JULY 16 IF WE CONFESS: STRAIGHT, PLAIN BIBLE TEACHING

For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.

1 CORINTHIANS 15:3

Lack of balance in the Christian life is often the direct consequence of overemphasis on certain favorite texts, with a corresponding underemphasis on other related ones. For it is not denial only that makes a truth void; failure to emphasize it will in the long run be equally damaging.

One example of this is the teaching that crops up now and again having to do with confession of sin. It goes like this: Christ died for our sins, not only for all we have committed but for all we may yet commit for the remainder of our lives. When we accept Christ we receive the benefit of everything He did for us in His dying and rising again. In Christ all our current sins are forgiven beforehand. It is therefore unnecessary for us to confess our sins. In Christ they are already forgiven, we are told.

Now, this is completely wrong, and it is all the more wrong because it is half right.

It is written that Christ died for our sins, and again it is written that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9). These two texts are written of the same company of persons, namely Christians. We dare not compel the first text to invalidate the second. Both are true and one completes the other. The meaning of the two is that since Christ died for our sins if we confess our sins they will be forgiven. To teach otherwise is to attempt to fly on one wing![1]


[1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

July 16 True Service

Serving the Lord.

Romans 12:11

Everything you do in the Christian life should be consistent with God’s Word and truly in His service and to His glory. In Romans 12:11, the word Paul used to describe Christian service refers to the service of a bond–slave, whose sole duty was to carry out his master’s will. That is how you ought to serve God—as a bond servant of Jesus Christ.

But you can’t serve the Lord in your own power any more than you could come to Him by your own power or will. The power to serve Christ comes from God. “To this end I also labor,” Paul testified, “striving according to His working which works in me mightily” (Col. 1:29).[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 217). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

July 16, 2018 Morning Verse Of The Day

Happy Are the Peacemakers

(5:9)

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (5:9)

The God of peace (Rom. 15:33; 2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 4:9) has emphasized that cherished but elusive reality by making peace one of the dominant ideas of His Word. Scripture contains four hundred direct references to peace, and many more indirect ones. The Bible opens with peace in the Garden of Eden and closes with peace in eternity. The spiritual history of mankind can be charted based on the theme of peace. Although the peace on earth in the garden was interrupted when man sinned, at the cross Jesus Christ made peace a reality again, and He becomes the peace of all who place their faith in Him. Peace can now reign in the hearts of those who are His. Someday He will come as Prince of Peace and establish a worldwide kingdom of peace, which will eventuate in ultimate peace, the eternal age of peace.

But one of the most obvious facts of history and of human experience is that peace does not characterize man’s earthly existence. There is no peace now for two reasons: the opposition of Satan and the disobedience of man. The fall of the angels and the fall of man established a world without peace. Satan and man are engaged with the God of peace in a battle for sovereignty.

The scarcity of peace has prompted someone to suggest that “peace is that glorious moment in history when everyone stops to reload.” In 1968 a major newspaper reported that there had been to that date 14,553 known wars since thirty-six years before Christ. Since 1945 there have been some seventy or so wars and nearly two hundred internationally significant outbreaks of violence. Since 1958 nearly one hundred nations have been involved in some form of armed conflict.

Some historians have claimed that the United States has had two generations of peace—one from 1815 to 1846 and the other from 1865 to 1898. But that claim can only be made if you exclude the Indian wars, during which our land was bathed in Indian blood.

With all the avowed and well-intentioned efforts for peace in modern times, few people would claim that the world or any significant part of it is more peaceful now than a hundred years ago. We do not have economic peace, religious peace, racial peace, social peace, family peace, or personal peace. There seems to be no end of marches, sit-ins, rallies, protests, demonstrations, riots, and wars. Disagreement and conflict are the order of the day. No day has had more need of peace than our own.

Nor does the world honor peace as much by its standards and actions as it does by its words. In almost every age of history the greatest heroes have been the greatest warriors. The world lauds the powerful and often exalts the destructive. The model man is not meek but macho. The model hero is not self-giving but self-seeking, not generous but selfish, not gentle but cruel, not submissive but aggressive, not meek but proud.

The popular philosophy of the world, bolstered by the teaching of many psychologists and counselors, is to put self first. But when self is first, peace is last. Self precipitates strife, division, hatred, resentment, and war. It is the great ally of sin and the great enemy of righteousness and, consequently, of peace.

The seventh beatitude calls God’s people to be peacemakers. He has called us to a special mission to help restore the peace lost at the Fall.

The peace of which Christ speaks in this beatitude, and about which the rest of Scripture speaks, is unlike that which the world knows and strives for. God’s peace has nothing to do with politics, armies and navies, forums of nations, or even councils of churches. It has nothing to do with statesmanship, no matter how great, or with arbitration, compromise, negotiated truces, or treaties. God’s peace, the peace of which the Bible speaks, never evades issues; it knows nothing of peace at any price. It does not gloss or hide, rationalize or excuse. It confronts problems and seeks to solve them, and after the problems are solved it builds a bridge between those who were separated by the problems. It often brings its own struggle, pain, hardship, and anguish, because such are often the price of healing. It is not a peace that will be brought by kings, presidents, prime ministers, diplomats, or international humanitarians. It is the inner personal peace that only He can give to the soul of man and that only His children can exemplify.

Four important realities about God’s peace are revealed: its meaning, its Maker, its messengers, and its merit.

The Meaning of Peace: Righteousness and Truth

The essential fact to comprehend is that the peace about which Jesus speaks is more than the absence of conflict and strife; it is the presence of righteousness. Only righteousness can produce the relationship that brings two parties together. Men can stop fighting without righteousness, but they cannot live peaceably without righteousness. Righteousness not only puts an end to harm, but it administers the healing of love.

God’s peace not only stops war but replaces it with the righteousness that brings harmony and true well-being. Peace is a creative, aggressive force for goodness. The Jewish greeting shalom wishes “peace” and expresses the desire that the one who is greeted will have all the righteousness and goodness God can give. The deepest meaning of the term is “God’s highest good to you.”

The most that man’s peace can offer is a truce, the temporary cessation of hostilities. But whether on an international scale or an individual scale, a truce is seldom more than a cold war. Until disagreements and hatreds are resolved, the conflicts merely go underground—where they tend to fester, grow, and break out again. God’s peace, however, not only stops the hostilities but settles the issues and brings the parties together in mutual love and harmony.

James confirms the nature of God’s peace when he writes, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable” (James 3:17). God’s way to peace is through purity. Peace cannot be attained at the expense of righteousness. Two people cannot be at peace until they recognize and resolve the wrong attitudes and actions that caused the conflict between them, and then bring themselves to God for cleansing. Peace that ignores the cleansing that brings purity is not God’s peace.

The writer of Hebrews links peace with purity when he instructs believers to “pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). Peace cannot be divorced from holiness. “Righteousness and peace have kissed each other” is the beautiful expression of the psalmist (Ps. 85:10). Biblically speaking, then, where there is true peace there is righteousness, holiness, and purity. Trying to bring harmony by compromising righteousness forfeits both.

Jesus’ saying “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34) seems to be the antithesis of the seventh beatitude. His meaning, however, was that the peace He came to bring is not peace at any price. There will be opposition before there is harmony; there will be strife before there is peace. To be peacemakers on God’s terms requires being peacemakers on the terms of truth and righteousness—to which the world is in fierce opposition. When believers bring truth to bear on a world that loves falsehood, there will be strife. When believers set God’s standards of righteousness before a world that loves wickedness, there is an inevitable potential for conflict. Yet that is the only way.

Until unrighteousness is changed to righteousness there cannot be godly peace. And the process of resolution is difficult and costly. Truth will produce anger before it produces happiness; righteousness will produce antagonism before it produces harmony. The gospel brings bad feelings before it can bring good feelings. A person who does not first mourn over his own sin will never be satisfied with God’s righteousness. The sword that Christ brings is the sword of His Word, which is the sword of truth and righteousness. Like the surgeon’s scalpel, it must cut before it heals, because peace cannot come where sin remains.

The great enemy of peace is sin. Sin separates men from God and causes disharmony and enmity with Him. And men’s lack of harmony with God causes their lack of harmony with each other. The world is filled with strife and war because it is filled with sin. Peace does not rule the world because the enemy of peace rules the world. Jeremiah tells us that “the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick [or wicked]” (Jer. 17:9). Peace cannot reign where wickedness reigns. Wicked hearts cannot produce a peaceful society. “ ‘There is no peace for the wicked,’ says the Lord” (Isa. 48:22).

To talk of peace without talking of repentance of sin is to talk foolishly and vainly. The corrupt religious leaders of ancient Israel proclaimed, “Peace, peace,” but there was no peace, because they and the rest of the people were not “ashamed of the abominations they had done” (Jer. 8:11–12).

“From within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man” (Mark 7:21–23). Sinful men cannot create peace, either within themselves or among themselves. Sin can produce nothing but strife and conflict. “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing,” James says. “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:16–18).

Regardless of what the circumstances might be, where there is conflict it is because of sin. If you separate the conflicting parties from each other but do not separate them from sin, at best you will succeed only in making a truce. Peacemaking cannot come by circumventing sin, because sin is the source of every conflict.

The bad news of the gospel comes before the good news. Until a person confronts his sin, it makes no sense to offer him a Savior. Until a person faces his false notions, it makes no sense to offer him the truth. Until a person acknowledges his enmity with God, it makes no sense to offer him peace with God.

Believers cannot avoid facing truth, or avoid facing others with the truth, for the sake of harmony. If someone is in serious error about a part of God’s truth, he cannot have a right, peaceful relationship with others until the error is confronted and corrected. Jesus never evaded the issue of wrong doctrine or behavior. He treated the Samaritan woman from Sychar with great love and compassion, but He did not hesitate to confront her godless life. First He confronted her with her immoral living: “You have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband” (John 4:18). Then He corrected her false ideas about worship: “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father. You worship that which you do not know; we worship that which we know, for salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:21–22).

The person who is not willing to disrupt and disturb in God’s name cannot be a peacemaker. To come to terms on anything less than God’s truth and righteousness is to settle for a truce—which confirms sinners in their sin and may leave them even further from the kingdom. Those who in the name of love or kindness or compassion try to witness by appeasement and compromise of God’s Word will find that their witness leads away from Him, not to Him. God’s peacemakers will not let a sleeping dog lie if it is opposed to God’s truth; they will not protect the status quo if it is ungodly and unrighteous. They are not willing to make peace at any price. God’s peace comes only in God’s way. Being a peacemaker is essentially the result of a holy life and the call to others to embrace the gospel of holiness.

The Maker of Peace: God

Men are without peace because they are without God, the source of peace. Both the Old and New Testaments are replete with statements of God’s being the God of peace (Lev. 26:6; 1 Kings 2:33; Ps. 29:11; Isa. 9:6; Ezek. 34:25; Rom. 15:33; 1 Cor. 14:33; 2 Thess. 3:16). Since the Fall, the only peace that men have known is the peace they have received as the gift of God. Christ’s coming to earth was the peace of God coming to earth, because only Jesus Christ could remove sin, the great barrier to peace. “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace” (Eph. 2:13–14).

I once read the story of a couple at a divorce hearing who were arguing back and forth before the judge, accusing each other and refusing to take any blame themselves. Their little four-year-old boy was terribly distressed and confused. Not knowing what else to do, he took his father’s hand and his mother’s hand and kept tugging until he finally pulled the hands of his parents together.

In an infinitely greater way, Christ brings back together God and man, reconciling and bringing peace. “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fulness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Col. 1:19–20).

How could the cross bring peace? At the cross all of man’s hatred and anger was vented against God. On the cross the Son of God was mocked, cursed, spit upon, pierced, reviled, and killed. Jesus’ disciples fled in fear, the sky flashed lightning, the earth shook violently, and the veil of the Temple was torn in two. Yet through that violence God brought peace. God’s greatest righteousness confronted man’s greatest wickedness, and righteousness won. And because righteousness won, peace was won.

In his book Peace Child (Glendale, Calif.: Regal, 1979), Don Richardson tells of his long struggle to bring the gospel to the cannibalistic, headhunting Sawi tribe of Irian Jaya, Indonesia. Try as he would, he could not find a way to make the people understand the gospel message, especially the significance of Christ’s atoning death on the cross.

Sawi villages were constantly fighting among themselves, and because treachery, revenge, and murder were highly honored there seemed no hope of peace. The tribe, however, had a legendary custom that if one village gave a baby boy to another village, peace would prevail between the two villages as long as the child lived. The baby was called a “peace child.”

The missionary seized on that story as an analogy of the reconciling work of Christ. Christ, he said, is God’s divine Peace Child that He has offered to man, and because Christ lives eternally His peace will never end. That analogy was the key that unlocked the gospel for the Sawis. In a miraculous working of the Holy Spirit many of them believed in Christ, and a strong, evangelistic church soon developed—and peace came to the Sawis.

If the Father is the source of peace, and the Son is the manifestation of that peace, then the Holy Spirit is the agent of that peace. One of the most beautiful fruits the Holy Spirit gives to those in whom He resides is the fruit of peace (Gal. 5:22). The God of peace sent the Prince of Peace who sends the Spirit of peace to give the fruit of peace. No wonder the Trinity is called Yahweh Shalom, “The Lord is Peace” (Judg. 6:24).

The God of peace intends peace for His world, and the world that He created in peace He will one day restore to peace. The Prince of Peace will establish His kingdom of peace, for a thousand years on earth and for all eternity in heaven. “ ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope’ ” (Jer. 29:11). Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The one who does not belong to God through Jesus Christ can neither have peace nor be a peacemaker. God can work peace through us only if He has worked peace in us.

Some of the earth’s most violent weather occurs on the seas. But the deeper one goes the more serene and tranquil the water becomes. Oceanographers report that the deepest parts of the sea are absolutely still. When those areas are dredged they produce remnants of plant and animal life that have remained undisturbed for thousands of years.

That is a picture of the Christian’s peace. The world around him, including his own circumstances, may be in great turmoil and strife, but in his deepest being he has peace that passes understanding. Those who are in the best of circumstances but without God can never find peace, but those in the worst of circumstances but with God need never lack peace.

The Messengers of Peace: Believers

The messengers of peace are believers in Jesus Christ. Only they can be peacemakers. Only those who belong to the Maker of peace can be messengers of peace. Paul tells us that “God has called us to peace” (1 Cor. 7:15) and that “now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18). The ministry of reconciliation is the ministry of peacemaking. Those whom God has called to peace He also calls to make peace. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us” (2 Cor. 5:19–20).

At least four things characterize a peacemaker. First, he is one who himself has made peace with God. The gospel is all about peace. Before we came to Christ we were at war with God. No matter what we may consciously have thought about God, our hearts were against Him. It was “while we were enemies” of God that “we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Rom. 5:10). When we received Christ as Savior and He imputed His righteousness to us, our battle with God ended, and our peace with God began. Because he has made peace with God he can enjoy the peace of God (Phil. 4:7; Col. 3:15). And because he has been given God’s peace he is called to share God’s peace. He is to have his very feet shod with “the gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15).

Because peace is always corrupted by sin, the peacemaking believer must be a holy believer, a believer whose life is continually cleansed by the Holy Spirit. Sin breaks our fellowship with God, and when fellowship with Him is broken, peace is broken. The disobedient, self-indulgent Christian is not suited to be an ambassador of peace.

Second, a peacemaker leads others to make peace with God. Christians are not an elite corps of those who have spiritually arrived and who look down on the rest of the world. They are a body of sinners cleansed by Jesus Christ and commissioned to carry His gospel of cleansing to the rest of the world.

The Pharisees were the embodiment of what peacemakers are not. They were smug, proud, complacent, and determined to have their own ways and defend their own rights. They had scant interest in making peace with Rome, with the Samaritans, or even with fellow Jews who did not follow their own party line. Consequently they created strife wherever they went. They cooperated with others only when it was to their own advantage, as they did with the Sadducees in opposing Jesus.

The peacemaking spirit is the opposite of that. It is built on humility, sorrow over its own sin, gentleness, hunger for righteousness, mercy, and purity of heart. G. Campbell Morgan commented that peacemaking is the propagated character of the man who, exemplifying all the rest of the beatitudes, thereby brings peace wherever he comes.

The peacemaker is a beggar who has been fed and who is called to help feed others. Having been brought to God, he is to bring others to God. The purpose of the church is to preach “peace through Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:36). To preach Christ is to promote peace. To bring a person to saving knowledge of Jesus Christ is the most peacemaking act a human being can perform. It is beyond what any diplomat or statesman can accomplish.

Third, a peacemaker helps others make peace with others. The moment a person comes to Christ he becomes at peace with God and with the church and becomes himself a peacemaker in the world. A peacemaker builds bridges between men and God and also between men and other men. The second kind of bridge building must begin, of course, between ourselves and others. Jesus said that if we are bringing a gift to God and a brother has something against us, we are to leave our gift at the altar and be reconciled to that brother before we offer the gift to God (Matt. 5:23–24). As far as it is possible, Paul says, “so far as it depends on [us],” we are to “be at peace with all men” (Rom. 12:18). We are even to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, “in order that [we] may be sons of [our] Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:44–45).

By definition a bridge cannot be one-sided. It must extend between two sides or it can never function. Once built, it continues to need support on both sides or it will collapse. So in any relationship our first responsibility is to see that our own side has a solid base. But we also have a responsibility to help the one on the other side build his base well. Both sides must be built on righteousness and truth or the bridge will not stand. God’s peacemakers must first be righteous themselves, and then must be active in helping others become righteous.

The first step in that bridge-building process is often to rebuke others about their sin, which is the supreme barrier to peace. “If your brother sins,” Jesus says, “go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church” (Matt. 18:15–17). That is a difficult thing to do, but obeying that command is no more optional than obeying any of the Lord’s other commands. The fact that taking such action often stirs up controversy and resentment is no excuse for not doing it. If we do so in the way and in the spirit the Lord teaches, the consequences are His responsibility. Not to do so does not preserve peace but through disobedience establishes a truce with sin.

Obviously there is the possibility of a price to pay, but any sacrifice is small in order to obey God. Often confrontation will bring more turmoil instead of less—misunderstanding, hurt feelings, and resentment. But the only way to peace is the way of righteousness. Sin that is not dealt with is sin that will disrupt and destroy peace. Just as any price is worth paying to obey God, any price is worth paying to be rid of sin. “If your right eye makes you stumble,” Jesus said, “tear it out, and throw it from you; … And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matt. 5:29–30). If we are unwilling to help others confront their sin, we will be unable to help them find peace.

Fourth, a peacemaker endeavors to find a point of agreement. God’s truth and righteousness must never be compromised or weakened, but there is hardly a person so ungodly, immoral, rebellious, pagan, or indifferent that we have absolutely no point of agreement with him. Wrong theology, wrong standards, wrong beliefs, and wrong attitudes must be faced and dealt with, but they are not usually the best places to start the process of witnessing or peacemaking.

God’s people are to contend without being contentious, to disagree without being disagreeable, and to confront without being abusive. The peacemaker speaks the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). To start with love is to start toward peace. We begin peacemaking by starting with whatever peaceful point of agreement we can find. Peace helps beget peace. The peacemaker always gives others the benefit of the doubt. He never assumes they will resist the gospel or reject his testimony. When he does meet opposition, he tries to be patient with other people’s blindness and stubbornness just as he knows the Lord was, and continues to be, patient with his own blindness and stubbornness.

God’s most effective peacemakers are often the simplest and least noticed people. They do not try to attract attention to themselves. They seldom win headlines or prizes for their peacemaking, because, by its very nature, true peacemaking is unobtrusive and prefers to go unnoticed. Because they bring righteousness and truth wherever they go, peacemakers are frequently accused of being troublemakers and disturbers of the peace—as Ahab accused Elijah of being (1 Kings 18:17) and the Jewish leaders accused Jesus of being (Luke 23:2, 5). But God knows their hearts, and He honors their work because they are working for His peace in His power. God’s peacemakers are never unfruitful or unrewarded. This is a mark of a true kingdom citizen: he not only hungers for righteousness and holiness in his own life but has a passionate desire to see those virtues in the lives of others.

The Merit of Peace: Eternal Sonship in the Kingdom

The merit, or result, of peacemaking is eternal blessing as God’s children in God’s kingdom. Peacemakers shall be called sons of God.

Most of us are thankful for our heritage, our ancestors, our parents, and our family name. It is especially gratifying to have been influenced by godly grandparents and to have been raised by godly parents. But the greatest human heritage cannot match the believer’s heritage in Jesus Christ, because we are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17). Nothing compares to being a child of God.

Both huios and teknon are used in the New Testament to speak of believers’ relationship to God. Teknon (child) is a term of tender affection and endearment as well as of relationship (see John 1:12; Eph. 5:8; 1 Pet. 1:14; etc.). Sons, however, is from huios, which expresses the dignity and honor of the relationship of a child to his parents. As God’s peacemakers we are promised the glorious blessing of eternal sonship in His eternal kingdom.

Peacemaking is a hallmark of God’s children. A person who is not a peacemaker either is not a Christian or is a disobedient Christian. The person who is continually disruptive, divisive, and quarrelsome has good reason to doubt his relationship to God altogether. God’s sons—that is, all of His children, both male and female—are peacemakers. Only God determines who His children are, and He has determined that they are the humble, the penitent over sin, the gentle, the seekers of righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers.

Shall be called is in a continuous future passive tense. Throughout eternity peacemakers will go by the name “children of God.” The passive form indicates that all heaven will call peacemakers sons of God, because God Himself has declared them to be His children.

Jacob loved Benjamin so much that his whole life came to be bound up in the life of that son (Gen. 44:30). Any parent worthy of the name loves his children more than his own life, and immeasurably more than all of his possessions together. God loves His children today as He loved Israel of old, as “the apple of His eye” (Zech. 2:8; cf. Ps. 17:8). The Hebrew expression “apple of the eye” referred to the cornea, the most exposed and sensitive part of the eye, the part we are the most careful to protect. That is what God’s children are to Him: those whom He is most sensitive about and most desires to protect. To attack God’s children is to poke a ringer in God’s eye. Offense against Christians is offense against God, because they are His very own children.

God puts the tears of His children in a bottle (Ps. 56:8), a figure reflecting the Hebrew custom of placing into a bottle the tears shed over a loved one. God cares for us so much that He stores up His remembrances of our sorrows and afflictions. God’s children matter greatly to Him, and it is no little thing that we can call Him Father.

God’s peacemakers will not always have peace in the world. As Jesus makes clear by the last beatitude, persecution follows peacemaking. In Christ we have forsaken the false peace of the world, and consequently we often will not have peace with the world. But as God’s children we may always have peace even while we are in the world—the peace of God, which the world cannot give and the world cannot take away.[1]


9 Jesus’ concern in this beatitude is not with the peaceful but with the peacemakers. Peace is of constant concern in both Testaments (e.g., Pr 15:1; Isa 52:7; Lk 24:36; Ro 10:15; 12:18; 1 Co 7:15; Eph 2:11–22; Heb 12:14; 1 Pe 3:11). But as some of these and other passages show, the making of peace can itself have messianic overtones. The Promised Son is called the “Prince of Peace” (Isa 9:6); and Isaiah 52:7—“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’ ”—linking as it does peace, salvation, and God’s reign, was interpreted messianically in the Judaism of Jesus’ day.

Jesus does not limit the peacemaking to only one kind, and neither will his disciples. In the light of the gospel, Jesus himself is the supreme peacemaker, making peace between God and man, and man and man. Our peacemaking will include the promulgation of that gospel. It must also extend to seeking all kinds of reconciliation. Instead of delighting in division, bitterness, strife, or some petty “divide and conquer” mentality, disciples of Jesus delight to make peace wherever possible. Making peace is not appeasement. The true model is God’s costly peacemaking (Eph 2:15–17; Col 1:20). Those who undertake this work are acknowledged as God’s sons. In the OT, Israel has the title “sons” (Dt 14:1; Hos 1:10; cf. Pss. Sol. 17:30; Wis 2:13–18). Now it belongs to the heirs of the kingdom, who, meek and poor in spirit, loving righteousness yet merciful, are especially equipped for peacemaking and so reflect something of their heavenly Father’s character. “There is no more godlike work to be done in this world than peacemaking” (Broadus). This beatitude must have been shocking to Zealots when Jesus preached it, when political passions were inflamed (Morison).[2]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Vol. 1, pp. 209–218). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, p. 165). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Are there prophets today (in fewer than 500 words)? — The Cripplegate

I was asked this question in an e-mail. I’m notoriously long-winded (perhaps you’ve noticed). But I am trying to be more concise (please say you’ve noticed). I get asked this question a lot, and I wanted a pithy reply I can cut-and-paste in the future. So I am crowd-sourcing the CGate readers for assistance. This reply is 414 words. Is there anything I should add or replace to make the answer tighter and more helpful?

Please use the comments feature to help a brother out. (Also, if you don’t agree at all with my answer, you can try to convince me in 500 words or less!)

The short answer is: no, there are no prophets today, if what you mean by “prophet” is a person who supplies new revelation from God.

Some churches in history (e.g. the American and British Puritans in the 1500s) referred to their pastors and preachers as prophets, but they only preached what was in the Bible. Today in the Charismatic movement, which started in California and moved all over USA, Canada, and now the whole world, there is a belief that God is giving new revelation again through prophets. But this is an error.

In the Bible…
1. prophets were commissioned by God or Jesus directly, or through an angel (see Jeremiah, Isaiah, Moses, John the Baptist, Paul, the 12 Apostles, etc.)
2. prophets were considered infallible, and authoritative, meaning you had to obey their prophecy and it was always 100% without error.
3. prophets were able to prove their commission from God by doing miracles or other supernatural proof furnished by God.

What we see today in the Charismatic movement is self-appointed, oft-mistaken people who cannot do miracles or furnish any evidence of their commission.

There will be two prophets in the last days, they will be able to do unfakeable miracles to prove their genuineness (Rev 11:3-12).

Until then there are no prophets because he have the full revelation of God in the Bible and everything we need to know about Jesus and his teachings.

Hebrews 1:1-2 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…

2 Pet 1:18-21 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

And the last book of the Bible ends with these words…

Rev 22:18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.

I hope this helps!

via Are there prophets today (in fewer than 500 words)? — The Cripplegate

What Happens When Believers Die? — Grace to You Blog

It’s hard for our finite minds to conceive of eternity—or for that matter, anything outside of our routine experience in this temporal realm. In spite of the pictorial language employed by the biblical authors, it can be difficult for us to form a clear concept of heaven, or understand what it will be like to pass through death and into eternity.

And whenever the topic turns to our eternal home, certain questions are appropriate. Someone inevitably asks about the state of believers who die before the final consummation of all things. Do believers who die receive temporary bodies until the resurrection? Are there compartments within heaven? Where did Old Testament believers go when they died? And what about purgatory—is it real?

A number of speculative views have been proposed to attempt to answer those questions. With regard to the state of Old Testament believers, for example, some teach that before Calvary, Hades (the realm of the dead) was divided into two sections—one for the wicked and one for the righteous. They suggest that Old Testament saints who died went to the realm called “Abraham’s bosom” (cf. Luke 16:22–23)—a sort of holding tank. According to this theory, these believers were kept in that compartment of Hades and not brought into the heaven of heavens until Christ conquered death in His resurrection.

Most of that is sheer conjecture with little if any biblical support. Wilbur Smith writes, “However abundant the Scriptural data might be regarding the resurrection of believers and their life in heaven, the state of the soul between death and resurrection is rarely referred to in the Bible.” [1] Wilbur M. Smith, The Biblical Doctrine of Heaven (Chicago: Moody, 1968), 155. Scripture simply does not give much information about the intermediate state. But what we do know from Scripture is enough to debunk wrong theories.

Soul Sleep

One view held by many is that the soul of a believer who dies remains unconscious until the resurrection. This view is found in some of the noncanonical writings of the early church. Its best-known advocates today are the Seventh-Day Adventists. They point out that the word “sleep” is often used in Scripture as a synonym for death. For example, Jesus told the disciples, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep” (John 11:11). And Paul described the dead in Christ as “those who have fallen asleep in Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 4:14).

But the sleep referred to in such imagery has to do with the body, not the soul. In his account of the crucifixion, Matthew wrote of a great earthquake: “The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised” (Matthew 27:52). It is the body, not the soul, that “sleeps” in death. The body lies in rest, utterly devoid of any sensation or awareness, awaiting reconstitution and resurrection in eternal perfection to join the soul that is already in heaven. But the soul never sleeps—it enters the very presence of the Lord at the moment of death. This was affirmed again and again by the apostle Paul in the verses we considered last time, as he described his desire to be absent from the body, so that he could be “at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23).

The souls of the departed enter into their rest. But it is a rest from labor and strife, not a rest of unconsciousness. The apostle John said of the righteous dead that they “rest from their labors” (Revelation 14:13). Yet he is clearly not describing a rest of unconscious sleep; in the scene John witnessed in heaven, the souls of the redeemed were there, actively singing and praising God (Revelation 14:1–4).

Everything Scripture says about the death of believers indicates that they are immediately ushered consciously into the Lord’s presence. In the words of the Westminster Confession of Faith:

The bodies of men after death return to dust, and see corruption; but their souls, (which neither die nor sleep,) having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them. The souls of the righteous, being then made perfect in holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies. (32.1)

Sadly, soul sleep is not the only false concept of eternity that we must confront and debunk. Next time we’ll consider one of the most popular and deceptive lies that Satan has perpetrated: purgatory.

(Adapted from The Glory of Heaven.)

via What Happens When Believers Die? — Grace to You Blog

July 16 Love for Other Christians

“The one who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him.”

1 John 2:10

✧✧✧

Loving other Christians gives assurance to your own faith.

Loving fellow Christians is instinctive for genuine believers. Paul told the Thessalonians, “Now as to the love of the brethren … you yourselves are taught by God to love one another” (1 Thess. 4:9). He further encouraged them to “excel still more” in love (v. 10) because there is always room for believers to love one another more completely. Nevertheless, if we are truly saved we will show love, since love is inherent in our new nature (see Rom. 5:5).

Jesus said this about love among believers: “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). If we are truly Christians, we will “fervently love one another from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22). Love is a test of our divine life and signifies that we have crossed over from darkness to light (1 John 3:14–15).

The apostle John goes on to define love as being sacrificial and practical: “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (vv. 16–18).

Therefore, you should ask yourself some basic questions: Do you care about other believers, or are you cold and indifferent? How do you respond to opportunities to give of yourself in various ministries? Do you look forward to having fellowship with other Christians—talking with them, discussing the things of God, studying the Word together, and praying with them? When you encounter a friend at church who has a need, are you willing to provide money, time, prayer, resources, service, or even a sympathetic ear?

If you can answer yes to those questions, you have great reason to be assured of your salvation. Like Peter, you can appeal to the love God sees in your heart (John 21:17). That love won’t be perfect, but it’s there and will manifest itself to others.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: Pray that your love will grow stronger and be more consistent.

For Further Study: Read John 21:15–17. What should Peter’s love result in? ✧ How does Galatians 6:10 support that?[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

7 Truths about the Weeds of Sin in Our Lives — ChuckLawless.com

They drive me crazy, actually. No matter how much I treat them, weeds always return in the cracks and joints of my driveway. They do, though, remind me about the reality of the growth of the weeds of sin in my life:

  1. The weeds have to bother me before I’ll do anything about them. If I don’t see weeds growing from my driveway as ugly, I’ll ignore them. It’s the same deal with my sin; until I see it as ugly, I won’t turn from it.
  2. The weeds constantly look for a place to grow. I’m amazed sometimes by how many weeds can grow out of the smallest vulnerable spot in the driveway. Sin is the same way—one tiny opening can lead to destruction.
  3. I must treat the weeds continually. Even if I hope to treat them every day, even one day without treatment gives them a foothold to grow and spread. The enemy is sly enough that he finds that same kind of foothold anytime I don’t deal immediately with my sin.
  4. If I neglect the weeds, they only spread . . . and destroy. They can, in fact, fill an entire driveway joint while I’m on vacation or traveling. Sin grows the same way: one unaddressed sin becomes two, which become three, which slowly erode and destroy.
  5. They can ruin an otherwise nice yard. We pay a lot of money for lawn and tree treatments, and we work hard to keep the grass cut and trimmed nicely. If we were to let grass and weeds in the driveway remain, though, everything else would lose some of its beauty. I fear we need not look far to find leaders whose weeds of sin have now also ruined much.
  6. Just pulling the weeds is seldom enough. Often, pulling the weeds leaves the root in the ground – and the problem comes back quickly. Likewise, dealing with sin without eradicating its root is nothing more than turning over a new leaf.
  7. The day may come when the world sees the weeds as acceptable – but they’ll still be weeds. No matter what the world says, weeds still destroy. So does sin, even if the world redefines it.

Here’s my prayer: that each of us would deal thoroughly with our weeds of sin as we begin a new week.

via 7 Truths about the Weeds of Sin in Our Lives — ChuckLawless.com

07/16/18 In That Day — ChuckLawless.com

READING: Isaiah 18-22

“The Lord will strike Egypt, striking and healing. Then they will turn to the Lord

and he will be receptive to their prayers and heal them.”

Isaiah 19:22

Frankly, I don’t often think of Egypt as a bastion of Christianity. I know there are believers there, but I would typically equate that country with another world faith rather than Christianity. The day will come, however, according to the prophecy of Isaiah, when even Egypt will follow the Lord: “The Lord will make himself known to Egypt, and Egypt will know the Lord on that day. They will offer sacrifices and offerings; they will make vows to the Lord and fulfill them” (Isa. 19:21). God will in that day even know them as “Egypt my people” (Isa. 19:25).

This time will occur “in that day” – a phrase occurring five times in Isaiah 19 to speak of the eventual rule of the Messiah. The very nation whose heart had been hardened against God centuries before will be among those who worship Him as Lord.

When I read texts like these, I am reminded again of the excitement of doing the work of missions. We are to proclaim the good news to all the nations, but it is God who draws those nations to Himself. He may choose to do so through judgment that first strikes with fear and then brings to repentance, but He does so because He loves the world. His name is most glorified when those from every nation, tribe, and tongue lift His praises high – and we can trust that He will use our preaching of the Word to accomplish that plan in His timing and according to His plan.

ACTION STEPS: 

  • Pick two nations, and pray they will turn to the Lord.
  • Thank the Lord for making Himself known to the peoples of the world.

PRAYER: “I praise You, Lord, for making Yourself known to me and others. Use me to keep proclaiming Your name.”

TOMORROW’S READING: Isaiah 23-26

via 07/16/18 In That Day — ChuckLawless.com

JULY 16 THE BLOWS FELL UPON HIM

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

—Isaiah 53:3

A chastisement fell upon Him so that we as individual humans could experience peace with God if we so desired. But the chastisement was upon Him. Rebuke, discipline and correction—these are found in chastisement. He was beaten and scourged in public by the decree of the Romans. They lashed Him in public view as they later lashed Paul. They whipped and punished Him in full view of the jeering public, and His bruised and bleeding and swollen person was the answer to the peace of the world and to the peace of the human heart. He was chastised for our peace; the blows fell upon Him….

I think I speak for a great host of forgiven and born-again men and women, when I say that in our repentance we sensed just a fraction and just a token of the wounding and chastisement which fell upon Jesus Christ as He stood in our place and in our behalf…. He was publicly humiliated and disgraced as a common thief, wounded and bruised and bleeding under the lash for sins He did not commit, for rebellions in which He had no part, for iniquity in the human stream that was an outrage to a loving God and Creator. WPJ006-007

Lord, I don’t have any concept of Christ’s humiliation on the cross, not even a fraction. Thank You, Gracious Father, for the depth of the love of the Lord Jesus. Amen. [1]


[1] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

July 15 Daily Help

COMMON, too common is the sin of forgetting the Holy Spirit. This is folly and ingratitude. He deserves well at our hands, for He is good, supremely good. As God, He is good essentially. He shares in the threefold ascription of Holy, holy, holy, which ascends to the Triune Jehovah. Unmixed purity, and truth, and grace is He. He is good benevolently, tenderly bearing with our waywardness, striving with our rebellious wills; quickening us from our death in sin, and then training us for the skies as a loving nurse fosters her child. How generous, forgiving, and tender is this patient Spirit of God.[1]


[1] Spurgeon, C. H. (1892). Daily Help (p. 200). Baltimore: R. H. Woodward & Company.

July 15, 2018 Evening Verse Of The Day

Whose Son Is the Christ?
41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,

44  “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet” ’?

45 If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” 46 And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 22:41–46). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.


Whose Son Is Christ?

(22:41–46)

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?” They said to Him, “The Son of David.” He said to them, “Then how does David in the Spirit call him ‘Lord,’ saying, ‘The Lord said to my lord, “Sit at My right hand, until I put Thine enemies beneath Thy feet’ ”? If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his son?” And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question. (22:41–46)

The most important question in the world is, “Who is Jesus Christ?” And the world has never lacked for ideas and opinions about the answer. Certain Pharisees in Jesus’ own day accused Him of casting “out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons” (Matt. 12:24). A second-century a.d. comment in the Talmud said Jesus practiced magic and led Israel astray (Sanhedrin 43a). Julian the Apostate, emperor of Rome from a.d. 361–363, declared, “Jesus has now been celebrated about three hundred years; having done nothing in his lifetime worthy of fame, unless anyone thinks it a very great work to heal lame and blind people and exorcise demoniacs in villages of Bethsaida and Bethany” (quoted by Cyril, a fifth-century bishop of Alexandria, in Contra Julian, lib. vi., p. 191).

In modern times, most people have tended to be complimentary of Jesus, although their opinions are frequently condescending and naive. The radical French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote, “When Plato describes his imaginary righteous man loaded with all the punishments of guilt, yet meriting the highest rewards of virtue, he describes exactly the character of Jesus Christ.… The life and death of Jesus are those of a God” (Oeuvres complétes [Paris, 1839], tome iii, pp. 365–67). The famous poet Ralph Waldo Emerson held Jesus to be the most perfect of all men who have appeared on earth, and Napoleon said, “I know men, and I tell you that Jesus Christ was not a man.”

The English philosopher and economist John Stuart Mill said Jesus was “the pattern of perfection for humanity,” and the Irish historian and essayist William E. Lecky said Jesus was “the highest pattern of virtue.” French philologist and historian Ernest Renan said Jesus “will never be surpassed,” and American Unitarian clergyman Theodore Parker called Jesus the youth with God in His heart. German theologian and philosopher David Strauss, a staunch critic of biblical Christianity, said Jesus is the “highest model of religion within the reach of [human] thought.” English novelist H. G. Wells wrote, “When I was asked which single individual has left the most permanent impression on the world, the manner of the questioner almost carried the implication that it was Jesus of Nazareth. I agreed.… Jesus stands first.”

As those testimonies give evidence, many people who do not trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior still rank Him as the highest model of humanity. But beneath most such compliments is the incipient, if not specific, denial that He was anything more than a man. And many of those who highly praise Him nevertheless deny much of what He taught, especially what He taught about Himself and His work.

Christianity has always found its most violent detractors and enemies in those who deny the divinity of Jesus Christ. Many of those detractors presume to go under the name of Christian. Some years ago a Washington State newspaper reported that the minister of a liberal church had begun a sermon series emphasizing that Jesus Christ was merely a man and not God. He said that the reason there is any controversy at all on this issue is because “there is always a bunch of people who say Jesus is God.” The minister suggested that Jesus was simply like Mother Teresa or Caesar Chavez.

Many religions and cults teach that Jesus was a prophet of God, or at least a great religious teacher, but that He was not the Savior of the world and was not divine to any greater degree than they consider all men to be divine.

The battle lines of biblical Christianity are inevitably drawn at the issue of Jesus’ divinity. That is the one doctrine apart from which all others are meaningless, because if He were not divine He could not be the Savior of the world, and men would have no way of becoming reconciled to God.

It is that supreme issue of Jesus’ full identity with which Matthew 22:41–46 deals.

The Incisive Question

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?” (22:41–42a)

After irrefutably answering the three questions the Jewish leaders had designed to entrap Him (Matt. 22:15–40), Jesus continued teaching in the Temple, where He had been since early that Wednesday morning (21:23). The Pharisees were gathered together by themselves, no doubt more perplexed than ever as to what they could do to discredit and eliminate Jesus. They were obviously standing nearby, and while they were pondering what to do next, Jesus asked them a question about the Christ.

He did not, however, ask directly about Himself. Although He often had declared His messiahship and His divinity, He now wanted the Pharisees to focus on what they already believed about the identity of the Messiah, the Christ, God’s promised Anointed One. Specifically, He asked, “Whose son is He?” That is, from what Jewish line was He to be descended?

The Inadequate Answer

They said to Him, “The Son of David.” (22:42b)

To the Pharisees, as well as to most other Jews, the answer was obvious and simple. Because they were convinced the Messiah was no more than a man, the only identity of the Messiah they took seriously was that of his being the Son of David. The scribes had long taught that “the Christ is the son of David” (Mark 12:35), a teaching that was perfectly true. Through the prophet Nathan, the Lord had promised David, “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.… My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever” (2 Sam. 7:12–13, 15–16).

That promise could not have applied to Solomon. He did build a house for God in the form of the Temple, but his kingdom did not last forever. Nor could any other descendant (note the singular in 2 Sam. 7:12) of David claim an everlasting throne. After Solomon, the Davidic kingdom was divided and has never been restored.

Psalm 89 makes repeated references to the Messiah as the unique descendant of David: “I have made a covenant with My chosen; I have sworn to David My servant, I will establish your seed forever, and build up your throne to all generations.… I have found David My servant; with My holy oil I have anointed him, with whom My hand will be established; My arm also will strengthen him.… And My faithfulness and My lovingkindness will be with him, and in My name his horn will be exalted.… I also shall make him My first-born, the highest of the kings of the earth. My lovingkindness I will keep for him forever, and My covenant shall be confirmed to him. So I will establish his descendants forever, and his throne as the days of heaven” (vv. 3–4, 20–21, 24, 27–29).

Amos prophesied, “In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, and wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old” (Amos 9:11). Through Micah the Lord declared, “As for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity” (Mic. 5:2).

God commanded Ezekiel to write,

Thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king will be king for all of them; and they will no longer be two nations, and they will no longer be divided into two kingdoms.… I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. And they will be My people, and I will be their God.

“And My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances, and keep My statutes, and observe them. And they shall live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons, and their sons’ sons, forever; and David My servant shall be their prince forever.” (Ezek. 37:21–25)

Starting at the millennial kingdom and sweeping into eternity, David’s greater Son, often called David by extension of the ancestral name, will rule an everlasting kingdom. “When I shall raise up for David a righteous Branch,” the Lord said, “He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely; and this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The Lord our righteousness’ ” (Jer. 23:5–6).

Throughout his gospel, Matthew focuses on Jesus’ being the Son of David. He begins with an abbreviated genealogy that establishes Jesus’ direct lineage from David (1:6; cf. Luke 3:31). He reports Jesus’ frequently being hailed by various individuals and groups as the Son of David. The two blind men in Galilee cried out to Him, “Have mercy on us, Son of David” (9:27), clearly acknowledging Him as the promised Messiah, the Christ. The two blind men of Jericho made the same plea: “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David” (20:30). After Jesus healed the demon-possessed man who was also blind and dumb, “all the multitudes were amazed, and began to say, ‘This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?’ ” (12:23), a question equivalent to, “He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” And it was the fact the multitudes had acclaimed Jesus as the Son of David that the religious leaders were so indignant, because He was being hailed as the Messiah and would not renounce the acclaim (21:9, 15–16).

It was partly because Jesus’ lineage from David was incontestable that the Jewish authorities were so distressed. Until the Temple was destroyed in a.d. 70, meticulous genealogical records of all Jews were kept there. That information not only was essential to establish levitical and priestly lineage, for the men as well as for their wives, but for many other purposes as well. No one could hold a position of responsibility in Israel whose genealogy was unverified. It is therefore certain that the authorities had carefully checked Jesus’ genealogy and discovered that His descent from David was legitimate. Otherwise, they would simply have exposed Him as having no claim to Davidic heritage and all discussion about His possible messiahship would have ended.

Yet true as it was that the Christ would be the Son of David, that answer was partial and inadequate. Rather than that title’s being too great for Jesus, as the Jewish leaders contended, it was much too limited. As He proceeded to explain, the Messiah had a claim to greatness that far exceeded His descent from David.

The Infinite Reality

He said to them, “Then how does David in the Spirit call him ‘Lord,’ saying, ‘The Lord said to my lord, “Sit at My right hand, until I put Thine enemies beneath Thy feet” ’? If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his son?” (22:43–45)

The terms kurios (Lord) and its corresponding Hebrew word ădōnāy are among the most common designations for deity in the New and Old Testaments, respectively. Because God’s covenant name, Yahweh, or Jehovah, was considered too holy to be spoken, the Jews always substituted the word Ădōnāy. In many English translations that unique use of “Lord” is indicated by its being printed in large and small capital letters (Lord), meaning that the Hebrew text actually reads Yahweh. When God is called “Lord” as a title, rather than as a substitute for His covenant name, the word is printed simply with capital and lower case letters (Lord), meaning that the Hebrew text reads Ădōnāy.

Jesus’ argument, therefore, was this: “If the Messiah, the Christ, is no more than a man, the human the son of David, Then how does David in the Spirit call him ‘Lord,’ saying, ‘The Lord said to my lord.’ ”

First of all, Jesus declared that David was speaking under the inspiration of God’s Spirit when he wrote those words of Psalm 110:1. The Greek phrase behind in the Spirit is identical to that used by John of his vision on Patmos, when he “was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” (Rev. 1:10; cf. 4:2). It refers to being under the control of the Holy Spirit in a unique and powerful way. And as Mark makes clear in his account of this incident, Jesus’ full statement was, “David himself said in the Holy Spirit” (Mark 12:36), ruling out the possibility that Jesus was referring to David’s human spirit.

Second, every Jew recognized Psalm 110 as being written by David and as being one of the clearest messianic passages in the Old Testament. Consequently, there could be no argument—and there was none by Jesus’ opponents—that David was speaking here about the Messiah, the second lord mentioned in verse 1. The first Lord in the Hebrew text is Yahweh, whereas the second is Ădōnāy. The idea is: the Lord (Yahweh) said to David’s lord (Ădōnāy), “Sit at My right hand, until I put Thine enemies beneath Thy feet.” In other words, David addressed the Messiah as his Lord.

Third, and most importantly, Jesus was declaring the Messiah’s deity. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, David had declared that God told the Messiah to sit at His (God’s) right hand, a place recognized by Jews to be a designation of coequal rank and authority. The verb behind sit in the original text indicates continuous sitting in the place of exaltation. God was going to bring the Messiah to a place of equality with Himself in honor, power, and glory.

At God’s right hand, the Messiah would be invincible, because God would put His enemies beneath His feet, a figure of abject, helpless subjugation. When a defeated enemy was brought before an ancient oriental monarch, the ruler would make the prisoner prostrate himself at his feet. The king would then place his foot on the neck of the vanquished enemy as if he were a footstool (see Josh. 10:24). All the detractors, deniers, and other enemies of the Messiah are doomed to subjugation beneath His control.

Liberal critics have long maintained that David could not have written Psalm 110, arguing that the Hebrew language in David’s time had not developed to the level found in the psalm and that David would not have been familiar with the priest-king relationship expressed in verse 4. But historical and archaeological discoveries have proved both of those assumptions to be unfounded. Some critics also deny the messianic character of the psalm, largely because they discount all supernatural revelation and consequently all predictive prophecy. If a “prediction” came true, they argue, it was obviously written after the fact. But that humanistic approach not only makes Scripture out to be intentionally deceptive but makes Jesus Himself a liar or a dupe. He could hardly have been the model for the highest level of human virtue, as many of those same critics claim, if He declared Himself to be divine but was not. Or if the gospel writers misrepresented what He said about Himself, how can anything else they reported about Him be considered reliable?

If David then calls Him “Lord,” Jesus asked the Pharisees, how is He his son? Jesus’ point was that the title “Son of David” alone was not sufficient for the Messiah, that He is also the Son of God. David would not have addressed a merely human descendent as “Lord.” Jesus was saying, in effect, “I am not giving you any new teaching or revelation. You should have been able to figure it out for yourselves, and would have done so if you truly believed Scripture.” The religious elite of Judaism had never seen that obvious truth, because, like many people today, they did not look to Scripture for truth. When they looked to it at all, it was for the purpose of trying to shore up their humanly devised religious traditions and personal preferences.

Jesus did not mention the most important conclusion the Pharisees should have made from what He had just said: that He Himself was the divine Messiah, the Son of David and Son of God. It was unnecessary for Him to do that, because He had been presenting His divine messianic credentials for three years. He had done so many things to prove He was the Son of God that unbelievers had to deny the obvious to conclude anything else. The signs and miracles recorded in the gospels are but a part of the countless others than He performed. “Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book,” John tells us; “but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30–31; cf. 21:25).

Although Jesus was correcting the Pharisees’ incomplete concept of who He was, He also seems to have been giving them still another invitation to believe in Him. Several of the scribes, including the lawyer who had asked Jesus about the greatest commandment, commended Him for His wise answers to the questions given to test Him (Mark 12:32; Luke 20:39). Jesus even told the lawyer that he was not far from the kingdom (Mark 12:34). There doubtlessly were others in the Temple that day who were tender-hearted and open to God’s truth and who might be led to trust in Him and follow Him as Lord if they were convinced He were truly God’s Son.

Jesus was obviously no phantom, as some heretics in the early church proposed. He ate, drank, slept, felt pain, bled, and died. He was even “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). He was the Son of Man in every way. That He was specifically the Son of David was obvious and provable by the Temple records. And that He was the divine Son of God was obvious from the miracles that He performed without number for everyone to see.

Jesus shares with God all the attributes of omnipotence. He is the Creator, the controller of the heavens and the earth and all its creatures. He is the provider of food, the healer of the sick, the raiser of the dead, the forgiver of sin, the giver of eternal life, and the judge of all men and angels.

Jesus shares with God all the attributes of omnipresence. Wherever “two or three have gathered together in My name,” He declared, “there I am in their midst” (Matt. 18:20).

Jesus shares with God all the attributes of omniscience. He knew what His disciples were thinking and what His enemies were thinking. “He did not need anyone to bear witness concerning man for He Himself knew what was in man” (John 2:25).

The New Testament consistently presents Christ as Son of David and Son of God. The gospel message Paul preached and wrote about was promised by God “beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 1:2–4). Paul admonished Timothy to “remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David” (2 Tim. 2:8).

In his letter to believers at Philippi, Paul wrote,

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:5–11)

“The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us,” John declared, “and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

In his classic apologetics work Protestant Christian Evidences, Bernard Ramm gives a series of incisive answers to the question he himself propounds: “If God became incarnate, what kind of man would He be?” In abbreviated form, six of the answers are: we would expect Him to be sinless; we would expect him to be holy; we would expect His words to be the greatest words ever spoken; we would expect Him to exert a profound power over human personality; we would expect Him to perform supernatural doings; and we would expect Him to manifest the love of God. Of all human beings who have ever lived, Jesus Christ alone met all of those criteria ([Chicago; Moody, 1953], pp. 166–75).

The Inappropriate Response

And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question. (22:46)

It is probable that some of the leaders who heard Jesus that day eventually believed in Him. But when Jesus finished His short but irrefutable proof of the Messiah’s divinity, there is no indication that anyone profited from that great truth.

Mark reports that “the great crowd enjoyed listening to Him” (Mark 12:37); but that sentiment was far from saving trust. The initial response of the people was favorable, but in two days many of them would cry out with the chief priests and elders who incited them, “Let Him be crucified!” (Matt. 27:22).

The Pharisees and other religious leaders there that day were dumbfounded but not convinced, silenced but not convicted, humiliated but not humbled, reluctantly impressed but still unbelieving. Doubtlessly they were thinking that they had been intimidated and embarrassed for the last time by the uneducated, unordained, and in their minds unorthodox rabbi from Nazareth.

Self-righteous religion has always been and will always be the greatest enemy of the gospel. Secularism generally is indifferent, whereas human religion invariably is hostile.

The Samaritan woman whom Jesus met at the well outside Sychar was the first person to whom He directly revealed His messiahship. After she commented “that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ),” Jesus then “said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He’ ” (John 4:25–26). That woman trusted in Christ herself and immediately went into her village and witnessed to others, many of whom also believed (vv. 39–42). But most of the Samaritans did not believe and down through the centuries have not believed. Today they number perhaps fewer than 500, and, like their Jewish counterparts, they are still looking for a Messiah who has already come. Like so many people, they failed to believe the truth, though the testimony of Scripture is overwhelmingly convincing.[1]


A Question for His Questioners

Matthew 22:41–46

While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?”

“The son of David,” they replied.

He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,

“ ‘The Lord said to my Lord:

“Sit at my right hand

until I put your enemies

under your feet.” ’

“If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Few things are more deeply instilled into the American way of thinking than the notion of fair play. “It’s my turn; you’ve had the ball long enough,” children say when they argue on the playground. “Everyone should pay his fair share,” politicians say when they want to raise taxes. Ruth Graham, the wife of evangelist Billy Graham, wrote a book titled My Turn.

Well, it was Jesus’ turn now. Not that the Pharisees, Sadducees, or other experts in the law wanted to be fair, of course. They were trying to trap him in his words (Matt. 22:15). They had come to him with three sticky questions: “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (v. 17); “Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?” (v. 28); and, “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (v. 36). They had trouble with these matters themselves, but Jesus answered their questions easily with words that settled each of these issues forever: (1) Yes, it is right to pay taxes, but it also necessary to pay God what we owe him; (2) yes, there is a resurrection, but it will transcend the physical relationships we know now; and (3) the law is summarized in these words: first, love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and second, love your neighbor as yourself.

But now it was Jesus’ turn. Turning to the Pharisees, who were his most persistent interrogators and chief enemies, Jesus asked, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?”

They thought the answer was easy. “The son of David,” they replied. This was a correct response because many Old Testament texts taught that one of David’s natural descendants would reign on his throne forever.

But Jesus continued, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,

“ ‘The Lord said to my Lord:

“Sit at my right hand

until I put your enemies

under your feet.” ’

If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” (Matt. 22:43–45; see Mark 12:35–37; Luke 20:41–44).

Jesus’ words turned an apparently easy question into a profound and searching question. No father calls a son his “lord.” Sons are subservient to fathers. Therefore, if David called his natural, physical descendant (the Messiah) his “Lord,” it could only be because the One to come would somehow be greater than David was. The only way that could happen was if the Messiah were more than a mere man. He would have to be a divine Messiah, that is, God. This did not fit with the Pharisees’ expectation of who the Messiah should be or what he should do, so they were silenced.

The Greatest Messianic Psalm

When Jesus asked the Pharisees his question, he was referring to Psalm 110:1, of course, and he was establishing a pattern for interpreting the Old Testament that his disciples picked up on enthusiastically. The disciples loved to quote this psalm. In fact, they used it so often that it became the psalm most quoted in the New Testament, and verse 1 became the verse most quoted. By my count, Psalm 110:1 is cited directly or alluded to indirectly at least twenty-seven times, the chief passages being Matthew 22:44 (parallel accounts in Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42–43); Acts 2:34–35; 7:56; 1 Corinthians 15:25; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3, 13; 12:2; and 1 Peter 3:22. Verse 4 of Psalm 110, in which Jesus is called “a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek,” is referred to in Hebrews 5:6; 7:17, 21; 8:1; and 10:11–13 and is the dominating idea in those chapters.

Why was Psalm 110 so important to the New Testament writers and to the church? Because Psalm 110 is the greatest and clearest of the messianic psalms.

There are not a large number of messianic psalms. We might include in their number Psalms 2, 22, 45, 72, and 110, plus a few others. But most of these psalms contain only messianic elements while other parts of them are apparently about the earthly king who was reigning at that time. By contrast, Psalm 110 is about a divine king exclusively, a king who has been placed at the right hand of God in heaven and who is presently engaged in extending his spiritual rule throughout the entire earth. Significantly, Psalm 110 also teaches that this divine messianic figure is to be a priest, performing priestly functions, and that additionally he is to be a judge who, at the end of time, will pronounce a final judgment on the nations and peoples of this earth.

Edward Reynolds (1599–1676) was one of the great expositors of Psalm 110, and he wrote that “this psalm is one of the fullest and most compendious prophecies of the person and offices of Christ in the whole Old Testament.” He felt that “there are few, if any, of the articles of that creed which we all generally profess, which are not plainly expressed, or by most evident implication couched in this little model.” Reynolds believed this psalm taught the doctrines of the divine Trinity; the incarnation, sufferings, resurrection, ascension, and intercession of Jesus Christ; the communion of saints; the last judgment; the remission of sins; and the life everlasting.

Charles H. Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher of the nineteenth century, taught that Psalm 110 is exclusively about Jesus Christ. David “is not the subject of it even in the smallest degree,” he wrote.

“The Lord Says to My Lord”

What about the first verse, the verse Jesus put before his questioners? In Hebrew, which they knew well, the first word of the verse is Jehovah or Yahweh (rendered “Lord”). In our English translations of Psalm 110, “Lord” is printed in capital letters to indicate this. It refers to the God of Israel. The second word for “Lord” is “Adonai.” Adonai refers to an individual greater than the speaker. So here is a case of David citing a word of God in which God tells another personage, who is greater than David, to sit at his right hand until he makes his enemies a footstool for his feet. This person can only be a divine Messiah, who is Jesus Christ.

This argument depends on two assumptions, of course. The first is that the psalm was written by David. Otherwise, it could be construed that an inferior member of the court flattered David by calling David “Lord,” suggesting that he was to rule by God’s special blessing. The second is that David wrote by inspiration so that what he said about this divine figure was true and was an actual prophecy of Jesus Christ. Jesus made both these assumptions when he spoke of “David, speaking by the Spirit.”

It is astonishing, therefore, that many commentators, including even some so-called evangelicals, believe Psalm 110 was written by another human writer. They see it as flattery of a merely human king (though with messianic overtones), and they explain Jesus’ words as a concession to the widespread but mistaken opinions of his age regarding David’s authorship of the psalms. This is a terrible error, and it misses the point of the psalm completely.

Those who deny that the psalm is by David say that “my Lord” refers to a king and that the psalm must therefore be addressed either to David or to one of the kings who followed him. They also argue that much of the psalm is about earthly battles and conquests and that it must therefore refer to an earthly ruler. Additionally, they say, it refers to a figure who is both a king and priest, and, since this is an idea foreign to the Old Testament, the psalm must date not from the time of David or even for hundreds of years after David but from the time of the Maccabees, nearly a thousand years later.

None of these points hold up; the problems with each are transparent. And in any case, in Matthew, Jesus sets his seal upon the Davidic authorship of Psalm 110, even adding that David was speaking by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit when he wrote it.

Don Carson answers the liberal arguments with ten points, showing among other things that (1) the heading of Psalm 110 assigns it to David; (2) the psalm uses such extravagant language (“a priest forever,” for example) that it is either a case of the most unbounded hyperbole or about a figure actually greater than David, that is, a Messiah to come; and (3) there is no reason why David, an inspired and insightful writer of others psalms as well, could not have foreseen and written about the Messiah’s dual paternity, being both his own descendant and the Son of God. In any case, Jesus attributed the psalm to David and brought this understanding of Psalm 110 into the Christology of the early Christian church.

Derek Kidner expressed the issue well:

Nowhere in the Psalter does so much hang on the familiar title A Psalm of David as it does here; nor is the authorship of any other psalm quite so emphatically endorsed in other parts of Scripture. To amputate this opening phrase, or to allow it no reference to the authorship of the psalm, is to be at odds with the New Testament, which finds King David’s acknowledgment of his “Lord” highly significant. For while other psalms share with this one the exalted language which points beyond the reigning king to the Messiah, here alone the king himself does homage to this personage—thereby settling two important questions: whether the perfect king was someone to come, or simply the present ruler idealized; and whether the one to come would be merely man at his best, or more than this.

Our Lord gave full weight to David’s authorship and David’s words, stressing the former twice by the expression “David himself” and the latter by the comment that he was speaking “in the Holy Spirit” (Mark 12:36ff.), and by insisting that his terms presented a challenge to accepted ideas of the Messiah, which must be taken seriously.

Peter preached on this text on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:34–36), and his conclusion is as valid today as it was then, or when David penned the verse a thousand years before Peter: “ ‘Therefore … be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.’ When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins’ ” (Acts 2:36–38). So also should we repent and commit ourselves to Jesus Christ.

“Sit at My Right Hand”

Psalm 110:1 also speaks of the Messiah’s position at the right hand of God in heaven and of his lordship over all things in heaven and on earth. Jesus did not elaborate on this part of the verse because his first question had been enough to confound his enemies. But the rest of the verse as well as the psalm as a whole could hardly have been lost on them. Verse 1 is an oracle, that is, a direct and specific word from God—“Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”—and what it tells us is that the Messiah was to reign over all things from heaven. We are familiar with the idea from the Apostles’ Creed, which many Christians recite together each week: “He [Jesus] ascended into heaven and is seated on the right hand of God the Father Almighty.”

What does it mean to sit at God’s right hand? In the ancient world, to sit at a person’s right hand was to occupy a place of honor; a seat at the right hand of the host was a place of honor at a dinner. But to sit at a king’s right hand was more than mere honor. It was to share in his rule. It signified participation in the royal dignity and power, like a son ruling with his father. This is what Jesus has done since his resurrection and ascension.

Paul wrote about this to the Philippians, saying:

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

and gave him the name that is above every name,

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:9–11

What a tremendous gulf there is between God’s evaluation of his beloved Son and the scorn people had for him when he was on earth, including the scorn of these very Pharisees. When he was on earth, Jesus was despised and rejected, harassed and hated. At last he was unjustly arrested, tried, and cruelly executed. But God reversed all that, for he raised him from the dead and received him into heaven, saying, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”

Jesus is at God’s right hand today, ruling over all things in heaven and on earth. This is God’s doing, so it is not up to us whether Jesus Christ will be Lord or not. Jesus is Lord, and God has made him such. We can fight that Lordship and be broken by it—the verse says that Christ’s enemies will be made his footstool—or we can submit to his rule in humble obedience with praise.

Most people’s image of Jesus is at best that of a baby in a manger. It is a sentimental picture best reserved for Christmas and other sentimental moments. Others picture him hanging on a cross. That too is sentimental, though it is sentimentality of a different, pious sort. Jesus is not in a manger today. That is past. Nor is he hanging on a cross. That too is past. Jesus came once to die and after that to ascend to heaven to share in the fullness of God’s power and great glory.

When Stephen, the first martyr, had his vision of the exalted Christ, it was of Jesus “standing at the right hand of God” to receive him into heaven (Acts 7:55). When John had his vision of Jesus on the Isle of Patmos, it was of one who was as God himself. The apostle was so overcome by Jesus’ heavenly splendor that he “fell at his feet as though dead” (Rev. 1:17). We need to recover this understanding of who Jesus is and where he is now. If we do, we will worship him better and with greater reverence.

Walter Chantry says:

Anyone who has caught a glimpse of the heavenly splendor and sovereign might of Christ would do well to imitate the saints of ages past. It is only appropriate to worship him with deep reverence. You may pour out great love in recognition of your personal relationship with him. He is your Lord. You are his and he is yours. However, you are not pals. He is Lord and Master. You are servant and disciple. He is infinitely above you in the scale of being. His throne holds sway over you for your present life and for assigning your eternal reward. A king is to be honored, confessed, obeyed and worshiped.

Indeed, adds Chantry, “Such humble gestures of adoration are the response required in the gospel. ‘If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved’ (Rom. 10:9).”

Jesus, the Lord

Matthew’s account of this incident ends by saying, “from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions” (v. 46). They were silenced, but they were not convinced. These men did not accept Jesus’ teaching, and they eventually had him killed on the charge of blasphemy. But another Pharisee later came to accept what they did not accept and expressed it in classic language. He was Paul, who wrote at the beginning of his letter to the Romans about a gospel “promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead” (vv. 2–4).

This is a mature New Testament statement of the points made by Jesus in his confrontation with the Pharisees. To begin with, it contains a contrast between the two natures of the historical earthly Jesus. The first is the human nature. In the Greek text the word is sarx, meaning “flesh.” But the term is not limited to the fleshly parts of our body as in English. It means “the whole man.” This nature is contrasted with Christ’s divine nature, which is described as “the Spirit of holiness.” The Spirit of holiness does not refer to the Holy Spirit, though many have interpreted it that way, but to Christ’s own spiritual or divine nature, which is holy. In other words, the first important thing about this section is its clear recognition of both the human and divine natures of Jesus.

Next, the statement contains a contrast between “descendant of David” and “Son of God.” This corresponds to the earlier distinction, because “descendant of David” is linked to Jesus’ human nature (it is as a man that he was born into David’s family tree) while “Son of God” is linked to his divine nature.

The most important point is the contrast between the word was, the verb used in the first part of this descriptive sentence, and declared, which is the verb in part two. Was is actually the word became, and it means that Jesus took on a form of existence that he had not had previously. Before his birth to Mary, at what we call the beginning of the Christian era, Jesus was and had always been God. That is why the other verb that refers to his Godhead is declared. He was declared to be God, but he became man at that particular past point in history by the incarnation. In the short compass of just these twenty-eight Greek words (forty-one in English, vv. 3–4), Paul gave a Christology that unfolds in complete terms what Jesus taught in the question he asked the Pharisees. Jesus is a divine Messiah and Savior; he is both man and God.

The conclusion is that Jesus Christ is the very essence of Christianity. He is the Lord, and because he is, you ought to turn from all known sin and follow him. You may dispute his claims. Millions do. But if they are true, if Jesus is who he claimed to be, there is no reasonable or right option open to you other than your complete allegiance to him. Colonel Robert Ingersoll, a well-known and self-proclaimed agnostic of the last century, was no friend of Christianity, but he said on one occasion, though in a critical vein, “Christianity cannot live in peace with any other form of faith. If that religion be true, there is but one Savior, one inspired book and but one little narrow … path that leads to heaven.”

That is true, if Jesus is the eternal Son of God who became man to achieve your salvation. Is he? Is he the Son of God? Is he the Savior? If he is, you ought to heed his call for your repentance and faith—it is the demand of the gospel—and follow him.[2]


The son of David (22:41–46)

Overview

After silencing the Jewish leaders, Jesus in turn asks them a question. His purpose is not to win a debate but to elicit from them what the Scriptures themselves teach about the Messiah, thus helping people to recognize who he really is. The passage speaks to crucial christological and hermeneutical issues (see comments at vv. 43–44). Although many commentators hold that this pericope represents a debate between the synagogue and the church, or within the church, in Matthew’s day, Bock (Blasphemy and Exaltation, 220–22) rightly points out how unlikely it is that the church, which happily and frequently confessed Jesus to be the Son of David, would invent a story that appears to question the legitimacy of that confession.

The synoptic parallels (Mk 12:35–37; Lk 20:41–44) do not show that Jesus’ questions were addressed to the Pharisees, or that they replied (see comments vv. 34–40). The historical setting is the temple courts, where crowds and leaders mingled together and alternately listened to the teacher from Nazareth and fired questions at him (21:23–23:36). Matthew’s details probably stem from his memory of the events. That he mentions the Pharisees may reveal his desire to show his readers where the Pharisees were wrong. But one cannot be dogmatic about this, since Matthew omits Mark’s gentle snub: “The large crowd listened to him with delight” (12:37), which shows that Mark, too, knows that Jesus aimed his exegesis of Psalm 110 against the biblical experts of his day.

Commentary

41–42 Jesus’ question (v. 41) focuses on the real issue—Christology, not resurrection or taxes—that turned the authorities into his enemies. The Messiah’s identity according to the Scriptures must be determined. One way to do that is to ask whose son he is (v. 42). The Pharisees gave the accepted reply: “The son of David”—based on passages such as 2 Samuel 7:13–14; Isaiah 11:1, 10; Jeremiah 23:5 (see comments at 1:1; 9:27–28; cf. Moore, Judaism, 2:328–29; Guthrie, New Testament Theology, 253–56; Fitzmyer, Essays on the Semitic Background, 113–26; Longenecker, Christology of Early Jewish Christianity, 109–10).

43–45 This view, though not wrong, is too simple because, as Jesus points out, David called the Messiah his Lord (v. 43). How, then, could Messiah be David’s son? The force of Jesus’ argument depends on his use of Psalm 110, the most frequently quoted OT passage in the NT. The Davidic authorship of the psalm, affirmed by the psalm’s superscription, is not only assumed by Jesus but is essential to his argument. If the psalm was written by anyone else, then David did not call Messiah his Lord. The phrase “speaking by the Spirit” not only assumes that all Scripture is Spirit-inspired (cf. Ac 4:25; Heb 3:7; 9:8; 10:15; 2 Pe 1:21) but here reinforces the truth of what David said so it may be integrated into the beliefs of the hearers (cf. “and the Scripture cannot be broken,” Jn 10:35). The text of Psalm 110:1, quoted by all three Synoptics, is essentially Septuagintal (cf. Gundry, Use of the Old Testament, 25; on the variants, see Fee, “Modern Text Criticism,” 163–64). The “right hand” (v. 44) is the position of highest honor and authority (cf. 19:28; Ps 45:9).

Many but not all Jews in Jesus’ day regarded Psalm 110 as messianic (cf. Str-B, 4:452–65; Edersheim, Life and Times, appendix 9; David M. Hay, Glory at the Right Hand: Psalm 110 in Early Christianity [Nashville: Abingdon, 1973], 11–33). Most modern scholars say that Psalm 110 was not Davidic but was written about David or some other king, making “my Lord” a monarchical reference by an unknown psalmist. Because Psalm 110 is so frequently quoted in the NT, some scholars try to establish the “entry” of the psalm into Christian tradition, associating it with, say, “the pre-Pauline formula in Romans 1:3f.” (D. C. Duling, “The Promises to David and Their Entrance into Christianity,” NTS 20 [1974]: 55–77) or Pentecost (M. Gourgues, “Lecture christologique du Psaume cx et Fête de la Pentecōte,” RB 83 [1976]: 1–24). A pattern is then plotted for the score of NT uses of Psalm 110, on which Matthew 22:41–46 (plus par.) appears too late to be authentic words of Jesus.

Nevertheless there are many arguments for an interpretation more in conformity with the texts as we have them.

  1. That Psalm 110 is about the king makes sense only if the superscription is ignored. If David is indeed the author, as both the psalm’s superscription and Jesus insist, then either the psalm deals with some figure other than David or else David, caught up in high prophetic vision, is writing about himself in the third person.
  2. The latter is by no means implausible. But we have already seen that much prophecy and fulfillment is in OT paradigms pointing forward, sometimes with the understanding of the OT writers, sometimes not (see comments at 2:15; 5:17; 8:16–17). David is regularly portrayed, even in the OT, as the model for the coming Anointed One, and David himself understood at least something of the messianic promise (2 Sa 7:13–14).
  3. Psalm 110 uses language so reckless and extravagant (“forever,” v. 4; the mysterious Melchizedek reference, v. 4; the scope of the king’s victory, v. 6) that one must either say the psalm is using hyperbole or that it points beyond David. That is exactly the sort of argument Peter uses in Acts 2:25–31 concerning another Davidic psalm (Ps 16).
  4. Psalm 110 contains no allusion to the much later Maccabeans, who were priest-kings, for they were priests who became “kings,” whereas the figure in Psalm 110 is a king who becomes a priest.
  5. As the text stands, this pericope has important christological implications. The widely held, if not dominant, view was that the coming Messiah would be the son of David (cf. Pss. Sol. 17). Jesus not only declares that view inadequate, but he insists that the OT itself tells us it is inadequate. If Messiah is not David’s son, whose son is he? The solution is given by the prologue to Matthew (chs. 1–2) and by the voice of God himself (3:17; 17:5): Jesus is the Son of God. Even the title “Son of Man” (see comments at 8:20) offers a transcendent conception of messiahship.
  6. However, in spite of Bultmann (History of the Synoptic Tradition, 136–37) and many others, this does not mean that Jesus or Matthew is denying that the Messiah is David’s son, replacing this notion with a more transcendent perspective. This gospel repeatedly recognizes that Jesus the Messiah is Son of David, not only by title (1:1; 9:27; 15:22; 20:30–31; 21:9, 15; cf. 12:23) and by the genealogy (1:2–16), but also by its portrayal of Jesus as King of the Jews (2:2; 21:5; 27:11, 29, 37, 42: cf. Hay, Glory at the Right Hand, 116–17). What Jesus does is synthesize the concept of a human Messiah in David’s line with the concept of a divine Messiah who transcends human limitations (e.g., Ps 45:6–7; Isa 9:6; Jer 23:5–6; 33:15–16; Zec 12:10 [MT]; 13:7 [NASB]), even as Matthew elsewhere synthesizes kingship and the Suffering Servant. The OT itself looked forward to one who would be both the offshoot and the root of David (Isa 11:1, 10, cf. Rev 22:16).
  7. Even the fact that Jesus’ use of Psalm 110:1 was susceptible to an interpretation denying that the Messiah must be of Davidic descent argues strongly for the authenticity of this exegesis of the psalm, for it is unlikely that Christians would have placed this psalm on Jesus’ lips when his Davidic sonship is taught throughout the NT (in addition to Matthew, cf. Mk 10:47–48; 11:10; Lk 1:32; 18:38–39; Ro 1:3; 2 Ti 2:8; Rev 3:7; 5:5; 22:16). Jesus’ question (v. 45) is not a denial of Messiah’s Davidic sonship but a demand for recognizing how Scripture itself teaches that Messiah is more than David’s son.
  8. Against those who hold that this transcendent sonship could have arisen as an issue only after the passion (e.g., Lindars, New Testament Apologetic, 46–47), we must ask why Jesus himself could not have expressed the paradox of Messiah’s dual paternity since he certainly knew God as uniquely his “Father” (see esp. 11:27) and applies the transcendent title “Son of Man” to himself as well.
  9. If this approach is substantially correct, then the entrance of Psalm 110 into Christian theology is traceable to Jesus himself. Moreover, it can be credibly argued that his approach to the OT is adopted by the NT writers, even when they do not focus on the same OT texts to which he gave his primary attention.
  10. Finally, the text has some eschatological implications, even though they are not of primary interest. Messiah is pictured at God’s right hand of authority during a period of hostility from God’s enemies, a hostility to be crushed at the end (cf. 28:18–20).

46 In Mark, the opponents’ silence (12:34) concludes the pericope of the greatest commandment. Matthew uses this comment to finish the entire section of confrontations (21:23–22:46). Many who were silenced were not saved; so Jesus’ enemies went underground for a short time before the crucifixion. Yet even their silence was a tribute. The teacher who never attended the right schools (Jn 7:15–18) confounds the greatest theologians in the land. And if his question (v. 45) was unanswerable at this time, a young Pharisee, who may have been in Jerusalem at the time, was to answer it in due course (Ro 1:1–4; 9:5).[3]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Vol. 3, pp. 343–351). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Boice, J. M. (2001). The Gospel of Matthew (pp. 480–487). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[3] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 524–527). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

July 15: Reframe It

1 Samuel 26:1–27:12; 1 Peter 2:1–12; Psalm 128:1–129:8

“ ‘Too often they have attacked me from my youth.’ Let Israel say, ‘Too often they have attacked me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me’ ” (Psa 129:1–2). As these verses show, sometimes problems can be solved by simply reframing the issue at hand.

Peter makes a “reframing” move in his first letter. He could have focused on the people’s sin and their general need to repent, but then their attention would be on the problem, not solving it. So he shifts the focus: “Therefore, ridding yourselves of all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn infants long for the unadulterated spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up to salvation” (1 Pet 2:1–2). Peter calls them to approach their relationship with Christ like a newborn would milk. They must make Christ such a priority that He becomes something they need and long for. And as they long, their sinful behavior will be resolved.

Similarly, Peter addresses the people’s conflict with their culture as an opportunity for God to make them strong, like the stones used to build strong foundations: “And you yourselves, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 2:5).

We can always choose where to place our attention. Often, we turn our attention toward preventing something (sin) at the cost of actually doing something good (growing in the Lord). If we keep our focus on our relationship with Christ, we can rise above our circumstances and find victory. “The blessing of Yahweh be upon you. We bless you in the name of Yahweh” (Psa 129:8). Reframing our lives makes way for blessing—it gives God room to do transformative work.

What is God asking you to reframe? Where is your focus?

John D. Barry[1]


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.