Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27, NKJV)
James does not make excuses for the religious person who will not bring his tongue and heart under the control of God’s word (James 1:22-26). With striking contrast, he now identifies the person who is clean and unstained before God. It is the person whose actions match his words and deeds. It is the person who attends to the needs of the homeless and widows. Moved by compassion, this person relieves their suffering as he is able, just like the good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37). This is not a church-coordinated action, arranged by committee and financed by a church treasury. It is the action of the person whose religion is “pure and undefiled.” This same person is careful to guard his moral purity by withholding himself (or herself) from the defilement of the world (1 John 2:15-16). This person knows he or she lives before the true God who sees every action and knows every thought and motive of the heart. Devote yourself to the pure and undefiled religion that is revealed in God’s perfect law of liberty. Be a doer of its work and you will be blessed (James 1:25).
If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. (James 1:26, NKJV)
This warning from the inspiration’s pen is penetrating, straightforward and universal in application. It strikes at the very heart of self-righteousness and the hypocrisy it so readily breeds. No one is so greatly deceived as he who thinks he is something when he is nothing (Galatians 6:3). James is telling us that what we think about our personal piety does not make it so. Being actively religious does not insure one’s usefulness and acceptability to God. The heart is deceived that thinks the fruit of its lips have no bearing on its virtue. The tongue that wags with backbiting gossip, profane innuendos or contentious murmurings exposes a heart that is not devoted to God. Such language reveals a heart that is devoted to itself. The heart from which such language spews shows it is willing to hurt others (while justifying itself). We must bring our tongues under control by bringing our hearts under control. We do that by looking into the perfect law of liberty and being doers of the word (James 1:22-25).
Do you look at things according to the outward appearance? If anyone is convinced in himself that he is Christ’s, let him again consider this in himself, that just as he is Christ’s, even so we are Christ’s. (2 Corinthians 10:7, NKJV)
Things are not always as they appear. Certainly, we must be careful of our appearance and the influence we leave on others (1 Timothy 2:9-10; 4:12). But, that is not the subject of this passage. This verse warns us not to make judgments based merely on outward appearances. When we do, we are liable to be mistaken, and even deceived (John 7:24). By doing so we have forgotten a fundamental trait of God that ought to inform our discernment: God looks at the heart instead of outward appearances (1 Samuel 16:7). Here, some Christians were trying to undermine the apostolic authority of Paul. Using carnal tactics, they complained about the strength of his epistles versus his bodily presence (2 Corinthians 10:9-10). They suggested Paul was not fully an apostle (2 Corinthians 11:5-6; 12:11-12). They compared themselves with themselves and boasted in their faithfulness (2 Corinthians 10:12, 7). On the other hand, Paul would only boast in the Lord and the work he was given to accomplish (2 Corinthians 10:13-17). Let us be careful not to use outward appearances to compare ourselves to others. Remember, “not he who commends himself is approved; but whom the Lord commends” (2 Corinthians 10:18).
25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. 27 For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. 28 Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:25–28, NKJV)
Jesus Christ is reigning at the right hand of God, “far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come” (Ephesians 1:21). He is King today, and will continue to reign until death – the “last enemy” – is destroyed at the resurrection of the dead. Only God the Father, who gave all authority to the Son, and to whom the kingdom will be delivered, is exempt from being under the Son’s powerful authority (Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:20-23). Christ’s return will be the grand summation of God’s plan of human redemption. The delivery of the kingdom to God the Father will usher in the everlasting kingdom in which righteousness dwells and over which God will reign forever and ever (2 Peter 1:11; 3:13; Revelation 21:22-22:5). The gospel calls us to submit to the authority of Christ with full, obedient faith. By doing so we are preparing to live with Him forever when He returns (John 14:1-6).
23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:23–26, NKJV)
All who die will be raised from the dead because Jesus was raised (1 Corinthians 15:20-22). The resurrection of the dead will be orderly; not haphazard or random. Christ’s empty tomb signaled His defeat of physical death and began the resurrection of the dead. When Jesus returns, those who are His, as well as those who are condemned, will be raised (John 5:28-29). With the resurrection completed, judgment will occur, and Christ will deliver the kingdom to God the Father (Acts 17:31, Hebrews 9:27). Here is a prominent and pivotal truth: Christ will not return to establish the kingdom. When He returns, He will deliver the kingdom to the Father. The kingdom of God exists today; it is the church of Christ (Matthew 16:18-19; Mark 9:1; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4, 29-36, 41, 47). The end or conclusion will occur when Christ comes and raises the dead. If the kingdom begins when Jesus returns, then that is not the end. But, when Christ returns all enemies will have been vanquished; the last one being death itself. When Christ returns, the King and His kingdom will be victoriously presented to God the Father.
20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:20–22, NKJV)
The resurrection of Christ is the keystone of the gospel. Without it, the entire structure of human redemption from sin and death through Jesus Christ crumbles to the ground (1 Corinthians 15:14-19). With it, Christ is powerfully declared to be the Son of God (Romans 1:4). His resurrection from the dead proves all the dead will be raised (1 Corinthians 15:12-13). (Please note that this passage addresses bodily death and bodily resurrection.) Christ’s resurrection from the dead is described as the firstfruits – the beginning – of the resurrection of all the dead (Acts 26:23). Under the Law of Moses, the firstfruits of harvest were dedicated to the Lord, indicating the full harvest was a blessing from His hand (Exodus 23:19; Leviticus 23:10; Deuteronomy 26:1-11). In like manner, Christ’s resurrection assures us that all who experience physical death as a result of Adam will be raised from the dead (Genesis 3:19). Jesus said the time will come when “all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth” (John 5:28-29). Death will not end your existence. You will be raised from the dead to either eternal life or eternal condemnation (John 5:29). Get ready for your resurrection by always following Jesus Christ.
10 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. (Acts 17:10–12, NKJV)
The Berean Jews were more noble-minded than the envious Jews in Thessalonica, who had rejected the gospel and threatened the Christians (Acts 17:5-9, 13). The Bereans’ ability to listen to what Paul and Silas said and then to search the Scriptures to assess its accuracy, was a result of their “readiness” of mind. They were predisposed with an eager enthusiasm to hear, know and follow God’s will. Their hearts were good and honest, so that when they discerned the apostle’s message was truth, they readily believed it (Luke 8:15; Acts 17:12). We must have minds that are fair and free of prejudice to examine, understand and follow God’s word. We will not receive the word when our minds are closed by envy, pride, self-satisfaction, or other obstacles which prevent a fair hearing and examination of God’s word. Our goal is to hear, know and follow the truth of God. We will achieve our objective by preparing our hearts to receive the word. Then, we can examine the Scriptures daily and follow the truth of God.