The God who gathers (The Letters)











Click for audio: 7_God who gathers_November 6 2011



µ      Excitement over getting mail or a letter…

  • Write my wife love notes, esp when we were apart during our dating/engagement
  • Write my children notes

ð      Too many people into tearing down rather than building up.

ð      Words matter:
Proverbs 12:25 “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”

Proverbs 16:24 “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”

Proverbs 18:4 “The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.”

Proverbs 18:21 “Life and death are in the power of the tongue”

Proverbs 25:11 “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”

Proverbs 26:22 “The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.”

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

James 3

µ      Curiosity over church receiving letter that would be read by all, especially one written by an Apostle… this was the NT Church without a canonized Bible.

  • Acts is early church history and the Letters fit into the book of Acts.
  • 22 Letters (Romans – Revelation) written by 6 individuals: 13 by Paul; Hebrews author; James; 2 by Peter, 4 by John; Jude.
  • Written purpose to churches or individuals for teaching/training/correction (right belief & behavior); cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”


EXAMINE                             God who gathers…                              Letters

God gathers his church for mission.

As in the book of Acts, God collected His people together. When together they were known as the church gathered and when apart, the church scattered. But wherever they went they were the church – the ekklesia (people called or summoned together).

They gathered to spread. They had a mission (ACTS 1:8) and the book of Acts shows their spread:

Acts 2-5 showsJerusalem

Acts 6-8 show spread through Judea & Samaria

Acts 10 and on shows gospel spreading outward to every region

Acts 28 ends with Paul preaching inRome (extent of known world)


ð      Every believer & church (Acts 1:8 is plural; “ya’ll”) has the same mission.

  • Love God, Love OTHERS, Lead Generations

–      MISSION: Colossians 1:28-29 “Christ in you is the hope of glory, Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”


God gathers his church for doctrine.

The New Testament letters are rich in theology. They show us the fulfillment and connection of OT prophecy through Jesus and its implications for the Church. The Apostolic writers emphasized the foundation of the gospel = justification by faith, grace alone, Christ alone.

Acts 2:42 “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ DOCTRINE and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers”

Romans 16:17 “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the DOCTRINE that you have been taught; avoid them”

Ephesians 4:14 “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of DOCTRINE, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes”

1 Timothy 6:3 “If anyone teaches a different DOCTRINE and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing…”

2 Timothy 4:3 “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound DOCTRINE, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit up their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth”

DOCTRINE is important. Christianity is not a general or vague sense of faith, mixed together with hope and good intentions. Some say, “As long as you believe in ‘God’ then that is all that matters.” NO! True faith must have a right object and content – that being Jesus Christ.  It is an essential and dynamic faith in one God, who is above all and jealous (demanding exclusivity) of other gods. Having right doctrine and believing truth is not for a select group of intellectual Christians but is a requirement for salvation of anyone.

DOCTRINE of salvation by faith not works is important in NT. Many Jews, and others, considered salvation as something they achieve than receive. OT Works of obedience to the Law or NT Legalism of achieving acceptance and forgiveness by God through mere obedience and good works for God is wrong.

C.J. Mahaney[1] says, Essentially, “Legalism claims the death of Jesus on the cross was either unnecessary or insufficient. It says to God, ‘Your plan didn’t work. The cross wasn’t enough and I need to add my good works to it to be saved.’”

Romans 3:21-25 “21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it– 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.”


Romans 5:18-21 “18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”


Ephesians 2:1-10

–          We are sinners deserving God’s wrath

–          We are saved by God’s mercy and grace in Jesus Christ

–          We are sanctified to good works in Jesus Christ

–          Right doctrine is head, heart and hands. It is information for transformation.


God gathers his church with gifts.

The NT churches gathered for worship & doctrine (instruction) and they scattered for mission. And in both gathering and scattering they served the needs of others. The Bible is clear that as every believer is filled with the Holy Spirit, likewise they each are gifted in various ways.

Spiritual Gift passages: Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4; 1 Peter 4

1 Peter 4:10 “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace”


1 Corinthians 12:4-7 “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”


ð      Gifts vs. Tasks: Everyone has a gift for specific function BUT there are certain tasks that everyone must do.

  • Everyone must care… (line: “other duties as requested”) specifics may vary, but what stands out?
  • Practice “shoulder tapping” to get others involved



ð      Art of writing letters for instruction, encouragement,

  • OCC box letters
  • Church… friends… etc.

ð      God is gathering His Church, are you connecting or spectating?

  • Bible is God’s love letter to you…

[1] The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing, p.25.


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