When the Wicked are Winning

One of the hard lessons of this present epidemic is the fact that it will come and go. The last couple of weeks saw a resurgence here in Arizona and with at least one known case among us (although his was during our original two-month quarantine and so very unlikely to have affected anyone else in the congregation). So, out of an abundance of caution we are not meeting for two Sunday’s. BUT we can still all be praying and reading God’s word, can’t we? Take advantage of this time to get closer to God!

When the Wicked are Winning

Have you ever had a discouraging day when it seems that the whole world has gone crazy and evil is winning no matter what? Oh, wait! Was that yesterday, the day before, and even today? I guess when it comes right down to it, we all will get exactly where David is coming from with one of Psalms.

Psalm 109 is a prophetic Psalm that is used by Peter referring to Judas Iscariot in his sermon on the day of Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:20). The Judas in David’s life was his close friend and advisor, Ahitophel. Once renowned for his wisdom, when Absalom revolted,  he deserted David and supported Absalom. So David, like Jesus, understood betrayal at its greatest (cf. 2 Samuel 15 – 17).

Equally interesting is Jewish tradition that says the Psalm originated in David’s advice to Solomon as Solomon takes the throne. Much like Peter’s sermon reminds those who would be Christians of God’s curses for betrayal, so too, does David council his son and newly crowned king.

David is old and feeble now. His time on this earth is rapidly growing to a close. He’s seen much of both good, faithful friends and those that seem so but are not. God’s lessons are meant to be shared that others might learn too. The preface to this Psalm tells one more important point to remember. The story of God’s ultimate victory over betrayal and sin is to be sung. In addressing the Psalm to the “chief musician” David places it among the worship songs for the temple services.

Now put all this together. In this world, there is always wickedness, betrayal, false friends who will bring harm and not blessing to God’s faithful people. How are we to see them? Yes, we cannot hold a grudge and hate them, for that brings the illness of sin into our own hearts. It’s not our place to judge them for vengeance belongs to God.

And yet, God does not expect His faithful children to be ignorant, sweetness, and doormats to Satan and his minions. Not only does God bring His harshest judgments to the ungodly and sinners (cf. Proverbs 11:31 and 1 Peter 4:18) but God expects His people to take comfort in knowing that this is so!

So with all this background in mind, let’s consider God’s inspired words and David’s advice to his son, the young king:

Psalm 109   

  • O God of my praise, Do not be silent!
  • For they have opened the wicked and deceitful mouth against me;
  • They have spoken against me with a lying
  • They have also surrounded me with words of hatred, And fought against me without. In return for my love they act as my accusers;
  •  But I am in 5 Thus they have repaid me evil for good And hatred for my love.
  • Appoint a wicked man over him, And let an accuser stand at his right hand.
  • When he is judged, let him come forth guilty, And let his prayer become sin.
  • Let his days be few; Let another take his office.
  • Let his children be fatherless And his wife a widow.
  • Let his children wander about and beg; And let them seek sustenance far from their ruined homes.
  • Let the creditor seize all that he has, And let strangers plunder the product of his labor.
  • Let there be none to extend lovingkindness to him, Nor any to be gracious to his fatherless children.
  • Let his posterity be cut off; In a following generation let their name be blotted out.
  • Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD, And do not let the sin of his mother be blotted out.
  • Let them be before the LORD continually, That He may cut off their memory from the earth;
  • Because he did not remember to show lovingkindness, But persecuted the afflicted and needy man, And the despondent in heart, to put them to death.
  • He also loved cursing, so it came to him; And he did not delight in blessing, so it was far from
  • But he clothed himself with cursing as with his garment, And it entered into his body like water And like oil into his
  • Let it be to him as a garment with which he covers himself, And for a belt with which he constantly girds
  • Let this be the reward of my accusers from the LORD, And of those who speak evil against my

The fact is, the wicked of this world follow Satan and his will. It is evident in every one of their misdeeds and their hatred for what is good and right before God. And God will NOT allow them to get away with it. They ARE going to be punished and stripped of every good thing. But that is not the end of the story…

  • But You, O GOD, the Lord, deal kindly with me for Your name’s sake; Because Your lovingkindness is good, deliver me;
  • For I am afflicted and needy, And my heart is wounded within
  • I am passing like a shadow when it lengthens; I am shaken off like the locust.
  • My knees are weak from fasting, And my flesh has grown lean, without
  • I also have become a reproach to them; When they see me, they wag their head.

Yes, God’s people will struggle with evil that seems to be winning. It will bother us that the wicked seem to get away with everything. But that is not the end of the story…

  • Help me, O LORD my God; Save me according to Your lovingkindness. 27 And let them know that this is Your hand; You, LORD, have done it.
  • Let them curse, but You bless; When they arise, they shall be ashamed, But Your servant shall be
  • Let my accusers be clothed with dishonor, And let them cover themselves with their own shame as with a

God’s people need to understand that God is always in control. God’s people need to hang on to the fact that the righteousness of God is going to destroy evil and all those who practice it (read what Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-8). And God’s people need to stand proudly, forgiving, blessing even when cursed. Just let God do His job and take care of them. Because God will judge harshly and rightly even as He glorifies His people. But that is not the end of the story…

  • With my mouth I will give thanks abundantly to the LORD; And in the midst of many I will praise
  • For He stands at the right hand of the needy, To save him from those who judge his soul.

You see, our job is to stand firm with God. We must not only acknowledge His righteousness but obey and follow it. Let’s lift up our voices in praise to God that He has found us worthy to endure, to face the test of a wicked world that seems to be winning.

Let’s sing the song of victory, not despair. Let’s praise the Lord for He delivers us and saves us. Let’s live like it!

—Lester P. Bagley

God that IS peace


How’s that Bible reading going? Do you like nagging? Apparently, we DO when it’s important enough. How many times are you willing to “nag” someone you really love to be careful? Oh, that’s not really nagging when it’s important! So, how’s that Bible reading going? It IS that important!


Some words just belong to God. Without God’s definition and understanding of them they are meaningless. Amen is a good example that we’ve studied before. God’s meaning and use of the word gives us, as God’s people, a totally different sense than any replacement from the world.

If anything, this is even more true with the word peace. It is certainly a word that the world tries to use, but clearly God thinks that the world’s use is incompetent and downright wrong.

In a very unique way, God actually defines peace. In Judges 6:24 as Gideon is called by God and builds an altar to worship the Lord, he names it The LORD is Peace, Yahweh- shalom. As Jesus spends that final night before His death with the Apostles, He tells them Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (John 14:27)

Following His resurrection, Jesus appeared first to the 10 (Thomas is missing) and then, later, to the 11 (read John 20:19, 21 & 26). His greeting to them (most likely actually spoken in Hebrew as they all were familiar with the greeting) is peace upon you (plural) or šālôm ‘ălêkem.

The words form the still common greeting in Israel. We might translate it as good day, but it means much, much more. The idea expressed is may you be well, whole, complete as in having the physical and spiritual resources sufficient to your needs.

Think about the importance and urgency of what Jesus is saying. The Lord God is the very definition, the epitome of peace. Only in Him can we really be well, whole and complete. Only the God that IS peace has the physical and spiritual power to supply what we really need.

Before His death, Jesus extended this true peace of God to them (indeed, to us all, through them!) as a blessing. Blessings don’t come any greater or more complete than everything you need! Then the resurrected Jesus, having physically displayed His power as God by raising Himself from death (cf. John 10:18), extends yet again His powerful blessing of peace to His friends. (Be sure to read John 15:13-15 where Jesus makes the point that His disciples are no longer to be called slaves or servants but friends!)

Over 200 times the Old Testament illustrates this word, peace, and most of the time with that special link to God’s definition of real peace. In addition, the Old Testament uses a form of the word for God’s peace to refer to a special peace offering nearly 100 times. And these illustrations add to our understanding of what God’s peace really means.

These offerings are sometimes called fellowship offerings or wholeness offerings as they involved a sacrificial meal shared by the one making the offering, the people and the priests. You will recall how similar this is to the Passover, but, in this case, it could take place at any time of the year.

The peace or fellowship offering was for thanksgiving, at the fulfillment of a vow and/or for a freewill offering. The reasons or excuses for making this offering were broad enough to allow it at any time. Consider that thought for a moment. When is an appropriate time to simply thank God because you love and appreciate Him?

There were regulations for the offering. Cf. Exodus 20:24 (required); Leviticus 7:11-18 (purpose); Leviticus 3:1, 6-12 (the animal used); Leviticus 3:2, 8-13; 17:5-6 (how to prepare); Leviticus 19:5; 22:21 (requirements to be acceptable); Amos 5:22-24 (including a right attitude). After all, people have tried to fool God with fake offerings many times (Malachi discusses this problem, if you recall). So if you really want to thank God and do something to honor Him, you still have to do it the right way.

The peace or fellowship offering was shared. God received the best (Leviticus 3:3, 5, 9, 11, 14-16). The priests received a share as food (Leviticus 7:29-34). The people ate the rest (Leviticus 10:14).

These actions came together to affirm their relationship to God and were a part of their covenant  with  God  at  Sinai  (cf.  Exodus  20:24;  24:4-6)  and  later  with  their  Kings  (cf.  1 Samuel 10:8; 11:15 & 1 Kings 9:25). And they were also part of the seasonal festivals of Weeks (Leviticus 23:19) and Tabernacles (Numbers 29:39).

This was a regular part of many other times for both individual life (Nazirite vows, Numbers 6:14, 17-18; 10:10) and the community of God’s people (New Moon and other festivals, on entering the Promised Land, bringing the Ark to Jerusalem, dedication of the Temple, etc.).

When you think about it, any time was and is a good time to celebrate peace with God and fellowship with Him and His people. Is it any wonder that the Lord’s Supper is called a celebration  by  Paul  (1 Corinthians  5:8)  as  well  as  a  proclamation  or  announcement   (1 Corinthians 11:26)? For that matter, is it a surprise to any of us that one of the great joys of congregational life is a potluck, a feasting together with brothers and sisters in Christ?

Finally, consider that perhaps the most recognized Christian greeting in the New Testament is the reminder of God’s grace and peace as our blessing. Read….

  • Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2;
  • Philippians 1:2; Colossians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:1;
  • 2 Thessalonians 1:2; 1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2;
  • Titus 1:4; Philemon 1:3; 1 Peter 1:2;
  • 2 Peter 1:2; 2 John 3; Revelation 1:4.

May God’s rich grace and peace be multiplied to you!

—Lester P. Bagley

Philippians 4 ~ I can do all things…

Oh how we look forward to one week from this Sunday! Do we have a greater appreciation for David’s words of Psalm 122:1? I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.” May we continue to show our joy as we read, study and live the words of God!

Philippians 4

Chapter 3 concluded with the reminder that our citizenship is in heaven and we are awaiting our Savior’s return to take us home. Chapter 4 begins with because this is true, be faithful!

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my dear friends (Philippians 4:1). It is sad how often we take our brothers and sisters for granted. It’s true in our earthly families at times and even more so in our eternal family. Don’t ever neglect them!

Because that is true it is heartbreaking to see two faithful Christians at odds with one another. Paul continues with a plea for help from all the congregation: I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, my true comrade, help these women who have labored side by side with me in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Philippians 4:2-3) The responsibility to DO what is right before God is NEVER someone else’s job. Paul could have easily said this to the elders or the preacher or the deacons. But the simple fact is, that job belongs to ALL Christians. You do you is a cute ad for gambling, but YOU do CHRIST is what God expects of us all.

Joy is never far away from God’s people if they truly understand who they are. As Paul writes to those working hard at living the Christian life, he’s called them his joy and crown (verse 1 above) and now calls them (and us all) to rejoice. Show your joy in everything you do as a son or daughter of Almighty God!

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, Rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to every person. The Lord is at hand. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)

It’s easy for us to feel alone, but the fact that the Lord is near is a reminder given several times. David said it like this: The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth (Psalm 145:18). He is in control, all we have to do is let Him know that we trust Him to do what is best. When we let go and let God take control is when we can enjoy His marvelous peace… no matter what happens to us here on earth!

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me — put these things into practice, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

Recall Paul’s “finally” of chapter 3. He’s not done yet, but he is calling us to do something from now on! We are all aware of the countless things we have to think about and worry about. Think on or let your mind dwell on these things is actually even more forceful that you count your many blessings. To begin with it’s said as an imperative and secondly, it’s a call for an accounting. The soldiers in Philippi would have heard many times the order to give an accounting for their actions. Paul is, as God is, calling on us to be responsible for much more than just thanksgiving. We are responsible to God for doing all the things true, honorable, righteous, beautiful and worthy of praise and commendation. That’s a LOT of goodness. That’s a call to be holy, like our God is holy in all things. And this needs to be our focus as we give account of our holiness before God.

When we do these things, when this is our lifestyle as saints, then God promises His peace to be with us. It’s ridiculous for us to complain about a lack of God’s peace when we are not giving our all to Him! There’s an old saying (I’ve seen it attributed to at least a couple of different people) that goes like this: Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried. If we lack God’s peace, it is because we have failed to live in holiness.

Paul now turns to some very personal comments to his brothers and sisters in Philippi. They worry about him and he worries about them. But because they share the same Lord, they need to remember that God is taking care of them all. And that calls, no matter how hard it may seem sometimes, for even more joy and thanksgiving!

I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned before, but you had no opportunity. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I find myself. I know what it is to be in want, and I know what it is to have an abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret, whether I am well-fed or hungry, have plenty or am in need. I can do all things through the one who strengthens me. However, you have acted nobly, sharing with me in my distress. (Philippians 4:10-14)

Missionaries learn pretty quickly which congregations truly love the Lord and are faithful in supporting the Lord’s work. Nearly every missionary has been assured of love and support from a congregation only to receive nothing. Some congregations even become well known for their promises that are never kept.

And you Philippians know that in the beginning of my gospel ministry, when I left Macedonia, no church joined with me in giving and receiving but you only, for even in Thessalonica you sent something more than once for my need. Not that I seek the gift; rather, I seek the interest that accrues to your account. I have received all I need and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gift you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply your every need according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory for all time. Amen. (Philippians 4:15-20)

Philippi is not one of those churches that fail in their promises! Recall that it was actually the Macedonian churches (of which Philippi is the crown jewel) that gave even in their poverty that Paul would hold up as an example and a challenge to the Corinthian church (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:1-6). Philippi is the congregation that ought to hold their heads high for all they’ve done for the Gospel. We ought to always strive to be like Philippi!

When a congregation acts so as to bring praise to God, you know they are doing what is right. And a congregation that honors God in their deeds is a congregation that is truly a part of God’s family!

Paul concludes with greetings from saints and holy ones to saints and holy ones: Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers and sisters who are with me send their greetings to you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. (Philippians 4:21-23) But above all else, Paul extends the blessing of God’s grace to be with the family of Christ.

May we lead our lives in such a way that Jesus will always be with us!

—Lester P. Bagley


Philippians 3 ~ Stealing Our Joy

Lord willing we will be meeting together at the building again in June. Keep on reading your Bible and never forget how much the Lord’s loves YOU!

Philippians 3

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again to you is no trouble for me, and it is a safeguard for you. (Philippians 3:1) One of the big problems you always struggle with in translating something into another language is how literal you can be and still be understood. If you recall, in chapter 2 we noted Paul’s use of intestines as the source of tender affections. To translate his thoughts into English we typically would use the word heart.

The Greek word translated here as finally in most translations is loipos and it can sometimes refer to a final point being made. It’s actually the same word used by Jesus in Mark 14:41 when He inquires in the Garden, Are you still sleeping and resting? Of the 61 times the word is used in the New Testament, it is only translated as finally 6 times and all of those in Paul’s writings. So when we chuckle about Paul writing finally here and then again in chapter 4 verse 8, we are the ones missing the point. Paul is NOT coming to a conclusion as he begins chapter 3 but rather is simply making a transition in thought, shifting gears to his next point. In Galatians 6:17 the same word begins the sentence there and nearly every translation renders it from now on or henceforth. And that seems to be more in line with the point Paul is making.

Because of how great our Savior is and because we are to imitate Him (Paul’s lesson in the first part of chapter 2) AND because of the faithful brothers working with Paul and the Philippian church we should all from now on rejoice in the Lord. This is much larger than a conclusion and certainly not the end of what Paul has to say. In fact, he’s just about to start in on those that steal the Lord’s joy from God’s people!

Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who practice mutilation. For we are the true circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh. (Philippians 3:2-3) We sometimes hear people say that God wants us to accept and go along with everybody. The same Jesus that taught compassion also used whips on those that reviled God. And Paul here makes it very plain that those who lead Christians astray with their false teaching are dangerous dogs.

Paul’s early dealings with teachers that taught compromise with Old Testament practices led to stern lessons to the Galatian Christians years earlier. As these false teachers continue to follow the Lord’s church and seek to corrupt each new congregation, so Paul condemns them every time they attempt to draw Christians away from the truth. And what better way to draw people away from Christ than by claiming that they are superior to Christians?

They are not entitled to think that! In no uncertain terms, they are nothing but dogs. Paul then identifies them as Jews that reject the Law of Christ. How? By striking at their own pride. Circumcision was the badge of honor, the mark that showed them superior to Gentiles. But Paul turns the tables and makes a joke of their circumcision.

The Greek word for circumcision is peritomē and the word for mutilation is katatomē. The play on words that sound alike but have totally different meanings is intentional. Make fun of Christ and teach something that leads people away from God and you are not deserving of kind words.

Occasionally today we find false teachers that brag about their degrees or who they studied under or in some other way imply that they are greater than God’s people. Many of the Apostles were dismissed as Galileans and Paul apparently heard a lot of similar dismissal as a Christian, too. And Paul, when pushed, would occasionally, just like Jesus, come out fighting with the whips.

[E]ven though I have reason for confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews. In regard to the law, I was a Pharisee; as for zeal, a persecutor of the church; as for the righteousness set forth in the law, I was blameless.

But whatever things were gain to me, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard all things as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and regard them as rubbish, in order to gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the Law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that is based on faith —that I may know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:4-11)

Paul’s point is NOT just that I’ve been there, done that and got all the human glory but rather that he has something even greater in Christ! We can never afford to lose sight of what REALLY matters. Just like James (4:13-17)) reminds us that we cannot plan tomorrow because God is what really matters, so Paul acknowledges the same truth.

Not that I have already obtained all this or have already reached my goal, but I press on in order to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider to have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching out to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14) Even when the whips have to come out against evil (or perhaps more correctly, especially then!) remember who you belong to!

So those of us who are mature should take this point of view; and if in anything you think differently, that too God will make known to you. In any case, let us live up to what we have already attained. (Philippians 3:15-16)

The word translated mature here is also translated as perfect in many translations. A point Paul also made to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 3:1- 3; 14:20) was that right thinking is mature thinking. Just because someone “doesn’t see things that way” doesn’t mean that they actually have a right to their own viewpoint in God’s eyes. A child will see you as being an old, grumpy, mean person for not giving them candy for supper. That doesn’t mean their opinion is just as good as their parents’. It just means they haven’t grown up. And they still don’t get their own way because, immature or not, it’s wrong! Thus Paul concludes live like a Christian and grow up to take the correct attitude.

The idea that there are other opinions and other ways to be right before God is as prevalent today as in New Testament times. So Paul again reminds us much like the Old Testament that there is a way that SEEMS right to people (cf. Proverbs 14:12) and that means that there is the RIGHT way we need to follow.

Join in following my example, brothers, and pay close attention to those who are living this way, as you have us as an example. For many are living (I have often told you about them but now tell you even with tears) as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is the belly, and they glory in their shame. Their minds are set on earthly things. (Philippians 3:17-19)

Just as nothing good comes of living the wrong way, nothing bad comes of living God’s way! When we suppress ourselves and fill our lives with Christ, then all the promises and all the blessings of God are before us.

But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we eagerly await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly bodies into the likeness of his glorious body, by the power that also enables him to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:20-21)

It requires a lot of growing up to live responsibly. Sometimes we wish we could just be a child again with no responsibility, no expectations of acting like a grownup. But childhood misses out on all the beauty and richness of maturity. Family and friends are far more precious treasures when we’ve grown into them. And God, together with all His eternal promises, has far more in store for us than we could ever imagine here!

—Lester P. Bagley

Philippians chapter 2

How’s your Bible reading going? As life begins to get back to outside activities and people are less constrained inside all the time, we need to be extra cautious. Not so much about a virus, but cautious that we do not ever forget to take time to spend with God!

Philippians 2

Paul often constructs amazingly complex sentences that are filled with important meaning. He does so here as he begins chapter two. So if there is any encouragement in Christ, if any comfort from love, if any fellowship in the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, united in spirit, with a single purpose (Philippians 2:1-2).

Encouragement is paraklēsis. It’s the word that formed Joseph the Levite’s name given him by the Apostles (Acts 4:36) and is frequently used (some 29 times) in the New Testament. It’s about as positive a word for encouragement as you can imagine as it carries the idea of earnestly calling for cheering, supporting, joyful, glad, help. It’s also pretty obvious what the Apostles were trying to convey in giving this “name” of superlatives for encouragement to “Barnabas.” Now Paul begins his appeal to Christians uniting in service with “any” ultimate goodness of encouragement in Christ!

The second standard is any comfort of or from love. Love, of course, is the word used of God’s selfless concern of commitment to us, even when we didn’t deserve it. The comfort (or consolation in some translations) is paramythion, a gentle cheering, encouragement.

The third standard then is any fellowship in the Spirit. Paul often put the arm-twisting pressure on Christians to live up to the standard they are called to in Christ. Here he’s asking his audience to check and see if they are really a part of God’s family.

The fourth standard is any affection and compassion. Compassion is pretty much the exact idea of the Greek word, but affection is splanchnon, a word the King James often translates (precisely and literally, I might add) as bowels. To the Greeks the tenderest affections come from the intestines. As humorous as we might find that, our use of the heart (a muscle that pumps the blood around your body), is just as funny, isn’t it?

So, Paul has loaded up his call for Christians to truly be united in every conceivably good and positive way possible to work together in the Lord. That’s Paul’s challenge to us all. Yes, it’s a mouthful and complex but his purpose is to have Christians begin with the understanding that God’s people are truly living, working, thinking as God’s family here on earth. Jesus simplified this to you are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).

If we are to live our lives on this earth as the human representations of God, then we must act like it toward one another. Christians that don’t love (totally committed to) the church, the body of Christ are total failures! But failure is not an option and not at all Paul’s point here.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. Each person should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Your attitude toward one another should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who, although he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking on the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of man. And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross! Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven, and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:3-11)

Live up to God’s standard! Our job is to BE Christ Jesus living here on this earth! Read John 14:19 where Jesus promises to live in His disciples, even though He’s no longer “living” in this world; also note 2 Corinthians 5:15; Galatians 2:20 and 1 Peter 4:2. This really IS our purpose as Christians. Paul’s portrait of the humility and true greatness of Jesus is purposely painted here for us to grasp the importance of being just like that!

So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but even more now in my absence, continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work on behalf of his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like stars in the universe, holding fast the word of life, so that I may have reason to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. But even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:12-18)

There is nothing sadder than to see Christians act just like the world. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves! No grumbling, no arguing and none of the other sins that are identifying marks of the world that follows Satan. No excuses! Live and die as the light of God shining in this world of darkness!

Paul loved to brag about his faithful fellow workers in Christ and he does so now on Timothy and Epaphroditus, one of the members of the church at Philippi. And Paul, just like when he’s bragging about his Savior, doesn’t cut any corners. After all, Christians who live and act like Christ are the greatest people on this earth.

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be encouraged by news about you. For I have no one else of like mind who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all look out for their own interests, not for those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy’s proven character, how as a child with his father he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel. Therefore I hope to send him just as soon as I see how things will turn out for me; and I trust in the Lord that I myself also will be coming soon.

In the meantime I think it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, as well as your messenger and minister to my need, because he has been longing for all of you and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill; he almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me as well,  so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may rejoice and I may no longer be anxious. Therefore welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and hold such men in honor, because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you were not able to give me. (Philippians 2:19-30)

We have every reason to be proud of those we work with in God’s kingdom. After all our God has done for us, after all the blessings He’s given us, after all we’ve promised to do in service to Him, there really isn’t any room for self. Imagine a congregation that puts God first in everything, a group of Christians that so loves the Lord and each other that they give their all just like Jesus gave His all for us. What could they accomplish together for the Lord? What can we accomplish together for the Lord?

—Lester P. Bagley


Philippians, chapter 1

We all enjoy good news and there is no better news than the Good News of Jesus Christ. As you read and study God’s word always remember His love and care for you!

Philippians 1

In school we all learn the basics of letter writing. There are different styles and rules for writing formal letters and more personal letters. Several of the interesting archaeological discoveries of the last century or so have included a trove of different types of letters from the Roman and Jewish world of the New Testament. One of the lessons we learn is that the NT letters are not just pseudo-religious literature but deeply personal letters that resulted from a real and personal connection shared between our Savior, the human authors, and the saints in every congregation.

Paul begins this letter as befits that connection and the real sense of love that is shared by those in Christ.  From Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, along with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:1-2).

As children of God we are called to see and think the best about our brothers and sisters. No matter what struggles and even many times failures we have as God’s family, we are God’s chosen, holy ones. While hard to live up to on our own, the reality is that we accomplish this role, not because of our own greatness, but because of God’s wonderful grace and the same shared grace of our family in Christ.

Paul and Timothy in their first real work together had established the congregation at Philippi. Together they still work and encourage, not as bosses, but as servants of the Savior. They write uniquely to a congregation that continues to be led by elders (episkopos meaning overseer, bishop, guardian) and deacons (diakonos meaning servant, minister).

But notice, too, that the leadership is named second to all the saints. In Christ’s church the real “boss” is always God and every member is most important as a part of God’s family.

The address is tied into the uniquely Christian blessing of grace and peace. Only when we see the importance of working together will we ever appreciate God’s plan for His family, the church. Every single complaint and whine about me, me, me is always going to be wrong. Just as other NT writings demand both that leaders be honored and be servants to all, so, too are we only right with God when we put Christ and His church first and ourselves last.

I thank my God every time I remember you. Always in every prayer of mine for all of you I pray with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all share with me in the grace of God. (Philippians 1:3-7)

Thanksgiving, just like prayer, Bible reading and study and other things, is a way of life for God’s people. If we are not grateful people, then we are really not Christ’s family. A real Christian always has the joy of Christ, no matter how difficult the challenges. When we fail to see the good, the blessings, the joy then we need the eye exam for, in Christ, we are missing the whole picture.

For God is my witness that I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this I pray, that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may determine what is essential, and so be pure and without blame on the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:8-11)

When we possess the joy of Christ we pray for our brothers and sisters. Yes, no one gets to heaven on the works of someone else. But it’s important for us to also remember that no one gets to heaven by themselves, either. We must bless each other, or we fail to bless God. Interestingly, Paul ties all this into purity. When we are a blessing to the church, God’s family, then we are filled with Jesus and honoring God. Paul is not belaboring the point; he’s showing just how vital it is to us all!

Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has turned out to advance the gospel even more, so that it has become known throughout the entire palace guard, and by everyone else, that my imprisonment is for Christ, and that most of the brothers, having gained confidence in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare more than ever to speak the word of God without fear. To be sure, some are proclaiming Christ out of envy and strife, but others out of goodwill. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of a sense of hostility, not sincerely, intending to increase my distress while I am in prison. (Philippians 1:12-17)

We are sometimes amazed by people that seem to see the good in everything. But when we begin to appreciate how great our God really is, we begin to understand that He really can bring His good from all things for His people. Over the centuries God has shown that He can even use people that imagine they are harming God’s cause and people to bring His blessings. There are no events, no people, no power that can ever stop our God. So often for us that is hard to remember, but it is always true!

What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed;  and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice. For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. It is my earnest expectation and hope that I will in no way be put to shame, but that with complete boldness, now as always, Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

If I am to go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; yet I do not know which I would prefer. I am hard pressed between the two, in that I have the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is much better by far, yet for your sake it is better that I remain in the flesh. So, convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that when I come again to you, your boasting in Christ Jesus might abound because of me. (Philippians 1:18-26)

Not only is there joy and blessings no matter whatever happens to us on this earth, but Christians absolutely cannot lose with Christ! Literally, the worst that could ever happen to us on this earth is for us to leave and go home to be with God. That’s actually what we are here for, our greatest purpose is to be with God. Until that time we are blessed with family that blesses us and we can be a blessing too, but we can never lose that joy and fullness in Christ!

Wait, a minute, are you saying we can never be lost? Honestly? Well, God says that the only way His people can lose… is to be quitters. Paul puts it like this:

Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or remain away, I may hear that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way frightened by your opponents. This is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you — and that from God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in him but also to suffer for him, since you are experiencing the same conflict which you saw me in, and now hear that I still face. (Philippians 1:27-30)

For a Roman soldier, like many of those in Philippi, there was nothing worse than fear. The solution to fear in combat is training. Training until the discipline is so deeply ingrained in each soldier that they will stand side by side in the worst heat of battle. Only when they do so, is victory assured. Fear is the enemy of victory. Faith, side by side with fellow faithful soldiers, defeats fear!

There is no easy way out. There is no reward for nothing. But in Christ, with Christ’s family we face the greatest challenges Satan and the world have to offer… and we will always emerge as victors!

—Lester P. Bagley

Study of Philippians

With all the extended time at home several have mentioned that they’ve already completed their entire planned year of Bible readings. That’s great! If you recall, we have several “plans” for reading through the Bible. If you need another one to get you through the rest of the year, just let me know and I’ll be happy to get it to you!


When we look back on our lives, we see both good times and bad ones. But we certainly know which times we prefer to recall, don’t we? There is always something exceptionally precious about good memories, good friends and good things.

Can you imagine how Paul felt about the church at Philippi compared to those “problem children” congregations like Corinth? Oh, I’m certain he loved the struggling congregations that he helped and loved them very dearly, but there’s just something extra precious about a congregation that just plain extrudes love and encouragement.

That is not to imply that good congregations don’t struggle. We all do! But it means that when we accentuate the positive and try harder to actually DO all things God’s way, that we bless not only ourselves, but others richly!

So for the next few lessons we are going to take a closer look at the church of Christ in Philippi and see a few lessons that we can learn from them.

The Whole Praetorian Guard

To begin, let’s first look at some basic things about the letter, the city and the church. Paul writes this letter from a prison (Philippians 1:13) and is known by the whole praetorian guard. While the term praetorian guard was used for the guard of a governor’s palace, like in Caesarea Maritima where he spent a couple of years, it is far more commonly used of the guard in Rome itself. Then, when in Philippians 4:22 Paul sends greetings from Caesar’s household, it becomes virtually certain that the prison is in Rome.

Given the lighter, more hopeful tone of the letter in contrast to 2 Timothy, it thus seems certain that this letter is written during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome between AD 60 and 62. That tells us a few important things to help appreciate Paul’s words.

On Paul’s second missionary journey he had a vision requesting the Gospel be preached in Macedonia (Acts 16:9-10). In response, Paul travels to Philippi and, in about AD 50 plants the Lord’s church there. Although the vision Paul had was a “man” calling him to Macedonia, the first Christians there were women, Lydia and her household (Acts 16:12- 15). The church there continued to grow to include the retired Roman soldier and official jail keeper of the city.

Mix of Jews and Romans

This congregation, a mix of male and female, Jew and Roman, represents the best of Christ’s people here on earth. Saints of different backgrounds faithfully blending into a Christian family.

Philippi was a proud city with a noteworthy military history. It had been the capital of Alexander the Great, who’d renamed it for his father Philip of Macedon. When captured by the Romans it was repopulated with soldiers and flourished as an official Roman colony continuing that long, proud military and political record. That would lead Paul to comment on these very things as representations of the church.

For some 10 years, the church in Philippi has continued to be faithful and grow, evidently in both number and in spirit. A part of their work has been the ongoing support of Paul and his mission work. They are to be commended, not only for their loyalty to Christ but to those Christian workers, for they were highly regarded by Paul for their generosity.

Paul and Nero

Let’s back up a moment and catch a few other facts that would have been well known by the early Christians reading this letter. In AD 50, as Paul first preaches the Gospel in Philippi, the Roman emperor, Nero, has already been emperor for some 13 years. Five years into his reign Nero had his mother killed. By the time of Paul’s imprisonment, he was well on his way to the extravagance and madness that would lead to the death of both Paul and Nero.

Putting all this together, Paul, even though technically “in prison,” writes a proud letter about Christian victory to the congregation he honors as his crowning achievement (cf. Philippians 4:1). To Christians well-informed of both their own proud military traditions and of the world capital of Rome and it’s splendor, Paul shares the even greater victory of Jesus! Even Caesar’s palace guard (and everyone else, too) knows of Paul and his Christ. And because of all this, the word of God is spoken and taught without fear (Philippians 1:12-14).

So great is our Savior and His reach into this world that greetings are shared from “Caesar’s household” (Philippians 4:22). Prison, whether in Philippi or Rome, means nothing to God and the Gospel will always be shared by those who love the Lord.

Remember the Victory

Yes, there would still be dark days ahead for Paul as there are for us. But if we constantly focus on the negative, on the minor defeats and allow them to consume us, we will miss both the great victory and the great power of our Savior!

As we read through Philippians, remember who they are, remember who Paul is, remember the setting and surrounding history; but above all else, remember the Lord. Remember the joy, the confidence and the victory that comes when we work together in Jesus.

Remember that, with God, one day these things will be the only things worth remembering of our time here on this earth.

—Lester P. Bagley

Joy to the highest degree

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Are you still reading your Bible? This year has certainly been a good reminder that we all need to spend time with our God. Let’s put it a different way. If you miss brushing your teeth for a day, would you just give up and never brush your teeth again? If you miss reading your Bible for a day, be sure to get back to doing something far more important than brushing your teeth. Take care of your eternal soul!


Let’s begin with a silly question or two. Do you prefer to be joyful or blah? Do you like being so joyful that you just can’t contain yourself? The simple fact is that this is likely one of the spiritual qualities that shines through even in our human forms.

It seems that people have often associated joy, real joy with God. Moses promised true joy to God’s people in celebrating the Lord (cf. Deuteronomy 16:15) and offered God’s curses on those that failed to serve the Lord with joy and a glad heart (Deuteronomy 28:47). As David made the preparations for his son Solomon to build the Temple, he blessed those preparations with joy at the willingness of God’s people to make offerings to the Lord (cf. 1 Chronicles 29:17).

When God’s people returned to the Lord after the Babylonian captivity, Ezra observed the joy of restoring the house of the Lord and all the resulting blessings of faithfulness to God (cf. Ezra 6:16, 22). Nehemiah would outright say that their joy came from God (Nehemiah 12:43). And Zephaniah the prophet would remark how, when God’s people obeyed the Lord that, He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy (Zephaniah 3:17).

Look back at that passage from Zephaniah. The Hebrew uses three different words for God’s joy. The first two, He will exult over you with joy and He will rejoice over you are terms of an ecstatic, joyful dance. God simply cannot contain Himself and dances for joy. The final shouts of joy is a single word of jubilation and triumph as follows a successful battle or the winning of a war.

Apparently, God knows all about joy and not only shares that attribute with His people but actually feels that joy to the highest degree when His people are faithful. What a picture of our God!

The New Testament Greek is a bit more similar to the English in almost understating the idea of joy. Chara is variously translated as joy, gladness, rejoicing, cause of joy, occasion of rejoicing, bliss, gladness, happiness. You get the point, but God still manages to let His lessons be seen through.

When the Wise Men visit the young Jesus in Bethlehem, the KJV, NKJV and NASB all say that they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. The Greek is literally, they joyed (rejoiced) with very much mega-joy! It seems that the joy in seeing the Lord is almost beyond the terms of human expression! It seems to harken back to Nehemiah’s statement that the joy of the LORD is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10). The joy of the Lord. Now THAT is joy worth possessing and sharing.

But let’s move on a bit and also note how joy takes on some very special meanings as the New Testament moves into the lives of God’s people now. Paul reminds us that the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).

Joy is something that belongs, not only to God, but to Christ’s church, the Kingdom (from Acts 2 onward). In Galatians 5:22 Paul lists joy just after love as part of the fruit of the Spirit. You may also recall that joy and rejoicing are favorite terms for Paul to use as he writes to the always faithful and encouraging congregation of God’s people in Philippi.

Peter, in discussing Jesus our Christ says, though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8). He goes on to say in verse 9 that the result or outcome of such joyful faith is the salvation of our souls!

There is one other form of that New Testament word, sugchairō, and it very specifically means joy that is shared. Luke uses this word for Elizabeth when, in her old age, her son, John, is born and her neighbors and relatives are all rejoicing with her (Luke 1:58).

There’s an old saying that is found in many languages and cultures around the world. It says that sorrow shared is halved and joy shared is doubled. God’s people have known that to be a fact all along. Paul told the Corinthians if one member suffers, all the members suffer with them; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with them (1 Corinthians 12:26). He goes on to define love as not rejoicing in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6).

Joy is a trait, a power, a gift of God. Satan and sin have no joy but rather come to steal our joy. And joy shared with God and His people is even more powerful!

Before we finish, though, consider one more Bible verse about that marvelous gift of God. The elderly Apostle John would write, I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth (3 John 4). What greater joy can there be on this earth than to love, be with and work alongside God’s people? What greater joy can there be than to share God’s love with another and watch them go to heaven with us?

Be faithful. Be prayerful. Be IN God’s word. And be joyful in all, for that is God’s gift to us!

—Lester P. Bagley




4/26/20 ~ A Child is Born

A new year begins with resolutions and hopes of doing better. But those resolutions often see a precipitous decline as other things crowd our time. This year we have been blessed by God with extra time to acknowledge Him, read His word and go to Him in prayer. How are we using that blessing?

A Child is Born

While December 25th is perhaps one of the least likely times for the birth of our Savior, many other times have drawn speculation as appropriate times for such a momentous occasion. One of those times is around this time of year. At Bethlehem the fields would have been filled with newborn lambs as preparations for Passover were underway. Wouldn’t it be interesting if God chose to bring the Lamb of God into the world at the same time? That would put Joseph and Mary at the Temple near Passover to offer thanks to God for their first-born child.

It is, of course, a futile speculation. However, in spite of us NOT knowing His birthday, we do know that God and His faithful people anticipated that momentous day for centuries before it finally came. And in that promise and hope there is an important lesson for us.

It began with a world that had just lost its hope, its reason for life. Adam and Eve had just brought sin into the world and in so doing destroyed their relationship with God. Even as God pronounced sentence on them for their sin, He gave a promise of a child being born that would change everything (cf. Genesis 3:15).

In the centuries to come God’s people repeatedly looked forward to a child being born. Abraham was a century into his life before his son of promise was born. Amram and Jochebed would see a son born at a dangerous time who would survive to lead God’s people. That son would prophecy shortly before his own death that God would one day bring another into this world that would supplant Moses as the great lawgiver.

Under Moses God’s people would be brought to the land promised as the home for that ultimate Son of God. As the people of God moved in and filled the land, they wavered between worshipping the true God and forgetting all His promises. In the coming years a child would be born that would lead God’s people as an exceptional king and his son would rule in an extraordinary time of peace. Solomon would build and dedicate a Temple to God that would be filled with praises and the promise of a coming child. But the time was not yet.

Following Solomon’s death the nation split and dark days reigned for the northern kingdom as they were led for the most part by unfaithful kings. The southern kingdom wavered between faithful and unfaithful kings as they watched their northern brethren approach their destruction. It was in those darkest days that a child would be born and grow up to be the great prophet… Isaiah.

Isaiah would, under God’s direction, write of the dark days and the hope to come:

But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them. You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness; They will be glad in Your presence As with the gladness of harvest, As men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For You shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, The rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian. For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, And cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire. (Isaiah 9:1-5)

And then, even in the midst of dark days would come a child:

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

A child is born, but not just any child. This one would be so much more than just one of us. For this would be God Himself coming to live and ultimately die for us, to reconcile us all to God, for our salvation. Consider a song that highlights this moment in time:

When A Child Is Born

  • A ray of hope flickers in the sky
  • A tiny star lights up way up high
  • All across the land dawns a brand new morn
  • This comes to pass when a child is born
  • A silent wish sails the seven seas
  • The winds of change whisper in the trees
  • And the walls of doubt crumble tossed and torn
  • This comes to pass, when a child is born
  • A rosy hue settles all around
  • You got the feel, you’re on solid ground
  • For a spell or two no one seems forlorn
  • This comes to pass, when a child is born 

And all of this happens, because the world is waiting. Waiting for one child; Black-white-yellow, no one knows…But a child that will grow up and turn tears to laughter, Hate to love, war to peace and everyone to everyone’s neighbor, And misery and suffering will be words to be forgotten forever.

  • It’s all a dream and illusion now,
  • It must come true sometime soon somehow,
  • All across the land dawns a brand new morn,
  • This comes to pass when a child is born.

With all of our failures and sin, of all the lessons that God shares with us, one of the most stunning, the most precious, is hope.

There is never a time when God has forgotten us. He always remembers and His promise always stands. For He is the author of hope.

We have so often turned away from God. We have imagined that there was not time enough in our lives for God. We have forgotten He is the author of hope.

So whether you are filled with joy and doing well, or you are struggling and miserable, remember the promise of God. For that child was born. He came to be your savior, to die for you. He came that you might one day go home with Him forever. He came that you might always have hope!

—Lester P. Bagley


11/10/19 ~ Thanks to God

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Do you give thanks to God? At first glance that seems a silly question for Christians. Should we not always be thankful to the Lord?

A great Bible study is to look at the passages in the Bible (over 80 of them) that express the lesson of giving thanks to God. Let’s take a look at some of Paul’s thoughts on this subject:

Thanks to God

As Christians, we truly have countless blessings and unlimited reasons to be thankful to God. Indeed, the point of one of our hymns is that in counting our blessings we come to appreciate just how many and great they are.

On five occasions Paul specifically commented in his writings that there was something special to remember as an exceptional reason to be thankful to God. Each one presents a lesson in what impressed Paul as a blessing deserving of our thanksgiving.

The first occurs in Romans 6:17:

  • But thanks be to God
  • that though you were slaves of sin,
  • you became obedient from the heart
  • to that form of teaching to which you were committed.

Do we remember to be thankful to God for our hearing and our sincere obedience to the Gospel? For every single one of us, there was at least one person (and perhaps several people!) that loved the Lord enough to share the truth with us. That blessing leads directly to real freedom as we obey the commands of God that free us from sin and transfer us into Christ’s kingdom (see Colossians 1:13). Thank you, Jesus, for taking us from slave to brother or sister!

The second thanks to God is Romans 7:25:

  • Thanks be to God
  • through Jesus Christ our Lord!
  • So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God,
  • but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

Paul is discussing (Romans 7:14-25) the fact that the Law, while it exposed our sin and the need for forgiveness, could not really free us from the consequences of sin. Only for those IN Christ is there true freedom from sin (cf. Romans 8:1).

The third thanks to God comes in 1 Corinthians 15:57:

  • But thanks be to God,
  • who gives us the victory
  • through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Here Paul’s lesson (1 Corinthians 15:50-57) reminds us of the change that is coming to our bodies when Jesus returns. This is the final great victory as the old fear of death is literally swallowed up by victory. Paul’s very next words challenge us to truly live as those that are genuinely thankful as he says, Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).

The last two expressions are in 2 Corinthians. Let’s look first at chapter 8, verse 16:

  • But thanks be to God
  • who puts the same earnestness on your behalf
  • in the heart of Titus.

Here Paul is challenging the Christians in Corinth to willingly and generously participate in financial aid to other Christians that are in need. Titus, one of Paul’s young coworkers, has offered to go to Corinth to bring their generous gift to Paul. Thankfulness for fellow Christians and their work for the Lord is an important part of our who we really are as children of God!

Finally, Paul uses this phrase of thanking God in 2 Corinthians 2:14:

  • But thanks be to God,
  • who always leads us in triumph in Christ,
  • and manifests through us the sweet aroma
  • of the knowledge of Him in every place.

Paul has faced criticism from some for disfellowshipping blatant, unrepentant false Christians in the church at Corinth. In spite of human criticism, the Lord blesses not only Paul but all those who faithfully serve God. Paul’s words follow the language of the Roman military parades as the true victors are led in triumph to the disgrace of the losers that can only criticize. Yes, God expects us to be thankful that He gives us victory over those who would degrade and destroy His precious Kingdom.

Thank you, Lord, for making us part of your incredible, eternal family. Thank you for all that means in saving us from sin by the gift of your own life. Thank you for giving us an important job in your kingdom to be your light in this world. Thank you for our family in Christ that we might work together to do your will. And thank you for victory in Jesus. May we never forget to thank you for everything and the certain knowledge that you are our God!

— Lester P. Bagley