Matthew 1: The God Who Keeps His Promises

  1. What is the historical and literary background?

The fundamental message of Jesus’ Gospel, according to Matthew, can be read and understood with little help. However, it is written for an audience that has a good handle on the old testament.

Matthew’s list of names would not carry much significance to someone without the knowledge of the OT; a Jewish audience with biblical understanding would quickly see the connection to OT and Christ. We are seeing a continuation from where the OT narrative has concluded. 

If the Bible were to finish only with the Old Testament Scriptures, we conclude to say God is wonderfully powerful. He is good and kind. But we would not be able to say without any real evidence that God has been able to fulfill His plan He first set out to do through Abraham.

Chapter one will lay out the significant themes Matthew wishes to explain further with his version of the Gospel. Namely, Jesus is the Christ who is heir to Abraham and David’s promises (v1). His mission is to save His people from their sins (v21).

2. What Can We Observe About God?

He is the God who Fulfills His Promises.

When you think about what Scripture has revealed, human history has been formed and subjected to the agenda of God’s promises since the beginning. Though humanity may not be aware of God’s work, if the Bible is true, humanity is only waiting when God says, “Now is the time.” 

The opening of Matthew reminds all God-fearers of the two major promises He once prophetically gave to Abraham and then to David.

“The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

Verse 1

Matthew assumes the reader has read and is well acquainted with the Torah, for no one will find any explanation to the significance of these two names in chapter one. The importance of these two names is not the lives they lived or the achievements they were able to secure, rather the promises God graciously gave them, and by extension, to the world.  

Because the Gospel of Jesus Christ is relative to the modern reader, let the ready by exhorted to appreciate the same messianic fervor first-century Jews would have had towards the promised anointed one God. In Abraham, God would bless the world. Not in Abraham only, but specifically through one of Abraham’s heirs.

“And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”

Genesis 12:3

“And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”

Genesis 26:4

What sort of blessing did God have in mind? Learning the answer to that was part of the fun and mystery as people learned to fear and trust God. Though the blessing is not immediately explained, God still gave hints to the observant reader. Once they arrived in the land, Lot observed how good the land appeared, “even as the garden of the Lord” (Gen. 13:10), and later in Exodus, God described it as a place flowing with plenty, a land of milk and honey (Exodus 3:8). These hints are not clear, but that is on purpose to keep the reader guessing in the right direction. God wants to bless humanity in the same way Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden.    

The garden God planted was a place of no death as they had access to the tree of life. It was where God and people walked together in perfect union, enjoying each other and their work together. That, of course, was all lost when man sinned and God cursed the ground for his sake.

But God wouldn’t let that be the end. His promise to Abraham was a strong push in the direction of blessing for humanity. God gave a condition with the promise that Abraham (and his seed) should remain loyal to God. This one condition also hints at the kind of blessing God wants to bestow, a blessing where the created world can realize unity between God and man again. However, by the end of the Old Testament, Abraham’s descendants have struggled dramatically in a worsening cycle of corruption. God ultimately gave the Hebrews over to slavery in Babylon.

“And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon.”

Verse 11

If the Bible were to end there, one might argue that God was gracious and good to a people who did not deserve a blessing. But no one could say that God successfully brought about the ultimate end of His prophetic promise to Abraham.

Concluding the Old Testament, we would have to summarize that sin and disloyalty of God’s people were too great for the promise of blessing to be realized. How could God again walk with man in perfect harmony in a perfect world once again?

The answer to the Old Testament’s ultimate question is the subject matter of Jesus Christ’s Gospel. Jesus is Emmanuel, the solution to God and man’s unity problem. To be unified with Christ is to be unified with God, in perfection.  

“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” 

Verse 23

The Old Testament has long said that God is coming and would eventually be with His people again, but until Jesus, that prophecy was an obscure hope. But with the angel’s announcement to Joseph, the Emanuel prophecy literally took on flesh as Abraham’s heir, Jesus Christ. Emmanuel and Abraham’s son would be the same person.

But how does God walking amongst us again really settle anything? Won’t humanity continue to find ways to fail God and sin against Him? Israel’s first king seemed to seal the nation’s fate. King Saul led the people away from God rather than toward Him. But God sought out a man the same way He sought out Abraham. He found David and promised that he would be king and his sons would reign forever.

“And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.”

2 Samuel 7:16

God’s promise to David meant that God would never remove David or the heir to this promise from the throne. This assures that somehow God could indefinitely extend mercy on David and his son, even when they choose to sin against God. The promise is clearly stated:

“I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men:  But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee.”

2 Samuel 7:14-15

David’s promise is a never-ending throne and mercy that never fails, even when the king is guilty of iniquity. But again, at the end of the Old Testament narrative, Israel has been taken captive. When Jesus was born, Israel was a part of the Roman Empire. Caesar and Caesar’s under-kings ruled over the Jews. Abraham’s promise seemed far away, but people were taught God is sovereign. They still had hope that God would bless Israel again.

God is about to reveal not only will He keep his promises to Israel but also how these blessings can extend to anyone anywhere in the world.

3. How does this passage point us to Jesus and the Gospel?

Jesus is the heir to Abraham and David’s promises.

This passage starts from Jesus and points back to the promises. God didn’t let these promises die under the sin and unfaithfulness of the Hebrews. The desperate situation of the people, which God speaks into, only magnifies His glory of what He is about to do.

From the void and chaos of desperation situation, God raises up an heir that will simultaneously fulfill the promises of both Abraham and David (v1). Though these promises are now centuries old, the expectation of the Messiah was very high.

But even though the expectation of the Messiah was high, still sin reigned in God’s people. The world will eventually take Him and murder Him on the cross. It would appear that the forces of darkness would extinguish the promises of Abraham and David with this one heinous act. But we are told that God meant it to bring salvation from sins to the entire world.

The angel commanded Joseph to name the child, Jesus, “Jehovah saves.”

“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.”

Verse 21

The promises of Abraham and David are now realized in Christ. Christ adds another promise to those who believe on His name, even the forgiveness of sins. Paul would later expound on this in his writings and preaching.

Abraham’s promise was realized in Christ for all.

“Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”

Romans 4:23-25

David’s promise was realized in Christ for all.

“And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption. Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.”

 Acts 13:34-39

4. How do we apply this passage

We apply the message the same way first-century Jews were meant to apply it, by making Jesus our Lord and Savior if you have not already. If initially, there were no other reasons to trust Christ besides these two promises, we would still have forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God. 

These are, at least, the claims Matthew is making. His greatest evidence for such claims will be the resurrection of Christ. If indeed Christ is alive today, where else can one reasonably trust an offer for eternal life and forgiven sins?

Psalm 19 Sermon Series on Inerrancy

The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament sheweth his handywork.

Day unto day uttereth speech, And night unto night sheweth knowledge.

There is no speech nor language, Where their voice is not heard.

Their line is gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,

Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, And rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.

His going forth is from the end of the heaven, And his circuit unto the ends of it: And there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.

The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

10  More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

11  Moreover by them is thy servant warned: And in keeping of them there is great reward.

The heavens reveal God’s glory, but cannot convert the soul.

Once you believe God’s word that He is the mind behind the universe, our awe and wonder turn into worship.

“Scientific discoveries” are no longer discovery, but understanding the complexity of God’s mind.

In the universe, there is more than just math and science, but beauty and great emotion.

We marvel at the great order of the universe.

The universe has been ordered in a great intricate system that supports life.

We are blessed that our minds are able to understand what we are seeing.

This great wonder and knowledge is what Psalms calls the “glory of God.” v1

Just as we would admire the craftsmanship of a finely made Royals Royce, so we see the glory of God’s design.

Just as complexity in our inventions speaks to the intelligent mind who made it, so the wonders of the universe speak to the glory of God and His power.

God gave us our minds and abilities to understand and control our surroundings.

According to God’s word, having dominion over creation is a part of being Human.

26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

Genesis 1:26

And so that is what we have done, according to God’s design.

But in spite of human dominion, Natural knowledge unable to do what only God’s word can do.

Four Things We’ll Look at in this Series:

1. Only God’s Word Can“Convert the Soul” v7  —while we can gain a lot of knowledge from observing the glory of God in nature, that knowledge alone cannot convert the soul, we need something more powerful.  We need God’s powerful word.

What does the Bible mean to convert the soul?

When God created man, God gave him his soul and gave him his life.

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

Genesis 2:7

What the Bible means here is more than merely making your body alive.

But you have a soul.

There are parts about you that are not only physical.

Your life is from God

This is one of the most fundamental truths of the Bible.

God is the giver of life and the cause of life.

And so our life is made up more of just physical property.

You have a Spirit and your life is tied to God.

Our ancestors chose to rebel against God and that sin brought consequences to our souls.

17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; 18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Genesis 3:17-19

That rebellion in which the Bible calls “Sin” is what began the concept of death and curse on the natural world.

“Cursed is the ground for thy sake.” Gen. 2:17

“For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” Gen. 2:19

The lives we now live are short and full of pain because of the curse, and ultimately because of sin.

There isn’t a remedy to be found in nature.

The universe even in its cursed state is glorious, but it isn’t powerful enough to remove the curse of sin.

Because of sin, death will reign until we’re returned to the dust.

Our body will return to the dirt and our spirit will return to God who gave it.

I believe, because of God’s word, that man will never find a way to stop death or create life.

We will always live in a cursed world unless God does something.

But that is what Psalm 19:7 is promising.

God’s Word is doing something.

His word “converts the soul.”

In other words, God’s word has the power to restore life as it once was. (In the NT we call this Eternal Life)

How did God create life and this world?

He used His Word.

His Word is the power we see behind all the glory.

God has a plan to remove the curse from our world.

His plan includes removing death and sin.

How is He going to do it?

The Bible tells us that God’s word became flesh.

14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

God’s powerful Word became a human being.

Inside Jesus abides the full glory of everything that God is. 

For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 

God’s Word came into the world remove sin from the world He created.

Colossians 2:9

29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

John 1:29

The world watch as He was put to death on the cross, but death could not defeat the Word of God.

He arose again on the third day to prove to us that Jesus is the Son of God.

15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 

It is given to you today to choose to believe in the Word of God or not.

John 3:15

The Bible says God’s Word is “perfect”

“Perfect” means without error and totally true.

If you need more proof of how perfect God’s word is, then watch Jesus.

He commands the seas and the winds.

He walks on water.

He heals sickness

He raises the dead.

He loves fully and deeply.

He is the perfect Word of God made flesh, full of grace and truth!

He is worthy of our worship!

He is worthy of your trust!

He is worthy to live for Him.

Give Him your life now and He will restore your life to you!

Give Him your life broken and cursed with sin and He will give you a new life made new and perfect like His life!

God’s word makes promise after promise.  Will you believe God’s word?

Colossians 3:4 

When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

Romans 6:4 

Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 

1 John 5:20 

20 And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. 

Do you need to hear more? Then hear more!  God’s word is a deep well that can never be exhausted!

It is perfect. V7

It is sure! V7

It is right. V8 

It is pure. V8 

It is clean. V9 

It is true. V9 

James 4:1-10 “How To Deal with One’s Own Double-Mindedness”

1. Background

James has begun his letter with a theme of faith without hypocrisy that will run through the book into our fourth chapter. Reviewing chapter one again to notice James’ use of the words “faith worketh patience…perfect and entire…wanting nothing”, “ask in faith, nothing wavering,” “a double mind man is unstable,” “be doers of the word.” By the time we reach the fourth chapter, James has already discussed the hypocrisy of desiring riches, faith without works, and unbridled tongue. In other words, these are all clear indications of a double-minded man that James is exhorting.  

James 3:16-17 opens up chapter four by saying,

“For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be interested, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.”

2. What can we observe about God?

God wants to deal with our lingering hypocrisy wherever it may hide.

Opening up chapter four, I believe we are at the end of James’ argument that sets up his call to believers to submit and humble themselves before God. The last indication of hypocrisy James’ lists is quarreling and infighting amongst believers (v1a). It may be common to see the world fighting amongst themselves, but why do we see believers doing it? James sees it. He says it’s because of worldly lusts still in your heart (v1b-2). 

“Even of your lusts that war..” Verse 1

“Ye lust, and have not..” Verse 2

Remember in chapter one, James said, “Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering”? Perhaps someone would say, “I asked in faith, but I still didn’t get what I want.” James heads off the possible objector to his point by adding, “Ye ask and receive not because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts (verse 3).”

The answer to such lust problems is not simply asking according to one’s lusts, but instead seeking the godly wisdom as James defined it in chapter one (cf. 1:5). Wisdom knows that God gives good and perfect gifts, such as what every man needs. God does not waver as we do but is always constant in His goodness. Therefore, would it not be wise to seek what God desires to give?

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (1:17)

Therefore, merely asking according to one’s lust isn’t faith at all, but instead likened to the idolatry of the world, which God hates. “Know ye not that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” Even though James addresses Jewish believers, he can refer to them in the same way Jeremiah did, “ye adulterers and adulteresses!” (cf. Jeremiah 3:20). 

Jeremiah 3:20

“Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the Lord.”  

Not Jeremiah only, but the book of Hosea was wholly written exposing Israel’s adultery insomuch they found friendship with the world. James has picked up on the language all Jewish would have quickly understood. They believe, yet they possess a degree of double-mindedness in their faith. The quarreling and pagan-like prayer requests reveal it.

So what then is Jame’s great solution to the double-minded wavering he has outlined throughout the book? I believe James summarizes it all in verse ten, “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” 

James shares his answer using the exact wording as Peter, derived from the Proverbs, “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble (V6; cf. 1 Pet. 5:5 & Prov. 3:34). “James expounds further what he means by humbling yourself with five commanding verbs.

Submit. “Submit yourselves therefore to God…” (v6a).

Resist. “..Resist the devil (v6b).”

Draw nigh to God. “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you (v8a).”

Cleanse your hands. “Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded (v8b).” 

Be afflicted. “Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness (v9).”

James describes the degree of humility one must strive to have, coming before the Lord. There must be an element of submission before God (v7). There must be a tangible resistance to the things that displease God. There must be a conscious effort to purify away the blatant sin that is a source of our hypocrisy or “double-mindedness” (v8). There must be a degree of mourning over the sin for which Christ gave His life. For James, words alone do not satisfy the responsibilities of the born again by His word (cf. 1:18, 22). If those believers who find themselves fighting amongst each other would only come before God, humbly, God will do a work through the Spirit He gives to believers (v5).  

3. How does this passage point to Jesus and the Gospel?

Jesus dealt with sin in its entirety on the cross, His Spirit teaches us to deal with it where it lingers.

What Jesus and other authors called repentance, here Jame’s refers to it as submitting and humbling oneself. James uses words that recall what the Lord Himself said on the mount, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted,” and also in the Lord’s commencement speech, as he cited Isaiah 62 in the synagogue in Nazareth. In other words, James’ teaching on humility is rooted in the OT and points to the Gospel and unwavering faith in Jesus.  

James is speaking to those who are “begat with the word of truth” already presupposes the intended readers are believers. James sees double-mindedness and other concerns in saved Christians. As we know, the acts of submitting, resisting, drawing, cleansing, and afflicting done in the flesh cannot avail oneself to salvation. However, these are actions of believers concerned about elements in their lives that do not please the Lord who bought them.

We have the Lord Jesus as our ultimate example of humbling Himself before God, mourning for sin, and being afflicted so that God’s work would be perfected in us. It is His spirit that now dwells in us, who are born of His word.

4. How can I apply this passage?

“Go to now” and remember the spirit of Him that bought you and resides in you.  

Exercise the wisdom we are to ask God for, knowing what sort of temptations will come our way.  

Remember the Spirit of He who is in you.  Before getting into situations (that you know will arise), pray and ask the Lord to help you. You have studied and meditated on what Jesus’ humility is like, now ask Him to perfect Christ in you in the trial you know that is waiting just around the corner.

Be moved in the heart at sin knowing the anguish of our Lord who died to pay for it.  Being sorry for one’s sin may begin with a genuine attempt to try and confess it. Rather than ignoring it or hiding it, confess it according to the conviction that God gives you. Tears may or may not come, but a quiet moment with the Lord is necessary to cultivate a broken heart over the sin you know displeases Him. A broken heart over sin is a sign that one loves the Lord Jesus who died to cleanse it.

Take real steps to draw night to God and wait for Him to lift you up.  “Real Steps” might sound like “At 10:30 AM, I am going to sit down and memorize this verse.” Or perhaps, “At 2:00 PM tomorrow, I’m going to go and ask that person for forgiveness.” These steps are what you and a mentor might come up with. Whatever the steps are, submit to them in the spirit of Christ as He submitted to the cross. “Do and not hear only.”

Isaiah 1

1. Historical Background

“Visions” v1 Isaiah records the revelations he receives as “visions” from the Lord God. We can imagine that he “saw” the Lord speaking to him and ponder what personal impact having visions like this would have on him. 

The span of Isaiah’s prophetic work was between the years of Uzziah through Hezekiah (792 to 686 BC), which gives us a timeframe to consider while studying these passages. There will be information that assumes the reader would already know. So I would encourage modern-day Bible students to grasp the corresponding biblical material, especially in 2 Kings 15:1 – 20:21 and 2 Chronicles 26:1 – 32:33

During Isaiah’s ministry, the northern kingdom was defeated and carried into exile. In 2 Kings 17:7-23, a narrator’s voice explains the reason for Israel’s punishment. The southern kingdom’s demise was also imminent, to which Isaiah was given a vision of and relayed to King Hezekiah. These passages provide for us a timeline wherein we can place the book of Isaiah.

2. What Can We Observe about God?

God’s patience is not Forever.

If you hadn’t studied the previous history of Israel up until the time of Isaiah, it is still clear from the language what has happened. God has succored the nation of Israel to be His special people, His “children.” Rather than receiving faithful adoration, God has endured their infidelity for many generations.

“…I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.” Verse 2

We can also see that God has used corrective measures, but now their sickness has reached a point of no return.

“Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.” Verses 5-6

The blessings of Israel as a nation were dependent upon one thing, their faithfulness to God and their covenant. While other nations and their gods would look to alliances with other nations or trust in the strength of horses and military, Israel was to trust in God and keep faithfulness with the covenant. 

Isaiah will later say:

“Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help;

And stay on horses,

And trust in chariots, because they are many;

And in horsemen, because they are very strong;

But they look not unto the Holy One of Israel,

Neither seek the Lord! Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help;

And stay on horses,

And trust in chariots, because they are many;

And in horsemen, because they are very strong;

But they look not unto the Holy One of Israel,

Neither seek the Lord!”

Isaiah 31:1

Solomon began the spiraling downfall with his wives and horses. Both things were expressly written in the Law for the future king to restrain himself from that they would not turn his heart from trusting in God.

1 Kings 4:26 

And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen. 

1 Kings 11:4 

For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. 

1 Kings 11:11 

Wherefore the Lord said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant. 

David was not a perfectly moral man, yet his “heart was perfect with the Lord.” This must mean that even though David had sin, he repented, always maintaining his trust in God no matter his state, whether in riches or adversity.

This line of unfaithfulness found in Solomon would carry all through his line, even until the time of Isaiah’s prophecy. God had brought chastisement on Judah, but God’s reparations did little to stay the unfaithfulness of David’s line and thus the nation. We are brought to this point in Israel’s history where God says a final judgment is imminent on those who refuse to repent.

“But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.” Verse 20

God’s patience is for the sinner’s repentance.

A key verse in 18 will reveal where we get this observation:

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

Even here, at the fullness of their sin, at the point of no return, remains an opportunity to be wiped clean of their sin. Consider the magnitude of grace God is offering in verse 18 in the light of verses 5-6. Here God’s people lie at the bottom of the moral barrel, wallowing in putrid sin. Their “scarlet” sin as red as the innocent blood they shed can be cleansed white if they would be willing and repent. God’s patience with Israel’s repeated offenses and the sins of David’s sons was to give them space for repentance.  

God has two wills or plans.

The second key verse is verses 27 and 28.

“Zion shall be redeemed with judgment and her converts with righteousness. And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the LORD shall be consumed.”

God’s tone is absolute; there is no wavering in His authoritative voice. Yet there is a pleading tone to His invitation, “Come now, let us reason together.. (v18).”

From this chapter and these key verses, we can observe two plans that God will carry out. One is what God prefers to do: forgive the repentant and restore their life. But the other is what God will do if people are unwilling to confess sin and repent, which is the judgment and destruction of sinners.

3. How does this passage point to Jesus?

Jesus is the ultimate reason for God’s patience.

To summarize this in Scripture, I refer you to Paul’s sermon in Athens, spoken to a non-Jewish crowd. If you are a non-Jew, you might think Isaiah may have nothing to do with you as it was not written to you nor to the culture in which we live. But Paul, while in Athens, summarized what Jesus’ resurrection means for people of all nations.

“And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”

Acts 17:30-31

Paul refers to the ignorance of all people’s sin before their Creator. While the nations are busy worshipping idols and being ignorant of God, they still will be held accountable to Him, their only Creator. But God “winked” or overlooked our sin in His patience. He has not brought judgment on the world just yet because He made room for all nations to repent before Jesus Christ.

But this space is not infinite, and the patience of God is not forever, for this same Jesus is appointed to judge the world by His righteous standard. All nations and people will appear before Him and receive judgment for their sins. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection completed both of these plans simultaneously, not just for Israel and Jerusalem, but for all people. We are even given a proof of assurance to tell everyone that this will indeed happen; it is the proof of Jesus’ resurrection. If we can deny Jesus ever truly resurrected, we could very well continue on in our blissful ignorance of God and the future judgment. But If we cannot, then Jesus is Lord and our Judge.

The coming of Jesus fulfilled the two wills of God.

In the coming of Jesus, we can see what God prefers sinners to do, repent, and be saved. We see this in OT and NT scripture:

Ezekiel 33:11 

11 Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? 

2 Peter 3:9 

9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 

God yearns and calls sinners to repentance through His Son. His sacrifice is both proof and measurement of God’s great love. God desires His people to repent for their good in our Isaiah passage. “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land. (verse 19).” The same God who loves Israel also gave His Son to all nations. God’s love extends to those who have the most to gain, who stand the farthest away from God. If they would only repent and believe in Jesus Christ, they can be saved immediately!

Though this is God’s preferred outcome for sinners to repent, His justice remains unwavering if they do not repent, delivering punishment to all who reject the gospel.

2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 

“In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power. “

In Jesus alone, these two wills of God meet together and are fulfilled. A passage in the New Testament letter Peter writes captures this idea in his own words:

1 Peter 2:6-8

“Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, “And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.”

 Christ is the Stone upon which our faith is built upon. It is the cornerstone of the church that supports the entire structure. For those who believe, the Stone is our foundation on which we trust and rest upon. But for those who reject Christ, He is the Stone that will crush them. Through the cross and resurrection, we see both the saving grace of God and His wrath together. The resurrection is either assurance we are saved through faith or a guarantee that all who remain in unbelief will face the judgment of the Lord Jesus.

4. How do I apply this passage to my life?

Isaiah’s passage comes with a built-in application. He calls for the sinner to “reason together” with God’s word. I can imagine what the Gospel must sound like to someone hearing it for the first time. But Gospel is in its core “news” of events that really happened surrounding Jesus Christ. The implication for a risen Jesus Christ means either eternal life with God or everlasting punishment away from God. Would the weight of such a claim behoove you to examine the evidence before so carelessly dismissing the Gospel? If you remain uncertain about the Gospel, use these coming days to reason with God. Ask questions. Search for truth. Pray and ask God to help you see.

If you find life with God to be desirable and you are convinced of His great love for you, then heed what God says through Matthew:

Matthew 11:29 

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 

Call to Jesus ask Him to save you. Learn His life, study Jesus. Follow His commandments. God sent His Son to be a blessing to all mankind. God does not violate your will to obey or reject. God is ready to extend His goodness to all who make Jesus their Lord and Savior.

How To Pray While in Depression–Psalm 77

How to pray in depression or in an extended time of sadness?

Our first three verses open up with emotions that go beyond a common sadness. There are daily pains that all who live must bear. Most of them we fight out of them with a simple cup of coffee or listening to some therapeutic music. Our psalmist finds relief in daily prayer.

“I cried unto God with my voice,

Even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me.”

Verse 1

For the most part, daily prayer (along with a cup of coffee) is more than enough for the daily woes we have become familiar with. But in the peculiar counsel of God, there are troubles that are not so easily shaken off with only a few quiet moments with the Lord and a cup of dark roast.   

“In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord:

My sore ran in the night, and ceased not:

My soul refused to be comforted.”

Verse 2

Even with extra hours given to the Lord in fasting and prayer, this still seems to fall short to ease the burden. What is the purpose of this pain and grief over the course of many days, weeks, months, or years? It doesn’t seem to have a purpose. Why would the Lord let things get so bad to where I can’t even get to sleep? I’m at the point where I do not even want to pray.

“Thou holdest mine eyes waking:

I am so troubled that I cannot speak.”

Verse 4

What is different now that I cannot enjoy peace from God? What in my life has changed so that I cannot find relief? The “songs” that I used to sing no longer seem to soothe. The promises of God and themes of the songs have not changed, so what is different?  

“I have considered the days of old,

The years of ancient times.

I call to remembrance my song in the night:

I commune with mine own heart:

And my spirit made diligent search.”

Verses 5-6

Thinking about it has only made me more desperate. My wounds are not simple bruises and small pains I can ignore. I have gaping sores that rob me of rest. Has the Lord refused to heal me? Am I somehow different from everyone else that I cannot enjoy the benefit of His promises?

“Will the Lord cast off for ever?

And will he be favourable no more?

Is his mercy clean gone for ever?

Doth his promise fail for evermore?

Hath God forgotten to be gracious?

Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah.”

Verses 7-9

When I think about it, it seems the joy I had before was predicated on what God was doing in my life. I gained more confidence in Him to work in me the more I thought about what He has already done.

“And I said, This is my infirmity:

But I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High.”

I found relief in thinking about God. I could briefly escape my own pain and thoughts when focusing on what I know about Him.

“I will remember the works of the Lord:

Surely I will remember thy wonders of old.

I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.

Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary:

Who is so great a God as our God?”

Verses 10-13

So what has changed? I know that God is still the God that does mighty works. He is still the God who delights in helping His people. He is the God that has already completed the work of redemption for my soul.

“Thou art the God that doest wonders:

Thou hast declared thy strength among the people.

Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people,

The sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah.”

Verses 14-15

Looking back, what are three beliefs we can hold onto while we are in depression?

  1. Be Convinced that God hears you. v1 

Psalms 77 is for those who have already experienced a good measure of trust in God and can resonate with the psalmist’s frustrations. 

The details of this current trial do not change the necessity of having a daily relationship with God. The anguish you are experiencing may be of your own doing or is an outcome of forces beyond your control. But either way, the inner struggle is with God. 

For some reason, your common routine with the Lord doesn’t fill you up as it did before. Perhaps the guilt of sin or stresses of life seems to overpower the senses. Perhaps there is nothing else to do besides “turn your face to the wall and weep sore” (See 2 Kings 20:2-3). Often, in these moments of giving up in the face of inevitable failure, God has a purpose.

I do not think a book, sermon, or any other human device can produce the faith these trials introduce to the believer’s life. They appear chaotic and wildly uncomfortable, but they are still firmly in God’s sovereign hands to complete a purpose. If there is a constant truth that never changes in the darkness, it is that God hears the cry of His own.

2. Consider what is different in your relationship with God. v6 

The reason why Psalm 77 is written to experienced believers is that it assumes the one in desperation has had a measure of joyful history with God. “A song in the night” are the truths the believer took solace in night after night. These truths and relationship with God brought a measure of peace no small struggle can contest.

But now that peace is disturbed, yet confidence in God is still constant. In this lingering trial, pain, confusion, and anxiety are multiplied. Confidence in God draws us to cry to Him, as we are accustomed to, but after a prolonged period we seemingly still cannot find relief. This should naturally draw one to consider deeper or look into other causes.

If one’s usual headaches do not go away after the regular aspirin but instead get worse, one might consult a doctor or thoroughly examine potential causes.

This diligent search of the soul is the middle step of a grander work in the heart. Our misery is amplified while we spend the extra time we spend thinking about it. This soul search should lead us to a final step in finding some relief…

3. Focus on Him and His Goodness. v10 

Is it because God has stopped being good? Perhaps we think we must have done something particularly sinful for God to stop His ears from hearing us. Indeed there may be sin for us to confess. This diligent soul search may turn up several things God is not pleased about. But I believe the road to relief will be traveled much quicker if we are able to focus our thoughts on Him and His goodness.

As long as we are focused on our pain, its cause, the future worry, we will only continue the cycle of hopelessness. Without God, we were always hopeless. But God’s goodness has already been made clear to the experienced believer.

The history of God’s goodness is the story of the Gospel and the unchangeable truth of the resurrected Lord Jesus, who died for our redemption. If Jesus had paid such a high price to redeem your soul, how could He not be intimately interested in your well-being? The answer then is get the focus off yourself and onto Him. “This life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.”

The final verses of Psalm 77 rehearse God’s redemption history for the Psalmist and His people. What has God done for you? What is the trajectory of His goodness? Where will His goodness, once it’s finished, finally accomplish in you?

He is the author and finisher of our faith. He will finish what He started in you.

 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 

Hebrews 12:2 

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: 

Philippians 1:6

Devotional Thought About Balaam’s Character

Numbers 22-25 records the encounter with Balaam and Balak. It is clear from Balaam’s persistence with Balak, that his inward hearts desire was the material wealth and comforts that Balak was offering. Balaam was a man who had the privilege of knowing God’s will. Much of Balaam’s response to Balak would be considered honorable because he did not say more or less than what God commanded to say. But Balaam is a negative character in the Bible storyline. The New Testament refers back to Balaam also in a negative light using craftiness to cause Israel to sin. So what it is about Balaam that God found so destestable?

The the obvious sin of Balaam is the evil counsel he gave Balak, even after knowing God’s purpose to bless Israel. Balaam came up with the idea to entice Israel to fornicate with the Moabite women. This sin would cause God to bring judgement upon His own people. But perhaps what is more troubling is that Balaam uses understanding of God to commit sin. This is similar to what Satan did in Eden. Like Satan, Balaam had no real power to do harm to Israel, so he uses God’s character like a weapon to bring down condemnation on them. Satan knew this in garden, so by enticing Adam to sin, God would be the one to curse them.

Balaam’s tactic works and Israel is plagued with a pestilence because of their sin. I wanted to spend some time thinking about Balaam for a moment to consider how such a man, knowing God’s will on the matter, could still devise a plan that is contrary to God’s heart? Does Balaam not love God? It would seem that he does not. But yet here he is a seer that God has chosen to reveal something of His will.

I suppose it is possible for modern day “men of God” to somehow possess a heart like the one of Balaam’s yet be in privilege to know God’s word. Personally, this seems like a dreadful state for one to be in. I suppose it is easy for men of God to suppose their heart is right with God because they know something of His will. I’m not juxtaposing merely someone who wears a sheep’s skin and who is utterly false. But I’m describing someone who really does know God’s mind on the matters of the world, yet is still enticed by sin.

I suppose the focus of my musings of Balaam is not on what he did, but the heart behind what he did. I see within myself a warring of two natures. I am someone who, by the grace of God, knows something of the heart of God and His will in matters of the world. But yet sin remains and is at utter conflict with the work of God.

I pray and beg God for His name’s sake to keep my feet from slipping. On a personal level, there is no real enemy to fear more than the sin is always crouching and waiting for opportunity to devour. Purge out the double-mindedness. Instruct me daily the way I should go. Let me not be found at home in the “time where kings go out to war”. Lead me not into temptation. Watch and pray.

For those who serve God, we are at war with sin. Sin is really the only thing harm a personal testimony. Satan is otherwise powerless, in spiritual terms, to curse God’s people where God has commanded a blessing. But if sin should find opportunity, God will chastise, rebuke, or even remove His hand. Think of many men of God, in the Bible, or that you know of, who have fallen. And even if there is a measure of redemption for them that follows, there will always remain a tarnish and a level of unmovable consequences.

I pray and beg God to help me, that my feet should not slip, and protect my children and sons in the faith that they would have a breastplate of righteousness securely fastened in their lives. I pray that they would love God and be able to avoid many hurtful sins such as I have come to experience. Thanks to God for the gift of righteousness in Jesus Christ. Knowing that finally, I’m able to offer to God a perfect righteousness that isn’t my own but imputed to me through the cross!

John 8:12-20

Key Verse: 12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

1. Background

 A. Jesus is in the temple on the last day of the Festival of Booths. 住棚節。During the feast, the Jews would take time to remember how God was with them in the wilderness as they dwelt in tents. In the festival of the Booths, tradition says that in the last days of the feast, people would gather under the lamplights of the temple. This is where Jesus exclaims, “I AM the Light of the world.”

B. John is showing us the division amongst the people. Some believe others do not. The religious leader in the majority do not believe and are plotting to kill him.

2. Theological Observations

Jesus is the Light of the world.  This is the most apparent theological observation we can make in our passage, but what does He mean by “light”? Jesus qualifies what His light does for those who follow Him; they “shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the life of light.”

In previous chapters, John had already talked about darkness. He said men loved darkness rather than the light and that this condemned them of sin (see John 3:15-21). According to John, darkness is the sin and evil that humanity lives in. The Light of Christ exposes our sin, and people choose to resist Christ’s rebukes.

Jesus is claiming that, whoever believes in Him and His word, will be given eternal life that the Light brings. Also, Jesus’ light will guide and direct God’s people, just as He did in the wilderness.

I note, there is an interesting connection between the Light and Jesus Himself. At times it seems Jesus possesses light, and at other times, Jesus is the same as the Light. The implication is we are called to rely on Jesus’ heart as well as His leadership and His words.

Such a claim does not leave room for many options to choose from. Either He is the Light, or He is not. As we can see from the narrative, there is a division amongst the people that either accepts that He is the Messiah or conclude He is lying.

We are left with the problem that John has already explained in John 3. We love our darkness, and the Light of Christ reproves us. How then can we be translated into Christ’s light and receive “the life of light”?

3. How do the passage point to Jesus and the gospel?

Verse 12 tells us that Jesus’ life leads to life, but how so? As we read a little farther, John leaves another bread crumb in chapter 12. Some non-Jews come to seek for Jesus, and John sees this as a final sign that Jesus’ death is near (See John 12:20-23). Toward the end of that passage, Christ says that the time for Satan’s defeat has come, and Jesus will be “lifted up” (on the cross) (see John 12:31-32).  

To this, the crowd rightly says the scripture teaches the Messiah will live forever but wrongly assumes He would never die. Rather than correct this, Jesus calls for them to trust Him in spite of their wrong assumptions. In verses 35 and 36 of chapter 12, Jesus says, “Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light.”

“Thay ye may be children of the light”? In what sense do believers become children of the light? Hearkening back to Nicodemus in chapter three, Jesus told Nicodemus that “ye must be born again.” Children of darkness become children of light through a supernatural birth that believing in Jesus accomplishes. Even though the listener’s understanding isn’t perfect at this point, they can still choose to trust Jesus as the source of Light. This alone is an acceptable belief in the eyes of God that leads one to eternal life. Thus says Jesus, “Walk while ye have the light…believe in the light, that ye may be children of the light.”

We exchange families when we believe in Jesus Christ as the Light. His light not only reproves us of sin but bestows upon us the life we could never avail ourselves to. Paul will later say in Colossians 1:12-13,

“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.”

This “translation” process was accomplished through the cross and resurrection of Christ. As Jesus broke the power of darkness on the cross, life and light were made freely available to all who trust Christ. 

Upon reading John a second time, one will realize John gave the answer to this problem back in John 1:12-13,

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” 

4. Application

How do people today apply light to everyday problems? One needs constant light while working under the car. We consult the light to find our way about objects in a dark room. Without adequate light, we cannot read well for long periods. Putting the metaphor aside, we need to consult with Christ just as we constantly consult with the light. And it isn’t as simple as flipping on the switch in the kitchen.

We live in a day where getting the Bible is relatively easy. I say “relatively” because of the internet and smartphones. We can download an app that will read the Bible to us. Whatever platform one chooses to read or hear the scriptures, we still should plan to consult it regularly with a prepared heart to obey.

Light doesn’t do one good unless one chooses to act according to it. As we absorb the scriptures, we already have an attitude of belief, “this is true and good.” But we also make a plan throughout the day to consult with it. Prepare yourself beforehand to read and focus on scriptures throughout the day. Get a plan. Borrow someone else’s plan and make it yours. Ask mature Christians how they keep God’s word in front of them, even when times are chaotic and extra busy.

For maturer Christians who ought to be teachers, we can help others understand the truth they are reading, but it takes works to untangle the webs of confusion young disciples have. As the truth confronts sin and challenges their world views, they will almost certainly have questions that only a skilled Bible student can answer without mishandling the scriptures. Can you handle the scriptures? Have you been Christian for so long but yet considered a novice in Bible explanation? Have you sought training so you can better communicate biblical truths to a lost and dying world? You’ve had the Light of Christ for so long; are you now able to guide others into it?

Romans 4–A Letter to Justin Brierley

The context of this post: I’ve been listening to much of “Unbelievable?” a podcast based in the “post-Christian” United Kingdom. Many of the guests who speak on Unbelievable are theistic Christians, including Justin Brierley, the host of the program. I don’t expect Justin to read this letter as he received multitudes of correspondence from the multitudes that listen to the show. But I just chose this letter as the format to organize my own thoughts in response to the things I’ve heard. I would agree with others who have said theistic evolution undermines the authority of Scripture. I believe Justin to be a Christian man regardless of his thoughts on evolution. By listening to the conversations Justin has hosted, I have been able to organize some of my own thoughts as we continue ministry here in Taiwan where people are predominately pagan.

Brother Brierley,

Thank you for the excellent work on “Unbelievable?”. I have enjoyed listening to many episodes and have benefitted from the conversations I’ve heard. As you once said, it is beneficial to Christians to listen in on these interactions to better organize one’s own thoughts to the end of better communicating the gospel. I think the result for myself has been just that.  

I wanted to use this letter to organize a particular thought of my own around the idea that some people require intellectual consistency in the gospel before committing to believing.  I have gathered from listening to your thoughts and line of questioning towards some guests that it would seem rather crucial that the Christian faith requires approval from a scientific consensus. Forgive me if the above statement has misjudged your work, as I have not listened to the entirety of all that you have said. I think your position as a theistic evolutionist will attest to that. 

As a Bible believer, I would believe if God promised He could fit large squares into small circular holes. I would believe this simply because it is He who promised. I wish to share my understanding of Romans four as to why I would be happy to suspend rational thinking if my God would require it of me, and I believe He has (as I will show from Romans chapter four!). 

If a person can be saved, it must be through faith, but what kind? It must be the kind of faith that Abraham has exhibited. Romans 4:1 begins that discussion with that very question, “what shall we say then that Abraham our father…has found?” And in response, Paul says (in my own paraphrase), “What does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God and righteousness was counted to him.”  

Now to the point, this imputed righteousness by faith was so done by God, not for the Jews only, but to all “who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father, Abraham. (vv12)” The promise that Abraham would receive a son through Sarah and become the heir of the world flew in the face of everything he knew to be reasonable. Paul says, “Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations.” What consistent reason did Abraham have to believe God against what is naturally consistent? Old men married to old women with “dead wombs” cannot have children, but because of faith in God’s promise, he “considered it not” (vv19).

There may not have been science then in the form that there is now, but the ancients weren’t so foolish not to grasp the difficulty of God’s promise. “He staggered not at the promise..but was strong in faith, giving glory to God. (vv20)” Abraham’s saving faith in the OT is not the only instance, Paul says, “Even as David also describes..(vv6).” 

What I see here in common between the faith of Abraham and David is how there doesn’t seem to be much intellectual or natural foundation for the promises God gave them. And let us not absolutize the idea our faith is unreasonable or inconsistent. It is reasonable that God would give promises that purposefully lack any natural explanation to glorify God and His word. Is it not the point of a miracle to break the rules of nature? Do we not have sufficient reason to believe God raises the dead to life contrary to what is consistent in nature?

We, too, have something in common with the faith of Abraham and David, that we believe God raises the dead against all reason and what is natural. “Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him, but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead. (vv23-24). 

As I have heard you give testimony to the Lord Jesus Christ and His resurrection, I know you believe this and derive great comfort from God’s promises as I do. But if we apply naturalistic observations with what God tells us in His world, we will hardly come to any agreement. I’m afraid what many will do is compromise God’s word in the name of possessing an “intellectual foundation for faith,” as I heard it said once in the program.

It would seem to me, if the conclusion of Romans four is true, then we cannot avail ourselves to saving faith that imputes righteousness through naturalistic reasoning. But rather, the kind of faith that saves comes by hearing and hearing of the word of God. I know no other means of conversion and transforming other than hearing and being changed by God’s word. 

I think it is wonderful that after ten years of hosting atheists, you are still a Christian. But are you Christian because after ten years, logic demands it of you? Only if we knew what we could accomplish the glory of God if we did it all by faith! I wish you well and look forward to seeing what you will accomplish in the next ten years.

In Christ,

Missionary John Walz, Taiwan

Foundations 25 Giving — 2 Corinthians 9

1. Historical Background

Paul has been planting churches in gentile cities. Now there is a mixture of Jewish and Gentile people in the churches that have never existed before. In those days, a great famine vexed the church in Jerusalem, primarily Jewish Christians. Paul saw an opportunity to accomplish to significant needs of the infant church, first to teach the spirit of giving in the Lord, and secondly, to help unify gentile and Jewish believers in the gospel.  

Our particular passage deals with this issue as Paul brought it before the church in Corinth.

2. What Can We Learn About God?

God’s abundant generosity towards us is willing of His own free choice.

Before Paul arrives in Corinth, he sends this letter out ahead of him so that the church would prepare their offering. In ancient times, money preparation was far more complicated than using a check or using any of the many digital means we have today. But he wants people to give in the same spirit of which God gives.

"Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness." Verse 5

In verse 5, Paul says again what the Bible has said about offerings all along, that people should give “as a matter of bounty.” In other words, people should give willingly and not be coerced. Coercion would include using guilt or extreme pressure to persuade someone to give. 

Verse 7 restates the matter more plainly, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity.”

This generous and cheerful giving is a principle of giving based on God’s own character, as the rest of verse seven tells us, “God loveth a cheerful giver.” God loves those who give willingly because He is a most willing giver, even of His own Son, to save the likes of you and me.

God loves to enable us to give more than we are able.

This kind of cheerful giving comes with another principle that any Christian can lay hold of by faith. The principle is in verse eight:

“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all thingsmay abound to every good work.” Verse 8

 God will enable you to give generously as you endeavor to become cheerful givers. Looking back to chapter 8, Paul boasts about other churches in Macedonia who gave beyond their means. These churches were poor in material wealth, yet somehow, God gave them the ability and the money to give generously.

“Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves.”

2 Corinthians 8:1-3

To rephrase, the people of Macedonia wanted to give. And even though they were poor, God gave them the ability to give more and above what they were logically able to offer. They purposed in their heart to give and be generous, and then God gave through them to meet the need.

Verse eight promises to us that God will meet our own material needs and enable us to meet the needs of others. Therefore we are free to trust God and give willingly, knowing that He is faithful to provide our needs and more that we might bless others. 

God loves to do this through His people because such generosity is in line with His giving character. Verses nine and ten provide us with Paul’s hermeneutic use of Psalm 112:9 followed by his own commentary.

“As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever.” Verse 9

“Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for increase the fruits of your righteousness.” Verse 10

“The seed to the sower,” in this case, is the giver, both seed for his own want but also seed for the purpose of giving. And even in the end result, God, who first supplied the ability to give, now rewards the generosity he first enabled. That is the abundant blessing and richness of God’s generosity!

At this point in the conversation, a growing Christian brother or sister may ask, “But I have nothing to give; all my resources are already occupied by bills or otherwise.” Dear Christian, have you considered the reason why God hasn’t provided you with more is that He knows that you would not use it for His sake? But instead, you would find some other want or pleasure for occupying the thing He would give you.  

Only when your heart is set on God and His kingdom first will He open His hand to give you what you do not have. As we seek His righteousness and His will first, He will not only fulfill our needs but the needs of others we ask Him to supply through our generosity (Matt. 6:33).

3. How does this passage point to Jesus and the Gospel?

The measure of God’s generosity towards us is His Son, Jesus Christ.

If God is now commanding His people to give and generously give. How can one do so and not give grudgingly or from out of being coerced by a commandment of God? It is because those who are able to give willingly and generously are only following what God Himself has done in giving us His Son. God’s command for us to give is not so we might avail ourselves to a prize that must be purchased with good works. But we are merely following the heart of God, which generously gave us eternal life in Christ at the cross.

Whereby Paul says in verse 15, “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” Because giving us the fullness of the godhead in Jesus is unspeakably rich.

Therefore those who benefit from our generous giving have a proof of the gospel that perhaps they had not seen before. The message of the gospel is coupled with a testimony of generosity and love from those who give willingly from the heart.  

“Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men.” Verse 13

4. Application

It would be quite a contradiction to give the words of the gospel without performing it in deed also. How contrary would it be to pass by someone in physical need, only offering them the word of the cross whilst ignoring their desperate hunger or other temporal need. Let us meditate richly in the generosity of God towards us and be transformed into generous givers knowing that God will provide abundantly as we purpose in our hearts to serve Him with our gifts.

Let us also try our faith in this matter. God has said, “purpose in your heart”. So why not purpose a great deal as to stretch our faith and dependency on God? We know He loves a cheerful giver and will not let that saint be ashamed in trusting in Him. What can you do to help your church in their vision to get the gospel to the world?

John 7

1. Background

Jesus has been revealing Himself to the Jews as their Messiah. But it hasn’t been as simple as saying, “Here I am, your King!” The people have not understood that He is more than a human king coming to restore a broken kingdom. John has already told us He is the Creator become human flesh in the epilogue, and His mission is to take away the sins of the world. This revelation far outstrips the messiah the Jews were expecting. Their misunderstanding of God’s heart, His Word, and what He wants to do is what Old Testament readers should come to expect, however. When did God’s people, the Jews of antiquity, ever come to really understand God?  

Jesus is God’s Son, finally revealing in the flesh what has always been God’s plan from the beginning before He made the world. People are taking sides, choosing whether to believe Jesus’ claims or not. Jesus doesn’t leave a third choice; either He is, or He is not sent from God. The theme of the passage today in John 7 is, “He is the Sent One from God.”

2. What Can we Observe About God?

God’s character is always consistent with His Word.

Jesus did not come to be famous and be fawned over. But this is what Jesus’ half-brothers thought about Him. The Bible tells us they didn’t believe and supposed He was doing things for fame.

“His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world. For neither did his brethren believe in him.”  Verse 3-5

But Jesus has been consistent since the beginning. John tells us in chapter one, Jesus is God who became flesh and that He is Lamb of God come to take away the sin of the world.

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us…” 1:14

“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” 1:29

If Jesus wanted fame and popularity, He could have simply let them make Him King when they tried to take Him by force in Chapter 6.

“When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.” 6:15

No, Jesus’ actions have always been consistent with God’s word. Jesus tells His unbelieving family the world hates Him because He exposes their sin.

“The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.” Verse 7

This rebuff of our sin has been the bottom line and the root of humanity’s rejection of God from the beginning. We have loved our sin more than we have loved God. And now Jesus has come, and He is consistent with God’s word in rebuffing our sin. We can see this consistency in Jesus at the conclusion of chapter 6. He has refused cheap honor. He has been sent to complete His Father’s will and will not be persuaded to do anything else.  

Again, Jesus is refusing the cheap honor of men. He is sent from God, and He will consistently work according to God’s plan and turn not to the right hand nor to the left. At the Temple, Jesus tells the crowds He only speaks what the Father sent to say.

“My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me” Verse 16

We can trust Jesus’ motives because He isn’t working for His own honor but the glory of His Father who sent Him.

“He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.”

In contrast, religious leaders are, at best, have inconsistent motives and contradictions inside their own moral reasoning. Jesus knows of their plot to put Him to death and again exposes their sin and hypocrisy.

“Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?” Verse 19

They, of course, deny this plot. If we are consistent in anything, it would be our denial and self-justification. The Jews counter Jesus’ accusation with one of their own, claiming He is demon posses or insane:

“The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?” Verse 20

But now, let the reader decide who is being consistent and who is seeking God’s glory. Jesus has the crowd recall back in Chapter 5 when He healed a man on the Sabbath day.  

“Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.” 5:18

Jesus brings this to their memory and points out the religious leaders will perform a circumcision ritual on the sabbath. The religious leaders would conclude that performing this religious rite is a good and righteous thing to do; however, they seek to kill Him because He had healed someone on the sabbath day. Jesus points out their anger at him is hypocrisy and inconsistent.

“If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day? ” Verse 23

With this one act of Jesus on the sabbath, we see more than just His consistency to perform the Father’s will, but also the witness from the miracles He performs. He is the Messiah and more!

Many of the people had the insight from this point alone to place their faith in Him:

“And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?” Verse 31

3. How Does this Passage Point to the Gospel and Jesus Christ?

We can know we can be saved because God gave us a consistent Savior who is as dependable as God’s Word.

Every bit of this is good news for those who wish to be saved from sin and spend eternity with God. There remain on this earth millions who have a religion but sit in spiritual darkness. Many even claim Jesus as the head of their religion, yet are still ignorant of the free salvation to be head in trust Christ alone. They say something like, “How can salvation be so easy?”

It is “easy” for us because Christ did all the work. He didn’t leave anything left undone. He was perfectly consistent and thorough in fulfilling God’s plan. He did such a thorough job; all one needs to need is to come to Jesus and “drink,” and he’ll never thirst again.

“If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” Verses 37-38

God freely gives this offer of living water to quench spiritual thirst. Because of our sin, we are horribly inconsistent hypocrites. Even when we hold ourselves up to our own standards, we fall short. How much more sinful do we become in the face of God’s standard and Christ’s rebuffs? Yet, in verse 37, Jesus is quoting Isaiah 55:1 in fulfillment with Himself.

“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters,And he that hath no money; Come ye, buy, and eat; Yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”

Isaiah 55:1

This living water is, of course, the same offer Jesus made to the Samaritan woman of chapter four. This offer is consistent with the heart of God to save sinners as He has revealed Himself in Scripture.  

Our confidence in being saved doesn’t come from our own ability, but knowing we have a Savior who is as faithful and steadfast as God’s Word.

“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”

John 17:3

4. Application

It does not matter what we lose to come to Christ because He is the living water that fills and quenches all thirst. The sinner may lose relationships with family or friends because they’ve chosen to believe in Christ. But Christ is sufficient to fill you with much more.

As Christians, we learn to be filled with Him. We understand the source of our discontentment is sin. Jesus is our constant source to which we can return. As Lord of our life, we confess sinful attitudes as He reveals them, and we look to Him for joy and contentment. We should consider the Living water whenever we attempt to fill our soul with material things only to find they do not truly satisfy.

Without Christ, your sin will remain. Eternal life is priceless, yet He gives it to you free. Don’t pass it up! Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be baptized in His name!