Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” (John 1:45–46, NKJV)
Prejudice keeps souls from believing Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Bias toward Nazareth almost prevented Nathanael from investigating the evidence that Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecies. To be called a Nazarene was a slur of reproachful disdain (Matt. 2:23). Nathanael had this bias against Nazareth. Fortunately, he accepted Philip’s advice to “come and see” for himself before concluding Jesus was not worth his time and trouble. We must not prejudge people on their skin color, economic status, gender, ethnicity, etc. (Jas. 3:1-9). Neither should we prejudge the gospel of Christ without giving it a fair, unbiased hearing. The people who saw and heard Jesus had abundant evidence to examine that is the Christ, the Son of God (Jno. 5:36). The Bereans verified the gospel was true by examining the Scriptures daily (Acts 17:11-12). “Come and see” the evidence the Bible is the word of God and not the word of men (1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Free of prejudice, we should examine the Scriptural evidence that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God” so that “believing you have life in His name” (Jno. 20:30-31).
1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? (Romans 6:1–2, NKJV)
The “commandments and doctrines of men” abuse and distort the Christian’s relation to God’s grace (Col. 2:20-23; Gal. 1:6-7). For example, divine grace is not irresistible; if it were, everyone would be saved (Tit. 2:11; 1 Tim. 2:3-4; Matt. 7:21-23). Grace is available to every sinner, but not every sinner will accept it. Or again, Christians can fall from grace despite the false security of “once saved, always saved” (Gal. 5:4). God’s word of truth assures us that we have “access by faith into this grace in which we stand” through Christ (Rom. 5:2). Indeed, grace is greater than sin (Rom. 5:20-21). But that does not mean grace abounds if we choose to “continue in sin.” The gospel does not teach that we can live in sin, and God’s grace will save us anyway. We must not continue in sin to continue in grace (v. 1). We died to sin in our lives when we were baptized into Christ and into His death (Rom. 6:2-4). That is when we were “freed from sin” to live with Christ, not to continue living in sin (Rom. 6:5-8). God wants to save you, but you must make a decision of faith to die to sin and live with Christ. That begins by being baptized into Christ. Then, no longer live in sin, and the grace of God will abound in you.
8 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust. (1 Timothy 1:8–11, NKJV)
This passage identifies the “sound doctrine according to the glorious gospel” of God with the goodness of divine law. Law is “good” if we use it lawfully (v. 8). That statement probes our use of God’s law. If law can be used lawfully, then it can also be used unlawfully. God’s law identifies our sin against Him, and that is a good thing (Rom. 7:7, 12). But, law cannot save us from our sins (Rom. 3:19-20). So, the law teaches us we need deliverance from sin (Rom. 7:24). God provided Christ and His gospel to save us by grace through faith (Rom. 3:21-26). Today’s text teaches us God’s law restrains sin in our lives when we conform ourselves to it. That is how we use the law lawfully. Sadly, many twist God’s law to justify the very sins it identifies and condemns. Just look at the list of sins in verses 9-10. Religious people approve of many of them. That effort unlawfully uses God’s law. Law identifies us as sinners in need of salvation. It points us to the gospel for salvation so that Christians live by “the law of faith,” the glorious gospel preached by the apostles (Rom. 3:27-28).
For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. (Romans 16:19, NKJV)
Do others know you obey God? The Bible indisputably teaches obedience is the expression of one’s faith. For example, Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (Jno. 14:15). James put it this way: “But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (Jas. 2:18). Earlier, Paul noted the Romans’ faith was spoken of by others throughout the world (Rom. 1:8). People were talking about their faith because they knew about their obedience. Their faith was genuine because they obeyed the Lord. Obedience proclaims our faith, too. Just saying we believe is insufficient to save us (after all, “even the demons believe—and tremble,” Jas. 2:19). Our obedience to the Lord must be good and innocent (Rom. 16:19). The wisdom of the world calls evil good, and good evil (Isa. 5:20). Conversely, Christians shun such folly and choose to live by the wisdom from above (Jas. 3:17-18). We influence the world for righteousness when others see our faith by our obedience (Matt. 5:13).
11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11–13, NKJV)
Contentment is a learned trait. Whether one lives in a land of abundance or scarcity, contentment does not come easy. Defined as being “sufficient for one’s self, strong enough or possessing enough to need no aid or support; independent of external circumstances” (Thayer, 85), contentment looks beyond momentary situations. It has learned that life is “more than food,” and the body is “more than clothing” (Matt. 6:25). Contentment is an expression of faith in God, our great Provider, and Sustainer (Matt. 6:26-33). Whatever external forces press upon it, contentment fixates on Christ, not on self (v. 12-13). It looks beyond the moment into eternity (2 Cor. 4:16-18). Paul had learned contentment during his experiences, and so can we. Our strength to persevere through deprivation and to resist self-indulgence in times of plenty comes from Christ and our faith in Him. Whatever state in which you find yourself today, remember to trust Christ and order your life according to His principles of truth and righteousness (Eph. 4:23-24). By doing so, you can be content in Christ, come what may.
“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12, NKJV)
Endurance is essential to resisting the temptations of sin. Our adversary, the devil, continually probes for openings and opportunities to entice us not to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; to sin against God (Mk. 12:30). Endurance is spiritual, mental, and emotional fortitude that perseveres through the moment of trial. James reminds us of some reasons why we endure temptations. 1) Because endurance brings God’s approval. The trials of life test our faith, and the devil seeks to exploit them. When we endure them, our faith grows stronger and has God’s approval (Jas. 1:3-4). 2) Because God has promised us a reward. The crown of life is promised to those who finish the course and keep the faith, not those who shrink back (2 Tim. 4:8; Heb. 10:36-39). God will keep His word to us; We must keep our word to Him. 3) Because we love God. God has promised eternal life “to those who love Him.” We express our love for God over a love of this world when we endure temptation and do God’s will (1 Jno. 2:15-17). Endurance means committing ourselves to love God with more than words, but also with our deeds (Jno. 14:15; 1 Jno. 3:16-19). Enduring temptations is not easy but possible. God gives us a means of escape, that we “may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13, ESV).
22 But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.” (Galatians 3:22–25, NKJV)
Scripture reveals a fundamental distinction between “the law” (of Moses) and “the faith” (the gospel) that “would afterward be revealed” in Christ. Failure to respect the “change of the law” results in many distortions of the gospel (Heb. 7:12; Gal. 1:6-7). The Galatians faced one such perversion of the gospel when some tried to bind circumcision and keeping the Law of Moses (LOM) upon Gentiles for their salvation (Gal. 1:8-9; 5:1-6; 6:12-13). The LOM identified sin and confined its adherents (Israel) under sin (Heb. 10:4) while guiding them toward the promised blessings that would come “by faith in Jesus Christ” (v. 22; Rom. 1:16-17; 3:21-26). Now that Christ has come, His gospel provides the blessings of the promise; Redemption from sin. Now, no one is under the LOM; it served its purpose and has been removed (Col. 2:14). Therefore, we cannot revert to the Old Testament law to justify our religious beliefs and actions. To do so requires keeping “the whole law,” not just the part of it that suits our fancy (Gal. 5:3). Every attempt to use the LOM to justify oneself before God has the opposite effect; It separates that person from Christ (Gal. 5:4). Our “hope of righteousness” is “by faith” (the gospel), not by “the law” of Moses (Gal. 5:5-6).
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. (Psalm 116:15, NKJV)
When death takes loved ones, we ask, “Why?” and “How could this happen?” It is not that we do not know the answers (death comes to us all, Heb. 9:27). Such questions come to our minds because we are left to grapple with our loss. That is natural. The gospel teaches Christians how to deal with death by developing God’s point of view of death. The death of God’s saints (holy ones) is a valuable event in God’s sight. Even at the moment of our loss, it also can be precious to us. Saints have overcome by the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 12:11). They have lived their lives by faith, not sight (2 Cor. 5:7). A living hope has lived in them (1 Pet. 1:3). When God’s people die, He blesses them with rest from their fleshly toils and adversities (Rev. 14:13; Lk. 16:25). To “depart and be with Christ” is “far better” than this physical realm. So, we accept patiently and joyfully the passing of beloved saints, knowing the assurance of God are real and received. And so, we press on by faith while living in the flesh, anticipating eternal realms of glory with God and His saints. Thanks be to God that death is our doorway to everlasting joy. Are you ready to die? When you live holy as God is holy, you are (1 Pet. 1:13-16).
3 If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? 4 But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared. (Psalm 130:3–4, NKJV)
We rejoice in the truth that God forgives and does not mark (retain) our sins (cf. Psa. 6:1; 38:1). God’s lovingkindness does not free us from accountability for our sin; We are answerable for our sin, its consequences, and punishment. The way of the transgressor is hard, and the wages of sin is death (Prov. 13:15; Rom. 6:23). Today’s psalm praises God’s forgiveness, His mercy, and redemption of Israel “from all our iniquities” (Psa. 130:8). When God’s people cry to Him with repentant supplications, He hears and forgives (Psa. 130:1-2). He does not withhold forgiveness; neither should (Matt. 6:14-15; 18:32-35). God does not vindictively keep an account of evil (1 Cor. 13:5). His forgiveness generates reverential fear for His wonderful pardon (Psa. 130:4). God’s responsive mercy assures our hearts to patiently trust His purposes and hope in His word (Psa. 130:5-6). Christians trust God’s unfailing love, generous mercy, and abundant redemption. He forgives us when we repent and confess our sins (Acts 8:22-24; 1 Jno. 1:9).
If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? (Psalm 11:3, NKJV)
The foundations of our society are cracked. Decades of denying the existence of God and His truth, of sanctioning the killing innocent, unborn life, of oppression of our neighbors to get ahead, and of rejecting the fundamental truths of morality and marriage – all these and more can tempt us to despair of hope and remedy. Through David, God gives us answers that look above the moment and beyond the horizon of hurt and horror. When the foundations are destroyed, the righteous can 1) Keep their trust in the Lord God (Psa. 11:1-2). Corrective truth comes from God, not humans (Jer. 10:23). He protects us from an eternal perspective that we must foster that grounds us in times of trouble. 2) Remember God has not moved (Psa. 11:4). He remains enthroned in heaven; His sovereignty secures our faith and assures us His purposes prevail. 3) Know God sees and investigates every person and judges between the good and the evil (Psa. 11:4-6). The wicked do not escape His gaze and cannot hide from His justice (Rev. 6:12-17). 4) Know God is righteous, and He loves righteousness (Psa. 11:7). He beholds and rewards those who seek peace and pursue righteousness (Matt. 6:33). The righteous remain steadfast when foundations are shaken because we have a kingdom that cannot be shaken. God is a consuming fire upon evil and the sustaining hope of all who serve Him “acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Heb. 12:27-29). These are the things the righteous can do.