Please read 1 Timothy 1
We are at the end of this lovely letter written by the Apostle Paul to the Christians in the newly founded churches. It is a good opportunity now to review this letter and to observe Paul’s purpose in writing it. Paul spent his life teaching Gentiles that they could be Christians without becoming Jewish Proselytes – that is those who were not born Jews becoming Jews. The Jews were generally displeased about this teaching of this former Rabbi and member of the Sanhedrin – this defector to the cause of Christ. They thought of the Mosaic Law as binding upon all, and were bitterly prejudiced against those uncircumcised Gentiles who presumed to call themselves disciples of the Jewish Messiah.
We know that the Apostle Paul stood like a rock when he taught Gentile Christians that they had liberty in Christ – this was the theme of Galatians and Romans. But at the same time he did not want them to be prejudiced against their Jewish fellow Christians – but to regard them as brothers in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul was anxious that there was not TWO CHURCHES – a Jewish Church and a Gentile Church - but ONE CHURCH: Jews and Gentiles, one in Christ in the one true church.
Paul made a magnanimous gesture to the Jewish elements of the church which was the great offering of money, collected from the Gentile churches and taken at the close of his third missionary journey to the poor in the Jerusalem church – often called the mother church. He hoped that this demonstration of Christian love might bring the Jewish Christians to feel more kindly to the Gentiles.
But there was another side to it. Paul also made a gesture of Unity to the Gentile element in the church – and it was this letter to the Ephesians. Ephesus as we have seen was the leading centre of the Gentile Church comprising those who had come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ through his evangelistic endeavours. In this letter he has exalted the ONENESS UNIVERSALITY and UNSPEAKABLE GRANDEUR of the whole body of Christ. The Church, according to Paul, had room for people of different races, viewpoints and prejudices – but his great belief was that the Lord Jesus Christ is the One who has power to solve all the problems of mankind and to bring unity and harmony amongst all people who come to faith in the Saviour.
We were reminded last week that the letter is divided into two halves – the first three chapters are Doctrinal. Paul speaks with wonderful clarity about the Church’s Wealth in Christ – her spiritual blessings – 1 v 3 – 6; the Christian’s new relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ – 2 v 1 - 6 and to each other, 2 v 11 – 13. Then the Apostle reveals the divine mystery of the Church in Chapter 3 v 9 – 11.
The Second half is Practical and deals with the unity, character and conduct of the church summarised in 4 v 31 – 32; then he covers our proper relationships with unbelievers at the beginning of Chapter 5 v 11 – 12; after that out proper relationships amongst ourselves – husbands and wives, parents and children slaves and masters. Finally our relationship to the devil and how to fight him with the whole armour of God and prayer.
Doctrine and practice have been sewn together in a seamless whole – certainly doctrine and practice have been covered together in the two halves. There is a superb balance of the Sovereignty of God and the responsibility of the Christian right through the letter and we have benefited greatly from its teaching.
Now at the end Paul is signing off. But he has a way of doing it that is masterful. The statements of verses 23 and 24 are in the form of a SALUTATION. It is not a ‘yours sincerely’ or ‘yours faithfully’.
23 Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
24 Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.
PEACE is the HEBREW – the Jewish way of signing off. Shalom – peace. This was for the Jews in the assembly at Ephesus, for the Jews in the other churches, and for any Jew reading Paul’s letter in the centuries to follow – Shalom!
GRACE – is the GENTILE way of signing off. Paul knew the culture of the Greeks so well – Charis – grace was the way that they said goodbye.
LOVE with FAITH – this is the CHRISTIAN way of signing off – we do it ourselves don’t we – trust you are well, love from Pastor!
What precious words these four are – Peace – Grace – Love and Faith.
Notice too where they come from – From God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. All of them come from God Himself. He is the author of them and the sender of them. Let us dwell on each of them this morning and savour their meaning to each of us.
Peace is the Greek word EIRENE from which we get our English name IRENE. The word occurs in every New Testament book except one – the first letter of John. We all love peace don’t we? In Pilgrim’s Progress we read that Christian had come to the Palace Beautiful and had met the Doorman called Watchful who had introduced him to the ladies who lived in the Palace – Discretion, Prudence Piety and Charity. They asked him many questions, gave him a meal and then after evening prayers they retired – we find these words – “The pilgrim they laid in a large upper chamber, whose window opened towards the sun rising; the name of the chamber was PEACE, where he slept until break of day; and then he awoke and sang –
Where am I now? Is this the love and care Of Jesus, for the men that pilgrims are? Thus to provide! That I should be forgiven! And dwell already the next door to heaven.”
Peace, rest, quietness, tranquillity – do we not all desire these things in this humdrum life of ours? Do we not equate heaven with peace and peace with heaven? Is it possible to live as Bunyan said, “Next door to heaven?” What a wonderful word this word peace is. Let us see some of its features from the New Testament.
1. Peace refers to that harmonious relationship that is possible between men.
Romans 14 v 19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
2. It refers to the harmony or friendship that can be made between nations.
In the Lord’s parable about the King going to war –
Luke 14 v 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace.
3. Peace is freedom from being molested.
The Lord Jesus used the word when He wept over the City of Jerusalem –
Luke 19 v 41 And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, 42 Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.
4. Peace describes order in the Churches of the Lord Jesus Christ –
1 Corinthians 14 v 33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
But the most important use of Peace is this –
5. Peace is that harmonised relationship between God and man accomplished through the Gospel.
Romans 5 v 1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
When a man or woman, boy or girl, repents of sin and turns to God for mercy trusting in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ then a glorious peace floods the soul. True Christians know this peace – it is a gift from the Lord God. You know this peace when it is yours my friend. And despite the fact that there are many dangers and toils and snares for the believer, when peace rules in the believer’s heart there are times when he can appreciate the experience of dwelling next door to heaven. Unbelieving sinners know nothing of this perfect peace – they can have a kind of peace that lulls them to spiritual sleep, unaware of the consequences of their rebellious state before God. Indeed Satan loves to give his pseudo peace to his followers – they think that everything is alright – no need to worry – there is no God to answer to – no sins to forsake – just pursue the peace that material things and sensual things can bring. Oh my friends they are so wrong. That is a sham peace – but the peace that my Saviour gives is a peace that I never knew before I was converted! Do you have the peace that Paul wishes these Christians at Ephesus to have?
Paul wishes this peace ‘to the brethren’ which is a term meaning all the Christians. The next word that he uses in His salutation is
Love is AGAPE - which is such a rich word. In the New Testament it is used
1. To describe the attitude of God towards His only begotten Son the Lord Jesus Christ –
In His high priestly prayer, speaking to His Father of His beloved disciples, the Lord says this –
John 17 v 26 And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.
How the saviour wanted to impart His love to His disciples in the same way that He knew of the love of His father, for Him!
2. It is used to describe the attitude of God towards the human race.
John 3 v 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
God has a general love for his creation – we have looked at this before. But
3. Agape describes the attitude of God towards His elect people in particular.
John 14 v 21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
The way that God loves his people is so precious. It is a special love. An earthly mother and father can have great love and concern for children in general – other people’s children. But their special love is reserved for their own children, the fruit of their oneness and union, the children begotten by them. This is how the Lord treats us as believers – as beloved children.
4. Agape love also refers to the attitude of believers towards one another and towards other people.
It is the will of God that we love others with God given agape love. Two scriptures tell us this – First that we have high regard for brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ
John 13 v 34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
Second that we treat others who do not share our faith with love as well –
1 Thessalonians 3 v 12 And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: 13 To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.
What a difference this teaching from the Lord Jesus Christ was; the teachings of the Jews was this - you could love other Jews; you could try to love Jewish proselytes; but Gentiles? There was no way that Gentiles could be loved in any way. Jesus challenged this and gave us the Holy Spirit in our hearts so that we may love as He loves – with agape love. Agape is an expression of the essential nature of God –
1 John 4 v 8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
How far short most of us fall in this my friends. Surely it is a feature of our sanctification that love should increase within our hearts for God Himself, for our fellow Christians and for all people. This is a mark of holiness. It excludes hatred of any kind. It overcomes those grudges and loveless irritations that we feel; it deals with our tendencies to criticise others, whether to their faces or behind their backs. Where true God inspired agape love dwells in the heart of any man or woman, there is less and less room for these things.
But now notice the third word
The text actually puts love and faith together – “love with faith.” John Phillips says, “Love is the source and faith is the force.” Love reaches down to us from God above; faith reaches up from God’s children to Him. Faith is the word PISITIS which always means a firm persuasion or conviction of the truth of anything. But in the Christian context Faith is belief concerning man’s relationship to God and is distinct from any faith that man might have in another man – it is trust in God Himself as a person who can be relied upon.
But we need also to note that point – faith primarily is trust in a person, not in what He can do or what he has promised – but in Himself. Abraham believed God. The object of Abraham’s faith was not in God’s promise – but his faith rested on God Himself.
Romans 4 v 16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, 17 (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. 18 Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. 19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb: 20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; 21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. 22 And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.
Abraham loved God too – he loved him enough to obey God when it came to offering up his dear son Isaac - Love and faith acting together.
Faith then is a firm conviction producing full acknowledgment of God’s truth. Based on this acknowledgment faith is personal surrender to God.
John 1 v 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
And since such faith is a surrender then it follows that faith leads us into behaviour, obedient conduct, that is inspired by such a surrender.
2 Corinthians 5 v 7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
All these three – conviction leading to surrender leading to faithful conduct - come from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, according to this verse. We are utterly dependant on His sovereign work in our lives, stimulated by His love we believe in Him by faith – again the balance between sovereignty and responsibility.
Do you have this faith my friend? God’s love has reached down to sinners – His hand of love beckons to those who are lost in their sins. Sinners should grasp hold of that loving hand – and that grasping is faith. God’s love provides all that we need – forgiveness and pardon – faith appropriates it. Whose hand are you holding this morning my friend?
The fourth word in Paul’s closing address is
Oh how many books have been written, poems composed and articles submitted on the wonderful subject of Grace!
Paul began his letter with grace –
1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
And now he ends it with the same thought – of God’s unmerited, lavish love and favour shown to hell deserving rebellious sinners. We are familiar with this word Grace – it shines in Ephesians in five out of the six chapters
In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
God’s Grace sought us before the foundation of the world. His grace set our feet on his highway to heaven as pilgrims through this barren land! It is His grace that keeps us company all the journey through. And it will be grace that sees us safely home at last – it was grace that saw our dear sister Jenny ushered into the presence of the Saviour last Lord’s Day evening! Oh to grace, how great a debtor daily we are constrained to be!
No wonder Paul got excited about grace. It was grace that taught his heart to fear – it was grace that dealt with his sins – and it was grace that fired him to preach the Gospel with power and sincerity.
And Paul in verse 24 calls down the grace of God, the Divine favour, on all who love the Lord in sincerity and truth. See how he puts it –
24 Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.
This can be read like this “Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in INCORRUPTION.” Insincerity is a form of corruption. If we say that we are a Christian but do not show true love and constancy in our lives, then we are insincere. Paul tells us that love for the Lord Jesus Christ, as the supreme object of our love, and conduct flowing from that love, is an indispensable condition of salvation. If we do not have it – then we deserve final punishment like all the other unbelievers in the world who love themselves more than God. Be warned my friend – a loveless Christian is a paradox. Examine your hearts this morning and see what love dwells within them. Are you bitter? Where is your love? Are you critical? Where is your love? Are you proud and therefore a lover of self? Where is your love for the Lord Jesus Christ? True love for Christ is a preparation for heaven. Charles Hodge says,
“Love to Christ includes adoring admiration of His person, desire for His presence, zeal for His glory, and devotion to His service.”
Loving Christ in incorruption, with sincerity leads us to desire to please Him in everything and avoid offending Him. Every time we hurt or ride roughshod over another brother or sister then we offend the Lord – because that brother or sister belongs to Christ!
God’s continued grace according to these parting words of Paul is only available to those who love Jesus Christ in faith.
24 Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.
Is the grace of God in your heart this morning, my friend? Has God shown you His divine favour in dealing with your sins?
And dear Christian friend and fellow member of the body of Christ – how sincere is your love for the Lord Jesus Christ? May we all know God’s grace pouring down upon us day by day as God acknowledges that we do love His Son with all our hearts.
And if we don’t – let us go home this lunch time; find a quiet place at home, and pour out our hearts to Him, confessing our failure and pleading for his grace. And may we all know without doubt the peace of our saviour, His love that has no limit and His grace that has no measure!