Published Sept. 1, 2009

Paul's Epistle...
"Sure Things"

We live, unfortunately, in increasingly uncertain times. Moral paradigms (according to the world, anyway) are changing. Even some church denominations are tossing out centuries-old Scripture-based beliefs to become "more relevant" and "politically collect." The future seems very unclear.

So isn't it great to know that we serve a God Who is unchanging? In fact, in Scripture He has given us many significant promises and truths that are both absolute and (is this redundant?) not subject to change.

Although this subject could be pursued ad infinitum, I did a Bible search on just two words – "never" and "always," both of which are absolute terms. Many of the verses I found provide significant reference points – absolutes – for our faith.

You'll find one of the best-known "never" Scriptures in just the first three words of 1 Cor. 13:8: "Love never fails..." Never! Just think about that. 1 John 4:8 reminds us that "God is love." If God is love and love never fails, that means God never fails! Of course, we knew that. But isn't it great to be reminded of the "absoluteness" of God's promises?

Christ often used such absolute terms in talking about salvation. "Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death" (John 8:51). "And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die" (John 11:26). The physical body may perish at the end of this life, but the soul of man lives on, awaiting the resurrection. And for the believer, that means when this life ends we will rejoice immediately in the presence of the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). How certain is this? Christ did say "most assuredly," or "verily, verily," or "truly, truly," depending on your translation. In any case, it's emphatically true.

Jesus told the woman at the well that "whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst" because it "will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:14). Likewise, He told His disciples, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst" (John 6:35). Jesus had said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled" (Matt. 5:6). Righteousness is that for which we should hunger and thirst. What is righteousness? It is how God sees us as the result of our accepting Christ's once-for-all sacrifice for sin. It is His righteousness that is imputed to us as believers. And "His righteousness remains forever" (2 Cor. 9:9).

How then shall we live? Paul has a lot to say about this. He says our lives should be "always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Cor. 15:58). And that work will be successful (whether we see the results personally or not): "Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place" (2 Cor. 2:14). Can there be any doubt about this? "Always," after all, does mean "always!"

Peter reminds us that a big part of that work is to stand up for Christ: "...always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you... (1 Peter 3:15). There is never a time we are not to be prepared to share Christ with others. And if we prepare ourselves and are willing, the Holy Spirit will bring into our paths someone – or some "someones" – who need to hear.

A search of the word "always" finds many references to prayer. Paul tells us to give thanks always (Eph. 5:20), including thanking "God always" for other Christians (1 Cor. 1:4). He tells his readers to pray "always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit..." (Ephesians 6:18). Jesus Himself said we are to "pray always" (Luke 21:36). We are, after all, to "pray without ceasing..." (1 Thess. 5:17), meaning that our entire lives should be lived as one continuous communication – perhaps "fellowship" is an appropriate word – with God.

Here's another important "always" in Scripture. Just as Jesus was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, He looked toward heaven, addressed His Father, and said, "I know that You always hear Me..." (John 11:42). Why is that "absolute" so important? Because Christ is our "Advocate with the Father" (1 John 2:1) Who "makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God" (Romans 8:27). Isn't it great to know that as Christ intercedes for us, the Father will always (always!) hear Him?

Here's one of my favorite "nevers" in the Bible. The writer of Hebrews recalls the Lord saying this: "I will never leave you, nor forsake you" (Heb. 13:5). What a comfort this is whenever trouble comes our way — or anytime, for that matter. The effect of that promise? "So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" (Heb. 13:6).

Indeed. The "always" and the "never" promises of the Bible are promises we can cling to as absolute truths.

Back in 1883, Daniel W. Whittle published this familiar hymn, the chorus of which, based on 2 Timothy 1:12, expresses the confidence we can have in the Lord and His promises:

But I know Whom I have believed,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I've committed
Unto Him against that day.

And, yes, it's a sure thing. "This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast..." (Heb. 6:19).

- Paul

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