1 There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1–3, NKJV)
Jesus rejected the philosophy of Karma. (“Karma is a Hindu term which comes from Sanskrit and relates to fate and action. You alone are responsible for your actions. It is the law of cause and effect, an unbreakable law of the cosmos. You deserve everything that happens to you, good or bad. You created your happiness and misery,” The Tree of Awakening.) While it is true that our choices bring consequences, that is not the only force at work in our lives (Gal. 6:7). It was wrong to conclude that these people Pilate killed were “worse sinners” than others (it was an invalid judgment, see Lk. 12:57). Evil people commit evil acts against the innocent. Time and chance happen to us all (Lk. 13:4; Eccl. 9:11-12). Suffering in the present does not necessarily correspond with some wrong in the past (Jno. 9:1-3; cf. Job). But, times of suffering and affliction should cause us to examine ourselves and repent of our sins. Whether we are experiencing a moment of distress or we see others suffering, instead of judging them as “worse sinners,” we should ponder our lives and repent of our sins. Why? Because we will answer to God for our sins and be punished justly by Him (Rom. 6:23).
3 Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. 4 In God (I will praise His word), in God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me? (Psalm 56:3–4, NKJV)
David’s life was in jeopardy from the enemies of Israel as well as Saul, Israel’s king. David faced his fear with trust in the Lord. This did not mean David recklessly put himself in the way of danger (1 Sam. 22:1; 23:14). His faith directed him to live with humble trust in God. God’s word shaped David’s faith. Thus, David celebrated (praised) God’s word. It gave him confident assurance amid danger. With trust formed by God’s word, David would not be drawn away from God by being afraid of men. David repeats his confidence in God in verse 11 of Psalm 56: “In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6 draws Christians’ attention to this passage, where it is linked to contentment. Our faith in God is to be so resolute that external forces will not shake us from its moorings. Our faith is in God, who said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (v. 5; Deut. 31:6). Faith overcomes the world with its threats (1 Jno. 5:4-5). Faith fashions fear into contentment as we trust God and obey His word (Matt. 10:28; Rom. 8:31-39). Do not live in fear. Trust the Lord, celebrate His word with thanksgiving, and be content in Him.
18 Now for a time of about forty years He put up with their ways in the wilderness. 19 And when He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land to them by allotment. (Acts 13:18–19, NKJV)
God keeps His promises. He had promised to give Abraham’s descendants the land of Canaan (Gen. 12:7; 13:14-15, 15:7, 18). Many believe God did not entirely keep His land promise. They expect Him to give Israel the land in the future. However, time and again, the Scriptures say God fulfilled His land promise. He has already given Israel the land He promised them. To expect God to do so in the future denies His word. Hear God’s word: 1) Paul said God distributed their land to them. “He distributed their land to them.” 2) Israel received the land under Joshua. “So the Lord gave Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it: (Josh. 21:43, 4-45; cf. 11:23; 23:14). 3) Solomon’s rule corresponded with the promised land (Gen. 15:18; 1 Kgs. 4:21). 4) The psalmist confirmed God gave Israel “the lands of the Gentiles” (Psa. 105:11, 42-44). 5) Jeremiah said God gave them the land He swore to their fathers (Jer. 32:21-23). 6) Nehemiah records God’s fulfillment of the land promise (Neh. 9:7-8). In the face of multiple declarations that God fulfilled His land promise, millions of souls cling to the false hope of the false doctrine of premillennialism that God will one day keep His word. He already did. We reject the failed framework of false doctrines that force one to conclude God did not keep His word.
3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, 4 so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, (2 Thessalonians 1:3–4, NKJV)
The Thessalonians’ faith, love, and patience were worthy of thanksgiving unto God (1 Thess. 1:2-3). Now, Paul and his companions feel obliged (“bound”) to thank God always for them. Just as their faith, love, and patience had been noteworthy, they continued to evoke gratitude in faithful prayers to the Father. 1) Their faith grew exceedingly. Faith is not static. One mark of spiritual development is the increase of our trust in the Lord. Our daily faith and dependence on the Lord are deepened as we obey His word. 2) Their love of everyone was abundant. Their love was superabundant toward each other. Love is an action word, and their love did not exclude anyone; it includes all. So must ours. 3) They patiently endured persecutions and trials. They did not lose heart in the face of troubles from outside forces. They had set their hope on the Lord, who will right every wrong and comfort the faithful on the day of His coming (2 Thess. 1:5-8). Faith, love, and patience influence the churches of God to remain vigilant in the face of trials. These show that our hope is set on God and not on this world.
2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, 3 remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father, 4 knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God. (1 Thessalonians 1:2–4, NKJV)
Paul, Silas, and Timothy expressed thanks to God for the Thessalonian saints. Their memory and knowledge of the brethren generated thanksgiving. As they remembered the saint’s faithful lives, they perceived their election (selection) by God. They were God’s chosen ones. This is not the Calvinist perversion that says God unalterably decreed damnation or life before times immemorial (The Westminster Confession of Faith, III, 3-4). God’s elect is those who are saved by the gospel plan of redemption (2 Thess. 2:13-14). God chose the plan of redemption; those who choose to follow His plan are His elect (Eph. 1:3-4). The Thessalonians showed their election by their 1) Work of faith. Their faith was alive due to their obedience (Jas. 2:17-20). If God’s election is unconditional, why would their faith affect their election? 2) Labor of love. Love is responsive, not dormant (Jas. 2:14-17; 1 Jno. 3:16-18). Love’s activity demonstrates one belongs to God; something unconditional election ultimately denies. 3) Patience of hope. Enduring faithfulness is a mark of God’s people. Yet, why endure if God’s election has been “unchangeably designed” from eternity? Unconditional election is a false doctrine that denies free will and gives false hope by perpetuating false faith. Beware!
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:1–2, NKJV)
The gospel is God’s power to save the lost (Rom. 1:16). No other message has such power. Since all have sinned, every one of us needs its power to save us from sin, and the eternal death sin brings (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). To grasp the preeminence of the gospel message and its impact on our lives, the apostle certifies its pertinent features in today’s text. 1) The gospel is preached. It is a constant and fixed message, unchanged by the whims and foibles of men (1 Cor. 1:18-25). 2) The gospel is received. Believers do not keep it at arm’s length; they embrace it and thoroughly associate themselves with its converting power (Rom. 12:2). 3) We are to stand in the gospel. It is not a one-off message to be initially believed and then laid aside. We must continue in it, living by its guidance and truth (Col. 2:6-7). 4) The gospel saves us if we hold it fast. The gospel teaches us to keep on living by the gospel, holding to it as the pattern for our lives (Acts 2:42; 2 Thess. 2:15). The word “if” in verse two is huge. If we do not hold fast the word of the gospel, our faith is vain, idle, and useless. Yes, if we choose not to be faithful to the gospel, our faith fails, and we are lost – not because the gospel is weak or powerless, but because we cast it aside for sin. Believe and faithfully follow the gospel, and its power will save you.
36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” 37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:36–37, NKJV)
When convicted that Jesus is Lord and Christ, sinners were cut to the heart for their sins against Him. Their urgent question was, “What shall we do?” The answer Peter gave was clear: Repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38). Today, people give different answers to the same question. Some say, “You can’t do anything – God must do everything for you to be saved.” That is not what Peter said. Some say, “Believe and pray the sinner’s prayer, and you will be saved.” That is not what Peter said. Some say, “God has already elected who will be saved and who will be lost, so whatever you do will not change your fate.” That is not what Peter said. Some say, “Plead for Holy Spirit baptism in addition to being baptized in water so you can be fully sanctified.” That is not what Peter said. Why not just do what Peter said? About three thousand believers were saved that day when they repented and were baptized (Acts 2:40-41). The way to be saved by Christ has not changed. The need for salvation is the same. The answer to the question, “What shall we do?” is the same. This is gospel salvation. Believe it. Obey it. Be saved by Christ.
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2–4, NKJV)
Trials are not pleasant. Adversity, difficulty, anxiety, and uncertainty test our faith in moments of trial. Trials will either provoke us to evil or discipline us for good. They do not remove our free will; trials present us with opportunities to choose faith over fear and patience over provocation. How is this possible? By maintaining this faith-perspective before and during trials: “Count it all joy.” Trials prove (test) our faith, exposing our vulnerabilities and strengths. Faith chooses to endure the trial steadfastly. Faith draws strength from the Lord in the hour of trial, instead of wavering in disbelief (Rom. 4:20). God has promised not to fail or forsake us (Heb. 13:5-6). And so, firm endurance fortifies and matures our faith, even as trials would overwhelm us. Joy enables us to endure. Joy turns trials into seedbeds from which mature faith grows. As trials come, may we be content to rely on the Lord while rejoicing in His promises and provisions (Jas. 1:5-8).
1 In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.” (Luke 12:1–3, NKJV)
Jesus warned His disciples of the permeating effect of the Pharisees’ hypocrisy. Their religious pretense brought them reputation, renown, and respect from the populace (Matt. 23:2-7). Couple this with the heavy burden of their teachings, which bound traditions as if they were the will of God, and you have a powerful force that made their converts children of hell (Matt. 15:1-9; 16:6, 12; 23:15). Leaven is unseen in the dough, but the risen bread exposes its presence and effect. The gospel of Christ would spread from small beginnings to fill the world, exposing hypocrisy and error with the light of truth (Matt. 28:19-20). The gospel will not bring you reputation, renown, or the respect of men. But it will convert you into a child of God (Jno. 1:12-13; Gal. 3:26-27). May the gospel of Jesus influence you to walk in the light of His truth (Jno. 8:12, 31-32).
11 “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” 12 Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:11–14, NKJV)
Jesus, the Son of God, was humble. He lowered Himself, humbled Himself, to help the helpless, to save His enemies – sinners, like you and me. We are not humble when we only bless those who can repay us. Such conceit arrogantly judges others as it says, “I will only treat you nicely because I expect you to be nice to me in return.” That is not loving, merciful, or the attitude of God (Matt. 5:43-48). Reciprocity is not the Christian’s motivation for being kind and pleasant. The gospel goes out to all, and we must try to bless all with whom we have contact, trying to save some (Rom. 12:17-21). So, keep and show godly attitudes, even toward those who mistreat you (Matt. 5:10-12). Always treat others kindly, even when they are not kind toward you (Matt. 7:12). The Lord will repay you at the resurrection (Jno. 5:28-29). That will be enough.