Today’s devotion comes from Acts 5:33-42.

“But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them.  But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time.  And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men.  For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him.  But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing.  After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him;  he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered.  So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown;  but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them;  or else you may even be found fighting against God.”

They took his advice;  and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them.  So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.  And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”  Acts 5:33-42.

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Indeed, it was God’s plan that “they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”  Verse 42.

God even caused Gamaliel to confess:  “if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them;  or else you may even be found fighting against God.”  Verse 39.

God is sovereign over all.

God is even sovereign over the alleged free-will and words of man, even though “they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them.”  Verse 33.

“There is no wisdom and no understanding
And no counsel against the LORD.”  Proverbs 21:30.

“The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD;
He turns it wherever He wishes.”  Proverbs 21:1.

“The LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth?  Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind?  Is it not I, the LORD?”  Exodus 4:11.

“9 “Remember the former things long past,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like Me,
10 Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things which have not been done,
Saying, ‘My purpose will be established,
And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’;
11 Calling a bird of prey from the east,
The man of My purpose from a far country.
Truly I have spoken;  truly I will bring it to pass.
I have planned it, surely I will do it.”  Isaiah 46:9-11.

Today’s devotion comes from Acts 5:17-32.  Here is a link to this Scripture – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts+5&version=NASB

I quote only the following verses.

“17 But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy.  18 They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public jail.  19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, 20 “Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.”  21 Upon hearing this, they entered into the temple about daybreak and began to teach.

Now when the high priest and his associates came, they called the Council together, even all the Senate of the sons of Israel, and sent orders to the prison house for them to be brought.  …

27 When they had brought them, they stood them before the Council.  The high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.”  29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.  30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross.  31 He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.  32 And we are witnesses of these things;  and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”  Acts 5:17-21 and 27-32.

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Notice the short and simple message by Peter of Who God is and what God has done.

Who is God?

“He is the one (Jesus) whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior”.

What has God done?

He has granted “repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.”

Yet, other doctrine continues to focus on man and what man has done.

But, Reformed Doctrine continues to focus on God and what God has done.

“6 Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts,
And I will tell of Your greatness.
7 They shall eagerly utter the memory of Your abundant goodness
And will shout joyfully of Your righteousness.”  Psalm 145:6-7.

Yet, other doctrine trusts in the alleged free-will of man, the wisdom of man, and the works of man.

But, Reformed Doctrine trusts in the will of God, the wisdom of God, and the works of God Who provides all that is needed for salvation from the beginning to the end:   from the beginning of “Unconditional Election” through “Limited Atonement” through “Irresistible Grace” to the end of “Preservation of the Saints”, the “U”, “L”, “I”, and “P” of “TULIP”, the Five Points of Calvinism, the Reformed Doctrine of Salvation, as more fully set forth in the Canons of Dordt.

“But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.”  1 Corinthians 1:30-31.

“Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches;  but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth;  for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD.”  Jeremiah 9:23-24.

“He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.”

Today’s devotion comes from Acts 5:12-16.

“At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people;  and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s portico.  But none of the rest dared to associate with them;  however, the people held them in high esteem.  And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number, to such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on any one of them.  Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed.”  Acts 5:12-16.

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Today’s Scripture details a very different time than today.  Many signs and wonders were taking place.  Believers were all with one accord.  The people held the apostles in high esteem.  At least proportionately, many more believers were constantly added.  All were being healed.

But, we should not be discouraged nor dismayed;  God is still in control and will accomplish all of His purpose.  The following Scriptures give us the following instructions and encouragement.  (Before each Scripture, I will summarize each Scripture.)

First, Scripture confirms “in the last days difficult times will come.”  Evil people “will proceed from bad to worse”.  But, we should not conform, but rather, we should continue in the Scriptures “which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.  For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,  unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power;  Avoid such men as these.  …

But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.  You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”  2 Timothy 3:1-5 and 13-15.

Second, we should continue to “preach the word;  be ready in season and out of season;  reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.”  “But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” 

“I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom:  preach the word;  be ready in season and out of season;  reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine;  but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.  But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”  2 Timothy 4:1-4.

Third, we should give thanks that God has chosen us for salvation, and that God will save all of His elect.  “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught”.

“But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.  It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.”  2 Thessalonians 2:13-15.

Fourth, we should emulate Noah.  We may not fully understand why or when these things will come to the world nor be able to save the world, but “being warned by God about things not yet seen”, we should at least prepare for the salvation of our household and live by faith.   

“By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.”  Hebrews 11:7.

Today’s devotion spans parts of two chapters.  It comes from Acts 4:32 to Acts 5:11.

“32 And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul;  and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.  33 And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all.  34 For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales  35 and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.

36 Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), 37 and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet.  3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?  4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own?  And after it was sold, was it not under your control?  Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart?  You have not lied to men but to God.”  5 And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it.  6 The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him.

7 Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.  8 And Peter responded to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?”  And she said, “Yes, that was the price.”  9 Then Peter said to her, “Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test?  Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.”  10 And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.  11 And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.”  Acts 4:32 to Acts 5:11.

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We do not encourage each other enough in the church.  Instead, we compete with each other to appear self-righteous.

Ananias and Sapphira would have stayed out of trouble if they were just honest and did not deceive to appear self-righteous.  As Peter stated:  “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own?  And after it was sold, was it not under your control?  …”  Acts 5:4.

In contrast, Joseph was called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement).  Acts 4:36.

We have a Christian man in St. Petersburg, Florida where I live named Rev. Lionel who runs a Christian rescue mission.  The mission feeds and clothes and preaches the gospel to the homeless.  Sometimes, I tell him and others how much I appreciate him and his mission, particularly because I do not have the inclination to do that work.  If he asks me to work in the mission’s soup kitchen, I probably will just reply:  “Nope.”   But, if he sends me a newsletter with an envelope to send him a donation, I may sometime send a little money to him.

There are people in the church who, if a fellow member gets sick, they are eager to rush to their home with a plate of food.  I do not remember doing that good work before.  And, I confess that I do not even remember encouraging those who did so.

I need to encourage others more.

“6 Each one helps his neighbor
And says to his brother, “Be strong!”
7 So the craftsman encourages the smelter,
And he who smooths metal with the hammer encourages him who beats the anvil,
Saying of the soldering, “It is good”;
And he fastens it with nails,
So that it will not totter.”  Isaiah 41:6-7.

As Christians, we have different spiritual gifts and different inclinations to do different good works. 

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”  Ephesians 2:10.

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.  And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.  There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.”  1 Corinthians 12:4-6.

We should do good works through the abundant grace given to us.  See Acts 4:33.

But, we should not do good works through our flesh, particularly to appear self-righteous.

Let us do good works through the Spirit of God in us.  

“For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God;  for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”  Romans 8:6-8.

Let us be sincere (“without deceit” as defined in my New American Standard Bible Dictionary/Concordance.)

“But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”  1 Timothy 1:5.

We may not do the same good work that a fellow Christian does, but we can at least encourage that fellow Christian.

“and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another;  and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”  Hebrews 10:24-25.

Today’s devotion comes from Acts 4:23-31.

“When they had been released, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them.  And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, “O Lord, it is You who MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA, AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM, who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said,

‘WHY DID THE GENTILES RAGE,
AND THE PEOPLES DEVISE FUTILE THINGS?
‘THE KINGS OF THE EARTH TOOK THEIR STAND,
AND THE RULERS WERE GATHERED TOGETHER
AGAINST THE LORD AND AGAINST HIS CHRIST.’

For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.  And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence,  while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.”  And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.”  Acts 4:23-31.

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“3 “Let us tear their fetters apart
And cast away their cords from us!”

4 He who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them.
5 Then He will speak to them in His anger
And terrify them in His fury, saying,
6 “But as for Me, I have installed My King
Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”  Psalm 2:3-6.

Even though it may seem like things are out of God’s control and firmly in control of wicked men, Peter and John and their companions praised God for His sovereignty starting with His creation and finishing with His installation of His beloved Son Jesus Christ as King and Lord of all.  They recognized that wicked men only “do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.”  Verse 28.

Other doctrine futilely clings to a focus on man and vainly tries to pump up his alleged free-will.

But, Reformed Doctrine steadfastly focuses on God and rejoices in His sovereignty. 

“The LORD has established His throne in the heavens,
And His sovereignty rules over all.”  Psalm 103:19.

“10 All Your works shall give thanks to You, O LORD,
And Your godly ones shall bless You.
11 They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom
And talk of Your power;
12 To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts
And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.”  Psalm 145:10-13.

Posted by: Bill Hornbeck | September 12, 2019

“we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

Today’s devotion comes from Acts 4:13-22.

“Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.  And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply.  But when they had ordered them to leave the Council, they began to confer with one another, saying, “What shall we do with these men?  For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.  But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to any man in this name.”  And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.  But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge;  for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”  When they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which to punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened;  for the man was more than forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.”  Acts 4:13-22.

———————

There is a sense that we preach and teach (or, in other words, “we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard”) because of the spiritual gifts and stewardship entrusted to us by God.  Simply, we preach and teach out of a sense of duty to God.

“For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion;  for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.  For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward;  but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me.”  1 Corinthians 9:16-17.

But, in this situation, the reason that Peter and John stated that they they could not stop speaking about what they saw and heard is that they personally witnessed an awesome miracle of God.

When we read Scripture and the Holy Spirit gives us insight, understanding, and appreciation of the awesome qualities and work of God, “we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

Other doctrine is content to learn and teach about man and what man should do.

But, Reformed Doctrine eagerly seeks to learn and teach the awesome qualities and work of God.  

“6 Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts,
And I will tell of Your greatness.
7 They shall eagerly utter the memory of Your abundant goodness
And will shout joyfully of Your righteousness.”  Psalm 145:6-7.

“10 All Your works shall give thanks to You, O LORD,
And Your godly ones shall bless You.
11 They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom
And talk of Your power;
12 To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts
And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.”  Psalm 145:10-13.

“9 I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great congregation;
Behold, I will not restrain my lips,
O LORD, You know.
10 I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart;
I have spoken of Your faithfulness and Your salvation;
I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth from the great congregation.”  Psalm 40:9-10.

Today’s devotion comes from Acts 4:1-12.  Here is a link to this Scripture – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts+4&version=NASB

I quote only the following verses.

“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health.  He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone.  And there is salvation in no one else;  for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”  Acts 4:8-12.

——————–

Although most would nod their approval to this Scripture and claim that their faith is based on Christ alone, they really believe that they are saved by Christ and by their own good works or at least by their own free-will choice of Christ.  They believe that God loves everybody, Christ died for everybody, and that it is up to their own free-will to distinguish themselves worthy of salvation by contributing their own good works or at least their own free-will choice of Christ.  Accordingly, they really believe that salvation is partly in themselves, and they get to boast of some credit and glory for their contribution.

But, Reformed Doctrine refutes such belief that salvation is partly in themselves.  We have seen what Scripture emphatically states:  “And there is salvation in no one else”.  The Belgic Confession states:  “…  those who possess Jesus Christ through faith, have complete salvation in him.  Therefore, for any to assert, that Christ is not sufficient, but that something more is required besides him, would be too gross a blasphemy:  for hence it would follow, that Christ was but half a Savior.  …”

Article 22:  Of Faith in Jesus Christ.

We believe that, to attain the true knowledge of this great mystery, the Holy Ghost kindleth in our hearts an upright faith, which embraces Jesus Christ, with all his merits, appropriates him, and seeks nothing more besides him.  For it must needs follow, either that all things, which are requisite to our salvation, are not in Jesus Christ, or if all things are in him, that then those who possess Jesus Christ through faith, have complete salvation in him.  Therefore, for any to assert, that Christ is not sufficient, but that something more is required besides him, would be too gross a blasphemy:  for hence it would follow, that Christ was but half a Savior.  Therefore we justly say with Paul, that we are justified by faith alone, or by faith without works.  However, to speak more clearly, we do not mean, that faith itself justifies us, for it is only an instrument with which we embrace Christ our Righteousness.  But Jesus Christ, imputing to us all his merits and so many holy works which he has done for us, and in our stead, is our Righteousness.  And faith is an instrument that keeps us in communion with him in all his benefits, which, when become ours, are more than sufficient to acquit us of our sins.  

Next, let us also meditate on the source of the quote (“He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone.”) in today’s Scripture.

“20 This is the gate of the LORD;
The righteous will enter through it.
21 I shall give thanks to You, for You have answered me,
And You have become my salvation.

22 The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief corner stone.
23 This is the LORD’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.”  Psalm 118:20-23.

First, “You have become my salvation.”  No joint credit for salvation is given.  The singular “You” refers to only Jesus Christ as being the Psalmist’s salvation.

Second, “This is the gate of the LORD”.  This statement leads us to the following Scripture.  “Enter through the narrow gate;  for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.  For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”  Matthew 7:13-14.

The gate to salvation is narrow in the sense that salvation is only in Christ and not also in others.  The gate to salvation is narrow also in the sense that only God’s elect will be saved.

Most doctrine is like a broad bridge open to everyone, but it only goes half-way across the river.  Such doctrine teaches that God loves everyone, Christ died for everyone, and God wants to save everyone, but it is up to man to contribute something worthy of salvation.  The only difference between the unsaved and saved is that the saved does works or maybe as little as uses his alleged free-will to, so to speak, jump from the end of the bridge, across the river, to the shore of salvation.  Most doctrine believes that everyone has an equal opportunity to be saved, but that Christ’s death completely saved no one in particular.  Only those who do sufficient works or who take a sufficient “free will leap of faith” to the shore of salvation will be saved.  Thus, the bridge is wide, open to everyone, but it only goes halfway across the stream.  Accordingly, the saved have reason to boast for contributing to their own salvation and showing themselves worthy of salvation.

In sharp contrast to most doctrine, Reformed Doctrine is like a narrow bridge only open to God’s elect, but the narrow bridge goes all the way across the river to the shore of salvation. Reformed Doctrine teaches that God only loves His elect and only wants to save them and that Christ died only for the elect.  In summary, God does everything necessary for the salvation of His elect.  Reformed Doctrine points out that Scripture teaches that man is “dead” in sin, hostile to God, cannot please God, cannot understand the things of God, and is in bondage to sin and Satan (which is summarized by the phrase “Total Depravity”, the “T” of “TULIP”, the Reformed Doctrine of Salvation), such that God must do everything for the elect, including making them alive (regenerating them), giving them faith, sanctifying them, and preserving them to salvation, so that all of God’s elect will be saved.  Accordingly, God’s elect have no reason to boast, because God provided everything needed for their salvation.  Thus, salvation is entirely in Christ and in no one else.

Third, “This is the LORD’s doing”.  This statement leads us to the following Scripture.  “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.”  1 Corinthians 1:30-31.

Today’s devotion comes from Acts 3:17-26.  Here is a link to this Scripture – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts+3&version=NASB

I quote the following verses.

Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;  and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.  Moses said, ‘THE LORD GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN;  TO HIM YOU SHALL GIVE HEED to everything He says to you.  And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’  And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days.  It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘AND IN YOUR SEED ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED.’  For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”  Acts 3:19-26.

——————–

There is the command in the first verse (verse 19):  “Therefore repent and return”.

And, there is the promise of blessing that God will cause this repentance and return in the last two verses (verse 25-26):  “…  saying to Abraham, ‘AND IN YOUR SEED ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED.’  For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”

So, who receives this promise of blessing that God will cause this repentance and return?

We learn from the following Galatians 3:16 that the “IN YOUR SEED” refers to Christ.  “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.”  Galatians 3:16.

Putting it together, those who are in Christ are blessed.  

Those who are in Christ are God’s elect, and they are in Christ because of God’s “Unconditional Election”.  

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.  …”  Ephesians 1:3-4.

“but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.  But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.”  1 Corinthians 1:27-31.

“He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.”  Acts 5:31.

Although the elect Jews first received this blessing of repentance and return as in “For you first” in verse 26, the elect Gentiles also received that blessing of repentance and return as shown by the following verse.

“When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.”  Acts 11:18.

Today’s devotion comes from Acts 3:13-16.  Here is a link to this Scripture – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts+3&version=NASB

I quote only the following verse.

“And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know;  and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all.”  Acts 3:16.

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We see three bases or instruments of the healing of the lame man in today’s Scripture, and this meditation will help us to understand the bases or instruments to our salvation.

Ultimately, Jesus healed the lame man, but Jesus used three bases or instruments of the healing of the lame man in today’s Scripture.  First, “it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know”.  Second, there is “the basis of faith in His name“.  Third, “faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all.”

In the following article of the Belgic Confession, we see “the Holy Ghost kindleth in our hearts an upright faith, which embraces Jesus Christ, with all his merits” and we see this faith described as “an instrument with which we embrace Christ our Righteousness” and “faith is an instrument that keeps us in communion with him in all his benefits”.

Article 22:  Of Faith in Jesus Christ.

We believe that, to attain the true knowledge of this great mystery, the Holy Ghost kindleth in our hearts an upright faith, which embraces Jesus Christ, with all his merits, appropriates him, and seeks nothing more besides him.  For it must needs follow, either that all things, which are requisite to our salvation, are not in Jesus Christ, or if all things are in him, that then those who possess Jesus Christ through faith, have complete salvation in him.  Therefore, for any to assert, that Christ is not sufficient, but that something more is required besides him, would be too gross a blasphemy:  for hence it would follow, that Christ was but half a Savior.  Therefore we justly say with Paul, that we are justified by faith alone, or by faith without works.  However, to speak more clearly, we do not mean, that faith itself justifies us, for it is only an instrument with which we embrace Christ our Righteousness.  But Jesus Christ, imputing to us all his merits and so many holy works which he has done for us, and in our stead, is our Righteousness.  And faith is an instrument that keeps us in communion with him in all his benefits, which, when become ours, are more than sufficient to acquit us of our sins.

In a similar chain of thought, ultimately God saves us, but God uses bases or instruments of our salvation.  First, “by grace you have been saved”.  Second, we are saved “through faith“.  Third, this faith is “not of yourselves, it is the gift of God“.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith;  and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;  not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  Ephesians 2:8-9.

Today’s devotion comes from Acts 3:1-12.

“Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer.  And a man who had been lame from his mother’s womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple.  When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms.  But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, “Look at us!”  And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them.  But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you:  In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!”  And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up;  and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened.  With a leap he stood upright and began to walk;  and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.  And all the people saw him walking and praising God;  and they were taking note of him as being the one who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg alms, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

While he was clinging to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them at the so-called portico of Solomon, full of amazement.  But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, “Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk?”  Acts 3:1-12.

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If Peter and John did not claim any credit for the healing of the lame man, then why should we claim any credit for the good works that God does through us?!

God is the One Who should be glorified for the good works that He does through us.  

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”  Ephesians 2:10.

“for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”  Philippians 2:13.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 1:6.

“For who regards you as superior?  What do you have that you did not receive?  And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”  1 Corinthians 4:7.

8 There is no one like You among the gods, O Lord,
Nor are there any works like Yours.
9 All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord,
And they shall glorify Your name.
10 For You are great and do wondrous deeds;
You alone are God.

11 Teach me Your way, O LORD;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name.
12 I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And will glorify Your name forever.
13 For Your lovingkindness toward me is great,
And You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.”  Psalm 86:8-13.

But, despite all the wondrous deeds and other good things that God does for us, we still will not give thanks to God nor glorify God unless God causes us to do so. 

Consider the sad story of Israel in Scripture summarized in the Scripture below that despite all the wondrous deeds and other good things that God did for them, they still did not give thanks to God nor glorify God.  Instead, Israel forsook God and chased after idols.

“7 “Remember the days of old,
Consider the years of all generations.
Ask your father, and he will inform you,
Your elders, and they will tell you.
8 “When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance,
When He separated the sons of man,
He set the boundaries of the peoples
According to the number of the sons of Israel.
9 “For the LORD’s portion is His people;
Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance.
10 “He found him in a desert land,
And in the howling waste of a wilderness;
He encircled him, He cared for him,
He guarded him as the pupil of His eye.
11 “Like an eagle that stirs up its nest,
That hovers over its young,
He spread His wings and caught them,
He carried them on His pinions.
12 “The LORD alone guided him,
And there was no foreign god with him.
13 “He made him ride on the high places of the earth,
And he ate the produce of the field;
And He made him suck honey from the rock,
And oil from the flinty rock,
14 Curds of cows, and milk of the flock,
With fat of lambs,
And rams, the breed of Bashan, and goats,
With the finest of the wheat—
And of the blood of grapes you drank wine.

15 “But Jeshurun (Israel) grew fat and kicked—
You are grown fat, thick, and sleek—
Then he forsook God who made him,
And scorned the Rock of his salvation.
16 “They made Him jealous with strange gods;
With abominations they provoked Him to anger.
17 “They sacrificed to demons who were not God,
To gods whom they have not known,
New gods who came lately,
Whom your fathers did not dread.
18 “You neglected the Rock who begot you,
And forgot the God who gave you birth.”  Deuteronomy 32:7-18.

Other doctrine teaches that we just need to try harder.

But, Reformed Doctrine teaches that our natural condition is “Total Depravity”.  We are selfish and dead in sin.  We will not be grateful nor glorify God unless God chooses us to do so and does everything else in and for us to cause us to give thanks and glorify God as we should.

“But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;”  1 Peter 2:9.

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