10 The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. 11 The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations. 12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance. (Psalm 33:10–12, NKJV)
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” is often cited as a benediction on behalf of nations today (for example, America). It is true that any nation that honors God will be blessed (Prov. 14:34). But, please note the contextual application of the great declaration of this passage. It sets the plans of the nations in contrast with the plans of Jehovah. The Lord rules over the nations of men, and no counsel prepared and executed by men will ever overthrow His sovereign counsel (Jer. 18:5-11; Dan. 4:25, 34-35). The nations and their rulers vainly plotted against the Lord and His Anointed, Jesus Christ, whom He raised from the dead and crowned at His right hand as Ruler over His people (Psa. 2:1-9; 110:1-2; Acts 2:30-36; 4:23-28). The people God “has chosen as His own inheritance” in today’s passage no doubt initially applied to the nation of Israel (v. 12; Exo. 19:5-6). But now, with Jesus Christ ruling as King of God’s kingdom (the church), “the nation whose God is the Lord” is the church (Matt. 16:18-19; Heb. 12:22-23; Gal. 6:16). The church of Christ is God’s “holy nation,” and therefore, we must honor and obey the Lord’s will to be His blessed people (1 Pet. 2:9-10; Jno. 18:36).
20 avoiding this: that anyone should blame us in this lavish gift which is administered by us—21 providing honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. (2 Corinthians 8:20–21, NKJV)
During his third preaching journey, the apostle Paul encouraged churches in Gentile regions to send funds to relieve their needy brethren in the Jerusalem church (Rom. 15:25-28; 1 Cor. 16:1-4; 2 Cor. 8-9). Paul meticulously advised the churches to choose messengers to deliver their generous gifts to their brethren (2 Cor. 8:16-18, 23; 1 Cor. 16:3-4). These scriptures establish a pattern that approves churches sending benevolent relief directly to a needy church. Paul also sets an example of honor when administering church funds. Honesty and transparency in the sight of God and before men are vital when handling the funds of a local church. Those who have that responsibility must be careful and faithful stewards. Respect for God, the church, and the power of godly influence demands nothing less (1 Pet. 2:12).
11 Then the word of the Lord came to Solomon, saying: 12 “Concerning this temple which you are building, if you walk in My statutes, execute My judgments, keep all My commandments, and walk in them, then I will perform My word with you, which I spoke to your father David. 13 And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake My people Israel.” 14 So Solomon built the temple and finished it. (1 Kings 6:11–14, NKJV)
King Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem following plans given to him by his father David and inspired by the Spirit of God (1 Chron. 28:11-12, 19). As Solomon was constructing the house of God, the Lord confirmed His blessings on him and His presence with Israel if Solomon followed His will by obeying His commandments. Solomon’s temple was a type or shadow of the temple God has built, the church of Christ (Acts 7:47-50; Matt. 16:18; Eph. 2:19-22; Heb. 3:3-6; 8:2). The temple of God (the church) is composed of redeemed souls (Acts 2:47). It is not built or remodeled according to the dictates, doctrines, and decisions of human beings, although men have tried to do so for centuries. The arrogance of changing the church to suit “present culture” rivals the pride that led the mob to reject the Son of God crying, “Crucify him!” because Jesus did not suit their ideas of what a Messiah and His kingdom should be. Christians are living stones comprising God’s spiritual house (1 Pet. 2:4-5). May we humbly submit our hearts and lives to Jesus to be His church and not a church built by men (1 Pet. 2:6-10).
1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: 2 On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. (1 Corinthians 16:1–2, NKJV)
The goal of Paul’s “orders” to the churches was to have funds prepared to apply to the “collection for the saints” – a gift that was being gathered from among Gentile churches to relieve needy Jewish Christians in Jerusalem (Rom. 15:25-27; 2 Cor. 8:4; 9:1, 12). This order of readiness necessarily implies treasuries existed in each local church. Freewill offering continues to be how each local church of Christ funds its work of benevolence, evangelism, and edification. Verse 2 gives concise answers to essential questions about our giving. 1) When? On the first day of the week. 2) Who? Each one of you. 3) What? Lay something aside. 4) How? As he may prosper. 5) Why? That there be no collections when I come. Their gift would be collected and ready to send to Jerusalem when Paul arrived (1 Cor. 16:3-4). A treasury into which each one lays something aside accomplished this then, and now (see the church’s treasury in Acts 4:34-5:4). With singleness of heart, Christian give bountifully, cheerfully, and thankfully to fund the work God gives local churches (2 Cor. 8:1-5, 12; 9:6-11).
The Lord has sworn in truth to David; He will not turn from it: “I will set upon your throne the fruit of your body.” (Psalm 132:11, NKJV)
God’s promise to David, while initially kept by the ascension of Solomon to the throne, had a much grander objective (2 Sam. 7:12-13; 1 Chron. 22:9-10; 28:5-6). The Davidic promise of a king from the fruit of his body was fulfilled in the coronation of Jesus. The angel Gabriel announced that God would give Mary’s child “the throne of His father David” (Lk. 1:32). On Pentecost, the apostle Peter proclaimed God had indeed fulfilled His promise to David by the resurrection of Jesus and His ascension to the right hand of God (Acts 2:30-36; Psa. 110:1-2). Later, James (the brother of Jesus) said God had rebuilt the ruling monarchy of the house of David, which Amos predicted (Acts 15:13-19; Amos 9:11-12). The kingdom over which the son of David reigns today is the church, composed of all who come to Jesus Christ in faith through His gospel (Matt. 16:18-19; Rom. 1:16-17; Col. 1:13-14). God keeps His word – always. King Jesus reigns today over a kingdom that is enduring, unshaken by “every wind of doctrine” and the “trickery of men” (Heb. 12:28; Eph. 4:14). Salvation is in Christ’s kingdom (Acts 2:30-41, 47). Christ’s kingdom was promised by God, prophesied by His prophets, and proclaimed by the gospel. It fills the whole earth, and it “shall never be destroyed” (Dan. 2:34-35, 44; Mk. 1:14-15; 9:1; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4, 36-41, 47). The pressing question is, are you a citizen of His kingdom (Col. 1:13; Acts 2:37-38, 47)?
8 To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. (Ephesians 3:8–12, NKJV)
The gospel Paul preached reveals the “unsearchable riches of Christ” for all the world to see. In it, salvation from sin is available to all “by grace…through faith” (v. 8; Eph. 2:8). The gospel Paul preached reveals God’s purposes for the redemption of sinners in Christ (v. 9). The gospel Paul preached reveals the importance of the church (v. 10-11). First, because “by the church,” God’s many-sided wisdom is made known to the unseen realms (v. 10; 1 Pet. 1:10-12). Second, because it is crucial to God’s “eternal purpose” fulfilled in Christ (v. 11). The church is not an afterthought of God. The gospel Paul preached reveals our bold and confident access through faith in Christ into every spiritual blessing of God (v. 12, Eph. 1:3). The gospel is truly the wisdom and power of God (1 Cor. 1:24). The church (the redeemed) is the product of the gospel (Acts 2:47). The church is important to God. It must be important to us.
How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. (1 Corinthians 14:26, NKJV)
The church of Christ is a spiritual kingdom (Jno. 18:36; Matt. 16:18-19). According to the New Testament model, local churches of Christ exist to spread the gospel (evangelism), to serve Christians in times of deprivation (benevolence), and to strengthen the souls of the disciples (edification). Edification (building up) is spiritual strengthening that occurs through our worship and the instruction from the word of God (Col. 3:16; Acts 14:22). The Scriptures do not describe social and recreational activities as edification and fellowship. Spaghetti suppers, volleyball games, and camping events are not sources of spiritual edification. It is the word of God’s grace (the gospel), “which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). In today’s passage, the proper use of the temporary miraculous spiritual gifts (tongues, revelation, interpretation), as well as psalms and teaching of God’s word, would edify the church (1 Cor. 14:27-33, 3-5). Miraculous spiritual gifts served their purposes and ended, but our need for spiritual growth to maturity in Christ endures (1 Cor. 13:8-13; Eph. 4:11-16). Thank God He arranged the local church to come together so we can grow and be strong in Christ (Acts 20:28; Heb. 10:24-25).
45 Then He went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in it, 46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house is a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’” (Luke 19:45–46, NKJV)
The corruption of God’s house of prayer is on full display as Christ’s indignation raged against those who had turned temple worship into an oppressive and lucrative business enterprise (Matt. 21:12-13). Jesus used Isaiah 56:7 to expose and condemn their unholy treatment of God’s house and God’s people. Now, the church is God’s holy temple (Eph. 2:19-22). Despite Christ’s pointed warning against defiling God’s house, people continue to defile God’s house of prayer, the church. The reconfiguration of the church constitutes a departure from the faith the Spirit expressly warned would happen (1 Tim. 4:1-3; Gal. 1:6-10). Over time, the church’s worship became polluted with rites and rituals not found in the covenant of Christ. The church’s organization was turned into an ecclesiastical hierarchy ruling over independent congregations of saints. The church’s work became contaminated by material pursuits as people made merchandise of the gospel (2 Cor. 2:17). Jesus does not look on approvingly while the will and wisdom of men corrupt His church (Col. 2:8, 20-23). The church does not belong to us; it belongs to Christ. Christ’s gospel continues to disrupt the innovations that defile God’s house under the guise of progress and advancement (1 Tim. 6:20-21; 2 Jno. 9).
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).
24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. (Acts 20:24–25, NKJV)
Although chains and tribulation awaited Paul in Jerusalem, he would not be deterred from accomplishing the service given him by the Lord Jesus (Acts 20:22-23). He reminded the Ephesian elders that he had testified of God’s grace by preaching the kingdom of God while he was among them. Those who say the kingdom of God has not yet been established have a problem. If the kingdom does not exist now, then how can it be said that grace is obtainable now? In truth, Christians stand in grace now, and those who are saved by grace are transferred from sin’s darkness into the kingdom of the Son (Rom. 5:1-2; Col. 1:12-14). Preaching God’s grace is tantamount to preaching God’s kingdom. The saved are added to the church, which is the kingdom of God (Matt. 16:18-19; Acts 2:47; 28:23, 28, 31). The kingdom (the church) does exist now (Mk. 9:1; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4). Kingdom citizens have been saved by grace, through faith (Acts 2:47; Eph. 2:8-9). God grace and God’s kingdom are inextricably linked. By God’s grace we are receiving an unshakable kingdom (Heb. 12:28). As a result, we are able (and expected) to “have grace” by which to serve God acceptably. In the kingdom (the church) there is grace and acceptable service to God.