17 “But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.” 18 So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:17–20, NKJV)
The Jewish rulers viewed the gospel like a virus spreading unchecked throughout Jerusalem. Their solution was to “severely threaten” Peter and John to keep them from continuing to speak and teach in the name of Jesus. The conflict was set between the order of men and God’s mandate, not by Peter and John, but by the opponents of the truth. Peter and John would continue to do what they had been doing, speaking the things they had seen and heard (v. 20). When men insist we listen to them more than God, they cause a flashpoint. We do not desire it, but we do not shrink from it. The rules and dictates of men do not hold sway over our worship and obedience to God (Acts 5:29). Like then, rulers and faithless people will continue to test our resolve on this divine principle of truth. May we be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil to navigate the rough seas of human obstructions and listen to God’s word more than men (v. 19-20; Rom. 16:19).
1 Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. 3 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.” (Titus 3:1–3, NKJV)
Reminders. We all need them. They reinforce what we already know, encouraging us to persevere, to be on guard, and to grow spiritually. Paul had just exhorted Titus to “speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). Now he teaches him to remind Christians of sound attitudes and actions of faith. 1) We must remember to be submissive (v. 1-2). Obeying civil authority reflects the submissive lifestyle of the saint, equipping us for good works that cannot be successfully condemned (cf. Titus 2:8; 1 Pet. 2:11-12). Being submissive requires “showing humility to all men.” It takes moral strength to be humble, to be peaceable and gentle instead of speaking evil of others. 2) We must remember we once lived in sin (v. 3). Our salvation in Christ is not a license to be dismissive or condescending toward those who are still captives of sin. Recalling our previous sins (and forgiveness in Christ) is an incentive to remain vigilant in faith and responsive to help others escape evil. Do not be drawn back into foolish disobedience and selfish desires. The love of God in Christ compels us to be kind and careful to maintain good works that honor God and serve others (Titus 3:4, 8).
So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, that they might seize on His words, in order to deliver Him to the power and the authority of the governor. (Luke 20:20, NKJV)
Honor, honesty, and integrity of faith did not move the enemies of Jesus. Far from it. Their agenda was the destruction of Jesus, and they would use whatever means they come to undermine him (Lk. 19:47). Just days before his crucifixion, their faithlessness was on full display as Jesus taught in the temple. Like vultures descending upon carrion, they circled about Jesus looking for their opportunity. They hypocritically asked Jesus about his authority, yet their only interest was in securing their authority by handing him over to the power of Rome (Lk. 20:2-8). They flattered Jesus while trying to drive the dagger through him (Lk. 20:21-22). But Jesus knew their evil intent and condemned their faithless rejection of the Son (“the stone which the builders rejected,” Lk. 20:17-19). Pretending righteousness always ends badly (Rev. 21:8). Unlike the enemies of Jesus, let us listen to the truth Jesus teaches with open, ready hearts to receive and do the will of God (Acts 17:11-12).
1 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. (1 Timothy 2:1–2, NKJV)
Paul began a series of exhortations to Timothy with an appeal to pray “for all men.” Jesus had taught to “pray for those who spitefully use you” as an expression of loving your enemies (Lk. 6:27-28). That is not easy to do, but it is the very essence of loving our neighbor as ourselves. Since love focuses on others rather than itself, therein lies the answer to how we can faithfully do this. We need to pray for those who have rule and authority over us. The reasons are apparent (yet Paul reminds Timothy and us of them). Their decisions impact many lives, including Christians. God desires us to lead peaceful lives, flavored with godliness, and infused with reverence. Therefore, supplicate (entreaty) God for them. Solicit God on their behalf for truth, wisdom, and justice to guide them in the affairs of state. Petition the Ruler of rulers, interceding for them through earnest prayers and thoughtful thanks. Paul reminds us that God desires the salvation of all people (1 Tim. 2:3-4). Therefore, let us diligently pray for leaders (and all others) so that an atmosphere that enhances the cause of the gospel may prevail on the earth.
12 For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. 13 For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. (Hebrews 7:12–14, NKJV)
Properly handling God’s word includes respecting the silence of the Scriptures (2 Tim. 2:15). At times God says, “thou shalt not,” but that is not the only way He reveals His will. The double negative, “It doesn’t say not to,” fails to prove God’s approval. Yet, many use it to justify moral and religious decisions. We must search for what God says on a matter, content that it is sufficient for us to know and to follow (cf. Deut. 29:29). The Hebrew writer used the silence of the Scriptures in today’s passage. He arrived at the unavoidable conclusion (a necessary inference) that the law had to change because the priesthood had changed (v. 11; Heb. 6:20). He explained that only Levites could be priests under the Law of Moses (Num. 3:10). Yet, Moses never directly said, “You shall not have priests from the tribes of Judah, Ephraim, Benjamin, etc.” He did not need to. Moses said what God wanted, priests from Levi. All other tribes were necessarily excluded. Even though Moses did not leave a “thou shalt not” list, Israel knew the correct application. There was no authority for priests from other tribes. Thus, the law itself had to be changed for Christ to be High Priest. God’s silence restrains, it does not free us to act. Let us find what God says, for that is what He approves. Then, “hold fast what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21).
For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20, NKJV)
There is a context to this statement that informs our understanding and its application. It is not an unrestricted statement giving two or three Christians carte blanche to do anything they decide is in Christ’s name. Here and in other Scriptures, apostolic authority must exist for Christ’s approval and fellowship. The immediate context of today’s passage addresses dealing with sin by a Christian against another Christian (Matt. 18:15-17). Heaven’s approval for the forgiveness and retention of sins rests upon the teachings the apostles receive from heaven (Matt. 18:18). That is, what the apostles bound and loosed on earth was already determined by the Lord. The inspired apostles revealed heaven’s will, and they were united in faith and practice in the name of (by the authority of) Christ (Matt. 18:19-20). Christ was “in the midst of them” (His apostles) as they revealed heaven’s will. When we follow their teachings, we are following heaven’s will by heaven’s authority (Col. 3:17). Doing so assures us of fellowship with the apostles and the Lord God (1 Jno. 1:3). Two or three Christians gathered together do not establish what God’s will is. What the apostles taught is the authority we have to act in the name of Christ as individuals, as several saints, or as the local church.
“one Lord, one faith, one baptism;” (Ephesians 4:5, NKJV)
God’s “One-derful” plan of unity continues in Ephesians 4:4-6 with the emphatic declaration there is one Lord. That simple truth is forgotten whenever religious, moral, and social division occurs. I am not Lord. You are not Lord. Not “Lord Krishna,” not “Lord Buddha,” not any other person who has lived or is living now. Only Jesus Christ is Lord (1 Cor. 8:6). Through Him we have life and all things. He alone has been given “all authority in heaven and on earth” by God the Father (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-23). Christ’s word is truth and settles every issue concerning “life and godliness” (Jno. 1:14; 8:31-32; 2 Pet. 1:3). He rules, and by His authority (the “name of our Lord Jesus Christ”) we can “speak the same thing,” reject dissensions and be joined together “in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10). This takes faithful effort by each Christian, no question about it (Eph. 4:15-16). Division arises when we follow men or women instead of following Christ (1 Cor. 1:11-12). We must ever remember that Christ is not divided (1 Cor. 1:13). Humble submission to the one Lord will guard unity and glorify God: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col. 3:17).
Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1, NKJV)
In the Roman Catholic Church, an imprimatur is “a license granted by a bishop certifying the Church’s approval of a book to be published” (thefreedictionary.com). The word is more generally used to denote “a mark of approval or distinction” (merriam-webster.com). No such ecclesiastical certification is issued by the church of Christ in the New Testament. Today’s verse affirms our conduct must imitate the apostles of Christ to the extent they also imitate (mimic) Christ. Some scoff at binding apostolic approved examples today. “Where is your apostle badge?” is sarcastically asked when an appeal is made to apostolic examples to authorize practices. The apostles not only left us their inspired words, they also left us examples to follow. Jesus said, “He who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” (Jno. 13:20). Their examples help us pattern our conduct after the will of Christ. By following their examples we are assured of the Lord’s favor (Phil. 3:17). How can one possibly think the Lord is pleased by refusing to follow the apostles’ examples (that imitate Christ)? “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:9). The “imprimatur” of heaven is the apostolic doctrine, taught by their words and their examples. We ought to follow their examples because they have heaven’s approval (2 Thess. 2:15; 3:4, 9).
“For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”” (Luke 7:8, NKJV)
We all encounter authority every day. Whether it is the rules of the road as we drive, or the authority under which medications are dispensed, there are countless ways we tacitly accept living under authority. Yet, in matters of faith, too often we think we are free to do whatever we feel is right. We must learn to acknowledge and yield to the authority of Jesus Christ in every part of our lives. He said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18). The authority of Jesus, which is so cavalierly rejected by many, was not taken for granted by the Roman centurion in today’s passage. He understood authority, both serving under it and exercising it. He trusted the power of Jesus to heal his servant because he believed Jesus had authority over distance and disease. When we believe Jesus has authority over us, it changes how we think and act in every area of our lives. Because He has supreme authority over us, Jesus deserves more than lip service from us. Let us be so committed to the authority of Christ that whatever His word says, we believe it and do it. Without hesitation or doubt, fully trusting He will fulfill His will, we follow Him. Submissive obedience to His word is the identifying mark of respecting the authority of Jesus.
14 Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught. 15 And the Jews marveled, saying, “How does this Man know letters, having never studied?” 16 Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. 17 If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.” (John 7:14–17, NKJV)
The Jews were perplexed that Jesus was teaching with skill and expertise. He had not been trained at the feet of their scholars. Jesus was not given authority to teach by the scholars of the day. He was a commoner from an obscure village, far from their center of learning. Yet, He spoke the doctrine of God with authority (Matt. 7:28-29). The reliability of someone’s teaching does not depend on credentials the teacher has earned from a school of learning. Seminary training is not a biblical prerequisite to knowing and teaching God’s truth. The prerequisite to knowing the teaching of Christ is having a will to do God’s will (v. 17). A heart that is open to hearing and receiving the teachings of Jesus equips us to know the truth of God that has been revealed by the authority of Jesus. He taught the doctrine of the Father, who sent Him to the earth. The gospel of Christ is that very doctrine (1 Tim. 1:10-11). We preach His doctrine today, to save the lost and to secure the saved (Matt. 28:18-20; Col. 1:24-29). May we always have a will to do God’s will, and follow the teaching of Jesus.