Daily Archives: April 4, 2017

April 4, 2017 Truth2Freedom Briefing Report (US•World•Christian)

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Apr. 4, 2017 |

BLOOMBERG

The Trump administration is trying to persuade House Republicans to sign on to a new version of the health-care bill that they had to abandon last month in an embarrassing setback to their pledge to repeal Obamacare.

Russian investigators suspect a radical Islamist immigrant from Kyrgyzstan detonated the explosive in a St. Petersburg subway car Monday, killing 14 in the worst terrorist attack in a major Russian city in years, Interfax reported.

A suspected chemical attack in a town in Syria’s rebel-held northern Idlib province killed dozens of people on Tuesday, opposition activists said, describing the attack as among the worst in the country’s six-year civil war.

One potential bidder on President Donald Trump’s border wall with Mexico wanted to know if authorities would rush to help if workers came under “hostile attack.” Another asked if employees can carry firearms in states with strict gun control laws and if the government would indemnify them for using deadly force. With bids due Tuesday on the first design contracts, interested companies are preparing for the worst if they get the potentially lucrative job.

In 1980, two-thirds of 25- to 34-year-olds were already married. One in eight had already been married and divorced. In 2015, just two in five millennials were married, and only 7 percent had been divorced.

Hong Kong-based jewelry retailer Chow Tai Fook bought a 59.6 carat pink diamond for about $71 million, setting the world record for the top auction price for any gem. The stone has an unusual distinction: it has attracted even higher bids in the past.

The U.S. auto industry was blindsided last month by just how fast sedans have fallen out of favor with Americans now embracing roomier sport utility vehicles. Family-friendly crossovers may be more profitable, but the quick shift is causing headaches.

AP Top Stories

President Donald Trump spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday to offer condolences to the victims of a bomb blast on a St. Petersburg train that killed 11 people and injured 45, the White House said in a statement.

Russia threw up a hurdle Monday in a US plan to hold a high-profile debate later this month on human rights during the US presidency of the UN Security Council. US Ambassador Nikki Haley wants to schedule the human rights debate for April 18, but the council adopted a program of work for the month without putting it on the agenda.

China’s smoggiest cities have pledged to ramp up the battle on pollution after air quality deteriorated in the first few months of this year, the China Daily reported on Monday, as smog blanketed the capital, Beijing, and the surrounding region.

The wife of Vice President Mike Pence, who recently made waves after reports surfaced about how he conducted himself when his wife wasn’t around, had made the rounds at events in the last couple of weeks to express gratitude and support to both women in service and the sacrifices made by military families. She did so even though the White House had stayed away from the scandal that’s resurfaced accusations of a sexist or misogynistic culture in the military.

Philippine soldiers killed “more than 10” Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf militants in an attempt to free Vietnamese captives held on a remote southern island as troops fired howitzer shells on rebel positions, an army general said on Monday.

Russia has developed the capability to launch an attack on the Baltic states with as little as 24 hours’ notice, limiting NATO’s options to respond other than to have military forces already deployed in the region, Lithuania’s intelligence service said on Monday.

Orders to U.S. factories rose 1 percent in February amid a surge in demand for commercial aircraft, but a key category that tracks business investment spending slipped for the first time in five months.

BBC

At least 58 people have been killed and dozens wounded in a suspected chemical attack on a rebel-held town in north-western Syria, a monitoring group said.

The US says it is withdrawing funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), an agency that promotes family planning in more than 150 countries.

The St Petersburg metro explosion was caused by a bomb possibly detonated by a man whose body parts were found on the train, Russian investigators said.

The remains of a pyramid built some 3,700 years ago have been discovered in Egypt, the antiquities ministry said. An interior corridor and a block engraved with 10 hieroglyphic lines were among the finds at the Dahshur royal necropolis, south of Cairo.

WND

The nation’s capital is the first U.S. city to begin requiring child-care workers to have a college degree before they can carry out tasks such as changing diapers, playing ring-around-the-rosie and handing out snacks. With an average monthly cost for daycare already at $1,800 in Washington, the new requirement is expected to drive prices through the roof.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday signed a repeal of Obama-era broadband privacy rules, the White House said, a victory for internet service providers and a blow to privacy advocates.

More than 1 million people moved out of the New York area to other parts of the country since 2010, a rate of 4.4 percent – the highest negative net migration rate among the nation’s large population centers, US Census records show.

The syringe slides in between the thumb and index finger. Then, with a click, a microchip is injected in the employee’s hand. Another “cyborg” is created. What could pass for a dystopian vision of the workplace is almost routine at the Swedish startup hub Epicenter. The company offers to implant its workers and startup members with microchips the size of grains of rice that function as swipe cards: to open doors, operate printers, or buy smoothies with a wave of the hand. The injections have become so popular that workers at Epicenter hold parties for those willing to get implanted.


Top News – 4/4/2017

BREAKING NEWS: Second earthquake felt in Pretoria
This comes after the first earthquake with a 5.2 magnitude was felt earlier on Monday morning at about 05:08. Emergency services spokesperson, Johan Pieterse said that he received messages of a second earthquake, but has no official report yet. “It was so strong the chandeliers in the house rattled. It lasted about eight seconds,” said Isabel Mclaren of Menlo Park.

TRUMPED: Trail For Classified Trump Info Leaker Leads Directly To Senior Obama Official Susan Rice
Reporter Adam Housley claimed that a U.S. intelligence official responsible for unmasking names of Trump associates is ‘very well known, very high up, very senior in the intelligence world.’ As it turns out, it’s Susan Rice.

“Jews Are Indigenous to Israel, Like Indians Are to Red River”
“The Palestinian claim is patently ridiculous since they are basically claiming they became indigenous through conquering the indigenous people,” he said in a video interview from the conference. “I’m indigenous to the Red River. We have to hold Arab people to the same standard. They are indigenous to the Arabian Peninsula. They are not indigenous to Israel. He pointed out that the etymology of the word “Palestinian” translates to “invader from the sea.” “Even their own word tells you that that’s not where they’re from.”

Sisi and Trump meet on ‘problem of the century’
According to senior administration officials, two-and-ahalf hours of conversation – in the Oval Office, the cabinet room and over a private lunch – were to focus on the threat of terrorism, but Trump also had plans to address the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Strong quake strikes remote region of Botswana
A strong earthquake struck in a remote region of Botswana on Monday near the renowned Kalahari game reserve, sending shockwaves across the southern African country though there were no early reports of casualties or damage. The magnitude 6.5 quake’s epicenter was nearly 250 km (155 miles) north-northwest of the capital Gaborone at a depth of 12 km (7 miles), the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Trump to Putin: U.S. offers ‘full support’ in St. Petersburg attack
President Donald Trump spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, offering the “full support” of the U.S. government to bring those responsible for the St. Petersburg subway bombing to justice. Trump “expressed his deepest condolences to the victims and their loved ones, and to the Russian people,” according to a White House readout of the call. The two leaders both agreed “that terrorism must be decisively and quickly defeated.”

Suspected gas attack in Syria kills over 55, mass injuries reported
A suspected gas attack by Syrian government or Russian jets killed at least 58 people, including nine children, and injured dozens more in the northwestern province of Idlib on Tuesday, a British-based war monitoring group said. The Syrian army could not immediately be reached for comment. Damascus has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons. The attack caused many people to choke or faint, and some had foam coming out of their mouths, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, citing medical sources who described it as a sign of a gas attack.

‘Iran arms manufacturing facilities in Lebanon are new kind of threat’
Reports that Iran is building workshops and facilities to make advanced rockets inside Lebanon is a “huge development” that constitutes a “whole new kind of threat,” Chagai Tzuriel, director- general of the Intelligence Ministry, said Monday. Tzuriel…attributed the reports to a Kuwaiti newspaper, but seemed to accept their veracity. If true, it would mean the Iranians and Hezbollah are trying to get around the difficulty of transferring arms over land through Syria to Lebanon by manufacturing them there instead.

US withdraws funding for United Nations Population Fund
The US has withdrawn funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), an agency that promotes family planning in more than 150 countries. The state department said the UNFPA “supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilisation”. This is the first of the promised cuts to US financial contributions to the UN by the Trump administration.

St Petersburg metro bombing suspect ‘from Kyrgyzstan’
The man suspected of killing 14 people by bombing a St Petersburg train was a native of Kyrgyzstan who obtained Russian citizenship, the Central Asian country’s security service has said. Forty-nine people were injured in the explosion between two underground stations on Monday afternoon. Kyrgyz officials named the suspect as Akbarzhon Jalilov, an ethnic Uzbek born in Osh in 1995.

Colombia declares emergency as first Mocoa landslide victims buried
Colombia’s president has declared an “economic, social and ecological emergency” as the first victims of the Mocoa landslide were laid to rest. Juan Manuel Santos said the government was also putting 40,000m pesos ($13.9m; £11.1m) towards “addressing humanitarian priorities”. At the same time, the first funerals were taking place of the 262 victims killed in Saturday’s landslide.

CIA operations may be disrupted by new Wikileaks’ data release
Current spying campaigns run by the CIA could be disrupted, say experts, after more data on the agency’s hacking techniques was released by Wikileaks. CIA code that obscures malware’s origins was detailed in the latest release by the whisteblowing site. The code could be used to create a “signature” for CIA malware, said one virus hunter.

Cyborgs at work: employees getting implanted with microchips
The syringe slides in between the thumb and index finger. Then, with a click, a microchip is injected in the employee’s hand. Another “cyborg” is created. What could pass for a dystopian vision of the workplace is almost routine at the Swedish startup hub Epicenter. The company offers to implant its workers and startup members with microchips the size of grains of rice that function as swipe cards: to open doors, operate printers, or buy smoothies with a wave of the hand.

How upgrading humans will become the next billion-dollar industry
Investors searching for the next transformative technology destined to turn a bunch of Ivy League dropouts into billionaires, and half the market into a loose slot machine, need only look in the mirror. “The greatest industry of the 21st century will probably be to upgrade human beings,” historian Yuval Harari, author of the fascinating new book “Homo Deus,” told MarketWatch.

Report: Trump, al-Sisi discussed peace summit in US this summer
US President Donald Trump and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi have discussed the possibility of holding an Israeli-Palestinian peace summit in the United States this summer, the leading Arab newspaper Al Hayat reported on Tuesday. Trump’s envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, reportedly raised the initiative with Arab officials.

Chinese wary about U.S. missile system because capabilities unknown: experts
China is steadfastly opposed to the deployment of advanced U.S. anti-missile radars in South Korea because it does not know whether the defenses, intended for North Korean missiles, are capable of tracking and countering Beijing’s own nuclear program…Beijing’s resistance to the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) anti-missile system…has become a major thorn in bilateral ties with the United States and is bound to be discussed at this week’s summit meeting…

Homeland Security announces steps against H1B visa fraud
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced steps on Monday to prevent the fraudulent use of H1B visas, used by employers to bring in specialized foreign workers temporarily, which appeared to fall short of President Donald Trump’s campaign promises to overhaul the program. A White House official said Trump may still do more on the program.

Tillerson to chair U.N. meeting on North Korea nuclear program
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will chair a United Nations Security Council meeting on North Korea on April 28 to discuss how the body can combat Pyongyang’s banned nuclear and missile programs, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said on Monday.

China Starts 2017 With Highest Number Of Corporate Defaults In History
China’s default wave appears to have made landfall, and as Bloomberg reports overnight, China’s deleveraging push has racked up the most defaults on corporate bonds ever for a first quarter. “Seven companies have defaulted on a total of nine bonds onshore so far in 2017, versus 29 for all of last year.”

Dallas Mayor Pulls Support For “Massive Taxpayer Bailout” Of Police Pension
“Basically you’re paying on phantom employees, not real employees.  No business would do it this way. We cannot find another pension fund in America where someone pays into a fund based on future employees. It’s just not done and it should not start here in the State of Texas.  This is the most taxpayer unfriendly poison pill that I’ve seen in this bill.  I’m not going to swallow this pill.”

Chinese wary about U.S. missile system because capabilities unknown: experts
China is steadfastly opposed to the deployment of advanced U.S. anti-missile radars in South Korea because it does not know whether the defenses, intended for North Korean missiles, are capable of tracking and countering Beijing’s own nuclear program, experts say.

Meet ‘next Obama’ groomed to make political history
The Democratic Party may have found its next Barack Obama. His name is Dr. Abdul el-Sayed, he’s a 32-year-old medical doctor and he recently launched his campaign for governor of Michigan, the election for which is in November 2018. If he wins he would be America’s first Muslim governor.

Report: Obama NSA Advisor Susan Rice Requested the Unmasking of Incoming Trump
Senior Fox News Correspondent, Adam Housley revealed on Friday that Intel Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) knows who unmasked the identities of Trump and his close associates. Sources also told him that the unmasking was purely for political purposes to embarrass Trump and had NOTHING to do with national security. Now this.. According to activist and author Mike Cernovich the leaker and unmasker is Susan Rice.


The Briefing 04-04-17

Filibuster vs. the nuclear option: History in the making as Gorsuch nomination forwarded to full Senate

Work ethic, food, and politics: How 2 Thessalonians 3:10 sparked controversy in the US House of Reps

Mike Pence, the Billy Graham Rule, and the importance of protecting marriage from infidelity

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


Rice ‘Unmasking’ of Trump Associates Could Mean Legal Jeopardy

Experts say top Obama adviser engaged in ‘fishing expedition’ on incoming administration officials. Brendan Kirby of LifeZette has the story:

Steps reportedly taken by former National Security Adviser Susan Rice to “unmask” names of associates of President Donald Trump before he took office could put her in legal jeopardy, according to legal and national security experts.

Bloomberg on Monday cited two unnamed sources who said Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the National Security Council’s senior director for intelligence, discovered in February that Rice made multiple requests to learn the names of Americans whose names had been disguised in surveillance reports related to Trump’s transition.

View article →


Trump Administration Considers Far-Reaching Steps for ‘Extreme Vetting’

According to Laura Meckler of the Wallstreet Journal it’s going to get a whole lot tougher for a foreigner to enter the U.S. The Trump administration’s “extreme vetting” measures could even apply to France and Germany. Meckler writes:

Foreigners who want to visit the U.S., even for a short trip, could be forced to disclose contacts on their mobile phones, social-media passwords and financial records, and to answer probing questions about their ideology, according to Trump administration officials conducting a review of vetting procedures.

The administration also wants to subject more visa applicants to intense security reviews and have embassies spend more time interviewing each applicant. The changes could apply to people from all over the world, including allies like France and Germany.

View article →


James Dobson: Christians Need Mass Exodus from Public Schools

Dr. James Dobson, who founded Focus on the Family and now delivers his Christian and pro-family advice through Family Talk, is once again encouraging parents to withdraw their children from public schools.

At least partly because he’s “shocked” at the values, or lack thereof, exhibited by the millennial generation of young people, who are about ages 18-34.

View Article


The Next Subprime Crisis Is Here: 12 Signs That A Day Of Reckoning Has Arrived For The U.S. Auto Industry

In 2008, subprime mortgages almost single-handedly took down the entire financial system, and now a new subprime crisis is here.  In recent years, the auto industry has been able to boost sales by aggressively pushing people into auto loans that they cannot afford.  In particular, auto loans made to consumers with subprime credit have been accounting for an increasingly larger percentage of the market.  Unfortunately, when you make loans to people that should not be getting them, eventually a lot of those loans are going to start to go bad, and that is precisely what is happening now.  Meanwhile, automakers and dealers are starting to panic as sales have begun to fall and used car prices have started to crash.  If you work in the auto industry, you might remember how horrible the last recession was, and this new downturn could eventually turn out to be even worse.  The following are 12 signs that a day of reckoning has arrived for the U.S. auto industry… (Read More…)


Fake News Media Frenzy To Protect Susan Rice As Truth About Obama Shadow Government Implodes

Fake News Media in all-out-desperate attempt to shield Susan Rice and the Obama Shadow Government as frenzy surrounding leaks grows daily

CNN’s Don Lemon issued a call to all his views to “ignore the scandal” surrounding Susan Rice. The Washington Post calls it a “fake scandal ginned up by Trump”. Go to any of the other fake news outlets like the New York Times, MSNBC and others and you won’t even see the story being reported at all.

Kinda funny considering it is the biggest crisis in our government in a generation.

So let’s start with the facts. Ten days ago, Susan Rice boldly and brazenly lied about knowing anything at all about it.

But as it turns out, Susan Rice not only “knew about it”, but she requested the unmasking and potentially leaked the information as well. Which is a felony. Hmm….

In case you’ve forgotten, Susan Rice is the same person that went on national television and lied about Benghazi being caused by an anti-Muslim video. None of what she said was actually true, but that didn’t stop her from endlessly repeating it.

Do you suspect that the noise over Trump campaign contacts with the Russians is just a political hit arranged by Obama insiders before they left?

You got fresh evidence of that Monday, with news that then-national security adviser Susan Rice was behind the “unmasking” of Trumpites in transcripts of calls with Russian officials.

Again, nothing on the public record so far shows that anyone on Team Trump said anything improper on those calls.

It’s no surprise that US spooks intercept foreign officials’ calls. But intelligence community reports don’t disclose the names of US citizens on the other end. To get that info, a high official must (but rarely does) push to “unmask” the Americans’ names.

Bloomberg’s Eli Lake now reports that Rice started doing just that last year.

That was perfectly legal. But we also know that the Obama administration later changed the classification of the “unmasked” transcripts, and other similar material, in order to spread the information as widely as possible within the government.

Former President Barack Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice ordered U.S. spy agencies to produce “detailed spreadsheets” of legal phone calls involving Donald Trump and his aides when he was running for president, according to former U.S. Attorney Joseph diGenova. source

The motive for that was (supposedly) to prevent Team Trump from burying it all once it took over. But the result was that it made it relatively safe for someone (or someones) to leak the info to the press.

Which made it likely somebody would leak. So Team Obama’s “spread the info” initiative certainly broke the spirit of the laws.

Those leaks have produced a nagging political sore for the new administration — leading to the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn, helping to drive down President Trump’s approval ratings and making it harder for him to push his program through.

Rice certainly wasn’t politically naive about the political uses of intelligence information. She was, after all, the Obama official who famously made the rounds spouting the false “Our intel says it was about the video” line on the Benghazi attack back during the 2012 campaign.

All of this puts the actions of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes in clearer perspective. After viewing the Rice requests at the White House, he disclosed that Trump officials had been caught up in incidental surveillance.

All of which is a reminder that two issues are in play here: Russian meddling in the election, about which the nation already knows plenty — and the Obama team’s efforts to sabotage Team Trump. source


LONDONISTAN: Christianity In Massive Decline In London With 423 New Mosques As 500 Churches Close

The Gatestone Institute reports Sunday on the striking rate of closures of churches in the United Kingdom’s capital city, a trend mirrored elsewhere in Europe, and the blooming number of mosques that have been established in their stead.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you try and publish an article like this, Liberals across the globe instantly cry “Islamaphobia” the second it is released. When we give facts and figures on Islam’s unstoppable rise in the UK, and warning of massive Sharia creep, we are labeled as “racists and xenophobes”. But the hard, sad truth is that London has become a Muslim-majority city, and all traces of its Christian roots and heritage being blown away like so much chaff in the wind. The land that gave the world the King James 1611 Authorized Version Holy Bible is about to become a Sharia-dominant society. You are watching it happen. 

Reporting on the change in religious observation in London, the Gatestone Institute writes:

“London is more Islamic than many Muslim countries put together”, according to Maulana Syed Raza Rizvi, one of the Islamic preachers who now lead “Londonistan”, as the journalist Melanie Phillips has called the English capital. No, Rizvi is not a right-wing extremist. Wole Soyinka, a Nobel Laureate for Literature, was less generous; he called the UK “a cesspit for Islamists”.

“Terrorists can not stand London multiculturalism”, London’s mayor Sadiq Khan said after the recent deadly terror attack at Westminster. The opposite is true: British multiculturalists are feeding Islamic fundamentalism. Above all, Londonistan, with its new 423 mosques, is built on the sad ruins of English Christianity.

Islam and the Intercultural Enrichment of London

The Hyatt United Church was bought by the Egyptian community to be converted to a mosque. St Peter’s Church has been converted into the Madina Mosque. The Brick Lane Mosque was built on a former Methodist church. Not only buildings are converted, but also people. The number of converts to Islam has doubled; often they embrace radical Islam, as with Khalid Masood, the terrorist who struck Westminster.

The Daily Mail published photographs of a church and a mosque a few meters from each other in the heart of London. At the Church of San Giorgio, designed to accommodate 1,230 worshipers, only 12 people gathered to celebrate Mass. At the Church of Santa Maria, there were 20.

The nearby Brune Street Estate mosque has a different problem: overcrowding. Its small room and can contain only 100. On Friday, the faithful must pour into the street to pray. Given the current trends, Christianity in England is becoming a relic, while Islam will be the religion of the future. source


April 3, 2017
ALAN KEYES — To say the least, the Obama administration was not notable for respecting the “special relationship” that is supposed to exist between the United States and Great Britain since the two countries led the Allies to victory in World War II…. (more)

April 3, 2017
CLIFF KINCAID — When the first President Bush nominated David Souter for a seat on the Supreme Court, the nominee was sold to conservatives as a fellow conservative but turned out to be a solid member of the court’s liberal bloc. As such, Souter was labeled a “stealth nominee” to advance the liberal agenda. Could Judge Neil Gorsuch be another Souter?… (more)

April 3, 2017
WASHINGTON EXAMINER — President Trump said in an interview published Sunday he will make a deal with Democrats on legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare if he can’t strike one with House Freedom Caucus Republicans…. (more)

April 3, 2017
WASHINGTON TIMES — In the latest sign that President Trump’s feud with the House Freedom Caucus isn’t abating, Rep. Jim Jordan downplayed Mr. Trump’s threats to aid primary challenges against members of the Caucus on Sunday. “Competition is fine,” Mr. Jordan said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I’ve never shied away from competition. If that’s what happens, that’s what happens.”… (more)


April 3, 2017
BYRON YORK — Sen. Charles Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has sent a letter to FBI Director James Comey demanding the story behind the FBI’s reported plan to pay the author of a lurid and unsubstantiated dossier on candidate Donald Trump…. (more)

April 3, 2017
ANDREW C. MCCARTHY — ‘Horrifying!” inveighed an indignant Hillary Clinton at the last presidential debate, less than three weeks before Election Day. What so horrified her? Donald Trump’s refusal to pledge that he would accept the legitimacy of the election…. (more)

April 3, 2017
WASHINGTON TIMES — Al Qaeda is making a comeback in the Middle East and North Africa by expanding its armies and infiltrating new territories, complicating President Trump’s priority of destroying the world’s other major Salafist Sunni group, the Islamic State…. (more)

April 3, 2017
WASHINGTON TIMES — The Homeland Security Department has been reluctant to send helicopters on nighttime missions to aid the Border Patrol, leaving agents to face drug smugglers and illegal immigrants without critical air cover, the chief of the agents’ labor union told Congress late last month…. (more)

April 2, 2017
CLIFF KINCAID — An admitted CIA mouthpiece writing for the Washington Post receives classified information and publishes it. He remains in good standing at the paper. Yet the Senior Judicial Analyst for Fox News offers his informed opinion that the British helped conduct surveillance on President Trump and is suspended for several days from on-air appearances…. (more)

April 2, 2017
NEWSMAX — Numerous private citizens connected with President Donald Trump’s campaign team were “unmasked” in intelligence information swept up in “incidental collection” that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes secretly viewed last week, according to news reports on Friday…. (more)

April 2, 2017
GARTH KANT — The spying by the Obama administration on then-presidential candidate Donald Trump reportedly was even worse than what he has alleged. And it had nothing to do with Russia but everything to do with politics. Sources in the intelligence community claim the potentially illegal revealing of names, or unmasking, of people in the Trump camp who were under surveillance was done purely “for political purposes” to “hurt and embarrass (candidate) Trump and his team.”… (more)

April 2, 2017
NEWSMAX — President Donald Trump’s declaration of war on the House Freedom Caucus for killing the American Health Care Act (AHCA) is actually a positive for the hardline ultraconservative group, one of its leading members, Rep. Mo Brooks, tells Newsmax TV…. (more)

April 2, 2017
NATIONAL REVIEW STAFF — The demise of the American Health Care Act, House speaker Paul Ryan and the White House’s ill-fated effort to reform Obamacare, has prompted a cascade of finger-pointing as Republicans try to assign blame for their recent embarrassment. The White House and much of the Republican establishment have settled on a familiar scapegoat: the famously stubborn 30 or so members of the House Freedom Caucus…. (more)

April 1, 2017
WASHINGTON EXAMINER — President Trump’s threats against members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus this week fit a pattern of pointed attacks that helped create his outsider appeal to voters – – but may hamper his ability to work within an insider system…. (more)

April 1, 2017
BYRON YORK — The Trump Russia investigation has spread in so many directions, and sparked so much crazy commentary, that it’s hard to keep track of it all. So here is a guide to help you keep your eye on the ball:… (more)


April 1, 2017
WASHINGTON EXAMINER — White House press secretary Sean Spicer is spending more and more time behind the podium at the White House trying to contain a growing media frenzy over the Trump administration’s connections to several Russia-related probes…. (more)

April 1, 2017
WASHINGTON EXAMINER — WikiLeaks on Friday released what it claims to be a stolen CIA code that would prevent hacking and virus attacks from being traced back to the spy agency…. (more)

April 1, 2017
NEWSMAX — Terrorist organizations, including ISIS and al-Qaida, may be developing laptops bombs capable of avoiding airport security, CNN reported Friday, after speaking with U.S. intelligence officials and law enforcement agencies…. (more)

April 1, 2017
WASHINGTON TIMES — The Treasury Department slapped sanctions on 11 North Koreans and one company Friday over Pyongyang’s nuclear-weapons program and violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions. “Today’s sanctions are aimed at disrupting the networks and methods that the government of North Korea employs to fund its unlawful nuclear, ballistic missile, and proliferation programs,” said Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin…. (more)

April 1, 2017
NEWSMAX — The Russian navy says its submarines have increased combat patrols to the level last seen during the Cold War. The navy chief, Adm. Vladimir Korolyov, said Friday in remarks carried by state RIA Novosti news agency that Russian submarine crews spent more than 3,000 days on patrol last year, matching the Soviet-era operational tempo. Korolyov spoke after attending the launch of a new Yasen-class nuclear-powered attack submarine called the Kazan…. (more)

April 1, 2017
BBC NEWS — The U.S. representative to the United Nations has said that the U.S. is no longer prioritising the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Ambassador Nikki Haley told reporters on Thursday “we can’t necessarily focus on Assad the way that the previous administration did”…. (more)

March 31, 2017
WASHINGTON EXAMINER — President Trump escalated his offensive against congressional conservatives who oppose the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare on Thursday as party leaders signal they want to take another shot at healthcare reform…. (more)


March 31, 2017
WASHINGTON EXAMINER — President Trump is taking a stunningly harsh tone with the conservative House Freedom Caucus, calling Thursday for their defeat in the 2018 midterm election if they don’t get on board with the Republican agenda…. (more)

March 31, 2017
WASHINGTON TIMES — With Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote, the Senate approved a bill Thursday to let states strip federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood, marking the first successful strike against the country’s largest abortion network…. (more)

March 31, 2017
BOB UNRUH — Dr. James Dobson, who started Focus on the Family and now delivers his Christian and pro-family advice through the newer Family Talk radio, is endorsing again the move for parents to withdraw their children from public schools…. (more)

 


MID-DAY SNAPSHOT

APR. 4, 2017

So, Susan Rice Was the One ‘Unmasking’

Was Obama’s adviser pushing the “Russia hacked the election” narrative?

THE FOUNDATION

“It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself. Subject opinion to coercion: whom will you make your inquisitors?” —Thomas Jefferson (1781)

Today on ChristianHeadlines
Chip and Joanna Gaines Announce New Show
Chip and Joanna Gaines Announce New Show
by Veronica Neffinger
Chip and Joanna Gaines, the stars of the popular HGTV series “Fixer Upper,” have announced that they will be featured in a new show.
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Canada’s New Transgender Rights Bill Could Threaten Religious Freedom
Canada’s New Transgender Rights Bill Could Threaten Religious Freedom
by Amanda Casanova
Gender identity could be added to Canada’s list of protected classes if the Canadian Parliament passes a bill.
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Survey: Evangelical Leaders Really Don’t Want to Endorse Politicians
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“Most pastors I know don’t want to endorse politicians. They want to focus on teaching the Bible.”
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Still No Sign of Leader for White House Faith Partnership Office
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by Adelle M. Banks
No one has been named to direct the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which since 2001 has linked government with a broad range of religious groups.
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China: Raids on House Churches Continue in Crackdown on Christianity
China: Raids on House Churches Continue in Crackdown on Christianity
by Veronica Neffinger
Two house churches have been raided and members detained by government officials in China.
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ZeroHedge Frontrunning: April 04

  • Europe stocks rise but bond yield falls show investor caution (Read More)
  • Danger of Sell-Off in U.S. Stocks Grows as Auto Sales Disappoint (Read More)
  • Battle Over Gorsuch Confirmation Is Set to Hit Senate Floor (Read More)
  • U.S. business seeks action, not trade war, in Xi-Trump summit (Read More)
  • Uncovering the Secret History of Wall Street’s Largest Oil Trade (Read More)
  • Google Says Ex-Executive Built Driverless Business on the Side (Read More)
  • Thousands of Greek pensioners protest against cuts as more austerity looms (Read More)
  • GM Once Again Owns Corporate Aircraft (Read More)
  • U.S. Considers Far-Reaching Steps for ‘Extreme Vetting’ (Read More)
  • Greek Pensions Hot Potato Puts Tsipras in Bailout Tight Spot (Read More)
  • China wary about U.S. missile system (Read More)
  • China’s Currency Takes a Twist Ahead of Trump-Xi Meeting (Read More)
  • It’s a Big Week for One of the Most Important Debates in Markets (Read More)
  • Homeland Security announces steps against H1B visa fraud (Read More)
  • Fox News, Roger Ailes Hit With Another Sex-Harassment Suit (Read More)
  • St. Petersburg metro blast suspect likely born in central Asia (Read More)
  • Manhattan Home Resales Rebound After Sellers Agree to Cut Prices (Read More)
  • At Trump’s EPA, Less Science and More Industry (Read More)
  • Trump signs repeal of U.S. broadband privacy rules (Read More)
  • House Republican tax chief to huddle with Democrats (Read More)
  • Massachusetts top court to hear case on illegal immigrant detention (Read More)
  • South Africa Cut to Junk for the First Time Since 2000 (Read More)

Top Headlines – 4/4/2017

Visiting Sissi says Trump can solve Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Trump shifts US stance on Egypt, praising its authoritarian leader

Trump tells Sisi U.S., Egypt will fight Islamic militants together

Trump aide Gorka ‘backed Hungarian anti-Semitic militia’

Father of JCC bomb hoaxer apologizes to US Jews, blames tumor

Toronto university students adopt broad definition of anti-Semitism

Swedish Jewish Center Shuts Down Due to Nazi Threats

Erdogan says Turks in Europe should defy ‘grandchildren of Nazism’

EU at odds with Trump administration over Assad’s role in Syria

Syrian government intensifies attacks around Damascus, Hama

Haley: Assad a ‘war criminal’ protected by Russia, Iran

German court jails 4 Islamists over attack plots

Russia plagued by Islamic terror attacks

Bomb in St. Petersburg subway, killing 11, sets a city on edge

St. Petersburg subway blast: One attacker believed to have planted two bombs

ISIS Celebrates St. Petersburg Metro Blast

Suspect in St Petersburg metro blast linked to radical Islamists

Russia says subway hit by suicide bomber from ‘central Asian’ country

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ‘desperate,’ ready to strike US, defector says

Dems have enough votes to filibuster Gorsuch, increasing odds of ‘nuclear option’

Senators fear fallout of nuclear option

After golf with Trump, Paul says ‘very optimistic’ about ObamaCare repeal

Juan Williams: Trump’s impeachment risk keeps growing

Susan Rice requested to unmask names of Trump transition officials, sources say

Flashback: Susan Rice Said ‘I Know Nothing’ About Unmasking of Trump Officials

Records show deep ties between FBI and Best Buy computer technicians looking for child porn

For Google’s Data Wars, It All Comes Down to Location

Cyborgs at work: employees getting implanted with microchips

How upgrading humans will become the next billion-dollar industry

Chinese engineer ‘marries’ robot after failing to find a human wife

Bullet-Proof Vests Suggested For Children In Chicago

Accidental gun deaths hit record low, even amid recent boom in firearms sales

6.5 magnitude earthquake hits near Moijabana, Botswana

5.0 magnitude earthquake hits near Novaya Chara, Russia

Sabancaya volcano in Peru erupts to 27,000ft

Kambalny volcano on Kamchatka, Russia erupts to 26,000ft

Klyuchevskoy volcano on Kamchatka, Russia erupts to 25,000ft

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

Southeast storms: Fifth person reported dead as severe weather moves east

New Delhi to feel brief relief from deadly heat wave later this week

Global Warming Fears Are Driving Malibu Home Buyers to Higher Ground

A ‘bionic leaf’ could help feed the world

Pandemic Risk: Zika Mosquitos in 129 California Cities

JESUS VS. YESHUA?

Bill Johnson and Dayspring Church Apostles pass baton to new Apostolic couple

Shocking News: Steven Furtick Goes Full-On Prosperity

Todd Bentley and His Generals: Kenneth Hagin, TL Osborn & Oral Roberts

SHOCKING REVELATION! Adam Smarter than God, Asserts Jesse Duplantis

California AG Who Charged Man Behind Undercover Videos Received Campaign Donations From Planned Parenthood

Florida College Exonerates Christian Student Suspended Over Muslim Professor’s Complaints

Christians Fight Chinese Government Over Surveillance Cameras In Churches

Posted: 04 Apr 2017 06:15 AM PDT

Christians and government officials in China are fighting over orders that certain churches must install surveillance cameras to help prevent acts of terrorism, according to a…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

American Pastor Imprisoned in Turkey Pleads for Trump’s Intervention

Posted: 04 Apr 2017 06:08 AM PDT

An American pastor who has been imprisoned in Turkey since last October is pleading for President Trump and his administration to work more fervently for…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

DEVELOPING: Chemical Attack Reported In Syria, Dozens Killed

Posted: 04 Apr 2017 06:01 AM PDT

A suspected chemical attack in a town in Syria’s northern Idlib province killed dozens of people on Tuesday, Syrian opposition activists said, describing the attack…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Lawmaker Under Fire For Quoting Bible in House Hearing

Posted: 04 Apr 2017 05:58 AM PDT

When Rep. Jodey Arrington R-Texas, quoted a Bible verse during a House hearing some in the media didn’t know what to make of it. The…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Russia Unveils “Unstoppable” Hypersonic Missile That Can Defeat Any US Warship

Posted: 04 Apr 2017 05:53 AM PDT

As President Trump ratchets up the U.S. military in his latest budget proposal, his counterpart, Russian President Vladimir Putin, has reportedly created a hypersonic missile…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

HOOK IN THE JAW? EU nations, Israel eye world’s longest undersea gas pipeline

Posted: 04 Apr 2017 05:50 AM PDT

Biblical scholars have debated for years over what exactly the “Hook in the Jaw” mentioned in Ezekiel Chapter 38 could be that draws Nations to…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Police Drone Hovers Over TX Resident Yard Without Warning…

Posted: 04 Apr 2017 05:45 AM PDT

Neighbors in Hurst are now pushing back after a police drone hovered over one back yard, without warning. Bobbie Sanchez said the feeling of privacy…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Botswana hit by strongest Earthquake in its history felt across southern Africa

Posted: 03 Apr 2017 08:50 PM PDT

A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.5 has struck Botswana on April 3, 2017. This is the largest earthquake ever recorded in the…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

In Anticipation Of The Coming American Apocalypse, 2 Lawmakers Plan To Create ‘Christian Survivalist Centers’ In Rural Areas

Posted: 03 Apr 2017 08:38 PM PDT

(Reported By Michael Snyder) A couple of lawmakers from South Carolina want to establish a network of self-sufficient communities in their state in preparation for…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

12 Signs That A Day Of Reckoning Has Arrived For The U.S. Auto Industry

Posted: 03 Apr 2017 08:33 PM PDT

(Reported By Michael Snyder) In 2008, subprime mortgages almost single-handedly took down the entire financial system, and now a new subprime crisis is here.  In…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Televangelist Duped Workers Out of $388K, Judge Says

Posted: 03 Apr 2017 08:26 PM PDT

Televangelist Ernest Angley has been ordered to pay $388,000 in back wages to his employees who were forced to volunteer at his Cathedral Buffet restaurant in…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Muslims Turning From Islam in Droves, Churches Seeing Revival

Posted: 03 Apr 2017 08:14 PM PDT

Muslim refugees fleeing the increasing violence in their home countries and cities are shedding their Islamic religion for Christianity. As European countries accept the migrants,…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Biblical Creation Group Included on List of Disreputable Websites

Posted: 03 Apr 2017 08:08 PM PDT

A prominent Creation science group is pushing back after their website was included on a widely-shared list of allegedly untrustworthy sources and described as “junk…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

20,000 Christians Tell Congress to Stand for Biblical values

Posted: 03 Apr 2017 08:02 PM PDT

More than 20,000 Americans sent a letter to every member in Congress asking them to take a stand for Christian values.  My Faith Votes, a…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

US withdraws funding from UN agency…

Posted: 03 Apr 2017 07:56 PM PDT

The State Department said on Monday it was ending U.S. funding for the United Nations Population Fund, the international body’s agency focused on family planning…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Upgraded Humans Will Become Next Billion-Dollar Industry

Posted: 03 Apr 2017 02:07 PM PDT

Investors searching for the next transformative technology destined to turn a bunch of Ivy League dropouts into billionaires, and half the market into a loose…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Man Gets Married To a Robot After Failing To Find Partner…

Posted: 03 Apr 2017 02:03 PM PDT

A Chinese engineer has “married” a robot he created after failing to find a human spouse. Zheng Jiajia, 31, an artificial intelligence expert who designs…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

DAYS OF LOT: University installs condom dispensers amid STD spike…

Posted: 03 Apr 2017 01:59 PM PDT

Condom dispensers have been installed in several dorms at the University of South Dakota in response to a rise in the number of sexually transmitted…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Concerns Rise Of Artificial Superintelligence Eliminating Humanity!

Posted: 03 Apr 2017 01:54 PM PDT

This is the way the world ends: not with a bang, but with a paper clip. In this scenario, the designers of the world’s first…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Matt Drudge Warns That President Trump is in Danger in Rare Interview

Posted: 03 Apr 2017 01:48 PM PDT

Since ending his television program on Fox News Channel several years ago, Matt Drudge has become a bit of a recluse, even if millions of…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Do You Have These Occult Objects in Your House?

Posted: 03 Apr 2017 01:44 PM PDT

Books, knickknacks, pictures, games or even television shows may have an occult vortex that gives demons authority in your household, ex-New-Age blogger Steven Bancarz says….

Read more at End Time Headlines.

PROPHECY WATCH: Employees in Sweden line up to get microchip implants

Posted: 03 Apr 2017 12:25 PM PDT

It may not be the “Mark of the Beast” yet but it sure does look like the forerunner technology is now unfolding and preparing the…

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
COPYRIGHT ©2017 Grace to YouYou may reproduce this Grace to You content for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Grace to You’s Copyright Policy (http://www.gty.org/connect/copyright).


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April 4, 2017: Verse of the day

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Happy Are the Hungry

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (5:6)

This beatitude speaks of strong desire, of driving pursuit, of a passionate force inside the soul. It has to do with ambition-ambition of the right sort-whose object is to honor, obey, and glorify God by partaking of His righteousness. This holy ambition is in great contrast to the common ambitions of men to gratify their own lusts, accomplish their own goals, and satisfy their own egos.

As no other creature, Lucifer basked in the splendor and radiance of God’s glory. The name Lucifer means “star of the morning” or, more literally, “the bright one.” But he was not satisfied with living in God’s glory, and he said in his heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High” (Isa. 14:13–14). His ambition was not to reflect God’s glory but to usurp God’s sovereign power-while forsaking righteousness. Therefore when Satan declared his intention to make himself like the Most High, the Most High responded by declaring to His adversary, “You will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit” (v. 15).

As king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar ruled over the greatest of all world empires. One day as he walked on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, “the king reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?”’ (Dan. 4:29–30). Nebuchadnezzar lusted after praise just as Lucifer lusted after power. God’s reaction was immediate: “While the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you, and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whomever He wishes’ ” (vv. 31–32).

Jesus told a parable about a rich farmer whose crops were so abundant that he did not have enough space to store them. After planning to tear down his old barns and build bigger ones, he said, “ ‘I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:16–21).

Lucifer hungered for power; Nebuchadnezzar hungered for praise; and the rich fool hungered for pleasure. Because they hungered for wrong things and rejected God’s good things, they forfeited both.

Jesus declares that the deepest desire of every person ought to be to hunger and thirst for righteousness. That is the Spirit-prompted desire that will lead a person to salvation and keep him strong and faithful once he is in the kingdom. It is also the only ambition that, when fulfilled, brings enduring happiness.

The American Declaration of Independence asserts that citizens have the right to the pursuit of happiness. The founding fathers did not presume to guarantee that all who pursue it would find it, because that is beyond the power of any government to provide. Each person is free to seek whatever kind of happiness he wants in the way he wants within the law. Sadly, most US citizens, like most people throughout all of history, have chosen to pursue the wrong kind of happiness in ways that provide no kind of happiness.

Jesus says that the way to happiness, the way to being truly blessed, is the way of spiritual hunger and thirst.

The Necessity for Spiritual Hunger

Hunger and thirst represent the necessities of physical life. Jesus’ analogy demonstrates that righteousness is required for spiritual life just as food and water are required for physical life. Righteousness is not an optional spiritual supplement but a spiritual necessity. We can no more live spiritually without righteousness than we can live physically without food and water.

Since the great famine in Egypt during the time of Joseph, and probably long before then, the world has been periodically plagued by famines. Rome experienced a famine in 436 b.c., which was so severe that thousands of people threw themselves into the Tiber River to drown rather than starve to death. Famine struck England in a.d. 1005, and all of Europe suffered great famines in 879, 1016, and 1162. In our own century, despite the advances in agriculture, many parts of the world still experience periodic famines. In recent years Africa has seen some of the most devastating famines in the world’s history. In the last 100 years tens of millions throughout the world have died from starvation or from the many diseases that accompany severe malnutrition.

A starving person has a single, all-consuming passion for food and water. Nothing else has the slightest attraction or appeal; nothing else can even get his attention.

Those who are without God’s righteousness are starved for spiritual life. But tragically they do not have the natural desire for spiritual life that they do for physical. The tendency of fallen mankind is to turn to itself and to the world for meaning and life, just as “ ‘a dog returns to its own vomit,’ and ‘a sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire’ ” (2 Pet. 2:22; cf. Prov. 26:11).

The heart of every person in the world was created with a sense of inner emptiness and need. Yet apart from God’s revelation men do not recognize what the need is or know what will satisfy it. Like the prodigal son, they will eat pigs’ food, because they have nothing else. “Why,” God asks, “do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy?” (Isa. 55:2). The reason is that men have forsaken God, “the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13). Though God has created men with a need for Himself, they try to satisfy that need through lifeless gods of their own making.

Again like the prodigal son, men are prone to take good things God has given-such as possessions, health, freedom, opportunities, and knowledge-and spend them on pleasure, power, popularity, fame, and every other form of self-satisfaction. But unlike the prodigal, they are often content to stay in the far country, away from God and away from His blessings.

People are warned not to “love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15–17).

Seeking satisfaction only in God and in His provision is a mark of those who come into His kingdom. Those who belong to the King hunger and thirst for the King’s righteousness. They desire sin to be replaced with virtue and disobedience to be replaced by obedience. They are eager to serve the Word and will of God.

Jesus’ call to spiritual hunger and thirst also follows logically in the progression of the Beatitudes. The first three are essentially negative, commands to forsake evil things that are barriers to the kingdom. In poverty of spirit we turn away from self-seeking; in mourning we turn away from self-satisfaction; and in meekness we turn away from self-serving.

The first three beatitudes are also costly and painful. Becoming poor in spirit involves death to self. Mourning over sin involves facing up to our sinfulness. Becoming meek involves surrendering our power to God’s control.

The fourth beatitude is more positive and is a consequence of the other three. When we put aside self, sins, and power and turn to the Lord, we are given a great desire for righteousness. The more we put aside what we have, the more we long for what God has.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, “This Beatitude again follows logically from the previous ones; it is a statement to which all the others lead. It is the logical conclusion to which they come, and it is something for which we should all be profoundly thankful and grateful to God. I do not know of a better test that anyone can apply to himself or herself in this whole matter of the Christian profession than a verse like this. If this verse is to you one of the most blessed statements of the whole of Scripture, you can be quite certain you are a Christian. If it is not, then you had better examine the foundations again” (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971], 1:73–74).

The person who has no hunger and thirst for righteousness has no part in God’s kingdom. To have God’s life within us through the new birth in Jesus Christ is to desire more of His likeness within us by growing in righteousness. This is readily clear from David’s confession in Psalm 119:97, “O how I love Thy law.” Paul echoes David’s passion for righteousness in Romans 7:22, where he testifies, “I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man.” The true believer desires to obey, even though he struggles with unredeemed flesh (cf. Rom. 8:23).

The Meaning of Spiritual Hunger

Most of us have never faced life-threatening hunger and thirst. We think of hunger as missing a meal or two in a row, and of thirst as having to wait an hour on a hot day to get a cold drink. But the hunger and thirst of which Jesus speaks here is of a much more intense sort.

During the liberation of Palestine in World War I, a combined force of British, Australian, and New Zealand soldiers was closely pursuing the Turks as they retreated from the desert. As the allied troops moved northward past Beersheba they began to outdistance their water-carrying camel train. When the water ran out, their mouths got dry, their heads ached, and they became dizzy and faint. Eyes became bloodshot, lips swelled and turned purple, and mirages became common. They knew that if they did not make the wells of Sheriah by nightfall, thousands of them would die-as hundreds already had done. Literally fighting for their lives, they managed to drive the Turks from Sheriah.

As water was distributed from the great stone cisterns, the more able-bodied were required to stand at attention and wait for the wounded and those who would take guard duty to drink first It was four hours before the last man had his drink. During that time the men stood no more than twenty feet from thousands of gallons of water, to drink of which had been their consuming passion for many agonizing days. It is said that one of the officers who was present reported, “I believe that we all learned our first real Bible lesson on the march from Beersheba to Sheriah Wells. If such were our thirst for God, for righteousness and for His will in our lives, a consuming, all-embracing, preoccupying desire, how rich in the fruit of the Spirit would we be?” (E.M. Blaiklock, “Water,” Eternity (August 1966), p. 27).

That is the kind of hunger and thirst of which Jesus speaks in this beatitude. The strongest and deepest impulses in the natural realm are used to represent the depth of desire the called of God and redeemed have for righteousness. The present participle is used in each case and signifies continuous longing, continuous seeking. Those who truly come to Jesus Christ come hungering and thirsting for righteousness, and those who are in Him continue to know that deep longing for holiness.

The parallel passage in Luke says, “Blessed are you who hunger now” (6:21). Desire for righteousness is to characterize our life now and in the rest of our earthly existence.

When Moses was in the wilderness, God appeared to him in a burning bush. When he went back to Egypt to deliver his people, he saw God’s might and power in the miracles and the ten plagues. He saw God part the Dead Sea and swallow up their Egyptian pursuers. He saw God’s glory in the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire which led Israel in the wilderness. He built a Tabernacle for God and saw the Lord’s glory shining over the Holy of Holies. Over and over Moses had sought and had seen God’s glory. “Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex. 33:11). But Moses was never satisfied and always wanted to see more. He continued to plead, “I pray Thee, show Thy glory” (v. 18).

Moses never had enough of the Lord. Yet from that dissatisfaction came satisfaction. Because of his continual longing for God, Moses found favor in His sight (v. 17), and God promised him, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you” (v. 19).

David declared, “O God, Thou art my God,” but continued, “I shall seek Thee earnestly; my soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh yearns for Thee, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Ps. 63:1).

Paul had great visions of God and great revelations from God, yet he was not satisfied. He had given up his own righteousness “derived from the law” and was growing in “the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.” But still he longed to “know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Phil. 3:9–10). Peter expressed his own great desire and hunger when he counseled those to whom he wrote to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18).

John Darby wrote, “To be hungry is not enough; I must be really starving to know what is in God’s heart toward me. When the prodigal son was hungry, he went to feed on the husks, but when he was starving, he turned to his father.” That is the hunger of which the fourth beatitude speaks, the hunger for righteousness that only the Father can satisfy.

Several years ago someone told me of a friend who had begun coming to a Bible study but soon gave it up, explaining that she wanted to be religious but did not want to make the commitment that Scripture demands. She had little hunger for the things of God. She wanted to pick and choose, to nibble at whatever suited her fancy-because basically she was satisfied with the way she was. In her own eyes she had enough, and thereby became one of the self-adjudged rich whom the Lord sends away empty-handed. It is only the hungry that He fills with good things (Luke 1:53).

The Object of Spiritual Hunger

As with the other beatitudes, the goal of hungering and thirsting for righteousness is twofold. For the unbeliever the goal is salvation; for the believer it is sanctification.

For Salvation

When a person initially hungers and thirsts for righteousness he seeks salvation, the righteousness that comes when one turns from sin to submit to the lordship of Jesus Christ. In poverty of spirit he sees his sin; in mourning he laments and turns from his sin; in meekness he submits his own sinful way and power to God; and in hunger and thirst he seeks God’s righteousness in Christ to replace his sin.

In many Old Testament passages righteousness is used as a synonym for salvation. “My righteousness is near, My salvation has gone forth,” the Lord said through Isaiah (51:5). Daniel wrote of the time when “those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Dan. 12:3).

When a person abandons all hope of saving himself, all confidence in self-righteousness, and begins to hunger for the salvation that brings God’s righteousness and the obedience that God requires, he will be blessed, be made divinely happy.

The Jews’ greatest obstacle to receiving the gospel was their self-righteousness, their confidence in their own purity and holiness, which they imagined was created by good works. Because they were God’s chosen race, and as keepers of the law-or, more often, keepers of men’s interpretations of the law-they felt heaven was assured.

The Messiah told them, however, that the only way to salvation was by hungering and thirsting for God’s righteousness to replace their own self-righteousness, which was really unrighteousness.

For Sanctification

For believers, the object of hungering and thirsting is to grow in the righteousness received from trusting in Christ. That growth is sanctification, which more than anything else is the mark of a Christian.

No believer “arrives” in his spiritual life until he reaches heaven, and to claim perfection of any sort before then is the ultimate presumption. Children of the kingdom never stop needing or hungering for more of God’s righteousness and holiness to be manifest in them through their obedience. Paul prayed for believers in Philippi that their love might “abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ” (Phil. 1:9–10).

In the Greek language, verbs such as hunger and thirst normally have objects that are in the partitive genitive, a case that indicates incompleteness, or partialness. A literal English rendering would be: “I hunger for of food” or “I thirst for of water.” The idea is that a person only hungers for some food and some water, not for all the food and water in the world.

But Jesus does not here use the partitive genitive but the accusative, and righteousness is therefore the unqualified and unlimited object of hunger and thirst. The Lord identifies those who desire all the righteousness there is (cf. Matt. 5:48; 1 Pet. 1:15–16).

Jesus also uses the definite article (tēn), indicating that He is not speaking of just any righteousness, but the righteousness, the only true righteousness-that which comes from God and, in fact, is God’s very own righteousness which He has in Himself.

It becomes obvious, then, that we cannot possibly have our longing for godliness satisfied in this life, so we are left to continually hunger and thirst until the day we are clothed entirely in Christ’s righteousness.

The Result of Spiritual Hunger

The result of hungering and thirsting for righteousness is being satisfied. Chortazō was frequently used of the feeding of animals until they wanted nothing more. They were allowed to eat until they were completely satisfied.

Jesus’ divine pronouncement is that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be given total satisfaction. The giving of satisfaction is God’s work, as the future passive tense indicates: they shall be satisfied. Our part is to seek; His part is to satisfy.

Again there is a marvelous paradox, because though saints continually seek God’s righteousness, always wanting more and never getting all, they nevertheless will be satisfied. We may eat steak or our favorite pie until we can eat no more, yet our taste for those things continues and even increases. It is the very satisfaction that makes us want more. We want to eat more of those things because they are so satisfying. The person who genuinely hungers and thirsts for God’s righteousness finds it so satisfying that he wants more and more.

God’s satisfying those who seek and love Him is a repeated theme in the Psalms. “For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good” (Ps. 107:9). “The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; but they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing” (34:10). The best-loved of all psalms begins, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” and later declares, “Thou dost prepare a table before me … my cup overflows” (23:1, 5).

Predicting the great blessings of Christ’s millennial kingdom, Jeremiah assured Israel that in that day, “ ‘My people shall be satisfied with My goodness,’ declares the Lord” (Jer. 31:14). Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar that “whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:14). To the crowds near Capernaum, many of whom had been among the five thousand He fed with the five barley loaves and the two fish, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

The Testing Of Spiritual Hunger

There are several marks of genuine hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness. First is dissatisfaction with self. The person who is pleased with his own righteousness will see no need for God’s. The great Puritan Thomas Watson wrote, “He has most need of righteousness that least wants it,” No matter how rich his spiritual experience or how advanced his spiritual maturity, the hungering Christian will always say, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24).

Second is freedom from dependence on external things for satisfaction. A hungry man cannot be satisfied by an arrangement of lovely flowers, or beautiful music, or pleasant conversation. All of those things are good, but they have no ability to satisfy hunger. Neither can anything but God’s own righteousness satisfy the person who has true spiritual hunger and thirst.

Third is craving for the Word of God, the basic spiritual food lie provides His children. A hungry man does not have to be begged to eat. Jeremiah rejoiced, “Thy words were found and I ate them, and Thy words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart” (Jer. 15:16). The more we seek God’s righteousness, the more we will want to devour Scripture. Feeding on God’s Word increases our appetite for it.

Fourth is the pleasantness of the things of God. “To a famished man any bitter thing is sweet” (Prov. 27:7). The believer who seeks God’s righteousness above all other things will find fulfillment and satisfaction even in those things that humanly are disastrous. Thomas Watson comments that “the one who hungers and thirsts after righteousness can feed on the myrrh of the gospel as well as the honey.” Even the Lord’s reproofs and discipline bring satisfaction, because they are signs of our Father’s love. “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives” (Heb. 12:6).

A final mark of true spiritual hunger is unconditionality. When our spiritual hunger and thirst are genuine they will make no conditions; they will seek and accept God’s righteousness in whatever way He chooses to provide it and will obey His commands no matter how demanding they may be. The least of God’s righteousness is more valuable than the greatest of anything we possess in ourselves or that the world can offer. The rich young ruler wanted only the part of God’s kingdom that fit his own plans and desires, and he was therefore unfit for the kingdom. He thirsted more for other things than for the things of God. His conditions for God’s blessings barred him from them.

The spiritually hungry do not ask for Christ and economic success, Christ and personal satisfaction, Christ and popularity, or Christ and anything else. They want only Christ and what God in His wisdom and love sovereignly provides through Christ-whatever that may or may not be.

The spiritually hungry cry, “My soul is crushed with longing after Thine ordinances at all times” (Ps. 119:20), and they confess, “At night my soul longs for Thee, indeed, my spirit within me seeks Thee diligently” (Isa. 26:9).[1]


6 “Hunger and thirst” vividly express desire. The sons of Korah cried, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Ps 42:2; cf. 63:1). The deepest spiritual famine is hunger for the word of God (Am 8:11–14).

The precise nature of the righteousness for which the blessed hunger and thirst is disputed. Some argue that it is the imputed righteousness of God—eschatological salvation or, more narrowly, justification: the blessed hunger for it and receive it (e.g., Grundmann; McNeile; Zahn; Barth [“Matthew’s Understanding of the Law,” 123–24]; Bultmann [Theology of the New Testament, 1:273]; Schrenk [TDNT, 2:198]). This is certainly plausible, since the immediate context does arouse hopes for God’s eschatological action, and hungering suggests that the righteousness that satisfies will be given as a gift.

The chief objection is that dikaiosynē (“righteousness,” GK 1466) in Matthew does not have that sense anywhere else (cf. Przybylski, Righteousness in Matthew, 96–98). So it is better to take this righteousness as simultaneously personal righteousness (cf. Hill, Greek Words, 127–28.; Strecker, Weg der Gerechtigkeit, 156–58) and justice in the broadest sense (cf. Ridderbos, Coming of the Kingdom, 190–91; Turner). These people hunger and thirst, not only that they may be righteous (i.e., that they may wholly do God’s will from the heart), but that justice may be done everywhere. All unrighteousness grieves them and makes them homesick for the new heaven and new earth—the home of righteousness (2 Pe 3:13). Satisfied with neither personal righteousness alone nor social justice alone, they cry for both. In short, they long for the advent of the messianic kingdom. What they taste now whets their appetites for more. Ultimately they will be satisfied (same verb as in 14:20; Php 4:12; Rev 19:21) without qualification only when the kingdom is consummated (see discussion in Gundry).[2]


5:6 Next, a blessing is pronounced on those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: they are promised satisfaction. These people have a passion for righteousness in their own lives; they long to see honesty, integrity, and justice in society; they look for practical holiness in the church. Like the people of whom Gamaliel Bradford wrote, they have “a thirst no earthly stream can satisfy, a hunger that must feed on Christ or die.” These people will be abundantly satisfied in Christ’s coming kingdom: they shall be filled, for righteousness will reign and corruption will give way to the highest moral standards.[3]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 177–185). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, p. 164). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1216). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

April 4 – Being Poor in Spirit

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3).

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If you are poor in spirit, certain characteristics will mark your life.

The Puritan writer Thomas Watson listed seven ways to determine if you are poor in spirit (The Beatitudes [Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1971], pp. 45–48): ✧ You will be weaned from self. Psalm 131:2 says, “Like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me.” When you are poor in spirit, you will focus not on yourself but on glorifying God and ministering to others. ✧ You will focus on Christ. Second Corinthians 3:18 says that believers are “beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, [and] are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” When you are poor in spirit, the wonder of Christ captivates you. To be like Him is your highest goal. ✧ You will never complain. If you are poor in spirit, you accept God’s sovereign control over your circumstances, knowing you deserve nothing anyway. Yet the greater your needs, the more abundantly He provides. ✧ You will see good in others. A person who is poor in spirit recognizes his own weaknesses and appreciates the strengths of others. ✧ You will spend time in prayer. It is characteristic of beggars to beg. Therefore you will constantly be in God’s presence seeking His strength and blessing. ✧ You will take Christ on His terms. Those who are poor in spirit will give up anything to please Christ, whereas the proud sinner wants simply to add Christ to his sinful lifestyle. ✧ You will praise and thank God. When you are poor in spirit, you will be filled with praise and thanks for the wonder of God’s grace, which He lavishes on you through Christ (Eph. 1:6).

Do those principles characterize your life? If so, you are poor in spirit and the Kingdom of Heaven is yours (Matt. 5:3). If not, you must seek God’s forgiveness and begin to live as His humble child.

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart, revealing any attitudes or motives that displease Him. Seek His grace in changing them.

For Further Study: Read 3 John. Would you characterize Gaius as poor in spirit? Diotrephes? Explain.[1]


The Poor in Spirit

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (5:3)

Discussion of this first beatitude demands that it be looked at from five perspectives: the meaning of poor in spirit, the location of this virtue in the list, the way to achieve that attitude, how to know if we have that attitude, and the result promised for having it.

The Meaning of Poor in Spirit

Ptōchos (poor) is from a verb meaning “to shrink, cower, or cringe,” as beggars often did in that day. Classical Greek used the word to refer to a person reduced to total destitution, who crouched in a corner begging. As he held out one hand for alms he often hid his face with the other hand, because he was ashamed of being recognized. The term did not mean simply poor, but begging poor. It is used in Luke 16:20 to describe the beggar Lazarus.

The word commonly used for ordinary poverty was penichros, and is used of the widow Jesus saw giving an offering in the Temple. She had very little, but she did have “two small copper coins” (Luke 21:2). She was poor but not a beggar. One who is penichros poor has at least some meager resources. One who is ptōchos poor, however, is completely dependent on others for sustenance. He has absolutely no means of self-support.

Because of a similar statement in Luke 6:20-“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God”-some interpreters have maintained that the beatitude of Matthew 5:3 teaches material poverty. But sound hermeneutics (the interpretation of Scripture) requires that, when two or more passages are similar but not exactly alike, the clearer one explains the others, the more explicit clarifies the less explicit. By comparing Scripture with Scripture we see that the Matthew account is the more explicit. Jesus is speaking of a spiritual poverty that corresponds to the material poverty of one who is ptōchos.

If Jesus were here advocating material poverty He would have contradicted many other parts of His Word-including the Sermon on the Mount itself (5:42)-that teach us to give financial help to the poor. If Jesus was teaching the innate blessedness of material poverty, then the task of Christians would be to help make everyone, including themselves, penniless. Jesus did not teach that material poverty is the path to spiritual prosperity.

Those who are materially poor do have some advantages in spiritual matters by not having certain distractions and temptations; and the materially rich have some disadvantage by having certain distractions and temptations. But material possessions have no necessary relationship to spiritual blessings. Matthew makes clear that Jesus is here talking about the condition of the spirit, not of the wallet.

After He began His public ministry, Jesus often had “nowhere to lay His head” (Matt. 8:20), but He and His disciples were not destitute and never begged for bread. Paul was beaten, imprisoned, shipwrecked, stoned, and often economically hard pressed; but neither did he ever beg for bread. It was, in fact, a badge of honor for him that he worked in order to pay his own expenses in the ministry (Acts 20:34; 1 Cor. 9:6–18). The Lord and the apostles were accused of being ignorant, troublemakers, irreligious, and even mad; but they were never charged with being indigent or beggars.

On the other hand, no New Testament believer is condemned for being rich. Nicodemus, the Roman centurion of Luke 7, Joseph of Arimathea, and Philemon were all wealthy and faithful. That “not many mighty, not many noble” are called (1 Cor. 1:26) is not because they are rejected due to their positions or possessions but because so many of them trust only in those things (1 Tim. 6:6–17).

To be poor is spirit is to recognize one’s spiritual poverty apart from God. It is to see oneself as one really is: lost, hopeless, helpless. Apart from Jesus Christ every person is spiritually destitute, no matter what his education, wealth, social status, accomplishments, or religious knowledge.

That is the point of the first beatitude. The poor in spirit are those who recognize their total spiritual destitution and their complete dependence on God. They perceive that there are no saving resources in themselves and that they can only beg for mercy and grace. They know they have no spiritual merit, and they know they can earn no spiritual reward. Their pride is gone, their self-assurance is gone, and they stand empty-handed before God.

In spirit also conveys the sense that the recognition of poverty is genuine, not an act. It does not refer to outwardly acting like a spiritual beggar, but to recognizing what one really is. It is true humility, not mock humility. It describes the person about whom the Lord speaks in Isaiah 66:2-“To this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” It describes the person who is “brokenhearted” and “crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18), who has “a broken and a contrite heart” before the Lord (Ps. 51:17).

Jesus told the parable of the Pharisee and the tax-gatherer to “certain ones who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt.” As the Pharisee stood praying in the Temple, he proudly recited his virtues and gave thanks that he was not like those who are sinful, especially the tax-gatherer who was nearby. The tax-gatherer, however, “was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me, the sinner!’ ” The tax-gatherer, Jesus said, “went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted” (Luke 18:9–14). The Pharisee was proud in spirit; the tax-gatherer was poor in spirit.

When God called Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt, Moses pleaded his unworthiness, and God was able to use him mightily. Peter was still aggressive, self-assertive, and proud, but when Jesus miraculously provided the great catch of fish, Peter was so overawed that he confessed, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8). Even after he became an apostle, Paul recognized that “nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (Rom. 7:18), that he was the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15), and that the best things he could do in himself were rubbish (Phil. 3:8).

In his Confessions Augustine makes clear that pride was his greatest barrier to receiving the gospel. He was proud of his intellect, his wealth, and his prestige. Until he recognized that those things were less than nothing, Christ could do nothing for him. Until Martin Luther realized that all his sacrifice, rituals, and self-abuse counted for nothing before God, he could find no way to come to God or to please Him.

Even at Sinai, when the law was given, it was evident that God’s own chosen people could not fulfill its demands on their own. As Moses was receiving the law on the mountain, Aaron was leading the people in a pagan orgy in the valley below (Ex. 32:1–6).

Israelites who were spiritually sensitive knew they needed God’s power to keep God’s law. In humility they confessed their helplessness and pleaded for His mercy and strength. David began his great penitential psalm with the plea “Be gracious to me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Thy compassion blot out my transgressions. … For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Ps. 51:1, 3).

Other Israelites, however, took another approach to the law. Knowing they could not fulfill its demands, they simply brought the law down to a level that was more manageable and acceptable. They piled interpretation upon interpretation, creating man-made traditions that were possible to keep in the flesh. Those traditions came to be known as the Talmud, a commentary on the law that leading rabbis developed over many centuries and that eventually superseded the law in the minds of most Jews. They exchanged the Torah (God’s revealed law) for the Talmud (man’s modification of the law). In the name of interpreting and protecting the law they contradicted and weakened it. They brought God’s standards down to men’s standards-which they could keep without God’s help. They then taught as doctrine those precepts of men (Matt. 15:9). They made the fatal error of thinking that God was less holy than He is and that they were more holy than they were. The result was the illusion that they were sufficiently righteous to please God.

Traditions have to do with what we can see and measure. They involve only the outer man, whereas God’s law involved the whole man. The Ten Commandments cannot be fulfilled simply by doing or not doing outward acts. They not only forbid making idols but also require love of God (Ex. 20:4, 6). Honoring father and mother is first of all an attitude, a matter of the heart, as is covetousness (vv. 12, 17).

Every thoughtful Jew knew that God’s law was far above his own human power to obey. The proud and self-satisfied responded by diluting the law. The humble and penitent responded by calling to God for help.

If God’s Old Testament standards are impossible for man to meet by himself, how much less attainable by one’s own power are the standards of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus here teaches not only that people must love God but that they “are to be perfect, as [their] heavenly Father is perfect” (5:48), and that unless their righteousness exceeds the external, man-originated “righteousness … of the scribes and Pharisees, [they] shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (5:20).

Why Humility is First

Jesus puts this beatitude first because humility is the foundation of all other graces, a basic element in becoming a Christian (Matt. 18:3–4). Pride has no part in Christ’s kingdom, and until a person surrenders pride he cannot enter the kingdom. The door into His kingdom is low, and no one who stands tall will ever go through it. We cannot be filled until we are empty; we cannot be made worthy until we recognize our unworthiness; we cannot live until we admit we are dead. We might as well expect fruit to grow without a tree as to expect the other graces of the Christian life to grow without humility. We cannot begin the Christian life without humility, and we cannot live the Christian life with pride.

Yet in the church today there is little emphasis on humility, little mention of self-emptying We see many Christian books on how to be happy, how to be successful, how to overcome problems, and on and on. But we see very few books on how to empty ourselves, how to deny ourselves, and how to take up our crosses and follow Jesus-in the way that He tells us to follow Him.

Until a soul is humbled, until the inner person is poor in spirit, Christ can never become dear, because He is obscured by self. Until one knows how helpless, worthless, and sinful he is in himself, he can never see how mighty, worthy, and glorious Christ is in Himself. Until one sees how doomed he is, he cannot see what a Redeemer the Lord is. Until one sees his own poverty he cannot see God’s riches. Only when one admits to his own deadhess can Christ give him His life. “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord” (Prov. 16:5).

Being poor in spirit is the first beatitude because humility must precede everything else. No one can receive the kingdom until he recognizes that he is unworthy of the kingdom. The church in Laodicea said proudly, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” not knowing that she was instead “wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Rev. 3:17). Those who refuse to recognize that they are lost and helpless are like the blind Roman slave girl who insisted that she was not blind but that the world was permanently dark.

Where self is exalted, Christ cannot be. Where self is king, Christ cannot be. Until the proud in spirit become poor in spirit, they cannot receive the King or inherit His kingdom.

Achieving Humility

How, then, do we become poor in spirit? Almost by definition, it cannot start with us, with anything we can do or accomplish in our own power. Nor does it involve putting ourselves down. We are already down; humility simply recognizes the truth. And simply being hopeless, helpless, and in need obviously is no virtue. That is not God’s will for anyone. His will is to get us out of that condition and into blessing. The fulfillment of that goal depends on His sovereign, gracious work of humbling.

Humility is not a necessary human work to make us worthy, but a necessary divine work to make us see that we are unworthy and cannot change our condition without God. That is why monasticism, asceticism, physical self-denial, mutilation, and other such self-efforts are so foolish and futile. They feed pride rather than subdue it, because they are works of the flesh. They give a person a reason to boast in what he has done or not done. Such self-imposed efforts are enemies of humility.

Yet even though genuine humility is produced by the Lord as an element of the work of salvation, it is also commanded of men. There are numerous divine commands to humble oneself (Matt. 18:4; 23:12; James 4:10; 1 Pet. 5:5), which the Lord perfectly harmonizes with His sovereign work of humbling. Sovereign saving work is never without personal cooperation. Because of that it is helpful to look at some of the steps from the human side of the divine paradox.

The first step in experiencing humility is to turn our eyes off ourselves and to look to God. When we study His Word, seek His face in prayer, and sincerely desire to be near Him and please Him, we move toward being poor in spirit. It is the vision of the infinitely Holy God in all His sinless purity and perfection that allows us to see ourselves as sinners by contrast. To seek humility, we do not look at ourselves to find the faults, but at God Almighty to behold His perfection.

Second, we must starve the flesh by removing the things on which it feeds. The essence of the fleshly nature is pride, and to starve the flesh is to remove and avoid those things that promote pride. Rather than looking for praise, compliments, and popularity, we should we be wary of them. Yet because our human sinfulness has a way of turning even the best intentions to its advantage, we need to be careful not to make an issue of avoiding praise and recognition. The evil is not in being given praise but in seeking it and glorying in it. When, without having sought it, we are praised or honored, to ungraciously reject the recognition may be an act of pride rather than of humility.

The third and balancing principle in coming to humility is asking God for it. With David we should pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10). Humility, like every other good gift, comes only from God. Also as with every other good thing, He is more willing to give it than we are to ask for it, and He stands ready to give it long before we ask for it.

Knowing When We are Humble

How can we know if we are genuinely humble, if we are poor in spirit? Thomas Watson gives seven principles we may apply in determining humility.*

First, if we are humble we will be weaned from ourselves. We will be able to say with David, “My soul is like a weaned child within me” (Ps. 131:2). One who is poor in spirit loses his serf-preoccupation. Self is nothing, and Christ is everything. Paul’s humility is nowhere more beautifully expressed than in his saying, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20). To the Philippian believers he wrote, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

Second, humility will lead us to be lost in the wonder of Christ, “with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, … being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18). Our satisfaction will be in the prospect of one day being fully in the likeness of our Lord.

Third, we will not complain about our situation, no matter how bad it may become. Because we know we deserve worse than anything we can experience in this life, we will consider no circumstance to be unfair. When tragedy comes we will not say, “Why me, Lord?” When our suffering is for Christ’s sake we not only will not complain or feel ashamed but will glorify God for it (1 Pet. 4:16), knowing that we will “also be glorified with Him” and realizing “that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:17–18).

Fourth, we will more clearly see the strengths and virtues of others as well as our own weaknesses and sins. With “humility of mind” we will “regard one another as more important than [ourselves]” (Phil. 2:3) and will “give preference to one another in honor” (Rom. 12:10).

Fifth, we will spend much time in prayer. Just as the physical beggar begs for physical sustenance, the spiritual beggar begs for spiritual. We will knock often at heavens gate because we are always in need. Like Jacob wrestling with the angel, we will not let go until we are blessed.

Sixth, we will take Christ on His terms, not on ours or any other. We will not try to have Christ while keeping our pride, our pleasures, our covetousness, or our immorality. We will not modify His standards by ecclesiastical traditions or by our own inclinations or persuasons. His Word alone will be our standard.

Watson said, “A castle that has long been besieged and is ready to be taken will deliver up on any terms to save their lives. He whose heart has been a garrison for the devil, and has held out long in opposition against Christ, when once God has brought him to poverty of spirit and he sees himself damned without Christ, let God propound what articles he will, he will readily subscribe to them. Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?’ ” (p. 47).

Seventh, when we are poor in spirit we will praise and thank God for His grace. Nothing more characterizes the humble believer than abounding gratitude to his Lord and Savior. He knows that he has no blessings and no happiness but that which the Father gives in love and grace. He knows that God’s grace is “more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 1:14).

The Result of Being Poor in Spirit

Those who come to the King in this humility inherit His kingdom, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. God has gladly chosen to give the kingdom to those who humbly come to Him and trust Him (Luke 12:32).

When the Lord called Gideon to deliver Israel from the Midianites, Gideon replied, “O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house”-to which God answered, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man” (Judg. 6:15–16). When Isaiah “saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted,” he cried in despair, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips.” Then an attending seraph touched the prophet’s mouth with a burning coal and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven” (Isa. 6:1, 5–7).

Those who come to the Lord with broken hearts do not leave with broken hearts. “For thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, ‘I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite”’ (Isa. 57:15). God wants us to recognize our poverty so that He can make us rich. He wants us to recognize our lowliness so that He can raise us up. “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord,” James says, “and He will exalt you” (James 4:10).

In giving up their own kingdom, the poor in spirit inherit Gods.[2]


3 Two words and their cognates stand behind “blessed” and “blessing” in the NT. The word used in vv. 3–11 is makarios (GK 3421), which usually corresponds in the LXX to, ʾas̆rê (GK 897), a Hebrew term used almost as an interjection: “Oh the blessednesses [pl.] of.” Usually makarios describes the person who is singularly favored by God and therefore in some sense “happy”; but the word can apply to God (1 Ti 1:11; 6:15). The other word is eulogētos (GK 2329), found in the LXX primarily for Hebrew berākâ (GK 1388) and used chiefly in connection with God in both OT and NT (e.g., Mk 14:61; Lk 1:68; Ro 1:25; 2 Co 1:3). Eulogētos does not occur in Matthew; but the cognate verb appears five times (Mt 14:19; 21:9; 23:39; 25:34; 26:26), in one of which it applies to man (25:34), not God or Christ. Attempts to make makarios mean “happy” and eulogētos “blessed” (Broadus) are therefore futile. Though both appear many times, both can apply to either God or man. It is difficult not to conclude that their common factor is approval: man “blesses” God, approving and praising him; God “blesses” man, approving him in gracious condescension. Applied to man, the OT words are certainly synonymous (cf. THAT, 1:356).

As for “happy” (TEV), it will not do for the beatitudes, having been devalued in modern usage. The Greek “describes a state not of inner feeling on the part of those to whom it is applied, but of blessedness from an ideal point of view in the judgment of others” (Allen). In the eschatological setting of Matthew, “blessed” can only promise eschatological blessing (cf. NIDNTT, 1:216–17; TDNT, 4:367–70); and each particular blessing is specified by the second clause of each beatitude.

The “poor in spirit” are the ones who are “blessed.” Since Luke speaks simply of “the poor,” many have concluded that he preserves the true teaching of the historical Jesus—concern for the economically destitute—while Matthew has “spiritualized” it by adding “in spirit.” The issue is not so simple. Already in the OT, “the poor” has religious overtones. The word ptōchos (“poor”—in classical Gr., “beggar,” GK 4777) has a different force in the LXX and NT. It translates several Hebrew words, most important (in the plural) ʿanāwîm (“the poor,” the plural of GK 6705; see also GK 6714), i.e., those who because of sustained economic privation and social distress have confidence only in God (e.g., Pss 37:14; 40:17; 69:28–29, 32–33; Pr 16:19 [NIV, “the oppressed”; NASB, “the lowly”]; 29:23; Isa 61:1; cf. Pss. Sol. 5:2, 11; 10:7). Thus it joins with passages affirming God’s favor on the lowly and contrite in spirit (e.g., Isa 57:15; 66:2). This does not mean there is lack of concern for the materially poor but that poverty itself is not the chief thing (cf. the prodigal son’s “self-made” poverty). Far from conferring spiritual advantage, wealth and privilege entail great spiritual peril (see comments at 6:24; 19:23–24). Yet, though poverty is neither a blessing nor a guarantee of spiritual rewards, it can be turned to advantage if it fosters humility before God.

That this is the way to interpret v. 3 is confirmed by similar expressions in the Dead Sea Scrolls (esp. 1QM 11:9; 14:6–7; 1QS 4:3; 1QH 5:22). “Poor” and “righteous” become almost equivalent in Sirach 13:17–21; CD 19:9; 4QpPs (37) 2:8–11 (cf. Schweizer; Bonnard; Dodd, “New Testament Translation Problems I,” 307–10). These parallels do not prove literary dependence, but they do show that Matthew’s “poor in spirit” rightly interprets Luke’s “poor” (cf. Gundry, Use of the Old Testament, 69–71). In rabbinic circles, too, meekness and poverty of spirit were highly praised (cf. Felix Böhl, “Die Demut als höchste der Tugenden,” BZ 20 [1976]: 217–23).

Yet biblical balance is easy to prostitute. The emperor Julian the Apostate (AD 332–63) is reputed to have said with vicious irony that he wanted to confiscate Christians’ property so that they might all become poor and enter the kingdom of heaven. On the other hand, the wealthy too easily dismiss Jesus’ teaching about poverty here and elsewhere (see comments at 6:24) as merely attitudinal and confuse their hoarding with good stewardship. R. T. France (“God and Mammon,” 3–21) presents a fine balance in these matters.

To be poor in spirit is not to lack courage but to acknowledge spiritual bankruptcy. It confesses one’s unworthiness before God and utter dependence on him. Therefore those who interpret the Sermon on the Mount as law and not gospel—whether by H. Windisch’s historical reconstructions (The Meaning of the Sermon on the Mount [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1951] or by classical dispensationalism (cf. Carson, Sermon on the Mount, 155–57), which calls the sermon “pure law” (though it concedes that its principles have a “beautiful moral application” for the Christian)—stumble at the first sentence (cf. Stott, Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 36–38). The kingdom of heaven is not given on the basis of race (cf. 3:9), earned merits, the military zeal and prowess of Zealots, or the wealth of a Zacchaeus. It is given to the poor, the despised publicans, the prostitutes, those who are so “poor” they know they can offer nothing and do not try. They cry for mercy, and they alone are heard.

These themes recur repeatedly in Matthew and present the sermon’s ethical demands in a setting that does not treat the resulting conduct as conditions for entrance to the kingdom that people themselves can achieve. All must begin by confessing that by themselves they can achieve nothing. Fuller disclosures of the gospel in the years beyond Jesus’ earthly ministry do not change this; in the last book of the canon, an established church must likewise recognize its precarious position when it claims to be rich and fails to see its own poverty (Rev 3:14–22).

The kingdom of heaven (see comments at 3:2; 4:17) belongs to the poor in spirit. It is they who enjoy Messiah’s reign and the blessings he brings. They joyfully accept his rule and participate in the life of the kingdom (7:14). The reward in the last beatitude is the same as in the first. The literary structure, an “inclusio” or envelope, establishes that everything included within it concerns the kingdom: i.e., the blessings of the intervening beatitudes are kingdom blessings, and the beatitudes themselves are kingdom norms.

While the rewards of vv. 4–9 are future (“will be comforted,” “will inherit,” etc.), the first and last are present (“for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”). Yet one must not make too much of this, for the present tense can function as a future, and the future tense emphasizes expectation, not mere futurity. There is little doubt that here the kingdom sense is primarily future, postconsummation, made explicit in v. 12. But the present tense “envelope” (vv. 3, 10) should not be written off as insignificant or as masking an Aramaic original that did not specify present or future, for Matthew must have meant something when he chose estin (“is”) instead of estai (“will be”). The natural conclusion is that, though the full blessedness of those described in these beatitudes awaits the consummated kingdom, they already share in the kingdom’s blessedness so far as it has been inaugurated (see comments at 4:17; 8:29; 12:28; 19:29).[3]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 107). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 145–151). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 161–162). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

APRIL 4 – WORTH OF A SOUL: GOD GAVE HIS ONLY SON

…Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

MATTHEW 16:26

In the world’s markets, something which has no value for a disinterested person may be considered of great value to another who desires it and purchases it. In this sense, we may learn how dear and precious we are to Christ by what He was willing to give for us!

Many Christians are tempted to downgrade themselves too much. I am not arguing against true humility and my word to you is this: Think as little of yourself as you want to, but always remember that our Lord Jesus Christ thought very highly of you—enough to give Himself for you in death and sacrifice!

If the devil comes to you and whispers that you are no good, don’t argue with him. In fact, you may as well admit it, but then remind the devil: “Regardless of what you say about me, I must tell you how the Lord feels about me. He tells me that I am so valuable to Him that He gave Himself for me on the cross!”

So the value is set by the price paid—and in our case, the price paid was our Lord Himself, and the end that the Saviour had in view was that He might redeem us from all iniquity, that is, from the power and consequences of iniquity.

One of Wesley’s hymns speaks of “the double cure” for sin. The wrath of God against sin and the power of sin in the human life—both of these were dealt with when Christ gave Himself for us. He redeemed us with a double cure![1]


Jesus reinforced the paradox by adding, “For what will a man be profiled, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Here is the ultimate hyperbole. “Imagine, if you can,” Jesus was saying, “what it would be like to somehow possess the whole world. Of what lasting benefit would that be, if in gaining it you forfeited your soul, your eternal life?” Such a person would be a walking dead man who temporarily owned everything but who faced an eternity in hell rather than in heaven.

“Or,” Jesus continued, “what could possibly be worth having during this lifetime, if to gain it you would have to exchange your soul?” To gain every possession possible in this world and yet be without Christ is to be bankrupt forever. But to abandon everything in this world for the sake of Christ is to be rich forever (cf. Matt. 6:19–21).[2]


25–26 The logic is relentless: gar (“for”) begins vv. 25, 26, 27. For the sense of v. 25, see comments at 10:39. The orientation is eschatological. Saving one’s psychē (NIV, “life,” GK 6034; see comments at 10:28) now will result in losing it at the end, and losing it now will result in finding it at the end. Verse 26 (cf. 2 Bar. 51:15) furthers the argument by asking twin rhetorical questions, showing the folly of possessing all created abundance and wealth at the expense of one’s psychē. The NIV here changes its rendering “life” (v. 25) to “soul” (v. 26). This is not necessarily wrong. The abrupt change from the physical to the spiritual is amply attested elsewhere (cf. 8:22; Jn 4:10; 6:27); but the change in English is perhaps too sharp (cf. Lk 9:25: “his very self”). The focus is still eschatological, and the loss is the eternal loss of one’s soul = life = self (on the afterlife, see comments at 22:23–33). Terminology aside, the bargain is a bad one.[3]


16:26 The second temptation—that of getting rich—is irrational. “Suppose,” said Jesus, “that a man became so successful in business that he owned the whole world. This mad quest would absorb so much of his time and energy that he would miss the central purpose of his life. What good would it do to make all that money, then die, leave it all behind, and spend eternity empty-handed?” Man is here for bigger business than to make money. He is called to represent the interests of his King. If he misses that, he misses everything.

In verse 24, Jesus told them the worst. That is characteristic of Christianity; you know the worst at the outset. But you never cease discovering the treasures and the blessings. Barnhouse put it well:

When one has seen all that is forbidding in the Scriptures, there is nothing left hidden that can come as a surprise. Every new thing which we shall ever learn in this life or the next will come as a delight.[4]


16:26 exchange. At the judgment when he faces the disastrous hell of remorse and suffering for his lost soul, with what will he buy it back from perdition? Nothing.[5] 16:26 gains the whole world. Acquiring all of the money, pleasure, and power of this world brings no lasting benefit if one forfeits his soul to spiritual death and separation from God (cf. Phil. 3:7–9).[6]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Mt 16:25). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, p. 431). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1268–1269). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[5] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Mt 16:26). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[6] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1856). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

APRIL 4 – HOPE—OR DESPAIR?

A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.

John 3:27

 

John the Baptist gave his questioners a brief sentence that I have called the “hope and the despair” of mankind. He told them that “a man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.”

John was not referring to men’s gifts. He was speaking of spiritual truth. Divine truth is of the nature of the Holy Spirit, and for that reason it can be received only by spiritual revelation.

In his New Testament letters, the Apostle Paul declares again and again the inability of human reason to discover or comprehend divine truth. In that inability we see human despair.

John the Baptist said, “Except it be given him from heaven”—and this is our hope! These words do certainly mean that there is such a thing as a gift of knowing, a gift that comes from heaven. Jesus promised His disciples that the Holy Spirit of truth would come and teach them all things (see John 16:13–14).

Jesus also prayed: “I thank thee, O Father, because thou hast hid these things from the wise, and hast revealed them unto babes” (see Luke 10:21).

 

Lord, I pray that as I read Your Word, Your Spirit will help me perceive its spiritual truth and apply it to my life.[1]


Unlike his overly zealous followers, however, John was not bothered in the least by his declining popularity. Despite his tremendous initial influence, he had always remained focused on the purpose of his ministry that he had probably known from childhood—to testify to Christ (cf. 1:27, 30). Now as his ministry began to wind down, John’s purpose did not waver. His humble reply must have startled his disciples: “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.” In this way, he affirmed and embraced his subordinate role as the herald of the Messiah. God had sovereignly granted him his ministry (cf. Rom. 1:5; 1 Cor. 4:7; 15:10; Eph. 3:7; 1 Tim. 2:7); if God now chose to change or end that ministry, John was content. Everything among God’s servants, including popular ministry, is a gracious gift from God, not something to which a person is entitled. Therefore there is no place for jealousy, as John’s self-effacing reply indicated (note the opposite reaction by the Pharisees in 12:19). [2]


3:27 If John’s reply was referring to the Lord Jesus, it means that any success the Savior received was an indication of God’s approval on Him. If John was referring to himself, he was saying that he had never pretended to be anyone great or important. He had never claimed that his baptism was superior to that of Jesus. He simply said here that he did not have anything but what he had received from heaven. That is true of all of us, and there is no reason in the world why we should be proud or seek to build up ourselves in men’s esteem.[3]


3:27 given him from heaven. This verse emphasizes God’s sovereign authority in granting ministry opportunity (cf. 1Co 4:7; 15:10).[4]


3:27 unless it is granted to him from heaven John’s disciples were concerned about the diminishing interest in his baptism compared to Jesus’ rising popularity. John reassures them by again explicitly deferring to Jesus’ superiority.[5]


3:27 A person cannot receive. God is the Author of all that we receive (1 Cor. 4:7).[6]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). John 1–11 (p. 127). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1481). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Jn 3:27). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Jn 3:27). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1515). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

April 4 – We Must Defend and Proclaim the Word

For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.—Matt. 5:18

In considering our obligations to the divine Scripture, two other major obligations are crucial for the Christian. First, he or she must defend the Word of God. We should strive for the integrity, authority, and purity of the Bible. As Jude exhorts us, we must “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3). Charles Spurgeon wrote this about defending the Word:

The everlasting gospel is worth preaching even if one stood on a burning fagot and addressed the crowds from a pulpit of flames. The truths revealed in Scripture are worth living for and they are worth dying for. I count myself thrice happy, to bear reproach for the sake of the faith.

Lastly, those who love the Lord live to proclaim God’s Word. Spurgeon is again relevant:

I would stir you all up to be instant in season and out of season in telling out the gospel message, especially to repeat such a word as this: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Whisper it in the ear of the sick, shout it in the corner of the streets, write it on your tablet, send it forth from the press, but everywhere let this be your great motive and warrant.

ASK YOURSELF

If you’re not a preacher, you may feel somewhat excluded from this biblical mandate. But in what ways can proclamation be a part of your life? What opportunities are available for you to inject God’s truth into discourse or conversation?[1]


Christ and the Law—Part 2: The Permanence of Scripture

For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished. (5:18)

The honest Jew of Jesus’ day knew he could not fulfill all the requirements of the Mosaic law, and that he could not even keep all the traditions developed over the years by the rabbis and scribes. Many hoped the Messiah would bring God’s standards down to a level they could manage.

But as indicated in previous chapters,Jesus made it clear in His first major sermon that God’s true standard was even higher than the traditions, and that, as the Messiah, He had not come to diminish the law in the least bit, but to uphold and fulfill it in every detail.

By introducing His statement with truly I say to you, Jesus confirmed the special importance of what He was about to say. Amēn (truly) was a term of strong, intense affirmation. Jesus was saying, “I say this to you absolutely, without qualification and with the fullest authority.”

His teaching not only was absolute but was permanent. Until heaven and earth pass away represents the end of time as we know it, the end of earthly history. As God’s Word, the law would outlast the universe, which someday will cease to exist. “The present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2 Pet. 3:7; cf. v. 10). Even the psalmist knew that “Of old Thou didst found the earth; and the heavens are the work of Thy hands. Even they will perish, but Thou dost endure; and all of them will wear out like a garment; like clothing Thou wilt change them, and they will be changed. But Thou art the same, and Thy years will not come to an end” (Ps. 102:25–26). Isaiah said, “Lift up your eyes to the sky, then look to the earth beneath; for the sky will vanish like smoke, and the earth will wear out like a garment, and its inhabitants will die in like manner, but My righteousness shall not wane” (Isa. 51:6; cf. 34:4; Rev. 6:13–14).

Jesus equated His own words with the Word of God: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away” (Matt. 24:35). What was true of the law, in its fullest meaning as the Old Testament, was also true of Jesus’ teaching. It is timeless.

It is incredibly foolish to ask, “What does the Bible, a two-thousand-year-old book, have to say to us today?” The Bible is the eternal Word of the eternal God. It “is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12). It has long preceded and will long outlast every person who questions its validity and relevancy.

Not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, Jesus continued. The smallest letter translates the word iōta, the smallest letter of the Greek alphabet. To Jesus’ Jewish hearers it would have represented the yodh, the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which looks something like an apostrophe. A stroke (keraia) literally means “little horn” and refers to the small marks that help distinguish one Hebrew letter from another. It was a small extension of a letter similar to a serif in modern typefaces.

In other words, not only will the smallest letter not be erased, but even the smallest part of a letter will not be erased from the Law. Not even the tiniest, seemingly most insignificant, part of God’s Word will be removed or modified until all is accomplished.

As discussed in the last chapter, Jesus brought to completion all the judicial and ceremonial law and certain parts of the moral law, such as Sabbath observance. But God’s basic moral law, centered in the Ten Commandments, is still every bit as valid today as when God gave it to Moses at Sinai. During His earthly ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus fulfilled many of the prophecies of the Old Testament. Others, such as the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, would be fulfilled in later New Testament times. Still other prophecies, both of the Old and New Testaments, are yet to be fulfilled. But without the smallest exception, every commandment, every prophecy, every figure and symbol and type would be accomplished.

No other statement made by our Lord more clearly states His absolute contention that Scripture is verbally inerrant, totally without error in the original form in which God gave it. That is, Scripture is God’s own Word not only down to every single written word, but down to every letter and the smallest part of every letter.

“Fulfill” in verse 17 has the idea of completion, of filling up. Accomplished (from ginomai) has the similar meaning of becoming or taking place. Arthur Pink comments, “Everything in the Law must be fulfilled [or accomplished]: not only its prefigurations and prophecies, but its precepts and penalty: fulfilled, first, personally and vicariously, by and upon the Surety; fulfilled, second and evangelically, in and by His people; and fulfilled, third, in the doom of the wicked, who shall experience its awful curse forever and ever. Instead of Christ’s being opposed to the law of God, He came here to magnify it and render it honourable. … And rather than His teachings being subversive thereof, they confirmed and enforced it” (An Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1950], p. 57).

Jesus referred to the Old Testament at least sixty-four times, and always as authoritative truth. In the course of defending His messiahship and divinity before the unbelieving Jewish leaders in the Temple, He said, “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).

When the Sadducees tried to trip Him up by asking which of seven successive husbands would be a woman’s husband in the resurrection, that is in heaven, He replied, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures, or the power of God” (Matt. 22:29). The question itself was foolish, He said, because its very premise was wrong, “For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (v. 30). He then went on to correct the Sadducees’ view of resurrection, in which they did not believe. “But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living” (vv. 31–32).

In that confrontation with the Sadducees, Jesus’ whole argument is based on a single verb tense. In the book of Exodus, which He was here quoting, God told Moses that He is, not was, “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (3:6). Hundreds of years after those patriarchs had died, the Lord was still their God. Obviously those men were still alive. God’s Word is therefore authoritative not only down to the smallest part of every letter, but also to the grammatical forms of every word. Because Scripture itself is without error, when it is believed and obeyed it will save us from error.

Over and over again, Jesus confirmed the accuracy and the authenticity of the Old Testament. He confirmed the standard of marriage that God established in the Garden of Eden (Matt. 19:4), the murder of Abel (Luke 11:51), Noah and the flood (Matt. 24:38–39), Abraham and his faith (John 8:56), Sodom, Lot, and Lot’s wife (Luke 17:29), the call of Moses (Mark 12:26), the manna from heaven (John 6:31, 58), and the bronze serpent (John 3:14).

Jesus also made clear that Scripture was given to lead men to salvation. In Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Abraham told the rich man that if his brothers, whom he hoped to save from hell, “do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31). In other words, they had God’s Word, which was sufficient to bring them to God and to salvation-if they would believe it.

Jesus also used Scripture in His own defense. When He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness at the outset of His ministry, Jesus countered each temptation with quotations from Deuteronomy (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10; cf. Deut. 8:3; 6:16, 13). He could have challenged the devil in the power and authority of new words spoken simply for that occasion. But in quoting the Scriptures, He testified to their divine origin and authority.

I heard a preacher once say, “The one thing I’ve learned is that when you get into the pulpit you’ve got to somehow communicate without using the Bible, because the Bible turns people off. I’ve spent a long time developing the ability to communicate to people without ever using the Bible. I started out in my ministry saying this verse says this and this verse says that, and I finally realized that wouldn’t get me anywhere. Now I say it in my own way and people will accept it.”

What that preacher said is true. Many people today are very much turned off by the Bible. But men’s being turned off by God’s Word is hardly a new phenomenon. It has been turning off unbelievers for thousands of years. Many people today, just as in Jesus’ day-and in the days of Moses and of the prophets-would much rather hear the opinions of men than the Word of God. But those opinions cannot lead them to the truth or to salvation. Opinions that do not square with Scripture will often leave men superficially contented and satisfied, but they will also leave them in darkness and sin.

Shortly after His temptation, Jesus went into the synagogue at Nazareth “on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book, and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.’ And He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed upon Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’ ” (Luke 4:16–21; cf. Isa. 61:1).

The Lord used Scripture’s authority to establish His own. When John the Baptist sent some of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else? … Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Matt. 11:3–5). In that reply Jesus again referred to the same passage from Isaiah which predicted the Messiah and His work.

When He cleansed the Temple on returning to Jerusalem for the last time, Jesus defended His action on the basis of Scripture. “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a robbers’ den” (Mark 11:17).

It is impossible to accept Christ’s authority without accepting Scripture’s authority, and vice versa. They stand together. To accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is to accept what He taught about Scripture as binding. To be a kingdom citizen is to accept what the King says about God’s Word. To have a kingdom character and a kingdom testimony is to obey the King’s manifesto, the Scriptures. Scripture’s authority is Christ’s authority, and to obey the Lord is to obey His Word. “He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God” (John 8:47). To trust in Christ is to say of Him as Peter did, “You have words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

If the Old Testament contains any errors we must conclude one of two things about Jesus Christ. One possibility is that He was ignorant of those errors, in which case He was not omniscient and was therefore not God. The other possibility is that He knew of the errors but denied them, in which case He would have been a liar and a hypocrite, and therefore not holy God.

If not a single letter or stroke or tense of God’s Word is going to pass away, we first should receive it for what it is, “the word implanted, which is able to save [our] souls” (James 1:21). We should receive it because of the infinite majesty of the Author and His authoritative statements about it. We should receive it because of the price that God paid to get it to us, and because it is the standard of truth, joy, blessing, and salvation. And we should receive it because not to receive it brings judgment.

Second, we are called to honor God’s Word. “How sweet are Thy words to my taste!” said the psalmist, “Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Ps. 119:103). Charles Spurgeon said, “They called George Fox a Quaker. Why? Because when he spoke he would quake exceedingly through the force of the truth he so thoroughly apprehended.” He went on to say, “It were better to break stones on a road than to be a preacher, unless God had given the Holy Spirit to sustain him. The heart and soul of a man who speaks for God will know no ease, for he hears in his ears that warning admonition, ‘If the watchman warned them not, they perished, but their blood will I require at the watchman’s hands.’ Is the infallible revelation of the infallible Jehovah to be moderated, to be shaped, to be toned down to the fancies and fashions of the hour? God forbid us if we ever alter His Word.”

Martin Luther never feared men, but when he stood up to preach he often felt his knees knock together under a sense of great responsibility to be true to the Word of God.

Third, we should obey God’s Word. We should be diligent to present ourselves approved to God as workmen who do “not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Like Jeremiah, we should find God’s words and eat them (Jer. 15:16), and “let the word of Christ richly dwell within” us (Col. 3:16).

Fourth, we must defend God’s Word. We are to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Like Jude, we should fight for the integrity, purity, and authority of Scripture. Spurgeon said, “The everlasting gospel is worth preaching even if one stood on a burning fagot and addressed the crowds from a pulpit of flames. The truths revealed in Scripture are worth living for and they are worth dying for. I count myself thrice happy, to bear reproach for the sake of the faith. It is an honor of which I feel myself to be unworthy, and yet most truly I can say the words of our hymn, ‘Shall I to soothe the unholy throng, soften Thy truths and smooth my tongue to gain earth’s gilded toys, or flee the cross endured my God by Thee?’ ”

Finally, we live to proclaim God’s Word. Says Spurgeon again, “I cannot speak out my whole heart on this theme which is so dear to me, but I would stir you all up to be instant in season and out of season in telling out the gospel message, especially to repeat such a word as this: ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.’ Whisper it in the ear of the sick, shout it in the corner of the streets, write it on your tablet, send it forth from the press, but everywhere let this be your great motive and warrant. You preach the gospel because the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”[2]


18 “I tell you the truth” signals that the statement to follow is of the utmost importance (see Notes). In Greek it is connected to the preceding verse by an explanatory “for” (gar): v. 18 further explains and confirms the truth of v. 17. The “jot” (KJV) has become “the smallest letter” (NIV). This is almost certainly correct, for it refers to the letter י (yôd), the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The “tittle” (NIV, “least stroke of a pen,” keraia, GK 3037) has been variously interpreted: it is the Hebrew letter ו (wāw) (so G. Schwarz, “ἱῶτα ἕν ἣ μία κεραία [Matthäus 5:18],” ZNW 66 [1975]: 268–69) or the small stroke that distinguishes several pairs of Hebrew letters (e.g., כ/ב; ר/ד; ך/ד) (so Filson, Lenski, Allen) or a purely ornamental stroke, a “crown” (Tasker, Schniewind, Schweizer; but cf. NIDNTT, 3:182); or it forms a hendiadys with “jot,” referring to the smallest part of the smallest letter (Lachs, “Textual Observations,” 106–8). In any event, Jesus here upholds the authority of the OT Scriptures right down to the “least stroke of a pen.” His is the highest possible view of the OT.

Verses 17–18 do not wrestle abstractly with OT authority but with the nature, extent, and duration of its validity and continuity. The nature of these has been set forth in v. 17. The reference to “jot and tittle” establishes its extent. It will not do to reduce the reference to moral law, or to the law as a whole but not necessarily its parts, or to God’s will in some general sense. “Law” almost certainly refers to the entire OT Scriptures, not just the Pentateuch or moral law (note the parallel in v. 17).

That leaves the duration of the OT’s authority. The two “until” clauses answer this. The first—“until heaven and earth disappear”—simply means “until the end of the age”: i.e., not quite “never” (contra Meier, Law and History, 61), but “never, as long as the present world order persists.” The second—“until everything is accomplished”—is more difficult. Some take it to be equivalent to the first (cf. Sand, Gesetz und die Propheten, 36–39). But it is more subtle than that. The word panta (“all things” or “everything”) has no antecedent. Contrary to Sand (p. 38), Hill, Bultmann (History of the Synoptic Tradition, 138, 405), and Grundmann, the word cannot very easily refer to all the demands of the Law that must be “accomplished,” because (1) “Law” almost certainly refers here to all Scripture and not just its commands—but even if that were not so, v. 17 has shown that even imperatival law is prophetic; (2) the word genētai (“is accomplished,” GK 1181) must here be rendered “happens,” “comes to pass” (i.e., “is accomplished” in that sense, not in the sense of obeying a law; cf. Meier, Law and History, 53–54; Banks, Jesus and the Law, 215ff.).

Hence panta (“everything”) is best understood to refer to everything in the Law considered under the Law’s prophetic function—namely, until all these things have taken place as prophesied. This is not simply pointing to the cross (Davies, Christian Origins, 60ff.), nor simply to the end of the age (Schniewind). The parallel with 24:34–35 is not that close, since in the latter case, the events are specified. Verse 18d simply means the entire divine purpose prophesied in Scripture must take place; not one jot or tittle will fail of its fulfillment. A similar point is made in 11:13. Thus the first “until” clause focuses strictly on the duration of OT authority, but the second returns to considering its nature. It reveals God’s redemptive purposes and points to their fulfillment, their “accomplishment,” in Jesus and the eschatological kingdom he is now introducing and will one day consummate (cf. Gibbs).

Meier (Law and History) ably establishes the centrality of the death and resurrection of Jesus as the pivotal event in Matthew’s presentation of salvation history. Before it Jesus’ disciples are restricted to Israel (10:5–6); after it they are to go everywhere. Similarly, the precise form of the Mosaic law may change with the crucial redemptive events to which it points. For that which prophesies is in some sense taken up in and transcended by the fulfillment of the prophecy. Meier has grasped and explained this redemptive-historical structure better than most commentators. He may, however, have gone too far in interpreting v. 18 d too narrowly as a reference to the cross and the resurrection.[3]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 103). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 260–266). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 177–178). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

APRIL 4 – THE IMMANENCE OF GOD

Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD.

—Jeremiah 23:24

God is immanent, which means you don’t have to go distances to find God. He is in everything. He is right here.

God is above all things, beneath all things, outside of all things and inside of all things. God is above, but He’s not pushed up. He’s beneath, but He’s not pressed down. He’s outside, but He’s not excluded. He’s inside, but He’s not confined. God is above all things presiding, beneath all things sustaining, outside of all things embracing and inside of all things filling. That is the immanence of God.

God doesn’t travel to get anywhere. We may say in prayer, “Oh God, come and help us,” because we mean it in a psychological way. But actually God doesn’t have to “come” to help us because there isn’t any place where God is not. AOG022

What an encouragement, Lord, to know that You are here with me as I seek to meet with You. Give me a clear sense of Your presence, both now and as I move through the day. Amen. [1]


23:23, 24 These verses underscore the transcendence and the imminence of God. Yahweh is not a God “at hand” or near, a local man-made deity whose domain and wisdom are limited. He is not unaware of the actions of His creatures and they are not able to hide from Him. He is not confined to a shrine or temple as are the pagan deities. He is omnipotent (all-powerful), omnipresent (present everywhere), and omniscient (all-knowing). Yahweh has the power to see even that which is hidden (v. 24). These false prophets were not operating unknown to God.[2]


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

[2] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Je 23:23). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

April 4 – Vindicated

Lord, do not charge them with this sin.

Acts 7:60

 

We live in a day when Christianity is becoming increasingly unpopular with secular society. Strong stands for the truth of Scripture and the gospel message may soon become intolerable. That will result in the unjust treatment of Christians.

The prospect of such treatment ought to drive us to passages like 1 Peter 2:21–25 for reassurance. There we learn that like our Lord, we are to walk the path of suffering to attain the glory of reward and exaltation in the future. That realization surely prompted Stephen to fix his eyes on Jesus in glory and ask God to forgive his murderers (Acts 7:54–60). He entrusted Himself to God, knowing that He would vindicate him. If you do the same, God will also vindicate you.[1]


The mob poured out their hatred on Stephen by stoning him mercilessly. His heart, in contrast, was filled only with love for them. Amid the flying stones, Stephen fell on his knees and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” As had his beloved Lord before him, Stephen pleaded for God’s forgiveness on behalf of his executioners. He was praying for their salvation, since that is the only way God forgives sin. The death of the prophet Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, provides an instructive comparison. Second Chronicles 24:20–22 describes his murder:

Then the Spirit of God came on Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest; and he stood above the people and said to them, “Thus God has said, ‘Why do you transgress the commandments of the Lord and do not prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, He has also forsaken you.’ ” So they conspired against him and at the command of the king they stoned him to death in the court of the house of the Lord. Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness which his father Jehoiada had shown him, but he murdered his son. And as he died he said, “May the Lord see and avenge!”

Like Stephen, Zechariah was unjustly put to death. Unlike Stephen, however, his dying prayer was for justice and vengeance, not forgiveness.

Only Christians can love as Stephen did, “because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5).

Having finished his petition, Stephen fell asleep. Peacefully, calmly he slipped into the presence of his Lord. Unquestionably, his Master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful slave … enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:21). Sleep is a lovely way to describe the death of a believer. It is painless and temporary and takes one from the experience of weariness, work, and consciousness of all the problems of life to the freshness of a new day (cf. John 11:11–12; 1 Cor. 11:30; 15:20, 51; 1 Thess. 4:14; 5:10).[2]


59–60 As Stephen was being stoned (note the imperfect verb elithoboloun, “they were stoning” [GK 3344], which suggests a process), he cried out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,” and, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” The cries are reminiscent of Jesus’ words from the cross (Lk 23:34, 46), though the sequence and wording are not exactly the same. It is probably going too far to say that Luke meant Stephen’s execution to be a reenactment of the first great martyrdom, that of Jesus, as many commentators have proposed (so C. H. Talbert, Luke and the Gnostics [Nashville: Abingdon, 1966], 76). The parallelism, however, can hardly be seen as simply inadvertent. It was probably included to show that the same spirit of commitment and forgiveness that characterized Jesus’ life and death was true as well of his earliest followers.

The expression “fall asleep” (koimaō, GK 3121) is a common biblical way of referring to the death of God’s own (cf. Ge 47:30 [LXX]; Dt 31:16 [LXX]; Jn 11:11; Ac 13:36; 1 Co 7:39; 11:30; 15:6, 51; 2 Pe 3:4). While the nuances of a doctrine of “soul sleep” are incompatible with the biblical message, the word “sleep” suggests something as to the nature of the believer’s personal existence during that period of time theologians call “the intermediate state.”

In comparing Stephen’s death to that of a Stoic philosopher, Oscar Cullmann (Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead? [London: Epworth, 1958], 60) made this apt observation:

The Stoic departed this life dispassionately; the Christian martyr on the other hand died with spirited passion for the cause of Christ, because he knew that by doing so he stood within a powerful redemptive process. The first Christian martyr, Stephen, shows us how very differently death is bested by him who dies in Christ than by the ancient philosopher: he sees, it is said, “the heavens open and Christ standing at the right hand of God!” He sees Christ, the Conqueror of Death. With this faith that the death he must undergo is already conquered by Him who has Himself endured it, Stephen lets himself be stoned.[3]


7:54–60 As soon as Stephen bore public testimony to seeing the heavens opened, the mob refused to listen to him further; they cried fiercely, charged upon him, dragged him outside the city walls and stoned him.

As if incidentally, the Spirit records the name of a young man who stood guard over the clothes of the perspiring executioners. The name was Saul. It is as if the Spirit would say to us, “Remember that name. You will hear it again!”

Stephen’s death resembled that of our Lord:

  1. He prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (v. 59). Jesus had prayed, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46).
  2. He prayed, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin” (v. 60). Jesus had prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Does it not suggest that through occupation with the Lord, Stephen had been “transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18)?

Then, having prayed, he fell asleep. When the word “sleep” is used in connection with death in the NT, it refers to the body, not the soul. The believer’s soul goes to be with Christ at the time of death (2 Cor. 5:8); the body is pictured as sleeping.

Ordinarily the Jews were not allowed to carry out the death penalty; this was reserved for their Roman overlords (John 18:31b). But the Romans seem to have made an exception when the temple was threatened. Stephen had been accused of speaking against the temple, and though the charge was unfounded, he was executed by the Jews. The Lord Jesus had been accused of threatening to destroy the temple (Mark 14:58), but the testimony of the witnesses conflicted.[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 109). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1994). Acts (pp. 224–225). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Longenecker, R. N. (2007). Acts. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 832). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1604). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

April 4 – Jesus’ Struggle in Gethsemane

“Then He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.’ ”

Matthew 26:38

✧✧✧

In His time of greatest distress, Jesus realized His human weakness and His need to depend on the Father.

As Jesus entered the Garden of Gethsemane with Peter, James, and John, He experienced a more profound anguish over sin and death than ever before. His deep and desolate distress was made more severe when He considered the many personal disappointments that confronted Him. First, there was the betrayal by Judas, one of His own disciples. Then there would be the desertion by the Eleven and Peter’s threefold denial of his Master. Jesus would also be rejected by His own people, Israel, whose leaders would subject Him to all kinds of injustices before His death.

It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that Christ tells His three trusted disciples, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death.” A person can die from such heavy sorrow, which in God’s providence did not happen to Jesus. However, the magnitude of Jesus’ sorrow apparently caused the blood capillaries right under His skin to burst. As more and more capillaries burst from the extreme emotional pressures Jesus endured, blood escaped through His pores, “and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground” (Luke 22:44). Such sweating was just one outward result of what our Lord felt at the excruciating prospect of His having to become sin for us. His holiness was completely repulsed by such a thought.

It was because Jesus did keep watch and look to His Father in prayer that He endured and passed this test in the Garden. Right up to the end, Christ lived His earthly life in total, sinless submission to the Father. As a believer, you also will face times of severe testing and trial when only direct communion with God will give you the strength to prevail. And you also have the added encouragement of Jesus’ example in Gethsemane, the climax of His experiences through which He became a High Priest who can fully “sympathize with our weaknesses” (Heb. 4:15).

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: Praise God today that Jesus was divinely enabled to withstand the trials and temptations that assaulted Him at Gethsemane.

For Further Study: Read Matthew 4:1–11. Write down several key differences between Jesus’ encounter in the wilderness and His experience in Gethsemane. ✧ What similarities do you see in Christ’s response to the two situations?[1]


It is therefore hardly surprising that Jesus told Peter, James, and John, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death.” Perilupos (deeply grieved) is related to the term from which we get periphery and carries the idea of being surrounded by sorrow. It is possible to die from sorrow just as from other strong emotions, such as fright and anger. Jesus’ anguish was enough to kill Him and doubtlessly would have done so had He not been divinely preserved for another kind of death.

The agony of this temptation was unequaled. It was Jesus’ most intense struggle with Satan, more agonizing even than the encounter in the wilderness. The magnitude of His grief apparently caused Jesus’ subcutaneous capillaries to dilate and burst. As the capillaries burst under the pressure of deep distress and blood escaped through the pores of His skin, it mingled with His sweat, “falling down upon the ground” (Luke 22:44). It was to this experience, no doubt, that the writer of Hebrews referred in saying that Jesus “offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death” (Heb. 5:7).

Jesus was not grieved because of fear He would succumb to Satan’s temptations, As mentioned above, He had already declared that Satan “has nothing in Me,” meaning that there was no sin or evil in Him in which temptation could take root. Nor was He grieved over a possibility of not conquering sin or surviving death. He had repeatedly spoken of His coming resurrection and even of His ascension. There was no doubt in our Lord’s mind about the outcome of the cross, by which He would become victor over sin, death, and the devil. Jesus was deeply grieved, to the point of death because of His having to become sin. That was the unbearably excruciating prospect that made Him sweat great drops of blood. Holiness is totally repulsed by sin. The prophet Habakkuk revealed this when he wrote, “Thine eyes are too pure to approve evil, and Thou canst not look on wickedness with favor” (Hab. 1:13).

In that deep sorrow Jesus knew His only solace was with His heavenly Father, and with each wave of temptation and anguish He retreated to a place of seclusion some distance away (see vv. 36, 39, 42). Luke reports that “He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw” (Luke 22:41), which amounted to thirty to fifty yards. The intensity of temptation and of Jesus’ prayer response increased with each of the three sessions and is reflected in the positions the Lord took. At first He knelt (Luke 22:41), but as the intensity escalated He fell prostrate on His face (Matt. 26:39).

While He went to be alone with His Father, Jesus asked His three dear friends to keep watch with Him, leaving them not only to watch but also to pray in view of temptation (see v. 41), just as He would be doing.[2]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Mt 26:36). Chicago: Moody Press.

40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers (Week Five: Tuesday)

Tuesday

Confession: Psalm 95:6–9

Come in, let us worship and bow down;

let us kneel before Yahweh, our maker.

For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture

and the sheep of his hand.

Today if you will hear his voice:

“Do not harden your heart as at Meribah,

as in the day of Massah in the wilderness,

when your ancestors tried me.

They put me to the test,

even though they had seen my work.”

Reading: Mark 14:32–42

And they came to a place named Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And he took along Peter and James and John with him, and he began to be distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake.” And going forward a little he fell to the ground and began to pray that, if it were possible, the hour would pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you! Take away this cup from me! Yet not what I will, but what you will.” And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Were you not able to stay awake one hour? Stay awake and pray that you will not enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak!” And again he went away and prayed, saying the same thing. And again he came and found them sleeping, for they could not keep their eyes open, and they did not know what to reply to him. And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough! The hour has come. Behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us go! Behold, the one who is betraying me is approaching!”

Reflection

With eternal foresight, and with lifelong, fond intention, our glorious Saviour entered into His passion. “I come to do your will, O my God.” That will was that He—Jesus, the Son of Man, God of God, the Holy One—should pass through and feel, as if it were His own. He experienced the torment and the horror of all sin in expiation of the crimes of the whole world. “And He began to be exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death.” O Jesus, we bow down our hearts before your sacred heart, which, in the garden, alone, cried out to heaven with the agony God laid upon it. “See if there be any sorrow like unto His sorrow.” We adore that dear, submissive heart, burning with love for God and man, but wrung with anguish, sweating drops of blood.

—Bernard of Clairvaux

Saint Bernard on the Love of God

Response

Christ remained obedient to the Father in all things, even leading up to His death. Write a prayer of thanks for Christ’s obedient sacrifice in the space below.[1]

 

[1] Van Noord, R., & Strong, J. (Eds.). (2014). 40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.