30 Then He said, “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? 31 It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; 32 but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade” (Mark 4:30–32, NKJV).
There are many speculative and erroneous anticipations about the kingdom of God. Jesus described the nature of God’s kingdom (not of this world, spiritual, John 18:36) and when it would be established (before His generation passed away, Mark 9:1). To look for the kingdom’s future coming misunderstands and misapplies “the gospel of the kingdom of God” Jesus preached (Mark 1:14). The kingdom Jesus preached and established is His church (Matt. 16:18-19). Today’s parable pictures the growth of God’s kingdom. Despite its humble beginnings (like the tiny mustard seed, it would fill the earth (Isa. 2:1-4; Dan. 2:35; Matt. 28:19-20). Its humble start is in keeping with the humility of Jesus its king (Zech. 9:9; Mark 11:1-10). The kingdom’s seed, the word of God, is planted in good hearts that bear good fruit (Mark 4:14, 20). The kingdom of God did not come with military might and fanfare. It comes is within the hearts and lives of those who receive its gospel (Luke 17:20-21). From Pentecost in Acts 2 (through gospel preaching), the kingdom spread from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). Human armies do not defeat this kingdom; it is enduring, unshakeable (Heb. 12:28). All who receive the word of the kingdom (the gospel) and hold it fast obtain salvation, divine comfort, and the eternal provisions of citizenship in the kingdom of God (Col. 1:13-14; Eph. 1:3; Phil. 3:20).
1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? (1 Corinthians 3:1–3, NKJV)
One culprit of a weak faith is remaining spiritually undeveloped. Every Christian begins in this immature state as “babes in Christ” (v. 1). The problem of spiritual weakness is staying in that condition. Christ calls us to grow in Him by using God’s word in our lives (1 Pet. 2:2; Heb. 5:12-14). Those who do are the “spiritual” ones; They use God’s revelation to decide their course of conduct (1 Cor. 2:14-16). However, the Corinthians had not grown; they were still carnal (“fleshy”) in thought and practice (v. 1). Such spiritual weakness quickly becomes anti-spiritual (as noted in verse 3). Now, the flesh controlled their minds and choices (see the contrast in 1 Cor. 2:15). We retain the traits and characteristics of the flesh (carnally minded) when we do not grow in our faith (Rom. 8:1, 5-8). Like the Corinthians (engulfed in “envy, strife, and divisions”), spiritual weakness devolves into sin unless arrested by renewing our minds and lives (Rom. 12:1-2; Eph. 4:20-24). Let us not yield to the weakness of the flesh (Matt. 26:41). Instead, be strong in the Lord, using each day to strengthen your faith, cleanse your actions and purify your heart from all defilement of flesh and spirit to grow up in Christ (Matt. 26:41; James 4:8; 2 Cor. 7:1; Eph. 4:15).
2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For each one shall bear his own load (Galatians 6:2–5, NKJV).
The mature Christian is encouraged to restore a fellow Christian ensnared by sin (Gal. 6:1). A spirit of gentleness directs this act of love and fulfills the will of Christ (Eph. 4:2). The apostle elaborates by immediately turning our attention to ourselves, not the sinning Christian (verses 3-5). (1) Prideful conceit prevents bearing another’s problems (Gal. 6:3). When a Christian sins, it is a time for us to rally to help that soul, not point a finger in shame. Remembering our frailties and failures helps us remain humble and avoid deceiving ourselves. (2) Personal examination equips us to humbly help bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:4). There should not rejoice when sin overtakes a soul. Comforting ourselves in someone else’s sin by self-righteously assuring ourselves we are not like them ensures our spiritual demise (Luke 18:9-12). We should examine ourselves and not try to justify ourselves on the back of another’s sin (2 Cor. 13:5). (3) Each Christian has their load to bear (Gal. 6:5). Each person is responsible for himself before God (2 Cor. 5:10). When someone falters, it does not mean we have met our obligation to the Lord. When we address our spiritual condition, we can help others with the impediments and sin that so easily ensnares us (Matt. 7:3-5; Heb. 12:1).
I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read to all the holy brethren (1 Thessalonians 5:27, NKJV).
Bible reading is essential to salvation from sins and living faithfully to the Lord. The Bible is the inspired word of God, His truth delivered in this last age by His Son, Jesus Christ (John 16:13; 17:17; Heb. 1:2; 2:3-4; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Jude 3). By it, faith is produced and strengthened in us (Rom. 10:17; Acts 20:32). Christians read the Bible! We read it to increase in knowledge of God’s will and wisdom to apply it to our lives (Phil. 1:9-11; Col. 1:9-11). It is little wonder the apostle Paul closes his letter to the Thessalonians with a charge to read it to all the holy brethren. His writings are the “commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor. 14:37). Paul’s “charge” (“to cause someone to swear,” TDNT, V:462) put them under oath to do so. It was not optional but mandatory that they read his epistle. Even so, we are under oath to read the Scriptures. Public Bible reading and teaching please God and should please us (Neh. 8:1-3, 7-9; 1 Tim. 4:13). The saints circulated the apostolic letters for all to read (Col. 4:16). We should never think there is “too much” Scripture in a gospel sermon. Private Bible reading allows quiet time for meditation, examination, and correction of personal spiritual needs (Acts 8:29-35; 1 Tim. 4:15-16; Phil. 4:8). The Holy Scriptures will make us “wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” when we read and learn them (2 Tim. 3:14-15; 2 Pet. 3:15-16). Have you read your Bible today?
Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 2, NKJV).
How healthy is your soul? Would you be in good physical health if it matched your spiritual health? In this age of Covid, we are inundated with information and misinformation about being healthy, safe, and protected. Prudent measures for good physical health are important (1 Tim. 5:23; Luke 10:34). Exercise helps slow the rate of decay of our death-destined bodies (1 Tim. 4:8). But the gospel compels us to look at the health of our souls as more essential (1 Tim. 4:7-8). It is the remedy to our sin and death; salvation in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; John 5:24-25; Rom. 1:16; 6:23). A cure for Covid would be a worldwide bestseller. Yet, the cure for sin is cast aside by countless souls rushing headlong toward eternal death. Why is that? Why are people more afraid of their physical death than their eternal death (Matt. 10:28)? Because they do not believe God and the words of His Son, Jesus. Why is the death of God’s saints precious in His sight (Ps. 116:15)? Because they are the ones who “take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord,” serving God faithfully all their days (Ps. 116:13-14, 16-19). With Ananias, we ask, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). The remedy for your sins is available through the sacrifice of Jesus (1 Pet. 1:17-19; 2:24; Rom. 6:3-4; Eph. 2:1-10). Believe and obey Jesus and be saved from sin and death (Rom. 6:17-18; Heb. 5:8-9).
But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come” (1 Corinthians 15:35, NKJV)?
Jesus is the resurrection and the life, the first fruits of those who have “fallen asleep” (John 11:25; 1 Cor. 15:20). His resurrection proclaimed His power over death and began the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor. 15:20-22). He is the “life-giving spirit,” the power source of the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:45). People wonder, “how are the dead raised up?” Hear God’s answers. (1) It will be a bodily resurrection (John 5:28-29). Just as Christ’s body was raised, every dead body will be raised. (2) By the power of God (1 Cor. 6:14). The resurrected body will possess God’s design (“as He pleases,” 1 Cor. 15:38). (3) With a body different from the one that died (1 Cor. 15:36-37). Wheat growing out of the ground looks different from the seed that was planted. Yet, both are wheat. Likewise, we will have a body different from our dead body (1 Cor. 15:39-42). (4) The raised body will be incorruptible (1 Cor. 15:42). We bury bodies because they decay; Our resurrected body will not. (5) The raised body will be glorious (1 Cor. 15:43). A dead body has no honor. We cover it, buried beneath the dirt. Its dignity has passed. But our resurrected bodies will possess elegant excellence. (6) The raised body will have power (1 Cor. 15:43). The corpse is utterly powerless, but the raised body will be animated. (7) The dead will be raised with a spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:44). Our natural body is fit for life in the physical realm. The resurrected body will bear the traits needed to exist in spiritual realms. Be assured; there will be a bodily resurrection of “both the just and the unjust” (Acts 24:15). Believe and obey the gospel to be ready when that day arrives (John 11:25-26; 1 Cor. 15:1-2).
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34, NKJV).
Jesus has given us multiple reasons not to be drawn away from the righteousness of the kingdom in Matthew 6:25-33) by temporal cares, including (1) Our value to the Father (Matt. 6:25-26), (2) Worrying does not improve our condition (Matt. 6:27), (3) God proves He provides for His creation, so trust Him to provide our needs (Matt. 6:28-31); and (4) God knows our needs (so seek first His kingdom and righteousness, unlike the Gentiles who do not know God, Matt. 6:32-33). Finally, today’s passage assigns distracting cares (which take us away from kingdom righteousness) to the uncertainty of tomorrow (Matt. 6:34). We have today, with no promise of tomorrow. Therefore, address today’s problems; Don’t borrow trouble from tomorrow that may not come at all. The answer to anxiety is not detachment from personal responsibility. The resolve to meet daily duties with the focus of faith that relies on Him (“if the Lord wills,” James 4:15) replaces worry with contentment. The most important things to those who follow Jesus are the heavenly treasures that endure long after our physical life with its needs have ended. God provides for our needs on earth. How much more abundant are the eternal treasures He gives us in Christ (Eph. 1:3). Do not worry; Have faith in God. Seek first His kingdom and righteousness, and your reward will be far greater physical goods (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19–21, NKJV).
Jesus makes a strong contrast being material and spiritual things. We do not achieve spiritual fulfillment by material means. For example, while important, caring for one’s body is not the same as caring for one’s soul; That requires exercising ourselves toward godliness (1 Tim. 4:7-8). The earth and its goods are transitory, temporary, and tenuous. To invest one’s heart and life in these things is to miss the greater treasure that is enduring and eternal. We will fix our hearts on one or the other. Christians focus their hearts on spiritual wealth. The previous teachings of Christ in this sermon illuminate heavenly treasures. In the Beatitudes, Jesus explains the spiritual fortune of kingdom citizens (Matt. 5:1-12). Choosing righteous conduct reflects a heart that values heaven more than earthly vindication and pleasure (Matt. 5:17-48). Seeking God’s favor in our service and prayers shows a heart dedicated to treasures men cannot spoil (Matt. 6:1-18). Money is not evil, but loving it is (1 Tim. 6:9-10). Loving heavenly things equips us to use material goods to serve others and honor God while laying hold of eternal life (1 Tim. 6:17-19).
5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace (Romans 8:5–6, NKJV).
We live according to where we set our minds. The person who fixes his mind on fleshly things lives for the flesh and produces the “works of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19-21). The apostle of Christ firmly declared, “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:21). Conversely, to live “according to the Spirit,” we must set our minds on “the things of the Spirit.” What are those things? Nothing less than the things the Spirit revealed to the apostles, which they preached to the world (1 Cor. 2:10-13). The things of the Spirit are the words of truth He revealed, confirmed, and inspired. The “fruit of the Spirit” is borne in our lives when we follow the Spirit’s guidance that is in God’s word (Gal. 6:16-18, 22-23). Today’s passage explains we either live “according to the flesh,” or we live “according to the Spirit,” but not both. Spiritual death (separation from God) is the outcome of being carnally minded. Spiritual life and peace with God result from being spiritually minded. Have you set your mind on the things of the Spirit or the flesh? “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:2).
The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it” (Proverbs 10:22, NKJV).
Christians possess riches unknown to the world. Our heavenly treasures abound, and we praise God for the spiritual bounty He gives us in Christ (Eph. 1:3). We do not measure our wealth in dollars, land holdings, stocks, bonds, commodities, or other material possessions. All these riches are fleeting and attended by sorrow (Eccl. 5:10-17). Spiritual blessings are beyond the reach of moth and rust and thieves (Matt. 6:19-20). Here are just some of them: (1) Redemption from sin by God’s grace (Eph. 1:4-14). We are chosen, adopted, accepted, forgiven, saved, given an inheritance, and sealed. (2) Full assurance of understanding in Christ (Col. 2:2-3). His disciples abide in His word, know the truth, and are freed from sin (John 8:31-32). (3) Prayer (Phil. 4:6). Our Father hears the prayers of His children, so we continue earnestly in prayer (Col. 4:2; 1 Thess. 5:17). (4) The church (Eph. 1:22-23). We are members of Christ’s body and, therefore, “members of one another” (Acts 2:47; Rom. 12:4-5). What a rich blessing to be brothers and sisters together in Christ (Matt. 12:46-50). (5) An eternal inheritance (Eph. 1:18). Peter assures us it is incorruptible, undefiled, and reserved in heaven for us (1 Pet. 1:4). (6) A living hope (Eph. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:3). Our hope secures our souls because Christ arose from the dead (1 Cor. 15:19-20; Acts 24:15). (7) Joy (Phil. 4:4). We rejoice in the Lord always, in good and troubled times (James 1:2-4). God does not add sorrow to those He enriches (Prov. 10:22). The world tries to do so, but we are of good cheer because Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33).