Daily Archives: April 7, 2017

April 7, 2017 Truth2Freedom Briefing Report (US•World•Christian)

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Apr. 7, 2017 |

BLOOMBERG

President Donald Trump’s decision to strike Syria sent a powerful message around the world — one that could be read very differently in Moscow, Pyongyang and Beijing. For Russia, it may finally put to rest expectations from the 2016 campaign that Trump will pursue closer ties with President Vladimir Putin, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. For North Korea, it was a warning the U.S. is willing to act unilaterally. And for China, whose leader Xi Jinping was dining with Trump right before the missiles took flight, the attack was a potent sign of the new American president’s unpredictability.

Nonfarm payrolls grew by just 98,000 in March though the unemployment rate fell to a 10-year low of 4.5 percent, according to a closely watched report Friday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Payrolls had been expected to increase by 180,000 in March.

The number of employed Americans increased 472,000 to 153,000,000 in March, setting a second straight monthly record; and the number of unemployed persons dropped by 326,000 to 7.2 million.

President Donald Trump is preparing to issue an executive order with the goal of giving oil companies more opportunities to drill offshore, reversing Obama-era policies that restricted the activity.

The French foreign affairs ministry Friday said the country is sending humanitarian relief to the victims of the chemical attack in the Syrian area of Khan Sheikhoun.

The rapid descent of so many retailers has left shopping malls with hundreds of slots to fill, and the pain could be just beginning. More than 10 percent of U.S. retail space, or nearly 1 billion square feet, may need to be closed, converted to other uses or renegotiated for lower rent in coming years.

With both bad loans and interest rates on the rise, financial institutions are becoming more selective in doling out credit for new-car purchases, adding to the pressure for automakers already up against the wall with sliding sales, swelling inventories and a used-car glut.

Three tankers holding about 1.35 million barrels of gasoline and alkylate, an octane-boosting component blended with motor fuels, are drifting with no instructions for delivery. The cargoes came from India with intent to land in the U.S., but now they’re in limbo as traders from Trafigura Group and Mercuria Energy Group shop around for the bestselling value in the region.

AP Top Stories

Customers can now order a $200 test from the company 23andMe, send in a saliva sample, and find out if they have a genetic risk for diseases, such as late-onset Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Aviation startup Zunum Aero, backed by JetBlue Technology Ventures and Boeing, revealed Wednesday it’s developing a hybrid-electric aircraft for regional trips by the early 2020s.

Seven people were killed and up to 19 wounded in a Taliban suicide blast that targeted a census team in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore Wednesday, officials said.

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos said on Wednesday he is selling about $1 billion worth of the internet retailer’s stock annually to fund his Blue Origin rocket company, which aims to launch paying passengers on 11-minute space rides starting next year.

Charges are pending against a juvenile after a Michigan mother said a social media prank in which her 11-year-old son’s girlfriend faked her own suicide led the boy to take his own life.

Gay rights advocates Wednesday hailed a first-of-its-kind federal appeals court ruling that employers cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation.

As it continues its rapid growth, Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) said it would add 30,000 jobs in the United States over the next year. These will be part-time jobs, and 5,000 of the new employees will be able to work from home.

17 large retailers besides J.C. Penney are closing waves of stores.

BBC

A Tunisian court has sentenced a British DJ to a year in jail after he played a dance remix of the Muslim call to prayer.

Uruguay will begin selling cannabis in pharmacies from July, the final stage in the country’s pioneering regularization of the drug. The South American country will be the first in the world to legally sell the drug over the counter for recreational use.

A nun in Chile is suing the religious order she belonged to after its members pressured her to leave her convent over her pregnancy. The nun became pregnant after she was raped by a man carrying out repairs at the convent.

A television reporter in Australia has been arrested on suspicion of sending images of child sexual abuse and having explicit conversations about children.

The US race activist Rachel Dolezal, who identifies as black despite being born white, is to visit South Africa to talk about her experience. Ms Dolezal will be the special guest at an event intended to promote a dialogue for a “non-racial” South Africa.

WND

Arguing the Quran calls for the death of non-Muslims, a Delaware state lawmaker chastised his colleagues from the floor of the state Senate for allowing two Muslims to give the invocation to their session. “We just heard from the Quran, which calls for our very demise.”

An ISIS-linked group of hackers has released a “kill list” of 8,786 names and addresses in the U.S. and U.K., calling for lone wolf attacks on the targets in a chilling video posted online. The hackers, known as the United Cyber Caliphate (UCC), orders those watching to: “Kill them wherever you find them.”

More than 42 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 59 are infected with genital human papillomavirus, according to the first survey to look at the prevalence of the virus in the adult population.


Top Headlines – 4/7/2017

Russia Recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital – With A Catch
The announcement appeared on the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. It began as a generic statement concerning their position on the stalled negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis, but concluded with the startling statement that they view West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
The newly minted Trump administration – as well as the American people – are being subjected to an ongoing, evolving disinformation campaign to discredit, disable and destroy Donald Trump’s presidency in its infancy.

Trump’s Sudden Strike On Syria Sends A Chilling Message To Kim Jong-un
North Korea almost certainly felt the geopolitical impact of President Donald Trump’s strike on Syria Thursday. In response to a brutal chemical weapons attack, the Trump administration is calling for the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The U.S. military carried out a missile strike Thursday evening on a Syrian airbase housing the aircraft that dropped the chemical weapons on innocent civilians in violation of international restrictions. “Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically,” Trump stated Thursday evening, suggesting that a new approach is needed.

‘Assad bears full responsibility’: how the world reacted to Donald Trump’s missile strike on Syria
Donald Trump’s targeted military intervention in Syria has been welcomed in western-friendly capitals as a “just” and “proportionate” response to the use of chemical weapons. France and Germany issued a joint statement saying that Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president “bears full responsibility” for the precision strike which used sea-launched cruise missiles to destroy a Syrian airbase. Meanwhile Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council welcomed the move and said the EU will “work with the US to end brutality in Syria”.

Russia calls for emergency UN meeting after US strikes on Syria
Russia wants an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss US missile strikes on Syria, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday, describing the action as “thoughtless.” The ministry said in a statement that Russia was also suspending a Syrian air safety agreement with the United States,

Commander in Chief Trump makes it clear: The Americans are back
At 4:40 in the morning, two US warships in the eastern Mediterranean Sea fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles against the Syrian regime’s Al Shayrat Airbase, where warplanes that carried out Tuesday’s deadly Khan Sheikhoun chemical gas attack were based. It was a calculated strike, carried out just hours after Defense Secretary James Mattis presented military options on Syria to US President Donald Trump, and was praised by Western and Arab leaders as well by Israel.

Amidror: US attack in Syria shows Iran that military option is indeed ‘on the table’
Iran, more than any other country in the world, is carefully taking note of the US missile attack in Syria overnight, former National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror said Friday. “More than any place in the world, the decision makers in Iran are learning the reaction of the Americans, taking into account that if they don’t behave, the military option is on the table, unlike the previous administration,” Amidror said during a conference call organized by The Israel Project.

Russia, Iran condemn US strike in Syria as Britain, Turkey give support
Russia and Iran condemned a US strike on a Syrian airbase on Friday as Australia, Britain and Turkey gave their support, with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull calling it a “proportionate” response to the use of chemical weapons. US President Donald Trump ordered missile strikes against a Syrian airfield from which a deadly chemical weapons attack was launched, declaring he acted in America’s “vital national security interest”.

Heavy security measures to be taken in Jerusalem for Passover, Easter
More than 3,500 policemen will patrol Jerusalem during Passover and Easter with an emphasis on the Old City, where some 150,000 visitors from around the globe are expected to gather at the Western Wall and in the Christian Quarter. Following two recent stabbing attacks in the Muslim Quarter, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said security will be at its highest level to ensure the public’s safety.

Anti-Zuma protests across South Africa
Protesters are gathering in major South African cities calling for President Jacob Zuma to step down after the sacking of a respected finance minister. Crowds are building ahead of demonstrations in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and the capital, Pretoria. Mr Zuma’s sacking of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan led to the country’s credit rating being cut to junk status.

Trump welcomes ‘friend’ China’s Xi for talks
US President Donald Trump has welcomed Chinese President Xi Jinping to his Florida resort for their first summit. Mr Trump said the two men had “developed a friendship” as they sat for dinner at his Mar-a-Lago retreat. The American leader is expected to press his counterpart for action on North Korea, and Mr Xi to seek assurances on Taiwan.

Uruguay to sell cannabis in pharmacies from July
Uruguay will begin selling cannabis in pharmacies from July, the final stage in the country’s pioneering regularisation of the drug. The South American country will be the first in the world to legally sell the drug over the counter for recreational use. The move was set in motion in 2013 with a law that fully legalised the cannabis trade.

Close to Half of American Adults Infected With HPV
More than 42 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 59 are infected with genital human papillomavirus, according to the first survey to look at the prevalence of the virus in the adult population. The report, published on Thursday by the National Center for Health Statistics, found that certain high-risk strains of the virus infected 25.1 percent of men and 20.4 percent of women.

FCC Chief Ajit Pai Develops Plans to Roll Back Net Neutrality Rules
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai laid out preliminary plans to roll back the agency’s net neutrality rules in a meeting this week with trade associations, according to several people familiar with the matter. The conversation shows that the FCC chairman is inching closer to making his plans public…The plans appear aimed at preserving the basic principles of net neutrality but shifting enforcement to the Federal Trade Commission, while undoing…the regulatory overreach of the FCC’s rules.

North Korea vows ‘most ruthless blow’ on United States after Donald Trump pledges to build up defences against Pyongyang
“Our army has already said that if there will be even the smallest provocation from the United States during exercises, we are ready to deliver the most ruthless blow,” Interfax news agency quoted ambassador Kim Hyong-Jun as saying. “We have the readiness and ability to counter any challenge from the US,” he was quoted as saying.

Cedar Hill At Center Of Mumps Outbreak
Dallas County Health and Human Services report 76 mumps cases in the county, 56 of them coming from students and teachers in Cedar Hill ISD. A letter went out to Cedar Valley College students and staff alerting them about a high school student from Cedar Hill Collegiate Academy taking classes there might have exposed others.

Israel ‘studying’ Russian statement on Jerusalem recognition
Israel says it is looking into a Russian statement that recognizes its claim to Jerusalem while also recognizing the Palestinian claim. Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday it reaffirms “the status of east Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state…we regard west Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel.” Hitherto, recognizing Tel Aviv as the capital of Israel has always been a cornerstone of the Kremlin’s Middle East policy…

U.S. Launches Missiles at Syrian Base After Chemical Weapons Attack
The United States launched dozens of cruise missiles Thursday night at a Syrian airfield in response to what it believes was Syria’s use of banned chemical weapons that killed at least 100 people, the U.S. military said.

Now That Trump’s ‘Red Line’ Has Been Crossed, Will He Turn Damascus Into A ‘Ruinous Heap’?
Will a false flag chemical attack in Syria’s Idlib province be the trigger that causes World War 3 to erupt in the Middle East? In Part I of this series, I discussed how previous chemical attacks that were blamed on the Assad regime actually turned out to be false flag attacks conducted by Syrian rebels that were absolutely desperate to draw the United States into the Syrian civil war on their side. And considering the fact that the Syrian rebels have been consistently losing territory in recent months, they are now more desperate than ever

Ben Carson Uncovered Half a Trillion dollars in ‘Bookkeeping Errors’ in Obama’
Ben Carson has revealed massive incompetence and possibly corruption in Obama’s Department of Housing and Urban Development, with over half a trillion dollars improperly accounted for. The inspector general (IG) for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) revealed this week that for three straight years, Obama’s HUD staff cooked the books, according to. These morons wouldn’t know a balance sheet from a fitted sheet, reports Blacksphere.

Syria Denies, Condemns Use Of Chemical Weapons
With global sentiment turning against Syria again, and even president Trump yesterday saying his opinion on Syrian policy has changed (it was not immediately clear just how), on Thursday Syria’s foreign minister dismissed allegations that the Syrian Army deployed chemical weapons in the city of Idlib, saying the military will never use such weapons against its own people or even terrorists.

Ron Paul: Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria Likely a False Flag
According to former Congressman Ron Paul, the chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun that killed 30 children and has led to calls for the Trump administration to intervene in Syria could have been a false flag attack…“It doesn’t make any sense for Assad under these conditions to all of a sudden use poison gases – I think there’s zero chance he would have done this deliberately,” said Paul.

Mother Shocked After Daughter Comes Home From School With Birth Control Implant In Her Arm Miracle Foster, a mother from Tulsa, Oklahoma, had no idea what her daughter was in for when she took part in a sex-education presentation at her school. After the presentation the 16-year-old girl wanted more information, so the school decided to send her and several other girls to a local clinic. The school’s principle informed the mom, and she gave them permission, thinking that her daughter was going on an innocent field trip.


Appeals Court Rules ‘Sexual Orientation’ Applies as Sex Discrimination Under Civil Rights Act

Christian News reports:

A federal appeals court has ruled that “sexual orientation” can fall under the interpretation of sex discrimination in the federal Civil Rights Act, a decision that the dissenting judges found to be a stretch.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals concluded 8-3 on Tuesday that while Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1967—which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex or national origin”—does not include the term “sexual orientation,” the existing inclusion of “sex” can apply because the discrimination surrounds a person’s actions not being normative for their sex.

“The logic of the Supreme Court’s decisions, as well as the common-sense reality that it is actually impossible to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without discriminating on the basis of sex, persuade us that the time has come to overrule our previous cases,” the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals wrote.

View article →


The Briefing 04-07-17

America sends a clear signal to Syria: You cannot use chemical weapons against your own citizens

Triggering nuclear option, Senate Republicans set up confirmation vote for Judge Neil Gorsuch

Remembering the Great War: 100 years ago this week, America entered World War I

The post The Briefing 04-07-17 appeared first on AlbertMohler.com.


April 6, 2017
WASHINGTON TIMES — Republicans triggered the “nuclear option” Thursday, changing the filibuster rules and paving the way for Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s first Supreme Court pick, to be approved later this week…. (more)


April 6, 2017
NEW YORK TIMES — For the first 10 weeks of President Trump’s administration, no adviser loomed larger in the public imagination than Stephen K. Bannon, the raw and rumpled former chairman of Breitbart News who considers himself a “virulently anti-establishment” revolutionary out to destroy the “administrative state.”… (more)


April 6, 2017
ANDREW C. MCCARTHY — On Tuesday, in a National Review Online column, I contended that the reported involvement of former national-security adviser Susan Rice in the unmasking of Trump officials appears to be a major scandal – – it suggests that the Obama White House, of which she was a high-ranking staffer, abused the power to collect intelligence on foreign targets, by using it to spy on the opposition party and its presidential candidate…. (more)

April 6, 2017
WASHINGTON TIMES — Congress’s top tax expert led Republicans Wednesday in demanding President Trump fire IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, saying the tax agency cannot be repaired as long as he’s at the helm. “Trust in the IRS is hitting rock-bottom,” the Republicans, led by Rep. Kevin Brady, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a letter calling on Mr. Trump to take action…. (more)

April 6, 2017
KATHERINE TIMPF — On Tuesday, the Boston Globe published an article examining Melania Trump’s official White House photo, and promoted it with a tweet asking: “So what’s with the crossed arms?”… (more)

April 6, 2017
WASHINGTON EXAMINER — The world’s Muslim population grew much faster than Christians over the past five years, and their births will outnumber those of Christian moms for the first time in 2030, signaling a tremendous global religious shift, according to a new survey…. (more)


April 5, 2017
CLIFF KINCAID — A very disturbing report has come out from Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Fox News that Hillary Clinton and six top staffers kept their Top Secret and/or Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS/SCI) clearances after she left her Secretary of State position in 2013. And they also kept their physical access to TS/SCI facilities and databases, which required those TS/SCI clearances, possibly up through the 2016 election and beyond…. (more)

April 5, 2017
ANDREW C. MCCARTHY — The thing to bear in mind is that the White House does not do investigations. Not criminal investigations, not intelligence investigations. Remember that…. (more)


April 5, 2017
GARTH KANT — At the very least, Susan Rice lied about what she did, what she knew and when she knew it. That is by her own admission. The question is, how big a lie was it?… (more)

April 5, 2017
NEWSMAX — Seeing former national security adviser Susan Rice’s name in headlines is nothing new, said Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who dubbed her “the Typhoid Mary of the Obama administration foreign policy,” for her central role in several scandals…. (more)


April 5, 2017
WORLDNETDAILY — When Fox News revealed that it was Susan Rice who “unmasked” the identity of incoming Trump officials in surveillance data gathered by U.S. intelligence agents, it surprised no one…. (more)


April 5, 2017
CHARLES HURT — Well, that explains the deafening silence from President Obama. All these months, it turns out, it was his right-hand hatchet gal and exposed serial prevaricator Susan Rice who was behind the scenes in his administration working all the levers of the most powerful espionage machine on planet Earth to spy on Mr. Obama’s political enemies…. (more)

April 5, 2017
ART MOORE — The reactions in Washington to the revelation that former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice sought to unmask the identities of Americans connected with President Trump’s campaign and transition who were mentioned in foreign surveillance intelligence reports predictably has fallen largely along partisan lines…. (more)

April 5, 2017
NEWSMAX — If former President Barack Obama ordered or knew about names of incoming President Donald Trump’s transition staff being unmasked after they were gathered during surveillance activities, that is a “big deal,” Sen. Rand Paul said Tuesday…. (more)

April 5, 2017
BYRON YORK — Tuesday brought a much-anticipated chance to hear Susan Rice address reports she requested the “unmasking” of what might be called Trump persons caught in U.S. intelligence intercepts. The only problem was, Rice did not address reports she requested the unmasking of Trump persons caught in U.S. intelligence intercepts…. (more)

April 5, 2017
TIMOTHY P. CARNEY — After the healthcare repeal bill failed, House Speaker Paul Ryan said he was proud of the bill and of the “long, inclusive, member-driven process that we had.” Freedom Caucus members chafed at this characterization…. (more)

April 5, 2017
WASHINGTON TIMES — Illegal immigration across the southwest border is down more than 60 percent so far under President Trump, officials revealed Tuesday, even before the first new agent is hired or the first mile of his promised border wall is constructed. Mr. Trump took a victory lap over the “record reductions” in illegal crossers, saying he is already saving Americans’ jobs by preventing them from having to compete with unauthorized workers…. (more)

April 5, 2017
WASHINGTON EXAMINER — Three prominent House liberals have called for what amounts to a mass burning of books and DVDs that question global warming and sent to 200,000 K-12 teachers, a ban rejected as an “April Fool’s joke” by the science institute that provided the materials for free…. (more)


April 4, 2017

April 3, 2017
FOX NEWS — Multiple sources tell Fox News that Susan Rice, former national security adviser under then-President Barack Obama, requested to unmask the names of Trump transition officials caught up in surveillance…. (more)


April 3, 2017
NEWSBUSTERS — A massive revelation in the alleged surveillance of President Trump’s aides broke Monday morning when Bloomberg reported that “[f]ormer National Security Adviser Susan Rice requested the identities of U.S. persons in raw intelligence reports on dozens of occasions that connect to the Donald Trump transition and campaign.”… (more)

April 3, 2017
DAILY CALLER — GOP Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said he believes former National Security Advisor Susan Rice should testify before Congress on her request to unmask the names of Trump transition officials collected during routine intelligence-gathering operations…. (more)

April 3, 2017
BYRON YORK — Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has been sharply critical of the panel’s Republican chairman, Devin Nunes, for visiting the White House to view classified documents that Nunes says show the Obama administration intercepted the communications of Donald Trump associates before the president took office in January…. (more)

April 3, 2017
WESLEY PRUDEN — Kim Jong-un may be “a crazy fat kid” with a goofy haircut, but he is doing what his father and his grandfather never could. With nuclear weapons to play with, he frightens the West enough to make it start thinking about doing something about the most dangerous crazy fat kid on earth…. (more)

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)

Mid-Day Snapshot

Apr. 7, 2017

McConnell Kills the Filibuster

One way or another, Judge Gorsuch will be joining his colleagues on the Supreme Court.

Today on ChristianHeadlines
U.S. Launches Missile Strikes against Syrian Airbase
U.S. Launches Missile Strikes against Syrian Airbase
by Veronica Neffinger
The US launched a missile strike against a Syrian airfield on Thursday after Syrian forces under President Bashar al-Assad carried out a chemical weapons attack earlier this week.
READ FULL ARTICLE   >>
10 Christian Celebrities You Should Know
10 Christian Celebrities You Should Know
by Veronica Neffinger
Despite perhaps being in the minority, celebrity Christians are out there and many are not afraid to be vocal about their faith.
READ FULL ARTICLE
Norwegian Evangelicals Withdraw from Franklin Graham Event Due to His Support for Trump
Norwegian Evangelicals Withdraw from Franklin Graham Event Due to His Support for Trump
by Veronica Neffinger
Many evangelicals in Norway will not be attending a Christian festival where the Rev. Franklin Graham was scheduled to speak, due to Graham’s support for President Trump.
READ FULL ARTICLE
Why Isn't the U.S. Arming Assyrian Christians in the Fight against ISIS?
Why Isn’t the U.S. Arming Assyrian Christians in the Fight against ISIS?
by Veronica Neffinger
In a column for Stream.org, Johannes de Jong questions why the U.S. is not helping Syrian Christians in their fight against ISIS.
READ FULL ARTICLE
Nigeria: Boko Haram Kidnaps 22 More Girls
Nigeria: Boko Haram Kidnaps 22 More Girls
by Amanda Casanova
Deacon Keith Fournier says kidnappings and attacks on Christians by Boko Haram Islamists are a “demonic assault.”
READ FULL ARTICLE

ZeroHedge Frontrunning: April 07

  • U.S. fires missiles at Assad airbase; Russia denounces ‘aggression’ (Read More)
  • Congress Supports the Airstrikes, Debates What Happens Next (Read More)
  • Trump’s Syria Strike Sends Not-So-Subtle Warning to U.S. Rivals (Read More)
  • Russia Halts Cooperation With U.S. on Syrian Air Operations (Read More)
  • Syria Says Strike Kills Five, Damages Air Base (Read More)
  • Oil hits one-month high after U.S. missile strike in Syria (Read More)
  • China fighter plane spotted on South China Sea island: think tank (Read More)
  • Senate Expected to Confirm Gorsuch as High Court Justice (Read More)
  • Traders Are Worried About Chinese Local Government Debt Again (Read More)
  • Jobs Report to Take Pulse of Wage Growth, Participation Rate (Read More)
  • Nobody Is Saying Anything About How U.S. Earnings Season Will Go (Read More)
  • Libor Convictions at Risk as SFO Expert Witness Challenged (Read More)
  • Wall Street Is Making It Harder to Buy a Car (Read More)
  • U.S. stock funds’ weekly outflow largest in 2017: Lipper (Read More)
  • Greece, Creditors Move Closer to Deal (Read More)
  • Norway Wealth Fund Turns ‘Cautious’ on Stocks After Trump Rally (Read More)
  • Are Traders Creating a Bizarre New Feedback Loop… Feedback Loop… Feedback Loop? (Read More)
  • Tech’s High-Stakes Arms Race: Costly Data Centers (Read More)
  • Top investors help Deutsche Bank wrap up $8.5 billion capital hike (Read More)
  • Oil Trader Gunvor Approached Rivals Over Possible Sale (Read More)
  • Bank of England’s Carney calls for UK-EU bank rules pact after Brexit (Read More)

Top Headlines – 4/7/2017

Egypt’s Sissi, meeting Jewish leaders, is optimistic on Israeli-Arab peace

In curious first, Russia recognizes West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

Israeli killed and another wounded in West Bank car-ramming attack

Israeli troops raid alleged car-rammer’s West Bank home

Hamas executes three ‘Israel collaborators’ in Gaza

Arabs firebomb Rachel’s Tomb

Israel appoints its first female Muslim diplomat

JCC bomb hoaxer made millions selling forged docs online

Kansas legislation seeks to combat anti-Israel boycotts

With healthcare faltering in Gaza, care in Israel is sought after

‘Historic’ plan unveiled to link Arab states to Israeli ports

IDF Naval fighters train with Navy SEALs

US State Dept. designates Hamas commander a global terrorist

Assad: ‘Israel is aiding terrorists’

Syria: Israel ‘main beneficiary’ of gas attack allegations

Senior Israeli rabbi sees ‘Holocaust’ in Syria

Yad Vashem head calls for end to Syrian war and its ‘atrocities’

Netanyahu to Putin: ‘We must complete the effort to cleanse Syria of chemical weapons’

Russia’s Putin, in phone talk with Israel’s Netanyahu, says “groundless accusations” on Syria chemical attack are unacceptable before full investigation

Syria’s FM denies country used chemical weapons

Banned Nerve Agent Sarin Used in Syria Chemical Attack, Turkey Says

Key Points on Sarin: The ‘Most Volatile’ of Nerve Agents

Tillerson says time for Russia to rethink support for Syria’s Assad

Trump says Assad may have to step down after chemical attack

Syria chemical ‘attack’: Damascus attaches conditions to UN inquiry

UN council weighs compromise on Syria nerve gas probe

US will take action on Syrian chemical attacks if UN doesn’t

Tillerson says coalition forming to target Assad, Trump hearing military options

Turkey’s Erdogan would support U.S. military action in Syria

ISIS Executes 33 in Syria, Its Largest Mass Killing of 2017

Civilian Deaths In Mosul Lead U.S. And Iraqi Forces To Change Tactics Against ISIS

Egypt pledges to supply gas to Jordan

Australia warns of Anzac Day terror threat in Turkey

St Petersburg metro attack: ‘Bomb’ found in city raid

Hungary, Iran to cooperate in joint mini nuclear plant project

US cyber attacks may be bringing North Korean missiles down

UN strongly condemns North Korea’s latest missile launch

Japan PM Abe says he, Trump agree North Korea missile launch a ‘serious threat’

North Korea vows ‘most ruthless blow’ on United States after Donald Trump pledges to build up defences against Pyongyang

US commander: ‘Little progress reining in North Korea’

Republicans go ‘nuclear,’ bust through Democratic filibuster on Gorsuch

Senators agree damage over Gorsuch fight could be ‘irreparable’

Nunes steps down from Russia-Trump investigation

Sean Hannity: Media’s blindness to Obama spy scandal shameful

Sean Hannity: Connecting the dots in Obama spy scandal

Number of Democrats ‘proud’ to be American dives under Trump, poll finds

Bannon said to call Kushner a ‘cuck’ and ‘globalist’ as tensions between them escalate

Sir Michael Caine: Brexit ‘was about freedom’

Goldman Sachs chief economist says Fed’s move ‘makes sense’ ahead of likely Yellen exit

Federal Reserve wants to start unwinding the $4.5 trillion in bonds on its balance sheet this year

Amazon will create 30,000 part-time jobs, but millions of Americans are desperate to work full-time

In a new space age, Goldman suggests investors make it big in asteroids

A Car-Size Asteroid Just Whipped by Earth

5.3 magnitude earthquake hits near Mollendo, Peru

5.2 magnitude earthquake hits near Pagan, Northern Mariana Islands

5.2 magnitude earthquake hits near Raoul Island, New Zealand

5.0 magnitude earthquake hits near Ust’-Kamchatsk Staryy, Russia

5.0 magnitude earthquake hits South of Tonga

Earthquake shakes Georgians amidst Wednesday storms

Nearly 3 Dozen Tornadoes Sweep South Causing Damage in 11 States

Rockhampton: Homes in Australian city flooded as river peaks

Satellite images of Peru floods show devastation

First study finds neonic pesticides in US drinking water

Where Trump, Xi differ: U.S. boosts coal as China takes the lead on climate change

Oh Great. Climate Change Will Make Flying Worse, Too

French inventor flies real-life hoverboard over the Atlantic Ocean

Rwanda hopes high-tech can replace genocide as its defining feature

How artificial life spawned a billion-dollar industry

Ultra-Orthodox group backs up NY law banning assisted suicide

HBO Abortion Documentary Shows ‘Gut-Wrenching’ Killing of Unborn Baby

Nearly half of American adults carry HPV, a virus linked to cancer

Toronto health officials to target adults in midst of major mumps outbreak

73-year-old woman says Fitbit detected life-threatening heart issue

3 In 4 Americans Want Trump To Make Obamacare ‘Great’ Again

More Americans 50 years and over are cohabiting, research shows

Norway Evangelicals Withdrawing From Franklin Graham Festival Because of Trump Support?

US Senate passes resolution condemning ethnic, religious hate crimes

Jewish groups urge Congress to resist Trump on church politicking

Islam set to become world’s largest religion by 2075, study suggests

The Trinity: Easy As 1-2-3?

Holly Pivec – The Feminization of the Church

Rick Warren: Thinking Like A Pagan & A Theology-dissing Jesus

City Harvest Appeal: Kong Hee’s Sentence Reduced to 3.5 years

City Harvest appeal: Recap of the long-running criminal case

Mother Outraged After Daughter’s Injected With Birth Control Implant on School Trip

Germany approves bill curbing online hate crime, fake news

BREAKING NEWS: Truck Plows into people on Stockholm street, police say several injured

Posted: 07 Apr 2017 06:34 AM PDT

A truck has driven into people on a street in central Stockholm, according to witnesses cited by Aftonbladet newspaper. Injuries have been reported, according to…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Is It Right for a Minister to Drink Wine or Liquor?

Posted: 07 Apr 2017 06:30 AM PDT

(By Bert Farias) The Bible is saturated with wholesome and positive statements about sex, food and wine. But the Bible also contains warnings about all…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

DEVELOPING: Mumps Outbreak Spreads In Dallas…

Posted: 07 Apr 2017 06:24 AM PDT

Dallas County Health and Human Services report 76 mumps cases in the county, 56 of them coming from students and teachers in Cedar Hill ISD….

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Scientists Detect Atmosphere Around Earth-Like Planet For First Time…

Posted: 07 Apr 2017 06:20 AM PDT

Scientists say they have detected an atmosphere around an Earth-like planet for the first time. They have studied a world known as GJ 1132b, which…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Chemical Warfare and Nuclear Weapons could lead to the Apocalypse!

Posted: 07 Apr 2017 06:16 AM PDT

President Trump’s missile attack on the Syrian regime brought the daunting prospect of World War Three even closer. The whirlwind assault was in response to…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

MTV dumps gender-specific categories for Movie & TV Awards…

Posted: 07 Apr 2017 06:07 AM PDT

MTV has scrapped gender specific categories for its upcoming Movie & TV Awards. In place of the Best Actress and Best Actor categories, this year’s…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

North Korea Warns Trump to Prepare For War!

Posted: 07 Apr 2017 06:03 AM PDT

KIM Jong-Un has placed his country on the “brink of war” as a high-profile defector urged US President Donald Trump to assassinate the despot North…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

2 Tornadoes Touched Down in Washington DC Area

Posted: 07 Apr 2017 05:57 AM PDT

Thunderstorms and two tornadoes barreled through the D.C. area Thursday, uprooting trees, ripping down power lines, tearing materials from rooftops and cascading debris onto streets…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Syrian Airbase Almost Completely Destroyed Following US Strike

Posted: 07 Apr 2017 05:34 AM PDT

The Syrian airfield targeted by United States airstrikes early Friday was “almost completely destroyed,” a human rights group in the country said. The Britain-based Syrian…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

BREAKING NEWS: Russia decries ‘clear act of aggression’ in US strike on Syria

Posted: 07 Apr 2017 05:30 AM PDT

Russia on Friday slammed the U.S. decision to launch airstrikes against a Syrian air base in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack by the Syrian…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

PROPHETIC UPDATE: The Year of the Sword, Passover and the World War Cycle

Posted: 07 Apr 2017 05:26 AM PDT

(By Ricky Scaparo) On Thursday, April 6, 2017, The United States officially launched a military strike on Syrian government targets in retaliation for the recent…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Syrian military airfield struck in first direct attack on Bashar al-Assad’s government

Posted: 06 Apr 2017 06:51 PM PDT

The U.S. military launched approximately 50 cruise missiles at a Syrian military airfield late on Thursday, in the first direct American assault on the government…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

BREAKING NEWS: US Launches Airstrikes Against Syria

Posted: 06 Apr 2017 06:28 PM PDT

  The United States launched a military strike on Syrian government targets in retaliation for their chemical weapon attack on civilians earlier in the week,…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

WAR DRUMS: Russia Warns United States Over Possible Military Strike Against Syria

Posted: 06 Apr 2017 06:16 PM PDT

The situation in Syria is reaching a boiling point as now reports are indicating that Russia’s deputy U.N. envoy, Vladimir Safronkov, warned on Thursday of…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Canada Experiences Record Breaking Snowfall, Mind-Boggling Pics to prove it

Posted: 06 Apr 2017 06:07 PM PDT

The Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador has experienced a record-breaking snowstorm, with over 2 meters (7 feet) of snow burying the town of Gander….

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Russia will recognize W. Jerusalem as Israel’s capital only if E. Jerusalem becomes Palestinian

Posted: 06 Apr 2017 06:01 PM PDT

In a diplomatic missive endorsing the two-state solution, Moscow has said that it is ready to recognize West Jerusalem as Israel’s official capital, providing that…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

9 More Things to Do if You Miss the Rapture

Posted: 06 Apr 2017 05:53 PM PDT

(By Dr. Dave Williams) As mentioned in Part One of this article, It is possible to be a professing Christian and not actually be in…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Harvard students say Trump is more dangerous than ISIS

Posted: 06 Apr 2017 05:47 PM PDT

Over the past year and a half, college administrators and students have boldly spoken out against the election, and now the presidency, of Donald Trump….

Read more at End Time Headlines.

DAYS OF LOT: Nearly Half of American Adults Infected With HPV

Posted: 06 Apr 2017 05:41 PM PDT

More than 42 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 59 are infected with genital human papillomavirus, according to the first survey to…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

PROPHECY WATCH: Coalition Forming To Remove Assad!

Posted: 06 Apr 2017 02:01 PM PDT

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Thursday that “steps are underway” on an international coalition to pressure Bashar Assad from power, as President Trump was…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Nurse is Fired for Encouraging Cancer Patient to Pray

Posted: 06 Apr 2017 01:56 PM PDT

A Christian nurse who was fired after offering to pray with patients before surgery says she was treated unfairly. Sarah Kuteh has been a nurse…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

5 Powerful Clues Revealing the Rapture of the Church in Revelation 4

Posted: 06 Apr 2017 01:46 PM PDT

(By Ricky Scaparo) In this special segment, we will reveal to you the 5 clues that reveal powerful evidence of the “Catching Away” of the…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

One EMP Warhead From North Korea Could Destroy Our Nation!

Posted: 06 Apr 2017 12:24 PM PDT

For those who are skeptical about North Korea’s capabilities, there is an excellent article presented by The Hill, entitled How North Korea could kill 90…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

UK Bus Campaign Spreads The Words of Jesus at Easter

Posted: 06 Apr 2017 12:12 PM PDT

The founder of a U.K. Christian TV network has found a unique way to share famous quotes from Jesus — by displaying them on buses…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

When Religious Spirits Masquerade as Prophets

Posted: 06 Apr 2017 12:07 PM PDT

(By Jennifer LeClaire) If you could look at my e-mail inbox, some of what you read would make you cry out in travail for the…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

WAR DRUMS: US attack on North Korea ‘may be an option,’ says retired US general

Posted: 06 Apr 2017 11:59 AM PDT

In the wake of recent nuclear missile tests conducted by North Korea, retired four-star US General Jack Keane says that bombing the country’s nuclear facilities…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

WAR DRUMS: Putin rebukes Netanyahu over ‘groundless’ accusations on suspected chemical incident in Syria

Posted: 06 Apr 2017 11:54 AM PDT

During the phone call initiated by the Israeli side on Thursday, Putin and Netanyahu stressed the importance of boosting international efforts to tackle terrorism, the…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

WAR DRUMS: Trump considering options for Syria retaliation…

Posted: 06 Apr 2017 11:50 AM PDT

President Donald Trump has told some members of Congress that he is considering military action in Syria in retaliation for this week’s chemical attack, and…

Read more at End Time Headlines.


What is The Gospel?


Who Do You Think That I Am?

Selected Scriptures

Code: A335

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

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

Consider what the Bible says about Him:

JESUS IS GOD

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

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

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

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

JESUS IS HOLY

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

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

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

JESUS IS THE SAVIOR

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

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

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

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

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

JESUS IS THE ONLY ACCEPTABLE OBJECT OF SAVING FAITH

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

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

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

JESUS IS LORD

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

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

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

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

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

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

JESUS IS THE JUDGE

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

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

HOW WILL YOU RESPOND?

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

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


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/articles/A335
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The Irrelevant Christine Caine … A Dingo Ate My Legacy?

Ed Stetzer is a prominent evangelical with considerable credibility.  But when it comes to spiritual things Stetzer has shown time and time again that he lacks discernment.  If he had an ounce of spiritual discernment would he spend his valuable time interviewing Word of Faith pastrix Christine Caine regarding her new partnership with Wheaton College, a Christian institution?  Not surprisingly Ed Stetzer did just that.  In a piece over at Pulpit & Pen, Bud Ahlheim addresses the Stetzer-Caine interview and Caine’s baffling arrangement with Wheaton. He writes:

In Revelation 2:20, Christ chided the church of Thyatira in no uncertain terms.  “I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess.”  Today, though, it isn’t just a single church tolerating just a single “prophetess;” it’s a large swath of the evangelical church embracing a legion of false teaching sirens, none of whom are actually named Jezebel.

One, in particular, is Christine Caine.

View article →

Friday’s Featured Sermon: “Fundamental Christian Attitudes: Self-Discipline, Part 1” 1 Peter 1:13

1 Peter 1:13

Code: B170407

Self-discipline, by definition, does not come easy. While it might require less effort for some people, we all have to battle against ourselves and our natural inclinations toward indulgence.

For those of us who have been redeemed by and reconciled to God, the battle is significantly greater. We’re not just fighting our natural dispositions—whether we’re organized or prompt. Instead, our self-discipline is a spiritual battle against our flesh. We’re struggling to subdue our past sinful habits and live holy, god-honoring lives.

Ours is a daily struggle—or should be—a battle we will fight as long as we remain on this side of eternity. By God’s grace, He has set us free from our death sentence. But we still bear the grave clothes of our former selves. It’s the struggle to live out the transformation God has already worked in us.

In his message “Fundamental Christian Attitudes: Self-Discipline, Part 1,” John MacArthur gives us some helpful encouragement for that daily struggle. Grounded in the study of 1 Peter 1, he highlights several key elements of Christian self-discipline—starting with the exhortation of verse 13, “Prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit.”

Here’s how John explains Peter’s charge to “keep sober.”

A disciplined mind is a mind that avoids the intoxicating elements and allurements of the world. We’re talking about somebody whose mind is clear, whose priorities are fixed, who has a spiritual steadfastness, who exercises self-control in their thinking, who has balanced priorities. You could even call it moral decisiveness because there are fixed principles in the mind. That’s why sound doctrine is so important; you have to have fixed principles in the mind in order to establish priorities of behavior, mental alertness. It’s the opposite of sort of whimsically careening through life in reckless self-indulgence at the response of your emotions to every option. It’s being able to clear out the clutter from life’s entanglements and sort out what really matters in your mind.

From there, John gives us three guiding principles that shape and secure the self-discipline of God’s people. He discusses the vital importance of remembering who owns you, remembering the covenant of salvation, and recognizing all sin as a violation of our relationship to God. This message ascends some theological heights, but it’s dealing with matters that could not be more personal or practical. I don’t know a believer who doesn’t need to listen—or listen again—to “Fundamental Christian Attitudes: Self-Discipline, Part 1.”

But don’t just take my word for it; here’s what another Grace to You staff member had to say about this message:

This sermon addresses the urgency of living disciplined lives in practical, everyday matters, as well as bringing to bear what the Bible says in 1 Peter 1:13 about girding up our minds. Living out this teaching on self-discipline has helped me establish biblical priorities that are properly motivated by the glory of God and grounded in the truth of God’s Word. I challenge believers to listen to and apply Pastor John’s teaching on the essential Christian attitude of self-discipline for the glory of God and the strength of His church. -Mark G

To listen to “Fundamental Christian Attitudes: Self-Discipline, Part 1,” click here.

 


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B170407
COPYRIGHT ©2017 Grace to You

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The Case for Christ movie opens today in theaters

WINTERY KNIGHT

Finally, a movie about Lee Strobel’s investigation of Christianity.

NewsMax has an article about the new movie.

Excerpt:

A former reporter and atheist who set out to disprove the existence of God – and came to “quite a different conclusion” – said Monday it is “disconcerting” to see his tumultuous story portrayed in a new film.

The movie based on the book “The Case For Christ,” which opens Friday, has had encouraging feedback at test previews, author Lee Strobel told Newsmax TV host Miranda Khan on Monday’s “Newsmax Prime.”

“A lot of faith-based films tend to be, if we’re honest, a little cringeworthy, a little cheesy,” he said. “And there’s none of that in this movie. This is a movie that is so well done from a production standpoint, the acting, the script, that we really are convinced that Christians will go to it, they’ll be encouraged . . . to come…

View original post 765 more words

Barna Update | Meet the “Spiritual but Not Religious”

“I’m spiritual but not religious.” You’ve heard it—maybe even said it—before. But what does it actually mean? In this second part of a two-part series on faith outside the church, Barna takes a close look at the segment of the American population who are “spiritual but not religious.” Who are they? What do they believe? How do they live out their spirituality daily?

Read more

April 7, 2017: Verse of the day

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I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. (17:4)

In God’s perfect plan, and in keeping with His perfect justice, the Son had to come to earth in order to save those whom the Father had given Him (Luke 19:10). As was noted earlier, the Father’s gift was so precious to the Son that He was willing to do whatever was necessary to receive it (cf. Phil. 2:1–11).

The Lord Jesus Christ glorified the Father during His time on the earth by having perfectly accomplished the work which the Father gave Him to do (cf. 4:34; 5:30; 6:38; 15:10). That work culminated in the cross, which He viewed here in an anticipatory way. Jesus was certain that the eternal promise of God would be perfectly accomplished, and that nothing could prevent the Father’s purposes from being realized. But His statement did more than merely reveal His own confidence in the plans of the Father. It also served as an example to the disciples—reminding them to trust in God’s sovereign working and take comfort in knowing that He was in control.

Additionally, this verse implies the truth of Christ’s impeccability (sinlessness). “Which one of you convicts Me of sin?” Jesus boldly challenged His adversaries (John 8:46). Paul described Him in 2 Corinthians 5:21 as “Him who knew no sin.” The writer of Hebrews declared that though He was “tempted in all things as we are,” Jesus was “yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15), and went on to characterize Him as “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners” (Heb. 7:26). Peter referred to Him as “a lamb unblemished and spotless” (1 Peter 1:19) and declared that He “committed no sin” (1 Peter 2:22). John said simply, “In Him [Christ] there is no sin” (1 John 3:5). Most significant of all was the Father’s affirmation, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matt. 3:17; 17:5). Only by living a sinless life could Jesus be an acceptable sacrifice for sin.

When John the Baptist hesitated to baptize Him, Jesus told him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). It was imperative for Him to live a life of perfect obedience, fulfilling all of God’s righteous requirements. Only One who was perfectly holy, just as God is holy (Lev. 19:2), could be the final sacrifice for sin (cf. Heb. 10:1–18). Through His death and resurrection, Jesus conquered death and provided eternal life to all who believe in Him. But in addition, His perfect life of obedience, the fullest expression of which was His willingness to die on the cross (Luke 22:42), is imputed to believers at justification (cf. Rom. 5:18–21). Though Jesus was sinless, God treated Him as if He had committed the sins of everyone who would believe in Him, so that believers, though unrighteous, could be treated as if they had lived Christ’s perfect life. Again, 2 Corinthians 5:21 succinctly summarizes that glorious truth: “He [the Father] made Him [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Christ’s willingness to be a sin-bearing sacrifice on the cross was the ultimate demonstration of His complete commitment to obey the Father, as well as the ultimate expression of His love for sinners (cf. John 15:13).

MacArthur New Testament Commentary

April 7 – Maintaining Spiritual Sensitivity

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4).

✧✧✧

Sin is a serious issue with God. He never winks at it or takes it lightly.

Satan desires to desensitize Christians to the heinousness of sin. He wants you to stop mourning over sin and start enjoying it. Impossible? Many who once thought so have fallen prey to its power. It usually doesn’t happen all at once. In fact, the process can be slow and subtle—almost imperceptible. But the results are always tragic.

How can you remain alert to the dangers of sin and protect yourself from compromise? First, be aware of your sin. David said, “My sin is ever before me” (Ps. 51:3). Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips” (Isa. 6:5). Peter said to Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8). Paul called himself the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). Those men shared a common awareness of their own sinfulness, and it drove them to God for forgiveness and cleansing.

Second, remember the significance of the cross. If you allow a pattern of sin to develop in your life, you’ve forgotten the enormous price Christ paid to free you from its bondage.

Third, realize the effect sin has on others. The psalmist said, “My eyes shed streams of water, because they do not keep Thy law” (Ps. 119:136). Jesus mourned over Jerusalem, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling” (Matt. 23:37). Your heart should ache for those who are enslaved to sin.

Finally, eliminate anything that hinders your sensitivity to sin, such as deliberately sinning, rejecting God’s forgiveness, being proud, presuming on God’s grace, or taking sin lightly. Such things will quickly dull your spiritual senses and give Satan the opportunity to lead you into greater sin.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank God that He brings comfort and happiness to those who mourn over their sin. ✧ Ask Him to guard your heart from anything that will diminish your sensitivity to the awfulness of sin.

For Further Study: Read 1 Samuel 15. ✧ What was Saul’s sin? ✧ Did he mourn over his sin? Explain.[1]


Happy Are the Sad

(5:4)

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Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (5:4)

In Psalm 55 David cries out, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. Behold, I would wander far away, I would lodge in the wilderness. I would hasten to my place of refuge from the stormy wind and tempest” (vv. 6–8).

Such a cry comes from the lips of almost everyone at some time or another. David echoes the cry of humanity-a cry for release, a cry for freedom, a cry for escape from things that weigh heavy on us. When we face great sorrow, disappointment, tragedy, or failure, we wish that we could escape the trouble like we escape a thunderstorm by running inside. But comfort from the troubles of life is much harder to find than shelter from rain. The deeper the sorrow, the harder the pressure, the worse the despair, the more elusive comfort seems to be.

As pointed out in the previous chapter, all of the Beatitudes are paradoxical, because what they promise for what they demand seems incongruous and upside down in the eyes of the natural man. The paradox of the second beatitude is obvious. What could be more self-contradictory than the idea that the sad are happy, that the path to happiness is sadness, that the way to rejoicing is in mourning?

In the routine of ordinary, day-by-day living, the idea seems absurd. The whole structure of most human living-whether by the primitive or sophisticated, the wealthy or the poor, the educated or the uneducated-is based on the seemingly incontrovertible principle that the way to happiness is having things go your own way. Pleasure brings happiness, money brings happiness, entertainment brings happiness, fame and praise bring happiness, self-expression brings happiness. On the negative side, avoiding pain, trouble, disappointment, frustration, hardships, and other problems brings happiness. Sidestepping those things is necessary before the other things can bring full happiness. Throughout history a basic axiom of the world has been that favorable things bring happiness, whereas unfavorable things bring unhappiness. The principle seems so self-evident that most people would not bother to debate it.

But Jesus said, “Happy are the sad.” He even went so far as to say, “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep” (Luke 6:25)-the converse beatitude of Matthew 5:4. Jesus turned the world’s principles exactly upside down. He reversed the path to happiness.

To discover what Jesus meant, and did not mean, in this beatitude we will look at the meaning of mourning as it is used here, the result of mourning, the way to mourn as Jesus teaches, and the way to know if we are truly mourning.

the meaning of mourning

Certain kinds of sorrow are common to all mankind, experienced by believer and unbeliever alike. Some of these sorrows are normal and legitimate, sorrows which concern the Lord and for which He knows our need. Others are abnormal and illegitimate, brought about solely because of sinful passions and objectives.

Improper Mourning

Improper mourning is the sorrow of those who are frustrated in fulfilling evil plans and lusts, or who have misguided loyalties and affection. To those who mourn in that way the Lord offers no help or solace.

David’s son “Amnon was so frustrated because of his sister Tamar that he made himself ill, for she was a virgin, and it seemed hard to Amnon to do anything to her” (2 Sam. 13:2). Amnon’s grief was caused by incestuous, unfulfilled lust.

Others carry legitimate sorrow to illegitimate extremes. When a person grieves so hard and so long over the loss of a loved one that he cannot function normally, his grief becomes sinful and destructive. Such depressing sorrow is usually related to guilt, essentially selfish, and, for a Christian, is a mark of unfaithfulness and lack of trust in God.

David grieved that way, in part to try to atone for his guilt. When the rebellious Absalom, another of David’s sons, was killed, his father went into inconsolable mourning (2 Sam. 18:33—19:4). Joab finally rebuked the king, saying, “Today you have covered with shame the faces of all your servants, who today have saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters, the lives of your wives, and the lives of your concubines, by loving those who hate you, and by hating those who love you. For you have shown today that princes and servants are nothing to you; for I know this day that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased” (19:5–6). The wickedly ambitious Absalom had raised a rebel army, driven the king-his own father-out of Jerusalem, and taken over the palace.

David’s love for his son was understandable, but his judgment had been perverted. Probably because of his great feeling of guilt for having been such a poor father, and because he knew that Absalom’s tragedy was part of the judgment God sent because of David’s adulterous and murderous affair with Bathsheba, the king’s mourning over Absalom was abnormal. The judgment that came on Absalom was entirely deserved.

Proper Mourning

There are also, of course, other kinds of sorrow, legitimate sorrows that are common to all mankind and for which reasonable mourning is appropriate. To express these sorrows and to cry over them opens an escape valve that keeps our feelings from festering and poisoning our emotions and our whole life. It provides the way for healing, just as washing out a wound helps prevent infection.

An Arab proverb says, “All sunshine makes a desert.” The trouble-free life is likely to be a shallow life. We often learn more and mature more from times of sorrow than from times when everything is going well. A familiar poem by Robert Browning Hamilton expresses the truth:

I walked a mile with Pleasure,

She chattered all the way,

But left me none the wiser

For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow,

And ne’er a word said she,

But, oh, the things I learned from her

When Sorrow walked with me.

(Cited in William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew [rev. ed.; Philadelphia: Westminster. 1975], 1:94)

Sarah’s death caused Abraham to mourn (Gen. 23:2). But the “father of the faithful” did not weep from lack of faith but for the loss his beloved wife, which he had every right to do.

Loneliness for God, from whom he felt separated for a time, caused the psalmist to declare, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?”’ (Ps. 42:1–3).

Defeat and discouragement caused Timothy to mourn, leading Paul, his spiritual father, to write, “I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day, longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy” (2 Tim. 1:3–4).

Anguished concern about the sins of Israel and God’s coming judgment on His people caused Jeremiah to mourn. “Oh, that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears,” he cried, “that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (Jer. 9:1).

Concern for the spiritual welfare of the Ephesian believers had caused Paul to mourn. “Night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears,” he said (Acts 20:31). Because of their great love for him the elders from the Ephesus church later mourned for Paul as he prayed with them on the beach near Miletus, “grieving especially over the word which he had spoken, that they should see his face no more” (v. 38).

The earnest love of a father caused him to be grief-stricken over his demon-possessed son, even as he brought him to Jesus for healing. No doubt tears ran down the man’s face as He implored Jesus to help, confessing “I do believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

Repentant, worshipful devotion caused a woman to mourn over her sins as she went into the Pharisee’s house and washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. To the proud host who resented her contaminating his house and interrupting his dinner party, Jesus said, “I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47).

Immeasurable divine love caused our Lord to weep at the death of Lazarus (John 11:35) and over the sinning people of Jerusalem, whom He wanted to gather into His care as a mother hen gathers her chicks (Matt. 23:37).

Godly Mourning

The mourning about which Jesus is talking in the second beatitude, however, has nothing to do with the types just discussed, proper or improper. The Lord is concerned about all of the legitimate sorrows of His children, and He promises to console, comfort, and strengthen us when we turn to Him for help. But those are not the kind of sorrow at issue here. Jesus is speaking of godly sorrow, godly mourning, mourning that only those who sincerely desire to belong to Him or who already belong to Him can experience.

Paul speaks of this sorrow in his second letter to Corinth. “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you” (2 Cor. 7:10–11). The only sorrow that brings spiritual life and growth is godly sorrow, sorrow over sin that leads to repentance. Godly sorrow is linked to repentance, and repentance is linked to sin.

As the first beatitude makes clear, entrance into the kingdom of heaven begins with being “poor in spirit,” with recognition of total spiritual bankruptcy. The only way any person can come to Jesus Christ is empty-handed, totally destitute and pleading for God’s mercy and grace. Without a sense of spiritual poverty no one can enter the kingdom. And when we enter the kingdom we should never lose that sense, knowing “that nothing good dwells in [us], that is, in [our] flesh” (Rom. 7:18).

Spiritual poverty leads to godly sorrow; the poor in spirit become those who mourn. After his great sin involving Bathsheba and Uriah, David repented and expressed his godly sorrow in Psalm 51: “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee, Thee only, I have sinned, and done what is evil in Thy sight” (vv. 3–4). Job was a model believer, “blameless, upright, fearing God, and turning away from evil” (Job. 1:1). Yet he still had something to learn about God’s greatness and his own unworthiness, about God’s infinite wisdom and his own very imperfect understanding. Only after God allowed everything dear to Job to be taken away and then lectured His servant on His sovereignty and His majesty, did Job finally come to the place of godly sorrow, of repenting of and mourning over his sin. He confessed, “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees Thee; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes” (42:5–6). God loves and honors a morally righteous life, but it is no substitute for a humble and contrite heart, which God loves and honors even more (Isa. 66:2).

As seen in the discussion of the first beatitude, makarios (blessed) means to be happy, blissful. That happiness is a divine pronouncement, the assured benefit of those who meet the conditions God requires.

The condition of the second beatitude is mourning: blessed are those who mourn. Nine different Greek words are used in the New Testament to speak of sorrow, reflecting its commonness in man’s life. It is woven into the cloth of the human situation. The story of history is the story of tears. And before the earth’s situation gets better it will get worse. Jesus tells us that before He comes again, “nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs” (Matt. 24:7–8). Until the Lord returns, history is destined to go from tragedy to greater tragedy, from sorrow to still greater sorrow.

Of the nine terms used for sorrow, the one used here (pentheō, mourn) is the strongest, the most severe. It represents the deepest, most heart-felt grief, and was generally reserved for grieving over the death of a loved one. It is used in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) for Jacob’s grief when he thought his son Joseph was killed by a wild animal (Gen. 37:34). It is used of the disciples’ mourning for Jesus before they knew He was raised from the dead (Mark 16:10). It is used of the mourning of world business leaders over the death of its commerce because of the destruction of the world system during the Tribulation (Rev. 18:11, 15).

The word carries the idea of deep inner agony, which may or may not be expressed by outward weeping, wailing, or lament. When David stopped hiding his sin and began mourning over it and confessing it (Ps. 32:3–5), he could declare, “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit!” (vv. 1–2).

Happiness, or blessedness, does not come in the mourning itself. Happiness comes with what God does in response to it, with the forgiveness that such mourning brings. Godly mourning brings God’s forgiveness, which brings God’s happiness. Mourning is not merely a psychological or emotional experience that makes people feel better. It is a communion with the living, loving God who responds to the mourner with an objective reality-the reality of divine forgiveness!

David experienced and expressed many kinds of common human sorrow, both proper and improper. He mourned over being lonely, over being rejected, over being discouraged and disappointed, and over losing an infant child. He also mourned inordinately over the death of Absalom, whom God had removed to protect Israel and the messianic throne of David. But nothing broke the heart of David like his own sin. No anguish was as deep as the anguish he felt when he finally saw the awfulness of his offenses against the Lord. That is when David became happy, when he became truly sad over his transgressions.

The world says, “Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag, and smile, smile, smile.” Hide your problems and pretend to be happy. The same philosophy is applied to sin. But Jesus says, “Confess your sins, and mourn, mourn, mourn.” When we do that, our smiles can be genuine, because our happiness will be genuine. Godly mourning brings godly happiness, which no amount of human effort or optimistic pretense, no amount of positive thinking or possibility thinking, can produce.

Only mourners over sin are happy because only mourners over sin have their sins forgiven. Sin and happiness are totally incompatible. Where one exists, the other cannot. Until sin is forgiven and removed, happiness is locked out. Mourning over sin brings forgiveness of sin, and forgiveness of sin brings a freedom and a joy that cannot be experienced in any other way.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you,” James tells us. “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” (James 4:8–10).

There is great need in the church today to cry instead of laugh. The frivolity, silliness, and foolishness that go on in the name of Christianity should themselves make us mourn. God’s counsel to the frivolous happy, the self-satisfied happy, the indulgent happy is: “Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into gloom.”

The faithful child of God is constantly broken over his sinfulness, and the longer he lives and the more mature he becomes in the Lord, the harder it is for him to be frivolous. He sees more of God’s love and mercy, but he also sees more of his own and the world’s sinfulness. To grow in grace is also to grow in awareness of sin. Speaking to Israel, the prophet Isaiah said, “In that day the Lord God of hosts called you to weeping, to wailing, to shaving the head, and to wearing sackcloth. Instead, there is gaiety and gladness, killing of cattle and slaughtering of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine.” Following the world’s philosophy, which still prevails today, God’s ancient people said, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we may die” (Isa. 22:12–13).

We follow that philosophy vicariously, if not actually, when we laugh at the world’s crude and immoral jokes even though we do not retell them, when we are entertained by a sin even though we do not indulge in it, when we smile at ungodly talk even though we do not repeat the words. To joke about divorce, to make light of brutality, to be intrigued by sexual immorality is to rejoice when we should be mourning, to be laughing when we should be crying. To “rejoice in the perversity of evil” is placed alongside “delight in doing evil” (Prov. 2:14). To take “pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thess. 2:12) is to be a part of the wickedness, whether or not we commit the specific sin.

Much of the church today has a defective sense of sin, which is reflected in this defective sense of humor. When even its own members make the church the butt of jokes, make light of its beliefs and ordinances, caricature its leaders as inept and clownish, and make its high standards of purity and righteousness the subject of humorous commentary, the church has great need to turn its laughter into mourning.

The Bible recognizes a proper sense of humor, humor that is not at the expense of God’s name, God’s Word, God’s church, or any person, except perhaps ourselves. God knows that “a joyful heart is good medicine” (Prov. 17:22), but a heart that rejoices in sin is taking poison, not medicine. The way to happiness is not in ignoring sin, much less in making light of it, but rather in sorrow over it that cries to God.

We can react to our spiritual bankruptcy in one of several ways. Like the Pharisees we can deny our spiritual destitution and pretend we are spiritually rich. Or, like monastics and advocates of moral rearmament, we can admit our condition and try to change it in our own power and by our own efforts. Or we can admit our condition and then despair over it to such a degree that we try to drown it in drink, escape it by drugs or by activity, or give up completely and commit suicide, as Judas did. Because they can find no answer in themselves or in the world, these people conclude that there is no answer. Or, like the prodigal son, we can admit our condition, mourn over it, and turn to the heavenly Father to remedy our poverty (see Luke 15:11–32).

Mourning over sin is not being engulfed in despair. Even the person who has been severely disciplined by the church should be forgiven, comforted, and loved, “lest somehow such a one be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow” (2 Cor. 2:7–8). Nor is godly mourning wallowing in self-pity and false humility, which are really badges of pride.

True mourning over sin does not focus on ourselves, not even on our sin. It focuses on God, who alone can forgive and remove our sin. It is an attitude that begins when we enter the kingdom and lasts as long as we are on earth. It is the attitude of Romans 7. Contrary to some popular interpretation, Paul is not here speaking simply about his former condition. The problems of chapter 7 were not one-time experiences that were completely replaced by the victories of chapter 8. The apostle clearly says, “For that which I am doing I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate” (7:15). Here he uses the present tense, as he does throughout the rest of the chapter: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; … for the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish” (vv. 18–19); “I find then the principle that evil is present in me” (v. 21); “Wretched man that I am! … So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin” (vv. 24–25).

Paul wrote those words at the height of his ministry. Yet righteousness and sin were still fighting a battle in his life. As he acknowledges in verse 25, the way of victory is “through Jesus Christ our Lord,” but the rest of the verse makes clear that, at that time, the victory was not yet complete. He knew where the victory was, and he had tasted the victory many times. But he knew that, in this life, it is never a permanent victory. The presence of the flesh sees to that. Permanent victory is assured to us now, but it is not given to us now.

Paul not only spoke of the creation anxiously longing for restoration, but of his own longing for complete restoration. “And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the: Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:19, 22–23). Paul was tired of sin, tired of fighting it in himself, as well as in the church and in the world. He longed for relief. “For indeed in this house we groan,” he said, “longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven.” He greatly preferred “rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:2, 8).

The mark of the mature life is not sinlessness, which is reserved for heaven, but growing awareness of sinfulness. “If we say that we have no sin,” John warns, “we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8–9). The subjects of God’s kingdom-the forgiven ones, the children of God and joint heirs with the Son-are characterized by continual confession of sin.

Several years ago a college student said to me, “I’ve been liberated. Someone explained to me the true meaning of 1 John 1:9, and now I realize that I no longer have to confess my sins.” I asked him, “Well, do you still confess your sins?” “I just told you that I don’t have to anymore,” he replied. “I know you did,” I said, “but do you still confess your sins?” When he replied, “Yes, that’s what bothers me,” I stopped being bothered. I said, “I’m very glad to hear that,” and then told him that I knew that, despite the false teaching to which he had been exposed, he was a genuine Christian. His redeemed nature refused to go along with the false teaching his mind had temporarily accepted.

Penthountes (mourn) is a present participle, indicating continuous action. In other words, those who are continually mourning are those who will be continually comforted. In his ninety-five theses Martin Luther said that the Christian’s entire life is a continuous act of repentance and contrition. In his psalms David cried out, “For my iniquities are gone over my head; as a heavy burden they weigh too much for me” (38:4) and, “I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (51:3).

There is no record in the New Testament of Jesus laughing. We are told of His weeping, His anger, His hunger and thirst, and many other human emotions and characteristics. But if He laughed, we do not know of it. We do know that, as Isaiah predicted, He was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). Yet today we often hear of another Jesus, who laughs and cajoles and draws people into the kingdom by His nonjudgmental spirit and His winsome way. The fun-loving, escapist world of comedians is found plying its trade even in the church-and finding ready acceptance.

The Result of Mourning

The result of godly mourning is comfort: they shall be comforted. That is why they are blessed. It is not the mourning that blesses, but the comfort God gives to those who mourn in a godly way.

The emphatic pronoun autos (they) indicates that only those who mourn over sin will be comforted. The blessing of God’s comfort is reserved exclusively for the contrite of heart. It is only those who mourn for sin who will have their tears wiped away by the loving hand of Jesus Christ.

Comforted is from parakaleō the same word that, as a noun, is rendered Comforter, or Helper, in John 14:16, where we are told that Jesus was the first Helper, and the Holy Spirit is “another Helper.”

The Old Testament also speaks of God comforting those who mourn. Isaiah tells of the Messiah’s coming, among other things, “to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning” (Isa. 61:2–3). David was comforted by the rod and staff of his divine Shepherd (Ps. 23:4).

As our mourning rises to the throne of God, His unsurpassed and matchless comfort descends from Him by Christ to us. Ours is the “God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3), who is always ready to meet our need, admonishing, sympathizing, encouraging, and strengthening. God is a God of comfort, Christ is a Christ of comfort, and the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of comfort. As believers we have the comfort of the entire Trinity!

Shall be does not refer to the end of our lives or the end of the age. Like all other blessings of God, it will be completed only when we see our Lord face-to-face. In the eternal heavenly state God “shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain” (Rev. 21:4).

But the comfort of Matthew 5:4 is future only in the sense that the blessing comes after the obedience; the comfort comes after the mourning. As we continually mourn over our sin, we shall be continually comforted-now, in this present life. God is not only the God of future comfort but of present comfort. “God our Father” already has “given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace” (2 Thess. 2:16).

Even God’s written Word is a present comforter, given for our encouragement and hope (Rom. 15:4). And as God Himself gives us comfort and His Word gives us comfort, we are called to comfort each other with the promises of His Word (1 Thess. 4:18; cf. 2 Cor. 1:6; 7:13; 13:11; etc.).

Happiness comes to sad people because their godly sadness leads to God’s comfort. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden,” Jesus says, “and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). He will lift the burden from those who mourn over sin, and He will give rest to those who are weary of sin. As often as we confess our sin, He is faithful to forgive, and for as long as we mourn over sin He is faithful to comfort.

How to Mourn

What does true mourning over sin involve? How can we become godly mourners?

Eliminate Hindrances

The first step requires removing the hindrances that keep us from mourning, the things that make us content with ourselves, that make us resist God’s Spirit and question His Word, and that harden our hearts. A stony heart does not mourn. It is insensitive to God, and His plow of grace cannot break it up. It only stores up wrath till the day of wrath.

Love of sin is the primary hindrance to mourning. Holding on to sin will freeze and petrify a heart. Despair hinders mourning because despair is giving up on God, refusing to believe that He can save and help. Despair is putting ourselves outside God’s grace. Of such people Jeremiah writes, “They will say, ‘It’s hopeless! For we are going to follow our own plans, and each of us will act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart’ ” (Jer. 18:12). The one who despairs believes he is destined to sin. Because he believes God has given up on him, he gives up on God. Despair excuses sin by choosing to believe that there is no choice. Despair hides God’s mercy behind a self-made cloud of doubt.

Another hindrance is conceit, which tries to hide the sin itself, choosing to believe that there is nothing over which to mourn. It is the spiritual counterpart of a doctor treating a cancer as if it were a cold. If it was necessary for Jesus Christ to shed His blood on the cross to save us from our sin, our sin must be great indeed!

Presumption hinders mourning because it is really a form of pride. It recognizes the need for grace, but not much grace. It is satisfied with cheap grace, expecting God to forgive little because it sees little to be forgiven. Sins are bad, but not bad enough to be confessed, repented of, and forsaken. Yet the Lord declared through Isaiah, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55:7). No pardon is offered to the unrepentant, presumptuous person who refuses to forsake his sin. The gospel that teaches otherwise has always been popular, as it clearly is in our own day; but it is a false gospel, “a different gospel” (Gal. 1:6), a distortion and contradiction of the gospel of Scripture.

Procrastination hinders godly mourning simply by putting it off. It says, “One of these days, when things are just right, I’ll take a hard look at my sins, confess them, and ask God’s forgiveness and cleansing.” But procrastination is foolish and dangerous, because we “do not know what [our] life will be like tomorrow. [We] are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). The sooner the disease of sin is dealt with the sooner comfort will come. If it is not dealt with, we have no assurance that comfort will ever come, because we have no assurance we will have time to confess it later.

The most important step we can take in getting rid of hindrances to mourning, whatever they are, is to look at the holiness of God and the great sacrifice of sin-bearing at the cross. If seeing Christ die for our sins does not thaw a cold heart or break up a hardened heart, it is beyond melting or breaking. In her poem “Good Friday,” Christina Rossetti gives these moving lines:

Am I a stone and not a sheep,

That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,

To number drop by drop Thy Blood’s slow loss

And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved

Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;

Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;

Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon

Which hid their faces in a starless sky.

A horror of great darkness at broad noon-

I, only I.

Yet give not oe’r

But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;

Greater than Moses, turn and look once more

And smite a rock.

Study God’s Word

The second step toward godly mourning is to study sin in Scripture, to learn what an evil and repulsive thing it is to God and what a destructive and damning thing it is to us. We should learn from David to keep our sin ever before us (Ps. 51:3) and from Isaiah to say, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips” (Isa. 6:5). We should learn from Peter to say, “I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8) and from Paul to confess that we are the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). As we hear those great men of God talking about their sin, we are forced to face the reality and the depth of our own.

Sin tramples on God’s laws, makes light of His love, grieves His Spirit, spurns His forgiveness and blessing, and in every way resists His grace. Sin makes us weak and makes us impure. It robs us of comfort and, much more importantly, robs God of glory.

Pray

The third step toward godly mourning is to pray for contriteness of heart, which only God can give and which He never refuses to give those who ask. It must always be recognized that humility depends on the working of the Lord. The way to godly mourning lies not in pre-salvation human works, but in God’s saving grace.

How to Know if We Are Mourning as Christ Commands

Knowing whether or not we have godly mourning is not difficult. First, we need to ask ourselves if we are sensitive to sin. If we laugh at it, take it lightly, or enjoy it, we can be sure we are not mourning over it and are outside the sphere of God’s blessing.

The mock righteousness of hypocrites who make every effort to appear holy on the outside (see Matt. 6:1–18) has no sensitivity to sin, only sensitivity to personal prestige and reputation. Nor does the mock gratitude of those who thank God they are better than other people (Luke 18:11). Saul regretted that he had disobeyed God by not slaying King Agag and by sparing the best of the Amalekite animals. But he was not repentant; he did not mourn over his sin. He instead tried to excuse his actions by claiming that the animals were spared so that they could be sacrificed to God and that the people made him do what he did. He twice admitted that he had sinned, and even asked Samuel for pardon. But his real concern was not for the Lord’s honor but for his own. “I have sinned; but please honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel” (1 Sam. 15:30). Saul had ungodly regret, not godly mourning.

The godly mourner will have true sorrow for his sins. His first concern is for the harm his sin does to God’s glory, not the harm its exposure might bring to his own reputation or welfare.

If our mourning is godly we will grieve for the sins of fellow believers and for the sins of the world. We will cry with the psalmist, “My eyes shed streams of water, because they do not keep Thy law” (Ps. 119:136). We will wish with Jeremiah that our heads were fountains of water that we could have enough tears for weeping (Jer. 9:1; cf. Lam. 1:16). With Ezekiel we will search out faithful believers “who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed” around us (Ezek. 9:4; cf. Ps. 69:9). We will look out over the community where we live and weep, as Jesus looked out over Jerusalem and wept (Luke 19:41).

The second way to determine if we have genuine mourning over sin is to check our sense of God’s forgiveness. Have we experienced the release and freedom of knowing our sins are forgiven? Do we have His peace and joy in our life? Can we point to true happiness He has given in response to our mourning? Do we have the divine comfort He promises to those who have forgiven, cleansed, and purified lives?

The godly mourners “who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him” (Ps. 126:5–6).[2]


4 Black (Aramaic Approach, 157) notes how the Matthean and Lukan (6:21b, 25b) forms of this beatitude could each have been part of a larger parallelism—an observation that goes nicely with the hypothesis that the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain are reports of one discourse, relying somewhat on common sources (see Overview, 5:1–7:29).

Some commentators deny that this mourning is for sin (e.g., Bonnard). Others (e.g., Schweizer) understand it to be mourning for any kind of misery. The reality is subtler. The godly remnant of Jesus’ day weeps because of the humiliation of Israel, but they understand that it comes from personal and corporate sins. The psalmist testified, “Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed” (Ps 119:136; cf. Eze 9:4). When Jesus preached, “The kingdom of heaven is near,” he, like John the Baptist before him, expected not jubilation but contrite tears. It is not enough to acknowledge personal spiritual bankruptcy (Mt 5:3) with a cold heart. Weeping for sins can be deeply poignant (Ezr 10:6; Ps 51:4; Da 9:19–20) and can cover a global as well as personal view of sin and our participation in it. Paul understands these matters well (cf. Ro 7:24; 1 Co 5:2; 2 Co 12:21; Php 3:18).

“Comfort, comfort my people” (Isa 40:1) is God’s response. These first two beatitudes deliberately allude to the messianic blessing of Isaiah 61:1–3 (see Lk 4:16–19; cf. France, Jesus and the Old Testament, 134–35), confirming them as eschatological and messianic. The Messiah comes to bestow “the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isa 61:3). But these blessings, already realized partially but fully only at the consummation (Rev 7:17), depend on a Messiah who comes to save his people from their sins (1:21; cf. 11:28–30). Those who claim to experience all its joys without tears mistake the nature of the kingdom. In Charles Wesley’s words:

He speaks, and listening to his voice,

New life the dead receive;

The mournful, broken hearts rejoice,

The humble poor believe.[3]


5:4 Those who mourn are blessed; a day of comfort awaits them. This does not refer to mourning because of the vicissitudes of life. It is the sorrow which one experiences because of fellowship with the Lord Jesus. It is an active sharing of the world’s hurt and sin with Jesus. Therefore, it includes, not only sorrow for one’s own sin, but also sorrow because of the world’s appalling condition, it’s rejection of the Savior, and the doom of those who refuse His mercy. These mourners shall be comforted in the coming day when “God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 21:4). Believers do all their mourning in this life; for unbelievers, today’s grief is only a foretaste of eternal sorrow.[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 110). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 152–165). 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. 162–163). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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

APRIL 7 – RESURRECTION: A FACT

Be established in the present truth…For we have not followed cunningly devised fables.

2 Peter 1:12, 16

 

The resurrection of Christ and the fact of the empty tomb are not a part of this world’s complex and continuing mythologies. This is not a Santa Claus tale—it is history and it is a reality!

The true Church of Jesus Christ is necessarily founded upon the belief and the truth that there was a real death, a real tomb and a real stone!

But, thank God, there was a sovereign Father in heaven, an angel sent to roll the stone away and a living Savior in a resurrected and glorified body, able to proclaim to His disciples, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth!” (Matthew 28:18).

Brethren, He died for us, but ever since the hour of the Resurrection, He has been the mighty Jesus, the mighty Christ, the mighty Lord!

Our business is to thank God with tearful reverence for the cross, but to go on to a right understanding of what the Resurrection meant both to God and to men. We understand and acknowledge that the Resurrection has placed a glorious crown upon all of Christ’s sufferings!

 

Lord, I praise You that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a fact and not a fable. Because He lives, I have real purpose in this life and I can look forward to the life hereafter.[1]


Urgency

Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, (1:12a)

Therefore refers back to the greatness of salvation (1:1–4) and the blessedness of assurance (1:5–11), themes so crucial they must never be forgotten. Peter did not want his readers to forget they were saved (v. 9), nor the blessings of their salvation (v. 3). When Peter used the future tense, will always be ready, he was first indicating that he would remind his listeners of truth whenever given the opportunity, including when writing this Spirit-inspired epistle. But he also anticipated all who, in the ages to come, would read this letter and be reminded of the great things God gave him to say.

The apostle Paul, like Peter, knew the necessity of repeating the truth: “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you” (Phil. 3:1; cf. Rom. 15:15; 2 Thess. 2:5). Jude also sought to remind his readers of what they once knew (v. 5).

Contrary to the beliefs of some, there is no such thing as brand-new spiritual truth, only a clearer understanding of the timeless truths (Isa. 40:8; 1 Peter 1:23–25; cf. Matt. 5:18) in God’s Word. People do not always know the truths of Scripture, nor do they always hear true and accurate interpretations of it. Therefore, some in that condition may think certain truth is new—and it is to them. But there is no new revelation from God (cf. Jude 3). All who preach and teach the Scriptures are reminding people of what God has said in His Word so constantly that His repetition and theirs makes truth stick.

Certainly 2 Peter 2 and Jude’s letter vividly illustrate this principle of divine repetition in Scripture. The New Testament epistles deal with the same gospel in all its richness by revealing it in different terms and analogies. The Synoptic Gospels tell the same story three ways. Jesus repeated His message in sermons, parables, and object lessons everywhere He went, exposing His followers to the truth again and again. That was critical in the training of the Twelve.

Even the messages of the Old Testament prophets are essentially the same as they preach law, judgment, and forgiveness. The Psalms repeat the attributes and works of God. The books of Chronicles rehearse material from 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings. Deuteronomy 5:1–22 is a second giving of the Law at Sinai (Exodus 20), which reminded the people of it and readied them to enter the Promised Land.

Kindness

even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. (1:12b)

Peter was a kind shepherd who understood and exhibited sensitivity for his flock. Scripture extols gentleness (cf. 2 Cor. 10:1; Gal. 5:23; 6:1;  1 Thess. 2:7; 2 Tim. 2:25), meekness (cf. Matt. 5:5, nkjv; 1 Tim. 6:11, kjv; James 3:13 kjv), and tenderness (cf. Eph. 4:32), characteristics Peter displayed when he acknowledged that his readers already possessed godly virtue. He was encouraging, not condescending or indifferent to their devotion to Christ (cf. 1 Peter 5:2–3).

The recipients of this letter undoubtedly had heard other inspired New Testament letters read and preached (cf. 3:15–16), so they knew and believed the truth, so as to be established in it. The verb rendered established (stērizō), meaning “to firmly establish,” or “to strengthen,” is a perfect passive participle indicating a settled condition. They had given evidence by their faithfulness that the true gospel was strongly present with them. Peter affirmed them without doubt as genuine, maturing believers. He could have echoed Paul’s words to the Colossians, “You previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth” (Col. 1:5b–6; cf. 1 Thess. 2:13; 1 John 2:27; 2 John 2). When anyone comes to know Christ, the truth abides in him (2 Peter 1:12; 1 John 2:14, 27; 2 John 2; cf. John 17:19; 2 Cor. 11:10; Eph. 4:24; 6:14). It was still imperative that Peter’s readers receive this reminder, in view of the threat they faced from the powerful infiltration of false teachers (chapter 2 of this letter).[2]


For is the causal term linking this passage to the previous one and explaining why Peter reminded his hearers of the truth. He was absolutely convinced of the truth he taught because he had personally experienced it. He also spoke for the other apostles and New Testament authors when he asserted, we did not follow cleverly devised tales. All of them received supernatural revelation (John 1:51; 1 John 1:1–3) verifying that what they were taught and were subsequently preaching was the truth (Matt. 13:11, 16–17; cf. Matt. 11:25–26; 1 Cor. 2:10).

Peter’s opening assertion answers the accusation of his critics that he taught carefully crafted lies only to attract gullible followers and make money off them. False religious teachers commonly sought the power and popularity that brought not only money (cf. Mic. 3:11), but also sexual favors (cf. Jer. 23:14). However, Peter refuted his accusers by saying he and his fellow apostles did not follow the deceptive approach of false teachers.

Cleverly devised stems from sophizō (“to make wise”) and connotes sophisticated, subtly concocted ideas. The expression also refers to anything clandestine or deceitful. Seeking to devour the sheep, the false teachers would disguise their lies (cf. 2:1) to make them appear as divine truth (Jer. 6:14; 14:14; 23:16, 21, 26; cf. Matt. 7:15).

Tales (muthos, from which the English myths derives) refers to legendary stories of gods and heroic figures participating in miraculous events and performing extraordinary feats. Those tales characterized pagan mythology and its worldview. Paul used muthos, which always has a negative connotation in the New Testament, much as Peter did, to refer to the lies, fabrications, and deceptions of all false teachers (1 Tim. 1:4; 4:7; 2 Tim. 4:4; Titus 1:14). Peter flatly denied that he was drawing upon such fictitious stories when he made known his teaching. Undoubtedly, false teachers had told his readers that Christian faith and doctrine was just another set of myths and fables.

Made known (gnōrizō) is often used in the New Testament to speak of imparting new revelation (John 17:26; Rom. 16:26; Eph. 1:9; 3:3, 5, 10; cf. Luke 2:15; John 15:15; Acts 2:28; Rom. 9:22–23; 2 Cor. 8:1; Col. 1:27; 4:7, 9). In this instance, the revelation concerned the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ—His second coming in glory and dominion (Matt. 25:31; Luke 12:40; Acts 1:10–11; Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 1:13; Rev. 1:7). Apparently the false teachers were not only undermining Peter’s teaching in general, but also specifically denying what he said about the return of Christ. Peter’s reference to that line of attack later in this letter (3:3–4) confirms that fact.

Because Peter connected the phrase power and coming with the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is a sure indicator that he referred to His return (cf. Matt. 24:30; 25:31; Rev. 19:11–16). The description certainly does not fit His first coming in meekness and humility (cf. Luke 2:11–12; Rom. 1:3; 2 Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:6–7).

Coming is the familiar New Testament word parousia, which also means “appearing,” or “arrival.” The term, whenever used in the New Testament of Jesus Christ, always refers to His return. W. E. Vine elaborated on this aspect of the meaning:

When used of the return of Christ … it signifies, not merely His momentary coming for His saints, but His presence with them from that moment until His revelation and manifestation to the world. In some passages the word gives prominence to the beginning of that period, the course of the period being implied, 1 Cor. 15:23; 1 Thess. 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:1; Jas. 5:7, 8; 2 Peter 3:4. In some, the course is prominent, Matt. 24:3, 37; 1 Thess. 3:13; 1 John 2:28; in others the conclusion of the period, Matt. 24:27; 2 Thess. 2:8. (An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, 4 vols. [London: Oliphants, 1940; reprint, Chicago: Moody: 1985], 1:209)

In his first letter, Peter had declared the truth of Christ’s second coming (1 Peter 1:7, 13; 4:13; 5:4). But here he stresses that he and the other apostles were eyewitnesses of the very majesty Christ will fully display when He returns. Certainly all the apostles had seen Christ’s majesty in His life and ministry (John 2:11; 17:6–8), and in His death (John 19:25–30), resurrection (Luke 24:33–43), and ascension (Acts 1:9–11), so that those who were New Testament writers (e.g., Matthew, John, Peter) were eyewitnesses to much of what they wrote. Peter’s point is that the false teachers denied his claims about Jesus, but unlike him, they were not eyewitnesses to His life and ministry.

Eyewitnesses (epoptai) originally meant “general observers” or “spectators,” but over the years its meaning evolved. Barclay explains:

In the Greek usage of Peter’s day this was a technical word. We have already spoken about the Mystery Religions. These Mystery Religions were all of the nature of passion plays, in which the story of a god who lived, suffered, died, and rose again, never to die again, was played out. It was only after a long course of instruction and preparation that the worshipper was finally allowed to be present at the passion play, and to be offered the experience of becoming one with the dying and rising God. When he reached the stage of being allowed to attend the actual passion play, he was an initiate, and the technical word to describe him was in fact epoptēs; he was a prepared and privileged eye-witness of the experiences of God. (The Letters of James and Peter, rev. ed. [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976], 310)

With that usage in mind, it is clear that Peter saw himself and his fellow apostles as preeminently privileged spectators who had reached the highest and truest level of spiritual experience in being with Christ. Peter had in mind one event in particular that dramatically previewed Christ’s second coming majesty.[3]


1:12 As he considered the present and eternal implications of this subject, Peter determined to keep on reminding the believers of the importance of the development of Christian character. Even if they already knew it, they needed to be constantly reminded. And so do we. Even though we are established in the present truth, there is always the danger of a preoccupied moment or a forgetful hour. So the truth must be constantly repeated.[4]


1:16 The closing verses of chapter 1 deal with the certainty of Christ’s coming in glory. Peter deals first with the certainty of the apostolic witness, then with the certainty of the prophetic word. It is as if Peter joins the NT and the OT, and tells his readers to cling to this united testimony.

He emphasizes that the apostles’ testimony was based on fact, not on myth. They did not follow cleverly devised fables or myths when they made known to the readers the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The specific event to which he refers is the Transfiguration of Christ on the mount. It was witnessed by three of the apostles—Peter, James, and John. The power and coming is a literary way of saying “the coming in power,” or “powerful coming.” The Transfiguration was a preview of Christ’s coming in power to reign over all the earth. This is made clear in Matthew’s account of the event. In Matthew 16:28 Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” The very next verses (17:1–8) describe the Transfiguration. On the mount, Peter, James, and John saw the Lord Jesus in the same glory He will have when He reigns for one thousand years. Before they died, those three apostles saw the Son of Man in the glory of His coming kingdom. Thus the Lord’s words in Matthew 16:28 were fulfilled in 17:1–8.

Now Peter is emphatic that the apostolic account of the Transfiguration was not based on fables (in Greek, myths). This is the word that some modern theologians are using in their attack on the Bible. They are suggesting that we should “demythologize” the Scriptures. Bultmann spoke of the “mythological element” in the NT. John A. T. Robinson called on Christians to recognize that much of the Bible contains myths:

In the last century a painful but decisive step forward was taken in the recognition that the Bible does contain “myth,” and that this is an important form of religious truth. It was gradually acknowledged, by all except extreme fundamentalists, that the Genesis stories of the Creation and Fall were representations of the deepest truths about man and the universe in the form of myth rather than history, and were none-the-less valid for that. Indeed, it was essential to the defense of Christian truth to recognize and assert that these stories were not history, and not therefore in competition with the alternative accounts of anthropology or cosmology. Those who did not make this distinction were, we can now see, playing straight into the hands of Thomas Huxley and his friends.

To refute the charge of myths, Peter gives three proofs of the Transfiguration: the testimony of sight; the testimony of hearing; and the testimony of physical presence.

As to sight, the apostles were eyewitnesses of the Lord’s majesty. John testified, “We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father” (John 1:14).[5]


1:16 cleverly devised tales. The word for “tales” was used to refer to mythical stories about gods and miracles (cf. 1Ti 1:4; 4:7; 2Ti 4:4; Tit 1:14). Realizing that false leaders and their followers would try to discredit this letter, and that he was probably already being accused of concocting tales and myths in order to get people to follow him so he could amass wealth, power, and prestige as false teachers were motivated to do, Peter gave evidences in the following verses to prove that he wrote the truth of God as a genuinely inspired writer. made known. This word is a somewhat technical term for imparting a new revelation—something previously hidden, but now revealed. the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Since there is only one definite article with this phrase, the meaning is, “the powerful coming,” or “the coming in power.” The false teachers who were opposing Peter had tried to debunk the doctrine of the second coming of Christ (see 3:3, 4) about which Peter had spoken and written (1Pe 1:3–7, 13; 4:13). eyewitnesses of His majesty. The “we” that begins this verse refers to the apostles. In one sense, all of the apostles had been eyewitnesses to Christ’s majesty, especially His miracles, resurrection body, and ascension into heaven. Peter, however, is referring to a more specific event which he will describe in the next verse. The kingdom splendor of Christ revealed at this event was intended as a preview of His majesty to be manifested at His second coming (cf. Mt 16:28; see notes on 17:1–6). The Transfiguration was a glimpse of the glory to be unveiled at the final revelation, the apocalypse of Christ (Rev 1:1). It must be noted that Jesus’ earthly ministry of healing, teaching, and gathering souls into His kingdom was a preview of the character of the earthly kingdom He will establish at His return.[6]


1:12 The readers of this letter already know these godly qualities (cf. vv. 5–10) and are already established in the truth concerning life in Christ. Peter’s intent is simply to keep biblical morality in the forefront of the Christian’s daily pursuits.[7]


1:16 cleverly devised myths. “Myth” translates Greek mythos, “a story without basis in fact, a legend.” The gospel of Christ was no myth, because the apostles were eyewitnesses of his majesty. Peter had observed the “majesty” of Christ firsthand at the transfiguration. He knew that Christ had come in power; he was no mere literary character invented for a mythological narrative. But Jesus’ transfiguration also functions as a prelude and anticipation of his coming in glory. Readers learn from 3:3–4 that the false teachers believed that the second coming was also a myth, but Peter refutes this, underscoring the certainty of Christ’s return.[8]


1:12 remind you continually concerning these things Peter exhorts them so that they will remember and obey what he has taught them.

established in the truth The saving message of Jesus that Peter has already described (see note on v. 1).[9]


1:16 ingeniously concocted myths Peter is defending the truth of what he has preached about Jesus’ return (2 Pet 3). This is in contrast to the false teachers who have called his authority into question (compare 1 Tim 1:4 and note).

eyewitnesses Peter and the apostles testified about events they witnessed firsthand, particularly Jesus’ transfiguration.[10]


1:16 we. Peter links his message with that of the other apostles to affirm that they all preach the same message.

myths. This word is always used in the New Testament in a negative sense and in contrast to the truth of the gospel (1 Tim. 1:4; 2 Tim. 4:4).

the power and coming of … Christ. The Greek word translated “coming” is parousia, the usual New Testament term for Christ’s Second Coming in glory (3:4, 12; Matt. 24:27; 1 Thess. 3:13). “Power” is elsewhere associated with Christ’s coming (Matt. 24:30).

eyewitnesses of his majesty. Peter was present at Christ’s transfiguration (Matt. 17:1–8 and parallels). The eyewitness testimony of the apostles to the Transfiguration establishes the truth of Peter’s message in general, and in particular provides the historical basis for the apostolic expectation of the Second Coming. The Transfiguration was understood by the apostles to have been a brief anticipation of the divine glory with which Christ will return to earth (Matt. 16:27–17:8).[11]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2005). 2 Peter and Jude (pp. 48–50). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2005). 2 Peter and Jude (pp. 57–60). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2291). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2292). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[6] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (2 Pe 1:16). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[7] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2419). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[8] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2419). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[9] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (2 Pe 1:12). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[10] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (2 Pe 1:16). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[11] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1821). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

APRIL 7 – OUR LORD JESUS WAS BRUISED FOR OUR INIQUITIES

…He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities….

ISAIAH 53:5

The word “iniquity” is not a good word—and God knows how we hate it! But the consequences of iniquity cannot be escaped.

The prophet reminds us clearly that the Saviour was bruised for our iniquities.

We deny it, and say “No!” but the fingerprints of all mankind are plain evidence against us—the fingerprints of man found in every dark cellar and in every alley and in every dimly lighted evil place throughout the world. God knows man from man, and it is impossible to escape our guilt and place our moral responsibility upon someone else.

For our iniquities and our transgressions He was bruised and wounded—and Israel’s great burden and amazing blunder was her judgment that this wounded one on the hillside beyond Jerusalem was being punished for His own sin!

The prophet foresaw this historic error in judgment, and he himself was a Jew, saying: “We thought He was smitten of God. We thought that God was punishing Him for His own iniquity for we did not know then that God was punishing Him for our transgressions and our iniquities.”

For our sakes, He was profaned by ignorant and unworthy men![1]


5 Most commentators—even those who deny the presence of penal substitution elsewhere in the OT—agree that it is the meaning of this passage, though some argue against this (see, e.g., Whybray, in loc.).[2]


53:5 pierced through for our transgressions … crushed for our iniquities. This verse is filled with the language of substitution. The Servant suffered not for His own sin, since He was sinless (cf. Heb 4:15; 7:26), but as the substitute for sinners. The emphasis here is on Christ being the substitute recipient of God’s wrath on sinners (cf. 2Co 5:21; Gal 1:3, 4; Heb 10:9, 10). chastening for our well-being. He suffered the chastisement of God in order to procure our peace with God. by His scourging we are healed. The stripe (the Heb. noun is singular) that caused His death has brought salvation to those for whose sins He died. Peter confirms this in 1Pe 2:24.[3]


53:5 But contrasts with “our” incomprehension in v. 4b. The servant’s anguish was “our” fault, not his own. our transgressions, our iniquities. His sufferings went to the root of all human woe (cf. Matt. 8:17; 1 Pet. 2:24). wounded, crushed, chastisement, stripes. Isaiah emphasizes how severely God punished the rejected servant for the sins of mankind.

53:5 The messianic servant undergoes substitutionary suffering (Rom. 4:25; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24–25).[4]


53:5 was pierced for our transgressions The people realize that the Servant is suffering for their wrongdoing, not being punished for his own sin.

crushed because of our iniquities The Servant suffers on behalf of other people. See note on Isa 53:11.

our peace The Servant brings people into right relationship with God (vv. 11–12) and others. This could also indicate that there is a spiritual component to the Servant’s healing ministry described in v. 4.

his wounds we were healed The Servant is able to heal people—metaphorically and physically—because he is willing to follow the will of Yahweh—even though it results in his suffering.[5]


53:5 we are healed. The sufferings of Christ remove the penalty that His people would otherwise owe, and as a result He will undo the effects of sin in them. Death itself will be undone at last (1 Cor. 15:26).[6]


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

[2] Grogan, G. W. (2008). Isaiah. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, p. 804). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Is 53:5). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1338). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Is 53:5). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1028). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

April 7 – Positive Response to God’s Law

Whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.—Matt. 5:19b

Those saints who uphold every part of God’s Word in their lives and in what they teach exhibit a most positive response to His law and receive from Him the commendation “great.” They see Paul as their pattern, when he told the Thessalonians, “You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2:10–12; cf. 1 Tim. 4:11–12; 6:11–12).

The apostle kept and taught the entire purpose of God (Acts 20:27) and therefore ranks among the greatest in God’s kingdom. If we do the same, we too will be among the greatest in heaven.

One key to our positive response to God’s moral law is knowing that it’s changeless and eternal. In heaven, the traits it requires will not need to be commanded, for they will simply be manifested as part of God’s own character. But we do not naturally reflect those characteristics while still on earth. Thus His moral standards must continue to be taught and heeded so that we might bear Spirit-produced fruit while we wait for its ultimate fulfillment (cf. Rom. 8:2–4).

Greatness does not come by gifts, success, or popularity but by our reverence for, respect of, and obedience to the Word in daily life and how we encourage those attitudes in others.

ASK YOURSELF
What specific, noticeable things are “great” about a person who deliberately pursues obedience to the Word? How do they distinguish themselves from others in expression, attitude, and outlook?[1]


Christ and the Law—Part 3: The Pertinence of Scripture

(5:19)

24

Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (5:19)

In the last several decades the expression “do your own thing” has described a popular approach to behavior. Freedom has been equated with doing what you want. The philosophical corollary of that attitude is antinomianism, the rejection of law, regulations, and rules of every sort. Such was the attitude in ancient Israel during the time of the judges, when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 21:25).

Antinomianism is reflected in our own day in personal existentialism, the concept that teaches the fulfillment only of the present moment, regardless of standards or codes or consequences. Rejection of authority follows logically from personal existentialism: we want no one else making rules for us or holding us accountable for what we say or do. The inevitable consequence of that philosophy is breakdown of the home, of school, of church, of government, and of society in general. When no one wants to be accountable to anyone else, the only thing to survive is anarchy.

Even the church has not escaped such attitudes. Many congregations hesitate or even refuse to discipline members who are flagrantly immoral, dishonest, or heretical. For fear of offending, of losing financial support, of being thought old-fashioned or legalistic, or even for fear of stepping on someone else’s presumed rights, there is widespread failure to maintain God’s clear standards of righteousness in His own church. In the name of grace, love, forgiveness, and other “positive” biblical teachings and standards, sin is dismissed or excused.

Some Christians claim that, because God’s grace covers every offense a believer can ever commit, there is no need to bother about holy living. Some even argue that, because the sinful flesh is presently unredeemed in its corruption and is going to be done away with at glorification, it does not make any difference what that part of us does now. Our new divine, incorruptible nature is good and eternal, and that is all that counts. That idea is simply a rebirth of the Greek dualism that wreaked so much havoc in the early church, and that Paul dealt with in the Corinthian letters.

But even the sincere Christian cannot help wondering about the relation between law and grace. The New Testament plainly teaches that in some very important ways believers are freed from the law. But what, exactly, is our freedom in Christ? In Matthew 5:19 the Lord confronts that question and reaffirms what that freedom cannot mean.

In Matthew 5:17 Jesus had pointed out the law’s preeminence, because it was authored by God, affirmed by the prophets, and accomplished by the Messiah, the Christ. In verse 18 He showed its permanence, its lasting without the smallest change or reduction “until heaven and earth pass away.” Now in verse 19 He shows its pertinence. The Jews were still under the full requirements of the Old Testament law.

In verses 17 and 18 Jesus declared that He came to fulfill and not diminish or disobey the law, and in verse 19 He declares that citizens of His kingdom are also not to diminish or disobey it. In light of His own attitude about and response to the law, Jesus now teaches what the attitude and response of His followers should be.

The law is pertinent for those who believe in Christ because of its own character, because of the consequences of obeying or disobeying, and because its demands are clarified and enforced throughout the rest of the New Testament.

The Character of the Law

The then, or therefore, refers to what Jesus has just said about the law. The law is utterly pertinent to those who trust in God, because it is His Word and is exalted by the prophets and accomplished by the Messiah Himself. Because the Bible is not a collection of men’s religious ideas but God’s revelation of divine truth, its teachings are not speculations to be judged but truths to be believed; its commands are not suggestions to be considered but requirements to be followed.

Because Scripture is given by God for man, nothing could be more relevant to man than this revelation. Scripture is the standard of relevance by which all other relevance is measured.

The Consequences of Men’s Responses to the Law

The consequences of the law depend on a person’s response to it. Whoever responds to it positively will receive a positive result, but whoever responds to it negatively will receive a negative result.

The Negative Consequence

Jesus mentions the negative result first: Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.

Luō (annuls) is a common word in the New Testament and can mean to break, set loose, release, dissolve, or even to melt. The idea here is that of annulling God’s law, or making it void, by loosing ourselves from its requirements and standards. Jesus used a compounded and stronger form of that term (kataluō) in verse 17 in asserting that He had not come “to abolish the Law or the Prophets.”

Fallen human nature resents prohibitions and demands. Even Christians are tempted to modify and weaken God’s standards. Because of ignorance, misunderstanding, or outright disregard, believers find reasons to make God’s commands less demanding than they are. But when a Christian ceases to revere and obey God’s Word in even the slightest degree, to that degree He is being un-Christlike, because that is something Christ refused to do.

The Jews of Jesus’ day had divided the Old Testament laws into two categories. Two hundred forty-eight were positive commands, and three hundred sixty-five-one for each day of the year-were negative. The scribes and Pharisees would have long, heated debates about which laws in each category were the most important and which were the least.

Scripture itself makes clear that all of God’s commands are not of equal importance. When a lawyer among the Pharisees asked which commandment was the greatest, Jesus replied without hesitation: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment.” He then went on to say, “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ ” (Matt. 22:37–39). Jesus acknowledged that one commandment is supreme above all others and that another is second in importance. It follows that all the other commandments fall somewhere below those two and that, like them, they vary in importance.

In His series of woes Jesus gives another indication of the relative importance of God’s commands. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others” (Matt. 23:23). The tithing of herbs was required; but being just, merciful, and faithful are much more spiritually important.

Jesus’ point here, however, is that it is not permissible to annul-by ignoring, modifying, or disobeying-even one of the least of these commandments. Some commands are greater than others, but none are to be disregarded.

Paul reminded the Ephesian elders that while he had ministered among them, he “did not shrink from declaring to [them] the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27). The apostle did not pick and choose what he would teach and exhort. He stressed some things more than others, but he left nothing out.

The person who teaches others to disregard or disobey any part of God’s word is an even worse offender. He not only annuls the law himself but causes others to annul it. Besides that, his disobedience obviously is intentional. It is possible to break God’s commands by being ignorant of them or forgetting them. But to teach others to break them has to be conscious and intentional.

James cautions, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment” (James 3:1). Every believer is accountable for himself, but those who teach are also accountable for those whom they teach. “The head is the eider and honorable man,” writes Isaiah, “and the prophet who teaches falsehood is the tail. For those who guide this people are leading them astray; and those who are guided by them are brought to confusion” (Isa. 9:15–16).

Jesus’ warning does not simply apply to official or formal teachers. Every person teaches. By our example we continually help those around us either to be more obedient or more disobedient. We also teach by what we say, When we speak lovingly and respectfully of God’s Word, we teach love and respect for it. When we speak disparagingly or slightingly of God’s Word, we teach disregard and disrespect for it. When we ignore its demands, we give loud testimony to its unimportance to us.

Just after Paul reminded the elders from Ephesus that he had been faithful in teaching them God’s full Word, he warned them, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock. … I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:28–30).

The consequence of practicing or teaching disobedience of any of God’s Word is to be called least in the kingdom of heaven. I do not believe, as some commentators suggest, that called refers to what men say about us, but to what God says about us. Our reputation among other people, including other Christians, may or may not be adversely affected. Often other people do not know about our disobedience, and often when they know they do not care. But God always knows, and He always cares. It is only what we are called by God that is of any ultimate importance. It should be the concern of every believer who loves his Lord that He never have cause to call him the least.

Determining rank in the kingdom of heaven is entirely God’s prerogative (cf. Matt. 20:23), and Jesus declares that He will hold those in lowest esteem who hold His Word in lowest esteem. There is no impunity for those who disobey, discredit, or belittle God’s law.

That Jesus does not refer to loss of salvation is clear from the fact that, though offenders will be called least, they will still be in the kingdom of heaven. But blessing, reward, fruitfulness, joy, and usefulness will all be sacrificed to the extent that we are disobedient. “Watch yourselves,” John warns, “that you might not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward” (2 John 8). It is possible to lose in the second phase of our Christian lives what we built up in the first.

To disdain even the smallest part of God’s Word is to demonstrate disdain for all of it, because its parts are inseparable. James teaches that “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (James 2:10). To ignore or reject the least of God’s law is therefore to cheapen all of it and to become the least in His kingdom. Such Christians receive their rank because of their ill treatment of Scripture, not, as some imagine, because they may have lesser gifts.

The Positive Consequence

The positive result is that whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Here again Jesus mentions the two aspects of doing and teaching. Kingdom citizens are to uphold every part of God’s law, both in their living and in their teaching.

Paul could tell the Thessalonians, “You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2:10–12). Paul had been faithful to live and teach among them all of God’s Word, just as he had done at Ephesus and everywhere else he ministered.

God’s moral law is a reflection of God’s very character and is therefore changeless and eternal. The things it requires will not have to be commanded in heaven, but they will be manifested in heaven because they manifest God. While God’s people are still on earth, however, they do not naturally reflect the character of their heavenly Father, and His moral standards continue to be commanded and supernaturally produced (cf. Rom. 8:2–4).

“Prescribe and teach these things,” Paul tells Timothy, “[and] in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (1 Tim. 4:11–12). Near the end of the same letter Paul tells Timothy to flee from all evil things and, as a man of God, to “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called” (6:11–12).

Paul both kept and taught the full Word of God, and he is therefore among those who will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. No one who does not do the same will be in the ranks of God’s great saints.

Greatness is not determined by gifts, success, popularity, reputation, or size of ministry-but by a believer’s view of Scripture as revealed in his life and teaching.

Jesus’ promise is not simply to great teachers such as Paul-or Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Wesley, or Spurgeon. His promise applies to every believer who teaches others to obey God’s Word by faithfully, carefully, and lovingly living by and speaking of that Word. Every believer does not have the gift of teaching the deep doctrines of Scripture, but every believer is called and is able to teach the right attitude toward it.

The Clarification of the Law

We know from the thrust of the New Testament epistles that Jesus is speaking here of God’s permanent moral law. The Sermon on the Mount is just as valid for believers today as it was for those to whom Jesus preached it directly, because every principle and standard taught here is also taught in the epistles. The other writers make absolutely clear that believers’ obligation to obey God’s moral law not only did not cease at Christ’s coming but was reaffirmed by Christ and remains energized by the Holy Spirit for the entire church age.

There is indeed a paradox in regard to the law, and it is especially evident in Paul’s letters. On the one hand we are told of the law’s being fulfilled and done away with, and on the other that we are still obliged to obey it. Speaking of the Jews and Gentiles, Paul says that Christ “is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace” (Eph. 2:14–15). When the church came into existence the “dividing wall” of civil, judicial law crumbled and disappeared.

In God’s eyes Israel was temporarily set aside as a nation at the cross, when she crucified her King and rejected His kingdom. In the world’s eyes Israel ceased to exist as a nation in a.d. 70, when all of Jerusalem, including the Temple, was razed to the ground by the Romans under Titus. (Her restoration nationally is but a preparation for her restoration spiritually, as Romans 9–11 teaches.)

The ceremonial law also came to an end. While Jesus was still hanging on the cross, “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Mark 15:38). The Temple worship and the sacrifices were no longer valid, even symbolically. That part of the law was finished, accomplished, and done away with by Christ.

There is even a sense in which God’s moral law is no longer binding on believers. Paul speaks of our not being under law but under grace (Rom. 6:14). But just before that he had said, “do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts” (v. 12), and immediately after verse 14 he says, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!” (v. 15). Those in Christ are no longer under the ultimate penalty of the law, but are far from free of its requirement of righteousness.

To the Romans Paul said, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom. 10:4), and to the Galatians he wrote, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law” (Gal. 5:18). But he had just made it clear that Christians are not in the least free from God’s moral standards. “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please” (v. 17). The law that was once “our tutor to lead us to Christ” (Gal. 3:24) now leads us as “sons of God through Christ Jesus” to be clothed with Christ (vv. 26–27), and His clothing is the clothing of practical righteousness. If Christ’s own righteousness never diminished or disobeyed God’s moral law, how can His disciples be free to do so?

Paul harmonized the idea when he spoke of himself as being “without the law of God but under the law of Christ” (1 Cor. 9:21). In Christ we are anything but lawless. Christ’s law is totally different from the Jewish judicial and ceremonial law and different from the Old Testament moral law, with its penalties and curses for disobedience. But it is not different in the slightest from the holy, righteous standards that the Old Testament law taught.

The Old Testament law is still a moral guide, as in revealing sin (Rom. 7:7). Even when it provokes sin (v. 8), it helps us see the wickedness of our own flesh and our helplessness apart from Christ. And even when we see the condemnation of the law (vv. 9–11), it should remind us that our Savior took that condemnation upon Himself on the cross (5:18; 8:1; 1 Pet. 2:24; etc.). Whenever a Christian looks at God’s moral law with humility, meekness, and a sincere desire for righteousness, the law will invariably point him to Christmas it was always intended to do. And for believers to live by it is for them to become like Christ. It could not possibly be otherwise, because it is God’s law, and it reflects God’s character. “So then,” Paul is careful to remind us, “the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (v. 12).

Paul concludes Romans 7 by thanking “God through Jesus Christ our Lord” that even though his flesh served “the law of sin,” his mind served “the law of God” (7:25). The penalty of the law has been paid for us by Jesus Christ, but also in Him the righteousness of the law is “fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according the Spirit” (Rom. 8:4; cf. Gal. 5:13–24).[2]


19 The contrast between the least and the greatest in the kingdom probably supports gradation within kingdom ranks (as in 11:11, though the word for “least” is different there; cf. 18:1–4). It is probably not a Semitic way of referring to the exclusion-inclusion duality (contra Bonnard). The one who breaks “one of the least of these commandments” is not excluded from the kingdom—the linguistic usage is against this interpretation (see Meier, Law and History, 92–95)—but is very small or unimportant in the kingdom (taking elachistos [GK 1788] in the elative sense). The idea of gradations of privilege or dishonor in the kingdom occurs elsewhere in the Synoptic Gospels (20:20–28; cf. Lk 12:47–48). Distinctions are made not only according to the measure by which one keeps “the least of these commandments” but also according to the faithfulness with which one teaches them.

But what are “these commandments”? It is hard to justify restriction of these words to Jesus’ teachings (so Banks, Jesus and the Law, 221–23), even though the verb cognate to “commands” (entolōn, GK 1953) is used of Jesus’ teachings in 28:20 (entellomai); the noun in Matthew never refers to Jesus’ words, and the context argues against it. Restriction to the Ten Commandments (TDNT, 2:548) is alien to the concerns of the context. Nor can we say “these commandments” refers to the antitheses that follow, for in Matthew houtos (“this,” plural “these”) never points forward. It appears, then, that the expression must refer to the commandments of the OT Scriptures. The entire Law and the Prophets are not scrapped by Jesus’ coming but fulfilled. Therefore the commandments of these Scriptures—even the least of them (on distinctions in the law, see comments at 22:36; 23:23)—must be practiced. But the nature of the practicing has already been affected by vv. 17–18. The law pointed forward to Jesus—his activity and his teaching—so it is properly obeyed by conforming to his word. As it points to him, so he, in fulfilling it, establishes what continuity it has, the true direction to which it points and the way it is to be obeyed. Thus ranking in the kingdom turns on the degree of conformity to Jesus’ teaching as that teaching fulfills OT revelation. His teaching, toward which the OT pointed, must be obeyed.[3]


5:19 In returning to the Sermon, we notice that Jesus anticipated a natural tendency to relax God’s commandments. Because they are of such a supernatural nature, people tend to explain them away, to rationalize their meaning. But whoever breaks one part of the law, and teaches other people to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven. The wonder is that such people are permitted in the kingdom at all—but then, entrance into the kingdom is by faith in Christ. A person’s position in the kingdom is determined by his obedience and faithfulness while on earth. The person who obeys the law of the kingdom—that person shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 106). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 267–273). 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. 178–179). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1219). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

APRIL 7 – THE GOODNESS OF GOD

Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.

—Psalm 68:19

The goodness of God is that which disposes Him to be kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of good will toward men. He is tenderhearted and of quick sympathy, and His unfailing attitude toward all moral beings is open, frank and friendly. By His nature He is inclined to bestow blessedness and He takes holy pleasure in the happiness of His people….

The goodness of God is the drive behind all the blessings He daily bestows upon us. God created us because He felt good in His heart and He redeemed us for the same reason….

The whole outlook of mankind might be changed if we could all believe that we dwell under a friendly sky and that the God of heaven, though exalted in power and majesty, is eager to be friends with us. KOH127-129

Lord, as I face this new day, help me remember that You delight in me and desire to bring blessings into my life. May I always be receptive and grateful. Amen. [1]


19–20 The comfort of God’s presence occasions a renewal of praise. He is “the Lord” (Adonai, vv. 19–20 [NIV, “Sovereign”]; cf. vv. 11, 17, 22, 32), who promised deliverance and victory (v. 11) and has come with his tens of thousands of angels from Mount Sinai to dwell in Jerusalem (v. 17). This same Master of the universe is “God our Savior.” His nature sets in motion the history of redemption, because “our God is a God who saves” (v. 20).

For the believing community God is “the God” (El, repeated three times: “to God … Our God … a God”). His rule extends over all angels in heaven and to all the earth; he is Lord (Adonai). In his rule he vindicates and protects. The activity of protection and vindication finds expression in the repeated use of the root yšʿ (“save”): “God our Savior” (v. 19; lit., “the God of our salvation”) and “a God who saves” (v. 20; lit., “God of salvations”; cf. 44:4: “who decrees victories”). He is known to the believing community by his “name,” Yahweh (“Lord,” v. 20; cf. v. 4). But even in his closeness to his covenantal people, he is still “the Lord” (Adonai), rendered in the NIV as “the Sovereign Lord” (Yahweh Adonai, v. 20; cf. 71:5, 16; 73:28; 109:21; 140:7; 141:8).

The people of God “praise” (bārak, v. 19; cf. 104:1; Jdg 5:2, 9) him because of the evidences of his care. He shows daily vigilance over his people. He does not merely carry their burdens, but he cares for them (see NEB, “He carries us day by day”; cf. Ex 19:4; Dt 1:31; Ps 28:9; Isa 40:11). He continually leads his people out of “death” (v. 20), as he did at the time of the exodus. The Hebrew root yṣ̣ʾ (“go out”) is used for the exodus (cf. v. 7) and here for the deliverance (“escape”) from death. If “death” is taken as a personification of Mot (“death”), the Canaanite god of death, then the psalmist proclaims that Israel’s El (“God”) is victorious over Mot. Again this may be construed as a polemical note against Canaanite mythology. The God of revelation and history is the Incomparable One![2]


68:19, 20 Memories of the capture of Zion inevitably awaken praise to God. The song presents God as both Deliverer and Destroyer. As Deliverer, He “bears our burdens and wins us the victory” (Knox). He is the God of our salvation, and He has the power to deliver from death.[3]


68:19 who daily bears us up. God cares for His people and is constantly in touch with their needs. This passage may be contrasted with Is. 46:1–4, where the prophet decries the inability of the idols to care for their worshipers[4]


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

[2] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 521). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 651). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 794). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

April 7 – The Transformation

We also should walk in newness of life.

Romans 6:4

 

The purpose for Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice was that “we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness” (1 Pet. 2:24). Peter doesn’t say Christ died so we could go to heaven, have peace, or experience love. He died to bring about a transformation: to make saints out of sinners. Christ’s substitutionary work enables a person to depart from sin and enter into a new life pattern: a life of righteousness.

The apostle Paul said, “Our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Rom. 6:6). We have died to sin; thus it no longer has a claim on us. First Peter 2:24 echoes that thought: our identification with Christ in His death is a departure from sin and a new direction in life.[1]


we are identified in Christ’s death and resurrection

have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, (6:3b-5)

The second principle Paul emphasizes is an extension of the first. All Christians not only are identified with Christ but are identified with Him specifically in His death and resurrection.

The initial element of the second principle is that all true believers have been baptized into His [Christ’s] death. That is a historical fact looking back to our union with Him on the cross. And the reason we have been buried with Him through baptism into death is that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. That is a historical fact looking back to our union with Him in resurrection.

That truth is far too wondrous for us to understand fully, but the basic and obvious reality of it is that we died with Christ in order that we might have life through Him and live like Him. Again Paul emphasizes not so much the immorality but the impossibility of our continuing to live the way we did before we were saved. By trusting in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we were, by an unfathomable divine miracle, taken back 2,000 years, as it were, and made to participate in our Savior’s death and to be buried with Him, burial being the proof of death. The purpose of that divine act of bringing us through death (which paid the penalty for our sin) and resurrection with Christ was to enable us henceforth to walk in newness of life.

The noble theologian Charles Hodge summarized, “There can be no participation in Christ’s life without a participation in his death, and we cannot enjoy the benefits of his death unless we are par takers of the power of his life. We must be reconciled to God in order to be holy, and we cannot be reconciled without thereby becoming holy” (Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, n.d.], p. 195).

As Christ’s resurrection life was the certain consequence of His death as the sacrifice for our sin, so the believer’s holy life in Christ is the certain consequence of his death to sin in Christ.

Newness translates kairos, which refers to newness of quality and character, not neos, which refers merely to newness in point of time. Just as sin characterized our old life, so righteousness now characterizes our new life. Scripture is filled with descriptions of the believer’s new spiritual life. We are said to receive a new heart (Ezek. 36:26), a new spirit (Ezek. 18:31), a new song (Ps. 40:3), and a new name (Rev. 2:17). We are called a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), a new creature (Gal. 6:15), and a new self (Eph. 4:24).

Continuing to affirm the truth that this union with Christ in His death brings new life and also inevitably brings a new way of living, Paul says, For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection. In other words, as an old life died, so a new one was necessarily born.

Bishop Handley Moule graphically asserted,

We have “received the reconciliation” that we may now walk, not away from God, as if released from a prison, but with God, as His children in His Son. Because we are justified, we are to be holy, separated from sin, separated to God; not as a mere indication that our faith is real, and that therefore we are legally safe, but because we were justified for this very purpose, that we might be holy. …

The grapes upon a vine are not merely a living token that the tree is a vine and is alive; they are the product for which the vine exists. It is a thing not to be thought of that the sinner should accept justification-and live to himself. It is a moral contradiction of the very deepest kind, and cannot be entertained without betraying an initial error in the man’s whole spiritual creed. (The Epistle to the Romans [London: Picketing & Inglis, n.d.], pp. 160–61)[2]


Baptized into Jesus Christ

Romans 6:3–4

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

After I had first preached the sermon that constitutes the previous study, a member of the congregation at Tenth Presbyterian Church said, “That message was so important and yet so hard to understand that you ought to preach it all over again next week.” I felt that way myself, and that is what I did. However, I did it as Paul himself did it: by going on to Romans 6:3–4, which is what this study is. These two verses are a restatement of the principle for living a godly life laid down in verse 2.

I remind you of where we are. Paul has asked a question that must have been asked of him a thousand times in the course of his ministry: “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” He answered by saying: “By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”

The key words in this answer are “we died to sin.” We saw in the last study that there have been many ways of interpreting those words: that the Christian is no longer responsive to sin; that Christians should die to sin; that the Christian is dying to sin day by day; that Christians cannot continue in sin, because they have renounced it; that the Christian has died to sin’s guilt. But we saw, too, that the real meaning of the phrase is that we died to our old life when God saved us. I used John Stott’s illustrations of John Jones before his conversion and John Jones after his conversion, and of volumes one and two of “our biography.”

The bottom line of this discussion has been that the key to a holy life is not our experiences or emotions, however meaningful or intense these may be, but rather our knowledge of what has happened to us. I stressed the word knowledge because the most important and basic reason for going forward in the Christian life is that we cannot go back.

Knowing and Growing

When you hear this for the first time, you may think that it is just too simple or even that it is a novel (and therefore questionable) interpretation of Romans 6:2. But I would argue that it is neither novel nor questionable, and in proof of this I refer to the very next words Paul writes: “Don’t you know … ?” These words are the start of the question by which Paul reminds us of our identity with Jesus Christ.

Do not pass over those words lightly. Remember that Paul had never been to Rome, though he was planning to visit Rome on a proposed trip to Spain (Rom. 15:24). He had not taught the Christians in Rome personally. Moreover, so far as we know, the church had never had the benefit of any apostolic teaching. Yet, although the Christians in Rome had never had such teaching, Paul assumes their knowledge of this doctrine by these words. In other words, what he is referring to here was common Christian knowledge. Christians have died to sin! Or, to put it in the words he is going to use next, they have been “baptized into Christ Jesus … into his death.” The apostle assumes that this was known to believers everywhere, and he appeals to our knowledge of it as the key to our growth in holiness.

So I say it again: The secret of sanctification is not some neat set of experiences or emotions, however meaningful or intense they may be. It is knowing what has happened to you.

The Meaning of “Baptism”

What Paul says we are to know in verses 3 and 4 also supports my interpretation of verse 2. But before we plunge into that we need to think about the meaning of the word baptism, since it is the key term he uses.

The reason we need to do this is that for the vast majority of today’s people, the mere mention of baptism immediately sets them thinking about the sacrament of water baptism and blinds them to what any text that mentions baptism may actually be saying. It has blinded commentators, too, of course. They also think of the sacrament, and because they do they have produced many wrong interpretations of these verses based on their assumption. Some have taught that the sacrament joins us to Christ and is therefore necessary for salvation. This view is called “baptismal regeneration.” Some assume that Paul is thinking of our baptismal vows, others that it is a matter of coming under Christ’s influence, still others that what is important is our public testimony to our faith in Christ. The last three of these actually do have something to do with water baptism. But Paul is not thinking along these lines at all in these verses, and therefore any approach to them with the idea of the sacrament of water baptism uppermost in our minds will be misleading.

What is “baptism”? A good answer starts by recognizing that there are two closely related words for baptism in the Greek language and that they do not necessarily have the same meaning. One word is baptō, which means “dip” or “immerse.” The other word is baptizō, which may mean “immerse” but may have other meanings as well. This is a normal situation with Greek words. The simpler word usually conveys the most straightforward meaning. The longer word adds specialized and sometimes metaphorical meanings.

It is the longer word that is used for “baptism” in the New Testament. So we need to ask next what the precise meaning of the longer word is.

We gain help from classical literature. The Greeks used the word baptizō from about 400 b.c. to about the second century after Christ, and in their literature baptizō always pointed to a change having taken place by some means. Josephus used it of the crowds that flooded into Jerusalem and “wrecked the city.” Other examples are the dyeing of cloth and the drinking of too much wine. In each of these cases there is a liquid or something like it—the crowds were like a human “wave,” a dye and wine are liquids—but the essential idea is actually that of a change. Jerusalem was wrecked. The dyed cloth changes color. The drinker becomes different; he misbehaves.

The clearest example I know that shows this meaning of baptizō is a text from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 b.c. It is a recipe for making pickles, and it is helpful because it uses both words. Nicander says that to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be “dipped” (baptō) into boiling water and then “baptized” (baptizō) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern immersing the vegetable in a solution, but the first is temporary. The second, the act of “baptizing” the vegetable, produces a permanent change.

To get this distinction in mind is of enormous help in understanding the New Testament verses that refer to baptism, including our text in Romans, for which thoughts of a literal immersion in water would be nonsense.

Take 1 Corinthians 10:1–2, as an example. “For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” That cannot be referring to a water baptism, because the only people who were immersed in water were the Egyptian soldiers, and they were drowned in it. The Israelites did not even get their feet wet. What do the verses mean? Obviously, they refer to a permanent identification of the people with Moses as a result of the Red Sea crossing. Before this they were still in Egypt and could have renounced Moses’ leadership, retaining their allegiance to Pharaoh. But once they crossed the Red Sea they were joined to Moses for the duration of their desert wandering. They were not able to go back.

By now you are probably beginning to see why this discussion of baptism is important and why Paul used the words baptized and baptism in verses 3 and 4. But let me offer a few more texts that are clarified by understanding baptism as change rather than mere immersion in water.

Galatians 3:27. “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” This is not referring to water baptism, because if it were, the illustration of being clothed with Christ would be inappropriate. Rather, it refers to our being identified with Christ, like a child identifies with her mother when she dresses in her mother’s clothes or a soldier identifies with the armed forces of his country when he dons a uniform.

Mark 16:16 is well known. Jesus says here: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. …” Scores of people have wrongly concluded from that verse that unless a person first believes in Christ and then is also immersed in water, he or she cannot be saved. But even the poorest Bible student knows that this is not true. A person is saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. If baptism in water is necessary for salvation, then the believing thief who was crucified with Christ is lost.

Once we get away from the mistaken idea that baptism always refers to water baptism, the verse becomes clear. For what Jesus is saying in Mark 16:16 is that a person needs to be identified with him to be saved. He was saying that mere intellectual assent to the doctrines of Christianity is not enough. It is necessary, to use another of his teachings, that “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). This last verse is an exact parallel to what the apostle is teaching in Romans 6:3–4, for it means that a true follower of Christ has died to his past life—like a man on his way to execution. Only, in Romans 6, the man has already died and been buried.

Buried Through Baptism

With this lengthy excursion into the meaning of the word baptism in mind, I return to our text to show how these ideas come together. What was the chief idea in Romans 5:12–31? It was the idea of our union with Christ, wasn’t it? Before, we were in Adam; now, we are in Christ. And what is Paul’s answer to “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” (Rom. 6:1). It is that we have died to sin: “We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” Union with Christ! And death to sin!

But notice: That is exactly what baptism signifies, and in that order. The most important idea is that we have been taken out of one state and put into another. We have had an experience similar to that of the Jews after they had been brought through the Red Sea. They were joined to Moses; we are joined to Christ. Or, to put it in the words of Galatians 3:27, we have been clothed with Christ. We are in Christ’s uniform. And what that means, if we look backward, is that we have died to whatever has gone before. We died to the old life when Christ transferred us to the new one.

As soon as we see how these ideas go together, we see why Paul’s thoughts turned to the word baptism as a way of unfolding what he had in mind when he said: “How can we live in [sin] any longer?”

I want you to notice something else, too. When theologians write about our being “baptized into Christ” and how this is the equivalent of our being united to him by the Holy Spirit, they stress that we are identified with Christ in all respects. That is, we are identified with him in (or baptized into) his death, burial, and resurrection. One commentator got into this theme so deeply that he worked out parallels to our identification with Christ in his election, virgin birth, circumcision, physical growth, baptism by John the Baptist, suffering, crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and ascension into heaven.5 Much of this is very true, of course. If we have been identified with Christ, as we have been, we are identified with him in many respects, particularly in his death and resurrection.

But what I want to point out is that Paul does not say here that we have been identified with Christ by baptism in these other respects. He does not, for example, even say that we have been baptized into Christ’s resurrection, though he goes on to say that “just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (v. 4) and later that we have been “united with him like this in his resurrection” (v. 5). In verse 3 he speaks of our baptism into Christ in one respect only: “into his death.” And in the next phrase he shows that what he has particularly in mind is Christ’s burial: “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death.”

This flow of thought is so strong that F. Godet rightly says, “According to these words, it is not to death, it is to the internment of the dead, that Paul compares baptism.”

This is striking, and quite puzzling, too. I notice, for example, that when theologians work out the parallels of our identification with Christ, they have little trouble showing how we have been crucified with him, raised with him or even made to ascend into heaven with him. But they have trouble with the burial. “How can we be said to be buried with Christ?” they ask. “And what does this add that is not already covered by our death to sin?”

Yet burial is the thing Paul emphasizes.

How do we account for this? And how do we account for the difficult way Paul puts it: “buried with him through baptism into death.” More than one commentator has struggled with the awkwardness of that phrase, suggesting in some cases that it is even backward, since no one is buried into death (that is, buried to die) but rather is buried because he died.

I suggest that if this is approached as I have been suggesting, the problem is not difficult at all. The reason burial is an important step even beyond death is that burial puts the deceased person out of this world permanently. A corpse is dead to life. But there is a sense in which it can still be said to be in life, as long as it is around. When it is buried, when it is placed in the ground and covered with earth, it is removed from the sphere of this life permanently. It is gone. That is why Paul, who wanted to emphasize the finality of our being removed from the rule of sin and death to the rule of Christ, emphasizes it. He is repeating but also intensifying what he has already said about our death to sin. “You have not only died to it,” he says. “You have been buried to it.” To go back to sin once you have been joined to Christ is like digging up a dead body.

The Public Profession

I have been saying throughout this study that when Paul refers to our being baptized into Christ, he is not thinking chiefly of the sacrament of baptism but rather of our having been joined to Christ by the Holy Spirit. I do not want to go back on that. The very next verses prove this view, for in them Paul speaks explicitly of our being “united with him in his death [and] resurrection.” This is something the Holy Spirit does.

But, while emphasizing this, I do not want to miss the significance of the sacrament of baptism as a Christian’s public renunciation of his past life and a profession of his new identification with Christ.

This is not so obvious to us today perhaps, since baptism is something that generally takes place in an exclusively Christian environment and for many people means very little. But it was not so in Paul’s day. And it is not so in many places in the world even today. In the ancient world, to be identified with Christ in baptism was a bold and risky declaration. It often put the believer’s life in jeopardy. There was nothing wrong with listening to Christian preaching or propaganda. But when a Christian was baptized, he was saying to the state as well as to his fellow believers that he was now a follower of Jesus Christ and that he was going to be loyal to him regardless of the outcome. It meant “Christ before Caesar.”

Baptism was as nearly an irreversible step as a believer in Jesus Christ could take. Therefore, even though Paul is not thinking primarily about water baptism in Romans 6—water baptism is something we do; the baptism Paul is talking about is something that has been done to us—the sacrament of baptism is nevertheless a fit public testimony to what baptism into Christ by the Holy Spirit means: that we have been united to Christ and that the old life is done for us forever. That is what you have professed if you have been baptized, particularly if you have been baptized as an adult. You have told the world that you are not going back, that you are going forward with Jesus.

But I come to the questions that I know are in many people’s minds, the same questions I touched on at the end of the last study: “But what if I do go back? What if I do sin?”

Here are three points to remember:

  1. It won’t work. Do you remember my illustration of an adult trying to return to childhood. Can he do it? Well, he can act childlike, though it would be a dishonor to him and an embarrassment to everyone else. But to become a child again? It can’t be done. An adult can behave in an infantile manner. But an adult cannot be a child. In the same way, if you are a true Christian, you cannot return to sin in the same way you were in it previously. You can sin. We do sin. But it is not the same. If nothing else, you cannot enjoy sin as you did before. And you will not even be able to do it convincingly. You will be like Peter trying to swear that he did not know Jesus, after having spent three years in Jesus’ school. People will look at you and say, “But surely you are one of his disciples.”
  2. God will stop you. God will not stop you from sinning, but he will stop you from continuing in it. And he will do it in one of two ways. Either he will make your life so miserable that you will curse the day you got into sin and beg God to get you out of it, or God will put an end to your life. Paul told the Corinthians that because they had dishonored the Lord’s Supper, God had actually taken some of them home to heaven (1 Cor. 11:30). If God did it to them for that offense, he will do it to you for persistence in more sinful things.
  3. If you do return to the life you lived before coming to Christ and if you are able to continue in it, you are not saved. In fact, it is even worse than that. If you are able to go back once you have come to Christ, it means, not only that you are not saved, but that you even have been inoculated against Christianity.

I am sure that is why the author of Hebrews wrote, “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance …” (Heb. 6:4–6). Those verses are not referring to a true believer in Christ being lost—How could they in view of Paul’s teaching in Romans 5 and 8?—but rather of one who was close enough to have tasted the reality of Christ and who nevertheless turned back. It teaches that the closer you are to Christ, if you do go back, the harder it will be to come to Christ again. In some cases, as in the case described here, it will be impossible.

So don’t go back!

I say it again: Don’t go back!

If you have been saved by Jesus, you have been saved forever. There is nothing before you but to go on growing in righteousness![3]


4 Paul uses baptism to illustrate this vital union with Christ in his death. Paul apparently pictures burial with Christ, however momentarily, in the submergence of the body under the baptismal waters. The importance of burial is that it attests the reality of death (1 Co 15:3–4). It expresses with finality the end of the old life governed by relationship with Adam. It also expresses the impossibility of a new life apart from divine action. The God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead has likewise imparted life to those who are his. The ability to “walk in newness of life” (NASB; NIV, “live a new life”) is the evidence of the new type of life granted to the child of God. This is a distinctive type of life realized only by one united to Christ (cf. 2 Co 5:17), so that Christ is its dynamic. In this connection, the question arises, Why should the resurrection of Christ be described as accomplished “through the glory of the Father?” It is because “glory” here has the meaning of “power” (cf. Jn 11:40).

The latter half of v. 4 has a noticeably balanced structure (“just as Christ …, we too”), recalling the pattern in 5:12, 18, 21. This suggests that the principle of solidarity advanced in 5:12–21 is still thought of as operating here in the significance of baptism. There is no explicit statement that in baptism we were raised with Christ, as well as being made to share in his death. Resurrection is seen rather as an effect that logically follows from the identification with Christ in his death. However, resurrection is verbally connected with baptism in the important parallel passage in Colossians: “having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead” (Col 2:12). So it would not be wrong to associate resurrection with baptism here (cf. vv. 5, 13).

There is a certain awkwardness in the statement that we were buried with Christ through baptism into death, since in human experience, burial follows rather than precedes death. However, as Sanday and Headlam, 156, have pointed out, this awkwardness disappears in the prominence given death in the whole passage. It is not into Christ’s burial that believers are baptized but into his death, because it was there that he dealt with sin. (On these verses, see E. Schweizer, “Dying and Rising with Christ,” NTS 14 [1967–68]: 1–14.)[4]


6:4 Water baptism gives a visual demonstration of baptism into Christ. It pictures the believer being immersed in death’s dark waters (in the person of the Lord Jesus), and it pictures the new man in Christ rising to walk in newness of life. There is a sense in which a believer attends the funeral of his old self when he is baptized. As he goes under the water he is saying, “All that I was as a sinful son of Adam was put to death at the cross.” As he comes up out of the water he is saying, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (see Gal. 2:20).

Conybeare and Howson state that “this passage cannot be understood unless it be borne in mind that the primitive baptism was by immersion.”

The apostle moves on to state that the resurrection of Christ makes it possible for us to walk in newness of life. He states that Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. This simply means that all the divine perfections of God—His righteousness, love, justice, etc.—demanded that He raise the Lord. In view of the excellence of the Person of the Savior, it would not have been consistent with God’s character to leave the Savior in the tomb. God did raise Him, and because we are identified with Christ in His resurrection, we can and should walk in newness of life.[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 112). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (pp. 321–323). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: The Reign of Grace (Vol. 2, pp. 657–664). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

[4] Harrison, E. F., & Hagner, D. A. (2008). Romans. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 105). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1701). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.