MAY 26 – ARE YOU A SETTLED AND CONTENTED CHRISTIAN?

…Let us go on unto perfection….

HEBREWS 6:1

I wonder why the people of God in our churches are so reluctant to leave the things which are the “first principles” of the doctrine of Christ?

Some of you have heard the gospel many times. You say you have believed and that you have turned away from idols to serve the living God and to wait for His Son from heaven—and yet you do not behave as though you are a settled and contented Christian!

You are not satisfied until you have tried out the latest gospel peddler or the sensationally popular evangelistic services down the street.

If a gospel troupe comes along, you are satisfied for a while because they have cowbells and a musical handsaw and a lot of other gadgets.

In our day we seem to overlook the divine principle of what ought to happen in the life of a truly born-again person. What do we do? We get them into church and then after we get them in, we try to “work” on them. My reading tells me that in an earlier day believers were better Christians when they were newly converted than many of today’s so-called deeper life people—because a miracle had taken place!

They would not accept a pale, ineffective and apologetic “believing.” They insisted on a miracle taking place in the human breast. Jesus Christ was their Hope, and they knew full well the guarantee—God had raised Him from the dead![1]


6:1 The warning which began in 5:11 continues throughout this chapter. It is one of the most controversial passages in the entire NT. Since so many godly Christians are disagreed on its interpretation, we must not speak with dogmatism. We present the explanation which seems most consistent with the context and with the rest of the NT.

First of all, the readers are exhorted to leave the elementary principles of Christ, literally, “the word of the beginning of Christ” (FWG), or “the beginning word of Christ” (KSW). We understand this to mean the basic doctrines of religion that were taught in the OT and were designed to prepare Israel for the coming of the Messiah. These doctrines are listed in the latter part of verse 1 and in verse 2. As we shall seek to show, they are not the fundamental doctrines of Christianity but rather teachings of an elementary nature which formed the foundation for later building. They fell short of Christ risen and glorified. The exhortation is to leave these basics, not in the sense of abandoning them as worthless, but rather of advancing from them to maturity. The implication is that the period of Judaism was a time of spiritual infancy. Christianity represents full growth.

Once a foundation has been laid, the next step is to build upon it. A doctrinal foundation was laid in the OT; it included the six fundamental teachings which are now listed. These represent a starting point. The great NT truths concerning Christ, His Person, and His work, represent the ministry of maturity.

The first OT doctrine is repentance from dead works. This was preached constantly by the prophets as well as by the forerunner of the Messiah. They all called on the people to turn from works that were dead in the sense that they were devoid of faith.

Dead works here may also refer to works which formerly were right, but which now are dead since Christ has come. For example, all the services connected with temple worship are outmoded by the finished work of Christ.

Second, the writer mentions faith toward God. This again is an OT emphasis. In the NT, Christ is almost invariably presented as the object of faith. Not that this displaces faith in God; but a faith in God which leaves out Christ is now inadequate.[2]


  1. Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2. instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

Instead of teaching the elementary truths of God’s Word once more (see 5:12), the author urges his readers to go beyond these truths. They are not ignorant of the basic teachings of Christian doctrine; they need to be stimulated to progress in their understanding of the faith. They ought to review the elementary teachings about Christ, so that they are ready to receive further instruction.

The introductory word therefore is retrospective. In the preceding verses, the writer contrasts the spiritually weak believer with the mature Christian. And the model he holds before his readers is that of the believer who strives for maturity. He exhorts them to go on to perfection after having left the elementary teachings behind. Actually the author is saying, “Let us … go forward to adult understanding” (Phillips), and together we are able to do this. The verb (“let us go on”) that the author employs is a key word because it conveys the idea of actively exerting oneself to make progress. He includes himself and places himself on his readers’ level even though he, as the teacher, really occupies a higher position than the recipients of his letter. This implies that the writer has not yet achieved maturity in spiritual matters. Therefore, the author does not explain the “elementary teachings about Christ” but merely outlines them.

  1. Foundation of
  2. repentance
  3. faith in God
  4. Instruction about
  5. baptisms
  6. laying on of hands
  7. resurrection of the dead
  8. eternal judgment
  9. “Not laying again the foundation.” Does the author refer to a standard of instruction in the church of the first century? Perhaps. F. F. Bruce points out that the items listed among the elementary teachings are as much Jewish as they are Christian. We assume that these doctrines were given much more prominence in the Christian church than in the Jewish synagogue. These truths also may have been used as a catechism that new converts were required to learn before they were fully accepted.

Because the readers know that to be members in the church they must have a foundation of repentance and faith, the writer states that it is not necessary to lay that foundation anew. He is spelling out for his audience the difference between the basic doctrines (which he calls a foundation) and the deeper truths of Scripture (which believers ought to study in order to progress in their spiritual lives). He concludes that because of their membership believers already have laid the foundation.

  1. “The foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death.” The first component of the Christian’s spiritual foundation is repentance (Acts 2:38; 3:19). This means turning away from something that is detrimental to one’s being. Basically repentance constitutes a negative action, in this case a change of mind that results in no longer performing “acts that lead to death.” Repentance, then, is an activity that involves the mind and thinking of a person—a complete turnabout in the life of the believer. No longer does he show an interest in activities that lead to his destruction. He now shuns the effects of sin that bring about death (Rom. 5:12, 21; 6:23; 7:11). Consequently, it would not be necessary for the author to ask his readers to lay the foundation of repentance again.
  2. “And of faith in God.” Laying a foundation of faith in God was a positive action that believers had taken when they accepted Christ in faith. They turned from their “acts that lead to death” to life in Christ through faith. We would expect the author to write “faith in Christ” instead of “faith in God,” for Jewish converts to Christianity did not need to be instructed in the doctrine of faith in Israel’s God. The difficulty disappears, however, when we realize that throughout his epistle the author speaks of God as revealed in Christ (3:1–6; also see Acts 20:21; 1 Thess. 1:9–10). Indirectly, the author reminds the reader of Jesus’ word, proclaimed at the beginning of this ministry: “The time has come.… The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15). This twofold message from the lips of Jesus is repeated by the apostles. For example, Peter on the day of Pentecost called the people to repentance, and as a result three thousand believers were added to the church (Acts 2:38, 41).

Of course, faith is a prominent theme in Hebrews. Chapter 11 with its brief definition of faith and list of the heroes of faith is eloquent testimony to the author’s interest in this theme. For the writer, faith constitutes complete trust as demonstrated by Joshua, who because of his faith entered the land God had promised (4:8). Everyone who puts faith in the gospel, says the author of Hebrews, enters God’s rest (4:2–3).

  1. “Instruction about baptisms.” Next to the foundation of repentance and faith comes the instruction about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. The first phase in the believer’s instruction is the teaching concerning baptisms. Interestingly enough, the writer uses not the common Greek word baptisma (baptism), but rather the term baptismos (washing; Mark 7:4; Heb. 9:10). Furthermore, the word is in the plural.

What is the writer saying? Use of the plural provides sufficient reason to assume that he calls attention to washings other than Christian baptism. What these washings are has been debated at length by numerous scholars. I mention only a few interpretations:

  1. purification ceremonies (Qumran)
  2. triple immersion in the name of the Trinity
  3. multiplicity of baptismal candidates
  4. baptisms of water, blood, fire, and the Holy Spirit
  5. Levitical washings and Christian baptism

The New Testament does refer to the baptism of John the Baptist (Matt. 3:7; Mark 11:30; Luke 7:29; John 3:23; 4:1; Acts 1:22; 10:37; 18:25) that was still practiced more than twenty-five years after his death (Acts 19:3). Also there is the Jewish rite of baptism for proselytes.

The word baptismos (which signifies “the act alone,” whereas baptisma is “the act with the result”) is a Jewish-Christian term. The expression in the plural probably expresses a “contrast between Christian baptism and all other religious washings … known to the readers.”18

Finally, the four Gospels and Acts mention the baptism with the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:11 and parallels; Acts 1:5; 11:16). Although this particular form of baptism is different from the washing that the word baptismos describes, it has significance for the next phase of instruction, the imposition of hands.

  1. “The laying on of hands.” In Acts the imposition of hands results in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. For example, Peter and John visited the believers in Samaria and placed their hands on the Samaritans, who as a consequence received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17). Ananias put his hands on Saul (Paul), who received both his sight and the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17). In Ephesus, Paul laid his hands on some disciples of John the Baptist who were recipients of the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:6).

Other passages show that the practice of laying hands on someone relates to the ceremony of ordination to service: ministering to the needs of the poor (Acts 6:6); proclaiming the gospel (Acts 13:3); or pastoring the church (1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6).

Apart from the instances that mention the imposition of hands in connection with healing (Matt. 9:18; Mark 5:23; 6:5; 7:32; 8:23; Luke 13:13; Acts 28:8) and with Jesus blessing the children (Matt. 19:13, 15; Mark 10:16), the New Testament is silent.

What did the practice of laying hands on a believer mean to the first recipients of the Epistle to the Hebrews? John Calvin declares that baptized children, after a period of instruction in the faith, received another rite—that of laying on of hands. This rite was intended as confirmation of their baptism and originated in the time of apostles. This may very well be the explanation of the practice, although substantiating evidence is scarce.

  1. “The resurrection of the dead.” The next phase in the believer’s instruction is his knowledge concerning the resurrection of the dead. Already in Old Testament times the doctrine of the resurrection was known (Ps. 16:10; Isa. 26:19; Ezek. 37:10; Dan. 12:2). In the days of Jesus and the apostles, the general public knew the teaching about the resurrection from the dead (John 11:24), and the Pharisees separated themselves from the Sadducees because the two groups disagreed about this doctrine (Acts 23:6–7).

Jesus taught the doctrine of resurrection by claiming it for himself: “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25); the apostles made this teaching the foundation of their gospel proclamation (Acts 1:22; 2:32; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:37; 17:31–32; 26:23). The author of Hebrews also refers to this doctrine directly (11:35) and indirectly (2:14–15).

  1. “And eternal judgment.” The two doctrines of the resurrection and of eternal judgment are logically related, but I do not think that we should explain the first as the resurrection of the righteous and the second as the judgment on the wicked. The author does not provide sufficient information, and therefore we do well to understand the words as general references to these teachings.

Hebrews 6:2 is the only text in the New Testament that gives the reading eternal judgment. The passage that is somewhat similar is Acts 24:25, which says, “Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come.” That Jesus returns “to judge the living and the dead” is a basic teaching eventually formulated in the three ecumenical creeds: the Apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian.[3]


Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings, and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. (6:1–2)

The key ideas are leaving and press on to maturity, and are really two parts of the same idea. Together they are the first step in these Jews’ becoming spiritually mature. They had to leave once and for all their ties with the Old Covenant, with Judaism, and accept Jesus Christ as Savior. They should do it immediately, without further hesitation. The maturity that salvation brings is not a process. It is an instantaneous miracle. The maturity about which this passage is talking is that of leaving the ABC’s of the Old Covenant to come to the full revelation and blessing of the New.

Leaving in the Greek is aphiēmi, which means to forsake, to put away, let alone, disregard, put off. It refers to total detachment, total separation, from a previous location or condition. The Expositor’s Greek Testament translates Hebrews 6:1, “Let us abandon [give up] the elementary teaching about Christ.” Alford comments, “Therefore … leaving (as behind, and done with; in order to go on to another thing).”

In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul uses aphiēmi in speaking of a Christian husband’s not sending away (that is, divorcing) his unbelieving wife. Divorce is total marital separation, complete abandonment of the relationship. It is wrong in relation to marriage but mandatory in relation to leaving Judaism for Christ. The unbelieving Jew must completely divorce himself from his former religion before he can be saved.

The same Greek word is often used of forgiveness of sins (as in Matt. 9:2, 5, 6; Rom. 4:7; and James 5:15). When we are forgiven, our sins are put away from us, separated from us, divorced from us. In Matthew 15:14 the same term is used to speak of separating ourselves from false teachers, and in Mark 1:20 it is used of James’s and John’s leaving their father, Zebedee, in order to follow Jesus. As far as their life’s work was concerned, they abandoned, completely separated themselves from, their father and his fishing business.

The elementary teaching about the Christ (Messiah) that the unbelieving Jews were to leave was the Old Testament teaching about Him—another indication that it is not immature Christians (“babes”) that are being addressed. We are never to leave the basics, the elementary teachings, of the gospel, no matter how mature we grow in the faith. Remember, the issue here is not that of growing in spiritual maturity as a Christian, but of coming into the first stage of spiritual maturity by becoming a Christian. It is a matter of dropping, leaving, putting away, that which we have been holding onto and taking up something entirely new. Therefore it can only be a reference to unbelievers, because at no time does the Word of God suggest that a Christian drop the basics of Christianity and go on to something else.

It is the provisions and principles of the Old Covenant, of Judaism, that are to be dropped. It is not a question of adding to what one has. It is a question of abandoning what you have for something else. This is precisely what the Holy Spirit asked the Hebrews to do—to abandon the shadows, the types, the pictures, and the sacrifices of the old economy and come to the reality of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ. A paraphrase could be, “Leave the pictures of the Messiah and go on to the Messiah Himself,” or “Drop the Old Covenant and accept the New.”

Incomplete Old Testament Features

The foundation, the Old Covenant, had six features that are pointed out in verses 1–2. These are: repentance from dead works, faith toward God, instruction about washings, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. These are not, as is often interpreted, elementary Christian truths that are to be abandoned in order to go on to maturity. They are Old Testament concepts. To be sure, they pointed to the gospel, but they are not themselves part of the gospel.

Repentance from Dead Works

Repentance from dead works is turning away from evil deeds, deeds that bring death. “For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:13–14). “The soul who sins will die,” said Ezekiel (18:4). In the New Testament the truth is expressed as, “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). The Old Testament taught that a man should repent and turn from his evil works that brought about death. But this Old Testament pattern is only the first half of repentance. Men only knew that they were to turn away from evil works and turn toward God. That was the whole doctrine they knew.

In John the Baptist’s preaching, and even in Jesus’ own early ministry, the basic message was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2; 4:17). Only repentance was preached. Turn from evil toward God. But the doctrine of repentance becomes mature, complete, in Jesus Christ. Paul reminded the elders of the Ephesian church of his “solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). In his defense before King Agrippa, Paul mentioned that he had “kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance” (Acts 26:20). But he went on to explain that the focus of this message was Jesus Christ and His work of salvation (v. 23). It no longer did any good simply to turn from evil works toward God. A person could come to God only through Jesus Christ.

Now that the New Covenant is in effect, repentance is meaningless without faith in Jesus Christ. “No one comes to the Father, but through Me,” said Jesus (John 14:6). A person who, no matter how sincerely, seeks to repent of his sins and turn to God apart from Christ will never reach God. Jesus Christ is the only way to Himself that God has provided.

Repentance from dead works is simply turning from evil, and is an important and wonderful truth of the Old Testament. But it is not complete. It is fulfilled, made effective, only by a person’s also coming to Jesus Christ in faith. An incomplete dealing with sin must be abandoned for a complete one.

Faith Toward God

The meaning of faith toward God has already been touched on. It does no good at all today to have faith in God unless there is also faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, who is the only way to God. Peter said, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). There is no acceptable repentance apart from faith in Christ. The only repentance that “leads to life” is that which is related to belief in Jesus Christ (Acts 11:17–18). The only faith toward God that is now acceptable is faith in God the Son. There is no way to the Father except through the Son.

The Old Testament taught repentance from dead works and faith toward God. The New Testament teaches repentance in faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ, the only Way to God. The distinction is clear. The Jews addressed in this letter believed in God; but they were not saved. Their repentance from works and faith toward God, no matter how sincere it may have been, could not bring them to God without Christ. “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Instruction About Washings

The King James translation (“doctrine of baptisms”) is misleading, especially since everywhere else, including Hebrews 9:10, the same Greek word (baptismos) is translated washings. It is not baptizō, which is always used for the ordinance of baptism. It may have been that the King James translators assumed this passage was addressed to Christians, in which case “baptisms” might be appropriate. But the use here of baptismos rather than baptizō is another strong indication that the passage is not addressed to Christians.

Every Jewish home had a basin by the entrance for family and visitors to use for ceremonial cleansings, of which there were many. It is these washings that the readers are told to abandon and forget. Even the Old Testament predicted that one day its ceremonial cleansings would be replaced by a spiritual one that God Himself would give: “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols” (Ezek. 36:25). The old washings were many, physical, symbolic, and temporary; the new washing is once, spiritual, real, and permanent. It is the wonderful, effective, and eternal “washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). It is the being born (regeneration) of water and the spirit that Jesus told Nicodemus was necessary for entrance into the kingdom (John 3:5).

Laying on of Hands

This laying on of hands has nothing to do with the apostolic practices (Acts 5:18; 6:6; 8:17; 1 Tim. 4:14; etc.). Under the Old Covenant the person who brought a sacrifice had to put his hands on it, to symbolize his identification with it (Lev. 1:4; 3:8, 13).

Our identification with Jesus Christ does not come by putting our hands on Him; it comes by the Spirit’s baptizing us into union with Him by faith. “Forget the teaching about laying hands on the Temple sacrifices,” the writer is telling these immature Jews. “Lay hold of Christ by putting your trust in Him.”

Resurrection of the Dead

The Old Testament doctrine of resurrection is not clear or complete. We learn of life after death and of rewards for the good and punishment for the wicked—and not much more about resurrection than this. From Job, for instance, we learn that resurrection will be bodily, and not just spiritual (Job 19:26). There is little else that we can learn of it from the Old Testament.

In the New Testament, of course, resurrection is one of the major and most detailed doctrines. It is the theme of apostolic preaching. It comes to fullness in the very Person of Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). The resurrection body is described in considerable detail in 1 Corinthians 15; and in 1 John 3:2 we are told, “We shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.” Why should anyone be content with trying to understand the resurrection from the limited and vague teachings of the Old Testament?

Eternal Judgment

We can learn little more from the Old Testament about final judgment than what is given in Ecclesiastes: “God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (12:14). Punishment would come to the wicked and blessing to the good.

Again in the New Testament, however, we are told a great deal about eternal judgment—much more than many people like to hear. We know what is going to happen to believers. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). We will have to stand before the Lord and have our work judged—for reward or lack of reward—but we ourselves will not be judged (1 Cor. 3:12–15). We also know what is going to happen to unbelievers. We know about the judgment of the sheep and goats (Matt. 25:31–46), and the judgment of the great white throne (Rev. 20:11–15). We know that to Jesus Christ has been committed all judgment (John 5:21–29). We know this and much more about judgment from the New Testament.

The point of Hebrews 6:1–2 is simply that the unbelieving Jews should let go completely of the immature, elementary shadows and symbols of the Old Covenant and take hold of the mature and perfect reality of the New. The Holy Spirit is calling for them to leave the ABC’s of repentance from dead works for the New Testament teaching of repentance toward God and new life in Christ. Leave the ABC s of faith toward God for faith in the Person of Jesus Christ. Leave the ABC s of ceremonial washings for the cleansing of the soul by the Word. Leave the ABC’s of laying hands on the sacrifice for laying hold of the Lamb of God by faith. Leave the ABC’s of the resurrection of the dead for the full and glorious resurrection unto life. Leave the ABC’s of eternal judgment for the full truth of judgment and rewards as revealed in the New Covenant.

These six doctrines were the basics of Judaism that were to be laid aside in favor of the better things that come in Christ. The Old Testament is incomplete. It is true. It is of God. It was a necessary part of His revelation and of His plan of salvation for man. But it is only partial revelation, and is not sufficient. Judaism is abrogated. Judaism is nullified. It is no longer a valid expression of worship or of obedience to God. It must be abandoned.[4]


6:1a “The elementary teachings about Christ” is literally “the word of the beginning of Christ,” an idiom similar to that in 5:12 (see Notes), but now with the specific mention that it is Christian teaching, not just OT Scripture, that is in view. The call to “leave” this basic teaching does not mean it is now to be discarded as something they have outgrown; TNIV rightly translates “move beyond.” That basic teaching is the launching pad from which they ought now to “go on”; the verb means literally “to be carried,” the passive probably implying God’s agency rather than their “being borne along on the flood tide of the author’s argument” (Montefiore, 104). The goal is “maturity” (the same word group as in 5:14) rather than “laying again the foundation,” a metaphor that speaks for itself in that a foundation once laid is there to be relied on but does not need to be revisited.

1b–2 The “elementary teachings about Christ” are now summarized in three pairs of phrases that presumably would have been familiar enough to the original readers but that cause some surprise to us as a summary of the Christian basics. None of the phrases are exclusively Christian, and all could have been agreed to in some sense by most strands of first-century Judaism. In particular, they include no mention of Christ and of his saving role, which is, in fact, the main theme of this letter.

The first pair is the least surprising: repentance and faith. The two terms occur together elsewhere as a summary of the gospel imperative (Mk 1:15; Ac 20:21) and neatly express the twofold nature of Christian conversion, turning from the “acts that lead to death” or “useless rituals” (see note) and turning to God in faith.

The second pair of elements in the Christian “foundation” is less obvious. Later Christian sacramental usage suggests to many readers that the terms “baptisms” and “laying on of hands” refer to the Christian rituals of baptism and what would later be called either confirmation or ordination. But it is not likely such a technical sense of the latter phrase could have been assumed at this stage. And two peculiarities of the wording here point away from Christian baptism. First, the word here is “baptisms” (plural), and there is no other NT instance of baptism being referred to in the plural; indeed, its character as a single initiatory act makes such a usage very unlikely. Second, the Greek noun here is not baptisma (GK 967), which is used in the NT for Christian baptism (and for that of John the Baptist), but baptismos (GK 968), which is used elsewhere in the NT only for Jewish ritual washing of utensils (Mk 7:4; Heb 9:10; there may be a use for Christian baptism in Col 2:12, but the text is disputed). So despite the similarity of the Greek words, TNIV is right to avoid the loaded word “baptism” here and use instead “cleansing rites.” Whether these “cleansing rites” were the same as those of Judaism or some Christian development from them (see comments at 10:22), and whether baptism itself may have been included among them, it is impossible to say. “Laying on of hands” is a broader term with many possible applications. In the OT, hands were laid on people as a mark of blessing or consecration, including commissioning for God’s service (Nu 27:18–23), but also on sacrificial animals as a mark of identification (Lev 1:4; 16:21; etc.). In Christian circles, hands were laid on in connection with healing (Mk 6:5; Ac 9:17), commissioning (Ac 6:6; 13:3; 1 Ti 4:14), and the gift of the Spirit (Ac 8:17; 19:6). Thus it seems the Christian basics our author assumes included some form of ritual either taken over from Judaism or developed as Christian equivalents to the Jewish rites. We have here, then, perhaps a glimpse into an early strand of “Messianic Judaism” that continued to accept as normal aspects of Jewish ritual or Christian substitutes for them for which we have no evidence in the Pauline churches of the NT.

The third pair of Christian basics introduces a more doctrinal note. The “resurrection” referred to is not that of Jesus but that of dead people more generally. And that resurrection leads to an “eternal judgment,” which will be mentioned again in 9:27 as something all people must face. These beliefs, which occur together in Daniel 12:2, would have been shared by many Jews at that time, so that the readers may have already accepted them before they became Christians. But they remain an essential aspect of the Christian gospel, and the special role of Jesus as the judge (Mt 25:31–46; etc.) gives them added force.

The three pairs of “basics,” therefore, strike us in different ways. The first pair would be in anyone’s summary of what the Christian gospel is about; the second pair have little place in our understanding of faith as Gentile Christians; the third pair expresses an aspect of Christian (and some Jewish) belief that modern Christians would accept but perhaps might not have chosen for emphasis in such a short list of the basics. It is in this curious mixture of Jewish and Christian elements that the readers are still stuck; surely it is time to move on to a more distinctively Christian understanding.[5]


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

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 2172–2173). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of Hebrews (Vol. 15, pp. 152–156). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Hebrews (pp. 136–141). Chicago: Moody Press.

[5] France, R. T. (2006). Hebrews. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 81–82). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

MAY 26 – MAN’S VIEW OF THIS WORLD

Choose you this day whom ye will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Joshua 24:15

If you have ever given much thought to this present world in which we live, you have some idea of the power of interpretation. The world is a stable fact, quite unchanged by the passing of years, but how different is modern man’s view of the world from the view our fathers held.

The world is for all of us not only what it is; it is what we believe it to be, and a tremendous load of weal or woe rides on the soundness of our interpretation!

In the earlier days, when Christianity exercised a dominant influence over American thinking, men conceded this world to be a battleground. Man, so our fathers held, had to choose sides. He could not be neutral—for him it must be life or death, heaven or hell!

In our day, the interpretation has changed completely. We are not here to fight, but to frolic! We are not in a hostile foreign land; we are at home! It now becomes the bounden duty of every Christian to reexamine his spiritual philosophy in the light of the Bible. So much depends on this that we cannot afford to be careless about it!

Lord, with Joshua I say to You today, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”[1]


24:15 The choice here was not between the Lord and idols: Joshua assumed that the people had already decided against serving God. So he challenged them to choose between the gods which their ancestors had served in Mesopotamia and the gods of the Amorites that they had found in Canaan. Joshua’s noble decision for himself and his household has been an inspiration to succeeding generations of believers: “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”[2]


24:15 choose … today whom you will serve. Joshua’s fatherly model (reminiscent of Abraham’s, Ge 18:19) was for himself and his family to serve the Lord, not false gods. He called others in Israel to this, and they committed themselves to serve the Lord also (vv. 21, 24).[3]


24:15 choose this day whom you will serve. Joshua has urged the people to serve the Lord alone, and to put away the false gods (v. 14). Now he makes his admonition even sharper: if it is evil in their eyes to serve the Lord (i.e., if they prefer not to be loyal to the one true God, the Lord alone), then they must choose between two different categories of false gods: (1) their ancestral gods from Mesopotamia, or (2) the gods worshiped by the peoples they have dispossessed in Canaan. Joshua exercises leadership by example, committing himself and his household to serving the Lord. The people’s response was to decisively reject false gods and to serve “the Lord our God” (vv. 16–17)—which Israel did “all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua” (v. 31), but which Israel failed to do in subsequent generations, as is tragically evidenced in the book of Judges.

24:15 God must be served with exclusive loyalty (Deut. 5:7), prefiguring the exclusivity of commitment to Christ as the one way of salvation (Matt. 6:24; 10:34–39; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Cor. 10:21–22).[4]


24:15 the gods that your ancestors served Shechem was the place at which Jacob had earlier buried the gods that his wives and concubines had brought from Haran (Gen 35:2–4). See Josh 24:14.

the Amorites Here “Amorites” refers generally to the Canaanites. Often refers to the Transjordan region (the territory of Og and Sihon; see vv. 12; Num 21; Deut 2–3).

as for me and my household Joshua and his extended family.[5]


24:15 choose this day whom you will serve. With irony Joshua presents the alternatives that are available if the Israelites reject the Lord. The choice is between the gods Abraham left behind (vv. 2, 3) and the gods of the dispossessed Amorites (vv. 12; 2:10 note).

me and my house. See 6:25; 7:24; Acts 16:15.[6]


[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 256–257). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Jos 24:15). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 430). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Jos 24:15). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (pp. 346–347). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

May 26 – Asking for God’s Provision

Give us this day our daily bread.—Matt. 6:11

“Give” reminds us of our need to ask God for His provision. In recognition of His past and present provision we ask Him, and trust for His future furnishing of all our needs. We can ask confidently because God has richly promised. “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.… The humble will inherit the land and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity” (Ps. 37:4, 11). God does not pledge to always meet the physical needs of everybody, but only of those who trust in Him. In Psalm 37:25, David is speaking about believers when he says, “I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread.”

It is clear that the “us” who can expect provision from the Father are believers. Paul echoes the same principle: “Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God” (2 Cor. 9:10–11; cf. Luke 18:29–30).

God mercifully supplies our needs daily, meaning simply our ordinary, day-by-day provision of food, clothing, money, etc. The primary means by which we receive these things is through work, but isn’t it the Lord who provides even the strength for that? To accept God’s provision for today without undue concern for tomorrow is a testimony of our godly contentment (cf. Matt. 6:25, 32–33).

ASK YOURSELF
If the supply we have today isn’t satisfying to us and doesn’t seem like enough, is the problem with our Supplier or with our own measure of demand? Pray for a humble willingness to be thankful for every blessing, without focusing on the ones He seems to be withholding.[1]

6:11 Give us this day our daily bread. After putting God’s interests first, we are permitted to present our own needs. This petition acknowledges our dependence on God for daily food, both spiritual and physical.[2]


The Fourth Petition

  1. Give us this day our daily bread. What did Jesus mean by “daily”? In Greek literature the word which it translates is very rare; in fact, so rare that it used to be thought that it was coined by the evangelists. In Scripture it occurs only in the Lord’s Prayer (here and in Luke 11:3). Although it has now become clear that the word did not originate with the Gospel writers, there is no unanimity in explaining it. All kinds of guesses have been ventured, among them being “continuous,” “supersubstantial,” “ready at hand,” “for future use,” “for sustenance,” etc. The explanation “sufficient for the next day” has been strongly defended. As I see it, a good argument can be made in favor of: a. “Give us this day our bread for (or: belonging to) the current day (the day in being),” and of b. “Give us this day our needful bread,” that is, “our bread necessary for existence.” The two ideas (a. and b.) combine easily. In any case we must make sure that our interpretation does not run counter to the teaching of Jesus in this very chapter (verses 31–34), the warning against worry about food. See especially verse 34. Personally I see no reason, therefore, to depart from the translation to which many people have become accustomed, namely, “daily.” The meaning then would be, “Give us today the portion that is needed for any one day.”

What has been said so far indicates that by means of this petition Jesus teaches his disciples to be moderate in their desires and requests. This is brought out even more strikingly in the original, where the words “our daily bread” occur at the very head of the petition; hence, “Our daily bread give us this day.” Christ’s disciples must ask for bread, not for luxuries. “Neither poverty nor riches give thou me. Feed me with the bread that is appointed to me, lest, being full, I deny thee and say, ‘Who is Jehovah?’ Or, lest, being poor, I steal and profane the name of my God” (Prov. 30:8, 9, taken from the prayer of Agur). It is clear, of course, that the term “bread” should not be taken too literally. Whatever is necessary to sustain physical life is meant.

Not only a. moderation is here taught, also b. trust in the heavenly Father, who loves and cares, the childlike confidence expressed so beautifully in Ps. 37:25. Yet, it is not “making provision for the future” (Gen. 41:33–36; Prov. 6:6–8) that is here condemned, but “anxiety about the future,” as if there were no heavenly Father. And well may the conviction of c. total dependence fill the heart, for all men, including even the richest, in order to have, consume, and enjoy food, are dependent upon the condition of soil, water, weather, and health of body. Moreover, in order to eat, men of slender and those of average means need to work, that they may earn their bread. Therefore, all men are dependent upon the general state of the economy, together with all its contributing factors, ecological, social, political, etc., which in the final analysis means that all are dependent upon the sovereign God, who is in control of the universe. Then, too, d. humility is required; hence, “Give us.…” Although the supplicant is making a living in the sweat of his brow and besides has even paid for his groceries, he must still accept what is on the table as a gift from God, a product of grace; for, not only is God the ultimate source of every blessing (James 1:17) but also, by reason of sin man has forfeited all! e. Willingness to work is also presupposed. Else how would one dare to pray for daily sustenance (cf. 2 Thess. 3:10)? To all this add one more quality, namely, f. generosity; hence, not “Give me,” but “Give us … our daily bread.” The needs of believers all over the world are included, for together they constitute one family (Eph. 3:14). And, in the spirit of Gal. 6:10, are not the supplicant’s horizons extended even beyond “the camp of the saints, the beloved city”?

Man has been endowed by the Creator with body and soul (Gen. 2:7). So, from a petition for the fulfilment of the needs of the body the prayer now advances to a request for the satisfaction of the soul’s requirements, that what is spiritual may be both first (see the first three petitions) and last (see the last two, or the last two plus the doxology).[3]


God’s Provision

Give us this day our daily bread. (6:11)

Although it may have been a genuine concern in New Testament times, to many Christians in the western world today, such a request may seem needless and inappropriate. Why should we ask God for what we already have in such abundance? Why, when many of us need to consume less food than we do, ask God to supply our daily bread? What would be a completely understandable request of a Christian in Ethiopia or Cambodia, seems irrelevant on the lips of a well-fed American.

But this part of the Disciples’ Prayer, like every other part, extends beyond the first century to all believers, in every age and in every situation. In this pattern for prayer our Lord gives all the necessary ingredients for praying. We can see five key elements in this request for God’s provision: the substance, the source, the supplication, the seekers, and the schedule.

The Substance

Bread not only represents food but is symbolic of all of our physical needs. John Stott has observed that to Martin Luther, “everything necessary for the preservation of this life is bread, including food, a healthy body, good weather, house, home, wife, children, good government, and peace” (Christian Counter-Culture: The Message of the Sermon on the Mount [Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1978], p. 149).

It is marvelous to understand that the God who created the entire universe, who is the God of all space and time and eternity, who is infinitely holy and completely self-sufficient, should care about supplying our physical needs-and should be concerned that we receive enough food to eat, clothes to wear, and a place to rest. God obligates Himself to supply our needs.

This part of the prayer is in the form of a petition, but it is also an affirmation-which is why it is as appropriate for those who are well-fed as for those who have little to eat. Above all it is an affirmation that every good thing we have comes from the gracious hand of God (James 1:17).

The Source

That leads us to the source, who is God. The Father is the one addressed throughout the prayer, the One who is praised and petitioned.

When all our needs are met and all is going well in our lives, we are inclined to think we are carrying our own load. We earn our own money, buy our own food and clothes, pay for our own houses. Yet even the hardest-working person owes all that he earns to God’s provision (see Deut. 8:18). Our life, breath, health, possessions, talents, and opportunities all originate from resources that God has created and made available to man (see Acts 17:24–28). After scientists have made all their observations and calculations, there remains the unexplained element of the design, origin, and operation of the universe. It is unexplained, that is, apart from God, who holds it all together (Heb. 1:2–3).

God provided for man even before He created man. Man was God’s final creation, and after He made and blessed Adam and Eve He said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you” (Gen. 1:29). Since that time God has continued to provide an abundance of food for mankind, in almost unlimited variety.

Yet Paul tells us that “the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, … and advocate abstaining from foods, which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:1, 3–5). The Word of God sanctifies it by way of creation, and we sanctify it when we receive it with grateful prayer.

Every physical thing we have comes from God’s provision through the earth. It is therefore the sin of indifference and ingratitude not to daily recognize His gifts in thankful prayer.

Supplication

Supplication is expressed in the word give. That is the heart of the petition, because it recognizes need. Even though God may already have provided it, we ask Him for it in recognition of His past and present provision as well as in trust for His future provision.

The only thing that could make Jesus’ instruction and our petitions valid is the promise of God. We could not expect God to give what He has not promised. We can pray confidently because God has promised abundantly. “Trust in the Lord, and do good,” David counsels us; “dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart. … Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more; … But the humble will inherit the land, and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity” (Ps. 37:3–4, 10–11).

God does not bind Himself to meet the physical needs of everyone, but only of those who trust in Him. In Psalm 37 David is speaking to believers who “trust in the Lord” (v. 3), “delight … in the Lord” (v. 4), “commit [their] way to the Lord” (v. 5), “rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him” (v. 7), “cease from anger,” and “do not fret” (v. 8). He says, “I have been young, and now I am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, or his descendants begging bread” (v. 25).

The Seekers

The us of Jesus’ model prayer are those who belong to Him. Speaking to believers, Paul wrote, “Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God” (2 Cor. 9:10–11).

Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life” (Luke 18:29–30). God irrevocably commits Himself to meet the essential needs of His own.

The greatest cause of famine and its attendant diseases in the world is not poor agricultural practices or poor economic and political policies. Nor is the root problem lack of scientific and technological resources or even overpopulation. Those problems only aggravate the basic problem, which is spiritual. Only some fifteen percent of the arable land in the world is used for agriculture, and that for only half of the year. There is no major area of the world that with proper technology is not capable of supporting its own population and more.

Those parts of the world that have no Christian roots invariably place a low value on human life. The poverty in India, for example, may be laid at the feet of Hinduism, the pagan religion that spawned a host of other religions. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica and Eerdman’s Handbook to the World’s Religions, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism come from Hinduism. Shintoism, Zoroastrianism, Confucianism, and Taoism do not.

To the Hindu, man is but the incarnation of a soul on its way to moksha, a kind of “final emancipation,” during which trip he goes through countless, perhaps unending, cycles of reincarnation in both animal and human form. He works his way up to higher forms by good deeds and regresses to lower forms by sinning. Poverty, disease, and starvation are therefore seen as divine punishments for which the persons involved must do penance in order to be born into a higher form. To help a person in poverty or sickness is to interfere with his karma and therefore do him spiritual harm. (For a discussion of moksha, or mokṣa, see Encyclopedia Britannica, Micropaedia, VI, p. 972; for a more general discussion, see Encyclopaedia Britannica, Macropaedia, vol. 8, pp. 888–908. Consult, also, Eerdman’s Handbook to World Religions [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982].)

All animals are considered to be incarnations either of men or deities. Cows are held to be especially sacred because they are incarnated deities-of which Hinduism has some 330 million. Cows not only are not to be eaten but add to the food problem by consuming 20 percent of India’s total food supply. Even rats and mice, which eat 15 percent of the food supply, are not killed because they might be one’s reincarnated relatives.

Just as paganism is the great plague of India, Africa, and many other parts of the world, Christianity has been the blessing of the West. Europe and the United States, though never fully Christian in any biblical sense, have been immeasurably blessed because of the Christian influence on political, social, and economic philosophy and policy. The great concerns for human rights, care for the poor, orphanages, hospitals, prison reform, racial and slave reform, and a host of other concerns did not come from paganism or humanism but from biblical Christianity. On the other hand, the current degraded view of human life reflected in the low view of the family and growing legal and social approval of abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia are the legacy of humanism and practical atheism.

Without a proper view of God there cannot be a proper view of man. Those who have a right view of God and also a right relationship to Him through Jesus Christ are promised the provision of their heavenly Father. “For this reason,” Jesus says, “I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing? … For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:25, 32–33).

God has sometimes provided for His children through miraculous means, but His primary way of provision is through work, for which He has given life, energy, resources, and opportunity. His primary way to care for those who cannot work is through the generosity of those who are able to work. Whether he does so directly or indirectly, God is always the source of our physical well-being. He makes the earth to produce what we need, and He gives us the ability to procure it.

The Schedule

The schedule of God’s provision for His children is daily. The meaning here is simply that of regular, day-by-day supply of our needs. We are to rely on the Lord one day at a time. He may give us vision for work He calls us to do in the future, but His provision for our needs is daily, not weekly, monthly, or yearly. To accept the Lord’s provision for the present day, without concern for our needs or welfare tomorrow, is a testimony of our contentment in His goodness and faithfulness.[4]


11 The last petitions explicitly request things for ourselves. The first is “bread,” a term used to cover all food (cf. Pr 30:8; Mk 3:20; Ac 6:1; 2 Th 3:12; Jas 2:15). Many early fathers thought it inappropriate to talk about physical food here and interpreted “bread” as a reference to the Lord’s Supper or to the Word of God. This depended in part on Jerome’s Latin rendering of epiousios (NIV, “daily,” GK 2157) as superstantialem: Give us today our “supersubstantial” bread—a rendering that may have depended in part on the influence of Marius Victorinus (cf. F. F. Bruce, “The Gospel Text of Marius Victorinus,” in Text and Interpretation [ed. Best and Wilson], 70). There is no linguistic justification for this translation. The bread is real food, and it may further suggest all that we need in the physical realm (Luther).

That does not mean that epiousios is easy to translate. The term appears only here and in Luke’s prayer (Lk 11:3); and the two possible extrabiblical references, which could support “daily,” have had grave doubt cast on them by Bruce M. Metzger (“How Many Times Does ἐπιούσιος Occur Outside the Lord’s Prayer?” ExpTim 69 [1957–58]: 52–54). P. Grelot (“La quatrième demande du ‘Pater’ et son arrièreplan sémitique,” NTS 25 [1978–79]: 299–314) has attempted to support the same translation (“daily”) by reconstructing an Aramaic original, but his article deals inadequately with the Greek text, and other Aramaic reconstructions are possible (e.g., Black, Aramaic Approach, 203–7).

The prayer is for our needs, not our greeds. It is for one day at a time (“today”), reflecting the precarious lifestyle of many first-century workers who were paid one day at a time and for whom a few days’ illness could spell tragedy. Many have suggested a derivation from epi tēn ousan [namely, hēmeran] (“for today”) or hē epiousa hēmera (“for the coming day”), referring in the morning to the same day and at night to the next (for hēmera[n], see GK 2465). This meaning is almost certainly right, but it is better supported by deriving the word from the feminine participle epiousa, already well established with the sense of “immediately following” by the time the NT was written. Whatever the etymological problems, this makes sense of Luke 11:3, where “each day” is part of the text: “Give us each day our bread for the coming day.” Equally it makes sense in Matthew, where “today” displaces “each day”: “Give us today our bread for the coming day.” This may sound redundant to Western readers, but it is a precious and urgent petition to those who live from hand to mouth.

Some derive epiousios (“daily”) from the verb epienai, referring not to the future, still less to the food of the messianic banquet (contra Jeremias, Prayers of Jesus, 100–102), but to the bread that belongs to it, i.e., that is necessary and sufficient for it (cf. R. Ten Kate, “Geef ons heden ons ‘dagelijks’ brood,” Nederlands Theologisch Tijdschrift 32 [1978]: 125–39; with similar conclusions but by a different route, H. Bourgoin, “ʼΕπιούσιος expliqué par la notion de préfixe vide,” Bib 60 [1979]: 91–96; and for literature, BDAG, 376–77; Gundry, Use of the Old Testament, 74–75). This has the considerable merit of meshing well with both “today” and “each day” (Matthew and Luke respectively), and in Matthew’s case it may be loosely rendered “Give us today the food we need.” But the derivation is linguistically artificial (cf. Colin Hemer, “ʼΕπιούσιος, JSNT 22 [1984]: 81–94).

The idea of God “giving” the food in no way diminishes responsibility to work (see comments at vv. 25–34) but presupposes not only that Jesus’ disciples live one day at a time (cf. v. 34) but that all good things, even our ability to work and earn our food, come from God’s hand (cf. Dt 8:18; 1 Co 4:7; Jas 1:17). It is a lesson easily forgotten when wealth multiplies and absolute self-sufficiency is portrayed as a virtue.[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 155). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1224). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Vol. 9, pp. 332–334). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 387–391). Chicago: Moody Press.

[5] 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. 205–206). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

MAY 26 – TOO HARD FOR GOD?

Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?

—Jeremiah 32:27

What does it mean to us, that God Almighty has all the power there is? It means that since God has the ability always to do anything He wills to do, then nothing is harder or easier with God. “Hard” and “easy” can’t apply to God because God has all the power there is. Hard or easy applies to me….

God, who has all the power there is, can make a sun and a star and a galaxy as easily as He can lift a robin off a nest. God can do anything as easily as He can do anything else.

This truth applies specifically to the area of our unbelief. We hesitate to ask God to do “hard” things because we figure that God can’t do them. But if they are “easy” things, we ask God to do them. If we have a headache we say, “Oh God, heal my headache.” But if we have a heart condition, we don’t ask the Lord about that, because that’s “too hard” for the Lord! What a shame! Nothing is hard for God—nothing whatsoever. Nothing! In all God’s wisdom and power He is able to do anything as easily as He is able to do anything else. AOGII084

Lord, no matter where You lead me today or what circumstances come my way, I rest in the knowledge that there is no such thing as “hard” or “easy” with You. Amen. [1]


26–27 It appears that the Lord quickly answers Jeremiah’s prayer, and in quite striking a manner, throwing back on Jeremiah in the form of a question (v. 27) what he stated as a fact in v. 17: Jeremiah, do you really believe that nothing is too difficult for me? (cf. also Ge 18:14 for the same rhetorical question as a challenge to unbelief). I know you said it as part of your confession, but is it reality to you? (The phrase, “the God of all flesh/mankind” [bāśār] is found only here [for a similar description, cf. Job 12:10; note also Jer 31:1].)[2]


32:26–27 God confirms Jeremiah’s confession (v. 17); he is the Creator of all flesh, and nothing is too hard for him to accomplish.[3]


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

[2] Brown, M. L. (2010). Jeremiah. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah–Ezekiel (Revised Edition) (Vol. 7, p. 414). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1433). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

May 26 – Paul: Joy in Spite of Detractors

“Whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice.”

Philippians 1:18

✧✧✧

It is possible to maintain your joy even while dealing with criticisms and irritating distractions.

The dictionary definition of detraction is “the uttering of material (as false or slanderous charges) that is likely to damage the reputation of another.” A detractor wants to undermine and destroy the good name and credibility of another. Great statesmen, such as President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War, often have been the targets of contentious political opponents and stinging detractions by the press.

For the church, the most difficult criticism has arisen from within, from false professors who once claimed to support it and its leaders. Paul came to know the disappointment and distress of being torn down when his detractors at Philippi assailed him even while he sat in prison. But he is a model of how one can rise above such pain and discouragement.

Paul’s main detractors (Phil. 1:15) were his fellow preachers who proclaimed the same gospel as he did. They were not at odds with him over doctrine but over personal matters. Paul’s detractors were envious of his ministry gifts and the way God had blessed his efforts with many converts and numerous churches.

Contending with the detractors at Philippi was not a completely new trial for Paul. He had previously learned patience in dealing with the letdowns caused by other supposed supporters (see 2 Tim. 1:15; 4:16). Now his opponents were testing his patience to the extreme as they sought to destroy his credibility with his supporters.

The detractors’ tactics might have unsettled the faith of some in the churches, but not Paul’s confidence. He stood up to all the unpleasantness with joy because, as our verse indicates, he knew the cause of Christ was still being advanced.

Paul’s exemplary behavior under fire provides an obvious lesson for us: no amount of false and unfair criticism should steal our joy in Christ and His gospel. And we can keep rejoicing if we, like Paul, stay devoted to our top priority, proclaiming and glorifying the name of Christ.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: Thank the Lord that the gospel and its power are strong enough to overcome any amount of jealous detraction. Pray that you would stay focused on gospel priorities.

For Further Study: Read Nehemiah 4–6. How did Nehemiah deal with the detractors to his work? ✧ What was the eventual outcome (6:16)?[1]


1:18 Paul refuses to be downcast by the wrong motives of some. Christ is being preached by both groups, and that is for him a great cause for rejoicing.

It is remarkable that under such difficult circumstances, Paul does not feel sorry for himself or seek the sympathy of others. Rather he is filled with the joy of the Lord and encourages his readers to rejoice also.[2]


18a. What then? or “What really matters?” Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is being proclaimed, and in this I rejoice. Paul’s self-forgetfulness excites affectionate admiration. We love him all the more for having written this beautiful passage. Sensitive soul though he was, he does not begin to pity himself because certain jealous preachers were trying to win applause at his expense. What really matters to him is not what they are doing to him but what they are doing for the gospel. But is it possible, then, that such selfish individuals can render service to the gospel in any way? Yes, for it must be borne in mind that those who hear them do not know what Paul knows. The listeners hear only the good preaching. They do not see the bad motive. What matters then is that in every way, that is, whether in pretense—as by those who know how to cover up their selfish ambition—or in truth—as by those whose sole aim is actually the glorification of their Lord and Savior—Christ is proclaimed. In this, says Paul, I rejoice (see also 1:25; 2:2, 17, 18, 28, 29; 3:1; 4:1, 4, 10). It would seem that the apostle’s joy is so great that it crowds out every other consideration.

1:18b–26

Christ Magnified in Paul’s Person whether by Life or by Death

18b Yes, and I shall continue to rejoice. 19 For I know that through your supplication and the help supplied by the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my salvation, 20 in accordance with my eager expectation and hope that in not a single respect I shall ever be put to shame, but that now as always by my unfailing courage Christ will be magnified in my person, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live (is) Christ, and to die (is) gain. 22 Now if (what awaits me is) to live in the flesh, this for me means fruit resulting from work; yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 So I am hard pressed between the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very far better; 24 but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. 25 And being convinced of this, I know that I shall remain, yes remain with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 in order that in connection with me, because of my being with you again, your exultation in Christ may abound.

18b, 19. Paul is the Optimistic Prisoner not only because he realizes that his imprisonment is for the advantage of the gospel (1:12–18), but also because he is deeply convinced that in his person Christ will be magnified, and that this happy result will be attained whether he, the apostle, is set free (as he rather expects) or is put to death (1:19–26).

At first glance it might seem as if from the lofty height of glorying in the fact that Christ is being proclaimed—verse 18—Paul now descends to the somewhat lower plane of rejoicing in his own salvation—verse 19. However, by reading not only verse 19 but also verse 20 it will be seen that for Paul salvation consisted in this—to quote his own words—“that … Christ be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.” Christ’s glory and Paul’s salvation cannot be separated.

Yet there is progress in thought. The apostle advances from the consideration of his joy in the present (verse 18) to the consideration of his joy in the future. He writes: Yes, and I shall continue to rejoice. He states as the reason for his continued rejoicing: For I know that through your supplication and the help supplied by the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my salvation. This present imprisonment with all its attending woe will result in Paul’s truest welfare, his highest good, namely, Christ magnified more than ever in Paul’s person. Note that this glorious result will be brought about by means of two factors which because of their great difference in magnitude—the one human, the other divine—we would probably hesitate to place next to one another: your supplication … and … the help supplied by the Spirit of Jesus Christ! Yet, they certainly belong together: the very same Spirit which sustained Jesus Christ, the Mediator, in his trials, will cause all things to work together for good in the case of Paul also, and this in answer to the prayer of fellow-believers. The apostle sets much store by the intercession (here supplication, that is, fervent petition or request for the fulfillment of a definite need; cf. Phil. 1:4; 4:6; see N.T.C. on 1 Tim. 2:1) of his friends (cf. Rom. 15:30, 32; 2 Cor. 1:11; Col. 4:2; 1 Thess. 5:25; 2 Thess. 3:1). Note that Paul makes supplication for the Philippians (1:4), and that he knows that they are doing the same thing for him (1:19). The fellowship is operating (see on verse 5).[3]


More important, though, he saw the larger picture. Because those envious men were actually preaching the true gospel, people were being saved. “What then?” he therefore asked rhetorically, answering: Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice. In other words, if the cause of Christ was being served, even in pretense by those envious detractors, he was glad. Although the detractors’ motive was not primarily to exalt Christ or to win souls but to exalt themselves at Paul’s expense, he was not bitter. He knew that, although He did not honor those men who preached the truth out of pretense, the sovereign God nevertheless honored their message when Christ [was] proclaimed. That reality greatly pleased Paul.

God’s Word is always powerful, no matter what the motives of the one who proclaims it. The last thing the prophet Jonah wanted to happen was for Nineveh to repent at his preaching; but the message he gave from God produced repentance in spite of his ill intentions (cf. Jonah 4:1–9). Even a preacher or teacher who is envious, jealous, and selfish can be used by God when his message is true to the Word. God always honors His Word, and His Word always bears fruit. “My word … which goes forth from My mouth … will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it” (Isa. 55:11). As the nineteenth-century Scottish minister John Eadie wisely commented, “The virtue lies in the gospel, not in the gospeller; in the exposition, and not in the expounder” (A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistle of Paul to the Philippians [reprint; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979], 40).

In truth refers back to those who were preaching “from good will; … out of love, … [and] from pure motives” (Phil. 1:15–17). Truth here refers not to the accuracy of what they said, but rather to the truthfulness and integrity of their hearts. In marked contrast to the detractors, they were not hypocrites preaching the pure gospel from impure motives.

Katangellō (proclaimed) refers to announcing or declaring something with authority. Whether the gospel was proclaimed by jealous, hurtful preachers, or by those who were faithfully and humbly preaching the gospel with pure motives, it was accurately proclaimed, it bore fruit, and Paul could only rejoice. He reinforced his earnestness by adding, Yes, and I will rejoice. His joy, his gracious attitude, and his grasp of the greater issue of gospel truth were not transitory, but were resolutely permanent (cf. Ps. 4:7–8; Rom. 12:12; 2 Cor. 6:10).

Absolutely nothing could steal Paul’s God-given joy. He was expendable; the gospel was not. His own privacy and freedom were incidental, and he cared nothing for personal recognition or credit. Neither the painful chains of Rome nor the even more painful criticism of fellow Christians could keep him from rejoicing, because Christ was being proclaimed and His church was growing and maturing. The apostle’s view of his life and ministry are perhaps best expressed in 2 Corinthians:

And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain—for He says, “At the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.” Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation”—giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited, but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things. (2 Cor. 6:1–10)

Paul’s example of selfless humility shows that the worse circumstances are, the greater joy can be. When the seemingly secure things in life begin to collapse, when suffering and sorrow increase, believers should be drawn into ever-deeper fellowship with the Lord. It is then that they will most fully experience the enduring joy the apostle knew so well. This joy is far greater and more satisfying than any fleeting circumstantial happiness. And this unmixed joy comes not because of circumstances but in spite of them and through them.[4]


18 Paul’s response to the negative preaching reflects the spirit of a saint: “But what does it matter [ti gar, “so what?”]?… Christ is preached.” It is not that Paul has mellowed after wrangling with the Corinthians and has lost his fighting trim, as C. H. Dodd suggests (New Testament Studies [Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press, 1953], 80–82). Paul sets an example for the Philippians to emulate. His prestige, reputation, and personal feelings are secondary to the preaching and advance of the gospel. Paul is not immune to personal hurt (2 Co 1:23–2:4; 7:3–16), but he does not put his personal feelings above the progress of the gospel. What is important is not his personal vindication before a Roman court or rival Christians, but the defense and confirmation of the gospel. His private concerns must not outweigh his ultimate task.[5]


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

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1962). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Philippians (Vol. 5, pp. 73–74). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2001). Philippians (pp. 68–69). Chicago: Moody Press.

[5] Garland, D. E. (2006). Philippians. In T. Longman III (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, p. 200). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

May 26 – An Expectation of Heaven

Seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.

Colossians 3:1

The apostle Paul was preoccupied with heaven; he knew few earthly comforts. He was beaten, stoned, left for dead, deprived of necessities, and frequently disappointed by people. But he had no concern for pleasant feelings: he wanted only to live a productive life in pursuit of his heavenly goal.

We must have the same focus if we are going to pursue our heavenly reward. Christ is from heaven and in heaven. Heaven is His place, and because we are His, heaven is our place as well. If we are preoccupied with being like Him, we will naturally be preoccupied with heaven. What happens there should be more important to us than what happens here.[1]


3:1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. The If of this verse does not express any doubt in the mind of the Apostle Paul. It is what has been called the “If” of argument, and may be translated since: “Since then you were raised together with Christ.…

As mentioned in chapter 2, the believer is seen as having died with Christ, having been buried with Him, and having risen with Him from among the dead. The spiritual meaning of all this is that we have said goodbye to the former way of life, and have entered upon a completely new type of life, that is, the life of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Because we have been raised with Christ, we should seek those things which are above. We are still on earth, but we should be cultivating heavenly ways.[2]


  1. Consistency requires that believers live in conformity with the fact that they were raised with Christ, who is not only the Object of their faith (chapters 1 and 2) but also the Source of their life (chapters 3 and 4). Of course, the line between these two divisions is not sharp. There is considerable overlapping. There is, however, a difference in emphasis.

Between Colossians 3 and that which precedes there is a close connection. The opening words of Col. 3, If then you were raised with Christ, resume the thought already expressed in 2:12, 13, “raised with him … made alive with him,” and are the counterpart of 2:20, “If with Christ you died to the rudiments of the world.…” The Colossians, it will be recalled, were beset by the danger of relapsing into paganism with its gross sensuality, etc., as is clear from 2:23 and 3:5 ff. The wrong solution of their problem was refuted in chapters 1 and 2, especially the latter. It was indicated that there is no material cure for a spiritual ill, that neglect of the body will never heal the soul’s sickness but will aggravate it, that heaven-born individuals cannot gain satisfaction from earth-born remedies. Christ, he alone, is the answer, Christ in all the fulness of his love and power, as already implied in both chapters 1 and 2, and set forth with even greater clarity and directness now (chapter 3), in a series of pastoral exhortations. If, then, the Colossians were corporately raised when Christ was raised and with him, as previously explained (see on 2:12, 13, 20), why should they seek salvation or fulness anywhere apart from him? Why should they resort to broken cisterns when the Fountain is at hand? Christ’s resurrection, followed by his ascension and coronation, guarantees their pardon and provides for their purity. To this Savior they had surrendered themselves when they had embraced him by faith. The cleansing power of Christ’s blood and Spirit had been signified and sealed to them in baptism. The supply of grace remains plentiful. Right now—they need not wait until the day of the Parousia!—they are raised with Christ. They possess within themselves the life of the resurrection. Let the power of Christ’s resurrection, therefore, be experienced by them in an ever increasing degree. Let their union with the exalted Christ transform their entire life: mind, heart, and will (Phil. 3:10). Let them seek the things that are above, where Christ is. The verb seek implies persevering effort; hence, the rendering, “Be constantly seeking,” is not incorrect. This seeking, moreover, is more than a seeking to discover. It is a seeking to obtain (cf. Matt. 6:33; 13:45). The emphasis, though, is not on the seeking but on the object sought. A precise rendering would be, “the things that are above [placed forward for emphasis] be constantly seeking.” Seeking to obtain is a common activity, but seeking to obtain the right treasures is not nearly so common, and therefore requires emphasis. These things that are above are the spiritual values embedded in the heart of the exalted Mediator in glory, whence, without loss to himself, they are bestowed upon those who humbly ask for them and diligently seek them (Matt. 7:7; 1 Cor. 12:11; Eph. 1:3; 4:7, 8). As the context indicates, the apostle has reference to such realities as tenderheartedness, kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering, patience, the forgiving spirit, and above all love (3:12 ff.). Surely, if the hearts of believers are filled with such bounties there will be no room for fleshly indulgence. Here, then, is the true solution.

The Colossians can be assured of the fact that their exalted Christ has both the right and the power to bestow whatever gifts are needed, for he is seated at the right hand of God (Ps. 110:1, a phrase applied by Christ to himself in Matt. 22:41–46; 26:64; Mark 12:35–37; 14:61, 62; Luke 20:41–44; 22:66–70), clothed with majesty and honor.

This comforting truth of the ascension of the Lord and his coronation at the Father’s right hand, as a Fountain of blessing for his people, was foreshadowed in the Old Testament (Ps. 8, as interpreted in Heb. 2:1–8; Ps. 68:18, as explained in Eph. 4:7, 8; Ps. 110:1, as has been shown; Isa. 53:12). It was frequently referred to by the Lord himself (see, in addition to the Gospel-passages in the preceding paragraph, John 14:1–4; 14:13–18; 16:7; 17:5; 20:17). It was from the very beginning one of the basic themes in the preaching of the church (Luke 24:50–53; Acts 1:6–11; 2:33–36; 3:21; 5:30, 31; 7:56; Rom. 8:32–34; Eph. 1:20–23; 4:7, 8; Phil. 2:9–11; 3:20, 21; 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 1:1–3, 13; 2:1–8; 4:14–16; 8:1, 2; 9:11, 12, 24; 10:12; 1 Peter 3:21, 22; Rev. 1:12–18; 12:5–12).

Those that seek to obtain these “things that are above” are not chasing phantoms but are gathering priceless treasures. They are not the kind of people who forget about their duty in the here and now. On the contrary, they are very practical, for the graces that have been enumerated enable them not only to gain victory upon victory in their struggle against fleshly indulgence but also to be truthfully “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matt. 5:13, 14).[3]


The Reminder

If then you have been raised up with Christ (3:1a)

If denotes reality, as in 2:20, and is better translated “since.” Believers having been raised up with Christ is not in doubt. The verb actually means “to be co-resurrected.” It is an accomplished fact.  Believers spiritually are entered into Christ’s death and resurrection at the moment of their salvation. Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.” In that verse, the apostle shows the union of the believer with the Lord, so that they have a shared life. Romans 6:3–4 teaches the same truth: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

The “baptism” here is not into water, but an immersing into the Savior’s death and resurrection. Through their union with Christ, believers have died, have been buried, and have risen with Him. By saving faith they have entered into a new dimension. They possess divine and eternal life, which is not merely endless existence, but a heavenly quality of life brought to them by the indwelling Lord. They are thus alive in Christ to the realities of the divine realm.

Consequently, Christians have an obligation to live consistently with those realities. Paul delineates the specifics of that obligation in Romans 6:11–19:

Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.

This new life is real and powerful, but so is remaining sin. Though it no longer is our master, it can still overpower us if we are not presenting ourselves to God as servants of righteousness. (For a fuller  treatment of this rich teaching, see my comments on Romans 6–8 in Romans 1–8, MacArthur New Testament Commentary [Chicago: Moody, 1991].)

Spirituality, as Paul says in Philippians 2:12, is working that inner life out, the process of living the reality of our union with Christ. In Him we have all the resources necessary for living the Christian life (cf. 2 Pet. 1:3). Paul emphasizes the centrality of Christ throughout Colossians 3:1–4. By using such phrases as with Christ (3:1); where Christ (3:1); with Christ (3:3); when Christ (3:4); and with Him (3:4), he stresses again Christ’s total sufficiency (cf. 2:10). Unfortunately, many Christians fail to understand and pursue the fullness of Christ. Consequently, because of not knowing what Scripture says, or not applying it properly, they are intimidated into thinking they need something more than Him alone to live the Christian life. They fall prey to false philosophy, legalism, mysticism, or asceticism.

Paul reminds the Colossians that they have risen with Christ. This is the path to holiness, not self-denial, angelic experience, or ceremony. They are no longer living the old life they lived before their salvation, but possess the eternal life of Christ and have been raised to live on another plane. They must not be ignorant or forgetful of who they are and how they are to live. All sinful passion is controlled and conquered by the power of the indwelling Christ and our union with Him.

The Responsibility

keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (3:1b, 2)

The present tense of zēteō (keep seeking) indicates continuous action. Preoccupation with the eternal realities that are ours in Christ is to be the pattern of the believer’s life. Jesus put it this way: “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). Paul is not advocating a form of mysticism. Rather, he desires that the Colossians’ preoccupation with heaven govern their earthly responses. To be preoccupied with heaven is to be preoccupied with the One who reigns there and His purposes, plans, provisions, and power. It is also to view the things, people, and events of this world through His eyes and with an eternal perspective.

The things above refers to the heavenly realm and hones in on the spiritual values that characterize Christ, such as tenderness, kindness, meekness, patience, wisdom, forgiveness, strength, purity, and love.

When believers focus on the realities of heaven, they can then truly enjoy the world their heavenly Father has created. As the writer of the hymn “I Am His, and He Is Mine” expressed it,

Heav’n above is softer blue

Earth around is sweeter green!

Something lives in every hue

Christless eyes have never seen:

Birds with gladder songs o’erflow

Flow’rs with deeper beauties shine,

Since I know, as now I know,

I am His, and He is mine.

When Christians begin to live in the heavenlies, when they commit themselves to the riches of “the Jerusalem above” (Gal. 4:26), they will live out their heavenly values in this world to the glory of God.

In 3:2, Paul gives instruction on how to seek the things above. He says, Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. Set your mind is from phroneō and could simply be translated, “think,” or more thoroughly, “have this inner disposition.” Once again, the present tense indicates continuous action. Lightfoot paraphrases Paul’s thought: “You must not only seek heaven, you must also think heaven” (St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon [1879; reprint, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1959], p. 209; italics in the original). The believer’s whole disposition should orient itself toward heaven, where Christ is, just as a compass needle orients itself toward the north.

Obviously, the thoughts of heaven that are to fill the believer’s mind must derive from Scripture. The Bible is the only reliable source of knowledge about the character of God and the values of heaven. Paul describes that preoccupation as being “transformed by the renewing of [your] mind” (Rom. 12:2). In it we learn the true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent, and praiseworthy things our minds are to dwell on (cf. Phil. 4:8).

Such heavenly values dominating the mind produce godly behavior. Sin will be conquered and humility, a sacrificial spirit, and assurance will result.

The Resource

where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (3:1c)

The believer’s resource is none other than the One in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge: the risen and glorified Christ, seated at the right hand of God in the place of honor and majesty. The Bible speaks often of Christ’s exalted position. Psalm 110:1 says, “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet.’ ” Jesus told the accusers at His trial that “from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God” (Luke 22:69). In his sermon on the day of Pentecost, Peter told the crowd that Jesus had been “exalted to the right hand of God” (Acts 2:33). Peter and the other apostles described Jesus to the Sanhedrin as “the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior” (Acts 5:31). As he was being martyred, Stephen cried out, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56). Paul describes Jesus as He “who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Rom. 8:34), because God “raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:20). The writer of Hebrews says of Christ, “When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3). Because of that, “we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Heb. 8:1). He is the One “who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him” (1 Pet. 3:22).

Because of Christ’s coronation and exaltation to the Father’s right hand, He is the fountain of blessing for His people. Jesus told the disciples, “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:13–14; cf. 15:16; 16:23–24, 26). Believers can be assured that what they seek is there, “for as many as may be the promises of God, in Him they are yes” (2 Cor. 1:20).[4]


1 Having reminded the Colossians that they have died with Christ (2:20; cf. 2:12), Paul now reiterates that they have been “raised with Christ” (cf. 2:12). Unlike Christ, they have not been raised bodily. Nevertheless, Paul insists that they have been raised (synēgerthēte, GK 5283, is a liquid aorist passive compound verb [second person plural]) spiritually with Christ by God. Their baptisms served as vivid, tangible reminders of this vital theological principle. If they truly have been raised with Christ via conversion as imaged in baptism, then they should seek “the things above.” They should not devote their attention to the earthly things that characterized the “philosophy”; conversely, they should quest after (“set [their] hearts on”) heavenly things. (“The things above” is synonymous with heaven [so, rightly, Lincoln, 637].)

Why does Paul counsel the Colossians to keep seeking the things above? Is this not dangerous advice with which the promoters of the “philosophy” would agree? Paul does not employ such spatial imagery to affirm the “philosophy” or to encourage visionary activity among the assembly; rather, he commands the Colossians to pursue the things of heaven precisely because this is where Christ is. He is not one among a panoply of heavenly dignitaries; Christ occupies a place of primacy and sovereignty. The resurrected Christ is the ascended Christ who is “seated at the right hand of God.” This depiction of Christ’s session is drawn from Psalm 110:1 (cf. Ro 8:34; Eph 1:20). (To take this metaphoric description literally is a misconstrual of the text.) In enjoining the church to seek the things above and thereby Christ, Paul is encouraging them “to give Christ [who reigns as Lord] an allegiance that takes precedence over all earthly loyalties. His ends are to be their ends; and it follows that the means by which those ends are attained must be his means” (Caird, 202).[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 163). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2007). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Colossians and Philemon (Vol. 6, pp. 139–141). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1992). Colossians (pp. 125–128). Chicago: Moody Press.

[5] Still, T. D. (2006). Colossians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, p. 322). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

May 25, 2017 Truth2Freedom Briefing Report (US•World•Christian)

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May 25, 2017 |

BLOOMBERG

U.S. President Donald Trump’s demands to step up the fight against terrorism are set to resonate with his NATO partners when he visits the alliance headquarters for the first time on Thursday.

Former President Obama praised Angela Merkel’s leadership and encouraged her to stand up for a liberal world order, hours before the German chancellor was meeting his successor Donald Trump at a NATO summit.

Changes Republicans made to their health bill to help pass it through the House would undermine insurance markets and result in millions more people without insurance, the Congressional Budget Office said, an assessment that will likely complicate the GOP’s effort to repeal Obamacare.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reaffirmed Canada’s commitment to sharing intelligence with the U.S., even after some U.K. officials began withholding security details from Washington over leak concerns.

Lawmakers in the U.S. House took the first step to back President Donald Trump’s initiative to expand the number of federal agents responsible for rounding up and deporting undocumented immigrants. The House Judiciary Committee, on a party-line vote Wednesday, approved a bill to allow U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hire as many as 10,000 deportation officers. The measure, H.R. 2406, also would provide 2,500 new detention guards and 60 new prosecutors.

Prime Minister Theresa May will leave the Group of Seven gathering in Sicily a day early to return to the U.K. as the country races to prevent further terrorist attacks from the network behind the Manchester suicide bombing.

OPEC extended oil production cuts for nine more months after last year’s landmark agreement failed to eliminate the global oversupply or achieve a sustained price recovery.

U.S. jobless-benefit claims are hovering near levels that continue to reflect a strong labor market, with figures little changed last week, Labor Department data showed Thursday. Initial benefit filings increased 1k to 234k (forecast was 238k).

AP Top Stories

A week after U.S. President Donald Trump said he was close to picking a new FBI director to replace the one he fired, the White House has decided to renew its search.

Authorities in the U.K. have announced the arrest of three more people in connection with Monday night’s concert bombing that left 22 dead and dozens more injured.

In a move meant primarily to appease President Donald Trump, NATO leaders said on Thursday that the alliance was joining the fight against the Islamic State. Every nation among the alliance’s 28 member states already support the effort in Iraq and Syria in some way, and several fly daily bombing missions targeting the terrorist group.

The Syrian army said on Wednesday it had killed Islamic State’s military commander in Syria during operations in the north of the country, where the Russian-backed government forces are seizing more territory back from the jihadist group.

Islamist militants rampaging through a southern Philippine city beheaded a local police chief, President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday.

A gigantic new research submarine designed by Russia will travel underneath ice floes, mapping its underwater surroundings with a pair of huge plane-like wings. The sub will help Moscow exploit its Arctic frontier as it prepares to harvest previously untouchable natural resources.

A field of poppy plants that could be used to make opium was discovered in North Carolina and had an estimated value of $500 million, a sheriff says.

Bahrain police raided a town Tuesday that is home to a prominent Shiite cleric facing possible deportation, arresting 286 people in an assault in which officers fired tear gas and shotguns at protesters. At least five demonstrators were killed and others wounded.

Iraq’s Interior Ministry said it launched an investigation into allegations of human rights violations perpetrated by its forces fighting the Islamic State group in Mosul.

California-based company Rocket Lab said Thursday it had launched a test rocket into space from its New Zealand launch pad, although the rocket didn’t reach orbit as hoped.

BBC

A US warship has sailed close to an artificial island built by China in the South China Sea, the first challenge to Beijing’s claim to the waters since President Donald Trump took office. The USS Dewey passed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef.

Americans who want to influence the new US government should learn Russian, US ex-Secretary of State John Kerry said.

Brazilian President Michel Temer has revoked a decree that deployed troops in the capital, Brasilia, to defend government buildings against protests. The decree was made on Wednesday when the government said police could not contain anti-government demonstrations.

Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro has pressed ahead with plans to create a citizens’ assembly to draw up a new constitution.

A South Korean military court has given an army captain a suspended six-month prison sentence for having sex with another male soldier.

WND

Two men were shot to death in Tampa, Fla., allegedly by their teenage roommate, allegedly because the victims were neo-Nazi sympathizers, as was the gunman until his recent conversion to Islam.

Well over one-third of America’s adult college students believe that campus “safe spaces” are “absolutely necessary” to assist grown adults who are psychologically traumatized by hearing opinions with which they disagree.


The Briefing 05-25-17

The failure of integration and global jihad: Why are so many British youths being radicalized?

What should Christians think of espionage? Wrestling with the moral dimensions of spying

The post The Briefing 05-25-17 appeared first on AlbertMohler.com.


Top News – 5/25/2017

Too Far? L.A. Times Publishes Op-Ed About Putting a ‘Binding Curse’ on President Trump
Diane Wagman is an author who frequently writes op-eds for The Los Angeles Times newspaper. She wrote: I cast a spell on the president. I was not alone. Thousands of witches, believers and people like me all over the world performed “A Spell to Bind Donald Trump….

Polls: Americans Don’t Want Trump to Be Impeached
A majority of American voters say there is no evidence of collusion between members of President Trump’s campaign and Russia and most are doubtful that investigations into the matter will lead to impeachment.

Trump Surges in Polls During First Foreign Trip
Rasmussen reports the president’s approval numbers rising to 48 percent from a recent low of 43, with disapproval at 52 percent, down from 57. The poll canvasses 500 likely voters per night for a three-day rolling average, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percent.

China Accuses US Warship Of “Trespassing” In Disputed Waters, Warns It To “Leave Immediately
The U.S. patrol, the first of its kind since October, marks the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters. One official said it was the first operation near a land feature which was included in a ruling last year against China by an international arbitration court in The Hague. The court invalidated China’s claim to sovereignty over large swathes of the South China Sea

Bad intel from Russia influenced Comey’s Clinton announcement: report
James Comey’s controversial decision to detail the FBI’s findings in the Hillary Clinton email case without Justice Department input was influenced by a dubious Russian document that the FBI now considers to be bad intelligence, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

ashington Dignitaries Gather to Celebrate Jerusalem Day, Call for Embassy Move
More than 100 lawmakers and religious leaders closely involved in U.S. government policy on the Middle East came out to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem on Wednesday, Jerusalem Day. The celebration was hosted by the Israel Allies Foundation (IAF) and took place in the Rayburn House Office Building at the U.S. Capitol.

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback Rumored to be a Pick for U.S. Religious Freedom Ambassador
According to Russell Moore, President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Brownback was “second to none” as far as advocacy for persecuted religious groups was concerned. Brownback, who is currently 60 years of age, is a conservative Catholic. He served over a decade in the U.S. senate prior to becoming the Governor of Kansas. At present, he is two years into his second term as Governor of Kansas.

Taiwan approves same-sex marriage, first such ruling in Asia
Until 2001, China listed homosexuality as a mental disorder, but it is not illegal to be gay. Many large cities have thriving gay scenes, although gay men and women still face a lot of family pressure to get married and have children.

Hamas calls for day of rage in support of hunger strikers
Hamas urged Palestinians in the West Bank to participate in a day of rage on Friday to support hunger strikers in Israeli prisons. “Hamas calls on our people to spark clashes with the Israeli occupation in a day of rage,” Hamas said in a statement on Wednesday night

Report: Netanyahu mulling radical plan for east Jerusalem neighborhoods
A plan to separate some of east Jerusalem’s neighborhoods was presented to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu several months ago in a work meeting between the premier and MK Dr. Anat Berko (Likud). Berko accompanied her plan with a detailed map, aerial photographs and groundwork. The map in question was a map of the municipal areas of Jerusalem. At the center of it was marked a new border…whose purpose was to remove Israel’s municipal responsibility over a long list of Palestinian neighborhoods in east Jerusalem.

Evidence of 2,000-year-old battle for Jerusalem unearthed in City of David
To mark Jerusalem’s jubilee celebration commemorating the Six Day War, the Israel Antiquities Authority on Thursday unveiled rare relics from the 2,000-year-old battle for the capital that took place on the eve of the destruction of the Second Temple. Findings, including well-preserved arrowheads and stone ballista balls, were discovered on the main street that ascended from the city’s gates and the Pool of Siloam to the Temple, which was excavated in recent years.

Report: Iran builds new underground ballistic missile factory
Iran has built a third underground ballistic missile production factory and will keep developing its missile program, the semi-official Fars news agency reported on Thursday, in a development likely to fuel tension with Arab neighbors and Washington. “Iran’s third underground factory has been built by the Guards in recent years … We will continue to further develop our missile capabilities forcefully,” Fars quoted the head of the Republican Guard’s airspace division, Amirali Hajizadeh, as saying.

South China Sea: US warship sails close to disputed Mischief Reef
A US warship has sailed close to an artificial island built by China in the South China Sea, the first challenge to Beijing’s claim to the waters since President Donald Trump took office. According to unnamed sources cited by US media, the USS Dewey passed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef. China said the US vessel had entered its waters “without permission” and its navy had warned it to leave.

Trump in Brussels for ‘tough’ Nato talks amid protests
US President Donald Trump is in Brussels for what his team is describing as “tough” talks with other members of the Nato military alliance. Nato has agreed to Mr Trump’s request to join the US-led coalition against so-called Islamic State. But he may also press members to pay their full financial share.

Boeing is building DARPA’s new hypersonic space plane
A few years ago, DARPA started work on a new experimental aircraft project called the XS-1, a vehicle designed to make launching satellites a faster, less expensive endeavor. Today, that project just took a huge leap forward: DARPA has announced that it’s partnering with Boeing to build its next generation hypersonic space plane.

Brazil’s President Deploys Federal Troops to Quell Protests
Besieged by protests, Brazil’s president on Wednesday deployed federal troops to restore order in the capital, Brasília, after demonstrators calling for his ouster clashed with security forces. Defense Minister Raul Jungmann went on national television on Wednesday afternoon to insist that President Michel Temer was only trying to restore calm in the capital by calling in the troops to patrol some areas.

Jordan holds Israel responsible after Jews ‘dishonored al-Aqsa’
The Jordanian government has strongly condemned the presence of Jews at the al-Aqsa mosque complex on Wednesday after 15 Jews were arrested for bowing on the Temple Mount, where they are not allowed to pray, while others sang the Israeli national anthem. A statement from the Jordanian government slammed Israeli authorities for “allowing Jewish extremists to storm Al Aqsa Mosque/Al Haram Al Sharif,” which they said “violated the sanctity of the mosque and offended the feelings of Muslims around the world.”

Philippines deploys helicopters in battle to retake city from Islamist rebels
Troops backed by attack helicopters battled dozens of militants linked to the Islamic State group holed up in a besieged city in the southern Philippines on Thursday after attempts to secure volatile areas met heavy resistance. The army sent about 100 soldiers, including U.S.-trained special forces, to retake buildings and streets in mainly Muslim Marawi City held by militants of the Maute group, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

The Trump Collapse Scapegoat Narrative Has Now Been Launched
“I have been warning since long before the election that Trump’s presidency would be the perfect vehicle for central banks and international financiers to divert blame for the economic crisis that would inevitably explode once the Fed moved firmly into interest rate hikes. Every indication since my initial prediction shows that this is the case. The media was building the foundation of the narrative from the moment Trump won the election.”

Another Insurer Quits Obamacare Leaving 25 Counties In Missouri With No Healthcare Options
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City has just joined the growing ranks of insurers across the country that have decided they’ve lost just about enough money on Obamacare and their exit will leave 25 counties in Missouri with zero healthcare options in 2018.

‘Black Lives Matter’ Movement to Be Awarded Peace Prize
The Black Lives Matter movement will receive the Sydney Peace Prize, an award given by the Sydney Peace Foundation — part of the University of Sydney — and be honored at an event in the city in November, the foundation announced this week.

Manchester attack: Who was Salman Abedi?
Police have named 22-year-old Salman Ramadan Abedi as the person suspected of carrying out the suicide attack at Manchester Arena on Monday evening.

If a nuclear bomb explodes nearby, here’s why you should never, ever get in a car
No one could fault you for panicking after the sight and roar of a nuclear blast. But there is one thing you should never do, according to Brooke Buddemeier, a health physicist and radiation expert at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Hannity Says Liberal Fascists After Sponsors
Sean Hannity says a media watchdog is guilty of “liberal fascism” for targeting advertisers on his Fox News Channel show, as one company announced Wednesday that it would no longer hawk its wares there.


Handout Nation: Combined Enrollment In America’s 4 Largest Safety Net Programs Hits A Record High Of 236 Million

Margaret Thatcher once said that the problem with socialism “is that eventually you run out of other people’s money”.  As you will see below, the combined enrollment in America’s four largest safety net programs has reached a staggering 236 million.  Of course that doesn’t mean that 236 million people are getting benefits from the government each month because there is overlap between the various programs.  For example, many Americans that are on Medicaid are also on food stamps, and many Americans that are on Medicare are also on Social Security.  But even accounting for that, most experts estimate that the number of Americans that are dependent on the federal government month after month is well over 100 million.  And now that so many people are addicted to government handouts, can we ever return to a culture of independence and self-sufficiency? (Read More…)


How deep and wide does the NAR rabbit hole go?

On Wednesday we posted a piece by Amy Spreeman of Berean Research entitled “Who Are Family Research Council’s Watchmen On the Wall?” where she revealed who these so-called watchmen are and what the Watchman on the Wall gathering is all about.  Amy decided to do some more digging into pro-family groups, starting with the Family Research Council and what she discovered about this organization will come as a surprise to many of you. Thanks to Amy’s digging, those who’ve helped keep FRC in business by supporting them financially will learn where their money has been spent. She writes:

How do you discover which networks of Apostles are working together to reclaim America and build God’s Kingdom here on earth? You click. Just keep clicking, and clicking, and clicking some more, until things click. It takes time to research, and if you’re looking for an easy, bullet-point list of what I’m sharing in this report, you should put this aside for when you have time to investigate.

This morning I reported on the Family Research Council’s Watchman On the Wall meeting in Washington D.C., which continued today and features several NAR speakers who teach a different gospel.

After doing a little more digging on this Watchman organization, I found a disturbingly large network of ecumenical groups working together in what the New Apostolic Reformation calls the “Cultural Sphere of influence” in its 7 Mountain Mandate. (If you can take dominion of these seven spheres, you can activate Jesus’ return, as the modern Apostles teach.)

View article →


Feeding Sheep Or Amusing Goats

We discovered the following essay by Archibald Brown, who was a student and contemporary of Charles Spurgeon, in Apprising Ministries‘ archives. Brown expressed his view of entertainment in the Church and his words still ring true today:

Photo credit: Ken Silva

An evil is in the professed camp of the Lord, so gross in its impudence, that the most short-sighted can hardly fail to notice it. During the past few years it has developed at an abnormal rate, even for evil.

It has worked like leaven until the whole lump ferments. The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the Church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them.

From speaking out as the Puritans did, the Church has gradually toned down her testimony, then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day. Then she tolerated them in her borders. Now she has adopted them under the plea of reaching the masses.

View article →


Survey: On Most Moral Issues Americans Are More Permissive Than Ever

For whatever reason, we are failing to be faithful to Christ and his call to proclaim the gospel when we allow Scripture to be perverted and rejected by those who claim to be our fellow believers. Given the choice, many people would certainly prefer to be able to endorse fornication, polygamy, and suicide, and so on, and still be able to consider themselves “good Christian folk.” But that isn’t an option, and we shouldn’t pretend that the moral requirements of Scripture are optional for Christians.

The Story: According to a new Gallup survey, a record number of Americans now consider behaviors that the Bible condemns to be “morally acceptable.”

The Background: Since the early 2000s, Gallup has tracked Americans’s views on the moral acceptability of various issues and behaviors. The overall trend clearly points toward a higher level of acceptance of a number of behaviors that the Bible clearly condemns. In fact, Gallup notes, the moral acceptability ratings for eight of the 19 issues measured since the early 2000s are at record highs.

The first number in each category list the number who consider the behavior to be “morally acceptable,” while the second number is the percentage that consider it to be “morally wrong.” The third number is the percent change from 2001 to 2017. An asterisk indicates and issue that is at a record high level of acceptance.

  • Sex between an unmarried man and woman* — 69 / 28 (16 percent)
  • Gay or lesbian relations* — 63 / 33 (23 percent)
  • Having a baby outside of marriage* — 62 / 33 (17 percent since 2002)
  • Medical research using stem cells obtained from human embryos — 61 / 33 (9 percent since 2002)
  • Doctor assisted suicide* — 57 / 37 (8 percent)
  • Abortion — 43 / 49 (1 percent)
  • Pornography* — 36 / 61 (6 percent)
  • Sex between teenagers — 36 / 59 (4 percent since 2013)
  • Suicide — 18 / 76 (6 percent)
  • Polygamy* — 17 / 80 (9 percent)
  • Married men and women having an affair — 9 / 88 (2 percent)

As Gallup notes: “Of the 19 issues included in this year’s poll, 13 show meaningful change in a liberal direction over time, regardless of whether they are currently at their high point in Gallup’s trend. No issues show meaningful change toward more traditionally conservative positions compared with when Gallup first measured them.”

Why it Matters: Currently, a majority of Americans now believe that fornication between adults, homosexual behavior, having a child outside of marriage, and doctor-assisted killing to be “morally acceptable.” If the current trends continue, in 10 years (2027) more than one in four Americans will also consider polygamy and suicide to be morally acceptable.

Read More

Mid-Day Snapshot

May 25, 2017

Obama Doubled Your Health Care Premium

HHS report shows that average premiums have doubled since ObamaCare’s full implementation. But Republicans are bad?

The Foundation

“If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions.” —James Madison (1792)

ZeroHedge Frontrunning: May 25

  • World stocks hit record after Fed minutes (Read More)
  • OPEC extends oil output cut by nine months to fight glut (Read More)
  • Father and Brother of Manchester Bomber Arrested in Libya (Read More)
  • In testing Montana vote for Trump, Republican caught up in brawl (Read More)
  • NATO to Take New Counterterrorism Measures (Read More)
  • Trump’s Toxic Budget Is a Cheap Win With the Right People (Read More)
  • Pope ‘terrific’, Saudi ‘spectacular’: Trump waxes lyrical on foreign tour (Read More)
  • Hedge Funds Squeezed by World’s Highest Rents Are Moving Out (Read More)
  • Talent Battle: Hedge Funds vs. Silicon Valley (Read More)
  • China Hitches Yuan to the Dollar, Buying Rare Calm (Read More)
  • China’s Downgrade Could Lead to a Mountain of Debt (Read More)
  • Data Mining to Find Tax Cheaters (Read More)
  • In first under Trump, U.S. warship challenges Beijing’s claims in South China Sea (Read More)
  • Change and Culture Collide in America’s Prison Capital (Read More)
  • Iran says it has built third underground ballistic missile factory (Read More)
  • Indonesian police launch raid as Jakarta attacks linked to Islamic State (Read More)
  • Lack of new launches leaves Ford playing catchup with GM (Read More)
  • Ford to name new heads for Europe, Asia: FT (Read More)
  • Deerfield Partners Snared in Probe of Leaking Consultants (Read More)
  • Beijing Moves to Ease Jitters Over Converted Commercial Housing (Read More)
  • Trump Turns His Back on International Tourists (Read More)
  • Israeli police question U.S. casino mogul Adelson in Netanyahu probe (Read More)
  • Philippines deploys helicopters in battle to retake city from Islamist rebels (Read More)
  • Sears posts first quarterly profit in nearly two years on cost cuts (Read More)
  • Best Buy quarterly comparable sales rise unexpectedly (Read More)
  • Why a Giant New Eataly Won’t Sell Parmesan Cheese or Parma Ham (Read More)

A La Carte (May 25)

Today’s Kindle deals include several titles, as usual. You know how it goes…

Westminster Books is offering a good discount on a number of books, including the KNOW series by The Gospel Coalition.

The Most Marginalized Minority

“Is it possible, despite our allegiance to justice and compassion, that we have left the disabled on the fringes, that we are guilty of being selective in our compassion? Have we neglected to ‘invite . . . the crippled, the lame, the blind’ to the feast of grace (Luke 14:13)?”

The Weight of the Church

“Finding a solid local church is more important than finding a dream job or attending a dream college, for the simply reason that God has determined to shepherd His people to glory through the ministry of the local church.”

How Do I Forgive Someone Who Refuses to Say Sorry? (Video)

This is a great answer to a common question.

These Present Sufferings

Mark Johnston writes about the horror in Manchester. “The grief of those affected has been broadcast widely and it is impossible not to be deeply touched by their anguish – anguish repeatedly expressed in gut-wrenching groans. No matter how much the media and its pundits try to make sense of what has happened, words are inadequate to plumb the depths of pain.” (Also, read this article by a pastor in the Manchester area.)

How the Post Office Made America (Video)

It turns out the humble post office played an outsized role in American history.

Running to the Pantry of Good Works

Legalism is a sneaky foe. Erik says, “I am not a legalist, and you probably aren’t either. However, I still leave the pantry door of good works open. I suspect you do too.”

6 Ways to Avoid Delayed Adulthood

“How can the next generation move toward maturity? How can adolescents grow into young adults? How can college students move through the college years with increasing integrity, character, maturity, skill, and productivity?”

Flashback: Can You Help Me Find a Good Church

How can you find a church in a new area? I recommend beginning with a handful of church directories, each of which lists like-minded churches. Here are the best three I know of.

Sometimes God allows what he hates to accomplish what he loves. —Joni Eareckson Tada


Top Headlines – 5/25/2017

Trump promises peace push after ‘fantastic’ pope talks

US secretary of state: Trump pressured Israel, Palestinians to renew peace talks

Tillerson: Trump ‘Put a Lot of Pressure’ on Netanyahu and Abbas to Compromise

Netanyahu: ‘Israel is not responsible for delaying resolution of the conflict’

Mahmoud Abbas’ office: ‘Netanyahu’s remarks hurt peace efforts’

Trump visit could cost Netanyahu dearly

US said pushing Israel to transfer parts of West Bank to PA administrative rule

The ‘ultimate deal’? Trump’s Middle East peace plan is actually 15 years old

Dating conflict at 50 years old, Trump appears to quietly adopt Arab stance

Jerusalem Day Celebration Underscores Israeli-Palestinian Divide

Education Minister Naftali Bennett: ‘We will not divide the land with our enemies’

Netanyahu: Temple Mount will forever remain under Israel’s control

Trump Says He Prayed for Wisdom From God While Touching Western Wall

Jordan slams Israel for allowing violations against Al-Aqsa Mosque

Hamas to execute top terrorist’s ‘assassins’ on Thursday

How Facebook flouts Holocaust denial laws except where it fears being sued

New database charts 20,000 at-risk archaeological sites in the Middle East

PM says US agreed to boost Israel military aid amid concern over Saudi deal

Israel’s next security concern: A Middle East arms race

Russian defense minister boasts about arms upgrade

Fake Israel story exposes real tensions between Qatar and Gulf

US raid killed five Yemen civilians, says rights group disputing official story

US looking into upping sanctions on Iran, Treasury head says

Syrian army says senior Islamic State militant killed

Battle for Mosul: IS ‘using chemical weapons’

NATO rolls out the red carpet, buffs its image for Trump

European Leaders Hope to Win Trump’s Favor

Trump faces rougher reception in NATO, EU meetings

Trump has done what Obama didn’t: Scare NATO into tracking defense spending

Trump’s Anti-Terrorism Call Resonates at NATO After Manchester Attack

London ‘furious’ at US for Manchester bomb probe leaks

After intel leak, UK freezes out US on Manchester bombing

Manchester bombing probe expands with arrests on two continents

Manchester Arena bomb maker at large and could strike again

With threat ‘very high’, France set to extend state of emergency

Armed Troops Patrol British Landmarks After Manchester Attack

Report: Manchester Bomber Was Child Of Libyan Refugees

Manchester bomber Salman Abedi’s father and brothers arrested in Libya, linked to ISIS, Al Qaeda

Bomber’s father fought against Gaddafi regime with ‘terrorist’ group

Indonesian president urges calm after suspected suicide attacks in Jakarta

Philippines’ Duterte may place entire country under martial law if the threat of Islamic State spreads

Mindanao: Churchgoers ‘taken hostage’ amid Marawi siege

In a First Under Trump, a U.S. Warship Challenges Beijing’s Claims in the South China Sea

N. Korea calls S. Korea’s border firing reckless provocation

North Korea threat: US official warns ‘inevitable’ regime develops ICBM

Why China’s Growing Debt Load Worries the World

Brazil’s president struggles to retain power as political crisis deepens

Brazil’s Temer deploys army as protesters battle police

Get Ready to Unpack for Airport Security – Travelers should expect new procedures at TSA checkpoints

‘Trump trauma’ on the way out? Political anxiety appears to be fading, says psychiatric survey

Poll: Majority says mainstream media publishes fake news

Black Lives Matter awarded 2017 Sydney peace prize

Trump wants to deport MS-13 gang members. El Salvador is dreading their return.

Obama admin knew gang members were part of illegal immigrant surge: Whistleblower

Ex-Trump adviser Page rips Obama-era ‘surveillance,’ wants to testify in public

Sean Hannity loses advertisers amid uproar over slain DNC staffer conspiracy theories

Moscow discussed swaying Trump via advisers, US intel said to find

In Modern Cyber War, the Spies Can Become Targets, Too

Vermont DMV Caught Using Illegal Facial Recognition Program

China shuts some live streaming sites, punishes companies

UCF student hacks system to change failing grade, police say

Raccoon causes thousands to lose power

NJ Emergency Alert System Accidentally Activates, Sends Nuclear Warnings to Some TVs

Area 51: Leaked video purports alien craft being tested at secret military base

Boeing is building DARPA’s new hypersonic space plane

Scientists Find Extra Layer Of Plate Tectonics Causing Mystery Tremors Across The Pacific

The Big One is going to happen, no matter how much you want to deny it, California scientists say

5.8 magnitude earthquake hits near Nikolski, Alaska

5.6 magnitude earthquake hits near Malili, Indonesia

5.5 magnitude earthquake hits near Kirakira, Solomon Islands

5.4 magnitude earthquake hits near Tambakrejo, Indonesia

5.3 magnitude earthquake hits near Vaini, Tonga

5.2 magnitude earthquake hits near Cintalapa de Figueroa, Mexico

5.0 magnitude earthquake hits the Western Indian-Antarctic Ridge

Sheveluch volcano on Kamchatka, Russia erupts to 34,000ft

Sinabung volcano in Indonesia erupts to 19,000ft

Sakurajima volcano on Japan erupts to 13,000ft

Langila volcano in Papau New Guinea erupts to 10,000ft

2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season Forecast Update Calls For An Above-Average Number Of Storms

Deadly Chetek Tornado Was One of Wisconsin’s Longest on Record

Pope Lends Weight to G-7 Push to Bind Trump to Climate Deal

Scientists race against time as Yemen’s deadly cholera outbreak spirals

Zika Virus Was Spreading Quietly a Year Before Anyone Knew, Gene Study Shows

U.S. Senate’s McConnell sees tough path for passing healthcare bill

23 million more uninsured with GOP health bill, analysts say

Another Insurer Quits Obamacare Leaving 25 Counties In Missouri With No Healthcare Options

ObamaCare on federal exchanges increased by average 105% since ’13: report

Drug counselors overdose at addiction facility

Hormone injections help spread the love between strangers, study shows

Patriots to sponsor LGBT ‘Gay Bowl’

Children Must Be Taught Transgenderism, Homosexuality Starting in Nursery School, Teachers Say

New police taskforce to target Indonesian gays

Same-Sex Marriage Is Not A Western Idea, Says Lead Lawyer In Historic Taiwan Ruling

Pregnant at 18. Hailed by Abortion Foes. Punished by Christian School.

Christianity Growing in North Korea Despite Persecution, Defector Says

Who are Family Research Council’s “Watchmen on the Wall”?

What is the Shepherding/Discipleship Movement (SDM)?

An example of NAR Spiritual Fathers, Spirit of Sonship and Orphan Spirit heresy in false prophecy

Update on Warren Smith

Kong Hee, City Harvest leaders permanently barred from managing charities

Man, 70, accuses Miami Gardens pastor of taking his dream home

New York ‘Concerned Clergy for Choice’ Group Gathers in State Capitol in Support of Abortion, Contraception

Judge Finds No Recourse for Mother Whose Son Obtained Hormone Treatments Without Parental Consent

Melania Trump reveals she is Catholic

LA Times Publishes Editorial Encouraging Casting Spells on President Trump

Archaeologists Find Evidence of Jerusalem’s Destruction 2,000 Years Ago

Posted: 25 May 2017 08:01 AM PDT

As Israelis celebrate the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem this week, archaeologists have found evidence of the battle for Jerusalem two millennia ago…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Trump Reveals Contents of His Silent Prayer to God During Historic Visit to the Western Wall

Posted: 25 May 2017 06:22 AM PDT

President Donald Trump made history on Monday when he became the first sitting U.S. president to pray and leave a note at the Western Wall…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Woman marries a train Station claiming she’s spent 36 years in love with it!

Posted: 25 May 2017 06:13 AM PDT

A Californian woman has “married” a train station called Daidra after spending 36 years in love with it.  Carol Santa Fe, 45, from San Diego,…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

The Social Fabric of America Is Eroding

Posted: 25 May 2017 06:06 AM PDT

(By U.S Senator Mike Lee) Our nation, today, faces very real economic challenges. Economic growth during the recovery has been meager and uneven.  The U.S….

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Taiwan War Games Simulating Chinese Island Attack

Posted: 25 May 2017 05:55 AM PDT

Taiwan’s military practiced repelling a simulated Chinese assault on an outlying island group on Thursday as part of annual military drills addressing the threat from…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Iran builds third underground ballistic missile factory…

Posted: 25 May 2017 05:50 AM PDT

Iran has built a third underground ballistic missile production factory and will keep developing its missile program, the semi-official Fars news agency quoted a senior…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

US warship challenges Beijing claims in South Sea…

Posted: 25 May 2017 05:45 AM PDT

China on Thursday accused the US of trespassing after an American warship sailed near a reef claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea, the…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Hawaii Is Preparing a New Nuclear Contingency Plan Because of North Korea

Posted: 24 May 2017 07:34 PM PDT

(Reported By Sarah Emerson) FOIA documents show the Hawaii Department of Defense is about to revamp its emergency plans for a nuclear missile attack.  Growing…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Villains in Upcoming Video Game are Christian Right-Wing Extremists

Posted: 24 May 2017 07:20 PM PDT

Far Cry 5 will tell the story of a militant Christian cult, if a piece of artwork released today by publisher Ubisoft is any indication….

Read more at End Time Headlines.

California Scientists Warns “The Big One is Going to Happen, No Matter How Much You Want to Deny it”

Posted: 24 May 2017 07:13 PM PDT

Fear of earthquakes is part of life in California.  But people experience this anxiety in different ways. For some, the fear prompts them to take…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

RUMORS OF WAR: US attack on North Korea imminent?

Posted: 24 May 2017 07:08 PM PDT

The US is preparing to attack North Korea, according to Geopolitical Futures founder George Friedman — setting the stage for a difficult, messy war with…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Target Boycott Reaches 1.5 Million; Retailer Won’t Back Down on Bathrooms

Posted: 24 May 2017 07:02 PM PDT

Despite slumping sales, falling stock prices, and 1.5 million people signing a pledge not to shop at Target, the retail giant still has no plans…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

New ISIS video shows Las Vegas landmarks

Posted: 24 May 2017 06:57 PM PDT

Following the Manchester bombing, a new video has been released by ISIS that calls for even more attacks and Las Vegas could be a target….

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Crosshairs Now on Hannity as Advertisers Begin Pulling Ads

Posted: 24 May 2017 06:49 PM PDT

A number of companies have pulled ads from Fox News host Sean Hannity’s show Hannity after he pledged to continue investigating circumstances surrounding the death…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

North Korean Nuclear Threat ‘Inevitable’ if left Unchecked

Posted: 24 May 2017 06:45 PM PDT

North Korea will eventually obtain a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the United States if left unchecked, a top US intelligence official said.  “If left…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Vets Outraged After HOA Limits When American Flags Can Be Displayed

Posted: 24 May 2017 06:41 PM PDT

Residents in a Georgia neighborhood are outraged after their homeowners association said they can only display American flags outside their homes 23 days out of the…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

New Madrid Awakening? Quake Swarm Happening In Missouri Following Quake in Ohio

Posted: 24 May 2017 03:39 PM PDT

According to earlier reports, A Magnitude 3.4 earthquake struck about a mile south of McArthur in Vinton County, southeast Ohio. The epicenter was just off…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Blasphemous Comedy Will Make You Sick to Your Stomach

Posted: 24 May 2017 03:19 PM PDT

On Sunday, June 11, at 9:00 p.m. ET/8:00 p.m. CT, TNT network will televise an extremely graphic and blasphemous program like none we have ever…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

DISTRESS OF NATIONS: Troops deployed, ministries evacuated as violent protesters smash govt buildings in Brazil

Posted: 24 May 2017 03:13 PM PDT

Brazilian government ministries have been evacuated amid massive protests in the country’s capital, Brasilia. Demonstrators reportedly attacked and even “plundered” some ministerial buildings. Police responded…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Manchester Arena bomb maker at large and could strike again

Posted: 24 May 2017 03:07 PM PDT

The person who made the bomb that blew up Manchester Arena is still at large and could strike again at any time. Intelligence services now…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

‘The View’ Bashes Trump as Unpresidential for Calling Terrorists ‘Evil Losers’

Posted: 24 May 2017 03:00 PM PDT

Following the horrific terror attack in Manchester, England, President Trump slammed the terrorists behind the bombing, calling them “evil losers.”  On “The View” on Tuesday,…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Which Boat Are You In?

Posted: 24 May 2017 01:36 PM PDT

(By Ricky Scaparo) In this segment, we will show you how two men were both in boats but one was in the will of God…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Why the Date of Trump’s Visit to Israel Is Significant

Posted: 24 May 2017 12:40 PM PDT

(By Steve Strang) Sundown May 23 marks the beginning of “Jerusalem Day,” celebrated all over the world by Jews—the 50th anniversary of the day Jerusalem…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

2 explosions rock Jakarta, Indonesia, in suspected suicide bombing

Posted: 24 May 2017 12:23 PM PDT

A suspected suicide bombing near a bus terminal in Indonesia’s capital Wednesday night killed a policeman and injured four other officers, police said.  Vice National…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Sun Releases CME Towards Earth

Posted: 24 May 2017 12:14 PM PDT

An eruption near the center of Earth-facing side of the Sun produced a partial HALO CME (coronal mass ejection) during the early UTC hours of…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

DEVELOPING: At least three people have been stabbed in Manhattan, NY

Posted: 24 May 2017 12:08 PM PDT

At least three people were stabbed in Midtown Manhattan Wednesday afternoon, police said. The three victims were hospitalized and are likely to survive. The suspected…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Earthquake reported in southeastern Ohio

Posted: 24 May 2017 12:02 PM PDT

An earthquake has been reported in southeast Ohio.  According to the United States Geological Survey website, the quake happened about a mile south of McArthur…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

DEVELOPING: Mysterious Tremors Felt Across the Pacific….

Posted: 24 May 2017 11:52 AM PDT

For decades, a mysterious series of earthquakes has rocked the Pacific, although the source has remained a mystery. Now, researchers believe they may have found…

Read more at End Time Headlines.


What is The Gospel?


Who Do You Think That I Am?

Selected Scriptures

Code: A335

With that brief question Jesus Christ confronted His followers with the most important issue they would ever face. He had spent much time with them and made some bold claims about His identity and authority. Now the time had come for them either to believe or deny His teachings.

Who do you say Jesus is? Your response to Him will determine not only your values and lifestyle, but your eternal destiny as well.

Consider what the Bible says about Him:

JESUS IS GOD

While Jesus was on earth there was much confusion about who He was. Some thought He was a wise man or a great prophet. Others thought He was a madman. Still others couldn’t decide or didn’t care. But Jesus said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). That means He claimed to be nothing less than God in human flesh.

Many people today don’t understand that Jesus claimed to be God. They’re content to think of Him as little more than a great moral teacher. But even His enemies understood His claims to deity. That’s why they tried to stone Him to death (John 5:18; 10:33) and eventually had Him crucified (John 19:7).

C.S. Lewis observed, “You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to” (Mere Christianity [Macmillan, 1952], pp. 40-41).

If the biblical claims of Jesus are true, He is God!

JESUS IS HOLY

God is absolutely and perfectly holy (Isaiah 6:3), therefore He cannot commit or approve of evil (James 1:13).

As God, Jesus embodied every element of God’s character. Colossians 2:9 says, “In Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” He was perfectly holy (Hebrews 4:15). Even His enemies couldn’t prove any accusation against Him (John 8:46)

God requires holiness of us as well. First Peter 1:16 says, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

JESUS IS THE SAVIOR

Our failure to obey God—to be holy—places us in danger of eternal punishment (2 Thessalonians 1:9). The truth is, we cannot obey Him because we have neither the desire nor the ability to do so. We are by nature rebellious toward God (Ephesians 2:1-3). The Bible calls our rebellion “sin.” According to Scripture, everyone is guilty of sin: “There is no man who does not sin” (1 Kings 8:46). “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And we are incapable of changing our sinful condition. Jeremiah 13:23 says, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.”

That doesn’t mean we’re incapable of performing acts of human kindness. We might even be involved in various religious or humanitarian activities. But we’re utterly incapable of understanding, loving, or pleasing God on our own. The Bible says, “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one” (Romans 3:10-12).

God’s holiness and justice demand that all sin be punished by death: “The soul who sins will die” (Ezekiel 18:4). That’s hard for us to understand because we tend to evaluate sin on a relative scale, assuming some sins are less serious than others. However, the Bible teaches that all acts of sin are the result of sinful thinking and evil desires. That’s why simply changing our patterns of behavior can’t solve our sin problem or eliminate its consequences. We need to be changed inwardly so our thinking and desires are holy

Jesus is the only one who can forgive and transform us, thereby delivering us from the power and penalty of sin: “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Even though God’s justice demands death for sin, His love has provided a Savior, who paid the penalty and died for sinners: “Christ … died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Christ’s death satisfied the demands of God’s justice, thereby enabling Him to forgive and save those who place their faith in Him (Romans 3:26). John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” He alone is “our great God and Savior” (Titus 2:13).

JESUS IS THE ONLY ACCEPTABLE OBJECT OF SAVING FAITH

Some people think it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere. But without a valid object your faith is useless

If you take poison—thinking it’s medicine—all the faith in the world won’t restore your life. Similarly, if Jesus is the only source of salvation, and you’re trusting in anyone or anything else for your salvation, your faith is useless.

Many people assume there are many paths to God and that each religion represents an aspect of truth. But Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6). He didn’t claim to be one of many equally legitimate paths to God, or the way to God for His day only. He claimed to be the only way to God—then and forever.

JESUS IS LORD

Contemporary thinking says man is the product of evolution. But the Bible says we were created by a personal God to love, serve, and enjoy endless fellowship with Him

The New Testament reveals it was Jesus Himself who created everything (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16). Therefore He also owns and rules everything (Psalm 103:19). That means He has authority over our lives and we owe Him absolute allegiance, obedience, and worship.

Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.” Confessing Jesus as Lord means humbly submitting to His authority (Philippians 2:10-11). Believing that God has raised Him from the dead involves trusting in the historical fact of His resurrection—the pinnacle of Christian faith and the way the Father affirmed the deity and authority of the Son (Romans 1:4; Acts 17:30-31).

True faith is always accompanied by repentance from sin. Repentance is more than simply being sorry for sin. It is agreeing with God that you are sinful, confessing your sins to Him, and making a conscious choice to turn from sin and pursue holiness (Isaiah 55:7). Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15); and “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8:31).

It isn’t enough to believe certain facts about Christ. Even Satan and his demons believe in the true God (James 2:19), but they don’t love and obey Him. Their faith is not genuine. True saving faith always responds in obedience (Ephesians 2:10).

Jesus is the sovereign Lord. When you obey Him you are acknowledging His lordship and submitting to His authority. That doesn’t mean your obedience will always be perfect, but that is your goal. There is no area of your life that you withhold from Him.

JESUS IS THE JUDGE

All who reject Jesus as their Lord and Savior will one day face Him as their Judge: “God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).

Second Thessalonians 1:7-9 says, “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”

HOW WILL YOU RESPOND?

Who does the Bible say Jesus is? The living God, the Holy One, the Savior, the only valid object of saving faith, the sovereign Lord, and the righteous Judge.

Who do you say Jesus is? That is the inescapable question. He alone can redeem you—free you from the power and penalty of sin. He alone can transform you, restore you to fellowship with God, and give your life eternal purpose. Will you repent and believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/articles/A335
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May 25, 2017: Verse of the day

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4:7, 8 Here John resumes the subject of love for one’s brother. He emphasizes that love is a duty, consistent with the character of God. As has been mentioned previously, John is not thinking of love that is common to all men, but of that love to the children of God which has been implanted in those who have been born again. Love is of God as to its origin, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. It does not say that God loves. That is true, but John is emphasizing that God is love. Love is His nature. There is no love in the true sense but that which finds its source in Him. The words “God is love” are well worth all the languages in earth or heaven. G. S. Barrett calls them:

… the greatest words ever spoken in human speech, the greatest words in the whole Bible.… It is impossible to suggest even in briefest outline all that these words contain, for no human and no created intellect has ever, or will ever, fathom their unfathomable meaning; but we may reverently say that this one sentence concerning God contains the key to all God’s works and way … the mystery of creation, … redemption … and the Being of God Himself.[1]


  1. Dear friends, let us love one another,

for love comes from God.

Everyone who loves has been born of God

and knows God.

  1. Whoever does not love does not know God,

because God is love.

These two verses and the following two are among the treasured passages of the entire epistle. They speak of love that originates in God and describe the believer as a person who loves and knows God. By contrast, the unbeliever does not love because he does not know God.

  1. “Dear friends, let us love one another.” John addresses the readers with the familiar term dear friends (2:7; 3:2, 21; 4:1, 7, 11) which literally means “beloved.” He includes in the sentence an exhortation to love one another. He is not discussing the affection that family members have for each other. Rather, he writes the verb love, which means “divine love.” John indicates that God initiates love, showers it upon his people, and expects that in turn they express this same love to each other.
  2. “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” This, then, is the distinctive mark of the believer. The person who is born of God (2:29; 3:9; 5:1) is a window through which the love of God shines into the world. The believer expresses his love to his fellow man by doing for his neighbor what he himself wishes that others do for him. In short, he shows his love by obeying the Golden Rule (Luke 6:31). His love is genuinely unselfish.

The believer loves his neighbor as himself because, as John writes, the believer knows God. That is, he has fellowship with God the Father and his Son (1:3) and thus reflects the virtue of love.

Incidentally, when John says, “[he] knows God,” he may have intended to refute the Gnostic heretics of his day who prided themselves on having knowledge of God.

  1. “Whoever does not love does not know God.” John compares the believer with the unbeliever and observes that when love is absent, knowledge of God is nonexistent. The person who fails to commune with God in prayer and neglects to read the Bible cannot be the instrument through which God demonstrates his divine love. The unbeliever has not even begun to know God. Without knowledge of God, there is no love. Love and knowledge of God are two sides of the same coin.
  2. “God is love.” Children learn the words at home and in church. Adults treasure these three words, for in them John has stated one of God’s characteristics: love. This means not only that God loves his creation and his people, or that God is full of love. It means that in his very being God is love. And this is the message John conveys in his epistle.

Augustine observes, “If nothing were said in praise of love throughout the pages of this Epistle, if nothing whatever throughout the pages of the Scriptures, and this one thing only were all we were told by the voice of the Spirit of God, For God is love; nothing more ought we require.”[2]


Perfect Love and the Character of God

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (4:7–8)

John addressed his audience as beloved (agapētoi, “[divinely] loved ones”) (cf. 2:7; 3:2, 21; 4:1, 11) whom he urged to love one another. Again, unlike emotional, physical, or friendship love, agapē (love) is the love of self-sacrificing service (Phil. 2:2–5; Col. 3:12–14; cf. Rom. 14:19; 1 Cor. 10:23–24; 13:4–7), the love granted to someone who needs to be loved (Heb. 6:10; 1 Peter 2:17; cf. Rom. 12:15), not necessarily to someone who is attractive or lovable.

The first reason believers are to extend such sacrificial love to one another is that love is from God. Just as God is life (Ps. 36:9) and the source of eternal life (1:1–2; 3:1–2, 9; 5:12; 2 Tim. 1:1; Titus 1:2), and just as He is light (1:5–7; 2:8–11; cf. Isa. 60:19), He is also love (cf. 4:16). Therefore, if believers possess His life and walk in His light (righteousness and truth), they will also both possess and manifest His love, since everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Because they are God’s children, manifesting His nature, they will reflect His love to others.

As alluded to earlier, the love John refers to is the divine, perfect love that God gives only to His own. The verb rendered is born is a perfect passive form of gennaō and could be literally translated “has been begotten.” Everyone God has saved in the past continues to give evidence of that fact in the present. Those who possess the life of God have the capacity and the experience of loving. In contrast, the one who does not love does not know God. Those whose lives are not characterized by love for others are not Christians, no matter what they claim. The Jewish religionists (scribes, Pharisees, and other leaders) of Jesus’ day, as well as the false teachers in the church of John’s day, knew a lot about God, but they did not really know Him (cf. 1 Tim. 6:20; 2 Tim. 3:7). The absence of God’s love in their lives revealed their unregenerate condition as conclusively as did their aberrant theology.

God by nature is love, and therefore He defines love; it does not define Him. People constantly impose on God a human view of love, but He transcends any such human limitations. That God is love explains a number of things in the biblical worldview. First, it explains the reason He created. In eternity past, within the perfect fellowship of the Trinity, God the Father purposed, as a love gift to His Son, to redeem a people who would honor and glorify the Son (cf. John 6:39; 17:9–15). Thus, though God existed in perfect Trinitarian solitude, He created a race of beings out of which He would love and redeem those who would in turn love Him forever.

Second, the truth that God is love explains human choice. He designed sinners to know and love Him by an act of their wills (cf. John 7:17–18), though not apart from the work of His Spirit (cf. John 1:12–13; Eph. 2:5; Titus 3:5). God’s greatest commandment is that people love Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:29–30).

Third, the reality that God is love also explains His providence. He orchestrates all the circumstances of life, in all their wonder, beauty, and even difficulty, to reveal many evidences of His love (Pss. 36:6; 145:9; Rom. 8:28).

Fourth, that He is love explains the divine plan of redemption. If God operated only on the basis of His law, He would convict people of their sin, and justly consign everyone to spend forever in hell (cf. Ps. 130:3). But His love provided a remedy for sin through the atoning work of Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:21; Gal. 4:4–5) on behalf of all who repent of their sin and trust in His mercy (John 3:14–15). In the most well-known statement of His earthly ministry, Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16; cf. 2 Cor. 5:19–20; 1 Tim. 4:10; Titus 3:4–5).

God’s general love for mankind manifests itself in several ways. First, He expresses His love and goodness to all through common grace. The psalmist wrote, “The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works” (Ps. 145:9; cf. Matt. 5:45). As part of this, God reveals His love through His compassion, primarily in that He delays His final judgment against unrepentant sinners (Gen. 15:16; Acts 17:30–31; Rom. 3:25; cf. Gen. 18:20–33). That compassion is further expressed in His myriad of warnings to sinners (Jer. 7:13–15, 23–25; 25:4–6; Ezek. 33:7–8; Zeph. 2:1–3; Luke 3:7–9; 1 Cor. 10:6–11; Rev. 3:1–3). He finds no pleasure in the damnation of anyone (Ezek. 18:23, 32; 2 Peter 3:9). Accompanied with His warnings, God extends His love to every part of the world through His general offer of the gospel (Matt. 11:28; John 7:37; 1 Tim. 2:4; Titus 2:11). As Jesus told the apostles, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15; cf. Matt. 28:19).

That general love, however, is limited to this life. After death, unrepentant sinners will experience God’s final wrath and judgment for all eternity (Dan. 12:2; Matt. 25:41; 2 Thess. 1:9; Rev. 20:12–15). But God has a special, perfect, eternal love that He lavishes on everyone who believes. The apostle John aptly characterized that love Jesus displayed to the apostles when he wrote at the beginning of the upper room narrative: “Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love” (John 13:1b, niv). Paul later celebrated that special love in his letter to the Ephesians:

God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Eph. 2:4–7)

(For a complete discussion of the love of God, see John MacArthur, The God Who Loves [Nashville: Word], 1996, 2001.)[3]


[1] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2320). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of James and the Epistles of John (Vol. 14, pp. 330–331). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[3] MacArthur, J. (2007). 1, 2, 3 John (pp. 165–167). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

May 25 – Living Courageously (Thaddaeus)

The twelve apostles included “Thaddaeus” (Matt. 10:3).

✧✧✧

Victorious Christian living requires great courage.

Thaddaeus was a man of many identities. In the King James translation of Matthew 10:3 he is called “Lebbeus, whose surname was Thaddeus.” He is also called “Judas the son of James” (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13) and “Judas (not Iscariot)” (John 14:22).

Judas, which means “Jehovah leads,” was probably the name given him at birth, with Thaddaeus and Lebbeus added later as nicknames to reflect his character. Apparently Thaddaeus was the nickname given to him by his family. It comes from a Hebrew root word that refers to the female breast. Basically it means a “breast-child.” Perhaps Thaddaeus was the youngest child in the family or was especially dear to his mother. Lebbeus comes from a Hebrew root that means “heart.” Literally it means a “heart-child” and speaks of someone who is courageous. That nickname was likely given him by his friends, who saw him as a man of boldness and courage.

Early church tradition tells us that Thaddaeus was tremendously gifted with the power of God to heal the sick. It is said that a certain Syrian king named Adgar was very ill and sent for Thaddaeus to come and heal him. On his way to the king, Thaddaeus reportedly healed hundreds of people throughout Syria. When he finally reached the king, he healed him and then preached Christ to him. As a result, the king became a Christian. The country, however, was thrown into chaos, and a vengeful nephew of the king had Thaddaeus imprisoned, then beaten to death with a club. If that tradition is true, it confirms that Thaddaeus was a man of great courage.

It takes courage to die for Christ, but it also takes courage to live for Him. That’s why Paul said that God hasn’t “given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7). Each day trust in God’s promises and rely on His Spirit. That’s how you can face each new challenge with courage and confidence.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank God for the courage He has given you in the past, and ask Him to help you face future spiritual battles without retreat or compromise.

For Further Study: Read Daniel 3:1–30. ✧ Why were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego punished by King Nebuchadnezzar? ✧ How did God honor their courage?[1]


Thaddaeus (Judas the Son of James)

The second apostle listed in the third group is Thaddaeus. Based on less reliable Greek manuscripts, the Authorized text reads, “Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus.” From Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13 we learn that he was also called Judas the son of James. It is likely that Judas was his original name and that Thaddaeus and Lebbaeus were descriptive names, somewhat like nicknames, added by his family or friends.

Thaddaeus comes from the Hebrew word shad, which refers to a female breast. The name means “breast child,” and was probably a common colloquialism for the youngest child of a family, the permanent “baby” of the family who was the last to be nursed by his mother.

Although the name Lebbaeus is not found in what are considered the superior Greek manuscripts, and is therefore not in most modern translations, it may well have been one of this apostle’s names. It is based on the Hebrew leb (“heart”) and means “heart child,” which suggests he was known for his generosity, love, and courage.

On the night before His arrest and trial, Jesus said, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him” (John 14:21). At that time Thaddaeus spoke his only words recorded in Scripture: “Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, ‘Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us, and not to the world?’ ” (v. 22).

Judas (Thaddaeus) obviously was thinking only of outward, visible disclosure, and he wondered how Jesus could manifest Himself to those who loved Him without also manifesting Himself to everyone else. Like most Jews of his day, he was looking for Christ to establish an earthly kingdom. How, he wondered, could the Messiah sit on the throne of David and rule the entire earth without manifesting Himself to His subjects? Thaddaeus may also have wondered why Jesus would disclose Himself to a small group of insignificant men and not to the great religious leaders in Jerusalem and the powerful political leaders in Rome.

Jesus did not rebuke Thaddaeus for his misunderstanding, which he sincerely and humbly expressed. In light of common Jewish expectations, the question was appropriate and insightful, and it gave Jesus the opportunity to further explain what He meant. He proceeded to reiterate what He had just said and added the negative side of the truth: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me” (John 14:23–24). Christ was not at that time establishing His earthly kingdom, and the disclosure He was then making was of His divinity and authority as spiritual Lord and Savior. That disclosure can only be recognized by those who trust and love Him, and the genuineness of such trust and love is evidenced by obedience to His Word Manifestation is limited to reception.

A radio or television broadcast can have a great range, reaching virtually the entire globe by use of satellites. But its programs are only “disclosed” to those who have proper receivers. The rest of the world has no awareness of the broadcast, although its electronic waves completely surround them.

Henry David Thoreau once observed that “it takes two people to speak the truth, the one who says it and the one who hears it.” Those who will not listen to the gospel cannot hear it, no matter how clearly and forcefully it may be proclaimed. Jesus Christ was God incarnate, yet “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him” (John 1:10–11). During His three years of ministry, countless thousands of people-mostly God’s chosen people, the Jews-saw and heard Jesus. Yet only a few had more than passing interest in who He really was or in what He said. The god of this world so blinded their minds that when they looked they could not see (2 Cor. 4:4).

Someone has commented that if you tore a beautiful hymn out of a hymnal and threw it down on the sidewalk, you could expect many different reactions from those who saw it. A dog would sniff at it and then go his way. A street cleaner would pick it up and throw it in the trash. A greedy person might pick it up expecting to find a valuable document of some sort. An English teacher might read it and admire its literary quality. But a spiritually-minded believer who picked it up and read it would have his soul blessed. The content would have been the same for all those who came in contact with it, but its meaning and value could only be understood by a person receptive to its godly truth.

Only those whose hearts are purified by love and who walk in obedience to God’s Word can perceive Christ’s truth, beauty, and glory. Thaddaeus was such a person.

Tradition holds that Thaddaeus was specially blessed with the gift of healing and that through him the Lord healed many hundreds of people in Syria. He is said to have healed the king of that country and won him to the Lord. The supposed conversion threw the land into such turmoil that the king’s unbelieving nephew had Thaddaeus bludgeoned to death with a club, which became the symbol for that apostle.[2]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 158). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Mt 10:3). Chicago: Moody Press.

MAY 25 – GOD’S PLAIN, GOOD PEOPLE: ALWAYS A BENEDICTION

For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people were added unto the LORD.

ACTS 11:24

We ought to thank God for the examples in the Bible of so many men who were good—even though they were not considered great!

We are grateful not that they failed to achieve greatness but that by the grace of God they managed to acquire plain goodness.

These men move quietly enough across the pages of the Bible, but where they walk there is pleasant weather and good companionship. Such was Isaac, who was the son of a great father and the father of a great son, but who himself never rose above mediocrity. Such were Boaz the ancestor of King David, Joseph the husband of Mary, and Barnabas the son of consolation.

Every pastor knows this kind—the plain people who have nothing to recommend them but their deep devotion to their Lord and the fruit of the Spirit which they all unconsciously display. These are the first to come forward when there is work to be done and the last to go home when there is prayer to be made.

Their presence is a benediction wherever they go. They have no greatness to draw to them the admiring eyes of carnal men but are content to be good men and full of the Holy Ghost!

When they die they leave behind them a fragrance of Christ that lingers long after the cheap celebrities of the day are forgotten.

We extend this tribute to Christian brothers and sisters in spite of the fact that in our world there is not supposed to be anything dramatic in faithfulness or newsworthy in goodness![1]


  1. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith. And a large crowd was added to the Lord.

We make these observations:

  • News. Good news travels fast! Travelers who arrived in Jerusalem reported to the church the phenomenal influence of the Christian faith and the resultant increase of believers in the city of Antioch. First, the Jerusalem church received the news about the Samaritans who had accepted the gospel. In consequence, its members sent Peter and John to them (8:14). Next, the mother church heard about the Gentiles in Antioch who accepted the gospel. In response, the church commissioned Barnabas as the representative of the apostles. Note, then, that the Jerusalem church remained in charge of developments abroad.

When the news came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, the apostles were perhaps in other regions (compare v. 30). The Jewish Christians had no objections to Gentiles entering the church, primarily because Peter had told them about his experience in Caesarea. Although Caesarea was located in Palestine, in the minds of the Jews the city of Antioch was the capital of a heathen nation. Nevertheless, the church in Jerusalem voiced no dissent. Instead the church leaders looked for a person who could represent them and who would understand the situation in Antioch. They appointed Barnabas.

Finally, the Jerusalem church could not take lightly the increase of the church in Antioch. In time, the Antiochean church became the mission center for the Christian faith and overtook the mother church of Jerusalem. Even though Jerusalem provided leadership and direction, Antioch had vision and ambition. From Antioch, the gospel sounded forth throughout the countries that bordered the Mediterranean Sea. Antioch became the Gentile church that occupied a strategic position between the Jewish center in Jerusalem and the Gentile churches Paul had founded. After the fall of Jerusalem in a.d. 70, Antioch filled the leadership vacuum in the church at large.

  • Action. As a Greek-speaking Jewish Christian and native of Cyprus, Barnabas is the right person to promote the development of the church in Antioch. He comes not to exert authority, but to help the believers grow in faith.

Perhaps traveling along the coastal area, visiting and strengthening churches along the way, Barnabas eventually arrives in Antioch. He is amazed at the grace of God when he observes the harmony that exists between Jew and Gentile in the Antiochean church. With spiritual eyes, he looks at the development of the church and gives God the glory. Barnabas rejoices when he sees the effect of Christ’s gospel among the people and, true to his name—Son of Encouragement (4:36)—he immediately begins to encourage the believers to remain true to the Lord. He realizes that these recent converts may become an easy prey of Satan. Therefore, on a daily basis Barnabas instructs them to be true to Jesus. He urges them to cling to Christ with determination (compare 13:43; 14:22).

  • Result. Luke expresses his admiration for the spiritual characteristics of Barnabas. He calls him “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith.” The description matches that of Stephen (6:5; 7:55) and thus puts Barnabas on the same level as Stephen. The adjective good, applied to Barnabas, denotes the quality of excellence. Luke describes Barnabas as good in the sense that this person is of sterling character, wholesome, capable, and helpful. Filled with the Holy Spirit and faith, Barnabas lives in daily fellowship with God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3). The presence of the Holy Spirit and complete trust in Jesus furnish him with serene stability, genuine love for his fellow man, and unparalleled dedication to the work of the Lord.

As a result, the church at Antioch continues to increase in numbers. Writes Luke, “A large crowd was added to the Lord.” In fact, this is the second time that Luke reports the growth of the Antiochean church (v. 21). The church experiences a development that is unique in the Gentile world and in a sense indicates still greater things to come.[2]


11:24 full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. This does not describe a single experience but a general characteristic of Barnabas’s life. The persecution by Herod (12:1–19) and Herod’s death (12:20–23) would have been inserted at this point in the narrative if Luke had been writing everything in exact chronological order, because Herod died in a.d. 44 (see 12:23), and Paul apparently stayed in Tarsus until a.d. 45, when Barnabas went there and summoned him to Antioch (11:25–26). But Luke here departs from strict chronological order because he is telling the story of the church in Antioch. He continues on this topic until v. 30 and then turns to discuss what happened to Herod at “about that time” (12:1). Cf. notes on Gal. 1:18; 2:1.[3]


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

[2] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles (Vol. 17, pp. 420–421). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2106). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

MAY 25 – BRAGGING ABOUT GOD

That God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion.

1 Peter 4:11

Basic beliefs about the Person and the nature of God have changed so much that there are among us now men and women who find it easy to brag about the benefits they receive from God—without ever a thought or a desire to know the true meaning of worship!

I have immediate reactions to such an extreme misunderstanding of the true nature of a holy and sovereign God, for I believe that the very last thing God desires is to have shallow-minded and worldly Christians bragging about Him.

Beyond that, it does not seem to be very well recognized that God’s highest desire is that every one of His believing children should so love and so adore Him that we are continually in His presence, in spirit and in truth.

Something wonderful and miraculous and life changing takes place within the human soul when Jesus Christ is invited in to take His rightful place. That is what God anticipated when He wrought the plan of salvation. He intended to make worshipers out of rebels; to restore the place of worship which our first parents knew when they were created!

Lord, this morning I want to give You first place in my life all over again. It’s all about You, Lord. You deserve all my worship.[1]


4:11 Even if a man is gifted to preach or teach, he must be sure that the words he speaks are the very words God would have him say on that particular occasion. This is what is meant by the oracles of God. It is not enough for a man simply to preach from the Bible. He should also have the assurance that he is presenting the particular message intended by God for that audience at that time.

Anyone who performs any kind of service should do it with the humble recognition that it is God who empowers him. Then the glory will go to God—to whom it belongs.

A man should not become proud no matter how highly gifted he is in Christian service. The gift did not originate by his own effort, but was given to him from above. In fact, he has nothing which he did not receive. All service should be performed so that God gets the credit.

As Peter points out, this honor is presented to the Father through Jesus Christ as Mediator, and also because of what God has done for us through Him. To this blessed Savior belongs praise and power forever and ever. Amen.[2]


11a. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.

  • Speaking

How are God’s gifts to the believer put to use? Peter singles out an example to which everyone who has witnessed for the Lord can relate. The pastor, teacher, evangelist, instructor, and anyone who has communicated the gospel can testify to the words Jesus spoke to disciples who would even risk arrest: “But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matt. 10:19–20; also see Luke 12:11–12).

The power of the Holy Spirit is at work in anyone who speaks the very words of God to edify others. Any preacher or teacher of God’s Word can testify to this indwelling power of the Spirit that is at work when he speaks. That is, a spokesman for God cannot substitute his own thoughts and opinions for the “very words of God.” He must faithfully deliver the “living words” he has received from God (see Acts 7:38; Rom. 3:2; 1 Thess. 2:4; 1 Tim. 1:11). When he faithfully administers God’s grace in preaching or teaching the Word, he experiences a miracle taking place: God is speaking through him.

11b. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.

  • Serving

Here is the second example. Peter encourages the believer to put his God-given talents to work. The clause if anyone serves denotes the activities of the deacons (see the requisites listed in 1 Tim. 3:8–13). But it includes any Christian who works in the context of the church and who willingly and cheerfully serves the Lord.

The worker is completely dependent, however, on “the strength God provides.” In the Greek, the verb provide points to someone who defrays the expenses of something, for example, the training of a choir. The verb has the meaning to supply lavishly. God, then, abundantly supplies the Christian worker with the necessary strength to accomplish the task.

Because God supplies every need, his name receives the praise in all things. Yet all this is done through Jesus Christ. Paul teaches this doctrine when he concludes his doxology in praise of God with these words:

For from him and through him and to him are all things.

To him be the glory forever! Amen. [Rom. 11:36]

11c. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

  • Praise

This doxology is part of our early Christian heritage. With variations it appears in other New Testament writings (e.g., see Rom. 16:27; Phil. 4:20; 1 Tim. 6:16; Jude 25; Rev. 1:6; 5:13).

Does the phrase to him relate to Christ or to God? This is not difficult to determine, because its immediate antecedent is “Jesus Christ.” In 5:11, however, where Peter with a slight variation repeats these words, the reference is to God. This explanation is of little help, because in another passage (Rev. 1:6) Peter’s doxology is used verbatim but the words apply to Christ. E. G. Selwyn observes, “It is then the only example in [the] N[ew] T[estament] (if we except Rom. 16:27) of glory being ascribed to Christ and through Christ in the same doxology.”

Whether to attribute glory and power to either God or Jesus Christ is not an insurmountable problem. Both interpretations are acceptable. Furthermore, we see that with this wording Peter acknowledges Jesus Christ as God. And last, the phrase “glory and power for ever and ever” are the words every creature in God’s creation sings “to him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb” (Rev. 5:13).

Is Peter’s doxology put at the correct place in this epistle? We would have expected him to conclude his letter with a doxology; instead he places it here. Indeed, some letters in the New Testament end in a doxology (Rom. 16:27; 2 Peter 3:18; Jude 25). On the other hand, writers commonly express their feelings by inserting a doxology in the midst of their document (see, for instance, Rom. 9:5; 11:36). The sum of the matter is that Peter adheres to literary practices that were customary in his day.

Practical Considerations in 4:10–11

Persons who have the gift of speaking are always in great demand. Their schedules for speaking engagements in numerous places are constantly filled. Frequently they are unable to meet every request for their services. Often we look at these people with a tinge of envy.

However, we should never permit envy to control our thinking. As we express our love to God and our fellow man, we should instead communicate to God a desire for greater gifts (1 Cor. 12:31). Because we belong to the body of Christ, every one of us has some kind of gift (vv. 27–30). In faith we should ask God for additional talents. And God who takes delight in granting us gifts dispenses his grace in various forms.

God owns all gifts even while they are in our possession. He does not grant us his gifts for our personal enjoyment; he gives them for the benefit of the body of Christ. Talented possessors—and that includes all of us—must be faithful stewards who, by continually extending the benefit of these gifts to others, function as channels of God’s grace. Moreover, we as talented possessors ought to be humble; we should realize that we possess only some talents, while God has given gifts that we lack to others. All of us in the Christian church, therefore, ought to serve one another so that we can mutually benefit from the variety of riches God has granted his people.[3]


The Intention of Our Duty

so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (4:11b)

As is the goal of everything for believers, the purpose of their fulfilling the obligations of Christian duty in the midst of a hostile world is that God may be glorified. These final clauses of the passage constitute a doxology—an expression of praise and glory to God (cf. Rom. 11:36; 16:27; Eph. 3:20–21; 1 Tim. 1:17; Jude 25), which Christians can correctly utter only through Jesus Christ. In all things refers to all matters of Christian responsibility.

Commentators have long discussed whether to whom refers to God or Jesus Christ. It is best to view the designation as a blessed and inspired ambiguity—the glory and dominion belong to both God in Christ and Christ in God, forever and ever (cf. Pss. 104:31; 113:4; 138:5; Hab. 2:14; Matt. 17:2; John 1:14; 10:30; 2 Cor. 4:6; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3; 2 Peter 1:16–18).

Believers should want to glorify God in all they think, say, and do. The apostle Paul said, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). They will more readily obey Paul’s exhortation if they are motivated by the certainty and nearness of the Second Coming, resulting in personal holiness, mutual love, and spiritual service within the church.

Peter closed this passage with the familiar amen, a term of affirmation that means “so let it be.”

J. C. Ryle’s observations on holy living still apply to all believers living in a world hostile to Christianity:

A holy man will follow after spiritual-mindedness. He will endeavor to set his affections entirely on things above, and to hold things on earth with a very loose hand. He will not neglect the business of the life that now is; but the first place in his mind and thoughts will be given to the life to come. He will aim to live like one whose treasure is in heaven, and to pass through this world like a stranger and pilgrim travelling to his home. (Holiness [reprint; Hertfordshire: Evangelical Press, 1987], 37)[4]


[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2278). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude (Vol. 16, pp. 170–171). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter (pp. 245–246). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

May 25 – The True Source of Bread

Give us this day our daily bread.—Matt. 6:11

Jesus’ reference to “bread” not only signifies food but all of our physical needs. It is amazing that the self-sufficient, infinite God of the universe would care about our physical needs—that we have enough food, clothing, shelter—and then pledge to supply those needs. Thus God is the only source of our daily bread.

When everything is going well in life, we tend to think we are managing it all ourselves. Yet even the hardest-working person owes all he or she earns to the Lord’s gracious provision (see Deut. 8:18; Acts 17:24–28). God provided for humanity even before He created Adam and Eve. They were His final creation, and one of the first things He said to them was, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you” (Gen. 1:29). God has fulfilled this statement abundantly and in unlimited ways ever since.

Yet Paul teaches that in the latter days some will “advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe” (1 Tim. 4:3). But the apostle reminds us “everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected” (v. 4).

This part of the Lord’s Prayer is an affirmation—appropriate for the well-fed and those who have little. By it we can thank God that every good thing comes from His gracious hand (James 1:17).

ASK YOURSELF
What are some of the more mundane, ordinary, forgettable things you not only can ask God for today, but can also transform into a prayer of gratitude? How can you make this refresher course in God’s gracious gifts become a more regular part of your conscious thoughts and prayers?[1]

6:11 Give us this day our daily bread. After putting God’s interests first, we are permitted to present our own needs. This petition acknowledges our dependence on God for daily food, both spiritual and physical.[2]


The Fourth Petition

  1. Give us this day our daily bread. What did Jesus mean by “daily”? In Greek literature the word which it translates is very rare; in fact, so rare that it used to be thought that it was coined by the evangelists. In Scripture it occurs only in the Lord’s Prayer (here and in Luke 11:3). Although it has now become clear that the word did not originate with the Gospel writers, there is no unanimity in explaining it. All kinds of guesses have been ventured, among them being “continuous,” “supersubstantial,” “ready at hand,” “for future use,” “for sustenance,” etc. The explanation “sufficient for the next day” has been strongly defended. As I see it, a good argument can be made in favor of: a. “Give us this day our bread for (or: belonging to) the current day (the day in being),” and of b. “Give us this day our needful bread,” that is, “our bread necessary for existence.” The two ideas (a. and b.) combine easily. In any case we must make sure that our interpretation does not run counter to the teaching of Jesus in this very chapter (verses 31–34), the warning against worry about food. See especially verse 34. Personally I see no reason, therefore, to depart from the translation to which many people have become accustomed, namely, “daily.” The meaning then would be, “Give us today the portion that is needed for any one day.”

What has been said so far indicates that by means of this petition Jesus teaches his disciples to be moderate in their desires and requests. This is brought out even more strikingly in the original, where the words “our daily bread” occur at the very head of the petition; hence, “Our daily bread give us this day.” Christ’s disciples must ask for bread, not for luxuries. “Neither poverty nor riches give thou me. Feed me with the bread that is appointed to me, lest, being full, I deny thee and say, ‘Who is Jehovah?’ Or, lest, being poor, I steal and profane the name of my God” (Prov. 30:8, 9, taken from the prayer of Agur). It is clear, of course, that the term “bread” should not be taken too literally. Whatever is necessary to sustain physical life is meant.

Not only a. moderation is here taught, also b. trust in the heavenly Father, who loves and cares, the childlike confidence expressed so beautifully in Ps. 37:25. Yet, it is not “making provision for the future” (Gen. 41:33–36; Prov. 6:6–8) that is here condemned, but “anxiety about the future,” as if there were no heavenly Father. And well may the conviction of c. total dependence fill the heart, for all men, including even the richest, in order to have, consume, and enjoy food, are dependent upon the condition of soil, water, weather, and health of body. Moreover, in order to eat, men of slender and those of average means need to work, that they may earn their bread. Therefore, all men are dependent upon the general state of the economy, together with all its contributing factors, ecological, social, political, etc., which in the final analysis means that all are dependent upon the sovereign God, who is in control of the universe. Then, too, d. humility is required; hence, “Give us.…” Although the supplicant is making a living in the sweat of his brow and besides has even paid for his groceries, he must still accept what is on the table as a gift from God, a product of grace; for, not only is God the ultimate source of every blessing (James 1:17) but also, by reason of sin man has forfeited all! e. Willingness to work is also presupposed. Else how would one dare to pray for daily sustenance (cf. 2 Thess. 3:10)? To all this add one more quality, namely, f. generosity; hence, not “Give me,” but “Give us … our daily bread.” The needs of believers all over the world are included, for together they constitute one family (Eph. 3:14). And, in the spirit of Gal. 6:10, are not the supplicant’s horizons extended even beyond “the camp of the saints, the beloved city”?

Man has been endowed by the Creator with body and soul (Gen. 2:7). So, from a petition for the fulfilment of the needs of the body the prayer now advances to a request for the satisfaction of the soul’s requirements, that what is spiritual may be both first (see the first three petitions) and last (see the last two, or the last two plus the doxology).[3]


God’s Provision

Give us this day our daily bread. (6:11)

Although it may have been a genuine concern in New Testament times, to many Christians in the western world today, such a request may seem needless and inappropriate. Why should we ask God for what we already have in such abundance? Why, when many of us need to consume less food than we do, ask God to supply our daily bread? What would be a completely understandable request of a Christian in Ethiopia or Cambodia, seems irrelevant on the lips of a well-fed American.

But this part of the Disciples’ Prayer, like every other part, extends beyond the first century to all believers, in every age and in every situation. In this pattern for prayer our Lord gives all the necessary ingredients for praying. We can see five key elements in this request for God’s provision: the substance, the source, the supplication, the seekers, and the schedule.

The Substance

Bread not only represents food but is symbolic of all of our physical needs. John Stott has observed that to Martin Luther, “everything necessary for the preservation of this life is bread, including food, a healthy body, good weather, house, home, wife, children, good government, and peace” (Christian Counter-Culture: The Message of the Sermon on the Mount [Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1978], p. 149).

It is marvelous to understand that the God who created the entire universe, who is the God of all space and time and eternity, who is infinitely holy and completely self-sufficient, should care about supplying our physical needs-and should be concerned that we receive enough food to eat, clothes to wear, and a place to rest. God obligates Himself to supply our needs.

This part of the prayer is in the form of a petition, but it is also an affirmation-which is why it is as appropriate for those who are well-fed as for those who have little to eat. Above all it is an affirmation that every good thing we have comes from the gracious hand of God (James 1:17).

The Source

That leads us to the source, who is God. The Father is the one addressed throughout the prayer, the One who is praised and petitioned.

When all our needs are met and all is going well in our lives, we are inclined to think we are carrying our own load. We earn our own money, buy our own food and clothes, pay for our own houses. Yet even the hardest-working person owes all that he earns to God’s provision (see Deut. 8:18). Our life, breath, health, possessions, talents, and opportunities all originate from resources that God has created and made available to man (see Acts 17:24–28). After scientists have made all their observations and calculations, there remains the unexplained element of the design, origin, and operation of the universe. It is unexplained, that is, apart from God, who holds it all together (Heb. 1:2–3).

God provided for man even before He created man. Man was God’s final creation, and after He made and blessed Adam and Eve He said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you” (Gen. 1:29). Since that time God has continued to provide an abundance of food for mankind, in almost unlimited variety.

Yet Paul tells us that “the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, … and advocate abstaining from foods, which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:1, 3–5). The Word of God sanctifies it by way of creation, and we sanctify it when we receive it with grateful prayer.

Every physical thing we have comes from God’s provision through the earth. It is therefore the sin of indifference and ingratitude not to daily recognize His gifts in thankful prayer.

Supplication

Supplication is expressed in the word give. That is the heart of the petition, because it recognizes need. Even though God may already have provided it, we ask Him for it in recognition of His past and present provision as well as in trust for His future provision.

The only thing that could make Jesus’ instruction and our petitions valid is the promise of God. We could not expect God to give what He has not promised. We can pray confidently because God has promised abundantly. “Trust in the Lord, and do good,” David counsels us; “dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart. … Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more; … But the humble will inherit the land, and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity” (Ps. 37:3–4, 10–11).

God does not bind Himself to meet the physical needs of everyone, but only of those who trust in Him. In Psalm 37 David is speaking to believers who “trust in the Lord” (v. 3), “delight … in the Lord” (v. 4), “commit [their] way to the Lord” (v. 5), “rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him” (v. 7), “cease from anger,” and “do not fret” (v. 8). He says, “I have been young, and now I am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, or his descendants begging bread” (v. 25).

The Seekers

The us of Jesus’ model prayer are those who belong to Him. Speaking to believers, Paul wrote, “Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God” (2 Cor. 9:10–11).

Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life” (Luke 18:29–30). God irrevocably commits Himself to meet the essential needs of His own.

The greatest cause of famine and its attendant diseases in the world is not poor agricultural practices or poor economic and political policies. Nor is the root problem lack of scientific and technological resources or even overpopulation. Those problems only aggravate the basic problem, which is spiritual. Only some fifteen percent of the arable land in the world is used for agriculture, and that for only half of the year. There is no major area of the world that with proper technology is not capable of supporting its own population and more.

Those parts of the world that have no Christian roots invariably place a low value on human life. The poverty in India, for example, may be laid at the feet of Hinduism, the pagan religion that spawned a host of other religions. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica and Eerdman’s Handbook to the World’s Religions, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism come from Hinduism. Shintoism, Zoroastrianism, Confucianism, and Taoism do not.

To the Hindu, man is but the incarnation of a soul on its way to moksha, a kind of “final emancipation,” during which trip he goes through countless, perhaps unending, cycles of reincarnation in both animal and human form. He works his way up to higher forms by good deeds and regresses to lower forms by sinning. Poverty, disease, and starvation are therefore seen as divine punishments for which the persons involved must do penance in order to be born into a higher form. To help a person in poverty or sickness is to interfere with his karma and therefore do him spiritual harm. (For a discussion of moksha, or mokṣa, see Encyclopedia Britannica, Micropaedia, VI, p. 972; for a more general discussion, see Encyclopaedia Britannica, Macropaedia, vol. 8, pp. 888–908. Consult, also, Eerdman’s Handbook to World Religions [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982].)

All animals are considered to be incarnations either of men or deities. Cows are held to be especially sacred because they are incarnated deities-of which Hinduism has some 330 million. Cows not only are not to be eaten but add to the food problem by consuming 20 percent of India’s total food supply. Even rats and mice, which eat 15 percent of the food supply, are not killed because they might be one’s reincarnated relatives.

Just as paganism is the great plague of India, Africa, and many other parts of the world, Christianity has been the blessing of the West. Europe and the United States, though never fully Christian in any biblical sense, have been immeasurably blessed because of the Christian influence on political, social, and economic philosophy and policy. The great concerns for human rights, care for the poor, orphanages, hospitals, prison reform, racial and slave reform, and a host of other concerns did not come from paganism or humanism but from biblical Christianity. On the other hand, the current degraded view of human life reflected in the low view of the family and growing legal and social approval of abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia are the legacy of humanism and practical atheism.

Without a proper view of God there cannot be a proper view of man. Those who have a right view of God and also a right relationship to Him through Jesus Christ are promised the provision of their heavenly Father. “For this reason,” Jesus says, “I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing? … For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:25, 32–33).

God has sometimes provided for His children through miraculous means, but His primary way of provision is through work, for which He has given life, energy, resources, and opportunity. His primary way to care for those who cannot work is through the generosity of those who are able to work. Whether he does so directly or indirectly, God is always the source of our physical well-being. He makes the earth to produce what we need, and He gives us the ability to procure it.

The Schedule

The schedule of God’s provision for His children is daily. The meaning here is simply that of regular, day-by-day supply of our needs. We are to rely on the Lord one day at a time. He may give us vision for work He calls us to do in the future, but His provision for our needs is daily, not weekly, monthly, or yearly. To accept the Lord’s provision for the present day, without concern for our needs or welfare tomorrow, is a testimony of our contentment in His goodness and faithfulness.[4]


11 The last petitions explicitly request things for ourselves. The first is “bread,” a term used to cover all food (cf. Pr 30:8; Mk 3:20; Ac 6:1; 2 Th 3:12; Jas 2:15). Many early fathers thought it inappropriate to talk about physical food here and interpreted “bread” as a reference to the Lord’s Supper or to the Word of God. This depended in part on Jerome’s Latin rendering of epiousios (NIV, “daily,” GK 2157) as superstantialem: Give us today our “supersubstantial” bread—a rendering that may have depended in part on the influence of Marius Victorinus (cf. F. F. Bruce, “The Gospel Text of Marius Victorinus,” in Text and Interpretation [ed. Best and Wilson], 70). There is no linguistic justification for this translation. The bread is real food, and it may further suggest all that we need in the physical realm (Luther).

That does not mean that epiousios is easy to translate. The term appears only here and in Luke’s prayer (Lk 11:3); and the two possible extrabiblical references, which could support “daily,” have had grave doubt cast on them by Bruce M. Metzger (“How Many Times Does ἐπιούσιος Occur Outside the Lord’s Prayer?” ExpTim 69 [1957–58]: 52–54). P. Grelot (“La quatrième demande du ‘Pater’ et son arrièreplan sémitique,” NTS 25 [1978–79]: 299–314) has attempted to support the same translation (“daily”) by reconstructing an Aramaic original, but his article deals inadequately with the Greek text, and other Aramaic reconstructions are possible (e.g., Black, Aramaic Approach, 203–7).

The prayer is for our needs, not our greeds. It is for one day at a time (“today”), reflecting the precarious lifestyle of many first-century workers who were paid one day at a time and for whom a few days’ illness could spell tragedy. Many have suggested a derivation from epi tēn ousan [namely, hēmeran] (“for today”) or hē epiousa hēmera (“for the coming day”), referring in the morning to the same day and at night to the next (for hēmera[n], see GK 2465). This meaning is almost certainly right, but it is better supported by deriving the word from the feminine participle epiousa, already well established with the sense of “immediately following” by the time the NT was written. Whatever the etymological problems, this makes sense of Luke 11:3, where “each day” is part of the text: “Give us each day our bread for the coming day.” Equally it makes sense in Matthew, where “today” displaces “each day”: “Give us today our bread for the coming day.” This may sound redundant to Western readers, but it is a precious and urgent petition to those who live from hand to mouth.

Some derive epiousios (“daily”) from the verb epienai, referring not to the future, still less to the food of the messianic banquet (contra Jeremias, Prayers of Jesus, 100–102), but to the bread that belongs to it, i.e., that is necessary and sufficient for it (cf. R. Ten Kate, “Geef ons heden ons ‘dagelijks’ brood,” Nederlands Theologisch Tijdschrift 32 [1978]: 125–39; with similar conclusions but by a different route, H. Bourgoin, “ʼΕπιούσιος expliqué par la notion de préfixe vide,” Bib 60 [1979]: 91–96; and for literature, BDAG, 376–77; Gundry, Use of the Old Testament, 74–75). This has the considerable merit of meshing well with both “today” and “each day” (Matthew and Luke respectively), and in Matthew’s case it may be loosely rendered “Give us today the food we need.” But the derivation is linguistically artificial (cf. Colin Hemer, “ʼΕπιούσιος, JSNT 22 [1984]: 81–94).

The idea of God “giving” the food in no way diminishes responsibility to work (see comments at vv. 25–34) but presupposes not only that Jesus’ disciples live one day at a time (cf. v. 34) but that all good things, even our ability to work and earn our food, come from God’s hand (cf. Dt 8:18; 1 Co 4:7; Jas 1:17). It is a lesson easily forgotten when wealth multiplies and absolute self-sufficiency is portrayed as a virtue.[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 154). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1224). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Vol. 9, pp. 332–334). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 387–391). Chicago: Moody Press.

[5] 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. 205–206). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.