From the Church of God in Rome to the Church of God in Corinth, to you who are called and made holy by God’s will, through our Lord Jesus Christ. May the grace and peace of God Almighty be multiplied to you through Jesus Christ.
We apologize, but we’ve had so many problems here that we haven’t been able to answer your letter until now. We’ve read about the church split that has taken place among you. Every one of God’s chosen people hates to hear about such things. And we understand that a few arrogant people have made such a problem there that your church, a church worthy to be loved and respected by everyone, is now getting a bad name because of it. I say that you are worthy of love and respect because anyone who has ever been with you, for even a short time, has found your faith to be strong and full of goodness. They’ve noticed and admired how serious and self-controlled you were, how godly you were in Christ. They’ve complimented how welcoming you always were and how perfect your knowledge of God and His Word really was. You did everything in fairness and did not play favorites. You walked according to God’s commands and obeyed and honored those who rule over you as elders, as you should. You encouraged your young men to be serious. You taught your wives to do everything with a pure conscience, as they love their husbands and obey them, as is their duty, and to manage their houses properly and with good judgment.
More than that, you were all humble and willingly obeyed others instead of forcing other people to obey you. You were more willing to give than to receive. You were happy with what God had given you and you carefully obeyed His words, taking His teaching to heart, and you always remembered His suffering too. So God gave you all a deep and abundant peace and an insatiable desire to do good, as He poured the Holy Spirit out on all of you. In true sincerity and in godly confidence, you stretched your hands out to God Almighty and begged Him to be merciful to you if you had been guilty of any involuntary sin. You prayed day and night that the whole brotherhood, every member of God’s chosen people, would be saved by His mercy and would keep their consciences clean. You were sincere and without sin and were quick to forget any offense that you gave each other. Every kind of church split sounded horrible to you. You mourned over the sins of your neighbors as if you had been the one to sin. You never failed to do any act of kindness that you could and were “ready to do every good work” [Titus 3:1]. Decorated by a thoroughly good and religious life, you did everything in the fear of God and the Lord’s commands were written on your hearts.
God gave you every kind of honor and blessing. The prophecy, “The one I loved ate and drank and became fat and kicked,” [Deuteronomy 32:15] was fulfilled in you. But because of these blessings, some people started wanting to be like other people and were jealous of them. You started fighting and splitting….The worthless rose up against the honorable, those of no reputation against those who were respected, the foolish against the wise, the young against the old. So now righteousness and peace have left you since everyone has abandoned the fear of God and has become blind in their faith. You’re not fulfilling the duties of your position or even acting like a Christian. You’re just doing whatever your own wicked lusts want you to do and are becoming jealous again. It was jealousy that allowed death itself to enter into the world.
As it is written, “And it happened after a certain amount of time that Cain brought some of the produce of the earth as a sacrifice to God and Abel brought some of the firstborn of his sheep and their fat. God respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his sacrifices. So Cain was grieved and his face was downcast. And God said to Cain, ‘Why are you grieved and why is your face downcast? If you make your offering correctly, I will be happy with you. But if you do not divide your sacrifice rightly, have you not sinned? Be at peace. Your offering comes back to you and it will again be yours.’ But Cain said to his brother, Abel, ‘Let us go into the field.’ And it happened that while they were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and killed him.” You see, brothers, how envy and jealousy led to the murder of a brother. Also because of envy, our father, Jacob, had to flee from his brother, Esau. And the envy of Joseph’s brothers caused them to persecute him almost to death and to be put in slavery. Envy made Moses run away from Pharaoh, King of Egypt, when he heard one of his fellow country-man say, “Who made you a judge or ruler over us? Will you kill me like you killed the Egyptian yesterday?” Because of their envy, Aaron and Miriam had to live for a time outside the camp. Because they were envious, Dathan and Abiram were buried alive after the rebellion they incited against God’s servant, Moses. Because of envy, foreigners hated David, and Saul, King of Israel, persecuted him.
But rather than dwelling on these ancient examples, let us use more modern spiritual heroes. Let’s take some of the notable examples from our own generation. Because others were envious and jealous of them, some of the greatest and most righteous pillars of the Church have been persecuted and put to death. Take the Apostles. Peter, because of others’ unrighteous envy, went through not one or two, but numerous occasions of persecution, and when he was finally martyred, he departed to the place of glory that was due to him. Because of others’ envy, Paul, after being thrown into jail seven times, being forced to run for his life, and being stoned, also gained the reward due to those who endure suffering with patience. After having preached in both the east and the west, he gained the famous reputation his faith deserved. Having taught the way of righteousness to the whole world and having come as far west as he could, he suffered martyrdom under the authorities here. So was he removed from the world, and went into the holy place, having proven himself to be a striking example of patience.
In addition to these men who spent their lives in the practice of holiness, we can also add a great number of God’s chosen people, who, having because of others’ envy endured many insults and forms of torture, provided us with a most excellent example. Because of others’ envy, those women, the Danaids and Dircae, were persecuted and after they suffered terrible and unspeakable torture, finished the course of their faith unfalteringly and, though weak in body, received a noble reward. Envy has alienated wives from their husbands and changed that saying of our father Adam, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” [Genesis 2:23]. Envy has been the underlying reason behind the overthrow of many great cities and the rooting up of mighty nations.
We write these things to you, my loved ones, not just to remind you of your duty, but also to remind ourselves. For we are struggling in the same area and the same troubles have come to both of us. So let’s stop worrying about useless matters and come closer to living out our holy calling. Let us focus on doing what is good, pleasing, and acceptable to the God who made us. Let us focus solely on the blood of Christ and think how precious that blood is to God. It is the blood that has been shed for our salvation and has offered grace to the whole world. Looking back to every generation that has gone before us, we can see that the Lord has always offered people a chance to repent of their sins and come to Him. Noah preached that the people of his day should repent and whoever listened to his message was saved. Jonah warned that the Ninevites were going to be destroyed, but they repented and prayed and were saved, even though they weren’t a part of God’s covenant with Israel.
God’s ministers have spoken through the Holy Spirit about repentance and the Lord of all things has Himself sworn, “As I live, says the Lord, I do not want any sinner to die, but for them to come to repentance” [Ezekiel 33:11]. And, “Repent of your sins, O house of Israel. Say to the children of My people, ‘Though your sins reach from the earth to the sky, and they appear redder than scarlet and blacker than funeral clothes, yet if you turn to Me with your whole heart and say, “Father!”, I will listen to you as if you were a holy people’” [unknown reference]. And in another place, He says, “Wash yourselves and become clean. Get the wickedness out of your souls. I hate looking at it. Stop your evil ways and learn to do good. Pursue justice, rescue the oppressed, help the orphans, and see that you are being fair to the widows, and come let us talk this through. Though your sins are like crimson, I will make you as white as snow. Though they are like scarlet, I will make you as white as wool. And if you willingly obey Me, you will eat the best crops that the land can produce. But if you refuse to obey Me and will not listen to Me, then the sword will eat your flesh, for the Lord Himself has spoken all this” [Isaiah 1:16-20] God, in His almighty will, has said all this because He loves us and wants us to repent.
So let us willingly obey His excellent and glorious will for our lives. Let us ask Him for His mercy and His patience and stop worrying about these things that don’t matter. Let’s stop fighting and being jealous of each other. That just leads to death. Instead, let’s think about those people who have served Him perfectly. Take Enoch for instance, who, having been righteous and obedient to God, was taken to Heaven without dying. And Noah, being a faithful man, preached the way of new birth and was used by God to save the animals that came to him in the ark.
Abraham, called the “friend of God”, proved himself to be a faithful person when he obeyed God. In obedience, he left his own country and his own people and his father’s family so that, by leaving behind a small piece of land and a weak family and an insignificant inheritance, he could inherit the promises of God. [Clement quotes Genesis 12:1-3 and 13:14-16]. And again, the Scripture says, “God took Abram out into the field and spoke to him. ‘Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. So will your descendants be. And Abram believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness” [Genesis 15:5-6]. Because he had faith and was welcoming to the guests, God gave Abraham a son when Abraham was very old. And in obedience, Abraham offered that son as a sacrifice to God on the mountain where God told him to go.
Because Lot welcomed his guests and was a godly man, God saved him from Sodom when He punished the whole area with fire and brimstone. By saving Lot, the Lord showed that He does not abandon those who put their hope in Him, but does punish those who leave Him. This was shown when Lot’s wife, who having left with Lot, decided not to obey the command they were given and was made an example of by being turned into a pillar of salt. God did this so that everyone will know that people who change their minds and do not trust in God’s power will only bring judgment down on themselves and then serve as a warning to all those who come after them.
Rahab the prostitute was saved because of her faith and because she welcomed the spies when they came to her. When Joshua, the son of Nun, sent spies to Jericho, the king of Jericho learned that they were coming to spy on his land and sent guards to arrest them and put them to death. But Rahab hid them on the roof of her house under some piles of hay. Then when the guards came and said, “The king orders you to bring out the men who came here to spy,” she told them, “The two men you are looking for came here, but quickly left again and are gone.” So she did not hand the spies over to them. Then she said to the spies, “I know that the Lord your God will surely give you this city. Everyone living here has become afraid of you. So when you have conquered the city, keep me and my father’s family safe.” The spies answered, “We will. As soon as you see our army coming, bring your whole family here and we will make sure that they survive. But if any of them go outside this house while the battle is going on, they will die.” And they told her that she should hang a red ribbon out of her window to help their army know which house was hers [see Joshua chapter 2]. So that red ribbon became a foreshadowing that redemption would come from the blood of the Lord to everyone who believes and hopes in God. You see, my loved ones, that this woman had not only faith, but also prophesied.
So let’s be humble, brothers and sisters, and throw down all our pride and foolishness and anger. Let’s act in the way Scripture tells us to. The Holy Spirit says, “Don’t let the wise man be prideful of his wisdom, or the strong man be prideful of his strength, or the rich man be prideful of his wealth. But let him who is proud be proud in the Lord, in seeking after Him and doing everything in justice and righteousness” [Jeremiah 9:23-24]. We should especially remember what the Lord Jesus said in teaching us about humility and patience. He said, “Be merciful so that you may receive mercy. Forgive so that you may be forgiven. What you do will be done to you. As you judge, you will be judged and as you are kind, kindness will be shown to you. The way that you measure others will be the way that you are measured” [Luke 6:36-38]. Let us stand firm in these rules and make them our foundation in life so that we will walk in all humility as we obey His holy words. The holy Word says, “On whom will I look, but on the person who is humble and peaceful and who trembles at my words?” [Isaiah 66:2].
So it is right and holy, brothers and sisters, to obey God rather than those who, through pride and rebellion, have become the leaders of their own group. We will put ourselves in a lot of danger if we blindly give in to people who like to pick fights and lead us away what from what is good. Let’s be kind to one another, just as our Creator is kind to us. The Scriptures say, “The kind in heart will live in the land and those who are blameless will be left in it. But sinners will be destroyed and will not be in the land” [Proverbs 2:21-22]. And, “I saw the ungodly lifted up, lifted up as high as the trees in Lebanon. But then I walked by and the ungodly was gone. I looked for him and couldn’t find him. Keep your innocence and be fair, for everything that is left will go to the man who is peaceful” [Psalm 37:35-37].
So let’s join those people who work to produce peace and godliness, and not those hypocrites who only say that they want peace. The Scriptures say, “These people honor Me with their words, but their hearts are far from Me” [Isaiah 29:13]. [Clement quotes Psalm 62:4; 78:36-37; 31:18; and 12:3-5].
Christ is with those people who are humble, and not those who pridefully lift themselves above His flock. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Sceptre of God’s majesty, did not come in pride or arrogance (though He certainly had right to do so if He wanted), but humbly and in low circumstances, as the Holy Spirit had prophesied. For the Spirit said, “Lord, who has believed our message, and to who has the arm of the Lord been revealed? We have declared our message in His presence. He was as a child and like a root in dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty that we saw in Him. And He wasn’t handsome, but was ugly. In fact, He was uglier than most men are. He is a man who endured whippings and suffering and was familiar with grief because He was rejected and hated. He bore our sins. He was in grief for our sakes. But we thought that it was because of His own sin that He was whipped and had to go through hardship. But He was wounded for our sins, bruised for our sins. The punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His whipping-stripes, we were healed. We have all wandered off like sheep. Everyone of us has wandered off in his own direction. And the Lord has given Him for our sins, while He, through all His suffering, did not open His mouth. He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so He did not open His mouth. Through His humiliation, His condemnation was taken away. Who will speak of His descendants? His life was taken from the earth. For the sins of my people, He was brought down to death. I will set the wicked and the rich free because of His death, because He committed no sin and no lie ever came from His mouth. And the Lord is happy to free Him from His whipping-stripes. If someone makes an offering for sin, their soul will see many descendants. And the Lord is happy to take away the suffering of His soul, to show Him the light, and to fill Him with wisdom in order to justify the Righteous One who served the needs of many and carried their sins Himself. Because He did this, He will inherit many people and will take His property from the strong because His soul was given over to death and He was counted among the sinners. He bore the sins of many and for their sins He was given to death” [Isaiah 53]. [Clement quotes Psalm 22:6-8]. You see, my loved ones, the example that has been given to us. If the Lord humbled Himself like that, humbled Himself enough to suffer like that, what else can we do, we who have come to God’s grace through Him?
So let us follow the example of those people who wore goat-skins and sheep-skins and went around preaching about Christ’s coming. I’m talking about the prophets Elijah, Elisha, and Ezekiel, as well as everyone else in the Scripture who was like them. Abraham was an especially important man and was called the friend of God, but when he saw God’s glory, he humbly said, “I am only dust and ashes” [Genesis 18:27]. More than that, it says that, “Job was a righteous man. He was blameless, truthful, and feared God. He kept himself away from every form of evil” [Job 1:1]. But then, accusing himself, he said, “No man is totally clean, even if he only lives for one day” [Job 14:4-5]. Moses was called faithful in all God’s house and through him, God punished all of Egypt with the plagues. But even he, as important as he was, did not speak arrogantly when God spoke to him out of the bush. Instead he said, “Who am I that you are sending me? I have a soft voice and speak slowly” [Exodus 3:11]. And he said, “I am only a puff of steam coming off the pot” [unknown reference].
And about David, God said, “I have found a man after my own heart. He is David, the son of Jesse. And in my eternal mercy, I have anointed him” [no exact reference]. Yet this very man said to God, “Have mercy on me, oh Lord, according to your great mercy, and according to the greatness of your compassion, erase my sin…Wash me and cleanse me from my sin. I acknowledge my sin and it is always in front of me. Against you only have I sinned, and done what is evil in Your eyes, so that You may be justified in what You have said, and may triumph when You judge. See, I was conceived in sin. See, You have loved truth. You have shown me secret and hidden wisdom. You will sprinkle me with hyssop and I will be clean. You will wash me and I will be whiter than snow. You will make me hear the sounds of joy and gladness. Even my bones, which have been humbled, will exult inside me. Turn Your eyes away from my sins and erase them. Create a clean heart in me, oh God, and renew my spirit in righteousness. Don’t throw me away from You, and don’t take Your Holy Spirit away from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and let me stand firm in Your guiding Spirit. I will teach sinners Your ways and the ungodly will turn to You. Save me from my guilty, bloody hands. Oh God, the God of my salvation, my tongue will praise Your righteousness. Oh Lord, You will open my mouth and my lips will praise You. If you had wanted animal sacrifices, I would have given them to You. But burnt offerings aren’t what make You happy. What God wants is a broken spirit. God respects a broken and repentant heart” [Psalm 51:1-17].
The humble and godly way in which these great men have submitted themselves to God has given us an example to follow. So, having been given so many great examples, let us turn our attention again to the subject of peace. Let us always look to the Father and Creator of the universe, and let us hold on to the great gift of peace that He has given us. Let us think about Him and the patience He shows us. Let us think about the fact that He never acts in anger toward His creation.
The skies, rotating under His control, obey Him in peace. Day and night come at the times He set for them and in no way interfere with one another. The sun and the moon, and the stars keep rolling in their orbits, without any change, according to His command. According to God’s will, the earth produces a large amount of food, always at the proper time, for people and animals and everything that lives. The places that people can’t go, like deep down into the earth, are also peacefully under God’s control. The huge oceans, which He has gathered together into lakes and seas, never spread out further than the boundaries He has given them, but do only as He has commanded. God said, “This far will you come and your waves will break within those limits” [Job 38:11]. The ocean, which people cannot cross, and the lands that lie on the other side also operate according to God’s rules. The seasons; spring, summer, autumn, and winter, peacefully follow one after the other. The wind, blowing from the various places that it does, always does its job at the proper time. The water springs, made both for our enjoyment and health, never stop flowing. The very smallest of animals meet each other in peace. All of this our great Creator and Lord has made to exist in peace. He does good to all, but most especially to those people who have come to Him through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be glory and majesty forever and ever, amen.
So pay attention, beloved, or else His kindness will lead us to our damnation. Because we will be damned unless we behave in a way worthy of Him and, in agreement with one another, do those things that are good and pleasing to Him. The Scripture says, “The Spirit of the Lord is a light, inspecting every part of the heart” [Proverbs 20:27]. So let us think about how close to us He really is and that none of our thoughts are ever hidden from Him. The right thing to do is to not leave the position that He’s given us. It would be better to offend those men who are foolish and inconsiderate and arrogant and who like to hear themselves talk, than to offend God and give up our position as leaders in the Church. Let us respect the Lord Jesus, whose blood was given for us. Let us respect those who rule over us. Let us respect the elders of the Church. Let us train the young men to fear God. Let us teach our wives to do what is good. Let them be pure in everything that they do. Let them be sincerely humble. Let them always control their tongue and be silent when it is appropriate. Let them love not only their own best friends, but everyone who fears God equally. Train your children to be true Christians. Teach them how important humility is to God, and how much loving Him can do for them. Teach them that they should fear God, and about how He saves everyone who turns to Him and fears Him. He searches all of our thoughts and desires. It is His breath that is in us and when He wants to, He will take it away.
Our faith in Christ confirms all this because He Himself says to us through the Holy Spirit, “Come, children, listen to Me. I will teach you the fear of the Lord…Who wants long life and loves to see good days come? Keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from lying. Walk away from evil and do good. Seek peace and pursue it. The Lord pays attention to the righteous and He listens to their prayers. The Lord turns away from those people who do evil and destroys even the memory of them. The righteous person cried out and the Lord heard them and saved them from their troubles” [Psalm 34:11-17]. “The wicked will be beaten with many blows, but mercy will surround those who hope in the Lord” [Psalm 32:10].
The all-merciful and kind Father has a heart full of compassion toward those who fear Him. He kindly and lovingly gives His gifts to those who come to Him with a pure mind. So let us not doubt His great gifts to us. Let’s not be like the verse that says, “Miserable are they who are double-minded and have a doubting heart, who say, ‘We’ve heard about these things since our parents were young, but look, we’re old now, and still nothing has happened.’ You foolish people! Think about a plant. The grapevine, for instance, sheds its leaves first. Then it buds. Next it grows new leaves and then blooms. After that come the sour grapes, which then turn into ripe fruit. You can see how quickly the fruit ripens. I tell you the truth, This will be accomplished soon and it will happen suddenly” [see James 1:8 and 2 Peter 3:3-4]. As the Scripture also says, “He will come quickly and will not wait” [Habakkuk 2:3]. And, “The Lord will suddenly come to His temple, the Holy One for whom you are looking” [Malachi 3:1].
Let’s think, beloved, about how the Lord is always proving to us that there will be a future resurrection. He has made the Lord Jesus the first part of the resurrection by raising Him from the dead. Think, my loved ones, about the little resurrections that are happening all the time. Day and night are a sign of resurrection. The night goes to sleep and the day awakes. The day leaves and the night comes. Or think about how grain is planted. The farmer goes out and throws the seed on the ground. The scattered seed, though dry and unshelled when it was planted, is raised up again by the mighty power of the Lord, and from one seed comes a whole plant that produces fruit with more seeds in it.
Or think about that amazing symbol of the resurrection that takes places in the eastern countries of Arabia. There is a bird called a phoenix. It is the only one of its kind and it lives five hundred years. When it is about to die, it builds itself a nest out of frankincense and myrrh and other spices. Then it goes into the nest and dies. But as its body begins to decay, a certain kind of worm grows out of its body and, eating the dead bird, starts to grow feathers and turns into a phoenix. Then, when it is old enough, the new phoenix flies and carries the nest, with the bones of the dead phoenix inside it, out of Arabia and to the Egyptian city of Heliopolis. Then, in broad daylight and right in front of everyone, the new phoenix places the nest on the altar of the sun and then flies back to Arabia. When the priests check their records, they confirm that this new phoenix has returned exactly five hundred years, to the day, since the last one.
Is it so unbelievable, then, that God would bring back to life those people who have faithfully served Him? He shows His power to fulfill His promise even through this bird! The Scripture says, “You will raise me up and I will praise You” [unknown reference]. And, “I laid down and slept. I woke up because You are with me” [unknown reference]. And Job says, “You will raise this body of mine, which has suffered all these things” [Job 19:26].
Since we have this hope of resurrection, let us tie our souls to Him who fulfills all His promises and is fair in all His judgments. He who commanded us not to lie will not lie Himself. God can do anything except lie. Let us renew our faith in Him and let us remember that all things are easy for Him. By His powerful word, He created all things and by His word He can destroy them. “Who will say to Him, ‘What have you done?’ Or who can stand up against His power?”[see Job 9:12 and Daniel 4:35]. When He decides to do something, He will do it and nothing He has decided can be changed. He sees and knows everything. Nothing is hidden from Him. “The skies show the glory and skill of God. Day after day and night after night they proclaim His wisdom, even though they have no voice” [Psalm 19:1-3].
So since God sees and hears everything, we should fear Him and abandon all our sin. Those things come from evil desires. If we abandon them, God’s mercy will protect us from the coming judgment. Where can we run to escape His powerful hand? What world can we go to? The Scripture says, “Where can I go and where can I hide from You? If I go up to heaven, You’re right there. If I go far away from here, even to the most extreme places on earth, You’re there too” [Psalm 139:7-10]. So where can anyone go to escape the One who knows everything?
Let us come to Him with a holy spirit, lifting up pure and clean hands to Him, and let us love our gracious and merciful Father, who has made us a part of His chosen people. It is written, “When the Most High divided the nations, when He scattered Adam’s descendants, He decided that the number of the nations would be the same as the number of His angels. His people, Jacob, became the Lord’s portion. Israel was His inheritance” [Deuteronomy 32:8-9]. The Scripture also says, “Look, the Lord is taking a nation for Himself out of the midst of the nations, just as a man chooses what he wants from the crops. And from the nation the Lord has chosen will come the Most Holy” [unknown reference].
Since we see then, that we are the portion of the Holy One, let us do everything in holiness. Let us avoid speaking sinfully, sinful sexual acts, being drunk, sinful desires, adultery, and pride. The Scripture says, “God is against the proud, but is graceful toward the humble” [Proverbs 3:34]. So let us cling to those people God has been graceful to. Let us be agreeable and humble. Let’s always be self-controlled and keeping far away from gossiping and sinful talk. And let us show what kind of people we are by our actions, rather than our words. The Scripture says, “The person who talks a lot will have to listen to a lot. Does the one who talks so much think he is righteous? Blessed is the one who is born and lives for only a short time. Do not talk too much” [see Job 11:2-3]. Let us praise God and not ourselves. God hates those who compliment themselves. Let others talk about the good things we do, just as our righteous ancestors did. Bragging and being arrogant and loud are things that people who are cursed by God do. Those who are humble are blessed by God.
So let us hold on to His blessing and think about what we can do to get His blessing. Think about what happened at the very beginning. Why did God bless our ancestor, Abraham? Wasn’t it because he was made righteous because of his faith? And Isaac knew what was going to happen, but he voluntarily allowed himself to be sacrificed. Jacob, since he was running away from his brother, humbly left his own land and went to work for Laban. There God made him the first ruler of the twelve tribes of Israel.
If you think about it, you’ll see how many gifts God has given us through Jacob. All the priests and Levites that serve at God’s altar came from Jacob. Even our Lord Jesus Christ was a descendant of Jacob in His physical body. Kings, princes, and rulers of Judah came from Jacob and the other tribes that came from him have their own things to be proud of. God promised Abraham, “Your descendants will be like the stars of the sky” [Genesis 22:17]. All of the tribes were respected and made great not for their own sake, or for what the people themselves did, or for how righteous they were, but through God’s action. So also, we who have been called by God in Christ Jesus, are not saved because of who we are, or because of how smart or wise we are, or because of the good and holy things we’ve done, but because we have had faith. It is through that faith that, from the beginning, the Almighty God has saved people. Glory be to Him forever and ever, amen.
So what should we do, brothers and sisters? Should we become lazy in doing good? Should we stop showing love to others? God forbid that we should do anything of the kind! Instead, let us be quick and energetic to do every good deed. The Creator and Lord of all rejoices in what He does. By His infinite power and unending wisdom He created the skies and decorated them. He also lifted the land from the water that surrounds it and set it in its place by the power of His own will. He spoke the land animals into existence. Before that, He formed the sea and the creatures living in it in the same way and set the oceans’ limits by His own power. Above all, with His own holy hands, He formed man, the greatest of His creatures – great because man was given so much more understanding – and made him in His own likeness and image. God said, “‘Let us make humans in Our image and in Our likeness.’ So God made humanity. Male and female He created them” [Genesis 1:26-27]. Then, when He had finished creating them, God gave them His approval and blessed them, saying, “Increase and multiply” [Genesis 1:28]. So we see that all righteous persons have done good deeds and how the Lord also does good deeds and rejoices in them. Since this is our example, let us hurry to give ourselves to His will and to do whatever righteous acts we can with our full effort behind them.
The worker who does what he’s supposed to receives his pay with full confidence. The lazy worker can’t even look his boss in the eyes. So it is necessary that we do good deeds as soon as we can since God knows everything. He even warns us ahead of time when He says, “Look, the Lord is coming and He is bringing the reward with Him. He will reward everyone according to what they have done” [Isaiah 40:10]. So He warns us not to be lazy when it comes to doing good things. Let our pride and confidence be in Him. Let us bow to His will. Think about all the angels who are always ready to do whatever He asks them. The Scripture says, “Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him, and thousands of thousands served Him and cried, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts. The whole earth is full of His glory’” [see Daniel 7:10 and Isaiah 6:3]. So let us gather together in peace and cry out to Him with one voice so that we might be a part of the people who will participate in His great and glorious promises. The Scripture says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has imagined, the things God has planned for those who love Him” [Isaiah 64:4].
My loved ones, the gifts of God are amazing! Eternal life, glory in righteousness, truth in total freedom, faith in complete confidence, self-control in holiness! And we understand all these things now. So think how much better the things will be that God has planned for those who love Him! Our most holy Father and Creator of the universe is the only one who knows what those things will be. So let us do everything we can to make sure we are a part of the people who love Him so that we can receive the gifts He’s promised us. How can we make sure we are a part of that people, my loved ones? By focusing our thoughts on God and having faith in Him. By putting everything we have into doing the things that please Him. And by following the way of truth, throwing away from us all sin – jealousy, arguing, doing evil things, lying, starting rumors and speaking sinfully, hating God, being prideful, and seeking our own glory. God hates anyone who does those things. And He also hates anyone who approves of the people who do them. The Scripture says, “God said to the sinner, ‘Why do you preach My commands and speak about My covenant, when I can see that You hate to be taught and you throw My words behind your back? When you saw a thief, you went along with him and joined in with the adulterers. You have spoken very sinfully and your tongue has told lies. You sit and talk against your brother. You talk against your own mother’s son. You have done these things and I didn’t say anything. You thought, you sinful person, that I was like you. But I will correct you and show you your sins. Think about these things, you who have forgotten about God, or I will tear you into pieces like a lion and there will be no one to save you. If you praise Me, you will glorify Me and I will show you the salvation of God’” [Psalm 50:16-23].
My loved ones, we find salvation through Jesus Christ, our High Priest, defender, and helper. It is through Him that we look up to the heights of Heaven. By looking at Him, we see God’s perfect image. Through Him, the eyes of our hearts are opened. Through Him, our foolish understanding of things is changed and enlightened. It is through Him that the Lord has decided to give us immortality. He is so much more majestic than the angels, and has therefore inherited a better title than them. As it is written, “‘He makes His angels to be spirits and His ministers a flame of fire.’ But to the Son, the Lord said, ‘You are my Son. Today I have become Your Father. Ask Me and I will give You the Gentiles for Your inheritance and the ends of the earth for Your possession.’ He also said to Him, ‘Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies Your footstool’” [see Hebrews 1:4-5, 13; and Psalm 2:7-8]. But who are Christ’s enemies? Christ’s enemies are everyone who keeps sinning and refuse to do God’s will.
So, brothers and sisters, let us act like good soldiers, following God’s holy commandments. Let us think about how our generals always humbly obey whatever God commands them to do. Not everyone is a commander or a lieutenant or a sergeant, but everyone, in whatever rank they hold, does what the king and generals command them to do. The leaders can’t do anything without the regular men and the regular men can’t do anything if they don’t have any leaders. You need to have a good mix and then everyone benefits. Take the body for an example. The head is nothing without the feet and the feet are nothing without the head. Yes, even the smallest parts of our body are necessary and useful to the whole body. But every part has to work together peacefully, under the direction of the head, for the body to survive.
So let our whole body live in Christ and let everyone be humble toward everyone else, according to the spiritual gifts that God has given them. Let the strong not look down on the weak, and let the weak respect the strong. Let the rich man make sure the poor has everything they need, and let the poor man praise God for giving him the rich man to help him. Let the wise man show how wise he is not just by his word, but also by the good that he does. Let the humble person not brag about themselves, but let others do the bragging for them. Let them that are sexually pure not be proud of themselves, but remember that it was God who gave them the strength to stay that way. Let us think, brothers and sisters, about who we are and how we were born. We came out of what was like a grave and out of darkness. God made us and prepared His gifts for us before we were even born. Since He was the one who gave us all these things, we should thank Him for everything that we have. To Him be the glory forever and ever, amen.
Foolish people make fun of us because they want to lift themselves up. But what can mortal people do? Or how strong can someone made out of dust be? As it is written, “A form came and stood before me. I couldn’t tell its shape, but I heard it whisper, saying, ‘What? Can a person be pure in God’s eyes? Or is a person to be counted as blameless if God has not even confided in His servants and has even found sin in the angels? Heaven is not clean in God’s sight so how can a person who lives in clay houses be clean? We are also made of clay ourselves! God kills us as easily as a moth and we do not last even from the morning until the evening. Since the people couldn’t help themselves, they died. He breathed on them and they died because they had no wisdom. But call out, if you think anyone will answer you, or if you will look to any of the holy angels. Anger destroys the foolish person, and envy kills the person who is in the wrong. I have seen the foolish taking root, but their home was soon destroyed. Let their sons not be safe. Let them be looked down on outside the gates of people who are worse than they are, and there will be no one to save them. The righteous people will eat the food made for the wicked and the wicked will not be saved from evil’” [Job 4:9-5:5].
Since He has shown us these things and revealed what He wants of us, it would be good for us to do everything that the Lord has commanded us to do at the proper times. He has commanded us to give offerings and to serve Him, not just at any time, but at the times He has set. He’s even told us where these things are to be done and who is supposed to do them. He’s told us this so that when we do it, it will be done in a way that pleases Him. So those people who bring their offerings to Him at the times He set are accepted and blessed by Him since they are following the Lord’s commands and not sinning. God has given the high priest and the priests and Levites their own special positions in serving Him and the people who are not priests should not pretend that they are. They have to follow the rules that God has given them in their position.
Every one of you, brothers and sisters, should live for God in the position that He has given you and not try to go beyond that. The sacrifices aren’t offered everywhere, brothers and sisters, but only in Jerusalem. And even in Jerusalem they’re not offered just anywhere, but only at the altar in the Temple and only after it has been approved by the high priest and his fellow officials. Anyone who goes beyond God’s will in this is punished with the death-penalty. So you see that the more knowledge and the more commands that God has given us, the more danger we are in.
The Apostles preached the Gospel to us because the Lord Jesus Christ commanded them to. Jesus Christ preached because He was commanded to by God. So Christ was sent by God and the Apostles were sent by Christ. Both were sent by the proper authorities over them, according to God’s will. So the Apostles, having been given their orders from Jesus and being confident in their knowledge of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in their understanding of the Word of God, and in the strength of the Holy Spirit, went out and proclaimed that the Kingdom of God had come. Preaching throughout the countries and the cities, they assigned their first followers, having first tested them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons for the people who would come to believe after them. This wasn’t anything new since the Scripture spoke about bishops and deacons many years before that. The Scripture says, “I will assign their bishops in righteousness and their deacons in faith” [see Isaiah 60:17].
It shouldn’t be any wonder to us that God gave those Apostles of Christ the duty to assign the leaders under them. Moses, called “a faithful servant in all God’s house” [Numbers 12:7], wrote down in Scripture all the instructions that God gave him, and when other prophets came after him, they agreed that what he had written was true. When some Israelites wanted to be priests and the tribes were arguing among themselves about which tribe should be the priestly tribe, Moses ordered the twelve leaders of the tribes to bring him their staves, each staff with the name of that leader’s tribe written on it. Then Moses took the staves and tied them together. He sealed them with the signet rings of each of the twelve leaders and laid them in the Tabernacle on the table. He shut the Tabernacle’s doors, locked them, sealed the keys just like he did with the staves, and said, “Men and brothers, the rod of the tribe that blossoms is the tribe that God has chosen to be the priestly tribe and to serve Him.” The next morning, Moses called Israel to gather before him, six hundred thousand men. He showed them that the keys were still sealed and then opened the Tabernacle and brought out the staves. Aaron’s staff was the only one that had blossomed. And not only had it blossomed, but it had grown fruit! [see Numbers 17]. So what do you think, my loved ones? Did Moses know beforehand that it would be Aaron’s staff that would bloom? Of course he did. But he did all this so that there would no splits in Israel and so that God’s name, the only and true God, would be glorified. To Him be the glory forever and ever, amen.
The Apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that people would fight over who the leaders should be. So, with the perfect foresight that they had been given, they assigned the leaders as we have already said, and left instructions for other appropriate men to take their positions when they died. So we believe that the men the Apostles assigned, or the men assigned later by other leaders with the approval of the whole Church, and who have blamelessly served Christ’s flock in a humble and peaceful spirit, and who have been held in high regard for such a long time, cannot be kicked out of their positions for no reason. It would be a very large sin if we removed these leaders who have fulfilled their duties blamelessly and in all holiness. Those elders who have already finished their course and departed from this world for Heaven truly are blessed because now they don’t have to be afraid of anyone taking away the position that God has given them. But we see that you have kicked some excellent men out of their positions, the positions that they held blamelessly and honorably.
You like to fight, brothers and sisters, and get all worked up about things that don’t have any effect on our salvation. If you study the Scriptures carefully, which are the true words of the Holy Spirit, you’ll see that there is nothing false in them. The Scripture never talks about the righteous being kicked out by other holy and righteous men. The righteous were persecuted, surely, but only by the wicked. The righteous were thrown into prison, but only by people who were unholy. They were stoned, but only by sinners. They were killed, but only by those who still stand under God’s curse and were envious of them. When the righteous were made to go through all these things, they endured them gloriously. What shall we say, brothers and sisters? Was Daniel thrown into the lion’s den by people who feared God? Was Ananias, Azarias, and Michael thrown into the fiery furnace by those who worshipped the Most High? Of course not! So who did those things to them? Those who are full of hate and all kinds of wickedness. They tortured those who served God blamelessly and in holiness. But they didn’t know that the Most High is the defender and the protector of those who serve His most excellent Name with a pure conscience. To Him be glory forever and ever, amen. And those who confidently endured all these things have now inherited from Him glory and honor and He has lifted up their memory as an example for us to follow forever and ever, amen.
We should hold on to these examples, brothers and sisters. As it is written, “Hold on to the saints, for they who hold on to them will be made holy” [unknown reference]. And in another place, it says, “With the blameless person You will be blameless, and with the chosen You will be chosen, and with the wicked You will deal wickedly” [see Psalm 18:25-26]. So let us hold on to the blameless and the righteous, those people who have been chosen by God. Why are there arguments and fights and splits among you? Don’t we have one God and one Christ and one Spirit of grace that was given to all of us? Haven’t we all been called to Christ? So why do we tear down the members of Christ and stir up splits in our own body? How have we become so foolish as to forget that we are members of one another? Remember what Jesus our Lord said. “Woe to that person. It would be better for them if they had not been born rather than to sin against one of My chosen ones. It would be better for them to have a millstone hung around their neck and to be thrown into the sea than to cause one of My chosen ones to sin” [see Matthew 18:6 and 26:24]. Your church split has caused many to sin. It has caused many to despair, many to doubt, and everyone to be saddened. And your rebellion is still going on.
Read what the blessed Apostle Paul wrote to you. What did he tell you in the beginning of his letter? He corrected you in the Spirit concerning himself and Cephas and Apollos because even then you had divided into different parties. But even that division caused less sin among you than this one. At least then you were dividing up and following highly reputed Apostles and a man who had been approved by them. But now look at who has caused you to sin. Look at who has sidetracked you away from your love for the true Church. Your love was glorious and famous. It is shameful, my dearly loved ones, utterly shameful and unworthy of your behavior in Christ that we should hear that the very faithful and ancient church of the Corinthians has rebelled against their elders because of one or two people. Not only have we heard this, but the non-Christians have heard about it. Because of your sin, people are speaking even more against the Name of the Lord. More than that, you are creating danger for yourselves.
So let us get down and dig this problem out as quickly as possible. Let us fall down before the Master and beg Him with tears to forgive and restore us to the pure life that shows a proper love for the Church. If we ask for His forgiveness, it will be like a gate to righteousness for us, opening up our way to life. As it is written, “Open for me the gates of righteousness so that I may enter in and praise the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord. The righteous will enter in through it” [Psalm 118:19-20]. Many gates are opened, but this is the gate of righteousness, the gate that is Christ. Everyone who enters through that gate and who walks in holiness and righteousness are blessed. Let a person be faithful and able to explain deep things. Let them be wise and have good judgment. Let them work hard in doing good deeds. Let them be pure. But let them even more be a person who is humble and who seeks the good of all rather than just their own good.
Let the person who loves Christ do what Christ commanded. Who can tell how strong God’s love is that binds us together? Who can tell how majestic and beautiful it is? No one can tell how high that kind of love is. Love joins us to God. “Love covers many sins” [1 Peter 4:8]. Love endures everything. Love is patient through everything. There is nothing rude or arrogant in love. Love does not divide or split people up. Love does everything in peace. In love all the chosen people of God were made perfect. Without love, no one can please God. In love, the Master brought us to Himself. Because of the love that He had for us, Jesus Christ our Lord gave His blood for us, His flesh for our flesh, His life for our lives, by the will of God.
You see, my dearly loved ones, how great love is and how no one can tell how perfect it truly is. Who is good enough to love like that? Only those whom God makes to love like that. So let us ask Him for His mercy so that we will be blameless in love and standing far away from the fighting and divisions of people. All the generations of people from Adam until now have died, but the persons God made perfect in love are now living in the home of the Holy and they will be shown when the Kingdom of God comes. As it is written, “Hide in the inner room for a little while until My anger and My wrath passes and then I will remember a good day and will raise you from your graves” [see Isaiah 26:20]. We will be blessed, my dearly loved ones, if we obey God’s commands in the peace of love so that our sins may be forgiven through love. As it is written, “Blessed are they whose sins are forgiven and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the person to whom God will count no sin and who has no deception in their words” [Psalm 32:1-2]. This promise of blessing has been given to those whom God has chosen in Jesus Christ our Lord. To Him be the glory forever and ever, amen.
So let us ask God to forgive us for any sins that the enemy has tricked us into committing. Yes, and let the people who have set themselves up as the leaders of this split look to the source of our common hope. People who walk in the fear of the Lord and of love would rather go through suffering themselves than see other people go through it. They admit their own faults rather than break the peace that has been handed down to us by noble and righteous persons. It is better for a person to confess their sins than to harden their heart against God. The men who rebelled against Moses hardened their hearts and we’ve heard how they were judged. They fell down into the pit alive and now “death will be their shepherd” [Psalm 49:14]. Pharaoh, his army, and all their horses and chariots were drowned in the depths of the Red Sea for no other reason than that they hardened their hearts after all the signs and wonders that God did through Moses in Egypt.
The Master doesn’t need anything. He doesn’t want anything from anyone except for their confession. As David, God’s chosen, said, “I will confess to the Lord and it will please Him more than a young calf with horns and hoofs…” [Psalm 69:31-32]. [Clement quotes 50:14-15]. “The sacrifice that God will accept is a broken spirit” [Psalm 51:17].
You know, in fact you know very well, the sacred Scriptures, my dearly loved ones. You have studied the words of God. We write you these things in order to remind you of what you already know. When Moses went up on the mountain and spent forty days and forty nights fasting and humbling himself before God, God said to him, “Moses, Moses, go down quickly. My people, the people you led out of Egypt, have sinned. They have quickly sinned against your commands to them. They have made an idol.” And the Lord said to him, “I have told you that I have seen these people and look, they are a stubborn people. Let Me destroy them completely. I will erase their name from under the sky and I will make you, Moses, into a great nation and I will give you more descendants than there are Israelites right now.” But Moses said, “No, don’t destroy them, Lord. Forgive these people for their sin or else erase me from the book of the living as well” [see Exodus 32]. What love Moses had! What perfection! The servant was bold with his Master and asked that everyone be forgiven, or else demanded that he be erased with them.
So now, who among you is noble? Who has compassion? Who is filled with love? Let him say, “If I have caused any division, I will leave. I will go wherever you want and will do whatever you want. Just let the flock of Christ be at peace with its properly assigned elders.” The person who would do this would become famous in Christ. He would be welcomed by everyone, everywhere. “For the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” [Psalm 24:1]. This is what people have done, and will do, who live as citizens in God’s Kingdom. You will never regret doing the right thing for God.
We could even bring examples from among the Gentiles. Many kings and rulers have listened to prophets and sacrificed themselves to save their people when disease came to destroy their subjects. And many have voluntarily left their home towns in order to put an end to fighting. We know many Christians who have sold themselves into slavery and then used the money they received for selling themselves to buy others’ freedom. Or else they sell themselves and then use the money to buy other people food. Many women, by the strength of God’s grace, have done things as great as any man. When the city of Jerusalem was surrounded by the Assyrians, Judith asked the elders if she could go out to the Assyrian camp. She risked her life by going out there, but she did it because she loved her country and her people. And the Lord helped her to kill the Assyrian general, Holophernes. Esther, in perfect faith, also risked the same kind of danger in order to save the twelve tribes of Israel. She fasted and humbled herself in prayer to the all-seeing God, the eternal God. He saw her humble spirit and saved the people she was risking herself for.
So let us pray for those who are sinning. Let us pray that they become patient and humble, not so that they will give into us, but so that they will give into God’s will. Then God and all His people will think well of them. Let us accept correction and not be offended by it when it comes to us, my dearly loved ones. The correction that we give to one another is for each other’s good. It helps put us in line with God’s will. As the holy Word says, “The Lord has corrected me and not handed me over to death” [Psalm 118:18]. “God loves the one He corrects and He punishes all His children” [Proverbs 3:12]. “The righteous will correct me mercifully, but don’t let the mercy of sinners anoint my head” [see Psalm 141:5]. Again, He says, “Blessed is the one whom God corrects, and who does not refuse the correction of the Almighty. Because He causes pain and He restores again. He has destroyed, but His hands have healed. He will rescue you from trouble six times and no evil will touch you the seventh time. He will save you from death when there is famine and He will rescue you from the attacker’s sword in war. He will hide you from the insults of others and you won’t be afraid when evil comes toward you. You will laugh at the unrighteous and the wicked and you will not be afraid of wild animals. The wild animals will be a peace with you. Then you will know that your home will be at peace and the place of your sanctuary will not be moved. You will know that you will have many descendants and that your children will be as numerous as the grass of the field. You will die at your proper time, just as ripe corn is harvested in the proper season or as the pile on the threshing floor is gathered together just when it should be” [see Job 5:17-26]. You see, my dearly loved ones, how much the Master protects those whom He corrects. Because He is a kind Father, He corrects us so that we will gain mercy by listening to His correction.
So you who have started this rebellion, submit yourselves to the elders and accept their correction. Repent. Humble yourselves. Learn to submit and stop being arrogant. It is better for you to be considered unimportant in Christ’s flock and to have your name written on God’s list of life than to be a very important person, but to be cut off from Him. As the all virtuous Wisdom says, “…Because I called and you did not obey, and because I spoke and you did not listen, but instead paid no attention and disobeyed Me when I corrected you, I will laugh at your destruction…Evil people will look for Me but not find Me because they hated wisdom and refused to fear the Lord. They would not listen to My advice and laughed when I corrected them…” [Clement quotes the entirety of Proverbs 1:23-33.]
So let us be obedient to His most holy and glorious Name and so escape the punishment that Wisdom warned the disobedient against so long ago. Listen to what we’re saying and you won’t be sorry. As sure as God lives and as sure as Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit lives, in whom God’s chosen people place all their faith and hope, so will anyone who has obeyed God’s commands in humility and a good attitude, be listed among those who will be saved through Jesus Christ. Through Christ, glory is given to God forever and ever, amen.
But if anyone disobeys the message God is speaking through us, then simply let them understand that they are putting themselves in great danger with their sin. We, on the other hand, will be held guiltless and we will pray that the Creator of the universe will preserve the whole number of His chosen people throughout the world until the very end, through His beloved Son, Jesus Christ.…
…Lord, forgive us for our sins and shortcomings. Do not count all our sins against us, but cleanse us with Your truth and guide us to walk in holiness and righteousness and purity of heart and to do the things that are pleasing to You and to our rulers. Yes, Lord, make Your face shine on us. Shelter us with Your hand and save us from all our sins. Save us from those who hate us without reason. Let everyone on earth live in peace, just as You gave peace to our ancestors when they called to You, and let us live in obedience to Your most excellent Name as well as to our earthly rulers.
You, our Lord and Master, have given the rulers their power. Knowing this, we obey them in order to obey You. We pray that You give them health, peace, and stability in their reign. Guide their decisions so that they will do what is good and pleasing to You and gain Your favor. To You who alone are able to do this and even more, we praise You through the High Priest and guardian of our souls, Jesus Christ. Through Him, You will receive glory and majesty forever and ever, amen.
As far as our religion and living a life of holiness and righteousness is concerned, we have written you all that you need to know, brothers and sisters. We’ve talked about faith, repentance, what it means to have true love, self-control, and patience and we have answered every argument in order to remind you how to please God. So now stop being angry and hateful toward one another and strive to agree with each other in peace and love. Be gentle with each other, just as our ancestors, whom we’ve already talked about, were. They pleased God because they were humble toward Him and toward all people. We were happy to remind you of these things since we knew that we were writing to people who are faithful and worthy of respect, and who have carefully studied God’s Word.
So it is right for us to pay attention to so many and so great examples and submit to the leaders of our souls and stop this fighting. Then we will reach our goal of Heaven and will keep away from every sin. You will make me very happy if you obey the things we have written to you through the Holy Spirit and get rid of your anger and jealousy, and make peace. We are sending this letter with faithful and respectable men who have walked with Christ perfectly since they were young. They will be witnesses between you and us. We have sent them so that you will know that we still have every hope that you will make peace among yourselves very quickly.
Finally, may the All-seeing God and Master of all, who chose the Lord Jesus Christ and chose us through Him to be His own special people, grant everyone who is called by His Name faith, fear of God, peace, patience, and self-control so that we may living a life pleasing to Him through our High Priest and guardian, Jesus Christ. Through Him be glory and majesty, power and honor, now and forever and ever, amen.
Now send our messengers, Claudius Ephebus, Valerius Bito, and Fortunatus back to us quickly. We will be happy to hear that you are at peace again and we do sincerely pray that you will be. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all and with everyone everywhere who has been called to God through Him. Through Him be glory and honor, power and fame and eternal sovereignty, from forever until forever and ever, amen.
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