In today’s Bible reading, Paul says that a mystery hidden through the ages has been revealed in Jesus Christ: The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Ephesians 3:6 (CSB)
The Gentiles are included! And not just included, but they’re co-heirs to God’s promise! God’s plans for His people weren’t limited to the Jewish people!
If you look back through the history of mankind, however, this mystery was hinted at in several places. Look at Rahab, the prostitute who concealed the Hebrew spies; she and her family were saved when God destroyed the city of Jericho (Joshua 6:23, 25) In his genealogy of Jesus, Matthew records three other women, all of whom are Gentiles: Tamar, Ruth, and Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba. The mystery, however, was that God’s plan — from before the foundation of the world — was that God would include the Gentiles, not just a few incidental individuals.
God has given us the ability to imagine some pretty spectacular things. And Paul concludes the chapter praising God for His ability to more than anyone can ask or even imagine. Including the Gentiles in God’s plans were outside the realm of most people’s imagination. But God did it.
You may have some big “asks”. Did you know that God can come through, not only according to your ask, but above and beyond what you could ask or imagine? We have a really big God. Seek Him today.
This devotional was originally published June 8, 2019.
While Romans is one of my favorite books of the Bible, today’s Bible reading is from my favorite chapter of Romans. Paul has built his argument for the gospel through the first seven chapters of this book. And today’s reading is the climax of the message.
One of the last things Jesus said to His disciples before He was betrayed was:
“This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants anymore, because a servant doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you
This is a radical shift in the relationship between the Son of God and His disciples. Jesus says that God not only tolerates us as servants, but He even likes us as friends!
And in Romans 8, Paul says the relationship between Himself and His people gets even better! What God does, He does very well! Exceedingly well — and so much better than we could ever imagine! He so deeply wants His covenant with His people restored that He takes them from being servants to friends to adopted children and His heirs! (Romans 8:15)
I don’t know how familiar you may be with US Adoption Laws, but I have several friends who have adopted children, both domestically and internationally. US Adoption Laws are based on biblical adoption as well as Roman adoption customs. When the first of my friends and his wife adopted their daughter (pictured above), I learned that adoptive parents have more of a legal obligation to their adopted child than biological parents have with their own biological children. My friends had to swear to a judge in court that they would be good parents to their daughter. I never had to do that for my biological children! I also learned that an adopted child can never be un-adopted. An adopted child cannot be disinherited. Cannot!
What was good news from Jesus’ lips has been made even better from Paul’s pen! The gospel message isn’t just that believers are friends of God. No, we are adopted children who can never be disinherited. God put His Holy Spirit in us and by Him, we are able to cry out “Abba Father”. Not a formal “Heavenly Father”, but a child’s terms of endearment, “Papa” and “Daddy”.
If you are a believer, you have been forever adopted into God’s family. You can never be un-adopted. As an adopted child, you are an heir of God and a co-heir with Jesus. You cannot be disinherited!
If you have ever wondered if you can lose your salvation, just come back to Romans 8. You are not condemned. You have been adopted. God placed His Holy Spirit in you, Who tells you that you are indeed God’s child. To lose your salvation would be to lose your identity as God’s child. The security of your salvation doesn’t depend on what you do or don’t do. Your eternal security depends on your Papa! Your Daddy loves you and He will never let go of you.
You are secure in His love!
This devotional was originally published May 24, 2019.
In today’s Bible reading in Matthew chapter eight, we’re told several stories of faith. The words “faith” (noun) and “believe” (verb) are the same Greek word. They are used three times in the passage. Not all of the stories include the words faith/believe. But faith/believe is implied in the story.
For instance, in the first paragraph, Matthew tells us that a leper comes to Jesus, asking to be healed. The words don’t appear in the paragraph, but we know the paragraph is about faith/believe because why would a leper seek Jesus out unless he believed that Jesus could heal him? Jesus doesn’t tell him that his faith has healed him, but elsewhere when Jesus heals/delivers, He connects faith and healing/deliverance. (Matthew 9:22, Matthew 15:28, Mark 5:34, Mark 9:24, Mark 10:52, Luke 8:50, Luke 17:19, Luke 18:42 [this list is not exhaustive])
If you look up some of the verses above — as with Matthew 8:5-13 — you’ll see that in some cases the faith of the one healed isn’t even factored into the equation. Rather, the faith of the one requesting healing/deliverance is honored by Jesus. And although Jesus rebuked the Disciples’ “little faith”, He honored what little faith they had.
Does this mean that if you have even a little bit of faith, all you need to do is ask Jesus and He’s obligated to answer your request? NO! It doesn’t work that way! Jesus isn’t your heavenly genie!
And that’s one reason we don’t get what we pray for: we ask with the wrong motives. (James 4:3) Nowhere in the Bible are we given a blank check with the authority to command God to do anything. Remember Christian Life Rule #1: God is God. and Rule #2: You aren’t God. Always remember that your place is to submit to God’s authority, God’s sovereignty. He calls the shots. And the reason we pray isn’t to change God, but to change us.
If you are a Believer, you are an adopted child of God. And being one of His gives you incredible authority and privilege. But that authority and privilege must be a balanced with reverence and awe of the Great God Who created it all, owns it all, and rules it all.
And that requires a great deal of humility and killing of pride.
Jesus tells us how to give, how to pray, and how to fast in today’s Bible reading.
You really can’t separate Jesus’ teaching on these three Spiritual Disciplines. Why? Because He uses the exact pattern in all three: Whenever you ___, don’t be like the hypocrites who practice their ____ to be seen by people. Indeed they have received their reward in full. Instead, when you ___, go it secretly and your Father Who sees in secret will reward you.
So should we not give openly? Should we not pray publicly? Should we not fast openly? That’s not what Jesus is saying. What He is saying is look at your heart. Look at your motivations. Make sure that when you give, that you’re not looking over your shoulder to make sure that people see you give big. When you pray, don’t concentrate on saying the right words with the right vocal emphases. And when you fast, don’t make a big deal of it.
Actually, that’s the central point of all of the Spiritual Disciplines: Don’t make a big deal of it. Spiritual Disciplines (and the others) are for you to deepen your walk with God. They aren’t to be paraded around in front of other people so they give you their accolades. He says that if you’re doing it for the praise of people, that’s all you’re going to get. If you want the accolades of your Father, you need to do these things with your Father in mind.
Your Father wants to reward your giving. Your Father wants to answer your prayers. Your Father wants to reward your fasting. Seek Him in secret. He’ll meet you there.
Today’s Bible reading looks back to Isaiah 7:14 and finds its fulfillment in Jesus. Did Matthew go too far in applying this prophecy to Jesus?
Isaiah 7:14’s context is that God extends to King Ahaz an unusual offer to ask for a sign. When he refuses, saying he doesn’t want to test God, Isaiah steps forward and gives the Isaiah 7:14 prophecy. He says that in the time it would take a young woman to be married and give birth to a child and for that child to come to the “age of accountability”, God would deliver His people from their Exile. In other words, God would fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy in about a decade.
So what’s the problem? Isaiah says God would provide this sign in just a few years. Yet Matthew says Isaiah’s prophecy was about Jesus, born of a virgin young woman, Who came on the scene several hundred years later. So who’s right Isaiah or Matthew?
They’re both right!
Oftentimes, the writers of the New Testament — and even Jesus Himself — will quote from or allude to a passage from the Hebrew Scriptures (their Bible) and find the fulfillment of that passage in Jesus and the New Covenant. In this particular instance, Isaiah uses the Hebrew word for young woman, not necessarily a virgin young woman. (Note: Hebrew has two different words for 1) a young woman and 2) a virgin. If Isaiah meant virgin, he could/should have specified virgin; instead he used the general term young woman.) Yet, Matthew clearly understands the passage as referring to a virgin, specifically Mary, a virgin, a woman who has “known no man”. (Luke 1:34) In fact, Matthew points out that Joseph keeps Mary a virgin until after Jesus is born. (Matthew 1:25)
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Matthew freely reads and applies Isaiah’s prophecy to Jesus, just as Peter applies Joel’s prophecy (Joel 2:28–32) to the Day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:17–21) In other words, even if Isaiah isn’t specifying a virgin in 7:14, Matthew sees that Jesus, born of a virgin fulfills the prophecy.
I said earlier that both Isaiah and Matthew are right. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Isaiah the deliverance of God’s people in a few years. He may have — but didn’t have to — see Jesus as the fulfillment. The prophecy was fulfilled in two ways: immediately, and several hundred years later.
Why make such a big deal about this? Because it matters! Critics say that Isaiah’s prophecy wasn’t fulfilled in Jesus because Isaiah used the word for young woman instead of virgin. This is a backhanded accusation that Jesus wasn’t born in a virgin birth. It’s an attack on Jesus. And it’s an attack on the reliability of the Bible.
But Isaiah didn’t have to know that virgin-born Messiah would be the fulfillment of His prophecy. The Doctrine of the Virgin Birth doesn’t live or die on Isaiah’s prophecy. The Doctrine of the Virgin Birth lives or dies on Matthew and Luke’s testimony and description of the unique conception of Jesus in Mary’s body.
How did it happen? All I know is what the angel told Mary and Joseph: The baby was from God. (Matthew 1:18, 20) The angel didn’t give Mary and Joseph “The Talk”. He just said Jesus had been conceived in a unique way. (Luke 1:35, 37) And the coming of Jesus would bring a new intimacy with God and mankind. (Matthew 1:23b)
The Bible is trustworthy. Don’t let the critics try to convince you otherwise. The Bible can stand up to the allegations and accusations of the critics. Every one of them has died and will die. But the Word of God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:8)