“He is God’s minister to you for good” #1233

3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. (Romans 13:3–4, NKJV)

God ordained “governing authorities” (human governments), and He expects “every soul” to respect and yield to such authority (Romans 13:1). Today’s passage explains that God set these authorities in place, to protect the innocent, and to punish evil doers. Lenski comment is worth repeating here: “The world is full of wicked men, and God has placed rulers among them to check and to control this wickedness by means of laws and penalties, all of them being directed, not against good deeds, but against evil deeds” (Commentary on Romans, 789). There is no hesitation in the apostle’s explanation that governing authorities have God’s permission to “execute wrath” on the evil doer. The use of capital punishment is approved, since “the sword” referred to in verse 4 is the actual sword used by the executioner, as he applies the death penalty on criminals. When governments become a terror to good works, God removes them (Daniel 4:25, 34-35; Jeremiah 18:5-11). For our part, let us “do what is good,” and thank God for the protection He provides us by means of governing authorities.

“He who receives whomever I send receives Me” #1232

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. (John 13:20, NKJV)

These reassuring words of Jesus, spoken to His apostles, establish the vital importance of following the apostles’ doctrine today. Th word “apostle” means one who is sent. Jesus told them, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21). In their case, Jesus sent His apostles into the world to preach the gospel (Mark 16:15). Only by receiving Jesus does a person receive God into his or her life. But, to receive Jesus Christ, one must receive His apostles. Therefore, one cannot reject the apostles’ teachings and rightfully claim to have received Jesus into his life. Receiving the apostles begins by hearing and believing their words (Acts 2:22, 36-37). It continues by obeying their commands (approved by the authority of Jesus) to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38-41, esp. v. 41). Furthermore, one then steadfastly continues “in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42). Christians continue to learn and follow the word of Christ which His apostles taught. Do you receive Christ’s apostles, by believing and obeying their teachings? If so, you are receiving Jesus and the Father, who sent Him to the world.

“I will lift up my eyes” #1231

1 I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help? 2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1–2, NKJV)

The psalmist exhorted Israel to lift her eyes heavenward when faced with hardship and calamity, and with the eyes of faith, see her Helper. The hills and mountains gave only temporary protection from their enemies. The idols, whose worshipers had erected shrines on the hilltops, could not see them or hear them when they cried out for help (1 Kings 18:24-29). The Lord, who made the hills (the heaven and the earth), is the ever-vigilant protector of His people (Psalm 121:3-6). The secular world looks to organizations of men, to lawmakers, and to philosophers in times of trial and trouble. They think these will solve their problems. People of faith keep our eyes fixed upon the Lord, who preserves our souls to the day of eternity. We live for heaven (not this earth); that’s where our treasure is (Matthew 6:19-21). The Lord is our Helper day and night. Keep your eyes fixed on Him. Do not be overwhelmed with discouragement and despair: “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6)

Turn, and Live #1230

10 Therefore you, O son of man, say to the house of Israel: ‘Thus you say, “If our transgressions and our sins lie upon us, and we pine away in them, how can we then live?” ’ Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’ (Ezekiel 33:10–11, NKJV)

Without doubt, Israel had grievously sinned against the Lord God. From the depths of despair, with their sins bringing ruin to their nation, they wondered how they could survive. Although judgment was being exacted upon the sinful nation, it gave God no pleasure to see its demise. He is not a vindictive God, who delights in the destruction of those who sin against Him. Even when sin has separated sinners far from Him, God yearns for their life, not their death. For that reason, God pleaded with these souls to turn from their evil ways, and live. At this very moment, you may be weighed down by sin. If so, God wants you to have eternal life, not eternal death. Through the gospel of Christ, He calls you to turn away from every sin, and live. Godly sorrow produces repentance, that leads to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10; Acts 2:37-38). Turn, and live.

“The arm of the Lord” #1229

37 But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, 38 that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (John 12:37–38, NKJV)

The powerful arm of the Lord was revealed to Israel by the many signs (miracles) Jesus did before the people. His miracles were heaven’s testimony that He is the Christ, the Son of God (John 5:36; 20:30-31; Acts 2:22). Yet, despite His marvelous works, they did not believe in Him. Why not? John answers that question with another quote from Isaiah: “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them” (John 12:40; Isaiah 6:9-10). It has been said there are none so blind as he who will not see. When we willfully harden our hearts against God and His Son, His testimony of truth will not penetrate it. We will remain lost in our unbelief. The strength of the Lord (His “arm”) has been revealed to the world through Jesus Christ. We must humble our hearts and open our eyes and ears to God’s powerful truth. By doing so, we can understand His will, turn back to God, and be healed of our sins.

“Let the little children come to Me” #1228

15 Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 17 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” (Luke 18:15–17, NKJV)

In Luke’s narrative, Jesus had just told the parable of the Pharisee and the publican, exposing the sin of judgmental self-righteousness, while honoring the humble heart that pleases God (Lk. 18:9-14). A real-life illustration now follows, demonstrating the humility required to receive and enter the kingdom of God. His disciples were rebuking people who brought their small children, including infants, to Jesus to be blessed. Jesus was “greatly displeased” with the disciples’ conduct (Mark 10:13-14). The kingdom of God is composed of those with the innocent humility of children (Matthew 18:1-4; 19:13-14). Not only does this passage destroy the false doctrine of inheriting original sin, it also establishes the heart condition one must have to be saved. The Lord will not bless the arrogant, self-righteous person with redemption. Be careful with what heart you try to follow Jesus. It is the one with the heart of a child who receives the kingdom, and hence, the Lord’s eternal blessing.

The one who goes astray #1227

15 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. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15–17, NKJV)

Matthew 18:15-17 does not address how to deal with the public sins of Christians. Galatians 2:11-14 and 1 Corinthians 5 give us examples of such public sins, and how to handle them, as we attempt to save the lost and protect the saved. We misapply Matthew 18:15-17 when we demand following its procedure when such public sins occur. This passage is the Lord’s prescription for saving souls when personal, private sin takes place. The Lord’s teaching is not about getting rid of some one, but about saving the soul of the one who has gone astray (Galatians 6:1-2). When we are approached about sinning against a brother or sister in Christ, may we humbly hear the evidence, and repent of every transgression. And, if we are sinned against, may we follow the Lord’s instructions given here, to save one who has gone astray.

“If he refuses even to hear the church” #1226

And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:17, NKJV)

The church is to be fully engaged in trying to restore the Christian who has resisted private attempts to call him to repentance. If the Christian continues to refuse the church’s warnings to repent, a separation must occur. The unrepentant Christian is lost, but he is not the enemy of the church. Like other sinners, he must be admonished about his sin, not encouraged in his sin (2 Thessalonians 3:15). Normal social interaction must be ended, to help produce shame for his sin, and the necessary repentance (2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14). Thus, he is delivered over to Satan to destroy the flesh and, in this final effort, to save his soul. This social separation by each Christian also protects the church from the impure influences of a Christian who has no remorse for continuing to sin against the Lord (1 Corinthians 5:6-13).

“Tell it to the church” #1225

And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:17, NKJV)

In Matthew 18:15-17, the Lord teaches a deliberate approach to resolving sinful conflict between His disciples. Each step is designed to seek and save the lost (Matthew 18:10-14). At this point, previous attempts have failed to bring the sinning brother to repentance concerning his sin against a brother. Now, it is time to inform the church of the Christian’s lack of repentance, so the church can get involved in trying to rescue the sinner (James 5:19-20). Each member of the church is to reach out to the erring Christian, attempting to bring him or her back to the Lord’s salvation. By taking a united action of trying to save the sinner, the church is being careful not to put a stumbling block before Christ’s little one (remember the broader context of this passage, Matthew 18:6-14). Now is the time for each Christian to work to bring the sinner to repentance. That is why a private sin now must be made public to the church. A soul is in danger!

“By the mouth of two or three witnesses” #1224

But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ (Matthew 18:16, NKJV)

Jesus said to make a personal, private attempt to gain your brother when he sins against you (Matthew 18:15). When the one who committed sin will not repent, the Lord says to follow the directive of Deuteronomy 19:15 (which He quotes), thereby giving another opportunity for both clarity and conversion to occur. The “one or two more” are brought into the conversation with the sinning brother to accomplish at least three things. First, to identify the actual presence of sin. Second, to verify or establish the accuracy of the sinner’s refusal to repent. Third, to try to persuade the sinner to repent and turn from his sin. By using this approach, the integrity of the situation is beyond dispute. An allegation of sin must not be allowed to degenerate into name-calling, and one person’s word against another person’s word. It goes without saying that credible witnesses are required to insure this integrity, since bearing false witness is also a sin (Ephesians 4:25).