2 And he said, “Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.’” (Acts 7:2–3, NKJV)
We have heard people say that God would never expect them to leave (go contrary to) their family to do His will. Yet, that is exactly what God commanded Abraham to do. Abraham obeyed God without hesitation and went to a foreign land, all because God said to do so. This is the essence of God-pleasing faith. Listen to Hebrews 11:8: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” Genuine faith in Jesus Christ means loving Him more than we love our own family and our own country. Genuine faith obeys the word of God, even when relatives will not. Family is important, but family is not the most important thing (God is more important, see Matthew 10:34-38). Many people have a hard time with this simple but profound truth. The gospel of Christ calls us to make a fundamental choice of Jesus before family, before country, and before self. Without faith (the kind of faith Abraham had) it is impossible to please God. Why? Because “he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Make sure Christ is always first in your life.
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12–13, NKJV)
More than a few times we have heard this passage misused to endorse accepting people in error and the immorality it produces. Such brethren defy the existence of absolute truth while tacitly accepting the moral relativism it produces. Since good and sincere brethren disagree on certain doctrinal issues (which they define as gray areas), they conclude each one will have to just “work out their own salvation” on the matter. This view is applied to divorce and remarriage. One of the problems with using Philippians 2:12 this way is it results in accepting adulterers as if they are faithful Christians. No longer is the sinner rebuked and called to repentance. Now he or she is tolerated and allowed to “work out their own salvation.” People “commit adultery” when they divorce and remarry in violation of Matthew 19:9. How do you “work out your own salvation” as an adulterer? God only forgives the adulterer when the sinner repents, prays and ending the adulterous remarriage. “Work out your own salvation” means to keep on obeying God (read verse 12 again). You bring your salvation to its full accomplishment by obeying God, not by remaining in disobedience.
33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?” 35 “Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?” 36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33–36, NKJV)
The gospel reveals the purposes of God to save sinners – us – through the redemption He makes available through His Son Jesus Christ. Paul had plumbed the depth of the riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge in the first eleven chapters of his letter to the Romans. Today’s passage summarizes with clarity and force that the judgments and ways of God are not measured and tempered by human wisdom. It is not man’s place to teach God. We must resist the temptation to make God in our own image, and then expect Him to agree with the ingenuity of our intuition, insight, expectations and knowledge. No, we must humble ourselves before the magnitude of God’s wisdom and knowledge. He is our Creator, our Sustainer, and our Redeemer. Every blessing we have is because God is all wise, all powerful, and all merciful. To Him be the glory forever.
48 He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. 50 And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak. (John 12:48–50, NKJV)
Jesus did not come to the world to condemn the world, but to give the world a way of salvation (John 3:17). In truth, the world was already condemned in sin (Romans 1:18; 3:9-20, 23). Salvation from sin and death is only found in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). If you reject Jesus, thinking you will find peace “within yourself” with Jesus, you will be eternally disappointed. Why? Because by rejecting Jesus, you reject His word – the very truth by which He will judge the world (including you and me) in the last day (v. 48). The words of Jesus are words of eternal life (John 6:68). They have been left for the whole world to hear, believe and follow to have light and life, instead of darkness and death (John 12:46-47). Although many think any command from God is oppressive, the truth is that God’s command (that approved Christ’s words) is everlasting life (v. 49-50). God has given us the words of Christ, the gospel, by which we will be judged in the last day. Live by it and receive eternal life. Reject it, and reap eternal death. What will your sentence be?
44 Then Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me. 45 And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. (John 12:44–45, NKJV)
You may think Jesus always spoke in a soft, unassuming voice. If so, you would be mistaken. Many times, He loudly proclaimed His message. He explained that He did not originate His teachings, they came from Him who sent Jesus to the world (John 8:26-30). Jesus spoke what the Father commanded Him to speak (John 12:49). In this sense, He is the Apostle of our confession (Hebrews 3:1). So, to believe in Jesus is to believe in the Father. One cannot believe in God the Father and simultaneously reject Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus has seen the Father and declared Him to the world (John 1:18). Indeed, Jesus shares the same divine nature as the Father. He and the Father are one in nature and purpose, perfectly united in their deity and all that entails (John 10:30). The Son is the image of the invisible God, the exact image of God’s real nature (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3). No doubt this explain Christ’s amazement when Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’” (John 14:8-9). You must look at Jesus and believe in Him to see and believe in God. After all, Jesus is Immanuel (“God with us”).
42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. (John 12:42–43, NKJV)
It is apparent from this text that mere belief in Christ is not sufficient to be saved in Christ. Different types of personal faith are observed in the Scriptures, some of which must definitely be avoided. For instance, we must not have the faith of demons (James 2:19). They believe – even tremble – but their faith lacks doing the will of God. They are lost. Therefore, James wrote, “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17, 20). If that is the kind of faith you have – believing but not obeying God – then your faith is dead, and we urge you to repent and obey the Father. The Jewish rulers in today’s text had a silent faith. They believed in Jesus, but they feared men more than God. They remained silent because they desired the praise and recognition of men more than God’s approval. Faith that pleases God does not shrink from open confession of one’s allegiance to Christ. Fidelity to Christ is observable through a life that obeys God’s will and refuses to yield to the silencing tactics of the world. Instead of fearing men, saving faith fears God and does not shrink back (Matthew 10:28; Hebrews 10:39).
13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. 14 And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. (2 Thessalonians 3:13–15, NKJV)
From time to time the question arises whether a fallen away Christian is, in fact, still a brother or sister in Christ. Today’s passage helps us understand that fallen Christians are still brethren, albeit, brethren in sin in need of discipline and warnings to try to bring about their repentance. Verse 13 refers to “brethren” who are faithful not to grow weary in doing the good things of God. The “anyone” of verse 14 is any Christian who becomes weary of doing good (being faithful) and “walks disorderly” (2 Thessalonians 3:6). Normal social contact with that person is to cease in a disciplinary attempt to cause him to be ashamed of his sin and repent (2 Corinthians 7:9-10). Verse 15 directly says the wayward Christian is “a brother” whom we continue to warn rather than treat as an enemy. Therefore, we conclude that one who falls from the faith is an erring brother or sister – an erring child of God who needs repentance and prayer to be forgiven by God (James 5:19-20; Acts 8:22).