2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. 3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. 4 Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. (Acts 8:2–4, NKJV)
This striking contrast between martyred Stephen and persecutor Saul paints a picture of the faithfulness of the early church and the forces of opposition faced by the disciples (Acts 7:54-8:1). Saul would eventually be converted and learn about suffering for the Lord (Acts 9:16; 2 Corinthians 4:8-12). When we start to focus on the advances of evil around us and the pressures of its influences and actions upon our lives and those we love, remember these faithful brethren (as well as those presently suffering for their faith). When they were pressed, they pressed onward and upward. When threatened in an effort to silence them, they remained vocal, going “everywhere preaching the word.” When pursued by enemies of the faith, they pursued peace and holiness (Hebrews 12:14). Let us take to heart the apostle’s exhortation, “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern” (Philippians 3:17). May we follow their worthy examples and remain true to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets. (Luke 6:26, NKJV)
The world hates those who follow Jesus. If you think that language is too strong, please recall it is Jesus who said it: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19). Everyone who practices evil hates the light of truth because it exposes their sin (John 3:19-20). When you obey truth its light shines brightly, and the world of darkness hates you for it (John 3:21). Those practicing sin will speak evil of you for not joining them in their sins (1 Peter 4:4, 12-14). If you are more concerned with what people think about you than with what the Lord thinks of you, then you fall under the “woe” Jesus pronounced in today’s verse. People will speak well of you when they know your life and words will not expose their sins. If that is the case, then you are not being the light of the world (Matthew 5:16). “Take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness” (Luke 11:35). Resolve to please God, no matter what people say about you (Galatians 1:10; 2 Corinthians 5:9).
22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—23 therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. (Genesis 3:22–23, NKJV)
God understands the heights of goodness, and the depths of evil. Sin’s intrusion into the lives of Adam and Eve impacted their knowledge of good and evil. Indeed, before their sin, they had experienced good things from the hand of God. Before their sin, they had trusted God’s warning that evil would cause them to die. But, with their sin, they experienced evil, along with its death. Yet, God’s purpose of man and woman’s fellowship with Him would not be defeated by evil; the promised seed of woman would crush the serpent’s head. This was accomplished in Christ (Genesis 3:15; Galatians 4:4-7; 1 John 3:8). Eternal life is incompatible with evil. Therefore, they were sent out of the garden, and denied access to the tree of life (Genesis 3:24). Could they have understood evil without experiencing it? Yes, just as surely as a child can know the danger of fire from his parents’ warning, without putting his hand into the flame. You do not have to sin to perceive the pain and sorrow it causes. Instead, trust God’s warning against sin, and His offer of eternal life. Evil brings death. Eternal life is in His Son (1 John 5:11).
You have wearied the Lord with your words; “Yet you say, “In what way have we wearied Him?” In that you say, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, And He delights in them,” Or, “Where is the God of justice?” (Malachi 2:17, NKJV)
As when Israel wearied Jehovah in the fifth century BC, God must surely be weary today when He hears Christians denying His just standard of evil and good. Wearing the name of Christ never gives one the right to call good, that which God calls evil. In effect, this would be like saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in Him.” For example, increasingly, Christians deny the sin of immodest clothing offends the Lord, although He has revealed standards of moral purity that forbid the display of one’s own nakedness (1 Timothy 2:9-10; 1 Peter 3:2-4; cf. Isaiah 47:2-3). One cannot “put on Christ” and still “put on” the worldly attire of indecency. Christians who refuse to respect and follow what God’s word declares to be just, cannot expect Him to delight in them, and bless their disrespectful treatment of Him. The God of justice is where He has always been, and He is “ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:5). May we never “call evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20).
3 Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips. 4 Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with men who work iniquity; And do not let me eat of their delicacies. (Psalm 141:3–4, NKJV)
The enticements of evil are prevalent and powerful. Those who practice sin allure the innocent to join them with offerings of personal pleasure and satisfaction. “Their delicacies” are designed to tempt, but leave the soul famished and starved of righteousness. One’s heart must not be willing to accept the temptations to join with evil and practice sin. Like David, petition God to set a guard over your mouth, that you will not utter compliance and agreement with evil. We cannot eat appetizers from the table of sin, without becoming workers of iniquity. Pray tell: how many delicacies off the table of iniquity can one eat (how much sin can one commit) without causing spiritual harm? To ask such a question is to answer it! Therefore, we must always “depart from evil and do good” (Psalm 34:14; 1 Peter 3:10-11). Do not play around with sin. Protect yourself from the delicacies of those who practice sin. You cannot “partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons” (1 Corinthians 10:21).
1 The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty; The Lord is clothed, He has girded Himself with strength. Surely the world is established, so that it cannot be moved. 2 Your throne is established from of old; You are from everlasting. (Psalm 93:1–2, NKJV)
Although evil man exerts evil power against innocent ones, Jehovah is clothed in the strength of His eternal nature, and is mightier than all. By His might, He created the world, and by His power He maintains it. His sovereign rule over the world will not be deterred by the forces of evil. As America remembers the thousands of lives lost on September 11, 2001, we also recall the power of good that arose from the rubble. The nation united to rebuild and to defend freedom. Christians do well to always remember that our God is clothed in strength, and is always present to defend and to sustain His righteous cause. His protective hand is with us, even when surrounded by evil. Put your trust in the Almighty, who reigns in power from all eternity. Walk by faith; victory over evil is certain in Jesus, the Son of God (1 John 5:4-5).
4 In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. 5 They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Peter 4:4–5, NKJV)
When you choose to no longer practice the excesses of immorality, those who live in lustful indulgence often respond negatively. They may mock you as an entertaining oddity – the odd ball who doesn’t want to “have fun.” They may speak evil of you – disgusted that you will not join them in their outpouring of selfish, sensual sins. We do not expect the faithless to encourage us to be faithful to the Lord; it is foolish to think they would (1 Cor. 15:33-34). Sinners hated Jesus because He exposed their sins (Jno. 3:19-20; 7:7). In the same way, when you choose to do the will of God, you will be laughed at and scorned – or worse. Those who treat you this way will answer to God for reviling what is good. And, answering to God for one’s evil conduct is nowhere you want to be. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). So, take heart, keep faith, and do not be discouraged. God will right every wrong you endure for His name’s sake.