3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2 Corinthians 4:3–4, NKJV).
We must keep our eyes open and our lives illuminated by the light of the gospel lest Satan (the “god of this age”) blind us with his deceptions, and we perish in sin and darkness. He has already blinded unbelievers with his lies. The devil is real and active in this world, seeking his prey (Job 1:7; 2:2; 1 Pet. 5:8). Man has long ago mythologized Satan, turning him into merely a personification of evil. Sufficiently fictionalized and caricatured, the devil is undoubtedly pleased with being discounted as the figment of human imagination. For example, the Satanic Temple, sees “Satan as a metaphor for fighting religious tyranny and oppression” (Tarkus Claypool, from “An After School Satan Club could be coming to your kid’s elementary school,” The Washington Post, 2016). (See “After School Satan Club” for more.) Satan (“adversary”) is opposed to God and man (Gen. 3:4-5; Job 1:6-12; Matt. 4:1-11; 1 Pet. 5:8). The devil (“accuser”) is a liar who deceives the whole world (John 8:44; Rev. 12:9). We can resist his enticements in faith (James 1:12-14; 1 Cor. 10:13; Heb. 4:14-16). Jesus Christ has destroyed the works of the devil (sin and death, 1 John 3:8; 1 Cor. 15:54-57). Christians overcome Satan in Christ by the blood of the Lamb, the word of God, and self-denial (Rev. 12:10-11). God crushes Satan under the feet of His faithful ones who walk in “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (Rom. 16:19-20; 2 Cor. 4:4).
43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched—44 where ‘Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched’” (Mark 9:43–44, NKJV).
Did you know more is recorded in the New Testament about hell from the mouth of Jesus than anyone else? The eternal fire of hell’s unending punishment is real and a substantial deterrent against evil. In today’s passage, Jesus used hyperbolic language (cut off the offending hand, foot, eye, Mark 9:43, 45, 47) to describe the urgent need to eliminate sin in our lives lest we fall under eternal condemnation. The fire of Jerusalem’s refuse dump (gehenna, “hell”) was a fitting figure of the “everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” and those who do not follow Christ’s will (Matt. 25:41, 46). We gain nothing when we choose not to repent of sin. In the final judgment, those who “do not obey the truth” will suffer the corruption, agony, and darkness of being removed from God’s blessings forever (Rom. 2:5-11). Better to surrender the sin that seems most important to us and do God’s will than to “go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched” (Mark 9:43). While the goodness of God leads us to repentance, so does the wrath of God (Rom. 2:4-5). So, “sing to me of heaven” and warn me of hell. Jesus spoke of both to persuade faithful, righteous living (John 14:1-6; Mark 9:43-48). Purged of sin and tried by fire, the sacrifices we make to live for Jesus will preserve us unto the day of eternal bliss (Mark 9:49).
33 But the multitudes saw them departing, and many knew Him and ran there on foot from all the cities. They arrived before them and came together to Him. 34 And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things (Mark 6:33–34, NKJV).
As the crowds pressed around Jesus and His apostles, finding time to rest a while (or even eat) was difficult (Mark 6:31-32). Instead of being anxious and upset at the people for interrupting their search for a place to retreat, Jesus was moved with compassion when He saw the multitude (v. 34). He saw them as untended, scattered, and wandering sheep. Consequently, Jesus began teaching them many things. We correctly conclude Jesus knew the solution to this problem was hearing God’s word. Why? Because faith comes by hearing (and receiving) the word of God (Rom. 10:17; Luke 6:46). Teaching God’s word to feed lost, struggling souls is an act of compassion (Matt. 9:35-38). Most likely, lost souls do not know what they truly need. Jesus did not begin by addressing what people thought they needed (i.e., their “felt need”). Instead, he gave them what they actually needed, the word of God, that fed their souls the food “which endures to everlasting life” (John 6:27, 33-35, 44-48). More than physical food, we need the teachings of Christ to lead us to green pastures, still waters, and paths of righteousness that restore our soul (Psalm 23:1-3; Matt. 11:28-30). Let us show His compassion and teach others His word of salvation and eternal life.
20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. 22 For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, 23 that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him (John 5:20–23, NKJV).
Jesus boldly proclaimed, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). His enemies charged Him with blasphemy and prepared to stone Him, yet His words and works support His conclusion “that the Father is in Me, and I in Him” (John 10:37-38, 30-38; 5:31-39). Today’s passage expresses the unity of purpose, will, and nature between the Father and Son. The Father and Son share (1) The same purpose (v. 20). Human redemption accomplished in Jesus Christ is the purpose and aim of both the Father and Son. Greater works (gospel salvation) would follow Christ’s life on earth, including the bodily resurrection of the dead, judgment, and everlasting life (John 5:24, 28-29). (2) The same power of life (v. 21). The Son would not only raise dead bodies but souls dead in sin (John 5:24-26). (3) The same judgment (v. 22). The Son’s judgments are righteous and entirely in harmony with the Father (John 5:27-30). (4) The same honor (v. 23). The Son is due the same honor given to the Father. Doctrines that claim that Jesus the Son of God is a created being less than the Father deny the Scriptures. Jesus is fully human and fully deity (Col. 2:9). Let us fully honor the Son. Otherwise, we fail to honor the Father who sent Him to save us (John 5:23).
19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; 20 that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them (Deuteronomy 30:19–20, NKJV).
Why do people take their life? The reasons vary, of course, but one underlying cause is the sense of hopelessness. Suicide often follows the deluded belief there is no way out except death. Teen suicide increased dramatically during the Covid pandemic (Big Rise in Suicide Attempts by U.S. Teen Girls During Pandemic, U.S. News and World Report, June 11, 2021). What a tragedy. Human life is valuable; it is a gift from God (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:7; Ps. 8:5). Even as God set life before Israel, He sets the blessings of life before us. Sadly, self-murder ends every opportunity to be blessed and to be a blessing to others. Instead of viewing life as hopeless and helpless, seize the benefits of life by having faith in God, loving Him, and obeying His word (v. 20). Life is not hopeless. There are endless possibilities, and most importantly, eternal life, in Christ (Mark 10:26-31). Life is not helpless; God is our stronghold of security, delivering us through life’s trials (Ps. 18:1-3). Help a young person take joy in the gift of life and its purposes (Eccl. 11:9-12:1, 13). May we all “choose life” and live joyfully in the living hope of Christ (1 Pet. 1:3-4).
36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: 37 “For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. 38 Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul (Hebrews 10:36–39, NKJV).
The Hebrew Christians faced persecution for their faith (Heb. 10:32-34). These pressures and fears tempted some to drift back into the shadows of the first covenant, presumably, to avoid persecution (cf. Gal. 6:12). But such neglect and even willful rejection of Christ exposed them to God’s vengeance (Heb. 2:1-3; 10:26-31). God delivers His people from sin’s punishment of sin by faith (Heb. 10:37-38; Hab. 2:3-4). So, these Christians were encouraged to endure the present trials of faith and not shrink back to destruction (Heb. 10:39). Endurance is accomplished by doing the will of God and therefore receiving God’s promise of eternal life (Heb. 10:36). So, they needed to continue to be faithful through their present trials of faith. “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12). Again, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12). May we also hear and heed the inspired exhortation given to the Hebrew saints: “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward (Heb. 10:35).”
3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3–4, NKJV).
This passage explains the subject, action, purposes, and results of baptism. It speaks of the Great Commission baptism (water baptism), the “one baptism” commanded of us all (Matt. 28:19; Eph. 4:5). The subject of baptism is the sinner, the person who is not “in Christ” (v. 3), without the benefit of His death (v. 3), and dead in sin (v. 4). Christ’s baptism is for the lost, not the saved. The action of baptism is immersion, a burial in water (v. 4; Col. 2:12; Acts 8:38). Three purposes and results of baptism are briefly enumerated here. (1) The sinner is “baptized into Christ” (v. 3). Until one is in Christ, he has not “put on Christ” and is not a “new creation” (Gal. 3:27; 2 Cor. 5:17). He is lost. (2) The sinner is “baptized into His death” (v. 3). Water baptism is how sinners reach the saving blood of Jesus (Eph. 1:7; Acts 22:16). (3) The sinner is “buried with Him through baptism into death” (v. 4). Sin is put to death when the sinner is baptized. God’s power raises the sinner to newness of life (Col. 2:12; 2 Cor. 5:17). Before baptism, the sinner remains dead in sin. In baptism, there is a new birth, a resurrection from sin’s death to newness of life in Christ (John 3:5; Titus 3:5). Christ commanded water baptism (Mark 16:16). So did His apostles (Acts 2:38; 10:47-48). Christ saves sinners who obey Him by being baptized into Him (Acts 8:12; 1 Pet. 3:21; Heb. 5:9). By the gospel, God is calling sinners to be saved in Christ. “And now why are you waiting? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).
4 Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am. 5 Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You; Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. Selah (Psalm 39:4–5, NKJV).
The circumstances of our lives can change in an instant. A dear friend was hit by a drunk driver last week. He remains in the hospital, facing a long period of recovery. Another friend had an accident yesterday and broke his neck. He survived, was rushed to surgery, and his outcome is still unknown. Illness, accidents, and death touch our lives and those we know and love practically every day. David expressed his yearning to know the quantity and end of his days. Like us, David did not know when he would die. But he wanted to know the truth about his life so he could guard himself against sin while living in hope (Ps. 39:1-3, 7-8). We yearn for the same knowledge. Like David, let us pause (Selah) and reflect on life’s uncertainty and brevity and their impact on us. (1) We are frail (v. 4). Life is fleeting. No matter how strong we are, our bodies will ultimately fail us and die. Therefore, we must lay up heavenly treasures for life beyond this flesh (2 Cor. 4:17-5:1). (2) God is the giver of life (v. 5). Life is a gift to be cherished, not squandered (Eccl. 5:18-20; James 1:17). Met us honor His will whatever life brings (Eccl. 12:13). (3) Life is short (v. 5). Our lives are brief like a vapor’s rapid disappearance (James 1:14). In comparison to God’s eternal existence, our time is “nothing” before Him. As we busy ourselves with daily activities, we must remember this life’s treasures are vain (Ps. 39:6). “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord” (Jer. 17:7).
10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” 12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:10–12, NKJV).
Jesus silenced the hypocrites who tried to entrap him at the expense of a sinner’s soul (John 8:2-9). None of her accusers were willing to cast the first stone of condemnation against her (John 8:7). Jesus was not obligated to throw a stone under the Law of Moses (hence, “Neither do I condemn you,” v. 11). When Jesus finally spoke to her, it was not with a scolding tone of damnation; She knew her sin, and so did Jesus. He did not condone or excuse her sin; He warned her to repent and bear its fruit (“go and sin no more”). Then Jesus turned spoke again to the people who observed this encounter unfold (John 8:2). They must follow Him to keep from walking in the darkness of evil; He is the light of the world. The scribes and Pharisees (John 8:3), the woman taken in adultery (John 8:4), and the people listening to Him teach had to choose whether to follow Jesus. So do we. Jesus is merciful and forgiving when we follow Him (Matt. 11:28-30; Acts 2:37-41, 47; 1 John 1:6-9). Walk in His light and have the light of (eternal) life.
Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 2, NKJV).
How healthy is your soul? Would you be in good physical health if it matched your spiritual health? In this age of Covid, we are inundated with information and misinformation about being healthy, safe, and protected. Prudent measures for good physical health are important (1 Tim. 5:23; Luke 10:34). Exercise helps slow the rate of decay of our death-destined bodies (1 Tim. 4:8). But the gospel compels us to look at the health of our souls as more essential (1 Tim. 4:7-8). It is the remedy to our sin and death; salvation in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; John 5:24-25; Rom. 1:16; 6:23). A cure for Covid would be a worldwide bestseller. Yet, the cure for sin is cast aside by countless souls rushing headlong toward eternal death. Why is that? Why are people more afraid of their physical death than their eternal death (Matt. 10:28)? Because they do not believe God and the words of His Son, Jesus. Why is the death of God’s saints precious in His sight (Ps. 116:15)? Because they are the ones who “take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord,” serving God faithfully all their days (Ps. 116:13-14, 16-19). With Ananias, we ask, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). The remedy for your sins is available through the sacrifice of Jesus (1 Pet. 1:17-19; 2:24; Rom. 6:3-4; Eph. 2:1-10). Believe and obey Jesus and be saved from sin and death (Rom. 6:17-18; Heb. 5:8-9).