How does salt become tasteless? (Matthew 5:13)

INTRODUCTION. A consideration of Jesus’ warning in Matthew 5:13 that salt (the disciple of Jesus) can lose its taste and thus become useless. How can the disciple can avoid this danger?

The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 is perhaps the best known teaching from the entire ministry of Jesus Christ. In this message, Jesus establishes the principles that will mark the new covenant people of God from His issuing of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) until His glorious return at the end of the age. In this article, I want to explore our Lord’s warning about salt becoming tasteless.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” – Matthew 5:13

CONTEXT. First, we notice the context of this verse. It is significant that Jesus’ warning about salt becoming tasteless follows immediately after the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes (5:3-12) establish the expected behaviors and attitudes of the citizen of the kingdom of heaven, but the “salt and light” verses (5:13-16) reveal the responsibilities for which the disciple is accountable. The disciple is responsible to remain “salty” and he is responsible to shine his light before the watching world.

MEANING. So, in Matthew 5:13, Jesus is issuing a warning to would-be disciples that it is possible for salt to lose its savor. But what is the full force of this warning? What is Jesus teaching?

Observe first the identity of the salt. “You” in this verse refers to all disciples of Jesus. This is not limited to the Twelve, because at this point in Jesus’ ministry the Twelve disciples (apostles) had not been appointed (see 10:1-4), and because in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is giving instructions for all of His followers throughout the time between the advents. So, all disciples of Jesus are “the salt of the earth.” This is the analogy Jesus makes.

But what is the function or the purpose of this “salt of the earth?” To answer this question, we need to consider the nature of salt and we need to think about for whom this salt is useful.

What do we know about salt that makes it a good analogy for a disciple of Jesus? We know that salt’s taste is essential to salt. That is, the way you identify salt is by its taste. Salt is valuable because of its savor. Take away its flavor and you have taken away its essence. Salt that has lost its flavor is impossible to identify as salt and has lost its usefulness.

Now, as we consider Jesus’ analogy, we know that the disciple’s essential nature is a “taste” that is distinct from the world. The way you can identify a disciple of Jesus is that he/she lives in a manner that is separate from the world. The disciple is most useful to the Master (2 Tim. 2:21) when he is distinct from the world. On the other hand, a disciple who lives in a worldly manner is impossible to identify from the world and is of little use to the Lord or to the kingdom. So, the disciple of Jesus is “the salt of the earth” when he is living a “salty” life that is sharply distinct from the world and is, thus, useful to the Master for adding heavenly flavor to the disciple’s small piece of the world.

WARNING. There is, however, a stern warning here, that it is possible for salt that was once salty to become tasteless and, once the salty taste is gone, it will not become salty again. When the taste is gone, the salt “is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out.”

What does this warning mean? That is, how severe are the consequences of the salt losing its saltiness? While Jesus could be warning His disciples about the dangers of apostasy, I think it is better to understand this as a strong exhortation to be a “salty” disciple. Notice that Jesus declares “You are (in fact) the salt of the earth.” If, as we have interpreted, the “you” refers to Jesus’ disciples, then all disciples are, in fact, the salt of the earth. So, the real question becomes, “Are you salty salt, or are you tasteless salt?” Then the warning becomes, “Don’t become tasteless salt, because tasteless disciples are good for nothing!” So, determine now to remain a salty disciple until the Lord comes or calls you home. And how does the disciple remain salty? By being poor in spirit (5:3), by mourning (5:4), by being humble/meek (5:5), by hungering and thirsting for righteousness (5:6), and so on. The disciple stays salty by continuing to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel and by striving to obey what the Lord commands.

APPLICATION. Having understood the meaning of the verse, we will go on to apply it to the individual disciple and to a local church body. First, let’s consider THE INDIVIDUAL DISCIPLE and how this “salt” might become tasteless. As we mentioned above, a disciple will begin to drift toward tastelessness when they begin neglecting the Beatitudes and allowing worldly behavior to creep in unopposed. But there are other practices which will also rob your walk of its saltiness.

Neglecting regular, diligent time reading the Bible will quickly render you tasteless. In fact, the fastest way to attain tastelessness is by neglecting the daily intake of the word of the living God. Therefore, the disciple must prioritize daily time in God’s word.

Shallow and brief and inconsistent prayer will also make you saltless salt. Instead of this, the disciple must learn what it means to commune with God in prayer. Spend time crying out to the Lord when you are hurt or worried or disappointed. Pour out your heart before the Lord. Praise Him for His creation and His salvation. Long for fellowship with Him as the deer pants for the water brooks. Do this, and your salt will remain salty.

If you become silent in your witness for the Lord (Acts 1:8) and if you fail to proclaim God’s excellencies (1 Peter 2:9), you will begin to sense your saltiness draining away like a tire with a slow leak. But if you will boldly identify with Jesus, and if you will “tell of His glory among the nations” (Psalm 96:3), your life will display a sharp saltiness. Being a witness for Jesus is not only boldly obedient (Acts 1:8), but it is also one of the best defenses against salt deficiency.

While Jesus’ teaching is certainly directed at the individual disciple, there are also ways that a LOCAL CHURCH FELLOWSHIP can become tasteless and, like the tasteless disciple, become good for nothing. If the Bible is not the primary basis for all preaching and teaching in the church, you are moving toward tasteless salt. The church that does not emphasize spiritual growth through discipleship is a church that is drifting into tastelessness. Is your church eager to proclaim the gospel with the result that there are new believers in the fellowship? If not, you could soon be tasteless and useless.

In SUMMARY, then, Jesus warns His disciples that we must make every effort to remain salty and thus remain useful to the Master.

SDG                 rmb                 8/18/2022                   #560

Dealing with the requirements of the Law (Romans 3:20)

INTRODUCTION. This post considers, first, the divine purpose of the Law (Romans 3:20) and then discusses the approaches that sinful man uses to avoid the Law’s message of condemnation. The post concludes by giving the correct response.

THE LAW’S MESSAGE

The old covenant Law was rigidly absolute in its condemnation of all infractions and, at the same time, was absent of any provision for forgiveness of intentional sin. There was a divine purpose in this, for the Law was delivered to Moses in this “condemnation-with-no-forgiveness” form so that the sinner would feel the terrifying weight of his condemnation and thus would seek for a Savior with his whole heart. The Law as delivered at Sinai made clear that the LORD God was perfectly holy and would accept from man nothing less than a lifetime of sinless, perfect obedience (see Matthew 5:48) for admittance into heaven. Any violation of the Law renders the violator guilty and condemns him entirely. The Holy Spirit-inspired word of the living God clearly warns the sinner that he is under God’s wrath and condemnation because of his sin. This is the message and the purpose of the Law (Romans 3:20).

THE MODERN APPROACH

The problem arises when God’s clear message is proclaimed to sinful man. For the fact is that fallen man rebels against God’s gospel message of sin and condemnation. The typical approach of the sinner in our day is to reject the idea that God will judge him for his sin, so he refuses to subject himself to the Law of God (Romans 8:7). Instead of accepting his wretched condition and crying out to the Lord for mercy, modern man imagines that a generous grading curve exists as part of the Law and he assumes that if he is relatively “good” (whatever that means), God will welcome him into heaven. By applying the man-made concepts of a grading curve and “relative goodness,” the Law’s intended warning about God’s wrath against sin is neutralized. Thus, modern man’s approach to dealing with the Bible’s warnings about sin is to assume that God judges sin on a grading curve.

THE APPROACH OF THE PHARISEES

In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees had developed a more formal approach for accomplishing the same thing. The Pharisees were a sect of religious Jews who claimed to strictly adhere to the Mosaic Law. Like people today, the Pharisees did not like or accept the clear message of the Law and the prophets which declared that “the soul who sins will die” (Ezekiel 18:4). To correct the Bible’s “error,” the Pharisees invented literally hundreds of rules to remove the absolute standard of the Law and to define what it meant to keep the Ten Commandments in terms that people could actually achieve. So, for example, “keeping the Sabbath” (the fourth commandment) was not treated as an absolute command where violators are punished by death (see Numbers 15:32-36), but instead, “keeping the Sabbath” was defined by not doing certain things that the Pharisees themselves had defined as unlawful. (See Mark 2:23-28; 3:1-6; Luke 13:10-17; 14:1-6; John 5:9-16; 9:13-34; 19:31) In the same way, each of the absolute commands in the Law was broken down into many acts of external “obedience.” The net result of all this invented legalism was that the Pharisees confused adherence to their own contrived rules of external performance with real obedience to the Law, and then they equated man-made “obedience” with God’s required righteousness. In this way, the Law, which was given to drive people to despair at their failure to keep the Law, became instead a means to earn a relative righteousness based on your own best performance. This meant that in the Pharisees’ religious system, a person could be blameless (Phil. 3:6) without a heart change, without repentance, without acknowledging your own sin, without faith, and without a Savior. All that was required was knowing all the man-made rules and keeping them better than most other people. So, according to the Pharisees, righteousness could be achieved if you were willing to work hard enough.

SUMMARY. In summary, then, the key to dealing with God’s holy Law is to eliminate the Law’s absolute demands for perfect obedience. The modern approach for doing this is to assume that God accepts as “good enough” whatever efforts we make to obey His commands and then curves them up so that almost everyone gets a passing grade. Thus, the modern approach sees the holy and righteous Law of the living God as a toothless tiger giving us helpful ideas about how we can be better. By contrast, the Pharisees’ approach sees the Law as a genuine threat, as God’s published requirements necessary for us to avoid condemnation. We must, therefore, work hard to achieve our own righteousness. But both these approaches miss the mark.

THE GOSPEL APPROACH

What is the right approach? First, we must accept the full weight of the Law. The Law is given by God to reveal to us His perfect holiness and our abject sinfulness (Romans 3:20). When we are crushed by our failure to keep God’s Law, we must cry out to Him for mercy. When we, by faith, cry out for mercy, we will find the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who will impute to us His perfect sinlessness and who died on the cross as the perfect sacrifice to pay for our sins. By faith in Jesus, we fulfill the righteous requirements of the Law, of a sinless life (imputed to our account by Jesus) and of a perfect blood sacrifice to pay for our personal sins (Romans 8:3-4).

When we trust Christ as our perfect sacrifice and as the One who perfectly kept the Law on our behalf, we can rest in the truth that, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

SDG                 rmb                 8/17/2022                   #559

The whole creation groans and suffers (Romans 8:22)

INTRODUCTION. A post considering the decay and lawlessness of the world and how the disciple of Jesus can ignore the noise of wickedness in the world and instead keep his eyes fixed on his own personal mission and calling.

“The whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (Romans 8:22). This verse shouts to us the reality that, though God created a “very good” world (Genesis 1:31), sin, introduced by the rebellion of Adam in the Garden, has ruined “the whole creation” and that same sin is now bringing about the gradual but inevitable and irresistible disintegration of the created order.

Even the most furious and persistent efforts of man, the most noble and well-intentioned, eventually (or perhaps suddenly) fall victim to the encroaching chaos. It is as if we are desperately building castles in the sand, knowing that soon the tide will bring the waves to wash over our moats and collapse our handiwork. Soon there will be nothing left except a fading elevated hill of sand on the beach.

Science knows this irresistible journey to disorder as entropy and has captured the essence of the Fall in the Second Law of Thermodynamics: “As one goes forward in time, the net entropy (degree of disorder) of any closed system will always increase.” What this means is that “everything put together sooner or later falls apart” (Paul Simon). According to the laws of our physical universe (which is a “closed system”), everything is moving inevitably toward disorder.

The Word of God, the source of all truth, uses other words to communicate this same idea. “The wages of sin is death.” “The whole creation groans and suffers.” “The day you (sin) eat of it, you shall surely die.” “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!” “Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men.” “It is appointed unto man once to die and after this, the judgment.” The message is clear: When Adam sinned, the whole creation began an irreversible and irresistible descent into chaos and destruction. Not only that, but as man’s sin steadily increases in the world, and increases at an increasing rate, the extent (breadth) and the magnitude (depth) of the ruin will likewise increase. In short, sin is like a fast spreading cancer or like a voracious nest of termites eating away at the creation, and the damage is accelerating. But we know that this corruption and disintegration cannot go on forever. Instead, this increasing sin and evil and disorder will finally result in full destruction and collapse. History is linear, and the creation is hurtling toward a cataclysmic conclusion. Soon, as sin increases, Jesus Christ will return and claim His bride the church, and will judge the earth, and then the end will come.

But the question that I must answer is, “In light of this ever-increasing sin and evil and chaos in the world, what am I, as a disciple of Jesus, to do on a daily basis?” In other words, as the world becomes increasingly dark and as the corruption and wickedness in the world become ever more obvious and repugnant and threatening, how does the Bible call me to live? For it is certainly true that the disciple of Jesus experiences the corruption of this world along with everyone else. In Romans, Paul says, “And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of the body” (8:23). And so, we groan as we experience the sadness of a world determined to rebel against the Lord.

But while we groan as a natural consequence of our sadness and sense of loss associated with sin, as disciples of Jesus we must not dwell there. In fact, our groaning because of the ambient sin in the world must become for us mere background noise, a part of the context of life in a fallen world, like the temperature outside or the phase of the moon. The degree of sin and the wickedness of the sin committed will grow steadily worse, but that must not distract us from our purpose and our mission. “Evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13), but we must continue to fix our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) and persevere in the mission that He has given us, both as His body the church and as individual disciples “working out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12).

A SUGGESTED STRATEGY

So, as I observe the world unraveling and the wickedness and evil growing deeper and wider, the best strategy for me personally is to ignore the details of our demise and to pay little attention even to the broader collapse and, instead, to focus my attention on my purpose and focus on the tasks and the works that the Lord has given me to do (Eph. 2:10). To accomplish this, my mind strives to find answers to “missional questions.” What does it mean for me to be Jesus’ witness (Acts 1:8) on a daily basis? How can I love my wife as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25)? How can I be a better sower of the gospel (Matt. 13:2-8)? How do I put to death immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (Col. 3:5)? How can I repent of my anger and replace it with peace, patience, kindness, and gentleness (Gal. 5:22-23)? What is my “great work” (Neh. 6:3) and how can I pour my energies into that? What does it mean to “make the most of the time” (Ephesians 5:16)? How can I be a better ambassador for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20) and a better fisher of men (Matt. 4:19)? There are so many ways that I can grow as a disciple of Jesus and be more useful to the Kingdom that I find there is no time to keep tabs on our rapidly decaying world.

Jesus said, “Let the dead bury their own dead” (Luke 9:60). In other words, don’t waste a lot of time worrying about the wicked (Psalm 37:1-2; Psalm 73). The world is certainly going to continue to plunge into chaos and disorder and lawlessness. The Bible has declared this as truth. So accept this truth and “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).

SDG                 rmb                 8/15/2022                   #558

Moses: Out of the obscurity of the Midian wilderness

INTRODUCTION. A post about the Lord’s ability to snatch those who have made more than one too many mistakes and nevertheless to rescue them and use them for His glory.

Moses had ruined his life. It’s that simple.

By God’s providence, even though he was a Hebrew, he had grown up in Pharaoh’s household and had all the advantages that a man could have. Then, Moses made a foolish decision; he killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew and, as a consequence, his life of privilege vanished like smoke. As a fugitive, he ran into the safety of obscurity, and in a few days, he had fallen from Pharaoh’s palace into the wilderness of Midian. There, for forty years he pastured his father-in-law’s flock and lived the mundane life of a Midianite shepherd.

There in Midian, Moses was decades beyond simply being a has-been. He was separated from his relatives, separated from his people, hiding from his past with no future and a dreary present. It seemed that the best Moses could hope for was to quietly live out his days in obscurity along with the other Midianite shepherds as he regretted the loss of all that he had squandered. He had no hope of a great name. No hope of a great work. No hope of a legacy. Now all hope was long gone. Or was it?

No, all hope was not gone because the LORD had plans for Moses. For after forty years of obscurity and regret because of his own sinful choices, Moses encountered the LORD in the burning bush (Exodus 3). The LORD then called him into His service and Moses was catapulted from the dusty desert into the presence of Pharaoh, the most powerful ruler on earth (Exodus 5), to be the instrument the LORD would use to give His Law to the world and to lead a million Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt toward the Promised Land. It’s an amazing story.

But Moses’ story is not unique. Actually, variations of Moses’ story occur over and over again in the Bible when the Lord chooses to call a no one out of nowhere and then takes them in His hand as an instrument for His use. The Lord is always the decisive factor. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). The Lord is the one who determines the outcome of every situation. What the Lord has planned must certainly come to pass. And so, in the Bible, no episode is ever hopeless or complete until the Lord has finished His activity and given His verdict.

Even more remarkable is that this is not just something that the Lord did with people who lived thousands of years ago in the Middle East. The Lord does this same kind of thing thousands of times every single day, calling those who are dwelling in obscurity and desperation and inviting them into a grand adventure with the King of kings. In my own life, I can well recall being in my own “wilderness of Midian.” As Paul Simon says, “I had squandered my existence for a pocketful of mumbles” (“The Boxer”). It seemed that the best I could hope for was to live out my days regretting the opportunities I had missed.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:4). God had plans for this has-been, to use me for His kingdom and to allow me the privilege of being one of the disciples of Jesus Christ “to proclaim the excellencies of Him who called me out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). The Lord received this prodigal into His family and instead of punishment gave me a robe and a ring (Luke 15:22-24). He wrapped me with a robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10) and has allowed me to sit at His table as one of His sons (2 Samuel 9:11, 13).

The point is this: The Lord is the one who determines the outcome of anyone’s life. As the Lord called Moses from nameless obscurity to be the leader of the entire nation of Israel, and as the Lord called Paul to be His chosen instrument to take the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15-16), so He calls all His elect from whatever forgotten corner of the globe they may inhabit into His service for His glory. The Lord is the one who does these things.

SDG                 rmb                 8/15/2022                   #557

Lessons from a vanishing caterpillar

INTRODUCTION. It’s amazing how much you can learn from the disappearance of a beautiful insect.

I had come out of the house for my daily inspection of the front shrubs and hanging plants. I needed to assess how much of my azaleas the deer had eaten last night. The motion-sensing spotlight had deterred the “tall goats” for a couple of nights, but once the pests learned that no harm came from the bright light, its defensive value was lost. Now, it was just a contest to see if the azaleas could grow faster than the deer could eat.

But this morning, I was met with a pleasant surprise. There, parked right in the middle of one of the purple loropetalum leaves, was a beautiful yellow caterpillar. It was one of those sort of furry caterpillars with a faux stinger sticking up from the end of its body. The bug was just long enough to fit on the leaf from end to end, and I decided I wanted a picture of the insect. So, I ran in and grabbed my iPhone and headed back out.

It was then that the challenges of my sixty-two years raised their ugly heads. For instead of immediately going to the caterpillar and taking its picture so I could show my wife and all my friends, I decided to do a little weeding in the mulch beds. Then I needed to pluck off the dead leaves from the cherry laurels. Next, I checked in the side yard to see how my tree seedlings were fairing. Only then did I remember that I was supposed to take a picture of the pretty yellow caterpillar, and when I returned to the loropetalum, my little furry friend was nowhere to be found.

Sadder but hopefully wiser, I considered the lessons I could have learned from this experience. (In no particular order . . . )

  • Do not be distracted from your objective. There will always be many trivial things that can prevent you from accomplishing the objective. Stay focused on the goal.
  • Do not delay in getting the task done. Rather, get it done now.
  • Each opportunity comes with a short fuse. Opportunities are fleeting, and once the opportunity is gone, it disappears forever.
  • Opportunities in life are like sunsets. They must be captured now, for they fade quickly.
  • The sooner you accomplish this step, the sooner you can accomplish the next step, so get going. You do not know how many steps there are.
  • Faithfulness will be tested. God is the one who gives me opportunities, and then I am accountable for what I do with those gifts. I want to be a faithful steward with what the Lord entrusts to me.
  • In general, my time is short, and my strength is fleeting. I am “a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).  The psalmist says, my “days are like grass, as a flower of the field. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, and its place acknowledges it no longer” (Psalm 103:15-16). Therefore, I must act now, I must seize the moment now if I am to have any impact at all.

So, when you see beautiful insects perched on purple leaves, grab your iPhone and take the picture. In a few minutes they may be gone forever.

SDG                 rmb                 7/28/2022                   #556

All the advantages which do not save (Israel in Romans)

INTRODUCTION. A TECHNICAL, TEACHING POST. An article based on the book of Romans considering why all the advantages given to Israel did not result in their salvation. The Scripture passages are from Romans 2, 3, and 9-11. My musings on these passages will someday result in a completed work, perhaps a short book that carefully works through Romans 9-11 and shows the beauty of Paul’s argument in that section of Scripture.

One of the underlying themes of the book of Romans, especially in Romans 9-11, is the question of why Israel, with so many apparent advantages given to her, remained a religious but faithless nation with only a remnant coming to faith. So, let’s think about this together.

ROMANS 3 GIVES A BRIEF FORETASTE OF ROMANS 9-11

Paul states that the Jews did have a tremendous advantage over the other nations (Gentiles) in being “entrusted with the oracles of God” (Romans 3:1-2). That is, the Jews were the only people who had access to the Scriptures, to the word of the living God. Having the word of God not only was a demonstration of God’s special grace to the nation of Israel, but it also allowed the Jews to be aware of their sin. “Through the Law comes the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20; see also 7:7). To paraphrase 2 Corinthians 4:7, the Jews had this treasure in dusty scrolls.

But while Paul admits that the Jews had an advantage in being entrusted with the Scriptures (3:1-2), he also makes clear that merely having and hearing the Scriptures accomplishes nothing with regard to salvation.

For example, in Romans 2:12, we read that the Gentile who does not have the Law and the Jew who does have the Law will both be condemned because of their sin. Thus, merely having the Law is of no consequence regarding salvation.

In Romans 2:13, we read, “It is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified” (2:13). That means that a Jew who hears the Law and does not do the Law is no better off than the Gentile who does not hear the Law and does not do the Law, since doing the Law is what is required to be justified.

To summarize this brief discussion of Romans 2-3, we would say that, while it was a huge privilege to be entrusted with the oracles of God (3:2), this gave the Jews no advantage with regard to salvation. So, this “advantage” is really not an advantage.

ADVANTAGES FOR THE JEWS IN ROMANS 9-11?

Now I want to jump over to Romans 9-11 and consider what is going on in some of the verses here. In 9:4-5, Paul lists eight apparent advantages that the Jews had under the old covenant. To the Jews “belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh.” An examination of this list will reveal that these gifts from the Lord were fuel for religious pride, but they were unrelated to salvation. In other words, when we look at this list with a new covenant lens, it becomes plain that they provide no advantage to the Jew. Under the new covenant, faith is necessary for the sinner to be declared righteous. Ceremonial laws and fulfilled covenants and patriarchs were things of the past. Christ has come and the old covenant is obsolete. Therefore, clinging to the religious past is actually a disadvantage.

So, as we begin Romans 9-11, we are aware that despite all these apparent advantages, most Jews did not believe. They had heard the Word, as stated in Romans 10:18. Paul rhetorically asks, “Surely, Israel did not know, did they?” (10:19), and then twice answers it in the affirmative (“O yes, they did know”) by a quote from Moses in the Law and by a quote from Isaiah. Israel heard but did not believe. Israel knew the truth but did not believe the truth.

FROM HEARING TO CALLING ON THE LORD

We need to take a brief aside here to explore Romans 10:14-15. Here Paul declares that calling on the Lord, which results in being saved (10:13), requires believing in the Lord, and believing requires hearing the gospel, and hearing the gospel requires a preacher, and a preacher must be sent. This means that, for the ultimate end of calling on the Lord and being saved, it is necessary that a person hear a herald proclaim the good news. Paul makes clear that, if you do not hear the good news, there is no way to believe the good news, and if you do not believe the good news, you will never call on the Lord and be saved. So, to be saved, it is necessary that you hear the good news about Christ and His salvation. Paul states this truth in Romans 10:17, where he says, “So, [saving] faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.” So far, so good.

NECESSARY BUT NOT SUFFICIENT

But now things get much more interesting, for while it is necessary to hear the good news to be saved, it is apparently not sufficient. To be saved, a person must not only hear the gospel, but they must heed the gospel. Notice that in Romans 10:16, Paul says, “However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, ‘LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?’” (Isaiah 53:1). Paul says it is possible to hear and not to heed.

And this leads us back to the difficulty about Israel (the Jews). Under the old covenant, Israel had the Law but did not obey the Law. Under the new covenant, Israel heard the gospel but did not heed the gospel. Notice again that faith (salvation) comes from hearing (10:17), but the Jews had heard (10:18) and yet did not believe. Israel knew the truth (10:19) but did not believe the truth. Instead, with full access to the saving word of God, Israel remained “a disobedient and obstinate people” (10:21).

Meanwhile, after Pentecost, the Gentiles, who previously had been denied access to the Word, and who had been “separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise” (Eph. 2:12), began coming to faith in large numbers. These, “who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith, but Israel (the Jews) did not” (Romans 9:30-31).

WHY DO THE GENTILES BELIEVE AND ISRAEL DOES NOT?

But if Israel, with full access to God and to the oracles of God, did not believe, and the Gentiles, who for centuries were denied access to the Word and who were excluded from the worship of the Lord, began coming to Christ in large numbers, we must ask the question, “Why? Why is it that Israel, with all the advantages, who knew and who possessed and who heard the Word, did not believe, but the Gentiles simply heard the good news and believed?”

We could take another approach with this difficulty. We have seen that both Israel and the Gentiles had met the necessary requirement of hearing the good news, but that only the Gentiles had what was sufficient for them to believe. With this approach, then, the question would be, “What did the Gentiles have that allowed them to heed the good news that Israel lacked?” What is the mysterious ingredient that moves a person from merely hearing the good news to believing the good news? What supplies the sufficiency?

Paul write Romans 9-11 to answer precisely these questions, and the simple statement of Paul’s answer is, “The reason some are saved and others are not saved is entirely dependent on God’s sovereign election.” God is the One who decides who will and who will not believe the gospel. Whether you are steeped in all the teaching of rabbinical Judaism, like Paul and the Pharisees, or you come from a pagan culture, like those in Lystra (Acts 14), God is the One who decides who will and who won’t believe. The overarching message of Romans 9-11 is that God is sovereign in salvation.

SDG                 rmb                 7/22/2022                   #554

The thousand years, the forty-two months, and Satan (Part 1)

SUMMARY. This short study of “the thousand years” and the “forty-two months” comes from the book of Revelation and serves as a refresher for understanding the flow of the events which occur at the end of the age. In this study we also see how the devil fits into the timing of these events. (See my book, “The Last Act of the Drama” (Amazon, 2021) for a more detailed treatment.)

MINI-SERIES OVERVIEW. A good understanding of the book of Revelation is needed to have a proper grasp of the end times. The problem is that it is very difficult to understand the book of Revelation and especially to follow the flow of events in the section of the book from chapter 4 through chapter 20. This series of posts serves as a teaching session to define the events that take place and to explain the order in which they occur. We will also see that Satan appears in the flow of events in Revelation.

THE LOCATION OF THE DEVIL IN HISTORY. Most people would say that the devil spends most of redemptive history on earth, but the Bible tells a slightly different story. The book of Job is one of the oldest books in the Bible, and in Job, Satan presents himself before the LORD (Job 1:6). This must mean that Satan is in heaven, for “the LORD is in His holy temple, the LORD’s throne is in heaven” (Psalm 11:4). Thus it seems that, during the Old Testament period, in some sense, Satan is in heaven.

When we jump forward to the time just before the Incarnation, in Revelation 12:3 we see the devil as the red dragon in heaven ready to devour the Messiah (12:3-4). Thus, just before Christ’s Incarnation, again we see that Satan is in heaven.

Revelation 12:5 describes the Incarnation and the Ascension of Jesus but is silent about what is happening with the devil during this time. To find out what happens with the devil next, we need to turn over to Revelation 20 and see how Satan is removed from heaven.

A PAUSE FOR SOME INFORMATION

AN OVERVIEW OF THE FLOW OF REVELATION. It is necessary to pause here and turn aside to supply key information about what is happening in Revelation. Therefore, we will take a moment, first, to give an overview of how the pieces fit together and then how the events flow through the chapters of Revelation.

FITTING THE PIECES TOGETHER. First, then, we will address how the pieces or components fit together. Chapters 4 through 20 of the book of Revelation describe three distinct periods of time: “the thousand years,” the “forty-two months,” and the last day.

THE THOUSAND YEARS. “The thousand years” is the name or the label for the period of time in redemptive history that occurs between the binding of Satan in the abyss (Rev. 20:1-3) and the release of Satan from the abyss (Rev. 20:3, 7). It will shown that “the thousand years” begins during the ascension of Jesus from earth to heaven following His resurrection. Thus, “the thousand years” was inaugurated around AD 30. The term “a thousand years” in Revelation 20 is a figurative expression for the duration of the period of time named “the thousand years.” In Revelation, a thousand of anything does not communicate an exact number but tells of a very large number too big to count. Thus, a thousand years is a really long period of time. So, “the thousand years” began with the binding of Satan in the abyss in about AD 30 and will continue for a really long period of time until the release of Satan from the abyss.

THE FORTY-TWO MONTHS. The period of “the thousand years” is followed immediately by the period of the “forty-two months.” “Forty-two months” (Rev. 11:2; 13:5), “one thousand two hundred and sixty days” (Rev. 11:3; 12:6), and “a time and times and half a time” (Rev. 12:14) are names or labels for this relatively short period of intense eschatological activity that occurs between Satan’s release from the abyss (Rev. 20:3, 7) and the beginning of the last day. As a thousand years was a figurative expression for the duration of “the thousand years,” so “forty-two months” is a figurative expression for the duration of this period. While “thousand years” conveys the idea of a very long, indefinite period of time, “forty-two months” conveys the idea of a much shorter, more defined period of time, not literally forty-months, but a brief time, like less than a decade.

THE LAST DAY. Although this series of blog posts will not touch on the last day, we will define it here. The expression “the last day” is to be understood literally, meaning it is literally the last day of human existence on the fallen earth. You may ask, “If ‘thousand years’ and ‘forty-two months’ are figurative, why do you claim that ‘the last day’ is literal?” The expressions “thousand years” and “forty-two months” are unique to the book of Revelation, both in actual textual appearance and in concept. Since these two concepts are unique to Revelation, they must be understood within the context of the book of Revelation. It is apparent in reading Revelation that these expressions are not required to be literal, nor are they intended to be taken as literal. It is clear from the text that these expressions are conveying a concept, not a precise period of time. By contrast, the concept and expression of “the last day” have been part of redemptive history since the very beginning. For example, in the gospel of John, Jesus speaks of the last day (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54). In the Old Testament prophets, we read often of “that day.” Ever since the fall of man in Eden, there has been a coming day of recompense when the unrighteous will be judged. As we examine this biblical concept of a last day, it is also evident that the last day is literally the last day. That is, all of biblical revelation presents the last day or “that day” as a regular, literal day. Since throughout God’s inspired word, the last day is presented as literal, we assume that the book of Revelation presents it the same way.

SUMMARY. So far, we have fit some of the pieces together. According to our understanding of these components, then, “the thousand years” began around AD 30 with the dragon (Satan, the devil, the serpent of old) being bond in the abyss. The end of “the thousand years” is marked by Satan’s release from the abyss, which simultaneously inaugurates “the forty-two months.” Once the events of “the forty-months” are completed, the final events of the last day occur, which closes human history.

Where are we in our study, then? Remember that, in the Overview section above, we stated that we were first going to see how the pieces fit together and then were going to consider how the events flow through the chapters of Revelation.

So, now that we see how the pieces fit together, the next post will explore how “the thousand years” and “forty-two months” appear in the text of Revelation so that we can see how Satan journeys from heaven just before the Incarnation (Rev. 12:3-4) to the lake of fire on the last day (Rev. 20:10).            

SDG                 rmb                 7/13/2022                   #553

But does the Lord know you? (Matthew 7:21-23)

INTRODUCTION. While it is vitally important that a person come to that place where he knows the Lord, it is of much greater significance that the Lord knows him. This post considers the chilling situation where people found out on the last day that Jesus did not know them, despite their best efforts and impressive works.

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ – Matthew 7:21-23

This study is considering Matthew 7:21-23. In these verses, the question is not whether these people “know the Lord,” for it is apparent that they think they know Him. They call to the Lord in familiar tones. They assume they have a satisfactory acquaintance with Him to gain a favorable reply. These people even have impressive religious deeds that they present to the Lord as proof of their relationship. “Look, Lord, here’s all our work!” (7:22). But again, the question is not whether these people know the Lord. The question is, ”Does the sovereign Lord Jesus know them?  And on that day the Lord gives the terrifying reply,

“I never knew you.”

You may profess to know the Lord, but does the Lord know you? That’s the question we must answer. Notice that many will come to Him on that day claiming to know Him (7:22). Apparently, it is common for people to assume they know Jesus savingly, but to be wrong in their assumption. Then, on that awesome last day, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne and separates the sheep from the goats, many who anticipated entering into the joy of the Master will be thrown out into the outer darkness.

“I never knew you. Depart from Me!” (Matt. 7:23).

“Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire” (Matt. 25:41).

O, there are no more devastating words imaginable. “I never knew you. Depart from Me.” These are words of ultimate judgment from the highest Judge. The sentence has been passed, a sentence that cannot be altered and that brings eternal ruin.

HOW CAN WE AVOID THEIR ERROR?

How could these people have been so disastrously mistaken about their own eternal destiny? More importantly, how can we make sure that we do not make the same catastrophic error? I believe that we can have confidence about our relationship with the Lord by remembering that the Lord is asking questions of His own about our relationship with Him.

QUESTIONS THE LORD MIGHT BE ASKING

The Lord might say, “Those whom I know come to Me in prayer for sweet times of fellowship. But how often have you come to Me simply to enjoy My presence? Do you delight in My company?” If you delight in the Lord’s company, then you can be certain He delights in you. “For the LORD takes pleasure in His people” (Psalm 149:4). If you fear the LORD, then you can be sure He knows you and favors you. “The LORD favors those who fear Him” (Psalm 147:11).

He may ask, “When you are afraid, do you come to Me and cry out for deliverance from your fears or rescue from the things that are making you fearful?” “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Jesus may be saying, “Those who know Me ‘cry aloud with their voice to Me. They make supplication with their voice to Me’ (Psalm 142:1), but I have not heard your voice calling to Me when you were afraid.” If you cry out to the LORD when you are afraid and trust Him to deliver you, you can be certain He knows you.

DO YOU TELL OTHERS ABOUT YOUR FRIEND, JESUS?

Jesus may ask, “When have you talked about Me with other people? Have you ‘been My witness even to the remotest part of the earth’ (Acts 1:8), or have you more often been silent about knowing Me, almost as if you were ‘ashamed of Me and My words’ (Luke 9:26)?” Know that the bold witness for the Lord is certainly known by the Lord.

We may hear Jesus say, “When have you told other people about My work of creation or about My finished work of salvation? Have you boasted of Me to friend and stranger alike, ‘that you understand and know  Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth’ (Jeremiah 9:24)?

THE VOICE OF THE LORD

In the gospel of John, there is an emphasis on the voice of the Lord. In John 10, Jesus talks about the shepherd of the sheep, saying, “the sheep hear his voice and the sheep follow him because they know his voice” (John 10:3-4). It is obvious that the Lord is speaking about Himself as the good shepherd (10:11) and the sheep as being those who truly know Him as their Shepherd. But as Jesus culminates His teaching, He says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27). Have you heard Jesus’? Do you know what He sounds like? For Jesus knows His sheep, and His sheep know Him.

In John 20, after Jesus’ resurrection, Mary Magdalene is at the tomb weeping because the body of Jesus is gone (20:11, 13). The risen Jesus speaks to her (20:15), but in her grief and confusion, she does not recognize His voice. But notice that Jesus does recognize Mary and He does recognize her voice because Jesus knows His sheep (10:27). My point is Jesus knows her and knows her voice. But does the Savior know your voice? Is He familiar with your voice because the halls of heaven frequently ring with the sound of your voice? If you call to Him continually, you can be certain that He knows you.

SUMMARY

We can be confident on that day that the Lord knows us if today we are delighting in Him and trusting Him when we are afraid and calling out to Him so that He knows our voice.

SDG                 rmb                 7/7/2022                     #552

John 6:31-68 – Part 3: Eating the living bread (6:45-58)

INTRODUCTION. This third part of an in-depth study of John 6:31-68 is a continuation of post #523 and post #529 and focuses on the crucial teaching in John 6:45-58.

[NOTE: This part of the study is longer than the other parts because the concepts presented here are complex and are not easily explained in a few words. I feel that the additional reading will be rewarded by greater understanding of this beautiful passage. RMB]

OVERVIEW OF THE PASSAGE. This passage (6:45-58) is the heart of this section of Scripture (6:31-68) and contains important teaching about how Jesus, the bread from heaven, provides life to His people. The passage is also crucial in giving us a vivid analogy of what it means to believe in Jesus, teaching us figuratively to eat His flesh and drink His blood.

KEY CONCEPTS covered in this passage include:

  • believing in Jesus
  • eternal life/live forever/not die
  • the bread of life/the living bread that came down out of heaven
  • eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of Man (Jesus)
  • being raised up on the last day.

The main DIFFICULTY of this passage consists in correctly understanding what Jesus means when He instructs His disciples to “eat My flesh and drink My blood” (6:53-56).

REVIEW. The first part of John 6 tells of Jesus feeding the five thousand with five small loaves and two fish. The amazed crowd follows Jesus to Capernaum where they seek more bread and another miraculous sign. Jesus declares that the manna from Moses is not the true bread out of heaven, but that He is the bread of life.

In strong teaching from John 6:37-6:44 (see post #523 and #529), Jesus makes clear God’s sovereignty in salvation as He teaches the people that:

  • The Father has already given a people to the Son (election; see Eph. 1:4, etc.)
  • All those given to the Son will certainly come to the Son for eternal life. (predestination; see Romans 8:29-30)
  • Jesus will raise up all His people in glorious resurrection on the last day
  • By His providence and effectual calling, the Father draws people to Jesus

THE TEACHING OF JOHN 6:45-58

The passage is best understood by understanding WHO JESUS IS, then by seeing WHAT JESUS OFFERS, and finally by discovering HOW TO OBTAIN WHAT JESUS OFFERS.

WHO JESUS IS. Jesus uses direct statements and the metaphor of bread to make His identity unambiguously clear. First, He says, “I am the bread of life” (6:48). This is a repetition of 6:35, when He also said that those who come to Him will never hunger or thirst. What Jesus means by His metaphor may not be clear, but this much is clear: Jesus is the bread of life.

Next, He says twice that He is “the (living) bread that came down out of heaven” (6:50, 51). Here, Jesus is contrasting Himself with the manna that the children of Israel ate in the Exodus. They ate that manna (“bread from heaven”) and they died (6:49), but Jesus is the “true bread out of heaven” (6:32). Jesus is the bread of life and, “if anyone eats of this (living) bread, he will live forever” (6:51). Jesus is the living bread that gives eternal life.

Finally, notice that Jesus is the bread that came down out of heaven sent by the Father. “The living Father sent Me” (6:57), and Jesus has come from heaven to give life to the world. Since He came down out of heaven and was sent by God the Father, Jesus is divine.

SUMMARY. From this passage, we see that Jesus is God in the flesh, the living bread sent by the Father from heaven to give eternal life to the world.

WHAT JESUS OFFERS. As the bread of life and the living bread that came out of heaven, what does Jesus offer the people? From the passage we see, first, “one may eat of it (the bread) and not die” (6:50). As strong as this verse is, Jesus states the truth even more clearly in the next verse: “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” (6:51). Eat of Jesus and you will not die but will live forever. Of course, we need to determine what it means to metaphorically eat of Jesus as the living bread, but at this point we see that Jesus is offering people the opportunity to live forever. (NOTE: “Live forever” is the same as “have eternal life.”)

A few verses later, Jesus again declares His offer of eternal life and connects this eternal life with participation in the resurrection on the last day. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (6:54). Once again, we are confronted with the need to understand Jesus’ metaphor about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, but what He offers us is in plain view. He offers eternal life and a resurrection.

SUMMARY. Jesus offers His hearers the opportunity to not die, but to live forever, to have eternal life, and to be raised up on the last day (in glorious resurrection).

HOW TO OBTAIN WHAT JESUS OFFERS. We see the incarnate Son of God offering the people eternal life and declaring to them that He Himself will raise them up on the last day. This spectacular offer is available to all who hear His voice, but obtaining it is not automatic. We have already seen that Jesus imposes conditions on His offer and it is only those who satisfy Jesus’ conditions who will obtain the eternal life that He offers.

This, then, becomes the critical issue. Every person must first identify and then satisfy Jesus’ conditions before they obtain the eternal life He offers.

TO OBTAIN WHAT JESUS OFFERS, YOU MUST SATISFY HIS CONDITIONS. Our first task, then, is to identify Jesus’ conditions. In this passage, when we were discovering what Jesus was offering, we also heard Him state His conditions.

ONE SET OF CONDITIONS.

“If anyone eats of this bread (Jesus)                                                  he will live forever.”

“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood                                      has eternal life.”

“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood                          I will raise him up on the last day.”

“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood                                      abides in Me, and I in him.”

Here, then, is one set of conditions that must be met to obtain eternal life.

ANOTHER SET OF CONDITIONS? We also need to notice, however, that Jesus has talked about another condition for obtaining eternal life. In fact, in the gospel of John, the major message of the book is that anyone can receive eternal life by believing in Jesus. John 3:16, perhaps the most famous verse in the Bible, declares that whoever believes in the Son (Jesus) will have eternal life. According to John 20:31, the whole reason for the gospel of John is “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” In this very passage that we are studying, Jesus repeatedly tells men and women how to obtain all the blessings that He offers. “He who comes to Me will not hunger and he who believes in Me will not thirst” (6:35). “Everyone who believes in the Son will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (6:40). “He who believes has eternal life” (6:47). Throughout the gospel of John, the one who believes in Jesus has eternal life.

So, is Jesus now imposing another condition for obtaining salvation?

ONLY ONE CONDITION. When we compare side-by-side two verses from this passage, we will see that there is, in fact, only one condition that separates the sinner from salvation.

Everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” – John 6:40

He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. – John 6:54

As we compare these two verses, we notice, first, that the results of the sinner’s action in 6:40 (“believes in the Son”) are exactly the same as the results of the sinner’s action in 6:54 (“eats My flesh and drinks My blood”). In both cases, the sinner’s action yields eternal life and a resurrection on the last day.

Next, we observe that John 6:40 falls within a section of teaching where Jesus is speaking in literal terms. That is, when Jesus speaks of “beholding the Son” and “believing in the Son,” we observe that Jesus is speaking literally.

By contrast, in John 6:54, Jesus is speaking metaphorically about Himself as the bread of life. The Lord has established His identity as “the bread of life” (6:48), as “the bread that comes down out of heaven” (6:50), and as “the living bread that came down out of heaven” (6:51). Jesus has thus made clear that He is now speaking figuratively about Himself as bread. Therefore, in this context, the Lord speaks about how to obtain eternal life in figurative terms.

Jesus intentionally parallels these two verses to teach that “believing in the Son” should be understood metaphorically as “eating His flesh and drinking His blood.” Throughout His earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus has been proclaiming that anyone who believes in Him will obtain eternal life. “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him (Jesus) whom He (the Father) has sent” (John 6:29). Here, then, the Lord is giving a vivid picture, an illustration of what believing in Him means.

What we see is that “eating My flesh and drinking My blood” is actually an explanation and an intensification of “believing in the Son.” Imagine a person who is there in Capernaum listening to Jesus teach or imagine someone who is reading John 6 in our own day. This person is convinced that believing in Jesus is the only way to eternal life and the only way to be saved, but then they ask the question, “What does it actually mean to ‘believe in Jesus’? Can you give me an illustration of what that looks like?” The Lord Jesus answers that question by saying, in effect, “Believing in Me is like eating My flesh and drinking My blood (6:53-56).”

EATING HIS FLESH AND DRINKING HIS BLOOD. For the disciple of Jesus, believing in Him is a matter of life and death. If the disciple cannot eat of Jesus and cannot drink of Jesus, then he will die of hunger and thirst. Communion with Jesus is the disciple’s means of survival. When Job considered his relationship with the LORD, he said, “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12). This gives a taste of what it means for the disciple of Christ to eat His flesh and drink His blood.

The Lord Jesus Himself, when tested by the devil after forty days without food, declared, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). For the follower of Jesus, Jesus is more to be desired than food that will sustain our physical life.

David had the attitude of “eating His flesh and drinking His blood” when he wrote,

O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water. – Psalm 63:1

David’s soul thirsts for the LORD and his flesh hungers for Him, not literally but figuratively, as a thirsty man would yearn for water in the middle of the desert.

To believe in Jesus means to receive Him and embrace Him without reservation as a starving man would consume a loaf of bread. The believer eats and drinks all of Jesus in all His incarnate deity to satisfy his sinful soul. And the one who eats Jesus’ flesh and drinks Jesus’ blood is the one whom Jesus will certainly not cast out.

CONCLUSION

From this study of John 6:45-58 we have seen that Jesus, as the metaphorical bread of life, has been sent by the Father to earth to offer eternal life to the world, and that everyone who believes in Jesus will receive eternal life and will be raised up by Jesus at the resurrection on the last day. Jesus uses the metaphor of “eating My flesh and drinking My blood” to help His disciples understand the depth and the intensity of true saving faith.

SDG                 rmb                 7/5/2022                     #551

1 Peter 2:9 (Part 4) – Purpose: proclaiming excellencies

INTRODUCTION. The first letter of Peter provides a sound foundation for the newly converted disciple of Jesus Christ to begin their journey with their Savior, and the heart of their conversion is captured powerfully in 1 Peter 2:9-10. Here Peter declares the disciple’s new identity, their new purpose, and their new people.

This post is about the new purpose the disciple has received as a result of their new identity. (Also see post #544 on June 16, 2022, about the disciple’s new identity.)

But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. – 1 Peter 2:9-10

In the first chapter of 1 Peter, the apostle has already told us that we were redeemed from our futile way of life (1:18) by the precious blood of Christ (1:19) and that, by God’s great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope (1:3). As we have studied 2:9-10, we have learned about the four-fold identity that the disciples of Jesus received when they trusted Christ as Lord and Savior (see post #536 and #544). Now we are going to discover the purpose for this new identity. There is a purpose for God giving His people their new identity and there is a mission to which He has called us. We are called to proclaim.

CALLED TO PROCLAIM

The chosen race, the royal priesthood, the holy nation, the people for God’s own possession is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. The church is now being gathered from all the nations of the earth to receive the unfathomable riches of Christ (Eph. 3:8) for the primary purpose of proclaiming the gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15).

The church is called to proclaim the excellencies of God. The one true and living God whom we proclaim is a God of excellencies. He has displayed His own glory in a creation of astonishing beauty and complexity, where His excellence is manifest in an abundance of life. His excellence has been made known in the wonder of the gospel, such that His perfect holiness is not violated by the forgiveness of sinners. His excellence has been visibly seen when the Lord Jesus Christ took on flesh and dwelt among us. The church is called to proclaim these excellencies.

Ever since Adam sinned, all people have come into the world as lovers of darkness and haters of the light (John 3:19-20). We are born as blind and dead lovers of darkness and we would forever remain in that wretched condition, but the one true and living God, in His grace and mercy, calls His enemies out of darkness and into His marvelous light. And so the church, the gathered assembly of redeemed wretches, is called to proclaim to the nations the transforming power of the gospel, for in the gospel God calls people from darkness into light.

But the church’s most important proclamation is to tell the world about Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ we have a Savior and a Redeemer and a conquering King who is worthy of all our loudest praise. “Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples. Say among the nations, ‘The LORD reigns!’” (Psalm 96:3, 10). In heaven now the voices of many angels say with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (Rev. 5:12). But what myriad angels are saying in heaven the church is now to be proclaiming on earth.

In Acts, the church was facing a growing hostility to their message about the resurrection. So, in light of the threats, the church prayed that the Lord would “grant that Your bondservants may speak Your word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29). In that instance and in every instance until Jesus returns, the church is to proclaim the glories of Jesus with all boldness regardless of threats. “We are not of those who shrink back to destruction” (Hebrews 10:39). We have been chosen and called to proclaim Jesus’ name to those who are in darkness. For Jesus warns us that “whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory” (Luke 9:26). Therefore, His church is to proclaim His excellencies.

APPLICATION

The true church is a chosen race and is a people who have been called to be holy so that we can proclaim His excellencies. Since that is the case; that is, since we have been chosen and called for the purpose of proclamation, each of us should evaluate how we are doing with our own proclamation. I offer several questions to help in our evaluation:

  • How do you intentionally seek opportunities for “proclamation” within your network of relationships? (season your speech with salt (Col. 4:6), let your light shine before men (Matt. 5:16), throw out baited hooks for fishing (Matt. 4:19))
  • What is your strategy for “proclaiming His excellencies” when an opportunity presents itself? In other words, have you considered how to move the conversation toward a gospel-related topic?
  • How can you increase the boldness of your “proclamation?” How can you prevent fear from producing disobedience?

SDG                 rmb                 6/29/2022                   #550