We must not underestimate the power of peer pressure. The enticement to fit in, to not be different, to not stand out in a crowd draws many into compliance and participation with others in evil. The mob’s façade of anonymity emboldens misbehavior, even violent treatment of others. Solomon’s warning to his son is plain. Do not listen to the sinful promises of sinners to cast your lot with them (see Prov. 1:11-14). Greed and visions of grandeur at the expense of others is the devil’s snare that destroys those who would destroy others (Prov. 1:16-19). It takes moral courage to resist pressure to join others in their sin. Little wonder God’s word exhorts us to add to our faith the courage of moral excellence (2 Pet. 1:5). Courageous faith is essential to resist the devil (Jas. 4:7). We do well to learn and heed Solomon’s wise advice to his son. The principles of goodness and justice that supported God’s command to Israel remain valid, “You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice” (Exo. 23:2).
6 But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, 7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.” 8 That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. (Romans 9:6–8, NKJV)
God showed His faithfulness by fulfilling His promise to Abraham that “in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 22:18). The gospel of Christ reveals this promised blessing as salvation from sins “for everyone who believes, for the Jew first, and also for the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). The gospel also makes it clear the “children of the promise” are now the children of God. The promised blessing is obtained in Jesus Christ, not as a Jew under the Law of Moses (Gal. 3:16-19). Whether Jew or Gentile, “we are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,” not through the Law of Moses (Gal. 3:23-27). The nation of Israel is no longer God’s chosen people. God chose us “in Christ” for redemption, regardless of race (Eph. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13). 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” (Gal. 3:28). Being a citizen of the nation of Israel does not make one a child of God. The church is now the “Israel of God” (Gal. 6:15-16).
Cast out the scoffer, and contention will leave; Yes, strife and reproach will cease. (Proverbs 22:10, NKJV)
The scoffer introduces and produces contention and strife in relationships where there should be peace (for example, marriages, neighborhoods, churches). The scoffer mocks truth and refuses the correction wisdom offers, “A scoffer does not love one who corrects him, nor will he go to the wise” (Prov. 15:12). Pride is the trademark of the scoffer: “A proud and haughty man—‘Scoffer’ is his name; He acts with arrogant pride” (Prov. 21:24). Driven by the pride of self-righteousness, scoffers ridicule their spouse, their neighbor, their coworker, and their brethren in Christ – disrupting harmony with their poisonous disdain. The scoffer makes fun of others while satisfying ungodly lusts instead of doing the will of God (2 Pet. 3:3; Jude 18). The scoffer undermines peace and reconciliation by refusing to show mercy and forgiveness. Overconfidence, instead of compassion, denotes the scoffer (Eph. 4:31-32). To avoid this dreadful destroyer of peace, let us hear this warning and promise from God concerning the scoffer: “The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked, but He blesses the home of the just. Surely He scorns the scornful, but gives grace to the humble” (Prov. 3:33-34).
47 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” (John 6:47–51, NASB95)
Bread is a staple of physical life and stands for the food that sustains life. Jesus takes this common truth and applies it to Himself as the bread of life (Jno. 6:35, 48). He is “the living bread that came down out of heaven” (Jno. 6:51). When we “eat this bread” (His flesh, the offering of His body to give life to the world, v. 51), we will live forever. How do we eat His flesh and drink His blood to have life eternal (Jno. 6:53-56)? Not by cannibalism (Jno. 6:52). Not by the Roman Catholic Church’s Eucharist and transubstantiation (this verse does not discuss the Lord’s Supper). We eat His flesh and drink His blood (figuratively) for eternal life by coming to Jesus and believing in Him as the “bread of life” (Jno. 6:35). By the words of Christ (which “are spirit and are life,” Jno. 6:63), the Father teaches and draws sinners to the Son (Jno. 6:44-45). Faith in Jesus Christ comes from hearing God’s word (Rom. 10:17). The word of Christ says actions produced by faith are necessary to partake of the bread of life for eternal life. In faith one must 1) Confess faith (Rom. 10:9-10), 2) Repent (Acts 2:37-38; 17:30), 3) Be baptized (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:37-38), 4) Be a faithful servant of Jesus (cf. Jno. 4:34; Rom. 12:1-2). Jesus has the “words of eternal life” (Jno. 6:68). Live by His words, and you will live forever (Jno. 6:51).
1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: 2 On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. (1 Corinthians 16:1–2, NKJV)
The goal of Paul’s “orders” to the churches was to have funds prepared to apply to the “collection for the saints” – a gift that was being gathered from among Gentile churches to relieve needy Jewish Christians in Jerusalem (Rom. 15:25-27; 2 Cor. 8:4; 9:1, 12). This order of readiness necessarily implies treasuries existed in each local church. Freewill offering continues to be how each local church of Christ funds its work of benevolence, evangelism, and edification. Verse 2 gives concise answers to essential questions about our giving. 1) When? On the first day of the week. 2) Who? Each one of you. 3) What? Lay something aside. 4) How? As he may prosper. 5) Why? That there be no collections when I come. Their gift would be collected and ready to send to Jerusalem when Paul arrived (1 Cor. 16:3-4). A treasury into which each one lays something aside accomplished this then, and now (see the church’s treasury in Acts 4:34-5:4). With singleness of heart, Christian give bountifully, cheerfully, and thankfully to fund the work God gives local churches (2 Cor. 8:1-5, 12; 9:6-11).
18 And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side. 19 Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 21 Then another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:18–22, NKJV)
What price do you pay for following Jesus? When Jesus gave a command to His followers that He would leave Capernaum to cross the sea of Galilee, the scribe said he would follow Jesus “wherever You go.” We hope that he did. Jesus told him clearly that following Him would require sacrifice. It is easy to follow Jesus when no sacrifice is needed. But, when push comes to shove, and sacrifice becomes necessary, do you follow Him then? What about when there is a pressing need in your life? What priority informs and persuades your decision then? Jesus emphasized the proper priority when He said, “Let the dead bury their own dead.” Jesus must have first place in our decision-making process. We cannot say we will follow Jesus but then refuse to sacrifice to do so. We cannot say we will follow Jesus but then refuse to make following Him our top priority. Our everyday choices reveal both our sacrifice and our priority when it comes to following Jesus.
33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, and I shall keep it to the end. 34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart. 35 Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it. 36 Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to covetousness. (Psalm 119:33–36, NKJV)
Living by faith is not a blind leap in the dark. Faith is the rationale response of the heart that longs for God, His ways, and His blessings. Note this as the psalmist implores God to teach him the path of divine statues, and he will keep them (v. 33). He pleads for an understanding of God’s law so that he may keep it with a heart that is enlarged and completely devoted to God (v. 34; Psa. 119:32). He yearns for the discipline that comes with divine instruction so that he will walk on the path of obedience (v. 35). He obeys the commands of God with delight because his heart is full of the love of God, not greed for plunder (v. 36). Like the psalmist, let us pray for understanding to keep God’s word with our whole heart (Col. 1:9-11). Obeying the gospel from the heart freed us from sin’s slavery (Rom. 6:17-18). Now, let us keep on learning and living the commands of God with our whole hearts “to the end” (v. 33). Problems of sin arise when we no longer want God to teach us. The heart hardens against the way of His statutes. The path of His commands is no longer delightful. If this is where your heart and life are, then repent (change your heart) and return to the delight of obeying God with your whole heart.
37 Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” 38 Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all.” (John 18:37–38, NKJV)
The editors of the Oxford Dictionaries chose “post-truth” as the word of the year in 2016. Post-truth suggests facts are less influential in shaping opinion than emotion and personal belief. Yet, by definition, truth is not relative. It is fixed, constant, absolute. The fact that we may not know or perceive truth does not make it any less the truth. For example, 12 inches equals one foot (30.48 cm, or 304.80 mm) regardless of how we feel about it. This was true before we understood it. You see, we learn truth, we are not the source of truth. When Pilate asked, “What is truth?” Jesus bore witness to the truth that He was born to be king. Those who are “of the truth” hear His voice (accept His word of truth, v. 37). Jesus identified God’s word as truth, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (Jno. 17:17). God’s word is truth – not my feelings, and not yours. Not my reasoning power, and not yours. Not my perceptions, and not yours (Prov. 14:12). Truth is fixed, constant, absolute. Truth has been revealed, and we cannot be saved without it. Jesus said His word is truth (Jno. 8:31-32). Indeed, He is “the Truth” (Jno. 14:6). The gospel calls us to conform ourselves to the truth, not try to change the truth into what we want it to be.
35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: 37 “For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. 38 Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:35–39, NKJV)
This passage presents a substantial problem for those who believe the “once saved, always saved” doctrine. Christians are urged to have endurance to “receive the promise.” Without a faith that endures, they would cast away their confidence and “draw back to perdition” (destruction). This is a far cry from comforting souls in sin that they cannot lose their salvation. This passage also confounds those who trust in the “faith only” doctrine. It points out the promise of life is not received until after “you have done the will of God.” Faith that saves the soul endures by continuing to do the will of God. Faith endures the struggles of suffering that come with following Jesus (Heb. 10:32-34). Enduring faith gives life (v. 37), it pleases God (v. 38), and it saves the soul (v. 39). “Indeed we count them blessed who endure” (Jas. 5:11).
20 how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, 21 testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:20–21, NKJV)
Faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ will not exist in a person’s life until that person repents toward God. Repentance is changing the mind toward its object (in this case, toward God). It is about thinking differently, and then we live differently. Repentance is not the regret of feeling sorry toward God. Genuine repentance results from godly sorrow over sin (2 Cor. 7:9-10). Some think to repent means “to turn,” but this is also incorrect. Only when we think differently about God and our sin against Him will we turn to God for salvation. Paul shows the difference between repentance and turning to God in Acts 26:20 when he explained he preached the gospel to people so “that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.” Paul did not say, “turn (repent), and turn to God.” He said to repent (change your mind) and turn to God. Repentance, produced by godly sorrow, bears the fruit of turning to God (that is, “works befitting repentance,” cf. Lk. 3:7-14). The gospel requires repentance 1) Toward God, Acts 20:21; 2) Of sins, Lk. 5:32; 13:3, 5; Acts 8:22; 3) For the remission of sins, Acts 2:38; 3:19; and 4) Because God commands it, Acts 17:30. Without repentance, we will not escape the condemnation our sins bring from God (Rom. 2:3-5).