Week of 6 Pentecost – Even – 07/20 – 26/2014

July 19, 2014

Week of 6 Pentecost – Even

This Bible Study was originally published at:

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It is based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions p.179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.

The daily readings are according to a Calendar  based on the Church Year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent, usually sometime at the end of November in the year preceding the secular calendar year.

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To get the most from these studies, it is suggested that you first read the scripture texts for the entry, and then the paraphrase and commentary. It is also recommended that you look up the scripture references, unless you recognize and recall them from memory.

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Podcast Download: Week of 6 Pentecost – Even
Sunday 6 Pentecost – Even
First posted 07/10/04;
Podcast: Sunday 6 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 14:26-45 -  Decision to attack;
Acts 15:1-12  -   Controversy over Gentile believers;
Luke 12:49-56  -   The end of the age;

Numbers Paraphrase:

The congregation of Israel had rebelled against God. They had refused to follow his instructions to enter the Promised Land, they had threatened to stone Caleb and Joshua for speaking God’s Word, and they had threatened to choose new leaders who would allow them to return to Egypt (see Numbers 13:31-14:25).

Moses had interceded for the people, because God was ready to destroy the people and start over. God allowed the people to live, but he forbade every adult in the congregation to enter the Promised Land, except for Caleb and Joshua who had given a good report and had advocated trust and obedience in the Lord. The ten unfaithful scouts who brought the evil report were struck by plague and died.

The Lord sentenced the people to wander forty years in the wilderness, a year for every day it took the scouts to scout the Promised Land, until all who were twenty and older at the time of the rebellion had died in the wilderness. The people mourned greatly when Moses told them the Lord’s judgment.

The next day the people decided to go ahead and enter the Promised Land, although Moses warned them that the Lord would not be with them, and that they would be defeated by the people of the land. The people went anyway, even though Moses and the Ark of the Covenant remained in the camp, and they were repulsed and defeated by the Amalekites and Canaanites who lived in the land.

Acts Paraphrase:

Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch (of Syria) on the completion of their first missionary trip to what is now central Turkey in Asia Minor. The Church in Antioch was a largely Gentile congregation. When Paul and Barnabas returned, they found that men had come from Judea and were teaching the congregation that it was necessary to be circumcised (and keep the Jewish Law) in order to be saved. Paul and Barnabas got into a big argument with these “legalists” (“Judaizers”) and finally the church appointed Paul and Barnabas to go to the apostles and elders at church headquarters in Jerusalem.

On the way they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, reporting the conversion of the Gentiles to the believers in those areas. At Jerusalem they gave a report of what God had done through them. Some of the members of the Christian Council at Jerusalem were Pharisees, (and they argued that Gentile believers must be circumcised and charged with keeping the Law of Moses. The apostles and elders debated the issue. Finally Peter spoke.

Peter had led the first Gentile (Cornelius; Acts Chapter 10) to faith. Peter pointed out that God gave his Holy Spirit to the Gentile converts just as he had given it to the Jewish believers, without requiring circumcision, making no distinction (division) between them, and cleansing them by faith (Acts 15:9). So Peter asked the Pharisees why they insisted on burdening Gentile believers with an obligation to keep the Jewish Law, when neither the Pharisees nor any of the Jews throughout history had been able to keep it. Peter declared that both Jew and Gentile Christians will be saved by grace (unmerited favor; free gift) through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ. That ended the debate, and Council listened to Paul tell what God had done through them among the Gentiles.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus declared that he had come “to cast fire (judgment) upon the earth” (Luke 12:49), and he longed for his mission to be completed. Jesus warned that he had come not to bring peace but division. Response to his Gospel will divide the most personal of relationships. Jesus also said that people are more alert and knowledgeable about interpreting the signs of changing weather than they are in noticing and interpreting spiritual crisis.

Commentary:

People divide themselves over God’s Word. The Israelites were divided by God’s Word into two groups: those who believed and obeyed, and those who didn’t and died in the wilderness. Many of the Israelites thought they could stone God’s prophets and choose their own leaders who would tell them what they wanted to hear and let them do what they wanted to do. They thought they could be God’s people and still live in Egypt.

When God judged them and sentenced them to wander in the wilderness until they died, they thought they could get into the Promised Land on their own. They thought they could take it for themselves without obeying God. They ignored Moses’ warning that God was no longer with them, and they didn’t notice or heed the sign that the Ark of the Covenant was no longer leading them.

People were divided over God’s Word at Antioch and in the Council at Jerusalem. The Judaizers had not been considering the Scripture as a whole. They had taken one part of it out of context. What Peter related before the council was his personal witness, which has become part of Scripture. The things that happened to the disciples in their relationship with God were written down for our instruction, just like the things that happened to the Israelites, and together they are the Word of God.

When the Law of Moses was considered in context with the history of Israel’s fulfillment of the Law, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the debate was ended. There was another notable division among people in the early Church over God’s Word: disobedience of God’s Word. The early Church leaders dealt with that by ex-communicating those who professed belief in Jesus but who refused to renounce unscriptural lifestyles; those who did not obey Jesus’ teachings (see 1 Corinthians 5:1-5).

Jesus warns that his Gospel will divide people. Jesus warns people that they won’t have peace just because they call themselves Christians (see Matthew 7:21-23).  Jesus warns that he is going to return to judge everyone who has ever lived (John 5:28-29). He will divide the “sheep” from the “goats,” according to the decisions they have made!

Those who have trusted and obeyed him will receive eternal life in Heaven with Jesus; those who have rejected Jesus and have refused to obey him will receive eternal death and destruction in Hell with all evil (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). Are we more concerned with, and better at predicting the weather than we are at interpreting the signs of spiritual crisis? Do we know more about the weather than we know about the Bible?

How are we doing? Are we paying attention to the spiritual signs? Are we trusting and obeying Jesus, or are we trying to get to Heaven some other way? Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Do we think we can get to Heaven while living in “Egypt;” living like “Egyptians?” Are our Churches making disciples and teaching them to obey all that Jesus’ taught (Matthew 28:18-20), or are congregations choosing leaders who will tell them what they want to hear and let them do whatever they please. Are we and our congregations filled with the Holy Spirit, or has the Holy Spirit departed and we haven’t even noticed? Are we trying to claim the Promised Land without the blessing and empowerment of the Lord?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Monday 6 Pentecost – Even
First posted 07/11/04;

Podcast: Monday 6 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 16:1-19  -  Korah’s rebellion;
Romans 3:21-31  -  Justification by grace through faith;
Matthew 19:13-22  -  Parable of the rich young man;

Numbers Paraphrase:

Korah, a member of the tribe of Levi, led a rebellion of other Levites, challenging Moses’ and Aaron’s leadership. Levites were set apart to be servants of the sanctuary and of the Priesthood, which was through Aaron and his descendants. Moses had told the people that the Lord’s favor was no longer upon them, and that the Lord had not gone with them when they attempted to enter the Promised Land on their own (see Numbers 14:26-45; entry for yesterday). The rebels denied that the Lord’s favor had departed and that the Lord’s presence was no longer with them and they accused Moses and Aaron of exalting themselves above the people of God (Numbers 16:3).

When Moses heard it, he fell on his face (Numbers 16:4). Moses told the rebel Levites that they would all present themselves before the Lord the next morning, carrying censers (burning incense), and that the Lord would choose who would be allowed to approach the Lord. Moses questioned whether the rebels appreciated the fact that the Lord had already given them special status as his servants in the sanctuary, since they apparently weren’t satisfied with that and sought the Priesthood also. Moses warned them that their rebellion was really against God, not just against Aaron.

Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, of the tribe of Reuben, who had joined with Korah in rebellion, but they refused to come to Moses. They accused Moses of taking them from “a land flowing with milk and honey” (describing abundant and luxurious resources, compared with the wilderness) into the wilderness to kill them and of failing to lead them into a corresponding land of abundance as promised. They accused Moses of not being satisfied merely to have led them to this state, but of exalting himself as a Prince over them.

Moses spoke to the Lord about the rebellion, and the Lord instructed Moses to assemble the group of two hundred and fifty with their censers at the tent of meeting the next morning, along with Aaron with his censer and Moses. When the congregation had assembled at the entrance to the tent of meeting the following morning, the glory of the Lord appeared to the entire congregation.

Romans Paraphrase:

The righteousness of God is conferred apart from the Law, although the Law and the prophets bear witness to that righteousness, through faith in Jesus Christ upon all who truly believe. God is impartial. Every human being has sinned and falls short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23); they are judged righteous by God’s grace (unmerited favor; free gift) through the redemption (repurchase; as by ransom) which is only through Jesus Christ. In other words, Jesus has paid the price to redeem us from sin and the penalty of death; Jesus has paid our penalty himself.

Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). God sent Jesus to be the expiation (to bear our punishment in our stead) of our sins by his blood [Jesus death was a blood sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sin; without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin (Hebrews 9:22)]. Jesus died for our sins so that we wouldn’t have to die eternally for them ourselves. Redemption is to be received by faith (Romans 3:25).

God’s plan of salvation in Jesus Christ demonstrates God’s righteousness. It shows God’s divine forbearance in overlooking our former sins, despite the seriousness with which he regards sin, and it proves that God is righteous and that he regards as righteous everyone who has faith in Jesus. Our boasting is silenced. We cannot boast of anything we have done to merit God’s favor. We are justified by faith, apart from works (keeping) of the Law (Romans 3:28). Jew and Gentile both have the same standing before God. The standard of judgment will be whether each individual has trusted and obeyed Jesus Christ. But this doesn’t mean that we can disobey the Law; quite the contrary, we are to uphold the Law.

Matthew Paraphrase:

People were bringing little children for Jesus to bless, and the disciples told them to stop doing so. But Jesus told them to let the children come to Jesus and not to hinder them, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are trusting and obedient like little children.

A rich young man came to Jesus and asked what good deed he needed to do in order to have eternal life. Jesus asked the man why he was calling Jesus good, since only God is good. Jesus said that if the man wanted eternal life he should keep the commandments. The rich young man wanted to know which of the commandments he should keep. Jesus started reciting the Ten Commandments, and the young man asserted that he had obeyed all these from his youth. Jesus answered that if the young man wanted to grow to spiritual maturity, he should sell his possessions and give to the poor, letting what he considered his “treasure” be Heaven, and following Jesus in discipleship. When the young man heard this he went away in sadness, because he had great possessions.

Commentary:

Moses prefigures (he goes before, as an illustration) Christ. Jesus is our “Moses” who leads his followers through the wilderness of this life. Jesus is also our High Priest, who offered himself as a sacrifice for our sins, and who intercedes for us before God the Father. We need to follow Jesus, not the servants of the sanctuary who aren’t faithful to God’s Word, and aren’t led by the Holy Spirit (and don’t even notice that they aren’t).

Moses was one of the most humble men of all time (Numbers 12:3). The Levites accused him of exalting himself as Lord (Prince), but Moses was actually exalting the Lord and not himself (Numbers 16:4; he humbled himself before the Lord and prayed). It was the rebellious Levites who were exalting themselves and dishonoring the Lord. The Reubenites complained that Moses had dragged them away from “milk and honey” to deprivation in the wilderness and had failed to deliver on the promise of “milk and honey” again in the new land. They wanted their “milk and honey” right now and weren’t willing to endure any difficulty or sacrifice in order to obtain it.

God’s plan of salvation (See sidebar) is eminently good and fair. God loves us enough to have sent Jesus to die on the Cross so that we might be forgiven and have eternal life (John 3:16-17; Romans 5:8). Those who trust and obey Jesus will be judged righteous in God’s judgment, and will receive eternal life in Heaven with Jesus. Those who refuse to trust and obey Jesus will be condemned to eternal death and destruction in Hell with all evil (Matthew 25:31-46). Each individual makes his own choice.

There won’t be any arguing about who did more or less good works than someone else. There won’t be any boasting about what we did to “earn” salvation and eternal life. The standard for judging whether we have believed in Jesus will be whether we have obeyed Jesus’ teaching. (Matthew 7:21; Matthew 25:31-46).

Jesus used little children to illustrate the childlike trust and obedience of faith. (They also represent innocence. We become as innocent as little children in the eyes of God through faith in Jesus Christ.)  The rich young man asked Jesus what good deed he needed to do in order to have eternal life. Sure, he wanted eternal life, but he was only interested in doing the least he could get by with in order to obtain it. Jesus asked the young man why he was asking Jesus. The point is that what the man needed to do to have eternal life was to recognize that Jesus is Lord! Jesus is God the Son (Colossians 2:8-9; John 20:28)!

If the young man had truly believed Jesus was Lord, he would have done what Jesus told him (Luke 6:46). Jesus told the young man that if he wanted to have eternal life he should keep the commandments. The young man asked Jesus which of the commandments he had to keep. Jesus named six of the Ten Commandments omitting the three pertaining to honoring God (and combining two pertaining to coveting into one which sums up our obligation to love others just as much as we love ourselves).

The man probably didn’t think he coveted what his neighbors had, because he had much more than his neighbors already. But he didn’t love his neighbors as much as he loved himself, because if he had, he would have given his possessions to those who were poor. Yet the man asserted that he had kept these commandments from his youth.

Jesus said that if the young man wanted to be “perfect” (complete and lacking nothing; spiritually mature) he should sell his possessions and give to the poor, changing what he regarded as valuable from earthly, material things to Heavenly ones, and to follow Jesus in discipleship. Hearing this, the man turned away in sadness because he loved his possessions.

Is Jesus our Lord, or do we want to be Lord? Are we following Jesus, or someone who claims to be following the Lord? Are we exalting the Lord or are we exalting ourselves? Do we want Heaven now without the discipline of the wilderness experience? Are we serving God in the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, or in our own strength? Are we thankful to be servants of God? Are we Jesus’ disciples? Are we trusting and obeying Jesus, or are we trying to get into Heaven some other way?

Tuesday 6 Pentecost – Even
First posted 07/12/04;
Podcast: Tuesday 6 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 16:20-35  -   Revolt of Korah punished;
Romans 4:1-12  -   Abraham justified by faith;
Matthew 19:23-30  -  With God all things are possible;

Numbers Paraphrase:

Korah, Dathan and Abiram had led a revolt by the Levites (sanctuary servants) against Moses and Aaron (Numbers 16:1-19). Two hundred and fifty Levites had assembled at the door of the tent of meeting with Moses and Aaron. The glory of the Lord descended upon the tent of meeting, and the Lord told Moses and Aaron to separate themselves from the congregation, because the Lord intended to destroy the congregation.

Again Moses and Aaron interceded for the congregation, asking the Lord not to destroy the whole congregation for the sins of a few. The Lord told Moses and Aaron to have the congregation move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram, and not to touch anything belonging to any of the three households, lest they be swept away with these men’s sin. Moses, Aaron, and the elders of Israel went to the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram and warned the people to stay away as the Lord had instructed. Dathan and Abiram, who had refused to go up with Korah and the Levites to the tent of meeting, came and stood at the doors of their tents with their wives and children.

Moses declared that if these three men died an ordinary death common to all men, then Moses was not following the Lord, but if the Lord did something new and the ground opened and swallowed them up then everyone would know that these men had despised the Lord. When Moses finished speaking, the ground opened up and swallowed all that belonged to Korah, Dathan and Abiram, and the earth closed over them. All the people standing by fled in fear, lest the earth swallow them up also. And fire came forth and consumed the two hundred and fifty Levites offering incense.

Romans Paraphrase:

If Abraham had been justified (judged righteous) by works (keeping) of the Law he would have had something to boast about before men, but not before God. But scripture says “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3; compare Genesis 15:6). One who works receives wages which he has earned; the wages are not a gift. For one who does not rely on works, but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness. Paul quotes Psalm 32:1-2: “Blessed is the (person) whose iniquities (wickedness; offense) are forgiven and whose sin is covered; …against whom the Lord will not reckon his sin.”

This promise applies to both Jews and Gentiles. Abraham was reckoned by God to be righteous, before Abraham was circumcised. “Abraham received circumcision as a sign or seal of the righteousness he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised” (Romans 4:11 RSV). God’s purpose was to make Abraham the spiritual father of the uncircumcised who are accounted by God as righteous through faith, as well as the father of the circumcised who do not rely on their keeping of the Law for salvation, but follow the example of Abraham’s faith.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus had just finished talking with a rich young man who was unwilling to give up his possessions to follow the Lord (Matthew 19:16-22; see entry for yesterday). Jesus told his disciples that it will be hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven, saying it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. The disciples were amazed and asked how, in that case, anyone could hope to be saved.

Jesus replied that what is impossible for humans is possible with God. Peter asked what he and other disciples who had left everything they had to follow Jesus might expect to receive. Jesus said that the disciples would be rulers of the twelve tribes of Israel. Everyone who has left houses or family or lands for Jesus’ name’s sake will receive (in this lifetime; compare Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30) a hundred times what they gave up, and will receive eternal life. “But many that are first will be last, and the last first” (Matthew 19:30).

Commentary:

Korah, Dathan and Abiram had led a revolt of the Levites, against Moses, Aaron and the Word of God. The rebels denied that the Lord’s favor had departed and that the Lord’s presence was no longer with them and they accused Moses and Aaron of exalting themselves above the people of God (Numbers 16:3). The Lord warned the People of God to separate themselves from the rebels or be destroyed with them.

It is those who trust and obey God’s Word who are “children of Abraham” and heirs to the Promised Land of eternal life in Heaven. Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). [Jesus is God’s Word in human flesh (John 1:1, 14).] There is no other way to be saved and live eternally with the Lord in heaven.

We cannot earn salvation by good works. We are not saved by church membership, by inviting neighbors to church, by teaching Sunday School or singing in the choir. Only by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ, in a personal relationship, through his indwelling Holy Spirit, will anyone be saved and receive eternal life. The Holy Spirit is the new “seal” of faith; the new “circumcision” (Romans 4:11). The Holy Spirit is the mark and guarantee that one belongs to Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16. The Lord does not give his Spirit to those who are not willing to trust and obey him (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17; 21, 23-24).

The rich young man chose to hang on to his worldly possessions and he turned away from the Lord and did not obey Jesus’ instructions. The love of material possessions and worldly pleasures can make it impossible for us to follow Jesus. Yet our salvation is not impossible for the Lord if we will trust him and follow his instructions. If we will seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness, we will have the material things we need as well (Matthew 6:33; compare 19:29).

One possible understanding of the last being first and the first last (Matthew 19:30) is that the Jews, who were originally God’s chosen people, have been succeeded by the Gentile Christians who came to God later through Jesus Christ, but that many Jews will yet be saved during the Great Tribulation. Another possible understanding is that some professing (nominal) “Christians,” who were born and raised in the Church may be the last to be “born-again,” through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, while some who recently turned to Christ may receive the fullness of the indwelling Holy Spirit before the lifelong church members.

The history of God’s dealing with the people of Israel is also a parable. The Church is the “New Israel”, the new “People of God”. The Church and individual believers are well warned not to have fellowship with those who are in open, unrepentant defiance of God’s Word, not meaning, however, that we are not to associate with such people in normal daily life. Believers are to seek the lost, in order to share the Gospel with them, but we must not participate or co-operate with them in their sin. We certainly should not allow them to have fellowship in the Church. Believers should separate themselves from such congregations.

Jesus said that not everyone who calls on his name will enter the kingdom of heaven. Only those who obey God’s Word will enter the kingdom of heaven. Many will claim to have prophesied in Jesus’ name and to have done great works in Jesus’ name, and Jesus will condemn them to eternal death because they haven’t obeyed God’s Word (Matthew 7:21-23; Matthew 25:31-46).

What are our riches? What do we treasure? Do we treasure “Church History” more than God’s Word? Do we treasure “Tradition” more than God’s Word? …”Family ties?” …”Friends?” …”Social position?” …”Houses?” What is keeping you from obeying God’s Word?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Wednesday 6 Pentecost – Even
First posted 07/13/04;
Podcast:
Wednesday 6 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 16:36-50  -  Plague;
Romans 4:13-25  -  True descendants of Abraham;
Matthew 20:1-16  -  Laborers in the vineyard;

Numbers Paraphrase:

The Lord had destroyed, by supernatural earthquake, the households of the leaders of a rebellion against Moses, Aaron, and the Word of God, and had slain, with fire, the two hundred and fifty Levites (sanctuary servants) who had rebelled (see Numbers 16:20-35). The Lord had Moses make an altar covering from the bronze censers of the two hundred and fifty Levites who had been destroyed by fire. The covering was to remind the people that only the priests authorized by the Lord are to serve at the altar.

The next day the congregation grumbled against Moses and Aaron saying that Moses and Aaron had killed the people of the Lord. The Congregation assembled against Moses and Aaron, facing the tent of meeting, and the presence of the Lord descended upon the tent of meeting. The Lord told Moses and Aaron to separate themselves from the congregation so that the Lord could destroy the congregation. But Aaron and Moses fell on their faces (in prayer) and Moses told Aaron to take his censer and wave incense over the people and make atonement for them, for a plague had begun among the people.

Aaron did so and Aaron stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stopped. Those who died of the plague were about fourteen thousand seven hundred, besides those destroyed in the rebellion. “Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance to the tent of meeting when the plague was stopped” (Numbers 16:50).

Romans Paraphrase:

God’s promise to Abraham and his descendants “did not come through the Law but through the righteousness of faith” (Romans 4:13). If only the adherents of the Law inherit, then faith wouldn’t count, and the promise would be worthless. Transgressions aren’t counted where there is no Law, but the Law brings punishment.

The reason the promise depends on faith is so that the promise is a free gift guaranteed to all Abraham’s descendents, not just to those who keep the Law, but also to those who share the faith of Abraham, since according to scripture Abraham would be the father of many nations (Genesis 17:5). Abraham is the father of many nations.

The promise is guaranteed by God, “who gives life to the dead, and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Romans 4:17b). Abraham believed God’s promise, even though he was about one hundred years old, and Sarah had never been able to conceive children (and was past the age of childbearing). “No distrust made him waver, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he promised” (Romans 4:20-21 RSV).

That faith is the reason Abraham was accounted righteous by God (see Genesis 15:6). The Scripture records this for our benefit; we will also be accounted righteous, who believe in God the Father who raised from the dead our Lord Jesus, who died for our sins and was raised so that we could be accounted righteous by faith in Jesus.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus told a parable about laborers in the vineyard to illustrate the kingdom of heaven and illustrate his comment about the first being last and the last first (Matthew 19:30). A householder went out early in the morning to hire day-laborers for his vineyard. He agreed to hire the laborers for a day’s wages, and sent them into the vineyard. Three hours later he was in the market place and he noticed other laborers standing idle, unemployed, so he hired them to work in the vineyard also, and he promised to pay them fairly. Going by again at the sixth and ninth hours, he found others idle and hired them also, as before. Finally at the eleventh hour, he hired still more unemployed laborers.

At the end of the day he assembled the workers and began to pay them for their work, beginning with the last hired. He gave the last hired a day’s wages, so the first hired thought they would get more, but when they were paid they also got a day’s wages. They grumbled at the owner, complaining that those who worked only one hour got the same pay as those who had worked all through the heat of the day. But the owner answered that the first hired had agreed to a day’s wage, and that the owner should be allowed to be generous with what belonged to him. Thus the first will be last and the last first.

Commentary:

There is a plague that is killing people in this world. It is the plague of sin; the plague of rebellion and disobedience to God’s Word. All have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:6-8). The penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). Jesus is God’s only cure for that plague (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Moses and Aaron prefigure (go before, as an illustration) Christ. Jesus is both our “Moses” who leads us through the wilderness of this world to the Promised Land of Heaven, and our “Aaron,” our High Priest, who intercedes for us before God and saves us from God’s punishment of sin.

Jesus gave his life as a sacrifice to God to redeem us from death for our sins, as Aaron risked his life by going into the midst of the congregation bearing incense when God had announced his intention to destroy the congregation. Christ stands between the eternally living and the eternally dead in this world. Aaron was restored to Moses’ side at the door of the tent of meeting, as Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead and sits at the right hand of God in the heavenly sanctuary.

All of Scripture (the Bible) is written for our instruction (2 Timothy 3:16). God loves us and doesn’t want anyone to perish eternally (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). Jesus Christ is God’s only plan for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Those who trust and obey Jesus will be accounted as righteous as a free gift from God, to be received by faith, apart from works of the Law (Ephesians 2:8-9). The faith of Abraham is obedient trust in the Lord.

When God told Abraham to leave his homeland and follow the Lord to a new land, Abraham obeyed; he followed the Lord’s instructions. (Genesis 12:4; Abraham was formerly called Abram; see Genesis 17:5). Abraham grew spiritually as he trusted and obeyed the Lord (Romans 4:20-21 RSV). The Lord causes our “mustard seed” (Matthew 13:31, 17:20) of faith to grow to spiritual maturity as we follow him obediently. As we trust him and do what he says, he is able to show us that he is able and faithful to fulfill his Word. The Lord always keeps his promises!

The kingdom of heaven is like Jesus’ parable of the vineyard. It’s not how long or hard you’ve worked; it’s whom you’re working for that makes the difference. Are we working for Jesus in the Lord’s vineyard, or are we working for ourselves in the vineyards of the world?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Thursday 6 Pentecost – Even

First posted 07/14/04;
Podcast:
Thursday 6 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 17:1-11 -   Aaron’s rod;
Romans 5:1-11 -   Peace with God through Christ;
Matthew 20:17-28  -  Christ’s passion foretold a third time;

Numbers Paraphrase:

The Lord told Moses to collect the rods, which were the symbols of tribal authority, from the head of each tribe. Each tribal leader was to write his name upon the rod, and then the rods were placed in the tent of meeting, in front of the testimony (the Ark of the Covenant, containing the “testimony,” i.e. the tablets of law). The Lord would indicate his choice of leader by causing one of the rods to sprout, thus ending the discontent (Numbers 16:41-50) among the people. Moses did as instructed.

The next day Moses went into the “tent of the testimony” (the holy of holies, containing the Ark of the Covenant) and found that Aaron’s rod had not only sprouted; it had produced blossoms and bore ripe almonds, while none of the other rods had sprouted. Moses brought out the rods and showed the people, and each leader reclaimed his rod. The Lord told Moses to keep Aaron’s rod and place it back in front of the testimony, as a sign for the rebels, so that they would stop grumbling against the Lord, lest they die. Moses did all that the Lord commanded.

Romans Paraphrase:

Since we are judged righteous through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained the free gift of salvation, and we rejoice in the hope of sharing the glorious destiny God intended for us. We can rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering develops endurance, character and hope. That hope is not unfulfilled, because we experience God’s love now through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

While we were slaves to sin, Christ died for us sinners. Most people would not be willing to die even for a righteous or good person, but God shows his love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were sinners. If we are judged righteous through Christ’s death, we can be sure that we will be saved from eternal death by Christ’s Resurrection. While we were enemies of God, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son; since we have been reconciled, we will surely be saved by his life. Through Jesus Christ we can have joy and fellowship with God now.

Matthew Paraphrase:

On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus took the twelve disciples aside and told them that he would be arrested, tried and condemned to death; he would be mocked, scourged and crucified by Gentiles, and he would be raised on the third day. The mother of James and John (sons of Zebedee) brought her sons to Jesus and asked for special honor for them in Jesus’ kingdom. Jesus replied that they didn’t understand what they were asking. He asked them if they were willing to endure the “cup” of suffering that Jesus was going to face, and they replied that they were.

Jesus said that they would drink his cup, but that the special honor they sought was not within Jesus’ authority, since it was to be determined by God’s will and plan. The other ten of Jesus’ original disciples were indignant at James and John, but Jesus called the twelve to him and told them that in this world those who are great exercise authority over those under them, but in the kingdom of God greatness is servanthood. Those who want to be great must be the most humble servant of all the rest, just as Jesus came “not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” ( Matthew 20:28).

Commentary:

The Levites (sanctuary servants) had rebelled against Moses and Aaron (Numbers Chapter 16). They had complained that Moses and Aaron had brought them out of “comfort” in Egypt (Egypt had not been comfortable; they had been slaves), into suffering in the wilderness, and had not delivered on the promise of comfort in the Promised Land. (Numbers 16:13-14). The Levites wanted to be the leaders. They wanted to be the Priests and be served by others, instead of suffering as servants in the wilderness.

The Lord caused Aaron’s rod to sprout in order to resolve and end the dispute over who should lead God’s people. It is God’s Spirit that causes us to blossom and bear fruit in his service. Notice that Moses was the Lord’s obedient servant (Numbers 17:11), in contrast with the rebels, who refused to serve or obey.

Moses and Aaron prefigure (go before, as an illustration) Christ. Jesus is both our “Moses” who leads us through the wilderness of this world to the Promised Land of Heaven, and he is our “Aaron,” our High Priest, who intercedes for us before God and saves us from God’s punishment of sin. Jesus is the righteous branch, the shoot which comes forth from the stump of Jesse (David’s Father; Isaiah 11:1; Jesus is the Messiah, Son of David). It is the Holy Spirit dwelling within believers who causes them to blossom and bear fruit for God’s kingdom.

We will have to endure some suffering and discomfort in this world in order to follow Jesus, but suffering produces endurance, character and hope. Our hope is not the “pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by” kind, because believers experience God’s love and fellowship right now through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Believers have a personal relationship with the risen Jesus through his Holy Spirit within us. Because we know, by his indwelling Holy Spirit, that Jesus has been raised to life from the dead and now lives eternally, we can be confident that believers will live eternally with Jesus as he promised.

James and John wanted to be leaders in Jesus’ kingdom. They wanted to sit on thrones beside Jesus. Jesus told them that the way to be great in the kingdom of God was to be obedient to God’s will, to the point of giving one’s life to accomplish it. Jesus is our example of the suffering, obedient servant who came to give his life to save sinners. Believers are called to give our lives in obedient service to God in order to save sinners and to restore them to peace and reconciliation with God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Too many “Christians” want to worship at the altar, but don’t want to be servants of the Lord. Too many “Christians” want to drink the Cup of the Lord’s Salvation, without drinking the Cup of obedient servanthood and discipleship. Do we expect the Lord to provide us with comfort, and complain when he doesn’t? Are we willing to give our own efforts to reach and save the lost, or do we leave that up to the pastor and missionaries?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?
 
Friday 6 Pentecost – Even

First posted 07/15/04;
Podcast:
Friday 6 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 20:1-13  -  Water from the rock;
Romans 5:12-21  -  Adam and Christ contrasted;
Matthew 20:29-34   -  Two blind men of Jericho;

Numbers Paraphrase:

The people of Israel came into the wilderness of Zin and camped at Kadesh. Miriam died and was buried there. There was no water and the people were contentious with Moses over the lack of water. They assembled themselves against Moses and told them that they had rather died with Dathan and Abiram (in Korah’s revolt; Numbers 16). Moses and Aaron went to the tent of meeting and prayed, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them. The Lord told Moses to take the rod and, in the presence of the people, tell the rock to yield its water. “And Moses took the rod from before the presence of the Lord as he had commanded him” (Numbers 20:9).

Moses and Aaron assembled the people before the rock and said, “Hear now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock”? Moses struck the rock twice and water came forth abundantly. But the Lord told Moses that he would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land with the people, because he had not glorified the Lord in the peoples’ presence (but had taken credit for the miracle himself). So the place is called Meribah (contention), because “the people contended with the Lord and he revealed himself holy among them” (Numbers 20:13).

Romans Paraphrase:

Sin and death came into the world through one man’s (Adam’s) disobedience and spread to all people, because all people have sinned. Sin existed before the giving of the Law, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who were not willfully disobedient to God. Adam is a type of (negative; anti-) Christ. The free gift is the opposite of the trespass. Many died as the result of Adam’s sin; even more has the grace of God and the free gift (of salvation) in Jesus Christ abounded for many. Judgment following one sin brought condemnation; the free gift following many sins brings justification (judicial declaration of righteousness; acquittal) through Jesus Christ.

Adam’s sin led to condemnation for all people; Christ’s righteousness led to acquittal for all people. One person’s disobedience made all people sinners; Jesus’ obedience makes many righteous. Law was introduced to reveal sin. Law makes sin known and incites sin (see Romans 7:7-13). As sin increased, grace (free gift; unmerited favor) abounded more. Sin triumphs through death; grace triumphs through righteousness to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus was going to Jerusalem, knowing that he would be crucified (Matthew 20:17-19). He passed through Jericho, with a great crowd following him as he left. Two blind men were sitting along the road, and they heard that Jesus was passing by. They cried out, acknowledging him to be the Son of David (the Messiah; heir to David’s throne) and asking Jesus to have mercy on them and heal their blindness.

The crowd rebuked the blind men, but they cried out even more. Jesus stopped and asked them what they wanted him to do for them, and they asked Jesus to open their eyes. Jesus touched their eyes and they immediately received their sight and followed Jesus.

Commentary:

The people were quick to blame Moses (and the Lord) for every problem that arose on their journey, and didn’t remember or give thanks and glory to God for all the great things that he had done for them along the way. They constantly longed for the “good old days” in Egypt (when they were slaves).

Moses failed to give God the glory for bringing the water from the rock, and he was forbidden to enter the Promised Land as the result. Jesus Christ is the rock (Matthew 7:24; 16:15-18), which is the source of living water (1Corinthians 10:4; John 4:10, 13-14), which God has given us to sustain us in the wilderness of this earth on our journey, out of the “Egypt” of slavery to sin and death, to eternal life in the Promised Land of Heaven.

All have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23). “The wages (i.e. penalty) of sin is (eternal) death, but the (free) gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

A Day of Judgment is coming when everyone who has ever lived on earth will be accountable to God for what each has done, individually, in life. Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life in Heaven with the Lord; those who have rejected Jesus and have refused to obey him will be condemned to eternal death and destruction in Hell with all evil (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

God loves us and doesn’t want anyone to perish eternally (John 3:16-17, Romans 5:8). Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation; the only way to have forgiveness and reconciliation with God (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). We are saved by grace (free gift) through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ, not by works (keeping) of the law (Ephesians 2:8-9). We must either follow Jesus Christ to eternal life, or we will follow Adam to eternal death. We will either give God glory through Jesus Christ, the rock of our salvation, or we will be forbidden to enter the Promised Land of Heaven.

The two men of Jericho were physically blind, but spiritually sighted, because they acknowledged their blindness, and they acknowledged Jesus as the Christ (Messiah; Son of David). They needed to be healed of their blindness in order to follow Jesus. Jesus healed their blindness, and they immediately followed him.

Only Jesus can heal spiritual blindness. The Lord opens the minds of his disciples to understand the scriptures (Luke 24:45). Are we physically sighted, but spiritually blind? Jesus is passing by, on his way to “Jerusalem,” the eternal city in the eternal kingdom of Heaven. Do we recognize our blindness? Do we acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, the eternal King; the heir to David’s throne?

Are we following Jesus obediently and glorifying God through his name, or are we complaining to God for everything that’s not perfect in our lives, and failing to glorify and thank him for all that God has done for us, particularly through Jesus Christ? Are our eyes focused on the Lord and the Promised Land or are we longing for the pleasures and sins of this world?

Have you seen Jesus? Are you following Jesus? Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Saturday 6 Pentecost – Even

First posted 07/16/04;
Podcast:
Saturday 6 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 20:14-29  -   Death of Aaron;
Romans 6:1-11   -   Dying and rising with Christ;
Matthew 21:1-11   -   Entry into Jerusalem;

Numbers Paraphrase:

The Israelites were again camped at Kadesh, ready to enter the Promised Land after wandering in the wilderness for forty years. All the adults of the generation which had been condemned to wander in the wilderness had died in the wilderness.

Moses sent messengers to the King of Edom, asking permission to pass through his land on the main south-to-north route to Syria, intending to enter Canaan from the east, since their attempt to enter from the south had failed forty years earlier (Numbers chapters 13-14). But the king of Edom refused to let them enter his land. The people left Kadesh and traveled to Mount Hor, near Kadesh on the border of Edom.

The Lord told Moses and Aaron that Aaron (and Moses; Numbers 20:12)  would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land, because of the disobedience of Moses and Aaron when they brought forth water from the rock at Meribah (Numbers 20:1-13; entry for yesterday). The Lord told Moses and Aaron to bring Eleazar, Aaron’s son, and ascend Mount Hor, and there Aaron’s priestly garments were to be removed and put upon Eleazar, and Aaron would die and be buried there. Moses did as the Lord commanded. When Moses and Eleazar returned and the people saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for thirty days.

Romans Paraphrase:

Christians should not presume upon God’s grace by continuing to sin. By our baptism into Christ we are joined with him in his crucifixion and death, so that we can also share in new life through his resurrection. Our old sinful nature is crucified with Christ, so that our sinful earthly nature might be destroyed and we might no longer be enslaved by sin.

If we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. Having experienced physical death once, Christ lives eternally. Death no longer has power over him. He died to sin once for all so that he might live to God. So we must also consider ourselves spiritually dead to sin and alive to God in Jesus Christ.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus was going to Jerusalem knowing that he would be crucified and would be raised again from the dead (Matthew 20:17-19). At Beth-phage, a village on the Mount of Olives, near Bethany, Jesus sent two of his disciples into the village where they would find an ass and a colt which they were to bring back to Jesus. They were told that if anyone questioned them they were to say that the Lord had need of them and would return them promptly. This was done to fulfill scripture (Zechariah 9:9). The disciples did as directed and returned with the animals.

They laid their clothes on the animals for Jesus to sit on, and the crowd spread clothing and branches on the road for the animals to walk on. Part of the crowd went ahead, and part followed and they all shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:9).

Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem stirred the entire city, and everyone was asking who Jesus could be. “And the crowds said, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee’” (Matthew 21:10-11).

Commentary:

Israel was again poised to enter the Promised Land, and they didn’t want to repeat their past mistakes. They were ready to enter the Promised Land because the old generation that sinned had died; the new generation didn’t want to follow the same route that had led to the former defeat.

The old generation had been defeated by disobeying God’s commands. God had told them to enter and claim the new life, and they had refused to do what the Lord commanded. Then they had tried to enter the Promised Land on their own, contrary to God’s Word. Moses and Aaron had both been forbidden to enter the Promised Land because they had disobeyed God’s command in providing the people with water from the rock. Both Moses and Aaron died in the wilderness, just as the Lord had said.

Christians are cleansed of sin and given new life eternally through their baptism into Jesus Christ. In Christ we’ve been given a second chance. Believers should be careful not to repeat their past mistakes; not to return to the same old path that caused them to be alienated from God in the past. Moses and Aaron were forbidden to enter the Promised Land because they did not obey God’s Word.

We must remember that Jesus died on the Cross to provide the grace (free gift of salvation) in which we stand. We must not dishonor Christ’s sacrifice for us by using this grace as an excuse to continue to sin and disobey God’s Word.

God’s Word is absolutely dependable. What the Lord says, happens just as he has said! Jesus told his disciples that he would be crucified and raised from the dead, and that is what happened. Jesus told his disciples that they would find the ass and its colt in Beth-phage and they obeyed his word and found it just as Jesus had said. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem fulfilled the scriptural prophecy.

His followers rejoiced at Jesus’ coming and acknowledged him as the Son of David (the Messiah; the heir to the throne of David) coming in the name of the Lord. Some were trying to decide who Jesus is. Some thought he was a prophet. Jesus warns not to call him our Lord if we are not willing to do what Jesus says (Luke 6:46), or to obey God’s will (Matthew 7:21-23).

Jesus has promised to return to judge the earth (Matthew 25:31-46). When he returns, he will not be humble, and riding a donkey. He will come in glory and great power, with all the angels (Matthew 25:31), riding on the clouds (Acts 1:9-11), as the triumphant King of the Universe. Everyone will see his coming (Revelation 1:7).

When he returns, will you still be trying to decide who Jesus is? Will you be rejoicing at Jesus’ coming, or will you be in fear and mourning (Luke 21:26-27)?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Week of 5 Pentecost – Even – 07/13 – 19/2014

July 12, 2014

Week of 5 Pentecost – Even

This Bible Study was originally published at:

http://shepherdboy.journalspace.com/, (now defunct).

It is based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions p.179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.

The daily readings are according to a Calendar  based on the Church Year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent, usually sometime at the end of November in the year preceding the secular calendar year.

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To get the most from these studies, it is suggested that you first read the scripture texts for the entry, and then the paraphrase and commentary. It is also recommended that you look up the scripture references, unless you recognize and recall them from memory.

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Podcast Download: Week of 5 Pentecost – Even
Sunday 5 Pentecost – Even
First posted 07/03/04;
Podcast: Sunday 5 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 6:22-27  -  Aaronic Benediction;
Acts 13:1-12  –   Paul curses Elymas, the magician;
Luke 12:41-48  -  To whom much is given, much required;

Numbers Paraphrase:

The Lord gave Moses instructions for the blessing of God’s people, which was to be administered by Aaron, saying: The Lord bless you and keep you: The Lord make his face to shine upon you (show you divine favor), and be gracious to you: The Lord lift up his countenance upon you (look upon you with divine favor), and give you peace. “So shall they put my name upon the people (of Israel; God’s people) and I will bless them” (Numbers 6:27).
Acts Paraphrase:

Paul (Saul of Tarsus) and Barnabas were worshiping with the congregation at Antioch (Syria), when the Holy Spirit directed the congregation to set apart Paul and Barnabas for ministry that the Holy Spirit would direct. So the church leaders laid their hands on Paul and Barnabas, prayed, and sent them off. Directed by the Holy Spirit, Paul and Barnabas went to Seleucia (on the Mediterranean coast) and sailed to Cyprus.

When they arrived on Cyprus at the port city of Salamis (near modern Seryios), they preached in the local synagogue. (Cyprus had a large Jewish colony). They traveled across the island (of Cyprus) to Paphos on the western shore, where they encountered a magician, a Jewish false prophet named Elymas bar-Jesus [“Elymas” means magician and bar-Jesus means "son of Jesus" (or "son of Joshua")].

The governor of Cyprus was a Roman proconsul, Sergius Paulus, and he had summoned Paul and Barnabas so that he could hear the Gospel, but Elymas opposed Paul’s message and attempted to turn the proconsul from the faith. Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit looked intently at Elymas, called him a son of the devil, and enemy of righteousness, a deceitful villain, and suggested that he should “stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord” (Acts 13:10).

Then Paul told Elymas that the hand of the Lord was upon Elymas, and that he would be blind for a time. Immediately Elymas was struck blind and sought people to lead him by the hand. When the proconsul saw what had occurred he was astonished and he believed Paul’s teaching concerning the Lord.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus had told a parable concerning watchfulness, about servants awaiting their master’s return from a marriage feast (Luke 12:35-40). The disciples asked Jesus if this parable was for them or for everyone. Jesus answered that the parable applied to those who were wise and faithful stewards which the master appoints to serve and feed his household. The master will reward faithful stewards, but he will punish unfaithful stewards. Uninformed (ignorant) unfaithfulness will receive less harsh punishment than willful disobedience. To whom much is given, much will be required. The greater one’s authority, the greater their accountability.

Commentary:

The Lord loves us and wants to bless us (John 3:16). We have to co-operate with God’s plan if we want God’s blessings. We tend to think only in terms of material blessings. God has provided all the material blessings of this world freely to all people [God sends his rain on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45)]. God’s greatest blessings are spiritual and eternal. Moses had a personal relationship with the Lord.The Lord’s face shone (Numbers 6:25) upon Moses; Moses’ face reflected the glory of the Lord from having been in the Lord’s presence (Exodus 34:35) (Jesus’ face shone like the sun when he was transfigured; Matthew 17:2).

The Holy Spirit is a spiritual blessing given by God. The Holy Spirit leads believers to ministry according to God’s will, and empowers believers to accomplish that ministry. The Lord is able to prosper those who are following his will, and he is able to thwart those who oppose his will. It is important to note that Antioch is where disciples of Jesus were for the first time called “Christians” (Acts 11:26b).

Paul (Saul of Tarsus) had himself been in opposition to God’s will by persecuting Christians, although in ignorance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and had been struck blind on the road to Damascus (Acts Chapter 9), by the Spirit of the risen Jesus. He had subsequently heard the Gospel from a faithful disciple, Ananias (Acts 9:10-12, 17); Paul had repented, been filled with the Holy Spirit, and had regained his sight.

By his obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit, Paul was repeating the process, bringing Elymas to encounter the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the risen Jesus, through Paul. Elymas experienced physical blindness as Paul had, and had the opportunity to recognize his spiritual blindness and hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The parable applies specifically to every Christian; everyone who bears the name of the Lord. All Christians are to be disciples of Jesus Christ; that’s what the word “Christian” means (Acts 11:26b). The stewards in the parable represent every Christian, not just the clergy and church leaders; and the Master’s household is the whole world, not just Church members.

Believers have been given access to every spiritual blessing. We are commissioned with the dispensation of those blessings to the world. Christians won’t be able to plead ignorance, or lack of blessings. The world is spiritually starving for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The world is spiritually blind, seeking someone who can see to lead them to the light (Acts 13:11b).

In one sense we are all spiritually blind until we see, in Paul’s words, “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Have we seen the light? Are our eyes open, watching for our Lord’s return? Are we faithful stewards? Are we ready for Jesus’ return?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Monday 5 Pentecost – Even
First posted 07/04/04;
Podcast: Monday 5 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 9:15-23, 10:29-36  -  The cloud over the tabernacle;
Romans 1:1-15  -  Called and set apart;
Matthew 17:14-21  -  Epileptic child healed

Numbers Paraphrase:

The Lord led his people from slavery to sin and death in Egypt by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21-22). They assembled in Sinai at the Mountain of God, and the Lord descended on the mountain in a cloud and gave Moses the Ten Commandments and the instructions for the establishment of the religion.

When the congregation had prepared for the journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land, the manifestation of the Lord’s presence descended on the tabernacle (tent of meeting) as a cloud by day and as fire by night. The people were led daily according to the manifestation of the Lord’s presence.

When the cloud lifted up from the tabernacle they set out. Regardless of how long the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, while it remained they stayed in camp. They did not set out until directed to by the Lord, and they encamped at his command. They were obedient to the leading of the Lord.

Romans Paraphrase:

Paul considered himself a servant (slave) of Jesus Christ. He was called to be an Apostle (messenger), set apart for the Gospel of God in Jesus Christ, which was promised beforehand in the scriptures. Jesus is the Son of David (the heir to the throne of David; the Messiah) according to the flesh, (through Joseph, his earthly father; Matthew 1:1-17), and the Son of God through the Holy Spirit by his resurrection from the dead. Paul and all Christians receive the free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus, and a commission to proclaim the Gospel and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey all that Jesus taught (Romans 1:5 RSV; compare Matthew 28:18-20).

All those who are set apart (consecrated) to God’s service are “saints.” Paul was led by the Holy Spirit (see journal entry for yesterday). He prayed that by God’s will he might visit the Roman church but had thus far been prevented (Romans 1:10, 13). Paul was eager to share spiritually with them, and he was also looking forward to receiving spiritual encouragement from them.

Luke Paraphrase:

When Jesus returned from his mountaintop transfiguration with Peter, James and John (Matthew 17:1-13), to the disciples that had stayed behind, he found a crowd gathered around the rest of the disciples. A man whose son was an epileptic knelt before Jesus and asked Jesus to heal the son. The man had brought him to Jesus’ disciples and they had been unable to heal him. Jesus healed the boy instantly.

The disciples asked Jesus privately why they had been unable to heal the epileptic. Jesus answered that it was because of their “little” faith. Jesus said that if one has faith the size of a mustard seed (a tiny seed) nothing would be impossible for them.

Commentary:

The experience of Israel in the wilderness is a parable and a metaphor of discipleship and spiritual growth. When we first turn to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior in faith, God leads us by his Word, the Bible, and his Spirit so that we can come to him, be instructed in his ways, and begin to worship him.

New believers need to join a congregation of believers. We need to begin to read the entire Bible, and spend daily time in the Bible and prayer. We need to prepare ourselves to be a “tabernacle” to receive the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is Christian discipleship; this is spiritual growth.

We need to stay in “Jerusalem,” i.e. within the church, until we have received the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4). Once we have received the indwelling Holy Spirit and have learned to follow his leading, then we are ready to move out and be Apostles (messengers of the Gospel) in the wilderness of this world. This is what I believe God’s Word says, and it is exactly what I have experienced personally and testify to be true.

Paul (Saul of Tarasus) is the first, modern, post-resurrection, “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) Christian. Paul had not known Jesus during Jesus’ earthly ministry before his crucifixion and resurrection. Paul had a personal encounter with the Spirit of the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts Chapter 9). Paul realized his spiritual blindness, repented and turned to Jesus in faith. A disciple, Ananias (Acts 9:10), obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit, went to Paul and discipled Paul (Acts 9:17).

Paul stayed in the house of a man of Tarsus named Judas until he had received his sight and had been filled with the Holy Spirit. (Paul’s discipling happened very quickly in his case. Remember that Paul already was very well educated in the Bible, and he loved God. Once he realized who Jesus was, he was ready to go.

Not many of us are going to be immediately ready to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Notice that Paul was “discipled” by a disciple, who was filled with and obedient to the Holy Spirit.) As soon as Paul received the Holy Spirit he began proclaiming the Gospel (Acts 9:20), led by and obedient to the Holy Spirit (Romans 1: 10, 13; Acts 13:1-12; journal entry for yesterday).

While Jesus is gone away to the Father and we are awaiting his return, what are we doing? Are we hanging around in the marketplace of this world idly waiting for Jesus to show up and solve our problems, or are we out there ministering to the spiritual needs of the world in Jesus’ name? Have we spent the time necessary in fellowship with Jesus to be filled with and led by his Spirit, so that we can do the ministry? It doesn’t take much faith to minister to the world in Jesus’ name; it just takes some!

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Are you bearing fruit for the Kingdom of Heaven? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Tuesday 5 Pentecost – Even
First posted 07/05/04;
Podcast: Tuesday 5 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 11:1-23  -  Murmurings in the wilderness;
Romans 1:16-25  -  God’s judgment on sin;
Matthew 17:22-27  -  The temple tax;

Numbers Paraphrase:

The people of Israel complained about their circumstances, and the Lord heard. The fire of the Lord fell upon and destroyed some of the outlying portions of the camp. The people asked Moses to intercede with God for them; Moses did so and the fire ceased. The people complained about their diet of manna, longing for meat and the fresh vegetables they had in Egypt. Manna was like coriander seed, yellow in color. It was gathered and ground into flour, boiled in pots and made into cakes. It tasted like cakes baked with oil. The manna fell at night with the dew.

Moses was frustrated by the burden of his responsibility for the people, and complained to the Lord that the burden was too great. The Lord told Moses to gather seventy elders of the people, and that the Lord would take some of the spirit which was upon Moses and put it on the seventy, so that they could share with Moses the responsibility for leading the people. The Lord also told Moses to consecrate the people, because the Lord had heard the complaint of the people and would give them meat to eat every day for a month, until they were sick of eating meat and it became loathsome to them.

Moses recognized that feeding such a large group in the wilderness with meat everyday for a month was humanly impossible. The Lord said to Moses, “Is the Lord’s hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not” (Numbers 11:23). Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said, and he assembled seventy elders at the tent of meeting. The Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses and took some of the spirit that was upon Moses and put it on the seventy elders. When the spirit rested upon the elders they began to prophesy.

Romans Paraphrase:

Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the saving power of God to everyone, Jew or Gentile, who believes. Through the Gospel, those who believe receive pardon and reconciliation, being reckoned as having the righteousness of God, as a free gift to be received by faith. “He who through faith is righteous shall live” (Romans 1:17b; Habakkuk 2:4). The Day of Judgment is coming upon the wicked and ungodly who by their sinful behavior suppress the truth.

God can be perceived throughout creation, because he has left his mark of eternal power and deity upon it. So the wicked are without excuse; it is not that they don’t know God, but that they do not honor God and give him thanks. As a result their minds are darkened and their thinking is futile. In claiming to be wise they became fools; they traded the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or animals. God has allowed them to follow the desires of their hearts which has led them into greater and greater perversion, “because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25).

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus told his disciples for the second time (compare Matthew 16:21; 20:17-19) that “the Son of man” (Jesus) would be delivered into the authority of men, would be killed, and would rise again on the third day. His disciples were distressed by this statement. At Capernaum the collectors of the temple tax (Jewish males were required to pay a half-shekel annual tax to support the Temple) asked Peter whether Jesus conformed to the obligation. Peter said, “Yes.”

When Peter came home, Jesus spoke before Peter had a chance. Jesus asked Peter if earthly kings collected a tax from their own sons or not. Peter knew they did not, and Jesus said that the sons of Kings were free of taxation. Jesus was not obligated to pay the tax, but in order to avoid giving offence, he told Peter to go to the sea (of Galilee) and cast a hook. When Peter caught the first fish and opened its mouth, he would find a shekel, which he was to give for the temple tax for Jesus and for himself.

Commentary:

God had freed the Israelites from slavery and death in Egypt. He had led them in the wilderness, and provided for their needs, but the people complained about their situation instead of giving thanks to God. The Lord was angry with the people because they were complaining to one another about their circumstances, and were rejecting the Lord and considering returning to Egypt (Numbers 11:20b).

God punished the people for their wickedness, but when they prayed to God, he forgave them, and he allowed them to have what they thought they wanted. God is faithful even when we aren’t. God is able to provide for us far more than we can imagine; far beyond what is humanly possible. God’s Word is reliable, no matter how impossible it may sound.

The way to get through the wilderness of this life is to trust and obey the Lord. We all need help to get through the wilderness. The Lord gives his Holy Spirit as a helper to those who trust and obey him.

Believers are not ashamed of the Gospel. It is the saving power of God. Through faith in Jesus we are forgiven and reconciled to God. By believing and obeying God’s Word we can receive the Holy Spirit, which puts God’s saving power within us to help and sustain us in the wilderness.

All creation testifies of the Creator.  Those who deny God and refuse to honor and obey him face God’s wrath on the Day of Judgment. They will have no excuse. They have chosen to reject the truth and believe a lie; they have chosen to worship the “creature” instead of the Creator. Their minds are darkened, their thoughts futile, because they have exchanged the wisdom of God for the false wisdom of the world. They have chosen to follow the desires of their flesh, and God has given them over to their desires until they are destroyed by them.

Jesus is the Son of God. He should not be required to pay the temple tax, but he humbly submitted. Jesus reveals his divine nature: he knew what had happened with Peter before Peter had a chance to tell him, and he provided supernaturally for the money to pay the tax for both Peter and himself (Compare Numbers 11:1b, 22-23). By trusting and obeying Jesus’ instructions, Peter’s tax was paid.

Jesus knew that he would be crucified, but he submitted and allowed it to happen, because he knew it was God’s will and plan for our salvation. As the Son of God, Jesus was not obligated to submit to the authority of men; he did it voluntarily in obedience to God’s will. Jesus trusted and obeyed God’s Word, believing that he would be raised to eternal life on the third day.

Through Jesus Christ, God leads us out of slavery to sin and death to the Promised Land of eternal life, if we will trust and obey him. He gives believers his Holy Spirit to lead and sustain us through the wilderness of this life. We have all sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23). The penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). Jesus has provided the payment for our sins through his death on the Cross. (Romans 5:8; John 3:16). All we have to do to receive salvation and eternal life is to trust Jesus and follow his instructions. God gives us the choice. If we decide to follow the desires of our flesh, he will let us, until we are destroyed by them. We will all be accountable to the Lord on the Day of Judgment (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


Wednesday 5 Pentecost – Even
First Posted July 7, 2004;
Podcast: Wednesday 5 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 11:24-33, (34-35)  -  The Lord keeps his Word;
Romans 1:28-2:11  -  God’s Judgment upon sin;
Matthew 18:1-9   -    Warnings of Hell;

Numbers Paraphrase:

The Lord had told Moses that he would give a portion of the spirit which was upon Moses to seventy elders (Numbers 11:16), and that he would provide meat for the Israelites (Numbers 11:18-20). Moses questioned how the Lord could provide that much meat in the wilderness (Numbers 11:21-22). The Lord told Moses the people would see for themselves if God’s Word would come true (Numbers 11:23).

Moses told the people the words of the Lord, and he assembled the elders at the tent of meeting as instructed by the Lord. The Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses and put some of his spirit upon the elders, and they began to prophesy.

Two men, Eldad and Medad, were among those registered as elders, but had not gone to the tent of meeting. They began prophesying in the camp. Someone from the camp came and told Moses what had happened, and Joshua, Moses’ lieutenant, suggested that Moses should forbid them from prophesying, but Moses said, “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his spirit upon them” (Numbers 11:29).

The Lord caused a strong wind to blow a huge flock of quail inland from the sea, and they fell dead around the camp. They covered an area about a day’s journey on either side of the camp and about three feet deep. The people gathered the quails for a day and a half of constant labor. While they were eating the meat, many of the people died of a plague. They named the place Kibroth-hattavah, which means graves of craving, because they buried there the people who had craved meat.

Romans Paraphrase:

Those who have denied God have been allowed by God to follow their self-destructive course. They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, gossip, slander, hatred of God, insolence, haughtiness, boastfulness; becoming inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, and ruthless. They know God’s Word that those who do such things deserve death, yet they not only do such things but approve of others who do the same.

Those who pass judgment on others condemn themselves because they are guilty of the same sins. God’s judgment rightly falls on those who do such things (Romans 2:2). Does anyone suppose that one can do such things and escape God’s punishment? Don’t presume that because God is patient and forbearing that he will not punish sin. God’s kindness is intended to lead us to repentance.

By refusing to repent, one is storing up wrath upon himself in the Day of Judgment, when God will reward or punish each individual according to what he has done in life. Those who have persevered in well-doing (obeying God’s Word) will receive eternal life; but those who have disobeyed the truth and have pursued wickedness there will receive (eternal) wrath and fury. The wicked will receive eternal suffering and distress, but the righteous will receive eternal glory, honor and peace. God will show no partiality.

Matthew Paraphrase:

The disciples asked Jesus who would be considered greatest in heaven. Jesus used a young child to illustrate the standard of greatness in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus said that unless we turn, and become like children we will never enter the kingdom of heaven. One who is considered great must be humble like a child. Jesus said that anyone who shows kindness to such a one (a disciple) in Jesus name, has done so to Jesus himself; but one who causes such to sin, will receive punishment worse than death. The world will be punished for temptations to sin. Temptations are part of life, but we will be individually accountable for causing or yielding to temptations. The consequences of yielding to temptation are worse than any drastic measures we need to take to avoid sinning.

Commentary:

The Israelites craved meat (flesh) and the Lord allowed them to indulge their craving, but their indulgence cost them their lives. This is a parable about how God allows people to pursue their cravings, at the cost of their eternal lives. (The issue is not vegetarianism.) The Word of God is faithful and true. What God says, happens. The Lord wants to give his Holy Spirit to those who are willing to trust and obey him, to help them do what he asks them to do.

Paul’s point is that God allows people to choose whether to follow God’s commands or to pursue their own cravings, but that departing from God’s Word and following one’s own desires leads ultimately to eternal death and destruction.

The way to eternal life is to turn from pursuing our own desires and to become trusting and obedient, like little children, to our heavenly father through Jesus Christ. God gives us the freedom to make our own choices, but, if we could fully realize the consequences of disobedience to God’s will, no sacrifice on our part would be too great to avoid sinning.

Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross is the only sacrifice that can save us from sin. Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). We have all sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23). The penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). There is a Day of Judgment coming, when all who have ever lived will be accountable to God for what they have done in life (John 5:28-29; Mathew 25:31-46).

God loves us and wants us to have eternal life with him in heaven (Romans 5:8; John 3:16-17). Forgiveness and salvation are a free gift from God through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). Only through faith in Jesus Christ are we able to resist temptation. Jesus was tempted in every way like we are, yet without sinning (Hebrews 4:15; Matthew 4:1-11). Jesus has made the sacrifice on the Cross once for all time and all people to save us from sin. Are you trusting and following Jesus, or are you following your cravings? Where will you choose to spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Thursday 5 Pentecost – Even
First Posted July 8, 2004;
Podcast: Thursday 5 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 12:1-16  -  Punishment of Miriam;
Romans 2:12-24  -  Principle of judgment;
Matthew 18:10-20  -  The lost sheep; church discipline;

Numbers Paraphrase:

Miriam and Aaron, sister and brother of Moses, spoke against Moses because he had married a Cushite (a Midianite) woman (Exodus 2:21). They challenged Moses’ spiritual leadership of the people, saying that the Lord had spoken also through them. Moses was a very humble person. The Lord called Moses, Aaron and Miriam out to the tent of meeting, and appeared before them in the pillar of cloud.

The Lord called Miriam and Aaron to step forward, and he told them that with other prophets the Lord spoke to them in a vision or dream, but the Lord had entrusted Moses with the stewardship of the Lord’s household and spoke to Moses face-to-face. Miriam and Aaron should have been afraid to speak against the Lord’s servant.

The Lord was angry with them, and when he departed in the pillar of cloud, Miriam had become leprous. Aaron begged Moses for forgiveness for himself and Miriam, so Moses asked the Lord to heal Miriam. The Lord replied that her punishment could not be less than that of a daughter spat upon (cursed) by her father, so she was forced to stay outside the camp for seven days, and the people encamped until the seven days were over.

Romans Paraphrase:

All people will face judgment before God. Gentiles, who sin, although not under God’s law, will perish with all those who have sinned under the law. “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified” (Romans 2:13). Though not under the law, Gentiles who follow their conscience do what the law requires. Those who rely upon the law and boast of their relationship with God, who know his will and his Word and presume to instruct others, ought to keep the law themselves. Those who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. The failure of God’s people to keep his commands causes God’s name to be blasphemed by the world.

Matthew Paraphrase:

We should respect and care for all people, because the Lord cares for each individual and doesn’t want anyone to perish. In the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus used an everyday image of his time to illustrate God’s concern for each individual. The Lord doesn’t abandon the straying to their fate, but actively seeks them to bring them back to safety. The Lord rejoices more when the lost and straying are restored than over those who never went astray.

Jesus also gave his disciples instructions concerning discipline among his followers. If someone sins against us we should tell him his sin privately and give him the opportunity to repent. If a believer who has sinned against us doesn’t repent, we should confront him in the presence of witnesses. If he still doesn’t repent, he should be brought before the Church. If he doesn’t heed the pronouncement of the Church, he is to be excluded from fellowship. Jesus gave his Church the responsibility for judgment and discipline within the Church.

Commentary:

Miriam and Aaron were suffering from spiritual pride and selfish ambition. They were members of the congregation of Israel who had gained some knowledge of God’s Word and had risen to leadership positions, and were trying to establish their own “empires,” areas of influence where they could dominate. They thought they could replace Moses.

Moses was a person of great humility (Exodus 3:11) and a trusted and faithful servant of the Lord. Moses was not jealous of Miriam and Aaron, or competing with them. Moses was glad to share some of his authority and responsibility with them. Miriam and Aaron did not have a personal relationship with the Lord like Moses did. God rebuked and punished them for using the ministry they had been given to promote their own selfish interests.

All people will be accountable to the Lord on the Day of Judgment for what each has individually done in life (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46). Christians are not under the Law of Moses, provided that they live in faith and obedience to Jesus Christ. That doesn’t mean that Christians can do what is contrary to the Law.

Christians are not obligated to keep Jewish Law, but we are obligated to obey God’s Word. Christians who do what they know is contrary to God’s Word and Jesus’ teaching dishonor the Lord and cause his name to be blasphemed by the world.

The Lord doesn’t want any individual to perish (die eternally). He seeks us when we stray, in order to bring us back to safety in his flock. Sheep are safe when they follow their shepherd; he takes care of them. They get into danger when they go off on their own and follow their own interests. The Lord’s discipline is intended to bring us to repentance.

The Church is charged with the responsibility of enforcing the standards of behavior of its members. Is the Church living up to its responsibility to enforce scriptural, Godly standards among its membership? Is the Church allowing behavior in the Church which is not in accord with God’s Word or tolerable in heaven?

Jesus is the Shepherd of his Church. In one sense, the world is his flock, but some are following their own interests and are lost. Believers are the assistants. Believers need to remember that the church is not our private “empire;” the Church is not our private social club.

Believers need to be followers of Jesus; we need to be disciples, and obey all that he taught, and then go and make disciples, teaching them to obey all that Jesus taught (Matthew 28:18-20).

The Church is charged with the responsibility of enforcing the standards of discipleship within the Church. Are we the part of Jesus’ flock that is obeying Jesus, or are we part of the flock that is straying? Is our behavior in the world glorifying or dishonoring Jesus’ name? Are we seeking the lost, or are we driving them away?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


Friday
5 Pentecost – Even
First Posted July 9, 2004;
Podcast: Friday 5 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 13:1-3, 21-30  -  Scouting out Canaan;
Romans 2:25-3:8  –   Advantage of the Jews;
Matthew 18:21-35  -  Forgiveness;

Numbers Paraphrase:

The Lord directed Moses to send twelve scouts, one leader from each tribe, to scout the land of Canaan. They scouted from the Wilderness of Zin (northeast of Kadesh-barnea), at the southern end of Israel, to the entrance of Hamath, (in the valley of Lebanon) which is the northern end of Israel. At Hebron (about 20 miles south of Jerusalem) they saw three descendants of Anak (Anakim; Nephilim; giants). In the vicinity of Hebron they cut from a vine a large single cluster of grapes which required two people to carry it on a pole between them.

They returned after forty days, bringing the fruit of the land as evidence of its productivity. They reported that “the land flows with milk and honey” (seeming like paradise to wilderness nomads), but they reported that the people of the land were strong and the cities fortified, and that there were giants in the land. Caleb, one of the scouts [and Joshua (Numbers 14:6-9), who later became Moses’ successor], urged the Israelites to enter the land immediately to occupy it, believing that Israel was well able to overcome the inhabitants.

Romans Paraphrase:

Keeping the Law of Moses is of value if one can do it, but if one breaks any of it, one becomes like a Gentile (pagan), guilty before God. If a Gentile does what the Law requires, even though not bound by the covenant of the Law, God will judge him as righteous. One who keeps the precepts of the Law will be judged righteous by God, while those who disobey the Law will be condemned, regardless of physical circumcision, or of covenant relationship.

Real “Jewishness” is internal, not external. Real circumcision (the mark of the Covenant of Law) is a matter of the heart; spiritual rather than literal. Those who are truly circumcised are not seeking the praise of men (by outward display) but the praise of God (who knows our inner thoughts and attitudes).

Then what advantage is it to be a Jew or to have been circumcised? Paul thinks that they have an advantage, because they have the scriptures through which they have been given the promises of God. The unfaithfulness of some does not nullify God’s faithfulness. But their wicked unfaithfulness is not excused by serving as a bad example. Doing evil so that good may come from it is perverted.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus had just told his disciples how to deal with grievances among themselves (Matthew 18:15-20). Peter wanted to know if one should forgive an individual as many as seven times. Jesus replied that one should forgive a person every time, as many times as necessary; true forgiveness doesn’t keep score.  To illustrate forgiveness, Jesus told a parable about a king settling accounts with his servants.

When the king began the accounting, a servant was brought before him who owed perhaps ten million dollars. The servant could not pay, so the king ordered the man, his wife, children and all his possessions to be sold to satisfy the debt. The man pleaded with the king to have patience, promising to repay the debt. The king had pity on the servant and released him and forgave the entire debt.

As the servant left the accounting, he passed a fellow servant who owed him twenty dollars. The forgiven debtor grabbed his fellow servant by the neck and demanded immediate repayment. The fellow servant asked for patience and promised to repay, but the forgiven debtor had his fellow servant put in prison until he should repay the debt.

The other servants of the king were distressed by the forgiven debtor’s harsh treatment of his fellow servant, and complained to the king. The king summoned the servant he had forgiven and told him that since the king had forgiven him all his large debt, that he should have shown mercy to his fellow servant concerning his much smaller debt. The king reversed his decision to forgive the debt, and threw the wicked servant into jail until he could repay his debt. Jesus warned that God will do likewise to those who do not truly forgive others.

Commentary:

God wanted to give the Israelites the Promised Land. Sending scouts, they were able to see for themselves what the Promised Land offered and what they needed to overcome. Two of the scouts were enthusiastic and trusted in the Lord that they could overcome the few obstacles, realizing the greatness of the reward. But the others exaggerated the difficulty and made excuses for why they couldn’t accomplish what the Lord required.

We are saved by grace (unmerited favor; free gift) through faith in Jesus; not by keeping the Law (Ephesians 2:8-9). But faith in Jesus means trusting in him and obeying him (Matthew 7:21). No one will be saved by keeping the Law, because if one fails in any point to keep the Law one is guilty of all of it (James 2:10). That doesn’t mean that we can do what is contrary to God’s Word. Jesus Christ makes it possible for us to be forgiven when we fall short.

Real Christianity is not outward appearance but inner attitude. Real Christians are those who are seeking to please God, rather than using religion to be well-thought-of by others. Real Christianity is not a matter of church membership. We have the scriptures and we have the promises of God. Are we living like the New Israel, or are we living like pagans? Are we acting on the promises and claiming the territory, or are we making excuses?  Are we using the difficulty of following Jesus’ teachings as an excuse for not trying? Do we think that doing what is contrary to God’s Word glorifies God’s faithfulness, mercy and grace? Do we think that doing evil will promote good?

Jesus had been teaching his disciples about Church discipline (Matthew 18:15-20; see journal entry for yesterday, Thursday, 5 Pentecost – Even ): holding fellow believers accountable for their behavior in relationship to God’s Word. The parable today (Matthew 18:23-35) is about God’s gift of forgiveness in Jesus Christ. We have the entire forgiveness of all our sins through faith in Jesus Christ.

Does that mean that we can sin as much as we want, because it has already been forgiven? In the parable, the king condemned the wicked servant because the servant had not benefited from the king’s forgiveness by following the king’s example and doing something of what the king had done for him to others.  The wicked servant had not appreciated the king’s forgiveness and had not tried to do what was pleasing to the king.

There is a Day of Judgment coming, when all who have ever lived will be accountable to God for what they have done in life. Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life in Heaven with the Lord (John 5:28-29). Those who have refused to trust and obey Jesus will receive eternal death and destruction in Hell with all evil (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Saturday
5 Pentecost – Even
First Posted July 10, 2004;
Podcast: Saturday 5 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 13:31-14:25  –   Moses intercedes for the people;
Romans 3:9-20  –   All are guilty;
Matthew 19:1-12  -  Marriage and divorce;

Numbers Paraphrase:

Scouts had returned from scouting out the land, and Caleb and Joshua (Numbers 14:6-9), had given a good report, encouraging Israel to enter and conquer the land, but the other scouts gave an evil report. They had seen three giants (sons of Anak; Numbers 13:22) and they exaggerated the number and size of the giants, saying that all the people were giants, and that the scouts had seemed as tiny as grasshoppers in comparison (Numbers 13:32b, 33).

The congregation of Israel wept and murmured against Moses and questioned the Lord’s motive in bringing them there. They were talking about electing a new captain and returning to Egypt. Joshua and Caleb again spoke, encouraging the congregation to trust and follow the Lord and take possession of the land. But the congregation talked about stoning Joshua and Caleb. Then the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting, and the Lord was angry, because the Israelites had not learned to trust the Lord after witnessing all the great things the Lord had done for them.
The Lord was going to destroy the congregation and make another greater nation arise, but Moses interceded for the people. Moses told the Lord that if the Lord destroyed the people, Egypt and the surrounding people, knowing that the Lord was leading them, would say that the Lord was not able to bring his people into the land he swore to give them.

Moses acknowledged God’s great power, steadfast love and forgiveness, but also his righteous judgment, and asked the Lord to forgive his people according to his great love and his previous mercies. The Lord pardoned the people, and did not destroy them, but punished them by not allowing them to enter the Promised Land. Only Caleb (and Joshua) would be allowed to enter because they had a different spirit and had followed the Lord fully (obediently). The Lord instructed Moses to lead them into the wilderness.
Romans Paraphrase:

In spite of their advantage in relationship with the Lord, the Jews are no better than Gentiles, because all are sinners. None is righteous before God. “All have turned aside, together they have gone wrong” (Romans 3:12a). They deceive, curse, and murder. “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18). The Law refutes and silences mankind’s contradiction of the Law, so that the whole world may be held accountable to God. “For no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the Law, since through the Law comes knowledge of sin.

Matthew 19:1-12:

Jesus left Galilee and entered the region of Judea east of the Jordan River. Large crowds followed Jesus and he healed them. The Pharisees (religious leaders; legalists), tested Jesus by asking him whether divorce was lawful. Jesus answered them with scripture, showing that in marriage a man and woman become one, and saying that what God joins together man must not separate.

The Pharisees asked why Moses had allowed divorce, and Jesus replied that Moses permitted divorce because of the hardness of people’s hearts. Jesus declared that “whoever divorces his wife except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9). The disciples realized that it might be better to remain unmarried, but Jesus replied that not everyone can accept voluntary celibacy.

Commentary:

The history of God’s dealings with his people is also a parable of our life on this earth. The people had experienced their deliverance from slavery and death in Egypt and the many great things the Lord had done for them on their journey through the wilderness, and they had heard reports of the blessings of the Promised Land, but they were going to let a few giants (a few difficulties) keep them from following the Lord and entering the Promised Land. They exaggerated the difficulties, and they refused to believe that the Lord could help them overcome the difficulties (Numbers 14:8-9).

They could have been living in the Promised Land right then; all they had to do was follow the Lord. Instead, they wanted to “stone the prophets” who encouraged them to trust and obey God’s Word (Numbers 14:10), and they wanted to elect new leaders who would allow them to return to Egypt (Numbers 14:4). The Lord didn’t destroy them right then; he just banished them to the wilderness for the rest of their lives, and forbid them to enter the Promised Land. But Caleb and Joshua were different; they had a different Spirit and they followed the Lord obediently.

We are saved by grace (unmerited favor; free gift) through faith in Jesus; not by keeping the Law (Ephesians 2:8-9; see journal entry for yesterday). But faith in Jesus means trusting and obeying him (Matthew 7:21). The Law (indeed, the Word of God, the Bible) is given to refute and silence man’s contradiction of God’s will, so that the world may be held accountable to God. God’s purpose in giving the Law was to make mankind aware of sin.

The Jews had the advantage of being entrusted with God’s Word (Romans 3:2), but they were as guilty of sin (Romans 3:9) as the Gentiles (Pagans; non-Jews). No one will be saved by keeping the Law (Romans 3:20). Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Jesus is the one who can give us a new Spirit (Matthew 3:11), the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, to lead us and help us overcome the “giants.” Jesus gives the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit to those who follow him obediently (John 14:15-17;  Isaiah 42:5e).

Jesus’ teachings are not impossible or too difficult for us to follow. Indeed, Jesus’ commands (and God’s Word) were made in consideration of our weaknesses. God permits divorce although it is contrary to his will, and Jesus does not require celibacy. The Pharisees were misusing God’s Word. They wanted to make God’s Word more restrictive that God intended, and they wanted to attack and destroy Jesus, the Son of God, the Living Word (John 1:1, 14), with it.

Christians are the New Israel, the new People of God. Nominal Christians (those who claim to be “Christians”) are no better off than pagans. They have the scriptures, but they are as much under the power of sin as pagans. Real Christians are disciples of Jesus Christ. They are learning to obey all that Jesus taught (Matthew 28:18-20). Real Christians have been “born-again” (John3:3, 5-8) by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8). The Holy Spirit is the mark and guarantee that one belongs to Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). It is possible to know definitely for oneself, that one has received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2).

The people of Israel wanted to stone Caleb and Joshua for truly speaking God’s Word. They wanted to elect new leaders who would allow them to return to “Egypt,” the place where they were in bondage to sin and death. They wanted leaders who wouldn’t make them fight the “giants” of sin. The Pharisees wanted to crucify Jesus for truly proclaiming God’s Word. Paul said to Timothy, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

So, how are we doing? Living in the Promised Land begins when we are born-again. We will still have to fight a few giants, but the Lord will give us the victory. We just have to follow the Lord and enter and claim the promises.

Are we willing to listen to sound teaching, or do we have itching ears? Are we following leaders who truly proclaim God’s Word, or are we choosing leaders who will allow us to live in the “Egypt” of sin and death? Are we willing to face a few giants in the power and Spirit of the Lord, or do we long for the fleeting pleasures of sin in Egypt? Are we willing to enter and claim the Promised Land, or do we want to wander in the wilderness until we die eternally?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Week of 4 Pentecost – Even – 07/06 – 12/2014

July 5, 2014

Week of 4 Pentecost – Even

This Bible Study was originally published at:

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It is based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions p.179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.

The daily readings are according to a Calendar  based on the Church Year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent, usually sometime at the end of November in the year preceding the secular calendar year.

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Podcast Download: Week of 4 Pentecost – Even
Sunday 4 Pentecost – Even
First posted 06/26/04;
Podcast: Sunday 4 Pentecost – Even

Ecclesiastes 6:1-12 -   Insatiable desires;
Acts 10:9-23   -   Peter called to Cornelius;
Luke 12:32-40  –   Be ready!

Ecclesiastes Paraphrase:

What good are wealth, possessions and honor, if a person cannot enjoy them? These are all gifts of God; but it is also God who gives the ability to enjoy them. A person can live many years and have a large family and yet not enjoy his life, nor find rest in death. The teacher says that a miscarried baby, still-born, is better off. It has never seen the evils of this world, and yet finds rest. Though a person live for thousands of years, what good is long life without enjoyment? “Do not all go to the one place” (Ecclesiastes 6:6b)? All a person’s efforts are directed at satisfying his physical needs like food, but his appetites are never satisfied.

What advantage has the wise man over the fool? Both have the same needs and desires. What advantage have the poor who know how to beg? It is better to know what you need and have it at hand than to wander about trying to satisfy your desires. I

t is well-known that a man is not able to dispute with one who is stronger than he. More words don’t make a better argument. “Who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow” (Ecclesiastes  6:12a). Who can know what will happen after he is dead?

Acts Paraphrase:

Peter was staying at the home of Simon, a tanner, in Joppa. At noon (the Roman lunch hour) he went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry, but while waiting for lunch he fell into a trance and saw a vision of something like a great sheet let down by its four corners. It contained all sorts of animals, and a voice instructed Peter to kill and eat. But Peter objected, saying that he had never eaten any animals which were regarded as common (i.e., ritually unclean. Only certain animals were allowed for food, under Jewish Law.) The voice replied, “What God has cleansed you must not call common” (Acts 10:14). This dialog happened three times, and then the vision ended.

As Peter was trying to understand the vision he had seen, three men, sent by Cornelius, a Roman Centurion from Caesarea at the instruction of an angel, to bring Peter to him (Acts 10:1-8), arrived at the gate of the house and were asking for him. While Peter was pondering the vision, the Holy Spirit told Peter that the men were downstairs asking for him and that he should go down and accompany them without hesitation.

Peter went down and asked the reason for their coming, and was told that Cornelius was a God-fearing man who was highly regarded by all Jews, and that Cornelius had been told by an angel to seek Peter at this place and bring him to Cornelius. So Peter invited them to be his overnight guests (and went with them to Cornelius the next day).

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus told his disciples that God wants to give us eternal life in his kingdom of Heaven. Jesus advises us to let go of our material wealth and possessions so that we can accumulate the spiritual treasure which is eternal.  What we treasure will determine where our priorities are, and where we will spend eternity. Jesus also instructed his disciples to be alert and ready for the sudden, unexpected coming of the kingdom of God, so that they would not be unprepared.

Jesus used an image of the kingdom of God as the Messianic banquet, and compared it to a Jewish marriage feast. The disciples must be alert and prepared for the Lord whenever he returns. They will be blessed when the Lord returns, if he finds them awake and prepared. The Lord will return unexpectedly. Jesus used the illustration of the coming of a thief in the night as an example, saying that an owner’s house is broken into only because the owner didn’t know when the thief was coming and wasn’t prepared.

Commentary:

What is the meaning and purpose of life? Is the one with the most possessions when he dies really the winner? Is the one who “grabs the most gusto” really the winner? The teacher of Ecclesiastes says that pursuit of material wealth, possessions and worldly honor will never really satisfy, nor will we ever gratify our appetites and desires.

Is this really all there is? Is life meaningless, or are we the creation of God who has a definite plan and purpose? Do we all go to the same place when we die (Ecclesiastes 6:6b)? Who can know what happens to a person after he dies (Ecclesiastes 6:12b)? Is God stronger and wiser than man (Ecclesiastes 6:10)? God’s Word declares that we are eternal; that there is existence beyond our physical death. The issue is where we will spend that eternity.

I believe that the meaning and purpose of this life is to seek and come to a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ by the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 17:26-27). Wouldn’t it be better to know that now, so that we can set our sights on  eternity, than to waste this life pursuing things that don’t satisfy and are not eternal (Ecclesiastes 6:9). No matter how long we live in this world, it cannot compare with eternity.

God’s plan for our eternity offers two possibilities: eternal life in Heaven with God or eternal death and destruction in Hell with all evil (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10. Note that nothingness and reincarnation are not alternatives; Hebrews 9:27). Jesus is God’s only plan for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

Peter was Jesus’ disciple. He had been filled with the promised Holy Spirit (Acts Chapter 2). He had personal daily fellowship with the Lord in prayer and meditation on God’s Word. He was guided by and obedient to the Holy Spirit. Peter’s vision shows that it is not by works (keeping) of the Law, but a personal relationship with the Lord, in trust and obedience, by which we are saved. Peter was ready when the Lord directed Cornelius to send for him, and God was able to use him to present the Gospel and convert the first Gentile to Christ.

Jesus warns us not to pursue worldly wealth, possessions and honor, but instead to seek the eternal kingdom of God. If we live for the gratification of the flesh, what kind of eternity will we experience when the flesh, and the things that gratify it, no longer exist, if we lack everything needed for life in eternity? Jesus warns us that we need to prepare now for his coming, and to be awake and watchful, because no one knows when the Day of the Lord will come.

Are you ready for the Day of the Lord? Where is your treasure?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Monday 4 Pentecost – Even
First posted 06/27/04;
Podcast: Monday 4 Pentecost – Even

Ecclesiastes 7:1-14  -  Wisdom and folly;
Galatians 4:12-20   -   Truth spoken in love;
Matthew 15:21-28   -  The Canaanite woman;

Ecclesiastes Paraphrase:

A good reputation is better than medicine; a good reputation at the end of one’s life is better than at the beginning. Sorrow is more common than rejoicing, in this life. Sorrow develops character, but laughter doesn’t.  Those who are wise mourn the ways of the world; only fools rejoice in worldly ways.

It is better to be rebuked by the wise than to take pleasure in the song of fools. The laughter of fools is intense but not productive or enduring, like a fire made with thorns. Oppression renders wisdom useless, and a bribe corrupts sound judgment. Ending well is better than beginning well; patience produces better results than pride. Don’t become angry quickly; only a fool allows anger to be a permanent companion.

The belief that former days were better than the present is not based on rational facts. An inheritance is not much good to a fool, nor to one who doesn’t live long enough to enjoy it. Wisdom is as useful as money in protecting oneself. Who can restore what God destroys? God has provided for both prosperity and adversity in life; enjoy (and be thankful to God in) prosperity and trust God in adversity.

Galatians Paraphrase:

Paul urged the Galatians to join with Paul by following his example, as he had joined himself to them in order to present the Gospel. When Paul first came to them he was detained by a physical ailment (possibly of the eyes; see v. 15), and the Galatians took care of him, showing Paul special consideration as a messenger from God; as though showing hospitality to Jesus Christ himself. Paul asked what had happened to their feelings for him now; had Paul become their enemy by telling them the truth?

The Judaizers (false teachers who had arisen within the Galatian congregation, teaching that Gentile Christians had to keep the Jewish Laws) were flattering the Galatians and telling them what made the Galatians feel good, not in the Galatians best interest, but to promote the teachers’ own selfish interest. (In contrast, Paul had told the Galatians the truth in love in the Galatians’ best interest, although it made them feel bad hearing it.) Paul agreed that it is nice to be complimented and encouraged when the purpose is good (but consider the motive).

Paul considered the Galatians as his children in the Gospel, concerned that they grow up to spiritual maturity. He longed to be with them so that he could praise and encourage them as he saw them respond to his correction.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus went into the region of Tyre and Sidon (The Phoenician /Canaanite culture which Israel had displaced from the Promised Land), and encountered a Canaanite woman who, although a Gentile, addressed Jesus as Lord and Messiah (Son of David), and asked Jesus to heal her daughter of possession by a demon. Jesus didn’t acknowledge her, but she persisted, and the disciples begged Jesus to send her away, because she was annoying them.

Jesus told them that he had been sent to call the Jews back to God, but the woman came and knelt before him, calling him Lord, and asking for help for her daughter. Jesus told her it wasn’t fair to give what was intended for the children of Israel, to “dogs” (those less favored in God’s eyes, perhaps). The woman accepted what Jesus said, and yet persisted, pointing out that God provides for the “dogs,” allowing them to receive crumbs from their master’s table. Jesus commended her for her faith, and healed her daughter instantly at his word.

Commentary:

Wisdom is contrasted with folly. [Note that it is true, divine wisdom, the wisdom of God by which the world was created, that is referred to, not what the world falsely considers wisdom; see Proverbs 9:10; 1 Corinthians 1:18-24].  Ending well is better than beginning well (Ecclesiastes 7:1; 8). Patience produces better results than arrogance (Ecclesiastes 7:8). Rebuke by the wise is better than the flattery of a fool (Ecclesiastes 7:5).

Paul’s rebuke of the Galatians exemplifies the benefit of the rebuke of wisdom over the flattery of fools (Ecclesiastes 7:5). The Galatians had a choice; were they going to accept the painful rebuke of the truth from Paul to their eternal benefit, or were they going to seek the enjoyment of the false flattery of the Judaizers to their eternal detriment? Surely, we can enjoy a compliment, when the motive for it is good, but we must consider the motive.

Paul warned Timothy that the time would come when people would not endure sound teaching, but having “itching ears” they would get for themselves teachers to suit their own likings (who would tell them what they wanted to hear) and would turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Do we want to hear the truth, even if it is painful, or are we only willing to hear what makes us feel good? Believers are expected to grow in spiritual maturity.

The Canaanite woman is an illustration of patience triumphing over pride, and ending well over beginning well (Ecclesiastes 7:8). She addressed Jesus as Lord, and he referred to her as a “dog.” Would we have persisted with patience, responding with faith, or would we have taken offense because of pride?

Is it more important to be well-thought-of by this world, or to be commended by Jesus on the Day of Judgment? Those who seek to avoid all discomfort don’t develop character. Are we willing to hear the truth even if painful? Is living well right now worth losing eternal life in Heaven?

God wants us to inherit eternal life in Heaven. Will we squander that inheritance? Will we perish for our sins by refusing to accept Jesus as our Lord? Money can’t buy eternal life in heaven; trusting and obeying God’s wisdom in Jesus Christ can.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Tuesday 4 Pentecost – Even
First posted 06/28/04;
Podcast: Tuesday 4 Pentecost – Even

Ecclesiastes 8:14-9:10 -  Eat, drink, and be merry?
Galatians 4:21-31  -  Allegory of Hagar and Sarah;
Matthew 15:29-39  -  Feeding the four thousand;

Ecclesiastes Paraphrase:

The teacher notes that bad things happen to the righteous and good things happen to the wicked. The teacher commends enjoyment; to eat, drink and enjoy, balancing and sustaining one’s toil. The world is in constant activity; even though he may claim to, man cannot know all the work of God, no matter how hard he tries.

Everything seems meaningless, since all people seem to share the same fate; since righteous and wicked, good and evil, clean and unclean, religious and non-religious all die. Is God for us or against us?

The hearts of men are full of evil. As long as one lives there is hope, because one is aware that death is coming; once death comes one knows nothing, there is no further reward, and one is forgotten. Enjoy life according to God’s will. Do your work to the best of your ability, because if death is nothingness, there will be no enjoyment or work, wisdom or knowledge in the grave.

Galatians Paraphrase:

Paul uses an allegory of Hagar and Sarah to illustrate the two covenants: of Law, and of grace (unmerited favor; free gift) through faith. Abraham had a son, Isaac, by Abraham’s wife, Sarah, according to God’s promise, who would inherit God’s promise to Abraham. But Abraham also had a son, Ishmael, by Sarah’s slave, Hagar, born of the flesh.

Hagar represents the covenant of Mount Sinai (the giving of the Law to Moses), the earthly Jerusalem, bearing children for slavery. But Sarah represents the new covenant of grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and the New Jerusalem which is the kingdom of God in Heaven. Believers in Jesus are the children of the promise, like Isaac. The point is that those who rely upon the Law rather than faith in Jesus will be excluded from the promise, as Hagar and Ishmael were sent away into the wilderness.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus went into the hills beside the Sea of Galilee, and a great crowd came to him bringing many who were lame, crippled, blind, mute or otherwise in need of healing, and Jesus healed them all. The crowd was amazed and glorified God for the healings. They had been with Jesus for three days out in the countryside, and Jesus did not want to send them away before feeding them, concerned that they might be too weak from hunger.

His disciples didn’t know how they could feed so many, since there was nowhere to obtain food. Jesus asked, and the disciples told him that they had seven loaves of bread and a few small fish. Jesus had the crowd sit down, and he took the bread and fish, and having given thanks, broke them and had the disciples distribute the food to the crowd. They all ate and were satisfied, and collected seven baskets full of leftovers. The crowd was about four thousand people.

Commentary:

Is life “eat, drink and be merry; for tomorrow we die”? If there were no life beyond the grave, that would be valid. Don’t assume that the righteous and wicked both have the same fate because we do not see the wicked punished and the righteous rewarded in this life.

Before the coming of Jesus Christ, people weren’t able to know with certainty whether God is for us or against us (Ecclesiastes 9:1b RSV), but in Jesus Christ we can see that God loves us and wants us to live eternally with him (John 3:16-17). Before Jesus Christ, people weren’t able to know with certainty whether there was a resurrection and eternal life beyond the grave. There were over five hundred eyewitnesses to the risen Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:5-7) plus the testimony of countless “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) believers who have personally experienced the risen Jesus through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit since then, beginning with the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 15:8; known as Saul before his conversion: Acts 9:3-5).

Now is the time to seek a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. No one knows when one will die; only as long as we’re still alive do we have hope of coming to a personal saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Once we’re dead our eternal fate is sealed.

All have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; Ecclesiastes 9:3c). The penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23; Ecclesiastes 9:3e). There is a Day of Judgment coming when all will be accountable to God for what they have done in life (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46) Those who have trusted in Jesus will receive eternal life in Heaven with the Lord; those who have rejected Jesus and have refused to obey him will receive eternal death and destruction in Hell with all evil (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

God loves us and doesn’t want us to perish (John 3:16-17). Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation and reconciliation with God (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). We will not be saved by keeping the Law of Moses (Galatians 2:16); we will not be saved by being “good people.”

We are all sin-sick and in need of spiritual healing (Ecclesiastes 9:3c, Romans 3:23). All who come to Jesus in faith are healed (Matthew 15:30d). The whole fulness of deity dwells bodily in Jesus [Colossians 2: (8), 9]. We can know God the Father only through Jesus (Matthew 11:27c; John 14:9b).

Jesus cares about both our physical and spiritual needs. The Lord is able to provide abundantly, supernaturally, beyond the limitations of this present world. The image of the four thousand eating with the Lord on the hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee is an allegory of life now and eternally in Jesus Christ, although we must realize that life in this world is not just a “picnic” for believers. There are going to be persecutions, symbolized by the conflict between Isaac and Ishmael (Galatians 4:29). The best we can hope for now and eternally is to have fellowship with the Lord, and work in this life for the coming of his kingdom.

We don’t have to wait until we die to know for certain whether there is life after death. We don’t have to wait until we die to have personal fellowship with the Lord. In fact, if we wait until we die to have fellowship with the Lord, it will be too late!  We must come to Jesus and be born-again (filled with his Holy Spirit) now, in this lifetime. The Holy Spirit is the seal, the “down-payment” and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b,11,15-16). It is possible to know with certainty that one has received the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


Wednesday 4 Pentecost – Even
First posted 06/29/04;
Podcast: Wednesday 4 Pentecost – Even

Ecclesiastes 9:11-18  –   Life and wisdom;
Galatians 5:1-15  –   Christian freedom;
Matthew 16:1-12  –   True security;

Ecclesiastes Paraphrase:

“The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11). Man doesn’t know when evil may befall him. He is like a fish caught in a net or a bird caught in a snare; it falls suddenly on him.

The teacher (“Preacher;” author of Ecclesiastes) gave an example of how the wisdom of the poor is not properly valued. He asks us to visualize a small city with few men besieged by a great king with a mighty army. A poor man of the city thought of a way which saved the city from the siege, yet he was forgotten. Brain is better than brawn, but the world tends to value social status more than wisdom. Wise words spoken calmly are better than shouting of a leader among fools. “Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good” (Ecclesiastes 9:18).

Galatians Paraphrase:

Christ has set us free from slavery to the Law of Moses; let us be careful not to become re-enslaved. Believers who seek to be justified (made right with God) by keeping the Law of Moses remove themselves from the salvation which is only by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus. Christians who would enter into the covenant of Law [circumcision is the mark (seal) of that covenant] cut themselves off from Christ. Those who seek justification by works (keeping) of the Law have fallen away from grace (free gift; unmerited favor). In Christ Jesus, faith working through love is what matters, not whether one is circumcised or not.

The Galatians had been growing well spiritually, but false teachers had interfered and hindered their progress. “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9). False teachers will be punished on the Day of Judgment. Paul says that if he were preaching circumcision (justification by keeping the Law), the world would not be inclined to persecute him as it was; the Gospel of the Cross of Christ is offensive to the world.

Paul sees circumcision, the mark of the Covenant of Law, as spiritual mutilation, and wishes those who were attempting to mutilate his beloved believers would instead “mutilate” themselves. God has called us to freedom through Christ, but we are not to use that freedom to indulge our sinful human nature. Instead we are to use that freedom to serve one another in love. The whole Law can be summed up in one word: Love; we are to love others as we love ourselves. If we attack and destroy others, we can expect to receive the same.

Matthew Paraphrase:

The Pharisees and Saducees (religious leaders) came to Jesus and asked for a sign (that Jesus was from God) to test him. Jesus replied that they knew how to predict the weather from the appearance of the sky, but apparently could not interpret the signs of the times (the miracles Jesus was doing openly; see Matthew 12:9-14). Jesus said that it is an evil and unfaithful generation which seeks “proof” (in addition to the signs that are all around them), but no sign will be given but the sign of Jonah. (Jonah was the prophet who was swallowed by a whale, and after three days in the belly of the whale, was restored).

Jesus and the disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee, and on the other side the disciples were worried because they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus told the disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Saducees. The disciples thought Jesus was talking about bread. Jesus was aware of this, and asked them why they were worried about their lack of bread. Didn’t they remember how Jesus had fed the five thousand and the four thousand, and how they had more bread than they needed? The disciples had not recognized that Jesus was not talking about bread but about the teachings of the Pharisees and Saducees.

Commentary:

The world claims to value wisdom, but the wisdom of the world is false wisdom. True wisdom is the divine wisdom by which God created the world (Proverbs 9:10; 1 Corinthians 1:18-24). Sin is what perverts the world. The Law was given to show that the worldly system of works is deceptive.

No one is made righteous by keeping the Law, because no one is able to keep the Law (Galatians 2:16; 2:10). All have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23). Jesus is the fulfillment of the parable of the wisdom of the poor man (Jesus was not wealthy, successful or powerful by this world’s standards) which saves the world from destruction by God, but whose wisdom is not valued or heeded by the world.

The Gospel of Jesus seems like foolishness to the world (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). The world thinks that reward according to works is fair and wise, but that is not how it works out in life. Because of sin, the world is in slavery to sin and death. Leaven is a symbol for sin, because in a sense it results from a process of putrefaction, and because it permeates whatever it comes in contact with (Ecclesiastes 9:18b; Galatians 5:9; Matthew 16:6). God’s plan is based on love, and is given as a free gift received by faith in Jesus Christ. Christ has set us free from bondage to sin and death. The world opposes the Gospel of Christ because the Gospel contradicts the world’s ways.

The religious leaders wanted Jesus to do some “work” to prove to them that he was the Messiah. Jesus’ works were all around them (Matthew 15:29-31), but the Pharisees and Sadducees did not receive them with faith. Jesus died on the cross, was in the tomb, and rose again on the third day (as Jonah had been in the belly of the whale three days), and many still would not believe.

The Pharisees and Saducees relied on their keeping of the Law and considered themselves righteous, thus missing the free gift which is only through faith in Jesus Christ. The sin of the Pharisees and Saducees was unbelief in Jesus (John 3:18). They valued the world’s false wisdom, and rejected Jesus, who is the wisdom of God. The disciples’ worry over material necessities like bread interfered with their ability to hear Jesus’ message, because they were focused on their own provisions for their security, rather than depending on Jesus.

Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our salvation and reconciliation with God (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Are we going to accept God’s free gift and plan of salvation, or are we going to try to earn salvation by following the worldly system? Are we going to follow worldly wisdom or are we going to follow Jesus Christ, the power and wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24)? Are our attempts to provide for our own security interfering with our ability to hear and respond to Jesus’ message?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Thursday 4 Pentecost – Even
First posted 06/30/04;
Podcast: Thursday 4 Pentecost – Even

Ecclesiastes 11:1-8  -  Life’s uncertainties;
Galatians 5:16-24  -  Walk by the Spirit;
Matthew 16:13-20  -  Peter’s Confession;

Ecclesiastes Paraphrase:

Don’t be afraid to take risks (“Cast your ‘bread…’” i.e., your life, livelihood; eventually you will have a return; Ecclesiastes 11:1). Diversify your investments to spread and minimize your risks (Ecclesiastes 11:2). What happens, happens; man cannot do anything about it (Ecclesiastes 11:3). A person must go ahead with one’s life and act, without waiting for ideal conditions.

We do not have to understand the mysteries of God and his works. There are lots of things in daily life we don’t need to fully understand to accept, like the wind, or when life begins in the womb. Do what needs to be done during the day; you cannot tell in advance what will prosper and what will fail. “Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to behold the sun” (Ecclesiastes 11:7). Rejoice in all the days of your life, but remember that there will be many days of darkness.

Galatians Paraphrase:

Believers are to live by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and not to gratify their human urges. Our natural human desires are contrary to the desires of God’s Spirit, and the will and guidance of the Holy Spirit is in opposition to our human nature, to keep us from following our natural inclinations.

Those who are led by the Spirit are not under the covenant of Law. Examples of works of the flesh are: immorality,  impurity (of thought or action) licentiousness (lawlessness, lewdness), idolatry, sorcery, enmity (hatred), strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, “party spirit” (schismatic factionalism; heresies; partisanship), envy, drunkenness, carousing, and similar works. Those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22). No law is necessary to restrain such deeds.

Those who belong to Christ have sacrificed their human passions and desires as Christ gave up his human life as a sacrifice for our sins. If we have life, now and eternally, by the indwelling Holy Spirit, let us live according to the will and direction of the Holy Spirit. Believers are to abstain from self-conceit, and from provoking or envying one another.

Matthew Paraphrase:

In Caesarea Philippi (on the northern border of Galilee) Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of man (i.e., Jesus) is” (Matthew 16:13b) The disciples said that some were saying that Jesus was John the Baptizer, some said Elijah, and others thought he was Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Then Jesus asked them, “But who do you say that I am” (Matthew 16:15). Simon (Peter) replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).

Jesus answered, “Blessed are you, Simon (Peter’s personal, ‘given’ name) Bar-Jona (which means ‘son of John;’ his surname)! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are (henceforth to be called) Peter [in Greek, ‘Petros;’ in Aramaic, ‘Kepha’ (thus 'Cephas'; compare 1 Corinthians 15:5; Galatians 2:9). This involves a play on words in the original Aramaic which Jesus spoke, which was preserved in the Greek in which the New Testament was originally written], and on this rock (Greek: ‘petra;’ Aramaic: ‘kepha’) I will build my church and the powers of death (the gates of Hades) will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:17). Jesus declared, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind (forbid) on earth shall be bound (forbidden) in heaven, and whatever you loose (permit) on earth shall be loosed (permitted) in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). Jesus strictly instructed his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

We don’t have to understand the mysteries of God in order to believe that God exists and that all things are in his control. There are lots of things in everyday experience that we accept without fully understanding, and which we cannot personally control. We experience the wind, even if we can’t see it or know how it works.

We cannot see God, but we can come to know God through Jesus Christ, and we can experience the Holy Spirit, even though we cannot see him, or understand the mystery of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). We cannot see Jesus now in this world, but we can come to know him through the Bible and we can have a personal relationship with him and with God the Father through the indwelling Holy Spirit. The crucial question each of us must decide for ourselves is who we believe that Jesus is (Matthew 16:15).

Jesus didn’t declare that he was the Son of God [he referred to himself as the "Son of man" (Matthew 16:13). Jesus was both son of man (mankind) by Mary, and Son of God by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20-23; Luke 1:34-35). This name allows each individual to reach their own conclusion, but it alludes to the messianic figure of the Son of man in Daniel 7:13 (and Revelation 1:13, 14:14)], and he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone he was the Christ (Matthew 16:20) because each one of us must decide that for ourselves.

It is futile to attempt to reach the decision by starting with a consideration of whether God exists. Only through Jesus can we know God the Father (Matthew 11:27; Luke 10:22). The place to start to make that decision about Jesus is to get to know Jesus by reading the Bible. Those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, will trust and obey Jesus, and will receive the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which Jesus has promised to give to his disciples (John 14:15-17). Only through Jesus can we receive the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16). The Holy Spirit is the “down payment” and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b,11,15-16)

The only real control anyone has over their destiny is the decision to trust or reject Jesus. If we are trusting in Jesus and living according to the will and guidance of the Holy Spirit, we don’t have to worry about how our destiny will turn out. In life, believers have successes and failures, rejoicing and sorrow, but we have the comfort and assurance of the Holy Spirit. We can know with certainty that we are in harmony with God’s will and purpose, and that we will live eternally with him in Heaven. If we reject Jesus, or if we choose not to decide, we may think we can control our own destiny, but that is a delusion.

Who do you say that Jesus is? Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


Friday 4 Pentecost – Even

First posted 07/01/04;
Podcast: Friday 4 Pentecost – Even

Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:14  -  Fear God and keep his commandments;
Galatians 5:25-6:10  -  Live according to the Holy Spirit;
Matthew 16:21-28  -  On Discipleship;

Ecclesiastes Paraphrase:

Enjoy youth while you can, but remember that you will be accountable to God for all that you do. Remember your creator (and seek forgiveness and reconciliation) while you are young, before bad things happen, and before old age, when your physical and mental abilities are impaired, and before death comes.

The author described his intention to present knowledge and truth by studying and arranging proverbs with care. They are the collected sayings of “one Shepherd” (or teacher; Ecclesiastes 12:11). Their usefulness is in their application. Be careful about seeking alternate advice. Finally, all wisdom distills to this: “Fear God, and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man(kind). For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

Galatians Paraphrase:

If we have life, now and eternally, by the indwelling Holy Spirit, let us live according to the will and direction of the Holy Spirit. Believers are to abstain from self-conceit, and from provoking or envying one another. If a person yields to temptation, those who are spiritual should restore him with gentleness, remembering that we are all vulnerable to temptation. We are to love and care for the wellbeing of one another. Let us not be conceited; instead let us examine ourselves honestly to test and correct ourselves, rather than comparing ourselves with others. We will each be accountable for our own deeds.

Ministers and teachers are to be provided with support by the Church. Don’t think that God can be fooled. We will reap what we sow: If we live to gratify our flesh, we will die eternally in our flesh in Hell. But those who live in accordance with the will and guidance of the Holy Spirit will receive eternal life in Heaven. Don’t get tired of doing what is right, or expect an immediate reward; we will eventually receive our reward, if we don’t give up. “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).

Matthew Paraphrase:

Once Jesus was satisfied that his disciples understood that he was the Messiah (Matthew 16:13-20), he began to teach them that it was necessary for him to be crucified and that on the third day he would be raised from the dead. Peter objected, vowing not to let that happen to Jesus, but Jesus rebuked Peter, telling him that he was taking Satan’s side in opposition to God’s will, and hindering Jesus. Jesus told his disciples that each of his followers must be willing to follow Jesus’ example of giving up his own will and becoming obedient to God’s will to the point of physical death.

Those who love their lives in this world and are unwilling to give them up to follow Jesus will eventually die eternally, having lost the opportunity for eternal life. But those who are willing to give up their lives in this world in order to follow Jesus will live eternally with him in Heaven.

Would one be willing to trade eternal life in Heaven even for everything in this world? Would one be willing to give everything he possesses to obtain eternal life in Heaven?

Jesus is going to return to judge and repay everyone who has ever lived according to what they have done in life. Jesus declared that some will still be living when Jesus returns on the Day of Judgment.

Commentary:

Now is the time to seek forgiveness and reconciliation with the Lord. There is a Day of Judgment coming, and everyone will be personally accountable to God for everything each has done individually. All wisdom distills to this: Fear God and obey him; this is our duty as his creation. God’s will for us is to trust and obey Jesus (Matthew 17:5 RSV). Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and reconciliation with God (Acts 4:12; John 14:6).

God’s Word is intended to prod us to self-examination and correction (Ecclesiastes 12:11). Be careful about seeking alternative advice! The world offers lots of books other than the Bible. The world has lots of alternate opinions about ways to come to God. The world offers lots of alternative teachers. But there is only one true, Good Shepherd: Jesus Christ!

We must be obedient to Jesus Christ in order to be filled with the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17). God does not give his Holy Spirit to those who do not obey him (Isaiah 42:5d). The Holy Spirit is given to disciples of Jesus Christ so that we can live according to the will and direction of the Holy Spirit. Those who do not have the Spirit of Christ do not belong to Jesus (Romans 8:9b). We are to examine ourselves: Are we living in faith and obedience to Jesus Christ? Have we received the Holy Spirit since we first believed (Acts 19:2)?

Have you come to know that Jesus is the Christ, our Lord and Savior? Are you Jesus’ disciple? Are you surrendering your will and obeying Jesus daily? Are you joining with Jesus in following, in obedience, God’s will and plan to redeem the world, or are you working for the opposition? Are you willing to trade the things of this world for eternal life in Heaven with the Lord?


Saturday 4 Pentecost – Even

First posted 07/02/04;
Podcast: Saturday 4 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 3:1-13  -  Levites set apart to serve;
Galatians 6:11-18  -  The marks of Jesus;
Matthew 17:1-13  -  Transfiguration;

Numbers Paraphrase:

Aaron (the first High Priest of Israel) had four sons: Nadab, the first born, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. Nadab and Abihu were slain by the Lord when they offered unholy fire, and they had no children to inherit their office. Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests during Aaron’s lifetime.

The Lord instructed Moses to set apart the whole tribe of Levi for service in the priesthood. They were to assist the High Priests, but the High Priestly duties (at the altar) were reserved for Aaron and his descendents. The Levites were set aside for religious service, replacing the former practice of inducting every firstborn into religious service.

Galatians Paraphrase:

Paul wrote a postscript to the Galatians in his own handwriting. Paul said that those (the “circumcision party;” Galatians 2:12 RSV; Judaizers)  in the church who were insisting that Christians must keep the Jewish Laws, of which circumcision was the mark (seal), wanted to make a good showing in the flesh (they wanted to look “spiritual” in the eyes of men).

Those who advocate circumcision (legalism) do not themselves keep the law (no one can; Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:8-9; Galatians 2:16, 21). The legalists are rejoicing in the flesh (of those they persuade to submit to legalism) whereas Paul’s satisfaction and rejoicing is in the Cross. The mark of circumcision is of no benefit in freeing us from bondage to sin and death (Galatians 5:2-4); it is Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross that frees us and makes it possible to be re-born into a new creation. Paul offers a personal example: he is not threatened by challenges from legalists because he bears on his body the mark of Jesus.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus took Peter, James and John up a high mountain by themselves, and Jesus was transfigured in their presence; his face became radiant like the sun and his garments glowed. The three disciples saw Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus. Peter spoke to Jesus suggesting that Peter build three booths, one each for Jesus, Moses and Elijah, if Jesus approved.

Before Peter finished speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them and they heard a voice saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17:5). The disciples fell on their faces in awe when they heard this voice, but Jesus came and touched them and told them to get up and not be afraid. When they opened their eyes, Moses and Elijah were no longer visible.

As they came down from the mountain, Jesus told them to “tell no one the vision until after the Son of man is raised from the dead” (Matthew 17:9). The disciples asked Jesus why the scribes say that Elijah must come (before the Messiah). Jesus said that according to scripture Elijah does come to turn Israel back to God before the Messiah appears, and that Elijah had come but the religious authorities had not recognized him, and had done as they pleased. Jesus said that the Son of man (Jesus) would also suffer (similarly) at their hands. The disciples understood that Jesus was referring to John the Baptizer.

Commentary:

Nadab and Abihu inherited the office of priest from their father, and Nadab, as the firstborn had a double inheritance in the religion of Israel, since under the old tradition every firstborn was to be set apart for lifelong religious service to God. But God is not interested in preserving religious tradition. God is concerned with the attitudes of our heart and our obedience to his Word. Nadab and Abihu were using their position for selfish and unholy purposes, so God removed them and gave their inheritance to others.

The Judaizers in the Galatian congregation were trying to preserve the old Jewish religious traditions. They were using their religion to make themselves look righteous. They weren’t interested in being disciples of Jesus Christ. They weren’t seeking God’s will.

God wants a change of heart-attitude. God wants us to be reborn by the indwelling Holy Spirit. God wants us to use our religious inheritance to serve him in obedience and holiness; not to further our own selfish ambitions, nor to make ourselves look righteous in the eyes of the world.

Paul (Saul of Tarsus) bore in his body the mark of Jesus: a changed life as a result of his Damascus Road encounter with the risen Jesus (Acts  Chapter 9). Paul did a 180 degree change from a leading persecutor of Christians to the original, archetypal, modern, post-resurrection, born-again (John 3:3, 5-8) Christian (Acts 11:26c). Paul bore in his body the marks of beatings, stoning, persecutions, imprisonments, shipwreck and deprivations for the Gospel (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit, which is the mark which guarantees that he belongs to Christ, and that he has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

Peter, James and John were chosen to accompany Jesus to witness the transfiguration. Jesus became radiant, like Moses had appeared to the people after he had been in God’s presence (Exodus 34:29-35), but more intensely. (Perhaps, in Jesus’ transfiguration, Jesus’ whole body glowed so intensely that the light shone through his clothes, causing his garments to appear to glow.) The bright cloud overshadowed them (the visible manifestation of God; see Exodus 24:16; 13:21) like the cloud that descended on Mt. Sinai when Moses received the Ten Commandments. Moses and Elijah appeared and talked with Jesus.

Peter was going to build three booths, “tabernacles,” to honor Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, but the voice of God from the cloud told them that Jesus was God’s beloved Son; they were to listen to him. Peter was enthusiastic to build “tabernacles” to the old religious tradition, represented by Moses and Elijah, but Jesus is the new and better way.

Jesus is the fulfillment of the old religious tradition. From that point on, relationship with God is through faith in, and obedience to Jesus, not through following the old religious traditions. (The Jewish religious leaders in Jesus’ lifetime were interested in preserving religious tradition. The Jewish religion effectively came to an end at the Cross (Matthew 27:51; Luke 23:45; See entries for Holy Week – even year).

So, how are we doing? Are we glorifying and serving Jesus as our Lord and Savior, or are we glorifying and serving ourselves? Are we rejoicing in the Cross of Christ, or are we rejoicing in our flesh? Are we building the body of Christ, or are we building monuments to old religious traditions? Are we being transformed (Romans 12:2)? Do we bear the marks of Jesus in our body?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Week of 3 Pentecost – Even – 06/29 – 07/05/14

June 28, 2014

Week of 3 Pentecost – Even

This Bible Study was originally published at:

http://shepherdboy.journalspace.com/, (now defunct).

It is based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions p.179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.

The daily readings are according to a Calendar  based on the Church Year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent, usually sometime at the end of November in the year preceding the secular calendar year.

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Podcast Download: Week of 3 Pentecost – Even
Sunday 3 Pentecost – Even
First Posted
Podcast: Sunday 3 Pentecost – Even

Ecclesiastes 1:1-11  -  All is vanity;
Acts 8:26-40  -  Philip converts the Ethiopian;
Luke 11:1-13  -  Teachings on prayer;

Ecclesiastes Paraphrase:

The author is nominally (Ecclesiastes 1:1b) and traditionally regarded as Solomon, the son of David. The author’s thesis is that everything in the world is fleeting and unsubstantial. Everything is in constant motion, but nothing ever really changes. Man labors but his work is never finished.

Generations come and go. Rivers run to the sea, but the sea never becomes full and the rivers never run dry. The eye does not become sated with seeing or the ear filled with hearing. The same things happen over and over. Nothing is truly new; everything has happened before. The things of old are forgotten; so also the things that will happen in the future will also be forgotten.

Acts Paraphrase:

The Lord directed Philip to travel a desert road from Jerusalem to Gaza. As Philip went, he encountered an Ethiopian eunuch who was an administrator of the treasury of Candace, Queen of Ethiopia. The Ethiopian man had come to Jerusalem to worship, and was returning. He was seated in his chariot and was reading the prophet Isaiah (aloud, as was the ancient practice) Philip heard him and asked him if he understood what he was reading. The man said that he needed someone to guide him, and invited Philip to join him in the chariot.

The passage he was reading was Isaiah 53:7-8: “As a sheep led to the slaughter or a lamb before its shearer is dumb, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken up from the earth” (compare Matthew 27:12-14). The Ethiopian asked Philip to whom the passage referred. Philip thus had an opportunity to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

They passed by some water, and the eunuch asked Philip to baptize him. They both went into the water and Philip baptized the Ethiopian. “And when they came out of the water, the Spirit caught up Philip; the Eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found in Azotus” (Acts 8:39). Philip continued northward along the coast, preaching the Gospel in every town until he reached Caesarea.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus had been praying, and when he finished, his disciples asked him to teach them to pray, since John the Baptizer had also taught John’s disciples to pray. Jesus gave them what is known as the Lord’s Prayer (see also Matthew 6:9-13). It is notable for its simplicity, with no fancy phrases or excess verbiage. It acknowledges God as our Father, reverences him as holy, submits to his will, asks for our daily physical need on a day-by-day basis, for forgiveness of sin, and for protection from evil.

Jesus used a parable to teach his disciples about prayer. He asked the disciples to imagine that they had unexpected company who arrived in the middle of the night. They would ask a neighbor to loan them bread, but the neighbor would be in bed and unwilling to be bothered to get up and loan them bread. Even so, the neighbor would eventually comply if the borrower persisted, just to end the disturbance.

Jesus told his disciples “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you” (Luke 11:10), assuring them that their diligence would be rewarded. Although sinful, human parents generally want to give their children what is good. Won’t our heavenly Father, who alone is truly good, give us good gifts that we truly need if we ask, especially the gift of the Holy Spirit?

Commentary:

The word translated “Preacher” implies a “teacher” or “lecturer” rather than a specifically religious speaker; the message seems more philosophical, rather than spiritual. The author seems to be attempting to answer, or to at least ask, the question of the meaning and purpose of life.

The Bible, and specifically the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is the answer. I believe that the answer can be summed up in Acts 17:26-27: “And he (God) made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us.” I am utterly convinced from God’s Word and personal experience that the central purpose for our life on this earth is to come to a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, by his indwelling Holy Spirit, so that we can live eternally with him in Heaven.

The Ethiopian sought God by reading the Scriptures. A born-again disciple, Philip was led by the Holy Spirit to encounter the Ethiopian as he read the Scriptures on a deserted, lonely road. Philip was available to explain the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the Ethiopian asked for guidance. Water was available, and the Ethiopian requested baptism.

In obedience to the Holy Spirit, Philip took a trip down a lonely road. Philip couldn’t have seen any purpose for the trip at the outset, but he went in trust and obedience, and it led to great opportunities for ministry.

Jesus promised that if we ask we will receive, if we seek we will find, if we knock it will be opened to us. God wants us to come to a personal relationship with him. God wants to give us his indwelling Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13). God wants us to be led by his Holy Spirit so that we can resist temptation (Luke 11:4c), be delivered from evil (Matthew 7:13b), and so that we can present the Gospel and lead others to Jesus and eternal life.

The meaning and purpose of life is not to see who can accumulate the most stuff before we die, or to “grab all the gusto.” God is not far from us, even if we seem to be in the most isolated and lonely place imaginable; all we have to do is ask, seek, and knock, in faith in Jesus.

The Lord’s Prayer is really “The Disciples’ Prayer;” it was given to Jesus’ disciples. Prayer doesn’t depend on our eloquence or our worthiness, but upon our faith (obedient trust) in God through Jesus Christ. Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation and the only way to have fellowship with and access to God (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see Conditions for Answered Prayer, sidebar, top right, home).

The Lord of Life is very near to each one of us. All we need to do is to invite Jesus into our hearts and our lives. Have you invited Jesus to be your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Monday 3 Pentecost – Even 
First posted 06/20/04;
Podcast: Monday 3 Pentecost – Even

Ecclesiastes 2:1-15  -  All is vanity;
Galatians 1:1-17  -  Not man’s Gospel; but God’s;
Matthew 13:44-52 -   Parables of the Kingdom;

Ecclesiastes Paraphrase:

The authorship of Ecclesiastes (the “teacher”) is attributed to King Solomon, the son of David (Ecclesiastes 1:1b). The author says that he has tried to find meaning and purpose in life by pursuing pleasure, but found himself empty and unfulfilled. Although his pursuit of meaning was guided by wisdom, he experimented with foolishness to see if he might find fulfillment there.

He created great works: houses, vineyards, gardens and parks and pools. He tried owning and breeding slaves. He had large flocks and herds. He accumulated silver and gold. He was a patron of music. He gathered a harem. He had great wisdom and he had every pleasure imaginable by man; he received momentary pleasure from all that he did, but he found that all was empty and meaningless; there was no enduring value.

Wisdom is preferable to folly. The wise person sees what is happening, while the fool proceeds in ignorance; yet ultimately they both suffer the same fate. Both the wise and the foolish die and are soon forgotten.

Galatians Paraphrase:

Paul’s apostleship was not conferred by men or through men, but by God through Jesus Christ. The essence of the Gospel is that Jesus died as a sacrifice to pay for our sins and deliver us, by the plan and will of God our Father, from being condemned along with the present evil age.

There is only one Gospel of Jesus Christ, which was attested to by the Apostles and recorded in the Bible. Almost immediately after the birth of the Church false teachings were arising, perverting the Gospel of Christ. Paul warns believers not to deviate from the sound doctrine of the true Gospel as taught by the Apostles and recorded in the Bible, and Paul pronounced a solemn curse on false teachers who pervert the true Gospel.

Paul had been commissioned by God to proclaim the Gospel (Galatians 1:1; compare 1 Thessalonians 2:4) and Paul’s duty was to please God, rather than men. The Gospel is not something devised by men, and it wasn’t taught or entrusted to Paul by men. Paul received the Gospel by revelation from Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit at the time of Paul’s conversion (Acts 9:1-22).

Paul testified that he had been zealous for Judaism and had persecuted Christianity. But God called Paul to preach the Gospel even though Paul was not worthy by his own merit; and God revealed God’s Son, the risen Jesus Christ, to Paul so that Paul might preach the Gospel of Christ to the Gentiles (non-Jews). Paul testified that he followed the leading of the Holy Spirit and went as a Christian missionary to Arabia without human training and without consulting with Church leaders in Jerusalem or any human advisors.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to a field which contained buried treasure. A person, on discovering the treasure, sold all that he had, to obtain the field, but in the process, of course, he gained the treasure. The kingdom of heaven is also like a pearl of tremendous value. A merchant gladly gave all that he had to obtain what was truly valuable beyond calculation.

The kingdom of heaven is also a selection process like fishing with a huge net. On the Day of Judgment everyone will be accountable to God for what each has done in life. The good will be kept; the bad destroyed. Jesus declared that his Gospel does not negate the Old Covenant experience and insight of Judaism, but that these are to be interpreted in the light of the Gospel of the New Covenant of Grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

Commentary:

No worldly pursuit ultimately satisfies. I am convinced that the meaning and purpose of life is to seek a relationship with God: “And he (God) made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26-27). Human, worldly wisdom may assert that death is nothingness, but God’s Word declares that we were created as eternal beings to have fellowship with our creator. Because of sin we were condemned to eternal death and separation from God (Genesis 2:16-17; Romans 3:23, 6:23; John 5:28-29).

God’s Word declares that there will be a Day of Judgment when all who have ever lived will be accountable to God; those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus Christ will receive eternal life in heaven with him, but those who have rejected Jesus and have refused to obey him will receive eternal death and destruction in the Hell of fire with all evil (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our salvation and the only way to restored fellowship with God (Acts 4:12; John 14:6).

The true apostolic, scriptural Gospel of Jesus Christ is God’s only plan for our salvation. Every other religion and every deviation from that Gospel is a creation from the imagination of mankind (and inspired by demons). Paul’s testimony independently confirms the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the true and only plan of God.

Paul didn’t know Jesus during Jesus’ earthly ministry. Paul encountered the Spirit of the risen Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts Chapter 9) only after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven (Acts Chapter 1). Paul accurately proclaimed the Gospel through the revelation by the Holy Spirit, without having been taught it by Jesus during Jesus’ earthly ministry, or by Jesus’ disciples. Paul had been educated in Judaism, and he was quick to interpret the treasures of the old covenant in the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Matthew 13:52).

What momentary gratification could possibly be worth an eternity of burning to death, weeping and gnashing teeth (Matthew 13:50)? At the end of our lives the good experiences will all be behind us, and every material thing we’ve accumulated will go to someone else.

Would we be willing to give up what we cannot take with us to avoid an eternity of Hell; to avoid a living death and eternal misery, separated from all goodness and love? Would we be willing to give up what we cannot take with us to spend eternity in paradise in the kingdom of Heaven, in fellowship with our Lord? Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is confirmation that there is life beyond the grave.

Have you encountered the risen Jesus? Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Tuesday 3 Pentecost – Even 
First posted 06/19/04;
Podcast: Tuesday 3 Pentecost – Even

Ecclesiastes 2:16-26 -  Death steals the fruit of wisdom and labor;
Galatians 1:18-2:10 -  Paul and the Church at Jerusalem;
Matthew 13:53-58  -  A prophet in his own country;

Ecclesiastes Paraphrase:

Solomon realized that because of death, a person must leave all that he accomplishes and accumulates to someone who comes after him. Since enjoyment in the moment is the only benefit people can have, others unfairly enjoy what we have labored and sacrificed to get. The only possible enjoyment a person can have is to have pleasure in eating and drinking and in his labor.

But Solomon saw that whether a person can have enjoyment in these basic things is up to God. God gives wisdom, knowledge and joy to those who please God, but those who do not please God are given the work of gathering and accumulating, only to leave their accumulation to someone who does please God.

Galatians Paraphrase:

Paul testified that he received the true, accurate, apostolic (as proclaimed by the apostles), scriptural (as recorded in the Bible) Gospel of Jesus Christ independently by revelation by the Holy Spirit, without having known Jesus during Jesus’ earthly ministry (i.e., before his Resurrection and ascension) and without having been taught it by Jesus’ disciples. (See Galatians 1:1; 11-17). Paul was led by the Holy Spirit to go as a Christian missionary to the Gentiles, without consulting with Jesus’ disciples, the Church authorities, or any other humans.

After three years of preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles, Paul did go to Jerusalem to visit Cephas (Aramaic equivalent of “Peter;” the name given Peter by the Lord; see Matthew 16:18) for fifteen days, but saw none of the other disciples except James, the Lord’s brother). Then Paul went to Syria and Cilicia (a Gentile region; between Galilee and Asia Minor).  No other Judean Christians had seen Paul, although they had heard of him because of his remarkable conversion from persecutor of Christians to leading Christian missionary to the Gentiles.

Paul returned to Jerusalem fourteen years later with Barnabas and Titus. Paul testified that he went by the direction of the Holy Spirit, and he met with the Church leaders in Jerusalem and laid out his presentation of the Gospel for their confirmation.

There was some controversy stirred up by “Judaizers,” a faction which believed that Christians must adopt the practices of Jewish Law, but the Church Council at Jerusalem validated Paul’s teaching by not requiring Titus, a Greek, to be circumcised (the binding act of committment to the Old Covenant of Law). Paul vigorously contended against factions within the Church which were attempting to modify the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ by adding human-conceived requirements such as the conformance to Jewish Law.

Paul did not receive any new understanding of the Gospel from Christian Leaders in Jerusalem, even though they were of great reputation among the Church. Instead, these highly regarded leaders acknowledged that Paul’s apostleship was as authentic and valid as Peter’s, and that the same Holy Spirit was working through each. (Paul also notes that God is not moved by human fame or reputation, but judges all people impartially). Peter, James and John, (Jesus’ inner circle; the three that accompanied Jesus to the mount of Transfiguration; Matthew 17:1), the three principal leaders of the Church, formally commissioned Paul to continue his ministry to the Gentiles, requesting only that Paul might remember the needs of the poor.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus returned to his home region, and he taught in his local synagogue. The people were astonished at his teaching, his wisdom and his works, because they thought they knew Jesus’ background and his parentage, and were offended by his teaching. Jesus told them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house” (Matthew 13:57b). Jesus did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.

Commentary:

Solomon was the wisest, the richest, and one of the most powerful people who had ever lived up to that time, but he recognized that without God, life is futile and empty. We can pursue enjoyment, but apart from the Lord we cannot achieve it more than momentarily. The Lord determines who lives and for how long.

Paul’s remarkable testimony is independent authentication of the Apostolic, Biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is confirmation that the same Holy Spirit who was at work in Peter and the other apostles was working through Paul. It is an example of the faithful efforts of the apostles to preserve the purity of the true Gospel from those who wanted to change and distort the Gospel.

Note that the “baptism”(“anointing”) with the indwelling Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16), under the New Covenant of Grace through faith  (obedient trust) in Jesus, as circumcision was the mark of the Old Covenant of the Law of Moses.

Paul is the prototype of every “modern” Christian: all Christians who have come to faith in Jesus Christ since Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension.  Paul’s testimony is the illustration of how revelation by the Holy Spirit is to be authenticated by the entire Biblical record, from the perspective of the apostolic testimony recorded in the New Testament. In other words, the testimony of the Apostles, including Paul, recorded in the New Testament scriptures is what keeps us from going astray from the true Gospel and becoming “Judaizers” and “New Testament Jews.”

Jesus was sent from God to the Jews as the Messiah, the promised Savior; He was Emmanuel, God incarnate, born into a Jewish family (Matthew 1:23), but many Jews did not recognize and acknowledge him as the Messiah. Jesus’ hometown synagogue rejected him, because they thought they knew his parentage and his background, and they could not believe that he was the Messiah (Matthew 13:54-58; compare John 1:9-13). They thought they knew that Jesus’ father was a carpenter (Joseph; Matthew 13:55), not realizing that Mary had conceived by the Holy Spirit, as a virgin, without having been with Joseph sexually (Matthew 1:18-25).

Paul loved Judaism (Galatians 1:14) and once he had come to know the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and understood it to be the fulfillment of the promises of Judaism he wanted to share it with his beloved Jewish people. But he found them unreceptive, and so he took the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46; 18:6; 28:28). Paul even hoped to provoke the Jews to jealousy (Romans 11:11) so that they might turn to the Gospel and thus receive the blessings which were intended for them.

Are we so familiar with what we think we know about Jesus that we cannot believe in him as the Lord? Are we allowing worldly authority and fame, or lack thereof, to unduly influence our beliefs? Do we imagine that we can find fulfillment in life apart from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?

The Church is the heir to Israel and Judaism; she is the “New Israel;” the new “People of God.” Is the Church now in the position that Israel was in then? Is what we think we know about Jesus, or those we consider to be authorities, preventing us from knowing Jesus personally?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


Wednesday 3 Pentecost – Even 
First posted 06/22/04;
Podcast:
Wednesday 3 Pentecost – Even

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 – A time for everything;
Galatians 2:11-21 -  Difference between Law and Gospel;
Matthew 14:1-12  -  Death of John the Baptiser;

Ecclesiastes:Paraphrase:

The times of a person’s life are determined by God and are beyond our control. The best we can do is to recognize God’s will and cooperate with it.

Everything which preoccupies us has been created by God. Everything is good in its appropriate time. God has put the hope of the infinite (or “eternity”) into our minds, and yet he has limited our ability to comprehend the infinite. [Or, God has placed a “veil” (“obscurity”) in our minds so that we cannot see God’s plan from beginning to end (“eternity” or “infinity”); see Strong’s #5956; #5769 for the Hebrew word translated “eternity” in Ecclesiastes 3:11 RSV; compare with 2 Corinthians 3:14-16].

The best one can hope for is happiness and enjoyment of life; to take pleasure in eating and working. What God does, endures forever; man cannot change it by adding to it or taking from it. God has designed creation thus, so that mankind should have the appropriate awe and respect for God. The present repeats the past; the future repeats the present; and the past will repeat itself.

Galatians Paraphrase:

Paul criticized Peter (Cephas is Aramaic, the language of Jesus, for “Peter,” and the name given him by the Lord; Matthew 16:18) because Peter allowed his understanding of the Gospel to be compromised by peer-pressure while he was visiting at Antioch. Paul reminded him that they were both Jewish by birth, and they both knew from the Gospel that man is not justified (made right with God) by keeping the Law, but only through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus. They themselves had believed in Jesus, so that they might be judged righteous by God through faith in Jesus. How then could Peter require Gentiles to comply with Jewish Law in order to be made right with God?

The Law doesn’t make anyone righteous; to the contrary, it condemns, because no one is sinless according to the Law (Romans 3:23; Galatians 2:16d; 1 John 1:8-10). If we sin while living by faith in Christ, it is not Christ who has caused us to sin; if we revert to our former way of life we bear the blame ourselves and show that we are sinful by nature.

We have died to the Law so that we might live to God. We are not lawless, because while we are no longer controlled by the Law, we are controlled by Christ’s Holy Spirit within us; by trusting and obeying him. Our justification (judicial declaration of righteousness) is by God’s grace; a free gift, undeserved favor, through faith in Jesus. If we were justified by works (keeping) of the Law (which is impossible) then we would deserve justification, and Jesus’ death would have been of no purpose.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, was tetrarch (ruler of a minor region) of Galilee, and had married Herodias, the wife of his (half) brother, Philip. (Herod Antipas had another half brother by a third wife of Herod the Great, also named Philip, who was tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis, and who built Caesarea Philippi; see Luke 3:1). John the Baptizer had rebuked Herod Antipas for unlawfully marrying his brother’s wife, so Herod had imprisoned John. Herod wanted to execute John, but was afraid to, because the people believed that John was a prophet.

On Herod’s birthday, Salome, the daughter of Herodias, danced for the celebration. Herod was pleased with her dancing and promised to give her whatever she requested. Prompted by her mother, she asked for John the Baptizer’s head on a platter. Herod regretted making the promise, but could not avoid fulfilling it because of his guests, so he had John beheaded in prison and his head brought to her. The disciples came and buried the body and went and told Jesus. As Jesus’ fame spread, Herod heard, and expressed the idea that Jesus was John who had been raised from the dead (or reincarnated).

Commentary:

The best that one can hope for is for happiness and enjoyment of life. Happiness and enjoyment are gifts from God (Ecclesiastes 3:13; 2:24-26). Since the times of our lives are determined by God and beyond our control (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; 14), we are well-advised to make every effort to discover and cooperate with God’s will.

Peter knew what the Gospel said, but he allowed peer-pressure to induce him to act against his understanding of the Gospel. He went along with the crowd instead of sticking with what he knew was right. Peter had received forgiveness as a free gift from God through faith in Jesus Christ, but he was attempting to require others to earn theirs by conforming to Jewish Law.

According to this account of the death of John the Baptizer, Herod wanted John the Baptzer executed, but he recognized that it was not politically wise, because the people he governed regarded John as a prophet. Herod subsequently made a rash promise to his wife’s daughter, Salome, in front of his political supporters, and found himself in a bind. He would be politically embarrassed to break his promise to his daughter, or he would have to do what he knew was politically unwise. As a result he let the opinion of others influence him to act contrary to his own conscience.

While John was alive in prison, Herod at least had the opportunity to hear and respond to John’s message and to become prepared to receive Jesus as his savior. Because of John’s execution, Herod was unprepared and thus unable to receive God’s gift of salvation and eternal life through faith Jesus Christ.

Isn’t it amazing that we so readily give up what we know is right to conform to the will of other people, and yet are so reluctant to seek and do God’s will? If we try to please ourselves we will succeed only momentarily. If we try to please others we will not please anyone. Only by pleasing God will we find eternal satisfaction. The only way to please God is through faith and obedience to Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; John 14:6).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Thursday 3 Pentecost – Even 

First posted 06/23/04;
Podcast: Thursday 3 Pentecost – Even 

Ecclesiastes 3:16-4:3 -   Prevalence of evil;
Galatians 3:1-14  –   Justification by faith, not works;
Matthew 14:13-21  –   Feeding the five thousand;

Ecclesiastes Paraphrase:

Wickedness permeates every facet of life; even in the courts of justice and the temples of righteousness, there is wickedness. God has appointed a time when he will judge the righteous and the wicked, because he has appointed a time for everything.

Humans seem to be no better than animals; they all have the same life, they both die, they both return to dust. “Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down to the earth” (Ecclesiastes 3:21)? “So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should enjoy his work, for that is his lot; who can bring him to see what will be after him” Ecclesiastes 3:22)?

The author considered all the oppression which is practiced in the world. The oppressors had all power; the oppressed suffered, with none to comfort them. The author concluded that the dead are better off than those who are still alive, and those who have never been born are more fortunate than either, because they have not experienced the evil deeds of this life.

Galatians Paraphrase:

False teachings of the “Judaizers” (who insisted that Gentile converts to Christianity must keep Jewish Law) had infiltrated the Galatian Church. Here Paul appealed to the Galatians’ experience and to scripture to show that justification (blamelessness before God) is by faith in Jesus Christ, rather than by keeping the Law. Paul had just said that “if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose” (Galatians 2:21b).

The Galatians knew about Jesus’ crucifixion. They had received the Holy Spirit, so Paul asked them whether they had received the Holy Spirit by faith or by keeping the law, knowing that their own personal experience would tell them that justification was by faith, and not by keeping the Law. Since they had begun new life in the Holy Spirit by faith, would they be so foolish as to attempt to live that life in the weakness of their flesh by relying on their ability to keep the Law?

From scripture, Paul pointed out that Abraham “believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). So the true, spiritual sons of Abraham and heirs to God’s promise through Abraham are those who believe God.

Those who rely on keeping the Law are under a curse: “Cursed be every one who does not abide by all the things written in the book of the law and do them” (Galatians 3:10b; see Deuteronomy 27:26). But God’s Word says that the righteous shall live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4), whereas the fulfillment of the Law depends on works, not faith. Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law by taking our curse upon himself on the Cross, so that “in Jesus Christ the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14).

Matthew Paraphrase:

After Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptizer, he took his disciples by boat (on the Sea of Galilee) to a secluded spot. But the crowds found out and followed him there on foot. When Jesus went ashore he found a large crowd was awaiting him. So Jesus compassionately healed the sick among them.

At evening, the disciples suggested that Jesus send the crowd away to buy food for themselves, but Jesus told the disciples to give the crowd something to eat. The disciples only had five loaves and two fish, but Jesus told them to bring the food to him. Jesus had the crowd sit down, and then Jesus blessed, broke, and gave it to the disciples to distribute to the crowd. All ate and were satisfied, and twelve baskets of leftovers were gathered up. The crowd was about five thousand people.

Commentary:

Looking at life without faith in God would be discouraging. Humans would be no better than animals. Life would have no meaning except present gratification. We’d be better off dead, and even better off never having been born. But life is not just meaningless and empty. We were given this life according to God’s eternal plan (see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

God has revealed his plan through his Word, the Bible, and through Jesus Christ. By faith in God and his Word it is possible to know with certainty (Ecclesiastes 3:21) that our spirits survive our physical death. This life is not purposeless and futile; it is an opportunity to come to a personal relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ, by the indwelling Holy Spirit. This life is a training and selection process for eternal life.

By faith in Jesus Christ we are restored to right relationship with God and receive the Holy Spirit. It is the presence of the Holy Spirit within us which makes it possible for us to live a life which rises above that of the animals and is pleasing to God. The promise God gave to Abraham was the promise that a great nation of his offspring would dwell in an eternal land in God’s presence. That promise was demonstrated on earth through Israel as a parable, a metaphor, for life in this world and eternal life in Heaven.

Believers in Jesus Christ are the “New Israel,” who have become the children of Abraham and heirs of the promise by faith (obedient trust). Faith in Jesus is not “blind” faith. It’s not a matter of living out life not knowing for certain whether the Gospel is true or not. For those who need “proof” in order to believe there is none; but for those who believe, there is abundant proof. One can know with certainty that one has received the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2; Galatians 3:2). The Holy Spirit is the security deposit and guarantee of the promise of eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:11).

The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand shows that when we bring our problems to Jesus and trust and obey his instructions, he can do great, even unimaginable, things with our meager resources, through us. Jesus can supply what we lack, so that we can do what he commands, through his indwelling Holy Spirit. Notice that if the disciples hadn’t checked with Jesus and had gone ahead with their own solution, they would have sent the people away to fend for themselves. That wouldn’t have been good for the people; some might have fainted with hunger on the way, or been injured. Also, the disciples couldn’t have fed that crowd with five loaves and two fish in the strength of their own flesh, without the presence of the Lord.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Friday 3 Pentecost – Even 
First posted 06/24/04;
Podcast:
Friday 3 Pentecost – Even

Ecclesiastes 5:1-7  -  Religious observance;
Galatians 3:15-22  -  The purpose of the Law;
Matthew 14:22-36  -  Jesus walks on water;

Ecclesiastes Paraphrase:

Be careful to pay attention and be obedient to the Lord when you go to worship in the house of the Lord. Don’t practice the “sacrifice of fools”, which is the attempt to draw near to God while doing evil. Try listening to God instead of telling him what to do; remember that he is the Creator and Lord of the Universe, and you are but one of his creatures. A dream may seem to contain much activity, but nothing actually is accomplished; so also a fool’s words don’t amount to anything.

When you promise God something, do not delay in doing it, for the Lord does not delight in unfaithfulness. It is better not to promise than to promise and to fail to keep the promise. Don’t let your mouth lead you into sin. When God’s messenger comes to collect the promise you have made, you cannot tell him that it was a mistake and that God should not be angry and destroy what you have done. Don’t get caught up in empty words and religious imaginings or delusions; true worship is reverence for God.

Galatians Paraphrase:

Paul showed that the principle of justification by faith is older than the Law of Moses, using the analogy of a human legal will or covenant. Just as a legal will cannot be altered once it is properly executed, God’s promise to Abraham based on faith (obedient trust) was executed before the giving of the Law, and therefore the principle of faith has not been annulled by the Law. The Law is like a guardian having custody of a minor child until the child reaches the age of inheritance.

The Law was given as an interim provision to control transgression until the coming of Christ, the offspring of Abraham through whom the promise could be inherited. The Law is not contrary to the promises of God, but the Law could not make people righteous. The Law only reveals God’s will so that we can recognize our transgressions. The Law reveals that we are all sinners (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10), so that what was promised as a result of faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9).

Matthew Paraphrase:

After feeding the five thousand, Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and leave for the other shore while he remained and dismissed the crowd. Then Jesus went up into the hills to pray. When evening came, Jesus was alone, and the boat was out in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, buffeted by wind and waves, not making progress because the wind was against them.

Just prior to dawn, Jesus came to them, walking on the surface of the sea. The disciples thought he was a ghost and cried out in fear, but Jesus identified himself and calmed them. Peter said, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water” (Matthew 14:28). Jesus said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and came to him on the water, but when Peter saw the wind, he was afraid and began to sink, crying out to Jesus to save him.

Jesus reached out and took Peter’s hand and kept him from sinking. Jesus asked why Peter had not had enough faith to keep from doubting. When Jesus and Peter got into the boat the wind ceased. The disciples worshiped Jesus and declared him to be the Son of God.

Commentary:

True worship is trusting and obeying God. It’s not about participation in a ritual. Even the most informal service can become ritualized. If we’re going to Church on Sundays but not seeking his will and obeying his Word during the week, our “worship” is like a dream. We may have the illusion that we’re worshiping but nothing is actually happening; we’re just going through the motions.

We are justified (made right with God) by faith in Jesus Christ. Through Jesus Christ we have fellowship with God through his indwelling Holy Spirit which is also the guarantee (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:11) of the promise of eternal life in the Promised Land of Heaven in God’s presence. Faith is not like “wishing on a star;” it’s not a matter of getting what you believe if you believe hard enough. Faith is believing the specific promise of God in Jesus Christ enough to listen for the Lord’s guidance and then to follow his instructions.

When Jesus told his disciples to get into the boat and head for the other side while he remained behind, they did what he told them. They got out into the middle of the sea and into a storm. The wind and waves were against them, and they weren’t making any progress. But Jesus knew where they were, and their situation. He didn’t leave them there; he came to them. He identified himself to them: He said, “It is I.” He didn’t say “I am the Son of God.”

Jesus doesn’t force us to believe; He allows us to come to our own conclusion about who he is. Those who acknowledge him as the Lord and who are his disciples will recognize his voice.

Peter was impressed with Jesus’ ability to walk on water and wanted to try it himself. He had the initial enthusiasm, but he allowed the opposing forces around him to shake his faith. But he was in Jesus’ will because he had asked and Jesus had allowed him to try, and Jesus was there to sustain him. Peter would have been in serious trouble if he had gone out there completely on his own.

When Jesus got into the boat with the disciples, the storm ceased. Jesus had sent the disciples off by themselves into the storm. But he knew where they were. He allowed them to be buffeted a bit; he allowed them to temporarily experience a lack of progress. But he didn’t leave them there! He came to them; he calmed their fears and he calmed the storm. His disciples came to the certain conviction that Jesus is the Son of God, and that he can take care of them no matter how bad the circumstances appear to be.

The disciples had been trusting and obeying Jesus when they set out in the boat. The outcome would have been much different if they had decided to set out on their own. They would have been overwhelmed by the storm with no one to save them, or they might even have had smooth sailing and thought they were making great progress, only to wind up on the wrong shore, without Jesus.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


Saturday 3 Pentecost – Even 

First posted 06/25/04;
Podcast:
Saturday 3 Pentecost – Even 

Ecclesiastes 5:8-20  –   Fallen worldly ways;
Galatians 3:23-4:11  –   Law as custodian;
Matthew 15:1-20  –   Legalism rebuked;

Ecclesiastes Paraphrase:

Don’t be surprised at the oppression of the poor, or injustice and violence. But remember that those who are in authority have higher authority over them. Ultimately a higher authority will bring order. Those who love money or possessions will not be satisfied by them. When possessions increase, so do the things that consume them. The owner has no benefit from them but to enjoy looking at them. The laborer sleeps well, whether he eats well or little, but the possessions of the rich do not help them sleep well.

The author describes the plight of a person who at great personal sacrifice accumulates wealth, and then loses what he had in a bad investment, and has nothing to pass on to his son. A person cannot take his possessions with him when he dies. One leaves life as naked as the day he was born; what has one to show for all his labor? Spending the days of our lives in worry, vexation, and resentment, striving for material possessions is a waste of our lives.

Galatians Paraphrase:

Paul said that the Law of Moses was like the custodian of a minor child, charged with keeping the child under control until he was of age to receive his inheritance. So the Law was our custodian until Christ came and we were able to receive reconciliation with God through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus, our inheritance as spiritual sons of Abraham through faith.

All who were baptized into Jesus Christ have a new identity in Christ. We are no longer divided by our old concept of identity by gender, race, or economic status; instead we are unified and equal as Christians. Those who are in Christ are Abraham’s offspring and heirs according to promise (though faith).

The heir, while a minor, is no better than a slave, because he is under guardians until he is old enough to inherit. Likewise all of us were under slavery to our basic human nature (and to the Law which restrained it). In God’s timing, God sent his Son to be born into the world and under the Law, so that he could ransom (as from slavery) us who were under the Law so that we could receive adoption as sons (and daughters).

The indwelling Holy Spirit is the guarantee that we have been adopted as God’s sons and daughters (Romans 8:15-16; Romans 8:11; 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14). [It is possible for one to know with certainty by personal experience whether one has received the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2)]

Paul rebuked those in the Church who were insisting on the observance of Jewish Law. Having been freed from bondage to the Law, they were attempting to return to it. Having received personal fellowship with God, why would they give that up to once again relate to God only through a mediator? Paul was concerned that they had missed the point of the Gospel message.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jewish Law had evolved from the Ten Commandments into an elaborate system of laws and ordinances that covered minute details including the washing of hands before meals. The religious leaders and teachers of the Law criticized Jesus’ disciples for not washing their hands before eating, a violation of Jewish Law according to this tradition.

Jesus replied by asking why they broke God’s Law in order to keep their tradition. As examples Jesus cited the Fourth Commandment (Exodus 20:12), pointing out that the tradition of the elders (Matthew 15:2) allowed a person to avoid the commandment by declaring that what the parent would have gained from the person had been an offering to God. Jesus thus declared that they had fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that they honored God with their lips but not with their hearts; their worship was in vain, because they taught as doctrines the precepts of men (Isaiah 29:13).

Jesus then taught the crowd that it is not what a person eats, but what comes out of his mouth, which makes him unfit to worship. The disciples reported that the religious leaders were offended by Jesus’ statement, but Jesus replied that God would uproot that which God had not planted.

Jesus also told them to leave the religious authorities alone, describing them as blind guides, and saying that if anyone follows them, both guide and follower will fall into a pit. Peter asked for an explanation of the parable, so Jesus said that what a person eats doesn’t affect him spiritually, but what a person says reveals the condition of his spirit.

Commentary:

In Ecclesiastes, the teacher is commenting on the fundamental (fallen) nature of this world; it is not what God created or intended, but what mankind has made it. We should not be surprised to see oppression, injustice and violence. But ultimately those in authority will be held acountable to God.

Ultimately God will restore his creation and repay everyone according to their deeds. God will relieve the victims of oppression, injustice and violence, and will punish those who have victimized them. The worldly way is materialism, selfishness and greed. The materialistic worldly way is guaranteed to be ultimately a bad investment.

Before we receive forgiveness and reconciliation through faith in Jesus, we were slaves to the fallen nature of this world, as described in Ecclesiastes, and what Paul refers to as the elementary spirits of the universe (Galatians 4:3). God’s Law was designed to show us what God intended, and to reveal our sins, so that we would be restrained from following our sinful nature. But the Law could not make us righteous. Through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus we are made righteous in God’s judgment and receive the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, who enables us to live according to God’s will.

Those who insist on requiring obedience to the Jewish Law are modern-day “Pharisees.” Those who insist on keeping the Law are investing in a losing proposition. Paul declares that if justification (righteousness) were by the keeping of the law, then Christ died to no purpose (Galatians 2:21); also, those who would be made righteous by keeping the Law are severed from Christ, and have lost the free gift of salvation that is only through faith in Jesus (Galatians 5:4).

Those who teach justification by keeping the Law are misusing God-given authority, oppressing God’s people, and will be accountable to God. They are blind guides, and both they and those who follow them will come to spiritual disaster.

The religious leaders in Jesus’ day were teaching the traditions of “their” “religion,” instead of God’s Word. They were hypocrites who did not practice what they professed. They were using their authority to oppress God’s people, following the fallen nature of this world, rather than the Spirit of God. Their worship was empty ritual.

How is the Church doing today? Watch out for blind guides. Read the Bible. Trust and obey Jesus as your Lord (John 14:21). Be a disciple of Jesus Christ (John 8:31). Seek the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit which the Lord has promised his disciples (John 14:15-17, 21, 23).

Week of 2 Pentecost – Even – 06/22 – 28/14

June 21, 2014

Week of 2 Pentecost – Even

This Bible Study was originally published at:

http://shepherdboy.journalspace.com/, (now defunct).

It is based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions p.179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.

The daily readings are according to a Calendar  based on the Church Year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent, usually sometime at the end of November in the year preceding the secular calendar year.

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To get the most from these studies, it is suggested that you first read the scripture texts for the entry, and then the paraphrase and commentary. It is also recommended that you look up the scripture references, unless you recognize and recall them from memory.

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Podcast Download: Week of 2 Pentecost – Even
Sunday 2 Pentecost – Even
First posted 06/12/04;
Podcast: Sunday 2 Pentecost – Even

Proverbs 9:1-12 -  Wisdom’s invitation;
Acts 8:14-25 -  Simon the Magician;
Luke 10 25-28, 38-42 -   Essentials for eternal life;

Proverbs Paraphrase:

Divine Wisdom (the wisdom of God, by which the world was created, as distinct from false, worldly wisdom; Proverbs 9:10, 1 Corinthians 1:18-24) is portrayed as the hostess of a feast in a great palace. She invites all who lack wisdom to come and partake of her bounties. Scoffers are arrogant, self-assured people who feel they already know everything they need to know and have no need of religion. Scoffers thus will not appreciate correction; those who try to correct one who is evil may be injured for their efforts.

While a scoffer will hate you for correcting him, one who is truly wise will appreciate and thank you for correction. A wise person is thus able to learn still more. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10), because only God is able to extend your life. Those who are wise receive the benefit themselves; scoffers will bear the penalty of their own scoffing.

Acts Paraphrase:

A report that some Samaritans had received the Gospel reached the apostles in Jerusalem, and the apostles sent Peter and John to the Samaritans to pray and lay their hands on them so that they might receive the Holy Spirit. The Samaritans had been baptized in the name of Jesus but the Holy Spirit had not yet fallen upon them.

When Simon the magician (not Simon Peter; see Acts 8:9-11) saw that the Holy Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered the apostles money for the power to confer the Holy Spirit upon whomever he laid his hands. But Peter rebuked him harshly, saying, “Your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!”

Peter also said that Simon had no participation in either receiving or anointing others with the Holy Spirit because his heart was not right before God. Peter told Simon to repent of his wickedness and pray that, if possible, the wicked intent of Simon’s heart might be forgiven. Simon’s actions revealed that he was enslaved by his own sinfulness. Simon asked Peter to pray to the Lord on Simon’s behalf, so that Simon might avoid the punishment Peter had prophesied.

Luke Paraphrase:

A Lawyer asked Jesus what one must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus responded by asking the Lawyer what the Law (the Law of Moses; Scripture) said. The Lawyer replied that one shall love the Lord God with heart, soul, mind, and strength; and one’s neighbor as oneself. Jesus told the Lawyer that his answer was correct, and that if the Lawyer did as he had said he would live eternally.

Afterwards, Jesus went to the home of Mary and Martha. Martha was busily trying to provide an elaborate meal for her guest, but Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to his teachings. So Martha went to the Lord and asked him to tell Mary to help her serve the meal. Jesus told Martha that she was worried about many things, but that only one thing is necessary. Mary had chosen the good and necessary thing, which shall not be taken from her.

Commentary:

The Lord offers divine wisdom freely to all who are willing to come to him and seek it. The Word of God, the Bible, is divine wisdom. Jesus is the personification of divine wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:24 (18-23). The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, the Counselor, divine wisdom personified, residing within each believer, opening our minds to understand the scriptures, giving us what to say in the hour of testimony.

Three things are necessary in order to be filled with the Holy Spirit. First is baptism in the name of the Trinity (One God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; Matthew 28:18-20). In Acts 8:16 they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. The apostles prayed to the Father and invoked the Holy Spirit; Acts 8:15). Second, according to this passage, is the laying on of hands and apostolic succession. Third is the spiritual  condition of the Candidate’s inner attitude (“heart”).

God does not give the gift of the Holy Spirit to those who are not walking in obedience to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit  (Isaiah 42:5e), and my own personal experience testifies to this reality. The gifts of God are freely available to anyone who will seek and receive them. We are saved by grace (unmerited favor; free gift) through faith (trusting and obeying), not because of works (good deeds). The gifts of God cannot be bought, earned, or taken by force or deception (Ephesians 2:8-9). The scriptural record of Simon the magician is a warning to any who think that they can buy the gifts of God, with money, or good deeds, or church membership, or who desire to profit from “peddling” God’s Word and his gifts.

The Lawyer wasn’t interested in doing God’s will; he was using God’s Law, God’s Word, to justify his own actions and to avoid doing what God desires. The Lawyer thought he was righteous based on his knowledge and deeds of keeping the Law, so Jesus’ asked the Lawyer to answer according to what the Law said. The Lawyer answered correctly, and Jesus told him that the Lawyer knew the right answer, and he would have eternal life if he did as he had said. The problem is that no one can fulfill the Law apart from Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:16; 5:4).

Martha was preoccupied with worldly concerns. She wanted to demonstrate her homemaking skills to Jesus, to show him what a good hostess she was. Jesus wasn’t seeking to be entertained. He was seeking to be listened to and followed. Martha wanted Jesus to bless and prosper what Martha wanted. Mary was open to receive what the Lord wanted her to have.

The Lord is the gracious host who freely offers a feast of wisdom and eternal life with him. How do we respond to his invitation? Do we think we are wise already and have no need of what he offers?

Do we think we are good enough already to be considered righteous in his eyes? Do we think we can buy, earn, or take by force or deception what he offers without doing what he requires?

Do we think we can impress him with our worldly abilities and induce him to bless and prosper our desires, without seeking and obeying his will? Martha was going through the motions of being a good hostess, but was in fact ignoring her guest and his wishes. She is like people who go to Church and are involved in the ritual, without obedience to Jesus’ teachings in their daily lives.

Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6) Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Monday 2 Pentecost – Even
First posted 06/13/04;
Podcast: Monday 2 Pentecost – Even

Proverbs 10:1-12  -  Rewards of righteousness;
1 Timothy 1:1-17  -  Sound doctrine;
Matthew 12:22-32  -  The source of Jesus’ power;

Proverbs Paraphrase:

These maxims contrast a series of virtues with corresponding vices and teach the consequences of actions. Children who learn and show wisdom delight their parents but those who don’t are a disappointment. Any short-term gain from wickedness is made worthless by the ultimate consequences, “but righteousness delivers from death” (Proverbs 10:2b). The Lord provides for the righteous, but will not permit the wicked to find satisfaction.

People will be rewarded according to what they do. The righteous will be blessed and the wicked will be punished (but not necessarily in this world). Those who are wise are those who obey God’s Word; those who disobey God’s Word are fools who will come to ruin. “He who walks in integrity, walks securely, but he who perverts his way will be found out” (Proverbs 10:9). He who tolerates unrighteousness (“winks his eye” at; Proverbs 10:10) causes trouble, but those who reprove unrighteousness make peace. Righteous people say things that promote life, but the wicked use their voices to destroy. “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses” (Proverbs 10:12).

1 Timothy Paraphrase:

This letter, written by Paul to Timothy, urges him to defend sound doctrine in the face of false teachings arising in the Church. Timothy, the pastor of the congregation, was urged by his mentor not to allow individuals to teach different doctrines [than the apostolic (as taught by the apostles), scriptural (as recorded in the Bible) doctrines which Timothy had received from Paul], nor to allow “theological” speculation to supplant discipleship.*

The goal of the ministry of the Gospel is love (not a romantic emotion, but genuine, self-sacrificing concern for the wellbeing of others, like God’s own love for us) which results from a pure heart and clear conscience (by the forgiveness which is only possible through Jesus Christ) and by sincere faith (obedient trust) in Jesus. People who deviate from this go astray into useless discussion. They desire to be teachers of God’s Word without having understood it or having experienced the truth of it.

God’s Law is good if it is used correctly. But the Law was written not for the righteous, but for the lawless, the disobedient, the ungodly, and sinners; the unholy and profane. Murder, immorality, homosexuality,** lying and perjury are specifically categorized as sinful, ungodly, and under condemnation, along with any other (unspecified) behaviors which are contrary to God’s Word.

Paul rejoiced that God had forgiven him because Paul had acted in ignorance and unbelief. God appointed Paul to the ministry of the Gospel, even though Paul had previously persecuted the faith. Jesus’ mission was not to condemn, but to save, sinners (John 3:16-17). Paul acknowledged himself to have been among the worst of sinners. Yet he praised God that in Paul, himself, God’s great mercy and perfect patience might be clearly demonstrated as an example to those who would believe in Jesus Christ and receive eternal life.

Matthew Paraphrase

A blind and mute demoniac was brought to Jesus who healed him so that he regained speech and sight. The people were amazed and began to seriously consider that Jesus might be the “Son of David” (the Messiah, the heir to David’s throne). But the Pharisees said that Jesus was casting out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons. Jesus knew their thoughts, and replied that a kingdom which is divided against itself is destroyed. The same is true of a city or a family. Therefore, if Satan is divided against himself how could his kingdom stand?

There were also Jewish exorcists at the time, of which the Pharisees approved, so Jesus asked the Pharisees whether these others also cast out demons by Beelzebul. On the other hand, Jesus suggested, if Jesus was casting out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God was appearing.

Jesus compared his exorcism to the plundering of the house of a strong man; the strong man must first be restrained. Jesus said that those who do not work with Jesus are working against him.

Jesus declared that every sin and blasphemy is forgivable except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Speaking against Jesus Christ is forgivable but speaking evil of the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven now or ever.

Commentary:

God’s Word is true, divine wisdom, by which the world was created, in contrast to false, worldly wisdom (Proverbs 9:10; 1 Corinthians 1:18-24). Obedience to God’s Word is wisdom and life. Those who disregard God’s Word are fools who will come to ruin. [God’s Word will never direct you to harm yourself or others. If you believe God is directing you to do anything that would endanger yourself or others you are wrong.]

The problems addressed in the letter to Timothy were caused by false teachers who deviated from God’s Word, the Bible, and from the true Gospel of Jesus Christ as proclaimed by the Apostles and recorded in the Bible. False teaching and false doctrine has been a problem for the Church since its beginning. Too often Church leaders have disregarded the warnings to Timothy not to allow the teaching of different doctrines (1 Timothy 1:3) or to occupy themselves with “theological” speculations (1 Timothy 1:4 RSV).

There is a lot of “theological” speculation going on in Seminaries and Church Universities today. The issue of homosexuality is just one example of “different doctrines” being taught in Churches today. Another problem is of those desiring to be teachers of the “Word” without understanding the things about which they make assertions (1 Timothy 1:7). Church administrators are ordaining ministers who have been “educated” in “theological speculation” in Seminaries but haven’t been discipled, and have not been filled with the indwelling Holy Spirit. People are attracted to the ministry as a career and are becoming mere “peddlers of God’s Word” (2 Corinthians 2:17).

How are we doing, Church? Are we gathering with Jesus, or are we scattering? Jesus’ last command to his disciples was to make disciples, and to teach them to obey all that Jesus had commanded (Matthew 28:18-20 RSV). Are we working for unity in the Body of Christ by adherence to sound Biblical doctrine, or are we dividing the Church with different, non-Biblical doctrines? Are we hindering people from believing in Jesus because we’re arguing over doctrine or authority? Are we glorifying the Lord or bringing him reproach?

What can an individual do? No understanding of doctrine can substitute for a personal relationship with Jesus! Commit yourself to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, and to obey his word. Begin by reading the entire Bible. Anyone can read the entire Bible in a year or less. There are several 1-year plans; see Links to Bible Study Tools, sidebar top right, home.

Spend time daily in Bible reading and prayer. Seek the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and be guided by the Spirit. Stay away from Churches that advocate anything other than, or in addition to, the Bible as the basis of their doctrine: the Bible and “Tradition,” or the Bible and some other book, for example. Look for a Church that preaches the whole Bible and that teaches discipleship.


*The word used in the text is from a Greek word meaning to “build up”; “confirm” (Strong’s #3618). The RSV translates it as (divine) “training” (or “stewardship,” i.e., the discipline of servanthood).

** From two Greek words meaning “men bedding (or conceiving) with men” (Strong’s #730 & 2845; see Strong’s #733); i.e., “sodomites,” after the city of Sodom, destroyed by God for its homosexual practice (Genesis 19:4-5 (24-25); men who have unnatural sexual relations with men (and, by extension, women who have unnatural sexual relations with women). The KJV translates as: “men defiling themselves with men.”


Tuesday 2 Pentecost – Even
First posted 06/14/04;
Podcast: Tuesday 2 Pentecost – Even

Proverbs 15:16-33  -  Wisdom to live by;
1 Timothy 1:18-2:15 -  Ordinances regarding worship;
Matthew 12:33-42 -  The sign of Jonah;

Proverbs Paraphrase:

The fear of the Lord is better than material wealth. A meager meal with love is better than the richest banquet where there is hatred. A hot temper stirs up anger, but one who is slow to anger promotes peace. The way of the lazy is full of obstructions, but the way of the righteous does not cause stumbling. One who acts wisely honors his parent; one who acts foolishly dishonors them. Folly seems pleasant to those without sense, but a wise person chooses righteousness. Plans go wrong without wise counsel. “To make an apt answer is a joy to a (person) and a word in season, how good it is” (Proverbs 15:23).

The person who follows (divine) wisdom finds life and avoids eternal death (Proverbs 15:24). The Lord destroys the house of the proud but prospers the house of the poor and humble. “The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord but the words of the pure (righteous) are pleasing to him” (Proverbs 15:26). Unjust gain brings trouble, but those who refuse bribes will live. The righteous think before they speak; the wicked blurt out what they think without reflection. “The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous” Proverbs 15:29). One who heeds admonition is wise and gains understanding. “The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom” (Proverbs 15:33a).

1 Timothy Paraphrase:

Timothy was urged to “fight the good fight,” holding on to the true faith and good conscience. Several individual members of Timothy’s congregation were cited as having wandered into false doctrines and having come to spiritual disaster. They had apparently been removed from membership in the hope that they might learn their error and repent.

Timothy was instructed to pray for all people, because God desires that all people should be saved and come to know the truth. Paul prayed that all people would be able to pray together in unity and peace. Women were to be modest in their attire, adorning themselves with good deeds rather than by ostentatious material display (and this applies to men as well).

Matthew Paraphrase:

A tree is known by the fruit it bears. A good tree bears good fruit; a bad tree bears bad fruit. What we say is the fruit of what is in our hearts. The mouths of those who treasure evil in their hearts will speak evil; those who treasure good in their hearts will speak good. On the Day of Judgment, our words will justify or condemn us (because every careless word we utter reveals our spiritual condition).

Some of the scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus for a sign or demonstration as proof of his authority. Jesus answered that they were of an evil and (spiritually) adulterous generation. The only sign they would see was the sign of Jonah. As Jonah was in the belly of the whale, so would the Son of man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.

Jesus declared that the example of Nineveh would condemn this generation, because Nineveh repented at Jonah’s preaching, and that something greater than Jonah was happening in their presence in Jesus Christ, (and yet was not resulting in their repentance). Another illustration was that of the Queen of the South (of Sheba), who came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Jesus is the wisdom of God personified (1 Corinthians 1:24), but they were not receiving his wisdom.

Commentary:

Jesus is the wisdom to live by! The person who follows (divine) wisdom finds life and avoids eternal death (Proverbs 15:24). The Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Christ; Romans 8:9b) is the Counselor whose counsel is necessary and reliable; who provides us with an apt answer and a word in season (Proverbs 15:23; Matthew 10:19-20), who teaches us all things and brings to our remembrance all that Jesus taught (John 14:26).

We are urged to hold on to the true, apostolic (as taught by the apostles), scriptural (as recorded in the Bible) Gospel of Jesus Christ and good conscience (to live in accordance with what we know is true, according to God’s Word). God desires that all people should be saved and come to know the truth. We should pray (and work) for the salvation of all people.

Our hearts will ultimately justify or condemn us on the Day of Judgment. What we believe in our hearts produces fruit in our lives. It is possible to say one thing with our lips and believe something else in our hearts only in the short term; but God knows our hearts; and ultimately, what we believe influences what we do.

The scribes’ and Pharisees’ problem was not a lack of “signs” of Jesus’ authority. They didn’t accept the signs that were all around them. The people of Nineveh didn’t repent because Jonah had been in the belly of the whale, but because they acknowledged the truth of his preaching and repented of their misdeeds.

Jonah prefigures the Christ, being obedient to God, raised as from the dead after three days, leading people to repentance and saving them from God’s judgment. Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead is an apt comparison to Jonah’s restoration from the belly of the whale.

Jesus’ Resurrection is a tremendous “sign” for those who believe in Jesus’ words, but for those who do not believe his words, the sign is not accepted. For people who need a “sign” in order to believe there is none; but for those who believe, there is abundant proof.

Those who are in Jesus Christ, who have been raised to new life in Christ through his indwelling Holy Spirit, are called to hold onto the Gospel, to live according to it, and to pray and work for the salvation of all people. If we truly believe and have come to know the Risen Lord Jesus Christ through his indwelling Spirit, we will respond to his call to preach the Gospel to all nations, making disciples, and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:18-20 RSV).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Wednesday 2 Pentecost – Even
First posted 06/15/04;
Podcast:
Wednesday 2 Pentecost – Even

Proverbs 17:1-20 -   Maxims concerning conduct;
1 Timothy 3:1-16 -  Qualifications of Church leadership;
Matthew 12:43-50   -  Return of the unclean spirit;

Proverbs Paraphrase:

A crust of bread, in peace, is better than a feast, in strife. A slave who deals wisely will be given promotion over a son who acts shamefully, and will share in the inheritance. The Lord refines hearts like the smith refines precious metal. Evildoers listen to evil talk. He who disrespects the poor insults his maker. “He who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished” (Proverbs 17:5b). Grandchildren are the reward of the aged, and fathers are the delight of sons.

Fine speech does not enhance a fool, nor are lies becoming to a prince. A bribe seems like a good-luck charm to the giver; he has good fortune no matter what he does. Love forgives; those who recall offenses alienate friends.  A wise man learns more from a rebuke than a fool learns from a hundred blows.  Rebellion provokes repression. A fool is more dangerous to others than a bear robbed of her cubs. One who returns evil for good can expect evil. Once quarreling begins, it is hard to end. Justifying the wicked and condemning the righteous are equally abominable to the Lord. Why should a fool pay for an education if he has no intellect?

“A friend loves at all times; a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).  A rash pledge can have disastrous consequences. One who indulges in transgression is going to have trouble. Those who act arrogantly can expect to be hated (Proverbs 17:19). Crooks don’t prosper, and liars get into trouble. A stupid or foolish child is no joy to his parents. A cheerful attitude is good medicine, but a grouch is depressing. It is wickedness to accept a bribe to pervert justice. A wise man has wise goals, but a fool chases impossible dreams. “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent” (Proverbs 17:28).

1 Timothy Paraphrase:

The office of Bishop (overseer) is worthy of respect, and those who hold the office should be beyond reproach. They must manage their households and personal lives well to be considered able to manage the household of God, and to command the respect of outsiders. They should have some spiritual maturity. Deacons likewise must be of good character. They must be firm in faith and knowledge of the Gospel, and be applying it in their daily lives (having a “clear conscience;” 1 Timothy 3:9).

Church leaders must be beyond reproach because they gain respect from their office, and by their conduct, influence, for better or worse, the faith of others in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Church is the pillar which upholds and the bulwark which defends the Gospel truth in the world, and our conduct as the Church should be in harmony with that mission. Jesus Christ is the central content of the Gospel.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus told a parable about the return of an unclean spirit which had gone out of a man. The unclean spirit was in the wilderness with no place to go, so he decided to return to the man from whom he had gone out. He came and found his “home” vcant and clean, so he invited seven other spirits, more evil than he, to dwell there with him.

While Jesus was still speaking, he was told that his mother and brothers were outside asking to speak with him. Jesus declared that those who are truly his family, his “mother and brothers,” are those who do the will of God the Father.

Commentary:

Most people would agree that these proverbs concerning conduct are “just common sense.” But why then doesn’t every one do what appears to be common sense? Because we have a choice and we don’t always choose to do what we know is right. We do what we want to do, instead of what we know is right.

The Church is the “pillar and bulwark” of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are too many examples recently of church leaders whose conduct has brought reproach upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Not just Church Leaders, but every member of the church is a witness, for good or bad, to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ command to the Church is to make disciples, teaching them to obey all that Jesus taught (Matthew 28:18-20 RSV).

The Church should be discipling new believers so that they grow in spiritual maturity. Too often there is not enough emphasis in growing in knowledge of the Gospel and the scriptures. Many church members have never read the entire Bible, and do not read the Bible regularly (or even hear it read regularly on Sunday mornings in Church).

Too often the preaching emphasis is on “cheap grace:*” grace without the requirement of discipleship; without obedience. There is not enough emphasis on obedience to Jesus’ teachings in our everyday lives. The conduct of every church member is a witness, for better or worse, for the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the world. Lack of obedience to Jesus not only endangers others’ faith in Jesus; it endangers our own as well.

The parable of the return of the unclean spirit should be a warning to us and to the Church. When new members are received, they are freed from “unclean spirits” and their souls are cleansed from unrighteousness. But unless they are discipled, unless they grow spiritually in the knowledge of the Gospel and in the application of Jesus’ teaching in their daily lives, unless they seek the infilling of the Holy Spirit, their newly cleansed lives remain empty and attractive to repossession by sin.

It isn’t those who call themselves the family of Jesus Christ who are his family; it is those who do God’s will who are members of Jesus’ family. Jesus said, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and not do what I tell you” (Luke 6:46; see also 6:47-49)?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


*A term used by Deitrich Bonhoeffer to describe a doctrine of salvation by grace (unmerited favor) without emphasizing a corresponding obligation of discipleship and obedience. See: The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Collier Books, Macmillan Publishing Co., NY 1963 ISBN 0-02-083850-6



Thursday 2 Pentecost – Even

First posted 06/16/04;
Podcast: Thursday 2 Pentecost – Even

Proverbs 21:30-22-6  -  Concerning life and conduct;
1 Timothy 4:1-16   -   False teachers;
Matthew 13:24-30   -   Weeds among wheat;

Proverbs Paraphrase:

“No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel, can avail against the Lord. The horse is made ready for battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord (Proverbs 21:30-31). A good reputation is better than wealth. The rich and poor both have the same Lord and creator. A wise man takes shelter from danger while a fool goes ahead, and suffers the consequences. The reward for serving the Lord is riches, honor and life. The way of the perverse will be difficult and unpleasant; one who cares for himself will avoid that path. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

1 Timothy Paraphrase:

The Holy Spirit revealed through New Testament prophets that false teachers would arise, teaching the doctrines of demons and deceitful spirits. For example, Paul cites false teachings already circulating forbidding marriage and the eating of certain foods. On the contrary, everything created by God is good and not to be rejected as long as it is received with thanksgiving and is consecrated by God’s Word and prayer.

Believers are advised to “have nothing to do with godless and silly myths” (1 Timothy 4:7), but rather to train themselves in godliness. While physical training may have some benefit for this life, spiritual training in godliness has great benefit for this life and for eternal life.

Eternal life is the goal and hope for which we strive, because our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all who believe (who trust and obey Jesus Christ). Timothy was instructed to command and teach these things: obedience to the true, apostolic (as proclaimed by the apostles), scriptural (as recorded in the Bible), Gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 1:3-5; 18-19).

Timothy was to set believers an example in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity. He was to attend to public reading of scripture, preaching and teaching. He was urged not to neglect the gifts of the Holy Spirit which he had received. He was to practice and devote himself to his spiritual duties, so that all would be able to see his growth. He was to take heed of his own spiritual growth and to the teaching of others, because in doing so he and his hearers would be saved.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is like a field in which a man sowed good seed. But “while men were sleeping,” his enemy deliberately sowed weed seeds among the wheat. The weeds came up with the grain. The weeds could not be removed at that stage without damaging the wheat, so the weeds were allowed to grow until the harvest. Then the weeds would be gathered and bound into bundles to be burned, but the wheat would be gathered into the barn.

Commentary:

God’s Word will prevail. We can work for or against the Lord, but the outcome has already been determined. The victory was won when Jesus died on the Cross for our sins and was raised from the dead.

False teachings began to arise in the early Christian Church while the eyewitnesses to Jesus’ ministry and Resurrection were still alive. Believers were well advised to hold on to the true Biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ which they had received from the Apostles and to keep a “clear conscience” (i.e., to practice what they professed). Jesus had commanded his disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe (i.e.; obey; NIV) all that I (Jesus) have commanded you” Matthew 28:18-20 RSV).

This letter documents obedience to that command. Believers are to be trained by the Church in godliness; discipleship; spiritual growth. Believers are counseled not to neglect to seek the fulfillment of the gift of the Holy Spirit which they were promised in the laying on of hands at their baptism. Believers are to practice and devote themselves to their spiritual duties so that others can see their spiritual growth.

God allows false teachers and false teaching to continue. That doesn’t mean that we must tolerate them within the Church. (1 Corinthians 5:1-5; 1 Timothy 1:19b-20). Ultimately there will be a Day of Judgment. All who have ever lived will be accountable to God in Jesus Christ for what they have done in their lives (John 5:28-29). Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6).

It won’t be enough to merely claim that Jesus is our Lord, without having obeyed what he teaches (Luke 6:46; Matthew 25:31-46).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


Friday 2 Pentecost – Even

First posted 06/17/04;
Podcast: Friday 2 Pentecost – Even

Proverbs 23:19-21, 29-24:2  -  Warning against drunkenness;
1 Timothy 5:17-22 (23-25)   -   Church discipline;
Matthew 13:31-35  –   The parable of the mustard seed;

Proverbs Paraphrase:

This passage from Proverbs is a warning against drunkenness and gluttony.  Those who drink to excess will have emotional and social troubles and physical injury. A drink may look appealing, and may taste good, but later it has the effect of a poisonous snake. Drunkenness affects the vision and balance like snakebite. Too much alcohol will cause hallucinations and delusions. One may suffer serious injury without realizing it. Don’t envy evil men or desire their company. Their minds devise violence and their lips speak mischief.

1 Timothy Paraphrase:

Church leaders are to be respected as stewards of God’s household, doubly so, those who participate in preaching and teaching in addition to their administrative duties. The author quotes Deuteronomy 25:4 which says that an ox should not be muzzled when it is treading out grain (i.e., it should not be prevented from partaking freely from the grain it is helping to harvest) and Matthew 10:10 where Jesus told his disciples as he commissioned and sent them  out into ministry that the laborer deserves his wages.

Charges of misconduct against an elder are to be substantiated by more than one witness. Those who persist in sin are to be disciplined in the presence of the entire body as a warning to all. The conduct of church administration is to be carried out without partiality or favoritism. The Church is cautioned not to be “hasty in the laying on of hands” (in ordaining leaders, or receiving members), and not to become participants in the sins of others.

Drinking in moderation is allowable. Sometimes sins are obvious although sometimes they can be hidden for a while. Eventually they will be revealed. Similarly some good deeds are conspicuous, but even when they are not, they cannot remain hidden. Eventually our conduct, whether good or bad, will be revealed.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus described the kingdom of heaven as a mustard seed. From a tiny seed, a large shrub grows and becomes the size of a tree, so that birds make their nest in it. The kingdom of heaven is also like a lump of leaven (yeast). A small amount is “hidden” in a large amount of dough so that it seems to disappear, but eventually the entire amount is leavened. Jesus taught everything in parables, fulfilling the prophecy of Asaph the seer (2 Chronicles 29:30)* the author of Psalm 78:2 which is quoted.

Commentary:

The warning against drunkenness is well-advised. Drinking in moderation is not a sin (1 Timothy 5:23) but there is a danger that moderate drinking can lead to alcoholism. Let us not overlook the injunction to not fellowship with evil people. If we drink in order to have fellowship with a group of “friends” perhaps we need to reconsider our situation. We cannot help others by participating in their sins (1 Timothy 5:22).

Church leaders are worthy of respect and compensation for their labor, but they are also obligated to be respectable. The conduct of Church administration is to be without favoritism or partiality. Accusations must be substantiated. Those who persist in sin are to be disciplined in the presence of the entire body as a warning against misconduct. Concealing or accepting unrepented sinful conduct is participation in sin.

The Church is cautioned to be careful whom they ordain to leadership, and also whom they receive into membership. The standards of conduct apply not only to the clergy and church leaders but to all church members, because all are witnesses of the Gospel and representatives of God’s kingdom to the world.

Jesus described the kingdom of heaven as a mustard seed. In one sense the mustard seed represents our personal faith. Faith isn’t a matter of “quantity;” a question of how much faith. If we simply say yes to Jesus as our Lord and begin to act accordingly, he will cause that tiny mustard seed of faith to grow to maturity and fullness. As we trust and obey Jesus, he will show us that he is faithful and his promises are true. But we have to say “yes” and stick with it, day after day.

Faith isn’t an “altar call” we made years ago which settled the issue for all time, without any further growth and discipleship; it’s the beginning of a daily walk in obedience and fellowship with Jesus. Jesus also described the kingdom of heaven as leaven. Believers are to be leaven in the world. We are to go into the world and allow our influence to affect the world by the direction and power of the Holy Spirit.

Our deeds, whether good or bad, eventually will be known. We need to examine ourselves individually, and the Church needs to examine itself. Are we growing spiritually as disciples? Are we being a good influence in the world, or is the world being a bad influence on us individually and corporately as the Church.

Is the Church allowing fellowship with evil people within the Church?  Is the Church condoning and participating in sin? Has the Church been forced to be “hasty in the laying on of hands” on ministerial candidates who are not disciples and not Spirit-anointed because the Church has failed to make disciples at the congregational level? Has the Church been so eager for members that she has been “hasty in the laying on of hands” on those who are unwilling to be disciples?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


* The Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version, Ed. by Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger, Matthew 13:35n, p. 1188, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962.



Saturday 2 Pentecost – Even

First posted 06/18/04;
Podcast:
Saturday 2 Pentecost – Even

Proverbs 25:15-28  -  Moral instruction;
1 Timothy 6:6-21  -  Godliness with contentment;
Matthew 13:36-43  -  Day of Judgment;

Proverbs Paraphrase:

Patience can persuade one in authority. Soft words can hurt. Too much of a good thing can make you sick. Visiting your neighbor too often will make him tired of you. False witness against a neighbor is as bad as physical violence. Trust in an unfaithful person will make you miserable. Singing songs to someone who is sad is inappropriate and unhelpful. “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will heap coals upon his head, and the Lord will reward you” (Proverbs 25:21-22). A slanderous tongue will provoke anger. Living with a contentious spouse is unpleasant. Good news refreshes the soul. A righteous person who compromises his values under pressure from a wicked person is polluted and loses his usefulness. Too many compliments spoil the effect. A person without self-control is, like an unprotected city, vulnerable to all sorts of bad things.

1 Timothy Paraphrase:

“There is great gain in godliness with contentment” (1 Timothy 6:6). The material things of this world pertain to this world only; we can’t store them up and take them with us into eternal life. So if we have food and clothing we should be content. Those who desire material possessions fall into temptation and into hurtful desires which ruin and destroy. “For the love of money is the root of all evils” (1 Timothy 6:10).

Love of material possessions has caused some believers to wander away from faith. Believers are urged to avoid the temptations of material wealth and instead make their aim righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness. Believers are to “fight the good fight of the faith” (to make the effort and personal sacrifice necessary to pursue and win the promise of faith in Jesus which is eternal life.

Those who sincerely confess that Jesus is Lord receive the promise of eternal life, provided that they persevere in faith and obedience to Jesus. Believers are urged to keep Jesus’ commands unstained and free of reproach until his appearing (on the Day of Judgment). Those who have material wealth are advised not to be haughty, nor to place their confidence in their wealth, which is unreliable, but rather to trust and depend on God who is the source of every blessing.

All, especially the wealthy, are to be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous, because that is the solid foundation on which to secure the future in eternal life. Believers are urged to guard the Gospel truth which has been entrusted to us, and to “avoid godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards the faith” (1 Timothy 6:20b-21).

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus’ disciples asked him privately to explain the parable of the weeds among the wheat (Matthew 13:24-30). Jesus told them that the Son of man (Jesus) is the sower of good seed. The good seeds are the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the sower of weeds is the devil. The reapers are angels. The harvest is the close of the age (the Day of Judgment). The angels will gather all causes of sin and all evildoers and cast them into the fire of Hell. Hell will be eternal destruction and separation from God (Matthew 13:42; see 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). The righteous will be gathered into the kingdom of eternal life in Heaven with the Lord (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46).

Commentary:

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Good News which truly refreshes the soul (Proverbs 25:26)! Jesus is the source of living water (John 4:10; 7:37). Those who believe in Jesus are to be springs of the living water of the Gospel in the world (John 4:14; 7:38-38). A righteous person who compromises his values under pressure from the wicked becomes a polluted spring (Proverbs 25:26). A person who does not practice self-control is like an unprotected city (Proverbs 25:28).

Godliness with contentment is true wealth. Lust for the things of this world can cause believers to wander from faith and lose the promises of God. Believers are urged to renounce the pursuit of worldly wealth; to focus instead on spiritual growth, in righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness.

Life in this world is a spiritual battle between good and evil. If we follow Jesus we must expect to struggle against temptation; against our own human desires. Following Jesus requires discipline and self-denial, obedience and perseverance.

It is very tempting to rely on material possessions for security. Material things seem so solid; so real, whereas spiritual things seem so ethereal. But the “reality” of material things is deceptive; the only true, eternal, security is in God, and the only way to God is through Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; John 14:6).

Believers are entrusted with the Gospel, which is the fountain of the water of life. Believers are to be springs of living water to the world, and the source of that water is the indwelling Holy Spirit of Christ. We are specifically warned to guard the Gospel truth and our witness from pollution by compromise with worldly values. We are to preserve without deviation the apostolic (as proclaimed by the apostles) scriptural (as recorded in the Bible) Gospel of Jesus Christ with which we have been entrusted. We are to testify to the truth of the Gospel by practicing what we proclaim. We are admonished not to indulge in foolish speculation with those who do not know God, in the exercise of what the world falsely considers knowledge (1 Timothy 6:20).

There is a Day of Judgment coming. Jesus will return to judge all who have ever lived (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46). Jesus will determine who have proved to be the sons (and daughters) of his kingdom by bearing the fruit of the Word which Jesus has sown in the Gospel (Matthew 13:41-43). It is not enough to claim Jesus as Lord without obeying his word (Luke 6:46; Matthew 7:21-23). “Be doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Week of Holy Trinity – Even 06/15 – 21/14

June 14, 2014

Week of Holy Trinity – Even

This Bible Study was originally published at:

http://shepherdboy.journalspace.com/, (now defunct).

It is based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions p.179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.

The daily readings are according to a Calendar  based on the Church Year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent, usually sometime at the end of November in the year preceding the secular calendar year.

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To get the most from these studies, it is suggested that you first read the scripture texts for the entry, and then the paraphrase and commentary. It is also recommended that you look up the scripture references, unless you recognize and recall them from memory.

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Podcast Download: Week of Holy Trinity – Even
Sunday Holy Trinity – Even
First Posted
Podcast: Sunday Holy Trinity – Even

Job 38:1-11, 42:1-5 -   Job’s answer;
Revelation 19:4-16  -  The Word of God;
John 1:29-34  -   Baptizer with the Holy Spirit;

Job Paraphrase:

Throughout his ordeal, Job had asked why misfortune had been allowed to happen to him. Now the Lord appears to Job out of a whirlwind. The Lord, whose motives Job has questioned, is the Creator of Heaven (Job 38:9-10, 19, 22, 24-25) and Earth (Job 38:4). Job has considered the works of God and the divine purpose behind them. “I know that thou canst do all things, and that no purpose of thine can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).

Having therefore come to understand his own human limitations of knowledge and power, Job repeats the Lord’s question, and then gives his response: “I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee” (Job 42:5). Formerly, Job had only known about God, but had no “first-hand” knowledge of God through personal relationship with God. Now that Job sees himself in true perspective in relationship to God, Job repents of his former attitude and recognizes his own unworthiness.

Revelation Paraphrase:

John (the disciple and evangelist) foresees the victory celebration in Heaven on the day when God’s ultimate purpose is fulfilled at the Marriage of the Lamb, which is the union of the Church with Christ in the eternal kingdom of Heaven. “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9). John was told not to worship the angel who gave him the revelation, since the angel was a fellow servant holding “the testimony of Jesus which is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). We are to worship God only.

Then John saw Christ revealed in glory as the victorious warrior, honored and glorified with many titles: the one who is Faithful and True, the righteous judge. His greatness is beyond human knowledge (Revelation 19:12b). He is The Word of God (the personification and fulfillment of God’s Word; see John 1:1, 14). He will have authority to rule, judge, and execute judgment on all the people of the earth.  He is King of kings, and Lord of lords.

John Paraphrase:

John the Baptizer bore witness that Jesus is the Messiah (Christ), the Lamb of God, the one sent by God to be the perfect sacrificial lamb to be slain as an offering to God for the forgiveness of our sins. John’s ministry was to baptize with water to prepare Israel for the coming Messiah (John 1:30), so that the Messiah would be revealed to Israel (John 1:31). John did not know beforehand who the Messiah was, but the Lord, who had sent him to baptize, had told John that the one on whom John saw the Spirit descend and remain was the Messiah, who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. John testified that he had witnessed the Spirit descend upon Jesus as a dove from heaven at Jesus’ baptism with water by John.

Commentary:

Job had thought he knew God because he knew about God from human perspective and human understanding. Job had thought that he was righteous and worthy of God’s favor. God reached out to Job and allowed Job to question God. God offered Job fellowship even though Job was unworthy on his own merits. Knowing about God is no substitute for knowing God personally. God initiates and offers the restoration of personal fellowship with him by his grace (unmerited favor), which we receive by faith; not because we are worthy.

“…God, the Father Almighty, the creator of Heaven and Earth”, is the “first person” of the Trinity (one God in three “persons,” or “expressions”), which we confess in the first article of the Apostle’s Creed, the historic doctrine of the Church based on the Apostolic Gospel (the basic teachings of the Apostles) as recorded in the Scriptures. (We don’t have to “understand,” from our human perspective, the mystery of the Trinity, but it is a scriptural and spiritual reality.)

John, the author of Revelation, describes his vision of Jesus’ Coronation as the King of kings, and the inauguration of the eternal kingdom of God in Heaven. It is the culmination of God’s eternal purpose to restore his people to fellowship with him. Jesus is Emmanuel (God with us; Matthew 1:23); Jesus is God in human flesh (Colossians 2:8-9; John 20:28); the “second person” of the Trinity. He is “Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:35), “born of the virgin Mary” (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:31-35), “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried” (Matthew 27:24-60); “the third day he rose from the dead” (Matthew 28:1-10); “he ascended into heaven” (Acts 1:9-10); he will come again to judge the living and the dead” (Acts 1:11; John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46), whom we confess in the second article of the Apostles’ Creed.

John the Baptizer was the “Elijah” (the great prophet) who was to precede the coming of the Messiah (Matthew 17:10-13). God commissioned John the Baptizer to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah, and God revealed the Messiah to John. John faithfully testified that Jesus was the Messiah. John baptized with water for repentance, but Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33; see Matthew 3:11).

Jesus is God’s only provision for the forgiveness of our sins and our restoration to fellowship with God (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God dwelling within believers, through whom we have personal fellowship with our Lord (Romans 8:9). The Holy Spirit is the “third person” of the Trinity, confessed in the words of the third article of the Apostles’ Creed.

From the beginning of Creation, Jesus has been God’s plan to gather his people to personal fellowship with him (John 1:1; 14). Have you come to a personal fellowship with God your creator, through faith in his Son Jesus Christ, by the indwelling of his Holy Spirit?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


Today is the day the Church celebrates the Scriptural Apostolic doctrine of the Holy Trinity.


Monday Holy Trinity – Even
First Posted 06/06/04;
Podcast: Monday Holy Trinity – Even

Proverbs 3:11-20 -  Benefits of divine wisdom;
1 John 3:18-4:6  -  Christian assurance;
Matthew 11:1-6  -  Jesus’ works verify his claim;

The discipline of the Lord is the assurance that we are his children (see Hebrews 12:5-8). Wisdom is the true wealth (but it is not the wisdom of the world which is being referred to; it is divine wisdom, by which the world was created; Proverbs 3:19-20; see Proverbs 9:10; 1 Corinthians 1:18-24). True wisdom is knowing God through a personal fellowship with him, which is only possible through faith in Jesus Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit (see journal entry for yesterday, Trinity Sunday, June 6, 2004, above).

Believers are to apply the Gospel teachings in their daily lives; we are not merely to hold the intention, but to apply it in tangible deeds; not merely to profess, but to apply in practice (see James 1:22). Our obedience to Jesus’ commands is our assurance that we truly abide in Jesus and that he abides in us through his Holy Spirit. We must trust and obey Jesus in order to receive the indwelling Holy Spirit. (Isaiah 42:5e).

The presence of the Holy Spirit within a believer is discernable by the believer; one can know with certainty that he has received the gift of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 19:2). The Holy Spirit is the mark which seals and guarantees that the believer belongs to Jesus and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b). The Lord does not respond to the prayers of those who do not respond in faith and obedience to his Word (see Conditions for answered prayer, sidebar, top right, home).

In John the Baptist’s darkest days, after his imprisonment for the Gospel, he sent his disciples to seek assurance from Jesus that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus told John’s disciples to report to John what they saw Jesus doing. Jesus’ works proclaimed who he was, because his works fulfilled the scriptural prophecy regarding the Messiah. (Compare Matthew 11:5-6 with Isaiah 29:18-19; 35:5-6; 61:1).

We are saved by grace (unmerited favor) through faith in Jesus Christ; we are not saved by “good works,” but our works are the assurance that we are saved (Ephesians 2:8-10; James 2:17-18). Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)? Do you expect God to hear and answer your prayers?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Would people be able to look at what you are doing (aside from going to Church on Sunday Mornings and praying before meals) and know that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ? Do you have a personal fellowship with Jesus? Have you received the Holy Spirit since you first believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you carrying out Jesus’ commands to proclaim the Gospel and make disciples, teaching them to obey all that Jesus’ taught (Matthew 28:18-20)?

Tuesday Holy Trinity – Even
First Posted 06/07/04;
Podcast: Tuesday Holy Trinity – Even

Proverbs 4:1-27 -  Good parenting;
1 John 4:7-21   -   God’s love;
Matthew 11:7-15 -  Love triumphs;

Proverbs Paraphrase:

A good parent teaches his child to remember his parent’s instructions and obey his commandments. He instructs his child to seek wisdom (not worldly wisdom but the wisdom of God, by which the world was created; Proverbs 3:19-20; see Proverbs 9:10; 1 Corinthians 1:18-24). The way of wisdom is uprightness. The good parent teaches his child to turn away from wickedness and evil. The good parent wants his child to remember his words and to do them, so that the child may have a good life. The child is counseled to guard his heart from impurity, because from his heart “flows the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23); to avoid lying and deceitfulness, and to walk the straight path of righteousness, not turning from it to yield to temptation to evil.

1 John Paraphrase:

Those who are born of God and know God will love one another. God’s central attribute is love; God revealed that love, in sending his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. God sent his Son into the world to pay the penalty for our sins, not because we loved him, but because he loved us. Because God loved us, we should likewise love one another. We cannot see God, but we can see God’s presence in his people by their love for one another as it is maturing in them. His indwelling Holy Spirit is our assurance that we abide in Christ and he in us.

We have come to personally know that Jesus has been sent by God as the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses Jesus is the Son of God abides in God and God in him. God’s love is being developed to maturity in us so that we have confidence for the Day of Judgment and trust in God’s love; if we trust in God’s love we will not need to fear his punishment.

We are able to love because God first loved us. One cannot honestly claim to love God if one does not love one’s brother or sister. How can we love God who is unseen if we cannot love our brothers and sisters who we have seen? If we love God we will keep his commands; and God has commanded us to love one another.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus asked the crowds why they had gone out into the wilderness to John the Baptizer. Surely they didn’t go out to see some insignificant and unremarkable occurrence. Neither should they have expected to see someone who was a smooth-talker who would win their approval by telling them what they wanted to hear. The crowds had been drawn to John the Baptizer because they recognized that he was a prophet.

Jesus declared that John the Baptizer was more than just a prophet; John was the fulfillment of the scripture which prophesied that Elijah would return to prepare the way of the coming of Messiah. Jesus declared that although John the Baptizer was the greatest of prophets, John was unable to change the world or bring about the kingdom of heaven himself; people still did violence to God’s plan. But the least disciple of Christ can have a greater impact than John through the Gospel of Jesus by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Commentary:

God is our good parent. He has created our world founded on his wisdom. He loves us and wants what is going to be best for us. He has given us instruction in how to live, so that we can have a long, good life.

God loved us before we knew him; God sent his Son to pay the price for our sins so we wouldn’t have to; Jesus came to die in our place, so that we could live eternally. If we realize how much he loves us, we will love him and we will show that love by obeying him and loving others as he has loved us.

John the Baptizer may have been the greatest of prophets, but just knowing and doing God’s Word is not the way to salvation. We cannot seize eternal life for ourselves by obeying God’s commandments.

John the Baptizer represents the end of the line of Old Testament Prophets. The Old Testament prophets proclaimed God’s Word, but they were not able to help people do it. John announced the coming of Jesus as the Christ, our savior.

Apart from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, it is impossible to please God.  Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12, John 14:6). Jesus is the bridge between where we are and where God is. Jesus makes it possible for his Holy Spirit to dwell within us. Only through the Holy Spirit is it possible to have a personal relationship with Jesus, and to live according to his commands.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Wednesday Holy Trinity – Even
First Posted 06/08/04;
Podcast: Wednesday Holy Trinity – Even

Proverbs 6:1-19  – Character traits to avoid;
1 John 5:1-12  -  Victorious faith;
Matthew 11:16-24 – Spiritual maturity;

Proverbs Paraphrase:

We are warned against several personal faults. We should not enter into a legal obligation to a neighbor, particularly someone we do not know well. If we have become so obligated, we are warned not to let pride induce us to continue in it. Rather we should seek release from such an obligation, even if it means humbling ourselves and irritating our neighbor. Idleness should be avoided. Evil-mindedness will lead to disaster. Seven bad character traits are pride, deceit, meanness, wicked intentions, evil actions, false witness, and troublemaking.

1 John Paraphrase:

Those who believe that Jesus is the Christ are children of God. Anyone who loves the Father loves his children. Loving God produces obedience to God’s commandments; following God’s commandments is the way to demonstrate love for his children. God’s commands are not unreasonable. Whoever is born of God overcomes the world, and our faith results in that victory. Believing that Jesus is the Son of God results in victory over the world. We receive Jesus by the water of our baptism and by the cleansing of his blood shed on the Cross for our sins [which we receive in the Sacrament of the Eucharist (Holy Communion)].

The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, bears witness. God’s promise is secured by our baptism, our believing participation in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, and the testimony of the indwelling Holy Spirit. If we believe the testimony of men, God’s testimony is much more reliable.

Those who have believed in the Son of God have the testimony in themselves; they have come to know Jesus personally through the Holy Spirit. Those who do not believe God have called God a liar, because they have rejected the God’s testimony concerning his Son. “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his son. He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life” (1 John 5:11-12).

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus criticized the society in his day for immaturity in their expectation that others should conform to their own immature and worldly standards. John the Baptizer didn’t conform to their standards of behavior because he did not drink or “party,” so they accused him of being crazy. Jesus came, and he ate, drank and fellowshipped with outcasts of society, so people accused him of being a glutton and a drunkard.

Jesus criticized the cities where most of his miracles had been done, because they had not repented. Chorazin (near Capernaum) and Bethsaida were towns Jesus had frequented. (Jesus had fed the five thousand and healed a blind man near Bethsaida). Jesus declared that Tyre (a notoriously idolatrous city condemned by the prophets, who predicted its final destruction) and Sidon would fare better in the judgment than the Galilean cities he had named. Sodom (the notoriously wicked city destroyed by God) would have repented and been saved if they had witnessed the miracles done by Jesus in Capernaum. Sodom will fare better on the Day of Judgment than will Capernaum.

Commentary:

Jewish wisdom warned against making promises on behalf of someone else, particularly someone whose character was not reliable. It was advised that if one found oneself in such a position, to grovel and irritate, if necessary, in order get out of the obligation.

God knows that we are of notably unreliable character, and yet he has offered a great promise on our behalf. God has promised that if we will believe in his Son, Jesus Christ, we will have victory over this world, and eternal life with him in Heaven. God has given us three guarantees of his promise: The waters of our Baptism; our participation in the blood of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the Cross as an offering for the forgiveness of our sins through the Sacrament of Holy Communion; and the indwelling Holy Spirit, who is the seal and guarantee of the promise of our salvation and eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b).

John bore witness that the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus at his baptism, and God revealed to John, by this sign, the Messiah who baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:32-34). The Jews were strictly forbidden to drink blood, because of the belief that the blood contained the life spirit of the animal (Genesis 9:4), and yet Jesus gave his disciples wine at the Last Supper and told them to drink, declaring that it is his blood securing the New Covenant with God (Hebrews 9:18; 22-26), for the forgiveness of their sins (Matthew 26:26-28) as a free gift to be received by faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9). Believers are born again by the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 3:3-6). The Lord wants us to be filled with his Holy Spirit.

How is the Church doing? The Church has received the Gospel of Jesus, the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, and the promise of the Holy Spirit. What will be Jesus’ judgment of the Church (the institution which professes to be Christian, as distinct from the truly born-again disciples who are the body of Christ in this world)? Will we be found to be mature Spirit-anointed disciples, or will we be found to be immature and worldly people who expect Jesus to conform to our societies’ standards and expectations?

Has the Church been making disciples and teaching them to obey Jesus’ teachings, or has it been making “fair-weather,” “professing Christians;” those who claim Jesus as their Lord, without doing what he says (see Matthew 7:21; Luke 6:46). Does the Church think it can act like Sodom and yet avoid God’s judgment? “For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God: and if it begins with us, what will the end be of those who do not obey the gospel of God” (1 Peter 4:17)?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Thursday Holy Trinity – Even
First Posted 06/09/04;
Podcast: Thursday Holy Trinity – Even

Proverbs 7:1-27  -  Warning against adultery;
1 John 5:13-21  –   Christian assurance;
Matthew 11:25-30  -  The Lord’s discipline;

Proverbs Paraphrased:

We are advised to keep the Lord’s commandments, because they are the way to life. Wisdom is portrayed as a woman, and insight as her sister. We are urged to make them our sister and friend, instead of consorting with adultery which is wicked and deadly. Adultery is illustrated as an enticing woman. Temptation overrules common sense; the victim fails to realize the danger. The way to adultery is the way to death. Spiritual adultery is also described and condemned. Spiritual adultery is the performance of religious ritual without inner commitment to apply faith to life by obedience to God’s Word (Proverbs 7:14-15).

1 John Paraphrase:

John has just said that eternal life is only in Jesus Christ. “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12). He wrote this to assure those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that they have eternal life. If we pray in accordance with God’s will, he hears our prayers. If we know that God hears our prayers we can be assured that we have received what we have requested. If our brother sins we are to pray for his forgiveness. (Jesus declared that all sins are forgivable except the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit; Mark 3:28-29). We are to abstain from all forms of idolatry, which is anything which interferes with our obedience to God.

Matthew Paraphrase:

God has designed the world so that God’s wisdom cannot be seized by those who consider themselves wise and understanding, so as to take hold of eternal life by force; and yet God is pleased to make his wisdom freely available to those who are innocent and trusting (compare 1 Corinthians 1:18-21). Jesus has received authority over all things from God the Father.

No one knows Jesus like God the Father does, and no one knows God except Jesus, the Son of God, and anyone to whom Jesus chooses to reveal God. Jesus invites us to come to him and he will relieve our burdens and give us rest for our souls. Coming to Jesus requires accepting his discipline, yet Jesus’ discipline is not oppressive but beneficial.

Commentary:

It is wisdom to follow God’s instructions, but those who disregard them don’t realize the danger and the consequences. When we place self-gratification ahead of obedience to God, we are blinded to the truth. Disobedience of God’s Word leads to death. Participating in “religion” without applying faith to life by obedience to God’s Word is spiritual adultery.

Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). God wants us to live eternally with him in Heaven, but eternal life will be received only by those who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through his indwelling Holy Spirit. Those who have received the Holy Spirit can be assured that they have eternal life. Those who do not have the indwelling Holy Spirit do not belong to Christ (Romans 8:9b), and do not have eternal life. It is possible to know with certainty that one has received the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2; 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14), and therefore possible to know with certainty where one will spend eternity.

We must trust and obey Jesus in order to receive the Holy Spirit. God does not give the Holy Spirit to those who will not obey his commands (Isaiah 42:5e). There are conditions which we must meet if we expect God to hear and answer our prayers (see Conditions for Answered Prayer, sidebar top right). Just adding Jesus’ name to the end of our prayers does not obligate God to do our will!

God made the world and he makes the rules by which it operates. God wants to give us eternal life, but we must accept his rules in order to receive it. The rich and powerful of this world would be tempted to seize eternal life for themselves without regard to God’s rules, except that God has anticipated and prevented that possibility. Jesus is the door to the sheepfold of eternal life. Anyone who tries to enter by another way is a thief and a robber (John 10:1).

No one can come to God or know God except through Jesus Christ (Matthew 11:27; John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Coming to Jesus requires following in obedience to him. We may resist the idea of giving up our self-centered independence, but his yoke is not oppressive but life-giving. The things we must surrender are those things which would destroy us; what we gain is rest, peace and life eternally with him.

Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received his Holy Spirit since you first believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus and teaching them to obey Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


Friday Holy Trinity – Even

First Posted 06/10/04;
Podcast: Friday Holy Trinity – Even

Proverbs 8:1-21 -  Divine wisdom;
2 John 1-13  -  Warning against false teachers;
Matthew 12:1-14  -  Lord of the Sabbath;

Proverbs Paraphrase:

Wisdom is portrayed as a prophetess. Her wisdom is the divine wisdom of God, by which the world was created, in contrast to worldly wisdom (see Proverbs 9:10; 1 Corinthians 1:18-24). True wisdom evidences righteousness, truth, prudence, and discretion; there is no wickedness, deceit or perversion; no pride, arrogance or evil works. Divine wisdom is required if leaders are to rule justly. Divine wisdom can be found by those who seek it diligently. The rewards of divine wisdom are true wealth and eternal prosperity.

2 John Paraphrase:

This letter was written to a Church (portrayed as the elect lady) and its members (portrayed as her children). The Gospel of Jesus is the truth. Those who have received and accepted the true Gospel are loved by all those who know the truth of the Gospel. Jesus is the truth which abides eternally through the indwelling Holy Spirit in all those who believe the Gospel. Those who love the truth rejoice to see others following and obeying the truth as God has commanded us (Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35). The author appeals to the Church to obey and to teach others to obey Jesus’ commands, because that is the fulfillment of the commandment to love one another.

The author warns against false teaching which is creeping into the church. An example of false teaching is the denial of the coming of the deity of Christ in human flesh (see Colossians 2:8-9). Anyone who does not abide in the apostolic (as proclaimed by the apostles who were eyewitnesses), scriptural (as recorded in the Bible) doctrine of Christ is not in fellowship with God. Anyone who believes in the apostolic, scriptural Jesus abides in both Jesus and God. Christians are not to welcome or fellowship with those who do not affirm the apostolic, scriptural Gospel of Jesus Christ. Those providing hospitality and tolerance of false teaching will be held responsible for working in opposition to the Gospel.

Matthew Paraphrase:

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were trying to use God’s Word to accomplish their own purposes in opposition to God’s own plan in Jesus Christ. They observed and enforced God’s commands with exaggerated severity when it suited their purposes to do so. Here they were using the Sabbath law to thwart God’s only Son and Messiah. Their purpose was not one of obedience out of love for God or others.  Jesus declared that God’s laws were designed to induce us to show love and mercy to one another; not to make us miserable.

Jesus entered the synagogue and encountered a man with a withered hand. The religious authorities asked Jesus if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath, hoping that Jesus would say something they could use to accuse him. Jesus asked them who among them would not rescue one of his animals from an accident on the Sabbath. Since they could not deny that, Jesus proclaimed it lawful to do good on the Sabbath, and he healed the man’s withered arm. But the religious leaders did not rejoice that the man had been healed, or believe in Jesus because of the miracle; instead they hated Jesus and plotted to destroy him.

Commentary:

There are many false teachers today, in the Church, and in the world. What they teach may appear to be wisdom, but it is false, worldly wisdom. True wisdom can be discerned by those who seek it; but those who are motivated by self-interest are deceived.

Eyewitnesses to Jesus’earthly ministry were still alive to contradict false teachings, and yet false teachings were springing up in the Church. The believer’s only defense against false teaching is to read and believe the Bible for him- or herself. Just because a “church” mentions Jesus prominently in its name doesn’t guarantee that it teaches the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. There isn’t “another gospel” and there isn’t “another scripture” (or “another testament”) (Galatians 1:6-9) than the apostolic, scriptural Gospel of Jesus Christ recorded in the Bible.

Are our Churches today proclaiming the apostolic, scriptural Gospel, or are they interpreting God’s Word to accomplish their own agendas? The answer is yes; some are, some aren’t, in each category. The standard against which they are to be evaluated is God’s Word. The standard is NOT scripture and church tradition; there is a long tradition of false teachers in the Church, all the way back to the first century!

Tradition which is not supported by the Bible is not true doctrine. Are the doctrines being taught supported by the Bible? Have you found true wisdom? Anyone can read the entire Bible in a year or less. (see Bible-reading plans under Links to Bible-study tools; sidebar, top right) Have you read the Bible? Are you a member of a Bible-believing, Bible-reading, Bible-preaching, Bible-living church? Have you received the Jesus Christ of the Bible as your Lord and Savior? Are you following and obeying the Biblical Jesus?


Saturday Holy Trinity – Even

First Posted 06/11/04;
Podcast: Saturday Holy Trinity – Even

Proverbs 8:22-36  -  Wisdom at creation;
3 John 1-15  -  Follow truth;
Matthew 12:15-21  -  Fulfillment of scripture;

Proverbs Paraphrase:

Wisdom was the first-born of creation. All creation was established according to divine wisdom. (Divine wisdom is distinct from the wisdom of the world; divine wisdom is the true wisdom of God, by which the world was created; Proverbs 3:19-20; see Proverbs 9:10; 1 Corinthians 1:18-24). Wisdom is pictured as a master craftsman who attended creation. Therefore we are well advised to live according to God’s wisdom; to listen to God’s instruction and not neglect his teachings. “Happy is the man (or woman) who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For he who finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord; but he who misses me injures himself; all who hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:34-36).

3 John Paraphrase:

The elder of the church (probably the Apostle John) wrote to Gaius, a member of a congregation which was being led by a renegade pastor, Diotrephes, who refused to recognize John’s spiritual authority. John acknowledged and commended Gaius for living out the Gospel truth in his daily life (3 John 2b-4). John also thanked Gaius for his support of traveling missionaries. In contrast, Diotrephes apparently put his own ambition and interests ahead of his concern for others or the Gospel.

John had written to Diotrephes and sent emissaries to the church to correct this situation, but Diotrephes had refused to acknowledge John’s authority. Diotrephes had ignored the letters, denounced John to the congregation, refused to receive John’s emissaries, and had excommunicated church members who welcomed them. John’s response was that people who do evil are not of God, and that people who are truly of God do what is good and right. Demetrius was probably the bearer of this letter, and John’s emissary. John attests to Demetrius’ sound doctrine.

Matthew Paraphrase:

In contrast to Diotrephes who was apparently motivated by personal ambition (“…who likes to put himself first;” 3 John 9b RSV), Jesus was not pursuing personal glory and self- aggrandizement. He healed the sick out of love and concern for them. “He ordered them not to make him known” Matthew 12:16.”  Jesus’ ministry was in complete obedience to God’s will.

Diotrephes prated (chattered; talked long and idly) against John with evil words (3 John 10b); Jesus fulfilled the scripture that God’s servant would not wrangle or cry aloud, or make his voice heard in the streets (Matthew 12:19). Diotrephes kicked people out of his congregation for showing hospitality to emissaries from the Apostle and Elder, John (3 John 10c, d); Jesus does not break a bruised reed, or quench a smoldering wick (Matthew 12:20).

Commentary:

Jesus is the wisdom of God in the flesh [compare Proverbs 8:22-31 with John 1:1-5, 14; 1 Corinthians 1:24, (18-23)].

Whose Church is it, anyway? Diotrephes was apparently intent on turning the congregation into his own private empire. Diotrephes refused to acknowledge the apostolic (as testified to by the apostles) scriptural (as recorded in the Bible) Gospel of Jesus Christ. Diotrephes claimed to be of God, but he didn’t live according to God’s Word. John’s counsel: you can know a tree by its fruit (in the words of Jesus; see Matthew 12:33).

How are we doing, Church? Are we building the Church of Christ, or are we building private empires for ourselves? Are we building personal monuments; spiritual Country Clubs? Or are we making disciples and teaching them to obey what Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)?

The Lord says, “Happy is the (person) who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For he who finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord; but he who misses me injures himself; all who hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:34-36). Are we seeking the Lord’s wisdom and guidance daily in his Word and prayer? Are we following the Lord’s Word, or are we doing our own thing? Are we bearing fruit for the Kingdom of God?

Week of Pentecost – Even 06/08 – 14/14

June 7, 2014

Week of Pentecost – Even

This Bible Study was originally published at:

http://shepherdboy.journalspace.com/, (now defunct).

It is based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions p.179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.

The daily readings are according to a Calendar  based on the Church Year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent, usually sometime at the end of November in the year preceding the secular calendar year.

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To get the most from these studies, it is suggested that you first read the scripture texts for the entry, and then the paraphrase and commentary. It is also recommended that you look up the scripture references, unless you recognize and recall them from memory.

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Podcast Download: Week of Pentecost – Even
Sunday Pentecost – Even
First posted 05/29/04;
Podcast: Sunday Pentecost – Even

Deuteronomy 16:9-12  -  The Feast of Pentecost;
Acts 4:18-21, 23-33  -  Speaking the Word of God with boldness;
John 4:19-26  –   Worship in spirit and truth;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

The feast of Pentecost was originally a harvest festival held in June,* called the feast of weeks, because the ordinance of the festival prescribed its observance seven weeks (a “week” of weeks) from the time of the offering of firstfruits, celebrating the first harvest. The festival was to be observed in the house of the Lord, with a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings received from the Lord, and with rejoicing. God’s people are to keep God’s ordinances and commands in gratitude for what the Lord has done for them in freeing them from bondage to slavery to sin and death.

Acts Paraphrase:

Peter and John had been arrested by the religious authorities for healing a lame man and preaching the Gospel of Jesus in the Temple. When they were brought before the Sanhedrin (religious court) Peter and John, filled with the Holy Spirit defended their faith boldly. The members of the court saw their boldness, and they were amazed because they recognized that the apostles were uneducated common men, but since the healed man was standing right there beside them they could not deny the apostles claims. Instead they charged the apostles to speak and teach no more in Jesus’ name.

But Peter and John replied, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God you must judge; for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). After further threatening them the court let them go, since they could find no way to punish them because the people believed in the miracle that had been done.

When they were released, Peter and John went to their friends and reported all that had taken place, and together they prayed to God. They recognized that the scriptures had foretold that the worldly authorities would oppose the Lord’s Messiah, and this had been fulfilled. But the Lord’s plan had not been and would not be thwarted. The disciples prayed for boldness and power to proclaim the Gospel in the face of opposition. “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).

The congregation of believers was of one heart and soul, and they shared all their possessions freely. “And with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:33).

John Paraphrase:

Jesus had been talking to a Samaritan woman at a well. She was growing in her awareness of who Jesus is. She was beginning to recognize that Jesus was a prophet, so she asked him to settle a controversy between Samaritans and Jews regarding the correct place of worship; whether Jerusalem or Mt Gerizim, where the Samaritans had a temple, was the right place. Jesus said that the place is not important; it is the spirit and sincerity of worship in response to God’s goodness toward us that matters (John 4:21-23). “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). The woman expressed her faith that the Messiah was coming, and would reveal all things, and Jesus told her that he was the Messiah.

Commentary:

The feast of Pentecost was originally an agricultural festival celebrating the firstfruits of the harvest. (It was also the month in which the congregation had entered into the Covenant of Law at Mt. Sinai). It became the day of the birth of the Church through the dispensation of the Holy Spirit and the mission of evangelism to the world through the gift of tongues (Acts Chapter 2).

The Holy Spirit is God’s gift of firstfruits (Romans 8:23) to believers; it is the first installment of eternal fellowship with the Lord in Heaven. We don’t have to wait until we die physically to begin that fellowship.

The Holy Spirit is the “seal” –the official mark- verifying that we have been delivered from bondage to sin and death into the eternal kingdom of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30b). Those who do not have the Spirit of Christ do not belong to him (Romans 8:9b). The outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of the promise of the New Covenant of grace through faith in Jesus Christ (see Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:24-27)

Peter and John were able to proclaim the Gospel boldly, in the face of threats and opposition by the religious authorities, through the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Lord gave them a mouth and wisdom which none could withstand (Luke 21:14-15; Mark 13:11). The congregation of believers prayed for boldness and power in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and proclaimed the Gospel with great power. I personally testify that God fulfills this promise.

It’s not where, but how we worship the Lord that matters. God seeks us; we worship in response to what the Lord has done for us. We must worship in spirit and truth. The word “spirit” implies both the attitude of worship, and the enabling of the Holy Spirit, because we cannot truly worship the Lord without the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:15-16; 1 Corinthians 12:3). God is spirit. God’s Spirit is the Spirit of Christ dwelling within us; his Holy Spirit. The Samaritan woman believed in the coming of the Messiah and trusted that the Messiah would reveal himself to her (John 4:25) and he did so (John 4:26).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


*The Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version, Ed. by Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger, Deuteronomy 16::9-12n, p. 235-236, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962.


Monday Pentecost – Even
First posted 05/30/04;
Podcast: Monday Pentecost – Even

Ezekiel 33:1-11  -  The Watchman;
1 John 1:1-10  -  Gospel of holiness;
Matthew 9:27-34  -  Healing the blind and mute;

Ezekiel Paraphrase:

The Lord commissions his prophet to be a watchman over God’s people. The watchman will be accountable to God for his faithfulness in proclaiming God’s Word and warning of impending judgment. The watchman who is faithful in sounding the warning will be blameless, but watchmen who fail to warn others will be held as much responsible as those who disobey the warning. Those who do not heed the watchman’s warning will bear their own responsibility in the Day of Judgment. It will not be the watchman’s success which will be judged, but his faithfulness in declaring the warning (Ezekiel 33:9). The Lord does not desire the death of the wicked, but rather desires that the wicked repent and turn from their wicked ways to eternal life.

1 John Paraphrase:

The Lord’s apostles declare the Lord’s eternal plan of salvation which they have personally witnessed in Jesus Christ, and testify to, so that all might believe and come to know, so that we might share in their joy and fellowship with the Father and his son Jesus Christ. The message of the Gospel is that God is absolutely good, righteous and holy, without any evil at all.

We cannot have fellowship with the Lord while walking in sin, but if we walk in obedience to God’s ways in faith in Jesus, then the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:10).

Matthew Paraphrase:

As Jesus passed by, two blind men followed him, asking Jesus to have mercy on them. Jesus entered a house and the blind men came to him. Jesus asked them if they believed that Jesus could heal them and they said, “Yes, Lord” (Matthew 9:28). Jesus touched their eyes and declared them to be healed according to their faith, and their sight was restored. Jesus told them not to tell anyone about their healing, but they went and spread Jesus’ fame throughout the neighborhood.

As they were leaving a mute demoniac was brought to Jesus, and Jesus cast the demon out of the person and the person’s speech was restored. The crowd marveled, acknowledging that nothing like this had ever been seen in Israel, but the Pharisees said that Jesus had cast out the demon by using the power of the prince of demons (i.e., Satan).

Commentary:

The ordained clergy are to be God’s watchmen over his people. They are called to faithfully warn God’s people to obey God’s Word. God’s people will be held accountable to God for their disobedience of God’s commands. God’s appointed watchmen will be accountable to God for their faithfulness in accurately preaching the Word of God and their faithfulness in warning of impending judgment.

Not only the ordained clergy, but all born-again believers are called to be God’s watchmen; to proclaim God’s Word to all the people of the earth faithfully and accurately, and to warn all people of the coming Day of Judgment. All Christians will be accountable to God for their faithfulness as God’s watchmen.

The Lord does not desire that any should perish but that all should come to eternal life; he sent Jesus into the world not to condemn the world but to save it (John 3:16-17; Romans 5:8). There is a Day of Judgment coming when all who have ever lived will be accountable to God (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46). Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life in Heaven with the Lord. Those who have rejected Jesus and have refused to obey Jesus will receive eternal death and separation from God in Hell. Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6).

Jesus’ apostles are disciples who have come to a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ, have been empowered by his indwelling Holy Spirit and commissioned to preach the Gospel and warn the people of the earth of the coming Day of Judgment (Matthew 28:18-20). They have experienced the truth of the risen Lord and the joy of the fellowship with him through the Holy Spirit, and they are motivated by love to share that joy with others in obedience to the Lord’s command. The message is that we cannot have fellowship with the Lord while we are living in sin. We must confess our sin and turn from sin to faith and obedience to Jesus. Only through faith in Jesus are we able to turn from sin and become obedient to him.

Jesus is passing by. Those who are spiritually blind and dominated by evil can call out in faith to Jesus and begin to follow him, and he will heal their blindness and free them from domination by evil. Some will recognize that Jesus is of God and acknowledge their own sinfulness, and they will be saved; others will refuse to acknowledge their sinfulness and attribute evil to Jesus, to their own condemnation (John 3:18-20). Once the blind men had regained their sight, they could not be restrained from telling what the Lord had done for them.

Has Jesus done anything for you? Have you said “yes” to the Lord? Is Jesus truly your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you sought the anointing of the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2)? Have you come to a personal fellowship with Jesus through his indwelling Holy Spirit?  Are you a faithful watchman?

Tuesday Pentecost – Even
First posted 05/31/04;
Podcast: Tuesday Pentecost – Even

Ezekiel 33:21-33  -  Hearing without doing;
1 John 2:1-11  –   Obedience to the Lord’s commands;
Matthew 9:35-10:4  -  Commissioning the twelve;

Ezekiel Paraphrase:

On January 19, 586 B. C., word of the fall of Jerusalem reached Ezekiel a few months after it had occurred. When Ezekiel heard of the fall, which he had prophesied, Ezekiel received a new revelation from God as God had promised (Ezekiel 24:26-27). After the deportation of Judah to Babylon, a remnant remained in Judah. They thought they would inherit the land, but they were not obedient to God’s ways. The Lord prophesied desolation upon the remnant because of the disobedience of its people.

The people sought the Word of the Lord from Ezekiel, but they did not do it. “And they come to you as the people come, and they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words. But they will not do them. For with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goes after their unjust gain” (Ezekiel 33:31).  They heard what they wanted to hear and disregarded the rest. But the Lord promised that his Word would be fulfilled, so that the people would know that a prophet of God had been among them.

1 John Paraphrase:

God’s Word has been given to us so that we might not sin, but if we do sin we have an advocate in Jesus Christ, who pleads for our forgiveness and makes complete satisfaction for our sins and the sins of the whole world. If Jesus is truly our savior we will be obedient to his commandments. If we claim that he is our savior but do not obey his commandments we are shown to be liars who do not know the truth. Obedience to God’s Word is a measure of our spiritual maturity. Those who are truly in Christ will follow Jesus’ example of obedience.

The commandment to love one another is the command we have had from the beginning, but it is contemporary and relevant as the kingdom of God begins to appear. The old worldly kingdom of darkness and sin is giving way to the new kingdom of the light of God’s righteousness in Christ Jesus. Those who claim to be citizens of the kingdom of light but who hate their brothers are living in darkness and don’t know where they are going because their vision is impaired by darkness. But those who love their brothers are dwelling in light, and will have no cause for stumbling.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus went about, preaching the Gospel, teaching, and healing. He had compassion for the people “because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). Jesus told his disciples that the opportunities for ministry were great, but that there were few willing to do the work of ministry; they should pray to the Lord for people willing to do the work of ministry. Then Jesus called the twelve and gave them authority over demons and disease and commissioned them to carry on his ministry.

Commentary:

The Jews who had avoided God’s judgment at the Babylonian deportation thought they could inherit the Promised Land that their neighbors had been forced to abandon. The judgment of God was the result of Judah’s disobedience, but the remnant hadn’t learned the lesson of obedience to God’s Word. Ultimately the exiles would be restored, but the remnant who thought they had escaped God’s judgment was blotted out.

The fundamental commandment is that we should love God and love our neighbors. All have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23). The penalty for sin is eternal death and separation from God (Romans 6:23). God loved us and gave his only begotten son, Jesus Christ, as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins, so that we could be restored to fellowship with God (John 3:16-17). Jesus was obedient to God’s will that he die for us on the Cross in payment for our sins. If we have been saved by faith in Jesus, we will be obedient to him; we will follow his example. We will care about our brothers and sisters who are living in darkness and sin.

Jesus is our example. He went about his neighborhood preaching the Gospel, teaching God’s Word, and ministering to the needs of people. He cared about people who were in need and helpless. He was a shepherd to those who need one. Jesus taught his disciples to do the same.

Do we, like the Judeans who avoided deportation to Babylon, think that we have been spared God’s judgment because we have remained in the Church but without obedience to God’s Word (Ezekiel 33:24-29)? Do we, like the Judean remnant, think we can listen to God’s Word without having to do it in our own lives (Ezekiel 33:31)? Do we genuinely care about our neighbor’s welfare, or are we preoccupied with “getting ahead,” perhaps even at our neighbor’s expense?

If Jesus is our Lord we must be his disciples. Jesus demonstrated, taught and commanded his disciples to carry on his ministry of healing and restoration to those who are lost in the darkness of sin. Our brothers and sisters are being carried off to eternal exile in bondage to sin and death. Do we care about their souls, or are we just interested in getting our hands on their property? Are we doers of the Word, or merely hearers only (James 1:22)?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


Wednesday Pentecost – Even
First posted 05/29/04;
Podcast:
Wednesday Pentecost – Even

Ezekiel 34:1-16  -  The shepherds of Israel;
1 John 2:12-17  -  True relationship to God in Christ;
Matthew 10:5-15  -  Commissioning the disciples;

Ezekiel Paraphrase:

The Lord prophesied against the shepherds (leaders) of Israel. The shepherds had misused their position to benefit themselves, without regard for the people. They had been feeding themselves on the sheep, and clothing themselves from them, without feeding or caring for the sheep. They had not strengthened the weak, healed the sick, bound up the crippled, brought back the straying, or sought the lost; and had ruled harshly over them.

As a result, God’s people had been scattered over the face of the earth and became prey for all the wild beasts because there was no shepherd to care for them. Therefore the judgment of the Lord is upon the shepherds; the Lord will hold them accountable for his sheep. No longer will the shepherds feed themselves. The Lord will rescue his sheep from the mouths of the shepherds; they will no longer be food for them.

The Lord promised that he himself would become the shepherd of his people. The Lord will search for his lost and scattered sheep and rescue them. The Lord will gather his flock and he will feed them with good pasture on the mountain heights in Israel. The Lord will give rest to his sheep. The Lord will seek the lost, bring back the straying, bind up the crippled, strengthen the weak, and watch over the fat and the strong. The Lord will feed his sheep with justice.

1 John Paraphrase:

John reminds his Christian flock that their sins have been forgiven, and they have victory over Satan, and fellowship with God our Father through Jesus Christ. We are warned not to love the things of this world, because that would interfere with our love of the Father. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life is of the world and is in opposition to the will of the Father. The things of the world will pass away, but those who do the will of God abide forever.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus sent out the Twelve disciples of his inner circle. They were to go to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” They were to preach that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. They were to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and cast out demons. They were not to take money with them or seek payment for their work. They were to not to take extra clothes or food with them. Instead, they were to depend on the hospitality of those among whom they stayed. They were to come in peace. Anywhere they were not received hospitably they were to simply dust themselves off and go on to the next place, knowing that justice will be done on the Day of Judgment.

Commentary:

The prophecy of Ezekiel was originally written against the leaders of Israel. It is also a warning to the clergy of the Church, and to all Christians. Are there clergy today who regard the ministry as a career, and who seek their own status and enrichment without regard to the needs of the flock? Not only the ordained clergy, but all Christians bear the responsibility for ministry in Jesus’ name.

Are we as members of the body of Christ seeking and ministering to the lost and hurting out in the world, or are we only interested in what we can receive from the Church facilities and programs? Are we only interested in the people out in the world if we can make a profit at their expense; are they just “sheep to be sheared,” to us?

Is our evangelism to proclaim the Gospel of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, or are we only interested in increasing our church membership to spread the financial burden of the congregation? Are we seeking the lost and the weak and the crippled, or are we only interested in the financially and socially strong to be members of our congregations?

Do we appreciate the forgiveness of sins, the victory over Satan and the fellowship we have with God our Father through our Lord Jesus Christ? Do we truly admit that we are sinners, or do we think of ourselves as good people, validated by our Church membership? Do we appreciate our victory over Satan in Jesus Christ, or are we even trying to resist Satan? We have the victory if we choose to resist temptation and claim that victory.

Do we seek the fellowship with the Father that is only possible through the indwelling Holy Spirit, or do we settle for an hour of “spiritual entertainment” on Sunday Morning? Are we trying to be Christians without being disciples? Are we trying to be Christians one day a week, and live in the lusts of the world the rest of the week? Are we truly seeking God’s will for our lives, or are we seeking our own will and asking God to bless it?

The Lord’s promise to come, himself, as our shepherd was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus is Emmanuel (God with us; Matthew 1:23; Colossians 2:8-9), the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18; Psalm 23). Jesus’ mission is to seek and save the lost. Jesus will gather his flock into the good pasture of eternal life in Heaven.

Jesus taught his disciples to carry on his ministry to seek and save the lost. Jesus’ last instructions to his disciples before his ascension into heaven was to wait until they had been filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5) and then to go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (the Trinity) and teaching them to obey all that Jesus had taught (Matthew 28:18-20). Is the Church making disciples?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Do you have a personal fellowship with Jesus through his indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2)? Are you following his instructions to seek and save the lost, and bind up and heal the hurting?


Thursday Pentecost – Even

First posted 05/29/04;
Podcast: Thursday Pentecost – Even

Ezekiel 37:21b-28  -  Reunification of Israel;
1 John 2:18-29  -  Loyalty to the true faith;
Matthew 10:16-23  -  Coming persecutions;

Ezekiel Paraphrase:

The Lord promised to gather his people from all the lands where they had been scattered and bring them into their own Promised Land. They would be reunited in one nation under one king. They will no longer practice idolatry or sin; the Lord will save them from their backsliding and cleanse them from their sins. They will be God’s people and God will be their God.

The descendent of David and eternal heir to David’s throne will be their eternal king and their shepherd. God’s people will obey God’s Word. They will dwell in the Promised Land eternally. The Lord will make an eternal covenant of peace with them. The Lord will bless and multiply them and abide with them. Then all will know that the Lord sanctifies his people, because his sanctuary will be in their midst.

1 John Paraphrase:

All Christians should realize that the close of the age is at hand and that the antichrist (enmity against God) has come. The antichrist is expressed in numerous ways; in this instance as false teachers who have arisen in the Church and left the true fellowship because they were not truly Christians. True Christians are anointed with the Holy Spirit and are enabled by the Holy Spirit to discern the truth. Those who deny that Jesus is the Christ are of the antichrist.

“No one who denies the Son (Jesus) has the Father (God). He who confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23). Believers must hold on to the apostolic, scriptural Gospel as they first received it, unaltered; thus they will abide in Jesus and in our Father. Jesus has promised us eternal life.

John wrote this so that Christians would not be deceived, but John acknowledged that when believers receive the anointing of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Spirit will teach them all that they need to know and will keep them from error, provided that they trust and obey the teaching and leading of the Holy Spirit and abide in him.

Christians are urged to abide in the Holy Spirit of Christ, so that when Jesus returns, on the Day of Judgment, we will “have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming” (1 John 2:28). “If you know that [Jesus] is righteous, you will know that everyone who does what is right is born of him” (1 John 2:29).

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus sends his disciples out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so we are to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Worldly people will arrest the disciples, and persecute them; they will be tried before governmental authorities; it will be an opportunity for the disciples to declare their testimony to the Gospel. Believers are not to worry beforehand what to say, because words will be given them by the Holy Spirit in that hour; it is the Holy Spirit which speaks through them, and not they themselves.

The Gospel will divide and create enmity within even close family relationships. Christians will endure hatred by the world for the name and mission of Jesus, but those who endure to the end will be saved. If persecuted in one place, go somewhere else. Believers won’t run out of options before Jesus returns.

Commentary:

The Lord spoke through Ezekiel prophesying the restoration and reunification of Israel during the period when Judah had been deported to captivity in Babylon. The prophecy was first fulfilled when the exiles returned to the Promised Land after seventy years, and completed the rebuilding of the Temple in 517 B.C..

God’s Word is eternal. God’s dealings with the Israelites are a parable and metaphor for what he is doing with his people to bring them into his eternal kingdom.

Through Jesus, who is the descendant and heir to the throne of David, God is gathering, restoring and uniting his people and leading them into his eternal kingdom of Heaven. Through Jesus’ death on the Cross as a sacrificial offering to God for our sins, God has established a new covenant of peace by the blood of Jesus (Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:25; Hebrews 12:24). The Lord promised to bless, multiply (or magnify; i.e., enlarge their abilities) and abide with them, sanctifying them by his indwelling Spirit within them. Through Jesus Christ, God has made it possible for us individually and collectively to be his sanctuary through his indwelling Holy Spirit within us.

Believers are warned that there are many antichrists in the world today. Anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ, or who denies the Trinity (God in three persons; Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is of the antichrist. There are many “wolves in sheep’s clothing” out there today. There are false religions masquerading as Christian Churches. Believers (and seekers) need to receive and hold on to the apostolic (as transmitted faithfully by the original apostles), scriptural (as recorded in the Bible) Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In order to do that, believers must read the Bible for themselves, completely and regularly. Believers also must seek the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Without these two aids (scripture and the Spirit) they have no way of discerning the truth. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him (Romans 8:9b)!

Jesus said that in order to see the kingdom of God one must be born again, by water in baptism, and by the anointing of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-5). The infilling of the Holy Spirit is discernable by the individual (Acts 19:2); it is not something which must simply be believed without any manifestation (faith is not like “wishing on a star”).

Jesus sent his disciples out as sheep in the midst of wolves. It is the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit which protects and enables them to withstand the persecution they will encounter for the cause of the Gospel of Jesus. I have personally experienced and testify to the reality of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and to the faithful fulfillment of the promise of the Lord to provide his Word through the Holy Spirit in the hour of testimony. The Lord wants us to be filled with and led by his Holy Spirit. We cannot please and serve the Lord without his indwelling Holy Spirit.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the anointing of the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2)? Are you proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit?

Friday Pentecost – Even
First posted 05/29/04;
Podcast: Friday Pentecost – Even

Ezekiel 39:21-29  -  The Lord’s Spirit upon his people;
1 John 3: 1-10   -   God’s love, and our response;
Mathew 10:24-33  -  The disciple becomes like his teacher;

Ezekiel Paraphrase:

The Lord will reveal his glory, his judgment, and his influence in world affairs to the nations. The people of God will know that the Lord is their God, and the nations will know that Israel went into captivity because they betrayed their covenant with the Lord so that he hid himself from them.

The Lord has promised to restore his people and have mercy on them. They will forget their shame and their treachery when they have been restored to their land and dwell securely there with none to make them afraid. They will know that the Lord is God, because God sent them into exile, and God gathered them again from their enemies’ lands, vindicating God’s holiness. The Lord will no longer hide his face from his people when he pours out his Spirit upon them.

1 John Paraphrase:

The Lord has shown his love for us by calling us his children, and that is what we are. The world does not acknowledge us because it does not know God. We are God’s children now. What we will become has not yet been revealed, but when Jesus appears we shall be like Jesus. We shall see him as he is, and everyone who has that hope purifies himself as Jesus is pure. Sin is lawlessness, and everyone who sins is guilty of lawlessness.

No one who abides in Jesus sins and no one who sins has either seen or known Jesus. Whoever does right is righteous as Jesus is righteous; whoever commits sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The reason Jesus came was to bring to an end the works of the devil.

No one who has been born of God commits sin, because God’s nature abides in him. By their deeds it can be seen who is of God and who is of the devil. Anyone who does not do right or who does not love his brother is not of God.

Matthew Paraphrase:

A disciple is not better than his teacher, nor is a servant above his master. The best that can be hoped for is for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the world has accused the Lord of being Beelzebul (the prince of demons; Satan) the world is even more likely to malign the Lord’s servants.

We are not to fear worldly people. Nothing will remain concealed or unknown that will not come to light. Therefore what the Lord reveals to us is not to be hidden but to be boldly made known and proclaimed to all.

We must not fear those who only have the power of physical death over us. We are to fear only the Lord, who alone has the power to condemn the soul to eternal death in Hell. The slightest things in this world are governed by God’s will. God even knows exactly how many hairs we have on our heads. We are highly valued in God’s eyes, so we need not fear, but trust ourselves to his will and his care. Everyone who acknowledges Jesus before men will be acknowledged to God by Jesus. But Jesus will deny before God those who deny Jesus to the world.

Commentary:

Over and over again, God has demonstrated in his dealing with Israel that his purpose and intent is to gather to him people who will be obedient to God’s will. God’s dealing with Israel is an illustration of what he is doing through Jesus to gather his people to his eternal Promised Land in Heaven. The Lord disciplines his people so that they will learn obedience, and he has promised to restore them and pour out his Spirit upon them. The Lord will reveal his presence and have fellowship with his people through the Holy Spirit.

Believers are God’s children now. What we will become when we are fully mature is not yet known, except that we will be like Jesus. Those who are hoping and longing for Jesus’ return follow Jesus’ example of purity; they resist temptation to sin. Sin is disobedience to God. One cannot abide in Jesus and indulge in sin.

A person is born of God when God’s Holy Spirit abides in that person. If that person is truly born of God he does not sin because God’s nature dwells in him. Those who commit sin have not God’s nature but the devil’s nature dwelling within them. Our deeds reveal whether we are truly born of God.

God considers us his children, and he treats us like good parents treat their children. He disciplines us so that we will learn to be obedient to his will and grow up to be like him. He delights in us like a good parent delights in his children. We need not fear him any more than a child needs to fear good parents. If we acknowledge Jesus and do what he teaches, we will be acceptable to God, but if we reject Jesus and refuse to obey him we will be rejected by God. Do you know who your Father is? Can others tell that God is your Father?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Saturday Pentecost – Even
First posted 05/29/04;
Podcast:
Saturday Pentecost – Even

Ezekiel 47:1-12  -  The sacred river;
1 John 3:11-18  -  Love of the brethren;
Matthew 10:34-42  -  A cup of cold water

Ezekiel Paraphrase:

Ezekiel received a vision of a sacred river arising from the threshold of the Temple, south of the altar. As Ezekiel followed the flow of the river eastward it became deeper and deeper as he got farther out from the Temple. Out five hundred yards (roughly) it was ankle deep; another five hundred yards and it was knee-deep; then waist-deep; then too deep to pass through. Ezekiel saw that a great variety of trees lined both sides of the banks. The water of the river flowed east into the Arabah (the valley of the Dead Sea).

When the waters of the river flow into the Dead Sea, the stagnant waters of the Dead Sea will become fresh, and will give life to a great variety of animals. There will be a great variety of fish in the (formerly) Dead Sea. “But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt” (Ezekiel 47:11). On the banks, there will be all varieties of trees for food; they will not lose their leaves, and they will bear fruit every month of the year because they receive the water from the sanctuary. “Their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing” (Ezekiel 47:12b).

1 John Paraphrase:

The heart of the Gospel is the message of love. Cain is the example of the wrong response to the Gospel. Cain murdered his brother out of jealousy, because his brother’s deeds were righteous and Cain’s deeds were evil. That’s the same reason that the world hates the Church.

We can be assured that we have passed from death to life as we love our brethren. Anyone who does not love remains dead. Hatred takes the life of the one who hates. Jesus did the opposite; in love he gave his life so that we might live. We are to follow his example. We are to show our love in acts of compassion; saying that we love one another without acting compassionately is hypocrisy.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus wanted his followers to realize that the world was in oposition to his Gospel. Jesus’ mission will not bring peace in this world; his Gospel of peace and unity will bring division and conflict because the world will oppose the Gospel. Jesus’ Gospel is the Gospel of love, but his followers must not let love for the things of this world take precedence over their love for the Lord. Anyone who is unwilling to die to their own will in order to follow the Lord’s will is not worthy of Jesus. He who finds his life in this world will lose it, and he who loses his life for Jesus’ sake will find true life.

Jesus said that those who receive Jesus’ disciples with hospitality will receive Jesus, and those who receive Jesus receive God. Anyone who welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will receive the same reward that a prophet receives. Anyone who welcomes a righteous person because the person is righteous will receive the same reward that a righteous person will receive. Whoever gives the newest, least mature follower of Jesus even the smallest favor because the follower is a disciple of Jesus will not go unrewarded by God.

Commentary:

Ezekiel’s vision is of a river of life-giving water arising from the throne of God (the Temple), increasing in volume as it flows outward, giving life in the midst of the wilderness and to a Dead Sea, reversing the downward spiral from Paradise to wilderness brought about by sin and the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden. Instead, as this river flows outward the desolate wilderness becomes a new fertile paradise in the eternal kingdom of Heaven. (Compare with Revelation 22:1-5). Jesus is the fulfillment of this vision. Jesus is the source of the River of Life (John 7:37-39).

On the occasion of the Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths) which began on the fifteenth of the seventh month (September-October), commemorating the wilderness wanderings of Israel, Jesus stood up on the last day of the feast and proclaimed “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:37-39).

The context of this proclamation is important. As part of the observance of the Feast, water was carried in a golden pitcher from the Pool of Siloam every day for seven days and poured upon the altar as a reminder of the water from the rock which had been provided for the Israelites in the wilderness, and as a symbol of the messianic hope (Isaiah 12:3; 44:3; 55:2; Ezekiel 47:1-5; Revelation 22:1-2) . Jesus is the fulfillment of that symbol.

The basic philosophy of the world is to “look out for number one;” to “do your own thing.” Self-centeredness led Cain to murder his brother, and resulted in exile from paradise and broken fellowship with God. We’re all sinners and all have fallen short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23). The penalty for sin is eternal death and separation from God (Romans 6:23).

Jesus came to show us a better way; the way back to Paradise and eternal life in fellowship with God (John 3:16-17). Only through Jesus are we forgiven and restored to fellowship with God (John 14:6). Only through the Holy Spirit dwelling within us are we able to follow Jesus’ example. The Holy Spirit is the River of Life that flows outward from Jesus and gets deeper as it flows through the hearts of his disciples.

The ways of this world are in opposition to the ways of God. Each individual must choose whether to follow the ways of this world or to follow Jesus. We cannot expect to be able to follow Jesus and also avoid conflict with the world. Those who are open to Jesus’ disciples are open to Jesus and only those who receive Jesus have fellowship with God.

Jesus is God’s only provision for forgiveness of sin (disobedience of God’s Word) and restoration of fellowship (Acts 4:12) No one can come to God any other way but through Jesus (John 14:6). Those who welcome a prophet because they recognize that he is proclaiming God’s Word will receive the same reward that the prophet receives: eternal life in Heaven with the Lord. Those who welcome a righteous person because they recognize and approve his righteousness will themselves be judged righteous. (And of course the converse will also be true.) How we respond to the messengers of the Gospel will define our response to the Gospel.

Cain’s murderous response to his brother’s righteousness resulted in his condemnation and exile from his life and from God (Genesis 4:8-16). Hatred paradoxically takes the life of the one who hates. Love lays down its own life so that others may live, and in dying to self, finds eternal life. Jesus laid down his life so that we might live, and Jesus was raised from death to eternal life, as an assurance and promise that as we follow him we too will live eternally. Jesus is our example of selfless love, and only in him (and he in us through his indwelling Holy Spirit) is it possible for us to follow him.

Are you part of the River of God flowing through the wilderness or are you part of the wilderness?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Week of 7 Easter – Even – 06/01 – 07/14

May 31, 2014

Week of 7 Easter – Even

This Bible Study was originally published at:

http://shepherdboy.journalspace.com/, (now defunct).

It is based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions p.179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.

The daily readings are according to a Calendar  based on the Church Year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent, usually sometime at the end of November in the year preceding the secular calendar year.

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To get the most from these studies, it is suggested that you first read the scripture texts for the entry, and then the paraphrase and commentary. It is also recommended that you look up the scripture references, unless you recognize and recall them from memory.

I will post weekly by Saturday, noon, (God willing), Pacific time (UTC-8:00) for the week of the Church Season which begins on Sunday. Please scroll down for the desired day, or save the week to your desktop/hard drive.

Occasional Editorial:

Spiritual Blindness:

Hasn’t an epidemic of spiritual blindness beset parts of the nominal Church, as well as pervading the surrounding culture?

For the past thirty years or so that I’ve been a born-again Christian I have become aware of an increasing spiritual blindness besetting parts of the nominal Church (as distinct from the true Church) as well as the surrounding societies in which we live. For at least twenty years I’ve recalled a television playhouse drama I saw in the late-fifties or early-sixties, based on the short story by H. G. Wells, The Country of the Blind, as allegorical of the situation.

Recently personally confronted with an instance of this phenomenon, I did an internet search and came across a relevant free download and streaming forty minute audio sermon on this topic: The February 25, 2009 Wednesday evening podcast of the Central Baptist Church in Ponca City, Oklahoma. The sermon from Pastor Dr. John Waterloo, The Country of the Blind: https://archive.org/details/CountryOfTheBlind

I highly recommend the links to the short story and the audio podcast sermon.

Podcast Download: Week of 7 Easter – Even 
Sunday 7 Easter – Even 
First Posted 05/22/04;
Podcast: Sunday 7 Easter – Even

Exodus 3:1-12  -  The Burning Bush;
Hebrews 12:18-29  -  God is a consuming fire;
Luke 10:17-24  -  Jesus reveals God to us;

Exodus Summary:

After killing an Egyptian who was abusing an Israelite (Exodus 2:11-15) Moses had fled into the wilderness and was tending the flocks of his father-in-law, Jethro, when God called him to lead his people out of bondage to slavery in Egypt. Moses was tending the flocks near Mt. Horeb (Sinai), the mountain of God, when the angel (Spirit) of the Lord appeared to Moses in a flame of fire in a bush which was burning but was not consumed by the flame. When Moses turned aside to see this phenomenon, God called to Moses out of the burning bush and told him to remove his shoes, because the ground on which he stood was holy.

God revealed himself to Moses as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Moses’ forefathers. Moses was afraid to look at God. The Lord told Moses that God had seen the affliction of the Israelites, and had called Moses to deliver them from the Egyptians and lead them out to the land which God had promised to Abraham to give them.  The Lord told Moses to go to Pharaoh to accomplish the Israelites’ release. Moses asked God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:11)? God told Moses “But I will be with you” (to bring this about; Exodus 3:12a). God told Moses that as confirmation of this promise, Moses would serve God upon Mt. Horeb when he had led the people out of Egypt.

Hebrews Summary:

The New Covenant of Faith through Jesus Christ is contrasted with the Old Covenant of Law through Moses. Christians have come to a relationship with God that us not like the relationship the Israelites had with God. Under the Old Covenant of Law their relationship was one of fear; God was a blazing fire; an unbearable voice.  God is holy, and they were forbidden to draw near and come into contact with God on penalty of death. But through Jesus, we have been cleansed and made perfect. We are invited into God’s presence, to share in joyful festivities in the heavenly Mt. Zion.

Luke Summary:

Apart from Jesus we all share in the condemnation and sentence of death brought about by our sinful human nature, illustrated by Abel’s blood shed by Cain; we all share Cain’s nature (Romans 3:23). But Jesus shed his blood for us on the Cross, as a sacrificial offering for our sins (Romans 5:8; Hebrews 9:22-28). All those who trust and obey Jesus receive the forgiveness of their sins through Jesus’ blood, which established the New Covenant (Luke 22:20).

Commentary:

God is calling us in Jesus as he called Moses in the burning bush. Let us not refuse him.  Let us learn from God’s record in the scriptures of his dealings with the Israelites. The consequences of their disobedience were physical death and earthly separation from God; the consequences of our disobedience will be spiritual death and eternal separation from God. At Horeb, God’s voice shook the earth; the Lord’s voice will shake the earth once again, and heaven too, on the Day of Judgment. On the Day of Judgment everything that can be shaken will be destroyed; only what is unshakable (faith in Jesus) and eternal will remain.  “Thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29).

Jesus had appointed seventy of his followers to go ahead of him to prepare the people for Jesus’ coming (Luke 10:1-12). The seventy returned, rejoicing that they had authority even over demons in Jesus’ name. Jesus told them to rejoice that their work for the kingdom confirmed that they were truly saved. Jesus rejoiced, in ecstatic expression through the Holy Spirit, that God reveals his wisdom and his mysteries to the innocent and pure, while hiding them from those who are considered wise and understanding by worldly standards.

God has given all authority to Jesus. Only God truly knows who Jesus is, and only Jesus knows God. Only through Jesus is it possible for us to know God, because Jesus has the sole authority, power and discretion to reveal God to whom he chooses (Luke 10:22; John 14:6). Jesus told his disciples to rejoice that they had seen the coming of the Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ. Many prophets and leaders of the people had desired to see the coming of the Messiah and had not lived in the day of the fulfillment of the prophecy.

God called Moses in the flame of fire in the bush, in the wilderness. As Moses heeded God’s call and obeyed in faith, God promised to be with Moses to empower him to accomplish the work of bringing God’s people out of the bondage of slavery and death in Egypt, and to lead them into the Promised Land God promised to give to his people. Moses trusted and obeyed God’s instructions, and God fulfilled his promises.

Pharaoh did ultimately let the Israelites go; God’s Spirit led them through the wilderness in a pillar of fire by night (and a pillar of cloud by day; Exodus 13:21). This is a picture of what God wants to do with us. God calls us by his Holy Spirit. As we turn aside from our daily routines and respond to his call in faith and obedience, he goes with us and empowers us to accomplish the work he calls us to do. Spirit-filled believers are called to lead lost people out of slavery to sin and death into the Promised Land of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

Apart from Christ we are all under God’s condemnation. All have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23) The penalty for sin is eternal death and separation from God (Romans 6:23) There is a Day of Judgment coming, when all who ever lived will be held accountable to God for their deeds (John 5:28-29). Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life in Heaven with the Lord; those who have rejected Jesus and have refused to obey him will receive eternal death and eternal destruction in the hell of fire (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

For the lost our God will be a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). But for those who are in Jesus Christ, we have been forgiven and reconciled to God. We no longer need to fear God’s consuming wrath; instead we have the joy of fellowship with him through his Holy Spirit, and the assurance that we have eternal life in heaven with our Lord.

The “seventy” were disciples of Jesus Christ. They were true followers of Jesus, because they trusted and obeyed Jesus’ instructions. Jesus called, led and empowered them for ministry in building the kingdom of God. God’s Spirit worked through them to give them power and authority even over demons. Their Spirit-anointed ministry was the “sign” of their salvation; they were “serving God on the mountain top” (Exodus 3:12) as the sign that they were in Christ Jesus.

Moses prefigures the Christ; he is God’s earthly illustration of what Jesus does for us spiritually. Believers have been led out of sin and death into the heavenly kingdom by Jesus, who in turn calls his disciples to lead others as Moses led the Israelites. If we will take time from our earthly routines to listen to the call of God’s Spirit, and trust and obey, God promises to be with us to enable us to fulfill his calling to ministry in his kingdom through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit.

We cannot fulfill God’s will and ministry without the anointing of the Holy Spirit. The manifestation of the Holy Spirit in our lives will show that we are truly disciples of Jesus Christ and that we have been saved.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Monday 7 Easter – Even 
First Posted 05/23/04;
Podcast: Monday 7 Easter – Even

Joshua 1:1-9  -  Called to Conquer;
Ephesians 3:1-13  -  Ministry of the Gospel;
Matthew 8:5-17  -  Faith in Jesus’ Authority;

Joshua Summary:

After Moses’ death, Joshua, Moses’ assistant, was called by God to conquer the land which God had promised to give to Israel. The entire generation which had disobeyed God’s call to conquer the land forty years earlier had died in the wilderness. The boundaries of the Promised Land were: the Jordan River on the east, the Mediterranean Sea on the west, the Lebanon Mountains and Syria on the north, and the wilderness on the south.

God promised that he would be with Joshua as he was with Moses, and give them victory. God promised never to fail or forsake them. Joshua was to be strong and courageous, because it was God’s will that he would cause God’s people to inherit the land which God had promised to their forefathers.

God’s requirement was that they were to obey God’s Word and do all that God commanded. They were to meditate on God’s Word daily, so that they would know it and be able to do everything in accord with God’s Word, because that is the only way to succeed. The Lord promised to be with them wherever they went.

Ephesians Summary:

Paul was writing to the Ephesians while he was in prison for proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. Paul testified that he had received by revelation from the Holy Spirit, his insight into the mystery of God’s plan of salvation for all people, Gentiles as well as Jews, through Jesus Christ. This insight is available to all born-again, spirit-anointed believers. Paul was commissioned by God to be a minister of this Gospel of salvation, through the Holy Spirit working through him, despite Paul’s feeling of unworthiness because of his prior persecution of Christianity.

Paul’s ministry was to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, and to make known, to all people, God’s plan of salvation, so that through the Church the comprehensive and diverse wisdom of God might be manifested throughout the universe, in accordance with God’s eternal purpose which was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. So we can have boldness and confidence of access to God through our faith in Jesus Christ. Paul didn’t want believers to be discouraged by Paul’s suffering in order that they could share in Christ’s glory.

Matthew Summary:

As Jesus entered Capernaum, a Centurion (a Roman soldier) came to him and asked him to heal the centurion’s servant, who was paralyzed and in great distress. Jesus offered to come to the centurion’s home to heal the servant, but the centurion acknowledged that he was unworthy to receive Jesus in his home. The Centurion expressed faith that Jesus had the authority to heal the servant by Jesus’ word.

Jesus commended the Centurion for his faith, and said that many (Gentiles) from all over the world would have fellowship in the kingdom of God, while many biological heirs to the kingdom through Abraham (Jews) would perish because they did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus told the Centurion to go his way; that it would be done for him as he had believed. The Centurion’s servant was healed at that very hour.

Commentary:

A whole generation of the congregation of God’s people (Israel) perished in the wilderness because they had not trusted and obeyed God’s command to conquer the land which God had promised to give them. Others received the promise instead, because they believed and obeyed.

The Lord expected them to know and meditate on God’s Word daily, so that they would be able to do everything in accordance with God’s will. The Lord promised that he would be with them and would empower them and give them success in their ministries for his kingdom.

The Lord was with Paul and empowered and prospered Paul’s ministry of the Gospel for the building of the kingdom of God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who gave Paul insight into the mystery of God’s plan of salvation for all people. Paul felt unworthy because of his prior persecution of the Church of Christ, but through the grace (free gift; unmerited favor) of God in Jesus Christ, Paul was forgiven, cleansed, made worthy, and empowered for ministry in Jesus’ name by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, because Paul had responded to God’s call in faith and obedience.

The Centurion realized that he was unworthy of Jesus, but he responded to Jesus in faith and obedience, and received the healing he requested, which only Jesus can provide. Jesus pointed out that it is not those who are born into the congregation – “the faith” – that are saved; it is those, inside and outside of the congregation, who respond to Jesus in faith and obedience, who receive the spiritual healing and salvation which only Jesus can offer.

This is a warning to nominal “Christians” (i.e. those who call themselves Christians, but who do not know and obey God’s Word in their daily lives), as well as unbelievers. Salvation is not merely by church membership. Many “church members” will perish because they have not trusted and obeyed God’s Word in their daily lives. Many “church members” will be condemned, along with unbelievers, because although they named the name of Jesus they did not trust him enough to do what he taught in their daily lives (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46).

Believers are called by God to conquer the world by the Gospel in Jesus name, by the power of the Holy Spirit within them. Paul is our example of the modern, post-Resurrection, “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) Christian (those disciples who did not know Jesus during Jesus’ earthly ministry).

Believers are called and empowered by the Holy Spirit to the ministry of the Gospel just as Paul was called and empowered. We may well feel unworthy, but through trust and obedience and the infilling of the Holy Spirit we will succeed. The Lord has promised to be with us and to cause us to prevail. It isn’t by church membership that we receive the promises of God; we must appropriate those promises by acknowledging Jesus’ authority through faith and obedience to his word.

Is Jesus truly your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Have you acknowledged Jesus’ authority in your life? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Do you have a personal fellowship with Jesus? Have you read the entire Bible? Do you spend time reading and meditating on God’s Word regularly each day? Have you received his Holy Spirit since you first believed (Acts 19:2)? Have you sought the gift of the Holy Spirit? Are you bearing fruit in the ministry of the Gospel and the building of the kingdom of God? Are you concerned enough about your lost “brothers and sisters” that you are willing to endure some personal discomfort in order to bring them to glory in the kingdom of God? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Tuesday 7 Easter – Even 
First Posted 05/24/04;
Podcast: Tuesday 7 Easter – Even 

1 Samuel 16:1-13a  – Anointed with the Spirit of the Lord;
Ephesians 3:14-21 -   Strengthened through his Spirit;
Matthew 8:18-27  -  Jesus calms the storm;

1 Samuel Summary:

The Lord had anointed Saul as king of Israel. Saul was successful militarily but he was not obedient to God’s Word; he rejected the Lord’s commands so the Lord rejected Saul from being king, and commanded Samuel to anoint a new king from the sons of Jesse the Bethlehemite. Samuel was afraid of Saul’s reaction to Samuel’s personal disloyalty to him, but the Lord provided a plan to avoid Saul’s anger: Samuel was to carry out the anointing on the pretext of offering the sacrifice of a heifer to the Lord in Bethlehem. The Lord promised to show Samuel what he was to do, and to reveal to Samuel the one the Lord wanted him to anoint.

Samuel did as the Lord instructed. He consecrated and invited Jesse and his sons to the sacrifice. When they came before Samuel, Samuel though that surely the Lord would anoint Eliab, who was the tallest and best looking of the sons of Jesse before him, but the Lord told Samuel that, unlike men, the Lord judges not on outward appearances, but on the inner character of the heart. Jesse had each of his sons pass before Samuel and the Lord selected none of them. So Samuel asked Jesse if all his sons were present.

Jesse replied that the youngest was tending the flocks, so Samuel asked Jesse to have him brought before him, saying that they could not proceed without him. When he came, Samuel saw that he was tan and handsome and had beautiful eyes. The Lord confirmed that this one, David, was to be the Lord’s anointed, so Samuel “anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him from that day forward” (1 Samuel 16:13 RSV).

Ephesians Summary:

Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian believers was that they might be strengthened and empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit; that Christ might dwell in their hearts through faith, so that they might know, along with all the saints, the height, depth and breadth of Christ’s love, which surpasses knowledge; that they might be filled with all the fullness of God. Paul pronounces his benediction on that prayer, expressing glory to God, in the Church and in Christ Jesus, for his limitless generosity and power to accomplish much more than we can even begin to imagine!

Matthew Summary:

After word of the healing of the centurion’s servant and the healings at Peter’s house (Matthew 8:5-16), Jesus decided to cross to the east side of the Sea of Galilee by boat to avoid the crowds of people seeking physical healing. A scribe came to Jesus and offered to follow him where ever Jesus went, but Jesus told him that although even wild animals have homes, the Son of man had none. Another of his disciples asked Jesus for permission to first bury his father; but Jesus told him to leave those who are spiritually dead to bury the dead.

Jesus got into the boat, and his disciples followed him. A great storm arose on the sea, and the boat was being swamped by the waves, but Jesus was asleep. They went to Jesus and woke him, saying that they were perishing. Jesus asked them why they were afraid and of little faith. Then Jesus “rose and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him” (Matthew 8:26b-27).

Commentary:

The Lord had anointed Saul to be king of Israel, but Saul was not obedient to God’s Word, so God removed his anointing from Saul, and had David anointed to take Saul’s place. Saul had great worldly power, but he was unable to prevent or avoid God’s judgment. The Lord had promised Samuel that the Lord would reveal his chosen one to Samuel as Samuel carried out the Lord’s instructions.

When Samuel had apparently done what the Lord had told him and the Lord seemingly hadn’t yet indicated whom Samuel was to anoint, Samuel didn’t go ahead and act on his own judgment! Instead, he sought more information, and he waited until the Lord had clearly indicated his will; Samuel waited for the Lord to fulfill his promise. The Lord judges us not by outward appearances, but by the inner character of our hearts.

The Lord knows what is in our hearts; he does not pour out the gift of his Spirit upon those who try to look like Christians on the outside, without having humbled themselves and allowed Jesus to change their hearts on the inside. When Samuel anointed David, the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day on. What Samuel did in anointing David, Jesus offers to do for each one of us.

That’s what Paul wanted for the Church at Ephesus; for the Spirit of the Lord to come mightily upon each believer from that day on! Paul wanted each member to have a personal fellowship with Jesus through his indwelling Holy Spirit, strengthening and empowering them. Paul knew from personal experience the power, grace, love and generosity of God, and believed in God’s unlimited power to accomplish what he promised.

A scribe wanted to be a follower of Jesus, but Jesus warned the scribe that he might have to give up some physical comfort and material possessions to do so. One of Jesus’ followers wanted time off to bury his father, but Jesus told him, “Follow me; and leave the dead…” (i.e., obedience to Jesus must take precedence over worldly affairs).  Jesus told him to let the spiritually dead (those who were not alive to – not aware or open to hearing – the call of the kingdom of God in Jesus Christ) to take care of such worldly details.

The disciples’ call was to offer eternal life through the Gospel of Jesus to those who were open to receiving it, rather than to attend to the physically or spiritually dead. Jesus’ true disciples were the ones that followed Jesus into the boat (and into the storm; Matthew 8:23). The disciples survived the storm because Jesus was in their boat with them! They were able to call upon him in time of need. There is no problem which can arise that Jesus cannot handle, if we trust and obey him.

Jesus is God’s anointed (Messiah and Christ mean “anointed” in Hebrew and Greek, respectively). Jesus is the “Son of David,” born in Bethlehem, of the house and lineage of David (Luke 2:4-7); and the heir to the throne of David (2 Samuel 7:11c-16). Samuel was the priest of God who prefigures Jesus, our great high priest who baptizes with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11; John 1:33-34). The indwelling Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ.

Through the Holy Spirit, believers have personal fellowship with the living, resurrected Jesus. Through the Holy Spirit believers are strengthened and empowered to do the work of disciples. The Lord wants to pour out his Spirit upon us, but in order to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit we must be willing to trust and obey Jesus.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Wednesday 7 Easter – Even 
First Posted 05/25/04;
Podcast:
Wednesday 7 Easter – Even 

Isaiah 4:2-6  -  Jerusalem’s restoration;
Ephesians 4:1-16 -  Unity in the Spirit;
Matthew 8:28-34  -  The Gadarene demoniacs;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

In that day (when Jerusalem, the city of God, is restored, in the kingdom of God) the branch [the righteous remnant of the people of God, and also Jesus Christ (Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5)] of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious. Only the righteous and holy will remain in Zion and in Jerusalem; the Lord shall have cleansed the children of Zion from sin and guilt, “by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning” (Isaiah 4:4).

The Lord will be present among his people on Mount Zion. His presence is indicated by the cloud by day and fire by night as God was present with the Israelites in the wilderness by the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night (see Exodus 13:21-22). The Lord will protect his people from every trouble, like a canopy provides shade and protection from the heat and a refuge from storm and rain.

Ephesians Paraphrase:

Paul was writing to the Ephesians during his imprisonment for proclaiming the Gospel. He urged them to conduct their lives with lowliness, meekness, patience, forbearance, and love, in a manner worthy of their calling in the Gospel. Paul urged believers to maintain unity and peace through their participation in the Holy Spirit. Believers are to be united in the one body of Christ and one Spirit, sharing in one hope, one faith, one baptism, one God and father who is the sovereign Lord of all things, even though we are diverse individuals and possess diverse spiritual gifts and ministries.

The diverse ministries of the Spirit are those of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. The purpose of the various ministries is to equip all believers for ministry and to build up the body of Christ, the Church, to spiritual maturity until all believers attain unity of faith, personal knowledge of the Son of God, and grow into the mature likeness of Jesus, so that we are no longer spiritually children, easily mislead and deceived by false doctrine and false teachers. We are to apply and practice the Gospel truth in love so that we grow up into the likeness of Christ who is the head of the Church. In an analogy to the human body, Christ is to be the head from which the entire rest of the body gets its direction and ability to move and grow, in an attitude of love.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus had ordered his disciples to cross over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 8:18). To be truly his disciples, his followers had to obey his commands, they had to give up their own comfort, and leave worldly obligations behind (Matthew 8:19-22). They experienced storm and peril on the way (Matthew 8:24) but Jesus was with them and brought them through safely to the other side (Matthew 8:26-27).

When they reached the other side they encountered two demoniacs (people controlled by evil forces) so fierce that no one could pass that way. The demoniacs recognized and acknowledged that Jesus was the Son of God. They acknowledged that the period of time in which they were free to act in opposition to God’s will was limited (Matthew 8:29). They asked Jesus, if he was going to cast them out, to cast them into a herd of swine that was feeding nearby. Jesus did so.

Pigs were regarded as unclean and despised by Jews, but the pigs were horrified by the demons and rushed over a steep bank into the sea and drowned. When the herdsmen saw what had happened they fled (from Jesus) and went into the nearby town and told what had happened. The townspeople (who made their living raising pigs) came out to Jesus and begged him to leave their neighborhood.

Commentary

Jesus is going to come again to judge everyone who has ever lived (John 5:28-29, Matthew 25:31-46). Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will be saved and receive eternal life in the new Jerusalem in God’s kingdom in Heaven, but those who have rejected Jesus and refused to obey him will receive eternal death and destruction in Hell (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

In that day Jerusalem will be restored; only those who have been made righteous and holy by the blood of Jesus Christ, received by faith, will be the righteous remnant of God’s people. The children of God are those who have been cleansed by the indwelling Holy Spirit who convicts of sin, of righteousness and judgment (John 16:8; compare Isaiah 4:4). The Holy Spirit is the pillar of fire which leads his people through the wilderness of this world to the Promised Land of eternal life in the New Jerusalem of Heaven.

It is the participation in the Holy Spirit that unifies the Church. It is the Holy Spirit who calls and empowers with the gifts of the Spirit, making it possible for believers to carry out the ministry of the Gospel. All believers are called to be filled, empowered and led by the Holy Spirit so that they grow to spiritual maturity and accomplish the ministry of the Gospel. All believers are to apply God’s Word daily in their lives so that they grow into the mature likeness of Christ.

The Holy Spirit is the presence of Christ within believers as we cross the sea of life following Jesus’ commands in faith and obedience. It is the Holy Spirit who calms the storms. Jesus makes it possible for us to be victorious in the face of evil forces. Not everyone will appreciate our ministries in Jesus’ name. The pigs of that village in the Gadarenes were brighter than their owners; they at least had the sense to attempt to flee from the evil forces cast out of the demoniacs.

The people of the village were not glad to see what had to have been a local public nuisance and hazard removed from their neighborhood. They weren’t glad that two human beings had been set free and restored to useful life. They didn’t welcome the Lord who could give them spiritual healing and eternal life; they sent him away. Jesus threatened their worldly existence. How will you respond to Jesus? It isn’t enough to acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God; even demons do that!

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Thursday 7 Easter – Even 

First Posted 05/26/04;
Podcast: Thursday 7 Easter – Even 

Zechariah 4:1-14  -  The golden lampstand;
Ephesians 4:17-32 -  Renounce pagan ways;
Matthew 9:1-8  -  Healing a paralytic;

Zechariah Summary:

Zechariah had a series of “night visions,” dialogs with God and an interpreting angel. In this fourth vision Zechariah saw a seven-branched lampstand with two olive trees beside it. The angel questioned Zechariah about what the vision meant, and Zechariah said he didn’t know. Then the angel spoke God’s Word to Zerubabel: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts” (Zechariah 4:6b).

The angel also declared that by the Spirit of the Lord, Zerubabel would do unimaginably great things (Zechariah 4:7a), and that Zerubabel would “bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it’” (Zerubabel 4:7). The angel also declared that Zerubabel would lay the foundation of the temple and complete it. That day will be a great day; Zerubabel will be celebrated as a master builder (Zechariah 4:10). The seven lamps represent the all-seeing eyes of God. The two olive trees, the source of the oil for the lamps of the lampstand, are termed the Lord’s “anointed;” literally, “the sons of oil.”

Ephesians Summary:

Paul tells believers that we must no longer live as the Gentiles do, according to the ways of the world. The worldly live in the futility of their own minds because their understanding is darkened since they are alienated from God by their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have surrendered themselves to their carnal urges, eager to indulge in every form of uncleanness. That is not what Christ taught, and that isn’t the Gospel which the apostles transmitted to us.

Believers are to remove the old nature, like filthy, worn-out clothes, to adopt a new way of thinking, and to clothe ourselves in the new nature of true righteousness and holiness, which is the likeness of God. We are to quit practicing falsehood, and start being truthful with all, for we are all brothers and sisters of one another. We are not to allow anger to be unresolved by forgiveness. We are not to allow any opportunity for the devil to gain influence in our lives.

The thief must give up stealing and become an honest worker; all should strive to be self-supporting and charitable in supporting those who are in need. We must stop speaking evil, and instead speak only what is good, upbuilding, and gracious. We are warned to “not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). We are to stop indulging in bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice, and instead practice kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness toward one another, as God in Christ has forgiven us.

Matthew Summary:

Jesus’ healing of the demoniacs had been unappreciated and unwelcome among the Gadarenes (Matthew 8:28-34), so he returned to Capernaum. A paralytic was brought to Jesus, and Jesus commended the faith of the paralytic and his friends. Jesus told the paralytic to be encouraged; that his sins were forgiven. Scribes standing nearby said to themselves that Jesus had blasphemed.

Jesus knew their thoughts, and he said to them “Which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, “Rise and walk’?” (Matthew 9:5). Jesus told them he had chosen the more difficult option because it was important for people to know that Jesus had the authority on earth to forgive sins. Then Jesus said to the paralytic, “Rise, take up your bed and go home” (Matthew 9:8), and the paralytic did so. “When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God who had given such authority to men” (Matthew 9:8).

Commentary:

Zerubabbel (a descendant of the royal line of David) was the leader of the Israelites when they returned to the Promised Land from Babylon after seventy years of exile. He erected an altar and laid the foundations of the Second Temple on the ruins of the first Temple which had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. Jeshua (also called Joshua), the son of Jozadak, was high priest of the Jews under Zerubabbel. Both these figures were highly regarded in the restored Jewish community, and they both prefigure the Christ, who is both our King and our High Priest.

The lampstand represented the Temple and hence the Church (which has replaced the Temple). The Church is the source of light in this world. Jesus is the master builder who holds the plummet (plumb line) by which all people will be judged (see Lamentations 2:8; Amos 7:7-8). Jesus is the keystone (cornerstone; capstone) of the church (Zechariah 4:7b). The Church cannot be spiritual light in this world and build the kingdom of God by physical strength or human effort. We must rely on the Holy Spirit.

In order for the Church to provide spiritual light for the world, believers, individually and collectively, must stop indulging in the ways of the world and start being obedient to Jesus’ teachings. Do we suppose that we can live like Gentiles all week and still be light in the world? …and not grieve the Holy Spirit?

Are we truly building the kingdom of God by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, or are we attempting to build the Church in our own physical strength and human effort? Are we truly building the Temple of God or are we building our own “Country Club?” The presence of the Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are redeemed. If we do not have the seal of the Holy Spirit we do not belong to Christ (Romans 8:9)! Is the Holy Spirit present among us, or has he departed and we haven’t even noticed?

Jesus has the power and the authority to forgive sins and heal those who come to him in repentance and faith. Healing occurs when we seek healing from Jesus in faith, and then do what he tells us (Matthew 9:6b-7).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


Friday 7 Easter – Even 

First Posted 05/27/04;
Podcast: Friday 7 Easter – Even 

Jeremiah 31:27-34  -  The New Covenant;
Ephesians 5:1-32 -   Exhortation to righteous living;
Matthew 9:9-17  -  The call of Matthew;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

Jeremiah had prophesied the fall, to the Babylonians, of Judah . Here Jeremiah prophesies that, as God had depopulated Judah by exile to Babylon, so God would restore and reunite Israel and repopulate the land again. In that day each individual will be accountable for his own actions. The Lord promised that he would create a new covenant with his people, not based on law, which the people had been unable to keep, but one written on their hearts. The Lord promised that under the new covenant, each of his people would have a personal knowledge of, and fellowship with, the Lord, and their sins would be forgiven.

Ephesians Paraphrase:

Believers are called to be imitators of God as children imitate their parents; believers are to love one another following the example of Christ’s love in giving himself as a sacrifice to God for us. We are to go so far to avoid immorality, impurity and covetousness, that they are not even named among us. There is to be no vulgar talk or dirty jokes, but instead we are to focus on thanksgiving to God. No one who is immoral, impure, or covetous (idolatrous) has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God; the wrath of God is upon those who do such things, so do not be deceived by empty assurances by false teachers to the contrary.

Believers are not to associate with those who do such things. We were all once in the darkness of sin, but now through faith in Jesus, believers are children of the light of righteousness; therefore we are to walk in righteousness, and bear the fruit of righteousness in all that is good, right and true, learning and doing what is pleasing to the Lord. We are not to participate in unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them to the light. Those things done in secret in darkness are too shameful even to mention.

We have been called to awaken from darkness and sleep, and to seek the light of Christ. So let us walk carefully, living our lives wisely, because the times are evil. Let us not be foolish, but instead understand what the will of the Lord is (and do it). Let us not be full of the spirits of debauchery and drunkenness, but be filled with the Holy Spirit, celebrating with psalms and hymns, praise and thanksgiving to God in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are to relate to others in submission to one another as to the Lord.

Wives are to reverence their husbands as the head of the household as Christ is the head of the Church. Husbands are to love their wives and sacrifice themselves for their wives as Christ loved and gave himself for the Church, cleansing the Church by the waters of Baptism. Husband and wife become one flesh in a way comparable to the union and fellowship believers have with Jesus Christ through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Husbands are to love their wives as they love themselves, and wives are to respect their husbands.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus passed by the office of Matthew, a tax collector. Jesus called Matthew to follow him, and Matthew rose and did so. Matthew brought Jesus to his home for a meal, and Matthew’s friends, who were tax collectors and others who were regarded as sinners and outcasts of society joined them. When the Pharisees saw the sort of people Jesus was fellowshipping with, they criticized Jesus to his disciples. But Jesus responded that those who are healthy don’t need the services of a physician; it is those who are sick who need him.

Jesus declared that he had come not to call the righteous, but sinners. Jesus also said that showing mercy to others is a more acceptable sacrificial offering to God than merely fulfilling the ritual offering required by the law. Disciples of John the Baptizer asked Jesus why they and the Pharisees practiced fasting, while Jesus was not teaching his disciples to practice fasting. Jesus said that fasting was not appropriate as long as Jesus was with them in his earthly ministry; it was like a marriage celebration, and Jesus was like the bridegroom. Jesus said that the time was coming when Jesus would be taken away from them (by his crucifixion) and that his disciples would fast in those days.

Jesus gave an analogy of wine and wineskins to illustrate the kingdom of God. Jesus’ point was that the practice of John’s disciples and the Pharisees represent the old covenant and is valid in that context. The practice of Jesus’ disciples represents the new covenant and is equally valid in its context. The two ways should not be merged.

Commentary:

Judah was carried off to exile in Babylon because she did not obey God’s Word and heed the warning of the prophets. After seventy years in exile the Lord did restore and bring back a remnant of the people to the Promised Land. The history of God’s dealing with Israel is also a parable and a prophesy applying to the Church today, and to God’s eternal kingdom. In Jesus Christ God is restoring and repopulating his heavenly Promised Land. In Christ God is leading a remnant back from exile in a land of bondage to sin and death.

There is a Day of Judgment coming when each person will be held accountable to God for his actions. In Jesus, God has established a new covenant not based on obedience compelled by penalty of law, but motivated by love out of gratitude for the gift of forgiveness which all can receive through faith in Jesus. The Lord’s promise that his people would have personal knowledge of, and fellowship with, him, is being fulfilled through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon those who trust and obey Jesus.

The Lord gives the Holy Spirit to those who will walk in obedience to him (Isaiah 42:5e). We are to seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18b). In a way comparable to marriage union, we have union and fellowship with Jesus through his indwelling Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:31-32). We cannot expect to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit while we are living in disobedience to God.

Jesus came to call sinners to repentance. We’re all sinners; all have fallen short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23). But only those who recognize their sinfulness are able to receive the forgiveness and salvation only Jesus can offer. Those who think that they’re righteous apart from Jesus Christ are not forgiven. The sacrifice that pleases God is our sacrifice of ourselves, in love for others, which is only possible through faith in Jesus Christ and his indwelling Holy Spirit.

The Church as individual members and also as the collective body of Christ is commissioned to call sinners to repentance and faith in Jesus. Believers are called to ministry in the world, but not to be conformed to the standards of the world. Often it seems like we have gotten it backwards: Church people don’t want to associate with those we consider sinners in the world, but live according to the world while considering ourselves righteous. Instead of going out into the world to call sinners to righteousness, we tolerate sinfulness and unrighteousness within our churches!

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Saturday 7 Easter – Even 
First Posted 05/28/04;
Podcast:
Saturday 7 Easter – Even 

Ezekiel 36:22-27  -  A new heart and a new spirit;
Ephesians 6:1-24  -  The whole armor of God;
Matthew 9:18-26  -  Raising Jairus’ daughter;

Ezekiel Summary:

The Lord declared through Ezekiel that he was about to act to vindicate his holy name among the nations; the name which God’s people had caused to be profaned among the nations. The Lord declared that he would gather his people from among the nations where they had been scattered and bring them into their own land. The Lord declared that he would cleanse his people from all uncleanness and idolatry. The Lord declared that he would give his people a new heart and put a new spirit within them; the Lord would put his spirit within them and cause them to walk in obedience to God’s will and commands.

Ephesians Summary:

Children are to obey their parents. It is the fifth of the Ten Commandments, the first that contains a promise “that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth” (Ephesians 6:3; see Deuteronomy 5:16). Fathers are not to provoke their children but to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Slaves and servants are to be obedient to their masters as to the Lord, not just adopting the appearance of obedience, but truly serving in obedience from the heart, knowing that the Lord will reward their good behavior. Masters should treat their slaves and servants well, knowing that the Lord is their master and that he shows no partiality (repaying everyone according to their deeds).

Christians are to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (Ephesians 6:10). We must put on the whole armor of God in order to be able to withstand the devil. We are soldiers in a spiritual battle against the organized forces of evil, against the rulers of this present world. Therefore let us put on the whole armor of God so that we can withstand and prevail. Truth is our loincloth, righteousness our breastplate. The Gospel of peace equips our feet to go forth; the shield of faith deflects the flaming darts of the evil one. Salvation is our helmet; the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit. We are to pray at all times in the Spirit, keeping alert and persevering in supplication for all the saints, that we may be given utterance and boldness to proclaim the Gospel mightily. Paul concludes with personal comments and a benediction.

Matthew Summary:

A ruler of the synagogue (Jairus; see Mark 5:22; Luke 8:41) came to Jesus and said that his daughter had died, but asked Jesus to come and lay his hands on her, believing that if Jesus did so she would be restored to life. Jesus followed him, and on the way a woman who had suffered a hemorrhage for twelve years came up behind Jesus and touched the fringe of Jesus’ garment, believing that if she did so she would be healed. Jesus turned to her and told her to take heart; that her faith had healed her. (Jesus perceived that he had been touched in faith and that power had gone forth from him.)

When they got to Jairus’ house, he told the mourners to leave, because the girl was not dead but sleeping, and they laughed at him. Jesus went inside and took the girl by the hand and she arose. News of this miracle spread throughout the district.

Commentary:

Ezekiel’s prophecy originally applied to the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. and exile in Babylon. The prophecy of restoration was originally fulfilled when the exiles returned to Jerusalem seventy years later. God’s Word is eternal; it applies not only to a single event in history. God uses the events of his historical dealing with Israel as an illustration and a parable of what he his doing today.

The ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy began with outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus Christ on the first Pentecost of the Christian Church (Acts Chapter 2), and will climax in the gathering of his people into the eternal New Jerusalem in Heaven. Only Jesus Christ baptizes with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11; John 1:32-34). Through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ disciples’ hearts are transformed and renewed, and they receive the Spirit of the Lord within them to guide and empower them.

Believers are to raise their children to be obedient to their parents and to train them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.  Believers are children of our heavenly Father; are we obedient to our heavenly Father? Are we learning the discipline and instruction of the Lord? Are we passing that on to our children?

We are to be servants of the Lord. Are we serving the Lord from our hearts, or are we merely trying to look good in the eyes of others? Do we believe and realize that the Lord will reward us impartially according to what we have done?

Christians are to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. The Word of God is our weapon and our means of defense. Do we know the Bible? Have we read the entire Bible? Do we read the Bible daily? The Holy Spirit is the essential equipment. We cannot do the work of the Gospel in our own human strength. Those who do not have the Spirit of Christ do not belong to him (Romans 8:9b)! Have we sought the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit?

Jairus received the resurrection of his daughter because he came to the only one who is the Lord of eternal life, Jesus Christ, in faith that Jesus would restore her to life. The woman with the hemorrhage received healing because she reached out in faith and touched the only one who is the Lord of healing, Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the only one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. He knows what is in our hearts. He doesn’t give the Holy Spirit to those who will not be obedient to him (Isaiah 42:5e). If we want the baptism of the Holy Spirit we must come to him in faith and ask him for it, in commitment to walk in obedience to Jesus.

The Church is the New Israel. How are we doing? Are we following our Lord in obedience? Are we growing in discipline and instruction to spiritual maturity? Are we living in the world in ways that bring glory to the name of our Lord, or are we causing his name to be profaned among the people? Would you like a new heart and a new Spirit?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


Tomorrow is the Day of Pentecost, when the Church commemorates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Jesus Christ.


5 Easter – Even – 05/18 – 24/14

May 17, 2014

Week of 5 Easter – Even

This Bible Study was originally published at:

http://shepherdboy.journalspace.com/, (now defunct).

It is based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions p.179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.

The daily readings are according to a Calendar  based on the Church Year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent, usually sometime at the end of November in the year preceding the secular calendar year.

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To get the most from these studies, it is suggested that you first read the scripture texts for the entry, and then the paraphrase and commentary. It is also recommended that you look up the scripture references, unless you recognize and recall them from memory.

I will post weekly by Saturday, noon, (God willing), Pacific time (UTC-8:00) for the week of the Church Season which begins on Sunday. Please scroll down for the desired day, or save the week to your desktop/hard drive.

Podcast Download: Week of 5 Easter Even
Sunday 5 Easter Even 
First posted 05/07/04
Podcast: Sunday 5 Easter Even 

Leviticus 8:1-13, 30-36  -  Consecration of Aaron and his sons;
Hebrews 12:1-14  -  The discipline of the Lord;
Luke 4:16-30  -  In the synagogue at Nazareth;

Leviticus Summary:

The Lord commanded Moses to consecrate the Tabernacle and Aaron and his sons. The entire congregation assembled at the door of the Tabernacle with the animals for the sacrifices, the bread and the anointing oil. Moses washed Aaron and his sons at the laver and clothed them with the priestly garments. Moses anointed the entire Tabernacle and it’s furnishings with oil, and then anointed Aaron and his sons with oil, as the Lord had commanded. The animals were sacrificed and Moses sprinkled Aaron and his sons and their garments with some of the blood of the sacrifices and the anointing oil.

Moses told Aaron and his sons to boil the flesh of the sacrifice (of the Ram of ordination) at the door of the tent of meeting and eat it with the bread of the ordination offering. Aaron and his sons were to stay within the tent of meeting for seven days until the ordination was complete, under penalty of death. Aaron and his sons did as the Lord commanded by Moses.

Hebrews Summary:

Since we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, the spirits of the martyred heroes of the faith, let us remove every sin and hindrance which might keep us from performing our best in the race of faith, and run with perseverance. Jesus is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith; he went first to show us the way, and he makes it possible for us to come to a successful finish; to reach spiritual maturity.

Jesus is our example; he endured the suffering on the way to the finish-line, keeping his eye on the goal. Considering what Jesus suffered for us puts our suffering for the Gospel in perspective. Not many of us have resisted sin to the point of shedding our blood.

We should not despise the discipline of the Lord, nor become discouraged by it. God disciplines his children, as any good parent must. His discipline shows that we are his legitimate children. We have accepted discipline from our earthly parents and respected them for it; their discipline was at their whim, but God’s discipline is for our good, so that we may share his holiness.

Discipline is always unpleasant at the moment, but later produces worthwhile results if we will submit and be trained by it. So let’s stop whining and show some strength of character, allowing the discipline to correct what needs correcting, rather than making it further out of alignment. Let us try our best to be at peace with all people, and for holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.

Luke Summary:

Jesus returned to Nazareth after being tempted by Satan in the wilderness. On the Sabbath, he went to the synagogue. As part of the synagogue worship, Jesus was given the opportunity to read aloud from the scriptures. He chose Isaiah 61:1-2: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind. To set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” When he had finished reading, he sat down and the congregation waited expectantly for him to comment on what he had read.

Jesus began, saying that that scripture had been fulfilled that day in their presence. Everyone spoke well of him and were amazed at his gracious manner of speech, since they had known him as a local boy growing up. Jesus said they would expect him to do the great deeds in Nazareth that they had heard Jesus had done elsewhere. Jesus said that a prophet does not have the respect of his hometown that he does elsewhere (because the people think they know his origins and can’t see his greatness).

Jesus pointed out to them that in many instances in the Old Testament, Israel went without God’s help while foreigners were blessed for this very reason. He cited the stories of Elijah and the widow of Zarepath in Sidon, and Elisha and Naaman the Syrian as examples. This infuriated the people in the synagogue and they took Jesus outside and were going to throw him off a cliff, but Jesus passed through the mob and went his way.

Commentary:

God instituted the Tabernacle and the Priesthood for the benefit of his people. Holy God agreed to be accessible to his people. The sacrificial system made it possible for sinful people to have fellowship with a Holy God. God instituted it; God designed it; God had rules that he required to be followed. Moses and the people followed God’s rules; they had to surrender some of their autonomy and do some things that they would not have otherwise chosen to do, but the rewards, the goal of their obedience, was worth the effort.

Paul is describing the requirements of discipleship. His point is that faith is like an athletic competition in that it requires willingness on our part to sacrifice our comfort and persevere through difficulties in order to reach the goal and obtain the reward. Instead of resenting God’s discipline, we should accept and value it, knowing that it confirms that we are his children, and that it is preparing us to receive the reward which is the goal of our faith. If we remember what Jesus suffered for our salvation, we will be able to keep our own suffering in perspective. Like athletes, we need to keep the goal firmly in focus, and persevere through the discomfort of getting there.

To the people of Nazareth, Jesus was a local boy; the son of Joseph the carpenter. They had seen him grow up; they knew his family. When they heard him speak at the synagogue they thought he spoke well, for a hometown boy, as long as Jesus’ message didn’t apply directly to them. Jesus knew what was in their hearts. The people didn’t want to hear what Jesus told them about themselves.

Jesus’ message was intended for their benefit; if they had heeded his warning, they would not have missed the blessings that he had to offer them. Jesus had proclaimed that God had anointed him to proclaim Good News, to give freedom to those who were oppressed, sight to the blind, and God’s forgiveness and favor. But instead of accepting Jesus’ warning and changing their attitudes toward him, they hated him, and drove him out, even attempting to kill him, and forfeited the blessings that Jesus offered them.

It’s not enough to “know” Jesus; to know who he is, if we are not applying what he taught in our daily lives. The people of Nazareth “knew” Jesus; they thought they knew his father, but they really didn’t, because they thought Joseph was Jesus’ father. [Mary was pregnant by the Holy Spirit before Mary and Joseph were joined in marriage (Luke 1:26-35; Matthew 1:18-25)].  They were unwilling to accept his criticism; his authority to discipline them; his anointing. As a result they lost the blessings that he came to bring them.

Jesus is the New Covenant way, replacing the Tabernacle system, that God has instituted, through which he dwells among us and through whom we have access to God. Jesus is our New High Priest and the sacrifice once for all on the Cross which replaces the Tabernacle, the Priesthood and the sacrificial system of the Old Covenant. God has rules which we must obey if we are to receive the benefits of his promises (see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Salvation is only through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Only those who trust and obey Jesus as their Lord, who are Jesus’ disciples, receive the anointing the Holy Spirit. One cannot claim Jesus as one’s Lord if one does not do what Jesus teaches (Matthew 7:21; Luke 6:46).  The Lord does not give the gift of the Holy Spirit to those who do not walk in obedience to Jesus (Isaiah 42:5e). Those who do not have the Holy Spirit of Christ do not belong to Jesus (Romans 8:9b). The Lord does not force his discipline on us. We’re free to accept or reject it.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Monday 5 Easter Even 
First posted 05/07/04
Podcast: Monday 5 Easter Even 

Leviticus 16:1-19  -  The Day of Atonement;
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18    The return of the Lord;
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18    Jesus’ teaching on Piety;

Leviticus Summary:

Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu were slain by the Lord for violating the rules of offerings to the Lord (Leviticus 10:1-3).  Thereafter, the Lord commanded Moses to instruct Aaron to enter the holy of holies only once a year, to make atonement for himself and the people. The mercy seat was on the top of the Ark of the Covenant, where God met the priestly representative of the people. The cloud was the manifestation of God’s presence among the Israelites (see Exodus 40:34; Exodus 13:21-22).

The priest was to cleanse himself with water and then put on the priestly garments before entering the holy of holies. The priest must first offer a sin offering for himself and his household. The cloud of incense was to protect the priest from beholding God. The blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled on the front of the mercy seat. Then two goats were to be offered for the atonement of the people. One goat, selected by lot, was to be sacrificed to the Lord, and it’s blood sprinkled on the mercy seat to make atonement for the sinfulness of the people. The other (the scapegoat) was to be presented alive, after which it was to be released (bearing the sins of the people) into the wilderness to Azazel (the desert demon). No one was allowed in the tent of meeting while the priest was in making atonement for himself and the people in the holy of holies. Then he came out and sprinkled the altar and cleansed it with the sprinkling of blood of the sacrifice.

1Thessalonians Summary:

Paul wanted to reassure the Thessalonian Christians concerning their brethren who died before Jesus’ return. Those who have died will be raised through Jesus to eternal life, just as Jesus was. Those believers who remain alive at the return of Christ will not precede those who have already died. When Christ returns, the dead in Christ will rise first, and then the living will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. From then on we will be with the Lord always, so we should be comforted with this thought.

Matthew Summary:

Jesus taught his disciples that piety (religious devotion) is not to be practiced to be seen by men, but rather in unity with God’s will. We’re to give gifts of charity without calling attention to ourselves, because we share God’s concern for the poor; not so that people will think more highly of us. Those who give charitable donations in order to have human acclaim get only that as their reward; they do not receive God’s approval. But when they do it without calling any attention to themselves, God sees and rewards their compassion.

Disciples are not to make public prayers in order to be heard and commended by people. Our prayers should be made sincerely to God. God knows our hearts, so if we want God to answer our prayers we are to pray privately and sincerely to God. Likewise, if we fast, our fasting should not be an outward display for the approval of people, but an inward act of devotion to the Lord.

Commentary:

Nadab and Abihu were slain because they misused their office; they made an unauthorized offering to the Lord. Outwardly what they did had the appearance of serving the Lord, but it was contrary to God’s will. The people were separated from the Holy God by their sins. The priest had to make atonement annually first for his own sins and then for the sins of the people. Only blood from the sacrifices cleansed the tabernacle and the people from sin. The sins of the people were placed upon and borne by the scapegoat into the wilderness.

Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross was offered once for all (Hebrews 9:25-26); his blood cleanses us from all unrighteousness (Hebrews 9:13-14). He has become our High Priest who entered into Heaven to secure our atonement by his blood (Hebrews 9:11-12). Jesus is our “scapegoat.” He bore our sins on the Cross; he carried them into the wilderness of death for us.

Paul reassured the Thessalonians that there will be no distinction between those living in Christ and those who had died in Christ on the day of our Lord’s return. Most believers expected the imminent return of Christ, and it would be understandable to imagine that those who died might have somehow fallen short.

Jesus’ teaching on piety is a warning to not make unauthorized use of the rituals of worship; not to subvert the rituals of worship to our own glory. It’s also a warning to us not to attempt to judge our brethrens’ relationships with the Lord on the basis of superficial outward appearances.

Through Jesus’ blood we have been cleansed from sin and restored to fellowship with the Lord. Through the Holy Spirit of Christ we have personal access to the Lord everyday and anytime; not just once a year through an intermediary. Are we making the most of the opportunity?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Tuesday 5 Easter Even 
First posted 05/07/04;
Podcast: Tuesday 5 Easter Even 

Leviticus 16:20-34  -  The Day of Atonement;

1Thessalonians 5:1-11 -   The Day of the Lord;

Matthew 6:7-15  -  The Disciples’ Prayer;

Leviticus Summary:

After the priest had purified the holy of holies, the tent of meeting and the altar, he was to present the live goat (before the mercy seat). The priest was to lay his hands on the head of the live goat and confess all the sins of the people.

Then the goat was to be taken away and sent into the wilderness by an assistant. Then the priest was to wash and change his clothes in the holy of holies before coming out into the courtyard to offer burnt offerings for the atonement of himself and the people. The assistant who released the goat into the wilderness must wash and change his clothes before reentering the camp.

The bull and the goat which were slain for the sin offering, whose blood was sprinkled for atonement were to be carried out of the camp and burned. The assistant who burned the bull and goat had to wash and change his clothes before re-entering the camp. The tenth day of the seventh month (September/October) was designated as the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). It was to be a Sabbath of solemn rest.

1Thessalonians Summary:

Believers should not be preoccupied with trying to determine a precise timetable for the coming Day of Judgment. Jesus warned that the Day of the Lord would come like a thief in the night, or like labor pains to a pregnant woman. Believers are not ignorant of the fact that judgment is coming so as to be caught by surprise. So believers are to stay alert and sober.

Believers live in the light of the Gospel; sleeping and drunkenness (living in carelessness, sin and debauchery) are not appropriate behavior for those living in the daylight, but are practiced by those living in darkness. Instead of those worldly vices, let us put on the armor of Christian virtues of faith, love and hope.

God’s will for us is that we would be saved through Jesus Christ, who died so that whether we die before he returns for us or are still living on that day, we may live eternally with him. Let us encourage and build up one another with these thoughts.

Matthew Summary:

Jesus taught his disciples how they ought to pray. God knows our hearts and our needs. We can’t fool or impress God with our words. Sincerity is vastly more important than eloquence. When we pray we should acknowledge and reverence God’s glory and pray for his glory to be throughout this world. Believers are to be committed to work and pray for the coming of God’s kingdom (even unto ourselves), and to pray that God’s will would be done on earth (even by ourselves) as it is in heaven, completely and gladly.

We acknowledge that all that we need for daily life comes from him, and ask him, with gratefulness, to provide for our needs today. We acknowledge that we are sinful and in need of forgiveness that he alone can provide, and we recognize our obligation to forgive others as we have been forgiven. We ask God to help us avoid temptation and, through Jesus, to be victorious over temptation. We ask God to save us from every evil and bring us to his eternal kingdom. Jesus warns us that unless we are willing to forgive others who sin against us, God will not forgive us our sins.

Commentary:

The Day of Atonement was generally understood as a day of judgment. It was a time of self-examination and confession. Every year, for only one day only the high priest could enter into the presence of the Lord. First he had to wash and put on clean garments. Then he had to bring the blood of the sacrifice with him into God’s presence, as a substitution for his own blood and the blood of the people. Finally, when the Tabernacle and all it’s furnishings, the priest and the people had been purified, the sins of all were confessed and placed upon the scapegoat who carried them into the wilderness away from the camp and the people.

There is a Day of Judgment coming, when Christ will return to judge all who have ever lived on earth. (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46). Paul tells believers that they shouldn’t be preoccupied with trying to determine when that will be. Jesus said, of that day, that no one knows the day or time (Matthew 24:36). What believers should be doing is living every day in obedience to God’s will. Jesus has delivered us from the kingdom of the darkness of sin into the kingdom of the light of his righteousness.

Believers are to live as citizens of that kingdom of righteousness. If we’re living in faith and obedience to Jesus, we don’t have to worry about the Day of Judgment; it is the Lord’s will for us to be saved and to receive eternal life in Heaven with him. Jesus’ blood, shed as a sacrifice for our sins on the Cross, atones for our sins.

Jesus is our scapegoat; he bore our sins on the cross and removed them far from us. Through Jesus’ death on the Cross we are restored to full fellowship with God, not just one day a year, but once for all time and all people, provided that we trust and obey Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

If we truly believe Jesus, we will do what he says. When Christians do what is contrary to God’s Word we dishonor God in our world. Are we acknowledging and reverencing God’s glory on earth as God is honored and glorified in heaven? Are we working and praying for the coming of God’s kingdom on earth as it is present in Heaven? Are we working and praying for God’s will to be done in our lives and in our world as it is done in Heaven? Do we acknowledge with thankfulness that everything we have comes from God? Do we realize and appreciate the forgiveness we have through Jesus Christ? Do we forgive others as we have been forgiven? Do we ask God to help us resist temptation and to be victorious over temptation through Jesus Christ?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Wednesday 5 Easter Even 
First posted 05/07/04;
Podcast:
Wednesday 5 Easter Even 

Leviticus 19:1-18  -  The Life of Holiness;
1 Thessalonians 5:12-28  -  Exhortations to Christian Living;
Matthew 6:19-24  -  Treasure in Heaven;

Leviticus Summary:

The Lord said, “You shall be holy for I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:2). God expects us to keep the Ten Commandments. The peace offering was a covenant meal affirming the individuals’ relationship with God and the congregation. It was to be partaken in accordance with God’s instructions; anyone who ate it in an unworthy manner would be cut off from the congregation and accountable to God for his sin.

The Lord commanded regulations concerning harvests, to prevent the people from becoming so obsessed with personal gain that there was undue hardship on the poor. The people were to avoid doing anything that would profane the name of the Lord. They were to love their neighbors as they loved themselves.

1 Thessalonians Summary:

Paul exhorted believers to respect their Christian leaders, and to be at peace with fellow believers; to admonish the idle (those who are not working for the up-building of the kingdom), to encourage the fainthearted (the fearful, the timid, and the discouraged), to help those who are weak (in faith), and to be patient with all. We are never to repay evil with evil but are always to seek to do good to our brethren in the faith and to all people.

We are to have an attitude of rejoicing, thanksgiving and prayer at all times. We are not to quench the Holy Spirit (not to resist the guidance of the Holy Spirit, or to indulge in sin, which interferes with the working of the Holy Spirit through us). We are not to neglect the proclamation of God’s Word. We are to be discerning; evaluating everything in relationship to God’s Word, so that we will be able to hold fast to what is worthy and to abstain from every form of evil.

May the God of peace bring us to spiritual maturity and keep us sound and blameless at the return of the Lord on the Day of Judgment. God is faithful and he will do it. Paul sent  his greetings and asked for their prayers; he asked that the letter be read to all the brethren, and closed with a benediction that we might receive the grace (the free gift of salvation; God’s unmerited favor) which  is available to us through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ as our Lord.

Matthew Summary:

Jesus warns us not to desire or expend our efforts on accumulating material wealth, which offers no eternal security, but instead to pursue the spiritual goals, which do have eternal value. What we value will determine where our devotion lies.

The eye is like a window which lets light into our bodies. Spiritual blindness is similar to physical blindness. If there is something wrong with the eye that causes it not to see the light, then the whole body is full of darkness, which represents sin). If we misperceive darkness (perhaps false religion) as light our spiritual vision is profoundly defective. If we deliberately indulge in darkness once we have been enlightened, our sinfulness is profound and without cure.

No one can serve two masters, because it is impossible to please both. We will serve one or the other; we cannot pursue both the things of God and the things of this world, so we must choose which we will serve.

Commentary:

The Lord expects us to obey his word. Our behavior is to bring honor and glory to God. Those who participated in the meal of the covenant in an unworthy manner were to be cut off from the congregation and left to the judgment of God. This applies to the Eucharist (The Sacrament of Holy Communion; the Lord’s Supper) which is the New Covenant meal.

The Lord commanded his people specifically not to be so obsessed with wringing every last penny of profit from our enterprise that there was nothing left for the poor to gather for sustenance; yet among many who claim to be “Christian” today in our society, the “bottom line” is everything.

We claim to be a Christian nation, and yet “outsourcing” is the conventional “enlightenment.” Our capitalists pay slave wages to foreigners in order to wring every last penny of profits, without any gratitude for their blessings or any sense of obligation to the poor of our society. They even try, often successfully, to avoid paying income tax. Do you think they tithe?

Are we participating in Holy Communion, the meal of the New Covenant, in a worthy manner? Are pastors and congregations allowing people to be members in good standing and to participate in the covenant meal when they are openly participating in an unworthy manner?

Are we living the Christian life according to the standards Paul set forth? Are we trying to serve two masters? Are we laying up treasure in heaven, or condemnation to Hell in the Day of Judgment?

Do we imagine that we are glorifying the name of the Lord and promoting the kingdom of Jesus Christ by coveting and seizing the material resources of the “gentiles?” Are we truly trying to glorify our Lord or are we interested only in gratifying our own selfish interests?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Thursday 5 Easter Even 

First posted 05/07/04;
Podcast: Thursday 5 Easter Even 

Leviticus 19:26-37  -  Prohibitions against heathen practices;
2 Thessalonians 1:1-12  -  The Judgment of God;
Matthew 6:25-34  -  Seek first the Kingdom of God;

Leviticus Summary:

These laws were to prevent the Israelites from adopting the heathen practices of their neighbors. They were not to eat flesh with blood in it. They were not to mutilate hair or body, a common practice at the time, as a sign of mourning. They were not to incorporate prostitution into religious observance, another common practice of the time; they were not to consult practitioners of the occult. They were to honor the elderly, and they were to fear God. Strangers were to be treated like natives, remembering that Israel sojourned in Egypt. They were to have honest weights and measures. They were to obey all the Lord’s commandments.

2 Thessalonians Summary:

Paul gave thanks for the growing faith and love of the believers at Thessalonica. Paul was proud of them for their steadfastness in persecution and affliction. Their suffering, through which testing they would be made worthy for the kingdom of God, would reveal the righteous judgment of God. The result will be God’s judgment of rest for those who were afflicted, and affliction to those who afflicted them, on the day of the Lord’s return.

In that day he will inflict vengeance on those who do not know God and those who do not obey the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Their punishment will be eternal destruction (not annihilation; not “nothingness”) and eternal exclusion from the Lord’s presence.

On the day of his return Jesus will be glorified by what he has accomplished for his people, and marveled at by all who have believed as the result of the testimony of his witnesses. Paul’s prayer for believers is that they would be worthy of the Lord’s call, and that their good intentions might accomplish appropriate results, so that the name of Jesus would be glorified in them, that they in turn would be glorified in Jesus, according to God’s grace.

Matthew Summary:

Jesus taught that we should not be preoccupied with our need for food and clothing. God our Father cares for us and is able to provide for us as illustrated by his creation. Worrying is unproductive; we cannot solve our problems by worrying about them. A better way to live is to trust in God who loves us and who will provide for our needs.

If we will seek first God’s kingdom in our lives, he will provide for all our daily needs, but if we do not trust God to provide for our needs and feel that we must first provide for our needs ourselves, we will never get around to seeking God’s kingdom, and it will be impossible for us to find, because it requires trust in God and obedience to his Word. Therefore Jesus counsels us not to worry about tomorrow; we should just live one day at a time.

Commentary:

The Lord didn’t want his people to adopt the sinful practices of the culture around them. It was commonly believed that the blood of an animal contained its spirit, or life-force. God didn’t want his people consuming the blood of animals, because he wanted his Holy Spirit to dwell in them through the blood of Christ shared in the sacrament of Holy Communion (the Eucharist; the Lord’s Supper).

God’s people were not to mourn like heathens who have no hope of eternal life with God. The Lord did not want his people to consult practitioners of the occult because such practices are demonic. God doesn’t want his people to be influenced by demonic spirits; God wants to lead us by his Holy Spirit.

God wants his people to treat others fairly and equally, so that the Lord will be glorified in all that we do. If believers treat others badly, we have seriously jeopardized their opportunity to hear and receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ and eternal salvation.

There is a Day of Judgment coming, when those who have rejected and refused to obey Jesus Christ will be punished with eternal destruction (not annihilation; not nothingness) and eternal separation from God. Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life with the Lord in Heaven. When the Lord returns, he will be glorified for what he has done for his people in making possible their forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life. Paul commends believers for their growing spiritual maturity and their perseverance through persecution. His prayer for them is that their good intentions would produce appropriate results that will glorify Jesus, so that on the day of the Lord they might be glorified in Jesus.

Seeking the kingdom of God is the most important thing we can do; it should be our main mission in life. I personally totally believe that the central reason and purpose for life on this earth is to seek after and find God (Acts 17:26-27).  God wants us to find him. He has promised that if we sincerely seek him he will be found by us (2 Chronicles 15:2b-d; see Matthew 7:7-8). Jesus Christ is the fullest manifestation of God to the world, and Jesus is the only way to God and his kingdom (Acts 4:12; John 14:6).

Are we seeking the Holy Spirit, or are we indulging our “animal spirits?” Are we living like citizens of an eternal kingdom, or like there’s no tomorrow? Have we allowed immorality and perversion into our Churches? Do we dabble in the occult, perhaps check our horoscopes, and think that it’s harmless? Are we reforming and renewing the culture around us according to God’s Word, or are we being conformed to and ruined by that culture? Are we treating others in ways that glorify the name of the Lord? When Jesus returns his enemies will be punished. Jesus will be glorified for what he has done for his people. Will those who call themselves his people be glorified for what they have done in Jesus’ name or will they be ashamed? Which group will you be in on the Day of the Lord?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Friday 5 Easter Even 

First posted 05/07/04;
Podcast: Friday 5 Easter Even 

Leviticus 23:1-22  –   Appointed feasts;
2 Thessalonians 2:1-17  -  The Day of the Lord;
Matthew 7:1-12  -  Practical application of Jesus’ message;

Leviticus Summary:

The Lord commanded the observance of several sacred holidays. The first was the Sabbath; a day of rest and communal worship every seventh day. Then the annual feasts: Passover on the evening of the 14th of the first month (March-April) and the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days beginning the 15th day of the first month with a holy convocation and ending on the 21st with a holy convocation and Sabbath rest. The offering of first fruits occurred the day after the concluding Sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (i.e., on the 22nd of the first month; the beginning of the barley harvest). There was to be an offering of the first fruits before any of the harvest could be eaten. A one-year old male Lamb perfect, unblemished, was also to be offered as a burnt offering. Fifty days after the Feast of Unleavened bread was the Feast of Weeks, at the completion of the wheat harvest. A wave offering of bread made from the wheat as the first fruits of the harvest was made. A number of animals were also sacrificed. The day was to be a Sabbath of corporate worship and rest. The Lord specifically instructed his people to leave some of their harvest ungathered, for the poor and the alien to glean.

2 Thessalonians Summary:

An erroneous teaching had arisen in the Thessalonian congregation that the Day of the Lord had already come. Paul wanted to correct the false teaching and reassure the Thessalonians. Believers are not to be misled by anyone claiming by the Word of God or the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that the Day of the Lord’s return has already occurred.

Paul said that the Lord will not return before the antichrist has been revealed. The manifestation of the antichrist will be accompanied by great signs and wonders, which will deceive those who are perishing (Matthew 24:24), because they have refused to believe the truth (the Gospel of Jesus Christ) and so be saved. All those who have rejected the truth and have taken pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned.

But Paul rejoiced that the Thessalonians had responded to God’s call to be saved through the sanctifying influence of the indwelling Holy Spirit through faith (obedient trust) in the truth of Jesus Christ. God has called us through the Gospel so that we might share in the glory of Jesus Christ. So believers are urged to hold fast to the apostolic faith as recorded in the Scriptures. God has loved us and has given us eternal comfort and a great hope as a free gift; so let us be comforted and firmly stand and live (applying the Word in our daily lives) according to the Gospel truth.

Matthew Summary:

Here is the practical application of Jesus’ message. We’re not to be condemning of others, but let us be honest with ourselves. Let us not use the shortcomings of others to overlook or excuse our own shortcomings. Let’s change ourselves, over whom we do have control, instead of trying to change others. Don’t expect unbelievers to value spiritual truth; understand that they cannot appreciate spiritual truth any more than a pig can value fine jewelry. Forcing spiritual truth on unbelievers can prompt a vicious response.

If we earnestly seek the things of God we will find them. If we ask God in faith for what we truly need we will receive it. God loves us as a good father loves his children. God wants to give us good things; he doesn’t give evil when we ask for what is good. So we should treat others the way we would like to be treated. If we do that we will have satisfied all God’s commandments.

Commentary:

The Last Supper of Jesus Christ on the night he was betrayed was the celebration of the Passover. The Passover meal commemorated God’s saving work of sparing the Israelites, by the blood of the Passover Lamb, from the death of the firstborn of the Egyptians. The Israelites were obedient to God’s commands concerning the first Passover meal, and waited in faith for the Lord to deliver them from bondage to sin and death in Egypt and to lead them to the Promised Land. Passover is an illustration of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. Jesus became our Passover Lamb. His blood protects us from eternal death. His Holy Spirit sanctifies (purifies and designates us for service to God) and leads us to the eternal Promised Land of the kingdom of God in Heaven.

The Festival of Weeks (a week of weeks; i.e., seven weeks, or 49 days after the Feast of  Unleavened Bread) was the celebration of the harvest, which came to be known as Pentecost (Greek for “fifty”). Pentecost became the day that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Church after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven. Pentecost is the spiritual harvest. The gift of the Holy Spirit is the first fruits of our salvation. It is the “down payment” by which we have some immediate reward, and it is the “security deposit” which guarantees our inheritance of eternal life.

The Holy Spirit works in believers to purify them and to mark them as holy and dedicated to the service of the Lord. The Lord gives the gift of the Holy Spirit to those who trust and obey Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit comforts us, empowers us, and leads us and assures us that we are in Christ. Those who do not have the Holy Spirit of Christ do not belong to Jesus (Romans 8:9b).

The Lord gives the Holy Spirit to those who walk in it (Isaiah 42:5e; i.e., those who are obedient to God’s will). God wants us to have the gift of the Holy Spirit, but he won’t give his Holy Spirit to those who will not submit to the Spirit’s leading. If we want the gift, we must seek it; we must begin to apply Jesus’ teaching in our daily lives.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Saturday 5 Easter Even 

First posted 05/07/04;
Podcast:
Saturday 5 Easter Even 

Leviticus 23:23-44  -  Appointed feasts;

2 Thessalonians 3:1-18  -  Exhortation to diligence;

Matthew 7:13-21  -  Known by their fruit ;

Leviticus Summary:

In addition to Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of First Fruits, and Pentecost, the first day of the seventh month (September-October) was the Festival of Trumpets, or New Year. It was to be a day of sabbath rest and corporate worship (as a group), begun with a blast of trumpets; a burnt offering was to be presented. On the tenth day of that month was the Day of Atonement.  It was to be a day of sabbath rest and of corporate worship. It was a day of penitence. A burnt offering was to be presented.

On the fifteenth day of the month, for seven days, was the Feast of Booths, or Thanksgiving. The first day was a sabbath rest with corporate worship. A burnt offering was to be presented every day for seven days. The eighth day was also a sabbath rest and corporate worship with a burnt offering. All the people were to live in booths (temporary shelters made of branches) in the fields for seven days, commemorating Israel’s nomadic experience in the wilderness when the Lord led them out of Egypt. It was to be a time of rejoicing, expressed by waving palm branches and other leafy branches. These appointed feasts were to be observed in addition to the ordinary Sabbaths and offerings.

2 Thessalonians Summary

In closing, Paul asked the Thessalonians to pray for the spread of the Gospel, and that the Lord would deliver believers from evil. Paul expressed confidence that the Thessalonians were and would continue to be obedient to the Gospel as Paul had taught them. Some of the believers, believing that Christ’s return was imminent, had quit working and were living in idleness, dependent upon the generosity of others. Paul told the Thessalonians to shun those members and not support them by continuing to feed them.

Paul had set an example while he was with them. He had not required their support in return for his ministry, but had supported himself at his trade as a tentmaker. Paul also instructed them to shun anyone who refuses to obey the instructions Paul had given in this letter, not in enmity, but as a warning so that the individual and the congregation would be built up and strengthened. He offered a final benediction of peace, and appended his signature and a short note in his own handwriting to assure the genuineness of the letter.

Matthew Summary:

Discipline is required of believers. Jesus warned that the easy, undisciplined way leads to destruction. Jesus’ way requires effort and self-denial. Not everyone will be willing to make the effort, but the reward is true life now and eternally. Jesus warned his followers to beware of false prophets, who appear outwardly to be of God, but who are inwardly working against the best interests of God’s people. The test of a prophet is an examination of his works.  Not everyone who claims Jesus as Lord will be saved. Those for whom Jesus is truly Lord will do what Jesus commanded and taught.

Commentary:

The Lord wanted his people to observe every Sabbath with corporate worship and rest, in addition to the major festivals which commemorated the great things that the Lord had done for his people. Individuals who violated the law concerning the keeping of the Day of Atonement were to be removed from the congregation (Leviticus 23:29-30).

Those who truly believe in Jesus should want to pray and work for the spread of the Gospel. We should not only pray that someone else would spread the Gospel. If we sincerely pray for the spread of the Gospel the Lord will show us how we can participate. Paul was referring to a particular situation in the Thessalonian congregation, but his instructions concerning idleness also has a universal application to the work of ministry.  In many churches today, many members come to church to be spiritually “fed” but they don’t do any of the work of spreading the Gospel; they leave that up to the Pastor.

All believers are called to be disciples. The church is called to make disciples who will then go out and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). The commission to make disciples includes teaching believers to obey all that Jesus commanded. This is most often not happening. Paul told his congregations not to tolerate members who sucked up resources and didn’t do any useful work (2 Thessalonians 3:10-11). He also told them not to tolerate members who do not obey the scriptures (2 Thessalonians 3:14).

Jesus warns us that the way to eternal life is not the wide, easy road. Discipleship is required: discipline, self-denial, active faith that practices what it preaches. Jesus warns us to beware of false prophets. There are many, even in pulpits, today, who are proclaiming a gospel of “Cheap Grace.*” We are saved by grace (God’s unmerited favor) through faith (sincere conviction which directs our actions); not by works (good deeds) (Ephesians 2:8-9). “Cheap Grace*” is counting on God’s unmerited favor without being obedient to his Word; without producing the fruits of faith in our lives; it is grace without discipleship.

Not only are works the test of a prophet; they are the test of the “believer” as well (James 2:17-18). Jesus said, “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21) and “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you (Luke 6:46)?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


 *See: The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Collier Books, Macmillan Publishing Co., NY 1963 ISBN 0-02-083850-6


 

4 Easter – Even – 05/11 – 18/14

May 10, 2014

Week of 4 Easter – Even

This Bible Study was originally published at:

http://shepherdboy.journalspace.com/, (now defunct).

It is based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions p.179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.

The daily readings are according to a Calendar  based on the Church Year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent, usually sometime at the end of November in the year preceding the secular calendar year.

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To get the most from these studies, it is suggested that you first read the scripture texts for the entry, and then the paraphrase and commentary. It is also recommended that you look up the scripture references, unless you recognize and recall them from memory.

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Podcast Download: Week of 4 Easter – Even
Sunday 4 Easter – Even 
First Posted 05/01/04;
Podcast: Sunday 4 Easter – Even 

Exodus 28:1-4, 30-38 – Priestly garments;
1 John 2:18-29 – Loyalty to true faith;
Mark 6:30-44 – Feeding the five thousand;

Exodus Summary:

The Lord told Moses to consecrate Aaron (Moses’ brother) for the priesthood, and gave him instructions to have priestly garments made for Aaron and Aaron’s four sons. The garments consisted of a breastpiece, and ephod (like an apron), a robe, a coat, a turban and a girdle (waistband). The robe worn under the ephod was blue. The hem was decorated with pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet, with golden bells between each pomegranate around the hem. The priest was required to wear it so he could be heard as he ministered before the altar, and coming and going from the holy place, under penalty of death. The priest wore a turban on his head with a gold plate attached to the turban and engraved with the words, “Holy to the Lord.” The plate was attached to the turban so that it would hang against the priest’s forehead, as a constant reminder that the priest bears the responsibility for the holy offering, acceptable to God, of the people’s gifts.

1 John Summary

John tells believers that we are approaching the culmination of history, when the antichrist will be revealed. Already there was opposition to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Already in the first-century church there were false doctrines and false teachers in the Church. In the case of false teachers, they did not continue in the true faith because they were not truly born-again Christian disciples. But those who are authentic born-again Christians have received and been enlightened by the indwelling Holy Spirit, which enables us to discern the truth.

Anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ is a liar and is of the antichrist. No one who denies that Jesus is the Son of God abides in God. Those who receive the Son receive and know the Father also. John exhorts believers to hold fast to the fundamental Gospel truth, (as proclaimed by the apostles and recorded in the Bible). If we abide in the scriptural Gospel, we will abide in God the Father and his Son, and we will receive the eternal life which he has promised us.

John warns believers about false teachers, but recognizes that believers need to seek and receive the anointing of the Holy Spirit. The anointing of the Holy Spirit teaches believers far better than human teachers. So believers need to be taught by the Holy Spirit, and to trust and abide in that teaching. Believers are exhorted to remain obedient to Jesus’ teaching and the leading of the Holy Spirit, so that we will have no reason for guilt when Jesus returns on the Day of Judgment. If we understand that Jesus is righteous, we can realize that those are truly born of him will do what is righteous.

Mark Summary:

When the disciples returned from a missionary assignment (see Mark 6:7-13) in the surrounding region, they gave Jesus a report on their activities. Jesus invited them to come apart with him on a retreat to take a rest from the demands of ministry. Jesus and his disciples left by boat, but many saw them leave, and deduced where they were going, so they ran ahead and were waiting for them when Jesus and his disciples arrived. Jesus had compassion for them because they were “like sheep without a shepherd” and he began to teach them many things.

When it grew late the disciples suggested that Jesus send the crowd away to get food for themselves in the surrounding villages, but instead, Jesus told his disciples to feed the multitude. The disciples pointed out that it would cost two hundred days wages to buy bread to feed the crowd. Jesus told the disciples to check to see what food was at hand. They reported that they had five loaves and two fish among them. So Jesus had the crowd sit down, and after he had blessed and broke the bread and fish, he had the disciples distribute it to the people. About five thousand people ate and were satisfied, and there were twelve baskets of food left over.

The Lord instructed Moses to institute a priesthood to minister before God on behalf of the people. The priests’ clothing was designed to remind everyone, both priest and congregation, that the priest was to be holy and that he bore responsibility for the spiritual welfare of the people. The golden plate hung on the priest’s forehead to remind all, including the priest himself, that he was serving a Holy God, that he was to be holy in the performance of his duties, and that he was responsible for the holiness of the people for whom he interceded before God. The bells on the fringe of the robe were also a reminder to him and to the congregation.

Jesus trained his disciples to carry on his ministry. All believers (not just ordained pastors) are all called to be disciples and to carry on the ministry which Jesus began and demonstrated by example. We are to be compassionate toward one another. We are to minister to people’s physical as well as spiritual needs. Jesus didn’t let his disciples sent the people away to fend for themselves; Jesus commissioned his disciples to be shepherds for the “lost sheep.” The disciples were still in training; they hadn’t yet received the anointing by the Holy Spirit (Acts Chapter 2); they didn’t need the Holy Spirit while Jesus was still with them physically. They were obedient to Jesus, and Jesus worked through them to feed the multitude. The disciples’ personal resources were inadequate except through Jesus.

Divisions, false teachings and false teachers arose in the first century church. The false teachers and false doctrines were inspired by the spirit of the antichrist. They left the true church because the true church held fast to the scriptural and apostolic faith, and because the church leaders were anointed with the Holy Spirit. The Church must continually be vigilant to resist the attacks by the antichrist through false teachers and false teachings.

How are we doing, Church? Are we holding firmly to the Biblical, Apostolic Gospel? Are we willing to be disciples? Have we come to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through his indwelling Holy Spirit? Are we making disciples? Are we teaching obedience to Jesus? Are we exhorting disciples to seek the anointing of the Holy Spirit? Are we insisting on ordaining only Spirit-filled pastors and leaders?

Monday 4 Easter – Even 
First Posted 05/02/04;
Podcast: Monday 4 Easter – Even 

Exodus 32:1-20 – Aaron makes a golden calf;

Colossians 3:18-4:6 (7-18) – The Christian’s duties;
Matthew 5:1-10 – The Beatitudes;

Exodus Summary:

While Moses was on the mountaintop with God for a long period of time, the people became impatient and appointed Aaron to be their leader, and told Aaron to make a golden calf as a representation of their god. Aaron took the golden earrings (the golden jewelry the Lord had given them as booty when he brought them out of Egypt; Exodus 11:2; Exodus 12:35-36) and fashioned a golden calf. The people rose up and worshiped the golden calf, and gave to it the glory that belonged to God, declaring that their idol had delivered them from Egypt (Exodus 32:4). The Lord told Moses to go down to the people, because they had already broken the covenant God had made with them and had turned from God to worship idols.

The Lord was ready to destroy the people, but Moses interceded with the Lord on the peoples’ behalf and the Lord changed his mind. Moses came down from the mountain carrying the two tablets of the law engraved in stone by the hand of God, accompanied by Joshua. When they drew near they heard a commotion in the camp, and Joshua recognized that it was not civil war but rather idolatrous worship that was going on. When Moses came into the camp and saw the idol and the dancing, he became very angry; he threw the stone tablets engraved with God’s commandments to the ground and broke them. Moses ground up the golden calf that the people had made, cast the powder into the water and made the people drink it.

Colossians Summary:

Christians are to conduct themselves with love and submission to others in whatever role they have, whether wives, husbands, children, parents, slaves, or masters. Whatever our role, we are to pursue it as serving the Lord, rather than men; not as “eye-pleasers” (doing good only when others are watching, to be seen by them) but earnestly from the heart, remembering always that the Lord will repay us according to our deeds.

Those in authority should remember that God in Heaven has the ultimate authority over us. We should pray regularly and earnestly in faith, with thanksgiving, not only for ourselves, but also for the advancement of the Gospel, and for all Christian workers, apostles, evangelists, preachers, missionaries, and those who are persecuted for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are to conduct ourselves wisely toward unbelievers so as to make the most of opportunities to share the Gospel with them, graciously, but spiritually incisively.

Matthew Summary:

Jesus taught his disciples, declaring that those who accept God’s reign as their Lord and live in obedience to him will be blessed with his favor. Those who recognize their spiritual need will receive the blessing of life in the kingdom of heaven. Those who are unhappy with their lives in this world will be comforted. The meek will ultimately triumph. Those who long for righteousness will be satisfied. Those who are merciful to others will receive mercy for themselves. Those who sincerely, unequivocally seek goodness will find it in a personal relationship with God. Those who work earnestly for peace will be acknowledged as sons of God.

Commentary:

As soon as Moses had been gone to the mountaintop to meet with God a little longer than the people expected they abandoned their covenant relationship with God to which they had just agreed. They began to worship the material wealth that the Lord had given them in repayment of their years of slavery in Egypt, and they gave the credit and praise for delivering them from slavery in Egypt, which rightly belonged only to God, to an idol which they had created out of the material blessings God had provided.

God could have destroyed the Israelites right then and still have fulfilled his ultimate plan through Moses, but God chose instead to allow his original plan to continue. God’s punishment of disobedience had not been avoided, but deferred, in mercy, allowing for the possibility of repentance and forgiveness.

We are living in the period of God’s mercy, between God’s anger at sin and rebellion and his punishment of sin and rebellion. All have sinned and have fallen short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23). The penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). God loves us and doesn’t want any of us to perish eternally, but for all to have eternal life with him (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). There is a Day of Judgment coming; everyone who has ever lived on earth will be accountable to God in Jesus Christ for his deeds (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46). Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6).

Now is the time to repent and seek forgiveness. Now is the time to enter into the New Covenant relationship with God through faith and obedience to Jesus Christ. Jesus ascended to God (Acts 1:9-11) and has promised to return to judge the earth and to take his disciples to the eternal kingdom of Heaven (John 14:2-3). Do we grow impatient and turn away from our covenant because Jesus has not yet returned and we think it’s taking him longer that it should? Are we making the most of the time to share the Gospel with the lost?

The Israelites thought they could satisfy their spiritual needs with material things. They exchanged manna (bread from heaven; Exodus 16:4-5), water from the rock (Exodus 17:5-6) and God’s presence and guidance in the pillar of fire and smoke (Exodus 13:21-22) for an idol of gold that couldn’t satisfy their hunger or thirst (Exodus 32:20) or offer any guidance. Jesus told his disciples that we cannot have fellowship with God and enjoy the blessings only he can give us unless we accept his Lordship of our lives and submit in obedience to him. We can’t enter his kingdom by following the ways of the world.

Unless we are willing to come out of Egypt and follow the Lord through the wilderness of this world, we will die eternally for our sins. If we follow the Lord and are obedient to his commandments he will provide for us both physically and spiritually. The Lord is our source of the spiritual water of eternal life (John 4:14), the spiritual bread of life (John 6:35-36). Those who trust and obey him receive the indwelling Holy Spirit, (the presence and guidance of the Spirit of the Lord, comparable to the Israelites’ wilderness experience of the pillar of fire and smoke). We enter into the New Covenant with God when we trust and obey Jesus.

Jesus has promised to return; do we get impatient and turn to the worship of worldly idols? Do we exchange the Living Water, Bread of Life, and the gift of the Holy Spirit for material wealth and worldly success? Or do we truly hunger and thirst for righteousness? Do we earnestly seek to follow Jesus?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Tuesday 4 Easter – Even 
First Posted 05/03/04;
Podcast: Tuesday 4 Easter – Even 

Exodus 32:21-34 – The Ordination of the Levites;
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 – Turning to God from Idols;
Matthew 5:11-16 – Salt and Light;

Exodus Summary:

Moses returned from the mountaintop and found the people, who Moses had left under Aaron’s supervision, engaged in idolatry. Moses rebuked Aaron for allowing the people to commit this great sin. Aaron blamed the people and tried to deny personal responsibility, claiming that he put the jewelry into the fire and a golden calf just came out by itself. When Moses saw that the people had rebelled against the Lord, he stood at the gate of the camp and called for those loyal to the Lord to gather together. All the sons of Levi stepped forward, and Moses commissioned them to take up their swords and quell the rebellion by slaying their own brothers and neighbors who rebelled against the Lord.

The sons of Levi did as instructed and about three thousand Israelites were slain that day. Moses declared that the Levites had ordained themselves for the Lord’s service, each at the cost of his son and of his brother, in order to receive a blessing from the Lord. The next day Moses again interceded (see Exodus 32:11-14 for the first instance) to God for the people’s forgiveness. Moses offered his own soul (eternal life) for them (Exodus 32:32; compare with Psalm 69:28, Isaiah 4:3; Daniel 12:1). But the Lord said that he would hold each person accountable for their own soul. The Lord told Moses to continue their journey, but promised that a Day of Judgment would be coming.

1 Thessalonians Summary:

Paul wrote to the congregation at Thessalonica with thankfulness that they were persevering in the face of persecution. Paul was confident that the Thessalonians would be saved because they received the Gospel with full assurance, no only in words, but in power and the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Paul taught them by example as well as by words, and they had followed not only Paul’s but also Jesus’ example. Although they were afflicted, they received the Gospel with joy through the indwelling Holy Spirit, and they in turn became examples throughout the region of Greece and Macedonia of how they had “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

Matthew Summary:

Jesus told his disciples to expect persecution, and to rejoice in it, because it will indicate that they have a reward in Heaven (because they are doing the work of the Gospel). The world has always persecuted those who proclaim God’s Word. Disciples are to be the salt of the world. Salt seasons and preserves; it is an irritant to wounds, but promotes healing. Disciples’ activities need to be noticeable, and they will “spice things up,” by stirring up controversy. If that isn’t happening they’re not doing their jobs.

A disciple cannot adjust his message so as not to offend anyone, without losing the message. If disciples do not do the work of disciples, they are worthless, and face destruction. Disciples are to be the light of the world. Their example is to be a guide for others. Disciples are called to witness by word and example, not to hide their faith from the world. So if we have received light from the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, let us share that light with those who walk in darkness, so that all may glorify God.

Commentary:

Moses returned from the mountaintop to find the congregation perverted by sin and in need of reformation. The priests had failed to shepherd the flock, and had facilitated idolatry within the congregation. The congregation had broken the covenant with the Lord and was engaged in idolatry and rebellion against God. The priests tried to deny personal responsibility and blamed the situation on the wickedness of the people (Exodus 32:22).

Moses called for the faithful of the congregation to cleanse the congregation of the wicked who were perverting and corrupting the true worship of God. The Levites stepped forward and assumed the personal cost and sacrifice to cleanse the congregation and restore it. Their commitment to obediently serve the Lord was all the ordination they needed to assume spiritual leadership within the congregation. God promised that each individual will be personally accountable to God for his deeds, and that a Day of Judgment is coming.

The congregation at Thessalonica is an example of how a congregation can turn from the worship of idols to the living and True God and can be filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit, so that they become an example throughout the surrounding area. Where the congregation of Israel was unwilling to wait for Moses to return from the mountaintop (Exodus 32:23; 32:1), and turned instead to idols, the congregation at Thessalonica turned from idols and was willing to persevere in suffering as they waited patiently for the Lord’s return (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

Jesus told his disciples that they could expect persecution. The Levites did not let personal friendships and family ties interfere with their loyalty and commitment to serve the Lord. Disciples cannot allow their desire to be popular to prevent them from doing God’s will.

Our churches today are in a condition similar to that of Israel after Moses had ascended to the mountaintop. Our Lord has ascended to God in Heaven. He has promised to come back. Have we grown impatient because he has not yet returned? Have we turned to idolatry and the worship of material wealth? Have we allowed the wicked to gain membership in our congregations? Have our clergy failed in their responsibility to supervise and preserve our spiritual growth and heritage? Have our priests corrupted our congregations with non-scriptural teachings and blamed the decline of the churches on the wickedness of the people?

What our Churches need are people willing to be Levites; whose authority to reform the Church is their obedience to God’s Word and Spirit; who are willing to suffer personal sacrifice for the renewal of the Church. What the Church needs are people who are willing to be disciples; willing to be salt and light. Thessalonica should be a shining example to us of a Church that turns from idolatry to true worship of God and which receives the joy and the power of the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Are we willing to be disciples? Have we experienced the joy, guidance and empowerment of the indwelling Holy Spirit? Are we willing to endure suffering and persecution to be faithful to the Lord and to cleanse and renew the Church?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


Wednesday 4 Easter – Even 
First Posted 05/04/04;
Podcast:
Wednesday 4 Easter – Even 

Exodus 33:1-23 – The Lord’s guidance;
1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 – Paul’s work at Thessalonica;
Matthew 5:17-20 – Jesus and the Law;

Exodus Summary:

After the people had broken the Covenant and Moses had interceded for them, the Lord told Moses to continue the journey from Mt. Horeb (Sinai) to the Promised Land. The Lord would no longer accompany them personally, because his holiness could not abide the sinfulness of the people; instead he would continue to lead the people by an angel. The Lord promised to drive out the occupants of the Promised Land before the Israelites. The Lord declared that the Israelites had a rebellious nature; and commanded them to remove their jewelry as a sign of repentance.

Moses would pitch a tent of meeting far from the Israelite camp. Whenever anyone sought the Lord, he would go to the tent of meeting. When Moses would go to the tent the Israelites watched, and the pillar of cloud (of the Lord’s presence) would descend and stand at the tent door, and the Lord would talk with Moses. The people watching from their tents would worship. Joshua was the priestly custodian of the tent of meeting. Moses interceded with God on behalf of the people for God’s presence to go with them on the journey to the Promised Land. It was God’s presence among them that made the Israelites unique among all the peoples of the earth. Moses asked the Lord to show him his ways and also his glory.

The Lord agreed to do what Moses asked because Moses had found favor with God and God knew Moses by name. God revealed his goodness to Moses and proclaimed his name, The Lord (Yahweh) before Moses (revealing God’s name was the equivalent of revealing his character and nature). The Lord possesses ultimate sovereignty; he does whatever he thinks best, consulting with no one, but all his acts are for good because his nature is goodness. God agreed to reveal himself to Moses, but Moses was not allowed to see God’s face, because no person can see God’s face and live. God directed Moses to “stand upon the rock,” and God would hide Moses “in the cleft of the rock” until he had passed by. Then God would allow Moses to see God’s back.

1 Thessalonians Summary:

Although Paul had suffered persecution for the Gospel at Philippi, he had the courage to come to Thessalonica and declare the Gospel boldly in the face of great opposition there. The Thessalonians congregation itself was testimony to the fruitfulness of Paul’s preaching. Paul refuted the charges made by his opposition (Jews who charged him with perverting Judaism) that his Gospel was the result of error or perversion.

Paul’s preaching was not intended to deceive, flatter, or defraud others, or for financial gain. Instead, Paul had been approved and entrusted by God to proclaim the Gospel, not to please men, but God, who knows our inner motivations. Nor did Paul use his ministry for any kind of personal gain of either money or status. Out of Paul’s genuine affection and concern for the Thessalonians he was glad to share not only the Gospel but his own personal resources with them. Paul supported himself at his trade as a tent-maker, rather than burdening the congregation with his financial support.

Paul practiced what he preached; he taught by example as well as words. He exhorted believers to live in obedience to Jesus’ commands [Paul fulfilled the Great Commission to make disciples, teaching them to obey all that Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:18-20)]

Matthew Summary:

Jesus said that his coming did not negate the Law and the Old Testament scriptures; rather, he was the fulfillment of them. Until the end of the world, God’s law will stand. Anyone who relaxes the least of the commandments of God’s Word and teaches others to do so will be judged to be least worthy of the kingdom of God on the Day of Judgment. Anyone who wants to have God’s approval on the Day of Judgment should keep the commandments of God’s Word and teach others to keep them. Unless we keep God’s commands more zealously than the Jewish experts in God’s Law, we will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.

Commentary:

It was God’s presence with the Israelites, guiding them on the journey to the Promised Land, which set them apart from all the other peoples of the earth. Moses had a personal relationship with the Lord. Although Moses could not see God’s actual face, God revealed himself to Moses as fully as is possible to anyone living in this world at that time, before Jesus’ earthly manifestation. Moses did not have the indwelling Holy Spirit of God. Moses found favor with God because Moses trusted and obeyed God and sought God’s presence and guidance.

Paul (Saul) had an encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts Chapter 9). Paul had been persecuting Christianity as a perversion of Judaism. Paul had apparently had no contact with Jesus during Jesus’ earthly ministry before the Crucifixion. The immediate result of the encounter was that Paul was physically blinded.

A disciple named Ananias was sent by the Lord to share the Gospel with Paul, who accepted Jesus as Lord, was healed of his physical and spiritual blindness, and was filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul subsequently proclaimed the Gospel to the gentiles, including the Thessalonians, and was persecuted by Jews who were much like Paul had been prior to his conversion; they didn’t know or acknowledge Jesus as Lord, and they regarded Christianity as an error and a perversion of their religion.

Paul is the prototype of the modern Christian: all those who have not had the opportunity to encounter Jesus during his physical, earthly ministry. Jesus confronted Paul on the road to Damascus, but he did not fully reveal himself to Paul until Paul responded in faith to the Gospel presented through Ananias, accepted Jesus as Lord and sought the restoration of his spiritual as well as physical sight in faith, and the infilling by the Holy Spirit.

Paul trusted and obeyed Jesus. He was filled with, led and empowered by the Holy Spirit. He fulfilled his responsibility to the Great Commission which Jesus gave to his disciples before Jesus ascended into Heaven. He became a disciple of Jesus Christ; he proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ; he made disciples of Jesus Christ who would make other disciples of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:2); He obeyed all that Jesus commanded, and he taught others to obey all that Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:18-20).

Jesus says that God’s Law hasn’t changed. Jesus tells us that anyone who disregards God’s Word and teaches others to do so will suffer God’s disapproval. The scribes and Pharisees were zealous to keep the Law outwardly; their problem was that they didn’t keep it inwardly from their hearts. Christians are not to become legalistic. It is not keeping the Law that earns our salvation. Apart from the indwelling Holy Spirit we are unable to keep the Law. Jewish Law had grown from Ten Commandments to hundreds and thousands of statutes because of the unwillingness and human inability to keep the original ten from the heart. Jesus simplified the Law to two commandments: love God, and love others as much as you love yourselves. Through Jesus we receive the Holy Spirit, which makes it possible for us to love God and love others. Paul is an example of the difference the indwelling Holy Spirit can make in a person’s life. Paul didn’t love the Thessalonians in order to be saved; he loved them because he was saved.

Jesus is the rock on which we must stand in order to see God (Exodus 33:21; compare Matthew 7:24; Matthew 16:16, 18; 1 Corinthians 10:4). Jesus is God’s fullest revelation of himself to us. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Risen Jesus, the Spirit of God. Through the Holy Spirit we have personal access and fellowship with The Lord. Has Jesus confronted you on the road of your life? Have you recognized your spiritual blindness without a personal relationship with Jesus?

Are you seeking healing for your spiritual blindness? Are you seeking the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2)? Have you seen Jesus?

Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you willing to be Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Jesus said “He who has my commands and keeps them, he it is that loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (Matthew 28:18-20). Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


Thursday 4 Easter – Even 

First Posted 05/05/04;
Podcast: Thursday 4 Easter – Even 

Exodus 34:1-17 – Covenant renewed;
1 Thessalonians 2:13-20 – Paul’s affection for the Thessalonians;
Matthew 5:21-26 – True understanding of the Law;

Exodus Summary:

The Lord told Moses to prepare two new stone tablets and come up to Mt Sinai, and God would write the words of the Law again on the new tablets. No one else was allowed to set foot on the mountain. Moses did as the Lord had instructed, and the Lord again descended on the mountain and proclaimed his name. The Lord is the God of steadfast love and faithfulness, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, but also punishing the guilty. The consequences of God’s judgment on sin will affect the descendents to the third and fourth generation.

Moses asked the Lord to be present and lead the congregation, pardon their sin and make them heirs to the blessings and promises of God’s kingdom. The Lord agreed to renew the covenant that the people had broken. The Lord promised to perform great miracles among the people so that all the peoples of earth would see that the work of the Lord is awesome.

The Lord warned the people to be careful to obey all that the Lord commanded, and promised to drive out the people who occupied the Promised Land that God had given the Israelites. God warned the Israelites not to covenant with the peoples of the land, not to participate in native religions but rather to destroy the altars and idols of the inhabitants of the land. The Lord warned the Israelites not to intermarry with the natives of the land, so that they would not be tempted to adopt idolatrous religions, and God warned them specifically not to create idols.

1 Thessalonians Summary:

Paul rejoiced that when he had proclaimed the Gospel to the Thessalonians that they had accepted it as God’s Word, which is a creative force which became active in them, rather than just as the word of men. The Thessalonians began to apply the Word of God in the conduct of their daily lives; they became imitators of the churches in Judea, and they suffered for the Gospel just as the Judean converts and as Jesus himself suffered for the Gospel. Those who killed Jesus and drove out the Christians had a long history of rejecting God’s prophets, and of disobeying God. They not only rejected the Gospel themselves, but they tried to hinder the gentiles from receiving it. They will receive the penalty for their actions on the Day of Judgment. Paul expressed his affection for the Thessalonians, his desire to have personal fellowship with them and his joy and pride in their faith, which was his fruit and reward for his labor among them.

Mathew Summary:

Jesus taught that it was not enough to comply with the letter of the Law. One could be in compliance with the letter of the Law and still violate the spirit of the Law. If one truly intends to worship God, one should first be reconciled to his brother. How can one expect to have God’s approval while disobeying his commands? Worldly people are wise enough in their own worldliness to realize that it is in their advantage to be reconciled with their accusers before the Day of Judgment.

Commentary:

The Lord revealed his character to Moses. “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty” (Exodus 34;6-7) After such a blatant breach of the covenant as Israel had committed (Exodus 32:1-6), God was ready to destroy them (Exodus 32:9-10), but Moses interceded for them to the Lord, asking the Lord to forgive them, and God did (Exodus 32:11-14). Here the Lord agreed to renew his covenant with the people. The Lord renewed his promises to the people, but he solemnly warned them not to disobey his commands, and specifically not to repeat the idolatrous behavior of the previous incident.

Paul rejoiced in the obedience of the Thessalonian Christians, who had accepted the Gospel as the Word of God, which is a creative force, unlike the mere words of men. The Word was actively working in the Thessalonians; they were living the application of the Word in their daily lives, and had become an example of Christian behavior throughout the region (1 Thessalonians 1:7). They had followed the example of the churches in Judea, and the proof of their achievement was that they suffered the same persecution that the Judean Christians and Jesus himself had suffered for the Gospel.

In contrast are those who rejected and crucified Jesus. [The Jews were not solely to blame for Jesus’ crucifixion; in a sense we are all guilty of crucifying Jesus because we have all sinned (Romans 3:23) and made his death on the Cross necessary for our salvation. The Jews were merely representative of human nature in general.] They had a long history of rejecting God’s prophets and disobeying God’s word. They not only reject the Gospel for themselves but they attempt to hinder others from receiving it. Paul said that they will ultimately pay the penalty for their actions on the Day of Judgment.

Jesus warned that believing in him does not absolve us from the responsibility of obeying God’s Word. Jesus warned that we cannot worship God while we have unrepented sin in our lives. Disobedience is sin. There is a Day of Judgment coming when all people on earth will be accountable to the Lord for their deeds (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46). Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life in Heaven with the Lord; those who have rejected and disobeyed Jesus will receive eternal death and destruction in Hell with Satan and all the wicked. (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). Jesus pointed out that worldly people are smart enough to realize that it’s to their advantage to make friends with their accuser on the way to court.

Now is the time to “get right,” with the Lord; to be reconciled with the Lord, before the Day of Judgment. The Lord abounds in steadfast love and faithfulness; he’s willing to forgive us, but if we don’t seek his forgiveness now while we can, he has promised that he will punish the guilty who have not availed themselves of the forgiveness available only through Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Those who name the name of Jesus must realize that being a Christian requires discipleship and obedience to Jesus’ teaching.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


Friday 4 Easter – Even 

First Posted 05/06/04;
Podcast:Friday 4 Easter – Even 

Exodus 34:18-35 – Moses’ veil;

1 Thessalonians 3:1-13 – Paul’s affection for the Thessalonians;
Matthew 5:27-37 – The higher righteousness;

Exodus Summary:

When Moses interceded on the behalf of the people for forgiveness, the Lord forgave the people for breaking their covenant, and he renewed the covenant. Part of the covenant was the commands concerning the feasts and festivals. The Festival of Unleavened Bread commemorated their deliverance from bondage in Egypt. All the first-born livestock were to belong to the Lord. They were to be offered in sacrifice, or they were to be redeemed by sacrificing a lamb as a substitute. The seventh day was to be a day of rest, even in busy seasons like plowing and harvest-time.

The three annual feasts when all the men were obligated to assemble at the central sanctuary were the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost*), the Feast of First Fruits (the wheat harvest) and the Feast of Ingathering (harvest). The Lord promised to protect the land while the men were gone to the assembly at the Temple. They were not to mix leaven with the blood of sacrifices. They were not to leave the leftover lamb of the Passover feast until morning (it was to be burned). The first fruits were to be brought as an offering to the Lord. Young goats were not to be prepared for eating by boiling in their mother’s milk.

Moses was on the mountaintop with God for forty days and nights, receiving the Laws of the Covenant, written on stone tablets. When he came down, he was unaware that his face had been transfigured in the presence of the Lord so that it shown with radiance. When the people saw this they were afraid to come near, but Moses assembled them and told them all that the Lord had commanded. When he had finished, Moses put a veil over his face. Moses would keep the veil on his face until he went to speak with the Lord. When he returned he would tell the people what the Lord commanded, and then he would cover his face with the veil again. (Compare with Matthew 17:1-7; 2 Corinthians 3:7-18).

1 Thessalonians Summary:

Paul had encountered such persecution from the Jewish synagogue in Thessalonica that he had to leave by night. He went to Beroea, but when the Jews heard he was there they hounded him again until Paul was forced to go to Athens. He was concerned about the new congregation at Thessalonica, and he sent Timothy to encourage and strengthen the congregation and report back to Paul. Paul reminded the Thessalonians in this letter that the persecution he experienced had been anticipated. Paul was concerned that his persecution might hinder the development of the congregation. But Timothy’s good report had made Paul’s suffering seem worthwhile. Paul expressed his joy and thanksgiving to God for the faith of the Thessalonians, his hope of seeing them again, and his prayer for their growth to spiritual maturity at the Day of the Lord.

Matthew Summary:

Jesus taught that it was not sufficient merely to outwardly obey the letter of the Law, but that one should obey the spirit of the Law from the heart. Anger and hateful words can damage a brother much like murder. When we come to God in worship we need his mercy and forgiveness in order to have fellowship with him. How can we ask God for mercy, forgiveness and restoration of our relationship with him while we have not made an effort to restore relations with our brother in seeking or granting forgiveness? Jesus says that the Day of Judgment is coming; we should make every effort now to establish a saving relationship with the Lord, who will determine our verdict, by doing what he desires.

Commentary:

Moses’ face was transfigured by being in the presence of the Lord. When he returned from speaking with the Lord he would proclaim God’s Word to the people with an unveiled face. The people could see in his face the glory of the Lord. Then Moses would wear a veil until he next went into the presence of the Lord.

Paul (Saul) had had an encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus, had been converted and had been filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts Chapter 9; see journal entry for yesterday). Paul had been transformed by the presence of the Lord within him. The “veil” that had lain over Paul’s mind that prevented him from seeing the glory of God in the face of Christ was removed (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Formerly he had been a persecutor of Christians; now he endured persecution with joy, for the sake of his gentile Christian brethren in Thessalonica (and elsewhere). He was sharing the Gospel which he had received; he was repeating the process which the Lord had begun in him on the Damascus road. The Thessalonian Christians were being transformed by the indwelling Holy Spirit of the Lord. Discipleship is a process of growing transformation in the presence of the Lord by the indwelling of his Holy Spirit.

The Lord wants to have relationship with us; he wants to be merciful and to forgive us (John 3:16-17). In order to receive his blessings and promises we must do what he commands. His commandments are good and they are in our best interest, but we are unable to keep them without his transforming presence within us. Only those who are willing to trust and obey Jesus receive the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. God gives the Spirit to those who walk in it (i.e. to those who will obey the Holy Spirit; Isaiah 42:5e) “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Romans 8:9b).

Jesus promised that he will manifest himself to those who love him and obey his commandments (John 14:21). Are you trusting and obeying Jesus? Have you received the Holy Spirit since you first believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you growing spiritually in the presence of the Lord?


*This is the Easter Season, the weeks after Easter leading to Pentecost, the seventh Sunday after Easter.


Saturday 4 Easter – Even 
First Posted 05/07/04;
Podcast:
Saturday 4 Easter – Even 

Exodus 40:18-38 – Moses erects the tabernacle;

1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 – Exhortation to purity;
Matthew 5:38-48 – Love your enemies;

Exodus Summary:

Moses erected the tabernacle according to the Lord’s instructions, nine months after the Israelites arrival in Sinai. The Ark of the Covenant contained the testimony (the Ten Commandments, the basis of the Covenant). On the ark was the mercy seat, which was the footstool of the throne of God. The ark (in the holy of holies) was separated from the tabernacle by a veil or screen.

Outside the veil was a table on which the showbread (bread of the presence) was placed. Opposite the table of the bread of the presence, on the south side, was a lampstand. In front of the veil was the altar of incense. The altar of burnt offering was outside the door of the tabernacle, which was separated from the interior by a veil. Before the altar of burnt offering was a laver, at which the priests washed their hands and feet when they entered the tent of meeting and when they approached the altar.

Around the tabernacle was a court enclosed by curtains with a veil at the gate. When Moses finished erecting the tabernacle the cloud (God’s presence, which had led the Israelites in the wilderness) covered the tabernacle and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses was unable to enter the tabernacle because of the cloud and the glory of the Lord.

Throughout their wilderness experience, as long as the cloud was upon the tabernacle the Israelites stayed encamped, but when the cloud was taken up the Israelites moved onward. The cloud covered the tabernacle by day and the fire filled it at night (the new manifestation of God’ presence formerly experienced in the pillar of fire and cloud (Exodus 13:21-22).

1 Thessalonians Summary:

Paul exhorts believers to live according to his example and teaching. Paul’s teaching has been inspired by the Holy Spirit of Christ (in accordance with Christ’s Great Commission to his disciples; see Matthew 28:18-20).

God’s desire is that we would be sanctified and abstain from immorality; that we abstain from the passion of lust; that we not wrong our brethren in matters of sexual purity. We will be accountable to God for such things. God has not called us to immorality but to holiness. Those who disregard this, disregard not man, but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to us. We are to love one another as God has commanded us; to mind our own business, and to support ourselves so that we may have the respect of others and be dependent upon no one.

Matthew Summary:

Jesus urged us to go beyond exact retribution for wrongdoing by others. Instead of evil for evil we should respond to evil with good. We should go beyond loving our neighbors and hating our enemies; we should love our enemies and pray for blessings on those who persecute us, sharing the nature of God who allows his blessings to extend to all with impartiality. What credit is there in loving those who love us? Even the wicked are capable of doing that. We must be righteous as God is righteous.

Commentary:

The design of the tabernacle illustrated the holiness of God. The holy of holies was separated by a veil. (Only the High Priest was allowed to enter, and only once a year). The holy place was screened from the outer court with a veil. The outer court was screened from the surrounding area, and there was a place for the priests to wash their hands and feet before approaching the altars or the holy place. The presence and the glory of God filled the tabernacle because it was consecrated and built in obedience to God’s commands.

Christians are called to be holy; we are to abstain from all worldly impurity. All will be accountable to God for our deeds. This is not the doctrine of men; it is the Word of God. We are to be obedient to God’s Word.

Disciples of Jesus are to go beyond mere obedience to the letter of the Law. We are to be conformed to the nature and righteousness of God. Our standard is Jesus Christ. It is not sufficient to be relatively good compared to other people. If we expect God’s presence and glory to dwell within us we must consecrate ourselves to him and be willing to obey his commands. God gives the Spirit to those who walk in it (i.e. to those who will obey the Holy Spirit; Isaiah 42:5e) “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Romans 8:9b).

If we expect to be filled with the Holy Spirit as the tabernacle was filled with the presence and glory of God, we must be obedient to God’s Word and must abstain from immorality.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


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