6 But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you unless I speak to you either by revelation, by knowledge, by prophesying, or by teaching? 7 Even things without life, whether flute or harp, when they make a sound, unless they make a distinction in the sounds, how will it be known what is piped or played? 8 For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle? 9 So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air. (1 Corinthians 14:6–9, NKJV)
Speaking in tongues was a temporary miraculous gift of the Spirit by which one spoke in a foreign language unknown to the speaker but understandable to the hearers (1 Cor. 12:7-11; 13:8). Such a miracle helped spread the gospel to the world (1 Cor. 14:21). Without comprehension, the gift did not edify the listeners (1 Cor. 14:2, 4-5, 11-12, 28). Paul used musical instruments to illustrate the goal of comprehension through clarity (v. 7-8). Then, he made his point that using the gift of tongue-speaking was intended for people to understand the gospel message (v. 9, 7). If it failed to accomplish this, then it was ineffective (even hurtful, 14:23). We want people to understand what we say when we teach God’s word. Let us use “easy to understand” words to promote mature understanding and spiritual strength in those who hear us (v. 9, 18-20, 26).
21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21–22, NKJV)
Repeatedly forgiving one who has sinned against us is not easy. It requires faith to do as Jesus said (limitless forgiveness). He went on to describe God’s forgiveness is driven by compassion, not withheld due to wearisome repetition. Such unceasing forgiveness means our hearts must be filled with the love, mercy, and longsuffering of God (see Sword Tips #2116 on 1 Timothy 1:15-16). It requires a generous, sympathetic heart toward the sinner and the struggles against sin to repeatedly forgive when wronged. Oh, the magnitude of God’s repeated forgiveness of us and our sins against Him! As God forgives us, we are to forgive others (Matt. 6:12, 14-15; 18:32-35). The numbers Peter proposed were literal. He thought seven was a perfectly generous amount of times to forgive repeat offenders. Jesus used numbers figuratively (“seventy times seven” does not make the four hundred ninety-first sin beyond our need to forgive). In another place Jesus said, “And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him” (Lk. 17:4). Ready, willing, abundant forgiveness is our task of faith when sinned against. We want and need God’s unending compassion and forgiveness (Matt. 18:23-27). Let us not withhold the same from those who sin against us (Matt. 18:28-35).
15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. (1 Timothy 1:15–16, NKJV)
God’s forgiveness is deep and wide. Note what motivates, mandates, and maintains God’s forgiveness of our sins. 1) God’s love. Paul said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” and he considered himself to be the prototype, the chief of sinners. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to save us by His death (Jno. 3:16). Without God’s love, we cannot be saved. 2) God’s mercy. Forgiveness is the compassion applied, and God is rich in mercy toward all who call on Him for forgiveness (Eph. 2:4; Rom. 10:12). 3) God’s longsuffering. His forgiveness hinges on His longsuffering toward sinners. He does not want anyone to be lost. He wants every sinner to come to repentance. That’s why He is longsuffering toward us (2 Pet. 3:9). He could punish us all for our sins without patiently giving us opportunities to repent. His “forbearance and longsuffering” ought to “lead us to repentance” (Rom. 2:4). Do not think God cannot save you. Paul’s forgiveness is an example for all believers. Like Paul, have faith to “arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Do not take God’s love, mercy, and longsuffering for granted. The day of the Lord will come, and we must be ready (2 Pet. 3:10-13). His longsuffering is for our salvation (2 Pet. 3:14-15).
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15, NKJV)
I had occasion to rejoice and to weep with others this week. Good news joyfully shared brought joy and relief, reflection, and thanksgiving. Sad news of loved ones passing from this life brought resignation and resolution, gratitude for a life well-lived, and prayers for strength to go onward. Christians are ready to rejoice with those who rejoice. Free of envy, jealousy, and pride, we delight in each other’s good fortune. Christians are also ready to weep with those who weep. We have shed tears of sorrow with eyes of faith trained on Jesus, hanging on the cross for our sins. We know what it is to be sorrowful for our sins. Yet, our sorrow turns to joy as we remember His empty tomb, resurrected to die no more. Our hope is in Christ, so we soothe our momentary afflictions and sorrows with expectations of eternal glory (2 Cor. 4:16-18). We all walk paths of pain, regret, and loss, which help us comfort one another when sorrow comes (Gal. 6:2; 2 Cor. 1:3-5). Rejoicing and weeping with each other means we know each other, we share our lives with each other, and we love each other. Why do we do this? Because we are “members of each other” (Rom. 12:5).
41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. (Acts 5:41–42, NKJV)
The apostles of Christ had just been beaten for preaching the gospel of Christ in Jerusalem. They were also commanded by the ruler council of the Jews not to speak in the name of Jesus” (Acts 5:40). They were not discouraged or deterred. Lenski commented, “These disgraceful stripes the apostles considered badges of honor” (The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles, p. 237). Their work was of God; men would not overthrow it (Acts 5:39). Christ’s apostles continued their daily practice of publicly and privately instructing and proclaiming Jesus as the Christ. We must not allow opposition to God’s truth to prevent us from continuing to speak God’s word faithfully. Threats and obstacles, even violent hostility, did not cause the early Christians to stop preaching the word (Acts 8:1-4). Let them be our examples when we face resistance and aggressive opposition to the truth of the gospel (Phil. 3:17; 4:9). Jesus said, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12). May we seek Christ’s blessing rather than the favor of men (Gal. 1:10).
49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, 50 and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:49–50, NKJV)
Hell is real, and hell is horrible. Jesus often spoke about hell and warned of “everlasting fire” into which those cursed by sin will “depart” (Matt. 18:8-9; 25:41). This sorrowful scene of “wailing and gnashing of teeth” will not be God’s doing. Some who do not believe in hell try to convince us God does not punish people, and if He does, then He is a horrible God. Their attempt fails miserably. The eternal punishment of hell’s corruption results from sowings seeds of sin in our lives (Gal. 6:7-8; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 2:1-11). God sent His Son Jesus to save us from sin’s eternal death. We do not rely on poets’ imaginative journeys to explain hell (i.e., Dante’s Divine Comedy). We listen to Jesus. Denying hell’s existence and its eternal punishment of sin denies Jesus (Matt. 25:46). It is that simple. We believe the Son of God and the truth He taught about hell (Jno. 1:14; 14:6). Those who accept the Bible as God’s word believe in eternal hell (and eternal heaven) because we trust His word as truth (Jno. 17:17). If you deny hell is real, you do not believe Jesus (“Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire,” Matt. 25:41); you believe the devil (“You will not surely die,” Gen. 3:4). We urge you not to believe the liar and father of lies (Jno. 8:44). Believe and obey Jesus, who warns us to escape the condemnation of hell (Matt. 23:33).
12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. (John 15:12–14, NKJV)
Jesus commanded His apostles to love one another as He had loved them. This commandment is equally given to every Christian (1 Jno. 4:21). We are to walk in love as Christ loved us (Eph. 5:2). We know love because He laid down His life for us. Therefore, “We also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 Jno. 3:16). Jesus Christ died for every person because we have all sinned (Rom. 3:23; 5:8; Col. 1:19-23). There is no greater love than His voluntary, sacrificial death. Jesus said we must do “whatever He commands” to be His friend (v. 14). That includes loving one another, but it does not stop there. Jesus taught much more than loving one another. He commissioned His apostles to teach disciples “to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). So, when we trust Jesus and do what His apostles command us, we are friends of Jesus. Abraham was “the friend of God” because he believed God and obeyed Him (Jas. 2:21-24). Faith in and friendship with Jesus means far more than a mental agreement of who He is and what He has done. Friendship with Jesus is far more than asking Him into your heart to be your Savior. Are you doing whatever He commands you? When you do, you are His friend, saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9; Heb. 5:9). Be a friend to Jesus. Obey whatever He commands.
9 As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:9–11, NKJV)
Jesus continued His final discourse with His apostles before being arrested, tried, and crucified. He had loved His apostles while with them, and He wanted them to abide in (stay in) His love. He had just said, “Abide in Me, and I in you,” which would occur when His words remained in them (Jno. 15:4, 7). They would bear much fruit by doing so (Jno. 15:8). In today’s passage, Jesus elaborated that they would abide in His love by keeping His commandments (v. 10). He had set this example for them (and us) by keeping His Father’s commandments and abiding in His love. Their joy would be full when they obeyed Jesus. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus coupled love and joy with obedience? Those who discount and disconnect obedience from salvation refuse to see this linkage. Obeying Jesus is not a way we earn blessings. It is the divine condition under which God gives heavenly blessings (Acts 10:34-35). Our faith in Jesus and His word convinces us to love Him by obeying Him. We rejoice in His promised love and presence with a joy that remains and reaches into eternity.
23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. 24 He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me. (John 14:23–24, NKJV)
It is easy to say we love Jesus. But it is not so easy to genuinely love Him. Jesus defines when we love Him, and when we do not. In today’s passage, Jesus used the word agapao (love), a verb, an action word, to describe how to love Him. We know someone loves us when they show their love through actions (1 Jno. 3:18). Likewise, loving Jesus is revealed by our actions. He said if we love Him, we will keep His word. Obeying Jesus is the benchmark of love (Jno. 14:15). When we love Jesus, God will love us. A relationship of loving fellowship is formed with the Father and Son (v. 23). Not loving Jesus is exhibited by not keeping His words. We do not love Jesus when we disobey Him; those are His words (v. 24). Jesus has given us a way to know whether we love Him. If that is your desire, then keep His word. By doing so, you know that you love Jesus, that the Father and Son love you, and that you are in fellowship with them.
30 No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord. 31 The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord. (Proverbs 21:30–31, ESV)
A great temptation faced by all is to believe our wisdom, understanding, and counsel are unquestionably better than any other. This temptation opens a door through which pride enters to prevail over our thinking and conduct. The sin of pride leaves God and His will out of the picture as we make decisions and set the course of our lives. James put it this way, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil” (Jas. 4:13-16, ESV). We must revere God’s sovereignty in all our preparations for success (whether in business, in relationships, politics, or any other endeavor under the sun). Our wisdom, understanding, and counsel cannot prevail against the revealed will and purposes of God. God gives grace to the humble but resists the proud – a lesson we all need to remember (Jas. 4:6). As we “fight the good fight of faith” and “lay hold on eternal life,” we must not forget the victory belongs to the Lord, not to us (1 Tim. 6:12).