Life only known in Death

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. Ecclesiastes 7:2-3

In His providence, the Lord has brought to pass that I take part in officiating in my first funeral this week. For some reason, this was not covered in any of my Bible College or Seminary courses. But to be fair, I never majored in Pastoral Studies. Nevertheless…

In trying to prepare myself I read through funeral liturgies in the Lutheran, Episcopal, and Orthodox traditions. Towards the conclusion of the Orthodox service for the dead, these words are sung:

Now is all life’s solemn triumph of vanities destroyed. For the spirit has vanished from its tabernacle; its clay groweth black. The vessel is shattered, voiceless, bereft of feeling, motionless, dead: committing which unto the grave, let us beseech the Lord that he will give him rest.

What is our life like unto? Unto a flower, a vapor, and the dew of the morning, in very truth. Come ye, therefore,let us gaze keenly at the grave. Where is the beauty of the body, and where is its youth? Where are the eyes and the fleshly form? Like the grass all have perished, all have been destroyed. Come ye, therefore, let us prostrate ourselves at the feet of Christ with tears.

A great weeping and wailing, a great sighing and agony, and hell and destruction is the departure of the soul. This transitory life is a shadow unreal and an illusive dream; the trouble of the life of earth is a phantasm importunate. Let us, then, flee afar from every earthly sin, that we may inherit heavenly things.

These are hard words. Yet are there words that could be any more pastoral at a funeral? If at death we do not ponder the brevity and futility of life, when will we? If at death we cannot estimate the value of a life well spent or the anguish of a life squandered, when can we? Seemingly everything around us is meant to distract us from ultimate realities. What else but death can wake us from this shadow unreal and illusive dream?

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We’ve All Been Left Behind: Now What? A pastor responds to Harold Camping’s latest error

May 21, 2011 has come and gone with nary a sign of the end of the world. Harold Camping has again joined a long list of false prophets who have wrongly predicted the date and time of the rapture and end of the world. I say again, because Harold Camping made the same prediction in 1994. Perhaps he thought the 17 years was enough time for people to forget. What are we to make of him?

Part of me is angry. It is upsetting to see someone attempt to use the Bible to prove his own theories—especially when the Bible directly forbids the kind of date-setting Camping engages in. If we were living under Old Testament guidelines, Harold Camping would be put to death. In Deuteronomy 18:20 the Lord commands, “But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.” But thankfully we live under the rule of grace. So what should be our response to Camping and false teachers like him? According to 1 Corinthians 5, those guilty of Old Testament capital offences are to be excommunicated from the church. Believers are to have no fellowship with them and are to pray for their repentance. Harold Camping has dishonored God and his Word, we should pray that he repents of his sins and publically forsakes his errors.

A part of me is saddened. As mentioned previously, Harold Camping is certainly not alone in his errors. There are probably many more doing the same thing today that we just do not know about. But we heard about Camping because he has a large following. It is estimated that his ministry is worth $72 million dollars. He paid for billboards and advertisements to go up all over the country. Followers of Camping quit their jobs; emptied their savings; and sold their possessions to spread his message. What are they going to do now? My heart breaks for those he has lead astray. We must be able to separate false teachers from the “false taught.” We should pray that the Holy Spirit would minster to followers of Camping. We should pray that the Spirit would reveal the truth of Scripture to them. We should pray that the Holy Spirit would take away their faith in a deluded man and give them full confidence in the perfection, sufficiency, and authority of Scripture.

A part of me is actually thankful. I have been pleasantly surprised to see news outlets giving the story fair and accurate coverage. The news accounts I have seen have been careful to point out that even most Christians considered Camping a heretic and repudiated him and his teaching. Nevertheless, the popular response has been very informative. The general public, talk show hosts on radio and T.V., social media like Twitter and Facebook have not been mocking Camping—they have been mocking the very idea of the return of Christ and the end of the world.

Peter wrote, “knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4). If you have listened and watched carefully, you will have noticed that scoffers and scoffing accurately describes the reaction of unbelievers to the idea of the return of Jesus. They have not been mocking Camping, but the very idea that God would judge the earth in righteousness. We have been reminded again that the world is not our friend. Camping’s foolishness has served to bring out the scorn and ridicule that unbelievers have for the Bible and its teaching. The Bible nowhere states that Jesus would return on May 21, 2011; but it does state that Jesus will return. And that is what people have been laughing at. We are reminded again to pray for unbelievers and to faithfully proclaim the gospel. “Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes” (Luke 12:43).

Was John Calvin a Postmillennialist?

Apparently not. In commenting on the third petition of the Lord’s Prayer–“thy will be done”–Calvin writes:

But it may be objected, Ought we to ask from God what, he declares, will never exist to the end of the world? I reply: When we pray that the earth may become obedient to the will of God, it is not necessary that we should look particularly at every individual. It is enough for us to declare, by such a prayer as this, that we hate and regret whatever we perceive to be contrary to the will of God, and long for its utter destruction, not only that it may be the rule of all our affections, but that we may yield ourselves without remorse, and with all cheerfulness, to its fulfillment.

In other words, just because all the people in the world are never going to obey the will of God we do not have an excuse not to. So we look forward to that great day when Christ will return and overthrow all rebellion, even as we seek his holy war against the sin in us now.

2 Peter 1:16 The Coming of Jesus

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 2 Peter 1:16

As mentioned in yesterday’s blog, there are several interpretive disputes in 2 Peter 1:16-21. The first of these is what coming of Jesus Peter is talking about in verse 16 with the phrase, “the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Some commentators believe Peter is speaking of his first coming- the incarnation, life and ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension. Most, however, see “coming” as a reference to Jesus’ Second Coming. There are multiple reasons to accept the latter interpretation.

VOCABULARY
First, the word Peter uses for coming is parousia. When this word is used in reference to Jesus it is only used to refer to his Second Coming (Matt. 24:3, 27, 37, 39; 1 Cor. 15:23; 1 Thess. 2:9; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:1, 8; James 5:7-8, 2 Peter 3:4, 12; 1 John 2:28). The New Testament never uses this term to refer to the first coming of Jesus. That Peter himself uses the term twice in chapter 3 leads to the next observation…

CONTEXT
This verse is both preceded and followed with passages that focus on the return of Christ. Take out the personal aside in 1:12-15, Peter mentions the coming of Jesus immediately after speaking of “the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (1:11). The letter seems to be a response to the threat of false teachers, and the only real indication of the substance of their false teaching is a denial of the Second Coming (3:1-5). This criticism of the Second Coming even fits best in 1:16…

PLAUSIBILITY
In writing “we did not follow cleverly devised myths,” Peter certainly seems to be interacting with an accusation made by the false teachers. Conservative scholars agree that this book was likely written in the early 60’s A.D. In other words, within 30 years or so of the life of Jesus on earth. In A.D. 60, which coming of Jesus would more easily be associated with “cleverly devised myths”? Considering that in A.D. 60 there were still many people alive who could give first hand recollection of the life and ministry of Jesus, I would not think teaching concerning the first coming of Jesus could be successfully attacked in such a way. Even to this day, there is very little serious objection to the historical existence of Jesus. It seems far more plausible to me that false teachers could charge the doctrine of the Second Coming as being clever myth. After all, no evidence could be supplied for it; or, certainly not the kind of evidence that could be mustered for the first coming of Jesus. Or could it…

THEOLOGY
What was the significance of the Transfiguration? It is commonly noted that each of the Synoptic gospels describe the Transfiguration immediately after Jesus concludes teaching about his coming again in glory with the statement “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (Matt. 16:28; cf. Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27). This poses quite a quandary for conservative commentators on Scripture. How could this statement in any way be true since all of those standing with Jesus have died, yet he has still not returned? Matthew, Mark, and Luke answer that question by immediately transitioning to their accounts of the Transfiguration. As one commentator notes, “The transfiguration scene is not a theophany to, nor an epiphany of, Jesus, but a proleptic vision of the exaltation of Jesus as kingly Son of Man granted to the disciples as eschatological witnesses.” In other words, the Transfiguration was the fulfillment of Jesus’ statement that some of those standing with him would not die until they had seen the kingdom. In the gospels, the Transfiguration is the guarantee of the Second Coming. It is probably less than coincidental that Peter himself follows the same pattern in this letter: from mention of the eternal kingdom in verse 12 to mention of the honor and glory of the Transfiguration.

For these reasons, it is best to see “coming” in 2 Peter 1:16 as a reference to the Second Coming of Jesus.

The Trinity in Scripture: 2 Peter 1:16-21 The Trinity in the Transfiguration and Revelation

Peter only has one reference to the Trinity in his second epistle, but what he lacks is quantity is more than made for in quality.

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:16-21)

Commentators are divided on multiple points in this brief passage. Is “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” a reference to the Christ’s first appearance (incarnation and ministry) or his second appearance (return and reign)? What is more sure—the witness of what the apostles saw (NIV; NKJV; NLT; NASB) or the record of the Old Testament prophets (KJV; ESV)? Is it the origin or the interpretation of Scripture that Peter has in mind in verse 20? Yet in all their wrangling over these issues, I have not read a single commentator bring out the Trinity in this passage.

The ESV—more than any other translation—comes tantalizingly close to bringing out the connection. In verses 17 and 18 Peter speaks of a voice “borne” from heaven to earth at the Transfiguration of Jesus. This voice was of course that of the Father once again declaring his approval of his Son. Other translations simply use some form of “come” or simply leave it out (NLT in verse 18). But Peter did not use one of the common New Testament words for come (paraginomai or erchomai). Peter used the term phero. I believe he did so very intentionally and I believe he did so to highlight the work of the Trinity in revelation.

The use of “borne” in verses 17 is significant because it is unusual. Peter could have simply used a verb indicating speech—“God said.” The use of “borne” in verse 18 is significant because it is unnecessary: as some translations do, Peter could have left out the phrase entirely. But instead Peter twice uses the common term phero—the generic term meaning to bring, carry, move, bear something.

This highlights the strangeness of Peter’s expression. We speak of voices carrying, but never of carrying voices. Who carried the voice of the Father? Why does God’s voice need to be carried? The answer to such questions is revealed in verse 21.

Who carried the voice of the Father to the Son on the mount of transfiguration? The same person who carried the voice of the Father to prophets speaking God’s word: the Holy Spirit. In verse 21 Peter uses the same verb he used in verses 17 and 18—phero. Granted the imagery has changed a bit. In verses 17 and 18 the voice of God is carried while in verse 21 men are carried. But in both cases, the end result is the same. If it is not for the work of the Holy Spirit, man is not able to properly receive the word of God.

If the Holy Spirit had not given Peter, James, and John understanding on the holy mountain, they would not have comprehended the sound (cf. John 12:28-29; Acts 22:29). If the prophets had not been carried, they could not have spoken from God. At the Transfiguration and in the Old Testament the Holy Spirit had one objective: to declare to men the love of the Father for the Son (cf. 1 Peter 1:10-12).

Zombie Depravity

Sin, after all, is lawlessness. The state in which humans are born either corresponds to God’s law or deviates from it; it is good or evil, sinful or not sinful. There is no third category. (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics III, p. 91.)

One of the “great debates” in Christian theology is over the nature of man’s sinfulness. I call it great because while not continual throughout history, it continually resurfaces. I call it great not because it is valuable, but because it is essential. As Calvin wrote at the beginning of his Institutes,

“We are accordingly urged by our own evil things to consider the good things of God; and, indeed, we cannot aspire to Him in earnest until we have begun to be displeased with ourselves. For what man is not disposed to rest in himself? Who, in fact, does not thus rest, so long as he is unknown to himself; that is, so long as he is contented with his own endowments, and unconscious or unmindful of his misery? Every person, therefore, on coming to the knowledge of himself, is not only urged to seek God, but is also led as by the hand to find him” (I.1).

We cannot begin to know God rightly if we have not begun to know ourselves rightly.

The core of the debate is an answer to the simple question, “Is the unconverted sinner spiritually dead.” At one end of the spectrum are those who simply answer “no.” Man is born into the world in the same condition as Adam, completely able to choose the good and forsake the evil. At the other end of the debate are those who answer, “yes.” Man is born in a state of deadness and is able to do nothing to lift himself up to God. Occupying the vast middle are those—a la Miracle Max in The Princess Bride—who assert that man is only mostly dead, or partially dead. Sin has afflicted man, warped him, inhibited him, but he still has the strength and ability to overcome it on his own power and come to God.

What does the Bible say?

The teaching of Jesus concerning the new birth seems to assume it. Jesus told Nicodemus that man must be “born again,” or born from above. Jesus strengthened this metaphor by saying it “must” happen. The statement that man must be born again seems to correspond with the teaching that man is spiritually dead. In line with this would be Peter’s 2 references to being born again (1 Peter 1:3, 23); and Paul’s statements regarding new life (2 Cor. 3:6) and new creation (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15).

Even more clear is the teaching of Jesus in John 5:21-24:

For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

The one who believes has new life, not just an improved life. He has not passed from good to better. He has not passed from sick to well. He has passed from death to life. So it comes as no surprise to hear Jesus teach at the conclusion of the parable of the Prodigal Son, “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:24,32).

Apparently the apostle John was paying attention to this teaching for he repeated it in 1 John 3:14, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.” The state of spiritual deadness is not so much taught as it is assumed. John takes it for granted that his readers accept the fact that the state of those who do not believe is “death.” Those who do not love the brothers demonstrate their continued life of death.

Paul weighs in on the subject in Ephesians 2:1-5:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved…

So, to paraphrase the quote at the beginning just a bit, man is either dead or he is not. God either gives “new” life or he does not.

There is no third category.

Herman Bavinck on Total Depravity…But God

For the next time you think you aren’t that bad:

It is the human heart that is corrupt (Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Ps. 14:1; Jer. 17:9; Ezek. 36:26; Matt. 15:19); from it flow the springs of life (Prov. 4:23). It is from the human heart that all iniquities and all sorts of incomprehension flow (Mark 7:21).

The mind of humans is darkened (Job. 21:14; Isa. 1:3; Jer. 4:22; John 1:5; Rom. 1:21-22; 1 Cor. 1:18-23; 2:14; Eph. 4:18; 5:8).

The human soul is guilty and impure and needs atonement and repentance (Lev. 17:11; Ps/ 19:7; 41:4; Prov. 19:3, 16; Matt. 16:26; 1 Pet. 1:22).

The human spirit is proud, errant, and polluted and therefore has to be broken, illumined, and cleansed (Ps. 51:19; Prov. 16:18, 32; Eccles. 7:9; Isa. 57:15; 66:2; 1 Cor. 7:34; 2 Cor. 7:1; 1 Thess. 5:23).

The human conscience is stained and needs cleansing (Titus 1:5; Heb. 9:9, 14; 10:22).

The human desire, inclination, and will reach out to what is forbidden and is powerless to do good (Jer. 13:23; John 8:34, 36; Rom. 6:17; 8:7; 2 Cor. 3:5).

And the body, with all its members—the eyes (Deut. 29:4; Ps. 18:27; Isa. 35:5; 42:7; 2 Pet. 2:14; 1 John 2:16), the ears (Deut. 29:4; Ps. 115:6; 135:17; Isa. 6:10; Jer. 5:21; Zech. 7:11), the feet (Ps. 38:16; Prov. 1:16; 4:27; 6:18; Isa. 59:7; Rom. 3:15), the mouth and the tongue (Job. 27:4; Ps. 12:3-4; 15:3; 17:10; Jer. 9:3, 5; Rom. 3:14; James 3:5-8)— is in the service of unrighteousness. In a word: sin is not located on and around humans but within them and extends to the whole person and the whole of humankind. (Reformed Dogmatics, III p. 80-81)

And for the next time you think you are without hope:

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1Cor. 1:27-31)

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:6-8)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Eph. 2:4-7)

But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” (2Tim. 2:19)

God does not offer band-aid salvation. The depths of God’s mercy are only plumbed when the depths of your depravity are realized.

The Grace of God in motherhood

Matthew 1:5 must be one of the most grace-filled verses in all of Scripture:

and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab,
and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth,
and Obed the father of Jesse,

Rahab the harlot, citizen of Jericho: a woman living a condemned lifestyle in a condemned city.

Ruth, the Moabite. Living under the Law of Moses, “No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the LORD. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the LORD forever” (Deut. 23:3).

Yet both women are mothers of the Messiah. Two cursed Gentile women are forever linked to the redemption of mankind. What grace God demonstrates to his people! The first promise of the redeemer was that he would be the seed of the woman. The birth of Jesus to a Virgin is not the only aspect of the fulfillment of that prophecy. Rahab the harlot and Ruth the Moabite are included as well.

The grace of God in Christ not only redeems humanity, it redeems motherhood. God’s grace exceeds our sinfulness; it is greater than our ancestry. Mothers as sinful as Rahab; mothers as hopeless and cast off as Ruth; are welcomed into God’s family. They are forgiven. They are accepted. They are graced.

Is the Structure of the government of America biblical?

In a word, “no.”

The government of the universe is not democratic, not aristocratic, not republican, not constitutional, but monarchial. To God belongs the undivided legislative, judicial, and executive power. His sovereignty is original, eternal, unlimited, abundant in blessing. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords (1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 19:6).
Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics II, p. 616.

Now that is not to say that the government of the U.S. is unbiblical. To the extent that the government punishes wickedness and fosters righteousness; to the extent that it protects its citizens; to the extent that it promotes justice, kindness, and humility; to the extent that it does not interfere with Scriptural obedience to God and his word; the government of America is biblical. But all of this applies to the government of China and England just as well.

God has only ever chartered one political nation- and it was a monarchy. God only has one people who will inherit the earth- and it will be a monarchy. God does not rule by popularity, consensus, or compromise. Psalm 2:6, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

The Trinity in Scripture: 1 Peter 4:12-19 The Trinity and the Suffering of the Believer

After 1 Peter 1:2, the only other explicit reference to the Trinity in the book of 1 Peter occurs in 4:12-19.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

Peter concludes his instruction about suffering (3:13-4:19) by putting it into its Trinitarian perspective. As he has throughout the letter and in this section in particular, Peter puts forward the sufferings of Christ as an encouragement to believers (1:11, 20-21; 2:7, 21-24; 3:18; 4:1). The example of Christ’s sufferings has a two-fold comfort. First, that Christ did suffer and endured it. Secondly, that the sufferings of Christ were eclipsed by the glories that followed. Believers are thus reminded that suffering is endurable and that suffering is not the final word. First Peter is a book filled with hope-sustaining references to the coming glorious vindication of Christ (1:5, 7, 11, 13; 2:12; 4:13; 5:1, 4). Just as we share in Christ’s sufferings, we will share in his triumphs.

Peter then mentions the Holy Spirit with a unique designation, “The Spirit of glory.” Glory is an important word in 1 Peter (1:7, 11, 21, 24; 4:11, 13, 14; 5:1, 4, 10). As in this verse, glory is most often associated with Christ: the glory of his resurrection (1:21); the glory of the joy that comes from believing in him (1:8); the glory God receives through Christ as Christians utilize their gifts to serve one another (4:11); and the glory of his return (1:7; 4:13; 5:1; 5:4). 1 Peter 4:14 demonstrates that the Holy Spirit is also involved with this glory. While he is not called the Spirit of glory anywhere else in Scripture, his ministry is often associated with glory. In Ezekiel, the work of the Spirit resulted in the prophet witnessing “the glory of the LORD” (3:12; 43:5). In Acts 7:55 the filling of the Spirit allowed Stephen to see “the glory of God.” In comparison to the glory of Moses’ face at the giving of the law, the ministry of the Spirit has even more glory (1 Cor. 3:18). Included in this ministry of glory is the Spirit’s work in actually transforming us into the image of the Lord (1 Cor. 3:18). It is according to the riches of the Father’s glory that we are “strengthened with power through his Spirit” (Eph. 3:18). The presence of the Spirit is a glorious presence. So it is no wonder that he rests on those who suffer because of the name of Christ; for where Christ is there is the Spirit.

As in all things, the Father is in ultimate control of all suffering. We praise God that we suffer for the name of Christ which the Spirit blesses us for (4:16). We acknowledge God’s judgment of all things and realize that the world’s rejection of Christ is a rejection of God’s gospel (4:17). We suffer with the assurance that God is in control: he is Creator and everything we endure is according to his will. God is faithful: he never leaves forsakes his children but goes with them through the fire and flood (cf. Is. 43:2).

Even in the midst of suffering—especially in the midst of suffering—God’s people “continue to do good” because of the efficacious example of Christ; the glorious presence of the Spirit; and the faithful providence of the Father.