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1  Theology / Bible Study / Re: A Daily Devotional on: Today at 08:46:33 AM
Hold Fast

“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 1:13)

There are several significant pieces to this important command. We must “hold firm” to the “pattern” of the “wholesome words” that have been given to us. And that firm hold must rest in the faith and love that we have in Christ Jesus.

This is not an option. We are to hold to the form of the sound words. Hupotuposis is the Greek term, only used one other time in the New Testament, where Paul insists that his life was to be “a pattern to them which should hereafter believe” (1 Timothy 1:16, emphasis added). We are to be “under” (hupo) the “outline” or “pattern” (tupos) of the wholesome words. The purpose of the two letters to Timothy was to encourage the young pastor to follow the example of his human teacher Paul, who had completely submitted himself to the authority of all Scripture.

To the Roman Christians, Paul was delighted that they “obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered” to them (Romans 6:17, emphasis added). To the Corinthians, he reminded them that the events recorded in the life of Israel had “happened unto them for examples” (1 Corinthians 10:11, emphasis added). Paul also insisted that the people of the church at Philippi should “be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample” (Philippians 3:17, emphasis added).

Both biblical and church history provide us with patterns to follow. But the sound words of Scripture give what is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). HMM III
2  Theology / Bible Study / Re: A Daily Devotional on: April 22, 2018, 07:21:26 AM
The Christian's Lifestyle: Our Wisdom

“Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:17)

The “wherefore” is preceded by the command “Walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8). This title, children of light, is used only three other times in the New Testament: once by the Lord Jesus to contrast worldly wisdom with the ineffectual use of godly wisdom in the least things (Luke 16:8); once again to direct us to believe in the light (John 12:36); and finally by Paul to encourage us to watch and be sober (1 Thessalonians 5:5-6).

A light-like life, which is evidence of the fruit of the Spirit, is expressed in the character of goodness (Romans 15:14), righteousness (Romans 14:17-18), and truth (Ephesians 5:9; compare Galatians 5:22). In fact, the transformation of our character by our conscious choice to “present [our] bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God” enables us to “prove what is that good and acceptable, and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2; see also Ephesians 5:10). An equation is clearly drawn between godly behavior and godly wisdom.

It therefore follows that children of light “should have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” (Ephesians 5:11), taking the responsibility to reprove them and recognizing the “shame even to speak of those things” (Ephesians 5:12).

The light things make manifest (present, display) that which is reproved, enabling us to “walk circumspectly [accurately, carefully], not as fools but as wise” (Ephesians 5:15). That wisdom is not the foolish wisdom of this world (1 Corinthians 1:20) but the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 2:7) “that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God” (1 Corinthians 2:12), understanding what the will of the Lord is. HMM III
3  Theology / Bible Study / Re: A Daily Devotional on: April 21, 2018, 08:23:27 AM
Holy Brethren

“I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.” (1 Thessalonians 5:27)

There is probably no word more misused—even abused—than the word “holy.” In our day and age, it usually conjures up an image of sanctimoniousness, or even hypocrisy, and thus often becomes a term of snide ridicule.

Nevertheless, it is a biblical term of highest significance, most often used in connection with God Himself, the Holy Spirit. Since it is also used in connection with things (“the holy place,” as in Hebrews 9:12), it does not in itself necessarily have a moral connotation. Its basic meaning is evidently “set apart” and can refer either to people or objects that have been dedicated to God and His service.

Christians are all “holy brethren” in this sense, regardless of their individual behavior. They are all also called “saints” (same word as “holy” in the Greek—e.g., 1 Corinthians 1:2, even though many of the “saints” at Corinth were far from Christlike in their actions).

By all means, however, we who are called “holy brethren” ought to try, by God’s grace, to bring honor to such a name rather than ridicule. “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; Who was faithful to him that appointed him” (Hebrews 3:1-2).

The term “saints,” or “holy brethren,” applies both to men and women, of course, and to believers of Old Testament times as well as New Testament. Peter, for example, mentions “the holy women” who honored and served the Lord “in the old time” (1 Peter 3:5), and also the “holy men of God” through whom God gave the Old Testament Scriptures (2 Peter 1:21). The eternal admonition of God to all believers of every age is, “Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). HMM
4  Theology / Bible Study / Re: A Daily Devotional on: April 20, 2018, 07:55:36 AM
Visit

“Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.” (Acts 15:14)

Our English word “visit” has come to mean a social call, but not so in the Greek, where it can mean to inspect, to look upon in order to help, or benefit.

For example, when Christ said “sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not” (Matthew 25:43), He had in mind more than a social call. The prisons of the day were miserable places with no amenities whatever. Prisoners desperately needed help from the outside. Paul wrote to Timothy from his Roman prison: “The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee” (2 Timothy 4:13). By better understanding the word “visit,” Christ’s teaching takes on a richer meaning involving more the idea of a personal commitment.

The events surrounding the birth of the Messiah were considered a “visitation” by Zacharias when he prophesied over the baby Jesus: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people . . . the dayspring from on high hath visited us” (Luke 1:68, 78). After Christ raised to life a dead boy, the people exclaimed, “A great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people” (Luke 7:16).

In that light, consider our text for today as James explained to the church leaders Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles. With our expanded understanding of the word “visit,” we could now expand the verse to read, “how God for the first time did look upon the Gentiles, in order to help them. In doing so, He took out of them a people for His name.” God, in His grace, has done all that was necessary to help us, to bring us out of bondage to sin, and to stamp on us His holy name. JDM
5  Theology / Bible Study / Re: A Daily Devotional on: April 19, 2018, 07:41:30 AM
The Word and the Spirit

“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:12)

How is it that some people can read a biblical passage and find it either tedious, confusing, or even foolish, whereas others will receive great understanding and blessing from the very same passage? The answer is that the first group are animated only by the spirit of the world, “the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2), whereas the others are indwelled by the Spirit of God, having received the Holy Spirit when they trusted Christ for forgiveness and salvation.

It was, after all, the Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures to begin with. “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21). “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16), that is, “God-breathed,” where the “breath of God” is none other than the “Spirit of God.” Concerning his own divinely inspired writings, Paul said: “We speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth” (1 Corinthians 2:13).

Likewise, it is the same Spirit indwelling each believer who illumines, and confirms, and applies His own Scriptures to the individual Christian who reads or hears them. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). On the other hand, Jesus promised His disciples that “when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).

This He does through the Scriptures He inspired, with blessings abundant as we study them prayerfully and with believing and obedient hearts. HMM
6  Theology / Bible Study / Re: A Daily Devotional on: April 18, 2018, 08:34:10 AM
The Conclusion of the Matter

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

The spiritual life of Solomon can, to a great degree, be traced through his writings as recorded in the Bible. They are not straightforward history but are rather in a poetic style that reveals his inner thoughts throughout his life. At the beginning of his reign over Israel, he asked God for “an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad” (1 Kings 3:9), and he subsequently became renowned for his wisdom (e.g., 3:28; 4:29).

Unfortunately, as is well documented in Scripture, his thirst for human wisdom led him into compromise and disobedience, setting the stage for national apostasy and idolatry upon his death. The book of Ecclesiastes chronicles a series of experiments that he conducted in search for the highest human good, but each forced him to conclude that “all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2, etc.), that there is no humanly discernible pattern in the affairs of men. However, he concludes, life is the gift of God and should be enjoyed (3:13). Furthermore, he recognized the eventual judgment of God and concluded it best to live in obedience to God’s commands (e.g., 3:16-17).

Our text summarizes the entire book of Ecclesiastes. Here is the secret of human fulfillment. Note the two complementary commands, “fear God” and “keep his commandments.”

A true reverence for God necessarily results in obedience to His commands. Wise Solomon knew it, and Christ and the New Testament writers reinforced it (John 14:15; 1 John 5:2; etc.). Life’s harsh realities and seeming paradoxes are at times incomprehensible to us. Only by adopting a proper attitude toward life and God can we cope. JDM
7  Theology / Bible Study / Re: A Daily Devotional on: April 17, 2018, 07:14:23 AM
Tragic Ignorance

“For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” (Romans 10:3)

There are several important doctrinal truths about which unbelievers—and sometimes even Christians—seem tragically ignorant, with an ignorance affecting their very lives and destinies. Perhaps the most tragic is that mentioned in our text. Paul was writing specifically of the Jews, but the same ignorance is found in countless others—people who seek to earn salvation by their own religious and moral works rather than through faith in the imputed righteousness of Christ, who died for their sins.

There is also widespread ignorance concerning death and life beyond the grave. “I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). With respect to Christian life and ministry, Paul says: “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant” (1 Corinthians 12:1). Yet, most Christians neglect to develop or use their gifts, mainly because of ignorance concerning their proper function as described in 1 Corinthians 12, 14; Romans 12:3-21; Ephesians 4:7-16, and other key passages.

We urgently also need to be instructed concerning the deceptions of the wicked one: “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11). For all who seek instruction rather than ignorance, let them study God’s Word, for “all scripture . . . is profitable for . . . instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). HMM
8  Theology / Bible Study / Re: A Daily Devotional on: April 16, 2018, 08:32:13 AM
Things to Keep

“And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:17)

The two main Greek words for “keep” in the New Testament both mean more than just “obey,” though this meaning is certainly included. They also mean “guard” and “preserve.” We are thus told by Christ, in our text above, to guard and obey God’s commandments.

The same urgent command to keep what God has given is applied to many other entities in Scripture. For example, Paul stresses that we are to “keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called” (1 Timothy 6:20). In other words, false science (evolution) and vain babbling (humanistic philosophies) will seek to destroy the tenets of God’s truth, so we must always be diligent to guard and protect these truths.

Each person is also urged to “keep himself unspotted from the world” and to “keep thyself pure” (James 1:27; 1 Timothy 5:22). The forces of darkness make perpetual attacks against the spiritual and moral integrity of the Christian, so we must constantly be alert to protect ourselves against their enticements. Then, we must also endeavor “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) and to “keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 1:21), for the enemy will continually try to sow discord and bitterness among God’s people.

There are many verses that stress the keeping of His commandments (e.g., John 14:15) and the keeping of His words (e.g., 1 John 2:5). Finally, in the very last chapter of the Bible, the Lord sums it all up, as it were, when He promises: “Blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book” (Revelation 22:7). HMM
9  Theology / Bible Study / Re: A Daily Devotional on: April 15, 2018, 07:47:56 AM
The Christian's Lifestyle: Our Behavior

“This I say . . . that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk.” (Ephesians 4:17)

This succinct command quickly is followed by a sweeping description of the impotent mind of the Gentiles of that day in contrast to the utterly changed condition of the believer (whether Jew or Gentile). The non-Christian Gentiles had a darkened perceptive ability, rendering them alienated because of the ignorance that was in them, and an overall blindness of their heart that was the root cause of their inability to function, even to feel, in the same way as the children of God (Ephesians 4:18-19; compare Romans 1:21-32; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4).

The saint of God, however, is told to discard the old man and to put on the new man (Ephesians 4:20-24), as though that simple picture of a powerful reality is adequate instruction to fulfill the earlier command. No longer is the child of God to be corrupted by the deceitful lusts of his or her old condition, but having learned Christ and been taught by Him is to be renewed in the spirit of their mind. A transformation is now possible through the new mental (intellectual, spiritual) abilities given to us by Christ (Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 2:16).

The new man, which we are responsible to wear like a body-enveloping cloak, is created for us by the omniscient Creator in righteousness and true holiness. We have been given a specially created new man to wear (externally visible), which will show (exhibit, demonstrate, make clear) the spiritual difference between the Gentiles and the saints of God.

The 17 commands that follow (Ephesians 4:24-5:7) address every aspect of the Christian walk, all relating to a lifestyle of truth, giving specific contrast between the unbelieving Gentile and the saint. HMM III
10  Theology / Bible Study / Re: A Daily Devotional on: April 14, 2018, 08:13:47 AM
Snares

“Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:7)

A snare is a trap normally used to catch an unwary wild animal, but each of the five times the word (Greek pagis) is used in the New Testament, it refers to devices used by the great deceiver, Satan, to trap unwary human beings.

There is, first of all, the snare of worldly involvement. “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth” (Luke 21:34-35).

There is the snare of rejecting God’s Word, both the written Word and the living Word. When Israel repudiated Christ, God said: “Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them” (Romans 11:9, quoting Psalm 69:22). The desire for riches can be a snare. “They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition” (1 Timothy 6:9).

Satan has many other “devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11) by which he seeks “an advantage of us.” Not even “bishops” or other full-time Christian ministers are immune, for our text is a warning to prospective bishops against “the snare of the devil.” It is the responsibility of every true “servant of the Lord” to be “gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves . . . that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26). We must both avoid Satan’s snares ourselves and seek to deliver those who have been thus ensnared. HMM
11  Theology / Bible Study / Re: A Daily Devotional on: April 13, 2018, 08:54:51 AM
Together with Christ

“Even when we were dead in sins, [God] hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:5-6)

In these two marvelous verses the word “together” appears three times, referring in each case to our spiritual union with Jesus Christ. Three different words are used, each being compounded with the Greek sun, meaning “together with.” The first combination means “made alive with”; the second, “resurrected with”; the third, “seated with.”

All of these verbs are given in the past tense, stressing that, as far as God’s own Word is concerned, we have been already seated eternally in the heavens with Christ, having been born again with His own life spiritually and raised from the dead physically. All of these blessings were given to us “even when we were dead in sins,” not because of our good works or by our good intentions, but only “by grace ye are saved.”

The remarkable truth is that this doctrine of our eternal union with Christ, given and maintained only by His grace, does not lead to carelessness or sinfulness as some allege, but to a desire for a holy, God-honoring life. “God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? . . . 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” (Romans 6:2, 4).

The regenerate nature implanted by the Holy Spirit, a heart of gratitude for Christ’s sacrificial love for us, and the wonderful promises in God’s Word, all combine to transform our lives, making us new creatures in Christ, knowing that henceforth we shall “ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). HMM
12  Theology / Bible Study / Re: A Daily Devotional on: April 12, 2018, 07:57:00 AM
He Is Able

“Nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12)

The apostle Paul uses a precision of synonyms. We are to “know” the One in whom we have believed and to be “persuaded” that He is able to “keep” us.

The knowledge Paul cited (Greek i’do) emphasizes mental understanding as opposed to experiential knowledge or intuitive perception. I’do coupled with the word for persuasion (Greek peitho) strengthens the assurance Paul is promising. Our confidence is not based on mere emotion but on a clear grasp of God’s secure salvation. Perhaps a quick survey of other passages will encourage your heart as you read this:

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24).

“Being confident of this very thing, that he who hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

“God . . . hath begotten us again to . . . an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5).

“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen” (Jude 1:24-25).

What marvelous promises! Our surety is based on who God is rather than on our own individual steadfastness. HMM III
13  Theology / Bible Study / Re: A Daily Devotional on: April 11, 2018, 08:59:09 AM
Reject Favoritism

“My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.” (James 2:1)

Evidently the believers in the early church were much like us in that they tended to honor and favor wealthy individuals in their congregations. James commands them to reject such partiality and gives the reasons why.

The first reason is that God’s perspective is just the opposite. He favors the one of low rank. “Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom?” (v. 5).

Next, we see that favoritism never impresses the rich—it always backfires. “Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?” (v. 6). Showing favoritism is not practical.

Then, note that the favored ones are probably least deserving. In fact, often “they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called” (v. 7). In doing so, they dishonor the Lord, in whose name we gather.

Finally, such favoritism is a violation of “the royal law,” that summary statement of God’s plan for our relationships: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (v. 8). If the law is kept, “ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin. . . . For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (vv. 8-10).

Peter had learned this lesson, first in a vision, and then in his miraculous ministry to the Gentiles. “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34).

As our text reveals, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and showing favoritism on any basis (not only riches, but color, education, ethnic, or national background, etc.) are not compatible. JDM
14  Theology / Bible Study / Re: A Daily Devotional on: April 10, 2018, 08:37:32 AM
Fear the Right Fear

“Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” (Isaiah 8:12-13)

The people of Judah were terrified by the imminent prospect of invasion by the cruel Assyrian hordes who had been further strengthened by a confederacy with Judah’s own brethren in the 10-tribe kingdom of Israel. It is indeed cause for concern when compromising Christians join ranks with ungodly pagans in opposing those who defend the true Word of God, for such a combination seems almost too strong to resist. A modern example is the current collaboration between the secular evolutionists and those Christian evolutionists and “progressive creationists” who oppose Christians who stand for the literal truth of the biblical record of creation and Earth history.

This is cause only for concern, however, not for fear! Just as in Isaiah’s day, we must fear God—not men. In the coming judgment it will be far easier to explain to God why we had too much faith in His Word than too little!

These verses are referred to by the apostle Peter in a well-known New Testament passage: “Be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:14-15).

Therefore, when unbelievers and compromising believers join forces against those who fully believe the Bible, the proper response is not panic, or submission, or even belligerent opposition, but an implicit confidence in God and His Word, accompanied by a gracious “answer” (literally “apologetic”) in defense of the truth, given in a meek spirit and in fear only of God. HMM
15  Theology / Bible Study / Re: A Daily Devotional on: April 09, 2018, 07:56:16 AM
The Rivers and the Sea

“All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.” (Ecclesiastes 1:7)

As the ancients observed the mighty Nile and Euphrates and other great rivers flowing into the ocean, they could not help but wonder why the sea level never rose. They knew that many of the waters in the rivers came from rainfall, especially during floods, but they had only quaint notions, at best, as to where the rains originated. Not until the days of modern science did men discover that rainfall actually comes from the oceans via evaporation and atmospheric transportation.

But the Bible writers somehow seemed to know about the true nature of the hydrologic cycle thousands of years in advance of modern science. The rivers come from the same place to which they return—that is, the sea.

But how do the waters of the sea ever rise into the sky? “He maketh small the drops of water: they pour down rain according to the vapour thereof: Which the clouds do drop and distill upon man abundantly” (Job 36:27-28). Water droplets are made very small by the process of evaporation so they can be carried aloft by the up-rushing air forces over warm waters; later they “distill upon man abundantly.”

There are other references in Scripture to different phases of this great hydrologic cycle, but one of the most significant is Isaiah 55:10-11: “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth. . . . So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please.” The waters return to the skies only after doing their good work on the lands. Just so, the life-giving Word of God returns to Him, not void, but full of the spiritual fruit for which He sent it. HMM
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