4 So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground” (Exodus 3:4–5, NKJV).
There was no discernible difference between rocks and dirt on “the mountain of God” and the rest of the wilderness in which Moses tended his father-in-law’s flock (Exod. 3:1). So why was this place “holy ground?” Because God was there. His presence consecrated the ground, demanding reverent respect and obeisance of God from Moses. Later, God called Israel a “holy nation,” foreshadowing the church of Christ (Exod. 19:5-6; 1 Pet. 2:9). The “Most Holy” place of the tabernacle and temple was reserved for the ark of the covenant and mercy seat, and a veil separated it from the “holy place” (Exod. 26:33-34). The hope that anchors our souls is “both sure and steadfast” and “enters the Presence behind the veil” because Jesus our High Priest is in the holiest place (heaven), ministering over the house of God, His church (Heb. 4:14-16; 6:19-20; 8:1-2). God called Israel to holy living because He is holy (Lev. 11:44-45; 19:2). Under the law of Moses, this included distinguishing between what was clean and unclean, profane and holy (Lev. 20:7, 25-26). The gospel calls us to regard the presence and holiness of God our Father fearfully. As obedient children, we must be holy in all our conduct because our Father is holy (1 Pet. 1:13-17). Take off your sandals; The place you stand is holy ground (Eph. 2:21; 1 Pet. 2:5).
46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:46–47, NKJV).
The Scriptures show a distinction and separation between the collective activity of a local church (assembling “in the temple”) and the individual action of its members (“from house to house”). Specifically, this passage teaches the local church is not a mess hall designed to feed stomachs. It is the house of God, intended to feed souls the word of God (1 Tim. 3:15; Acts 20:7, 28). People have turned local churches into little more than community centers offering all sorts of social, recreational, political, and other secular-based activities that Scripture does not assign to churches. Such things are left to individual disciples to do when and how they please (Gal. 6:10). The Scriptures reveal the local church does not automatically have the Lord’s approval to do whatever individual Christians may do. Notably, in 1 Timothy 5:16, the church is not charged with an action expected of certain Christians. Since the Lord adds saved ones to the church, the individual and the church are not the same thing (Acts 2:47). Do not assume “whatever the individual Christian may do the local church may do.” Such an assertion does not withstand the scrutiny of Scripture.
He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4, NKJV).
Isaiah lifted his eyes above Jerusalem’s mountain (upon which sat Solomon’s temple) to visionary heights of “the mountain of the Lord’s house,” to which “all nations” would flow in the latter days (Isa. 2:2; Acts 2:16-17; Heb. 1:2). His prophecy of “the mountain of the Lord,” the “house of the God of Jacob,” foresees the church Jesus built (Isa. 2:3; Matt. 16:18; Eph. 2:19-22; Heb. 3:3-6). The “word of the Lord” would go into all the world from Jerusalem, which began on Pentecost after Jesus’s ascension (Isa. 2:3; Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8; 2:1ff). God’s house “shall walk in its path” as we “learn His ways” (Isa. 2:3). Today’s verse describes the effect of the gospel in hearts and lives. The good news of Christ replaces conflict with cooperation, animosity with amicability, and war with peace (cf. Isa. 11:6-9; Eph. 2:14-18). This verse does not describe a futuristic millennial kingdom on earth, far from it (John 18:36). It describes Mount Zion’s habitation of holiness, the heavenly Jerusalem, the “general assembly and church of the firstborn” (Heb. 12:22-23). Sowing the seed of the kingdom in hearts brings peace and advances the kingdom of Christ. Jesus is “our peace,” our King who has come with salvation and speaking “peace to the nations” (Eph. 2:14; Zech. 9:9-10). Learn His ways and walk in His path. You will have peace with God and with other like-minded souls “in one body through the cross,” His church (Eph. 2:16; 4:4).
The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it” (Proverbs 10:22, NKJV).
Christians possess riches unknown to the world. Our heavenly treasures abound, and we praise God for the spiritual bounty He gives us in Christ (Eph. 1:3). We do not measure our wealth in dollars, land holdings, stocks, bonds, commodities, or other material possessions. All these riches are fleeting and attended by sorrow (Eccl. 5:10-17). Spiritual blessings are beyond the reach of moth and rust and thieves (Matt. 6:19-20). Here are just some of them: (1) Redemption from sin by God’s grace (Eph. 1:4-14). We are chosen, adopted, accepted, forgiven, saved, given an inheritance, and sealed. (2) Full assurance of understanding in Christ (Col. 2:2-3). His disciples abide in His word, know the truth, and are freed from sin (John 8:31-32). (3) Prayer (Phil. 4:6). Our Father hears the prayers of His children, so we continue earnestly in prayer (Col. 4:2; 1 Thess. 5:17). (4) The church (Eph. 1:22-23). We are members of Christ’s body and, therefore, “members of one another” (Acts 2:47; Rom. 12:4-5). What a rich blessing to be brothers and sisters together in Christ (Matt. 12:46-50). (5) An eternal inheritance (Eph. 1:18). Peter assures us it is incorruptible, undefiled, and reserved in heaven for us (1 Pet. 1:4). (6) A living hope (Eph. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:3). Our hope secures our souls because Christ arose from the dead (1 Cor. 15:19-20; Acts 24:15). (7) Joy (Phil. 4:4). We rejoice in the Lord always, in good and troubled times (James 1:2-4). God does not add sorrow to those He enriches (Prov. 10:22). The world tries to do so, but we are of good cheer because Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33).
Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight (Acts 20:7, NKJV).
Gallup reported this week that “U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time.” “In 2020, 47% of Americans said they belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque, down from 50% in 2018 and 70% in 1999” (news.gallup.com). New Testament Christians know the spiritual value of being members of a local body of saints (1 Cor. 12:12-27). The Lord arranged local churches for our spiritual edification (which includes worship), the spread of the gospel, and relief of needy Christians (Acts 2:42-45; 4:32-35; 11:22; 20:28-35). Churches of Christ assemble on the first day of the week to offer God worship “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). Scripture shows how true worship honors God and strengthens Christians in the faith (1 Cor. 14:26; Eph. 5:19). Therefore, membership in a local church is a responsibility of great importance to Christians (Acts 9:26-28; Rom. 16:2). Being a member of a local church identifies each Christian as part of a working group of believers striving to do God’s will (Rom. 12:4; Eph. 4:16; Rev. 2-3). Christians will be active members of faithful congregations (there is no floating membership or “membership-at-large” in the New Testament). May each Christian be committed to fully participating in assembled worship and the other scriptural work given the local church by the Lord (Heb. 10:24-25).
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4–6, NKJV).
God made “us alive together with Christ” when we were dead in our trespasses and sins (v. 5). Three questions arise as we consider God’s tremendous work of saving sinners. (1) Why save us? Three elements of God’s character answer why God saves sinners: His mercy, love, and grace (v. 4-5). God’s mercy is rich, His love is great, and His grace is available to all (Titus 2:11; 3:4-5; 1 John 4:10-11). Without God’s mercy, love, and grace, we would all face the wages of our sins, eternal death (Rom. 6:23). (2) Who is saved? The “us” who are made “alive together” constitute the church, the body of Christ, the household of God (Eph. 1:22-23; 2:14-22). The Lord adds saved people to His church (Acts 2:47). Therefore, the church is essential; it is the saved ones (Eph. 3:10-11; 5:25-27). (3) Where is salvation? Salvation is “in Christ.” Sinners are raised out of the death of sins to “sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (v. 6). The “heavenly places” signifies the spiritual relationship of salvation in Christ. In the “heavenly places,” we have fellowship with Christ, every spiritual blessing, and we stand with Christ in the battle against the devil and evil (Eph. 2:6; 1:3; 6:10-13). God still The riches of God’s grace continue to be proclaimed in the gospel to everyone, offering salvation “by grace…through faith” (Eph. 2:7-8).
28 he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: 29 “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; 30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation 31 Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, 32 A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.” (Luke 2:28–32, NKJV)
Simeon was a just and devout man waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promised hope (Lk. 2:25). God promised he would not die before seeing the Lord’s Christ (Lk. 2:26-27). His praise of God with the child Jesus in his arms directs our attention to the wondrous salvation God brought to the world in Jesus. I’m impressed by Simeon’s repeated mention of things that belong to God. Perhaps you will be, too. 1) Your servant (v. 29). Simeon viewed himself as God’s servant. What an excellent way to see ourselves (Mk. 10:43-45). 2) Your word (v. 29). Simeon saw God keep His word and was ready to die. Trust in God’s word prepares us to depart the world in peace. 3) Your salvation (v. 30). God is the preparer and provider of salvation, deliverance from our enemies of sin and death (Isa. 49:6; 52:10). The Savior has come, and His gospel proclaims salvation to the whole world (Mk. 16:15; Rom. 1:16). 4) Your people Israel (v. 32). The Messiah came into the world through the nation of Israel, blessed among the nations (Rom. 9:4-5). But now, regardless of race and nationality, Gentiles and Jews are called by the gospel “to the mountain of the Lord,” “the house of the God of Jacob,” the church, the “Israel of God,” the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Isa. 2:2-3; Acts 2:47; Gal. 6:16; Col. 1:13; Gal. 3:28-29). Praise God for His spiritual provisions of salvation in Jesus, the Savior of the world (1 Jno. 4:14).
And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. (Colossians 1:18, NKJV)
The apostle Paul continues the theme of Christ’s preeminence by noting His relation to the church and His power over death. The headship of Christ over His church immediately draws our attention to the authority of Christ and His prerogative to oversee and direct His church (Matt. 16:18; 28:18). All things concerning the church are “under His feet,” subservient to Him (Eph. 1:22). The church does not belong to us; it belongs to Jesus. The church is composed of Christians; each one is a member of His body (Acts 2:47; 1 Cor. 12:12-13, 26-27). The church of Christ is His body and is valuable because Jesus loved it and died for it (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25-29). To devalue the church is to devalue Jesus Christ. Christ also has power over death. He is the beginning (the origin, the source) of resurrection. Without Him, there would be no power over death. As the “firstborn from the dead,” His resurrection attests to His power and superiority over death (Acts 2:24, 30-32; Rom. 1:4). “Alive forevermore,” Jesus has “the keys of Hades and of Death” (Rev. 1:18). With just a few sentences, the Holy Spirit has made the case that Jesus Christ is King, Redeemer, Creator, Firstborn over all creation, Sustainer, Head of the church, and Supreme Victor over death (Col. 1:13-18). Jesus has preeminence in all things. Our faith is secure, our salvation is sure, and our hope is complete in Christ.
13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13–14, NKJV)
The letter to the Colossians displays and describes the preeminence of Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:13-20 details His primacy and our incentives to entirely submit our hearts and lives to Him. Today’s passage unequivocally states that Jesus has a kingdom and, therefore, a King (v. 13). It also views Jesus as the Redeemer whose death gives forgiveness of sins (v. 14). The kingdom of God (also called the kingdom of heaven, Matt. 13:11; Mk. 4:11) exists today. Therefore, Jesus is now reigning as King (Heb. 1:8-9). The Son’s kingdom is the church He built, the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 16:18-19; Heb. 12:28). Sinners escape the “power of darkness” (sin and death) by entering “the kingdom of the Son.” This transfer from the spiritual realm of darkness to the Son’s kingdom happens when the Redeemer’s blood is applied to the sinner, forgiving his or her sins (Col. 1:14). The blood of Jesus is the ransom price paid to deliver sinners (1 Tim. 2:6). Redemption is only in Christ (v. 14; Acts 4:12). The gospel calls sinners to Christ for forgiveness through His blood. When sinners believe in Jesus Christ, repent, and are baptized into Christ, the blood of Jesus washes away their sins (Acts 2:37-41; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:26-27). Jesus, the King, and Redeemer, continues to save sinners. He is worthy of our undying praise and devotion (Rev. 5:8-14).
For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. (Hebrews 3:4, NKJV)
We necessarily infer when we see a building that someone built it. A house does not build itself. Its design, foundation, supports, and construction reflect its builder’s intelligence, skill, and purposes. The Scriptures apply this simple principle to God. 1) God built the universe (Gen. 1:1; Job 38:4-6). NASA just landed a spacecraft on Mars. That engineering feat did not happen by chance. It was the result of the skillful use of knowledge. Likewise, the heavens and the earth do not exist by chance, but by the Creator’s intelligent design and power. 2) God built marriage (Gen. 2:21-24; Matt. 19:3-6). Marriage between one man and one woman for life is God’s design for societal order and spiritual development (1 Cor. 7:1-5; Eph. 6:1-4). Human distortions of the builder’s plan and purposes of marriage disrespect its Architect while jeopardizing souls (Rom. 1:24-32; Eph. 5:22-33; 1 Pet. 3:1-7). A return to God’s teachings about marriage strengthens families, societies, and souls. 3) God built the church (Matt. 16:18; 1 Cor. 3:9-11). The church’s teachings, organization, and work have been sliced and diced by the will and doctrines of men (Gal. 1:6-10; Col. 2:8, 20-23; 1 Tim. 4:1-3). Christians are God’s house if we remain faithful to Him (Heb. 3:6-14). Therefore God, the Grand Builder of all things, deserves our honor, respect, and obedience.