Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3, NKJV).
Jude challenged Christians with the pressing responsibility to “contend earnestly for the faith.” Why agonize intensely for the faith (the gospel, Gal. 1:11, 23)? Because already ungodly men had slipped in unnoticed, leading souls into sin and unbelief (Jude 4, 5-19). It reassures us to know the gospel was delivered once for all. It is not fluid, changing, modifying itself to the will and wishes of men. “Once” is translated from “hapax” and means once for all. It denotes conclusiveness. There would be no latter-day revelations through visions, dreams, or experiences (Heb. 1:1-2). We contend for a sure and permanent gospel. Scripture describes other things happening “once” (hapax), which confirm the faith-securing truth that the gospel is unchangeable. (1) Jesus suffered for sins once for all (Heb. 9:26). One sacrifice of Jesus is conclusive to redeem sinners. His death does not repeatedly happen (despite the Catholic Liturgy of the Eucharist). (2) Christ’s sacrifice was offered to God once for all (Heb. 9:28). As our High Priest, Jesus offered His blood once for all (Heb. 10:10, 12, 18). (3) We die once (Heb. 9:27). We only experience one physical death. Reincarnation is a fantasy. After death, we will face judgment. Just as Christ died once, offered Himself to God once, and we will die once, the faith (gospel) was once delivered. God delivered the gospel one time for all time. Saints will contend earnestly for it.
1 Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead), 2 and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:” (Galatians 1:1–2, NKJV)
Neither human proclamation nor physical lineage approved and appointed Paul to be an apostle (v. 1). How unlike the assertions and attestations of the churches, councils, and synods that install men to be popes, prophets, presidents, and priests. Jesus Christ chose and commissioned His apostles (Mark 3:13-19; Acts 22:14-15; 26:16-17). Under His authority, He sent them into the world to teach His gospel (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-20). God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead, approved of the appointment and commission of the apostles, including Paul (v. 1). Heaven’s approval did not mean the apostles were above sin. Peter was rebuked for hypocrisy and influencing others to join him (Gal. 2:11-14). Paul’s explanation of heaven’s endorsement of his apostleship laid the foundation of authority by which the churches of Galatia (and thus, all the churches) were to receive and follow his instructions (Gal. 1:6-10). Just as Paul’s apostleship was “not from men nor through man,” neither was the gospel he preached (Gal. 1:11). How unlike the assertions and attestations of the churches, councils, and synods. These religious bodies convene to approve and codify their self-defined “orthodoxy” and bind it on adherents. What an affront to Christ, His gospel, and the apostles He commissioned to preach His gospel (Gal. 1:6-9)! What to believe and obey has been revealed by Christ through His apostles (Gal. 1:12; 2 Thess. 2:15; 3:1, 4). Straying from apostolic doctrine amounts to departing from the faith (1 Tim. 4:1-3, 6).
22 “And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, 24 saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25 Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me. 26 However, we must run aground on a certain island (Acts 27:22–26, NKJV).”
A terrible storm had wreaked havoc on the grain ship and its 276 souls for almost two weeks. They were lost at sea. All seemed hopeless, but God’s revelation to Paul and his faith in the Lord formed the basis of his confidence amid chaos. Paul, the prisoner, became Paul the encourager. Twice he urged those on board to take heart, to “be of good cheer, of good courage” (Thayer, 258). We can take several points from this event to help us be encouraged and also encourage others. (1) Paul trusted God’s word (v. 25). We must trust God’s revelation as we face life’s storms. God’s word prevails. (2) Paul was confident in the purposes of God (v. 24). The Lord’s angel told him he “must be brought before Caesar.” When we rely on God’s purposes, we can take courage to face every trial (1 Pet. 1:5-7). (3) Paul was also a realist (v. 22, 26). He was honest about the trouble ahead. Encouragement does not sugar-coat the situation. It is compassionate yet straightforward with its analysis and recommendations. Whatever storm you face, take heart in the Lord, His purposes, and His truth. He will not fail or forsake you (Heb. 13:5). Then, encourage others.
17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power (Ephesians 1:17–19, NKJV).
Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian Christians was specific, praying God would give them “the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him” (v. 17). Paul wanted them to have insight (“the spirit of wisdom”) and understanding in knowing God by His revelation of truth (cf. Eph. 3:3-4). Paul prayed that they would grasp an appreciation of the spiritual blessings derived through the wisdom of knowing God and His revelation. He describes this as “the eyes of your understanding being enlightened (v. 18). Divine revelation lights our way with truth (John 8:12, 31-32). With a spirit or mind of wisdom to follow His revelation, we obtain spiritual blessings that include: (1) Knowing the hope of His calling (v. 18). The gospel hope of rest and resurrection is central to the gospel (Matt. 11:28; 1 Cor. 15:19-20). (2) Knowing the riches of God’s inheritance in the saints (v. 18). In Christ, we share present spiritual riches and, finally, eternal life (cf. Mark 10:29-30; 1 Pet. 1:4-5). (3) Knowing the exceeding greatness of God’s power toward believers (v. 19). God’s power raised Jesus and works in us, His church, to achieve God’s purposes when we do His will (Eph. 1:20-23; 3:17, 20; Phil. 2:12-13). May God be glorified “in the church by Christ Jesus” for such wonderful spiritual blessings (Eph. 3:21; 1:3).
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).
9 When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.” (Revelation 6:9–11, NKJV)
The souls of martyred saints cried out to the Lord for righteous judgment against those who drew their blood and took their lives because of their faith. His promise to execute His vengeance against evil would prevail (cf. Rom. 12:17-19). But other Christians would face distress and death before God judged and removed the persecutors. With elaborate imagery, The Revelation tells of Rome’s defeat and the victory of the faithful (cf. Rev. 17:14). We must patiently endure and remain faithful to Christ when we face pressure and persecutions “for the word of God and for the testimony” we hold (Heb. 10:32-39). God will reward our patience (1 Pet. 4:12-13; Rev. 14:12-13). The Lord will defeat evil, just as He did in the days of Rome (which was “Babylon, the great, the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth,” Rev. 14:6-11; 17:5-6, 14, 18; 19:1-6, 11-21). When our faith is tested, let us be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).
Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. (Revelation 1:7, NKJV)
We may immediately think this verse refers to Christ’s return on the last great day (Acts 1:11). That day will surely come (Acts 17:30-31). But to apply it to the last day overlooks its immediate context and the broader context of the book. Christ gave John this revelation to show to the servants of Christ “things that must shortly take place” because “the time is near” (Rev. 1:1, 3). Jesus Christ is “the ruler over the kings of the earth,” a central truth borne out in The Revelation (17:14; 19:15-16). Yet, Christians were being persecuted unto death (even though Christ had loved them, redeemed them, and made them a kingdom of priests on earth, Rev. 1:5-6). The Revelation assures them He would execute judgment against their persecutors; They would be victorious in Him (Rev. 17-19; 18:20-24; 19:11-21). The expression, “coming with clouds,” is judgment language (as Jesus used in Matt. 24:29-30 of Jerusalem’s demise, cf. Isa. 19:1). He said, “They shall see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven.” There was no visible image of Jesus when Jerusalem fell. But its fall was evidence that the Son of Man rules in heaven and on earth. They would “see” the Son of Man coming in judgment against Jerusalem, which happened in A.D. 70. His heavenly reign and authority were on display for all to see (Mk. 13:26, 30; Matt. 26:64). Similarly, Revelation 1:7 refers to Christ’s judgment against the persecuting powers, the Roman empire (cf. Rev. 14:14-16). “The ruler over the kings of the earth” would soon execute His judgment, and it would be evident (“every eye will see Him”). “Even so, Amen.”
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).
14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:14–16, NKJV)
The “natural” man is not guided by divine revelation (v. 14). He “does not receive the things of the Spirit of God” – the gospel – that was revealed to Christ’s apostles and spoken by them through inspiration (1 Cor. 2:10-13). Reminiscent of Proverbs 14:12 (“there is a way that seems right to a man…”), he lives according to human reasoning (“the wisdom of this age,” 1 Cor. 2:6) instead of divine truth. His carnal way of thinking prevents the spiritual discernment he needs to receive truth (1 Cor. 3:1-3). To him, “the message of the cross is foolishness,” and he perishes in his sins (1 Cor. 1:18). By contrast, the “spiritual” person “judges (evaluates) all things” in the light of God’s revelation (v. 15). This person refuses to tell God what His will is (or should be, v. 16; Rom. 11:34). The spiritual person trusts and obeys the gospel – the revealed mind of Christ. Those who rely on themselves attempt to instruct God, but the spiritual receive His instruction. Let us be the spiritual person who receives the things revealed by the Spirit of God.
Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near. (Revelation 1:3, NKJV)
Regular Bible reading is very important. But, reading without listening to its message gives no lasting spiritual profit. One may have bragging rights to say, “I read through the Bible every year,” but without actually understanding and following its teachings, such a boost is vain glory. Without keeping the words of divine revelation, reading alone cannot prepare one for God’s purposes. God’s blessing is assured when we read and listen to God’s declarations, and then conform to what is written. This assurance is given throughout the Scriptures (see Psalm 119:33-35; Ephesians 3:3-4; 1 Timothy 4:13-16). Spend time with the Bible. Listen to what God has said by His Son (Hebrews 1:1-2). Keep His words in your heart and obey them in your life. God fulfills all His purposes, and by following the inspired guideline in today’s verse, you will be ready when He does all that He has promised.