13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them (2 Timothy 3:13–14, NKJV)
In yesterday’s Sword Tips (#1599) we learned the gospel teaches God’s people are no longer identified by their flesh, but by their faith (Romans 2:28-29). Now, let us apply what we learned. God’s word of truth informs us that the physical nation of Israel is no longer the chosen people of God. Therefore, any religious doctrine that elevates the nation of Israel to “chosen” or “promised” status is necessarily mistaken. For example, a widely held view is that Christ will return to earth and return the nation of Israel to its promised land (even though God fulfilled that promise long ago, Joshua 21:43). Scripture says we will meet the Lord in the air, not on the earth (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Another doctrine some teach says every nation will be judged by God based on how it treats the nation of Israel. The judgment of the last great day will be individual, not national (2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:11-15). False doctrines concerning Israel deceive many souls. Today, it is one of the nations of the world, but the word of God gives it no superior standing among the nations. Every nation is under the rule of Jesus Christ, and every person who rejects Him as Messiah is lost in sin (1 Timothy 6:15; John 8:23-24). “In every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:35).
28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. (Romans 2:28–29, NKJV)
The gospel of Christ makes no fleshly distinctions when identifying the chosen people of God. The text before us is very clear. The gospel of Christ does not identify a Jew by outward circumcision, but by the inward circumcision of the heart. In Christ “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). God’s “chosen generation” today is His church that is composed of Christians, whether Jew or Gentile in the flesh, it makes no difference to God (1 Peter 2:9; Acts 15:9). Scripture says, “nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham” (Romans 9:7). Any doctrine that elevates any race of people above another has distorted the gospel of Christ and the salvation it extends to all, regardless of whether they are a Jew or a Gentile (Romans 1:16-17). Fleshly Israel was told to “circumcise the foreskin of your heart” (Deuteronomy 10:16). In Christ, it is the circumcision of Christ – the cutting away of “the body of the sins of the flesh” (which occurs in baptism) – that identifies a person as a child of God (Colossians 2:11-13).
5 Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. 6 And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.” (Romans 11:5–6, NKJV)
Just as God gathered a remnant of His people back to Jerusalem after their Babylonian captivity and exile, He is now gathering a remnant for salvation “according to the election of grace.” Here, and throughout the book of Romans, grace (which is heard in the truth of the gospel, Colossians 1:5-6) is set in contrast to law keeping law (the law of Moses) as the means of justification (Romans 3:21-26). Grace is not obtained through law-keeping, for if one keeps the law (without sin), then his reward is a debt earned, not a gift given (Romans 4:1-8; Ephesians 2:8-9). So, how does God execute “the election of grace?” God elected (chose) to save sinners in Christ (Ephesians 1:4-6). Through the blood of Christ, God makes forgiveness of sins available “according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7). God calls sinners out of sin into salvation by the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). Faith obeys God and obtains grace, just like Abraham and his faith (Romans 4:16; James 2:21-24). We are saved “by grace through faith,” not by earning grace, but with a faith that takes God at His word and does what He says. Christians do that, and stand in the “true grace of God” (1 Peter 5:12).
12 When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. (2 Samuel 7:12–13, NKJV)
God’s predictive promise to king David looked beyond Solomon to the Messiah. It helped to crystallize the promise to bless all nations in Abraham’s seed, who is Christ (Genesis 22:18; Galatians 3:16). Its fulfillment in Jesus was announced by Gabriel to Mary when he told her of the Son she would bear (Luke 1:31-33). Peter said it was fulfilled in the resurrection and ascension of Jesus (Acts 2:30-36). Jesus is the promised seed of David whose kingdom would be established and whose reign would be forever. He is the son of David who would build God a house. The Davidic promise has been fulfilled. The Messiah’s kingdom, which is “not of this world” – was established (Mark 9:1; Acts 1:4-8). Christ built His church, which is the house of the living God (Matthew 16:18-19; Ephesians 2:19-22; Hebrews 3:3-6). He reigns today, and no one seizes His throne from Him (Matthew 28:18-20). Unless you are born of water and the Spirit you will not enter His kingdom (John 3:5). When you repent and are baptized for the remission of sins you will receive the Spirit’s gift of blessings in the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Acts 2:38-41, 47; Colossians 1:13).
5 The righteousness of the blameless will direct his way aright, but the wicked will fall by his own wickedness. 6 The righteousness of the upright will deliver them, but the unfaithful will be caught by their lust.” (Proverbs 11:5–6, NKJV)
To be blameless does not mean one has never sinned or has never failed in some spiritual responsibility. All of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). However, the blameless person takes responsibility for his sin and corrects it according to God’s will. Therefore, no charge of ongoing sin can be properly laid against him; He is “upright” (v. 6). He is directed by righteousness and walks uprightly in the light of God’s truth (1 John 1:7-9). By contrast, the wicked person falls in his wickedness because he does not seek the righteousness of God (Matthew 6:33; Romans 1:16-17). This person is captured by his own lust and lost in sin (James 4:1-4). Which person are you? Are you directed by truth and delivered by righteousness from the pains and trials of evil? Or, are you unfaithful to the Lord, driven by lusts that bring sin’s suffering to your life? Salvation and blamelessness are possible through Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 1:12-17). The choice is yours, and its result will be everlasting.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10–12, NKJV)
Early Christians faced threats, deprivation, imprisonment, violence and death for their faith (Hebrews 10:32-34). It may be hard for us to envision the blessedness of being persecuted. Yet, our perspective changes when the blessing of persecution is understood in the context of being citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Enduring persecution for the sake of righteousness produces patience and perfects faith (James 1:2-4). Devotion to things above will bring persecution, but it also helps the persecution seem as “light affliction” in comparison to the “eternal weight of glory” to come (2 Corinthians 4:17). Because we trust His word, the Lord’s promise of eternal reward replaces the fear of persecution with confident hope (1 Peter 3:14). Jesus showed us the blessedness of suffering for what is right, and because of His suffering we obtain an eternal blessing (1 Peter 3:18; 2:19-24). Persecution is not seen as a blessing when viewed from a “this world” perspective. But, eyes of faith see the blessing it brings. Citizens of the kingdom of heaven will suffer for righteousness’ sake, and are blessed for it.
37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” 39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. 40 But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (Mark 4:37–40, NKJV)
We have had a lot of wind storms where I live this winter, and another warning was just issued. When the storms of life billow up around us we may be like the disciples of Jesus. Frightened, we may question whether God knows and whether He cares. Jesus calming the storm assures us He does. In fact, if we are willing to learn the lesson, Jesus teaches us fear results from a lack of faith in Him. The Lord 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) We know there will be storms in life, but we trust the Lord will see us safely through them all. Instead of being hindered by fear, boldly continue to rely on the Lord. His will prevails, as do all those who commit themselves to doing His will (Matthew 6:10; 7:21). “…for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12).