These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you (1 John 2:26, NKJV).
The possibility of being deceived about spiritual matters is just as real today as when the apostle John wrote to the children of God. As then, many are still against Christ yet pose as if they are for Christ; Hence, the warning against being deceived (1 John 2:18-19). John emphatically directs us, “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). How? By using the truth with which Christ has endowed (anointed) us: “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth” (1 John 2:20-21). The truth Jesus Christ gave us through His apostles (1) Identifies the deceptions of false teachings (1 John 4:6), and (2) Assures our fellowship with the Father and the Son (John 14:21-24), and (3) Leads us to His promise of eternal life (1 Pet. 1:3-9). John says these are among the reasons we let His word abide in us (1 John 2:24-27; John 8:31-32). Use God’s word to verify your faith. Rejoice in your fellowship with God and be comforted in Christ’s promise of eternal life. Rest assured, God’s word of truth will not deceive you.
9 Now as they came down from the mountain, He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept this word to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant (Mark 9:9–10, NKJV).
Peter, James, and John had just witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus, seen Moses and Elijah talking with Him, and heard the Father’s voice say, “This is my beloved Son. Hear Him” (Mark 9:1-7). Why did Jesus tell them to tell no one what they had seen until “the Son of Man had risen from the dead?” Here are a couple of reasons. First, several were already bearing testimony that Jesus is the Son of God: (1) John the Baptist, the Elijah of prophecy (Mark 10:11-13; Matt. 11:14; John 5:33-35); (2) The Father Himself by the miracles of Jesus (John 5:36-37); and (3) The Scriptures (John 5:38-39). Second, the apostles were not yet prepared to tell others what they had seen. That was not their job at this moment. They still had much to learn from the Master. Only now did they understand John was the prophesied Elijah (Matt. 17:12-13). They did not know Jesus would rise from the dead (Mark 9:10). They did not yet grasp the redemptive work of Christ (Peter even rebuked Jesus for saying He would suffer, be killed, and rise after three days, Matt. 16:21-23). Rest assured, the apostles would tell others about the transfiguration when Christ commissioned them to preach the gospel to the world (Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8; see 2 Pet. 1:16-18). What can we learn from this? (1) Teachers must first be students of God’s word (1 Tim. 4:13, 15-16). (2) Teach what you know while maturing in your knowledge of God’s word (2 Tim. 2:15; Heb. 5:11-6:3). (3) Zeal without knowledge can be dangerous (Rom. 10:2-3).
Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16, NKJV).
Before Jesus sent His apostles into all the world to preach the gospel to every creature, He sent them on a limited commission to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:5-6). Their message then was that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 10:7). They would need the wisdom of serpents and the innocence of doves to accomplish their mission. Both traits are still necessary for Christians who live “in the midst of “a crooked and perverse generation” (Phil. 2:15). Consider the snake’s wisdom. (1) Snakes are aware of their surroundings. They are artfully in their pursuit of prey. We need to use heavenly wisdom as we try to seek and save the lost with the gospel (James 3:13, 17-18; 2 Tim. 2:23-26). (2) Snakes have heightened senses. The keen senses of a snake alert it to potential danger and its next meal. Christians must be wise about their moral and spiritual surroundings to avoid sin and partake of spiritual nourishment (1 Cor. 15:33; Heb. 5:12-14; 10:24-25). Consider the dove’s harmlessness. (1) Doves signify the innocence of a character. They glide gracefully through the air harming no one. Even so, Christians are to be innocent of guile (1 Pet. 2:21-22). (2) Doves signify the innocence of pure motives. Doves fly without malice; they are not predators. Doves were the humble offering of the poor at the Jewish temple (Lk. 2:22-24). Likewise, let us be pure in heart and humble in spirit toward all (Matt. 5:8). Our spiritual protection as sheep among wolves is wisdom and innocence.
33 And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it. 34 But without a parable He did not speak to them. And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples. (Mark 4:33–34, NKJV)
Jesus was the Master Teacher. He used parables to teach the gospel of the kingdom to the multitudes that gathered to Him in Galilee (Mk. 4:1-2). Then, away from the crowds, He explained the parables to His disciples (Mk. 4:10-12). Jesus knew His audience. He spoke the word “as they were able to hear it” to the crowd (v. 33). He did not impress them with scholarship or eloquence (a healthy reminder to preachers and teachers today, 1 Cor. 2:1). He was not condescending toward His audience. His goal was to teach them by planting the seed of God’s word into their hearts (Matt. 13:34-35). A godly woman once told young preachers, “Put the hay down where the calves can reach it, and the cows will have no trouble getting their fill.” Good advice. The parables challenged the crowd to ponder and prioritize God’s will. How people responded to Christ’s teachings exposed their hearts, and it still does (Mk. 4:11-12, 13-20). Away from the crowd, Jesus also took the time to explain the parables to His disciples (v. 34). He unraveled the parables’ meanings to them as He prepared them to take the gospel to the world (Mk. 16:15-16). We benefit from Jesus’ teaching style as we listen to His words and the explanations of truth His apostles, in turn, gave to the world (Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:8-13).
1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, 2 and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith. (2 Thessalonians 3:1–2, NKJV)
The effectiveness of prayer was not an afterthought to Christians of the New Testament age (Jas. 5:16). The apostle Paul often asked brethren to pray for him, and he repeatedly prayed for his fellow Christians (1 Thess. 3:10; Eph. 6:18-19; Phil. 1:9; Col. 1:3, 9; 4:3). In today’s passage, Paul asked for specific prayers, something we ought to do, too. First, he asked for prayers that God’s word would triumph in its purposes (saving the lost and strengthening the saved, v. 1). The gospel was achieving these purposes in their lives (1 Thess. 1:2-9; 2 Thess. 1:3-4). We are confident they joined Paul in praying the gospel would win the race and be honored as other souls believed and obeyed Jesus (Rom. 1:16-17). Second, Paul asked them to pray for mutual deliverance from faithless, unreasonable, and wicked people (v. 2). Like the currents of a flowing river, forces of evil try to sweep us away and drown us in error and sin’s corruption. The Lord is active and faithful to rescue us and guard us against the evil one and his cohorts as we do what His apostles command (2 Thess. 3:3-4). May we offer such prayers daily.
41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. (Acts 5:41–42, NKJV)
The apostles of Christ had just been beaten for preaching the gospel of Christ in Jerusalem. They were also commanded by the ruler council of the Jews not to speak in the name of Jesus” (Acts 5:40). They were not discouraged or deterred. Lenski commented, “These disgraceful stripes the apostles considered badges of honor” (The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles, p. 237). Their work was of God; men would not overthrow it (Acts 5:39). Christ’s apostles continued their daily practice of publicly and privately instructing and proclaiming Jesus as the Christ. We must not allow opposition to God’s truth to prevent us from continuing to speak God’s word faithfully. Threats and obstacles, even violent hostility, did not cause the early Christians to stop preaching the word (Acts 8:1-4). Let them be our examples when we face resistance and aggressive opposition to the truth of the gospel (Phil. 3:17; 4:9). Jesus said, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12). May we seek Christ’s blessing rather than the favor of men (Gal. 1:10).
12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. (John 15:12–14, NKJV)
Jesus commanded His apostles to love one another as He had loved them. This commandment is equally given to every Christian (1 Jno. 4:21). We are to walk in love as Christ loved us (Eph. 5:2). We know love because He laid down His life for us. Therefore, “We also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 Jno. 3:16). Jesus Christ died for every person because we have all sinned (Rom. 3:23; 5:8; Col. 1:19-23). There is no greater love than His voluntary, sacrificial death. Jesus said we must do “whatever He commands” to be His friend (v. 14). That includes loving one another, but it does not stop there. Jesus taught much more than loving one another. He commissioned His apostles to teach disciples “to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). So, when we trust Jesus and do what His apostles command us, we are friends of Jesus. Abraham was “the friend of God” because he believed God and obeyed Him (Jas. 2:21-24). Faith in and friendship with Jesus means far more than a mental agreement of who He is and what He has done. Friendship with Jesus is far more than asking Him into your heart to be your Savior. Are you doing whatever He commands you? When you do, you are His friend, saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9; Heb. 5:9). Be a friend to Jesus. Obey whatever He commands.
22 Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come— 23 that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles. (Acts 26:22–23, NKJV)
Christ came for the whole world (Jews and Gentiles). The apostles of Jesus testified what Moses and the prophets said would occur concerning the Christ was fulfilled in Jesus. Paul takes note of some primary things Moses and the prophets said about the Christ: 1) He would suffer (read Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53). Peter said of Jesus, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18). 2) He would rise from the dead (read Psalm 16:8-11). The resurrection of Jesus fulfilled this psalm (Acts 2:29-31). Jesus was the first – the beginning of the resurrection of all the dead (1 Cor. 15:20-22). 3) He would proclaim light to Jews and Gentiles (read Isaiah 42:1-7; 49:6). Through His gospel, Jesus lights the way of salvation for every soul on earth (Matt. 28:19; Acts 10:34-35). God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to suffer death for our sins, to be raised to exaltation for our salvation, and to light our way to eternal glory.
He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. (Matthew 10:40, NKJV)
Before Jesus sent His apostles “into all the world” to “preach the gospel to every creature,” He sent them on a limited commission “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mk. 16:15; Matt. 10:5-6). Today’s verse is within the context of that limited assignment. Jesus encouraged them with a concise principle: Receiving the apostles is equivalent to receiving Him and the Father who sent Him. On the night He was betrayed, Jesus reinforced this principle to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” (Jno. 13:20). When we accept the apostles’ teaching, we are accepting Jesus and the Father. The antithesis is also true. When we reject the apostles, we are rejecting the Son and the Father: “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me” (Lk. 10:16). It is a flawed and futile exercise that exalts Jesus while minimizing and discounting His apostles. (They spoke His word!) Friend, you have not accepted Jesus when you reject what His apostles taught (Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-16). After all, Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (Jno. 14:15).