It is essential we correctly identify “the kingdom of the Son” into which God transfers the lost when saved (delivered out of sin’s powerful darkness). Jesus said His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). While He was on the earth, He withdrew from those who wanted to make Him king forcibly (John 6:15). The nature of His kingdom is spiritual. Therefore, it is established or advanced by earthly means (Luke 17:20-21). Premillennialists teach Jesus will conquer evil and return to earth to reign over a thousand-year kingdom. But, the saved ones are already fellow citizens of His kingdom (Col. 1:13; Rev. 1:6, 9). Jesus identified His kingdom as His church in Matthew 16:18-19. Jesus now reigns as the victorious king over His kingdom, the church (Psalm 2; 110:1-2; Acts 2:32-36; Heb. 1:8-9, 13). Christ has secured victory over sin and death. His church triumphs over sin and Satan by the blood of the Lamb, who is worthy to reign (Rev. 1:5-6; 5:9-10, 13). Thus, Scripture says we are “receiving a kingdom” (receiving is a present, active participle) now (Heb. 12:28). The church of Christ is the kingdom of Christ. Christians currently serve the King “in the day of His power” (Psalm 110:3; Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-23; Heb. 1:3). The saved compose Christ’s kingdom, His church (Acts 2:47). The church is the kingdom that cannot be shaken by the kingdoms of men (Dan. 2:44; Heb. 12:28). God be thanked Jesus reigns today as “the Lord of righteousness” (Jer. 23:5-6; Heb. 1:8-9).
1 Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead), 2 and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:” (Galatians 1:1–2, NKJV)
Neither human proclamation nor physical lineage approved and appointed Paul to be an apostle (v. 1). How unlike the assertions and attestations of the churches, councils, and synods that install men to be popes, prophets, presidents, and priests. Jesus Christ chose and commissioned His apostles (Mark 3:13-19; Acts 22:14-15; 26:16-17). Under His authority, He sent them into the world to teach His gospel (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-20). God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead, approved of the appointment and commission of the apostles, including Paul (v. 1). Heaven’s approval did not mean the apostles were above sin. Peter was rebuked for hypocrisy and influencing others to join him (Gal. 2:11-14). Paul’s explanation of heaven’s endorsement of his apostleship laid the foundation of authority by which the churches of Galatia (and thus, all the churches) were to receive and follow his instructions (Gal. 1:6-10). Just as Paul’s apostleship was “not from men nor through man,” neither was the gospel he preached (Gal. 1:11). How unlike the assertions and attestations of the churches, councils, and synods. These religious bodies convene to approve and codify their self-defined “orthodoxy” and bind it on adherents. What an affront to Christ, His gospel, and the apostles He commissioned to preach His gospel (Gal. 1:6-9)! What to believe and obey has been revealed by Christ through His apostles (Gal. 1:12; 2 Thess. 2:15; 3:1, 4). Straying from apostolic doctrine amounts to departing from the faith (1 Tim. 4:1-3, 6).
4 Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am. 5 Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You; Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. Selah (Psalm 39:4–5, NKJV).
The circumstances of our lives can change in an instant. A dear friend was hit by a drunk driver last week. He remains in the hospital, facing a long period of recovery. Another friend had an accident yesterday and broke his neck. He survived, was rushed to surgery, and his outcome is still unknown. Illness, accidents, and death touch our lives and those we know and love practically every day. David expressed his yearning to know the quantity and end of his days. Like us, David did not know when he would die. But he wanted to know the truth about his life so he could guard himself against sin while living in hope (Ps. 39:1-3, 7-8). We yearn for the same knowledge. Like David, let us pause (Selah) and reflect on life’s uncertainty and brevity and their impact on us. (1) We are frail (v. 4). Life is fleeting. No matter how strong we are, our bodies will ultimately fail us and die. Therefore, we must lay up heavenly treasures for life beyond this flesh (2 Cor. 4:17-5:1). (2) God is the giver of life (v. 5). Life is a gift to be cherished, not squandered (Eccl. 5:18-20; James 1:17). Met us honor His will whatever life brings (Eccl. 12:13). (3) Life is short (v. 5). Our lives are brief like a vapor’s rapid disappearance (James 1:14). In comparison to God’s eternal existence, our time is “nothing” before Him. As we busy ourselves with daily activities, we must remember this life’s treasures are vain (Ps. 39:6). “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord” (Jer. 17:7).
18 For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, 19 for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God (Hebrews 7:18–19, NKJV).
In explaining the superiority of the priesthood of Christ over the Levitical priests of the Law of Moses (Heb. 7:11), the inspired writer emphasizes our ability to “draw near to God” through Jesus Christ, our High Priest “according to the order (likeness, JRP) of Melchizedek” (Heb. 7:15-17). The law that sanctioned the Levitical priesthood could not redeem sinners through the animal sacrifices offered by its priests, the sons of Aaron (Heb. 7:11; 10:1-4). Therefore, God annulled (set aside, abolished) the “former commandment” that installed the Levitical priesthood because its service was impotent, unable to redeem sinners (Heb. 7:16, 18). By contrast, through the priesthood of Christ, we have a better hope (Heb. 7:19). His presence in heaven at the right hand of God assures access to God’s merciful grace (Heb. 7:24-8:2). Serving as High Priest, Jesus offered Himself – his lifeblood – as an offering for the sins of the world (Heb. 7:27). Christ’s offering of Himself appeases God’s wrath against sin (Isa. 53:11-12; Rom. 3:24-25; 1 John 2:1-2). Now, we can draw near to God in faith and be forgiven (Gal. 3:26-29; Heb. 10:11-18). Praise God for His great plan of redemption. Thank God Jesus Christ is our “great High Priest who has passed through the heavens,” enabling us to “hold fast our confession” by “coming boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:14-16).
32 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. 33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. 34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. 36 And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, 37 having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” (Acts 4:32–37, NKJV)
Great things were happening in the early days of the church in Jerusalem. (1) Great unity (v. 32). “One heart and one soul” guided their daily lives (1 Cor. 1:10). (2) Great power (v. 33). Miraculous power confirmed the apostles’ accounts of Christ’s resurrection (Mark 16:20). (3) Great grace (v. 33). Favor with God and men provided open doors for the gospel to spread (Acts 2:47). (4) Great sacrifice (vv. 34-35). Brethren sacrificed their possessions and comfort to relieve the needs of fellow saints (2 Cor. 9:6-15). (5) Great encouragement (vv. 36-37). Barnabas and many others greatly comforted each other through their kind and caring service (2 Cor. 8:1-5). May we take note of these marvelous examples of early Christians and walk in their footsteps (Phil. 3:17).
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).
Satan wanted to destroy Peter. As wheat is separated from the chaff, Satan wanted to shake Peter to the core and separate him from his faith (v. 31-32). Jesus interceded in prayer for Peter and encouraged him to strengthen his brethren once he returned to the Lord (v. 32). Impetuous Peter did not perceive his precarious position, self-confidently proclaiming he was ready to follow Jesus to prison and death (v. 33). But Jesus knew the extent of Peter’s approaching denials. Still, He received Peter back when godly sorrow led him to repent (Luke 22:60-62; John 21:15-19). Consider these few lessons from today’s passage. (1) Like Peter, Satan wants to devour our souls (1 Pet. 5:8). But we can withstand him in the faith (1 Pet. 5:9). (2) Jesus lives to make intercession for us (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 4:14-16; 7:25; 1 John 2:1). When our faith falters and fails we draw near to God through Jesus, not Mary or anyone else. (3) We must humble ourselves before God to resist the devil (James 4:6-10). Otherwise, pride will be our undoing (1 Cor. 10:12-13). (4) Falling into sin only means failure when we refuse to return to the Lord (1 John 1:8-9). Fellow Christian, do not let your sin overwhelm you. Repent and pray, returning to the Lord (Acts 8:20-24). (5) Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. Trust Him and follow His word to be protected against Satan (Eph. 6:10-17).
25 “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25–26, NKJV)
What are we to do when someone sins against us? The temptation is to become resentful, bitter, enraged, even vengeful when someone hurts and harms us. Yet, that is not at all what Jesus taught (Matt. 5:21-26). If we have a complaint against anyone, we are to forgive them. Otherwise, our heavenly Father will not hear and answer our prayer for forgiveness of our sins. To forgive means to send away, to leave, forsake. Forgiveness means the offense does not factor into our actions toward the offender; We do not hold the sin against them. Forgiveness expresses kindness and compassion instead of anger and bitterness; The way God in Christ forgives us (Eph. 4:31-32). There is no better example of the heart of forgiveness than when Jesus was crucified unjustly. Hanging on the cross, He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Yes, these sinners’ personal forgiveness only came when they believed and obeyed Jesus (Acts 2:36-41). But we are called to have a heart of forgiveness like Jesus, whether those who sin against us ever repent (Col. 3:12-13). Our place is not to hand out vengeance against the evildoer; We leave that to God and overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:17-21). Forgiving others is the measuring stick of being forgiven by God (Matt. 6:12, 14-15; 7:2). Forgiveness is an act of faith by which we trust God will also forgive us.
13 Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 15 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” 16 And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them (Mark 10:13–16, NKJV).
Jesus loves the little children. Their innocence, humble dependence, and eagerness are among the qualities that illustrate the character of all who receive the kingdom of God. We can learn much from this tender scene. (1) Parents should bring their children to Jesus by teaching and leading them to Christ. Those who brought their children to Jesus knew the value of His blessing. Even so, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). Train your children in the ways of the Lord. (2) Like Jesus, we should take time to be with children. They remind us of a simpler time, pure and free from the stresses, anxieties, and troubles of life. Time spent with children invigorates the soul. Children are not in the way, nuisances or unwarranted distractions. (They were not that to Jesus.) Among the tragedies of every abortion is the devaluing of an innocent child’s life. Additionally, abandoning children to an evil world without the presence and blessing of Jesus is a horrifying reality in the lives of far too many children. (3) Never prevent someone from coming to Jesus. Once we grasp the value of His blessing, we will help others seek Him (John 1:41-42, 43-46; Matt. 11:28-30).
Jesus was ordinary and extraordinary. His physical appearance was nothing exceptional, but His teachings were (Isa. 53:2; Luke 5:26; Mark 2:12). They were astonishing and authoritative, far surpassing what the people heard from the scribes (Matt. 7:28-29). When officers were sent to seize Him, they returned empty-handed, admitting, “No man ever spoke like this Man” (John 7:32, 45-46). The strange thing the people saw in today’s passage was Jesus giving miraculous proof He is the Son of Man who forgives sins (Luke 5:17-25). Jesus saw the faith of those who had lowered the man through the roof into His presence. They believed Jesus could heal him. Jesus did so much more by healing his soul of sin. Some who heard Him thought Jesus spoke blasphemy, so He challenged them to believe He is God by healing the man. Extraordinary, miraculous proof. Only God can forgive sins and heal the lame. Jesus did things contrary to expectation (i.e., “strange”). The reactions were varied: The healed man glorified God, the people who saw these things praised God in their astonishment, but the scribes and Pharisees refused to believe in Jesus. His extraordinary words and works should compel us to believe and follow Him (like Matthew, Luke 5:27-28; Matt. 9:9).
4 So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground” (Exodus 3:4–5, NKJV).
There was no discernible difference between rocks and dirt on “the mountain of God” and the rest of the wilderness in which Moses tended his father-in-law’s flock (Exod. 3:1). So why was this place “holy ground?” Because God was there. His presence consecrated the ground, demanding reverent respect and obeisance of God from Moses. Later, God called Israel a “holy nation,” foreshadowing the church of Christ (Exod. 19:5-6; 1 Pet. 2:9). The “Most Holy” place of the tabernacle and temple was reserved for the ark of the covenant and mercy seat, and a veil separated it from the “holy place” (Exod. 26:33-34). The hope that anchors our souls is “both sure and steadfast” and “enters the Presence behind the veil” because Jesus our High Priest is in the holiest place (heaven), ministering over the house of God, His church (Heb. 4:14-16; 6:19-20; 8:1-2). God called Israel to holy living because He is holy (Lev. 11:44-45; 19:2). Under the law of Moses, this included distinguishing between what was clean and unclean, profane and holy (Lev. 20:7, 25-26). The gospel calls us to regard the presence and holiness of God our Father fearfully. As obedient children, we must be holy in all our conduct because our Father is holy (1 Pet. 1:13-17). Take off your sandals; The place you stand is holy ground (Eph. 2:21; 1 Pet. 2:5).