By Larry White
(Originally delivered in Boise, ID. June 13, 1999)
I ) We have a Mutual Faith
We have all been saved from our sins, Jesus Christ died for each one of us (2Cor.5:21) and we all have come to him as our only hope.
... knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.
He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through him believe in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
We accepted his sacrifice personally. (It should have been me) We have all had that same experience of being washed clean and knowing the love and mercy of God, having our conscience clear and lifting our eyes and hearts to God for the first time without any fear.
Being that we all have this mutual faith, each one of us individually should lay aside the things of the world.
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the Sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.
But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.
We should identify and follow our mutual faith and not be conformed to the world.
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in Sin that grace may abound?
Certainly not! How shall we who died to Sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were immersed into Christ Jesus were immersed into his death?
Therefore we were buried with him through immersion into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united together in the likeness of his death, so also we shall be of his resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of Sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of Sin. For he who has died has been exempted from Sin.
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over him. For in that he died, he died to Sin once for all; but in that he lives, he lives to God.
Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to Sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Therefore do not let Sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as weapons of unrighteousness to Sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as weapons of righteousness to God.
II ) We have a Mutual Hope
Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before times [chronos] eternal, but has in due time [kairois] manifested his word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior.
We have the same expectation.
For in this hope we were saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
We all expect to, by the mercy of God, to gain eternal life and be with each other in Heaven and look each other in the eye and share the incomprehensible joy of the perfection of life.
Therefore each of us, as individuals have a motivation to live godly lives.
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,
looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
We all know our hope - let your individual life be taken over by that hope we all have.
But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Greeks, proclaiming the good news of the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.
Then news of these things came to the ears of the assembly in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.
For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.
Resolute perseverance; standing against temptation and discouragement - expecting Heaven either sooner or later.
III ) We have a Mutual Love
We love each other in Christ.
For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another,
not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you.
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother remains in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God remain in him?
My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.
Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment: that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as he gave us commandment.
Now he who keeps his commandments remains in him, and he in him. And by this we know that he remains in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
This love is also manifested in our care for each other's salvation. So each individual should strive to build his brother up.
I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.
Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.
Since we have this mutual calling in Christ of love for every other child of God then we individually should apply that to how I serve in the church.
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling;
one Lord, one faith, one immersion; one God and father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
Therefore he says:
“When he ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.”
(Now this, “He ascended” – what does it mean but that he also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
We also, have a mutual love of God and love of the truth and we all want people to be saved. So we as individuals should be concerned with spreading what we know to help others find God.
Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the assembly which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.
And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.
As for Saul, he made havoc of the assembly, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.
Notice how from our foundation of love and our election of salvation in the community of believers - how it translates outward to embrace all those around us with a motive to share this salvation.
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the assembly of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and father, knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God. For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.
And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.
IV ) We have a Mutual Commitment
For these reasons (Faith, hope, love) we gather together to encourage and build each other up. Generally speaking, we cannot get to heaven by ourselves. We need each other. We need others of like minds and hearts to mirror back to us that commitment. That each one of us has given our lives to God and to his work, because Jesus gave his life for us and died for us.
Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God.
For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for his sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.
Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
Therefore God also has highly exalted him and given him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for his good pleasure.
Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.
Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.
~ Invitation ~