What does The Doctrine of “Election” mean, in the Bible?

From the Beginning, God Has Chosen You to Salvation

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

2nd Thessalonians 2:13-17

13 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:

14 Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

16 Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, 17 Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.


There are several key points in this passage. We need to address them one by one: to begin with, notice that this is addressed to believers: “Brethren beloved of the Lord.” If you have trusted Jesus as your Savior, then, again, this is to you!

But what about the next phrase: “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation.” How can we understand that, in light of what we know about how people are saved individually, by Grace, through Faith?

How can it be that God has “chosen us to salvation” from the beginning? Have we not already learned that we were born sinners and we were headed for Hell? Are some people “predestined” to Salvation, and others “predestined” to Eternal punishment? (Some people teach exactly that!)

The Doctrine of Election:

The noun phrase, “the elect” means “the chosen.” As a verb, “elect” means, “to choose.” We will run into this idea in several places in the New Testament. So, what, exactly, was the choice that God made before the creation of the World?

According to 1st Peter 1:19, 20, Jesus was “ordained before the foundation of the world” to be the Savior. The word “ordained” means “appointed.” Revelation 13:8 agrees with this, saying that he was the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” But how does that affect us?

In Ephesians 1:4, we see that God chose us “in Him, before the foundation of the World.” So, before the world was created, Jesus, as “God the Eternally Existent Son,” was chosen to become a man. He was sent to die as a sacrifice, providing the full satisfaction of God’s righteousness and holiness.

He was chosen before humans existed…and before sin had entered the world. And those in Him were chosen at that same time! But we were not born “in Him,” originally: we had to be reborn to be placed into Him.

Where did We Start Out?

Ephesians 2:1-5 says we were all dead in our sins. It says that we were all the children of wrath, just like the rest of the world. That is where we began. But we can read in Ephesians 1:12-14 that when we believed the Gospel, placing our trust in Christ, we were sealed in Him by the Holy Spirit. And God sees us as being completely identified with Jesus Christ: He sees us as being holy, blameless, and already dead to sin. We are dead to the Law, and resurrected to a new life in Him.

God’s choice, before the foundation of the World, was that all those who believed His Word concerning Jesus, would be born again as children of God, and placed into the Body of Christ, never to be separated from Him again. He chose us in Him.

Does that mean that some are “predestined” to end up in Heaven, (regardless of what they might choose in life?) While that is commonly believed, it would also require us to believe that the rest of humanity is “predestined” to spend eternity in Hell (regardless of what they choose!)

So, How Can it Be Both Ways?

How can Jesus offer the invitation to “whosoever believeth” when so many people teach that either God chose you to be saved, from eternity past, or He didn’t: and if He didn’t, then you are just without hope and destined for Hell? (“Aw, too bad! You lose!”)

But, you see, the truth is revealed in 1st John 2:2…”And He is the propitiation for our sins and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

The word “propitiation” means “satisfaction,” in terms of a legal settlement…a satisfaction of a judgment. In this case, it means that the Holiness of God, and His righteous Judgment was completely satisfied by Jesus dying in our place…but that His death covered the sins of the whole human race, not just the “elect.”

Jesus stated the promise this way: “For God so loved the World…” (meaning, “In this manner God loved the World”) “…that He gave His only Begotten Son…” (The Greek word “monogenés” which is translated “only begotten son,” carries the same idea as the English concept of “crown prince:” The eternal heir…the One who has the eternal relationship of Son to Father, from eternity past. That’s the One whom God gave!) “…that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

You see, that promise of eternal life is offered to “Whosoever!” The sacrifice was offered for the sins of the whole world.

Belief of the Truth

Romans 1:16 very clearly lays out the explanation for this verse. It says that “the Gospel of Christ is THE power of God unto Salvation to everyone that believes…” The “Good News” of Jesus’s death and burial and resurrection for our sins, being believed in, is the only thing God claims as His power to save sinners.

No one has ever been saved apart from the Word of God. 1st Peter 1:23 says that we have been born again “by the Word of God which lives and abides forever.”

So, the “belief of the truth” in 1st Thessalonians 2:13 is in regard to one specific truth: The fact that Jesus shed His Blood for you, personally! This concept is reiterated throughout the New Testament.

What Does Jesus Say About it?

Jesus addressed this idea in John 3:17-1917 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”

Did you see the dividing principle? It was faith! “He that believes” versus “He that does not believe.” He said, “they who believe are not condemned,” and “they who do not believe are condemned already, because of their unbelief.” That is the dividing line!

Then He explained the underlying principle: “Light has come into the World!” (He is the “Light of the World”) and people prefer darkness to light, because their deeds are evil. That is the status of the whole human race! That is our original position. We reject Him as a matter of choice. But, He has now called us to a new positionin Him!

Romans 3:25 makes it even more specific: it states that He is the propitiation… (Remember, that word “propitiation” means the “satisfaction of God’s Holiness and His Righteous judgment”) “…Through faith in His Blood.” It is not just a general statement that “I believe in Jesus:” It means faith in His completed Work at the Cross, as it applies to me, personally!

Sanctification of the Spirit (v. 13)

To “Sanctify” a person (or an object) means to set them (or it) apart for a holy purpose. The vessels in the temple were sanctified for that use, and that use only!

When the Holy Spirit placed you into the Body of Christ, the moment you trusted in His blood sacrifice for your salvation, He also set you apart as God’s private property…for His personal use. He bought you, and you belong to Him. You were permanently sanctified to His use.

He has chosen you to be his personal property as well as the object of His love. He calls us to reflect His holiness in our choices…in our daily lives. That kind of sanctification requires that we set ourselves apart to His service as well. We agree with Him concerning our lives. He calls us to do so continually!  How did He call us?

“He Called you by our Gospel.” (v. 14)

No matter who you are, or when or where you are born, ultimately, you were called to God by the Gospel. Someone told you, or perhaps you were reading something that included the Gospel.

What do I mean by the phrase, “the Gospel?”

I mean the same thing that the Apostle Paul meant, when he cited the “Gospel of Christ” in Romans 1:16, and explained it,in 1st Corinthians 15:3, 4, and it is repeated through all the rest of the epistles. It is the Good News that Jesus Christ died for our sins, in fulfillment of the prophecies and that He was buried, and that He rose again after three days and three nights…and that He is returning for His Bride!

This is what Paul and Silas preached in Thessalonica, and the people heard that call and they believed! That produced a new position! A new Location! And Paul says they were called to “the obtaining of the Glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” That is your new location! You have been placed into the Body of Christ, and you are permanently bound to Him, anticipating an eternity of Glory with Him.

What Should the Result Be? (v. 16, 17)

He says we are to stand fast, and to hold to sound doctrine and be obedient to the Word of God as we have been taught by the Holy Spirit and by Christ Himself, and by whatever teachers He has sent to us.

Ephesians 4:14, 15 says we are to “grow up into Him!” We are to grow to be like Him!

And Ephesians 5:1-20 tells us what that “looks like:” We are to leave behind our old ways, along with all the “unprofitable works of darkness,” as we now are “children of the light.”

He says that because we are children of the light, we are to walk as the children of light. Behave like a child of God because you have become one, through the new birth; through placing your full trust in His blood alone for redemption. Behaving that way as an unbeliever will not save you, but if you really are a child of God, then the results should begin to show.

And (v. 17) as we continue to learn to walk with Him, we can expect that He will “comfort our hearts and establish us in every good word and work:” The result will be that our work and our words will all prove to be to His Glory.

Lord Jesus, we desire that our words and our works should be to Your Eternal Glory. Please transform our lives from the inside, by the renewing of our minds through Your engrafted Word. Glorify Yourself in Your people.

What do we Know about The Antichrist?

When Will the Antichrist Be Revealed?

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

2nd Thessalonians 2:1-12


Several times recently, someone has expressed to me concern about “The Antichrist,” or, as he is called in Revelation 13, “the Beast.” Other questions have also come up. (Has the Tribulation already begun? Will the church go through the Tribulation?

The internet is loaded with such suggestions, and we are tempted to feel alarmed, that somehow we have “missed out!” When the Covid vaccinations were being offered, people were saying it was the “Mark of the Beast.” (It absolutely is not!) Whether you choose to take such medicines is up to you. But the “mark” discussed in Revelation 13 is definitely not something that could be hidden in a vaccination. It also is not something that can be “secretly” administered.

So, in light of all these concerns, it seems entirely appropriate that we are just now coming to a passage that will address many of those fears.

Meet the “New Fear!” (Same as The Old Fear!)

There was a fear among the believers in Thessalonica that they had somehow “missed the Rapture.” Or, perhaps, that the Tribulation had already begun. Remember, this is an account from almost 2000 years ago: They didn’t even have television, let alone the internet! But someone told them that the day of the Lord had come! Do you wonder how it happens that the same fear was triggered in Thessalonica 2000 years ago, as is being triggered in us, today? You would almost think that the same deceiver was responsible!  (And he IS!)

Paul assured them that the rumors were not true. Then he gave them the order of events that will begin the tribulation and the final countdown. Let’s read what he said:

1Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.

Where did the Fear Come From?

Notice, first, that Paul begged them not to be deceived: He recognized that there were enemies involved. “Someone” may have claimed that a spirit had told them these things. Or perhaps someone said that they had been told by some “authoritative person.” Or it seems that someone had even gone so far as to write a letter, and claim that Paul had sent it to them. Paul said it didn’t matter from where the falsehood had arisen: it was simply false!

Notice that the various possible “sources” still add up to one root source. This is increasingly obvious when we consider that these specific fears and deceptions have been dumped on believers nearly continually, ever since the beginning.

Who would gain by Christians always being afraid and trying to “prepare for a coming tribulation and judgment?” (Especially, as it means we concentrate on that, as opposed to joyfully, fearlessly living out the great Commission which we have received from Jesus?)

What is the Day of Christ?

We have discussed the “Day of the LORD” (all uppercase) as it is addressed throughout the Old Testament Prophets. In the New Testament it is also called the Day of the Lord (normal capitalization.) In several places it says the “Day of the Lord” comes “as a thief in the night.”

The Day of the Lord begins with the Rapture of the Church, as seen in 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18. That is the only portion of the Day of the Lord about which it can be said, “it will come as a thief in the night.” All the rest of it is fully laid out in scripture.

It is often given in rather obscure terms, though, and that makes sense. The people who initially received the prophecy (including the prophets themselves) did not understand the message. In Daniel 12:8, 9 Daniel commented that he heard it, but he didn’t understand it! And he was told, effectively, “Write it down, close the book, and run along! The message is not for you, but rather, for the people of the end times!”

Paul’s End-Time Teaching (Eschatology)

In 1st Thessalonians chapters 4 and 5, Paul began to lay out the End-time truths, (sometimes called “eschatology.”) The first “act” in the “Day of the Lord” is the Rapture, and it sweeps directly into the Tribulation, which will culminate in the return of Christ, and the immediate “Judgment of the Living Nations.” (But John tells us this same “Day of the Lord” then continues through the Millennial Kingdom, and it will end with the Great White Throne Judgment.)

As far as I can tell, the “Day of Christ” is identical to the previously named and often referenced “Day of the LORD” (All uppercase, in the Old Testament, showing where the tetragrammaton (YHWH) is used in the Old Testament. The New Testament “Day of the Lord,” (with the lowercase “ord”) is the same event, but using Jesus’s title as “the Master:” the Lord. It is mentioned throughout the New Testament. (Especially, see 1st Thessalonians 5:2)

The only difference might be simply that the New Testament believers are specifically looking forward to the return of Christ, whereas the Old Testament prophecies were including everything from His return at the Rapture and His physical return as Judge and King, all the way through the millennial Kingdom.

When is the Day of the Lord?

In Acts 1:7, Jesus said that it is not given to us to know the times or the seasons. And, here in Thessalonians, Paul makes it clear that neither we nor any other human will know the time of His coming. We won’t know until it is too late to change anything based on that knowledge. But he does give us ample reason to not fear that we have been “left behind.”

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first,…

The Greek word translated “falling away,” here, is “apostasis.” It is where we get our English word, “apostasy.” And it means a “falling away,” just as it is translated, here. It is only used a few times in scripture, and it always is used in a negative sense. While some would like to view it as the catching away of the church at the Rapture, it simply is not used in that way. It is never used in the sense of a “rescue,” or any other “positive” thing.

However! The organized church “falling away from Christ,” and denying Him the honor due Him would be a true apostasy. In Luke 18:8, Jesus posed the question, “When the Son of Man comes, shall He find faith?” (It was a rhetorical question, the implied answer being “NO!”) But, for the complete apostasy of the organized church to occur, the remnant of true believers would have to be entirely removed from the mix, first. And that is what we saw happening, back there, in 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18…the removal of the believers.

When Will the Antichrist be Revealed?

With the genuine believers gone, the tribulation can begin, and the “Man of Sin” can be revealed. Paul goes on to describe that person and the events surrounding his entrance on the “World Stage.” (verse three continued.)

3 …and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

This is the one we see in Revelation 13 and in Daniel 9:27. He is the one we call “the Antichrist.” (He is also called the “Son of Perdition:” Ony he and Judas Iscariot are called this name…,and both end up possessed by Satan, personally. There is no other such example.)

Avoid Foolish Speculation

When I was a new Christian, many people speculated that a certain politician was “the Antichrist.” A few years later, they were pointing to a different politician. Obviously, the fifty years of history since then have repeatedly proved them wrong! People repeat this folly every time there is a politician they don’t like. But it is foolish to keep speculating! Right here, in verses three through eight, we read that the Man of Sin will not be revealed until certain things happen. One of those is the apostasy of the church at large. Another, necessarily, is the Rapture which will leave the apostasy of the church complete.

We already read in 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18, that the believing church would suddenly be removed. And then, in chapter five, immediately following the departure of the believers, we saw that the Tribulation will begin.

Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?

So, this is the second letter Paul has written to the believers at Thessalonica. And he reminds them that he taught them this when he was still there with them in Thessalonica. (Paul and Silas evidently told them these things before they left town, in Acts 17! We are getting told today!)

What’s the Holdup?

And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth (restrains) will let (restrain), until he be taken out of the way.

So long as the Person, the Holy Spirit, is present, indwelling all the believers, the person of the Antichrist will not be revealed. In 1st John 4:3, we see that the spirit of Antichrist is already in the world and working. But the man called the Antichrist will not be revealed until the Holy Spirit is removed. In John 14:16 we see that the Holy Spirit will be with us forever. Therefore, when He is taken out of the way, we will be going with Him!

When Does all this Take Place?

And then (and not before!) shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,

In Revelation chapter 13, we see what kind of “wonders” are in question. Notice that, right here in verse nine, Paul labels those supposed “miracles” as “lying wonders.” They are not “miracles,” but rather, they are false, and specifically intended to deceive.

Most “magicians” today are entertainers. Some are very honest, publicly pointing out that what they are doing is not magic, but rather, a trick that looks like magic. The problem is that, as humans, we are “easily deceived,” and we can be led astray by tricksters who are not honest enough to say, “ This is not magic! It is a trick!” So, we have been warned in advance that such a deceiver is coming and that he will deceive the majority of the world.

Who will be Deceived? (Notice the Tenses, Here:)

The people who (future tense) will be deceived all made choices in the past (before The Rapture unveiled the truth.) And God will (in the future) send them a strong delusion, so that (in the future) they will stick with their earlier (past tense) choice, and so face eternal judgment.

10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not  (past tense) the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall (future tense) send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might (future tense) be damned who (past tense) believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

This is similar to what happened in Egypt: Pharaoh originally hardened his own heart against God. But in the end, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he persisted in his bad decision, past the point of insanity. Everyone else knew God had destroyed Egypt, but Pharaoh was blind to that truth. Those unbelievers who rejected Christ before the Rapture will not “change their minds” when it occurs.

Unbelievers who simply never heard of Him (or who had only heard “bits and pieces,” (never enough to make any sort of decision) will hear the Gospel (through the witnesses God provides during the Tribulation) and millions of them will believe…and many will die for their faith.

But You are NOT to be Deceived!

1st Thessalonians 5:4-11 “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. 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. 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.

So, we are to believe God, and trust Him for the future, and not be deceived by the clamoring voices in the world around us. Then we will be free to serve Him rather than constantly worrying. In doing so, we can comfort one another and build one another up in the Lord. (That is what “edify” means.) That is part of what Jesus calls us to do.

Lord Jesus, we ask that you teach our hearts to trust in you and not to be discouraged by the deceivers in the World. Draw us along to follow you faithfully and fearlessly.

What Should We Know about The Coming Judgment?

The Coming Judgment

© 2023 C. O, Bishop

2nd Thessalonians 1:4-12

So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,

In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; 10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.

11 Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: 12 That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.


Last week we saw how Paul was using the good report of the spiritual growth in the church at Thessalonica to encourage other churches as he travelled. He said “We glory in you in the churches of God…” We also saw that part of the reason he could see their Faith and Love was evidenced by how they were responding to persecution and hardship.

But we only briefly touched upon the Coming Judgment. (Notice, too, that he says in verses six and seven that God will “recompense tribulation to them that trouble you.” And (in contrast,) to you who are troubled, rest, with us.”The believers will receive rest from the harsh realities of living among hostile nations. Those who were their antagonists will face judgment.

There are several Judgments we need to address:

  1. The General Judgment (condemnation) of the World. (John 3:18, 19; Romans 1:18, etc.)
  2. The Judgment of Sin at the Cross. (Colossians 2:14; 1st John 2:2)
  3. The Judgment Seat of Christ (believers) (2nd Corinthians 5:10; 1st Corinthians 3:10-16)
  4. The Judgment of Living Nations (believers and unbelievers Matthew 25:31-46)
  5. The Great White Throne Judgment (unrighteous dead only) (Revelation 20:11-15)

This list is not exhaustive…looking back in time, we can see many judgments. It is important for us to remember that Jesus is always the Judge. He is not “just the Savior:” He is also the Judge. He gave His life to prevent our being destroyed in the Judgment which His Righteousness requires Him to bring. But these five are the judgments that we see presently or ahead of us and which we might be worried about.

Please bear in mind the two promises of God:

  • John 5:24, which says believers will not come into condemnation, and
  • Romans 8:1, 2, which says we have been set free from the Law of Sin and Death, and that “there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Our “positionIn Christ, separates us from Judgment, just as Noah and his family were separated from judment by their position inside the Ark.)

Which of These Five Judgments Will Affect Believers?

The General Condemnation

Clearly, the General Condemnation of the Human Race once affected every one of us, directly. We all were lost sinners, regardless of our individual qualities or actions. But that is why Jesus went to the Cross! He freed us from that condemnation. It still affects us indirectly, as all the troubles, evil, and pain in the world still exist because of the curse in Genesis 3, which still has not been lifted. But we have been separated from that curse by our position in Christ.

The Judgment of Sin at the Cross

Jesus lifted the Judgment of the Curse, by bearing the Judgment of the Cross! Colossians 2:14Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” His blood paid the sin-debt for all humans, past, present and future. 1st John 2:2 spells it out: And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole World.”

But the General Condemnation remains, for those who reject His sacrifice. (John 3:18 says they are condemned already, because they “have not believed in the only begotten Son of God.”) All that is required of them to escape that Judgment is to choose the Judgment of the Cross, where Jesus bore the judgment of our sins. Until they make that choice, they are still “in Adam,” where we all died spiritually, because of Sin. (See 1st Corinthians 15:22)

The Judgment Seat of Christ

All believers face the Judgment Seat of Christ. (2nd Corinthians 5:10) But this judgment is the judgment of the works of believers. It is an “awards ceremony.” We can read some details about it in 1st Corinthians 3:10-16, The works will be evaluated for their eternal value. Reward for service is to be awarded on the basis of that Judgment. And it is for believers only. Our position in Him guarantees that we will face this judgment, just as it guarantees our security in Him. We will never be condemned, because we are in Him (Romans 8:1, 2; John 5:24)

When people “line up for their pay” in a large factory, or in a military organization, for example, they have to already be an employee, or, already a member of the armed forces. Working without having been an employee does not bring reward, but rather, it brings punishment for “trespassing,” or for “impersonating a member of the military.”

It is possible for a believer’s works to not have eternal value. In John 15:5, Jesus said “Apart from Me ye can do nothing.” So, if we have not been walking with Him, and have not been working with Him, then our works may “look good,” but their eternal value is questionable.

The Judgment of the Living Nations

Matthew 25:31-46 gives us the most details about this judgment. It includes believers and unbelievers, all in their natural bodies and all facing judgment as to whether they will enter the Millennial Kingdom alive, right then, or enter eternal punishment as enemies of God.

There are numerous mentions of this “division of the people by the omniscient Judge,” but this passage allows us to see when it will happen (at the end of the Tribulation, immediately after Jesus’s physical return to earth. Compare Revelation 19.) It tells us where it will occur: on planet earth…and, very likely at Jerusalem, as it says, “He shall sit upon the throne of His Glory.” He will be reigning from Jerusalem, so it seems likely that the Judgment will take place there.

This Judgment, as usual, will be based upon faith or the lack thereof; but, in this case, that faith will have been evidenced by how the people treated the Jews and the Tribulation saints. People who believe in Jesus as their Savior will express that faith by caring for His people. People who do not believe will not care for His people. But the determining factor, as always, is still faith.

The Great White Throne Judgment

Remember that the Judge, in all the cases we have listed, is Jesus Christ. John 5:22 says He is the only Judge. Jesus said, “The Father judgeth no man, but has committed all judgment unto the Son.” (That means the “Judge of all the Earth” in Genesis 18:25 was also Jesus!)

So, the One sitting on the Throne, in Revelation 20:11, is Jesus, in His full Glory. It is interesting to see that (see Genesis 3:8) in the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve heard “the voice of the LORD God walking in the Garden in the cool of the day,” they fled at the sound of His voice, and they hid. (That was Jesus, too! God the Son is the Member of the Trinity who always shows up to walk and talk with humans.)

When will this Judgment occur?

So, now, at the very end of time, Jesus shows up on the Great White Throne as the Eternal Judge, and all the progeny of Adam and Eve respond the same way they did! It says, “Heaven and Earth fled from before His face.”

And that (apparently) is when the Judgment of 2nd Peter 3:10 will occur: “The heavens and earth shall pass away with a fervent heat and a great noise.” (Revelation 21:1confirms this connection.)

So where will the church-age believers be, during that Judgment? Our position will not have changed: We will still be in Him. And, as a result, we will be with Him on that throne! (According to Ephesians 2:6, we are already there. And in John 14:3, Jesus promised, saying “…that where I am, there ye may be also.”)

Deep Grief and Solemn Joy

Will we be “happy” to be at that judgment? No! It will be a terrible tragedy, but we will absolutely know and agree that God the Son is doing right, by making that judgment. But, it is after that judgment that He says, “He will wipe away all tears from their eyes.” (Revelation 21:4 “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

You see, that will be the final Judgment and the end of all death, and sorrow, crying, and pain. Psalm 30:5 says, “…weeping may endure for a night, but Joy cometh in the Morning!” Jesus is called the Morning Star, and His Day is eternal. That is the “Morning” we all long to see!

Why are Believers Excluded from this Final Judgment? (verse 10)

“…because our testimony among you was believed…”

We are saved by Grace, through Faith, plus Nothing! The Thessalonian believers were saved sinners, just like us. But Paul said that the Lord will be worshipped and admired by all those who believe in Him, and then he specifically reminds them of how they became believers. Paul and Silas had brought the message of salvation to Thessalonica, in Acts 17. Those who became believers did so because they believed the testimony of Paul and Silas. They believed the Gospel!

The long-term effect of believers’ faith is the eternal worship of Christ, as our Redeemer. And, for the first time, when He returns, believers who are still in their natural bodies (those in Matthew 25:31-46) will be seeing Jesus in His full glory!

What Should be the Result of all this “Positional Truth?”

All of the things we have talked about so far, (except the results of the Judgment Seat of Christ) have been positional Truths. They are true because we are “In Christ.” That is our location: our position. But positional truths should result in conditional changes!


11 Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: 12 That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul says that he was praying for the believers that their lives would be pleasing to God so that He would agree that they lived up to their calling: That they were acting in a manner worthy of their family connection to Him.

And the result in their lives was that God would fulfil the Good Pleasure of His Goodness in them, and that His Grace would be manifested in their lives and that others would Glorify God because of what they could see happening in the lives of those believers. They would see the power of God working in the lives of the believers and the work of faith being done by the believers.

And the result in our lives?

“That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you and you in Him”…all according to the Grace of the Father and the Son. We are not to fear condemnation from God, but I think it is healthy to fear displeasing Him, because it means we are missing out on our only opportunity to serve with Him.

When we take Communion together, we are publicly stating that we have placed our faith in Jesus’s shed blood at the Cross, as full payment for our sins.

Each of us is saying “Jesus died for me! And He is coming back to take me home with Him!”

This is what we have in common. This is what we share at the Lord’s Table.

Lord Jesus, we desire to see you as our Savior and our Lord; We know we will stand before you at the Judgment seat to receive reward, and we desire to be worthy of that reward. Teach us to consistently walk with you, and let our daily behavior have eternal worth.

Being Counted Worthy of the Kingdom of God

Being Counted Worthy

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

2nd Thessalonians 1:1-5

Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;

So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:

Introduction (Long):

We are sometimes fearful that somehow we will not “measure up” and that we will be left behind, or booted out of the family of God. We harbor doubts about whether we are “good enough” or consistent enough, or sincere enough, and, despite Jesus’s promises that we are secure in Him, we tend to doubt, just as Peter and the other disciples did.

Peter believed Jesus, sufficient to walk on the water, one stormy night! And, just a few seconds later, he doubted, and he sank! But Jesus caught him and walked with him back to the boat.

Jesus said in John 6:29 that the “work” God asks of sinners, in order to please Him, is to “believe on Him whom He hath sent.”

A few verses later, in John 6:37, He promised, “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me, and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.”

Then, in verse 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.”

Now: that leaves us with a choice: do we believe Jesus’s clear promises, or do we build doubt, founded upon our misgivings over verses that are less clear?

Peter’s Example:

Going back to Peter’s example, we can see that he asked Jesus for a clear command. And Jesus gave it to him! There was no possibility of a misunderstanding. So, Peter got out of the boat, and stepped onto the surface of that violent, heaving, stormy lake!

Now, consider: Peter knew he could not walk on water. He knew it was physically impossible! So, believing Jesus, enough to get out of the boat during a storm was really incredible faith! And it resulted in his actually walking on the water, for a few steps.

So, why did he begin to add “amendments” to the “constitution” of his faith? He knew walking on water was not possible at ALL! Then he found that under Jesus’s authority, it was possible to walk on water. Then, why did he suddenly think, “…except when the wind and waves are strong!”? Why do we add provisions and exceptions to the promises of God?

No Surprises to God

God is never “surprised” by my failings. I find them very discouraging, but He knew from eternity past, exactly how I would respond (or fail to respond) to His Grace and His authority.

So, Jesus was not surprised by Peter’s failure. Peter was surprised and thrilled to find himself walking on water, and was disappointed when he doubted, and sank. Here’s the question: did either experience (walking or sinking) make him worthy or unworthy of God’s kingdom?

That answer, of course, is “NO!”

Human Opinion

We are not qualified for Heaven by our actions. Abraham believed God and it was accounted to Him as Righteousness. But in James 2:18, we find that humans cannot see faith without works. So, from a human perspective, we may be seen as “unworthy to call ourselves believers” or “unqualified to serve God.”

But it has been God’s specialty to take those “unqualified, unworthy and unlovely” people and use them to His Glory. He says so! (1st Corinthians 1:27 “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.”)

Faith and Love (v. 3)

Paul expressed his gratitude that the church at Thessalonica was growing in Faith and Love. Their Faith in God was growing and constantly being proved by their actions, so that Paul boasted of their walk with God when he spoke to other churches. He knew the persecutions and tribulations they were enduring, and he was pleased and satisfied to have been a part of their beginnings.

You will notice that the King James Version says their “charity” was abounding. “Charity” is the word that the Kong James Version translators used for the “agapé  love, as opposed to the other three or four words which also could be translated “love.”

Their Love (specifically the Agapé Love) was abounding toward one another. They were taking care of one another and accepting one another, and cherishing one another, as brothers and sisters in Christ.

These are the two key things Jesus requires of believers: Faith and Love.

Endurance by Faith (v. 4)

Endurance is what we are to grow into: the King James Bible uses the word “patience” here, but the issue is not one of “patiently waiting,” but rather, enduring the hardships the believers were experiencing. Immature believers might say, “I just can’t understand why a loving God would allow…” whatever it is that they don’t like. (By the way, that is exactly what the unbelieving world says, too.) But a mature believer recognizes that the world is chock-full of evil and danger and tragedy, and that all of it is the long-term result of sin. And he/she endures in faith!

Past, Present and Future Salvation

Jesus saved us (past tense) from the eternal penalty of Sin, at the Cross: that is a “positional truth.” Because I am in Him, I am no longer condemned. That is my position: “in Him!”

He saves us (present tense) from the current power of sin on our own lives, as we walk with Him: that is a “conditional truth.” As I walk with Him, He can guide me and protect me from the traps laid by the Enemy.

He will eventually (future tense) deliver us from the presence of Sin, eternally. That is also a Positional truth: The Thief on the Cross, who was being executed as a consequence of his own sin, is just as free today from the presence of sin as any of us can hope to be.

But the general consequences of sin, which fill this broken, sin-ruined world around us, we usually simply have to endure. Diseases exist for which there is no cure. Believers contract those diseases, too, and there is no guarantee against them. We accept that burden, and we endure it in faith.

In the nations where persecution awaits all those who believe in Jesus, the believers endure that persecution by faith.

A Token of Judgment (v.5)

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.”

Those who are doing the persecuting face the Judgment of God, whether they know it or not. Jesus said, “they are already condemned because they have not believed on the Name of the Only Begotten Son of God.”

Different Judgments

But the coming judgment, including the tribulation, about which Paul had told them in the previous letter, will be a worldwide judgment on sin, upon all nations, and upon Israel, fulfilling the prophecy in Daniel chapter nine. The seven-year tribulation will pour out the judgment of a righteous God on the unbelieving world.

The judgment of our sins was poured out at the Cross, and that included the sins of the whole World. But the Judgment on the unbelieving World has a specific purpose in Daniel nine. He says it is to complete several things, and that the judgment is upon Israel and the World.

At the end of that time, Jesus will return, as we have read in the previous book. And in the process of His return, (Revelation 19:15) He will speak, and it says that His enemies will be destroyed by the sword that proceeds from His mouth. (His Word!)

But at the end of the Kingdom age, the entire earth will pass away in a flash of supernatural fire.

Not a single believer will be harmed by that final judgment:

How do I know? Because Jesus said so! He said, “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 unto life.” He said my future is secure: I will not be condemned.

And, in Romans 8, he says “there is now therefore no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” He goes on to say that “the Law of the Spirit of Life, in Christ Jesus has made me free from the Law of Sin and Death.”

So, Are We “Worthy?”

If the question has to do with our own personal “worthiness,” then obviously the answer has to be a resounding “NO!” But if I can reply concerning the “Righteousness without the Law” as Paul mentions in Romans 3:21, then I can freely say that we have been judged worthy, solely on the basis of Jesus’s shed blood: His completed work at the Cross.

As Paul put it in Philippians 3:9, he wanted to ” … be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”

That, again, is a positional truth…”in Him!” We are to be found “in Him.” In Him, we have been “accepted in the Beloved.” In Him, “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Can Grace be Earned?

Please turn to Romans 11:6.  And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”

Grace specifically means “unearned favor.” If you think that you can “earn” God’s favor, either as an unbeliever or as a believer, you are falling prey to the trap of the Evil One. The entire book of Galatians was written to warn against this trap of “legalism,” supposing that “something I do” can earn God’s Favor.

If at any point, my salvation or my security depends upon my feeble works, instead of Christ alone, then ultimately, it is entirely dependent upon my works, as I guarantee, my works will always be the “weak link.”  Jesus finished His perfect Work at the Cross. He is my only hope.

Does Our Testimony Demonstrate “Worthiness?”

In Ephesians 4:1, we are exhorted to “walk worthy” of the vocation wherewith we have been called. The calling is secure…but are we walking in such a way as to demonstrate that calling?

We do not become a child of God, nor do we maintain that status, by the way we live. We live in such a way as to demonstrate our new life in Christ, because we ARE His children! And we live for Him out of gratitude and Love, not fearing that if we don’t “live up to our calling,” He will cast us out. (Remember the promise of John 6:37? “He that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out!”)

But our testimony to others will either reflect that reality or fail to do so. That is our choice, day by day, and moment by moment.

What do others see?

The world and other believers can only see our faith by our works, according to James 2:18. How I endure hard times is a statement to others, either that Jesus is in control, or that He is not.

Lot’s life was a demonstration that he was not walking with God. If that were the only information we were given, then we might assume he was not a believer at all. But God says he was a believer—that God had declared him righteous! (2nd Peter 2:7, 8) Yes, he was saved, but his life was a sad wreck, due to his own sin.

We want a better experience than that of Lot! We want to walk with God in such a way that our lives shine as a testimony of His Grace…not our own character or works.

Jesus alone is worthy!

Lord Jesus, change our motivation, so that we live to please You, not to impress other people, nor to “prove ourselves.” Draw us along as Your children and as laborers together with You. Teach us to see through Your eyes and care as you care.

God’s Preservation of the Saints

How Does God “Preserve His Saints?”

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

1st Thessalonians 5:23-28

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.

25 Brethren, pray for us. 26 Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss.

27 I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.

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


This passage gives seven precious doctrinal points:

  1. GOD is the one who sanctifies us, in every sense of the word.
  2. We have a Body, a Soul, and a Spirit, and all three are to “preserved blameless” by God unto the Lord’s return.
  3. Again, the Faithful God who calls us is the One who will bring all these things to fruition.
  4. We are called to consistent prayer for one another.
  5. We are called to true fellowship with one another (holy brethren, holy kiss …as opposed to Judas’s treacherous greeting to Jesus.)
  6. We are Called to Be in the Word.
  7. We are called to be the daily partakers in the Grace of God.

The God of Peace, Who Sanctifies Us

Who is the God of Peace? Romans 5:1 says we gained peace with God, the moment we trusted in His saving sacrifice. Also, Jesus promised Peace to His followers…the Peace of God.

John 14:27 says “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.

John 16:33 says “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.”

The Peace of God

And in Philippians 4:6-9 we see how to experience the Peace of God:

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

The God of Peace who is “With us”

Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

So, when Paul prays that the God of Peace would “wholly sanctify” the believers, he refers to the same “God of Peace” whom he said would “be with us,” in Philippians 4:9. And there were conditions attached, in the Philippians promise. If you want to experience the Peace of God, you need to walk with Him, in fellowship with Him, “pulling in double harness with Him.” He listed several conditions:

  1. Don’t be anxious
  2. Pray about everything, with thanksgiving
  3. Take seriously the list of things upon which we are to think, instead of worrying.
  4. DO the things God has taught you to do, and those which you have learned from (and seen in) other believers.

AND: The God of Peace shall be with you!

How Does God Sanctify Believers?

That is also the way that God sanctifies you. (Sanctified means “set apart for God’s use): As you walk with Him, he gradually builds into your life a practical holiness, so that in a very practical way, you are becoming more and more clearly “His personal property” and “set aside for His personal use.

Some people attempt to use this passage to teach that believers can eradicate their sin nature, and no longer be subject to temptation, as they have become “wholly sanctified.” That is false teaching. We are constantly surrounded by the enemy’s attempts to render us fruitless. Paul was constantly on guard, knowing (1st Corinthians 9:27) that it was possible that after he had taught others, he himself could become a “castaway” … having suffered a “shipwreck” of his faith (1st Timothy 1:19). (He did not fear losing his salvation. That is not a possibility. But it was entirely possible that he could become fruitless, through a collapse into sin.)

Body, Soul, and Spirit

All three of these terms are frequently used in regard to our natural humanity. To begin with, all humans have a body, a soul and a spirit. And, as believers, we have a promise that our bodies will be resurrected, intact. Our souls will live forever with God, and our Spirits will be forever in fellowship with Him, in eternity.

Do I really understand the difference between the “soul” and the “spirit?” Not really, no! I know that the Greek word, “psuke” is translated “soul,” usually, and that it is where we get our words “psyche, psychology, psychosomatic, and psychotic.” It apparently has to do with the seat of emotions, and feelings and basic thought.

The Greek word for “spirit” is “pneuma,” and it is where we get out words, “pneumologist, and pneumonia.” It literally means “breath.” But it evidently refers to the portion of humans which was originally capable of fellowship with God, in Adam and Eve. That fellowship was broken by sin, of course, and humans effectively are born with a “broken communicator.” We are born spiritually dead, apart from God’s Grace to reconnect us. He offers that Grace in the Person of Jesus, at the Cross.

All Preserved Blameless?

The body of every single person (excluding of the Rapture of the Church) will die, and decay, and return into the dust of the earth, one way or another.

The soul of every human is eternal, and will either stand with Jesus as part of the Body of Christ, or stand before Him for final judgment, at the Great White Throne.

The spirits of all humans are eternal…but some will spend eternity with Him, and others will spend eternity apart from Him.

All will be resurrected: some to eternal Judgment, some to Eternal Joy. The judgment of those who have placed their trust in Jesus’s Blood at the Cross, was completely fulfilled at the Cross. Jesus died as our representative. Therefore, God sees our sins as having been fully judged at the Cross. As a result, He sees us only in Christ.

This is how God can say that our spirit, soul, and body will be preserved blameless until the return of Christ. In 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18 we saw the resurrection of the righteous dead, and the transformation of the living believers at the Rapture of the Church. Consequently, every single Church-age believer will be raised eternally at that point.

The Faithful God

“Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it.”

1st Peter 4:19 says,  “Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of our souls to Him, in well doing, as unto a Faithful Creator.”

Psalm 37:3 says, “Trust in the LORD and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.”

Who are we to trust? The LORD, in the Old Testament, whom we find to be the Jesus of the New Testament. (In Hebrews, and in the Gospel of John, we discovered that Jesus is the Creator! In John 5:22 we saw that Jesus is the Eternal Judge of all the Earth!)

He is the one who calls us to walk with Him and to “pull in double harness” with Him. He is the faithful Creator! And He is the one who will bring all these promises to fruition. There is nothing I can do to “improve” upon His promise.

We are Called to Consistent Prayer

In the previous passage (1st Thessalonians 5:17) God says “pray without ceasing.” In Ephesians 6:18, 19 we see Prayer listed as the seventh piece of the armor of God. We are told to:

  • Pray always,
  • With all prayer and supplication in the Spirit,
  • Watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication,
  • For all the believers

(Lots of use of the word “All,” there!) And in verse 19, the Apostle Paul requested prayer for himself that he would be given the ability to boldly preach the Mystery of the Gospel. Paul needed Prayer! And we are commanded in no uncertain terms to give ourselves to the practice of consistent prayer for one another, in all things, at all times. Especially pray for your leaders, as they will especially be under attack by the enemy.

We are Called to True Fellowship With One Another

Remember how Judas greeted Jesus with a kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane: Still today, we call it a “Judas-kiss,” when someone pretends to be a friend, but in reality is betraying their victim to an enemy. Kissing has been a standard greeting of a dear friend, for thousands of years in many cultures. In others that is not the case, unless it is a family member.

In our culture, kissing is reserved for familial relations, as a general rule, but the Old Believers of the Russian communities, here in the United States, still practice this “holy kiss” as a matter of normal obedience to scripture.

To the average American believer, a handshake is considered normal. In fact, that was also recognized in scripture, as the Apostles offered the “right hand of fellowship” to Paul and Barnabas in Galatians 2:9.

Acceptance in the Beloved

The core issue is sincere acceptance of one another, as we have been fully accepted by God. Ephesians 1:6 says that we have been fully accepted by God, in the Beloved. God sees us only in Christ, and in Him, we are fully accepted.

Accept one another on the same basis! Are we still flawed individuals who irritate one another with our idiosyncrasies? Certainly we are! That is why He commands us to “forbear one another in Love.Accept the flaws, weaknesses, and idiosyncrasies of those around you and love them for the sake of the Gospel of Christ.

We are Called to Be in the Word!

Verse 27 seven gives us a command! 27I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren. That is a command! (And it even includes the illiterate. The literate were commanded to read the Word to the illiterate, or, possibly simply to a congregation at large.) Either way, we cannot escape the fact that feeding on God’s Word is normal behavior for all believers! In fact, this is where our walk with God will live or die! We need to feed on His Word!

We are Called to Be Daily Partakers in the Grace of God

This is not the “Saving Grace,” by which we entered into Christ: this is the “Living Grace,” by which we learn to walk with Him, and learn to endure hard circumstances. For example, when Paul suffered from some malady (probably with his eyes) he petitioned God three times to heal it (whatever it was.) And then God told him to drop it! (Stop asking! The answer is no!) He said, “My Grace is sufficient for thee!” (2nd Corinthians 12:9)

We have a hard time with that, but that Grace is what enables us to walk with Jesus at all. This is not some “special Grace” that only Paul got! It is what we depend upon for every breath! Lamentations 3:22 says, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.” In this age, we call it the Grace of God. Grace means “unearned favor.” Unmerited favor. I have not earned special treatment form God. When He gives it, it is Grace. And when we face hard trials, we depend upon His Grace to sustain us.

This is How God Preserves His Saints.

We need to learn to walk with Him, daily spending time in His Word and in Prayer, and seeking His face in our daily lives. He is the One who accomplishes His Will in our lives. Philippians 2:13 says “For it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of His good pleasure.”

God will preserve you until the end of time. Trust in Him once for all for salvation. Trust in Him daily for Grace by which to live, and enjoy His Service!

Lord Jesus, please teach us to walk closely with You, and to experience Your Grace for living, every day, as we learn to look to You at all times, for direction, sustenance, and strength.

Faith and Baptism– Two Concepts

Faith and Baptism

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

Linked Concepts


Ephesians 2:8, 9;


John 6:29; Acts 16:31; Romans 3:25;


1st Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:3, 4; 1st Peter 3:21;


We have been studying through 1st Thessalonians, recently, but, three people have asked to be baptized, this morning. Therefore, we are going to take a short “side-excursion,” to discuss Faith and Baptism: The two concepts have been linked from the beginning of the Church age, but they are also frequently misunderstood. As a result, they are often wrongly taught.  Thus, before we actually baptize anyone, we need to connect the two concepts carefully and scripturally, in order to clear up any questions that believers may still have.

Is Salvation received “By Grace, through faith?”

(Or: is it “by Grace, through faith, plus something?”)

Ultimately, this is the key question: How does God save sinners? In Genesis 15:6, it says that Abraham “believed God,” and God counted his faith as righteousness. Later, this passage is quoted and expanded upon in Romans 4:3. The Conclusion? We are saved by Grace, through Faith, plus nothing!

Ephesians 2:8, 9 tells how we are saved: “For by Grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” However, “salvation by faith” is taught throughout both the Old and the New Testaments.

Numbers 14:11 recalls God’s complaint against Israel: He said that despite His numerous signs, proofs, and provisions for them, and all the judgments on Egypt, they still did not believe Him, when He commanded them to enter the promised land.

Additionally, Romans 1:16 says “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.” (The Greek word for “power” here, is “dunamis:” His ability.)

Specifically, Romans 3:25 says that Jesus has been set forth as the propitiation (meaning the satisfaction of God’s righteousness and justice) through faith in His blood.

In John 6:28, 29 the Jews asked Jesus, “What work shall we do that we might work the works of God?” His answer was “This is the work of God, that ye believe in Him whom He hath sent.”

In Acts 16:31, the Philippian Jailer asked, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas replied with the clear statement, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.”

One may point out that most of these early believers followed faith with water baptism. That is true! But salvation occurred the moment they believed!

So…What about Baptism?

As believers, we have been given two ordinances: Water Baptism and The Lord’s Table. We explain the nature of the Lord’s Table every month when we take communion, but we haven’t talked much about Baptism. Both are an outward testimony of something that has already occurred inwardly, and a physical, visible demonstration of a spiritual, invisible reality.

Communion testifies through the symbols of the bread and the cup that “Jesus died for me: His body was torn and broken for me, and His Blood was shed for me!” As believers we share in communion to testify of His sacrificial death, until He comes: which means we also express our confident assurance that He truly is returning!

Furthermore, when we celebrate communion, we testify that Jesus’s blood was the full payment for our sins. (Remember the Passover Lamb: the people who placed themselves under the blood of that Lamb for protection against the Wrath of God, did not just “stand there and watch:” They each ate of that lamb!) We eat as a commemoration of the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of the whole world. By faith we already have laid our hands upon that sacrifice, and claimed it as the substitute for our own lives. And now, we testify to that truth in communion. In doing so, we honor Jesus before the world, proclaiming His death until He comes.

Two Kinds of Baptism

There are two types of baptisms taught in the New Testament: one of them is absolutely necessary for Salvation, but it has nothing to do with water. The other does involve water, and has no bearing on our salvation! But it does become a matter of obedience, even if we don’t fully understand it. Let’s talk about the Real Baptism first.

The “Real” Baptism (by the Holy Spirit)

Turn to 1st Corinthians 12:13. This whole chapter is teaching about the gifts of the Spirit, and how the Holy Spirit builds the church by giving appropriate gifts to each believer. He is the One who makes the choice as to who has what gift. Just as an individual cell in a body does not choose its individual task or its location in the body, believers are given their assignments by God, the Holy Spirit. (We also saw this in our study in Numbers, by the way. God assigned each tribe its work and its place in the national structure.)

But, this verse, in the midst of the larger passage, tells us a key point: every single believer has been “Baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ.” That is what makes you a “Member” of the Body of Christ.

What about Church Membership?

When we talk about “Church Membership,” this is the only kind of membership that God addresses. Every member of the Body of Christ is expected to find a local assembly of like-minded believers and attach themself to that assembly and serve there, as a functioning part of the Body of Christ. Every member is to function as a member.

Some churches have a “membership roll,” as if they are a country club, or something. No such idea is suggested in scripture. Other churches actually require that you be water-baptized again into that church, for membership. This also is unbiblical.

Some even require that you be “vetted” by a governing board, to see whether you are “worthy” to be a part of their organization. I personally find that to be especially repugnant: If Jesus’s Blood at the Cross, which made me clean enough to stand before a Holy God, and address Him as Father, is not enough to make me “worthy” to be in some human outfit, then I don’t belong there! (Is there “church discipline” in the Bible? Yes, but it has nothing to do with membership. We will discuss that at another time.)

“Real” Baptism

Baptism by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ is the only kind of baptism necessary for salvation, and it occurs the moment you place your faith in Jesus as your Savior, even if you are unaware that it is happening. This is “real Baptism.” So, let’s talk about the other kind of baptism: water baptism.

Water Baptism

First: what is the meaning of the word, “baptize?” The Greek word for “baptize” is pretty much just “baptize.” Our problem is that when the first English Bibles were being published, the Church of England was scarcely removed from Catholicism, and it was practicing baptism by sprinkling. But the actual meaning of the word is “to dip!” The Greek word “baptizō”means “immersion!” The intensive verb “baptizō” is the most frequent derivative of the root “baptō”, which is always translated, and it is always translated “Dip.”

So… had they consistently translated the word to what it actually means, John the Baptist would have been “John the Dipper!” But when Jesus “dipped” the sop in the cup, and passed it to Judas, the word “baptō” actually was translated “dip.” (No one calls that a baptism!)

So, the concept of baptism involves immersion, and the result of that immersion is to fully identify the thing being dipped, with the substance into which it was dipped. The sop Jesus gave to Judas was permanently soaked in whatever was in the cup where He had dipped it.

Cloth dipped in a pot of dye is permanently identified with that specific pot of dye. According to 1st Corinthians 12:13, when you were born again through faith in Jesus’s Blood, then The Holy Spirit immersed you (baptized you) into the Body of Christ. You are permanently identified with Him in every way. And so is every other believer.

Why was Jesus Baptized?

Jesus came to John the Baptist to be water baptized so that He would be identified with John’s message: John preached the Gospel of the coming Kingdom—the promised “Kingdom of Heaven,” which is the 1000-year reign of Jesus on earth. Jesus is the Promised King! So, He was identified with the Promised Kingdom through that baptism.

We practice water Baptism for the same reason as we practice Communion: we were told to do so! Communion commemorates the fact of the Gospel, as applied to each believer. Baptism commemorates the fact that the Holy Spirit has already placed us into the Body of Christ. He has already immersed us into Jesus, so that we are fully identified with Him, forever, in every way.

We practice water baptism once, as a believer, to testify of our new position in Christ. It is not how we “join a church,” or “repent of our sins” or any other such thing. This is a believer’s baptism. It is a public testimony of what has already happened.

So, even though we may not really be sure how it works as a testimony, we do practice water baptism by immersion. We do not require it of anyone, and we only offer it when it is requested.

What about Baptismal Regeneration?

People sometimes protest that 1st Peter 3:21 clearly says, “…baptism now saves us!” In the context, though, Peter was talking about the people on the Ark with Noah, who were “saved by water.” Those people were permanently separated from the lost world around them by the flood, because everyone else died in that flood: they were saved from that judgment by God, through the Ark, which is an amazing picture of Jesus!

Peter says. “in like figure (a “similar picture”) baptism now saves us…” (How? Do you really think getting “dunked in water” can separate you from God’s judgment of the world? No! It cannot! But being placed into the Body of Christ does! “All in Adam die, but all in Christ shall be made alive!” 1st Corinthians 15:22)

That verse in Peter is in reference to the Baptism of the believer by the Holy Spirit, into the Body of Christ. The same is true of Romans 6:3, 4, where it says that we’ve been baptized into the death and burial and resurrection of Christ. No water was involved in either case!

It is interesting to read 1st Corinthians 1:10-17, where we can see how the Apostle Paul felt about water baptism. Paul said he was thankful he had only baptized a handful of them, and he concluded that “Christ sent me not to baptize but to preach the Gospel.” Paul did practice water baptism, but it did not have a very high priority in his mind. The reality (being baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ”) came through the preaching of the Gospel. Water baptism is just a picture of the real thing: a testimony that it has occurred.

No Robes, and No rituals!

Water baptism does not require any special clothing or any ritual. it requires no oath-taking or any other such thing. The scripture shows that upon public confession of faith in Jesus, and in His finished Work at the Cross, any believer is fully qualified for water baptism, as a step of obedience and a testimony of the new birth. A classic example is the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-39: He believed the Gospel, and he asked to be baptized.

Phillip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may!” And they both went down into the water and Phillip baptized him. (No ritual, no waiting period, and no “baptismal certificate!”)

Therefore, on the authority of God’s Word, we will proceed with simple, believers baptism!

Lord Jesus, teach our hearts and minds, and use this service to strengthen our commitment to You. Raise us up to walk with You and to work with You.

I am going to ask each of the applicants to give their own testimonies now:

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.

That No Man Should Be Moved

That No Man Should Be Moved

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

1st Thessalonians 3:1-5

1Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:

That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.

For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know. For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain.


Paul wrote to the Thessalonian believers partly because he simply misses them, as he wrote earlier. But he was also concerned for their spiritual well-being. He knew that they had been under persecution, and he was fearful that they could be turned aside from their faith by the harsh trials and become unfruitful.

Notice that, in verse five, he pointed out the enemy who sought to cripple them spiritually. It seems appropriate to spend some time on how that enemy attempts to cripple believers.

Paul was fearful for the believers at Thessalonica. He had heard nothing of them for a long time; so, he feared they may have been ensnared by the enemy in some way, and become unfruitful.

Who is the Enemy?

This seems pretty self-explanatory, but God spells out for us that our enemies do not include other humans, even when they are acting like enemies. Ephesians 6:12 states that our enemies are not “flesh and blood.” He names several categories of demonic creatures (which I can’t define, because the scripture does not define them.) And, in 1st Peter 5:8, we are admonished  to “be sober, be vigilant, for your enemy the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” That leaves no question as to the identity of our ultimate enemy and his desire regarding us..

So, What are the Enemy’s Plans for You?

Remember: You are Secure Forever:

Just as a preliminary word of encouragement, let me assure you: Satan cannot take you away from Jesus! But he will try to make you think he can do so.

In John 6:37, Jesus said, “he that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out.” And, in John 6:39, he said, “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.”

In John 10:27-29 He said, “27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and my Father are one.

No Created Being Can Separate us from the Love of God.

Also, in Romans 8:38, 39, Paul confirms that “38 … 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.

Finally, in Hebrews 13:5, God says, “…I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” So, when you feel fear of “losing your salvation,” or fear that God may abandon you, remember these things:

  1. Jesus will never “kick you out.”
  2. God the Father has willed that Jesus will not lose a single one who has trusted in Him.
  3. No one can “pluck you out of His hand.”
    That includes all the fallen angelic hosts, including Satan himself.
    That includes you! You are a created being: you cannot separate yourself from His Love.
  4. God will never leave you, nor forsake you!

Do remember that you can ignore God and fail to experience His peace and His Joy, and the confidence of knowing that you are “still on His team.” 1st John 5:13 says He wants you to know that you have eternal life.

Because You are “on God’s Team,” Satan desires to cripple or destroy you!

Just as an army, retreating before a powerful enemy, will seek to destroy anything they have left behind, so their enemy cannot use it, Satan desires to render you useless to God.

He cannot do anything to you without God’s permission, but he can entice you to walk out from under God’s protection, and thus you may become a target for his attacks.

If he can cause you to doubt God’s Character and Grace, then he can make you live as though you were not “on God’s team.” He will attempt to lure you into immorality, or fear, or pride, or any other manifestation of your old Sin Nature. Then other people will see you as being “no different than any other sinner” (or worse, because you claim to belong to Jesus, but are living as though you never knew Him.) If he can do that, then he has succeeded in destroying your testimony, and it will no longer matter “what you say:” everyone around you has already read the “testimony of your life,” in your behavior.

We have already been warned of this, and in Philippians 1:29, it is spelled out, “for unto you it is given, in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Jesus did not promise an “easy life” to believers: He said, “these things I have spoken unto you that in Me you might have Peace. In the World, ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the World.” (John 16:33)

What about Fear?

Does Satan use fear against us? Absolutely, he does! We can be so overwhelmed with fear that we are completely unable to function. Where does the fear come from? It is not coming from God: In 2nd Timothy 1:7, He says, “God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

We can be distracted by (and dwell on) the Internet News, and be drawn into the countless conspiracy theories that abound there, and we will be ensnared by fear. Even if some of the “scary things” on the news are true, there is nothing we can do about any of them, as a rule.

But what God says, we can obey. I do not need to know all the horrible plans Satan has for the World. All I need to know is who my true Master is, and all I need to do, is walk where He says to walk. That is why the Psalmist says, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside still waters. He restoreth my soul.” The News can’t do any of those things! Satan will use it (or any of a thousand other distractions) to do exactly the opposite.

What about Anger?

There were plenty of things for the Thessalonian believers to feel angry about. They had been grossly mistreated by the unbelieving World. They had lost their belongings in some cases, and had been physically attacked, in others. There were false teachers there, insisting that, without becoming Jews and following the Mosaic Law, they could not be saved.

Those things probably engendered both fear and anger. But both reactions are fruitless. Only Light dispels darkness. Anger from believers will not prevent the anger of others around them. God says for us to drop it. Love has a better hope of dispelling anger. And forgiveness has a better chance of producing internal healing than does resentment. In James 1:20, God says, “The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”

What about Pride?

In the sense of “arrogance,” we truly have nothing to feel “proud” about, Our birthplace, from a human perspective, is strictly an accident. Whatever family we were born to, again, was not of our choosing. We can enjoy all those things and be grateful that we had good upbringing, or that we have been brought up in an environment where the Bible is honored and taught. But, once again, we had nothing to do with that fact. We either embraced it and valued it or we did not, but we had no part in making it happen.

Our gifts are just that: gifts. Perhaps we have worked hard to build upon the talents we have been given, but that talent was inborn, not earned. If I was born color-blind, or even completely blind, I have nothing to be ashamed of: but as a sighted person, I cannot feel “proud” that my eyes are functional, and even that function is diminishing, as I age.

Some people have music going inside all the time, without thinking of it. I’m one of those people, but it isn’t something I chose. And it isn’t always good. A “bad song” can get stuck in my head just as easily as a “good song.” But when I wake up in the morning, there is already a song cycling through my mind, for better or worse. It is nothing to engender pride at all: it is just there. Same for most other things.

Clean Pride

Can I feel “proud of my children” or “proud of a worker” whom I trained? Sure, but the clean “pride” of grateful, joyful satisfaction with the results of one’s labor is not the same as an “arrogant attitude” that says, “because my kid is a champion wrestler, I must be somehow better than you.” That kind of pride is always offensive, and always destructive: Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

What about Unbelief?

Unbelief among believers? That sounds like a contradiction in terms, but it is very common. Think of Peter: He believed God enough to “get out of the boat!” But moments later, unbelief kicked in, and he instantly sank. We suffer from the same malady!

Unbelief is the cause of our not having the confidence to just go ahead and do what God has commanded us to do. Unbelief is what makes us fear the future, and fear abandonment by God, even when we know His promise that He will never leave us.

Satan attacked the simple faith of Eve, by first questioning God’s Word, then denying it entirely and accusing God of dishonesty…claiming that God had a hidden agenda and that He had lied to her and Adam. Satan still does that today. If he can cause you to weaken in your trust of The Savior, then all of his weapons are empowered to draw you away into abject failure and defeat.

What about the Desire for Fleshly Gratification?

We always have a choice: we can believe God …or not. We can obey God …or not. We can trust Him …or not. And our old Sin nature, one of our other enemies, is in league with the Evil One. Jeremiah said, regarding our old Sin Nature, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked…” Our old nature clamors for attention and demands pleasure. But it is completely corrupt: Romans 8:7 says that even God can’t fix it! So, He gave us a new nature!

The World, (Our third enemy) says, “Follow your heart! Your heart will never lead you astray!’  But God says my heart is the most likely agent to deceive me! I have had my whole life to practice listening to the three enemies of my soul. I’m an expert at sin and unbelief. It takes practice to learn to listen to God instead of my old sinful heart.

So, when the World, in popular music, says, “How can something so wrong feel so right?” We should recognize the faulty reasoning it offers. Who engineered that flawed logic? And, ultimately, who is attempting to lure us away to sin? Satan is the Spirit at work in the World, and our old sin nature agrees with both our other enemies. They all work to convince us that if it feels good, it must be good. God gives the answer in Galatians 5:16 “… walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.”

We always have a choice.

How you respond to God’s Written Word is a choice you make daily. Remember that since Jesus is repeatedly identified as being the Living Word of God, the way we respond to the Written Word is truly how we are responding to the Living Word. When we ignore the written Word, we are also ignoring the Living Word.

We have choices to make every moment. If we continue to make bad choices, then the enemy can draw us away and make us unfruitful in the service of Jesus.

Lord Jesus, please grant that we will be aware of the choices we are making and choose to walk in the light as You are in the Light. Enable each of us to serve You in the way You want us to serve. Help us to remember that we are Your Ambassadors.

How do We “Receive the Word of God?”

What does it mean, to “Receive the Word of God?”

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

1st Thessalonians 2:13-16

13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.

14 For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: 15 Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: 16 Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.  


Remember, the books of 1st and 2nd Thessalonians sprang out of a history of persecution. Within three weeks after the Gospel had first come to Thessalonica, the percecution had begun. The unbelieving Jews physically attacked anyone who professed faith in Jesus as the Messiah. And the attacks did not stop when the Apostles left town.

Paul cited the overall rejection of God, and His Word, and His Prophets, and of Jesus Himself.  He pointed out that, as a nation, the Jews had officially rejected their own God, killing His prophets and crucifying the Messiah, all while claiming to be the people of God.

Jesus had first declared this sad truth, at length, in Matthew 23.

Matthew 23:29-39.

29Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, 30 And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.

31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. 32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. 33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?

WHO sent the prophets?

34 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: 35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. 36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.

37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! 38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.

39 For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

This was National Response, not Individual.

Though many Jews had believed in Jesus, and had trusted in Him as their Savior, and believed in Him as the Messiah, Jerusalem rejected Him and eventually crucified Him. Jerusalem was the “official leader” of Israel as a nation. And Jesus warned them that they will not see Him again, until, as a nation (Jerusalem leading the way) they repent and trust Him as their Messiah.

Paul reiterates this truth, but He first expresses his joy that the Thessalonian believers did not fall into thatcategory. They had received the Word of truth “not as the word of man,but as it is in truth, the word of God.” Paul went on to say that the result of them receiving that Gospel as the Word of God was that the Word had begun to have a powerful effect on their lives:  He said, it “…effectually worketh also in you that believe.” So, how does one receive the Word in that way? How can we allow God’s Word to have that sort of effect in our lives?

Receiving the Word of God

Romans 1:5 uses an odd phrase. It says that the Gospel went out “for the obedience of Faith.”

Sometimes, the only response required, is that we “believe God,” as opposed to believing some other source of information. (John 6:28. 29) But, when we read in Hebrews 11, about the people we consider the Biblical “heroes of faith,” we can see that in every case, faith was demonstrated by an action. Throughout the Bible we see that, in reality, Faith is an Obedient Response to a Revealed Truth.

As we studied through the books of Moses we saw, repeatedly, that, despite the abundant unmistakable proofs of God’s faithfulness and care for them, the Children of Israel rebelled, and they chose to not “believe God.”

In virtually every case, the result was that they wanted to return to Egypt. They remembered the abundant and cheap food in Egypt, and they equated Egypt with “easy life.” They had forgotten that they had become slaves there, and had even begun to be victims of attempted genocide.

Contrast between people’s responses to the Word of God

When Moses and Aaron brought them the Word they had just received, from God, in person, in the wilderness, they quickly forgot who they were dealing with, and they rebelled. They did not respect His Word as the Word of the Living God.

In contrast, the Ninevites were enemies of Israel, but when Jonah warned them of the coming Judgment, they believed God. The whole city repented of their sins, and God postponed the coming Judgment.

Jesus testified that those ancient Ninevites would bear witness against Israel in the final Judgment, because they had repented at the Word, coming through Jonah (who was a very reluctant prophet.) The citizens of Jerusalem had not repented, though God’s Word came to them from the mouth of God, the Son: Jesus, the Messiah!

That is a very sharp contrast. The enemies of Israel, in Nineveh, though grossly ungodly people, had repented at His Word, But, in Jerusalem, His “own” people chose to kill the messengers!

How did I receive the Gospel?

When I first heard the Gospel it meant nothing to me: So, I did not see that I was a lost sinner, needing a Savior. I doubted the truth of the Bible as a whole and I equated the “Bible stories” with Greek mythology, and other “legendary” history. Initially, I was not antagonistic toward Jesus, but He seemed irrelevant to me and my life. Eventually I did become more antagonistic toward the Gospel, and I began interrupting believer’s attempts to share Christ with the lost.

But when I was eighteen, a classmate shared a rather obscure verse with me that caused me to start thinking seriously. She asked me for my definition of Sin. I had no solid answer, because, by that time I considered myself an atheist. But after a moment, I replied that, “I suppose that, if I were to do something that violated my conscience, then it must at least be a sin against myself. And, if there is a God, then (it would seem) that would have to qualify as a sin against God, as well.”

What changed my thinking?

She replied, “Chet, that is exactly what God says!” I was surprised to hear that: so, she opened her Bible, and showed me James 4:17 “Therefore, to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

I was amazed! I thought “God agrees with me!” (What an incredibly backward and vain idea!) But, inwardly, I thought, “Then all I have to do is live with a clean conscience, and God will have no problem with me!” (Can you hear the laughter from the angelic host?) So, I tried to do that, but, of course, what immediately resulted was that my conscience was awakened, and I became aware of all my bad motives and evil thoughts, and the filth that came out of my mouth.

I Was Dealing With God, not Man!

Within a month, I was getting quite depressed and hopeless, because, for the first time, I was keenly aware that I was a condemned sinner! (As you know, that’s the bad news of the Gospel!) Then I began to take God’s Word more seriously. I tried to read it, but I couldn’t understand it.

But when I threw myself on His Mercy and received His Grace, by Faith, then His Word began to come alive for me. I began to understand it, at least at a “baby food” level. You see, that is when the Gospel became “Good News!” And that Good News has become better and better, over the last fifty years. The more I learn of His Word and the more I experience His Grace and His Mercy, the sweeter that “Good News” has become to me.

Testing the Concept

Initially, I did not receive the Gospel as the Word of God. But after I did, and I actually knew the Author, I still had to make some “adjustments.” I truly believed that the Bible was the Word of God, but that belief had not been seriously tested.

A young roommate in Bible school confronted me about my (then) opinion that “Evolution and Creation could somehow be reconciled, as both being true.”  He said, “No, Chet, they are mutually exclusive! They could both be false, or one true and the other false, or vice versa, but they cannot both be true.” When I started to protest, he cut me off, and gave me a series of examples from the Creation story in Genesis, each of which was diametrically opposed to what Evolution claims.

I was stumped! It was clear that I had to make a decision!

The Decision We Always Face:

Ultimately, I decided that God’s Word had to stand. I chose to believe God’s Word, and allow Him time to show me why that was a good choice. And, over the last 48 years, the proof has piled higher and deeper, that the Creation account is accurate. I realize that not everyone agrees about this, and I try not to argue with people about it. But: it turns out that not only it is accurate, but it is also critical to the Gospel. Why?

Because, if “death came into the world through Adam,” (as Romans 5:12 states,) then the hundreds of millions of years of death, procreation, and more death, and change (necessary for evolution of humans to have occurred) cannot have happened. 1st Corinthians 15:22 confirms this fact, reminding us that we “all died in Adam.” There are other similar arguments, comparing scripture with physical science.

Whose Authority Matters?

But even without all the extrabiblical studies, comparisons, and arguments, I eventually realized that the core issue is that Jesus Christ treated the Creation account (and all the Old Testament) as history… as fact.  (Not as mythology, or fables or any other sort of fiction.) He acknowledged the metaphors that are hidden there, and He expanded upon some of them. But neither He nor any of His Apostles gave room for any doubt that the entire Old Testament was given by direct inspiration of God. It was to be taken as truth, and as truly being the literal “Word of God.”

I was only beginning to comprehend “Who Jesus Is,” as the Incarnate God: God, in the Flesh. It had not yet occurred to me that the Bible is HIS Word. But I did know that He was my Savior, and He is the author of truth. I could rest in that alone. Any evidence beyond that central fact was just “extra.”

How do We Receive the Word?

When we hear teaching from the Bible, we are told to read carefully, check what we hear against other parts of Scripture, and make sure it is sound doctrine. Ask questions. If we don’t know where to find them, we are supposed to ask for supporting passages. (See Acts 17:10, 11.)

But once we know the teaching is correct, and we agree that the Bible truly is God’s Word, then our response becomes critically important: “What will we DO with that information?”

There is an old saying, “The distance between knowledge and wisdom (or understanding,) is usually about sixteen inches.” The implication is that “You may have the information in your head, but it has not found its way to the heart.” Another way I have heard the same idea taught, is, “You have that idea in your library, but you have not moved it into your living room.” It is not yet affecting your behavior.

We are Accountable

Once we know what God says, then we become accountable for that information, and we are called to respond! We can no longer argue that “Well, that is just what so and so believes!” If you know for sure that God says it, then it doesn’t matter who taught it to you. The young girl who initially shared James 4:17 with me was only seventeen. But God used her to speak to me! The young man who first confronted me about the disconnect between evolution and Creation was only eighteen (I was almost 21.) But he was right, and God used him to speak to my heart!

How you respond to God’s Word reveals how you are “receiving” His Word. And it should be an indicator as to how your walk with God is going. Remember: In John 1:14, we see that Jesus is the “Word made Flesh!” And, Revelation 19:13 says He is  “The Word of God.” How we respond to the Written Word is exactly how we are responding to Jesus, the Living Word of God! Give that some thought!

Lord Jesus, please awaken us to our desperate need to feed on Your Word, and to respond as though You were speaking directly to us, face-to-face. Raise us up to walk as Your Disciples.

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.