13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” 14 So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:13–16, NKJV)
Who do people say you are? A good reputation is valuable and should be guarded (Prov. 22:1). Yet, what people say about you may not be the truth. People said many things about Jesus, many of which were incorrect (Matt. 12:24; Jno. 7:12). Peter accurately identified Jesus as the “Christ, the Son of the living God” because he accepted the Father’s testimony of His Son (Matt. 16:17; Jno. 5:36-39). When we value what people say about us more than the truth God reveals in His word, we will find ourselves compromising truth for the sake of having people’s approval. Many did this concerning Jesus: “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (Jno. 12:42-43). God’s word sanctifies us, not what people say about us (Jno. 17:17; Gal. 1:10; 1 Thess. 2:4).
28 And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” 31 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:28–31, NKJV)
The reciprocal tension between faith and doubt is displayed in the marvel miracle when Jesus (and Peter) walked on water. Confident in Christ’s command, Peter got out of the boat and walked on water toward Jesus. Then, fear found a place in his heart as he focused on the wind and waves instead of on Jesus, and he wavered in doubt. Faith gave way to dread and doubt. Peter was being pulled in two different directions. His faith in Jesus compelled him to do what would be unthinkable and impossible (walk on water). But fear caused him to doubt. Jesus said Peter lacked trust when he doubted and began to sink (“little faith”). Jesus immediately saved Peter, which reassures us in times of doubt. When doubt tests our faith, let us remember that victory over this world’s spiritual dangers is through faith in Christ (1 Jno. 5:4-5). Trust and obey His word. Do not let doubt pull you away from Christ.
18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:18–20, NKJV)
We must run away from sexual immorality. Paul used the general term porneia (fornication) that includes all sinful sexual joining of males and females (1 Cor. 6:15-16). Sexual immorality applies to the sins of premarital, extramarital, and multi-marital sex, homosexuality, incest, and unlawful remarriages (1 Cor. 6:9; Heb. 13:4; Matt. 19:9; Rom. 7:2-3). Every sin we commit begins in the heart (“outside the body,” v. 18), including sexual immorality (Matt. 15:19). Additionally, the sin of fornication violates the purpose of the body (v. 18). Our fellowship with the Holy Spirit necessitates that we use our bodies to glorify God (v. 19). Our bodies are to be living sacrifices to the Lord, offered in holy service to Him instead of being used to indulge the lusts of the flesh (Rom. 12:1-2; 1 Thess. 4:3-5). We were redeemed from sin by the lifeblood of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:18-19). We belong to Him, body, and soul. These are the reasons why Christians must flee sexual immorality: 1) This sin is against the holy purpose given the body, 2) This sin defiles the dwelling place of the Spirit of God, and 3) This sin dishonors God and those who practice it.
10 When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” 12 Then His disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” 13 But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14 Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.” (Matthew 15:10–14, NKJV)
The truth of the gospel offends certain people. Not because it is a harmful message, but because they do not approve of it. Gospel truth exposes sin, and we don’t like to look at ourselves the way God sees us. The Pharisees were spiritual hypocrites, and Jesus called them out, exposing their sin against the commandments of God (Matt. 15:1-10). The disciples reacted to the confrontational nature of truth by trying to moderate Jesus and His message. But, Jesus would have none of that. He explained there are “plants” (like the Pharisees and their teachings) that are 1) Not from the Father, 2) Blind guides of the blind, and 3) Headed for the ditch. When the truth offends us, we are the ones who need correction (not the truth). Like the multitude Jesus taught, we must “hear and understand” that sin’s defilement starts in the heart. That is what we must change first (Matt. 15:15-20).
22 And when Herodias’ daughter herself came in and danced, and pleased Herod and those who sat with him, the king said to the girl, “Ask me whatever you want, and I will give it to you.” 23 He also swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half my kingdom.” 24 So she went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist!” (Mark 6:22–24, NKJV)
John the Baptist was a preacher who lost his head because he dared to speak truth to powerful sinners. I wonder how many preachers would lose their heads under similar circumstances today. 1) John lost his head because he preached against adultery (Mk. 6:17-18). It was a sin for Herod and Herodias to be married. Both of them had previous spouses whom they divorced, then married each other (Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus, 18.5.1, 4). Today, many preachers encourage churches to receive into fellowship those who are in adulterous remarriages in violation of Matthew 19:9. 2) John lost his head because of a rash vow (Mk. 6:23). Rash promises often lead to foolish actions (Matt. 14:9). We should think before we speak (Jas. 1:19-20). 3) John lost his head because of a dancing daughter (Mk. 6:22). Dancing continues to stir sinful lusts of the flesh and eye (Gal. 5:19; Col. 3:5; 1 Jno. 2:15-16). Herodias’ parental permission precipitated passion in Herod, leading to his rash oath and John’s death. Dancing still incites lusts in participants and those who watch it. Yet, many Christians approve of it. Would our head be on a platter next to John’s for preaching God’s truth to powerful sinners (Mk. 6:27-28)?
33 And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots. (Luke 23:33–34, NKJV)
Crucifixion was a gruesome form of execution. Suspended between heaven and earth, Jesus hung in anguish for hours before death came. The innocent Son of God was tortured to death between two criminals who, admittedly, deserved their death sentence (Lk. 23:40-41). The merciful heart of Jesus is fully displayed even while He was being treated mercilessly. The Son of God is always ready to forgive our sins against Him. God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth,” including those who murdered the Son of God (1 Tim. 2:3-4). Were they saved the moment Jesus said this prayer? No. Those who killed Jesus had the gospel preached to them on Pentecost, and many of them believed it (Acts 2:22-36). They asked the apostles what they should do for having crucified the Lord and Christ, and were told to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:37-38). About 3,000 of them were forgiven when they received and obeyed that gospel message of salvation (Acts 2:41). It takes more to be forgiven than God wanting us to be saved. It takes more to be forgiven than wishing God to forgive us. It is when we believe, repent, and are baptized in the name Jesus Christ that God forgives our sins against Him and His Son.
33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?” 35 “Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?” 36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33–36, NKJV)
Humanity stands before the superlative majesty of God. His wisdom and knowledge are more profound than any human philosophy. Man’s wisdom is foolishness to Him (1 Cor. 1:25). His purposes, decisions, and ways do not originate in the human heart. God has revealed His mind, His judgments, and His conduct to us by His Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:6-11; Eph. 3:3-5). Paul’s use of Isaiah 40:13-14 calls our attention to this fundamental truth: We do not tell God how He should do things. God does not arrange His purposes based on our advice and counsel. He is sovereign over us. Many push back at this truth and refuse to yield to the supremacy of the Almighty. To do so invariably leads to foolishly following false gods (Rom. 1:21-23). May we humbly bow before God and bring ourselves into harmony with His will. He rules His world, including each of us, in the wisdom of truth and righteousness.
8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:8–10, NKJV)
The gospel is the “word of faith” the apostles preached. It is near, having been confessed by our mouths and believed in our hearts. The gospel of Christ is the message of “righteousness of faith,” not “righteousness of the law” (Rom. 10:4-7). But please see that the word of faith (gospel) is not a message of salvation by faith only, since “confession with your mouth” is belief plus confession. We are neither saved by faith alone or by confession alone. Both are said to be “unto” righteousness or salvation (v. 10). The preposition “unto” translates the Greek word eis, which denotes “entrance into, or direction and limit: into, to, towards, for, among” (Thayer, 183). Believing the gospel in your heart and confessing Christ with your mouth move you toward salvation, but they are not all the gospel says to be saved. The word of faith commands us to repent or perish (Lk. 13:3, 5; Acts 17:30). The word of faith also commands us to be baptized “for (eis) the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Let us believe and follow all the gospel preached by the apostles. Then we have God’s assurance of being saved in Christ.
18 We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. 19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. (1 John 5:18–21, NKJV)
God assures Christians of knowing we have eternal life in the Son of God (1 Jno. 5:11-13). We are confident of this wonderful blessing in Christ because we are born of God through His word (Jno. 1:12-13; 3:3, 5; 1 Pet. 1:23). John tells us some things we know as God’s children, which testify to God’s grace and our faith as His children. 1) We know whoever is born of God does not practice sin, but guards himself against the evil one (5:18). We do not say we “have no sin,” but that we practice righteousness (1 Jno. 1:8; 2:29; 3:6-10). 2) We know we are different from the world (5:19). We do not love the world and its lusts, but God and His will (1 Jno. 2:15-17). 3) We know the Son of God has given us an understanding (5:20). Jesus Christ is the Truth, and His word lights our path (Jno. 14:6; 1 Jno. 1:6-7). We have fellowship with the Father and the Son when we walk in (obey) apostolic truth (1 Jno. 1:2-3; 2:3-6; 3:24). Let us guard ourselves against false gods and their false concepts of salvation by faithfully following Jesus Christ (1 Jno. 5:21).
22 Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come— 23 that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles. (Acts 26:22–23, NKJV)
Christ came for the whole world (Jews and Gentiles). The apostles of Jesus testified what Moses and the prophets said would occur concerning the Christ was fulfilled in Jesus. Paul takes note of some primary things Moses and the prophets said about the Christ: 1) He would suffer (read Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53). Peter said of Jesus, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18). 2) He would rise from the dead (read Psalm 16:8-11). The resurrection of Jesus fulfilled this psalm (Acts 2:29-31). Jesus was the first – the beginning of the resurrection of all the dead (1 Cor. 15:20-22). 3) He would proclaim light to Jews and Gentiles (read Isaiah 42:1-7; 49:6). Through His gospel, Jesus lights the way of salvation for every soul on earth (Matt. 28:19; Acts 10:34-35). God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to suffer death for our sins, to be raised to exaltation for our salvation, and to light our way to eternal glory.