“And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, . . . For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:1-2, 20).
The sermon recorded in Matthew chapters five through seven is one of the most challenging of the preaching work that Jesus did among followers. This material was the defining declaration of who really are those on the way to the kingdom of heaven. Jesus declared plainly that the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was not the path to heaven. One must get serious about discipleship in order to enter into heaven. Consider some serious points made by Jesus concerning the life of a true disciple of Jesus.
Spiritually-minded. One cannot read the material in chapter five without seeing the seriousness of the inner man being right with God. Jesus addressed being “poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3), “pure in heart” (Matt. 5:8) along with the other spiritual qualities of the beatitudes. He addressed being salt of the earth (cf. Matt. 5:13) and the light of the world (cf. Matt. 5:14-15) in order that one’s influence might bring glory to the Father. Thus, the goal of discipleship is to have God receive the credit, not the disciple. Jesus addressed several misconceptions taught about the law with the correct interpretation centered on the spiritual side of man being right to avoid mistreatment of others, destroying homes, creating a lack of trust among people and hating those whom God loves. It is from the heart that all evil comes (cf. Matt. 15:18-19). If one is to be serious about being a disciple, then he will be serious about his inner man.
Self-denying. One cannot read chapter six without seeing the seriousness of the danger of doing things simply to be seen of men and living a materialistic lifestyle. Jesus gave three illustrations of the self-righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees in their alms giving, prayer and fasting. Their religious practices were for show, not for serious spiritual sacrifices. Their real God was Mammon (cf. Matt. 6:24) as covetousness was a hallmark of their being (cf. Luke 16:14). The message that Jesus gave to his disciples found in the words “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matt. 16:24) would have been nonsense to these religious elite. Serious discipleship is God centered (cf. Matt. 6:33).
Steadfastly Following to the End. Chapter seven gives a mix of dangerous influences and actions that sidetrack a disciple. Jesus was the only perfect example of how distractions would not be an issue. Judging motives (cf. Matt. 7:1-5), living by the rule of treating others as you would desire to be treated (cf. Matt. 7:12), knowing that the way to heaven is difficult and sparsely traveled, while troubled that some would start the road only to be found lacking in the end (cf. Matt. 7:21-27) demands the seriousness of mind and will to finish what one started in his walk with the Lord. Jesus would finish his work and so must all who will run the race (cf. Heb. 12:1-2). Jesus would live to see some quit before his death (cf. John 6:66) and see Judas betray the Lord (cf. Matt. 26:47ff). Serious discipleship finishes the course (cf. 2 Tim. 4:7).
“And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet” (Acts 8:27-28).
The world today has much more access to the word of God than the eunuch did on that day recorded in Acts 8. However, the eunuch had an attitude about studying the Bible that all in the world today need. Look at three lessons from this account to help all see how important serious Bible study is.
Personal Reading. It is worthy of note that the eunuch had a copy of the book of Isaiah in which he was reading. How much of the rest of the Bible he had is not stated. However, he saw that material as being very important to his life. Today, copies of the Bible are accessible to anyone today with the presence of printed books, and even the Internet. Owning one’s own personal copy of the Bible in one’s language is so commonplace in America that it is often taken for granted. The eunuch had already been exposed to a reading of the Bible back in Jerusalem where he had gone to worship but that time was not enough for him. He wanted to personally look into the word and seek the truths that were there. How wonderful a practice it is to seek diligently for more knowledge from the word of God. Ignorance of God’s word is to put oneself into a very dangerous state (cf. Hosea 4:6). The eunuch’s personal reading demonstrated that his priorities were right.
Pertinent Questioning. After Philip asked the eunuch if he understood what he was reading, the eunuch said, “How can I, except some man should guide me?” (Acts 8:31). Later, the eunuch will ask Philip concerning the reading, “I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?” (Acts 8:34). After learning that the reading was about Jesus (cf. Acts 8:35), he asked the most pertinent question of all, by saying, “See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” (Acts 8:36). While there are some questions that are “foolish and unlearned questions” (2 Tim. 2:23), the eunuch’s questions did not fall into that category. He knew he was ignorant. He sincerely wanted to know the truth about the meaning of the text. He wanted to know what might hinder him from applying what he learned. All of these show his seriousness about Bible study.
Practical Application. Luke records of the eunuch’s response to the Bible study when Philip told him what he needed to do, “And he commanded the chariot to stand still; and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch: and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:38-39). The eunuch knew that knowing the truth demanded applying it. James wrote of hearing, “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:21-22). Serious Bible students know that the Bible must be more than just knowledge in the head. It must be applied to life (cf. 1 John 2:3-5). The eunuch could look back on his conversion and know that serious Bible study has profit.
“To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Col. 1:2).
There are times in life when a dedicated child of God needs to reflect upon the greatness of what he has in Christ. Doubt, despair, and the like can creep in if one is not prudent. The letter to the Colossian congregation was of such great importance that Paul even requested that the congregation at Laodicea receive this same information for their benefit (cf. Col. 4:16). Consider what saints and faithful brethren know.
Recipient of the Grace and Peace of God. This letter begins with the blessings of grace and peace. These are two strengths that keep the faithful settled in mind. Salvation is by the grace of God (cf. Eph. 2:5) and the peace of God is a wonderful spiritual benefit to the faithful (cf. Col. 3:15). John wrote the book of First John to strengthen the faith of the brethren, when he wrote, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). The grace of God continues to motivate (cf. 1 Cor. 15:10) and the peace of God continues to keep the mind at ease (cf. Phil. 4:6-7). There are some outside and some inside the church who would say that churches of Christ (cf. Rom. 16:16) do not really believe in the grace and peace of God as a present, existing state. Such could not be further from the truth. One should heed Paul’s warning, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit” (Col. 2:8).
Reconciled unto God Through Christ. Paul wrote, “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister” (Col. 1:21-23). While this section underscores the conditional nature of continuing to be holy and faithful in one’s walk with the Lord, it also underscores that one is still in that reconciled state from the point that he died to sin (cf. Col. 2:20; 3:3) was buried with Christ in baptism (cf. Col. 2:12) and was raised with Christ to live anew (cf. Col. 3:1). The Father has “delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Col. 1:13).
Reassured of the Hope in Christ. Hope is a constant message in the book of Colossians (cf. Col. 1: 5, 23, 27). Hope from the Biblical perspective is a quiet confidence and earnest expectation of God’s promises being fulfilled. If the faithful child of God could not know that he had hope, how could he have the true joy that is in Christ? Paul stated of hope, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Cor. 15:19). Notice in that verse that Paul stated that the child of God has hope in this life as well as the hope of the life after this earthly life in view of the resurrection of Christ. Hope is an element of spirituality that has to do with salvation (cf. Rom. 8:24). Faithful, hold on and press on!
“And the child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the Lord, and also with men” (1 Sam. 2:26).
The childhood of Samuel was characterized by a bright influence in a dark time. Things would become even darker for the nation while Samuel grew from boyhood to manhood. However, Samuel’s influence would grow stronger through the years. The great power of God is seen in that a child can have a tremendous influence over a people. The Bible is filled with great illustrations from the influence of children. Consider three lessons found in the text of the Bible.
Humility. Jesus used a little child to teach his disciples a needed lesson. “And he said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3-4). The innocence of childhood is often marked by humility of spirit. Jesus revealed that such a quality is key to entering into heaven. This childlike spirit is never to be lost.
Helpful. A little maid (cf. 2 Kings 5:2) gave great news to the wife of Naaman’s wife. “And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy” (2 Kings 5:3). This young girl could have been silent or even given false information. However, she was helpful in the greatest degree. Children often combine their humility with helpfulness. They truly have a volunteer spirit. They are often eager to do for others when a request is made of them. The smallest of tasks do not burden them. They are sharers of their thoughts freely. Many years in the future a little boy will provide his food that Jesus might feed the multitudes (cf. John 6:9-13). The little maid and the little boy were none the worse for sharing needed things. Such an influence did not go unnoticed by the Lord.
Harmless. Paul exhorted the congregation at Corinth with these words, “Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men” (1 Cor. 14:20). The congregation in Corinth needed to have several problems resolved. There was division (cf. 1 Cor. 1:11; 11:18), pride (cf. 1 Cor. 4:18), open immorality (cf. 1 Cor. 5:1), brother taking brother to court over small matters (cf. 1 Cor. 6:1-4) and much more. The childlike spirit of no ill will sought against another is to be true of the spiritual body of Christ: His church. God’s people are to be peacemakers (cf. Matt. 5:9), not hateful (cf. Titus 3:3) and complainers (cf. Phil. 2:14). Paul wrote to the Philippian brethren about how to walk in the world, “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15). Jesus told his own disciples, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16). When the age of innocence is over through the maturation process, the age of retaining childlike qualities is never to be over. The foundation of great influential qualities seen in a child is priceless and irreplaceable. Sometimes all need to look at the world through the eyes of a child and see the simplicity of a pure life. There is truly an endearing quality in children that draw adults to them.