Category Archives: Law

Human Life is Sacred: Thou Shalt Not Kill! (Job 10)

Scripture reading – Job 10; (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17)

Note from the Author: This is a bonus devotional from today’s Scripture reading, Job 9-10. My earlier writing focused entirely on Job 9; however, I feel the central theme of Job 10 is too important for us not to take a moment to consider the sanctity (sacredness) of human life (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17).

Job 10:1-6 – Job’s Petition

Job’s reply to Bildad continued in Job 10, and he confessed to God what many have felt when besieged with trials and beset by troubles: “My soul is weary of my life” (10:1a).

Job’s statement was not a threat of suicide, but an honest, transparent complaint that the sorrows and losses he had experienced had taken their toll on him physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Distressed in his soul, Job prayed, “Do not condemn me,” do not abandon me; show me why you have allowed such hardship and difficulties to fall upon me (10:2). Notice that Job’s appeal to His Creator was deeply personal, and he identified himself to the LORD as “the work of thine hands” (10:3b). He was not under any delusion that he merited God’s favor. In fact, the opposite was true. He acknowledged his “iniquity” and “sin” (10:6); however, he protested, “7Thou knowest that I am not wicked; And there is none that can deliver out of thine hand” (10:7).

Job 10:7-17 – Job’s Appeal to His Creator

The sanctity of human life is the central truth we find in these verses (10:7-17). Here is an inspiring passage that leaves no doubt that human life is consecrated from the moment of conception, and that God is intimately interested in each of us. From the unborn, to the very ancient among us, every human life is sacred, and conceived in the heart of God.

Notice Job’s description of God’s personal affection, and His attentiveness to everything about us:

Job 10:8–98Thine hands have made [shaped; formed] me and fashioned [created] me Together round about; yet thou dost destroy me. 9Remember, I beseech thee, that thou hast made [fashioned] me as the clay [an allusion to God creating Adam, Genesis 1:27; 2:7]; And wilt thou bring me into dust again? [implying death and decay]

God is not only the giver, and preserver of life; He is the gatekeeper for every trial and blessing that graces our lives.

Job 10:1212Thou hast granted [make; wrought; create] me life and favour [grace; loving-kindness], And thy visitation [lit. oversight] hath preserved [keep watch over] my spirit. 13And these things hast thou hid [treasured] in thine heart: I know that this is with thee.

David penned similar truths regarding the sacredness of human life, and acknowledged God as His Creator in Psalm 139:13-16.

Psalm 139:13–1613 For thou hast possessed [get; acquire] my reins [lit. kidneys; figuratively the mind; feelings]: thou hast covered [protect; defend] me in my mother’s womb [belly; bosom; body].
14 “I will praise [give thanks; confess] thee; for I am fearfully [amazingly; stand in awe or reverence] andwonderfully made [distinguish; uniquely; set apart]: marvellous [wonderful; distinguish; extraordinary; surpassing] are thy works [labor; i.e. needlework; deed]; and that my soul [life; person; being] knoweth [perceives; observes] right well [exceedingly; greatly].
15 My substance [bones and being] was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought [woven as a tapestry] in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Thine eyes did see [perceive; look; behold] my substance [might; body; frame; bones], yet being unperfect[embryo; unformed mass]; and in thy book [letter; scroll] all my members were written [described; lit. – all the days of my life were ordained], which in continuance [day; time; continually] were fashioned [formed, as a potter; to mold], when as yet there was none [i.e. not the first] of them [before one day of my life was past].”

God is your Creator, and He knows you personally, and intimately. He has followed your life from the moment you were conceived, and has kept you by His sovereign, providential care. In fact, He loves you so much that He has extended His grace to you, offering salvation and forgiveness of sin through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Will you accept Him as your Savior?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Tower of Babel and One Big Unhappy Family (Genesis 10-11)

Scripture reading – Genesis 10-11

The conflicts among the races and nations of the world have their origin in today’s Scripture reading (Genesis 10-11). Genesis 10 lists the descendants of Noah’s three sons and concludes by introducing us to Terah, the father of Abraham, the patriarch. We find in Genesis 10-11 the common kinship of all humanity, traced back to Noah’s three sons.

Genesis 10 is where God begins to deal with the Hebrew people through the lineage of Shem. Though the Old Testament focuses upon the history of Israel, and God’s dealing with His chosen people, nonetheless, the LORD never forsook humanity.

Genesis 10

Genesis 10 records the names of sixteen sons who were born to Noah’s three sons (and perhaps as many daughters). Genesis 10 registers seventy individual nations that emerged from Noah’s sons: fourteen associated with Japheth (10:2-5), thirty linked to Ham (10:25-27), and twenty-six from Shem (10:21-31).

Japheth, Noah’s oldest son, was the father of many Gentile nations (9:27; 10:2-5), among them the ancient empires of Persia, Greece, and Rome, and the European people (namely, Germans, Russians, Italians, French, Spanish, and the English).

Ham, Noah’s youngest son who was identified as “Canaan” in Genesis 9:25, was father to some of the great empires of the ancient world, among them the Egyptians, Hittites, Sumerians, Canaanites, Phoenicians, and some scholars would suggest Chinese, Japanese, American Indians, and African tribes (10:6-20).

Although cursed to be a “servant of servants” (9:25-27), the accomplishments of Ham’s progeny were so vast that it appears they set their minds to cast off the curse of being a “servant of servants.” Nimrod, the grandson of Ham, and the son of Cush, was the first ruler following the flood (10:8-10). He was a “mighty hunter” (10:9), and founded what would become ancient “Babel…in the land of Shinar” (10:10).

Shem, Noah’s second born son, was “the father of all the children of Eber” (10:21-31). Scholars believe the name “Eber,” is an ancient word from which the word “Hebrew” was derived (10:21). “Eber” was the father of the Hebrews (Abraham is described as “Abram the Hebrew” in Genesis 14:13, and the nomadic Arab tribes and nations.

Shem’s lineage is the ancestral line through which God would fulfill His promise of a Redeemer Savior. Genesis 10 concludes leaving no doubt that all nations and people in our world today are descended from Noah’s three sons:

Genesis 10:32 – “32 These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood.”

Genesis 11 – The Tower of Babel

Resisting God’s command to “replenish the earth” (9:1), Noah’s sons and their families continued as “one language, and of one speech” (11:1), and congregated in “a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there” (11:2).

Arising from their desire to continue as they were (being “of one language, and of one speech,” 11:1), mankind resolved to build “a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven” (11:4). Man’s sinful pride, self-sufficiency, and rebellion was summed up in this: Let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (11:4).

Once again, we are made privy to a heavenly conversation when the LORD determined to intervene, lest the wickedness and rebellion of man be carried so far that there would be no hope of salvation, and “nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do” (11:6).

Confounding their one language into multiple languages, the LORD caused the work on the tower and the city to cease, and men were forced to scatter abroad “upon the face of all the earth” (11:7-8).

Genesis 11 concludes with the lineage of Shem, and leading our Bible study to a great crossroads in the history of mankind: God calling Abraham (11:31-12:1).

Friend, never forget that the story of history is “HIS-STORY;” a testimony of God’s invisible, providential hand and His “Amazing Grace.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“How Will You End?” (Genesis 9)

Scripture reading – Genesis 9

“God [had] remembered Noah” (8:1), after He had fulfilled His Word as He had promised. Then, God commanded Noah to “go forth of the ark” (8:16), and Noah “builded an altar unto the LORD…and offered burnt offerings on the altar” (8:20).

Genesis 9:1-17 – A New Covenant

Many things had forever changed after God’s judgment. Animals would fear man (9:2), and man was now omnivorous, a consumer of the flesh of animals and the fruit of the earth (9:3-4). Government was established, and man was empowered with the authority of capital punishment, A Life for a Life:

Genesis 9:5-6 – “And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.”

Why capital punishment? Because human life is sacred, “for in the image of God made he man” (9:6). God established the sanctity of human life, and whether man or beast had shed the blood of man, the law demanded that the transgressor (man or beast) would forsake his life (9:6).

The future of humanity would be seeded by Noah’s three sons, and they were commanded to “be fruitful, and multiply” (9:7). Having accepted Noah’s sacrifice (8:22-23), the LORD established His covenant with Noah and his sons, promising to never again destroy the earth with floodwaters (9:8-13). As a symbol of His enduring covenant with man, the LORD set a rainbow in the sky (9:14-17).

Genesis 9:18-29 – A Shameful, Tragic End

The flood had not changed man’s age-old problem—sin! Noah and his family had witnessed God’s hatred of sin and His judgment; nevertheless, those men bore in their hearts the curse of sin, its effects, and tragic consequences. Though saved by the Ark, they were still sinners! Noah was a great man, a just and upright man, a man who walked with God (6:8-9); however, he was still a man and with the innate nature of a sinner.

Noah became “an husbandman” (farmer) after the flood, and planted a vineyard (9:20). In his old age, Noah began to drink wine, “and was drunken” (9:21). Unguarded in his drunken state, he was naked, and “uncovered within his tent” (9:21).

Noah dropped his guard, and the “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5), had become an object of mocking and scorn (9:21) for his son Ham.

The reason for Noah’s drunken state is not given, and perhaps it is that we might each take a lesson and make our own application. Was it his old age, and failing strength that turned him to drink? Perhaps it was loneliness; after all his sons had their own families, houses and lands. Maybe Noah thought he had earned the right for some fleshly comfort. With his work as a ship builder and preacher behind him, was he despondent, as he reflected on the world that had been, but was destroyed?

Whatever the cause, Noah’s drunkenness was a spiritual and moral failure, and tempted his son to sin (9:21).

Though he had directed his scorn at his father, it is obvious that Ham’s response evidenced a deep-seeded rebellion against God (9:25), and Noah pronounced a curse upon him and his lineage: “Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren” (9:25).

Genesis 9 concludes with Noah prophesying the future of his sons, and their posterity (9:26-27), and closes with the revelation that is a certain end for all men: “And all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years: and he died” (9:28-29).

The apostle Paul, comparing his earthly life to a race, declared: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished mycourse, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Noah, though not perfect, should be remembered as a righteous man. His obedience, and faith in God saved not only his household, but the human race from physical and spiritual annihilation.

How about you? How will you be remembered?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Tale of Two Lineages (Genesis 5-6)

Scripture reading – Genesis 5-6

Genesis 4 concluded with Cain being driven from the presence of Adam’s household (4:12-16),and him taking a wife, and establishing an ungodly lineage (4:17) that would be the curse of righteous men (4:18-24).

Several sons and daughters were born of Adam and Eve’s union (5:4); however, it was a son whom Eve named Seth that God chose as His godly lineage (4:25). Seth had a son whom he named Enos, and then we read, “then began men to call upon the name of the LORD” (4:26).

Genesis 5 – A Tale of Two Lineages

Before we identify the two lineages that proceeded from Adam and Eve, consider for a moment the incredibly long life spans of the men of these first generations. For instance, Adam lived 930 years (5:4); his son Seth lived 912 years (5:8); and Enos lived 905 years (5:11). How might we explain the longevity of early human life?

Various scholars have tackled that question, and many have scoffed at the possibility of men living nine hundred years or more. Although not original with me (and I do not know whom to cite as my source), there are generally two explanations: That earth’s atmosphere was an expanse of water “above the firmament” (1:7) and therefore shielded man and the world from harmful environmental factors that hasten aging (an example would be the cosmic rays of the sun). A second explanation for longevity, and one I believe is most important, is that the human race was more genetically pure, and there was less disease and sickness. By the way, the longevity of man in those early centuries would have contributed to a boom in population growth that some have estimated might have reached billions of souls before the Flood!

The ungodly lineage of Cain was recorded in Genesis 4:16-24, but remember only a few of his descendants are named, and only because of their important role in the Biblical narrative. I hope to address Cain’s lineage at a later time.

The godly lineage of Adam, through his son Seth is given in Genesis 5 and takes us through to the birth of Noah, and his three sons, “Shem, Ham, and Japheth” (5:32).

Genesis 6 – Judgment and Destruction: The Worldwide Flood

Like our day, the world of Noah’s day before the Flood evidenced not only a population explosion, but also a wickedness that motivated God to intervene, allowing the Flood to cleanse the earth, in preparation for His promise of a Redeemer to be fulfilled. Once again, we are made privy to the thoughts and heart of God.  Seeing the proliferation of sin in the world, the LORD avowed, “My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years” (6:3).

The heart of man had become so consumed with wickedness, that even the godly lineage (“the sons of God”), intermingled with the “daughters of men” (6:4, I believe a reference to the line of Cain). God determined, “every imagination of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil continually” (6:5). Grieved by the wickedness of man, the LORD declared, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them” (6:7).

I close inviting you to consider an incredible phrase, and a wonderful doctrine:

But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (6:8). The statement concerning Noah’s spiritual relationship continues: “Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God” (6:9).

Genesis 6:8 is the first mention of God’s “grace” in the Scriptures (although amazing grace was evident when the LORD sacrificed to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness with skins).

How did Noah respond to God’s gracious commandment to build an ark to the saving of his house, and thereby establishing His covenant (6:18)? He responded in the same way that all sinners must to be saved…Faith. Noah believed God!

Hebrews 11:7 – “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things [and events] not seen as yet, moved with fear [took heed of God’s warning and used due diligence], prepared an ark to the saving [deliverance] of his house; by the which [FAITH] he condemned the world [of unbelief], and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.”

Noah’s faith in God was expressed in his obedience: “Thus did Noah; according to all that God had commanded him, so did he” (6:22).

What of your faith? What do your works say about your faith, and trust in God? After all, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Sin is Like A Slithering Snake (Genesis 4)

Scripture reading – Genesis 4

Adam’s sin, and his fall from God’s favor, had immediate consequences on himself, his wife, and the world God had created.

Satan was cursed and his fate sealed with the revelation that he would be at enmity (an enemy) with “the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it [the seed of the woman, fulfilled in Jesus Christ] shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel [fulfilled in Christ’s crucifixion]” (Genesis 3:14-15).

The sanctity of marriage and the home were affected, as the woman’s role would become one of pain in childbirth, and a desire to please her husband, who would “rule” (headship or authority) over her (3:16).

Adam, as the federal head of humanity, and the caretaker of God’s creation, learned that the curse of his sin not only affected the human race, but infected all creation: “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; 18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (3:17b-19).

While the consequences of sin were grave and irreparable in Adam’s hands, there was hope in the revelation of God’s mercy and grace: 21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them” (3:21).

Rather than risk man eating of the fruit of “the tree of life” (2:9; 3:22) and living forever in his fallen state, Adam and Eve were shamefully, but mercifully driven from the Garden. God placed at its east entrance “Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life” (3:24).

In Genesis 4 we learn that Eve had borne Adam two sons, Cain, the elder (4:1), and his younger brother Abel (4:2).  

The curse of sin was soon manifest in the home. Cain and Abel brought sacrifices to the LORD, as they had seen demonstrated and taught by Adam (4:3-4). God accepted Abel’s offering that consisted of “the firstlings [firstborn]of his flock and of the fat thereof” (4:4); however, he rejected Cain’s offering of “the fruit of the ground” (4:5), for it fell short of the standard of a blood sacrifice that God had demonstrated when He covered man’s nakedness with the skins of animals (3:21).

Abel’s offering followed God’s pattern, and was a humble acknowledgement of his sinfulness and need for God’s grace and forgiveness (Hebrews 11:4; Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22). Cain’s sacrifice, the fruits and vegetables of the ground, was an offering of the fruit of his labor, but insufficient to represent the blood offering which was symbolic for covering sin. Sin offerings could only be accepted from one who came with humility and a heart of repentance (4:3,5).

Rather than accept the LORD’s rejection with self-abasement, Cain became angry, and with his face betraying his wayward heart, “his countenance fell” (4:5b)! God mercifully confronted Cain, and reasoned with him, “Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? (4:6). Cain, stubborn and proud, refused God’s invitation to “Do Right” (i.e. “doest well” – 4:7a), and failed to heed the admonition, “if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him” (4:7b).

Notice the swift degradation of sin as the first son, in a sudden act of jealousy, murdered his brother (4:8-9).

Luke 11:50-51 identifies Abel as a prophet, implying that he had reasoned with his brother to obey God (4:8a). Tragically, the degressive nature of sin in Cain’s heart moved from pride and jealousy, to defiance and hatred, and “Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him” (4:8b). He hated Abel, “because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous” (1 John 3:12).

Summary thoughts: God had warned Cain, “sin lieth at the door” (4:7).

That is the nature of sin. Sin stalks mankind just as a wild animal stalks its prey. Knowing the blood of Abel had stained the soil of the earth, God mercifully confronted Cain, and five times reminded him that Abel was his brother (4:9-10); yet, each time, Cain hardened his heart and became more defiant. Depressed with his guilt, and overwhelmed with its consequences (4:13), he exaggerated his suffering (4:14).

Consider three spiritual principles from today’s devotional.

The first, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: But whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). Cain had a choice; heed God’s invitation to “doest well,” or face the consequence of sin lying at the door (4:7). Cain rebelled, and murdered his brother.

A second principle is summed up in this: “His [a sinners] own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, And he shall be holden [entrapped] with the cords of his sins” (Proverbs 5:22). Like a snake silently slithering, then apprehending its prey, constricts the life of its victim. Patterns of sin, if unbroken, will bind the soul until there is no hope.

The third principle is, the greater sin’s guilt, the greater the sinner’s depression. When a man despises correction, and refuses to repent and confess his sin, his sin invariably leads him to deeper, more dominating sins (4:13-14).

An invitation: There is hope for deliverance from sin’s constraining grip and guilt…Repentance!

The prodigal son, came to the end of himself, confessed his sin, humbled himself, and found forgiveness (Luke 15:17-19). That same path of restoration and happiness is open to all.

1 John 1:9 – If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Call for Unity (Ephesians 1-6)

Scripture reading – Ephesians 1-6

Our devotional study of the Acts of the Apostles concluded with Paul under house arrest in Rome, where he was imprisoned for two years (Acts 28:30). Today’s Scripture reading, The Epistle to the Ephesians, is one of four “Prison Epistles” that the apostle wrote during those years of confinement (the others being Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon).

You might remember that Paul had spent three years ministering in Ephesus, and had warned the leaders of that congregation, that “grievous wolves” (Acts 20:29), would enter the assembly after his departure and would spiritually ravage the believers. Indeed, the very life and health of the church would be threatened by enemies from within the congregation.

Ephesians 1-3 – The Believer’s Relationship in Christ

In the first three chapters, Paul reminded the believers of their position in Christ: Redeemed “through His blood” (1:7), “saved through faith…created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (2:8-10), “sealed [secured] with the Holy Spirit of promise” (1:13), “made nigh by the blood of Christ” (2:12-13), Jew and Gentile “fellowheirs, and of the same body” (3:6) which is the church.

Ephesians 4-6 – The Believer’s Life and Walk in the World

Paul exhorted the believers of Ephesus to live, “with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love” (4:2), to the end that they “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:3). Whether Jew or Gentile, Greek or Roman, slave or master, sincere believers were to have a mutual affection, a spiritual kinship because they were “one body, and one Spirit” (4:4-6).

Paul taught that unity and harmony would characterize believers as they accepted their place and function in the body of Christ (4:7-8, 11-12, 4:16). While the world was known for its self-centeredness, and narcissistic pursuit of sinful pleasures (4:14, 19, 22, 25-30), the believers were to “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (4:23-24).

Because the Gentile believers had been saved out of a heathen, idol worshipping culture, Paul took pangs to define the character of God’s people and the transformation their salvation and sanctification was to have made in their relationships with others. Unlike their culture, believers were to be characterized by self-sacrificing love (5:2), “goodness and righteousness and truth” (5:9), gratitude (5:20), and submission (5:21).

Husbands were commanded to love their wives, “even as Christ also loved the church” (5:25), and their wives were to love and revere their husbands (5:33). Children were to fulfill the fifth commandment (Exodus 20:12), and obey and honor their parents (6:1-3). Servants were to obey their masters “as unto Christ” (6:5-8), and masters were to treat their servants with dignity and respect (6:9).

In other words, salvation and sanctification was to have turned their world upside down from the common order!

Paul’s letter closes with a challenge, a warning, and an exhortation: “Be strong in the Lord11 Put on the whole armour of God12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (6:10-13).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Paul: A Model of Conviction and Courage (Acts 24-26)

Scripture reading – Acts 24-26

We might glean much from the apostle Paul’s courage, and defense of not only himself, but also the Gospel of Jesus Christ that he preached. He had been arrested under the false pretense of breaking the Law (Acts 21:27-28), and defiling the Temple (Acts 21:29), but had been delivered from harm, and almost certain death by Roman soldiers (Acts 21:31-35). After declaring his salvation and calling as an apostle (Acts 22:1-23), when he was arrested, Paul sought the protections allowed him as a citizen of Rome (Acts 22:24-30).

In Acts 23, he was placed under the protection of the Romans, and was given an opportunity to defend himself, and answer his accusers (23:1-11). When the chief captain of the guard realized the Jews’ plot to kill him (23:12-22), he spirited Paul away to safety with the governor of that region whose name was Felix (23:23-35).

Acts 24 – Trial before Felix at Caesarea by the Sea

Five days after Paul arrived at Caesarea, Ananias the high priest and members of the Sanhedrin gathered and put forward “a certain orator named Tertullus” (24:1), who was tasked with accusing Paul of sedition, a crime that would demand his death (24:2-9).

Paul sat in silence as Tertullus leveled false indictments at him, alleging him as a wicked, subversive man. Felix then gestured to Paul an opportunity to answer his accusers (24:10). With diplomacy, and the discretion deserving of Felix’s office as governor and Paul’s civil authority, Paul began to speak (24:10).

Acts 24:10b – “…Forasmuch as I know that thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself [i.e. make his defense].”

Paul answered the accusations brought against him by the Sanhedrin (24:11-20), proving the only dissension between him and those leaders was that he had challenged them on the doctrine of the resurrection (24:21). Felix, being the governor of that region, had “perfect knowledge of that way” (24:22; Acts 16:17; 18:25), a reference to those who believed that Jesus was the Christ, the only begotten Son of God, crucified and died for the sins of the world according to the Scriptures (Isaiah 53), and rose from the grave on the third day!

Acts 24 concludes with Governor Felix retaining Paul in custody, giving the apostle liberty to have guests, but also having opportunities for he and “his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess,” to hear Paul’s testimony and his “faith in Christ” (24:24). Paul’s witness was powerful, and we read that the governor was so moved that he “trembled” with conviction as he heard of God’s judgment that was to come (24:25).

On an interesting closing note; had Paul been inclined, he might have raised funds to bribe the governor for his release and freedom (24:26). He was held captive for two years (24:27); however, the apostle was a man of integrity, and he did not buy his freedom. Paul was persuaded that he was destined for an opportunity to go to Rome and declare Jesus Christ in the very household of Caesar (23:11), and he would not be deterred from his calling.

Though he trembled at the thought of God’s judgment (24:25), Felix delayed his decision to accept Christ as Savior, and was reassigned elsewhere, leaving Paul bound in prison (24:27).

Paul’s passion and boldness in declaring the gospel is one of the many things I admire in the man; however, we should also note his tact, prudence, and patience in preaching Christ to those who would listen. Though bold in addressing and rebuking the hypocrisy of Jewish religious leaders (23:2-5), Paul was wise, discerning, and patient when speaking to the Roman commandant in Jerusalem, and Felix, the governor who resided in Caesarea.

A closing thought: Like Paul, those who witness for Christ should be passionate for men’s souls.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Paul’s Indomitable Spirit (Acts 20-23)

Scripture reading – Acts 20-23

Our chronological Scripture reading returns to the Acts of the Apostles, chapters 20-23, when, once again, we examine Luke’s record of the apostle Paul’s missionary journeys. Since we were last in the Book of Acts, we have been privileged to consider Paul’s epistles to believers in both Corinth and Rome in our daily readings.

Acts 20 picks up the narrative of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus (Acts 19:1-41) where Paul had spent two years ministering (19:10a). The influence of the apostle’s preaching had spread throughout Asia, and both “Jews and Greeks” had received “the word of the Lord Jesus” (19:10b). Paul’s bold condemnation of idolatry (19:26), and the powerful effect of his preaching had not only threatened the commerce and trade in the worship of the Greek goddess Diana (19:27), but also set the whole city in an uproar (19:28-41).

Acts 20 – Departure from Ephesus

Paul, realizing his continued presence in Ephesus would endanger the lives of believers, determined to depart from Ephesus, and began his journey through Macedonia (a province of Rome north of Greece that we know today as the Balkan region of Europe). The apostle retraced his earlier missionary journeys, and traveling south to Greece (20:1-2), encountered Jews who were plotting against him (20:3).

God wonderfully and providentially blessed Paul with a mission’s team who accompanied him in his journey (20:4) through Asia. Among his traveling companions was Timothy, his beloved “son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2), who would one day become the pastor of the church in Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3).

Realizing he would not pass-through Macedonia again, Paul came to Miletus, a seaport city about 30 miles from Ephesus (20:16), and there he sent for the elders of the church in Ephesus (20:17).

The balance of Acts 20 records Paul’s final challenge to the pastoral leadership of the church in Ephesus (20:17-38). This passage is extremely moving as we see Paul’s passion for preaching and ministry (20:17-27), his loving compassion for those to whom he ministered (20:28-32), and his example of self-sacrificing charity and service (20:33-35).

Neither time or space permit me to adequately consider the balance of today’s Scripture reading; however, I will take liberty to give my readers a quick overview of Acts 21-23.

Acts 21 gives Paul’s final journey to Jerusalem (21:1-16), and the insurrection led by those who opposed him and the Gospel he preached (21:17-40).

Acts 22 recounts Paul’s personal testimony (22:1-5), his encounter with Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (22:6-10), his calling as an apostle to the Gentiles (22:11-21), and the uprising of his enemies (22:22-40).

Acts 23 lays out Paul’s public address to the Sanhedrin: Notice the apostle’s courageous rebuke of the high priest Ananias (23:1-5), the clash of factions in the Sanhedrin (23:6-10), the conspiracy by some of the Jews to kill him (23:11-22), and the Roman authority’s resolve to move Paul to safety (23:23-35).

Our next Scripture reading will follow Paul’s ministry from Caesarea by the Sea (a beautiful seaport on the Mediterranean that I have visited), and his journey by sea that will end in his imprisonment in Rome.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Who Made You Judge, Jury, and Executioner? (Romans 14-16)

Scripture reading – Romans 14-16

Today’s reading assignment concludes our reading in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Unlike any other book in our chronological schedule, Romans has presented us with a succession of great doctrines that are fundamental to our faith in Christ. I am limiting today’s devotional to Romans 14, and what is a practical challenge to all believers: Accepting one another’s differences, without being harsh in our judgment.

Christian Liberty

“Christian Liberty” has become a hot topic over the past two decades, and I fear its excesses have blighted the testimony of the church in the world. Unfortunately, the insistence by some believers who, either out of ignorance or sinful pride, demand their liberty in what others define as “questionable things,” has resulted in little discernable difference between the world and its lusts, and believers and their fellowships. Every generation of believers face the question of “Christian Liberty;” however, I fear this generation has lost its perspective of the ultimate standard: What pleases the Lord, and brings Him glory.

The Strong, the Weak, and the Judge (Romans 14:1-12)

Paul identified a debate that was raging between believers he identified as “weak in the faith” (14:1), and limited their diet to “herbs” (vegetables), and others who believed that they might “eat all things (14:2). The debate had become so contentious that believers were admonished for despising (having disdain for), and judging (condemning) one another (14:3). Rather than parsing out the historical debate (eating meat vs. eating herbs; legalistic rules devised by men regarding acceptable and unacceptable activities on holy days, 14:5-6), I will suggest principles to guide our decisions on Christian liberty in our day.

The first principle: We should accept that differences in practice will arise (14:1-2); however, the matter of judgment and condemnation is God’s role, not mine or yours (14:3-4, 10).

Another principle, realizing God is the final judge, we should have our consciences exercised by His Word, being mindful that He will call each of us to account for himself in the day of judgment (14:11-12).

Consider Paul’s admonition regarding our individual Christian liberty choices:

Romans 14:13 – “13 Let us not therefore judge [decide; determine; pass judgment] one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock [trigger of a trap; set a trap; give cause for falling] or an occasion to fall [stumble] in his brother’s way.”

I fear some believers are watching and waiting for other believers to stumble, and fall into sin. Rather than judging themselves, they pounce upon other believers with criticisms (audibly or by slights), that dispirit the soul, and sometimes turn one “weak in the faith” away from the Lord, and the church. Sadly, it is often those who perceive themselves as “strong,” and mature in the faith, who are the greatest violators and offenders, having made themselves the judge, jury, and executioners.

Before you pass judgment, might I suggest you look in the mirror and ask: Who art thou that judges another? (14:4a)

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Can God Be Trusted? (Romans 11-13)

Scripture reading – Romans 11-13

Our study of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans continues as we turn in our Bibles to Romans 11-13 (as a reminder, the numbering of chapters and verses is an editor’s addition; Paul’s letter would not have had such numbers). As in earlier chapters of Romans, some of the great doctrines of our faith are found in today’s reading assignment.

In Romans 11 alone we find the “election of grace” by which a remnant of Israel was saved (11:5); the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith alone, without works (11:6); the salvation of the Gentiles (11:11b), to whom Paul was “the apostle” (11:13); the “olive tree” that represented Israel as God’s chosen people, and in whom the “branches” of a “wild olive tree” (Gentile believers) were engrafted (11:17-24). Several other doctrines are found in Romans 11, and could be listed; however, I propose you consider one question that has become a divisive issue in some churches and Bible schools.

Has God Rejected Israel? (Romans 11:1-5)

A theology known as “Covenant Theology,” has taken the 21st century by storm. Although not a new theology, it has been rising in popularity and become a distraction. Some adherents of Covenant Theology (CT) maintain that when Israel as a nation, and the Jews as a people, rejected Jesus Christ, that God rejected them (also referred to as “Replacement Theology”). Such an interpretation supposes that God has turned his favor and promises from Israel, to the Church, and suggests that the Church, not Israel, is the inheritor of God’s covenant promises.

Would the LORD fail to keep His promises? Is the God of Israel not true to His Word? Can God be trusted?

Those are challenging questions, but to presume that God has rejected Israel, is to suggest that He has broken His covenant promises. What does the Word of God tell us?

Joshua 23:14b – “…Not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.”

Joshua 21:45 – “45 There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.”

1 Kings 8:56b – “…There hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant.”

Hebrews 10:23b – “…He is faithful that promised.”

Is God Finished with Israel? (Romans 11:1)

Some suggest that, because Israel rejected God, that God in turn rejected the Jews, and the Church is now the inheritor of God’s covenant promises. Consider Paul’s answer:

Romans 11:1 – “I say then, Hath God cast away [rejected] his people [Israel]? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.”

God has not rejected, nor is He finished with Israel! A testimony of God’s sovereignty and providential care of Israel is that, of all the peoples and nations of the ancient world, there is a small remnant of people who identify as Jews, and a small nation known today as Israel!

The Jews did reject Jesus Christ as a nation; however, God has not forgotten His promises, nor His chosen people. Gentiles have come to faith, but Paul writes that when “the fulness (i.e. the full number) of the Gentiles be come in…all Israel shall be saved” (11:25-26).

Every sinner, whether Jew or Gentile, comes to salvation the same way: GRACE (11:6). Neither keeping the Law, or good works can merit God’s favor or forgiveness. In fact, to add any effort or work to God’s offer of grace, means that “grace is no more grace” (11:6). I close with Paul’s summation to believer’s in Ephesus:

Ephesians 2:8–10For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Can God be trusted? Absolutely, for He is faithful!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith