September’s Letter

In Acts chapter 11, the Word of God tells us that after Stephen’s death, persecution against believers in Christ was unleashed. They scattered and some went to Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, where they preached the gospel of the Lord Jesus. Many in Antioch believed in Christ because of the preaching of those courageous believers. News of these things came to the church in Jerusalem and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When Barnabas arrived in Antioch, he immediately saw the grace of God reflected in many saved souls and exhorted all to continue preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Barnabas went to find Paul in Tarsus and brought him to Antioch. Barnabas and Paul spent a year in Antioch, teaching the Word of God to many people and it was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.
I ask myself, what did people see in those early believers to call them Christians? I believe that the conduct, the words, and the teachings of the believers reminded them of the life of Jesus and that is why they called them Christians, for they were followers of Christ.

I believe that Jesus’ followers showed Christ’s love in their lives and that was one of the reasons they were called Christians. In those days, there was a food crisis. In Acts 11:29,30, the Word of God tells us: 29 So the believers in Antioch decided to send relief to the brothers and sisters in Judea, everyone giving as much as they could. 30 This they did, entrusting their gifts to Barnabas and Saul to take to the elders of the church in Jerusalem.

The true disciples of Jesus must live in the love of God and must love one another.

Let’s see what 1 John chapter 4 says about love between brothers.

  1. Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Vs 7
  2. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. Vs 7
  3. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. Vs 8
  4. God loved us by sending His Son to die for our sins, and if God has loved us like this, we must also love one another. Vss. 10, 11
  5. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. Vs 12
  6. If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? Vs 20
  7. And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers. Vs 21

Where did John learn about such a deep love? He learned it from Jesus. John was a true disciple of Jesus and showed his love of Christ by loving his Christian brothers and sisters as Christ did. The people of Holyoke will not believe that we are true followers of Christ if we do not love each other. First Baptist Church must be a living testimony of God’s love by loving one another.

The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 says, “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Basically, what Paul is saying is that everything we do as a church and all our efforts to please or serve God, is of no use to us if we have no love. If I am a pastor who knows and preaches the Word of God, or if I am a deacon who invests many hours in the service of the church, or if I am a Sunday school teacher who passionately teaches the Word of God, or if I am a worship leader who serves God in musical ministry, but I have no love, it is of no use to me and everything that I do in the church to please Christ, in the ears of God is not heard as a pleasant and melodious music but as a noise of metal that annoys and hurts the ears.

I wouldn’t want the people of Holyoke to know us as the church that has a beautiful building, or as the church that has many members. I would like the people of Holyoke to know us as the church that follows Christ’s example and which has a deep love for the community and an endearing love for one another. I would like God’s love to be what sets us apart, to really be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. I would like to be known not as the church that is divided, but as the church that is united by the love of Christ.

In Christ,

Pastor Ismael Lopez