You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1, NKJV).
Paul’s deep love for Timothy is evident in his affectionate endearment for his young companion, “a beloved son” in the gospel (2 Tim. 1:2). As Paul’s death drew near, he encouraged Timothy to be strong in the grace of Christ. He would need this, as Paul did when “all those in Asia” and others turned away from him (2 Tim. 1:15; 4:10). Christians stand in grace, having accessed its salvation by faith (Rom. 5:1-2; Eph. 2:8-9). Like Timothy, we need to be strong in grace. Consider some applications for disciples of Christ. (1) Be strong in grace by teaching the gospel of grace. The gospel is the “word of His grace” (Acts 20:32, 24). Grace is forfeited when the gospel is perverted (Gal. 1:6-9; 5:4). Therefore, our gospel teaching must be accurate, in harmony with the grace of Christ and the teaching His word reveals (Titus 2:11-12). (2) Be strong in grace by living in Christ instead of sin. Being strong in grace means no longer living in sin (Rom. 6:1-2). It is no longer our habit. God’s grace fortifies us to serve God instead of sin (Rom. 6:11-16). (3) Be strong in grace by speaking what is needful. Our speech should “always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Col. 4:6). Take care to speak with grace and mercy toward others (cf. 2 Tim. 1:16-18). As Solomon said, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness” (Prov. 15:1-2). “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen” (1 Thess. 5:28).
17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen (2 Peter 3:17–18, NKJV).
It is essential to see the interdependent relationship between grace and knowledge in today’s passage. Peter’s summary draws attention to the truth his audience already knew (“since you know this beforehand,” v. 17) and warns against falling from their steadfast faith, led away by the error of the lawless. Growing in the “grace and knowledge of our Lord” protects us from being led away by error from the Lord (v. 18). Yes, God’s grace is greater than sin. But we cannot “continue in sin that grace may abound” (Rom. 5:20-6:1). (Grace is not a license to sin by teaching and following error.) Growing in grace is explained in Titus 2:11-14 as denying sin and living “soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.” So, growing in grace requires us to increase in our knowledge of “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). Good fruit results when we hear, know, and follow “the grace of God in truth” (Col. 1:5-6, 9-11). The gospel is “the word of His grace” that strengthens us and grants us our eternal inheritance (Acts 20:32). Therefore, we are strengthened by God’s grace as we grow in our knowledge of His word (2 Tim. 2:1-2). Grace and knowledge are not opponents. They work together, bringing glory to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as they equip us to share in His glory (Col. 3:4).
7 “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:7–8, NKJV).
While continuing to address the correct motive of prayer (v. 7; Matt. 6:5-6), Jesus turns our attention to the method of prayer. How we pray (method) will align itself with why we pray (motive). The pagans repetitively ritualize prayer to their gods. Such prayers are nothing more than empty phrases of useless babblings. Like the false prophets who called on the name of Baal, vainly repeated prayers in the name of the Lord are void of meaning and efficacy (1 Kings 18:26). Ritualized prayers may have a form of godliness, but they deny it power (2 Tim. 3:5). Ironically, millions vainly repeat in ritualized worship the model prayer Jesus is about to teach (Matt. 6:9-13), the very thing Jesus warned against doing. Our Father knows our needs, anxieties, pains, struggles, joys, and so much more. He knows our requests before we bring them to Him in prayer. As a result, our Father receives and responses favorably when we come to His throne of grace with words of reverent humility, not rehearsed blather (v. 8; James 4:6; 1 Pet. 3:12). Don’t pray like the heathens. Pray like a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.
5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:5–6, NKJV).
Why do you pray? The Lord knows the reasons and motives of our prayers; He is the One who “knows the hearts of all” (Acts 1:24). Jesus knew many people pray so others will view them as religious and pious. They choose conspicuous places to petition heaven’s throne. Their desire (to be seen by men), once achieved, is their only reward. Citizens of the kingdom of heaven understand prayer to be intimate communication with their heavenly Father. It is a time to pour out thanks, adoration, petitions, and pleas to the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16). There we find the divine assurance of mercy, solace, and peace. Our Father is in private places. He sees, hears, and openly rewards our humble prayers (Phil. 4:6-7). Prayer is not a ritual; it is a retreat to commune with our Father. Keep pure motives when you pray. God sees the purpose of our prayers, so seek His approval when praying to Him. Remember, it is God who answers our prayers, not people. So pray to be seen by your heavenly Father.
5 …and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:5–8, NKJV).
God is ready, willing, and able for us to cast our cares on Him. But how do we do that? When facing trials and trouble, we often hear it said, “Just give it to the Lord.” But, how? Today’s verse gives needed instruction on how to cast all our care upon Him to avoid being distracted and overwhelmed by life’s circumstances that test our faith. (1) It takes humility (1 Pet. 5:5-6). Pride prevents turning to God and obstructs grace from His throne of mercy (Luke 18:9-14). (2) It takes trust that God cares for you (1 Pet. 2:7). Faith in God’s mighty hand and attentive care compels us to prayerfully throw our anxious distractions at His feet (Matt. 6:24-25). (3) It takes self-control (1 Pet. 5:8). Anxious care is the devil’s tool to distract and devour us. Sober thinking is needed to make righteous choices when faced with difficult times of temptation (1 Thess. 5:6-10). (4) It takes vigilance (1 Pet. 5:8). Apathy prevents seeking God’s care and grace and prepares us to be an entrée for the devil’s dinner. Casting our care on God takes being watchful to do God’s will and avoid sin (Eph. 5:15-16). We cast our care on God by humbly trusting God (walking by faith), being diligent to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” and boldly approaching His throne of grace for “help in time of need” (2 Cor. 5:7; Matt. 6:33-34; Heb. 4:16).
What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin (Romans 3:9, NKJV).
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul established that all people, whether Gentiles or Jews, are sinners (Rom. 3:10-20, 23; 6:23). The extent of sin is universal (“There is none righteous, no, not one;…they have all turned aside,” Rom. 3:10, 12). Thus, all are “under sin” – guilty captives unable to free ourselves from its bondage and death (Gal. 3:22; Rom. 7:24). Sin’s death passes to everyone who sins, not because Adam sinned (Rom. 5:12; Ezek. 18:20). Humanity’s sin (disobedience) against God magnifies His mercy, “that He might have mercy on all” (Rom. 11:32). These simple truths expose the lies of Calvinism. (1) Total heredity depravity is not inherited. Personal sin separates each one from God (Isa. 59:1-3; Ezek. 18:20-24). (2) Unconditional election is a farce since God’s mercy is offered to every sinner in Christ (Rom. 5:15). His invitation to be saved is universal, but unconditional election makes God a tyrant (Matt. 11:28; Mark 16:15-16). (3) Limited atonement neglects that Jesus died “for everyone,” not just the elect (Heb. 2:9). (4) Irresistible grace rests on the false premise we are too corrupt to respond to God’s call to mercy without enabling grace from God to jumpstart faith. Yet, the “gospel of the grace of God” is preached to sinners who choose to resist or repent (Acts 2:36-41; 7:51; 13:44-46). (5) Perseverance of the saints is the baseless expectation that once God saves a sinner, that person cannot fall into sin’s condemnation. Sadly, many rely on the false hope of this false doctrine (Gal. 5:4; Heb. 3:6-19; 6;4-6; 2 Pet. 2:20-22). The gospel of Christ calls sinners to salvation through obedient faith (Rom. 1:16-17; 6:17-18). The doctrines of men leave sinners “under sin,” still needing salvation.
6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded (James 4:6–8, NKJV).
God gives grace to the humble (Prov. 3:34). The proud heart is not accepted or rewarded by the Lord. James says, “therefore,” and continues by giving practical guidance about what God expects us to do to receive His grace. (1) Submit to God (v. 7). Humility yields to the word and will of God, but the pride of life refuses to subject itself to God (Rom. 8:7). We must be humble servants of Christ and others for God’s grace to rest on us. (2) Resist the devil (v. 7). Our Adversary is crafty and powerful, but our strength to resist him comes from the Lord (1 Pet. 5:8; 1 John 4:4). We overcome the wicked one by the power of God’s word living in us (1 John 2:14). (3) Draw near to God (v. 8). God’s prophet told king Asa, “The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you” (2 Chron. 15:2). Seek the Lord. You will find Him by following the gospel of Jesus Christ (Matt. 7:7-8; 11:28-30; John 8:31-32). (4) Cleanse your hands (v. 8). We must purify our conduct to conform our actions to the “implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21, 25). (5) Purify your hearts (v. 8). The stability of singular faith in Christ (not divided loyalties) is required to receive God’s grace (James 1:6-8). Obeying the truth purifies hearts, so He receives our pleas for grace (1 Pet. 1:22; 2 Tim. 2:22). Accepting God’s abundant grace requires our obedient faith.
1 There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. 2 The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:1–2, NKJV).
Wicked kings had ruled the northern kingdom of Israel since its inception at the revolt against king Rehoboam (1 Kings 12). God used the kingdom of Assyria as the rod of His anger to punish Israel and her wicked rulers (Isa. 10:5-11). A remnant of Israel returned to the land from captivity, foreshadowing a second and more incredible remnant, gathered by the gospel (“a remnant according to the election of grace,” Isa. 10:20-22; 11:10-16; Rom. 11:5). Isaiah predicted and described God’s righteous king who rules over God’s kingdom (“My holy mountain,” Isa. 11:9) in today’s passage. Springing forth from the roots of Jesse, this Rod and Branch would reign and execute righteous judgment on the evil and the good (Isa. 11:3-5; Jer. 23:5; Heb. 1:8-9). He is the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the son of David, the Son of God (Matt. 1:1; Luke 1:30-35; Rom. 1:3-4). God’s Spirit would abide with Him, signifying heaven’s fellowship and approval (Matt. 3:16-17). His character would be stellar, marked by divine wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and the fear of the Lord (v. 2). As God’s Servant, the Messiah brought “justice to the nations” as He preached the gospel of the kingdom, proclaiming freedom from sin’s bondage and God’s vengeance against evil (Isa. 42:1-4; 61:1-3; Luke 4:16-21). God’s king, Jesus Christ, has come, received His kingdom, and reigns at God’s right hand (Psa. 110:1-2; Dan. 7:13-14; Acts 2:32-36; Eph. 1:20-23; Heb. 1:3, 13). All hail the King (Matt. 21:4-11).
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him (1 John 3:1, NKJV).
Through the apostle John, the Holy Spirit draws our attention to the kind of love God has for us. He says to “behold,” to see, be aware of and understand the nature of God’s love that blesses us to be called God’s children. John will go on to proclaim, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Today, let us behold and understand the depth and breadth of God’s love from three vantage points. (1) God’s love is sacrificial. He “so loved the world” that He gave His Son to be lifted up on a cross to deliver sinners from death (John 3:14-17). Love gives of itself to serve others (see the example of Jesus, Eph. 5:25-27). (2) God’s love is merciful. God’s “great love” is adorned by His “rich mercy” (Eph. 2:4). Love acts out of mercy to relieve others. With tender compassion, God saw our sin dilemma (death, Rom. 6:23) and graciously saved us through faith in Christ (Eph. 2:5-8). (3) God’s love is purposeful. “In this is love, not that we love God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Love takes the initiative; it is neither negligent nor apathetic. As we behold God’s love for us, may we follow John’s appeal, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4–6, NKJV).
God made “us alive together with Christ” when we were dead in our trespasses and sins (v. 5). Three questions arise as we consider God’s tremendous work of saving sinners. (1) Why save us? Three elements of God’s character answer why God saves sinners: His mercy, love, and grace (v. 4-5). God’s mercy is rich, His love is great, and His grace is available to all (Titus 2:11; 3:4-5; 1 John 4:10-11). Without God’s mercy, love, and grace, we would all face the wages of our sins, eternal death (Rom. 6:23). (2) Who is saved? The “us” who are made “alive together” constitute the church, the body of Christ, the household of God (Eph. 1:22-23; 2:14-22). The Lord adds saved people to His church (Acts 2:47). Therefore, the church is essential; it is the saved ones (Eph. 3:10-11; 5:25-27). (3) Where is salvation? Salvation is “in Christ.” Sinners are raised out of the death of sins to “sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (v. 6). The “heavenly places” signifies the spiritual relationship of salvation in Christ. In the “heavenly places,” we have fellowship with Christ, every spiritual blessing, and we stand with Christ in the battle against the devil and evil (Eph. 2:6; 1:3; 6:10-13). God still The riches of God’s grace continue to be proclaimed in the gospel to everyone, offering salvation “by grace…through faith” (Eph. 2:7-8).