“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God.” — 2 Timothy 1:8 NKJV
By Leslie M. Grant
Like First Timothy, Second Timothy deals with individual responsibility in connection with the Church or Assembly – two English words used to translate the same Greek word. Paul wrote this letter from prison. It was his last epistle, written knowing that he was about to be put to death for his witness for the Lord. Here he no longer spoke of the house of God, but of “a great house” (2:20). That which had once been God’s house in some measure of purity and truth had degenerated to the point of allowing gross error and vessels to dishonor. Also, all in Asia had turned away from Paul (1:15), no longer desiring his teaching.
But he was not discouraged. Indeed, with a rejoicing heart he encouraged this young man to strengthen him against his own natural timidity. Timothy was to be unashamed of the testimony of the Lord, rightly dividing the Word of Truth (2:15) and making full use of all its blessed truth, acting with firmness and decision for God. He was not to neglect any of it, whether in the work of an evangelist or in ministry to the people of God. Second Timothy 2 shows the believer in eight important aspects of life and is excellent for any believer who honestly desires to serve the Lord today.
During days of departure and spiritual carelessness, this book holds grand encouragement for the upright heart. It declares the blessedness of God’s provision in view of His foreknowledge of present conditions. Thus, whatever may be the dishonor done to God’s name in professing Christendom, one may yet be true to the meaning of Timothy’s name: “honoring God.”
“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory.” — 1 Timothy 3:16 NKJV
By Leslie M. Grant
First Timothy (Timothy means “honoring God”) was written to an individual, a young man for whom Paul had deep affection. Being of a timid, retiring nature, and yet gifted by God, Timothy needed to be stirred up to a sense of responsibility as to proper behavior “in the house of God, which is the Church of the living God” (v.15).
Timothy’s ministry was given not for its independent exercise but for the sake of the welfare of the Assembly, the body of Christ. He was called upon also to see that sound doctrine is maintained in the local assembly and order is kept by the actions and service of faithful elders and deacons.
The assembly was to be a place of prayer (1 Tim. 2). In chapter 3 the assembly is stated to be “the pillar and ground of the truth” (v.15) – a witness of God being made manifest in flesh in true, blessed Manhood and the Spirit of God publicly justifying Him in His descent in the form of a dove on the Lord at His baptism (Mt. 3:16). The power of this anointing was seen in His life. In Christ, God had appeared to angels, who had never before seen Him. And He has been preached to Gentiles: the person and work of the Lord Jesus provides a world-wide gospel, meaning “good news,” for all mankind. He is “believed on in the world.” Whether by many or few, faith has responded to such a revelation. “Received up in glory” completes this list of blessed facts to which the Assembly, or Church, bears witness.
By Leslie M. Grant
“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.” — 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NKJV
Second Thessalonians, like 1 Thessalonians, is pastoral in character. It deals with those subtle influences that so soon threatened to rob this young assembly of its fresh, ardent affection for the Lord, as well as its vigorous faith and endurance of persecution. Faithfully the apostle warns of the future coming of the Antichrist, but even at that time, the “mystery of lawlessness” (2:7) was at work to undermine what was of God. Therefore added to the refreshing encouragement of the first epistle are faithful admonitions, the seasoning of salt, to preserve the testimony of God.
Letters supposed to have come from Paul had told the Thessalonians that the Day of the Lord (not “of Christ”) had come. These letters were a crafty deceit of the enemy by which he sought to undermine their confidence as to Christ’s coming first for the Church (the rapture) before the awesome day of His judgment of the world. Paul corrected this, and chapter 2 is a most striking prophetic Scripture about the Day of the Lord, which cannot take place until the Church has been removed to heaven.
In contrast to the evil works and words of Antichrist, who will sit in the future temple as god (v.4), the saints are encouraged to be established in every good work and word. Second Thessalonians is a book therefore to give us spiritual discernment and firmness regarding those things that would tend to lower Christian testimony. Again, the Lord’s coming is prominent in every chapter.
By Leslie M. Grant
“For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.” — 1 Thessalonians 2:13 NKJV
First Thessalonians – the city name being Thessalonica, meaning “victory over that which is false” – is by date the first of Paul’s epistles. It is full of freshness, energy and warmth. Pastoral in its character, it is addressed “to the church of the Thessalonians,” thus exemplifying true shepherd care. This care was not only of individuals, but it was also toward the assembly of God. The local assembly, formed during a brief visit to Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-4) amid circumstances of bitter persecution, had become a model to the others because of their godly energy of faith in sounding out the Word of God (1 Th. 1:7-8). Faith, love and hope are beautifully seen throughout this book and the second epistle as well.
The coming of the Lord is a prominent subject. It is:
- Seen as deliverance from the coming wrath of tribulation (1:10),
- Connected with the joy of Paul seeing his own converts in the glory above (2:19),
- Has in view the confirming of saints blameless in holiness (3:13),
- A precious prospect to give present comfort to those in sorrow (4:15-18), and
- Seen as an ultimate total sanctification, or setting apart, of spirit, soul and body (5:23).
The above verse, 1 Thessalonians 2:13, shows the reason for the devoted energy of the Thessalonians. The Word of God was real to them. It was God who had spoken: they accepted that Word as such. It is by this that true results are produced. The book thus is most encouraging and stimulating!
“Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.” — Colossians 1:12-13 NKJV
By Leslie M. Grant
Colossians, meaning “monstrosities,” has much in common with Ephesians. However, it does not present the saints as seated in heavenly places, but considers them as still walking through a wilderness world. Provision for the journey is heavenly, and the blessed fullness of this provision in the person of Christ is beautifully seen. “In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (2:9).
In connection with this fullness, the word “all” is constantly used. This was needful in warning them against the dangers of philosophy on the one hand and religious mysticism on the other. The first appeals merely to intellect; the other insults the intellect. Though often found curiously intermixed, the dangers presented a monstrosity indeed – with two heads in contradiction. The preeminent headship of Christ is the blessed answer to this situation.
Christ is seen as Head of all creation and as Head of the body, the Church. He will reconcile all things in earth and heaven, but He has now reconciled all believers. He has provided both the ministry of the gospel and of the Church through the apostle Paul. In all of this there is double provision: what is toward the world and that which is for His saints.
Nourishing, heavenly food is found in this book. Such food will preserve us from evil even in its most refined forms.
By Leslie M. Grant
“Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” — Philippians 3:8 NKJV
Philippians, meaning “lovers of horses” or “of the race,” is a pastoral epistle which is encouraging and refreshing. The assembly, devoted in affection for Paul since being converted through his labors 11 years before, was afflicted by poverty.
The letter presents true Christian experience as a racecourse leading on to the glory of God. Paul is the example of this experience; and though he was in prison, the vibrant yet peaceful joy of the apostle permeates the whole book. The secret is simply that Christ was everything to him:
- In chapter 1, Christ was his Motivation in life;
- In chapter 2, Christ was his Example;
- In chapter 3, Christ was his Object;
- In chapter 4, Christ was his Strength.
Chapter 2 contains a magnificent declaration of the greatness of the willing humiliation of the Lord Jesus, from the place of highest glory to that of deepest suffering and the death of the cross. This is then followed by God’s blessed answer in exalting Him as Man to the place of highest preeminence (vv.5-11). Such a person engaged the affections and admiration of the apostle Paul. Therefore Paul not only bore patiently with every unpleasant adversity, but he also rejoiced in seeing in each of these an occasion of fuller blessing and greater glory to the Lord Jesus.
This grand triumph of faith makes the book of sweetest value in encouraging similar faith in our own souls.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” —Ephesians 1:3 NKJV
By Leslie M. Grant
Ephesians, meaning “one desire,” is an epistle without any reproofs. It declares in fullest terms the grand counsels of God concerning His saints in this present dispensation of grace. The letter tells of their present spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ and their position “in Christ.” The believers “sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (2:6).
Christ, in accordance with the glory of His person and the infinite virtue of His work, is the decreed Center of the blessing of the universe. “In Him” we have obtained an inheritance. He is seated on His Father’s throne and there represents us perfectly. Jewish and Gentile believers form “one body” united to Christ, the Head in glory.
As well as being the body of Christ, the Church is seen as the household of God, a building growing to a holy temple in the Lord for a habitation of God, and as eventually presented to Christ as a bride fitted for her Husband. Such truths were not known or prophesied of in former ages, but they are now revealed through apostles and New Testament prophets. Our conflict also is seen to be “in the heavenly places” (6:12) against spiritual hosts of wickedness – satanic powers engaged in opposing our discernment and enjoyment of the truth as to our rightful heavenly possessions.
No book is more important than Ephesians as to cultivating a character conformable to Christ in the proper home of our souls: heaven itself.
“But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”—1 Corinthians 1:23-24 NKJV
By Leslie M. Grant
First Corinthians (Corinth means “satiated” or “satisfied”) was written by Paul to correct the disorders allowed at Corinth in the early Church. This epistle lays down solid, practical principles of local assembly government and order, most necessary for the Church of God around the world. This authoritative universal application is emphasized in 1 Corinthians 1:2, 4:17, 11:16 and 14:33,37.
The city of Corinth was a center of Greek philosophy, and it was morally corrupt. Hence the world’s wisdom is discarded in chapter 1. Chapter 2 replaces it with God’s revelation by His Spirit because “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God” (v.14).
Human wisdom cannot order the path of the Assembly of God, but the Word of God applied by the Spirit of God to hearts and consciences is sufficient to maintain divine order according to the mind of God. In 1 Corinthians 1-2 intellectual pride is rejected; in chapters 3-7 fleshly corruption is as fully judged; and chapters 8-10 guard against fellowship with any demon influence through idolatry. First Corinthians 11-14 give basic details of assembly truth and practice.
The unity of the body of Christ, in separation from unholy associations, is stressed throughout the book. Yet the unity is seen to be displayed in a wonderful diversity of gifts which call for godly exercise. The importance of sound doctrine also is a vital matter, and chapter 15 strongly stresses the truth of the resurrection both of Christ and of His saints at His coming as being basic to the testimony of the Assembly, or Church.
First Corinthians is a valuable book to encourage appreciation and concern for every member of the body of Christ and to strengthen collective testimony according to the mind of God.
“Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” —Romans 3:24 NKJV
By Leslie M. Grant
Romans, meaning “strong ones,” gives truth that stands at the foundation of Christianity. Here God is the Sovereign Judge, absolute in righteousness, discovering and exposing the sin of all mankind. He allows no excuse, spares no evil of whatever degree. All are shown to be “guilty before God” (v.19).
Yet in pure righteousness He also offers complete justification from guilt, for this is based on “the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” who is seen as the great Substitute in bearing sin’s penalty by the sacrifice of Himself. Every true believer in Him is thereby cleared from every charge and is constituted righteous before God.
The significance of the cross is seen too in reference to deliverance from the power of indwelling sin. The truth is so presented as to meet the sinner where he is at the outset, and lead him through soul-exercise out of bondage and darkness into liberty and light. The feet are established in paths of righteousness.
In chapters 9-11 God’s counsels and ways concerning Israel are shown to be consistent with these truths now revealed in Christianity. God is the great Victor. Hence all who trust Him are blessed.
From chapter 12 on to the end, instructions are given as to practical conduct based on the solid and eternal foundation of God’s justifying grace.
How grand a book to establish and settle the soul, and to encourage every godly virtue!
By Leslie M. Grant
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” –Matthew 11:29-30 NKJV
Matthew, meaning “gift of Jehovah,” the first book of the New Testament, is written from a Jewish point of view and preserves continuity with the Old Testament. It presents the Lord Jesus Christ as the long sought Messiah of Israel, their King. His genealogy, which is that of Joseph, is traced to David and Abraham, and it establishes Christ’s official title to the throne of David.
Matthew is the only book of Scripture that uses the phrase “the kingdom of heaven.” This shows us that, while under the law of Moses, the authority of the kingdom of Jehovah had been committed to the Jews. Jerusalem had been its headquarters, but because of Israel’s utter failure God was revoking this, headquartering His kingdom now in heaven. He had once spoken on earth among the Jews; now He was speaking from heaven. For this reason the book of Matthew often speaks of the kingdom of God as “the kingdom of heaven.” It marks a most striking and complete change in the dispensational ways of God, for the Christ, the true King, has come and has returned to heaven.
Consistent with this, Matthew insisted on thorough subjection and obedience to the sovereign authority of the Lord Jesus – not to law, but to One higher than law. “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me.” Emphasis therefore is placed on works of faith because authority (not grace, as in Luke) is Matthew’s great subject. How good if such lessons implant themselves deeply in our hearts.