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. I23 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. (Acts 11:22–23, NKJV)
We frequently hear about people with hidden agendas. Void of forthrightness, these manipulators lurk in the shadows, pulling strings and massaging situations to achieve their nefarious objectives. These people are not only found in politics and business but also in religion (see Gal. 2:4; Rom. 16:17-18; 2 Pet. 3:1-3; Jude 4). When Barnabas went to Antioch, he encouraged the new converts to take an entirely different and honorable approach. He urged them to continue to have “purpose of heart.” The Christian’s agenda should be open, exposed, not hidden. Our lives are to show our open intention to be faithful to the Lord. Barnabas urged Christians to live with obvious determination, to stand in the grace of God, and live faithfully before others (cf. Rom. 5:1-5). We are the light of the world; therefore, we must not hide our faith (Matt. 5:14-16). May we have the resolve of heart to be loyal to the Lord in the face of spiritual obstacles and those who try to keep us from continuing with the Lord.
6 Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; And to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:6–7, NKJV)
God is “not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27). Our sins separate us from God, not His lack of love, concern, power, or unwillingness to come to our aid (Isa. 59:1-2). Nothing within ourselves or in this present age can fill the void left in a life without God. The answer to life’s problems, pain, sin, and death is Jesus Christ (Jno. 14:6). God has arranged life on earth and revealed His word in the Bible so that we will seek Him and find Him (Acts 17:27). We must forsake the way of evil and the thoughts of unrighteousness. We must “return to the Lord,” and we do He will be merciful. Full pardon from God for our sins before Him and against others is His promise, fulfilled in Christ (Rom. 5:6-11). A life without God is a life forever groping for meaning and purpose, yet always falling short. But, life with God is full of mercy, forgiveness, and hope. Seek the Lord in Christ and His gospel, and you will find His mercy as well as meaning for your life (Matt. 7:7).
7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:7–9, NKJV)
The apostles of Christ “did not follow cunningly devised fables” when they made known “the power and coming or our Lord Jesus Christ” – they were “eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Pet. 1:16; Mk. 9:2-7). In preaching the gospel, these eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ spoke the wisdom of God that was previously hidden from men. God set in place His plan to redeem people from sin before time (Eph. 1:3-14; 3:8-11). It did not originate in the heart of man or the minds of the rulers of men. They unwittingly participated in it when they crucified the Lord Jesus. The apostle Paul uses Isaiah 64:4 to affirm that God plans and executes His will to bless those who follow Him. The gospel is not the wisdom of men; it is the wisdom and mind of God. It has the power to save sinners (Rom. 1:16). Perverted gospels have the power of condemnation, not salvation (Gal. 1:6-10). We must turn to and rely on the revelation given the apostles of Christ – the New Testament of Christ – for our salvation from sin and to guide us in the way of righteous living unto eternal life (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Heb. 10:35-39).
8 To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. (Ephesians 3:8–12, NKJV)
The gospel Paul preached reveals the “unsearchable riches of Christ” for all the world to see. In it, salvation from sin is available to all “by grace…through faith” (v. 8; Eph. 2:8). The gospel Paul preached reveals God’s purposes for the redemption of sinners in Christ (v. 9). The gospel Paul preached reveals the importance of the church (v. 10-11). First, because “by the church,” God’s many-sided wisdom is made known to the unseen realms (v. 10; 1 Pet. 1:10-12). Second, because it is crucial to God’s “eternal purpose” fulfilled in Christ (v. 11). The church is not an afterthought of God. The gospel Paul preached reveals our bold and confident access through faith in Christ into every spiritual blessing of God (v. 12, Eph. 1:3). The gospel is truly the wisdom and power of God (1 Cor. 1:24). The church (the redeemed) is the product of the gospel (Acts 2:47). The church is important to God. It must be important to us.
But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:13, NKJV)
Paul felt a moral obligation to always thank God for his brethren. His reasons for giving thanks for them gives us guidance for being thankful for one another. Paul was thankful for them because they were loved by the Lord. Let us be thankful for our brethren because they share in God’s love. Paul was thankful because his brethren were the recipients of God’s eternal purpose of salvation. God chose to save sinners in Christ before the world began (Ephesians 1:4). His plan of “sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” is fulfilled in each person who believes and obeys the gospel (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 10:34-35). Because Christians share in salvation it fills our hearts with thankful prayers as we meditate on the rich blessings of God’s eternal love.
Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways. (Psalm 128:1, NKJV)
What does it mean to fear God? Some mistakenly define it as cowering fright. Others, as weak timidity. However, Scripture reveals fearing God to be reverential deference and dreading to displease the Almighty (Psalm 89:7; 111:9; Matthew 10:28). Both knowledge and wisdom begin with fearing God (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7; 9:10). Today’s passage gives succinct insight into what fearing God is and what it causes in one’s life. The person who fears the Lord submits to His will by walking in His ways. Fearing God is about actually living in humble, yielding obedience to the will of God. Defiance in the face of God’s word will never be rewarded with heaven’s blessing. On the other hand, “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord! Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart! They also do no iniquity; They walk in His ways” (Psalm 119:1-3; see Psalm 128:2-6). The purpose of life on earth is to “fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Are you fulfilling your life’s purpose? If not, now is the time to start fearing God and walking in His ways.
12 And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh. 13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. (Ecclesiastes 12:12–13, NKJV)
As you see from the above notation, this is the 1200th Sword Tip. Seeing that number reminded me of today’s passage. People will always write books. And, people will continue to read and study them. Yet, making intellectual pursuit the goal of one’s life “is grasping for the wind,” as Solomon explained in Ecclesiastes 1:17-18. God’s word, the Bible, is complete; it will not be added to by God, and it cannot be improved upon by human wisdom (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Jude 3; Revelation 22:18-19). Bible study is essential. But, Bible study is not an end in itself. Reading and knowing God’s word is vanity, unless we “fear God and keep His commandments” (verse 13). That is the purpose of life. The Bible teaches us why to fear God and how to obey Him. This is why we read, learn and study the Bible – so that we may live reverently, obey God completely, and thereby, fulfill our God-given purpose. By God’s good grace, may that ever be the purpose that drives our lives (2 Peter 3:17-18).
27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ (Acts 17:27–28, NKJV)
The God who was unknown to the Athenian philosophers, and to many still, is a purposeful God. He rules this world, not to oppress, but to bless, so that we will seek Him and find Him. We have been created for this very purpose. Solomon said our duty, and a fulfilled life is summed up in this: to fear God and keep His commandments (Eccl. 12:13). God is not inaccessible to us; He is as near as the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat. Proof of His presence is everywhere in this world. Indeed, He is as near as His inspired word, which records His will for us (2 Tim. 3:16-17). His Scriptures teach us how to seek Him and find Him through His Son, Jesus Christ (Matt. 11:28-30). Truly, “He has put eternity” in our hearts (Eccl. 3:11). The desire to know God compels us to find Him where He may be found; but not in the images of art that depict mythical gods. This is self-evident, since “we are also His offspring.”
38 “So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.” (Acts 5:38–39, NASB)
Rabbi Gamaliel gave sound advice to the Jewish council members, some of whom “plotted to kill” the apostles (Acts 5:33). We never win when we fight against the purposes of God – we always lose. As Jesus told Saul during His appearance to him on the road to Damascus, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (Acts 9:5). Yet, people still fight against God’s word, His truth and His purposes. For example, Christ said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mk. 16:16). But, many reply, “He who believes is saved and will be baptized.” Again, God said, “you have fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4). But many say, “you cannot fall from grace.” And again, God said, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (Jas. 2:24). Yet, many say one is justified by “faith only.” Sadly, all these fight against God. It is a losing battle. Stand with God and His word, and do not “be found fighting against God.”
To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NKJV)
Divine Providence has arranged life on earth with its own symmetry. Life and death, planting and harvest, weeping and laughter all illustrate the portion and occasion of things “under the sun.” Yet, acknowledging life’s symmetry (and at times, its paradoxes) does not give ultimate satisfaction or meaning to life. “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end” (Eccl. 3:11). Only by trusting the purposes of God and submitting obediently to Him will one ascend to the ultimate purpose and meaning of life which God has given us (Eccl. 12:13).