Without partiality, every lost soul who “fears God” is told to do the same righteous works to be accepted by God. We hear preachers on radio and TV inviting lost sinners to pray to God with faith in Jesus to be saved. If prayer is the way sinners access the saving blood of Jesus, then the Scriptures will plainly teach it. Yet, without exception, when lost sinners were told what to do to be saved in the New Testament, they were never told to pray what is often called “the sinner’s prayer” (Acts 2:37-38; 9:6; 16:30-34). What were sinners told to do to be saved? Jesus told lost souls to hear His gospel to be saved (Jno. 5:25; 6:45). Jesus told lost souls to believe He is the Son of God to be saved (Jno. 8:24). Jesus told lost souls to confess their faith in Him to be saved (Matt. 10:32; Rom. 10:9-10). Jesus told lost souls to repent to be saved (Lk. 13:3, 5; Acts 17:30). Jesus told lost souls to be baptized to be saved (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:37-38). God expects lost souls to do some things to be saved. But, praying a sinner’s prayer is not one of them. Otherwise, we could read about it in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us be content with the gospel plan of salvation, believe in its power to save, and teach it to lost souls (Rom. 1:16-17).
12 For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. 13 Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, 14 knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. 15 Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease. (2 Peter 1:12–15, NKJV)
One of Peter’s goals in 2 Peter was to remind his fellow Christians they partook of the divine nature through “exceedingly great and precious promises” as they diligently made their “call and election sure” through spiritual growth and fruitfulness (2 Pet. 1:2-10). By doing so, they would enter the everlasting kingdom (2 Pet. 1:11). Note that Peter was not telling them a new message. They knew the “present truth” and were firm in it. He reminded them of these great truths so that after his death, they would continue to remember them and remain faithful. Teaching the gospel is not about hearing and telling some new thing like the Athenian philosophers (Acts 17:21). It is about telling “the old, old story” to each generation with repetition, clarity, and resolve. Like Peter, this present generation will die. May we continue to secure and arouse faith in our generation and the next by preaching the gospel truth that abides forever (1 Pet. 1:22-25).
As the USA celebrates Independence Day, the Savior’s statement in today’s passage rings especially true. Our history tells us that independence from tyranny’s oppression did not remove our responsibility to live under law as free men and women. It is a self-defeating premise and pursuit that declares liberty is freedom from the restraint of law. Free men and women understand and want the protection and constraints that law provides against evil (Rom 13:3-5). Those who seek good know that law serves good purposes (1 Tim. 1:8-11). Freedom from sin’s bondage, tyranny, and death is available through the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Obeying the gospel from the heart ends our slavery to sin, not so we can declare ourselves free from every restraint, but so we may become “slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18). The truth, the word of Jesus, marks the boundary of our liberty in Christ (2 Jno. 9; Gal. 1:6-10). We are “under the law of Christ” (1 Cor. 9:21, ESV). The gospel of Christ declares our freedom from sin and defines our life of freedom in Christ to serve righteousness according to His word of truth.
1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. 2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. (Galatians 5:1–2, NKJV)
Sinners are freed from sin by Jesus Christ (John 8:36). Christ frees us from sin when we believe and obey His gospel from the heart (Rom. 6:17-18). However, freedom in Christ does not mean freedom from living by the very gospel pattern (“form of doctrine,” Rom. 6:17) that frees us from sin. Liberty in Christ is not carte blanche to decide what is truth for ourselves (truth is not self-defined). Liberty in Christ freed Jews and Gentiles from the “yoke of bondage” produced by trying to be “justified by law,” as illustrated by demanding the circumcision of the flesh for salvation (Gal. 5:3-4). The plan of salvation, what is moral, what is sound doctrine, true worship, and everything else that “accords with godliness” must harmonize with the revealed gospel of Christ (1 Tim. 6:3; 2 Tim. 1:13). We are free from sin in Christ to live by the light of His truth and have fellowship with God (1 Jno. 1:5-7). The liberty to which the gospel calls us is not “an opportunity for the flesh” (Gal. 5:13). Put plainly, liberty in Christ does not permit us to practice sin (see Gal. 5:16-26, where Paul explains this). Liberty in Christ compels us to live by “faith working through love” by “obeying the truth” of the gospel (Gal. 5:6-7; Jno. 8:31-32).
17 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” (John 10:17–18, NKJV)
Jesus did not commit suicide by laying down His life. He sacrificed His life in obedience to the Father’s command. And by His power, He would come back to life (Jno. 11:25). No one took His life against His will. Jesus did not resist arrest in Gethsemane, although He could (Matt. 26:52-53). He yielded to the unjust trials before the Jewish Sanhedrin, Herod, and the Roman governor. He endured mocking ridicule, humiliation, and scourging’s trauma. Without resistance, He was nailed to a cross and executed condemn sin and to draw sinners to Himself for salvation (Jno. 12:31-33). The good news of His death and resurrection gives tremendous answers to those who contemplate suicide. Jesus gives help to the helpless who face sin’s heartache and loss (Heb. 2:14-18; 4:15-16). He gives peace and joy to the hapless, whose misery seems unbearable (Rom. 5:1-2; Acts 16:25-34). He gives a new birth and living hope to the hopeless (1 Pet. 1:3). If you are in despair to the point of considering suicide, seek help immediately. And, hear the gospel call to come to Jesus Christ for salvation from your sins. Because Jesus died for you, you can live with help, comfort, and hope in Him. In Christ, death is swallowed up in eternal victory (1 Cor. 15:54-58).
15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15–16, NKJV)
This passage is not difficult to understand. Yet, it undergoes no end of abuse at the hands of those who refuse its teaching on how the gospel saves sinners. Christ’s commission to the apostles is forthright: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (v. 15). The gospel is for all, and the apostles made known its power to save “to all nations” (Rom. 1:16; 16:25-26; Col. 1:23). Responses to the gospel and their corresponding results are stated candidly in verse 16. The person who believes the gospel and is baptized will be saved from sin, but the person who does not believe the gospel will be condemned in sin. Believing the gospel of Christ compels one to be baptized to be saved. Yet, controversy arises over whether water baptism is necessary for salvation. Jesus said it is. Why? Because “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” and cannot justify the sinner (Jas. 2:17, 24). Water baptism is faith at work as one submissively obeys Christ’s command (Acts 2:37-38; 10:34-35). Obedient faith does not earn salvation (Lk. 17:10). When the believer obeys the gospel, God frees that person from sin’s bondage to become a slave of righteousness (Rom. 6:17-18). Belief and baptism are essential to be saved. Unbelief is condemned. Instead of arguing with Jesus, we plead with the lost to believe and be baptized to be saved.
16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (Galatians 5:16–18, NKJV)
What we crave determines what we follow, where we walk, where we live. The apostle Paul has contrasted the Spirit’s gospel with the law of Moses throughout his epistle to the Galatians (2:16-21; 3:1-3, 19-25); 4:21-31; 5:1-5). Disciples of Christ crave (lust) the Spirit’s direction and influence in their lives. Thus, they live by the gospel of Christ that the Holy Spirit revealed, inspired, and confirmed (Gal. 1:6-12). Paul makes a compelling argument that being led by the law of Moses places confidence in the flesh (v. 18; Gal. 3:3). The question we must ask ourselves is whether we yearn to be led by the Spirit of God through the gospel of Jesus, or do we lust after the flesh. We cannot crave and follow them both. Paul’s warning against craving the flesh and its works is clear: “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21). His counterpoint is equally evident: those who have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts bear the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-24). We live (have spiritual life) “in the Spirit,” therefore, we must also “walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25). And, lest we miss the point, “obeying the truth” is how we walk in and are led by the Spirit (Gal. 5:6-7; 3:1-2).
1 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. (1 Timothy 2:1–2, NKJV)
Paul began a series of exhortations to Timothy with an appeal to pray “for all men.” Jesus had taught to “pray for those who spitefully use you” as an expression of loving your enemies (Lk. 6:27-28). That is not easy to do, but it is the very essence of loving our neighbor as ourselves. Since love focuses on others rather than itself, therein lies the answer to how we can faithfully do this. We need to pray for those who have rule and authority over us. The reasons are apparent (yet Paul reminds Timothy and us of them). Their decisions impact many lives, including Christians. God desires us to lead peaceful lives, flavored with godliness, and infused with reverence. Therefore, supplicate (entreaty) God for them. Solicit God on their behalf for truth, wisdom, and justice to guide them in the affairs of state. Petition the Ruler of rulers, interceding for them through earnest prayers and thoughtful thanks. Paul reminds us that God desires the salvation of all people (1 Tim. 2:3-4). Therefore, let us diligently pray for leaders (and all others) so that an atmosphere that enhances the cause of the gospel may prevail on the earth.
8 To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. (Ephesians 3:8–12, NKJV)
The gospel Paul preached reveals the “unsearchable riches of Christ” for all the world to see. In it, salvation from sin is available to all “by grace…through faith” (v. 8; Eph. 2:8). The gospel Paul preached reveals God’s purposes for the redemption of sinners in Christ (v. 9). The gospel Paul preached reveals the importance of the church (v. 10-11). First, because “by the church,” God’s many-sided wisdom is made known to the unseen realms (v. 10; 1 Pet. 1:10-12). Second, because it is crucial to God’s “eternal purpose” fulfilled in Christ (v. 11). The church is not an afterthought of God. The gospel Paul preached reveals our bold and confident access through faith in Christ into every spiritual blessing of God (v. 12, Eph. 1:3). The gospel is truly the wisdom and power of God (1 Cor. 1:24). The church (the redeemed) is the product of the gospel (Acts 2:47). The church is important to God. It must be important to us.
“But wisdom is justified by all her children.” (Luke 7:35, NKJV)
The scribes and Pharisees rejected John the Baptist and Jesus, accusing John of having a demon and Jesus of being a glutton, a winebibber, and a friend of sinners. They rejected John’s baptism, and they crucified Jesus (Lk. 7:28-34). They had their reasons, and they felt justified in them (cf. Lk. 22:66-23:2). But, the people, “even the tax collectors, justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John” (Lk. 7:29). They had their reasons, too, and they felt justified in them. You see, wisdom has children. And, her children will always justify (validate, defend as right) their mother (the wisdom they follow). The wisdom of the world produces children who are darkened in understanding, blinded in heart, and alienated from God in unbelief (Eph. 4:17-18; Rom. 1:20-23). But, they have their reasons for rejecting Jesus and His gospel truth – and they feel justified by them. The gospel of Christ (the wisdom of God) bears children who are faithful, humble, obedient disciples (1 Cor. 1:18-25; 4:14-15; Jas. 3:13, 17-18). In this sense, the call of the gospel is a call to decide which wisdom we will follow. Whichever wisdom you choose, you will have your reasons for following it – right or wrong. Only the power and wisdom from God will save us and secure us in Christ (1 Cor. 1:23-24; 3:18-20). So, choose God’s wisdom. Because truly, “wisdom is justified by all her children.”