Category Archives: Fundamentalism

Tragedy in Paradise (Genesis 2-3)

Scripture reading – Genesis 2-3

Genesis 1:26-27 made us privy to a corporate decision of the Godhead that Adam would be created in the image of God. We read, “God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (1:26a). Notice that the plurality of the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, is indicated in Genesis 1:26a in two ways. In English, “God” appears to be singular; however, in Hebrew it is the plural name for God, “Elohim.” Another indication of the Godhead is the plural pronoun, “us.”

The image of God was not a physical likeness, for “God is a Spirit” (John 4:24). The body of man is lifeless, without God breathing into man “the breath of life” by which Adam “became a living soul” (2:7). The word, “breathed” (2:7), is the word used to describe a blacksmith using a bellows to rekindle a fire and increase the heat of the fire. When God breathed into Adam’s body, he imparted life into him, and man became a living soul, conscious of life and his Creator.

God not only gave Adam life, He also gave Him purpose.

As the federal head of the human race, Adam was commissioned to be a steward of God’s creation, and to “have dominion” (1:28), meaning to prevail and rule over, to harness and utilize earth’s resources. Adam was “to dress…and keep” the garden of Eden (2:15), signifying he was to garden and guard, thereby keeping God’s creation in perfect order. As a bountiful garden, Eden was to give man and beast “meat,” meaning food for life (1:29-30).

Adam was also instructed that he might eat of every tree in the garden (2:16), with one exception: “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (2:17).

Why did God put a tree in the garden, and then forbid Adam to eat its fruit?

The answer to that question deals with the nature of man. Adam was not a mindless robot; he was given the privilege of “free will.” He had the freedom and responsibility of free choice; the power to choose between rightand wrong (Gen. 2:9, 16-17).

For example, he was given the liberty to freely eat of any tree (1:29; 2:16), and to eat as much as he wanted, with one limitation: the fruit of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (2:17).

We do not know anything of the nature of that tree; however, we know in Eve’s opinion it was “good for food…pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise” (3:6). Nevertheless, the fruit of that tree was the one thing forbidden of Adam, and the only limitation God placed on his life (3:6).

The tree of knowledge of good and evil was the one place Adam could turn from God.

Adam may not have understood why the fruit of the tree was forbidden; however, it was an opportunity for him to choose to love and trust God.

Eve strayed from the loving boundaries God had placed on humanity, and Adam, as the federal head of the human race, made a decision that had a fatal consequence for all mankind: “He did eat” (3:6). Their consciences awakened to sin, and “the knowledge of good and evil” (2:17), for the first time, Adam and Eve felt shame and fear (3:7-10). God interrogated Adam, asking him, “Where art thou?” (3:9). Adam confessed, “I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself” (3:10).

The consequences of Adam’s sin were not limited to himself or his wife.

He was condemned for his disobedience, and its effect was immediate and far-reaching. His labor in this earthly life would be judged, and the fertile ground that had once brought forth a bounty of fruit, would be cursed, and choked with thorns and thistles (3:17-19). Without God’s intervention, Adam was a doomed soul, for the LORD had warned him, “thou shalt surely die” (2:17). In an act of grace, and loving compassion, God “made coats of skins, and clothed” Adam and Eve (3:21).

Adam’s Sin is Our Problem (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)

Adam was the first man, the head of the human race, and his nature, like his genetics, was passed from generation to generation. The apostle Paul write later: “21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:21–22). We read the warning, “For the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a); but those who accept Christ as Savior are promised, “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Roman 6:23b).

Romans 10:13 – For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

P.S. You are invited to join me on January 1, 2021, and begin a Two-Year Chronological Bible Reading Schedule that will take you from Genesis to Revelation. 2_year_chronological_Bible_schedule_2021

I plan to continue writing, and publishing daily, devotional commentaries at www.HeartofAShepherd.com. It is a long journey, but it is well worth the effort, on both our parts.

“In the Beginning God Created” (Genesis 1)

Scripture reading – Genesis 1

January 1, 2021 marks the start of a new journey, a new opportunity, and a new challenge as you are presented with an opportunity to subscribe to a two-year Scripture reading schedule that will take you through a chronological study of God’s Word, from Genesis to Revelation. Let the journey begin!

An Introduction to The First Book of Moses Called Genesis

The Bible is the most influential book in history, and Genesis is its foundation. Genesis explains the origin of all things, and is the basis of our understanding of the universe, the earth, its atmosphere, and life itself. For instance, Genesis 1:27 presents us with the complexity and uniqueness of man, who was created in the “image of God.”  The societal foundation of marriage and family are established in Genesis 2:24-25. Genesis 3 reveals the origin of sin and its consequences. The basis of language, culture, and the existence of the nations are all declared in Genesis. Genesis also unveils the commencement of God’s answer to man’s wickedness; a Son who would be born of Abraham’s lineage, through whom all nations and people would be blessed (Genesis 12), fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Warning: If you reject the Genesis account of creation you must reject the Bible!

The New Testament quotes from, or alludes to one hundred sixty-five passages in Genesis. In fact, there are more than one hundred direct quotes or references from Genesis 1-11 that are found the New Testament.

Genesis 1 – “In the Beginning God Created”

Creation declares the person and existence of the God of Creation (Romans 1:20-27), and what you believe concerning the existence, and the origin of life shapes your philosophy of life and worldview. Accepting or rejecting the Genesis account of Creation will influence the value you place on human life. If you believe, “God created man in His own image,” meaning His spiritual likeness (1:26-27), you must conclude that human life is sacred. Reject creation and you will come to the conclusion that the life of the unborn has little value.

Believe God is Creator, and the Genesis account of creation is true (Genesis 1), and you must accept that God has the sovereign authority to establish right and wrong, and define morality from immorality (1:29-31).

As you read the Genesis account of creation, you must come to a conclusion about the origin of life, and ask yourself, “Who can be trusted in the matter of the origin of life? Is evolution an unproven theory, or a scientific fact? Can you trust the Bible when it states simply, “In the beginning God created” (1:1)? Can the Bible and evolution co-exist?

The Biblical account of Creation offers no compromise with evolution, and evolution offers no compromise with the Biblical account of creation.

A literal interpretation of Genesis 1 must accept that God created the heaven and the earth in a literal six-day period (a day being 24 hours), and He rested on the seventh day (1:31-2:2). As Creator, God is Sovereign, and He is providentially involved in His creation, preserving and sustaining all the universe. “He looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven” (Job 28:24). “His eyes are upon the ways of man, and he seeth all his goings” (Job 34:21). “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3).

Because God is our Creator, He has authority to oversee every facet of our lives, and to reward, or punish as He deems just in His providential will. The psalmist declared, “Our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased” (Psalm 115:3).

Reject God as Creator, and inevitably, ungodliness will command the soul of not only an individual, but a nation (Romans 1:28-32).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

P.S. You are invited to join me on January 1, 2021, and begin a Two-Year Chronological Bible Reading Schedule that will take you from Genesis to Revelation. 2_year_chronological_Bible_schedule_2021

I plan to continue writing, and publishing daily, devotional commentaries at www.HeartofAShepherd.com. It is a long journey, but it is well worth the effort, on both our parts.

“That You May Know!” (1 John 1-5)

Scripture reading – 1 John 1-5

The First Epistle of John is believed to have been written near the close of the first century (scholars suppose between A.D. 85-90), and in the last years of the apostle’s life. Though John failed to identify himself by name, the beauty and style of the writing is similar to the Gospel of John (where John’s name also does not appear), as well as the Epistles of 2 John and 3 John.

In addition, the historical details presented in the introductory verses were written by a disciple who had intimate knowledge of our Lord. Consider the following eyewitness account regarding the historical evidences of Christ’s incarnation.

1 John 1:1 – “That which was from the beginning [Eternal God], which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life.” [note John 1:1-3, 14]

With an assertive, apostolic authority, John was writing to the children and grandchildren of first-generation believers. Their parents had been contemporaries of the apostles, and were probably among the first to come to Christ during the missionary travels of the apostle Paul and others. The generation receiving John’s letter would have heard firsthand accounts of Christ’s sufferings, crucifixion, death, and resurrection!

Already, persecution was an ever-present danger; however, there was a greater danger confronting the churches and that was the presence of false teachers within the congregations. There were some professing believers that had departed from the faith, and were tempting others to follow them.

John exposed the characteristics of those pseudo-believers, writing that they “walk in darkness…and do not the truth” (1:6). Some claimed to not be troubled by their sins, and John writes, “the truth is not in [them]”(1:8). Others professed they knew the Lord, but they did not obey His commandments, and John writes of them: He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (2:4).

There were those who claimed to love the Lord, but their lives evidenced a love for the world and its sinful pleasures. John rebuked their hypocrisy, writing, If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (2:15b).

Realizing there were some sincere believers who were troubled by those who departed from the faith, John declared, “19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (2:19).

John’s epistle was a clear rebuke to the false teachers, and those who were following them. His exposition of the fundamental doctrines of the faith, and the Christ-like traits that should be manifested in the lives of believers, was meant to give sincere believer’s discernment and confidence in their faith.

I close today’s devotional with one of the greatest statements on saving faith, and eternal life:

1 John 5:13 – “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Parting Words (2 Peter; Jude 1)

Scripture reading – 2 Peter 1-3; Jude 1

Today’s chronological reading brings us to two epistles, written by two different authors. The letter known as “The Second Epistle of Peter” (titled in some Bibles, “The Second General Epistle of Peter,” (general meaning it was not addressed to a specific individual or congregation), was written by the apostle Peter who was one of Christ’s twelve disciples.

The second letter is titled, “The General Epistle of Jude,” and bears the name of its author in the title. Bible historians are nearly unanimous in their opinion that Jude was the half-brother of Jesus Christ, the son of Joseph and Mary, and was the “brother of James” (Jude 1:1). This James was most likely the pastor\elder of the congregation in Jerusalem (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; Acts 12:17; 21:18-25; Galatians 1:19).

2 Peter probably predates Jude; however, both were likely written in the latter half of the 1st century, and to believers who found themselves in the throes of persecution. I fear 2 Peter and Jude are not well known in today’s churches; however, they are worthy of your time and attention. The scope of this devotional is limited to “The Second Epistle of Peter.”

2 Peter 1 – An Introduction

One senses an urgency in the opening verses of Peter’s brief letter, as he called on believers to grow spiritually, pressing them to manifest the godly virtues that should be evident in the lives of all believers (1:3-7). Impelled by the imminency of his own death, Peter wrote, “14 Knowing that shortly I must put off [lay aside] this my tabernacle [physical body], even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed [modeled; given a pattern] me” (1:14).

Leaving no doubt that he expected Christ’s prophecy of his martyrdom would soon come to pass (John 21:18-19), Peter continued, “15 Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance” (1:15).

2 Peter 2 – False Teachers and Their Heresies

Knowing he would not have another opportunity to address believers, Peter exhorted, and warned them of the dangers they would soon be facing. He warned that enemies of the Gospel, “false teachers,” would enter the congregations, and bring with them their “damnable heresies, even denying the Lord [Christ] that bought them [i.e. redeemed them with His blood], and bring upon themselves swift destruction [judgment]” (2:1).

Tragically, Peter prophesied that many believers would accept the heresies, and so doing would turn from the truth, and give themselves to all manner of immorality and wickedness (2:2). Those wicked teachers would enrich themselves, and with their lies and insincere professions of faith, would take advantage of ignorant, foolish believers (2:3, 19-22).

2 Peter 3 – The Second Coming of Jesus Christ

Peter concluded his last epistle, urging believers to remember the promise of Christ’s Second Coming, and warning that scoffers would come into their midst, and would question and ridicule the promise of Christ’s return. Wicked men would suggest that believers were vainly looking for Christ’s coming, telling lies and making the observation that nothing had changed, and “all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (3:4). Such falsehoods would lead some to stray from the truth, and be turned to sinful ways.

What do you believe regarding the promise that Jesus Christ will return for believers? Some might argue, “Well, the Church has been waiting for two thousand years, and nothing has changed. If Jesus is coming back, where is He?”

Peter answered that query, encouraging believers to look at life and eternity from God’s perspective. 

Earthly life is fleeting (“a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away,” James 4:14); however, the Lord is the God of eternity and “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (3:8). Fortunately for sinners, God is slow to judge, and is patient. He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (3:9).

If you have not accepted Jesus as your Savior, don’t presume upon His patience, or scoff and question, “Where is the promise of His coming?” (3:4).

He is coming, and we should always be ready and watching!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Keep the Faith! Wear Your Spiritual Combat Boots to the Grave! (2 Timothy 1-4)

Scripture reading – 2 Timothy 1-4

Our chronological reading schedule brings us to Paul’s final epistle, and his second letter to Timothy, whom he addressed as “my dearly beloved son” (1:2a). The date of 2 Timothy is presumed to be sometime between A.D. 65-68, and was written during Paul’s second imprisonment in Rome.

2 Timothy 1:1-12

Paul’s letter evidences the agape’, self-sacrificing love and concern that he had for Timothy, a man whom he loved as his spiritual son. The epistle was purposed to encourage the young preacher, and assure him of the apostle’s love, though he found his own ministry limited to Nero’s prison (1:2-4).

After affirming the sincerity of Timothy’s faith, and reminding him of his godly heritage (1:5), Paul began to challenge and exhort him to not lose heart: “Stir up [rekindle] the [spiritual] gift of God, which is in thee” (1:6). Take courage: “God hath not given us the spirit of fear” (1:7a). Don’t fall victim to shame, whether it is to give testimony for the Lord, or identify with Paul as “his prisoner” (1:8). Understand that preaching the Gospel will bring its share of “afflictions,” but accept them in “the power of God” (1:8b).

Paul reminded his “son in the faith,” of his own life and testimony as a “preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles (1:11). He declared, “12 For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (1:12).

2 Timothy 1:13-2:26 – The next verses and chapters build upon the responsibility that Timothy, and every other preacher of the Gospel bears.

The preacher is challenged to herald the Word of God with conviction (1:13), and not be deterred by adversaries (1:15). He is to “be strong” (2:1), “endure hardness” (2:3), be disciplined in studying the Scriptures (2:15), and not get entangled with foolish, pointless, vain conversations (2:16). He must not allow himself to be drawn into a quarrel or fight that has no righteous purpose (2:23).

2 Timothy 3

2 Timothy 3:1-9  describes the ungodliness, and wickedness that will be characteristic of the last days. Reflecting on his own life and ministry, Paul challenged Timothy to be a godly example, and be true to his godly heritage, and the Scriptures he had been immersed in since he was a child (3:10-17).

2 Timothy 4

Though he realized his life and ministry were in their twilight; Paul’s love for the Lord, his passion for the Gospel ministry, and his affection for the saints of God were undiminished (4:6-8).

He had suffered persecution, and knew the sorrow of desertion (4:10a, 16). He understood his death was imminent; however, he had experienced the Lord’s presence, and strength (4:17), and was confident the Lord would “preserve [him] (4:18a). Paul was determined that he would not quit until the Lord was finished with him and took him home to heaven (4:18b).

For nearly two millennium, Paul’s life, and the manner in which he approached his last days, has served as an inspiration to believers. The aged apostle left us not only an inspiring example, but a challenge to finish our course in life, and keep the faith (4:5-8)!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Dissension: How Might a Sinner Be Saved? (Acts 15-16)

Scripture reading – Acts 15-16

In our previous devotional (James 1-5), I introduced you to James, the author of the Epistle that bears his name. He was believed to be the half-brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:19), and the head of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 12:17). James will reappear in today’s Scripture reading in the role of the senior pastor\elder of the assembly in Jerusalem.

Today’s Scripture reading is a record of growth pangs in the first century church as the membership expanded from predominantly men of a Jewish ancestry, to a body of disciples that included Gentiles (15:1-3). There were some believers who had been saved out of the Pharisaical teachings of Judaism, and they insisted that if Gentile believers were not circumcised, they could not be saved (15:1).

After Paul and Barnabas faced a major insurrection in the assembly in Antioch over the subject of circumcision, it was determined that they, along with other men, should “go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about [the] question” (15:2). The same debate soon raged in Jerusalem as believers “of the sect of the Pharisees” maintained that Gentile believers must be circumcised to be saved and commanded “to keep the law of Moses” (15:5).

The apostles and elders, had soon after gathered as representatives of the congregation, and listened as the dispute over circumcision erupted (15:6-7a). Peter finally arose, and declared what had already been agreed upon (15:7b) when Cornelius, a Roman centurion had heard the Gospel, believed, and God gave him and believers of his household the indwelling of the Holy Ghost (Acts 10:1-48).

Peter observed how God had “put no difference” between the men of Jewish ancestry, and those who were Gentile. All sinners come to salvation by faith (15:9).  Peter declared, whether Jew or Gentile, “we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved” (15:11). The people fell silent, as Paul and Barnabas shared how God had validated their preaching and teaching by “miracles and wonders” that only the LORD could have produced (15:12).

James, whom I believe was the senior pastor\elder of the Jerusalem congregation (Galatians 1:19), after hearing Paul and Barnabas’ report, was in agreement with Peter (i.e. Simeon, 15:14). He counseled the leaders of the church to accept the doctrine of salvation by grace though faith alone, and not overburden Gentile believers with instructions that were not required for salvation (15:19-21).

There was a consensus to accept James’ summary, and to send two men of the Jerusalem congregation with a letter of exhortation (15:20, 22-23). The letter urged Gentile believers to: “Abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye do well” (15:29).

I close inviting you to consider four effects of the letter to the Antioch congregation:

There was rejoicing (15:31), exhortation and affirmation (15:32), Silas remained in Antioch and would become a missionary peer of Paul’s (15:34), and “teaching and preaching the word of the Lord” increased as “many others also” became teachers and preachers (15:35).

What a wonderful conclusion! From dissension to rejoicing; however, a controversy was about to separate Paul and Barnabas (15:36-41). I will leave that subject for another time, and another year.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Four Spiritual Principles for Ministry and Missions (Acts 13-14)

Scripture reading – Acts 13-14

While the inception of the Great Commission was found in Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8, the birth of missions is recorded in Acts 13-14. I invite you to consider some simple, but central principles for missions found in Acts 13. 

The first, God calls to missions those who are serving (Acts 13:1).  Barnabas and Saul (i.e. Paul, Acts 13:9) were named among the “prophets and teachers” who were at Antioch (13:1). When God called that dynamic duo of preachers to be ordained and sent out by the church in Antioch, they were numbered among those who “ministered to the LORD” (13:2).

A second principle of missions is that Gods call is specific (13:2).  We read, “the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them” (13:2). There were many serving in the church at Antioch; however, the Holy Spirit explicitly called Barnabas and Saul to a specific ministry: “for the work whereunto I have called them” (13:2b).

The third principle of missions is separation (13:2-3).  A call to missions will often mean a parting, a separation, from home, family, friends, aspirations, and comforts. Barnabas and Saul’s departure would be defined by seas, distant lands, hardships, persecutions, and adversaries.

A fourth principle of missions is that the leaders of the church sanctioned and confirmed Gods call on Barnabas and Saul.  We read, “when they [the church and its leaders] had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away” (13:3).

Called by the Holy Ghost, set apart for service, and ordained by the elders of the church in Antioch, Barnabas and Saul, accompanied by John Mark (13:5), set sail for the island of Cyprus (13:4-6). They traveled the island, preaching the “the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews” (13:5). There is a subtle change in the leadership of the missions team that began as “Barnabas and Saul” (13:2), and came to be identified as “Paul and his company” (13:13). Soon after the change in leadership, John Mark left the team, and returned to his home in Jerusalem where his mother resided (13:13; note Acts 12:25). We are not told why John Mark departed, but it will later be revealed that his departure would become a catalyst for Paul and Barnabas to divide their team and go their separate ways (15:36-41).

Unlike Paul and Barnabas who were faithfully serving in the church in Antioch when God called them, I fear many 21st century believers are content to be spiritual spectators. The questions Paul expressed in Romans 10 should haunt us all.

Romans 10:14-15a – “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15  And how shall they preach, except they be sent?”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“The World Always Has Room for One More Servant” (Luke 22; John 13)

Scripture reading – Luke 22; John 13

The setting of today’s Scripture reading (Luke 22 and John 13) is our LORD’S final observance of the “Feast of Unleavened Bread” and the Passover with His disciples (Luke 22:1; John 13:1).

Judas had agreed with the chief priests, to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (Luke 22:2-5), fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah: “So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver” (Zechariah 11:12b).

John 13 – “His hour was come”

Jesus was mindful that the day had come when He would be betrayed, and die on the Cross (13:1). Moved by His love for sinners, He would soon express that love in His suffering, humiliation, and death (13:2).

When the Passover supper was ended, Jesus rose from the table, laid aside His robe, girded Himself in a towel, and began to wash the feet of His disciples (13:4). Although an awkward moment, the disciples allowed Jesus to wash their feet. When He came to Peter, he objected to this act of servitude and asked, “Lord, dost thou wash my feet?” (13:6)

Foot washing was a cultural practice in that day, as households lacked plumbing and running water. Wealthy citizens of towns and villages bathed in public baths, and after walking home on dusty streets, were met by a household servant who washed their feet in a basin of water and dried them with a towel. Washing feet was the work of the lowest servant of a household.

Remember, as Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, among them was Judas, the one who would betray Him that night! It was one thing to stoop and wash the feet of His disciples; however, to wash the feet of an enemy was an act of love and grace! (13:2, 11)

Consider three spiritual lessons from today’s Scripture:

Salvation: The disciples believed Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God; however, not all believed.  Judas rejected Jesus Christ and his lack of faith forever damned his unbelieving soul (13:10-11).

Sanctification:  Jesus washing the feet of His disciples is a reminder that a believer needs daily cleaning from sin.  The apostle John would write, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Service (13:1, 5, 12-16). To bear a servant’s towel requires at least three things in my estimation:

Persevering love: Jesus “loved his own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end [continually; to the uttermost]” (13:1).

Unpretentious humility: Jesus washed “the disciples’ feet [and] wiped them with the towel wherewith he was girded” (13:5). Paul exhorted believers in Philippi to follow Christ’s example of humility: “Let this mind [attitude] be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus… 7 [Who] took upon him the form of a servant [slave], and was made in the likeness of men [became man]” (Philippians 2:5, 7b).

Enduring commitment to follow Christ’s example.  Jesus commanded His disciples: “If I then, yourLord and Master [teacher], have washed your feet; ye also ought [duty, obligation] to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (13:14-15).

The world will always make room for one more servant

Will you be that servant?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Hypocrites, Hypocrites, Hypocrites! (Matthew 23; Luke 20-21)

Daily reading assignment – Matthew 23; Luke 20-21

The setting of today’s Scripture reading, Matthew 23 and Luke 20-21, is in the midst of the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry. He and His disciples are on a path that was pre-ordained by God, and will culminate on Friday, the Day of the Passover, with Judas betraying Jesus, leading to the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of our LORD. The focus of today’s devotional commentary is Matthew 23.

Matthew 23 – The Final Public Sermon

Matthew 23 sets the stage for our LORD’S final sermon, an open confrontation with His adversaries, that was addressed to a multitude of souls gathered to hear Him teach (23:1). Aware His enemies were plotting to kill Him, Jesus did not shy from boldly exposing the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees who, asserting themselves to be authorities in matters of the Law, were described as sitting “in Moses’ seat” (23:2).

“Hypocrites…Hypocrites…Hypocrites” is a recurring label that Jesus attached to those religious leaders (23:13-15, 23, 25, 27-29). He exposed them as frauds, whose interpretations of the Law lacked mercy and were “heavy burdens and grievous to be borne” (23:4a) by the people. The hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees was that, while they demanded much of the people, they themselves failed to follow their own interpretations (23:4b).

What motivated those religious hypocrites to exceed the loving simplicity of God’s Law, with demands that were a grief to the people? Jesus proceeded to answer that question with a series of examples that might be summed up with one word: PRIDE (23:5-12).

Proud religious leaders lack humility, and demand to be seen, heard, and elevated in the eyes of men.

Those hypocritical Pharisees wore enlarged phylacteries, leather boxes containing portions of Scripture (Exodus 13:1-10; 13:11-16; Deuteronomy 6:4-9, and Deuteronomy 11:13-21), and enlarged “the borders [or tassels] of their garments” to draw attention to themselves (23:5). When they attended banquets and feasts, they ascertained their rightful place was the most conspicuous places (23:6a). When they attended the synagogue, they demanded the most prominent seats, eager for all to see their piety. When they were in the marketplace, they craved the attention of the people, and loved to be called, “Rabbi, Rabbi” (“teacher, teacher” or “master, master” – 23:7).

Rather than pointing men to a closer walk with God, those religious hypocrites desired to build a loyal following for themselves (23:8-11).

Let us take a moment and consider the wicked propensity of hypocrites in first century Israel, and translate their practice and ways to our day. Internet blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and emails can be amazing tools when employed for good, but the temptation to misuse them has become legendary. Rather than humility, men and women are using the electronic mediums of our day, demanding to be heard and seen, that they might earn a following. Rather than phylacteries on their foreheads and long tassels on their robes, they boast their “Friends” on Facebook, and their “Followers” on Twitter and Blogs.

Tragically, the principle of doing all things for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31), and “for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12), has been sacrificed by hypocritical self-promoters and those who follow them.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith