Paul, the Viper, and the Barbarians #2

Monday, July 19, 2021

And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm (Acts 28:3-5 KJV).

What is the Holy Spirit teaching through this bizarre passage?

After hearing Paul deliver his testimony-sermon in Jerusalem, unbelieving Israel is convicted and seeks to take his life in a riot (chapter 22). However, the Roman chief captain intervenes and arrests him. Paul subsequently stands before the Sanhedrin—the Jewish supreme court—in chapter 23. (The Sanhedrin is largely apostate, having sentenced Jesus to death 30 years earlier.) A bitter conflict breaks out in the proceedings, and Paul is rescued from the mob. By chapter’s end, he has been secretly sent away to a prison in Caesarea, for the unbelieving Jews had yet again conspired to kill him in Jerusalem. Chapter 24 documents how he stood before Judaean Roman Governor Felix. Unbelieving Israel falsely accuses him in the courtroom. He is ultimately incarcerated for two years.

In chapter 25, Paul stands before the new Governor of Judaea, Porcius Festus. Unbelieving Israel again falsely accuses Paul. As a Roman citizen, Paul takes advantage of his legal right to appeal directly to the Roman Emperor in Rome. King Herod Agrippa II—great-grandson of Herod the Great (Matthew chapter 2)—also gets involved in these legal proceedings. Paul shares his testimony with Agrippa, intimately communing with him (chapter 26). Having already voiced his wish to personally stand before the Emperor in Rome, Paul is placed on a ship bound for Italy, commencing his fourth and final apostolic journey of Acts (chapter 27). By chapter’s end, a storm in the Mediterranean Sea results in a shipwreck. He, his companions, and all the prisoners and military officials aboard, are now stranded at sea. They wash ashore on the tiny island of “Melita” (present Malta, south of Sicily). The final chapter of Acts, the context of today’s Scripture, opens….

Paul, the Viper, and the Barbarians #1

Sunday, July 18, 2021

And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm (Acts 28:3-5 KJV).

What is the Holy Spirit teaching through this bizarre passage?

Today’s Scripture in context: “[1] And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita. [2] And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. [3] And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. [4] And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. [5] And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. [6] Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.

“[7] In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius; who received us, and lodged us three days courteously. [8] And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him. [9] So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed: [10] Who also honoured us with many honours; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary. [11] And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux.”

Now, we expound….

333’s 3700th – Great Peace Have We

Saturday, July 17, 2021

“Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them (Psalm 119:165 KJV).

Dear saints, only by God’s grace, we have reached our 3700th daily devotional!

Indeed, the world is worried. Its primary concern, of course, is the coronavirus pandemic (underway 18 months now). Ensuing anxieties are still unemployment, financial hardships, isolation and loneliness, familial strains, and possible death. They need the peace of God in Christ!

Romans 8: “[18] For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. [19] For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. [20] For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, [21] Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. [22] For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. [23] And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. [24] For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?

“….[35] Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? [36] As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. [37] Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. [38] For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, [39] Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Satan may use our dire circumstances to distract us, but these last 3,700 days of dispensational Bible study have surely equipped us with tranquility. Let us share that Gospel of Grace with others!

Dear brethren, to the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, onward to devotional #3800!

Our latest Bible Q&A: “How could Israel welcome Messiah on Palm Sunday, but then demand His death later that week?

Surprise!

Friday, July 16, 2021

“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Romans 1:20,21 KJV).

A famous unbeliever once bragged that, if pressured, he would bet against the existence of any anthropomorphic (personal, humanlike) God. However, he claimed that since we could not know absolutely, he preferred agnosticism (not atheism): “I do not know if God exists!” He closed with this flimsy assertion: “I would be real surprised if there turned out to be a conventional God.” Well, that man left this world long ago—and he was “surprised” indeed when he woke up! (He lost his eternal soul in that fool’s bet!)

Deoxyribonucleic acid—more commonly known as “DNA”—is simply the set of blueprints for a given organism (plant, animal, or human). It is the genetic information passed down from parent to offspring. DNA is a language: it governs the creation and maintenance of the creature. It determines the type of organism and the kinds of cells within that particular being. Of course, we all know information never randomly appears. A language does not “just happen” to originate.

The human genome is required to make the physical body of a person. According to our best current estimate, some three billion “base pairs”—chemical or nucleotide bases—must be aligned inside our 23 pairs of chromosomes found in the nuclei of all our body’s cells. Any alteration of this information results in a mutation (causing physical disability or deformity). This concerns only the DNA molecule of a person, with approximately nine million species of plants and animals possessing their own unique and complicated DNA sequence! All these intelligent languages make their respective creatures. Intelligence implies a mind; language insinuates intelligence.

If the Creator put that much effort into forming millions of complex languages to establish the natural world, then we can be absolutely sure He exists—and He spoke one Book to us. Have we opened our Holy Bible today to hear Him tell us why the natural world exists? (Or, are we comfortable being willfully ignorant?)

Reverend

Thursday, July 15, 2021

He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name (Psalm 111:9 KJV).

Long ago, when I was denominational and silly, I referred to pastors as “reverend.” It was ignorance, plain and simple, a church tradition that I—like billions of others—had never investigated. Then, a Christian brother showed me today’s Scripture. How enlightening! In all the King James Bible, “reverend” appeared once—an adjective for the LORD and not a man (or woman)!

Frankly, when we apply the title “reverend” to someone other than God, we are quite close to blasphemy—if not actually guilty of it. To say it in reference to a person means he or she inspires reverence: the individual awes us, and we have a godly fear toward him or her. This is certainly strange and nonsensical—but, not surprisingly, religion abounds with oddities and absurdities. How egos are stroked, how pride is gendered, when we cry out that flattering title, “Reverend!” (The inflated positions of “right reverend,” “very right reverend,” and “most reverend” are even more ridiculous.)

If we want to address someone in a church setting as “brother,” “sister,” “pastor,” “teacher,” “evangelist,” or “elder,” these are suitable titles. However, we should avoid using “father” in a religious sense, for this is wholly unacceptable (calling a priest “father” is a remnant of Baal/idol worship—Judges 17:10; Judges 18:19; Matthew 23:9). Apostles and prophets were necessary to form the foundation of the Body of Christ, but the completed revelation of the Scriptures has now taken their places (cf. Ephesians 2:20; Ephesians 4:11; 2 Timothy 3:16,17). To use “apostle” or “prophet” to refer to someone alive today is to challenge the Bible’s authority.

Today’s Scripture delineates God’s goodness in fulfilling the Abrahamic Covenant via the New Covenant. Israel, now redeemed, is enjoying Millennial Kingdom living. In accordance with His “holy” (set apart, sanctified) and “reverend” name (inspiring awe or fear), verse 10 closes the Psalm: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.” In closing, remember Psalm 99:3: “Let them praise thy great and terrible [same Hebrew as “reverend” in today’s Scripture] name; for it is holy.”

To Savour the Flavour of the Saviour #5

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men (Mark 8:33 KJV).

What can today’s Scripture and its context teach us about Satan’s policy of evil?

“Savour” means “give oneself to the enjoyment of, appreciate to the full, set affection on, place interest in.” Jesus’ “flavour” was the “indication of His essential character;” that is, He had fully given Himself over to delighting in working with His Heavenly Father. When we savour the flavour of the Saviour, we are thinking in accordance with the Head of the Church the Body of Christ: after all, His mind should govern us! (Recall Romans 8:5, Philippians 2:5, and Colossians 3:2.)

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1,2). As the perfect Man, the Lord Jesus Christ exhibited this lifestyle during His earthly ministry. Consequently, Satan attacked Him by using the sinful world system around Him. In fact, the Adversary even used Peter, Christ’s chief Apostle of Israel. Never forget today’s Scripture!

Brethren, the application we can make here is quite simple. If we are working with our Heavenly Father in the “family business”—the grace ministry—we can be absolutely (!) sure (!) Satan will use whomever or whatever he can to distract, discourage, and destroy us. Whether fellow Christians (even beloved pastors and fellow grace saints!), spouses, sons and daughters, or dear friends, if they are not submissive to the aforementioned renewed mind; they will become Satan’s mighty vessels in causing us to stumble in sin (apostasy and/or carnality). Still, we follow Christ’s pattern in today’s Scripture. He was not sidetracked from the Father’s plan: “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:8)! 🙂

Our latest Bible Q&A: “What does ‘noisome’ mean?

To Savour the Flavour of the Saviour #4

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men (Mark 8:33 KJV).

What can today’s Scripture and its context teach us about Satan’s policy of evil?

Go over to Matthew 16:23 and read it once again: “But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” We want to focus on two particular concepts—“offence” and “savour.” Since Peter did not believe God’s Word as just spoken to him, Matthew reports Jesus called Peter an “offence” (Greek, “skandalidzo”). Peter is unknowingly functioning as a scandal, a stumblingblock, an occasion to sin. Essentially, the chief Apostle of Israel declared, “Lord, while You assume You are heading to Calvary, You really are not!”

Now, let us concentrate on “savour.” The King James (British) spelling of our American word “savor,” it is defined as “to give oneself to the enjoyment of, or to appreciate to the full.” In Greek, it is “phroneo,” as in “regarding, having set affection on, putting interest in.” Actually, the word is rendered the following ways elsewhere in the Authorized Version. “For they that are after the flesh do mind [phroneo] the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5). “Let this mind be [phroneo] in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). Set your affection [phroneo] on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).

Although Christ delighted to accomplish His Heavenly Father’s will, while He “savoured” the things of the Father, Peter was opposed to such spiritual truths because he was too focused on human thinking and carnal preferences. Today’s Scripture again: “Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.Peter was not using his renewed mind (Romans 12:1,2)! Let us summarize and conclude this devotionals arc by making application….

To Savour the Flavour of the Saviour #3

Monday, July 12, 2021

But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men (Mark 8:33 KJV).

What can today’s Scripture and its context teach us about Satan’s policy of evil?

The Bible is always honest, even about its heroes. Peter the Apostle was a mighty vessel of the LORD—and will be throughout the endless ages to come! Yet, Peter was just a man like all of us. He had his faults, weaknesses, limitations. His faith wavered. Many times, he blurted out silly comments without thinking. He meant well, but he should have simply agreed with the Lord Jesus in Mark chapter 8 and Matthew chapter 16. When he learned of Calvary—Christ’s death—he should have responded, “Amen! So be it!”

Jesus Christ was undiminished Deity and full humanity. As a Man, there came days when He was reading His Hebrew (Old Testament) Scriptures, those Messianic prophecies, and exclaimed, “Hey, that is Me being described there! I need to fulfill these verses. My Father wants Me to do that—and I will enjoy doing it with Him too!” Let us be mindful of Psalm 40, a direct reference to Calvary: “[6] Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. [7] Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, [8] I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart(cf. Hebrews 10:5-10).

When the Lord Jesus revealed His impending suffering and death in the context of today’s Scripture, He was fully aware of the prophecies that had to be fulfilled (Psalm 22, Isaiah chapter 53, and so on). Yet, Peter was walking in the flesh, thinking like a lost man, encouraging Jesus not to fulfill Bible prophecy. Therefore, Jesus was prompted to reply most sharply to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” (That is, “Move out of My way, Adversary!”) Indeed, Peter was inadvertently functioning as Satan’s spokesman….

Our latest Bible Q&A: “Why forgive ‘seventy times seven?’

To Savour the Flavour of the Saviour #2

Sunday, July 11, 2021

But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men (Mark 8:33 KJV).

What can today’s Scripture and its context teach us about Satan’s policy of evil?

Although certain individuals have great difficulty accepting the following truths presented in Luke chapter 2, we who follow the leading of the Spirit of God simply believe what the Bible says. “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him (verse 40). “And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man(verses 51,52). In these two opening chapters of Luke, Christ’s infancy and childhood are outlined. True to his major theme, throughout his Gospel Record, Luke underscores Jesus’ humanity.

In today’s Scripture (cf. Matthew chapter 16), Christ has been studying the Hebrew Bible (our Old Testament) for over a quarter-century. He is a Man of 33 years of age. His earthly ministry, underway for the last three years, is now finally drawing to a close. We remind ourselves of the Prophet Isaiah quoting Him over 700 years prior: “The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned. The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting” (Isaiah 50:4-6).

Like us, as a Man, Jesus grew physically, mentally, and spiritually. He listened to His Heavenly Father teaching Him. The more He learned from the Prophets’ writings, the more He realized His horrific death by crucifixion was imminent. It was His Father’s will for Him, and He would not be rebellious or turn away back….

To Savour the Flavour of the Saviour #1

Saturday, July 10, 2021

But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men (Mark 8:33 KJV).

What can today’s Scripture and its context teach us about Satan’s policy of evil?

Let us read from chapter 8 of Mark: “[31] And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. [32] And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. [33] But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.”

We should also look at the companion passage, Matthew chapter 16: “[21] From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. [22] Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. [23] But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”

Calvary is only approximately six months away, so the Lord Jesus Christ finally reveals His impending death. He has been thinking of Israel’s persistent rejection of Him—and how the culmination of such rank unbelief will be His horrific mistreatment at His trial and subsequent crucifixion. The Apostle Peter argues against that truth: “Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.” In other words, “It will never happen to You!” The exchange intensifies further when Christ replies, “Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.” What would merit such a severe criticism of Peter? Let us study….