8 “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 9 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Luke 3:8–9, NKJV)
It is tempting to trust in our spiritual heritage for divine approval. We can put our confidence in our parents’ faith without developing our own. Merely trusting in a spiritual heritage is a futile and fatal approach to our present faith and future hope. John the Baptist’s preaching reminded his audience to take a personal inventory of their hearts and lives. This reminder still holds. He warned the Jewish people not to put their confidence in their ancestral heritage. It was God who chose Abraham and blessed him for his faith (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:6). God must be trusted and obeyed because His purposes prevail. His judgment of Israel was imminent when John preached (“the ax is laid to the root of the trees”). God’s judgment destroys the unfruitful (those who do not repent and bear its fruits). Repentance is a change that takes place in the heart. It is a fundamental reordering of perspectives and priorities to put away sin and do God’s will (Lk. 3:10-14). Repentance is not being sorry for our iniquities; it results from godly sorrow (2 Cor. 7:9-10). Without repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ, we cannot bear good fruit (Acts 20:21). But, when we change our hearts toward God (repent), we will conform our lives to His will – “bear fruits worthy of repentance.”
26 Help me, O Lord my God! Oh, save me according to Your mercy, 27 That they may know that this is Your hand— That You, Lord, have done it! (Psalm 109:26–27, NKJV)
David had enemies who terrorized him and wanted him dead. King Saul was chief among this number (1 Sam. 18:25, 28; 19:1; 20:30-33). Psalm 109 is David’s plea to the Lord to hold his enemies accountable for their sins against him. They had spoken deceit and lies against David (109:2). Hatred consumed them, driving them to fight against him unjustly (109:3). They had rewarded his love and prayers with hateful accusations and threats (109:4-5). David’s prayer calls for divine retribution against these evildoers (109:6-20). Without context, it sounds harsh. In truth, it is his earnest supplication for God to bring judgment upon them for their evil works. God’s judgments are according to truth. They are righteous and applied impartially according to our conduct (Rom. 2:1-11). David did not repay their evil with revenge. He left the matter in God’s hands, who saved him from trouble (2 Sam. 24:6-7, 9-12). David was confident God in mercy would save him (Psa. 138:7). David was sure his enemies would be able to see God’s power at work in the deliverance he would receive from God’s hand. God worked to deliver David in answer to his prayers. God still works in our lives to answer prayers when we depend on His presence, power, mercy, and deliverance (1 Jno. 3:21-22; 5:14-15).
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; (Romans 1:28, NKJV)
By definition, a debased mind is “unapproved” and, by implication, “worthless.” It does not stand the test and, therefore, is not approved. The Greeks used the word translated “debased” to metals and coins that failed the assayer’s test. So, it was cast aside, rejected, “reprobate” (KJV, ASV). The debased mind does not appear suddenly. The Holy Spirit explained that it develops when people no longer approve of holding on to their knowledge of God. Romans 1 catalogs the process and effects of divesting oneself of the knowledge of God (1:19-25). Foolishly refusing to hold God in one’s knowledge results in all manner of immoral conduct (1:26-27, 28-32). What we retain in our minds shapes our lives. We invariably spiral downward when we are comfortable with not retaining God in our thoughts. The gospel of Christ has the power to save us from the sin that is formed in and results from debased minds (Rom. 1:16-17). The gospel renews our minds when we believe, repent, and obey the Lord Jesus (Eph. 4:17-24; Rom. 12:1-2). Otherwise, our sin put us under God’s wrath and righteous judgment of death (Rom. 1:18, 32). Retain God in your knowledge and follow His will.
9 When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.” (Revelation 6:9–11, NKJV)
The souls of martyred saints cried out to the Lord for righteous judgment against those who drew their blood and took their lives because of their faith. His promise to execute His vengeance against evil would prevail (cf. Rom. 12:17-19). But other Christians would face distress and death before God judged and removed the persecutors. With elaborate imagery, The Revelation tells of Rome’s defeat and the victory of the faithful (cf. Rev. 17:14). We must patiently endure and remain faithful to Christ when we face pressure and persecutions “for the word of God and for the testimony” we hold (Heb. 10:32-39). God will reward our patience (1 Pet. 4:12-13; Rev. 14:12-13). The Lord will defeat evil, just as He did in the days of Rome (which was “Babylon, the great, the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth,” Rev. 14:6-11; 17:5-6, 14, 18; 19:1-6, 11-21). When our faith is tested, let us be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).
Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. (Revelation 1:7, NKJV)
We may immediately think this verse refers to Christ’s return on the last great day (Acts 1:11). That day will surely come (Acts 17:30-31). But to apply it to the last day overlooks its immediate context and the broader context of the book. Christ gave John this revelation to show to the servants of Christ “things that must shortly take place” because “the time is near” (Rev. 1:1, 3). Jesus Christ is “the ruler over the kings of the earth,” a central truth borne out in The Revelation (17:14; 19:15-16). Yet, Christians were being persecuted unto death (even though Christ had loved them, redeemed them, and made them a kingdom of priests on earth, Rev. 1:5-6). The Revelation assures them He would execute judgment against their persecutors; They would be victorious in Him (Rev. 17-19; 18:20-24; 19:11-21). The expression, “coming with clouds,” is judgment language (as Jesus used in Matt. 24:29-30 of Jerusalem’s demise, cf. Isa. 19:1). He said, “They shall see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven.” There was no visible image of Jesus when Jerusalem fell. But its fall was evidence that the Son of Man rules in heaven and on earth. They would “see” the Son of Man coming in judgment against Jerusalem, which happened in A.D. 70. His heavenly reign and authority were on display for all to see (Mk. 13:26, 30; Matt. 26:64). Similarly, Revelation 1:7 refers to Christ’s judgment against the persecuting powers, the Roman empire (cf. Rev. 14:14-16). “The ruler over the kings of the earth” would soon execute His judgment, and it would be evident (“every eye will see Him”). “Even so, Amen.”
7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (Galatians 6:7–8, NKJV)
Jeremiah said the human heart is deceitful (Jer. 17:5). Indeed. Since our hearts can deceive us, Paul’s warning is for us all. God is not mocked; we do not deceive God. We will reap what we sow. Like Israel (who sowed the wind and reaped the whirlwind, Hos. 8:7), we will reap the results of the life we choose. With this sober reminder, Paul begins to conclude his exhortation to walk in the Spirit and not the flesh (Gal. 5:16-6:10). Fulfilling the lust of the flesh produces the works of the flesh and results in eternal corruption (Gal. 5:16, 19-21; 6:8). But, walking in the Spirit bears the fruit of the Spirit that results in everlasting life (Gal. 5:16, 18, 22-25). Helping one overtaken by sin is sowing to the Spirit (Gal. 6:1-2). Envious conceit and self-promotion sow to the flesh (Gal. 5:26; 6:3). Sharing in all good things with our teachers is sowing to the Spirit, but refusing to do so is a trait of the flesh (Gal. 5:20; 6:6). Paul’s broader context bears out this principle. Those who tried to be justified by the law failed and forfeited being led by the Spirit (Gal. 5:3-4, 18). We are accountable to God for what we sow in life (2 Cor. 5:10). When judgment comes, will we reap sorrowful tears or joyful glory? Do not be deceived.
12 Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O Lord, and teach out of Your law, 13 That You may give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit is dug for the wicked. 14 For the Lord will not cast off His people, nor will He forsake His inheritance. 15 But judgment will return to righteousness, and all the upright in heart will follow it.” (Psalm 94:12–15, NKJV)
God blesses us in many ways. His care of the earth and humanity testify of His power and presence (Acts 14:17). God gives spiritual blessings and assurances to His people. Today’s passage reinforces the faith of the righteous person when it seems the wicked triumph (Psa. 94:1-11). Briefly consider the blessings God gives the righteous in our text. 1) Who receives God’s blessing (v. 12)? It is the person who accepts God’s instruction from His law (Psa. 25:4-5). Spiritual blessings elude the person who fights against the rule of God’s truth. 2) When is this person blessed (v. 13)? Rest comes in the “days of adversity” to the one who patiently and faithfully endures the pressures of the wicked. Christians know the Lord will bring the wicked to justice (2 Thess. 1:3-10). 3) Why does God bless His people during trials (v. 14)? Because He is upright and keeps His word (Heb. 6:13-20). Our hope remains secure because God is always faithful. 4) How will it all end (v. 15)? God’s judgments are “true and righteous altogether” (Psa. 19:9). Therefore, God’s people keep following His righteous ways, trusting the Lord will correct every wrong and give rest to those who “keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12-13). Be comforted today in your spiritual blessings in Christ (Eph. 1:3).
47 And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. (John 12:47–48, NKJV)
Sin condemns souls to eternal death (Rom. 6:23). Jesus came to save a world already condemned by sin. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17, 18). Jesus affirms in today’s text that He came to save guilty souls lost in sin (v. 47). Jesus did not say He will never judge our sins. He said if we reject Him (refuse to believe He is the Son of God) and do not receive (accept, follow) His words, His words will judge us in the last day (v. 48). God has appointed a day of judgment, with Jesus as the Judge (Acts 17:31; Heb. 9:27; 2 Cor. 5:10). God’s love compelled Him to send His Son to save the world (Jno. 3:16). Under commandment from the Father, Jesus spoke God’s words that lead to eternal life (Jno. 12:49-50). God’s justice demands a righteous judgment if we continue to sin instead of believing and following His Son and Savior, Jesus Christ (Rom. 2:2-5, 16). God’s gospel saves sinners who believe and follow Jesus (Lk. 6:46; Rom. 1:16-17).
16 “Then I commanded your judges at that time, saying, ‘Hear the cases between your brethren, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the stranger who is with him. 17 You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small as well as the great; you shall not be afraid in any man’s presence, for the judgment is God’s. The case that is too hard for you, bring to me, and I will hear it.’” (Deuteronomy 1:16–17, NKJV)
We are reminded of the importance of impartial, unbiased judges as we watch this week’s confirmation hearing of the most recent judge nominated to sit on the U. S. Supreme Court. Judges who bring an agenda to interpreting and applying the law to cases are biased, unjust, and undermine the rule of law. “Equal justice under law” (engraved above the entrance to the United States Supreme Court) is a principle we strive for as a nation, but it is not a new concept. Moses commanded it of Israel under the governance of the Sinaitic Law. Gospel salvation under the new covenant of Christ is equally available to all “without respect of persons” (Acts 10:34-35). God is impartial, applying His word of truth without bias to rich and poor, slave and free, male and female, Jew and Gentile (Rom. 2:1-11). God commands all of us to repent because He has appointed a righteous, impartial Judge before whom we will stand and be judged (Acts 17:30-31; 2 Cor. 5:10). Let us discard our agendas for the only one that matters; the word of Christ. He saves and He judges without prejudice and partiality (Jno. 12:48-50).
37 Who is he who speaks and it comes to pass, when the Lord has not commanded it? 38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that woe and well-being proceed? 39 Why should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?” (Lamentations 3:37–39, NKJV)
Jeremiah’s Lamentations may seem an unlikely place to teach respect for God’s silence, but this passage powerfully describes the futility and falsity of speaking when the Lord has not spoken. God had brought His righteous wrath upon Jerusalem to punish her sins (Lam. 1:3-5, 8-11; 2:1-8). He announced judgment against Zion and brought it to pass at the hands of the Babylonian army. Many false prophets said Jerusalem would not fall, but its fall showed they spoke when the Lord had not commanded it (cf. Jer. 28; 2 Chron. 36:15-21). They preached a message of “peace, peace” when there was no peace, only impending doom (Jer. 6:13-15). We have no right to complain against God when He punishes our sins according to His word (v. 39). Both “woe and well-being proceed” from Him, not us. We must submit to His word humbly and faithfully. Jerusalem and Judah refused to do that, and the Lord punished them. In the New Testament, honoring the silence of the Scriptures (of God) is not going beyond what is written but instead, abiding in Christ’s doctrine (1 Cor. 4:6; 2 Jno. 9). We must follow what the Scriptures say, not speak where God has not spoken. To teach and practice things God’s word does not speak of will not have God’s approval, but is a transgression of the doctrine of Christ. Let us speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where it is silent.