9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. (Colossians 3:9–11, NKJV)
The Christian is described as a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). Conversion to Christ includes a deliberate decision of faith to put away the sins that defined the old person of sin with its deeds and to put on the new person who is in the image of Christ (Col. 3:9-10). Notably, being a new person in Christ is defined by a new way of life, one that ceases the practice of sin and practices righteousness (Col. 3:1-9, 12-17). Being a new person in Christ is not defined by culture (neither Greek nor Jew), previous religious traditions (circumcised nor uncircumcised), ethnicity and race (barbarian, Scythian), or social strata (slave nor free). All of these are in Christ, and yet Christ is not limited by any such things. The gospel is for all the world because all have sinned (Mk. 16:15; Rom. 1:16; 3:23). It is very wrong to look through the lens of race, ethnicity, social strata, human traditions, or any other humanly devised label to identify those who belong to Christ. Scripture says, “for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). Christians ought to act like it and never be driven by prejudices of the heart.
“Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.” (Romans 15:14, NKJV)
The merciful inclusion of the Gentiles in the blessings God had promised the Hebrew fathers evokes the joyful praise of God (Rom. 15:7-12). He is the “God of hope” for Gentiles and Jews, filling us with hope regardless of our race (Rom. 15:13). Their hope in Christ gave Paul confidence the Roman Christians would serve one another’s spiritual needs (instead of pleasing themselves, Rom. 15:1-6). Paul identified two things that gave them power (“able” is the verb form of “power” in Rom. 1:16) to admonish one another effectively. To admonish means to “put to mind,” “to caution or reprove,” to warn (Strong, G3560). First, they were able to admonish because they were “full of goodness.” Warnings and reproof are more palatable and productive when they come from a heart of goodness. Admonitions that do not spring from a place of virtue can easily take on the flavor of self-righteous judging instead of caring concern for the sinner’s soul. Secondly, they had the power to admonish because they were “filled with all knowledge.” God’s truth, not our “think so’s,” must inform and guide us when we caution and warn one another. Combining goodness and knowledge equips us to serve each other with needful warnings and exhortations as we live in the joy, peace, and hope of God (Rom. 15:13).
16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (Galatians 5:16–18, NKJV)
What we crave determines what we follow, where we walk, where we live. The apostle Paul has contrasted the Spirit’s gospel with the law of Moses throughout his epistle to the Galatians (2:16-21; 3:1-3, 19-25); 4:21-31; 5:1-5). Disciples of Christ crave (lust) the Spirit’s direction and influence in their lives. Thus, they live by the gospel of Christ that the Holy Spirit revealed, inspired, and confirmed (Gal. 1:6-12). Paul makes a compelling argument that being led by the law of Moses places confidence in the flesh (v. 18; Gal. 3:3). The question we must ask ourselves is whether we yearn to be led by the Spirit of God through the gospel of Jesus, or do we lust after the flesh. We cannot crave and follow them both. Paul’s warning against craving the flesh and its works is clear: “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21). His counterpoint is equally evident: those who have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts bear the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-24). We live (have spiritual life) “in the Spirit,” therefore, we must also “walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25). And, lest we miss the point, “obeying the truth” is how we walk in and are led by the Spirit (Gal. 5:6-7; 3:1-2).
7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (Galatians 6:7–8, NKJV)
When people foolishly “mock at sin,” they mock God (Prov. 14:9). If we can learn anything from the Scriptures, it is that God created us with free will and with the accountability that comes with our free will choices. From Adam and Eve (“in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die,” Gen. 2:17) to this moment, human beings make choices. Sin’s temptation offers immediate, albeit empty, satisfaction (Heb. 11:25). One aspect of sin’s deception is that it comes without effects and accountability. When we choose to yield to sin’s temptation, we deceive ourselves into ignoring our responsibility to God Almighty. Each day we are sowing seeds by our choices of attitudes and actions. Ultimately, our choices will be judged, with eternal outcomes (2 Cor. 5:10). We must choose to abhor evil and love good (Rom. 12:9). God will not be mocked.
“Fools mock at sin, but among the upright there is favor.” (Proverbs 14:9, NKJV)
Our attitudes and reactions to sin are strong indicators of either wisdom or foolishness. Some deny the existence of sin because they deny the existence of God. Foolish. The fool says there is no God (Prov. 14:1). Some think they will hide their sins and not be held accountable for them. Foolish. Your sin will find you out (Num. 32:23). Some judge the personal benefits of sin justify mistreating and abusing others. Foolish. Treachery leads to ruin (Prov. 13:15). The person who mocks at sin ignores the judgment of God. Foolish. The day of God’s righteous judgment will bring wrath and eternal anguish (Rom. 2:5-11). On the other hand, favor is the reward of the person who sows righteousness. Wise. “He who sows righteousness will have a sure reward” (Prov. 11:18). Let us choose to be wise and never mock sin. It is a destroyer of lives and souls. “The righteousness of the upright will deliver them, but the unfaithful will be caught by their lust” (Prov. 11:6).
22 And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ. 23 But they were hearing only, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God in me. (Galatians 1:22–24, NKJV)
You likely have more influence than you know. Although the churches of Judea had not personally met Paul during the early years after his conversion to Christ, they knew of it and his work. The influence of a life previously given to the faithless destruction of Christians, but now given to preaching the gospel, was profound. The disciples honored God as a result of Paul’s faith and conduct. Here is an example of the growth and impact of godly influence. When your life seasons the world with grace, and when your words and deeds illuminate this dark world of sin with truth and righteousness, you will influence others to glorify God (Matt. 5:13-16; Col. 4:5-6; 1 Pet. 2:11-12). You may never know how far your influence reaches. That does not matter, because we aim to honor God, not ourselves (2 Cor. 5:9). Be an influencer for Jesus Christ and His gospel in truth, justice, mercy, and faith. God sees and rewards faithful disciples, and that is enough (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
13 “And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:13–14, NKJV)
This man knew his sins and what they had done to his spiritual condition before God. He was not bold to move close to the presence of God at the temple. Standing “afar off” from the sanctuary in the court of the men, he recognized his unworthiness before God. With lowered eyes of contrition, he beat his chest in shameful sorrow for his sins. His only hope was in God. He believed God to be a merciful God, ready to forgive a sinner like him. And so he pleaded for mercy, and God heard his prayer. Jesus declared the man’s humility before God resulted in gracious exaltation. The contrast is profound between the tax collector and the Pharisee, whose self-righteous pride prevented mercy from the throne of God (Lk. 18:9-12). Both were sinners, but only the humble was justified. We must confront our sins with honest humility when we approach God for mercy. By doing so, we will find His mercy and grace (Heb. 4:16).
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:43–45, NKJV)
God never said to hate others. Indeed, the Law and the prophets commanded Israel to love their enemies (Exo. 23:4-5; Lev. 19:18; Prov. 25:21-22). At this moment of crisis in our country, hate-filled acts of violence are destroying property and lives. What began as peaceful protests over the killing of an unarmed, defenseless man has devolved into hateful displays of violent, criminal mayhem. Christians must rise above bias and bigotry, prejudice and pride, to conduct ourselves like our heavenly Father. With malice for none, He shines His sun on the evil and the good, showering the just and the unjust with blessings. Even so, God does not condone evil. Neither do we. The crimes of others are not our excuse to return evil upon them. Justice demands the punishment of criminals (Rom. 13:1-6). And, the love of God demands that we love our enemies, compelling righteous acts even when we are treated unrighteously.
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.” (Matthew 5:38–42, NKJV)
The rule of law provides justice while reining in unrestrained wrath against others. For example, the Law of Moses decreed judgment against wrongdoers in accord with the crime they committed, hence, “an eye for an eye…” (Exo. 21:22-25). But, the scribes and Pharisees had turned the Law into a tool of personal revenge (Matt. 5:20). Jesus resists such lawlessness, teaching citizens of the kingdom of heaven not to retaliate against the evil person. His apostle would explain, “Repay no man evil for evil…If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; at it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:17-19). To respond with personal wrath and revenge against evil is arrogant, for by doing so, we displace God as Judge and trust ourselves rather than Him to correct evil and punish the evildoer. Going the second mile gives us the chance to calm our souls and trust the Lord.
1 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. (1 Timothy 2:1–2, NKJV)
Paul began a series of exhortations to Timothy with an appeal to pray “for all men.” Jesus had taught to “pray for those who spitefully use you” as an expression of loving your enemies (Lk. 6:27-28). That is not easy to do, but it is the very essence of loving our neighbor as ourselves. Since love focuses on others rather than itself, therein lies the answer to how we can faithfully do this. We need to pray for those who have rule and authority over us. The reasons are apparent (yet Paul reminds Timothy and us of them). Their decisions impact many lives, including Christians. God desires us to lead peaceful lives, flavored with godliness, and infused with reverence. Therefore, supplicate (entreaty) God for them. Solicit God on their behalf for truth, wisdom, and justice to guide them in the affairs of state. Petition the Ruler of rulers, interceding for them through earnest prayers and thoughtful thanks. Paul reminds us that God desires the salvation of all people (1 Tim. 2:3-4). Therefore, let us diligently pray for leaders (and all others) so that an atmosphere that enhances the cause of the gospel may prevail on the earth.