|Vol. 16 No. 4 April 2014||
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have an apostle like Peter or Paul still alive today? In that vein, there are many questions that I have. What were they like? What would they think of American culture? What types of lives would they live? How would they preach, sing, pray, give and study? More importantly, what would they have to say to the church? What positive comments would they have? What rebukes would they give? One question on which I want to focus is what would make someone like the apostle Paul joyful? I think we would all say that if Jesus or one of His apostles were living among us today, we would want to please them and bring them joy. Consider some things that Paul said brought him deep joy.
Paul rejoiced to learn of the obedience of Christians (2 Corinthians 7:15-16). Paul considered faithful churches that he had planted to be his “joy” or “crown of rejoicing” (Philippians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20). Paul found no pleasure in watching others mourn over their sin, but he was joyful when God’s Word pricked one’s heart enough for him or her to repent, realizing that it leads to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:8-10). This repentance produced “diligence,” “vindication,” “indignation” (toward sin), “fear” (cause for alarm), “longing,” “zeal” and “avenging of wrong.” It “proved [them] innocent” and caused Paul to rejoice (2 Corinthians 7:11).
Paul rejoiced to learn his fellow workers were refreshed and encouraged by the godly example of other Christians (2 Corinthians 7:13). Paul had “great joy” in knowing of the encouragement one brother-in-Christ showed to other Christians (Philemon 7). Paul rejoiced when he learned about the church’s “mourning” and “zeal” for Paul in his afflictions (2 Corinthians 7:4-7). Paul rejoiced at the prospect of being reunited with his faithful and trusted fellow-worker in the Lord (2 Timothy 1:4). Paul prayed for Christians with joy because of the prospect of their spiritual growth and ultimate completion when Christ returns (Philippians 1:4-6). Paul rejoiced when Christ was preached to people even when the messengers may not have had the noblest of motives (Philippians 1:15-18). Paul’s joy was “fulfilled” when Christians had loving unity with one another – “same love,” “one accord” and “one mind” (Philippians 2:2-3). By implication, Paul was not pleased when Christians acted out of selfish ambition or conceit (Philippians 2:3). Paul’s rejoicing in faithful Christian brethren was so strong that he felt any thanksgiving he could offer to God was wholly inadequate. The joy he received was an indescribable reward for Paul (1 Thessalonians 3:9).
We certainly want to be a church in whom Paul would find great joy by seeing our faithfulness, perseverance, dedication to evangelism, sensitivity to the Word of God, sorrow over sin, repentance, diligence, sense of urgency, mutual love, unity, spiritual growth, encouragement, and heartache and action towards needy and suffering brethren. There is also a lesson for us in the types of things in which Paul found his deepest joy. He did not mention physical possessions. He did not mention status. He did not mention sports. He did not mention nature. In fact, Paul counted his personal agenda and even his own life as nothing to the point where he even rejoiced in his sufferings because He had died to self and Christ was living in him (Colossians 1:24; Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:11). Let us all determine to be Christians in whom Paul would find joy and root our joys in the things that matter the most.
Mark N. Posey
When Moses met with God at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14), God revealed himself as “I AM” (Jehovah). God, according to Paul, “made the world and all things therein” (Acts 17:24). Jesus, according to the apostle John was “with God, and was God” (John 1:1). When Jesus used the words “I am” (ego eimi), He declared Himself Deity. In the Gospel of John, Jesus uttered seven statements prefaced by the words “I am.” Notice their significance.
“I am the bread of life” (6:35). This statement is connected to the Feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:1-13). It is the climactic statement in the discourse following the feeding. Christ is the bread which brings life. He is the sustenance that nourishes spiritual life.
“I am the light of the world” (8:12). This statement is connected to the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths (John 7:1-13). Lights were present all through Jerusalem and in the Temple during this Feast. Israel had been led by lights in the day and night during the wilderness wondering. Even the magnificent Candelabra was light in the court of women during this feast. With this scene as the backdrop, Jesus declares that He is the true light. Further emphasis is seen in the spiritual darkness in which the adulterous woman lived (7:53-8:11) and literal darkness in which the blind man lived at the pool of Siloam (9:1-12). Jesus did not just bring light, He embodied light (cf. 1 John 1:5-2:2).
“I am the gate for the sheep” (10:7, 9). This statement is connected to Jesus’ discourse (John 10:1-6). Jesus, as the gate, was the only way of entrance into salvation; He is the gateway into eternal life.
“I am the good shepherd” (10:11, 14). This statement is also connected to Jesus’ discourse (John 10:1-6). Jesus is the Good Shepherd who cares for His sheep even at the cost of His life. It is a sacrifice to “lay down his life for his sheep” that does not leave them unprotected and vulnerable, but draws them to Himself.
“I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25). This statement is connected to the raising of Lazarus (John 11). The person who puts his faith in Jesus will live even though he dies. Jesus is the resurrection and the life of present power and future good. Where there is no hope for the future, there is no power for today. Jesus is the hope for present living and future reward.
“I am the way and the truth and the life” (14:6). This statement is connected to the farewell discourse at the Last Supper (John 13). Jesus is the truth and life of God; therefore, He is the only way to God.
“I am the true vine” (15:1, 5). This statement is also connected to the farewell discourse of Jesus at the Last Supper. Jesus identified Himself as the True Vine. Israel was pictured as a vine in the Old Testament, but Israel pointed to Jesus. Now Jesus is the True Vine, not for the apostate people, but for all those who want to dwell with Him, who must be incorporated into and abide in Him.