The New Testament is full of thankfulness, from start to finish. Each of Paul’s letters seem to begin with gratefulness for the church he was writing to, and they usually end with his thanks for individuals among them. See Phil.1:3-4 or Col.1:3, among many. Most of these churches had serious problems that threatened their undoing, but along with reproof the apostle found things about them for which he was thankful. And how about us? Perhaps there are things about our congregation that one could grumble about, but are we thankful for the many more things that are positive? Continue reading
While Luke is only mentioned by name three times in the Bible, his reputation is huge. We would know very little about him if it wasn’t for his authorship of the gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts (in both, he does not name himself). He wrote them about 30 years after the church began (a.d.60-62), but what do we know about him before that? Continue reading
The New Testament mentions many obscure people. One is Simon, grabbed by Romans soldiers to carry the cross behind Jesus for the final leg of that famous walk to Golgotha. Matthew, Mark and Luke mention him. John generalizes the incident by stating “He went out, bearing His own cross” (Jn.19:17). His exposure in the gospel writings indicates his important, yet unexpected role with the cross. Simon has always been remembered by grateful disciples down through the centuries. Continue reading
The citizens of the Island of Crete didn’t have a very good reputation. Paul quoted one of their writers, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (Titus 1:12). Not very complimentary. Yet there were congregations of the Lord’s church present comprised of people struggling to reflect Jesus in their lives. So Titus was instructed to teach “things which are fitting for sound doctrine” (2:1). He was to help them live sound, moral, sensible lives. Like well-fitting clothes, life needs to fit who we say we are. Continue reading
John looked out over the Agean Sea from the high hills of Patmos, as he no doubt often did, and saw islands tantalizingly close. One wonders how difficult it must have been for the apostle in exile. He speaks of his temporary island in Revelation 1:9. Used to a busy life, it must have been suffocating to be confined to this lonely place surrounded by endless water. He longed to be with his brethren.
In his book he speaks of Jesus Christ “who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood” (1:9). For a prisoner, the word “released” is all-important. John looked forward to the day when he would be released and free again. What made his exile tolerable was the fact he had been released from his sins. No matter his surroundings, he was free.
“Released” in Greek is very close to the word “washed,” which is the way the King James Version translates it. Here we have our cherished phrase, “washed in His blood.” Freedom from sin is the result, so our modern versions translate it “released” or “freed.” His blood washes away our sins and grants us freedom. The tense of the verb “released” indicates a one-time action in the past that still affects us today. John is reminding us that Jesus did all that was needed to free us from sin when he gave His blood on the cross. It reaches down through the centuries and frees us today.
I find it remarkable that John felt free even while confined. Paul expressed similar thoughts in 2 Tim.2:9, “I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned.” Freedom from sin’s penalty and practice grants us a tremendous new life inside, even if life seems outwardly shackled in some way. We are free indeed!
– Tim Johnson