What are our Choices and Requirements for Mutual Fellowship?

The Choices and Requirements of Fellowship

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

2nd Thessalonians 3:10-18

10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. 11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.

12 Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. 13 But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing. 14 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

16 Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.

17 The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.

18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.


Last week we read 2nd Thessalonians 3:6-9, and we saw that Paul and the other missionaries had set an example by working to earn money to pay for their own food and lodging, during their very brief stay in Thessalonica.

Paul pointed out that he and the others had earned the right to expect compensation, but they chose to set aside that “right,” and deliver the Grace of God to the people of Thessalonica without cost. We have done the same. We have no employees here: all the work is done by volunteers. All of our teaching and sermons are available online, free of charge


In other passages, Paul laid out the need for support for the elders of a church, but he had already established the precedent that a leader can abstain from receiving support; and he gave the reasons why he, himself, had done so.

It is a good thing for the believers to support one another, especially if someone is sick or disabled and needs assistance. But: human nature being what it is, there will always be a tendency for some to try to take advantage of the generosity of believers, and avoid earning their own keep.

So, Paul addresses that problem in these last verses.


Paul describes the broad issue of disorderliness; but he links it to idleness (not working) and being “busybodies.” We know what it means to “not work”…and Paul specifies in verse ten that he is referring to someone who will not work: not someone who cannot work, for whatever reason (injury, illness, other incapacities.) But what is the biblical meaning of a “busybody?”

In modern English, it usually means a “meddler:” someone who is constantly involving themselves, uninvited, in the affairs of others. Sometimes it is linked to gossip and talebearing.

What is a Busybody?

But in this passage, the Greek word is “periergoi,” meaning “around working.” (Getting around work, perhaps? Or, maybe, being a “runaround,” working the system?)  

In 1st Timothy 5:13 we see the same Greek word used, this time in a context that may offer some explanation, specifically in the context of someone who is capable of function, but who is needlessly being supported by others.13 And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.”

In the Timothy passage, we see several things linked together:

  • Idleness (choosing to not work)
  • Wandering from house to house (as opposed to tending to their own home.)
  • Tattlers (tale-bearers, gossips)
  • Busybodies (periergoi, again)
  • “Speaking things which they ought not.”

In this context, it seems that perhaps our modern definition of “busybody” fits pretty well.

Other Shades of Meaning

It is interesting to note that the passage in 1st Peter 4:15, which uses the same English word, is from an entirely unrelated Greek word, literally meaning “overseeing the business of others:”meddling,” perhaps: trying to exert influence in other people’s affairs. That word comes much closer to our modern definition.

But, collectively, the picture seems to be of someone who “hasn’t got anything better to do” than running around “chatting people up,” and avoiding doing any work of their own. Paul exhorts believers to do what God has called us to do, earn our keep at whatever trade or work we can do, and be a good testimony of the Holy God who has called us. To do otherwise is to be “disorderly,” and such behavior dishonors the Lord. Paul commands such people to work, tend to their own business, earn a living and eat the food they earned.

“Fellowship” means “Partnership:”

Some people try to say that “fellowship” means “two fellows in a ship: both in the same boat.” That is simplistic at best; it is an error. Two people on a ship may hate each other, and they even may be committed to one another’s destruction. That is certainly not fellowship. Fellowship means “having in common.” It implies “partnership.” We are called to join in the fellowship of the suffering of Christ. (Philippians 3:10) The believers at Philippi (Philippians 1:5) were commended for their fellowship in the gospel. They were partners in the work of evangelism.

In 2nd Corinthians 8:4 Paul commended a poverty-stricken church in that they begged the privilege to join in the fellowship of ministering to the needs of the believers in Jerusalem. They wanted to serve as partners in the work! As believers, they chose to function as partners, and they begged him to receive that gift, acknowledging that partnership. It is obviously implied that he did choose to accept it. (This is in the context of correcting the church at Corinth, who evidently were not so eager to participate.)

Fellowship is a Choice

We attach ourselves to a local assembly of like-minded believers and we are willing to be partners with them in worship and in service. Each person has a different ability and different gifts, but we serve together and desire to collectively please the Lord who has called us and who bought us with His blood.

Is it possible to desire the appearance of partnership without actually being committed to that union? Yes, evidently it is. There are thousands of people who are on the membership list at churches across the world, who never attend, and yet will claim membership in “their church” as a part of their credentials as a “fine, upstanding citizen.” But they have no real connection or partnership with that assembly of believers.

We are called to become partners in the work of ministry, and in the work of evangelism and discipleship with the local assembly to which we have attached ourselves. We make a conscious choice to do so.

Requirements of Fellowship

But God has also called us to live in such a way as to not dishonor Him, and not shame the church. We are warned that such behavior is detrimental enough that believers are told to not have “partnership” with such persons. That is a hard thing to do, when we are called to love one another. But that is what it says!

Could this requirement be used wrongly, to attempt to force conformity on a person who is doing no wrong? Certainly, it can, and it has happened many times! Missionaries have been dismissed from  Organizations because they disagreed about some relatively small point of doctrine.

People have been drummed out of churches for things that were none of their doing. I knew a man whose wife left him for another man…and he was told to leave his church! I’m not sure what their accusation was, but he was definitely the victim, and rather than seeking to help or comfort him, they excluded him from fellowship.

So, How can We Prevent the Misuse of This Concept?

Galatians 6:1, 2 spells out a rule for church discipline that should prevent abuse.

1Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

Five points:

  1. The one doing the restoring always must be in the Spirit…this is not done in the flesh!.
  2. The motive is always to be restoration, not punishment or rejection.
  3. The approach is always to be one of humility, and gentleness, not condemnation.
  4. The person or persons attempting the restoration must always remember that they, too, are fragile, and that they can easily be drawn into sin, through anger, pride or other flaws.
  5. We are always to help others bear their crushing circumstantial burdens, not just stand back, and watch them struggle.

But, if such a person simply rejects help, rejects correction, and rejects the Word, then there is no place for partnership. We are still reaching out, desiring their restoration, but true fellowship is not possible. (No Condemnation! v.15: He is not an enemy! You treat him as a brother!)

Grounds for Fellowship

Paul lays out the sevenfold basis of our Unity in Christ…the “Unity of the Spirit.”
In Ephesians 4:1-6, he says,

1 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;

One Lord, one faith, one baptism,

One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”

Seven unities:

  1. One Body (1st Corinthians 12:12)
  2. One Spirit (John 14:16)
  3. One Hope of our Calling (Colossians 1:27)
  4. One Lord (1st Corinthians 8:6)
  5. One Faith (Romans 1:5, 16)
  6. One Baptism (1st Corinthians 12:13)
  7. One God and Father (John 17:3)

If all those “unities” are in place, fellowship should be possible. But fellowship can be broken, even among brethren who agree with all these “unities.” That is why it says we are to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace. It is a fragile fellowship, easily damaged by pride and self-will.

We are warned specifically that a “root of bitterness” can spring up and thereby defile many. Others will be affected! None of us live lives disconnected from the believers around us. My sin does not affect just me: it can affect all of my family, and anyone in my sphere of influence.

Maintaining Unity

So, we are to give diligence to maintaining that unity and not allowing small differences to grow into serious divisions. Are we concerned about the overall testimony of the church? Yes, absolutely! But we are equally concerned about the well-being and spiritual health of every person. We are not on some kind of “inspection tour” to “ferret out flaws” and “slap sense into slackers!”  The Command is to “Love One Another!”

(v. 16) Paul reminds us, that we are called to peace! We are called to forbear one another in Love. We are called to forgive one another, just as God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven us! Let’s not forget these things!

And the Grace of God (v. 18) is what sustains us all.

Lord Jesus, draw us into close fellowship with Yourself and with one another. Help us to Love one another as You have commanded us. Protect Your flock from Evil, in Jesus’ Name.

Here are Seven General Commands for all Believers

Seven General Commands

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

1st Thessalonians 5:16-23

16 Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 19 Quench not the Spirit. 20 Despise not prophesyings. 21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.


I first studied this passage years ago, and the latter clause of verse 18 caught my attention. Paul says that this list of commands is “the will of God in Christ Jesus, concerning ME.”

This revelation is very personal. And, I had problems with it: I wasn’t consistently obeying any of the commands he listed. I did not deliberately disobey them: I truly didn’t know how I could rejoice all the time. Life wasn’t much fun! I could not see how to rejoice in the midst of hard times.

I did not pray without ceasing. My prayer-life was very sporadic. (It still is, compared to some of the prayer-warriors we have in this assembly!) But what caught my attention the most, initially, was that God commanded us to give thanks, regardless of circumstances.

(Notice that He did not say “for everything give thanks,” (though that would be a good thing, too.) Rather, He said, “IN everything give thanks.”  Paul and Silas didn’t necessarily give thanks that they were “bleeding and in pain, in manacles, in a prison!” They gave thanks for the privilege of joining Jesus in the work of the Gospel. And they included the privilege of suffering for His sake.

But I was most shocked that it seemed to be specifically directed to ME. I read, and I could not escape the probing finger of God, pointing me out and saying, “Yes, I mean you!

“Unpacking” the Content:

  1. Rejoice Evermore
  2. Pray without ceasing
  3. In Every Thing Give Thanks
  4. Quench Not The Spirit
  5. Despise Not Prophesyings
  6. Prove (test) All Things: Hold fast to that which is Good.
  7. Abstain From all Appearance (all forms) Of Evil

The whole list falls under the title “God’s will in Christ for YOU.” So, if you (the reader) are “in Christ,” then, as a saved individual, all these things are directed to You.

Rejoice Evermore

This one caused me to stumble, initially, too. I read it as “feel happy all the time.” (I’m sorry, but I just can’t do that!) Later, I saw other passages which showed me that it was perfectly acceptable to feel bad about circumstances, and to weep and grieve over losses, and defeats.

I read Habakkuk 3:17-19, and I saw that Habakkuk was deeply grieved by the corruption in his nation. He was even more alarmed at the predicted judgment of God upon His nation. But he accepted it as being from God. And in the face of losing everything, he chose to find his Joy in the Savior. He said. “Yet will I rejoice in the LORD; I will joy in the God of my salvation!” And verse 19 said he made a song about it so that others could share that joy!

I began to realize then, that “Joy is a choice. ” It is not dependent upon circumstances. We can choose to find Joy in the person of Christ, and in His character, and in His constant, faithful presence. The Psalmist said, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me….” It was a choice!

Pray Without Ceasing

I thought I could figure out this one pretty easily, on my own. I knew that you don’t have to “fold your hands and close your eyes” to pray. So I also knew I truly could be in constant communication with God.

But, I also knew that I am easily distracted. I will suddenly realize that I have become “sidetracked,” and not only am I not in prayer, but I am in a furious imaginary argument with some person who isn’t even there! (Usually, it is someone who wronged me years ago, and, because I never truly forgave them, their memory plagues me still today.) So, then I have to confess my anger and confess my unforgiveness. I try to obey Jesus by praying for that person. (Remember? He said, “Pray for them that despitefully use you!”)

And, you know what? Sometimes while trying to pray for them, I would circle right back into being angry all over again, because of how they had wronged me! Our old sin nature is a very “slippery” enemy! It turns out that “pray without ceasing” is harder than it sounds!


Forgiveness means “accepting whatever wrong has happened to you as having been allowed by God, and then absorbing the cost or the loss, without blaming the other person or demanding retribution.”

Jesus endured to the Cross in order to take our place under the judgment of God. He had to absorb the cost, himself, in order to offer true forgiveness! (Give that some thought!)

What injury have you received? How do you have to “absorb the loss or the cost,” in order to forgive those who have wronged you? Was it truly a greater injury than what Jesus bore at the Cross? (Probably not, right?) So we can choose to follow in His steps and learn to forgive, just as He has forgiven us.

In Everything Give Thanks

As I said earlier, this one was hard because I read it wrong. It does not say “give thanks FOR everything, but rather “give thanks IN everything.” I can give thanks for his mercy and for His constant provision in my life.

And when things truly seem bleak, remember Job. Having lost everything, he tore his clothes in grief, and shaved his head in mourning for his dead children. But then, he fell on his face before the LORD, and worshipped, saying “naked came I from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return. The LORD giveth, and the LORD hath taken away. BLESSED be the Name of the LORD!” He lost all his belongings and all his children in the same day! And, his response was worship!

The very least we can do is to give thanks for the perfect character of God, and His Mercy and Love, by which He provided salvation for a lost World. We can thank Him for the incredible privilege of working with Jesus, “pulling in double harness,” to accomplish the work of God on earth.

Quench Not the Spirit

in 1789, William Carey, a Baptist minister in Leicester, England was preparing to go to India with the Gospel. He was at a meetingof ministers and he was advocating the work of Evangelism. Another minister (the chairman of the meeting Carey was attending) retorted, “Young man, sit down! When God pleases to convert the heathen, He will do so without your aid or mine!”

That is about as classic a “quenching of the Spirit” as I have ever heard. But there are worse. Whenever God stirs the heart of one of His children, to attempt something for Him, there will be someone there to say “it can’t be done, it won’t work, etc.”

David was volunteering to kill Goliath. Remember what ALL the other men said: they all scorned him, shamed him or warned him that he would surely be killed. At best, in “being supportive,” they loaded him down with such heavy body armor that he couldn’t move!

Goliath cursed him, and promised to feed his body to the birds! His answer to the giant was, “You have come to me heavily armed. I come to you in the name of the LORD of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied!”

Ancient “Weapons

Goliath was a “human tank,” for that time in history! He was huge, heavily armed, and heavily armor-plated! And, like a tank, he made a lot of noise! As a result, all of Israel’s armies were terrified!

David, on the other hand, was wearing no armor at all, beyond the divine protection of God. His only power was found in the Name of the LORD of Hosts (that’s Jesus, by the way!) And his only physical weapon was a sling…two cords, and a pouch to hold a stone. But slings were the “bazookas” of that time in history! And God guided his hand so that the rock not only hit Goliath’s only unprotected place (his forehead) but so that it struck with enough force to actually punch through and sink into his forehead.

Now: Was it entirely miraculous? Perhaps…or God could have just given the stone an extra push and supernatural accuracy. Or: we can consider the fact that a major league pitcher can heave a baseball in excess of 100 miles per hour…and the cords of the sling more than doubled the length of David’s arm, and thus doubled the speed of his delivery! (Yes, a egg-sized rock, hitting a forehead at around 200 miles per hour could surely be fatal!)

But, if the naysayers had persuaded David to just go home, then that whole victory would have been cancelled! Thank God that He did not allow the Spirit to be quenched, in this case!

Despise Not Prophesyings

Don’t reject out-of-hand a message delivered as being from scripture. Someone has taken time (assumedly) to study, and prepare a lesson, a sermon, a testimony, or something. Be respectful, and hear them out. But the next verse tells the “rest of the story.”

Listen critically, comparing what is being taught to what we know of the Word of God. If they are teaching false doctrine (Not just a misunderstanding…deliberate twisting of scripture) then we have to take a stand against it.)

Prove All Things: Hold Fast to That Which is Good.

The Bereans (in Acts 17:11) were commended for their response to the teaching of the Apostles: “These were more noble-minded than those of Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind, AND searched the scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”

They were not “rejecting” the apostolic message (not “despising prophesyings”) but they also were not easily won over by clever speech, or persuasive argument: They wanted GOD’S Word on the matter. So, they searched the scriptures to find His answer!

Ephesians 4:11-14 says that the purpose of the leadership gifts is to draw the flock along into spiritual maturity, including that that (v.14) we are no longer are to be like little children, believing every new thing, so that we are blown back and forth by every convincing argument. Hold fast to that which is good.

Abstain from all Appearance (all Forms) of Evil

People frequently misunderstand this passage to mean “if something looks bad, then avoid it.” That potentially places us in an untenable position of feeling obliged to please everyone. I am not obliged to please everyone. For example, the Gospel offends most people at one level or another.

One Christian woman very firmly told me that she believed it would be morally wrong for her to attempt to share her faith with someone else. How can obedience to God be morally wrong? (It cannot!) But she had subjected her own values to those of the World, where it “appears evil” to tell people about Jesus. I have known believers to lose their jobs for (on their own time) telling a coworker how they can have eternal life. But they were doing right.

The idea, here, is to avoid every form of evil: Everywhere Evil shows its ugly face, abstain! Don’t be partners with evil. Feel free to “let the World pass you by!” You want no part of where they are going!

The Result?

23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

Our confidence is not in ourselves: But God lays out seven general commands for all believers and Paul offers his confidence, praying that, if the believers followed these things, they would continually grow in Christ, and that God would preserve and keep them blameless.

Paul’s conclusion is that his confidence is in the faithfulness of God, not the “worthiness” of those believers, nor their productivity, or any such thing.

The Children of God

Having placed your trust in Jesus as your Savior, and in His shed Blood as the full payment for your redemption, you have become a child of God. Yes, I am aware that many people try to teach that “everyone is a child of God.” Jesus said they are not! He said one has to be born again to become  a child of God (John 1:12, 13) or to even see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3) And in John 8:44, He told the people, “You are of your father, the Devil!”

But as a child of God, we can expect His guidance, His blessing, His chastisement, and His care. And regardless of whether we flourish or struggle, He will not lose us, under any circumstances! He said, “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.

Lord Jesus, we ask that You would continually sharpen our focus, to see Your will for our lives, laid out in black and white, right here in Your Word! We are not left without instruction: You have given us the Written Word and You have given us the indwelling Holy Spirit. Teach us to follow you in sincerity and in faithful service.

What about Discipleship and Church Relationships?

Disciples and Church Relationships

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

1st Thessalonians 5:12-15

12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; 13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.

14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. 15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.


We are studying through 1st Thessalonians, and for the last three Sundays, we have examinined various aspects of discipleship. We talked about the cost of discipleship and the rewards of discipleship and the life of discipleship in general.

Pastoral Support and Care

In verses 12 and 13, Paul mentions a subject that seems a bit touchy, in today’s society. Many charlatans preach as “mercenaries,” seeing it as an easy job with a fat paycheck.

If the church were not already treating us well, I would feel uncomfortable teaching this passage, as a pastor. Some churches fail in this area: This church once failed in this area, about 15 years ago.

A “Close-to-Home” Example:

Pat James was the founding pastor, but he was poorly paid to begin with, and his pay was based on a percentage of the giving. His pay was also capped at a value they declared as a “housing allowance.” Other than that, he was on Social Security, just as I am.

But: he lived in Nehalem, an hour away by car; so, there were extra costs involved in just getting here. And, sadly, the congregational giving was pretty skimpy at that time. The church was about eight months behind on his support when he told me that he needed to address the money issue. But he was ashamed to do so. He felt as though he was “begging,” or “squeezing the congregation” for money. (And it was a shameful situation! It never should have happened!)

I told him I completely understood how he felt and that he did not have to preach that sermon. I told him to stay home, and that I would address the topic of pastoral support. As it turned out, he was so destitute by then, that he did not have money enough for gasoline to get here, anyway!

Corrective Teaching:

I taught on the responsibility of the flock (including myself) toward Pastoral care, and I asked rather sharply, “am I being too subtle?” (And I saw several people shaking their heads, “No!”) One person approached afterward, and asked, “Where is Pat today?”

I flatly told him the truth: “He doesn’t have gas money to get here!” The man replied, “This is not going to happen again!” He and another man drove to the coast that day, and put a large cash gift in Pat’s hands.

Church giving picked up for a while, as a result, but, sadly, it gradually tapered off again. That was disappointing: I thought they had actually learned something. As it turned out, they had! It just took a while to change the established pattern.

God’s Word Bearing Fruit

But since then, things have changed. The church caught up on Pat’s pay, and they continued his support until both he and his wife, Jan, passed away. Richard Banham and I continued the work. The church began supporting missions quite heavily, while, for seven years, both Richard Banham and I were self-supporting, so as not to burden the tiny church in any way. And the church was growing!

But then, in January 2020, my means of support (the job I had held for over 30 years) ceased to exist…and then Richard died. Ann and I kept serving, still attempting to support ourselves by other means, but with very slim results.

However, I did not have to approach the church, “asking” for support: they approached me, and quite firmly told me it was not ok for us to be without support.  The church offered us a housing allowance, the same as Pat had received, and not only have they never failed to provide it: they have given us “cost of living” raises, each year.

I am not a “church employee:” I cannot be accused of “just being in it for the money,” because, for the first twenty years I taught here, it was without pay. But the church has responded to us in love and mutual care, and Ann and I are truly blessed.

I have never felt that Ann and I were being judged or treated poorly: quite the opposite. The church has consistently treated us well. That is why I can comfortably teach this passage, because I am confident that I will not be misunderstood.

But: It isn’t Just About Money

Notice that it says. “esteem then very highly in love for their work’s sake.” Yes, that includes financial support, or, in some cultures it might include bringing food to their family. In a farming culture, the Church elders will probably not have enough time to tend their own gardens, as they are spending their time feeding the flock, or preparing to do so. Perhaps their people will work their garden for them.

It also might be emotional support: many pastors suffer from self-doubt and discouragement. The most encouraging thing they can hear, is that someone genuinely got fed, and is applying what they learned. Do they always have to hear such “accolades?” No! But if they feel that they are just “preaching into the void,” so to speak, and having zero effect, it can be pretty discouraging.

Jeremiah was called the “weeping prophet” because the people to whom he was sent consistently rebelled against the Word that God spoke through him…and very few believed his message. He wept and agonized over Judah, for the constant rebellion of the leaders and the people, and their vicious, unreasoning attacks against him, personally.

Responding to the Word

Hebrews 13:17 says, “ Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”

If you actually learn from and follow the teaching you are given, that allows your leaders to report with Joy to the Chief Shepherd that the flock is thriving. Chuck and I, and all the other leaders here, are filled with joy to see the response of the people in this little assembly. Eighteen to twenty people are regularly showing up for Bible Study! That is a sign of real health, and it is a thrill, to see people feeding on the Word. They are asking questions, taking notes and using what they are learning, in their outreach to friends, and in finding victory in their walk with God.

Defending the Elders, but Holding them Accountable.

“Esteeming them highly in love” also includes defending the leaders against attack.

1st Timothy 5:19, 20 say that we are not to “hear” an accusation against an elder unless there are two or more witnesses there to hear the accusation. No gossip or backstabbing! But: if it turns out that there is sin involved, the elders involved are to be rebuked publicly, not hushing it up or “sweeping it under the rug.”

Peace among the Flock

Notice that peace among the flock is the next thing mentioned. Division, strife, and gossip are symptoms of spiritual disease: Such behaviors are not healthy! Paul encourages the believers to be at peace among themselves.

Ezekiel 34:17-22

God judges the Flock when they mistreat one another.

And as for you, O my flock, thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I judge between cattle and cattle, between the rams and the he goats.

18 Seemeth it a small thing unto you to have eaten up the good pasture, but ye must tread down with your feet the residue of your pastures? and to have drunk of the deep waters, but ye must foul the residue with your feet?

19 And as for my flock, they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet; and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet.

20 Therefore thus saith the Lord God unto them; Behold, I, even I, will judge between the fat cattle and between the lean cattle.

21 Because ye have thrust with side and with shoulder, and pushed all the diseased with your horns, till ye have scattered them abroad;

22 Therefore will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle.

The verses just before this passage (v. 1-10) call for the shepherds to feed, protect, heal and comfort the flock. God judges unfaithful shepherds. But, when Christians behave in a manner that damages other believers, whether intentionally or simply through careless responses, it destroys the peace and unity that God has created. More importantly, it dishonors the Lord, personally. So, He brings judgment on the Flock.

Results of Failure to obey God

Years ago, two men asked me why, when visitors came to their church, they never stayed long, but soon disappeared, never to return. I knew nothing about their church, so I replied in the form of an analogy:

I said, “If young children invite their friends over for dinner, and, after coming once or twice, they no longer will come, it usually is due to one of three things:

  1. There was no food on the table,
  2. Older children were mistreating them, or
  3. Mom and Dad were fighting.”

They looked at each other for a moment, and then replied, “Two, out of three!”  (I still knew nothing of their church, but obviously something was seriously wrong.)

We are called to peace!

And in Ezekiel 34:1-10, the shepherds were given a list of seven definite responsibilities toward the flock. They are to:

  1. Feed the Flock,
  2. Strengthen the Diseased.
  3. Heal the Sick,
  4. Bind up the Broken,
  5. Bring back those who have been driven away,
  6. Seek the Lost, and
  7. Defend the Flock against Predators.

If the shepherds are collectively doing their jobs, in unity, and if the flock is behaving rightly before the Lord, then we can expect to have His blessing. If not, then, to whatever degree we are disregarding God’s Word, we can expect to see His blessing diminished. That is simply the truth.

Six Guidelines:

Paul listed six concepts for Christian behavior: (v.14, 15)

He exhorted us to:

  • Warn them that are unruly,
  • Comfort the feebleminded, (the “faint-hearted”—not a reference to “dementia”)
  • Support the weak,
  • Be patient toward all men. (Greek does not include the word “men:” it says “all.”)
  •  See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but consistently
  • Follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.

Warn the Unruly:

Galatians 6:1 tells us how to restore one another to fellowship, and warns us that our motive has to be restoration…never condemnation or harsh criticism. This is a matter of the “self-healing” of the church’s small injuries or misalignments. (Think, “over-the-counter” as opposed to “prescription.” This is to happen between all believers. It does not require an elder stepping in.

Comfort (encourage, or console) the Faint-hearted

Many believers (especially new believers) may feel quite unsure about their position in Christ, let alone their condition as a disciple. The result may be that they very timid about the spiritual battles they face. Until they understand that the war was won at the Cross, and that they are secure forever in Christ, and that they are truly born again as the genuine children of God, (not adopted like a stray dog,) they will need our encouragement and comfort.

Support the Weak

Romans 14:1-7 and Romans 15:1 spell out who the “weak” believers are: and God lays upon the stronger believers the responsibility to support (not to judge) the weaker brethren.

Be Patient toward All

We all have our idiosyncrasies, and we are all exhorted to be patient with one another, just as we are also commanded in Ephesians 4:2 to forbear one another (put up with one another) in Love.

Don’t take Vengeance!

Don’t give others a “taste of their own medicine.” Don’t “render evil for evil.”

Follow that which is Good, toward believers and unbelievers.

This has to be an ongoing, day-by-day, lifestyle choice. It is an integral part of our collective testimony as believers. In Matthew 5:16, Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.”

If we can consistently apply  all of the above, we will continue to enjoy good health as a church.

Lord Jesus, draw us into a closer walk with You, and alert us to the changes you want in each of our lives. Help us to grow strong as Your disciples.

What is The Life of Discipleship?

The Life of Discipleship

1st Thessalonians 5:8-11

But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.

For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.

11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.


We tend to distance ourselves from the reality of the Christian Life, We are prone to imagining how the believers at the time of the Apostles must have lived and felt. There is nothing wrong with remembering their circumstances (which much harsher than our own, in most cases.) But we have to live in such a way as to apply these truths today, not just imagining how they might have lived, two thousand years ago.

Be Sober (v. 8)

What does it mean to “be sober,” today? It does not just mean “don’t get drunk,” though it could include that idea. It means to take the Christian life seriously…not as “weekend entertainment,” or as social “gamesmanship.” We are not to attempt to position ourselves as “more pious” than others. (Somehow, “I’m more humble than you” is a contradiction in concepts. Humility would never harbor such a thought. Sobriety instantly recognizes the spiritual trap in the temptation to see oneself in that warped “amusement park” mirror.

Romans 12:3 says, For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”

This is the same writer (Paul) using the same terminology. But, in the Romans passage, he begins to explain the idea. “Thinking soberly” is offered in contrast to self-aggrandizement. It means seeing yourself through honest eyes. It means seeing yourself as God sees you.

Sober eyes look at reality and they see reality. They see themselvez neither more highly nor more lowly than simple reality. Sobriety is neither overly optimistic nor pessimistic. It is realistic. And, in light of that reality, we are called to respond to life in a serious manner. We must see it all against the backdrop of the spiritual battle that is taking place. And yet we are called to rejoice in the ultimate victory that Jesus secured for us at the Cross.

Armor (v. 8)

A short version of the Armor of God is mentioned here. But in Ephesians 6:13-19, Paul lays out what he calls the “whole armor of God.” He names seven pieces, making up the whole of that armor:

  1. Belt of truth
  2. Breastplate of Righteousness
  3. Shoes of the preparation of the Gospel of Peace
  4. Shield of Faith
  5. Helmet of Salvation
  6. Sword of the Spirit
  7. Prayer for one another and ourselves.

And, in 2nd Corinthians 10:4, 5, he says that this armor ‘is not Carnal but is mighty through God, to the pulling down of strongholds.’ Through it, we are to cast down imagination, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. Through it we are to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

Our Position (v. 9)

Not Appointed to Wrath

We have a secure position in Christ. The Tribulation (which Paul warned about in verses 1-3 is surely coming.) But we are not going to be part of it. Our suffering, such as it is, will come before that time, and we will be taken out of the World before the judgment of the Daniel prophecy begins. We are not appointed to wrath…why?

We are Appointed to Obtain Salvation through Christ (v. 9, 10)

We who have trusted in Christ in this age are appointed to be taken out of the world, as we saw in the previous chapter: His sacrificial death for us guaranteed that we will be with him whether we are alive or dead. Jesus made the clear promise of this hope when He said, “He that hears my word and believes on Him who sent me, has eternal life,  and shall not come into condemnation, but has crossed over from death into life.” That single promise covers our past, our present and our future!

Our Source of Comfort (v. 11)

Back in 1st Thessalonians 4:18, Paul said, “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” Here in 1st Thessalonians 5:11, he repeats the command. But we need to remember the means by which we are commanded to comfort one another. We are not called to simply “pat one another on the shoulder and say, There, there!” We find our comfort in the Person of Christ who is the Living Word of God, and in the Holy Scriptures which are the Written Word of God.

Our Need for Comfort

We live in a dark world: Philippians 2:15, 16 says we are to shine as lights in that darkness, reflecting the “Light of the World” which is Jesus Himself. In John 8:12, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world: he that follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

“Following Jesus” is what enables us to shine in that darkness. We can shine because we are not walking in darkness…we have the light of life. His presence as the Light of the World is what gives us comfort and direction. If we don’t walk with Him we are in darkness. (1st John 1:6.)

In John 16:33, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have Peace. In the World ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the World.”

How much easier is it to bear up under the load of harsh reality in this World, when we know that Jesus predicted exactly that, and that He offers us the comfort (Peace) of knowing that the victory is already won? Jesus already defeated all our enemies at the Cross!

In John 14:27, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My Peace I give unto you: Not as the World giveth, give I unto you: let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Comfort in Security

And we have the additional comfort of knowing that, even if we “collapse under the load,” and “quit,” in despair, He will not quit, nor will He ever give up on us! Philippians 1:6 says, “Being confident of this very thing, that He which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

Jesus said, in John 6:37, “He that cometh unto Me, I will in no wise cast out.” And two verses later, in John 6:39, He said, “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” He will cast no one out, and will not lose a single person who comes to Him in faith!

John 10:27, 28 says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish.”

How did we enter into that relationship?

John 5:24 says, “Verily, Verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death into life.

If you have trusted Jesus as your Savior, believing that His blood sacrifice was God’s chosen sacrifice for your sins, then Jesus says you have crossed over from death into life. He says you will never be condemned by God, and that you now have everlasting life. It is a “done deal,” and permanent…as in “Eternal!

Finally, remember Romans 8:38, 39For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God says, no creature (Meaning, no “created thing:” including all the demons, Satan himself, any imaginable physical hazards… and even YOU, as a sinning believer… Nothing! )can separate us from the Love of God which is in Christ. How is that for a foundation for Comfort in Christ?

How do we Comfort One Another?

Notice that the command was not for us to comfort ourselves, but to comfort one another. Are we to also comfort ourselves? Yes, we are to find comfort in the Written Word of God, and then be able to share that Comfort with other believers. (Turn to 2nd Corinthians 1:3-11, please.)

Comforted with the purpose of comforting

2 Corinthians 1:3-11 says, Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.

And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.

Paul’s Examples

For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life:

But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: 10 Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us; 11 Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.”

What does it Mean, to “Edify” One Another? (v. 11)

We can easily overlook the last command in verse eleven. It says we are to “edify one another.” We don’t often use that word in English today: but it means to “build up.” (The word “edifice” still means a building, but we don’t hear that word very often, either.)

How do we “build one another up?” (That is what the command actually says!)

When we fellowship with other believers, our partnership with them is not only about common interests, in the natural sense. We need to share with one another regarding the Word of God, and what we are learning from God. We can share our comforts as it says in 2nd Corinthians 1:4. You see, those are the sorts of things by which we strengthen one another and build one another up to be stronger in our faith.

Personal Examples

When Kristen Flemmer admonished me saying, “Never forget the shield of Faith!” she strengthened me! When Chuck reminds me to keep my eyes on Jesus, knowing that Jesus Alone is responsible for the well-being of the Church, he builds me up, making me stronger. He is encouraging me to look and see Jesus at work. Ann strengthens me constantly, simply by her faith, and her constant love and support for me. And each of us can do that for one another.

But, if we are not feeding ourselves on the Word of God , then we will not have much to work with when it comes to strengthening others. We need God’s Word to feed on, to grow, and to mature as believers. Faith in His Word, as a working reality, is what strengthens us against the assaults of the enemy.

Count the cost, but look to Eternal Values!

In 2nd Corinthians 4:17, 18 there is one last thing for us to consider:17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; 18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Our sufferings, whatever they are, are temporary. Life is short. Eternity is forever. Last week we mentioned the hymnist Margaret Clarkson, who lived her entire life in pain, from migraines and arthritis. (Her first spoken words were “My head hurts!”) But, as a disciple, she saw that all the suffering was temporary.

Paul tells us to maintain that perspective and know that (though it is beyond our understanding) the eternal weight of glory for having walked with Jesus, is where we need to attach our hope. The afflictions we endure here are minor, compared to the Eternal Weight of Glory to come.

Lord Jesus, please teach us Your eternal perspective on life. Stir our hearts to comfort and edify one another by Your Word and by Your Grace. Amen

Look at the Potential Costs and Rewards of Discipleship

Costs and Rewards of Discipleship

©  2023 C. O. Bishop

(Explication of Hymn “So Send I You” by Margaret Clarkson


Last week we introduced the idea of discipleship as being the natural result of salvation. Saved people now belong to Jesus. The result ought to be that we willingly serve Him and follow Him. I want to examine that concept more carefully, especially considering both the costs and the rewards of discipleship:

Two Hymns From Canada

In 1954, Margaret Clarkson wrote a hymn, “So Send I You.” She was a believer, and she worked as an elementary school teacher, in logging and mining camps in northwestern Canada. She felt very isolated there, as a Christian. Sometimes she was the only Christian there. Sometimes there was another believer with whom she could fellowship. But later, teaching in public schools in towns back in Eastern Canada, she felt just as isolated. She was also in constant pain: She had suffered from migraines since babyhood: (Her first words, according to her mother, were, “my head hurts!”) Arthritis eventually crippled her so badly she could no longer work.

In light of the hard circumstances under which she served, she reflected on the meaning of what Jesus said in John 20:21 …“As My Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” Her lyrics reflected the potential cost of discipleship. That is not awrong” perspective: Jesus warned His disciples to “count the cost!” He wanted them to know in advance that the cost of true discipleship can be very steep. BUT, He also revealed that the promised rewards would be commensurate with their service.

So… let’s have a look at what she wrote:

The 1954 Lyrics

Lack of Present Fulfillment

So send I you to labor unrewarded;
To serve unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown;
To bear rebuke, to suffer scorn and scoffing;
So send I you, to toil for Me alone.

To whom do I belong? Who am I actually serving? It is entirely possible that the people I am trying to reach will show zero appreciation for the service I offer. They may reject everything I say, and disdain my friendship or my offers of help. Jesus served faithfully. But those He initially came to reach also rejected Him. John 1:11 says, “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.”

For Whom are You Suffering?

So send I you, to bind the bruised and broken;
O’er wand’ring souls to work, to weep, to wake;
To bear the burden of a world a-weary;
So send I you, to suffer for My sake.

In Philippians 1:29, the apostle Paul said, “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake

We know that we are to care for the lost, and to reach out to them: and we don’t mind that. But, we don’t like hearing about “suffering,” and that sort of thing. People told us, all our lives, that “being a Christian means I should always be happy!” Remember Jeremiah, the “weeping prophet.” He spent much of his life, grieving over the people to whom he was sent, as they consistently rejected everything God said through him.

A man once declared from the pulpit, “Church is supposed to be fun!”  (Well, I really hate to “rain on his parade,” but I don’t see “fun” as being one of the expectations for church, in the Bible! Can it be fun? Sure! But is that a “core value” for the church? No!)

We gather for mutual encouragement, for corporate prayer and worship, for teaching, and training in discipleship! Sometimes all we can do is grieve together…but it is still encouraging to us all, because we know we are not alone in our grief, especially in company with other believers, but in fact, we are never alone at all! The next stanza reflects that truth:

In Whom do we find comfort?

So send I you, to loneliness and longing;
With heart a-hung’ring for the loved and known;
Forsaking home and kindred, friend and dear one;
So send I you, to know My love alone.

You see, Miss Clarkson was feeling completely isolated, but she had the sense to know that she was not alone: She was simply relying on the Love of Christ alone! She was far away from her family and friends, and living in extremely rough conditions, but she learned to lean on Jesus and His Love for all her emotional needs. We need to come to grips with that same dependency.

In Whose direction will we place our confidence?

So send I you, to leave your life’s ambition;
To die to dear desire: self-will resign;
To labor long, and love where men revile you;
So send I you, to lose your life in Mine.

I don’t know what Margaret Clarkson had originally considered to be the “plan” for her life: she earned a college degree in teaching, but teaching in that logging camp and the later loneliness of the various schools, was not part of her plan. She evidently came to grips with the question. She believed that God had sent her there for the purpose of ministry, and she wrote many of her poems and hymns during those hard, lonely years.

How will we deal with those who treat us as Enemies?

How do we respond, when there is deliberate animosity against us, and against Christ and the message of the Gospel? Margaret Clarkson concluded the 1954 version of the hymn with thoughts on that question:

So send I you, to hearts made hard by hatred,
To eyes made blind because they will not see.
To spend, though it be blood, to spend and spare not;
So send I you, to taste of Calvary.

The Cost of Discipleship

Consider what it cost Jesus to bear the burden of Sin for the entire human race: We can read in 2nd Corinthians 5:21 that he “became sin” for us. He did not become a sinner: He became Sin. The eternal, holy, righteous God became “God in the Flesh”…the “incarnate God,” for us. But, He had to take the final step of becoming the object of the wrath of God as He poured out His Judgment upon Jesus, in place of the Human Race. Without His final act of “self-emptying,” as described in Philippians 2, we would still be lost.

Following Jesus eventually will cost something. In Luke 9:23, Jesus said “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his Cross daily and Follow Me!”

It was reflection of the Cost of Discipleship that inspired Margaret Clarkson to write that song in 1954, along with many other poems and hymns. She was in constant pain, and four years later, after surgery to fuse most of her lower spine, was forced to retire, due to crippling pain.

The 1963 Lyrics

But, in 1963, nine years later, after talking with numerous missionaries, Miss Clarkson realized that she had left out the potential rewards of Discipleship. So, she wrote a new set of lyrics to the same tune.

We may feel that the second set of lyrics are “more encouraging,” or we may instead be offended that “someone wrote ‘feel-good’ lyrics to a serious song about discipleship.” But it was the same author! She had simply come to understand and embrace the other half—the eternal part—of the story of discipleship! Here it is, still reflecting on the call of Jesus:

More than Conquerors

So send I you — by grace made strong to triumph
O’er hosts of hell, o’er darkness, death and sin,
My name to bear and in that name to conquer —
So send I you, My victory to win.

We are not sent as helpless lambs, feebly tottering toward inevitable defeat: Romans 8:35-37 says that, in all of the perils of this life, “we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us!” Does that make it easy? No! Stephen was the victor while he was being murdered! Paul and Silas were the victors while they were in the Philippian prison, bleeding from the beating they had received! We need to see things from God’s perspective!

We Carry a Message of Life, Liberty, and Hope

So send I you – to take to souls in bondage
The Word of Truth that sets the captive free
To break the bonds of sin, to loose death’s fetters —
So send I you, to bring the lost to Me.

Jesus said in John 8:32, “…ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” In Philippians 2:15, 16, we are told that we are to “shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life…” Regardless of circumstances, we are his ambassadors! Bring people to Jesus! He sends us to “bring the lost to Christ” by means of the Gospel: not to “bring them to church, and hope someone else can persuade them.”

In Whom do we Find our Strength?

So send I you — My strength to know in weakness,
My joy in grief, My perfect peace in pain,
To prove My pow’r, My grace, My promised presence —
So send I you, eternal fruit to gain.

Paul was weakened physically by injuries and possibly disease: but in 2nd Corinthians 12:10, his conclusion was “therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I Am weak, then am I strong.” Notice that he did not claim he liked being mistreated, nor that “pain doesn’t hurt!” Pain does hurt! Persecution is not enjoyable!

But Paul found that when his natural abilities and strengths were laid aside, so that the only thing upon which he could lean was the grace of God, then he was actually far more capable and effective. In John 15:5, Jesus said, “Apart from Me ye can do nothing.” Notice that he did not say, “you cannot do as much…” or “you can’t produce as good a quality.” He said, “Apart from Me ye can do nothing!”

We know the eternal result: We submit ourselves to Him, to be the tools in His hands: to be His voice, His hands and His feet. And we expect that the fruit of our lives will turn out to have eternal value.

What is the Ultimate Expectation of a Faithful Disciple?

We speak of “going to one’s reward.” That is an accurate description of what a disciple can expect. Salvation is not a reward: it is a gift. Romans 6:23 says, “…the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

But; reward is earned. Reward is the result of service. Salvation is a gift, given on the basis of faith in the shed blood of God’s chosen sacrifice…faith in Jesus, alone.

The Reward of Sin

If an unbeliever dies, still unforgiven, they receive the wages of sin, also described in Romans 6:23. If a disobedient believer dies: one who was a true believer, but one who was either unconcerned (or perhaps was simply untaught) about a walk with Jesus, and who was unwilling to absorb any of the cost of discipleship, then the reward is minimal, but, (always providing that the original faith was genuine) salvation is still theirs.

The Rewards of Discipleship

But a genuine believer sees that the logical response is to desire to be part of the “agenda” of Jesus. They want to be on His team, and to be following His will. To them, He says,

So send I you — to bear My cross with patience,
And then one day with joy to lay it down,
To hear My voice, “Well done, My faithful servant —
Come share My throne, My kingdom and My crown!”

That is the ultimate expectation of Discipleship. If you are a believer, God says you are already seated with Him in the throne. He says you are already part of the Body of Christ, and will share in His glory. But He also says there are Eternal rewards beyond this minimal promise. What are they? He does not tell us any details, but we know enough about Jesus to know that His reward will more than amply repay any toil or suffering we may encounter here in this life.

As the Father hath sent Me, so send I you.”

Jesus has already demonstrated what true discipleship entails, and the early believers followed in His footsteps. So, what can we conclude about these two sets of lyrics for the same song?

Notice that Both Hymns tell the Truth:

One hymn tells of the daily, painful, grind, and the potential cost of discipleship. The other tells of the ultimate victory, and the reward for service. Both are speaking of reality: but the second reality is to be our eternal perspective. Don’t lose sight of the goal!

In Philippians 3:13, 14 Paul said, “Brethren I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before, I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

Paul did not claim to have “arrived!” He continually strove to walk with Jesus so as to receive the reward for faithful service. We can do that, too!

Lord Jesus, please grip our hearts with the urgency of the Gospel and the fact that this life is our only chance to work with You in fulfilling the will of the Father who sent You. Remind us constantly that “as the Father sent You, Jesus; You have, in turn, sent each of us!

What is the Connection between Salvation and Discipleship?

Salvation and Discipleship

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

1st Thessalonians 5:5-8

Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.

For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.

But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.


Last week we talked about the End Times, and particularly, how the “Day of The Lord” plays out in scripture. We pointed out, from 1st Thessalonians 5:1-4 that the Church will not be part of the Tribulation, simply because we are not part of the coming judgment on the World and Israel, as seen in Daniel chapter 9.

However, that does not leave us without responsibility. The fact that we are “Children of the Light, and Children of the Day” means that we are not of the night and not judged with the world. But it also means we have certain responsibilities.

The fact that we have already been transferred into the Kingdom of Light is the security of our Salvation. But the fact that we are called to Live as Children of Light, is our call to Discipleship.

Salvation and Discipleship

So… what is the difference between “Salvation” and “Discipleship?” Is every saved person thereby also a disciple? Well…positionally, yes, perhaps they are. And, Yes, everyone who is saved is called to full discipleship.

But, relationally, and conditionally, no! Sadly, we do not always “follow Jesus,” though that is what He calls us to do! We need to see the difference, and how the difference applies to our lives.

Salvation Should Result in Discipleship

(Ephesians 2:8-10 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.We are saved by Grace (unearned favor) through Faith (Believing God: ”He said it, we believe it!”)  The result should be that we do the good works that He has ordained us to do.

Yes, my sins were fully paid for at the Cross: I am fully forgiven now. I have redemption now. Also, I am unconditionally accepted by God, now. I have Eternal Life now. But to actually experience that Eternal life, in any meaningful way,I need to step into the other half of that transaction. He says that “We are His workmanship, created in Christ unto good works…”


The life of a disciple is completely committed to the service of his Master. There are good masters and bad ones in the world. The disciples of an evil master commit evil works because they are committed to following their evil master, and carrying out his will. If that is how the broken, evil world handles discipleship, how much more should we be committed to carrying out the will of our Master? He is not only Good, Himself, but He is also the ultimate source of all Good in the world?

We can easily “say” we are committed to His service, but, when it comes to choices, on a daily basis, we need to begin asking ourselves, “Will this specific choice be to His credit and honor?” This is where we “put shoe-leather on our faith.” That has to become the central question: “What would He have me to do?”

The Example of Saul of Tarsus

Saul of Tarsus, in Acts chapters eight and nine, was persecuting the church, because he was committed to destroying it. He thought that by doing so, he was serving God, so he went after it fervently. (Interestingly, in John 16:2, Jesus had predicted that the time would come when anyone who killed Christians would think they were serving God by doing so.)

But Saul was unwittingly serving the Evil One. In Romans 5:10 we see that we all start out as enemies of God. (Saul thought he was a great friend of God!) In Ephesians 2:3, we find that we all are born Children of Wrath, and we are natural servants of the Evil One. (Saul thought, as a Jew, that he was already a child of God!)

But in Acts 9:1-6 we see a transformation:

1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.

And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

Notice the Order of Events:

  1. Jesus shone the Light on Saul. (Think of it as the “Gospel Light.”)
  2. Paul responded in faith, askingWho Art Thou, Lord?” (Consider this to be the point of Salvation for Saul, as he responded in trembling astonishment and he believed Jesus!)
  3. Paul asked for orders! “What wilt thou have me to do?” (This is the beginning of Discipleship, immediately after salvation!)

So, by application of Ephesians 2:8-10, we can read the experience of Saul of Tarsus as an object lesson.  (By the way, this Saul later changed his name to Paul: “Saul” means “asked for,” and it was the name of the first king of Israel. “Paul” means “little” or “insignificant.”)

How does Paul’s life form an object lesson to teach Ephesians 2:8-10?

  1. We can see that Grace came in the form of a blinding light from the sky and a voice calling to him, by name. (Not everyone gets this experience: in fact, it was unique to Paul!) But He was saved by Grace, just like everyone else!
  2. We can see that His Faith was instantaneous, but untaught. He simply Believed Jesus, more than whatever he had believed before. Jesus became his new standard! And that response of Faith to God’s Grace is how he was born again!
  3. The “Good Works that God had before ordained” for him to “walk in” were pretty spectacular. The remaining nineteen chapters of the book of Acts are largely about his travel and trials and ministry and the persecution that resulted.

(We see the rest of the story of Saul’s conversion, in Acts 9:8-19. In verses 15 and 16, we see Jesus saying what those good works might entail: Speaking to Ananias, who was sent to restore Saul’s sight, Jesus said,  “Go thy way, for He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.)

Paul was one of the few disciples who got to see in advance what his ministry was to be. Most of us do not. We grow in faith, from the moment of salvation, and we learn that we truly are “called to discipleship.” There are no exceptions.

Making the Call of God Personal

We grow into a deeper understanding of that rather vague, uncomfortable idea, until it becomes our life’s guiding principle. At some point, we finally fully agree, that “If He bought me and I belong to Him, then it makes sense that I should be working for Him!”

And, ultimately, we find ourselves involved in full-time service of one sort or another. I have taught Bible for 45 years, always self-supporting. Until this last three years I worked secular jobs, as did Paul, to support myself and my family, but I still devoted myself to training young believers, and raising them up to discipleship. Some went on to become missionaries, some became pastors or teachers. Some served in other ways….but discipleship was the common thread in all their lives.

In my own case, I had never “asked” to become a Pastor: but now I feel honored to be permitted to feed the flock of God. There are others among you who are also gifted to feed the flock: this is not a “one-man show.”

Jesus said, “Feed My Flock!”

Every person who is gifted to feed the flock needs to be ready (at a moment’s notice,) to “put on his Discipleship Boots,” so to speak, and go to God’s “Sheep-food bin,” (we call it “the Bible”) and dig out enough “sheep food” to feed the flock, at least on an occasional basis. (If nothing else, choose to do so, just to allow the regular teachers a break. You need the opportunity to serve, and they need the opportunity to sit down and be fed, once in a while!)

Last Sunday night, I got sick. I was hurting everywhere, and I was running a fever, so I called on one of the brothers to take Wednesday night’s Bible Study in my place, and he did! Was it easy? Nope! It wasn’t! Would it have been easier if he had already prepared a lesson in advance and was just “chomping at the bit,” hoping to get a chance to share it? Well, yes, I expect it would have been: But the point is, he rose to the challenge, and he served. He fed the flock!

The “Thessalonian Challenge”

Notice the statements that are made in this short passage:

  • All of you (believers) ARE the children of the Light, and the children of the Day.
  • You are NOT of the night, nor of darkness. (How did you get that way? You were born again as the genuine children of God!)
  • THEREFORE, (Because we have been born again, and we are children of the Light, and children of the Day,) then…what?
  • let us not sleep, as do others; (Our lives are not to be “just like everyone else:” we have a new Master, and new priorities! Jesus said we are no longer of the World, and the result will be that we can no longer hope to “fit in.”)
  • but let us watch and be sober. (The contrast is to be a constant difference in how we see the world around us, and how we respond to our surroundings. Our sobriety, and considering the eternal value (or lack of such) makes us automatic “misfits.”)
    • (For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.)But let us, who are of the day, be sober, (The world sleeps, but we are to be awake to the Spirit of God and the coming Judgment: The “Day of the Lord,” and the final judgment coming on sin. That ought not to put us to sleep!)
  • putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.

What kind of person is told to “put on armor…” a breastplate, and a helmet?

Only a soldier is told to put on a breastplate, and a helmet. (Only a serious disciple is called to fight for his master.) But the call to put on the Armor of God is extended to all believers. Why? Because every single one of us is called to discipleship! Not only that, but we are called to always be on full alert! God never says, “Stand down! Be at ease, there is no threat, here!”

In fact, in 1st Peter 5:8, He says, “Be sober, be vigilant; for your enemy the Devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”

So, stop and think: do you truly think Satan and his servants are going to “take a day off?” The truth is, they do not! And, because they do not take breaks, we cannot! Our release will come soon enough, in God’s timing. And their final judgment will come shortly thereafter. But it is usually when we decide to “take a break” that we get into trouble!

We are Called to Rest, but we are not to “take time off from discipleship.”

(Can we rest? Absolutely, we can!) We are called to continual rest: but we are to rest in Him, not rest from Him. You married folks, ask yourselves: If your spouse said, “I’m leaving for a day or two: I need a break from being around you!” How would you feel? I would feel terrible! But when we decide to take off on a tangent and pursue worldly things, that is precisely what we are telling Jesus: “I am tired of attempting to walk with you: I think will go back to my old ways for a while!” That is not discipleship. Discipleship means following Jesus.

Do we fail sometimes? Yes, we do! And I am grateful that God forgives our failures. But don’t try to tell yourself it is not important to Him! It is! And it should be important to us, as well.

Lord Jesus, draw us along as Your Disciples! Teach us to walk as You walked, and Serve as You Served. Tear down our self-centeredness and teach us the sobriety to see the Holiness of God and desire to Imitate His Love and Grace.

The Passion of the Shepherds

The Passion of the Shepherds

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

1st Thessalonians 3:6-10

But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you:

Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith: For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.

For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God; 10 Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?


Paul had sent Timothy to Thessalonica to find out how the church was doing. He had feared that because of the heavy persecution against the infant church, they might have collapsed under the load of abuse. But he was thrilled to find out that the Thessalonian believers were not just “doing well,” but truly flourishing! Back in chapter one he had alluded to that, saying that wherever he went, now, he was hearing about their rich testimony of grace, faith, courage and Agapé Love.

But there had been a time when he was unsure about them. That is understandable, since he had only been with them for three or four weeks at most. From a human perspective, that was simply not enough time to gain any stability in the Lord. But God was the One in control. Human strength is very limited, but God’s authority and ability is truly unlimited.

Fire on the Mountains

There is a book (no longer in print, but still available on the internet) called “Fire on the Mountains” by Raymond Davis. This book chronicles the beginning of the evangelical church in Ethiopia; before, during and after World War II.

In 1937, Mussolini’s armies invaded Ethiopia, and the missionaries were forced to leave both the country and the fledgling church they had led to Christ. Their years of labor and love had only resulted in 48 believers, who were scarcely trained in the scriptures at all, as not much of the scriptures had yet been translated into their language. The missionaries were heartbroken, of course, because they were sure that the church would fail under the extreme persecution, and especially without the careful teaching the missionaries themselves had been providing.

God Was at Work

The war ended in 1945, but it was another two years before the missionaries were allowed to return. So, they went back, expecting to have to start over and rebuild all the work that was lost during the war years. What they did not know was that God had protected His Flock, and He had caused it to thrive under the persecution!

They had left behind 48 believers who had only small portions of the scriptures in their own language. But, when the missionaries returned in 1947, they were met by a church numbering over 10,000 believers! Obviously, there were some serious needs for teaching and training, but, instead of a tiny group of fearful saints, there was now an army of enthusiastic, committed Christians!

Paul may have felt the same joy and amazement those missionaries felt. He knew how terribly the new believers had been treated by their unbelieving neighbors and fellow-citizens, and was fearful that his own work had gone to waste. But He didn’t know that God was at work in Thessalonica!

Human Doubts

We might say, “Well, he should have known!” But bear in mind that Paul was just as human as we are, and he was there to see the horrific treatment the believers received. I can easily see how he could begin to doubt the Grace of God sustaining the believers in his absence.

Pat James was justifiably fearful for the future of this church, here at True Hope. He had planted the church, and worked for years, teaching and encouraging and praying, and investing his own life for the future of the believers, here. Especially later, as Pat began to suffer from the disease that eventually killed him, he despaired of the future of the church he loved. The church was his passion, and his calling. Feeding the flock, and praying for the believers, and defending this flock against false teachers was what he lived for! So, he was heartbroken to see the church dwindling and then to know he was getting too sick to even continue the work!

But God had good plans for the church. It stabilized, after the initial shock of losing the founding pastor, and it began to get healthier. Finally, during the Covid pandemic, it began to grow, numerically. It was growing spiritually, as people became hungrier for the Word of God, and began to study on their own. God was tending to His flock, just as He did the church in Thessalonica, and in Ethiopia. And, in the last few years of their lives, Pat and Jan James had the joy of seeing the church prospering and growing.

Now We Live!

Paul said, “For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord!”

He felt that “life was worth the hard times” if the result was the stability of the believers and their firm walk with God! I’m sure Pat James felt the same way, seeing that the church he loved was growing and thriving, after he had thought it would fail and die.

I know, in my own life, it thrills my heart, too, when I see more than half the people in the church also showing up for Wednesday night service. I remember when it was difficult to get more than half a dozen people to attend on Wednesdays, and they seemed to mainly be there to “support the cause.” Now I see people who are eagerly feeding on God’s Word and anxious to understand it for themselves. That is the sort of thing that makes all the hard times and sad times worthwhile!

Easing our Fears

And, from a committed Shepherd’s point of view, it eases the fears of “what will happen to the church when I die or when I am forced to abandon the work?” The missionaries in the case of the Ethiopian church were convinced that all their work had been in vain. They were heartsick for ten years, praying for the fledgling church and the 48 believers they had left behind. They did not know whether they would ever be allowed to return. (Remember that, at the beginning of the war, all the battles seemed to be going in favor of the Axis powers.)

Had those dictators remained in power, the missionaries might never have returned. But, again, God was at work. Ten years is a long time, from a human perspective, but it is less than a blink of the eye, to God! And, in the absence of the evicted missionaries, He had worked miraculously. The church blossomed, strictly because of God’s Work, not their own.

The Passion of the Shepherds

Every shepherd who is earnestly responding to the call of God to feed and strengthen the flock is gripped by the sense of urgency and vital importance of feeding the flock on the Word of God. And, since God gave us the Written Word of God as the “designated sheep food,” we also reasonably expect and anticipate spiritual growth and health to result from that food.

Sometimes it takes time for people to thrive, as was the case in Ethiopia and in the Dom people of Papua New Guinea, where Jim and Judy Burdett invested their lives. Other believers may thrive immediately, as did the churches in Thessalonica, and Philippi..

Corinth was one of those cities, where despite the initial positive reception of the Gospel, there was a thick “layer” of carnality and worldly behavior to be “peeled away” before they could begin to flourish. Paul was there for about eighteen months, but both of his letters to that church are almost completely devoted to corrective teaching. They had problems!

Paul was in Ephesus for about two years. and they seem to have done well. I do not know why one group of people will respond well and another will respond with only moderate interest, but it seems to be more dependent upon the recipients than upon the messengers. Paul brought what was effectively the same message, everywhere he went, but the responses varied wildly.

How will they Respond?

His heart’s desire in every case, though, was that the people would feed on the Word and thrive on that clean food. When I worked as a teacher, in the industrial trades, one concept I held to is that “teaching has not been accomplished until learning occurs.”  It is not sufficient to “recite” a great pile of facts or theories: if your audience is either not grasping what you are saying, or cannot see how to apply them, then “reciting” is all you accomplished. When learning has truly occurred, your students can put into practice the concepts you have taught, and use them in everyday life. That is the result of teaching.

When I taught the principles of welding supervision, most people seemed to respond well, but when I heard reports back from the shop floor, how at least some of them were applying what they had learned in class, it brought me great joy. Because then I knew that “teaching had truly been accomplished!”

Since the learning and spiritual growth of the church is the whole goal of the shepherd, it becomes the driving passion, taking precedence over virtually everything else. We want to know that the principles of God’s Word are not just being placed in the mental “library shelves” of believers, but are being implemented in the “Living Room.” They are no longer just head-knowledge, nor just “fun-stuff-to-know-and-tell:” They have become a living, working reality.

That is what Paul was anxious about, and that is what brought him great joy, when he heard the answer!

Who are the Shepherds?

There are a wide variety of “shepherding jobs” that a believer can step into. It is not just the “Pastors, Elders, Deacons, etc.” It can include any believer who matures to the point that they devote themselves to feeding the flock around them. It can be simple mentoring, as several people in my life have served. It can be formal teaching. It can be just drawing alongside a younger believer and being an encourager.

When your heart is exercised to “do the will of Him who sent you and to finish His Work” as Jesus said, then you are becoming “one of the shepherds,” in a practical sense. You are joining with Jesus in that job, and He will assign you tasks as He sees fit.

If you are interested in what the work of the Shepherd entails, please read Ezekiel 34:1-10. If that passage stirs your heart and sounds to you like a “call to action,” then you should consider whether God is directing you to join with Him in the job of feeding His flock.

If you are devoting yourself to praying for the believers around you, and seeking their stability, growth, and blessing, then you probably are one of the shepherds, even if you don’t see yourself that way.

How does God see the Matter?

In Hebrews 5:12, 13, the writer admonishes the believers, saying “You should have been teachers by now, but instead, you now require someone to re-teach you the things you should have mastered long ago. Instead of maturing, you have become babies again!” What a sad thing to have to say to a flock! What a hard thing to have to hear about yourself!

How should We See it?

But what we can “take away from” that passage is that all believers are called to grow at least to a level where we can function as examples and mentors for younger believers and encourage them to grow up too. Does that mean you have to teach? Not necessarily. But it does mean that we are called to bear fruit, in the sense of spiritual reproduction, and that new believers ought to find us to be faithful examples of the Love of Christ as well as faithful Ambassadors, and handling His Word in a faithful manner. We are not to stagnate in babyhood, as believers. We are to grow to maturity.

The Passion of Jesus, the Great Shepherd … is to see us grow to be like Him! That is called “discipleship!” We are to follow Him and learn to be like Him. That is the result of choosing to join Him in double harness and to learn from Him as we work beside him.

Lord Jesus, raise us up to walk in Your footsteps, and to serve with you, caring for the scattered flock in this world.. Give us Your Compassion and commitment to Your Word. Make us the disciples You have called us to be!

“That You Would Walk Worthy of God:”

That You Would Walk Worthy of God

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

1st Thessalonians 2:1-12

1For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain:

But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.

For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile:

But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.

For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness:

Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.

But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:

So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.

For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.

10 Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe:

11 As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,

12 That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.


In chapter one, Paul said he was thankful, that wherever he went, even in other nearby countries, people told him what they knew about his own ministry in Thessalonica, and the resulting transformation in the lives of the Thessalonian believers. That would be a thrill to any teacher!

Lost Protegés

When I was teaching welding and other classes in my vocational career, it was very frustrating that our company refused to adequately pay our trainees for the skills they had, after completing our training. Rival companies would routinely offer them a starting pay of $10/hr. more than we paid our trainees, specifically because they knew our training was superb. The result, obviously, was that we frequently lost those employees, and no one could blame them for leaving.

On the other hand, we teachers had the satisfaction of knowing that the people we trained were superior workers, and in demand among all our rivals! Recruiters often stood on the sidewalk outside the plant, offering job opportunities to all our employees as they left at the end of work.

But God’s children are His forever: He has never lost one of them. There is an Enemy, seeking to “derail” the life of any believer who is careless enough to be ensnared by him. But we cannot be “taken away.” Romans 8:38, 39 assures us that nothing can separate us from the Love of God. What Paul was thrilled to hear, in the first chapter, is that his “pupils” were genuinely walking with God. Their testimony preceded him, wherever he went!

Reminder: How the Gospel Came to Thessalonica

We had to read Acts 17:1-10, to see how the Gospel came to Thessalonica. But the Thessalonian believers were there! All Paul needed to do was to remind them of the traumatic situation surrounding his ministry in Thessalonica, and his departure from there. They had experienced it with him.

They also knew what had happened in the previous town, at Philippi. When Paul arrived in Thessalonica, he and Silas bore the recent wounds, still unhealed, from the beatings received at Philippi,. The Thessalonian believers knew exactly what had happened.

The Example of Paul and Silas

They also knew that, rather than being hesitant, or fearful about preaching in Thessalonica, Paul and Silas had plunged right in, and boldly shared the truth of Jesus with the Jews and proselytes at the synagogue. They were fearless in the face of sharp resistance, and even the eventual riots that drove them out of town. Why?

Because (as Paul explains in verse three) their message was the straight truth, and they had no “hidden agenda.” There was nothing in their message that might shame the Messiah. No deceit, no uncleanness, no guile. They had nothing to hide. Paul lists several things that were missing in their lives that were common among false teachers, who had a definite hidden agenda.

What was Missing?

  • No deceit
  • No uncleanness
  • No guile
  • Not trying to please men, but God
  • No flattery at any level: they told the straight truth.
  • They were not “acting pious, to hide their greed for gain.”
  • They were not seeking personal honor, either from the believers or from anyone else.
  • They were never a burden to the believers: they did not seek “handouts,” as Apostles.

In Contrast to the False Teachers::

  • They were gentle toward the believers, not arrogant or judgmental.
  • They freely gave out the Gospel of God…there was no “Cover Charge.”
  • They freely “poured themselves out” for the benefit of the new believers.
  • They found temporary work, by which to pay their own way. (see verse 9)
  • They behaved in such a way that any witness could confirm their personal
    • Holiness,
    • Righteousness ( In Old English, the word “just” means “Righteous.”)
    • and Blamelessness.
  • They exhorted and comforted the believers as a father would his children, and encouraged them to live in a manner worthy of their new calling: the Calling of God, unto His Kingdom and His Glory.

What Can We Learn for Today?

There are two ways to look at this passage, as believers:

  1. We can see the contrast between false teachers and faithful teachers of God’s Word, and learn to be watchful and careful about what kind of teachers we allow to influence us.
  2. We can see what sort of people we ought to be, as we emulate the faithfulness of Paul and other leaders whom God has sent (especially those we can see in God’s Word.) In that case, we learn what to eradicate in our own lives and what to emulate, as we seek to be disciples of Christ.

All of the values listed in this passage, both negative and positive, are taught elsewhere in the New Testament, as specific directives to Church-age believers. The warnings against false teachers and their danger to believers are also expanded upon there.

Warnings against False Teachers

2nd Peter 2:1-22 gives us the most descriptive warnings against false teachers, but it requires careful reading to keep in mind who the passage refers to. The entire chapter is about false teachers and those unbelievers ensnared by them.

Paul warned the Ephesian elders against false teachers, in Acts 20:28-31. He reminded them that such “wolves” would arise even from among the leadership of churches. He said their goal would be to draw away disciples after themselves…that is, away from sound teaching and a core commitment to Jesus. And Jesus said such men were “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

Matthew 7:15-23

15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Notice that He does not say, “I once knew you, but you wandered off and got lost!” He says, “I never knew you.” In Luke 6, Jesus also said that the “fruit” He addressed was their teaching, not just their lives. A man can look good on the outside, but be hiding something evil inside.

Luke 6:43-45

43 For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 44 For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. 45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.

The fruit in question is both their lives and their teaching! Both have to be good.

A Sad Example:

Ann and I once knew a church leader who seemed an absolutely stellar pastor. His behavior was blameless: he was full of good works. If there was physical work to be done, he was “first in and last out.” If someone was hurt or sick, he was the first one there to help them, or to visit them in the hospital. He seemed to be a wonderful and gracious shepherd.

But there was a persistent pattern of bad teaching, both privately and from the pulpit. He frequently cast doubt on the truth of God’s Word. He gave people books written by pagan philosophers, without warning them, that “This is interesting, but it directly conflicts with God’s Word!” Other times, in a Bible classes, or from the pulpit, he clearly stated that some portion of the Bible was “just mythology:” not to be taken literally.

When he was pressed for a firm answer, he finally admitted that he did not believe the Bible was the Word of God. You see, he “did good things,” but he turned people away from God’s Word. He was a false teacher.

The Imitation of Christ

Ephesians 5:1 says, “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children.” We are to take Him as our example, for our values, our priorities, and our practices.

The Hebrew Christians were exhorted to see Jesus as their example and leader, and follow Him.

Hebrews 12:1-41 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

They knew that the Judgment of all the World was coming. Peter addressed these same believers, in 2nd Peter 3:11, and said, “…therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness…?”

A Fragrance of Christ

Our lives are to reflect the presence of Christ. In fact, we are said to be a “fragrance” of Christ.

2nd Corinthians 2:14-16 says that we are a “sweet savour” or “fragrance” of Christ, to the saved and unsaved, alike. Believers will recognize the Holy Spirit in our life, and rejoice. Unbelievers will see the difference as well, but resent it as the smell of coming judgment. They will assume that we are judging them, though we are not. We earnestly desire their salvation and blessing because we also see that coming judgment, and we do not want them to be destroyed by it.

To Review, Then:

What kind of behavior should we desire to emulate?

  • Being gentle toward other believers, as well as to unbelievers.
  • Freely giving out the Gospel of Christ to unbelievers
  • Freely “pouring ourselves out” for the benefit of other believers.
  • Being productive, working to pay our own way, and to help those truly in need.
  • Living so that others can recognize the presence of Jesus in our lives, by personal:
  • Holiness, Righteousness, and Blamelessness.

We hope to exhort and comfort other believers. We hope to encourage one another to live in a manner worthy of the Calling of God, for His Kingdom and His Glory. We do not seek to be honored by other people, but rather to bring honor to Jesus.

We try to avoid any behavior or words that would dishonor Him. The epistle to the Ephesians is largely given to teaching believers how to live for God.

Ephesians 4:25-32 says:

25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

27 Neither give place to the devil. 28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

Following our Leader

In those seven verses, we see the same characteristics listed for us as were listed in the lives of the Apostles. In fact, in 1st Corinthians 11:1, Paul said, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” That is a pretty bold thing to say, as a human “follower of Jesus.”

But the key words, there, are “…even as I also am of Christ.” Paul was not some “cult-leader,” demanding that everyone just blindly follow him. He said, “As far as you see me following Jesus, you can follow me.” The Corinthian believers were with Paul for much longer than these people in Thessalonica, and they still had very messed-up lives. In their case, Paul effectively said, “OK, look! Do you see what I am doing, in following Jesus? Do that!

A Hard Task?

Personally, I would hesitate to tell someone, “Follow me, as I follow Jesus,” because I am keenly aware of my failings. But that is how we are told to live: Our lives are to reflect the light of Christ in such a way that others can confidently follow our examples.

That is a tough assignment! But that is the same assignment we had when we raised our children, and we seldom thought, ”But, I don’t know if I can do this!” We just raised our kids as best we could, living day by day. We tried to set a consistently good example, as well as giving clear direction to our children in their growing up years.

That is how we are to approach the Christian Life, as well. It is not “hard:” it is completely impossible, apart from the Holy Spirit presiding over our lives. Remember that Peter had to “get out of the boat” to begin to walk on the water with Jesus. But he had to focus on Jesus every moment to stay on top.

Lord Jesus, we ask that You keep our attention focused on You, so that we are not entangled and weighed down by the distractions of the World around us. Raise us up to be the Men and Women of God you have called us to be.

After the Resurrection: What Now?

After the Resurrection: What Now?

© 2023 C. O, Bishop

Matthew 28:11-20; Mark 16:15-20; Luke 24:45-53; John 21:1-24; Acts 1:1-9


Last week we spoke of the Resurrection and the effect it has upon believers. Some of those effects are what we call “positional truth:” They are permanently true because of your position in Christ, from the moment you trusted in His shed blood as full payment for your sins. Others are conditional truths, that should be true of every believer, but, in reality, are only true as far as believers are willing to walk with Jesus by faith, and obey Him.

After the Resurrection

In Acts 1:3, we are told that Jesus spent forty days with the disciples, teaching them, and making final preparation for His departure at the ascension. In Matthew and Mark, not much is said about this time period between the resurrection of Jesus, and His ascension.) Both simply point out that the Lord gave His last request, that they are to go out as His ambassadors; His witnesses, and “Preach the Gospel to everyone; make disciples in every nation, and His promise was that He Himself would be with them, empowering them to serve.”

Mark concludes that they did so, but he leaves out the fact of the Holy Spirit’s arrival (in Acts chapter two;) that it was after the coming of the Holy Spirit that they became fearless evangelists. They were hiding until that day.

In Luke, some important details are added. These details happened in the room where Jesus proved to His disciples that He was not a ghost, by eating some broiled fish and honey. But after he had convinced them that He was truly alive, He said some things, that reveal to us an important key to understanding the Bible. Please open your Bibles to Luke 24, verses 44-53.

Luke 24:44-53

44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.

45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,

46 And said unto them, [Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: 47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And ye are witnesses of these things.]

49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.

50 And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. 51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.

52 And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: 53 And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.

Notice that in verse 44, He reminds them that His life had been completely devoted to fulfilling the prophecies about Himself. Everything from the Torah (The books of Moses) and all the Prophets, including the Psalms, that had referred to Him, either openly or obliquely, had been fulfilled.

Then it says “He opened their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures…” Our tendency is to read that verse as if there were a period, after the Word “scriptures.” But there is not! There is a comma, as the next three verses tell how He opened their minds so they could understand the scripture. If we read that sentence with an inserted period, a full stop, then it seems that Jesus performed some miraculous “brain augmentation” that supernaturally enabled the disciples to understand the scriptures.

But the key to understanding, that Jesus gave them, was to see that the Redemptive Plan of God, fulfilled in the events of the last few days, including the crucifixion, and the resurrection, and their subsequent outreach to the entire world, is the central theme of the whole Bible.

And He told them that they were the witnesses He intended to use. He also reminded them that the Holy Spirit was the One who would empower them as His witnesses, and that they were to wait in Jerusalem until The Holy Spirit came. (They did not know God’s timing. When Jesus ascended, there were still seven days left before the feast of Pentecost. Pentecost was fifty days after the Passover; Jesus spent three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, as predicted, and forty days with the disciples. There were seven days left before Pentecost.)

The last two verses are interesting, too, because they skip the forty days that Jesus spent with His disciples, teaching them, and preparing them for the task before them. They skip straight to the ascension, and His final blessing. It is also interesting to see that His final blessing (which, as we see in the Old Testament, is prophetic of their lives to come) turns out to be the final issuing of the Great Commission, as we see in Acts 1:8, 9. The Great Commission is the Blessing!

The Gospel of John is the only record of the time Jesus spent with the disciples before the ascension. And not all of it is what we would expect. Please turn to John 21:1-24

John 21:1-24

1 After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself.

There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.

 (Seven of the remaining eleven Disciples were there.)

Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No. And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.

Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.

And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes. As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread. 10 Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught. 11 Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.

12 Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise. 14 This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.

15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. 16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.

19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

20 Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? 21 Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?

22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.

23 Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? 24 This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.

Lapsing into the Old Life

At least seven of the Disciples, with Peter leading the way, were lapsing back into their old way of life. Jesus had specifically called them away from that life, saying “henceforth ye shall fish for men!” Bear in mind that most of these men had a commercial fishing background: they were not just deciding to “go catch a few fish” for dinner, or go there for recreation: they were reverting back into their old way of life!

So, when Jesus revealed Himself to them as we read in this passage, they were like children caught in some sort of mischief…afraid to talk to Jesus. But Jesus only addressed Peter:

He called Peter by his old name, Simon Bar-Jonas, since he had dropped back to his old job. Jesus asked whether Peter was more committed to Jesus than He was to the fish. (The “Love” he asked about in Greek, is the Agapé love—the fully committed, unconditional love we are commanded to have toward one another, in John 13:34, 35.)

And He was not asking “whether Peter loved Jesus more than he loved the other disciples,” as He had already commanded them all to love one another in the same way He had loved them. The issue was the fish. “Are you more willing and more committed to pouring your life into my priorities than you are to catching fish for the market?” Or is it just, back to “business as usual?”

Peter definitely understood the question as it was asked, because he chose a different word for “Love,” to give his reply. He did not use the Agapé word for love, but Philéo…meaning, “Yes, Jesus, You know I am fond of you! I have affection for You! I like You!” This is a totally different idea, not even addressing Jesus’s question. Jesus did not respond to the verb change: He just said, “then feed my lambs!” (The Greek word, here, translated as “feed” is boskō, and it simply means “feed.”)

Jesus asked the same question a second time, using the same verb, Agapé, and Peter answered, again using the word for affection; not a fully committed, unconditional love. Jesus again ignored the verb change, and said, “then shepherd my sheep!” (This word, poimaine, is a different view of the job… not just feeding. Some Bibles translate both as “Feed.” But the poimaine word means the whole job of caring for a flock, as described in Ezekiel 34:1-10.)

Jesus spoke a third time, this time using the same verb Peter was using: “Simon, son of Jonas,  do you even like me? Do you even care??” Now we see that Peter was grieved, because the third time, Jesus used the same verb he himself had used. He answered, and said “Lord (master) You know all things! You know that I like you! You know I am fond of You…that I have affection for you!”

Perhaps Peter was simply unwilling to profess “unconditional love”, as he had previously done, knowing that the last time he had done so, he also utterly failed, and denied he even knew Jesus. But Jesus simply answered, “then feed [boskō again] my sheep.” (“Take the job seriously, and do what I have asked you to do!”)

He then told Peter, “Follow Me! (Keep being the Disciple you were called and trained to be!)”

Peter looked around and saw John, and asked “What about him? What do you want him to do?” Jesus answered, “What is that to you? You follow me!”

This is either the third or the fourth time Jesus had to call Peter away from the fish. Scripture tells us that Peter served faithfully, after this, and that he was eventually martyred for his faith.

We can see the transformed lives of all of the disciples after they were indwelt by the Holy Spirit. All of them were faithful, and history and tradition (hard to sift out which is which) tells us that most (or all) were eventually martyred.

What about Us?

I don’t want to get too specific, here, because obviously, I don’t know the future, nor do I know God’s will for any individual. But what we can see, here, is that we are to leave our old way of life behind, to whatever degree we are called to do, and remember that we now live for Him, not for ourselves. The fact of the resurrection has made some definite changes in our lives, simply because we have been placed into Christ. We can read about those changes, among other places, in Ephesians 1:3-14.

Some people simply live out that changed life in the same place they were when they were first born again. They may do the same job, and associate with the same people. But Jesus expects that how they do that job, and how they interact with the people around them is definitely to change. We are no longer part of the world. We are part of Jesus, and we are called to act like it.

We are called to lay aside our old priorities and embrace the priorities of Jesus. In John 4:34, He said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work!”

Embracing His priorities, and His values, is the essence of discipleship. And, just as it was impossible for the disciples to do the job apart from the indwelling Holy Spirit, it is also impossible for us to live that life apart from Him doing it through us. Every believer today receives the Holy Spirit at the moment they trust in Jesus as their Savior.

But we still have our old sin nature, and we are engaged in a lifelong struggle to maintain submission to Christ so that the new nature is in evidence, and the old self is set aside. We are secure in Him, but the fight is real. We cannot “just coast.”

Peter finally left behind his beloved occupation and identity as a commercial fisherman, and he never went back. He had something better, and something more important to do.

And, so do we! We need to examine our own lives and ask how the Lord would have us to change, in order to honor Him.

Lord Jesus, open our eyes to the reality of Your Word and allow us to feed upon it as Your disciples. Help us to walk in Your footsteps and be the men and women of God that You have called us to be; Ambassadors for Your Grace.

Jesus Prepared His Disciples for His Departure

Preparing His Disciples for His Departure

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

John 13:31-16:33


Judas received the sop from Jesus and was possessed by Satan. From that moment, there is a countdown, headed for the Cross. Jesus only had a few hours left with His disciples, and He had to accomplish several things:

  • Jesus had to prepare the remaining eleven disciples for His departure. He assured them of His return, so they knew that they had not simply been abandoned.
    •   He had to teach His prime commandment, which covered all the others.
    •   He had to prepare them for His death, to prevent despair when he seemed to be defeated.
  • Jesus had to teach them what to expect, regarding the Holy Spirit who would soon indwell them (Who is He? What will His ministry be? How could they know His influence as opposed to that of other spirits?)
    • He had to make sure they understood that His commands could not be carried out in their own strength, but that He would have to work through them.
  • Jesus had to pass through Gethsemane and betrayal by Judas, to face the trial and the Cross.
    • He knew his disciples would flee, and abandon Him in that event, and He had to prepare them to know that their failure was not a surprise, but only proof that they could not function without Him.

The Prime Commandment

John 13:34, 35 teaches the undergirding strength of the whole Church. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are commanded to continually relate to one another in the Agapé Love. He had already taught that the Agapé love (being committed to the well-being of those around us) is the single most important evidence of the Truth of the Gospel, and its reality in the lives of Believers.

Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto You, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

Do you suppose they truly understood Him at that point? It is possible, but, I rather doubt it, because they had not yet been indwelt by the Spirit of God. They heard the words, and they understood the meaning, but probably could not imagine how the command could be carried out.

Preparing to Leave

Peter caught on immediately that Jesus was getting ready to depart, but he did not understand what was happening. He asked, “Lord, whither goest thou?” Jesus understood that Peter genuinely desired to go with Him, and He gently replied, “Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now, but thou shalt follow me afterwards.”

Of course, Peter was confident of his strength and abilities. He assured Jesus that he would gladly lay down his life for Him. But, Jesus knew the truth: He knew the limitations of His human followers. He said, “Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, Verily, I say unto thee, the cock shall not crow, till thou has denied me thrice.

Preparing them all for His departure

Jesus did not belabor the doubts Peter had, but told the whole group they should not be disturbed by His departure: He assured them that He was going away to prepare an eternal dwelling place for them all. He promised that he would return and take them to Himself; so that, wherever He was, they would also be. He also said they did know where He was going, and how to get there.

Thomas was thoroughly confused: he said, “No, we do not know where You are going, so how could we know the way?!”  Jesus replied with the famous statement, “I AM the way, the truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.” (Did they understand His meaning? Possibly so, but I suspect they simply accepted it by faith, and they waited to learn the meaning.)

Assuring Them of His Deity

Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father. Jesus replied by saying, “Philip, you have known me all this time! How are you now asking me to show you the Father? If you have seen ME, you HAVE seen the Father!” I’m sure that rattled their brains! It certainly rattled my brain for a few years, as I tried to grasp the Deity of Christ.

I can accept the fact that Jesus truly is “God in the Flesh.” I hear His words, saying “the Father is greater than I.” But when I see the prophecy saying that “the Son shall be called the Everlasting Father,” I find that it is beyond my comprehension. I expect that it was a struggle for the eleven disciples, as well.

The Promise of the Spirit

We will not spend much time on the Holy Spirit, in this message: He is the subject of many messages.  Next week, we will concentrate on all that Jesus said about the Indwelling Holy Spirit. For now, take a look at John 14:16; “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever.”

The Holy Spirit will be with you forever. In this passage, He is also called the Comforter…the Greek word is “paracletos,” meaning “One called alongside to help.” He is our Comforter and our Guide, who helps us through all of the tough, hard, painful times in Life.

If you remember the story of Abraham’s Servant, in Genesis 24, bringing home the Bride to Isaac, you can rest assured, that in the same way, the Holy Spirit is “Bringing home the Bride,” to Jesus: He will not leave you, and He will not lose you!

A New Relationship

Jesus said, in John 16:15-17 that He would no longer address the disciples as His servants, but rather, as His friends. He said that servants do not know the plan of the Master. But Jesus was revealing the plans of the Father to His disciples, as friends, and partners in the work.

He reminded them that they did not choose Him, but that He had chosen them, personally, and by name. They were intrigued by Him but, until He revealed it, they had no idea what He was going to do in their world. He chose them for a purpose. Verse 16 says that He chose them and ordained them to go and bring forth fruit…and that their fruit should remain. (Notice that this is not about the Fruit of the Spirit, which has lasting value, but it can easily be set aside by our sin.)

Eternal Fruit

Jesus wanted the disciples to “bear fruit” in the sense of reproducing among the peoples of the World. He reminded them that they were to Love one another, and then He warned them that the World would not respond favorably.

He said, “If the World hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.” He said they were no longer “of the World,” so it was impossible for them to “fit in,” now. Because we are “no longer of the World,” we can expect that world will reject everything we teach, and all that we stand for: it will reject us because it rejects Jesus Christ.

He warned that His disciples would be persecuted for the sake of their relationship with Him. He said whoever hates Jesus, hates the Father, too. In John 5:23 we saw that the reverse is true as well: Jesus said, “He that honoreth not the Son, honoreth not the Father who sent Him.”

A Dangerous, but Priceless Association

Because the Disciples were now “in Him” (as we will see in John 17:21-23) and He was to be “in them,” the World would reject them in the same manner as they rejected Him. He warned them that the time would come when anyone who killed a disciple of Jesus would imagine that he was doing service to God.

This was fulfilled in the person of “Saul of Tarsus” (who eventually became the Apostle Paul”) and in the lives of other unbelieving Jews who violently attacked the believers, and who assumed that, in doing so, they were “fighting the good fight,” and honoring God. God eventually took hold of Saul, and He used him (as Paul) to lay the foundation of the Church throughout the Mediterranean world.

But all down through history, the false churches and world religions have frequently taught that “torturing and murdering Christians is a good way to serve God.” Thousands of persons whose only offense was to confess that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was their Savior, were tortured to death, burned at the stake, and fed to savage animals for the entertainment of the World.

And such treatment is on the rise again, worldwide. This was not some “passing fancy” that only the first-century believers might endure. It is the “conflict of the ages,” and it will culminate in the Great Tribulation. Yes, we know who “wins,” but in the meantime, we need to be prepared to “suffer the consequences of Faith.”

The Legacy of Peace

In John 14:27, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you. My Peace I give unto you: not as the World giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

This legacy of Peace that Jesus gave is a two-part package: We gain Peace with God, as we place our trust in Jesus, and are declared righteous by God. (Romans 5:1) The Disciples already had this peace: God declared them righteous by Grace, through faith. So, they are eternally at peace with God. But they still suffered doubt and fear, and Jesus moved to heal that fear.

We are called to experience The Peace of God, on a daily, moment-by-moment basis. That is what Jesus was bequeathing to His disciples. They would not fully experience it until the Holy Spirit came, in Acts 2. They feared for their lives and were hiding, until that time. But that was before the Holy Spirit was given. The new relationship blossomed on the day of Pentecost.

Before the Spirit was given, the eleven disciples fled when Jesus was arrested, and they were in grief: hiding, fearing that they would be the next victims of the evil leaders in Jerusalem.


But afterward, they boldly preached the News of Jesus: When they were arrested, beaten, and imprisoned, they counted it a privilege. They were not at all discouraged by such mistreatment. The result of their collective, courageous testimony was that thousands of other people received Christ as their Savior, and the ancient World was “turned upside down” by the change.

Since that time, everyone who believes is immediately indwelt by the Spirit of God, and that Legacy of Peace is immediately available to all who will lay hold of it by faith.

They Were Prepared, though they did not “Feel” Prepared

Jesus had given them the information and the encouragement that they needed. However, until the Spirit was given they were not able to put the teaching to use.

That is the case in our lives as well. Most of us know a good deal more of the Word of God and the promises therein than we can put into practical use. We find ourselves powerless to apply it in practice. But we were told in advance that apart from the Holy Spirit using us to reach into the lives of those around us, it simply cannot be done.

When Jesus said, (John 15:5) “apart from me ye can do nothing,” He was not exaggerating. He was speaking the simple truth.

We have been Prepared too: Now we are called to Walk!

We who have placed our trust in Jesus as our Savior, are already indwelt by His Spirit. But, as believers, we are commanded to “walk”in the Spirit. Day by day, and moment by moment, we are to ask Him to lead, and then follow His leading. It means, moment by moment, confessing when we sin, receiving His promised forgiveness, and then walking with Him again.

Next week we will spend more specific time reading about the ministry of the Holy Spirit, both in the World and in the Church. In the meantime, let’s try to apply what we already know. Step out by faith to live in obedience to your Savior.

Lord Jesus, teach our hearts to receive Your gift of Peace on a daily basis and to trust Your Holy Spirit to work through us to reach the World around us. Raise us up to serve You in the Newness of Life.