Through the apostle John, the Holy Spirit draws our attention to the kind of love God has for us. He says to “behold,” to see, be aware of and understand the nature of God’s love that blesses us to be called God’s children. John will go on to proclaim, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Today, let us behold and understand the depth and breadth of God’s love from three vantage points. (1) God’s love is sacrificial. He “so loved the world” that He gave His Son to be lifted up on a cross to deliver sinners from death (John 3:14-17). Love gives of itself to serve others (see the example of Jesus, Eph. 5:25-27). (2) God’s love is merciful. God’s “great love” is adorned by His “rich mercy” (Eph. 2:4). Love acts out of mercy to relieve others. With tender compassion, God saw our sin dilemma (death, Rom. 6:23) and graciously saved us through faith in Christ (Eph. 2:5-8). (3) God’s love is purposeful. “In this is love, not that we love God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Love takes the initiative; it is neither negligent nor apathetic. As we behold God’s love for us, may we follow John’s appeal, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).
12 Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. 13 And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.” (Luke 17:12–16, NKJV)
The Lord heard and answered the lepers’ pleas for mercy. One of them not only knew he needed mercy, but he also knew how blessed he was when Jesus healed him (vs. 15-16). We all need God’s mercy. Indeed, we all live under the merciful forbearance of God (Acts 17:30; 2 Pet. 3:8-9). Are we thankful for God’s mercy? The Samaritan was a thankful man. See his humility as he falls on his face at Jesus’s feet, thanking Him for being healed. Are we like the other nine? Once fed and filled by God’s loving mercy, do we turn away with no thought of gratitude and humble thanks? God knows when we are not thankful to Him (Lk. 16:17-18). The Samaritan had faith. Jesus told him, “Your faith has made you well” (Lk. 17:19). Faith not only compels us to seek mercy; it induces us to fall at Jesus’s feet with humble thanks for His mercy that saves us (Titus 3:4-5). God is rich in mercy and saves us by His grace through our faith in Christ (Eph. 2:4-9). Like the healed Samaritan, let us humbly and thankfully glorify God for His mercy.
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).
16 At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. 17 But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. 18 And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen (2 Timothy 4:16–18, NKJV)!
Paul could have been bitter as he surveyed his situation. He was now aged, and life was nearing its end (Philem. 9; 2 Tim. 4:6). Demas had forsaken him for this present evil age (2 Tim. 4:10). Alexander, the coppersmith, had done him much harm and resisted the gospel Paul taught (2 Tim. 4:14-15). No one stood with him when he defended himself before the Roman authorities (v. 16). But Paul was not weakened in faith. The Lord rescued Paul from inevitable demise (the lion’s mouth). The Lord would certainly deliver him even though death was near. His faith was in the Lord, not people (v. 17). Paul fixed his faith on the everlasting, heavenly kingdom and deliverance from the evils of this world (v. 18; 2 Tim. 4:7-8). Do not become embittered when people let you down, hurt you, and forsake you. The Lord will not fail you (Heb. 13:5-6). Wouldn’t it have been tragic if Paul had become a bitter, cynical old man at the end of his life? His example of steadfast faith continues to strengthen aged ones whose faith is in the Lord.
4 When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” 6 And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. (Luke 5:4–6, NKJV)
How would you react if you were a fisherman and a carpenter told you where and how to catch fish? Many would disregard such counsel as ignorant, presumptuous arrogance. But Peter did not react that way. The one advising Peter (the fisherman) had already gained the multitude’s interest by His miracles and His teachings (Lk. 4:40-44; 5:1). Indeed, Jesus had previously healed Peter’s mother-in-law of a high fever (Lk. 4:38-39). Peter’s humble faith in the word of Jesus is our lesson today. Our experience, our knowledge, our labor, our frustrations – none of these rise above the power and authority of Christ’s words (v. 5). Spiritual blessings result when we divest ourselves of every obstacle of our stubborn will and obediently yield to the word of Christ (v. 6). What if Peter had said, “I will, but I must rest first,” or “I will do that tomorrow when the conditions are more favorable,” or, “I don’t feel that will do any good?” The excuses used to resist the gospel of Christ are many (Acts 24:25). Instead of making excuses for not following the word of Christ, trust His word is the truth. “Launch out into the deep” (v. 4). He will bless you for obeying Him (Matt. 11:28-30). Jesus says to believe and obey His gospel, and He will save you (Matt. 7:21; Mk. 16:15-16).
5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; 6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” (Hebrews 12:5–6, NKJV)
Jesus faced “hostilities from sinners,” and so do Christians (Heb. 12:3). Instead of becoming “weary and discouraged” when this happens, we should remember God’s exhortation to us, His children. God uses times of trial to discipline us (educate through instruction and correction), train our faith, and bring us to spiritual maturity (Heb. 12:11; Jas. 1:2-4). If you find yourself asking why you are facing trials, God’s explanations in Hebrews 12:5-11 will help sustain you. 1) God loves you (Heb. 12:5-6). Just as discipline shows love for a child, even so, trials are undergirded by God’s love for us (Prov. 13:24). Do not despise the discipline trials afford. 2) Develop endurance (Heb. 12:7-8). The presence of God’s parental love teaches us to endure the temporary pain of trials (2 Cor. 4:16-17). By accepting God’s discipline, our faith grows because we are “looking unto Jesus” for strength (Heb. 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 12:9). 3) Our faith needs this training (Heb. 12:9-10). Children need instruction and correction, and so do Christians (Eph. 6:4). We submit ourselves to the training trials bring so we may partake of God’s holiness. 4) The intended result (Heb. 12:11). Trials hurt and are not joyful. Still, the pain generates peaceable fruit in the lives of faithful saints. Trials help train our faith to rely on the Lord. Let’s do that when hardships arise. God loves us, and He will use our trials to strengthen our faith, not discourage our souls. Keep running the race set before you (Heb. 12:1-2).
4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4–5, NKJV)
Faith is the victory that defeats the world of evil. A good brother reminded me that the righteous die victoriously (Sword Tips #2226), as assured in Revelation 2-3. Let us briefly note those assurances to “him who overcomes.” 1) Access to the tree of life (Rev. 2:7). Eternal life, forever sustained by God’s provisions. 2) Protection from the second death (Rev. 2:11). The faithful have no part in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14-15; 21:8). 3) Identification as God’s chosen (Rev. 2:17). This one is known and kept by God forever (Rev. 14:1; 22:4). 4) Share in the glory of Messiah’s victory over every evil enemy (Rev. 2:26-28). The faithful one will appear with Him in glory (Col. 3:4). 5) Confessed before the Father (Rev. 3:5). The pure life that unashamedly lived for Christ is written forever in the Book of Life (Mk. 8:38; Rev. 20:12). 6) Secure citizenship with God in His eternal kingdom (Rev. 3:12). Forever dwelling with God, serving Him in full fellowship is the reward of those who hold fast (Rev. 3:11; 21:2, 22). 7) Reign with Christ over sin and death (Rev. 3:21). To forever share in His great victory over every enemy of God will be the indescribable reward of the righteous (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 22:5). These are our hopes and expectations in Christ. He will keep His word to us. Let us keep our word to Him and be faithful even to the point of death (Rev. 2:10).
When all is said and done, and they lay our cold, dead body in the grave, will it be said that we died the death of the righteous? Death comes “to the righteous and the wicked,” it is true, but their deaths are different in eternally significant ways. 1) The righteous die in faith. “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb. 11:13). Only when we walk by faith will we die in faith (2 Cor. 5:7). Being faithful to the Lord in life affects how we die (Lk. 12:19-21; 16:19-25). 2) The righteous leave a legacy of good deeds. A display of her charitable kindness attended Dorcas’s death (Acts 9:36-39). “Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later. Likewise, the good works of some are clearly evident, and those that are otherwise cannot be hidden” (1 Tim. 5:24-25). 3) The righteous die after a life of spiritual service despite adversity. “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them” (Rev. 14:13). Come what may in life, our paramount goal is to die in the Lord. 4) The righteous die with God’s blessing. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psa. 116:15). Death is an appointment we will all keep (Heb. 9:27). We choose whether ours will be the death of the righteous by the choices we make in life.
7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” (Numbers 21:7–9, NKJV)
This event in Israel’s history aptly illustrates salvation from sin and death (Rom. 6:23). They grumbled against God and Moses, which brought death into the camp. They confessed their sin and were told if a serpent bit them to look at the bronze serpent Moses made, and they would live. Their salvation from death becomes a figure of the Son of Man being lifted up on the cross to save humanity from sin (John 3:14-17). Israelites received God’s mercy and lived when they trusted and obeyed God’s command to look at the bronze serpent. Even so, sinners “look” at Jesus in faith by repenting and being baptized “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:37-38, 41). By doing so, the sinner receives God’s redemptive mercy and is saved. Israel did not earn their deliverance from the deadly serpents; they trusted God and obeyed Him. The same is true for every sinner Christ saves (Heb. 5:9).
6 But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives. 7 And these things command, that they may be blameless. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:6–8, NKJV)
The apostle of Christ applies several principles of faithful, righteous living here and applies them to the honor and care of widows (1 Tim. 5:3-16). As we note them here, we can examine ourselves and strengthen our faithfulness to the Lord. 1) We can be spiritually dead while we are physically alive (v. 6). Some doctrines deny this simple truth. “Once saved, always saved” gives false comfort and removes a strong incentive to practice the truth (Jno. 8:31-32). If we do not abide in the word of Christ, we are spiritually dead even as we live (1 Jno. 1:6). 2) The purpose for commanding and obeying God’s word is blamelessness (v. 7). God’s word commands us to follow Him. Obedience is not optional. When we obey the Lord, we are blameless (innocent) before Him (1 Tim. 4:6, 16). 3) Denying the faith happens (v. 8). Christians renounce the faith (the gospel) by failing to fulfill our obligations toward those under our charge. We cannot shirk our responsibilities without reaping the consequences of unbelief (Gal. 6:7-10; Jas. 4:17). Those who obey Christ keep the faith and are spiritually alive in Him.