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).
Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it. (Jonah 3:10, NKJV)
The Protestant Reformation of the Roman Catholic Church fell far short of restoring New Testament Christianity. One such area was its failure to return to the Scriptural (and thus, essential) place of obedience to God to be saved “by grace through faith” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Obedience is an “unprofitable” servant’s faith at work (Luke 17:10). Protestantism opted to demonize every kind of work while codifying salvation by faith only, even though Scripture says, “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). And, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (James 2:24). Nineveh’s salvation from God’s imminent destruction well illustrates the part that a working faith plays in salvation. Why would God consider Nineveh’s “works” at all, if works have nothing to do with God’s gift of salvation (Jonah 3:7-9, 10)? Jesus endorsed their works as proof that “they repented” (Luke 11:32). Even so, we do not earn salvation when we obey God’s command to repent (Acts 17:30). But, without obeying God and repenting of sins, we will not receive His grace that saves our soul. Repentance is a work of faith, a condition we must meet to be saved (Acts 3:19). God has given commands we must obey as conditions to be saved “by grace through faith.” Unless we obey them, we do not trust God. All we have is a dead faith.
16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. (John 1:16–18, NKJV)
Looking back to John 1:14, where the Word is announced as “the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,” John returns to the abundant grace found in the only begotten Son of God. In Jesus Christ (not Moses), a never-ceasing source of grace has appeared and is available to the entire human race. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12). God’s grace offers salvation to everyone. God’s truth teaches us what to do to receive grace and to stand in it (Romans 5:1-2). Thus, grace and truth meet in Jesus. By God’s grace, Jesus tasted death for everyone (Hebrews 2:9). The gospel of His grace convicts us of our sin and its truth corrects us to obtain an eternal inheritance (Acts 20:24, 32). The Son of God is the only begotten (unique, one of a kind). We have not seen the invisible God (John 5:37; 6:46). But, the Son, who is eternal God, is qualified to do so (John 1:1). He shows us who God is and what God does. That is why He is the Word, and His Light brings life to the world (John 1:4-5, 9). Hear Him and live in His grace and truth.