Reading 1 - Num 16
"One of the most serious threats to the unity of the nation... was the affair of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. It arose directly because a purely fleshly reasoning caused the men concerned to press their personal importance to the detriment of the good of the nation as a whole. They fell into the error of 'not holding fast the Head, from whom all the body, being supplied and knit together through the joints and bands, increaseth with the increase of God' (Col 2:19). Their action was based upon premises that seemed sound enough: 'All the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them' (Num 16:3). These were the words on the lips of the '250 princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown', men who according to the record, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram 'took'. Much lies concealed behind those words! One can imagine the secret meetings, the passing on of information from mouth to mouth, the fomenting of trouble, the sowing of discord, and all because Korah, being a son of Levi, desired to play the part assigned to others of his tribe, and Dathan and Abiram thought their tribe, the tribe of Reuben, deserving of greater pre-eminence than that to which God had called them!
"What is the relation of all this to ourselves as a community?... Our heritage is no less [than that of Israel], for the same God is working towards unity in Christ in the Ecclesia, which is both a body and a commonwealth....The people of Israel had a history of fragmentation and division which began in the wilderness and for which there are two principal reasons: Firstly, they had no sense of devotion to the Lord, whose Name was revealed in His mighty acts of power and compassion on their behalf....Their loss of the vision of the Divine glory caused them to yearn for Egypt, and ultimately to refuse to believe that they were the people whom God would bring into the land of His promise. They fragmented because they had no faith in the purpose of their calling.
"The other reason for their disunity was their failure to keep in mind, much less to comprehend the concept of the unity of their people, or to realize that the purpose of God was not with individuals or with tribes as such, but with 'all Israel', to whose wellbeing individuals and tribes contributed by playing each their several and necessary parts. Any fellowship other than that which acknowledges that one is our Head and all we are brethren is still, as it has always proved to be, a fellowship of opposition which leads to further fragmentation within the dissident group itself. As far as we can tell from a survey of our own history and that of Israel, there is no exception to this principle" (AH Nicholls, "The Christadelphian" 115:42,43).
Reading 2 - Pro 12:10
"A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel" (Pro 12:10).
This is a good verse, and an insightful one. The plain fact is... the animal can almost never do anything to hurt the owner, and will -- one way or another -- probably be as devoted to the master whether it is hurt or not. (The devotion, or even "love", of some horses, or dogs, for their masters has become legend -- the stuff of great novels.) So to care for one's animals -- whether it's a farmer with work and farm animals, or the pet owner -- is to demonstrate, to some degree, that we are conscious of a God in Heaven, who takes notice of what we do to others.
There can always be a measure of self-interest in our "doing good" to others: perhaps we invite others to dinner, knowing full well that they will invite us in turn. Perhaps we give to charities, knowing that others will think better of us for doing so. Perhaps we are courteous and "kind", knowing that little acts like this will "oil" the wheels of commerce and business... and help us materially. Perhaps we "feel the pain" of others, in some kind of pseudo-sympathy, merely to "get on" in the world. Perhaps we act friendly merely to "pick the pockets" of the beguiled buyer.
Somewhere in this list of "small kindnesses" there is really "cruelty"... because we may have stopped caring for others, and are only caring for ourselves, advancing our interests, making more money, whatever... It is then that "the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel", as the proverb says.
So if you want to know if a man is really kind -- deep-down, honestly "kind", and not just "self-interested" -- you might want to see how he treats dumb animals, or even how he treats people who can't do anything to hurt... or help... him.
Reading 3 - Gal 2:21
"I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" (Gal 2:21).
"This may be one of those verses that you casually glide by in reading, but it is a concept that has tremendous implications for the person who will but study its meaning.
"The initial implication for the verse is simple. The Judaizers, believers in Jesus who taught that salvation still came through following the Law of Moses, had put themselves in an untenable position. They had, in effect by their teaching, made Christ's death on the cross meaningless. Paul states the logic as follows: (1) If salvation comes by the Law of Moses, and (2) we already have the Law of Moses, then (3) Jesus did not have to come into the world to save us, and thus (4) his death was meaningless. The Judaizers had made the Law of Moses the thing that needed to fill the 'salvation gap' -- the gap between baptism and salvation in the Kingdom. In other words, it was fine to believe in Jesus and become baptized as taught by Jesus and the apostles. However, the Judaizers inserted a step between baptism and the kingdom that enabled salvation. Their stopgap was the Law.
"We readily see the logic and validity of the argument when we apply it to the Law of Moses, but do we see it when we apply it to other things? Do we see that we commit the same error when we take that verse and subtract 'the law' and put something in its place? For example, let's take out 'the law' and put in 'works' and see if the logic still holds? 'I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by works, then Christ is dead in vain.' The logic again is irrefutable. Isn't this the logic of Eph 2:8,9?: 'For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.'
"The fact is that everything -- EVERYTHING -- that can be done for us in the way of salvation... was done for us on the cross by Jesus Christ. We might be able to take ourselves out of the way of salvation by refusing to act on our 'faith', but we cannot do anything more to save ourselves than we did when we believed and were baptized into the saving name of Jesus. When we appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ, it is not to see if WE have saved ourselves, but to see if we have keep the precious gift of salvation that we were given in an appropriate manner... or have we buried our talent in the 'earth' of our flesh?
"All human-created fillers for the 'salvation gap' -- works, Bible study, being nice to our neighbors, etc -- as important as they may be, will not save us because that work has already been finished. When we do those things (and rest assured we MUST do those things), it is not to save ourselves, but because we have been saved. These acts of faith must be done or we do not possess the faith that saved us in the first place.
"We fear this position because it hurts our human pride. We have nothing to brag about (which is the point in the first place). We also fear, like Paul's Judaizing opponents are quoted as saying, 'Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?' This too is a complete misapplication of Scripture. Having our names written in the Book of Life is not about license to sin, but about understanding the process of salvation. The last thing we want to do is be guilty of teaching that 'Christ is dead in vain' " (Kyle Tucker).