1 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)
The gospel elevates us from the depths of despair to the joyous heights of salvation in Christ. God’s grace has saved us through faith and raised us from sin’s death to “sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:5-6). Such fellowship with the Son of God now compels us to live worthy of the gospel (Phil. 1:27). Conversion demands it. As a Christian, you have chosen to shape and mold yourself according to the gospel in your attitudes and your actions. Devote yourself to growing in the attitudes stated in today’s verse so that you are equipped to guard the unity and peace you have with Christ and the saved.
“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.” (1 Corinthians 1:17)
Many interpret Paul’s statement to mean baptism is not essential for salvation. By doing so they set Scripture against itself. Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mk. 16:16). Peter said baptism is “for the remission of sins”, and that baptism “saves us” (Acts 2:38; 1 Pet. 3:21). Ananias told Saul to “arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). There was division in the Corinthian church. Although Paul had baptized Crispus, Gaius and the household of Stephanas, he was glad he had not personally baptized more, “lest anyone should say they I had baptized in my own name” (1 Cor. 1:14-16). Did Paul violate verse 17 by baptizing these people? Not at all. As an apostle, Paul’s work was especially to preach the gospel. Others could baptize the sinners who responded to the gospel call to be saved. Who baptizes you is inconsequential. What is crucial is unity in Christ and His gospel, not division over men. Unity in Christ includes the gospel truth that water baptism is essential for salvation.
1 I was sought by those who did not ask for Me; I was found by those who did not seek Me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am,’ To a nation that was not called by My name. 2 I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, Who walk in a way that is not good, According to their own thoughts; 3 A people who provoke Me to anger continually to My face;… (Isaiah 65:1-2)
The fulfillment of this prophecy is explained to us in Romans 10:20-21. The Gentiles seek and find God while Israel rebelliously sins, openly defying their God to His face. Yet, by the gospel, God still stretches out His hands to save “whoever calls on the name of the Lord” (Rom. 10:13). How long will you live in defiant disobedience of God and His great love for you? (There is no greater love than God’s sacrifice of His Son Jesus on the cross for your sins.) Remove the rebellious heart and life. Replace it with faith and faith’s confession (Rom. 10:9-10). Walk in the good way of God and be blessed with His salvation.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)
It is true, evil is real and it exists in the world. As we observe the power of evil around us to destroy lives we are tempted to think evil will prevail. It will not. Goodness is more powerful than evil, because “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 Jno. 4:4). Christ Jesus is stronger than Satan. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil and He did (1 Jno. 3:8; Heb. 2:14-15). Evil is overcome by the goodness of God. So, God’s children do good in the face of evil. Refuse to be drawn into “returning evil for evil” (1 Pet. 3:8-9). Jesus said, “do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you” (Matt. 5:44). Wait on the Lord’s judgment; He will right every wrong on the great day of His coming (2 Thess. 1:7-10). Overcome evil with good.
11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age…” (Titus 2:11-12)
This passage teaches us several things about God’s marvelous grace. First, it “brings salvation”. Without God’s love, mercy and grace we would not be saved from our sins (Eph. 2:4-5). Second, it “has appeared to all men”. God’s grace is available to all who will access it “by faith” (Rom. 1:16-17; 5:1-2). Third, God’s grace teaches us to live differently than before He saved us by His grace. We must deny sin and pursue holiness. God’s grace is greater than sin, but it does not allow us to “continue in sin that grace may abound” (Rom. 6:1-2). God’s grace is not our license to sin, it is our incentive to love God and be faithful to Him.
Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. (John 8:43)
The New Testament is the word of Christ Jesus. Jesus wants us to listen to His word so we can understand it. To do so we must have a desire to understand His word plus the willingness to do what He says. “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority” (Jno. 7:17). Jesus spoke the very word of God. Are you able to listen to His word? If so, you will understand His teaching. Then you are ready to believe and obey Jesus.
Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:17)
You can understand God’s will for your life. This verse equates understanding with wisdom, for it is “unwise” not to understand the Lord’s will. You will not find and understand the Lord’s will by examining your feelings, your experiences or your desires. You will find it in the Bible. But you must have the wisdom to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom” (Col. 3:16). It is foolish to hear God’s word but not do it (Jas. 1:23-24). “But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (Jas. 1:25). Be wise. Understand the will of the Lord. Put His word in your heart, obey it, and be blessed.
Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge. (Hebrews 13:4)
Marriage is greatly dishonored when people live together without marriage, by same sex marriage and by unscriptural remarriage. Nevertheless, God commands that we hold marriage in honor. It is not biblical to conclude that every marriage is approved by God. John was killed after he told Herod it was “not lawful” to have his brother Philip’s wife, “for he had married her” (Mark 6:17-18). Herod was in a marriage, but it was not sanctioned by God. It was not honorable; it was sinful. Are you in an honorable, God-approved marriage? The Bible tells you. Jesus said marriage is for life; God joins the man and woman together (Matt. 19:4-5; Rom. 7:2). “Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt. 19:6, 4-5). Jesus said putting away one’s spouse for the cause of fornication is the reason for which one may end marriage and honorably marry another (Matt. 19:9). All other reasons for ending a marriage are sin and adultery is committed in remarriage (Matt. 19:9; 5:32; Rom. 7:3). Sexual immorality defiles the honorable marriage bed. God will punish all who do.
16 “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, 17 Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow. 18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land; 20 But if you refuse and rebel, You shall be devoured by the sword”; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. (Isaiah 1:16-20)
Israel was in rebellion against God due to her own choices of sin. Yet, the Lord desires her purity and assures her that every evil stain could be cleansed. But, Israel would have to make different choices. Choices of faith and repentance. Only then would cleansing come from the Lord. God set before Israel the choices of willing obedience resulting in blessedness, or rebellious refusal and with it, punishment by the sword. Even so today, God is ready to forgive your sins and cleanse you of every stain. But like Israel, you must make a choice of faith to “put away the evils of your doings from before” the eyes of God. Trust and obey; and God will forgive. Rebel, and His just punishment is certain. What will you choose today?
10 Hear the word of the LORD, You rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the law of our God, You people of Gomorrah: 11 “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?” says the LORD. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs or goats. 12 “When you come to appear before Me, who has required this from your hand, to trample My courts? 13 Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies— I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. 14 Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. (Isaiah 1:10-15)
Israel had wearied the Lord God with their sacrifices of worship and offerings of praise while they simultaneously defiled themselves with all manner of sin (see Isa. 1:4, where God described His children as a “brood of evildoers”). We cannot successfully worship and serve God with defiled hands; only “holy hands” will do (cf. 1 Tim. 2:8). Pretending to love God while practicing sin is as unholy as the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah. Cleanse yourself of sin’s defilement that your sacrifices of praise will honor and please Him (Isa. 1:18-20).