It is the business of Satan to do all that can be done in order to keep the lost destined for eternal destruction. This is a spiteful mission, but it is true. It seems that in these times he is doing a great job of extracting faith from the world in which we live. Are we headed toward the days of Noah? Are there indications that Satan is winning the spiritual battle that is presently raging around the world today? If so, then it is a time in which we must first, arm ourselves with the gospel, and second, we must engage the enemy at all costs. If you are aware of this raging spiritual war that is presently spreading around the world, then you need to read through this series of lectures of the Global Bible Class. There is a dark cloud of unbelief that is circumnavigating the world. There are indications of this everywhere. But there is a beam of light that will dispel the darkness. Darkness exist only when there is no light. Therefore, we call on every lighthouse of the world to shine forth the gospel. Jesus started this business: While on earth, He said, “I am the light of the world” (Jn 8:12). And now, He says to us, “You are the light of the world” (Mt 5:14). We are His light because we live His gospel before the world. Join with us to preach the gospel to the world. E-CLASS BEGINS JANUARY 5TH
Two millennia ago there were two despondent men returning home on a long road out of Jerusalem after the Passover of A.D. 30. They were exhausted, bewildered, downcast and totally confused. Their joyous expectations of an independent national Israel free from Roman occupation had just be dashed. Their return home to inform their wives and family of the tragedy they had just experienced on a hill outside Jerusalem was not good news. They were thus surely discussing how they would break the bad news to their families.
Unexpectedly, another gentleman meandered up and joined them on the way. He entered into their discussions. The stranger asked, “What manner of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk?” (Lk 24:17). The two despondents were shocked at the question. It is interesting to note carefully what, Luke, the historian, recorded about the mental state of these two discouraged hopefuls: “And they stood still, looking sad” (Lk 24:17). We must not forget the historian’s explanation of the despondent mood of these two men, as well as all those who had placed their hopes in a Nazarene who had just been executed on a cross back in Jerusalem. To them, and the rest of the hopeful followers, there was no good news (gospel) in the execution of their hopeful leader whom they supposed would be the new crowned King of Israel.
So the party of three men continued on their way toward the small village of Emmaus. One of them, Cleopas, then questionably responded to the stranger who had joined the despondent party of two, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem and have not known the things that have come to pass there in these days?” (Lk 24:18).
There had been hundreds of thousands of Jewish visitors in Jerusalem for the annual Passover/Pentecost feast. And now these two, discouraged about the execution of their hopeful liberation leader, did not even wait around for the closing Pentecost feast that would be conducted on the fiftieth day after the execution on Passover. They simply headed on home to inform their families of the bad news.
Everyone in Jerusalem had either heard or witnessed the Roman execution of the would-be King of the Jews. For all those who accepted this Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah of Israel, there was no good news (gospel) in the execution. The best hope that they could muster up was that He would become a martyr in the religious history of Israel.
To the two disillusioned disciples on the road to Emmaus, all their dreams had just been nailed to a cross. They confessed to the stranger who had joined them on the road that this Jesus of Nazareth “was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people” (Lk 24:19). But then, they related to the stranger, the religious leaders “delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him” (Lk 24:20). There was no good news in this crucifixion of their would-be Messiah and King.
And then the two men made a statement that could have been made by every nationalistic Jew who became a disciple of this crucified King: “We were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel” (Lk 24:21). Their hopes were all nationalistic. Their hoped for “redemption” was all about being delivered from Roman occupation. As all those dispersed disciples of the day who were on their own way home, there was no gospel message in the execution of the hopeful King of national Israel. Their hopes of being nationalistically redeemed from foreign occupation in order to enjoy the glories of a kingdom as those back in the days of David and Solomon were all crushed. There was no inherent good news at all about the execution.
These two sad disciples were only two examples of thousands of nationalistic Jews who had put their hopes in Jesus of Nazareth to be the messianic king. They hoped that it would be Jesus who would deliver to Israel their lost independence as a glorious nation. To many of them, Jesus was at least a good friend who worked many mighty works, taught many good things, and gave hope to a Roman-oppressed society of Jews throughout the Roman Empire.
Everyone had put their hopes in this Deliverer, this Messiah who would restore Israel to be free as in her former days of glory when King David and King Solomon led the farming communities of Israel to be a noted united nation among the nations of the world. Israel was great back in those days. And then, inspired by the leadership of this Jesus, they would all “Make Israel Great Again!” But their hopes were all dashed to the ground as each drop of blood drained from the nail-pierced hands of their would-be king. There was no known gospel in that cross.
But this was not the end of the story!
[Wait for the forthcoming book to complete the story.]
In 1 Thessalonians 4:18 Paul concluded a section of revelation concerning the final coming of Jesus by stating, “Therefore comfort one another with these words.” Paul had just revealed that the dead in Christ had not perished. They were alive in the spirit and would come with Jesus at the time of His final coming. We thus have Paul’s written revelation of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 concerning what will happen when Jesus comes again. This record has come to us through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the Holy Spirit, through Paul, exhorts us to comfort one another with this inspired record of the final event of the gospel of the Lord Jesus. It is the responsibility of all disciples to talk among themselves concerning the gospel of Jesus’ coming, for in such discussions there is comfort.
GOD COMFORTS IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS:
In 2 Thessalonians 2:16,17 Paul wrote,
“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.”
We do not know how God comforts in the way Paul here reveals. Paul mentioned throughout his communication to the Thessalonians how God comforts in an indirect manner. However, in this statement Paul seems to indicate that in some way God “comforts our hearts” in a direct way. This comforting does not refer to our salvation. It affects our mental attitudes in times of trouble or conflict.
God has given us “everlasting comfort” in the sense that we know that our salvation is secure because of His grace. However, He also comforts our hearts in times of struggle in ways that we do not understand. We simply accept the fact that He does because He has said so in His word. The fact that He says He comforts us is enough to know that there is comfort from Him upon our request.
“Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming, but also by the consolation with which he was comforted in you, when he told us of your earnest desire, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more.”
In this passage, credit was given to God for the comfort that came to everyone involved. But the comforting was in the interaction of Christians with one another, which interaction was based on their common obedience to the gospel (Jd 3). Paul also explained the manner or medium through which one is comforted.
Paul was comforted by God in two ways. First, he was comforted by the coming of Titus. Titus’ presence brought him comfort. Secondly, he was comforted by hearing of the tender affections the Corinthians had for him. He knew that the Corinthians had been concerned about his situation. When they were told of His well-being, they were also comforted. Paul wrote, “Therefore we have been comforted in your comfort” (2 Co 7:13).
The Corinthians’ comfort of Paul came from God. However, it came through the person of Titus and the knowledge of the Corinthians’ concern for his well-being. We could say that it was God’s providential work that brought Titus to Paul. Therefore, in this way we must give God credit, as did Paul, that the comfort originated from God.
The above example may explain what Paul meant in the entire context of 2 Corinthians 7:3-7. He was “filled with comfort.” He praised God “who comforts the downcast.” He thanked Titus for the comfort that he brought. He rejoiced that Titus was comforted by the Corinthians.
In the context of 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, Paul looked to the Father as the “God of all comfort” (2 Co 1:3), because God comforted him in his affliction. The 2 Corinthians 7:6,7 text explains how God comforted Paul. Because of this comfort from God, Paul said that Christians were able to comfort one another (2 Co 1:4). 2 Corinthians 7:6,7 is a commentary of 2 Corinthians 1:3-7.
GOD COMFORTS IN OUR ENVIRONMENT:
After Saul’s conversion, the early church had peace and was edified. “And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied” (At 9:31). The early church was comforted by the fact of Paul’s conversion. The lack of stress under persecution equals comfort. When Christians live in an environment where there is no persecution from either government or enemies of the truth, they can live in comfort.
The word which is translated “comfort” in Acts 9:31 is from the same Greek word that is used in John 14:16 where it is translated “helper,” “counselor,” or “comforter.” This is a word that was commonly used as a legal term to refer to an advocate or legal counsel. However, in the context of Acts 9:31, the word refers to supplication or entreaty. Though this is the only time this word is used in Acts, in other scriptures it is translated either “exhortation,” “consolation” or “entreaty.” The word is also used in Romans 15:4 where Paul stated,
“For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”
This passage teaches that the disciples were comforted (consoled) by the inspired Scriptures that were written beforehand.
It is significant to note that the comforting work of the Spirit in Acts 9:31 resulted in the growth of the church. Therefore, the early disciples obediently walked in the will (fear) of the Lord and the entreaty or exhortation of the Spirit. As a result, the church grew. When the disciples are in an environment of peace, they have a greater opportunity to share the gospel with others.
Through the same medium as pointed out in the preceding point with the Colossians, the Thessalonians were encouraged. When Paul was in Thessalonica, he “exhorted and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children” (1 Th 2:11). When he left Thessalonica, he sent Timothy “to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith” (1 Th 3:2). When Paul heard of the Thessalonians’ faith, he was also comforted. “But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and brought us good news of your faith and love … we were comforted concerning you by your faith” (1 Th 3:6,7). It was through the good reports brought by fellow teachers of the gospel that the Thessalonians were comforted. Paul was comforted by the reports of faithfulness of those who had obeyed the gospel. It was as John wrote, “I have no greater joy than to heart that my children walk in the truth” (3 Jn 4).
Emphasis on individuals being the medium through whom God comforts is also revealed in 1 Thessalonians 5:11: “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you are doing.” “Comfort the fainthearted” (1 Th 5:14). By revelation of things concerning the resurrection and kingdom reign of King Jesus over all things, Paul instructed the Thessalonians, “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Th 4:18). In 2 Thessalonians 2:16,17, Paul wrote, “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ … comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.”
The comforting of the Thessalonians was through two means: First, it was through the medium of teachers who reminded them of the gospel that they had obeyed, as well as the good reports that they brought to the disciples. Secondly, it was through inspired teachers that Paul sent to them fellow workers in the faith. Through the medium of the presence of individuals who focused on the gospel in Thessalonica, Christians were comforted.
The entire spectrum of the gospel—the incarnation, atoning sacrifice, resurrection, ascension, coronation and kingdom reign—are all the result of the grace of God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Continual study and learning these subjects in the word of God brings tremendous comfort. When one is in Christ, therefore, his continual remembrance of such great news renews one’s soul. For this reason, God expects personal Bible study of every Christian, for it is only through the word of God that we learn about the gospel. He will not, therefore, bring comfort to those who refuse to “grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pt 3:18). He has thus commissioned the preaching and teaching of the message of the gospel as a source of encouragement for all Christians. The following points describe how God comforts those who have obeyed the gospel, and thus seek to live according to the gospel:
GOD COMFORTS THROUGH OTHERS:
“For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding” (Cl 2:1,2).
Paul indicated in the preceding statement that those in Laodicea, as well as those who heard of his labors, but had not seen his face, would be comforted by him. He labored “that their hearts may be encouraged.”
The disciples in Colosse were also comforted by the presence and teaching of Tychicus. Tychicus was sent to them by Paul in order “that he may know your circumstances and comfort your hearts” (Cl 4:7,8). Paul also sent Tychicus to the Ephesians “that he may comfort your hearts” (Ep 6:22). Tychicus comforted the disciples by reminding them of the gospel of Jesus Christ (See Rm 1:13-16). He was the agent through whom God worked to comfort hearts. Concerning Tychicus, Onesimus, Aristarchus, Mark and Justus, Paul said that all these were men “proved to be a comfort to me” (Cl 4:7-11). Through the faithful work of fellow workers in the preaching of the gospel, God comforts the hearts.
“And may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and toward all, even as we do toward you. May He establish [strengthen] your hearts to be blameless in holiness before our God” (1 Th 3:12,13).
How did the Lord cause the Thessalonians to be established their hearts? In the same chapter, Paul stated that He sent Timothy “to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith” (1 Th 3:2). In this case, it was through the teaching of the prophet Timothy that the Thessalonians were established and encouraged (See Gl 6:1,2). This would be the same medium of strengthening that Paul wanted to accomplish among the Roman Christians through the teaching of the gospel that all of them had already obeyed (Rm 1:13-16). 1 Thessalonians 2:13 is a commentary verse concerning this power of the word of the gospel to build up the Christian:
“For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”
The point is that because of the belief on the part of the Christian, the word of the gospel of God can permeate one’s life and direct his ways. Through the power of this message, the Holy Spirit establishes and encourages Christians. Through the preaching of the Spirit-inspired word of the message of the gospel, the Spirit works in order to strengthen every disciple.
Through the revelation of the word of God, Christians study, and thus, are strengthened by what they learn from the faithfulness of others. They read of other faithful people of God who were delivered because of their faith in the promises of God (Hb 11). They were thus strengthened and encouraged as they reflected on the hope that was set before them. Christians are also strengthened by their companionship with one another. They encourage one another to be faithful (Gl 6:1,2; Hb 10:24,25). They remain faithful because of their hope that is produced by focusing on the message of the gospel of God’s grace through His Son.
Though Christians are strengthened indirectly by influences from outside, they are also strengthened by God’s work in their inner person. We are not informed as to how God accomplishes this strengthening. We are simply told through the Scriptures that God the Spirit works to strengthen our resolve in times of trial. The disciples of Jesus find great encouragement in this promise. In times of trial, therefore, they rely on the inner strengthening of the Holy Spirit to take them through tough times. God will not allow His children to be tempted beyond what they can endure. And thus, He strengthens His children in times when they need endurance.
Paul prayed that the Colossians“be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Cl 1:9). His prayer was that they …
“… walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power” (Cl 1:10,11).
These are statements of exhortation. They were written in order to encourage the Colossian disciples to continue in the faith. Paul wrote in Colossians 2:6,7,
“As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.”
The Colossians had been taught the truth of the gospel. They were increasing in the knowledge of the word of the gospel because of the work of the inspired prophets who labored among them in teaching. The prophets continued to teach the gospel as the foundation upon which they would spiritually grow. Therefore, upon the foundation of the gospel, they were being established.
We may not understand all that transpires when God makes it possible that we not be tempted above that which we are able to endure. However, because of the Scriptures, we at least can prove that the Spirit works on us through the medium of the Holy Scriptures. Consider the following cases where the Spirit worked through the word of the gospel in order to build up and strengthen the disciples:
THE EPHESIANS WERE STRENGTHENED:
When Paul left the Ephesian church, he reminded the elders of their responsibility to focus on the word of God in order to grow spiritually: “And now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up” (At 20:32). When he wrote to all the disciples in Ephesus a few years later, he commanded them to be strong: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ep 6:10). Titus 2:11,12 would be a commentary passage on the work of the word of God in the lives of the Ephesians:
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.”
It is through the teaching of the word of God that we are spiritually built up. Through this same word, we are taught to deny ungodliness. We must give credit to the Holy Spirit for this spiritual growth simply because He is the source by which the word existed. It existed in the lives of the early disciples, either through the inspired message of the prophets, or later through the inspired written word of God.
Ephesians 3:16 is a very important passage concerning the strengthening through the Spirit. Paul prayed, “that He [God the Father] would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might[power] through His Spirit in the inner man” (See 1 Pt 5:10). We must understand this statement in the historical context in which it was originally written. The preposition “with,” in reference to power, emphasizes the instrumental use of power. This power is exercised “in the inner man,” thus, this phrase would be locative. The passage would therefore be saying that one is strengthened in the inner man [location] by the power of the Holy Spirit. If reference is here to the use of the miraculous gifts in the lives of the Ephesian disciples at the time the statement was made, then the Ephesians would have received strength from the confirming nature of the miraculous gifts, as well as the inspired message of the Ephesian prophets. However, the strengthening seems to go beyond their witness of the ministry of the gifts. They were ministered the word of God through the gifted prophets among them.
Another important grammatical point concerning Ephesians 3:16 would be the preposition “through.” Some translations unfortunately translate the Greek dia that is used here with the English preposition “by.” The New King James Version is correct with the translation “through.” It is the same preposition that was used by Peter in 1 Peter 1:22: “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through [dia] the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren.”
The Spirit does not work directly in conversion to purify the souls of man. He works through the message of the truth of the gospel. Through the Spirit-inspired truth of the gospel, the Spirit works in conversion. 1 Peter 1:22 would be parallel to the thoughts of Ephesians 3:16. Through the miraculous power of the inspired preaching of the truth of the gospel to the Ephesians, they were strengthened in the inner man.
Paul does not explain in Ephesians 3:16 how the Spirit strengthens. However, we would assume that He at least strengthens through the medium of the message of the gospel. The Ephesians were to allow the Spirit’s power through the preaching of the gospel to strengthen them. Paul’s emphasis on accepting this power is explained in Ephesians 6:10-20 where the Ephesians were to take up the armor of salvation.
Ephesians 3:17 would agree with the preceding point. Paul continued to say “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ (Rm 10:17). Thus, Christ dwells in one insofar as the word of Christ produces faith in the inner man of the obedient believer. A commentary passage on this thought would be Romans 16:25:
“Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began.”
We are established (strengthened) according (by) the gospel. Paul added, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Ph 4:13). Jesus does strengthen us. Through the power of the gospel He has laid the foundation upon which the Christian stands (1 Co 15:1,2). Through growth in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, He continues to strengthen those who have put their faith in Jesus (2 Pt 3:18). This thought is brought out in Paul’s introduction to the letter of Romans when he expressed the reason for his desire to go to Rome:
“I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you. But I was hindered until the present, so that I might have some fruit among you also, even as I have among the other Gentiles” (Rm 1:13).
Paul then explained how he would produce this fruit among the Roman Christians: “So as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you [Christians] also who are at Rome” (Rm 1:15). The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for the unbelievers, but it is also the power of God to produce spiritual fruit (growth) in the hearts of the believers. This power does not terminate at the waters of baptism.
One must always consider verse 16 of Ephesians 3 with verse 20: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” God’s power of the gospel continues to work in the hearts of the Christian. This power was released through the preaching of the gospel in the first century. This same power continues today. The power of the gospel continues to work for the benefit of the Christian. The gospel of God’s grace that was revealed by His Son on the cross is the guarantee of God’s promise that His Son will come for us. This promise is based on God’s word:
“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hb 4:12).