Tag Archives: God is Just

Spiritual Virtues: Faith, Love, and Hope (1 Thessalonians; 2 Thessalonians)

Scripture reading – 1 Thessalonians; 2 Thessalonians

We continue our chronological reading schedule today originating from two epistles authored by the apostle Paul to believers in Thessalonica. For perspective, I invite you to recall our study in Acts 17. Paul had arrived in Thessalonica, the capital city of ancient Macedonia, and for three Sabbaths he boldly preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the synagogue of that city, “alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead” (Acts 17:3), and that according to the Scriptures (Isaiah 53).

Some in Thessalonica had believed, including a great number of Gentiles: “The devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few” (Acts 17:4). The success of Paul’s ministry in that city had provoked unbelieving Jews to envy, and they stirred up a mob against them, forcing Paul and Silas to flee the city (17:10).

With that introduction, we come to today’s Scripture readings, 1 Thessalonians; 2 Thessalonians.

As you read the epistles, notice what I believe is “a shepherd’s heart,” and longing for the saints of God. For instance, consider the salutations in both letters, and notice how they effuse a pastor’s sincere love and longing.

Paul writes in his first epistle, “1bGrace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers” (1 Thessalonians 1:1b–2).

Paul beings his second epistle with a greeting that is similar to the first epistle: “Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We are bound to thank God always for you” (2 Thessalonians 1:2–3).

Notice the themes: Grace, God’s loving favor that He gives and cannot be merited, and Peace, like grace, a gift that comes from God, through Jesus Christ. Such peace and harmony come from the believer’s security in God’s love (John 14:27; Romans 5:1; Colossians 1:20).

Having greeted the saints with a longing and desire that they would rest in the blessings of God’s grace and peace, Paul erupted into prayers of thanksgiving! Paul wrote, “We give thanks to God always for you all” (1 Thessalonians 1:2). In his second epistle he wrote, “We are bound to thank God always for you” (2 Thessalonians 1:2-3).

When Paul remembered the saints of Thessalonica, his fond remembrances stirred his heart to rejoice and give thanks to the LORD. Those believers were not without their faults; however, they manifested three spiritual virtues that should inspire all believers: Faith, Love, and Hope (1 Thessalonians 1:3). Paul writes,

1 Thessalonians 1:3 – “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father.”

Their faith was more than a profession, it was a working faith (1 Thessalonians 1:3a). Believers in Thessalonica demonstrated their faith by their works (James 2:18-22, 26).

The second virtue was their “labor of love” (1 Thessalonians 1:3b). Love is an enduring motivation for ministering to others (Galatians 6:10; 1 Peter 1:22), and a sincere love for God will be demonstrated in a readiness to love and serve others (2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Hebrews 10:24).

Patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:3c) was the third virtue of believers in Thessalonica. Literally, a longsuffering, enduring, steadfast hope in Christ.

What motivates a believer to work, labor, and not lose hope? The promise of Christ’s coming!

Titus 2:13b – “…Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Hello, Athens! (Acts 17)

Scripture reading – Acts 17

Today’s Scripture reading follows Paul’s ministry in Philippi, and what some might describe as a “hullabaloo” (i.e. uproar, tumult, clamor) that was created after he and Silas were falsely accused of teaching “customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans” (16:21). Those men were thereafter beaten and jailed (16:22-24). The next day they were set free and departed from Philippi (16:39-40), traveling “through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica” (17:1).

Acts 17 – Paul and Silas’ ministry in three prominent cities of the first century: Thessalonica (17:1-13), Berea (17:10-14), and Athens (17:15-34).

Notice that it was Paul’s custom to go into a city, and on the Sabbath enter into a synagogue, and boldly declare Jesus as the Messiah (i.e. the Anointed One) and Savior (17:1-3). Time and space prevent me from an in-depth study of Paul’s ministry in those cities; however, I trust my amplification of some key verses will be a blessing.

The city of Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-13)

Acts 17:1-3Now when they [Paul and Silas] had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: 2 And Paul, as his manner was [i.e. as was his custom or habit], went in unto them [the Jews in the synagogue at Thessalonica], and three sabbath days reasoned [disputed; preached; conversed] with them out of  [from] the scriptures [i.e. The Old Testament Scriptures], 3  Opening [explaining; setting forth] and alleging [setting forth], that Christ must needs [ought; should] have suffered [experienced pain], and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach [declare; proclaim] unto you, is Christ [the Messiah].

The response of some was to believe; however, the response of many was to reject Jesus Christ and oppose witnesses.

Acts 17:5-7But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy [jealous over Paul’s success], took unto them certain lewd [evil; wicked] fellows of the baser sort [vulgar; good for nothing], and gathered a company [crowd], and set all the city on an uproar [tumult; disturbance], and assaulted [rushing at] the house of Jason [a man who was a Christian], and sought to bring them [Paul and Silas] out to the people [for the purpose of publicly accusing and attacking]. 6 And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned [made an uproar] the world upside down [made an uproar] are come hither also; 7Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary [oppose; against] to the decrees [laws; ordinances] of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.

The city of Berea (Acts 17:10-14)

Acts 17:11 – These [the people of Berea] were more noble [i.e. noble minded] than those in Thessalonica, in that they received [accepted] the word with all readiness of mind [eagerly; joyfully], and searched [examined; investigated] the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

The city of Athens (Acts 17:15-34)

Known for both its scholarship and idolatry, Paul journeyed to Athens and seeing the idols of that ancient city in every place, he boldly declared Jesus Christ in both the synagogue and public places.

Acts 17:16-17 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit [soul; inward man] was stirred [provoked] in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry [i.e. was full of idols]. 17  Therefore disputed he [reasoned; preached; teach public twin ] in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons [religious; reverent], and in the market [i.e. The town square; public thoroughfare] daily with them that met with him [that he chance to meet].

Acts 17:20-22For thou bringest certain strange things [surprising; shocking] to our ears: we would know [understand; desire to know] therefore what these things mean. 21  (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.) 22 Then Paul stood [standing] in the midst [center; lit. he seized the opportunity] of Mars’ hill [a hill in Athens; a meeting  place], and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things [everything] ye are too superstitious [religious ;i.e. fearing the gods of idols ].

Acts 17:29-31Forasmuch then as we are the offspring [family; people] of God, we ought not to think [suppose; regard] that the Godhead is like [similar; i.e. the nature of God] unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven [scratch; etched; sculpted] by art and man’s device [thought or imagination].30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at [overlooked;  do not punish]; but now commandeth [ declares] all men every where to repent [change of mind accompanied by sorrow]: 31  Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge [condemn] the worldin righteousness [justice] by that man whom he hath ordained [i.e. Jesus Christ]; whereof he [God] hath given assurance unto all men, in that he [God] hath raised him [Jesus Christ] from the dead.

We might imagine the shock to the pride and feelings of those men of Athens who, in the words of the Scripture, did nothing more than want to “tell, or to hear some new thing” (17:21). Here was a man who boldly declared what they knew in their hearts, that the God of creation and heaven (17:29a) is nothing like the idols they had sculpted with their own hands and imaginations (17:29b). Paul warned, God would no longer overlook their willful ignorance, and was commanding “all men every where to repent” (17:30).

Like in our own day, many mocked and rejected the Gospel (17:32a), some desired to hear more (17:32b), and there were some who believed (17:34).

What about you? What do you believe? Is your heart ready for God’s judgment? (2 Corinthians 5:10)

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Acts 15-16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Persecutor and the Preacher (Acts 9-10)

Scripture reading – Acts 9-10

Our previous devotional concluded with Acts 8 where we read, “1And Saul [He will become known as Paul after his conversion] was consenting unto his [Stephen’s] death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem…3As for Saul, he made havock [shamefully treating believers] of the church, entering into every house, and haling [dragging] men and women committed them to prison” (Acts 8:1a, 3).

The religious leaders of Judaism looked upon Saul as a rising star in their ranks (Philippians 3:4-6; Galatians 1:13-14), and believers considered him a formidable, tireless foe. Saul’s zeal against those accepting Jesus as the Messiah is described in the opening verses of Acts 9.

Acts 9:1–2 – And Saul, yet breathing [blowing; expelling] out threatenings [reproaches] and slaughter [murder] against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters [permission; authority] to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way [The WAY; believers in the Gospel of Christ], whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound [with ropes and chains] unto Jerusalem.

Saul’s passion opposing believers of “The WAY” (9:2), and his thirst for the blood of martyrs was unrequited. Under the deluded pretense that he was serving God, he requested and received letters of authority from the high priests, and set out on a journey for Damascus. Driven by a religious zeal that was contrary to the Law and Commandments (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:16), Saul intended to drag followers of Christ out of the synagogues of Damascus, and take them in chains to Jerusalem, a journey of 175 miles.

As he neared Damascus, there was “a light from heaven” (9:3), a light that may have been the shekinah glory of the Son of God, Jesus Christ (Luke 2:9; John 1:14). Blinded by the light (9:8), Saul fell to the earth “and heard a voice” (9:4a).

Notice that the LORD confronted Saul’s sin asking, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” (9:4) With humility, Saul answered, Who art thou, Lord? Then Jesus revealed Himself to Saul by name, identifying his persecution of believers as an offense against Himself.

“The Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (9:5b). Like an ox that is goaded with a long stick to prod it to obey its master, Saul had foolishly been goading God. “Trembling and astonished [amazed]” (9:6), he realized he had been persecuting the Son of God.

Blind and shaken, Saul surrendered his will to God, and acknowledged Jesus Christ as his Lord. His pretense of spiritual piety revealed for its hypocrisy, he asked, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (9:6a).

Saul was led to Damascus by the men that had traveled with him on his initiative to persecute followers of Christ. Rendered “speechless,” those men had heard a voice, but “seeing no man,” were unchanged by the experience that had transformed Saul’s heart and life (9:7).

Arriving in Damascus, with the Lord’s promise he would be told what he must do (9:6c), the great persecutor of believers found himself blind, and with no appetite for food or drink (9:9).

While Saul waited, the Lord moved on the heart of Ananias (9:10), a godly man whom He had chosen to restore Saul’s sight. Knowing the path of death and destruction that had been perpetuated by Saul, Ananias resisted. However, he was assured by the Lord, “behold he prayeth” (9:11), “he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (9:15).

Obeying the Lord’s command, Ananias came to Saul, and “putting his hands on him” (9:17), he received his sight (9:18).

I close today’s devotional, marveling at the transformation in Saul’s life. From the great persecutor of the followers of Christ, to a faithful apostle; what a testimony of saving, transforming grace! No wonder Paul would later write, “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Secret to God’s Power (Acts 4-6)

Scripture reading – Acts 4-6

One would not presume the miraculous healing of a lame man, a man unable to walk from his birth, would be the catalyst for rousing opposition to the Gospel (Acts 3:2; 4:22). However, such was the case when members of the Sanhedrin, among them the high priests, Pharisees, and scribes (4:1-6), realized the death of Jesus Christ was not the end, but only the beginning of a movement that would turn “the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).

Peter, preaching with boldness the Gospel of Christ, had accused the people of Israel saying, “14 But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; 15 And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses” (Acts 3:14-15)

Calling on the people to repent, and “be converted, that [their] sins may be blotted out” (3:19), Peter’s preaching was suddenly interrupted. “The priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them [Peter and John, Acts 3:1],Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold [prison] unto the next day.” (4:1-3, 13).

In spite of the abuse, and opposition to the Gospel, “many of them which heard the word [the Gospel of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection] believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand” (4:4). The next day, Peter and John (note Acts 3:1; 4:13) were brought before the Sanhedrin to be tried by the same men who not long before had presided over Christ’s trial, and finally demanded His crucifixion (4:5-7).

The Interrogation (Acts 4:7-16)

The members of the Sanhedrin repeatedly demanded, “By what power [authority], or by what name [person], have ye done this [i.e. healing the lame man and preaching]?” (4:7) Peter’s response to their examination is instructive and noteworthy for believers facing adversaries (4:8-12).

Peter was “filled with the Holy Ghost” when he responded to his enemies (4:8). He did not respond to his inquisitors in the flesh, but was yielded to the Spirit, and empowered to speak as God would have him to respond.

Peter’s response was respectful, and not spiteful. He acknowledged the office and position the leaders held with the people, and addressed them as, “rulers of the people, and elders of Israel” (4:8b).

Peter’s faith evoked boldness and courage (4:9-11). He did not shy from identifying Jesus Christ as the source of their power to heal the lame man, and leveled against his enemies the weight of their guilt in crucifying “Jesus Christ of Nazareth… whom God raised from the dead” (4:10).

Leaving no doubt that in Christ alone is forgiveness of sin, Peter declared, “12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (4:12).

The religious leaders were amazed at “the boldness of Peter and John,” and marveled that “unlearned and ignorant men” who lacked rabbinical schooling (4:13), would have insight and discernment into the Scriptures. The Sanhedrin knew Peter and John were Galilean fisherman, but what could explain their wisdom? The leaders, “took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (4:13).

The Intent of the Adversaries (Acts 4:16-18)

Unable to deny the healing of the man who had been lame since his birth (4:16), but rushing to find a solution to the spread of the Gospel (4:17), the religious leaders threatened Peter and John, and “commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus” (4:18).

The Instruction of a Righteous Response to Enemies of the Gospel (4:19-21)

Unwilling to be silenced by threats and intimidation, Peter and John answered their interrogators saying, “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (4:19-20).

God is the Judge of right and wrong, and His authority exceeds all human authority. Jesus Christ had commissioned, and empowered them to preach (1:8), and they would not, and could not be silent.

Rather than silencing the apostles, Peter and John’s faith propelled believers to glorify “God for that which was done” (4:21). When Peter and John reported what had been said to them by “the chief priests and elders,” the people “lifted up their voice to God with one accord” (4:23-24) and prayed, acknowledging God as Creator and Sovereign. They trusted God, and prayed, “do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done” (4:28).

Acknowledging the threats of their enemies, they prayed for God to give them boldness to speak (4:29). As they prayed, the foundations of the place were shaken, and the Holy Ghost filled the people and “they spake the word of God with boldness” (4:31).

I close inviting you to notice that God’s power was present when there was unity among believers, for the people “were of one heart and of one soul” (4:32).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

You want Proof? I’ve Got Proof! (Luke 24, John 20-21)

Scripture reading – Luke 24, John 20-21

A shepherd’s memo and invitation to those who follow the 2020 edition of www.HeartofAShepherd.comToday’s Scripture reading is the 319th Bible reading of the year and is a milestone as we conclude our chronological study of the Gospels.

This year, 2020, brought not only a pandemic, but also unprecedented attacks on liberties I fear we too often take for granted. We have experienced an erosion of freedoms, as social mediums and news organizations joined forces to silence blogs and posts that are contrary to their social agenda and narrative. My Heart of a Shepherd’s Facebook Page was disabled without notice, and without any means of appeal. 

If you have not done so, I urge you to subscribe to www.HeartofAShepherd.com, and insure you will continue to receive these daily Bible devotionals.

The proofs of Christ’s resurrection, the Great Commission, and the command to preach the Gospel are the concluding themes in our study of the Gospels.

Luke and John record undeniable proofs of Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead. Mary Magdalene (John 20:1), and several other women, including Joanna, and Mary the mother of James (Luke 24:1, 10) had arrived at the tomb “the first day of the week, very early in the morning (Luke 24:1) and found “the stone rolled away from the sepulchre” (Luke 24:2).

Although Jesus had on several occasions prophesied His death, burial, and resurrection, Mary Magdalene had leapt to the conclusion that the Lord’s body had been removed by His enemies (John 20:1-2). Without waiting on the other women, Mary bolted from the tomb, taking news to Peter and John saying, “They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him” (20:2).

The other women had entered the tomb, and were frightened by the appearance of “two men,” two angels who “stood by them in shining garments” (Luke 24:4) and asked, “Why seek ye the living among the dead?” (24:5)

Without waiting for the women to answer, the angels reminded them how Jesus had foretold His death, burial and resurrection, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again” (Luke 24:7).

Those women, remembered “His words,” and with joy left the tomb and ran to tell the disciples the news that Jesus was risen. The disciples, however, “believed them not” (Luke 24:11). That “same day at evening,” being “the first day of the week” (John 20:19), Jesus appeared to His disciples and said to them, “Peace be unto you” (20:19).

Proving His bodily resurrection from the dead, Jesus showed the disciples the physical scars of His crucifixion, in both “His hands and His side” (John 20:20). Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not there when Jesus revealed himself, and expressed his unbelief saying, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (20:25).

Eight days later, Jesus appeared a second time to His disciples (John 20:26), and said to Thomas, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing” (20:27). Thomas, laying aside his unbelief, confessed his faith in Christ saying, “My Lord and my God” (20:28).

Jesus was more than a prophet, or a great teacher. No mortal man could die and be raised from the dead apart from God. The days that followed Christ’s bodily resurrection, and the signs and miracles He performed (20:30), enflamed the hearts of His followers to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection with boldness and power.

John writes, “31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (20:31).

What do you believe? Do you believe the revelations of the written Word of God? Do you believe Jesus Christ was crucified for your sins, and on the third day was raised victorious from the dead? John wrote later in life his unwavering confidence in Christ:

1 John 5:11–1311 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Hope Renewed: “He Is Risen!” (Matthew 28; Mark 16)

Scripture reading – Matthew 28; Mark 16

Now Jesus had cried from the Cross with His dying breath, “It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost” (John 19:30). Removing any doubt that the Roman cross had not fulfilled its purpose, a soldier thrust his spear through our LORD’s side (John 19:34-37), and fulfilled Zechariah’s prophecy, “they shall look upon me whom they pierced” (Zechariah 12:10).

Departing Golgotha

The chief priests, Pharisees, and scribes might have been the first to depart Golgotha. They had plotted Jesus’ death, and after provoking the people to consent to His being crucified, went home bearing the guilt of innocent blood to begin the final preparations of the Passover Feast.

The last to leave the Cross were those closest to Jesus, including His mother Mary whom John led away to his own home (John 19:26-27), and the other women who had stood at the foot of the cross (Mark 15:40). These followed Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea who were members of the Sanhedrin (John 19:38-39), and placed the body of Jesus in Joseph’s own tomb (John 19:39).

The tomb was sealed and guards posted, to ensure that none of Jesus’ followers would steal His body, and then claim He had been raised from the dead as He had often taught (Matthew 27:62-66).

The Single Greatest Event in Human History: Christ’s Resurrection from the Dead (Matthew 28:1-6; Mark 16:1-6)

A great earthquake occurred at the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week” (28:1). The “angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came [came near] and rolled back [rolled away] the stone from the door [of the tomb], and sat [sat down] upon it” (28:2).

Arriving soon after the tomb was opened, the women who had come to anoint Jesus’ body were shaken by the terrifying sight of the angel, and disheartened when they found the tomb was open and the body of Jesus was missing (28:3-4). Two angels appeared (Luke 24:4-5), and one said to the women, “Fear not ye [Don’t be frightened]: for I know [understand] that ye seek [enquiring after] Jesus, which was crucified” (28:5). The next words spoken by the angel were the greatest news ever men or women would hear:

Matthew 28:6 He is not here [not in this place]: for he is risen [raised up], as he said. Come [come here], see [look and know] the place where the Lord lay.

Christ’s resurrection was the pinnacle moment in God’s plan of redemption. Jesus Christ had been crucified, buried, and was raised from the dead on the third day. The penalty of sin had been paid in full (Romans 6:23), and His resurrection promised hope to all who would believe.

Writing to believers in the city of Corinth, many of whom were concerned with the deaths of their loved ones, and wondered what would become of their souls, Paul writes:

1 Corinthians 15:12-1412  Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13  But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14  And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith isalso vain.

1 Corinthians 15:19–2219 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

The apostle John would write at the close of his first epistle:

1 John 5:1313 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Is Jesus Christ your Savior?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Judas: Remorse is Not Repentance (Matthew 27; Mark 15)

Scripture reading – Matthew 27; Mark 15

Rich with drama, the passages we are reading today bring us to the spiritual crossroads of human history. The unfolding drama is providentially God’s redemptive plan of salvation for man’s sin, conceived in the heart of our Creator before the foundation of the world was laid.

Today’s devotional could focus on many aspects of this path to the Cross; however, I must limit myself to one thought: Judas, his remorse, and death.

The chief priests and the Sanhedrin, having condemned Jesus to die (Matthew 27:1-2), had taken Him away to the palace of Pontius Pilate where He would be tried, and sentenced to death by the civil authority.

Judas had watched with remorse, the effect of His decision to betray Jesus into the hands of His enemies (27:3). For three years, he had been privileged to be Christ’s disciple. Along with the other disciples, he had listened to Him teach, and witnessed miracles that could not be explained apart from God’s power and anointing. Nevertheless, Judas was, like so many, a follower, but not a believer that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God.

Judas, seeing Jesus was condemned, and desperate to make right his wrong, went to the chief priests and elders with the thirty pieces of silver burning in his hands. He confessed to them, “I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood” (27:4a).

Poor, sad, miserable soul; Judas realized too late the scorn those religious hypocrites held not only for Jesus, but also for him. They answered Judas with contempt, “What is that to us? see thou to that” (27:4b).

What terror of soul! Those religious pretenders cared nothing for Judas’ soul and offered him no counsel (27:5a). He realized too late that there was no place, and no one to whom he could go to find relief for his wickedness. Unable to bear the weight of his sin, and his betrayal of “innocent blood” (27:4a), Judas realized no act of contrition could ease his guilt. Casting down the thirty pieces of silver, he fled through the streets of Jerusalem, “and went and hanged himself” (27:5b; Acts 1:16-19).

Magnifying the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, though set upon the murder of Jesus, they disingenuously debated among themselves the unlawful expenditure of blood money, the silver Judas had returned and hurled at them (27:6b). In a plan to conceal their sin, they proposed an act of charity and purchased “the potter’s field, to bury strangers in” (27:8). Unknowingly, they had fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah (27:9-10) that was recorded by Zechariah, stating:

“So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. 13 And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord” (Zechariah 11:12–13).

The public would learn the secret of their purchase, and called the place, “The field of blood” (27:8).

What sorrow, depravity, and travesty of justice and piety! Such is the way of the wicked, and the sorrow of remorse without sincere repentance. Judas was filled with regret; however, he failed to confess his sin to God. With no recourse except repentance, Judas found himself in a state of hopelessness. His remorse was too little, and his repentance came too late.

Friend, don’t make that mortal mistake. Confess your sin to God, and turn to Him knowing Christ has borne the penalty of your sin on the cross.

1 John 5:11–1311 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Tribulation and the Signs of Christ’s Coming (Matthew 24)

Scripture reading – Matthew 24

Today’s Scripture reading is a parallel passage to an earlier devotional from Mark 13. The geographical setting of Matthew 24 is the Mount of Olives, and the passage of Scripture is known as “The Olivet Discourse.”

Jesus, having prophesied the destruction of the Temple, was asked by His disciples (Mark 13:3), “Tell us, when [what time; how long] shall these things be [i.e. when will they come to pass]? and what shall be the sign [token; i.e. distinguishing mark] of Thy coming [advent; return], and of the end [completion; consummation] of the world [age]?” (Matthew 24:3).

Christ answered the disciples’ questions with a sweeping prophecy that fills the balance of Matthew 24 and Matthew 25. Jesus identified eight signs as “the beginning [i.e. the birth pangs] of sorrows” (24:8) that will precede His Second Coming. There will be:

1) A great deception led by a proliferation of “false Christs” who will deceive many (24:5).

2) International conflicts: “wars and rumors of wars” (24:6-7a)

3) Universal, natural disasters: “famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes” (24:7b)

4) An increase in persecution, martyrdom, and hatred for believers (24:9-10)

5) A great apostasy and falling away of pseudo-believers (24:10)

6) An increase in false prophets who “shall deceive many” (24:11)

7) An allure of sin that will diminish a love for righteousness and Truth (24:12)

8) The universal declaration of the Gospel to all nations and people (24:14)

Far from the utopia liberal progressives have promised for more than a century, the world has grown more volatile and violent. We are witnessing the inevitable abyss of atheism and moral depravity (Romans 3:10, 23). And yet, the worst is yet to be.

Jesus warned, “For then shall be [shall come to pass] great [high; large; prolonged] tribulation [affliction; distress; trouble], such as was not since [from] the beginning of the world to this [until] time, no, nor ever shall be” (24:21).

The world will witness unparalleled sorrows as the end draws near (24:21) and believers in that day are urged to be cautious, knowing “there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible [which it is not, because God will protect His people], they shall deceive the very elect” (24:23-24).

The saints in that day will be looking for the coming of Christ. Many “false Christ’s will arise” (24:24); however, when He returns, His coming will be unmistakable. He will come “as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (24:27).

The end of the Tribulation will be marked by signs in the heavens. There will be the terror of darkness, when “the sun [shall] be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light” (24:29a), and the solar system fails when “the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken” (24:29b). In that day, as the earth is shrouded in terrifying darkness, Jesus Christ, the “Son of man in heaven,” will be seen “coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (24:30). His coming will strike terror in the hearts of men as “all the tribes of the earth mourn” (24:30).

To those saints who believed in Christ during the Tribulation, His coming will be glorious, for He will “send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (24:31).

What a glorious day that will be! Are you ready for His coming?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Daily reading assignment – Matthew 23; Luke 20-21

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

Matthew 23 – The Final Public Sermon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith