Peace through Grace

“To all who are in Rome, beloved of God called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 1:7

In his greetings to the Christians (“saints”) in Rome, Paul extended God’s “grace” and “peace” to them as he did in all of his New Testament letters (1:7; cf. I Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians  1:3; Ephesians 1:2; Philippians 1:2; Colossians 1:2; I Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:2; I Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4; Philemon 1:3). This reference to grace and peace summarizes the “gospel” or good news of Jesus Christ in all of Paul’s epistles. 

“Grace” refers to God’s unmerited favor whereby He gives us what we do not deserve. We do not deserve to be “justified” or declared totally righteous before God the moment we believe in Christ (Romans 3:21-4:25), but God’s grace makes this possible through “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” who died in our place and rose from the dead (Romans 1:7b; cf. 1:3-5). 

God’s “peace” is the condition that results from God’s “grace” to us. Paul writes, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:1).  We can have peace with God because “when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (5:10). Jesus’ death provides the basis of our peace with God. Christ satisfied God’s holy demand to punish sin by taking our punishment when He died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead. All God asks is that we “believe in Him who justifies the ungodly” (Romans 4:5). 

Many people today are trying to find peace with God through their own religious efforts. An example of this in the New Testament is a Roman centurion named Cornelius (cf. Acts 10). He is described as “a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people and prayed to God always…a just man, one who…has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews” (Acts 10:2, 22). Cornelius’ piety did not save him. His fear of God and righteous works did not give him “peace” with God (10:35-36). All of his prayers, fasting, and alms giving were expressions of his restlessness to be right with God. The apostle Peter correctly perceives this, so he speaks of Christ “preaching peace” (10:36). After declaring Jesus’ death and resurrection to Cornelius, Peter invites this religious man to “believe” in Christ for the forgiveness of his sins (Acts 10:43). What Cornelius could not find in fearing God, prayers, fasting, and alms giving, he found in the name of Jesus Christ! 

Only the name of Jesus Christ has the power to save and forgive all of our sins. The reason for this is because God the Father was completely and forever satisfied with Jesus’ full payment for our sin (John 19:30; I John 2:2). Those who are trusting in their good works or in Christ plus their good works to get them to heaven, are telling God the Father that Jesus’ death on the cross failed to pay their sin debt in full. However, since God was forever satisfied with His perfect Son’s payment for the sin of the world (Isaiah 53:11; John 19:30; I John 2:2), we must also be satisfied with what satisfies God. God cannot accept anything we do as payment for our sins because He has already accepted His Son’s payment for all of our sins when He died in our place on the cross.

The moment you believe this God forgives all your sins so you can have peace with Him. The Bible says, “Now to him who does not work, but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness” (Romans 4:5). No amount of your good words or works can make you right with God. Only Jesus can do this for you through His grace the moment you believe in Him alone (Romans 3:24-26). The result is “peace with God” (Romans 5:1). Peace through grace is only possible through a relationship with Jesus Christ, not through a religion.

What does it take to spread the gospel around the world?

“Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.” Acts 28:30-31

Luke concludes the book of Acts with the apostle Paul “in his own rented house” in Rome welcoming “all who came to him”and “preaching…and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence” (Acts 28:30-31). The word “all” is used twice in these last two verses of Acts to show that Paul did nothing half-hearted for the Lord Jesus. He showed no partiality to people, receiving “all who came to him” (28:30b). It did not matter what country, culture, or color was associated with these people, Paul welcomed them. 

He showed this impartial hospitality, so he could tell “all”whom God brought to him “with all confidence” about God’s coming “kingdom” on earth through the reign of “the Lord Jesus Christ” (28:31; cf. 1:3, 6; 19:8; 20:25). Paul could preach kingdom entrance through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone (cf. Matthew 18:3; Mark 10:15; Luke 18:17) with “all confidence” because he sought to please God and not people when he preached (cf. I Thessalonians 2:3-4). The last phrase, “no one forbidding him,” shows the unhindered advancement of the gospel under Roman authorities. God used Paul to take the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome. 

Are we willing to let God use us to advance the gospel of Christ around the world? For that to happen, we must have the same wholehearted commitment to Christ, to His gospel message, and to all the people for whom Jesus died that the apostle Paul had. When we do, nothing can stop the gospel from spreading around the world. 

What do I do when I feel overwhelmed?

“When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:2

When King David felt “overwhelmed” by his circumstances and feelings, he turned to the Lord (“Hear my cry, O God” – v. 1) to “lead” him to “the rock that is higher than” he was (61:2) because God had proven to be “a shelter” and “strong tower” for him in the past (61:3). A rock was a symbol of stability, security, and strength.

When we feel overwhelmed with life we may say to ourselves – “This is more than I can handle. I cannot go on.” What do we do in these situations? Where do we turn for help when we feel overwhelmed? Some of us may turn to a bottle of alcohol, a brief romantic relationship, a shopping spree, a busy schedule, or to a dark space in the corner of our minds to escape the overwhelming circumstances or feelings we are facing. 

This is not what King David did. David turned to the One who could lead him above his overwhelming circumstances and feelings and give him stability (“rock”), security (“shelter”), and strength (“strong tower”) instead (61:2-3). 

During my 20’s, God enabled me to climb several 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado. Often times when I reached the 12,000-foot range, my head would be throbbing from altitude sickness and I would be overwhelmed with fatigue. The temptation for me at that point was to turn around and go back down the mountain. What helped me to keep going upward was focusing on the Lord and the next rock above me, remembering God’s faithfulness on past climbs to help me reach those summits.  

When we feel overwhelmed and we are tempted to give up, let’s do what David did, and look to the Lord to lead us to a secure place that we could never reach on our own. Recalling God’s faithfulness to be our “rock,” “shelter” and “strong tower” in the past, can increase our confidence in Him to be our stability, security and strength in the present. 

God promises a safe landing, not a smooth journey

“And so it was that they all escaped safely to land.” Acts 27:44b

With vivid details, Luke records the dramatic shipwreck involving the apostle Paul and the other 275 people on board (27:26-44). Although it looked like either the sea or the soldiers would kill the apostle and the other prisoners on board, God remained faithful to His promise to bring Paul and “all” on board “safely to land” so Paul could go to Rome (27:44b; cf. 27:24). 

It is important to remember that God promises a safe landing, not a smooth journey. Christians will encounter “tribulation” in the world as they follow Jesus (John 16:33). But the “peace of God” is not the absence of storms in our lives, but the presence of Jesus Christ through the storms (cf. John 6:14-21; Philippians 4:6-7). The same voice that spoke this universe into existence out of nothing (Psalm 33:6, 9), can also calm our fears in the midst of our storms (Acts 27:24; cf. John 6:20). We can have His peace because He is with us and He is in control. 

Some believers are afraid of not landing safely in heaven when they die because they have been taught that their performance and/or power determines whether they will go to heaven, instead of Jesus’ performance on the cross (John 19:30) and His unlimited power (John 10:28-29). Please remember that God promises that His Holy Spirit, Who has “sealed” all who “have heard…the gospel” and “believed” it, will safely and securely deliver every believer in Jesus to heaven when they die or when they are gathered together in the air to be with Him forever (Ephesians 1:13-14; I Thessalonians 4:16-17). Just as God kept His promise to safely deliver the apostle Paul to Rome, so He will keep His promise to safely deliver all who believe in Jesus to heaven.

Are there any errors in the Bible?

By Norman L. Geisler

The Bible cannot err, since it is God’s Word, and God cannot err. This does not mean there are no difficulties in the Bible. But the difficulties are not due to God’s perfect revelation, but to our imperfect understanding of it. The history of Bible criticism reveals that the Bible has no errors, but the critics do. Most problems fall into one of the following categories.


When a scientist comes upon an anomaly in nature, he does not give up further scientific exploration. Rather, the unexplained motivates further study. Scientists once could not explain meteors, eclipses, tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes. Until recently, scientists did not know how the bumblebee could fly. All of these mysteries have yielded their secrets to relentless patience. Scientists do not now know how life can grow on thermo-vents in the depths of the sea. But no scientist throws in the towel and cries “contradiction!” Likewise, the true biblical scholar approaches the Bible with the same presumption that there are answers to the unexplained. Critics once proposed that Moses could not have written the first five books of the Bible because Moses’ culture was preliterate. Now we know that writing had existed thousands of years before Moses. Also, critics once believed that Bible references to the Hittite people were totally fictional. Such a people by that name had never existed. Now the Hittites’ national library has been found in Turkey. Thus, we have reason to believe that other unexplained phenomena in Scripture will be explained later.


Many critics assume the Bible is wrong until something proves it right. However, like an American citizen charged with an offense, the Bible should be read with at least the same presumption of accuracy given to other literature that claims to be nonfiction. This is the way we approach all human communications. If we did not, life would not be possible. If we assumed that road signs and traffic signals were not telling the truth, we would probably be dead before we could prove otherwise. If we assumed food packages are mislabeled, we would have to open up all cans and packages before buying. Likewise, the Bible, like any other book, should be presumed to be telling us what the authors said, experienced, and heard. But, negative critics begin with just the opposite presumption. Little wonder they conclude the Bible is riddled with error.


Jesus affirmed that the “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35, NASB). As an infallible book, the Bible is also irrevocable. Jesus declared, “Truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:18; Luke 16:17, NASB). The Scriptures also have final authority, being the last word on all it discusses. Jesus employed the Bible to resist the tempter (see Matt. 4:4, 7, 10), to settle doctrinal disputes (see Matt. 21:42), and to vindicate his authority (see Mark 11:17). Sometimes a biblical teaching rests on a small historical detail (see Heb. 7:4-10), a word or phrase (see Acts 15:13-17), or the difference between the singular and the plural (see Gal. 3:16). But, while the Bible is infallible, human interpretations are not. Even though God’s Word is perfect (see Ps. 19:7), as long as imperfect human beings exist, there will be misinterpretations of God’s Word and false views about his world. In view of this, one should not be hasty in assuming that a currently dominant assumption in science is the final word. Some of yesterday’s irrefutable laws are considered errors by today’s scientists. So, contradictions between popular opinions in science and widely accepted interpretations of the Bible can be expected. But this falls short of proving there is a real contradiction.


The most common mistake of all Bible interpreters, including some critical scholars, is to read a text outside its proper context. As the adage goes, “A text out of context is a pretext.” One can prove anything from the Bible by this mistaken procedure. The Bible says, “There is no God” (Ps. 14:1, NASB). Of course, the context is: “The fool has said in his heart ‘There is no God.’ ” One may claim that Jesus admonished us not to resist evil (see Matt. 5:39), but the antiretaliatory context in which he cast this statement must not be ignored. Many read Jesus’ statement to “Give to him who asks you,” as though one had an obligation to give a gun to a small child. Failure to note that meaning is determined by context is a chief sin of those who find fault with the Bible.


Some passages are hard to understand or appear to contradict some other part of Scripture. James appears to be saying that salvation is by works (see James 2:14-26), whereas Paul teaches that it is by grace. Paul says Christians are “saved through faith; and that not of yourselves. It is a gift of God: Not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 4:5, KJV). But the contexts reveal that Paul is speaking about justification before God (by faith alone), whereas James is referring to justification before others (who only see what we do). And James and Paul both speak of the fruitfulness that always comes in the life of one who loves God.


With the exception of small sections such as the Ten Commandments, which were “written by the finger of God” (Ex. 31:18, NASB), the Bible was not verbally dictated. The writers were not secretaries of the Holy Spirit. They were human composers employing their own literary styles and idiosyncrasies. These human authors sometimes used human sources for their material (see Josh. 10:13; Acts 17:28; 1 Cor. 15:33; Titus 1:12). In fact, every book of the Bible is the composition of a human writer-about forty of them in all. The Bible also manifests different human literary styles. Writers speak from an observer’s standpoint when they write of the sun rising or setting (see Josh. 1:15). They also reveal human thought patterns, including memory lapses (see 1 Cor. 1:14-16), as well as human emotions (see Gal. 4:14). The Bible discloses specific human interests. Hosea has a rural interest, Luke a medical concern, and James a love of nature. Like Christ, the Bible is completely human, yet without error. Forgetting the humanity of Scripture can lead to falsely impugning its integrity by expecting a level of expression higher than that which is customary to a human document. This will become more obvious as we discuss the next mistakes of the critics.


Critics often jump to the conclusion that a partial report is false. However, this is not so. If it were, most of what has ever been said would be false, since seldom does time or space permit an absolutely complete report.  For example, Peter’s famous confession in the Gospels:

Matthew: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (16:16, NASB).

Mark: “You are the Christ” (8:29, NASB).

Luke: “The Christ of God” (9:20, NASB).

Even the Ten Commandments, which were “written by the finger of God” (Deut. 9:10), are stated with variations the second time they are recorded (see Ex. 20:8-11 with Deut. 5:12-15). There are many differences between the books of Kings and Chronicles in their description of identical events, yet they harbor no contradiction in the events they narrate.


Critics often point to variations in the New Testament use of Old Testament Scriptures as a proof of error. They forget that every citation need not be an exact quotation. Sometimes we use indirect and sometimes direct quotations. It was then (and is today) perfectly acceptable literary style to give the essence of a statement without using precisely the same words. The same meaning can be conveyed without using the same verbal expressions.

Variations in the New Testament citations of the Old Testament fall into different categories. Sometimes they are because there is a change of speaker. For example, Zechariah records the Lord as saying, “they will look on me whom they have pierced” (12:10, NASB). When this is cited in the New Testament, John, not God, is speaking. So it is changed to “They shall look on him whom they pierced” (John 19:37, NASB).

At other times, writers cite only part of the Old Testament text. Jesus did this at His home synagogue in Nazareth (see Luke 4:18-19 citing Isa. 61:1-2). In fact, He stopped in the middle of a sentence. Had He gone any farther, He could not have made His central point from the text, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (vs. 21). The very next phrase, “And the day of vengeance of our God,” (see Isa. 61:1-2) refers to His second coming.

Sometimes the New Testament paraphrases or summarizes the Old Testament text (see Matt. 2:6). Others blend two texts into one (see Matt. 27:9-10). Occasionally a general truth is mentioned, without citing a specific text. For example, Matthew said Jesus moved to Nazareth “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene” (Matt. 2:23, KJV). Notice, Matthew quotes no given prophet, but rather “prophet” in general. Several texts speak of the Messiah’s lowliness. To be from Nazareth, a Nazarene, was a byword for low status in the Israel of Jesus’ day.


Because two or more accounts of the same event differ, does not mean they are mutually exclusive. Matthew 28:5 says there was one angel at the tomb after the resurrection; whereas John informs us there were two (see 20:12). But these are not contradictory reports. An infallible mathematical rule easily explains this problem: Where there are two, there is always one. Matthew did not say there was only one angel. There may also have been one angel at the tomb at one point on this confusing morning and two at another. One has to add the word “only” to Matthew’s account to make it contradict John’s. But if the critic comes to the texts to show they err, then the error is not in the Bible, but in the critic.

Likewise, Matthew (see 27:5) informs us that Judas hanged himself. But Luke says that “he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out” (Acts 1:18, NASB). Once more, these accounts are not mutually exclusive. If Judas hanged himself from a tree over the edge of a cliff or gully in this rocky area, and his body fell on sharp rocks below, then his entrails would gush out just as Luke vividly describes.


It is a mistake to assume that everything contained in the Bible is commended by the Bible. The whole Bible is true (see John 17:17), but it records some lies, for example, Satan’s (see Gen. 3:4; John 8:44) and Rahab’s (see Josh. 2:4). Inspiration encompasses the Bible fully in the sense that it records accurately and truthfully even the lies and errors of sinful beings. The truth of Scripture is found in what the Bible reveals, not in everything it records. Unless this distinction is held, it may be incorrectly concluded that the Bible teaches immorality because it narrates David’s sin (see 2 Sam. 11:4), that it promotes polygamy because it records Solomon’s (see 1 Kings 11:3), or that it affirms atheism because it quotes the fool as saying “there is no God” (Ps. 14:1, NASB).


To be true, something does not have to use scholarly, technical, or so-called “scientific” language. The Bible is written for the common person of every generation, and it therefore uses common, everyday language. The use of observational, nonscientific language is not unscientific, it is merely prescientific. The Scriptures were written in ancient times by ancient standards, and it would be anachronistic to superimpose modern scientific standards upon them. However, it is no more unscientific to speak of the sun standing still (see Josh. 10:12) than to refer to the sun “rising” (see Josh. 1:16). Meteorologists still refer to the times of “sunrise” and “sunset.”


Like ordinary speech, the Bible uses round numbers (see Josh. 3:4; 4:13). It refers to the diameter as being about one-third of the circumference of something (see 1 Chron. 19:18; 21:5). While this technically is only an approximation (see Lindsell, 165-66); it may be imprecise from the standpoint of a technological society to speak of 3.14159265 as “3,” but it is not incorrect. It is sufficient for a “cast metal sea” (see 2 Chron. 4:2) in an ancient Hebrew temple, even though it would not suffice for a computer in a modern rocket. One should not expect to see actors referring to a wristwatch in a Shakespearean play, nor people in a prescientific age to use precise numbers.


Human language is not limited to one mode of expression. So, there is no reason to suppose that only one literary genre was used in a divinely inspired Book. The Bible reveals a number of literary devices. Whole books are written as poetry (e.g., Job, Psalms, Proverbs). The Synoptic Gospels feature parables. In Galatians 4, Paul utilizes an allegory. The New Testament abounds with metaphors (see 2 Cor. 3:2-3; James 3:6), similes (see Matt. 20:1; James 1:6), hyperbole (see John 21:25; 2 Cor. 3:2; Col. 1:23), and even poetic figures (see Job 41:1). Jesus employed satire (see Matt. 19:24; 23:24). Figures of speech are common throughout the Bible.

It is not a mistake for a biblical writer to use a figure of speech, but it is a mistake for a reader to take a figure of speech literally. Obviously when the Bible speaks of the believer resting under the shadow of God’s “wings” (see Ps. 36:7) it does not mean that God is a feathered bird. When the Bible says God “awakes” (see Ps. 44:23), as though he were sleeping, it means God is roused to action.


Genuine mistakes have been found-in copies of Bible text made hundreds of years after the autographs. God only uttered the original text of Scripture, not the copies. Therefore, only the original text is without error. Inspiration does not guarantee that every copy is without error, especially in copies made from copies made from copies made from copies. For example, the King James Version (KJV) of 2 Kings 8:26 gives the age of King Ahaziah as 22, whereas 2 Chronicles 22:2 says 42. The later number cannot be correct, or he would have been older than his father. This is obviously a copyist error, but it does not alter the inerrancy of the original.

First, these are errors in the copies, not the originals. Second, they are minor errors (often in names or numbers) which do not affect any teaching. Third, these copyist errors are relatively few in number. Fourth, usually by the context, or by another Scripture, we know which is in error. For example, Ahaziah must have been 22. Finally, though there is a copyist error, the entire message comes through. For example, if you received a letter with the following statement, would you assume you could collect some money?


Even though there is a mistake in the first word, the entire message comes through-you are 20 million dollars richer! And if you received another letter the next day that read like this, you would be even more sure:


The more mistakes of this kind there are (each in a different place), the more sure you are of the original message. This is why scribal mistakes in the biblical manuscripts do not affect the basic message of the Bible.


Like other literature, the Bible often uses generalizations. The book of Proverbs has many of these. Proverbial sayings, by their very nature, offer general guidance, not universal assurance. They are rules for life, but rules that admit of exceptions. Proverbs 16:7, HCSB affirms that “when a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” This obviously was not intended to be a universal truth. Paul was pleasing to the Lord and his enemies stoned him (Acts 14:19). Jesus was pleasing the Lord, and his enemies crucified him. Nonetheless, it is a general truth that one who acts in a way pleasing to God can minimize his enemies’ antagonism.

Proverbs are wisdom (general guides), not law (universally binding imperatives). When the Bible declares “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 11:45, NASB), then there are no exceptions. Holiness, goodness, love, truth, and justice are rooted in the very nature of an unchanging God. But wisdom literature applies God’s universal truths to life’s changing circumstances. The results will not always be the same. Nonetheless, they are helpful guides.


Sometimes critics do not recognize progressive revelation. God does not reveal everything at once, nor does he lay down the same conditions for every period of history. Some of his later revelations will supersede his earlier statements. Bible critics sometimes confuse a change in revelation with a mistake. That a parent allows a very small child to eat with his fingers but demands that an older child use a fork and spoon, is not a contradiction. This is progressive revelation, with each command suited to the circumstance.

There was a time when God tested the human race by forbidding them to eat of a specific tree in the Garden of Eden (see Gen. 2:16-17). This command is no longer in effect, but the later revelation does not contradict this former revelation. Also, there was a period (under the Mosaic law) when God commanded that animals be sacrificed for people’s sin. However, since Christ offered the perfect sacrifice for sin (see Heb. 10:11-14), this Old Testament command is no longer in effect. There is no contradiction between the later and the former commands.

Of course, God cannot change commands that have to do with his unchangeable nature (see Mal. 3:6; Heb. 6:18). For example, since God is love (see 1 John 4:16), he cannot command that we hate him. Nor can he command what is logically impossible, for example, to both offer and not offer a sacrifice for sin at the same time and in the same sense. But these moral and logical limits notwithstanding, God can and has given noncontradictory, progressive revelations which, if taken out of its proper context and juxtaposed, can look contradictory. This is as much a mistake as to assume a parent is self-contradictory for allowing a 16-year-old to stay up later at night than a 6-year-old.

In summation, the Bible cannot err, but critics can and have. There is no error in God’s revelation, but there are errors in our understanding of it. Hence, when approaching Bible difficulties, the wisdom of St. Augustine is best: “If we are perplexed by any apparent contradiction in Scripture, it is not allowable to say, The author of this book is mistaken; but either [1] the manuscript is faulty, or [2] the translation is wrong, or [3] you have not understood.” (Augustine, City of God 11.5)


G. L. Archer, Jr., An Encyclopedia of Biblical Difficulties

W. Arndt, Bible Difficulties

—, Does the Bible Contradict Itself?

Augustine, City of God.

Augustine, Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, in P. Schaff, ed., A Select Library of the Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church

N. L. Geisler, “The Concept of Truth in the Inerrancy Debate,” ., October-December 1980

—and T. Howe, When Critics Ask

—and W. E. Nix, General Introduction to the Bible

J. W. Haley, Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible

H. Lindsell, The Battle for the Bible

J. Orr, The Problems of the Old Testament Considered with Reference to Recent Criticism

J. R. Rice, Our God-Breathed Book-The Bible

E. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Kings of Israel

R. Tuck, ed., A Handbook of Biblical Difficulties

R. D. Wilson, A Scientific Investigation of the Old Testament

How can I prepare to face God as my Judge?

“These things you have done, and I kept silent; you thought I was altogether like you; but I will rebuke you.” Psalm 50:21

Asaph refers to God as “the Mighty One” who has come “out of Zion” to call “the earth” to stand before Him as a witness “that He may judge His people,” Israel (50:1-6). He was not rebuking Israel for offering animal sacrifices as He had prescribed, but He does remind them that He did not need their sacrifices because He already owned everything they presented to Him (50:7-13). What God wanted from His people was what the giving of their animal sacrifices represented, namely their “thanksgiving” to Him (50:14). He wanted them to “glorify” Him by calling upon Him to “deliver” them “in the day of trouble” (50:15). He was not interested in a ritualistic form of worship from them. He wanted a vital relationship with them whereby they looked to Him to meet all their needs. 

Although Israel presented animal sacrifices as God had instructed them, they loved what God hated by participating in the sins of the wicked (50:16-20). It seems as though Israel concluded that it did not matter to God that they had lived hypocritical lives because He had “kept silent” about their sins up to now (50:21a). But the truth was their sins did not matter to them. So God says to them, “You thought that I was altogether like you; but I will rebuke you, and set them in order before your eyes” (50:21b).

God graciously warns His people, “Now consider this, you who forget God, lest I tear you in pieces and there be none to deliver: Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; and to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God” (50:22-23). Sincere gratitude and obedience toward God would glorify Him and bring about His “salvation” or deliverance from His coming judgment. But going through the motions of formalistic worship while at the same time participating in the sins of the wicked would invite His wrath. 

All people, saved and unsaved, will eventually face God as their Judge after death (Hebrews 9:27). There are no second chances after death. For those who do not believe in Jesus for His gift of eternal life (John 3:36b), they will face God as their Judge to determine their degree of punishment in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:11-15). Those who do believe in Jesus (John 3:36a) will also face Him as their Judge to determine their degree of rewards in His coming Kingdom on earth (I Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Knowing this is intended to motivate people now to prepare to face Christ as their Judge in the future. 

Going through the motions of worship and using religious words does not prepare unbelievers or believers to face Christ as their Judge. If you have not believed in Jesus yet, it is important to understand that your thoughts, words, and actions are all stained with sin (Isaiah 64:6). No amount of formalistic worship or pious speech can save you from your sins. Only Jesus is qualified to save you from your sins because He alone, being God, is without sin (John 1:1; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15). He paid the full penalty for your sins when He died on the cross and then rose from the dead (John 1:29; 19:30; I Corinthians 15:3-6) so that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). He invites you right now to believe or trust in Him alone to save you from your sins and give you everlasting life. The moment you do, He guarantees to save you forever from hell and give you everlasting life (John 3:16; Acts 16:31).

For those who do believe in Jesus for eternal life, you can prepare to face Him as your Judge by living to please Him now (2 Corinthians 5:9-11). As you yield to the control of His Holy Spirit daily (Ephesians 5:18), He will give you the power to live a victorious Christian life (Romans 8:1-17) so you can face Christ with boldness instead of shame at the Judgment Seat of Christ (I John 2:28-3:3).

How can God restore my hope?

“Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your tabernacle.” Psalm 43:3

The Psalmist had become discouraged (“cast down”) and restless (“disquieted”) within (43:5a) because the people of his “ungodly nation” had turned against him (43:1). He felt that God, Whom he relied on for strength in the past, had abandoned him (“Why do you cast me off?”) so that his “enemy” could oppress him (43:2). He prayed for God to “send out” His “light and … truth” to “lead” him back to Mt. Zion (“holy hill”) in Jerusalem to “praise” God there (43:3-4). He doesn’t ask God to lead him out of trouble but to lead him closer to the Lord. Instead of letting his feelings lead him into greater depths of despair, he chose to “hope in God” Who was “the help of” his “countenance” (43:5b). 

As I hear and read news report in the USA, it can be very discouraging to see our nation continue to turn against God and His values. When we face uncertain times as Christians, we may feel that God has abandoned us and our nation. We need to hear from God during these times because only the “light” (hope) of His “truth” (Word) can lead us closer to Him. Only God can give us a confident expectation of good in the future (“hope”) so that we can once again “praise Him.” God is “the help,” not the hurt, of our “countenance.” God lifts us up when we are discouraged, He does not put us down (cf. Matthew 12:20). 

When you know the truth (God says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” – Hebrews 13:5) intellectually, but you do not experience it emotionally (“Why do you cast me off?” – Psalm 43:2), be honest with God in prayer about how you feel. Then listen to His voice of truth more than your feelings so He can be “the help of” your “countenance” and restore your “hope in Him.”  

Songs of Deliverance

“You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.” Psalm 32:7

After confessing his double sin of adultery and murder to God (32:5), King David acknowledged that God was his “hiding place” Who would “preserve” him “from trouble” that had come upon him because of his sin (32:7a). One writer says that before confessing his sin, David was hiding “from” God (32:3-4). But now David was hiding “in” God (32:7). When believers confess their sins to the Lord it makes Him a Refuge to seek rather than a Judge to escape. The sooner we confess our sin to God the more quickly He can lessen the “trouble” our sin has brought upon us.

I was intrigued with the last part of verse 7, “You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.” One of the benefits of confessing our sin is that God encircles us with songs that proclaim the triumph of His mercy and grace. We are encompassed by “songs of deliverance” from our sin and shame, from doubts and despair, and from our enemies. To the right and to the left, above and below, the air is resounding with joyful music for the forgiven sinner! Instead of hearing songs of condemnation and accusation, the forgiven believer is surrounded by songs about God’s amazing love!!

Who is singing these “songs of deliverance”? Of course, it could be the repentant sinner whose dread has turned to joy. He breaks forth into songs of praise toward his merciful God who has replaced his guilt with His amazing grace! It is also possible that “the angels of God” are expressing their “joy… over one sinner who repents” by singing praises to the Lord (Luke 15:10). Do you ever get the sense that heaven is rejoicing when you are restored to fellowship with God after confessing your sin? Perhaps that is what is meant here. Regardless of who is singing these songs, the main point is that joy surrounds the forgiven sinner. 

The voice of God in a Thunderstorm

“The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders… The Lord will give strength to His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace.” Psalm 29:3, 11

As Pat and I flew from Los Angeles to Omaha this last Monday night, the Lord put on quite a display of His power as we flew by several thunderstorms over the state of Utah. These pictures do not adequately display the majesty of these storms, but they do remind me of what King David wrote in Psalm 29. 

David describes God’s power as he watches a thunderstorm begin out at sea and move inland over Lebanon toward the north of Israel (29:3-9). Seven times the phrase “the voice of the Lord” (29:3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9) is used in this Psalm to refer to the sound of thunder during the storm’s movement inland which set forests on fire through its lightning and shook the earth causing the deer to give birth.  

The same power manifested in a thunderstorm is available to God’s people today to give them His peace (29:11). His voice can calm the storms in our lives as we look to Him in faith (cf. Mark 14:35-39). 

How can I have more joy in my Christian life?

“But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 20:24

While in Miletus, the apostle Paul gave his farewell address to the elders from Ephesus (20:17-35). After reviewing his past three years of ministry among these elders (20:18-21), Paul expressed his commitment to go to Jerusalem even though the Holy Spirit had warned him of the trouble (“chains and tribulations”) that awaits him there (20:22-23). 

Paul’s main concern was to be faithful to the Lord and to His message of grace, not to be physically comfortable or safe, so he says, “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself” (20:24a). Paul was willing to sacrifice his comfort and physical safety to “finish” his “race with joy, and the ministry which” he received from the Lord Jesus” which is “to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (20:24b).

All Christians have a “race” or course to run that God has “set before” them (cf. Hebrews 12:1). Your race will be different than mine, and my race will be different than yours, but all of us are called by God “to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” This good news we are to preach revolves around “the grace of God.” “Grace” is receiving from God what we do not deserve. We do not deserve to be saved from hell forever, but God’s grace makes it possible through faith alone in Christ alone who died for our sins and rose from the dead (cf. I Corinthians 15:1-6). “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). 

The Devil does not want this gospel of grace to go out into the world, so he will do all he can to hinder the spread of this message through false teachers and churches (cf. John 10:1b, 8, 10a; Acts 19:21-20:3, 19, 29-30; 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 11-15; 2 Thessalonians 3:2-3; I John 2:18-23; 4:1-6; et. al). Satan’s teachers and churches despise the grace of God.

Like the apostle Paul, however, we must remain focused on this message of grace that God has given to us. This is what Paul “counted dear” to himself (20:24a), not his own comfort or physical safety. The word “dear” (timios) refers to that which is precious or valuable. Our hearts follow what we value (cf. Matthew 6:21). So the more we grasp this message of grace and its value, the more our hearts will be vested in this message. And the more vested our hearts are in this gospel of grace, the more “joy” we will have as we see it spread it around the world. No amount of opposition or sacrifice can keep us from testifying to the gospel of the grace of God. 

Conclusion: The more we understand and grasp this message of grace, the more we will value its proclamation to a lost world. And the more we value this message, the more joy we will have in our Christian lives as we see this gospel spread to the ends of the earth! Salvation is free because Jesus Christ paid our sin debt in full when He died on the cross and rose from the dead (cf. John 19:30; I Corinthians 15:1-6; Ephesians 2:8-9)! Believe it and make it known to others before it is too late for them.