Monthly Archives: April 2017

April 30, 2017: Verse of the day

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4 The communal confession arouses another invocation to give thanks to the Lord. The worshiping community entered the temple courts (cf. 96:8) through the gates. The verb “enter” (bōʾû), identical to the verb in v. 2 translated “come,” resumes the invocation to praise. In fact, when vv. 1, 2, and 4 are read as a unit, the imperatival parallelism is clearer:

  1. 1–2: “Shout for joy … Worship … come”
  2. 4: “Enter [‘come’ in v. 2] … give thanks … praise”

Verses 1–2 bring out the joyful acclamation of God’s kingship, whereas v. 4 stresses the communal act of worship. They come “with thanksgiving” and “with praise.” These are the appropriate sacrifices of “thanks” to his name for all the benefits. Thanksgiving and praise go together, because the Lord reveals himself both in his perfections and acts (cf. 139:1; cf. Jer 33:11).[1]


100:4 Entering the presence of God has been made possible through Christ who opened the way (John 14:6; Heb. 10:19–22).[2]


[1] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 743). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1064). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

April 30 – Realizing Your Reward

“Blessed are you when men revile you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11–12).

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The sacrifices you make for Christ’s sake in this life will be abundantly compensated for in Heaven.

God’s promise for those who are persecuted for His sake is that their reward in Heaven will be great (Matt. 5:12). Jesus said, “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, shall receive many times as much, and shall inherit eternal life” (Matt. 19:29).

Focusing on that promise instead of your present circumstances is how you can experience happiness amid suffering. That was Paul’s great confidence even as he faced certain death. In 2 Timothy 4:8 he declares, “In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

Another source of joy in trials is knowing that you share the fate of the prophets themselves (Matt. 5:12). Those godly men suffered untold hardships for proclaiming God’s message. That’s a noble group to be identified with!

One final word of encouragement from Matthew 5:11—persecution will not be incessant! Jesus said, “Blessed are you when . . .” The Greek word translated “when” means “whenever.” You won’t always be persecuted, but whenever you are, you will be blessed. In addition, God will govern its intensity so you will be able to bear it (1 Cor. 10:13). He knows your human weaknesses and will supply the necessary grace and peace to get you through. That’s why you can rejoice when otherwise you might be devastated and filled with grief.

If you are willing to make sacrifices now, you will receive incomparable rewards in the future. How shortsighted are those who protect themselves now by denying Christ or by compromising His truth rather than sacrificing the present for the sake of eternal blessing and glory!

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank God for the example of the prophets and others who have suffered for Him.

For Further Study: Read Matthew 21:33–39 and Hebrews 11:32–38. ✧ How did Jesus illustrate the persecution of God’s prophets? ✧ What is Scripture’s commendation to those who suffered for righteousness’ sake?[1]


Happy Are the Harassed

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (5:10–12)

Of all the beatitudes, this last one seems the most contrary to human thinking and experience. The world does not associate happiness with humility, mourning over sin, gentleness, righteousness, mercy, purity of heart, or peacemaking holiness. Even less does it associate happiness with persecution.

Some years ago a popular national magazine took a survey to determine the things that make people happy. According to the responses they received, happy people enjoy other people but are not self-sacrificing; they refuse to participate in any negative feelings or emotions; and they have a sense of accomplishment based on their own self-sufficiency.

The person described by those principles is completely contrary to the kind of person the Lord says will be authentically happy. Jesus says a blessed person is not one who is self-sufficient but one who recognizes his own emptiness and need, who comes to God as a beggar, knowing he has no resources in himself. He is not confident in his own ability but is very much aware of his own inability. Such a person, Jesus says, is not at all positive about himself but mourns over his own sinfulness and isolation from a holy God. To be genuinely content, a person must not be self-serving but self-sacrificing. He must be gentle, merciful, pure in heart, yearn for righteousness, and seek to make peace on God’s terms-even if those attitudes cause him to suffer.

The Lord’s opening thrust in the Sermon on the Mount climaxes with this great and sobering truth: those who faithfully live according to the first seven beatitudes are guaranteed at some point to experience the eighth. Those who live righteously will inevitably be persecuted for it. Godliness generates hostility and antagonism from the world. The crowning feature of the happy person is persecution! Kingdom people are rejected people. Holy people are singularly blessed, but they pay a price for it.

The last beatitude is really two in one, a single beatitude repeated and expanded. Blessed is mentioned twice (vv. 10, 11), but only one characteristic (persecuted) is given, although it is mentioned three times, and only one result (for theirs is the kingdom of heaven) is promised. Blessed apparently is repeated to emphasize the generous blessing given by God to those who are persecuted. “Double-blessed are those who are persecuted,” Jesus seems to be saying.

Three distinct aspects of kingdom faithfulness are spoken of in this beatitude: the persecution, the promise, and the posture.

The Persecution

Those who have been persecuted are the citizens of the kingdom, those who live out the previous seven beatitudes. To the degree that they fulfill the first seven they may experience the eighth.

“All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). Before writing those words Paul had just mentioned some of his own “persecutions, and suffering, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra” (v. 11). As one who lived the kingdom life he had been persecuted, and all others who live the kingdom life can expect similar treatment. What was true in ancient Israel is true today and will remain true until the Lord returns. “As at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also” (Gal. 4:29).

Imagine a man who accepted a new job in which he had to work with especially profane people. When at the end of the first day his wife asked him how he had managed, he said, “Terrific! They never guessed I was a Christian.” As long as people have no reason to believe that we are Christians, at least obedient and righteous Christians, we need not worry about persecution. But as we manifest the standards of Christ we will share the reproach of Christ. Those born only of the flesh will persecute those born of the Spirit.

To live for Christ is to live in opposition to Satan in his world and in his system. Christlikeness in us will produce the same results as Christlikeness did in the apostles, in the rest of the early church, and in believers throughout history. Christ living in His people today produces the same reaction from the world that Christ Himself produced when He lived on earth as a man.

Righteousness is confrontational, and even when it is not preached in so many words, it confronts wickedness by its very contrast. Abel did not preach to Cain, but Abel’s righteous life, typified by his proper sacrifice to the Lord, was a constant rebuke to his wicked brother-who in a rage finally slew him. When Moses chose to identify with his own despised Hebrew people rather than compromise himself in the pleasures of pagan Egyptian society, he paid a great price. But he considered “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt” (Heb. 11:26).

The Puritan writer Thomas Watson said of Christians: “Though they be never so meek, merciful, pure in heart, their piety will not shield them from sufferings. They must hang their harp on the willows and take the cross. The way to heaven is by way of thorns and blood. … Set it down as a maxim, if you will follow Christ you must see the swords and staves” (The Beatitudes [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1971], pp. 259–60).

Savonarola was one of the greatest reformers in the history of the church. In his powerful condemnation of personal sin and ecclesiastical corruption, that Italian preacher paved the way for the Protestant Reformation, which began a few years after his death. “His preaching was a voice of thunder,” writes one biographer, “and his denunciation of sin was so terrible that the people who listened to him went about the streets half-dazed, bewildered and speechless. His congregations were so often in tears that the whole building resounded with their sobs and their weeping.” But the people and the church could not long abide such a witness, and for preaching uncompromised righteousness Savonarola was convicted of “heresy,” he was hanged, and his body was burned.

Persecution is one of the surest and most tangible evidences of salvation. Persecution is not incidental to faithful Christian living but is certain evidence of it. Paul encouraged the Thessalonians by sending them Timothy, “so that no man may be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know” (1 Thess. 3:3–4). Suffering persecution is part of the normal Christian life (cf. Rom. 8:16–17). And if we never experience ridicule, criticism, or rejection because of our faith, we have reason to examine the genuineness of it. “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake,” Paul says, “not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me” (Phil. 1:29–30). Persecution for Christ’s sake is a sign of our own salvation just as it is a sign of damnation for those who do the persecuting (v. 28).

Whether Christians live in a relatively protected and tolerant society or whether they live under a godless, totalitarian regime, the world will find ways to persecute Christ’s church. To live a redeemed life to its fullest is to invite and to expect resentment and reaction from the world.

The fact that many professed believers are popular and praised by the world does not indicate that the world has raised its standards but that many who call themselves by Christ’s name have lowered theirs. As the time for Christ’s appearing grows closer we can expect opposition from the world to increase, not decrease. When Christians are not persecuted in some way by society it means that they are reflecting rather than confronting that society. And when we please the world we can be sure that we grieve the Lord (cf. James 4:4; 1 John 2:15–17).

When (hotan) can also mean whenever. The idea conveyed in the term is not that believers will be in a constant state of opposition, ridicule, or persecution, but that, whenever those things come to us because of our faith, we should not be surprised or resentful. Jesus was not constantly opposed and ridiculed, nor were the apostles. There were times of peace and even popularity. But every faithful believer will at times have some resistance and ridicule from the world, while others, for God’s own purposes, will endure more extreme suffering. But whenever and however affliction comes to the child of God, his heavenly Father will be there with him to encourage and to bless. Our responsibility is not to seek out persecution, but to be willing to endure whatever trouble our faithfulness to Jesus Christ may bring, and to see it as a confirmation of true salvation.

The way to avoid persecution is obvious and easy. To live like the world, or at least to “live and let live,” will cost us nothing. To mimic the world’s standards, or never to criticize them, will cost us nothing. To keep quiet about the gospel, especially the truth that apart from its saving power men remain in their sins and are destined for hell, will cost us nothing. To go along with the world, to laugh at its jokes, to enjoy its entertainment, to smile when it mocks God and takes His name in vain, and to be ashamed to take a stand for Christ will not bring persecution. Those are the habits of sham Christians.

Jesus does not take faithlessness lightly. “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26). If we are ashamed of Christ, He will be ashamed of us. Christ also warned, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for in the same way their fathers used to treat the false prophets” (Luke 6:26). To be popular with everyone is either to have compromised the faith or not to have true faith at all.

Though it was early in His ministry, by the time Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount He had already faced opposition. After He healed the man on the Sabbath, “the Pharisees went out and immediately began taking counsel with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him” (Mark 3:6). We learn from Luke that they were actually hoping Jesus would heal on the Sabbath “in order that they might find reason to accuse Him” (Luke 6:7). They already hated His teaching and wanted Him to commit an act serious enough to warrant His arrest.

Our Lord made it clear from His earliest teaching, and His opponents made it clear from their earliest reactions, that following Him was costly. Those who entered His kingdom would suffer for Him before they would reign with Him. That is the hard honesty that every preacher, evangelist, and witness of Christ should exemplify. We do the Lord no honor and those to whom we witness no benefit by hiding or minimizing the cost of following Him.

The cost of discipleship is billed to believers in many different ways. A Christian stonemason in Ephesus in Paul’s day might have been asked to help build a pagan temple or shrine. Because he could not do that in good conscience, his faith would cost him the work and possibly his job and career. A believer today might be expected to hedge on the quality of his work in order to increase company profits. To follow His conscience in obedience to the Lord could also cost his job or at least a promotion. A Christian housewife who refuses to listen to gossip or to laugh at the crude jokes of her neighbors may find herself ostracized. Some costs will be known in advance and some will surprise us. Some costs will be great and some will be slight. But by the Lord’s and the apostles’ repeated promises, faithfulness always has a cost, which true Christians are willing to pay (contrast Matt. 13:20–21).

The second-century Christian leader Tertullian was once approached by a man who said, “I have come to Christ, but I don’t know what to do. I have a job that I don’t think is consistent with what Scripture teaches. What can I do? I must live.” To that Tertullian replied, “Must you?” Loyalty to Christ is the Christian’s only true choice. To be prepared for kingdom life is to be prepared for loneliness, misunderstanding, ridicule, rejection, and unfair treatment of every sort.

In the early days of the church the price paid was often the ultimate. To choose Christ might mean choosing death by stoning, by being covered with pitch and used as a human torch for Nero, or by being wrapped in animal skins and thrown to vicious hunting dogs. To choose Christ could mean torture by any number of excessively cruel and painful ways. That was the very thing Christ had in mind when He identified His followers as those willing to bear their crosses. That has no reference to mystical devotion, but is a call to be ready to die, if need be, for the cause of the Lord (see Matt. 10:35–39; 16:24–25).

In resentment against the gospel the Romans invented charges against Christians, such as accusing them of being cannibals because in the Lord’s Supper they spoke of eating Jesus’ body and drinking His blood. They accused them of having sexual orgies at their love feasts and even of setting fire to Rome. They branded believers as revolutionaries because they called Jesus Lord and King and spoke of God’s destroying the earth by fire.

By the end of the first century, Rome had expanded almost to the outer limits of the known world, and unity became more and more of a problem. Because only the emperor personified the entire empire, the caesars came to be deified, and their worship was demanded as a unifying and cohesive influence. It became compulsory to give a verbal oath of allegiance to caesar once a year, for which a person would be given a verifying certificate, called a libellus. After publicly proclaiming, “Caesar is Lord,” the person was free to worship any other gods he chose. Because faithful Christians refused to declare such an allegiance to anyone but Christ, they were considered traitors-for which they suffered confiscation of property, loss of work, imprisonment, and often death. One Roman poet spoke of them as “the panting, huddling flock whose only crime was Christ.”

In the last beatitude Jesus speaks of three specific types of affliction endured for Christ’s sake: physical persecution, verbal insult, and false accusation.

Physical Persecution

First, Jesus says, we can expect physical persecution. Have been persecuted (v. 10), persecute (v. 11), and persecuted (v. 12) are from diōkō, which has the basic meaning of chasing, driving away, or pursuing. From that meaning developed the connotations of physical persecution, harassment, abuse, and other unjust treatment.

All of the other beatitudes have to do with inner qualities, attitudes, and spiritual character. The eighth beatitude speaks of external things that happen to believers, but the teaching behind these results also has to do with attitude. The believer who has the qualities required in the previous beatitudes will also have the quality of willingness to face persecution for the sake of righteousness. He will have the attitude of self-sacrifice for the sake of Christ. It is the lack of fear and shame and the presence of courage and boldness that says, “I will be in this world what Christ would have me be. I will say in this world what Christ will have me say. Whatever it costs, I will be and say those things.”

The Greek verb is a passive perfect participle, and could be translated “allow themselves to be persecuted.” The perfect form indicates continuousness, in this case a continuous willingness to endure persecution if it is the price of godly living. This beatitude speaks of a constant attitude of accepting whatever faithfulness to Christ may bring.

It is in the demands of this beatitude that many Christians break down in their obedience to the Lord, because here is where the genuineness of their response to the other beatitudes is most strongly tested. It is here where we are most tempted to compromise the righteousness we have hungered and thirsted for. It is here where we find it convenient to lower God’s standards to accommodate the world and thereby avoid conflicts and problems that we know obedience will bring.

But God does not want His gospel altered under pretense of its being less demanding, less righteous, or less truthful than it is. He does not want witnesses who lead the unsaved into thinking that the Christ life costs nothing. A synthetic gospel, a man-made seed, produces no real fruit.

Verbal Insults

Second, Jesus promises that kingdom citizens are blessed … when men cast insults at them. Oneidizō carries the idea of reviling, upbraiding, or seriously insulting, and literally means to cast in one’s teeth. To cast insults is to throw abusive words in the face of an opponent, to mock viciously.

To be an obedient citizen of the kingdom is to court verbal abuse and reviling. As He stood before the Sanhedrin after His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was spat upon, beaten, and taunted with the words “Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the one who hit You?” (Matt. 26:67–68). As He was being sentenced to crucifixion by Pilate, Jesus was again beaten, spit upon, and mocked, this time by the Roman soldiers (Mark 15:19–20).

Faithfulness to Christ may even cause friends and loved ones to say things that cut and hurt deeply. Several years ago I received a letter from a woman who told of a friend who had decided to divorce her husband for no just cause. The friend was a professed Christian, but when she was confronted with the truth that what she was doing was scripturally wrong, she became defensive and hostile. She was reminded of God’s love and grace, of His power to mend whatever problems she and her husband were having, and of the Bible’s standards for marriage and divorce. But she replied that she did not believe the Bible was really God’s Word but was simply a collection of men’s ideas about God that each person had to accept, reject, or interpret for himself. When her friend wanted to read some specific Bible passages to her, she refused to listen. She had made up her mind and would not give heed to Scripture or to reason. With hate in her eyes she accused the other woman of luring her into her house in order to ridicule and embarrass her, saying she could not possibly love her by questioning her right to get a divorce. As she left, she slammed the door behind her.

The woman who wrote the letter concluded by saying, “I love her, and it is with a heavy heart that I realize the extent of her rejection of Christ. Painful as this has been, I thank God. For the first time in my life I know what it is to be separate from the world.”

Paul told the Corinthian church, whose members had such a difficult time separating themselves from the world, “For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men” (1 Cor. 4:9). Paul drew the expression “become a spectacle” from the practice of Roman generals to parade their captives through the street of the city, making a spectacle of them as trophies of war who were doomed to die once the general had used them to serve his proud and arrogant purposes. That is the way the world is inclined to treat those who are faithful to Christ.

In a note of strong sarcasm to enforce his point, Paul continues, “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor” (v. 10). Many in the Corinthian church suffered none of the ridicule and conflict the apostle suffered because they prized their standing before the world more than their standing before the Lord. In the world’s eyes they were prudent, strong, and distinguished-because they were still so much like the world.

God does not call His people to be sanctified celebrities, using their worldly reputations in a self-styled effort to bring Him glory, using their power to supplement His power and their wisdom to enhance His gospel. We can mark it down as a cardinal principle that to the extent the world embraces a Christian cause or person-or that a Christian cause or person embraces the world-to that extent that cause or person has compromised the gospel and scriptural standards.

If Paul had capitalized on his human credentials he could have drawn greater crowds and certainly have received greater welcome wherever he went. His credentials were impressive. “If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more,” he says. He was “circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee” (Phil. 3:4–5). He had been “caught up to the third heaven, … into Paradise” (2 Cor. 12:2, 4) and had spoken in tongues more than anyone else (1 Cor. 14:18). He had studied under the famous rabbi Gamaliel and was even a free-born Roman citizen (Acts 22:3, 29). But all those things the apostle “counted as loss for the sake of Christ, … but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:7–8). He refused to use worldly means to try to achieve spiritual purposes, because he knew they would fail.

The marks of authenticity Paul carried as an apostle and minister of Jesus Christ were his credentials as a servant and a sufferer, “in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city; dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure” (2 Cor. 11:23–27).

The only thing of which he would boast was his weakness (12:5), and when he preached he was careful not to rely on “superiority of speech or of wisdom” (1 Cor. 2:1), which he could easily have done. “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified,” he told the Corinthians. “And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (vv. 2–5).

We live in a day when the church, more than ever before, is engaged in self-glorification and an attempt to gain worldly recognition that must be repulsive to God. When the church tries to use the things of the world to do the work of heaven, it only succeeds in hiding heaven from the world. And when the world is pleased with the church, we can be sure that God is not. We can be equally sure that when we are pleasing to God, we will not be pleasing to the system of Satan.

False Accusation

Third, faithfulness to Christ will bring enemies of the gospel to say all kinds of evil against [us] falsely. Whereas insults are abusive words said to our faces, these evil things are primarily abusive words said behind our backs.

Jesus’ critics said of Him, “Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners” (Matt. 11:19). If the world said that of the sinless Christ, what things can His followers expect to be called and accused of?

Slander behind our backs is harder to take partly because it is harder to defend against than direct accusation. It has opportunity to spread and be believed before we have a chance to correct it. Much harm to our reputations can be done even before we are aware someone has slandered us.

We cannot help regretting slander, but we should not grieve about it. We should count ourselves blessed, as our Lord assures us we shall be when the slander is on account of Me.

Arthur Pink comments that “it is a strong proof of human depravity that men’s curses and Christ’s blessings should meet on the same persons” (An Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1950], p. 39). We have no surer evidence of the Lord’s blessing than to be cursed for His sake. It should not seriously bother us when men’s curses fall on the head that Christ has eternally blessed.

The central theme of the Beatitudes is righteousness. The first two have to do with recognizing our own unrighteousness, and the next five have to do with our seeking and reflecting righteousness. The last beatitude has to do with our suffering for the sake of righteousness. The same truth is expressed in the second part of the beatitude as on account of Me. Jesus is not speaking of every hardship, problem, or conflict believers may face, but those that the world brings on us because of our faithfulness to the Lord.

It is clear again that the hallmark of the blessed person is righteousness. Holy living is what provokes persecution of God’s people. Such persecution because of a righteous life is joyous. Peter identifies such experience as a happy honor.

And who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.” (1 Pet. 3:13–18)

With those words, the apostle extols the privilege of suffering for holiness, and thus of sharing in a small way in the same type of suffering Christ endured. In the next chapter, Peter emphasizes the same thing.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. … If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God. … Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” (4:12–14, 16, 19)

When we are hated, maligned, or afflicted as Christians, the real animosity is not against us but against Christ. Satan’s great enemy is Christ, and he opposes us because we belong to Jesus Christ, because He is in us. When we are despised and attacked by the world, the real target is the righteousness for which we stand and which we exemplify. That is why it is easy to escape persecution. Whether under pagan Rome, atheistic Communism, or simply a worldly boss, it is usually easy to be accepted if we will denounce or compromise our beliefs and standards. The world will accept us if we are willing to put some distance between ourselves and the Lord’s righteousness.

In the closing days of His ministry Jesus repeatedly and plainly warned His disciples of that truth. “If the world hates you,” He said, “you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me” (John 15:18–21).

The world went along for thousands of years before it ever saw a perfect man. Until Christ came, every person, even God’s best, were sinful and flawed. All had feet of clay. To see God’s people fail and sin is often taken as an encouragement by the wicked. They point a finger and say, “He claims to be righteous and good, but look at what he did.” It is easy to feel smug and secure in one’s sinfulness when everyone else is also sinful and imperfect. But when Christ came, the world finally saw the perfect Man, and all excuse for smugness and self-confidence vanished. And instead of rejoicing in the sinless Man, sinful men resented the rebuke that His teaching and His life brought against them. They crucified Him for His very perfection, for His very righteousness.

Aristides the Just was banished from ancient Athens. When a stranger asked an Athenian why Aristides was voted out of citizenship he replied, “Because we became tired of his always being just.” A people who prided themselves in civility and justice chafed when something or someone was too just.

Because they refused to compromise the gospel either in their teaching or in their lives, most of the apostles suffered a martyr’s death. According to tradition, Andrew was fastened by cords to a cross in order to prolong and intensify his agony. We are told that Peter, by his own request, was crucified head down, because he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as Jesus. Paul presumably was beheaded by Nero. Though John escaped a violent death, he died in exile on Patmos.

The Promise

But compared to what is gained, even a martyr’s price is small. Each beatitude begins with blessed and, as already suggested, Jesus pronounces a double blessing on those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, which is for His own sake. The specific blessing promised to those who are so persecuted is that theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The citizens of the kingdom are going to inherit the kingdom. Paul expresses a similar thought in 2 Thessalonians 1:5–7-“This a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire.”

I believe that the blessings of the kingdom are threefold: present, millennial, and eternal. Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29–30).

First, we are promised blessings here and now. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, was falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, and was imprisoned. But the Lord raised him to be the prime minister of Egypt and used him to save His chosen people from starvation and extinction. Daniel was thrown into a den of lions because of his refusal to stop worshiping the Lord. Not only was his life spared, but he was restored to his high position as the most valued commissioner of King Darius, and the king made a declaration that “in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel; for He is the living God and enduring forever” (Dan. 6:26).

Not every believer is rewarded in this life with the things of this life. But every believer is rewarded in this life with the comfort, strength, and joy of His indwelling Lord. He is also blessed with the assurance that no service or sacrifice for the Lord will be in vain.

As a sequel to his book Peace Child, Don Richardson has written Lords of the Earth (Glendale, Calif.: Regal, 1977). He tells the story of Stan Dale, another missionary to Irian Jaya, Indonesia, who ministered to the Yali tribe in the Snow Mountains. The Yali had one of the strictest known religions in the world. For a tribe member even to question, much less disobey, one of its tenets brought instant death. There could never be any change or modification. The Yali had many sacred spots scattered throughout their territory. If even a small child were to crawl onto one of those sacred pieces of ground, he was considered defiled and cursed. To keep the whole village from being involved in that curse, the child would be thrown into the rushing Heluk River to drown and be washed downstream.

When Stan Dale came with his wife and four children to that cannibalistic people he was not long tolerated. He was attacked one night and miraculously survived being shot with five arrows. After treatment in a hospital he immediately returned to the Yali. He worked unsuccessfully for several years, and the resentment and hatred of the tribal priests increased. One day as he, another missionary named Phil Masters, and a Dani tribesman named Yemu were facing what they knew was an imminent attack, the Yali suddenly came upon them. As the others ran for safety, Stan and Yemu remained back, hoping somehow to dissuade the Yali from their murderous plans. As Start confronted his attackers, they shot him with dozens of arrows. As the arrows entered his flesh he would pull them out and break them in two. Eventually he no longer had the strength to pull the arrows out, but he remained standing.

Yemu ran back to where Phil was standing, and Phil persuaded him to keep running. With his eyes fixed on Start, who was still standing with some fifty arrows in his body, Phil remained where he was and was himself soon surrounded by warriors. The attack had begun with hilarity, but it turned to fear and desperation when they saw that Start did not fall. Their fear increased when it took nearly as many arrows to down Phil as it had Stan. They dismembered the bodies and scattered them about the forest in an attempt to prevent the resurrection of which they had heard the missionaries speak. But the back of their “unbreakable” pagan system was broken, and through the witness of the two men who were not afraid to die in order to bring the gospel to this lost and violent people, the Yali tribe and many others in the surrounding territory came to Jesus Christ. Even Stan’s fifth child, a baby at the time of this incident, was saved reading the book about his father.

Stan and Phil were not rewarded in this life with the things of this life. But they seem to have been double-blessed with the comfort, strength, and joy of their indwelling Lord-and the absolute confidence that their sacrifice for Him would not be in vain.

There is also a millennial aspect to the kingdom blessing. When Christ establishes His thousand-year reign on earth, we will be co-regents with Him over that wonderful, renewed earth (Rev. 20:4).

Finally, there is the reward of the eternal kingdom, the blessing of all blessings of living forever in our Lord’s kingdom enjoying His very presence. The ultimate fruit of kingdom life is eternal life. Even if the world takes from us every possession, every freedom, every comfort, every satisfaction of physical life, it can take nothing from our spiritual life, either now or throughout eternity.

The Beatitudes begin and end with the promise of the kingdom of heaven (cf. v. 3). The major promise of the Beatitudes is that in Christ we become kingdom citizens now and forever. No matter what the world does to us, it cannot affect our possession of Christ’s kingdom.

The Posture

Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (5:12)

The believer’s response to persecution and affliction should not be to retreat and hide. To escape from the world is to escape responsibility. Because we belong to Christ, we are no longer of this world, but He has sent us into this world to serve just as He Himself came into this world to serve (John 17:14–18).

His followers are “the salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Matt. 5:13–14). For our salt to flavor the earth and our light to lighten the world we must be active in the world. The gospel is not given to be hidden but to enlighten. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (vv. 15–16).

When we become Christ’s salt and Christ’s light, our salt will sting the world’s open wounds of sin and our light will irritate its eyes that are used to darkness. But even when our salt and light are resented, rejected, and thrown back in our face, we should rejoice, and be glad.

Be glad is from agalliaō, which means to exult, to rejoice greatly, to be overjoyed, as is clear in the King James Version, “be exceeding glad.” The literal meaning is to skip and jump with happy excitement. Jesus uses the imperative mood, which makes His words more than a suggestion. We are commanded to be glad. Not to be glad when we suffer for Christ’s sake is to be untrusting and disobedient.

The world can take away a great deal from God’s people, but it cannot take away their joy and their happiness. We know that nothing the world can do to us is permanent. When people attack us for Christ’s sake, they are really attacking Him (cf. Gal. 6:17; Col. 1:24). And their attacks can do us no more permanent damage than they can do Him.

Jesus gives two reasons for our rejoicing and being glad when we are persecuted for His sake. First, He says, your reward in heaven is great. Our present life is no more than “a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14); but heaven is forever. Small wonder that Jesus tells us not to lay up treasures for ourselves here on earth, “where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal” (Matt. 6:19–20). Whatever we do for the Lord now, including suffering for Him-in fact, especially suffering for Him-reaps eternal dividends.

God’s dividends are not ordinary dividends. They are not only eternal but are also great. If God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20), how much more abundantly is He able to grant what He Himself promises to us?

We often hear, and perhaps are tempted to think, that it is unspiritual and crass to serve God for the sake of rewards. But that is one of the motives that God Himself gives for serving Him. We first of all serve and obey Christ because we love Him, just as on earth He loved and obeyed the Father because He loved Him. But it was also because of “the joy set before Him” that Christ Himself “endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb. 12:2). It is neither selfish nor unspiritual to do the Lord’s work for a motive that He Himself gives and has followed.

Second, we are to rejoice because the world persecuted the prophets who were before us in the same way that it persecutes us. When we suffer for Christ’s sake, we are in the best possible company. To be afflicted for righteousness’s sake is to stand in the ranks of the prophets. Persecution is a mark of our faithfulness just as it was a mark of the prophets’ faithfulness. When we suffer for Christ’s sake we know beyond a doubt that we belong to God, because we are experiencing the same reaction from the world that the prophets experienced.

When we suffer for our Lord we join with the prophets and the other saints of old who “experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground” (Heb. 11:36–38). Though the world is not worthy of their company, every persecuted believer is. To be persecuted verities that we belong to the line of the righteous.

Our assurance of salvation does not come from knowing we made a decision somewhere in the past. Rather, our assurance that the decision was a true decision for Jesus Christ is found in the life of righteousness that results in suffering for the sake of Christ. Many will claim to have preached Christ, cast out demons, and done mighty works for His sake, but will be refused heaven (Matt. 7:21–23). But none who have suffered righteously for Him will be left out.

The world cannot handle the righteous life that characterizes kingdom living. It is not understandable and acceptable to them, and they cannot stomach it even in others. Poverty of spirit runs counter to the pride of the unbelieving heart. The repentant, contrite disposition that mourns over sin is never appreciated by the callous, indifferent, unsympathetic world. The meek and quiet spirit that takes wrong and does not strike back is regarded as pusillanimous, and it rasps against the militant, vengeful spirit characteristic of the world. To long after righteousness is repugnant to those whose fleshly cravings are rebuked by it, as is a merciful spirit to those whose hearts are hard and cruel. Purity of heart is a painful light that exposes hypocrisy and corruption, and peacemaking is a virtue praised by the contentious, self-seeking world in words but not in heart.

John Chrysostom, a godly leader in the fourth-century church preached so strongly against sin that he offended the unscrupulous Empress Eudoxia as well as many church officials. When summoned before Emperor Arcadius, Chrysostom was threatened with banishment if he did not cease his uncompromising preaching. His response was, “Sire, you cannot banish me, for the world is my Father’s house.” “Then I will slay you,” Arcadius said. “Nay, but you cannot, for my life is hid with Christ in God,” came the answer. “Your treasures will be confiscated” was the next threat, to which John replied, “Sire, that cannot be, either. My treasures are in heaven, where none can break through and steal.” “Then I will drive you from man, and you will have no friends left!” was the final, desperate warning. “That you cannot do, either,” answered John, “for I have a Friend in heaven who has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ ” Chrysostom was indeed banished, first to Armenia and then farther away to Pityus on the Back Sea, to which he never arrived because he died on the way. But neither his banishment nor his death disproved or diminished his claims. The things that he valued most highly not even an emperor could take from him.[2]


5:11 The final beatitude seems to be a repetition of the preceding one. However, there is one difference. In the previous verse, the subject was persecution because of righteousness; here it is persecution for Christ’s sake. The Lord knew that His disciples would be maltreated because of their association with, and loyalty to, Him. History has confirmed this: from the outset the world has persecuted, jailed, and killed followers of Jesus.

5:12 To suffer for Christ’s sake is a privilege that should cause joy. A great reward awaits those who thus become companions of the prophets in tribulation. Those OT spokemen for God stood true in spite of persecution. All who imitate their loyal courage will share their present exhilaration and future exaltation.

The Beatitudes present a portrait of the ideal citizen in Christ’s kingdom. Notice the emphases on righteousness (v. 6), peace (v. 9), and joy (v. 12). Paul probably had this passage in mind when he wrote: “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).[3]


11–12 These two verses (cf. Lk 6:22–23, 26), switching from third person to second, apply the force of the last beatitude (v. 10), not to the church (which would be anachronistic), but to Jesus’ disciples. Doubtless Matthew and his contemporaries also applied it to themselves. Verse 11 extends the persecution of v. 10 to include insult and slander (Lk 6:22–23 adds hate). The reason for the persecution in v. 10 is “because of righteousness”; now, Jesus says, it is “because of me.” “This confirms that the righteousness of life that is in view is in imitation of Jesus. Simultaneously, it so identifies the disciple of Jesus with the practice of Jesus’ righteousness that there is no place for professed allegiance to Jesus that is not full of righteousness” (Carson, Sermon on the Mount, 28). Moreover, it is an implicit christological claim, for the prophets to whom the disciples are likened were persecuted for their faithfulness to God and the disciples for faithfulness to Jesus. Not Jesus but the disciples are likened to the prophets. Jesus places himself on a par with God. The change from “the Son of Man” (Luke) to “me” is probably Matthew’s clarification (see Reflections, p. 247).

The appropriate response of the disciple is rejoicing. The second verb, agalliasthe (“be glad,” GK 22), Hill takes to be “something of a technical term for joy in persecution and martyrdom” (cf. 1 Pe 1:6, 8; 4:13; Rev 19:7). Yet its range of associations seems broader (Lk 1:47; 10:21; Jn 5:35; 8:56; Ac 2:26; 16:34). The disciples of Jesus are to rejoice under persecution because their heavenly reward (see Notes, v. 12) will be great at the consummation of the kingdom (v. 12). Opposition is sure, for the disciples are aligning themselves with the OT prophets who were persecuted before them (e.g., 2 Ch 24:21; Ne 9:26; Jer 20:2; cf. Mt 21:35; 23:32–37; Ac 7:52; 1 Th 2:15). This biblical perspective was doubtless part of the historical basis on which Jesus built his own implied prediction that his followers would be persecuted. Treated seriously, it makes ineffective the ground on which some treat the prediction as anachronistic (e.g., Hare, Theme of Jewish Persecution, 114–21). Stendahl’s suggestion (“Matthew,” in Peake’s Commentary) that Matthew here refers to Christian prophets is not only needlessly anachronistic but out of step with both Matthew’s use of “prophet” and his link between the murder of “prophets” and the sin of the “forefathers” (23:30–32), which shows that the prophets belong to the OT period.

These verses neither encourage seeking persecution nor permit retreating from it, sulking, or retaliation. From the perspective of both redemptive history (“the prophets”) and eternity (“reward in heaven”), these verses constitute the reasonable response of faith, one which the early Christians readily understood (cf. Ac 5:41; 2 Co 4:17; 1 Pe 1:6–9; cf. Da 3:24–25). “Discipleship means allegiance to the suffering Christ, and it is therefore not at all surprising that Christians should be called on to suffer. In fact it is a joy and a token of his grace” (Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship, 80–81). But in reassuring his disciples that their sufferings are “neither new, nor accidental, nor absurd” (Bonnard), Jesus spoke of principles that will appear again (esp. Mt 10, 24).[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 133). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 219–233). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1217). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[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, p. 167). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

APRIL 30 – HEED THE CALL OF GOD

I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

Isaiah 6:8

If Abraham had ever grumbled to the Lord about leaving the beggarly idols of Ur, God would have let him go back. We are free to do the will of God, but God never makes us His unwilling prisoners. God called Abraham out, God gave him the Promised Land and God said, “Abraham, from among your posterity will come the Messiah in the fullness of time!”

This is the gracious reason why we should tell people everywhere to hear and heed the call of God—so He can lead them into everything that is good and blessed and worthwhile.

God wants to call us out into a more abundant and fruitful Christian life than we have ever known!

Lord, who am I to argue with You or to call into question Your sovereign choice? The decision is not mine but Yours. So be it, Lord; Your will, not mine be done.[1]


8 As we have already noted at v. 3, biblical teaching presents beautiful balance. This is true in relation to a multitude of themes, and another example occurs here. The message of God to Isaiah in vv. 9–10 is strongly predestinarian. How appropriate, therefore, that the verse preceding them should place such emphasis on the prophet’s responsibility! He is not coerced into service; rather, his will makes its ready response as a grateful reaction to God’s forgiving grace. No doubt Isaiah’s readiness was itself the product of divine grace, but this is not where the stress falls here. Instead, we see him faced with the challenge to personal commitment.

The plural “us” is often linked theologically with v. 3 (see comment) and interpreted in terms of the Trinity. It is an unusual phenomenon, found elsewhere in the OT only in Genesis (Ge 1:26; 11:7; cf. also Isa 41:21–23). Many modern scholars, taking it to be a plural of consultation, see it both here and in Genesis as implying a council of heavenly beings. There are, of course, many biblical passages that picture God as surrounded by the heavenly hosts. In a context that speaks both of waters and mountains (and so of nature) and of nations (and so, by implication, also of history), however, the Lord refutes the notion that he consulted others in his work of creation (40:13–14). If Isaiah 6 and 40 have the same author (see Introduction, pp. 438–48), it seems most unlikely that consultation with a heavenly council is in view here. Moreover in Daniel, what a pagan king may have attributed to “the decree of the watchers” (Da 4:17, KJV) Daniel called “the decree of the Most High” (Da 4:24).

It is true that 1 Kings 22:19–23 pictures God as consulting with heavenly beings, but it is doubtful whether we should interpret literally a highly dramatic vision with details probably chosen to give vividness to a solemn message. GKC (par. 124g, n.2) takes “us” as a plural of self-deliberation. Motyer (1993, in loc.) points out that “the New Testament relates these verses to both the Lord Jesus (Jn. 12:24) and the Holy Spirit (Acts 28:25), thus finding here what will yet accommodate the full revelation of the Holy Trinity.”[2]


6:8 Us. This plural pronoun does not prove the doctrine of the Trinity, but does strongly imply it (see Ge 1:26). Here am I. Send me! This response evidenced the humble readiness of complete trust. Though profoundly aware of his sin, he was available.[3]


6:8 Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? See 1 Kings 22:19–20; Jer. 23:18, 22. Here am I! Send me. Isaiah’s experience of grace has dealt with his problem, confessed in Isa. 6:5. “Us” is like “us” in Gen. 1:26 (“let us make man”): God could be addressing himself (in a way compatible with the Christian doctrine of the Trinity), or he could be addressing his heavenly court (less likely, since only God is doing the sending here). See notes on Gen. 1:26; 1:27.[4]


6:8 who will go for us? The biblical descriptions of God’s heavenly deliberations often include a plural address. The plural can be understood most simply as God addressing the divine beings present in His throne room, and asking them a rhetorical question—knowing Isaiah will respond. A mark of a true prophet was that he had stood in the divine council and received his mission directly from God. See Gen 1:26 and note; Jer 23:18; 1 Kgs 22:19–23.[5]


6:8 who will go for us. The Lord permits Isaiah to listen in on the sessions of the royal, heavenly court (“us”). From this moment on, Isaiah is a servant of God’s court and proclaims God’s message to kings and people alike (cf. 1 Kin. 22:19, 20; Jer. 23:18, 22). Having been freely forgiven, Isaiah volunteers without waiting to hear the nature of his commission.[6]


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

[2] Grogan, G. W. (2008). Isaiah. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, pp. 508–509). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Is 6:8). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1251). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Is 6:8). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1132). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

APRIL 30 – REVIVAL BLESSINGS FLOW FROM GOD’S PROMISES

Rejoice in the LORD always: and again I say, Rejoice.

PHILIPPIANS 4:4

One characteristic that is largely lacking in the average church today is that of spiritual anticipation.

When Christians meet, they do not expect anything unusual to happen: consequently, only the usual happens, and that usual is as predictable as the setting of the sun.

A psychology of nonexpectation pervades the assembly, a mood of quiet ennui which the minister by various means tries to dispel, the means depending upon the cultural level of the congregation and particularly of the minister.

Christian expectation in the average church follows the program, not the promises. The activities of the saints are laid out for them by those who are supposed to know what they need better than they do. Prevailing spiritual conditions, however low, are accepted as inevitable—what will be is what has been!

The weary slaves of the dull routine find it impossible to hope for anything better.

Today we need a fresh spirit of anticipation that springs out of the promises of God! We must declare war on the mood of nonexpectation, and come together with childlike faith. Only then can we know again the beauty and wonder of the Lord’s presence among us.[1]


Maintaining a Spirit of Joy

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! (4:4)

This verse expresses the theme of the book of Philippians, that believers are to rejoice in the Lord always (cf. 3:1). Joy is such a vitally important factor in believers’ spiritual stability that Paul repeats his command for emphasis: again I will say, rejoice! This repetition presupposes the reality that it was not easy to be joyful. The Philippians needed to rise above their circumstances.

Some, wrongly identifying joy as a purely human emotion, find Paul’s twice-repeated command to rejoice puzzling. How, they ask, can people be commanded to produce an emotion? But joy is not a feeling; it is the deep-down confidence that God is in control of everything for the believer’s good and His own glory, and thus all is well no matter what the circumstances. Chairete (rejoice) is a present imperative, calling believers to the continual, habitual practice of rejoicing. Neither Paul’s imprisonment nor the Philippians’ trials should eclipse their joy.

It is true that believers often cannot find reason to rejoice in their specific circumstances. Certainly the general wickedness, sorrow, misery, and death in the world evoke no joy. Nor are people a reliable source of joy, since they can change, hurt, and disappoint. The only sure, reliable, unwavering, unchanging source of joy is God. That is why Paul commands believers to rejoice in the Lord. The phrase in the Lord introduces an important principle: Spiritual stability is directly related to how a person thinks about God. No one has stated that truth more clearly than A. W. Tozer. In his classic book on the attributes of God, The Knowledge of the Holy, Tozer wrote,

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.

For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech. She can never escape the self-disclosure of her witness concerning God.

Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, “What comes into your mind when you think about God?” we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man. (Reprint; New York: Harper & Row, 1975, 9)

Knowledge of God is the key to rejoicing. Those who know the great truths about God find it easy to rejoice; those with little knowledge of Him find it difficult to rejoice. God gave the Psalms to Israel in poetic form so they could be easily memorized and set to music. The first three verses of the book of Psalms promise blessings to those who meditate on Scripture:

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers. (Ps. 1:1–3)

It is from that knowledge of God and repeated recitation and singing of His nature and attributes that believers’ joy flows. So deep was the apostles’ knowledge of God’s character and purposes that even suffering for Jesus Christ was a cause of joy: “So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41).

Moses’ father-in-law Jethro “rejoiced over all the goodness which the Lord had done to Israel, in delivering them from the hand of the Egyptians” (Ex. 18:9; cf. Deut. 26:11). After the dedication of the temple, Solomon “sent the people to their tents, rejoicing and happy of heart because of the goodness that the Lord had shown to David and to Solomon and to His people Israel” (2 Chron. 7:10).

Believers rejoice in the contemplation of God’s redemption. In 1 Samuel 2:1, “Hannah prayed and said, ‘My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord, my mouth speaks boldly against my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation.’ ” In Psalm 13:5 David confidently asserted, “I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation” (cf. Pss. 21:1; 35:9; 40:16; Isa. 61:10; Hab. 3:18). In Psalm 71:23 the psalmist exulted, “My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to You; and my soul, which You have redeemed.”

Another reason for believers to rejoice is that God has promised to supply all their needs. Paul reminded the Philippians, “God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). In the Old Testament counterpart to that promise, the psalmist wrote, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord gives grace and glory; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Ps. 84:11). In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus Christ made God’s promise to provide for believers’ needs unmistakably clear:

Why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear for clothing?” For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matt. 6:28–33)

Paul rejoiced because of the privilege of serving God. To Timothy he wrote, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service” (1 Tim. 1:12). He also rejoiced when God’s truth was proclaimed (Phil. 1:18). Paul’s declaration to the Philippians earlier in this epistle, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (1:21), reveals that even the prospect of death could not quench his joy. The confidence “that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38–39) produces both deep-seated joy and spiritual stability.[2]


4:4 Turning now to the entire church, Paul repeats the favorite exhortation. The secret of his exhortation is found in the words in the Lord. No matter how dark the circumstances of life may be, it is always possible for the Christian to rejoice in the Lord.

Jowett shares his experience regarding Christian joy:

Christian joy is a mood independent of our immediate circumstances. If it were dependent on our surroundings, then, indeed, it would be as uncertain as an unprotected candle burning on a gusty night. One moment the candle burns clear and steady, the next moment the blaze leaps to the very edge of the wick, and affords little or no light. But Christian joy has no relationship to the transient setting of the life, and therefore it is not the victim of the passing day. At one time my conditions arrange themselves like a sunny day in June; a little later they rearrange themselves like a gloomy day in November. One day I am at the wedding; the next day I stand by an open grave. One day, in my ministry, I win ten converts for the Lord; and then, for a long stretch of days, I never win one. Yes, the days are as changeable as the weather, and yet the Christian joy can be persistent. Where lies the secret of its glorious persistency?

Here is the secret. “Lo! I am with you all the days.” In all the changing days, “He changeth not, neither is weary.” He is no fairweather Companion, leaving me when the year grows dark and cold. He does not choose my days of prosperous festival, though not to be found in my days of impoverishment and defeat. He does not show Himself only when I wear a garland, and hide Himself when I wear a crown of thorns. He is with me “all the days”—the prosperous days and the days of adversity; days when the funeral bell is tolling, and days when the wedding bell is ringing. “All the days.” The day of life—the day of death—the day of judgment.[3]


4 The conclusion to the letter begins in 4:4. Paul’s letter endings vary widely and lack any formal pattern, but he usually concludes with a battery of ethical imperatives. Here he begins by repeating the call to “rejoice in the Lord.” Since joy is commanded, it is not a feeling like happiness. It is a mental attitude, a life stance. Whereas happiness depends on what happens, joy does not. Joy derives from a conviction that, despite present circumstances, God is in control and will save those who belong to Christ. Joy derives from the Philippians’ union with Christ, the promise of the resurrection, and their partnership with one another.[4]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2001). Philippians (pp. 273–276). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1978). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Garland, D. E. (2006). Philippians. In T. Longman III (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, p. 252). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

April 30 – Jesus on God’s Love: For Enemies

But I say to you, love your enemies.—Matt. 5:44a

People tend to base love on the attractiveness and likeability of the one loved. They love the so-called beautiful people, enjoyable activities, nice houses, and sharp cars. That list could go on, but Jesus’ kind of love is need oriented. In His parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:29, 36–37), the Samaritan showed tremendous love because he sacrificed his own convenience, safety, and finances to help a desperately needy man.

The love our Lord sets forth here is translated from the Greek agapē, the noblest and best New Testament love. It is the form of love that strives to meet another’s utmost welfare. Such love may involve emotion, but it must involve action. Like every aspect of righteousness, love originates in the regenerate heart, but it shows its fullest potential by what it does. More than anything, this kind of love is the love God is, expresses, and provides (Rom. 5:5, 8; 1 John 4:7–12), which allows us to love as He loved.

When Christ told His apostles, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you” (John 13:34), He had just washed their feet as an example of agapē love. The apostles were self-centered, quarrelsome, envious of one another, and even sometimes challenged the Lord. Yet Jesus always did for them what was for their good. And this is how He wants all of us who claim to follow Him to show love—even for our enemies.

ASK YOURSELF
Few biblical mandates are more unnatural to our desires and experiences, but few make us a more sterling example of the difference Christ makes in an ordinary individual’s life. If you are currently dealing with situations that call for this kind of love, how do you intend to express it?[1]

Love Your Enemies

But I say to you, love your enemies. (5:44a)

Here is the most powerful teaching in Scripture about the meaning of love. The love that God commands of His people is love so great that it even embraces enemies.

William Hendriksen comments,

All around him were those walls and fences. He came for the very purpose of bursting those barriers, so that love-pure, warm, divine, infinite-would be able to flow straight down from the heart of God, hence from his own marvelous heart, into the hearts of men. His love overleaped all the boundaries of race, nationality, party, age, sex. …

When he said, “I tell you, love your enemies,” he must have startled his audience, for he was saying something that probably never before had been said so succinctly, positively, and forcefully. (The Gospel of Matthew [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1973], p. 313)

The scribes and Pharisees were proud, prejudiced, judgmental, spiteful, hateful, vengeful men who masqueraded as the custodians of God’s law and the spiritual leaders of Israel. To them, Jesus’ command to love your enemies must have seemed naive and foolish in the extreme. They not only felt they had the right but the duty to hate their enemies. Not to hate those who obviously deserve to be hated would be a breach of righteousness.

Jesus again sets His divine standard against the perverted human standards of that heretical Jewish tradition and reinforces it with the emphatic I. In Greek verbs a pronominal suffix indicates the subject, as here with lēgo (I say), and the separate pronoun I would not have been necessary had Jesus intended simply to give information.

But here, as in each preceding instance in the sermon (vv. 22, 28, 32, 34, 39), the emphatic form (egōlegō) gives not only grammatical but theological emphasis. In placing what He said above what tradition said, He placed His word on a par with Scripture-as His hearers well understood. Jesus not only placed emphasis on what was said but on who said it. It was not just that His teaching was the standard of truth, but that He Himself was the standard of truth. “Your great rabbis, scribes, and scholars have taught you to love only those of your own preference and to hate your enemies, ” Jesus was saying. “But by My own authority, I declare that they are false teachers and have perverted God’s revealed truth. The divine truth is My truth, which is that you shall love your enemies.”

As we have noted, the Old Testament concept of neighbor included even personal enemies. That is the truth Jesus expands in the parable of the Good Samaritan. The point of the parable is not primarily to answer the lawyer’s question, “And who is my neighbor?” though it does that, but to show that Gods’ requirement is for us to be neighbors to anyone who needs our help (Luke 10:29, 36–37).

The human tendency is to base love on the desirability of the object of our love. We love people who are attractive, hobbies that are enjoyable, a house or a car because it looks nice and pleases us, and so on. But true love is need-oriented. The Good Samaritan demonstrated great love because he sacrificed his own convenience, safety, and resources to meet another’s desperate need.

The Greek language has four different terms that are usually translated “love.” Philia is brotherly love and the love of friendship; storgē is the love of family; and erōs is desiring, romantic, sexual love. But the love of which Jesus speaks here, and which is most spoken of in the New Testament, is agapē, the love that seeks and works to meet another’s highest welfare.

Agapē love may involve emotion but it must involve action. In Paul’s beautiful and powerful treatise on love in 1 Corinthians 13, all fifteen of the characteristics of love are given in verb form. Obviously love must involve attitude, because, like every form of righteousness, it begins in the heart. But it is best described and best testified by what it does.

Above all, agapē love is the love that God is, that God demonstrates, and that God gives (1 John 4:7–10). “The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. … [and] God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us“ (Rom. 5:5, 8). Because of His love, we can love, and “if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:11–12).

When Jesus told the disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you” (John 13:34), He had just finished washing their feet as an example of humble, self-giving love. The disciples had done nothing to inspire Jesus’ love. They were self-centered, quarrelsome, jealous of each other, and sometimes even argued with and contradicted the One whom they confessed to be their God, Savior, and Lord. Yet everything that Jesus said to them and did for them was completely and without exception for their good. That was the kind of love He commanded them to have for Him and for each other. And that is the kind of love He commands all of His followers to have even for their enemies.

The commentator R. C. H. Lenski writes,

[Love] indeed, sees all the hatefulness and the wickedness of the enemy, feels his stabs and his blows, may even have something to do toward warding them off; but all this simply fills the loving heart with the one desire and aim, to free its enemy from his hate, to rescue him from his sin, and thus to save his soul. Mere affection is often blind, but even then it thinks that it sees something attractive in the one toward whom it goes out; the higher love may see nothing attractive in the one so loved, … its inner motive is simply to bestow true blessing on the one loved, to do him the highest good. … I cannot like a low, mean criminal who may have robbed me and threatened my life; I cannot like a false, lying, slanderous fellow who, perhaps, has vilified me again and again; but I can by the grace of Jesus Christ love them all, see what is wrong with them, desire and work to do them only good, most of all to free them from their vicious ways. (The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel [Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1964], p. 247)

Love’s question is never who to love-because we are to love everyone-but only how to love most helpfully. We are not to love merely in terms of feeling but in terms of service. God’s love embraces the entire world (John 3:16), and He loved each of us even while we were still sinners and His enemies (Rom. 5:8–10). Those who refuse to trust in God are His enemies; but He is not theirs. In the same way, we are not to be enemies of those who may be enemies to us. From their perspective, we are their enemies; but from our perspective, they should be our neighbors.

In 1567 King Philip II of Spain appointed the Duke of Alba as governor of the lower part of the nation. The Duke was a bitter enemy of the newly-emerging Protestant Reformation. His rule was called the reign of terror, and his council was called the Bloody Council, because it had ordered the slaughter of so many Protestants. It is reported that one man who was sentenced to die for his biblical faith managed to escape during the dead of winter. As he was being pursued by a lone soldier, the man came to a lake whose ice was thin and cracking. Somehow he managed to get safely across the ice, but as soon as he reached the other side he heard his pursuer screaming. The soldier had fallen through the ice and was about to drown. At the risk of being captured, tortured, and eventually killed-or of being drowned himself-the man went back across the lake and rescued his enemy, because the love of Christ constrained him to do it. He knew he had no other choice if he was to be faithful to His Lord (Elon Foster, New Cyclopedia of Prose Illustrations: Second Series [New York: T. Y. Crowell, 1877], p. 296).

The Scottish Reformer George Wishart, a contemporary and friend of John Knox, was sentenced to die as a heretic. Because the executioner knew of Wishart’s selfless ministering to hundreds of people who were dying of the plague, he hesitated carrying out the sentence. When Wishart saw the expression of remorse on the executioner’s face, he went over and kissed him on the cheek, saying, “Sir, may that be a token that I forgive you” (John Foxe, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, ed. W Grinton Berry [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978], p. 252).

Our “enemies,” of course, do not always come in such life-threatening forms. Often they are ordinary people who are mean, impatient, judgmental, self-righteous, and spiteful-or just happen to disagree with us. In whatever personal relationships we have, God wants us to love. Whether a conflict is with our marriage partner, our children or parents, our friends and fellow church members, a devious business opponent, spiteful neighbor, political foe, or social antagonist, our attitude toward them should be one of prayerful love.[2]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 129). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 343–346). Chicago: Moody Press.

APRIL 30 – AT ONCE FAR OFF AND NEAR

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.

—Psalm 139:7-8

Few other truths are taught in the Scriptures with as great clarity as the doctrine of the divine omnipresence. Those passages supporting this truth are so plain that it would take considerable effort to misunderstand them. They declare that God is immanent in His creation, that there is no place in heaven or earth or hell where men may hide from His presence. They teach that God is at once far off and near, and that in Him men move and live and have their being….

This truth is to the convinced Christian a source of deep comfort in sorrow and of steadfast assurance in all the varied experiences of his life. To him “the practice of the presence of God” consists not of projecting an imaginary object from within his own mind and then seeking to realize its presence; it is rather to recognize the real presence of the One whom all sound theology declares to be already there, an objective entity, existing apart from any apprehension of Him on the part of His creatures. The resultant experience is not visionary but real. KOH115, 118

Lord, I want to be cognizant of Your presence throughout the day today. I know the fact; I pray for the realization. Amen. [1]


139:7, 8 Not only is God omniscient; He is omnipresent as well. He is in all places at one and the same time. However, the all-presence of God is not the same as pantheism. The latter teaches that the creation is God. The Bible teaches that God is a Person who is separate and distinct from His creation. Is there any place where man can evade the Holy Spirit of God? Is there any place where he can hide from the presence of the Lord? Suppose man should ascend into heaven, would he elude God there? Of course not; heaven is the throne of God (Matt. 5:34). Even if he made his bed in Sheol, the disembodied state, he would find the Lord there as well.[2]


139:7 your Spirit … presence. God’s personal presence is everywhere throughout His creation. The thought of these rhetorical questions is that there is nowhere the psalmist can go beyond God’s view. Jonah learned this lesson when he tried to flee God’s commission to preach to the Ninevites.

139:8 heaven … Sheol. The psalmist expresses God’s omnipresence through a series of contrasts. The first contrast is spatial—God is in heaven; His presence reaches even to Sheol. Yet the hope of life beyond the grave shines through in the psalm (v. 10).[3]


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

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 769). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 995). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

April 30 – The Victory of the Resurrection

“ ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ … but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Corinthians 15:54–55, 57

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The Resurrection seals what we could not: victory over death.

Death is the great enemy of mankind. It comes to everyone without exception. It violates our dominion of God’s creation, breaks apart relationships, disrupts families, and causes us to grieve the loss of loved ones. However, Christ’s resurrection has broken the power of death for Christians because “death no longer is master over Him” (Rom. 6:9).

In today’s passage the apostle Paul reminds us of the final victory over death that results once we have been transformed into our resurrection bodies. To make his point, Paul quotes from the Old Testament prophets Isaiah and Hosea. In using Hosea’s sting of death metaphor, Paul implies that death left its sting in Christ, as a bee leaves its stinger in its victim. On the cross Jesus bore all of death’s sting (sin), so we wouldn’t have to bear any of it. When sin’s penalty has been removed, death merely interrupts our earthly life and ushers us into the heavenly realm, where we will worship and praise God forever.

Paul concludes (v. 57) by thanking God, who provided us the triumph over sin and death. We also should be thankful to God who, through Christ’s redeeming work, gave us what we could never have obtained by ourselves. God promises to all believers the heavenly in exchange for the earthly, and the immortal in exchange for the mortal.

With Jesus Christ’s triumph over death, we have no reason to fear what death can do to us. Instead, we should rejoice concerning the Lord’s promise to us about the next life: “Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire … and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain” (Rev. 20:14; 21:4).

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Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God that in His sovereign wisdom and power He has defeated death and removed all reasons for the believer to be afraid of it.

For Further Study: Read 2 Kings 2:9–14 and 4:18–37. What do these passages preview about Jesus’ control over death, His own and ours? ✧ Do they remind you of any particular New Testament stories?[1]


The Great Triumph

But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. (15:54–56)

Christ’s resurrection broke the power of death for those who believe in Him, and death is no longer master over them because “death no longer is master over Him” (Rom. 6:9). But death is still the enemy of man. Even for Christians it violates our dominion of God’s creation, it breaks love relationships, it disrupts families, and causes great grief in the loss of those dear to us. We no longer need fear death, but it still invades and torments us while we are mortal.

But one day, when Christ returns, the perishable that “must put on the imperishable” (v. 53) will have put on the imperishable, and the mortal that “must put on immortality” will have put on immortality. Then will come the great triumph that Isaiah predicted, when death is swallowed up in victory. The Isaiah text reads, “He [the Lord of Hosts] will swallow up death for all time” (Isa. 25:8; cf. v. 6). When the great transformation comes, the great victory will come.

The well–known commentator R. C. H. Lenski writes,

Death is not merely destroyed so that it cannot do further harm while all of the harm which it has wrought on God’s children remains. The tornado is not merely checked so that no additional homes are wrecked while those that were wrecked still lie in ruin. … Death and all of its apparent victories are undone for God’s children. What looks like a victory for death and like a defeat for us when our bodies die and decay shall be utterly reversed so that death dies in absolute defeat and our bodies live again in absolute victory (The Interpretation of St. Paul’s First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians [Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1963], pp. 744–45).

Quoting another prophet (Hos. 13:14), Paul taunts death: O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? To continue with that metaphor, Paul implies that death left its sting in Christ, as a bee leaves its stinger in its victim. Christ bore the whole of death’s sting in order that we would have to bear none of it.

To make his point, the apostle reminds his readers that the sting of death is sin. The harm in death is caused by sin; in fact, death itself is caused by sin. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). Only where there is sin can death deal a fatal blow. Where sin has been removed death can only interrupt the earthly life and usher in the heavenly. That is what Christ has done for those who trust in Him. Our “sins are forgiven for His name’s sake” (1 John 2:12). Death is not gone, but its sting, sin, is gone. “For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17).

It is not, of course, that Christians no longer sin, but that the sins we commit are already covered by Christ’s atoning death, so that sin’s effect is not permanently fatal. “The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). But for those who do not believe, death’s sting tragically remains forever.

Paul continues to explain the sequence leading to death by mentioning that the power of sin is the law. God’s law reveals God’s standards, and when they are broken they reveal man’s sin. If there were no law, obviously there could be no transgression. “Where there is no law neither is there violation” (Rom. 4:15). But men die because they break that law.

What about those who do not know God’s law, who have never even heard of, much less read, His Word? Paul tells us in Romans that when “Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them” (2:14–15). Anyone, therefore, who goes against his conscience goes against God’s law just as surely as anyone who knowingly breaks one of the Ten Commandments. That is the reason men are doomed to die (Rom. 3:23; 6:23).

The Great Thanksgiving

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (15:57)

Because of Jesus’ perfect obedience to the law (Rom. 5:19) and the satisfaction He made for its victims, those who trust in Him “are not under law, but under grace,” having “been released from the Law” (Rom. 6:14; 7:6). Jesus has both fulfilled the law and fulfilled righteousness. Because His life was sinless and therefore fulfilled the law, His death conquered sin.

Paul gives thanks to the One who will give us the great transformation of our bodies and who has made the great triumph over sin and death. That which we could never do for ourselves God has done for us through our Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot live sinlessly and thereby fulfill the law, nor can we remove sin once we have committed it, or remove its consequence, which is death But on our behalf Jesus Christ lived a sinless life, fulfilling the law; removed our sin by Himself paying the penalty for it, satisfying God with a perfect sacrifice; and conquered death by being raised from the dead. All of that great victory He accomplished for us and gives to us. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13). He took our curse and our condemnation and gives us victory in their place.

How can we do anything but thank and praise God for what He has done for us? He has promised us an imperishable, glorious, powerful, and spiritual body for one that is perishable, dishonorable, weak, and natural. He promises us the heavenly in exchange for the earthly, the immortal in exchange for the mortal. We know these promises are assured because He has already given us victory over sin and death.

For Christians death has no more power (Heb. 2:14–15), because God has taken away our sin. For Christians death is but the passing of our spirits from this life to the next, the leaving of earth and going to be with Christ Paul had only one reason for wanting to remain on earth: to continue his ministry for Christ on behalf of others. But for his own benefit and joy he had but one desire: “to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better” (Phil. 1:23–24).

In Christ’s victory over death, death’s sting is removed; it is declawed, deranged, disarmed, destroyed. “And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire, … and He shall wipe away every, tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain” (Rev. 20:14; 21:4).[2]


15:54 When the dead in Christ are raised and the living changed with them, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory” (Isa. 25:8). How magnificent! C. H. Mackintosh exclaims:

What are death, the grave, and decomposition in the presence of such power as this? Talk of being dead four days as a difficulty! Millions that have been mouldering in the dust for thousands of years shall spring up in a moment into life, immortality and eternal glory, at the voice of that blessed One.

15:55 This verse may well be a taunt song which believers sing as they rise to meet the Lord in the air. It is as if they mock Death because for them it has lost its sting. They also mock Hades because for them it has lost the battle to keep them as its own. Death holds no terror for them because they know their sins have been forgiven and they stand before God in all the acceptability of His beloved Son.

15:56 Death would have no sting for anyone if it were not for sin. It is the consciousness of sins unconfessed and unforgiven that makes men afraid to die. If we know our sins are forgiven, we can face death with confidence. If, on the other hand, sin is on the conscience, death is terrible—the beginning of eternal punishment.

The strength of sin is the law, that is, the law condemns the sinner. It pronounces the doom of all who have failed to obey God’s holy precepts. It has been well said that if there were no sin, there would be no death. And if there were no law, there would be no condemnation.

The throne of death rests on two bases: sin, which calls for condemnation, and the law which pronounces it. Consequently, it is on these two powers that the work of the Deliverer bore.

15:57 Through faith in Him, we have victory over death and the grave. Death is robbed of its sting. It is a known fact that when certain insects sting a person, they leave their stinger imbedded in the person’s flesh, and being thus robbed of their “sting,” they die. In a very real sense death stung itself to death at the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, and now the King of Terrors is robbed of his terror as far as the believer is concerned.[3]


54 When this grand event of Christ’s return and of our putting on new, incorruptible bodies takes place, then what the prophet wrote in Isaiah 25:8 (in the Hebrew) will be fulfilled: The Lord “will swallow up death forever.” Or to use Paul’s earlier words, this will be the time when the last enemy, death, will be destroyed (15:26). At this time God will also wipe away all tears from our eyes and death shall be no more (Isa 25:8b; cf. Rev 21:3–4). Once again, as in 15:23–28 (see comments), Paul does not demonstrate here how his thoughts relate to the day of the Antichrist, the binding and loosing of Satan, the millennium, the judgment day, and so on.

55 Because God’s last word is resurrection, glorified and imperishable bodies, and the abolishment of death, Paul cries out in the words of Hosea, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (cf. Hos 13:14). Right now death does have a sting. Right now it appears as though death does have the victory, for there is not a single human being alive who will escape death if the Lord tarries. But what appears to be victory for “the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon” (Rev 9:11), will ultimately end in his defeat, for death itself will be vanquished along with its angel (20:10, 14–15).

56 Paul digresses before he writes his grand conclusion. He wants to identify more closely what the “sting” (kentron, GK 3034) is that will be conquered through the resurrection. That sting is “sin.” As Paul wrote in Romans 5:12, death entered into the human world as a result of Adam’s sin. Otherwise put, “the wages of sin is death” (Ro 6:23). But when Christ offered himself as a sacrifice for sin on the cross, died, and then rose again as the firstfruits (1 Co 15:20–23), the power of that sting was gone. Death remains an enemy, of course, but only temporarily. When the resurrection of the body occurs, the sting will be gone permanently (v. 26).

Paul follows this phrase up with one more teaser, which reflects a lifetime of theological thinking about the relationship of sin and the law: “The power of sin is the law.” According to Paul’s thinking in Romans, the law (though in itself holy, righteous, and good, Ro 7:12) generates in us a knowledge of sin (3:20; 5:13; 7:7). In fact, the law can even increase our sin (5:20), perhaps by provoking us to do precisely what it forbids. But Christ, through his sacrifice on the cross, “redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal 3:13).

57 Thus, not only has the sting of death (sin) been removed, but also the power of sin (the law) has lost its grip—all through the death and resurrection of Jesus. This is the message that Paul triumphs in v. 57: “Thanks be to God,” who has given us the victory through what he accomplished in Jesus Christ. It is Christ, and Christ alone, who has achieved the victory.[4]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians (pp. 444–446). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1810–1811). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Verbrugge, V. D. (2008). 1 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, pp. 404–405). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

April 30 – A Cleansed Conscience

How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

Hebrews 9:14

Our safety in Christ results from “the answer of a good conscience toward God” (1 Pet. 3:21). The Greek word for “answer” refers to a pledge, in this case agreeing to meet certain conditions required by God before being placed into the ark of safety (Christ).

Unregenerate men and women have consciences that condemn them. One who appeals to God for a good conscience is sick of his sin and desires to be delivered from the load of guilt he bears. He has a crushing and intimidating fear of coming judgment and knows only God can deliver him. He desires the cleansing that comes through the blood of Christ (cf. Heb. 10:22). So he repents of his sin and pleads for forgiveness.

When Christ suffered on the cross, hell threw all its fury at Him, and wicked men vented their hatred on Him. Yet through that suffering, He served as an ark of safety for the redeemed of all ages. And because He triumphantly provided salvation through His suffering, we are safe in Him.[1]


The New Significance

For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (9:13–14)

If the Old Covenant, weak and imperfect as it was, served its purpose, how much better will Christ’s New Covenant, powerful and perfect, serve its purpose. The new not only has a better purpose, but accomplishes its purpose in a better way, a perfect way. The purpose of the old sacrifice was to symbolize, externally, the cleansing of sin. It accomplished this purpose. The purpose of the new sacrifice, however, was to cleanse actually, internally (where sin really exists). It accomplished its superior purpose in a superior way.

Not all the blood of beasts on Jewish altars slain,

Could give the guilty conscience peace or wash away the stain.

Christ the heavenly Lamb takes all our sins away,

A sacrifice of nobler name and richer big than they.

Isaac Watts

Jesus did everything He did on earth in obedience to the Father through the Spirit. Even, in fact especially, in His supreme sacrifice He through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God. In doing so, He provided the cleansing of our consciences from dead works to serve the living God. He frees our consciences from guilt, a joy and a blessing that no Old Testament saint ever had or could have had. In Christ we can “draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:22).

The former priests cleaned up the outside, and even that only symbolically, imperfectly, and temporarily. But Christ cleanses from the inside, where the real problem is. He does more than cleanse the old man; He replaces it with a new man. He cleanses our conscience, but He recreates our person. In Christ, we are not cleaned-up old creatures but redeemed new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17).

An evangelist tells a story from the days when he held tent meetings many years ago. One day, after a series of meetings was over, he was pulling up tent stakes. A young man approached him and asked what he had to do to be saved. The evangelist answered, “Sorry, it’s too late.” “Oh no,” was the response. “You mean it’s too late because the services are over?” “No,” the evangelist said, “I mean it’s too late because it’s already been done. Everything that could be done for your salvation has already been done.” After explaining Christ’s finished work to the young man, he led him to saving faith.

Our salvation is based on the covenant whose redeeming work is finished—on a sacrifice that has been offered once and for all, that is complete and perfect and eternal.[2]


9:14 If the ashes of a heifer had such power to cleanse from one of the most serious forms of outward defilement, how much more powerful is the blood of Christ to cleanse from inward sins of the deepest dye!

His offering was through the eternal Spirit. There is some difference of opinion as to the meaning of this expression. Some interpret it to mean, “through an eternal spirit,” meaning the willing spirit in which He made His sacrifice in contrast to the involuntary character of animal offerings. Others understand it to mean, “through His eternal spirit.” We rather believe that the Holy Spirit is in view; He made His sacrifice in the power of the Holy Spirit.

It was an offering made to God. He was the spotless, sinless Lamb of God whose moral perfection qualified Him to be our Sin-bearer. The animal sacrifices had to be physically spotless; He was without blemish morally.

His blood cleanses the conscience from dead works to serve the living God. It is not merely a physical purging or a ceremonial cleansing but a moral renewal that purifies the conscience. It cleanses from those dead works which unbelievers produce in an effort to earn their own cleansing. It frees men from these lifeless works to serve the living God.[3]


14 With Christ all is different. This is no unwilling animal but rather the voluntary self-offering of the Son of God; his offering is not according to human routine but “through the eternal Spirit”; whereas OT sacrifices had to be physically “unblemished” (e.g., the red heifer, Nu 19:2), Christ was spiritually perfect, without sin (4:15; 7:26); and whereas OT sacrifices cleansed the flesh, this one cleanses the conscience and sets us free from a round of “dead works” to serve the living God.

The mention of the Holy Spirit in connection with Christ’s self-offering serves to locate it in the spiritual realm as opposed to that of earthly ritual, and in the process affords one of those intriguing NT pointers toward the doctrine of the Trinity, in that all three Persons are involved in the work of atonement. “Conscience” recalls the comment in v. 9 that the OT sacrifices were unable to “perfect the conscience”; but Christ’s offering can cleanse the conscience from “dead works.” This is the same phrase as in 6:1 (see note there), and here, as there, it may be understood either morally as “works that bring death” (so the NIV and many commentators) or religiously as “useless rituals” (NIV footnote), which therefore cannot bring eternal life. Here the latter sense seems to me not only the natural sense of the Greek phrase but also more relevant to the immediate context. The “dead works” here stand over against the worship of “the living God” (see on 3:12), and the sense of “lifeless” (rather than “fatal”) makes a more appropriate contrast with “living”: it is when we are set free from the round of ineffective sacrifices offering only external cleansing that we can offer the spiritual service appropriate to the living God.[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 135). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Hebrews (pp. 230–231). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 2185–2186). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] France, R. T. (2006). Hebrews. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 118). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

April 29, 2017: Verse of the day

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9 Before the scattering of the people at the tower of Babel, the world was unified by one language; but it was a world of rebellious people. In contrast, a new purified language will characterize a responsive people (cf. Ro 15:6). The lips or language that had become impure through use in idol worship will become purified so that all may in unison call on the name of the Lord. The reference to lips, the organ of speech, includes the heart behind the language; as Keil, 156, notes, “Purity of the lips involves or presupposes the purification of the heart.” The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost brought about purification and renewal of heart and lips resulting in a widespread calling on the name of the Lord (Ac 2:21).

To “call on [qārāʾ] the name of the Lord” is to turn to the Lord out of a sense of need (TWOT, 2:810). Again, this kind of language may refer back to the preflood period (cf. Ge 4:26). The original unity of speech lost at Babel (11:1–9) will ultimately be restored so that all creation may worship God. Those of purified speech are enabled to serve “shoulder to shoulder” (lit., “one shoulder”; cf. Jer 32:39). In a similar vein, the expression “one mouth” is used to indicate unanimity in 1 Kings 22:13.

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary

Conversion of the Remaining Nations (3:9)

The pure language of verse 9 probably does not refer to a universal tongue but rather to lips that are undefiled by idolatry, or to speech that is pure with praise to Jehovah. All peoples will serve Him with one accord.

Believers Bible Commentary

3:9 purified lips. See Introduction: Interpretive Challenges. A remnant of the nations, converted to the Lord, will worship Him in righteousness and truth (Zec 8:20–23; 14:16). Pure speech will come from purified hearts (cf. Lk 6:45).

MacArthur Study Bible

3:9 In that day, God will alter the speech (or lips) of the peoples gathered to be punished (Isa. 6:5–7). The nations had polluted speech, worshiping pagan gods, but now they will have pure speech (cf. Ps. 24:4), cleansed to call upon the name of the Lord in worship (Gen. 4:26). (Some have suggested that this may also allude to the reversal of the Babel syndrome in Gen. 11:1–9.) Worship is not only through word but also through deed, since the nations will serve him. The term ‘abad (“work, serve”) designates obedient work for God (Mal. 3:14). This service is universal, done by all, and unanimous, “with one accord” (cf. 1 Kings 22:13).

ESV Study Bible

3:9 change … a pure speech. To purify the lips is either to cleanse from sin in general (Is. 6:5) or to remove the names of foreign gods from the lips of a worshiper (Hos. 2:17).

of the peoples. The Gentiles will also call on His name (Is. 52:15; 65:1; 66:18).

all of them may call upon the name of the Lord. In contrast with the idolaters of 1:5, 6. See Gen. 4:26; 1 Kin. 18:24; Jer. 10:25; Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:12, 13.

Reformation Study Bible

April 29 – Receiving Christ’s Wounds

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me” (Matt. 5:10–11).

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The persecution you receive for proclaiming Christ is really aimed at Christ Himself.

Savonarola has been called “the Burning Beacon of the Reformation.” His sermons denouncing the sin and corruption of the Roman Catholic Church of his day helped pave the way for the Protestant Reformation. Many who heard his powerful sermons went away half-dazed, bewildered, and speechless. Often sobs of repentance resounded throughout the entire congregation as the Spirit of God moved in listeners’ hearts. However, some who heard him couldn’t tolerate the truth and eventually had him executed.

Jesus said, “‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Sinful people will not tolerate a righteous standard. Prior to Christ’s birth, the world had never seen a perfect man. The more people observed Christ, the more their own sinfulness stood out in stark contrast. That led some to persecute and finally kill Him, apparently thinking that by eliminating the standard they wouldn’t have to keep it.

Psalm 35:19 prophesies that people would hate Christ without just cause. That is true of Christians as well. People don’t necessarily hate us personally, but they resent the holy standard we represent. They hate Christ, but He isn’t here to receive their hatred, so they lash out at His people. For Savonarola that meant death. For you it might mean social alienation or other forms of persecution.

Whatever comes your way, remember that your present sufferings “are not worthy to be compared with the glory” you will one day experience (Rom. 8:18). Therefore, “to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing” (1 Peter 4:13).

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Suggestions for Prayer:  When you suffer for Christ’s sake, thank Him for that privilege, recalling how much He suffered for you.

For Further Study: Before his conversion, the Apostle Paul (otherwise known as Saul) violently persecuted Christians, thinking he was doing God a favor. Read Acts 8:1–3, 9:1–31, and 1 Timothy 1:12–17, noting Paul’s transformation from persecutor to preacher.[1]


Happy Are the Harassed

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (5:10–12)

Of all the beatitudes, this last one seems the most contrary to human thinking and experience. The world does not associate happiness with humility, mourning over sin, gentleness, righteousness, mercy, purity of heart, or peacemaking holiness. Even less does it associate happiness with persecution.

Some years ago a popular national magazine took a survey to determine the things that make people happy. According to the responses they received, happy people enjoy other people but are not self-sacrificing; they refuse to participate in any negative feelings or emotions; and they have a sense of accomplishment based on their own self-sufficiency.

The person described by those principles is completely contrary to the kind of person the Lord says will be authentically happy. Jesus says a blessed person is not one who is self-sufficient but one who recognizes his own emptiness and need, who comes to God as a beggar, knowing he has no resources in himself. He is not confident in his own ability but is very much aware of his own inability. Such a person, Jesus says, is not at all positive about himself but mourns over his own sinfulness and isolation from a holy God. To be genuinely content, a person must not be self-serving but self-sacrificing. He must be gentle, merciful, pure in heart, yearn for righteousness, and seek to make peace on God’s terms-even if those attitudes cause him to suffer.

The Lord’s opening thrust in the Sermon on the Mount climaxes with this great and sobering truth: those who faithfully live according to the first seven beatitudes are guaranteed at some point to experience the eighth. Those who live righteously will inevitably be persecuted for it. Godliness generates hostility and antagonism from the world. The crowning feature of the happy person is persecution! Kingdom people are rejected people. Holy people are singularly blessed, but they pay a price for it.

The last beatitude is really two in one, a single beatitude repeated and expanded. Blessed is mentioned twice (vv. 10, 11), but only one characteristic (persecuted) is given, although it is mentioned three times, and only one result (for theirs is the kingdom of heaven) is promised. Blessed apparently is repeated to emphasize the generous blessing given by God to those who are persecuted. “Double-blessed are those who are persecuted,” Jesus seems to be saying.

Three distinct aspects of kingdom faithfulness are spoken of in this beatitude: the persecution, the promise, and the posture.

The Persecution

Those who have been persecuted are the citizens of the kingdom, those who live out the previous seven beatitudes. To the degree that they fulfill the first seven they may experience the eighth.

“All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). Before writing those words Paul had just mentioned some of his own “persecutions, and suffering, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra” (v. 11). As one who lived the kingdom life he had been persecuted, and all others who live the kingdom life can expect similar treatment. What was true in ancient Israel is true today and will remain true until the Lord returns. “As at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also” (Gal. 4:29).

Imagine a man who accepted a new job in which he had to work with especially profane people. When at the end of the first day his wife asked him how he had managed, he said, “Terrific! They never guessed I was a Christian.” As long as people have no reason to believe that we are Christians, at least obedient and righteous Christians, we need not worry about persecution. But as we manifest the standards of Christ we will share the reproach of Christ. Those born only of the flesh will persecute those born of the Spirit.

To live for Christ is to live in opposition to Satan in his world and in his system. Christlikeness in us will produce the same results as Christlikeness did in the apostles, in the rest of the early church, and in believers throughout history. Christ living in His people today produces the same reaction from the world that Christ Himself produced when He lived on earth as a man.

Righteousness is confrontational, and even when it is not preached in so many words, it confronts wickedness by its very contrast. Abel did not preach to Cain, but Abel’s righteous life, typified by his proper sacrifice to the Lord, was a constant rebuke to his wicked brother-who in a rage finally slew him. When Moses chose to identify with his own despised Hebrew people rather than compromise himself in the pleasures of pagan Egyptian society, he paid a great price. But he considered “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt” (Heb. 11:26).

The Puritan writer Thomas Watson said of Christians: “Though they be never so meek, merciful, pure in heart, their piety will not shield them from sufferings. They must hang their harp on the willows and take the cross. The way to heaven is by way of thorns and blood. … Set it down as a maxim, if you will follow Christ you must see the swords and staves” (The Beatitudes [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1971], pp. 259–60).

Savonarola was one of the greatest reformers in the history of the church. In his powerful condemnation of personal sin and ecclesiastical corruption, that Italian preacher paved the way for the Protestant Reformation, which began a few years after his death. “His preaching was a voice of thunder,” writes one biographer, “and his denunciation of sin was so terrible that the people who listened to him went about the streets half-dazed, bewildered and speechless. His congregations were so often in tears that the whole building resounded with their sobs and their weeping.” But the people and the church could not long abide such a witness, and for preaching uncompromised righteousness Savonarola was convicted of “heresy,” he was hanged, and his body was burned.

Persecution is one of the surest and most tangible evidences of salvation. Persecution is not incidental to faithful Christian living but is certain evidence of it. Paul encouraged the Thessalonians by sending them Timothy, “so that no man may be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know” (1 Thess. 3:3–4). Suffering persecution is part of the normal Christian life (cf. Rom. 8:16–17). And if we never experience ridicule, criticism, or rejection because of our faith, we have reason to examine the genuineness of it. “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake,” Paul says, “not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me” (Phil. 1:29–30). Persecution for Christ’s sake is a sign of our own salvation just as it is a sign of damnation for those who do the persecuting (v. 28).

Whether Christians live in a relatively protected and tolerant society or whether they live under a godless, totalitarian regime, the world will find ways to persecute Christ’s church. To live a redeemed life to its fullest is to invite and to expect resentment and reaction from the world.

The fact that many professed believers are popular and praised by the world does not indicate that the world has raised its standards but that many who call themselves by Christ’s name have lowered theirs. As the time for Christ’s appearing grows closer we can expect opposition from the world to increase, not decrease. When Christians are not persecuted in some way by society it means that they are reflecting rather than confronting that society. And when we please the world we can be sure that we grieve the Lord (cf. James 4:4; 1 John 2:15–17).

When (hotan) can also mean whenever. The idea conveyed in the term is not that believers will be in a constant state of opposition, ridicule, or persecution, but that, whenever those things come to us because of our faith, we should not be surprised or resentful. Jesus was not constantly opposed and ridiculed, nor were the apostles. There were times of peace and even popularity. But every faithful believer will at times have some resistance and ridicule from the world, while others, for God’s own purposes, will endure more extreme suffering. But whenever and however affliction comes to the child of God, his heavenly Father will be there with him to encourage and to bless. Our responsibility is not to seek out persecution, but to be willing to endure whatever trouble our faithfulness to Jesus Christ may bring, and to see it as a confirmation of true salvation.

The way to avoid persecution is obvious and easy. To live like the world, or at least to “live and let live,” will cost us nothing. To mimic the world’s standards, or never to criticize them, will cost us nothing. To keep quiet about the gospel, especially the truth that apart from its saving power men remain in their sins and are destined for hell, will cost us nothing. To go along with the world, to laugh at its jokes, to enjoy its entertainment, to smile when it mocks God and takes His name in vain, and to be ashamed to take a stand for Christ will not bring persecution. Those are the habits of sham Christians.

Jesus does not take faithlessness lightly. “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26). If we are ashamed of Christ, He will be ashamed of us. Christ also warned, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for in the same way their fathers used to treat the false prophets” (Luke 6:26). To be popular with everyone is either to have compromised the faith or not to have true faith at all.

Though it was early in His ministry, by the time Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount He had already faced opposition. After He healed the man on the Sabbath, “the Pharisees went out and immediately began taking counsel with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him” (Mark 3:6). We learn from Luke that they were actually hoping Jesus would heal on the Sabbath “in order that they might find reason to accuse Him” (Luke 6:7). They already hated His teaching and wanted Him to commit an act serious enough to warrant His arrest.

Our Lord made it clear from His earliest teaching, and His opponents made it clear from their earliest reactions, that following Him was costly. Those who entered His kingdom would suffer for Him before they would reign with Him. That is the hard honesty that every preacher, evangelist, and witness of Christ should exemplify. We do the Lord no honor and those to whom we witness no benefit by hiding or minimizing the cost of following Him.

The cost of discipleship is billed to believers in many different ways. A Christian stonemason in Ephesus in Paul’s day might have been asked to help build a pagan temple or shrine. Because he could not do that in good conscience, his faith would cost him the work and possibly his job and career. A believer today might be expected to hedge on the quality of his work in order to increase company profits. To follow His conscience in obedience to the Lord could also cost his job or at least a promotion. A Christian housewife who refuses to listen to gossip or to laugh at the crude jokes of her neighbors may find herself ostracized. Some costs will be known in advance and some will surprise us. Some costs will be great and some will be slight. But by the Lord’s and the apostles’ repeated promises, faithfulness always has a cost, which true Christians are willing to pay (contrast Matt. 13:20–21).

The second-century Christian leader Tertullian was once approached by a man who said, “I have come to Christ, but I don’t know what to do. I have a job that I don’t think is consistent with what Scripture teaches. What can I do? I must live.” To that Tertullian replied, “Must you?” Loyalty to Christ is the Christian’s only true choice. To be prepared for kingdom life is to be prepared for loneliness, misunderstanding, ridicule, rejection, and unfair treatment of every sort.

In the early days of the church the price paid was often the ultimate. To choose Christ might mean choosing death by stoning, by being covered with pitch and used as a human torch for Nero, or by being wrapped in animal skins and thrown to vicious hunting dogs. To choose Christ could mean torture by any number of excessively cruel and painful ways. That was the very thing Christ had in mind when He identified His followers as those willing to bear their crosses. That has no reference to mystical devotion, but is a call to be ready to die, if need be, for the cause of the Lord (see Matt. 10:35–39; 16:24–25).

In resentment against the gospel the Romans invented charges against Christians, such as accusing them of being cannibals because in the Lord’s Supper they spoke of eating Jesus’ body and drinking His blood. They accused them of having sexual orgies at their love feasts and even of setting fire to Rome. They branded believers as revolutionaries because they called Jesus Lord and King and spoke of God’s destroying the earth by fire.

By the end of the first century, Rome had expanded almost to the outer limits of the known world, and unity became more and more of a problem. Because only the emperor personified the entire empire, the caesars came to be deified, and their worship was demanded as a unifying and cohesive influence. It became compulsory to give a verbal oath of allegiance to caesar once a year, for which a person would be given a verifying certificate, called a libellus. After publicly proclaiming, “Caesar is Lord,” the person was free to worship any other gods he chose. Because faithful Christians refused to declare such an allegiance to anyone but Christ, they were considered traitors-for which they suffered confiscation of property, loss of work, imprisonment, and often death. One Roman poet spoke of them as “the panting, huddling flock whose only crime was Christ.”

In the last beatitude Jesus speaks of three specific types of affliction endured for Christ’s sake: physical persecution, verbal insult, and false accusation.

Physical Persecution

First, Jesus says, we can expect physical persecution. Have been persecuted (v. 10), persecute (v. 11), and persecuted (v. 12) are from diōkō, which has the basic meaning of chasing, driving away, or pursuing. From that meaning developed the connotations of physical persecution, harassment, abuse, and other unjust treatment.

All of the other beatitudes have to do with inner qualities, attitudes, and spiritual character. The eighth beatitude speaks of external things that happen to believers, but the teaching behind these results also has to do with attitude. The believer who has the qualities required in the previous beatitudes will also have the quality of willingness to face persecution for the sake of righteousness. He will have the attitude of self-sacrifice for the sake of Christ. It is the lack of fear and shame and the presence of courage and boldness that says, “I will be in this world what Christ would have me be. I will say in this world what Christ will have me say. Whatever it costs, I will be and say those things.”

The Greek verb is a passive perfect participle, and could be translated “allow themselves to be persecuted.” The perfect form indicates continuousness, in this case a continuous willingness to endure persecution if it is the price of godly living. This beatitude speaks of a constant attitude of accepting whatever faithfulness to Christ may bring.

It is in the demands of this beatitude that many Christians break down in their obedience to the Lord, because here is where the genuineness of their response to the other beatitudes is most strongly tested. It is here where we are most tempted to compromise the righteousness we have hungered and thirsted for. It is here where we find it convenient to lower God’s standards to accommodate the world and thereby avoid conflicts and problems that we know obedience will bring.

But God does not want His gospel altered under pretense of its being less demanding, less righteous, or less truthful than it is. He does not want witnesses who lead the unsaved into thinking that the Christ life costs nothing. A synthetic gospel, a man-made seed, produces no real fruit.

Verbal Insults

Second, Jesus promises that kingdom citizens are blessed … when men cast insults at them. Oneidizō carries the idea of reviling, upbraiding, or seriously insulting, and literally means to cast in one’s teeth. To cast insults is to throw abusive words in the face of an opponent, to mock viciously.

To be an obedient citizen of the kingdom is to court verbal abuse and reviling. As He stood before the Sanhedrin after His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was spat upon, beaten, and taunted with the words “Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the one who hit You?” (Matt. 26:67–68). As He was being sentenced to crucifixion by Pilate, Jesus was again beaten, spit upon, and mocked, this time by the Roman soldiers (Mark 15:19–20).

Faithfulness to Christ may even cause friends and loved ones to say things that cut and hurt deeply. Several years ago I received a letter from a woman who told of a friend who had decided to divorce her husband for no just cause. The friend was a professed Christian, but when she was confronted with the truth that what she was doing was scripturally wrong, she became defensive and hostile. She was reminded of God’s love and grace, of His power to mend whatever problems she and her husband were having, and of the Bible’s standards for marriage and divorce. But she replied that she did not believe the Bible was really God’s Word but was simply a collection of men’s ideas about God that each person had to accept, reject, or interpret for himself. When her friend wanted to read some specific Bible passages to her, she refused to listen. She had made up her mind and would not give heed to Scripture or to reason. With hate in her eyes she accused the other woman of luring her into her house in order to ridicule and embarrass her, saying she could not possibly love her by questioning her right to get a divorce. As she left, she slammed the door behind her.

The woman who wrote the letter concluded by saying, “I love her, and it is with a heavy heart that I realize the extent of her rejection of Christ. Painful as this has been, I thank God. For the first time in my life I know what it is to be separate from the world.”

Paul told the Corinthian church, whose members had such a difficult time separating themselves from the world, “For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men” (1 Cor. 4:9). Paul drew the expression “become a spectacle” from the practice of Roman generals to parade their captives through the street of the city, making a spectacle of them as trophies of war who were doomed to die once the general had used them to serve his proud and arrogant purposes. That is the way the world is inclined to treat those who are faithful to Christ.

In a note of strong sarcasm to enforce his point, Paul continues, “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor” (v. 10). Many in the Corinthian church suffered none of the ridicule and conflict the apostle suffered because they prized their standing before the world more than their standing before the Lord. In the world’s eyes they were prudent, strong, and distinguished-because they were still so much like the world.

God does not call His people to be sanctified celebrities, using their worldly reputations in a self-styled effort to bring Him glory, using their power to supplement His power and their wisdom to enhance His gospel. We can mark it down as a cardinal principle that to the extent the world embraces a Christian cause or person-or that a Christian cause or person embraces the world-to that extent that cause or person has compromised the gospel and scriptural standards.

If Paul had capitalized on his human credentials he could have drawn greater crowds and certainly have received greater welcome wherever he went. His credentials were impressive. “If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more,” he says. He was “circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee” (Phil. 3:4–5). He had been “caught up to the third heaven, … into Paradise” (2 Cor. 12:2, 4) and had spoken in tongues more than anyone else (1 Cor. 14:18). He had studied under the famous rabbi Gamaliel and was even a free-born Roman citizen (Acts 22:3, 29). But all those things the apostle “counted as loss for the sake of Christ, … but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:7–8). He refused to use worldly means to try to achieve spiritual purposes, because he knew they would fail.

The marks of authenticity Paul carried as an apostle and minister of Jesus Christ were his credentials as a servant and a sufferer, “in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city; dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure” (2 Cor. 11:23–27).

The only thing of which he would boast was his weakness (12:5), and when he preached he was careful not to rely on “superiority of speech or of wisdom” (1 Cor. 2:1), which he could easily have done. “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified,” he told the Corinthians. “And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (vv. 2–5).

We live in a day when the church, more than ever before, is engaged in self-glorification and an attempt to gain worldly recognition that must be repulsive to God. When the church tries to use the things of the world to do the work of heaven, it only succeeds in hiding heaven from the world. And when the world is pleased with the church, we can be sure that God is not. We can be equally sure that when we are pleasing to God, we will not be pleasing to the system of Satan.

False Accusation

Third, faithfulness to Christ will bring enemies of the gospel to say all kinds of evil against [us] falsely. Whereas insults are abusive words said to our faces, these evil things are primarily abusive words said behind our backs.

Jesus’ critics said of Him, “Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners” (Matt. 11:19). If the world said that of the sinless Christ, what things can His followers expect to be called and accused of?

Slander behind our backs is harder to take partly because it is harder to defend against than direct accusation. It has opportunity to spread and be believed before we have a chance to correct it. Much harm to our reputations can be done even before we are aware someone has slandered us.

We cannot help regretting slander, but we should not grieve about it. We should count ourselves blessed, as our Lord assures us we shall be when the slander is on account of Me.

Arthur Pink comments that “it is a strong proof of human depravity that men’s curses and Christ’s blessings should meet on the same persons” (An Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1950], p. 39). We have no surer evidence of the Lord’s blessing than to be cursed for His sake. It should not seriously bother us when men’s curses fall on the head that Christ has eternally blessed.

The central theme of the Beatitudes is righteousness. The first two have to do with recognizing our own unrighteousness, and the next five have to do with our seeking and reflecting righteousness. The last beatitude has to do with our suffering for the sake of righteousness. The same truth is expressed in the second part of the beatitude as on account of Me. Jesus is not speaking of every hardship, problem, or conflict believers may face, but those that the world brings on us because of our faithfulness to the Lord.

It is clear again that the hallmark of the blessed person is righteousness. Holy living is what provokes persecution of God’s people. Such persecution because of a righteous life is joyous. Peter identifies such experience as a happy honor.

And who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.” (1 Pet. 3:13–18)

With those words, the apostle extols the privilege of suffering for holiness, and thus of sharing in a small way in the same type of suffering Christ endured. In the next chapter, Peter emphasizes the same thing.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. … If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God. … Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” (4:12–14, 16, 19)

When we are hated, maligned, or afflicted as Christians, the real animosity is not against us but against Christ. Satan’s great enemy is Christ, and he opposes us because we belong to Jesus Christ, because He is in us. When we are despised and attacked by the world, the real target is the righteousness for which we stand and which we exemplify. That is why it is easy to escape persecution. Whether under pagan Rome, atheistic Communism, or simply a worldly boss, it is usually easy to be accepted if we will denounce or compromise our beliefs and standards. The world will accept us if we are willing to put some distance between ourselves and the Lord’s righteousness.

In the closing days of His ministry Jesus repeatedly and plainly warned His disciples of that truth. “If the world hates you,” He said, “you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me” (John 15:18–21).

The world went along for thousands of years before it ever saw a perfect man. Until Christ came, every person, even God’s best, were sinful and flawed. All had feet of clay. To see God’s people fail and sin is often taken as an encouragement by the wicked. They point a finger and say, “He claims to be righteous and good, but look at what he did.” It is easy to feel smug and secure in one’s sinfulness when everyone else is also sinful and imperfect. But when Christ came, the world finally saw the perfect Man, and all excuse for smugness and self-confidence vanished. And instead of rejoicing in the sinless Man, sinful men resented the rebuke that His teaching and His life brought against them. They crucified Him for His very perfection, for His very righteousness.

Aristides the Just was banished from ancient Athens. When a stranger asked an Athenian why Aristides was voted out of citizenship he replied, “Because we became tired of his always being just.” A people who prided themselves in civility and justice chafed when something or someone was too just.

Because they refused to compromise the gospel either in their teaching or in their lives, most of the apostles suffered a martyr’s death. According to tradition, Andrew was fastened by cords to a cross in order to prolong and intensify his agony. We are told that Peter, by his own request, was crucified head down, because he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as Jesus. Paul presumably was beheaded by Nero. Though John escaped a violent death, he died in exile on Patmos.

The Promise

But compared to what is gained, even a martyr’s price is small. Each beatitude begins with blessed and, as already suggested, Jesus pronounces a double blessing on those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, which is for His own sake. The specific blessing promised to those who are so persecuted is that theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The citizens of the kingdom are going to inherit the kingdom. Paul expresses a similar thought in 2 Thessalonians 1:5–7-“This a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire.”

I believe that the blessings of the kingdom are threefold: present, millennial, and eternal. Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29–30).

First, we are promised blessings here and now. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, was falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, and was imprisoned. But the Lord raised him to be the prime minister of Egypt and used him to save His chosen people from starvation and extinction. Daniel was thrown into a den of lions because of his refusal to stop worshiping the Lord. Not only was his life spared, but he was restored to his high position as the most valued commissioner of King Darius, and the king made a declaration that “in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel; for He is the living God and enduring forever” (Dan. 6:26).

Not every believer is rewarded in this life with the things of this life. But every believer is rewarded in this life with the comfort, strength, and joy of His indwelling Lord. He is also blessed with the assurance that no service or sacrifice for the Lord will be in vain.

As a sequel to his book Peace Child, Don Richardson has written Lords of the Earth (Glendale, Calif.: Regal, 1977). He tells the story of Stan Dale, another missionary to Irian Jaya, Indonesia, who ministered to the Yali tribe in the Snow Mountains. The Yali had one of the strictest known religions in the world. For a tribe member even to question, much less disobey, one of its tenets brought instant death. There could never be any change or modification. The Yali had many sacred spots scattered throughout their territory. If even a small child were to crawl onto one of those sacred pieces of ground, he was considered defiled and cursed. To keep the whole village from being involved in that curse, the child would be thrown into the rushing Heluk River to drown and be washed downstream.

When Stan Dale came with his wife and four children to that cannibalistic people he was not long tolerated. He was attacked one night and miraculously survived being shot with five arrows. After treatment in a hospital he immediately returned to the Yali. He worked unsuccessfully for several years, and the resentment and hatred of the tribal priests increased. One day as he, another missionary named Phil Masters, and a Dani tribesman named Yemu were facing what they knew was an imminent attack, the Yali suddenly came upon them. As the others ran for safety, Stan and Yemu remained back, hoping somehow to dissuade the Yali from their murderous plans. As Start confronted his attackers, they shot him with dozens of arrows. As the arrows entered his flesh he would pull them out and break them in two. Eventually he no longer had the strength to pull the arrows out, but he remained standing.

Yemu ran back to where Phil was standing, and Phil persuaded him to keep running. With his eyes fixed on Start, who was still standing with some fifty arrows in his body, Phil remained where he was and was himself soon surrounded by warriors. The attack had begun with hilarity, but it turned to fear and desperation when they saw that Start did not fall. Their fear increased when it took nearly as many arrows to down Phil as it had Stan. They dismembered the bodies and scattered them about the forest in an attempt to prevent the resurrection of which they had heard the missionaries speak. But the back of their “unbreakable” pagan system was broken, and through the witness of the two men who were not afraid to die in order to bring the gospel to this lost and violent people, the Yali tribe and many others in the surrounding territory came to Jesus Christ. Even Stan’s fifth child, a baby at the time of this incident, was saved reading the book about his father.

Stan and Phil were not rewarded in this life with the things of this life. But they seem to have been double-blessed with the comfort, strength, and joy of their indwelling Lord-and the absolute confidence that their sacrifice for Him would not be in vain.

There is also a millennial aspect to the kingdom blessing. When Christ establishes His thousand-year reign on earth, we will be co-regents with Him over that wonderful, renewed earth (Rev. 20:4).

Finally, there is the reward of the eternal kingdom, the blessing of all blessings of living forever in our Lord’s kingdom enjoying His very presence. The ultimate fruit of kingdom life is eternal life. Even if the world takes from us every possession, every freedom, every comfort, every satisfaction of physical life, it can take nothing from our spiritual life, either now or throughout eternity.

The Beatitudes begin and end with the promise of the kingdom of heaven (cf. v. 3). The major promise of the Beatitudes is that in Christ we become kingdom citizens now and forever. No matter what the world does to us, it cannot affect our possession of Christ’s kingdom.[2]


5:10 The next beatitude deals with those who are persecuted, not for their own wrongdoings, but for righteousness’ sake. The kingdom of heaven is promised to those believers who suffer for doing right. Their integrity condemns the ungodly world and brings out its hostility. People hate a righteous life because it exposes their own unrighteousness.

5:11 The final beatitude seems to be a repetition of the preceding one. However, there is one difference. In the previous verse, the subject was persecution because of righteousness; here it is persecution for Christ’s sake. The Lord knew that His disciples would be maltreated because of their association with, and loyalty to, Him. History has confirmed this: from the outset the world has persecuted, jailed, and killed followers of Jesus.[3]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 132). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 219–230). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1217). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

APRIL 29 – DEMONSTRATE YOUR FAITH

It is the spirit that quickeneth…the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.

John 6:63

 

We know of many who have been deceived into believing that the learning and the memorizing of Christian doctrine is all sufficient. They actually think that somehow they are better off for having learned the doctrines of religion.

God actually asks of us what He asked of Noah long ago! “Demonstrate your faith in God in your everyday life!”

It is evident that God did not say to Noah, “I am depending on you to hold the proper orthodox doctrines. Everything will be just fine if you stand up for the right doctrines.”

I have read a statement by Martin Lloyd-Jones, the English preacher and writer, in which he said: “It is perilously close to being sinful for any person to learn doctrine for doctrine’s sake.”

I agree with his conclusion that doctrine is always best when it is incarnated—when it is seen fleshed out in the lives of godly men and women. Our God Himself appeared at His very best when He came into our world and lived in our flesh!

 

Dear Lord, enable me to demonstrate my faith in practical ways today. Remind me to put feet to my faith when I have the inclination to hide my “light” under a stack of hay.[1]


As He did in 3:6, Jesus contrasted the Spirit who gives life with the flesh that profits nothing. Spiritual life comes only when the Holy Spirit imparts Christ’s life to the believer (Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:3–4). It does not come through “the will of the flesh” (1:13), which as R. V. G. Tasker notes, “signifies the outward to the exclusion of the inward, the visible apart from the invisible, the material unrelated to the spiritual, and the human dissociated from the divine” (The Gospel According to St. John, The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975], 96). The Lord exhorted those who took issue with eating His flesh (v. 52) to focus instead on partaking of His Spirit (vv. 53–58).

Of course, no one can do that apart from hearing and obeying the words that Jesus has spoken, which, He declared, are spirit and are life. It is Jesus’ words that reveal who He really is. As noted earlier, accepting or rejecting those words separates true and false disciples. True disciples continue in His Word (8:31), which abides in them (15:7; cf. Jer. 15:16; Col. 3:16; 1 John 2:14); false disciples ultimately reject His word (8:37, 43, 47). To embrace Jesus’ words is to receive Him, for they reveal His person. Thus the Bible teaches that salvation comes through the agency of the Word of God:

Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God.… The seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance. (Luke 8:11, 15)

But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” (Luke 8:21)

In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures. (James 1:18)

Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21)

For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. (1 Peter 1:23)[2]


6:63 These people had been thinking in terms of Christ’s literal flesh, but here He told them that eternal life was not gained by eating flesh but by the work of the Holy Spirit of God. Flesh cannot give life; only the Spirit can do this. They had taken His words literally and had not realized that they were to be understood spiritually. And so here the Lord Jesus explained that the words that He spoke were spirit and they were life; when His sayings about eating His flesh and drinking His blood were understood in a spiritual way, as meaning belief in Him, then those who accepted the message would receive eternal life.[3]


63 That Jesus was speaking metaphorically when he said that a person must eat his flesh and drink his blood (v. 54) is now made clear. It is the Spirit who “gives life.” He is the one who provides life eternal. “The flesh counts for nothing”; it is totally unable to provide spiritual sustenance. “Flesh” (sarx, GK 4922) here is “the earthly part of man, man as he is by nature, his intellect remaining unilluminated by the revelation of God” (Lindars, 273). Little wonder that it cannot produce life. Life comes from hearing and absorbing the words of Jesus. His words are “spirit and … life.” It is through his words that the Spirit communicates life to the person of faith. We are reminded of Jeremiah’s testimony that when the Lord’s words came, he ate them, and they were his joy and heart’s delight (Jer 15:16). Even though some of Jesus’ followers had listened to what he had to say, they still did not believe. There is a hearing of the ears only. To hear in such a way is to acknowledge the voice but to refuse the message. There is also a hearing of the inner person. To hear in this way is to take the next step and actually commit oneself to the message. When this happens, it is the Spirit giving life through the words of Jesus. This same phenomenon is true today. To read God’s Word and find one’s heart “strangely warmed” (as John Wesley put it) is to discover oneself in actual communication with the Spirit, whose role it is to illumine the believing heart.[4]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). John 1–11 (pp. 270–271). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1506–1507). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Mounce, R. H. (2007). John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 452). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

APRIL 29 – SENSITIVE TO RELIGION—BUT LIVING LIKE THE DEVIL

…Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

LUKE 18:8

In our day you can find plenty of men and women in all walks of life who live like the devil while insisting that they are “sensitive” to religion!

If an evangelist sweeps through and the excitement gets big enough, they will go to the meeting and swell the crowd and contribute to the offering—and it will look big.

But here’s the catch: after it is all over, the moral standards of the community are right where they were before. I contend that whatever does not raise the moral standard and consciousness of the church or community has not been a revival from God.

The “god” that men believe in now, and to whom they are “sensitive,” is a kind of divine Pan with a pipe who plays lovely music while they dance, but he is not a God that makes any moral demands on them.

I still say that any revival that will come to a nation and leave people as much in love with money as they were before and as engrossed in human pleasures is a snare and a delusion!

True faith in God—not in any god, not in religion, but faith in the sovereign God who made heaven and earth and who will require men’s deeds—that is the God we must believe in, my friends. Believing in Him, we will seek to crucify our flesh and put on the new man which is renewed in holiness.

That kind of faith in God is all but gone. When the Son of Man cometh, will He find faith on the earth?[1]


The Inquisition

However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth? (18:8b)

Jesus concluded this section by asking this pensive question. When He returns, will He find anyone faithfully praying in eagerness for the second coming? Any who have loved His appearing? Who cry out, “Maranatha” (“come Lord”) (1 Cor. 16:22)?

Some think that eschatology, the doctrine of the last things, is mere sensationalistic speculation with little practical value. But as the Lord’s teaching in this passage indicates, nothing could be further from the truth. Paul’s dealings with the infant church at Thessalonica further emphasizes the importance and practical value of teaching on the end times. The apostle’s two epistles to them reveal that in the brief time he spent with them (cf. Acts 17:1–2), he taught them an amazingly comprehensive eschatology (2 Thess. 2:5).

In the salutation to his first epistle Paul praised the Thessalonians for their “steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:3), which is “to wait for His Son from heaven” (v. 10). In 2:12 he exhorted them to “walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory,” while in verse 19 he referred to “the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming.” Paul prayed that God would “establish [their] hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints” (3:13). In chapter 4 Paul gave them a detailed description of the rapture (vv. 13–18), while in chapter 5 the apostle reminded them of what he had taught them regarding the Day of the Lord and the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (vv. 1–11, 23).

In his second epistle to that Thessalonian congregation, Paul continued his detailed instruction regarding eschatology. In chapter 1 he described God’s judgment and the coming of the kingdom (vv. 5–10), and the eternal punishment of the wicked (v. 9). In the second chapter he gave them detailed teaching on the rise of Antichrist, the return of Christ, and the coming of the Day of the Lord.

The extensive eschatological teaching Paul gave this young church reveals that such doctrine is critical, foundational, and highly useful to living a godly life (2 Peter 3:11, 14; 1 John 3:1–3). Knowing the end of the story encourages Christians to “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that [their] toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).

True Christians live in hope, waiting expectantly for the promise of Christ’s return to be fulfilled. To that end they pray for His glory and honor to be revealed. Such prayer is life changing.[2]


18:8 But the day is coming when His spirit will no longer strive with men, and then He will punish those who persecute His followers. The Lord Jesus closed the parable with the question, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” This probably means the kind of faith that the poor widow had. But it may also indicate that when the Lord returns, there will only be a remnant who are true to Him. In the meantime, each of us should be stimulated to the kind of faith that cries to God night and day.[3]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. (2014). Luke 18–24 (pp. 9–10). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1438). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

April 29 – Jesus and Non-retaliation: Property

Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.—Matt. 5:42

Secular people also hold tightly to the concept that property rights are sacred. But such self-centered possessiveness is merely another symptom of humanity’s sinfulness. Even believers forget that whatever they have belongs to God and that they are simply stewards of their wealth.

We do have certain legal rights in most countries to manage property as we wish. But we must be willing to sacrifice those rights on the altar of Christian obedience and submission (cf. Rom. 12:1–2). Whenever someone wants to borrow something of ours, we ought to willingly allow him or her to do so. That person might well have a genuine need, which only we can meet.

The Lord implies here that His disciples should offer to give as soon as they sense a need, not waiting to be asked. And He is not referring to our grudgingly donating, but to generous giving that springs from a loving desire to help. Our attitude should be far more than a token charity that merely wants to salve an uneasy conscience.

Christ’s words do not intend to undercut civil justice, but to destroy human selfishness, which is sin and does not belong in the hearts of true Christians. In truth, the only persons who do not selfishly or vengefully cling to their property rights are those who have died to self (cf. Gal. 2:20). The faithful believer lives for Christ and if necessary surrenders all his or her rights and dies for Him (Rom. 14:8).

ASK YOURSELF
Again, since we cannot give away everything we have, how do we deal with the requirement of adhering to this Christian command while also using sound judgment, being good stewards of our God-given resources?[1]

Property

Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. (5:42)

The fourth right we are to surrender is that of property. Possessiveness is another characteristic of fallen human nature. We dislike giving up, even temporarily, that which belongs to us. Even as Christians, we often forget that nothing truly belongs to us and that we are only stewards of what belongs to God. But as far as other people are concerned, we do have a right to keep that which we possess. By right it is ours to use or dispose of as we see fit.

But that right, too, should be placed on the altar of obedience to Christ if required. When someone asks to borrow something from us, we should not turn away from him. In other words, we should give him what he wants. The implication is that the person who asks has a genuine need. We are not required to respond to every foolish, selfish request made of us. Sometimes to give a person what he wants but does not need is a disservice, doing him more harm than good.

Also implied is the principle that we should offer to give what is needed as soon as we know of the need, whether or not we are asked for help. Jesus is not speaking of begrudging acquiescence to a plea for help, but willing, generous, and loving desire to help others. He is speaking of generosity that genuinely wants to meet the other person’s need, not tokenism that does a good deed to buy off one’s own conscience.

Jesus does not undercut civil justice, which belongs in the courtroom. He undercuts personal selfishness (characteristic of the false religionists listening to Him on the mountain), which belongs nowhere and especially not in the hearts of His kingdom people.

A biographer of William Gladstone, the great British prime minister, wrote of him, “Of how few who have lived for more than sixty years in the full light of their countrymen and have, as party leaders, been exposed to angry and sometimes spiteful criticism, can it be said that there stands against them no malignant word and no vindictive act. This was due not perhaps entirely to Gladstone’s natural sweetness of disposition but rather to self-control and a certain largeness of soul which would not condescend to anything mean or petty.”

The only person who is nondefensive, nonvengeful, never bears a grudge, and has no spite in his heart is the person who has died to self. To fight for one’s rights is to prove that self is still on the throne of the heart. The believer who is faithful to Christ lives for Him and, if necessary, dies for Him (Rom. 14:8). It is impossible to live for self and for Christ at the same time.

George Mueller wrote, “There was a day when I died, utterly died to George Mueller and his opinions, his preferences, and his tastes and his will. I died to the world, to its approval and its censure. I died to the approval or the blame of even my brethren and friends. And since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God.”

That is the spirit Jesus teaches in this passage, a spirit all men fail to possess apart from saving grace. It is the spirit Abraham manifested when he gave the best land to his nephew Lot. It is the spirit of Joseph when he embraced and kissed the brothers who had so terribly wronged him. Is the spirit that would not let David take advantage of the opportunity to take the life of Saul, who was then seeking to take David’s life. It is the spirit that led Elisha to feed the enemy Assyrian army. It is the spirit that led Stephen to pray for those who were stoning him to death. It is the spirit of every believer who, by the Holy Spirit’s power, seeks to be perfect even as our heavenly Father is perfect (v. 48).[2]


5:42 Jesus’ last command in this paragraph seems the most impractical to us today. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. Our obsession with material goods and possessions makes us recoil at the thought of giving away what we have acquired. However, if we were willing to concentrate on the treasures of heaven and be content with only necessary food and clothing, we would accept these words more literally and willingly. Jesus’ statement presupposes that the person who asks for help has a geniune need. Since it is impossible to know whether the need is legitimate in all cases, it is better (as someone said), “to help a score of fraudulent beggars than to risk turning away one man in real need.”

Humanly speaking, such behavior as the Lord calls for here is impossible. Only as a person is controlled by the Holy Spirit can he live a self-sacrificing life. Only as the Savior is allowed to live His life in the believer can insult (v. 39), injustice (v. 40), and inconvenience (v. 41) be repaid with love. This is “the gospel of the second mile.”[3]


42 The final illustration requires not only interest-free loans (Ex 22:25; Lev 25:37; Dt 23:19) but a generous spirit (cf. Dt 15:7–11; Pss 37:26; 112:5). The parallel form of this verse (Lk 6:30) does not imply two requests but only one; the repetition reinforces the point. These last two illustrations confirm our interpretation of vv. 38–39. The entire pericope deals with the heart’s attitude, the better righteousness. For there is actually no legal recourse to the oppression in the third illustration, and in the fourth no harm that might lead to retaliation has been done.[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 128). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 335–336). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1222–1223). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[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, p. 190). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

APRIL 29 – BUT GOD SEEMS REMOTE

Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.

—Ephesians 4:18

The reason we sense that God is remote is because there is a dissimilarity between moral characters. God and man are dissimilar now. God made man in His image, but man sinned and became unlike God in his moral nature. And because he is unlike God, communion is broken. Two enemies may hate each other and be separated and apart even though they are for a moment forced to be together. There is an alienation there—and that is exactly what the Bible calls that moral incompatibility between God and man.

God is not far away in distance, but He seems to be because He is far away in character. He is unlike man because man has sinned and God is holy. The Bible has a word for this moral incompatibility, this spiritual unlikeness between man and God—alienation. AOG123

Thank You, gracious Father, that You have provided the remedy for the alienation between You and Your children. Thank You for the blood of Jesus, whereby our blindness can be lifted and we can be brought near to You. Amen. [1]


Ignorant of God’s Truth

The second characteristic of ungodly persons is ignorance of God’s truth. Their thinking not only is futile but spiritually uninformed. They are darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart.

General education and higher learning are more widespread today than ever in history. College graduates number in the tens of millions, and our society, like ancient Greece, prides itself in its science, technology, literature, art, and other achievements of the mind. For many people, to be called ignorant is a greater offense than to be called sinful. Yet Paul’s point in this passage is that ignorance and sin are inseparable. The ungodly may be “always learning,” but they are “never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). Fallen mankind has a built–in inability to know and comprehend the things of God—the only things that ultimately are worth knowing. When men rejected God, “they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Rom. 1:21). Intellectual futility and foolishness combine as part of sin’s penalty.

The Greek word behind being darkened is a perfect participle, indicating a continuing condition of spiritual darkness. This darkness implies both ignorance and immorality. And darkness of understanding is coupled with exclusion from the life of God (cf. John 1:5). The cause of their darkness, ignorance, and separation from God is the hardness of their heart, their willful determination to remain in sin. Because men determine to reject Him, God judicially and sovereignly determines to blind their minds, exclude them from His presence, and confirm them in their spiritual ignorance. “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks,” Paul explains of fallen mankind. “Professing to be wise, they became fools. … Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity” (Rom. 1:21–22, 24).

Because of the hardness of their heart, the ungodly are unresponsive to truth (cf. Isa. 44:18–20; 1 Thess. 4:5). Just as a corpse cannot hear a conversation in the mortuary, the person who is spiritually “dead in [his] trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1) cannot hear or understand the things of God, no matter how loudly or clearly they may be declared or evidenced in his presence. Pōrōsis (hardness) carries the idea of being rock–hard. It was used by physicians to describe the calcification that forms around broken bones and becomes harder than the bone itself. It was also used of the hard formations that sometimes occur in joints and cause them to become immobile. It could therefore connote the idea of paralysis as well as of hardness. Sin has a petrifying effect, and the heart of the person who continually chooses to sin becomes hardened and paralyzed to spiritual truth, utterly insensitive to the things of God.

Leroy Auden of the University of Chicago has written, “We hide a restless lion under a cardboard box, for while we may use other terms than guilt to describe this turbulence in our souls, the fact remains that all is not right within us.” By one way or another—by psychological game playing, rationalization, self–justification, transferring the blame, or by denying sin and eliminating morality—men try futilely to get rid of the lion of guilt. But it will not go away.

Satan plays a part in the blindness of those who refuse to believe, because “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). They refuse to see Christ because they refuse to see God, and their refusal is readily confirmed and reinforced by the god of this world.

And when men continually persist in following their own way, they will also eventually be confirmed in their choice by the God of heaven. The Jews who heard Jesus teach and preach had the great advantage of having had God’s Word given to them through Moses, the prophets, and other Old Testament writers. They had the even greater advantage of seeing and hearing God’s own incarnate Son. But “though He had performed so many signs before them,” John tells us, “yet they were not believing in Him. … For this cause they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, ‘He has blinded their eyes, and He hardened their heart; lest they see with their eyes, and perceive with their heart, and be converted, and I heal them’ ” (John 12:37, 39–40). Because they would not believe, they could not believe. God one day says,

“Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and let the one who is filthy, still be filthy” (Rev. 22:11).

When men choose to petrify their hearts by constant rejection of the light (John 12:35–36), they became darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart. That is the unspeakable tragedy of unbelief, the tragedy of the person who makes himself his own god.[2]


4:18 Blind. “They live blindfold in a world of illusion” (JBP). Their understanding was darkened. First, they had a native incapacity to understand spiritual truths, and then, because of their rejection of the knowledge of the true God, they suffered blindness as a judgment from the Lord.

Ungodly. They were alienated from the life of God, or at a great distance from Him. This was brought about by their willful, deep-seated ignorance and by the hardness of their hearts. They had rejected the light of God in creation and in conscience, and had turned to idolatry. Thereafter they had plunged farther and farther from God.[3]


18 Beyond living with a futile mind-set, Gentiles possess a darkened understanding, according to Paul’s assessment. “Understanding” translates dianoia (GK 1379) and refers to the human faculty of comprehending, reasoning, and intelligence. In other words, a dark shadow blinds unbelievers and denies them the ability to comprehend spiritual matters “because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Co 2:14). Unbelievers are spiritually befuddled.

Repeating the thought of 2:1–10, Paul asserts that unbelievers are alienated from the life of God; i.e., they do not possess the life (using zōē, GK 2437) that derives from God alone (genitive of origin) and that he gives to believers. Paul supplies two reasons for this separation from God’s life: unbelievers’ “ignorance” and the “hardening of their hearts.” Does the ignorance “in them” point to an inherent flaw—original sin? Or does it point to their disobedience? The next phrase clarifies: they brought it on themselves by hardening their hearts against the truth about God. “Hardened hearts” is a common biblical metaphor (Ex 4:21; 7:3; Ps 95:8; Mt 19:8; Mk 3:5; Ro 11:25; also common in Qumran writings). “Hardening” translates pōrōsin (GK 4801), which literally refers to a callus or hardening of the skin. It describes a spiritual insensitivity or unresponsiveness—or a lack of remorse. Unbelievers’ repetition of wrong choices produces a spiritual hardening of the heart (the center of one’s being), with the result that their consciences become ineffective in curbing sin. A hard heart cannot distinguish between good and evil. This contrasts with the believers, whose hearts God has enlightened (1:18). So Christians ought not to live like these Gentiles any longer; they have been changed.[4]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (pp. 168–170). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1937). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Klein, W. W. (2006). Ephesians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 124–125). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

April 29 – Our New Bodies

“Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.”

1 Corinthians 15:49

✧✧✧

All believers can look forward to one day receiving new bodies and new images.

Jesus’ post–resurrection appearances present a glimpse of the greatness, power, and wonder that our own resurrection bodies will have. Our Lord appeared and disappeared at will and always reappeared in other places. He was able to go through walls and doors, but He could also eat, drink, sit, talk, and be seen by others. Jesus was remarkably the same as before His death, yet He was even more remarkably changed. The body the disciples and other followers saw after the Resurrection was the same one we’ll see when we go to be with Him. Christ will also appear in the same form when He returns to earth (Acts 1:11).

As it was with Jesus, our perishable, natural, and weak bodies will be raised imperishable, spiritual, and powerful. No longer will they limit us in our service to God. In Heaven we’ll blaze forth the magnificent glory that God so graciously gives to His own (Matt. 13:43). Christ promises to “transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself” (Phil. 3:21).

The future resurrection of believers to the glories of Heaven has always been a blessed hope and motivation for the church through the centuries—and it should be for you and me. No matter what our present bodies are like—healthy or unhealthy, beautiful or plain, short–lived or long–lived, pampered or abused—they are not our permanent bodies. One day these natural, created bodies will be re–created as supernatural. Even though the Bible gives us just a glance at what those new bodies will be like, it is a precious assurance to know that “we shall be like Him” (1 John 3:2).

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: Pray for an opportunity to share insights from this study with a Christian friend, especially if he or she has been discouraged recently.

For Further Study: Read Luke 24:33–53. What do verses 37–43 verify about Jesus’ new body? ✧ Write down other things from the entire passage that describe how Jesus had changed from the way He was prior to the cross. How had He remained the same?[1]


And just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Just as we will exchange Adam’s natural body for Christ’s spiritual body, we will also exchange Adam’s image for Christ’s.

From Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances we get some idea of the greatness, power, and wonder of what our own resurrection bodies will be like. Jesus appeared and disappeared at will, reappearing again at another place far distant. He could go through walls or closed doors, and yet also could eat, drink, sit, talk, and be seen by those who He wanted to see Him. He was remarkably the same, yet even more remarkably different. After His ascension, the angel told the amazed disciples, “This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). The body the disciples saw after Jesus’ resurrection is the same body that will be seen when He returns again.

Just as with our Lord, our bodies, which are now perishable, dishonored, weak, and natural, will be raised into bodies that are imperishable, glorious, powerful, and spiritual. That which hindered our service and manifestation of God will now be the marvelous channel of fulfillment. We will have His own power in which to serve and praise Him, and His own glory by which to manifest and magnify Him. “Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matt. 13:43). In heaven we will radiate like the sun, in the blazing and magnificent glory which the Lord will graciously share with those who are His. Christ will “transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself” (Phil. 3:21).

We cannot imagine exactly what that will be like. Even our present spiritual eyes cannot envision our future spiritual bodies. “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2). We will not see our own resurrected bodies, or even have our own resurrected bodies, until we first see Christ’s.

“So the graveyards of man become the seed plots of resurrection,” Erich Saner beautifully observes, “and the cemeteries of the people of God become through the heavenly dew the resurrection fields of the promised perfection.”

The coming resurrection is the hope and motivation of the church and of all believers. Whatever happens to our present bodies—whether they are healthy or unhealthy, beautiful or plain, short–lived or long–lived, or whether they are indulged or tortured—they are not our permanent bodies, and we should not hold them too dearly. Our blessed hope and assurance is that these created natural bodies one day will be recreated as spiritual bodies. Although we have only a glimpse of what those new bodies will be like, it should be enough to know that “we shall be like Him.”[2]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians (pp. 439–440). Chicago: Moody Press.

April 29 – Safety in Christ

There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 3:21

 

Just as the Flood immersed everyone but a few in the judgment of God, so the final judgment will fall on all. But those who are in Jesus Christ will pass through judgment safely. Being in Christ is like being in the ark: we ride safely through the storms of judgment.

The baptism Peter refers to in today’s verse is qualified by the statement, “not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God.” The only baptism that saves a person is one into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Believers go through the death and burial of Christ because of their union with Him, and come out again into the new world of His resurrection.

The ark of Noah was a kind of tomb—those in it died to their old world when they entered it. When they left it, they experienced a resurrection of sorts by entering a new world. That, Peter tells us, is analogous to the experience of every Christian: spiritually we enter Christ and die to the world we come from, and one day we will be resurrected to a new world and life.[1]


His Triumphant Salvation

when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, (3:20b–21)

The biblical account of when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, before sending the Flood, Peter saw as an analogy for the triumphant salvation provided through Jesus Christ. God was patient with the corrupt world, as Genesis 6:3 states: “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” During that 120-year grace period Noah was “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5) who announced judgment but also offered the way of deliverance. The members of Noah’s family were the only eight persons on earth to heed the divine warning and escape the coming catastrophe of a worldwide flood. Hence only Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives were brought safely through the water while the rest of mankind was drowned in God’s act of judgment (Gen. 6:9–8:22).

During the grace period, people witnessed the construction of the ark by Noah and his sons. While its purpose was to rescue Noah and his family from the Flood, the ark also was a vivid object lesson to unbelievers of God’s impending judgment on the world. The lack of responsiveness to the “sermon of the ark” reveals the profound wickedness in Noah’s day: “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).

Peter used corresponding to that, a phrase containing the word antitupon, which means “copy,” “counterpart,” or “figure pointing to” to make the transition to the salvation in Christ. That word yielded the theological term antitype, which in the New Testament describes an earthly expression of a heavenly reality—a symbol or analogy of a spiritual truth (cf. John 3:14–16; Heb. 4:1–10; 8:2, 5). The preservation in the ark of those who believed God is analogous to the salvation believers have in Christ.

Some commentators believe the Flood is the antitype because antitupon (v. 21) and hudatos (water, v. 20) are both neuter nouns. But it is better to view the antitype in the broader sense of Noah and his family’s total experience with the ark. God preserved them from the flood waters while the rest of mankind perished. Noah and his children are a genuine type of the salvation in Jesus Christ, which preserves believers safely through God’s judgment on sinners.

Certain theological traditions misinterpret Peter’s statement baptism now saves you to refer to spiritual salvation by water baptism (i.e., baptismal regeneration). But baptism (from baptizō) simply means “to immerse,” and not just in water. Peter here uses baptism to refer to a figurative immersion into Christ as the ark of safety that will sail over the holocaust of judgment on the wicked. Noah and his family were immersed not just in water, but in the world under divine judgment. All the while they were protected by being in the ark. God preserved them in the midst of His judgment, which is what He also does for all those who trust in Christ. God’s final judgment will bring fire and fury on the world, destroying the entire universe (cf. 2 Peter 3:10–12); but the people of God will be protected and taken into the eternal new heavens and new earth (v. 13).

Peter made clear that he did not want readers to think he was referring to water baptism when he specifically said not the removal of dirt from the flesh. (For a more complete discussion of baptism and regeneration, see John MacArthur, Acts 1–12, MacArthur New Testament Commentary [Chicago: Moody, 1994], 73–75.) That he was actually referring to a spiritual reality when he wrote baptism now saves is also clear from the phrase, an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The only baptism that saves people is dry—the spiritual one into the death as well as the resurrection of Christ—of those who appeal to God to place them into the spiritual ark of salvation safety (cf. Rom. 10:9–10).

Just as the Flood immersed all people in the judgment of God, yet some passed through safely, so also His final judgment will involve everyone, but those who are in Christ will pass through securely. The experience of Noah’s family in the Flood is also analogous to the experience of everyone who receives salvation. Just as they died to their previous world when they entered the ark and subsequently experienced a resurrection of sorts when they exited the ark to a new post-Flood world, so all Christians die to their old world when they enter the body of Christ (Rom. 7:4–6; Gal. 2:19–20; Eph. 4:20–24). They subsequently enjoy newness of life that culminates one day with the resurrection to eternal life. Paul instructed the Romans:

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (Rom. 6:3–4; cf. 1 Cor. 6:17; 10:2; 12:13; Gal. 3:27; Eph. 4:5)

Therefore, God provides salvation because a sinner, by faith, is immersed into Christ’s death and resurrection and becomes His own through that spiritual union. Salvation does not occur by means of any rite, including water baptism (the removal of dirt from the flesh), but by an appeal to God for a good conscience. Appeal (eperōtēma) is a technical term that was used in making contracts. Here it refers to agreeing to meet certain divinely-required conditions before God places one into the ark of safety (Christ). Anyone who would be saved must first come to God with a desire to obtain a good (cleansed) conscience and a willingness to meet the conditions (repentance and faith) necessary to obtain it. By appealing to God for a good conscience, that is, a conscience free from accusation and condemnation (cf. Rom. 2:15), the unregenerate show that they are tired of the sin that dominates them and desire to be delivered from its burden of guilt and the threat of hell (cf. Luke 18:13–14; Acts 2:37–38). They crave the spiritual cleansing that comes through Christ’s shed blood (3:18; cf. 1:18–19; 2:24; Heb. 9:14; 10:22). Therefore they repent of their sins and plead for God’s forgiveness and the removal of the guilt that plagues their consciences, all of which is available through trusting in the atoning sacrifice of Christ. Water baptism does not save; it is the Holy Spirit’s baptizing the sinner safely into Jesus Christ—the elect’s only ark of salvation—that forever rescues the sinner from hell and brings him securely to heaven. This is the ultimate triumph of Christ’s suffering for them, and the pledge of triumph in their own unjust suffering.[2]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 134). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter (pp. 216–219). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

April 28, 2017 Truth2Freedom Briefing Report (US•World•Christian)

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Apr. 28, 2017 |

BLOOMBERG

President Donald Trump said a “major conflict” with North Korea was possible if diplomatic solutions fail, although Senator John McCain said the U.S. leader understood that military action was a last resort.

The U.S. economy expanded at the slowest pace in three years as weak auto sales and lower home-heating bills dragged down consumer spending, offsetting a pickup in investment led by housing and oil drilling. Gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, rose at a 0.7 percent annualized rate after advancing 2.1 percent in the prior quarter.

The State Department plans to cut 2,300 U.S. diplomats and civil servants — about 9 percent of the Americans in its workforce worldwide — as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson presses ahead with his task of slashing the agency’s budget, according to people familiar with the matter.

In an interview Thursday with Bloomberg Television, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said there are spots along the border where a wall can’t be built because of the terrain. Still, the administration is committed to building a “physical barrier” as much as possible, he said.

Severe power cuts in the Gaza Strip are forcing a showdown between the two main Palestinian political groups, as the World Bank warns of a looming “humanitarian crisis” in the territory.

India will overtake Germany in 2022 as the world’s fourth-largest economy and push Britain out of the top five, based on analysis of growth projections by the International Monetary Fund. But the challenges the South Asian nation must surmount to get there are many.

House GOP leaders aren’t ready to hold a vote this week on their stalled health-care bill, despite intense pressure from the White House to deliver on a long-promised repeal of Obamacare.

AP Top Stories

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Thursday that she’s troubled by former President Barack Obama’s accepting a $400,000 speaking fee from a Wall Street firm.

The White House has assured Democrats it will continue to fund a key portion of Obamacare, clearing the way for negotiations on a series of spending bills to avoid a government shutdown, according to two sources familiar with the decision.

The American Civil Liberties Union is condemning the threats that forced Ann Coulter to cancel her speech at the University of California, Berkeley. “The unacceptable threats of violence that have led to the ‘hecklers’ veto’ of Ann Coulter’s speech at Berkeley are inconsistent with free speech principles that protect us all from government overreach,” David Cole said.

US personnel were killed overnight in the Nangarhar province, on the border with Pakistan. The soldiers were killed while fighting Isis-Khorosan, the local affiliate of the terror group. This is the “same general area” – southern Nangarhar province – where the massive ordnance air blast, dubbed the “mother of all bombs” (MOAB) was dropped earlier this month.

Southwest Airlines plans to stop overbooking flights – an industry practice implicated in an ugly incident on a United Airlines flight that has damaged United’s reputation with the flying public.

President Donald Trump has signed an executive order that critics say could lead to the removal of decades’ worth of federal land protections. The order directs Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review the lands previously designated as monuments, and suggest changes. Critics say this will allow the Trump administration to roll back protections that prevent drilling, mining and logging on the public land.

Turning to diplomacy after flexing military muscle, the United States will urge the U.N. Security Council on Friday to increase economic pressure on North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, leaning on China in particular to turn the screws on its wayward ally.

Liberian health authorities are taking rapid precautionary steps after eight people died of a mystery illness, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday, 10 months after the end of a catastrophic two-year Ebola virus outbreak.

Google will begin marking HTTP pages where users can enter data as “not secure” in its Google Chrome browser come October.

A Mexican man who once sought sanctuary from deportation in a Colorado church was detained by federal immigration agents Wednesday morning as he went to a warehouse to get tile to install on a job, his wife said Wednesday.

A dozen people have been found stuffed inside a closet-sized cell hidden behind a book shelf in a Philippine police station, triggering further alarm about abuse under President Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly war on drugs.

BBC

Female Islamic clerics in Indonesia have issued an unprecedented fatwa against child marriage. The fatwa, which is not legally binding but will be influential, was issued after a three-day congress of female clerics in the country. The clerics urged the government to raise the minimum legal age for women to marry to 18 from the current 16.

Tanzanian President John Magufuli has sacked nearly 10,000 civil servants for having fake education certificates.

Brazilian cities went into partial shutdown on Friday as the country observed its first general strike in more than two decades.

Pope Francis is in Egypt on a visit aimed at improving Christian-Muslim dialogue, three weeks after bombings at two Coptic churches killed 45 people.

WND

Authorities in China’s Xinjiang region are prohibiting parents from giving children some Islamic names in the latest effort to dilute the influence of religion on life in the ethnic Uighur minority heartland. “Muhammad,” “Jihad” and “Islam” are among at least 29 names now banned in the heavily Muslim region.

A state legislator from Manhattan has introduced a bill that would nullify gun rights from those convicted of hate crimes, even those involving nonviolent, and misdemeanor offenses. If successful, New York would become the seventh state to implement such a law.


The Briefing 04-28-17

Abortion, the central sacrament of the secular left, is challenging the unity of the Democratic Party

Religion and the necessary foundation of morality: Will Democrats seek to “reclaim religious ground”?

Human hatcheries and the end of pregnancy? Artificial womb raises huge ethical questions

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Brandenburg Gate, the Berlin Wall, and the cost of liberty

The post The Briefing 04-28-17 appeared first on AlbertMohler.com.


Top News – 4/28/2017

Israel-Syria Border Heating Up Leads to Tensions With Iran And Russia
In the early hours of Thursday morning, missiles hit a weapons depot reported to hold missiles destined to be transferred to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Hezbollah is a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al Assad.

A False Sense of Security
Since the $40 billion program was prematurely declared operational in 2004, just three test intercepts have successfully killed a mock target in nine attempts, all highly scripted for success. If these tests were planned to fool U.S. defenses, as North Korea almost certainly would do, the success rate would be even lower.

World stocks pause near record highs
Concern about global trade and U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First” policies kept appetite for risky assets in check on Friday, setting world stocks on the path to a sluggish end to what will still be their fifth straight month of gains.

President Trump’s Israel visit set for May 22
After much speculation surrounding the precise date, White House marks May 22 for President Trump’s first official visit to Israel, where he will stay for one night; Secretary of State Tillerson will accompany the president, along with UN Envoy Nikki Haley, a staunch Israel supporter, and Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

US warns of possible conflict with North Korea
President Donald Trump says a major conflict with North Korea is possible though he would prefer a diplomatic solution; China warns of situation escalating or slipping out of control.

US Senate unanimously warns UN to stop ‘targeting Israel’
In a letter bearing the signatures of all 100 senators, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told that UN bodies, including the Human Rights Council, ‘devote time to unwarranted attacks against Israel’; senators urge world body to comply with expectations for reforms to stamp out habitual Israel-bashing, reminding that the US is the UN’s main financial contributor.

Netanyahu slams German FM for insulting victims of Holocaust
In unusually strong language, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel for lacking sensitivity toward the victims of the Holocaust and endangering the security of the Jewish state with his support of an anti-Israel NGO…”My basic principle is simple,” Netanyahu said, “I don’t welcome diplomats from other countries who visit Israel and at the same time meet with organizations that call our soldiers war criminals.”

US Senate unanimously signs letter asking UN to address anti-Israel bias
It’s not often that all 100 US senators agree on something, but the US Senate unanimously signed a letter on Thursday calling on United Nations Secretary General António Guterres to address the anti-Israel bias permeating the UN. The letter, which was released by the Washington Post, accuses the UN of using its “privileged platform to advance an anti-Israel agenda” and that the organization “is exploited as a vehicle for targeting Israel.”

Syrian opposition leader hails alleged Israeli strike on Hezbollah hub
The leader of a Syrian opposition faction on Thursday praised that day’s air strikes on a Hezbollah arms supply hub on the edge of Damascus International Airport as a “blessed” blow to Hezbollah by Israel. Fahad al-Masri, Paris-based head of the National Salvation Front in Syria, also called for stepped-up Israeli involvement in Syria in order to “crush” the presence of Hezbollah and other militias.

Russia slams alleged Israeli strike on Syria
The Kremlin condemned an alleged Israeli strike against Damascus International Airport on Thursday, urging Israel and other countries to avoid carrying out any action that could heighten tensions in the region. “We continue to consider that all countries need to refrain from any kind of actions that lead to an increase in tension in this already restive region and call for respect of the sovereignty of Syria,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Macedonia parliament stormed by protesters in Skopje
Protesters stormed into Macedonia’s parliament on Thursday after an ethnic Albanian was elected as speaker. A brawl broke out injuring at least 10 people, including the Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev, who was left with blood pouring down his face. The protesters, supporters of ex-Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski’s VMRO party, are demanding new elections.

House delays Obamacare vote, denying Trump 100-day win
House Republican leaders on Thursday delayed a vote on their Obamacare repeal bill until next week at the earliest…Speaker Paul Ryan and his top lieutenants decided during a late-night huddle in the Capitol that they still do not have the votes to pass the stalled health-care legislation. At least 15 House Republicans remain solidly opposed to the bill, with another 20 leaning no or still undecided, according to GOP lawmakers and aides.

Pope Francis arrives in Cairo seeking to mend ties with Islam
Pope Francis arrives in Cairo on Friday hoping to mend ties with Islamic religious leaders just as Egypt’s ancient Christian community faces unprecedented pressure from Islamic State militants who have threatened to wipe it out. In an address to the Egyptian people this week, Francis spoke of his hope that his visit would help bring peace and encourage dialogue and reconciliation with the Islamic world.

Trump Calls Schumer’s Bluff: “If There’s A Shutdown, There’s A Shutdown… Democrats Would Be To Blame”
“We’ll see what happens. If there’s a shutdown, there’s a shutdown,”

Asylum Seekers Fleeing The U.S. For Canada May Find A Frigid Reception In Canadian Courts
“Abandoning a claim in the United States or coming to Canada after a negative decision in the United States, or failing to claim and remaining in the States for a long period of time – those are all big negatives. Big, big negatives.”

Sean Hannity Defends Fox News Co-President Bill Shine, Warns of ‘End of FNC as We Know It’
Sean Hannity took to Twitter Thursday to defend embattled Fox News co-president Bill Shine following a report that suggested Shine’s future with the network could be on unsteady ground.

Austrian Pres: All Women Must Wear Headscarves to Fight Islamophobia
Austria’s far-left president, Alexander Van der Bellen, has suggested that one day all women must wear headscarves to fight Islamophobia.

Obama administration dialed back counterproliferation efforts to secure Iran deal
The Obama administration prisoner exchange with Iran allegedly involved dropping prosecutions against more Iranian fugitives than previously known, including a top procurer of material with nuclear applications.

How Climate Evangelists Are Taking Over Your Local Weather Forecast
… that climate-focused scene, and hundreds of others like it playing out at local news stations across the country, marks a major shift in the way Americans hear about climate change. The safe and familiar on-air meteorologist, with little notice by viewers, has become a public diplomat for global warming.


Krauthammer on Coulter at Berkeley: ‘Reaching a Situation Where’ ‘Fascist Gangs Can Shut Down Free Speech’

Breitbart has the video:

On Thursday’s broadcast of the Fox News Channel’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” columnist Charles Krauthammer weighed in on the cancellation of Ann Coulter’s Berkeley speech by stating, “we’re reaching a situation where thugs are threatening violence. Basically, fascist gangs can shut down free speech.”

Krauthammer said, “[T]he danger here is, that we’re reaching a situation where thugs are threatening violence. Basically, fascist gangs can shut down free speech.”

View article →


Feds Search Headquarters of Televangelist Benny Hinn

Researcher Barry Bowen informs us that the Federal Government is showing a new willingness to investigate religious fraud, starting with Word of Faith prosperity preacher Benny Hinn. Here’s Bowen’s report:

For two straight days IRS investigators and postal inspectors have been carting away boxes of possible evidence of fraud from televangelist Benny Hinn’s headquarters in Grapevine, Texas.

Local Dallas media have pounced on the news story with reporters tweeting the latest sparse details.

Dallas Morning News: IRS investigators search televangelist Benny Hinn’s offices in Grapevine WFAA: IRS raids televangelist Benny Hinn’s office in Grapevine

Here are five points worth thinking about regarding the Hinn story.

The IRS is showing a new willingness to investigate religious financial fraud.

The IRS and other federal agencies rarely investigated religious fraud during the Obama administration. In fact, the last time a televangelist was prosecuted by the IRS occurred during George W. Bush’s presidency. Mac Hammond’s case was  thrown out by the courts in November 2008 and the Obama administration failed to adopt new guidelines for church audits or to investigate numerous allegations of fraud uncovered by religious watchdog Trinity Foundation.

View article →


The Deception Of Bruce Jenner And The Olympic Committee

According to Steve McConkey, president of 4 Winds Christian Athletics, Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner neglected to tell  Fox News host Tucker Carlson during an interview that hormones do not reverse the size of bone and muscles which gives male athletes a clear advantage over female athletes. “So a retired 6-10 NBA male player can play women’s basketball at the Olympics without a reduction in size, only a year of hormone therapy,” says McConkey.  Following is an excerpt of the interview from a piece he penned for Canada Free Press:

Carlson: “A transgender woman just won a major weightlifting title. Some people said, well, this is someone who has a massive physical advantage over the other entrants in that contest. It seemed like a real thing to me.”

Jenner: “The Olympic Committee is way ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to dealing with identifying transgender issues in competing. Back when I was competing in the 70s, all the women had saliva tests to make sure their in their DNA they were female. We had the East German women and the Soviet women and all that kind of stuff. Well, since then, there has been a lot of gender non-conforming. We don’t quite know where they fit into the athletic world. And the Olympic Committee has done 20 years of studies on issues of hormone levels of whether you need gender confirmation surgery, what can you do as a trans person to be able to compete as your authentic self. And they’ve come up with guidelines. If you meet those guidelines, you can compete. And obviously this woman did.”

Carlson: “Do you think it’s fair?”

Jenner: “Yes, I think it’s totally fair. If the Olympic Committee thinks it’s fair, I’m fine with it. Yes, because there’s no big advantage.”

View article →


Completely Alone And Utterly Depressed

Do you ever feel like you have been completely abandoned by the world?  Do you struggle with feelings of loneliness, isolation and depression?  If so, you are far from alone.  Thanks to technology Americans are more isolated than they have ever been before, and as you will see below, this is really starting to cause a major national crisis.  Humans were designed to be social creatures, and researchers have found that a lack of interaction with others can cause major mental, emotional and social problems.  Not only that, it can also lead to premature death.  We actually have a need to love others and to be loved by them, and if those needs are not met the consequences can be quite dramatic. (Read More…)


Mid-Day Snapshot

Apr. 28, 2017

Obama’s Lucrative Speech Fee Assailed by Leftists

The ex-president is being attacked by the likes of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, whose own reputations are tarnished.

The Foundation

“I should consider the speeches of Livy, Sallust, and Tacitus, as preeminent specimens of logic, taste and that sententious brevity which, using not a word to spare, leaves not a moment for inattention to the hearer. Amplification is the vice of modern oratory.” —Thomas Jefferson (1824)

April 27, 2017
CLIFF KINCAID — The most glaring omission in Tucker Carlson’s interview of the human oddity known as Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner was the failure to seek comment on the transgender traitor by the name of Bradley/Chelsea Manning. This is the former U.S. Army analyst scheduled for release from prison next month because former President Barack Obama commuted his/her sentence for Russian-style espionage…. (more)

April 27, 2017
WASHINGTON TIMES — The White House announced the outlines of an ambitious tax reform plan Wednesday that envisions deep cuts in the rates paid by American families and businesses – – and top aides warned naysayers against doubting President Trump’s ability to get it done…. (more)

April 27, 2017
ALICIA POWE — Just shy of President Trump’s 100th day in office, his administration unveiled tax reform Wednesday that is slated to be the “biggest tax cut” in American history, geared at job creation and putting more money in the pockets of middle-class Americans…. (more)

April 27, 2017
WASHINGTON TIMES — The hard-line conservatives who helped sink Republicans’ first Obamacare repeal attempt reversed course Wednesday and officially endorsed the latest plan designed to slash costs for healthy Americans, giving congressional leaders a critical boost as they seek a do-over…. (more)

April 27, 2017
DAILY MAIL — Kim Jong-Un’s army readied for war as they fired rockets and torpedoes at mock enemy warships during North Korea’s ‘largest ever’ live-fire artillery drills on Tuesday. Hundreds of tanks were lined up along the eastern coastal town of Wonsan in a show of military strength to celebrate 85 years since the North Korean army was created…. (more)

April 27, 2017

BOB UNRUH — President Trump, whose attempts to crack down on foreigners entering the country illegally repeatedly have been derailed by activist federal judges favoring the lawbreakers, says he’s not dropping his latest attempt…. (more)


April 27, 2017
NEWSMAX — President Donald Trump is “absolutely” looking at breaking up the “outrageous” 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which blocked his travel ban, he told the Washington Examiner Wednesday…. (more)

April 27, 2017

NEWSMAX — Science Guy Bill Nye and a panelist on his Netflix show discussed penalizing families for having “extra kids” because of their claimed effect on climate change…. (more)


April 27, 2017

WORLDNETDAILY — Bill Nye has built a lucrative career championing science. He’s cashing in on the nostalgia surrounding his old children’s show with a new show on Netflix, “Bill Nye Saves the World.” In theory, the show promotes a scientific worldview. But in practice, it’s promoting degenerate sexual behavior, claims gender exists along a “spectrum,” and spews out left-wing propaganda no Christian parent would ever let their child watch…. (more)


April 27, 2017
DAILY CALLER — President Barack Obama considered being homosexual as a young man, according to a forthcoming biography of the president. The biography by David Garrow, “Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama,” is set to come out on May 9. Garrow wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Martin Luther King Jr., and is a regular contributor to The New York Times and The Washington Post…. (more)

April 27, 2017
MARISA MARTIN — Jon McNaughton has been a “hidden man” in many respects. A conservative painter with extensive knowledge of his craft, he was far from being a household name – – until Sean Hannity introduced him to America in 2012…. (more)

April 27, 2017
WORLDNETDAILY — While Hillary Clinton loyal aide Huma Abedin was reportedly sidelined in the final stretch of the 2016 presidential campaign as a result of Abedin’s husband’s child-porn scandal, she was potentially an even greater liability than known. It turns out Anthony Weiner wasn’t the only family member under investigation…. (more)

April 26, 2017
THE HILL — A majority of registered voters think it’s inappropriate that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are playing significant roles in the White House, according to a new survey…. (more)

April 26, 2017

WASHINGTON TIMES — Congressional negotiators closed in on a spending deal Tuesday after President Trump backed off his demand for border wall funding, saying he doesn’t need an immediate infusion of cash for the project, clearing the way for Capitol Hill to hash out a bill that avoids an end-of-week government shutdown…. (more)


April 26, 2017
WASHINGTON EXAMINER — President Trump has not only made historic cuts in regulations in his first 100 days, but the costs of his handful of new rules are tiny compared to former President Barack Obama’s, a difference of $3.9 billion, according to a new analysis…. (more)

April 26, 2017
TIMOTHY P. CARNEY — Nearly 100 days into the Trump administration, the official position of the federal government is still that Uncle Sam can force private employers, against their conscience and their religious beliefs, to provide insurance coverage for all forms of contraception, including sterilization and morning-after drugs that can act as abortifacients…. (more)

April 26, 2017

WASHINGTON TIMES — The White House lashed out Tuesday night against the federal judge who blocked President Trump’s anti-sanctuary city executive order, and said sanctuaries like San Francisco have “the blood of dead Americans on their hands.” Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the ruling by Judge William H. Orrick misconstrued U.S. immigration laws and undercuts Americans’ faith in government…. (more)


April 26, 2017
WASHINGTON TIMES — Christopher Steele, the former British spy who wrote the infamous anti-Donald Trump dossier, acknowledges that a sensational charge his sources made about a tech company CEO and Democratic Party hacking is unverified…. (more)

April 26, 2017

FOX5 DC — Law enforcement officials, emergency managers and first responders will take part in a “full-scale exercise” Wednesday to help them prepare for possible terror attacks in the DC region. The planned drill will take place at six undisclosed locations around suburban Maryland, Northern Virginia and the District, though officials are not releasing specific details about where or exactly what will take place…. (more)


April 26, 2017
GREG COROMBOS — Despite U.S. government conclusions to the contrary, Iran is cheating on the 2015 nuclear deal and is actively weaponizing nukes, according to the group who uncovered Iran’s most recent nuclear ambitions in the first place…. (more)

April 26, 2017

ART MOORE — The Heritage Foundation vowed not to be “bullied or silenced” after an estimated 200 left-wing activists stormed the think tank’s Capitol Hill headquarters Tuesday morning, vowing to shut it down…. (more)


April 26, 2017
WASHINGTON TIMES — The homicide rate may be rising in some U.S. cities, but slayings are still a localized phenomenon, with most U.S. counties not seeing a single homicide in 2014…. (more)

April 26, 2017
WASHINGTON EXAMINER — President Trump will travel to the Interior Department on Wednesday to sign an executive order to review the last two decades of presidential monument designations, with many of former President Barack Obama’s monuments expected to be scrutinized heavily…. (more)

April 26, 2017

WASHINGTON EXAMINER — Six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon: $5.34. Copy of Hillbilly Elegy (hardcover): $15.67 Designer jeans caked in fake dirt and mud: $425. The appearance of escaping a liberal bubble: priceless … at least that seems like the inspiration for Nordstrom’s new and much-maligned “dirty jeans.” And that’s a good thing. Seriously…. (more)


April 25, 2017

SIENA HOEFLING — When Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reportedly used chemical weapons against his own people, U.S. President Donald Trump answered with punitive missiles. Assad violated previous agreements, said Trump, and the United States had a security interest “to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”… (more)


Featured Blogs


This ‘n’ That

  • Sounds like there was quite a show at Benny Hinn’s offices this week.
  • I hadn’t heard anything about this, but I simply cannot comprehend why anybody would think that producing such a horrific show would be a good idea.
  • Great thoughts on our weakness and God’s strength.
  • Well, Cedarville University is certainly blazing their own trail with this move.
  • Last week, I shared an article about abusive churches and noted that “spiritual abuse exists in all corners of Christianity, even those that are straight-laced.” I think this article is even more eye-opening than the one I shared last Friday.
  • I don’t know anything about this, but if I were in the area, I would want to attend.
  • Here’s your weekly dose of adorable (or maybe it’s a weekly dose of fantastic). Thanks to reader Mike for this one!
  • I’m interested in reading this book. Looks like it’s another one to add to my wishlist!
  • This wolf got off too easy, but at least it’s something.
  • Sigh. Just because you call yourself a bishop doesn’t mean you are one.
  • Hmm. I’ll say this, science and scientific advancements are always fascinating, even if I’m not quite sure how I feel about them.
  • So…um…nobody is actually surprised by this, are they?
  • I’m always edified by Jerry Wragg’s teaching. Here he speaks about identifying your place in the Body:

Top Headlines – 4/28/2017

World Bank report: ‘Gaza faces financial crisis’

EU-Israel relations: Trojan horses, snakes, ladders and boycotts

UNESCO Draft Resolution Declaring Israeli Sovereignty Over Jerusalem ‘Illegal’ Draws Fire From Israel, Jewish Groups

Trump: Ask me in month about moving embassy to Jerusalem

Planning Said to Be Underway for Trump Visit to Israel in Late May as Jewish State Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Jerusalem Reunification

Israel, US eyeing Trump visit on May 22-23

Israel said pushing for massive East Jerusalem expansion as Trump visits

All 100 US senators to UN: End ‘unacceptable’ anti-Israel bias

Israel’s intelligence minister urges US to team up with Russia against Iran

Israeli defense minister warns of Iranian presence in Golan Heights

Iranian Cargo Planes Land in Damascus Hours Before ‘Israeli Strike’ on Airport

Israeli missile downs Syrian drone over Golan Heights

Assad in an interview before the attack in Damascus: ‘Israel is helping the rebels’

Israeli strikes inside Syria pick up tempo in proxy war

Russia condemns apparent Israeli strike on Syria

At UN, US calls for pressure on Russia to try to end Syria war

US envoy accuses Russia of allowing Syria to deny needed aid

How a protest over immigration policy stirred up memories of one grandmother’s journey to America, and a boatload of Jewish refugees who were turned away

Pope heads to Egypt to support Copts, heal Muslim rift

Balancing Act for Pope in Egypt: Outreach to Muslims, and Speaking Out for Christians

For the First Time, Russia Ranked Among Worst Violators of Religious Freedom

Russian intelligence ship sinks off Turkey’s Black Sea coast

US drone strike kills 7 in northwest Pakistan

Suspected Muslim insurgents in S. Thailand kill 4 soldiers

Trump complains Saudis not paying fair share for U.S. defense

A Saudi man has been sentenced to death after insulting the prophet Muhammad on Twitter

Far-Left Austrian President: All Women Must Wear Headscarves to Fight Islamophobia

UK anti-terror police foil knife attack near Parliament

Before North Korea had nuclear weapons, it had wild and often deadly plots

Putin Warns North Korea Situation Has ‘Seriously Deteriorated’

North Korean crisis ‘worst I’ve seen,’ top Navy officer warns

Poll: 53 percent favor military action to stop North Korea nukes program

Hawaii threatened by North Korea now, U.S. commander tells Congress

North Korea threat: Top admiral calls on more missile interceptors in Hawaii

Trump says ‘major, major’ conflict with North Korea possible, but seeks diplomacy

North Korea turns to Southeast Asian nations for support in battle with US to stop ‘nuclear holocaust’

Southeast Asian nations have expressed ‘grave concern’ over North Korea’s nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches

China warned N.Korea of sanctions after any nuclear test: Tillerson

China won’t confirm US claim of new pressure on North Korea

China to conduct live fire drills, test new weapons in response to THAAD

US Marines could deploy robots and ‘HyperSubs’ to storm future beaches

Trump agrees ‘not to terminate NAFTA at this time’

‘I was all set to terminate’: Inside Trump’s sudden shift on NAFTA

Trump’s NAFTA Reversal Confirms the Globalists Are in Charge – For Now

NYC to pay for lawyers for illegal immigrants

Trump eyes bid to split up 9th Circuit court amid sanctuary city, travel ban disputes

Trump Calls Schumer’s Bluff: “If There’s A Shutdown, There’s A Shutdown… Democrats Would Be To Blame”

Trump says he thought being president would be easier than his old life

Sean Hannity: Ann Coulter just the latest target of fascist media

Get ready for tech giants to start churning out fake news to ‘save’ net neutrality

UC Berkeley Gears Up For Violent Protests Over Coulter Speech Cancellation

Portland rose parade canceled after ‘antifascists’ threaten GOP marchers

Obama’s $400G Wall Street speech leaves liberal base stunned

Brexit: Chancellor Merkel warns of UK ‘illusions’ over talks with EU

U.S. drought reaches record low as rain reigns

Spacecraft survives unprecedented trip between Saturn, rings

5.7 magnitude earthquake hits near Little Sitkin Island, Alaska

5.5 magnitude earthquake hits near Hihifo, Tonga

5.1 magnitude earthquake hits near Visokoi Island, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

5.0 magnitude earthquake hits near Little Sitkin Island, Alaska

Sakurajima volcano on Japan erupts to 14,000ft

Sinabung volcan on Indonesia erupts to 14,000ft

Reventador volcano in Ecuador erupts to 13,000ft

How Climate Evangelists Are Taking Over Your Local Weather Forecast

How Team Trump plans to kill Obama’s Paris climate deal by declaring it a treaty

US probes unusual rise in humpback whale deaths

Cryogenically frozen brains will be ‘woken up’ and transplanted in donor bodies within three years, claims surgeon

Elephant tranquilizer is the latest lethal addition to the heroin epidemic

Greg Bahnsen – Not All of Israel is Israel

Benny Hinn Ministries ‘Cooperating’ After Headquarters Search

Five points worth thinking about regarding the Hinn story

Leaving the NAR Church: Chrissy’s story

The Handmaid’s Tale and Its Flagrant Misrepresentation of the Christian Right

Photo of Seminary Professors Posing as Gangster Rappers Stirs Controversy

Porn star angers churchgoers by declaring she is an Evangelical Christian and God sees nothing wrong with her work

NOAA declares deaths of humpback whales along East Coast an ‘unusual mortality event’

Posted: 28 Apr 2017 06:34 AM PDT

NOAA Fisheries is declaring the recent deaths of 41 humpback whales from 2016 through present from Maine to North Carolina to be an unusual mortality…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Google Launches “Project Owl” to Eliminate “Fake News” From Search Engine

Posted: 28 Apr 2017 06:19 AM PDT

On Tuesday morning, Google announced some major changes meant to fight the fake news and hate speech that keep polluting its search results. The Google…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Intense Prophetic Dream Reveals Your Breakthrough Is at Hand

Posted: 28 Apr 2017 06:15 AM PDT

(By Joe Joe Dawson) Late on Easter night before I went to bed, I had a moment with the Lord. I just wasn’t praying, but…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Wisconsin university approves Israel boycott

Posted: 28 Apr 2017 06:12 AM PDT

The student government of the University of Wisconsin-Madison unanimously passed a divestment resolution targeting companies operating in many countries that included an amendment specifically about…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Meteor Seen Streaking Over South Florida

Posted: 28 Apr 2017 06:06 AM PDT

A fireball streaked across the sky overnight, according to multiple reports.  By 4 a.m. Wednesday, the American Meteor Society received nearly 50 reports about the…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Last 2 Chapters of Revelation Reveal Important Intersection in End-Times Prophecy

Posted: 28 Apr 2017 05:57 AM PDT

(By Asher Intrater) Since John was the last writer of Scriptures, his writings contain a unique view of the whole spectrum of Scriptures from beginning…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Why So Many People Fall Victim to the Deception of the Hyper-grace Movement

Posted: 28 Apr 2017 05:37 AM PDT

(By Bert Farias) What some people call the hyper-grace message began as a result of a sort of revolt against religion and man-made rules. A…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Christian Convert Cast Out by Muslim Family for Turning to Christ

Posted: 28 Apr 2017 05:34 AM PDT

A Sudanese woman who became a Christian while working in Indonesia was forced out of her Muslim family’s home and told to never return after…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

‘Happy Days’ Actress Came to Christ Through ‘Facts of Life’ Friend

Posted: 28 Apr 2017 05:30 AM PDT

Erin Moran, the former child star who played Joanie Cunningham in the sitcom “Happy Days” and “Joanie Loves Chachi,” died Saturday at age 56. She…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

APPLE self-driving car seen on road for first time…

Posted: 28 Apr 2017 05:25 AM PDT

t is no secret that Apple has been working furiously to develop self-driving car technology in a bid to compete with rivals including Google and…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Kim Jong-Un ‘ready to send army of 500,000 women soldiers to the frontline’ if war erupts

Posted: 28 Apr 2017 05:17 AM PDT

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is ready throw up to 500,000 women soldiers to the front line if war breaks out. Battalions of female soldiers…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

tornadic storms kill 3 in Brazil and leave 150 homeless in Paraguay

Posted: 27 Apr 2017 07:10 PM PDT

Vicious tornadic storms swept across Brazil and Paraguay killing 3 and making 150 families homeless on April 26, 2017. There is really something going out-of-control…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

President Of Austria Says ‘All women’ could be asked to wear headscarves in ‘solidarity’ with Muslims

Posted: 27 Apr 2017 07:03 PM PDT

The president of Austria has raised quite a few eyebrows after stating that there may come a day when all women are asked to wear…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

PROPHECY WATCH: Cashless society getting closer to becoming reality!

Posted: 27 Apr 2017 06:59 PM PDT

More than a third of Europeans and Americans would be happy to go without cash and rely on electronic forms of payment if they could,…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Could a North Korean Nuclear Strike Potentially Reach Seattle?

Posted: 27 Apr 2017 06:48 PM PDT

The world — and especially Seattle — are anxiously waiting for North Korea’s sixth nuclear test. More than a month after US and South Korean officials…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

New website offers US women help to perform their own abortions

Posted: 27 Apr 2017 06:44 PM PDT

Fearful that Donald Trump’s presidency poses a once-in-a-generation threat to US reproductive rights, an international advocacy group this week is unveiling what is sure to…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Sean Hannity Warns of ‘End of Fox News as We Know It’

Posted: 27 Apr 2017 06:40 PM PDT

Sean Hannity took to Twitter Thursday to defend embattled Fox News co-president Bill Shine following a report that suggested Shine’s future with the network could be…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Trump says “major” conflict with North Korea possible, but seeks diplomacy

Posted: 27 Apr 2017 06:37 PM PDT

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday a major conflict with North Korea is possible in the standoff over its nuclear and missile programs, but…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Church of England Insists Children Must be Taught About Islam

Posted: 27 Apr 2017 01:41 PM PDT

Parents who have concerns about their children being taught about Islam should be banned from pulling them out of religious education (RE) lessons, according to…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Where are the Bereans today?

Posted: 27 Apr 2017 01:33 PM PDT

(By Ricky Scaparo) In this segment, we will discuss the Bereans mentioned in the book of Acts and why we need these type of people…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Top Navy Officer Gives Chilling Warning About North Korean Crisis!

Posted: 27 Apr 2017 01:28 PM PDT

The senior U.S. Navy officer overseeing military operations in the Pacific region told lawmakers Thursday that the North Korean crisis is the worst he’s seen…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Mystery as US probes unusual rise in humpback whale deaths

Posted: 27 Apr 2017 01:21 PM PDT

Investigators are probing an unusually high number of humpback whale deaths since 2016 off the US Atlantic Coast, where many appear to have been killed…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

KINGS OF THE EAST? North Korea Turns to Southeast Asian Nations to Battle America

Posted: 27 Apr 2017 01:14 PM PDT

North Korea has appealed to Southeast Asian countries for support in its row with the United States to prevent what it warned could be a…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

BREAKING NEWS: Patriot Missile Fired At Drone Entering Israeli Airspace From Syria

Posted: 27 Apr 2017 10:52 AM PDT

The IDF confirmed on Thursday that Israel fired a Patriot anti-ballistic missile at a target in the Golan Heights, Israel’s northern region bordering Syria. Israeli…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Father Placed in Prison for Homeschooling His Children

Posted: 27 Apr 2017 10:42 AM PDT

A homeschooling father who sought to give his children the best education available, by pulling them out of the politicized state schools in Cuba and…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

US pressure could force Britain to join anti-Assad airstrikes

Posted: 27 Apr 2017 10:34 AM PDT

EAD MOBritain could bomb the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad without first gaining the approval of MPs, says Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, adding it…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Putin Warns North Korea Situation Has ‘Seriously Deteriorated’

Posted: 27 Apr 2017 10:28 AM PDT

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear program is deepening after the issue dominated talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Matthew 24 End-Times Realities Manifesting in This Nation

Posted: 27 Apr 2017 10:23 AM PDT

(Reported By Mission Network News) It’s been just over two months since the South Sudanese government declared famine conditions in parts of the country, according to…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Anne Graham Lotz Warns “Christians Must Get Prepared for the Rapture

Posted: 27 Apr 2017 09:16 AM PDT

Evangelist and author Anne Graham Lotz has listed a number of key preparations Christians should make before the rapture. Lotz, who is the founder of…

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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The Fallacy of Uniformitarianism

Code: B170426

[Editor’s Note: This article was first published in the earliest days of the GTY Blog. As we recently culled through the ministry archives in preparation for a new blog series on God’s work of creation—which coincides with the broadcast of The Battle for the Beginning sermon series on “Grace to You”—we believed this post deserved further consideration.]

The hypothesis that the earth is billions of years old is rooted in the unbiblical premise that what is happening now is just what has always happened. This idea is known as uniformitarianism. It is the theory that natural and geological phenomena are for the most part the results of forces that have operated continuously, with uniformity, and without interruption, over billions and billions of years. Uniformitarians assume that the forces at work in nature are essentially fixed and constant. Scientists who hold this view explain nearly all geological phenomena in terms of processes that are still occurring. The uniformitarian sees sedimentary rock strata, for example, and assumes that the sediments that formed them resulted from the natural, slow settling of particles in water over several million years. A uniformitarian observes the Grand Canyon and assumes the natural flow of the Colorado River carved that immense chasm over many ages with a steady (though constantly decreasing) stream.

Uniformitarianism was first proposed around the beginning of the nineteenth century by two British geologists, James Hutton and his best–known disciple, Charles Lyell. Lyell’s work Principles of Geology was an explicit rejection of creation and flood–based explanations for geological formulations. Lyell insisted that all the features of earth’s geology must be explainable by natural, rather than supernatural, processes. He regarded all biblical or supernatural explanations as inherently unscientific and therefore false. In other words, he began with the presupposition that Scripture itself is untrue. And his work essentially canonized atheistic naturalism as the basis for “scientific” research.

As we have noted previously, naturalism itself is a religious belief. The conviction that nothing happens supernaturally is a tenet of faith, not a fact that can be verified by any scientific means. Indeed, an a priori rejection of everything supernatural involves a giant, irrational leap of faith. So the presuppositions of atheistic naturalism are actually no more “scientific” than the beliefs of biblical Christianity. That obvious fact seems to have escaped Lyell and many who have followed him.

Nonetheless, Lyell’s uniformitarian theory was enormously influential on other scientists of his age. (Darwin even took a copy of Lyell’s work with him when he sailed on the Beagle in 1831.) And from the first publication of Lyell’s work until today, the hypothesis that the earth is ages old has dominated secular science. The theory of evolution itself was the predictable and nearly immediate result of Lyell’s uniformitarian hypothesis.

Of course, modern scientists have expanded their estimates of the age of the earth beyond anything Lyell himself ever imagined. But the basic theory of uniformitarianism first emerged from Lyell’s antibiblical belief system.

The opposite of uniformitarianism is catastrophism, the view that dramatic geological changes have occurred in sudden, violent, or unusual events. A catastrophist observing sedimentary rock formations or large canyons is more likely (and more accurately) to interpret them as the result of massive flooding. Of course, this yields a much younger time frame for the development of earth’s geological features. (A sudden flood, for example, can produce a thick layer of sediment in a few hours. That means a large stratum of sedimentary rock, which a uniformitarian might assume took millions of years to form, could actually be the result of a single flash flood.) Catastrophism therefore poses a major challenge to the evolutionary timetable, eliminating the multiple billions of years demanded to make the evolutionary hypothesis work. And for that reason it is rejected out of hand by most evolutionists.

But a moment’s reflection will reveal that the fossil record is impossible to explain by any uniformitarian scheme. For a living creature to become fossilized (rather than to decay and turn to dust—Job 34:15), it must be buried immediately under a great weight of sediment. Apart from a catastrophic deluge on a scale unlike any observed in recent history, how can we explain the existence of massive fossil beds (such as the Karoo formation fossil field in Africa, which is thought to hold eight hundred billion vertebrate fossils)? Natural sedimentation over several ages cannot explain how so many fossils came to be concentrated in one place. And every inhabited continent contains large fossil beds where millions of fossilized species are found together in large concentrations, as if all these creatures were destroyed and buried together by massive flooding. Fossils of sea creatures are even found on many of the world’s highest mountain tops. How do uniformitarians explain such phenomena? The only way they can: They constantly increase their estimate of the age of the earth.

Scripture expressly condemns uniformitarianism in 2 Peter 3:4. Peter prophesied that this erroneous view would be adopted in the last days by scoffers—men walking after their own lusts—who imagine that “all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” The apostle Peter goes on to write, “For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water” (2 Peter 3:5–6).

In other words, the plain teaching of Scripture is that this world’s history has not been one of uniform natural and geological processes from the beginning. But according to the Bible, there have been at least two global cataclysmic events: creation itself and a catastrophic worldwide flood in Noah’s time. These would sufficiently explain virtually all the geological and hydrological features of the earth as we know it.

In fact, large–scale catastrophic forces are the only really plausible explanation for some geological features. Not far from where I live is an area known as Vasquez Rocks. It has the appearance of a rugged moonscape (and is a familiar site in science–fiction films, where it is often employed as a setting for scenes depicting exotic planets). Its main features are massive shards of jagged rock strata, broken sharply and thrusting out of the ground to great heights. Whatever force stood those rocks on end was obviously sudden and violent, not slow and gradual. The entire region is filled with similar evidences of catastrophe. Not far away is the notorious San Andreas fault. There, where the roadway has been cut into the hillside, travelers may observe violently twisted rock strata. These features are mute evidence to extraordinary forces that have shaped the topography of Southern California—far exceeding the power of any known earthquake. Such phenomena are what we might expect, given the historicity of the biblical record. Scripture says, for example, that when the Flood began, “all the fountains of the great deep were broken up” (Genesis 7:11). No doubt the Flood was accompanied by volcanic activity, massive geological movements, and the shifting of the earth’s tectonic plates. Such a catastrophe would not only explain twisted and upthrust rock strata, but it would also easily explain why so many of the earth’s mountain ranges give evidence of having once been under the sea. Uniformitarians cannot agree on any feasible explanation for features like these.

A massive flood would also explain the formation of the Grand Canyon. In fact, it would be a better explanation of how the canyon came to be than any uniformitarian hypothesis. The features of the canyon itself (extremely deep gorges with level plateaus at the rims) suggest that it was formed by rapid erosion. A strikingly similar formation is Providence Canyon, near Lumpkin, Georgia—a spectacular canyon that covers more than eleven hundred acres. In the early 1800s the entire area was flat farmland. By the mid 1800s, farmers had completely cleared the area of trees and their root systems, leaving the area susceptible to erosion. In 1846, heavy rainfall began forming small gullies and crevices. These expanded with every successive rainfall. By the 1940s, nearby buildings and towns had to be moved to accommodate the growing canyon. Today the canyon comprises sixteen fingers, some more than one mile in length. At places the distance from the canyon floor to the rim is as high as a fifteen–story building. Today it is a scenic area, lush with trees and wildlife, often called “Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon.” Its features are indistinguishable from canyons geologists claim took billions of years to form.

Douglas F. Kelly writes:

The uniformitarian assumption that millions of years of geological work (extrapolating from present, slow, natural processes) would be required to explain structures such as the American Grand Canyon for instance, is called into serious question by the explosion of Mount St. Helens in the state of Washington on the 18 of May 1980. Massive energy equivalent to 20 million tons of TNT destroyed 400 square kilometers of forest in six minutes, changing the face of the mountain and digging out depths of earth and rock, leaving formations not unlike parts of the larger Grand Canyon. Recent studies of the Mount St. Helens phenomenon indicate that if attempts were made to date these structures (which were formed in 1980) on the basis of uniformitarian theory, millions of years of formation time would be necessarily postulated. [1]

Christians who reinterpret the biblical text to try to accommodate the uniformitarians’ old–earth hypotheses do so unnecessarily. To imagine that the earth was formed by natural processes over billions and billions of years through slow and steady evolution is to deny the very essence of what Scripture teaches about the earth’s creation. It is to reject the clear account of God Himself that He created the earth and all its life in six days.

(Adapted from The Battle for the Beginning.)

 


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Barna Update | Media Habits in the Age of “Fake News”

The media world is rapidly changing, and traditional news organizations are struggling to find their footing. But what role does news media continue to play in informing the public? Which outlets are earning trust (and clicks)? And what do Americans make of “fake news?” Drawing from a number of Barna studies, we take a look at this complex media moment in history.

Read more

Friday’s Featured Sermon: “Evangelicals, Evolution, and the BioLogos Disaster”

Genesis 1:1

Code: B170428

How important are the first three chapters of Genesis—the creation and fall accounts? Does it matter if we allegorize the text to allow for billions of years rather than read it as a straightforward narrative? Does it matter if we allow for death prior to Adam’s fall? There are many—even in the Reformed camp—who argue that these are trivial issues in comparison to getting the gospel right. And while that may sound persuasive, it’s actually a misleading argument.

Driving a wedge between soteriology (doctrine of salvation) and our view of creation creates a dichotomy when there should be a dependency. The good news of the gospel is only good because of the bad news recorded in Genesis—that sin and death are intrusions on what was God’s glorious and perfect creation.

Moreover, if we are allowed to take subjective liberties with the first three chapters of the Bible, what’s stopping us from doing it elsewhere? And then there’s the question of biblical perspicuity—or clarity. Has God spoken clearly about the origins of the universe and man or has He spoken to us in metaphors that modern science can decipher? The stakes are infinitely high when it comes to God’s revelation of Himself in Scripture.

For that reason, Phil Johnson interviewed John MacArthur several years ago to discuss modern assaults on the veracity of the creation account in Genesis. In “Evangelicals, Evolution, and the BioLogos Disaster,” they take aim at the supposedly Christian organization known as BioLogos.

“BioLogos invites the church and the world to see the harmony between science and biblical faith as we present an evolutionary understanding of God’s creation.” That’s their mission statement and it’s a clear agenda. In recent years they have labored tirelessly to bring Genesis into conformity with Darwinian evolution. They argue that the scientific data is simply too compelling to ignore and Scripture needs to fall into line.

In the interview, John doesn’t hold back in stating the seriousness of their crimes, and those of anyone else who dares to tamper with the plain meaning of Scripture:

Is there a more deadly, more devastating, a more destructive, a more ungodly act than to openly and purposely and publicly denounce the veracity of the Bible? Is there a worse crime? Is not that the crime of all crimes? Because if you can’t believe what the Bible says, all is lost. And if you think because you have a Ph.D. in microbiology that you are the judge of all the earth and you have a right to edit what God has revealed by His Holy Spirit, then we better run over to wherever you are and bow down, because we need to worship you since you’ve got it right and the writers of the Scriptures, though inspired by the Holy Spirit didn’t get it right. I mean, there is no more serious crime than that. That is the ultimate crime, is to attack the veracity of Holy Scripture at any point.

And listen, this is not because there are alternate readings of Genesis. Let’s get that straight. This is not because we have some kind of manuscript diversity of Genesis. This is not because we’ve got five different accounts of Genesis and they’re all over the place. No. The manuscripts that we have of Genesis are all in absolute agreement, uniformity. This is exactly what Moses wrote and said, “This is the Word of the Lord.” This is a firsthand, eyewitness account by the Creator Himself.

So I don’t know that there’s a more heinous crime than destroying people’s confidence in Scripture. And if you start tampering in Genesis 1 and 2, where can we trust this book?

We should never treat our interpretation of the biblical creation account as theological hair-splitting. In “Evangelicals, Evolution, and the BioLogos Disaster,” John MacArthur and Phil Johnson show us that the inerrancy, authority, and clarity of Scripture is at stake. They show how the truth of the gospel stands or falls on the truth of Genesis. And they compel us to take up arms in the war against God’s truth.

Click here to listen to “Evangelicals, Evolution, and the BioLogos Disaster.”

 


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B170428
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