“Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17).
Understanding is a necessary step toward being accepted of God. The Lord clearly stated through Paul, “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Paul also wrote to the Ephesian brethren, “How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)” (Eph. 3:3-4). A proper approach to a study of the will of God in the Bible is critical to salvation. Man must do the will of the Father in heaven in order to be in heaven (cf. Matt. 7:21) and one cannot do what he does not know. Consider three basic principles of Bible study that bring understanding.
All Scripture is to be Studied. All scripture is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).“Rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15) is to be the practice of every Bible student while reading all. One should not pick and choose passages that do not give the full meaning of subjects. Such is done today on the topics of faith, sin, salvation, etc. to the perverting of truth and overthrowing the faith of some (cf. 2 Tim. 2:18). The Bible plainly states concerning revelation, “The sum of thy word is truth; And every one of thy righteous ordinances endureth for ever” (Ps. 119:160, ASV).
Attention to Context is to be Given. Reading into a passage an interpretation that is not warranted is a device of Satan (cf. Matt. 4:6). Jesus clearly shows that passages that reveal false interpretations show that the cited passage is true but the interpretation is false (cf. Matt. 4:7). Context always determines the meanings of words in a given statement. For example, Peter stated in the first gospel sermon, “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). Some interpret that requirement to mean that one expresses his trust in the saving power of the Lord by merely praying a prayer requesting that the Lord save. If one would continue to read the context further, he will read, “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:37-38). This is in harmony with what Ananias told Saul of Tarsus to do (cf. Acts 22:16). Misunderstanding comes when proper context is not followed.
Applying Oneself is Essential. Solomon wrote, “My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom and apply thine heart to understanding; . . . Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God” (Prov. 2:1-2, 5). Applied knowledge through obeying is essential (cf. 1 John 2:3-5).
One must be a doer to be blessed (cf. James 1:25). Obedience and continued practice bring an understanding that is no substitute for simply being able to repeat the facts and never commit them to life.
“Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth” (Eph. 4:28).
Being born again (cf. John 3:7) at the point when one is baptized into Christ (cf. Gal. 3:27) has its visible results to be seen of men. Such was true with Saul of Tarsus (cf. Acts 9:20, 27), the jailor of Philippi (cf. Acts 16:34) and many other examples referenced in the Bible. When Paul wrote of “the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:24), he then begins to describe what that kind of life looks like in specific detail. Consider the details of one such example found in Ephesians chapter four.
Ceases to Practice the Old Lifestyle. The first emphasis of righteousness and true holiness of a person whose life was previously dedicated to stealing is seen in the words, “Let him that stole steal no more” (Eph. 4:28). The thief must completely stop practicing that way of life. There are things that must be put away (cf. Eph. 4:22) before one can be converted to Christ and stay converted to Christ. The very thought of living unto sin is an abomination to a convert. Paul used the strongest of language concerning living unto sin, when he wrote, “God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Rom. 6:2). While no one is saying that making a “180 degree” change in life is easy, such is the step that must be taken. One cannot mix sin with righteousness (cf. 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1).
Commits to Pursuing an Honest Way of Living. The next concrete step of showing conversion is in the words “but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good” (Eph. 4:28). Labor by working with one’s hands is an expression denoting honest and righteous effort for the meeting of one’s needs. Paul used this expression to talk of his own work. “And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:” (1 Cor. 4:12). Paul wrote to the Thessalonian brethren, “And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing” (1 Thess. 4:11-12). Honest work that seeks to be productive and not destructive is truly an honorable endeavor.
Contributes of His Earnings to the Needs of Others. Paul wrote of a converted thief “that he may have to give to him that needeth” (Eph. 4:28). Herein lies a key to a converted life. While the previous goal was to take from people in a dishonest way now has changed to making an honest living to the point that one is willing to give to those in need. How different is such a lifestyle from the looting and pillaging of stealing. Instead of cheating and devouring another he is now compassionate and distributing to others. There has been a change of heart that now is seen in a change of lifestyle. A publican once said to Jesus, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold” (Luke 19:8). Jesus responded by saying, “This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham” (Luke 19:9). It is truly marvelous to see concrete evidence of converted hearts and minds.
“Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Heb. 2:17-18).
The problem of human suffering has perplexed many people who try to reconcile a powerful, benevolent God with the suffering of God’s creation. One need look no further than the Son of God himself to see many answers concerning human suffering. His sufferings truly aid all who struggle with temptations and trials of life. Consider three areas where Jesus shows how to view suffering.
Suffering in Service. Peter wrote to servants, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:” (1 Peter 2:21). Jesus is truly the epitome of the suffering servant. Peter makes it clear that suffering comes whether one lives unto sin or follows that which is righteous. He wrote, “But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evil-doer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf” (1 Peter 4:13-16). Serving in this sinful world will bring its own form of suffering in various ways.
Suffering in Submission. It is stated of Jesus himself, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;” (Heb. 5:8-9). Those that obey the Lord will not learn obedience differently from what Jesus had to learn. Submission is to subject one’s will to the will of one of greater authority. Children will not learn obedience to their parents (cf. Eph. 6:1-3; Col. 3:20) without suffering. All men who obey the Lord must suffer changes to life for obedience to take place. Self must first be denied before any other action of obedience will proceed (cf. Matt. 16:24). Jesus shows how important this suffering is to salvation.
Suffering for Sin. When all is said and done, it is sin that brought all suffering into the world. Too many blame God or someone or something else for various problems in life. Jesus came to deal with man’s greatest need, but suffering had to take place for redemption and reconciliation to come. Peter wrote, For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:” (1 Peter 3:18). The Old Testament prophecies had foretold of the sufferings of the Christ (cf. Luke 24:25-26, 46; Acts 3:18). Such suffering has its practical message. “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1-2). Appreciating his sacrifice motivates to live unto the Lord.