gospel

Revelation 14

Today’s reading is Revelation 14.

The Tribulation time described in these chapters was horrible, obviously. God’s wrath on the earth and its inhabitants and the persecutions of God’s people through Satan through his agents made life on earth troublesome and painful for everyone. Although false worship became widespread, there are still threads of grace throughout this bleak time. One example is the 144,000 who were honored here in verses 1-5; they were “redeemed from the earth” (v. 3b), an expression of God’s saving grace to them.

But in verses 6-7 of today’s reading we were told that an angel “had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people.” And proclaim it he did in verse 7, calling on everyone to repent and worship God. As angry as God was with humanity, he was still the gracious, saving Lord to anyone who believed his good news.

Though these events are still future to us, they demonstrate again the love and saving nature of God. This is important for us to remember as well. Behind every warning of judgment (v. 7b: “the hour of his judgment has come”) is a call to repent and “worship him” (v. 7c). As we witness for Christ in the world, our condemnation of the wickedness of the world should always hold forth the offer of grace to those who will receive it. We should never have so much condemnation and indignation (whether righteous or self-righteous) that we refuse to urge our fellow men and women to turn, receive, and worship Christ. This is why we’re here.

1 John 1

Today, read 1 John 1.

Our faith is primarily about God. He is our Creator; we belong to him and are accountable to him for how we live this life. Due to Adam’s choice to sin, none of us is capable of pleasing God by living up to his perfect righteous standard for how to live and worshipping him wholeheartedly. As a result, we are under his wrath and hopelessly lost for eternity. But, because of his love and mercy, God the Son came into the world to live a perfect life and die as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Once we trust in him by faith, God credits his perfect righteousness to us--we call this justification. At the same time, he credits us with the death of Christ and, on that basis, forgives us for our sins based on the death and resurrection of Jesus for us.

More could be said, but that’s a basic outline of our faith. The major goal of it is to glorify God by reconciling us sinners to him through Christ. That reconciliation is the major benefit to us of God’s grace in the Christian faith and the end result of that reconciliation is eternal life.

But there are other benefits to being a Christian and John led off with one of them here in 1 John 1:3 when he wrote, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us....” To put this verse in other words, John wrote about the gospel so that (among other things) the readers might have fellowship with John and all other Christians.

The word “fellowship” is a much-used, little-understood word in Christianity. Its basic meaning is “sharing.” When we talk about it as a core result of being a Christian, it means that we share a new kind of relationship with other Christians. It is a kind of relationship that non-Christians are not capable of having because it is a spiritual relationship, a deep bond that genuine believers in Christ share.

And why do we share this deep bond? It is because we are all connected in a “fellowship” relationship with God. As John wrote in the latter half of verse 3, “And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” It is God’s grace to us in Christ that connects us to the Triune God, giving us a new fellowship--a family relationship with God that we never had before Christ and could not have without him. Because we all share that, we now have a basis for sharing a deep connection to one another in Christ.

The result of Christian fellowship is joy; according to verse 4, “We write this to make our joy complete.” The rest of this letter is going to spell out the marks of genuine faith in Christ, starting with truth (“...walk[ing] in the light,” v. 7a). But before describing what a genuine Christian looks like, John began with one of the motives Christians have for sharing the gospel--“so that you also may have fellowship with us” (v. 3b).

Do you want a deeper friendship, a stronger, more spiritual connection to other people? Then share the gospel with others! The salvation we share by God’s grace is the only true common ground that can unite humanity. It--and only it--can bridge cultures, languages, ethnic backgrounds, and anything else that divides humanity. This is not the only reason to give the gospel, or even the main reason, but it is an important one. Faith in Christ unites those who belong to Christ and gives us a basis for true fellowship. The more we reach others with Christ, the greater and broader and deeper our connection to other people will become.

Romans 10

Read Romans 10 today.

In this chapter, Paul continued discussing the unbelief of his people Israel. He spoke directly about his desire and prayer even for the salvation of his countrymen (v. 1). Then he reflected on his own experience and said, yes, we Jews are very enthusiastic about God, but not according to knowledge (v. 2). And what was the knowledge they lacked? That righteousness comes from God (v. 3) to “everyone who believes” (v. 4b). Since they did not know this, they “sought to establish their own” righteousness (v. 3b).

Verses 4-13 contrasts the “righteousness for everyone who believes” (v. 4) with the “righteousness that is by the law” (v. 5). The righteousness that comes by the law is given to those who obey the law; as verse 5b put it, “The person who does these things will live by them.” That’s the promise of righteousness by the law--do what the law says and you will live.

Israel’s history--and yours and mine, too--shows that we can’t keep the law. Because we are sinners, as we saw in Romans 7, we can’t keep God’s law even when we want to--and most of the time, we don’t want to. That’s why Christ came. He is, according to verse 4, “the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” He kept the law we could not keep in order to give us the righteousness we could not earn. The way to righteousness (that is, “to be right with God”) is by faith in Christ (vv. 9-13). This has always been the case as we see from Paul’s quotations of the Old Testament here in Romans 10:

  • v. 8 quotes from Deuteronomy 30:14
  • v. 11 quotes from Isaiah 28:16
  • v. 13 quotes form Joel 2:32

This is why God sends his servants into the world--to spread the message, the good news, of righteousness before God in Jesus Christ (v. 15). As we share the good news, we must remember that people are saved not through our slick presentation or clever arguments; rather, “faith comes from hearing the message,(Y) and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (v. 17). The message itself carries the ability to create faith in those God has chosen.

So, let’s be faithful about carrying the message!

Romans 5

Today, read Romans 5

Romans 4 told us that people are declared righteous by faith and that righteousness was secured by Jesus Christ. Today in chapter 5, verse 1 told us that the result of being declared righteous by faith is that “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The next several verses went on to describe the future (v. 2b, 9-11) and present results of God’s grace to us in Christ (vv. 3-5).

Verses 12-21 describe the “one to many” aspects of sin and salvation. It was by one man’s sin that many became sinners (vv. 12-14). Likewise, one man’s gift made many righteous (vv. 15-21). Since the gift (vv. 15--2x, 16--2x, 17), that is, the grace (vv. 2, 15--2x, 17, 20, 21) of Jesus has accomplished the salvation of many, grace now reigns in Jesus Christ (v. 21). The “reign” of that grace specifically is to “to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (v. 21). This is one of the things we mean when we say that we live in the “age of grace.” It is true that there are still billions of sinners on the earth and that physical death still holds power over all sinners. But it is also true that God is saving millions of people around the world through the grace that came through Jesus Christ. The “age of grace” is here; God is saving people through Jesus Christ.

This is something to remind ourselves of as we talk with unbelievers. Instead of avoiding talk of eternity, we should believe the truth that God is saving people through Jesus Christ--and that his grace which saved us is available to save others. Paul was “not ashamed of the gospel” because “it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” His confidence in the gospel is what made him an effective witness for Christ--not his experience or his rhetorical abilities. Let’s believe God’s word ourselves that in this age of grace he will use us for the salvation of many and look for ways to share that truth with others.

Romans 1

Today we begin reading the book of Romans, so read Romans 1 today.

As we’ve read the book of Acts, we have stopped here and there to read Paul’s letters around the points chronologically where scholars think they were written. In other words, Acts 19 described Paul’s two year stay in Ephesus. After reading Acts 19, we stopped to read 1 & 2 Corinthians because there are good reasons to believe that Paul wrote 1 & 2 Corinthians during his time in Ephesus. In Acts 19:21, Paul described his desire to go to Jerusalem but to stop in the regions of Greece (Macedonia & Achaia) on his way. 2 Corinthians described his coming visit. Also in Acts 19:21, Paul described his desire to visit Rome. At the end of Romans (Rom 15:28-29), Paul described his coming trip to Jerusalem and his intention to visit Rome after he went to Jerusalem.

Here in Romans 1:10b-11a we read, “I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you. I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong....” So the book of Romans was a letter designed to prepare the believers in for Paul’s intended visit after he went to Jerusalem. That’s why we’re reading Romans now.

Paul had not yet been to Rome as an apostle, so the church that existed there was not one that he founded. In this letter to the Romans, Paul laid out his doctrine of the gospel so that the Roman church would understand their faith better and would receive him and support him as he intended to go further out to Spain (see Rom 15:23-24). He began by summarizing his doctrine of Christianity (vv. 1-4) and his commission to preach the gospel (v. 5). Then he described his prayers for the believers in Rome (vv. 8-10) and his desire to visit them (vv. 11-15).

Starting in verse 16, Paul transitioned to the gospel. He wrote first about the greatness of the gospel in verses 16-17, then about the universal human need for it (vv. 18-32). Humanity’s rejection of God (vv. 18-23) and the deep-rooted sinfulness that results from rejecting God (vv. 24-32) are the source of all human problems. Some human problems--like sickness and death--are not cured by the gospel in this life. Instead, the gospel holds a promise for deliverance from those in the life to come. But every other human problem, the things that take up the first page of every day’s newspaper, are caused by people rejecting God and cured by the gospel. Very often we try to make things more complicated than they really are. We think that typical human issues like materialism, homosexuality, murder, gossip, arrogance, disobedient children, and other problems are caused by insecurity, lack of love, poor parenting, fear, poverty, hopelessness, and other psychological issues. While all of those things may be factors in why people act as they do, they are not the cause. All these things and others are human responses to rejecting God. The cure is Christ--who died for our sins in order to save us from these problems and an eternity apart from God. Paul stated in verse 16 that he was not ashamed of the gospel because it was God’s power to save all who believe its message of deliverance. What the disobedient child (v. 30) needs is salvation in Jesus. The same is true for those eaten alive by envy (v. 29b), those who kill (v. 29b), those who exploit others for financial gain (aka, the greedy, v. 29a), homosexuals (vv. 26-27), and every other sinner. People need forgiveness, rescue, and reconciliation with God more than they need better coping strategies, more powerful drugs, or a happier childhood. That is what the gospel offers.

As you and I live in this world, we meet people who are stuck in these and other problems. We may offer sympathy to those who are suffering, advice to those who are confused, and even prayer but do we offer the gospel? That’s where the power of God to save resides. Don’t be ashamed of the simple message that Christ died for our sins; use it to rescue sinners for the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 1

Today’s reading comes from 1 Corinthians 1.

During Paul’s two year stay in Ephesus, which we read about yesterday in Acts 19, he probably wrote 1 and 2 Corinthians so we will read those letters, then come back to Acts later.

The church at Corinth had a lot of problems and Paul started addressing them right away here in chapter 1 verse 10. Despite their many--and serious--problems, Paul took time to appreciate the evidence of their faith in God and express confidence in God’s power to make them holy in verses 4-9. The reason for this confidence was that they were “sanctified [set apart] in Christ Jesus” (v. 2) and that God was faithfully working in them (vv. 8-9). The Corinthians, it seems, had lost sight of the fact that God was the source of their faith and their salvation (vv. 28-30). Judging from Paul’s words in this chapter, it appears that the Corinthians began to think that they had some level of discernment on their own. They argued about who was the best teacher--Paul or Apollos (vv. 10-17) which suggests that they thought one or the other was more insightful. Those who argued for their guy may have thought, if you only had the spiritual insight I have, you’d see that Paul is the better teacher. Paul reminded them that it was not their clever insights that brought them to Christ, but Christ and his grace. Apart from his grace, we would consider Jesus and his atoning death for us to be foolishness (vv. 18-23); God, however, called us to trust in Jesus which is why we turned to him in faith (v. 24a). When we turned to Christ in faith, that’s when we learned that Jesus was God’s power and wisdom embodied (v. 24b). In fact, Christ is everything to us by the grace of God--“our wisdom... righteousness, holiness and redemption” (v. 30).

The pride that Paul addressed in the Corinthians is a present temptation to Christians at all times including us. Sometimes we may be tempted to pity or even despise the lost because of how deeply sin and unbelief has infected them. But it was not our keen insight that saved us from that life; it was God’s gracious work in our minds and hearts when we heard the gospel.

This should cause us to thank God for the gift of grace he gave to us. We’d be lost in our sins just life everyone else if it weren’t for his saving work. And, since God is the one who chooses and who saves, we should never write anyone off as being beyond the power of God. The gospel, by the grace of God, is a transformative message. You’ve witnessed its transforming power in your own life but don’t be proud of that fact. Instead, be proud of God (v. 31) and willing to share his message with others so that they may experience his grace as well.

Acts 17

Today’s reading is Acts 17.

Yesterday we read about Paul’s venture into Greece. While there he found people who were ready to receive the gospel and others who were ready to persecute him and his team. As he always did, Paul started presenting the gospel to the Jewish people in every city, then expanded his witness out to the Gentiles (v. 2, 4, 10, 12, 17). Paul went to Athens (vv. 15-34) but not because he was planning to preach the gospel there. Instead, he was waiting there for his teammates Silas and Timothy who were supposed to get there ASAP (v. 15).

While in Athens, Paul did speak to the Jewish people who lived there (v. 17) but he also found a secular audience for his message in the marketplace (v. 17b) and on the hill called Areopagus (v. 19). This passage gives us a glimpse into how Paul presented Christ to Gentile non-believers. Notice that he did not seek common ground with these men; rather, he used their altar “to an unknown God” (v. 23) as a starting point for his message, but quickly moved to direct confrontation by saying they were “ignorant of the very thing you worship” (v. 23b). He told them that the true God, the Creator God, did not reside in manmade structures (v. 24) or need food from human hands (v. 25a). Furthermore, he chided them for thinking that manmade statues had any significance for knowing and worshipping God (v. 29), then he moved to preaching repentance, judgment, and the resurrection of Christ from the dead (vv. 30-31).

Of all the controversial things Paul said, the resurrection of the dead was the one that seemed to create the strongest negative reaction among his listeners (v. 32). This is not at all the only place where people objected to his teaching that Christ rose from the dead. Yet Paul never shied away from teaching that God was invisible, not an idol or that Christ rose from the dead bodily. Instead, he went straight to the truths of the Christian faith that would be most controversial. This approach is quite a bit different than the way that many of us talk about God. When we talk about God, we may be tempted to avoid the supernatural and just stick to talking about Jesus and what he can do for you. But the reason that Paul didn’t retreat from the controversial aspects of the gospel is that he knew that believing the gospel required God’s supernatural gift of faith, not a group of secular arguments.

The point for us to emulate here is not to minimize the difficult points of the gospel like the resurrection but to feature them in our presentation of the gospel. When we do that, we are relying on God’s power to save people, not our ability to argue people into assenting that Jesus is the Christ.

Galatians 1

Today we pause from reading acts to start reading Galatians; specifically, Galatians 1.

I should have had us read Acts 15 first before we turned to Galatians, but it’s too late to fix that now. Although Galatians was not written at this point in the story of Acts, Galatians 1 describes Paul’s life before he became a Christian (vv. 11-14) and his early Christian life (vv. 15-24). The events of Galatians 2 are described either back in Acts 11:30 or in Acts 15 so that’s why we’ll read Galatians now before going further in Acts.

Here in Galatians 1, Paul expressed his surprise at how quickly the believers in the region called Galatia were turning to a perversion of the gospel instead of the true gospel Paul brought to them. We’ll learn more about this perversion of the gospel in the days ahead but for now it is important to know that it was an attempt to blend Judaism with Christianity and impose that blend on the Gentile believers.

Paul knew Judaism quite well which is why he began addressing this problem with his own religious resume as an enthusiastic Jewish Pharisee (vv. 13-14). In order to highlight the difference between the Judaism he was raised in and lived under and the gospel, Paul reminded the church “that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ” (vv. 11-12). Instead of seeing his faith in Christ as an extension of his Judaism, Paul saw it as a complete conversion. Once he was “...was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers” (v. 14b) and then God chose “to reveal his Son in me” (v. 16a). Anyone who attempts to blend the Christian faith with Judaism, then, has misunderstood and mischaracterized the Christian faith.

The lesson for us is to be careful with the gospel--understand it well and guard it from corruption. There are all kinds of ways in which Satan would love to corrupt the gospel. Most of them, however, add human works to faith in one way or another. These might be Jewish traditions or they might be some other kind of religious actions. The scriptures remind us in this chapter that the gospel is God’s good news; it is not ours to modify. Modifying the gospel changes it into “a different gospel” (v. 6b) which means it isn’t good news at all (v. 7a).

Most people dislike conflict but within your friends and neighbors there are likely many different religious practices including some that claim to be “Christian.” You may love your friends and neighbors and desire to be accepted and fit in among them but don’t change the message of salvation in Christ in order to extend acceptance to them or to be accepted by them.

Leviticus 15, Psalm 18, Proverbs 29, 2 Thessalonians 3

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Leviticus 15, Psalm 18, Proverbs 29, 2 Thessalonians 3. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read 2 Thessalonians 3.

We all know that we should be praying for our missionaries and others who serve the Lord full-time in ministry. But what should we pray for, specifically? Maybe we ask the Lord to “bless them,” but what do we really mean by that? Second Thessalonians 3 starts out with Paul’s request for prayer from the Thessalonians. He asks them to pray specifically for two things. Both of these requests serve as good models for our praying for those serving the Lord in the gospel. They are:

  1. For people to be saved through the gospel message. Verse 1 says “pray for us that the message of the Lord may” do two things: “spread rapidly” and “be honored.” The message of the Lord spreading rapidly means that people come to Christ for salvation a few or more at a time. Instead of reaching people one-by-one, the gospel spreads rapidly when a crowd of spiritually hungry people hear the gospel and trust Christ. They, in turn, are discipled and organized into churches while simultaneously telling others they know about Christ. In this way, the gospel spreads rapidly. The phrase “be honored” is a way of referring to a response of faith. We see this from the next phrase in verse 1, “just as it was with you”; in other words, just as the Thessalonians honored the gospel by believing it, Paul asked them to pray for others to hear and believe the gospel as well. This is the first way in which we can pray for those serve the Lord—pray for many to hear the gospel and for many to respond to it in faith.
  2. For preachers to be delivered from persecution. Paul’s second prayer request for the Thessalonians is in verse 2: “And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people….” This is a request about persecution; specifically, that God would rescue his servants from those who would seek to harm them physically or make it difficult for them to communicate the gospel. Calling them “wicked and evil people” not only describes their own lifestyle, but it reminds us that those who oppose the spread of the gospel are sinning against God. They are not merely misinformed; they are opposing the Lord and his work. The last phrase of verse 2, “for not everyone has faith” explains why there are wicked and evil people in the world. The difference between those who “honor the message of the Lord” (v. 1) and those who oppose it is the gift of faith that God gives to some when they hear the gospel. Paul acknowledges that some who hear the gospel will reject it and even oppose the opportunity for others to hear it. Paul asked that those who prayed for his ministry ask the Lord to deliver him from these people. Similarly, when we pray for God’s servants who share the gospel, we can pray for them to be free from the attacks and opposition of those who love disobedience and want to suppress the truth. 

Whenever we pray for those serving the Lord in full-time ministry, we can pray for their encouragement, for their health, for their families, for their financial needs, but let's remember to pray, too, for many people to believe the gospel and for protection from those who don't believe the gospel and don't want its message to spread.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/calvarybiblechurch/. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Leviticus 8, Psalm 9, Proverbs 23, 1 Thessalonians 2

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Leviticus 8, Psalm 9, Proverbs 23, 1 Thessalonians 2. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read 1 Thessalonians 2.

Paul had a great relationship with the church at Thessalonica, unlike his relationship with some of the other churches he started. In yesterday’s reading from 1 Thessalonians 1 Paul described how they received the gospel from him and how they began spreading that gospel in their region. Today’s reading in 1 Thessalonians 2 described his first contact with the Thessalonians in more personal terms. Verses 1-7 stated how Paul and his companions came to Thessalonica after suffering persecution in Philippi (vv. 1-2a). Despite “strong opposition” (v. 2b) they spoke the gospel plainly and clearly to the Thessalonians without trying to enhance it for human acceptance with “error or impure motives” (v. 3a), tricks (v. 3b), people-pleasing (v. 4b), flattery (v. 5a), or a hypocritical face to cover up greed (v. 5b). And yet, he said, “our visit was not without results” (v. 1). In other words, some in Thessalonica received the gospel “as it actually is, the word of God” (v. 13). It was from that time forward “at work in you who believe” (v. 14b). This is such a rebuke to many "ministries" in our day. Instead of giving the uncorrupted, unadorned gospel, many churches have turned to entertainment and gimmicks in order to get results. I read recently of a church that had their band perform the song “Highway to Hell” on Easter Sunday. That may have gotten the attention and approval of some in their audience, but it did not bring glory to God. Living for God and giving his gospel requires us to guard the message from corruption and to deliver the message in a way that is “worthy of God” (v. 12). Since we believe that salvation is his gift of life delivered to those who hear and believe his word, we should do nothing more than faithfully, clearly, and consistently deliver the message. God will bless his word; there will be “results” (v.1)—as God sees fit to deliver them.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.