will be rewarded – but not if we seek to do it with reward as our motive! Paul repeats a phrase he used to the Corinthian church: You will reap what you sow. What grace seeds are we sowing? Verse 9: This verse has sustained many a Christian when they feel they have given all they can. Don’t be weary and feel ‘hard done by’. You will receive your reward – after all, it is God who is doing the reckoning (not the person who hasn’t bothered to say thank you to you). Verse 10: Why do we have a greater obligation to those who believe? Jesus said we should love our neighbour – that is, anyone who crosses our path. Paul says we should give priority to fellow Christians. We should do both. The first will show non-Christians the saving grace of Jesus Christ. The second will help people to grow as Christians and to be sustained in the Christian life. Whatever we do, it requires God’s grace in us, to enable us to love others as Jesus loves us.
EPHESIANS - The Grace of Acceptance Paul stresses in this book that, whoever we are, we are all equally accepted in God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps the most well-known verses in Ephesians are found in chapter 2v8: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God (in other words it is a grace, freely given). But God’s grace is not just for salvation. He wants us to become people of grace. He also wants us to be churches of grace and families of grace. Because we know acceptance in Christ, he wants us to be accepting of others and to see them as he sees them.
CHURCHES OF GRACE Read chapter 4v1-7: Finding acceptance in church Verse 7 says that God will give us the grace that we need for each day, to enable us to do all the things listed in verses 2-6. Things like: having a humble approach to others; being gentle in our manner towards others; having patience with those we meet; having toleration and forbearance; making a positive effort to keep unity and peace. They are all attractive qualities that we would surely all wish to have, but in reality, how easy is it to practise them – when we are under pressure, when the children are playing up, when someone has upset us, when we feel we have been overlooked, or when we haven’t been thanked for doing something? We can only show these graces • When we remember just how much grace God has shown us • When we are willing to forgive easily and freely • When we model ourselves on Jesus and not on the world’s standards Read chapter 4v32 to chapter 5v2 These words were written to the universal church (including us). Paul knew what it was to be in the midst of potentially difficult situations. In the church at Ephesus, a busy Mediterranean port, there would have been Greeks, Romans, Asians and Europeans, Jews and Gentiles. There would have been rich people and poor workers, old and young, slaves and freemen – a real mix of people. Paul doesn’t give specific instructions to any of these people, neither does he get involved in politics. His answer to potential problems is that Grace should be shown to one another, because we are all equal in His eyes and Christ has shown his grace to each one of us. It is the only way to true unity in the church. FAMILIES OF GRACE Read chapter 5v21 to chapter 6v4: Showing acceptance at home This passage is God’s ideal for our families. In reality, we know that this set up is not the norm – neither was it in Paul’s day. Even in our churches today, about 20% of families are broken families and men and women are living apart from their spouses. It’s a sad reflection of the culture we find ourselves in. God’s solution is not a political one though. He asks husbands and wives and children to reflect on the love that Christ has shown them and be willing to show it to each other. When we show each other the love and grace of Christ, it has a far greater impact that our mere human love can have. As humans we get disappointed and resentful, we get tired and short-tempered, we can also be selfish – wanting things that suit us best. In his grace God accepts us as we are, and this is his ideal for our families too. 9
Read chapter 6v5-9: Acceptance exceeds cultural boundaries Slavery was not right, but it was common throughout the Roman Empire. It is estimated that nearly 40% of Italy were slaves, and that there were between 10 and 18 million slaves in the Roman Empire. But did Paul start talking about human rights, did he suggest there should be an uprising? Because the slaves in the Ephesian church were being told they were equal to all in God’s sight, did it mean they had to fight for their rights? No. Paul told them to serve their masters as if they were serving Christ; and the masters to see their slaves as recipients of Christ’s grace – the same as themselves. Knowing they were accepted by God’s grace meant they could show grace to others. Read chapter 6v10-20: Grace in our own circumstances Paul writes about these things, not from a place of comfort, but from his prison cell in Rome. He knew all about the reality and hardships of life. He began life as a hard man – but when Christ appeared to him on the road to Damascus it changed him forever. (Read Eph 3v7-8) He saw things in a different light. He knew that there are two opposing forces: Satan who would corrupt and destroy and Jesus Christ who came to purify and build us up. So Paul suggests we don’t fight the world in our own effort, but with the gifts of armour which God has put at our disposal: • The belt of truth about Jesus Christ • The breastplate of righteousness which He has bestowed on us • The shield of faith to protect us • The helmet of salvation and deliverance • The sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. • Prayer and constant communication with God We might sometimes feel a slave to our circumstances, and feel resentful or say, “It’s not fair – why me?”. Indeed, we might have a difficult relationship with someone; or a family member struggling with an addiction; or an ongoing illness. We can allow ourselves to be slaves, and to have an attitude of defeat, and even feel bitter about our lot in life. Or we can keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, trust in his armour of protection, know that we are accepted in Him and by Him, and ask him for his grace – and the ability to show his grace in our circumstances. Because when we do, we will find that our attitude changes, and when our attitude changes, we begin to see things in a different light – the light of His glorious GRACE. “His glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” Ephesians 1v6
PHILIPPIANS - The Grace of Perseverance Unusual? It’s not the first thing that comes to mind when we think of Grace. But perseverance is a quality we all need – and I’m talking about the perseverance that Jesus modelled for us: “For the joy that was set before Him, Jesus endured the Cross” (Phil 2v8, Heb 12v2). Paul has a lot to say about perseverance in this epistle. Perseverance means ‘making an effort despite difficulties’. It incorporates the meaning of endurance, tenacity, resolve and dedication. And Paul was no stranger to difficulties – after all, he is writing this letter from prison. But he is not saying we must have the British “stiff upper lip”, nor is he saying that we have to “grit our teeth and bear it” when things get hard. Not everyone is able to do that. That is why I have included perseverance as a grace – a gift God gives us daily, so that we can cope with difficult circumstances as they arrive; a gift that makes us strong in the Lord. I am using the word G.R.A.C.E. as an acronym for this study:
G - Gladness and Joy in troubled times R - Resolve to keep going A - Attitude of seeing God’s will C - Conduct – doing the right thing E - Examples from Paul Read chapter 1v18-21 – Gracious GLADNESS in troubled times We all know that trouble does not make us happy! It is more likely to make us feel despair and cause us to worry. But Paul is saying that our reaction should be patience and joy – not despair. In these verses Paul explains how we should look for blessings which can bring us joy. So that, despite Paul’s imprisonment, he found joy in knowing that other Christians had taken up the cause of sharing the gospel. He saw his troubles as being part of God’s will to build his church – and because of that, he rejoiced (v18). Despite all the sorrow and trouble that Covid 19 has brought to the world, many people have found joy in the simple things that God provides – birdsong, flowers, the kindness of strangers etc. Think about the following: • Let’s ask God to show us his purpose – how he can use us in our situation • Let’s ask God for his Holy Spirit to work through us • Let’s ask God for a sense of his presence so that we know He is with us in all things • Let’s ask God for perseverance, so that His will can be done – and so we can know his joy in our hearts. Read chapter 4v4: Rejoice! Paul writes it twice, with an exclamation mark. It’s an order to us, to look for the joy of the Lord when we are down; to count our blessings instead of focussing on our troubles; to be in his presence where there is “fulness of joy”. People who persevere in joy can bring amazing encouragement to others. I know, because I have been a recipient of that encouragement. Read chapter 3v12-14 – Gracious RESOLVE to keep going Paul’s resolve came not from his strength of character, but from his determination to reach his goal – Heaven. It was the goal, the destination, that made the difficulties bearable. When we used to walk in the 11
Lake district it would take us 3 hours to climb 3,000 feet. Why did we keep going, even when the ground was rocky or slippery and often steep? There was a great reward – an amazing panoramic view for miles around. The reward far outstripped the toil and trouble. It was exhilarating, and not seen by everyone – only those who had the resolve to do it. It will be the same with heaven – an experience that outstrips anything we can ever think or imagine. Resolving to keep on the path God has set before us will bring great reward. Paul said, “I press on towards the prize” (v14). • To run a good race you need to fix your eyes on the finishing tape • For a farmer to drive a good furrow, he needs to fix his eyes on a point at the far side of the field • For a tailor to cut a straight piece of material, he must not look at the scissors, but look to the point where he wants to finish The secret of resolve and perseverance? We must fix our eyes on the heavenly goal, and not on our present circumstances. Could we worry less and resolve to trust God more?
Read chapter 2v5-11: Gracious ATTITUDE, having the same mind as Jesus Jesus is God, is equal in the Trinity, is of the same nature of God – and yet He humbled himself and became obedient to the Cross. He is our perfect example in this grace of perseverance. In our world today, everyone is fighting for their ‘rights’: their rights to equality; their rights to have good health; their right to employment; their right to decide what happens to their own body – abortion, euthanasia etc. The Christian’s attitude should be, “What is the Lord’s will for my life?”, and not, “What are my rights?”. Verse 5 tells us that the mindset, or attitude, of Jesus was to obey God the Father. He did not take advantage of his position or his ‘rights’. There was a far more important goal at stake – our salvation. If we choose to submit to God’s will and purpose for our life, we may not get everything our way, but He will surely bless us in His way. Is there something we can submit to God today? Read chapter 1v27, 4v5 and 4v15-19: Gracious CONDUCT Paul calls it “being worthy of the Gospel”. This is the bit we do. God will give us the grace of perseverance and will guide us in the right way – but we have to live in such a way that we show respect for his grace. We should never just take it for granted. Here’s what Paul suggests we should be doing: • Be worthy representatives of Christ, standing firm (1v27) • Be gentle in our approach to people (4v5) • Be generous and supportive to leaders and other Christians in need The result will be that God will see our love and generosity as an acceptable offering to him. And then, verse 19 is a promise that follows on from such conduct: “My God will meet all your needs according to his riches in glory through Christ Jesus”. So here, Paul isn’t telling us to look at our ‘sins’. Rather, he is encouraging us to look at our approach to people – and to persevere in generosity of spirit. Is there some way we can bless others, and the Lord, today? Read chapter 3v15-17 and 4v9: - Paul as our EXAMPLE Arrogance? Is that our initial reaction to what Paul said? We must remember that he also said that he was the ‘least of all the apostles’ and ‘the chief of sinners’. He was not arrogant. He was realistic. His followers did not have the Scriptures as we do, and there were not many teachers of doctrine. So the best way to show God’s grace was to live it – as an example. 12
Sadly, in our time, people are no longer taught what the Bible says; they have little, or no, opportunity of hearing the Gospel of grace explained. Therefore, we too, must see ourselves as examples as Paul did. We are the only Christian “Book” that most people will ever see – which rather places a lot of responsibility on our shoulders! But the good news is – we can be that, wherever we are and whatever situation we find ourselves in. Paul lived as Jesus Christ lived. When people followed Paul, they inevitably followed Christ. If people see in our lives the outworking of Christ’s grace, they will see something of Jesus Christ. How can God use us in these difficult times of Covid 19 to be an example to others, and to show them something of His grace?
COLOSSIANS - The Graces of Friendship, Freedom and Peace Read Colossians chapter 1v15-23: The Grace of Friendship The dictionary definition of reconciliation is, “bringing us back into friendship”. We are reminded in these verses about the supremacy of Jesus Christ. He is the first, the final and the foremost of all things; the highest and the most pre-eminent. Paul lists the attributes of Jesus like this: • He was the firstborn of all creation (v15) • He is the creator of all things in heaven and on earth (v16) • He sustains all things (v17) • He is the head of the church. (v18) • The fulness (i.e. 100%) of God is in Jesus Christ (v19) And this is where grace comes into it. Jesus Christ, God himself, far far above all, humbled himself to become like us so that he could give his life to save ours – thereby reconciling us to God (v20). We only have friendship with God because of Jesus. God didn’t wait until we were perfect before he befriended us – he accepts us as we are. We cannot earn his friendship, it is a free gift of grace. By definition reconciliation is a two-way thing: God freely gives us his friendship even though we are still sinners. For our part, we must receive his friendship and share it with others. Reconciliation is more than forgiveness. We are expected to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us. We will not be easily reconciled to a non-Christian who has hurt us, but we can forgive them. However, we are expected to be reconciled to each other, as Christians. In Matthew 5v23&24 Jesus says, “If you are offering your gift at the altar (synonymous with Communion and worship), and remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” Broken relationships with our fellow Christians can affect our relationship with God – and vice versa. Reconciliation is an act of grace: grace on God’s part in taking the initiative; grace on our part in being willing to show friendship to others, regardless of their attitude. Read chapter 2v16-23: The Grace of Freedom Along with the gift of Salvation comes the grace – the free gift – of freedom. But freedom from what? This can mean different things to different people, depending on their church (of lack of) background, their culture, their age etc. We are blessed to worship in a church where freedom is encouraged and where being a believer is a joyful, personal experience. Even so, we can still be bound by things like: what others expect of us; uncertainty and doubt; feelings of guilt; feelings of temptation etc. This passage tells us we are: • Free from being judged on points of Old Testament Law by others (v16) • Free from being judged on our own spirituality (v18) • Free from self-denial and stoicism and the need to earn our salvation (v20-23) Cultural differences which affect how we interpret this passage: The Jewish Christians still wanted people to be circumcised and follow the Mosaic Law, and not be free from it. The Greek Stoics taught blind acceptance of suffering and pain to be a virtue, and therefore we should not ask to be free 14
The Roman Christians – many thousands were not physically free. Paul said they should accept their position. However, there are many Christians who are slaves in different parts of the world today, and I believe it is right that agencies like Barnabas are doing what they can to free them and provide for them. (e.g. Brick Kiln workers in Pakistan.) Twentieth Century Christians – can be restrained by Church Traditions, the expectations of others, church hierarchy and structure – they can also be misrepresented by the media etc. Paul said that those who did not know the freedom that Christ offers, have lost connection with the Head – i.e. Christ himself (v19), they are merely following a set of rules. If we do not feel ‘free in the Lord’, we should consider this. We are not like all the other religions who follow a set of rules blindly. We are a people of faith in a living relationship with freedom that God has gifted to us. Freedom to have a personal faith, freedom from a set of rules, freedom from the expectations of other people – freedom to worship God. Freedom to be the person God wants us to be. FREEDOM – What an amazing grace! Read Colossians 3v15 – The Grace – the free gift - of Peace In verses 5-14 Paul tells us how to live a peaceful life in society. And he now says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts”. It’s as if he is saying, God has given us this gift of peace but, like all the other gifts, we have to appropriate it – we have to claim it, exercise it and experience it, as a reality. In other words, the little word “let” has a lot of meaning. God’s peace is there for us, but we have to allow Him to do the work – so that by casting away our fears and worries, and no end of things that rob us so easily of our peace, we allow him in. This little word “let” is often such a big thing because it means we have to give up the control we want over a situation and just hand it over to God. We have to let Him take control. This area of conflict is not surprising, because our minds are more difficult for us to control than our bodies. Our minds run away with us, they tell us things that “might” happen, they confuse us and they make us feel sorry for ourselves. When we “let” the peace of God in, we begin to think rationally again, we remember that God is in control and, ultimately we experience that quietness of spirit that only the peace of God can bring. Paul says two other things in this verse: As members of one body we are called to peace: Peace is not just for ourselves, it is a shared experience – and it should make a difference, wherever we are. But, if we are called to peace, it is also something God requires of us – and gives us in abundance. Be thankful: Praise God for his wonderful gift of Peace! Heavenly Father, We pray that you will fill us with your peace in whatever circumstances we find ourselves today. Sometimes our families and those of our friends fill us with grief and worry – please give us your peace. Sometimes the injustice in our world, and the mis-use of resources, fills us with concern – please give us your peace. Sometimes the cruel injustice meted out to our fellow Christians around the world touches our hearts – please give them your peace. Sometimes, we allow small things to take away our peace – please help us to give control back to You and fill us with your peace. Thank you for your gracious gift of peace. Amen.
1 and 2 THESSALONIANS - The Free Gift – GRACE – of Eternal Life Key verse: Live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His kingdom and glory. In Acts 16v6-10 we see that the Holy Spirit would not allow Paul to go into Asia or Bithynia, the only way he could go was across to Troas. Whilst there, Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia begging him to come. And so, Paul, Silas and Timothy became the first missionaries to Europe. To consider: When God closes a door, is it because he has a better way for us? So Paul found himself in Thessalonica, a town of about 200,000 (about the same size as Southend); a town strategically placed on the Roman Road, the Via Egnatia (which is still intact - you can google pictures of this on the net) – the major trading route from east to west – the most ideal place for the gospel to begin to spread throughout Europe and the whole world! And within 3 weeks of Paul’s arrival a church had been established with many people believing that Jesus was the Saviour and Messiah. Paul moved on to preach throughout the area and when he was in Corinth, he asked Timothy to find news of the Thessalonian church and report back to him. His letters are a result of Timothy’s report. And it seems that the Christians needed clarification on what happens after death, and information about the Second coming of Jesus. Read 1 Thessalonians 4v13 to 5v11 Paul wanted to bring hope and assurance of a life after death for those who believe in Jesus. New life – eternal life, is a free gift of grace from God. No other religion can bring this assurance. But Paul says that Christians can rejoice that they have eternal life in God’s presence. And they can be assured that Christians who have died before them will have had the same sure hope. So, he goes on to explain how that one day Jesus will come again, when both the dead in Christ, and those Christians living on the earth, will all rise to meet him in the skies. For the Christian, the grave is not the end – merely a gateway to a glorious future. After death, our body decays here on earth (or is cremated), but our soul goes to Jesus. When we rise to meet Him in the air, our souls and a new re-created body will be reunited at this Second Coming. I suggest that perhaps the greatest grace is to be given eternity in Paradise with Jesus. To clarify: First Coming: SALVATION Second Coming: REWARD Third Coming: JUDGMENT
The Incarnation when Jesus became flesh and dwelt on earth. He came to bring salvation and righteousness; and a chance for everyone to accept Him. This is sometimes called the Rapture – meaning ‘taken up’. Jesus will come in the skies for the saved – those made Righteous through his shed blood; dead and alive. Jesus will come back to earth with the saints (the righteous) to reign on earth.
2 Thessalonians So, in his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul encouraged them to live as if the Second Coming might take place at any time. This second letter acknowledges certain developments. 16
Chap 1 v 4-10: The Christians have endured persecution but have been faithful and found worthy of Christ’s suffering. He tells us there will be a Day of Judgment when sinners will be punished, and believers will be rewarded. God did not appoint us to suffer wrath (v9). We can be encouraged that everything is in his hands, and so we should encourage one another. Chap 2 v 1-4: Some were worried that they had missed the Second Coming! There were people spreading deceptive rumours (fake news!!) then, just as there are now and will be increasingly so, before the End Times. So Paul gave them some indications of what to expect.
So, when will The Second Coming take place? Will it be soon? Matthew 24v10 tells us that first the gospel must be preached in every part of the world. Modern technology has made this possible – even more so during the Coronovirus, with all the church services going on-line. 1 Thess 5v1-3: No-one knows but we must all be ready. It will happen when people are saying ‘peace and safety’ – possibly at the beginning of the rise of the Antichrist when people will be deceived by his words. A Jewish homeland will be established in Israel. This happened in 1948 – Israel became a state for the first time for 2,000 years, fulfilling prophecy. But Jerusalem is still split between various groups – watch this space! Revelation 11v3&4: Two Christian evangelists will be sent to preach the gospel. They will be killed and this will be seen by everyone in the world (already possible with social media). Luke 21v10&11: Natural disasters will be widespread. There will be pandemics, pestilence, famines, flooding, fires, earthquakes etc. – all of these are being experienced in unprecedented numbers already. Matthew 24v6-8: War and violence will increase across the world. There are more civil wars in the world than ever before (one reason for all the refugees who find themselves homeless and stateless). 2 Thess 2v3&4: The rise of the man of sin – the Antichrist, the Great Deceiver who will be charismatic and persuasive, who will unite nations and set himself up as God - and offer a false peace. At this time Christians must trust in God who will undertake for them (2v8) – but they should be aware and alert. Ever since the Day of Ascension, Christians have been eagerly awaiting the Day of His Second Coming. Some have taken the attitude that they don’t have to bother about planning and working if Jesus might come next week anyway. Others have moved to live on mountain tops to be the first to see him! But what should be our response? How can we prepare for the Second Coming? 1. We should make sure that we have personally received Jesus as Saviour. 2. We should continue to live a life worthy of Christ (1 Thess 1v12) 3. We should encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thess 5v11) 4. We should stand firm in the Lord (2 Thess 3v14) 5. We should tell others – share the words of hope and grace in the gospel – to those who otherwise will have no share in this grace of eternal life. 1 Thess 4v17: “And so shall we ever be with the Lord”.
1 & 2 TIMOTHY - THE Grace of Christ’s Strength in us The two letters to Timothy roughly fall into two sets of instructions. The first is a commission to Timothy to head up the work in Ephesus. The second explains how Timothy can accomplish this difficult task. 1 Timothy Read chap 1v9: Paul reminds Timothy that it is God who calls us, not according to our works, but according to his purpose and the grace of Christ Jesus. Timothy had a difficult task but, as Paul’s trusted companion and fellow worker, Paul held him in high regard. He called him, “my true son in the faith” (1v2), and knew of Timothy’s earnest desire to serve the Lord. As we saw in the last study (Thessalonians), Paul was called away by the Holy Spirit, to preach the gospel in Macedonia and Thessalonica. And so it was that he wrote this letter to Timothy, asking him to teach God’s ways to the early Christian church in Ephesus. Read chapter 1v12-14: Paul’s own testimony was that, despite his sins and his character (v13), God’s Grace reached down to him bringing salvation and changing his life around. He just wanted to share the good news, and he knew that Timothy had the same heart. He was also aware that although Timothy, still a young man, was being given a huge task, he could depend on the Grace of God for all his needs. Here are the things that Paul asked Timothy to do: • Teach the people how to pray to God through Jesus Christ (ch 2v1-7) • Teach men and women appropriate behaviour in church (ch2 v8-15) • Advise on church structures and how to choose deacons (ch 3v1-13) • Correct false teaching (ch 4v1-5 and 11-14) • Ensure that the congregation looked after the vulnerable in church (ch 5) • Advise slaves to respect their masters and serve then well (ch 6v1&2) • Warn against false teachers and religious ‘racketeers’ (ch 6v6-10) What a difficult task, in what was a busy church in a large docklands city!! We know Timothy was a Godly man – but how would he, as a young man, have the strength of character for such a large task? 2 Timothy Read 2 Timothy 2v1: There is strength in the Grace of Christ. This is our key verse. In verses 4-6 Paul uses the analogies of a soldier, an athlete and a farmer, saying that we can have the strength to Serve, Suffer, Soldier on and Sow the Word – if we rely on God’s grace, and not on our own strength. Strength for service (Chap 2v1) The secret of strength is in the phrase “in the grace of Jesus”. When we become Christians it is natural that we should want to serve the Lord and serve each other. But sometimes, in our enthusiasm we do too much and get involved in many things; we get overtired, we work before we think or pray. But if we try 18
to keep “in step with the Holy Spirit” (Gal 5v25), and do not run ahead, we would keep ourselves in the place where we can be blessed with “strength in the Grace of Christ”. Strength when suffering (Chap 2v3) Paul was speaking here about suffering persecution because you are a Christian, something that many of our brothers and sisters around the world have to endure daily. But there are times in all of our lives where God allows us to suffer – and it will be for a reason. Suffering is not something we naturally welcome, and we do not always see why we are suffering. But there are times when our suffering help us to help others. Our experience can help us to empathise with them and encourage them – and we then see that God had a purpose all along! As we submit to God’s will and Christs Grace, He gives us the strength to suffer for his Name’s sake. I do not write this from my experience of suffering – but Paul most certainly did. Strength to Soldier on Chap 2v4 This is not soldiering on in the sense of “gritting our teeth”. Rather, it is in the sense of doing our best for our “commanding officer”. All soldiers know that at some point they will be in conflict with the enemy. Our soldiers have been willing to fight the enemy, risk their lives looking for landmines, and suffer all kinds of danger – for their friends, for their country and for their commanding officer. A soldier suffers (v3). In the same way, we are soldiers of Christ, and the thing that keeps us going is the strength we find in the Grace of Christ, as we seek to obey his word. Strength to Sow the Word (Chap 2v6) No matter how timid we are, like Timothy was initially, to be a fruitful Christian we need to be strong – victorious not defeated. If we sow the word in a kindly fashion – humbly, diligently, sincerely – the strength of Christ (our free gift of grace) will accompany us so that we can share with others. Voices in our head may say, “They don’t want to hear what I’m saying” or, “I’ll stumble over my words and make a fool of myself”. But God’s word says: Be strong in the Grace of Jesus, and I will bless what you do for me. We know that Timothy heeded Paul’s words. He became the Overseer (Bishop) of Ephesus and pioneered missionary work in India, spreading the gospel throughout Asia. He was a young timid man who became “strong in the Grace of Jesus.”
TITUS - Grace to Serve Read chapter 1v4: In this opening benediction Grace is the first thing that Paul prays over Titus. Paul has a difficult task for Titus. While Timothy was left to sort out the church in Ephesus, Titus was on the Island of Crete (see what the Cretans were like in verses 10-12). Paul was the means of both Timothy and Titus finding faith, and we see that he refers to both of them as sons, such is his love and respect for them (1 Tim 1v2; Titus 1v4 and 2 Cor 8v23). Many of the tasks wrote about to Titus are common to those in Timothy. So, this Book is about the responsibility of looking after a church with instructions for the Christian congregation – but the instructions apply to all who want to serve God. As we read it, we see that God doesn’t give us responsibilities without also giving us the resources we need. The resource of Grace is a theme in this Book, as we see from the beginning of this chapter. Read 1v8 for the kind of life God expects us to live by his grace. Read chapter 2v1-8: Self-Control and Grace Titus is writing these words to those who want to serve the Lord. If we are serious about serving God, we must have self-control (mentioned in verses 2,5&6). What does self-control mean? We are not meant to think that it means self-reliance. The Holy Spirit must be the One who controls our actions and thoughts. Self-control is having the power to bring sin and temptation under control, and not let those things control us. Things like: anger; bitterness; greed of money or food or self-gratification; addictions etc. Yes, the Holy Spirit helps us in this, but we must be willing participants. However, when we find it difficult, God’s Grace is there as our teacher. Titus 2v11,12: For the GRACE of God has appeared that offers salvation to all. It (GRACE) teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live SELF-CONTROLLED, upright and Godly lives in this present age. Read chapter 3v4-7: The Benefits of GRACE These verses explain the life of grace as lived by Jesus, our example. They are an expression of his grace to us, but also teach us what we can be – in his grace. There are 5 significant words: Kindness, Love, Mercy, Generosity, Giver of Hope. Kindness (3v4) Kindness can change everything. It can change attitudes, engender trust, show favour and melt hard hearts. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if everyone was kind? Kindness doesn’t cost us anything – even when we are in dire straits (remember Jesus was kind to the servant when Peter cut off his ear – Luke 22v50&51). There is no reason why we can’t show the grace and kindness of Jesus with everyone we meet. A few years ago there was a challenge to everyone, to do a random act of kindness every day. As Christians this is what we should be doing – looking for opportunities to bless people and thereby showing them the grace of Jesus. Love (3v4) There are so many aspects to the love of Jesus and the depth of his love – thousands of books have been written on the subject if you want to read more! But, let’s just spend a moment to ponder on some of the 20
aspects of God’s great love and respond in our hearts to each one with the question, “Am I reflecting God’s love and grace as I interact with others?” • • • • • •
Unselfish love – loving with no thought for ourselves Unfailing love – constant love that can be depended upon Unchanging love – not changing with our mood or with the circumstances Comforting love – matching our words and actions to heart love Longsuffering love – love that endures through sickness, bereavement etc Unconditional love – loving the unlovely
Mercy (3v5) Mercy is the compassionate treatment of a wrongdoer who is in one’s power (Dictionary definition). That is, showing them grace and not wanting to see them punished. Many a person has found salvation because a Christian has shown them the grace of mercy. (Read The Cross and the Switchblade, or Chasing the Dragon.) God does not give us the punishment that we deserve – that is mercy. And if God does this, we must also try to do it if we want to show the Grace of Jesus. We have broken our world with pollution, global heating, deforestation, abuse, hatred, greed, war. On the final day of judgment we may have to answer for these things. But meantime, God is reaching out his hand of mercy and forgiveness. And will be ever merciful, until He comes again. Generosity (v6) God generously gives us His Love, and His Holy Spirit. God’s generosity is enduring and never-ending. He has generously provided a paradise in Heaven for us to enjoy when we depart this earth. God is our provider and sustainer. Jesus is like a living well – a never ending supply of the water of life (John 4v14). We can never buy or earn God’s generosity, it is a free gift of Grace. What we have been freely given, we should also freely share with others (2 Cor 9v7). Giver of Hope (v7) When we surrender our lives to God we are destined for something better – we have hope. Our hope is sure because Jesus paid the full price for it. When we gave our life to Jesus we put him in charge and we know he will never fail us. How wonderful to have this hope. Our hope is the grace of God which is a free gift. If you feel you have little or no hope, ask God for it – it is a free gift – but you must accept it and trust in it. Especially in those times when we feel out of control, and when we get anxious, Jesus asks us to lay aside our anxiety and receive his hope and peace instead. It’s a wonderful part of his grace! The Book of Titus begins and ends with grace. As we receive this grace, it is so that we can show it to others – and in the way that Jesus did: kindly, lovingly, mercifully, generously and giving hope. Titus 3v15: Grace be with you all.
PHILEMON – The Grace of Second Chances Read Paul’s letter to Philemon. If there’s one book in the Bible that illustrates grace, it is this one. A story of free forgiveness to someone who has not deserved it. The overall picture: While Paul was in prison in Rome, a young man named Onesimus came across him. Onesimus was Philemon’s slave, but had run away (possibly to be free or possibly to see what the big City of Rome had to offer). But when Onesimus met Paul, he also encountered Christ. He found forgiveness and a chance to start again. Onesimus was another person who Paul thought of as a son (v10) and he was very helpful to Paul (v11). But, as a new Christian, he must now do the right thing and return to his master. Meanwhile, in Colossae, where Philemon lived with his wife Apphia and Archippus (possibly his son) (v1,2), the church of Christ was growing and holding their meetings in the large house of Philemon. From that we can deduce that Philemon was probably a wealthy man and possibly had several slaves – very common in the culture of the day. To a slave, a good master was probably better than no master at all. And so it was that, armed with a letter from Paul, Onesimus was to return to Philemon, humbled for doing wrong, but now free in Christ. Paul’s letter was compelling: • He appealed to Philemon, an old friend, on the basis of love (v8,9) • He explained Onesimus’ conversion and usefulness (v10-14) • He said that Onesimus was now better than a slave as he was now a brother in Christ (vv15,16) • He says he will repay any debts that Onesimus might owe, and reminds Philemon that he owed Paul a debt (probably, that Paul had been instrumental in his conversion). • He makes is hard for Philemon to say no! (v20,21) Onesimus needed a second chance – he found it in the grace of the Gospel. We’ve all needed to be given second chances in our lives. In fact, we could say, “There but for the grace of God, go I.” Onesimus epitomises all of us because we have all been slaves to sin – but the grace of Jesus Christ has set us free. In a way, Paul symbolises the work of Christ, in that he is willing to take the punishment for Onesimus on himself. And Philemon is representative of The Lord, because he welcomes Onesimus back as his ‘son’, no longer a slave. So this true story is like a parable. The restitution of Onesimus to Philemon as a part of his family is an amazing picture of our reconciliation to God, through the work of Jesus Christ. But the story doesn’t end with this letter to Philemon. As mentioned earlier, the home church was in Colossae, and Paul later writes his letter to the Colossians where he mentions Onesimus as a fellow worker. See Colossians 4v9. This short Book raises questions for us to consider: • What are the conditions in this letter for reconciliation? Should there be repentance and a willingness to put things right? Can we show grace even if it is hard to show love? • How would Onesimus have felt, being sent back with his tail between his legs? How easy is it to ask for forgiveness? If we have slipped in our Christian walk, how easy is it to receive grace – do we think we should be punished? 22
How easy is it to forgive others who have harmed us or our children? Can we forgive them if they have not repented? Should we? What effect will it have on us if we harbour unforgiveness, instead of showing grace? Romans 5v8 says: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He paid the price of our sin, even when we were still sinners and before we had repented. That is grace – freely giving us what we don’t deserve. Are we glad we have had second chances from God? I know I am – but I also know that we are not as generous in sharing God’s grace with others as we should be. When I was young I use to say, “I don’t suffer fools gladly.” How arrogant was that! I had to learn grace. I had not fully understood the vast amount of Grace that God had shown to me. And I’m still learning, because his grace is limitless – and always there for second chances.
HEBREWS (1) – ANGEL GRACE What are angels, where are they, what are they for? These are questions that we have, but the subject is seldom preached on. The reason for that is given in the first two chapters of Hebrews: JESUS IS THE FOCUS OF OUR WORSHIP. Predominantly, God is saying that his Son, Jesus, is far above and far greater than all the angels. The point being that angels exist, but they are not there to be worshipped. We are not to exalt them or pray to them. All of our worship and honour should go to Jesus – the only one who is glorified at God’s right hand in Heaven. But, the angels are an added grace. They are there to serve the Lord, and they are used by Him to serve us. God sends them to us when we need them – they are a part of his parcel of Grace to us. Read these verses: Hebrews 1: verses 4-8 and verse 13 Hebrews 2: verses 5-9 Hebrews 12: verse 22 Hebrews 13: verse 2 These following verses from the rest of the Bible explain more about the function and state of the angels. I will leave you to read and study them, but remember they must never replace Jesus or the Holy Spirit – but they are real. We must never pray to angels, but God can provide one if he so chooses.
ANGELS 1/ What are angels and where did they come from? a) A creation distinct from man: 1 Cor. 15v39,40 They may present in a human form, but they are spirit bodies. b) Made by God: Col. 1v16 All things, including heavenly powers, were created by God. c) Neither marry or die (immortal): Luke 20v34-36 They cannot die, such is the state of all in Heaven. d) Sometimes 'take on' a body: Hebrews 13v2 Sometimes we are unaware of their presence. e) Cherubim & seraphim have wings: Exodus 25v20 These angels have wings, but not all angels have wings. f) They are innumerable: Rev. 5v11 There are literally millions of angels! g) Often have a special brightness: Acts 10v30 Reflecting the fact that they have come from the presence of God. h) Have superhuman strength: Matt. 28v2 24
2/ Why were angels created? a) For worship & ministry to God: Luke 2v13,14 They worship God continually. b) For ministry to man: Matt. 4v11 They ministered to Jesus, and there are many Bible stories and personal testimonies of their presence and help.
3/ What is a guardian angel? a) One with ministry of protection: Psalm 91v11,12 They can be like a ‘force field’ around us. b) One assigned to children: Matt. 18v10 Children and those in innocence, have special angels to guard them c) The early church (Peter): Acts 12v15
4/ What are the specific duties of angels? a) Protection and deliverance: Acts 5v18,19 Angels delivered God’s people from trouble, often blinding the eyes of the enemy. b) To give strength: Luke 22v43 In the Garden of Gethsemane, an angel strengthened Jesus. c) To nourish:1 Kings 19v5-8 Elijah – after the miracle on Mt Carmel – fled. In the wilderness he was brought food by an angel. d) To bring understanding: Daniel 9v21-23 The Angel Gabriel came to give enlightenment to Daniel. e) To give direction: Acts 8v26 An angel sent Philip into the desert so that he could share the gospel with the Ethiopian. f) To give encouragement: Acts 27v23,24 Before his trial, an angel came to Paul to reassure him. g) To bring revelation: Rev. 22v6 An angel revealed the truth to the Apostle John h) To deliver the Law to Moses: Acts 7v53 It seems that the angels were intermediaries when the Law was given. i) To bring judgment: Acts 12v23 Angels can even strike someone down, as in Herod’s case.
5/ What rank do angels hold? a) They are not greater than man: Psalm 104v4 The angels are Godâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s servants. b) Two are named - Michael and Gabriel: Daniel 10v13/Jude 9/ Luke 1v19 The archangels Michael and Gabriel are named in the Bible. c) They are subject to God: 1 Peter 3v22 They are in submission to God.
6/ Do they have limitations? a) Wise but not all-knowing: 1 Peter 1v12 They will only know what God has told them. b) Helpful but not always present: Daniel 10v13 They come and go as messengers. c) Are not to be worshipped: Col. 2v18,19 Seeing an angel does not make you better than another. Jesus is in all ways pre-eminent: Hebrews 1v4-14
HEBREWS (2) – Privilege and Rest at The Throne of Grace The Heavenly Throne is the place of God’s sovereign power and rule, a place of law and judgment – and yet, it is called The Throne of Grace. In other words, God’s grace and love is personified upon the throne in the way that he reigns. To keep it in context, we must know that the Throne is both a place of Judgment and a place of Grace. Just as we cannot have good without evil, or love without hate, we cannot have the grace of mercy and forgiveness without judgment. And this is the thing: we have all been bad, we have all failed to love at times, we all deserve judgment – and yet, God says we can come before his throne and find mercy, grace and forgiveness. Read Hebrews 4v16 The Throne of Grace is a particular place in Heaven around which all the angels and creatures worship, but for us it is also a spiritual thing. It is an amazing privilege that God has given to us, to be able to come before His Throne of Grace – to actually come into the presence of the King – and find forgiveness and freedom. Read Hebrews 9v24-28 and 10v19-25: The Grace of Privilege These verses remind us that this great privilege, of being able to stand before the Throne of Grace, has been bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. We can come as individuals, we can join with the angels, and we can come collectively (admittedly this is harder during the Covid restrictions). Many other Christians around the world are also unable to meet together because of persecution, but Praise God, we can all join together, in a spiritual sense, to worship the King of Kings. And this is our destiny – when one day we will join with all God’s people to worship in perfect harmony. Read Rev. chaps 4&5 for a magnificent description of the Throne in Heaven. Hebrews 4v16: Let us then approach God’s Throne of Grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Read Hebrews 4v8-11: Sabbath rest at the Throne of Grace God wants us to know the secret of the Grace of resting and not striving. The first verse of chapter 4 says that the promise of Sabbath rest still stands – that is it remains eternal, it is a continuous thing. The “Sabbath rest” was meant to foreshadow the eternal rest that we can know in Jesus Christ, because God’s rest is an eternal rest. In the creation account in Genesis, morning and evening were noted on each of the first 6 days. On the seventh day, when God entered his rest there was no evening – it was an eternal day of rest (see Genesis 2v2,3). God entered his rest, which he has also prepared and provided for us. “There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God” (Heb. 4v9). We can enter his rest (no ordinary rest) when we come into his eternal presence – no matter what is happening to us physically, this is the place of rest for our souls. God has provided it for us in his grace. However, it will sometimes take an effort of our will to leave the worries of the world outside, and trust in God. The grace of rest is a gift – but it is up to us to receive it. Read Hebrews 12v14,15 – Beware of losing God’s grace We need to live, breath and walk in the wonderful grace that God has given us. In practice, that means we must examine ourselves regularly (1 Cor 11v28) and we need to come alongside others too. This verse suggests that bitterness is the opposite of grace, that bitterness can cancel out grace. In other words, if we feel bitter towards God, towards life or circumstances generally, or towards another person, 27
it may cancel out the grace of God. God knows what we are like as humans and he wants us to be wary of this trap that we can fall into. Every day we need to ask God to fill us afresh with his grace. It is only the grace of God that can allow our hearts to be protected from any root of bitterness. It is only the grace of God that can cancel out bitterness in our hearts and stop the root of bitterness from growing or spreading. Sadly, a bitter heart can affect those around us, and this is why the writer suggests that mature Christians should keep a check on it in the churches. God’s grace has the power to wash away resentment, bitterness and misunderstanding. His grace can replace hurt with healing. His grace can so change us, that we are able to show grace, even to those who have upset us. Read Hebrews 12v22-24 – A summary of Grace These verses sum up those benefits and privileges of grace we have studied in Hebrews: • • • •
Thousands upon thousands of angels Sabbath rest in heaven where our names are written in the Book of Life Jesus, the sacrifice for our sin, our High Priest and our Mediator God, the Judge, on his Throne of Grace
“It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by His grace” – Heb. 13v9 Note: This Book was written to the Jews whose knowledge of God was steeped in the Old Testament Law of Moses and the system of sacrificial animals to atone for sin. In the Old Testament, certain people knew God’s favour, but the word ‘grace ‘ was not in their vocabulary. It must have been amazing for them to know that they could be freed from the Law because of the vicarious work of Jesus on the Cross of Sacrifice. As gentile Christians we are not bound by the Law, but we do allow ourselves to be bound by other things which can hinder us from knowing complete grace and rest in Jesus Christ. And so these verses in Hebrews are very much for us, too – see Heb. 11v39,40. Let us therefore come boldly to the Throne of Grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help us in time of need. Heb 4v16. This is the privilege God has given us, in His great grace.
JAMES - God gives us more grace James is notorious for his emphasis on works as well as faith. But it would be a mistake to suppose that he intended us to rely on works. If we take the whole Book in context, we see that a living, vital faith will result in good works by God’s grace. There are 4 people named James in the New Testament, but James who wrote this epistle was the halfbrother of Jesus. At the beginning James and his brothers did not believe that Jesus was who he said he was (see John 7v2-5). In his grace, Jesus gave them time, and we see in 1 Corinthians 15v7 that, after the resurrection, Jesus appeared in person to James, even before he met with the disciples. I guess that clinched it for James who went on to serve as one of the leading men in the church – in fact one who helped Paul at the beginning of his ministry (see Galatians 1v19). The faults that James attacks in his epistle are not the faults of criminals, but rather, those unseen sins (that we are all guilty of) such as misuse of the tongue, unkind judgments, rash and unkept promises, pride, love of the good life, impatience and believing in faith without works. As James highlights these things, he finishes with these words in chapter 4v6: But God gives us more grace, he opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. And so it is with humble hearts that we are meant to think about what James writes in his epistle. Chapter 1 – Grace for trials and temptations Read verses 2-5 Sometimes we know what we should do, but if we are having a bad day we act unwisely. We try to resist the temptation to argue or condemn or gossip. We try to resist the temptation to be greedy or annoyed or wanting to give tit-for-tat. But sometimes we do not succeed, and the result is that we feel a failure as a Christian because we haven’t been able to show grace to others. But James says that we should see days like this as opportunities to overcome and build our spiritual strength. He says we should persevere and that God will give us his wisdom – generously and without finding fault (v5), in other words: it is a gift of grace. Read verses 22-27: Grace for true religion James’ definition of a true believer is one who shows help and grace to others, especially those most vulnerable, who are not able to look after themselves. There are many, many people who fit into this category in our world today: the elderly, abused wives and children, mentally and physically disabled people, refugees, those seeking asylum, those with addictions, persecuted Christians around the world, those trapped by slavery – etc. etc. James says here that true religious faith is hearing, knowing and remembering God’s Word in our heart, so that it makes us act in the way that God requires. He is suggesting that we be proactive in showing grace – and often that will mean even showing it to people that we do not think are deserving of it – because this is what Jesus had done for James, this is what Jesus has done for us. Chapter 2 : Read verse 8 – Grace to love our neighbour Love your neighbour as yourself – James calls this the royal law. Jesus summed up the ten commandments like this: Love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind; and love your neighbour as yourself (Mark 12v30,31). They go hand in hand. You cannot choose to love God and hate your neighbour! It may sound hard in certain circumstances, but we have to remember that Christ loved us 29
and even gave his life for us when we were still sinners (he didn’t wait until we were nice, good people!). So we are called to show grace to others, just as Christ has shown grace to us. Read verses 14-18 James goes on to say that our actions are the proof of our faith and should come from our faith. Not a faith that is based on religion and good works, but a living faith which results from walking with the Lord and growing into his likeness – a faith where the Holy Spirit lives in us and guides us and teaches us to act like Jesus. Years ago, we had the WWJD logo – What Would Jesus Do? It's a good question to ask ourselves when we are with neighbours who are difficult to love! It’s worth considering how we can act in grace towards them. Chapter 3 – Wisdom brings grace Many a time I have said something that I have later regretted (usually when I’ve had a bad day!). Sometimes when we are cross, or sad, or disappointed or tired, we speak before we think – and damage can be done. We need to check - Have we spoken from a heart of grace or a heart of pride? In verse 17 James says that when we act in the wisdom of God it will produce the attributes of grace which are: purity, peacefulness, consideration, submission, mercy, impartiality and sincerity. Read verse 18: This should be our aim! Chapter 4 – God gives us more grace! (Verse 6) This book makes us look at ourselves and see our shortcomings – like when we’ve messed up, or when we’ve said or done things that we feel are unforgivable. If we are truly sorry, then God gives us a second (and even third, fourth, fifth …) chance. He gives us more grace. His grace is always sufficient for us. (Echoed by Paul in 2 Corinthians 12v9) But God expects us to show this same grace to others (Remember Jesus telling the disciples they must forgive endlessly? See Matthew 18v21,22.) If we want more of God’s Grace, we are expected to let it overflow from us to others. Chapter 5 – Practical grace Read verses 1-12 Most of us don’t have wealth and riches, although having said that, we are still more comfortably off than millions of people in the world. To those who do not have very much James says: Be patient. In other words, God will provide if we wait on him. We live in a very unequal society – the “haves” and the “have nots”. But the grace of God is the only thing that can change this. If we are the people God wants us to be then the onus is on us to show God’s grace by sharing what we have with those who have less. Read verses 13-16 Grace is there for all occasions: these verses cover troubles, illness and even sins. Praise God, his grace covers all, even those who are struggling with faith. No wonder the parable of the Prodigal Son is so wellknown. It is the best picture of God’s constant love, forgiveness and grace. We are never beyond God’s grace. Praise His Name!
PETER (1 and 2) – Grace for service and for trials If anyone knew what the meaning of grace was, it was Peter. Peter had denied Jesus three times, he failed to ‘stick up’ for him when it really mattered. And yet, after the resurrection, when Jesus called to the disciples from the sea-shore, Peter’s relationship with Jesus was reinstated gently and lovingly. Peter’s letters were written some time later when Peter was in charge of the church at Jerusalem, having been filled and changed by the Holy Spirit. In his letters he shows us that grace and service should always go hand in hand, even when the going gets tough. The First Epistle of Peter Chapter 1 – The grace of being chosen, for eternal life Read 1v1: We are never forced to follow Jesus Christ, but we have been chosen. The final decision belongs to us – we still need to respond to God’s call to follow him. Knowing that we have been chosen should make us feel very special, wanted and loved. Surprisingly, even Jesus was chosen, to be the pivotal part of God’s plan for mankind (see verse 20). And Jesus voluntarily, and willingly, responded to his Father’s call by giving his all on the Cross for us. Being chosen is a grace, which is actually free and open for all, but it is also a privilege and a responsibility. Read 1v13: Responding to God choosing us is our only hope for eternity. Where is your hope? In family and friends, in the government, in books and magazines or the TV programmes? Peter tells us in this verse that our hope is in the GRACE which will come to us at the Second Coming of Christ – i.e. Heaven. When we set our hope on Heaven it puts everything else into context. After all, we are only here on earth for a short time, but we are in Heaven for eternity. Chapter 2 – The Grace of being chosen for priesthood Read 2v9: What is a priest? It sounds very grand doesn’t it? What did Peter mean? The Latin word for priest is pontifex. It simply means a bridge. Therefore we are chosen to be bridges to connect those who do not yet know Jesus Christ with the Good News of salvation. Jesus is the High Priest who atones for sin, but we are called to be priests – bridges by praying for, and speaking to, those we meet. Chapter 4 – The Grace of being chosen to serve the King Read 4v10 & 11: “Faithful stewards of God’s Grace”. I wonder, sometimes if we forget what an honour this is. God has poured out his grace on us and calls us to show his Grace to others. Peter reminds us that we all have gifts from God that we can use in his service. Each gift is just as important and vital as the next. The person who sits at home and speaks to people on the telephone, giving them time and empathy, is just as useful in God’s kingdom as the one who stands at the front and preaches the Gospel. Each of us is responsible before God each day in seeking to share His grace with those around us. And because we all live in different places and varied situations He can use us all to share his grace where it is needed. Chapter 5 – Grace to the humble Read 5v1-11: This chapter continues with the theme of service (– “eager to serve”, v2). But, as James already pointed out in our study last week, that is not enough in itself. Verse 5 tells us that those who have a sense of self-importance in their role will not so easily experience God’s grace. Humility is the path to greatness in God’s service: “Humble yourselves, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in 31
due time (v6) … and the God of Grace will restore you and make you strong and steadfast (v10). I guess people who have pride in their own ability tend to lean less on the grace of God, and therefore do not experience it so much. The Second Epistle of Peter The main message of the second epistle is that we should appropriate the Grace of God, we should claim it, own it, act it out and use it! Peter’s second letter begins (1v2) with him pronouncing grace and peace in abundance on his Christian readers. And he ends the letter (3v18) with the encouragement to us to grow in grace. How do we do that? Read chapter 1v3-8: Everything we need to live like Jesus comes from staying close to God (v3). And in verse 4 Peter calls it “participating in the divine nature”. Many children grow up to be like their parents. It’s partly in their genes and also in the amount of time they spend together. When we were born again by the Holy Spirit, Jesus made us a New Creation – sons and daughters of God with his Holy Spirit (his, figuratively speaking, ‘genetic’ makeup) living in us. The more time we spend in the presence of our heavenly Father, the more like him we will become. And the more we will be able to share his grace with others. The list of ‘God – qualities’ that Peter lists in verses 5-7 are similar to those in Galatians chapter 5v22. They are the fruit of the Holy Spirit, growing in us and helping us to be productive in the Lord. In the last 2 chapters (3v10) Peter reminds us again to live our lives in the knowledge and expectation of the Second Coming of Christ and the sure Hope of Heaven, growing (3v18) in the Grace and knowledge of our Lord.
THE LETTERS OF JOHN – The Grace of Love I expect most of you remember the opening words of the Beatles song, “Love, love, love – all you need is love”. There is no theology there, but LOVE is the essence and foundation of our faith in Christ. God’s love for us and our love for God. Love is the greatest of all the graces. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians chapter 13v13, “Faith, hope and love – the greatest of these is love”. Love is God’s greatest free gift – a free gift is the definition of grace – given to us in the person of his only Son, Jesus Christ, through his death on the Cross. This is the message of John’s letters.
1 John – the Grace of Sacrificial Love Read chapter 1v8 to chapter 2v6: The Grace of Inclusive Love “If we sin … Jesus is our advocate (priest) … and our atoning sacrifice.” When we trust in God, even when we fail and let Him down, he is always ready to forgive – because we are His children whom he loves. Verse 2 specifically states that God’s grace is not exclusive to any one race or people group. It is for the whole world – inclusive – no-one is beyond God’s loving grace, not a single person; they only have to turn to Him in repentance to find his love and forgiveness. I thank God that he shone his love in my heart when I was 7, and undoubtedly changed my destiny. Read chapter 3 v16-24: The Grace of Sacrifice “We ought to be ready to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (v16). Well, we might not need to do that in our country at this present time – but it could come (some have been called to make the ultimate sacrifice in other countries where persecution of Christians exists). Would we be likely to do it if we are not willing to do the lesser thing in verse 17? Are we truly helping our fellow Christians – in our church, those who are in need during the Covid crisis, those without food where they are being persecuted, or living in famine-stricken lands? Remember the words of verse 18: Let us not love with words … but with actions, remembering always that Christ laid down his life for us. John expounds on his theme of love and sacrifice in chapter 4v7-21. Read chapter 5v14: The Grace of Assurance and Confidence How anxious do you feel when you are beset by doubts? We are not all naturally confident people. But we can be more than confident in our faith and in the promises of God. The word or phrase “we know” or “you know” appears 25 times in this first epistle of John. We know! We are assured! We can have all the confidence we need in the promises of God. In verse 14 John states that: • We can approach the Almighty God • We can ask for anything according to his will • He always hears us • We know that he hears us • Therefore, he will always answer our prayers, according to his will
2 John – the Grace of Truth In all John’s writings he is keen to point out that Jesus is the true Saviour of the world. In his gospel he wrote, “ I (Jesus) am the way, the truth, and the life”. In his first Epistle he wrote, “We are in Him who is true by being in His Son, Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life”. By the time John wrote his last three letters he was the last surviving apostle. People listened to him because he was the last notable Christian to have walked and talked with Jesus – hence John calls himself Elder at the beginning of this letter. Unusually, this is the only Book in the New Testament to be written to a woman, her children and her sister – obviously a very close, devoted Christian sister in the Lord whom John loved in Christ. By the time John writes this most of the followers of Jesus were second-generation Christians. The truth of the gospel was being compromised as many false teachers who were diluting, or changing the message – not unlike today. Notice that John uses the word ‘truth’ 4 times in the first 4 verses of this letter. John is wanting to convey the vital necessity of preserving the truth of the gospel. He says the marks of a Christian who knows the truth are: • We will love others who walk in the truth (v5) • We will walk in God’s commands (v6) • We will continue in the truth (v9) Truth is a grace because we cannot fully acquire it by study and our own conclusions, or by the word of others, which would be biased. Truth is something that is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit as we read God’s Word. Without the truth, we can still be kind and loving and sincere – but still be lost spiritually and without the confidence of heaven. False teachers and other religions and philosophies are detrimental to us because they prevent us from knowing the truth of the gospel.
3 John – the Grace of Friendship Friendship is a precious thing – we all need friends. Again, John introduces himself as the Elder, probably in his 80’s when he wrote this letter. So we conclude that Gaius is probably a much younger man. In verse 4 John refers to Gaius as one of his children – suggesting that Gaius was converted under his ministry. It is evident that there is a deep, Christian brotherly love and friendship between the two of them. Four times John calls Gaius ‘a dear friend’ (v1,2,5 &11) Read verse 8: We are called to show friendship and hospitality to each other so that we can be better witnesses to the truth of the gospel. Everyone needs friendship – everyone. When we received Jesus we received the Grace of His friendship. “What a friend we have in Jesus” – he is our model. And, like all the other graces it is something that we are called to share with others. In this Covid year we have struggled with not seeing our friends very much. Friends are so important to our feeling of well-being. God created us to interact – it is important therefore that we maintain and make new friendships whenever we can. The letter finishes with a final greeting from friends to friends. Praise God for the gift of friendship! And praise Him that he is our faithful friend!
JUDE – Do not distort God’s Grace! Read the whole chapter Jude was a son of Joseph and Mary, brother of James (who wrote the Epistle), and a half-brother of Jesus Christ. As a Jew, he wrote this Epistle from a Jewish historic perspective with examples from the Old Testament. It was written at a time when false teachers were infiltrating the church and suggesting that most things were all right for Christians to join in, because – in His grace – God would forgive them. And so it is a warning to all who follow Christ: we should not be complacent in our Christianity; we should not take God’s grace for granted; and we should not distort God’s grace. Verse 4: Certain people had infiltrated the church and deceived people. They were saying that God’s grace gave them licence to commit immoral acts, because God being good and loving would not mind – as long as no-one was getting hurt (sound familiar?). Jude is saying that we must not compromise the truth of God’s Word in the Bible, even when it “feels right” to do so. Coins have 2 sides. You cannot have the heads without the tails. You cannot have right without wrong. You cannot have grace without judgment – else where is the justice? Our God is just and fair – and it is possible for us to put ourselves in the way of his judgment instead of his grace (by doing things that He specifically says are wrong). Except for when we are truly repentant and turn our back on what was wrong – then he extends his hand of grace and forgiveness even when we don’t deserve it. We must never say or think, “I will do that, God is a God of grace, so he will forgive me.” The following verses are written to show that those who rebel will suffer judgment. Only those who truly repent will see God’s grace and forgiveness and mercy. Verses 5-16: Jude draws on a list of examples from the Old Testament: • Some of God’s people who were freed from bondage in Egypt afterwards disbelieved and consequently died (v5). • Some of the angels who once knew the truth, but followed Satan, are bound and kept for judgment (v6). • The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah serve as examples of God’s judgment because the whole of each city abandoned itself to sexual perversion (v7). • The sin of slander is taken very seriously too (even the archangel Michael dare not slander Satan). Condemnation should only come from God. (v9) • The way of Cain (murder of his brother), Balaam (prophesied falsely), and Korah (caused rebellion) are all examples of God’s judgment on sin. • Enoch pronounced that there will be a judgment day for all people. (N.B. Jude’s references to Moses (v9) and Enoch (v14) are not in our Bibles but in other Jewish, historical writings.) Verses 17-25: The way to grace and mercy
In verse 20 Jude says we can ensure that we know God’s ways if: • We build ourselves up in the faith, by reading the Bible and praying for God’s guidance and His will • Pray in the Holy Spirit • Stay in the love of Christ Wait patiently for our redemption to eternal life. Our eternal future in heaven depends on us making the right choices while we have the opportunity. Verse 22 tells us to show grace to those who doubt. Doubt is not a sin – it is not the same as dissension or rebellion, unbelief or pride. We all suffer from doubts from time to time and we need to encourage each other when this happens. It is when we doubt and test a situation that we can find the reality of God and regain our confidence. Doubt is the opposite of confidence, not the opposite of belief. Verse 24: The doxology A doxology is a hymn or statement of praise and an affirmation of our faith. This particular statement has given many Christians the encouragement to keep going when the going gets tough. Jude has written some hard truths meant to convict us of our propensity to sin. But he encourages us, by reminding us that when we have committed our lives to the Lord, He is able to keep us from falling morally and spiritually in our Christian walk. And more than that, Jesus will present us in Heaven, without fault and with great joy. In ourselves we will stumble, doubt, worry, and fail God at times. But when we stay close to the Lord, He will keep us steady. This is the essence of God’s grace: he expects much of us, but he is alongside us, supporting us, and helping us to reach our final goal of eternity with Him. The end of the verse says “with great joy” – there is great joy in heaven over every sinner who repents (Luke 15v7) but there is also great joy over every Christian who dies in Christ and is presented as a new inhabitant of heaven! And all because of His Grace, there is no other way.
The Estuary Elim Group of Churches are three Essex based Elim Pentecostal Churches in Ashingdon, Rayleigh and Southend on Sea with a shared Leadership team. We are a group of people responding to the love of God and the life changing message of Jesus Christ. Our services are lively with contemporary music, worship and preaching and teaching relevant to the 21st Century. To find out more about us visit www.estuaryelim.church Whether you are new to church, someone with questions or a committed Christian, we want to serve you and help you discover and fulfil Godâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s purpose for your life. If you would like an opportunity to email or talk to one of the team email your contact details to email@example.com and we will get back to you. The Ashingdon, Rayleigh and Southend Elim Pentecostal Churches are branches of The Elim Foursquare Gospel Alliance (Registered Charity No. 251549)