“For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise” (Hebrews 10:36).
When Jews living in the first century left Judaism and obeyed the gospel, they evidently felt all of their problems would be over and they would have a life of perfect bliss. When that didn’t happen, some of them became discouraged and went back to Judaism; others were about to leave.
The writer of Hebrews writes to encourage them, insisting they should practice endurance instead of giving up their new-found faith if they want to receive the reward God ultimately has for all the faithful.
We today sometimes need this same kind of encouragement when life throws us “curve balls,” and we have difficulties and hurts to deal with. The message is the same for us: we should never give up Jesus and our faith because that is what will take us into eternity in good standing with God.
- Joe Norton
“But let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:4).
Having just described that wives should not place greater emphasis on outward ornaments to attract the attention of their husbands, even unbelieving husbands, Peter here lays out the positive inward attributes she should possess.
He takes the public extravagant displays used by some women at the time to attract attention and transfers the focus to the attitude and character a godly woman should have.
It’s what is on the inside that really counts, Peter is saying. Outward displays will corrupt and fade with time, but inward attributes are the ones that are lasting and that are precious to God.
- Joe Norton
“Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away” (Hebrews 2:1).
Anyone who might doubt that we can fall away after our obedience to the gospel has only to read the book of Hebrews and specifically this verse. Some converted Hebrews had left Jesus, and others were apparently about to do so. That is the reason for the writing of this book.
The writer admonishes his readers to think seriously about the words they have been taught and allow those words to help them avoid drifting away from this new faith they have espoused.
Admonition of this type is appropriate for every generation of Christians. Being human, we too can become discouraged if we fail to maintain an awareness of our spiritual condition. Listening carefully to the words of inspiration will always be a deterrent against drifting away.
- Joe Norton
“God, who at various times and in different ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-2).
With this dramatic opening, the writer of the Hebrew letter begins one of the most powerful pieces of writing in all of scripture—powerful not because of the writing but because of the message.
These verses begin with a dramatic declaration of the Ultimate Power—this is, of course, God—and they concisely explain the transition of that power to the designated Heir and they point out the superiority of that Power to any other being.
May this message remain emblazoned upon our hearts as we walk through the maze of life, chart our spiritual course toward heaven, and establish our priorities. God, as our superior, and His Son, as the One Who received total power, have the right to direct our lives. Our job is to submit to their power.
- Joe Norton
“So I will restore to you the years that the storming locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you” (Joel 2:25).
No where is the compassion of God for His people more obvious nor more dramatically declared than by the prophet Joel. While his extended prophecy begins with the devastation that has come upon Israel because of her sins, it turns here into an overwhelming promise that God will bless her again if she will repent.
In this verse, the different types of locusts represent the enemy nations that have troubled Israel; the great army refers to the fact that God has allowed these “locusts and caterpillars” to come among them and devastate them. As the Israelites have suffered at the hands of these nations, so will God repair the damage done, based on their truly repenting and turning to Him once again.
This lesson screams for us to learn: even though God does not work directly and miraculously with those in His kingdom today, His providential care is still a promise. Our spiritual success as individuals and as a church depends on our turning our lives over to God and placing ourselves under the direction of His word.
- Joe Norton
NOTE: The following Q&A appeared in the August 2001 OPA publication, written by Ronny Wade.
Answer: We are told in Matthew 26:27 that "Jesus took the cup." Some later versions say "he took a cup." Mark and Luke in their account of the institution of the supper agree with this rendering, as does the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:16 and 11:23-26. Every Greek lexicon of which I have knowledge places the word "cup" in Matthew 26:27 under literal usage. There is certainly no reason from the text for doing otherwise. Jesus took a literal cup. The cup he took, however, was not empty. It contained something. That something (fruit of the vine) was a representation of His blood (Matthew 26:28). The idea that the cup was the blood of the fruit of the vine is an attempt to prove that the fact that Jesus took one cup (container)has no significance. People who advance this argument conclude that since the cup is the blood, it doesn't matter how many containers are used to distribute the cup. Unfortunately for them their reasoning is greatly flawed. "Cup" is the name of a solid, not a liquid. Jesus never did call the "cup" his blood. Read the accounts in the Bible; it's just not there. When Jesus said "this is my blood of the new testament..." His reference was to the contents of the cup, the fruit of the vine. The disciples were to "drink ye all from it" i.e. they were to all drink out of or from the cup Jesus had given them. If we follow the example of Jesus, we will use only one cup, when we observe the communion.
But does the cup have any significance other than the fact that Jesus used one cup? Let it first be remembered that since Jesus did not take or give thanks for an empty cup, whatever significance there is to the cup must be to the "cup containing", not just an empty cup. In Luke 22:20 Jesus said, "This cup is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you." Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:25 says "This cup is the New Testament in my blood." Just as the bread "is" or represents the body of Christ, and the fruit of the vine "is" or represents the blood of Christ, the cup containing the fruit of the vine "is" or represents the new covenant. All three of these statements have a subject and a predicate joined by the copula "is" and carries the meaning or idea of "represents". In all three statements there is a literal something under consideration. Bread, fruit of the vine, and cup are all literal. The Lord is not defining bread, fruit of vine, or cup but merely telling what each represents. Someone is ready to respond by saying, "Do you mean to tell me that a literal cup can represent the New Testament?" well, if literal bread can represent the body of Christ and literal fruit of the vine can represent the blood of Christ, why cannot a literal cup containing fruit of the vine represent the New Testament? The Lord and Paul both said it does. This settles the matter. Thayer says on page 15 of his Greek lexicon "This cup, containing wine, an emblem of blood, is rendered by the shedding of my blood an emblem of the New Testament." "An emblem of blood" is an appositive and put in opposition to wine. It describes what "wine" is, i.e. an emblem of blood. Thus, just as the wine is an emblem of blood, so also the "cup containing wine" is an emblem of the New Testament.
In my opinion, it is a mistake, when offering thanks for the cup to say "we thank thee for this cup which is the New Testament and its contents, the fruit of the vine, which represents the blood of Christ". It is the "cup containing" that represents the New Testament, not the empty cup itself. The cup containing wine is significant. A beautiful picture should come to our mind when we commune. Bread, one loaf, representing the one physical body of our Lord who died for our sins. A cup containing wine reminding us of the blood shed for our sins and the one covenant sealed or ratified by that blood. Steak in the Lord's supper represents nothing. Fermented wine, or Coca-Cola represent nothing; a plurality of cups represents nothing. All are additions to the word of God, and violations of the pattern set long go by our Lord.
- Ronny Wade
The month of November is upon us, and that means a time for reflection and thanksgiving. In John's vision of Revelation, there are several instances of thanksgiving. The angels, elders and living creatures are in constant praise of God, and their example must have been inspiring to the first century Christians of Asia Minor. Keep in mind, by our standards, these people had very little to be thankful for. Their lives were surrounded by turmoil and the constant interference of the pagan Roman Empire. Yet they found opportunity to praise God with thanksgiving!
All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom,
Thanksgiving and honor and power and might,
Be to our God forever and ever.
The image is given of great praise around God's throne, and thanksgiving is a major theme. Despite all of the turmoil their lives faced, the early Christians were to be thankful! Likewise, we are expected to be thankful today as well.
Bullinger, in his notes of Revelation, points out that each of the seven levels of praise should be preceded by the definite article. In other words, praise was given for "the blessing, the glory, the wisdom, the thanksgiving, the honor, the power and the might". When we stop to consider "the thanksgiving", that takes on an entirely new meaning. This is not just a casual, half-hearted "thanks" to God, but rather is a specific way to give thanks to God.
It is true that I am thankful that Tony Romo's clavicle is healing properly, but is that "the thanksgiving"? I am thankful for my home, job, clothes, food, etc... But is that "the thanksgiving"? While we should be thankful for even the smallest of pleasures, let us never forget the genesis of "the thanksgiving" - the death of Jesus Christ on Calvary and the plan of salvation. While everything else can be taken away in a blink of an eye, the promise of salvation and a home in heaven will always remain for His faithful children. Now this is something to be thankful for!
- Bryan Morrison
In the year 2015, society is under attack! Special interest groups are bound and determined to tear apart the very foundation of a Christian society, that being the home. The large number of single-family homes is staggering, and the absence of the father as the spiritual head of the household has brought about untold heartache. Is it any surprise that the Lord's church has also struggled to survive in these conditions? Brother Dwain Morrison's lesson told the harsh statistics.
Shockingly, a survey initiated by the Church of England in Switzerland in 2000 determined that only 1 in 50 children raised in a home where the father was non-practicing would become regular members in their adulthood. This is a travesty! I suppose that the results would be similar in any country and every religious organization. When the fathers fail their responsibility, the church will suffer. More information of the eye-opening survey is found in the link below.
This past Sunday morning, Brother Paul Wilkerson spoke concerning a prayer found in Ephesians 1:15-23. The message was quite profound, and the prayer is just as relevant today as it was then. As the Apostle Paul considered his fellow brethren in Ephesus, he gave thanks for their faithfulness. He then asked God:
1) to give them wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him
2) to enlighten their eyes of understanding
3) to help them know the hope of His calling
This is a prayer for the church today as well!
Despite the advanced technological world we live in, knowledge of God's Word seems to be disappearing. Faith comes by the hearing of the Word (Romans 10:17), so it is paramount that we are constantly studying to increase our level of wisdom. Our eyes need to be enlightened so that we might be a people of understanding, ever aware of the larger picture of our relationship with God. Finally, we need to be reminded of the great hope that was afforded to us by the death of our Savior on Calvary. In our busy lives, it is easy to forget this!
I hope Christians everywhere love, honor, and are thankful for their church family. In writing to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul uses the phrase "the household of faith" (Galatians 6:10). How beautiful of a title for the Lord's people!
What a shame it is when division occurs in the Lord's church.
What a shame it is when Christians no longer look forward to the assembly of the saints.
What a shame it is when Christians forget their first love.
What a glory it is, though, when Christians have wisdom, understanding, and hope.
“And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it ” (1 Corinthians 12:26).
In teaching about the unity that is to exist within the spiritual body of Christ, Paul has used the metaphor of the human body, all of whose parts depend on the others for proper functioning. When one part of the human body suffers pain, all other parts of the body feel that pain.
So with the spiritual body, “No man is an island,” that is, no Christian exists independent of other Christians. If we exist as Jesus intended that we do, we have such a connection with each other that we feel each other’s pain—we have empathetic feelings for one of our own who is suffering, regardless of the kind of suffering it is—physical, emotional, or spiritual.
Consequently, never can we say, “That’s their problem.” The very nature of our Christianity demands that we never step on one who is down—that we do what we can to encourage our fellows, to boost them up in their time of trouble, to help them in any way possible to make it through this night in their lives.
- Joe Norton