28 And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” 31 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:28–31, NKJV)
The reciprocal tension between faith and doubt is displayed in the marvel miracle when Jesus (and Peter) walked on water. Confident in Christ’s command, Peter got out of the boat and walked on water toward Jesus. Then, fear found a place in his heart as he focused on the wind and waves instead of on Jesus, and he wavered in doubt. Faith gave way to dread and doubt. Peter was being pulled in two different directions. His faith in Jesus compelled him to do what would be unthinkable and impossible (walk on water). But fear caused him to doubt. Jesus said Peter lacked trust when he doubted and began to sink (“little faith”). Jesus immediately saved Peter, which reassures us in times of doubt. When doubt tests our faith, let us remember that victory over this world’s spiritual dangers is through faith in Christ (1 Jno. 5:4-5). Trust and obey His word. Do not let doubt pull you away from Christ.
8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:8–10, NKJV)
The gospel is the “word of faith” the apostles preached. It is near, having been confessed by our mouths and believed in our hearts. The gospel of Christ is the message of “righteousness of faith,” not “righteousness of the law” (Rom. 10:4-7). But please see that the word of faith (gospel) is not a message of salvation by faith only, since “confession with your mouth” is belief plus confession. We are neither saved by faith alone or by confession alone. Both are said to be “unto” righteousness or salvation (v. 10). The preposition “unto” translates the Greek word eis, which denotes “entrance into, or direction and limit: into, to, towards, for, among” (Thayer, 183). Believing the gospel in your heart and confessing Christ with your mouth move you toward salvation, but they are not all the gospel says to be saved. The word of faith commands us to repent or perish (Lk. 13:3, 5; Acts 17:30). The word of faith also commands us to be baptized “for (eis) the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Let us believe and follow all the gospel preached by the apostles. Then we have God’s assurance of being saved in Christ.
18 We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. 19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. (1 John 5:18–21, NKJV)
God assures Christians of knowing we have eternal life in the Son of God (1 Jno. 5:11-13). We are confident of this wonderful blessing in Christ because we are born of God through His word (Jno. 1:12-13; 3:3, 5; 1 Pet. 1:23). John tells us some things we know as God’s children, which testify to God’s grace and our faith as His children. 1) We know whoever is born of God does not practice sin, but guards himself against the evil one (5:18). We do not say we “have no sin,” but that we practice righteousness (1 Jno. 1:8; 2:29; 3:6-10). 2) We know we are different from the world (5:19). We do not love the world and its lusts, but God and His will (1 Jno. 2:15-17). 3) We know the Son of God has given us an understanding (5:20). Jesus Christ is the Truth, and His word lights our path (Jno. 14:6; 1 Jno. 1:6-7). We have fellowship with the Father and the Son when we walk in (obey) apostolic truth (1 Jno. 1:2-3; 2:3-6; 3:24). Let us guard ourselves against false gods and their false concepts of salvation by faithfully following Jesus Christ (1 Jno. 5:21).
45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. 46 Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? 47 He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God. (John 8:45–47, NKJV)
Jesus made some incredible claims in this passage. Those to whom He spoke did not believe He was “from above” (Jno. 8:23). They did not think they would die in their sins for not believing in Him (Jno. 8:24). When He claimed to be eternal God (“I Am”), they tried to stone Him (Jno. 8:58-59). When we give an earnest assessment of His claims, we must choose the path of faith (Rom. 10:17). 1) Jesus said He spoke the truth (v. 45). The truth Jesus spoke frees sinners from sin when obeyed (Jno. 8:31-36). Are you following His truth? 2) Jesus said He was without sin (v. 46). Only God is sinless (Rom. 3:23; Heb. 7:26). Do you believe Jesus is sinless God? 3) Jesus said He spoke God’s words (v. 47). The truth Jesus taught was of God, yet they would not receive it (Jno. 8:40, 37). Will you receive God’s truth? 4) Jesus said those who do not hear Him are not of God (v. 47). We do not believe Jesus if we do not hear God’s word that He spoke (v. 45, 47; Acts 3:22-23). Do you believe Jesus is from above? Do you believe He is the great “I Am?” The record of His life gives ample reasons to believe (Jno. 20:30-31). Faith in Jesus means following His truth because it is the word of God. Believe in Jesus because He always tells you the truth.
For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6, NKJV)
God deplored the insincere faith of Ephraim and Judah: “O Ephraim, what shall I do to you? O Judah, what shall I do to you? For your faithfulness is like a morning cloud, and like the early dew it goes away” (Hosea 6:4). He still does. In defense of His interaction “with tax collectors and sinners,” Jesus explained that He came to call sinners to repentance – those who need spiritual healing (Matt. 9:11, 13). He applied Hosea to His critics, “But go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’” (Matt. 9:12). Accurate knowledge of God compels mercy toward sinners without forgetting one’s dutiful offerings to God (Matt. 23:23; Psa. 85:10-13). We have received His mercy and are to be merciful as we serve God (Matt. 18:33). Yet, being a Christian is often reduced to rituals and formalities in not a few churches. Sinful conduct of members is winked at and ignored because they are large donors, prominent in the community, in regular attendance at worship services, or otherwise highly regarded (1 Cor. 5:1-2). They may “fast twice a week” and “give tithes of all” they possess, but such things are meaningless to the Lord when hearts are far from Him (Lk. 18:10-14). God foretold and executed judgment upon Ephraim and Judah for their insincere, disobedient faith (Hosea 6:5). Let us learn from their failures and not repeat their sins (1 Cor. 10:5-13). Genuine and enduring faith must be driven by mercy toward others as we keep the commands of God.
7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, (2 Timothy 1:7–8, NKJV)
Fear and shame are companions. The fear of isolation (from family and friends), the fear of retribution (from influential people), and the fear of rejection (from those we love), and the fear of reprimand are mere samplings of the fears that cause the silence of shame and the retreat of fearing men rather than following the Lord (Matt. 10:28; Jno. 9:22; 12:42-43). Paul called Timothy to the courage provoked by faith. Paul experienced abandonment from brethren due to the gospel and his imprisonment for it (2 Tim. 1:15; 4:10, 16). But, the Lord stood by him, strengthened him, and delivered him from evil for salvation in His heavenly kingdom (2 Tim. 4:17-18). We are urged not to be ashamed of the gospel that saves us or those suffering for it (Rom. 1:16). Anchored by faith in His unshakable word, we can resist the temptations of fear and shame with power, love, and soundness of mind. May we boldly face every foe of faith, confident that “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37-39).
But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? (James 2:20, NKJV)
James posed a question that still needs asking and answering concerning knowing the truth of God’s word, “Do you want to know?” In context, his query probes the inclination and desire to know that “faith without works is dead.” Entire doctrines have been fabricated to blunt the force of this simple truth. Some reject James as inspired by God. Others contort the definitions of faith and works to justify their salvation by faith only doctrine (which James summarily rejects, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only,” Jas. 2:24). Faith without the obedience that activates and demonstrates it is profitless, dead, unseen, demonic, and incomplete (Jas. 2:14, 17, 18, 19, 22). We should ask ourselves this question about everything God’s word reveals, “Do I want to know the truth? Or, do I want to remain foolish?” Jesus put it this way, “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority” (Jno. 7:17). With a will to do God’s will, we will know the doctrine of Christ. With a desire to learn and know the truth, our faith joins with our works (obedience) and is made complete (Jas. 2:21-22).
20 O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge— 21 by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith. Grace be with you. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:20–21, NKJV)
Avoiding irreverent and fruitless discussions that destroy souls is achieved by diligently guarding and following “the words of faith” and “the good doctrine” – the gospel (1 Tim. 4:6). So said Paul in his closing exhortation to Timothy. He draws upon the nature of truth (concepts sorely need today, too) to steel Timothy for the work of preaching the word (2 Tim. 4:1-5). We also must be grounded in the traits of divinely revealed truth, lest we stray from the faith and lose our souls. By definition, truth is not profane and worldly. It is not the product of human feelings or experiences (Prov. 14:12; Jer. 10:23). It is the revelation of God’s mind, recorded in inspired Scripture (1 Cor. 2:6-13; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Truth is not idle, nor is it the empty chatter of those who are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). Truth is not vacillating; it is absolute. Truth is definable and knowable (Jno. 8:31-32; Eph. 3:3-4). Truth does not contradict itself; it harmonizes (Rom. 3:3-4; Psa. 119:160). Grace and the eternal inheritance are obtained in truth, not in things “falsely called knowledge” (Acts 20:32). “Buy the truth, and do not sell it, also wisdom and instruction and understanding” (Prov. 23:23).
18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. 19 For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. 21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22 “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth;” (1 Peter 2:18–22, NKJV)
What empowers Christians to endure injustices without reacting in sinful and destructive ways? Peter’s instruction to mistreated servants shows us how (v. 18). 1) We accept the pain of injustice because it is the commendable thing to do (v. 19). “Commendable” translates charis (grace). It is favorable, gracious, or acceptable before God when we patiently endure the grief of wrongful suffering. He will bestow honor (credit) on us for doing so (v. 20). 2) We endure the misery of injustice because of our conscience toward God (v. 19). We must train our consciences to regard persecution for the sake of righteousness as a blessing (Matt. 5:10-12). To do so requires faith in the Lord instead of self-reliance. 3) We accept suffering for doing good because the gospel of Christ calls us to this noble response (v. 21). Our calling is to overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21). 4) We can endure by following the example of Jesus (v. 22). He has already walked this road. Look for His footprints.
17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17–18, NKJV)
Obedience to God springs from the heart. Otherwise, it is not obedience at all, only an empty shell of pretense, self-righteousness, and vain ritual (Matt. 6:1-18; Lk. 18:9-14; 6:46). Today’s passage explains we are set free from sin when we obey the gospel (“that form of doctrine”) from the heart. Unquestionably, obedience is essential for salvation from sin. Now, back to the heart and our obedience. Scripture teaches the heart is the source of obedience to God. Belief is the result of the word of God acting upon the heart, and without faith, obedience does not occur (Rom. 10:10, 16-17). Love is an action of the heart (will) that Scripture shows to be obedience, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 Jno. 5:4). Love itself is obedience to God. Without the heart, obedient love is impossible. The fear of God resides in the heart that keeps God’s commandments (Eccl. 12:13). Faith, love, and the fear of God spring from the heart as necessary traits of obedience. Do not try to separate your heart from your obedience. Every attempt to do so results in faithless, loveless, irreverent, and futile attempts to please God.