- The Father said out of the cloud, “This is my Beloved Son, Hear him” (Luke 9:35)
- The Lord Jesus received his words (commands) directly from the Father
- The words from the Father were passed on to the disciples
- The words of the Father to Jesus will judge people on the last day
- Christ’s followers will obey the commandments he received from the Father
- Christ’s New Command is for his people to love one another as he loved them in the agony of the New Exodus in Jerusalem.
- In John 15:21-25 “sin” is not defined with reference to the Ten Commandments, but with reference to the presence of the Messiah among people and their rejection of him
- The law” mentioned in 15:25 is not the Ten Commandments but refers specifically to Psalm 69:4
- Sin is not believing in Christ.” This is the “sin” the Spirit will bring worldly people to acknowledge. There is nothing in this crucial text on the Spirit’s work about conviction by the Ten Commandments as a prerequisite for people recognizing “their pitiful condition or their need for a Savior. The Fourth Gospel more typically links sin and ‘unbelief,’ with sin as the refusal to recognize Jesus as the revelation of God.
- When Jesus says “My commands,” he means the very words that came to him from the Father.
- These texts show that it is a serious error to suggest that by “keep my commands” Jesus has in view the Ten Commandments.
One of the most common points on which our Muslim friends question Christians is on the whole question of the nature of God: in short, is God uni-personal or multi-personal? Does the doctrine of Tawhid (God’s oneness in being and person) or Trinity (God’s oneness in being and pluralness in person) better describe who God is?
Of all the chapters of the Qur’an, there is one Muslim’s recite more frequently than any other. It is Surat-al-Ikhlaas, chapter 112, and its second verse contains the message: “God is not a Father, and He is not a Son.”. Above all doctrines, that is one of the teachings that is taught to a Muslim, the concept known as ‘Tawhid’, that God is absolutely one and cannot be Father or Son. Indeed, in Muslim-Christian engagement, it often becomes the central issue with Muslims painting the Christian as believing in three gods. Hence, a Muslim’s reaction to God’s pluralness is seen as nonsensical, polytheistic blasphemy; self contradictory, a nonsense doctrine in which God could be three and one at the same time.
Our Muslim friends often like to claim that the Islamic concept of God’s oneness is simple (more on this later), in contrast to the complex doctrine of the Trinity. However, simplicity does not equal truth. If it did, we’d have to reject higher mathematics, and quantum physics. Science shows us that there are things in this world so tiny that we can only view them through microscopes, and yet they are incomprehensibly complex. For example, light defies the minds of scientists, being both a particle and a wave, yet this apparent contradiction is demonstrably true. If the world is so complex that it baffles our minds, what about the One who created the world? Now if my Creator has to be simple so that I can understand Him, then I have made Him in my image.
Contrary to the assertion that ‘God is not a Father or He is not a Son‘, the Old Testament, the Jewish scriptures had already referred to God as a Father, and a Son, long before Jesus the Messiah came.
“Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us?” (Malchi 2:10)
“For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given. And he will be called… Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6).
Muslim friends (and others, you know who) say that the word Trinity is not in the Bible, therefore the concept or the doctrine must be wrong. But the word Tawhid is not found in the Quran either. So is the concept that it teaches wrong as well? Our Muslims friends will say the concept of Tawhid is there. Similarly, Christian’s claim about God’s oneness and pluraness is based on Scriptures. Hence, to discover whether tawhid is qur’anic or the Trinity is biblical, we can’t simply look for a magic word — we need to see what is actually said in each case about the nature of God.
Though the Bible does not use the word “Trinity”, the teachings are certainly there.
Jesus commands us to:
“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name (singular) of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (plural).” (Matthew 28:19-20)
When Jesus commands us to baptize people, it must be done in the ‘name,’ not ‘names,’ of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That’s because there is ONE name, ONE being, the Yahweh of Scriptures, who exists in three Persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit).
The doctrine of Trinity teaches that God is ONE being and three persons. This is not a contradiction, because ‘being’ and ‘person’ are two different things. Your being is that which makes you what you are, your person is that which makes you who you are.
Plants have being, but they are not persons.
I am ONE being, a single human being, and ONE person, Stephen.
Yahweh is ONE being, a single divine being, with THREE persons: Father, Son, and Spirit. Complex? Yes. Unique? Yes. Nonsensical? No.
If someone asks you who you are, you don’t reply, “I’m a human.” You respond by sharing your name, which identifies you as a person. Similarly, when we say God is One being, we are describing the what of God. When we speak of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we are referring to the who of God.
God is more than able to exist like that because he is God. If we say God must be only one person, like humans, then we are making God in our image. Who are we to limit God? It is up to God to tell us who He is, and Jesus commands us to be baptized into “one divine name consisting of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. God of the Bible is absolutely indivisible in substance and nature (one) , but distinct in identity (plural).
- Does not teach that each persons are three individual gods; that is polytheism or tritheism
- Does not teach that each persons are three beings like the teachings of Ellen White of the Seventh day Adventists or the Mormons.
- Does not teach that the three persons are three parts of God or three manifestations of God.
- Does not teach that three persons are freakish-looking, three-headed gods
- Does not teach that three persons are different nature “gods” like in paganism
- Does not teach that the three persons are: Father, Jesus, and Mary.
- Does teach that there is only one God or one divine being
- Does not teach God is one and three in the same sense; which is self-contradictory. Instead, teaches that God is one in ‘being’, three in ‘persons’; being and persons are two different things.
Moreover, the Bible does not teach that the term Son of God applied to Jesus means anything related to biological sonship or physical offspring, as if one day God decided to create another god. The Sonship of Jesus is not physical, but one of role. This explains how Jesus can be inferior to the Father in one sense (His role as a servant), but still be equal to the Father in another (His nature and substance as God). As an illustration, my father is superior to me in terms of role within the family, but he and I are equally human. I am inferior in role, but equal in substance. So the Father can be greater in ‘role’ as seen when Jesus emptied himself and took the role of a servant (Matthew 20:28) when He came to the earth, yet equal in substance, since they are the same Being. Father and Son are equally divine.
Hence, the Bible teaches that the One God is tri-personal not uni-personal. These three persons are co-eternal, co-substantial, and co-existent with each other. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit never began to exist. One God of the Bible is eternal, the creator, the truth, omnipresent: that’s why the Father, Son, Holy Spirit are said to share in the same attributes only a Divine being has (see below).
|Father is||Son is||Spirit is|
|God is Eternal||“from everlasting” (Psalm 90:2)||“from everlasting.” (Micah 5:2)||“Eternal Spirit” (Hebrews 9:14)|
|God Is Creator||“one father created us?” (Malachi 2:10)||“All things were made by Him (John 1:1)||“The Spirit of God has made me” (Job 33:4)|
|God is Truth||God’s word is truth (Psalms 25:5)||“I [Jesus] am the Truth” (John 14:6)||“The Spirit of truth” (John 15:26)|
|God is Omnipresent||“Who can hide in secret places” (Jeremiah 23:24)||Jesus said, “I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20)||“Where can I run away from the Spirit of God” (Psalm 139:7-8)|
That’s why Jesus applies to himself, the same titles and attributes applied to Yahweh of the Old Testament. No prophet would do such a thing:
|Yahweh is the:||Jesus is the:|
|I AM (Exodus 3:13-14)||I AM (John 8:58-59)|
|First and Last (Isaiah 44:6)||First and Last (Revelation 1:17-18)|
|Truth (Psalm 31:5)||Truth (John 14:6)|
|Light (Psalm 27:1)||Light (John 8:12)|
|Lord of Lords (Deuteronomy 10:17)||Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16)|
|Resurrection (1 Samuel 2:6)||Resurrection (John 5:25-29)|
|Judge (Psalm 9:7-8)||Judge (Matthew 25:31-32)|
Our Muslim friends and others ask us where is this concept of God’s oneness and pluralness found in the Old Testament? Is it not just an after-the-fact justification? If the doctrine of the Trinity is true, then why don’t we find more explicit references in the Old Testament? We will show where in the Old Testament this concept is present. But remember, the culture in which God revealed His will and Scriptures. Israel was surrounded by nations who were all polytheistic – they believed in many gods. It was important for Israel to realize that the God of the Bible is the only God who existed. After this truth was firmly understood by Israel then the Lord revealed further truth about His basic nature: Father, Son and the Spirit. God revealed more of his nature with the coming of Messiah, and we would be foolish to ignore his revelation.
In the first book of Moses, Genesis, we have an indication for God’s oneness and pluralness:
In Genesis 1:26, the One God says, “Let Us make man in Our image”.
A common response is that such wording is a literary device to reflect the “Royal Plural” as in the Quran. Often times kings and rulers would speak in third person (i.e. the plural of majesty); however, the plural of majesty was not used among the Jews nor was it used in the rest of the Old Testament Scriptures, and so such explanation does not adequately address why it is used in Genesis 1:26 and in other places.
Even Genesis begins with the first verse that hints of God’s singularness in one sense and pluralness in another sense:
In the beginning, God (Elohim) created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).
The Hebrew word for God is Elohim. Elohim is a plural noun but it is used here with a singular verb bara. In the remainder of the Old Testament, when Elohim is used of the true God, it is always used with a singular verb. The conclusion to be drawn is that in some sense God is singular and plural in another sense.
A number of Muslims point to the Shema as evidence for Tawhid. However, instead of supporting Tawhid, it in fact supports the concept of God’s pluralness (ECHAD).
“Hear O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one (ECHAD).” (Deuteromy 6:4).
Unlike the Hebrew word YACHID, which corresponds to TAWHID from the Arabic, which is the Islamic notion of an abstract numerical oneness , the Bible uses the word ECHAD for God, a word that stands for unity, such as exists between a husband and wife, constituting them “one flesh” (Gen 2:24), or between morning and evening, constituting them “one day” (Gen 1:5), or such as Christians profess when they say that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are “one being”, “one essence”, or “one God” or “one” or “echad”.
Moses shows that God is one yet plural in persons. There are two persons called Jehovah active in Genesis 19:24:
‘Then the LORD (Jehovah) rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah from the LORD (Jehovah) out of the heavens’ (Genesis 19:24).
In Gen 19:24, there are two individuals called Jehovah, one on the earth who talked to Abraham and called fire down from the other Jehovah in the heavens.
Similarly, there are two persons active as per prophet Amos:
“I [Jehovah] overthrew you, as God [Jehovah] overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were like a firebrand snatched from a blaze; Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the LORD (Amos 4:11)
Isaiah shows all three persons active in the following verse:
“Come near to Me [Christ], listen to this: From the first I have not spoken in secret, From the time it took place, I was there. And now the Lord GOD [Father] has sent Me [Christ], and His Spirit [Holy Spirit].” (Isaiah 48:17)
Jesus himself confirmed in many places that there is one God, yet plural in persons, and then He confirmed it further through His apostles who spearheaded His teachings under the New Covenant.
Jesus said, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name [Christ], will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26)
‘May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all’ (2 Corinthians 13:14).
Does God’s oneness in being and pluralness in person better describe who God is? The Scriptures and words of Jesus says so. It is neither illogical nor insane to assert that one God exists in three persons as there is a difference between person and being. Yahweh is one being who exists in three persons and this concept of the Trinity is clear in the Scriptures. It teaches that there is only one God (Deut 4:35), but He is somehow plural (Gen 1:1, Dt 6:4, Jn 1:1), and these three persons share the name of Yahweh (Mt 28:19; Phil 2:11 cf. Isaiah 45:22-23). Unique? Yes. Nonsensical? No. Contradiction? No. If the world is so complex that it baffles our minds, what about the One who created the world? If God can exist without a beginning, an idea that is nonsensial and unimaginable, yet God is eternal without a beginning or end, how much more unique is our creator? Now if my Creator has to be simple so that I can understand Him, then I have made Him in my image.
How simple is Tawhid?
Our Muslim friends (and others who insist the same) says Tawhid is a simple doctrine, yet the doctrine of tawhid does not resolve the complexity of God. Quite the contrary, it creates its own set of challenges. According to tawhid, God is absolutely one. This means that in eternity past, before he created anything, Allah was alone. It was not until he chose to create the universe that Allah had anything, or anyone, with whom to relate. This presents an enormous theological problem for Islam, which teaches that Allah is ar-Rahman and ar-Raheem, the Gracious and the Merciful. These qualities imply that Allah is relational in the way he interacts with his creatures.
So, in order for Allah to actually be gracious and merciful, he first has to create an object of his grace and mercy. Put another way, Allah’s attributes are contingent upon creation.
Allah may act graciously toward certain people, but he cannot be eternally gracious by nature, only by acts of the will.
On the other hand, the doctrine of the Trinity teaches that One being have always existed in the three persons, agreed in purpose, and loved one another with a selfless love. Unlike Allah, Yahweh does not merely love; He is love (1 John 4:7). He does not merely extend mercy; He is merciful (Jeremiah 3:12). His grace and mercy are not contingent on creation because they are expressions of His eternal nature.
Because of tawhid, Allah depends on mankind in order to be Allah. Because of his triune nature, Yahweh is truly independent and self-sufficient. So the simplicity of tawhid proves to be a fatal flaw for orthodox Islam; it makes Allah contingent upon his creation.
There is a crucial difference between the monolithic oneness of Allah and the triune oneness of Yahweh. Only Yahweh is eternally loving and relational. His attributes are not contingent on creation. And He creates people with capacity for personality, selfless love, and relationships.
I’m sure we could all identify with various emotions that we felt over the last several weeks. Maybe it’s anger; maybe it’s fear, anxiety, frustration, annoyance. But I’m wondering if one of those emotions that’s defined you over the last several weeks has been joy. You might think that’s kind of a strange thing for me to say. Some might even think it sounds kind of insensitive. But here’s the deal. If your joy is dependent on your circumstances, you’re destined to live a pretty unhappy life. The fact is there are very few circumstances we can control. God’s word shows that Joy is a choice. It’s an attitude, and we make that choice based on what we believe to be true.
So if you were to ask a New Testament scholar what book of the New Testament most celebrates what it means to rejoice or to be joyful as a Christian, I think they’d probably all agree it’s the New Testament book of Philippians. If you happen to have a Bible with you, go ahead and turn to Philippians. It’s helpful to understand the background of the book of Philippians. It’s written by the Apostle Paul and he’s writing from a Roman prison, chained to two guards, waiting to find out if he’s going to be executed or released. So think about this. Over fourteen times in a short, four-chapter letter, Paul talks about the theme of joy or rejoicing. When we’re going through this chapter, we’re not going to go verse by verse, line by line, like we normally do. I’m just going to pick out themes that he talks about—that he rejoices about—because he knows they’re true. I’ve identified six reasons to rejoice, no matter what the circumstances.
1) So the first one I find in chapter 1. He opens in verse 3, talking about thanking God for the Philippian believers, and verse 4, offering a prayer with joy. Why? Verse 6:
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, 5 in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now…For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (NASB, Philippians 1:4-6)
Paul is praying for these believers in Philippi and he says he does so with great joy in his heart. Why is that? Because he knows that they have believed in the gospel, and that means that Jesus has started something in them that He’s going to finish. He’s going to complete it all the way to the day of Jesus Christ, all the way to the return of Christ and the ushering in of the new heaven and the new earth. So, Paul isn’t just rejoicing that this is true of him, but rather he knows this is true of these people and because Jesus has started something, he knows He’s going to finish. Think about this. He is sitting in a Roman prison; he is imprisoned because of his commitment to the gospel. They’ve arrested him because he proclaims the message of Christ. He has literally given his life that these people might believe. But now, sitting in a Roman prison, he knows they truly believe and because of Christ, then what the Spirit of God has started, He’s going to complete. They’re going to make it all the way to the finish line, and their future is glorious! And he would say, “That’s something worth dying for!”
Paul says in the book of Galatians 3:5, what the Spirit starts, the Spirit’s going to complete. Jesus doesn’t start something; then you have to somehow complete it. The Spirit starts it; the Spirit completes it. He says in Ephesians 2:10, through His grace, Jesus is going to make you into a masterpiece of His grace, something so glorious that He’s going to hold you up in the heavenlies and the angels will gasp at the wonder of what you’ve become. And since Jesus has started that work, we’re all going to get to the finish line, and it will be glorious! So I would say, “Not only do I find joy in knowing that’s true of me, I find joy in knowing it’s true that Jesus will complete His work in you!”
2) The second reason to rejoice I find in verse 12 and following, where Paul says:
Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel,
So think of it this way: Paul finds great joy in knowing that not only he, but also these Philippian believers have trusted Christ, and what Jesus has started, He is going to complete in them. But then he extends it. If that’s true, if the gospel is that wondrous, we need to add more names to the list; we need to advance the gospel. We want more people to know Jesus, to know this joy and to know this future that has been made possible. So when Paul is talking about his circumstances, basically what he’s talking about is on his second missionary journey, he arrived in Philippi, and this is a pretty famous story in the book of Acts, chapter 16:
It’s the story of the Philippian jailer. Paul and Silas are thrown in prison, and God brings an earthquake. Basically the jail is opened up but Paul and Silas remain in the jail, and the jailer says, “What must I do to be saved?” Well, this is the birth of the Philippian church, so these are the people that he’s talking about. They experienced a miraculous deliverance from jail, and perhaps somewhere along the way they concluded that’s the way it’s supposed to always work. But what happens is Paul goes from Philippi to Jerusalem, and when he gets to Jerusalem, he’s arrested. He’s then sent to Caesarea where he spends two years in jail there. As a Roman citizen, he appeals to Rome. Rome accepts the appeal, so he gets on a ship to go to Rome, but the ship gets in a storm. There’s a great shipwreck; almost everybody dies, and he ends up on the island of Malta. While he’s there, he’s picking up sticks for a campfire, and a deadly snake bites him, and finally he ends up being stranded for three months. Then he gets to Rome and in Rome he’s chained to two guards. That’s what he means, by my circumstances. And so they’re trying to figure out, if Paul is the premier church planter, he’s the premier missionary, why would God allow him to seemingly rot in jail and rot in prison? Why not another Philippian jailer story and deliver him so he can advance the gospel? So maybe they’re thinking Paul isn’t telling the truth, or maybe he doesn’t have God’s favor. In their minds, something’s kind of messed up here. So what he’s wanting them to understand is that his circumstances, whatever they may be, have been used by God to advance the gospel. So the second reason to rejoice is the reminder that God uses all of our circumstances to advance the gospel.
So Paul basically is saying that everywhere he looks, God is using his circumstances to advance the gospel, and so he rejoices in that.I can rejoice because He can use any circumstances—including the circumstances we’re in with this virus—and everything that has to do with it. How might God be using that to advance the gospel? He’s doing amazing things around the world, and we need to trust Him and rejoice that God is accomplishing the mission. He’s advancing the gospel.
3) The third one is also in chapter 1. I see it in verse 21 where Paul says:
For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.
That’s an amazing statement. Essentially what Paul is saying is, “Either way, I win. There’s no losing in this deal.” Remember, Paul is sitting in a Roman prison and he’s awaiting word as to whether he’s going to be executed or released, so this isn’t just theory for him. This is the real deal, but he says, “I win no matter what.” When he says, “For me to live is Christ,” again he’s not saying the goal is to live to be ninety, sunbathing on the Love Boat. He says to live for Christ is more fruitful labor, in other words, more opportunity to serve, to plant more churches, to advance the mission. But he also says to die is gain. As a matter of fact, he says not just that would be better, he says that would be very much better. The reality is, when we start thinking that this world is where it’s at, that this world is what matters most, that this world is where I’m going to be happy, that this world is what I want to live for, then everything becomes about survival. Everything is about doing whatever we have to do to live to be ninety because what matters most is this life. Then we start fearing death; then we start denying death. All of that changes when we understand correctly that our hope is in the world to come. Our hope is in the promise that Jesus is coming back, that Jesus will deliver us to the new heaven and the new earth.
Historically there have always been problems with diseases and infections. Some of them have been worldwide; some of them have been much more in a particular locality. But historically, when people had a contagious disease, they often were ignored; they were neglected; they were left in the streets to die. But it was the Christians who rolled up their sleeves, who went out in the streets and they treated them with kindness, with compassion, with care. They took care of them, and often they contracted the disease and they died of the disease. It was understood that the goal, the mission, is not to see how long we can live. To live is Christ; to die is gain. It’s about being faithful. It’s about being diligent to advance the mission and being obedient to what God has called us to.
I don’t know what’s going to happen in this particular situation. I don’t know what’s coming five years from now. Nobody knows that. But I do know if there is great sickness and great suffering and there is a need for kindness and compassion and care from people who may actually die from whatever that disease is, that God calls the church to roll up our sleeves, to get in the streets and make a difference— to be the church! We’re never going to live that way unless we understand, as Paul rejoiced, “To live is Christ; to die is gain,” and there’s no losing in that deal. It’s only when we understand the world to come—and that is our hope—that we actually learn to live well in this world now.
4) The fourth reason for joy I see in chapter 3, and that is that Paul identifies that he stands righteous before a holy God, not on the basis of his religious performance or good works, but on the basis of what Christ has done for him—and he believes that by faith. In the first part of chapter 3 he goes through the list of all the things that he accomplished. He was a high achiever; he was a Pharisee; he was full of self-righteousness; he was zealous; he was the best of the best. But he goes on, starting in verse 7-9:
Whatever things were gain to me, those things [those religious achievements] I have counted as loss… in order that he might gain Christ and in order that he might know Christ. and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith
He even goes so far as to say he counts it as rubbish. It’s just trash in comparison to knowing Christ. He goes on and says that he stands right before God, based on the righteousness of Christ, that he received by faith. So think about that. What if, in times like this, what was required of us to stand righteous before God was to get to a certain building, was to get to a certain ritual, was to have some pastor or priest or attend some church or observe a holy day on a particular day by attending church on Saturday, or to do some certain thing that makes us right before God, but you can’t get to them because everything isshut down? What a horrible, desperate feeling that would be! But the reality has nothing to do with a building or a pastor or a priest or a ritual or day. It has to do with faith in Christ, and found in Him, not with a righteousness derived from the law, but with His righteousness . And so Paul says, “I rejoice sitting in a Roman prison cell,” because he stands right before a holy God because of his faith in Christ. He goes on in chapter 3, in verse 14:I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
That’s an interesting verse. The upward call is Greek language that would be referencing that when someone won what would have been their Olympic games, they basically were called up to the metal stand, as we would call it, in front of an emperor/king—somebody of significance—and they would receive their prize. So Paul is saying that he presses on because, at the end of the story, (He who began a good work will be faithful to complete it,) and he’ll be invited up to the metal stand and receive his prize. And his prize is this relationship with Christ. It’s the resurrection from the dead. It is the new heaven and the new earth, everything that’s promised in Christ. And it’s not based on his performance. It’s based on his faith in what Jesus has done for him! So, no matter what, he says, “I rejoice because I’m confident. I know this is true in Christ!”
5) The fifth reason to rejoice is in chapter 4, as a matter of fact in verse 4:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice!
It’s kind of a double joy there, and the reason he says is because he’s able to trade his anxiety for peace. Again, think about this. He’s sitting in a prison cell awaiting possible execution, but he says that rather than being anxious, he prays to God, and the result is he experiences peace. I once heard somebody define peace as the possession of adequate resources. In other words, Paul is saying, “Because I know Christ has adequate resources for whatever I’m going through, I don’t need to be anxious, but rather I can experience peace.” As a matter of fact, it goes on and says it’s a peace that goes beyond understanding.
I think a lot of people these days are asking what they can do, and people have creatively found ways to help. But it’s hard sometimes to know how we can help in these uncertain times. Maybe the best thing we could do to help would be to display a peace that goes beyond understanding. In other words, could the people around us that are experiencing so much despair and fear and panic, look at you and say, “I don’t understand, why are you so peaceful?” It’s almost like, “Do you not understand what’s happening?” Could we say, “I’m peaceful; I don’t need to be anxious because I know God possesses adequate resources for whatever I’m going through. It’s going to be fine. I just need to trust Him.” But the key to that starts in verse 8, when he says:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Vs. 8-9)
The key to peace and not being anxious has to do with what you choose to dwell on. If you’re going to dwell on the negative, if you’re going to dwell on the bad news, if you’re going to dwell on all the things that annoy us or upset us or concern us, you’re not going to know peace. You’re just going to know anxiety. I can’t emphasize this enough: In these days of uncertainty, when so many people are stuck at home and wondering what’s going to happen, it’s easy to feed on bad news. It’s on our phones. Every time you open up your phone, there’s some warning about the virus. Every time you get a news’ feed, it’s something about the virus. Almost all the commercials on TV right now have something to do with the virus. The media sensationalizes this thing and creates all kinds of hysteria, and people just feed on that. I would suggest it takes less than five minutes per day to get up to date on what’s happening. You don’t need more than that.
You need to dwell on the things that are good, the things that are right, the things that are beneficial, the things that are pure, that are lovely. You have to discipline yourself to dwell on the right things in order to experience peace rather than anxiety. So one of the things you can dwell on is the book of Philippians. It’s a short book—four chapters. Read it over and over and over again. It’s all about joy in the midst of difficult circumstances.
Because he’s learned to be content in whatever circumstances he finds himself in. ..in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret..
Now, again, he’s writing from prison. He’s awaiting possible execution and he says, “I’ve learned to be content.” That’s really quite a remarkable statement! That Greek word content, this is the only place in the New Testament it appears, and it was connected to the Stoics. The Stoics were all about self-sufficiency, and that’s basically what this word means. No matter what was happening around them that they could not control, they, in their own self-sufficiency, would not react or respond to it. Paul is going to essentially redefine the term. How is he able to be content in such circumstances? Well, he tells us in verse 12 that he’s learned the secret. That word secret is an interesting word. It’s a Greek word that referenced mystery religion, and secret had to do with a secret password, a secret passageway. There was some secret they learned in order to enter into this mystery religion. So Paul is picking up on that terminology, and essentially saying, “I’ve learned the secret to contentment. I’ve learned the password; I’ve learned the entrance.”What is it? Verse 13:
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
What’s the secret passageway into contentment? It’s the understanding, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. It’s not self-sufficiency; that would be a disaster. But rather it’s Christ sufficiency! It’s understanding that no matter what happens, Christ is enough. Whether I live or die, I win. What He started in me, He is going to complete. He uses my circumstances to advance the gospel, and we understand that is all by faith in what Jesus has done. It’s not based on my performance, so I can experience peace instead of anxiety. None of us know what tomorrow holds. But we do know that Christ is enough. So, every day there is reason to rejoice! Let’s pray.