And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; (1 Peter 1:17, NKJV)
Christians sing the old spiritual song, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through…,” reminding us our stay on earth is transitory. Life is temporary, and when we live as if it is permanent we forget key components of a life well-lived in preparation for eternity. First, we forget we are immortal beings. Created in the image of God, we are not defined by the physical realm, but by the spirit, the inner spiritual person. We call on our Father in heaven, not on lifeless gods craved by the art and design of men. We live before God, and therefore we must live with an immortal perspective. Second, we forget what we do on earth will be judged by God, fairly and impartially. God sees and knows everything about us. We will each give account of ourselves to God. That should persuade us to live in His favor right now (Rom. 14:11-12). It should cause us to dread sinning against Him. God’s judgment of our lives will be personal, fair, and impartial (2 Cor. 5:10). We are convinced by God’s goodness and severity to do His will faithfully each day (Rom. 11:22). We are choosing what our judgment will be by the way we live. Remember, this world is not our home. So, live for heaven (Matt. 6:19-21).
And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” (Acts 2:40, NKJV)
When the gospel of Christ was preached by His apostles on Pentecost, they invited and implored sinners to be saved from their sins and the impeding judgment upon that present, perverse generation (Acts 2:16-21). Those who believed were told to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:37-38). There awaits a great day of judgment when we all will stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and our lives judged by His word (2 Cor. 5:10; Jno. 12:48-50). Knowing this, salvation and eternal life are offered to all through the truth of the gospel (1 Tim. 2:3-4). This being true, why don’t we regularly hear gospel invitations from a growing number of pulpits in the churches of Christ? Why aren’t gospel preachers punctuating their sermons with calls to come to Jesus for salvation, to escape the punishment of hell? The apostolic tradition is to exhort sinners to be saved. “And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17). Why is it we fail to hear the gospel invitation to “come” and be saved? We hear, “If you have a need, come…” But, without telling sinners what they need, how will they know they need anything, or what to do about it (read Rom. 10:13-17)? Preaching the word demands we preach the gospel call to be saved (Matt. 11:28-30).
4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, 5 that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:4–8, NKJV)
God’s grace, given by Christ Jesus, came to the Corinthians in the same way it goes to the four corners of the world, through gospel preaching and its acceptance (Mk. 16:15; Titus 2:11-12). In “all utterance and all knowledge” the “gospel of the grace of God” enriches souls who believe it and obey it (Acts 20:24, 32; Col. 1:5-6). Notably, the gospel (“the testimony of Christ”) was confirmed (verified, settled) in the Corinthians (undoubtedly, a reference to the miraculous gifts they received through the apostle (v. 6-7; Mk. 16:17-20; 1 Cor. 12:1). This had enriched them in Christ, but their faith still needed to be confirmed (settled, strengthened, v. 7-8). Like them, the Lord settles (verifies, stabilizes) our faith when we live by His settled gospel (“the testimony of Christ,” v. 6). We may correctly say the Lord uses the confirmed gospel (v. 6) to confirm Christians (v. 8). Our task in being strengthened is to take His gospel into our hearts and live it. By doing so we will not be blamed (be “blameless”) but settled when Christ is revealed in the day of judgment (v. 8).
3 But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand. 4 So when the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live.” 5 But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. 6 However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god. (Acts 28:3–6, NKJV)
The islanders showed them unusual kindness when Paul and the other 275 souls were shipwrecked on Malta (Acts 27:37; 28:1-2). How they reacted to Paul’s snake bite reminds us how important it is not to jump to conclusions before being adequately informed. Things are not always as they seem. They drew the false conclusion that Paul was evil and divine justice had overtaken him. In truth, bad things happen to good people, and to judge a person blameworthy because of a present trouble is very wrong (cf. Job; Jno. 9:1-3). When Paul did not die they concluded he was a deity. They swung the pendulum too far the other way. Jesus had promised such signs to confirm the gospel when it was preached, and it happened on this occasion (Mk. 16:15-20). When we yield to the temptation to make rash judgments we expose our own folly and shame (Prov. 18:13). Rendering righteous judgments that are guided by truth must be our constant endeavor (Jno. 7:24).
8 “Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. 9 And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘The very dust of your city which clings to us we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near you.’ 12 But I say to you that it will be more tolerable in that Day for Sodom than for that city.” (Luke 10:8–12, NKJV)
Jesus sent out seventy disciples to places He was about to go (Lk. 10:1). They were to heal the sick and preach the kingdom of God (Lk. 9:60; 10:9). Some would receive them and their message, while others would not (Lk. 10:5-7). By explaining what to do and what to expect, Jesus also gave them a reason not to be discouraged when a city rejected the gospel of the kingdom. He taught them there is a point at which the messenger is relieved of responsibility and the hearer is held accountable. Shaking off the dust of the city was a symbolic gesture that testified against the city for rejecting the gospel. They, not the messengers, would be held accountable (Lk. 9:5; Acts 18:6). The gospel teacher is not innocent when the truth is not faithfully preached (Acts 20:26). Such a failure does not excuse the sinner (Ezek. 3:16-21). But, when truth is taught and it is refused, the full weight of accountability on Judgment Day will fall on those who refused to hear and obey God (Lk. 10:12).
26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. (Hebrews 10:26–27, NKJV)
In yesterday’s Sword Tip (#1770) we examined David’s prayer for God’s protection from presumptuous sins. Today’s passage explains to Christians the eternal ramifications of willfully sinning against the Lord. Please note the context, that this passage is addressing Christians who have gained bold access to the presence of God through the blood of Jesus, who ought to stir up one another to love and good works, and who ought not to forsake the assembling of themselves together (Heb. 10:19-25). When Christians know the truth and intentionally violate it, punishment remains. By such willful violation of the will of God they trample upon the Son of God, profane the blood of the covenant, and insult the Spirit of grace (Heb. 10:29). Before someone says, “It doesn’t matter what I do, I’m a Christian, so I’ll go to heaven anyway,” they had better listen to the sobering words of today’s Scripture. You cannot expect to go to heaven by choosing to sin willfully. What you can expect is a fearful judgment and fiery indignation, reserved for the adversaries of Christ. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked” (Gal. 6:7). One who does not abandon willful sin can expect to be eternally devoured by the fire that is never quenched (Mk. 9:43-48).
15 ‘You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor. 16 You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:15–16, NKJV)
Both the Law of Moses and the gospel of Christ warn against the sin of talebearing. We are more accustomed to the word “gossip” (1 Tim. 5:13). It has been normalized, as millions flock to rumormongering as part of their usual, information-gathering process. (Witness TV shows like Entertainment Tonight, TMZ, and Page 6, and publications like People Magazine and National Enquirer, whose website tag is, “Hottest Celebrity Gossip & Entertainment News.”) Society is saturated with talebearing – juicy gossip that tingles the ears with baseless assumptions, groundless speculations, and false accusations against others. Israel was told not to be talebearers precisely because it is unrighteous judgment against others. You see, talebearing is about having power over others. It draws people into its snare, leading them to abandon reason and fairness, causing some to even “stand against the life” of the innocent on nothing more than hearsay. The talebearer is an untrustworthy liar. Wisdom teaches us not to associate with such folks, because talebearing causes wounds and strife (Prov. 11:13; 18:8; 20:19; 26:20-22). The best way to put out the fire of talebearing is not to receive it. (And, don’t be the one who starts that flame, either!)