The Authority of the Bible

The Christian church spread widely and rapidly in the First Century.  Do you know why?  It can happen again if we follow the Apostles’ example.

Today’s Reading

Psalms 13-16; Acts 18

Selected Verses

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.  Psalm 16:9-10

And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews is public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus. Acts 18:27-28

Reflections

In the First Century, the Apostles used the Scriptures of the Old Testament powerfully and effectively as they spread throughout the known world proclaiming that the promised Christ had come. Later the New Testament containing the Apostles’ teaching would be added, completing our Bible.

The Messiah, Christ, was promised to Israel and sent to them. He lived out His life and ministry culminating in His death by crucifixion, His resurrection, and His commissioning of His Apostles to go into the entire world and make disciples of all nations. That work which Jesus commissioned still goes on today throughout the earth.

The Psalms are filled with references which had immediate relevance to their time but would later be more completely fulfilled by Jesus in His earthly life. Here we have a prophecy which both Peter and Paul understood to point clearly to His resurrection (Acts 2:25-28; 13:35). To see Christ in the Psalms and other Old Testament scriptures motivated the Apostles and fueled their boldness as they preached to the Jews.

One of those Jewish converts to Jesus Christ was a gifted man named Apollos. He displayed great eloquence in his speech and diligence in his study of the Word of God, but he received needed help from the mentoring of Paul’s disciples, Aquila and Priscilla. Apollos went on to Achaia and had an effective ministry encouraging the believers and showing the Jews from the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

Think about it

Do you rely on the Scriptures as the basis for your faith and in your presenting Jesus to others? We need to beware of relying on arguments based on mere human reasoning and logic and neglecting to point people to the claims of Christ made in God’s Word. Let the Word of God be your authority for your life and your ministry. The Apostles modeled this and we will be wise to follow their example. We may yet see amazing growth in Christ’s Church.

God’s Ambassadors

God has appointed His people to be His ambassadors to those who do not know Him. The gospel goes out by word of mouth from those who have believed.

Today’s Reading

Job 13-15; Acts 8:26-40

Selected Verses

You would call, and I would answer you;
you would long for the work of your hands.
For then you would number my steps;
you would not keep watch over my sin;
my transgression would be sealed up in a bag,
and you would cover over my iniquity.  Job 14:15-17

Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.  Acts 8:35

Reflections

Scholars believe that Job lived about the same time as Abraham. Before his call from God, Abraham was a polytheist (believing in many gods). Job on the other hand, seems to grasp a theology of a single sovereign and holy God. But Job has no clear understanding of the resurrection or of life after death. Yet Job does show a longing for reconciliation with God through some kind of covering for his sin. He seems to have an inkling of hope of a resurrection, perhaps like a tree that is cut down but grows back up from its roots (14:7-17). It’s just not very clear. He longs to know more and, soon, God will tell him more.

In the period following the stoning of Stephen and the subsequent persecution, God sends Philip to speak with an Ethiopian eunuch, the queen’s treasurer, who had been in Jerusalem to worship. Philip is able to explain to him the meaning of Isaiah’s writing and the good news about Jesus Christ. This results in the official’s baptism. In these touching words, Luke records that the eunuch, after this one-on-one Bible study with Philip, “went on his way rejoicing.”  We can only imagine the impact of this man’s testimony before the court officials of Ethiopia.

Think about it

God knows the hearts of those who seek Him, Job, the Ethiopian, and everyone else. He may directly intervene, as He will do with Job later on in our reading, or He may send someone to explain the gospel as He did in the case of Philip and the queen’s treasurer.  Did He send someone to you? Has He sent you to be a light to someone else? Give thanks for His providence in sending those who can help us understand His truth and in sending us to pass on the good news of Jesus. If you belong to Christ, God has appointed you His ambassador because the gospel goes out powerfully by word of mouth (2 Corinthians 5:11-21).

To the End of the Earth

What is the relationship of the Christian to the world?  God prohibits marriage to unbelievers, but sends us to evangelize them to the end of the earth.

Today’s Reading

Ezra 9-10; Acts 1

Selected Verses

While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel, for the people wept bitterly.  And Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, of the sons of Elam, addressed Ezra: “We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this.”   Ezra 10:1-2

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8

Reflections

God promised in His covenant with Abraham that in him all the families of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:3). Meanwhile, God told His people entering the Promised Land to destroy the heathen nations and not to intermarry with them. Whenever they disregarded this command, they suffered for it and brought problems on the nation. Yet there were clear exceptions where foreigners joined themselves to Israel and worshiped Yahweh. Some examples are: Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth, all who entered into the royal lineage of David and Jesus Christ.   The arrogant disregard for God’s law appalled Ezra as he witnessed those marriages. The kingdom had just experienced severe judgment, being ejected from their land and taken captive, in part, for their mixing in marriage and in worship with unbelievers.

Yet it was always God’s plan to save people from all the nations. Jesus announced the imminent coming of the Holy Spirit to His Apostles. They would receive power and they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth.   Their mission would not be fruitless. The result?  The Church exploded throughout the entire known world within a few generations.

Think about it

God calls the Church is to be holy and evangelistic. Naturally, this creates tension as we seek to live and witness among lost people without adopting their beliefs and sinful lifestyles. Rely on the Holy Spirit, not your own power, and be a witness to Jesus. He is the only hope of the world. In Him all the families to the end of the earth will be blessed as they hear the gospel and believe in Jesus Christ.

The Backdrop of God’s Glory

What a contrast in leadership: Pontius Pilate and King Solomon!  But against the backdrop of these two men we can see the glory of God in a fresh way.

Today’s Reading

I Kings 3-5; Luke 23:1-26

Selected Verses

And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt.  For he was wiser than all other men.

I Kings 4:29-31a

So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.  Luke 23:24-25

Reflections

Solomon is said to have “loved the Lord” and was walking in the statutes of his father, David (3:3).  God came to him in a dream and offered to answer his prayer for whatever he desired.  Solomon asked for an understanding mind to govern the people God had given him.  God was pleased with the request.  He granted it and much more to Solomon.  Solomon was known for his wisdom both within the kingdom and internationally.

Under this wise king, Israel reached the pinnacle of its glory.  Never before and never again would there be such a wise king and a prosperous kingdom.  This golden age of Israel would continue until Solomon himself stopped obeying God and followed other gods (1 Kings 11:1-13).

By stark contrast, at Jesus’ trials (before the Jewish Sanhedrin and then before Pilate and Herod) the depth of foolishness is seen.   The Sanhedrin found Him guilty on trumped up charges and spun those to imply some sort of revolutionary terrorist status to Jesus. Neither Pilate nor Herod found him guilty, but Pilate succumbed to the pressure of the crowd and sentenced Him to death by crucifixion.

Think about it

We will see that Solomon’s reign demonstrates that even gifted, promising  leaders who disobey God will fail.  But the foolish and evil rulings of the Jews and the Romans that seemed to destroy Jesus’ life and ministry became a crucial element in God’s plan of redemption for all mankind.  The Church of Jesus Christ has spread to every corner of the earth.  Praise God that He is glorified in the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord.  He is glorified in the ongoing proclamation of the gospel throughout the world.  He has shown His glory against the backdrop of human foolishness. Praise God for His glory, power, and wisdom that has reached to you and me.

Two Men who Saw the Light

God included the Gentiles in His plans to redeem His elect people from sin and death.  Here we meet two men who saw the light on this.

Today’s reading

Joshua 7-8; Luke 2:25-52

Selected Verses

And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law.  There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners who lived among them.  Joshua 8:34-35

 Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
  for my eyes have seen your salvation
  that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
  a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.  Luke 2:29-32

Reflections

God’s focus, as we have seen before, includes not only the Israelites or the Jews but all the peoples of the earth.

Joshua renews the covenant of God with Israel by reading the entire Book of the Law of Moses. The congregation included not only the men of Israel but the women, the children, and the sojourners who lived among them. Those sojourners were not related physically to Israel, but merely living among them, perhaps as servants. How important that Joshua included them in the reading of the law and the renewal of the covenant!

Simeon, who had waited all his life for the coming of the Messiah, met the infant Jesus in the temple. His long-awaited moment had come. He had seen the salvation of the Lord. That salvation was prepared in the presence of all peoples and would be a light for revelation to the Gentiles as well as a glory to God’s people, Israel. Certainly, Simeon understood the universal offer of salvation that was being extended to the entire world.

Think about it

God deserves our praise for sending His Son, Jesus, to save all who believe in Him from every nation, tribe, and tongue. Thank Him that Joshua granted the sojourners among the Israelites the privilege of hearing the Word of God. Praise God for His grace to old Simeon who saw his dream of a lifetime fulfilled. He also gave us wise words about the work of Jesus Christ whose ministry extends to all peoples even you and me.

The Grace of God to All Nations

Jesus echoed the prophets when He rebuked the abuses in the temple during His day.  God shows His grace to all the nations and Jesus made this clear.

Today’s reading

Deuteronomy 1-2; Mark 11:1-19

Selected Verses

Turn northward  and command the people, “You are about to pass through the territory of your brothers, the people of Esau, who live in Seir; and they will be afraid of you. So be very careful.  Do not contend with them, for I will not give you any of their land, no, not so much as for the sole of the foot to tread on, because I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession.  Deuteronomy 2:3b-5

And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”  Mark 11:17

Reflections

Throughout the Old Testament God indicates that He has other nations in view as He brings salvation through Israel.  How instructive to discover that God provided and protected lands for the descendants of Esau who was not the chosen son of Isaac!  The Lord also provided lands for Lot’s heirs, the Ammonites and the Moabites.  He even restricted those lands from Israelite takeover.

Jesus clearly understood and taught this global perspective as indicated in today’s selected verse from Mark.  The temple was to be a house of prayer for all the nations.  Even before Jesus’ day, Judaism had degenerated into a very inward focused religion, and the Lord quotes from the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah in His rebuke of the money changers (Isaiah 56:7; Jeremiah 7:11).  But Jesus was making disciples who were going to go to the Gentiles in the entire world with His gospel.

Think about it

Unless you can trace your ancestry back to Jews, you are, like me, a Gentile.  You are, like me, a beneficiary of God’s grace to Israel, whereby came the Scriptures and our Lord Jesus Christ. Should we not be humbled by His amazing grace to all the nations?  Praise God that He has seen fit to call to Himself a people for His glory from all the tribes and tongues of the earth.

God’s Glory in Christ’s Power

God’s glory shines when His Son, Jesus, saves enslaved sinners, delivering, healing, and sending them to be His witnesses to other enslaved sinners.

Today’s reading

Numbers 8-10; Mark 5:1-20

Selected Verses

And whenever the ark set out, Moses said, “Arise, O Lord, and let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate you flee before you.”  And when it rested, he said, “Return, O Lord, to the ten thousand thousands of Israel.” Numbers 10:35-36

As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. Mark 5:18

Reflections

It was a creepy scene.  Jesus unfazed met a demonic man in a cemetery.  Three times the man begged the Lord for something.  First, he plead with Jesus not to torment him.  Second, the demons through the man begged not to be sent out of the country.  Third, after being delivered from the demonic possession, he begged Jesus to allow him to be with Him.

What attitudes drove the man who begged these things from Jesus?

First, fear of torment. Despite being possessed by an unclean spirit, the demonic understood his guilt before the “Son of the Most High God.”  He could only beg for mercy because torment was what he deserved. Jesus had the power to torment him but He showed him mercy.

Second, dread of destruction. Jesus had power to send the demons to hell. Instead, He sent them into the pigs. The herd stampeded and drowned.  Legion was delivered.

Third, desire to be with Jesus. After deliverance, the now-healed man wanted to continue with the Lord. He sent the saved man back to his Gentile family and neighbors to tell them what God had done. So the man obeyed and returned to his people proclaiming to God’s glory what Jesus had done for him.  The response?  The people were afraid of Jesus but they marveled at the testimony of the formerly demon possessed man.

In our Numbers reading, God’s glory shone through the Israelites as He guided them on their journey to the Promised Land.  Like Legion, Israel saw God’s power to save His people from slavery in Egypt and then to lead them to their own land with freedom to serve Him.

Think about it

From Bible times right down till today, Christ’s power delivers, heals, and sends His people as His witnesses for His glory in every nation. Has this been your story, too?

Missions: Going in Christ’s Name

Missions are about making God’s name known and hallowed in every nation of the world. We must pray, send, give and go till Christ returns.

Today’s reading

Leviticus 20-21; Matthew 28

Selected Verses

They shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God. For they offer the Lord’s food offerings, the bread of their God; therefore they shall be holy.  Leviticus 21:6

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

Reflections

God revealed His name to mankind.  He directed the Israelites to worship Him and warned the priests not to profane His name.  Jesus revealed the Father and sent His disciples to go and make more disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Obviously, the name of God is to be hallowed and reverenced.  People must not take the name of God lightly or in vain.  Jesus’ disciples function on His authority, not their own.  They go with a purpose which includes making disciples and baptizing them in the name of the Triune God.

This Great Commission is serious business.  Missionaries go.  Churches send them and support them with money and prayer. Christians in every nation reach out with the gospel and seek to make disciples.  All of this is because of the name of God who has revealed Himself beginning with the first man and woman to whom He promised a seed that would crush the head of the deceiving Serpent (Genesis 3:15).

Think about it

The priests of ancient Israel took great care not to profane the sacred name of God.  We, as disciples of Jesus Christ, go commissioned in His name to all the world, making disciples and calling them to be baptized in the holy name of God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  In the words of the great hymn by Edith G. Cherry (1895):

We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender!
We go not forth alone against the foe;
Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender,
We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.

Let us hallow God’s name, take this commission seriously, and go in His name.

Solving the Labor Shortage

Today’s reading

Genesis 27-28; Matthew 9:18-38

Selected verses

…and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

Genesis 28:14b

The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

Matthew 9:37-38

Reflections

God’s revealed will for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their descendants was to bless all the families of the earth. That blessing was far greater than even those patriarchs could have imagined.  They would probably envision personal prosperity, security, and long life, the kind of material things most of us long for today.

The blessing God planned for all the families of the earth would involve God Himself becoming flesh and living among us.  Jacob’s dream of a ladder from heaven pictured a direct connection between the eternal God and mankind.  This dream was fulfilled when Jesus came (John 1:51).

Matthew shows how Jesus blessed people through meeting their physical needs, even raising the dead.  As we saw yesterday, Jesus wasn’t about merely meeting physical needs but about calling sinners to repentance.  The promised blessing for all the families of the earth was redemption from sin and reconciliation with God through the atonement of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. This will become clearer as we go forward in our reading.

But Jesus told His disciples there was a problem.  The harvest was plentiful, but the laborers were few.

God ordained that the blessing He planned to pour out on the world would be made known through messengers He would send. Jesus said there was a labor shortage.  He told His disciples to pray for laborers to go out into the harvest.

Think about it

How do we get laborers to bring in the harvest of souls?  God sends them.  What can we do about the need for laborers?  Ask God to send them.  Simple.  You can participate right now wherever you are. But beware.  He may send you across the street or around the world.   Tomorrow we will see that Jesus sent the same ones to labor whom He told to pray for laborers.  You may become the  answer to your own prayer.

A Chosen Race; A Holy Nation

God’s purposes in human history

God is carrying out His purposes in human history.  He decreed to elect a people for Himself and through Abraham to bless all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:1-3).  He called Israel a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:5-6).  But He had much more in mind than just the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  He had the Church, the body of Christ, in view as Peter calls the Church a chosen race, a holy nation.  Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, is gathering in to Himself His own from every tribe, nation, and tongue (Hebrews 13:20-21; Revelation 7:9-10).   Rejoice! His redeeming work encompasses the whole earth and all of history, including you and me living in the here and now.

Today’s reading: 

James 3:13-1 Peter 2:12

My selection:

 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10

For more reflections on this passage, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.