1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? 2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:1–3, NKJV)
This passage draws our attention to obeying the gospel and fellowship with the Spirit of God. 1) Obeying the truth of the gospel is wise. False teachers (who were binding the law of Moses on Gentiles for salvation) had charmed the Galatian Christians into foolish disobedience. Adding to the gospel continues to be foolish disobedience. 2) Gospel preaching of the crucifixion of Jesus leads to obeying His truth (Lk. 6:46). The gospel publicly displays the crucified Christ and persuades believers to obey His gospel to be saved. The Old Testament revealed the Abrahamic promise of blessing, and the law of Moses was added to identify and restrain sin, and bring souls to Christ (Gen. 22:18; Gal. 3:16-19, 22-25). 3) We receive the Spirit by gospel obedience (Acts 2:37-38). We receive the Spirit’s blessings by hearing and obeying the faith (gospel, Gal. 1:11, 23; 1 Cor. 1:21; Gal. 3:13-14). Fellowship with the Spirit does not come by obeying the law of Moses, by Holy Spirit baptism and present-day miracles, or by subjective experiences. Do not be bewitched by false gospels that cast aside hearing and obeying the gospel for experiences. Hear, believe, and obey the gospel to receive the Spirit’s blessings.
1 Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity. I have also trusted in the Lord; I shall not slip. 2 Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart. 3 For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes, and I have walked in Your truth. (Psalm 26:1–3, NKJV)
David asks Jehovah to judge him and pronounce sentence over his life. David cites his integrity, faith, and a life lived in God’s truth as guideposts for God’s examination. The psalm continues to describe some specific ways David conducted his life within these parameters. Note that David was not exalting himself; he knew his sins, for God’s mercy and steadfast love (“lovingkindness”), was always before him. The temptation arises to judge and approve ourselves in matters of faith and truth. But, self-judgment does not justify us before the Lord, even when we know nothing against ourselves. “For I know of nothing against myself, yet He who judges me is the Lord” (1 Cor. 4:4). The Lord will judge us on the last day (2 Cor. 5:10). Will it be a day of glory or tears? With David, let us faithfully live in the hope of God’s redemption. “But as for me, I will walk in my integrity; Redeem me and be merciful to me” (Psa. 26:11).
9 And the patriarchs, becoming envious, sold Joseph into Egypt. But God was with him and delivered him out of all his troubles, 10 and gave him favor and wisdom in the presence of Pharaoh, king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house. (Acts 7:9–10, NKJV)
The providence of God unfolds before our eyes in the life of Joseph (Gen. 37-50). God did not create the world and then lay it up in a display case to watch what would happen next. While God has undoubtedly intervened in the affairs of this world with miracles by suspending natural processes and occurrences, He has also arranged His world in such a way that He operates in it through the course of natural events. The life of Joseph is an example of God’s providence. God was actively involved in Joseph’s life through its day to day events. In today’s passage, Stephen said God was with Joseph and delivered him, gave him favor and wisdom, and made him governor over Egypt and Pharaoh’s house. These verbs (delivered, gave, made) show God was at work, not against the free will of men and women, but through their choices and actions. God used the envy of Joseph’s brother to bring about good (Gen. 50:20). He used natural, cyclical seasons of bounty and famine to execute His plan to elevate Joseph and to save Israel. Even now, God hears and answers the prayers of the righteous, not by injecting miracles into the natural world, but by carrying out His purposes through the operation of the world according to His design and sovereign care (Jas. 5:16-18; 1:17).
For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20, NKJV)
There is a context to this statement that informs our understanding and its application. It is not an unrestricted statement giving two or three Christians carte blanche to do anything they decide is in Christ’s name. Here and in other Scriptures, apostolic authority must exist for Christ’s approval and fellowship. The immediate context of today’s passage addresses dealing with sin by a Christian against another Christian (Matt. 18:15-17). Heaven’s approval for the forgiveness and retention of sins rests upon the teachings the apostles receive from heaven (Matt. 18:18). That is, what the apostles bound and loosed on earth was already determined by the Lord. The inspired apostles revealed heaven’s will, and they were united in faith and practice in the name of (by the authority of) Christ (Matt. 18:19-20). Christ was “in the midst of them” (His apostles) as they revealed heaven’s will. When we follow their teachings, we are following heaven’s will by heaven’s authority (Col. 3:17). Doing so assures us of fellowship with the apostles and the Lord God (1 Jno. 1:3). Two or three Christians gathered together do not establish what God’s will is. What the apostles taught is the authority we have to act in the name of Christ as individuals, as several saints, or as the local church.
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. (Matthew 5:13, NKJV)
Have you heard the expression, “he’s not worth his salt?” It comes from the days of the Roman Empire. “A soldier’s pay—consisting in part of salt—came to be known as solarium argentum, from which we derive the word salary. A soldier’s salary was cut if he “was not worth his salt,” a phrase that came into being because the Greeks and Romans often bought slaves with salt” (“A Brief History of Salt,” Time, March 15, 1982). Salt flavors and preserves food. It made a useful antiseptic before modern medicine. Israel offered salt in its offerings to God, perhaps as a token that their sacrifices were seasoned and preserved by the Sinai covenant (Lev. 2:13). Jesus said His followers are the salt of the earth, a timeless and easily understood metaphor. Christians (citizens of the kingdom of heaven), must be influences of righteousness in a world of sin and death. Our lives must flavor the world around us, influencing others to turn to God. We must guard ourselves against sin because it destroys godly influence. As contaminated salt lost its usefulness to flavor food and to disinfect was cast onto the foot trails (to avoid destroying fertile soil), the Christian who loses his godly influence is ineffective (even destructive) to the cause of Christ. A godly influence is needed and powerful. Protect your influence and season the world with righteousness (Eph. 4:20-24).
32 The wicked watches the righteous, and seeks to slay him. 33 The Lord will not leave him in his hand, nor condemn him when he is judged. (Psalm 37:32–33, NKJV)
Someone is watching you – someone who does not have your best interests at heart. So it is that the wicked scrutinize the righteous, looking for any chink in the armor, anything they can twist to slay (actually or figuratively) the upright in heart. It was so with Jesus. The scribes and Pharisees relentlessly assailed Him, cross-examining Him, “lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him” (Lk. 11:54). When the wicked condemn the righteous, the Lord assures His abiding presence and approval despite the judgment of the wicked. What are the righteous to do when judged and condemned by the wicked? Do not give reviling for reviling, but speak wisdom and justice (Psa. 37:30). Keep God’s law in your heart, so you do not slip from following God’s path (Psa. 37:31). Patiently endure the evil and keep trusting the Lord. He will bless you and bring His judgment against the wicked (Psa. 37:34). Although transgressors may prosper temporarily, they will come to ruin, so, do not envy them (Psa. 37:1-2). It is the blameless who receive peace from the Lord (Psa. 37:35-40).
The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge. (Ruth 2:12, NKJV)
Ruth (the young Moabite widow whose loyalty to her widowed mother-in-law Naomi is memorialized in the book of Ruth) is acknowledged and blessed by Boaz, a wealthy landowner, and kinsman of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech. Ruth had pledged faithfulness to Naomi and Naomi’s God, even when she could have stayed in her homeland where family and familiarity would have (Ruth 1:16). Ruth clung to Naomi when returning to her family would have brought her familiarity and security. And so, Naomi and Ruth returned to Bethlehem. There, Ruth joined the gleaners during barley harvest to gather leftover grain to feed herself and Naomi. Upon seeing Ruth’s self-sacrificing devotion and diligence, Boaz showed her great kindness. Indeed God was blessing her (and Naomi) for her labor of faith. Eventually, Boaz and Ruth married and became the great-grandparents of David, king of Israel. Thus, a Moabitess of courageous faith and humble service is in the ancestral lineage of the Messiah. The Lord rewarded her work, not because Ruth earned her way into God’s favor, but because God blesses faith that graciously serves others (in this case, Naomi). God still rewards the work of faith, not because we deserve the reward, but because our faith relies upon His grace to bless us with His salvation (Rom. 5:1-2; Jas. 2:14-24; 2 Tim. 4:7-8).
God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:9, NKJV)
The faithfulness of God is the Christian’s ground of confidence. He will do what He has promised. 1) God is faithful to call us into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ. The gospel calls us into salvation as new creatures in Christ (1 Cor. 1:18, 24; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 3:26-27; 2 Thess. 2:13-14). We are confident in the promised fellowship we have with the Father and the Son when we love Christ and keep His word (John 14:23). 2) God is faithful to shield us and give us a way of escape when we are tempted to sin (1 Cor. 10:13). We are confident that, though tempted, we can endure it successfully. 3) God is faithful to preserve us blameless at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 5:23-24). Christians are saints, set apart to the holy service of God (1 Cor. 1:2; 1 Pet. 2:5, 9). We are confident that when we walk in the light, we will be blameless at the Lord’s return (1 Jno. 1:5-9). God faithfully accomplishes what He promises. Our confidence is in Him (Rom. 8:35-37). Let us be ever faithful and true to Him (Rev. 17:14).
How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. (1 Corinthians 14:26, NKJV)
The church of Christ is a spiritual kingdom (Jno. 18:36; Matt. 16:18-19). According to the New Testament model, local churches of Christ exist to spread the gospel (evangelism), to serve Christians in times of deprivation (benevolence), and to strengthen the souls of the disciples (edification). Edification (building up) is spiritual strengthening that occurs through our worship and the instruction from the word of God (Col. 3:16; Acts 14:22). The Scriptures do not describe social and recreational activities as edification and fellowship. Spaghetti suppers, volleyball games, and camping events are not sources of spiritual edification. It is the word of God’s grace (the gospel), “which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). In today’s passage, the proper use of the temporary miraculous spiritual gifts (tongues, revelation, interpretation), as well as psalms and teaching of God’s word, would edify the church (1 Cor. 14:27-33, 3-5). Miraculous spiritual gifts served their purposes and ended, but our need for spiritual growth to maturity in Christ endures (1 Cor. 13:8-13; Eph. 4:11-16). Thank God He arranged the local church to come together so we can grow and be strong in Christ (Acts 20:28; Heb. 10:24-25).
22 The Lord possessed me at the beginning of His way, before His works of old. 23 I have been established from everlasting, from the beginning, before there was ever an earth. (Proverbs 8:22–23, NKJV)
Wisdom cries out for us to receive her guidance of truth and understanding (Prov. 8:1-11). Not only does she “dwell with prudence,” Jehovah has possessed her from eternity past. 1) Wisdom attended God’s creation of the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1). She served as His “ready craftsman” when He fashioned the earth (Prov. 8:30, 24-31). The wonders of the heavens and the earth defy human intellect, power, skill, precision, and imagination. Divine wisdom, though invisible, is perceived by the things God has made (Rom. 1:20). 2) Wisdom attended God’s plan of human redemption. God made redemption in Christ “abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence” (Eph. 1:7-8). The church (those redeemed by the blood of Christ) reveals the “manifold wisdom of God” to heaven and earth (Eph. 3:10-11). 3) Wisdom attended God’s revelation of the gospel. The gospel is the “wisdom of God” that reveals His mind to the whole world (1 Cor. 2:6-13; Mk. 16:15). The gospel plums the depths of divine wisdom as it calls sinners to salvation (1 Cor. 1:18-25; Mk. 16:16). The wisdom of men pales in comparison to the wisdom that God possesses and has revealed in His word. Let us choose “the wisdom that is from above,” and bear the fruit of righteousness (Jas. 3:17-18).