Tag Archives: Paul

Famous Last Words

When we look at the books of the New Testament (NT) chronologically, we can do something kind of interesting.  We can look at the main authors of the NT (Peter, Paul, and John), and figure out which words we can read in scripture were the “last words” of aforesaid Peter, Paul, and John.  That is what we are going to do in this article, but it is also interesting to go through and read the last sentences of the books of the Bible; it doesn’t take long and it can really make you think, so when you have some free study time, try it out.

Alright, here’s the list:

Peter: 2 Peter 3:18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

Paul: 2 Timothy 4:22 The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with you. Amen.

John: Revelation 22:21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

Do you see the theme yet?  I see 3 components that are always there.  This article is inspired by a teaching by Doc Scott, and he picked one aspect to focus on so I mention that component first, and that is grace.  “Grow in grace,” “grace be with you,” and “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”  Do you think grace is important?  Each and every last word from the heavy hitters of the NT includes grace.  What is the second?  Jesus Christ.  What is the third?  The “amen,” the affirmation to the reader of these things.  When God repeats things, they tend to be important don’t they?

In order of importance:

1) Jesus.  Let’s look at the phrases used: Lord, Saviour, Christ.  Those are the titles given to Him in these three passages.  The way that the word “Lord” is used here by Jewish individuals can leave no room for debate, it means they are bestowing the honor of the word reserved for God and apply it to Jesus.  Remember Thomas’ “my Lord and my God?” Here that is underscored by the big 3.  Saviour meaning one who saves. Christ meaning Messiah.  So Jesus, our “God is with us,” Who is our Savior and Messiah is the cornerstone of the great last words of Peter, Paul, and John.  We would expect no less, but do we recognize Him in such a profound way in our speech, even in our churches in today’s world?  Should He not be included in every single last word that we have in our churches and between believers? Our Lord, Saviour, and Messiah; Jesus.

Peter even admonishes us to grow in the knowledge of Jesus.  We should learn of and be reminded of, His life, death, and resurrection.  His life including perfection, and His teachings, His death and why He had to die, and His resurrection as the sign and promise of our faith.  Study it, teach it, learn of Him because His yoke is easy and burden light.

2) Grace.  I’ve taught on here about grace.  The Greek means “unmerited favor.”  Peter received the grace of Jesus firsthand after denying Him 3 times.  Jesus forgave and forgave and forgave.  Peter never earned it.  Neither do we ever earn forgiveness.  We cannot work our way to forgiveness, there is no physical act we can do to earn forgiveness, He bestows it upon us and we are to grow in it!  This is why I decry anything that smacks of sacramentalism.  Peter, Paul and John offer the reminder of grace and the free flowing nature of it from God to us, and we don’t do anything to merit it.  The Lord and Saviour Jesus the Messiah did everything to merit the grace for us!!  What is our response? Faith.

In Galatians 2:21 Paul boldly proclaims “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”  Jesus died for the free flow of grace to us from our God!  His death was both necessary and sufficient to open the gate… to tear down the curtain dividing us from God.  Paul clearly says, “grace be with you.”  Unmerited favor be with you.  No hoops, no red tape; grace be with you.  The same comes from John, the Apostle of love; “grace be with you.”  Do you get it yet? lol Grace be with YOU.

3) Amen.  Amen translates into “so be it.”  Grace be with you, so be it.  That’s double affirmation being displayed with faith.  It is the communication that what has proceeded the “amen” is in line with God’s will, and that it shall be done because of His goodness and promises. When we have faith, which is trust, in what God has said and done, we have that ability to say amen; so be it.  Jesus is Lord, Saviour, and Messiah.  Learn about Him.  Grow in His grace. So be it!  If only our preachers and teachers reminded us of this, and underscored the meaning of it, and taught it with authority.

So, those are the things that Peter, Paul, and John believed were so fundamental that they included them at the very end of their correspondence.  Humans tend to remember the first things and the last things mentioned to them in letters and speeches. Pay attention to these things and put them in your heart, because they are fundamental to what it means to be Christians.

To my fellow believers in Jesus who have placed their trust in Him, I say; grace and peace be with you through faith in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!

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Feedback; Faith vs. Works

I recently had a reader ask about faith vs. works, and this is a very common question.  Often, the perceived conflict can come in another “vs.” form; Paul vs. James.  There is indeed a reason why many people have this question, it can indeed be confusing.

We have Paul on one hand who makes it absolutely clear that faith is a main component of salvation (Grace being the other), and works are not.  We cannot work our way to Heaven, nor can we work our way into God’s good graces.  It doesn’t function that way.  God’s grace is just that; it is unmerited favour; it is unearned favour.  Unearned is a clear word to use, as God gives His grace as a gift.  So if all of this is so clear, what’s the issue?

James 2:20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

That is the verse that throws a lot of people off.  There is a short answer to this question and a long answer.  Let’s do the long answer first.  The long answer starts with a few important facts.  First, James was the head of the church in Jerusalem, and was writing to Christians who were indeed Jewish.  James also came to faith after Christ resurrected.  If you read his story in scripture, James did not believe Jesus was the Son of God whilst He lived, but only after He was resurrected.  This means James would have been learning about the new covenant probably through the other apostles.  Scripture definitely reads as though James was more “clingy” to the old covenant system.

Paul, on the other hand, was specifically designated to be the apostle to the Gentiles.  His teaching, his letters were also labeled as scripture by the other apostles; this is a great honour and shows his teachings were held to the same level as the old testament.  He was taught his message by Jesus Himself after the resurrection.  We know Paul’s position on these issues to be airtight.  What does that mean for us as we read the scriptures in James that can seem a bit contradictory.  This means we need to interpret James through Paul, and not Paul through James.  This does not mean that James is completely wrong, it just means James needs to be put into context.

Paul taught about the New Covenant, and made himself abundantly clear about the role of faith, especially in books like Galatians, and Romans.  One of the things that James was apparently trying to get at was that if you are saved, if you have the transforming power of the Holy Spirit inside you, it will come out of you in such a way that others can tell.  We have a list of the fruit of the Spirit, so it is apparent that James isn’t wrong on this idea, but we must be very very careful in how we approach the idea lest we leave any room at all for legalism.

In James’ examples he’s careful to always include faith; why?  Because he knows, even if it seems he’s hedging a bit, that faith is where right action starts, and that is if faith where the righteousness comes in.  Any work that is really good is not of us, but of God; it is the Holy Spirit inside of us that pulls us toward righteousness.  In the examples that James gives, like Abraham, and Rahab, they started with faith; and it was their faith that God responded to, and that He considered righteousness.  James’ point is that they did not stop at that faith point, but continued on in action.  That has nothing to do with salvation.  Notice that James, rightly or wrongly, is discussing how we appear before other humans.  I can have true faith all day long, and God will know it regardless of physical action; but other humans can’t see “faith,” they can only see works.

One is saved by Christ, by grace and faith.  Our proper response to God’s grace is a faith response; to come to trust Christ utterly and completely for our salvation.  That brings me to the short answer to this question of faith vs. works.  James says to look at works, ok.  So, what does Jesus Himself tell us?

John 6:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

The word there for “believe” is Pisteuo in the Greek; that ye faithe on Him whom He hath sent.  Christ leaves no room for a legalistic interpretation of James; the work of God is to faithe on Christ.  Period.

Now, if one has the Holy Spirit, and lives long enough, will the Holy Spirit work on him/her?  Absolutely.  It doesn’t always happen over night, but it does happen over time…sometimes a long time.  That process of sanctification should not be confused with salvation.  Once we place our faith in Christ by God’s grace, that is what saves us.  Walking and living our lives in faith with the help of the Holy Spirit is a part of the process too, but it is a different issue than salvation.

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