I am sure we are familiar with the words of Christ in Matthew 5:23-24 where He said if someone was going to offer something to God, but remembers that he needs to correct something between him and a brother, he needed to take care of this first and then offer the gift. This is similar to what Moses taught in Leviticus 6:1-7! God said if a man has sinned against his brother (v. 2-4), he needed to “make restitution” and then come to God and offer his sacrifice (v. 6). Only after this has happened will God forgive the man (v. 7). When reading Leviticus (and Exodus), we see where God demands men make restitution for their sins and not merely check something off of their proverbial “checklist.”
In this text, God taught men the proper order of things. It was not appropriate for the man to offer a sacrifice to God and then worry about the neighbor later, if ever. I am reminded of passages such as James 3:9-10 and I John 4:20-21 that tell us how we ought to treat our fellow man, God’s creation. The point is made by asking how can we mistreat someone on earth but proclaim our love for the Creator? We shout our love for a God we hadn’t seen, but our hatred for the people we do! Something is not right about that!
Turn your attention to Leviticus 6:1-7 again and notice the pains God expected this person to take in order to be right with his neighbor. Only by first making corrections with his neighbor could he go to the Father and offer his trespass offering and expect it to be accepted. He could not “skip a step”!
Dear one, do you have something between a brother or sister that you need to correct? What is stopping you from taking care of it? I ask this, not because we live under the Old Testament, but because we live under the New! Jesus taught this same principle we read in Leviticus 6. Even in Matthew 18:15, He makes a point of saying if you have some trespass (sin) against another, then go and deal with it one-on-one and try to gain a brother. How many problems might be avoided, how many misunderstandings and hurt feelings might be resolved if we dealt with the person one-on-one instead of telling the “world” about the issue or speaking in vague ways on social media about the person?
In like manner, how many relationships might have been salvaged in Moses’ day if people did what was taught in Leviticus 6 and they tried to make it right between themselves? The Old Testament has much to teach us (Rom. 15:4). Are we listening?
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Interruptions are frustrating, aren’t they? Interruptions might slow us down or even stop us from doing what we’d planned to do. Someone has said that we ought not to be so frustrated by interruptions. Perhaps it is that this is the time God wants us to slow down and reconsider our plans. I’m not sure we could say that’s true for every interruption, but perhaps this observation has some merit on occasions when God’s providence is at work.
Have we ever noticed that Jesus was interrupted a lot in His work? One such interruption came in Mark 5:21-43. After Jesus returned from Gadara, on the east side of the Sea of Galilee, He was met by a great crowd. Jairus, one of the rulers of the synagogue, fought the people to ask Christ to heal his daughter, who was very sick (v. 23). As Jesus traveled to Jairus’ house, a lady who’d been stricken with illness for 12 years came to Him and touched the hem of his garment for healing (v. 28-29).
Her act stopped Jesus. It interrupted the trip to Jairus’ house in that moment. Her action wasn’t unknown to Jesus. He is God and knows all (Jn. 2:25, 6:64; Acts 15:18; Heb. 4:13). His question to her wasn’t unlike the question God asked in the Garden (Gen. 3:9). His question caused her to stop and she confessed to what she had done when she interrupted Him (Mk. 5:33).
Notice Christ’s response to this lady. “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace and be whole of thy plague” (Mk. 5:34). This interruption did more than just stop Jesus. It allowed Him to do some vital teaching. In this account, He taught the apostles, and teaches us!
What does Christ teach us in Mark 5? He teaches us that the faith that saves isn’t merely a mental assent. If this woman had stood out of the way and merely stated her belief to others that Jesus could heal her, it would’ve done nothing for her. She had to act! James teaches us the same truth when he declares, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (Jas. 2:24) and “faith without works is dead” (Jas. 2:26)!
When we study this short but powerful interruption, we see a woman who definitely believed that Jesus is the Son of God. This is why she decided to go and meet Jesus. She fought the crowd (Mk. 5:27). She reached for Christ’s garment (Mk. 5:28), trusting that even to touch His garment meant healing. Later, she’d confess what she did (Mk. 5:33). Therefore, after she’d believed and acted on this faith by going to where Jesus was, fighting the crowds, and touching His garment, she then confessed her faith to Christ. In response, Jesus commended her saying, “Thy faith hath made thee whole” (Mk. 5:34).
Yes, friends, the faith that saves is the faith that obeys! It motivates us to act when we might not have acted otherwise. This is Bible faith! Do you have Bible faith? If not, why not? Without this, we can’t please God (Heb. 11:6). How do we get such faith? Faith comes by hearing God’s word (Rom. 10:17), and then this faith grows by being exercised (Heb. 11; Rom. 16:1-15)! What kind of faith do you have? Is it living or dead (Jas. 2:26)? Are we acting on our faith as the woman did in Mark 5, or are we too afraid?
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
The book of Mark is the shortest book of those comprising the “gospel records.” It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that Mark doesn’t wait long before showing us the opposition Jesus faced in His preaching. In Mark 2, we see scribes and Pharisees opposing Him and His work. Among their common complaints was that Jesus associated with sinners. Mark 2:15-17 says, “And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his (Matthew’s, JMJ) house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
Seeing as Jesus just invited a publican (Matthew) to follow Him (Mk. 2:14), it shouldn’t be a surprise that when Jesus went to Matthew’s house, publican friends would be invited to listen to Jesus! Jesus treated this man just as He had earlier treated four fishermen (Mk. 1:16-20). He simply requested that they “follow Him.” This would change their lives far beyond anything we could describe on this page.
The point being that Jesus looked at five sinners (Rom. 3:23) and saw not what they were, but what they could become! He saw people who’d do much good for the Lord’s cause and kingdom, but they had to be taught! Jesus was willing to teach. In fact, Jesus was willing to teach all that would listen to Him. This is why we see multitudes coming to Him and listening (Mk. 1:28, 33, 37, 45, 2:1-2, 13, etc.).
In contrast, the scribes and Pharisees had no time, no compassion, and gave no thought to the lives and concerns of the sinners around them. I’m reminded of Christ’s parable in Luke 18:11-12. Therefore, when they saw Jesus spending time with publicans, sinners, and the like, this was scandalous to them! If He claims to be God’s prophet, and people claim He is the Messiah, surely even He would know the kind of people He is around! (For more study, please read Luke 7:36-50 and see the attitude of Simon toward Christ.)
In Mark’s short book, we see Christ’s attitude toward sinners as one of respect, one of compassion, and one of love. He never berated them for their bad decisions or sins. He never acted as if they were beneath Him (though they were -- all of us are!). He did, however, tell the truth and told it unapologetically. He told the truth in a manner that they (and all) could understand. Please read Mark 2:15-17 and see that when Jesus was criticized for even associating with publicans, sinners, and others, His answer was not a defense of their sin. He didn’t say, “At least they’re not hypocrites!” as some might’ve been tempted to say. His answer was straight-forward: “they need Me!”.
Notice Jesus called them sick. He called them sinners and said they needed to repent (Mk. 2:17)! Can you imagine such language coming from the lips of the Lord? Yet, there it is. What impresses me is that these people seemed to follow Him in greater numbers the longer He was on earth. What had Jesus done? As we observe Jesus in Mark 2 and the rest of the book, we see Someone who showed compassion (Mk. 1:41, 5:19, 6:34, 8:2). He saw people who needed direction (Mk. 6:34) and saw sinners who needed salvation. The people responded to this genuine action and listened intently. What Jesus said in Mark 2:17 was not “new news” to them. They knew they were in sin, and now they knew that they had come to the right Person who could bring them salvation!
What can I learn from this short reading? I can learn first to not be like the scribes and Pharisees. No one is “beneath” you. All of us have sinned (Rom. 3:23). If you’ve been saved from your sins, then thank God for the salvation (Lk. 19:10; Mk. 16:16)! When you see people who aren’t saved, realize that you were in their shoes not that long ago. Someone loved you enough to tell you the truth. Now, love them enough to do the same (II Tim. 2:2; Eph. 4:15)!
The second lesson I learn in Mark 2:15-17 is to be like Jesus in my speech! Folks who are in sin need to know it! Friend, “no greater injustice can be done to a person than to leave them with the impression they are saved, when in fact, they aren’t!” Jesus called the people sick, sinners, and in need of salvation. This is precisely what they needed to hear. If they hadn’t been told this, they might’ve left the presence of Jesus thinking that they were just fine. Dear one, when you talk to someone about their soul, remember that this part needs to be said. You can talk about the weather, crops, children, the government, and 1000 other things, but if you miss the chance to talk to someone about his soul, you’ve missed it! There’s nothing more important than the condition of one’s soul (Matt. 16:26)! Pleasant smiles, hugs, and being neighborly will mean little when on Judgment, they look at you and say in so many words, “You met me day by day and knew I was astray, yet you never mentioned Him to me!” I would much rather thousands of people on Judgment Day cry that I told them about Jesus and warned them about sin but hurt their feelings than to have one person say, “You never mentioned Him to me!” What about you?
A third thing I learn from Jesus was even when He spoke of people being sick and sinners, He didn’t seem happy about it! May we never take a condescending view of others in sin (Matt. 7:12, 22:39; Gal. 6:1; Jas. 5:19-20; etc.). As we noted earlier, it wasn’t that long ago that we were in their position as well.
Lastly, I have to note that the message of Christ was a message for all. While it would’ve been easy for the Pharisees, scribes, and others to listen to Mark 2:17 and then think, “OK, this is why Jesus is with them.” If we listen closely to the response, it was actually a rebuke to those people as well. Think about it! Jesus said He came to call the sinners to repentance. Amen. Was He not also preaching to the Pharisees, scribes, and others when He was preaching those three years? Was there ever a time from Matthew-John where Jesus stopped His preaching to say, “Scribes and Pharisees, what I’m about to say doesn’t apply to you”? Jesus’ attitude was that those self-righteous people were as guilty of sin as the rest (Mk. 7:6-9)! They needed the same message because they needed the same Savior! Jesus suffered as a sacrifice for all men, not just for the ones on the “wrong side of the tracks”! They would’ve understood Jesus’ message here if they’d cared to listen, instead of wasting time pointing their fingers at others!
Much more could be said, but take what we’ve learned here and think seriously about our attitude. What kind of attitude are we displaying? Who’ve we told about Jesus this week? What efforts do we make to bring others to the Lord, beginning with those under our own roof (Eph. 6:4; Titus 2:3-5)? Think seriously about this, my friend, because the souls of those we love as well as our own souls hang in the balance (Ezek. 33:7-9)!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
The final words of the epistles interest me. I think about these men and think, “If I was writing a letter to these churches or individuals, what would I say at the end of the letter to leave a lasting impression?” Of course, these letters are inspired by the Holy Spirit (II Pet. 1:20-21), but still, each letter must end. II Peter 3:18 is the end of Peter’s message “to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 1:1). How fitting that after telling these people they need to be reminded of the truth, after warning them about false teachers and preparing for the end of the world, Peter says essentially, “While we are on earth, keep growing!”
In this study, I want us to focus on the first part of Peter’s statement in II Peter 3:18. Growing in grace is something that all Christians need to do. Perhaps some folks think God’s grace is reserved for the non-Christian who needs to be saved. Actually, the saved and the unsaved need God’s grace. In the case of the Christian, Peter says we must “grow” in that grace. What do these words mean?
The word “grace” comes from the Greek word “Charis” which means, “good-will, lovingkindness, favor .... is used of kindness of a master towards his inferiors or servants, and so esp. of God toward men .... kindness which bestows upon one what he hasn’t deserved .... pre-eminently of that kindness by which God bestows favors even upon the ill-deserving, and grants to sinners pardon of their offenses, and bids them accept of eternal salvation through Christ” (Thayer’s, p. 666). Some have shortened the definition of grace to mean simply “unmerited favor.” The word “grow” means what we think it means, the original word means, “enlarge or increase” (Strong’s). Mr. Thayer adds to the definition of “grow” by including “augment, become greater.”
Thus, there is a call and command for Christians to increase, enlarge, or become greater concerning God’s favor. The Christian needs to grow closer in relationship to God rather than farther away (Jas. 4:8). The Christian is the one who should realize how much he indeed relies on God’s grace or favor. We are sinners that have been forgiven (Acts 2:38), and now we must grow and continue to resist temptations daily (Jas. 1:14-15, 4:7). Therefore, if you feel like you’re getting farther from God instead of closer to Him, check your growth! Are you growing in the right direction? Let us increase in this grace, and understand that we will not get to Heaven without it!
How do we “grow in grace”? Peter says we need to stand in the true grace of God (I Pet. 5:12). The word “stand” in this text is not a one-time event, but an ongoing effort. We need to beware of the dangers of falling from grace (Gal. 5:4). We also need to spend time in God’s book (Eph. 3:4, 5:17; II Tim. 2:15) that we might know what God wants and be encouraged to grow as we need to grow! Don’t forget II Peter 1:5-11 and what we need to do to make our “calling and election sure.” These are necessary actions that we might grow in God’s grace.
Don’t believe the lie where people charge, “You people in the church of Christ don’t teach about grace.” The truth is, when you preach the gospel of Christ, I don’t know how you can keep from teaching on grace! Every aspect of the gospel is a product of God’s grace, His unmerited favor! It is a fact that God’s grace justifies (Titus 3:7; Rom. 3:24), it produces redemption (Eph. 1:7), and we who are Christians need to “grow in grace”! How are you doing in this area?
- Jarrod M. Jacob
Peter, by inspiration, gives Noah a unique description. He calls Noah a “preacher of righteousness” in II Peter 2:5. The word “preacher” in this text means what we think it means. “Preacher” is from the Greek word meaning, “herald of divine truth” (Strong’s). Is this the usual picture we have in our minds when we think of Noah? If not, it should be!
Noah is well-known as the man who “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:9). God instructed him to build an ark so that he might save his family from the coming Deluge (Gen. 6:14; Heb. 11:7). The Ark he built sometime in the years between his 500th and 600th birthday (Gen. 5:32, 7:11), served the purpose of saving land animals as well as the humans that chose to join him (Gen. 6:19-22, 7:2-3, 7-9; I Pet. 3:20). Again, when we think about Noah, we might think “obedience,” or “shipwright” or “faithful,” or other worthy descriptions, but when was he ever a “preacher”?
Perhaps our confusion on this subject results from the fact that we forget that we’re not told about Noah until he was 500 years old (Gen. 5:32). What was he doing during the five centuries prior to the Ark? Was he following in the example of great-grandpa Enoch (Gen. 5:22-24; Heb. 11:5; Jude 14-15)? Was he warning people about their wickedness and sin? We are not told explicitly, but praise such as “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:9) does not come for no reason!
Don’t forget that Noah built the Ark during his 500th and 600th year (Gen. 5:32, 7:11). Since folks hadn’t seen such a thing before (Heb. 11:7), if they came to Noah and asked what he was doing, was this not an “open door” to preach and warn people about what was to come? I think he did a lot of preaching in those years!
Lastly, once off of the Ark, what do we see Noah doing? The first thing he did was stop and worship God (Gen. 8:20). Wouldn’t the preaching of Noah have to continue? He lived another 350 years after the Flood (Gen. 9:28-29)! Therefore, he had to tell future generations who had not been on the Ark about God’s covenant (Gen. 9:8-11), the rainbow’s connection (Gen. 9:12-17), not to murder (Gen. 9:6), not to eat blood (Gen. 9:4), not to mention God’s plan for marriage (Gen. 2:18-25) and many other things. As patriarch, he would have had such a responsibility to warn and instruct.
When thinking about it in this light, how could we not think of Noah as a preacher? He knew what God said, and he spoke it and lived it before the people. Noah’s righteous example was recorded for us to follow (Rom. 15:4). We need to be preaching God’s word (II Tim. 2:2). We need to speak it and live it daily. We have many to influence and bring to the Lord before the coming destruction -- not by water, but by fire (II Thess. 1:6-9)! Are you preaching like Noah?
- Jarrod M. Jacobs