1 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” (John 3:1–2, NKJV)
Yesterday’s Sword Tips (#2093) observed Philip telling Nathanael to “come and see” whether anything good could come from Nazareth (Jno. 1:43-47). The evidence proving Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God is abundant, but we must “come and see” for ourselves. Christians will not force you to believe and follow Jesus. (But note, Jesus said your choice will have eternal results, John 12:48-50.) Nicodemus had seen Jesus work miracles, or he had heard about them from credible witnesses. He drew a necessary conclusion that God had sent Jesus and God was with Jesus from the signs Jesus did. The process of learning and examination is how God presents the truth of the gospel to the world. Competent eyewitnesses of the words and works of Jesus (His apostles) preached the gospel message of salvation in Jesus Christ (Mk. 16:15-20; Acts 1:8; 10:38-43). We preach that same gospel today (2 Tim. 4:2-4). Those who heard the apostolic message had a choice to make: Believe, obey, and be saved, or disbelieve and be lost (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:36-41; 13:44-48). You and I and the whole world have the same decision to make. By the way, Nicodemus was not saved because he believed Jesus came from God. Only when he entered the kingdom of God by the new birth of water and the Spirit would he be saved from his sins (Jno. 3:3-5). So it is for every lost soul today.
Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” (John 1:45–46, NKJV)
Prejudice keeps souls from believing Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Bias toward Nazareth almost prevented Nathanael from investigating the evidence that Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecies. To be called a Nazarene was a slur of reproachful disdain (Matt. 2:23). Nathanael had this bias against Nazareth. Fortunately, he accepted Philip’s advice to “come and see” for himself before concluding Jesus was not worth his time and trouble. We must not prejudge people on their skin color, economic status, gender, ethnicity, etc. (Jas. 3:1-9). Neither should we prejudge the gospel of Christ without giving it a fair, unbiased hearing. The people who saw and heard Jesus had abundant evidence to examine that is the Christ, the Son of God (Jno. 5:36). The Bereans verified the gospel was true by examining the Scriptures daily (Acts 17:11-12). “Come and see” the evidence the Bible is the word of God and not the word of men (1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Free of prejudice, we should examine the Scriptural evidence that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God” so that “believing you have life in His name” (Jno. 20:30-31).
19 Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the Lord,” ’ as the prophet Isaiah said. (John 1:19–23, NKJV)
We must know who we are. Christians are the children of God, disciples of Jesus, and servants of righteousness (1 Jno. 3:1-3; Acts 11:26; Rom. 6:17-18). John knew who he was. Being repeatedly asked, “Who are you?” John quoted Isaiah 40:3, declaring himself to be the prophesied forerunner of the Messiah. John was not the Christ; he announced the Christ to Israel (Jno. 1:29-34; 3:28). John was not Elijah. He came “in the spirit and power of Elijah,” and called on Israel to repent (“to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just”) “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Lk. 1:16-17). Jesus identified John as Malachi’s prophesied Elijah (Mal. 4:5-6; Matt. 11:14; 17:10-12). John was not “the Prophet” predicted by Moses (Deut. 18:18-19). He would decrease as Jesus increased and spoke the words of God (Jno. 3:30-34). John knew who he was. He fulfilled his God-given work. Do you know who you are? If so, then use today to do the work God has given you (Rom. 12:3-8).
22 And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’ 23 From this man’s seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior—Jesus— (Acts 13:22–23, NKJV)
God gave Israel Saul when they wanted a king to be like the nations around them (Acts 13:21; 1 Sam. 8-9). Saul’s inadequacies as king became apparent as he did not keep God’s will and led Israel into rebellious disobedience (1 Sam. 13:8-14; 15:1-23). Therefore, God raised up David to be king of Israel, a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14). Unlike Saul (who disobeyed God’s commands), David would accomplish God’s purposes; He would “do all My will” (Acts 13:22). But David was but a type of his descendant – Jesus – whom God raised up to be Israel’s Savior-King. God made a covenant with David to his seed upon his throne (2 Sam. 7:13-14; Psa. 89:3-4, 35-37; 132:10-11). Paul declared God kept His promise to David by resurrecting and exalting Jesus (Lk. 1:32-33; Acts 2:29-31). From Christ’s throne goes forth salvation – the “sure mercies of David” – to Israel and the whole world (Acts 13:24-26, 32-38, 46). We do not look for a reign of Jesus on earth for a thousand years. That is the stuff of misplaced hope from misunderstanding the Scriptures. David’s seed is on His throne now, sending the sure mercies of David to all who come to Him for eternal life (Isa. 55:1-5; Matt. 11:28-30).
1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? (Romans 6:1–2, NKJV)
The “commandments and doctrines of men” abuse and distort the Christian’s relation to God’s grace (Col. 2:20-23; Gal. 1:6-7). For example, divine grace is not irresistible; if it were, everyone would be saved (Tit. 2:11; 1 Tim. 2:3-4; Matt. 7:21-23). Grace is available to every sinner, but not every sinner will accept it. Or again, Christians can fall from grace despite the false security of “once saved, always saved” (Gal. 5:4). God’s word of truth assures us that we have “access by faith into this grace in which we stand” through Christ (Rom. 5:2). Indeed, grace is greater than sin (Rom. 5:20-21). But that does not mean grace abounds if we choose to “continue in sin.” The gospel does not teach that we can live in sin, and God’s grace will save us anyway. We must not continue in sin to continue in grace (v. 1). We died to sin in our lives when we were baptized into Christ and into His death (Rom. 6:2-4). That is when we were “freed from sin” to live with Christ, not to continue living in sin (Rom. 6:5-8). God wants to save you, but you must make a decision of faith to die to sin and live with Christ. That begins by being baptized into Christ. Then, no longer live in sin, and the grace of God will abound in you.
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 4:36–37, NKJV)
What a wonderful man this Joses (Joseph) was! He had such a way of comforting, consoling, exhorting, and encouraging fellow Christians that the apostles named him Barnabas (son of encouragement). We want to encourage others, but sometimes we don’t know how to do it. Let’s learn from Barnabas. He encouraged others through generously serving others. He generously gave of his possessions to relieve needy saints. He was generous with his reputation, putting it on the line to vouch for Saul’s conversion when others were afraid (Acts 9:26-28). He was generous with his time and energy to travel to Antioch to teach and strengthen new Christians (Acts 11:21-24). He was generous in giving his life to preaching the gospel in many places with Paul and others (Acts 11:25-26; 13:2; et al.). To encourage others, we must come out of our own little world and serve others with genuine care, concern, and contact. Barnabas did that as an expression of his faith in the Lord. We can be encouragers, too. The Lord calls on us to “exhort one another daily” (Heb. 3:13). So, let’s join hands with Barnabas and build up one another in the most holy faith (Jude 20).
37 ‘For I will cause Elam to be dismayed before their enemies and before those who seek their life. I will bring disaster upon them, My fierce anger,’ says the Lord; ‘And I will send the sword after them until I have consumed them. 38 I will set My throne in Elam, and will destroy from there the king and the princes,’ says the Lord. 39 ‘But it shall come to pass in the latter days: I will bring back the captives of Elam,’ says the Lord. (Jeremiah 49:37–39, NKJV)
Jeremiah pronounced God’s judgment against Elam, one of several denunciations from God’s prophet of the idolatrous, oppressive nations surrounding Israel (Jer. 46-51). God’s judgment was executed against Elam as the Medes and Persians enveloped it. But, God had additional plans for the region of the lower Tigris River. In the “latter days,” God would grant deliverance to “the captives of Elam,” but not from the conquerors who consumed their territory. God would bring them salvation from the tyranny of sin through Christ Jesus. Notably, Elamites were present on Pentecost when the apostles preached the good news of salvation in Jesus, who is “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:9-11, 34-36). The “latter days” of Jeremiah’s prophecy had begun, and the gospel was freeing souls from sin, including its “captives of Elam” (Acts 2:16-17, 21, 37-41). God established His throne in Elam, not with an earthly rule of Jesus on a throne in Jerusalem, but by the gospel. Christ, the king, reigns in righteousness over His kingdom in people’s hearts (Lk. 17:20-21; Heb. 1:8). The gospel of Christ will free you from sin’s bondage, too (Rom. 1:16-17). Are you ready to be truly free (Jno. 8:31-32, 36)? If so, believe and obey Jesus like the Elamites on Pentecost.
16 “Then I commanded your judges at that time, saying, ‘Hear the cases between your brethren, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the stranger who is with him. 17 You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small as well as the great; you shall not be afraid in any man’s presence, for the judgment is God’s. The case that is too hard for you, bring to me, and I will hear it.’” (Deuteronomy 1:16–17, NKJV)
We are reminded of the importance of impartial, unbiased judges as we watch this week’s confirmation hearing of the most recent judge nominated to sit on the U. S. Supreme Court. Judges who bring an agenda to interpreting and applying the law to cases are biased, unjust, and undermine the rule of law. “Equal justice under law” (engraved above the entrance to the United States Supreme Court) is a principle we strive for as a nation, but it is not a new concept. Moses commanded it of Israel under the governance of the Sinaitic Law. Gospel salvation under the new covenant of Christ is equally available to all “without respect of persons” (Acts 10:34-35). God is impartial, applying His word of truth without bias to rich and poor, slave and free, male and female, Jew and Gentile (Rom. 2:1-11). God commands all of us to repent because He has appointed a righteous, impartial Judge before whom we will stand and be judged (Acts 17:30-31; 2 Cor. 5:10). Let us discard our agendas for the only one that matters; the word of Christ. He saves and He judges without prejudice and partiality (Jno. 12:48-50).
8 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust. (1 Timothy 1:8–11, NKJV)
This passage identifies the “sound doctrine according to the glorious gospel” of God with the goodness of divine law. Law is “good” if we use it lawfully (v. 8). That statement probes our use of God’s law. If law can be used lawfully, then it can also be used unlawfully. God’s law identifies our sin against Him, and that is a good thing (Rom. 7:7, 12). But, law cannot save us from our sins (Rom. 3:19-20). So, the law teaches us we need deliverance from sin (Rom. 7:24). God provided Christ and His gospel to save us by grace through faith (Rom. 3:21-26). Today’s text teaches us God’s law restrains sin in our lives when we conform ourselves to it. That is how we use the law lawfully. Sadly, many twist God’s law to justify the very sins it identifies and condemns. Just look at the list of sins in verses 9-10. Religious people approve of many of them. That effort unlawfully uses God’s law. Law identifies us as sinners in need of salvation. It points us to the gospel for salvation so that Christians live by “the law of faith,” the glorious gospel preached by the apostles (Rom. 3:27-28).
37 Who is he who speaks and it comes to pass, when the Lord has not commanded it? 38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that woe and well-being proceed? 39 Why should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?” (Lamentations 3:37–39, NKJV)
Jeremiah’s Lamentations may seem an unlikely place to teach respect for God’s silence, but this passage powerfully describes the futility and falsity of speaking when the Lord has not spoken. God had brought His righteous wrath upon Jerusalem to punish her sins (Lam. 1:3-5, 8-11; 2:1-8). He announced judgment against Zion and brought it to pass at the hands of the Babylonian army. Many false prophets said Jerusalem would not fall, but its fall showed they spoke when the Lord had not commanded it (cf. Jer. 28; 2 Chron. 36:15-21). They preached a message of “peace, peace” when there was no peace, only impending doom (Jer. 6:13-15). We have no right to complain against God when He punishes our sins according to His word (v. 39). Both “woe and well-being proceed” from Him, not us. We must submit to His word humbly and faithfully. Jerusalem and Judah refused to do that, and the Lord punished them. In the New Testament, honoring the silence of the Scriptures (of God) is not going beyond what is written but instead, abiding in Christ’s doctrine (1 Cor. 4:6; 2 Jno. 9). We must follow what the Scriptures say, not speak where God has not spoken. To teach and practice things God’s word does not speak of will not have God’s approval, but is a transgression of the doctrine of Christ. Let us speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where it is silent.