Jonathan Edwards: His Conversion.

“Those who are truly converted are new men, new creatures; new, not only within, but without; they are sanctified throughout, in spirit, soul and body; old things are passed away, all things are become new; they have new hearts, new eyes, new tongues, new hands, new feet; i.e. a new conversation and practice; they walk in newness of life and continue to do so to the end of life.”   — Jonathan Edwards 

Jonathan Edwards’ conversion to personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ approximately occurred in March of 1721. “That change by which I was brought to those new dispositions and that new sense of things,” wrote Edwards in speaking of his conversion to Christ.

Edwards returned to his home in May or June of 1721 full of the joy and love for Jesus Christ. “Edwards’ account of what took place in 1721, as given in his (Edwards’) ‘Personal Narrative’, is the most important statement he ever wrote about himself,” explains Edwards biographer Iain Murray.

“The first instance that I remember of that sort of inward, sweet delight in God and divine things that I have lived much in since, was on reading those words (I Tim. 1:17) ‘Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever, Amen.’ As I read those words, there came into my soul, and was as it were diffused through it, a sense of the glory of the Divine Being; a new sense, quite different from any thing I ever experienced before,” Edwards describing his conversion to Christ.

“Never any words of Scripture seemed to me as these words did. I thought with myself, how excellent a Being that was, and how happy I should be, if I might enjoy that God, and be rapt up in Him in heaven, and be as it were swallowed up in Him forever!”

“I kept saying, and as it were singing over these words of Scripture to myself; and went to pray to God that I might enjoy Him, and prayed in a manner quite different from what I used to do; with a new sort of affection. But it never came into my thought, that there was any thing spiritual, or of a saving nature in this.” 

Edwards began to have new comprehensions and ideas of Christ. This included the work of redemption and the glorious way of salvation in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He had an increasing, sweet sense of the things of God.  

Edwards was increasingly captivated in reading and meditating upon Christ. This included the beauty and excellency of the person of Jesus along with the lovely way of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. 

“The sense I had of divine things, would often of a sudden kindle up, as it were, a sweet burning in my heart; an ardor of soul, that I know not how to express,” wrote Edwards.

May this be said of us. Pray today that the Lord would rekindle the fire and devotion within your soul for Him and for His Word. Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

Jonathan Edwards: His Life at Yale.

“Jonathan Edwards has always seemed to me the man most like the Apostle Paul.” – D. Martyn Lloyd Jones

In spite of Jonathan’s rigorous upbringing and exposure to biblical Christianity by his family, he remained unconverted. When Jonathan turned thirteen, his father Timothy enrolled him at the newly founded Collegiate School of Connecticut. The school would later be known as Yale.

Timothy Edwards received his education at Harvard. Harvard began as a Calvinistic school, but had theologically weakened under unbiblical influences. It was due to this “doctrinal erosion” that Timothy decided to enroll Jonathan at Yale, which at the time was strongly committed to Reformed theology. .

At Yale, Jonathan received an excellent college education. He studied grammar, rhetoric, logic, ancient history, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, metaphysics, ethics, natural science, Greek, Hebrew, Christian theology, natural philosophy, and classical literature. He also had a healthy education in the writings of John Calvin, John Owen, William Ames and other Puritan scholars.

Jonathan graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1720. He was at the head of his class. He delivered the valedictory address. However, he still was not a converted Christian.

Upon graduation, Jonathan immediately began pursuing a master’s degree at Yale. His studies required two years of independent study. It was during his second year of graduate studies that he received Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord (John 1:12-13). In contemplating I Timothy 1:17, he wrote, “There came into my soul, and there was as it were diffused through it, a sense of the glory of the Divine Being; a new sense, quite different from anything I ever experienced before.”

Concerning his conversion, Jonathan would later write, “I began to have a new kind of apprehensions and ideas of Christ, and the work of redemption, and the glorious ways of salvation by Him. An inward, sweet sense of these things, at times, came into my heart; and my soul was led away in pleasant views and contemplations of them. My mind was greatly engaged to spend my time in reading and meditating on Christ, on the beauty and excellency of His person, and the lovely way of salvation by free grace in Him.”

Dr. Steven J. Lawson writes, “We live in a day of spiritual laxity. Many who confess Christ are pampering themselves to death rather than pushing themselves to holiness. Their spiritual muscles are untrained and unfit. Their wills are soft and unresolved. This is why a study of the life of Jonathan Edwards is so valuable. Considered the towering figure in American Colonial history – arguably the greatest pastor, preacher, philosopher, theologian and author America has ever produced – Edwards lived with an enlarged desire to experience personal godliness.”

May we pursue godliness in much the same way. Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria! 

Jonathan Edwards: His Birth and Early Life.

Jonathan Edwards was born October 5, 1703 in East Windsor, Connecticut. Edwards’s father, Timothy, was pastor of the church at East Windsor, Connecticut. His mother, Esther, was a daughter of Solomon Stoddard, pastor of the church at NorthamptonMassachusetts.

Jonathan was the fifth child and only son among 11 children. He grew up in an atmosphere of Puritan piety, affection, and learning. Jonathan was trained for college by his father and elder sisters, all of whom received an excellent education. Edwards’ future ministry as a pastor and theologian was certainly grounded by his childhood.   

One biographer of Edwards writes, “Edwards was reared with the rigorous Christian piety of his Calvinistic Puritan heritage. His father’s congregation in East Windsor was visited with seasons of revival and Edwards was not left untouched by them. His spiritual life had its ups and downs and there were times when Edwards thought he had true faith in Christ. But it was not until he was a college student that he “closed with Christ” in a saving way.

Edwards enrolled in Yale College in 1716. He was just shy of his thirteenth birthday. While at Yale, he became acquainted with John Locke‘s Essay Concerning Human Understanding. During his college studies, Edwards also kept notebooks labeled “The Mind,” “Natural Science,” (containing a discussion of the atomic theory), “The Scriptures” and “Miscellanies.”

One historian explains, “Edwards was fascinated by the discoveries of Isaac Newton and other scientists of this time period. Before he was called to full-time ministry work in Northampton, he wrote on various topics in natural philosophy, including flying spiders, light, and optics. While he worried about those of his contemporaries who seemed preoccupied by materialism and faith in reason alone, he considered the laws of nature to be derived from God and demonstrating his wisdom and care. Edwards’s written sermons and theological treatises emphasize the beauty of God and the role of aesthetics in the spiritual life.”

Edwards continued to be interested in science even after his graduation from Yale. Although many European scientists and American pastors found the implications of science pushing them towards the false theology called Deism, Edwards believed the natural world was evidence of God’s masterful design (Psalm 19). Throughout his life, Edwards often went into the woods as a favorite place to pray and worship the Lord in the beauty and solace of God’s creation.

Take the opportunity today to bask in the beauty of God’s creation. Go for a walk, or even a bike ride, and use it as a time for prayer and worship. Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!  

Jonathan Edwards: Initial thoughts of Church History.       

“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1 ESV)

Why is a study of church history so important when the church exists in a day and time when what occurred yesterday is so quickly forgotten? Perhaps the reason for any study of history, especially church history, is summarized by philosopher and writer George Santayana (1863 – 1952) who wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”

Dr. Nicholas Needham, minister of Inverness Reformed Baptist Church in Inverness, Scotland, explains, “We study church history not merely to learn from and remember the past but to help us wisely serve and glorify God now and for the future. We look to the great figures of eras gone by in order to learn from their successes and failures. We examine their lives that we might be encouraged to imitate them insofar as they followed Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). For until Christ returns, we must be concerned to see the conversion and discipleship of our neighbors and the nations. As we labor toward this end, we must rest in the glorious truth that God is sovereignly fulfilling His purposes as He sovereignly works in and through us as His instruments. As some have said, history is a story written by the finger of God, and that story is centered around the history of the cross of Christ Jesus, who is coming again at the culmination of His mission, when the Great Commission has been fulfilled and all the elect have been saved from every tribe, tongue, and nation.”

Any study of the heroes from church history must include the finest philosopher and theologian that the United States has ever produced; Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758). He was one of the leaders of the First Great Awakening, a pastor who articulated and lived a sound biblical, pastoral, and Reformed Theology.

18th century pastor, theologian, author, missionary and college president, Jonathan Edwards, was truly a renaissance man. This means that he was not only a man of many talents and abilities, he was also a master of those talents and abilities.

Why is Jonathan Edwards so admired by believers in Christ, even in the 21st century? Please consider the following comments.

That good and sensible man…that great man.”
JOHN WESLEY, Works, vol.10, 1831, pp. 463 and 475

“Jonathan Edwards, saint and metaphysician, revivalist and theologian, stands out as the one figure of real greatness in the intellectual life of colonial America.”
BENJAMIN B. WARFIELD, Studies in Theology, 1932, p.517

“No man is more relevant to the present condition of Christianity than Jonathan Edwards…He was a mighty theologian and a great evangelist at the same time…He was pre-eminently the theologian of revival. If you want to know anything about true revival, Edwards is the man to consult. Revivals have often started as the result of people reading volumes such as these two volumes of Edwards’ Works.”
D. MARTYN LLOYD-JONES in The Puritan Experiment in the New World, The Westminster Conference Papers, 1976, p.103 ff.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

Profiles of Courage: Jonathan Edwards.         

A profile is a sketch or a summary of an individual’s life or a brief episode in a person’s life. Courage refers to doing what is right, even when facing opposition. It is synonymous with bravery, nerve, valor, or guts.

Joshua 1:1-9 indicates the importance of having biblical courage. Joshua had faithfully served God as Moses’ right hand man for forty years following Israel’s Exodus from Egypt. He had witnessed a lot in those forty years. He had seen Moses lead close to two million people during all sorts of situations, both the good and the bad, during those four decades.

But Moses was now dead. Who would lead the Nation of Israel into the Promised Land and conquer it for Israel’s good and for God’s glory? The Lord knew who He wanted, but the man the Lord had set His sovereign call upon wasn’t too sure he was qualified for the job, or that he even wanted the job. The man in question was Joshua.

It was one thing to play second fiddle to Moses for forty years. I was quite another to now be the maestro who would be in charge of leading the orchestra. But Joshua was the man God wanted, called and would use. God knew Joshua needed encouragement and courage. So God came to Joshua and had an audience with the reluctant leader. Joshua 1:1-9 records what God said.

“After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

God uses men and woman who are strong and courageous. God chooses to use men and woman who resolve to obey the Lord no matter the cost. Joshua would prove to be such a man. Men and woman of biblical courage were needed then in Joshua’s day and age. They are also needed in our day and age.

Periodically, we will take a brief look at particular individuals in Scripture, or in church history, who profile, or illustrate, courage and conviction to stand for biblical truth. One such individual was Martin Luther whose life we profiled in October 2017 when we observed the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Another individual was Jonathan Edwards.

For the next several days we will examine the life and ministry of Jonathan Edwards. We will profile the man and the work God accomplished through him. We will see the highpoints of his ministry, and the often debated controversies surrounding this pastor and theologian. The goal of this profile is not only to find out who Edwards was, but also to remove the all too frequent misunderstandings that occur when his name is mentioned. We will also seek to understand why this man of the 18th century still impacts the church in the 21st century.

Thank you for joining me in the journey.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Epistle to Philemon: The Grace of the Lord.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” (Philemon 25 ESV)

The Apostle Paul began this epistle with the words “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philemon 3 ESV). It is fitting that he concludes this letter to Philemon in a similar vein.

Grace (χάρις; charis) is God’s unmerited favor. Grace is God giving the sinner what they do not deserve; salvation. It must always be remembered that our justification from God the Father is by sovereign grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone (Rom. 3:21-26; Eph. 2:1-9).

As used here, grace is not just what God brings the repentant sinner at the moment of conversion. Grace is also the Lord’s unmerited kindness towards the believer in Christ throughout their sanctification and growth as disciples for Christ.  

In today’s text, Paul wrote that grace originated from and is solely sourced in the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle was using these identifying titles for Jesus in affirming His deity.

It was Paul’s desire that Philemon know God’s grace in the depths of his soul.  The word spirit (πνεύματος; pneumatos) refers to the mind, emotions and the will of man. In other words, Paul referred to the entire person. However, the word “your” is plural in form. Therefore, Paul wrote this final greeting not only to Philemon but also to the others mentioned in vs. 1-2.

One commentator writes, “These believers were already enjoying the grace that brought them salvation. But here, and in verse 3, Paul was concerned that they be encompassed with God’s enabling grace for their daily walk before others. “Spirit” (cf. “your spirit” in the Gal. 6:18 and 2 Tim. 4:22 benedictions) refers to one’s inner spiritual self. What a gracious way for Paul to conclude this touching intimate epistle.”

Have a blessed day in the Lord. May the Lord’s grace be with your spirit.

Soli deo Gloria!  

The Epistle to Philemon: Final Greetings: Three Fellow Workers. Part Two.

23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24 and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.” (Philemon 23–24 (ESV)

We have studied two of the final three individuals mentioned by the Apostle Paul in his letter Philemon. They are Aristarchus, Demas and Luke. Paul called them, along with Epaphras and Mark, his fellow workers. Today, we focus our attention on Luke.

Luke was one of Paul’s companions who sent their greetings in his letter to Colossae; ‘Luke (Gk. Loukas) the beloved physician’ (Col. 4:14). Paul’s description of him suggests that he had given medical care to Paul, no doubt during the latter’s imprisonment.

In today’s text, probably written at the same time, the apostle described Luke as a fellow-worker.. This suggests that his help in the work of the gospel was not confined to his medical skill alone.

A third reference to him is in one of Paul’s last messages: ‘Luke alone is with me’ (2 Tim. 4:11). This confirms the close link between the two men.

Luke is generally thought to have been a Gentile, but some commentators have argued that Col. 4:11 refers to a particular group within the wider circle of Jewish Christians. Consequently, Luke may have been a Jewish Christian of the Dispersion.

One commentator writes, “Luke’s admiration for Paul comes out clearly in the course of the Book of Acts. Through his close contact with him and with other Christian leaders, and as a consequence of his visits to Jerusalem and Caesarea (cf. Acts 21:17ff.), Luke had ample opportunities to gain first-hand knowledge about the life of Jesus and the history of the earliest Christian church. He could rightly claim in the prologue to his Gospel that he was well qualified for his task, having carefully and thoroughly investigated all the relevant facts, as they were handed down by responsible witnesses in the church (Lk. 1:1–4).”

As illustrated by Luke, an individual does not have to be well known to be well used by the LORD. God worked through this man in a significant way. He may so chose to use other believers in Christ who, like Luke, receive little notoriety. Remember, it is not as important who the servant is but rather the Master of the servant.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Epistle to Philemon: Final Greetings: Three Fellow Workers.

23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24 and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.” (Philemon 23–24 (ESV)

Today we begin to take a look at the final three individuals mentioned by the Apostle Paul in his letter Philemon. They are Aristarchus, Demas and Luke. Paul called them, along with Epaphras and Mark, his fellow workers.

Commentator Edwin Deibler, writing in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, explains, “Those who sent greetings to Philemon (you in v. 23 is sing.) are five of the six people also mentioned in Colossians 4:10–14, though in a different order: Epaphras … Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke. In Colossians Paul also added “Jesus, who is called Justus.” In Colossians 4:12–13 Paul highly commended Epaphras, who in Philemon 23 is called my fellow prisoner for Christ Jesus.”

The phrase fellow workers (συνεργός; synergos) means a fellow laborer (kjv) or co-worker (nrsv, nab); (Rom. 16:3; 1 Cor. 3:9; 2 Cor. 1:24; 8:23; Php. 2:25; 4:3; Col. 4:11; 1Thess. 3:2; Phm. 1; 3 John 8). What do we know of these final three?

Aristarchus. A Thessalonian. Alluded to in Acts 19:29; 20:4; 27:2. He was Paul’s companion for a portion of the way on the apostle’s journey to Rome.

The Tyndale Bible Dictionary (TBD) states, “Aristarchus was a companion of the apostle Paul; Macedonian from Thessalonica, possibly of Jewish ancestry. He is first mentioned as one of those seized by an angry mob in Ephesus (Acts 19:29). Later he accompanied Paul on the return from his third missionary journey (Acts 20:4) as well as to Rome to face Caesar (Acts 27:1–2). Paul described him as a coworker (Phlm 1:24) and fellow prisoner from whom he received great comfort (Col 4:10–11). Tradition says that Aristarchus was martyred in Rome under Nero.”

Demas. See Col. 4:14; 2 Tim. 4:10. The TBD explains that, “Demas was one of Paul’s associates who was with him during one of his imprisonments. Little is known about Demas beyond the brief information given in the NT. Initially he supported Paul’s ministry and was mentioned in the salutations of Paul’s letters to the Colossians (Col 4:14) and to Philemon (Phlm 1:24). However, in 2 Timothy 4:10 Paul writes that Demas deserted him because of his love for the present world.”

These two fellow workers for Christ and the gospel illustrate two distinct destinies. Aristarchus was an individual who finished well in his service for the Lord. Demas, on the other hand, did not. He allowed himself to be conformed to the world (Rom. 12:1-2).

Let us resolve that no confusion surround our dedication for the Lord when our life comes to an end. May each of us finish well. Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Epistle to Philemon: Final Greetings: John/Mark. Part 2.

23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24 and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.” (Philemon 23–24 (ESV)

Regarding Paul’s final greetings to Philemon, we continue to examine the disciple named Mark. He was otherwise known as John Mark (Acts 12:25). What more do we know of this young man?

The Tyndale Bible Dictionary provides valuable insight and information.

Luke’s history records that “the disagreement [between Paul and Barnabas over Mark] became so sharp that they parted company” (Acts 15:39, nrsv). Nothing stirred Paul’s feelings more than the question of justification by faith, and Barnabas had demonstrated his weakness on this point (Gal 2:13). Therefore, it may have been the cause of their separation: Barnabas and Mark to Cyprus, and Paul and Silas into Asia Minor to strengthen the new churches (Acts 15:39–41).

About 11 years pass before Mark again appears in the biblical record. In Colossians 4:10 and Philemon 1:24, he is in Rome with “Paul the aged,” who is there as “a prisoner of Jesus Christ” (Phlm 1:19). The fracture had been healed, such that Paul says that Mark and others are “the only ones of the circumcision [the Jews] among my co-workers for the kingdom of God” (Col 4:11, nrsv).

Paul, in his last epistle, pays Mark his final tribute. He tells Timothy, “Do your best to come to me soon.… Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful in my ministry” (2 Tm 4:9, 11, nrsv). Although all had deserted Paul in his trial before Caesar Nero (v 16), Mark, who in his youth had also deserted the apostle, traveled from Ephesus to Rome, endeavoring to come to the beloved Paul with Timothy.

According to 1 Peter 5:13, the apostle Peter sent Mark’s greeting along with that of the church in Babylon (signifying Rome), indicating Mark’s close relationship with the apostle to the circumcision (Gal 2:9). The most important and reliable extrascriptural tradition concerning Mark is that he was the close attendant of Peter. The early church fathers said this association produced the Gospel of Mark, inasmuch as Mark took account of Peter’s teachings about Jesus and then used them to shape his Gospel, perhaps written in Rome between ad 60 and 68.

One of the evidences that the Bible is the Word of God is that it records God’s people as they really are: sinful and flawed human beings. God’s people make mistakes and experience failures. Yet the Lord continues to use us even in spite of our failures. What was true in the Scriptures remains true today.

Remember, it is not as important how you begin serving the Lord, as to how you finish. How’s the journey going for you? Keep pressing on. Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Epistle to Philemon: Final Greetings: John/Mark.

23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24 and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.” (Philemon 23–24 (ESV)

Continuing with Paul’s final greetings to Philemon, today we examine Mark, otherwise known as John Mark (Acts 12:25). What do we know of this young man?

Mark was a cousin of Barnabas; a companion to both Paul and Peter and the author of the second Gospel.

The Tyndale Bible Dictionary provides valuable insight and information.

Mark was a member of a Jewish family in Jerusalem who were early believers in Jesus Christ, John Mark had both a Jewish and a Roman name. The Roman name Mark was perhaps a badge of Roman citizenship, as in Paul’s case, or was adopted when he left Jerusalem to serve the gentile church in Antioch (Acts 12:25). When an angel of the Lord freed Peter from prison, the apostle went directly to “the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark” (v 12, nrsv). This house, described as having an outer gate, being of adequate size to accommodate a gathering of many believers and served by a slave named Rhoda (vv 12–13), was obviously the dwelling of a wealthy family. By the time of this event (c. ad 44), Mark may have already been converted through the personal influence of Peter (1 Pt 5:13). The fact that he was chosen to accompany Barnabas and Saul (Paul) to Antioch indicates that Mark was held in high esteem by the church in Jerusalem (Acts 12:25).

John Mark accompanied Barnabas and Saul to assist them on their evangelistic expedition (Acts 13:5). He soon left the apostles, however, and returned to Jerusalem (v 13). Scripture does not reveal the cause of this desertion. Perhaps the rigors and hardships of the journey overwhelmed the young man. Another possible explanation was that at Paphos, shortly into the journey, Paul stepped to the front as leader and spokesman (v 13). Thereafter, Acts (with the natural exception of 15:12, 25) speaks of Paul and Barnabas rather than Barnabas and Paul.

Perhaps it offended Mark to see his kinsman Barnabas, who had preceded Paul in the faith (4:36–37) and had ushered him into the apostles’ fellowship (9:27), take second place in the work of the gospel. But there may have been a deeper and more significant cause for Mark’s withdrawal.

Like Paul, Mark was “a Hebrew born of Hebrews” (Phil 3:5, nrsv). Because of this, Mark may have objected to Paul’s offer of salvation to the Gentiles based only on faith without the prerequisite of keeping the Jewish law. It is noteworthy that the Bible uses only the Hebrew name John when recording Mark’s presence on the gospel journey (Acts 13:5) and his departure at Perga in Pamphylia (v 13). Also important is the fact that John Mark returned, not to the Gentile church in Antioch, the site of his former service, but to the Jewish church in Jerusalem (v 13).

One of the evidences that the Bible is the Word of God is that it records God’s people as they really are: sinful and flawed human beings. God’s people make mistakes and experience failures. Yet the Lord continues to use us even in spite of our failures. What was true in the Scriptures remains true today.

More to follow concerning the young man known as John Mark. Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Epistle to Philemon: Final Greetings: Epaphras.  

23Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24 and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.” (Philemon 23–24 (ESV)

It is easy for believers in Christ today to believe that the Apostle Paul was like a Lone Ranger for God. By that I mean that he did not need anyone else in his ministry. He could do it all and have it all; alone. Nothing is further from the truth.

Paul not only relied upon the Lord Jesus as His Savior and Lord, but he also relied upon many other individuals in the ministry. This was the case at the beginning with his mentor Barnabas and it remained so even during his later years while in prison in Rome.

Paul mentioned several fellow servants at the conclusion of his letter to Philemon. Let us examine each one individually.

Epaphras. Paul referred to Epaphras as his fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus. Therefore, it can be concluded that Epaphras was not only a prisoner of Rome, with Paul, but also a fellow believer in Christ. Paul included Epaphras’ greetings to Philemon.

The Tyndale Bible Dictionary explains, “Epaphras was a coworker with the apostle Paul. Epaphras, a native of Colosse, was responsible for the city’s evangelization, as well as that of Laodicea and Hierapolis. Through him Paul learned of the progress of the Colossian church and thus wrote his letter to the Colossians. Paul’s high regard for Epaphras was evidenced by his use of such terms as “beloved fellow servant,” “faithful minister of Christ” (Col 1:7), and “servant of Christ” (Col 4:12), a title of esteem Paul bestowed only on one other person—Timothy (Phil 1:1). Epaphras was in prison with Paul at the time the letter to Philemon was written (Phlm 1:23).”

In the remaining names which Paul mentioned, he does not refer to them as fellow prisoners in Christ Jesus but rather fellow workers. It may be assumed that the following individuals mentioned in the letter were with Paul in Rome but were not imprisoned by Rome.

Epaphras is an example of someone who faithfully served the Lord, even though his name may not be immediately recognized today by the church. It does not matter if believers today know little about Epaphras. God knows him and that is all that matters for any of us in our service unto the Lord.

Have a blessed day in Christ. May Jesus Christ be praised.

Soli deo Gloria!  

The Epistle to Philemon: Above and Beyond.

21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. 22 At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.” (Philemon 21–22 (ESV)

It is one thing to do what is expected of you. That is a good thing. However, it is even better when you go above and beyond and exceed people’s expectations. That is when you truly become a blessing to others.

One author writes, “Having a mindset that exceeds expectations means that every task or situation is viewed as an opportunity to go above and beyond what is expected by your co-workers, bosses, clients and all other stakeholders. To exceed expectations… you need to know the base expectations.”

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “Although Paul never explicitly tells Philemon to free Onesimus, Philemon 21 is the clearest evidence that freedom is what the apostle finally sought. Having encouraged reconciliation between the two men and a restoration of their relationship (Philem. 8–20), Paul says in verse 21 that Philemon will surely go beyond what has been asked. How can Philemon go further than receiving his runaway slave without punishment, fellowshipping with him as a Christian brother, and enduring any negative social consequences? He can free Onesimus, of course.”

Paul anticipated being released from prison (Phil. 1:22-26; 2:19-24). Whether the apostle was ever able to visit Philemon in Colossae is unknown.

Dr. Sproul explains, “This verse, along with the broader apostolic teaching about the new family God has created in Christ Jesus, shows us that while Scripture never explicitly commands believers to free their slaves, it does create an environment in which owning slaves eventually becomes unthinkable. If we truly understand that other Christians are joint heirs with us in Christ Jesus, full members of the household of God and as valuable as we are in His sight (John 9:1–13Eph. 3:6), how can we put them below us through buying and selling them as if they were some kind of disposable commodity? Philemon, perhaps more clearly than any other epistle, shows us the radical implications of what it means to live as the community of God’s children in this world.”

Have a blessed day in the Lord. May He be glorified in our lives today.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Epistle to Philemon: Receive Him.

17 So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18 If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. (Philemon 17–18 (ESV)

Today’s text intimates what the issue was between Philemon and his departed slave Onesimus. It appears that Onesimus had stolen money from his master. The Apostle Paul was adamant that whatever Oneimus owed Philemon, Paul would repay.

It is at this point in our study that it would be good to examine the subject of slavery in the first century Roman culture. Ligonier Ministries’ monthly magazine Tabletalk provides helpful information.

“Slavery described in Scripture is not the same type of slavery practiced in America’s Antebellum Era. Slavery in ancient Israel and first-century Rome often resulted when debtors could not repay a loan. Unlike the ethnocentric slavery once practiced in the United States, the slavery Scripture knows of was not based, at least primarily, on biblically abhorrent ideas such as racial inferiority and kidnapping (Gen. 1:27Ex. 21:16). God’s condemnation of these foundational principles of American slavery renders that system wholly ungodly; thus, the attempt to justify the system biblically in days past was gross Scripture-twisting.”

“With the institution of slavery, we cannot assume Paul and the other biblical authors saw it as the ideal for creation just because their writings regulate the practice. Paul’s directions to Christian masters and slaves assume participation in slavery as it was known in the first century, and it did not automatically render one’s profession of faith invalid — if slaves were treated well (Col. 3:22–4:1Eph. 6:5–9).”  

“At the same time, the apostle regarded freedom from enslavement better than its alternative, for he exhorted slaves to seek liberty when they could (1 Cor. 7:21). First-century slaves regularly bought their freedom — they could save up gifts of money and land over time to pay for manumission. In the city of Rome, at least, most slaves could expect to be free by age thirty. We do not want to make ancient slavery better than it was, but the aforementioned reality alone reveals that it was more humane than American slavery, where freeing oneself from bondage was mostly a vain hope. Such differences also show it is naive at best to believe Paul would have said what he does about slavery if slavery as practiced in the American South was the slavery he knew. All these factors begin to show us why Paul takes the positions that he does on slavery”.

“Though Paul implies that Christian participation in first-century slavery was not always prohibited, the fact that slavery is not the ideal, coupled with his apostolic authority, meant he could order Christian slave masters to forgive and free slaves when appropriate. Paul could have appealed to His apostolic office when writing to Philemon, but he chose not to (v. 8).”  

More to follow. Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!