14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:14–15, NKJV)
Christ lived in the flesh to die for humanity. He was “made a litter lower than the angels” when He partook of “flesh and blood.” Through God’s grace, His “suffering of death” “for everyone” equipped and glorified Him as the captain of our salvation (Heb. 2:9-10). He blazed the trail for our redemption from the bondage of sin and the fear of death. By doing so, Christ destroyed the devil, rendering useless his power to use the fear of death against us. Christ has overcome sin and death by His death and resurrection. We view death with hope, release, and joy because of Christ (2 Cor. 4:16-18; Phil. 1:21-23; 2 Tim. 4:6-8). In Christ, life has its proper context – a temporary blessing on the road to eternity (2 Cor. 5:1). In turn, understanding death instills in us the faith to make the Lord’s will our own (Jas. 4:13-17). Death is coming for us all, but that is not the end of the story. Christ “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). His gospel calls on us to die to sin and live with and for Him, now and forever (Gal. 2:20). Keep the faith, praise God, and have no fear; Christ has overcome the world (Jno. 16:33).
28 Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. 29 Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. (Acts 10:28–29, NKJV)
God separated Israel from the nations and codified that distinction in the law of Moses (Exo. 19:5-6; Deut. 7:1-11). That “middle wall of separation” was broken down in Christ (Eph. 2:14). God taught Peter the nations (Gentiles) were included in His redemptive plan by a dramatic vision. Clean and unclean animals were lowered in a sheet from heaven, and a voice told Peter, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat” (Acts 10:9-17). Peter drew the necessary conclusion not to call people “common or unclean.” That truth should permeate our thinking, words, and our treatment of others. Here are some lessons to ponder and apply. 1) The gospel is for all. Sin has defiled all of us (Rom. 3:23). Everyone needs sin’s stain cleansed by Christ (Rom. 1:16; Acts 22:16). Let us share the gospel so others may believe and turn to the Lord (Acts 11:21). 2) Prejudice has no place in the heart and life of Christians. God looks at the heart, not the outward appearance (skin color, ethnicity, gender, culture, caste, etc.) (1 Sam. 16:7). Grievous errors in judgment happen when based on appearance (Jno. 7:24; Prov. 18:13). 3) Obey God without objection (v. 29). When God has spoken, we listen and obey without resistance and complaint (1 Sam. 3:10). Christians must not murmur against the Lord’s will like Israel did in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10:10). Peter’s example of learning and obeying God’s will continues to encourage us.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17, NKJV)
Anyone. What a comfort beyond measure to know that regardless of the depth of our past sins and the eternal death they cause, God in Christ will forgive us (Rom. 6:23). Unquestionably, redemption from sin’s death is “in Christ” – it is not in the world, in ourselves, or anyone else. It is not found in Church traditions, creeds, confessions, and catechisms (Acts 4:12). God forms a new creation (new creature, NASB) when the sinner enters a relationship with Christ. Fresh and free from sin, washed in the blood of the Lamb (1 Pet. 1:18-19). By entering Christ through water baptism, the sinner’s sin is cut away (“old things have passed away”), and “all things have become new” (Gal. 3:27). This is the operation of God, not any meritorious by the sinner (Col. 2:11-13). Freedom from sin’s guilt, burden, and death is “in Christ.” When you stop waiting, but “arise and be baptized,” your sins will be washed away in Christ. In Christ, you can then truly live with and for Jesus, since Christians “are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). The question is not whether God can or will save you; it is will you believe and obey Jesus to be a new creation in Him?
1 Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. 2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy, 3 And gathered out of the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. (Psalm 107:1–3, NKJV)
Redemption by the Lord from the grip of the enemy arouses thanksgiving in the recipients of His mercy. Psalm 107 rehearses God’s merciful deliverance of Israel from their Babylonian exile back to Canaan. God took them from “the hand of the enemy,” gathering a remnant from every place they were scattered, redeeming them from captivity. Israel had “rebelled against the words of God” and suffered greatly because of it (Psa. 107:10-12). But, when “they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, He saved them out of their distresses” (Psa. 107:13). God is merciful and forgives when we turn from sin to Him. If God has redeemed you from sin’s bondage, give thanks for His goodness! If you are still in the clutches of sin, then call on the name of the Lord for mercy and forgiveness (Acts 2:21, 37-41; 22:16). As He did for Israel, even so now God is gathering redeemed souls from the four corners of the earth by the gospel of Christ (Isa. 11:11-16; Mk. 16:15-16; Rom. 1:16; 11:5). “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!”
3 If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? 4 But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared. (Psalm 130:3–4, NKJV)
We rejoice in the truth that God forgives and does not mark (retain) our sins (cf. Psa. 6:1; 38:1). God’s lovingkindness does not free us from accountability for our sin; We are answerable for our sin, its consequences, and punishment. The way of the transgressor is hard, and the wages of sin is death (Prov. 13:15; Rom. 6:23). Today’s psalm praises God’s forgiveness, His mercy, and redemption of Israel “from all our iniquities” (Psa. 130:8). When God’s people cry to Him with repentant supplications, He hears and forgives (Psa. 130:1-2). He does not withhold forgiveness; neither should (Matt. 6:14-15; 18:32-35). God does not vindictively keep an account of evil (1 Cor. 13:5). His forgiveness generates reverential fear for His wonderful pardon (Psa. 130:4). God’s responsive mercy assures our hearts to patiently trust His purposes and hope in His word (Psa. 130:5-6). Christians trust God’s unfailing love, generous mercy, and abundant redemption. He forgives us when we repent and confess our sins (Acts 8:22-24; 1 Jno. 1:9).
20 and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. (Acts 3:20–21, NKJV)
Jesus Christ is in heaven, ruling at God’s right hand (Acts 2:32-36). While there, “the times of restoration of all things” occurs. God spoke about the “times of restoration of all things” through His prophets. Let us hear God’s definition of this restoration. Peter begins with Moses, who told of a Prophet God would raise up and to whom every soul must listen or be destroyed (Acts 3:22-23; Deut. 18:15, 18-19). Peter applied this prophecy to Jesus. Next, he points out that “all the prophets from Samuel” onward “foretold of these days,” when the Prophet came bringing restoration. Peter and his contemporaries lived in “these days” and were witnessing “the times of restoration of all things” (Acts 3:24). Thirdly, God sent His Servant Jesus to the Jews to begin the restoration of all things that He promised to their fathers (Acts 3:25). What was this blessing of restoration? It was redemption from sin (“in turning away every one of you from your iniquities,” Acts 3:26). Soon, Gentiles would be brought into this redemption, since “all the families of the earth” are blessed in Abraham’s Seed (Christ) (Acts 3:25; Rom. 1:16-17; Gal. 3:16). The “restoration of all things” God foretold is now summed up in Jesus Christ. The gospel age is the “fullness of the times” when God sums up all things in Christ and administers redemption from sin with the eternal inheritance “according to the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:10-11). The “restoration” is the spiritual renewal of sinners in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:11-12).
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.
22 The Lord possessed me at the beginning of His way, before His works of old. 23 I have been established from everlasting, from the beginning, before there was ever an earth. (Proverbs 8:22–23, NKJV)
Wisdom cries out for us to receive her guidance of truth and understanding (Prov. 8:1-11). Not only does she “dwell with prudence,” Jehovah has possessed her from eternity past. 1) Wisdom attended God’s creation of the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1). She served as His “ready craftsman” when He fashioned the earth (Prov. 8:30, 24-31). The wonders of the heavens and the earth defy human intellect, power, skill, precision, and imagination. Divine wisdom, though invisible, is perceived by the things God has made (Rom. 1:20). 2) Wisdom attended God’s plan of human redemption. God made redemption in Christ “abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence” (Eph. 1:7-8). The church (those redeemed by the blood of Christ) reveals the “manifold wisdom of God” to heaven and earth (Eph. 3:10-11). 3) Wisdom attended God’s revelation of the gospel. The gospel is the “wisdom of God” that reveals His mind to the whole world (1 Cor. 2:6-13; Mk. 16:15). The gospel plums the depths of divine wisdom as it calls sinners to salvation (1 Cor. 1:18-25; Mk. 16:16). The wisdom of men pales in comparison to the wisdom that God possesses and has revealed in His word. Let us choose “the wisdom that is from above,” and bear the fruit of righteousness (Jas. 3:17-18).
Then early in the morning all the people came to Him in the temple to hear Him. (Luke 21:38, NKJV)
The excitement in Jerusalem had been building daily, ever since Jesus came into the city riding on a young donkey. Anticipating the deliverance of Israel from the oppression of her enemies, the people had lined His pathway with clothes and palm branches as He entered the city (Matt. 21:1-11; Lk. 19:36-40). Their king had arrived (Jno. 12:13)! People came early each morning and listened attentively to Jesus (Lk. 19:48). The crescendo was nearing its apex, but the climactic event would not be as the crowd envisioned. Soon, in frenzied dismay, they would cry out, ”Crucify Him!” Until then, Jesus kept teaching in the temple daily. “Why did He bother?” you ask? The Son was doing the work His Father gave Him (Jno. 12:27-36). Now, we have what He taught that week in the inspired Scriptures for our faith and salvation. I wonder, are we as eager to hear what Jesus says as they were? And if so, are we also eager to do what He says? We cannot correctly call Jesus our Lord if we believe what He says but do not obey Him (Lk. 6:46). Let us always listen to Jesus – early in the morning, late at night, and all through the day. May we believe Him, obey Him, and so be delivered from sin and death as citizens of His kingdom (Jno. 18:36-37; Col. 1:13-14).