But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
(Heb 11:6 NKJV)
Faith is necessary to please God
It is impossible to please God without faith; it could not be done in the Old Testament and it cannot be done now. One must believe God exists and that He will reward those who diligently seek Him. Those who do not believe this, of course, would never truly serve Him anyway.
Note that God is a rewarder. He is not just a punisher. He motivates by punishment, but also by reward. Some folks think only of punishments, as they fear the consequences of disobedience. Others think only of rewards, and even deny the existence of punishment. God clearly states His intent to give both, according to the conduct of men.
But we receive the reward only if we diligently seek Him. This requires action. Faith is not just something you have in your heart but do nothing, and yet you are rewarded. Faith must lead us to act as God has instructed. then He rewards us. This is true in all the cases found in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, and it is taught in numerous places elsewhere. The faith that saves is the faith that obeys.
For other passages on obedience, see Matthew 7:21-27; 22:36-39; John 14:15,21-24; Acts 10:34,35; Romans 2:6-10; 6:17,18; Hebrews 5:9; Galatians 5:6; 2 Thessalonians 1:8,9; James 2:14-26; 1 Peter 1:22,23; 1 John 5:3; 2:3-6.
-- David Pratte
Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.
(John 8:24 NKJV)
All of us will die (Heb.9:27) but we do not have to die in our sins
Jesus said these words to Jews, producing faith in many of them (John 8:30). But this passage has become politically incorrect in our day because . . .
- Jesus requires us to believe in Him exclusively—not in Mohammed or other religious leaders. Stated another way, no matter how religious we are, or how many other things we may believe, we cannot be saved unless we believe in Jesus.
- Jesus is ‘I AM’ (note that ‘He’ in John 8:24 is in italics, meaning that it was supplied by the translators. This passage parallels John 8:58: “Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.’”
- His words require an ongoing faith. If they quit believing, they annul their salvation. Compare verses John 8:31-32 – those who believe Him must abide in His word. Sadly, by the time Jesus finishes this discussion with the Jews, they are ready to stone Him (John 8:59). In a few moments they go from faith (John 8:30) to hatred (John 8:59). This passage deals a devastating blow to the once saved, always saved position.
- Today most people abhor the idea that someone could die in his sins. Jesus is not a universalist. Our passage clearly gives only true believers this hope. Unbelievers will die in their sins.
All of us will die (Heb.9:27) but we do not have to die in our sins.
-- Rick Duggin
No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.
(John 6:44-45 NKJV)
The Scriptures draw one to God
- Many assume the Father draws through some mysterious force, but John 6:45 explains the drawing of John 6:44 - they are ‘taught by God’; everyone who has ‘heard and learned’ comes to Him. When God’s teaching (His word) reaches honest hearts, the hearers learn how to come to Him. We see this illustrated throughout the book of Acts. When some asked Peter, “What shall we do?” it was because they had heard him preach Christ and were ready to come to Him (Acts 2:14-37). When Peter tells them to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:38), about 3000 act on this knowledge and come to Him (Acts 2:40-41). God has drawn them to Himself through His teaching . . . just as John 6:45 says.
- In the Old Testament, God drew Israel with His lovingkindness: “The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with loving-kindness I have drawn you (Jer.31:3). The same word occurs in Hosea 11:4: “I drew them with gentle cords, With bands of love, And I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck. I stooped and fed them.” God’s lovingkindness still draws honest hearts to repent (see Romans 2:4).
- Those who are drawn to God come to Him by hearing and responding to the teaching of His Scriptures.
Have you been drawn to God?
-- Rick Duggin
"There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish"
(Luke 13:1-5 NKJV)
unless you repent ...
Some of the most productive and memorable lessons I ever learned were painful. In some instances, years passed before I began to realize the great blessings these lessons had bestowed. “No pain, no gain” is often true.
The Jews inform Jesus about a tragedy, presumably in Jeru-salem. They may expect Him to comment on Pilate’s cruelty, and to remind them that Pilate will meet His judgment some day.
Jesus says nothing about Pilate. Instead, He urges His audience to think about tragedies from a biblical perspective. They too will die — maybe sooner than they think. They must be prepared. To die unprepared is the ultimate tragedy.
Repentance is the way to avoid such a tragedy. “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Lk.13:2-3).
Instead of focusing on the supposed and imaginary judgments of others, He tells them to take a good look at themselves. Impenitence invites eternal tragedy that surpasses any misfortune that can happen on earth.
If present pain forces them to focus on their own sins and moves them to repent, then they will profit eternally. If they merely point fingers at others and refuse to examine their own spiritual state, they will end up far worse than these people who experienced mere earthly tragedies.
Many news items upset us. Let earthly tragedies move us to repent and motivate us to focus on our heavenly home.
-- Rick Duggin
Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent
(Acts 17:30 NKJV)
we must repent of our sins
You have heard the popular religious slogans of the day. “There is no God.” “If there is a God, He is off duty.” “God is not concerned what we do.” “God will save us; it’s His job.”
It would be difficult for so many to be so wrong about a subject so important. As Paul addresses the Athenian philosophers, he refutes each of these false claims. Paul schools these learned men in sound doctrine. By preserving these lessons in the Bible, the Lord teaches modern man as well.
Paul’s primary premise is that there is a God and He will judge us: “…because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” – Acts 17:31.
How can we know the judgment is real? God’s assurance is based on the resurrection of His Son. The future Judgment is as certain as this past fact.
Our only question is this: how should we live in view of the Judgment?
- We can begin by taking sin seriously v.30.
- We must repent of our sins, v.30.
- We do not plead ignorance or make excuses for our faults or character flaws, v.30.
- We must know the will of God, v.30.
- We must realize that if God will judge the world; I will be in that number, v.31.
- We must know that His standard of judgment is His holy Word, v.31; Jn.12:48.
-- Rick Duggin
"Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven"
(Matthew 10:32-33 NKJV)
will we confess or deny Jesus?
These verses tell us something about Jesus, His Father, His disciples, and us.
- If Jesus were not deity (God) this passage would be blasphemy. Imagine a mere man encouraging people to confess him as they would confess the Father in heaven! Who could escape the severest ridicule for such a claim? And yet, when Jesus says these things, it is perfectly natural and fitting. He was and is more than mere man.
- Jesus promises to confess His confessors (people who confess Him) before His Father in heaven. After this life ends, and we stand before Him in judgment, what do we want Him to say about us? Our eternal destiny depends, in part, on our confession of the Lord while we live on earth. The greatest tragedy awaits those who will not confess Him.
- In Matthew 10, the Lord is sending His disciples out to preach in this “limited commission” (as opposed to the greater commission in Matthew 28). They will be rejected, threatened, and persecuted. They will be tempted to remain silent about Jesus. Will they remain faithful? Surely these words gave them strength.
- These verses force us to make a choice. No one can serve both the Lord and His enemies. Earthly enemies may oppose us (Matthew 10:34); the Lord alone can save us. Will we confess Him or deny Him? We determine the Lord’s verdict.
-- Rick Duggin
“...that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation”
(Romans 10:9-10 NKJV)
salvation requires more than faith alone
The context of Romans 10:9-10 affirms that salvation is within the reach of lost sinners. The sinner does not have to ascend into heaven (Romans 10:6) or descend into the abyss (Romans 10:7) to receive the great blessing of salvation. In Romans 10:8 Paul concludes his quotations from Deuteronomy 30 by assuring us that “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.” Jews spoke of difficult or impossible things as something “afar off.” They spoke of easy things as “near.”
In Romans 10:9-10, Paul applies these mouth and heart comments to our confession and belief. In becoming a Christian, one must confess the Lord Jesus with his mouth, and believe in his heart that God has raised Him from the dead.
To call Jesus “Lord” (a title of God) is to confess that He is supreme in our life. This confession implies important facts about our salvation. For example —
- If God requires sinners to confess Jesus in order to be saved, then salvation is not by faith alone as many assert. Jesus Himself stated that “whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33).
- To confess Jesus is Lord is to say that He rules our lives (Romans 10:9). This confession implies humble submission and careful obedience. “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). Sadly, many who speak freely about Jesus their “Lord” refuse to obey His commands.
- Romans 10 does not mention baptism. Does that mean that it is not essential to salvation? Some have written tracts that strongly assert this view, but this presents them with a problem: the passage does not mention repentance, either. Is repentance not necessary to be saved? In addition, Paul has al-ready shown that baptism is necessary for salvation (Romans 6:3-4 — we are baptized into Christ, into His death, etc.).
- If, as some claim, we are saved “at the point of faith,” when does repentance or confession occur — before faith? What a tangled web some people weave for their system of salvation! But how simple is the plan for those who have true faith.
-- Rick Duggin
"Then Peter said to them, 'Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit'"
(Acts 2:38 NKJV)
we must be baptized in order to receive the remission of sins
Has there ever been a passage so controversial as this one? Probably not. Why is this so? It is not because the language is unclear, poorly stated, or illogical. Many children have understood its teaching. It is not because the connection between baptism and the forgiveness of sins had never been heard before. “John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4).
It is not because Jesus had failed to speak of it. His closing words to His disciples gave them a great commission: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16).
It is not because Peter understated the importance of repentance and baptism. Verse 38 clearly connects obedience to these commands with the forgiveness of sins. In fact, the imperatives of this passage were so clearly comprehended by Peter’s audience that a large number obeyed on this very occasion of the first gospel sermon. “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them” (Acts 2:42).
There are simple reasons why so many misunderstand this clear passage —
- Many are prejudiced against Scriptural baptism. Some even admit what the passage says, but reject any concept of salvation that requires human action.
- Another large number rejects the teaching that water could have anything to do with being saved. (At one time, Naaman would have agreed in principle with their objection; happily he learned better, 2 Kings 5.)
- Professional deceivers have convinced people that they are saved before and without water baptism. (They simply refuse to believe that the Lord would require it.)
A gospel preacher in Texas wrote professors on a Greek website, asking about the preposition for in Acts 2:38 —could for the remission of sins be used in a retrospective way instead of looking forward (that is, baptism because of remission of sins)?
One of the most learned professors replied, “I’d like to see any evidence for such a claim; I don’t believe it is so.”
This same preposition occurs in Matthew 26:28 —Jesus’ blood is shed for many for the remission of sins.
This means that all standard translations are correct: “for the remission of sins” means that they (and we) must be baptized in order to receive the remission of sins. How simple!
Some religious people reject Jesus, the Son of God, not because of powerful evidence that forces them to this conclusion. Others just as readily reject the Scriptures as the word of God, not because powerful evidence is lacking to prove His claims. In like manner, many reject the Lord’s commandments — baptism being one of them. Again, they do not reach this conclusion because of overwhelming evidence, but because of prejudice.
-- Rick Duggin
Then Peter said to them, “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”
(Mark 16:15-16 NKJV)
we must be baptized in order to receive the remission of sins
Has there ever been a passage so controversial as this one? Probably not. Why is this so?
It is not because the language is unclear, poorly stated, or illogical. Many children have understood its teaching.
It is not because the connection between baptism and the forgiveness of sins had never been heard before. “John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4).
It is not because Jesus had failed to speak of it. Some of His closing words to His disciples gave them a great commission: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16).
It is not because Peter understated the importance of repentance and baptism. Mark 16:38 clearly connects obedience to these commands with the forgiveness of sins.
In fact, the imperatives of this passage were so clearly comprehended by Peter’s audience that a large number obeyed on this very occasion of the first gospel sermon. “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them” (Mark 16:42).
There are simple reasons why so many misunderstand this clear passage —
- Many are prejudiced against Scriptural baptism. Some even admit what the passage says, but reject any concept of salvation that requires human action.
- Another large number reject the teaching that water could have anything to do with being saved. (At one time, Naaman would have agreed with their objection; happily he learned better, 2 Kings 5.)
- There are professional deceivers who have convinced people that they are saved before and without water baptism. (They simply refuse to believe that the Lord would require it.)
In 2005, a gospel preacher in Texas wrote professors on a Greek website, asking about the preposition for in Acts 2:38 — could for the remission of sins could be used in a retrospective way instead of looking forward. One of the most learned professors replied, “I’d like to see any evidence for such a claim; I don’t believe it is so.” [This same preposition occurs in Matthew 26:28 — Jesus’ blood is shed for many for the remission of sins.]
This means that all standard translations are correct: “for the remission of sins” means that they (and we) must be baptized in order to receive the remission of sins. How simple!
– Rick Duggin
“And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord”
(Acts 22:16 NKJV)
baptism washes away sin
The change of Saul of Tarsus into Paul the apostle is surely the most unexpected conversion in the New Testament. He set out from Jerusalem to persecute saints in Damascus. By the time he arrived, he had seen Jesus and was told to wait in Damascus for further orders. He would be told what he must do, Acts 9:6.
Ananias dutifully came and commanded Saul to be baptized and wash away his sins. Both baptized and wash away are imperatives (commands) describing what a sinner must do to be saved.
Denominational preachers often assert that Saul was saved on the road. If so, Saul did not know it (he has spent three days fasting). Ananias did not know it, or Luke. or the Lord, or the Holy Spirit. Does anyone really believe that Ananias would tell a saved man to be baptized, and wash away his sins? A saved man could reply, “What sins? I was saved three days ago on the road.”
Saul “called” on the Lord to save him just as the people on Pentecost had done (Acts 2:21, Acts 2:37-38): they called on the Lord by baptism in His name for the remission of sins. Can we do any less?
– Rick Duggin
1 Peter 3:21
There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ
(1 Peter 3:21 NKJV)
baptism saves us
Peter previously informed his readers that they had purified their souls in obeying the truth (1 Peter 1:22) having been born again, through the word of God (1 Peter 1:23). In this same epistle he elaborates on one of these saving acts—baptism (1 Peter 3:21).
Peter is not saying that baptism alone saves from sin. Three decades before writing this epistle, he spoke to a great audience in Jerusalem. When they asked him what they should do (Acts 2:37), he replied, “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” (Acts 2:38). If they had to repent and be baptized, then baptism alone would not save. Other passages require faith and a confession of Jesus (Mark 16:16; Romans 10:9-10).
When some people find a verse that mentions faith, they delight in assuming that the Lord’s plan is salvation by faith alone. If this “game” works for passages that mention faith, why would it not work the same way in 1 Peter 3:21—we are saved by baptism alone? Well, are we saved by baptism alone? No! Are we saved by faith alone? No! (Cf. James 2:14-26.)
Baptism is an antitype of Noah’s salvation: as Noah and his family were saved by passing through water, even so a sinner must pass through the water of baptism to be saved. Noah’s salvation was a type (figure) of our salvation from sin. Note Peter’s precise language: “there is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism.” Baptism is the washing of water by the word (Ephesians 5:26) that now saves us. Who can deny it?
– Rick Duggin
Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? herefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life
(Romans 6:3-5 NKJV)
we get into Christ by baptism
Paul’s discussion of baptism in Romans 6 refutes an attitude of some Christians who thought they could continue in their sins. Some tried to excuse this immoral yearning by claiming that sin highlights the grace of God—He is the great Forgiver! In addition, there were opponents who accused Paul of undermining holiness because he taught the removal of the old law.
He replies to this nonsense by showing that the Christian has died to sin and thus cannot continue to live in it (Rom. 6:2). Christ has died for us; the moment when this death had its saving effect on us was when we were baptized (Rom. 6:3). A baptism into Christ is a baptism into His death. Our baptism forces the end of one life and the beginning of another.
We cannot be saved “out” of Christ. We are baptized “into” Christ Jesus, and are thus united with Christ. We see a parallel in the baptism of the Israelites (1 Corinthians 10:2) —“all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” Moses became their new leader. How did they get “into” Moses? By their baptism. Just as their baptism united Israel with Moses, our baptism unites us with Christ. If Israelites had refused their baptism, they would have remained in Egyptian slavery. If we refuse the Lord’s baptism, we remain in satanic slavery: “Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Rom. 6:6).
Baptism is not only a funeral, but a resurrection. We were buried by baptism into Christ and into His death (Rom. 6:3). Just as Christ did not remain buried, but was raised, even so we did not remain buried, but were raised to walk in newness of life. Our emergence from the water of baptism is a resurrection to a life of holiness. Our old life was sinful; our new life is a new way of walking (living) as the Lord directs. The idea of a Christian who walks in sin is a gross contradiction of the gospel.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). True life is in Christ. We get into Christ by baptism. What could be plainer?
– Rick Duggin
“...buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead”
(Colossians 2:12 NKJV)
Without baptism, one is still dead in sin
Paul is writing to those who have already been baptized, reminding them of what happened in this act.
- They were buried with Him (Christ) in baptism.
- They were raised with Him as they emerged from the watery grave.
- This happened through the working of God—the One who raised Jesus from the dead.
- Baptism thus typified the reality of death and resurrection. Death is the negative side, resurrection is the positive.
- False teachers asserted that the Colossians needed circumcision to be complete in Christ (cf. Acts 15:1). Paul shows what Christ did: He performed the Colossians’ true circumcision: putting off the body of the flesh (removal of the old man, Colossians 3:9): see Colossians 2:11.
- This circumcision took place in baptism (Colossians 2:12) when they were buried with Christ and raised with Him. This spiritual circumcision removed their sins. “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses” (Colossians 2:13).
Before: they were dead in sins and uncircumcision (their physical condition symbolized their spiritual state). Now: their spiritual circumcision (baptism) has put off the body of sins of the flesh (Colossians 2:11), raised them with Him, and made them alive with Him, by forgiveness (Colossians 2:12-13).
This passage parallels Romans 6:3-5. “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). Without baptism, one is still dead in sin.
– Rick Duggin
But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.
(Gal 1:8 NKJV)
the gospel – the only means by which we gain access to the true grace of God
Christians are appalled that some abandon the Bible. Even more shocking: in Galatia it was Christians who abandoned the gospel of Christ.
Paul expressed his shock in these words: “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6).
Why do some Christians turn away from the gospel?
- Some are disbelievers. A disbeliever is simply one who refuses to believe. Judaizers had entered the churches of Galatia, persuading them to abandon the truth for the Law of Moses (Galatians 2; compare Acts 15:1). Much of Paul’s epistle to the Galatians refutes this error and tries to restore the unbelievers.
- Some are dissatisfied. Strangely, they do not appreciate the grace of God that teaches them how to be saved (Gal.5:4; Titus 2:11-12). “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).
- Some are disgruntled. This is nothing new. Some of Jesus’ disciples quit following Him when they could not accept His teaching (John 6:60-66). Some actually “wanted” a distorted gospel (Galatians 1:7) – one that fit their unscriptural desires.
- Some are disobedient. The gospel requires repentance which, in turn, requires a change of life. “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has needs” (Ephesians 4:28). Some are unwilling to change.
There is only one gospel. Turning away from it is eternally fatal. No one – not even an angel – can pervert the gospel with impunity. “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9).
Let every Christian be thankful that he possesses the gospel – the only means by which we gain access to the true grace of God (1 Pt.5:12).
-- Rick Duggin
But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.
(Galatians 1:11 NKJV)
the gospel is not from man but by the revelation of Jesus Christ
- The Galatian brothers have taken a giant step in the wrong direction. They are in the process of apostasy and therefore of being accursed (1:6-9). They illustrate what falling from grace looks like. (“You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” – Galatians 5:4).
- Paul wants these confused brothers to know that his gospel is not of his own invention. It came by the revelation of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:12). If they reject his teaching, they reject Christ Himself. “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him — the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).
- Like many today, the Galatians think they are safe in choosing what they want to believe. If they ate after this manner, they would just as soon pick poison as wholesome food.
– Rick Duggin
"So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God"
(Romans 10:17 NKJV)
obedient faith comes from the hearing (and reading) of God's word
It would be unusual to start a conversation with the words “So then.” In Romans 10 these words connect with the previous context: Israel was expected to believe God’s prophets and were re-buked for their unbelief (see Romans 10:16-21). Our faith also comes by hearing God’s word. If we quit listening, we will all just as Israel did.
Prophets spoke to Israel, but their message originated with God Himself. To reject their message is to reject God. “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘LORD, who has believed our report?’” The same standard applies to us. To reject the gospel is to reject God. (Most versions end verse 17 with the word “Christ.” Christ spoke through the prophets, 1 Peter 1:11. Whether the reading is God or Christ, the principle is the same.)
- In Romans, faith first occurs in 1:5 where it links with obedience. Romans 10:16 gives the same standard: hear and obey.
- Faith comes by hearing, which includes reading: John 20:30-31. John wrote that we may believe. Though we cannot hear the actual voice of Christ or the apostles; we do hear their written words (Acts 3:22, “Him you shall hear in all things…”).
- Faith is for all, Jew and Gentile alike (Ro.1:16-17).
- Since faith is synonymous with obedience (Ro.10:16), to reject the gospel is to reject faith in the Lord Himself.
-- Rick Duggin
2 Timothy 3:16-17
"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for in-struction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work"
(2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV)
All Scripture is inspired of God (God-breathed)
Our passage is very timely. In many ways, modern America re-sembles ancient Israel. They had rejected God’s word. God threatened severe punishment. One of His most painful penalties would be a famine of His word (Amos 8:11-12). Sadly, some people must lose their most precious possession in order to appreciate it. Let us avoid their example and learn from it; let us value the word of God more than our necessary food. Why?
- Scripture is inspired of God — it is God-breathed. Just as we must breathe to speak, so God has spoken (Hebrews 1:1-2).
- All Scripture is profitable — it is useful, beneficial, advanta-geous. Just as we could not arrive at a strange destination without directions, we cannot serve God properly on earth or make it to heaven without Scripture. But profit requires an investment. Do you invest effort to know this inspired Book?
- Why does this Scripture bring profit to its readers?
- It reveals true doctrine (teaching). The Monroe doctrine consisted of James Monroe’s political views. The doctrine of God consists of His truth that saves our soul. “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Timothy 4:16).
- It reproves and rebukes wrong ideas and actions. We cannot repent without helpful, constructive corrections.
- It corrects wrong ideas and actions. A pilot would never assume that he could reach his destination without correcting deviations from the flight path. “Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way” (Psalm 119:104).
- It instructs in righteousness. The word of God provides guidance — a great blessing. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” — Psalm 119:105.
- The purpose of Scripture is to make us complete. We cannot know what a “good work” is unless God reveals it. Any “good work” that is from God will be in His word. If a work is from man, we should avoid it as we would the plague.
– Rick Duggin
"And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him"
(Colossians 3:17 NKJV)
whatever we do or say must be by the authority of Jesus
In our permissive society, most people would ridicule this passage. Libertines would relegate it to a primitive time and an authoritarian mentality. Denominations give it lip service, at best. Religious leaders reject the plain admonitions of this passage, relying instead on their modern enlightenment — they simply despise authoritative pronouncements (though they do the same when they quote human authors to overturn Scriptural decrees).
Those who truly follow Christ, however, recognize the writing of the apostles as the message of Christ Himself. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the apostles took the words of Christ and gave them to His people (carefully read John 16:13-15).
Whatever is a comprehensive word: the synonym all says it all: everything we do must harmonize with the inspired word of God.
If we say it or do it, it must be in the name of the Lord Jesus. “In the name of” the Lord means by His authority. He is Lord; He speaks. Do we dare ignore Him or reject His orders? [This verse closely parallels 1 Peter 4:11— “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God…” Those who choose to go beyond His teaching do not have God (2 John 1:9). His word will judge us in the last day (John 12:48).
We should give thanks for the written Word that so clearly explains God’s plan for us. Obey it, follow it, and be saved.
-- Rick Duggin
1 Peter 4:11
"If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen"
(1 Peter 4:11 NKJV)
speak as the Bible speaks, be silent where the Bible is silent, call Bible things by Bible names, and do Bible things in Bible ways
The first part of this memory verse is well known; the latter part, not so much. All of it deserves our attention.
To speak often describes an action of teachers. God’s word is communicated through words, whether spoken or written. The purpose is to use words that conform to God’s oracles. It is eminently scriptural for us to insist on speaking as the Bible speaks, being silent where the Bible is silent, calling Bible things by Bible names, and doing Bible things in Bible ways.
Oracles refer to the sayings of God. It describes the revelations that Moses received (living oracles, Acts 7:38) and God’s promises to the Jews (Romans 3:2). Sluggish Christians were rebuked for their failure to grow in the basic principles of the God’s oracles (Hebrews 5:12). Peter warns his readers against any departure from divine utterances (1 Peter 4:11). A failure to heed this warning has led to many and diverse false doctrines.
To minister is to serve. The oracles of God guide us into service and obedience. When satan tried to turn Jesus away from truth and into unscriptural service, Jesus used the oracles to respond (Matthew 4:3-11).
Our steady purpose is to act with the abilities that God supplies us. Ability here means strength—the capability to function effectively. This is not difficult for one who loves the Lord with all his might (see Mark 12:30,33).
We glorify God when we use His gifts as He directs. The danger is the temptation to glorify ourselves (see Matthew 6:2). The Christian knows that the Lord deserves the glory and dominion (might, sovereignty) forever. All we are or ever hope to be, we owe to Him. Let us serve Him accordingly.
-- Rick Duggin
2 John 1:9
Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.
(2 John 1:9 NKJV)
do not go beyond what is written
This passage, though not popular, is quite plain.
- To transgress is ‘to step over...or across...to go beyond (a limit or boundary); to break a law, commandment, etc.; sin’(Webster’s New World Dictionary). Other versions render it, Anyone who goes too far… NASB; Everyone who goes on ahead… ESV, etc.
- One who goes beyond the Lord’s teaching (doctrine) necessarily severs his relationship with God.
- Contrary to popular opinion, true doctrine is very important, as this verse clearly shows. Not only must we embrace truth, but also reject those who promote doctrines of men. “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds” (2 John 10-11).
- This passage stands with many others that emphasize the same truth.
- The Lord commissions His apostles to meet this obligation to their converts: “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” – Matthew 28:20.
- Paul cautions his readers in Colosse, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” – Colossians 3:17.
- Paul reminds Timothy, “As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine” – 1 Timothy 1:3.
- Paul further warns, “If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness” – 1 Timothy 6:3.
- The New Testament ends on this solemn note: “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” – Revelation 22:18-19.
Only those who abide in the doctrine of Christ can rightfully claim to have a saving relationship with God.
-- Rick Duggin
1 Corinthians 4:6
"Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other"
(1 Corinthians 4:6 NKJV)
Do not go beyond what is written
The expression "these things" is often called a "covert allusion." It refers to a person or situation indirectly; it is considered a form of irony. Though Paul has been speaking of Apollos and himself, he has done it for the benefit of the Corinthians. They must learn the meaning of the saying, "Do not go beyond what is written."
The church at Corinth, like all other churches, must be bound by God’s Word. They must not go beyond the teaching of Scripture. "Whoever transgresses [goes onward] and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God" (2 John 1:9). "If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God" (1 Peter 4:11).
Think of the many cherished practices of denominations that not only are missing from Scripture, but actually oppose its plain teaching: salvation by faith alone, sprinkling babies, praying to Mary, defending divisions (denominationalism), impossibility of apostasy, etc. A careful reading of this text should serve as sufficient warning. "Nothing beyond what is written!"
-- Rick Duggin
1 Corinthians 14:37
"If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord"
(1 Corinthians 14:37 NKJV)
Paul's writings are the commandments of the Lord
1 Corinthians 12-14 exposes some Corinthian Christians who were obsessed with spiritual gifts — especially “showy” ones such as speaking in tongues. This section is the longest in the entire epistle — an indication that the Corinthians needed detailed instructions to remedy wrong actions and attitudes.
Their passion for “popular” gifts (such as speaking in tongues) led to feelings of superiority over those who were not gifted or who possessed less showy gifts such as prophecy, 1 Corinthians 12. Paul reminds them that spiritual gifts were temporary. The completed New Testament would entirely remove the need for miraculous gifts (1 Corinthians 13). In the meantime, they must abandon competitive actions and conceited attitudes. Carnal minds must quit glorying in their imagined superiority over others (1 Corinthians 12 and 1 Corinthians 14). Love is the remedy for selfishness (1 Corinthians 13).
The Lord’s church was not established to exalt the servants of God. Spiritual gifts were designed to edify Christians in the assembly (and also unbelievers). The gifts helped them to grow in love (1 Corinthians 14:1-5), understanding (1 Corinthians 14:20), worship (1 Corinthians 14:24-25), and to do all things decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40).
“If anyone thinks himself…” exposes the misguided zeal of some gifted people. Even if they are prophets or spiritual (spiritually gifted, 1 Corinthians 14:1?) they must remember that God’s word deserves the respect and praise that some sought for themselves(1 Corinthians 14:36). Paul is writing what the Lord commands (1 Corinthians 14:37).
The Corinthians did not write the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 14:36). They could not make their own rules, or worship as they pleased. Some modern churches seriously need to learn these same lessons.
-- Rick Duggin
While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!"
(Mt. 17:5 NKJV)
Only by hearing Him (explicitly obeying His Word) can we have hope of eternal life
The scene is the Mount of Transfiguration. The Lord’s face has shone like the sun. His clothes have become as white as the light. Moses and Elijah have appeared and talked with Him. Surprisingly, Peter suggests making three tents: one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah (Mt. 17:4).
We don’t know if Peter actually wanted to put Moses and Elijah on the same level as Christ, but the Father’s voice certainly rejects that notion. This passage teaches us that:
- Jesus is the way, the only way, to the Father (John 14:6). When the old covenant was in effect, Jews who wanted to remain faithful to God had to listen to Moses and Elijah. That time has passed. “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-2).
- No matter how exalted Old Testament prophets were, they cannot compare to God’s Son. Jesus alone is Lord of all (Acts 10:36). “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
- Only by hearing Him (explicitly obeying His Word) can we have hope of eternal life. “Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:8-9).
On the Day of Judgment we will stand before the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:10). The answer to one question will occupy our mind – Did I obey Jesus?
-- Rick Duggin
"Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved"
(Acts 4:12 NKJV)
Salvation can only be found in Jesus
Though this verse is utterly unpopular and politically incorrect, it is the truth of God and will stand for eternity. Salvation is found only in Jesus. “Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:8-9).
The context of this passage reveals Peter’s response to a hostile Jewish Sanhedrin. Peter does not mince words. He charges them with the worst crime in the world: they have crucified the Son of God. “...let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole” (Acts 4:10).
The sins of the Sanhedrin were diverse and deadly. A brief summary of their sins would include the following —
- They rejected the claims of God’s Son, thus rejecting the Father Who sent Him, John 12:48-49.
- They crucified the Savior of the world (Acts 4:12).
- They misled people who might otherwise have believed on Him (Mark 15:11).
- They denied the unanswerable evidence that He was raised from the dead and spread lies to prejudice the Jews and others who might believe in Him (Matthew 28:11-15).
- They continued to oppose His apostles though they could not answer their arguments or disprove their claims (Acts 3-4).
The general teaching of Scripture from beginning to end is that God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). He presently delays the coming of His Son in the hope that more will repent (2 Peter 3:9).
Acts 4 shows that God desires the salvation even of His enemies — those who killed His Son and who are still persecuting His apostles. Luke later records that a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith (Acts 6:7). Jesus had prayed for this response (Luke 23:34). They could no longer resist the truth.
It is sad when men allow their stubbornness to blind their eyes to the word of the Lord. It is sadder still when they influence people to join them in suicidal rebellion. The saddest thing of all, however, is that some people are so determined to have their way that they influence friends and loved ones to follow them into eternal condemnation.
Salvation comes only in Jesus. If some other name (person) could shed his blood to wash away our sins, or if we could save ourselves, we would not need Jesus. All others have sinned and are themselves in need of salvation (Romans 3:23). Our only hope lies in Jesus, the sinless Savior of mankind (John 14:6).
-- Rick Duggin
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’”
(John 14:6 NKJV)
Jesus is the only way to salvation
The general context (John 14-16) records Jesus’ final instructions and consolation to His disciples. He is the one way to the cross. These last words would stabilize His disciples until He could visit them again as their resurrected Lord.
He has promised to prepare a place for them and to come for them (John 14:1-3). When He says, “And where I go you know, and the way you know” (John 14:4), Thomas confesses ignorance of the way (John 14:5).
In answer to his confusion, Jesus utters the famous words of verse 6: “I am the way…” He does not merely show the way. Each word deserves emphasis. He is the way—He and no other. He is the way (He does not merely teach the way to Heaven; He is it). He is the way (there is only one). He is the way—the means of passing from one place or state to another.
This affirmation agrees with His prayer in the garden: “...O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” — Matthew 26:39. The Father Himself made His Son the only way to salvation in heaven.
Jesus embodies the truth. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” — John 1:14.
Jesus is the life. He has life in Himself (John 5:26); He has the words of life (John 6:68).
No one can come to the Father except through Him. We depend on Him for our salvation—there is no other (Acts 4:12).
The way leads to God; the truth sets us free; the life produces fellowship. He is the way because He is the truth and the life.
-- Rick Duggin
And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
(Mt. 16:18 NKJV)
the Lord's church
- Jesus states that He will build His church upon the facts that Peter had just confessed. Peter repeats this confession as he preaches Jesus the Christ in Acts 2.
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).
“Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
“This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear” (Acts 2:32-33).
- The future tense ‘I will build’ shows that His church did not come into existence during the Old Testament period. The church is first spoken of as being in existence in the book of Acts (2:47; 5:11; 8:2).
- The pronoun ‘My’ reveals that the church belongs to Christ. We have no right to ‘remodel’ the Lord’s building. The church must work, worship, and serve according to the pattern provided in the gospel of Christ.
- The promise that Hades would not prevail against the church proves that neither His own crucifixion nor the slaughter of His disciples could frustrate His plans. In fact, the sacrifice of Christ had to occur before He would build His church. After His announcement in verse 18, Jesus proceeds to prepare His disciples for His death (verses 21-23).
The Lord promises to save His body (Ephesians 5:23) which is His church (Ephesians 1:22-23). His gospel never promises salvation to anyone else.
-- Rick Duggin
"Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you"
(Romans 16:16 NKJV)
local churches are identified as "churches of Christ"
In this closing section Paul sends greetings to many saints in Rome. From this short verse we may glean a number of lessons.
- Paul, once a notorious sinner and persecutor of saints is now Paul the apostle who warmly greets and teaches fellow saints.
- People can change. Paul’s change from his old life proves the power of the gospel. The gospel can change us, too.
- Because Paul was an apostle, he was well acquainted with many local churches. He had established many (1 Corinthians 3:6).
- Paul expected the saints to greet one another with a holy kiss, Christians were known for their mutual love and kindness.
- Paul’s greeting includes churches of Christ. This reveals a biblical way of identifying local churches. Why did he not send Roman Catholic greetings to the church in Rome? Why not salute Baptist, Methodist, or Presbyterian churches? These came hundreds of years later through the sinful desires of men. Why would anyone want to be in a church that is not scriptural?
– Rick Duggin
“For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God”
(Eph. 5:5 NKJV)
we can know right from wrong
From this passage we learn that . . .
- We can ‘know’ right and wrong. The Bible tells us so. “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” – John 8:31-32. “Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” – 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22.
- Though immoral people may prosper in this life, they exclude themselves from God’s incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading inheritance that He has reserved for us in heaven, 1 Pt.1:4.
- “No fornicator . . . has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” This statement strongly proves the possibility of apostasy. Paul’s warning is directed toward Christians. Immoral people who refuse to repent and to obey the Lord have no hope of heaven (Revelation 21:8).
- It is not unkind to warn people that, unless they repent, they will not go to heaven. In fact, kindness demands loving warnings.
– Rick Duggin
He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love
(Colossians 1:13 NKJV)
the kingdom of Christ exists today
The context of this passage shows that “ He ” is God; the “ Son of His love” is Christ; “us” (twice) refers to Christians.
Our salvation, viewed negatively, describes deliverance from satan"s dark domain, enabling us to escape eternal condemnation in hell with the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41, 46). “The power of darkness” accurately describes satan"s influence on people who are held captive by spiritual blindness, ignorance, hatred, helplessness, and misery.
Our salvation, viewed positively, describes our entrance or transfer into the kingdom of God"s dear Son. This blessing occurs when He forgives us of our sins. Verse 14 explains: “in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”
Since we are conveyed into the kingdom of Christ, we serve Him as our King. We have become “workers for the kingdom of God” (cf. Colossians 4:1). His kingdom is not of this world -it is heavenly in origin, spiritual in force, based on truth, and of eternal duration (John 18:36) but already a present state. He is even now “King of kings and Lord of Lords” (1 Timothy 6:15).
These wonderful spiritual blessings are based on our redemption from sin by the blood of God"s Son (Colossians 1:14).
This salvation is consummated in heaven. Colossians 1:5 elaborates: “because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel”
In heaven our inheritance is laid up, our hope remains, and our Savior awaits.
-- Rick Duggin
... praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
(Acts 2:47 NKJV)
- Though this verse appears here without the benefit of its greater context, most Christians already know the setting. The passage refers to those who have received the word of God and have been baptized for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:38, 41).
- These saved people, spiritual babies, numbering about 3000, were not left alone to fend for themselves. They were added together. Verse 47 says the Lord added others to His church daily. This illustrates the power and truth of the gospel. The evidence for the resurrection of Christ and His plan were too strong to ignore.
- These saints would continue to mature in their association with like-minded Christians. God’s plan has never been to convert the lost and then leave them alone. These saved people become the church of the Lord in Jerusalem. Our assemblies edify us and help us to grow in Christ (Hebrews 10:24-25).
- Saved people praise God for His forgiveness of their sins. He has made them His people. Their praise foreshadows the eternal thanksgiving that Christians will offer in heaven.
- They enjoyed these blessings without joining denominations. In fact, they could not have joined a denomination if they had wanted to. Hundreds of years would pass before these human arrangements would come into existence.
- The good news: we can do what they did. We can be part of the Lord’s church, serve Him faithfully, and spend eternity in heaven with Him.Today most people abhor the idea that someone could die in his sins. Jesus is not a universalist. Our passage clearly gives only true believers this hope. Unbelievers will die in their sins.
-- Rick Duggin
1 John 1:9
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness"
(1 John 1:9 NKJV)
do not view sin lightly
John’s context clearly addresses Christians. “Our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). John writes so that our joy may be full (1 John 1:4). To abide in His fellowship, we must shun the darkness and walk in truth (1 John 1:6).
God admonishes us to walk in the light in order to enjoy fellowship with one another and to be cleansed from all sin by the blood of His Son (1 John 1:7). Walking in the light requires us to acknowledge and to confess our sins (1 John 1:8). One who boasts that he has no sin is self-deceived.
The Christian cannot view sin lightly. We must confess our sins. Confess means “to speak the same thing as.” The deceived person claims that he has no sin (1 John 1:8). 1 John 1:9 requires the opposite: we must freely confess (that is, say the same thing as) Scripture: “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). John includes himself with the rest of us — every accountable person needs God’s forgiveness and cleansing.
The good news is that God is faithful: He is true to His promise to forgive us. He is also just (righteous). He gives to each his due. This is good for the person who confesses and receives forgiveness of sins. But one who denies his sins must realize the eternal danger of his stubborn course. God’s purpose is to remove both our sins and our false security.
When God forgives our debt, He cleanses us from sin (Isaiah 1:18). There is no security in denying our sinful state. Our only hope lies in confessing our sins and being saved by His amazing grace. We must run to Him for mercy. No one has ever successfully run away from God. Remember Jonah?
– Rick Duggin
“Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you”
(Acts 8:22 NKJV)
it is possible to fall, and be forgiven
A primary rule of Bible study is to discover who is speaking, and who is being addressed. Our speaker here is the apostle Peter. He is warning Simon of his perilous spiritual condition.
Luke, the writer, has described the effects of Philip’s preaching. Those who believed were baptized (Acts 8:12). Simon has also believed (“also” shows that he has done the same thing that the others did); he also believed and was baptized (Acts 8:13). The wording recalls Mark 16:16, ‘he who believes and is baptized shall be saved.’ Simon therefore was saved from his past sins.
But now, Simon has sinfully desired the apostles’ power. Peter warned him that he would perish (Acts 8:20) and urged him to repent. He needed forgiveness (Acts 8:22). Note: Simon, a sinner, was saved (Acts 8:13); now he is warned that he will perish (Acts 8:20) unless he repents. How could anyone deny the possibility of apostasy?
But, someone asks, why was Simon not required to be baptized again? Answer: for the same reason that Peter did not require him to believe again. Simon had already believed and been baptized (Acts 8:13). Now, as a Christian in sin, he must repent and pray to be forgiven.
Two facts are clear –
- The New Testament forcefully, consistently teaches that baptism is necessary for the remission of sins (see Acts 2:38). But whose sins are washed away in baptism? Every example shows that alien sinners were baptized. In Acts 2:38, Peter does not command Christians to be baptized; his hearers are lost, but they have not been baptized yet. Ananias told Saul of Tarsus, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Observe: Saul had already believed and had shown great evidence of repentance: “And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank” (Acts 9:9). Ananias told him to complete his obedience with baptism – he still had sins that needed to be washed away (Acts 22:16). Denominations wrongly teach that baptism is “because” one’s sins have already been forgiven. They cannot harmonize their doctrine with the biblical narrative.
- Simon had believed and was baptized (Acts 8:13). His sin occurred after this fact (Acts 8:18-20). Peter told him to repent of his sins and pray for forgiveness (Acts 8:22). “For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity” (Acts 8:23). No wonder Simon says, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me” (Acts 8:24). The apostle John writing to Christians says: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).
Do denominations require a sinful member to re-believe in Christ? No – he already believes. Do denominations re-baptize their members every time they sin “because of” the remission of their sins? No. Even denominations recognize that water baptism is one to a person. There is one baptism (Ephesians 4:5).
Water baptism is necessary for an alien sinner to be saved from his sins (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16). Repentance, prayer, and confession are necessary for him to be forgiven as a Christian (Acts 8; 1 John 1). The Lord’s plan is plain.
– Rick Duggin
“...having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross”
(Colossians 2:14 NKJV)
we are not under the Law of Moses today
The context of this powerful passage speaks of Christ’s blessing to spiritually dead people: He makes them alive together with Him by forgiving their trespasses (Colossians 2:13).
Colossians 2:14 goes further: He wiped out (canceled) the handwriting of requirements (the certificate of debt, the decrees) against us. The word refers to a record of debts. Sinners owed an IOU that they could not pay. Jews had agreed to obey the law, but failed.
Ephesians 2:15 explains: “having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace.”
Jesus took the old Law out of the way, once for all removing it. This graphically affirms that because Christ was nailed to the cross, He can completely forgive our debt. The Mosaic Law was nailed to the cross with all its decrees. This passage clearly confirms that we are not under the Law of Moses today.
– Rick Duggin
You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
(Gal. 5:4 NKJV)
a Christian can fall from grace
Incredibly, some people deny that a Christian can fall away from Christ. They base their view on the Lord’s promise of eternal life, and then either ignore or reconstruct the hundreds of passages that clearly prove the possibility of apostasy. We do not actually obtain eternal life until we reach heaven – the age to come (Mark 10:30). “In hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began” (Titus 1:2).
To be ‘estranged’ from Christ is to be separated from, discharged from someone (Thayer, 336). ‘You are severed from Christ’ (ESV).
The result of this estrangement: ‘You have fallen from grace.’ This passage clearly warns Christians that a failure to change their course will result in separation from Christ and His grace.
What is the condition of one who does not have grace? Can anyone be saved while separated from Christ? How could the Lord have made this warning any plainer?
-- Rick Duggin
"God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth"
(John 4:24 NKJV)
focus on spiritual issues
John 4 demonstrates Jesus’s incredible ability to turn a conversation from the common to the uncommon, from the secular to the spiritual. Though Jesus opens the dialogue by asking for water, the woman indignantly replies that most Jews have nothing to do with Samaritans (John 4:7-9). Jesus skillfully shifts the conversation to spiritual issues. His insight leads her to recognize that He is a prophet (at least), John 4:18.
She then brings up the hotly debated topic of the correct location for worship —this mountain or Jerusalem (John 4:20)? Twice Jesus says, “the hour is coming” (John 4:21 and John 4:23). The old covenant taught Jews to worship in Jerusalem. Samaritans worshipped in Mount Gerizim. But “the hour is coming” when place will not matter (John 4:21). This is one of the changes that is featured in the new covenant.
In John 4:23, Jesus says, “the hour is coming, and now is.” Though worship in Jerusalem would remain for a while longer (John 4:21), worship “in spirit and in truth” must be done “now” and always.
John 4:24 affirms three important facts that affect our ability to worship as God requires —
- God is Spirit. The place of worship is immaterial; true worship must harmonize with God’s nature, which is spirit. It is irreverent and disrespectful to refer to God as “the old man upstairs” as some do.
- God is strict. He does not accept just any worship. Not all worshippers are “true worshippers” (John 4:23). This means that some are false worshippers. Our worship must be according to His will. Our worship must be done right —in truth. Jesus said so. “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:8-9).
- God is specific. He wants worship that is in spirit. This is the opposite of carnal, earthly, and secular worship. “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son…” (Romans 1:9). Instead of holy ground (Mount Gerizim or Jerusalem) God wants holy hearts.
He wants worship that is in truth. But His word is truth. In the Lord’s prayer Jesus asked His Father to “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Those who follow their own creeds are engaging in worship that is based on the doctrines of men. Those who pursue “popular” worship may please worldly people, but they do not worship in truth. Some have turned worship into entertainment that features mechanical music, secular songs, and carnal appeals that cater to worldly appetites. All such worship is vain, and is directed toward the worshippers themselves, not God.
Roman soldiers offered the Lord mock worship: “Then they struck Him on the head with a reed and spat on Him; and bowing the knee, they worshiped Him” (Mark 15:19).
Beware of counterfeit worship. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
Avoid worship fads. “Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind … These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:18, 23). Popular worship is not the same as proper worship.
Proud worship (Matthew 6:1-18), ignorant worship (Acts 17:23) and other counterfeits dishonor God. He deserves the best.
-- Rick Duggin
“Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight”
(Acts 20:7 NKJV)
observe the Lord’s supper on the first day of the week
This passage establishes the frequency with which early disciples, under the direction of apostolic doctrine (Acts 2:42), observed the Lord’s supper: the first day of the week.
Those who assume a monthly or annual observance of the Lord’s supper have no scripture to support their practice.
Those who prefer taking of the Lord’s supper in a Saturday night assembly have departed from the scriptural pattern in order to promote their own wishes.
Those who change the Lord’s supper into a common meal must either ignore or scorn the spiritual context of this passage and the apostolic rebuke that such abuses merited (1 Corinthians 11:20-22).
“The first day of the week” recalls the resurrection of the Lord—a fact that New Testament writers emphasize. This special day gives Christians an opportunity to remember His death, to partake of His body and blood, and to gives thanks for His love. Those who depart from this pattern dishonor the Lord they profess to worship. “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God…” (1 Peter 4:11).
– Rick Duggin
1 Corinthians 11:26
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes”
(1 Corinthians 11:26 NKJV)
proclaim the Lord’s death
- It should be difficult for Christians to miss the significance of the Lord’s supper, but somehow the Corinthians had managed. Paul first rebukes, then repeats what he had already taught them.
- “As often” shows the supper is to be repeated, but this passage (1 Corinthians 11) does not specify the time. Acts 20:7 does: “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread…” Context proves this breaking of bread is spiritual (not a physical meal to satisfy hunger; most of us eat common meals more often than one day a week; what would be the significance of eating a common meal on the first day of every week?).
- The first day of the week is the day on which Jesus was raised from the dead (see Luke 24:1-8; John 20:1…19, 26, etc.). The Lord’s supper remembers Jesus’ death and His promise to partake of this memorial again with them in His kingdom – “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29).
- The first day of the week is the same day on which the Corinthians were to give into the treasury – “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come” (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).
- Paul writes to bring the readers back to the purpose for the Supper—it proclaims the Lord’s death till He comes. They can and must eat their common meals elsewhere. To corrupt the purpose of this action is to court the judgment of God (1 Corinthians 11:27). This supper is serious.
– Rick Duggin
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord”
(Colossians 3:16 NKJV)
fill yourself with the word of Christ
Paul exhorts his readers to welcome an occupant — the word of Christ. We do this by engaging in serious, systematic, study of the Scriptures. It becomes a part of us. Ephesians 5:17.
Note the degree to which this indwelling is pursued — let His word dwell in you richly. We reach this level of spiritual growth only by hungering and thirsting for this knowledge that is above all knowledge. Our souls depend upon it. (2 Peter 3:18)
This pursuit also enables us to instruct and to admonish one another in the way of the Lord. One way we do this is by singing spiritual songs. Let us always sing with understanding.
This mindset focuses on the Lord, the object of our worship. The filling with the word and the focus on the Lord improves our worship. The Lord deserves no less than our very best. rd
– Rick Duggin
“...speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord”
(Ephesians 5:19 NKJV)
worship the Lord through singing
In this section of Ephesians, Paul lists several duties and characteristics that concern Christians. Instead of being filled (drunk) with wine, we are to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). This includes worshipping the Lord in song.
“Speaking to one another” certainly authorizes an assembly. (Contrast James 5:13— “Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.”)
The words that describe the songs overlap greatly. Psalms include songs of praise. Hymns may be used in a wider context of sacred poetic compositions designed to honor God. Spiritual songs come form the Holy Spirit (the New Testament).
Making melody was used in Old Testament passages of plucking on the strings of a harp. In New Testament worship, we pluck the heart (mind, emotions, will). While this excludes mechanical music, it requires worshippers to put their heart into their singing. We worship God with our spirit (Romans 1:9). Anything else is vain.
– Rick Duggin
1 Timothy 2:1-2
“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.”
(1 Timothy 2:1-2 NKJV)
pray for all men
Paul’s work among Gentiles illustrates God’s desire to save all – not Jews alone. The chapter is peppered with this little word “all.”
- God wants us to pray for all men, 1 Timothy 2:1.
- We are to pray for all who are in authority, 1 Timothy 2:2.
- God desires the salvation of all men, 1 Timothy 2:4.
- Jesus gave Himself a ransom for all, 1 Timothy 2:6.
The context of 1 Timothy 2:1 reaches back to the previous chapter where Paul expresses his concern for some who have suffered a shipwreck of faith (1 Timothy 1:19-20). Hymenaeus and Alexander have currently been delivered to satan. The purpose of this discipline was not to harm them, but to bring them to their senses – “that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Timothy 2:20). In 1 Timothy 2:1 Paul includes these men in his prayers, and exhorts Timothy to join him in such prayers. If anyone knew not to give up on stubborn sinners, it was Paul – (Saul of Tarsus, the chief of sinners, 1 Timothy 1:15). We cannot pray for God to save sinners in their sins, but we should join Paul and Timothy in praying for sinners to repent and be saved.
Paul’s expression, “first of all” may refer either to first in time or first in importance – most likely the latter. God’s people are praying people. Do we make prayer a priority?
There are four words that describe the kinds of prayers that we should pray. There is some overlap in these words.
Supplication: a petition; asking something from God. A supplication implies a sense of need. This is the kind of prayer we pray during sickness or in bad news.
Prayer: the general term for talking to God as well as the most frequently used word. To pray is to talk to God about something. The verb form of this word occurs in 1 Timothy 2:8: “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” Paul also wrote, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).
Intercession: the usual word for a petition of an inferior to a superior. The “prayer” mentioned in 1 Timothy 4:5 uses this word: “for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”
Giving of thanks: Paul illustrates this attitude of gratitude in 1 Timothy 1:12, “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.” (Also mentioned in Philippians 4:6, included in number 2. above.). God’s people have the greatest reasons to be thankful.
Since Paul ends this verse with a reference to “all men,” we should ask: Why should we pray for the lost unless God is willing to save them? This passage reminds us of 2 Peter 3:9 – God is “long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
Let us pray...and work for the salvation of all.
– Rick Duggin
"Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart…"
(Luke 18:1 NKJV)
Though this verse is short enough to memorize quickly, its lessons may continue to impress us for many years.
- Jesus spoke a parable. Someone defined a parable as an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. This story depicts a widow who does not take no for an answer. The judge finally grants her request simply because she will not leave him alone. He may fear that she will follow him to his death bed.
- The parable teaches us pray as fervently as this widow pursued the judge. Do we cry out day and night to our Judge?
- Prayer assumes faith. Faith requires action. Jesus asks, “And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him…?” The implied answer is “Yes!”
- We are in danger of growing weary in prayer. When we pursue spiritual growth and the power to overcome sin with the zeal that this widow showed in pursuing the judge, Jesus certainly will find faith on the earth.
– Rick Duggin
1 Thessalonians 5:16
(1 Thessalonians 5:16 NKJV)
In Him we can “rejoice always”
Our first glance at this verse might lead us to think it is either a joke or is based on an extremely naïve outlook on life. Who remains cheerful ‘always’? Who smiles in the face of pain or disaster? Let’s give our passage a closer look.
This memory verse does not take a lot of work to memorize. Most regard John 11:35 (‘Jesus wept’) as the shortest in the New Testament. Actually, this verse is shorter. Both verses seem to focus on opposite actions: Jesus wept … but we must rejoice. But why did Jesus weep? Because He sympathizes with the family that grieves over the death of Lazarus, illustrating Hebrews 4:15—Our High Priest is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, to feel our pain. He cares. The Greeks had pretend gods who not only did not care, but also bullied and punished people without pity. They prompted fear, not cheer. Jesus knows, He cares, and He saves. We rejoice.
Paul illustrates this rejoicing in his own life. His thorn in the flesh was painful and persistent, and yet upon learning the spiritual benefits of the thorn, he could say, “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10-11).
Our joy is not based on circumstances. We do not ride the emotional rollercoaster of the world. A mother who lost her teenage son explained why she was smiling through her tears—she would see him again. With feet planted on higher ground, she did not sorrow as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). In Him we can “rejoice always.”
– Rick Duggin
1 Corinthians 16:2
“On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come”
(1 Corinthians 16:2 NKJV)
the church collects money through freewill offerings on the first day of the week
The word “collection” (also used in 1 Corinthians 16:1) identifies this as a collection of money. 1 Corinthians 16:1 also shows that this particular collection was “for the saints.” Paul discusses this subject in more detail in 2 Corinthians 8-9 and Romans 15:25-31. The saints referenced here are the needy brethren in Jerusalem (see 1 Corinthians 16:3).
The authority of an apostle lies behind the command for this collection. The seriousness of this benevolent work is seen in 1 Corinthians 16:1: He had given orders to churches in Galatia, and now, to the church in Corinth: “so you must do also.”
The duly authorized time to take up the collection is the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:2). This special day has been sanctified by the resurrection of Christ (see the last chapters of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). On this day, the disciples met to take the Lord’s supper (Acts 20:7). We learn here that the same first day of the week is when we have authority to take up the collection.
Each individual is to contribute as he has prospered. There is no reference to the Lord’s people tithing as in the old covenant.
Though this is the only reference to a church treasury, other passages show that churches used funds for preaching the gospel (2 Corinthians 11:8). 1 Corinthians 16 authorizes the way for a church to collect money. This way meets with divine approval.
– Rick Duggin
2 Corinthians 9:6-7
“But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver”
(2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NKJV)
you reap what you sow
Paul was passionate about helping the needy saints in Jerusalem. Several of his epistles devote space designed to encourage Gentile churches to send benevolent assistance to needy churches in Jerusalem, composed mostly of Jews.
His earlier epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 16) shows that churches of Galatia also were included in this collection for the saints (1 Cor. 16:1). He planned to go to Corinth and to journey with their messengers to Jerusalem (1 Cor. 16:3-4).
As Paul wrote Romans from Corinth, he was preparing to go to Jerusalem to carry this aid to the poor saints, Romans 15:25-26. He urges these Gentile churches to assist the saints in Jerusalem because the Jewish brethren had sent spiritual aid to these Gentiles (Rom. 15:27). Though there was no way the Gentile Christians could adequately thank or bless the Jewish churches who sent preachers to give them the gospel, they could show their gratitude by helping these needy saints in Jerusalem.
Paul praised the Macedonian churches (presumably Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea) for their willingness to contribute to needy saints, and this in spite of the poverty that prevailed in Macedonia (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). The Macedonian churches have demanded the privilege of giving, though in other circumstances they themselves would have been objects of charity.
The greatest example that motivates their giving is the grace of Jesus. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
Jesus was not a “rich man” who hated the world. Most would agree that He had every right to reject them. The very people He came to save rejected and crucified Him. And yet, His entire life on earth was characterized by grace. He did not keep His treasures to Himself. He became poor for our sakes in order to make us rich. This divine example is certainly the most powerful motivation for our giving. He who gave the greatest gift now works through Paul to encourage His people to give generously to other saints in need.
Though it is impossible to fully exhaust the rich treasures in our memory verses, they may be briefly summarized as follows:
- Remember this: God wants His people to be generous, not stingy. “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” — Luke 6:38. “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need” —- Ephesians 4:28. The test of a genuine conversion is how much we resemble our Lord. We never look more like Jesus than when we give generously.
- One who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly. The opposite is also true: he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. The farmer cannot save money by keeping his seed in the crib. He does not expect to receive a bumper crop by sowing a few seeds. Charity is not throwing away good seed; it is sowing good seed (an investment). “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
- Each must give as his heart directs. Heart giving focuses on attitude. No certain amount is specified (for example, a tithe). The amount that each one gives must be decided by the giver himself.
- Heart giving is the opposite of reluctant giving (regret); it is free will; it is personal desire. It does us no good to give sorrowfully or under compulsion (the way some people view paying their taxes). Jesus does not twist our arms to force us to give. Heart giving motivated Barnabas to sell land in order to assist needy saints (Acts 4:36-37).
- We must give cheerfully—we take pleasure in it. We prize the privilege. “Whoever has a bountiful [generous] eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor” —Prov.22:9. A woman who donated her kidney to her sick husband considered it much joy. Many have given their lives to save the poor and oppressed. David told Araunah, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God with that which costs me nothing” — 2 Samuel 24:24.
- The generous giver reaps bountifully. “”I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” — Acts 20:35.
- The giver is blessed with abundance so that he can share. God blesses the rich, “that they may be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share…” (1 Timothy 6:18). Givers are joyful; misers are miserable. Givers are rewarded. “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink…” — Matthew 5:34-35. “He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, And He will pay back what he has given” — Proverbs 19:17. The old expression is still true: “What I kept, I lost; what I gave, I kept.”
- There is nothing uglier than giving that is designed to draw attention to the giver. Pharisees were masters of wrong motives; they gave alms to be seen by men — Matthew 6:1-4. Jesus labels them hypocrites, warns His disciples against following their example, and reveals that they have received their reward — they can expect no more. They would have been better off keeping their money.
- There is nothing more beautiful than giving that is based on pure, generous, and scriptural motives. As the Lord blesses us, let us live a beautiful life of blessing others. “You may give without loving, but you can’t love without giving.”
– Rick Duggin
2 Timothy 2:15
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”
(2 Timothy 2:15 NKJV)
- We all need reminders, directions, and encouragement to focus important things. Paul writes to Timothy, his son in the faith, giving him a final reminder. Paul is determined to help Timothy stay the course. Because this is Paul’s last letter, its message is especially poignant. These final words probably meant more to Timothy than we can imagine. But these words should have a similar effect upon us.
- Be diligent encourages us to be eager, to do our utmost, to work hard. Paul himself illustrates this attitude. Even in prison he is still serving the Lord in every way he can. We must be diligent to make our calling and election sure (2 Pt.1:10).
- Present yourself, a judicial term, probably includes the thought of standing before God to account for our deeds. We will give an account for every word, thought, and deed.
- Approved. This word, commonly used of testing coins, is used here of our testing as Christians (2 Corinthians 13:5).
- A worker. Would anyone consider you a worker? The one talent man was condemned for hiding his talent.
- Who does not need to be ashamed. We must not be ashamed of the gospel. “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory…” (Luke 9:26). We must not allow our words and works to cause us eternal regrets.
- Rightly dividing, used of cutting something straight, refers to correct teaching and its resultant behavior.
- Word of truth must be rightly divided: it cannot be changed, perverted, or compromised without receiving the judgment of God. The Galatians learned how serious this could be (Gal.1:6-9). Let us, like Timothy, profit from Paul’s parting words.
– Rick Duggin
"These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so"
(Acts 17:11 NKJV)
search the Scriptures
This passage is beloved because it shows honest Jews (1) who eagerly investigate the claims of Christ and His apostles; (2) who were willing to change their minds and their religious practices when truth demanded it; (3) who knew that their families would likely reject them because of their change; (4) who might be subjected to severe persecution because of their new faith; (5) and most of all, who knew their souls and their eternal destiny depended upon their obedience to truth.
More noble usually applies to nobility of birth; here, it is a nobility of character that leads to a new birth. The Bereans put the dishonest Thessalonian officials to shame. They do what many are unwilling to do. Their honesty is refreshing.
They received the word with all eagerness. Honesty is more than a policy. It is a requirement for everyone who wants to go to heaven. The Bereans, knowing that their sincere obedience to the word of truth would put them on the road to heaven, eagerly embraced it. Their reception of truth recalls the audience in Jerusalem — “And those who gladly received his word were baptized…” (Acts 2:41). What else would honest people do with the inspired word of God?
They searched the Scriptures. They did not examine human creeds. They did not seek answers from their religious leaders. They were not deterred from receiving the truth because of lost loved ones who had not obeyed the gospel. No, they turned to the Scriptures because nothing else could save them.
They searched the Scriptures daily. Not only did they have open minds and open Scriptures, but also open schedules. They studied daily. Salvation is serious; they must get it right.
They were determined to know the truth. Only the truth can set us free from sin (John 8:31-32). The Bereans remind us that if we miss heaven, we have missed it all.
– Rick Duggin
"And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ"
(Ephesians 4:11-12 NKJV)
saints are equipped for spiritual work
- "He Himself" emphasizes the actions of Jesus, the Giver.
- The context of this passage discusses gifts that the Lord gave to men. Paul’s point begins in verse 7: “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” The apostle’s revelation from God was in itself a most helpful and edifying gift (see Ephesians 3:2-4). Paul illustrates his point by referring to the Lord’s ascension after He rose from the dead, 8: “Therefore He says: ‘When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.’”
- Verse 11 lists five gifts that are profitable to the Ephesian church (and to us): “And He Himself gave some . . .” —
- Apostles. These are the Lord’s ambassadors. Paul became an apostle later than others, 1 Corinthians 15:8-10.
- Prophets. They served basically the same function for the new covenant that Old Testament prophets did for the old covenant. They spoke the word of God before the written revelation was completed (1 Corinthians 13-14).
- Evangelists. These are literally good news announcers.
- Pastors. Shepherds watch over a flock of sheep. Spiritual shepherds look out for Christians in a local congregation, Acts 20:28. “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you...” (1 Peter 5:2).
- Teachers. This general term applies to each of the preceding works. Paul himself was a teacher (1 Timothy 2:7).
- We still have apostles and prophets...in the New Testament. We have evangelists, pastors (elders), and teachers living among us. Their common goal is to teach the truth. In doing this they save both themselves and those who hear (1 Timothy 4:16). It is in our best interest to listen and to obey.
– Rick Duggin
And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch
(Acts 11:26 NKJV)
disciples of Jesus Christ wear the name Christian
- Barnabas and Saul (Paul) provided the same teaching and guidance to the church at Antioch that the written word provides to us. They first spoke God’s plan to them and then committed it to writing for our benefit.
- The goal in Antioch was to be Christians. They knew nothing of becoming “hyphenated-Christians” (different types of denominational disciples). Such language is unknown to the New Testament. Denominations did not exist back then; they are contrary to God’s plan. “ Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? – 1 Corinthians 1:10-13.
- The emphasis in Antioch was on teaching. These Christians had first heard the gospel, then obeyed it (verses 19-21). After this, Barnabas and Paul assembled with the church and taught many (verse 26). Spiritual babies must not be neglected. The word that made them Christians also made them strong. “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). It can do the same for us.
– Rick Duggin
“Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You almost persuade me to become a Christian’”
(Acts 26:28 NKJV)
stand upon your conviction and become (be) simply a Christian
Paul stands before Festus, the governor, and Agrippa II, a king of the Jews, and other dignitaries. He is charged with the crime of preaching the gospel. Instead of pleading for mercy, Paul stands firm in his conviction, come what may, and preaches another sermon. Paul does not compromise. He even introduces his audience to Jesus Christ so that they may enjoy the same spiritual blessings he has.
The facts of the gospel are well known to his audience — “these things were not done in a corner” (Acts 26:26). He knows that Agrippa believes the prophets. But the prophets spoke of the Christ whom Paul is preaching (Acts 26:22-23). He calls on Agrippa to stand upon his conviction — “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe” (Acts 26:27).
After Agrippa’s polite refusal Paul expresses the wish that all would become just as he is except for the chains (Acts 26:29). Since Paul is simply a Christian, he does not plead with Agrippa to join a denomination (none existed) or to believe as he wishes. Paul holds to the gospel; it teaches us to become Christians. It this what a modern denominational preacher would invite Agrippa to do?
– Rick Duggin
1 Peter 4:16
“Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter”
(1 Peter 4:16 NKJV)
suffering because one is a Christian is expected
The word “Christian” occurs three times in the New Testament. “And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (Acts 11:26). “Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You almost persuade me to become a Christian’” (Acts 26:28). Peter records the third reference.
- The apostle expects his readers to suffer for their faith. They must not think it strange when fiery trials come (1 Pet. 4:12). They must expect them, and even rejoice in them (1 Pet. 4:13). They can expect reproaches for His name (1 Pet. 4:14). Since His teaching is as unpopular in their day as it was in His time on earth, sufferings give them the privilege of sharing in His mistreatment.
- They must be careful, however, not to deserve their suffering: “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters” (1 Pet. 4:15). Verse 16 (1 Pet. 4::16) contrasts with verse 15 (1 Pet. 4::15) – saints suffer because of the sins of their tormentors, not because of their own sins (1 Pet. 4:16).
- Suffering as a Christian is suffering because one is a Christian. Just as the world rejected Jesus, it rejects His disciples (John 15:18). Sinners strike out against those who try to teach them, though the source of this teaching comes from the Lord’s own mouth. Those who love darkness despise those who shine a light on their deeds. “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).
- The name “Christian” is formed after the Roman style, “signifying an adherent of Jesus” (Vine). Deissmann compares Christian with Caesarian, used of an imperial slave. The ending -iani means belonging to Caesar’s party. Christian means belonging to Christ.
- Some assert that the name “Christian” was first given as an insult, referring to “these Christ folks.” Even if this were true, Peter encourages his readers to glorify God in this matter (or as other versions put it: in this name). Let us never be ashamed to wear the name of our Lord.
- Finally, we honor the Lord by wearing His name. We cannot honor Him by wearing the name of mere men (1 Corinthians 1:10-13) – even if the men were outstanding leaders in the first century church. Many churches honor the names of popular but misguided religious leaders instead of Christ. Let us drop all denominational titles and call ourselves after the name of Him into whom we were baptized and who was crucified for us (1 Corinthians 1:13). This is the very least we can do.
-- Rick Duggin
You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
(James 2:24 NKJV)
not by faith only
Some claim that Paul disagreed with this verse when he affirmed that we are saved by faith alone. Where did Paul ever say this? This false claim misunderstands James and misrepresents Paul.
In Romans, Paul condemns attempts to be justified by works of the Law (Romans 3:27; 4:2; 9:32, etc.). The only way to be saved by works is to perform them perfectly (Ro.4:2, 4).
Romans 2:10 promises salvation to everyone “who works what is good.” This agrees with the very point James is making.
Paul regularly distinguishes between works of Law (or boasting) and works of faith. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). Again, this is the very point James is making. Paul and James stand or fall together.
Abraham had an active (working) faith when he offered up Isaac on the altar (James 2:21). “Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?” (James 2:22).
And then there is Rahab (James 2:25). A dead faith would not have prompted her to risk her life hiding the spies or to identify her house with a scarlet cord, etc. Even without James 2:24, the Bible denies the doctrine of salvation by faith alone.
-- Rick Duggin
"Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven"
(Matthew 7:21 NKJV)
Our part consists in doing the will of our Father
I have heard preachers assure their audience of salvation if they cry, “Lord, save me!” This invitation leaves listeners in a state of false security and inflicts a double sin against the word of God —
- No passage in the New Testament shows anyone being saved merely by crying out, “Lord, save me!”
- This spurious invitation rejects what the Lord actually says, and replaces it with a plan of the preachers’ own choosing.
Amazingly, some listeners embrace this counterfeit plan of salvation without verifying it with Scripture. It is enough for them that “the preacher said this is the way to be saved, and he would not mislead me.” But Jesus Himself rejects this false doctrine. Let’s face the facts (Matthew 7:21): instead of saying, “Lord, Lord,” Jesus informs His listeners that the only way to go to heaven is to do the will of our Father in heaven. Jesus is the Author of eternal salvation to those who obey Him (Hebrews 5:9).
Acts 2:23 quotes Joel 2: “...whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” Sincere sinners realize their lost state and ask, “What shall we do?” Peter explains the way to call on the Lord: “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins” (Acts 2:38)
When Saul of Tarsus needed salvation, Ananias asked, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). How many preachers today say this? Listen to the Lord, not men.
-- Rick Duggin
“Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth — those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation”
(John 5:28-29 NKJV)
the resurrection is certain and universal
Ignorant, but zealous, Jews want to kill Jesus because He heals on the Sabbath. He claims to be equal to the Father (John 5:18), to do whatever the Father does (John 5:19), and to be loved by the Father (His Father, singular, John 5:20). He says the Father has committed all judgment to Him (John 5:22). Admittedly, these claims are blasphemous — unless Jesus is speaking the truth.
Note the certainty of the resurrection and judgment: “the hour is coming…” Why do so many live as though it is not?
The resurrection is certain and universal. “All who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth.” This means me.
The resurrection will include all the dead: those who have done good and those who have done evil. This destroys the premillennial assertion that the good alone will rise, participate in a thousand year reign, followed by the resurrection of the evil. Jesus knows of only one resurrection for both groups.
The expression, “those who have done good,” must alarm those who believe in salvation by faith alone. See James 2:24.
“Those who have done evil” reveals that some have violated a standard. “Condemnation” guarantees that disobedience will be discovered, acknowledged, sentenced, and punished.
There is no in-between condition. We are either with Him or against Him. Are you ready for the resurrection?
-- Rick Duggin
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
(Jude 1:3 NKJV)
Contend earnestly for the faith
Jude’s letter addresses an ever-present need – contend earnestly for the faith. Though most people today contentiously express their distaste for contention, this inspired writer affirms its necessity.
Everyone applauds a policeman who contends with a kidnapper to rescue a little child from an unthinkable fate. Everyone applauds a doctor who contends with an illness in order to save the life of a loved one. Jude encourages his readers to do something even more noble and necessary: contend for the faith to save a soul from eternal destruction.
“The faith” is the gospel. Consider Paul’s use of this expression in Galatians 1. In verse 23 he refers to “the faith which he now preaches. But in verse 11 he calls it “the gospel” that he preached and declares that it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.
In one sense the gospel does not need to be defended. Its truth will stand forever (compare Matthew 24:35). Nothing can destroy God’s word. Truth is truth.
Why, then, does Jude instruct his readers to contend earnestly for the gospel? “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemna-tion, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). Evil men attack the gospel, but they cannot harm its truth. They can, however, do eternal damage to the souls of Jude’s readers.
Paul affirms that he is appointed for the defense of the gospel (Philippians 1:16). Jude exhorts us to join this faith by contending earnestly for the faith. Our motive is to save those who are being misled by “ungodly men” (Jude 4).
Jude tells us that this faith was “once for all delivered to the saints.” There will never be another gospel to replace this one. The same message that saved people in the first century also saves people in the twenty-first century.
Jude speaks of “our common salvation” because it applies to all people on earth, then and now, whether Jew, Greek, barbarian, Scythian, slave, or free (Colossians 3:11). God never intended that each of us should choose his own way. There is only one way that saves (John 14:6). Every other road leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14).
May God bless our efforts to contend earnestly for the faith.
-- Rick Duggin
“And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men”
(Matthew 15:9 NKJV)
not all worship is acceptable
Many people are amazed to hear that worship can be in vain. They assume that God must accept anything we offer Him.
Did the soldiers engage in acceptable worship when they mocked Jesus (Matthew 27:27-31)? They ended their hypocrisy by crucifying Him. Is attitude alone what God seeks from us?
We must worship Him in His way: “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). Anything less than this crucifies Him again and puts Him to an open shame (Hebrews 6:6).
Adding mechanical music is a modern example of departing from the doctrine of Christ and going beyond the word of God (2 John 1:9). We are not to think beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6).
We honor Him by doing what He says. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Our loyalty and devotion to His word shows our love for Him. Going beyond the teaching of Christ leaves us without the Father and the Son (2 John 1:9).
It would be sheer hypocrisy to profess our love and loyalty for Him even as we turn away from His instructions for our worship. This hypocrisy would place us squarely in the camp of the soldiers who crucified Him.
-- Rick Duggin
And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
(Heb 10:24,25 NKJV)
Not forsaking our assembling together
The author is in the midst of admonitions intended to challenge the Hebrews to stay faithful to God and not be influenced to leave the gospel and return to the Old Testament (see Heb. 10:23 and verses throughout the book). He earlier admonished them that, to accomplish what was needed, they must exhort one another daily to not fall away, as the nation of Israel had done (3:12-14). He now emphasizes again the fact that we must consider the need we have to be exhorted and stirred up to love and good works. Every Christian needs to receive this stirring up, and every Christian is responsible to meet this need for others.
One of the best circumstances in which to give and receive this exhortation is when the church meets together. New Testament congregations provided opportunities, not just on the first day of the week, but at other times as well, for Christians to meet to be admonished and to admonish one another (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 11:26; 1 Corinthians 14; James 2:1ff).
This passages tells us that the individual Christians have a responsibility regarding these meetings. That responsibility is both positive and negative: (1) We are not to forsake them, and (2) we are to exhort one another in these meetings. Please note that it is not just the church’s duty to conduct meetings. It is the individuals’ duty to be present to receive the benefit of those meetings, so we are encouraged to hold fast and not fall away (Heb. 10:23). We cannot simply think of this as something the church does. We have a personal responsibility to be involved.
Further we see that the assemblies exist to meet a need: so the members can exhort one another and stir one another up to love and good works. This immediately tells us that assemblies should be so designed as to accomplish this purpose. If exhortation and stirring up are what the assemblies are for, then our activities should accomplish that and not be distracted to unscriptural goals (such as pleasing the people’s desire for entertainment, etc.). And if exhortation, etc., is the purpose, then the members should attend and participate so as to accomplish this purpose.
-- David Pratte
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling: one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through, and in [you] all”
(Ephesians 4:4-6 NKJV)
the united blessings we have in Christ
Seven terms summarize the united blessings we have in Christ.
- One body: identified as the church in Ephesians 1:22-23. Jesus is the head of His church. This is not a denominational union (none existed as Paul wrote). This is not a Jewish body or a Gentile body, but ONE body composed of both (Ephesians 2:16-18). Some thank God that He gave us many denominations to choose from. In fact, God did not give us many churches. He gave one.
- One Spirit: by the Holy Spirit we enjoy access to the Father, Ephesians 2:17. He has revealed everything we need to go to heaven (John 16:13).
- One hope: all who are called by the gospel have one ultimate goal: to spend eternity with our Lord. In Colossians Paul identifies it as “...the hope which is laid up for you in heaven…” (Colossians 1:5).
- One Lord: Paul prays for grace upon all who “love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity” (Ephesians 6:24). Paul is the “prisoner of the Lord” (Ephesians 4:1). We must find what is acceptable to Him (Ephesians 5:10).
- One faith: used in two ways: (1) our belief in Him, Ephesians 1:15; this faith gives us confidence (Ephesians 3:12); (2) a synonym for the gospel: Paul preached the gospel (Galatians 1:11) which is also called the faith (Galatians 1:23). Faith is not based on our whims, our desires, or our personal opinions, but solely upon the word of God. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
- One baptism: at one time John’s baptism was in effect (Matthew 3:5-6); no longer (Acts 19:1-7). Only the apostles (Acts 1-2) and the household of Cornelius (Acts 10) received Holy Spirit baptism. As Paul writes Ephesians, there is only one baptism; he refers to it in Ephesians 5 – Jesus gave Himself for the church, “that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:26).
- One God and Father of all: Paul bowed his knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Ephesians 3:14. He is above all, through all (His influence everywhere effective), and in all (united with all His people). Let us always appreciate and maintain this exalted relationship.
-- Rick Duggin
“So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed”
(Acts 14:23 NKJV)
elders (plural) in every church (singular)
Paul and Barnabas are on the last leg of their first preaching journey (Acts 13-14). They have finished their preaching goals for this trip. But there is one more matter to complete before leaving: they must revisit the churches they established in order to appoint elders in every church.
Elders are first mentioned in Acts 11:30 — the church in Antioch sent relief to the brethren in Judea. “This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.”
Acts 14:23 is the second reference to elders. The Lord planned that every church have elders. A church is not fully organized without them. Carefully consider the words in verse 23: elders (plural) in every church (singular).
Denominations often appoint one “pastor” or “elder” in each church. There is not even a hint of scriptural authority for this common practice. Denominations may also have a board that governs their “elder” — another product of man’s imagination.
Even worse, denominations often make the local preacher their “pastor” (even if he is single). This violates the divine pattern. These unscriptural practices originated in the hearts of people who value their wisdom above the wisdom of God.
– Rick Duggin
1 Peter 5:2
“Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly”
(1 Peter 5:2 NKJV)
elders (plural) oversee only the one flock among them
To “shepherd” (or “tend”) is to care for the flock. Peter compares the local congregation to a flock of sheep. Their safety and livelihood depends on the work of their shepherds. (Consider Psalm 23 and Ezekiel 34 as illustrations.)
The “flock” here is a local church. Note the numbers that Peter uses to describe this relationship: “flock” is singular; “overseers (elders)” is plural. This consistent New Testament pattern requires more than one elder over a local congregation. There is no authority for one man to serve as elder (usually called pastor) over a church, just as there is no authority for elders to oversee more than one church.
When Paul and Barnabas were finishing the first preaching journey, they had a role in appointing “elders” in every church (Acts 14:23). Paul instructed the “elders of the church” at Ephesus (Acts 20:17) to “take heed to yourselves and to all the flock.”
The work of elders fulfills an important spiritual need. Sheep need overseers for provision and protection from wolves; Christians need elders to feed them, to make them strong, and to oppose apostasy (Acts 20:29). Dangerous wolves are lurking (Matthew 7:15-20).
The character of elders is beyond reproach. They serve others to save their souls. They serve willingly, oftentimes without thanks. They readily spend long hours working to strengthen souls that are entrusted to their care. Their goal is to save each lamb because each soul is precious. Be grateful for godly elders!
– Rick Duggin
"And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name."
(John 20:30-31 NKJV)
but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ
John’s captivating record of our Lord’s miracles (signs) have cul-minated in the greatest one of all—His resurrection from the dead. But this short discourse of twenty-one chapters could not begin to record all of Jesus’ celebrated signs.
We first learn of someone working miraculous signs in Exodus 4. Moses makes excuses to avoid going to Egypt. “Then Moses answered and said, But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The LORD has not appeared to you.’” The LORD instructed him to cast his rod on the ground. When he did, it became a serpent. When the LORD told him to take it by the tail, it turned back into a rod. Why? “That they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you” (John 20:5).
Moses would employ similar signs with his hand and with water that would become blood (Exodus 3:6-9). The signs convinced the Jews that God sent Moses.
The Jews of Jesus’ day saw similar signs. Unfortunately, they were not as honest as the Jews in ancient Egypt.
John chronicles the Lord’s signs, starting with turning the water into the juice of the grape (John 2:1-11). This first sign produced faith in His disciples (John 20:11).
The Jews asked Jesus, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?” After seeing His signs at the Passover, “many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did” (John 2:23).
Nicodemus speaks for many Jews when he says to Jesus, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2). This means that Jesus was as convincing to these Jews as Moses was to the ancient Jews.
Soon after this, “a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased” (John 6:2). After miraculously feed the multitude, eyewitnesses concluded, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world” (John 6:14).
“And many of the people believed in Him, and said, ‘When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done’” (John 7:31).
The evidence goes on and on. What conclusions should these facts produce?
- Jesus did signs (divine pointers or proofs of His claims). These signs were so convincing that many honest people had to abandon their life-long beliefs and confess that Jesus is the Christ.
- John focuses on seven signs that even His enemies had to admit. Even in our day, many have embraced faith in Christ because of John’s evidence.
- But, someone says, if faith in Christ is so important, why don’t we see these miraculous signs today? Just as Moses performed his signs to his present generations, and then preserved them for all time in the written record of the Old Testament, even so Jesus’ miracles are preserved eternally in the New Testament record. John makes this clear: “...but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ…” (John 20:21).
- The conclusion, “that believing you may have life in His name” gives His people a hope that is out of this world.
- Pentecostals claim miraculous signs. If they could work one just one, we would believe them. Sadly, all they can do is say we should have seen one at another place or time. If Jesus had made empty claims, we would not believe Him either.
-- Rick Duggin
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”
(John 1:1 NKJV)
Jesus - God in the flesh
The vocabulary of John is so simple that a child can understand many of its words. The concepts of John are so lofty that a lifetime of study will not exhaust their meaning.
Verse one begins in eternity. “In the beginning” (Genesis 1:1) the Word (Jesus) was already there. He is, in fact, eternal. Moses begins “in the beginning”; John begins before the beginning. John carefully affirms that “in the beginning,” Jesus (always) WAS.
Jesus was “with God.” This denotes equality and intimate relationship in the Godhead. [John includes the Spirit in John 1:32].
The Word that “was God” refers to Jesus. “Was” shows He is and always was deity. He was “with God” (that is, the Father).
To affirm that “the Word was God” is to claim that both Jesus and His Father are deity. The Father made all things through His Son (John 1:3). John will confirm these claims throughout this Book.
The Word became flesh, dwelt among us, died to save us, and rose again (John 1:14-18; John 12:32-33). So simple, yet so profound.
-- Rick Duggin
“When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’”
(Matthew 3:16-17 NKJV)
Jesus placed importance on baptism
Jesus is baptized when He is about thirty years old (Luke 3:23). Because He has no sins, His baptism differs from others who come for John’s baptism (Matthew 3:13-15); Jesus is baptized to fulfill all righteousness. [His baptism could not save Him because He had no sin; for the same reason He could not repent.] No wonder John is reluctant to immerse Him (Matthew 3:14).
Jesus was baptized to serve, to save others, and to fulfill all righteousness. His baptism identified Him as the Messiah (John 1:29-34), the Son of God. Satan knew of the Father’s verification; his first temptation attempted to manipulate this claim (Matthew 4:3).
The Godhead is involved in Jesus’ baptism: the Spirit descends like a dove (16), the Father identifies Jesus as His Son (Mt. 3:17). [The Godhead is involved in our baptism also, Mt.28:19.] Having His divine claims confirmed, Jesus soon begins His public ministry.
John saw this incredible confirmation (John 1:32). Others would hear the Father speak from heaven two more times: during the transfiguration (Mt.17:5) and in His last week (John 12:28).]
Jesus came from Nazareth to John to be baptized (Mark 1:9). This long journey shows the importance He placed on baptism. How important should His baptism be for those who are still in sin?
-- Rick Duggin
1 Peter 5:7
“casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you”
(1 Peter 5:7 NKJV)
God is there for us
In our age of fear, anxiety, and depression, it would be difficult to find a more relevant passage than this gem in 1 Peter. Every chapter in the epistle warns of persecution that would certainly come upon these saints. Divine assurances such as these would provide them a place of calm in a period of storm.
- Casting calls on us to transfer our concerns—to throw them upon Another. We cast our cares upon God (1 Peter 5:5-6) in prayers of faith, telling Him our needs, pleading for His help.
- Care comes from a word that means to divide. Worry divides the heart (mind) into different parts, pulling it in different directions. Our cares tend to distract us from God.
- Cares shows God’s Personal concern for us: He “cares.” Casting and caring go together. Proud people find it difficult to cast their care on another; they think they can handle it themselves. Christians know that God provides for us in ways that we cannot achieve or perceive.
- All is an important little word. This passage does not invite us to cast same some care on Him. It does not expect God to take our care without our request (Matthew 7:7-11). It assures us that God is there for us. What do we have to worry about?
-- Rick Duggin
1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
(1 Corinthians 10:13 NKJV)
there is a way of escape
This passage gives us great motivation to resist sin . . .
- Our temptations are not unique, but common to all. An old song says, “Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen…” Maybe so, but if these words imply that the singer’s troubles are the worst that anyone has ever suffered, the song is wrong. Peter reminds his readers that they can resist satan, steadfast in the faith, “knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9).
- God does not allow to suffer temptations that are too powerful to resist. People often excuse their sins by claiming that everyone else would have acted as they did under the same trials. Even if everyone we know yields to a certain temptation, this does not explain away the multitudes who regularly, successful resist it.
- God gives us a way of escape out of every temptation. Lot was tormented daily by the sins of Sodom, but God’s deliverance gave him a way out. This deliverance is a model for all of God’s children. “Then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment” (2 Peter 2:9).
- Our assurance of this success is based on the faithfulness of God. If we are willing to avoid haughty presumption (verse 12), to discipline our body to meet the demands of the situation (1 Corinthians 9:24-27), and to resist satan (James 4:7) we will defeat the devil’s attempt to overthrow us. God is faithful; He will do His part to prevent our fall. The rest is up to us.
-- Rick Duggin
1 Corinthians 15:58
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
(1 Corinthians 15:58 NKJV)
This jewel fittingly concludes the great discussion on the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15). Perhaps it can be viewed to the greatest advantage if we examine a section at a time.
Therefore: since the resurrection is a historical fact, we can await our turn in strong faith. We have something to live for.
My beloved brothers: in chapter 15, Paul has scolded the Corinthians for their unbelief. If he had not removed their pagan ideas, they would have progressed into more error. Biblical correction is designed to produce maturity in Christ.
Be steadfast: this is the opposite of instability, indifference, and inconsistency. Those who have nothing to live for often end up believing error, embracing false doctrines, and practicing immorality. Passages such as this one (1 Corinthians 15) call us back to the truth, and therefore, to sound doctrine and righteous living.
Immovable: a synonym of steadfast. Some of the Corinthians have embraced error and allowed infidels and false teachers to steer them away from the truth. They were not thinking clearly. Paul urges a firm, unshaken, steady, persistent faith in the facts of the gospel.
Abounding: when used of things, this word conveys the notion of having more than enough of something. When used of persons, it means to enjoy great abundance. The Corinthians must not settle for a spiritually barren and lukewarm life. They must go the second mile, put others first, and burn with passion for Him Who died and then was raised from the dead to save us from sin.
In the work of the Lord: the Corinthians need less speculation and a lot more work!
Always: at all times, on every occasion. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all—1 Thessalonians 5:15.
Knowing: the resurrection is real; God is real; the gospel is real. Believe it and obey it.
Labor is not in vain in the Lord: Paul did not grow slack in response to God’s grace (verse 10). Neither must the Corinthians. And neither must we. Be on guard! Do not let anyone rob you of the precious truth of Scripture.
-- Rick Duggin
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us…
(Ephesians 3:20 NKJV)
God is able
This comforting and encouraging passage comes at the end of a discussion of God’s ability to answer prayer (Eph. 3:14). He gives us the strength we need through His Spirit (Eph. 3:16), so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith (Eph. 3:17).
The basis for these great blessings is the love of Christ. Though this amazing love surpasses knowledge (Eph. 3:19), He wants us to comprehend its width, length, depth, and height (Eph. 3:18).
After reading these incredible promises, this question may arise: is He capable of fulfilling such blessed assurance?
Ephesians 3:20 answers this question with a five-fold affirmation of His power. God is…
- able to do (what we ask for): yes, God can answer our prayers. But this is just the beginning of this glorious revelation.
- above (this describes a power that is more than capable of granting our requests). If Paul stopped here, it would have given us lavish encouragement. But he is not through yet.
- abundantly above (this promises another level of power and ability far beyond our power to comprehend).
- exceedingly abundantly above (this intensifies the previous promises). God is not barely able to answer; His powers are very far above His abundant giving. He is not exhausted.
- all (not simply some things that we ask, but immeasurably above ALL things that we ask or even think).
God has placed His unlimited power at our disposal. He deserves all the glory forever and ever (Eph. 3:21). He has provided beyond all measure for our spiritual victory. Let us live in love, faith, and gratitude as we draw nearer to our glorious hope.
-- Rick Duggin
2 Peter 1:5-7
“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to know-ledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love”
(2 Peter 1:5-7 NKJV)
Give all diligience, heaven will be worth the effort
Great and precious promises accompany these immortal words. If these qualities abound in us, we will not be barren or unfruitful in the knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 1:8). Those who lack these qualities will fall (2 Peter 1:9), while those who practice them will never fall (2 Peter 1:10). Those who desire to be certain of their eternal salvation will pay special heed to these cherished words.
Peter begins with faith — the firm conviction, personal surrender, and resultant conduct that comes by hearing the word of God, Romans 10:17. Each virtue is a fruit on the tree of faith. The more time we spend with the Word, the more our faith will grow. Though the Bible is our map to heaven, just looking at a map will not automatically transport us to our destination. We arrive only if we are willing to pay active attention to the directions of the map. “Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
We add virtue to our faith — moral excellence. The word denotes the fulfillment of something. We are created for good works (Ephesians 2:10). In Christ we become a new person (Ephesians 4:24). We learn to love God, other Christians, our family, and the lost as Jesus Himself would. Virtue is also courage. We need courage to live righteously in a world of unbelief and hostility. “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).
To our virtue we add knowledge — our safeguard in this world of uncertainty and doubt. Paul said, “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:7). We take the knowledge of God seriously because everything we hope for is based on this assurance. Guesswork is not enough. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). When we read, we may understand Paul’s knowledge in the mystery of Christ (Ephesians 3:4).
To our knowledge we add self - control—the restraint of one’s emotions, impulses, or desires. The word describes both athletes and Christians (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). Christians are like athletes in their . . .
- passion. They are obsessed with winning the prize.
- practice. They study and train in order to win. They do not allow anything to hinder them from reaching their goals.
- perseverance. They do not give up. Felix lacked self-control (Acts 24:25). The Christian cannot win without it.
- purity. “Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
To our self control we add perseverance — the capacity to hold out or to bear up in the face of difficulties, patience, endurance, fortitude, steadfastness. “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance” (Romans 5:3). The Lord’s example helps us to persevere: “...let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
To our perseverance we add godliness — reverence, godly attitude, leading to an awareness of God in every aspect of life; awesome respect accorded to God, devoutness, piety. Godliness is profitable for all things (1 Timothy 4:7-8). Knowing that Jesus will return in judgment can motivate us to live godly lives. “Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness” (2 Peter 3:11).
To our godliness we add brotherly kindness — this refers to affection for our brothers and sisters in Christ. “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22). Jesus taught it and brought it to a new level: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34). He also commanded it. “These things I command you, that you love one another” (John 15:17). His love for all people serves as motivation for us. “It is natural to love them that love us, but it is supernatural to love them that hate us.”
To our brotherly kindness we add love — this is the deliberate desire for the highest good of another. We grow in love by stirring up one another (Hebrews 10:24). Again, Jesus set the ultimate example. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). To fail in love is to lose everything. “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent” (Revelation 2:4-5).
Those who want to go to heaven will pursue these divine, but simple, instructions. Heaven will surely be worth the effort.
-- Rick Duggin
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things”
(Philippians 4:8 NKJV)
think on these things
In the previous context, Paul encouraged the Philippians to stand firm in the Lord, to be united, to rejoice, to be moderate in all things, and to avoid anxiety (Philippians 1-7).
Now the readers must fasten these things in their minds by meditation. How may we remember our duties? We ponder them, dwell on them, put them into practice, keep them in our minds, as the man who delights in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night (see Psalm 1:2). The greatest battle of our day is the battle for the mind.
Think on things that are . . .
- True: reminds us that (1) truth exists, John 17:17; (2) we can know truth (John 8:31-32); (3) our knowledge should influence our lives (1 Tim.3:15).
- Noble: synonyms include honorable, worthy of respect, holy, above reproach. Christians are “different” from the world.
- Just: embraces what is both lawful and right, Eph.4:24.
- Pure: consider the adverb in Philippians 1:16 [in ASV and others, verse 17]: some proclaimed Christ “not sincerely.” Obviously the word includes motives, not mere actions.
- Lovely: valuable, pleasing, attractive, beautiful. If the Christian is to adorn the doctrine of God (Titus 2:10), he must remember his manners.
- Of good report: speaking well of (illustrated in 2:19-20).
- Virtue: excellence in any sphere; merit. We are only as strong as our weakest moment.
- Praiseworthy: virtue is the quality; praise is its due. Let our words, thoughts, and deeds glorify our Heavenly Father.
-- Rick Duggin
“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses”
(Matthew 18:35 NKJV)
This concluding verse to a parable issues a stern warning to all who hold grudges, reject reconciliation, or refuse to forgive someone who has sinned against them.
The setting features Peter’s question: “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” (Matthew 18:21). How generous of Peter, not only to provide a possible answer to his own question, but to agree to a rather large number of second chances that he is willing to give his offender.
Jesus’ answer must have come as a colossal shock: “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22). It’s pretty easy to do the math (seventy times seven is four hundred ninety), but another thing altogether to forgive the same person this many times. The parable that follows the math gives the explanation.
A servant who owed the king 10,000 talents begged for mercy. He promised that if he were given more time (patience) he could raise the money and set things straight (verses 23-26). Incredibly, the king forgave him and released him from the debt (Matthew 18:27).
Even more incredible, this man who had received such grace went and found a fellow servant who owed him 100 denarii — a piddling month’s wages (Matthew 18:28). He demanded payment. When his fellow servant fell at his feet and begged him for patience (as he had done, using his own words, verse 26) he refused and exacted the very punishment from which the king pardoned him (Matthew 18:29).
When the king learned of his subject’s cruelty, he said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” (Matthew 18:33). His master delivered him to the torturers until he paid the entire debt (Matthew 18:34).
We do not know what effect this answer had on Peter, but each of us would do well to read our memory verse again and again!
-- Rick Duggin
1 Timothy 5:16
"If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows"
(1 Timothy 5:16 NKJV)
there is a difference between individual and collective (church) action
Eugene Hassenfus flew supplies to rebels in Nicaragua. They tried him in an effort to determine whether he acted on his own or with the sanction of the United States. Secular lawyers recognized a difference between individual and collective action.
In our memory verse, Paul clearly distinguishes the actions of individuals and the actions of the church. Though the church is composed of individuals, it acts collectively. The local church is the “it” of this passage.
Jesus illustrates this principle in Matthew 18:15-17 — if a brother sins against another brother, he is to tell him his fault. If this gets no results, he is to take one or two with him. If this does not work, he is to tell the church. Though three men have already visited the man at fault, the church (collectivity) has not yet been involved.
A man or woman may be responsible for the care of a widow. Their brothers and sisters may help. Even if those aiding this widow are all Christians, the church has not yet gotten involved. If they own a business together, the business is not the church.
Why is this important? Some who want the church to engage in unlimited benevolence argue that the church can do whatever the individual can do. Surely they have not read 1 Timothy 5:16.
-- Rick Duggin
"And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector"
(Matthew 18:17 NKJV)
Jesus fellowships the church that practices loving discipline
Our passage puts us in the middle of a dispute (sin) that affects two brothers: one brother has sinned against another.
The setting: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone” (Mt. 18:15). Jesus plainly wants to restrict the damage that has been done because a brother sinned against a brother. Instead of going everywhere broadcasting the offense, the offended brother must go straight to the offender in order to gain him.
Unfortunately, the one who is sinned against in this manner often commits his own sin by ignoring the Lord’s directions and telling everyone else what the offender did to him. Note that the Lord’s purpose is not revenge, but saving the brother who committed the sin. “If he hears you, you have gained your brother” (Mt. 18:15). Isn’t this what we would want if we had committed the sin?
But what if the sinful brother refuses to repent? “But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established” (Mt. 18:16). Again, this is an effort to save the brother who sinned.
If he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church (Mt. 18:17). Note that the church does not get involved until the wounded brother, along with a couple of others, have made an effort to restore the brother in sin. If he refuses to hear the church, he must be marked as a sinner who refuses to repent — fellowship has been broken. God Himself institutes and recognizes this action (Mt. 18:18). Jesus fellowships the church that practices loving discipline (Mt. 18:19-20). This action is designed to save a soul in sin. We must appreciate love that is tough enough to obey the Lord and concerned enough to save a brother in sin.
-- Rick Duggin
“For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled”
(Matthew 5:18 NKJV)
Jesus came to fulfill the Old law
As Jesus was entering His work, it was important to state what He came to do. The scribes and Pharisees would accuse Him of opposing the Law. Early in His ministry, as His disciples plucked heads of grain, “the Pharisees said to Him, Look, why do they do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” — Mark 2:26.
In due time the law would be fulfilled, and attention would turn to the new covenant. Even His disciples had to be prepared for this jolt.
Jesus makes it plain that He did not come to destroy the law or the prophets (Matthew 5:17). There is a difference in destroying and fulfilling. Jesus fulfilled types of the law and prophecies of the prophets.
Some think the old law was in a constant state of change while Jesus was on earth. This is not true. He assured them that “one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18).
Even today the Old Testament remains authoritative (it is God’s word), but it points readers to the New Testament. Though we profit from studying the Old Testament, now we hear Jesus (compare Matthew 17:5).
The very context of Matthew 5:18 shows what God expects of His people. “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:19).
God has always required respect for His every word. “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you” — Deuteronomy 4:2.
Jesus warns against a casual and careless attitude toward the Word. His first answer to satan says it all: “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” — Matthew 4:4.
Any Jew who disrespected God’s old covenant would probably show the same dangerous attitude if he decided to become a Christian. Sadly, this disregard for biblical authority is all too common in our day. Remember: the word that He has spoken will judge us in the last day (John 12:48).
-- Rick Duggin
"And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery"
(Matthew 19:9 NKJV)
except for fornication (sexual immorality), divorce and remarriage is adultery
The context of this memory verse includes a picture of religious men who have ulterior motives. One of their goals is to put Jesus at odds with His followers and thus diminish His popularity.
Sadly, there are unscrupulous people today who raise questions about divorce and remarriage. They attempt to manipulate the biblical text. They think that if a preacher agrees with their pet theories, this somehow justifies their resultant adulterous state. They are as far from the truth as the Pharisees were.
Jesus begins by calling their attention to the reading of God’s word. “And He answered and said to them, ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female’” (Matthew 19:4). This implies that Scripture, not preachers, determine truth. Sadly, the Pharisees had been too long impressed with the traditions of men to give Scripture an honest glance (consider Matthew 15). Long held error is still a lie.
Their attempt at justifying their personal desires is exposed by their foolish and frivolous misrepresentation of Moses’ decrees in Deuteronomy 24. “They said to Him, ‘Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?’” Neither personal desires, the opinions of scholars, the voice of the majority, or the manipulation of scripture cannot justify frivolous divorce.
If the Pharisees had started reading in Genesis 1-2, it would not have taken them long to see the importance that God places on the marriage relationship. If they read all the way to Malachi 2, they would have seen another powerful warning against the kind of divorce they were trying to justify. Instead they dishonestly set Deuteronomy 24 in opposition to other verses that warn against lighthearted divorces. They think they are free to cherry-pick the verse that suits them and to reject all others.
Jesus shows that Moses allowed (not commanded) divorce in a circumstance that was designed to protect a woman from a cruel, hard-hearted husband, BUT from the beginning it was not so (Matthew 19:8). Verse 9 should frighten casual attitudes toward this issue.
Those who do not take marriage seriously may end up divorced, and eventually remarried. Jesus shows that, except for fornication, this ends in adultery. They calmly condemn a woman for adultery (John 8:3-4) apparently without realizing that their position would lead many others (including themselves) into the same state. Times have not changed very much since then, have they?
-- Rick Duggin
“But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female”
(Mark 10:6 NKJV)
God's blueprint for marriage
This discussion between Jesus and the Pharisees took place in Transjordan on the eastern side of the Jordan River. They found Jesus as He was teaching people who had gathered.
The Pharisees found Him, not to learn but to . . .
- Enlighten Him. They think they have an unanswerable position on divorce.
- Expose Him as a false teacher who denies the law of Moses.
- Embarrass Him before His adoring disciples and listeners.
- Entrap Him, probably hoping He will suffer the same fate as John the baptizer. Verse two says they came to test Him. Consider the parallels: John had told Herod, “It is not lawful” for you to have your brother’s wife (Mark 6:18). Now the Pharisees ask Jesus, “Is it lawful” for a man to divorce his wife (Mark 10:3). They appear to fall back on the same slippery ground that led to John’s death.
Obviously they will not stop with this question; they also believe that after divorce, they may remarry. (Deuteronomy 24:1-4 had allowed both divorce and remarriage under certain conditions.)
Jesus exposed their motives and their hardness of heart (Mark 10:5), and then returned to God’s original blueprint for marriage in Genesis 1-2. “But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man divide” (Mark 10:6-10). Jesus turned the tables on the Pharisees: He enlightened them, He exposed them as false teachers, and He answered their quibble as no other had done.
Frivolous divorce was never a part of God’s plan. God once tolerated some bad attitudes in the Jews, but Jesus takes everyone back to the beginning — God’s blueprints for marriage.
Mark 10:6, and its parallel, Matthew 19:3-9, is a valuable mem-ory verse because it teaches . . .
- The truth on marriage, divorce, and remarriage. There was a time when God overlooked some of this ignorance, but now commands all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30-31).
- The truth on creation. Male and female existed in the beginning of God’s creation, not billions of years after it as pseudo-science claims. Where there is creation, there must be a Creator. Jesus took part in this creation (John 1:1-3). He serves as an expert eyewitness of these events. No one on earth shares His unique knowledge. This means that Genesis 1-2 is accurate.
- The truth on truth. Note that Jesus did not say to the Pharisees, “I personally disagree with your position, but since it is truth to you, I must respect it.” On the contrary, He opposed and destroyed their position. Truth does not tolerate contradictions.
- That it matters what we believe. He could have said, “I personally disagree with your position, but you have a right to believe what you think, because sincerity is the only thing that matters.” Saul of Tarsus was sincere, but dead wrong.
-- Rick Duggin
"Furthermore it has also been said, Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce. But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery"
(Matthew 5:31-32 NKJV)
whoever marries the divorced (except for sexual immorality) commits adultery
The first line of these verses reflects the permissive attitude of Old Testament Jews who were looking for a way out of an unfulfilling marriage (see Deuteronomy 24:1-4). They must have thought that God would approve their sins because they followed a legal procedure—the man gave his wife a certificate of divorce.
Easy divorce must have become even more popular because famous scholars and rabbis endorsed it. "It has been said" probably includes the permissive conclusions of rabbinical writings.
Jews had no excuse for holding erroneous views on this subject. Not only did they have the original pattern of Genesis 1-2 to guide them (as Jesus shows in Matthew 19:4-6), but also the blistering indictment against casual divorce in Malachi 2. Genesis 1-2 states the positive case for remaining married; Malachi 2 states the negative consequences of pursuing divorce.
In Matthew 5 (and Matthew 19:1-9) Jesus strongly condemns the cruel divorces so common in His day. He warns that frivolous divorce produces eternal consequences. It causes her to commit adultery. Those who marry the divorced woman also commit adultery. God’s plan always works. It is our duty to respect it. Souls are at stake.
-- Rick Duggin
“Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord”
(Romans 12:17-19 NKJV)
vengeance belongs to God not men
Romans 1-11 is generally viewed as the doctrinal part of the epistle, telling us what we need to know. Romans 12-16 is the practical part, telling us how we should then live. There is, of course, much overlap. So, how should we live?
Repay no one evil for evil: prohibits personal vengeance. Two other passages use this same expression (1 Thessalonians 5:15, and 1 Peter 3:9). See a similar thought in Romans 12:14.: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”
Have regard for good things in the sight of all men: calls us to think, to meditate beforehand, to give thought about the way in which we will act under provocation. Do not let the emotions of the moment influence you to do something you will later regret. The natural response to evil treatment is to pay it back in kind. This passage calls Christians to a higher, spiritual response.
If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men: we cannot control the actions of others. Some are so contentious that it is impossible to be at peace with them. The word of the Lord will set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, etc. (Matthew 10:34). We who are Christians, however, must avoid two extreme reactions: 1) we must never compromise the truth; 2) we must control our words and our actions. By self-control, some Christians have influenced hotheads to change their ways and to investigate the gospel.
Do not avenge yourselves...Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord: vengeance belongs to the Lord; it is wrong to steal what is His alone. He knows what is best; He often works through others (including government) to avenge His own (Romans 13:1-7). Our kindness will yield better results (Romans 12:20) than our vengeance. Vengeance can destroy us with our enemy (Romans 12:21). To repay evil with evil does not to overcome evil but adds to it. We can best destroy an enemy by making him our friend.
-- Rick Duggin
“Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him”
(Luke 17:3 NKJV)
have a forgiving attitude
Any time a passage tells us to “take heed,” we would be wise to do it. This expression occurs forty-nine times in the Bible. The first occurrence records a warning to Moses that he cannot see Pharaoh’s face again without dying (Exodus 10:28). The last occurrence is found in 1 Timothy 4:16— “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”
In Luke 17:3 the Lord warns against an unforgiving attitude. We must “take heed” how we hear this (as in Luke 8:18), that the light in us is not darkness (as Luke 11:35).
We must take heed “to ourselves” (“yourselves”). No one can obey this passage for us. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. It is easy to forget that we are forgiven, and that we must be willing to forgive others in order to remain forgiven. “But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:26). “And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us” (Luke 11:4).
Some people delight in sinning against other people—even their brothers in the Lord. Everyone knows their serious, sinful condition. It is a fatal error, however, to think the brother who is sinned against is not also in danger. If he lets satan make him bitter, fill him with hatred, or move him to seek revenge, he will lose his own soul.
How may we avoid this danger? Rebuke the sinful brother and be willing to forgive the sin. The unforgiving brother burns the bridge over which he must cross to live with God, and harms himself far more than the offending brother ever could.
-- Rick Duggin
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth”
(Ephesians 6:1-3 NKJV)
Children, obey your parents in the Lord
- In the ancient world, fathers wielded absolute power over their family. A father could expose an unwanted child for no reason. He could keep the child to work as a slave. Some even rejected children because of a deformity or sickness.
- Into this environment came a sacred change: the gospel turned calloused people into loving, caring, spiritual leaders who loved the weak, the needy, and especially helpless children.
- What child would not forever appreciate the blessings that the gospel alone can bring? Imagine how thankful a child would be for the gospel that saves him from a life of slavery, or worse. He would gladly honor such parents (verses 1-2).
- Verse 2 quotes Exodus 20:12, the fifth commandment. Children who obey their parents will be spared from a life of smoking, drinking, drug abuse, lawbreaking, etc. — things that tend to shorten life.
- Parents who benefit from these God-given instructions will...
- learn to love their children in the Lord’s way. Genesis 22:2.
- discipline their children for their own good. Hebrews 12:4-11.
- train their children in the gospel. Ephesians 6:4.
- set a proper example for their children. Prov.20:7.
- encourage their children to pass these blessings to their children. 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15.
Those who take these admonitions seriously will be thankful for the blessings that follow.
-- Rick Duggin
1 Peter 3:15
"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear"
(1 Peter 3:15 NKJV)
put God on the throne of your life
- To sanctify is to set apart, revere. Jesus uses this word to teach His disciples how to pray: “Hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9). We sanctify our Lord by putting Him on the throne of our life. “...He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9).
- In your hearts connects our reverence for God to a proper attitude toward Him and His will. This attitude sets the tone for the Christian’s life. We sanctify Him in the heart by obeying His word. “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered” (Romans 6:17).
- Always be ready urges us to take advantage of every opportunity to serve Him. The soldier on furlough is in a state of constant readiness to return to his unit at a moment’s notice. The Christian must be ready always, first by knowing what the Bible says, and second by sincerely responding to it.
- To give a defense requires us to be able to offer evidence for our hope. Paul stayed ready to defend the truth: “...knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel” (Philippians 1:17). He was willing to do this even when he was forced to stand alone. “At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me” (2 Timothy 4:16).
- To everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you. Our hope distinguishes us from unbelievers. Christians enjoy “a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). Our faith and hope are in God (1 Peter 1:21). People have a right to ask us why we have hope.
- With meekness and fear. Meekness is gentleness. It is strength under control. It is the opposite of sarcasm and arrogance. Aim the gospel arrow at the sinner’s heart. If we couple meekness with fear (reverence before God and proper respect toward men) we may have an opportunity to lead them to the salvation of their souls. Our goal is never to win a personal victory over a human opponent, but to win a spiritual victory over satan and those whom he has captured.
-- Rick Duggin
"Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, ‘We ought to obey God rather than men’"
(Acts 5:29 NKJV)
no one has the right to reverse the directives of the Lord
The setting of this verse contrasts the hateful tactics of the Sanhedrin with the resolute faithfulness of the apostles. While the one body breathes out threats, the other quotes Scripture.
The Sanhedrin was the highest council or assembly of Jews who ruled Judea at this time. They were led by the high priest. Rome granted them limited authority, not only over certain religious, but also over civil and criminal matters. They were responsible for arresting Jesus and for condemning Him to die — supposedly for blasphemy, actually for jealousy.
The Sanhedrin plot appeared to work: after Jesus was crucified, they thought their problems were over. They did not count on His resurrection.
After He was raised from the dead, He appeared to His apostles (and to many others, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11). He commissioned them to preach His gospel to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Matthew 28; Mark 16). Acts 2-3 shows the incredible beginning of this preaching. A few days after His ascension, they led some 3000 to believe the truth: Jesus was raised from the dead. Their baptism into Christ created a peaceful army of disciples — an army that continued to grow by thousands.
The Sanhedrin could not merely dispose of the apostles as they had disposed of Jesus. Gamaliel persuaded them to wait and see what would become of this effort.
The apostles were once confused and frightened; now they are enlightened and fearless. They are ready to die for their Lord. They will not be silenced...except by death. The Sanhedrin could not answer their words. Our memory verse illustrates their activities in Jerusalem. Consider a brief analysis of the text —
- We ought: expresses what is necessary, what one must do (as in the new birth, John 3:7, and acceptable worship, John 4:24).
- To obey: if Jesus is “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36) He deserves faithful obedience. His full authority and our undying gratitude demand total surrender to Him as Lord.
- God: both the Sanhedrin and the apostles believe in the heavenly Father. But He has “made Jesus both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). The council cannot reject one Person of the Godhead without rejecting the other (John 12:48-49).
- Rather than men: no one has the right to reverse the directives of the Lord. What does this say about those whose creeds and conduct contradict the Word of God?
Every Christian needs the courage of the apostles. We have received the same salvation as they. We serve the same risen Lord. We have His word. Let us bravely do our part by proclaiming it to all who will hear.
-- Rick Duggin
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
(Rom 1:16 NKJV)
The Gospel, God's Power to Salvation
This passage, consisting of four parts, contains Paul’s inspired pronouncement about God’s gospel. Paul affirms –
- He is not ashamed of this gospel. Does he expect intelligent people to believe such amazing claims as the Lord’s virgin birth, His resurrection from the dead, His ascension into heaven, and His plan of salvation? As a matter of fact, many in Rome have already embraced these facts. Paul will give others the opportunity to do so.
- The gospel is God’s power to save from sin. Some deny this statement.
- Skeptics deny the truthfulness of the gospel.
- Those who affirm a direct operation of the Holy Spirit deny the power of the gospel. If the Holy Spirit directly saves the sinner, even apart from the gospel, then Paul is wrong in this assertion.
- Some affirm that modern miracles, not the word of God, make believers. Would the Holy Spirit actually lead someone to deny what Paul says here? The Lord’s miracles are preserved in written form so that readers may believe (John 20:30-31).
- This gospel is for everyone. Both Jews and Gentiles received it and were saved by it. They still are.
- The gospel contains conditions for salvation. It brings salvation to everyone who believes. If salvation were unconditional, everyone would be saved and, again, the gospel would be irrelevant.
Paul does not teach salvation by belief alone. He later affirms that “the goodness of God leads you to repentance” (Romans 2:4). He adds, “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10). The same epistle shows the necessity of baptism. “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” (Romans 6:3).
We learn all these facts through the gospel, for it is God’s power to salvation.
-- Rick Duggin
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
(Rom 3:23 NKJV)
all have sinned
Paul brings bad news. In Romans 1 he shows that Gentiles are guilty of sin and are under the wrath of God. In Romans 2 he shows that Jews are just as guilty as Gentiles and are just as deserving of God’s wrath. In chapter 3 he quotes various Old Testament passages that affirm the same bad news of everyone. All are guilty of sin against a holy God.
Paul does not publish this bad news because he likes to upset people, but because –
- If he does not reveal our true condition, we will never embrace the remedy (the gospel) that can save us.
- Many think that they can save themselves by their own righteousness. If this belief were true, why should they seek the gospel, God’s power that saves us (Romans 1:16)?
- He must expose our guilt to prevent us from justifying ourselves in our sins. His gospel highlights our sinful condition in order to shut the mouths that profess innocence (Romans 3:19).
Paul describes our state as falling short of the glory of God. Only the holy can share God’s glory. But if all are sinful, as both Romans and others passages affirm, we are without hope…unless God comes to our rescue. And this is where the good news of the gospel comes in.
Paul, like a good physician, diagnoses the patient accurately. The patient must know the bad news before he will embrace the good news.
The greatest news in the world is that Jesus the Christ died for our sins that we may come to Him in His appointed way and live with Him in heaven forever. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Thank God for His good news.
-- Rick Duggin
“He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him — the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day”
(John 12:48 NKJV)
to receive Jesus is to obey His words
- Jesus connects Himself with His word. He who rejects “ME” . . . “does not receive MY WORDS.”
- Jesus connects the rejection of His word with the rejection of Himself. Jesus is the author of eternal life to all who obey Him (Hebrews 5:8). But we cannot obey Him without knowing His gospel. “…in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:8).
- Jesus connects these rejections with the coming Judgment in the last day. Our destiny then depends on our response to His word now. We must heed what He ‘has spoken.’
- Jesus connects Himself with His plan of salvation. These facts forever destroy the false choice of those who advocate preaching ‘the Man not the plan.’
-- Rick Duggin
2 Corinthians 5:10
"For we must all appear before the judgment set of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad"
(2 Corinthians 5:10 NKJV)
no one can avoid the Judgment of Christ
A basic rule of Bible study states that when a verse begins with “for,” stop and see what it is there “for.” The context of 2 Corinthians 5 shows that our purpose in life is to please Him (v. 10), in part because we will stand before Him on the Day of Judgment.
The word “must” affirms that no one can avoid this Judgment.
We will appear (be made manifest): our character will be fully and accurately revealed. Every excuse on earth that covered up people’s sins will totally vanish; everything that sinners hid will be brought to light. “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts” (1 Corinthians 4:5). Human courts try to achieve this, often without success. The guilty deny their guilt and make excuses; their lawyers fight to lighten their sentence. This will not happen in the final judgment. The trial has passed. This is judgment.
The judgment is reserved for all. No one can escape it.
Each will receive what is due. When a murderer is sentenced to death, he carries the guilt of his crime to the Judgment. The forgiven person carries his acquittal to eternal bliss.
Judgment is based on the things he did in the body, good or bad.
In Corinth, Paul stood before Gallio. He sat on a now famous judgment seat (Acts 18). This seat cannot compare to the judgment seat of Christ. Gallio’s refusal to condemn Paul cannot compare to the salvation that Jesus would grant him on the last day. He wants us to join him. Are you ready for that day?
-- Rick Duggin
“For it is written: As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God. So then each of us shall give account of himself to God”
(Romans 14:11-12 NKJV)
we will be held accountable
The “for” that begins verse 11 invites us to examine the previous context. Some were judging their brothers in Christ; others were showing contempt. The context concerns incidentals. Some had been raised to keep certain days; others had not. Some had been raised to avoid certain foods; others had not.
Paul set the tone for solving such differences: “For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him” (Romans 14:2-3). Matters of indifference should remain matters of indifference.
Opinions and personal judgments tend to become a source of trouble in a church. Some set themselves up as judge and jury, forgetting that God alone is Judge. Careless disregard for another’s conscience can bring God’s judgment. “Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.” In this context, Paul warns that our Sovereign Judge is watching and listening, ready to hold us accountable. It is one thing to fight the good fight of faith (Jude 3); it is quite another to engage our brothers in a food fight.
-- Rick Duggin
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.
(Eph. 1:3 NKJV)
Every spiritual blessing is in Christ
This profound passage teaches us that . . .
- God the Father blesses us. “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” – James 1:16-17.
- God’s most precious blessings are spiritual (Ephesians 1:3). These blessings include God’s grace, mercy, love, kindness, and salvation (Ephesians 2:4-10). There are many material blessings that all people on earth share in common. God makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good. He sends rain on the just and on the unjust (see Matthew 5:45). Every good and perfect gift comes from His bountiful hand (James 1:17). These are wonderful blessings, but they cannot compare to the spiritual blessings of forgiveness of sins and hope of eternal life.
- Every spiritual blessing is in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). Since the creation of the world, everyone has benefited from God’s physical and material blessings. When Christ died to save us from our sins, He gave us access to spiritual and eternal blessings that are found only in Him. These blessings are available to all people. Whether we are Jews or Gentiles, He came, “…that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity” (Ephesians 2:16).
- To benefit from these spiritual blessings we must learn how to get ‘into Christ.’ This is an easy task. “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ were baptized into His death?” (Romans 6:3). Scriptural baptism secures God’s spiritual blessings; it brings us into a sacred relationship with His son. We are baptized into His death, giving us the benefits of His saving blood. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” – Ephesians 1:7. Where? “In Him.”
Let every knee bow and every tongue confess and praise His Name.
-- Rick Duggin
"Do not call anyone on earth your father: for One is your Father, He who is in heaven"
(Matthew 23:9 NKJV)
exalt God instead of men
Does this verse forbid a child calling his dad “father”? If so, then “grandfather” would be even more sinful, and “great-grand-father” would be abominable. Jesus is not forbidding these harmless examples. The Lord said, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me…” (Matthew 10:37).
Paul’s relationship to some younger men in the faith was very similar to the father-son relationship. “To Timothy, a true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). “To Timothy, a beloved son” (2 Timothy 1:2). “To Titus, a true son in our common faith” (Titus 1:4). “Son” describes a spiritual relationship. Where there is a son, there must be a father (in this case, Paul). But Paul does not use these terms as religious titles.
Jesus is not condemning family terminology. He rebukes Pharisees who wear titles of distinction—very much in the way that moderns proudly display their superiority over others. Like the Pharisees, these egotists do all their works to be seen by men (Matthew 23:5). Despite the Lord’s condemnation of vain displays, men invented religious titles to give and to receive undue honor.
“Father” in our passage is used in the same way as “Rabbi” (Matthew 23:7) and “Teacher” (Matthew 23:10): they are religious titles that are designed to exalt men.
Jesus powerfully condemns the practice of religious titles; they should be exalting God instead (Matthew 23:9). How could language be plainer? We wonder: have denominational “reverends” and Roman Catholic “fathers” read this passage?
-- Rick Duggin
1 Timothy 4:1-3
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.”
(1 Timothy 4:1-3 NKJV)
a departure from the faith
- The context of this passage warns of a departure from the faith (1 Tim.4:1). “Faith” here refers to the gospel (see Acts 6:7; Jude 1:3, et al.). Some would depart from the gospel.
- Their success in deception would depend on the teachers’ talent and ability to speak lies with a seared conscience.
- They would forbid marriage—a feature that recalls the Roman Catholic doctrine of unmarried “priests.” Quite possibly, many Catholics do not know this passage exists.
- These false teachers would command abstinence from foods that God allows. Once again, this recalls Roman Catholic prohibitions from eating certain foods on certain days.
- False teachers seem not to care that many of their dogmas directly contradict the plain teaching of Scripture. Only the truth can set us free (John 8:32). Don’t simply take man’s word for it.
-- Rick Duggin
“For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”
(Revelation 22:18-19 NKJV)
do not tamper with God's word
This final warning of the New Testament repeats the many warning of the entire Bible. The Lord issues this serious reminder—do not tamper with His word. Serious consequences await those who ignore this divine call to faithfulness. Everyone needs this admonition.
Many religious teachers today twist, change, and pervert Scripture, resulting in deceived listeners and unscriptural activities. This practice began in Eden. This warning has been preceded by many others (Colossians 3:17).
Those who added to or took from God’s word could not rightly keep His commandments, Deuteronomy 4:2. Israelites could violate this warning without physically touching the stone tables of the Law, just as moderns may add to or take from His word without physically altering the words written in their Bible. This happens whenever people follow the commands of men. “Do not add to His words lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar” (Proverbs 30:6). We know the fate of all liars (Revelation 21:8).
Jesus warned of false prophets, Matthew 7:15-20. Those who enforced the rules of men were guilty of setting aside the word of God, Matthew 15:6-9. Paul taught the Corinthians “...that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written…” (1 Corinthians 4:6). “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God” (2 John 9). And so on . . .
Sadly, most religious leaders of our day have rejected the clear teaching of Scripture, relying instead on creeds, opinions, and doctrines of men. Our care in handling the Bible may enable us to help ourselves and others also.
-- Rick Duggin
“Therefore do not be unwise but understanding what the will of the Lord is”
(Eph. 5:17 NKJV)
we can understand the Bible by fervently studying every day
- A basic rule of Bible study is to pay attention to any passage that begins with “therefore”: we should look to see what it is there for. It opens the door to the context.
- Our present context calls us to cautious (Ephesians 5:14), careful living (Ephesians 5:15), and urges us to make the best use of our time (Ephesians 5:16).
- None of this is possible without wisdom. “Do not be unwise” pulls us away from the world’s senseless pattern of ignorance, indifference, and immorality, and into the Lord’s will.
- The opposite of “unwise” is “understanding” the New Testament. Learning Christ (Ephesians 4:20) enables us to leave our former vain and mindless conduct (Ephesians 4:17-19). We value repentance (see Ephesians 4:25-31). We replace selfish desires with kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32).
- It is important for us to realize what this verse is saying: we can understand the will of the Lord! “Be not unwise, but understand…” is a command to do what some say we cannot do. This passage actually repeats what Paul says earlier. “…how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)” – Ephesians 3:3-4.
- Some assert that if we could really understand the Bible, everyone would reach the same conclusions. Since this does not always happen, the problem must be with God’s poor writing skills. This is not only blasphemous, but bogus. In Genesis 3, Eve came to a different conclusion from God, not because God’s instructions were unclear, but because she listened to satan instead of God. “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). “Evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13). The Sadducees stayed in error because they did not know the Scripture nor the power of God (Matthew 22:29).
- Some live in the worldly pursuits of profit, pleasure, and self-pleasing. Christians pursue the will of the Lord. We pray after Christ: ‘not my will, but Yours.’ He is our sacrifice, our Savior, and our standard. Let us understand His will, let us live in His will, and let us rejoice in Him
Fervently study the Bible every day. This is the only way to understand God’s will.
– Rick Duggin
“And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all”
(Ephesians 1:22-23 NKJV)
Jesus is the head over all things for the church
A brief summary of this passage will call our attention to some small but very important words. The first “He” is God, the Father. He has put all things under “His” feet (the feet of Jesus).
The main focus is this: God has made “Him” (Jesus) to be head over all things “to” the church (or “for” the church). Jesus rules His church. He is the Shepherd, the Vine, the King, the Head…
Why is Jesus in this exalted position? His Father put Him there. This exalted relationship is governed only by the One who has conquered death itself and saved it by His blood.
The church does not belong to mere human heads, such as a “pope,” synods, councils. The church is the body of Christ. As its head, Jesus rules, rightly calling it “My church” (Matthew 16:18).
Our blessings in Christ are located in His church. It displays God’s manifold wisdom (Eph. 3:10). It glorifies Him (Eph. 3:21). The church is subject to Christ, its Head (Eph. 5:24). He loved the church and gave Himself for it (Eph. 5:25).
The life of the church stems from its union with Christ. Those who separate from Him die. How could anyone disparage the Lord’s church? It has been purchased with His blood!
– Rick Duggin
“And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name”
(Revelation 14:11 NKJV)
our eternal destiny is chosen by the life we live
This verse, though unpleasant, is a helpful reminder that …
- We will survive our physical death. Some think (hope) the dead are annihilated. Others seek solace in soul sleep (wishing for an unconscious eternity where all is forgotten and unknown). Neither is true. Both the rich man and Lazarus “survived” death, living beyond the grave, each according to the choices he made in his earthly life, Luke 16:19-31.
- God has plainly warned that every accountable person will face Him in judgment. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” — 2 Corinthians 5:10.
- We are accountable to the Ruler of the universe. “So then each of us shall give account of himself to God” — Romans 14:12. Lawbreakers may escape earthly punishment. We cannot run, much less, hide: no one will escape God’s judgment.
- Torment awaits those who worship the beast and his image, and receive the mark of his name. Revelation 14:10 elaborates: “he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.” Turning away from God is the most terrible thing one can do.
- All of this demonstrates that God respects our free will. He will never force us to turn to Him. We choose our destiny.
- Revelation 14:13 offers the blessed alternative: “Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.” The “blessed dead” have no regrets. Does this speak of you?
– Rick Duggin
“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth”
(John 17:17 NKJV)
Only God’s word is absolute truth
The rules that govern the study of any document require the reader to know the subject, what the subject is doing, why he is doing it, and other pertinent facts. Applying these rules to John 17:17 yields powerful and edifying conclusions.
- The subject is Jesus—the lofty theme of John’s book. “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31).
- The action is prayer. Jesus Himself is praying. This is one of many passages showing His exalted view of prayer.
- Each of the Lord’s prayers is edifying; this prayer is especially so. It reveals His chief concerns just hours before He goes to His crucifixion. If you were about to die, how would you pray? What would you ask for? Undoubtedly, your chief concern would include salvation, both your own and that of your loved ones.
- Jesus prays for salvation—not for Himself, for He was without sin—but for His disciples. They would experience a potentially faith-shaking tragedy as they watched their Lord die on a cross. He prays that they will weather this storm and succeed in the great commission He will give them.
- And, remarkably, He prays for us: “those who will believe on Him through their word,” v.20. “If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me” (Cheyne). “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). Our lives reveal how much this great blessing means to us.
- Jesus concludes this verse with the illuminating statement, “Your word is truth.” John has previously revealed that grace and truth come through Jesus (John 1:17). But what is truth? People answer in a variety of ways: truth is what we think, what society says, what the majority believes, or what church scholars teach. Many search for truth in dreams, visions, or personal experiences. All such subjective, contradictory opinions cannot rise above their source: mere man himself. Jesus denies each of these counterfeits when He proclaims, “And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). The Lord warns His listeners against blindly following the blind (15:14). It does matter what we believe.
- Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). When He says, “Your word is truth” (17:17), He reveals the source of truth once and for all. God’s word alone can set us free from sin. “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’” (John 8:31-32). Only God’s word is absolute truth, and as such, it is the only way to salvation and sanctification.
– Rick Duggin
and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven."
(Matthew 18:3 NKJV)
humility - the way up is down
- This passage reveals an ugly side of the apostles. Each is vying for the “top” position in the kingdom. Each thinks he is better than his fellow apostle.
- Jesus rebukes their pride with an object lesson. He calls a little child, sets him in the midst , and makes his humble character the means to the end of the disciples’ pride. Jesus turns their ambition on its head. The way up is down.
- Pride is dangerous. It destroys the soul and leads to a fall. “Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD…” - Prov.16:5a. “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall” - Proverbs 16:18.
- Jesus alone occupies the position that His disciples are seeking. Their pride would push the Lord off His throne and replace Him with themselves! No wonder “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” - 1 Peter 5:5.
– Rick Duggin
“The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself”
(Ezekiel 18:20 NKJV)
sin is not inherited
This is not the first verse that affirms individual accountability for sin. “Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin” — Deuteronomy 24:16. Every just and honorable nation observes this principle. Several forced conclusions spring from this verse.
- Sinners will be punished. “Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4).
- The death associated with sin is spiritual and eternal. All die physically (Hebrews 9:27). The death referenced in Ezekiel 18 is the penalty for sin. (James 5:19-20)
- Sin is not inherited. The son cannot bear the guilt of the father or suffer punishment for something his father did. Nor can the father bear the punishment of a sinful child (Ezekiel 18:20).
- The context illustrates the principle: a just man will surely live (Ezekiel 18:4-9). If this just man has a son who sins, he will die for his own sin (Ezekiel 18:10-13). If this wicked son begets a son who turns to God, he will surely live (Ezekiel 18:14-18).
- Those who teach the doctrine of inherited depravity try to avoid these passages. Ironically, they sin by denying the plain teaching of God’s word. Remember: death follows sin.
– Rick Duggin
“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ”
(Galatians 3:26-27 NKJV)
to put on Christ, one must be baptized into Christ
No one who professes faith in the word of God would deny that we are saved by faith. Many Scriptures affirm this fact (for example: Galatians 3:26 — “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus”).
However, many who profess this faith in the Bible deny that baptism has any role in the salvation of sinners. They maintain this position in spite of Galatians 3:27 — “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
This passage proves that salvation does not come at the point of faith (many call it “faith alone”). Consider Paul’s point —
- The readers are sons of God...through faith.
- This sonship is in Christ Jesus. But how does one enter Christ?
- They entered Christ Jesus through baptism (Galatians 3:27) — they were “baptized into Christ” (baptism removed them from being out of Christ and placed them in Christ).
- Therefore faith here is comprehensive. We would know this even if Paul had not written Galatians 3:27. Think about it: does salvation by faith mean that repentance is not required? Even denominations teach the necessity of repentance. They believe therefore that faith includes repentance; faith is comprehensive: it includes repentance...and, according to Galatians 3:27, baptism also.
- Paul, writing this passage, knew the role of baptism. Ananias told Paul himself, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” - Acts 22:16).
Christians have put on Christ. In Christ, we clothe ourselves with Him: we make His character, our character (Colossians 3:9-14).
– Rick Duggin
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell”
(Matthew 10:28 NKJV)
Our Lord spoke these immortal words to His disciples before sending them on the “limited commission.” He told them to expect rejection, opposition, hatred, persecution, and even death.
Our internal alarm sounds whenever someone tells us not to be afraid, and even more so when the danger could prove fatal. This commission raises questions.
- Why would Jesus send His disciples on a mission so fraught with danger? The answer is simple: they were sent to spread the good news to save lost souls. Their audiences were in danger of eternal hell. Jesus loved them and wanted to save as many as He could.
- Why did Jesus downplay the consequences (some of these messengers could be killed)? Because even if the worst comes to them on earth (their death) the best will great them after death; they will be blessed beyond measure for eternity. Their opponents cannot kill their soul.
- Why are they instructed to fear “Him” (God)? Because He can destroy both soul and body in hell.
The lessons in this passage are both universal and timeless.
- The eternal blessings of the gospel are worth the suffering. See Philippians 1:28-30.
- God knows our suffering. Not even a bird can fall to the ground without His knowledge (Mt. 10:29), and the hairs of our head are numbered (Mt. 10:30). God sees and God cares (1 Peter 5:7).
- We must not fear worldly opponents. The harm they inflict is temporary and superficial. Do not be intimidated.
- We must fear God, not people. God deserves our love, our respect, and our undying allegiance. Don’t let anything rob you of heaven.
- Hell is real. Jesus spoke more about hell than anyone. In Matthew alone He warns of hell in Mt. 5:33, Mt.5:39, Mt. 5:40, Mt. 18:9, Mt. 23:15, Mt. 23:33, and in our present passage (Mt. 10:28).
- Jesus warns that God is able to “destroy” soul and body in hell. Some assume (desire) that this refers to annihilation. Many who do not take God seriously are hoping that death will blot them out of existence. This view could not be more false or unscriptural. The word destroy simply does not mean annihilation. Lexicons consistently define this word as follows: “to devote or give over to eternal misery: Mt.10:28 . . . to incur the loss of true or eternal life; to be delivered up to eternal misery” (Thayer, p.64). The same word occurs in Matthew 10:6 – “But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Is Jesus sending His disciples to people who are annihilated? …to people who have ceased to exist? No, they are in a lost state and will be separated from God for eternity unless they heed the saving word of the Lord. Annihilation is not even a possible translation of this word.
- The conclusion is obvious: we must take the Lord’s warning seriously. Our eternal state depends upon our earthly response to the Lord’s invitation.
– Rick Duggin
“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms”
(James 5:13 NKJV)
relief from suffering through prayer
- If there has ever been a verse that every human can relate to, surely this is it. The promise of relief from suffering through prayer reminds the sufferer that he is not alone. “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Jesus spoke a parable. Someone defined a parable as an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. This story depicts a widow who does not take no for an answer. The judge finally grants her request simply because she will not leave him alone. He may fear that she will follow him to his death bed.
- Suffering may attack us mentally, physically, or spiritually. It can affect us in our work, our family, our souls, and our goals.
- Not only does God care—He wants joy in our hearts. “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).
- Cheerfulness is a great blessing, unless we forget to thank God for it. One way we thank Him is in song. Worldly people cannot understand how Paul and Silas could praise God in a time of agonizing injustice (Acts 16:22-24). Would we do that? What is the secret? Consider –
- Paul and Silas were in the habit of praising God every day; how much more in times of perse-cution? (James 5:13)
- Paul and Silas remembered that their Lord had suffered for them. Though He was perfect, He suffered to save them (and us) from sin. The least they (we) can do is live for Him, even if we are called upon to suffer for His sake. (Philippians 1:29)
- Soldiers have often used the word ‘honor’ to explain their heroic suffering for their country. Paul and Silas counted it an honor to suffer for Him. “But if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name” (1 Peter 4:16, NASB).
- Present suffering for truth will be rewarded with future glory (Romans 8:17). Our Lord deserves our praise.
- Finally, like all other passages on singing in the New Testament, this verse commands singing, not playing on a mechanical instrument. Some try to justify pianos and similar instruments in worship by appealing to Old Testament practices. They might as well practice Old Testament animal sacrifices. Should we sacrifice a goat in worship? We must be consistent: “And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:3-4). It’s all or nothing. Jesus is our Lamb (John 1:29). The heart is our instrument: “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19). Our authority is the New Testament. To go beyond its teaching is sin (2 John 9). His word is truth (John 17:17) and this guides our worship (John 4:24).
– Rick Duggin
2 Peter 1:20-21
“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit”
(2 Peter 1:20-21 NKJV)
God Himself originated Scripture
These verses are widely misused and misunderstood. Some assume that Peter is giving approval to his readers to interpret Scripture as it pleases them. They insist on the flexibility of Old Testament prophesies, allowing the reader to use Scripture to prove just about anything. Catholics believe the passage forbids conclusions that are not endorsed by their “clergy.” These ideas are false and foreign to the context.
- Peter has shown that the life, the work, and the evidence of Jesus makes the prophetic word even more certain (v.19). Placing the prophecies beside His life and actions proves beyond any doubt that Jesus is the Messiah. His transfiguration alone proves that He is God’s Son (Mt.17:1-5). The presence of eyewitnesses at His transfiguration (Peter, James, and John, v.16; Mt.17:1-5) shows that these things really happened. These powerful evidences, in addition to His resurrection, puts the word of prophecy beyond dispute.
- Whatever Peter is saying in v.21, he does not deny in v.20. ‘Private interpretation’ refers to the prophets who wrote Scripture, not to the interpretation that readers might force upon the prophecy. False prophets wrongly interpreted prophecies (2 Peter 2:1); true prophets did not. Though Isaiah did not always understand some of his own prophecies (see 1 Peter 1:10-12) he nevertheless received his revelation from God. So, we could express Peter’s affirmation in verse 20, “No prophecy of Scripture is of any private origination.” Its origin is of God, not of man.
- Note that verse 21 begins with “for.” Verse 21 explains verse 20 – prophecy never came by the will of man (men did not originate Old Testament prophecies). Prophets of God were moved by the Holy Spirit. God Himself originated Scripture.
This passage affirms the same truth as 2 Timothy 3: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (verses 16-17). What does this mean to me? On the mount of transfiguration, the great voice of God commanded the disciples, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” Dare we do any less?
– Rick Duggin
1 John 5:3
“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome”
(1 John 5:3 NKJV)
when we love God, we keep His commandments
Our passage reveals that one who loves the God who begot us also loves those who are begotten by Him (verse 1). If we love God, we will love the family of God — other Christians.
We can know that we truly love God’s children (verse 2). We know this when we love God and keep His commandments.
In this context, verse 3 is repeating (emphasizing) the second part of verse 2: it tells us what true love of God does.
- “For” builds on this theme of God’s love. This expression (love of God) can refer to His love for us or to our love for Him. Actually both are included in this passage. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Paul prayed for his readers to be rooted and grounded in love, that they “may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height — to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge…” (Ephesians 3:17-19). Apart from our God, where could we ever learn such love?
- But loving response cannot be satisfied with mere admiration or thanksgiving. The love He requires keeps His commandments (1 John 5:2-3). Anything short of this is a counterfeit love. “Let love be without hypocrisy” (Romans 12:9). “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15).
- John states the requirement to “keep” His commandments in the present tense, making this an ongoing mindset – a way of life that “keeps on keeping on.”
- Finally, John reminds us that “His commandments are not burdensome.” The mother who has lost many hours of sleep does not consider it a burden to remain awake in order to care for a beloved child. The soldier who voluntarily throws his body onto a grenade does not act merely on a reflex, but out of genuine love for his brothers in arms. It is well said that love lightens all loads. Jesus expresses a similar thought in Matthew 11:28-30.
The supreme test of being born of God is whether we love Him so much that we gladly yield our will to His in loving obedience. Anything less than this falls short of what our Savior expects and deserves.
– Rick Duggin
See The Power of a 100 Scriptures for similar content on other passages.