33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:33–37, NKJV)
Jesus teaches one’s honesty should be so ironclad that his word is sufficient to settle any matter. “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matt. 5:37). Swearing an oath becomes superfluous to the one whose constant code is the integrity of truth (Matt. 5:33-36). When someone must try to convince you they are telling you “the honest truth,” something is “rotten in Denmark.” “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor” (Eph. 4:25). A good dose of honesty improves every relationship in your life. Be trustworthy and remember; others know your honesty by your words and the life you live.
32 Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. 34 And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!” (John 11:32–36, NKJV)
The Son of God was deeply touched in His spirit when He saw the sorrow of Mary and Martha and those comforting them over the death of their brother, Lazarus. Mary fell at the feet of Jesus, weeping and confessing her faith in Him. If only Jesus had been there four days earlier, her brother would still be alive. Jesus knew Mary would soon embrace her beloved brother. Soon, Jesus would raise Lazarus from the dead (Jno. 11:38-44). Moved by their grief, the loving Savior wept. He is moved when we face the death of loved ones. Our assurance that Jesus is “the resurrection and the life” soothes us in moments of death’s sorrowful separation (Jno. 11:25; 1 Cor. 15:19-20). Death’s sorrow gives way to life eternal for God’s faithful. Jesus faced the agony of death for us. He knows death’s painful grief. He also knows victory over death by His resurrection. We share in His victory over death with confident hope as we weep when death takes those we love because Jesus knows and cares (1 Cor. 15:54-57).
19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God. (Ephesians 5:19–21, NKJV)
Christians are to be “filled with the Spirit” of God instead of the intoxicating spirits created by men (Eph. 5:18). Several actions necessarily follow when we are filled with the Spirit through the word of Christ dwelling in us (Col. 3:16). 1) Speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (v. 19). Speaking to one another takes the form of singing, of “making melody in your heart to the Lord.” It is singing words that communicate the heart’s message. This singing to the Lord encourages each Christian who sings from the heart. It is not entertainment. Neither is it a performance of a few for the many. This speaking is not playing, strumming, and humming songs. Nothing of the kind is in this verse. It does not say to play songs, but to speak to one another in songs. Let us not put words into God’s mouth (like “play”) that He did not say. 2) Give thanks always for all things (v. 20). Gratitude and praise exude from the life filled with the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Our songs and lives express hearts that respect God in Christ as the Giver of every blessing (Eph. 1:3). 3) Submit to one another in the fear of God (v. 21). The Spirit-filled life lives for others, not oneself. We serve Christ by serving one another (Mk. 10:42-45; Matt. 25:40). Subordinating ourselves to each other is a token of reverential respect for God. Be filled with the Spirit. Worship. Give thanks. Serve one another.
23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:23–24, NKJV)
First-century Christians regularly came together on the first day of the week to worship God (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 14:26; 16:2; Heb. 10:24-25). True worshipers follow the teaching of Jesus taught about worship. It is “in spirit and truth.” Worship “in spirit” calls on the heart as the source of our worship of God. For example, prayers and songs must be with the spirit and understanding; it is not rote ritualism (1 Cor. 14:15). True worshipers praise God “with understanding” when they sing (Psa. 47:7; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). A heart far from God that goes through the motions of worship is an abomination to Him (Matt. 15:7-9). True worshipers also worship God “in truth.” His word reveals what worship He accepts. Churches of Christ gather every Sunday to pray, sing, eat the Lord’s Supper, thankfully give as we have been prospered, and listen to the teaching of God’s word (Acts 2:42; 20:7; Eph. 5:19; 1 Cor. 14:26; 16:2). Souls who worship “in spirit” are careful to give God the “in truth” worship He accepts. New Testament Christians did that. We aim to do the same today. We hope you will, too.
11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. 12 Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear. (Proverbs 25:11–12, NKJV)
Words can build up and pull down. God’s prophets did both when they spoke God’s words (Jer. 1:9-10). Words chosen wisely and spoken properly benefit the “obedient ear” (v. 12). A word fitly spoken is like the adornment of beautiful jewelry. The Lord expects us to give attention to our words (how, when, why, and what we say). He also expects us to give attention to how and why we listen to fitly spoken words (with an obedient ear). The words we utter should be suitable to the moment. They will “reprove, rebuke, and exhort” (as the need may be) to warn, convict, save, and strengthen souls (2 Tim. 4:2). A message fitly spoken is not rash but is thoughtful words seasoned with grace (Col. 4:6). Such words are “good for necessary edification” (Eph. 4:29). These words are not bitter, malicious, angry, self-justifying harangues (Eph. 4:31). Fitly spoken words proceed from kind hearts of love (Eph. 4:32). Obedient ears give attention to messages fitly spoken. The obedient ear is committed to personal improvement and spiritual growth. Therefore, it listens to the fitly spoken word and follows God’s truth it promotes. Let us choose our words carefully. They will do great good or great harm. Let us listen carefully to fitly spoken words and obey the truth they advance.
17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. (2 Peter 3:17–18, NKJV)
It is truly incredible how so many people insist on propping up the false doctrine that Christians cannot fall away from the Lord and be lost. The false doctrine suggests teaching the possibility of apostasy diminishes God’s power to save. That is a diversionary, deceptive, and destructive lie of the devil, the father of lies. Of course, God has the power to save. Human free will is also a part of the equation; We are saved “by grace” (God’s part) “through faith” (our part) (Eph. 2:8). Without free will, we are mere robots. God becomes an unjust tyrant, selecting some for salvation and others for damnation regardless of their conduct. That cannot be true (Acts 10:34-35; 17:30; Rom. 2:1-11; 3:4). Today’s passage overwhelms the false doctrine of once saved, always saved. Some had already fallen. Peter warns beloved Christians, “lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked” (v. 17). The countermeasure to prevent falling is spiritual growth in the “grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (v. 18). When we mature in understanding and apply our faith to follow the Lord, Jesus is honored “both now and forever,” not ourselves. We dare not minimize (or even rejecting) the truth that Christians can fall and be lost. Instead, remain steadfast in your faith by growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord.
15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. (Philippians 1:15–17, NKJV)
When early Christians were persecuted for their faith, they “went everywhere, preaching the word” (Acts 8:1-4). To “preach Christ” means more than telling about the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The gospel they preached was “the word of the cross,” all of Christ’s truth, the “whole counsel of God” (1 Cor. 1:18-25; Gal. 1:6-9; Acts 20:27; 2 Tim. 4:2-4). Paul knew some did not preach Christ from pure hearts and genuine faith (Phil. 1:12-18). Still, he rejoiced that Christ was preached even when he suffered from these pretenders (Phil. 1:18). In today’s passage, the apostle gives us motives markers for preaching Christ. Our hearts will be judged as well as the content of our message when we preach Christ. The apostle notes that sound gospel preaching includes: 1) Boldness to speak the word without fear (1:14); 2) Goodwill, not envy and strife (1:15); 3) Sincerely (honestly), without selfish ambition or harm to others (1:16); 4) Out of love for God and His truth, for brethren, and the lost (1:17); 5) In truth, not pretense (1:18). When we teach the gospel, let us maintain godly motives. Otherwise, we are little more than “sounding brass or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1).
Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry. (2 Timothy 4:11, NKJV)
Paul’s patient love for Mark compels us to ponder the breadth and depth of our love for brethren. Paul had not always considered Mark useful (good and profitable) for the service of the gospel. About 20 years earlier, John Mark had joined Paul and Barnabas on a preaching journey into Gentile regions, only to leave them and return to Jerusalem shortly after it began (Acts 13:4-5, 13). This failure to continue with them caused Paul to insist Mark would not be on his next preaching trip despite disagreeing with Barnabas (Acts 15:36-41). We should note that Paul did not “write off” Barnabas or Mark as unworthy Christians who did not love the Lord. The rest of the story makes this apparent. Paul was associated with Mark during his first Roman imprisonment (AD 60-62), sending greetings from him to the Colossian church and instructing them to welcome Mark if he came to them (Col. 4:10). Now, during his final days of life, Paul asked for Mark. The man he had refused to take with him roughly two decades earlier was now useful for the gospel’s service (2 Tim. 4:11). A great lesson of love’s patient endurance is staring us in the face (1 Cor. 13:4-7). Mark’s faith had matured, and Paul respected that. Paul loved Mark. Indeed, “love suffers long and is kind” as it rejoices in the truth. Love keeps on bearing, believing, hoping, and enduring all things, both in our attitudes and treatment of others. Love did not fail Paul and Mark. It will not fail us, either.