And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 22, Number
In this issue:
All of us live under authority. For example, God purposed and appointed civil authorities for our good. God commands us to “be subject to the governing authorities,” and because we are under His authority, we obey. Resisting these authorities (unless they conflict with obeying God, Acts 5:29) is resisting the ordinance of God (Rom. 13:1-3; 1 Pet. 2:13-17).
All authority, including moral and religious authority, belongs to Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-23). He exercises his power to approve what is morally and religiously pure and what is not (Jas. 1:26-27). How does he do this?
Jesus expresses His ruling authority through His word, the Scriptures. He said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (Jno. 6:63). His words contain the power to give eternal life (Jno. 12:50). Conversely, his words judge and condemn sin (Jno. 12:48).
As Jesus taught in the Capernaum synagogue, those who heard him “were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority” (Lk. 4:32). While in Capernaum, Christ exercised his authority over unclean spirits by casting them out, and over diseases by healing the sick (Lk. 4:33-36, 38-41).
When Jesus used his power over the spirit and material realms, he signaled his authority to bring the kingdom of God into existence. As he left Capernaum (despite attempts to keep him from going), Jesus said, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent” (Lk. 4:43). His miracles bore testimony that he is the Messiah, whose kingdom was about to be established (Mk. 1:14-15; Jno. 5:36).
Christ established his kingdom according to his word (Mk. 9:1; Acts 1:4-8; 2:1-4, 29-41, 47). Through his word, Jesus exercises his royal power over sin and death (Matt. 28:19-20; Rom. 1:16-17; 6:17-18; Jno. 5:25, 28-29).
We fail to respect Jesus as Lord and Christ when we do not humbly obey His word (Lk. 6:46). So, the question becomes, will you and I submit to his authority by submitting to his word? If so, we will be everlasting life (Jno. 12:50). If not, eternal death awaits (2 Thess. 1:8-9).
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.” (Hebrews 1:1-2)
This passage assures us that:
God has spoken. How fortunate we are that God has spoken. Without God telling us His will, we would not know what to believe about Him or how to please Him. Man cannot direct himself to God without God’s help (Jer. 10:23).
God has spoken in these last days. “The last days” is a phrase used in the Scriptures to identify the period of the Messiah’s reign (Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:16-17; 1 Pet. 1:20). During “the last days,” the gospel age, God dispenses the fullness of His blessings to men and women through Jesus Christ (Eph.1:9-10; Gal. 3:14; 4:4-5). The “last days” began on Pentecost and will continue until Jesus returns, at which time he will bring this world to an end (Acts 2:16-17; Matt. 28:20; 1 Cor. 15:23-28; 2 Pet. 3:4-13).
God has spoken to us in these last days by His Son. The words of Jesus are the words of God (Jno. 7:16; 12:49-50). His words were proclaimed and recorded by His apostles through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Jno. 14:26; 16:8; Eph. 3:3-5; 2 Pet. 1:21). That means they spoke the words God wanted them to speak (Matt. 10:19-20). That is why we have confidence that the writings of the apostles are the words and commands of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1 Cor. 14:37).
By receiving what the apostles taught, we receive Christ and the Father who sent Him (Matt. 10:40). Receiving the words of Christ means believing and obeying them (1 Thess. 2:13). If we reject the words of the apostles, then Christ and the Father will deny us (2 Tim. 2:12). On the last day, Christ will judge whether we accepted or rejected him by whether we accepted or rejected his words (Lk. 10:16; Jno. 12:48).
The word of God was fully revealed to the apostles (Jno. 16:8; Jude 3; Eph. 3:3-5). Therefore, the Scriptures they wrote are entirely adequate to meet our spiritual needs (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3). It is incorruptible, authoritative, and understandable (1 Pet. 1:22-25; 1 Cor. 14:37; Jno. 8:31-32).
Once we understand and believe God has spoken to us by His Son, we also learn about ways God does not speak to us today.
God does not speak to us through prayer. Prayer is how we communicate with God (Matt. 6:9). Prayer is our expression of adorations, confessions, thanksgivings, and supplications (Phil. 4:6; 1 Tim. 2:1). We expect God to hear and to answer our prayers according to His will – this is God’s promise and our faith (1 Jno. 5:14-15). But, we do not expect God to speak to us while we pray. Prayer is not the way God speaks to us.
God does not speak to us through our feelings. Human emotions express what is on our hearts, giving depth and breathe to our motives, intentions, attitudes, words, and actions. But, feelings are not the baseline of truth. Wisdom teaches us that our emotions can deceive us: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov. 14:12). And again, “He who trusts his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered” (Prov. 28:26). Because we feel we know the truth does not mean we do (Acts 26:9). Because we feel we are at peace with God does not mean we are (Rom. 10:2). Indeed, godly emotions will spring from godly attitudes, words, and deeds (Acts 8:39; Phil. 1:3-5). We must rise above using how we feel about something to decide for us whether it is right or wrong in the sight of God. God does not speak to us through an inner feeling to tell us what is right and what is wrong. (His word does that, and is why we must write His word on our hearts, Hebrews 8:10; 10:16.) Our emotions reflect how we feel about something, not how God feels about it.
God chose an impartial way of communicating with us by His Son. He gave us a word, a message that is the same for all of us. We can all examine what God has spoken. We can all examine ourselves using His word, and we can all investigate what others teach us against what it says (Acts 17:11-12; 2 Cor. 13:5).
We can completely trust “the word of the truth of the gospel” (Col. 1:5). It is God’s word. When we believe and obey it, God saves us from our sins (Rom. 6:17-18).
4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. 5 For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations. (Psalm 100:4-5)
Psalm 100 is a psalm of thanksgiving unto God. All the earth is pictured as serving the Lord with gladness, and coming “before His presence with singing” (Psa. 100:1-2). God is due the service of worshipful praise because He is our Sovereign, our Creator, and our Sustainer (Psa. 100:3-4). The blessings that come to us from Almighty God also inform and persuade our thankful worship of Him. Three of God’s character traits, from which our blessings flow, are highlighted as reasons for giving Him thanks.
1) His goodness. In His beauty, God showers good blessings on us all (Acts 14:17).
2) His mercy. God is unfailing in His kindness and ever vigilant to show mercy “to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exo. 20:6).
3) His truth. Unfailing in its power to purify us, God’s word of truth endures forever (Jno. 17:17; 1 Pet. 1:22-25).
God’s goodness, mercy, and truth compel us to “enter His gates with thanksgiving” with joyful praise. May we always give God thankful praise for who He is and for what He does for us.
(Current events in the light of Scripture)
Spiritual Closeness While Social Distancing
The coronavirus pandemic has produced conduct designed to slow its advance, namely, social (or, physical) distancing. Social distancing “refers to a way of creating a barrier of physical distance between two or more people so that transmission of virus can be prevented or halted” (“Why social distancing might last for some time,” Abigail Beall, bbc.com).
Putting physical distance between oneself and a contagion is not new. It is practiced in families when a member gets the flu. The Law of Moses gave isolation instructions to Israel (Lev. 13:44-46). Many nations have now implemented distancing to curb the virus’ spread.
We must not neglect our spiritual closeness as we apply these temporary restrictions. The Lord’s church is his body, his family, his temple, his bride, his kingdom (Col. 1:18; 1 Tim. 3:15; Eph. 2:21-22; 5:25, 30-32; Matt. 16:18-19). All these terms describe the familiarity and togetherness of God’s people. The Lord arranged local churches to provide needed interaction as we serve, strengthen, comfort, teach, and edify one another (Eph. 4:16; Rom. 12:6-8, 14-15; Acts 20:28; Heb. 10:24-25).
Our challenge now, as always, is maintaining spiritual connectedness even when physical distance exists between us. God gave the church cohesiveness so that “if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Cor. 12:26, 24-25; cf. Col. 3:14-15).
Let us always give attention to each other’s physical and spiritual situations and needs (Acts 4:32-35; Phil. 2:3-4). Today’s conveniences make this easier (telephones, email, teleconferencing, and good old-fashioned mail). May we grow ever closer, even during a period of social distancing.
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 03/26/2020
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA