By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. (Hebrews 11:30, NKJV)
This is an enlightening statement about the nature of faith that pleases God. We must remember the inspired scribe had earlier stated, “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). We cannot please God without the kind of faith by which the walls of Jericho fell. (And, when we do, we have earned nothing; we have put our faith in God to save us in His Son.) The historical account of Jericho is in Joshua 6, where the Lord said to Joshua, “See! I have given Jericho into your hand” (Joshua 6:2, 16). God’s grace was on full display as He gave the city as a gift to Israel. Still, Israel did not receive this gift from God until they had encircled Jericho for seven days as the Lord the way God commanded. They obeyed God by faith, and the walls fell (Joshua 6:12-20). This is how God saves sinners today “by grace…through faith” (Ephesians 2:8-9). God is the Giver of salvation to all who believe the Son. And, we learn in Hebrews 11:30 that our belief pleases God when we obey His word (Luke 6:46; Matthew 7:21). To be saved, one must obey Jesus, who commands sinners to believe, to confession faith, to repent and to be baptized (John 8:24; Romans 10:9-10; Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 17:30; 2:37-38; 22:16). Sinners who obey God are saved by grace because their faith pleases God.
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 4:5–6, NKJV)
Wisdom is the application of known truth, at the right time and in the right measure. It is the use of spiritual discernment, in love and knowledge, to advance the excellent things of righteousness that glorify God and approve us in His sight (Philippians 1:9-11). When we flavor our words with graciousness we walk in wisdom by making the most of our opportunities toward the lost. Like food seasoned with salt, wisdom learns when and how to answer those who are outside of Christ (as well as fellow Christians) so that our opportunity to teach and persuade others is maximized. Put simply, we have an obligation to give gracious answers to others. Wisdom knows this, and helps us speak so as to enhance, not disrupt, our chance to communicate truth to others. Unless we season our words with grace we fail to redeem our opportunity to help someone follow Jesus.
13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. (John 15:13–14, NKJV)
The sacrificial quality of love is unsurpassed. It is this love that prompted the death of Jesus and provided the world our only means of redemption (Romans 5:8-10; 1 John 4:8-10). The question for us to ponder is whether we have the love it takes to be a friend of Jesus. We hear much about needing Jesus as our friend. True, and He has shown the measure of His loving friendship by His death. Now, do we show the measure of our friendship to Him? We are not His friends when we disobey Him. It is quite ironic that many who speak loud and long about being friends with Jesus refuse His clear commands. For example, many reject His command to believe and be baptized to be saved in Mark 16:16, and yet claim friendship with Him. How can that be? Indeed, they say any necessary obedience nullifies God’s grace. If true, then we cannot be a friend to Jesus without denying His word and His grace! Our plea is to return to the simple harmony of gospel of salvation by grace, through faith. Salvation is an unearned, yet conditional gift (Ephesians 2:8-9). God receives sinners when we fear God and work righteousness; the gift is thus received (Acts 10:34-35). Are you a friend to Jesus? That is answered “yes” when you obey Him in faith.
Then the Lord said to Noah, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation. (Genesis 7:1, NKJV)
God called Noah and his family into the ark after Noah built the ark “according to all that God commanded him” (Genesis 6:22). Why was Noah allowed to enter the ark and saved from the impending flood? God said, “Because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation.” Does God see your righteousness? Some would have you believe there is no righteousness ever to be seen in men and women by contorting Isaiah 64:6, “all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.” Was Noah’s righteousness like filthy rags? Obviously not. Nor was it self-righteousness as in the Pharisee who trusted in himself (Luke 18:9-14). His was “the righteousness which is according to faith” (Hebrews 11:7). This is the kind of righteousness we must practice to be born of God and righteous in His sight (1 John 2:29; 3:7). God counts righteous the person who exercises obedient faith. Without such faith, there is no grace from God. Otherwise, all would have been allowed into the ark and saved from the flood. But, only the righteous are saved. Just like Noah and his family obeyed God and were saved through water, baptism “now saves us” (1 Peter 3:20-21). When you believe and obey the gospel of Christ, you will be saved and righteous – like Noah (Romans 10:10; 6:16).
So the people shouted when the priests blew the trumpets. And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. (Joshua 6:20, NKJV)
God gave Jericho to Israel by His grace (Joshua 6:2, 16). Yet, it was necessary that Israel obey in faith for the city walls to collapse (Joshua 6:3-5). Please notice that while the walls fell by God’s grace, the army of Israel still had to take the city. The edge of the sword was applied to this godless city after the walls fell (Joshua 6:21). Spiritual victories require us to fight to possess the Lord’s victories (Ephesians 6:10-13). We must be militant against the forces of evil to gain the victory of faith (2 Corinthians 10:3-5; 1 John 5:3-4). Today’s passage also reminds us our spiritual battle is right in front of us. We fight the good fight of faith alongside fellow Christians, exhorting and helping one another each day (Hebrews 12:12-13). We do this even as we engage in our own battles against temptation, trials and trouble. By grace through faith, victory in Christ is assured.
9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, 10 called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,” 11 of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. (Hebrews 5:9–11, NKJV)
The great truth that Jesus Christ is the sinless sacrifice by whom our eternal salvation is offered is fundamental to the gospel of His grace. It is also basic truth that He saves “all who obey Him” – obedience faith is necessary to be saved and go to heaven (Ephesians 2:8-9). Christ’s appointment by God as the High Priest of our confession to serve in heaven of God’s house is crucial to our redemption (Hebrews 3:1; 8:1-2). Understanding the nature and work of our High Priest enlivens our hope and sustains our diligent service to Him. Yet, like the Hebrew Christians, we may not be in a good position to learn these things. We become “dull of hearing” (difficult to teach) if we are not diligent hearers and doers of the word (James 1:21-25). Spiritual growth in Christ requires a heart that is open to Christ’s word and a life that is using His word “to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14). How’s your hearing?
3 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. 4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 3–4, NKJV)
Jude was eager to write to faithful brethren about “our common salvation.” But, an even more pressing need arose that required his immediate attention. His epistle gives a stern warning and a strong indictment of false teachers who had slipped in among them unnoticed. Their teaching was corrupting the grace of God, offering sinful abandon rather than the self-control of holiness. This was nothing less than a denial of God and our Lord Jesus Christ (v. 4). Please note, there is a common salvation and a singular faith that we must contend for and from which we must not deviate. Just as there is only one way of salvation, there is only one faith (Acts 4:12; Ephesians 4:5). The ecumenical movement is a direct assault on both of these gospel principles. Unless we contend (struggle intensely) for the gospel that was fully and finally delivered to the world by the apostles and prophets of Jesus, we have already abandoned our common salvation for the whims and impulses of men. The enemies of truth are afoot. Let us “fight the good fight of faith” and “lay hold on eternal life” (1 Timothy 6:12).