1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; 3 Though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah” (Psalm 46:1–3, NKJV)
We live in days of uncertainty. A new strain of coronavirus has encircled the globe, bringing illness, death, fear, and panic in its wake. Questions abound: “What can be done to halt its advance?” “What will the future bring?” “Am I and my loved ones at risk?” “How will it affect me and those I love?” Lessons resurface for our learning – if we will listen and heed them – including these: Life is a vapor, soon gone. Life is uncertain, and some things are beyond our control. Illness and death are great equalizers, whether rich or poor. Wealth cannot protect against death, which reaches out and touches us all. Trouble will continue to come in this life. When they do, to whom do you turn? God is our shelter and security when adversity, distress, trials, and anxiety are afoot. But beware. God is not a fire escape to we forget until the moment of crisis. He is the constant Helper of those who put their trust in Him (Heb. 13:5-6). Our confidence is in the Creator, who made the earth and the sea. Should our world crumble around us, we will still rely on the One who calmed the sea (Mark 4:35-41).
Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another. (Romans 15:14, NKJV)
Paul gave thanks for the faith of the Roman Christians: “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world” (Rom. 1:8). Now, he briefly outlines why he was confident they would follow the instructions he gave them. Each of his reasons are expressions of their faith, and by them we are exhorted to follow their good examples. First, Paul had confidence in them because they were “full of goodness.” Their virtue was genuine, not pretended. Nor was their goodness partial. Their lives were filled up with goodness. Next, Paul had confidence in them because they were “filled with all knowledge” (Eph. 5:17-18). Their knowledge of God’s word filled every part of their being. It informed their faith, their hope, their motives, and their conduct (Jno. 8:31-32). Thirdly, Paul had confidence in them because they were “able also to admonish one another.” They were situated to effectively caution and reprove each other because of their goodness and knowledge of God’s word. Knowledge standing alone puffs up (1 Cor. 8:1). But, when coupled with goodness one is equipped to admonish and to be listened when that warning is needed. We enhance our ability and opportunity to help one another be faithful by maturing our faith in goodness, in knowledge, and in the ability to admonish others from God’s word.
39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. 1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 10:39-11:1, NKJV)
Faith that saves the soul does not draw back out of fear or neglect. It endures present trials, and by doing so receives the promised salvation (Heb. 10:36-39). This is the faith introduced in Hebrews 11:1 and described throughout that chapter. Faith is the substance of hope. “Substance” is a “setting under,” hence, faith is set under hope, supporting and stabilizing it. But, what supports and assures faith? We are told faith is the “evidence of things unseen.” Faith is conviction formed by the evidence of things that cannot be seen. For example, the swaying of the trees causes us to confidently believe in the wind, although we have never seen the wind itself. Faith concludes that “God is” (though unseen by human eyes) because this existence and order of the visible world announces His unseen presence, eternal power, and Godhood (Heb. 11:3, 6; Rom. 1:20; Psa. 19:1). Faith that God rewards those who diligently seek Him is shaped by the word of God (Heb. 11:6; Rom. 10:17; Mk. 16:20; 1 Cor. 2:10-13). Without accepting the evidence of unseen tings, there is no faith. And without faith, there is no hope. Thanks be to God who gives us evidence of His presence and the revelation of His will, so we can believe He exists and be blessed by diligently seeking Him (Acts 14:15-17; 17:22-31).
21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, (Romans 1:21–22, NKJV)
The elevation and exaltation of human wisdom comes at the expense of gratefully honoring our Creator. Knowing God exists should compel us to revere Him and thankfully obey His will. After all, it is His power that created us and that now sustains us each day (Rom. 1:20; Acts 14:15-17). Wisdom was the companion and possession of God at the beginning of creation and before (Prov. 8:22-31). How arrogant it is to think wisdom begins and ends with us (Job 12:2)! The apostle calls our attention to the futility of thoughts when void of a faithful recognition of God. The philosophy of humanism – a materialistic, purely humancentric view of life that rejects the divine – does not successfully answer the most basic questions of our existence: “Where did I come from?,” “Why are I here?,” and “Where am I going?” Asserting we are wise does not make it so. In fact, it exposes our foolishness (v. 22). Such prideful conceit darkens the heart and numbs the senses to the evidence of our Creator’s power and deity, and to the faith we should place in Him. Without God’s wisdom to guide us we are left to our own devices and sin’s demise (read wisdom’s plea in Prov. 8:32-36). “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (Jas. 4:10).
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. (Romans 1:18–19, NKJV)
God’s word has been revealed from heaven (Rev. 1:1-2). It reveals our need for salvation because we have all sinned against God, and our sin brings eternal death (Rom. 3:23; 6:23; 1:16-17). God’s wrath is also revealed from heaven. The target of God’s just anger and punishment is “all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (v. 18). Ungodliness is impiety and irreverence toward God. Unrighteousness describes conduct that is unjust and not upright toward others (1 Jno. 5:17). Ungodly and unrighteous conduct display a character of faithlessness. They hold down (suppress) the advance and blessings of divine truth in our lives. God’s wrath against sinners is justifiable because He had given a knowledge of Himself to mankind (v. 19-20). Yet, people refused to acknowledge God and honor Him with godly and righteous gratitude (Rom. 1:21). When we reject faith in God we hinder truth and put ourselves under divine wrath. We are without excuse, because God has made Himself known to us through His creation (Rom. 1:20). And, God has revealed His will to us by the word of His Son, Jesus Christ (Jno. 1:1-3, 14; Heb. 1:1-2). The gospel of Christ will free you from sin and death. It is your escape from God’s wrath when you obey it in faith (Acts 10:34-35; 2 Thess. 1:8-9).
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. 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:23–27, NKJV)
With these few words, the Holy Spirit summarizes God’s gospel plan for human redemption through Jesus Christ. He said: (1) The law of Moses prepared people for Christ (“before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law…our tutor to bring us to Christ,” 3:23-24); (2) Our means of justification is “by faith” (not by the law of Moses, 3:24); (3) Since “faith has come” (the gospel, 1:23; 3:2), the law of Moses no longer has binding authority over anyone (“we are no longer under a tutor,” 3:25); (4) Justification by faith makes Jews and Gentiles children of God (“you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,” 3:26); (5) Justification by faith happens at baptism (“for as many of you as were baptized into Christ,” 3:27); and (6) The lost become children of God at baptism, when their relationship with Christ begins (“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ,” 3:27). Without a doubt, the child of God has “put on Christ.” But, one is “baptized into Christ” in order to “put on Christ.” Therefore, without being baptized into Christ one has not yet become a child of God. One has not yet been justified by faith. Baptism is a necessary part of being justified by faith.
3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” 4 When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:3–4, NKJV)
The sisters of Lazarus, the beloved friend of Jesus, sent Him word that their brother was seriously ill (Jno. 11:1-2). John’s narrative goes on to tell of Lazarus’ death, and that Jesus raised him from the dead (Jno. 11:17-44). Jesus knew the outcome of the sickness would not be death, it would be to the glory of the Father and the Son. Although Lazarus died physically, his resurrection affirmed Christ’s power over death (Jno. 11:25). Jesus also has power over the spiritual death caused by sin (“whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die,” Jno. 11:26). When sickness comes to us or to our loved ones, may we have the faith to see and use the opportunity it gives us to trust in God and to give Him glory. May we follow the example of Paul, whose physical ailment became an occasion for him to more fully trust the grace and power of the Lord (2 Cor. 12:8-10). Physical death awaits us all (Heb. 9:27). But, by living and believing in Christ we have spiritual life now, and eternal life beyond the grave (Jno. 5:28-29).