Today’s Reading: Micah 7:1–20, Acts 15:22–16:5, Job 24:1–11
Today’s Theme: Doctrine Matters
Today’s theme is that doctrine matters. Doctrine is the act of teaching or that which is taught. When Christians think of doctrine we mean the entire body of essential theological truths that define and describe the Gospel message and our life as disciples of Jesus Christ.
In one sense our faith would not exist without clearly defined doctrines like salvation coming through Jesus alone.
Today’s theme explores the importance of sound and clear doctrine to the church as a whole and each of our individual lives as believers. It is through keeping to the teachings of the Bible and the church that we can have confidence in God keeping us secure for eternity.
Rejoice in uprightness
The godly has perished from the earth, and there is no one upright among mankind; they all lie in wait for blood, and each hunts the other with a net. (Micah 7:2, ESV)
Godly and upright people are considered by Micah to be like summer fruit, they bring delight to his soul. We should feel the same way about our brothers and sisters in Christ who are walking uprightly. We can even rejoice when upright but not necessarily Christian men are in leadership in society.
Don’t be proficient in evil
Their hands are on what is evil, to do it well; the prince and the judge ask for a bribe, and the great man utters the evil desire of his soul; thus they weave it together. (Micah 7:3, ESV)
This sounds like the world we live in today. With new technology and supposed new ideas, men seek to be more proficient in evil, idleness, idolatry, selfishness, greed, vanity and every other work of the flesh.
This is a terrible state for any nation, if the leaders are not men of integrity, there is no hope for the wider society.
The end of the verse reminds me of those who lobby parliament with their evil desires like the Gay Marriage lobby in recent days.
Jesus quotes Micah
for the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house. (Micah 7:6, ESV)
Jesus quotes this in His warning about the last days in Matt 10:35-36.
Look to the God of your salvation
But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. (Micah 7:7, ESV)
Despite the rampant wickedness around him the prophet declares that he will look to the Lord the God of his Salvation. Because God is the God of our salvation we know we can turn to Him in difficult and dark days and have the confidence that He will hear us.
Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me. (Micah 7:8, ESV)
Hallelujah, this has been the triumphal cry of every true believer. We have confidence in our redeemer that even when we stumble and fall we are not forsaken.
I will bear the indignation of the LORD because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication. (Micah 7:9, ESV)
Micah does not take this confidence in the Lord as an excuse to sin. He recognises his short comings and expects to bear indignation for his offence but is confident in light of this humility and internal honesty that the Lord will vindicate him as his Judge.
God is our shepherd
Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance, who dwell alone in a forest in the midst of a garden land; let them graze in Bashan and Gilead as in the days of old. (Micah 7:14, ESV)
God is the shepherd of all His elect people, both Israel and the Church.
God delights in steadfast love
Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. (Micah 7:18, ESV)
What a pivotal, awesome, overarching truth, God delights in steadfast love, and because of this delight He pardons the iniquity and transgression of His elect remnant.
We can have confidence in God’s desire to forgive us and not stay angry with us because we can be confident in His steadfast love and His right, joy and ability to fulfil that which He desires.
Free at last
He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:19, ESV)
What awesome imagery, God will trample upon our moral depravity and cast our shortcomings into the depths of the sea. God will destroy our sin and it will not resurface we will be free at last.
God’s love for Abraham’s seed
You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old. (Micah 7:20, ESV)
God will not forsake the children of Abraham. This in one sense applies to the physical Jews, despite hundreds of years of judgement and persecution God has kept the historical people alive as a people and has allowed much of their ancient land to be restored to them.
In another sense this applies to the spiritual children which are all true believers and disciples of the Old and New Testament. See Romans 9:7, Galatians 3:7 and Galatians 3:29
Doctrine (teachings) matters
Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, (Acts 15:24, ESV)
This is why the decision of church councils throughout history on important topics like the nature of God, Jesus, the scriptures and salvation should be remembered and upheld.
Doctrine (teaching) and truth really do matter, without solid and firm convictions and clearly defined doctrines, our people can easily be troubled with words from the plants of the enemy and the enemies of the cross resulting in their minds being unsettled concerning the truth.
As God’s people we must vigorously defend the historic faith once and for all delivered to the saints. It is our solemn duty to defend the truth of the scriptures and the truth of the church’s public and agreed interpretation and application of those scriptures because as scripture says about itself… it has no private interpretation… therefore the church must be in one accord and agree on the foundational and important doctrines or the church and it’s people will be weak.
The Council of Jerusalem knew this and sent the letter and faithful men to remedy this early attack on the church.
Risk is right
men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 15:26, ESV)
We should not avoid risk in pursuit of the western dream of security and happiness. Instead we should be willing to risk everything for the sake of God’s calling, this is not risk for the sake of risk, that would be folly.
This risk for the Lord was a distinguishing mark of Paul’s life.
Agreement with and through the Holy Spirit
For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: (Acts 15:28, ESV)
The council was led by the Holy Spirit and came to a place of agreement with and through the Holy Spirit.
God’s commands for our welfare
that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” (Acts 15:29, ESV)
God’s commands are for the welfare of His people.
Rejoice in freedom
And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. (Acts 15:31, ESV)
The Body of Christ rejoices and are encouraged when they receive clear instruction and the burden of false teaching and legalism (you must be circumcised) are lifted.
Teaching and Preaching
But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. (Acts 15:35, ESV)
The ministry of the apostles was not marked by praise and worship or some other activity, it was marked by preaching and teaching the word of the Lord. This should be the highest priority in the church today.
Unity and disagreement
And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, (Acts 15:39, ESV)
Just because we have doctrinal unity, it does not mean we have unity in method, structure, administration, culture etc we have more freedom in these areas which is why Paul and Barnabas could have this heartfelt disagreement and still both be walking with the Lord and ministering in His name.
God used this disagreement to further spread the Gospel in the same way He had used the persecution in Jerusalem.
Paul, the disciple maker
And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. (Acts 15:41, ESV)
Paul was a disciple maker first and a church planter second so his purpose in retracing his steps was to strengthen the churches as they grew in the Lord.
God wants His church to be strong, this is why leaders teach the church to help the members grow in maturity and in the grace and truth of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Contextualisation for the sake of the mission
Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. (Acts 16:3, ESV)
This was done for the sake of the mission, we should follow this example by for instance dressing like the locals, learning their language and eating their food, in mission work. This is called contextualisation and it is important in world missions. Hudson Taylor is a good modern example of this.
The growing church
So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily. (Acts 16:5, ESV)
Again we see the victory of God, the church is strengthened and thus increases in light of the clear guidelines from Jerusalem and the pastoral visit of Paul.
Judgement day, a comfort and terror
“Why are not times of judgment kept by the Almighty, and why do those who know him never see his days? (Job 24:1, ESV)
This is a great question from Job. The fact is that if there was no judgement for thoughts, words and actions in this life then there would be no true justice in the universe.
Cowardly, wicked men who commit wicked sins and then are killed before they are brought to justice in this life do not escape the justice of God.
The fact that there is a coming day of judgement is a comfort and a terror. It is a terror to those who will have to answer for their own sins, shortcomings, transgressions and iniquity. It will be a joy for those who will have the best defence lawyer in the universe speaking up for them. He is also the one who paid the fine we surely owed and is also the Judge… because of Jesus we can look to the coming judgement with the comfort of the Holy Spirit who has been given to us as a down payment on our future inheritance.
Landmarks should not be moved
Some move landmarks; they seize flocks and pasture them. (Job 24:2, ESV)
Woe to our government, they have done this, they have moved the great landmark of marriage, for this our society and our country will suffer.
Help the poor
They thrust the poor off the road; the poor of the earth all hide themselves. (Job 24:4, ESV)
The plight of the poor is a vivid reminder that we have been called to help them. To shine the light of God’s truth and love to them by easing or reliving them of their suffering.
Fair trade is important
among the olive rows of the wicked they make oil; they tread the winepresses, but suffer thirst. (Job 24:11, ESV)
We must seriously consider the things we purchase, fair trade is important. The fact is that much of the world’s manufacturing is done in the third world by ruthless companies only concerned with profit, they care nothing for the workers who are paid pennies a day and work in terrible conditions.
As Christians it is our duty to be aware of these things, advocate against them and make informed decisions about where we shop and what we eat and wear.
Most of the above post is a copy of the original notes from the same date in 2014.
The Gospel Coalition on Acts 15 and Acts 16