“Open my eyes, that I may see
Wondrous things from Your law” (Psalm 119:18).
No one section of scripture—be it Old or New Testaments—pours forth such elaborate, personal, and priceless pieces of divine revelation about the nature of God’s law than does King David in this, by far the longest of all the psalms. His purpose is to honor God and to elevate His Word to the highest level.
In this verse, David exudes excitement as he prays for wisdom—“Open my eyes”—that he may understand the magnificent truths contained in God’s wonderful law. In this request, he is not unlike instruction given to those of us living in the Christian Age: we are to pray for wisdom that we may apply God’s law properly to our lives.
Having been given the revelation is one thing, wonderful indeed; but without proper understanding and wisdom to apply, we can never receive the benefit God intended for us so that we can grow thereby—that is, grow closer to Him and to His Word.
May we join David in expressing a deep appreciation for the gift of God’s Word and in desiring to have our understanding opened so that we can be the Christian God wants us to be and so that we can grow closer to Him, our Heavenly Father.
“Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance” (Romans 2:4).
Hypocrisy is the main topic of discussion as Paul addresses this letter to Roman
Christians, even though the “spill over” from his message is that he has opportunity to teach against many unseemly and immoral practices being committed by his readers.
Near the end of Chapter 1, Paul lists the sins they are condemning the Gentiles for committing. The problem is these Jews are committing the same sins—thus, the hypocrisy. So, he calls upon them to repent, that is, to change their minds about these sins and to stop committing them.
In this case, Paul teaches that the “goodness of God” should lead them to repent. God is Good…totally Good, possessing no imperfections nor shortcomings. Paul says such knowledge, by itself, should cause them, and indeed all people, to be led to do what is right and to seek to live up to God’s example.
We are not God, and we can never be as good as God; however, His example of Goodness should motivate us to strive toward the goal of such Goodness. “The Goodness of God” should lead us to repent.
“Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan” (1 Kings 17:3).
Elijah has just delivered his stinging message to the inhabitants of Gilead: there will be no dew nor rain for three and a half years except at his word. Then God tells him to flee, no doubt because of the serious dangers Jezebel and her minions pose for the prophet.
At the time, God is still operating through miracles, and He has every intention of protecting Elijah. Evidently Elijah does not have enough faith to realize how carefully God is going to take care of him. Knowing Elijah’s apprehensions, God gives the prophet the instruction in this verse.
In the Christian Age, God does not tell us verbally to “Get away from here” when we are in spiritual danger. But His word provides clear instruction about how we should live, how we are to commit to His Son wholeheartedly, and how we are to dedicate ourselves to His Cause, that is, through the Church.
Our job, then, is to apply His word to our lives and keep ourselves away from those influences that might weaken us spiritually. Finding ourselves going toward spiritual danger, we listen to the Word as it tells us to “Get Away from Here.”
“The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the faither, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (Ezekiel 18:20).
Prophesying during the dark days of Israel during the Babylonia captivity, Ezekiel has the instruction to clarify for God’s people the misapplication of the proverb “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, And the children’s teeth are set on edge.”
God never intended that this proverb be used for anyone to deflect personal responsibility, especially for sinful behavior. It is true that when fathers sin, their children may suffer as a result; but God has never held children accountable for the sins of their fathers.
Thus, this verse clarifies the need for God’s people at that time to be personally responsible for their own behavior, even during such troublesome times—they could not blame their forefathers.
By establishing the precept that the person who sins shall be accountable for himself, Ezekiel sets forth a principle that would become a foundation for the Gospel Age: we shall all be judged by our own works—we can blame no one else when we fail to measure up to God’s standards (Romans 14:10).
“So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land that I should not destroy it, but I found no one.
Therefore I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deed on their own heads,” says the Lord God (Ezekiel 22:30-31).
Mind the Gap is an expression quite familiar to those who have traveled in Great Britain and have had an opportunity to ride London subways (they call them the ‘tube’ or the ‘underground’). The ‘gap’ is a small but potentially dangerous gap between the platform and the subway car.
In this passage, God expects someone to come forward to “stand in the gap”—that is, to intercede—for these rebellious people of Judah and Jerusalem—they are in a dangerous position spiritually, and they desperately need an effective defender.
Finding no one from among them, God here entrusts the prophet Ezekiel with this dire message of frustration and anger over their persistent sins—He has the prophet tell them they all will, therefore, suffer His indignation.
The beautiful message of Christianity is that we—mankind—have someone to Mind the Gap for us. Rather than standing a guilty distance from God because of our sins, we have a Savior—Jesus Christ—who sits at God’s right hand, ever interceding on behalf of His obedient children. May we ever show our deep, abiding gratitude by living a life devoted to Him and His Great Cause.
“There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21).
Peter has just explained the significance of the ark in the days of Noah and here compares it with baptism in the Christian Age. The ark saved those who chose to get on board back then just as baptism in water saves those who submit to it today.
He further explains that it is not the taking of a bath, but it is the answer of a good conscience toward God—the only way a person can have a good conscience toward God is when he does what God has commanded.
And this process of salvation can take place only because Jesus conquered death when he was resurrected from the grave by the power of God—for salvation to be offered, Jesus had to die, be buried, and be resurrected. Today, when a person submits to baptism in water, he or she symbolically reenacts this process. Peter says baptism, then, saves us.
“Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?’ Then Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him” (Acts 8:36-38).
The evangelist Philip has joined the Ethiopian traveling along the road from Jerusalem to Gaza and has preached “Jesus” to him. As a result of this teaching, the Ethiopian knows he needs “belief” in Jesus and “water” for salvation.
Philip tells him what he still lacks before he can be baptized: expression of faith. The Ethiopian shows his desire to change his life (that is, repent) as he states his faith in Jesus as God’s Son, and Philip baptizes him. This classic account from the beginning days of Christianity presents a solid illustration for actions every person must take if he or she desires salvation.
Jesus has given His life on the cross—He shed His blood—to validate this plan for all mankind. And this is the plan to which God expects us to submit if we want forgiveness and assurance of salvation—that is, an eternal home in heaven.
“Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you” (Acts 8:22).
Simon, known as the sorcerer in Samaria, has become a Christian through faithful obedience to the plan of salvation, culminating in his being baptized for the remission of sins.
Soon after his obedience, Simon observes Peter and John exercise the miraculous power given them by the Holy Spirit; he immediately asks if he can buy it, thus, sinning. The Apostle Peter speaks the words in this text to him as a remedy for the sin he has just committed. This passage shows that believers can sin.
When obeying the gospel, we confess our faith in Jesus as the Son of God. When we sin after our obedience, we pray that God will forgive us or we ask a fellow Christian to pray for us; thus, God’s plan allows us every opportunity to maintain a faithful relationship with Him.
“For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10)
Scriptures throughout the New Testament attest that confession is an essential part of the process of conversion. As with faith, it is not the only part as both faith and confession are described as steps that take place as one goes toward salvation.
Before we can confess, we must believe in God and in Jesus as the Son of God. With such faith, a person has a solid foundation for deciding to change from his former life and live in the way Jesus instructs, for telling others about this new-found faith, and for submitting to the watery grave as the final act of obedience of the gospel. Then, Peter says in Acts, the Lord adds that person to His church.
Initially, we are not to confess our sins—rather, we are to confess our faith: “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” This is the confession the Ethiopian made to the evangelist Philipp as he traveled on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. Then, Philipp baptized him, and he continued on his journey rejoicing.
Fifth and final in a series of studies in 1 Peter 2:1-5
“You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).
Not only is Jesus Christ a “Living Stone,” those who follow Him are also living stones, not of our own worthiness but because of our attachment to Him. Peter continues the metaphor of a building as he describes those who belong to Jesus.
This same group of believers forms “a holy priesthood,” moving his imagery from a physical temple to a spiritual one and, at the same time, providing a contrast with the Old Testament arrangement. “Holy” means “set apart for a special purpose,” and “priesthood” designates all baptized believers who make up the new spiritual temple under the New Covenant.
The purpose of “priests” under the Old Covenant was to offer physical sacrifices on behalf of all of God’s people; the purpose of “priests” under the New Covenant is to offer spiritual sacrifices—that is, for each believer to perform this function individually by giving his or her own life as a “living sacrifice.”
And God accepts our spiritual sacrifices, not because they make us worthy nor because He is required to, but because His Son and our precious Savior, Jesus the Christ, made acceptable whatever we do in the name of the Lord and according to His will. His supreme sacrifice sealed our acceptance by the Father.