5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:5–6, NKJV).
Why do you pray? The Lord knows the reasons and motives of our prayers; He is the One who “knows the hearts of all” (Acts 1:24). Jesus knew many people pray so others will view them as religious and pious. They choose conspicuous places to petition heaven’s throne. Their desire (to be seen by men), once achieved, is their only reward. Citizens of the kingdom of heaven understand prayer to be intimate communication with their heavenly Father. It is a time to pour out thanks, adoration, petitions, and pleas to the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16). There we find the divine assurance of mercy, solace, and peace. Our Father is in private places. He sees, hears, and openly rewards our humble prayers (Phil. 4:6-7). Prayer is not a ritual; it is a retreat to commune with our Father. Keep pure motives when you pray. God sees the purpose of our prayers, so seek His approval when praying to Him. Remember, it is God who answers our prayers, not people. So pray to be seen by your heavenly Father.
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also (Matthew 5:38–39, NKJV).”
The scribes and Pharisees perverted the Law’s stated penalty against crime by turning it into their justification to return in kind when personally wronged (Exod. 21:24; Lev. 24:20; Deut. 19:21). The Law’s just punishment became their excuse to retaliate against others out of personal vengeance. Thus, they misapplied the Law’s prescribed treatment of wrong-doers while ignoring the Law also said, “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord (Lev. 19:18).” Jesus rejected their manipulation of the Law of God to claim personal retaliation. The righteousness of the kingdom compels us to do the following: (1) Be generous when others mistreat us (do not resist, turn the other cheek, relinquish instead of litigating, go the extra mile, and “give to him who asks,” Matt. 5:39-42). (2) Help those who seek our assistance (“from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away,” Matt. 5:42). Our righteousness must exceed the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 5:20). So, seek peace and pursue it (1 Pet. 3:11). Love your neighbors instead of retaliating against them. Be a peacemaker, and be blessed as a child of God (Matt. 5:9).
He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4, NKJV).
Isaiah lifted his eyes above Jerusalem’s mountain (upon which sat Solomon’s temple) to visionary heights of “the mountain of the Lord’s house,” to which “all nations” would flow in the latter days (Isa. 2:2; Acts 2:16-17; Heb. 1:2). His prophecy of “the mountain of the Lord,” the “house of the God of Jacob,” foresees the church Jesus built (Isa. 2:3; Matt. 16:18; Eph. 2:19-22; Heb. 3:3-6). The “word of the Lord” would go into all the world from Jerusalem, which began on Pentecost after Jesus’s ascension (Isa. 2:3; Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8; 2:1ff). God’s house “shall walk in its path” as we “learn His ways” (Isa. 2:3). Today’s verse describes the effect of the gospel in hearts and lives. The good news of Christ replaces conflict with cooperation, animosity with amicability, and war with peace (cf. Isa. 11:6-9; Eph. 2:14-18). This verse does not describe a futuristic millennial kingdom on earth, far from it (John 18:36). It describes Mount Zion’s habitation of holiness, the heavenly Jerusalem, the “general assembly and church of the firstborn” (Heb. 12:22-23). Sowing the seed of the kingdom in hearts brings peace and advances the kingdom of Christ. Jesus is “our peace,” our King who has come with salvation and speaking “peace to the nations” (Eph. 2:14; Zech. 9:9-10). Learn His ways and walk in His path. You will have peace with God and with other like-minded souls “in one body through the cross,” His church (Eph. 2:16; 4:4).
7 Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God. 8Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers, 9 and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written: “For this reason I will confess to You among the Gentiles, and sing to Your name” (Romans 15:7–9, NKJV).
The gospel brings into one body people of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, etc., “Christ is all and in all” (Col. 3:11; Gal. 3:28). He is our peace, reconciling us to God “in one body through the cross” (Eph. 2:14, 16). Therefore, outward, physical differences must not become barriers preventing us from receiving one another as Christ received us: Fully, complete, and to the glory of God (Rom. 15:7). Using Christ as our great example of pleasing others instead of ourselves, the inspired apostle summarizes the message of Romans 14. Like Christ, Paul urges Christians to sacrificially serve each other instead of pleasing ourselves over scruples of conscience (Rom. 15:1-3; 14:1-3, 13-18). Christ served the truth of God (Rom. 15:8). For the Jews, He did so by fulfilling the promises made to the fathers (Rom. 15:8; Acts 3:20-26). For the Gentiles, He did so as their (our) only means of mercy (Rom. 15:9-12). Surely, since Christ served us by serving the truth of God, we must “receive one another” without rancor, dispute, and division over matters that do not prevent God from receiving us (Rom. 14:3-5). This is not a defense of “agreeing to disagree” over doctrinal and moral issues (Gal. 1:6-9; 2 John 9-11). It is a pattern of how those who practice the truth of God receive one another to the glory of God (Rom. 15:7).
17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:17–18, NKJV).
The gospel forbids retaliation and taking personal vengeance. To do so disrespects God and His righteous vengeance against evildoers: “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). Therefore, Christians are to overcome evil with good by doing all we can to live peaceably with others (Rom. 12:21). We can seek peace and pursue it (1 Pet. 3:10-11; Heb. 12:14). For example, the carnally minded say, “I’ll never make peace with him because he wronged me.” But Christians are to be peacemakers, not conflict promoters (Matt. 5:9). The carnally minded say, “I’ll get even with him.” But Christians turn the other cheek instead of retaliating in kind (Matt. 5:38-42). The carnally minded say, “He wronged me once, and I’ll never trust him again.” But Christians forgive as God in Christ forgave us (Eph. 4:31-32). To be a peacemaker takes self-control, sacrifice, and selflessness. Wisdom from above is peaceable because it is “pure” and “willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17). Peace does not happen on its own. Peacemakers wisely sow “the fruit of righteousness” to “make peace” (James 3:18; Matt. 5:9).
19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord (John 20:19–20, NKJV).
The “same day” He was resurrected, Jesus appeared to His apostles and assured them He had overcome sin and death. Their fear of the Jews put them behind closed doors. But Jesus had not given up on them. Soon, Jesus would send them into the world to preach the good news of His death, resurrection, and our salvation from sins (John 20:21; Mark 16:15-16; 1 Cor. 15:1-11). Jesus did two things that evening that assures us God has not given up on us, either. (1) Jesus said, “Peace be with you.” Fear is replaced with the gladness of faith when we believe Jesus is alive (John 16:22). Do not live your life in fear, fellow Christian. “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7). (2) Jesus showed them His wounds. It was really Jesus. He died for the whole world (Heb. 2:9; 1 John 2:2). He bore our sins in His body on the tree as a sacrifice for sins (1 Pet. 2:24; Heb. 10:10; Isa. 53:4-6). His resurrection assures us of God’s amazing grace and love (Rom. 5:8). Man’s sinful hatred killed the Son of God. But Jesus arose with forgiving love for all who will believe in His name (John 1:11-13; 3:16). We are saved because Jesus lives (Rom. 5:10).
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13, NKJV)
The Christians to whom Paul wrote these words were troubled with “disputes over doubtful things” (Rom. 14:1). The urge to demand others conform to our conscience over matters of liberties is strong. Left unchecked in our hearts, it leads to contempt and condemnation of each other (Rom. 14:3, 10). Critically condemning personal liberties had to stop to avoid being stumbling blocks and promote unity (Rom. 14:13; 15:1-3). Paul is not advising and advancing doctrinal and moral unity in diversity in Romans 14. He is advancing unity by respecting the consciences of each other in matters that are “clean,” “good,” “acceptable,” “pure,” in things God does “not condemn” (Rom. 14:14, 16, 18, 20, 22). By focusing our faith on God through His word guiding us, we avoid factiousness over different consciences toward God-allowed liberties. Christians glorify God by hearts filled with joy, peace, and hope by the power of God’s Spirit guiding us in truth (Rom. 15:5-7, 13).
16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. 17 From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. (Galatians 6:16–17, NKJV)
The nation of Israel was chosen by God, fulfilling a promise He made to Abraham to make his seed a great nation (Gen. 12:2; Deut. 10:22). God told Israel through Moses, “‘Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel” (Exo. 19:5-6). Sadly, Israel often rebelled against God. Their crowning rebellion was rejecting the promised Messiah. As a result, the kingdom was taken from Israel and given to Christ’s kingdom, His church (Matt. 21:42-45; Heb. 12:28; 1 Pet. 2:4-10). Because His kingdom is “not of this world,” physical descend and possessing land do not define “the Israel of God” in this gospel age. Faith, not flesh, identifies the children of God (Israel) now (Rom. 2:25-29; 9:6-8). No longer does physical lineage and circumcision of the flesh by the Law of Moses. Now, the gospel of the cross of Christ produces and identifies God’s chosen people (Gal. 3:26-29). Paul experienced great physical suffering for Christ and the gospel. Yet, God’s peace and mercy rested on him and on all who walk according to the standard of truth, the gospel, that God’s Spirit revealed through the apostles and prophets of Christ (Gal. 3:1-3; 5:7, 16-26).
8 Do not go hastily to court; For what will you do in the end, when your neighbor has put you to shame? 9 Debate your case with your neighbor, and do not disclose the secret to another; 10 Lest he who hears it expose your shame, and your reputation be ruined. (Proverbs 25:8–10, NKJV)
We live in a litigious society. Disputes arise, sides develop, lines are drawn in the sand, resulting in division and alienation that ruins previous goodwill, grace, and unity. The Covid-19 virus has revealed generous amounts of effort are required to maintain unity and peace in society. It has also shown how easily it can be disrupted and destroyed. Diligence by all is essential as we endeavor to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). Today’s passage teaches an advantage to diligently solving a problem with a neighbor privately. Hasty retreat to court over disputes often leads to shame by exposing our errors and deficiencies. Better to solve the problem and correct our errors privately. That means do not spread rumors against your neighbor by innuendo, talebearing, and backbiting. Go directly to the person and solve the problem! Don’t ruin your reputation by “demanding your day in court” while failing to use every avenue to solve the real (or perceived) injustice. Jesus said to solve private sins privately and without delay (Matt. 18:15; 5:23-24). Do not develop a reputation as a person of conflict with a combative approach to disagreements. Instead, build a reputation as a peacemaker. “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Rom. 12:18).