And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 22, Number
In this issue:
22 The Lord possessed me at the beginning of His way, before His works of old. 23 I have been established from everlasting, from the beginning, before there was ever an earth.
(Proverbs 8:22–23, NKJV)
Wisdom cries out for us to receive her guidance of truth and understanding (Prov. 8:1-11). Not only does she “dwell with prudence,” Jehovah has possessed her from eternity past.
1) Wisdom attended God’s creation of the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1). She served as His “ready craftsman” when He fashioned the earth (Prov. 8:30, 24-31). The wonders of the heavens and the earth defy human intellect, power, skill, precision, and imagination. Divine wisdom, though invisible, is perceived by the things God has made (Rom. 1:20).
2) Wisdom attended God’s plan of human redemption. God made redemption in Christ “abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence” (Eph. 1:7-8). The church (those redeemed by the blood of Christ) reveals the “manifold wisdom of God” to heaven and earth (Eph. 3:10-11).
3) Wisdom attended God’s revelation of the gospel. The gospel is the “wisdom of God” that reveals His mind to the whole world (1 Cor. 2:6-13; Mk. 16:15). The gospel plums the depths of divine wisdom as it calls sinners to salvation (1 Cor. 1:18-25; Mk. 16:16).
The wisdom of men pales in comparison to the wisdom that God possesses and has revealed in His word. Let us choose “the wisdom that is from above,” and bear the fruit of righteousness (Jas. 3:17-18).
-Sword Tips, #1914 (April 11, 2020)
The gospel contains teaching that answers the fundamental questions about salvation. People came to Jesus and then to His apostles with the same need and interest. They wanted to be saved from their sins and have eternal life.
The answers they received show there are things we must do to be saved from our sins. Jesus and His apostles repeatedly taught the necessity of obedience to be saved and to serve Jesus (Matt. 7:21-24; Lk. 6:46-48; Jno. 8:51; 10:26-27; 14:15; Rom. 6:17-18; Phil. 2:12; Heb. 5:8-9; 1 Pet. 1:14; 1 Jno. 2:3-6; 5:2-4; 2 Jno. 4-6; Rev. 12:17; 14:12; 22:7). To deny the linkage of obedience to be saved from sin and to serve Jesus faithfully is an exercise in futility.
We need God to tell us what we must do, since “the way of man is not in himself” (Jer. 10:23). Thankfully, He tells us in the gospel (1 Cor. 1:21). Belief that obeys the gospel from the heart releases us from sin to serve righteousness (Rom. 6:17-18).
Consider these occasions when people asked what they must do or were told what to do to be saved and to have eternal life.
1) The rich young ruler (Mk. 10:17-22). He knelt before Jesus and asked, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” Jesus did not tell him there is nothing you can do. He focused the man’s attention on Himself as God, and then said, “You know the commandments” calling his attention to the commands the law of Moses. The man had obeyed these from his earliest days. But, his obedience did not come from loving God with all his being. When commanded to sell his possessions, give to the poor, and follow Jesus, he would not obey. His wealth was more important to him. Jesus did not separate obedience from the man laying up treasure in heaven, just the opposite (Mk. 10:21). From this we learn that we must obey from a heart that values and puts Christ first, above all else.
2) The Jews who chased after Jesus (Jno. 6:27-29). The context reveals their lack of faith as they searched for another meal when they saw Jesus miraculously feed the multitude (Jno. 6:1-14, 24-26). After Jesus told them to “labor for the food which…endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you,” they said, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” (Jno. 6:27-28). Jesus explained the work of God they must do was to “believe in Him whom He sent” (Jno. 6:29). If that meant only belief without any obedience, then Jesus contradicted what He had just said in verse 27 (to “labor” for the food that endures to everlasting life). The point is they did not believe in Him; they were faithless. Faith in Him was their starting point. Furthermore, faith in the Son contains the action of obedience (the “labor” that faith requires, Jas. 2:17, 20). If you do not believe in the Son of Man, that is your starting point of what you must do. Then, work God’s works by obeying the Son (Jno. 8:31-32, 51).
3) Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:6). While on his way to Damascus to persecute the disciples of Jesus, Christ appeared to Saul and identified Himself as the One he was persecuting (Acts 9:1-5). With trembling astonishment, Saul said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” The Lord replied, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do” (Acts 9:6). Blinded by the experience, Saul was led into the city, where he fasted and prayed for three days (Acts 9:8-11). The Lord sent Ananias to restore Saul’s sight and to further explain to Saul his appointment as a witness (apostle) of Jesus (Acts 9:12; 22:10-15). When Saul’s sight was restored Ananias ask him why he was waiting, and that he must “arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). By this time, Saul was a repentant, prayerful believer. Yet, his sins had not yet been washed away. He was commanded to call on the name of the Lord by being baptized for that to happen. Belief, repentance, and prayer did not wash away his sins. In faith, Saul had to obey Christ’s command to be baptized to wash away his sins (1 Pet. 3:21). He would still be in sin and lost without obeying this command. The obedient act of water baptism is how sinners call on the Lord for salvation (Acts 2:21, 37-38).
4) Cornelius (Acts 10:6). An angel of God appeared to this devout man while he was praying, telling him to send for Peter, a man who “will tell you what you must do.” As events unfolded, his messengers found Peter and told him an angel directed Cornelius “to summon you to his house, and to hear words from you” (Acts 10:22). When Peter arrived, the Roman centurion, along with his relatives and close friends, were gathered “to hear all things commanded you by God” (Acts 10:33). Later, we learn the angel said Peter would “tell you words by which you and your household will be saved” (Acts 11:14). So, the words Peter spoke were things Cornelius (and company) “must do” to “be saved.” What were those words? They were told to fear God and work righteousness to be accepted by God (Acts 10:34-35). They were told to believe in Jesus Christ to receive remission of sins (Acts 10:43). And, they were commanded to be baptized in water (Acts 10:47-48). God bore witness by the miraculous presence of the Holy Spirit that He would save Gentiles just like He saves Jews (Acts 10:44-45; 11:15-18; 15:8-9; Rom. 1:16). When Cornelius and company believed and obeyed the command to be baptized, their hearts were purified by faith (Acts 15:8-9). Indeed, saving faith is an obedient faith.
5) The Philippian jailer (Acts 16:30-34). Trembling before Paul and Silas (the prisoners he had earlier secured in the inner prison), the jailer said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” To which they replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:30-31). They preached the gospel to him and his house, and their reaction necessarily implies they became believers (Rom. 10:17). Their repentant hearts were displayed as they washed the backs of the wounded prisoners, and as they were baptized immediately. It was evident by their obedience that they had believed in God (Acts 16:33-34).
Each of these people were told what they must do. Each was taught and commanded based on what they understood about Christ and His gospel at that moment. Unbelievers were told to believe to be saved (Cornelius, the jailer). The believing Jews on Pentecost were told to repent and be baptized. The repentant believer Saul was told to be baptized.
These lost souls were saved when they believed and obeyed what they were told they must do. That is how we are saved by grace, through faith. God saves us when we have the faith to do what must be done (what He commands) to be saved.
(Current events in the light of Scripture)
The Bible and World Book Day
You may have missed the news that Thursday, April 23 is designated “World Book Day” by the United Nations. It was officially proclaimed “World Book and Copyright Day” by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in 1995. The proclamation reads in part:
Considering that historically books have been the most powerful actor in the dissemination of knowledge and the most effective means of preserving it,
Considering consequently that all moves to promote their dissemination will serve not only greatly to enlighten all those who have access to them, but also to develop fuller collective awareness of cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire behaviour based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue,
Considering that one of the potentially most effective ways to promote and to disseminate books as shown by the experience of several UNESCO Member States is the establishment of a ‘Book Day’ and the organization of events such as book fairs and exhibitions on the same day…
(Proclamation of 23 April ‘World Book and Copyright Day,’ adopted 15 Nov 1995, UNESCO Digital Library)
Today, it is strictly illegal to possess a Bible in 13 countries, and highly restricted in 15 more (Bibles: Dangerous, Illegal, Covert). Of these 28 countries, all are member states of UNESCO. The hypocrisy of a World Book Day honoring the books of the world by countries that restrict and forbid the most popular book of all time is quite conspicuous.
Never take for granted the great blessing you have in possessing a Bible. Better still, cherish the honor you have to read it and follow it. Do not neglect it. The Bible has withstood every onslaught of the faithless. It is the inspired word of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17). It is a word that abides forever (1 Pet. 1:22-25). May we honor God’s book every day.
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 04/24/2020
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA