16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law (Galatians 5:16–18, NKJV).
In today’s passage, walking in the Spirit is equivalent to being led by the Spirit (v. 16, 18). Being led by the Spirit is a matter of free will, a choice to live by faith. The Spirit does not force Himself upon anyone. Being led by the Spirit is tantamount to living in the Spirit. By crucifying the flesh with its passions and bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-25). Again, this is a choice of faith we make, a life we choose to live. The Spirit of God leads Christians when we hear (and obey) the gospel (the faith, Gal. 3:1-2; 1:11, 23). The Holy Spirit revealed the gospel, confirmed its validity through miracles, and inspired its proclamation (Heb. 2:1-4; Eph. 3:3-5). When we follow the Scriptures, we are following the Spirit of God. Do not expect the Spirit to act upon you in some way distinct from His word. He is speaking through His word to you and me. We walk in the Spirit when we submit to the gospel of Christ (Rom. 8:1-2, 5-8). See this choice of faith to follow the word of God and live by the Spirit in Romans 8:13, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” We are alive in Christ and are led by the Spirit when we choose to live according to the gospel He revealed.
He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8, NKJV)
God had a complaint against Israel (Micah 6:1-2). Despite His righteous acts of deliverance from Egypt, the nation had turned away from Him (Micah 6:3-5; 1 Sam. 12:7-8). They would not appease God by multiplying burnt offerings. Even offering one’s firstborn to Him would be insufficient (Micah 6:6-7). God wanted Israel’s faithful devotion in heart and conduct. He still does (Mark 12:30-31; Acts 10:34-35). Micah 6:8 is a template for God-approved character brought to fullness in the new covenant of Christ. (1) He has shown you. God’s word reveals His will, and we must give attention to it (Heb. 1:2; 2:3-4). We must do His will, not our own (Matt. 7:21-23). (2) What is good. God is good and shows us what is good (Ps. 73:1). Israel’s rulers had perverted justice by hating good and loving evil (Micah 3:1-2). We are to hear and do what God says is good (Heb. 13:20-21; Eph. 2:10). (3) What does the Lord require of you? Yes, the Lord has requirements (commands) we must keep (John 14:15, 21-23). (4) Do justly. With fairness and integrity, justice must guide our treatment of others (Matt. 5:33-37; 7:12). (5) Love mercy. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt. 5:7). (6) Walk humbly with your God. The lowly in heart walk with God, but pride brings destruction (Col. 3:12; James 4:6, 10; Prov. 16:18). Let us live in Christ, so God has no complaint against us (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 2:5).
23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does (James 1:23–25, NKJV).
Jesus repeatedly taught people to listen to His teaching with “ears to hear” (Matt. 13:9; Luke 14:35). Some had ears that could not hear (accept) His word because their hearts were dull and hard (Matt. 13:14-15). “Ears to hear” reminds us that faith is produced by hearing (receiving) God’s word (Rom. 10:17). Since Jesus also said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments,” we conclude hearing (accepting) His word compels us to obey His word (John 14:15). James picks up the theme of hearing and obeying God’s word to identify the saved, those favored by God, and practice pure, undefiled religion (James 1:21-22, 25-27). We deceive ourselves if we think God is pleased with us only hearing His word but not doing His word (James 1:22, 26). This deception keeps people lost in their sins (much like the man who ignores his reflection in a mirror). James equates being a doer of the word with being a doer of the work of the perfect law of liberty, the gospel (James 1:23, 25). Therefore, we must implant God’s word in our hearts, deeply rooted by putting away all wickedness and meekly obeying the Lord (James 1:21). Doers of the word (work) obey in faith and are fortunate, blessed by God with salvation in Christ (James 1:25, 21).
1 Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), 2 that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior (2 Peter 3:1–2, NKJV).
We need reminders. Calendars help us remember the day and its events. From a string around the finger, post-it notes, or an alarm clock, we need help remembering important events. God knows this, too. He inspired Peter and others to write letters that stimulate our understanding and remind us of the will of God. We “gird up the loins of (our) minds” as we remember the truth we know and in which we are established (1 Pet. 1:13; 2 Pet. 1:12-13). We must not forget the words spoken by the holy prophets. Their words were from God (1 Pet. 1:10-12; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). We must remember the commands of the apostles of Christ because they constitute the Savior’s will (1 Cor. 14:37). The pure (sincere) mind knows and remembers the inspired words from God. By learning and being grounded in the Scriptures of the prophets and apostles of Christ, we are equipped to (1) Identify and avoid false doctrine (2 Pet. 3:3-9), (2) Look forward to the day of the Lord in holiness and hope (2 Pet. 3:10-14), (3) Consider God’s longsuffering as securing our salvation, not abandoning us to the world (2 Pet. 3:15, 9, 3-4), (4) Handle God’s word properly to avoid falling into destruction (2 Pet. 3:16-17), and (5) Grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18). The Scriptures stir up fervent faith as we remember them. Let us not forget God’s word nor scoff at its truth (2 Pet. 3:3-5).
To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27, NKJV).
Paul’s stewardship was to preach the word of God, “the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints” (Col. 1:25, 26). God’s redemptive purpose, hidden in past ages, is now revealed in His Son (Heb. 1:1-2). God has “willed to make known” His spiritual riches to the nations (Eph. 1:3-14). At the center of God’s revealed mystery of redemption is “Christ in you,” who secures our hope of glory (Heb. 6:19-20). Christ dwells in the Christian’s heart “by faith” (Eph. 3:17). Faith is the belief, trust, and confidence to follow Jesus when we hear His word (Rom. 10:17; Heb. 11:6). Such belief compels one to be baptized into Christ, who adds each saved sinner to His church (Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:47; Col. 1:13-14). When Christ is in you, His word dwells in you (Col. 3:16; 1 John 2:24-25). When Christ is in you, you live by faith, obeying Him (Gal. 2:20; Rom. 12:1). When Christ is in you, you abide in Him and He in you by keeping His word (John 14:23). Is Christ in you? Yes, when by faith you hear and follow His word. Do you have the hope of glory? Yes, when Christ is in you, and you abide in Him by living as He lived (1 John 2:5-6). Let us not be “moved away from the hope of the gospel” that the apostles of Christ preached to the world (Col. 1:23, 28; 3:1-4).
17 For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light. 18 Therefore take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him (Luke 8:17–18, NKJV).
How we listen to God’s word is a determining factor of whether we will understand it. When we make up our mind about any Bible subject before even considering what the whole counsel of God says, we have closed hearts, ears, and eyes (Luke 8:9-10; Matt. 13:10-17). We will never accept and hold fast the word of God with such a self-satisfied mindset (Luke 8:15). God’s word is not beyond comprehension. It reveals the purposes and will of God and the secrets of the human heart (Luke 8:17, 10; Heb. 4:12). A willingness to do God’s will, coupled with an earnest examination of God’s word, will result in knowing, accepting, and obeying His word (John 7:16-17; Acts 17:11-12; 2 Tim. 2:15). This person is assured abundant spiritual blessings (Luke 8:18). The person who dismisses the meaning of God’s word because it does not agree with feelings, experiences, and preconceived ideas has deceived himself. What he thinks he possesses (knowledge of the truth) is denied him due to conceit, self-righteousness, and arrogant assumptions. When we listen to God’s word, may we always keep humble hearts turned toward God and away from ourselves. Be careful how you listen to God’s word (John 8:43-47).
For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe (1 Thessalonians 2:13, NKJV).
Paul unashamedly declared the gospel of Christ “is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). The gospel’s power to save the lost reached Thessalonica, where Paul, Silas, and Timothy preached “the gospel of God in much conflict” (1 Thess. 2:1-2; Acts 17:1-9). How the Thessalonians “received the word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13) is how the gospel’s power continues to save lost souls. (1) First, the lost person must hear the word of God. The gospel cannot save if the sinner does not hear it (Rom. 10:13-17). The Thessalonians heard God’s word (v. 13). (2) Second, the lost person who hears the word of God must believe it. The gospel cannot save if the sinner does not believe it is true. The Thessalonians “welcomed” what they heard from Paul, Silas, and Timothy as God’s word, not man’s (v. 13). The gospel they preached is still the truth one must believe for salvation. (3) Third, the lost person must be converted and obey the word of God (Acts 3:19; 2:38). The gospel cannot save if the sinner does not obey it. Obedient faith saves. Otherwise, it is dead faith (James 2:17-18). When the Thessalonians heard, believed, and obeyed the gospel, they turned from idols to serve the living and true God (1 Thess. 1:8-9). The word of God “effectively works in you who believe” (Christians, v. 13). Hear, believe, and obey the gospel, and its power will work in your life, too (Phil. 2:12-13).
22 “And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, 24 saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25 Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me. 26 However, we must run aground on a certain island (Acts 27:22–26, NKJV).”
A terrible storm had wreaked havoc on the grain ship and its 276 souls for almost two weeks. They were lost at sea. All seemed hopeless, but God’s revelation to Paul and his faith in the Lord formed the basis of his confidence amid chaos. Paul, the prisoner, became Paul the encourager. Twice he urged those on board to take heart, to “be of good cheer, of good courage” (Thayer, 258). We can take several points from this event to help us be encouraged and also encourage others. (1) Paul trusted God’s word (v. 25). We must trust God’s revelation as we face life’s storms. God’s word prevails. (2) Paul was confident in the purposes of God (v. 24). The Lord’s angel told him he “must be brought before Caesar.” When we rely on God’s purposes, we can take courage to face every trial (1 Pet. 1:5-7). (3) Paul was also a realist (v. 22, 26). He was honest about the trouble ahead. Encouragement does not sugar-coat the situation. It is compassionate yet straightforward with its analysis and recommendations. Whatever storm you face, take heart in the Lord, His purposes, and His truth. He will not fail or forsake you (Heb. 13:5). Then, encourage others.
34 “Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. 35 For whoever finds me finds life, and obtains favor from the Lord; 36 But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; All those who hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:34–36, NKJV).
Wisdom cries out, offering her blessings of prudence, knowledge, discretion, counsel, understanding, and strength to those who will listen to her (Prov. 8:1, 12-14). Consider some necessary traits that help us listen to wisdom’s instructions. (1) We must fear God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9:10). Only when we fear God are we willing to listen to wisdom’s guidance. (2) We must receive the word of God. “For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Prov. 2:6). God’s word is the wellspring of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Yet too often, we turn from it to human teachings and counsel (Col. 2:8). By doing so, we sin against our souls, hate wisdom, and love death (Prov. 8:36). (3) We must live as God instructs us. “He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly” (Prov. 2:7). Divine instruction and its wisdom do us no good if we do not apply them. Wisdom calls on us to follow the truth of God. Wisdom says, “My mouth will speak truth,” and “all the worlds of my mouth are with righteousness” (Prov. 8:7). The blessings of wisdom come to those who fear God, receive His word, and obey what He says (James 3:13-18).