I admit that sometimes when I read the epistles of the New Testament, I easily skip over the first couple of verses. In those verses, Paul, who wrote most of the epistles, addresses the believers in various parts of the Roman world. For example, he writes, “To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:1,2).
As we launch this redesigned Forward in Christ (FIC), I think about the destination of the words and images we send out to our readers. I assure you that we think of you as “God’s holy people” in various parts of our country and the world. Together we call God “our Father” and Jesus our “Lord.” Authors of those letters to God’s people always considered the readers brothers and sisters in Christ.
Didn’t their readers already have pastors and leaders? So why write to them? Because the epistle writers cared about their faith and desired to strengthen, comfort, and direct those believers gathered in various locations. While those believers had the means of grace regularly and worshiped together on the first day of the week, the letters were to build a bond—a kind of partnership—between the authors and the congregations. The letters were even shared with believers in other congregations.
I don’t claim to be equal to any apostle nor do I think that whatever we write for this magazine has the authority equal to any apostolic message. But I do care about the faith of all our readers. I desire to provide you with strength, comfort, and direction from God’s Word. I certainly don’t want to interfere with what your pastor says or what any congregation does, but I want to partner with the readers, the pastors, and the congregations.
When we thought about the redesign and the purpose of FIC, we thought that our purpose was to contribute to the spiritual growth of our readers but with a little twist. We thought we had a role in providing insight and encouragement in addition to what our readers receive in their local congregations. We want to partner with local ministries in the way the apostles partnered with congregations through their letters.
The congregations who first received those apostolic letters discovered they were not alone. They belonged to something bigger than the local congregation. We want to do the same. We want to broaden the horizons of our readers and congregations so that we all see that the church is larger than our local addresses. The church is “God’s holy people” everywhere. Our goal is to complement what is going on in our churches.
The letters of the New Testament often reveal a joy and thankfulness for the members of those original congregations. Paul wrote, “I always thank my God for you” (1 Corinthians 1:4), and, “I thank my God every time I remember you” (Philippians 1:3).
So we thank God for holy people in our congregations. We want to help all remain faithful to his truth and grow in faith together. Even though Paul had not yet seen and talked with the believers in Rome, he wanted his letter to “impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong” (Romans 1:11).
So do we—in this issue and all of them. Grace and peace to you.
Author: John A. Braun
Volume 107, Number 01
Issue: January 2020