13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” 14 So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:13–16, NKJV)
Who do people say you are? A good reputation is valuable and should be guarded (Prov. 22:1). Yet, what people say about you may not be the truth. People said many things about Jesus, many of which were incorrect (Matt. 12:24; Jno. 7:12). Peter accurately identified Jesus as the “Christ, the Son of the living God” because he accepted the Father’s testimony of His Son (Matt. 16:17; Jno. 5:36-39). When we value what people say about us more than the truth God reveals in His word, we will find ourselves compromising truth for the sake of having people’s approval. Many did this concerning Jesus: “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (Jno. 12:42-43). God’s word sanctifies us, not what people say about us (Jno. 17:17; Gal. 1:10; 1 Thess. 2:4).
10 When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” 12 Then His disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” 13 But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14 Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.” (Matthew 15:10–14, NKJV)
The truth of the gospel offends certain people. Not because it is a harmful message, but because they do not approve of it. Gospel truth exposes sin, and we don’t like to look at ourselves the way God sees us. The Pharisees were spiritual hypocrites, and Jesus called them out, exposing their sin against the commandments of God (Matt. 15:1-10). The disciples reacted to the confrontational nature of truth by trying to moderate Jesus and His message. But, Jesus would have none of that. He explained there are “plants” (like the Pharisees and their teachings) that are 1) Not from the Father, 2) Blind guides of the blind, and 3) Headed for the ditch. When the truth offends us, we are the ones who need correction (not the truth). Like the multitude Jesus taught, we must “hear and understand” that sin’s defilement starts in the heart. That is what we must change first (Matt. 15:15-20).
45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. 46 Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? 47 He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God. (John 8:45–47, NKJV)
Jesus made some incredible claims in this passage. Those to whom He spoke did not believe He was “from above” (Jno. 8:23). They did not think they would die in their sins for not believing in Him (Jno. 8:24). When He claimed to be eternal God (“I Am”), they tried to stone Him (Jno. 8:58-59). When we give an earnest assessment of His claims, we must choose the path of faith (Rom. 10:17). 1) Jesus said He spoke the truth (v. 45). The truth Jesus spoke frees sinners from sin when obeyed (Jno. 8:31-36). Are you following His truth? 2) Jesus said He was without sin (v. 46). Only God is sinless (Rom. 3:23; Heb. 7:26). Do you believe Jesus is sinless God? 3) Jesus said He spoke God’s words (v. 47). The truth Jesus taught was of God, yet they would not receive it (Jno. 8:40, 37). Will you receive God’s truth? 4) Jesus said those who do not hear Him are not of God (v. 47). We do not believe Jesus if we do not hear God’s word that He spoke (v. 45, 47; Acts 3:22-23). Do you believe Jesus is from above? Do you believe He is the great “I Am?” The record of His life gives ample reasons to believe (Jno. 20:30-31). Faith in Jesus means following His truth because it is the word of God. Believe in Jesus because He always tells you the truth.
12 For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. 13 Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, 14 knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. 15 Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease. (2 Peter 1:12–15, NKJV)
One of Peter’s goals in 2 Peter was to remind his fellow Christians they partook of the divine nature through “exceedingly great and precious promises” as they diligently made their “call and election sure” through spiritual growth and fruitfulness (2 Pet. 1:2-10). By doing so, they would enter the everlasting kingdom (2 Pet. 1:11). Note that Peter was not telling them a new message. They knew the “present truth” and were firm in it. He reminded them of these great truths so that after his death, they would continue to remember them and remain faithful. Teaching the gospel is not about hearing and telling some new thing like the Athenian philosophers (Acts 17:21). It is about telling “the old, old story” to each generation with repetition, clarity, and resolve. Like Peter, this present generation will die. May we continue to secure and arouse faith in our generation and the next by preaching the gospel truth that abides forever (1 Pet. 1:22-25).
31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31–32, NKJV)
As the USA celebrates Independence Day, the Savior’s statement in today’s passage rings especially true. Our history tells us that independence from tyranny’s oppression did not remove our responsibility to live under law as free men and women. It is a self-defeating premise and pursuit that declares liberty is freedom from the restraint of law. Free men and women understand and want the protection and constraints that law provides against evil (Rom 13:3-5). Those who seek good know that law serves good purposes (1 Tim. 1:8-11). Freedom from sin’s bondage, tyranny, and death is available through the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Obeying the gospel from the heart ends our slavery to sin, not so we can declare ourselves free from every restraint, but so we may become “slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18). The truth, the word of Jesus, marks the boundary of our liberty in Christ (2 Jno. 9; Gal. 1:6-10). We are “under the law of Christ” (1 Cor. 9:21, ESV). The gospel of Christ declares our freedom from sin and defines our life of freedom in Christ to serve righteousness according to His word of truth.
So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, that they might seize on His words, in order to deliver Him to the power and the authority of the governor. (Luke 20:20, NKJV)
Honor, honesty, and integrity of faith did not move the enemies of Jesus. Far from it. Their agenda was the destruction of Jesus, and they would use whatever means they come to undermine him (Lk. 19:47). Just days before his crucifixion, their faithlessness was on full display as Jesus taught in the temple. Like vultures descending upon carrion, they circled about Jesus looking for their opportunity. They hypocritically asked Jesus about his authority, yet their only interest was in securing their authority by handing him over to the power of Rome (Lk. 20:2-8). They flattered Jesus while trying to drive the dagger through him (Lk. 20:21-22). But Jesus knew their evil intent and condemned their faithless rejection of the Son (“the stone which the builders rejected,” Lk. 20:17-19). Pretending righteousness always ends badly (Rev. 21:8). Unlike the enemies of Jesus, let us listen to the truth Jesus teaches with open, ready hearts to receive and do the will of God (Acts 17:11-12).
But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? (James 2:20, NKJV)
James posed a question that still needs asking and answering concerning knowing the truth of God’s word, “Do you want to know?” In context, his query probes the inclination and desire to know that “faith without works is dead.” Entire doctrines have been fabricated to blunt the force of this simple truth. Some reject James as inspired by God. Others contort the definitions of faith and works to justify their salvation by faith only doctrine (which James summarily rejects, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only,” Jas. 2:24). Faith without the obedience that activates and demonstrates it is profitless, dead, unseen, demonic, and incomplete (Jas. 2:14, 17, 18, 19, 22). We should ask ourselves this question about everything God’s word reveals, “Do I want to know the truth? Or, do I want to remain foolish?” Jesus put it this way, “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority” (Jno. 7:17). With a will to do God’s will, we will know the doctrine of Christ. With a desire to learn and know the truth, our faith joins with our works (obedience) and is made complete (Jas. 2:21-22).
20 O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge— 21 by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith. Grace be with you. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:20–21, NKJV)
Avoiding irreverent and fruitless discussions that destroy souls is achieved by diligently guarding and following “the words of faith” and “the good doctrine” – the gospel (1 Tim. 4:6). So said Paul in his closing exhortation to Timothy. He draws upon the nature of truth (concepts sorely need today, too) to steel Timothy for the work of preaching the word (2 Tim. 4:1-5). We also must be grounded in the traits of divinely revealed truth, lest we stray from the faith and lose our souls. By definition, truth is not profane and worldly. It is not the product of human feelings or experiences (Prov. 14:12; Jer. 10:23). It is the revelation of God’s mind, recorded in inspired Scripture (1 Cor. 2:6-13; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Truth is not idle, nor is it the empty chatter of those who are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). Truth is not vacillating; it is absolute. Truth is definable and knowable (Jno. 8:31-32; Eph. 3:3-4). Truth does not contradict itself; it harmonizes (Rom. 3:3-4; Psa. 119:160). Grace and the eternal inheritance are obtained in truth, not in things “falsely called knowledge” (Acts 20:32). “Buy the truth, and do not sell it, also wisdom and instruction and understanding” (Prov. 23:23).
13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 4:13–14, NKJV)
The word translated “ignorant” means “not to know.” While knowledge can produce arrogance when one thinks too highly of himself, decided advantages also come with knowledge (1 Cor. 8:1-2). Jesus said knowing the truth (His word) “shall make you free” from sin as you abide in His word (Jno. 8:31-32, 33-36). Today’s passage declares knowing the future of Christians who have died removes our sorrow and gives us hope (v. 13). More specifically, knowing and believing Jesus rose from the dead supports our hope (desire and expectation) that Christians will be raised from the dead and be with Jesus when He returns (1 Thess. 4:15-16). Such blessed assurance replaces the sorrow of death’s loss with bold confidence that invigorates our faith when death separates us from beloved saints. God has a future planned for His people. Whether living or dead, when Jesus returns and raises the dead, the saints of God will “always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17). Knowing what will happen to those who have died in the Lord empowers us to “comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:18).
20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. 21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you.” (1 Corinthians 11:20–22, NKJV)
Sinful attitudes and conduct were interrupting and corrupting the worship of the church at Corinth. Their misunderstanding and abuse of the Lord’s Supper exposed divisions between rich and poor brethren. The inspired remedy Paul taught was to partake of the Lord’s Supper properly and to eat their regular meals at home (1 Cor. 11:22, 23-33, 34). We see an underlying worship principle in this passage. Acceptable worship is about God; it is not about us. We are not the ones who decide what makes worship right, good, and pleasing to the Lord. Yet, that seems to be a prevailing attitude in worship gatherings around the world. The Scriptures do not support the premise that sincerity alone justifies acceptable worship. Heartfelt worship without truth guiding it is self-soothing, not Deity honoring. Truth-guided worship that does not spring from the heart is empty, even hypocritical. May we be true worshipers who worship God in spirit and truth (Jno. 4:23-24).