5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:5–6, NKJV).
Why do you pray? The Lord knows the reasons and motives of our prayers; He is the One who “knows the hearts of all” (Acts 1:24). Jesus knew many people pray so others will view them as religious and pious. They choose conspicuous places to petition heaven’s throne. Their desire (to be seen by men), once achieved, is their only reward. Citizens of the kingdom of heaven understand prayer to be intimate communication with their heavenly Father. It is a time to pour out thanks, adoration, petitions, and pleas to the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16). There we find the divine assurance of mercy, solace, and peace. Our Father is in private places. He sees, hears, and openly rewards our humble prayers (Phil. 4:6-7). Prayer is not a ritual; it is a retreat to commune with our Father. Keep pure motives when you pray. God sees the purpose of our prayers, so seek His approval when praying to Him. Remember, it is God who answers our prayers, not people. So pray to be seen by your heavenly Father.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17, NKJV)
Anyone. What a comfort beyond measure to know that regardless of the depth of our past sins and the eternal death they cause, God in Christ will forgive us (Rom. 6:23). Unquestionably, redemption from sin’s death is “in Christ” – it is not in the world, in ourselves, or anyone else. It is not found in Church traditions, creeds, confessions, and catechisms (Acts 4:12). God forms a new creation (new creature, NASB) when the sinner enters a relationship with Christ. Fresh and free from sin, washed in the blood of the Lamb (1 Pet. 1:18-19). By entering Christ through water baptism, the sinner’s sin is cut away (“old things have passed away”), and “all things have become new” (Gal. 3:27). This is the operation of God, not any meritorious by the sinner (Col. 2:11-13). Freedom from sin’s guilt, burden, and death is “in Christ.” When you stop waiting, but “arise and be baptized,” your sins will be washed away in Christ. In Christ, you can then truly live with and for Jesus, since Christians “are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). The question is not whether God can or will save you; it is will you believe and obey Jesus to be a new creation in Him?
36 And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, 37 having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. (Acts 4:36–37, NKJV)
What a wonderful man this Joses (Joseph) was! He had such a way of comforting, consoling, exhorting, and encouraging fellow Christians that the apostles named him Barnabas (son of encouragement). We want to encourage others, but sometimes we don’t know how to do it. Let’s learn from Barnabas. He encouraged others through generously serving others. He generously gave of his possessions to relieve needy saints. He was generous with his reputation, putting it on the line to vouch for Saul’s conversion when others were afraid (Acts 9:26-28). He was generous with his time and energy to travel to Antioch to teach and strengthen new Christians (Acts 11:21-24). He was generous in giving his life to preaching the gospel in many places with Paul and others (Acts 11:25-26; 13:2; et al.). To encourage others, we must come out of our own little world and serve others with genuine care, concern, and contact. Barnabas did that as an expression of his faith in the Lord. We can be encouragers, too. The Lord calls on us to “exhort one another daily” (Heb. 3:13). So, let’s join hands with Barnabas and build up one another in the most holy faith (Jude 20).
1 Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know. (John 14:1–4, NKJV)
A spiritual song we sing says, “Troublesome times are here, filling men’s hearts with fear.” How do we prevent our hearts from being troubled? Today’s familiar passage from the lips of Jesus teaches us how to soothe the anxious soul. 1) By the calming assurance of faith (v. 1). Solomon said, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding” (Prov. 3:5). Focusing our attention on the Lord instead of ourselves is essential to avoid heart disturbance. 2) By the comforting promises of Christ (v. 2-3). Jesus promised to prepare a dwelling place for His followers. His death, resurrection, and exaltation at God’s right hand announce the success of His redemptive work, assuring us He will return to receive His saints in glory (1 Thess. 4:16-18; Col. 3:4). Comfort your heart with His promises. 3) By the confident knowledge of truth (v. 4). When Thomas expressed doubt and uncertainty, Jesus replaced it with confidence-building truth. He was going to the Father, and He is “the way, the truth, and the life” by whom we also go to the Father (Jno. 14:6). Firm assurance replaces doubt when we learn the truth that is in Jesus (Eph. 4:20-21). Live by faith, be comforted by the promises of God, and walk in truth to keep your heart from being troubled in troublesome times.
13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 4:13–14, NKJV)
The word translated “ignorant” means “not to know.” While knowledge can produce arrogance when one thinks too highly of himself, decided advantages also come with knowledge (1 Cor. 8:1-2). Jesus said knowing the truth (His word) “shall make you free” from sin as you abide in His word (Jno. 8:31-32, 33-36). Today’s passage declares knowing the future of Christians who have died removes our sorrow and gives us hope (v. 13). More specifically, knowing and believing Jesus rose from the dead supports our hope (desire and expectation) that Christians will be raised from the dead and be with Jesus when He returns (1 Thess. 4:15-16). Such blessed assurance replaces the sorrow of death’s loss with bold confidence that invigorates our faith when death separates us from beloved saints. God has a future planned for His people. Whether living or dead, when Jesus returns and raises the dead, the saints of God will “always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17). Knowing what will happen to those who have died in the Lord empowers us to “comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:18).
5 Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, 6 that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5–6, NKJV)
The apostle Paul is summing up an extended passage on how to be united when differences over scruples of conscience toward liberties exist (Rom. 14:1-15:7). Those things that do not inhibit one’s fellowship with God must not be allowed to inhibit the unity of the saints (Rom. 14:1-5, 13). According to today’s verse, to achieve and maintain unity without pressing one’s conscience upon others requires us to have “patience” and “comfort” (exhortation) toward each other. This means those with a weak conscience is not to condemn those of strong conscience (Rom. 14:3). This means those with a strong conscience toward the liberty are to “bear with” the doubts of those with weak consciences in the matter (Rom. 15:1). The strong in conscience will gladly set aside a liberty to avoid influencing a fellow Christian to sin against his or her conscience (Rom. 14:15, 19-21; 1 Cor. 8:9-13; 10:28-29). In this way we follow the example of Jesus as we endeavor to please our neighbor instead of merely satisfying ourselves (Rom. 15:1-3). We honor God “with one mind and one mouth” when we practice this kind of unselfish deference toward one another (v. 6; Rom. 12:10).
And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us. (Luke 16:26, NKJV)
Abraham continued his explanation to the rich man why it would be impossible for Lazarus to relieve him of the tormenting flame in which he found himself. Not only was the man’s torment the just outcome of his greedy life, but also there could be no passing back and forth between the flame and the place of comfort. A great gulf is fixed (set fast) in Hades between Abraham’s bosom and the flame of torments that prevents any such passage. The truth is unmistakable – there are no second chances after death. Whether it is 1) The Catholic concept of purgatory (cleansing to allow for passage into the presence of God), or 2) The Hindu and Buddhist concept of reincarnation and the transmigration of souls, or 3) The Latter-day Saints’ belief that the gospel will be preached and received in the next life – all these doctrines are refuted by what Jesus said in Luke 16:26. Death comes once, then judgment (Heb. 9:27). God will judge what we did in the body in this life on Judgment Day (2 Cor. 5:10). We must not live as if we will have another chance to do God’s will after we die – we will not. Now is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2). Yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never be. Therefore, today is the day God gives you the opportunity to trust and follow Him (Matt. 6:33-34; Jas. 4:13-17).
24 Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.’ (Luke 16:24–25, NKJV)
Death does not end our existence. That is clearly implied here. Furthermore, we learn here that salvation is not universal. The rich man’s plea for mercy is understandable. Even momentary relief from the torturous flame would be better than nothing. But, not even a drop of water would come. How many billions of souls believe eternal bliss awaits all who pass from this life?! Yet, Jesus told of something very different. After death, each man received according to how he had lived on earth. We must take to heart this important, timeless truth, “Do not be deceived. God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life” (Gal. 6:7-8). For Lazarus, the pain was past. For the rich man, it had only just begun. How terrible it is to be lost! How comforting it is to be saved! The gospel will save you from your sins and show you how to live to be ready to die (Rom. 1:16-17; 6:17-18; Gal. 2:20; 2 Tim. 4:6-8). The rich man loved his money, and lost everything. Choose to love and follow Jesus. Live by His truth, and death will bring you blessed comfort.
8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. 11 Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:8–11, NKJV)
Paul returns to soberness as he exhorts Christians (sons of light, sons of the day) to live so as to seize and preserve the salvation to which we have been appointed. It is necessary to protect ourselves from sin with faith, love and hope as we live for Him who died for us. Wrath is appointed for those who indulge themselves in the darkness of sin, choosing to reject the richness of God’s salvation for the futility of the flesh. Christians prepare for Christ’s return by living soberly. We are strengthened and comforted by the assurance of the eternal salvation to be obtained when Christ returns (2 Thess. 2:14; Heb. 10:39; 1 Pet. 1:6-9). You will never find comfort in the darkness of sin. Come out of your sin and live for Jesus. When He returns, Christians will live together with Him forevermore. If you are a faithful Christian, whether you are alive or dead on that day will make no difference. The difference will be whether you lived soberly in the light of truth and obtain salvation, or in the darkness of sin and obtain wrath.
17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:17–18, NKJV)
Paul continues to describe the return of Jesus Christ from the Christians’ point of view. What will happen to Christians when Jesus Himself descends from heaven “with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God” (1 Thess. 4:16)? The dead Christians will rise, and then the living Christians will be caught up from the earth. Together, they will meet the Lord in the air. This is not an invisible rapture that so many believe will happen. No, the Lord is visible here (not invisible), the voice of the archangel is heard, and the Christians visibly join each other to meet the Lord. (This is the “change” from mortal to immortality of 1 Cor. 15:52-53.) The rapture is a false doctrine. “Thus” in verse 17 gives further proof of its error. “Thus” is an adverb of manner that means “in this way,” or after this fashion. So, in this resurrected and immortal state “we shall always be with the Lord.” There is no coming back to earth (it is no more, 2 Pet. 3:10-12). Death is abolished and the kingdom is delivered up to God the Father, not delivered back to earth seven years later (1 Cor. 15:24-26). We are comforted by the expectation of glorious reunion with the Lord Jesus and the saints who sleep in Him. This truth consoles us when death comes. The world can never offer such comfort (1 Thess. 4:13).