21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire (Matthew 5:21–22, NKJV).”
Jesus challenges us to inspect our attitudes toward others and the words they prompt us to use (Matt. 12:33-37). Brotherly kindness and love (attributes Christians add to our faith, 2 Peter 1:5, 7) go far beyond not murdering a person. The apostle John assures us that “whosoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15). Jesus expects citizens of the kingdom to follow a path that leads from hate to harmony. Unjustified anger, contemptuous words, and hateful conduct bring a judgment that endangers the soul. So, we must be careful how we speak to others and speak of them to others. We must remove animosity, contempt, bitterness, malicious speech from our hearts and mouths (Eph. 4:31). Kindness must prevail to be a faithful follower of Jesus (Eph. 4:32). Remember, “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit” (Prov. 15:4). Furthermore, the perverse tongue condemns the soul.
47 And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. (John 12:47–48, NKJV)
Sin condemns souls to eternal death (Rom. 6:23). Jesus came to save a world already condemned by sin. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17, 18). Jesus affirms in today’s text that He came to save guilty souls lost in sin (v. 47). Jesus did not say He will never judge our sins. He said if we reject Him (refuse to believe He is the Son of God) and do not receive (accept, follow) His words, His words will judge us in the last day (v. 48). God has appointed a day of judgment, with Jesus as the Judge (Acts 17:31; Heb. 9:27; 2 Cor. 5:10). God’s love compelled Him to send His Son to save the world (Jno. 3:16). Under commandment from the Father, Jesus spoke God’s words that lead to eternal life (Jno. 12:49-50). God’s justice demands a righteous judgment if we continue to sin instead of believing and following His Son and Savior, Jesus Christ (Rom. 2:2-5, 16). God’s gospel saves sinners who believe and follow Jesus (Lk. 6:46; Rom. 1:16-17).
20 how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, 21 testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:20–21, NKJV)
Faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ will not exist in a person’s life until that person repents toward God. Repentance is changing the mind toward its object (in this case, toward God). It is about thinking differently, and then we live differently. Repentance is not the regret of feeling sorry toward God. Genuine repentance results from godly sorrow over sin (2 Cor. 7:9-10). Some think to repent means “to turn,” but this is also incorrect. Only when we think differently about God and our sin against Him will we turn to God for salvation. Paul shows the difference between repentance and turning to God in Acts 26:20 when he explained he preached the gospel to people so “that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.” Paul did not say, “turn (repent), and turn to God.” He said to repent (change your mind) and turn to God. Repentance, produced by godly sorrow, bears the fruit of turning to God (that is, “works befitting repentance,” cf. Lk. 3:7-14). The gospel requires repentance 1) Toward God, Acts 20:21; 2) Of sins, Lk. 5:32; 13:3, 5; Acts 8:22; 3) For the remission of sins, Acts 2:38; 3:19; and 4) Because God commands it, Acts 17:30. Without repentance, we will not escape the condemnation our sins bring from God (Rom. 2:3-5).
26 ‘Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. 27 For You will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence.’ (Acts 2:26–28, NKJV)
This quotation of Psalm 16:9-11 is applied to Jesus by the inspired apostle (Acts 2:25, 29-31). The King James Version of Acts 2:27 says, “Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell…,” leading some to ask whether Jesus went to hell when he died. The word used in verse 27 is hades (the grave or place of departed spirits), not gehenna (the place of everlasting punishment of sin, Mk. 9:43-48). The prophesy speaks of the resurrection of Christ. His body would not see corruption (Acts 2:31). His spirit would visit a place of Paradise or comfort, not a place of flaming torment (Lk. 23:43; 16:22-25). Jesus did not go to hell. He did not preach to spirits held in prison before He was raised from the dead (a misinterpretation of 1 Peter 3:19-20). The comfort of Paradise and the flames of torment are separated by a great gulf that is unmovable and not crossable (Lk. 16:26). There are no opportunities to obey the gospel call after death (Heb. 9:27). Death is coming to us all. We will all be resurrected, because Jesus was raised (1 Cor. 15:20-22). The question is, will we be raised to life, or to condemnation (Jno. 5:28-29)? That depends on whether we will believe and obey Jesus now (Heb. 5:8-9). What is decision? Where will you spend eternity?
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1, NKJV)
Christ delivers sinners from the “body of death” produced by sin (Romans 7:24-25). Those who are “in Christ Jesus” escape sin’s condemnation.. Therefore, it is crucial to be “in Christ Jesus,” otherwise, we are still wretched, lost in sin and under its sentence of eternal death (Romans 7:24; 6:23). Scripture says plainly that baptism puts the sinner into Christ (where there is no condemnation): “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27). We become children of God through the gospel (“faith,” Galatians 1:11, 23; 3:2, 23-25). The gospel commands water baptism for the remission of sins (no condemnation, Acts 2:38; 10:48). Once we are saved “in Christ Jesus” we must walk (live) “according to the Spirit.” In Christ, Christians live by the guidance of the Spirit of God, not by the impulses of the flesh. The Spirit guides us through the truth He revealed to the apostles and inspired them to speak and write (John 16:12-14; 1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 14:37; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Christians choose to walk according to the Spirit by following the word of God. Make that the way you live your life and escape sin’s sentence of eternal death.
48 He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. 50 And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak. (John 12:48–50, NKJV)
Jesus did not come to the world to condemn the world, but to give the world a way of salvation (John 3:17). In truth, the world was already condemned in sin (Romans 1:18; 3:9-20, 23). Salvation from sin and death is only found in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). If you reject Jesus, thinking you will find peace “within yourself” with Jesus, you will be eternally disappointed. Why? Because by rejecting Jesus, you reject His word – the very truth by which He will judge the world (including you and me) in the last day (v. 48). The words of Jesus are words of eternal life (John 6:68). They have been left for the whole world to hear, believe and follow to have light and life, instead of darkness and death (John 12:46-47). Although many think any command from God is oppressive, the truth is that God’s command (that approved Christ’s words) is everlasting life (v. 49-50). God has given us the words of Christ, the gospel, by which we will be judged in the last day. Live by it and receive eternal life. Reject it, and reap eternal death. What will your sentence be?
24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. 1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Romans 7:24–8:1, NKJV)
Paul is describing the lost man who is under law, under sin in verse 24. The law of Moses could not rescue him from sin’s death; it magnified the problem of sin (Rom. 7:13; 5:20). This man is “carnal, sold under sin” (Rom. 7:14). He is “dead in trespasses and sins” because sin is ruling him (Eph. 2:1-3). He is lost in sin, miserable and consumed by death (Rom. 6:23). (He was not born this way; he chose to sin, Rom. 5:12). Lost in sin, he is sin’s slave, serving sin with the flesh. The sinner can only be rescued from sin and death through Jesus Christ our Lord. There is no condemnation in Christ – thank God! The sinner puts on Christ when he is baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:26-27; Matt. 28:19). Once in Christ, he is saved from sin’s death. Now, he lives according to the Spirit of truth and serves God, no longer indulging the sins of the flesh. Are you lost? Christ will save you. Come to Jesus in faith and enter a saved relationship with Him by being baptized into Him. He is ready and willing to save you.