23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:23–24, NKJV)
First-century Christians regularly came together on the first day of the week to worship God (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 14:26; 16:2; Heb. 10:24-25). True worshipers follow the teaching of Jesus taught about worship. It is “in spirit and truth.” Worship “in spirit” calls on the heart as the source of our worship of God. For example, prayers and songs must be with the spirit and understanding; it is not rote ritualism (1 Cor. 14:15). True worshipers praise God “with understanding” when they sing (Psa. 47:7; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). A heart far from God that goes through the motions of worship is an abomination to Him (Matt. 15:7-9). True worshipers also worship God “in truth.” His word reveals what worship He accepts. Churches of Christ gather every Sunday to pray, sing, eat the Lord’s Supper, thankfully give as we have been prospered, and listen to the teaching of God’s word (Acts 2:42; 20:7; Eph. 5:19; 1 Cor. 14:26; 16:2). Souls who worship “in spirit” are careful to give God the “in truth” worship He accepts. New Testament Christians did that. We aim to do the same today. We hope you will, too.
11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. 12 Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear. (Proverbs 25:11–12, NKJV)
Words can build up and pull down. God’s prophets did both when they spoke God’s words (Jer. 1:9-10). Words chosen wisely and spoken properly benefit the “obedient ear” (v. 12). A word fitly spoken is like the adornment of beautiful jewelry. The Lord expects us to give attention to our words (how, when, why, and what we say). He also expects us to give attention to how and why we listen to fitly spoken words (with an obedient ear). The words we utter should be suitable to the moment. They will “reprove, rebuke, and exhort” (as the need may be) to warn, convict, save, and strengthen souls (2 Tim. 4:2). A message fitly spoken is not rash but is thoughtful words seasoned with grace (Col. 4:6). Such words are “good for necessary edification” (Eph. 4:29). These words are not bitter, malicious, angry, self-justifying harangues (Eph. 4:31). Fitly spoken words proceed from kind hearts of love (Eph. 4:32). Obedient ears give attention to messages fitly spoken. The obedient ear is committed to personal improvement and spiritual growth. Therefore, it listens to the fitly spoken word and follows God’s truth it promotes. Let us choose our words carefully. They will do great good or great harm. Let us listen carefully to fitly spoken words and obey the truth they advance.
17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. (2 Peter 3:17–18, NKJV)
It is truly incredible how so many people insist on propping up the false doctrine that Christians cannot fall away from the Lord and be lost. The false doctrine suggests teaching the possibility of apostasy diminishes God’s power to save. That is a diversionary, deceptive, and destructive lie of the devil, the father of lies. Of course, God has the power to save. Human free will is also a part of the equation; We are saved “by grace” (God’s part) “through faith” (our part) (Eph. 2:8). Without free will, we are mere robots. God becomes an unjust tyrant, selecting some for salvation and others for damnation regardless of their conduct. That cannot be true (Acts 10:34-35; 17:30; Rom. 2:1-11; 3:4). Today’s passage overwhelms the false doctrine of once saved, always saved. Some had already fallen. Peter warns beloved Christians, “lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked” (v. 17). The countermeasure to prevent falling is spiritual growth in the “grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (v. 18). When we mature in understanding and apply our faith to follow the Lord, Jesus is honored “both now and forever,” not ourselves. We dare not minimize (or even rejecting) the truth that Christians can fall and be lost. Instead, remain steadfast in your faith by growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord.
15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. (Philippians 1:15–17, NKJV)
When early Christians were persecuted for their faith, they “went everywhere, preaching the word” (Acts 8:1-4). To “preach Christ” means more than telling about the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The gospel they preached was “the word of the cross,” all of Christ’s truth, the “whole counsel of God” (1 Cor. 1:18-25; Gal. 1:6-9; Acts 20:27; 2 Tim. 4:2-4). Paul knew some did not preach Christ from pure hearts and genuine faith (Phil. 1:12-18). Still, he rejoiced that Christ was preached even when he suffered from these pretenders (Phil. 1:18). In today’s passage, the apostle gives us motives markers for preaching Christ. Our hearts will be judged as well as the content of our message when we preach Christ. The apostle notes that sound gospel preaching includes: 1) Boldness to speak the word without fear (1:14); 2) Goodwill, not envy and strife (1:15); 3) Sincerely (honestly), without selfish ambition or harm to others (1:16); 4) Out of love for God and His truth, for brethren, and the lost (1:17); 5) In truth, not pretense (1:18). When we teach the gospel, let us maintain godly motives. Otherwise, we are little more than “sounding brass or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1).
Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry. (2 Timothy 4:11, NKJV)
Paul’s patient love for Mark compels us to ponder the breadth and depth of our love for brethren. Paul had not always considered Mark useful (good and profitable) for the service of the gospel. About 20 years earlier, John Mark had joined Paul and Barnabas on a preaching journey into Gentile regions, only to leave them and return to Jerusalem shortly after it began (Acts 13:4-5, 13). This failure to continue with them caused Paul to insist Mark would not be on his next preaching trip despite disagreeing with Barnabas (Acts 15:36-41). We should note that Paul did not “write off” Barnabas or Mark as unworthy Christians who did not love the Lord. The rest of the story makes this apparent. Paul was associated with Mark during his first Roman imprisonment (AD 60-62), sending greetings from him to the Colossian church and instructing them to welcome Mark if he came to them (Col. 4:10). Now, during his final days of life, Paul asked for Mark. The man he had refused to take with him roughly two decades earlier was now useful for the gospel’s service (2 Tim. 4:11). A great lesson of love’s patient endurance is staring us in the face (1 Cor. 13:4-7). Mark’s faith had matured, and Paul respected that. Paul loved Mark. Indeed, “love suffers long and is kind” as it rejoices in the truth. Love keeps on bearing, believing, hoping, and enduring all things, both in our attitudes and treatment of others. Love did not fail Paul and Mark. It will not fail us, either.
4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. (Hebrews 6:4–6, NKJV)
Verse 6 gives the reason for the impossibility of renewal to repentance if Christians fall away. When fallen Christians continue to practice their sins, they forfeit the power to renew their faith. It is impossible to be renewed spiritually while continuing to sin. They are crucifying the Son of God by their willful transgressions, openly shaming Him by their return to and continuance in sin (Heb. 10:26-31). Indulging in sin instead of resisting it hardens hearts that were once enlightened, enlivened, and edified by God’s word and its promised hope. Therefore, we are warned not to let sin have a place in our hearts and lives (Heb. 3:12-13). Yes, Christians can fall away and be lost (2 Pet. 2:20-22; Gal. 5:4). And yes, fallen saints can be restored to Christ, but only by strictly putting away the sins that have prevented their repentant return to the Lord. Willful sin must cease for divine mercy to take its place (Lk. 15:17-24).
For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. (Hebrews 3:4, NKJV)
We necessarily infer when we see a building that someone built it. A house does not build itself. Its design, foundation, supports, and construction reflect its builder’s intelligence, skill, and purposes. The Scriptures apply this simple principle to God. 1) God built the universe (Gen. 1:1; Job 38:4-6). NASA just landed a spacecraft on Mars. That engineering feat did not happen by chance. It was the result of the skillful use of knowledge. Likewise, the heavens and the earth do not exist by chance, but by the Creator’s intelligent design and power. 2) God built marriage (Gen. 2:21-24; Matt. 19:3-6). Marriage between one man and one woman for life is God’s design for societal order and spiritual development (1 Cor. 7:1-5; Eph. 6:1-4). Human distortions of the builder’s plan and purposes of marriage disrespect its Architect while jeopardizing souls (Rom. 1:24-32; Eph. 5:22-33; 1 Pet. 3:1-7). A return to God’s teachings about marriage strengthens families, societies, and souls. 3) God built the church (Matt. 16:18; 1 Cor. 3:9-11). The church’s teachings, organization, and work have been sliced and diced by the will and doctrines of men (Gal. 1:6-10; Col. 2:8, 20-23; 1 Tim. 4:1-3). Christians are God’s house if we remain faithful to Him (Heb. 3:6-14). Therefore God, the Grand Builder of all things, deserves our honor, respect, and obedience.
14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:14–15, NKJV)
Christ lived in the flesh to die for humanity. He was “made a litter lower than the angels” when He partook of “flesh and blood.” Through God’s grace, His “suffering of death” “for everyone” equipped and glorified Him as the captain of our salvation (Heb. 2:9-10). He blazed the trail for our redemption from the bondage of sin and the fear of death. By doing so, Christ destroyed the devil, rendering useless his power to use the fear of death against us. Christ has overcome sin and death by His death and resurrection. We view death with hope, release, and joy because of Christ (2 Cor. 4:16-18; Phil. 1:21-23; 2 Tim. 4:6-8). In Christ, life has its proper context – a temporary blessing on the road to eternity (2 Cor. 5:1). In turn, understanding death instills in us the faith to make the Lord’s will our own (Jas. 4:13-17). Death is coming for us all, but that is not the end of the story. Christ “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). His gospel calls on us to die to sin and live with and for Him, now and forever (Gal. 2:20). Keep the faith, praise God, and have no fear; Christ has overcome the world (Jno. 16:33).