10 Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; But he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him. 11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous; And shout for joy, all you upright in heart (Psalm 32:10–11, NKJV)!
David concealed his sins from others but could not hide them from God (Ps. 32:3; 2 Sam. 11-12). His futile effort caused distress to the depth of his soul (Ps. 32:3-4). Only when he acknowledged his sin to God did he find relief when God concealed (forgave) his transgression (Ps. 32:5, 1-2; 2 Sam. 12:13). Even now, sorrow attends the wicked, but God’s mercy surrounds those who trust in the Lord (Ps. 32:10). Jesus will give you rest from sin’s burden when you come to Him (Matt. 11:28). Forgiveness in Christ is available, and God wants to save you (Acts 10:34-35; 1 Tim. 2:3-4). When God forgives us, sorry is turned to gladness (Ps. 32:11). Our faith is accounted for righteousness when we (like David) act in faith, repent before God, and obey the gospel from the heart (Rom. 4:5-8; 6:17-18). Come to the Lord in faith and follow His gospel to be saved from your sins (Acts 2:37-41). Christians are privileged and eager to praise God daily with joy and gladness for His merciful grace in Jesus Christ. Trust in the Lord, and His mercy will envelop you. Freed from the burden and death of sin, you may “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice” (Phil. 4:4)!
3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2 Corinthians 4:3–4, NKJV).
We must keep our eyes open and our lives illuminated by the light of the gospel lest Satan (the “god of this age”) blind us with his deceptions, and we perish in sin and darkness. He has already blinded unbelievers with his lies. The devil is real and active in this world, seeking his prey (Job 1:7; 2:2; 1 Pet. 5:8). Man has long ago mythologized Satan, turning him into merely a personification of evil. Sufficiently fictionalized and caricatured, the devil is undoubtedly pleased with being discounted as the figment of human imagination. For example, the Satanic Temple, sees “Satan as a metaphor for fighting religious tyranny and oppression” (Tarkus Claypool, from “An After School Satan Club could be coming to your kid’s elementary school,” The Washington Post, 2016). (See “After School Satan Club” for more.) Satan (“adversary”) is opposed to God and man (Gen. 3:4-5; Job 1:6-12; Matt. 4:1-11; 1 Pet. 5:8). The devil (“accuser”) is a liar who deceives the whole world (John 8:44; Rev. 12:9). We can resist his enticements in faith (James 1:12-14; 1 Cor. 10:13; Heb. 4:14-16). Jesus Christ has destroyed the works of the devil (sin and death, 1 John 3:8; 1 Cor. 15:54-57). Christians overcome Satan in Christ by the blood of the Lamb, the word of God, and self-denial (Rev. 12:10-11). God crushes Satan under the feet of His faithful ones who walk in “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (Rom. 16:19-20; 2 Cor. 4:4).
1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God (Romans 10:1–3, NKJV).
Israel was lost. Only the gospel of Christ, not the Law of Moses, would save them (Rom. 1:16; Acts 4:12). Therefore Paul, himself a Jew who previously persecuted Christians, earnestly desired and prayed for their salvation. He was convinced their zeal for God did not save them. Misguided by their allegiance to the Law, they refused to submit to God’s plan of salvation. Even now, many religious people who are zealous for God contradict the gospel in their zeal (Matt. 7:21-23). We should not confuse passion for God with God’s approval. Scripture says God wants sinners to be saved and “to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). God will not save us from our sins when we are ignorant of the truth of Christ (John 8:24). The example of Israel warns us not to establish our own way of salvation like they did (“their own righteousness,” Rom. 10:3). They believed their salvation was through the Law of Moses and rejected “the righteousness of faith” revealed in the gospel (Rom. 10:4-8). We must be careful not to make a similar error. We must submit to God’s righteousness by faith in Christ and obedience to His gospel (Rom. 10:3, 9-13; 6:17-18). Then we can be confident of our salvation, regardless of whether we are a Jew or a Gentile (Rom. 8:1-2; Gal. 3:26-29).
Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36, NKJV).
Why did the house of Israel crucify Jesus? The Messiah they longed for came to them, and Israel rejected Him (John 1:11). The fundamental reason the rulers and the mob crucified the Lord of glory was their unbelief (1 Cor. 2:7-9; Matt. 27:23-25). They did not believe Christ’s report (message) even after seeing His works (Isa. 53:1; John 12:37-40; 5:31-47). Neither did they believe the prophets who foretold of the Messiah (John 5:39-40; Luke 4:16-29). Notably, Peter said, “Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers” (Acts 3:17). They were without knowledge (ignorant), not because the truth was unavailable to them, but because they chose to ignore it. The house of Israel ignored the truth of God and crucified the Savior in their unbelief. (1) They ignored the prophets (Acts 3:18). They ignored the words of Jesus (John 8:37-47). (3) They ignored the works of Jesus (John 10:31-39). Even many rulers who believed refused to confess Jesus to avoid being rejected by men (John 12:42-43). We point out Israel’s unbelief to warn the Israel of God (the church, Gal. 6:16; 1 Tim. 3:15; 1 Pet. 2:4-5). Christians can develop evil hearts of unbelief and fall from the living God (Heb. 3:12). When we sin willfully “after we have received the knowledge of the truth,” a “certain fearful expectation of judgment” and “fiery indignation” awaits (Heb. 10:26-27, 31). Ignorance is not a justifiable defense. Do not ignore the Messiah and His gospel. “Repent and be converted,” and live faithfully to Christ each day (Acts 3:19; 2:37-42).
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).
In today’s passage, walking in the Spirit is equivalent to being led by the Spirit (v. 16, 18). Being led by the Spirit is a matter of free will, a choice to live by faith. The Spirit does not force Himself upon anyone. Being led by the Spirit is tantamount to living in the Spirit. By crucifying the flesh with its passions and bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-25). Again, this is a choice of faith we make, a life we choose to live. The Spirit of God leads Christians when we hear (and obey) the gospel (the faith, Gal. 3:1-2; 1:11, 23). The Holy Spirit revealed the gospel, confirmed its validity through miracles, and inspired its proclamation (Heb. 2:1-4; Eph. 3:3-5). When we follow the Scriptures, we are following the Spirit of God. Do not expect the Spirit to act upon you in some way distinct from His word. He is speaking through His word to you and me. We walk in the Spirit when we submit to the gospel of Christ (Rom. 8:1-2, 5-8). See this choice of faith to follow the word of God and live by the Spirit in Romans 8:13, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” We are alive in Christ and are led by the Spirit when we choose to live according to the gospel He revealed.
30 Then He said, “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? 31 It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; 32 but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade” (Mark 4:30–32, NKJV).
There are many speculative and erroneous anticipations about the kingdom of God. Jesus described the nature of God’s kingdom (not of this world, spiritual, John 18:36) and when it would be established (before His generation passed away, Mark 9:1). To look for the kingdom’s future coming misunderstands and misapplies “the gospel of the kingdom of God” Jesus preached (Mark 1:14). The kingdom Jesus preached and established is His church (Matt. 16:18-19). Today’s parable pictures the growth of God’s kingdom. Despite its humble beginnings (like the tiny mustard seed, it would fill the earth (Isa. 2:1-4; Dan. 2:35; Matt. 28:19-20). Its humble start is in keeping with the humility of Jesus its king (Zech. 9:9; Mark 11:1-10). The kingdom’s seed, the word of God, is planted in good hearts that bear good fruit (Mark 4:14, 20). The kingdom of God did not come with military might and fanfare. It comes is within the hearts and lives of those who receive its gospel (Luke 17:20-21). From Pentecost in Acts 2 (through gospel preaching), the kingdom spread from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). Human armies do not defeat this kingdom; it is enduring, unshakeable (Heb. 12:28). All who receive the word of the kingdom (the gospel) and hold it fast obtain salvation, divine comfort, and the eternal provisions of citizenship in the kingdom of God (Col. 1:13-14; Eph. 1:3; Phil. 3:20).
31 Then He went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and was teaching them on the Sabbaths. 32 And they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority (Luke 4:31–32, NKJV).
Jesus taught in the synagogues of Galilee with the fellowship and endorsement of the Spirit of God (Luke 4:14, 18-21). His teaching so enraged the Nazarenes they tried to kill Him (Luke 4:23-29). Yet, those who heard Him testified and marveled at His “gracious words” (Luke 4:22). In Capernaum, people were astonished at the authority of His words (cf. Matt. 7:29). The Jewish leaders marveled when they heard Him teach in the temple. “How does this Man know letters, having never studied,” they said (John 7:14-15). Jesus spoke what the Father gave Him to teach (John 7:16). His words were authoritative because He spoke heaven’s words (John 12:49-50). Titus, the evangelist, was to teach the gospel “with all authority” (Titus 2:15). These men were not certified by the scribes and lawyers of the day. (The apostles were “uneducated and untrained,” Acts 4:13.) Yet, men presume to have the authority to maintain seminaries to certify a person as acceptable (having authority) to preach and minister the gospel. (Only credentialed preachers will do.) Sadly, some churches of Christ seem to trend in the same direction. (Only the credentialed preacher will do for their pulpits.) It makes you wonder whether a simple fisherman (like Peter) could stand in some pulpits today. The preacher’s authority does not come from himself, other men, or credentials earned from men. The gospel preacher speaks by heaven’s authority (1 Tim. 4:11; 5:7). We do well to remember that and humble ourselves before the authority of God and His word instead of men (Gal. 1:11-12; 1 Cor. 14:37).
Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not (Luke 3:15, NKJV).
John was not the Messiah. He came to “prepare the way of the Lord” (Luke 3:4; Isa. 40:3). As the Lord’s messenger, John preached “a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins,” preparing hearts for the Lord’s coming (Mal. 3:1; Mark 1:4; Luke 1:17). He was the promised Elijah (Mal. 4:5-6; Matt. 11:7-10; 17:10-13). John’s work excited the people’s expectations of the Messiah (Luke 3:15). Sadly, those expectations were often misguided. Many looked for a military leader to deliver Israel from Rome (John 6:15, 26; Luke 24:21). Others expected Him to support the traditions they bound (Mark 7:1-13). What are your expectations of Christ? (1) Some expect faith in Christ to bring them wealth and health (the prosperity gospel); A perverted gospel (1 Cor. 4:11-13; 2 Cor. 12:7-10). Many faithful ones are impoverished (Heb. 11:37-38). (2) Some expect Christ’s grace to allow them to continue living in sin; A perverted gospel (Rom. 5:21-6:2). Grace will not abound when we continue in sin. (3) Some expect Christ to save them by faith only; A perverted gospel (Mark 16:15-16; Heb. 5:8-9). An obedient faith saves, not faith only (James 2:24). (4) Some expect Christ to save them because of their sincere conscience; A perverted gospel (Rom. 10:2). The blood of Christ washes away sins, not sincerity (Acts 23:1; 26:9; 22:16). (5) We should expect Christ to bring salvation to sinners without the doctrines of men. He does (Acts 4:12; 10:34-43; Rom. 1:16-17; Gal. 1:6-12; Col. 2:20-23). Expect Jesus to save you when you believe and follow Him (John 8:12, 31-32; Matt. 7:21-23).
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place (Acts 2:1, NKJV).
The second chapter of Acts records a transformative moment, a pivotal point in the Scriptures. The Day of Pentecost was also known as the Feast of Weeks (Num. 28:26; Deut. 16:10), the Feast of Harvest (Exod. 23:16), and the day of the first fruits (Num. 28:26). This Pentecost would be a day of harvesting souls, the first fruits of the gospel. Many “first” things happened that day. (1) It was the first day of the week (Lev. 23:15-16). The first day of each week continues to call saints to assembled worship (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; Heb. 10:25). (2) The apostles preached the first gospel sermon opening the way to salvation. They used the keys of the kingdom, opening the door to salvation for sinners (Matt. 16:19; 18:18; Acts 2:40). (3) Sinners heard the plan of salvation for the first time. The apostles told those who believed the gospel to repent and be baptized to be forgiven of their sins (Acts 2:36-38). (4) The first gospel conversions took place. About three thousand did so and were saved (Acts 2:40-41). Christ still saves souls this way. (5) The first church came into existence that day. The church of Christ came into being. The Jerusalem church increased daily as the Lord added saved ones to His church (Acts 2:47). After Pentecost, Acts 2 records the first kingdom worship of the church (Acts 2:42) and the first acts of church benevolence (Acts 2:44-45). Acts 2 records the fulfillment of kingdom prophecies from Psalm 2, Isaiah 2, Joel 2, Daniel 2, and many more. Acts 2 has been called the hub of the Bible. Indeed.
2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:2–3, NKJV)
Christ’s apostle boldly described those who perverted the gospel (i.e., false brethren) by demanding Gentiles keep the law of Moses to be saved; They were false brethren (Acts 15:5; Gal. 2:4-5; 5:4). For emphasis, Paul gave one warning three times. (1) Beware of dogs (v. 2). Feral dogs lived in packs, scavenging for food (Ps. 59:6; 1 Kings 14:11). We must be alert against false teachers who attack and consume souls (Gal. 1:6-10; Jude 4). (2) Beware of evil workers (v. 2). Their works are wicked; Do not give them quarter (Ps. 119:115; Phil. 2:18-19). (3) Beware of the mutilation (v. 2). The doctrine of binding circumcision for salvation did nothing to remove sin because it was only a physical incision. By contrast, Christians (whether Jews or Gentiles) are “the circumcision” (the covenant people of God, whose hearts are circumcised, Rom. 2:28-29; Col. 2:11-13). Next, Paul gave three counterbalancing descriptions of Christians. (1) Christians worship God in the Spirit (v. 3). The word “worship” denotes service to God. We serve God according to the truth that the Spirit revealed, not by the error of the “dogs” (Gal. 3:1-3; 5:5-6). (2) Christians rejoice in Christ Jesus (v. 3). We have joy in Christ and do not take pleasure in evil things (Phil. 3:1; 4:4; Rom. 12:15). (3) Christians have no confidence in the flesh (v. 3). Our salvation in Christ does not depend on physical pedigree, performance, and promotion. Paul refused to trust in such things (Phil. 3:4-7). Brethren, be alert to error and those who teach it. Serve God with the confidence of the truth of the gospel.