You have read more than 1000 chapters of Scripture! God’s plan to save His people has come to pass with the coming of Christ. And the story did not stop here. Nor did it end after the Resurrection or Ascension.
Much to the joy of Jesus’ friends and followers, and the frustration of Jewish leaders, this was just the beginning. Rather than killing the Author of life Himself, the Crucifixion had only managed to set off a wildfire that would soon spread all over the world!
As we read this week, God was (and still is) making a kingdom for Himself through His church and the power of the Holy Spirit. The plans and ways of God are always different than ours and tend to surprise us. The first century disciples of Jesus would never have guessed their Teacher needed to die so that they could receive the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit. But this is exactly how the Lord intended to bring about His kingdom on earth.
Acts “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). These were Jesus’ last words to His disciples. They would soon meet the third person of the Trinity who, for the first time in Scripture, would be seen, heard, and recognized by God’s people.
Romans Being a Christian is much more than just waiting to go to heaven. God calls believers to live as members of a new creation. In the letter to the Roman church, Paul outlines why this should change how they live. He writes, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (3:23). And he shares, “But now a righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law” (3:21). This does not give us freedom to live however we please, but to “present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual act of worship” (12:1). The good news of faith in Christ completely changes us!
1 Corinthians Paul saw himself as a father taking care of his spiritual children from far away. He accomplished much of his spiritual parenting by writing to those he called, “my beloved children” (4:14). His “children” in Corinth had split into various divisions, some calling themselves followers of Paul, and others of Apollos or Peter. The young church was sexually immoral, they were bringing lawsuits against each other, and they were marrying unbelievers. They needed to be admonished, but Paul still had great hopes for them. Paul reminds them of the pure simplicity of following Jesus, “I decided to know nothing while I was among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (2:2).
2 Corinthians Whereas the first letter Paul wrote was a rebuke, the second is softer. He reminds them that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ “comforts us in all our troubles” (1:4) so that we can extend a comforting word to others. Paul points these Christians to place their hope in heaven which, after they have suffered for a little while, will surely come.
Galatians Paul gets right to the point: “I am astonished you are so quickly turning to a different Gospel” (1:6). Among other things, Jesus’ death and resurrection meant the walls between Jews and Gentiles had been torn down, and this made Jewish people uncomfortable. They wondered if they should go back to their old ways. This letter presents a clear decision that must be made: justification by faith or by works? On this specific point there is no middle ground.
Ephesians Few books have occupied the attention of those who love God’s Word like Ephesians. The enthusiasm of Paul for the gospel of Jesus Christ is contagious. All you have to do is scan the first chapter and count how many times Paul references Jesus to realize the depth of his passion. The first half focuses on our blessings in Christ and the new reality we live in as children of God. The second half devotes itself to the implications of those truths. Our identify in Christ impacts how we live, what we do privately and in public, how we treat others, and how we make a stand in our world while continuing to grow in Christ.
Philippians Written from Rome by Paul while he is “in chains” for the gospel, Philippians is a letter to the church in Philippi. It is one of the most joyful books in the Bible, as Paul encourages his readers to rejoice no matter their circumstances. He models it for them as he fixes his eyes on Christ, regarding everything else as “rubbish” by comparison. As you read, look for words and phrases related to joy. There are at least 20 of them in Philippians.
Colossians One of the so-called “prison epistles,” Colossians was written while Paul endured his first imprisonment in Rome. Unique from other New Testament letters, this one was written to confront specific challenges and heresies that had risen up against the gospel. Most of his attention is placed on the supremacy, sufficiency, and lordship of Jesus Christ over all of creation. It also clarifies the full deity of Christ as Paul writes, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (2:9).
1-2 Thessalonians Like the church at Philippi, the church at Thessalonica was a fairly healthy church. Paul commends them for their love for each other and for the way they live in eager expectation of the return of Christ. However, shortly after sending the first letter, Paul received a report that the Thessalonians had accepted a false teaching that the “day of the Lord” had already passed. While confronting this false teaching, Paul clarifies several points related to the doctrine of heaven and provides some answers to the age-old question, “What happens when we die?”
1 Timothy Paul loved Timothy like a son and had traveled extensively with him. Paul likely wrote this letter after being released from his first imprisonment. In it he encourages Timothy to persevere in his ministry and admonishes him to live a life of Christ-centered godliness. This letter is jam-packed with doctrine applicable to life, godliness, and church oversight.
2 Timothy Written a few years after his first letter to Timothy, this letter is deeply moving. The apostle Paul seems to realize that he has reached the end of his life and ministry. Soon Jesus will call him home and, at least in this life, he will never see Timothy again. Read in this light, 2 Timothy is almost like a last will and testament. But Paul has few earthly possessions to be concerned with. His greatest concern is for Timothy’s faithfulness, effectiveness, and endurance as an overseer and leader of the church.
Titus Titus is a young pastor who leads the church in Crete. This body of believers has two problems, one on each end of the spectrum. One on hand, they struggle with godless, rule-free living. On the other hand, they struggle with legalistic rule-following. The apostle Paul helps Titus see that the root of the problem is the same – putting hope in the flesh. Paul guides Titus toward the antidote – living in the grace of the Lord Jesus, from which springs godliness motivated by gratitude.
Philemon Philemon is a unique letter. It is a case-in-point as Paul writes to a wealthy Colossian Christian whose former life was that of a slave owner. Both he and one of his runaway slaves have encountered the grace of Jesus Christ, which presents them both with a conundrum … how to reconcile their past lives with their new identity in Christ. This short letter is as fascinating as it is rich!
Encouraging Comments from B90 Readers
I am now reading the exciting story of the birth of the church, and the living presence of Jesus among the early Christians. My thoughts went back to the years the Israelites spent in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land. There, too, the living God was manifest among them, but now in the book of Acts, Christians now know Jesus is alive & powerful among them. I look forward to the conclusion of the wonderful story in the Book of the Revelation.
Ken Seburn, International
From time to time, we all catch ourselves regarding someone as beyond the reach of God’s grace. At times, in our heart of hearts, we may not even want them to repent and turn to Jesus. Somehow it feels justifiable to condemn them in our hearts for the evil they have done or the things they stand for.
The life of Saul-who-became-Paul is a powerful testimony to the fact that nobody is beyond the reach of God’s grace! Aren’t you glad that this persecutor of the church and accessory to murder encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus?
Next time you find yourself regarding someone as unworthy of God’s grace, stop to consider the matter from another perspective. How greatly would this person’s conversion showcase the saving power of Jesus Christ! Instead, pray that, like Saul, they might become a Paul for the glory of God.