1 Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. (Isaiah 53:1–2, NKJV)
No doubt, many are drawn to others based on their physical features. Yet, we can fairly say that Jesus Christ was not particularly handsome. He had “no form or comeliness…no beauty that we should desire Him.” Unlike Saul, who was tall and handsome, God’s Anointed did not draw people to Himself because of his outward appearance (1 Sam. 9:1-2; 10:23-24). Christ does not gather a following like Absalom, who “stole the hearts of the men of Israel” with false humility and flattery (2 Sam. 15:5-6). It was David, a man after God’s own heart, who typified God’s suffering servant (1 Sam. 13:14; Psa. 89:3-4). God looks on the heart, not physical appearance (1 Sam. 16:7). So, what draws your attention to Christ and the gospel? Is it a large church building full of wealthy people? Maybe it is cathedrals or temples built by human hands? Furthermore, what are Christians using to draw people to Christ? It must always be the gospel, not things that appeal to the pride of the flesh. The Father draws sinners to Christ and salvation by hearing and learning His word, and so must we (Jno. 6:44-45).
6 Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; And to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:6–7, NKJV)
God is “not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27). Our sins separate us from God, not His lack of love, concern, power, or unwillingness to come to our aid (Isa. 59:1-2). Nothing within ourselves or in this present age can fill the void left in a life without God. The answer to life’s problems, pain, sin, and death is Jesus Christ (Jno. 14:6). God has arranged life on earth and revealed His word in the Bible so that we will seek Him and find Him (Acts 17:27). We must forsake the way of evil and the thoughts of unrighteousness. We must “return to the Lord,” and we do He will be merciful. Full pardon from God for our sins before Him and against others is His promise, fulfilled in Christ (Rom. 5:6-11). A life without God is a life forever groping for meaning and purpose, yet always falling short. But, life with God is full of mercy, forgiveness, and hope. Seek the Lord in Christ and His gospel, and you will find His mercy as well as meaning for your life (Matt. 7:7).
20 how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, 21 testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:20–21, NKJV)
The gospel has the power to save souls and change lives because it is the word of God (Rom. 1:16; 1 Thess. 2:13). Therefore, Paul did not hold back from teaching what would benefit his audiences, whether publicly or privately. In today’s passage, he summarized the powerful effect of the gospel. The gospel commands and produces repentance toward God (Acts 17:30). When received, it changes how we think and how we act toward God. Sin invariably corrupts our understanding of the true God (cf. Rom. 1:18-25). The gospel produces a change of how we think toward God, and consequently, toward sin (Acts 2:37-38). Like Paul, teaching the gospel means addressing how sin distorts our hearts toward God. The gospel equips us to have “faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” once we change our hearts toward God. The gospel teaches us to submit to the authority of Jesus because He is Lord (our Master, Ruler). The gospel teaches us Jesus is Christ (God’s anointed prophet, priest, and king), the Savior of the world. Any message that lessens the authority and the honor of the Lord Jesus Christ is not the gospel (Gal. 1:6-10). Let us not shrink back from teaching the gospel. It changes hearts and lives when fully proclaimed and fully received (Lk. 8:15).
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18–19, NKJV)
We are bombarded with bad news every day. Threats, corruption, wars, diseases, intrigue, and death; these are the daily headlines. Today’s citation was first given by the prophet Isaiah (Isa. 61:1-2). Jesus read it in a synagogue in Nazareth and said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk. 4:21). Jesus came announcing good news. He was anointed by God to preach the gospel and, by it, to proclaim the healing of hearts and liberty from sin’s captivity. His gospel assures the poor in spirit of the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:3). To blinded hearts, it gives sight (Jno. 9:35-41). His gospel proclaims freedom from sin’s oppression to all who believe and obey (Rom. 6:17-18). The gospel of Christ declares the presence of God’s favor and grace (“the acceptable year of the Lord”). God’s grace has appeared to everyone in Christ, offering forgiveness of sins and fellowship with the Almighty as it produces faith (Tit. 2:11-12; Rom. 10:17; Eph. 1:13). Do not be overwhelmed by all the bad news around us. Listen to the good news of Christ. It will save your soul and lift your heart heavenward every day.
7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:7–9, NKJV)
The apostles of Christ “did not follow cunningly devised fables” when they made known “the power and coming or our Lord Jesus Christ” – they were “eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Pet. 1:16; Mk. 9:2-7). In preaching the gospel, these eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ spoke the wisdom of God that was previously hidden from men. God set in place His plan to redeem people from sin before time (Eph. 1:3-14; 3:8-11). It did not originate in the heart of man or the minds of the rulers of men. They unwittingly participated in it when they crucified the Lord Jesus. The apostle Paul uses Isaiah 64:4 to affirm that God plans and executes His will to bless those who follow Him. The gospel is not the wisdom of men; it is the wisdom and mind of God. It has the power to save sinners (Rom. 1:16). Perverted gospels have the power of condemnation, not salvation (Gal. 1:6-10). We must turn to and rely on the revelation given the apostles of Christ – the New Testament of Christ – for our salvation from sin and to guide us in the way of righteous living unto eternal life (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Heb. 10:35-39).
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:23–26, NKJV)
Let that soak in for a moment. Our sins make us guilty before God and under His wrath. Our just punishment is eternal death (Rom. 1:18; 3:19; 6:23). But, God has provided an offering for our sins that appeases His wrath against sin (1 Jno. 2:2; 4:10). That offering is His Son, Jesus Christ. God’s grace justifies sinners by the blood of Christ (Rom. 3:24; 5:9). His blood appeases God’s wrath, redeeming us from sin’s bondage and death (Rom. 5:10; Heb. 10:1-10). The Law of Moses could not do this. God’s power to save sinners is in the gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16; 3:20-22). By the offering of His Son, God showed Himself to be just (innocent, holy) when He bore with previous sins (Rom. 3:26; Acts 17:30). Now, He commands all sinners everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30-31). Thus, God is vindicated. The death of Jesus shows God was just in forbearing with “sins that were previously committed.” And, His righteousness is seen in justifying those who have faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26). The faith (the gospel) produces personal faith that obeys the word of Christ (Rom. 1:16-17; 10:17; 6:17-18). Believing sinners obey Christ’s command to be baptized, which is into His death so their sins will be washed away by His blood (Mk. 16:16; Rom. 6:3; Acts 22:16).
33 And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots. (Luke 23:33–34, NKJV)
Crucifixion was a gruesome form of execution. Suspended between heaven and earth, Jesus hung in anguish for hours before death came. The innocent Son of God was tortured to death between two criminals who, admittedly, deserved their death sentence (Lk. 23:40-41). The merciful heart of Jesus is fully displayed even while He was being treated mercilessly. The Son of God is always ready to forgive our sins against Him. God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth,” including those who murdered the Son of God (1 Tim. 2:3-4). Were they saved the moment Jesus said this prayer? No. Those who killed Jesus had the gospel preached to them on Pentecost, and many of them believed it (Acts 2:22-36). They asked the apostles what they should do for having crucified the Lord and Christ, and were told to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:37-38). About 3,000 of them were forgiven when they received and obeyed that gospel message of salvation (Acts 2:41). It takes more to be forgiven than God wanting us to be saved. It takes more to be forgiven than wishing God to forgive us. It is when we believe, repent, and are baptized in the name Jesus Christ that God forgives our sins against Him and His Son.
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.
22 Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come— 23 that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles. (Acts 26:22–23, NKJV)
Christ came for the whole world (Jews and Gentiles). The apostles of Jesus testified what Moses and the prophets said would occur concerning the Christ was fulfilled in Jesus. Paul takes note of some primary things Moses and the prophets said about the Christ: 1) He would suffer (read Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53). Peter said of Jesus, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18). 2) He would rise from the dead (read Psalm 16:8-11). The resurrection of Jesus fulfilled this psalm (Acts 2:29-31). Jesus was the first – the beginning of the resurrection of all the dead (1 Cor. 15:20-22). 3) He would proclaim light to Jews and Gentiles (read Isaiah 42:1-7; 49:6). Through His gospel, Jesus lights the way of salvation for every soul on earth (Matt. 28:19; Acts 10:34-35). God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to suffer death for our sins, to be raised to exaltation for our salvation, and to light our way to eternal glory.