Many are content to put confidence in their experiences and emotions. But faith does not come from our feelings, but from hearing God’s word. Feelings will mislead us when they are misinformed (Gen. 37:31-35). “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov. 14:12). Paul counseled Timothy to exercise his mind, contemplate his teachings, and receive understanding from the Lord. We are thankful that treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Christ and not ourselves (Col. 2:3). Wisdom and knowledge from Christ enriches our lives and leads us to heaven. Paul’s instruction to Timothy confirms the following: (1) We can understand God’s word (Eph. 3:3-4). Jesus taught this, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). (2) We must use our minds to understand God’s word. “I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation” (Ps. 119:99). Faith comes from hearing God’s word, so Paul said to consider what he said (Rom. 10:17; 1 Cor. 14:37). Meditate on God’s word to increase in understanding God’s will (1 Tim. 4:15; 2 Tim. 2:15). (3) Understanding God’s word leads people of faith to do God’s will. “Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart” (Ps. 119:34). (4) Understanding God’s truth leads people of faith to hate every false way. “Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way” (Ps. 119:104). Take time to read, learn, and meditate on God’s word, and “the Lord will give you understanding in everything” (2 Pet. 1:2-4).
6 A scoffer seeks wisdom and does not find it, but knowledge is easy to him who understands. 7 Go from the presence of a foolish man, when you do not perceive in him the lips of knowledge. 8 The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way, but the folly of fools is deceit. 9 Fools mock at sin, but among the upright there is favor (Proverbs 14:6–9, NKJV).
The path to hell is paved with the foolishness and self-deception of human wisdom (1 Cor. 1:18-25; 3:18-20). This age’s rhetoric promotes the superiority of human knowledge and insight while demoting faith to a blind leap into the unknown (which is entirely wrong, Heb. 11:1). The truth is, many things people once considered to be true have been proven false. The earth is not flat. The earth is not the center of the universe. Bleeding a patient does not increase health. But the scoffer refuses to be humble. He keeps looking for wisdom, and it keeps eluding him (v. 6). Wise Solomon counsels us to avoid the foolish who mock at sin and deal in lies. Knowledge and wisdom begin with the fear of the Lord (Prov. 1:7; 9:10). When we stop fearing God, we expose ourselves to the world’s foolishness and the sin that deceives and destroys us. God’s word stands the test of things “falsely called knowledge” – do not be deceived (1 Tim. 6:20-21). May we all “Buy the truth, and do not sell it, also wisdom and instruction and understanding” (Prov. 23:23).
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 truly incredible how so many people insist on propping up the false doctrine that Christians cannot fall away from the Lord and be lost. The false doctrine suggests teaching the possibility of apostasy diminishes God’s power to save. That is a diversionary, deceptive, and destructive lie of the devil, the father of lies. Of course, God has the power to save. Human free will is also a part of the equation; We are saved “by grace” (God’s part) “through faith” (our part) (Eph. 2:8). Without free will, we are mere robots. God becomes an unjust tyrant, selecting some for salvation and others for damnation regardless of their conduct. That cannot be true (Acts 10:34-35; 17:30; Rom. 2:1-11; 3:4). Today’s passage overwhelms the false doctrine of once saved, always saved. Some had already fallen. Peter warns beloved Christians, “lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked” (v. 17). The countermeasure to prevent falling is spiritual growth in the “grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (v. 18). When we mature in understanding and apply our faith to follow the Lord, Jesus is honored “both now and forever,” not ourselves. We dare not minimize (or even rejecting) the truth that Christians can fall and be lost. Instead, remain steadfast in your faith by growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord.
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.
2 Also it is not good for a soul to be without knowledge, and he sins who hastens with his feet. 3 The foolishness of a man twists his way, and his heart frets against the Lord. (Proverbs 19:2–3, NKJV)
I grew up hearing that “ignorance is bliss.” Maybe you did, too. Sometimes it was said somewhat sarcastically to warn us against thinking it is true. But sometimes I heard it said to justify choosing a particular (usually foolish) course of action. After all, we frequently hear people say, “I didn’t know” to explain something they did or did not do. We have most likely used that line, too. The Bible does not teach ignorance is bliss; just the opposite. Solomon said a lack of knowledge propels us into doing dangerous things that lead to sin (v. 2). To think ignorance is bliss and then act without understanding puts us on a twisted path (v. 3). When trouble comes due to our foolish choices, many get angry at God for the problem. The remedy is to accept instruction from the Lord and gain knowledge and wisdom (Prov. 1:1-6). Solomon said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7). Bliss comes from revering God, not getting angry at Him. When we respect God, we can “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). By doing so, our feet will not run to sin but walk the path that leads to life (Matt. 7:13-14).
20 Wisdom calls aloud outside; She raises her voice in the open squares. 21 She cries out in the chief concourses, at the openings of the gates in the city she speaks her words: 22 “How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity? For scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge. 23 Turn at my rebuke; Surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.” (Proverbs 1:20–23, NKJV)
Solomon personifies wisdom as a virtuous woman calling out in the streets to all who will stop, listen, learn, and follow her words of understanding. She seeks to bless those upon whom her words fall. Yet, in their ignorance, the naïve turn away from her insight. Others mock her perception while others loathe her knowledge. Even so, wisdom offers her spirit of discernment to all who are willing to hear. But beware. Rejecting wisdom’s call ultimately leads to ruin (Prov. 1:24-27). What is at work in the heart that refuses God’s wisdom? Proverbs 1:29 gives us an answer: “Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord.” Pride and irreverence prevent accepting wisdom’s guidance. We must choose to fear the Lord and to love the knowledge He gives us in His word. If not, we will search for wisdom and never find her (Prov. 1:28). Here is our test: Our attitude and reaction to the gospel of Christ (“the wisdom of God”) tell whether we hear wisdom or despise her (1 Cor. 1:21-25; 3:18).
1 Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know. (John 14:1–4, NKJV)
A spiritual song we sing says, “Troublesome times are here, filling men’s hearts with fear.” How do we prevent our hearts from being troubled? Today’s familiar passage from the lips of Jesus teaches us how to soothe the anxious soul. 1) By the calming assurance of faith (v. 1). Solomon said, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding” (Prov. 3:5). Focusing our attention on the Lord instead of ourselves is essential to avoid heart disturbance. 2) By the comforting promises of Christ (v. 2-3). Jesus promised to prepare a dwelling place for His followers. His death, resurrection, and exaltation at God’s right hand announce the success of His redemptive work, assuring us He will return to receive His saints in glory (1 Thess. 4:16-18; Col. 3:4). Comfort your heart with His promises. 3) By the confident knowledge of truth (v. 4). When Thomas expressed doubt and uncertainty, Jesus replaced it with confidence-building truth. He was going to the Father, and He is “the way, the truth, and the life” by whom we also go to the Father (Jno. 14:6). Firm assurance replaces doubt when we learn the truth that is in Jesus (Eph. 4:20-21). Live by faith, be comforted by the promises of God, and walk in truth to keep your heart from being troubled in troublesome times.
God deplored the insincere faith of Ephraim and Judah: “O Ephraim, what shall I do to you? O Judah, what shall I do to you? For your faithfulness is like a morning cloud, and like the early dew it goes away” (Hosea 6:4). He still does. In defense of His interaction “with tax collectors and sinners,” Jesus explained that He came to call sinners to repentance – those who need spiritual healing (Matt. 9:11, 13). He applied Hosea to His critics, “But go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’” (Matt. 9:12). Accurate knowledge of God compels mercy toward sinners without forgetting one’s dutiful offerings to God (Matt. 23:23; Psa. 85:10-13). We have received His mercy and are to be merciful as we serve God (Matt. 18:33). Yet, being a Christian is often reduced to rituals and formalities in not a few churches. Sinful conduct of members is winked at and ignored because they are large donors, prominent in the community, in regular attendance at worship services, or otherwise highly regarded (1 Cor. 5:1-2). They may “fast twice a week” and “give tithes of all” they possess, but such things are meaningless to the Lord when hearts are far from Him (Lk. 18:10-14). God foretold and executed judgment upon Ephraim and Judah for their insincere, disobedient faith (Hosea 6:5). Let us learn from their failures and not repeat their sins (1 Cor. 10:5-13). Genuine and enduring faith must be driven by mercy toward others as we keep the commands of God.
13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 4:13–14, NKJV)
The word translated “ignorant” means “not to know.” While knowledge can produce arrogance when one thinks too highly of himself, decided advantages also come with knowledge (1 Cor. 8:1-2). Jesus said knowing the truth (His word) “shall make you free” from sin as you abide in His word (Jno. 8:31-32, 33-36). Today’s passage declares knowing the future of Christians who have died removes our sorrow and gives us hope (v. 13). More specifically, knowing and believing Jesus rose from the dead supports our hope (desire and expectation) that Christians will be raised from the dead and be with Jesus when He returns (1 Thess. 4:15-16). Such blessed assurance replaces the sorrow of death’s loss with bold confidence that invigorates our faith when death separates us from beloved saints. God has a future planned for His people. Whether living or dead, when Jesus returns and raises the dead, the saints of God will “always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17). Knowing what will happen to those who have died in the Lord empowers us to “comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:18).
The merciful inclusion of the Gentiles in the blessings God had promised the Hebrew fathers evokes the joyful praise of God (Rom. 15:7-12). He is the “God of hope” for Gentiles and Jews, filling us with hope regardless of our race (Rom. 15:13). Their hope in Christ gave Paul confidence the Roman Christians would serve one another’s spiritual needs (instead of pleasing themselves, Rom. 15:1-6). Paul identified two things that gave them power (“able” is the verb form of “power” in Rom. 1:16) to admonish one another effectively. To admonish means to “put to mind,” “to caution or reprove,” to warn (Strong, G3560). First, they were able to admonish because they were “full of goodness.” Warnings and reproof are more palatable and productive when they come from a heart of goodness. Admonitions that do not spring from a place of virtue can easily take on the flavor of self-righteous judging instead of caring concern for the sinner’s soul. Secondly, they had the power to admonish because they were “filled with all knowledge.” God’s truth, not our “think so’s,” must inform and guide us when we caution and warn one another. Combining goodness and knowledge equips us to serve each other with needful warnings and exhortations as we live in the joy, peace, and hope of God (Rom. 15:13).