11 But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.’ 12 Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage (2 Kings 5:11–12, NKJV).
God’s prophet, Elisha, told the leprous Syrian commander to dip seven times in the Jordan River to be healed (2 Kings 5:9-10). He was furious, enraged at what he must have viewed as an insult. Why do we get upset and enraged when God’s word says we are to believe and do something to receive God’s blessing? Like Naaman, we are tempted to think what we feel is best. But by doing so, we fail to put our faith in the Lord, trust His word, and follow His will. Our ways seem right to us, but they do not lead to God and eternal life (Prov. 14:12; Jer. 10:23; John 14:6). Instead of turning away from God in a rage, why not simply do what He says? Put your faith in the Lord today instead of yourself. That was the advice Naaman’s servants gave him. He had the good sense to change his mind (repent), trust the prophet’s words, go to the Jordan, and do as he was told. Naaman was healed by God’s power when he trusted and obeyed God’s word (2 Kings 5:13-14). When we want God’s salvation from sin’s blight, we will trust and obey His word instead of our feelings (Luke 6:46; Matt. 7:21; Rom. 10:17).
Whatever the Lord pleases He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deep places” (Psalm 135:6, NKJV).
“God is in control.” We hear that a lot, but what does that mean? The Scriptures help us understand God’s control over the world. (1) God’s sovereign will prevails on earth (Psa. 135:6; Dan. 4:34-35). “He rules and works according to His eternal purpose even through events that seem to contradict or oppose His rule” (Holman, 1523). (2) God did not create the world and then walk away from it. The false theology that only nature’s laws operate in this world is called Deism. It rejects God’s interaction with His creation whether by revelation, by miracles, or by answering prayers (Eph. 3:3-5; Heb. 2:4; Matt. 7:7-11; Acts 14:17). (3) God does not control every event in your life. Free will means we can choose between good and evil, and our choices have consequences (Deut. 30:19; Gal. 6:7-8). Conversely, fatalism is the “doctrine that events are fixed in advance so that human beings are powerless to change them” (Merriam-Webster). Calvinism’s doctrine of predestination is false since God gave us free will (Josh. 24:15). (4) God’s plan for us is that we fear Him and keep His commandments (Eccl. 12:13). His will and purposes prevail in heaven and earth, and human redemption in Christ is the centerpiece (Rom. 8:28-30). Through the gospel, God is calling us to believe and obey Him to be saved and walk with Him in life and eternity (Mark 16:15-16; 1 John 1:5-10; Matt. 7:21-23).
5 Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. 6 Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ (Deuteronomy 4:5–6, NKJV)
Through Moses, the Lord repeatedly exhorted Israel “to be careful to observe” His commandments (Deut. 5:1, 32; 6:3). Was careful obedience only reserved for Israel because God commanded them from Mt. Sinai (Deut. 4:13-14)? No, the Lord God has always expected people to obey His commands, promising blessings to the obedience and warning the disobedient of punishment (Gen. 2:16-17; Exod. 20:5-6). God’s desire and expectation that we obey Him remains true under the new covenant, the gospel of Christ. For instance, Jesus expects those who call Him “Lord, Lord” to do what He says (Luke 6:46). We must do the will of the Father to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 7:21). Christ is the “author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:9). But “to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish” (Rom. 2:8-9). No wonder Paul commended Timothy for carefully following “good doctrine” from the apostle (1 Tim. 4:6; 2 Tim. 3:10). God blesses obedience and punishes disobedience. This truth abides forever.
7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” (Numbers 21:7–9, NKJV)
This event in Israel’s history aptly illustrates salvation from sin and death (Rom. 6:23). They grumbled against God and Moses, which brought death into the camp. They confessed their sin and were told if a serpent bit them to look at the bronze serpent Moses made, and they would live. Their salvation from death becomes a figure of the Son of Man being lifted up on the cross to save humanity from sin (John 3:14-17). Israelites received God’s mercy and lived when they trusted and obeyed God’s command to look at the bronze serpent. Even so, sinners “look” at Jesus in faith by repenting and being baptized “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:37-38, 41). By doing so, the sinner receives God’s redemptive mercy and is saved. Israel did not earn their deliverance from the deadly serpents; they trusted God and obeyed Him. The same is true for every sinner Christ saves (Heb. 5:9).
6 But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives. 7 And these things command, that they may be blameless. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:6–8, NKJV)
The apostle of Christ applies several principles of faithful, righteous living here and applies them to the honor and care of widows (1 Tim. 5:3-16). As we note them here, we can examine ourselves and strengthen our faithfulness to the Lord. 1) We can be spiritually dead while we are physically alive (v. 6). Some doctrines deny this simple truth. “Once saved, always saved” gives false comfort and removes a strong incentive to practice the truth (Jno. 8:31-32). If we do not abide in the word of Christ, we are spiritually dead even as we live (1 Jno. 1:6). 2) The purpose for commanding and obeying God’s word is blamelessness (v. 7). God’s word commands us to follow Him. Obedience is not optional. When we obey the Lord, we are blameless (innocent) before Him (1 Tim. 4:6, 16). 3) Denying the faith happens (v. 8). Christians renounce the faith (the gospel) by failing to fulfill our obligations toward those under our charge. We cannot shirk our responsibilities without reaping the consequences of unbelief (Gal. 6:7-10; Jas. 4:17). Those who obey Christ keep the faith and are spiritually alive in Him.
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! 16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? (Romans 6:15–16, NKJV)
Whatever our profession, we are “slaves” of the one we obey (v. 16). Being under grace does not sanction sin (v. 15). Liberty in Christ is not freedom to determine what is or is not sin. God’s word does that (1 Jno. 3:4). Freedom in Christ is not a cloak for wickedness (1 Pet. 2:16). Sons of light do not walk in the darkness of sin (Eph. 5:6-8). Our liberty in Christ is freedom from sin’s bondage and death (Rom. 6:6-7, 11, 18). Having been “set free from sin,” we have “become slaves of God” (Rom. 6:22). We volunteer to be slaves of sin or obedience. We chose to become slaves or righteousness when we obeyed the gospel from the heart (Rom. 6:17, 3-4). Now, our course of life is to present ourselves as slaves of obedience leading to righteousness (v. 16). Making conscious decisions to obey Christ protects us from sin’s death as it produces holiness (Rom. 6:19-22).
27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” 28 And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. (Matthew 14:27–29, NKJV)
Would we have faith to step out of the boat? Peter did. He heard the Lord’s command to “come,” and he trusted Jesus. To “be of good cheer” means to be confident instead of fearful. Faith is in a struggle with fear. When we “step out of the boat” (as it were), we are replacing fear with trust and confidence in the word and power of Jesus. If Peter put his faith in himself when he stepped out of the boat, he would sink. When we trust in ourselves instead of the Savior, we also sink. Christians confidently “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7, 8). So, when Jesus says, “Do not be anxious about your life,” do we “step out of the boat” and trust God’s provisions (Matt. 6:25)? When He says, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me,” do we “step out of the boat” and confidently sacrifice ourselves for Christ (Lk. 9:23)? When He says, “He who loves father and mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me,” do we “step out of the boat” to love Jesus more than those most precious to us (Matt. 10:37)? Confidently do what Jesus commands. When you do, faith overcomes fear and seizes the spiritual victory in Christ (1 Jno. 5:4-5).
And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days. (Acts 10:48, NKJV)
The commands of God are not optional. They are necessary because they come from God. Obeying the commands of God expresses our love for God (1 Jno. 5:3). When we obey God’s commandments, we are following the example of Jesus (Heb. 5:8-9). When we obey God’s commands, we submit ourselves to His will as dutiful servants (Lk. 17:10). When we obey Jesus, we trust His word instead of our will (Matt. 14:24-33). We should not view God’s commands and obedience negatively. When Peter commanded Cornelius “to be baptized name of the Lord,” it was because the gospel says believers who are baptized will be saved (Mk. 16:15-16). The Holy Spirit had miraculously testified Cornelius and the others were believers (Acts 10:44-46). Therefore, to forbid baptism to believers (by telling them they are saved before and without obeying God’s command to be baptized) hinders their remission of sins (Acts 10:42-43; 2:37-38; 1 Pet. 3:21). Let us obey the commands of God in faith, trusting God’s will instead of our own.
7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham. (Galatians 3:7–9, NKJV)
Keeping the law of Moses cannot save anyone from sin; it identifies one as a sinner (Gal. 3:10-12; Rom. 3:23). Salvation from sin comes “by the hearing of faith,” that is, by the gospel of Christ (Gal. 3:2, 5). Sinners hear that salvation comes by faith through the gospel, not through the law of Moses and its works. One’s faith is counted for righteousness by hearing, believing, and obeying the truth of the gospel of Christ (Gal. 3:1-2, 5-6). Before the law of Moses existed, gospel salvation “by the hearing of faith” was preached in the promise to Abraham: “In you all the nations shall be blessed” (3:8). This promised blessing is available in Christ. The gospel reveals the crucified Christ so we can receive the blessings of Abraham (Gal. 3:1, 13-14). The “blessing of Abraham” and “the promise of the Spirit through faith” is the salvation from sins preached to Abraham, fulfilled by Christ’s death, and heard in the gospel (Gal. 3:14, 2, 22-25). Every sinner who believes the gospel and obeys the truth is saved from sins, is a child of God, and an heir of the promise (Gal. 3:26-29). We preach the gospel of Christ so sinners can believe and obey the truth and be saved in Christ (Gal. 3:26-27).