Tag Archives: Ministry

Wise Counsel, Foolish Heart (Job 11)

Scripture reading – Job 11

Job 11 introduces us to the third of Job’s friends, “Zophar the Naamathite” (11:1). Like his companions, Eliphaz and Bildad, Zophar’s counsel to Job was harsh, direct, and unsympathetic. Impatient with Job’s confession that he had committed no sin to warrant so great a trial, Zophar accosted the poor man with four rebukes.

He accused Job of being full of pious talk, saying, “2Should not the multitude of words be answered? And should a man full of talk be justified [righteous in God’s eyes]?” (11:2) He assaulted Job’s character, and faulted him for lies, and irreverence: “3Should thy lies make men hold their peace? And when thou mockest, shall no man make thee ashamed?” (11:3) Finally, Zophar implicated Job, charging him with being a hypocrite, and observing, “4For thou hast said, My doctrine is pure, And I am clean in thine eyes” (11:4).

Like the other “friends,” Zophar lacked the humility and compassion of a godly counselor. Giving him no opportunity to respond, Zophar asserted that Job was guilty of sin (excessive speech, lies, irreverence, and hypocrisy), and deserved the punishment of all that had befallen him (11:5-6).

Job 11:7-12 – The Sovereignty and Wisdom of God

I fear Zophar was like a lot who profess to be believers: He had a knowledge of God, but lacked the heart of God when it came to ministering to his hurting friend.

Zophar rehearsed God’s incomparable revelation of Himself (11:7-9), and confessed that no man can know the LORD apart from His revelation (11:7a). He is El Shaddai, “the Almighty,” omnipotent, all-powerful God (11:7b).

Job 11:8–98[God’s revelation of Himself is] as high as heaven; what canst thou do? Deeper than hell; what canst thou know? 9The measure thereof is longer than the earth, And broader than the sea. [the circumference of the earth and the breadth of the sea was incomprehensible to the ancients]

Declaring that God knows what lies within the heart of man, Zophar challenged Job, the LORD “seeth wickedness also” (11:11b).

Job 11:13-20 – Three admonitions concluded Zophar’s criticisms of Job.

Repent: Assuming Job’s troubles were God’s punishment, Zophar urged him to repent, prepare his heart, and humble himself before the LORD (11:13). He counseled Job to put away his sin, and “let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles [lit. tent; house or household]” (11:14).

Be Restored: Zophar promised the LORD would restore Job if he repented (11:15), and that he would soon forget his miseries as swiftly as flood “waters that pass away” (11:16). Zophar assured Job that his “age” (life; days) would become as bright as the noonday sun (11:17), his hope would be restored (11:18a), and he would find rest and safety (11:18b-19).

Final Admonition: Be forewarned that those who fail to repent of their sins will look in vain for rest (“eyes of the wicked shall fail’), will find no refuge (“shall not escape”), and shall have no hope (11:20).

Zophar’s criticisms of Job were presumptuous, and unloving; however, his counsel to confess, and repent of sin (when there is sin of which to repent) is one we should all heed.

1 John 1:9–109If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Job’s response to his friends’ allegations of wrongdoing will cover the next chapters (Job 12-14).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

God Remembered Noah (Genesis 7-8)

Scripture reading – Genesis 7-8

Genesis 6 ended with God commanding Noah to build the Ark, while Genesis 7 begins with Noah being commanded to enter the Ark, leaving us a gap of 120 years between the two chapters. What occupied Noah’s time during those years?

God had revealed to Noah his plan to destroy the earth, and commanded him to build an Ark, giving him the design of that great ship of salvation (6:14-17). Lest there be any doubt of the extent of His judgment, God made Noah to understand that the flood would be universal, destroying “all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die” (6:17).

Now God established a covenant with Noah (6:18), and his family would be saved from the flood waters being spared from God’s judgment; not because they were sinless, but because he was the object of God’s grace (6:8). Knowing He intended to restore the earth after the flood waters receded, God directed Noah to prepare to bring two “of every living thing…into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female” (6:19-20), and to store “food that is eaten… food for thee, and for them” (6:21).

Genesis 6 concluded with Noah doing “according to all that God commanded him” (6:22). Here was a man of faith; a man who had not experienced a rainfall (for the waters were still in the firmament encircling the earth, 1:7), now building a massive ship, and preaching an imminent judgment (2 Peter 2:5).

Genesis 7 – “All Aboard!”

The day came when the preacher’s sermons fell silent, and the work on the Ark was complete; “And the Lordsaid unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation” (7:1).

In addition to the male and female of each “kind” and “every sort” being saved from the flood waters (6:19-20), we read that Noah was commanded to lead into the Ark seven “of every clean beast” (7:2-3), which we know he will later sacrifice in an act of worship and thanksgiving when the flood waters recede (8:20). Noah was 600 years old “when the flood of waters” began, and he “did according unto all that the LORD commanded him” (7:5-6, 16). With Noah, his family, and all the animals safe in the Ark, “the LORD shut [Noah] in” (7:16), and the waters that had been preserved in the earth since creation were “broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights” (7:11-12).

All was destroyed, and all “flesh died that moved upon the earth…and every man” (7:21), and “Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark” (7:23).

Genesis 8 – God Remembered Noah

After a year of devastating storms and floodwaters, and after a year of confinement in the Ark, the Scriptures simply state, “God remembered Noah” (8:1).

In the midst of His wrath, and the greatest cataclysmic event to ever come upon the earth, God remembered one man and his family. The world Noah had known was destroyed, and every man, woman, boy, and girl were perished in the waters. Three hundred and seventy days after the rains began, Noah was commanded, “16 Go forth of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons’ wives with thee” (8:16).

Closing thoughts: Noah’s first act after disembarking from the Ark was to build an altar and offer sacrifices to God (8:20-21a). The LORD’s first act was to accept Noah’s sacrifice, and make a covenant with the man and his family (8:21b-22). Noah’s sacrifice acknowledged his sin, and need of a substitute, while God’s covenant served as His promise to extend His mercy, and promise to never again destroy the earth with floodwaters (8:21-22).

With the Ark resting on the slope of Mount Aarat as our backdrop, I close inviting you to picture in your thoughts, Noah and his family, prostrate on their faces before an altar. As the smoke of their offerings ascend to heaven, Noah looks across a valley and sees a beautiful rainbow (9:12-17), its arch appearing to reach toward the very throne of God.

By faith, Noah had entered through the door of the Ark, and God had shut the door, saving Noah and his family. So it is by faith that sinners enter another door, and are saved from the penalty of sins and eternal hell. That door is Jesus Christ who promised, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved” (John 10:7, 11).

Is He your Savior?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Tragedy in Paradise (Genesis 2-3)

Scripture reading – Genesis 2-3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

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

A New Heaven, A New Earth, and A New Jerusalem (Revelations 21-22)

Scripture reading – Revelations 21-22

Today we come to the end of a journey that began 366 days ago (2020 was a leap year, meaning we were blessed last February with an added day, a phenomenal that occurs every four years). Today’s devotional commentary is a monumental milestone for me, as I fulfill a personal goal of writing a daily devotional commentary following a chronological schedule through the Scriptures.

As we come to Revelation 21, let us take a moment and reflect on the events that will come to pass before that chapter.

The Marriage Supper of the Lamb will be observed (19:1-10), and will precede the triumphant Second Coming of Christ (19:11-18). The “beast” (antichrist), and the false prophet will be cast alive into the “lake of fire” (19:19-21). Satan will be chained, and cast into the “bottomless pit” (20:1) where he will be held a thousand years during the Millennial Reign of Christ on the earth (20:2-6). When a thousand years are ended, Satan will be loosed to wreak havoc on the earth until he is cast into “the lake of fire and brimstone” where he will be forever tormented (20:7-9).

A dreadful, eternal judgment will follow, as the dead who had rejected God’s gift of redemption made possible in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, will appear before The Great White Throne (20:11). Death, hell, and all unbelievers, “small and great [will] stand before God, and will face eternal judgment as they are condemned and “cast into the lake of fire” (20:10-15).

Revelation 21 – A New Heaven, A New Earth, and New Jerusalem

With sin no more, God reveals “a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea” (21:1). The apostle John witnessed “the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (21:2). Suddenly, there was a “great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God” (21:3).

Comforted by the presence of God in their midst, John writes, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (21:4). Imagine, no sin, no sorrows, no sufferings, no sickness, and no death!

Much more could be considered in today’s Scripture reading, especially the wonderful description of New Jerusalem (21:9-22:2); however, I will save that great study for another time, and Lord willing, another year.

We began the year with Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Today we conclude our year-long study being reminded of something we have seen throughout this year: The Grace of God. John writes,

Revelation 22:21 – “21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”

Grace: Marvelous, matchless, unmerited. Songwriter Julia Johnston penned the hymn, “Grace Greater Than Our Sin,” writing:

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see his face,
will you this moment his grace receive?

Refrain:
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin!

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Expulsion and Defeat of Satan (Revelation 12-15)

Scripture reading – Revelations 12-15

The imagery of today’s Scripture reading (Revelation 12-15) is profound, and complicated. I will limit the devotional commentary to focusing on Revelation 12; however, I encourage you to read today’s full Scripture reading assignment.

A novice Bible student might be so stunned by the descriptions and characters in Revelation 12, that he forgets there is practical meaning and application behind the narrative. Remember, in Revelation, we are observing literal events that will come to pass in the Tribulation.

Three characters in Revelation 12: A Woman Great with Child (12:1-2); A Great Red Dragon (12:3-4); and the birth of a “Man Child” (12:5).

Israel – A Woman Great with Child (12:1-2)

Who was this woman who was “with child,” and is pictured as one “travailing in birth” (12:2)? I believe the woman “with child” is a description of Israel as a people.

She is described as, “a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars” (12:1). Israel’s glory, her prestige as God’s chosen people, her “crown of twelve stars,” symbolizing the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and her labor and travail with child was because the Christ child, God’s Redeemer would be born of and come out of Israel.

A Great Red Dragon (12:3-4)

The “great red dragon” is a symbol of Satan (12:3), and his being cast out of heaven is repeated here as it was described in the prophesies of Isaiah (14:12-15), and Ezekiel (28:12-17). Satan was the angel Lucifer, until his heart was lifted up with pride, and he led a rebellion against the God of heaven in which one-third of the angelic host followed him in an uprising against God.

Satan did all he could to prevent the birth of the promised Redeemer, seeking to destroy, to annihilate Israel, the people through whom God had promised the Christ child would be born (fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham that through his lineage all the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12). When Christ was born, the devil attempted to have Him killed, by King Herod’s assault on the children of Bethlehem. When Christ was crucified, and rose from the dead, sin and death were defeated, Satan turned his fierce wrath upon believers, and Israel.

The devil, the great dragon, knowing his time is short in the Great Tribulation (12:12), will make one last desperate attempt to destroy the true Israel (12:13-15), but he will fail when the earth opens up and swallows his forces (12:16).

A “Man Child” (12:5)

Who is the “man child” (12:5)? He is Jesus Christ. He was the son born of Israel (his mother being Mary), and of the lineage of Abraham (Matthew 1:1). He was born of the virgin, but was rejected by Israel. However, when He comes again, He will come and reign for a thousand years.

The woman who “fled into the wilderness” (12:6).

This is a prophesy that Israel as a nation and people will flee into the wilderness in the second half of the tribulation (lasting 3.5 years, or 1260 days, 12:6). Israel will seek refuge from the wrath of the devil and his forces.

A Heavenly Battle (12:7-9)

A heavenly war will be waged between “Michael (the archangel) and his angels” and the dragon and his angels (12:7-9). The devil’s defeat is assured, and he and his fallen angels will be “cast out into the earth” (12:9).

There is much in today’s Scripture reading that might baffle you, but you can be assured of this one thing:

Satan is a defeated foe, and God has assured believers the victory!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

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

The Seven Seals and Seven Judgments of Revelation (Revelation 6-11)

Scripture reading – Revelation 6-11

The intensity and breadth of today’s Scripture reading (Revelation 6-11) is nearly overwhelming, for the veil of future things is drawn back and we are permitted to see those things that will surely come to pass in that time that is known as The Tribulation (Revelation 6:1-18:24).

The Seven Seals of God’s Judgment (Revelation 6:1-7:17)

We read that “the Lamb” (6:1), Jesus Christ being the Lamb of God, will open or break seven seals. A seal was an instrument that guaranteed the privacy and security of the contents of a letter or other means of communication. A king would use a seal to guarantee the privacy of a letter. A seal might be used by a judge to bind an agreement between two individuals.

Four Seals and Four Horses with Riders

When Jesus Christ, “the Lamb,” breaks the seven seals in Revelation, He does so as the One with authority to unleash God’s judgments and fulfill their purpose. The first four seals are immediately followed by a rider and horse that go forth to judge the earth in an escalation of sorrows.

When the first seal is broken, a rider on a white horse goes forth to conquer and subdue the earth (6:1-2). The second seal is broken, and a rider on a red horse goes forth with a “great sword,” and removes peace from the earth (6:3-4). A third seal is broken, and a black horse and rider are sent and famine follows (6:5-6).

When the fourth seal is broken, a pale horse departs, and its rider identified as “Death, and Hell” (6:7), brings the greatest judgment the earth has faced in the Tribulation. In the wake of the fourth rider’s judgment (6:8), one fourth of the earth’s population is killed (that number today would be one billion nine hundred million souls that would perish).

The Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Seals

The fifth seal marks a departure from the symbolism of riders and horses. When “the Lamb” (Jesus Christ) breaks the fifth seal, a heavenly veil is drawn back and the souls of those who have been martyred in the tribulation appear “under the altar” (6:9). We are told they are those who were slain because of their faithfulness to the “word of God, and for the testimony which they held” (6:9).

The sixth seal is broken, and a time of universal judgment begins (6:12-17) that is manifested in “a great earthquake,” the darkening of the sun, the moon appearing as blood (6:12b), and the light of the stars being extinguished (6:13). All men, great and small, will realize the wrath of God is being poured out, and will seek in vain to hide themselves (6:14-17).

Revelation 7 is an interlude between the sixth and seventh seals, and it is revealed that 144,000 of all the tribes of Israel, 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes, will be chosen to declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

When “the Lamb” breaks the seventh seal, heaven will fall silent “about the space of half an hour” (8:1). “The seven angels which stood before God” will be given seven trumpets (8:1-2), and the sounding of their trumpets will usher in a time of unimaginable destruction and judgment upon the earth and its inhabitants (8:1-11:19).

Unfortunately, an interpretation of the seven angels, and the seven trumpets that accompany the breaking of the seventh seal will have to wait to another year, and another devotional.

Copyright – 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Beginning of the Apocalypse (Revelation 1-5)

Scripture reading – Revelation 1-5

Today’s Scripture reading brings us to the “Revelation of Jesus Christ to John the Apostle,” and is both the closing book of the Bible and the final book in our yearlong study of the Scriptures.

The Book of Revelation is just that, a book of prophetic revelations of the future. It is the “Apocalypse,” literally the revelation, the unveiling of Jesus Christ (1:1). It is God’s disclosure to believers; a prophetic insight into not only the future, but also the beginning of the end of this world with its sin and corruption.

Revelation 1:1-3 – The Apostle John’s Prologue

The historical setting of the Revelation is near the end of the first century, and at a time of increasing persecution against the Church. Some sixty years had passed since Jesus ascended to heaven, and the apostle John was an elderly man, perhaps in his 90’s. He is the last of the apostles, the others having been martyred. It was at such an hour that God saw fit to encourage His faithful servant, and the saints of God with a message of HOPE (Revelation 6:10; 8:1-5).

Revelation opens and closes with a special blessing for all who read this book of prophecy. John commences the book of Revelation by exhorting the saints, “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand” (1:3). Revelation concludes with Christ assuring, “Behold, I come quickly” and John promising, “blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book” (22:7).

Consider four observations: The Object, The Purpose, The Method, and the Recipient of the Revelation (1:1-2).

The object of the revelation is Jesus Christ and it was given to Him by God the Father (1:1). The purpose of the revelation was to present our LORD in His present and future glory (1:1). The Gospels presented Jesus in His humility; however, in Revelation we see Him in His heavenly glory. In the Gospels, Jesus is the suffering Lamb that was slain, but in Revelation He is Sovereign God who reigns. In the Gospels, He is pierced; in Revelation He is praised. In the Gospels He is condemned; in Revelation He is King and Judge of the earth.

You will notice that the method of the revelation was by an angel (God’s messenger), who was sent to communicate to John all “which must shortly come to pass” (1:1). Finally, as the recipient of the revelation, it was John’s task to be a witness, to “bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony [witness] of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he [John] saw” (1:2).

The Seven Churches of the Revelation (1:4–3:22)

I do not have space to do an exhaustive study of the balance of today’s Scripture reading, however, permit me to briefly direct your attention to the seven churches of revelation that were located in Asia Minor, in what is today modern Turkey (1:4, 11).

Those seven churches are identified by their cities and their spiritual state: The church at Ephesus had departed from the love they once had for the LORD (2:1-7). The church at Smyrna, was enduring persecution (2:8-11). The church at Pergamos, whose doctrine had been corrupted, and its testimony tainted by immorality and worldliness (2:12-17). Thyatira, a church that had a testimony of loving service, faith, and endurance (2:18-19), but had spiritually backslidden and tolerated false teachers (2:18-29).Sardis, its spiritual state was described as living, but “dead” (3:1), and the Lord challenged its members to wake up, and to strengthen themselves before they died (3:2-6). The church at Philadelphia was identified as a faithful church (3:7-13).

Finally, the seventh church of the revelation was the church at Laodicea, infamously described as a proud, wealthy church, but that had become spiritually indifferent and compromised (3:14-22).

Sadly, perhaps of the seven churches, many 21st century churches might need to identify with Laodicea: “Rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (3:17).

Lord, forgive us for our pride, and self-sufficiency. Amen!

* New 2_year_chronological_Bible_schedule_2021

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Saints and Scoundrels in the Church (2 John; 3 John)

Scripture reading – 2 John; 3 John

As noted in my observation regarding the authorship of The First Epistle of John, the brief letters in today’s Scripture reading are believed to have been authored by the same disciple who penned The Gospel of John. The Second Epistle of John and The Third Epistle of John were most likely written prior to the book known as “The Revelation,” and near the end of John’s life. This devotional will offer a brief introduction to 2 John and 3 John.

The Second Epistle of John

Though not by name, the introductory verse of 2 John identifies the letter’s recipient: “The elder [John identifying himself as a pastor\elder of the church] unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth” (1:1).

The identity of the “elect lady and her children” has been cause for debate. Many suppose the phrase, “the elect lady,” is a reference to the Church in general. Others believe John was writing to an individual believer (“elect”), one who was beloved by all believers, and respected for her testimony among them (1:1b).

Another strong reason to suppose 2 John was written to a specific “elect lady and her children,” are the closing verses of 2 John where the apostle greets her sister’s children:

2 John 12–1312 Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. 13 The children of thy elect sister greet thee. Amen.

The Third Epistle of John

In his third letter, John introduces himself as “The Elder” (1:1), and the word could have served as a description of not only his office as an “elder\pastor” (John served as the elder\pastor of the church in Ephesus), or an older pastor. The epistle is addressed to a believer named Gaius, whom John speaks of as “the well-beloved,” and writes of him, “I love in the truth” (3 John 1:1)

John’s affection and admiration of Gaius as both his friend and brother in Christ is undeniable. Remembering the apostle’s challenge to love the brethren “in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18), and “love one another” (1 John 3:7, 11), John’s third letter effuses sincere agape’ love (3 John 1:1-8).

Of course, not all in the church are loving, and John identified one named Diotrephes who was anything but loving (3 John 1:9-11). The apostle spared no words identifying Diotrephes’ hypocrisy, exposing the man for self-promotion (1:9), spiritual insubordination (1:10a), and for criticizing, accusing, and opposing John’s leadership as an apostle and elder (1:10). John leaves no doubt regarding the fate of Diotrephes, and identifies him as one who “doeth evil [and] hath not seen God” (1:11).

The third epistle closes with a note of affirmation for a believer named Demetrius, of whom John writes, “Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true” (1:12).

I close noting that, though times have changed, people have not!

There are the loving “elect ladies” (2 John 2:1), Gaius’ who encourage the hearts of pastors and believers (3 John 1:1), and the Demetrius’ who have testimonies of being faithful and true (3 John 1:12). Nevertheless, there are always some of Diotrephes’ stripe who in words and examples desire the preeminence, even to the destroying of faithful pastors with “malicious words” (3 John 1:9-10). Of such a one, the church must recognize them by their works and words, and cast them out (3 John 1:10).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“That You May Know!” (1 John 1-5)

Scripture reading – 1 John 1-5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Parting Words (2 Peter; Jude 1)

Scripture reading – 2 Peter 1-3; Jude 1

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

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

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

2 Peter 1 – An Introduction

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

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

2 Peter 2 – False Teachers and Their Heresies

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

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

2 Peter 3 – The Second Coming of Jesus Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith