27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27–28, NKJV).”
Jesus challenges us to get to the heart of the matter when identifying and turning away from sin. Of course, adultery remains a sin as it was under the Law of Moses (Exod. 20:14; Rom. 13:9). Even the first covenant called on Israel to love the Lord God with all their heart (Deut. 6:5). Jesus drills down to the root of this (and every) sin; the heart’s desires and impulses (1 John 2:15-17). Lustful looks at a woman are adultery in the heart, and so is the act. The heart is the source of sin. Sin lurks in the recesses of the heart’s desires, emotions, and motives (Gen. 4:7; Matt. 15:19-20). God’s word has the power to pierce the heart and reach its thoughts and intents (Heb. 4:12). By doing so, it convicts us of our sins and calls us to repent (change our heart, Acts 2:37-38; 26:20). Jesus vividly described the severity of repentance: “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell (Matt. 5:29–30).” Jesus will forgive our sins when we repent (Acts 17:30; Matt. 11:28-30). And drastic steps are necessary to repent to avoid sin’s eternal punishment.
14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say (1 Corinthians 10:14–15, NKJV).
Many idols live in the hearts of men and women. Some are apparent, from the nearly 394-foot-tall Buddha in Japan, the 65-foot-tall Shiva in India, to the millions of shrines honoring local gods around the globe. Other idols are not as visible. Hidden in hearts, people carry these false gods like Israel took their little idols in the wilderness (Amos 5:25-26). Anything elevated to a place of honor and devotion above the only true God is an idol, a false god (Isa. 40:18-20; Jer. 10:1-11; Rom. 1:22-23). For example, greed for material possessions and power over others is a false god. Covetousness is idolatry (Col. 3:5). Wise people judge idols are “useless things” and turn away from them (Acts 14:15-17). The gospel calls us to turn “to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thess. 1:9). Only the true God lives and forgives (Acts 17:22-31; 26:17-20). Carving idols of wood, stone, metal, or in the recesses of our hearts is futile and foolish (Isa. 44:9-20). Flee idolatry. The gospel plea is to repent of sin against the living God, put your faith in Him, and obey the word of His Son Jesus Christ. Salvation is only possible in Jesus (Acts 4:12).
12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:12–13, NKJV).”
Regardless of race, ethnicity, language, gender, social status, free or enslaved, all of us have sinned against God and need saving from sin and death (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). The gospel accomplishes what we cannot do for ourselves. It delivers us from the bondage and death of sin (Rom. 1:16-17; 7:24-8:1). Still, God says we must “call upon Him” to be saved. The “why” is evident (salvation). But how do we call on the name of the Lord? Paul quoted Joel 2:32 as Peter did on Pentecost (Acts 2:21). That gospel sermon explained how to call on the name of the Lord for salvation. Sinners were convicted of their sin against Jesus Christ and asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do (Acts 2:37)?” They already heard Peter say, “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Now, Peter explained how to do so to be saved. “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Peter told convicted believers to call on the name of the Lord by repenting and being baptized. By doing so, they would receive God’s gift of salvation (remission of sins). He did not tell them to pray a sinner’s prayer. He did not say to ask Jesus into their hearts as their Lord and Savior. He said to repent and be baptized. God was calling them to be saved. Peter encouraged them with many additional words, and about 3,000 “gladly received his word” and were baptized (Acts 2:39-41). We plead with you to call on the name of the Lord as they did. When you do, the Lord will save you.
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).
24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin (Romans 7:24–25, NKJV).
In Romans 7:14-25, the apostle Paul uses himself to portray the person who is under law, under sin. He is lost, outside of Christ, being ruled by sin. His spiritual condition is “wretched” (miserable, afflicted, impure). He is shrouded in spiritual death as he serves sin (Rom. 7:24; 6:16, 23). This condition describes every person lost and outside of Christ (Rom. 3:23). Who can rescue the wretched person from the bondage of sin’s rule and the death it brings? (1) The sinner cannot save himself. He is dead because of his sin (Rom. 7:9). (2) Another sinner cannot save a sinner. Both are guilty before God and worthy of death (Rom. 6:23). (3) The law of God that the sinner violated cannot save him. It indicts and convicts him as guilty (Rom. 7:13-14; 3:19-20). (4) More sin will not save the sinner. Giving in to sin only increases guilt, imprisoning the soul in evil (Rom. 7:14-21). (5) Only Jesus Christ our Lord can deliver us from the body of death caused by sin (Rom. 7:25; 5:6-11; Acts 4:12). We escape sin’s condemnation and obtain life in Christ by choosing not to “walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1-2). Christ’s gospel is God’s power to save the wretched soul from sin’s guilt, pain, and death (Rom. 1:16-17). The gospel calls us to believe, repent, and be baptized into Christ to escape the misery and eternal death caused by sin (Rom. 6:3-11; Heb. 5:9).
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants’” (Luke 15:17–19, NKJV).
The change of heart that led to merciful forgiveness in the parable of the wasteful son is well known. God is ready to receive back every sinner who comes to himself. God’s divine mercy impelled Solomon to pray about Israel coming to itself after sinning against the Lord. While dedicating the temple, Solomon petitioned God to hear the prayers of His people after their sins brought His anger and punishment upon them (1 Kings 8:46). He prayed, “Yet when they come to themselves in the land where they were carried captive, and repent, and make supplication to You…saying, ‘We have sinned and done wrong, we have committed wickedness’; and when they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul…grant them compassion…” (1 Kings 8:47-53). God is ready to forgive us and receive us with loving compassion when we decide to come to ourselves and repent. Coming to ourselves about our sins takes admitting them (to ourselves and God, Ps. 51:3-4). It takes turning our hearts and lives back to God. Repentance leading to salvation is more than being sorry for sin. It is a radical change of heart that leads us to obey God instead of sin (2 Cor. 7:9-10).
I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me, and heard my cry (Psalm 40:1, NKJV).
We must learn to wait patiently on the Lord. That is made difficult in our world of instant gratification. The internet brings “next-day delivery” via Amazon. Cell phones are now walking computers giving immediate contact to the world. Texting is “instant,” and any disruptive delay of service causes anxiety. By contrast, the agricultural life commends patience to us. “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:7-8). God does not work on our schedule of expectations. Prayer is not a demand list we take to God. No, we humbly petition Him with trust that He hears us (Ps. 40:4-5). And He does hear His people. “Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me; O Lord, make haste to help me!” is the patient prayer of the righteous (Ps. 40:13). Those who patiently wait on the Lord praise Him for His deliverance and are obedient, delighting in His will (Ps. 40:2-3, 6-8). Patient trust in God’s salvation compels us to “proclaim the good news of righteousness” rather than hide God’s faithfulness and truth (Ps. 40:9-10). At all times, patiently waiting on the Lord means we seek Him and love His salvation above anything this world offers (Ps. 40:16; Matt. 6:33). Be patient, endure, imitate David’s faith, and say along with him, “But I am poor and needy; Yet the Lord thinks upon me. You are my help and my deliverer; Do not delay, O my God” (Ps. 40:17).
3 Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; Let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your tabernacle. 4 Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; And on the harp I will praise You, O God, my God. 5 Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God (Psalm 43:3–5, NKJV).
The psalmist longed for God’s vindication against an ungodly nation, unjust men, and his enemy’s oppression (Ps. 43:1-2). He regarded God’s truth as a beam of light that would lead him to God’s presence, where he would joyfully worship (Ps. 43:3-4). His hope in God removed the distress of his soul, confident in the Lord’s help (Ps. 43:5). Notably, the light of God’s truth is still the way God leads souls to Himself and His Son, Jesus the Christ. “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me” (John 6:44-45). God the Father draws sinners to Christ by hearing and learning “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68; Col. 1:4-5). Open your heart to the word of God. Let His light lead you to His presence where you will find salvation from sin, fellowship with Him, hope that calms every distress, and praise for God’s constant help (Matt. 11:28-30; Acts 16:13-15).
What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin (Romans 3:9, NKJV).
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul established that all people, whether Gentiles or Jews, are sinners (Rom. 3:10-20, 23; 6:23). The extent of sin is universal (“There is none righteous, no, not one;…they have all turned aside,” Rom. 3:10, 12). Thus, all are “under sin” – guilty captives unable to free ourselves from its bondage and death (Gal. 3:22; Rom. 7:24). Sin’s death passes to everyone who sins, not because Adam sinned (Rom. 5:12; Ezek. 18:20). Humanity’s sin (disobedience) against God magnifies His mercy, “that He might have mercy on all” (Rom. 11:32). These simple truths expose the lies of Calvinism. (1) Total heredity depravity is not inherited. Personal sin separates each one from God (Isa. 59:1-3; Ezek. 18:20-24). (2) Unconditional election is a farce since God’s mercy is offered to every sinner in Christ (Rom. 5:15). His invitation to be saved is universal, but unconditional election makes God a tyrant (Matt. 11:28; Mark 16:15-16). (3) Limited atonement neglects that Jesus died “for everyone,” not just the elect (Heb. 2:9). (4) Irresistible grace rests on the false premise we are too corrupt to respond to God’s call to mercy without enabling grace from God to jumpstart faith. Yet, the “gospel of the grace of God” is preached to sinners who choose to resist or repent (Acts 2:36-41; 7:51; 13:44-46). (5) Perseverance of the saints is the baseless expectation that once God saves a sinner, that person cannot fall into sin’s condemnation. Sadly, many rely on the false hope of this false doctrine (Gal. 5:4; Heb. 3:6-19; 6;4-6; 2 Pet. 2:20-22). The gospel of Christ calls sinners to salvation through obedient faith (Rom. 1:16-17; 6:17-18). The doctrines of men leave sinners “under sin,” still needing salvation.
30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household (Acts 16:30–34, NKJV).
What does it mean to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” for salvation? Before one can do so, he or she must hear the word of the Lord since faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17). So, Paul and Silas “spoke the word of the Lord” to the jailer and his house (v. 32). Believing on Jesus Christ for salvation mean more than agreeing and confessing He is “the Christ, the Son of God,” since demons did as much (Luke 4:41; James 2:19). The jailer’s conversion shows us when sinners believe and are saved in Christ. This sinner was convicted of the truth when he heard God’s word. He repented of his transgressions (indicated by washing their wounds) and was immediately baptized (v. 33). Then there was great rejoicing because he (and his family) had “believed in God.” Some try using this passage to deny water baptism is essential for salvation. If that is true, why were they baptized immediately? Why was the rejoicing after baptism and not before it (v. 34)? Saving faith is not like the faith of demons. It trusts Christ and obeys from the heart His commands to repent and be baptized (Rom. 6:17-18; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). That kind of faith saves the soul (Matt. 7:21).