I love the idea of a proof – a mathematical, scientific method of proving a theorem. What proof does the Apostle Paul call us to use in “proving the better things?” He calls us to use charity.
“And this thing I pray, that your charity be plenteous more and more in knowing [that your charity be plenteous more and more in science, or knowing], and in all wit; that ye approve the better things [that ye prove the better things], that ye be clean and without offence in the day of Christ;”
If we have charity then we are “clean and without offence” now and “in the day of Christ.”
“Men, love ye your wives, as [and] Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it, [that he should make it holy; cleansing it with the washing of water], in the word of life,”
Paul speaks to men, but he says something so important here that I want to put aside his commanding men to love their wives and focus on Christ’s love of the Church. Christ loves the Church so very much that He gives Himself for it. And, in giving Himself for it, He makes the Church — that’s you and me — holy. Christ makes the Church holy by “cleansing it with the washing of water, in the Word of Life.”
Yes, Christ is an example for holy living. But Christ is also the cause of holiness. Without Christ’s sacrifice, holiness can not exist in the Church.
“Therefore be ye perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5: 48)
“Bear with each other, and forgive each other. If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you.”
Paul says to put up with each other. He says put up with your friends’ faults, your neighbors’ mistakes, your enemies’ wrongs. He reminds you to forgive the other person “because the Lord forgave you.”
I ask you — what’s more critical: to hold the other to a high standard of behavior or to forgive the other for not reaching that high standard?
I maintain Jesus comes to earth to give us the highest standard which is mercy. James tells us that “mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 3:13, NIV) He writes:
“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.” (James 3:12-13)
Yes, Jesus tells you to be perfect because your Heavenly Father is perfect. But God’s perfection is attained not by your groping efforts or by your demand for good behaviors, but through the mercies of Christ on the cross. The blood of bulls and goats are not able to appease God’s wrath; only mercy is capable of bringing you to holiness.
Therefore, Jesus says:
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 7:27-28, NIV)
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that… But love your enemies, do good to them without expecting to get anything back.” (Luke 7:32-33, 35; NIV)
“Do good…without expecting anything…” Ultimately that is the Christian life : being merciful.
How rich are Paul’s words — “as you are already doing.” What a wonderful testimony to the unity of the church at Thessalonica, to their support of one another, to their love for each other. Paul, with Silas and Timothy, writes:
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.”
How does Paul suggest the Thessalonians support each other? By reminding them that “God did not appoint [them] to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for [them] so that, whether [they] are awake or asleep, [they] may live together with Him.” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10, NIV)
What a staggering thought — they are appointed, as are we, to salvation not to wrath. What is more encouraging? Therefore, Paul is able to write:
“Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV)
Paul writes to Timothy, “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: ‘He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.’ (1 Timothy 3:16) Then Paul warns that some in later times will “forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving.” (1 Timothy 4:3) In his letter to the Colossians, Paul writes, “Let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensual mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.” (Colossians 2:16-19) The rules and regulations these persons demand of you, says Paul, “have an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” (Colossians 2:23)
“Rather,” writes Paul to Timothy, “train yourself for godliness.” (1 Timothy 4:7) “Godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” “For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” (1 Timothy 4:10)
The example Timothy is to set is “in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12) The godliness he seeks is Christ Himself.
Paul, writing to Timothy, “[his] true son in the faith” states that “the goal of our instruction is love.” Paul encourages Timothy to continue this instruction in brotherhood with him and to avoid “myths and endless genealogies” which “promote empty speculations rather than God’s plan.” (1 Timothy 1:4) Paul tells Timothy to avoid all that results in “fruitless discussion.” (1 Timothy 1:6)
Paul reminds Timothy that love “comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.” Love does not come from the law or from “teachers of the law [who] don’t understand what they are saying or what they are insisting on.” (1 Timothy 1:7)
Love emerges from our union with Christ who “came into the world to save sinners.” (1 Timothy 1:15) Love is demonstrated in Christ’s “extraordinary patience” with Paul, who calls himself “the worst of [sinners].” (1 Timothy 1:16,15) Christ’s patience with Paul is “an example to those who would believe in Him for eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:16)
“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17)