1 Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity. (1 Timothy 5:1-2, NKJV)
I suppose the younger generation has always been tempted to grow impatient with their elders. It should not be so. Israel was instructed to “rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:32). Children should be taught to respect their parents. In turn, this trains young people to treat older men and women with similar dignity. Simple expressions like, “yes, ma’am” and “no sir” naturally flow from the lips of those who learn and live respect for their elders. Even when Timothy would have to disagree with an older man (which would invariably occur as he worked as an evangelist, 1 Tim. 5:20; 2 Tim. 2:24-26), he was to show respect in his demeanor and in his words. Elihu is an excellent example of how a younger man respectfully approached older men with whom he disagreed (Job 32:4-10). He waited to speak, listening to the older men first (v. 4). He spoke with respectful humility, acknowledging his youth before the aged (v. 6-7). He did not shrink from speaking God’s truth, asking the aged for a fair hearing (v. 8-10). Treat those older than you with respect, not annoyance; with dignity, not disdain; with humility, not haughtiness. By doing so, you will be respected in return (1 Tim. 4:12).
31 “Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God. “Therefore turn and live!” (Ezekiel 18:31–32, NKJV)
That fact that a child of God can fall away and be lost (“die”), does not mean God desires it to be so (see 1 Tim. 2:3-4). The prevention lies with the child of God who sins. God calls on His sinning children to repent: “cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.” Without doing so, they would die in their sins. But, with a new heart, a new life can be lived. Without the change of heart that is called “repentance,” one’s conduct will not be successfully corrected. And so, sinners, including Christians, are urged to repent when there is sin in their lives (Lk. 13:1-5; Acts 8:12-13, 22-24). The world is lost, and needs salvation in Jesus (Acts 4:12). For a Christian to live in sin and not turn to Christ by repenting and ceasing his sin, is to invite certain and eternal death. Turn and live, “For why should you die?”
25 Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ Hear now, O house of Israel, is it not My way which is fair, and your ways which are not fair? 26 When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity, and dies in it, it is because of the iniquity which he has done that he dies. (Ezekiel 18:25–26, NKJV)
When pointing out the Bible teaches it is possible for a Christian to fall away from Christ and be lost, we hear the same objection that was made by Israel in the days of Ezekiel: “That’s not fair!” (See yesterday’s Sword Tips #1078 on Ezekiel 18:24, as well as Gal. 5:4; 1 Tim. 4:1-3.) Nevertheless, God rebuts and rejects that objection for what it is, an inversion of the truth of the matter (cf. Isa. 5:20). God said it is unfair to conclude that a person can be rewarded, even though he “turns away from his righteousness” and “commits iniquity” (v. 26). It is a slanderous and appalling insult against God and His justice to propose that one can do evil and the outcome be good (Rom. 3:8). “The soul who sins, shall die” is given as a warning that sin – whether committed by God’s people or by God’s enemies – will receive a just and impartial punishment (Ezek. 18:4, 20; Rom. 2:6-11). Be careful not to attribute any unfairness to the Lord God. Instead, let us humbly conform our faith and our lives to His word, because “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether” (Psa. 19:9).
But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die. (Ezekiel 18:24, NKJV)
We are tempted to think of our lives like scales, and as long as the good outweighs the bad, we are okay. But, God will not judge us based on whether we have more good than bad, or vice versa. “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezek. 18:4). Today’s verse assures us that if we turn away from righteousness and commit iniquity (lawlessness against God), our righteous deeds will not be remembered. We will experience the punishment of death because of our unfaithfulness. The guilt of our sin brings eternal death (Rom. 6:23). This is another verse that teaches the possibility of apostasy. If it is true that once you are saved you can never be lost, then this verse is meaningless and God’s word is false. John said, “everyone who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous” (1 Jno. 3:7). But if we commit sin, we commit lawlessness (1 Jno. 3:4). We cannot live in sin and be counted righteous. Let us heed Ezekiel’s warning and not turn away from righteousness, but instead, pursue it (2 Tim. 2:22).
3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. 4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. (Galatians 5:3–4, NKJV)
Binding any portion of the Old Testament Law of Moses upon Christians is totally incompatible with the gospel of Christ. The Law of Moses was only given to the nation of Israel; it was never a universal law given to all nations (Deut. 5:1-3). Paul was addresses a false doctrine being advanced by some Jewish Christians, which compelled Gentiles to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses in order to be saved (Acts 15:1ff). This teaching perverted the gospel being preached by the apostles (Gal. 1:6-9). The result of believing and advancing this false doctrine was that Christians were severed from Christ; they were “fallen from grace.” This clear statement by the apostle Paul shows that it is possible for Christians to lose their salvation. This happens, not because Christ does not have the power to save the Christian, but because the Christian chooses to believe and follow error instead of truth. Sin will not be rewarded with heaven. The belief that Christians cannot fall away and be lost is a false, deceptive doctrine.
1 Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples! 2 For His merciful kindness is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord! (Psalm 117:1–2, NKJV)
This brief psalm drives to the heart of why all people should triumphantly praise Jehovah. The stated reasons are, (1) Because of His mercy, and (2) Because of His truth. God’s mercy protected the nation of Israel over and over throughout their history. God’s truth denotes the integrity of His promises (especially those made to Abraham and David), as well as the revelation of His truth. God offers all sinners (whether Gentiles or Jews) His mercy and His truth in Jesus Christ (Rom. 15:8-9). Of all the reasons to praise God, His mercy toward sinners and His unwavering truth are at the heart of why we do so. Without God’s mercy, we would all perish in sin (Titus 3:4-5; Eph. 2:4-5). Without God’s truth, we would not know God’s purposes for us, nor could we be freed from our sins (John 8:31-32). Notably, mercy and truth go together; they are fully present and fully obtained in Jesus Christ (John 1:14-18).
“As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to you! But we will certainly do whatever has gone out of our own mouth, to burn incense to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we have done, we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, were well-off, and saw no trouble.” (Jeremiah 44:16–17, NKJV)
Can you image God’s people telling God’s prophet that they would not listen to him? That is exactly what this remnant of Judah said to Jeremiah. They did not love the word of God, but themselves. They interpreted their days of plenty to mean God was pleased with them; they were wrong. They said this even though their beloved city of Jerusalem had been ransacked by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar! Yet, still they clung to their idols in their self-willed defiance, even though God would bring further judgment upon them for their rebellion (Jer. 44:12). This sounds very familiar. There are still many who claim to have faith in God that behave this way. Refusing to listen to the word of Christ from His apostles does not bring divine blessings, but certain judgment (John 12:48). To have God’s approval and blessings, the sin of defiant self-will must be abandoned, and replaced with humble submission to the word of Christ (Matt. 7:21-23).
A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher. (Luke 6:40, NKJV)
By definition, the disciple is not superior to his teacher. A disciple is one who learns; a pupil, a student. A disciple is not content with obtaining knowledge; he trains in order to be like his teacher. Even so, faithful disciples of Jesus not only learn His teachings, they also put into practice what they learn. His disciples do not assert themselves above Jesus Christ; they willingly submit to His instruction. Disciples of Jesus (Christians, Acts 11:26), live what they learn. Those who claim to be His disciples, but do not obey Jesus, are not truly His disciples (John 8:31-32). Jesus asked rhetorically, “But why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Lk. 6:46) Disciples of Jesus let the word of Christ dwell in their richly (Col. 3:16). Then, they obey their Teacher in order to be like Him.
14 I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. 15 For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you, imitate me. (1 Corinthians 4:14–16, NKJV)
We ought to be ashamed when we sin against God. Paul did not take shame off the table as an incentive to obey the gospel (see 1 Cor. 6:5 and 15:34: “I say this to your shame”). Here, he was not only shaming them for their pride (that was dividing the church, 1 Cor. 4:71-13), he was also (and especially) warning them as his own children in the faith. They must humble themselves, stop their divisive conduct, and imitate the apostle (cf. 1 Cor. 3:18-21; 4:6). Shame over our sin is a valid reason to repent and change our conduct, when we learn of sin in our lives. Yet, too many who profess to follow Jesus are ashamed of Him and His words. Jesus warned against making this sinful decision: “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mk. 8:38). If you are ashamed of your sin, then act upon that shame. Repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins, or as a Christian, repent and pray to be forgiven (Acts 2:37-38; 8:22-24).
You have given a banner to those who fear You, that it may be displayed because of the truth. (Psalm 60:4, NKJV)
For centuries, armies used banners or flags to identify and distinguish themselves from their enemy on the battlefield. The raised banner was a rally point for combat, giving assurance that the cause was advancing on the field of battle. God has raised the banner of His Christ as the rallying point for salvation from sin, and as our signal to advance against the enemy, the devil (Isa. 11:10; Rom. 15:12). The cause of truth is identified by, and advances under, God’s banner. It does not fly for the sake of “vain parade or ostentation; it was not to be unfolded in an unrighteous or unjust cause” (Barnes on Psa. 60:4). The banner of the cross is unfurled by all who fear God and work righteousness (Acts 10:34-35). The cause of divine truth will be victorious. Christians, who march according to the authority of Jesus Christ, advance to victory (1 John 5:4; Rev. 17:14).