22 And when Herodias’ daughter herself came in and danced, and pleased Herod and those who sat with him, the king said to the girl, “Ask me whatever you want, and I will give it to you.” 23 He also swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half my kingdom.” 24 So she went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist!” (Mark 6:22–24, NKJV)
John the Baptist was a preacher who lost his head because he dared to speak truth to powerful sinners. I wonder how many preachers would lose their heads under similar circumstances today. 1) John lost his head because he preached against adultery (Mk. 6:17-18). It was a sin for Herod and Herodias to be married. Both of them had previous spouses whom they divorced, then married each other (Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus, 18.5.1, 4). Today, many preachers encourage churches to receive into fellowship those who are in adulterous remarriages in violation of Matthew 19:9. 2) John lost his head because of a rash vow (Mk. 6:23). Rash promises often lead to foolish actions (Matt. 14:9). We should think before we speak (Jas. 1:19-20). 3) John lost his head because of a dancing daughter (Mk. 6:22). Dancing continues to stir sinful lusts of the flesh and eye (Gal. 5:19; Col. 3:5; 1 Jno. 2:15-16). Herodias’ parental permission precipitated passion in Herod, leading to his rash oath and John’s death. Dancing still incites lusts in participants and those who watch it. Yet, many Christians approve of it. Would our head be on a platter next to John’s for preaching God’s truth to powerful sinners (Mk. 6:27-28)?
33 And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots. (Luke 23:33–34, NKJV)
Crucifixion was a gruesome form of execution. Suspended between heaven and earth, Jesus hung in anguish for hours before death came. The innocent Son of God was tortured to death between two criminals who, admittedly, deserved their death sentence (Lk. 23:40-41). The merciful heart of Jesus is fully displayed even while He was being treated mercilessly. The Son of God is always ready to forgive our sins against Him. God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth,” including those who murdered the Son of God (1 Tim. 2:3-4). Were they saved the moment Jesus said this prayer? No. Those who killed Jesus had the gospel preached to them on Pentecost, and many of them believed it (Acts 2:22-36). They asked the apostles what they should do for having crucified the Lord and Christ, and were told to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:37-38). About 3,000 of them were forgiven when they received and obeyed that gospel message of salvation (Acts 2:41). It takes more to be forgiven than God wanting us to be saved. It takes more to be forgiven than wishing God to forgive us. It is when we believe, repent, and are baptized in the name Jesus Christ that God forgives our sins against Him and His Son.
33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?” 35 “Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?” 36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33–36, NKJV)
Humanity stands before the superlative majesty of God. His wisdom and knowledge are more profound than any human philosophy. Man’s wisdom is foolishness to Him (1 Cor. 1:25). His purposes, decisions, and ways do not originate in the human heart. God has revealed His mind, His judgments, and His conduct to us by His Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:6-11; Eph. 3:3-5). Paul’s use of Isaiah 40:13-14 calls our attention to this fundamental truth: We do not tell God how He should do things. God does not arrange His purposes based on our advice and counsel. He is sovereign over us. Many push back at this truth and refuse to yield to the supremacy of the Almighty. To do so invariably leads to foolishly following false gods (Rom. 1:21-23). May we humbly bow before God and bring ourselves into harmony with His will. He rules His world, including each of us, in the wisdom of truth and righteousness.
8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:8–10, NKJV)
The gospel is the “word of faith” the apostles preached. It is near, having been confessed by our mouths and believed in our hearts. The gospel of Christ is the message of “righteousness of faith,” not “righteousness of the law” (Rom. 10:4-7). But please see that the word of faith (gospel) is not a message of salvation by faith only, since “confession with your mouth” is belief plus confession. We are neither saved by faith alone or by confession alone. Both are said to be “unto” righteousness or salvation (v. 10). The preposition “unto” translates the Greek word eis, which denotes “entrance into, or direction and limit: into, to, towards, for, among” (Thayer, 183). Believing the gospel in your heart and confessing Christ with your mouth move you toward salvation, but they are not all the gospel says to be saved. The word of faith commands us to repent or perish (Lk. 13:3, 5; Acts 17:30). The word of faith also commands us to be baptized “for (eis) the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Let us believe and follow all the gospel preached by the apostles. Then we have God’s assurance of being saved in Christ.
18 We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. 19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. (1 John 5:18–21, NKJV)
God assures Christians of knowing we have eternal life in the Son of God (1 Jno. 5:11-13). We are confident of this wonderful blessing in Christ because we are born of God through His word (Jno. 1:12-13; 3:3, 5; 1 Pet. 1:23). John tells us some things we know as God’s children, which testify to God’s grace and our faith as His children. 1) We know whoever is born of God does not practice sin, but guards himself against the evil one (5:18). We do not say we “have no sin,” but that we practice righteousness (1 Jno. 1:8; 2:29; 3:6-10). 2) We know we are different from the world (5:19). We do not love the world and its lusts, but God and His will (1 Jno. 2:15-17). 3) We know the Son of God has given us an understanding (5:20). Jesus Christ is the Truth, and His word lights our path (Jno. 14:6; 1 Jno. 1:6-7). We have fellowship with the Father and the Son when we walk in (obey) apostolic truth (1 Jno. 1:2-3; 2:3-6; 3:24). Let us guard ourselves against false gods and their false concepts of salvation by faithfully following Jesus Christ (1 Jno. 5:21).
22 Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come— 23 that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles. (Acts 26:22–23, NKJV)
Christ came for the whole world (Jews and Gentiles). The apostles of Jesus testified what Moses and the prophets said would occur concerning the Christ was fulfilled in Jesus. Paul takes note of some primary things Moses and the prophets said about the Christ: 1) He would suffer (read Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53). Peter said of Jesus, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18). 2) He would rise from the dead (read Psalm 16:8-11). The resurrection of Jesus fulfilled this psalm (Acts 2:29-31). Jesus was the first – the beginning of the resurrection of all the dead (1 Cor. 15:20-22). 3) He would proclaim light to Jews and Gentiles (read Isaiah 42:1-7; 49:6). Through His gospel, Jesus lights the way of salvation for every soul on earth (Matt. 28:19; Acts 10:34-35). God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to suffer death for our sins, to be raised to exaltation for our salvation, and to light our way to eternal glory.
He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. (Matthew 10:40, NKJV)
Before Jesus sent His apostles “into all the world” to “preach the gospel to every creature,” He sent them on a limited commission “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mk. 16:15; Matt. 10:5-6). Today’s verse is within the context of that limited assignment. Jesus encouraged them with a concise principle: Receiving the apostles is equivalent to receiving Him and the Father who sent Him. On the night He was betrayed, Jesus reinforced this principle to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” (Jno. 13:20). When we accept the apostles’ teaching, we are accepting Jesus and the Father. The antithesis is also true. When we reject the apostles, we are rejecting the Son and the Father: “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me” (Lk. 10:16). It is a flawed and futile exercise that exalts Jesus while minimizing and discounting His apostles. (They spoke His word!) Friend, you have not accepted Jesus when you reject what His apostles taught (Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-16). After all, Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (Jno. 14:15).
18 Therefore they left the house of the Lord God of their fathers, and served wooden images and idols; and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem because of their trespass. 19 Yet He sent prophets to them, to bring them back to the Lord; and they testified against them, but they would not listen. (2 Chronicles 24:18–19, NKJV)
At first, Joash, the king of Judah, “did what was right in the sight of the Lord” (2 Chron. 24:2). Yet later, he listened to the leaders of Judah and fell away from the Lord (2 Chron. 24:15-17). Listening to the counsel of men rather than the prophets of God, Joash and Judah turned back to idol worship. Led by the king, they even killed the prophet, Zechariah, in the court of the temple, because he rebuked their sins (2 Chron. 24:20-21; Jesus referred to this in Matt. 23:34-36). Indeed, the prophets of God were “an example of suffering and patience” (Jas. 5:10). Now, God speaks to us “by His Son” through His apostles and prophets (Heb. 1:1-2; 2 Pet. 3:1-2). The choice between listening to the will of men or to the word of God remains. Shall we join with those who cried, “Crucify Him!” and reject His word, or shall we stand with “the apostles of the Lord and Savior” who spoke Christ’s truth (2 Pet. 3:2)? Will you listen to the Lord or men? That depends on whether you want to fulfill the will of God or the devil (Jno. 8:43-44).
44 Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. 46 Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day,” (Luke 24:44–46, NKJV)
The Old Testament prophecies concerning the Christ were fulfilled in Jesus. The Lord Himself explained those prophecies to His apostles, opening their minds (understanding) to comprehend their meaning. Here is a key to understanding the OT prophecy: The New Testament explains the OT prophecies about Christ. The Holy Spirit inspired the apostles and prophets of Jesus to tell us what the OT prophecies meant (see examples in Acts 2:25-31; 13:32-41; 2 Pet. 1:19-21). We cannot lay a pre-conceived template over the inspired Scriptures and demand they conform to what we have already decided. Such an approach twists the Scriptures and destroys souls (2 Pet. 3:16). We must come with open hearts to comprehend the Scriptures (Acts 17:11-12).
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 1 For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. (2 Corinthians 4:16–5:1, NKJV)
The inspired apostle uses a series of contrasts to buoy the faith of Christians during uncertain, turbulent, and trying times. Let us meditate on these points of truth and “not lose heart” (be discouraged), but be refreshed daily by the sure hope we have in Jesus Christ.
1) Outward person perishing v. Inward person renewed daily.
2) Momentary light affliction v. Far more abundant, eternal glory.
3) Visible things are temporary v. Unseen things are eternal.
4) Our earthly house (the tent of our mortal body) destroyed by death v. An eternal, heavenly building from God inhabited by our immortal bodies).
The Christian’s hope is not on earth, and never will be. Our hope is laid up for us in heaven (Col. 1:5; 1 Pet. 1:3-4). Therefore, live for heaven with joy in Christ (Matt. 6:19-21).