Many Saints Need To Know That They Are Not Alone.
One of the key passages in 2 Corinthians is greatly needed today. As a matter of fact, there never has been a time when it was not needed. It is at once both timely and timeless. Let us look together at this brief portion of two verses:
Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them who are in any trouble, by the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted of God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
When Paul spoke of the God of all comfort, he was speaking of a knowledge of God that he himself had experienced. Undoubtedly he included himself in the plural word us in verse 4. I take this as his personal testimony that in all of his troubles and tribulations, he was comforted by God. That comfort did not merely enable him to endure his trials but also allowed him to glory in his sufferings for Christ‘s sake. Paul's knowledge of God as the God of all comfort is therefore not a mere intellectual and academic one; it is a blessed and rewarding experience. He knows what he is talking about. He suffered such severe tribulation all through his life as the apostle to the gentiles and as an ambassador for Christ. The Christian who is suffering needs a special kind of comfort that only God can give. As our loving Comforter, He stands by our side to minister the soothing balm we need. And He do this through the Word of God. Linked with the description of God as the God of all comfort is the statement that He is the Father of mercies. Mercy is the outward manifestation of compassion for others in their affliction. Mercy had its origin with God, who is called its Father. All acts of pity and compassion proceed from Him. God has a tender feeling of compassion for us when we are in distress. Our trials, however slight or severe, have His attention. God showed his mercy by providing for our eternal salvation, for it was according to his mercy he saved us (Titus 3:5). In another epistle, Paul wrote, He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32). One of the all things is His comfort. All things . . . all comfort. The word all in the Greek is a strong word. It means every kind, every variety, the whole of, or the totality of the thing referred to.1
God's comfort is unique. It is infinite, inexhaustible, immutable, and indestructible. Our afflictions are temporary and transient; God's comfort is everlasting (2 Thessalonians 2:16). It is available at all times. Like the Savior's comfort, the Spirit's comfort is for believers. It is only for those who have received the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. You see, when a sinner trusts Christ by believing on the gospel by which we are saved, the Holy Spirit enters his body to take up permanent residence. All truly saved persons, without exception, are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19-20). This is a pertinent and precious truth, particularly when one is experiencing suffering or sorrow.
Why Do So Many Christians Fear Death?
2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
Paul gave this Scripture to Timothy right in the midst of telling him to stir up his spiritual gifts, to testify for Jesus Christ, and to share with Paul in the sufferings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Satan doesn't want us to get out and do the work of an evangelist. He doesn't want us to share the gospel with others, and he wants us to be afraid of the suffering that we may or may not experience if you do live godly in Christ Jesus. Looking around at many Christians, it seems that Satan has succeeded to stop many from moving forward by means of this one evil power alone. Many Christians today are oppressed by a spirit of fear. Fear stops people not only in the areas of witnessing. The fear of rejection has hindered people from beginning wonderful relationships. The fear of failure has held many back from putting their total trust in God. The fear of death paralyzes and torments many. There are many other kinds of fear. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but unfortunately, many Christians have received a spirit of fear at some time in our life. We received what the devil was handing out to us. Many times, we received it before we received the gospel by which we are saved, and many have not known God and His Word well enough to get rid of it since that time. One thing is clear, no saint in the Body of Christ received a spirit of fear from God. A man was once robbing a bank. In the midst of it, a woman comes up to him and tells him to put the gun down, and give himself up. What gave this woman such tremendous courage? She was the man's mother, and her love for the son overcame that sense of fear. Fear tends to attract evil upon us, just as faith tends to attract the goodness and blessings of God. Fear is a substance of things we hope won't happen; it’s almost like a conviction that will happen. Fear is faith in reverse. God wants Christians to be free of such fear.
What we actually need is the actual consciousness that God is within us, and around us, and over us. And we need to know who God is. God is greater than the devil. There is no comparison. Jesus said, "I will NEVER leave you nor forsake you." If we are aware of the presence of Jesus with us, we really can't be swallowed up or dominated by fear. Fear cannot control us. Ultimately, it must be driven out, in all its forms. We've seen before the Scripture that "perfect love drives out fear" But where does this perfect love come from? One thing to be sure of - it doesn't come from ourselves. This perfect love comes from the Lord and totally trusting Him and His Word. God is love and putting our trust in Him and His Word drives out the spirit of fear. Daily make more room for God in our life. Make room for Him through much prayer, through more meditation on the Word of truth rightly divided, through verbally praising the Lord with our mouth and with our music. One of the ways that a Christian is distinguished from the unbeliever is by his attitude toward death. For Paul, death was a promotion. For the unbeliever, death is a terrifying thought. May I ask you, my friend, “How do you deal with death?” Do you seek to avoid it, or to deny it? Then I would suggest that you may need to experience the same conversion that Paul did, as he describes it in Philippians 3. In his case, Paul was a very religious man, zealous about his religious deeds. But he was also very lost. Those whose sins have been forgiven and who are assured of eternal life need have no fear of death. Those who are trusting in their own good works, and who have not come to faith in Christ, have everything to fear: This is the way King David, a man who faced many dangerous battles, looked at it." The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 27:1) Because David was conscious of the Lord's presence with him, and because he knew God, David did not walk in fear. To have the full consciousness of the presence of the Lord with us in these days, eliminates the spirit of fear.
It's a heartache to me as a pastor to realize that so many Christians lack the assurance of their salvation. They lack the confidence that their sins are truly forgiven and that their place in heaven is eternally secured. Many saints in the Body of Christ fear death and have doubt because they are not under strong biblical preaching on God's holy standard. Such preaching forces people to see their sinfulness and acknowledge that the holiness of God calls them to a higher standard of living. Is that bad? No, the pulpit should be the creator of anxious hearts. How else can it unsettle those who have fear and insecurity? However, the consistent call to righteousness may unsettle some Christians, particularly those who are frequently succumbing to temptation. But that kind of preaching is rare. Rather than leading their people to examine themselves and make sure their assurance is valid, many preachers feel it's their duty to make everyone feel good. However, those who preach as they should will find some in their congregation plagued with doubt.
With what’s going on in the world today, many Christians are afraid of death. Many do not realize that we are not exempt from mass shootings, crime, homicide, and catastrophic events. When many hear about a plane going down, many refuse to fly. Why, because they are afraid of dying. Many do not realize that death can be sitting two tables over from us in a restaurant strapped with bombs. Death can be waiting when we drive from one destination to another. Death can be waiting at the shopping malls. Death can be waiting at the movie theater.
Do you fear death or dying, or do you worry about end of life issues?
Many people, including Christians, are afraid of death or afraid of dying. In fact, many people are consumed by the fear of death and dying. Or they are afraid of suffering as they die. We do many things to avoid death, the pain of death, and the uncertainty about what awaits us after death. Some people refuse to plan their wills or attend funerals, for that forces them to think morbid thoughts. Others avoid new ventures that involve air travel. Still others of us shrink back from sharing our faith where it would mean persecution or possibly martyrdom. If we are going to be people who live Christ-centered, we cannot let death bully us with concerns about death itself, the manner of our demise, and what lies just past the door to the afterlife. Instead, we must be fully assured that Christ’s work on the Cross and in the resurrection means for us that there is nothing to fear. People fear they will be a burden to others in their last years, or that their spouse or children who are left behind will suffer. Many saints today are afraid! They're afraid of the future, they're afraid of what's going in the World, they're afraid of each other, they're afraid of social pressures, afraid of failing in school or work, afraid of being unemployed.--Afraid that they won't have enough money for their families. They worry about so many things! MUCH of this type of fear, believe it or not, stems from selfishness, from being overly concerned about one's self, one's self-preservation, self-image, what the future holds for one's SELF. When love" that comes from Jesus fills our lives, it crowds out this type of selfish worry and fear, and when our hearts are filled with love for others, then we don't think and worry about ourselves so much.
If you too worry about or fear dying, take some time to read and meditate on the passages in this Bible study. Pray as you read and trust God and His Word concerning death and let Him help us see things through his eyes. God does not want us to be afraid of death or afraid of dying. The Bible teaches that death is not to be feared. Apostle Paul welcomed death (Philippians 1: 21). (Ephesians 2: 6), Christians should eagerly await their death (Philippians 3: 20-21). If Christians fear death, it is because they remain ignorant of the biblical teaching behind life and death. When a Christian fears death he remains spiritually weak. He or she is not strong to trust God and His Word and believe that it’s going to be just like He said. My friends trust God and walk in his Word daily. Meditate on it, chew on it, and get all wrapped up in it. Romans 8:36-39 reveals Paul’s resolve to not be moved, “As it is written: For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul was utterly convinced that not even death could separate him from God. He could sleep peacefully with the thought that he might lose his life at any time. There was no fear of death for Paul because he understood that even death could not severe the relationship that he had with Jesus Christ.
There is the physical death of this mortal life. The cessation of living in our human bodies when the heart stops, the brain ceases to function, and a person is declared legally dead, but physical death does not destroy the spirit of man. Let’s see physical death, come with me to Genesis 5:4-11 And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters: 5 And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died. 6 And Seth lived an hundred and five years, and begat Enos: 7 And Seth lived after he begat Enos eight hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters:8 And all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years: and he died. 9 And Enos lived ninety years, and begat Cainan: 10 And Enos lived after he begat Cainan eight hundred and fifteen years, and begat sons and daughters:11 And all the days of Enos were nine hundred and five years: and he died. There is the spiritual death – the death of anyone who refuses to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and his redemptive work on the cross. Finally, there is eternal death. This is a death that is worse than the first two. It is eternal torment in a hell fire that never ends. On the other hand, if a person chooses to place their faith in Jesus Christ, then they will be with the Lord God for eternity after they die. Everyone alive will experience a physical death unless the Lord return for us before it occurs. Physical death is an inability to respond, no matter what the stimulus is. Physical death means you can't react. You've been to enough funerals, and so have I, to know what physical death is. It doesn't matter what the stimulus is, no physically dead individual ever reacts to any stimulus.
Ephesians 2:1And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
Spiritual death is an inability to respond to things of the spirit. The very picture of being dead and the need for God to impart new life strongly implies a lack of ability on the part of the dead sinner to do anything to effect his own resurrection. When Jesus, standing by the grave of Lazarus, cried out (John 11:43), "Lazarus, come forth," Lazarus didn't exercise his free will to come back from the dead! He arose because Jesus imparted life to him. That miracle was a picture of what Jesus had said earlier of spiritual life:
For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. John 5:21
Jesus goes on to say in John 5:24-25
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. 25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.
Spiritual resurrection is the only solution to spiritual death. By saying that we were spiritually "dead," he means the kind of deadness that requires a resurrection. So when he says "dead," he means dead, and not just weak or sick. There was no superficial solution. It really took a spiritual resurrection to save us from our state of sin. The spiritual life within us, we owe it to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Notice what Paul is NOT saying, he is not saying that we were handicapped. He did not say that we were sick. He did not say that we're misguided by our social surroundings. He says we were dead! We were without any spiritual life at all. So spiritual death includes being separated from the holy God because of our sin, but it also includes being spiritually incapable of responding favorably to the truth of the Gospel unless God raises us from spiritual death to spiritual life.
In Ezekiel 37:1-3, we see this famous passage imaging forth the deadness of Israel in their sins: The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, 2 And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. 3 And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest. This was us. We were dead bones, dry, having no life. And when we see ourselves as such dry bones, we too should be asking, "Can these bones live?" No, not apart from a supernatural resurrection. Ezekiel 37:10-12 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.11 Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts.12 Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. God is talking to physical Israel through the prophet Ezekiel; they say their bones are dried up and their hope is gone. They weren't saying they were physically dead, they were separated from God, and they were out of the land. God said He was going to open their graves; these weren't physical graves, because they weren't physically dead. This is a spiritual resurrection. So the unsaved are compared to dead men or even to dry bones in their entire helplessness. In this they are all alike. Believers please understand this: As far as salvation is concerned we brought nothing to the table and sinners will bring nothing either. We didn't even bring ourselves—we were dead. If we are saved today, it is all of God, who overcame our deadness through the power of resurrection. "...In your trespasses and sins..."—It is talking about the sphere in which they lived and the way we lived. The opposite of being in Christ is being in trespasses and sins. The word "trespasses” which means: "to slip or fall or stumble, or go the wrong direction, to step over the line." The word "sins" is. It's a hunter's word, it means: "to miss the target, to miss the mark. A man shoots his arrow and misses the target." God uses two words to describe fallen man, and both of them are in the plural to show the totality of sinfulness that is the result of deadness. No one has to go life spiritually dead and one day receives the consequent eternal death. We do not have to live separated from God because of our Lord and Savior redemptive work at Calvary. Everyone has free will – the freedom to choose eternal life in Jesus Christ. To reject eternal life, which means to believe in Jesus Christ, a person willfully chooses to experience an eternal death – an eternal separation from God. We should appreciate what has happened to us by looking back to what we were, and really beginning to understand what God has provided for us in Christ. The opening words of chapter 2 in Ephesians tell us that we once were dead in trespasses and sins; we once walked according to the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the god of darkness; and we behaved according to the lusts of our flesh. We did what we thought was right, but found it was constantly getting us into difficulty and destroying us. We were victimized by the desires of the flesh and were as Paul says, "children of wrath," i.e., suffering the degeneration of humanity, "like the rest of mankind." Those of us who have believed in Jesus Christ have been made alive together with him. What a fantastic statement that is! A resurrection has occurred; we have become new creatures, a new creation, different than anything we ever were before. And we've been given a new power. We've been raised up with him.
We have all heard people use the expression —“now that’s living!” It’s usually applied when we see people enjoying an experience, or a lifestyle that is considered desirable and pleasant. In most cases this determination is based on physical things. Does the experience involve enjoyable activities? Have those to whom it is applied attained a certain income level or social status. The inference is that those outside of this condition (whether they realize it or not) are not really living, because they don’t have what these people have attained. In Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus he is not concerned with cruises, retirement communities, or other material conditions to which our world might aspire. Nonetheless, he does promote and advocate a condition in which those who attain it may recognize that the life they lived in the past (in many respects) was not really living. Paul tells these Christians, “And you hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1) Is Paul speaking to those who had been raised from the dead by some miracle performed by the Lord or His apostles? Not necessarily. He describes a condition in which “we all once conducted ourselves” (Eph. 2:3a). Certainly not everyone in the church in Ephesus, nor Paul himself, had physically died and been resurrected. Paul twice describes this being “dead in trespasses” (Eph. 2:1b, 5a). It was a condition “according to the course of this world” (Eph. 2:2a), conduct in accordance with “the lusts of the flesh” by which they sought to fulfill the “desires of the flesh and of the mind” (Eph. 2:3). The mind and flesh of a dead corpse have no desires they seek to fulfill. Paul is not talking about physical death.
We note, however, that Paul describes a condition that most in the world would think of as really living! Don’t we all want to do whatever our flesh desires? Don’t all of us want to have whatever makes our heart and mind feel fulfilled? Wouldn’t most look at such a condition and exclaim—“now that’s living”? Paul, however, asserts the extraordinary claim that those who pursued such a course were in fact dead! Now Paul was not a mad man, as Festus would claim in (Acts 26:24-25). Paul was addressing a spiritual condition. In sin they had not followed God’s will—they lived as “sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2c). This course fulfilled the will of Satan, “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2b). All who sin submit their will to the spirit and character of the devil. This makes us “by nature, children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3b). So how can a dead man live? When we use the expression, “now that’s living!” we are not saying that all others do not really exist. We are elevating a condition (usually on the basis of very superficial things) and declaring it to be superior. Paul does something much like this, but not as a result of his own superficial judgments. The Christians in Ephesus had changed from dead men (who thought they were alive) to living souls (who could now know they were truly alive). Before the climax of verse five, Paul tells us something about God. He is the subject of the verb “He made us alive” (Eph. 2:5b), but who is He? He is one who “is rich in mercy” (Eph. 2:4b). We were dead. We deserved punishment. So, how can a dead man live?—“Because of His great love with which He loved us” (Eph. 2:4c).
In Paul’s words to the Ephesians, one might struggle to fully grasp this. He has told them that God viewed them (while living in the flesh) as spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1, 5). He has told them that in such a state God was angry with them, accounting them as “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3). Can an angry God be said to be one who “is love”? Absolutely! Our world has skewed its concept of love to imagine that love means that the one who loves another is dispassionate with regard to the behavior of the object of his or her love. The loving father is right to be moved to anger when someone acts to harm his child. The loving mother feels outrage when her son or daughter is hurt. What should they feel when that child or daughter acts to harm themselves? Do parents have no right to feel anger when the guidance they have offered for the good of their children is rejected? The anger of God towards our sin is in no way incompatible with the beautiful definition of His character that “God is love.” The Christian is “made alive” (Eph. 2:1). It is a mistake to see this as only a future condition. Paul told the Ephesians God, “made” (past tense) “us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:5b). He has “raised” (past tense) “us up together” and even “made” (past tense) “us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6). This is not just talking about what will happen in the age to come. The next verse addresses that. He did these things, “that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7). What He has already done will demonstrate in the ages to come His loving gracious nature. Now the Christian enjoys a renewed fellowship with God. When did this begin? Paul told the Christians in Rome that in baptism the one who turns to Christ is “buried with Him through baptism” so that just as Jesus was “raised from the dead” we as saints might “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). In baptism one is buried with Christ. In baptism then, is when one is “raised up together with Him” (Eph. 2:6). This is not water baptism.
Paul twice asserts, “by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:5b, 8a). The second time he makes this assertion he adds “through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8b-9). How has God saved by grace? Paul told the Romans that the gospel message is “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16). His assertion to the Ephesians “by grace you have been saved” cannot mean by grace alone! How then could the gospel be “the power of God unto salvation”? To the Ephesians he asserts it is “by grace through faith” (Eph. 2:8b). Does that mean by faith alone? We must note that Paul says this change from death to life was “not of yourselves” (Eph. 2:8c) even clarifying “not of works” (Eph. 2:9a). What works has Paul mentioned in our text prior to this? He has mentioned “trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1), walking “according to the course of the world” (Eph. 2:2), and conduct governed by “the lusts of the flesh” (Eph. 2:3). Did any of these works save us? No, when we did these things, we may have thought we were alive but we were really dead. The love that God has shown in Christ offered life in spite of these works—this was God’s grace—this was “His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7b).Are sinful works Paul’s only focus? He told Titus “the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward men appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3:4-5a). No good works moved God to send Jesus to die. One cannot do enough good deeds to forgive a single sin, but does this mean that man does nothing to accept God’s grace? Paul told the Ephesians they were saved “by grace through faith” (Eph. 2:8b), but he told Titus he saved us “through the washing of regeneration” (Titus 3:5b)—a reference to baptism (Not Water Baptism). The mercy of a loving God in Christ Jesus has called us to “obey the gospel” (2 Thess. 1:8; 1 Pet. 4:17).