Learning To Love Again

We have just enough religion

to make us hate one another,

but not enough to make us

love one another.

(Jonathan Swift)

A young teenager who thought he was in love with a fair maiden defined love: “Love is the feeling that flatters your ego while it flattens your wallet.” And then there was the weary housewife who had labored all day in cooking, cleaning and caring for a family. She had here own definition of love: “Love is a mental disorder that makes a girl eager to give up eight hours in an office to slave fourteen hours all day in a house.”

Anyone who has come to the age of accountability recognizes that we must grow in our understanding of love in all relationships of life. We struggle to learn the “second mile” love about which Jesus spoke (See Mt 5:38-47). We yearn for that love that was defined by Peter De Vries: “Loves blindness consists more often in seeing what is not there than in seeing what is there.” It is this love that is an emotional attitude that is not defined by the object upon which it is applied. It is as some poet once wrote:

It’s silence when your words would hurt.

It’s patience when your neighbor’s curt.

It’s deafness when the scandal flows.

It’s thoughtfulness for another’s woes.

It’s promptness when stern duty calls.

It’s courage when misfortune falls.

In modern times we have moved into a world where too many marriages end in divorce. We thus yearn to discover again that lost love that once bound marriages together until death. And in a chaotic world of dysfunctional societies, we long for a restoration of the divine principle that we love our neighbor as ourselves. Sane minds ache because we live in a world, that in the name of religion, foolish people feel justified to load a gun and kill innocent people on the street. Some feel compelled to execute those who do not conform to the god they have created after their own political agendas. We are thus driven in desperation to discover an emotional and spiritual loving relationship within humanity that is so necessary for survival in a mad world.

Just to refresh our minds, we remember what he conquering military French military leader, Napoleon, once said,

“Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne and myself founded empires, but upon what did we rest the creation of our genius?   Upon force. Jesus alone founded his empire on love, and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.”

It is this love and devotion to our Lord Jesus that we seek to discover and implement in our lives as citizens of the world. Many years ago, Dr. Rene Spitz once surveyed an orphanage that was established in a South American city.   It was his conclusion that one third of the babies who died in the orphanage did so because they received only one tenth of a mother’s love. The intolerance that we witness in our own world today can only be explained by citizens who have experienced little love in the homes from which they came. It is this love that Christian parents yearn to instill in the hearts of their children before they are sent as citizens into society. The chaos we experience in many societies today reveals that families are doing a very poor job of developing homes that produce citizens who love their neighbors as themselves.

So we yearn for the atmosphere of love that was poetically defined by Helen Stiener Rice:


Where there is love the heart is light.

Where there is love the day is bright.

Where there is love there is a song,

To help when things are going wrong.

Where there is love there is a smile,

To make all things seem more worthwhile.

Where there is love there’s quiet piece,

A tranquil place where turmoils cease.

Love changes darkness to light,

And makes the heart take wingless flight.

Oh, blessed are they who walk in love,

For they walk with God above.

And when man walks with God again,

There will be peace on earth for men.

[Next lecture: September 1]


Agape (love)

This is the love that Paul defines in 1 Corinthians 13. It is the love that is defined by God’s love for us (Jn 3:16), love that reached out while we were yet in our sins. It is unconditional love.   Paul defines this love in the statement of Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates His love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This is unmerited love by which God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (Jn 3:16). In other words, this is the outpouring of love upon those who do not deserve to be loved. It is the love of God that is defined by the incarnation of the Son of God (See Ph 2:5-11).   It was this action of God toward mankind that overwhelmed the apostle John: “Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God” (1 Jn 3:1). This is not as the love of a young man who said on the telephone to his young lady friend, “My love for you is higher than the tallest mountain. It is deeper than the deepest ocean, and wider than the widest river.   And I will be over tonight if it does not rain.”

Agape (love) gives when it is not given to.   It is love that loves when not loved.   It is sacrificial even when no sacrifices are given in response. It works, but does not expect to be noticed. It gives, but does not expect to be given to. It always forgives before even being asked to forgive. It is the love that follows the instructions of Jesus, “But I say to you, love [agape] your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5:44). The psalmist explained, “Hatred stirs up strifes, but love covers all sins” (Pv 10:12). “He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends” (Pv 17:9). “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fattened ox with hatred” (Pv 15:17). And the Holy Spirit was right when He said through Solomon in explaining the loving devotion that should exist in marriage, “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm. For love is as strong as death (Ss 8:6).

One of the interesting contexts where the words agape and phileo are used in the New Testament in a comparative manner is when Jesus called on Peter’s commitment after he had denied Him three times. “Simon, son of John, do you truly love [agape] Me more than these?” (Jn 21:15). Peter responded with the word phileo. “Yes, Lord, You know that I love [phileo] You” (Jn 21:15). But Jesus again asked, “Simon, son of John, do you truly love [agape] Me?” (Jn 21:16). Again Peter responded, “Yes, Lord. You know that I love [phileo] You” (Jn 21:16). And then a third time Jesus asked the question using Peter’s word phileo. “Simon, son of John, do you love [phileo] Me?” (Jn 21:17). It was when Jesus used the friendship word for love (phileo) that Peter was using that Peter got the point. “Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time” (Jn 21:17). He was grieved because he had denied Jesus three times. His denials were based on a phileo relationship, not an agape (love) relationship. Agape (love) would never have denied Jesus. This would be the love by which Peter would later love in order to be martyred for Jesus. When Peter would be old, Jesus said to him, “You will stretch out your hands and another will dress you and carry you where you do not wish to go” (Jn 21:18). It would be then that Peter would understand that he had grown to the love of agape where he was willing to die for Jesus.

Agape (love) is the mortar that holds the bricks together. It is the love that holds disciples one to another. It is the love that flows from one to another. When a magnet is left clinging to a piece of iron, the iron eventually becomes magnetized. When loving Christians hold close to one another, their love grows. Any relational function of the body of Christ, therefore, that does not keep each member close to other members, is dysfunctional. It is not a natural fellowship that is based on the extent of love by which the disciples of Jesus are to be identified.   We wonder if this was not the problem among the Ephesian Christians when Jesus said that they had lost their first love (agape)? (Rv 2:4). John concluded,

And now I urge you, lady, not as though writing a new commandment to you, but what we had from the beginning, that we love [agape] one another (2 Jn 5).

[Next lecture: August 30]


Football Team Love


As long as one cooperates with the team and manifests the right attitude, he is on the football team. He can play ball with the rest of the team because he has a relationship with the other players. However, if a particular team member starts acting out of place, or is not playing in cooperation with the team, then he is kicked off the team. We throw off the team those who do not play fair, or those who do not have a cooperative relationship with all the team members.

The Greek word phileo is used in the New Testament. This is the friendship love. It is the love that focuses on one’s affectionate relationship with someone or some thing. It would be the friendship that is maintained as long as everything goes according to the conditions that determine a friendship relationship. Michal “loved” David as long as everything went according to the rules of friendship. However, when David behaved contrary to what she believed was appropriate behavior, she no longer “loved” him (See 2 Sm 6:20-23). She kicked him off her friendship team.

If this word were used in reference to the love that existed within a marital relationship, then the marriage would not last long. Everything in the marriage relationship would go fine until one partner did something that was contrary to the rules of the marriage game. When disagreements arose in the marriage, one partner would want to kick the other off the marriage team.

There can also be phileo relationships among members of the body. However, if the disciples’ love for one another does not go beyond friendship, it might happen that in a time of disagreement one disciple might offend another, and then, kick the other disciple “out of the church.” And then there is the preacher. He is a good man of God as long as he is a team member and does not preach any lessons that might offend any of the members. But if he preaches something that offends a member, then the offended member, who has only a phileo relationship with the church, will often kick himself off the team.

 Phileo is used in the New Testament to explain many different relational scenarios. The hypocrites “love [phileo] to pray standing in the synagogues …” (Mt 6:5). “He who loves [phileo] father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Mt 10:37). “Beware of the scribes who … love [phileo] greetings in the markets” (Lk 20:46).

One’s association with another in Christ begins with a phileo relationship. But when one grows in Christ, the phileo relationship with other disciples must always progress to an agape relationship. It is the agape relationship that defines the relational nature of the body of Christ (Jn 13:34,35).

[Next Lecture: August 28]


Uncle John Love

This definition of love is inherent in the Greek word stroge. This Greek word is not in the New Testament. In Greek society it was a word that was commonly used to express family relationships. Reference here is to a legal love. Uncle John is a relative, and thus, we must love him because he is a blood relative.   And besides this, Uncle John gives out candy when he is around. We deeply cherish Uncle John, but our affection for Uncle John can be tested if he hangs around too much.

“Uncle John” love is as a trained nurse who is dedicated to a sick child in the hospital. She will give the child loving attention and care while she is on duty. But when she comes to the end of the day, she goes home to her own family. However, if one of her own children would become sick, then she would never leave her child.

Sometimes in marriage, the initial love of a couple digresses into a stroge love for one another. It is love out of duty. The husband brings home the money, and the wife cooks the food.   Everyone is doing their duty, but the deep loving affection for one another has long passed away. Marriage becomes a duty to perform, not a daily celebration of two people happily growing old together.

Christians sometimes manifest a stroge love in reference to their Christianity. It becomes only a duty to be with the saints. It becomes duty to study one’s Bible, which duty is often neglected. We have an affection for our brothers and sisters, but we can take only so much of their company. It is sometimes as one brother said, “One can get too much of his brothers.” The one who would make this statement has not yet grown in the love by which Jesus said His disciples would be identified before the world (Jn 13:34,35). He has not yet learned to love the brotherhood of disciples (1 Pt 2:17).

We can always know when one is about to give up on Christ. All that he does for Christ has become a wearisome habit of duty, rather than total commitment to Jesus. It was for this reason that John wrote, “His commandments are not burdensome” (1 Jn 5:3). When the worship of one becomes empty, then he is about to empty his seat in the assembly of the saints.

[Next lecture: August 27]

Chocolate Cake Love

Most people have a passion for chocolate cake.   Unfortunately, many of us can obsess over chocolate cake to the point of sitting down before a large chocolate cake and eating until we are sick. The obsessed eater reaches the point were he or she gags to take just one more bite of chocolate cake. Once the lust for chocolate cake is satisfied, the eating is over. Our passion for chocolate is satisfied, and with a sickened stomach, we move on.

The ancient Greek word eros would be used to define our passion for chocolate cake. The English word “erotic” comes from this word. This is erotic passion that once satisfied, moves on until the next time when a craving arises. The Greek word eros is never used in the Bible.

In ancient times, the word eros was used often in reference to erotic sexual activity. It is the passion that is experienced for a moment, but then is satisfied. When the satisfaction is realized, the “lover” then goes on his or her way.

Eroticism is passion without commitment. In a marital relationship that is exclusively based on passion, one is focused more on one’s self than his or her partner.   The use of the word eros in a marital context would explain that there are some dysfunctions in the marriage.   Eros would be applied to the individual who has had a moment of sexual satisfaction, but then moves on to the appointments of the day. This would be a relationship that grows dim over time as the passion of the sexual experience fades from the marriage. Therefore, after the honeymoon is over, it is then the time to determine if the married partners truly love one another.

Some people grow tired of being married because the passion of the sexual experience of the marriage has faded away. In such cases, the couple may have been married only on the basis of a passionate sexual relationship. But when the passion of the sexual relationship has faded, then they fade from one another as partners. Their sexual eros was a weak foundation upon which their marriage relationship was initially established.

In the sexual activity of a world that lives in fornication, eros would define the sexual relationship between many men and women. This is erotic sex without any commitments. Sexual encounters without any commitments defines a hedonistic society in which individuals seek relationships only for the purpose of satisfying their sexual impulses.

In a marriage relationship, two individuals have taken the first step in honoring a commitment to one another. Newly married couples must focus on their commitment to grow together for life, enjoying the sexual relationship as God’s blessing for the expression of love within the marriage. Jesus’ parable in reference to receiving the word of God illustrates too many young marriages. In the parable, Jesus identified those who initially were excited about receiving the word of God, but did not have a deep commitment to continue in their relationship with God.

But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. However, he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away (Mt 13:20,21).

This sounds like some marriages. Some people immediately receive the word (get married), but immediately fall away from the word when times get tough (when disagreements come). Those in the parable fell away from their relationship with Jesus because their passion for the Lord had no depth. It was shallow. It was initially based on excitement, but the excitement eventually passed away when hard times came.

In his youth, John Mark may have had this initial burst of passion for the Lord. He sailed with Paul and Barnabas on their first mission journey.   Unfortunately, the exciting passion that Mark initially experienced for the Lord was not strong enough to take him through all the trials of the journey for which he volunteered (1 Jn 4:18).   He eventually turned back from the journey (At 15:38).

Fortunately, there is a happy ending to Mark’s story.   His initial passion eventually grew into a committed love that sustained his relationship with the Lord until the end of his life. Many years later, and while Paul was in prison in Rome, he called on Timothy to “get Mark and bring him …, for he is profitable to me for the ministry (2 Tm 4:11).

Mark’s life illustrates the initial commitment of many young people to one another when they are first married. Marriage begins with love and erotic excitement, but then come the trials of stony places. Nevertheless, if a couple hangs tight, the initial eros (passion) of the relationship will eventually grow into a lifetime relational love that will deliver great rewards in old age. “Chocolate cake” passion alone for one another will not take a married couple to the rewards of marriage in old age. However, when the passion of two young people eventually morphs into sacrificial love, then the couple is on their way to holding one another’s hand into an inexpressible love commitment until they part in death.

Passion will initially connect two people in marriage, but it takes sacrificial love to keep them connected until death do them part.

[Next lecture: August 26]



Starting With Basics

“He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 Jn 4:8).

The suicide bomber who straps on a bomb and blows up innocent people does not know the God of the Bible. The thief who breaks into and steals that which belongs to his neighbor does not love his neighbor as himself. Life today seems to be the definition of a loveless existence, and thus, the identity of a world gone wrong in human relationships.   Nevertheless, our personal lives need not be patterned after the loveless character of a world controlled by Satan. We can be different. We can be so different that we can preserve ourselves through Jesus past this world. We can do this, however, only if we can discover the God of love who offered His Son as a love offering in order to bring us into eternal dwelling in His loving presence. For this reason, therefore, we long to discover this God and how we are to love Him and our fellow man.

Society in general has long forgotten the admonition of the true and living God of love:

You will love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind …. You will love your neighbor as yourself (Mt 22:37-39).

Society in general does not get better. Satan does his work well, and thus, society always spirals down morally. When God made the pronouncement of Noah’s generation that every imagination of the mind of man was only evil continually (Gn 6:5), He was, in a negative/positive sense, defining the nature of those who would reveal themselves as His children by their love for one another and Him. An unloving world provides the opportunity for God’s children, through their love, not to be identified with a morally degenerate world. Jesus explained:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.   By this will all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (Jn 13:34,35).

Jesus’ statement forces us to be positive in a world that always goes morally wrong. If all the world were loving, then there would be no possibility to define who the disciples of Jesus really are, neither would we have any visual evidence of the nature of the God of love. But the fact that the world is burdened with unloving people provides the opportunity for Christians to be identified as the people of God because of their love for one another. They have the opportunity to reveal the one true and living God by the loving nature of their lives that are patterned after the loving character of God.

Jesus’ statement in John 13:34,35 assumed that Christians throughout their lives would dwell in unloving social environments, and thus, have the opportunity to reveal the love of God. The loving Christian, therefore, is taking advantage of his unloving environment in order to manifest the love of God in his or her heart, and thus, reveal the true God of love in heaven. The Bible statement is thus emphatically true: “HE WHO DOES NOT LOVE DOES NOT KNOW GOD, FOR GOD IS LOVE(1 Jn 4:8).   Those who perform wickedness toward their fellow man are atheistic in reference to the loving God that is revealed in the Bible. They are behaving wickedly according to a god they have created after their own wickedness.

If we manifest love for God and our neighbors, then it is by this love that we will be identified to be the children of the true God of love. We are sure that this thought was in the mind of Peter when he wrote:

But sanctify Christ as Lord God in your hearts and be ready always to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear (1 Pt 3:15).

The love of a Christian should spark inquiry in the minds of the loveless in order that they ask for a reason concerning the hope of the Christian. A loveless society provides many opportunities to reveal the God of love.

There are actually four words in the Greek dictionary that are commonly translated in English literature with the English word “love.” Each Greek word reveals something unique about the relationship that the Greeks had with one another in their society. However, in the New Testament only two of these Greek words are used. In order to enlighten our New Testament definition of the love by which God is revealed and Christians identified, we will begin with the two Greek words that are not used in the New Testament, but were used in Greek society. All four words will give us some idea of the emotional relationship that existed between people of the first century. The last two words will help us understand better the relationship that the disciples of Christ should have toward one another and the God of love.

(In the next four lectures, we will define and apply each of the four Greek words.)

[Next lecture: August 25]


Building Eternal Relationships

In a 1960s newsletter of the Foundation For Human Betterment, it was stated:


“During the past forty years medicine has made tremendous progress. We have almost eliminated the bacterial diseases, such as typhoid fever, bubonic plague, and many others which in the past have wiped out huge segments of mankind.   However, we have made very little progress in the so-called psychosomatic diseases, and by that we mean diseases that are caused by or are greatly influenced by wrong mental and emotional attitudes. We now know that the giant destructive emotions of hate, envy, jealousy, fear and guilt produce diseases just as certainly as do bacteria or poisons ….   To put it bluntly, when a man harbors these destructive emotions he is slowly but surely committing suicide ….   We know that the only way to get rid of these destructive emotions is to replace them with LOVE.”


We live in a world that is plagued with diseased minds that destroy every social structure that is the foundation of humanity. In some places of our present world, the Holy Spirit could write the following concerning the social behavior of society: “God saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gn 6:5). We seek to encourage those who live in this world—which is all of us—in order that we better cope with the evil of the world by following the advice of our God.   Only in following the advice of our Creator will we be able to take ownership of a victorious life. When we follow Him, we wake up every day and thank Him that we made it this far. We continually remind ourselves of God’s directives that make us victorious in any hostile environment that at times seems so contrary to righteousness.   Many societies of the world have gone wrong. But this does not mean that we must go wrong with the evil of our environment. As Christians, we are reminded by the evil of this world that this world is not our final home. We view the moral negatives of this world, therefore, as positives to keep our minds focused on that which is not of this world. Our teleology constrains us to focus on heaven. And on focusing on that which is good, we can be that small portion of salt that can preserve those around us.

[Lectures start August 24.]

Love, Law, Freedom & Drug Abuse

The Bible records the words of Jesus concerning the most important commandment (law) of all commandments in reference to our relationship with our Creator: “You will love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). And then the Holy Spirit defined the love of God: “This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments [laws]” (1 John 5:3). There is no loving of God unless one obeys the laws of God.

Now apply this definition to what Jesus said was the second greatest law: “You will love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Loving one’s neighbor as himself is to obey civil laws in reference to one’s relationship with his fellow citizen. God ordained that societies establish civil government and law for themselves in order that the citizens have law and order among themselves as a nation. Without civil order, there is no freedom. “Therefore, whoever resists authority [of the government], resists the ordinance of God. And those who resist will receive judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:2).

The problem with drug addiction is that the addiction works against the second greatest law that must exist among the citizens of a nation, that is, that citizens love their neighbors as themselves. Citizens of a nation establish civil laws against substance abuse for the purpose of maintaining civil order and freedom. Drug abuse is almost always the problem of those citizens of society who have no financial basis by which they can support their addiction. The addicted, therefore, must resort to the unloving practice of fitting into a drug-distribution network, or stealing from their neighbors to support their habit, or both.

Crime rates escalate in those communities where drug addiction prevails. The drug-addicted citizen cannot maintain any love of his neighbor when he persists in stealing from his neighbor in order to continue his selfish addiction. In his addiction, he does not love himself, for he is destroying his body. And in his self-destruction, he has no consideration for his neighbor, for the addicted must steal in order to continue their addiction. It is for this reason that law and order in a drug-addicted society is diminished. And when law and order are diminished, so also is the freedom of the innocent.

If a government for and by the people would maintain law and order in a society where substance abuse is running rampant, then it has no option but to crack down on drug abuse in order to reclaim freedom. In a drug-infested society, the citizens must make a decision: Either they as a government of and for the people, can be lenient with substance abuse, and thus limit of the freedom of society because of theft, or they can rise up against all forms of drug abuse in order to restore their freedom?

There can be no freedom that is guaranteed by law in a society where drug abuse denies the citizens the right to love one’s neighbor as himself. A society of drug abuse locks up the citizens in their own homes, but allows the drug-addicted thieves to run free.
Suggested reading: Book 21
Biblical Research Library

Result of Persistence

When we focus on historical studies of the early beginnings of Christianity, we would become discouraged if it were not for the result of what actually happened in the first century in reference to the growth of Christianity. There was tremendous opposition to Jesus and the preaching of the early disciples.   Satan used every tool of opposition that he had at his disposal. He used the religious leaders of the time to crucify, stone, slander and imprison the early messengers of the gospel. But the word of God prevailed. There was nothing that Satan could do to stop the work of Jesus to take the gospel into all the world.

In his efforts to oppose the preaching of the early disciples, it is interesting to note what the historian Luke said actually prevailed over all opposition that Satan could offer:

So the word of God increased. And the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly. And a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith (At 6:7).

When Christians today are persistent in teaching the word of God, then the number of disciples will multiply. It is interesting to note that the Holy Spirit, in this historical statement of Luke, focused on the increase of the word of God.   When messengers of the word persist in their efforts to plant the seed of the kingdom, the number of disciples will be multiplied. God’s word is so powerful when preached that it will bring to Jesus even those who lead in the onslaught of persecution against the word. If the disciples are vigilant and persistent, even the religious leaders will bow to the power of the word of God.

Teaching the word of God must become our customary behavior. “And Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures” (At 17:2). It was not that Paul taught the word of God when it was convenient, or when he had the opportunity. Many today are “convenient” teachers, that is, they teach the word of God only when an opportunity comes their way. But Paul, and the early disciples, took the initiative. They looked for gathered people who loved their Bibles. Paul once took the initiative to go to a “prayer meeting” where he “sat down and spoke to the women who had assembled” (At 16:13). The early disciples were aggressive to teach the word, not passive as the opportunity offered itself.   They were looking for places to teach the Bible.

We have found that the word of God will not increase in any area where Christians have become passive in their witness to the word. This is surely what happened in the city of Ephesus. The word of God increased significantly in the city in the early beginnings of the disciples’ teaching the word. Religious people even burned their deceptive religious books when they accepted the word of God (See At 19:19). But many years later when Jesus addressed the disciples in Ephesus, He said, “Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love (Rv 2:4). They had maintained a great number of good works among themselves (Rv 2:2). Jesus had no complaint in this area. But they had lost their first love of teaching the word of God to others. They were great on works, but dead on the word. What disciples often do is content themselves in their good works, but there is no preaching of the word to the unbelievers. And works without the word is death.

Highly organized churches are often highly dead.   They have often organized themselves into neglecting that which produces fruit. They grow by attracting “converts” through their enthusiastic activity. But there is no emphasis on teaching the word of God. When a church is built on the enthusiastic activity of good works, without emphasis on faithfulness to the word of God, then the church becomes a social club of religionists who are afraid to focus on the word of God lest members be driven away by the commandments of God. If a church is built on those who have responded to the word of God, and then go to work for Jesus, there is never a fear among the leadership that members will be driven away when the word of God is taught. A church built on works is dead, whereas a church that is built on the word of God is alive.

The reason why the disciples increased in Ephesus in the early beginning was stated clearly by Luke in Acts 19:20: So the word of God grew mightily and prevailed.” It is the word of God that will prevail over lies, error and deception. It is the word of God that causes religionists to burn their religious books that are full of lies. Our good works may offer the opportunity to attract many to our group. But we must never forget that it is the word of God that leads us to prevail.   Deceived religionists burn their religious books of lies when they are confronted with the truth of the word of God.

The power is in the word of God, not in our person as disciples of Jesus. We must never forget that …

… the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hb 4:12).

When we teach the word of God, we must never forget that people are “… born again, not by perishable seed, but imperishable, by the word of God that lives and abides (1 Pt 1:23).   When this imperishable seed is planted in the hearts of men and women throughout the world, God will give the increase. “I have planted,” Paul wrote, “Apollos watered, but God gave the increase (1 Co 3:6).   If there is no planting of the word of God, then God cannot give an increase. If Christians do not take the initiative to plant the word from city to city, then there will be no increase.

We must always remember that Satan has gone on before us to every city. He has deceived people into being satisfied with their religiosity in the bondage of deception. Only when teachers of the word of God enter into Ephesus will the word of God be able to prevail. If the disciples of Jesus do not take the initiative to enter into the city with the word of God, then the religious people of the city will continue to read their religious books, and thus continue in the deception of that which is false. God can give no increase while we sit idly by and wait for an opportunity to teach the word of God. If we do not make it the custom of our lives to teach the word of God, God cannot give the increase. Teachers of the word, therefore, must create the opportunities to teach the word.

The power of the gospel is not in ourselves, but in that which comes from God. Paul reminded those in Achaia who trusted in themselves, “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to think anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God (2 Co 3:5). We might think that our social religious club is adequate to draw people to Christ. We will certainly draw many people through our many works (See Ep 2:2). We will even be known in the community for our good works. But we may be as the church in Sardis: “I know your works,” Jesus said, “that you have a name that you live, but you are dead (Rv 3:1).

Jesus will recognize our good works (See Rv 2:,2,9,13,19). He would commend some with the words, I know your works and love and service and faith and your patience. And as for your works, the last are greater than the first” (Rv 2:19). However, in commending the disciples in Thyatira for the increase in their works, He judged, “I have a few things against you because you tolerate …” (Rv 2:20). They were good in works, but lacking in implementing the commandments of God in rebuking the immoral behavior of some among them. They tolerated the immoral among them, though they were known for their good works.

If Jesus’ message of judgment against the seven churches of Asia teaches one clear point it is that the word of God must be implemented in the lives of those who call themselves after Christ.   “Lord, Lord” cries to claim allegiance to Christ is not good enough. We must do the will of the Father in heaven (Mt 7:21). We must be doers of the word of God, and not hearers only (Js 1:22). If we do not, then we will eventually hear the words of Jesus when He comes to judge the world, “I never knew you. Depart from Me you who practice lawlessness” (Mt 7:23). Therefore, “… be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (Js 1:22). When we are doers of the word of God, we can have hope that we will eventually hear the following words from Jesus when He comes again: “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mt 25:34).

If we are confident in teaching the word of God, the word will prevail over error. And in the end, we will prevail over the world when our Lord comes.

[Final lecture of series]