22 Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come— 23 that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles. (Acts 26:22–23, NKJV)
Christ came for the whole world (Jews and Gentiles). The apostles of Jesus testified what Moses and the prophets said would occur concerning the Christ was fulfilled in Jesus. Paul takes note of some primary things Moses and the prophets said about the Christ: 1) He would suffer (read Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53). Peter said of Jesus, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18). 2) He would rise from the dead (read Psalm 16:8-11). The resurrection of Jesus fulfilled this psalm (Acts 2:29-31). Jesus was the first – the beginning of the resurrection of all the dead (1 Cor. 15:20-22). 3) He would proclaim light to Jews and Gentiles (read Isaiah 42:1-7; 49:6). Through His gospel, Jesus lights the way of salvation for every soul on earth (Matt. 28:19; Acts 10:34-35). God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to suffer death for our sins, to be raised to exaltation for our salvation, and to light our way to eternal glory.
22 And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ. 23 But they were hearing only, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God in me. (Galatians 1:22–24, NKJV)
You likely have more influence than you know. Although the churches of Judea had not personally met Paul during the early years after his conversion to Christ, they knew of it and his work. The influence of a life previously given to the faithless destruction of Christians, but now given to preaching the gospel, was profound. The disciples honored God as a result of Paul’s faith and conduct. Here is an example of the growth and impact of godly influence. When your life seasons the world with grace, and when your words and deeds illuminate this dark world of sin with truth and righteousness, you will influence others to glorify God (Matt. 5:13-16; Col. 4:5-6; 1 Pet. 2:11-12). You may never know how far your influence reaches. That does not matter, because we aim to honor God, not ourselves (2 Cor. 5:9). Be an influencer for Jesus Christ and His gospel in truth, justice, mercy, and faith. God sees and rewards faithful disciples, and that is enough (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
1 In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.” (Luke 12:1–3, NKJV)
Jesus warned His disciples of the permeating effect of the Pharisees’ hypocrisy. Their religious pretense brought them reputation, renown, and respect from the populace (Matt. 23:2-7). Couple this with the heavy burden of their teachings, which bound traditions as if they were the will of God, and you have a powerful force that made their converts children of hell (Matt. 15:1-9; 16:6, 12; 23:15). Leaven is unseen in the dough, but the risen bread exposes its presence and effect. The gospel of Christ would spread from small beginnings to fill the world, exposing hypocrisy and error with the light of truth (Matt. 28:19-20). The gospel will not bring you reputation, renown, or the respect of men. But it will convert you into a child of God (Jno. 1:12-13; Gal. 3:26-27). May the gospel of Jesus influence you to walk in the light of His truth (Jno. 8:12, 31-32).
3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. 4 I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:3–5, NKJV)
The diligence with which Jesus labored is a model of zeal, endurance, and accomplishment. As He prepared to heal a man who was blind from birth, He explained the principle which drove Him each day. He had been given work to do by His Father (who sent Him to the earth). His time on the earth was limited, and so He diligently went about doing His Father’s work (which was teaching the gospel and showing Himself to be “the light of the world” – the Christ, the Son of God). Just as the Father gave the Son work to do, Christians are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). With Jesus as our model, let us be zealous to walk in (do, practice) the good works of God each day, by living soberly, righteously, and godly (Tit. 2:11-12). Night is coming for us all, when our time to labor for the Lord will end. So, as long as we have today, let us be diligent children of light who do the Father’s will, and “through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:9-12).
12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: 15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: 16 The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:12–16, NKJV)
The whole world was in darkness when the Son of God arrived on the scene (Jno. 1:4-5, 9). Here, by dwelling in Capernaum, Jesus was fulfilling Israel’s prophetic anticipation of liberty and light (Isa. 9:1-2). Numerous invaders had pillaged and oppressed the Galilean region throughout Israel’s history (Syria, 1 Kgs. 15:20; Assyria, 2 Kgs. 15:29). Now, the first to be crushed by oppression and death would be the first to see the Messiah’s light of truth. The promised kingdom was near, so Jesus called the Galileans to repent (Matt. 4:17, 23). His kingdom has now come (Mk. 9:1). All who come to His light and follow Him are transferred out of the kingdom of darkness and into His kingdom of marvelous light (Jno. 8:12; 12:35-36; Col. 1:13; 1 Pet. 2:9-10). Jesus is shining for you. Escape sin’s darkness and death. Follow Jesus, the light of the world, and have eternal life (Jno. 8:12).
Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. (1 John 3:13, NKJV)
Jesus had told His apostles to expect the hatred of the world (John 15:19). The world loves its own, and hates the light that exposes its sins (Jno. 3:19-20). This comes as no surprise. Jesus is the light of the world; therefore, the world hates Him (and His Father) most of all (Jno. 15:18, 23-25). When we become Christians, we leave the dark world of sin to live as “children of light” and to walk in the light of truth (Eph. 5:8; 1 Jno. 1:6-7). Therefore, the world hates us, too. Note the irony. Jesus was not hated because He was a great sinner (“Which of you convicts Me of sin?,” Jno. 8:46; 1 Pet. 2:22). He was hated “without a cause” (Jno. 15:25). When people in the religious error and moral corruption of the world hate you for following Jesus and His truth, accept your cross and bear it for His sake (Lk. 9:23). Do not marvel. Their hatred is par for the course. Do not be distracted by the world from practicing righteousness and loving one another (1 Jno. 3:10-15).
14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life… (Philippians 2:14–16, NKJV)
Murmuring and grumbling is the “complaining” we are commanded not to do in this passage. It speaks especially of a secret displeasure that is not openly declared. Yet, as is the nature of whispering, such mutterings rarely remain private. They have the potential of erupting into open disputes that tarnish the “blameless and harmless” character we are to possess and present to the world. As “lights in the world” we cannot be complainers and hope to influence the lost. We ought to learn from Israel’s example and refuse to “complain, as some of them complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer” (1 Cor. 10:10). Israel’s history in the wilderness was marked by repeated complaints that angered the Lord and that destroyed many, many lives (Num. 11:1; 14:1-38; 16:1-5). Instead of being a complainer, be a fixer. Instead of murmuring behind the scenes about a problem, become part of the solution. Rather than generating disputes that undermine effectiveness in a church, in the home, or at work, illuminate the path of peace and spiritual progress by “holding fast the word of life.” When we do that, we will not be complainers, we will be lights in the world.
5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. (1 Thessalonians 5:5–7, NKJV)
The return of the Lord will not overtake Christians suddenly and unexpectedly, because we “are not in darkness” (1 Thess. 5:4). Paul uses light and day to describe the moral readiness of Christians concerning the coming of Jesus. What does it mean to be “sons of light” and “sons of the day?” The gospel called us out of sin’s darkness (1 Pet. 2:11). By the redemption we have in Christ we have been delivered from the power of darkness and conveyed into the Son’s kingdom (Col. 1:13). We used to live in the darkness of sin, “but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8). Darkness and night describe the moral slumber of living in sin. Just as we are unaware of our surroundings in sleep, the darkness of night gives cover to sin and its excesses. We must refuse to be lulled to sleep by the enticements of sin. Let us live vigilantly in truth and righteousness, abstaining from everything that intoxicates the mind and soul. Sons of light are sober, diligently living with self-control and not indulging the flesh with sin. That is why sons of light are ready for the Lord’s return. Walk in the light of truth, not in the darkness of sin (1 Jno. 1:5-10). Be ready of His return.
22 Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. 23 When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. 24 For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. (Acts 11:22–24, NKJV)
Do people get closer to the Lord or farther from Him when they are around you? Does the influence of your life preserve and promote righteousness, or does it distort people’s consciousness of God and knowledge of His truth? Are you genuinely the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16)? Barnabas was. He was reliable, so the Jerusalem church sent him to Antioch to strengthen the new converts. He was dedicated to the Lord, to His gospel and to God’s people, so he encouraged them to remain faithful. He was a good man who lived by faith under the control of the Holy Spirit, so it was by his efforts that many souls were saved (“added to the Lord”). What an impact one godly person has on others. Be a Barnabas. Commit yourself to setting godly examples, to influencing others for truth and righteousness, to teaching the lost, and to bringing honor to Christ every single day of your life.
9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. (1 Peter 2:9–10, NKJV)
If the incentives for proclaiming the praises God of verse 9 are not enough, Peter now expands upon our spiritual condition before we answered God’s call to salvation. By doing so he gives crucial insight into our priestly service unto God. In the darkness of sin we were without faith and hope. Aliens and strangers to God, we were not God’s people. As we lived under the dark forces of Satan our allegiance was only to the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:13). But now, people of faith are the people of God who have been given heavenly citizenship (Philippians 3:20). Likewise, we were without mercy under the rule of Satan as we were held in the merciless bondage of sin (John 8:34). But now we have received mercy from God in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5). Because we are the recipients of God’s compassionate forgiveness we are compelled to proclaim His matchless grace to others. Once aliens, we are now citizens. Once oppressed, we are now forgiven. The grace of God we have in Christ demands we proclaim His excellence and serve Him faithfully (Titus 2:11-12). May we keep our charge with diligent faith.