Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3, NKJV)
Several important truths are found in today’s text, and they cause us to pause and praise God for His wisdom, love and mercy toward us in Christ. (1) The source of our blessings is God the Father. The One who blesses us with every spiritual blessing is God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Man does not bless himself with eternal blessings. The blessings we have in Christ are not given through the Roman Papacy, or a Watchtower Society, or a so-called Latter-day prophet. God the Father is to be praised as the Giver of all our blessings in Christ. (2) Jesus is the Lord and Christ, by whom our redemption is obtained (Eph. 1:7). God has gathered together everything that pertains to our redemption in our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:10). (3) The nature of our blessings are spiritual, not of this world. Prosperity theology (the “health and wealth gospel”) perverts the nature of the blessings obtained in Christ. (4) Our fellowship with Christ is “in the heavenly places.” The worldly-minded person does not perceive these great spiritual blessings; they elude his closed heart (1 Cor. 2:14). But, our redemption is very real, reaching into eternity. (5) All spiritual blessings are “in Christ.” Spiritual blessings will never be found in Buddha, Mohammed, human philosophy or reason, or any other source (Acts 4:12). Come to Jesus; He will save you.
And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:2, NKJV)
God expects His word to be taught to successive generations. Teaching the gospel of Christ is not covert indoctrination. Bible instruction is an open exercise, where the truth is heard “among many witnesses.” Having been taught by the apostle Paul, Timothy was to deposit that same apostolic instruction to trustworthy souls, who could competently teach others. So goes the cycle of teaching and learning and teaching – from the teacher to the student, who then becomes the teacher of others. Parents, your children do not inherit your knowledge of the truth, any more than they inherit your sin. Each generation must be taught the word of God so they can learn and live God’s will, and be saved (Phil. 2:12). One final note: it is “faithful” ones who are equipped to teach others. One who cannot be trusted to faithfully follow the word of God is ill prepared to teach others (1 Tim. 1:5-7). Listen to the apostolic teaching. Learn it. Live it. Teach it to others, so they can do the same.
1 Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases! For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men. 2 They speak idly everyone with his neighbor; With flattering lips and a double heart they speak. (Psalm 12:1–2, NKJV)
I just read an article about data mining that began with this provocative statement: “Everybody lies.” Is that statement true, or is it a lie? The author’s declarative statement is different from saying, “I have never lied.” And, it is different than saying, “I will never be tempted to lie.” His statement implies ongoing action. He asserts everyone always lies. We object to this over-broad pronouncement. Yes, the world is full of liars. But, you do not have to be one of them. The gospel calls Christians out of a life of lies, into speaking truth: “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another” (Eph. 4:25). The Scriptures tell us that “all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8). Will everyone be lost? If not, then at least some liars are no longer liars. Some have repented of lying, obeyed the gospel and no longer lie. They were converted to Christ, and put away their lying. If you are a liar, then stop your lying and speak the truth. Your incentive is eternal life; your warning is hell’s eternal death.
For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. (Romans 12:3, NKJV)
Speaking God’s word in order to address the spiritual needs of men and women is an action of divine grace. And, that truth applies “to everyone who is among you” – divine truth knows no partiality. Therefore, we are warned against a conceited, arrogant frame of mind toward God’s truth. Arrogance prevents the wisdom of sound judgment. Truly, arrogance is an attribute of the fool, who prideful trusts in his own reasoning: “A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart” (Prov. 18:2). Faith produces humility toward God’s truth, not hubris. Faith does not argue against God’s truth; it accepts it. Faith does not elevate human reasoning; it submits to the infinitely superior will of God. The word “soberly” in today’s text means “to be in one’s right mind” (Thayer, 612-613). When a Christian is arrogant, he is not in his right mind. We must have the mind of Christ (humble and obedient) – not the conceited mind of the world (Phil. 2:5-8).
24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, 25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24–25, NASB95)
Since God is able to “keep” (preserve) you stumbling, the possibility of stumbling necessarily exists (cf. Gal. 5:7). He will stand you blameless before Him, when you build up yourselves in the faith, pray in the Spirit, and keep (preserve) yourselves in the love of God (Jude 20-21). Eternal life, while provided by the power and authority of “the only God our Savior,” is not unconditional. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mk. 16:16); Belief and baptism are conditions that one must meet in order to be saved. “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:10-11). Note the word “if” – “if you do these things…” That’s a condition the Christian must meet in order to have confidence of gaining entrance into the eternal kingdom. God has the “dominion and authority” to save you. He calls on you to be loyal to Him by remaining steadfast and faithful.
12 For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. 13 For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.” (Hebrews 7:12–14, NKJV)
Jesus is “a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Psa. 110:4; Heb. 5:6; 7:17, 21). But, the Law of Moses said priests would be the sons of Aaron, from the tribe of Levi (Num. 3:10; Heb. 7:11). Since Jesus was from the tribe of Judah, the law had to be changed in order for Christ to be a priest (Heb. 7:12). Moses was silent about appointing priests from the tribe of Judah. When the Law of Moses identified the tribe of Levi as the priestly tribe, it necessarily eliminated all the other tribes from priestly appointment. You see, the silence of the Scriptures does not give consent for action. If it did, then Jesus (from the tribe of Judah) could be a priest under the Law of Moses, without changing the law. But, He could not, without violating God’s word. An action or a teaching is not legitimized by saying, “the Bible doesn’t say not to.” Truth is established by what the Scriptures say, not by their silence. God’s word says what is good and right in His sight. If we add to His word, we transgress His will. If this is not true, then why did the law have to change in order for Christ to be a priest?
20 And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” (Mark 7:20–23, NKJV)
Billions of people do not regard sin as sin. That word has been all but stricken from the lexicons of languages around the world. What Jesus said here reminds us that we are dual beings, made of both flesh and spirit; both mortal and immortal. The inner person – the person possessing identity, volition, conscience, intelligence and emotions – is identified as the heart, from which comes our words and actions. Jesus identified sexual immorality of all sorts (including adultery, homosexuality and premarital sex) as sin that comes from the heart. Oppression of one’s neighbor, whether by murder, thievery, covetousness or deceit, is also sinful. See how pride is considered evil along with all the rest. Sin is real, and we must define sin the way Jesus does. If not, we will likely call evil good, and good evil (Isa. 5:20). “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
16 Therefore I urge you, imitate me. 17 For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.” (1 Corinthians 4:16–17, NKJV)
Should we charge Paul with arrogance for telling the Christians to imitate him? Was Timothy encouraging Paul’s hubris by reminding the Christians of how Paul lived? No, because Paul’s ways were “in Christ” (see 1 Cor. 11:1). Paul lived what he taught, and his faithful life is a pattern to follow (Phil. 3:17). It is also notable that the inspired apostle Paul taught the same thing “everywhere in every church.” Truth is not definable by time, place, or situation. There was not one truth for first-century Christians in Corinth, and another truth for 21st century Christians. Every attempt to shape and mold the word of God to our situations, instead of reforming our situations to that word, is destined to end in spiritual failure. The gospel that was preached in the first century “endures,” and bears the same fruit now that it bore then (1 Pet. 1:22-25). What we need is not a new truth; it is a new heart to receive and follow the truth that has been once for all delivered from heaven to men (Jude 3).
The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it. (Luke 16:16, NKJV)
A dramatic shift occurred when John, the forerunner of Messiah, came on the scene. “John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mk. 1:4). John proclaimed the good news of an approaching kingdom, and souls began pressing into it as they listened, learned, and “were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins” (Mk. 1:5). When Jesus began His work on earth, He preached the gospel of the kingdom of God, saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk. 1:14-15). Jesus looked beyond the Law of Moses to the redemptive gospel of God. It is incredible to witness deceived preachers deceiving Christians into thinking that Jesus came teaching the law of Moses to the Jewish people. In today’s passage, Jesus affirms that He was not teaching Moses; He was teaching people to believe in the kingdom of God that He and His gospel brought and opened up to the whole world (Matt. 16:19, 28). Any doctrine that demands viewing Jesus as a rabbi who taught the Law of Moses instead of the gospel of the Messiah’s kingdom is false, and must be refused as the error it is.
He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul, but he who is careless of his ways will die. (Proverbs 19:16, NKJV)
Many who claim the name of Christ easily disparage Christians who are careful to follow the word of God as “hyper-conservative,” or even as “legalistic.” When the Scriptures are consulted, there is no doubt that careful obedience is precisely what faith demands. The progressive mindset is willing to broaden and expand the definition and application of truth. Pontius Pilate could be the progressives’ poster child, for it was he who said, “What is truth?” God has revealed truth in an understandable and believable way. Furthermore, its commands can be kept, for by so doing, one guards his very soul from sin’s death. When one is careless with the word of God, he is being careless with his soul. The evangelist Timothy was commended for carefully following the apostle’s teaching and manner of life (2 Tim. 3:10-11). Instead of sneering at those who keep the commands of God, follow their example. Your soul is worth keeping God’s commands (read Matt. 16:24-26).