6 A scoffer seeks wisdom and does not find it, but knowledge is easy to him who understands. 7 Go from the presence of a foolish man, when you do not perceive in him the lips of knowledge. 8 The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way, but the folly of fools is deceit. 9 Fools mock at sin, but among the upright there is favor (Proverbs 14:6–9, NKJV).
The path to hell is paved with the foolishness and self-deception of human wisdom (1 Cor. 1:18-25; 3:18-20). This age’s rhetoric promotes the superiority of human knowledge and insight while demoting faith to a blind leap into the unknown (which is entirely wrong, Heb. 11:1). The truth is, many things people once considered to be true have been proven false. The earth is not flat. The earth is not the center of the universe. Bleeding a patient does not increase health. But the scoffer refuses to be humble. He keeps looking for wisdom, and it keeps eluding him (v. 6). Wise Solomon counsels us to avoid the foolish who mock at sin and deal in lies. Knowledge and wisdom begin with the fear of the Lord (Prov. 1:7; 9:10). When we stop fearing God, we expose ourselves to the world’s foolishness and the sin that deceives and destroys us. God’s word stands the test of things “falsely called knowledge” – do not be deceived (1 Tim. 6:20-21). May we all “Buy the truth, and do not sell it, also wisdom and instruction and understanding” (Prov. 23:23).
Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all” (John 18:38, NKJV).
The life and words of Jesus bore witness to the truth. He came into the world to be a king and everyone who is “of the truth” hears His voice (John 18:37). Truth did not matter to Pilate. He did not hold truth in high esteem. To Pilate, like so many others, truth was pliable, relative, able to be shaped by the moment’s expediencies (Matt. 27:15-26). While cynicism drips from his question, “What is truth?” deserves a credible answer. Scripture gives us the answer. (1) God’s word is truth (John 17:17; 8:31-32). Truth comes from God (John 8:40). (2) Truth is knowable. Jesus said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). (3) Truth is impartial. It is consistent and does not show favoritism (Rom. 2:1-2; Acts 10:34). (4) Truth is righteous. The word of truth, the inspired Scriptures, equips us for righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16-17). (5) Truth is incorruptible (1 Pet. 1:23). Truth is not relative, a shape-shifting entity without constancy and continuity. We do not shape truth into what we wish it to be. We obey truth to be purified in heart and life (1 Pet. 1:22). (6) Truth is eternal (1 Pet. 1:23-25). Truth “lives and abides forever.” Untarnished by the passing of time, truth inhabits eternity. It is no wonder, then, that we ought to acquire truth and never let it go, “Buy the truth, and do not sell it. Also wisdom and instruction and understanding” (Prov. 23:23).
33 Now in the synagogue there was a man who had a spirit of an unclean demon. And he cried out with a loud voice, 34 saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him in their midst, it came out of him and did not hurt him. (Luke 4:33–35, NKJV)
Why did Jesus rebuke and silence demons when casting them out? After all, this one and others declared the truth that Jesus is “the Holy One of God,” the Messiah (Lk. 4:34, 41). The answer is one of contrasting the sources of truth and the authority of Christ. As Jesus was teaching in the Galilean synagogues, He showed Himself to be the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy (Lk. 4:16-21, 31-32, 42-44). The Messiah, not demons, would “preach the gospel” and “set at liberty those who are oppressed” by sin (Lk. 4:18, 35, 41). Christ gave miraculous evidence of His authority to save souls from sin’s power when He miraculously freed people from demonic possession, (Lk. 4:32, 35-36). Jesus applied His authority as the source of truth when He silenced demons from declaring Him to be the Christ, the Son of God. Christ, not demons, would proclaim “the acceptable year of the Lord” (Lk. 4:19). Therefore, we must listen to Christ as the final authority for salvation and service to Him (Matt. 28:18-20; Heb. 1:2).
33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:33–37, NKJV)
Jesus teaches one’s honesty should be so ironclad that his word is sufficient to settle any matter. “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matt. 5:37). Swearing an oath becomes superfluous to the one whose constant code is the integrity of truth (Matt. 5:33-36). When someone must try to convince you they are telling you “the honest truth,” something is “rotten in Denmark.” “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor” (Eph. 4:25). A good dose of honesty improves every relationship in your life. Be trustworthy and remember; others know your honesty by your words and the life you live.
23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:23–24, NKJV)
First-century Christians regularly came together on the first day of the week to worship God (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 14:26; 16:2; Heb. 10:24-25). True worshipers follow the teaching of Jesus taught about worship. It is “in spirit and truth.” Worship “in spirit” calls on the heart as the source of our worship of God. For example, prayers and songs must be with the spirit and understanding; it is not rote ritualism (1 Cor. 14:15). True worshipers praise God “with understanding” when they sing (Psa. 47:7; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). A heart far from God that goes through the motions of worship is an abomination to Him (Matt. 15:7-9). True worshipers also worship God “in truth.” His word reveals what worship He accepts. Churches of Christ gather every Sunday to pray, sing, eat the Lord’s Supper, thankfully give as we have been prospered, and listen to the teaching of God’s word (Acts 2:42; 20:7; Eph. 5:19; 1 Cor. 14:26; 16:2). Souls who worship “in spirit” are careful to give God the “in truth” worship He accepts. New Testament Christians did that. We aim to do the same today. We hope you will, too.
15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. (Philippians 1:15–17, NKJV)
When early Christians were persecuted for their faith, they “went everywhere, preaching the word” (Acts 8:1-4). To “preach Christ” means more than telling about the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The gospel they preached was “the word of the cross,” all of Christ’s truth, the “whole counsel of God” (1 Cor. 1:18-25; Gal. 1:6-9; Acts 20:27; 2 Tim. 4:2-4). Paul knew some did not preach Christ from pure hearts and genuine faith (Phil. 1:12-18). Still, he rejoiced that Christ was preached even when he suffered from these pretenders (Phil. 1:18). In today’s passage, the apostle gives us motives markers for preaching Christ. Our hearts will be judged as well as the content of our message when we preach Christ. The apostle notes that sound gospel preaching includes: 1) Boldness to speak the word without fear (1:14); 2) Goodwill, not envy and strife (1:15); 3) Sincerely (honestly), without selfish ambition or harm to others (1:16); 4) Out of love for God and His truth, for brethren, and the lost (1:17); 5) In truth, not pretense (1:18). When we teach the gospel, let us maintain godly motives. Otherwise, we are little more than “sounding brass or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1).
1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe. 2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! (Philippians 3:1–2, NKJV)
Identifying enemies of the truth and warning against those who destroy souls with their false doctrines and sinful conduct is not pleasant. Undoubtedly, that is why many refuse to do it. They prefer to let others do the hard work of exposing “the enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil. 3:18; Eph. 5:11). Yet, Paul said doing so was necessary for the spiritual safety of the Philippian Christians. He did not see this work as bothersome, and he would not neglect it (v. 1). He gives three warnings concerning those “whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is their shame—who set their minds on earthly things” (Phil. 3:20). 1) Beware of dogs. Isaiah described the irresponsible watchmen (leaders) of Israel as “dumb” (silent), lazy, and “greedy” (Isa. 56:10-11). There are still people who scavenge for the souls of the innocent, like pack dogs. Jesus warned of these “dogs” (Matt. 7:6). 2) Beware of evil workers. You will know the false prophets who speak in the name of the Lord by their fruit when they stray from the commands of God (Matt. 7:15-21; Psa. 119:115). 3) Beware of the mutilation. Those who bound physical circumcision on Gentiles for salvation were mutilators who put confidence in the flesh instead of the Spirit (Phil. 3:3; Gal. 6:12-13; Col. 2:11-12). That is what error always does and why it must be resisted (Jude 3).
26 Help me, O Lord my God! Oh, save me according to Your mercy, 27 That they may know that this is Your hand— That You, Lord, have done it! (Psalm 109:26–27, NKJV)
David had enemies who terrorized him and wanted him dead. King Saul was chief among this number (1 Sam. 18:25, 28; 19:1; 20:30-33). Psalm 109 is David’s plea to the Lord to hold his enemies accountable for their sins against him. They had spoken deceit and lies against David (109:2). Hatred consumed them, driving them to fight against him unjustly (109:3). They had rewarded his love and prayers with hateful accusations and threats (109:4-5). David’s prayer calls for divine retribution against these evildoers (109:6-20). Without context, it sounds harsh. In truth, it is his earnest supplication for God to bring judgment upon them for their evil works. God’s judgments are according to truth. They are righteous and applied impartially according to our conduct (Rom. 2:1-11). David did not repay their evil with revenge. He left the matter in God’s hands, who saved him from trouble (2 Sam. 24:6-7, 9-12). David was confident God in mercy would save him (Psa. 138:7). David was sure his enemies would be able to see God’s power at work in the deliverance he would receive from God’s hand. God worked to deliver David in answer to his prayers. God still works in our lives to answer prayers when we depend on His presence, power, mercy, and deliverance (1 Jno. 3:21-22; 5:14-15).
3 Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. So Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood which they had made for the purpose… (Nehemiah 8:3–4, NKJV)
They built a wooden platform on which Ezra read the Book of the Law to the people. It had a functional purpose, to gain and keep the people’s attention so they could hear God’s word. God’s word can be preached anywhere, not only from behind a pulpit. It can be preached in a chariot (Acts 8:29-35), in a home (Acts 10:24-25, 33-43), by a river (Acts 16:13-14), in places of worship, a marketplace, and a hillside (Acts 17:17, 22). The list goes on. Wherever the preaching occurs, the listener should be attentive to God’s message, and the preacher must “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2). From the pulpit and everywhere else, God’s word must be proclaimed, not people’s opinions (1 Cor. 2:1-5; Rom. 1:15). Gospel preaching uses the word of God to “reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2, NASB95). The pulpit is for gospel preaching, so use it for that purpose. Leave political policies to the politicians and the public square. Leave psychology to the therapist’s couch. Leave philosophy to the halls of academia. When it comes to preaching, “give me the Bible.” It is truth, and the only message with the power to save the soul (Rom. 1:16-17; 1 Cor. 1:18-25).