Paul had spent 1 1/2 years in Corinth establishing the Church and teaching them the Word of God. (Acts 18:12) Later, Appollos, an Alexandrian Jew who converted to Christianity, came to Corinth and was invited to serve. Appollos was a very eloquent speaker, and soon garnered a avid following… which led to separate factions within the Church. But when Paul heard of the riff, he quickly dispelled the notion of competition between Appollos and him and directed the Church’s attention back to God. Sharing our faith with others isn’t a contest to see how many notches on our gun we can get. Neither is it a competition of one Ministry pitted against another. We are all fellow workers for the Lord…each out working the harvest fields with the God-given gifts, talents, and passions we’ve been given.
Much has been written about this Chapter and the armor of God…going into great detail about each piece of equipment. But let’s look at how Paul speaks of the armor of God in these verses. We are to clothe ourselves with Christ, or as Paul wrote in Romans 13:12, “Put on the armor of light.” For when we take on His strength, dominion, and power we become invincible. But the second part here is the most important, for it says, “so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Now taking a stand means not doing things in our own strength, but of waiting on the Lord and allowing Him to work on our behalf. Or as it tells us in Exodus 14:14, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” But this is where we usually get into trouble, for we egotistically think we can fight our own battles, but as it tells us in the next verse, these battles aren’t with flesh and blood, but with the powers of darkness and spiritual forces of evil. So our strength can only come from putting on Jesus as our armor, standing firm in His truth, and waiting on Him. For the battle is truly the Lord’s.
The prophet Jeremiah was the Lord’s spokesman during the heartbreaking final days of his beloved nation, Judah. His deeply emotional writings gave him the title of “The Weeping Prophet”…a misunderstood, lonely, and very sensitive man persecuted by his own people who would simply not believe his warnings of the coming destruction if they didn’t repent. “Streams of tears flow from my eyes for Your Law is not obeyed.” But even though Jeremiah suffered by the hands of his countrymen, he continued to warn them…begging them to relent and turn back to God. And the times he tried to stay silent he said God’s Word was “in his heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” (Jeremiah 20:9) But have we gotten to that point yet? Is our heart breaking for what breaks God’s in our Nation or are we just turning a blind eye? Is God’s Word so burning inside of us that we cannot hold it in any longer and must speak? And like Jeremiah, are we willing to battle for our Nation no matter what?
The Lord not only prepares the way before us, but He also follows up behind encouraging, exhorting, and gathering in the weary. He is the Shepherd that goes ahead of His flock, watching for dangers… but He is also the Rear Guard watching for those same threats that may sneak up from behind. In other words, the Lord not only goes before us, but has our back as well. Or as Exodus 23:20 tells us, “See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.”
When we are united in the Body of Christ we have a spirit of unity…a mindset of oneness, one with another. It’s aim is to glorify God. Our attitude of unity then must be one of humility, gentleness, and patience as we strive to make ever effort to keep unity among the Body. And as we personally make every attempt to endeavor towards unity…we must determine within ourselves to keep this bond through the Gospel Message…the Gospel of Peace.
In Jude 16 these scoffers are called grumblers and fault-finders and their goal is to create division among the Community of Faith they are part of. In I Timothy 4:1 Paul calls them hypocritical liars, and in II Peter 2:1 they are called false teachers that secretly introduce destructive heresies. Their mode of operation is covert murmuring…of passive aggressive disrespect towards the Pastoral Staff…and a politically correct world view of comprehensive inclusiveness of all views, whether the Bible agrees or not.
Wisdom is a divine gift from above… joined with purity of heart and life, it’s described by eight characteristics here. The first and most important is purity. Godly wisdom is like God’s Word…the absolute and unadulterated truth. The next seven are practical applications of wisdom in our everyday life with people we come in contact with. They are also the effects of wisdom in our own lives that bear witness by how we treat others. Proverbs 4:7 tells us that, “Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom.”…meaning wisdom is foundational or the cornerstone for our successful journey as Believers.
We may think we know the mind of God, but we’re only kidding ourselves. God reminds us of this all the time. “My thoughts aren’t your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways.” (Isaiah 55:8) or “Who knows the mind of the Lord?” ( Isaiah 40:13) We humans perceive things through our senses…but our senses can’t accurately ensure that we truly understand the mind of God. So instead, we superimpose human emotions onto our vision of God in order to perceive Him a little better. But just when we think we have God’s plan and purpose for us pigeon-holed and neatly tied up in a bow…something happens that we didn’t see coming. And we’re left confused, frustrated, and even miffed at God for changing our plans. But God’s Will -His plan and purpose for our life – is far beyond our comprehension, and what we see as His goal for us isn’t nearly as important to Him as the process He takes us through towards that goal.
When we make the decision to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior …our life will suddenly not become all sunshine and rainbows. And as we grow in Him towards righteousness and holiness life gets harder not easier. Jesus reminded His disciples in John 15 of this hard truth, “If the world hates you, remember they hated Me first…If they persecuted Me they’ll persecute you also.” But as we journey through life we can take comfort in this, “Though there is suffering in this life, there is also assurance of future blessing.” (II Timothy 1:12) We can’t be dissuaded or discouraged when bad things happen to us. Rather, we need to take our eyes off the problem and place them on the promise keeper.
Stephen was not among the original twelve disciples. Rather, he was part of the seven appointed by them as the early Church grew. (Acts 6:5) But this obscure and little known man holds the distinction of being the first Christian to die for his belief. But why? Stephen boldly spoke God’s Message of a crucified Jesus Christ that was raised from the dead on the third day and would be coming back again someday. And with strength and favor found only in the Lord, he preached repentance and salvation to a hostile Jewish crowd that couldn’t handle the truth, let alone verbally outmaneuver him. So all they could do was falsely charge him with blasphemy. But Stephen never faltered in his faith, conviction, or obedience to the Lord…and so he was martyred for speaking the truth.