Paul and his God
Written by Nicholas Boardman, one of the members of TGC Ramsbottom.

In part one of ‘Paul and his identity’ we considered something about God. Although we have to admit that no one can know all there is to know about God let us seek to develop what has been said so far about our Almighty God.

This article has been entitled: ‘Paul and his God’ to emphasize that this is the God of Paul, the God of Romans and the God of the whole bible.

This also is my God, and He is yours to, He may be to you a friend or an enemy, but as we shall see He created you and me and deserves our obedience and love.

Here then, is an elaboration of some things that we considered about God in ‘Paul and his identity’ part one.

There is one God, who is self-existent. This means that He has no need of anything or anybody to exist.

God is infinite. He cannot be measured. No length, breath, or height can define Him.

God is immortal, for he endures forever, in consequence of not having any principle of alteration or decay within His being.

God never changes, for how can perfection change? To change from perfection would be to change to something less than perfection. God is always perfect and as perfection needs no change, so God too never changes.

God is eternal. That is, He always exists in His absolute nature of being God.

God is incomprehensible. Even as we now try to think about what God is like, we can’t know everything about God, because He is a being who cannot be understood fully. In fact what we do know of God he has revealed to us in the first place. We cannot know anything about God that God does not want us to know. There is an enormous chasm between God and man. He his infinite, we are finite. He is eternal, we are bound by time. He is being, we are becoming.

God is almighty, having complete power over everything.

God is most holy. He is morally and spiritually excellent and is set apart from all creation. God loves righteousness and hates iniquity, and He is of purer eyes than to behold evil.

God is love, which means he loves righteousness and hates evil. Being a God of love does not mean that he can love both righteousness and sinfulness, for that would be an oxymoron. True love cannot love that which is against love, against righteousness. God’s love is true, perfect and pure.

God is wise, free and absolute. All His plans are perfect and in His freedom all His plans will be accomplished. They will be completed in His own time. No thing, and no creature will be able to thwart these plans.

God is self-sufficient. He needs no-one.

God alone is to be worshipped with glory and honour. Only in God alone can all blessedness and goodness be found. In knowing Him, man is complete.

God is the uncreated being who has created all things: heaven and earth; terrestrial and spiritual; men and angels. All have been made by Him, and nothing that was made was created without God.

God is one in essence and three in persons: God the Father; God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. This truth is one of the hardest doctrines for some people to grasp or understand, yet a careful reading of the entire bible will show clearly that this is true about God. It is true that the word Trinity is not found in the bible. It is a word of three-ness, and comes from the Latin word ‘trinitas’ coined by Tertullian of Carthage at the end of the second century. The Christian church has freely used the word since about A.D. 220. However, it is plainly taught in the Bible, for there are many passages where all three persons are mentioned as being God.

God the Trinity. It is one of the very many deep truths about God and it is right that we should take some more time in thinking about God as our ‘Triune’ God.

You may have noticed that the name of our church is: “Trinity Grace Church”. This is no accident, for we have understood that our God is one in essence, yet three in persons and this truth is the foundation block for understanding God and the Gospel.

When a true, honest and systematic study is taken on what the bible says about God, we cannot but come to the realization that God is one in essence, yet three distinct persons. By the word ‘Persons’ we mean that there are personal self-distinctions within the divine Being, who can use of themselves the word ‘I’, and of the others the words ‘thou’ and ‘he’, but we do not mean that the divine Being is capable of being divided, or is to be thought of as a collection of three separate individuals. They have among the ‘Persons’ one intelligence and one will. Each ‘Person’ is fully God. It is not that each person is a third of God. God is The undivided Three, and the mysterious One.

This doctrine is hard for man to understand and in fact, we cannot fully understand The Holy Trinity, but this does not make it untrue. We must realise that in the Scriptures, both Old and New testaments, we have the Holy Trinity revealed but not explained. When the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity is denied, it is denied not because it is not true, rather because men cannot understand it or grasp it with their minds.

This Church worships the infinite Triune God, who is the self-existent creator. God is unchangeable and will never fully be known. The infinite depths of God are past finding out. Our God deserves all our praise and glory.

God is Three Persons.

A) The Father is God
“Yet for us there is one God, the father, of whom are all things . . .” 1 Corinthians 8 v. 6a

Consider:
Here the Father is spoken of as God, but not as to exclude the Son and the Holy Spirit from their rightful claim of being God. He is God the Father in relation to His creatures: the father of spirits; the creator of angels; the creator of the souls of men; and is the Father of all the mercies and blessings the children of men enjoy. The first person of the Godhead is Father in relation to the Son (the only begotten of the Father) and the third person, the Spirit (the Holy Spirit), proceeds from the Father and the Son. Many times the bible speaks of God as being the Father, the first person in the trinity. God the Father is fully God and not a third part of God.

B) The Son is God

“and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.” 1 Corinthians 8 v. 6b
“. . of whom are the fathers and from whom according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen” Romans 9 v. 5.
“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” 1 John 5 v 20.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made though Him and without Him nothing was made that was made.” John 1 v 1-3.

Let us consider some points from John 1 v 1-3.

1) The term “Word” is the name given to Jesus. Here John refers to the time before he came into this world, for he was begotten not created, the eternal Son of God.

2) “and the Word was God.”
It is grammatically incorrect to insert the indefinite article ‘a’ between ‘was’ and ‘God’ the Greek text does not warrant such a claim.

3) Our English cannot give easily what John is saying here, however, it is something like this:

The word was face to face with God. The Word was close to God, intimate with God. The Word was fully God, but He was not all that God is, for there is more to God than the Word. He is God in every sense but by himself He does not make up the entire Godhead. The Word, was God, fully God, utterly God, and completely God. The Word was essentially God. However, when you look at the Word you have not said all that can be said about God. This is truly an enigma, for how can the Son of God be all of God and yet when we have said all we can about Him, there is more to say of God? This is hard to understand, but God is not one person, but three. God is Triune and because of this, we can answer the enigma in part by looking at their unity. For in the oneness of the Trinity, we can say: ‘God is Love’. There is an outgoing love and communion between the persons of the Godhead, and with His people. Indeed, in the unity of the trinity there is beautiful unselfishness.

4) John 1 v. 3 speaks of all things being made by Jesus, and this is said twice to emphasise the fact.

First: “All things were made though Him”

Secondly: “without Him nothing was made that was made.”

Here we have confirmation that Jesus made all things, and as only God can create all things, therefore we must conclude that Jesus is God. John here records that Jesus shows in his nature one of God’s great attributes. This creation out of nothing cannot be copied by man.

In Colossians 1 v. 15, 16 we are told by the apostle Paul that Jesus created all things.

“He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.”

We need to see that the Son of God is fully God.

C The Holy Spirit is God

“But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not in your own control? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” Acts 5 v. 3, 4.

Consider the following:

1) Peter here in Acts 5 v. 3, 4 makes two remarks:
The first remark – A question:

“Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?”

The second remark – A statement:

“You have not lied to men but to God.”

Therefore, we can conclude, that a lie to the Holy Spirit is a lie to God, so the Holy Spirit is God.

Again we can prove that the Holy Spirit is God from the following:

“But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.” 1 Corinthians 2 v.10, 11.

The deep things of God are only known by God, and yet we are told that the Holy Spirit knows the deep things of God. Therefore we can conclude that the Holy Spirit is God.

We have by quoting Scripture honestly proved that God is Triune: God the Father; God the Son; and God the Holy Spirit.

Now it is time for a story, after which we will consider a question and seek to answer it in all truth and sincerity.

Two men walk up to the front door of a house. The person in the house does not know these two men. They are reformed Christians. That is, they believe the bible is inspired by God the Holy Spirit, and so all of it is true. From the bible the two men have found out many truths about God.

1) God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.

2) Man was created on the sixth day, being made perfect. He was extra special, different from all other creation, in that he was made in the likeness of God.

3) Man sinned, first in Adam (the first man), and then all men have sinned by their own volition.

4) This sin destroyed the wonderful relationship man had with God. Adam was banished from the Garden of Eden where God fellowshipped with man. Adam and Eve were therefore estranged from God. They become strangers to God and His ways.

5) Yet, God promised a Saviour that would bring man back to God. In due time, God the Father sent His Eternal Son into the world, born of a woman. He became a man of sorrows, a man who would take the punishment of sin upon Himself, in order that we could be reconciled to God.

The two men approached the door and knocked. A lady answered it. One of them spoke and said:

“Hello, we are from the Church which is in the High street and we have come to tell you the good news about God. At first, in Adam, man had a wonderful full loving relationship with God, but that relationship was broken when Adam sinned. However, now our relationship with God can be restored for God the Father has sent His one and only son to die for our sins that all who believe on Him shall be saved. Let me read a verse from the bible.”

Then turning to John 3 verse 16 he read these words:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemned the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
John 3 v. 16-17

The lady then spoke. Her words were not spoken out of love for the two men, or out of love for God, but were spoken out of anger.

“I do not want anything to do with your God, in fact I do not believe He exists. If he did, why is there so much suffering in the world, and so much poverty? So many people are struggling to make ends meet and my sister’s daughter is mentally handicapped. I tell you there can be no God with all this happening!”

Having made this statement, the lady was determined to shut the door, having said what she considered to be the last word on the matter. Yet, for some strange reason she allows one of the men to speak again.

So then, that is the story so far, now comes the question I promised: “What can the reformed Christian say?” Many of her observations of the world are true, but is God to blame? How could this Christian man reply?

This is what he said:

“I am sorry for your personal sadness, and it is true that there is much suffering and poverty in the world, but let me tell you something about the God we proclaim. This God is our creator, and if he did not create us then we would not exist. Now this God is greater than us. He is not our servant, but we owe him everything. We are made to worship and glorify him. Our greatest enjoyment will be in loving and serving him. In the past there were men who studied the bible seriously and collated together some questions and answers to help us all understand the truth about God and His word. One important question that they asked was: “What is the chief end of man?” The answer was partly obvious and partly surprising. The obvious part of the answer was: “To Glorify God”. This is not at all surprising for if God created us, which He did, then we owe him our praise.
Then they said that which is the surprising part of the answer, “and to ENJOY him forever.” Surprising? Yes, for the God who is far above us, who created us, and owes us nothing, wants us to enjoy Him. He wants us to be excited, thrilled and fulfilled in knowing and being with Him. God wants us to know him deeply and intimately and that is far more than we deserve.

Three amazing expressions of this are declared by three men who are all completely different.

The first is a reluctant prophet whose name was Balaam, who said this wonderful truth about God:

“God is not a man, that He should lie.
Nor the Son of Man,
that He should repent.
Has He said, and will He not make it good.”
Numbers 23:19
Here God is shown to be forever true to himself.

The second is King David:

“What is man that You are mindful of Him,
And the Son of man that You visit him?
For You have made him a little lower than the Angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honour.”
Psalm 8 v. 4,5

Here King David in his role as a psalmist speaks of the greatness of God and the smallness of man.

The third man is the Apostle Paul:

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
Romans 8:28

Here in the letter to the Romans Paul proclaims that for those who love God, who seek to enjoy him forever, to them and them alone ALL THINGS work together for good.

So then, I Implore you to seek God. Seek to know Him, love Him and Enjoy him forever. Accept the sacrifice of God’s son for your Sins. Only then will you understand that despite the suffering and poverty in this world, that God is in control and that whatever happens all things will work for your good.

Do not treat God as your servant, treat him as He deserves. Worship Him and trust Him as your LORD and SAVIOUR.”

The moral of this short story is this. Our attitude to God should be one of obedience, love, wonder and awe. For it is so amazing that our creator should have stooped so low to bring us up to Him, in order that once more we should have fellowship with him – a fellowship which will be even more blessed than that which Adam and Eve experienced before the fall.

We have now considered something more of the God of Paul, the one who is our God. But as we conclude, do you know this God as your Father or as your Judge? Perhaps you can say with certainty, “I know God as my Father, for I know His Son as my Saviour and Lord, and the Holy Spirit is dwelling within me now”. If so we can truly say, “Amen, praise the Lord!”

However, you may say, “Well, I have not given it much consideration. I do not really know God, or His Son. I have never given it much thought.” In response to this we must say, that God is now your Judge, and that is a terrible situation to be in. For that means, that you will be judged by God entirely on your own merit. We are all sinners and sinners are under God’s condemnation, unless we are in Christ. If this is your situation there is good news for you. You do not have to leave it as it is now. You can call on the name of the Lord, seek Jesus and ask him into your life. Look to the Scriptures and find Him there. He and He alone can bring you back to God and then the Father will smile on you, and call you His son.
Amen


Paul and his Identity Part 1
Written by Nicholas Boardman, one of the members of TGC Ramsbottom.

In writing business letters today, we usually start by typing the date, our telephone number, the business address of the recipient and the name of the person we are writing to in the company, remembering to put in brackets the position they hold within the company.

Then we start the main substance of the letter with reference to the subject we wish to write about. It is, however, at the end of the letter we state who we are, and if appropriate, our position and perhaps our qualifications (in the form of letters after our name).

However, in Paul’s day, about 2,000 years ago in the Middle East, this way of letter writing was not the custom. Here we find that the person sending the letter makes himself known at the beginning of the letter.

So, when Paul writes to the church at Rome, a church he had not visited or planted, a church where he knew only a few of the members, he, as was the custom of the time, makes himself known at the beginning of the letter.

He starts with ‘Paul’ his name, and then states three qualifying characteristics about himself. These three are for Paul personal and very much a part of himself. To understand these characteristics is to understand who Paul is.

Characteristic one: A Bondservant of Jesus Christ

What is a bondservant? In order to understand this we must refer back to a book in the Old Testament: Exodus. In chapter 21 and verses 1-6 we see the rules regarding a Hebrew Servant or Slave. After serving 6 years the servant was to be set free in the seventh year. However, if his master in that time had given him a wife and they had children together, then the wife and children would still remain the property of the master, and the servant alone would be free.

Now, the servant, out of love for the master, and his wife and children may wish to stay as a slave. He would then choose to become a ‘bondservant’, a servant of love towards his master, by making a declaration, a legal statement concerning his willingness to stay as a servant. The form of the statement was laid down and it was this: “I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free”. Then the master would bring him to the judges. He would also bring him to the door and the doorpost, and the master would pierce his ear with an awl. Then the slave would serve his master forever, for he had become a bondservant, a love slave.

Here Paul, at the beginning of this letter makes this declaration that he is a bondservant, a slave out of love for someone. That someone is the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul so loves Him, that he is willing to serve him at all costs. He is willing to do his bidding, all out of love. So the first thing we see about Paul is that he is not his own, he is a Love Servant of Jesus.

Christian, we too, are love servants of Christ. For His love to us is amazing. Remember, our first master was a usurper. Being in Adam we became like our father, Sinners. We became selfish, at the whim of our flesh, and the Sin Enticer of Adam became our Sin Enticer. This Sin Enticer came from serving God in a high office, being an Angel in Heaven of high rank. This Angel was called Lucifer, which means: the Day Star, the Son of the Morning, the Shining one. Lucifer became self-seeking and tried to snatch God’s Glory for himself. God will not allow another to share His Glory, and so Lucifer fell and became Satan, the Devil, and his end will be, ‘the lake of fire and brimstone’ (Revelation 20 v. 10). However, although we are sinners, following in the ways of the evil one, God saved us from Sin and Satan’s power, because of His great love for us, a love that is totally undeserved.

Now, out of love for God we have become His bond servant and our joy is serving God. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians reminds us of what we were and what we are now:
“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
BUT GOD, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ ( by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” Ephesians 2 v. 1 – 6.

Dear brother and sister in Christ, remember then whose servant you are and do not allow the Devil, Satan, to destroy your freedom in Christ. The Devil is no longer your master, but he can tempt you to fall into sin. The Devil cannot make you fall, but he can make you do your own ‘falling’. Take care to do Christ’s bidding in His strength and then you will not fall.

Characteristic two: An apostle

Paul has been called to be an apostle. An apostle is ‘one who is sent’, and to be sent you have to be called. The call to Paul was God’s Sovereign call. In human terms Paul could not have been an apostle, yet he was by the working of God. In order to understand how this came about we must consider in detail the question, “What is an apostle?”

Apostles were a small class of men to whom Christ entrusted the founding of His church. Apostles are the foundation of the Christian Church and Christ Himself is the rock upon which the foundation is laid. The apostles rest firmly on Christ in all this work.

In Matthew 28 v. 18-20 Jesus gives the commission to His apostles, and indeed to the Church with these words:

‘“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth, go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.”

Initially, Jesus called 12 apostles. They were: Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot.

In order to be called an Apostle certain conditions had to be met:

1. They all should have seen the Lord Jesus Christ here on earth, being eye and ear witnesses of what they testify.
2. They were to be gifted with infallible inspiration by the Spirit of God, in order to be able to do two special works for the Lord:

a) Explain to the known world, how the Old Testament speaks of Christ. (This explanation was especially important to the Jews, for it was interpreting their Scriptures correctly).

b) To write the New Testament, that being the unalterable standard of faith and practice in all succeeding generations.

3. They could perform miracles speak many languages, cure the sick and lame and confer these gifts on others (but only the gifts, not the ability to confer gifts on others).

The apostles then were a ‘once only’ gift to the church. They could have no successors. Their qualifications were supernatural. No long period of study or university degree was required. God alone choose them, and equipped them for this work.

The Christian Church relies on the apostles teaching, the infallible record of which is found in the New Testament. This has been given for the instruction and guidance of the Church in all ages. Thus we see that by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, apostles are the authoritative teachers of Christianity.

However, that said, I need to clear up two seeming anomalies, one of which refers to the Apostle Paul directly.

The first is regarding Judas Iscariot and his betrayal of Jesus and subsequent suicide. The Church under the leadership of Peter considered what had happened to Judas (Acts 1: 16-19). They referred to two Old Testament scriptures that spoke about Judas.

They were:

Psalm 69:25
“Let his dwelling place be desolate, and let no
one live in it.”

Psalm 109:8
“Let his days be few, and let another take his
office.”

As a result, they considered all who had followed them from the days of Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist and, after praying, the lot fell on Matthias who was then numbered with the eleven apostles.

The second anomaly refers to Paul. How could he possibly become a chosen apostle of God? I propose to tell the story of Paul’s conversion in part two, but the bottom line truth is that Paul was made an apostle by a miracle of God taking place outside of ‘due time’. Here, we see God’s marvellous and miraculous work in an individual. This was God’s work for the sake of Paul and the Church. In order to whet our appetite in this matter, let us look at a few scriptures to show that Paul was indeed qualified to be called an apostle.

1 Corinthians 9 v. 1-2:

“Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you. For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.”

Here Paul confirms that he has seen the Lord. We can also see this truth repeated elsewhere in scripture.

Acts 9 v. 4-5:

“Then (Paul) fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” and he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.””

While ministering in Corinth, the Lord Jesus spoke to him in a vision.

Acts 18 v. 9-10

“Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.””

After he returned from Damascus to Jerusalem we read:

Acts 22: 17-19

“Now it happened, when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I was in a trance and saw Him saying to me, “Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not receive your testimony concerning Me.”

My final scripture at this time, to prove that Paul saw Jesus is from the first letter to the Corinthians. We read:

1 Corinthians 15: 3-10

“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

So then, here we see the history of apostleship and how Paul was qualified, not by education (although he was a learned man) but by the supernatural intervention of our Triune God. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out.

We stand in wonder in amazement at our God and rejoice in the fact that the Christian Faith is ‘supernatural’ and cannot be explained in human reasoning alone, but in the fact that we have a God who is unsearchable. When these truths are revealed in Scripture we do not try to hide from them or make them fit in with man’s knowledge but we look to our God and glory in Him and them.

Characteristic three: Separated to the Gospel of God

Here we see that whatever work or lifestyle he was involved in from birth and in his early life, there was a time when Paul was taken out of it and given another work, indeed another lifestyle. The work he was given was for ‘the Gospel of God’. From now on he would work for this ‘Gospel of God’. But what is it, and how do you work or labour in it?

The Gospel of God is the Good News of God. So often good news comes to us in the light of something bad that has happened. For instance, if I had a call to say that the ship my wife was sailing in had sunk, that would be bad news. I would be very sad and in great distress. However, if the caller then said that although the ship had sunk my wife was safe, that’s good news. In fact the good news is very much better than the bad news.

Paul then, is to present to everyone, Good News from God. So, we know that Paul is to present to everyone Good News. We also know that this Good News is from God. Who then is God?

We need to know who God is, if we are to understand something about what Paul is doing. If Paul is to spend the whole of the rest of his life in presenting Good news from God, then, I need, and you need to know if the Good News from God, which Paul is presenting is worth listening to. Therefore, we need to know who God is. For if Paul is presenting Good News from someone who has a bit of a suspect character, then it would be better if we ignored it. For good news from a dodgy character is probably not good news at all.

We must then look at a few truths about God, but take note, the more we know about God, the more we will realise there is to know about Him. Here is something then, about God, something that will whet our appetite and give us a desire, a hunger to know more about Him. Please note, I am not, I cannot tell you everything about God. I can as it were only give you a taster.

There is one God. He is self-existent and infinite in His being and in His perfections. He alone possesses immortality, and dwells amid light insufferably bright to mortal men. God never changes. He is great beyond all our conceptions, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty and infinite. God is most holy, wise, free and absolute. God is all-sufficient, and all life, all glory, all goodness and blessedness are found in Him and in Him alone. God is uncreated and He is the Creator of Heaven and Earth. Nothing that was created was created without Him. God is one in essence, yet three in persons. God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Paul now is going to tell us the good news from God, but first to help us understand the greatness of the good news He needs to tell us the bad news (because the bad news caused the need of the good news).

Now, we have seen something about the infinite being who is giving Paul the good news to proclaim. You may not agree with me, but I believe that the good news from the loving infinite being is going to be very very good. In fact, the good news’ great goodness is illuminated by the bad news.

Consider the good and bad news as a picture with the bad news as a dark, black on black background and on top of this is the good news shining out with a white bright light whose intensity is so overwhelming, being emphasised even more by the dark black bad news background. Indeed it is so bright that it overcomes the very bad news. How wonderful it is that Paul is going to tell us all about the good news and in doing so use the bad news to intensify the goodness of the good news – the goodness of the Gospel.

I am eager to hear what Paul has to say, yet I have a rhetorical question, for those who know something about this Gospel and something about this one true God, and it is this:

“Are you separated unto the Gospel of God?”

You may not be a full time Christian worker like Paul, but if you were cut would you bleed the bible? Do your witness in words and lifestyle show that you are not of this world but of another? Are you ready to give a reason for your faith in God and why you love him so? It is not only the Paul’s that are wanted, but faithful people like Dorcas (Acts 9:36-42) and that is something for us all to think about.

Amen

Paul and his Identity Part 2
Written by Nicholas Boardman, one of the members of TGC Ramsbottom.

 Paul was given such a glorious work from the infinite God. It is so amazing that this God uses people with such a vast array of skills and talents, and who come from many different backgrounds. It does not seem to matter to God, whether a person is rich or poor, or healthy or sick. He uses whoever He chooses, and He chooses whoever He wants to.

To understand how Paul became a messenger for God we are going to follow his story through the pages of the Bible. We will paraphrase this to bring out the succinct points we need to see. However, we need to fully realise that this is a true story with a spiritual realm. This is a realm that man without the knowledge of God, man in his materialism cannot understand or believe. It is also a story, though, that is believed by all Christians, for it is from the Bible, and the Bible is God’s word to man. This is what Paul himself stated in 2 Timothy 3: 16-17:

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”        

At first Paul’s name was not Paul, but Saul. Saul came from Tarsus, which was a chief city of Cilicia, a seaport, and a Roman province. Saul was a Roman citizen. His parents were Hebrew and maintained the Hebrew tradition and language, despite living in a pagan city.

Saul grew up to be a pure Hebrew, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, being of the tribe of Benjamin. He was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, a well-respected Jewish rabbi, and was taught according to the strictness of the Jewish faith and law.

Saul became zealous for the Jewish faith and tradition, so much so, that on completion of his up-bringing, he became very angry when confronted with the followers of Jesus. This led to Saul even consenting to the death of Stephen as we read in Acts 7 v. 58:

“. . . and they cast Stephen out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul”

But this was just the start of it, for we read that Saul continued in the same vain, with deep seated anger towards the followers of ‘The Way’:

“Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the High Priest and asked letters from him to the Synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of ‘The Way’ whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.”
Acts 9v.1-2.

Given the letter he proceeded to Damascus, but by the time he arrived there he was a different person. Something incredible, yes something amazing had happened to him!!

To find out what, we read from Acts 9 v. 3b – 6:

“Suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him; ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ So he, trembling and astonished, said, ‘Lord what do You want me to do?’”

As a result of this, Saul was left blind. He was taken to the House of Judas on Straight Street in Damascus, and in this blind state He prayed to God. Now, as a zealous Jew, he would have prayed to God many times before, but these prayers would have been out of pride and vanity. Surely, God does not hear anyone who prays that way.

Ananias, a faithful servant of God, was called to go to Saul at:

The House of Judas,
Straight Street,
Damascus.

This he did, yet not without fear and trembling. For, he had heard how Saul had done bad things to the Saints at Jerusalem. God calmed his troubled breast by saying to him:

“Saul is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My Name before Gentiles, Kings, and the Children of Israel.”       Acts 9 v.15b

Ananias went to Saul, and laying his hands on him, said: ‘Brother Saul’. Wow! Here we have Saul, an enemy of the Saints, being called a Brother.

“Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 9v17.

At the speaking of these words from Ananias something like scales fell off his eyes and he immediately received his sight. Then he arose and was baptized.

We have just read an amazing story, a true event in the life of Saul. Christians everywhere believe this, for it is written in God’s Holy and precious word. However, there are more amazing and incredible truths to come.

So what happens next? We find out from a letter Paul wrote to the Galatians many years later. Galatia was a region in what was then Asia Minor, but is now called Turkey. In order then, for me to arrive at the heart of what I want to tell you about, I will paraphrase what Paul said:

‘In former times I persecuted the Church of God very zealously, trying to destroy it. But God, called me through His grace, to reveal the true identity of Jesus Christ His Son in me. For in His will, He would have me to preach Christ among the Gentiles. Yet I did not immediately speak to any man, but went to Arabia, and after being prepared for ministry by the Lord I returned again to Damascus. At this time Damascus was not a safe place for me, and I was nearly killed there. However, I escaped with the help of the disciples, who at night let me down through the city wall in a large basket.’

Then Saul went back to Jerusalem. At first, though, he was not accepted by the disciples. However, Barnabas spoke out for him and He was accepted by the apostles. He then Preached Christ at Jerusalem until they sent him down to Caesarea and also to Tarsus, where he stayed for several years.

Around the time Paul returned to Tarsus from Jerusalem another amazing event took place in the life of Paul. He reluctantly speaks of it in 2 Corinthians 12. We know that he was reluctant to speak about it for two reasons:
In the first place, there were those in Corinth who claimed to be super spiritual and believed that Paul was ‘a nobody’. It was essential to Paul and the Church at Corinth, that Paul’s right to spiritual authority over the church in love was upheld, so he hesitantly shared this experience with them.

Secondly, he speaks in the third person, to describe what happened to him. The implication is that he is speaking of himself, but he doesn’t want to boast about it. Here is a paraphrase to the true event:

‘I know a man in Christ, who, whether in or out of the body, was caught up to the third heaven. He was caught up to Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for anyone to utter.’

The facts are that Paul went to Heaven, probably out of the body, and heard the Triune God speaking. This is true, because it is in the Bible. (2 Corinthians 12 v. 1-4).

However, there was a price to pay for this revelation.  Just as Jacob suffered when He wrestled with God, so Paul came away from this experience with a thorn in the flesh. This was something in his body that troubled him for the rest of his earthly life.

Consider what we have understood about the life of Paul so far. We have seen that at first he was brought up as a Jew. After learning the law under Gamaliel, he did all he could to destroy the Christian Faith. Then God called him, and he became a follower of Christ and a preacher of the Gospel. He was not taught his faith by anyone but Christ. After his conversion and acceptance by the apostles, Barnabas befriended him and became his mentor and teacher.

However, in God’s plan it was not long before he became Barnabas’ leader and was used greatly in the blessing of the Christian Church in its early days.

The subject of Paul’s growing authority in the church was, and is, an interesting one. It seems to hinge on what at first reading seems to be a most insignificant verse. It seems to have no doctrinal substance, or application. It looks as if it is just straight forward narrative. Yet, first impressions can be deceptive. For this verse is the king-pin to a change in Paul’s authority. It marks the beginning of a period of the proclamation of the Gospel to places and people further and further away from Jerusalem. But before we look at the verse, we need a little of its background.

The background starts with a reading of a few verses from Acts:

“But the word of God grew and multiplied. And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their ministry, and they also took with them John whose surname was Mark.
Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.”   Acts 12:24 – 13:3 

Within this passage we have a list of men starting with Barnabas and ending with Saul. Now these men were described as ‘certain prophets and teachers’. The question is, who were the prophets and who were the teachers? I believe that all in the list were both prophets and teachers. I also believe that the order of the list is important, so that the first in the list is the most spiritually mature and spiritually senior and the last in the list is the most spiritually immature and spiritually junior. However, having said that, all in the list are bona fide prophets and teachers. Thus, we find that at the beginning of the list is Barnabas, and at the end of the list is Saul.

The gifts of being a prophet and teacher are given by God, as is also the ‘time and development to maturity’. According to God’s purposes the process starts at different times and the maturity develops to different degrees in different time frames. In this entire process God is in control.

At the end of the passage in Acts that we are now considering, the most mature of the group is paired with the most immature. By the work and authority of the Holy Spirit, Barnabas and Saul are called out to be missionaries. The Holy Spirit speaks and says: ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then the text reads in Acts 13-4:

“So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.”  

Then in Acts 13:6, Barnabas and Saul are found on the Island of Paphos preaching the gospel to a proconsul called Sergius Paulus. He was an intelligent man who sought out Barnabas and Saul in order to hear the gospel. However, there was a sorcerer and false prophet, a Jew who called himself Bar-Jesus, whose real name was Elymas. This man withstood Barnabas and Saul, but Saul in the Power of the Holy Spirit made Elymas blind for a time. It is here that we come to the verse which seemingly seems so insignificant, but one that seems to be a turning point in the continuing evangelisation of the Gospel.  

Before Saul proclaimed Elymas blind we read this in Acts 13:9:

“Then Saul, who is also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit looked intently at him (Elymas),”

From this moment on it is Paul who takes the lead, and in most cases we do not read “Barnabas and Saul” but “Paul and Barnabas”. Yes, the apprentice “Prophet and Teacher” now becomes the leader in the fledgling church. This change of leadership is further proven by Luke when he writes in Acts 13:13 the following: “Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos.”

We have seen an amazing life story. However, the important matter is that God wanted Paul to preach the Gospel and tell people about this good news. This is what Paul did, and in fact he accomplished much more.

Paul wrote many letters, and these letters have become a treasured part of the bible. We now can read and understand what Paul wrote about the Gospel. The letter to the Romans is a prime example of God’s Gospel being expressed by God’s Servant in his own words. Amazing!

What I have told you here about the life of Paul is not all there is to say about Paul. More can be found in the Bible: in Acts and all Paul’s letters to the churches.

Paul was brought kicking and screaming into the Kingdom, but he ended up as a servant of God, a love slave of God and by the grace of God He would not have it any other way.

What about you? Are you going to find yourself dragged into the Kingdom of God kicking and screaming, or perhaps not even anywhere near it? I hope not. I hope and pray that you will consider the Gospel in all its wonderful colours and hues, and be convinced of the love of the Triune God. In that love He has given us everything and our rightful response should be to give our all. We could never earn righteousness before God by our own works, but only through His love. Paul wanted to love and glorify God from His own heart because of what He had done for him. What about you?


Message from a dying thief

Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” 40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41 “And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” 43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

In the events surrounding the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ, God has given the world a wonderful illustration of what the Bible’s Message is all about. In Luke’s account of the crucifixion he describes the conversion of one of the criminals crucified with Christ, and in doing so provides for us an example of what it means to be truly converted to Christianity.
Luke 23:39

Recognition of Personal Guilt.
It would appear that the thief in question was suddenly confronted with a real sense of his own personal guilt and shame as he hung dying on a cross. We are told in Mathews account that both those crucified with Christ reviled and mocked Him along with the crowd, (Mt 27:44) yet one begins to realise the guilty state of his own soul, not only in his mockery of Christ but in the Godless life he had lived. By his own admission he was receiving the ‘due reward of his deeds’(v41)

Recognition of Accountability to God.
It is obvious that the thief realised there was another judgement to fear other than the sentence already passed by a human court.(v40…. “Do you not even fear God…”) Humanly speaking there was nothing else to fear from this worlds justice since he was receiving the greatest penalty afforded to human courts. Yet he was made aware that his life was soon to be brought before the Eternal Judgement of God and that prospect quite rightly began to fill his heart with fear.

Recognition of Christ’s Righteousness.
During the time spent on his instrument of execution the thief was struck by something else about the person hanging next to him. Witnessing the intense and unjust mockery of the crowd and indeed his own mockery, contrasted by the dignity, love and grace in the person of Christ, what became clear was the guilt of the accusers, not the one dying next to him. (v41”….this Man has done nothing wrong.”)

Recognition of Christ as Lord and King.
It can be safely assumed from v41 that the thief believed Jesus was innocent of any wrong doing including that of deceiving the people concerning his claims to be ‘Gods own Son.’ The manner in which Christ was addressed makes it abundantly clear that the thief was wholly convinced concerning the claims made by Jesus as being the ‘Son of God’. He addresses Christ as ‘Lord’ and makes reference to a Kingdom to be inherited. (v42… “Lord, ……….Your kingdom”

Plea from a Penitent Sinner.
V42 “……remember me……..” There is in this statement made by the thief, a complete abandonment of any confidence in his own merit or worth, and a complete leaning on the person of Christ to be merciful and gracious. There was no possibility of him being able to turn over a new leaf or begin attendance at a place of worship, get christened or confirmed. He was in no position to start putting right the wrong that he had done or begin to try to earn favour with God with charitable deeds or knocking on doors. His only plea is in the compassion and grace of the one he recognised as his ‘Only Saviour’.

What Does This Mean to Me?
One may ask the question what does all this have to do with me? The stark truth is that when it comes to our relationship with God we are in a very similar position to this dieing thief. We live under the same moral curse that our first parents were placed under; Gen 2:17 Gen 3:19 “….. For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.” Uncomfortable though the thought is, it remains a fact that each one of us (like the thief) will one day have to face the reality of our own mortality. In order to lay claim to the blessings presented to us in the Christian Gospel there are a number of other truths which (like the thief) we must be fully persuaded about:

Firstly:- Recognition of Personal Guilt.
One of the blatantly clear teachings of the Bible is the fact that every human being born into our world, including you and me is personally guilty of breaking the perfected moral standards of a Morally pure and Holy God. Rom 3: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The truth is we often fail to meet our own standards let alone Gods perfect standard. This is often a very difficult truth to swallow and one which many people are offended at, yet the truth remains, we all stand personally Guilty of breaking Gods law whether in word thought or deed.

Secondly:- Recognition of Accountability to God.
People often reap the consequences of there own sinful actions but often they do not. Some may find themselves in prison for crimes committed whilst others avoid the law or are let off on some legal technicality. If a person is going to become spiritually awakened then like the thief there must be a recognition that no matter what we do, or do not appear to get away with our lives will one day be brought before the judgement of the all seeing all knowing God. Heb 9:27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,

If one has any knowledge at all of the God who has revealed Himself in the scriptures then, like the thief the prospect will be accompanied with a great deal of anxiety Heb 10:31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Thirdly:- Recognition of Christ’s Righteousness.
Whilst the Bible is insistent on the truth that we all stand guilty before the throne of Almighty God, it is equally insistent in it’s testimony to the fact that there is one exception to this rule. That exception is the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. It soon becomes apparent with just a cursory glance through the Bible that Jesus Christ stands alone in this respect. Every other hero of Scripture is portrayed with all there faults as well as their virtues; whether Peter David Noah etc.. yet of Christ the Bible says Heb 4:15 “…., yet without sin.” Never once did he fall below that perfect moral character which God requires. Jesus was even able to challenged his enemies to find fault: Joh 8:46 “Which of you convicts Me of sin? and non were able. Like the thief they had to admit Lk.23:41…. but this Man has done nothing wrong.”

Fourthly:- Recognition of Christ as Lord and King.
Again like the thief we need to understand that Jesus Christ is not only perfect man but that he is Lord of all creation Ro 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved Php 2:11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Confessing Christ as Lord as the dieing thief did and recognising the claims and authority he has over our lives is essential if we are to be true Christian believers.

Fifthly:- Plea from a Penitent Sinner
Being aware of, and believing the points made so far will still avail nothing if we do not turn to Christ in true repentance and faith. We must abandon confidence in any merit or worth in ourselves and trust wholly in the one who was condemned in the place of guilty sinners and plead the merits of his sacrificial death. Only in Christ can we hope to stand before a Holy God. Only washed in his blood and clothed with his righteousness can we be made acceptable to God. Ac 16:31 …… “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved….”

In Conclusion
Probably the simplest lesson and greatest encouragement to be learned from the conversion of the crucified thief is the truth that it is never to late to trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. No matter how bad our lives may have been to this point, no matter how little time we may have left: Jesus Christ can still deliver from the guilt and fear of sin and it’s consequences. He alone can give the promise of eternal life and a home in Heaven. Heb 7:25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

It is the prayer of our Church that many will come to know this wonderful Lord and Saviour, and find in Him the source of everlasting peace joy and hope.

These lessons are written by Nicholas one of the members of our Church, we hope you enjoy reading them.


Messages from the Life of Peter

Peter brought to Jesus by Andrew

“Again the next day, John stood with two of his disciples and looking at Jesus as he walked, he said “Behold the Lamb of God” The two disciples heard him speak and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned and seeing them following said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to him, “Rabbi”, ….. “where are you staying?” He said to them “Come and see.” ……. One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” Which is translated, The Christ. John Chap. 1 v 35-41.

Every one who now follows Christ, who now accepts that Jesus is Lord and Saviour of there lives, know of a time when Christ meant nothing to them. It is this time, the time when we move from caring nothing for Christ to the time when Christ means everything, that we call our testimony.

Simon Peter’s testimony tell’s of a brother who followed John the Baptist. A brother who accepted that the first requirement of every sinner is to repent. To turn around. To stop walking away from Jesus and start walking towards him. Andrew listened to John when he said: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Andrew met Christ and came to realise who Jesus really was. This brother could not keep the good news to himself, but at the first opportunity went to tell Peter. ” We have found the Messiah”

The good news travelled from John the Baptist to Andrew, from Andrew to Peter. Peter then had to decide for himself, so he went to see Jesus and we know, despite his many failings, Peter became a faithful servant to Jesus for the rest of his life.

Sometimes, we are afraid to evangelise, we see the enormity of speaking to everybody, it scares and frightens us, so we end up speaking to nobody. Yet God calls us only to speak to that brother or sister, that friend or relative, one to one, leave the rest to God.

Looking unto Jesus
But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. ….. Jesus spoke to them saying “Be of good cheer! It is I, do not be afraid. ” And Peter answered him and said Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water. So he said, ” Come ” and when Peter came down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind was boisterous he was afraid: and beginning to sink he cried out saying, “Lord Save Me!” Mathew Chap 14 v. 24-25, 27-30.

Steven was delighted when he was called, into the manager’s office. His manager told him the good news. ” We have considered your application for the vacancy which as just arisen and we are pleased to be able to offer you promotion. ” Steven was excited. He told his wife how he would be able to tithe more, and would continue the work he undertook in the Church. However, as time went on the pressures of the office, meant little by little he gave up all the work he did in the Church. Even the increased tithe he promised to give never materialised. There was always something else he had to spend his money on. He had taken his eyes off Jesus.

Peter and his friends were all alone in a boat tossed to and fro with the winds, when Jesus walks on the water towards them. Peter could not wait for Jesus to come into the boat, so he asked Jesus, ” Command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus bid him come, and so Peter stepped out of the boat into the water. All was fine at first, but then Peter turned his eyes off Jesus onto the boisterous wind and he began to sink.

Like Peter, we to, can take our eyes off Jesus. We can make our career, our families, our money more important than Christ. If we take our eyes off Jesus we are in the danger-zone.

Let us today examine our lives, and see just what our eyes are fixed upon. What are our priorities in this life.

Peter confesses Christ
When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. Mathew 16 v 13 – 17

The Old testament speaks on many occasions of “The Christ”, “The Messiah” who has to come to save his people. For example we read in Isaiah:

” For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon his shoulder. And he will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. ” Isaiah 9 v.6

” Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted, But he was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; Isaiah 53 v. 4, 5a.

In Zechariah we read:

” ….. Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey. “

Zechariah 9 v. 9

Peter would have known something of the Scriptures from his childhood. He would look with expectancy for “The Christ,” “The Messiah”.

However, when realisation finally broke through for Peter, Jesus commended him not because he was a Scholar in the Scriptures but because God had revealed the truth to him.

When we read the Scriptures, they can be dry and hard to grasp. We need to pray to God to help us read them with the Holy Spirits illumination. Then what was closed to us can be open and Oh, what a delight it is when God opens the Scriptures and we see truths we had missed before.

Pride comes before a fall
“From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offence to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”Matthew 16 v. 21 – 23

In a world, where Christ name is blasphemed rather than honoured, where the Holy Scriptures are not read. God’s precious word is considered equal to writings of other religions. The idea that Jesus is the truth, the way, and the life, seems a far cry from here and now. The cross, is something so strange to modern living that it is cast aside without a moments thought. Yet to those born again it is a positive truth that really can change your life for the better.

At first Peter, found it hard to understand salvation’s plan. We find him basking in the glory of proclaiming that Jesus was the Messiah, and being blessed by Jesus for this understanding. His praise was short lived, for as Jesus explained the way he must go Peter rebuked him.

The way of the cross is hard to understand. After all God is the creator of the world. God who is greater than time, came down as a little baby lived on this earth for 33 years and for his kindness, was led away to die on a cross, oh ignominy of ignominies. Yet from the beginning this was God’s plan and neither Satan, a traitor or even a friend was going to stop Jesus. Peter felt the wrath of Christ’s tongue when he turned to him and said: ” Get thee behind me Satan! “. Down he came with all his pride. This was a lesson that Peter needed to learn and so do we. The way of Christ is an hard one, and if we want to follow Jesus we must take up our cross and suffer like our Master.

Dear Lord Jesus, Forgive us for our foolishness and pride. Help us to walk humbly with our God. Lest in our pride we fall. Amen.

Christ becomes a Servant to Peter
Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, Lord, are you washing my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, ” What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this. ” Peter said to Him, ” You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you. ” John 13 – v. 6 – 10

The supper had ended and all were feeling satisfied and sleepy. The feet needed washing, the bowl of water together with towel was ready. No-one offered to clean their feet. Earlier that day, there had been rivalry among them as to which of them should be considered the greatest. Still no-one offered to clean their feet.

Jesus rose from Supper, took off his outer garment took a towel and girded himself. The disciples gasped in amazement. Jesus then proceeded to wash the disciples feet until he came to Peter.

Peter was embarrassed and shocked, Jesus my master washing my feet, this should not be so. Peter’s mind went back to the many times Jesus healed people, how he fed the multitudes, how he had seen him transfigured before him on the Holy Mountain, how he had raised Lazarus from the dead.

Peter could not contain himself any longer. His heart was pounding as he spoke ” Lord are you washing my feet?” . The master to wash his feet. No never!

Jesus said: ” If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me. “

Peter, realised that this washing of the feet was a way of Jesus saying to the disciples, ” You need me to wash away your sins, without me you can do nothing. “

Peter understood that this act of Christ’s was not an act of humiliation but an act of grace.

We too should follow Christ’s example by becoming a Servant and washing each others feet, by loving, caring, and praying for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Their tears, should be our tears, their joys, our joys and together we can grow in grace and truth to be more and more like Jesus.

Peter denies Christ three times
Now Peter sat outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came to him, saying, “You also were with Jesus of Galilee.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are saying. ” And when he had gone out to the gate-way, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth. ” But again he denied with an oath, “I do not know the Man!” And after a while those who stood by came to him and said to Peter, “Surely you also are one of them, because your speech betrays you.” Then he began to curse and swear, saying, “I do not know the Man!” And immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus when he said to him, Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” Then he went out and wept bitterly. Mathew 26 69-75.

It was after the supper had ended, the washing of feet completed that Jesus in conversation to Peter said: “Will you lay down your life for my sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied me three times.

Peter, in his bravado, emphatically insisted that he would not deny Jesus, “I will lay down my life for your sake.” he said.

Peter’s first mistake was not accepting Jesus warning. The words said by Jesus were ignored.

Peter’s second mistake was to go into battle unprepared. Without the protection of God’s armour. Paul tells us: “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

Peter’s third mistake was that he went into the devil’s lair. He went and sat outside in the palace courtyard among the servants of the High Priest. Mathew Henry comments: ” Bad company is to many an occasion of sin; and those who needlessly thrust themselves into it, go upon the devils ground; they scarcely can come out of such company without guilt or grief, or both.”

Peter was vulnerable He had ignored Jesus warning, and entered the devils domain without God’s armour. Peter never stopped loving Christ, but this was not enough, he had to rely on Christ’s strength. So do we!

Simon, son of Jonah do you love me. (Part one)
After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, …….. So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me ?” He said to Him, “Yes Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep. He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, ” Feed My sheep.” John 21 v. 1, 15-17.

Peter, without any Master to guide, reverts back to what he knows best, “I am going fishing ” he said. It was while they were fishing that Jesus came to them, He helps them to catch a multitude of fish. Jesus prepares breakfast of bread and fish and after eating, Jesus spoke to Peter.

Peter, who had recently denied Jesus three times, wondered what the Lord would say. Jesus says to Peter: ” Simon son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”

Christ requires from us all a love that is greater that the love we have for our best friend, wife or husband. Christ can take no second place in our life. If we are to be used of God we must love Christ even more that life itself.

Peter answered that he loved Jesus. Jesus answered “Feed My Lambs. “

Lambs are helpless creatures, they need tender loving care. They need the milk of the word. Not deep truths, but the simple basics, and they need it explained patiently time and time again.

Peter, was asked a second and third time if he loved Jesus. He confirmed that he loved Jesus.

Peter, is given the role of looking after the lambs and the sheep. From feeding the infants, with the milk of the word, to feeding those who needed strong doctrine. A huge task for a faithful man.

What about us? Do we love God so much that we will offer our lives in his service, whatever the cost?

Simon, son of Jonah do you love me. (Part two)
“Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” This Jesus spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.” John 21 v. 18-19.

Charles owned a company that was going places and he was always on the look out for talented men who would help the Company grow even further. So when he met Jonathan he offered him a large salary, Company Car and Medical cover. A very good package.

Jesus continues his conversation with Peter. Now, he had been restored. Jesus’s words about Peter were still to be true; “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Mathew 16 v. 18. Peter was a stone that Jesus would use to build His Church.

What of the reward? What was the total package of following Christ? Jesus holds back no punches but tells it as it is.

Peter is told that he will face martyrdom. Tradition tells us that Peter was crucified at Rome under Nero. Mathew Henry makes this comment: ” Having charged him to feed his sheep, he bids him not to expect ease and honour in it, but trouble and persecution. “

With this truth firmly understood by Peter, Jesus says to him. ” Follow Me. “

We who are Christians know that following Christ is not looked upon with favour. We are not the first to be considered for promotion nor do we find changing jobs easy. In a world that is moving further and further away from God, those who speak up for keeping God’s truth are an un-listened to minority. Still we are called by Jesus to follow him. If you are following Christ, God has a work for you.

Peter, boldly Preaches Jesus
But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, ” Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. “For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. ” But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: Acts 2 v. 14 – 16

What makes you strong? What is it that makes you stand up and speak out for your belief? May be normally you are very shy, but if there is one subject or cause that gets you going it is this. If anyone says anything about this, then, oh boy, they had better watch out.

This subject or cause then, that you are willing to stand up for does it really matter. I mean in a year, five years, ten years will you still feel the same as you do now?

Maybe it is Sport – Football, or Cricket. Maybe it is a pet subject you feel you are an expert on. May be it is which version of the Bible you should use and you can spend many hours discussing the merits and reasons why your version is the best.

But! …. is it worth it, after all will it matter when you have died. When you have left this world – dead!

Peter was a scared young man, but at Pentecost he came of age. He realised that there was something to stand up for. Peter, now proclaimed Christ the Son of the Living God with all his might. Now he was not frightened with those in authority he had a message to proclaim a message that will be sung by the choir of Angels and Saints throughout all eternity.

Now that is a message really worth standing up for.

Peter heals the lame man
Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” So he gave them the attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” Acts 3 v. 1 – 6.

Peter was on his way to the temple when he met the lame man begging. This lame man would of been a regular sight for all those going to worship God. Maybe they would feel pity and give to the lame man. Maybe those who worshipped at the temple would like others to see that they gave to the lame man.

The lame man, himself, would know his place, what was expected of him. How his friends would take him to the temple each day. He would probably sit in the same place. Everyone would know the lame man, where he sat, his begging for money.

This day was a special day for the lame man for when Peter and John came to the temple they looked him in the eye and in the name of Jesus of Nazareth they gave him far more than Gold or Silver.

Let us look at what was given to the lame man.

Ability to walk. Ability to live an independent life. Ability to work for himself. Yet above, all this, and the most important gift was the ability to walk right into the temple of God. Now he could worship, pray and thank God for his life.

What about us, do we take for granted what Christ has done for us. Jesus paid the price that we might go to heaven. To think the creator and sustainer of the Universe. The infinite Holy God cared enough for me and you that he should send his Son to die on the cross for our sins.

Peter’s Imprisonment and the power of prayer
Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. Then he killed James …. with the sword and …. he proceeded further to seize Peter also …. he put him in prison, ….. constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church. ….. Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, …. he struck Peter on the side ….. saying “Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands ……. And he said to him, “Put on your garment and follow me.” ……. they went out and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him. ……. he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John …….. where many were gathered together praying. And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a girl named Rhoda came to answer. When she recognised Peter’s voice, because of her gladness she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter stood before the gate. But they said to her, “You are beside yourself!” Acts 12 v. 1-5, 7-8, 10, 12-15.

Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath. Prayer with God is important without communing with God we cannot know God. We cannot grow as Christians if we do not speak to God daily, tell him our concerns, listen to his voice, know God, learn his ways.

Prayer is personal, your prayer life is special to you and in one sense it is different for each one of us. We are loving, living souls communing with our Father, not robots.

The Lord’s Prayer in Mathew 6 v. 9-13 helps us with some prayer principles. We must worship God just because he his God. We bring our petitions with our request, but accept God’s will for our life. Daily we bring our needs to him. We ask God to make us forgiving to others as he as forgiven us. We ask God to keep us out of temptation.

Our prayers must be prayers of belief, Peter was delivered from prison because of God’s will and the faithful praying of the local church. They prayed for Peter’s release but, when it happen they could not believe it!

Do we expect God to answer our prayers?

Peter fears those who were of the Circumcision
……. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, ” If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? ……. “knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus , that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. Galations 2 v. 14 – 16

What makes me a Christian? Does going to Church? Does putting money in the collection every week? Does being a member of the local Church? Never been nasty to anybody, never done anyone a bad turn, always looking for the good in others. Does all this then, make me a Christian? No! none of those things make you a Christian.

Question one: Okay, then what must I do to become a Christian? Answer one: Nothing! Clarification on Answer one: Nothing? I do nothing surely that cannot be right? Confirmation of Answer one: To be a Christian you do not need to do anything because someone else as done it for you. Jesus Christ took your sins and nailed them to a cross. He died for you.

In this passage we find Peter being rebuked by Paul? Why? Peter was eating with Gentiles, but when certain men of the circumcision (law) came he withdrew from the Gentiles and separated himself from them. By this action he was saying the Cross of Jesus is not enough we need to add something. To add something to the Cross is wrong only the Cross saves us from our sins.

By the Cross we are adopted into God’s family. By the Cross we are redeemed and brought back to God. By the Cross we are justified, God the Judge proclaims us Just. Sinless.

Peter had an hard lesson to learn, a lesson that we all must learn. The Cross and only the Cross makes us Christians.

If you believe that Christ died on the Cross for your sins, then you are a Christian. God will even give you the faith to believe, just ask and see.

Peter, shows us God’s way
Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer for it, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ” Who committed no sin, Nor was guile found in His mouth.” who, when He was reviled , did not revile in return; when he suffered, He did not threaten but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously. 1 Peter 2 v. 18-23

Mark recently became a Christian, he told his boss Alan what had happened to him. Alan just laughed, but you could tell he was embarrassed. Mark and the lads use to have a laugh and a joke with Alan. Now Mark’s relationship with Alan had changed. Now Mark was given all the unpleasant jobs. When Mark presented his work to Alan it was very critically examined. Mark realised why Alan was being like this to him and thought to himself: “If they hated and despised Jesus, why should I expect anything different.

Peter, now an older and wiser man, writes this epistle about AD 64 just before Nero started to persecute the Church and Tradition tell’s us put Peter to death. Peter remembers, how Jesus, had taken the role of a servant and washed his feet, thereby showing by example that serving others before yourself his God’s way.

Peter now tell’s servants to be submissive to your masters and encourages us by bringing to our mind some truths about Jesus. Let us take time to ponder these things:

The world’s way: “Be strong, make sure no one pushes you around and if you need to push someone out of the way then do it. “

God’s way: ” Be gentle to your brother, show love for hate, for insults speak words of kindness. Love your enemy.”

God’s way turns the world’s values upside down, but God knows best after all he made us.

J. O. Y., J. O. Y., Surely that must mean, Jesus First, Yourself Last and Other’s in between

The Glory of Christ revealed to Peter
For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye witnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honour and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: ” This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we heard this Voice which came from heaven, when we were with him on the holy mountain. 2 Peter 1 v. 16 – 18

It was the inner circle of disciples, Peter, James and John, that Jesus brought to the top of an high mountain and was transfigured before them and his robe became white like snow. The Glory of Christ was revealed to them with a warning, “tell no one the things you have seen, until the Son of Man has risen from the dead “.

The Glory of God, was revealed to Moses many times, we read in Exodus 34 v 29 – 35 how Moses communed with God and the skin of his face shone and after speaking with the children of Israel he put a veil over his face.

Elijah too saw something of the Glory of God for in 1 Kings 19 v 9 – 13 we read how Elijah was feeling depressed with the assault of the enemy. He was told to “go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord ” And behold the Lord passed by and the Lord came to Elijah in a still small voice. The Glory of God passed through the mountain just for Elijah to be comforted and strengthened.

In our passage today Peter, an old man, with only a few years left to live on the earth, recounts the splendour of the occasion. This is true he tells the new Christians, he was an eye-witness to God’s Glory and he emphasises this with these words:

” ….. we were with him on the Holy Mountain. “

With witnesses like Moses, Elijah and Peter we know that the Glory of God is no fairy tale.


The Art of Encouragement

The Church needs encouragers; it needs encouragers in order to be strengthened and built up; it needs encouragers to help fellow believers on the rough road to glory; ultimately, it needs encouragers to bring honour and glory to our Saviour. People may ask, “What can I do in the Church?” There may well be 1001 answers to such a question, but surely a role that we all need to play it to be encouragers.

Let us seek to fulfil this role using these 19 biblical principles:

the art of encouragement - main

1. Encourage yourself
2. Look out for the interests of others
3. Be willing to play 2nd fiddle
4. Draw alongside others
5. Encourage in the Lord
6. Study how Jesus encouraged people
7. Focus on listening
8. Think carefully and prayerfully about what to say
9. Bring comfort where needed
10. Relate your own experience
11. Avoid grumbling & negativity
12. Don’t encourage people in sin
13. Have a right spirit
14. Be inventive in the methods you use
15. Attend meetings
16. Use your gifts
17. Encourage others as they serve
18. Receive encouragement when given
19. Pray for others

“And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement)…..” (Acts 4v36)