Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. (Matthew 18:15, NKJV)
The sin under consideration in this verse is personal in nature (“against you”). Its private nature is necessarily implied in the instruction Jesus gives, “go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” The sin is not generally known, and is to be privately discussed. Christ’s command also implies the one who sinned may not even know he has sinned against his brother, since Jesus said to “tell him his fault…” The manner of this initial discussion is informative and persuasive. That is, the sinner needs to “hear” that he has sinned, as well as how to remedy it through repentance (Acts 8:22). Damage is done when private sins are made public. Gossip, backbiting and rumor-mongering may begin from a failure to keep private sins, private. Remember, the goal is to “seek the one that is straying,” not slay him because he has wandered from the Shepherd (Matt. 18:12).
6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” 7 Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” 8 and “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. (1 Peter 2:6–8, NKJV)
Jesus is compared to two very different stones in this passage. First, He is the chief cornerstone from whom the temple of God, the church, has been measured and built (1 Peter 2:4-6; Matthew 16:18). Chosen by God for His preciousness, believers who trust Him will not be put to shame, for they are “living stones” in God’s spiritual house (1 Peter 2:4-5). Second, Jesus is a stone of stumbling and rock of offense to those who reject Him as the chief cornerstone. Refusing to put their faith in Him, they disobey His word. The disobedient are set (appointed) to stumble over Christ in their unbelief. Christ has been set as the chief cornerstone of God’s house. By believing and obeying His word, He will not be a rock of offense over which you fall, but the precious, living stone who gives life to you (1 Peter 2:4-5).
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; 24 And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23–24, NKJV)
The sweet psalmist of Israel understood God already knew his every thought, word and deed (Psalm 139:1-6). Still, David asked God to examine him, to verify his heart was pure, and his way was holy. David’s earnest desire was to be led by God to everlasting life. Like David, we must acknowledge that God knows us better than we know ourselves. We must be open to His examinations of us, and choose to be led by Him “in the way everlasting.” How is this accomplished? As we let God’s word into our hearts, it explores the recesses of our souls (see Hebrews 4:12-13). As we believe His word and follow it, sin is replaced with God’s merciful salvation (Acts 2:37-42). In the joy of salvation, His word lights our path to eternity (Psalm 119:105; 1 John 1:6-7). God is at work examining us, when we use His word to examine ourselves as to whether we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).
16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Mark 2:16–17, NKJV)
We hear people telling us we should accept and befriend those who live in immorality, because after all, “Jesus ate with sinners.” Yes, He did. But, the question that needs to answered is, “Why did Jesus eat with sinners?” Was it to condone, tolerate, and even commend them in their sins? Today’s verse explains why He ate with them. If people would accept His explanation, they would stop claiming Jesus was tolerant of sinful diversity. The people Jesus ate with were sin sick. Eating with them was the Great Physician’s opportunity to call them to repentance and salvation. He was not “accepting them as they were.” Jesus was not opening the door to immorality without repentance and conversion. Without a doubt, Jesus loves sinners. He showed that love by teaching them God’s truth about sin and God’s mercy. He called them to repentance. He did not comfort them in their sin. When we teach a sinner the truth about his sin, and call him to repent and be saved, we are loving him the way Jesus loved sinners. That’s why Jesus ate with sinners. Is that why you eat with sinners?
1 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” (John 3:1–2, NKJV)
Nicodemus had heard the teachings of Jesus, and he had apparently seen some of His miracles (or their effects). From this, Nicodemus rightly concluded that Jesus had come from God, and that God was with him. From the context, we are not amiss to conclude that Nicodemus was an early believer (John 2:23). He was a Pharisee, and a ruler of the Jews (John 7:50). This indicates the influence of Jesus’ words and deeds was already beginning to reach the upper echelons of Jewish power. Although this night visit implies an element of fear on the part of Nicodemus, it also shows him acting on the conclusion he drew from the words and signs of Jesus. He did not withdraw from Jesus, criticize Him, or obstruct His work. This “teacher of Israel” went directly to Jesus to investigate for himself. We must never allow our place in society, our degree of education, or the authority we hold over others to prevent a humble investigation of Christ and His gospel. Pride would have prevented this night visit. Is pride keeping you from going to Jesus, learning from Him, and following His word? Remember, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).
23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. 24 But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, 25 and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man. (John 2:23–25, NKJV)
The miracles of Jesus were signs to the people that He is from God. When they saw the signs He did, they believed in His name, or power. Without those miracles, there would have been no ability to know who Jesus was, or the power by which He spoke. By contrast, Jesus did not need signs to tell Him what was in the hearts of men and women. People did not need signs to confirm to Jesus who they were and what was in them. Being the Son of God, He knows the hearts of men. For example, He knew Nathaniel was an Israelite “in whom is no deceit” (John 1:47). He knows what is in your heart and mine (Hebrews 4:13). Let us be sure to entrust our souls to Him by faithfully honoring and obeying His authority as the Son of God.
18 Then behold, men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed, whom they sought to bring in and lay before Him. 19 And when they could not find how they might bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the housetop and let him down with his bed through the tiling into the midst before Jesus. 20 When He saw their faith, He said to him, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” (Luke 5:18–20, NKJV)
Jesus saw their faith, and forgave the man’s sins. In just this way, an active faith that is seen by God is the faith He requires of us for our forgiveness. Salvation is “by grace, through faith;” it is “not our yourselves; it is the gift of God.” Salvation is “not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Does anyone think that because Jesus saw their faith, the paralytic earned the right to be forgiven? Certainly not! Why then, is there so much objection to saving faith being one that obeys the Lord’s commands (to repent and be baptized, Acts 2:38; Mk. 16:16)? You see, faith that cannot be seen is incomplete (James 2:17-18). Faith must be coupled with the action of faith (obedience), because “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). Saving faith is active, it is obedient to the word of Jesus. Obedient faith does not earn the right to be saved. Salvation is the gift of God, and Jesus gave that gift of salvation to the paralytic. But, what he had not lowered him into Christ’s presence? Without their active faith, he would have not been saved. Do you have faith to obey Jesus, to be saved by His grace? Does Jesus see your faith?
30 “An astonishing and horrible thing has been committed in the land: 31 The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own power; And My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?” (Jeremiah 5:30–31, NKJV)
When Jeremiah penned this warning from God, Judah was facing punishment for her sins (“Shall I not punish them for these things? says the Lord,” Jeremiah 5:29). This passage gives us insight into God’s great displeasure with false teaching and religious oppression. Devastating and horrible things were happening in Judah, because false prophets were speaking lies in the name of God (Jeremiah 14:14). Yet, God’s people “loved to have it so.” The priests, who should have taught the people to be holy before the Lord, seized power for themselves at the expense of the people. And still, God’s people loved to have it so. In the end, they did not escape God’s judgment. Even now, some Christians are content to be deceived by false teachers. Instead of following God’s word, they are willing to be ruled over by the tyranny of human wisdom. Why? Perhaps, because it has always been easier to run with the crowd to do evil than to stand up and stand against unscriptural teaching and immoral practices (Exodus 23:2). God sees false teaching and unholy conduct as devastating and horrible things, that bring destruction upon those who “love to have it so.” May we resolve never to love what God hates (Psalm 97:10; Romans 12:9).
14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— (Ephesians 4:14–15, NKJV)
Maturity in Christ equips us to achieve and maintain the “the unity of the faith” to which we have been called by the gospel. Christ gave the work of inspired men (through which that gospel came to earth from heaven), and the work of uninspired men (who continue to proclaim and teach the gospel) to thoroughly equip us to serve the will of God as the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13). In today’s text, our spiritual maturity prevents us from being tossed about like children by the prevailing winds of false doctrine. The “trickery of men” describes the sleight of hand by which one defrauds another. False doctrine defrauds and plunders the unsuspecting of their spiritual treasure (Colossians 2:8). The “cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting” describes the deceptive method of sophistry that attacks the simplicity of the gospel of Christ (Romans 16:17-18). As our maturity in Christ protects us, it also enables us to speak the truth in love. God’s truth equips us to grow in Christ, while protecting us from spiritual danger, and securing our standing with Christ (the Head of the church). Let us determine to grow up in Christ by becoming strong in the truth.
12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; (Ephesians 4:12–13, NKJV)
After He ascended into heaven, Christ gave gifts to the world, (Ephesians 4:11, see Sword Tips #1213). The work of these inspired men produced the New Testament. These uninspired men help us know and follow them. According to verse 12, these gifts were given to equip or complete the saints of God, in order to 1) do the work of service given by the Lord, and to 2) edify or strengthen the church. Please notice, it is the word of God that gives us the necessary tools to serve, and to be spiritually strengthened. The goal of our spiritual ministry and strength is stated in verse 13: That we will attain to the maturity and unity to which we have been called in Christ. This is where Paul began this fourth chapter of Ephesians, as he urges Christians to walk worthy of our calling, carefully guarding “the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3, 1-6). Churches have strayed far from this spiritual work Jesus intended. The word of God is hardly preached, rarely studied, and viewed as opinions and traditions, rendered irrelevant by time and humanity’s progress. Let us return to honoring Christ’s gifts, by which the saving gospel is known and used, enabling us to be what Christ wants of His people.