Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36, NKJV).
Why did the house of Israel crucify Jesus? The Messiah they longed for came to them, and Israel rejected Him (John 1:11). The fundamental reason the rulers and the mob crucified the Lord of glory was their unbelief (1 Cor. 2:7-9; Matt. 27:23-25). They did not believe Christ’s report (message) even after seeing His works (Isa. 53:1; John 12:37-40; 5:31-47). Neither did they believe the prophets who foretold of the Messiah (John 5:39-40; Luke 4:16-29). Notably, Peter said, “Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers” (Acts 3:17). They were without knowledge (ignorant), not because the truth was unavailable to them, but because they chose to ignore it. The house of Israel ignored the truth of God and crucified the Savior in their unbelief. (1) They ignored the prophets (Acts 3:18). They ignored the words of Jesus (John 8:37-47). (3) They ignored the works of Jesus (John 10:31-39). Even many rulers who believed refused to confess Jesus to avoid being rejected by men (John 12:42-43). We point out Israel’s unbelief to warn the Israel of God (the church, Gal. 6:16; 1 Tim. 3:15; 1 Pet. 2:4-5). Christians can develop evil hearts of unbelief and fall from the living God (Heb. 3:12). When we sin willfully “after we have received the knowledge of the truth,” a “certain fearful expectation of judgment” and “fiery indignation” awaits (Heb. 10:26-27, 31). Ignorance is not a justifiable defense. Do not ignore the Messiah and His gospel. “Repent and be converted,” and live faithfully to Christ each day (Acts 3:19; 2:37-42).
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).
34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods” ’? 35 If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38 but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.”” (John 10:34–38, NKJV)
Jesus supported His teaching that He is the Son of God from Psalm 82:6 by making a logical progression from the lesser to the greater. (His reasoning was sound; Scripture’s binding authority “cannot be broken,” John 10:35.) This Scripture described men as “gods” in their capacity as judges (John 10:34). Since men (who worked as judges among the people) were called gods, Jesus (who worked miracles among the people) could be called the Son of God (John 10:36-38). His mighty works were sufficient evidence that He and the Father “are one” (i.e., “the Father is in Me, and I in Him,” John 10:25, 30, 38). Jesus did not commit blasphemy by saying so; He spoke the truth (John 10:36). Those who wanted to stone Jesus for blasphemy were not convinced and unsuccessfully tried to seize Him (John 10:31-33, 39). The miraculous signs of Jesus demonstrate He is the Son of God. The question to ask ourselves is whether we believe this truth or deny the words and works of Jesus like they did (John 10:37-39). What will your answer be?
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).
5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin” (Romans 4:5–8, NKJV).
Justification is acquittal from sin’s guilt; to render innocent and free from sin’s penalty of eternal death (Rom. 6:23). Today’s passage explains justification is synonymous with forgiven by God. When forgiven, our sins are “covered,” removed from God’s sight (remembered no more, v. 7; Heb. 8:12; 10:17; washed away to exist no more, Acts 22:16). This forgiveness occurs by faith, not by the works of law (v. 6; Rom. 1:16-17; 3:21-26; Rom. 5:1; Gal. 2:16). Note that the sinner’s faith is “accounted for righteousness” so that his sins are not imputed to him (v. 5, 8). Just as Abraham’s faith was imputed to him for righteousness, our faith is imputed to us for righteousness (Rom. 4:3). The “works” of Romans 4:7 are works of law, i.e., law-keeping. Righteousness by works (law-keeping) can only occur through sinlessness (which would remove the need for grace, Rom. 4:2, 4). But Abraham sinned and needed grace like us all (Rom. 3:23-24). Faith, not works, was reckoned to him for righteousness. (1) This passage does not say God imputes Christ’s righteousness to us. The sinner’s faith is imputed for righteousness (Rom. 4:5). (2) This passage does not say obedient faith attempts to merit salvation (Eph. 2:8-9). Obedient faith (like Abraham had) is the faith that justifies the ungodly (James 2:17-24; Rom. 4:5). Trust and obey Jesus, and your faith will be accounted for righteousness. You will be forgiven (Mark 16:15-16).
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).
16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18 So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’” (Luke 12:16–19, NKJV)
Those we think have it easy (the rich, the powerful) are often consumed with uneasiness (Eccl. 5:8-15). We all leave this world as we came into it (Eccl. 5:16; Job 1:21). Consider the religious ease some think they have stored up for themselves. 1) Physical lineage. God does not measure spiritual success by physical ancestry. We are children of God by faith, not by the flesh (Rom. 9:6-8; Gal. 3:26-29). No spiritual ease comes from trusting physical heritage (Matt. 3:9). 2) Salvation by faith only. Many accept that justification by faith only is “a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort” (The Methodist Church Discipline, p. 57, 1980 ed.). Yet, Scripture says, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (Jas. 2:24). There is no spiritual comfort without the works of faith. 3) Once saved, always saved. Although many think one cannot fall from a state of grace, the Scriptures say the opposite (Gal. 5:4). 4) Christians who think they have already done their fair share. Like those “at ease in Zion,” these comfort themselves in their past service while neglecting others (Amos 6:1-6). We don’t retire from kingdom service. Christians are saved “with difficulty” (strenuous effort), not lazy neglect (1 Pet. 4:18; Phil. 3:12-14). Instead of taking our ease, let us do the work the Lord gives us and be ready when our soul is required (Jno. 4:35; 9:4; Lk. 12:20-21).
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).
15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15–16, NKJV)
This passage is not difficult to understand. Yet, it undergoes no end of abuse at the hands of those who refuse its teaching on how the gospel saves sinners. Christ’s commission to the apostles is forthright: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (v. 15). The gospel is for all, and the apostles made known its power to save “to all nations” (Rom. 1:16; 16:25-26; Col. 1:23). Responses to the gospel and their corresponding results are stated candidly in verse 16. The person who believes the gospel and is baptized will be saved from sin, but the person who does not believe the gospel will be condemned in sin. Believing the gospel of Christ compels one to be baptized to be saved. Yet, controversy arises over whether water baptism is necessary for salvation. Jesus said it is. Why? Because “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” and cannot justify the sinner (Jas. 2:17, 24). Water baptism is faith at work as one submissively obeys Christ’s command (Acts 2:37-38; 10:34-35). Obedient faith does not earn salvation (Lk. 17:10). When the believer obeys the gospel, God frees that person from sin’s bondage to become a slave of righteousness (Rom. 6:17-18). Belief and baptism are essential to be saved. Unbelief is condemned. Instead of arguing with Jesus, we plead with the lost to believe and be baptized to be saved.
3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. 4 I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:3–5, NKJV)
The diligence with which Jesus labored is a model of zeal, endurance, and accomplishment. As He prepared to heal a man who was blind from birth, He explained the principle which drove Him each day. He had been given work to do by His Father (who sent Him to the earth). His time on the earth was limited, and so He diligently went about doing His Father’s work (which was teaching the gospel and showing Himself to be “the light of the world” – the Christ, the Son of God). Just as the Father gave the Son work to do, Christians are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). With Jesus as our model, let us be zealous to walk in (do, practice) the good works of God each day, by living soberly, righteously, and godly (Tit. 2:11-12). Night is coming for us all, when our time to labor for the Lord will end. So, as long as we have today, let us be diligent children of light who do the Father’s will, and “through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:9-12).