By Stan Brown
Ephesians 1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In each of Paul’s thirteen letters, his greeting includes grace and peace. He adds mercy in his letters to Timothy. Eleven of them include from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul will use the word grace twelve times in Ephesians. Four times he uses it in direct relationship to the gift of eternal salvation. It signifies the gift that we have received from God through none of our own merit. Paul greets us, as his readers, with this reminder of what God has done for us already as well as a promise of God’s enablement in our lives (But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift (4:7)). Hoehner writes “It is no mere introductory cliché. It is the Gospel in one word.” In effect, Paul says to us ‘May His grace be upon you, both in what He has done for you and in what He will enable you to do.’
If God’s unlimited grace is the cause then peace is the result. Because of God’s grace we live in a state of peace with him as He enables us to live in peace with each other. It is possible this greeting is built on the blessing with which Moses was to bless the children of Israel in Numbers 6:24-26, The LORD bless you, and keep you; The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.’
Paul declares that the source of grace and peace is from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. In the first chapter of Ephesians there will be an emphasis on all three persons of the Trinity. Here, he emphasizes the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The New Testament stresses the Father/child relationship we have with God. The idea of God the Father is used only fifteen times in the Old Testament and over 260 times in the New, forty-five times by Paul.
• Jesus taught us to call God, Father as we come to Him in prayer “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, (Matt. 6:9).
• Jesus called on Abba! Father in His time of great need, (And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will ( Mark 14:36 )”).
• Paul tells us that we may also call Him by the extremely personal term Abba, (Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father! (Gal. 4:6)”) For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father! (Rom. 8:15)”
• The word Lord points to the idea that Jesus of the New Testament is Yahweh of the Old Testament.
As Paul begins his epistle, we are struck with the fact that our magnificent God has provided us with His unlimited grace in order that we might live in complete peace with Him and with each other. This grace includes an intimate relationship with the Creator of the universe whom we may call upon as Abba! Father!.
By Stan Brown
Ephesians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and who are faithful in Christ Jesus:
Paul begins his letter to the Ephesians with a greeting that designates him as the author of this letter. He declares himself to be an apostle as he does in nine out of his thirteen letters that are included in the New Testament. He states that his apostleship is due to God’s will rather than his own. His authority comes from God and not from men. (Just a quick thought in regard to that as it relates to our own lives; God has a role for each of us to play in this world and in the church. Paul will have something more to say about this later in Ephesians. As he reveals that role to us, we accept that gifted responsibility with humility. It is tremendous to realize that God cares about us to the point of trusting us with responsibilities as part of His body. As we speak and live His word we speak and live with the same authority as did Paul.
Paul is writing to believers who are in Ephesus. In fact, the second half of the verse might well be translated to the saints who are at Ephesus, that is those who are believers in Christ Jesus. It is interesting that very early in this epistle where Paul will celebrate God’s choice of us as His children, he also begins with the parallel celebration of our responsibility to place our faith in Him. There will certainly be some tension in this epistle as the two thoughts are laid out in concert but there is no tension in the mind of God as Paul celebrates God’s magnificence and our responsibility together. We would not want to live without either truth.
John’s epistle, which we just completed, was certainly an epistle of love. The letter to the Ephesians is also a letter of love. Paul will speak of “agape” love twenty times in this book. Just as did John, he will speak of the love that God displays to us being played out in the love we exhibit for one another. The letter to the Ephesians is also a letter of faith and belief. The Greek family of words translated faith/belief are used twelve times in this book.
By Stan Brown
I John 5:21 Little children, guard yourselves from idols.
We have come to the end of a marvelous book. Perhaps we have a little better idea of why John is known as the apostle of love. He is also the apostle of walking in the light and intimate fellowship with God. He is the apostle of obedience. Now he ends his epistle with the imperative keep yourself from idols. This seems to be an odd way to close the book but John clearly had in mind, throughout the epistle, the messages that false teachers (antichrists) were bringing. We must avoid these teachings and know the truth of God. We must keep ourselves from idols.
In light of what he has just written in the three we know statements John wants us to also know that sin is not yet completely defeated in our lives. He begins this admonition with the phrase little children reminding us of this position in our lives. He loves these folks deeply and has written to them out of the love that he has for them (he has called them beloved six times.) and the love he has experienced with the Father and the Son. God chose this apostle of love to write His own message of love to us that we might be consumed by His love. So out of love John finishes his epistle with a statement of love as he speaks with urgency the words keep yourself from idols. He understands the enticements of the world, the deceptions of the evil one and the trials of life. He has lived and seen his fellow apostles suffer martyrdom and has seen too many believers succumb to the idols of the world. He wants us to walk as he has learned to walk in fellowship with God. (Pause for a moment and consider: Are the idols of this world really worth stepping out of perfect fellowship with the creator of all that is?)
He reminds us that we are still attacked on every hand by Satan and the idols that so easily creep into our lives. He has just emphasized the power that is available to us but would have us know that we still face a formidable foe. It is so easy to think that we have arrived at the pinnacle as we turn to trusting ourselves rather than the One who shed His blood to cleanse our sins.. This is one of the idols that we face (our own smugness and arrogance). John ends his book with a major concern. That concern is that we might ignore everything he has said and let the idols of Satan reign in our lives.
As we end the study of this book, let us together eschew everything that separates us from fellowship with our Savior, indeed the idols against which John warns. Let us rather be the message of love that we are called to be.
By Pastor Dan Clemens
There is something important about the church coming together in person, face to face… even if that face may have a mask on it.
The Bible encourages us to be together and to be with one another.
The writer of Hebrews says, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:23-25)
Several important points for us in our situation.
1. Hold on to your hope! We will get through this, and we will get through this together. Our strength in is God’s Word and in God’s People. We need each other!
2. We need to encourage one another! We do this through prayer, and phone calls and emails and cards… but I need encouragement with skin on it! I love hearing your voice! I need to look into your eyes! It moves me to be a better person. It reminds me that I belong to the family of God.
3. We need to worship together. I don’t like singing with a mask on, but it’s better than not singing at all! I need to be together to hear and celebrate the presence of God in the midst of His people. It’s just not the same sitting at home and watching the screen.
4. The DAY is COMING! We are living in unusual times, abnormal times. I believe the Lord is coming again, and I believe we could be in the birth pains, or even full-blown labor of the last days. I need to be with God’s people to get ready, to get focused on things that matter most, and to study for my final exam!
So, here’s an UPDATE and a look at regathering.
Regarding the Fall and future plans, I am proceeding under the assumption that we are going to be in a COVID-19 safety protocol environment until early 2021. We should have completed most of the remodeling by the first of October and have most of our facilities back for use.
With that said, we should move slowly and with small steps. Our people have been very helpful and willing to adapt to the COVID safety measures we have been following, and I am grateful. We have been able together and reduce risk of infection. We must keep it up and not let down our guard. The virus has struck some of our church families and their families. We must remain vigilant.
We are worshiping in-person at 10:30 a.m., alternating our worship leaders and I really do not see that changing for the rest of the year unless we begin to have more than 150 people in the sanctuary at once. We are averaging about 110 so far.
Groups are starting to meet in a distanced setting with masks. The Berean Bible Fellowship has begun meeting from 9:15-10:15 a.m. and that seems to be going well. First Student Ministries has been meeting on Wednesday evenings. Our boards are meeting in-person. A ladies Bible Study is meeting during the week.
We all know outdoor is safer than indoor, and larger indoor rooms are better than smaller. As groups choose to meet in-person, I encourage smaller groups of 10 or 12 over larger groups of 20 or 30. Find ways to come together again!
Several groups continue to meet virtually, and I am so glad they have committed to stay connected with one another. We will continue our streaming worship, and Sunday and Wednesday evening Bible studies, and our radio message Sunday at 9:30 on 1450AM WMOH.
Our children’s ministry has been very active with social media and also doorstep visits and gifts. We are planning to slowly start children's ministry with worship at 10:30 starting Oct. 4, and a Trunk-or-Treat Harvest Party on Friday evening October 30.
I do not foresee choir starting again until the spring 2021 at the earliest. We MAY be able to have an Easter Cantata, but we will have to wait and see. There will have to be a vaccine before choral singing comes back. What I am hearing is not to expect widespread vaccinations until mid-2021. We must plan accordingly.
We are starting the 2021 budget process. The economy has definitely been affected by the limits of the COVID environment and fear and the disruption of our normal lives. Thank you for your faithfulness to the mission of First Baptist and the continual commitments and expenses that are ongoing during this time. The tithe is the Lord’s in good times and difficult times. Many of our folks have been so faithful! Thank you!
These are the times we must find ways to be the Church of Jesus Christ together and in our community. We need one another to stay spiritually focused and healthy. We need each other to spur one another on toward love and good deeds and to encourage one another! Let us recommit to one another as we move into the Fall and into another season of living in COVID. Be a witness as we see the Day coming!
I love you in Jesus,
By Stan Brown
I John 5:20 And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might 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.
This verse sums up everything John has said as we understand who we are (we are in Him), who He is and what He has done. In verse eighteen the first we know statement declared that as believers we are given a regenerate inward self that cannot be touched by the evil one. In verse nineteen the second we know statement declares that we are of God which is completely separate from the world system. These two statements provide the foundation for the third we know statement which says that we have been given a spiritual understanding that makes it possible to know the One who is true.
We know that the Son of God has come. He is the One who has come to destroy the works of the devil (3:8). His coming is that which gives us the ability to be a believer who abides in him, and he in God. (4:15). His coming gives us an opportunity to be an overcomer. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (5:5). He is the One who provides for us eternal life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life (5:13). His coming has given us an understanding; that is an ability to think with spiritual comprehension that was previously nonexistent. Simply stated the coming of the Son has provided for us eternal life that includes an ability to understand the sphere in which God exists as opposed to the domain of the world. There is no other place where true understanding can exist but in the domain of the One who is true.
We know that we are given the ability to both know and abide in God and His Son Jesus Christ. These ideas have been at the heart of John’s message all along. He cares deeply about those he describes as beloved and his little children. He desires that we not only spend eternity with God but also know Him and abide in Him right now. It should be noted here that this verse contains one or the strongest statements in Scripture concerning the deity of Jesus.
The coming of the Son of God has given us the ability to know the One who is true; that is the Father and the Son. Thus we are given the ability to understand truth. There is no other way to comprehend that which is true, indeed the One who is true. This is the One whom John described early in his Gospel. John 1:9-13 There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
John ends this verse with the words eternal life which take us back to the beginning of this epistle, we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us (1:2). Therefore, let us take full advantage of the understanding we are given concerning eternal life. Let us walk in the light in fellowship with Him. Let us keep His commandments. Let us love one another. Let us be God’s message of love to the world.
Although there is one verse remaining in this epistle, the three we know statements provide a fitting conclusion to John’s epistle.
By Stan Brown
I John 5:19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.
We know that the only protection from sin lies in the power of God. When we believe in Him, we are truly born again. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature (2Cor. 5:17). When we believe in Him, we are given access to the only power in the universe that can defeat the power of sin. We are not sinless but God gives us all the resources necessary to defeat sin in our lives. We know that no one who is born of God sins. This is what John has declared in the first of his three we know statements.
Today we move on to the second we know statement with an exceedingly powerful contrast between the world controlled by Satan and the sphere in which we as believers are to live. (Pause briefly to remember that John speaks with absolutes. He does not mean that believers never sin. He took care of that false notion ealy in this epistle. Neither does he mean that unbelievers never do anything that we would consider good. Some of them live lives that outshine the lives of some believers hence the parable of the “Wheat and the Weeds (Matt. 13:24-30)”. Yet John says there is no connection between the world controlled by Satan and those who are of God. Pause ends here.)
Hodges writes, “We as believers are (or should be) be the active agents of God in a world that has chosen simply to lie down in the power of Satan. The believer must not only be aware of his own sinless inward man but also of his own utter separateness from the whole world that lies under Satan’s sway.” We are not separate from the sinners who live in this world for we are God’s message of love to the world. The truth is that the world is unknowingly held under the deluding power of Satan. Sometimes Satan reveals the darkness of who he is. Sometimes Satan emulates light as he deceives the world and often believers as well.
John describes only two options. (1) We are of God and no one who is born of God sins. (2) The whole world lies in the power of the evil one. Satan is the great deceiver and uses every device he can including simulated light to have evil reign supreme and he is really good at it. He is often much better at it than believers are at living out all that is involved in being born of God. We must be sure that we are seeing God’s truth rather than our own ideas as we look into the mirror of His Word.
We must stand back for just a minute and ask ourselves the questions; Are we living the message of God’s love to the world? Are we walking in the light enjoying intimate fellowship with God? Are we listening to God when He reveals our sins so we might confess them? Do we really know Him? As the world moves ever closer to the chaos, are we moving with them or are we abiding in Him and He in us? Are we loving? Are we obeying His commandments? Satan will always make it appear as if believers are the ones who are wrong. It is in His interest. It remains in our interest to eschew the power of the evil one as we live in light of the fact that we are in God. I started today with the statement “When we believe in Him, we are given access to the only power in the universe that can defeat the power of sin”. We must continually advantage ourselves of that power in a world that inexorably and increasingly slides into self destruction propelled by the lies of the evil one.
By Stan Brown
I John 5:18 We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him and the evil one does not touch him.
John ends his epistle with a series of three statements beginning with the words we know. The first statement is we know that no one who is born of God sins. John has already discussed this concept earlier in 3:9 where he said. Everyone who has been born of God does not sin, because his seed remains in him; he is not able to sin, because he has been born of God. We know that this cannot mean that believers are sinless as he has also written If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
In discussing 3:9. I wrote the following, “John has been emphasizing the fact that sin has no place with God. God is righteous . Sin can have no place in Him or His presence. All righteousness is sourced in God. Sin is sourced in Satan and his minions. When we sin, it is because we succumb to the lures of the world and the antichrists dominated by the devil. John is encouraging us as believers to choose righteousness. There would be no need for him to write this if we were already righteous. We struggle with sin because the old man still exists within us. Paul describes it in detail. (Rom. 7:22-24 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?)”
In the beginning of his epistle John had elucidated the way that believers may deal with sin in their lives and walk in fellowship with God as the blood cleanses us from all unrighteousness. We are born with an innate sin nature that does not leave us until we see Jesus face to face and the words of Paul are fulfilled, For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1Cor. 15:53). John gives us assurance here at the end of the epistle that in the new birth we have been given the resources to defeat sin in our lives. We are born of God.
The assurance might be described in these words, “The words of this epistle have been written to tell you how to deal with sin in your lives. When you examine your own lives, you know how powerful it is including the enticements of the world and the lies of the antichrists as they deny everything you believe. Now, you need to be assured that you are completely secure in Christ. You are born again from above. You have been born of God. Sin remains a real enemy as Paul states but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin. Yet, there remains in you that which is born of God and Satan can never touch that. Strive to live in light of who you are, remembering that you are born of God.”
John will explain this further with additional we know statements.
By Stan Brown
I John 5:16-17 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death.
If you come this morning looking for a clear, concise answer about what these two verses mean you came to the wrong place. I briefly surveyed the commentaries looking for a clear concise answer and did not find one. One went on for four pages and didn’t get anywhere. The problem with understanding these verses is that John never defines a sin leading to death. If it were not for that little item it would be easy to understand. Very simply, John says (1) there are sins not unto death and when you see a brother committing one of these pray for Him. (2) there are sins unto death and when you see a brother sinning one of these you are not required to pray for him although it is not forbidden to pray for him. (3) All sins do not lead to death although All unrighteousness is sin.
So, what do we know for sure? (1) I start with the obvious. All sin is bad. (2) We know he is talking about sinning believers because he speaks of them as brothers. (3) The death he describes is physical death for at least two reasons. First, he is speaking about believers who are secure in their salvation. Second, he says there is a sin not leading to death while Paul writes the wages of sin is (spiritual) death. (4) We need to pray for each other when we observe sins not unto death. (5) John never tells us what a sin unto death is. Clearly, Ananias and Sapphira are an example but it does not clarify this passage. Paul gives an example centered on misuse of the Lord’s Supper, 1Cor. 11:28-30 But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. Neither example really clarifies what John means.
Having said all that, what is the practical take away from this verse? It should cause us to take each and every sin very seriously. Given that John emphasizes love for one another and forgiveness is part of love we should think hard and long before refusing to pray for a believer immersed in sin and I do believe John is referencing believers seriously immersed in sin. So, given that John never defines a sin leading to death I am going to pray for each and every brother and sister that is choosing darkness rather than light. It also ought to cause me to examine my own life. I will end here without giving a clear and concise understanding of this verse. I will only say that we must still take extremely seriously both sin and John’s emphasis on loving our sisters and brothers. Remember God will give life to those (brothers and sisters) who commit sin not leading to death as we pray for them.
By Stan Brown
I John 5:14 And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
John the musician brings back to prominence his previous themes of confidence, boldness, abiding and prayer as the theme of being assured that we have eternal life settles into the background. It never disappears because the assurance of eternal life undergirds everything that concerns our relationship. Without the new birth there is no relationship but once we have that relationship there is much more to say. John wants us to build that relationship and what better way is there to build it than through conversation. We listen to Him as we read His word and hear the Holy Spirit speak as He nudges us into obedience. We talk to Him as we pray and the Holy Spirit takes our utterances that we do not always completely understand and translates them to the Father, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words (Rom 8:26).
As the theme of confident boldness rises back to the surface, we are reminded that he has before spoken of confidence at His coming as we abide in Him and He in us (1John 2:28). We are reminded that we may have confidence in the day of judgment as love is perfected in us (1John 4:17). We are reminded again of boldness in prayer as John repeats the bonding together of confidence and prayer that he had written concerning previously, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight (1John 3:21-22). I repeat what I wrote when examining that passage.
We have not entered God’s candy shop where all our desires are immediately met. We have entered the presence of God where we may converse with Him one on one or maybe two or three on one. Matt. 18:20 “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” We have reached the place where our desires are in tune with who He is. We have reached the place where we trust in His timing. Perhaps we even begin to understand that He exists outside of time as he intervenes in time. David expresses it this way. Psa. 37:4 Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. John writes whatever we ask we receive from Him. This is not an easy place to abide else John would not have spent so much time getting here.
This matter of prayer is always interesting because we don’t always receive the answer that we want or at least think we want or perhaps in the time we want. John places a contingency on it here as he writes if we ask anything according to His will. Previously, he had said (1John 3:22) because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight. So, what does all this mean when we come to God in prayer? The contingencies have to do with loving and abiding. Sometimes I know what His will is when I come to Him because He has declared it in His word so I can come confidently before Him in the matter. His timing does not always agree with my timing but that is what faith is all about (His timing is always perfect). Sometimes I am not sure what His will is but I still come confidently before Him because I trust Him and the Holy Spirit who brings my groanings to Him. I used to come to God with the answers. I would even explain to Him how He could get it done. Now I come to God with the problems and leave the answers in His hands. I must also remember that it is necessary to leave the timing in His hands.
As I abide in Him, I may enter His presence confidently in prayer knowing that He cares and will bring about the answer that supplies my need and brings glory to God. “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! (Matt. 7:11)
By Stan Brown
I John 5:13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life.
Sometimes we take this verse to refer to the purpose for John’s writing this letter but rather it refers specifically to the preceding eight verses. The epistle, in its entirety, is about living out the faith that comes through the new birth. As he nears the end of the epistle, he takes them back to the place where it all begins. He takes them back to the place where they entered God’s family. He wants them to know that they have eternal life. He has given them this assurance in verses five through twelve of chapter five. He has said that the one who is born of God is the one who is an overcomer, indeed that is the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. He has said that this truth is witnessed by water (the beginning of Jesus’ ministry at His baptism). He has said that this truth is witnessed by blood (the sin cleansing death of Christ on the cross, the effectiveness of which was proclaimed when Jesus rose from the dead.). He has said that this truth is witnessed by the Holy Spirit. He has said that this truth is verified by the proclamation of God. There is no greater witness. It matters not what anyone else states. God has said that life is in the Son. God has proclaimed that the one who believes in the name of the Son of God is the one who possesses eternal life.
How do we know that we have eternal life? God keeps it simple. We know we have eternal life because we have believed in the name of the Son of God. God has done all the work. There is nothing left for us to do but believe. We are overcomers because we believe. This verse might be paraphrased I have written to you who have eternal life that you might know that you have eternal life. John does not want us to doubt. It is our position in Him that propels us into walking in the light; that inspires us to have intimate fellowship with Him; that drives us to know Him; that enables us to keep His commandments. It is because we believe in Him that we are empowered to love and be His message of love to one another and to the world.
John wants us to be encouraged by our security in Him. As we live, we sin, we confess and we abide. Sometimes that sin takes us for a walk in the darkness but He is always there beckoning us back into the light. We are His children.
Dear friends, we know we belong to Him because we have believed in the name of the Son of God. Let us feel secure in the presence of God’s love. Let us live out that love together. We believe in His name.