Our God is Full of Compassion

April 29, 2023

“How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I surrender you, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart is turned over within Me, All My compassions are kindled.” (Hosea 11:8 NAS95)

These words of tender compassion were spoken by God about His own people. The children of Israel had spurned God again and again. They were obsessed with rebelling against Him. God called them out of Egypt to bless them, but the more He called, the more they turned away from Him. God was like a loving father to them. He took them in His arms. He taught them how to walk. (Hosea 11:3) God showed nothing but kindness to Israel, yet they refused to turn to Him or honor Him. What could God do? What choice did the people leave Him? God would send the sword of the Assyrians upon His people. They would face His wrath.

But though God’s fierce anger was aroused, it’s amazing to realize that His heart was still full of compassion. His heart was “turned over within Him.” What an insight this verse gives us into the heart of God! Our God is full of compassion! He is full of mercy! Even though these ungrateful people were bent on rejecting Him, He still had compassion for them. What a merciful, wonderful God we serve!

Does the mercy of God touch your heart? How should His mercy and compassion affect us? First, it should drive us to offering up our lives to Him. “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice…” (Romans 12:1 NAS95) Those who think little of His mercy will not be interested in offering up their lives to Him. Second, the mercy and compassion of God should drive us to being merciful and compassionate toward others. “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” (Colossians 3:12–13 NAS95)

Let us reflect today upon the tender mercy of God as shown to us in Jesus Christ. Let us not be obstinate like the children of Israel but may the mercy of God drive us into His loving arms. May His mercy drive us to showing mercy to everyone around us.

—Scott Colvin

Our God is a Consuming Fire

April 21, 2023

I heard a radio advertisement the other day inviting people to visit a church in this area. In the ad, the preacher happily announced that God is just like your dog—loyal, good-natured, and friendly to the end. This seeming lack of reverence smacked me right in the face. God is not like your dog! Our God is a consuming fire!

I fear that the people of God have developed an unbalanced picture of Him. We need to understand both the kindness and severity of God. (Romans 11:22) The fear of God is very necessary and helpful for us. It was greatly beneficial for the children of Israel in the time of Moses. They were struck with fear when the Lord came down to Mount Sinai to give the Law, as we read in the book of Exodus: “So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder.” (Exodus 19:16-19 NASB95)

Can you imagine the fear that must have gripped the Israelites as the entire mountain smoked and quaked? Can you picture yourself there and feel the reverence and awesome respect for God Almighty? Can you see the benefit of such a fear of the Lord? The people said to Moses, “‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.’ Moses said to the people, do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” (Exodus 20:19-20 NASB95) The fear of the Lord is necessary because it will keep us from sin. Of course, those walking faithfully with Christ do not need to fear the punishment of God, but we still must have an awesome respect for who He is. We must understand His hatred of sin. We must have a healthy dread of displeasing the One who holds our lives, and the entire universe in His hands.

We need to remember that the God that we read about in the time of Moses is the same God that we serve today. The covenant may have changed, but God has not changed. Do we realize who it is that we are dealing with? Do we realize who is speaking to us? We need to approach the throne with reverence and with awe this Lord’s Day, “for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29)

—Scott Colvin

Lamb of God

April 18, 2023

I love to sing Twila Paris’ “Lamb of God.” If you have a songbook handy, you may want to reread the words to this great hymn. It’s one of those songs that can send a chill up and down your spine because of the powerful lyrics. Out of 37 occurrences of the word “lamb” in the New Testament, 33 refer to Jesus.* The lamb of God is a major New Testament theme.

In John 1:29, John the Baptist announces “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (ESV)!” His words are certainly prophetic—pointing to what Jesus was going to do in dying on the cross. His words also resonated with the Old Testament. The Passover Lamb’s blood spared Israel from the last plague and led to the deliverance from slavery. Jesus is called our Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7). The words also contain reminders of the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. As Hebrews notes, “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22, ESV). So it is not surprising to hear Peter speak of being redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot (1 Peter 1:19, ESV).

John’s words may also point back to the prophecy of Isaiah 53. A number of New Testament passages link this prophecy to Jesus (e.g., 1 Peter 2:22).

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. Isaiah 53:7, ESV

And it is clear that this one like a lamb brings about forgiveness for others.

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:5, ESV

In fact one of the most striking aspects of John the Baptist’s statement is that unlike the Passover Lamb and the Old Testament sacrifices, this lamb of God is for all—“the sin of the world.”

The greatest number of occurrences of the word, “lamb,” referring to Jesus is in Revelation. “Lamb” occurs 28 times in Revelation.* This brings an additional thought to the “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”—VICTORY. It is in Revelation that we see the Lamb in heaven receiving praise (5:12). The redeemed sing the song of Moses and the Lamb (15:3). We also learn about the “marriage of the Lamb” (19:7) and “the bride, the wife of the Lamb” (21:9), that is the church.

Jesus, the sacrificial lamb, fulfills the Old Testament prophecy and hope. He provides the once and for all sacrifice for sin, and He is the victorious Lamb who sits upon the throne. With the hymn, it is easy to exclaim in praise, “O Lamb of God!”

—Russ Holden

*Amnos meaning “lamb” occurs 4x with all of its NT occurrences referring to Jesus. Arnion, another Greek term for lamb, occurs 30 times with 28 of them referring to Jesus. Pascha is the Greek term for Passover. Of its 29 occurrences, three of them refer to the Passover lamb (with the word, lamb, being understood from context), and one of those three refers to Jesus (1 Cor. 5:7).

*Word count based on the Greek word, arnion. English word counts may vary because the word, Lamb, may be supplied where the Greek literally has “he” (e.g., 6:7, 9 and 8:1).

“What an Empty Tomb Can Do”

April 8, 2023

How odd that his enemies understood him better than his friends! His enemies placed a guard and sealed the tomb. His friends ran away. One denied him three times. At first reports, they regarded it as nonsense and did not believe (Luke 24:11). They didn’t understand the scripture (John 20:9). They were afraid of the Jews (20:19). Their hearts were hard (Mark 16:14). In a sonnet, D.A. Carson captures the mood:

No heroes, these: defeated followers all,
  Their nurtured faith extinguished, snuffed the flame
  Of courage. Quite abandoned now the game
  Oneupmanship (“Not I, Lord; I’ll not fall!”),
  Displaced by furtive fear’s disabling pall.
  More crippling than the sickening fear, the shame;
  And cowed by common cowardice, they came
  Upstairs together, spiritually mauled.
    Reports come in of shattered, vanquished Death,
    Of Life’s appearance in triumphant mood.
    Begins the birth of hope, the death of death,
    Of failing, faithless men with faith endued.
Arranged of old, unqualifiedly new:
Such change is what an empty tomb can do.*

Their unbelief, cowardice, and misunderstanding are hardly résumé enhancements for religious leaders. Their unflattering testimony about themselves is unlikely to have been made up. So, how do we account for the dramatic change in their lives from cowards hiding from the Jews to courageous proclaimers of the resurrection of Jesus. C.F.D. Moule stated it this way:

If the coming into existence of the Nazarenes, a phenomenon undeniably attested by the New Testament, rips a great hole in history, a hole of the size and shape of Resurrection, what does the secular historian propose to stop it up with?

The explanation for the change from “old” to “unqualifiedly new” is best explained by “what an empty tomb can do.” Jesus was raised from the dead.

But the “unqualifiedly new” of the Apostles and early Christians was no minor affair. The dramatic event of the resurrection brought a dynamically different life in the disciples. The New Testament can talk about crucifying the old self, putting on the new self, and newness of life. That’s spiritual major surgery not a Band-Aid. Jesus was not a religious good luck charm to be dragged out of the drawer a couple of times year. Jesus became their life and their Lord. What about in your life? “Such change is what an empty tomb can do.”

*D.A. Carson, Holy Sonnets of the Twentieth Century (Baker Books, 1994), p. 67.

Does God Truly Want All to be Saved? 

April 3, 2023

Is it the case that God chose some individuals, before time began, to be saved? Did God choose others, before they were born, before they had an opportunity to choose or reject Christ, to be eternally lost? If so, is it therefore the case that Jesus died only for the elect and not for the whole world? These are doctrines that are taught by many well-meaning people in Christendom. But do these doctrines line up with scripture? 

Hear the words of Jesus: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:16-17 NAS95) Did Jesus die only for the elect, or for the whole world? Is His offer of salvation only for some, or for anyone who will believe? 

Jesus says in John chapter 5, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgement, but has passed out of death into life.” (John 5:24 NAS95) Again, is Jesus offering eternal life to all? Is He offering life to anyone who will hear and believe? Or is He only offering life to those individuals who were already chosen for salvation before time began? If that is the case, how can Jesus say they have passed out of death into life, if they already had life? 

What about the following scriptures? Paul writes to Timothy that God, our Savior, “…desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4 NAS95) Or consider what Peter wrote, that the Lord is “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 NAS95) What is God’s desire? It is for all people to be saved! He does not wish for any to perish, but for all to repent! Is this really God’s desire? If so, how could we conclude that He was pleased to condemn the majority of mankind to the fires of hell before they had a choice to accept or reject Jesus? Are we to believe that God truly desires for all to repent, but created most people with the complete inability to do so? Do these ideas line up with the plain statements of the word of God? 

I am so thankful that God does indeed desire all people to be saved. He gives all people the opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel. This is the plain testimony of scripture. Praise God for sending His Son to rescue from eternal condemnation any and all who will hear and believe! 

—Scott Colvin