By Roland W. Keith
Nearly two thousand years ago eleven men gathered on a mountain in Galilee to meet with their Master. It was on that mountaintop that Jesus gave His appointed apostles what is known as the Great Commission, telling them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). This occasion was recorded in the gospel accounts of both Matthew and Mark, not merely as an historical event passed on in posterity, but as a living command. Christ promised to be with those fulfilling His directive “to the end of the age,” however, the men He spoke to on that day have all passed on, yet the end of the age has not arrived. So, to whom does Christ’s promise extend beyond those faithful disciples who watched Him ascend from this earth on that day?
In his letter to the Christians in Rome, the apostle Paul wrote, “For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" (Romans 10:3-15). The responsibility to further the gospel of Jesus Christ has been passed on, from one generation of Christians to the next, and will continue to be forwarded until the day the Lord returns to this earth. Each of us has inherited the duty of fulfilling the mandate handed down by the Lord before His ascension. Whether we stand before crowds in a pulpit, or study one-on-one with a friend, or act in a supporting role we are all accountable for taking the Lord’s message of salvation “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47).
As Paul proclaimed in his letter to Rome, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). It was Paul’s goal to be a part of the great work to proclaim God’s word to “all creation under heaven” (Colossians 1:23). The funny thing about spreading God’s word to all creation is that it is an unending battle. As one generation passes from the earth a new one is born that knows not the Lord. The work continues and must continue until time in this universe is no more. The question then becomes “How do we further the gospel and the continuing works of our Lord?” Today we will consider four ways.
The first is through fellowship. The spreading of the gospel is a partnership between individuals and congregations within the body of Christ, as Paul told the church in Philippi, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:3-6; see also 4:15-16). The work of these faithful Christians in helping to evangelize the world has been memorialized in scripture as an example to the church in all ages. Whether it is in sending missionaries forward across the globe with funding, by providing Bibles and other teaching supplies, or by participating in local evangelization teams we all have a vital role to play in God’s plan of salvation. We just need to answer the call. Those who refuse to do their part or use the occasion to deceive others with claims other than the words of Christ are not worthy or our fellowship and will face a day of reckoning (II John 1:7-9; II Thessalonians 2:3-10).
To succeed God intended us to band together as one body to do His work (Ephesians 4:4-16; Romans 12:4-8; I Corinthians 12:12-31). However, to be successful in God’s eyes we must go beyond mere effort to an obedient and faithful adherence to God’s will in all matters (Colossians 1:18-23). Which brings us to our second point— we must further God’s word even when others oppose it. Paul regarded his imprisonment as an opportunity rather than a hindrance, writing to the church in Philippi: “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Philippians 1:12-14; see also Acts 16 &17). For him opposition was not only a chance to proclaim the truth, but to set an example for others laboring with him (II Timothy 3:10-12).
Luke’s historical account of the early church is replete with examples set by Paul and others in how to deal with adversity for the sake of Christ. When Peter and John were brought before the council and charged not to teach in the name of Jesus, they responded by answering, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:18-21). A similar instance occurred later that apparently involved all the apostles. Once again when charged not to proclaim the gospel their response was the same: they must obey God. After conferring among themselves Luke records that the council reconvened, “and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus” (Acts 5:40-42).
To weather all such opposition from the world Paul warned that we must prepare ourselves (Ephesians 6:10-18; II Timothy 2:15; Titus 2:9-12). It is through preparation that we are able to achieve competence in any endeavor in life, including our service to God. By becoming a knowledgeable and competent worker we can further God’s work in a third way— by demonstration or example. Knowledge and experience lead to the type of strength and confidence that others will look to for guidance.
Paul followed the example of Christ and often referred to our Savior and himself, along with his co-workers imitation of Christ as examples for the church to follow, calling upon his readers to set that same pattern for others. In his first letter to the Thessalonians he wrote, “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia” (1:6-7). He encouraged those in Philippi to imitate him and in turn to keep an eye on those who walked according to that example (Philippians 3:15-17). He implored the same group to “let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27-28).
Finally, we further the gospel by proclamation. Simply put— we tell others about Jesus. In First Corinthians we read, “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1:21-24). We do not need a 160 IQ or a powerful voice or eloquent vocabulary to tell others the gospel. It doesn’t matter if we are nervous or afraid. All we have to do is trust that Jesus is with us in His word, and to proclaim that word in His name. God will take care of the rest (I Corinthians 2:1-5). Jesus said, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16).
We do not need to, nor can we, compel others to believe the word of God. That’s not our responsibility. Our job is it to tell them the truth about Jesus and God’s wonderful plan. God gives the increase. As Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). The power is not in us, it’s in the gospel. That is not to diminish our role as God’s servants. We have been entrusted with the gospel (I Thessalonians 2:4). But, as faithful members of His kingdom we seek only to do our part, trusting in Him. As Paul wrote, “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself… it is the Lord who judges me.” (I Corinthians 4:1-4).
In the end we cannot always know who has truly been touched by the word through our efforts, nor is it important to know. God only asks that we go into the vineyard and work as honest and faithful servants. If we do that we do not need to look back at the “successes” or “failures.” They were never ours to begin with. Not if we have given our best. If we have done that we can have confidence in how the Lord will judge us.
By Roland W. Keith
Not every business leader, not every politician, not every military commander has come up “through the ranks,” during times of trial. Some ascend to the top of their respective fields without learning all the lessons necessary to fully appreciate the responsibilities, power and sacrifice that constitute true leadership. Not all learn what most of the great leaders throughout history understood— that leadership of the highest order goes hand-in-hand with personal sacrifice and service. Examples of truly great leadership are often studies of remarkable perseverance, humbling trials, and personal loss— all in service to some greater good to which the individual has dedicated himself. The central figure in the Judeo-Christian history of God and His relationship to man is one well acquainted with the duel role of the servant- leader.
In the very first verse of his gospel account Mark tells us that it is “the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Later the Son would be acknowledged as the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (I Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14). He is the natural ruler of the kingdoms of the world and the spiritual realm of man. Yet, how did this King describe Himself? Of Himself, He said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). A Heavenly King who would sacrifice His own Son, and a Son who would submit Himself in sacrifice to establish a kingdom for the redemption of man, as proclaimed in John 3:14-17, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life. ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”
Christ established His kingdom by doing for man what the Law of Moses could not do (Hebrews 10: 1-4), provide a once and forever solution to the divine requirement for justice. The claims and promises Jesus made were both proven and guaranteed when He rose from the grave, providing us with a full assurance that the man who sacrificed everything for us is indeed the long awaited Messiah who can lead us into the eternal promised land if we will put our faith in Him (Hebrews 10: 19-23). Many of the Jews in His own day rejected Jesus because He did not meet their vision of a deliverer and King. They did not understand the prophetic words of Isaiah (Isaiah 53:1-12), who revealed their future King as a man Who would establish a kingdom by serving those He would lead through personal sacrifice, including the ultimate immolation in human terms. He died as an innocent man in order to pay the penalty for the guilty. As Isaiah said He was crushed for our iniquities, and yet, “it was the will of the LORD to crush Him; He has put Him to grief; when His soul makes an offering for guilt, He shall see His offspring; He shall prolong His days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. Out of the anguish of His soul He shall see and be satisfied; by His knowledge shall the righteous one, My servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the many, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors” (53:10-12).
From His place on the cross Jesus could already see His eternal offspring— the millions, the billions of souls who would be reborn into His kingdom and accounted as righteous. The will of the LORD has indeed prospered in His hands since that day. Jesus gave us an example and a path to follow as Paul noted when he wrote, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His” (Romans 6:3-5).
If we follow His lead and obey His commands, He will grant to us all the promises that await the citizens of His kingdom (II Peter 1:3-4). There is, however, a warning for those who might seek dual citizenship with the kingdom of God and the world: “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them” (II Peter 2:20-21). If we accept Christ as King, we must be loyal to Him and His kingdom.
Jesus has been described as the suffering servant; a description supported by Isaiah. But He was not alone; there are many noted in the Bible who served the Lord and suffered for their efforts. Most of them came from the three classes of people who were anointed by the Lord for their work: prophets, priests, and kings. It turns out that our Savior is all three.
According to Paul, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through Whom also He created the world” (Hebrews 1:1-2). The apostle also encouraged his readers to “pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard” (Hebrews 2:1-3). As a prophet Jesus declared the will of God, and it is in our own best interest to heed that call.
In addition to being a prophet Jesus has been appointed as the eternal, perfect high priest, according to Hebrews 2:23-28, “The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but He holds His priesthood permanently, because He continues forever. Consequently, He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for His own sins and then for those of the people, since He did this once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.” Jesus is the only high priest seated at the right hand of God, exalted above the heavens (Hebrews 7:26; 8:1).
A Prophet. A Priest. And, a King. In his first letter to Timothy Paul wrote, “keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He will display at the proper time— He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, Who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen” (6:14-16). As a king Christ is due the allegiance of all who seek a place in His kingdom. As the Prophet, Priest and King of the Most High God Jesus has, in a very literal sense become all things to all men. There is no other we can turn to for guidance, forgiveness, for truth, or for salvation. This is because Jesus is also God’s appointed Savior, the Redeemer of mankind. And, He is one other thing.
He is the only Son of God (John 3:16; Mark 1:1). As a Son He was obedient to His Father and humbled Himself to become a man. As a man He learned obedience through suffering. And, through perfect submission He became the source of salvation for all who will in turn and humble themselves before Him (Hebrews 5:8-9). The scriptures tell us that the LORD was pleased with His Son and raised Him up above all others who had been sent before Him, making Him the final word in His revelations to man (Mark 1:9-11; 9:2-7).
Jesus once asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:13-16). It is this confession, or more accurately the truth of Peter’s confession, that Christianity is founded upon (Matthew 16:18), as Paul confirmed when he wrote, “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 3:11). On another occasion Paul would note that the prophets and apostles were a part of that foundation, but the chief cornerstone, the true foundation that everything else is built around is Christ, with each Christian being a part of the structure as a whole (Ephesians 2:19-22).
It is an amazing thing to consider that the Prince of Heaven would take on the likeness of man (Philippians 2:5-8), and come to this earth as a servant in order to give His life as a ransom for someone like me.
By Roland W. Keith
In today’s study we are going to examine five elements of spiritual growth, all of which in many ways begin and end with knowing and understanding the word of God. Jesus said, “It is written, "'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Bread may sustain the body, but it is the word of God that edifies the Spirit within us. The Savior had much to say about the word of God and its power. It is the word that delivers us from eternal death into everlasting life with God (John 5:24). Moreover, He equated His true family with those who hear and keep the word and are thereby blessed by His Father (Luke 8:21; Luke 11:28), offering a stern warning to those who would reject Him: “The one who rejects Me and does not receive My words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day” (John 12:48).
Peter wrote of the need to grow in the “grace and Knowledge” of Christ (II Peter 3:18). Unfortunately, many people in Christendom today are easily led astray because they trust in their teachers without understanding the need for diligence on their own part (Acts 17:11). It is our responsibility to safeguard our own salvation and to look out for one another (Philippians 2:12; John 13:14, 34-35; Romans 12:10; 15:14; I Corinthians 12:25). In his second letter to Timothy Paul wrote, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (3:16-17). We cannot be spiritually complete without an intimate knowledge of God’s will for our lives; a knowledge we cannot truly gain until we have studied and learned to comprehend God’s word for ourselves.
Once we have gained a true understanding of God’s will through a thorough study of His word we must add action to that knowledge, as James wrote: “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:21-25). Knowing something is not the same as doing something. Christians are to be men and women of action, not simply breathing repositories of data.
How long have you been a Christian? How involved are you in the Lord’s work? Growth is the natural result of birth. From the time of our conception our bodies are growing, but when we are born into the world our maturation process requires us to be aware of the creation around us and to learn with all our senses. If that natural progression is stunted or we are somehow deprived of it, we cannot function properly in the world. Such individuals often die at a very young age; others remain childlike throughout their lives, requiring constant care. For the newborn Christian there is also a natural progression toward spiritual maturity. There comes a time when we should become mature, independently confident servants of the Lord, able to distinguish good from evil, thoroughly equipped to handle all challenges to the truth (Hebrews 5:12-14; II Timothy 2:15; 3:17; Ephesians 4:16).
When we grow to maturity in the word that process leads us to the development of what can be described as Christian values or characteristics, such as Peter wrote about: “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins” (II Peter 1:5-9).
True Christian maturity also produces tangible activity on our part, as Paul explained to Timothy: “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (II Timothy 2:21). As Christians one of our goals is to make ourselves ready to serve the Lord, to become “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). God uses His word to craft us into what we should be— productive members of the body of Christ who desire to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). In Titus we find this admonishment: “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us” (Titus 2:7-8). When we are doing the Lord’s work our efforts are beyond reproach. In fact, when we are following God’s plan all that we do will be profitable for those we are working with, as well as for ourselves. Whether we are studying God’s word with an interested party or doing works of benevolence our efforts will not return to us empty (Titus 3:8, 14), as Paul told the Corinthians: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (I Corinthians 15:58).
The Christian who is growing will also find himself increasingly taking advantage of his right to communicate with his God. The Bible makes it clear that our Heavenly Father hears, and answers, our prayers giving us the things we ask for— if those things are in accordance with His will (Mark 11:24; I John 5:14). Although some today teach that God wants us to be rich, or have whatever we desire, that is not a Biblical teaching, as James made clear when he wrote, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:3). Prayer is not a candy machine that dispenses whatever we want. It is, instead, an avenue to take our needs and concerns to the Lord, to pray for others, to praise or thank the LORD, and to ask for what we are lacking as Christians among other things. James provides a good example of what we might pray for, writing, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:5-6; see also Matthew 5:44; Mark 14:38; Luke 6:28; 10:2; Colossians 1:9).
Finally, the mature Christian understands the value of worship. She understands that we worship in “spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24), that it is essential for us to meet together and not neglect one another, nor the Lord (Hebrews 10:25; Ephesians 5:19), and that when we are gathered together in His name He is there among us (Matthew 18:20). Our growth as Christians is largely our own responsibility (Philippians 2:12). Though we have overseers appointed over us to see to our welfare (Titus 1:5-9; I Timothy 3:1-7; Acts 20:28), they do not have the power of compulsion. Even God does not compel us against our will. We are free to choose the Christian life and we are free to reject it; we are also free to walk away from what we had once embraced, a sad state that Paul described with the following words: “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding Him up to contempt” (Hebrews 6:4-6).
To avoid such a state as Paul detailed to the Hebrews it is of the greatest benefit to develop and exercise all the elements of spiritual growth as outlined in the scriptures. Jesus once asked, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). There is no loss we can suffer greater than the loss of our own soul. Many people joke about it in an off-hand, glib manner. That is because they do not truly understand what that loss entails, or they simply do not want to think about it. For the Christian it is a different story. We do know what awaits those who walk away from God. Therefore, we are without excuse. God is here to help us every step of the way, He has in fact already given all He can to save us, beyond measure (John 3:16; Ephesians 3:20-21). But in the end the chose is ours. We are responsible for our own spiritual growth and welfare. On the day of judgment, we will stand alone before the throne of God— unless we have an advocate to call upon. On that day if we remain faithful, we will be able to call upon the name of Jesus and have Him come to our defense to receive our final verdict: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:23).
by Roland W. Keith
In His letter to Titus Paul wrote, “Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:9-10). The first time I can recall reading that passage I wondered how do we “adorn the doctrine of God?” Since then I have even read some commentators describe it as dressing up or decorating the word of God to make it more appealing to those we are trying to evangelize, which sounds dangerously close to telling them what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear, something we are warned to reprove and rebuke, not to use as a teaching method (II Timothy 4:1-5). Of course, the answer to my question is made clear when we read the verse in its full context.
In Chapter 1 of his letter to Titus, Paul writes that an overseer (and all Christians for that matter) must hold firm to the word, rebuking those who contradict it (Titus 1:9). The second chapter begins with Paul instructing Titus to teach according to sound doctrine (2:1). Finally, in Chapter 2:11-12 we are told, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12). We are not to dress-up the word of God to make it more appealing, rather we are to adorn ourselves with the word of God— in our habits and actions, so that the world will see the word of God reflected in us. As John put it to abide in the word is to have the Father and Son; those who do not abide in the word do not truly have a relationship with God (II John 1:9).
It is a hard fact for many Christians to accept but we are not responsible for the world’s behavior. Whether they accept the gospel or reject it is a choice each person makes on their own. We are only responsible for giving them the opportunity to know Christ, and to reason with them insofar as we can. But if they turn away to follow other beliefs and reject the word we bring them that is beyond our power to control (See again II Timothy 4:1-5). Concerning those who reject the truth Jesus said, “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town” (Matthew 10:14; Mark 6:11; Luke 9:5). We have an obligation to take the gospel into the world and share it with as many people as we can, but we have no power or authority over the free-will choice they make with regard to the word— we cannot make anyone believe what they will not to.
If we are dutiful, studious followers of Christ then we are well-equipped and prepared for the Lord’s work (II Timothy 3:16-17; Ephesians 6:10-18). We have in fact adorned ourselves with all that we need to go forth in the world to do our part in God’s work, and we are well-protected against the advances of the devil and his minions. Being prepared also means being forewarned. The world is not our friend, nor can it ever be so long as we are faithful members of the Lord’s kingdom (James 4:4). We are in very real terms mortal enemies. Only in death will we be truly free of the world and its temptations. Only then will we be beyond the reach of its dark master. We are protected, but we remain subject to our own free will, which is why we are warned to protect our own salvation so often in scripture (Philippians 2:12; Hebrews 2:1-3; I Peter 2:2, 10-11; Jude; Ephesians 6:10-18).
If we wonder what being adorned with God’s word looks like we can compare some of the world’s adornments to those of scripture by reading Galatians 5:19-25: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”
Those who live by the Spirit are in step with the Spirit. To be in step we must live according to the word that God delivered to us through the Spirit. If we dedicate our lives to God’s word and His service our lives will be transformed, as Paul wrote to the church in Rome: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2). The truly religious person separates himself from the world in personal behavior, because the focus of their life is the spiritual welfare of the world, not the secular goals that others pursue. Does that mean we turn our backs on all forms of worldly success? No. It means that the focus of our lives is driven first and foremost by God’s will and not our own. According to James the Christian seeks to “keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27).
The Godly prepare their whole lives for the return of their King, as Paul wrote to Titus, we are “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:13-14). We may achieve great financial success in the world, even fame and fortune, but for the true Christian the first goal is always the kingdom of the Lord (Matthew 6:33). We cannot, as Elijah put it limp “between two different opinions” (I Kings 18:21). Our hearts cannot be divided between the world and heaven. Jesus directed John to write these words to the church in Laodicea: “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth” (Revelations 3:15-16). The Christian who is not on fire for the Lord or trying to divide his loyalties between the world and the church will find himself rejected by the Lord.
We adorn ourselves with the doctrine by worshipping the Lord in “Spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24), with worship that is acceptable to the Him (Hebrews 12:28-29). When we are gathered in His name, it is for two reasons— to edify ourselves and build one another up in our faith, but more importantly it is to bring glory to the Lord with a form of worship that conforms to His will, not man’s (Hebrews 10:25; Romans 12:1; Matthew 15:9; John).
We are adorned with the doctrine when we do the works of God for which we were created as His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). As workers in the Lord’s service we can do no better than to follow Paul’s directive on the matter: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (I Corinthians 15:58). It is in our service to the Lord that many of us find our greatest reason for rejoicing (Philippians 4:4-5). Who does not feel joy and find satisfaction in strengthening a brother, or being there for a sister in her hour of need? Who would not thrill to have someone they are studying with come to the Lord as a result of that study?
There are many things we can do in life that are worthwhile and are therefore worthy of our time and effort, but none so valuable as the time we give to the Lord. None so critical as when we wear His armor into the world to fight the good fight. Again, we would all do well to heed the words Paul wrote to Timothy: “fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (I Timothy 6:12). What letter of recommendation are we writing for ourselves as servants of the Lord? Paul told the Corinthians that they were his letter— those that he had brought to Christ, that he had labored to strengthen, that he had guided, and risked health, life and limb for. That letter he informed them was written with the Spirit of God, on human hearts (II Corinthians 3:1-3). Do we not have the same word that Paul had to work with?
Jesus told His followers, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house” (Matthew 5:13-15). We too are followers of Christ. Have we lost our saltiness? Or do we wear the doctrine, the armor of the Lord, with pride? Are we lighting the path for others, or are we blending into the shadows of the world?
What do our letters of recommendation say about us? How many hearts have we written on with the Spirit of God? Some letters may be long, some may be short. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we write them. I already know what I want the last two sentences of mine to read, “Lord, I did my best to touch others with Your word and to keep it Mat 5:13 "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.
Mat 5:14 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Mat 5:15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.
myself. ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.’” (II Timothy 4:7).
By Roland W. Keith
For those of us who have made a study of the life of the apostle Paul one thing stands out— he was a confident man. Whether he was persecuting Christians or trying to convert the world to Christianity he did everything in the confidence of his convictions, so much so that when standing before the council for preaching in the name of Jesus he told them, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day” (Acts 23:1). Even when he railed against God in trying to destroy the church Paul was a man of integrity, zealous for God and the traditions of his forefathers (Acts 24:16; 22:3; Galatians 1:14). It may be that God chose Paul to carry the word into the Gentile world, precisely because of these personal attributes. As the Lord told Ananias, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine to carry My name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of My name” (Acts 9:15-16).
It would take a man of tenacity and toughness to succeed in bridging the two worlds of the Jews and Gentiles in order to bring them together as one in Christ (Ephesians 2:13-22). That such a man would suffer in his efforts was an unavoidable part of the job description (II Corinthians 11:22-33).
Many years after his conversion Paul would write, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12-13). Suffering for Christ had taught Paul to distinguish between need and want, between the power of the Spirit and the desires of the world. Among the things that he had learned was the joy of knowing Christ and the sufficiency of God’s mercy and grace, and the right of the Lord’s followers to approach the throne of God with boldness and confidence to receive more when in need, in the assurance of passing every test with the faithful execution of God’s commands (Hebrews 4:16; Ephesians 3:1-12; I Thessalonians 2:1-4; I Corinthians 7:19).
How did Paul gain such confidence? As noted, before he was a zealous follower of God (Galatians 1:14), who had studied the law at the feet of his generations most noted scholar, Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). In his letter to the Ephesians Paul instructed his readers in how they could prepare themselves to face everything that Satan and the world would throw at them, equating it with a soldier preparing for battle by putting on the appropriate armor and taking up his shield and sword (Ephesians 6:10-18). Included in that instruction was the need for prayer, preparation in the knowledge of God’s word, and perseverance in effort. The reward for the determined soldier of God? Nothing less than his own salvation and that of those he helped to free in the fray between good and evil.
For those who serve their King faithfully Paul wrote, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For Your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39). Paul’s confidence was unshakeable. He was fully convinced that no matter how fevered the battle became, no matter what the enemy did to him, the Lord would ultimately rescue him and usher him to safety (II Timothy 4:18).
The apostle John also had something to say about our trust in God. When we compare his writings to Paul’s, we see revealed two vastly different personalities. Paul was the bull of the woods, a man of action, with the battle scars to prove his mettle. John was the apostle of love. His confidence came from allowing Christ to perfect His love within us. Where love reigns fear is banished, replaced by our confidence in the Lord and the surety of His promises. When that love is achieved one need never shrink back from God in fear or shame. We stand uncondemned in our own hearts, knowing we have kept the Lord’s commandments, and with such knowledge we can stand before the Lord with confidence (I John 4:17-18; 2:28; 3:21; 5:14).
The Lord’s brother James also spoke of confidence. Jesus had once said, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household” (Matthew 13:57). Indeed, none of Jesus’ brothers believed in Him growing up, or even throughout His ministry (John7:5). In fact, they thought He was crazy! (Mark 3:21). Apparently, it wasn’t until His resurrection that they finally came around and were noted to be in the upper room with their mother and the other women who followed Jesus, along with the apostles waiting in devotion and prayer. Speaking from the perspective of one who had grown up in the same house with Jesus, refusing to believe until unbelief was no longer an option James’ advice? Banish doubt from your mind (James 1:5-6) and have faith.
For the Christian faith and confidence should go hand-in-hand. John said, “perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18). However, the Bible speaks of two types of fear. One is the fear of evil, or the “spirit of fear” that does not come from God (II Timothy 1:7), which is what John was alluding to. The other is the fear of the Lord. King David spoke of the first when he wrote, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). It is this fear that we overcome with faith and confidence. David’s son, Solomon wrote of the second type of fear in Proverbs 14:26: “In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence.” The first form of fear is born of dread. The second is born of awe and reverence for God, His power and glory, and His mercy and love. One saps our confidence away, the other is our basis for trust and spiritual strength. As the Psalmist wrote: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!” (Psalm 111:10).
It was such understanding that led Paul to write, “So we can confidently say, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?" (Hebrews 13:6). It is this combination of fear and confidence, containing all the love of God and faith in Him that compels His followers to seek and attain the spiritual heights that are possible when we give our all as workers in service to His name (II Timothy 2:15). Those who reach such heights will not be ashamed to be found doing the Lord’s work or to be called a follower of Christ (II Timothy 1:12). The struggle for most Christians is in seeking those heights and maintaining them. How do we find and strengthen our confidence, thus securing our reward (Hebrews 10:35-36)?
Put on the armor of God that Paul spoke of (Ephesians 6:10-18). Study and work hard (II Timothy 2:15). Assemble with the saints encouraging and strengthening one another (Hebrews 10:23-25). Endure persecution (I Peter 5:10). Pray (I Thessalonians 5:17). And follow Paul’s example. Even when everyone around him deserted him he refused to lose faith, writing, “At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth” (II Timothy 4:16-17). Paul did everything listed above in this paragraph, yet one thing that he did came above all others— he put his faith in God, trusting in Him for deliverance (II Timothy 4:18).
Paul was determined to honor Christ even to the point of death (Philippians 1:20; II Timothy 4:6). He encouraged everyone to share in the suffering for the gospel (II Timothy 1:8-9). He did not want to be like others, but he did want them to be like him— in following Christ (Acts 26:28-29). Paul was belittled and beaten, chained and held in contempt, yet he was never ashamed of who he was or Who he belonged to (Romans 1:16). He was justly proud of the example he had set for others in following Christ (Philippians 1:14), ceaselessly encouraging those he taught. In his second letter to his young protégé, Timothy, he wrote, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (II Timothy 1: 6-7).
None of us has had a miraculous gift imparted to us. Nonetheless, we do have God-given abilities that we can flame into a fire of action. We can exercise our abilities in the spirit of power, love and self-control that we have developed in applying the Bible’s wisdom to our lives. We can be a part of the church’s work in making known the manifold wisdom of God’s plan of salvation— a plan that was fully realized when Christ Jesus rose from the dead and subsequently established His church (Ephesians 3:10-12). And we can do all these things in Christ’s name with complete confidence so long as we are willing to hold onto that confidence firm to the end (Hebrews 3:14).
By Roland W. Keith
The prophet Jeremiah once wrote, “I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). An odd statement to make about a being who was created in the image of God and given dominion over the earth as its caretaker. But a lot had changed since the creation of man and Jeremiah’s time. Man had been corrupted by sin and no longer walked in harmony with God. As God spoke through Isaiah, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). God’s intellect and understanding is infinitely superior to man’s to be sure, but there was a time, albeit briefly, when the mind of man was at least perfectly attuned to God’s will.
What man lost in the Garden of Eden is beyond our ability to assess. That which is not perfect cannot adequately understand nor describe that which is perfect. For us perfection is an idea or goal to strive toward, but it is not a reality. As Christians we are made perfect through Christ, yet our weaknesses remain with us even as we try to emulate Him. And, as a species our flawed nature is reflected in the world we have created for ourselves, demonstrating just how far from God and perfection we have wandered. Even so, there can still be a connection between us and perfection, between the creation and its Creator.
Through a knowledge of the Messiah and the infallible word of God that leads us to Him we can become reconnected with perfection. We can find the path that brings us back to God and another chance to follow His will. Adam and Eve were to rule the earth according to God’s direction. That is still man’s charter. That which Zechariah prophesied concerning Joshua has been true of man throughout the ages: “Thus says the LORD of hosts: If you will walk in My ways and keep My charge, then you shall rule My house and have charge of My courts…” (Zechariah 3:7; see also Exodus 19:5-6; Deuteronomy 28:1-2; 30:16; Jeremiah 7:23). Those words and promises were delivered to mankind by men God inspired to speak and write for Him. The last such men included first and foremost the Son of God Himself, Jesus Christ, and the men that He and the Holy Spirit inspired to complete the final covenant between God and man (Ephesians 3:3-5; Hebrews 1:1-2; II Timothy 3:16; II Peter 1:16-21; 3:15-16).
When Jesus came to earth His Father gave Him all authority. Jesus used that authority to establish His church, command His disciples in their duties, and to call all men to Himself in obedience to His word (Matthew 28:18-20). It is our responsibility as Christians to do our part in Gods great commission and all works done internal to the body of Christ as well, knowing that all that God has decreed shall come to pass, as spoken in Isaiah: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11).
It is our duty to stir one another up to remembrance of God’s word and commandments, and to follow His teachings, continuing in them throughout our lives (II Peter 3:1-2; II Timothy 1:13; 3:14-15). As members of Christ’s body it should be our goal to attain that which Paul hoped for Timothy when he wrote, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15). Moreover, we must hold to that word throughout our lifetimes, helping to forward to future generations the faith and traditions in which we stand, ready at all times to affirm God’s word and commands (Philippians 2:16; II Thessalonians 2:15; II Timothy 4:2; I Peter 3:15-16; Jude 1:3). Part of that affirmation includes protecting the integrity of the written word.
In his second letter Peter wrote, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed” (II Peter 2:1-2). It is our job to combat such attacks on God’s word. We must not let false doctrine invade our congregations or go unchallenged in the world. To allow such things is to be complicit with those Paul described as “the sons of disobedience”, risking the wrath of God along with them (Ephesians 5:6-10). We must be able to say, along with Paul, “we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God” (II Corinthians 4:2).
Unfortunately, some will be misled even among those who have a zeal for God: “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness” (Romans 10:2-3). Many are those who believe in God who have been taught and ascribe to the idea that they can worship their Maker according to their own will, without truly seeking or submitting to God in the matter. Paul wrote, “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:1-3).
No matter how earnest we are in our worship if we drift away from the truth we are courting disaster. So great is that danger that Paul informed the Galatians, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). In the Revelation of Jesus Christ, John recorded this warning that truly applies to all scripture: “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19).
Jesus Christ issued another warning during His ministry: “If anyone hears My words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects Me and does not receive My words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on My own authority, but the Father who sent Me has Himself given Me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that His commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me” (John 12:47-50).
The word. It is the authority and power of God over man and all of creation. Each of us has a duty to obey it and a responsibility to protect it from, and to share it with the world. The protection and sharing of the word being among the works that God created us for (Ephesians 2:10), that we might bring glory to His name. So, the next time you pickup your Bible ask yourself this question, “How well am I handling the word of God?”
By Roland W. Keith
From the human, historical perspective the Bible is a product of forty writers, all of whom were Jews, except Luke, the physician. However, as Paul wrote, “the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God” (Romans 3:2). Accordingly, all the texts in the Old Testament were inspired by God, the final text being that delivered by the prophet Malachi. After his writings a four-hundred-year period of silence between God and man, known as the intertestamental period, occurred.
That silence ended when John the Baptist began his ministry as the Messiah’s forerunner in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign (Luke 3:1-3), followed closely by the ministry of the Messiah Himself(Acts 10:36). Jesus’ life and ministry fulfilled the law and prophets ((Matthew 5:17), issuing in a new, and brief period of miracles, inspired prophesy and writings, which ended with the death of the last person given such powers by the Lord or through the laying on of the apostles hands, a period which culminated with the inspired writings we now know as the New Testament.
Cumulatively the works of both the old and new covenant periods and their writings have a single goal: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (II Corinthians 5:18-19).
God’s word is truth (John 17:17), given to man with the intent of freeing him from his sins (John 8:32). It is both the weapon we need to defeat our enemies and a shield by which our Savior protects us (Proverbs 30:5). And since the last writing was completed late in the first century, it contains the completed and final covenant between God and man, including all the knowledge we need to reconcile ourselves to our creator and to live in accordance to His will for us (II Timothy 3:16-17; II Peter 1:20-21).
According to Peter knowledge of the inspired word provides all that we need to live full, godly lives. Moreover, it reveals to us both the Heavenly Father and His Son, all the work that they have done on man’s behalf, and all of God’s promises, including His plan of salvation for man (II Peter 1:3-4). In describing the word Peter wrote, “since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for 'All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.' And this word is the good news that was preached to you” (I Peter 1:23-25).
James, the brother of our Lord, once said that the man who looks into the word of God and perseveres in its application would be blessed (James 1:25). But what of the one who refuses its wisdom? As Paul wrote, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:12-13).
The Bible is full of blessings and curses. Blessings for those who obey God, and curses for those who rebel against Him. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). In the end God’s word and His judgments will stand— for eternity. The Savior also observed, “Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: ‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.’ For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them” (Matthew 13:14-15).
How can we receive the blessings of God? By obeying His word (Psalm 119:9; John 8:31, 52). It is in His word that we find our eternal inheritance, according to Acts 20:32: “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”
Next week’s blog: The Bible: Its Authority and Our Responsibility
Most Christians today, if asked, would most likely say that the Law of Moses was made obsolete by the New Testament. Some scholars on the other hand would argue that the old Law and the Law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), are founded on the same commandments (Mark 12:28-31; Matthew 22:37-40; Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18), therefore the Law of Moses was not abolished or changed—rather it was made perfect in understanding and thereby superseded by the New Testament, which is the same in its nature. This is based in part on this statement of Jesus: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-20).
The failure of this argument is twofold: (1) While Christ did not come to abolish the Law, He did come to fulfill it. When something is fulfilled, or its purpose has been met it is no longer required. As for the rest of this passage, Jesus was telling His fellow Jews, who lived under the Law of Moses as He did, that they could not relax in their efforts to uphold and obey the Law in its entirety (Not just the first two commandment on which it was founded); to fail in one point of the Law was to violate the Law itself, and to be accursed (Galatians 3:10). (2) If the Law of Moses was not superseded in fact, but in understanding only, then the Law and all its regulations are still in effect as well as the curse attached to it. However, when Christ was crucified and rose from the grave, He set us free from that curse (Galatians 3:13), by establishing a different sort of law, as Paul noted: “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). Both laws were from God. Both are founded on the same two foundational commandments (Mark 12:28-31). However, while one revealed sin and condemned violators to death, the other set them at liberty because its testator Himself had paid the penalty for all violators who are willing to come to Him for redemption. One system of law was based on works of the Law which required perfect adherence from its subjects (who could not live up to its demands), the other is based on grace freely given, and works of obedience, which does not require the perfection of its subjects, but faithful obedience to the One Who was made perfect for them. By proxy the followers of Christ are made perfect through His sinless life, not through their own actions.
The Law of Moses accomplished its task as God intended. The foundation of God’s law remains, but much of the original structure was swept away to be replaced. The ordinances and regulations and their associated works are no longer in effect. That which was by its nature incomplete has been replaced by that which was made perfect (I Corinthians 13:9-10; Hebrews 7:28; 12:23). Upon that foundation Jesus Christ has established a new covenant, which has been made complete in a way that the Law of Moses never was. The new covenant encompasses the perfect law of Christ/God (I Corinthians 9:21; Galatians 6:2; Romans 7:22-25; Matthew 22:37-40). So, what is to be made of the Law of Moses?
According to Paul, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). The Old Testament, the Law and Prophets remain an example and a source of instruction (I Corinthians10:11). They also provide the student with the history of God’s dealings with man and the background that we need to more fully understand the New Testament, and man’s current relationship to his Creator.
When we look into that history, we find that the Law never stood alone, nor was it intended to be a permanent solution to man’s woes. It wasn’t until 430 years after God established His covenant with Abraham that He gave man the Law, for a specific reason: “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made… Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:17-24).
The law made man aware of his transgressions and convicted him, yet at the same time guarded him until Messiah would come to redeem him (Hebrews 9:15). It was Christ, not the Law that set man free from his sins and the burden of the Law itself (Hebrews 10:1-7; Romans 3:20). Jesus did what the Law could not do and what man could not do for himself. Through Jesus man can once again draw near to God, both Jew and Gentile, in order to be reconciled to Him (Galatians 3:10-16; 5:1). It is in Jesus Christ that man can throw off the shackles of the Law through faith (Galatians 3:24-26), as Paul wrote the Romans, “Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to Him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (Romans 7:4-6).
The Bible tells us that all who have broken the Law are dead in their trespasses but can be set free from its condemnation (Colossians 2:13-14). We can find that freedom by turning from the world to Christ: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 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 set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot” (Romans 8:1-7).
In the end, while it still has much to teach us, the Law of Moses was made void. As Paul wrote, “In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13). It was made so by Jesus Christ, according to the will of God the Father. According to Paul: “For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, but this One was made a priest with an oath by the One who said to him: "The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, 'You are a priest forever.'" This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant” (Hebrews 7:18-22).
We do not live under the Law of Moses. We are fortunate, for we have been given an opportunity to accept God’s gift of grace. We are able to find salvation under a better, perfect covenant. On the Day of Pentecost, as Peter preached the gospel message those who stood convicted under the Law of Moses asked a simple question, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37), “And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). On that day the new covenant was ushered in to effect and Christ’s Church was established.
Years later the Lord’s brother would write, “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:25). A covenant is a contract between two parties. It stipulates what each side is responsible for and what benefits each will receive under its provisions. It also outlines what constitutes a breach of contract. James is telling us not to forget— to persevere so that we will indeed receive the benefits of the contract we have entered into. For those who do persevere there is a one-way ticket to a better place, as Paul wrote, “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:16).
By Roland W. Keith
Are you a person of influence? Are you a parent, sibling, or boss? A spouse, a teacher, employer, or employee? Then the answer is yes. We all affect others around us in indirect or intangible ways, as well as directly. We all exert a spiritual or moral force on those in our lives. Moreover, we all have some impact on the condition and development of other people, especially those within our own families. The real question isn’t whether or not you are an influential person, but rather what kind of influence are you exerting? Jesus once said, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
As Christians it is our responsibility to be a force for good in the world. In so doing we develop a good name for ourselves and favor in the community, which has greater value than worldly riches (Proverbs 22:1), and we bring glory to the one we serve (Matthew 5:14-16). Our influence on others begins and ends with the things we say and do (Matthew 12:34-35). Does our behavior reflect the teachings of Christ? Do we have a positive or negative attitude in life? Do we look at the world and its condition and shrug our shoulders and say, “There’s nothing I can do, the world’s problems are too big for me,” or do we ask, “What can I do to help fix things,” then roll up our sleeves and get to work.
The world’s problems are not too big for us if we are trusting in God. Paul wrote this to the Philippians, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:27-29). What is going on in the world should concern us, but it should not intimidate us into inaction. As James said, “You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18).
The world (and our fellow Christians) know us by our works. Every once in a while, we need to assess our own efforts and ask, “What am I saying to others with my life?” Are we telling them we love God and the church? Are we showing concern for our neighbors? (Luke 10:27; John 13:34-35). Or, are we in fact still conforming to the world (I Peter 1:14-16)? As someone once said “silence is consent.” We can’t hide in a building we call the church while the world rages around us. We have a duty to stand up to the world and sin come what may. In his first letter Peter wrote, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth. When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly” (I Peter 2:21-23). Do not misunderstand these words. Peter is not saying that Jesus kept His mouth shut to what was going on around Him. Anyone who has studied the life of Christ knows that He confronted sin head on, and He expects us to do the same; what he did not do was get dragged down to the world’s level and play their game, moreover He taught us to follow His example and rise above the world, exerting godly influence at every opportunity.
If we do that then our effect on the world will live on beyond our own lifetimes, much like Abel’s (Hebrews 11:4). As Christ lives in us, He will live on in those we touch with His gospel, and those we lead, even as we follow in His footsteps. Not only will our efforts bear fruit for the Lord here on this earth, but they will follow us beyond this life (James 2:18; Revelation 14:12-13).
Every once in a while, I walk into someone’s house and see a quote from the Bible displayed on one of their walls, or a Bible displayed prominently in a main room and I am reminded of Deuteronomy 11:18-21. What we present to others in our homes says a lot about us, especially when we make it a focus of our daily routine for all to see and hear, beyond our own walls. Thinking on these verses from the Old Testament got me to thinking of a conversation I was a part of not long ago. It was about our country and the direction it is headed in and the impact newly proposed laws and amendments and court decisions will have on the church. One of the sentiments expressed during the conversation was the belief that a time may come in the not too distant future when the church will have to meet in homes or other private venues.
The idea was that we would be driven underground, meeting in secret to protect ourselves. But recent events involving the slaughter of Christians in other parts of the world, coupled with scriptures like those in Deuteronomy have made me realize we cannot hide away from the world, nor are we suppose to. Our influence is meant to extend to the world around us, not be kept hidden away among the faithful. Going back to Matthew 5 we read more of Jesus words: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
The Lord expects us to stand up for the truth and for Him, as He made clear when He said, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38). We must be willing to not only live according to the teachings of Christ, but to share them with the world, for as Paul wrote, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). Paul suffered much for the cause of Christ reminding those who questioned his apostleship: “Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure” (II Corinthians 11:23-27).
The Lord died for us and set the example that we must be willing to die for the truth and for one another. Paul’s life and works are recorded in part as a testimony of one who followed that example faithfully. If hardship and persecution come our way whose influence will prevail in our lives, the Lord’s or the world’s? Will we in turn become an influence for spiritual cowardice or Christian strength. Will we become a stumbling block for the lost and our fellow Christians or a beacon of light? Will we follow the path of our Lord and as Paul be able to claim, “For he says, "In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you." Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left” (II Corinthians 6:2-7).
Jesus honored His father’s will even unto death. Paul honored his Master body and soul, in life and death, a hope he spoke of and lived up to (Philippians 1:20; II Timothy 4:6-8), confident in the reward of his King. With Paul we can be assured of our place in heaven if we are a faithful servant. One whose influence on the world is a godly one. If we are faithful and true then what Paul noted of the faithful of old can be said of us: “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:16).
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines gospel as “the message concerning Christ, the kingdom of God, and salvation.” For those of us who are Christians that’s like defining a human as a “bipedal primate mammal.” Both are correct definitions in their essentials, but they hardly describe the subject words in the fullness of their meaning. After all a human is so much more than just an animal who walks upright. And, the gospel is more than just a message.
Paul once wrote, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). How is that for a definition? If the word of God is a living entity, then the gospel is its heart muscle. All of God’s work throughout both the Old and New Testaments is centered around and given life in the promises that the Father made concerning His Son. The entire Bible is about God bringing man to the promised land, to forgiveness after failure, to redemption, to salvation, to the kingdom. The Son’s blood is the lifeblood of that redemptive work and man’s salvation. The gospel encompasses all that God has done for man since the fall; even before time began (Titus 1:1-3).
In the Old Testament the gospel work was prophetic and preparatory, culminating in the work of John the Baptist and Jesus Himself. Since Jesus’ resurrection the gospel work continues, not in prophesying the coming Messiah and His kingdom, but in proclaiming Jesus as the Christ and bringing the lost of the world into His kingdom (I Corinthians 15:1-4). Today the “good news” of the gospel and its promises are at hand (Acts 8:35; 13:32; I Peter 1:12, 25; Luke 19:9; Acts 4:12; 28:28), and it is the job of Christians everywhere to spread the word (Matthew 24:14; 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Romans 1:16; Revelation 14:6).
The purpose of the gospel is to bring man face-to-face with his Savior. In the gospel according to John we find this exchange between Jesus and Martha, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world’” (John 11:25-27). The gospel prepares us to meet Him, to learn of His life and resurrection, of the redemption found in coming to Him, and then to become members of His kingdom (Mark 1:15; Matthew 4:17; 13:43; Ephesians 6:15).
The gospel is revelatory. It reveals God’s plan of salvation for man. And while it is natural to focus on the positive aspect of that message it is important to understand that it also reveals the fate of those who reject God’s message (Mark 16:15-16; John 3:16-18). There is no message, no written word of greater import for humanity than the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Paul wrote the Romans, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them” (Romans 1:16-19).
For those who seek to share the word of God we are given due warning. We will be resisted by those who do not want to know or live in accord with the truth. Satan seeks to blind unbelievers to the truth (II Corinthians 4:3-4), even as he leads the ungodly to destruction (Jude 1:15; II Peter 3:7). Nonetheless, the power of the gospel is sufficient to reach those whose minds are open to the truth, even among the ungodly, if we will but reach them with the truth (Romans 10:13-15; I Thessalonians 1:4-6). We go forth with the word under the authority of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20), knowing that there are forces arrayed against us, but those cosmic powers (Ephesians 6:12) are inferior to the one under who’s banner we fight (Ephesians 6:13). As Paul wrote, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His Own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the One who died—more than that, Who was raised—Who is at the right hand of God, Who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For Your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31-39).
No one who stands for Christ and His gospel can truly be defeated. Even in death the victory is his (I Corinthians 15:54-57; I John 5:4). It is in understanding this that we can comprehend the meaning of Jesus’ words when He said, “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30). By human standards the burden of Jesus’ life was heavy indeed. And, it is no less so for those who suffer trials and tribulations as His followers. Yet from the perspective of eternal salvation the burdens of this life are but for a moment— and then heaven. This is the promise of the gospel, that the Savior Who died for us and rose from the dead has gone ahead to prepare a place for us (John 14:2-3).
It took centuries for God to prepare the world for His Messiah, but the day finally came (Galatians 4:4-5). The Christ was born (Luke 2:8-14). There is no mystery as to why He came, John tells us, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:16-17). The gospel is the account of God’s promises kept and made manifest in the man, Jesus of Nazareth. For all who turn to Him there awaits eternal salvation (John 3:14-15; 10:25-30). It is the divine knowledge needed to draw us to Him, as Peter explained: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (II Peter 1:3-4). Paul said it is “the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16).
It is has now been nearly two millennia since Jesus was crucified. And, as in the first century there are many who will scoff and say, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” (II Peter 3:4). I do not know when He will be back. Although sometimes I think it can’t be long. However, I trust the gospel promises and the rest of the Holy Scriptures. I know He will be back to judge the living and the dead (Acts 10:42; I Peter 4:5). Until then I will share the gospel and abide in all the word of God and echo the words of Paul who wrote, “But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me” ( II Timothy 1:12).
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.