Food for Friday

September 20th, 2019

What then? Are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin. Romans 3:9

Did you ever think about how ridiculous prejudice is? I was recently reading of a mother’s concern for her little son, who was being bullied by some other boys because of his red hair. They called him a ginger, in a nasty way. If there is anyone with a problem here, it is the bullies, to assume that somehow they were better than the little ginger. As the husband of a redhead, and as the father of two redheads, and the grandfather of two more redheads, I can verify that there is nothing inferior about anyone with red hair. How do people come up with those ridiculous prejudiced ideas? It is true that there are some people who are much smarter than others. There are some people who have much more physical strength and ability than others. It is true that there are some people with more pleasing personalities, more business acumen, more you name it. But these don’t make those people better than anyone else; they just make them different from some others. And differences are something to celebrate, not fear or punish. I can guarantee that if everybody was just like you, this world could not exist. Regardless of who he was speaking for, Paul was right when he said ‘Are we better than they? In no wise!’

Was Paul speaking as a Jew? He had just made the point that the Jews had a great advantage because unto them were given the oracles of God. But the Jews had failed to take advantage of what God had given them, and had actually rejected and despised their Messiah when He came. Was Paul speaking as a Gentile, those brought into the opportunity to receive the Gospel because of the rejection of the Jews? If so, he found them just as rebellious against the Gospel message as we find today. As Paul notes, all – Jew and Gentile – are under sin. All commence their existence on the same broad road to destruction and will land in the same hell for the same reason. It is true that some are worse sinners and have committed different sins from others. But that does not make those with lesser records of wrongdoing any better. There is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God – Romans 6:23.

So if there is no difference among sinners, is there a difference among saints? Hardly! Unfortunately, there can be a tendancy among some Christians to whom God has revealed certain truths to regard as inferior other Christians who have not had the same opportunity as them. But that is wrong. It is highly likely that other Christians who don’t know the things that you do are living far more for the Lord within the light that God has given them. I think of a dear man I encountered in a store in Florida. We chatted for only a few minutes, and in those few minutes, we shared a bit of appreciation of our brotherhood in Christ. And we shared some precious things about our Lord. We had no idea where each of us hung our hats on Sundays, what versions of the Bible we read, what our positions are on any of the great doctrines of Scripture; our skin colour was different, and I don’t even remember his name. But before God, and in each of our hearts, we were equals. And that’s how it should be.

Are we better than anybody? No. We are just sinners, saved by grace. -Jim MacIntosh

Thought for Thursday

September 19th, 2019

God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged. Romans 3:4

In the dark days of the Soviet Union’s repression of Christians, the brutal regime allowed some churches to function, but the sermons and actions of those churches were carefully monitored by the authorities. Despite the rigid control, many Christians continued to attend the churches to obtain what they could of spiritual nourishment. So on an Easter morning, a particular large church in one of Russia’s large cities was packed to capacity. The congregation listened silently and sadly as the government-appointed minister delivered a carefully written refutal of the resurrection of Christ. He skilfully made his points about how impossible such a resurrection was, and how foolish were the people who believed it to be true. When he smugly took his seat at the end of his sermon, confident that he had convinced everyone there that there is resurrection, a slender old man tottered down the aisle to the pulpit and painfully climbed onto the dias. Lifting his arms high, he declared in as loud a voice as he could muster, ‘Christ is risen!’ From the lips of everyone in the congregation except the minister came a rafter-shaking response: ‘Christ is risen indeed!’ God does not always allow His enemies the temporary comfort of thinking that they have successfully challenged Him.

We know that the Bible is true, and that every Word that God has spoken is sure and eternal. But we live in a world that does not believe as we do. Most of those around us have no time for or interest in God or what He has to say. They don’t know about the Gospel message or don’t care what it says. They don’t believe that God has said that the wicked shall be turned into hell, and if they hear it, they don’t believe that He means it. In addition to the rampant apathy, there are outright denyers of God and challengers of everything about Him. The religions and denominations around us have also abandoned all interest in what God says, if it clashes with their fuzzy feel-good doctrines. The majority, it is evident, disagree with what God says. But that does not change the fact that God is justified in all His sayings.

Because everything that God says in His Word is true, that Word ought to be in our hearts and minds. Otherwise, we could become contaminated by the denials of the world. What does God have to say about the events that are happening around us? What does God have to say about the gross immorality that is gripping our world? What does God have to say about our role in this sinful world? What does God have to say about our behaviour in our employment, our homes, our entertainment, and our Assembly? And we had better make sure that we get it right, because in whatever God has said, He will be justified.

Does other people’s judgment of God make any difference to us? If their judgment is true, we must agree with them and with God. If their judgment is false, we must reject them and acknowledge that God is always justified in His sayings. -Jim MacIntosh

Word for Wednesday

September 18th, 2019

What advantage then hath the Jew? Or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. Romans 3:1,2

In the pagan world, the word ‘oracle’ usually referred to someone who was presumed to speak for one of their deities. But the word is used 21 times in the Bible, four times in the New Testament as ‘oracles’, and 17 times in the Old Testament in the singular: ‘oracle’. We don’t use it much these days, so it might be profitable to see what it means.

In the Old Testament, ‘oracle’ almost always refers to the sanctuary, the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle, or the temple. It was the place from which God communicated to His people, the Israelites. In the New Testament, the word ‘oracles’ is translated from the Greek word ‘logion’. According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, logion means ‘a divine response or utterance, an oracle’. There are three aspects of the word ‘oracles’: the person doing the speaking, the words that were uttered, and from the Old Testament, the place from which the utterance was made.

In the New Testament, the oracles refer to both the Word of God as received from the Holy Spirit and from the Old Testament, and to the person through whom the Word was received. Here we find the entirety of the New Testament, including the Gospels, the Acts, the Epistles, and the Revelation, as well as the godly men who God used to transmit His Word to us. So the oracles of God are very important to us. But the ‘oracles’ as we have them in the New Testament do not include the aspect of place that we have in the Old Testament. That also is very important to us.

To an Old Testament Jew, the sanctuary was a very special place, and he would travel there annually to receive a communication from God. We don’t do that today. We don’t need to. We have the Bible that we hold in our hands and from which the Holy Spirit can speak to us. ‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works’ 2 Timothy 3:16,17.

There is another important aspect of ‘oracles’ that we can consider. In 1 Peter 4:11, Peter is speaking of the person who gives a word of ministry in the Assembly: ‘If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God’. Oh my! That places a huge responsibility on the brother who gets up to speak a word in ministry, doesn’t it? How important it is that such a brother does so knowing that the word he is giving is something he has received from the Lord, and that it is the Lord Who is prompting him to give it! But it is also important for those of us who listen to such ministry to recognize that it is from God Who is seeking to communicate with us.

We have access to the oracles of God every day. Do we hear? -Jim MacIntosh

Tidings for Tuesday

September 17th, 2019

For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. Romans 2:24

What would you have done if you had been Daniel? You have a daily practice of praying three times but have been told that if you continue this practice, you will be thrown into the lions’ den. We know what Daniel did, and how God delivered him from the jaws of those voracious cats. But think about what happened to others because of Daniel’s faithfulness to God and to what he knew was right. Daniel’s enemies were tossed to their destruction in the lions’ den. And the king was made to confess not only the reality but also the supremacy of Daniel’s God. Consider Darius’ words: ‘I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for He is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and His dominion shall be even unto the end. He delivereth and rescueth, and He worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, Who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.’ Daniel 6:26,27 How different would have been the result if Daniel had bowed to the king’s decree and abandoned his faithfulness. Not only would his enemies rejoiced and blasphemed God, but the king would also have lost all respect for his honourable and able prime minister. How thankful we are that Daniel was faithful so that the Name of his God was not only not blasphemed but was also exalted among the Gentiles!

As Christians who love our Lord and appreciate all of His loving kindness to us, we would never want to ever blaspheme His name. And we are offended when we hear others around us taking His Name in vain. We are very careful to honour the fourth commandment. But sometimes we are actually the cause of others breaking that commandment. A young Christian very recently asked me what is the best approach to take to those around us who use bad language, including blaspheming God. That is a very good question and one that we need to consider carefully. It is wrong to allow the blasphemy to go unchallenged. But it is also wrong to attack the offender in a harsh and accusing manner. Such an approach will undoubtedly provike an angry and probably blasphemous response. But if we respond in a gracious way, explaining kindly why we are offended by having the Name of our loving Lord so misused, we might find a softer response, and maybe even an apology.

Another way in which those around us might be led to blaspheme is if we act the part of a hypocrite. If our life does not live up to what we profess, those who watch us will know it. They will mock us and our Lord. We can deprive our watchers of the opportunity to blaspheme our God if we pattern our life after that of the Lord Jesus. If we are consistently honest, if we are always considerate and kind, if we seek carefully to live at peace with all men, then we are more likely to lead others to bless our God.

In our text, Paul is accusing his readers of being the cause of others blaspheming God. May that accusation never be true of us! -Jim MacIntosh

Meditation for Monday

September 16th, 2019

And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness? Romans 2:19

A Pennsylvania juvenile court judge was particulary harsh on some of the young people who were brought before his bench. Few of the youngsters, even those as young as ten years, escaped being sent to juvenile detention if they were unfortunate enough to appear before Judge Mark Ciavarella. One kid, for example, was sentenced to three months hard time for posting web page spoofs about an assistant principal. For such crimes such as possession of drug paraphernalia or stealing a jar of nutmeg, Judge Ciavarella ordered them to do even more hard time. But prosecutors began looking into some of the dealings behind the construction of the new Luzerne County youth detention centre that replaced the older county-run centre. And they found Ciavarella had received kick-backs from the private company that built and maintained the jail. He was even getting a bonus for every young person he sentenced to the jail. It is difficult to believe that any judge could turn out to be so corrupt, although it is comforting to know that Judge Ciavarella will himself be behind bars for several more years. Our text is speaking about not just one person, but an entire nation of people, who acted just as corruptly as Judge Ciavarella.

In our chapter, Paul is outlining his case against the Jewish religious people who were proud of the religion that they had received from God and that they were to display and share with the Gentile nations around them. Their pride in having received the oracles of God blinded them to the reality that the law not only condemned the wickedness of the Gentiles but also condemned their failure to observe the law. The Jews saw themselves as a guide to the blind and a light of them that were in darkness. But they were just as blind and just as dark as the Gentiles, a fact that they proved by rejecting their King when He appeared among them. And as Saul of Tarsus did before he was saved, they persecuted those who refused to fall in line with their doctrine. And then, the Jews themselves became the targets of persecution during the middle ages when the Romish church harrassed them mercilessly for their failure to recognize the new religion.

If we read Foxes Book of Martyrs, we will see how savagely Rome assumed the hypocritical mantle of being a guide to the blind and a light of them that were in darkness. They not only tortured the Jews, but also butchered untold millions of people who were brought into the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ. The history of the middle ages, written by Romish ‘scholars’, omits most of the gory details of Rome’s savage butchery of all who rejected and opposed the hypocricy, blasphemies, and idolatry of papacy. Is it any wonder that Romans 2 is so severe against those who would hold themselves up in pride as a guide to the blind and a light to tham that are in darkness?

We who have seen the light of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ do not hold up our salvation in pride or arrogance. We hold it up, not as a club of punishment, but as a banner of love to draw sinners to our Saviour. -Jim MacIntosh

Lesson for the Lord’s Day

September 15th, 2019

For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. Romans 2:13

Many years ago when my father was working in Newfoundland, he would tell us of the wonderful people he worked with there in the construction camp. But there was one aspect of those workers that he found unusual. Those men who stayed in the camp during the weekend would spend the weekend drinking and partying. But on Sunday morning, they would all make their way to a nearby Catholic church for the weekly service there. Then they would come back to the camp and resume their celebrations. It was as though they felt an hour of being pious was enough to make up for a weekend of revelry. I can assure you that those Newfoundland construction workers were not alone in their attitude. Most of the mainstream denomination churches are experiencing steady declines in attendees these days, but most of those who do attend are there primarily to soothe their consciences because of their behaviour during the past week. And as long as they lard the collection plate well, their so-called spiritual leaders give them little rebuke. Sadly, too many Chritians seem to be affected by this same attitude.

How different are you on the Lord’s Day compared to the rest of the week? Of course, on the Lord’s day, you dress differently from your work or school clothes, and the clothes you relax or play in. And you attend the meetings during the day. But what about your language during the week, do you tend to slip into the loose language of the world around you? Do you go to places where you would never want the other Christians to see you? Do you skirt the edges of legality in business dealings, or cheat on taxes (or school tests), or associate with friends who regularly engage in destructive lifestyles and habits? What about those ministry messages you hear during the meetings, do you ever think of them and how they should impact your life? What about the Scriptures and the devotional messages that read (or that you push aside), do you heed the guidance that they have for you? Which half of our text do you fall into?

We are justified before God as far as our sins are concerned. That is the great wonder of our salvation. But God would have you and me to life out our justification every day, for His glory. And He would have you and me live out our justification as a testimony to the lost souls around us, and as an example to other Christians.

We have heard what our Lord expects of us. Are we doers of it? -Jim MacIntosh

Sermon for Saturday

September 14th, 2019

For there is no respect of persons with God. Romans 2:11

Mother told Gary and Ellen to tidy up their rooms. And she offered an incentive: if they did a good job of tidying, she would give them a Crispy Crunch candy bar. Excited about the prospect of his favourite candy bar, Gary went immediately to his room and began to pick up the clothes he had left on the floor. Excited about the prospect of her favourite candy bar, Ellen dashed outside to tell her friend Jill about it. An hour later, Gary had picked up his clothes, made the bed, picked up several pieces of trash from the floor, and even gave his room a quick sweep with the broom. He reported to Mom. Mom went to check. At the same time, Ellen arrived back in the house because Jill’s mother had called her home. Pleased with Gary’s work, Mom handed him his reward. Eyeing the Crispy Crunch bar, Ellen demanded, ‘Where’s mine?’ Mom pointed to her bedroom door and replied, ‘It’s still messy in there.’ ‘No fair!’ complained Ellen. ‘Gary got a Crispy Crunch and I didn’t’. Was Mom being unfair by not giving Ellen a candy bar? Is God unfair by withholding spiritual blessings from some of His children?

Our text declares God’s impartiality. John 3:16 declares His love for the world, and that love is equal and uncondition for every person. When it comes to His children, God’s plan is the same for each of us, that we allow the Holy Spirit to fill our lives with worship and service to Him. Just as the Mom in our story had identical instructions for her children, so God has identical instructions for us, all clearly explained in His Word. God also gives us all the Holy Spirit so that we all have the same enabling power to do His will. But just as NASA does not expect its lawnmower repairman to design rocket engines, God does not expect identical service from us all, because we all have different abilities, aptitudes, opportunities, and personalities. So why do some Christians shine in their fulfillment of God’s purpose for them, and why do some others complain about God not giving them the same spiritual rewards as others?

God’s love is unconditional. But His rewards are not. Just as Mom was not obligated to give Jill a candy bar until she cleaned her room, so God is not obligated to reward His children for disobedience. God’s blessings are always based on obedience. We obeyed the Gospel, and were saved. We obeyed the Word of God, and were baptized, added to God’s Assembly, and continued steadfastly. All those who have not obeyed the Gospel message remain unsaved. All those who fail to obey the Word of God miss out on the fulfillment of being baptized, of being added to God’s Assembly, and of continuing steadfastly.

Obedience is as simple as allowing the Holy Spirit to guide and empower our lives. It is the path to God’s richest blessings, regardless of who we are. -Jim MacIntosh

Food for Friday

September 13th, 2019

Or despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? Romans 2:4

High on a mountain sits a lovely old castle, inhabited by a kindly couple who love to have visitors, and who love to treat their visitors to the best of hospitality. There is only one catch: the castle is surrounded by steep cliffs, and the only way to reach it is by a cable car that the couple has had installed for their use and that of those who would visit them. In their generosity, the owners frequently send the cable car down to the bottom of the mountain with an invitation to come up and visit. And many people have visited and enjoyed their time with the kindly couple. But there are some who refuse to get into the cable car, not trusting it. Others shun the cable car and try to climb up to the castle by looking for their own path. Those people never get to the castle. And some of them complain of how unfair it is of the owners to provide only one way to reach the castle. This little story is an allegory of how so many people despise the riches of God’s goodness and forebearance and longsuffering.

Just like me, you have heard people say they don’t believe a loving God would ever send anyone to hell. In a way, they are right; God does not send anyone to hell; people travelling on the broad road to destruction consign themselves to hell by refusing or neglecting the provision God has made for them to escape hell and reach Heaven. It is as though they would retranslate Jesus’ words ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life’ (John 14:6) into ‘I am one of the ways, part of the truth, and some of the life’. Just as the castle owners in our story provided at their own expense a cable car for their visitors, so God has at infinite cost provided poor sinners with the means of delivery from hell and certainty of Heaven. Why would God ever send His Son to the shameful agony of the cross if there were some other way to provide his salvation? It is only His goodness that caused Him to do it.

In this portion of the book of Romans, Paul is addressing the unsaved about their wrong attitudes about God and His salvation. But in these words, those of us who have been saved can rejoice that the Holy Spirit strove with us to stop despising the goodness of God. The goodness of God led us to repentance, and then to faith in Christ. And we have come to appreciate the riches of that goodness and firebearance and longsuffering. We love to talk about these great riches now, and will be occupied with them for all eternity, when we understand them better than we do now.

Don’t despise those you see around you despising the richness of God’s goodness. You used to be the same. -Jim MacIntosh

Thought for Thursday

September 12th, 2019

But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. Romans 2:2

How would you like to be a judge? After all, the pay is pretty good; Statistics Canada says judges are one of the highest-paid professions in Canada, with judges even at the provincial court level earning in excess of $300,000 a year. So obviously, the qualifications have to be pretty high. First, you have to be a lawyer, and not just an ordinary lawyer, but a lawyer with a keen understanding of all aspects of the law. A judge also needs to be able to be far better than average at sorting through the facts and fiction that are presented during trials, to produce a judgment that is based on the truth. Some judges are pretty good at that. And some, well, you just have to wonder. But even the best of judges can be fooled, and justice is not served. What we need are judges who can’t be fooled. That means we need judges who always know what the truth is. That is why God is the perfect Judge, He always knows the truth, and His judgments, as our text declares, are always according to the truth.

The previous verse explains why man is unqualified to serve as judge in the heavenly realm. Man is guilty of all of the very crimes that must be judged. Man also cannot be trusted to be free of opinion, favouritism, or ignorance of the law. But God can! We can answer with a resounding ‘Amen’ when we hear Abraham’s great question: ‘Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?’ Genesis 18:25 When we think of trials in the earthly realm, we see judges who have imperfect knowledge of each case. Because they have not seen the crimes themselves, they must depend upon the testimony of men, many of whom will lie even under oath. They hear testimony from both sides, and must determine which is the most credible account. I have sat in courtrooms where judges have asked their own questions of witnesses because they were not satisfied with the answers to questions posed by either the prosecutors or the defence lawyers. How different is the knowledge of God! He has personally witnessed every crime and every sin that has ever been committed. Because His knowledge is absolute, there is no question about either the facts or the motives. He knows perfectly, and therefore He can judge correctly in every case, including yours and mine.

An understanding of God’s knowledge and impartiality ought to fill each sinner with dread. How could we ever escape the judgment of such a holy and all-knowing God Whose laws we have all broken and mocked? We can’t. Not by ourselves. But the very God Who knows all about our sins and our helplessness is also a God of mercy. God’s justice was dispensed at Calvary, where One with no sin died for our sins. That is why Albert Midlane could pen the following lovely words: ‘God could not pass the sinner by, Justice demands that he should die; But in the cross of Christ we see How God can save, yet righteous be. The judgment fell on Jesus’ head, ‘Twas in His blood sin’s debt was paid; Stern Justice can demand no more, And Mercy can dispense her store.’

The judgment of God that is according to truth is a dreadful thing! The mercy of God that satisfies His judgment is a glorious truth! -Jim MacIntosh

Word for Wednesday

September 11th, 2019

Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. Romans 2:1

Take a good look at your hand the next time you point to someone to tell them that they have done or said something wrong. First, notice how that index finger looks so menacing and accusatory as it stands out there aimed at the wrongdoer. Next, notice how your thumb so discretely covers up the fact that the three other fingers are pointed directly back at yourself! It is highly possible that God designed our hand this way so we could be reminded of the truth in today’s text.

Actually, this text is leading from a description in the previous chapter of the bad people. And they are bad: Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful – Romans 1:29-31. We shy away from this description, because we would never be like this or even associate with people like this. Or would we? Our text declares ‘thou that judgest doest the same things’. But, you say, this verse is talking about those who are not saved, those who are still living in sin. Before I grant you that argument, let me ask you two questions: First, were you always saved and not living in sin? Second, are you now living in complete rejection of everything that is in those three verses from Romans 1? The Lord Jesus would allow stones to be thrown only by those who were without sin. And He would allow eye-mote removal only by those with no beam in their own eye. It may be true that we as Christians have left behind the worst of the sinful lifestyles that marked our unconverted days. But it is only by the grace of God that we have done so. And a close scrutiny will reveal that we are still holding onto (or have returned to) some of those things that our salvation ought to have delivered us from.

I have met some wonderful Christians during my lifetime, and so have you. Some of them have obviously drawn very close to their Lord, and have become very like him. But if you ask them about it, they will tell you that the more they become like Christ, the more they will realize how little like Christ they are. Sadly, the opposite is also true: those Christians who have drifted away from their Lord usually fail to realize how unlike Christ they have become. The sins that are listed in Romans 1 should apply only to those who are not yet in Christ. We should have nothing to do with them.

Our text is reminding not only to stop judging others, but to also start judging ourselves -Jim MacIntosh