We are at the end of another year and before a new year. How can we end the year and start the New Year? The recipes are many. How are you looking back and looking forward? What are our regrets regarding the year that ended? Are our major concerns regarding the future? In our Bible text, the apostle Paul opens his heart and shows what his concerns and his goals are.
The apostle Paul is looking back as well as forward. He remembers the congregations that he has founded and the congregations the other apostles founded. He thanks God for the blessings received. He thanks the congregations that were founded. He is thankful for the Word of God that reached so many hearts.
What reasons do we have to praise God and thank Him at the end of this year?
We have two kinds of reasons: material and spiritual blessings. Just open the newspapers, listen to the news, and look around. So much misery and agony, so many wars, rebellions, disasters, etc. In a certain way, we have been kept from these evils.
But, the spiritual blessings are much bigger. God gave us His pure and clear Word. God guided us and kept us in faith in Jesus. What a blessing! Have we taken advantage and used this blessing wisely? We need to repent and ask for His forgiveness for the love of Christ.
When the apostle Paul looks forward, he sees the dangers that surround the Christian congregations. The Greek philosophy, the great knowledge that flourished at that time ridiculed the Christian faith. Besides that, the Jewish people who would say: We are not only saved by grace, but by faith and works, stealing the true consolation, and also the many temptations to lascivious passions that attracted specially the young people. Today is not different. The intensity of these problems is even more accentuated. How many young people deviate from their faith during their college years? The many temptations provided through different means of communication and through society. That is the reason for our concern.
2 THE REACTION
The apostle reacts. He fights. How? He preaches; he writes letters; he prays. In this fight he clearly stated his objective.
That their hearts may be encouraged. How? Some people believe that it is easy to do that today in an era of technology and sciences of the mind. All that is needed is good planning, good strategies, marketing, etc. There is no doubt that we can use these tools, but the strength is not in them. The apostle Paul affirms:
That their hearts may be encouraged. He is talking about the people who are struggling, who are afflicted, and who know the dangers and their own weaknesses. The apostle wants them to be encouraged that is, consoled, stimulated, and comforted in their struggle, their mission and their pilgrimage. That their hearts may be encouraged. How? Through what?
May they be knit together in love. At first, it seems the apostle Paul is simply talking about love for one another. That is also implied, but we need to examine the text deeper. Reading the context, we see that he struggles and prays so that they are knit together in Christ’s love, “which is the bond of perfectness” Col. 3:14. That is, firmed in Christ’s love. This happens when they are firmed in all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ. This is the base of Christian faith. The apostle struggles so that they are firmed, rooted, bonded in this base, in the knowledge and in the faith of Christ’s love. This happens through the study of God’s Word, through which the Holy Spirit calls, illuminates, and sanctifies.
God gave us these riches, this understanding of His Word, this knowledge, through our fathers. We have the catechisms: Minor and Major, the Confession of Augsburg, the Formula of Concord, our Hymnals, with its hymns and prayers, the Summary of the Christian Doctrine, etc. What a treasure! When the apostle wrote: “…For the Lord will give you understanding in everything” 2 Tim. 2:7, God, the Holy Spirit operates this understanding in us, through the correct understanding of His Word, law and gospel, that we are saved only by Christ’s grace. When we are firmed in these doctrines, we will not be deceived by sermons that affirm: It is by faith and works. No! It is by faith only. It is the understanding of spiritual things. From this faith, sprouts the fruits of love. This word is firmed in the “conviction”, which is a barrier against all false religions and worldly temptations. And the apostle insists:
In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. What is this treasure and knowledge? We are not dealing with simple knowledge of science. God put the laws of science in nature and ordered: Subdue it. True knowledge, which involves the knowledge of God, man, eternity, relationship with God, faith, Christian life, and Christian hope, cannot be found in any other place except in Christ, who revealed it in His Word, through which the Holy Spirit works powerfully. In His Word we find orientation regarding what is right and wrong, comfort of forgiveness, peace with God, and hope of eternal life. Thus, we need to deepen our studies in His Word. We need to read and read, meditate and meditate, listen and study, with prayer.
Unfortunately, we find many afflicted Christians, seeking comfort and orientation in so many other books and places, to the point prophet Jeremiah laments: “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, The fountain of living waters, To hew for themselves cisterns, Broken cisterns, That can hold no water.” Jer. 2:13. All knowledge for faith and life, for our pilgrimage towards the celestial home, for the struggle for subsistence in our professional life, for the education of our family, for the relationships with our brethren, for the mission, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ. All of this, each doctrine of faith, each point to the Christian life is hidden in Christ.
Hidden, because we will only know it, accept it as the truth and trust in it by the gracious action and illumination of the Holy Spirit.
And when we are rooted in Christ’s love, this love unites us with the brethren. It unites our hearts. So this fraternal love has the true form, firmed in the Word, in the doctrine of the Scriptures, in Christ. He is the true love, not just a simple social love, but firmed in the Christian doctrines, rooted in the Word of God. The apostle Peter affirms: “Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” 2 Peter 1:3, 4.
May our firm resolution today be: Next year, I want to read, listen and meditate much more in the Word of God. For it is the light unto my path and I want to do everything possible to make other people interested in its reading. I want to propagate the Word of God.
General Conference Ministerial Association