“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, NKJV)
These are final words spoken by Jesus to His apostles before He ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9). He uses two “you shall” statements that distinguish the apostles from every other disciple of Jesus. Understanding them eliminates many false concepts about the Holy Spirit, the apostles, and what it means to be witnesses of Jesus. First, Jesus told His apostles “you shall receive power.” Then, He told them when it would happen – “when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” This Holy Spirit baptism was a specific promise made to the apostles, not to every Christian (Acts 1:4-5; Jno. 14:16-17, 25-26; 15:26-27; 16:12-15). It would be fulfilled “not many days from now,” and ten days later on Pentecost, it was (Acts 1:5; 2:1-4, 33). Holy Spirit baptism would equip the apostles for their assigned work, which is the second “you shall” statement. Jesus told His apostles “you shall be witnesses to Me.” Witnesses testify of what they have seen (Jno. 3:11). The apostles were witnesses of Christ’s resurrection. They saw Him raised from the dead (Acts 1:22; 4:33; 5:32; 10:39-42; 26:16; 1 Cor. 15:4-8). Christians do not “bear witness” of Jesus because we have not seen Him. They did, and we believe their testimony. Christ gave His church apostles “for the equipping of the saints, for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12). Let us thank Christ for the apostles, not be led astray by false doctrines that would usurp their power and work.
35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. 36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” 37 Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” 38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. (Acts 8:35–38, NKJV)
Was the Ethiopian saved before he was baptized? Many think so. We know he heard about Jesus, without which he could not learn of his sin and come to Jesus for salvation (Jno. 6:44-45). We know he believed what he heard (that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, Jno. 8:23-24). Both his belief and his confession of faith were unto (in order to) salvation (Rom. 10:9-10). Although repentance is not mentioned, we infer it (Acts 2:37-38). But, what about baptism? Why did he want to be baptized? Was it because he was already saved? Or, did he believe he was still lost until he was baptized? Mark 16:16 gives the Bible answer to this important question. Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” Unbelief condemns, but one is saved from condemnation when he “believes and is baptized.” That is what the eunuch heard, learned, and believed when Philip preached Jesus to him. That is why he urgently desired to be baptized – because he knew he wanted to be saved. He rejoiced after he was baptized, not before. Now we understand why, because that is when he was saved. Those who tell you the eunuch was saved before he was baptized contradict Jesus. That is never a good place to be (Jno. 12:48).
Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another. (Romans 15:14, NKJV)
Paul gave thanks for the faith of the Roman Christians: “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world” (Rom. 1:8). Now, he briefly outlines why he was confident they would follow the instructions he gave them. Each of his reasons are expressions of their faith, and by them we are exhorted to follow their good examples. First, Paul had confidence in them because they were “full of goodness.” Their virtue was genuine, not pretended. Nor was their goodness partial. Their lives were filled up with goodness. Next, Paul had confidence in them because they were “filled with all knowledge” (Eph. 5:17-18). Their knowledge of God’s word filled every part of their being. It informed their faith, their hope, their motives, and their conduct (Jno. 8:31-32). Thirdly, Paul had confidence in them because they were “able also to admonish one another.” They were situated to effectively caution and reprove each other because of their goodness and knowledge of God’s word. Knowledge standing alone puffs up (1 Cor. 8:1). But, when coupled with goodness one is equipped to admonish and to be listened when that warning is needed. We enhance our ability and opportunity to help one another be faithful by maturing our faith in goodness, in knowledge, and in the ability to admonish others from God’s word.
“The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” (Psalm 19:9, NKJV)
God’s judgments are “true and righteous,” reliable and trustworthy, unbiased by error and untainted by the stain of prejudice. We must resist the temptation to pronounce judgment upon those who would speak God’s judgments to us. When someone speaks to us the truth of the gospel we must refrain from the defensive, futile deflection that says, “You’re just judging me!” It is ironic (not to mention, hypocritical) that those who charge others with “judging” them are doing the very thing they condemn in others. Yes, let us speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Yes, let us correct sinners with humility as we call them to repentance and salvation (2 Tim. 2:24-26). But let there be no mistake, we are not “judging” the sinner when we identify their sin and error from the Scriptures. We are teaching God’s word to help the sinner turn from sin and be saved. By doing so we are sharing God’s judgments, not rendering our own. “With my lips I have declared all the judgments of Your mouth” (Psa. 119:13). God’s true and righteous judgments are revealed in His word. By hearing His judgments (His word) we can turn from sin, turn to God, and conform ourselves to His judgments (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:20-24). May we never condemn someone for telling us the truth (Gal. 4:16). Instead, may it be said of us, “I have chosen the way of truth; Your judgments I have laid before me” (Psa. 119:30).
Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. (Galatians 6:1, NKJV)
Whether the topic is politics, social issues, or religion, reasoned discussion is too often drowned out by vitriol and venom in the public square these days. Whatever happened to the time when those with opposing viewpoints could disagree without being disagreeable? I suppose some never learned could. We pray for and long for a return to such dispositions, for any society whose citizens cannot calmly communicate is headed for tension, turmoil, and trouble (Prov. 14:34). The same is true of the Lord’s church. Can you to talk with someone who has fallen away? And if you can, how do you do that? The goal is to “restore” the soul overtaken in sin – any other aim is beneath this worthy objective. Spiritual maturity is essential when approaching a Christian who has fallen into sin. Such maturity will be reflected by the spirit of gentleness used when talking with the sinning saint about his or her sin. Approaching a fallen Christian with an air of disgust or superiority is the height of arrogance, and is sure to fail. Mature (spiritual) Christians remember sin also tempts them. And so, with meek compassion the effort is made to turn a sinner from error and save a soul from death (Jas. 5:19-20). Yes, the “spiritual” disagree with the one overtaken by sin. But, to have a spirit of antagonism only aggravates and hinders the effort to save the lost. Furthermore, to do so is also sin.
Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. (Jonah 1:17, NKJV)
A great fish swallowed Jonah. Jesus agreed, saying that Jonah being “three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish” typifies the Son of Man being “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:40). But, something more than a fish was eating up Jonah. When God first commanded him to go to Nineveh, he tried to flee his God-given work (Jonah 1:2). After three days and nights in the dark belly of the fish he went to sinful Nineveh with the burning light of truth, preaching “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4). But, instead of punishing the evil city, God showed it mercy and spared the city when the people repented (Jonah 3:5-10). This “displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry” (Jonah 4:1). You see, Jonah was eaten up with an unmerciful heart of vengeance. He even seemed to complain to God about the Almighty’s gracious mercy to explain (justify) his ill-conceived flight to Tarshish (Jonah 4:2). Now, he had rather die than see Nineveh live (Jonah 4:3). God showed Jonah mercy time and again (first the fish, then the plant, Jonah 4:5-10). The prophet needed to learn to be merciful as God had shown him (and Nineveh) mercy (Jonah 4:9-11). While we are quick to receive God’s grace and mercy, we must empty our hearts of vengeance toward others who also need mercy. Truly, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt. 5:7).
He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord. (Proverbs 18:22, NKJV)
Anthropologists tell us marriage is a social development borne over years of adaptation for the sake of necessity, alliances, and survival instincts. The Bible presents a very different picture. Jesus connected the beginning of marriage with “the beginning of the creation,” affirming that both originated with God (Mk. 10:6; Gen. 2:18-24). Solomon strayed from God’s marriage arrangement of one man and one woman for life, and his faith and loyalty to God faltered (1 Kgs. 11:1-8). Marriage was designed by God to be a blessing. It is men and women who repeatedly corrupt its purity and goodness with such things as multiple wives (Gen. 4:16-19), divorce (Mal. 2:14-16), same-sex marriage (1 Cor. 6:9-10), and other redefinitions of marriage (not to mention fornication and adultery, Heb. 13:4). In today’s verse, as in all other biblical references, the word “wife” is feminine, and is coupled with the masculine form for husband (or, as in this case, a masculine pronoun for the husband). Husband and wife are not man and man or woman and woman – such relationships may be legal contracts, but they are not marriages in the sight of God. The value of a good wife is immeasurable (Prov. 31:10). A selfish, sinful spouse is a heartache that can lead to your spiritual demise. Choose wisely. And, be thankful to God for the blessing of a good wife (or a good husband) in your life.
But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? (Mark 2:8, NKJV)
Do you have a secret? Only you know what it is (you’re sure of that!). Oh, but you would be mistaken. The Lord Jesus already knows your secret. He knows what’s in your heart. He even knows the motives, intentions, and reasonings that are going on in your head as you work out how to conceal your secret. These men “reasoned in their hearts” that Jesus was a blasphemer because He told the paralytic man, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mk. 2:5-7). Jesus knew what they were saying to themselves in their hearts. And, the Lord knows what is going on in our hearts, too. When all is said and done, He will judge our both our hearts and our deeds. “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer. 17:10; 2 Cor. 5:10). What is in our hearts drives our words and our actions. By purifying our hearts and cleansing our conduct we are able to draw near to God and have His blessed presence in our lives. James wrote, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (Jas. 4:8). We must remember that God will judge “every secret thing” according to the gospel (Eccl. 12:14; Rom. 2:16).
2 Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. 3 For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. (3 John 2–4, NKJV)
John prayed Gaius’ physical health would match his spiritual health. How did John know Gaius’ soul was progressing successfully? Faithful brethren had told John of his beloved Gaius’ spiritual fitness. They reported the truth was in Gaius and that he walked in the truth (v. 3). Therefore, John concluded his soul prospered because Gaius believed and lived by the truth. One is not spiritually healthy when he or she does not abide in the word (truth) of Christ (Jno. 8:31-32). So, using this biblical standard, can it be said that your soul prospers? Is the truth of God in you? Are you walking in the truth? If so, the answer is “yes.” If not, the answer is “no.” God’s truth brings spiritual prosperity when we receive it and walk in it. John’s joy was made full by hearing his children (in the gospel, 1 Cor. 4:15) walked in truth. Faithful discipleship cannot exist when the truth is not in us and our deeds are not in harmony with it. Apply John’s prayer to yourself. If your physical health matched your spiritual health, how healthy would you be? When you answer these questions, “Is the truth in you?” and, “Are you walking in the truth?,” you will have the Bible answer to the state of your spiritual health.
39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. 1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 10:39-11:1, NKJV)
Faith that saves the soul does not draw back out of fear or neglect. It endures present trials, and by doing so receives the promised salvation (Heb. 10:36-39). This is the faith introduced in Hebrews 11:1 and described throughout that chapter. Faith is the substance of hope. “Substance” is a “setting under,” hence, faith is set under hope, supporting and stabilizing it. But, what supports and assures faith? We are told faith is the “evidence of things unseen.” Faith is conviction formed by the evidence of things that cannot be seen. For example, the swaying of the trees causes us to confidently believe in the wind, although we have never seen the wind itself. Faith concludes that “God is” (though unseen by human eyes) because this existence and order of the visible world announces His unseen presence, eternal power, and Godhood (Heb. 11:3, 6; Rom. 1:20; Psa. 19:1). Faith that God rewards those who diligently seek Him is shaped by the word of God (Heb. 11:6; Rom. 10:17; Mk. 16:20; 1 Cor. 2:10-13). Without accepting the evidence of unseen tings, there is no faith. And without faith, there is no hope. Thanks be to God who gives us evidence of His presence and the revelation of His will, so we can believe He exists and be blessed by diligently seeking Him (Acts 14:15-17; 17:22-31).