But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? (James 2:20, NKJV)
James posed a question that still needs asking and answering concerning knowing the truth of God’s word, “Do you want to know?” In context, his query probes the inclination and desire to know that “faith without works is dead.” Entire doctrines have been fabricated to blunt the force of this simple truth. Some reject James as inspired by God. Others contort the definitions of faith and works to justify their salvation by faith only doctrine (which James summarily rejects, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only,” Jas. 2:24). Faith without the obedience that activates and demonstrates it is profitless, dead, unseen, demonic, and incomplete (Jas. 2:14, 17, 18, 19, 22). We should ask ourselves this question about everything God’s word reveals, “Do I want to know the truth? Or, do I want to remain foolish?” Jesus put it this way, “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority” (Jno. 7:17). With a will to do God’s will, we will know the doctrine of Christ. With a desire to learn and know the truth, our faith joins with our works (obedience) and is made complete (Jas. 2:21-22).
1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. 2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. (Galatians 5:1–2, NKJV)
Sinners are freed from sin by Jesus Christ (John 8:36). Christ frees us from sin when we believe and obey His gospel from the heart (Rom. 6:17-18). However, freedom in Christ does not mean freedom from living by the very gospel pattern (“form of doctrine,” Rom. 6:17) that frees us from sin. Liberty in Christ is not carte blanche to decide what is truth for ourselves (truth is not self-defined). Liberty in Christ freed Jews and Gentiles from the “yoke of bondage” produced by trying to be “justified by law,” as illustrated by demanding the circumcision of the flesh for salvation (Gal. 5:3-4). The plan of salvation, what is moral, what is sound doctrine, true worship, and everything else that “accords with godliness” must harmonize with the revealed gospel of Christ (1 Tim. 6:3; 2 Tim. 1:13). We are free from sin in Christ to live by the light of His truth and have fellowship with God (1 Jno. 1:5-7). The liberty to which the gospel calls us is not “an opportunity for the flesh” (Gal. 5:13). Put plainly, liberty in Christ does not permit us to practice sin (see Gal. 5:16-26, where Paul explains this). Liberty in Christ compels us to live by “faith working through love” by “obeying the truth” of the gospel (Gal. 5:6-7; Jno. 8:31-32).
4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. 5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, (1 Thessalonians 5:4–9, NKJV)
Christians (children of God) are children of the day. Therefore, we are to live watchfully and soberly in the light of truth. The contrast to the inebriation of darkness is easy to understand. Being “of the day” (v. 8) means living soberly in faith, love, and the hope of salvation we have in Jesus Christ. Yet, more and more Christians are partaking in the less than sober practice of drinking intoxicants. Defending “social drinking” of intoxicating beverages as a Christian’s liberty embraces the very thing Paul used to warn us against losing our spiritual alertness. Rather than justify the incremental loss of self-control and the corresponding loss of sharpness, we must refuse even the beginning of this activity associated with darkness (Eph. 5:18; 1 Pet. 4:3).
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:8, NKJV)
The turmoil of unrest in our country and around the world impacts us in many ways. These things unsettle our thoughts, our emotions, and attack our faith. They give our adversary, the devil, an opening to infiltrate our hearts with evil thoughts, words, and deeds (1 Pet. 5:8). Scripture teaches us to meditate on good things – even when things around us are awfully bad. (Recall that Paul was imprisoned unjustly for more than two years when he wrote this exhortation.) The word translated “meditate” means “to take an inventory” (Strong, G3049). Rather than becoming immersed in the sinful venom and bile of worldly people, the gospel of Christ calls Christians to inventory our thought process and dwell on things that are 1) Noble (honest, honorable), 2) Just (innocent, equitable), 3) Pure (holy, clean), 4) Lovely (friendly towards others), 5) Of good report (of worthy reputation), 6) Have virtue (morally excellent), and 7) Praiseworthy (commendable). The God of peace guards our hearts with His peace as we trust Him and meditate on these heavenly things (Phil. 4:7, 9).
20 O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge— 21 by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith. Grace be with you. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:20–21, NKJV)
Avoiding irreverent and fruitless discussions that destroy souls is achieved by diligently guarding and following “the words of faith” and “the good doctrine” – the gospel (1 Tim. 4:6). So said Paul in his closing exhortation to Timothy. He draws upon the nature of truth (concepts sorely need today, too) to steel Timothy for the work of preaching the word (2 Tim. 4:1-5). We also must be grounded in the traits of divinely revealed truth, lest we stray from the faith and lose our souls. By definition, truth is not profane and worldly. It is not the product of human feelings or experiences (Prov. 14:12; Jer. 10:23). It is the revelation of God’s mind, recorded in inspired Scripture (1 Cor. 2:6-13; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Truth is not idle, nor is it the empty chatter of those who are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). Truth is not vacillating; it is absolute. Truth is definable and knowable (Jno. 8:31-32; Eph. 3:3-4). Truth does not contradict itself; it harmonizes (Rom. 3:3-4; Psa. 119:160). Grace and the eternal inheritance are obtained in truth, not in things “falsely called knowledge” (Acts 20:32). “Buy the truth, and do not sell it, also wisdom and instruction and understanding” (Prov. 23:23).
20 avoiding this: that anyone should blame us in this lavish gift which is administered by us—21 providing honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. (2 Corinthians 8:20–21, NKJV)
During his third preaching journey, the apostle Paul encouraged churches in Gentile regions to send funds to relieve their needy brethren in the Jerusalem church (Rom. 15:25-28; 1 Cor. 16:1-4; 2 Cor. 8-9). Paul meticulously advised the churches to choose messengers to deliver their generous gifts to their brethren (2 Cor. 8:16-18, 23; 1 Cor. 16:3-4). These scriptures establish a pattern that approves churches sending benevolent relief directly to a needy church. Paul also sets an example of honor when administering church funds. Honesty and transparency in the sight of God and before men are vital when handling the funds of a local church. Those who have that responsibility must be careful and faithful stewards. Respect for God, the church, and the power of godly influence demands nothing less (1 Pet. 2:12).
And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. (Luke 6:31, NKJV)
So said the Son of God, who was insulted, mocked, beaten, and crucified, even though He was totally without sin. He responded to His enemies with love as He spoke truth to them without fear or favor, as He wept over Jerusalem, and as He warned mourners on the way to Calvary. With a ready heart, He hung on the tree, praying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do,” later forgiving the criminal who asked for mercy (Lk. 23:34). All these and more show us Jesus lived the “golden rule.” Being mistreated does not give us the right to defame, mistreat, harm, or injure others. Respect for God of Father demands us to treat others as we wish others (and God) to treat us (Matt. 7:7-12). One thing we desperately need to stem the tide of disrespectful, angry, hateful, sinful treatment of others is respect for God. That will translate into respecting others. The golden rule is not about retribution, but repair. It is not about hurting others before they hurt you. It is not about dominating others; it is about caring for and helping others. The world (system of evil that opposes God) does not operate by this rule. But Christians must because it is our Father’s world and our Father’s will (Matt. 7:21, 24-27).
11 Then the word of the Lord came to Solomon, saying: 12 “Concerning this temple which you are building, if you walk in My statutes, execute My judgments, keep all My commandments, and walk in them, then I will perform My word with you, which I spoke to your father David. 13 And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake My people Israel.” 14 So Solomon built the temple and finished it. (1 Kings 6:11–14, NKJV)
King Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem following plans given to him by his father David and inspired by the Spirit of God (1 Chron. 28:11-12, 19). As Solomon was constructing the house of God, the Lord confirmed His blessings on him and His presence with Israel if Solomon followed His will by obeying His commandments. Solomon’s temple was a type or shadow of the temple God has built, the church of Christ (Acts 7:47-50; Matt. 16:18; Eph. 2:19-22; Heb. 3:3-6; 8:2). The temple of God (the church) is composed of redeemed souls (Acts 2:47). It is not built or remodeled according to the dictates, doctrines, and decisions of human beings, although men have tried to do so for centuries. The arrogance of changing the church to suit “present culture” rivals the pride that led the mob to reject the Son of God crying, “Crucify him!” because Jesus did not suit their ideas of what a Messiah and His kingdom should be. Christians are living stones comprising God’s spiritual house (1 Pet. 2:4-5). May we humbly submit our hearts and lives to Jesus to be His church and not a church built by men (1 Pet. 2:6-10).
Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: (Hebrews 12:14, NKJV)
People pursue many things in life that are (to coin James’ phrase) here today and gone tomorrow (Jas. 4:14). Life on earth is temporary, but our existence does not end here. We are immortal beings, and our souls reach into the eternal realm (Matt. 10:28; Heb. 9:27). Therefore, we must pursue eternal things (2 Cor. 4:16-5:1). Peace and purity are among life’s highest pursuits. Peace with God and holiness (sanctification) of obtained in Christ (Isa. 9:6; Acts 3:13-19). Christians are called by Him to press forward for peace with all (as much as it depends on us, Rom. 12:18), and to have amiable tranquility among ourselves (Rom. 14:19; Heb. 13:1). Commenting on this passage, brother Dan King observed, “The church is forever at war with the world, but ought never to be at war with itself” (Truth Commentaries: The Book of Hebrews, 427). Our reason for actively running after peace and purity is that we may see the Lord. Our desire to gaze upon the Lord calls us to strengthen the weak and straighten the paths of others rather than hinder them (Heb. 12:12-13). This desire also urges us to shun profane endeavors (Heb. 12:15-17). Make peace and holiness your daily pursuit, and your treasures will last eternally (Matt. 6:19-21).
9 Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:9–11, NKJV)
Celebrating Father’s Day each year reminds us of the value of fathers, something the Bible repeatedly teaches. Far more than mere progenitors, fathers shape future generations and thus, nations and the world (not to mention churches). Their value cannot be overstated. We thank God for the gift of godly fathers and ask Him to continue to bless us with faithful fathers. We need and honor faithful fathers who listen to God’s word to guide their families. We need and honor faithful fathers who learn and live in the truth of God’s word. We need and honor faithful fathers who lead their families with diligence and duty, sacrifice and strength that comes from God. We need and honor faithful fathers who love the Lord first and, in that love, train their children to serve God and others (Heb. 12:5-7). Our heavenly Father is the perfect Father. May fathers listen and learn from His word to lead and love as He does us, His children.