24 And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved. 25 So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, 26 saying, ‘Go to this people and say: “Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand; And seeing you will see, and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them”’ (Acts 28:24–27, NKJV).
Why do some people readily respond to the gospel of salvation? Why do some people reject the gospel and refuse to believe it? The answer is not due to any deficiency in the gospel itself. The gospel is not a distant, inaccessible, and undiscernible message. It has been preached openly to the world (Rom. 10:6-8; Eph. 3:3-5). The answer lies in the heart of the hearer. Isaiah wrote of the dull hearts, heavy ears, and closed eyes of Israel (Isa. 6:9-10). Jesus applied the prophet’s words to His generation (Matt. 13:13-15; 15:7-9). Christ also taught parables that illustrated hard hearts that prevent the gospel’s penetration and saving power (Matt. 13:18-19). Do not marvel when the truth of the gospel is rejected, scorned, and denounced. The problem is not the word of salvation; it is the solution (Rom. 1:16). Honest and good hearts receive the word of God, “keep it and bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15).
5 Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. 6 Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ (Deuteronomy 4:5–6, NKJV)
Through Moses, the Lord repeatedly exhorted Israel “to be careful to observe” His commandments (Deut. 5:1, 32; 6:3). Was careful obedience only reserved for Israel because God commanded them from Mt. Sinai (Deut. 4:13-14)? No, the Lord God has always expected people to obey His commands, promising blessings to the obedience and warning the disobedient of punishment (Gen. 2:16-17; Exod. 20:5-6). God’s desire and expectation that we obey Him remains true under the new covenant, the gospel of Christ. For instance, Jesus expects those who call Him “Lord, Lord” to do what He says (Luke 6:46). We must do the will of the Father to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 7:21). Christ is the “author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:9). But “to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish” (Rom. 2:8-9). No wonder Paul commended Timothy for carefully following “good doctrine” from the apostle (1 Tim. 4:6; 2 Tim. 3:10). God blesses obedience and punishes disobedience. This truth abides forever.
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.
14 Now for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be burdensome to you; for I do not seek yours, but you. For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. 15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved. But be that as it may, I did not burden you. (2 Corinthians 12:14–16, NKJV)
Paul laid up spiritual treasures for his children in the faith by diligently teaching, admonishing, and equipping the Corinthians Christians to live faithfully. Paul had delayed his plans to return to Corinth, which was all his detractors needed to think and say the worst about him (1 Cor. 16:5-7; 2 Cor. 1:15-18; 2:1). Despite being loved less, he would continue to “spend and be spent” for their souls. Here is a word of exhortation to gospel preachers. Do not be deterred when others criticize you for preaching the word of God (2 Tim. 3:10-12). Do not be distracted when you are assigned improper motives for proclaiming the gospel. Preach God’s word with the urgency that truth and its power to save demands (2 Tim. 4:2; Rom. 1:15-16). Some will not accept the sting of sound doctrine and charge you with wrongdoing when you deliver God’s truth. Some may even lie in wait and try to catch you in something you say (Lk. 11:53-54). They may try to make you the problem. Do not be silenced (2 Tim. 2:9-10). Always be motivated by love for the saints and the lost. Incur the cost (“spend and be spent”), bear the burden, and declare the whole counsel of God without fear or favor (Acts 20:27; 2 Tim. 4:5).
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 3, NKJV)
If we believe the Scriptures apply to us today, then we have been exhorted to “contend earnestly for the faith” along with the first-century saints who were “called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ” (Jude 1). Contending for the faith is not disconnected from our common salvation; it is integral to it. Failure to do so gives license to “ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness” and by their errors “deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). False doctrine destroys our common salvation in Christ. Therefore, we must agonize intensely (“contend earnestly”) for the faith, the gospel of our salvation (Eph. 1:13). We do not “contend earnestly” for political parties to save souls. Sin in politics ought to be exposed (Eph. 5:11). We do not “contend earnestly” for human wisdom to save souls. Sin in academia ought to be exposed (1 Cor. 3:18-21). We do not contend for an exclusively “positive” gospel that refuses to save souls by reproving and rebuking sin (2 Tim. 4:2-4). Declaring the “whole counsel of God” means we do not give quarter to sin wherever it is because souls are at stake, including ours (Acts 20:26-27). Join the struggle and hold up the hands of those who contend earnestly for the faith (1 Tim. 6:12).
15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. (Philippians 1:15–17, NKJV)
When early Christians were persecuted for their faith, they “went everywhere, preaching the word” (Acts 8:1-4). To “preach Christ” means more than telling about the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The gospel they preached was “the word of the cross,” all of Christ’s truth, the “whole counsel of God” (1 Cor. 1:18-25; Gal. 1:6-9; Acts 20:27; 2 Tim. 4:2-4). Paul knew some did not preach Christ from pure hearts and genuine faith (Phil. 1:12-18). Still, he rejoiced that Christ was preached even when he suffered from these pretenders (Phil. 1:18). In today’s passage, the apostle gives us motives markers for preaching Christ. Our hearts will be judged as well as the content of our message when we preach Christ. The apostle notes that sound gospel preaching includes: 1) Boldness to speak the word without fear (1:14); 2) Goodwill, not envy and strife (1:15); 3) Sincerely (honestly), without selfish ambition or harm to others (1:16); 4) Out of love for God and His truth, for brethren, and the lost (1:17); 5) In truth, not pretense (1:18). When we teach the gospel, let us maintain godly motives. Otherwise, we are little more than “sounding brass or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1).
2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; 3 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, 4 that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. 5 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. (Colossians 4:2–6, NKJV)
Paul urged Christians to rely on the power of prayer and divine providence to spread the gospel. Thankful hearts are alert to blessings from God’s hand (v. 2). Trusting in God’s foresight and provisions, we pray for open doors (access, opportunity) for God’s word to reach hearts and lives. We pray for those who walk through those doors and teach others (3). Paul relied on brethren praying for him. Although in prison, he yearned for their prayers so that he (and they) would use wisdom in speaking the gospel to the lost. While God opens doors for the gospel, we must be wise, prudent, and gracious in choosing our words. Time is precious, so use it properly. Doors of spiritual opportunity are too often closed by impulsive words and unwise actions. So, let us work on aligning our motive (“to answer each one”) with well-placed, gracious words of truth. When we do, we trust God will work through us for His glory (Phil. 2:12-13).
18 For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, 19 for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. (Hebrews 7:18–19, NKJV)
The “former commandment” is “the law” given at Mt. Sinai to Israel. God annulled (set aside, abolished) that law because it was powerless to perfect (complete) the one who comes to God. The law served its purpose of identifying sin (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:19). It sought to rein in Israel’s sinful conduct by teaching her holiness and the divine blessings that come from obeying God (Deut. 4:13-14; 8:1). But that covenant was temporary and “made nothing perfect” (Gal. 3:19-25). The law did not have the power to redeem souls from sin; it could not save the lost (Heb. 10:1-4, 11). It was a “shadow of the good things to come” in Jesus Christ (Heb. 10:1). Christ and His gospel (not the “former commandment”) bring a better hope to those who draw near to God for forgiveness. We dare not go back to the law of Moses to justify our worship and service to God today. To do so forfeits the grace that is in Christ (Gal. 5:3-4; 1:6-9). Remember, we are not saved by the “shadow” (the first covenant) but by the “substance” of the covenant of Christ (Heb. 10:1-4, 10-12).
27 All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You. 28 For the kingdom is the Lord’s, and He rules over the nations. (Psalm 22:27–28, NKJV)
King David looked beyond his rule over Israel to the kingdom over which his seed, the Messiah, would rule (Psa. 89:3-4, 34-36). The nations would turn to God and worship before Him (Matt. 8:11). Christ’s messengers, the apostles, called the nations to the Lord’s kingdom by preaching the gospel of the kingdom to the world (Isa. 2:2-3; Matt. 13:18-23; Acts 1:8; Rom. 1:1-7; 16:25-27). Preaching the same gospel continues to draw people of every nation to worship before the Lord and King, Jesus Christ (Acts 2:32-41). The church built by Jesus is the kingdom of prophecy (Matt. 16:18-19; Mk. 9:1; Col. 1:13-14). Christ the King adds lost souls to His church (His kingdom) when they believe and obey the gospel (Acts 2:40-41, 47). King David knew God rules over the nations of men (Psa. 22:28). We (and our rulers) do well to remember the Lord God is Sovereign of every nation, and He rules in the affairs of men (Dan. 4:25, 32, 35). History is a boneyard of kingdoms, weak and strong. God’s kingdom is the only one that endures (Dan. 2:44). The Son of God reigns today at God’s right hand in righteousness (Psa. 110:1-2; Acts 2:33; Heb. 1:8-9). The gospel calls us to bow our knee to Jesus to be blessed by Him with salvation. To fight against Him and His gospel brings inevitable, eternal defeat (Psa. 2:10-12; Rom. 2:4-11; 2 Thess. 1:6-10).
28 Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. 29 Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. (Acts 10:28–29, NKJV)
God separated Israel from the nations and codified that distinction in the law of Moses (Exo. 19:5-6; Deut. 7:1-11). That “middle wall of separation” was broken down in Christ (Eph. 2:14). God taught Peter the nations (Gentiles) were included in His redemptive plan by a dramatic vision. Clean and unclean animals were lowered in a sheet from heaven, and a voice told Peter, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat” (Acts 10:9-17). Peter drew the necessary conclusion not to call people “common or unclean.” That truth should permeate our thinking, words, and our treatment of others. Here are some lessons to ponder and apply. 1) The gospel is for all. Sin has defiled all of us (Rom. 3:23). Everyone needs sin’s stain cleansed by Christ (Rom. 1:16; Acts 22:16). Let us share the gospel so others may believe and turn to the Lord (Acts 11:21). 2) Prejudice has no place in the heart and life of Christians. God looks at the heart, not the outward appearance (skin color, ethnicity, gender, culture, caste, etc.) (1 Sam. 16:7). Grievous errors in judgment happen when based on appearance (Jno. 7:24; Prov. 18:13). 3) Obey God without objection (v. 29). When God has spoken, we listen and obey without resistance and complaint (1 Sam. 3:10). Christians must not murmur against the Lord’s will like Israel did in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10:10). Peter’s example of learning and obeying God’s will continues to encourage us.