4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:4–6, NKJV)
This is God’s platform of unity for the church of Christ. There is one body, or church, not many churches (denominations) that establish division among believers. There is one Spirit, who leads us and unites us by the gospel truth He revealed, inspired and confirmed. There is one hope reserved in heaven for Christians; not the hope of an idyllic earth for all of humanity (1 Peter 1:3-5). Unity is arranged under the authority of one Lord; Jesus Christ (Acts 2:34-36). Unity is preserved when we do all things by His authority (Colossians 3:17). We do not write or accept creeds to elucidate unity – the faith that was once for all delivered is our sufficient guide (Jude 3). The Great Commission baptism of repentant believers for the remission of sins is the only baptism God recognizes (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:37-38; 8:35-38). All other baptisms introduce error and cause division. We have one Father who is in heaven; not many clerical “fathers” on earth (Matthew 23:9). God, our heavenly Father, is sovereign over all things. He pervades and sustains all things. He dwells among His people (Ephesians 2:22). Let us unite on truth. This is the unity for which Jesus prayed (John 17:20-21).
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1–2, NKJV)
The great grace of God is accessed by faith. Abraham’s faith is prototypical of the faith we must have in order to access grace (Rom. 4). Those who “walk in the steps of the faith” that Abraham had are those who are saved (Rom. 4:12-16). Notably, Abraham’s obedience perfected his faith (Jas. 2:21-24). In the same manner, obedient faith grants access to God’s grace today (Rom. 6:17-18). One greatly errs if he thinks God’s grace overlooks sin. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it” (Rom. 6:1-2)? Faithful Christians will not develop a careless attitude toward what sin is, or toward what it does. The Holy Spirit warns us not to fall from grace, and persuades us to live by faith by obeying the “perfect law of liberty” (Gal. 5:4; 2 Cor. 5:7; Jas. 1:22-25). Do not falsely conclude that because God’s grace is so great, it will save you in spite of having unrepented sin in your life. That is not the faith of father Abraham. That will never be the faith that accesses and stands in grace.
12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:12–13, NKJV)
The Gentiles were not in a covenant relationship with God through the Law of Moses. Only Israel was under that law, and were the people of the covenant (Deut. 5:2-3). That is why Paul speaks of the Gentiles as “having no hope and without God in the world” (v. 12). This is an apt description of the spiritual status of all who are lost in sin: Aliens, without God, without hope, and without an inheritance (see Eph. 2:1-3). But, “in Christ Jesus” all that changes. In Christ, one has a living hope (1 Pet. 1:3). In Christ, the sinner is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Through faith in Christ Jesus, lost sinners are saved, and become children of God (Gal. 3:26; 4:5-7). The alien sinner comes into a saved relationship with God by putting on Christ, which occurs when the sinner is “baptized into Christ” (Gal. 3:27). The blood of Christ – His death for our sins – makes it possible for us to be reconciled to God (Eph. 2:16). It washes away our sins when we are baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:3-4; Acts 22:16). No longer live without God and without hope. By faith, be baptized into Christ and be saved. “Why are you waiting?” (Acts 22:16)
Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God, (Psalm 146:5, NKJV)
Where do you set your hope for your happiness and blessedness? We are tempted to set our hopes on plans for the future – a career, a home, a family. These are good things, but, as James said, we must say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that” (Jas. 4:15). God is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psa. 46:1). Our hope is not misplaced when our hearts depend upon the Lord God. The spiritual fortune He gives, the blessed help He provides, sustains us in days of gladness and in days of gloom. There is an abiding favor given to all those whose hope is in the Lord God. Be sure your hope is anchored in the Lord and not on the shifting sands of this temporal, fleeting world.
13 And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; (1 Peter 3:13–15, NKJV)
Peter does not say Christians will be free from harm when we follow what is good. On the contrary, suffering for the sake of righteousness will happen. God blesses the Christian who endures such troubles and threats (cf. Matt. 5:10-12). Just as God assured Isaiah that He was his “sanctuary” (holy abode and sure protection) in the face of opposition, so the Lord is for us (v. 14; Isa. 8:12-14). As you “sanctify Christ as Lord in your heart” (NASB), you will be equipped with the necessary faith to be prepared to give an answer for your hope in Christ. So that, even when you suffer for what is good, you will not grow weary. If Christ is not Lord of your life, then you will not long endure suffering for the sake of what is right. Instead of faltering when defamed for being a Christian, let us say with Paul, “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Tim. 1:12).
5 Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite. 6 The Lord lifts up the humble; He casts the wicked down to the ground… 10 He does not delight in the strength of the horse; He takes no pleasure in the legs of a man. 11 The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy.” (Psalm 147:5–6, 10–11, NKJV)
God’s power and wisdom is unbounded. He does not act as we humans. What He values and exalts is very different from the estimations given by men. He raises up and magnifies the humble of heart, while He crushes wickedness under the strength of His mighty hand. Unlike men, who put confidence in the strength of their military might and prowess, our Lord delights in those who reverence Him and trust His mercy as their salvation in time of trouble. Let us never doubt the robust power and unlimited understanding of the Lord God to provide for and protect those who humbly serve Him and faithfully trust His mercy.
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2–4, NKJV)
The ability to endure the trials and pressures of life with joy and not be frustrated (or even become despondent) is a clear mark of spiritual maturity. When you are “having a bad day,” do not let it overwhelm you. Refocus your attention on the joy of being a child of God. Make a deliberate decision to be patient in the moment of trial. Choose hope over despair, and a growing, maturing faith instead of discouraging doubt. Meet the trials that challenge your faith with unyielding endurance. Allow your hope to anchor your soul in the hour of trial. Patience will work in you to complete your faith and embolden your joy.