30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ (Luke 16:30–31, NKJV)
It is the devil’s deception that suggests only an extraordinary experience can persuade a sinner to repent. The rich man thought it would take a miraculous visitation from the dead of Lazarus to convince his brothers to repent and thus avoid the torment in which he was engulfed. But, Abraham reminded him they had Moses and the prophets to persuade them. The person who will not believe God’s message in the inspired Scriptures will not be persuaded to repent even if one arises from the dead. After all, that is exactly what Jesus would later do. Yet still, in spite of His empty tomb, most people refuse to believe in Him. Why? Because they do not love the truth, and prefer the pleasures of sin (2 Thess. 2:10-12). The word of God amply persuades the person with a good and honest heart to repent (Lk. 8:15; Acts 17:11-12). The hindrance to repentance and salvation is not for lack of a miraculous visitation. The problem is a hardened, closed heart that refuses to receive God’s truth (read Acts 28:23-28). And so, the question comes to each of us. Will we be persuaded by the gospel of Christ to repent, so we can join Lazarus after death? Or, will we refuse to be persuaded, keep living in sin, and find ourselves in torment with the rich man? We answer that question every day.
“Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” (1 Timothy 4:13, NKJV)
William Tyndale had already been on the run for five years by the start of the third decade of the 16th century. The king of England, Henry VIII, had declared him a felon. Fleeing Roman Catholic authorities of London (never to return to England), he first went to Cologne, France, and then Worms, Germany. What crime had this “evil” man committed? Of what rebellious act of treason was he guilty? He dared to translate and print the New Testament in the English language! Yes, it was a crime to read the Bible (William Manchester, A World Lit Only By Fire, 204-205)! Tyndale was eventually arrested and imprisoned in a castle near Brussels. In 1536, after being tried and convicted for heresy, he was publicly executed (tied to a stake, he was strangled to death and his corpse burned). Reflecting on Tyndale’s struggles and sacrifices to provide Englishmen with the word of God in their own language cause us to thank God for the accessibility of the Bible today. It has been translated into many hundreds of languages. Men died to give us the opportunity to read God’s word, the Bible. We really have no excuse for not giving attention to reading it and obeying it (Ephesians 3:3-4; 5:17; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Peter 3:18).
28 … And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. (Acts 8:28–31, NKJV)
This man from Ethiopia was reading the Scriptures. He wanted to understand them, yet he recognized his need to be taught their meaning. He put his desire into action by asking Philip to join him in his chariot, upon which he identified the text he was reading and asked Philip, “of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of someone else” (Acts 8:32-34)? Philip started with that Scripture and preached Jesus to him (Acts 8:35). Our willingness to be taught the Scriptures says some important things about us. It says we want to know God’s will. It says to learn we must have the humility to ask for instruction. It says we do not have all the answers, but the Scriptures do. We learn from this encounter that the Scriptures can be understood. We learn the Scriptures are the source of information to learn about Jesus (not human wisdom, church traditions, credal confessions, etc.). And, we learn God wants us to teach His Scriptures to others. So, we must want to learn from the Scriptures. And, we must want to teach the Scriptures. Both are crucial to faith and salvation in Jesus (Acts 8:36-39).
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13, NKJV)
Peter and John were not educated at the feet of the experts of the law. They were “uneducated and untrained” fishermen from Galilee. Their speech was enough to betray that fact (Matthew 26:73). Yet, their boldness to speak truth to power caused the rulers of Israel to marvel (Acts 4:5-12). Then they realized that Peter and John had been with Jesus. Just as Jesus had promised them, their words were given to them by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 10:17-20; Acts 1:8). Now we have that very same inspired word that they preached. The Holy Scriptures have been breathed out by God as a record of His truth that teaches, reproves, corrects and instructs us in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). Above all else, we must be educated and trained in the Scriptures – not by the lettered men of the day. We must know that very word the apostles preached, so that our faith will not be in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:4-5). Learn the Scriptures. Live the Scriptures. If you will, then you will be with Jesus, too (John 8:31-32; 14:21-24).
10 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. (Acts 17:10–12, NKJV)
The Berean Jews were more noble-minded than the envious Jews in Thessalonica, who had rejected the gospel and threatened the Christians (Acts 17:5-9, 13). The Bereans’ ability to listen to what Paul and Silas said and then to search the Scriptures to assess its accuracy, was a result of their “readiness” of mind. They were predisposed with an eager enthusiasm to hear, know and follow God’s will. Their hearts were good and honest, so that when they discerned the apostle’s message was truth, they readily believed it (Luke 8:15; Acts 17:12). We must have minds that are fair and free of prejudice to examine, understand and follow God’s word. We will not receive the word when our minds are closed by envy, pride, self-satisfaction, or other obstacles which prevent a fair hearing and examination of God’s word. Our goal is to hear, know and follow the truth of God. We will achieve our objective by preparing our hearts to receive the word. Then, we can examine the Scriptures daily and follow the truth of God.
“The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’” (Matthew 21:25, NKJV)
When differences arise over how we understand and apply the Scriptures on matters of moral living and religious duty, some people say, “What difference does it make? As long as you are sincere, you will be fine.” But, minimizing the disagreement and its effects does not remove the difference. Nor does making sincerity the standard of acceptability solve the problem. But, making such statements does reveal a mindset that Christians must not have and hold. In today’s passage, Jesus said there are only two possible sources of authority in soul-effecting matters: heaven or men. When heaven speaks, it makes a great difference over what men have to say (Galatians 1:10). This is why we must have Bible authority for all we say and do. Otherwise, we are acting upon no authority greater than ourselves, and, by doing so, violate heaven’s authority (Colossians 3:17). Jesus Christ has the authority to command, to save, to bless and to condemn (Matthew 28:18; John 5:19-23; 17:1-2). You will find His authority in His word, and nowhere else (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
12 For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. 13 For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.” (Hebrews 7:12–14, NKJV)
Jesus is “a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Psa. 110:4; Heb. 5:6; 7:17, 21). But, the Law of Moses said priests would be the sons of Aaron, from the tribe of Levi (Num. 3:10; Heb. 7:11). Since Jesus was from the tribe of Judah, the law had to be changed in order for Christ to be a priest (Heb. 7:12). Moses was silent about appointing priests from the tribe of Judah. When the Law of Moses identified the tribe of Levi as the priestly tribe, it necessarily eliminated all the other tribes from priestly appointment. You see, the silence of the Scriptures does not give consent for action. If it did, then Jesus (from the tribe of Judah) could be a priest under the Law of Moses, without changing the law. But, He could not, without violating God’s word. An action or a teaching is not legitimized by saying, “the Bible doesn’t say not to.” Truth is established by what the Scriptures say, not by their silence. God’s word says what is good and right in His sight. If we add to His word, we transgress His will. If this is not true, then why did the law have to change in order for Christ to be a priest?