18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. 19 For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. 21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22 “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth;” (1 Peter 2:18–22, NKJV)
What empowers Christians to endure injustices without reacting in sinful and destructive ways? Peter’s instruction to mistreated servants shows us how (v. 18). 1) We accept the pain of injustice because it is the commendable thing to do (v. 19). “Commendable” translates charis (grace). It is favorable, gracious, or acceptable before God when we patiently endure the grief of wrongful suffering. He will bestow honor (credit) on us for doing so (v. 20). 2) We endure the misery of injustice because of our conscience toward God (v. 19). We must train our consciences to regard persecution for the sake of righteousness as a blessing (Matt. 5:10-12). To do so requires faith in the Lord instead of self-reliance. 3) We accept suffering for doing good because the gospel of Christ calls us to this noble response (v. 21). Our calling is to overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21). 4) We can endure by following the example of Jesus (v. 22). He has already walked this road. Look for His footprints.
17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17–18, NKJV)
Obedience to God springs from the heart. Otherwise, it is not obedience at all, only an empty shell of pretense, self-righteousness, and vain ritual (Matt. 6:1-18; Lk. 18:9-14; 6:46). Today’s passage explains we are set free from sin when we obey the gospel (“that form of doctrine”) from the heart. Unquestionably, obedience is essential for salvation from sin. Now, back to the heart and our obedience. Scripture teaches the heart is the source of obedience to God. Belief is the result of the word of God acting upon the heart, and without faith, obedience does not occur (Rom. 10:10, 16-17). Love is an action of the heart (will) that Scripture shows to be obedience, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 Jno. 5:4). Love itself is obedience to God. Without the heart, obedient love is impossible. The fear of God resides in the heart that keeps God’s commandments (Eccl. 12:13). Faith, love, and the fear of God spring from the heart as necessary traits of obedience. Do not try to separate your heart from your obedience. Every attempt to do so results in faithless, loveless, irreverent, and futile attempts to please God.
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)
Twice in his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul declared an obligation (along with Silas and Timothy) to always thank God for them (see also, 2 Thess. 2:13). The word “bound” means “to be under obligation” and speaks of duty, in this case, to thank God for them. Paul thankfulness was not flattery; it was “fitting” (deserved) recognition. Their growing faith and abounding love compelled Paul to thank God for them. At the same time, he commended them to other congregations as an example of patient, enduring faith as they confronted persecutions and distresses. Being thankful for one another is a precious blessing that binds Christians’ hearts together in common faith, shared love, and devoted endurance through trials and trouble (Col. 2:1-2). We are obliged to thank God for faithful brethren. And, like Paul, we can encourage them by letting them know their examples are strengthening us and others to remain faithful to the Lord.
17 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” (John 10:17–18, NKJV)
Jesus did not commit suicide by laying down His life. He sacrificed His life in obedience to the Father’s command. And by His power, He would come back to life (Jno. 11:25). No one took His life against His will. Jesus did not resist arrest in Gethsemane, although He could (Matt. 26:52-53). He yielded to the unjust trials before the Jewish Sanhedrin, Herod, and the Roman governor. He endured mocking ridicule, humiliation, and scourging’s trauma. Without resistance, He was nailed to a cross and executed condemn sin and to draw sinners to Himself for salvation (Jno. 12:31-33). The good news of His death and resurrection gives tremendous answers to those who contemplate suicide. Jesus gives help to the helpless who face sin’s heartache and loss (Heb. 2:14-18; 4:15-16). He gives peace and joy to the hapless, whose misery seems unbearable (Rom. 5:1-2; Acts 16:25-34). He gives a new birth and living hope to the hopeless (1 Pet. 1:3). If you are in despair to the point of considering suicide, seek help immediately. And, hear the gospel call to come to Jesus Christ for salvation from your sins. Because Jesus died for you, you can live with help, comfort, and hope in Him. In Christ, death is swallowed up in eternal victory (1 Cor. 15:54-58).
13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 4:13–14, NKJV)
The word translated “ignorant” means “not to know.” While knowledge can produce arrogance when one thinks too highly of himself, decided advantages also come with knowledge (1 Cor. 8:1-2). Jesus said knowing the truth (His word) “shall make you free” from sin as you abide in His word (Jno. 8:31-32, 33-36). Today’s passage declares knowing the future of Christians who have died removes our sorrow and gives us hope (v. 13). More specifically, knowing and believing Jesus rose from the dead supports our hope (desire and expectation) that Christians will be raised from the dead and be with Jesus when He returns (1 Thess. 4:15-16). Such blessed assurance replaces the sorrow of death’s loss with bold confidence that invigorates our faith when death separates us from beloved saints. God has a future planned for His people. Whether living or dead, when Jesus returns and raises the dead, the saints of God will “always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17). Knowing what will happen to those who have died in the Lord empowers us to “comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:18).
15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15–16, NKJV)
This passage is not difficult to understand. Yet, it undergoes no end of abuse at the hands of those who refuse its teaching on how the gospel saves sinners. Christ’s commission to the apostles is forthright: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (v. 15). The gospel is for all, and the apostles made known its power to save “to all nations” (Rom. 1:16; 16:25-26; Col. 1:23). Responses to the gospel and their corresponding results are stated candidly in verse 16. The person who believes the gospel and is baptized will be saved from sin, but the person who does not believe the gospel will be condemned in sin. Believing the gospel of Christ compels one to be baptized to be saved. Yet, controversy arises over whether water baptism is necessary for salvation. Jesus said it is. Why? Because “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” and cannot justify the sinner (Jas. 2:17, 24). Water baptism is faith at work as one submissively obeys Christ’s command (Acts 2:37-38; 10:34-35). Obedient faith does not earn salvation (Lk. 17:10). When the believer obeys the gospel, God frees that person from sin’s bondage to become a slave of righteousness (Rom. 6:17-18). Belief and baptism are essential to be saved. Unbelief is condemned. Instead of arguing with Jesus, we plead with the lost to believe and be baptized to be saved.
20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. 21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you.” (1 Corinthians 11:20–22, NKJV)
Sinful attitudes and conduct were interrupting and corrupting the worship of the church at Corinth. Their misunderstanding and abuse of the Lord’s Supper exposed divisions between rich and poor brethren. The inspired remedy Paul taught was to partake of the Lord’s Supper properly and to eat their regular meals at home (1 Cor. 11:22, 23-33, 34). We see an underlying worship principle in this passage. Acceptable worship is about God; it is not about us. We are not the ones who decide what makes worship right, good, and pleasing to the Lord. Yet, that seems to be a prevailing attitude in worship gatherings around the world. The Scriptures do not support the premise that sincerity alone justifies acceptable worship. Heartfelt worship without truth guiding it is self-soothing, not Deity honoring. Truth-guided worship that does not spring from the heart is empty, even hypocritical. May we be true worshipers who worship God in spirit and truth (Jno. 4:23-24).
“When the wicked arise, men hide themselves; But when they perish, the righteous increase.” (Proverbs 28:28, NKJV)
We are living through a moment of social upheaval in America. To say there is only one cause would be simplistic. Scripture says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach of any people” (Prov. 14:34). We have witnessed wickedness and righteousness by people with authority and by people who live under it. Godly people pray for peace and pursue conduct that makes for peace (1 Tim. 2:1-2; Heb. 12:14). Evil increases when civil authority does not live up to its God-given work to punish evildoers and protect the innocent (Rom. 13:1-7). Sin draws a crowd of likeminded people. The righteous diminish when sin has free rein in communities and nations. Solomon observed the opposite is also true (see Prov. 28:12). The decision we must make is not to wring our hands and fret over evildoers – they will soon be removed (Psa. 37:1-2, 9-10). What we must do is “trust the Lord, and do good,” “commit your way to the Lord,” and “rest in the Lord” (Psa. 37:3, 5, 7). “Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21).
17 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, 18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, (Hebrews 6:17–19, NKJV)
God promised Abraham He would bless him and his descendants, and that all the nations of the earth through his seed. And, He confirmed His promise with an oath (Gen. 22:16-18). Jesus Christ is the Seed in whom God fulfilled His promise (Gal. 3:16). God’s promise and oath – two unchangeable things – give us relief from sin and the refuge of hope God has set before us. Our faith in Jesus (who entered the most holy place of heaven as High Priest with His atoning blood) gives substance to our hope (Heb. 6:20; 8:1-3; 11:1). In turn, our hope anchors our souls through the storms of life. Hope combines desire and expectation. Hope secures us when our faith is tested because our faith is in Jesus, not in ourselves. You can weather the storm of sin and the storms of life because God does not lie. His promise and oath are firm. His Son Jesus has opened the way for us to the presence of God (Heb. 10:19-21). So, live by faith and find solace in the living hope we have in Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:3-4).
1 Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples! 2 For His merciful kindness is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord! (Psalm 117:1–2, NKJV)
The Holy Spirit chose to include this brief psalm to glorify God for His mercy toward Gentiles in Christ (Rom. 15:9, 11). This psalm calls on all the earth’s inhabitants (both Gentiles and Jews) to unite in celebratory praise and adoration of God for His mercy and His truth. God’s merciful kindness for us is an expression of His steadfast love. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to redeem us from sin’s death (Jno. 3:16; 1 Jno. 3:9-10). God’s mercy, not meritorious works of righteousness, saves us (Tit. 3:5; Rom. 9:30-33; 10:3). God’s truth is ever faithful, guiding our feet in the paths of righteousness (Psa. 23:3; 119:105). We must always remember that we praise God because of His mercy and His truth. From the throne of God, “Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed” (Psa. 84:10). Praise the Lord!