4 There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. 5 God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn. 6 The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted. 7 The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah” (Psalm 46:4–7, NKJV)
Continuing to regard God as “our refuge” in the face of raging enemies and uncertain times, the psalmist contrasts the roaring waves of disturbances that rush at God’s people with the peaceful tranquility of streams of water that sustain and refresh “the city of God” (Psa. 46:3-4). God is in the midst of this symbolic city, protecting and providing for His holy ones as surely as the dawn breaks on each a new day. God’s power is unmatched. He has but to speak, and the earth melts away. While the kingdoms of men rise and fall, the dwelling place of the Most High God never falters. Today, God’s dwelling place with His people is the church, the redeemed who are saved by the blood of the Lamb and who are at peace with God and man (Eph. 2:14-22). “Do not be afraid” and “let not your heart be troubled” are the constant refrains of the Son of God as He calls on souls to strengthen their faith in Him (Lk. 5:10; 8:50; 12:7, 32; Jno. 12:15; 14:1). As did Israel in the Old Testament, even so now, the “Israel of God” (the church) has a peaceful refuge in the God of Jacob (Gal. 6:16).
1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; 3 Though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah” (Psalm 46:1–3, NKJV)
We live in days of uncertainty. A new strain of coronavirus has encircled the globe, bringing illness, death, fear, and panic in its wake. Questions abound: “What can be done to halt its advance?” “What will the future bring?” “Am I and my loved ones at risk?” “How will it affect me and those I love?” Lessons resurface for our learning – if we will listen and heed them – including these: Life is a vapor, soon gone. Life is uncertain, and some things are beyond our control. Illness and death are great equalizers, whether rich or poor. Wealth cannot protect against death, which reaches out and touches us all. Trouble will continue to come in this life. When they do, to whom do you turn? God is our shelter and security when adversity, distress, trials, and anxiety are afoot. But beware. God is not a fire escape to we forget until the moment of crisis. He is the constant Helper of those who put their trust in Him (Heb. 13:5-6). Our confidence is in the Creator, who made the earth and the sea. Should our world crumble around us, we will still rely on the One who calmed the sea (Mark 4:35-41).
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, NKJV)
These are final words spoken by Jesus to His apostles before He ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9). He uses two “you shall” statements that distinguish the apostles from every other disciple of Jesus. Understanding them eliminates many false concepts about the Holy Spirit, the apostles, and what it means to be witnesses of Jesus. First, Jesus told His apostles “you shall receive power.” Then, He told them when it would happen – “when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” This Holy Spirit baptism was a specific promise made to the apostles, not to every Christian (Acts 1:4-5; Jno. 14:16-17, 25-26; 15:26-27; 16:12-15). It would be fulfilled “not many days from now,” and ten days later on Pentecost, it was (Acts 1:5; 2:1-4, 33). Holy Spirit baptism would equip the apostles for their assigned work, which is the second “you shall” statement. Jesus told His apostles “you shall be witnesses to Me.” Witnesses testify of what they have seen (Jno. 3:11). The apostles were witnesses of Christ’s resurrection. They saw Him raised from the dead (Acts 1:22; 4:33; 5:32; 10:39-42; 26:16; 1 Cor. 15:4-8). Christians do not “bear witness” of Jesus because we have not seen Him. They did, and we believe their testimony. Christ gave His church apostles “for the equipping of the saints, for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12). Let us thank Christ for the apostles, not be led astray by false doctrines that would usurp their power and work.
35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. 36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” 37 Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” 38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. (Acts 8:35–38, NKJV)
Was the Ethiopian saved before he was baptized? Many think so. We know he heard about Jesus, without which he could not learn of his sin and come to Jesus for salvation (Jno. 6:44-45). We know he believed what he heard (that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, Jno. 8:23-24). Both his belief and his confession of faith were unto (in order to) salvation (Rom. 10:9-10). Although repentance is not mentioned, we infer it (Acts 2:37-38). But, what about baptism? Why did he want to be baptized? Was it because he was already saved? Or, did he believe he was still lost until he was baptized? Mark 16:16 gives the Bible answer to this important question. Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” Unbelief condemns, but one is saved from condemnation when he “believes and is baptized.” That is what the eunuch heard, learned, and believed when Philip preached Jesus to him. That is why he urgently desired to be baptized – because he knew he wanted to be saved. He rejoiced after he was baptized, not before. Now we understand why, because that is when he was saved. Those who tell you the eunuch was saved before he was baptized contradict Jesus. That is never a good place to be (Jno. 12:48).
Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another. (Romans 15:14, NKJV)
Paul gave thanks for the faith of the Roman Christians: “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world” (Rom. 1:8). Now, he briefly outlines why he was confident they would follow the instructions he gave them. Each of his reasons are expressions of their faith, and by them we are exhorted to follow their good examples. First, Paul had confidence in them because they were “full of goodness.” Their virtue was genuine, not pretended. Nor was their goodness partial. Their lives were filled up with goodness. Next, Paul had confidence in them because they were “filled with all knowledge” (Eph. 5:17-18). Their knowledge of God’s word filled every part of their being. It informed their faith, their hope, their motives, and their conduct (Jno. 8:31-32). Thirdly, Paul had confidence in them because they were “able also to admonish one another.” They were situated to effectively caution and reprove each other because of their goodness and knowledge of God’s word. Knowledge standing alone puffs up (1 Cor. 8:1). But, when coupled with goodness one is equipped to admonish and to be listened when that warning is needed. We enhance our ability and opportunity to help one another be faithful by maturing our faith in goodness, in knowledge, and in the ability to admonish others from God’s word.
“The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” (Psalm 19:9, NKJV)
God’s judgments are “true and righteous,” reliable and trustworthy, unbiased by error and untainted by the stain of prejudice. We must resist the temptation to pronounce judgment upon those who would speak God’s judgments to us. When someone speaks to us the truth of the gospel we must refrain from the defensive, futile deflection that says, “You’re just judging me!” It is ironic (not to mention, hypocritical) that those who charge others with “judging” them are doing the very thing they condemn in others. Yes, let us speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Yes, let us correct sinners with humility as we call them to repentance and salvation (2 Tim. 2:24-26). But let there be no mistake, we are not “judging” the sinner when we identify their sin and error from the Scriptures. We are teaching God’s word to help the sinner turn from sin and be saved. By doing so we are sharing God’s judgments, not rendering our own. “With my lips I have declared all the judgments of Your mouth” (Psa. 119:13). God’s true and righteous judgments are revealed in His word. By hearing His judgments (His word) we can turn from sin, turn to God, and conform ourselves to His judgments (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:20-24). May we never condemn someone for telling us the truth (Gal. 4:16). Instead, may it be said of us, “I have chosen the way of truth; Your judgments I have laid before me” (Psa. 119:30).
Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. (Galatians 6:1, NKJV)
Whether the topic is politics, social issues, or religion, reasoned discussion is too often drowned out by vitriol and venom in the public square these days. Whatever happened to the time when those with opposing viewpoints could disagree without being disagreeable? I suppose some never learned could. We pray for and long for a return to such dispositions, for any society whose citizens cannot calmly communicate is headed for tension, turmoil, and trouble (Prov. 14:34). The same is true of the Lord’s church. Can you to talk with someone who has fallen away? And if you can, how do you do that? The goal is to “restore” the soul overtaken in sin – any other aim is beneath this worthy objective. Spiritual maturity is essential when approaching a Christian who has fallen into sin. Such maturity will be reflected by the spirit of gentleness used when talking with the sinning saint about his or her sin. Approaching a fallen Christian with an air of disgust or superiority is the height of arrogance, and is sure to fail. Mature (spiritual) Christians remember sin also tempts them. And so, with meek compassion the effort is made to turn a sinner from error and save a soul from death (Jas. 5:19-20). Yes, the “spiritual” disagree with the one overtaken by sin. But, to have a spirit of antagonism only aggravates and hinders the effort to save the lost. Furthermore, to do so is also sin.