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Series Theme: Meditations in Romans 1 - 3

Meditation No. 1

Meditation Title: Humble Origins but Divine Origins


Rom 1:1,2   Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God-- the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures


Familiarity, they say, breeds contempt. For some of us who have been Christians a long time, ‘Romans' is a familiar book, an important book in the canon of Scripture, and we know it well. I wrote verse by verse studies in Romans over ten year ago. It is a familiar book, but to avoid taking any of it for granted, I'd like to approach it completely fresh, as if I knew nothing about it, nothing about its background, as if someone had just handed it to me with no explanation. What would I find?

I would first observe that it seems to come in the form of a letter, from a person called Paul. A little bit later I see that he writes to people in Rome but that is not immediately obvious. To start with he is more desirous of saying things about himself. He doesn't say where he is writing from (we believe Corinth ) and he doesn't date his letter (we believe it to be somewhere about AD57). But he immediately identifies himself with another historical figure – Christ Jesus, or Messiah Jesus: “ a servant of Christ Jesus.”

It's an interesting way of describing Jesus because it's like putting his role or title first, and we don't usually do that with Jesus; we usually just call him Jesus Christ. It's as if Paul wants to emphasise Jesus' role or activity. When he came he came as the Christ (the Roman term) or Messiah (the Jewish term), the one sent by God to fulfil a task on behalf of the Godhead. It is as if Paul has Jesus' servant role in mind when he uses this form of address about Jesus. Yes, he was God's Son, but he came to earth to perform a task on behalf of heaven.

Now Paul puts his own role first in this letter. Paul identifies himself as one related to this historical figure, Jesus but his relationship is simply that of a servant or slave (the word used can mean either). When someone introduces themselves to us as, “I'm the PA to Sir. James….” this person is gaining their status by their role and their role is as a representative of Sir. James. But when Paul attaches himself to Jesus, it is in no grand way; he simply describes himself as Jesus' servant: “ a servant of Christ Jesus.” A servant of a servant?

The immediate sense that we have, therefore, is that Paul (whoever he is, and we'd have to look elsewhere, especially in Acts, to see who he is and what his background is) is writing because he is Jesus' servant and that he has something from Jesus to share. That's the only reason a servant might be writing to us, to convey something from their master, certainly if that is how he starts out his letter, drawing his role to our attention. But there's more to this. He doesn't come as an ambassador, which might sound somewhat high flying; he comes as a servant, a more lowly figure. Now when you think about this, this adds greater weight to the letter, because the individual is not coming with his message but that of his master.

The strength of the letter comes because of the master, the originator of it, the one who has inspired it. So, if we were able to strip away all that we've previously heard or read about this letter, we'd be left with an immediate impression that here we have a letter written by this lowly servant on behalf of, and perhaps at the direction of, his master, Jesus (whose title suggests another servant).

Now of course Paul himself in another letter declared that “ All Scripture is God-breathed,” (2 Tim 3:16) or God-inspired, and so, looking back and realising that this letter is now acclaimed as part of the Scriptures, we may assume that it is inspired by God, that God put it on Paul's heart to write and inspired what he wrote. The point I think I am making, is that we often forget that these writings have their origins in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ. Our belief, as Christians, is that Paul didn't just have some bright idea and then wrote, but that as ‘ a servant' of Jesus, he knew Jesus' heart and responded to it and thus responded at that point in time.

John the Baptist, who we read of early in the Gospels, clearly came as a messenger from God with a God-given message. Now we have Paul, who doesn't come with such blatant and obvious origins, but nevertheless comes as a divine messenger to us. He comes as a servant of the servant Son of God. Any status that he has comes from that role, as one who works for and serves Jesus. What he brings to us surely has its origins in the heart and mind of his master.

How easy it is to pick up a Bible and let it drop open and just read the words and then put it down – unmoved! Especially this is true when we have been tainted by the unbelief of liberal unbelieving theologians who have sought to take away any of the supernatural element from the holy Scriptures. For many people, these words on the page of the book or letter called Romans, could just be words that stay on the page – until we start reading and thinking about what is infront of us.

This is a man writing who claims to be a menial servant of the Messiah, the sent One of God. He writes because he IS a servant and writes to convey something of his master's heart and his master is THE unique Son of God, Jesus Christ, who left all the glory of heaven and came and served his Father in the environment of earth before returning to heaven. Yes, all right, that description is staggeringly more than we would know if this was the first time we had ever picked up the Bible – but it is the truth conveyed by the New Testament and if it the truth, then we should reverently hold this letter from Paul, wondering what he might be wanting to convey from his master. This simply says, come reverently to this letter, realise afresh the wonder of what we have here and take time to read it and reflect upon it, and then marvel.







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Series Theme: Meditations in Romans 1 - 3

Meditation No. 2

Meditation Title: Living in the Plan


Rom 1:1,2 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God-- the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures


I sometimes wonder how many of us really have a sense of being part of God's great master-plan. I get the impression, as I listen to people, that few of us genuinely have a sense of being part of something bigger, of having a real sense of destiny. Yes, we do in church services perhaps, when God is clearly speaking, but in the day to day humdrum of life, the pressures of twenty-first century living seem to squash that sense. Maybe we need Paul to remind us about this.

Perhaps that was what marked out Paul from the rest of us, for a reading of Acts reveals a man utterly dedicated to the big plan and purpose of God. But what about here; what about in these first two verses of Romans, before we read into the depths of this book? We pondered on him being a servant yesterday. As we move on we see him telling us, his readers, that he has a calling.

We talk about missionaries having a calling. We sometimes talk about nurses, doctors or teachers having a ‘calling'. It's a vocation, we say, a calling, otherwise we probably wouldn't do it. Paul's ‘calling' was to be an apostle. Now depending on where we come from in the church, we may have different feelings about apostles, but for the sake of these verses we need only focus on Paul. To the Corinthians he asked, “Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord?” (1 Cor 9:1) For him at that time, the criteria for being an apostle was that you had met or known the Lord and were able to testify to him, and that the fruit of your ministry proved what you were – there were churches in existence because of you!

When you have a calling you are set apart TO something – to be a missionary etc. – but you are also set apart FROM other things. If you are set apart TO one thing, it means you are set apart FROM a lot of others things, the things others are called to. It is in fact a separating off to something and a leaving other things behind. Elisha is a good example in the Old Testament of this happening: “Elijah went from there and found Elisha …. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. … He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate.” (1 Kings 19:19 -21). Elijah did this as a result of an instruction from the Lord and Elisha recognised this as a calling which meant that he would leave his present occupation and go and follow Elijah to do whatever God gave them to do.

Thus we find Paul telling us that he has been set apart for the gospel of God.” His role as a servant of Jesus was, in fact, to serve Jesus as an apostle and go and take the Good News about him, produce converts, and form them into visible expressions of the Church. But of course this wasn't some latter day emergency fall-back plan of the Lord's because all else had failed with Israel . No, this was an outworking of His plan that He had spoken about, “through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures”, i.e. throughout the Old Testament.

   In fact we can go further. A number of times in the Bible we find references to God's plan that had been brought into being even before He has created the world. The apostle Peter, referring to Jesus wrote, “God chose him for this purpose long before the world began.” (1 Pet 1:20). Paul himself wrote to the church at Ephesus, “Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ.” (Eph 1:4) and to Timothy he wrote, “that was his plan long before the world began —to show his love and kindness to us through Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 1:9). Thus God planned for each of us to find salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ, even before sin came into the world.

Yet, it goes even further. Paul wrote, “we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph 2:10). Our being ‘born again' (Jn 3:3) is a work of God (see also Jn 1:12 ,13) and we have been brought into Sonship because of the work of Christ on the Cross and been empowered by God's Spirit to be new beings who are to express the love and goodness of God through our lives. How He does this is unique to each one of us for He has gifted us with grace uniquely (Rom 12:6). He has given us the gifts, talents and abilities that we have, and we use them as we live out these lives expressing His love and goodness.

This is the ‘calling' that each Christian has. Some He calls to be leaders, some not. Some he calls to very clear and distinct ministries, others not, but whoever we are, we ARE part of His master plan and He has a specific part for us to play which becomes gradually revealed to us as we let Him teach us through His word and guide and empower us by His Spirit. With Paul, we are in God's plan. We may not have realised it or we may have forgotten it, but we are! Live in it and enjoy it! 






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Series Theme: Meditations in Romans 1 - 3

Meditation No. 3

Meditation Title: The Gospel of Jesus


Rom 1:1-4   Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God--the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.


We finished in the previous meditation thinking about Paul's awareness of being within God's master-plan, a plan that He had hinted at through the Old Testament prophets. Everything in those Old Testament prophecies had been looking to the future to the coming to earth of God's anointed one. Luke recorded of Jesus on the road to Emmaus, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Lk 24:27). What He had not made clear was that this coming one would actually be God's own Son, the second expression of the one godhead in heaven, God Himself coming in human disguise if you like!

It is that humanity that Paul first refers to as he identifies the Son, the object of the Good News, when he says, “who as to his human nature was a descendant of David,” hence the family trees in Matthew and Luke. Now of course here we struggle with a mystery, how could God be God and also man? Even more for those who know the teaching of the New Testament, how could Jesus be God AND man and not be sinless? This is what the early church councils struggled with.

The Apostles Creed, one of the earliest creeds used by the early church, simply stated about Jesus, “his only Son, our Lord who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary.”

The Nicene Creed (about AD325) only said of Jesus, “the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds.”

The Athanasian Creed, a later formulation went into great detail how Jesus was both God and man. The Chalcedonian Creed (AD451) similarly went into more detail but more simplified.

One modern writer used the picture of the Meal Offering (Lev 2) to convey a truth: “The offering consisted of fine flour, representing the perfect humanity of our Lord—not one coarse grain—mingled with olive oil, which stands for the Holy Spirit and, hence, for deity. Each be­came inextricably blended, for ever one. The cake thus compounded was a unit—one cake, not two. It should be observed, however, that though the two natures are for ever one, they are for ever separate .”

Why was it important that Jesus was truly man? So that he could fully enter into the human experience (without sinning) and convey the Father's love to us through all he did, then finally to fully enter into human death by allowing his life to be offered as a sacrifice for our sins – human actually doing it and experiencing it, divine only being big enough to take the sins of every person who would come. In time, a one-off act in history, in eternity, the Eternal One providing the foundation for justice – someone has paid the price, taken the punishment, for all wrong-doing!

Another aspect of this human element, is that he fulfilled in his human coming to earth, all the things that God had promised to Abraham, as well as David. To Abram had been the promise of the blessing of the whole earth through him (Gen 12:2,3). The promise was then revealed to be to one in the Davidic line who would bring God's reign to the earth in a new way. Hence Jesus, at the beginning of his ministry period, started by preaching, “The time has come, the kingdom of God is near.” (Mk 1:15) The reign of God on earth was just coming through the Son.

But there were two sides to Jesus that Paul now declares: “and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.” The ultimate proof for us that Jesus was God's one and only Son was the fact of the resurrection, of the Holy Spirit raising him from the dead. The apostle Peter, on the day of Pentecost preached, “you, with the help of wicked men put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death.” (Acts 2:23 ,24). The body that had been both human and divine had been crucified and put to death. God raised the whole body so that the Son would be seen by his followers for who he was.

This is the ‘Good News' that Paul had been called to convey: that God has come to the earth from heaven, in the form of His Son, and had lived on this earth for some thirty earth years, and had then started preaching and teaching about God, and justifying his teaching by power. As Jesus replied to the disciples of John the Baptist, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.” (Mt 11:4-6) or as Peter had recorded in on the day of Pentecost, “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.” (Acts 2:22) THAT was the start of the Good News, that God had been among them, but the culmination of it was that when he had been put to death, he rose from the day to vindicate his teaching, that he had come to take the punishment for the sins of the world and become our Saviour. That was Paul's calling, and that is ours. Let's ensure we fulfil it!







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Series Theme: Meditations in Romans 1 - 3

Meditation No. 4

Meditation Title: Called to Obedience


Rom 1:5,6 Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.


We live in days when ‘obedience' is not a much used word. We like to do what we want to do, what feels right for me. Obedience for adults smacks of control and abuse, we think. When we hear of obedience being mentioned we think of ‘heavy shepherding', of people being told what to do by authoritative leaders and stories of abuse abound, don't they! Well actually that was the theme of gossip in Christian circles twenty years ago, but today we just go with the ethos of the world and prefer to do our own thing. In fact in some churches I am sure that if there was directive teaching that required conformity to standards laid down by the Biblical preacher, there would be uproar – yet that is what the New Testament clearly teaches!

Paul refers to his calling and says that through Christ he has received two things: grace and apostleship. Grace is simply the God-given ability to do something, and God had given Paul the ability to do what he did, and that leading and enabling meant that he did things that were the mark of an apostle and therefore he had the ministry of apostleship. This calling, he said, had come from Christ and was ‘ for his name's sake' , i.e. it was to honour Christ's own calling. We have already seen how Paul was Christ's servant, but Jesus was there on earth as a servant of his Father, to fulfil the divine plan. Jesus had prayed, Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you,” (Jn 17:21) and then gone on to ask for his church, that it would work in such a way that the world would know and honour the Father. This was the order: Paul's ministry would honour Jesus and Jesus would honour the Father. That was what Paul's ministry was about.

But the outworking of it was to call people from all over the world, the Gentiles, to come to Christ. And why should they come to Christ? Because they needed to be saved, and Christ was the means of saving them. But it wasn't just about a one-off being ‘born again'; that was just the start. From the moment of our conversion we start a long walk with Christ where he teaches us to be obedient to his word and to the leading of his Spirit so that we are changed into the likeness of Christ (2 Cor 3:18).

This brings us back to the subject of obedience again. How can we change unless he guides us and we follow? The ‘following' is an act of obedience. From the start, Jesus taught his disciples, “Follow me.” (e.g. Mt 4:19, 8:22, 9:9, 10:38 etc.). Today we ‘follow' him by responding to the prompting and leading of his Holy Spirit. Jesus came to usher in a ‘kingdom' (Mt 3:2, 4:17 ,23) – the rule of God on earth through Jesus and then, subsequently, through us his followers.

Now that ‘kingdom' or ‘rule' is a benign rule, a rule of goodness and of love. Everything the Father does through Jesus is to bring His love into our experience so when we talk about ‘obedience' we need to think very differently to any other use of the word. It simply refers to us bringing our thinking and our lives generally, into line with God's desire to bless us, and the channel through which He brings that blessing is His Son, Jesus. Jesus is the means through which we can be forgiven and Jesus is the administrator of God's goodness which he is able to bring to us as we respond to his leading.

But, we note, it is all by faith, says Paul. We are people of faith because everything we do in response to God, we do in response to one who we cannot see with our eyes or hear with our ears. We ‘hear' him in our spirit, and faith is responding to what we have heard at that deep inner level. We may use our minds to process what our spirit is sensing but it is then an act of will which exercises faith. It is as we respond in faith that Jesus is able to lead us and we obey and he blesses.

But there is yet something else here for Paul speaks to those of us, God's children, Christians, who are called to belong to Christ. Why do we ‘belong' to him? Because he purchased us: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (Rev 5:9,10). Imagine a slave condemned to death who is then bought and set free. That is the picture language of the New Testament. Later in this same book Paul writes, “though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (Rom 6:17,18).

The same idea comes up in a variety of forms in the New Testament: “he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.” (Col 1:13). We belong to Christ, we live in his kingdom, the kingdom of light, a kingdom of righteousness, a kingdom where obedience to the king is the norm. All these pictures say the same thing: we are part of a kingdom, a kingdom of love and goodness, and a kingdom has a king and kings require obedience, but this obedience is about doing what is good, loving, right, to live in an environment where those characteristics are the characteristics of blessing that comes from God. Who would say that this sort of obedience is hard?







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Meditation No. 5

Meditation Title: Be Blessed!


Rom 1:7 To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.


Many Christians don't understand the concept of ‘blessing'. It is bringing a prophetic decree from heaven that opens the way for the goodness of God to be released on earth. To understand blessings you really need to study the life of Isaac in the Old Testament as he relates in old age to his two sons, but we'll leave you to do that on your own. We have ‘blessing' in our lives, often without thinking about it. Someone sneezes and we say, “Bless you!” Mostly it is a habit thing with little or no meaning but it has a spiritual background. It means that where there are the signs of an illness we, the believing community, will declare, “May the Lord bless you,” or “May the Lord declare healing from heaven for you,” and we do it with the faith-knowledge that God wants to bring healing to us. When we are moving in faith we are able to say, “May the Lord bless you” meaning, “May the Lord decree goodness over your life.” THAT is what blessing is all about, and we do it as a response to the Holy Spirit's leading as He indicates His intention to bring that goodness. He just wants us to speak it out first!

Now why do we say all this? We say it because in this verse seven of chapter 1 of Romans, we find, as we find in so many of Paul's letters, his blessing the recipients of his letter. He is bringing a prophetic decree that brings the goodness of God to these people. These are not mere words!

Now first of all we need to recognise to whom this blessing is brought. You can only bring a (genuine) blessing when you sense it is from the Holy Spirit and the conditions are right. The conditions are that God blesses His children – believers. He does not bless the unrighteous or the ungodly. Thus Paul gives a threefold identification of those who he blesses. First of all they are the Christians in Rome. This isn't to say that the blessing doesn't apply to other Christians as well, merely that it is specifically directed in this letter to those Christians who form the church in Rome .

Second, they are identified as those who are “loved by God.” But doesn't God love everyone? Yes, in one sense, His heart is a heart of love towards all of humanity, but He is not able to fully express that love to those who reject Him. Suppose we have a child whom we love very much but as they grow up they come to listen to the enemy and come to despise, even hate us, for who we are and what we believe. They cut themselves off from us. We still love them, but are unable to express that love to them for they have gone away from us without letting us know where they are. God loves all of humanity but is unable to express that love fully until we come to Him and receive His salvation – then the door is wide open for Him to express His love. This letter comes to Christians – those who have opened their hearts to God and have received His love.

Third, they are “called to be saints.” This doesn't mean only a little band of very special people, but all Christians. We are called to be children of God. We are called to be receivers of eternal life. We are called “to be” many things. The words, ‘to be' don't refer to some future experience but to living out an ongoing life. We are ‘a saint' the moment we are born again. The word refers to holiness, a holy one, a separated out one, one who has entered into a living relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We are called to live out that life as an ongoing experience of Him. Rome – where these Christians lived. Loved – why they are now Christians. Saints – living out these new separated out lives, empowered by the Holy Spirit. THESE people are recipients of God's blessing, God's decree of goodness.

So what is the blessing? It is a twofold decree: of grace and peace. Grace is about what we have received (and continue to receive) and peace is about the nature of our ongoing experience with God. In its most simple description, ‘grace' is simply God's resource to enable us to live our lives as His children and to overcome the trials and tribulations that we encounter living in a Fallen World. It also enables us to serve Him and His calling on our lives. This ‘resource' is His very own Holy Spirit. HE, Himself is the only resource we need. He provides strength; He provides wisdom; He provides guidance; He provides power. It is Him, living His life through us. It is His own Holy Spirit who made us new creatures, children of God, and it is His own Holy Spirit who energises and directs us throughout our years on earth. This is what grace actually is.

But then there is peace, the state that we have with God. Because of the work of Christ on the Cross, and because of his rule today at his Father's right hand, and because of the expression of that through the means of his Holy Spirit that we have just been considering, we can be at complete peace. We are at peace with God because Christ has reconciled us to his Father. We are at peace within ourselves because we no longer have to strive to try to be someone – we just are, as children of God! We can be at peace with others because we no longer have to vie with them to get our way; we rest in the Father's purpose for our lives and His hand on us bringing that about.

Now if these two things are ours already, why does Paul bother to speak them out? Why do they come as a blessing? Because a blessing is simply a speaking out of the decreed will of God and it enables that will to be further administered. So as you read these notes and meditate on these things, grace and peace be to you!







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Meditation No. 6

Meditation Title: Good Witnesses?


Rom 1:8   First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.


In this first decade of the twenty first century there has been a full frontal attack on the Christian faith by crusading atheists. Now the interesting thing to note is that they are woefully ignorant of the truths of the Gospel as found in the New Testament and so that is not the main object of their attack. No, their attack has been against many forms of Christianity, or expressions of Christianity, that have been observed in the church in the past or are being seen around the world today – expressions that are far from that shown I the New Testament. In the United Kingdom at least, whenever the media portray a representative of the church they are almost always either weak individuals or quirky-belief individuals. Never or rarely is there a portrayal of Christians as strong, helpful members of society, people who should be given a fair hearing for the reality of their faith. Now I know that part of the enemy's tactics is to demean and neutralise Christians, but it does seem to me that so often we have given him plenty of ammunition to play with!

Now I am sure that the church in Rome in Paul's day wasn't perfect but even so, they were a church that the world knew about, and about which Paul could feel good. This letter by Paul isn't a corrective letter like the first one to the Corinthians. No, it seems that this is a church with a strong faith and the news of that faith has gone round the world. Now that is a challenge isn't it! Yes, put aside all the negatives that come from the media, but I wonder how the world around us views our local expression of ‘church'? Paul could talk to God in prayer about this church at Rome and speak very positively about it because of what he had heard about them. He wasn't embarrassed about them and he didn't need to make excuses for them. No, he gave thanks for what he heard about them.

So what might it be (for he doesn't tell us) that made this church known around the world? He says it is their ‘faith', so what does that mean? Well the first thing to suggest is that it doesn't just mean their set of beliefs, because that would not get them a good reputation around the world. No it has to mean that they are living out their lives with a faith dimension to it. That suggests that they have been taught to live lives that distinguish them from the rest of the world. They are people who have changed so that they are marked out so that they have been seen for what they are. So what sort of characteristics make us people who can have a good reputation in the eyes of the rest of the world? Let's suggest a few things.

First, we may suggest, they are people of truth, people who are honest and trustworthy, people who are known for their integrity. Truth is valued highly by the Lord and so this would be a mark of a good church. Second, we may suggest, they would be people of peace and harmony, free from arguing, criticising, gossiping, judging and speaking badly of others. In fact, to the contrary, they will be people who look for the best in one another, who speak well of one another, who encourage and build up one another. They would love and accept one another and be there for one another. They would be a caring community. They would be known for looking after the needy – the widows and orphans. They would be law abiding, good citizens, caring for their community, both Christian and non-Christian. They would be good workers and not lazy or careless. They would be wise stewards of whatever wealth the Lord has allowed them to have, meeting the needs of those who did not have.

It is probable that they would be known for the supernatural dimension of their lives. They are people who claim to hear God and live their lives in accord with what He has said to them. They see things happening as they respond to what they hear from Him. They pray and things change. They pray for the sick and they are healed.

Now where do we get all these things from? From the New Testament of course, but as we said earlier, it is probable that they are not perfect and not all these things are patently obvious in their church life yet. Perhaps that is why Paul writes in a very practical way in the latter chapters. One of the obvious things, we have to suggest, is that these people do what they do and are known for what they do, because of God. They are not just nice people, not just good people – they are godly people and the focus is on God. As a result of their lives God is glorified, just as Jesus said: “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:16)

If they are a growing church then Solomon's words will also be true of them: “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” (Prov 4:18) – and they are seen! Where God is Lord, then we will also see the prayer of Jesus being fulfilled: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (Jn 17:20-23). The presence of God in these people is seen by the world and they are witnesses to the Lord. May all these things apply to us, His church today!