by Roland W. Keith
Jesus’ ministry was as public as you can get. Everywhere He went He drew large crowds, often being met by throngs of people who pressed in upon Him, followed Him when He would take leave or who would even go ahead of Him to meet Him at a new location when He sought separation or privacy. His life and teachings, His miracles, His trial and execution, and most importantly His resurrection are a matter of record. Who Christ was (and is) was attested to by His own words and the signs and wonders He worked during His ministry (Matthew 6:2; Luke 13:17; John 6:14; 7:31). If His claims or reputation had been proven baseless He would have been easily discredited during His own lifetime and we would never have heard of Him.
Though some refused to believe in spite of witnessing many of the things He had done, His teachings continued to spread after His death, and His followers multiplied. His work, including the signs and wonders, continued through His disciples who were imbued with power by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 14:3). Jesus Himself claimed that all He taught and did was given Him by His Father, as in John 5:36: “But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given Me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about Me that the Father has sent Me” (see also John 3:11: 8:28; 14:10; John 10:32). It was these very things that His faithful eyewitnesses testified to and continued to do in His name.
All that Christ did was by the authority of God. The miracles He worked, including the resurrection, were done as a testimony to Who He was. And later, all that His disciples accomplished in signs and wonders was evidence that what they spoke concerning Him was from God as well. And what is the word that Jesus and His followers declared to the world? That Jesus is the Christ (John 10:24-30; 17:3; Matthew 16:16). That He came to earth to save all who would come to the Father through Him (John 3:16; Matthew 1:21; Luke 19:10; John 12:47; Mark 16:16). And, that all men should heed His words from the Father and act in obedience to Him (Acts 5:32; John 3:36; II Thessalonians 1:8; Hebrews 5:9).
Jesus once asked, “Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46).
He later noted that it is the word, and our obedience or disobedience to it, that we will one day be judged by, in accordance with the authority of the Father who sent Jesus into the world to deliver and establish the last covenant between God and man (John 12:47-49).
On the day of Pentecost Peter delivered the gospel to those assembled telling those who responded to the message to, “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. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation” (Acts 2:38-40; see also I Peter 3:21-22).
In his second letter Peter would warn those who were considering turning from the word: “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). In the same letter Peter encouraged his readers to be diligent in confirming their own salvation (II Peter 1:10-11; see also Philippians 2:12).
All that we need to secure salvation is written in the Bible: What we must know to come to God and find salvation, and what we must do once we have been saved are contained in the word of God. There is no other way to be saved. As Jeremiah 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).
Man does not have salvation within himself. He finds that by coming to God and submitting to His word (Matthew 4:4; Luke 11:28; John 5:24; II Timothy 3:16-17). For many God’s word seems hard because the temptations of this world call to them. Many in Jesus’ time, with his miracles still fresh in their memories, turned from His teaching and what He offered as recorded by John: “After this many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, "Do you want to go away as well?" Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God" (John 6:66-69).
When it comes to our salvation God’s word is the only authority. As Peter truly said the words we find in the Bible are the words of eternal life, passed down at first by the prophets and in these last by the Son of God (Hebrews 1:1-2). We cannot live a truly spiritual life without them, as Jesus told Satan, “It is written, "'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew4:4).
by Roland W. Keith
In his second letter to Timothy, Paul informs us that “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 (II Timothy 3:16-17). According to Paul, though the books of the Bible may have been penned by the hands of men they are not their words, rather the writers were inspired by God to put His words on paper. God used certain men to reveal His will, plans and actions to mankind.
It is through the written word that God reveals and draws us to Himself and extends to us a pathway that leads to redemption and salvation. According to Peter, “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).
Under the first covenant, or Old Testament, God spoke to mankind through His prophets. Through them He instructed man in His ways and prepared them to receive a second and final covenant that would be handed down by a coming Messiah. That Savior is Jesus Christ, His Son. As Paul wrote, “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).
With regard to that message Jesus said, “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” (John 12:49). All that Jesus taught was given to Him by His Father and was faithfully passed on by Jesus and His followers (John 14:26; Acts 1:2), even so, concerning the salvation of man, the Father has given all authority to His Son (Matthew 28:18-20).
Jesus spent three years instructing His followers, particularly the apostles, in the plan of salvation they were to carry out into the world. However, their education did not end with His ascension into heaven. The Holy Spirit continued that work until all had been made known and recorded so that those who seek God may be made complete (John 16:12-15; I Corinthians 13:10; Hebrews 5:9; 7:28; James 1:4-5, 25).
When we hear or read the word of God it becomes implanted in our hearts and minds, and is capable of transforming us if we are open to its wisdom and willing to accept the law of liberty it sets forth (James 1:21-25). That which was made perfect has come down to man, and the mystery of God’s will has been made clear in the written text of the Bible, which was completed during the lifetimes of the apostles (I Corinthians 13:10-12; II Timothy 3:16-17).
Considering the mystery surrounding God’s plan Peter wrote, “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look” (I Peter 1:10-12).
Later, in his second letter Peter would beseech his readers not to forget the works of the prophets and the word handed down to the apostles by the Lord Himself (II Peter 3:1-3). Many today view the Old Testament as an obsolete or unimportant document, however it is the foundation of all that God set forth to accomplish through His Son and the New Testament that would be established by His death and resurrection. Moreover, it is a proof-text to all that Jesus claimed and accomplished. As Jesus Himself said, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:44-48).
For those of us in the modern world the last words of that quote are very telling. Jesus was informing His disciples that they were being sent out into the world as eyewitnesses to His life and all that He accomplished on behalf of man, including His resurrection from the dead which validated all that He had done and proclaimed in His lifetime. In reference to that testimony Peter would tell his readers that what they were being taught were not myths but eyewitness accounts of the majesty of the Only Son of God, confirmed by the fulfillment of prophecy and duly testified to and recorded by those who had been a part of His historic life as they were given inspiration by the Holy Spirit (II Peter 1:16-21; II Timothy 3:16-17).
By Roland W. Keith
We are called to Christ through the gospel, being sanctified by the Spirit and our belief in the truth (II Thessalonians 2:13-14). It is in Christ that we are able to escape the corruption of the world and the wages of our own sins. It is in Jesus Christ that all of God’s promises are fulfilled, and it is in Him that we find our sins forgiven and are granted eternal life in heaven (II Peter 1:3-4). In his second letter Peter wrote, “But according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace” (II Peter 3:13-14).
As Christians we are the recipients of God’s great gifts, which are beyond value. We, in fact, become children of God (John 1:12). And, as His children we are called to be obedient to the Father’s commands. As members of God’s family, we are given certain tasks with attendant responsibilities toward other Christians, the lost of the world, and even ourselves. Paul told the Philippians to workout their own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). He also instructed them to “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:13-15).
In like manner Peter told his readers to confirm their own calling with diligence, practicing those things they had been instructed in, which were able to provide them entrance into the eternal kingdom (II Peter 1:10-11). Through His Son, Jesus Christ, God has provided us with a path to heaven, and a roadmap to get us there. However, it is up to us to travel the road in accordance with the directions we have been given. That’s our responsibility. We have to take advantage of every opportunity to do the works of God and make every effort to live according to God’s word, beginning with the first commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).
One of the most important responsibilities we have is to study the word of God (II Peter 3:18; II Timothy 3:14-17). It is through our knowledge of the word that we learn exactly what it is God wants us to do, how we are to do things, what we are not to do, what is to be gained or lost, what God has done for us, and how God will use us to do even more. It is more than a mere guide book, however. It is a life book. It is a spiritual survival manual that teaches us how to survive in a hostile world. What is sin? How do we avoid becoming its victim? How can we help others? To what extent should our efforts reach? What do we do if we are rejected? How do we grow stronger? How do we worship the Lord? What does He expect of us? The Bible answers all of these questions and many, many more.
Our confidence in the Bible is not based on blind faith, but rather it is an informed decision, based on reliable data. When we read the scriptures, we are reading eyewitness or firsthand accounts of the events and the people involved. We learn of all their triumphs and losses. We are acquainted with all that they achieved, what they gave up, what they believed, why they believed it, and why they were willing to sacrifice everything to not only gain it for themselves but to share it with others. Paul likened the Christian life to, among other things, an endurance race. A race that can only be finished if we look to the prize in faith (Hebrews 12:1-2). It is a race that requires preparation, endurance, determination and discipline (I Corinthians 9:24-27). It is a race that we run with others, but every man and woman must finish on his or her own. To begin we must know how to enter the race and what the rules are for running it. To finish it we must be determined, we must be confident, and we must faithful.
All those willing to enter the race and run according to the rules, who refuse to fall by the wayside, are promised a victory wreath (I Corinthians 9:24; Acts 2:39). What then are some of the rules? We must have faith in the One Who is asking us to run and believe that He is able to deliver what He has promised. In addition, as Peter wrote, “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. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall” (II Peter 1:5-10).
All successful long-distance runners have certain qualities, and so do all those who succeed in gaining eternal life. Peter defined a lot of the characteristics of a successful Christian in the above verses. He also warned against turning from the way: “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. What the true proverb says has happened to them: "The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire” (II Peter 2:20-22).
Just as a runner prepares for a marathon, the Christian must prepare for a life-long commitment. When we accept Christ and turn to Him in obedience we become a new creation. As members of His kingdom we become God’s ambassadors to the world (II Corinthians 5:17-21). This is no small responsibility, nor is it a task without its perils. As Peter noted we can rejoice in our salvation, but it will not be without trials, including the testing of our faith (I Peter 1:6-7), but for those who endure there awaits a crown of glory (I Peter 5:4), and a home in heaven: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:1-3).
We do not know how much we may have to endure. We do not no how long the Lord will tarry, nor how long our own lives will be (II Peter 3:10; I Thessalonians 5:1-6), but we do know as long as we walk in the light we will be safe. In his first letter Peter wrote, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He Who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." And if you call on Him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (I Peter 1:13-19).
Those who prepare for action desire to live in peace, to help those around them and to bring others with them into the light while maintaining their own separation from the world (I Thessalonians 5:12-14; II Corinthians 13:11; James 1:27), all the while trusting in the Lord to hold them up (Jude 1:24-25). The faithful know that by following in the footsteps of Jesus and by living their lives according to the qualities He set forth He will sustain them in their election, rescuing them from every trial they face, enabling them to meet the responsibilities of their lives as Christians, and guiding them to the narrow gate that leads to heaven (II Peter 1:10; 2:9; 1:11). For those who are serious about their salvation and that of others, today is the acceptable day of the Lord. It is the only day that we are guaranteed. Are we living up to our responsibilities today? As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Working together with Him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 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” (II Corinthians 6:1-2).
By Roland W. Keith
In today’s ever-changing political and social climate there is an increasing probability that Christians, wherever they may be, will eventually have to deal with spiritual trials. Not the garden-variety everyday trials of being a Christian, but those that force us to choose whose side we will be on— God’s or the world’s. We are already seeing isolated instances where those of faith have been tested and even subjected to out-and-out persecution. Today we will take a brief look at how we, as Christians can deal with the daily tests of a Christian, and more importantly how we can prepare for and endure trials of a nature up to and including true persecution.
Peter once wrote, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that Name” (I Peter 4:12-16). One of the best ways to be ready for whatever may come at us is to simply know that it is coming, acknowledge that fact, and determine to face it with a positive attitude, knowing that God will strengthen us as we glorify His Name.
Another way to make ourselves ready is to pray. We can ask God to strengthen and deliver us from our enemies as King David did (Psalm 69: 13-18). David was confident in the Lord’s mercy, as was Paul when he wrote, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). If we ask according to His will God will hear our supplication (I John 5:14). Moreover, because of our faith in Christ we may draw near to the throne with boldness and confidence (Ephesians 3:12), assured that we may present our case before Him and find a faithful judge (Job 23:3-14). This does not mean we will necessarily survive the physical struggle (Revelation 2:10; 12:11), but we will triumph spiritually finding eternal victory in our Savior.
For the faithful Christian we can learn to face every stumbling block and attack with certainty in the ultimate outcome regardless of the earthly result. We need not fear what becomes of us in the world when we trust in God, who told Isaiah, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 43:1-3). The Lord is our refuge in all of life’s struggles and our fortress when we are under the severest attack if we will commit ourselves to Him (Psalm 31:1-8). Though we may be mocked in His name, taunted and reviled, even slaughtered for His name’s sake He is with us delivering us from the hand of our enemy (Psalm 44:15-26). We can rejoice even in death, knowing there is nothing to fear from the one can only take our lives, but cannot touch our souls (Matthew 10:28).
In his trials Job remarked, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him; yet I will argue my ways to His face. This will be my salvation, that the godless shall not come before Him” (Job 13:15-16). As death comes for us we know before Whom we will stand and that is our confidence, for as the Psalmist said, “in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? … For You have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life” (Psalm 56: 11, 13).
The Lord delivers the faithful. King David gave us these words, “The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. The LORD redeems the life of His servants; none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned” (Psalm 34:16-22). The Lord hears our cries for help. Though we may not always understand how He works for our deliverance we can be assured that He is with us; we need only put our faith in Him. He sustains us in our times of need (Psalm 55:22), knowing what we need even better than we do. He also knows better than we what it takes to defeat our enemies (Psalm 60:11-12).
In the dark days of our lives God becomes our true light, our guide and strength. When we turn to His word to seek counsel and understanding we find the only true wisdom there is in life. Moreover, it is through His word that He equips us to stand against Satan (Psalm 18:28-32; Ephesians 6:10-18). We could make a long list of things we should do as Christians to better prepare ourselves to be the servants He wants us to be, but the three that I would put at the top of the list are: (1) Trust in the Lord, (2) Develop an active prayer life, and (3) study God’s word and come to know it for yourself. Ultimately, what our favorite preacher or teacher knows or teaches is not what will get us into heaven— its what we come to know of God’s truth personally, and how we live in accordance to it that will make the difference (Philippians 2:12). Here on earth we band together to be a strength one to another and to support one another, yet each of us will stand alone before the judgment seat giving an account for our own actions and our own faith.
God’s light is in His word and it is available to all of us. If we know His word and trust in Him our souls need never be cast down (Psalm 43:1-5), and we can learn to find joy even in the darkest hour trusting in Jesus as our example; He who endured the cross for the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2). It is when we follow Christ’s example and trust God’s word that we can find the confidence to seek a right spirit, even as King David did in Psalm 51:10-17: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Your presence, and take not Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise. For You will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; You will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”
When we are tested by the world we can also find great strength in acknowledging what God has already done for us and praising Him for all that He does for us in His infinite mercy (Psalm 56:9-13). At the dedication of the temple the Israelites sang this psalm of David’s: “I will extol you, O LORD, for You have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. O LORD my God, I cried to You for help, and You have healed me. O LORD, You have brought up my soul from Sheol; You restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. Sing praises to the LORD, O you His saints, and give thanks to His Holy Name. For His anger is but for a moment, and His favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:1-5). Even when less joyful days are upon us and all seems to be going against us we should find the faith to praise God, knowing His ways are right, just as Job did: “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong” (Job 1:20-22).
As we draw to a close there are a couple more things to consider in being prepared for the trials that will inevitably come our way. One, we must submit to the Lord’s discipline. As the Psalmist noted: “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn Your statutes. The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces... I know, O LORD, that Your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. Let Your steadfast love comfort me according to Your promise to Your servant. Let Your mercy come to me, that I may live; for Your law is my delight” (Psalm 119:71-72, 75-77). Sometimes the only way to learn a lesson is the hard way, or at least through adversity. And, sometimes it is through discipline. So, when we are chastised by the Lord we need to understand that it is for our own benefit and be thankful that He is looking after our greater welfare (Psalm 118:18-21; Hebrews 12:6, 10).
Finally, if we want to overcome the attacks of Satan we must be men and women of action. God has given us a great gift in His plan of salvation, but we must understand that it is a plan that requires active engagement on our part. We are tasked in taking His word out into the world and in maturing in it and actively living it in our own lives. James said it well when he wrote, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him… 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 1:12, 23-25).
by Roland W. Keith
Name one area in life where knowledge and understanding are not important. If you are a youngster and decide you want to play baseball you have to listen to the coach in order to learn— he will teach you how to hold the bat, catch the ball, throw to the correct base, etc. First day on the job? You’ve got a lot to learn to be successful. Life is all about learning. The more you learn and the better you get at applying what you learn the more likely you are to survive— on the job, in friendships, in marriage, in life itself.
Peter admonishes his readers to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord (II Peter 3:18), because he knew that the only way to survive as a Christian was to know the word. We have to learn about Christ to become a Christian (Romans 10:14). After accepting the gospel our Christian life is just beginning— and so is our education in the truth. To grow as followers of Christ we must come to know the word that Jesus left for us to live by, and to do that we must master the teachings of the Bible. In a comparison of two groups given the opportunity to receive the good news about Christ, Luke recorded: “The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men” (Acts 17:10-12).
In all walks of life those who are most successful are those who are eager to learn, are open to new ideas, and who are also diligent in weighing the evidence, discriminating fact from fiction. As Paul later wrote the Thessalonians, “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (I Thessalonians 4:1). The student of the Bible is not a cursory reader, but an investigator looking for proof. John gave his readers much the same direction as Paul did when he wrote, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (I John 4:1).
As Christians our goal is to study the Bible, becoming experts in its teachings. We learn to resolve apparent differences in the various writer’s treatment of the same subject. We connect the thought patterns that run from writer to writer adding each piece to complete a “picture” of the subject under discussion. We leave no stone (or verse) unturned. We do word studies to ascertain their meanings. We compare what we hear to what is written, searching out additional scriptures to confirm or deny what we are told. In our desire to uncover the truth we treat the Bible as the key to life and death, because spiritually it is. We heed the words of Paul who 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).
Each of us should have the goal to go beyond a basic understanding of the word to become a skilled worker in the word (Hebrews 5:12-14). Whether or not we ever stand up in front of a class we should each strive to have the requisite knowledge and comprehension of a teacher and to utilize that skill in teaching others even if it is one-on-one in conversation (I Peter 3:15). As Christians each of us have obviously been given the opportunity to hear the gospel, or we wouldn’t be members of the Lord’s church. Do we not want to share the good news with others? To do that with any measure of long-term success we must achieve a profound understanding of the Holy Word.
“How,” Paul asked, “are they to believe in Him of Whom they have never heard. And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:14). There are many who dedicate themselves to the work of God as preachers and missionaries. However, the spread of God’s word is not theirs alone. That responsibility belongs to each Christian, in one way or another. What are we doing to help spread the word of God? While it is true some of us may have more or less chances than others to engage people in spiritual conversation, the question is are we taking advantage when the opportunity does present itself?
James encouraged his readers to put aside wickedness and receive the word for salvation, encouraging them to not only hear the word but to be doers of the word (James 1:21-22). Part of putting the word into action is sharing it with others. If we are to become workers in the word handling it as God intended (II Timothy 2:15), we are going to have to actually reach out to others with the word. The scriptures are not a secret that someone shared with us to be kept from others. They are the words of truth and life to be taught far and wide. Would you hide the cure for cancer from others, or would you tell the world? If you have a Bible near you, you have the cure for the most destructive disease in the world at your fingertips. The disease is sin, and the cure is the Holy Scriptures. Spread the cure!
In the gospel according to John he recorded these words of Jesus, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in Me may not remain in darkness. 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 12:46-50).
Those who accept the word will be saved. Those who refuse will be lost. Most of us have someone close to us who has rejected the truth. Several of those in my life have passed on, never having accepted the Lord. It is sad to think about, but each person has to make that choice for themselves. All we can do is share the word with them while they are here, hoping it will touch their hearts and compel them to reach out to God for salvation. We study the Bible to develop a ready recollection of the word for just such occasions. For those of us whose memories are not the best we can compensate by having study aids, memory joggers, verse lists, etc. at the ready to help facilitate every study we are able to have with an interested party.
The important thing is to get the person we are working with hands-on in the scriptures. Hearing is good but hearing and seeing is more effective. If we can get them into the word with a clear road map to the pertinent scriptures, being prepared to answer questions we can successfully share the word with a reasonable chance of leading that person to the truth. Paul once wrote Timothy, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 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” (II Timothy 3:14-17).
When we share the gospel with someone we put them on the same path that Timothy’s mother and grandmother put him on, and that Paul later led him along. Not only can we lead someone to the truth and help them understand it, but after they have come to faith we can and should continue to help them on the way. We all need help from time-to-time as we journey toward heaven’s gate. It is through perseverance and the aid of our brothers and sisters in Christ around us that we gain the strength the Psalmist had when he wrote, “I do not turn aside from Your rules, for You have taught me. How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119: 102-105).
To gain that kind of strength and confidence in the word we must continue to grow in our knowledge. We cannot afford to stop growing and gaining in spiritual strength. As a man who stops being active loses physical strength and becomes weaker so is the man who is complacent in his faith. A good deal of the instruction we find in the New Testament is in fact focused on our need to not only maintain but to cultivate our faith and understanding. We don’t retire as Christians, instead we travel the path to heaven knowing to it is lifelong commitment. As Paul told the Corinthians, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (I Corinthians 10:11-12). To avoid taking that fall that Paul warns against we must go beyond the elementary teachings of the faith to become mature in our faith (Hebrews 6: 1-6).
In his letter to the Hebrews Paul wrote, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He Who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries" (Hebrews 10 -23-27). If we hope to avoid the “fearful expectation of judgment” that Paul spoke of we must respect God’s word, growing in our knowledge and understanding of the wisdom contained therein, sharing it with others, and diligently applying it to our daily lives.
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.