Tag Archives: God is Just

A Failure to Thrive: A Tragic Case of Spiritual Undernourishment (Hebrews 5; Hebrews 6)

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Scripture reading – Hebrews 5; Hebrews 6

Our study of the Epistle to the Hebrews continues with Hebrews 5 and 6. After a review, our devotional will be taken from Hebrews 5.

The writer of Hebrews had challenged believers regarding the preeminence of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1). Understanding the majesty of Christ gave cause for 1st century saints to be stirred in their spirit, knowing all He suffered for their sins. Jesus is the Son of God, yet, He set aside the outward manifestation of His heavenly glory, and “was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death” (2:9). By His death on the Cross, He tasted “death for every man” (2:9b), and by His resurrection from the dead, He became the “captain [and author] of salvation” (2:10).

Hebrews 3 warned the Hebrews to realize the danger of unbelief, and hardening their hearts (3:7-19). With the challenge, “exhort one another daily” (3:13), sinners were urged to believe, or they would never find rest for their souls (3:18). We were reminded there are three requisites for peace and rest: The first was to fear and revere God (4:1). Secondly, hear the Gospel (4:2), believe, and come to the Lord by faith (4:2-11). Finally, to find rest for the soul, a believer must fight, literally labor diligently in the Scriptures: “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (4:12).

Because Christ is the believer’s “high priest” (4:15), the writer of Hebrews urged, “Let us come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (4:16). On what grounds might we enter into God’s presence with our petitions? Not on the basis of our works (for “our righteousness are as filthy rags,” Isaiah 64:6), but on the grounds of Christ’s righteousness being credited to our account, and paying our sin debt in full! Hallelujah, what a great Savior and high priest.

Hebrews 5

Hebrews 5 offered a contrast between the high priest “ordained for men” and the Great High Priest, Jesus Christ (5:1). Even the most dedicated, conscientious high priests dared not approach God without offering a sacrifice for his sins (5:2-3). While the high priest was chosen among men, God declared of Christ, “Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee…Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (Melchisedec had been a king and priest of ancient Jerusalem, and a type or example of Christ, 5:5-6).

If you remember Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, before He was betrayed and arrested, you will understand Hebrews 5:7-10. In the Garden, Jesus prayed, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (meaning the cup of suffering He would soon face, Matthew 26:39). He prayed a second time, “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done” (Matthew 26:42). It is that agony we find portrayed in Hebrews 5, when we read: “he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; 8Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered” (5:7-8).

Christ obeyed His Father’s will, and suffered the penalty of our sins (5:8), and being the perfect sinless sacrifice. “He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (obedience implying one’s faith, proven by works, 5:9).

Closing thoughts (5:11-14) – Our study of Hebrews 5 concludes with a case of spiritual undernourishment. In a mournful, regrettable tone, the writer observed in the 1st century congregation a spiritual tragedy that is mirrored in the 21st century church: A failure to thrive spiritually. As today, there were some who professed salvation, but whose lives were spiritually anemic. They evidenced little to no spiritual appetite, and the diagnosis was summed up in this: “ye are dull of hearing” (5:11).

Rather than be teachers of the word, they were content with elementary doctrines, and “first principles of the oracles of God” (5:12). They had failed the Lord, and His people, for they remained in the spiritual nursery (5:13), and unable to delight in the advanced doctrines and studies of the Word (5:14). Their spiritual immaturity had left them vulnerable and unable to “discern both good and evil” (5:14).

Tragically, is that not the sad portrait of many 21st century believers and churches?

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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization.

Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625.

You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Looking for Peace? (Hebrews 3; Hebrews 4)

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Scripture reading – Hebrews 3; Hebrews 4

We continue our journey through the Epistle to the Hebrews, and find many of the great doctrines of our faith recorded in chapters 3 and 4. We noticed in Hebrews 1 the preeminence of Christ (1:1-3), His superiority over the angels (1:4-6), and His divine nature (1:7-14). In Hebrews 2, we considered God’s call for men to hear and heed the truths of God’s Word (2:1-5). Hebrews 2 also declares the majesty of Christ, whose death and resurrection made possible our salvation and sanctification (2:6-13).

Finally, Christ descended from heaven, and became “flesh and blood… that through [His] death He [Christ] might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (2:14). Though never less than God, Christ “took on him the seed of Abraham,” and became man (2:16). Through His death, and resurrection, believers are delivered from the “fear of death [and] their lifetime subject to bondage” (being slaves to sin; 2:15a). Jesus Christ became “a merciful and faithful high priest” (2:17), Who is compassionate and merciful, because He was also tempted and tested (2:18), yet without sin.

Hebrews 3

The Superiority of Christ Compared to Moses (3:1-6)

Understanding Christ’s sinless character, the author declared Christ to be the superior “Apostle and High Priest” (3:1). Now, the Hebrew readers of the 1st century would have wondered, superior to whom? The answer–superior to Moses, the great law giver, in every way (3:2-6).

Moses was esteemed for his faithfulness to the LORD (Numbers 12:7-8); however, even he was not without fault or sin. Jesus Christ, however, was faithful in everything (John 8:29; 17:4-5). While Moses was honored by His brethren, Christ was more glorious as the Divine Apostle and High Priest (3:3). Likening the universe to a house, Christ was identified as the Builder\Creator of the house, while Moses was a resident of that which He built (3:3b-4). Though Moses was “faithful in all his house, as servant;” Christ was more, for He is “a Son over His own house” (the congregation of God’s people, 3:5-6).

Longing for Rest, But Finding None (3:7-19)

Notice “rest” becomes the subject of the balance of chapter 3, and is the primary theme of chapter 4. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (3:7), the writer of Hebrews warned men of the danger of hardening their hearts (refusing to believe God’s revelation, and rejecting Christ). Those who reject the LORD, were warned they would not find rest for their souls (3:7-12).

A point of explanation: Some might suppose “rest” is a cessation of physical activity, but that “rest” is not the subject of this passage. For instance: A man’s body might be at rest, while his heart is ensnared by racing thoughts, emotions, and sorrows. Sinners long for rest, but find none apart from God. They seek to quiet the restlessness of their souls with psychology, and psychotherapy. They turn to recreation, amusements, drugs, alcohol, and gross immorality to dull their restless spirit. Tragically, their hearts are hardened “through the deceitfulness of sin” (3:13), and they find no rest. No wonder the writer of Hebrews exhorted his readers, “exhort one another daily” (3:13a).

Hebrews 4 – An Invitation and Promise of Rest

Briefly, “rest” is the primary theme of chapter 4 (vss. 1, 3-5, 8-11). Notice the rest promised to those who feared(revered) the Lord (4:1), were people of faith (having heard and believed the Gospel, 4:2-10), and fought(“laboured…to enter into that rest,” 4:11).

Closing thoughts – I hesitate to conclude today’s devotional, but with your blessing, I will take liberty to draw your attention to Hebrews 4:11.

An English proverb states, “Good things come to those who wait.” While that adage might be a useful theory for some, it does not apply in the spiritual realm of a man’s soul. Men tend to go to extremes in pursuing rest. Some have the mistaken notion that rest is inactivity, even passivity. Others work themselves into a frenzy, and call it ministry. Let’s close and consider what we have learned: Three things are required to find the rest God promises His children: We are to fear God (4:1), have faith in Him and His promises (4:2-10), and fight (labor) that we might enter into His rest (4:11).

The life of the believer requires diligence, and is often exhausting. No wonder Paul exhorted Timothy, “2Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2a).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Greater the Light, the Greater the Judgment! (Hebrews 1; Hebrews 2)

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Scripture reading – Hebrews 1; Hebrews 2

Continuing our countdown to the conclusion of our two-year chronological Scriptures’ reading schedule, today’s devotional introduces the Epistle to the Hebrews.

The Author of Hebrews

Many have supposed the Epistle to the Hebrews was written by the apostle Paul; however, I feel that is conjecture at best. If Paul was the author, he neglected to identify himself in the opening salutation as was his manner in his other epistles (Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1; and so on). Rather than speculate on the human author, let us content ourselves in accepting the Epistle to the Hebrews, like all Scripture: divinely inspired and its author the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:15; 2 Peter 1:20-21).

The Date of the Epistle to the Hebrews

The date for the writing of Hebrews is uncertain; however, it seems most scholars agree it was composed for Hebrew believers before A.D. 70, when the Roman general Titus besieged Jerusalem, and the city and Temple were destroyed. Before that date, persecution and imprisonment were widespread in the Roman empire, and Hebrews 13:23 indicates that Timothy, Paul’s “son in the faith” (2 Timothy 1:2), had himself been imprisoned, and was expected to soon be “set at liberty” (Hebrews 13:23).

The Recipients of the Epistle to the Hebrews

As stated in its title, Hebrews was addressed to those from a Hebrew background, and no doubt gave many of Judaism pause to consider Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of Old Testament messianic prophecies.  For others, sufferings and persecution of the 1st century might have caused some to doubt their faith in Christ, and return to the Temple and sacrificial offerings (Hebrews 10:1-11). To them, the Holy Spirit, through a human author, declared the supremacy of Jesus Christ in all things (Hebrews 1:1-4; 10:12-13).

Setting the date of Hebrews to the mid to late 60’s A.D., many readers were probably second-generation believers of Hebrew ancestry. Tragically, the author takes them to task for their spiritual immaturity, and described them as “dull of hearing” (5:11), and in need of teachers when they should have been teaching (5:12).

A brief outline of Hebrews 1 and 2 will need to suffice for our study.

Hebrews 1 – The Supremacy of Jesus Christ

Down through the centuries, God sent His prophets to Israel to reveal His person and declare His Word (1:1). Yet, the purpose in the coming of the prophets was to prepare the way for the coming of the ultimate revelation of God…His Son (1:2). The prophets and writers of Scripture not only pointed to creation as a demonstration of the handiwork of God (Psalm 19:1; 97:6), but they declared His revelation in word and writing as His Spirit moved them (2 Timothy 3:15; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Yet, the work of the prophets was partial.

The coming of Jesus Christ fulfilled not only the promises of a coming Messiah-Redeemer (Isaiah 53; Luke 19:10), but He revealed in His incarnation (human flesh) the glory of God the Father (1:2-3). Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is revealed as “heir of all things,” and the Creator (1:2b). He was the “brightness” of God’s glory (1:3a), the image of God veiled in human flesh (1:3b; Colossians 1:15; Philippians 2:6, 9), and the Sustainer (the upholder of “all things,” 1:3c). By the shedding of His blood and death on the cross, Jesus “purged our sins,” as Redeemer (1:3d), and then “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high [God the Father]” (1:3e). Christ is exalted as Lord and Mediator of sinners (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 10:12).

The balance of Hebrews 1 declared Christ’s preeminence over angels (1:4-7), and His person as Eternal God, and Sovereign of Creation (1:7-14).

Hebrews 2 – The Danger of Neglecting One’s Salvation

Hebrews 2 warned, God holds men accountable for the truths they have been taught (2:1-3). Christ taught, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:48). Stating the same truth in another way: The greater the light, the greater the judgment!

The Hebrews had the privilege of the Old Testament Scriptures, and the word of prophets. God then sent His Son, Jesus to Israel, to declare God’s love and the Gospel of His grace. The author reasoned: “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord?” (2:3).

Closing thoughts – So much more could be considered, but I conclude our study inviting you to consider Hebrews 2:1, where we read: “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip” (2:1).

Understanding those words were penned to Hebrews who had extensive knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures, we understand the urgency to not only hear the Word of God, but heed its Truth. Surely that same warning might be declared to 21st century believers. Warning: There is a grave danger for those who have been privileged to grow up hearing the Word of God preached and the Gospel declared. It is the danger of hearing, and not heeding Truth. The writer warned, “lest at any time we should let them slip” (2:1). Some who professed to be followers of Christ, had slipped, failed to heed the Truth, and were drifting away (backsliding) from their spiritual moorings (doctrine).

What about you? Are you anchored to God’s Word, or have you slipped away and are spiritually adrift? Have you allowed popularity, pleasures, lusts, busyness, sinful pride, or laziness cause you to slip? Won’t you turn from your sin, and return to the Lord?

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

A Righteous Response When Mistreated (1 Peter 3; 1 Peter 4)

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Scripture reading – 1 Peter 3; 1 Peter 4

The apostle Peter’s letter “to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1) continues with today’s Scripture reading. As you will see, 1 Peter 3 and 4 are practical and insightful, presenting us with numerous principles that are spiritual guides to the believer’s daily life and relationships. Before we consider the subject of today’s devotional, consider the following outlines of 1 Peter 3-4.

An Outline of 1 Peter 3

  1. Peter charged wives and husbands with marital obligations that parallel those recorded by Paul in his epistles (3:1-7; Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 318-19; Titus 2:2-7).
  2. Five precepts for “getting along” with others (3:8)
  3. A righteous response when you are mistreated (3:9)
  4. Three essential disciplines for loving life, and seeing good days (3:10-11)
  5. Spiritual responses to trials, troubles, and persecutions (3:13-17)
  6. Keys to a living, eternal hope (3:18-22)

An Outline of 1 Peter 4

  1. Four characteristics of believers who bear injustices without bitterness (4:1-6)
  2. Four characteristics of authentic faith (4:8-11)
  3. Enduring hope in the midst of fiery trials (4:12-19)

A Righteous Response to Injustice (3:9)

To put today’s devotional in context, we should remember Peter was writing to believers who were “strangers” (1:1). They had suffered rejections, persecutions, and been driven from their homes, businesses, and country. Peter, like a pastor who knows the sorrows and sufferings of his congregation, was guided by the Holy Spirit to exhort believers regarding their attitude and response to injustice and mistreatment.

Peter had already encouraged servants to respond to harsh masters in a “good and gentle” manner (2:18); and encouraged them to do so was “acceptable to God (2:20). Yet, not only were servants expected to respond to cruel masters with humility, but the same was expected of believers when they were treated unjustly and provoked. Peter exhorted, “Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing” (3:9).

The practical application of 1 Peter 3:9 is, believers are to be longsuffering, ready to forgive, and not retaliate (“not rendering evil for evil,” 3:9a). Retaliation and revenge are the natural response when we are wounded, and treated unfairly. Our fleshly impulse is to hurt others to the same degree we have been wronged. Yet, Peter taught the persecuted saints not only to shun retaliation, but to refuse to render “railing for railing” (3:9b).

Verbal assaults, threats, and slander will find their target, and a wounded heart is inevitable. Verbal jabs and counter jabs are the way of the world, for the wicked know nothing of grace and forgiveness. We often feel mocking, demeaning, name calling, and slander are too much to bear.

Nevertheless, Peter urged believers to go counter to their instincts, and bless those who leave you wounded, promising, “knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing” (3:9b). Instead of giving an offender a “piece of your mind,” we are to extend grace (“contrariwise blessing’), knowing God has a purpose, and He will reward His child with unconditional love and favor (3:9c).

Bite Your Tongue (3:10)

If you want to “love life, and see good days” (3:10a), bite your tongue, and speak neither “evil” nor “guile” (lies or deceit, 3:10). When everything within you cries unfair, keep silent, and trust God.

Closing thoughts – Why should believers suffer wrong, and not seek revenge? Why should we be silent, though an enemy would sow lies and seek our ruin?

Because the way of the wicked is to verbally attack, insult, and lie. Yet, our faith is in the Lord, and we trust Him to bestow His favor on us. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught the multitude, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:11).

In his letter to believers in Rome, Paul wrote: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath [make room for God’s wrath]: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

Truth – A believer’s silence and refusal to retaliate makes room for God to work and exercise justice.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Character and Nature of a Believer (1 Peter 1; 1 Peter 2)

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Scripture reading – 1 Peter 1; 1 Peter 2

Today’s Scripture reading is 1 Peter 2, but I will take the liberty of introducing you to The First Epistle of PeterPenned by Peter, who identified himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ,” the letter before us was not addressed to believers of a specific city, nor individuals (as with Paul’s epistles). Instead, Peter addressed his letter “to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1). To understand that statement, consider the historical setting of this epistle.

Historical Background

Peter was writing at a time the Roman Empire was near its peak. Reaching as far west as Britain, and south into the African continent to Egypt, Rome’s territories covered nearly two million square miles. The emperor of Peter’s day was the infamous Nero. By the time Peter penned his epistle, the dark clouds of persecution were already shadowing the world. Believers soon experienced the first wave of persecution, and tens of thousands were eventually martyred, among them the apostles Paul and Peter.

The Author – A Story of Amazing Grace (1:1a)

Peter the fisherman (Mark 1:16-20), along with his brother Andrew, had been a disciple of Jesus Christ, and an apostle. He was a natural leader, and with James and John, had been privileged to be numbered in Christ’s inner circle (Matthew 17:1-2; Mark 5:37, 9:2, 14:23). We remember him as the disciple who boasted he would never deny Christ (Matthew 26:29-35); yet, he denied Him three times the night He was betrayed (Matthew 26:69-74). Humiliated, broken, and repentant; Peter was restored (Mark 16:7), and became a testimony of faith, courage, and faithfulness to the Lord.

The Recipients of the First Epistle of Peter (1 Peter 1:1b-2)

Who were “the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1). They were not “strangers” to Peter, but aliens, foreigners to this world (1:1). They were numbered among the tribes who believed Jesus was the Messiah, and were rejected by their families, driven from their homes by religious zealots, and left a people without home or country.

They were not only “strangers,” they were the saved “elect,” and chosen “according to the foreknowledge of God” (1:2a). To be elect is a term of endearment. When a sinner becomes a part of God’s kingdom, he becomes part of His family, and is endeared to the Father. In His foresight, God the Father knows those sinners who come to Him by faith, and are sanctified by His Spirit. Their salvation is a covenant relationship, and they are sealed by the “sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1:2).

On a personal note: I believe the “elect” are chosen by God, according to His foreknowledge, and are the objects of His saving grace, through faith in the sacrificial offering of Christ for our sin [His suffering, death, burial, and resurrection]. Paul described “election” in Ephesians 1:4 in these words: “According as He hath chosen us in Him [i.e., for Himself] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame [above reproach]before him in love.”

Who are the chosen? Who are the elect? Who can be saved?

My answer is, “whosoever will.”  The elect are “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord” (John 3:16; Romans 10:13). My heart rejoices to conclude our brief introduction to 1 Peter 1 with this eternal promise: “And [Jesus] is the propitiation [atoning sacrifice] for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).

1 Peter 2 – Progressive Sanctification

A brief introduction of chapter 2 will suffice, but I invite you to consider a doctrine that is all but forgotten by the 21st century church: Progressive Sanctification.

In essence, “progressive sanctification” is the sanctifying work of God in the heart of a believer (John 17:17, Ephesians 5:25–27; Colossians 1:22; 1 Thessalonica 5:23; Hebrew 13:12). While it is the work of God, sanctification also requires spiritual discipline on the part of the believer. Paul described progressive sanctification as a “putting off” the sinful ways of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 4:22, 25-31), and “putting on”spiritual virtues and the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-24; Ephesians 4:23-24, 32).

Peter taught progressive sanctification in 1 Peter 2:1-2, when he exhorted believers: “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,  2As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (2:1-2).

Five Besetting Sins (2:1)

Understanding “laying aside” describes how one might remove and exchange a garment for another, Peter challenged believers to be “laying aside” five besetting sins that hinder spiritual growth. The first, “all malice,” a desire that embraces evil, and is acted out in a pattern of hurting and injuring others (2:1a). The second sin to be laid aside is “all guile” (2:1b), implying deception, or as some might say, “two-faced.” Peter exhorted believers to lay aside “hypocrisies” (2:1c), which implies hiding behind a mask (perhaps a mask of spiritual piety that conceals one’s true heart and motive. “Envies” (2:1d) is also identified as a hindrance to spiritual growth, and is a jealousy and longing for what others possess (money, friends, popularity). Finally, “all evil speakings” (2:1e) were to be set aside, knowing slander, gossip, and disparaging words have no place in the congregation.

Closing thoughts (2:1-2) – Having set aside sins that hinder spiritual growth (2:1), Peter urged believers to be as “newborn babes” and “desire the sincere milk of the word” (2:2). In the same way a healthy, growing newborn craves its mother’s milk, believers will earnestly desire the sincere, unadulterated, truths of God’s Word.

A sincere, spiritually growing believer will evidence the signs of progressive sanctification, and “desire the sincere milk of the Word.” (2:2)

How’s your spiritual appetite?

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Character and Qualifications of Christ’s Ministers (Titus 1; Titus 2)

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Scripture reading – Titus 1; Titus 2

Continuing our chronological reading of the Scriptures, we come to The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Titus.Before us is one of four letters written by Paul to individual believers (the others being to Philemon, and the first and second letters to Timothy). The book of Titus was probably written following Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, and his visit to the churches on the island of Crete. Paul was freed from prison sometime after his epistle to the believers in Philippi. (The cause for Paul being set at liberty was not revealed, although some speculate his accusers failed to come to Rome and appear before Caesar to bring a witness against the apostle.)

Characteristic of his style, Paul introduced himself as the author in the first verse, and identified his calling and authority, writing: “Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness” (1:1). As with Timothy, the apostle had a loving bond with Titus and addressed him as “mine own son after the common faith” (1:4). Titus was a Greek convert, and uncircumcised (Galatians 2:3). He was also a member of Paul’s inner-circle, whom the apostle identified as a “partner and fellow helper” (2 Corinthians 8:23). While the letter was addressed to Titus, it was likely read to the churches in Crete where he ministered (1:5).

Paul’s Charge to Titus (1:5)

Paul left no doubt that Titus was empowered to act upon his authority. The young preacher was charged with the responsibility of setting “in order the things that are wanting [needing attention], and ordain elders in every city,” as Paul had directed him (1:5). The office of the pastor is defined in two terms in chapter 1: The title “elder” (1:5)  defines the dignity of the pastoral office as “pastor and teacher,” as opposed to a novice (Ephesians 4:11; 1 Timothy 3:6). The title, “bishop” (1:7), defined the duties and authority of the pastoral office as an overseer. In my opinion, the titles are interchangeable for the office of pastor (Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5, 7).

The Pastor’s Character and Household (1:6)

Bearing the sacred responsibility of ordaining “elders [pastors] in every city” (1:5), Paul defined for Titus the spiritual qualifications of men who would serve the congregations.

The principal, and indispensable requirement of the pastor is he “must be blameless, as the steward of God” (1:6, 7a; 1 Timothy 3:2). “Blameless” does not mean he must achieve sinless perfection, but that his life is free of scandals (for instance, the qualifications that follow in verses 6-8 define the character of his personal life). In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he mandated the pastor “must have a good report” (1 Timothy 3:7). He must be “blameless,” because he is the steward of God,” meaning the overseer of God’s household (1:7; 1 Corinthians 4:1-2).

When choosing a pastor, a church must also consider his family life (1:6). He is to be morally chaste, “the husband of one wife” (1:6b). The minister cannot be divorced, nor have more than one wife. Should he have children, they are to be “faithful not accused of riot or unruly” (1:6c). A pastor cannot have children living at home in opposition to the Gospel. Though not perfect, the pastor’s children are not to be riotous (implying drunkenness or moral debauchery), or “unruly” (rebellious or insubordinate).

Five Disqualifications from the Pastorate (1:7)

In addition to being “blameless,” Paul listed five things that disqualify a man from the pastorate. He must not be self-willed, meaning dogmatic, arrogant, and self-seeking (1:7b). He must not be easily provoked to anger (1:7c). A pastor must not be “given to wine” (1:7d), nor a “striker” (contentious, 1:7e). Lastly, a minister of the Gospel is “not given to filthy lucre” (not a lover of money or possessions; 1:7e; 1 Timothy 3:3).

Six Positive Qualifications for the Pastoral Office (1:8)

Having listed five disqualifying traits, Paul followed with six qualifications required of those who serve the congregations. A minister is to be “a lover of hospitality” (1:8a; hospitable to saints and strangers; Galatians 6:10). A pastor is to be a “lover of good men” (1:8b; literally, a lover of all that is good; Philippians 4:8). He is to be “sober” (1:8c); sensible, exercising good judgment, and not given to silliness or ruled by urges (1 Timothy 3:2).

The shepherd of God’s people is to be “just” (1:8d), morally upright, and a man of integrity. He is an example to the church, and “holy” in conduct (1:8e; devout, pious, and dedicated to God, Romans 12:1-2). Finally, the man ordained to the pastorate must be “temperate” (1:8f), spiritually disciplined in his affections and desires (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).

Closing thoughts (1:9) – So much more could be written regarding the qualities that must be true of men called to pastor the churches, including their duty and devotion to God’s Word (1:9). I close with a word of warning:

Failure to hold ministers to God’s standard invite His judgment, and the eventual ruin of churches, Bible schools, and institutions. Tragically, one need not look far to see the evidences of that failure.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Spiritual Principles for Employees and Employers in an Entitlement Age (1 Timothy 6)

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Scripture reading – 1 Timothy 6

Our brief study of Paul’s 1st Epistle to Timothy concludes with today’s Scripture reading. Readers will notice Paul continues a broad sweep of issues that have confronted believers since the 1st century. Arguably, times have changed, but the prevailing sins and spiritual challenges of mankind are the same. Today’s devotional will consider 1 Timothy 6:1-6.

The Culture of the 1st Century Church (6:1-2)

Paul’s letter was addressed to a culture where slaves and masters were members of the church. In fact, the membership of the 1st century church had some slaves who found themselves serving “believing masters” (6:2). Paul did not tackle the moral or ethical nature of slavery, as slavery was a common way of life in the first century. Nor did he urge Timothy to lead an uprising against slavery. Instead, the apostle addressed the dynamics of believing slaves and their masters (whether unbelieving or believing).

Author’s note – Before I consider an exposition of 1 Timothy 6:1-2, I hope you might give me liberty for a personal observation.

Mirroring the attitude of the 21st century world, I have observed the growing presence and influence of a rebellious spirit of entitlement even among believers. Sadly, our families, churches, and Christian institutions have embraced entitlement as a right, of which few are willing to challenge. Entitlement arises from a self-focused heart, in essence, from those who would espouse employees’ rights and privileges above all else. I believe the pendulum has swung so far in favor of employees, that they now abuse their employers thus driving corporations to the edge of fiscal insanity, if not bankruptcy.

What is the Believer’s Duty to An Unbelieving Employer? (6:1)

Paul challenged Timothy to teach slaves and servants to be characterized by the same attitude of which he wrote, namely – Respect. Whether a slave served a master who was an unbeliever or a believer, the requirement was the same: Servants were to treat their masters with honor and respect, knowing their actions and attitudes reflected on their faith and profession in Christ. Paul wrote, “1Let as many servants as are under the yoke [the yoke of bondage or slavery] count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed” (6:1).

In his epistle to believers in Ephesus, Paul challenged servants and slaves to obey their masters, and fear and honor them out of a sincere heart, “as unto Christ” (Ephesians 6:5). Peter commanded, “18Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward” (1 Peter 2:18). The heart attitude of a believer is to serve, honor, and obey an employer to the end they will give them no cause to have an ill opinion of God and the Scriptures (6:1).

What is the Believer’s Duty to a Believing Employer? (6:2)

Today, many believers bring a spirit of entitlement when they are employed by believers or a ministry. Some believers become so offensive in their expectations, they become a sorrow to fellow believers that employ them.

There were some in the congregation Timothy pastored who were masters (6:2). Surely, salvation so transformed the lives of some that they evidenced love and Biblical virtues toward their slaves (2 Corinthians 5:17). Perhaps, some believing masters even divested themselves of slavery entirely.

Nevertheless, slavery was a component within the culture of the 1st century church. Therefore, Paul commanded Timothy teach and exhort believers regarding the relationship of the servants and their masters (6:2). What was Timothy to “teach and exhort” servants? (6:2) Paul wrote: “they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit” (6:2).

While the servants and some masters were believers, the believing servants were to remember their place and role, and treat their masters with respect (“not despise them,” 6:2b). A believing servant was to “do them service,” meaning serve them with a right heart attitude and spirit (6:c). Because the master was a believer, the believing slave was to value the privilege of serving a fellow believer, knowing both were “partakers of the benefit,” meaning the Gospel of the grace of God in Christ (6:2d).

Closing thoughts (6:3-6) – I close today’s devotion, exhorting you to not entertain any other spirit or attitude that arises and hinders your testimony in the world. There are believers who justify a belligerent, divisive spirit toward their employers. If believers were to exercise an honest self-examination, some would find a spirit of entitlement contrary to the Spirit of God, and the teachings of the Scripture.

If believing slaves were commanded to honor and obey their masters, surely no less can be expected of us.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Calling and Passion of a Minister (1 Timothy 4; 1 Timothy 5)

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Scripture reading – 1 Timothy 4; 1 Timothy 5

The passage assigned for today’s Scripture reading is prophetic (4:1-5), convicting (4:6-16), and voluminous in practical instruction for the daily life of the church, its leadership, and members (5:1-25). Understanding Paul was writing to Timothy, who was not only his spiritual son in the faith, but a young pastor, we find instructions that are powerful and pointed. Unfortunately, I must limit today’s devotion to 1 Timothy 4.

1 Timothy 4

Warning Concerning False Teachers (4:1-5)

On numerous occasions our study of the New Testament has evidenced a concern regarding false teachers and their teachings. Timothy was no stranger to the enemies of the Gospel, and their presence without and within the church. Paul was aware of the challenges facing Timothy as a pastor, and he warned him concerning the presence and growing influence evil men would have “in the latter times” (4:1).

Apostasy has plagued believers from the fall of man, and the influence of evil men has shadowed God’s people throughout the ages. Moses contended with wicked men in the midst of Israel’s sojourn through the wilderness. Isaiah prophesied against the people of his day, saying, “this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men” (Isaiah 29:13).

Paul warned Timothy to be vigilant, for the Holy Spirit had revealed to him, the time would come when men would abandon the truth, and “depart from the faith” (4:1). Believers would follow deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons (4:1c). False teachers would perpetuate lies, and their consciences would be insensitive, as though “seared (and hardened) with a hot iron” (branding iron, 4:2). Reminiscent of the false doctrines of Roman Catholicism, false teachers would teach abstinence and forbid marriage (4:3a), and commend denying oneself food as though it merited God’s favor (4:3b).

After warning Timothy of the encroachment of false teachers and their doctrine (4:1-5), Paul gave him practical instructions concerning the character and godly virtues of those who aspire to preach and teach God’s Word.

Four Essential Traits of Spiritual Leaders (4:6-11)

1) The minister must seek his spiritual nourishment in the Scriptures (4:6). To “be a good minister of Jesus Christ” to his congregation, a pastor must feed himself daily in the Word of God (4:6; 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15).

2) A pastor must not entertain false teachings, nor get entangled in foolish speculations (4:7a).

3) He will discipline and exercise himself in godliness and spiritual disciplines (4:7b). Perhaps having in mind, the physical disciplines of Olympic athletes, Paul reminded Timothy physical exercise profits a man only for a brief time (4:9a). However, spiritual disciplines in God’s Word, prayer, and in pursuit of godly virtues, profits a man in this life and eternally (4:8). Paul asserted, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation” (4:9). In other words—the preeminence of spiritual disciplines is without question.

4) A faithful minister must be committed to work hard, willing to “suffer reproach” and rejection, because his faith and hope is “in the living God” who would “have all men to be saved” (4:10-11; 1 Timothy 2:4).

With the challenge, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers” (4:12a), Paul recorded six virtues that should be true of all in positions of spiritual leadership (4:12-16).

Six Godly Virtues of Spiritual Leadership (4:12)

1) Word (4:12b) – Ministers must be examples in speech and conversation. They are to guard their speech from sin, and speak that which edifies, and encourages others to Christlikeness (Ephesians 4:29).

2) “Conversation(4:12c)” The pastor’s manner of life and conduct is to serve as an example to others. He is to be a model of righteous living, and “holy in all manner of conversation” (1 Peter 1:15).

3) Love (4:12d) Sacrificial love motivates the minister’s work, as he dedicates and gives his life in serving the Lord and others (John 15:13).

4) Spirit (4:12e) A pastor’s spirit is passionate regarding the work of the ministry to which the Lord has called him.

5) “Faith” (4:12f) – A good minister must be mature in his faith, and unwavering in his obedience to the Word of God.

6) Purity (4:12g) – The sixth virtue speaks of the minister’s moral character, and is to be characterized by purity in heart, mind, and body.

Closing thoughts (4:13-16) – In conclusion, Paul exhorted Timothy: “13Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (4:12). The old apostle challenged the young pastor to keep his passion and focus on ministering to believers. Timothy, as with all ministers, was to focus on three spiritual disciplines: “Reading”(4:13a) – the private and public readings of God’s Word. “Exhortation” (4:13b)Encouraging believers could take on the form of reproving, rebuking, or patient exhortation (2 Timothy 4:2). Lastly, Timothy was to teach and instruct believers in “Doctrine” (4:13c).

An observation – There was a time when a pastor’s ministry was measured in decades, as he faithfully poured his life into reading God’s Word, exhorting believers, and teaching doctrine. Tragically, the average stay of today’s pastor in between 3-5 years.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Women in the Church, and God’s Blueprint for Church Leadership (1 Timothy 2-3)

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Scripture reading – 1 Timothy 3

1 Timothy 3 addresses two ministering offices of the church. The office of the bishop defines the function and qualifications of a pastor as overseer of a local congregation of believers (3:1-7). The second church office is that of the deacons (meaning servant; 3:8-13).). Notice the bishop\pastor and deacons’ offices were defined by personal, spiritual, and family qualifications (3:1-13). The focus of this devotion will be the office of the bishop\pastor; however, I will first set the context for our study by examining the role of women in the church.

The Women of the Congregation (2:9-15)

While there are many controversies challenging the 21st century church, I suggest the role of the sexes, and leadership is the most hotly debated. Beginning with the conviction believers accept the authority of the Scriptures in faith and practice, the teachings regarding the role of women becomes simple and straightforward.

After writing regarding the importance of prayer (2:8), Paul addressed the adorning and decorum of women in public worship. As he commanded men to “pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (2:8), the apostle commanded women to be adorned “in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; 10But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works” (2:9-10).

Dress Matters: A Principle for Women’s Dress and Decorum (2:9-10)

Contrary to the “come as you are” invitation of many churches, Paul taught believers to dress in a manner that befits God’s holiness (2:9a). With reverence and restraint, women are to dress in a manner that would not distract from public worship (2:9b). Modeling godly character, a woman’s works (her outward deeds) are to be a reflection of her dedication to the Lord (2:10).

The Attitude and Demeanor of Women in the Church (2:11-12)

Then, Paul’s attention turned to the attitude and demeanor of women in public worship. The apostle wrote: “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection” (2:11).

The church is graced with women who are wonderful examples of spiritual piety and Biblical knowledge. Nevertheless, in public worship women are to be learners, and not teachers. Indeed, the role of women in the church is one of subjection (Paul had written the same to believers in Corinth, stating: “It is a shame for women to speak in the church,” 1 Corinthians 14:35). Paul taught the same principle in his letter to Timothy, stating, “I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” (2:12).

Two Spiritual Foundations for Paul’s Instructions Regarding the Role of Women (2:13-15)

The apostle Paul needed no justification for the limits he placed on the role of women in the church; nevertheless, he identified two principles for his instructions (2:13-14). The first, God’s creative order: “For Adam was first formed, then Eve” (2:13; 1 Corinthians 11:8-9). The second principle arose from the historical fact concerning the fall of the human race (2:14). Adam and Eve disobeyed the Lord’s commands; however, it was the woman, not the man who was “deceived” and transgressed (2:14; Genesis 3:1-6a). Adam sinned of his own volition, and disobeyed God. Eve, however, usurped her husband’s authority, and was deceived by the serpent (2:14).

Having clearly, and unequivocally defined the role of women in the church (2:9-15), Paul then set in order the leadership offices of the church (1 Timothy 3). For today’s study, the focus with be the office of the bishop\pastor (3:1-7).

1 Timothy 3 – The Bishop\Pastor

The Person and Office of the Pastor (3:1)

Accepting the Scripture’s authority in both faith and practice, the Bible is clear: The office of bishop, meaning overseer, is to be occupied by a man. Of those who aspire to the calling of pastor, it is “a good work” (3:1). The word “desire” indicates a strong urgency to pastor and oversee the work of the ministry. Such a calling is a “good,” and honorable work. Yet, desiring the office and work of the bishop is not enough; for a man must also be qualified to hold such a high calling.

The Qualifications of the Pastor (3:2-7)

I might suggest various outlines for the qualifications of the pastor, but I will limit myself to four categories. The first is a personal qualification: “2A bishop then must be blameless (3:2a). That is not implying perfection (for I can ascertain no man would qualify). “Blameless” indicates the necessity of the pastor’s personal life passing scrutiny. The pastor’s moral character must be above reproach, and must not be chargeable with a moral offense (adultery, fornication, or any other reprehensible conduct disqualifies a man from the pastorate).

The second qualification of the pastor concerns his marriage and relationship with his wife (if married). He is to be “the husband of one wife” (3:2b), in thought and deed (or as many have observed, he must be “a one-woman kind of man”). Other than death, which ends the covenant of marriage in the sight of God and man, a pastor is to be devoted to one-woman. A moral failure or divorce disqualifies a man from the pastorate.

Thirdly, notice the pastor’s character is an essential qualification, and he is to be “vigilant (watchful), sober (disciplined), of good behaviour (honest; well-behaved), given to hospitality, apt (qualified) to teach; 3Not given to wine (not a drinker), no striker (violent or combative), not greedy of filthy lucre (lover of money); but patient (gracious), not a brawler (contentious), not covetous (lover of possessions) (3:2-3).

The fourth essential for the pastor is he is to demonstrate godly leadership in his home (3:4-5). He is to be “one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity” (3:4). Notice the essential nature of a pastor’s household leadership is stressed as the background for the following proposition: “5For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” (3:5)

To be spiritually qualified for overseeing the body of Christ, a pastor must not be a “novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil” (3:6). Regarding his public testimony, “he must have a good report of them which are without [secular society]; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil” (3:7).

Closing thoughts – With the Scriptures as my authority, I state unequivocally: Women are not to usurp men in teaching or preaching the Scriptures. Women have their place and role in teaching women (Titus 2:3-5); however, they should never exercise authority over men and aspire to teach or preach the Scriptures. To do so is a violates the clear teachings of Scripture.

A Personal Observation: Tragically, many spiritual leaders have accommodated the sins of their children and violated Paul’s instructions (3:5). From my vantage, it seems every failed ministry (Bible-preaching church, Bible college, and Christian institution) has one thing in common:

Spiritual leaders have compromised the spiritual precepts of their institutions, and invited God’s judgment upon those ministries.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Beware of Joy Robbers! (Philippians 3; Philippians 4)

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Scripture reading – Philippians 3; Philippians 4

Our study of Philippians concludes with our Scripture reading, Philippians 3 and 4. Now, the closing verses of chapter 2 revealed the occasion of Paul’s letter. Paul wrote, “I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus…your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants” (2:25). Epaphroditus, a member of the church in Philippi, had come to Rome as a “messenger” for that congregation, and ministered to Paul on their behalf during his imprisonment.

Though he had faithfully discharged his ministry to Paul, he had taken ill, and in the apostle’s words, “was sick nigh unto death” (2:27). Not even the apostle was empowered to heal a fellow servant apart from God’s will and intervention. In other words, in this sin-cursed world, sickness will occasion the life of the most faithful servants of the Lord.

Rejoicing in God’s mercy, Epaphroditus was healed and returned to Philippi with Paul’s letter (2:28), and his commendation of the man as one they should “ receive…in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation” (2:29). Paul was forward in his observation, how Epaphroditus nearly worked himself to death, making up for the insufficient service of other members of the church at Philippi (2:30). (Interesting, but the age-old problem of 10% of the membership doing 90% of the work is as old as the church itself.)

Philippians 3

Arguably typical of many preachers (including this author), Paul began the conclusion of his letter prematurely, and wrote, “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord” (3:1). Epaphroditus’ return would give cause for his fellow-believers to not only “rejoice in the Lord,” but literally, “keep on rejoicing in the Lord!” (3:1). Yet, as soon as he called believers to rejoice, he issued a dire warning:

Beware of joy robbers! (3:2)

Who were the joy robbers of the 1st century church? Paul identified them with three epithets: “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision” (3:2). Dogs, evil workers, and the concision were false teachers and fake believers that were in the midst of the congregation. Let us briefly consider those enemies of believers.

Paul wrote, “Beware of dogs (3:2). Unlike our culture, which dotes on dogs as four-footed friends and furry companions, the dogs of the 1st century were unclean, wild pests that ran in packs. The Jews of the 1stcentury considered Gentiles unclean dogs, for they did not follow the Torah (God’s Word). The prophet Isaiah described false prophets as “dumb dogs,” and “greedy dogs” (Isaiah 56:10-11). They were greedy of riches, and guilty of teaching lies, giving some a sense of false security.

There was a second group in the congregation whom Paul identified as “evil workers” (3:2). They were “workers,” fellow laborers, perhaps prominent leaders and teachers in the congregation; however, they lacked integrity. They were “evil,” indicating their character was dishonest, insincere, immoral, and wicked men. Tragically, such personalities earn a following of the naïve, and pose a danger to fellow-believers.

Thirdly, Paul warned, “Beware of the concision (3:2c). The concision were Judaizers, and preached a strict conformity to Jewish customs and practices, and in particular the observance of circumcision. They demanded believers of Gentile origin be circumcised to merit God’s favor. Their influence caused some to lose faith that God’s grace was sufficient for salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Circumcision of the Heart: Three Characteristics of Genuine Believers (3:3)

Lest any be tempted to place their faith in anything other than Christ for salvation, Paul declared, “3For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (3:3). That was an astonishing statement to those of Hebrew lineage. Beginning with Abraham (Genesis 17:9-14), physical circumcision served as an outward sign of an inward settled faith in God’s promises. Yet, physical circumcision was insufficient without the circumcision of the heart (identified with God’s grace, and set apart to Him, Acts 15:1-24).

The LORD requires circumcision of the heart and spirit. (3:3-7; note – Romans 2:29)

Paul identified three characteristics of a circumcised heart: “3For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (3:3). Circumcised hearts “worship God in the Spirit” (3:3b). When a believer worships “in the Spirit,” his worship is an act of devotion, out of sincere love for the Lord (John 4:24). Secondly, a circumcised heart will “rejoice in Christ Jesus” (3:3c). We who know Christ as Savior, have no reason to glory in works; our rejoicing is in Christ alone.

Finally, a circumcised heart has “no confidence in the flesh” (3:3d). The Judaizers boasted in the circumcision of the flesh, but Paul overshadowed their boasts with his own lineage, and adherence to the Law and customs of the Jews (3:4-6). Yet, he confessed, “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ” (3:7).

Closing thoughtsThe Folly of Self-righteousness (3:7-8)

Paul counted the privilege of his birth (his lineage and tribal heritage), and personal achievements (education, religious zeal, and blameless character) as “loss for Christ” (3:7). He placed his faith in Christ, and declared: “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (3:8). Paul forfeited everything that he might attain “the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord” (3:8).

To be saved, sinners must accept they have no grounds for confidence in the flesh (Titus 3:5), and cannot merit God’s favor (Ephesians 2:8-9). Our salvation is in the Cross of Christ, His death, burial and resurrection (3:9-10).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.