So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them (Genesis 1:27, NKJV).
God’s creation of humans in His image was the crowning jewel of His creation (Gen. 1:26-28; Ps. 8:4-9). Nothing else He created bears His likeness, not gold, silver, stone, or animals (Acts 17:29). Tragically, people distort God’s beautiful creation of male and female into gender images bearing no resemblance to the order He designed. God created two genders, but now people have imaged and invented gender neutrality and gender fluidity. These offer illusions of one’s identity in place of one of the most distinguishing traits God gave us, our gender. Biology (i.e., science) determines gender, not emotions. (Chromosomes are sticklers that way.) I’m no scientist, but I know the XY chromosome is unique to males, and the XX chromosome is unique to females. God created them to assign gender to each new life formed at conception (Ps. 139:13). Declaring that your gender is different from your chromosomal assignment does not make it so. Suppressing or increasing hormones does not change this basic fact. Instead of such artificial manipulations, let us see God’s wisdom and design in both genders. God made male and female unique yet complementary, each completing and needing the other (Gen. 2:20-24; 1 Cor. 11:11-12). A willingness to accept one’s gender involves, to some measure, acknowledging God who created male and female. Being content with one’s gender implies contentment with God (and vice versa). That gets to the underlying issue. When one does not honor God, it becomes increasingly difficult to accept being made in His image, whether male or female (Rom. 1:21-22). And so, the truth is exchanged for the lie (Rom. 1:24-25).
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” (John 13:20, NKJV).
“Receive Jesus as your personal Savior” is an oft-heard exhortation. How does that happen? How does a person receive Jesus? We need a Bible answer, and God provides one. The word “receive” in John 13:20 means to “take” and “get hold of” (G2983). It is a deliberate action, not a passive reception. John 1:12 says those who receive Christ have “the right to become children of God.” These are the ones “who believe in His name.” Believers received Jesus, and they had the right to become children of God. So, this verse explains that believing in Jesus is not the end but the beginning of becoming a child of God. (Many believers are not saved, John 12:42-43.) Receiving Jesus for salvation is further explained in Galatians 3:26-27, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Believers in Jesus are baptized into Christ to “put on Christ;” To “get hold of” Jesus and be a child of God. Just as Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Now, the question is whether you will receive Jesus and be saved by receiving the words of His apostles (whom He sent into the world, John 13:20; Matt. 28:19)? To receive Jesus, one must believe in Him and then obey Him by obeying the apostles’ teachings. Faith only does not save the lost (James 2:19-20, 24). If you believe in Jesus, you have the right to become a child of God. Now, take hold of Christ and His salvation by receiving and obeying His apostles like sinners did on Pentecost (Acts 2:37-41).
His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it” (John 2:5, NKJV).
Mary’s simple statement to the wedding feast servants is worthy of our contemplation and imitation. Our lives change when we do whatever Jesus says. We must hear and do what Jesus says to be wise and blessed: “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matt. 7:24). Consider some things Jesus said, and do them. (1) We must receive the words of His apostles. Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” (John 13:20). That means we must believe and do what His apostles taught (Matt. 28:20; 1 Cor. 14:37). (2) The lost must believe and be baptized to be saved. Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Instead of refusing baptism is essential for salvation, do what Jesus said, and you will be saved. He said we must be born again of water and the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5-7). (3) Christians must worship in spirit and truth. Jesus said, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). We must offer God the worship He approves in His word. (4) Christians eat the Lord’s Supper in memory of Christ’s death. Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of Me” (1 Cor. 11:24-25). The Lord’s Supper is not an unbloody sacrifice of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. It is a memorial of His death by which our sins are forgiven (Eph. 1:7). Remember that having ears to hear Jesus will do what He says (Luke 8:8, 18).
31 And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” 33 But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” 34 Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me” (Luke 22:31–34, NKJV).
Peter, the stone, would soon crack under temptation, although he was sure he would never deny Jesus (Luke 22:54-62). Peter’s sin was grievous, but it would not define him. Jesus looked beyond Peter’s transgression to a future faith that would bless others. Indeed, Peter returned to Christ and, as an apostle, strengthened his fellow apostles and countless others. We can see ourselves in Peter. Satan wants to sift us as wheat like he tried to destroy Peter’s faith. When we yield to temptation in times of weakness, we have a friend in Jesus, an Advocate with the Father who intercedes for us when we confess our sins (1 John 1:9-2:2). Do not let your moment of weakness and sin define your faith. Like Peter, return to the Lord with godly sorrow and repentance (Luke 22:62; Acts 8:22-24). With revived faith, be a blessing to others. What a friend we have in Jesus! He will never leave or forsake us (Heb. 13:5-6).
22 Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it (Acts 2:22–24, NKJV).
Nothing takes God by surprise, especially not the death of Jesus. God is eternal and declares “the end from the beginning…saying, ‘My counsel shall stand’” (Isa. 46:10). His foreknowledge compels trustful obedience to Him and not carved images. God’s prophet recorded God’s purposeful foreknowledge, “Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them” (Isa. 42:9). Jesus was delivered to death “by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God” (v. 23). From eternity past, God planned to save sinners by sacrificing His Son (Eph. 1:4-7). His prophets foretold a suffering Servant whom God would crown with glory and honor (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). The sacrifice of Jesus fully expressed God’s love and grace toward us sinners (1 John 4:10; Rom. 5:6-11). Following His resurrection, Jesus said everything in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms concerning Him was fulfilled (Luke 24:44-45; Acts 13:32-33). The apostles witnessed these things and preached the good news of salvation to the world (Luke 24:46-49; Acts 1:8). God planned to save us from sin. Now, He calls on us to believe and obey His Son to receive the gift He planned and fulfilled (Acts 2:36-41; 4:12; Heb. 5:8-9).
5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin” (Romans 4:5–8, NKJV).
Justification is acquittal from sin’s guilt; to render innocent and free from sin’s penalty of eternal death (Rom. 6:23). Today’s passage explains justification is synonymous with forgiven by God. When forgiven, our sins are “covered,” removed from God’s sight (remembered no more, v. 7; Heb. 8:12; 10:17; washed away to exist no more, Acts 22:16). This forgiveness occurs by faith, not by the works of law (v. 6; Rom. 1:16-17; 3:21-26; Rom. 5:1; Gal. 2:16). Note that the sinner’s faith is “accounted for righteousness” so that his sins are not imputed to him (v. 5, 8). Just as Abraham’s faith was imputed to him for righteousness, our faith is imputed to us for righteousness (Rom. 4:3). The “works” of Romans 4:7 are works of law, i.e., law-keeping. Righteousness by works (law-keeping) can only occur through sinlessness (which would remove the need for grace, Rom. 4:2, 4). But Abraham sinned and needed grace like us all (Rom. 3:23-24). Faith, not works, was reckoned to him for righteousness. (1) This passage does not say God imputes Christ’s righteousness to us. The sinner’s faith is imputed for righteousness (Rom. 4:5). (2) This passage does not say obedient faith attempts to merit salvation (Eph. 2:8-9). Obedient faith (like Abraham had) is the faith that justifies the ungodly (James 2:17-24; Rom. 4:5). Trust and obey Jesus, and your faith will be accounted for righteousness. You will be forgiven (Mark 16:15-16).
17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple (Romans 16:17–18, NKJV).
Unfortunately, a significant number of Christians do not like this passage. It seems “too unloving,” “too harsh” to them. Yet, it is exactly the action the Holy Spirit directed us to take when a person is causing “divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine” taught by Christ’s apostles (2 John 9). Failure to do so enables this person to continue deceiving hearts and overthrowing faith (v. 18; 2 Tim. 2:16-18). False teaching and immorality cause divisions and stumbling blocks. Without repentance, spiritual turmoil results. Often, this disruption begins surreptitiously before coming out into the open (Jude 4; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; Rev. 2:14-16, 20-23). So, Romans 16:17 commands two things. (1) Note the divisive, offending person. Some versions translate the word (skopeo) as “mark” (KJV) or “keep your eye on” (NASB). First, the person must be identified. He is sinning by his teaching or conduct (Gal. 5:20). A wolf in sheep’s clothing endangers the flock (Matt. 7:15; Acts 20:29). We identify predators in the pasture, even more so among God’s flock (Acts 20:28). (2) Avoid the divisive, offending person. Second, deny him fellowship (2 John 10-11). Thus his unrepentant conduct is exposed as the darkness it is (Eph. 5:11). It is not a pleasant task to mark and avoid the divisive. But it is necessary to protect God’s people from spiritual danger. And by doing so, the erring Christian is warned to repent while there is still time.
Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 2, NKJV).
How healthy is your soul? Would you be in good physical health if it matched your spiritual health? In this age of Covid, we are inundated with information and misinformation about being healthy, safe, and protected. Prudent measures for good physical health are important (1 Tim. 5:23; Luke 10:34). Exercise helps slow the rate of decay of our death-destined bodies (1 Tim. 4:8). But the gospel compels us to look at the health of our souls as more essential (1 Tim. 4:7-8). It is the remedy to our sin and death; salvation in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; John 5:24-25; Rom. 1:16; 6:23). A cure for Covid would be a worldwide bestseller. Yet, the cure for sin is cast aside by countless souls rushing headlong toward eternal death. Why is that? Why are people more afraid of their physical death than their eternal death (Matt. 10:28)? Because they do not believe God and the words of His Son, Jesus. Why is the death of God’s saints precious in His sight (Ps. 116:15)? Because they are the ones who “take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord,” serving God faithfully all their days (Ps. 116:13-14, 16-19). With Ananias, we ask, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). The remedy for your sins is available through the sacrifice of Jesus (1 Pet. 1:17-19; 2:24; Rom. 6:3-4; Eph. 2:1-10). Believe and obey Jesus and be saved from sin and death (Rom. 6:17-18; Heb. 5:8-9).
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1, NKJV).
Paul’s deep love for Timothy is evident in his affectionate endearment for his young companion, “a beloved son” in the gospel (2 Tim. 1:2). As Paul’s death drew near, he encouraged Timothy to be strong in the grace of Christ. He would need this, as Paul did when “all those in Asia” and others turned away from him (2 Tim. 1:15; 4:10). Christians stand in grace, having accessed its salvation by faith (Rom. 5:1-2; Eph. 2:8-9). Like Timothy, we need to be strong in grace. Consider some applications for disciples of Christ. (1) Be strong in grace by teaching the gospel of grace. The gospel is the “word of His grace” (Acts 20:32, 24). Grace is forfeited when the gospel is perverted (Gal. 1:6-9; 5:4). Therefore, our gospel teaching must be accurate, in harmony with the grace of Christ and the teaching His word reveals (Titus 2:11-12). (2) Be strong in grace by living in Christ instead of sin. Being strong in grace means no longer living in sin (Rom. 6:1-2). It is no longer our habit. God’s grace fortifies us to serve God instead of sin (Rom. 6:11-16). (3) Be strong in grace by speaking what is needful. Our speech should “always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Col. 4:6). Take care to speak with grace and mercy toward others (cf. 2 Tim. 1:16-18). As Solomon said, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness” (Prov. 15:1-2). “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen” (1 Thess. 5:28).
1 Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! 2 Sing out the honor of His name; Make His praise glorious. 3 Say to God, “How awesome are Your works! Through the greatness of Your power Your enemies shall submit themselves to You. 4 All the earth shall worship You and sing praises to You; They shall sing praises to Your name.” Selah (Psalm 66:1–4, NKJV)
Singing is a “joyful shout” to God (James 5:13). All the earth has reason to raise its voice in honor and praise of God’s mighty name. Singing is not whispering, humming, or whistling. It is a full-hearted expression of joyful praise to God. The Scriptures teach Christians to speak to one another “in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19). While doing so, we should never forget we are speaking to God with our songs of praise and worship (Ps. 66:3). (1) Worshipful singing is not entertainment. Christ’s New Testament says nothing of choirs performing for an audience. Instead, everyone sings to one another (Eph. 5:19). Worshipful singing is with the spirit and understanding (1 Cor. 14:15). It is not timid and half-hearted. We sing praises to God’s greatness, His righteousness, mercy, love, truth, and justice with fully engaged minds. “For God is the King of all the earth; Sing praises with understanding” (Ps. 47:7). (3) Worshipful singing in the assembly of the saints is a moment of teaching and admonition (Col. 3:16; Heb. 2:12). Christians blend their hearts of faith in united songs of praise which instruct, strengthen, and warn us to follow the Lord faithfully. Even as the earth is taught to sing to the Lord, His people lead the way in joyful praise.