I can remember not long after I started in my first “full-time” work, I encountered a few brethren who took the position that the “red letters” in the Bible were more important than the “black letters.” In other words, we ought to give greater emphasis to the words Christ spoke on earth than to anything else in the New Testament. To them, the epistles, etc., were of lesser value than Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Perhaps you have heard of people who have taken such a position. Until that time, I had not heard of such a belief. This may seem to have a noble aspect because people wish to place greater emphasis on Christ’s words, but the noble intention has many glaring errors.
First of all, it is a strange position to hold because red-letter Bibles were not published until 1901! What about the people from the 1800s and back to the second century? Were they unable to determine the “important words” because their Bibles weren’t typed with red letters? Second, if the words of Christ (in red letters) have a greater impact than what the apostles said, what about the fact that Christ told them He was not able to tell them everything because they weren’t ready? He then promised the Holy Spirit to come and “guide” them into “all truth” (Jn. 16:12-13)? So, the apostles didn’t have all the truth when Christ was on earth, speaking in “red letters”! They did get all of it later (Acts 2:1-5; Gal. 1:12; etc.), yet somehow their words are not as important as what Christ said? This is a strange doctrine, indeed.
Not only is it a strange doctrine, but it also contradicts passages like II Peter 3:2. Peter told his readers that he wanted them to “be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior.” He would also later condemn people for twisting Paul’s words and put Paul’s words on an equal plain with “the other Scriptures,” i.e., the Old Testament Scriptures (II Pet. 3:16). This sounds nothing like what I was told about the importance of the “red letters”! Based on the truth Peter taught, let me ask a few questions.
- Jesus said the words He spoke were the words given to Him by the Father (Jn. 12:49-50). Do we now discount the words of Christ as “lesser” than the Father’s?
- The job of the apostles was to speak the words of Christ to the world (Matt. 28:19; Mk. 16:15; Jn. 14:26). When they did so, how were these words of lesser importance than Christ’s? They were Christ’s!
- Since the words of the apostles are equated with the words of the prophets of God (II Pet. 3:2), how can we say they are of lesser value or lesser importance than Christ’s?
- Please supply book, chapter, and verse where Jesus (while on earth) gave us: instructions on how to worship, instructions on the organization of the church, instructions on the work of the church, instructions on matters of faith vs. matters of opinion, insight into the conflict between the Jews and the Gentiles and how to be at peace, the meaning of His cross, etc. (Maybe I am seeing some people’s motivation for dismissing the “black-letters”! When we dismiss them, we dismiss all of these things as well!)
- Since Deity is actually behind the entire Bible (II Tim. 3:16-17; II Pet. 1:20-21), shouldn’t the whole Bible be “red-letter”?
Personally, I find the “red letter” Bibles distracting. I mainly preach out of Bibles that have only black letters. Friends, let us not ignore the words of the apostles, but realize that since these men were Christ’s ambassadors (II Cor. 5:20; Eph. 6:20), their words are as authoritative as Christ’s when it comes to doctrine and truth! Peter said we need to be listening to the commands of the apostles, and so let’s do that and be blessed (II Pet. 3:2)!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Nehemiah 5 records a sad event in the history of God’s people. As the wall was being built, and the people united against a common enemy, Nehemiah records that the “nobles and the rulers” (v. 7) were guilty of oppressing their countrymen. They did this by charging usury (KJV) or interest against their people. Think: Loan sharks!
The affected people came to Nehemiah, crying out against this treatment. Why had they gotten out of the bondage of Xerxes only to trade it for bondage to their brethren? Sons and daughters were sold into servitude so landowners could pay the interest they had accrued (Neh. 5:5). This was wrong, and Nehemiah condemned the “nobles and the rulers” for their behavior (Neh. 5:7, 9).
There had been a famine (Neh 5:3), and though there were people who needed to buy grain or other things, those making the loans could have left off charging their brethren interest (v. 10). Can you imagine the decline in morale as the work of wall-building is taking place, and then those trying to build the wall cannot work because of how their brethren are treating them! In this chapter, we see that it was not what Sanballat, Tobiah, and the others had done that was killing them. This issue was internal!
How are we treating our spiritual brethren? Christ says the world will know we are His disciples when they observe the love we show our brethren (Jn. 13:34-35). Loving the brethren is more than words. It is also action (I Jn. 3:18)! What does the world see in us? What do we see in each other (Phil. 2:3)? Friend, how can a man love God whom he hasn’t seen if he doesn’t love the brethren he has seen (I Jn. 4:20)?
Have we noticed that often we treat strangers better than we treat those we know the best? Just observe and contrast how we treat a stranger in town with how we treat a family member at home. Why the difference? Similarly, some treat their brethren in harsh ways. Do we backbite? Gossip? Treat them cruelly? Why is this? Aren’t we supposed to be heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17)? Why then, do brethren treat those we are supposed to spend eternity with worse than the people who have rejected God? Please understand, our work is to love all men without partiality (Jas. 2:8). So, why are we not completing our work?
Let’s take a moment for some self-examination (II Cor. 13:5). How are you treating your brethren? Are you treating them with love (Matt. 22:39)? Are you treating them as you want to be treated (Matt. 7:12)? If not, why not? Why are you not willing to treat those whom God loves with respect? Don’t act like the “nobles and the rulers” did. Instead, read Romans 12:9-21 and treat fellow-Christians in a manner that respects them and God!
I am thankful to see that when confronted by Nehemiah about their behavior, the “nobles and the rulers” repented (Neh. 5:11-12). What will we do if we examine ourselves (II Cor. 13:5; Jas. 1:22-25) and see that we are guilty?
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Nehemiah chapter three is one of those chapters that we are prone to skip over because of all of the names. I pray that you don't do this in your reading. As we read and apply the text to our lives today (Rom. 15:4), whether or not we pronounce the names correctly isn't the point. The point is to understand what was happening and how this affected the nation of Judah.
First, we see that when Nehemiah encouraged the people to “build up the wall of Jerusalem,” the people responded by saying, “let us rise up and build” (Neh. 2:17-18)! Nehemiah three records that these people were more than just “talk”! They went into action! They didn’t allow days and months to go by before they started. They started repairing the walls immediately!
A second thing we see is that these people did the work in pieces that could be handled by each respective family. One family didn’t rebuild one-half of the wall or take on more than they could handle. Each family took a section that they could handle and began the work! There was much to do, and as the old saying goes, “Many hands make for light work.” This was the case here. All the people united in a common goal and made the work much easier to handle.
Nehemiah 3:12 mentions the fact that Shallum’s daughters worked with their father to help rebuild the walls. I think this is significant. These daughters deserve special praise for the work they did in helping to finish a job that God wanted them to do.
I hope that these statements will stir our minds to make applications to ourselves. No, we don’t have a wall to rebuild, but we do have work to do in God’s kingdom (I Cor. 15:58). We have daily work that needs to be done, and we need to make the effort! It’s one thing to “talk” about what needs to be done in the Lord’s kingdom, and it’s quite another thing to do it (Jas. 2:18-26)! Examine yourself, friend. Are you active in the Lord’s service, or are you just good at pointing out what needs to be done? Don’t be like the Pharisees (Matt. 23:3-4)!
Similarly, let’s remember that we all have work to do in the Lord’s kingdom (Gal. 6:9). It’s not laid at the feet of the preacher or elders or deacons alone. Yes, these men have work to be done in God’s kingdom just as everyone else does! We mustn’t shirk our duties, though, thinking someone else will do them. Our lack of action may be the point of weakness that Satan needs to tear down and destroy a life, or a family, or a church! Don’t be the weak link!
Just as Shallum’s daughters went out and worked as the sons did, let’s remember that in Christ, we are all one (Gal. 3:28). Yes, we have different roles to fulfill at times, but everyone who is a child of God is loved and respected by God and needs to be busy in His work! Far from being misogynistic, Paul speaks highly of his sisters in Christ. Let’s encourage our sisters and our brothers in the Lord to do the work God demands.
You won’t get out of this world alive, but you can leave this world ready for the next. Are you ready (II Cor. 6:2)? What do you need to do to get ready (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38)? Do as the Jews in Nehemiah’s day did (Neh. 3). Stop wasting time and get busy with the Lord’s work!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
After Haman’s plans for killing the Jews, including Esther, were revealed (Est. 7:6), things moved very quickly. Mordecai’s enemy ended up hanging from the gallows he had made for him (v. 10). Not only this, but the ring Haman once wore was given to Mordecai (Est. 8:2). The position once held by Haman, Mordecai now held. The entire population of Jews, once oppressed, were allowed weapons and to have a fair fight against the Persians (Est. 8:11-12, 9:2-3). Yes, God in His providence caused a complete reversal in the plans of Haman “the enemy of the Jews.”
This is not the only time we read about this happening. When Jesus spoke about the eternal destiny of the rich man and Lazarus, we find another time when things were reversed (Lk. 16:19-31). Specifically, Abraham reminds the rich man, “Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented” (v. 25). Upon analyzing the context, we see many “reversals” that took place between the rich man and Lazarus. Just like Haman and Mordecai, many things changed between them. I marvel at this because perhaps those five brothers he left behind thought of their brother as a godly man and one bound for eternal bliss. God knew what was going on “behind the scenes,” and this man got what he deserved. In reality, the rich man and Lazarus experienced a true reversal from what they had experienced on earth.
The most significant reversal of all was the reversal Christ performed when He made salvation possible through His death, burial, and resurrection (Matt. 26:28; Col. 1:14, 20; Heb. 9:28; I Jn. 2:2; Rom. 6:2-6, 16-18; I Pet. 3:21). Satan thought that he had won. He had succeeded in tempting the first people to sin (Gen. 3:1-6). They sinned, and we have had to live with the consequences on this earth ever since (Gen. 3:16-24). Satan then tempted Cain (Gen. 4:1-11), Abraham (Gen. 12, 20), Moses (Num. 20), David (II Sam. 11-12), and every other man and woman on earth (Rom. 3:23)! He succeeded in getting humanity to sin and to jeopardize their souls before God.
Satan seemed to be winning until Christ came to earth! At that time, we see a reversal taking place. Christ was tempted like others, but did not yield (Matt. 4:1-11; Lk. 4:1-13; Heb. 4:15). He “did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth” (I Pet. 2:22). Furthermore, when He died, He did not die in sin but died to be a sacrifice for others’ sins (I Pet. 3:18). Where Adam brought death, we see that Christ brings life (I Cor. 15:22). Yes, a complete reversal is possible in Christ!
Are you ready for a new beginning? Are you ready for “light, and gladness, and joy, and honor” (Est. 8:16)? Spiritually, you can have these things by following the Lord and doing what He says. Become a Christian (Acts 11:26; Mk. 16:16). Live faithfully for the Lord (I Cor. 15:58), and you can look forward to Heaven (another reversal from life on earth) when this life is over (Matt. 25:34)!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
In an earlier study, we saw that the city of Shushan was “perplexed” when Haman’s law was passed (Est. 3:15). Later in this book, we read about how Shushan “rejoiced and was glad” when Mordecai’s decree was given (Est. 8:15). Why this difference? How could the city go from being “perplexed” to being “glad”?
Put simply; it had to do with who was in charge! Solomon said, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Prov. 29:2). This was the experience of the people of Shushan, and all Persians in those days. When Haman, “the Jews’ enemy” ruled, the people were the ones who suffered for it. Yet, when a change in leadership occurred, it resulted in a change in the people (Est. 8:15)!
The same is true today. No doubt, this is at least part of the reason why God tells us through the apostle Paul to pray for our civil leaders. Specifically, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (I Tim. 2:1-2). Why do we care about who our leaders are? Why do we pray for these people? It is because as the leader goes, so goes the nation! When God-fearing people rule, the country can rejoice and be at peace. When the wicked rule, it is the opposite! Solomon knew it, and these people lived it! They knew the truth about living under a dictator like Haman versus living under a ruler who loved them, like Mordecai.
Are you praying for the leaders of our city, county, state, and country? If not, why not? Do we pray for God’s guidance and God’s providence over this great land? We better get busy! Pushing God out of our lives will bring nothing but sorrow and hardship.
- Jarrod M. Jacobs