March 25-26, 2017 Truth2Freedom Briefing Report (US•World•Christian)

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Top Weekly Stories from ChristianNews.net for 03/25/2017

‘Beauty and the Beast’ Director: I Wish I Was Like ‘Lord of the Rings’ Star Who Rips Leviticus 18:22 Out of Hotel Bibles   Mar 18, 2017 03:11 pm

The openly homosexual director of Disney’s live action remake of “Beauty and the Beast” once stated during an interview that he wished he could say he was like “Lord of the Rings” star Ian McKellen, who has admitted to ripping Leviticus 18:22 out of hotel Bibles because of its prohibition of homosexual sex acts. “What is first thing you do when you get into a…

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Preacher, HeartCry Missionary Founder Paul Washer Suffers Heart Attack   Mar 21, 2017 05:06 pm

RADFORD, Va. — Respected preacher and HeartCry Missionary Founder Paul Washer suffered a heart attack Monday night and is in stable condition, according to information released by his missionary society. “Paul Washer suffered a heart attack last night. He is in stable condition,” his social media pages simply read Tuesday morning. By the afternoon, an update…

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‘I Kissed a Girl’ Katy Perry Mocks Her Christian Upbringing While Receiving Homosexual Advocacy Award   Mar 20, 2017 12:00 pm

LOS ANGELES — Pop star Katheryn Hudson, who goes by the stage name Katy Perry, mocked her Christian upbringing on Saturday as she received an award from a prominent homosexal advocacy organization. Hudson, the daughter of evangelical minister Keith Hudson and former CCM artist, pointed to her 2008 hit song “I Kissed a Girl” as she told those gathered at the…

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U.S. Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch: ‘A Fetus Is Not a Person’ Under the Law   Mar 23, 2017 11:40 am

WASHINGTON — During his second day of questioning for his Senate confirmation hearing, Trump U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch said that he accepts Roe v. Wade as the “law of the land” and its opinion that a “fetus is not a person.” On Wednesday, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., asked Gorsuch about a sentence in his book “The Future of Assisted Suicide and…

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U.S. Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch: Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ Decision ‘Absolutely Settled Law’   Mar 21, 2017 07:47 pm

WASHINGTON (Daily Magazine) — Judge Neil Gorsuch referred to the Supreme Court’s recent same-sex “marriage” decision as “settled law” on Tuesday, using a stronger phrase than he has for other legal precedents. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., asked Gorsuch to explain how his views on “marriage equality” have changed since 2004, when the George W. Bush administration was…

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Male Student Sues School District After Girl Allowed to Undress in Boys’ Locker Room   Mar 22, 2017 02:58 pm

READING, Penn. — A male student at a Pennsylvania high school and his parents have filed suit against their school district after a female student was allowed to undress in the boys’ locker room because she identifies as a boy. The student, whose name has not been disclosed, attends Boyertown High School, approximately a half an hour outside of…

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Virginia Man Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Helping Ex-Lesbian Flee Country With Daughter   Mar 23, 2017 09:47 am

BUFFALO, N.Y. — A Virginia man who was found guilty last September of international parental kidnapping and conspiracy for helping an ex-lesbian flee the country with her daughter has been sentenced to three years in prison. “In truth, I was not at all motivated by Lisa Miller’s and Janet Jenkins’ lifestyle,” Philip Zodhiates told the court on Wednesday,…

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California Pastor Hospitalized With Broken Hip After Being Attacked by Former Member   Mar 24, 2017 09:46 am

SAN FERNANDO, Calif. — A pastor in California has been hospitalized with a broken hip and a laceration to his head after being attacked Wednesday night by a former member. According to reports, Rudy Trujillo, the pastor of Faith Center in San Fernando, was exiting his vehicle Wednesday when a man who had left the church several years ago came up from behind him,…

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U.S. Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch: Roe v. Wade Is ‘Precedent’ and Has Been ‘Repeatedly Reaffirmed’   Mar 21, 2017 01:46 pm

WASHINGTON — During his first day of questioning for his Senate confirmation hearing, Trump U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch stated firmly that he believes Roe v. Wade is precedent and has been repeatedly reaffirmed, and that “a good judge” should treat it accordingly. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley asked Gorsuch about the matter…

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American Missionary to Nicaragua Sentenced to Probation for Helping Ex-Lesbian Who Fled Country With Daughter   Mar 23, 2017 07:03 pm

BUFFALO, N.Y. — An American missionary to Nicaragua has been sentenced to time served plus one year of probation for helping an ex-lesbian flee the U.S. with her child seven years ago. Timothy Miller, also known as Timo, had entered a guilty plea in November on a charge of charge of conspiracy in international parental kidnapping for purchasing plane…

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Romancing the World: The Compromised Church

A growing number of evangelical pastors and leaders in our day are diluting the message of the gospel. Preaching the gospel and witnessing has morphed into pep talks on relationship building and developing friendships. Many churches are concerned with what the surrounding community thinks about them and many Christians are equally concerned with what people think about them rather than what God thinks.

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Weekend Snapshot

Mar. 25, 2017
Top Stories This Week
Top Opinion
Star Parker: A Nation of Law, Not Politics, With Gorsuch
Ben Shapiro: Why Does It Feel Like Everything’s a Scandal?
Erick Erickson: A Galaxy Note 7 for the President, Please
Dennis Prager: The Most Dangerous Addiction of Them All: Entitlements
More Opinion →
Quote of the Week

“It would be a mistake to suggest that originalism turns on the secret intentions of the drafters of the language of the law. The point of originalism [or] textualism … is to strive to understand what the words on the page mean. Not import words that come from us, but apply what you, the people’s representative, the lawmakers, have done.” —Neil Gorsuch


Top News – 3/25/2017

Report: US, Russia agree to help Israel ‘expel’ Iran from Syria
The United States, Russia and Israel have reportedly reached a consensus on the need to restrict and eventually expel pro-Iranian forces from gaining influence in Syria, the Kuwati daily newspaper Al-Rai reported Saturday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to the Arab outlet, has reached an understanding with Washington and Moscow that pro-Iranian forces, including Lebanese terror organization Hezbollah, constitute an “existential threat” to the Jewish state.

After London terror attack, UK blasts UNHRC anti-Israel bias
The United Kingdom blasted the United Nations Human Rights Council for its biased treatment of Israel and for failing to condemn Palestinian terrorism in a strongly worded speech it delivered in Geneva on Friday. “Today we are putting the Human Rights Council on notice,” UK Ambassador Julian Braithwaite told the UNHRC…“If things do not change, in the future we will adopt a policy of voting against all resolutions concerning Israel’s conduct in the Occupied Syrian and Palestinian Territories,” Braithwaite said.

EU summit: Leaders meet for Rome anniversary
Leaders of 27 European Union countries, not including the UK, are meeting in the Italian capital to celebrate 60 years since the Treaty of Rome was signed. The countries will sign a new declaration to honour the 1957 treaty, which paved the way for the bloc’s foundation. British Prime Minister Theresa May is not attending the celebrations. She plans to launch the Brexit process on Wednesday.

Venezuela asks the UN to help boost supply of medicines
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has asked for help from the United Nations to boost supplies of medicine. Mr Maduro said the UN had the expertise to normalise the supply and distribution of drugs in the country. Venezuela’s Medical Federation said recently that hospitals had less than 5% of the medicines they needed.

After health care bill’s withdrawal, elation and anger
Some Americans breathed a sigh of relief, others bubbled with frustration, and nearly all resigned themselves to the prospect that the latest chapter in the never-ending national debate over health care would not be the last. The withdrawal of the Republican-sponsored health bill in the face of likely defeat Friday in the U.S. House seemed to ensure that the deep divisions over the Affordable Care Act and its possible replacement will continue to simmer.

Hamas commander assassinated in Gaza
Unknown assailants gunned down Hamas operative Mazan Fukha Friday night outside his home in Tel al-Hawa, in the Gaza Strip. According to Hamas’ military wing, Fukha, who was released in a prisoner exchange deal for captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, was shot in the head four times with a silenced weapon by unknown attackers who fled the scene. Fukha, who was deported to Gaza as part of the Shalit deal, was responsible for planning terror attacks in the West Bank.

Korea appears all set for nuke test: officials
North Korea seems to have finished preparing for another nuclear test, waiting for leader Kim Jong-un’s final decision, South Korean defense officials warned Friday. “It’s assessed that North Korea is capable of conducting a nuclear test within hours after Kim Jong-un’s order,” an official said on the condition of anonymity. “We are keeping close tabs on its nuclear-related facilities with combined assets with the U.S.”

Naked people slaughter a sheep at Auschwitz death camp
Eleven men and women in their twenties on Friday slaughtered a sheep and took their clothes off at the former Nazi German death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, according to police and the museum at the site in southern Poland.

Imam calling for Jews to be killed in sermon at Montreal mosque draws police complaint
A Montreal mosque is facing a police complaint and rebukes from the larger Muslim community after a video of an imam delivering a sermon in which he asks for Jews to be killed surfaced online.

OPEC Out Of Moves As Goldman Sachs Expects Another Oil Glut In 2018
“OPEC has used up most of its arsenal of verbal weapons to support the market. One hundred percent compliance by all is the only tool they have left and on that account they are struggling,

Dear Fed: This Is Where The Inflation You Are Looking For Is “Hiding”
“while consumer prices (and other measures of inflation in the real economy) were disinflating, the generous policies of the central banks resulted in rapid inflation of financial asset prices…”

Hunt & Kill All White Women’ Facebook Post Deemed Not Hate Speech
The way in which Facebook polices content on its network is under scrutiny again after it was revealed that a post in which a user called for white women to be “hunted and killed” was deemed to not be a violation of community standards.

Scientists Warn That The Coming California Megaquake Could Plunge Large Portions Of The State Into The Ocean
According to the study, a California megaquake would potentially cause some sections of southern California to suddenly drop by as much as 3 feet, and that could result in vast stretches of land “ending up at or below sea level”…


Top Headlines – 3/25/2017

In letter to Trump, 191 House members urge support for two states

Top Republican senator: Not time for ‘splashy’ peace talks

Merkel: Israeli construction undermines ‘two-state solution’

UK delivers unprecedented condemnation of UN anti-Israel ‘bias’

After UNHRC adopts 5 anti-Israel resolutions, UK vows to oppose all future such moves

UN secretary-general reaffirms ancient Jewish ties to Jerusalem

UN: Israel didn’t comply with Security Council call to stop settlements

Kibbutz movement to celebrate 50 years of settlements in Golan

Hamas terror official assassinated in Gaza; Israel blamed

Imam calling for Jews to be killed in sermon at Montreal mosque draws police complaint

US Jews wrestle with arrest of Jew in bomb threats case

Police believe suspect began JCC hoax bomb campaign because army rejected him

Bipartisan bill in House and Senate targets settlement boycotters with fines

The 5 best exotic Passover hotels

From Cairo to Berlin: Why is ISIS Targeting Christians?

Israel-Syria Clash: With Missile Fire, Assad Is Trying to Change the Rules of the Game

U.S. Investigating Mosul Strikes Said to Have Killed Up to 200 Civilians

Iraqi forces to deploy new tactics in Mosul, civilians flee city

UN warns that destroying cultural heritage may be war crime

Flynn, Turkish officials talked about removal of Erdogan foe from US, former CIA boss says

Caroline Glick: The Iran deal Trump needs to make with the Russians is clear

Chechnya: Russian soldiers killed in clash with insurgents

UN boosts inquiry into North Korea crimes against humanity

Suspected suicide bomber dies near Bangladesh airport

Women’s March Terrorist Takes Plea Bargain in Terror Case

Terror fears in Lille following shooting near metro station in French city

Pope Francis says the EU ‘risks dying’

Immigration lawyers warn of visa delays and more denials with beefed-up vetting

ICE is targeting ‘sanctuary cities’ with raids

Trump, GOP leaders pull health care bill in humiliating loss

Trump: I never said repeal and replace would come in 64 days

After health care bill’s withdrawal, elation and anger

Bernie Sanders calls withdrawal of GOP health bill ‘victory’

Spicer: Now Democrats Must Own Collapsing ObamaCare

Conservative group calls for ouster of Ryan, GOP leaders after Obamacare repeal failure

Steve Bannon Says American Health Care Act ‘Written by the Insurance Industry’

In 24 States, 50% or More of Babies Born on Medicaid; New Mexico Leads Nation With 72%

Debt limit looks like a real struggle after AHCA debacle

OPEC Out Of Moves As Goldman Sachs Expects Another Oil Glut In 2018

Venezuela increased fuel exports to allies even as supply crunch loomed

Google and social media companies could be prosecuted if they show extremist videos

5.3 magnitude earthquake hits near Mosquera, Colombia

5.1 magnitude earthquake hits near Ishikawa, Japan

5.0 magnitude earthquake hits near Iquique, Chile

Sabancaya volcano in Peru erupts to 30,000ft

Ruiz volcano in Colomba erupts to 23,000ft

Kambalny volcano on Kamchatka, Russia erupts to 23,000ft

Sheveluch volcano on Kamchatka, Russia erupts to 15,000ft

Sinabung volcano in Indonesia erupts to 11,000ft

Mammoth Lakes got so much snow this winter it called in the National Guard for help

Ice-spraying balloons are the latest climate idea because we are running out of climate ideas

Philippines leader scolds EU for ‘idiotic’ drug rehab solution

Blood test detects cancer and pinpoints location…before symptoms appear

Dogs detect breast cancer from bandage: researchers

Taiwan top court hears landmark gay marriage case

Associated Press issues new guidance on sex, gender: ‘avoid’ referring to ‘both’ or ‘either’ sexes

The Mystery of Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Faith

Russia’s Plan to Ban Jehovah’s Witnesses Puts Evangelicals in a Tight Spot

Nudists slaughter a sheep at Auschwitz; Polish police not sure why

Russia Testing Nuclear Weapons System known as Satan, Capable of Wiping out Texas or France

Posted: 24 Mar 2017 09:00 PM PDT

It is being reported that for several months now Russia has been testing a Nuclear Weapons Delivery System known as “Satan 2”!  This monster can…

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Canada’s Largest School System Cancels Trips to US, Fearful of Travel Ban

Posted: 24 Mar 2017 08:41 PM PDT

The recent travel orders implemented by the current president Donald Trump has prompted the largest school district in Canada to cancel all future trips to…

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Prophetic Voices: ‘Exposure’ and ‘Dividing’ Are Coming due to ‘Perversion’ in the Church

Posted: 24 Mar 2017 07:17 PM PDT

(By Michael Snyder) When prophetic voices all over the nation start saying the exact same thing, you might want to start listening. In the Scriptures,…

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Robots Could Replace Third of U.S. Jobs Within 15 years

Posted: 24 Mar 2017 07:00 PM PDT

As if no one didn’t see this coming soon. Did you know that you may be one of 38% of Americans who could soon see…

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DEVELOPING: North Korea Appears Ready For Nuke Test

Posted: 24 Mar 2017 06:50 PM PDT

South Korean Defence officials are now warning that North Korea now seems to have finished preparing for another nuclear test and is now simply waiting for…

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Canada Passes Motion to Condemn “Islamophobia”

Posted: 24 Mar 2017 06:33 PM PDT

(By Kelly McDonald, Jr) On Thursday, the Canadian House of Commons passed a bill to condemn Islamophobia, which they define as criticism of Islam. The…

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UN Secretary General Acknowledges Jewish Connection to Temple Mount

Posted: 24 Mar 2017 06:29 PM PDT

(By Kelly McDonald, Jr) In a recent interview, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres affirmed to World Jewish Congress President Ron Lauder that the Romans destroyed…

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Breaking News: Shooting in Northern France – Multiple Injured

Posted: 24 Mar 2017 03:44 PM PDT

(By Kelly McDonald, Jr) BREAKING NEWS…DEVELOPING STORY… There has been a shooting in northern France in the city of Lille. The event happened at the…

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Why God Forbids Speaking to the Dead!

Posted: 24 Mar 2017 03:02 PM PDT

(By Ricky Scaparo) In this segment, we will discuss the dangers of seeking out Witches, Mediums, Sorcerors, Card Readers, and messing with Quija Boards to…

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Blue Lives Matter flag deemed ‘racist,’ ordered to come down in Florida

Posted: 24 Mar 2017 12:59 PM PDT

Another day, Another person offended. This next story comes out of Florida where a woman is being told to take down her Blue Lives Matter…

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Tomb of Christ at Risk of ‘Catastrophic’ Collapse

Posted: 24 Mar 2017 12:46 PM PDT

Could the Tomb of Christ collapse? A new shocking report from Scientists has just revealed that the holiest site in Christianity may collapse at any moment…

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New Blood test detects cancer and pinpoints location…before symptoms appear

Posted: 24 Mar 2017 12:34 PM PDT

Imagine going for a doctor visit and getting a blood test that was able to detect and in target cancer in your body before any…

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Top News – 3/26/2017

Iran sanctions 15 US firms, citing Israel ties and ‘human rights’
Iran has imposed sanctions on 15 US companies for alleged human rights violations and cooperating with Israel, the state news agency IRNA reported on Sunday. The agency quoted Iran’s foreign ministry as saying the companies had “flagrantly violated human rights” and cooperated with Israel against the Palestinians. It was not immediately clear if any of the companies, which included defense technology firm Raytheon, had any dealings with Iran or whether they would be affected in any way by Tehran’s action…

Israel’s coalition heads aim to end crisis
The heads of the parties in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition will meet on Sunday in an effort to resolve a crisis over the fate of public broadcasting. Netanyahu has threatened to initiate elections over the issue…But the other party heads in the coalition oppose taking that step…“It is Kahlon who is forcing elections, and if he does not agree, yes, we will go to elections,” Bitan said. “He is leading us to a situation we don’t want. We expect Kahlon to go toward us.”

Hamas closes Erez crossing between Gaza and Israel
The Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry closed the Erez crossing until further notice on Sunday, a ministry spokesman said, a day after Hamas accused Israel of assassinating a senior member of its military wing, the Izzadin Kassam Brigades. “The closure of the Beit Hanoun crossing [Erez] comes as a part of the steps being taken by the security apparatus following the crime of assassinating Mazen Fuqaha,” Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry Spokesman Iyad Bazm said in a statement published on the ministry’s website.

Militia fighters decapitate 40 police officers in DR Congo
Militia fighters in DR Congo have decapitated about 40 police officers in an ambush in the central province of Kasai, local officials say. Fighters from the Kamwina Nsapu group attacked a police convoy. Six policemen who spoke the local Tshiluba were freed, but the rest were killed, Kasai Assembly President Francois Kalamba said.

Sylhet blasts kill four amid Bangladesh militant raid
Six people – two police officers and four civilians – have been killed in twin bombings in north-eastern Bangladesh, officials say. The blasts in Sylhet occurred near an apartment building where commandoes have been trying to flush out a group of suspected Islamist militants. Earlier many civilians were evacuated from the block of flats. The suspects have refused to surrender.

Alexei Navalny, Russian opposition leader, arrested in Moscow
Russia’s main opposition leader, Alexei Navanly, has been arrested at an anti-corruption protest he organised in the capital, Moscow, witnesses say. Protesters tried to prevent a police van from taking him away. Navalny is known for his anti-corruption campaign, which targeted senior officials close to the Kremlin.

Cincinnati nightclub shooting: One dead, 14 injured, police say
One person has been killed and 14 injured in a shooting at a nightclub in Cincinnati, Ohio. At least two gunmen were involved in the incident at the Cameo Night Club, according to the Cincinnati Police Department. There was no indication the shooting was terror-related, Assistant Police Chief Paul Neudigate said on Twitter.

Witches to cast spell on Trump … again!
Among the angry liberals who refuse to accept the 2016 presidential election results that put Donald Trump in the Oval Office are witches who will be gathering at midnight on Sunday to cast spells. Again. They already tried last month to conjure up magic to remove him from office. Witches, exorcists and occultists say they again will cast a “binding spell” designed to “bind Donald Trump and all who abet him.”

China Vice Premier Sees `Unstoppable Momentum’ of Globalization
Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli told a gathering of Asian leaders that the world must commit to multilateral free trade under the World Trade Organization and needs to reform global economic governance…“The river of globalization and free trade will always move forward with unstoppable momentum to the vast ocean of the global economy,” Zhang said. China will remain a strong force in the world economy and for peace and stability…

Anti-Semitism expressed by a quarter of the German population
“20-25% of the German population expresses anti-Semitism when it comes to criticism of Israel,” says Dr. Andreas Zick of Bielefeld University. Dr. Zick has been conducting surveys on xenophobia for years…”There is a rise in anti-Semitism, especially in the right-wing, populist movement,” said Dr. Zick to Ynet. “However, we are also seeing the differences between traditional anti-Semitism, which is quite low, and modern anti-Semitism, especially with regard to criticism of Israel, which is on a big rise.”

Israel-Lebanon maritime dispute heats up
Nabih Berri, Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, called Israel’s proposed legislation to annex a section of disputed maritime territory a “declaration of war.” In an interview with Lebanese media, Berri said, “This will be the Shebaa Farms conflict at sea, which will open a situation with many dangerous possibilities.”…Yedioth Ahronoth learned that the Israeli government is planning to pass the Maritime Areas Bill, which will define Israel’s economic waters and include the disputed maritime territory between Lebanon and Israel.

OPEC, non-OPEC committee recommends extending oil output cut by six months
A joint committee of ministers from OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers recommended extending by six months a global deal to reduce oil output, it said in a statement on Sunday. OPEC and rival oil-producing countries were meeting in Kuwait to review progress with their global pact to cut supplies. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and 11 other leading oil producers including Russia agreed in December to cut their combined output by almost 1.8 million barrels per day in the first half of the year.

Iran denies harassing U.S. warships in Gulf, warns of clashes
Iran denied on Saturday U.S. accusations that its fast-attack boats were “harassing” warships at the mouth of the Gulf, and said Washington would be responsible for any clashes in the key oil shipping route. U.S. Navy commanders earlier accused Iran of jeopardizing international navigation by “harassing” warships passing through the Strait of Hormuz and said future incidents could result in miscalculation and lead to an armed clash.

Erdogan says Turkey may hold referendum on EU accession bid
President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday Turkey may hold a second referendum on whether to continue with European Union accession talks, following a planned vote on April 16 that could give him sweeping new powers.

“They’re Like The Praetorian Guard” – Whistleblower Confirms NSA Targeted Congress, The Supreme Court, & Trump
“Inside NSA there are a set of people who are… are targeting and looking at all the members of the Supreme Court, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Congress, both House and Senate, as well as the White House”

McCain: “The New World Order Is Under Enormous Strain”
In a “new world order under enormous strain” and in “the titanic struggle with forces of radicalism … we can’t stand by and lament, we’ve got to be involved,” said John McCain who quoted by the EU Observer. “I trust the EU,” he said, defending an opposite view from that of US president Donald Trump, who said in January that the UK “was so smart in getting out” of the EU and that Nato was “obsolete.”

Iraq suspends Mosul offensive after coalition airstrike atrocity
Iraqi military leaders have halted their push to recapture west Mosul from Islamic State as international outrage grew over the civilian toll from airstrikes that killed at least 150 people in a single district of the city.

There Will Be Those Who Perish In The Next Crisis, And Those “Who Survive In Underground Luxury”
The Oppidum is billed as “the largest billionaire bunker in the world.” This top-secret facility, once a joint project between the former Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic and Slovakia), was built over 10 years beginning in 1984. The premiere apocalypse dwelling is a place that billionaires can live out the horrors of the apocalypse- be it zombie or other- in luxury with every amenity you could ever hope for.

Air Force’s Mysterious X-37B Space Plane Breaks Orbital Record
The ongoing mission of the U.S. Air Force’s robotic X-37B space plane is now the longest in the clandestine program’s history. As of today (March 25), the X-37B has spent 675 days on its latest Earth-circling mission, which is known as Orbital Test Vehicle-4 (OTV-4). The previous record was 674 days, set during OTV-3, which lasted from December 2012 to October 2014.


Top Headlines – 3/26/2017

AIPAC to push for Iran legislation, two-state solution at annual conference

TV report says Israel may agree to settlement limits in exchange for new Amona

Netanyahu denies deal to limit West Bank settlement construction

Netanyahu’s honeymoon with Trump ends abruptly

Trump to send envoy to Arab Summit

Breakthrough in JCC bomb threat case said to come after Trump sent FBI to Israel

The generation of parents see their children losing connection to Israel and Judaism

Under the Dead Sea, warnings of dire drought

In war-scarred Gaza, water pollution behind health woes

As Israeli forces go on high alert after Faqha killing, Hamas may be looking to avoid a war

Hamas shuts Gaza crossing, blames Israel for official’s killing

Hezbollah blames Israel for assassination of Hamas terrorist

Thousands attend funeral of slain terrorist as Hamas vows revenge

Iran sanctions 15 US companies for supporting Israel

Report: US, Russia agree to help Israel ‘expel’ Iran from Syria

Medical relief group: Syria hospitals need ‘fortification’

Iraq suspends Mosul offensive after coalition airstrike atrocity

US command: Mosul airstrike occured at the request of Iraq forces

Erdogan says Turkey may hold referendum on EU accession bid

US and UK laptop bans on some Middle East flights come into effect

London Terror Attack Lasted 82 Seconds Before Suspect Shot Dead, Police Say

Major nations responsible for keeping world peace: China vice premier

China Vice Premier Sees ‘Unstoppable Momentum’ of Globalization

McCain: “The New World Order Is Under Enormous Strain”

EU summit: Leaders stress unity on Rome anniversary

EU leaders mark bloc’s 60th anniversary as turning point

E.U. Leaders Sign Rome Declaration and Proclaim a ‘Common Future’ (Minus Britain)

Anti-Brexit protesters hit London streets

Police in Belarus have arrested hundreds of people during protests against a so-called “social parasites” tax on the under-employed

Cincinnati nightclub shooting: One dead, 14 injured, police say

Violence breaks out at pro-Trump rally in Huntington Beach

Trump supporter thought president would only deport ‘bad hombres.’ Instead, her husband is being deported.

Intelligence Committee Democrats hell bent on destroying Trump presidency

Trump signals new hope for ObamaCare overhaul, says ‘Do not worry!’

Pence vows Trump will continue ObamaCare fight, calls out Democrats and Republicans

Trump blames Democrats for GOP health care bill failure, says ObamaCare is ‘imploding’

Divided GOP makes dismantling ObamaCare little more than campaign promise

Can Republicans govern if they can’t keep a promise they’ve made for 7 years?

Venezuela asks UN for help as medicine shortages grow severe

Uber Suspends Self-Driving Vehicle Program After Accident

NASA Says Claims Of UFOs Near Space Station Are A Bunch Of Space Garbage

Lowest bidders threaten Nepal’s quake-hit heritage

5.7 magnitude earthquake hits near Enarotali, Indonesia

5.2 magnitude earthquake hits near Madang, Papua New Guinea

5.1 magnitude earthquake hits near Enarotali, Indonesia

5.0 magnitude earthquake hits near Siglufjordur, Iceland

Shevluch volcano on Kamchatka, Russia erupts to 18,000ft

Kambalny volcano in southern Kamchatka, Russia: first historic eruption surprises scientists

Northeastern Australia to face direct hit from strengthening Tropical Cyclone Debbie

Rare March tropical system may brew in the Atlantic early next week

Flooding kills 11 in Angola

2017 already marked by climate extremes: UN

Monuments, Countries Douse Lights for ‘Earth Hour’

Thousands of monkeys are dying from yellow fever in Brazil

Scientists turn spinach leaf into working heart tissue

Israeli MK gives birth to baby girl conceived with gay friend

Should it be illegal to be a stay-at-home mom? Why feminists are so frustrated

Virginia police arrest sword-wielding man dressed as the Joker

A Night Among the Witches Fighting the Trump Administration

Student Groups at Christian-Identified University Seeking Softer Policies on Homosexuality

Posted: 26 Mar 2017 06:50 AM PDT

1 Timothy 4:1– Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

DEVELOPING: NATO troops head for Poland ‘to deter Russian offensive actions’

Posted: 26 Mar 2017 05:40 AM PDT

It seems like military movement is happening everywhere we look in this hour. From the South China Sea to the Mideast and now according to new…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

BREAKING NEWS: Syria Threatens to Fire Scud Missiles at Israel

Posted: 25 Mar 2017 05:10 PM PDT

Sources are indicating that the Syrian leadership has sent messages to Israel warning that any further strikes on targets within Syria’s borders will be returned…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

BREAKING NEWS: Volcano Erupts In Russia After 248 Years Of Being Dormant

Posted: 25 Mar 2017 12:36 PM PDT

According to reports coming out of Russia, An eruption has just occurred for the first time in 248 years or since 1769, and tourist organizations are…

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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MARCH 26, 2017 – JESUS KNOWS ALL ABOUT YOU—AND STILL LOVES YOU

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

MATTHEW 28:18

Have you ever heard one of our modern, Christian activists say, “I don’t know when I will find a doctrine of the deeper life that is satisfactory to me!”

There is really only one answer to this kind of a quest—turn your eyes upon Jesus and commit yourself fully to Him because He is God and Christ, Redeemer and Lord, “the same yesterday, today and forever!”

In these matters of spiritual blessing and victory, we are not dealing with doctrines—we are dealing with the Lord of all doctrine! We are dealing with a Person who is the Resurrection and the Source from whom flows all doctrine and all truth.

How can we be so ignorant and so dull that we try to find our spiritual answers and the abounding life by looking beyond the only One who has promised that He would never change? How can we so readily slight the Christ of God who has limitless authority throughout the universe?

How long should it take us to yield completely and without reservation to this One who has been made both Lord and Christ—and yet continues to be the very same Jesus who still loves us with an everlasting love?

The very same Jesus who knows all your troubles and weaknesses and sins, and loves you in spite of everything![1]


Submission

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. (28:18b)

The third element for effective fulfillment of the church’s mission is another attitude, the implied attitude of submission. The focus of Jesus’ declaration here is on His sovereign lordship, but in context it also clearly relates to the believers response to His rule.

Before the Lord states the Great Commission, He establishes His divine authority to command it. It is because of His sovereign power that His followers are to have the attitude of complete, humble submission to His will.

Exousia (authority) refers to the freedom and right to speak and act as one pleases. In relation to God, that freedom and right are absolute and unlimited. The all is both reinforced and delineated by the phrase in heaven and earth. The sovereign authority given to Jesus by His heavenly Father (see Matt. 11:27; John 3:35) is absolute and universal.

During His earthly ministry, Jesus demonstrated His authority over disease and sickness (Matt. 4:23; 9:35), over demons (4:24; 8:32; 12:22), over sin (9:6), and over death (Mark 5:41–42; John 11:43–44). Except for the forgiveness of sins, Jesus even exhibited the authority to delegate such powers to certain of His followers (Matt. 10:1; Luke 10:9, 17). He has authority to bring all men before the tribunal of God and to condemn them to eternal death or bring them to eternal life (John 5:27–29; 17:2). He had the authority to lay down His own life and to take it up again (John 10:18). He has the sovereign authority to rule both heaven and earth and to subjugate Satan and his demons to eternal torment in the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20; 20:10). Satan’s tempting Jesus by offering Him rulership over the world (Matt. 4:8–9) not only was wicked but foolish, because lordship of both heaven and earth was already Christ’s inheritance by divine fiat.

Even the prophet Daniel foresaw sovereign authority being given to Christ. In his night vision he beheld “One like a Son of Man … coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:13–14; cf. Isa. 9:6–7).

Jesus Himself described His coming dominion. “The sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky,” He said, “and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:30; cf. 26:64).

Jesus’ sovereign authority was given to Him by His Father, who “has given all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22), “made Him both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36), and has “highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:9–11). Then, finally, in an act of adoring love and submission, “when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).

Before giving the commission, Jesus first established His absolute, pervasive authority, because otherwise the command would have seemed hopelessly impossible for the disciples to fulfill, and they might have ignored it. Were it not for knowing they had the Lord’s sovereign demand as well as His resources to guide and empower them, those five hundred nondescript, powerless disciples would have been totally overwhelmed by the inconceivable task of making disciples for their Lord from among every nation on earth.

Submission to the absolute sovereignty of Jesus Christ is not a believer’s option but is his supreme obligation. It is not negotiable or adjustable to one’s own particular inclinations and plans. It is rather the attitude that says with absolute sincerity, “Whatever the Lord commands, I will do.”[2]


18 “All” dominates vv. 18–20 and ties these verses together: all authority, all nations, all things (NIV, “everything”), all the days (NIV, “always”). The authority of Jesus Messiah has already been heavily stressed in this gospel (e.g., 7:29; 10:1, 7–8; 11:27; 22:43–44; 24:35; cf. Jn 17:2). Therefore, it is incautious, if not altogether wrong, to claim that the resurrection conferred on Jesus an authority incomparably greater than what he enjoyed before his crucifixion. The truth is more subtle. It is not that anything he teaches or does during the days of his flesh is less authoritative than what he now says and does. Even during his ministry, his words, like God’s, cannot pass away (24:35); and he, like God, forgives sin (9:6). It is not Jesus’ authority per se that becomes more absolute. Rather, the spheres in which he now exercises absolute authority are enlarged to include all heaven and earth, i.e., the universe. This authority has been “given” him by the Father; and so, of course, the Father is exempt from the Son’s authority (cf. 1 Co 15:27–28). The Son becomes the one through whom all God’s authority is mediated. He is, as it were, the mediatorial King. This well-defined exercise of authority is given Jesus as the climactic vindication of his humiliation (cf. Php 2:5–11), and it marks a turning point in redemptive history, for Messiah’s “kingdom” (i.e., his “king-dominion,” the exercise of his divine and saving authority; see comments at 3:2; 13:37–39) has dawned in new power. Certainly such claims challenge the sweep of the authority and mission of the Roman Empire (so Carter, Matthew and the Margins, 549–50), but the vision is primarily theological and cosmic, not merely political. This is still clearer if we accept the view that there is a conscious allusion here to Daniel 7:13–14 (cf. France, Jesus and the Old Testament, 142–43): the Son of Man, once humiliated and suffering, is given universal authority (same word in the LXX).

Contrary to France, it does not follow from this that Matthew 26:64 and Mark 14:62 refer to this exaltation and not the Parousia. In the first place, the chief priests in no way witnessed this coming of the Son of Man; in the second place, we have repeatedly observed how the coming of the Son of Man to kingly authority cannot be reduced to a single moment in redemptive history.[3]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Mt 28:17–18). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, p. 665). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

March 25, 2017 – Appreciating God’s Gifts

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

✧✧✧

God is the source of every good gift.

God has given us everything good to enjoy, including rain to make things grow, minerals to make the soil fertile, animals for food and clothing, and energy for industry and transportation. Everything we have is from Him, and we are to be thankful for it all.

Jesus said, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matt. 7:11). James 1:17 says, “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow.” Paul added, “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. 4:4–5).

Sadly, unbelievers don’t acknowledge God’s goodness, though they benefit from it every day. They attribute His providential care to luck or fate and His gracious provisions to nature or false gods. They do not honor Him as God or give Him thanks (Rom. 1:21).

The great Puritan writer Thomas Watson wrote: “If all be a gift, see the odious ingratitude of men who sin against their giver! God feeds them, and they fight against him; he gives them bread, and they give him affronts. How unworthy is this! Should we not cry shame of him who had a friend always feeding him with money, and yet he should betray and injure him? Thus ungratefully do sinners deal with God; they not only forget his mercies, but abuse them. ‘When I had fed them to the full, they then committed adultery [Jer. 5:7].’ Oh, how horrid is it to sin against a bountiful God!—to strike the hands that relieve us!” (The Lord’s Prayer [London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1972], p. 197).

How sad to see such ingratitude, and yet how thrilling to know that the infinite God cares for us and supplies our every need. Don’t ever take His provisions for granted! Look to Him daily, and receive His gifts with a thankful heart.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer:  Be generous with your praise for God’s abundant blessings.

For Further Study: Read Genesis 1:29–31, noting the variety of foods God created for your enjoyment.[1]


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.[2]


What to Pray For

Matthew 6:11

One of the first great lessons that a Christian must learn about prayer is to put God’s interests first. But after that there comes the area of our own interests—our work, families, homes, friends, finances, and other things. These are also important, and not only to us. What about these interests? Are we also to pray about them? The Bible says, “Yes.” Moreover, it teaches us that we are to pray again and again for each one.

In the prayer which we have been studying Jesus taught his disciples to begin to pray for God’s name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will—“Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done”—but having prayed for these things and thus having established a correct set of priorities they were then to pray for human interests also. The last petitions say, “Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” These are requests for physical needs, forgiveness of sins, and spiritual victories. The prayer ends with a new acknowledgement of God’s glory.

These three petitions cover all our physical and spiritual needs. On this point Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones has accurately written, “Our whole life is found there in those three petitions, and that is what makes this prayer so utterly amazing. In such a small compass our Lord has covered the whole life of the believer in every respect. Our physical needs, our mental needs and, of course, our spiritual needs are included. The body is remembered, the soul is remembered, the spirit is remembered. And that is the whole of man.”

Our Willing God

The first request deals with our physical needs, for the phrase “our daily bread” includes by implication all the needs of life. It is a prayer for food and clothing, a home, a good job, and many other physical necessities. At the same time it should be evident that it does not encourage us to pray for superfluities. Philippians 4:19 says that God “will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus,” but it does not say that God shall supply all your wants. God gives many of us the obvious luxuries of life, sometimes, so it seems, to our spiritual hurt. But we are nowhere told to ask for these things. We are told to ask only for necessities.

The basis of our asking for life’s necessities is found in God’s avowed purpose to give us what we ask for. A master cares for the needs of his servants. A general meets the needs of his soldiers. A father provides for the needs of his sons. Each is willing. In the same way, our Father cares for those who have become his children through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you are saying as some people do, “But how can I know that God is willing to answer my requests for life’s necessities?” the answer is that Jesus taught that God was willing. In fact, he taught it in the next chapter of the Sermon on the Mount in a passage that is actually the best possible commentary on this petition in the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matt. 7:7–11).

This passage says three things about prayer. First, we must be God’s children before we can come to God. Second, as God’s children we are invited and even urged to come. And third, God delights to answer those who do come. When we come to God in prayer through the Lord Jesus Christ and in his Holy Spirit, we do not come as God’s enemies. We come as God’s children and therefore as close members of his family. There are many things that an earthly father would not do for a stranger. There are many more things that he would not do for an enemy. But there is almost nothing that he would not do for one of his beloved sons or daughters. In the same way, we come to a God who is not distant, harsh, stingy, or begrudging in his gifts. We come to a God who is loving, willing, and merciful, and who is anxious to be known and loved by his children. This God urges us to come.

Moreover, he urges us to come regularly and repeatedly, for the prayer says, “Give us today our daily bread.” The idea of regular and repeated prayer is suggested twice (once by the words “today” and once by the adjective “daily”), and anything repeated twice in an abbreviated prayer of only sixty-five words (seventy-two in Greek) is important.

For many years commentators and linguists did not know the exact meaning of the Greek word translated “daily” (epiousios), and even today, there is still some doubt. This was because the word did not occur in either literary or popular Greek, and, therefore, because there was no means to check it, several interpretations seemed possible. Now, however, the word has been found again in a papyrus from upper Egypt which seems to reveal its meaning. The manuscript is part of an account book, and the relevant inscription reads: “½ obol for epious—.” At this point the writing is broken off, but there is little doubt that the last word is the one that occurs in the Lord’s Prayer and that it refers to what we would call a daily ration. Probably the phrase belonged to a shopping list and is therefore a reminder to someone to buy supplies for the coming day.

This meaning is supported by a seemingly parallel inscription in Latin found at Pompeii which contains as part of a list of expenditures the words “five asses for diaria [a term based on the Latin word for day].” Since both of these expressions would seem to be pointing to items that were part of a day’s ration for a person or a group of persons it would be natural to take the word epiousios in this sense. In this case, the fourth petition in the Lord’s Prayer would be a request that God grant us daily our daily ration of life’s necessities.

Our Daily Bread

When we see that this prayer is a simple prayer for the things which we have need of every day and that God invites this type of praying, certain great truths emerge from it.

First, it shows that God cares for our bodies. There always have been some in the Christian church who have tried to minimize the body in the belief that only the soul or the spirit is important. Sometimes this type of religion has taken the form of asceticism or celibacy. At other times there has been outright abuse of the body. None of this is biblical, and it is contradicted by the whole tenor of the Bible as well as by explicit teaching. Jesus showed us that. William Barclay notes that Jesus spent “much time healing men’s diseases and satisfying their physical hunger. He was anxious when He thought that the crowd who had followed Him out into the lonely places had a long road home, and no food to eat before they set out upon it. … We can see what God thinks of our human bodies, when we remember that he Himself in Jesus Christ took that body upon Him. It is not simply a soul salvation, it is whole salvation, the salvation of body, mind and spirit, at which Christianity aims.”

Second, this part of the prayer also teaches that if we live as God intends us to live we are to live one day at a time. That is, we are not to be anxious about the unknown future or to fret about it. We are to live in a moment-by-moment dependence upon God.

I am convinced that the meaning of this request must vary slightly from one culture and society to another. Basically, it means that we are not to take thought for tomorrow, but to ask God only for what we need for today. But this has a different meaning in a society in which the needs of the future are met through the family structure and a society in which the needs of the future are met through financial planning and saving. In our society it would be wrong for a father to neglect to save for his children’s education, his own retirement, and old age on the grounds that he should ask only for one day’s ration at a time. In our society part of this day’s ration consists of the money to be laid aside for the next. Consequently, we are not to neglect our families by neglecting insurance policies, pension plans, or saving accounts. To do that would be to misinterpret Christ’s teaching. At the same time, however, we are obviously not to become entirely wrapped up in these things as if our life and our future depended ultimately on them. Instead, we are to wrap ourselves in our confidence in God.

If you are a Christian, have you ever known God to be unfaithful to you? Have you lacked the necessities of life? I know that there are times when God does deprive us of things—sometimes to teach us something and at times merely to bring forth praise to himself. We often are lacking in things we believe to be necessary but which are not. And yet, it is not the rule for God to permit his children to suffer great want. Is God faithful? Of course, he is faithful. Hence, you can trust him both for your todays and your tomorrows.

Spiritual Necessities

We must not leave this request for our daily bread without pointing out that we need spiritual nourishment also. This is the third point. We need to feed spiritually on God.

Have you ever noticed that there is only one other place in the entire Bible where a request to “give us bread” is spoken? It is in the midst of Christ’s sermon on the spiritual bread recorded in John 6. Jesus had said to his hearers, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.” They had answered, “From now on give us this bread.” Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:32–35). The Jews were thinking of physical bread, no doubt, just as the woman of Samaria had been thinking of physical water. But Jesus turned them away from these physical things to himself as the One who could satisfy the far greater hunger of the soul.

What does it mean to feed spiritually on the Lord Jesus Christ? It means quite simply that he is the source of all spiritual life and that we will grow spiritually only as we draw close to him and learn about him. Moreover, unless we do this we inevitably will be starved spiritually and feel spiritually hungry.

It is tragic that so many Christians will allow things to intrude between themselves and Jesus and, therefore, go on being hungry. God says that this happened repeatedly during the Old Testament period, for the Bible says that the people of Israel desired “things” instead of him. Consequently, he gave them “things” but sent leanness to their souls (Ps. 106:15). We do the same today. Far too many believers find themselves like those described in one of our hymns—“rich in things, but poor in soul.” Have you known such leanness, such hunger? Perhaps you have filled yourself with all the means of satisfying your physical hunger, and yet you have not looked to God for spiritual feeding. You pray, “Give me my physical bread,” but you have never prayed, “Give me that spiritual bread that comes down from heaven.” All our hungers are useful in themselves, of course. They are right within their bounds. They have been put there by God, who made us. We have a hunger for achievement, for love, for happiness. All these things are good in themselves when they are used as God intends them to be used. But it is tragic that many Christians will satisfy these hungers, or attempt to satisfy them, at the expense of spending much necessary and truly satisfying time with God.

Dispensing His Fragrance

We have seen in John 6 that Jesus is the source and sustainer of life. But we must add to this that Jesus will fill us with abundance of spiritual life only as we give some of what we have received to others. We come to Christ for filling, but we must share some of what we have received if we are to receive more from his hands.

Our lives as Christians are like a bottle of rich perfume. The fragrance is Christ, and we are called to dispense his fragrance in the world. We cannot do it if the bottle is sealed or if the top is left on. But if we dispense it, if we break the seal, we shall find, not only that others will come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ through us, but also that Jesus will constantly refill us to overflowing by the same miraculous power that multiplied the loaves in Galilee or the wine at the feast of Cana.

Perhaps you are one for whom this word is particularly relevant. You have been raised in a church in which you have been amply fed with spiritual things or in a home blessed by Christian parents. You have been taught in the Word, but you have failed to share what you have learned. If so, that must be corrected. You must share your experience of Jesus. Suppose you do not. In that case there will come a moment when you will be full and unable to absorb any more. Then you will go on year after year knowing only the same things, believing only the same things, reliving the same old spiritual lessons, and you will be unable to advance in the Christian faith.

Perhaps God would have you to be a witness right where you are at this moment. Perhaps there is work for you to do that you have thought about but have put off, an opportunity to speak to a new family in the neighborhood and make them welcome, to befriend some poor secretary at work, to start a Bible class in your home, or some other such thing. If God has been leading you to do this, you must respond to his leading, for you will find that only as you share the fragrance of Christ in your life will God fill you again and again. Only then will you inevitably learn more about him.

Praying for Others

All this actually leads us back to the precise wording of the Lord’s Prayer, for the final lesson is that we are always to pray also for others. Have you noticed that each of these last three requests—the requests for life’s necessities, for forgiveness, for deliverance from Satan’s temptations—are not given to us in the singular (“I” or “me”) but in the plural “we,” “us,” and “our”? What does this mean? Simply this: that we are not to pray selfishly; we are to pray collectively for ourselves along with others—“Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

The next time you pray, stop right in the middle of your prayer and think whether you have prayed selfishly. You may not have, but it is likely, for many of us do. If you have, learn that you are to ask God to provide for others (as he has provided for you), to forgive others (as he has forgiven you), to deliver others from temptation (as he has delivered you). In that way you shall intercede for others. You shall be led to give to others. And you shall enter more fully into the mind of Jesus who prayed thus for all his followers.[3]


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.[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 97). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

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

[3] Boice, J. M. (2002). The Sermon on the Mount: an expositional commentary (pp. 189–194). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] 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.

MARCH 26, 2017 – BREAK WITH THIS WORLD

Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord.

2 Corinthians 6:17

 

I dare to say that Christians who have genuinely come to love and trust Jesus Christ have also renounced this world and have chosen a new model after which to pattern their lives.

Further, we should say that this is the aspect of the Christian life that most people do not like. They want comfort. They want blessing. They want peace. But they recoil from this radical, revolutionary break with the world.

To follow Christ in this rough and thoroughgoing way is too much for them!

Actually, the true Christian dissents from the world because he knows that it cannot make good on its promises. As Christ’s believing disciple, he is not left without a “norm” to which he seeks to be adjusted. The Lord Jesus Christ is Himself the norm, the ideally perfect model, and the worshiping soul yearns to be like Him. Indeed, the whole drive behind the Christian life is the longing to be conformed to the image of Christ!

 

Dear Lord, it is difficult to be a future citizen of heaven yet live and function in this present world. Help me live each day in a manner worthy of Jesus Christ (see Philippians 1:27).[1]


Disobedient

“Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean”; (6:17a)

To be bound together with unbelievers is not only foolish and irreverent, but it also disobeys God’s explicit command, expressed in the two imperative verbs translated come out and be separate. Therefore links the command in this verse with the principle expressed in verse 16. As those personally indwelt by the living God, believers are to avoid any joint spiritual effort with unbelievers. As the temple of the living God, they must not be linked for the cause of the advancement of divine truth with any form of false religion.

The thought in this verse hearkens back to Isaiah 52, where God commanded His people, “Depart, depart, go out from there, touch nothing unclean; go out of the midst of her, purify yourselves, you who carry the vessels of the Lord” (v. 11; cf. Rev 18:4). Christians, like Israel at the time of her salvation (vv. Isa. 52:7–10), must make a clean break with all false religion to avoid its contaminating influence (cf. 2 Tim. 2:16–17). Paul repeated this principle in Ephesians 5:5–11:

For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.

The “children of Light” must “not be partakers” with the “sons of disobedience.” They must be concerned with “pleasing … the Lord,” not sinful men. To that end, they must “not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.” The church’s goal is not to make unbelievers feel comfortable and nonthreatened. On the contrary, it is to make them feel uncomfortable with their sins and threatened by God’s judgment and the terrors of hell that they face.

It has always been God’s will for His people to be distinct from unbelievers. In Leviticus 20:24, 26 God said to Israel, “I am the Lord your God, who has separated you from the peoples.… Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.” In the New Testament Peter reiterated that principle, exhorting believers,  “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’ ” (1 Peter 1:14–16).

Strengthening the point that failing to separate from unbelievers is disobedience is the third command in this verse, Do not touch what is unclean. Touch is from haptō and refers to a harmful touch, as in 1 John 5:18. Believers are not to be involved with unclean, false teaching. They are to “save [those trapped in false religions], snatching them out of the fire … hating even the garment polluted by the flesh” (Jude 23). But the church cannot worship, evangelize, or minister with those who pervert or reject the truth of the Word of God.[2]


17 In keeping with the promise of his presence and protection, God demands purity of life and separation from evil: “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing” (cf. 1 Th 5:22). Isaiah 52:11 is the source of Paul’s citation; the differences may be explained by Paul’s quoting from memory and applying the text to the Corinthian situation. In Isaiah, the call was for separation (= departure) from Babylon (autēs, “her,” in the LXX), with its pagan idolatry. In Paul, the call is for separation from unbelievers (autōn, “them,” v. 17 = apistoi, “unbelievers” [GK 603], v. 14), with their pagan way of life. This verse, therefore, should not be used in defense of separation from other believers on the ground of doctrinal differences.

“And [or “then,” kai] I will receive you” stems from Ezekiel 20:34, 41. God’s approval of his people is dependent on their obedience to his commands. Separation from the world (vv. 14, 17a–c) leads to fellowship with God (vv. 17d–18; cf. Jas 4:4).[3]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2003). 2 Corinthians (pp. 254–255). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] Harris, M. J. (2008). 2 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, pp. 488–489). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

March 25, 2017 – The Function of Salt

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.—Matt. 5:13

Salt has always been valuable in human society, often much more so than it is today. But the particular characteristics of salt that Jesus was referring to in this passage have resulted in various suggestions.

Some interpreters point out that salt is white and therefore represents purity. As the “pure in heart” (v. 8), Jesus’ disciples are to be pure before the world and are to be God’s means of helping purify the rest of the world.

Others emphasize the characteristic of flavor. Just as many foods are tasteless without salt, the world is drab and tasteless without the presence of Christians.

Because salt stings when placed on a wound, some interpreters believe Jesus meant to illustrate that Christians are to sting the world, prick its conscience, and thus make it uncomfortable in the presence of God’s gospel.

Salt also creates thirst. So others believe God intends for His people to live before the world in such a way that others will be made aware of their spiritual dehydration.

While all of these interpretations are reasonable, it’s likely Jesus was primarily referring to salt as a preservative. Christians are a preserving influence in the world; they retard moral and spiritual spoilage. As God’s children and as temples of His Holy Spirit, we represent God’s presence in the earth. We are the salt that prevents the entire earth from degenerating even faster than it already is.

ASK YOURSELF
In what ways are you and your church personifying the various properties of salt, whether by words, actions, or outreaches? Think very specifically. Which of these examples are proving to be the most effective at this, and why?[1]

Do You Make Men Thirsty?

Matthew 5:13

In Matthew 5:13 we come to a new section of the Sermon on the Mount. We pass from a basically abstract definition of the Christian to a functional one. Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”

We all know the difference between an abstract definition of a thing and a functional definition, if we think about it. For instance, almost every dictionary definition of a word is abstract. We turn to the word “hunger” in Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary and read, “an uneasy sensation, occasioned normally by the want of food.” However, we could also define hunger functionally. We could also say, “Hunger is the one and a half billion people in this world who live always on the verge of starvation and who die at the rate of 15,000 daily as the result of malnutrition.” The second definition is anything but abstract. And, of course, it is better. In the same way the dictionary tells us that “justice” is “the principle of rectitude and just dealings of men with each other.” But we could also say that justice is enacting good laws, caring for the poor, raising children properly, and many other things.

We have the same thing in the sphere of theology. The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks the question, “What is God?” And it answers, “God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” But it is also true, even more true, that God is Jesus Christ who died for our sin and who rose again for our justification.

The second definition in each of the cases I have mentioned gives us an understanding of the term in action; it produces the effect that Jesus produced by his further, functional definitions of the true Christian. “You are the salt of the earth.” “You are the light of the world.” By these definitions Jesus was saying that while it is true that the Christian is to be poor in spirit, mournful for sin, meek, thirsty for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, and disposed to make peace, nevertheless he is never to be these things in isolation from a very real and sharply antithetical world. He is to manifest those characteristics in the world. And what is more, he is to practice these things in a way that will affect the world positively, as salt affects the medium to which one applies it.

A Decaying World

This is of great significance for our understanding of the nature of true Christianity, especially in our present day. Jesus was saying, “Those who are my disciples should affect the world positively by the way in which they live.” But as I view the world today, there is not nearly enough of this positive action for good in the world by Christians, even though many people are aware that something of this nature is precisely what the world needs.

At the end of the nineteenth century there was a feeling of confident optimism in the western world, based on the belief that an ongoing biological and philosophical evolution would eventually solve all man’s troubles and lead to something closely akin to the Greeks’ “Golden Age.” The idea was that all of human life was advancing and rising upward. Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes perceptively of this age, “It is indeed pathetic to read the prognostications of the thinkers (so-called), the philosophers and poets and leaders, towards the end of the last century. … Wars were going to be abolished, diseases were being cured, suffering was going to be not only ameliorated but finally eradicated. It was to be an amazing century. Most of the problems were going to be solved, for man had at last really begun to think. The masses, through education, would cease giving themselves to drink and immorality and vice. And as all the nations were thus educated to think and to hold conferences instead of rushing to war, the whole world was very soon going to be paradise. That is not caricaturing the situation; it was believed confidently.”

Today, however, there are not many people who think like that. Where there was once a confident optimism, there is now real pessimism and acute despair. Even the ones who are still confident in some areas express their more limited optimism guardedly. There is an awareness that something more than a theory of progress is necessary, that there must, in fact, be something akin to a new life embodied in a new breed of men. This is what the gospel of Jesus Christ offers. And yet, what do we find? Instead of the active, permeating, preserving, and transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ always operating in the world through all Christians, too many Christians are sitting on the sidelines without the “savor” provided by the Lord Jesus Christ and fit only—if we are to take Christ’s words literally—“to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”

I am well aware that there are good historical reasons why an evangelical church that once gave fuel and impetus to the greatest social movements the world has seen has come to be outdistanced by others and at times even to be hostile to the applications of the gospel to the contemporary world. Daniel O. Moberg, author of the book, Inasmuch, lists ten reasons in his historical study of the neglect of the social aspects of the faith by evangelicals: a preoccupation with valid theological battles, a misinterpretation of the prophecies that in the last days things on this earth will get worse to mean that they will never in any circumstances get better, a belief that social concerns are antithetical to a concern for the salvation aspects of the church’s message, a concern for personal piety, the idea that politics are intrinsically “dirty,” a growing conformity to the world’s standards in business and political life by Christians, and other things also. But the explanation does not excuse the situation in which we find ourselves today. Nor does the situation itself negate the moral imperatives of Christ’s teachings.

According to Jesus, the Christian is clearly to influence his society. And this must be true wherever the principles of the gospel impinge upon the religious, political, economic, or social issues of the Christian’s community.

Uses of Salt

All this falls into a much clearer focus when we consider the actual uses of salt, particularly those that were most valued in ancient times.

First, in Christ’s day and for many centuries thereafter (in fact, until nearly modern times), salt was the most common of all preservatives. There were no refrigerators in ancient times, no deep-freeze units. The Mediterranean world was largely tropical. In such a climate and in the face of such conditions, salt was used to keep things from going bad and becoming rotten, particularly meat. It was able to resist spoilage and keep putrefaction at bay. When Jesus said that those who followed him were the salt of the earth, therefore, he was teaching that the world apart from God is rotten because of sin, but that through his power his disciples were able and actually obliged to have a preserving and purifying effect upon it.

Do you see this clearly? If you do, the principles involved in this statement will keep you from the two opposing errors that have always gone along with programs to express the Christian’s social responsibility. The first error is the thought that the world is basically good and will gradually become better and even perfect through Christian social action. In opposition to this understanding, Christ says that the world is basically rotten. This means that even though it may appear healthy for a time, it is dead spiritually. It means that the life has gone out of the body and that the microbes of sin will eventually (if left to themselves) reduce it to a stinking, unapproachable carcass.

The other error is the view that because this is so, because the world is rotten, the Christian should try to disassociate himself from the world as much as possible, retreating to a monastery or to one of our white (or black), middle-class, self-protecting churches. And he should let the world go to hell. The answer to this error is that the Christian is to be a preserving force in the world wherever God has placed him. The salt never did any good when it was sitting on one shelf and the meat on another. To be effective, the salt had to be rubbed into the meat. In a similar way, Christians must allow God to rub them into the world. And this means that they must be Christians at work, Christians in politics, Christians at home, Christians everywhere else that a normal life in their own society would take them.

“Oh,” someone says, “that would mean that I would have to be taken out of the salt shaker and spread around, and I might get dirty and even seem to dissolve or disappear!” Yes, that is what it means. But God is the One who provides the flavor, and the flavor does not disappear when the salt is dispensed or dissolved.

In fact, there is even a sense in which the salt must dissolve if the flavor is to be released, and for this reason God sometimes shakes the salt shaker through persecutions so that the salt will fall out and let this happen. Sometimes it will mean that we shall have to dissolve to our own interests, that we shall have to extend ourselves in areas of the world where we do not see many Christians. We shall feel lonely and even depressed, but that is where the salt is active.

I should add a fact that is well known to the medical world. If a body does not give off salt through perspiration, what happens? It retains water, and it becomes bloated. In the same way, the church will become bloated and desperately unhealthy if the salt is not dispersed in this work of preservation.

Source of Flavor

There is a second thing that salt is good for, and that is to provide flavor. The Christian, through the life of Jesus Christ within and the verities of the gospel, is to lend flavor to a flavorless, insipid world. The pleasures of the world are unsatisfying without Jesus Christ. They fill for a time. But they are rather like a Chinese dinner, and the person is soon left empty again. Consequently, those who pursue them are doomed to a constant and relentless search for that which will never satisfy the true hunger and desire of their soul. Christians are to be present as those who know something different and whose satisfaction in Christ can be seen and known by their unbelieving contemporaries.

Unfortunately, it often has been the other way around. Non-Christians have looked at Christians and have said, “What an insipid bunch of people; I would never want to be like one of them.” The nineteenth century poet and critic A. C. Swinburne wrote of Jesus: “Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean; the world has grown grey from thy breath.” Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “I might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen I knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers.” And the poet and author Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote in his diary, as if he were expressing an exceptional fact, “I have been to church today, and am not depressed.”

Those are honest remarks by people who have seen an insipid Christianity. And if they or their followers are to see something different, they must see it in the only place it can or will be seen—in us. They must see it in you and in me. Do you go around with a long face as if the world and everything you know are depressing? Or do you go about as one who bears within the Spirit of the living God? The second is your true responsibility. It is by doing that, that you show forth the flavor of Christ and Christianity.

Thirst of the Soul

The third thing that salt does is to make one thirsty. And this leads us to ask: Do you make anyone thirsty for Jesus Christ? The non-Christian tends to feel self-satisfied even if he is not, and he naturally goes through life telling himself that circumstances are wonderful. But when a Christian comes into his sphere of vision, there should be that evidence of joy, satisfaction, and peace that makes him look up and say, “That’s what I want; that is what I want to be like!” Can that be said of you? Do you make men thirsty for Jesus Christ?

In ancient times during the Feast of Tabernacles in the city of Jerusalem it was the custom for the priests to go to the pool of Siloam each day and to return bearing large containers of water that were then emptied upon the altar in the temple. This happened for seven days during the feast. On the last day the ceremony was repeated seven times. On that day, during the Feast of Tabernacles in the year that he attended, Jesus Christ stood up and cried in a loud voice, “If a man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:37–38). It is true, Jesus Christ can satisfy the great thirst of the human soul. Your responsibility is not to satisfy the thirst yourself, but to point men to Jesus Christ. If you do that, out of you will flow his life and character, and others will see him and be satisfied.

A Common Substance

I am sure you already have anticipated the last point of this study, for you have doubtless recognized that salt is one of the most common things of life. It is found everywhere. And hence, when Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth,” he was saying, “I delight to use little things.” He did not say, “You are the gold of the earth.” He did not say, “You are the uranium of the earth.” He did not even say, “You are the lead,” although Christians sometimes resemble lead far more than we like to admit. He said, “You are the salt”—a common substance. It is from the common things—from the weak, the foolish, the despised, the things that are not (1 Cor. 1:26–29)—that God brings the greatest glory to his name.

We see that throughout Scripture. When God made man in the Garden of Eden, what did he use? Gold? Silver? Iron? No, he used dust. But he breathed into the dust the divine breath of life. When God spoke to Moses in the desert to call him to come forth to be the deliverer of the people of Israel from Egypt, how did he reveal himself? In a dazzling theophany? In thunder and lightning? In an overpowering vision? No, he revealed himself in a burning desert bush. When God called David to deliver the Israelites from the Philistine tyranny, did he make use of Saul’s armor? No, he used a sling and a few small stones. And when Jesus Christ was born, God did not allow him to be born in the courts of the Caesars or of a woman of noble ancestry and great culture. He chose a peasant girl, who was probably illiterate, and she gave birth to Jesus Christ in a stable.

God uses the small things and the small people. God uses you and me that he might do his work in the world. As a matter of fact, the smaller you can become, the more effective his work in you will be. Do you know what we are to be? We are to be picture frames within which Jesus Christ is to be seen. God is not interested in its being a gold frame or a beautifully carved frame. He is just interested in its being an empty frame, because he knows that when you come to him with that, he can put Christ there. And when people look at you, they will see Jesus.[2]


Commentary

13 Salt and light are such common substances (cf. Pliny, Nat. 31.102: “Nothing is more useful than salt and sunshine”) that they doubtless generated many sayings. Therefore it is improper to attempt a tradition history of all gospel references as if one original stood behind the lot (cf. Mk 4:21; 9:50; Lk 8:16; 11:33; 14:34–35). Equally, the suggestion that Jesus is referring to the “covenant of salt” (Lev 2:13; Nu 18:19; 2 Ch 13:5) seems unlikely. Where that expression shows up in the OT, it seems to be connected with the permanence or stability of God’s covenant with his people. Here, however, Jesus says that his disciples are “salt.” There is no mention of covenant, and, far from symbolizing stability, the salt of which Jesus speaks loses its effectiveness.

The reality is that “salt” is not a technical word with only one set of associations. It can even be connected with judgment (Lot’s wife is turned into a pillar of salt, Ge 19:26; one might ruin an enemy’s field by sowing it with salt, Jdg 9:45). Salt was used in the ancient world to flavor foods and even in small doses as a fertilizer (cf. Eugene P. Deatrick, “Salt, Soil, Savor,” BA 25 [1962]: 44–45, who wants tēs gēs to read “for the soil,” not “of the earth”; but notice the parallel “of the world” in v. 14). Sometimes the word is simply referring to a commodity (Ezr 6:9) or identifies a place (2 Sa 8:13). Above all, salt was used as a preservative. Rubbed into meat, a little salt would slow decay. Strictly speaking, salt cannot lose its saltiness; sodium chloride is a stable compound. But most salt in the ancient world derived from salt marshes or the like rather than by evaporation of salt water, and therefore contained many impurities. The actual salt, being more soluble than the impurities, could be leached out, leaving a residue so dilute it was of little worth.

In modern Israel, savorless salt is still said to be scattered on the soil of flat roofs. This helps harden the soil and prevent leaks; and since the roofs serve as playgrounds and places for public gathering, the salt is still being trodden under foot (Deatrick, “Salt, Soil, Savor,” 47). This explanation negates the attempt by some (e.g., Lenski, Schniewind) to suppose that, precisely because pure salt cannot lose its savor, Jesus is saying that true disciples cannot lose their effectiveness. The question “How can it be made salty again?” is not meant to have an answer, as Schweizer rightly says. The rabbinic remark that what makes salt salty is “the afterbirth of a mule” (mules are sterile) rather misses the point (cf. Schweizer). The point is that if Jesus’ disciples are to act as a preservative in the world by conforming to kingdom norms, if they are “called to be a moral disinfectant in a world where moral standards are low, constantly changing, or nonexistent …, they can discharge this function only if they themselves retain their virtue” (Tasker).

Notes

13 The verb μωρανθῇ (mōranthē, “loses its saltiness,” GK 3701) is used four times in the NT. In Luke 14:34, it again relates to salt, but in Romans 1:22 and 1 Corinthians 1:20, it has its more common meaning “to make or become foolish” (cf. cognate μωρέ [mōre, “fool”] in v. 22). It is hard not to conclude that disciples who lose their savor are in fact making fools of themselves. The Greek may hide an Aramaic תפל (tpl, “foolish”) and תבל (tbl, “salted”; see Black, Aramaic Approach, 166–67).[3]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 93). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] Boice, J. M. (2002). The Sermon on the Mount: an expositional commentary (pp. 61–66). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[3] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 168–169). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

MARCH 26, 2017 – THE CONSISTENCY OF HIS ATTRIBUTES

God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

—Numbers 23:19

In studying any attribute, the essential oneness of all the attributes soon becomes apparent. We see… that if God is self-existent He must be also self-sufficient; and if He has power He, being infinite, must have all power. If He possesses knowledge, His infinitude assures us that He possesses all knowledge. Similarly, His immutability presupposes His faithfulness. If He is unchanging, it follows that He could not be unfaithful, since that would require Him to change. Any failure within the divine character would argue imperfection and, since God is perfect, it could not occur. Thus the attributes explain each other and prove that they are but glimpses the mind enjoys of the absolutely perfect Godhead.

All of God’s acts are consistent with all of His attributes. No attribute contradicts any other, but all harmonize and blend into each other in the infinite abyss of the Godhead. All that God does agrees with all that God is, and being and doing are one in Him….

God, being who He is, cannot cease to be what He is, and being what He is, He cannot act out of character with Himself. He is at once faithful and immutable, so all His words and acts must be and must remain faithful. KOH122-123

What confidence that inspires, Lord! Thank You for Your faithfulness, love and unchanging nature. Amen. [1]


19 The words “God is not a man, that he should lie” describe both the immutability of the Lord and the integrity of his word. Balaam is himself a foil for God. Balaam is constantly shifting, prevaricating, equivocating, changing—he is himself the prime example of the distinction between God and humanity.

God is not a man, that he is able to lie,

Nor is he human, that he is able to change;

Has he said, and will he not do it?

Or has he spoken, and will he not confirm it?

Again two lines of bicolon mark this verse (4:2 and 4:3 meter), with the pairs enhancing each other. Balaam’s view of gods was based on his own human failings. Now he confronts God, who is not at all like humans in their failures. This fact is the stunning reality. All others may change; God—even with all of his power—cannot change, for he cannot deny himself (cf. 1 Sa 15:29; Ps 89:35–37; Heb 6:16–18). God must fulfill his promise, for he has bound his character to his Word.[2]


23:19 God is not man, that he should lie. Balaam, even against his selfish intentions, must speak God’s truth (cf. v. 26). Here he is affirming that God’s truthfulness in general (cf. Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18; God does not lie, and he cannot lie, for this would be contrary to his character) implies that his promises to Israel will also come to pass.[3]


23:19 that he should change his mind Indicates that God will not change something He has decreed or promised. See 1 Sam 15:29, 35; Exod 32:9–14; Jonah 3:10. The message for Balak is that nothing he does will induce God to permit Balaam to curse Israel. Despite this message, Balak will move Balaam again after this oracle, still hoping for a different outcome (Num 23:27–28).[4]


23:19 God is not a man. In contrast to the unreliability of man, so well seen in Balaam himself, God is reliable and immutable. He does not change; therefore, His words always come to pass.[5]


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

[2] Allen, R. B. (2012). Numbers. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Numbers–Ruth (Revised Edition) (Vol. 2, p. 321). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 304). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Nu 23:19). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nu 23:19). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

March 26, 2017 – Enemies of Humility: The Power Play

“Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Him with her sons, bowing down, and making a request of Him. And He said to her, ‘What do you wish?’ She said to Him, ‘Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left.’ ”

Matthew 20:20–21

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Use of the power play in our personal dealings is incompatible with scriptural humility.

One of the most common tactics people use to get ahead is to draw upon the influence of family and friends. Even professing believers have not hesitated to “play politics” to get what they want. I know of a pastor some years ago who said that for his denomination’s annual meeting he always booked a hotel room near the top leaders’ rooms. He wanted to cultivate their friendships in hopes of receiving consideration for pastorates in larger churches.

Incredibly, today’s passage has two of Jesus’ closest disciples, James and John, coming with their mother to Jesus to ask a huge, unprecedented favor—that each brother be seated next to Him in His kingdom. It was even more amazing that this brazen, self–serving request came right after Christ predicted His imminent persecution and death. It’s as though James and John each let Jesus’ sobering words go in one ear and out the other. That’s because they were so preoccupied with their own interests and plans.

The three probably were trying to exploit their family relationship with Jesus. By comparing John 19:25 with parallel passages, we know that the disciples’ mother (Salome) was a sister of Mary, Jesus’ mother. That would make James and John His first cousins and their mother His aunt.

So the three undoubtedly were relying on their kinship to Jesus as they made their selfish request for greater power and prestige within His kingdom. Obviously, they still had not grasped Christ’s earlier promise from the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the gentle [meek, humble], for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). But such sublime teaching ought to be enough to convince us that the truly humble don’t need power plays to achieve greatness. They already have it in Christ.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: Thank the Lord for the many privileges you already enjoy as His child.

For Further Study: Read Matthew 23. What was Jesus’ general attitude toward the Pharisees’ motives and actions? ✧ List some specific characteristics you ought to avoid.[1]


Political Power Play

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Him with her sons, bowing down, and making a request of Him. And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She said to Him, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left.” (20:20–21)

The first worldly principle for greatness might be called political power play and is reflected in the attempt of the mother of the sons of Zebedee to persuade Jesus to give those two sons, James and John, the highest places of honor in His kingdom.

Throughout history, one of the most common tactics for getting ahead has been using the influence of family and friends to one’s own advantage. These people are manipulated to gain political office, a promotion in business, a lucrative contract, or whatever else is craved. As the saying goes, “It’s who you know that counts.” Some years ago a pastor frankly admitted that for his denominations annual convention he always reserved a hotel room next to the leaders in order to cultivate their friendships and thereby help secure future pastorates in larger churches.

It seems incredible that James, John, and their mother could ask Jesus such a crass, self-serving favor immediately after His prediction of the persecution and death He would soon face in Jerusalem. There is no indication, either in this text or in Mark’s parallel account (see 10:35), that any of the disciples made a response to what Jesus had just said about His own imminent death. They may simply have discounted His prediction as being merely figurative and symbolic, or they may have been so preoccupied with their own interests and plans that His words went by them. In any case, they did not pursue the subject. They did, however, continue to pursue their own interests.

From the Mark passage it is clear that the mother was speaking at the behest of her two sons. In fact, Mark makes no mention of her at all. The three obviously came with a common purpose and plan they had discussed among themselves beforehand. The mother probably spoke first, and then James and John spoke for themselves.

It is implied in Matthew but explicit in Mark that the first request was intentionally general and indefinite: “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You” (Mark 10:35). Their approach was like a child trying to get a parent to promise something before saying what it is for fear that a specific request for it might be denied.

The three of them may have been trying to capitalize on their family relationship to Jesus. By comparing the gospel accounts of the women who stood vigil near the cross, it becomes evident that the mother of James and John was named Salome and was a sister of Mary, the Mother of Jesus (see Matt. 27:56; Mark 15:40; John 19:25), making her Jesus’ aunt and James and John His first cousins. In addition to relying on their relationship as Jesus’ cousins, the brothers perhaps also thought to play on Jesus’ affection for his mother by having her sister approach Him for the favor.

Bowing down was a common act of obeisance given to ancient monarchs, and the mother may have been trying to flatter Jesus by appealing to His sense of power and royalty. By treating Him like a king, she hoped to manipulate Him into making a gesture of magnanimity Near Eastern kings liked to pride themselves in having the resources to grant any favor or request. It was such pride that induced Herod Antipas to swear to the daughter of Herodias, “Whatever you ask of me, I will give it to you; up to half of my kingdom” (Mark 6:23).

The fact that James, John, and their mother made a request of Christ for a blank check strongly suggests that they knew the request was not legitimate. The request was purely self-seeking, for her as well as for them. As their mother, she could bask vicariously in their exalted positions, and her own prestige would be greatly enhanced. In marked contrast to what they would become after Pentecost, James and John were not noted for their shyness or reticence, and Jesus had nicknamed them “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). Their request of Jesus not only was bold but brash. In effect, they were claiming that, of all the great people of God who had ever lived, they deserved to have the two highest places of honor beside the King of heaven.

Like the scribes and Pharisees who loved “the place of honor at banquets, and the chief seats in the synagogues” (Matt. 23:6), James and John longed for prestige and preeminence and to be exalted over the other apostles. Like the self-seeking Diotrephes (John 9), they loved to be first. But that is not the way to greatness in the kingdom of God.[2]


20 In Mark, John and James approach Jesus themselves; here, it is through their mother. Many find this historically improbable because in v. 22 Jesus responds to her sons only. But the following points make the obvious synthesis plausible:

  1. According to v. 20, the mother and her sons approach Jesus, the implication being that all three are asking this favor, with the mother as the speaker.
  2. This is confirmed by the other apostles’ indignation (v. 24), showing that James and John as well as their mother were involved.
  3. That the mother should be the one to approach Jesus becomes the more plausible if she is Jesus’ aunt on his mother’s side—not certain, but not unlikely (see comments at 10:2; 27:56).
  4. By adding the mother, Matthew cannot be shielding James and John. They still get the same response as in Mark. Matthew has no obvious theological motive for introducing their mother; he is simply recording a historical detail.
  5. That the request should come from James and John, whether through their mother or not, accords with what we know of their aggressiveness (cf. Mk 9:38; Lk 9:54).

The “kneeling down” is not “worship” of deity but may imply homage to the one increasingly recognized as King Messiah (see comments at 2:2).

21 The “right hand” and “left hand” suggest proximity to the King’s person and so a share in his prestige and power. Such positions increase as the King is esteemed and has absolute power (cf. Pss 16:11; 45:9; 110:1; Mt 26:64; Ac 7:55–56; cf. Josephus, Ant. 6.235 [11.9]). Mark has “in your glory,” Matthew “in your kingdom.” Mark’s phrase clearly points to the Parousia, “when Jesus is enthroned as eschatological judge” (Lane, Mark, 379). Hill proposes that the “kingdom” in Matthew is the kingdom of Christ (13:41–43; 25:31–46), identified as the church; and the change from “glory” to “kingdom” therefore means that the original story is now being applied to competition for leadership in the church. But we have already seen that “kingdom” is never identified with “church” in Matthew (see comments at 13:37–39), and Christ’s kingdom is equivalent to the kingdom of heaven (13:41; 20:21; 25:31). Because the “kingdom” comes in stages, there is no substantial difference between Matthew and Mark. The kingdom here is the reign of Messiah at the consummation. The link with 19:28—a verse that speaks (cf. Gk.) of both “throne” and “glory”—is unmistakable. What the sons of Zebedee want and their mother asks for is that they might share in the authority and preeminence of Jesus Messiah when his kingdom is fully consummated—something they think to be near at hand without the cross or any inter-advent period.[3]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Mt 20:20). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, p. 487). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

March 26, 2017 – Glory Through Suffering

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.

2 Corinthians 4:17

Suffering not only makes us stronger now—it makes us able to endure with patience, increases our faith, teaches us to trust God, and leads us to depend on Christ and His Word—but also affects how we will function later. That’s why Paul went on to say our focus isn’t on today but the future: “We do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (v. 18).

The greater our endurance through suffering, the greater our eternal reward.[1]


For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, (4:17)

Not only did Paul’s physical suffering make him spiritually strong, it also enriched his eternal reward. The apostle towered over his enemies and his troubles; rather than harming him, they actually secured for him a greater heavenly reward.

Like Paul, suffering and persecuted believers must view earth through heaven’s eyes. When weighed in the balance with believers’ eternal reward in heaven, earthly pain amounts to little. Paul expressed the proper perspective on suffering by describing it as momentary, light affliction. Though Paul’s affliction was constant and intense, he viewed it as momentary and light (easy to bear; insignificant) in view of eternity. He knew that his life was “just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14), after which “man goes to his eternal home” (Eccl. 12:5). To the Romans he wrote, “We suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:17–18). Peter also wrote of the relationship between suffering and eternal glory. After describing believers’ heavenly inheritance in 1 Peter 1:3–5 he wrote,

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (vv. 6–7)

The trials, troubles, and difficulties of life have a positive effect, because they are producing for us an eternal weight of glory. Weighed in the balance with the suffering of this life, that weight of glory tips the scales heavily in favor of eternal reward. There is a direct correlation between suffering in this life and glory (capacity to praise and glorify God) in the next. The greatest glory ever given was that given to Jesus for enduring the greatest suffering ever endured. Because “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross … God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:8–9). Jesus confirmed that principle in an incident recorded in Matthew 20:20–23:

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him. And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She said to Him, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to Him, “We are able.” He said to them, “My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.”

In response to their selfish request for the places of prominence in the kingdom, Jesus pointed out that those places are for those who drink the cup of suffering—a reference to His death on the cross (Matt. 26:39). Thus the greater glory in the kingdom is reserved for those who suffer the most in this life. “To the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ,” wrote Peter, “keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation” (1 Peter 4:13).

In fact, the eternal weight of glory believers will experience is so much greater than the suffering of this life that Paul described it as beyond all comparison. The Greek text literally reads huperbolē (from which the English word hyperbole derives) eis huperbolē, forming a double expression for strongest emphasis. The phrase means, “out of all proportion.” The weight of glory awaiting believers exceeds all limits; it is beyond the possibility of overstatement or exaggeration. Paul also used the word huperbolē in 2 Corinthians 1:8 to describe the intensity of his sufferings. Though he suffered more in comparison to others on earth, he would be glorified beyond all proportion or comparison in heaven. (In Hebrew, the word “glory” comes from the same root as a word meaning “heavy,” perhaps influencing Paul’s choice of words here.)

It should be noted that the only suffering that produces the eternal weight of glory is suffering for the sake of Christ, or that honors Him. Whether suffering comes from believers’ faithful, loyal, committed testimony about Jesus Christ, or the patient enduring of life’s normal trials, such as disease, divorce, poverty, and loneliness, if endured with a humble, grateful, God-honoring attitude, it will add to the eternal weight of glory. On the other hand, suffering the consequences of sin does not contribute to our heavenly blessing and could remove some of the reward already gained (2 John 8). Peter wrote, “For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God” (1 Peter 2:20), and

If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. (1 Peter 4:14–16)

Through his present tears Paul never lost sight of the future glory that awaited him in heaven.[2]


17 Here Paul supplies another reason for not losing heart—the constant production of solid, lasting glory (lit., “an eternal weight of glory”; see Notes) out of all proportion to the slight, present affliction that causes physical weakness (v. 16); as the NIV renders it, this eternal glory “far outweighs” any “light and momentary troubles” that are being presently experienced (cf. Ro 8:18). Quite naturally, Paul seems to speak of glory as though it were a substantial entity that could be progressively added to. In a similar way in Colossians 1:5, Paul views Christian hope as an inheritance “stored up” in heaven. Doxa (“glory,” GK 1518) here is Pauline shorthand for all the blessings of the age to come, experienced proleptically in the present age. It is the God-ordained outcome of affliction suffered for Jesus’ sake (2 Co 4:11).

Again, as in vv. 12 and 16, the idea of proportion seems to be present. Since it is actually the “troubles” that produce or achieve the glory, the greater the affliction Paul suffered, the greater the glory produced for him.[3]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 98). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2003). 2 Corinthians (pp. 154–156). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] Harris, M. J. (2008). 2 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 472). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

March 26, 2017: Verse of the day

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The Progress of Salvation

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined … and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. (8:29a-b, 30)

In delineating the progress of God’s plan of salvation, Paul here briefly states what may be called its five major elements: foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification.

It is essential to realize that these five links in the chain of God’s saving work are unbreakable. With the repetition of the connecting phrase He also, Paul accentuates that unity by linking each element to the previous one. No one whom God foreknows will fail to be predestined, called, justified, and glorified by Him. It is also significant to note the tense in which the apostle states each element of God’s saving work. Paul is speaking here of the Lord’s redemptive work from eternity past to eternity future. What he says is true of all believers of all times. Security in Christ is so absolute and unalterable that even the salvation of believers not yet born can be expressed in the past tense, as if it had already occurred. Because God is not bound by time as we are, there is a sense in which the elements not only are sequential but simultaneous. Thus, from His view they are distinct and in another sense are indistinguishable. God has made each of them an indispensable part of the unity of our salvation.

Foreknowledge

For whom He foreknew, (8:29a)

Redemption began with God’s foreknowledge. A believer is first of all someone whom He [God] foreknew. Salvation is not initiated by a persons decision to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Scripture is clear that repentant faith is essential to salvation and is the first step that we take in response to God, but repentant faith does not initiate salvation. Because Paul is here depicting the plan of salvation from God’s perspective, faith is not even mentioned in these two verses.

In His omniscience God is certainly able to look to the end of history and beyond and to know in advance the minutest detail of the most insignificant occurrences. But it is both unbiblical and illogical to argue from that truth that the Lord simply looked ahead to see who would believe and then chose those particular individuals for salvation. If that were true, salvation not only would begin with man’s faith but would make God obligated to grant it. In such a scheme, God’s initiative would be eliminated and His grace would be vitiated.

That idea also prompts such questions as, “Why then does God create unbelievers if He knows in advance they are going to reject Him?” and “Why doesn’t He create only believers?” Another unanswerable question would be, “If God based salvation on His advance knowledge of those who would believe, where did their saving faith come from?” It could not arise from their fallen natures, because the natural, sinful person is at enmity with God (Rom. 5:10; 8:7; Eph. 2:3; Col. 1:21). There is absolutely nothing in man’s carnal nature to prompt him to trust in the God against whom he is rebelling. The unsaved person is blind and dead to the things of God. He has absolutely no source of saving faith within himself. “A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God,” Paul declares; “for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Cor. 2:14). “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4).

The full truth about God’s omniscience cannot be comprehended even by believers. No matter how much we may love God and study His Word, we cannot fathom such mysteries. We can only believe what the Bible clearly says-that God does indeed foresee the faith of every person who is saved. We also believe God’s revelation that, although men cannot be saved apart from the faithful action of their wills, saving faith, just as every other part of salvation, originates with and is empowered by God alone.

While He was preaching in Galilee early in His ministry, Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37). But lest that statement be interpreted as leaving open the possibility of coming to Him apart from the Father’s sending, Jesus later declared categorically that “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (v. 44). New life through the blood of Christ does not come from “the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13).

Paul also explains that even faith does not originate with the believer but with God. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Eph. 2:8–9).

God’s foreknowledge is not a reference to His omniscient foresight but to His foreordination. He not only sees faith in advance but ordains it in advance. Peter had the same reality in mind when he wrote of Christians as those “who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” (1 Pet. 1:1–2). Peter used the same word “foreknowledge” when he wrote that Christ “was foreknown before the foundation of the world” (1 Pet. 1:20). The term means the same thing in both places. Believers were foreknown in the same way Christ was foreknown. That cannot mean foreseen, but must refer to a predetermined choice by God. It is the knowing of predetermined intimate relationship, as when God said to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jer. 1:5). Jesus spoke of the same kind of knowing when He said, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My own” (John 10:14).

Because saving faith is foreordained by God, it would have to be that the way of salvation was foreordained, as indeed it was. During his sermon at Pentecost, Peter declared of Christ: “This Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of God-less men and put Him to death” (Acts 2:23). “Predetermined” is from horizō, from which we get the English horizon, which designates the outer limits of the earth that we can see from a given vantage point. The basic idea of the Greek term refers to the setting of any boundaries or limits. “Plan” is from boulē, a term used in classical Greek to designate an officially convened, decision-making counsel. Both words include the idea of willful intention. “Foreknowledge” is from the noun form of the verb translated foreknew in our text. According to what Greek scholars refer to as Granville Sharp’s rule, if two nouns of the same case (in this instance, “plan” and “foreknowledge”) are connected by kai (“and”) and have the definite article (the) before the first noun but not before the second, the nouns refer to the same thing (H. E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament [New York: Macmillan, 1927], p. 147). In other words, Peter equates God’s predetermined plan, or foreordination, and His foreknowledge.

In addition to the idea of foreordination, the term foreknowledge also connotes forelove. God has a predetermined divine love for those He plans to save.

Foreknew is from proginōskō, a compound word with meaning beyond that of simply knowing beforehand. In Scripture, “to know” often carries the idea of special intimacy and is frequently used of a love relationship. In the statement “Cain had relations with his wife and she conceived” (Gen. 4:17), the word behind “had relations with” is the normal Hebrew verb for knowing. It is the same word translated “chosen” in Amos 3:2, where the Lord says to Israel, “You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth.” God “knew” Israel in the unique sense of having predetermined that she would be His chosen people. In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth, “kept her a virgin” (nasb ) translates a Greek phrase meaning literally, “did not know her” (Matt. 1:25). Jesus used the same word when He warned, “Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’ ” (Matt.7:23). He was not saying that He had never heard of those unbelievers but that He had no intimate relationship with them as their Savior and Lord. But of believers, Paul says, “The Lord knows those who are His” (2 Tim. 2:19).

Predestination

He also predestined (8:29b)

From foreknowledge, which looks at the beginning of God’s purpose in His act of choosing, God’s plan of redemption moves to His predestination, which looks at the end of God’s purpose in His act of choosing. Proorizō (predestined) means literally to mark out, appoint, or determine beforehand. The Lord has predetermined the destiny of every person who will believe in Him. Just as Jesus was crucified “by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23), so God also has predestined every believer to salvation through the means of that atoning sacrifice.

In their prayer of gratitude for the deliverance of Peter and John, a group of believers in Jerusalem praised God for His sovereign power, declaring, “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Thy holy servant Jesus, whom Thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur” (Acts 4:27–28). In other words, the evil and powerful men who nailed Jesus to the cross could not have so much as laid a finger on Him were that not according to God’s predetermined plan.

In the opening of his letter to the Ephesian believers, Paul encouraged them with the glorious truth that God “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will” (Eph. 1:4–5).

Much contemporary evangelism gives the impression that salvation is predicated on a person’s decision for Christ. But we are not Christians first of all because of what we decided about Christ but because of what God decided about us before the foundation of the world. We were able to choose Him only because He had first chosen us, “according to the kind intention of His will.” Paul expresses the same truth a few verses later when he says, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him” (Eph. 1:7–9, emphasis added). He then says that “we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will” (v. 11).

Calling

and whom He predestined, these He also called; (8:30a)

In God’s divine plan of redemption, predestination leads to calling. Although God’s calling is also completely by His initiative, it is here that His eternal plan directly intersects our lives in time. Those who are called are those in whose hearts the Holy Spirit works to lead them to saving faith in Christ.

As noted under the discussion of verse 28, Paul is speaking in this passage about God’s inward call, not the outward call that comes from the proclamation of the gospel. The outward call is essential, because “How shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard?” (Rom. 10:14), but that outward call cannot be responded to in faith apart from God’s already having inwardly called the person through His Spirit.

The Lord’s sovereign calling of believers gives still further confirmation that we are eternally secure in Christ. We were saved because God “called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (2 Tim. 1:9). Emphasizing the same truths of the Lord’s sovereign purpose in His calling of believers, Paul assured the Thessalonian that “God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. And it was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 2:13–14). From beginning to end, our salvation is God’s work, not our own. Consequently, we cannot humanly undo what He has divinely done. That is the basis of our security.

It should be strongly emphasized, however, that Scripture nowhere teaches that God chooses unbelievers for condemnation. To our finite minds, that what would seem to be the corollary of God’s calling believers to salvation. But in the divine scheme of things, which far surpasses our understanding, God predestines believers to eternal life, but Scripture does not say that He predestines unbelievers to eternal damnation. Although those two truths seem paradoxical to us, we can be sure that they are in perfect divine harmony.

Scripture teaches many truths that seem paradoxical and contradictory. It teaches plainly that God is one, but just as plainly that there are three persons-the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit-in the single God-head. With equal unambiguity the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man. Our finite minds cannot reconcile such seemingly irreconcilable truths, yet they are foundational truths of God’s Word.

If a person goes to hell, it is because He rejects God and His way of salvation. “He who believes in Him [Christ] is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). As John has declared earlier in his gospel, believers are saved and made children of God “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13). But he makes no corresponding statement in regard to unbelievers, nor does any other part of Scripture. Unbelievers are condemned by their own unbelief, not by God’s predestination.

Peter makes plain that God does not desire “for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). Paul declares with equal clarity: “God our Savior … desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:3–4). Every believer is indebted solely to God’s grace for his eternal salvation, but every unbeliever is himself solely responsible for his eternal damnation.

God does not choose believers for salvation on the basis of who they are or of what they have done but on the basis of His sovereign grace. For His own reasons alone, God chose Jacob above Esau (Rom. 9:13). For His own reasons alone, He chose Israel to be His covenant people (Deut. 7:7–8).

We cannot understand God’s choosing us for salvation but can only thank and glorify Him for “His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6). We can only believe and be forever grateful that we were called “by the grace of Christ” (Gal. 1:6) and that “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29).

Justification

and whom He called, these He also justified; (8:30b)

The next element of God’s saving work is justification of those who believe. After they are called by God, they are also justified by Him. And just as foreknowledge, predestination, and calling are the exclusive work of God, so is justification.

Because justification is discussed in considerable detail in chapters 17–18 of this volume, it is necessary here simply to point out that justified refers to a believer’s being made right with God by God. Because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” men can only be “justified as a gift by [God’s] grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).

Glorification

and whom He justified, these He also glorified. (8:30c)

As with foreknowledge, predestination, calling, and justification, glorification is inseparable from the other elements and is exclusively a work of God.

In saying that those whom He justified, these He also glorified, Paul again emphasizes the believer’s eternal security. As noted above, no one whom God foreknows will fail to be predestined, called, justified, and ultimately glorified. As believers, we know with absolute certainty that awaiting us is “an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17).

Ultimate glory has been a recurring theme throughout Paul’s epistle to the Romans. In 5:2 he wrote, “We exult in hope of the glory of God.” In 8:18 he said, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” He anticipated that marvelous day when “creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (8:21).

To the Thessalonians Paul wrote that our ultimate glorification is the very purpose for which we are redeemed: “It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 2:14).

This promise of final glory was no uncertain hope as far as Paul was concerned. By putting the phrase these He also glorified in the past tense, the apostle demonstrated his own conviction that everyone whom He justified is eternally secure. Those who “obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus [receive] with it eternal glory” (2 Tim. 2:10). That is God’s own guarantee.[1]


God’s Effectual Call

Romans 8:30

And those he predestined, he also called. …

My wife Linda and I have many different personality traits, which is a natural thing for husbands and wives, and one of them is the way we respond to someone’s call. If we are walking down the street and someone calls out so that we can hear the voice but cannot quite distinguish the words, my wife assumes that the person is calling her and turns around. I assume that the person is calling someone else and keep on going. The same thing is true if a driver of a car blows the horn. I ignore it; it must be for someone else. Linda thinks someone is trying to get her attention.

I do not know what that says about the two of us, perhaps only that Linda is more “people oriented” than I am and that I am more “task oriented” than she is. But it is an interesting observation in view of the word we need to look at in this study. The word is “called,” and it occurs in the statement that “those he [that is, God] predestined, he also called …” (Rom. 8:30).

This word is the next link in the great golden chain of salvation by which God reaches down from eternity into time to save sinners. The point of this word, the third link, is that, unlike myself but like Linda, those whom God calls not only hear his call but actually respond to it by turning around and by believing on Jesus Christ or committing their lives to him.

Calling: External and Internal

But we need to back up at this point and review a distinction I made two studies ago, when I first introduced the golden chain. It is the difference between a call of men and women that is merely external, general, and (in itself) ineffective for salvation, and a call that is internal, specific, and regenerating.

The first call is an open invitation to all persons to repent of their sin and turn to Jesus. As I have mentioned, it was spoken by Jesus himself in many places. For example, he said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” In Matthew 16:24 he explained, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” He said in John 7:37, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.”

This last invitation was spoken in Jerusalem on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, when people from many lands and nationalities were assembled. There were Jews from every part of Palestine as well as from many regions of the Roman Empire. There were also Gentiles, some who had become Jewish proselytes but also some who, no doubt, were merely interested bystanders. We get a feeling of what this audience must have been like by remembering the composition of the crowd that had assembled at Pentecost when Peter preached the first sermon of the Christian era, likewise extending a general call to all to believe on Jesus. We are told that on that occasion Jerusalem was filled with “Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans and Arabs …” (Acts 2:9–11).

When Jesus (and later Peter) called such people to faith, the call was universal. It was (and is) for everyone. Anyone who wishes can come to Jesus Christ and be saved.

Today that same call flows from every true Christian pulpit and from all who bear witness to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior in every land.

The difficulty with this external, universal, and (in itself) ineffectual call, however, is that if people are left to themselves, no one ever actually responds to it. People hear the gospel and may even understand it up to a point. But the God who issues the invitation is undesirable to them, and so they turn away. Jesus told a story about a man who had prepared a great banquet and invited many guests (Luke 14:15–24). When the feast was prepared he sent servants with the invitation: “Come, for everything is now ready.” But the guests all began to make excuses.

“I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it,” said one.

“I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out,” said another.

A third replied, “I just got married, so I can’t come.”

That is the way it truly is, since Jesus was not making up this story out of thin air. That was the way the people of his day responded to his general call. They would not accept his invitation. They rejected it, preferring to go their own ways and about their own business.

One of the great newspaper organizations in this country is the Howard organization, and if you are acquainted with it, you may also be aware of the Howard Company logo. It is a lighthouse beneath which are the words: “Give the people the light, and they will find their way.” The idea is that people make foolish mistakes and bad decisions because they do not know the right way. Show it to them and they will follow it, is what the motto means. But that is not the way the Bible describes our condition spiritually. When Jesus was in the world he was the world’s light. The light was shining. But the men of his day did not respond to Jesus by walking in the right path. Instead they hated the light and tried to put it out. They crucified the lighthouse.

This is how people still respond to the universal invitation. It is why Jesus said, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). It is why Paul wrote, “There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God” (Rom. 3:11). And it is why Jesus declared, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him …” (John 6:44).

But this is where the second kind of call comes in, the kind that is actually spoken of in Romans 8:30. Unlike the first call, which was external, universal, and (in itself) ineffective, this second call is internal, specific, and entirely effective. In other words, it effectively saves those—and all those—to whom it is spoken.

The best discussion of the effectual call I know is in John Murray’s small classic, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, where he begins by making the distinction I have just made, showing that there is such a thing as a general or universal call and that there are examples of it in the Bible. But then he points out rightly that “in the New Testament the terms for calling, when used with reference to salvation, are almost uniformly applied, not to the universal call of the gospel, but to the call that ushers men into a state of salvation and is therefore effectual. There is scarcely an instance where the terms are used to designate the indiscriminate overture of grace in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Here are some examples:

Romans 1:6–7—“And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. … called to be saints.”

Romans 11:29—“For God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.”

First Corinthians 1:9—“God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”

Ephesians 4:1—“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”

Second Timothy 1:8–9—“So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life. …”

Second Peter 1:10—“Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. …”

In each of these texts and many others, including our text in Romans 8:30, the call of God is one that effectively saves those to whom it is addressed. Putting the above texts together, it is a call that unites us to Jesus Christ, bringing us into fellowship with him, and sets before us a holy life in which we will be sure to walk if we have truly been called. Putting the call into the context of Romans 8, it is the point at which the eternal foreknowledge and predestination of God pass over into time and start the process by which the individual is drawn from sin to faith in Jesus Christ, is justified through that faith, and is then kept in Christ until his or her final glorification.

Effectual calling is the central and key point in this great golden chain of five links.

The Power of God’s Call

Now that we have distinguished between the external and internal calls, we need to ask why it is that the internal or specific call is so effective. Why does it bring those who hear it to salvation? The answer is not at all difficult to find. The reason the effective call is effective is that it is God’s call. It issues from his mouth, and all that issues from the mouth of God accomplishes precisely that for which he sent it.

This is what Isaiah 55:10–11 teaches us, when it records God as saying:

“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven,

and do not return to it without watering the earth

and making it bud and flourish,

so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:

It will not return to me empty,

but will accomplish what I desire

and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

God’s words are always effective. They accomplish their purpose. But to be faithful to our text we need to point out that what we are dealing with in Romans 8:30, in terms of God’s calling of sinners, is a call to salvation rather than another purpose. So we need to ask exactly how the effective call of God works in the achieving of this goal.

The chief thing the effective call of God in salvation does is to cause the regeneration, or rebirth, of the one thus summoned. In the study by John Murray that I referred to earlier, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, Murray says that it does not make much difference whether we put regeneration before effectual calling, or effectual calling before regeneration, since the critical determining act is God’s in any case. But when the relevant texts are carefully considered, the order nevertheless seems to be as I have indicated. That is, God calls the individual with a specific and effective call, and the call itself produces new spiritual life in the one who hears it, on the basis of which he or she is enabled to respond to the gospel.

In my judgment, the best illustration of how this works is that of the raising of Lazarus from the dead recounted in John 11, the illustration I introduced in the earlier, introductory study of these terms. We are encouraged to take it as an illustration, because it is in the midst of this story and in obvious reference to it that Jesus utters the well-known words, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die …” (vv. 25–26).

What happens in this story? Jesus comes to the tomb of Lazarus and calls out to this dead man, “Lazarus, come out!” and Lazarus does. Clearly the call of Jesus created life in the formerly dead corpse, as a result of which Lazarus responded to Jesus by emerging from the tomb.

That is what happens when God calls us to salvation. His call creates spiritual life in the one called, and the proof that spiritual life is there is that we respond to him. How do we respond? We respond by turning from sin—the theological word is repentance—and by believing on Jesus Christ. In other words, the call of God produces life in the sinner, just as the word of God brought the heavens and earth into existence at the very beginning of creation. The first evidences of that new life are repentance from sin and faith in Jesus.

A moment ago I said that, according to John Murray, it makes little practical difference whether we put regeneration before calling, or calling before regeneration, and that is probably true, though the correct biblical picture seems to be calling first, then regeneration. However, this is not the case in regard to regeneration or calling, on the one hand, and faith and repentance on the other. In this case, the calling of God necessarily comes before the fruit of that calling. It is only after God calls and regenerates that one repents of sin and believes the gospel.

Which comes first, faith or life? The person who knows the Bible answers, “Life.” Otherwise, salvation would depend on ourselves and our own ability, and none of the certainties that Paul is speaking about in Romans 8 would be possible.

Some Important Observations

There are a few important qualifications and observations on what I have been saying, and it would be a mistake to overlook them. Let me list three briefly.

  1. Two responses. I said earlier that the trouble with the general call is that men and women do not naturally respond to it, meaning that they do not become Christians by this call alone. But I need to balance this by adding that, although they do not respond to the call of God unto salvation, they nevertheless can respond superficially by such outward things as coming forward at a religious meeting, making outward profession of faith, or even joining a church. And not only can they, many do. That is why Peter says in the text quoted earlier, “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure …” (2 Peter 1:10). He means that we must be sure that we really have been called by God and are truly born again, and have not merely been called by the preacher.

Donald Grey Barnhouse, one of my predecessors as minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia (1927–1960), wrote:

If men heed no more than the outward call, they become members of the visible church. If the inward call is heard in our hearts, we become members of the invisible church. The first call unites us merely to a group of professing members; but the inward call unites us to Christ himself, and to all that have been born again.

The outward call may bring with it a certain intellectual knowledge of the truth; the inward call brings us the faith of the heart, the hope which anchors us forever to Christ and the love which must ever draw us back to him who first loved us. The one can end in formalism, the other in true life. The outward call may curb the tendencies of the old nature and keep a soul in outward morality; the inward call will cure the plague that is in us and bring us on to triumph in Christ.

  1. The importance of the general call. My second qualification concerns the importance of the general call. Everything I have said thus far has stressed the necessity of the special, or internal, call of the individual to salvation by God. I have said that no one naturally responds to God on the basis of the general call alone. But now I need to add that although that is true, it is nevertheless also true that the general call is necessary, since it is through the general, or universal, call that God calls specifically.

Let me say it this way: The effectual or specific call comes through the general call. That is, it is through the preaching of the Word by God’s evangelists and ministers and through the telling of the Good News of the gospel by Christians everywhere that God calls sinners. He does not call everyone we Christians call. We sow the seed broadly; some of it falls on stony or shallow soil, just as some of it also falls on good soil. But when the seed falls on the soil God has previously prepared and when God, the giver of life, blesses the work of sowing—so that the seed takes root in the good soil and grows—the result is a spiritual harvest. People are saved, and they do pass into that great chain of God’s saving acts, including foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification, that is outlined in the eighth chapter of Romans.

Let me put it still another way. If God calls effectively through the general call, it is as necessary that there be a general call if some are to be saved as it is that there be a specific and effectual call. Our call does not regenerate. God alone is the author of the new birth. All must be born “from above.” Nevertheless, the way God does that is through the sowing of the seed of his Word, which is entrusted to us.

Nobody but God could invent this way of saving human beings. If it were left to us, we would say that either (1) God has to do it; we can do nothing, or (2) we have to do it; God can do nothing. As it is, the work of effectively calling people to Christ is of God, yet using human beings.

  1. Am I elect? There is this last qualification. Sometimes people get bogged down by the subject of God’s foreknowledge and predestination, and they end up saying, “Well, if God is going to elect me to salvation, he will just have to do it. There is nothing I can do.” Or else they get hung up on knowing whether or not they are elect. They say, “How can I know I am elect? If I am not, there is no hope for me,” and they despair. This question bothered John Bunyan, the author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, for a long time and caused extraordinary despair in him.

But there is no reason for either such passivity or such despair. How do you know whether or not you are elect? The answer lies in another question: Have you responded to the gospel? In other words, have you answered God’s call?

How do we know that the patriarch Abraham was an elect man? It is because, when God called to him to leave Ur of the Chaldeans and go to a land that he would afterward inherit, Abraham “obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (Heb. 11:8), and because he persevered in that obedience to the very end of his life.

How do we know that Moses was predestined to be saved? It is because, though raised in the lap of Egyptian luxury, when he had grown up he “refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,” choosing “to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time” (Heb. 11:24–25). He sided with God’s people.

How do we know that Paul was elected to salvation? It is because, though breathing out hatred against God’s people and trying to kill some of them, when Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus, calling, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” the future apostle to the Gentiles was transformed. He saw his sin and turned from it. He saw the righteousness of Christ and believed on Jesus. He obeyed and served God from that time on. Moreover, when he wrote about salvation later, as he did in the letter to the Romans, he showed beyond any doubt that it was not he who chose God, but rather God who chose him and called him to be Christ’s follower.

How do you know if you are among the elect?

There is only one way, and it is not by trying to peer into the eternal counsels of God, stripping the cover from the book of his divine foreknowledge and predestination. The only way you will ever know if you are among the elect is if you respond to the gospel. We are told in the Bible: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved …” (Acts 16:31). Do it. Then you can know that God has set his electing love on you and that, having loved you, he will continue to love you and keep you to the end.

Will you believe? It would be a delight if God would use this study of the effectual call to call you effectually.

Justification and Glorification

Romans 8:30

… those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Anyone who is involved in a business of any size knows the necessity of a long-range plan. There are one-year plans, five-year plans, and even ten-year plans. The longer these plans are the more often they need to be reviewed, revised, and updated. An executive who can create an accurate long-range plan, foreseeing most of the contingencies that will affect the company in future years, and then keep on top of it, is an extremely valuable asset to his or her organization.

We have been studying a long-range plan, in fact, the longest-range plan that has ever been devised or could be devised. It is a plan that has had its origins in eternity past and will find its consummation in eternity future. It is all-embracing. Everything that has ever happened or ever will happen in history is part of it. And it is utterly certain. So detailed is this plan and so wisely is it drafted that nothing will ever arise to upset it or even cause an alternative plan to be necessary. Of course, I am speaking of the plan of God outlined for us in Romans 8:28–30.

This plan begins with God’s foreknowledge and predestination, expresses itself in time in the calling of individuals to faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, includes justification, and ends in glorification, when these foreknown and predestined persons are made entirely like Jesus. We are to look at the last two steps of the plan in this study.

Justification by Faith

The first term we need to look at is justification, but we do not need to study it in detail here, since it was the chief focus of our study in volume one and has been mentioned many times since.

Justification is the opposite of condemnation. When a person is in a wrong relationship to the law and is condemned or pronounced guilty by the judge, condemnation does not make the person guilty. The person is only declared to be so. In the same way, in justification a person is declared by God to be in a right relationship to his law, but not made righteous. In a human court a person can be declared righteous or “innocent” on the basis of his or her own righteousness. But in God’s court, since we humans have no righteousness of our own and are therefore not innocent, believers are declared righteous on the ground of Christ’s atonement.

It helps to realize that the full New Testament doctrine is not merely justification alone, though this is the only word Paul uses in his abbreviated listing of it in Romans 8, but justification by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

That definition has four parts.

  1. The source of our justification is the grace of God (Rom. 3:24). Since “there is no one righteous, not even one” (Rom. 3:10), it is clear that no one can make or declare himself or herself “righteous” (v. 20). How, then, is salvation possible? It is possible only if God does the work for us—which is what “grace” means, since we do not deserve God’s working. Paul frequently emphasizes this by adding the words free or freely to “grace,” which is redundant but nevertheless strong writing.
  2. The ground of our justification is the work of Christ (Rom 3:25). We saw this in volume one in our discussion of the word propitiation. It is because this work has been done that God has been able to justify us justly.

“Justification,” writes John R. W. Stott, “is not a synonym for amnesty, which strictly is pardon without principle, a forgiveness which overlooks—even forgets (amnēstia is ‘forgetfulness’)—wrongdoing and declines to bring it to justice. No, justification is an act of justice, of gracious justice. … When God justifies sinners, he is not declaring bad people to be good, or saying that they are not sinners after all; he is pronouncing them legally righteous, free from any liability to the broken law, because he himself in his Son has born the penalty of their law-breaking. … In other words, we are ‘justified by his blood.’ ”

  1. The means of our justification is faith (Rom. 3:25–26). Faith is the channel by which justification becomes ours. This is not mentioned in the chain of God’s saving actions listed in Romans 8:29–30, but it is the fruit of God’s effectual calling and its result, which is regeneration. When we are born again we show it by repenting of sin and turning to Jesus Christ in faith, believing that he is our Savior.

Two things should be said about faith.

First, faith is not a good work. It is necessary, essential. But it is not a good work. In fact, it is not a work at all. Faith is God’s gift, as Paul makes clear in Ephesians 2:8–9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Second, although faith is the means of our justification, it is also the only means. Luther expressed this by the words sola fide (“by faith alone”), thus adding a word not present in the text of Scripture but by it nevertheless catching the essence of the idea. Clearly, if faith is not a good work but only receiving what God has done for us and freely offers to us, then it is by faith alone that we can be justified, all other acts or works being excluded by definition. The only means by which any person can ever be justified is by believing God and receiving what he offers.

  1. The effect of our justification is union with Christ. This idea was developed fully in Romans 5 and in an earlier section of chapter 8. It is the ground of the benefits of our salvation unfolded in Romans 5:1–11 and of our victory over sin elaborated in Romans 5:12–8:17.

Stott explains it this way:

To say that we are justified “through Christ” points to his historical death; to say that we are justified “in Christ” points to the personal relationship with him which by faith we now enjoy. This simple fact makes it impossible for us to think of justification as a purely external transaction; it cannot be isolated from our union with Christ and all the benefits which this brings. The first is membership of the Messianic community of Jesus. If we are in Christ and therefore justified, we are also the children of God and the true (spiritual) descendants of Abraham. … Secondly, this new community, to create which Christ gave himself on the cross, is to be “eager to do what is good,” and its members are to devote themselves to good works. …

To be sure, we can say with Paul that the law condemned us. But “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Hope of Glory

Glorification, the fifth and final term of Romans 8:29–30, is also a word we have studied earlier. In fact, we met the term as early as Romans 5:2 (which anticipates Rom. 8:28–30), where Paul spoke of Christians as rejoicing “in the hope of the glory of God.”

What does Romans 5:2 mean?

It means that we know that one day we will be glorified and that we rejoice in this certainty. That is, we know that we will be like Jesus. He is God and is therefore like God in all respects; we will be like him. We will not become God, of course. But we will become like him in his communicable attributes: love, joy, peace, mercy, wisdom, faithfulness, grace, goodness, self-control and other such things (see Gal. 5:22–23). In that day sin will no longer trouble us, and we will enjoy the complete fullness and eternal favor of God’s presence.

When does glorification take place?

There is a sense in which much of it takes place when we die, for then we will be freed from sin, which has taken up residence in our bodies, and will be like Christ. As John wrote, “… we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). Yet I am sure John Murray is right when he insists in his treatment of this word that, in its fullest sense, glorification awaits the return of Jesus Christ and the resurrection of our bodies. In fact, the text in 1 John, which I have just quoted, says this. It does not say simply that “we shall be like him.” It says, “When he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

Here is how Murray puts it:

  1. Glorification is associated and bound up with the coming of Christ in glory. … So indispensable is the coming of the Lord to the hope of glory that glorification for the believer has no meaning without the manifestation of Christ’s glory. Glorification is glorification with Christ. Remove the latter and we have robbed the glorification of believers of the one thing that enables them to look forward to this event with confidence. …
  2. The glorification of believers is associated and bound up with the renewal of creation. [This is the teaching of Romans 8:19–22, which we studied earlier. In those verses the glorification of our bodies, which means their resurrection, and the renewal of creation are placed together.]

When we think of glorification, then, it is no narrow perspective that we entertain. It is a renewed cosmos, new heavens and new earth, that we must think of as the context of the believers’ glory, a cosmos delivered from all the consequences of sin, in which there will be no more curse but in which righteousness will have complete possession and undisturbed habitation. “And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev. 21:27). “And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: and they shall see his face; and his name shall be on their foreheads” (Rev. 22:3, 4).

Past Tense, Future Blessing

The most striking feature of Paul’s mention of glorification in Romans 8:30 is that it is in the past (aorist) tense, a fact noted when I first introduced this chain of words three studies back. Since glorification is clearly future from our perspective, this requires explanation.

Some commentators think that here Paul departs from strict accuracy or logic in order to stress the absolute certainty of this future event. That is, it is so assured that it can be spoken of as if it were past. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says this, writing, “The Apostle’s argument is that, as we know most certainly that we have been called and justified, we can be equally certain of our glorification. Nothing can prevent it because it is a part of God’s purpose for us.” Likewise Leon Morris: “So certain is it that it can be spoken of as already accomplished. It is in the plan of God, and that means that it is as good as here.”

Other scholars call this use of the past tense an aorist of anticipation or a prophetic aorist, which is almost the same thing. Since God has decreed it, it will happen and can be considered as having happened. Charles Hodge inclines to this explanation when he says, “God … sees the end from the beginning … so that in predestinating us, he at the same time, in effect, called, justified and glorified us, as all these were included in his purpose.”

  1. Godet is also helpful, though to my way of thinking his explanation is probably not quite what Paul has in mind here. He reminds us that there is a sense in which we have been glorified. That is, our federal head Jesus Christ has been glorified, and we are glorified in him. If this is the case, the verse would be matched by Ephesians 2:6, where Paul teaches that “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” This does not mean merely that taking our place in heaven is a future certainty but that we have actually already been seated in heaven in the person of Christ. The only reason I say that in my judgment this is not what Paul has in mind here is because in Romans there seems to be a flow from eternity past to eternity future, the middle portion of which dips into time. Paul seems to be describing something that began in the past, has affected us in the present, and will carry us into the future.

If we must make a choice among these three interpretations, I would side with either or both of the first two.

Yet it may be—I think I prefer this—that the chain simply moves back into eternity at this point. We have seen that it begins in eternity and then dips down into time. The flow of the verses would be most satisfying if the chain simply moved back into God’s timeless eternity once again, glorification being spoken of as past because it is indeed past (or eternally present) in the mind of God.

What About Sanctification?

As I close my detailed discussion of these specific terms, I want to ask a question that is also raised by Lloyd-Jones in his exposition—wisely, I think. It concerns the one obvious omission in this list: sanctification. Why is sanctification not included, particularly when it is supposed by many to be the central theme of Romans 5 through 8?

I have already addressed myself to the latter part of this question, namely, whether Paul is discussing sanctification in these chapters. I did that at the beginning of this volume, arguing that it is not Paul’s purpose to discuss sanctification at all, though much of what he says necessarily touches on it. He is arguing the case for perseverance or eternal security, which is why he introduces the phrase “hope of glory” as early as Romans 5:2. That is the central and important theme, and it comes back at the end, in Romans 8, which is what we are studying now.

But that is not a full answer to the question.

Why not?

Well, Paul has not been discussing foreknowledge, predestination, or effectual calling in these chapters either, yet he mentions those terms here. If they are included, why not sanctification? Again, the apostle is unfolding the flow of salvation from the decrees of God in the past to our glorification in eternity future. Isn’t sanctification an indispensable part of that flow? Isn’t it as necessary and certain as the other items?

Why, then, is sanctification omitted?

Here are the reasons Martyn Lloyd-Jones offers.

  1. Sanctification is not part of the argument Paul has in mind at this point. Paul is focusing on the acts of God for our salvation, and his point is that our salvation is certain because it is God who is thus acting. Our security depends upon what he has done, not on what we may or may not be able to do. To put it in other words, our security in Christ does not depend upon our sanctification. Eternal security is not the anticipated outcome of some process. Sanctification is a process while these other items are divine acts. From the point of view of Paul’s argument in Romans 8, these are entirely different things.
  2. Sanctification is an inevitable consequence of justification. Therefore, Paul does not need to mention it. As soon as a person is called by God and is justified, in that same moment sanctification begins. This is because of regeneration or the imparting of a new nature to the saved person. There is no justification without regeneration just as there is no regeneration without justification. So the one who is justified, who now also possesses a new nature, will inevitably show that new nature by beginning to live a new life. That is why we can say that a claim to justification apart from growth in holiness is presumption.
  3. Sanctification is inevitable also from the standpoint of our glorification. Indeed, it is a preparation for it. To go back to the text I cited toward the beginning of this study, I note that when John, writing of glorification, says “We know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is,” he immediately adds, “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:2–3). In other words, it is the assurance of our glorification that spurs on our sanctification.

What the great Welsh preacher gets out of this (rightly, in my opinion) is that the proper way to teach sanctification is not by concentrating on “me,” “my feelings,” or certain steps to “personal holiness,” but rather on what God has done for us. That is, the proper approach to sanctification is to fix our eyes on God and our minds on the great biblical doctrines.

How do most people teach sanctification today? Either it is by methods (“These are the steps; do this, and you will become holy”), or it is by experience (“What you need is a special filling of the Holy Spirit [or tongues or whatever]”).

This is not the biblical pattern. As Lloyd-Jones says:

The way to preach holiness is not to preach about “me” and “my feelings” and to propound various theories as to how I can be delivered; it is, rather, to preach justification and glorification. By so doing you will include sanctification. Such is the Apostle’s method—“whom he justified, them he also glorified.” It is because certain people do not know the truth about justification and glorification as they ought that they are defective in their teaching about sanctification. A man who has his eye on his future state of glorification will spend his time in preparing himself for it.

Suppose you are invited to a party by the President of the United States. If you are normal, you would take some time to get ready, choosing a special dress or suit and making whatever other special preparations might be necessary. In the same way, the fact that we are going to be with Jesus Christ and be like him should influence our behavior and life choices.

When I was teaching on Romans 6:2 and 11, explaining how it is that we have “died to sin,” I said that we have died to it in the sense that we have died to the past. And I developed a slogan: You cannot go back; there is no place for you to go but forward.

That is absolutely true, of course. We cannot go back. The eternal purpose of God in saving us, unfolded in the five great acts of God described in Romans 8:29–30, makes that plain. But just as it is important to say that we cannot go back, so is it also important to say that we are going forward. God’s foreknowledge of us is followed by his predestination of us to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. His predestination of us to be made like Jesus is followed by our being called to saving faith. Our calling is followed by our justification. Our justification is followed by our glorification. Therefore, it is as certain that one day we will be with Jesus, and be completely like Jesus, as it is that God exists and that his long-range plan is realistic, effective, and unchangeable.

This is God’s great plan. So let’s get on with our part in it and be thankful that his grace has drawn us in.

The Perseverance of the Saints

Romans 8:30

… those he justified, he also glorified.

We are all familiar with the saying about people who can’t see the forest for the trees, and you must know people like that. You probably even know Bible teachers like that. I do not want this to be true of our study of Romans 8. So, at this point of our studies, having examined each of the five great terms of verses 28–30 in detail, I want to step back and look at the great doctrine of which they are all only individual parts.

It is not at all hard to recognize what that doctrine is, for we have been mentioning it in one way or another ever since we began the chapter. It is the perseverance of the saints, or eternal security. Or, as some say colloquially, “once saved, always saved.” It is the truth that those who have been truly brought to faith in Jesus Christ—having been foreknown and predestined to faith by God from eternity past, having been called, regenerated, and justified in this life, and having been so set on the road to ultimate glorification that this culminating glorification can even be spoken of in the past tense—that these persons will never and can never be lost. Perseverance is implied in each of the terms we have studied, but this is the place to go back and look at the entire forest.

The Biblical Doctrine

Yet we do not want to distort the doctrine by oversimplification, as some do. We want to understand it as it is taught in Scripture—as Paul teaches it in Romans 8, for instance. Therefore, we need to begin our overview by excluding some common misunderstandings about perseverance.

First, perseverance does not mean that Christians are exempted from all spiritual danger, just because they are Christians. On the contrary, the opposite is true. They are in even greater danger, because now that they are Christians the world and the devil will be doggedly set against them and will try to destroy them—and would, if that were possible. We do not need to go very far in Romans to see this fact, for in the next section of this chapter Paul lists some of the hostile forces believers face. He will speak of trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, and sword, concluding, “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered” (v. 36, quoting Ps. 44:22).

It is because we really do face many spiritual dangers that the doctrine of perseverance is so important.

Second, the doctrine of perseverance does not mean that Christians are always kept from falling into sin, just because they are Christians. Sadly, Christians do sin. Noah fell into drunkenness. Abraham lied about his wife Sarah, saying she was his sister rather than his wife, thinking to protect his own life. David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then arranged for the murder of Uriah, her husband. Peter denied the Lord. Perseverance does not mean that Christians will not fall, only that they will not fall away.

Jesus predicted Peter’s denial. But he added, “I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31).

Third, perseverance does not mean that those who merely profess Christ without actually being born again are secure. This truth explains the many warnings that appear in Scripture to the effect that we should give diligent attention “to make [our] calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10). In this area Jesus’ statements are among the most direct. He said, for example, “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matt. 10:22). We are able to stand firm only because God perseveres with us. But it is also true that we must stand firm. In fact, the final perseverance of believers is the only ultimate proof that they have been chosen by God and have truly been born again.

The Christian doctrine of perseverance does not lead to a false assurance or presumption, though some who claim to be saved do presume on God by their sinful lifestyles and willful disobedience.

Perseverance does not make us lazy.

Perseverance does not make us proud.

No, the real doctrine of perseverance is precisely what Paul declares it to be in Romans 8: that those whom God has foreknown and predestinated to be conformed to the likeness of his Son will indeed come to that great consummation. They will be harassed and frequently tempted. Often they will fall. Nevertheless, in the end they will be with Jesus and will be like him, because this is the destiny that God in his sovereign and inexplicable love has predetermined for them.

The Problem Passages

However, it is not possible to present this doctrine, even in the context of an exposition of Romans 8, without dealing with some of the biblical passages that seem to contradict it. These passages trouble some Christians and are often in their minds when they hear the security of the believer mentioned. Perhaps they trouble you.

Consider, for example, Hebrews 6:4–6, which says, “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance. …” Doesn’t that imply that those who are saved can be lost?

Or what about 2 Peter 2:1–2? “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways. …” Doesn’t that say that people who have been redeemed by Christ can later deny him and thus fall away and perish?

Or what about Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:27? “I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” Are believers subject to “disqualification”?

Or what about the four kinds of soil in Jesus’ parable in Matthew 13? Some of the seed springs up quickly, but later it is scorched by the sun or else is choked by weeds. It perishes.

Or what about the five foolish virgins of Matthew 25? They are waiting for the bridegroom’s coming, but because they went away to get oil and were not actually there when he came they were excluded from the wedding banquet.

I am sure you can add your own “problem” texts to these suggestions.

It is important to wrestle with these passages, of course, and not merely dismiss them with some glib statement of “once saved, always saved.” Otherwise we will indeed be presuming, and we will miss the very important warnings the texts convey. However, a careful examination of these passages will show that although they can be said to put a proper hedge around perseverance, lest we presume upon it or take it lightly, they do not contradict the doctrine.

Three Categories

How do we approach these difficulties? Martyn Lloyd-Jones does it at great length in more than one hundred pages of careful argument in the second of two volumes on Romans 8. I do not want to take that much space to do the identical thing here. Those who want to examine the matter in greater detail can use the Welsh preacher’s work. However, Lloyd-Jones is helpful for us in that he puts the problem texts I have been introducing into a few manageable categories and treats them in that way. In a much briefer manner, I want to follow his procedure.

Category 1: Passages that seem to suggest that we can “fall away” from grace.

This category contains the most difficult and most frequently cited passages. Therefore, it is the one we need to explore at greatest length.

The first passage is the one in which the phrase “fallen away from grace” occurs, Galatians 5:4. An examination of the context shows that what Paul is addressing is the problem of false teaching that had been introduced into the Galatian churches by a party of legalistic Jews who were insisting that circumcision and other Jewish practices had to be followed if the believers in Galatia were truly to be saved. Here the contrast with grace is law, and the apostle is saying that if the believers should allow themselves to be seduced by this false teaching, they will have been led away from grace into legalism. This is not the same thing as saying that they will have lost their salvation, though the doctrine of the legalists was indeed a false doctrine by which nobody could be saved. Paul’s argument is that the Galatian Christians should “stand firm” in the liberty Christ had given them and not become “burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1).

The parable of the four kinds of soil also falls into this category of problem texts. Does it teach that it is possible for a person to be genuinely born again and then fall away and be lost, either because of the world’s scorching persecutions or its materialistic entanglements? The image we have of young plants suggests this, since the plants in the story obviously do have life. But if we examine Jesus’ own explanation of the story, we will see that he makes a distinction between a person who only “hears” the word and a person who “hears the word and understands it” (Matt. 13:19, 23). The one who merely hears may receive the word he does not actually understand “with joy” and thus seem to be saved. But “he has no root” in him, which he proves by lasting “only a short time.” Those who understand and thus have the root of genuine life in them show it by their endurance and fruit.

Jesus’ point, since the parable concerns the preaching of the gospel in this age, is that not all preaching of the word will be blessed by God to the saving of those who hear it. Only some will be converted.

Another passage that falls in this category of problem texts is the story of the five wise and five foolish virgins. This is a disturbing parable because it teaches that there will be people within the visible church who have been invited to the marriage supper, profess Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and actually seem to be waiting for his promised return, but who are nevertheless lost at the end. It is meant to be disturbing. But if we compare it with the other parables in the same chapter—the parable of the talents and the parable of the sheep and the goats—it is clear that Jesus is saying only that in the church many who are not genuinely born again will pass for believers, until the end. It is only at the final judgment, when the Lord returns, that those who are truly saved and those who only profess to be saved will be differentiated.

The most difficult of the passages that seem to suggest that believers can fall away from grace is 2 Peter 2:1–2, which refers to people “denying the sovereign Lord who bought them.” This sounds as if Peter is describing people who, having been redeemed by Jesus and having believed in him, later deny him and fall away.

We should be warned against this misunderstanding by the way the chapter continues. Then we see that Peter is actually speaking of people who have learned about Jesus Christ and have even escaped a considerable amount of the external pollution of the world by having the high standards of the Christian life taught to them, but who have repudiated this teaching in order to return to the world’s corruption, which they actually love. Peter rather crudely compares them to “a dog” [that] returns to its vomit” and “a sow that is washed” but nevertheless goes back to “her wallowing in the mud” (v. 22). The reason they do this is because their inner nature is unchanged. They may have been cleaned up externally, but like the Pharisees, their insides are still full of corruption. These are the people who deny the Lord who bought them.

But how can Peter say that Jesus “bought” them? As I say, this is a difficult text and has proved so for many commentators. But the answer seems to be that Peter is also thinking of an external purchase or deliverance here. Since he begins by speaking of those who were false prophets among the people of Israel, what he seems to be saying is that just as they were beneficiaries of the deliverance of the nation from Egypt but were nevertheless not true followers of God, so there will be people like this within the churches. They will seem to have been purchased by Christ and will show outward signs of such deliverance, but they will still be false prophets and false professors.

None of these passages teach that salvation can be lost. They are either referring to something else, like falling from grace into legalism, or they are teaching that those who merely make an external profession of faith, however orthodox or holy they may seem, will fall away. As John writes in his first letter, “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us” (1 John 2:19).

Category 2: Passages that seem to suggest that our salvation is uncertain.

There are a large number of verses in this category, but they are much alike and therefore do not each require separate treatment. For example, there is Philippians 2:12: “… continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” And 2 Peter 1:10: “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fail.” And also Hebrews 6:4–6, “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance.”

This last passage, which I have already mentioned, is particularly troubling to many. So let me begin with it. One observation is that even if the text does indirectly teach that a Christian can fall away and be lost, its specific teaching would be that such a person could thereafter never be saved a second time “because [they would be] crucifying the Son of God all over again” (v. 6). Few would want to accept that. So even those who do not believe in eternal security need to find another, better interpretation.

In this case, the answer is in the entire thrust of Hebrews, which was written to Jews who had been exposed to Christianity and had even seemed to accept it somewhat, to go on to full faith and not to draw back again into Judaism. Everything in the book points in this direction. So this “problem” passage is actually talking about people who might have had a taste of Christianity but who fall away without ever actually becoming true Christians. If this has happened, they cannot come back, because in a certain sense they have been inoculated against Christianity.

However, the real situation emerges in verse 9, where the author of the book writes, “Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case—things that accompany salvation.” In other words, the author considered his readers to be genuine believers, which meant that, in his opinion, they would not draw back but would go on to embrace the fullness of the doctrines of the faith, as he is urging them to do.

The other verses—Philippians 2:12 and 2 Peter 1:10—are not nearly so difficult. They merely remind us of what I said earlier: that the fact of God’s perseverance with us does not suggest that somehow we do not have to persevere, too. We do. In fact, it is because God is persevering with us that we will persevere. Remember that Philippians 2:12, which tells us to “work out” our salvation, is immediately followed by verse 13, which says, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” That is, God gives us the desire and then enables us to achieve what he desires.

Category 3: Warning passages.

The final category of problem passages contains warnings, like Romans 11:20–21: “… Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.” Or Hebrews 2:1–3, which urges us to “pay more careful attention … to what we have heard” and ends with “How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” Or 1 Corinthians 9:27, where Paul issues a warning to himself: “… so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

The reason for these passages is that we need warnings from God in order to persevere. Or, to put it in other language, they are one of the ways God has to ensure our perseverance. The proof of this is seen in the different ways unbelievers and believers react to them. Do the problem verses I have cited as “warnings” trouble unbelievers? Not at all. Either they regard them as mere foolishness and something hardly to be noticed, or they take them in a straightforward manner but assume that their lives are all right and that the verses therefore do not concern them. It is only believers who are troubled, because they are concerned about their relationships with God and do not want to presume that all is well with their souls when it may not be.

These passages provoke us to higher levels of commitment and greater godliness, which is what they are given for. And even this should encourage us. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, “To be concerned and troubled about the state of our soul when we read passages such as these is in and of itself evidence that we are sensitive to God’s Word and to his Spirit, that we have spiritual life in us.”

God’s Plan and God’s Glory

As I said at the beginning of this study, I have taken a great deal of time to discuss these “problem passages” because I know that they loom large in the minds of Christian people whenever the doctrine of perseverance is discussed. And rightly so. We need to consider them carefully. But there is a danger in such close examination, for then we may give the impression that the related texts are all on the problem side and that there are very few passages that teach eternal security. That is not true, of course, even though in this study I will not balance my treatment of the problems with an equal number of passages on the positive side.

There are many such texts. I am sure you know some of them. There are two in the words of the Lord himself:

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27–28).

“And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day” (John 6:39).

There are also the confident words of Paul that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). And, of course, Romans 8:31–39, the end of the chapter:

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;

we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Why will we persevere? We will persevere because this is God’s plan for us, and the end of it all will be God’s glory.[2]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (pp. 494–500). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: The Reign of Grace (Vol. 2, pp. 927–950). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Shepherds’ Conference 2017

“We preach Christ” was the theme of this year’s Shepherds’ Conference.  Over 4500 men from 67 countries gathered for four days of preaching, fellowship, and singing at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. Speakers included John MacArthur, Albert Mohler, Ligon Duncan, Steve Lawson, Mark Dever, Stephen Nichols, Paul Washer, Tom Pennington, Phil Johnson and many others. The messages they delivered were related to who Christ is and why He must be the focus of pastoral preaching. The podcasts are now available on GTY’s website.   View article →

March 25, 2017: Verse of the day

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7:14 a sign. Since Ahaz refused to choose a sign (vv. 11, 12), the Lord chose His own sign, whose implementation would occur far beyond Ahaz’s lifetime. a virgin. This prophecy reached forward to the virgin birth of the Messiah, as the NT notes (Mt 1:23). The Heb. word refers to an unmarried woman and means “virgin” (Ge 24:43; Prov 30:19; SS 1:3; 6:8), so the birth of Isaiah’s own son (8:3) could not have fully satisified the prophecy. Cf. Ge 3:15. Immanuel. The title, applied to Jesus in Mt 1:23, means “God with us.”

MacArthur Study Bible

7:14 the Lord himself. Failure of the human king to respond to the invitation (v. 12) results in the divine King again taking the initiative (cf. v. 17). Similarly, two such signs would be offered to Hezekiah, Ahaz’s son and successor (see 37:30; 38:7).

Although some claim that the word translated virgin (Hb. ‘almah) refers generally to a “young woman,” it actually refers specifically to a “maiden”—that is, to a young woman who is unmarried and sexually chaste, and thus has virginity as one of her characteristics (see Gen. 24:16, 43; Ex. 2:8, “girl”). Thus when the Septuagint translators, 200 years before the birth of Christ, rendered ‘almah here with Greek parthenos (a specific term for “virgin”) they rightly perceived the meaning of the Hebrew term; and when Matthew applied this prophecy to the virgin birth of Christ (see Matt. 1:23), it was in accord with this well-established understanding of parthenos (“virgin”) as used in the Septuagint and in other Greek writers.

Isaiah prophesies further that it is “the virgin” who shall call his name Immanuel. Bestowing a child’s name often falls to the mother in the OT (e.g., the naming of the patriarchs in Gen. 29:31–30:24; but cf. 35:18; also Judg. 13:24; 1 Sam. 1:20), although other women (cf. Ruth 4:17) or even the father (Gen. 16:15; Judg. 8:31) could be involved in the naming. The name itself, Immanuel, “God is with us,” is the message of the sign. Such is its importance that Matthew translates it for his readers (Matt. 1:23). Immanuel is used as a form of address in Isa. 8:8 (“your land, O Immanuel”), and as a sentence in 8:10 (“for God is with us”). To say that God is “with” someone or a people means that God is guiding and helping them to fulfill their calling (Gen. 21:22; Ex. 3:12; Deut. 2:7; Josh. 1:5; Ps. 46:7, 11; Isa. 41:10). As such, it would provide a pointed message either to the fearful Ahaz or to the failing royal house.

Christian interpretation follows Matthew in applying this verse to the birth of Jesus. However, some aspects of Isaiah’s prophecy also relate to the significance of the sign for Isaiah’s own day. This being the case, a number of questions are raised: To whose family does the virgin belong, and how should her marital status be understood? What is the precise significance of the child’s name? Is it a personal name, or should it be understood as a title? Most importantly, does the fulfillment of this sign belong to Isaiah’s own day, or does it rather point (even in his day) to a much more distant and complete fulfillment? Christians have typically answered these questions in one of two ways.

Some hold that the sign has a single fulfillment—that is, the sign points originally and solely to the birth of Jesus as the “ultimate” Messiah. Those who hold this view emphasize the understanding of ‘almah only as “virgin,” thus precluding any “near term” fulfillment before the birth of Jesus; this view understands “Immanuel” as a title (as in 8:8) rather than a personal name. It is also noted that the variation in reference to a “son” (Hb. ben) in 7:14, as compared to a “boy” (Hb. na‘ar) in v. 16, further distinguishes between the child of miraculous birth and a more generic reference to a male child unrelated to the divine promise. This has the effect of separating the reference to Isaiah’s day (vv. 16–17) from the fulfillment of the announced miraculous son to be born at a future time (v. 14). According to this interpretation, then, the prediction of the virgin birth in v. 14 is a straightforward prediction of an event cast well into the future, and Matthew’s application of this prophecy to Jesus (Matt. 1:20–23) provides the divinely inspired testimony to there being a single fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. By this interpretation, the sign is directed to the “house of David,” to affirm God’s intention of preserving David’s dynasty (in keeping with the promises of 2 Sam. 7:12–16), in order to bring Israel’s mission to its glorious fulfillment (Isa. 9:6–7; 11:1–10). God will use any means to do this, even miraculous ones: this is a rebuke to the faithless and secular outlook of Ahaz.

Those who see in this sign a more immediate application to Ahaz and his times usually argue that the prophecy has a double fulfillment—that is, both an immediate fulfillment in Isaiah’s day and a long-term fulfillment in the birth of the Messiah. Those who hold this view argue that it is natural for the name “Immanuel” to be understood in terms of double fulfillment, since two other “sons” perform similar symbolic roles in the context (cf. 7:3; 8:3–4). They argue further that the prophet’s own interpretation of the sign in 7:16–17 applies it directly to Ahaz’s own day. It should be observed that this understanding of the text in no way diminishes Matthew’s affirmation of the supernatural conception and virgin birth of Jesus (cf. also Luke 1:34–35). Even if the prophecy does include an immediate application to the time of Ahaz, however, the prophecy cannot have been fulfilled completely by the birth of someone like Maher-shalal-hash-baz (Isa. 8:1, 3) or by Hezekiah, as some have suggested, since 9:6 prophesies the birth of a son whose name will be “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”—a statement that could apply only to the Davidic Messiah. On this understanding, then, the prophecy of 7:14 foretells the birth of Immanuel, which was fulfilled partially in Isaiah’s time but fully and finally in the person of Jesus Christ.

Faithful interpreters can be found on either side of this debate. One should not, therefore, lose sight of those truths on which all agree: the prophet speaks authoritatively for God; Ahaz and his house stand under judgment; the prophetic sign directly meets the failures of Ahaz’s day; fulfillment of the prophecy comes about through direct divine intervention in human history; and the sign finds its final fulfillment in the virgin birth of Jesus the Messiah, who is literally “God with us.”
7:14 The prophecy concerning Immanuel (see also Gen. 3:15) is fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:20–23). It is related to the larger OT theme in which God brings new life and offspring to barren women (see note on Gen. 18:10).

ESV Study Bible

7:14 the virgin The Hebrew term here, almah, indicates a young woman of marriageable age. In the ancient world, a young unmarried woman who had reached puberty could reasonably be assumed to be a virgin because of the close social and familial restrictions on her activities.

There is ongoing debate about whether almah technically denotes a virgin, since the Hebrew term bethulah is the more precise word for “virgin.” If almah does not denote virginity, the implication would be that the nt interpretation of the virgin birth is mistaken (see note on Matt 1:23). However, Hebrew and Greek use a variety of terms to refer to young unmarried women or girls, indicating that physical virginity was the cultural norm and did not need to be explicitly expressed.

The overlapping use of almah and bethulah in Gen 24 to refer to the unmarried Rebekah demonstrates that these terms were considered to be interchangeable (see Gen 24:16, 43). The Septuagint uses the Greek term parthenos to translate almah in Isa 7:14 and Gen 24:43. Drawing on the Septuagint, the nt interpretation is based on the Greek word parthenos, also a more precise word for “virgin.” The nt describes the fulfillment of Isa 7:14 with the birth of Jesus in Matt 1:18–23. Matthew focuses on the miraculous nature of Jesus’ birth and the scandal of Mary’s pregnancy prior to the consummation of her marriage to Joseph. While Isaiah focuses on the child and the symbolic nature of his name, Matthew emphasizes the remarkable nature of the birth.

God with us Means “God with us.” The three symbolic names of these children point to the three phases of God’s future work: imminent judgment, coming restoration, and future redemption (compare Isa 7:3; 8:1).

The concept that God is present among His people is prominent in the ot. The symbolic name Immanuel can be understood as an affirmation of trust in Yahweh, as it is in 8:10. Such affirmations of trust are common in divine promises and prayerful statements of faith (e.g., Psa 46:7). God’s presence among His people was an important theological symbol for Israel (the presence of Yahweh enters the temple in 1 Kgs 8:10–11). The people’s sinfulness puts that privilege in jeopardy. The sign of Immanuel should remind Ahaz that—at least for now—God’s presence remains with Israel.

The name Immanuel symbolizes the full restoration of Yahweh’s broken relationship with His people. While the immediate context of the sign itself points to a short-term fulfillment (see note on Isa 7:10–25), the larger context of Isaiah heavily stresses the future time of redemption and reconciliation between Yahweh and Israel. The coming salvation is depicted in the royal role of the Messiah in 9:2–8 that weaves divine titles into the description of the ideal righteous ruler—the Davidic messiah. The close relationship between messianic and divine roles and titles supports the understanding of Immanuel as a messianic figure. In 11:1–10, the Messiah is given the divine right to judge the nations; His reign inaugurates an era of worldwide peace. The suffering, death, and destruction that entered the world through sin will be replaced with peace, justice, and righteousness as predator and prey live together in harmony (11:6). The time of Immanuel will reflect the perfection of creation as originally formed in the garden of Eden.

Faithlife Study Bible

7:14 virgin. The Hebrew word occurs seven times in the Old Testament. It means a young woman of marriageable age, normally a virgin (Gen. 24:43). The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament made about 150 b.c.) translated with a word more specifically meaning “virgin.” The New Testament understands Isaiah to be designating the Virgin Mary (Matt. 1:23). See “The Virgin Birth of Jesus” at Luke 1:27.

Immanuel. “God with us.” The name conveys God’s promise to save, bless, and protect His children. The identity of the virgin and the child has been the subject of considerable discussion. Three major views have been proposed. First, some, especially Jews of the second century a.d., understood the prophecy to mean Ahaz’s wife and her child, Hezekiah (2 Kin. 18:2). But as Jerome (c. 400 a.d.) pointed out, Hezekiah was already born. Second, others identify the woman as Isaiah’s wife or a woman betrothed to him (8:3). The child is then Isaiah’s son, Maher-shalal-hashbaz. This interpretation is questionable. The Hebrew term translated “virgin” would not normally be used for a woman who was already a mother (of Shear-jashub, 7:3). If someone engaged to the prophet is meant, it becomes necessary to assume that his first wife had died. Also, the interpretation requires that the child have contradictory names: “God Is With Us” (Immanuel) and “The Spoil Speeds, the Prey Hastens” (Maher-shalal-hash-baz). Though not impossible, it seems unlikely. Finally, the child’s diet of “curds and honey” suggests that He would grow up after Judah’s destruction (v. 15 note). Tradition suggests a third interpretation, identifying the child as the Messiah, a divine personage whose birth is above nature. It equates the Child named “Immanuel” with the Child possessing God’s titles in 9:6, and with the “Branch” of ch. 11. According to Matthew, the virgin is Mary and the Child is Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:22, 23). In v. 16, the birth seems nevertheless to be imminent. Perhaps the prophecy has a partial fulfillment in the birth of Isaiah’s son Maher-shalal-hash-baz (8:1–3), while the definitive fulfillment waits for the birth of Jesus Christ, who secures God’s throne forever.

Reformation Study Bible

March 25, 2017: Daily Devotional Guide Collection

March 25

Catch the Tide

Lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest.

John 4:35

 

All believers are responsible to have a passion for the lost. John Harper had such a passion. He was a newly called pastor to the great Moody Memorial Church in Chicago in the early 1900s, but in 1912 He was a passenger on the ill–fated voyage of the Titanic.

Four years later, a young Scotsman rose up in a meeting and said he was a survivor of the Titanic. As he drifted in the water on a piece of wood, he encountered a man who was afloat on a piece of wreckage. The man pleaded for the Scotsman to receive Christ. The young Scotsman refused. The tide brought the man around again, and he asked if the Scotsman was saved yet. Shortly after, the man disappeared into the water, and the Scotsman decided to trust Christ as Savior. At the meeting he identified the man as John Harper—the young Scotsman was John Harper’s last convert.

Can you be one of the John Harpers of this generation?[1]


March 25 Practical Humility

“Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men.”

Philippians 4:5

✧✧✧

Real humility will have a forbearance that is gracious toward others and content with its own circumstances.

Some Greek words have various meanings that are hard to translate into just one English word. This is true of “forbearing” in today’s verse. It can refer to contentment, gentleness, generosity, or goodwill toward others. Some commentators say it means having leniency toward the faults and failures of others. Other scholars say it denotes someone who is patient and submissive toward injustice and mistreatment—one who doesn’t lash back in angry bitterness. It reminds us very much of what we have been considering for the past week—humility.

The humble believer trusts God and does not hold a grudge even though others have unfairly treated him, harmed him, or ruined his reputation. Such a person does not demand his rights. Instead, he will pattern his behavior after his Lord Jesus, who in supreme humility manifested God’s grace to us (Rom. 5:10).

If you are conscientiously following Christ, your behavior will go against the existentialism of modern society. Existentialism claims the right to do or say anything that makes one feel good. Today’s existentialist unbeliever has a twisted logic that says, “If something makes you feel good but hurts me, you can’t do it. But if something makes me feel good but hurts you, I can do it.”

Unhappily, many believers have been caught up in that kind of thinking. They don’t call it existentialism—self–esteem or positive thinking are the preferred terms—but the results are much the same. Such Christians do what satisfies their desires, often at the expense of other people. At its core, this kind of attitude is simply sinful self–love.

In contrast to such self–love, Philippians 4:5 exhorts us to exhibit humble forbearance and graciousness to others. Other Scriptures command us to love our enemies and show mercy to those who sin (Matt. 5:44; 1 Peter 4:8). Such qualities allowed the apostle Paul to say, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Phil. 4:11). God wants us to be just as humble and content with our circumstances.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: Ask the Lord to help you remain content in the midst of all that happens to you today.

For Further Study: Read Jesus’ parable about mercy and compassion in Matthew 18:21–35. What parallels do you find between the parable and our study of forbearance? ✧ What kind of priority does Jesus give these issues?[2]


MARCH 25

OH GOD, THOU ART

And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

—Exodus 3:14

We must remember that the “attributes” of God are not component parts of the blessed Godhead nor elements out of which He is composed. A god who could be composed would not be God at all but the work of something or someone greater than he, great enough to compose him. We would then have a synthetic god made out of the pieces we call attributes, and the true God would be another being altogether, One indeed who is above all thought and all conceiving.

The Bible and Christian theology teach that God is an indivisible unity… from whom nothing can be taken and to whom nothing can be added. Mercy, for instance, immutability, eternity— these are but names which we have given to something which God has declared to be true of Himself. All the “of God” expressions in the Bible must be understood to mean not what God has but what God is in His undivided and indivisible unity. Even the word “nature” when applied to God should be understood as an accommodation to our human way of looking at things and not as an accurate description of anything true of the mysterious Godhead. God has said, “I AM THAT I AM” (Exodus 3:14), and we can only repeat in reverence, “O God, Thou art.” POM086-087

Lord, it is because You are beyond all conceiving that I worship You in wonder and bow before You today. Amen. [3]


March 25

The Function of Salt

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.—Matt. 5:13

Salt has always been valuable in human society, often much more so than it is today. But the particular characteristics of salt that Jesus was referring to in this passage have resulted in various suggestions.

Some interpreters point out that salt is white and therefore represents purity. As the “pure in heart” (v. 8), Jesus’ disciples are to be pure before the world and are to be God’s means of helping purify the rest of the world.

Others emphasize the characteristic of flavor. Just as many foods are tasteless without salt, the world is drab and tasteless without the presence of Christians.

Because salt stings when placed on a wound, some interpreters believe Jesus meant to illustrate that Christians are to sting the world, prick its conscience, and thus make it uncomfortable in the presence of God’s gospel.

Salt also creates thirst. So others believe God intends for His people to live before the world in such a way that others will be made aware of their spiritual dehydration.

While all of these interpretations are reasonable, it’s likely Jesus was primarily referring to salt as a preservative. Christians are a preserving influence in the world; they retard moral and spiritual spoilage. As God’s children and as temples of His Holy Spirit, we represent God’s presence in the earth. We are the salt that prevents the entire earth from degenerating even faster than it already is.

ASK YOURSELF
In what ways are you and your church personifying the various properties of salt, whether by words, actions, or outreaches? Think very specifically. Which of these examples are proving to be the most effective at this, and why?[4]

MARCH 25

CONVICTION AND PAIN

Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?

John 3:9

 

I consider it a good sign that some people are still asking questions like these in our churches: “What should happen in a genuine conversion to Christ?” and “What should a man or woman feel in the transaction of the new birth?”

If I am asked, my answer is this: “There ought to be a real and genuine cry of pain!”

That is why I am not impressed with the kind of evangelism that tries to invite people into the fellowship of God by signing a card. There should be a birth within, a birth from above. There should be the terror of seeing ourselves in violent contrast to the holy, holy God!

Unless we come into this place of conviction and pain concerning our sin, I am not sure how deep and real our repentance will ever be.

The man whom God will use must be undone, humble and pliable. He must be, like the astonished Isaiah, a man who has seen the King in His beauty!

 

Lord, I pray that many unbelieving people in hard-to-reach nations will realize their need for a Savior and will call upon Your holy name for their salvation.[5]


March 25 Appreciating God’s Gifts

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

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God is the source of every good gift.

God has given us everything good to enjoy, including rain to make things grow, minerals to make the soil fertile, animals for food and clothing, and energy for industry and transportation. Everything we have is from Him, and we are to be thankful for it all.

Jesus said, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matt. 7:11). James 1:17 says, “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow.” Paul added, “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. 4:4–5).

Sadly, unbelievers don’t acknowledge God’s goodness, though they benefit from it every day. They attribute His providential care to luck or fate and His gracious provisions to nature or false gods. They do not honor Him as God or give Him thanks (Rom. 1:21).

The great Puritan writer Thomas Watson wrote: “If all be a gift, see the odious ingratitude of men who sin against their giver! God feeds them, and they fight against him; he gives them bread, and they give him affronts. How unworthy is this! Should we not cry shame of him who had a friend always feeding him with money, and yet he should betray and injure him? Thus ungratefully do sinners deal with God; they not only forget his mercies, but abuse them. ‘When I had fed them to the full, they then committed adultery [Jer. 5:7].’ Oh, how horrid is it to sin against a bountiful God!—to strike the hands that relieve us!” (The Lord’s Prayer [London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1972], p. 197).

How sad to see such ingratitude, and yet how thrilling to know that the infinite God cares for us and supplies our every need. Don’t ever take His provisions for granted! Look to Him daily, and receive His gifts with a thankful heart.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer:  Be generous with your praise for God’s abundant blessings.

For Further Study: Read Genesis 1:29–31, noting the variety of foods God created for your enjoyment.[6]


MARCH 25

CONCEPT OF THE TRINITY: INFINITE LOVE POURED OUT

Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ….

1 PETER 1:2

We are surely aware that as human beings we can never know all of the Godhead. If we were capable of knowing all of the Godhead perfectly, we would be equal to the Godhead.

The early fathers in the church, in illustrating the trinity, pointed out that God the eternal Father is an infinite God, and that He is love. The very nature of love is to give itself but the Father could not give His love fully to anyone not fully equal to Himself. Thus we have the revelation of the Son Who is equal to the Father and of the eternal Father pouring out His love into the Son, Who could contain it, because the Son is equal with the Father!

Further, those ancient wise men reasoned, if the Father were to pour out His love on the Son, a medium of communication equal both to the Father and to the Son would be required, and this was the Holy Ghost! So we have their concept of the Trinity—the ancient Father in the fullness of His love pouring Himself through the Holy Ghost, Who is in being equal to Him, into the Son Who is in being equal to the Spirit and to the Father!

Thus, all that man can know of God and His love in this life is revealed in Jesus Christ.[7]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 97). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

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

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

[4] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 93). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

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

[6] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 97). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

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