7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? (Isaiah 53:7–8, ESV)
The Ethiopian read this stunning prophecy of Christ in his chariot during his return home from Jerusalem, where he had worshiped (Acts 8:27-33). Perplexed about its meaning, he asked Philip to join him and explain it. So, beginning with this Scripture, Philip preached Jesus to him, leading to his salvation (Acts 8:34-39). Approximately 700 years before His crucifixion, Isaiah described God’s suffering and sin-bearing servant (Isa. 53). Jesus fulfilled this prophecy. What marvelous humility and complete willingness to endure injustice, agony, and death without defiantly opening His mouth (Matt. 26:59-68). Depicted as a docile sheep being led to slaughter, in death, Jesus “suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow His steps” (1 Pet. 2:21-24). He bore the pains of death for us, an offering for sin accepted by God (Isa. 53:10-12). When people revile you for the name of Christ, do not “revile in return.” Instead, bear the reproach of Christ and commit yourself to God who judges righteously (1 Pet. 2:23; Heb. 13:13-14). Like Jesus, may we surrender ourselves to doing God’s will, knowing He is faithful safely secure our souls in Christ (Heb. 13:5-6).
12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:12–13, NKJV).
This passage teaches significant points of truth for our benefit. It warns Christians of the possibility and danger of falling away from the living God while comforting us with assurances of God’s faithfulness when tempted to sin (Heb. 3:12-13). Please see the contrast between trusting in oneself when tempted and trusting in God. Pride’s arrogance puts people on the precipice of spiritual disaster (v. 12). We must stand fast in the Lord and not think we are sufficient in ourselves to stand the onslaught of temptations (Eph. 6:10; Gal. 6:3; 2 Cor. 3:5). Jesus cautioned that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matt. 26:41). But like Peter’s bold boast that he would not deny Jesus, we trust in ourselves when we fail to look for and use the paths of escape from temptation’s snares (Matt. 26:33-35). Peter could have resisted the temptations to deny Jesus, but he failed to use the ways of escape before him (Matt. 26:58, 69). God is faithful. He gives us ways to escape (bear up against) temptation. We cannot rightfully blame God when we yield to temptation and sin. We, not Him, are unfaithful when we yield to temptation and sin against our God (James 1:12-16).
14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain (Philippians 2:14–16, NKJV).
Just as the influence of light removes darkness, Christians diffuse sin’s darkness when we “do all things without complaining and disputing” (v. 14). We are to live in peaceful unity, maintaining the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:1-8). By doing so, we avoid “complaining” (grumbling, murmuring against others, James 5:9) and “disputing” (arguing over words that ruin the hearers instead of strengthening them, 2 Tim. 2:14; 1 Tim. 1:3-4). Like the first century saints, we live in the middle of a generation that is immoral, “crooked” (warped), and “perverse” (distorted, corrupt). By contrast, children of God are “lights in the world,” refusing to participate in sin with the world (v. 15). We are to be (1) Blameless (free of censure, 1 Thess. 3:13), (2) Harmless (“unmixed,” guiltless, Rom. 16:19), and (3) Without fault (unblemished, blameless, not needing a reprimand, 2 Pet. 3:14). Christians are lights in this dark, sinful world. Do not extinguish your light (influence) by becoming part of the problem, sinning with the world. Like the Philippians, we will be victors when Christ returns if we hold “fast the word of life” delivered by the apostles of Christ (v. 16; 1 John 5:3-4).
16 A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked. 17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous (Psalm 37:16–17, NKJV).
The Scriptures teach the Lord does not measure wealth in dollars and cents. (The poor widow’s two small coins were more than the rich gave, Mark 12:41-44.) People of the world measure riches by the volume of their material possessions. But these are temporal and do not satisfy the soul (Matt. 6:19; Eccl. 5:10-15). Therefore, Christians learn to “be content with such things as you have” because the Lord said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). The Lord’s abiding assurance of His presence and provisions to sustain life secure our trust while teaching us to value the true riches of Today’s text gives additional insight into learning contentment (Phil. 4:11-12). Spiritual riches are received and assured by God to those who practice righteousness (v. 16; Acts 10:34-35; 1 John 2:29-3:3, 7). God upholds the righteous, but He will break the strength of the wicked (v. 17). Here are ways to learn contentment with what we have: (1) Trust and use God’s value system of righteousness over earthly riches. Live by faith, not sight (2 Cor. 5:7). (2) Trust God’s power to sustain the righteous and defeat evil (Matt. 6:33-34). Live for things above, not the things on the earth (Col. 3:1-3). (3) Trust God’s power to know and provide for our needs (Matt. 6:31-32). He is always with the righteous (Heb. 13:5-6; Matt. 7:7-11).
42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God (John 12:42–43, NKJV).
Were the many rulers who believed in Jesus saved? If so, they were saved without confessing Jesus. Yet, Jesus said, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32-33). Although the rulers believed in Him, they were lost (Rom. 10:9-10). Again we ask, were the many rulers who believed in Jesus saved? If so, they were saved by loving the praise of men more than the praise of God. Yet, Jesus said we must love God “with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). Those who love others more than Jesus are not worthy of Him (Matt. 10:37-39; Luke 14:26-27). Like the parents of the blind man Jesus healed, they feared being put “out of the synagogue” (banished from the congregation of Israel, John 9:22). Although the rulers believed in Him, they were lost. Faith only does not save sinners. Faith only did not save the Jewish rulers who failed to confess Jesus. It did not save demons (Luke 8:27-33; James 2:19). It will not save you and me. Believers in Jesus Christ have “the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). What we do with our faith is the difference between being lost and being saved. Faith prompts submissive and enduring obedience to do the will of God (Heb. 5:9; Phil. 2:12-13). That is the faith that saves the soul (Heb. 10:36-39).
He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8, NKJV)
God had a complaint against Israel (Micah 6:1-2). Despite His righteous acts of deliverance from Egypt, the nation had turned away from Him (Micah 6:3-5; 1 Sam. 12:7-8). They would not appease God by multiplying burnt offerings. Even offering one’s firstborn to Him would be insufficient (Micah 6:6-7). God wanted Israel’s faithful devotion in heart and conduct. He still does (Mark 12:30-31; Acts 10:34-35). Micah 6:8 is a template for God-approved character brought to fullness in the new covenant of Christ. (1) He has shown you. God’s word reveals His will, and we must give attention to it (Heb. 1:2; 2:3-4). We must do His will, not our own (Matt. 7:21-23). (2) What is good. God is good and shows us what is good (Ps. 73:1). Israel’s rulers had perverted justice by hating good and loving evil (Micah 3:1-2). We are to hear and do what God says is good (Heb. 13:20-21; Eph. 2:10). (3) What does the Lord require of you? Yes, the Lord has requirements (commands) we must keep (John 14:15, 21-23). (4) Do justly. With fairness and integrity, justice must guide our treatment of others (Matt. 5:33-37; 7:12). (5) Love mercy. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt. 5:7). (6) Walk humbly with your God. The lowly in heart walk with God, but pride brings destruction (Col. 3:12; James 4:6, 10; Prov. 16:18). Let us live in Christ, so God has no complaint against us (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 2:5).
9 Then His disciples asked Him, saying, “What does this parable mean?” 10 And He said, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that ‘Seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand” (Luke 8:9–10, NKJV).
A parable is a similitude in which a spiritual lesson is thrown alongside a commonly known occurrence (hence, the word parallel). Parables illustrate a truth “using comparison, hyperbole, or simile” (The Lexham Bible Dictionary). Christ’s parables are understandable by those with open ears and hearts (“He who has ears to hears, let him hear!” Luke 8:8, 18). These are the ones to whom it is given “to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God” (v. 10-11; Matt. 13:10-12, 16-18). Although the parables reveal God’s truth about the kingdom of God, they are not understood by those who close their hearts, shut their eyes, and stop their ears (v. 10; Matt. 13:13-15). The state of mind we have when hearing the word of God is crucial to understanding and following it. That is the essence of the parable of the Sower and Soils that prompted the exchange with Jesus in today’s text (see Mark 4:10-13). The types of soil represent the condition of hearts and whether they receive the word of God (Luke 8:4-8, 11-15). The “noble and good heart” hears and keeps God’s word, bearing fruit with patience (Luke 8:15). (The Bereans in Acts 17:11 will become examples of this good heart.) Parables are beautiful expressions of the gospel of Christ. Our heart condition determines whether we are blessed by them or stumble over them. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? (1 Corinthians 3:1–3, NKJV)
One culprit of a weak faith is remaining spiritually undeveloped. Every Christian begins in this immature state as “babes in Christ” (v. 1). The problem of spiritual weakness is staying in that condition. Christ calls us to grow in Him by using God’s word in our lives (1 Pet. 2:2; Heb. 5:12-14). Those who do are the “spiritual” ones; They use God’s revelation to decide their course of conduct (1 Cor. 2:14-16). However, the Corinthians had not grown; they were still carnal (“fleshy”) in thought and practice (v. 1). Such spiritual weakness quickly becomes anti-spiritual (as noted in verse 3). Now, the flesh controlled their minds and choices (see the contrast in 1 Cor. 2:15). We retain the traits and characteristics of the flesh (carnally minded) when we do not grow in our faith (Rom. 8:1, 5-8). Like the Corinthians (engulfed in “envy, strife, and divisions”), spiritual weakness devolves into sin unless arrested by renewing our minds and lives (Rom. 12:1-2; Eph. 4:20-24). Let us not yield to the weakness of the flesh (Matt. 26:41). Instead, be strong in the Lord, using each day to strengthen your faith, cleanse your actions and purify your heart from all defilement of flesh and spirit to grow up in Christ (Matt. 26:41; James 4:8; 2 Cor. 7:1; Eph. 4:15).
30 And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5:30–32, NKJV).
Some justify broadening the boundary of fellowship with error and sin by misusing this passage, suggesting Jesus had fellowship with sinners (2 John 9). One example is maintaining fellowship with those who remain in unscriptural remarriages. They opine since Jesus ate and drank with sinners, they can have ongoing fellowship with brethren in sinful relationships and practices. Moral sins and doctrinal errors are tolerated, rationalizing that “everyone is a sinner” and charging “you’re a legalist demanding 100% doctrinal conformity.” Jesus was not a sinner, and He did not endorse sin when He ate with sinners. He taught them the gospel and called them to repentance (vs. 31-32; Luke 15:1-7). And He said we must abide in His word (truth) to be His disciple (John 8:31-32). (Surely that means all truth.) The scribes and Pharisees condemned Jesus and His audience but never saw they needed to repent of their sins. To them, His proximity to sinners meant defilement. Jesus was not condoning sin by teaching sinners to abandon their sin (2 John 10-11). He was with sinners to teach them to repent and follow Him – to “go, and sin no more” by walking in His light of truth (John 8:11-12). Like Jesus, let us teach sinners to repent and walk in the light. We can do this without compromising truth and having fellowship with sin (Eph. 5:11; 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1).
31 Then He went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and was teaching them on the Sabbaths. 32 And they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority (Luke 4:31–32, NKJV).
Jesus taught in the synagogues of Galilee with the fellowship and endorsement of the Spirit of God (Luke 4:14, 18-21). His teaching so enraged the Nazarenes they tried to kill Him (Luke 4:23-29). Yet, those who heard Him testified and marveled at His “gracious words” (Luke 4:22). In Capernaum, people were astonished at the authority of His words (cf. Matt. 7:29). The Jewish leaders marveled when they heard Him teach in the temple. “How does this Man know letters, having never studied,” they said (John 7:14-15). Jesus spoke what the Father gave Him to teach (John 7:16). His words were authoritative because He spoke heaven’s words (John 12:49-50). Titus, the evangelist, was to teach the gospel “with all authority” (Titus 2:15). These men were not certified by the scribes and lawyers of the day. (The apostles were “uneducated and untrained,” Acts 4:13.) Yet, men presume to have the authority to maintain seminaries to certify a person as acceptable (having authority) to preach and minister the gospel. (Only credentialed preachers will do.) Sadly, some churches of Christ seem to trend in the same direction. (Only the credentialed preacher will do for their pulpits.) It makes you wonder whether a simple fisherman (like Peter) could stand in some pulpits today. The preacher’s authority does not come from himself, other men, or credentials earned from men. The gospel preacher speaks by heaven’s authority (1 Tim. 4:11; 5:7). We do well to remember that and humble ourselves before the authority of God and His word instead of men (Gal. 1:11-12; 1 Cor. 14:37).