“An Exemplary Church: What a Church Should Be Known For (5)” 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10

Text: (NASB95)
2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers;
3 constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father,
4 knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you;
5 for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.
6 You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit,
7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
8 For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything.
9 For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God,
10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.
What does an exemplary church look like? That’s the question before us. We need good examples. Examples are powerful. Examples always, without fail, teach. They influence for good or bad, for better or worse. We must be ever mindful of that. Let me illustrate:

A Father’s Prayer
A careful man I ought to be,
A little fellow follows me.
I do not dare to go astray
For fear he’ll go the selfsame way.
I cannot once escape his eyes,
What e’re he sees me do he tries.
Like me he says he’s going to be—
The little chap that follows me.
He thinks that I am good and fine,
Believes in every word of mine.
The base in me he must not see—
The little chap who follows me.
I must remember as I go,
Thru summer’s sun and winter’s snow
I’m building for the years to be—
That little chap who follows me.

Examples teach. Everybody is some kind of example. And likewise, every church is an example of some sort. The church at Thessalonica was a good example. We may even say it was exemplary. I won’t rehash everything we’ve seen to this point. It’s enough to say for our purpose today that this church was exemplary for three reasons. We’ve seen that it copied godliness. An exemplary church does that. It copies godliness. It follows godly example. Second, this church to whom Paul writes suffered for the gospel. Exemplary churches do that. They take as many hits as need be for receiving the word. Third, this church was Spirit-led. Though it suffered for the gospel, it joyfully suffered. It received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit. We therefore take it that the exemplary church copies godliness, suffers for the gospel, and is Spirit-led. Today, we add one more mark of an exemplary church.
An Exemplary Church Trumpets the Truth
An exemplary church also trumpets the truth. Verse 8- “For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you…” The apostle begins to explain why these believers, why this church had become an example for churches everywhere to emulate. This church, these saints, proclaimed and propagated the truth, the ‘word of the Lord.’ They made it their lot. They took it upon themselves, to make the truth run swiftly. Together with all the inspired instruction given them, they spread the gospel of God. When one considers how this came to be, what means were used to accomplish this, one thing becomes clear. In a day when there were no trains, planes, or automobiles, no i-phones, email, blogs, video, or Facebook, it quickly dawns upon him that such a task was no small venture. This is not to exalt them and diminish us to any degree whatsoever. The point of contact between us and them is this: they used whatever was available to them to trumpet the gospel. In terms of location, Thessalonica was strategically beneficial for gospel advance. It was an economic powerhouse, a hub for all kinds of ‘people stuff,’ and it had a fantastic highway in and out of the city. It was no QE-2; at its widest it was a mere 20 feet. But the Via Egnatia was, if you like, the information highway of its day. And so the message, and its sounding forth, took place by word of mouth by the feet of those who bring good news.
This endeavor was a noisy endeavor. This church was a noisy church. An exemplary church is, in other words, anything but quiet and silent. It TRUMPETS the truth. The flesh, the sinful nature, the devil and his pinions, and the world do not like this! A quiet church minding its own business, letting others live as they wish to live, is what they like. ‘If the church is going to be,’ says the unbeliever, ‘it must not be loud.’ But it must be loud. It must speak, and speak dogmatically, with authority, and with conviction. It must use whatever resources it has. It must use whatever means available to sound forth the truth of Christ, the word of the Lord, the gospel of God. This is what this church did. This is what, in part, made this church an exemplary church. They were anything but quiet! I love this: an exemplary church is a loud church! It trumpets the truth of Christ.
Preaching on John 14.6, Robert Murray M’Cheyne speaks of this truth. He said –

“No doubt there are many truths which [the] unconverted man does know. He may know the truths of mathematics and arithmetic – he may know many of the common every-day truths; but still it cannot be said that [the] unconverted man knows the truth, for Christ is the truth. Christ may be called the keystone of the arch of truth. Take away the keystone of an arch, and the whole becomes a heap of rubbish. The very same stones may be there, but they are all fallen, smothered, and confused, – without order, without end. Just so take Christ away, and the whole arch of truth becomes a heap of rubbish. The very same truths may be there; but they are all fallen – without coherence, without order, without end. Christ may be called the sun of the system of truth. Take away the sun out of our system, and every planet would rush into confusion. The very same planets would be there; but their conflicting forces would draw them hither and thither, orb dashing against orb in endless perplexity. Just so take Christ away, and the whole system of truth rushes into confusion. The same truths may be in the mind, but all conflicting and jarring in inextricable mazes; for ‘the path of the wicked is as darkness; they know not at what they stumble.’ But let Christ be revealed to an unconverted soul – let it not be merely a man speaking about Christ unto him, but let the Spirit of God reveal Him – and there is revealed, not a truth, but the truth. You put the keystone into his arch of truth; you restore the sun to the center of the system.”

Men, unconverted men, living close by or far away, know much truth. But they don’t know the truth. They don’t know Christ. The exemplary church, in view of such, is not quiet. It speaks up. It speaks up and speaks of this Jesus who does what? Paul tells us in the 10th verse. This Jesus ‘delivers…from the wrath to come.’
This Jesus must be seen as a great rescuer. He rescues believers from the wrath that will come. This is part of what is sounded forth. We can’t trumpet Christ apart from what Christ does. He delivers us from the wrath to come. We have a Person (Christ) together with His work (He delivers and rescues from wrath, from God’s wrath, a wrath yet to come).
What is wrath? What is the wrath to come? First, it is truth. Second, it will be historical; it will happen in time. As sure as you rose from your slumber today, it will occur. Third, it will be the final and fixed act of God against all exposed to His wrath, i.e. those who are not united to Christ by faith. Fourth, it will be no respecter of persons. It doesn’t matter what one has done or not done; if he be outside of Christ, he will know this wrath. Fifth, it will be and is the righteous judgment of a good and righteous judge who always judges righteously. Current event: Graham James, the pedophile, got 2 years for abusing Theo Fleury and Todd Holt. Two years! Is that just? I haven’t heard anyone say so. And perhaps you’ve heard of Tori’s Law. In the wake of 8-year old Tory Stafford, killed by some sinner, the Prime Minster’s office is being bombarded by calls to reinstate the death penalty. People in this country are outraged. People want justice. And people will get justice because God is a righteous judge who will sentence men justly. The punishment will fit the crime in the court of the last day (unlike the court of Graham James).
Isaiah 2 tells what that day will be like-

“…the Lord alone will be exalted in that day. For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning against everyone who is proud and lofty, and against everyone who is lifted up, that he may be abased…And the pride of man will be humbled, and the loftiness of men will be abased, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day. But the idols will completely vanish. And men will go into caves of the rocks, and into holes of the ground before the terror of the Lord, and before the splendor of His majesty, when He arises to make the earth tremble. In that day men will cast away to the moles and the bats their idols of silver and their idols of gold, which they made for themselves to worship, in order to go into the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs, before the terror of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty, when He arises to make the earth tremble” (Is. 2:11c-12, 17-21. NASB).

So great and terrible and fearful will be the Lord’s splendor that men will not run to it, but hide themselves from it. Christ will so glorify and exalt Himself that most will run to the hills. Nine-Eleven was a mere ‘bad day at the office’ compared to this. We must slow down here and drink this in. Can you imagine men, not running from the twin towers, but crying to them, that they fall on them? “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb,” they’ll cry, “for the great day of their wrath has come; and who is able to stand” (Rev. 6:16-17)? We must believe this. We must see this and even feel it as we feel the beat of our own hearts. This is what’s in store for every unconverted soul alive when Christ returns. Those who died outside of Christ are no safer. They will not escape the wrath to come. They will not escape the glory and splendor and exaltation of Christ when He comes in glory and in power to judge the entire earth. Makes no difference who they are: mother, father, brother, sister, husband, wife, friend, cousin, stranger, neighbor. They will wish for the rocks to fall on them and hide them from the majesty, the penetrating, fearful majesty of Christ in the unveiled fullness of His incomprehensible, penetrating, fiery splendor. This WILL happen. Jesus is coming back. But his return won’t be quiet. It won’t be as a helpless babe away in some manger. He will come with a gavel in his hand.
That’s hard. That’s a tough pill to truly swallow, even for many who profess the name of Christ and call themselves Christians. But it’s part and parcel of what the Thessalonians both believed and thus sounded forth. We wonder why it is that we speak what we speak. I mean, I wonder myself why it is that I speak what I speak and tick people off, especially when the easier thing to do (maybe) is keep my mouth shut. Why is it that we speak even things that we know will not be easily embraced, especially at first, and especially when we’d rather have someone else speak for us? Ever been there? Why do we speak up? I’ll tell you why. Regardless of how tough the audience or situation is, we speak up and trumpet what we say because we believe what we say is true. We believe. Therefore, we speak. We’re convinced. We have deep-seated convictions. So, we speak up. It’s hard if not downright impossible not to speak up if you believe something to be true. // Do we believe in ‘the wrath to come?’ // Do we believe that apart from Christ, if everyone in our region and beyond are not in Christ, if they have not fled to Him for refuge, if they do not love Him, if they have not believed in Him, will know for eternity ‘the wrath to come?’ How long is eternity? Eternity is the amount of time it takes for an eagle’s wing to erode Mt. Everest to sea level. And then it’s breakfast time. How will it be that untold billions will know the fires of hell for this long? Unlike 9/11, there’ll be no jumping out windows to escape that fire. Do we truly believe this? If we do, we’ll speak of it.
But we’ll also speak of this: ‘Jesus…delivers us [not everybody without exception, but those like Paul and his companions and the ones to whom he writes, those marked by a labor of love and work of faith and steadfastness of hope in Christ] Jesus delivers us from the wrath to come. There is hope, and it’s alone in Christ and His work. Christ DELIVERS. There is not one ounce of doubt in this word. He actually does this. He rescues. He delivers us, those who know Him and obey His gospel, from the wrath to come.
How does He do this? How does Christ deliver us from the wrath to come? We of course must speak of the cross. Christ delivers by the cross, by his own death. He who knew no sin, became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God. He bore our sins in his body on the tree that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. Christ gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age. We preach Christ and Him crucified, to some an offense, to others foolishness, but to the called the power and wisdom of God. It was on the cross that Jesus died. And for every believer, His wrath was satisfied. “For every sin on Him was laid. Here in the death of Christ I live.”
But it doesn’t end there. If that was it, if that was everything Christ does to deliver us that would be amazing. That would be no small or inconsequential thing. But that, I’m convinced, is only the start of it all. Christ delivers us not only by dying for us on the cross, but living in us in His Spirit. Paul’s gospel was a gospel that demanded him to say things like: “…it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…” and “…because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts…” and “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” Don’t let Pentecostal distortions rob you of the joy this brings. Don’t let western categories of thought push you into thinking this must be balanced by some other doctrine. Listen to me: If it’s true, it doesn’t need to be balanced. Christ indwells believers in his Spirit, and there He produces and causes our deliverance from sin and sins. How else is a church marked by the work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope? How else is it possible to strive for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord? Christ delivers us not only by dying for us on the cross, but living in us in His Spirit. It’s Christ! It’s all of Christ! Christ delivers. He will do it. He will bring it to pass. He will cause us to walk as we ought to walk, if we walk by Him, by His Spirit. Does this mean the Christian has no need for exhortation and instruction? Does this mean the Christian does not exercise his will at all? Of course not. But these things must be seen in their proper context. We must put the cart in its proper place in relation to the horse – the bigger, and driving, if not generating and governing reality.
Trumpeting the truth will mean getting doctrinal. We can’t avoid that, not if we want to sound forth the word of the Lord in all its glorious fullness.
An exemplary church: What does it look like? It copies godliness, suffers for the gospel, is Spirit-led, and trumpets truth, not a truth, the truth. Christ. His Person & Work. Would you pray that we be such a church? Would you pray week after week with me, that we be marked by these things? Pray that we, that you and I, trumpet the truth both near and far with every means at our disposal. And may our Christ and Lord be magnified. Amen.

As I Have Loved You, Love One Another

John 13:31–38

When [Judas] had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.”

It is the night before Jesus is crucified. The twelve apostles are eating with Jesus that most important of all meals. Jesus had just said in John 13:21, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” John was reclining next to Jesus and asked him (in verse 25), “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, probably in a low voice so that only John could hear (since when Judas left the others had no idea what was going on, verse 29) “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it” (verse 26). Then he dipped the bread and gave it to Judas. And said “What you are going to do, do quickly” (verse 27). And in verse 30 Judas leaves.
And the next thing Jesus says (verse 31) is, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.” At the very moment when the final betrayal has been set in motion — at that moment Jesus says, “Now.” “Now is the Son of Man glorified.” Now. Now that the final process of being handed over to be killed is in motion, now the Son of Man, Jesus, will shine with the greatest glory. And God will shine gloriously in him.

John Felt the Amazement

Of all the disciples, only John could at this moment feel the full amazement at this. John had heard Jesus say that Judas was the one — the betrayer. At that moment he must have been utterly stunned. Judas. The one we’ve trusted with the money these three years (verse 29). Suddenly, in a flash, a whole cluster of Judas’ peculiar behaviors take on a whole new meaning. So this is why he gave Mary such a hard time for anointing Jesus with expensive anointment (John 12:3–6). He wanted her to give that to Jesus, so he would have access to it.
John watches Judas leave, and he can’t believe what he is watching. And while John’s mind is churning the incredible news that Judas is a betrayer, and may be doing his foul work at this very moment, he hears Jesus say, “Now is the Son of Man glorified.” And another boulder is thrown into the churning waters of his mind. Glory! Now! Judas. Betrayal. Glory. And in what must have been one of the most emotionally charged moments of John’s life, the next word he heard was, “Little children” (teknia, verse 33a).

Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:33–35).

Little children, I am going where you cannot come. I’m leaving you. Up till now everyone knows you are my disciples because they see you following me around Judea and Galilee. You’ve put your life on the line by just being identified with me. But now I will not be here any longer for you to follow. Following my physical presence will not be the mark of your discipleship any more. So I give you a new mark. A new commandment. Love each other. Little children.

Called “Little Children”

So here’s John with his heart bursting with conflicting emotions: Betrayal has been put in motion. The glory of God is about to be seen. Jesus is leaving them. And, in his absence, love for each other is to bind them together and bind them to him. And in a moment of conflicting and intensified emotion, Jesus reaches for a word of singular affection and calls them all “little children” (verse 33).
Does this tell us anything? I think it tells us that this moment in the life John the apostle was so profound, and so moving, and so memorable that it left its mark years later not only on the writing of this story, but on his entire first epistle (1 John). And 1 John therefore becomes our earliest and most authoritative commentary on Jesus’ new commandment.

An Apostolic Commentary

Consider a few things. This word “little children” (teknia) occurs only here in the Gospel of John. There were other places it could have been used, as when Jesus called out to the disciples in John 21:5, “Children, do you have any fish?” But that’s a different word (paidia). Only here, does he call his friends “little children.”
Not only is this the only place this word is used in John. It is the only place it is used in the entire New Testament — except for one book. John’s first letter. And there it is used seven times in five chapters. Just as Jesus called his friends “little children” the word becomes John’s favorite name for his flock, “little children.” A coincidence? Perhaps.
But consider this. Nowhere else in the New Testament does the term “new commandment” occur outside this story — except in John’s first and second letter. Of all the New Testament writers only John picked up on this term.

Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. 8 At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. (1 John 2:7–8).

So I feel constrained to believe that John was profoundly moved and shaped by this moment at the last supper. And the connections with his first letter incline me to think that the earliest and most authoritative commentary on the new commandment in John 13:34­–35 is what John says about it in his first letter.
Here are two striking things about the way John handles Jesus’s new commandment.

The Love of God — Our Model

First, nowhere in any of his letters does John refer directly to the love of Jesus for his disciples. So he never says: “Love each other the way Jesus loved you.” He always talks about the love of God for his children. The love of the Father. When Jesus comes into the picture, the point is: God loved us in giving Jesus for us. And when it comes to the one we should model our love on, John doesn’t say Love like Jesus. He says, Love like God:

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:10–11).

What are we to make of this? What I make of it is that this is exactly the way I would expect the writer of the John’s Gospel to talk. As John thought back on that moment with the betrayal in motion, the glory of God about to shine, Jesus leaving, and love binding, what overcomes him is the thought: I was leaning on the shoulder of God. God had put Judas in motion. God was about to be glorified on the cross. God told us to love each other like Jesus — that is, like God.
So in his first letter, John isn’t minimizing Jesus when he puts all the focus on the love of God in Jesus. He is maximizing Jesus. This Jesus who gave us the new commandment and told us to love each other the way he loved us — this Jesus is God incarnate. And John could not get over the truth: God was loving us there that night. God was loving us the next morning. Every act of Jesus, the Son, was an act of God the Father. John is not saying the love of Jesus is not important; he is saying the love Jesus is the love of God. So when the new commandment says, Love each other as I have loved you, it means: as God has loved you.

This Is How You’ll Know

And here’s a second striking thing about the way John handles the new commandment. Jesus said in verse 35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John pondered very deeply the phrase “my disciples” and what must happen for that to be known. And what he concluded was that being a disciple means being truly born again. To be a disciple is not just to be outwardly aligned with a Christian church or a Christian movement or a Christian name, but miraculously changed by the Spirit into a person with a new heart of love for the Father and for Jesus and for his followers (and, of course, for his enemies, but John’s emphasis falls on loving fellow believers, just like Jesus did here in John 13:34 — that you love one another). And love is how you can know this has happened.

  • Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7)
  • We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. (1 John 3:14)
  • By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:10)
  • Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8)
  • Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light.” (1 John 2:9–10).

Or as Jesus says in John 13:35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” All people will have good evidence that you are born of God and know God and are a child of God and are in the light and no longer in the darkness. People will know you are truly a disciple of Jesus by whether you have been given a new heart of trust in Jesus and love for his followers.

Embedded in the Call

And I don’t put the word “trust” there just because that’s right thing to do. I included it because when John thought about the new commandment he knew that the new commandment was not an isolated commandment to love, but a commandment embedded in the call of Jesus to trust him as the sin-bearing Lamb of God for everything we need. And we know that because John said in 1 John 3:23, “And this is his commandment [singular], that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.”
In other words, in John’s mind, Jesus’ command to believe on him, and his command to love each other are inseparable. So together he calls them one commandment: “This is his commandment [singular], that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” People won’t know you are a disciple of Jesus if you make no profession of faith in Jesus. But if you declare yourself openly to be a disciple of Jesus — your Savior, your Lord, your Treasure — then your love for others will be decisive in showing that you are real. Are you a true believer? Are you really a disciple? Is he really your treasure? Have you really been changed by Jesus? They will all know “if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). So when Jesus says in John 13:35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,” he meant, love confirms that your profession of faith in me is real.

What Makes This New?

Why is it that love proves discipleship? Why is it that when disciples love each other there is such good evidence that they are true disciples of Jesus? Why is this one-another-love so compelling? The answer comes when we ponder why Jesus calls this commandment new. If we see what makes the commandment new, we will see what makes it have such compelling power to prove true discipleship, true faith in Jesus.
The command to love each other is not new in and of itself. Leviticus 19:18 said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” What appears to be new is the way we are to love, namely, “as Jesus has loved us.” Verse 34b: “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” Never before had the Son of God come into the world and laid down his life for his people. That had never happened before. This degree of greatness making this degree of sacrifice, had never happened. This is new.
So is Jesus simply saying: If you imitate this kind of sacrifice in loving each other, you will be fulfilling the newness of this commandment?

More Than Imitation

If we listen to what John says in his first letter about what makes this commandment new, we see there’s more going on than imitation. Here’s the way John puts it in 1 John 2:8:

It is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you [it’s truly new in Jesus, and it is truly new in you], because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.

In other words, what makes this love new is that it is the arrival of the glory of the Lord — the Light of the world — that will one day fill the earth as the waters cover the sea. When the Messiah comes and brings his kingdom, “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). And Jesus is the Messiah. His coming was the dawn of the kingdom of God. He was the Light of the world. And he said (verse 31) that this night the Son of Man would be glorified and God in him. This night the light would shine most brightly when he lays down his life for his friends.
And then John says in the next verse (1 John 2:9–10), “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light.” In other words, what makes the disciples’ love for each other new — and this command for it new — is that they are not just copying the light, they are in this light. They are in the love of Jesus. This is how John sees the newness of this love.
Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). That’s what happened that night and the next morning. And John says that what makes that new — and what makes the commandment new — is this love was the arrival of the Light of God — the glory of God — at the end of the age to fill the earth. And the commandment for us to love each other just as Jesus loved, was not mainly a command for imitation, but for participation. John says, “Whoever loves his brother abides in the light.” When we love each other in obedience to the new commandment, we are loving each other with the love of Jesus. His love is being perfected in our love. This is not mainly imitation, but manifestation. Our lives are in Jesus, in the Light, and our love is his love.

Loving with His Love

Jesus comes back to this in John 15 and makes the meaning clear: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12–13). Yes. And how do we love like that? John 15:9, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.
This is our newness. This is the new commandment. “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” Yes. But not by copying my fruit, but by connecting to my vine. You don’t mainly imitate. You participate. Your love for each other is not a simulation of mine, but a manifestation of mine. You are the branches. I am the vine. If you abide in me, you can bear fruit, and prove to be my disciples (John 15:8). This is how all people know you are truly my disciples.
So the reason the love we have for each other shows that we are truly Jesus’ disciples, is that it is only possible because we are grafted into the life and love of Christ. We love as he loved, because we love with his love.
So, Bethlehem — “my little children!” — in these crucial days, these historic days in the life of our church, this is what Jesus is calling for among us. “Just as I have loved you, that you, Bethlehem, love one another.” Go low in foot-washing-like service to one another. Lay down your lives, your privileges, for one another. Love your brothers and sisters across all racial and ethnic lines. Love the weakest and oldest and youngest. Love the disabled. Love the lonely trouble maker. It is certain when you love that you cannot atone for anyone’s sin. But you can do something like it, because “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). How blessed the church — especially the church in transition — that loves like this!
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By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

Whenever Anyone Turns to the Lord – 2 Corinthians 3:12-16

Series: 2 Corinthians 3
Hope is crucial. Yet many people have lost or are losing hope in our time. Everything seems to be falling apart. Suggested solutions increase in desperation. However, the decline across the world continues. But they forget that there is hope, real hope, living hope and that it is a Person, Christ Jesus our hope (1 Tm 1:1). When we find that hope of glory, who is Christ (Col 1:27), then faith and love spring from that hope (Col 1:3-5). It is my desire that you find and enjoy that hope or confident expectation in the Lord Jesus Christ!
When we gather together, it is my privilege to set before you our hope in the Lord. This third chapter of Second Corinthians is a tremendous place to learn more about all that we have in Christ. We do not seek merely to add to an ever-increasing mountain of information. We want you to delight in the Lord, to rejoice in him with an inexpressible and glorious joy! So, how is your hope? We want you to experience more today. Let’s look at this passage again.
I.          The attitude of new covenant ministry—“very open” – What this means is explained in the immediate context.
A.        The basis of this attitude

1.         The apostle has just said that new covenant has surpassing and enduring glory. Now he speaks as a representative new covenant person. This better covenant provides us with hope—confident expectation.

2.         This means that “we are very bold” or “act very openly”. The idea is that the hope of glory produces a change in the way new covenant life and ministry is conducted. This is consistent with the teaching that God’s grace to us in Jesus Christ changes our way of life. So what is this change of attitude spoken of here?

B.        The nature of this attitude

1.         As is clear from the following verses, the old covenant was characterized by a veil, and a veil covers and hides from view. Yes, the old covenant came with God’s glory, but there was a separation of the people from the glory by a succession of coverings—around the tabernacle courtyard, the tabernacle itself, and the veil before the Most Holy Place. The glory was revealed, but you couldn’t get to it, except for the high priest once a year or Moses, the mediator of the old covenant.

2.         It is different in the new covenant. All who are in Christ have the surpassing glory. The Spirit of God and of glory rests on us and lives in us. We are “very open”. Clearly, this is a superior position to be, so the Corinthians should not be tempted by false teachers to go back to the inferiority of the law.

Apply: This is why the gospel is to be preached and taught plainly and clearly (Col 4:4). We are not to obscure the message, but set it forth in an understandable manner. A message or Bible lesson is no place to be displaying one’s supposed intellect by subtle imagery and showy vocabulary. Instead, we want people to know the grace of God in the good news of Jesus Christ.
II.        A contrast with the old covenant ministry—veiled
A.        The purpose of Moses’ veil—“to prevent…”

1.         Paul has already said that the glory of the law covenant was transitory. From the very first, it was not intended to last. Lasting glory could only come through the Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

2.         So in the old covenant, the glory was becoming ineffective, and Moses did not want the people to see “the end” of it. So, he would go into the tabernacle, take off the veil, receive God’s message, return outside to the people, and deliver God’s word to him. They would look intently at God’s glory shining on his face and would be afraid (Ex 34). When he finished speaking, he would cover his face with the veil until the next time he went in to speak to the Lord. They would not see the end of that glory.

B.        Paul uses this to set forth what life was like under the law. We should remember that he had experienced worship in this way. He says that the veil remains on the people of Israel.

1.         They saw the glory, but their minds were hardened. This was not a good spiritual position to be in! You see, people tend to think that if they experience the spectacular, they are all right. But God looks on the heart. This was always the problem of Israel under the law covenant. It is still the problem of those who participate in moving religious services. “Oh, it just felt like God was there!” But God is not concerned how moved you where in an experience. He is interested in your mind. Do you love God with all your mind? Do you believe the truth that is in Jesus, or is your mind hardened against the good news? Do you delight in the truth? The Jews at Sinai, of whom Paul speaks, were not really interested in what God told them. So God hardened their minds (note the passive verb).

2.         Their descendants continue in this same spiritual condition. Now this hardening does not extend to all Israel (cf. Rm 11:25; etc), but it is generally true. Paul is explaining why many of his fellow Israelites according to the flesh do not believe. They can read Moses, but they do not see the glory of the Lord. You still encounter this in spiritual conversations with many Jewish people. Sadly, their religious experience is reduced to what is ethnic and cultural.

Comment: This is one serious reason to disregard what Jewish rabbis have taught about the OTS over the centuries. They really do not understand the old covenant.
Apply: We should pray for salvation of Jewish people. They need an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in order to understand the scriptures that God has given them. They need to see that they tell of the Lord Jesus Christ.
III.       The change that the Lord Christ is able to make
A.        The veil is removed when anyone is “in Christ” (3:14).

1.         Once again we see the importance of union with Christ. Everything in the new covenant age depends on the Lord Jesus. If you want to explain salvation to someone, you must tell them that it means to be in Christ. In him we have election, calling, cleansing, forgiveness, righteousness, adult sonship, the Holy Spirit, the inheritance, and a proper grasp of the OTS, which is Paul’s point here.

2.         Paul himself experienced this removal of the veil when Christ was revealed to him on the road to Damascus (Ac 9). Only when he saw the glory of the risen Jesus was he able to discern Christ in the OTS, and then he saw Christ as he is in the OTS—everywhere!

B.        The way this change comes—conversion

1.         This expression occurs throughout Acts (9:35; 11:21; 14:15; 15:19; 26:20). See also 1 Th 1:9; 1 Pt 2:25). It means to have a change of mind in which a person turns from their rebellion against God to trust in Christ alone for salvation. It means to repent and to believe the good news!

Apply: Has this happened to you? Have seen by faith how much superior Christ is to anything the world can offer? Have you relied on him to rescue you from your evil and empty way of life?

2.         As is clear from the passages in Acts and the emphasis in our passage on the Holy Spirit, this change or conversion comes from the operation of the Spirit with the word on people. This is the reason we must pray for the blessing of the Spirit on the message as we tell it to others?

Apply: For whom are you praying?

3.         This salvation is offered to all: “But whenever anyone turns to the Lord.” It does not matter what you’ve done, where you were born, what your family of origin was like, how old you are, how well you did in school, how intellectual you think you are, how much money you make, how many friends you have, what your personal appearance is like, or even how hopeless your life seems to be. The message is for anyone.

Apply: Have you turned to the Lord Jesus Christ?