Daily Archives: April 10, 2017

April 10, 2017 Truth2Freedom Briefing Report (US•World•Christian)

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Apr. 10, 2017 |

BLOOMBERG

Members of Congress are back home for a two-week recess after one of the most bitterly divided and least productive starts in recent history. A new, urgent challenge is waiting for them when they return: finding a way to set aside their anger and mistrust long enough to keep the federal government open.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. wasn’t interested in “regime change” in North Korea as American warships were diverted to waters near the country amid heightened tensions over its nuclear weapons program.

Toronto’s mayor won’t rule out selling some of the city’s prime downtown real estate as he looks to make better use of assets amid an unprecedented property boom.

For the March U.S. employment report, with its ugly headline payrolls number, it’s what’s inside that counts. While the gain of 98,000 jobs in a survey of businesses and government agencies was the weakest since May and below all analysts’ forecasts, many accompanying details showed a solid labor market. The jobless rate, derived from a separate survey of households, fell to the lowest in almost a decade even as workforce participation was unchanged, while a measure of underemployment reached a fresh post-recession low, boding well for further wage increases.

Hungarian anti-government organizers vowed to continue protests after one of the largest mass demonstrations against Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s rule as the deadline approaches for the country’s president to sign a law that may force a university founded by billionaire George Soros to shut down.

Neil Gorsuch took the first of two required oaths Monday to fill a 14-month-old vacancy and become the newest U.S. Supreme Court justice.Gorsuch will take the second oath later Monday at the White House from Justice Anthony Kennedy, for whom Gorsuch worked as a law clerk in the court’s 1993-94 term. All of the justices attended the ceremony at the court and are expected to go to the White House for the second swearing-in.

President Donald Trump took credit for Toyota investing $1.33 billion in an existing U.S. factory, championing spending by a Japanese automaker he’s blasted for building a plant in Mexico.

After all of President Donald Trump’s bluster about building more cars in the U.S., the one new plant he can count on will come from a once American-owned Swedish brand flourishing under a Chinese parent. Volvo Car Group opens its $500 million factory late next year and will employ 2,000 workers initially near Charleston, South Carolina.

AT&T agreed to buy embattled spectrum-license holder Straight Path Communications in an all-stock deal valued at $1.6 billion as the phone giant seeks to take the lead in the 5G race.

AP Top Stories

A joint command center made up of the forces of Russia, Iran and militias supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said the U.S. strike on a Syrian air base on Friday crossed “red lines” and it would respond to any new aggression and increase its support for its ally.

A 17-year-old asylum-seeker from Russia was arrested Sunday in connection with an explosive device found near a busy subway station in Norway’s capital and defused before it detonated, authorities said.

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama said on Saturday the Tibetan people should decide if they wanted to continue with his institution, adding that he wanted to convene a meeting of senior monks this year to start discussing his succession.

Indonesia’s police shot dead six suspected IS-linked militants in a gunfight on Java island over the weekend, a police spokesman said on Sunday.

The Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft carrying the three Expedition 50 astronauts from the International Space Station landed safely in Kazakhstan

Ford, which sells more police cars in the U.S. than any other automaker, says it will offer a police pursuit version of the hybrid Fusion midsize sedan, in response to requests from cities nationwide. The new car, with its 2-Liter four-cylinder engine and 1.4 kilowatt lithium-ion battery, is expected to get 38 miles per gallon of gas in combined city-highway driving. That’s 20 mpg more than Ford’s current police car, the Taurus police interceptor.

Twenty states already offer cheaper in-state college tuition to students who are in the United States illegally. Legislation making its way through the Tennessee Legislature would make that state the 21st.

BBC

Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has announced a three-month state of emergency after attacks on two Coptic churches that left at least 44 dead.

Unprecedented coral bleaching in consecutive years has damaged two-thirds of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, aerial surveys have shown. The bleaching – or loss of algae – affects a 900 mile stretch of the reef, according to scientists.

Spanish police have arrested a Russian programmer for alleged involvement in “hacking” the US election, Spanish press reports have said.

A hacker has been blamed for setting off more than 150 warning sirens in the US city of Dallas over the weekend. The sirens are usually used to warn of extreme weather events such as tornadoes.

WND

The Presidential Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging at Harvard will hold a contest inviting the entire Harvard community to revise the last line of their 181-year-old alma mater song, “Fair Harvard”, which reads, “Till the stock of the Puritans die,” because they think, “it’s time for a change.” The song was already revised in 1998 to make it “more gender-inclusive,” but the last line was left as-is.

The Texas state dish is chili, its tree is the pecan and its fish is the Guadalupe bass. And soon, Texas may have an explosive addition to its set of official symbols: plans are afoot for a state gun. But a resolution to make the cannon the official state gun passed through a senate committee hearing on Thursday, the first step to the plan becoming law.


The Briefing 04-10-17

Is the Cold War back? Considering the aftermath of the US strike in Syria

Suicide bombings in Coptic churches on Palm Sunday underscore threat to Christianity in Middle East

Judge Neil Gorsuch to be sworn in today after being confirmed by Senate in 54-45 vote

Great British controversy: Church of England outraged over removal of “Easter” from egg hunt on Easter

The post The Briefing 04-10-17 appeared first on AlbertMohler.com.


Top News – 4/10/2017

California lawmakers approve fuel tax hike for $52 billion road plan
Jerry Brown and legislative leaders passed without a vote to spare and will raise gas taxes by 43 percent, or 12 cents a gallon, while also increasing diesel taxes. That Republicans felt obliged to step in ought to cause Californians to worry. They also complain that the state’s cap-and-trade system, created to battle climate change, will soon drive fuel prices up even further.

U.S. disasters in first 3 months of 2017 cost record $5B
The National Centers for Environmental Information said there were five weather disasters from January to March, which cost more than $5 billion, a record for the first quarter of the year.

Data in! Sanctuary cities have higher crime rates
An August 2016 study of the relationship between “sanctuary city” policies and crime rates shows that cities refusing to cooperate with federal immigration authorities consistently have significantly higher violent crimes rates than do non-sanctuary cities with similar populations and demographics…

ISIS Attacks US-Led Base In Southern Syria, As Assad Said To Use White Phosphorus
The Islamic State attack comes as the U.S. military is deepening its presence in Syria as part of an intensifying campaign to drive the extremist group from its de facto capital in Raqqa. For weeks, the U.S. military has been strengthening its presence along the Jordan-Syria border, according to U.S. and Jordanian officials.

RED LINE: Putin Says Russia And Iran Will Respond With ‘Real War’ To Any Further US Strikes In Syria
4 days after a US missile strikes on Syria in retaliation for Assad’s chemical attack on his own people, Putin has issued a statement and it’s quite the doozy. In short, he said that if President Trump strikes again anywhere in Syria for any reason, that both Russia and Iran would ‘respond with real war’. Wha…?? How did Iran just get in the picture?

Sweden will ‘NEVER GO BACK’ to mass immigration after Stockholm terror, says shocked PM
SWEDEN’S prime minister vowed his country would “never go back” to the days of mass immigration after it emerged the Stockholm attacker was a failed asylum seeker. It comes after migrant Rakhmat Akilov from Uzbekistan drove a stolen 30-tonne truck into pedestrians at a busy department store in Stockholm on Friday.

Web needs rethink to stop ‘nasty’ ideas spreading, says its creator
The World Wide Web needs a complete rethink to prevent spying and the spread of “nasty, mean ideas” on social media websites, its inventor, Tim Berners-Lee, said on Monday.

Tillerson, G7 ministers look to pressure Russia to reconsider Assad support
Tillerson, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and the other ministers aim to pressure Russia to end its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after a tumultuous week, which included the nerve gas attack and the U.S.’ airstrikes on a Syrian air base.

Jewish Priests Offer Paschal Lamb Just Hundreds of Meters From Temple Mount
After a court battle to gain police permission, the Sanhedrin held a full reenactment of the Passover sacrifice and Temple service Thursday evening in a manner reminiscent of the glory that was once the Temple. This year, the ceremony was closer to the Temple Mount, where the service would take place if the Temple were standing, than ever before.

Rocket fired from Egypt’s Sinai strikes southern Israel
A rocket fired at Israel landed in a greenhouse in the southern Eshkol Regional Council on Monday, the IDF confirmed. According to the military, the projectile was launched from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. One person suffered from shock as the result of the strike, however no other injuries were reported.

Israel closes border with Egypt amid Sinai terror concerns
Israel on Monday decided to close its side of the Taba Border Crossing between Eilat and Egypt in light of concerns of terrorist attacks targeting tourists, including Israelis, in the volatile Sinai Peninsula. Following security assessments, as of Monday and at least until April 18, Israel will not allow its citizens to enter Egypt through the crossing, however Israeli citizens will be permitted to return to the country via the Taba crossing.

Egypt’s Sisi says three-month state of emergency to be declared
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said a three-month state of emergency would be imposed after two deadly bombings hit Coptic churches on Sunday, killing at least 44 people. “A series of steps will be taken, most importantly, the announcement of a state of emergency for three months after legal and constitution steps are taken,” Sisi said in a speech aired on state television.

U.S. Strike in Syria Raises Tensions With Iran
The U.S. airstrikes on Syria stoked new tensions with Iran and generated calls in Tehran for increased military support for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Iranian officials said on Friday the U.S. attack violated international law and accused President Donald Trump of siding with Islamic State and al Qaeda in Syria.

Russian naval activity in Europe exceeds Cold War levels: U.S. admiral
Recent Russian naval activity in Europe exceeds levels seen during the Cold War, a top U.S. and NATO military officer said, voicing concern that the distributed nature of the deployments could end up “splitting and distracting” the transatlantic alliance. Navy Admiral Michelle Howard…said Russia had clearly stepped up its naval actions in recent years although the size of its navy was smaller now than during the Cold War era.

China offers concessions to avert trade war with U.S.
China will offer the Trump administration better market access for financial sector investments and U.S. beef exports to help avert a trade war, the Financial Times reported on Sunday, citing officials familiar with the matter. China is prepared to raise the investment ceiling in the Bilateral Investment treaty and is also willing to end the ban on U.S. beef imports, the newspaper also reported.

Gorsuch’s impact on divided Supreme Court will begin immediately
Neil M. Gorsuch joins the Supreme Court just in time to cast potentially significant votes in cases that pit religious liberty against gay rights, test limits on funding for church schools and challenge California’s restrictions on carrying a concealed gun in public. Such issues arise either in appeals filed by conservative groups that have been pending before the justices for weeks or in cases to be heard later this month.

China, South Korea discuss more sanctions on North Korea amid talk of Trump action
China and South Korea agreed on Monday to slap tougher sanctions on North Korea if it carries out nuclear or long-range missile tests, a senior official in Seoul said, as a U.S. Navy strike group headed to the region in a show of force. North Korea marks several major anniversaries this month and often marks the occasions with major tests of military hardware.

Glum EU braces for Turkey vote on Erdogan’s powers
A referendum in Turkey on granting President Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers is unlikely to ease strained relations with the EU and risks killing off Ankara’s stalled bid for membership of the bloc, officials in Brussels say. Even if voters do not give Erdogan the executive presidency he seeks on Sunday, Turkey’s democracy and judiciary will suffer damage and he is likely to put even more pressure on critics, they say.

Russia, Iran Warn U.S. They Will “Respond With Force” If Syria “Red Lines” Crossed Again
“What America waged in an aggression on Syria is a crossing of red lines. From now on we will respond with force to any aggressor or any breach of red lines from whoever it is and America knows our ability to respond well.”

Palm Sunday bombings of Egyptian Coptic churches kill 44
At least 44 people were killed in Egypt in bomb attacks at the cathedral of the Coptic Pope and another church on Palm Sunday, prompting anger and fear among Christians and leading to troop deployments and the declaration of a three-month state of emergency.

Bizarro World: Some Republicans Now Defending “Failing” ObamaCare
Last month, former House Speaker John Boehnor warned that the idea of a quick repeal and replace of Obamacare was just “happy talk” because “Republicans never ever agree on health care”…it’s looking increasingly like he was absolutely right.

ISIS Attacks US-Led Base In Southern Syria, As Assad Said To Use White Phosphorus
Islamic State militants attacked a US-led coalition base in southern Syria on Saturday, “triggering a fierce fight that required coalition airstrikes to repel, U.S. military officials said Sunday.” Meanwhile,  on Sunday the Qatar-owned Al Jazeera reported that Syrian jets have bombed the town of Idlib using White Phosphorus.

Judge won’t protect doctors fighting assisted-suicide rule
A federal judge threw out a lawsuit by two alliances of doctors opposing state rules that require them to advise terminally ill patients to consider doctor-assisted suicide.

Why Are Chinese Troops In Mexico?(video)
It is well documented that the Chinese have a strong military presence in Mexico. Isn’t it interesting that when the producers of Red Dawn #2 needed an invading force, they chose the Chinese. However, the Obama administration had a fit and the movie producers chose North Korea instead.


The Debt Crisis Of 2017: Once Their Vacation Ends, Congress Will Have 4 Days To Avoid A Government Shutdown On April 29

April 2017 could turn out to be one of the most important months in U.S. history that we have seen in a very long time.  On April 6th, Donald Trump attacked Syria on the 100th anniversary of the day that the U.S. officially entered World War I, and now at the end of this month we could be facing an unprecedented political crisis in Washington.  On Friday, members of Congress left town for their two week “Easter vacation”, and they won’t resume work until April 25th.  What this means is that Congress will have precisely four days when they get back to pass a bill to fund government operations or there will be a government shutdown starting on April 29th. (Read More…)


Israel Closes Southern Border With Egypt After Warning Of Imminent Passover Terror Attack From ISIS

Israel closed its Taba border crossing to the Sinai peninsula on Monday following warnings by its anti-terrorism office of an “imminent” militant attack there and urged its citizens to leave Egypt hours before the start of the Passover holiday, when Sinai is a popular destination for many secular Israelis.

Soon after the announcement, sirens wailed in parts of southern Israel alerting residents to a rocket attack. The military said a rocket fired from Sinai exploded in southern Israel, hitting a greenhouse but causing no injuries. The Islamic State group later claimed responsibility for the attack.

Yisrael Katz, Israel’s transportation and intelligence minister, said in a statement Monday there was intel regarding a potential “terror attack” against tourists in the Sinai peninsula. The crossing remains open for those wanting to return from Egypt.

The border closure comes a day after militants in Egypt bombed two churches, killing dozens of Christian worshippers during Palm Sunday ceremonies. In the wake of those attacks, Israel’s anti-terrorism office called on all Israeli tourists in Sinai to return home immediately and asked Israelis planning trips to the Sinai to cancel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement Monday sending Israel’s “condolences to the families of those who were murdered in yesterday’s terrorist attacks in Egypt” and wishing a “quick and full recovery to the wounded.”

He said “the world must unite and fight terrorism everywhere.”

The Israeli government statement says that intelligence information shows “increased activity by Islamic State” militants in Sinai. It adds that with the Islamic State group losing ground in Iraq and Syria, there is renewed “motivation to carry out terror attacks in different arenas at this time.”

Israel called on its citizens to leave Egypt on the eve of the Passover holiday that commemorates the biblical Exodus story of the Israelites’ escape from slavery in Egypt.

The weeklong festival is widely celebrated in Israel even among otherwise nonreligious Jews. But southern Sinai, with its pristine beaches and Red Sea coral reefs, has traditionally been a popular Israeli tourist destination — especially for secular Israelis during the Passover holiday.

Israel mostly shuts down after sundown for the holiday, as families and friends gather for Seder, the ritual multi-course meal where the story of the exodus from Egypt is discussed in detail so that the tradition is preserved throughout the generations.

Leavened goods like bread and items made from yeast such as beer are banned during the holiday. Instead, Jews eat matzo — unleavened bread — to illustrate how the Israelites had no time to let their bread rise as they fled from bondage in the land of the Pharaohs.

Despite the relaxing draw of Sinai, tourism there has declined since 2013, when the Egyptian military overthrew an elected Islamist president and an Islamic insurgency based in northern Sinai intensified. Rocket attacks on Israel from Sinai are relatively rare but Islamic militants there have been behind a few attacks in recent years. Egypt has been battling the militants, many linked to the Islamic State group.

Israel issues travel recommendations from time to time based on intelligence reports. Monday’s travel warning was unusual in its urgency and it is rare for the Taba crossing to be shut down. Israel signed a peace treaty with neighboring Egypt in 1979 and the two countries maintain close security cooperation. source


The War on Christians in the Middle East

“In effect, the world is witnessing the rise of an entire new generation of Christian martyrs. The carnage is occurring on such a vast scale that it represents not only the most dramatic Christian story of our time, but arguably the premier human rights challenge of this era as well.” (See also Egypt’s Copts Don’t Have Any (Benedict) Options.)


Mid-Day Snapshot

Apr. 10, 2017

Syria: Conspiracy Theories and False Claims

The Leftmedia grabs the tin foil hats, while Obama’s claim to have removed Assad’s chemical weapons proves false.

The Foundation

“But if we are to be told by a foreign Power … what we shall do, and what we shall not do, we have Independence yet to seek, and have contended hitherto for very little.” —George Washington (1796)

 Today on ChristianHeadlines
Two Christian Churches Bombed in Egypt on Palm Sunday, ISIS Takes Credit
Two Christian Churches Bombed in Egypt on Palm Sunday, ISIS Takes Credit
by
Christians in Egypt request our prayers after two churches in Northern Egypt suffered bomb attacks during Palm Sunday services on 9th April.
READ FULL ARTICLE   >>
NC Church Bans Boy Scouts Due to Transgender Policy
NC Church Bans Boy Scouts Due to Transgender Policy
by Veronica Neffinger
A North Carolina church has told a Boy Scout troop that they cannot use the church’s facilities after the Boy Scouts decided last January to allow transgender boys.
READ FULL ARTICLE
Trump Chooses Pro-Life Conservative Christian as Army Secretary
Trump Chooses Pro-Life Conservative Christian as Army Secretary
by Amanda Casanova
President Donald Trump has reportedly chosen Tennessee Sen. Mark Green (R-Clarksville) to be secretary of the Army.
READ FULL ARTICLE
Marriage is Still the Gold Standard of Family Stability
Marriage is Still the Gold Standard of Family Stability
by Kiley Crossland
Despite pushback, research shows that cohabitation is globally less stable for kids
READ FULL ARTICLE
Senate Confirms Gorsuch to Supreme Court
Senate Confirms Gorsuch to Supreme Court
by Evan Wilt
The highest court in the land has nine justices again.
READ FULL ARTICLE


ZeroHedge Frontrunning: April 10

  • Euro hovers above one-month low as French election nerves grow (Read More)
  • French Election Risk Reawakens as Bonds Drop, Volatility Jumps (Read More)
  • Hopes fade for U.S. bank earnings despite rally in financial shares (Read More)
  • Skepticism Grows About Higher Fed Rates Helping Banks’ Margins (Read More)
  • Record Bond Issuance Signals Doubts About Economy (Read More)
  • Price for Tax Overhaul Makes Bipartisan Deal Unlikely (Read More)
  • Congress Sinks Into Partisan Morass as Shutdown Threat Looms (Read More)
  • Trump considers trade order that could lead to duties (Read More)
  • Amazon.com’s Third-Party Sellers Hit By Hackers (Read More)
  • Nothing Normal About America’s Freakish Winter Weather (Read More)
  • Hedge fund wants to unify BHP’s corporate structure, split off U.S. oil (Read More)
  • U.S. to hold accountable those who commit crimes against ‘innocents’ (Read More)
  • Kremlin says Tillerson not meeting Putin (Read More)
  • South Carolina church shooter to plead guilty to murder in state court (Read More)
  • Corporate Pension Funds About to Become Huge Players in Bond Markets (Read More)
  • Scarcity effects of QE: A transaction-level analysis in the Bund market (Read More)
  • Rage at abandonment by the state as Egypt’s Christians dig graves after bombing (Read More)
  • Pakistani court sentences accused Indian spy to death (Read More)
  • Wall Street Cop Said to Purge Contractors as Budget Fight Looms (Read More)
  • Two Indonesians face 100 strokes of cane if found guilty of gay sex (Read More)
  • What Do You Do With Half a Million Rigged VWs? (Read More)

Top Headlines – 4/10/2017

41 killed in onslaught on Egyptian Copts on Palm Sunday

Egypt decries church blasts as ‘failed attempt against our unity’

Reeling from bombs, Egypt deploys guards, declares 3 months ’emergency’

ISIS claims responsibility for Egypt churches blasts

After bombings, Israel again urges citizens to leave Sinai

In bid for survival, archaeologists point to ‘Egyptian’ finger from Temple Mount

IDF to impose week-long closure of West Bank, Gaza ahead of Passover holiday

Police arrest activists planning Temple Mount sacrifice

Le Pen says France not responsible for WWII round up of Jews

Fierce clashes rock Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon

Israel treating thousands of Syrians injured in war

Netanyahu doubles down on support for ‘moral’ US strike on Syria

Top Trump adviser: US seeks both to oust Assad and fight IS

No peace in Syria until Assad is ousted, says Nikki Haley

Trump aides differ over Assad’s future after Syria attack

Paul: Trump Must ‘Ask Permission’ Before Committing Acts of War

US Navy aircraft carrier reverses course, heads back toward Korean peninsula

North Korea vows to bolster its defenses, says Syria airstrikes prove its nukes justified

Abe praises Trump’s security commitment after call on Syria, North Korea

Assad allies say U.S. attack on Syria air base crosses ‘red lines’

Khamenei on the American attack in Syria: ‘a strategic mistake’

U.S. Strike in Syria Raises Tensions With Iran

Assad backers Iran, Russia threaten US after missile strike

Syria, Russia Would Be ‘Insane’ to Retaliate Over US Airstrikes, Former US Ambassador Says

Tillerson: Russia ‘failure allowed Syria chemical attack’

Trump officials tell Russia to drop its support for Syria’s Assad

Russian naval activity in Europe exceeds Cold War levels: U.S. admiral

Russia unveils Kazan nuclear sub, a powerful new weapon in its naval arsenal

ISIS massacres civilians fleeing Mosul

IS in Afghanistan: US special forces soldier is killed

Somalia’s New Army Chief Survives Car Bomb That Kills 13

Russian ‘Islamist’ asylum-seeker ID’d as Norway bomb suspect

‘Extreme Vetting’ Also Threatens Privacy of Americans

Hacker Group Releases Password To NSA’s “Top Secret Arsenal” In Protest Of Trump Betrayal

In a consequential week, Trump leans on the Washington establishment he vowed to disrupt

Battle over sanctuary cities escalating

Venezuela Protests As Maduro Blocks ‘Opposition’ For 15 Years

The number of reluctant part-time workers is still higher than before the Great Recession

How upgrading humans will become the next billion-dollar industry

5.2 magnitude earthquake hits near Punta de Burica, Panama

Sabancaya volcano in Peru erupts to 27,000ft

Sinabung volcano in Indonesia erupts to 19,000ft

Reventador volcano in Ecuador erupts to 16,500ft

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

Kambalny volcano in the Kuril Islands, Russia erupts to 15,000ft

New Caledonia to face direct hit from Tropical Cyclone Cook

Why one day of thunderstorms turned into a five-day Delta meltdown

Hawaii LGBT couples seek equal access to fertility treatment

James Jacob Prasch – Evidence for the Resurrection

Anna LeBaron – How God Rescued Me from the ‘Mormon Charles Manson’

Sandy Simpson – An anatomy of a false prophecy

TD Jakes Conference Quietly Nixes Potter’s House Denver’s Chris Hill Amid Affair Allegations

Online Pastor in Iran Leads Drug Addict—And His Mother—to Jesus

Two pastors arrested for sex crimes against children

North Carolina Church Boots Boy Scouts as Allowing Girls Who Identify as Boys

Atheist Mocks Bible, Praises ‘Trinity of Science’ in Invocation Before Iowa Legislature

150 Christians Forced to Stop Church Prayers in India Amid Accusations of Conversions

Palm Sunday attacks: 44 dead, more than 100 injured in church bombings carried out by ISIS in Egypt

Hours before Passover, ISIS fires missile from Sinai into Israel

Posted: 10 Apr 2017 09:52 AM PDT

ISIS claims responsibility for rocket attack on Monday; Israel increases security, closes border crossing into Egypt. Just hours before Israelis begin celebrating Passover, ISIS fired…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Giant Sinkhole Swallows Bus and Car in India

Posted: 10 Apr 2017 09:47 AM PDT

A giant sinkhole reportedly opened in the middle of a crowded road in Chennai, India swallowing a car and it’s passenger bus on April 9,…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Graphic Artist Who Designed ‘Shack’ Novel Renounces Book

Posted: 10 Apr 2017 09:38 AM PDT

The graphic artist who helped design the controversial best-selling novel “The Shack” has come forward to express his regret for being a part of the…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Israelis Being Warned to Leave Egyptian Sinai after Church Bombings

Posted: 10 Apr 2017 09:34 AM PDT

On the eve of the Passover, the Israeli government sent condolences to Egypt and called on Israelis visiting the Egyptian Sinai Desert to return home…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Israel shuts border after terror warning Passover eve…

Posted: 10 Apr 2017 09:26 AM PDT

Israel closed its Taba border crossing to the Sinai peninsula on Monday following warnings by its anti-terrorism office of an “imminent” militant attack there and…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Rabbi Jonathan Cahn Unlocks the Mystery of Nisan

Posted: 10 Apr 2017 09:24 AM PDT

(By Rabbi Jonathan Cahn) Editor’s Note: This mystery is taken from The Book of Mysteries, Jonathan Cahn’s national best-seller that takes you on a one-year journey…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

RUMORS OF WAR: Fears grow over mystery Russian compound in Nicaragua…

Posted: 10 Apr 2017 09:20 AM PDT

US officials are keeping a keen eye on a Russian complex nestled on the edge of a volcanic crater in Nicaragua. The center, which is…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Oarfish washes ashore in Philippines 3 days before series of earthquakes hits Luzon

Posted: 09 Apr 2017 07:07 PM PDT

Another sign comes true! On April 4, 2017. a giant oarfish – 14.4-feet long – washed ashore in Southern Leyte, Philippines 4 days before a…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

New species of baseball-sized spider discovered in Baja California mine

Posted: 09 Apr 2017 06:50 PM PDT

While traipsing through the a mine in the hills of Baja California, Michael Wall and Jim Berrian struck gold. Skittering across the abandoned mine shaft…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

37 Percent of Men Don’t Think Using Dating Apps is Cheating

Posted: 09 Apr 2017 06:38 PM PDT

37 percent of men don’t think using dating apps while in a relationship is cheating, according to a new survey of over 3,500 college students…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Christians Worldwide Celebrate Palm Sunday

Posted: 09 Apr 2017 06:33 PM PDT

Christians worldwide celebrate Palm Sunday, commemorating the Triumphal Entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem at the beginning of Holy Week, a week that would end…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

HHGregg to close all 220 stores and Layoff 5000 Across the United States

Posted: 09 Apr 2017 06:26 PM PDT

The going-out-of-business sales start this weekend at HHGregg. The bankrupt retailer is planning to begin liquidating its assets Saturday after failing to find a buyer…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

RETAIL APOCALYPSE: America’s Retailers Are Closing Stores Faster Than Ever

Posted: 09 Apr 2017 06:22 PM PDT

The battered American retail industry took a few more lumps this week, with stores at both ends of the price spectrum preparing to close their…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

The Power of the Cross Will Triumph Over Evil

Posted: 09 Apr 2017 06:11 PM PDT

(Reported By Stephen Little) The Palm Sunday attacks that killed at least 43 people at two churches in Egypt are expected to spur religious freedom…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

NC Church Severs Ties With Boy Scouts of America Over Transgender Policy

Posted: 09 Apr 2017 06:08 PM PDT

Another church is severing its relationship with the Boy Scouts of America over its controversial decision to allow transgender scouts.  Coddle Creek Associate Reformed Presbyterian…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Would Most Americans Be Absolutely Blindsided By Multiple Wars And A Simultaneous Economic Collapse?

Posted: 09 Apr 2017 06:00 PM PDT

(by Michael Snyder) According to CBS News, an astounding three-fourths of all Americans have to “scramble to cover their living costs” each month.  In other…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Once Vacation Ends, Congress Will Have 4 Days To Avoid Government Shutdown On April 29

Posted: 09 Apr 2017 05:57 PM PDT

(Reported By Michael Snyder) April 2017 could turn out to be one of the most important months in U.S. history that we have seen in…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

WAR DRUMS: Russia and Iran threaten US with War if “Red Lines Are Crossed”

Posted: 09 Apr 2017 05:49 PM PDT

Russia and Iran have said they will respond to further American military actions following the air strike in Syria last week. In a joint statement,…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

WAR DRUMS: Russian Naval activity in Europe Exceeds Cold War levels…

Posted: 09 Apr 2017 05:45 PM PDT

Recent Russian naval activity in Europe exceeds levels seen during the Cold War, a top U.S. and NATO military officer said, voicing concern that the…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

4 Powerful Insights for this Passover Season

Posted: 09 Apr 2017 03:23 PM PDT

(By Ricky Scaparo) In this segment, we will discuss four powerful insights that were seen manifested in the lives of the children of Israel when…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

37 dead, over 100 injured in Palm Sunday Attacks at Packed Churches in Egypt

Posted: 09 Apr 2017 05:32 AM PDT

At least 37 people were killed and more than 100 injured in two separate Palm Sunday bombing attacks at Coptic Christian churches in Egypt. The…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

San Diego school district to create Muslim safe spaces, boost Islam lessons to combat bullying

Posted: 08 Apr 2017 08:47 PM PDT

Muslim safe spaces, increased lessons on Islam during social studies classes, and other measures will be adopted by San Diego Unified School District to combat…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Japanese scientists to use giant undersea drill to reach Earth’s mantle

Posted: 08 Apr 2017 08:21 PM PDT

Earth’s elusive mantle is too much to resist for a team of Japanese scientists who plan to be the first to reach it. The team…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

U.S. Ambassador to UN Warns That Trump is Prepared to Take Further Action Against Syria

Posted: 08 Apr 2017 08:05 PM PDT

The day after the United States launched a missile attack against a Syrian air base, U.S. Ambasador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

BREAKING NEWS: U.S. Navy strike group to move toward Korean peninsula

Posted: 08 Apr 2017 07:53 PM PDT

A U.S. Navy strike group will be moving toward the western Pacific Ocean near the Korean peninsula as a show of force, a U.S. official…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Expert Prepper Warns “U.S. Church Not Prepared For What’s Coming”

Posted: 08 Apr 2017 05:47 PM PDT

The American church is weak. It’s an unfortunate truth says Jake McCandless, the head of Prophecy Simplified and the author of the new book “Spiritual Prepper:…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

U.S. Military Preparing to Deploy Laser Weapons on Vehicles

Posted: 08 Apr 2017 05:41 PM PDT

Laser weapons for planes, ships, and other vehicles are being readied to deploy after decades of development. Companies in the defense industry — including Boeing,…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Top Vatican and U.S. Cardinal Support Gay-Friendly Book

Posted: 08 Apr 2017 05:37 PM PDT

The Vatican’s point man on family issues and a U.S. Cardinal are supporting a new book by a Jesuit priest that urges the Catholic Church…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Is Chaos in Syria Fulfilling Bible Prophecy?

Posted: 08 Apr 2017 05:34 PM PDT

The Syrian conflict — and the U.S. decision to strike a base inside the embattled country — is leading to increased concerns about the future of the nation’s…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Revival Strikes North Carolina Again!

Posted: 08 Apr 2017 01:53 PM PDT

Revival has once again come to the state of North Carolina as thousands are meeting at First Free Will Baptist Church in Hayesville, North Carolina….

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Transgender Texas Boy Gets New Birth Certificate

Posted: 08 Apr 2017 01:39 PM PDT

Born Mary Grace, a nine-year-old North Texas child is now officially named Max. His parents petitioned a court to change all of his legal documents,…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Large Asteroid to Buzz Past Earth This Month

Posted: 08 Apr 2017 01:34 PM PDT

A large asteroid is hurtling toward Earth — but there’s no need to duck and cover. The space rock, known by the very dull name…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Multiple Earthquakes Strike near Manila, Philippines within minutes – Evacuations, landslides and damages reported

Posted: 08 Apr 2017 01:11 PM PDT

Three earthquakes ranging in magnitude from 5.0 to 5.9 hit the main island of Luzon, Philippines within 20 minutes on Saturday, April 8, 2017. An…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

DEVELOPING: Nearly 1,000 Evacuated as Volcanic Activity Increases in Indonesia

Posted: 08 Apr 2017 01:04 PM PDT

The number of earthquakes under Indonesian Banda Api volcano has sharply increased over the past couple of days prompting authorities to raise the volcanic alert…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Apocalyptic Flooding Destroys 80% of City in Argentina

Posted: 08 Apr 2017 12:50 PM PDT

One of the most important cities of Patagonia in terms of population, Comodoro Rivadavia, is being literally destroyed by flooding and strong winds since the…

Read more at End Time Headlines.


What is The Gospel?


Who Do You Think That I Am?

Selected Scriptures

Code: A335

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

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

Consider what the Bible says about Him:

JESUS IS GOD

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

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

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

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

JESUS IS HOLY

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

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

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

JESUS IS THE SAVIOR

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

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

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

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

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

JESUS IS THE ONLY ACCEPTABLE OBJECT OF SAVING FAITH

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

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

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

JESUS IS LORD

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

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

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

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

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

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

JESUS IS THE JUDGE

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

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

HOW WILL YOU RESPOND?

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

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


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/articles/A335
COPYRIGHT ©2017 Grace to YouYou may reproduce this Grace to You content for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Grace to You’s Copyright Policy (http://www.gty.org/connect/copyright).


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(Alternative News, Apologetics, Current Events, Commentary, Opinion, Theology, Discernment Blog, Devotionals, Christian Internet Evangelism & Missions Activist).

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Frequently Abused Verses: Did God Forbid us to Critique or Criticize Church Leaders? (Psalm 105:15; 1 Samuel 24:10)

1 Samuel 24:10; 1 Chronicles 16:22; Psalm 105:15

Code: B170410

False teaching thrives in environments where it is unlikely to be questioned. Charlatans and heretics prey on uncritical minds, and work tirelessly to protect and preserve that gullibility. Their success depends on dismantling every challenge to their authority and accuracy.

John MacArthur describes why that problem is rampant in the modern church:

In a time like this of tolerance, listen, false teaching will always cry intolerance; it will always say you’re being divisive, you’re being unloving, you’re being ungracious, because it can only survive when it doesn’t get scrutinized. And so it cries against any intolerance. It cries against any examination, any scrutiny.

In recent decades, some of the most notorious charismatic church leaders have been doing just that. They continually warn their critics to back off or face the imminent danger of divine judgment. Claiming God’s stamp of approval, they wield Psalm 105:15 like a loaded gun: “Touch not [the Lord’s] anointed” (KJV).

And lest you think such a description to be hyperbole, the following clip from Benny Hinn is a spectacular example.

Hinn’s handling of Psalm 105:15, as well as the story of Saul and David, is hopelessly wrong on too many levels to address in one blog post.

For example we could discuss how Hinn utterly fails to understand Judas’s role in God’s sovereign plan for the crucifixion, while woefully underestimating the deity of Christ. We could invalidate Hinn’s warnings against criticism by pointing out the time Paul rebuked Peter—or when Hinn has publicly rebuked Joel Osteen, among others. Then there’s the problem of Hinn basing his threats upon the extra-biblical revelation of another false teacher (Kenneth Copeland).

What does it mean to “touch”?

But there is one simple, glaring error that explains all the other problems and exposes Hinn as the incompetent and unqualified Bible teacher that he is. When David says, “I will not stretch out my hand against [Saul], for he is the Lord’s anointed” (1 Samuel 24:10), he is explaining why he didn’t kill Saul, not why he didn’t criticize Saul. In fact, David was openly critical of Saul on numerous occasions. Moreover, 1 Samuel 24:10 is part of a larger discourse where David rebukes Saul face-to-face over his murderous scheming: “I have not sinned against you, though you are lying in wait for my life to take it. May the Lord judge between you and me, and may the Lord avenge me on you; but my hand shall not be against you” (1 Samuel 24:11–13). Even if Benny Hinn was “the Lord’s anointed”—he’s not—none of his critics are attempting to “touch” him in the sense described in 1 Samuel 24:10 (or Psalm 105:15; or 1 Chronicles 16:22).

Who are the anointed?

There is another fatal flaw in Hinn’s interpretation. He—and all those who follow this teaching—assume that only certain persons are “anointed.” They claim that pastors and self-appointed prophets and apostles have a unique anointing from God that immunizes them from criticism. But such a concept is foreign to Scripture. In short, the Bible teaches that all believers have an anointing from God.

In his first epistle, the apostle John explained what it means to be anointed as a New Testament believer. After warning his readers about antichrists who were coming to deceive them, John reminded them of their security because of Christ’s anointing:

These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him. (1 John 2:26–27)

The anointing John refers to is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit—a reality for all true Christians. John MacArthur explains the context and meaning of “anointing” as it appears in 1 John:

The false teachers who threatened John’s readers employed the terms for knowledge and anointing to describe their religious experience. They arrogantly saw themselves as possessing an elevated and esoteric form of divine knowledge, and as the recipients of a special, secret, transcendent anointing. That led them to believe they were privy to truth that the uninitiated lacked. John’s response, which was both a rebuttal to the antichrists and a reassurance to the believers, was to assert that, in reality, all true Christians have an anointing from the Holy One.

Because believers have received that anointing, they have the true understanding of God that comes exclusively through Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6), “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). They do not need any secret, special, or transcendent understanding or esoteric insight. Anointing (chrisma) literally means “ointment” or “oil” (cf. Hebrews 1:9). In this text it refers figuratively to the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:21–22), who has taken up residency in believers at the behest of Jesus Christ, the Holy One (cf. Luke 4:34; Acts 3:14), and reveals through Scripture all they need to know (John 14:26; 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:9–10). [1]

The anointing we have as believers reveals the truth and therefore exposes the lies of false teachers. How ironic that the “anointing” Benny Hinn evokes to extort and manipulate churchgoers is actually our warning system to expose the self-serving deception of wolves like him.

Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B170410
COPYRIGHT ©2017 Grace to You

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

Christ Justifies No One Whom He Does Not also Sanctify – John Calvin

Two amazing quotes by Calvin on the relationship of justification and sanctification.

by John Calvin

:Justification and sanctification, gifts of grace, go together as if tied by an inseparable bond, so that if anyone tries to separate them, he is, in a sense, tearing Christ to pieces. Sanctification doesn’t just flow from justification, so that one produces the other. Both come from the same Source. Christ justifies no one whom He does not also sanctify. By virtue of our union with Christ, He bestows both gifts, the one never without the other.”
Calvin’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1:30, Volume XX, Baker, 1993, p. 93.

Source: Christ Justifies No One Whom He Does Not also Sanctify

Media archive on CHC Verdict saga

The results of the latest verdict of City Harvest’s accused six were presented on Friday 7 April, 2017.

Media articles about the appeal are listed below:

City Harvest appeal: Kong Hee’s sentence reduced to 3.5 years
Channel News Asia, April 07 Apr 2017

All 6 City Harvest Church leaders get reduced sentences
Mother Ship, April 07 2017

Singapore High Court cuts jail terms for Kong Hee and 5 City Harvest Church leaders
The Business Times, April 07 2017

Internet reacts with outrage & disillusionment to reduced sentences for 6 CHC Kongvicts
Mother Ship, April 07 2017

One of the City Harvest leaders saddened by sentencing, because “ultimately we did it for the church”
Mother Ship, April 07 2017

Kong Hee could be out of jail in 2 years 4 months due to S’pore’s two-third remission system
Mother Ship, April 07 2017

City Harvest Church issues statement on appeal: ‘We thank God for the shorter sentences’

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AGC seeks Court of Appeal to reinstate original convictions for City Harvest Church leaders.

Mother Ship reports,

“The Attorney-General Chambers (AGC) has filed a Criminal Reference on April 10 with the Court of Appeal, seeking it to exercise its powers to reinstate the original convictions for City Harvest Church co-founder Kong Hee and five of his fellow church leaders.”

Read more here:

AGC seeks Court of Appeal to reinstate original convictions for City Harvest Church leaders

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Kong Hee & City Harvest Church saga may not be over yet.

Mother Ship has suggested that the criminal case involving Kong Hee and the City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders might not be over just yet:

“Perhaps this hasn’t been made clear, but it looks like the criminal case involving Kong Hee and the City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders might not be over just yet.”

Read more here:

Here’s why Minister Shanmugam is right that the City Harvest case is not over yet

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ISIS targets Egypt, vows to “liberate” Cairo, slaughter Christians. Palm Sunday attacks on two Egyptian churches latest salvo in dangerous new offensive. Here’s the latest.

Joel C. Rosenberg's Blog

Cairo2

(Central Israel) — Having just landed back in Israel last night to rejoin my family and celebrate Passover, I was heart-broken to hear the news out of Cairo.

But let’s be clear: the savage attacks by the Islamic State yesterday against Christians in two Egyptian churches packed for Palm Sunday are not isolated incidents. They are the latest salvos in a dangerous new ISIS offensive to destabilize Egypt, and they underscore the urgency of close Egyptian security cooperation with both the U.S. and Israel to neutralize this jihadist threat.

Consider the context of the two church attacks.

In May 2016, ISIS released a blizzard of videos and social media statements in support of “Sinai Province,” one of their jihadist affiliates. Since then, ISIS in the Sinai has ramped up its terrorist attacks against Egyptian citizens and military forces in Sinai and rocket attacks against civilians in southern Israel.

“The series warns Egyptians against adopting the ‘new religion’ of democracy, and urge…

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Faith does not determine salvation; grace determines salvation

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ Luke 18:13 (NASB) 

In our day it is not unusual to hear a man-centered version of the Gospel message that has everything turned around backward and is presented in such a way that is meant to appeal emotionally to unbelievers with a statement such as, “Christ’s crucifixion is proof of our worth to God!” The appeal is meant to show that if Christ was willing to go to the Cross to save sinners like us then that proves we are of value to God. I have even heard one version of this that says that Jesus would have gone to that Cross even if it was for just one unrepentant sinner. Is that found anywhere in…

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Why Should I Believe that Jesus Rose from the Dead?

The following is adapted from Michael Horton, “Risen Indeed.”

In answering this question, it’s helpful for us to return to the “facts of the case.” Here, speculation is useless. It does not matter what we thought reality was like: whether we believed in thirty gods or none. It doesn’t matter what we find helpful, meaningful, or fulfilling. This is not about spirituality or moral uplift. Something has happened in history and we cannot wish it away. It either happened or it did not happen, but the claim itself is hardly meaningless or beyond investigation. Let’s look at the facts of the case.

The earliest Christians testified to the following elements of the resurrection claim, even to the point of martyrdom:

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April 10, 2017: Verse of the day

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Seemingly with one voice, the whole multitude was crying out, saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest!” The Hebrew word hosanna is an exclamatory plea meaning “save now.” But the crowd on that day was not interested in Jesus’ saving their souls but only in His saving their nation. Like the Twelve, they had long wondered why, if Jesus were truly the Messiah, He had not used His supernatural powers against the Romans. Now at last, they thought, He will manifest Himself as Conqueror. They were about to celebrate Passover, which commemorated the Lord’s miraculous deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage. What better occasion could there be for the Lord’s Anointed, the Messiah, to make the ultimate and final deliverance of His people from tyranny?

The people wanted a conquering, reigning Messiah who would come in great military power to throw off the brutal yoke of Rome and establish a kingdom of justice and righteousness where God’s chosen people would have special favor. But Jesus did not come to conquer Rome but to conquer sin and death. He did not come to make war with Rome but to make peace with God for men.

Although the shouts of the multitude were entirely appropriate and were, in fact, fulfillment of prophecy, the people had no idea of the true significance of what they were doing, much less of what Jesus would soon do on the cross in their behalf. They neither understood the Lord nor themselves. He intentionally did not enter Jerusalem with a powerful retinue of soldiers who would fight for Him to the death. He entered instead with a ragtag multitude of ordinary people, most of whom, despite their loud proclamation of His greatness, would soon turn against Him, and none of whom would stand by Him.

The multitude acknowledged Jesus as the Son of David, which was the most common messianic title. They were crying out for Messiah’s deliverance, pleading, in effect, “Save us now, great Messiah! Save us now!” They were quoting from a popular praise psalm from the Hallel (Psalms 113–118), in particular Psalm 118, which was also a psalm of deliverance, sometimes called the conqueror’s psalm. More than a hundred years earlier, the Jews had hailed Jonathan Maccabeus with the same psalm after he delivered the Acra from Syrian domination.

The multitude knew who Jesus was, but they did not understand or truly believe what they knew. They were right in their belief that He was the Messiah, the Son of David, and that He had come in the name of the Lord. But they were wrong in their belief about the sort of Deliverer He was. They knew He was a king, but they did not understand the nature of His kingship or His kingdom. They did not realize any more than Pilate that the kingdom He came then to bring was not of this world (John 18:36). That is why, when it dawned on them a few days later that Jesus had not come to deliver them from the Romans, they turned against Him. When they clamored before Pilate for the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus (John 18:40), they shouted, in effect, the words Jesus had predicted in the parable of the nobleman: “We do not want this man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14).

The people wanted Jesus on their own terms, and they would not bow to a King who was not of their liking, even though He were the Son of God. They wanted Jesus to destroy Rome but not their cherished sins or their hypocritical, superficial religion. But He would not deliver them on their terms, and they would not be delivered on His. He was not a Messiah who came to offer a panacea of external peace in the world but to offer the infinitely greater blessing of internal peace with God.

Many people today are open to a Jesus who they think will give them wealth, health, success, happiness, and the other worldly things they want. Like the multitude at the triumphal entry, they will loudly acclaim Jesus as long as they believe He will satisfy their selfish desires. But like the same multitude a few days later, they will reject and denounce Him when He does not deliver as expected. When His Word confronts them with their sin and their need of a Savior, they curse Him and turn away

The Romans were godless and cruel oppressors, and the Lord would not allow them to survive indefinitely. But they were not His people’s greatest enemy. Their greatest enemy was sin, and from that they refused to be delivered. God would allow the holy Temple of His chosen people to be destroyed long before He allowed their pagan oppressors to be destroyed. He would, in fact, allow those very pagans to destroy the holy Temple.

On the day after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem Jesus “entered the temple and cast out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, ‘It is written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer;” but you are making it a robbers’ den’ ”(Matt. 21:12–13). That cleansing of the Temple was purely symbolic and had little lasting effect. The mercenary moneychangers and sacrifice sellers were doubtlessly back in business the next day. But less than forty years later, in a.d. 70, the Romans would utterly destroy the Temple, after which, just as Jesus foretold, not one stone of it was left upon another that was not torn down (Matt. 24:2). Not until modern times, nearly two thousand years hater, could even its ruins be identified.

As far as the true intent of the people was concerned, Jesus’ coronation was a hollow, empty pretense. The words of the multitude were right, but their hearts were not. In any case, He had not come at that time to be crowned but to be crucified.

He will be crowned one day in a way that is perfectly befitting. The times of rejection will be over, and at His name “every knee [will] bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and … every tongue [will] confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10–11). The first time He came, He came to provide men’s salvation. But when He comes again, He will come to display His sovereignty His great and ultimate coronation in that day is described by John:

And when He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, having each one a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. And Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” And I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped. (Rev. 5:8–14)[1]


9 Crowds ahead and behind may be incidental confirmation of two other details. First, John 12:12 speaks of crowds coming out of Jerusalem to meet Jesus. Apparently the Galilean pilgrims accompanying Jesus and the Jerusalem crowd coming out to greet him formed a procession of praise. Second, the fact that the Jerusalem crowds knew he was approaching supports the stopover in Bethany, which allows time for the news to spread. Messianic fervor was high, and perhaps this contributed to Jesus’ desire to present himself as the Prince of Peace.

The words of praise come primarily from Psalm 118:25–26. “Hosanna” transliterates the Hebrew expression that originally was a cry for help: “Save!” (cf. 2 Sa 14:4; 2 Ki 6:26). In time, it became an invocation of blessing and even an acclamation, the latter being the meaning here (cf. Gundry, Use of the Old Testament, 41–43). “Son of David” is messianic and stresses the kingly role Messiah was to play (cf. Mark, Luke, and John for explicit references to “kingdom” or “king”). “He who comes in the name of the Lord” is cited by Jesus himself a little later (23:39; cf. 3:11; 11:3), but some scholars object that if this phrase had been a messianic acclamation by the people, the authorities would have stepped in. The words, they say, must be a formula of greeting to pilgrims on the way to the temple.

Such an assessment betrays too stark an “either-or” mentality to weigh the evidence plausibly. “Son of David” in the previous line is unavoidably messianic, and the authorities do raise objections (v. 16). But crowd sentiments are fickle. On the one hand, acclamation can rapidly dissipate, so instant action by the authorities was scarcely necessary; on the other hand, it is foolish to antagonize the crowd at the height of excitement (cf. 26:4–5, 16). “Hosanna in the highest” is probably equivalent to “Glory to God in the highest” (Lk 2:14). The people praise God in the highest heavens for sending the Messiah and, if “Hosanna” retains some of its original force, also cry to him for deliverance.

Two final reflections on this verse are necessary. First, Psalm 118 was not only used at the Feast of Tabernacles (m. Sukkah 4:5) but also at the other two major feasts, Dedication and Passover—at the latter as part of “the great Hallel” (Pss 113–18). The use of Psalm 118 is, therefore, no support for Manson’s suggestion (see Overview, 21:1–11). Second, Walvoord’s interpretation stumbles badly: “They recognized that he was in the kingly line, although they do not seem to have entered into the concept that he was coming into Jerusalem as its King.” On the contrary, it is hard to think of the crowd’s making fine distinctions between “kingly line” and “king.” Moreover, one growing thrust of this gospel is, as we have seen, that even where Jesus was perceived, however dimly, as King Messiah, he was not perceived as Suffering Servant. In the expectations of the day, it was fairly easy for the crowd, after hearing Jesus’ preaching and seeing his miracles, to ascribe messiahship to him as much in their hope as in conviction. But it was far harder for them to grasp the inevitability of his suffering and death and the expansion of the “people of God” beyond the Jewish race.[2]

21:9 The multitudes shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” This quotation from Psalm 118:25, 26 obviously applies to the Messiah’s advent. Hosanna originally meant “save now”; perhaps the people meant, “Save us from our Roman oppressors.” Later the term became an exclamation of praise. The phrases, “Son of David” and, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” both clearly indicate that Jesus was being recognized as the Messiah. He is the Blessed One who comes by Jehovah’s authority to do His will.

Mark’s account records as part of the crowd’s shouts the phrase, “Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that comes in the name of the Lord” (Mark 11:10). This indicates that the people thought the kingdom was about to be set up with Christ sitting on the throne of David. In shouting, “Hosanna in the highest,” the crowd was calling on the heavens to join the earth in praising the Messiah, and perhaps calling on Him to save from the highest heavens.

Mark 11:11 records that, once in Jerusalem, Jesus went to the temple—not inside the temple but into the courtyard. Presumably it was the house of God, but He was not at home in this temple because the priests and people refused to give Him His rightful place. After looking around briefly, the Savior withdrew to Bethany with the twelve. It was Sunday evening.[3]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Mt 21:8). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 495–496). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1281–1282). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

April 10 – Rejecting Worldly Ambitions

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

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Only Christ can satisfy your deepest needs.

Within every man and woman is a hunger and thirst only God can satisfy. That’s why Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

Sadly, most people search for happiness in the wrong places. The prodigal son in Luke 15 is one example. He turned from God to pursue sinful pleasures, but he soon discovered that sin cannot satisfy a hungering soul. That’s when he returned to his father’s house, where he was given a great feast—a picture of salvation.

The rich fool in Luke 12 thought that amassing possessions was the key to happiness, saying to himself, “‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops? … This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (vv. 17–21). Unlike the prodigal son, the rich fool never turned to God in repentance. Consequently he lost everything.

The rich fool is typical of many people today who ignore Christ and attempt to fill the void with worldly pleasures. Most are oblivious to the eternal peril that awaits them if they don’t repent.

Those who love God shun worldliness, pursue righteousness, and know the satisfaction that comes from pleasing Him. That’s the essence of the Sermon on the Mount: “Seek first His kingdom, and His righteousness; and all [you need] shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). Keep that goal uppermost in your mind as you face the challenge of each new day.

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank God that He satisfies the deepest desires of your heart.

For Further Study: Read Daniel 4:28–37. ✧ What was Nebuchadnezzar’s sin? ✧ How did God punish Him? ✧ How did Nebuchadnezzar respond after being punished?[1]


Happy Are the Hungry

(5:6)

16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Necessity for Spiritual Hunger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Meaning of Spiritual Hunger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Object of Spiritual Hunger

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

For Salvation

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

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

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

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

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

For Sanctification

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Result of Spiritual Hunger

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

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

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

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

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

The Testing Of Spiritual Hunger

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

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

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

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

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

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

The spiritually hungry cry, “My soul is crushed with longing after Thine ordinances at all times” (Ps. 119:20), and they confess, “At night my soul longs for Thee, indeed, my spirit within me seeks Thee diligently” (Isa. 26:9).[2]


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

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

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


5:6 Next, a blessing is pronounced on those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: they are promised satisfaction. These people have a passion for righteousness in their own lives; they long to see honesty, integrity, and justice in society; they look for practical holiness in the church. Like the people of whom Gamaliel Bradford wrote, they have “a thirst no earthly stream can satisfy, a hunger that must feed on Christ or die.” These people will be abundantly satisfied in Christ’s coming kingdom: they shall be filled, for righteousness will reign and corruption will give way to the highest moral standards.[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 113). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

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

[3] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, p. 164). 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 10 – LEANING TOWARD HERESY

The mighty God, even the Lord, hath spoken…thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself.

Psalm 50:1, 21

 

When large numbers of adherents in the Christian churches come to believe that God is different from what He actually is, that concept becomes heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind!

When the Christian church surrenders her once lofty concept of God and substitutes for it ideas so low, so ignoble as to be utterly unworthy, her situation is tragic indeed. Into the life and the practices of the church comes a whole new philosophy; and the sense of the divine Presence and the majesty of God is no longer known.

Although “morality” is no longer a popular word in our world, it is apparent that such low and unworthy concepts of God’s Person actually constitute a moral calamity for professed believers in great segments of Christianity. The records of both sacred and secular history show that low views of God will surely destroy the appeal of the Christian for all who hold them!

To all sinners, Jesus said, “You must be born again—from above!” He knew that the gods begotten in the shadowy thoughts of the fallen sons and daughters of Adam will quite naturally be no true likeness of the true and living God!

 

Dear Lord, prevent me from ever diminishing Your greatness. I pray that You will reveal a glimpse of Your mighty power to all those in the world who hold You in low esteem.[1]


1 None other than God himself summons the inhabitants of the earth to prepare themselves for the great judgment to come. The first three words of the Hebrew text emphasize that it is God who has spoken: “El” (= God), “Elohim” (= God), “Yahweh” (= Lord) (the NIV has “The Mighty One, God, the Lord”). The Creator-God (= “Elohim”) and the Redeemer-God (= “Yahweh”) are one God (= “El”). He has made a covenant with creation (Ge 9:8–17; cf. Hos 2:18) and with the nation of Israel. His rule extends far beyond Israel to the whole earth, poetically described as “from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets.”[2]


21 Too often, God’s silence is taken as his approval (cf. Mal 2:17; 3:14–15). The people became used to God’s patience and mistook it for an inability to do anything about the evil on earth. They did not understand that Yahweh is the Wholly Other One, who is free in his judgment as well as in his grace. He cannot be boxed in by human beings. In his own time, God will come to rebuke and then to judge his people openly.[3]


50:1 First the Judge is heard as He summons all the people in the entire land of Israel—from east to west—to stand before His tribunal. What gives authority to the Judge’s voice is the fact that He is the Mighty One, God the Lord.[4]


50:21 Because God had not punished them immediately, they thought He was as careless as they were. They failed to realize that His patience was designed to give them time to repent. But now the Lord breaks His silence and rebukes them for the charges listed above.[5]


50:1 The Mighty One, God, the Lord. The Divine Judge is introduced with three significant OT names. The first two are the short and longer forms of the most common word for “God” in the OT, and the third is the name for Israel’s God par excellence, i.e., Yahweh (cf. its historical origin in Ex 3:14). from the rising of the sun to its setting. A common OT idiom conveying from E to W, i.e., all over the planet.[6]


50:21 I kept silence … I will reprove you. God’s longsuffering grace must never be looked upon as laxity (cf. 2Pe 3:3–10) nor abused. His reckoning for rebellion will indeed be manifested.[7]


50:1 The Supreme God, God, Yahweh The psalmist uses three consecutive Hebrew names for God: el, elohim, and yhwh. Taken together, the names emphasize God’s supremacy as Creator of the earth and God of Israel.

Because el and elohim are both usually translated as “God,” most translations use “Mighty One.” However, the text literally translates as “God, God, Yahweh.” The first “God” (el) refers to God as the supreme deity.[8]


50:21 You imagined that I was just like you In addition to the sins He attributes to the wicked in vv. 17–20, God rebukes His people for their attitude toward Him. They viewed God’s silence as a sign that He was unable to judge them.

present an argument The Hebrew term arakh used here means “to get ready” or “set in order.” While it can describe preparation for battle (1 Sam 17:2), here it indicates the presenting of a legal case (Job 13:18; 23:4). With the heavens and earth as His witnesses (see Ps 50:4 and note), God has given evidence for the misdeeds of the wicked.[9]


50:1 The Mighty One, God the Lord. The psalm opens impressively with three divine names. The third is God’s covenant name, conventionally translated with the word “Lord” in small capital letters. In Hebrew it is four consonants, called the “Tetragrammaton,” and pronounced “Yahweh” by contemporary scholars, though that pronunciation is not certain. See Ex. 3:13–15 and notes.

rising of the sun to its setting. From east to west, God addresses the whole earth.[10]


50:21 I have been silent. God’s silence is frequently taken by the wicked as a sign that He doesn’t care if they sin.[11]


[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. 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. 428). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 432). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 627). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 629). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[6] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 50:1). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[7] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 50:21). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[8] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 50:1). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[9] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 50:21). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[10] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 887). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

[11] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 888). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

APRIL 10 – A BEAUTIFUL REALITY: WE DO LOVE CHRIST, NEVER HAVING SEEN HIM

That the trial of your faith…might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love.

1 PETER 1:7, 8

The Apostle Peter, who had seen Jesus Christ in the flesh with his own eyes, passed along to every believing Christian the assurance that it is possible for us to love the Saviour and to live a life that will glorify Him even though we have not yet seen Him!

It is as though Peter is urging: “Love Him and work for Him and live for Him. I give you my testimony that it will be worth it all when you look upon His face—for I have seen Him with my own eyes, and I know!”

In his epistle, Peter, who had known Jesus in the flesh, was moved to write to the strangers scattered abroad—the Christians of the dispersion—to remind them that they should love Jesus Christ even though they had not seen Him in the flesh.

The Lord Jesus Himself had set His own stamp of approval and blessing upon all Christians who would believe, never having seen Him in the time of His own flesh. He told Thomas after the resurrection, “Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”

God has seen fit to give us wonderful and mysterious faculties, and I truly believe that God has ordained that we may actually know Jesus now, and love Him better never having seen Him, than Peter did when he saw Him![1]


Confidence in a Proven Faith

even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, (1:6b–7a)

Peter next turns to a source of joy that has immense practical ramifications for believers—confidence in a proven faith. Rather than allow severe trials and persecutions to steal their joy and spoil their anticipation of future blessing in heaven, genuine believers with a biblical perspective know that such sufferings actually can add to their joy as they experience grace and anticipate the future.

In the remainder of verse 6 the apostle lists four concise features of the trouble God uses to prove believers’ faith. First he declares that their troubles are now for a little while. They are transitory (cf. Ps. 30:5; Isa. 54:7–8; Rom. 8:18), literally “for a season,” which means they will pass quickly, as does one’s time on earth. Paul calls them “momentary, light affliction” (2 Cor. 4:17), relative to the “eternal weight of glory.”

Second, troubles come if necessary; that is, when they serve a purpose in believers’ lives (cf. Job 5:6–7; Acts 14:22; 1 Thess. 3:3). God uses troubles to humble believers (Deut. 8:3; 2 Cor. 12:7–10), wean them away from worldly things and point them toward heaven (John 16:33; Rev. 14:13; cf. Job 19:25–26), teach them to value God’s blessing as opposed to life’s pain (4:13; Rom. 8:17–18), enable them to help others (2 Cor. 1:3–7; Heb. 13:3), chasten them for their sins (1 Cor. 11:30; cf. Job 5:17; Luke 15:16–18; Heb. 12:5–12), and to help strengthen spiritual character (Rom. 5:3; 2 Thess. 1:4–6; James 1:2–4; 5:11). Later in this letter Peter sums up troubles’ benefit, “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (5:10).

Third, Peter with the term been distressed acknowledges that trouble undeniably brings pain (cf. Gen. 3:16–19; Pss. 42:7; 66:12; 89:30–32). Distressed refers not only to physical pain, but also to mental anguish, including sadness, sorrow, disappointment, and anxiety. By God’s design, trouble needs to be painful in order to refine believers for greater spiritual usefulness (cf. Pss. 34:19; 78:34; 119:71; John 9:1–3; 11:3–4; 2 Cor. 12:10).

Fourth, the apostle notes in verse 6 that Christians experience various trials; troubles come in many forms (James 1:2). The Greek word rendered various is poikilos, which means “many colored.” Later Peter uses the same word (rendered “manifold” in the nasb and kjv) to describe the diverse grace of God (4:10). Just as trouble is diverse, God’s sufficient grace for believers is equally diverse. There is no form of trouble that some facet of divine grace cannot supersede (cf. 1 Cor. 10:13). God’s grace is sufficient for every human trial.

Those simply stated elements implicitly reiterate why trouble should not diminish believers’ joy, and the first half of verse 7 states the reason explicitly: they rejoice so that the proof of [their] faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire. This perspective on trouble not only does not diminish joy but actually produces triumphant joy, since the experience validates Christians’ faith. Proof (dokimion) was used to describe the assaying of metal. The assaying process discovers a metal’s purity and determines its true content and worth after all impurities have been smelted away (Num. 31:22–23; cf. Prov. 17:3; Zech. 13:9). By analogy, God tests the believer’s faith to reveal its genuineness (cf. Job 23:10). (He does this not because He needs to discover who is a true believer, but so that believers will gain joy and confidence in their proven faith [cf. Abraham in Gen. 22:1–19, and the example of the seeds in shallow and thorny soils in Matt. 13:5–7].) The adjectival phrase proof of your faith, more accurately “the tested residue of your faith,” captures the essence of the spiritual assaying process.

In addition to Abraham, the Old Testament contains several other examples of how God put the faith of His people to the test. Exodus 16:4 says, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction.’ ” In Deuteronomy 8:2 Moses commanded the Israelites, “You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” But the entire book of Job is the classic example of God’s putting a believer to the test. No matter what Satan, with God’s permission, threw at Job, Job never stopped trusting the Lord (Job 1:6–2:10). In spite of his friends’ terribly misplaced efforts at consoling and advising him, and their constantly misjudging him—in addition to his faithless wife’s demand that he curse God and die—Job remained steady and his faith proved real (27:1–6) and was greatly strengthened (42:1–6, 10–17).

Peter used gold in his analogy because it was the most precious and highly prized of all metals (Ezra 8:27; Job 28:15–16; Ps. 19:10; cf. 2 Kings 23:35; Matt. 2:11), and in ancient times it was the basis for most monetary transactions (cf. Ezek. 27:22; Matt. 10:9). Just as fire separates gold from useless dross, so God uses suffering and trials to separate true faith from superficial profession. But even though gold can be purified when tested by fire, it is perishable (cf. James 5:3). However, proven faith is eternal, making it more precious than gold.

The apostles, ministering in the aftermath of Pentecost, are excellent examples of those who went through difficult trials and thus became confident in their proven faith. After the Jewish leaders flogged them for continuing to preach the gospel, “they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41; cf. 4:13–21; 5:17–29, 40–41). They rejoiced not only because God deemed them worthy to suffer for righteousness’ sake, but also undoubtedly because of the confidence they gained in passing the test. They had come a long way since the days when Jesus admonished them for their “little faith” (Matt. 8:26; cf. 16:8; 17:20; Luke 8:25; 17:5), when they forsook Him and fled prior to His crucifixion (Mark 14:27, 50–52), and when Peter denied Him three times (Luke 22:54–62).

Confidence in a Promised Honor

may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; (1:7b)

The apostle’s discussion of proven faith in the first part of verse 7 actually leads into his main point in the latter half, namely that believers would rejoice in the prospect of a promised honor. True faith will ultimately come through all of life’s troubles and trials and obtain eternal honor from God.

Peter’s focus is not on Christians’ honoring God (though they will, cf. Matt. 28:16–17; John 4:23; 9:38; Rev. 4:10–11), but on His commendation of them. God will grant believers praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Incredibly, believers, who in this life are called to give honor to the Lord always, can by their faithfulness in trials elicit praise from the Lord in the life to come (cf. 1 Sam. 2:26; Pss. 41:11; 106:4; Prov. 8:35; 12:2; Acts 7:46). Near the conclusion of His parable of the talents, Jesus told the disciples,

His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, “Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” (Matt. 25:21–23; cf. 24:47; 25:34; Luke 22:29; 2 Tim. 4:8)

True saving faith and its resultant good works always receive divine commendation. “But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God” (Rom. 2:29). That God would praise saving faith and genuine faithfulness in difficulty is truly amazing, inasmuch as both are gifts of His grace and power in the first place (Eph. 2:8; Phil. 1:29). Such praise for believers demonstrates His supreme generosity (cf. Ex. 34:6; Pss. 33:5; 104:24; 2 Cor. 8:9).

Peter also uses the term glory, which, like praise, refers to that which believers receive from God. This echoes the apostle Paul’s teaching: “[God] will render to each person according to his deeds: to those [believers] who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life … glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom. 2:6–7, 10). Glory may relate best to the Christlikeness God will endow every believer with (John 17:22; Rom. 9:23; 1 Cor. 15:42–44; 2 Cor. 3:18; Phil. 3:21; Col. 3:4; 2 Thess. 2:14; 1 John 3:2). Jesus Christ was God incarnate (John 1:14), and the apostle John says, “We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2).

Honor likely refers to the rewards God will give to believers because of their service to Him. Paul explains this in more detail in 1 Corinthians 3:10–15.

According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (cf. 9:25; 2 Cor. 5:10; Col. 3:24; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4; 2 John 8; Rev. 21:7; 22:12)

This threefold tribute (praise and glory and honor) occurs at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Revelation (apokalupsei) refers to the second coming of Christ and particularly focuses on the time when He returns to reward His redeemed people. Later in this same chapter Peter again directs his audience to these realities: “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:13; cf. 4:13; Rom. 8:18; 1 Cor. 1:7–8; 2 Thess. 1:5). In His parable of the expectant steward, Jesus spoke of such eager anticipation of eternal reward:

Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. (Luke 12:35–37)

None of these passages, however, indicate that believers have to wait until Christ’s return before He finds their faith genuine. The reality of their faith is already validated by their faithful enduring of trials and testings. It is an amazing truth that when Jesus returns for His own, not only will they joyfully serve Him, but also He will graciously serve and honor them.[2]


1:7 There is further comfort for suffering saints in knowing that their sufferings are neither purposeless nor fruitless. The sufferings of the ungodly are only a foretaste of the pangs of hell which they will endure eternally. This is not true for the Christian. One of the many beneficial purposes of afflictions in this life for the child of God is to test the genuineness of his faith. Peter contrasts our faith with gold. Of all the substances known to man, gold is one of the most imperishable. It can be subjected to intense heat and might seem to be indestructible. But the truth is that gold perishes through use, pressure, and fire.

True faith is indestructible. The believer may undergo severe tests and trials, but instead of destroying his faith, they become food for faith to feed on. Job probably sustained heavier losses in one day than any other man in the history of the world, yet he was able to say, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). The three men in the Babylonian furnace were literally tested by fire. The fire proved their faith to be real. Also it burned away the ropes that held them, setting them free (Dan. 3:12–30). And during their flaming ordeal, they had the companionship of One “like the Son of God.” The genuineness of faith can be proved only by fire. When prevailing conditions are favorable, it might be easy to be a Christian. But when public confession of Christ brings persecution and suffering, then the casual followers drift away and are lost in the crowd. A religion which costs nothing is worth nothing. Faith which refuses to pay the price is spurious. It is the kind of say-so faith that James condemns.

Genuine faith will result in praise, honor, and glory when Jesus Christ is revealed. This simply means that God will reward every instance of faith that stood the test. He will praise those who are joyful though surrounded by trouble. He will award honor and glory to tried and suffering believers who were able to accept their tribulations as a vote of confidence from Him.

This will be apparent when Jesus Christ comes back to earth to reign as King of kings and Lord of lords, and all those whom the world rejected will be shown clearly to be sons of God. A comparison of Scripture indicates that rewards will be announced at the Judgment Seat of Christ, in heaven, after the Rapture. But the public display of these rewards apparently takes place at the Second Advent of Christ.

1:8 Peter now discusses the present enjoyment of our salvation—Christ taken by faith. Though we have never seen Him with our eyes, we love Him. Though we do not see Him at this time, yet we believe in Him. That is how we enter into the blessedness which He mentioned to Thomas, “Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

William Lincoln writes:

People talk a lot about love, but the true test of love to God and Christ is, that in the trial it says—“I would not lose the favor and smile of God, so will rather suffer than grieve Him.” Love will be content with a crust and the smile of God, rather than a better position and the popularity of the world without it. Such tests must come to all the true children of God; they winnow the chaff from the wheat. The gold comes out from the fire tried, and purified from its dross.

Believing on Him we rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory. To be united to Him through faith is to have uninterrupted and eternal contact with the fountain of all pure joy. The Christian’s joy is not dependent on earthly circumstances but on the risen, exalted Christ at God’s right hand. It is no more possible to rob a saint of his joy than it is to unseat Christ from His place of glory. The two stand together.[3]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter (pp. 42–46). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 2252–2253). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

April 10 – Warning against Partial Righteousness

For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.—Matt. 5:20

The righteousness practiced by the religious leaders further displeased God because it was partial, falling way short of His perfect standard. Again in Matthew 23, Jesus illustrates this phony righteousness: “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” (v. 23).

The Jewish leaders were conscientious about making nonessential tithes of the smallest plants and seeds, yet they totally neglected showing justice and mercy to others or having heartfelt faithfulness to God.

To a large degree this sin of partial righteousness flows directly from externalism. Unregenerate people disregard justice, mercy, and faithfulness because those traits basically reflect a divinely transformed heart. Without a new heart no one can accomplish “the weightier provisions of the law.”

In a separate encounter, the Lord quoted Isaiah and further warned the Pharisees of their empty and misdirected religion: “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men” (Mark 7:6–7). Like the religious leaders and many of the people of Jesus’ day, professing believers today can be constantly exposed to Scripture but only superficially responsive to it. Their watered-down, partial obedience to God’s commands demonstrates their failure to grasp the profound spiritual intent of God’s law and their probable unsaved condition.

ASK YOURSELF
Realize afresh today that the only obedience which interests God is total obedience—the kind that can only be accomplished through Christ’s righteousness, imputed to His redeemed children. What instances of partial obedience need to be converted to full obedience in your life?[1]


Christ and the Law—Part 4: The Purpose of Scripture

(5:20)

25

For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. (5:20)

It is the false teaching of salvation by self-effort that Jesus confronts head-on in this verse and which all of Scripture, from beginning to end, contradicts. As Paul makes clear in the Book of Romans, even Abraham, the father of the Jewish people, was saved by his faith, not by his works (Rom. 4:3; cf. Gen. 15:6). In Galatians the apostle explains that “the Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe” (Gal. 3:22). Outside of sin itself, the Bible opposes nothing more vehemently than the religion of human achievement.

Jesus told a “parable to certain ones who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and viewed others with contempt” (Luke 18:9). In that well-known story a Pharisee and a tax-gatherer went to the Temple to pray. The Pharisee prayed self-righteously, “ ‘God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other,” Jesus said, “for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted” (vv. 10–14).

The least-esteemed and most-hated man in Jewish society was the tax-gatherer, a fellow Jew who had sold out to Rome for the purpose of collecting taxes from his brethren. He extorted all he could get from the people, keeping for himself everything he purloined above what Rome required. He had forsaken both national, social, family, and religious loyalty for the sake of money. The Pharisee, on the other hand, was the model Jew, highly religious, moral, and respectable. Yet Jesus said that, despite the tax-gatherer’s treachery and sin, he would be justified by God because of his penitent faith, whereas the Pharisee, despite his high morals and religiousness, would be condemned, because he trusted in his own righteousness and good works.

In the present passage Jesus teaches that the sort of righteousness exemplified by the Pharisees was not sufficient to gain entrance into His kingdom. To Jesus’ legalistic, works-oriented hearers, this was doubtlessly the most radical thing He had yet taught. If the meticulously religious and moral Pharisees could not get into heaven, who could?

After showing the preeminence (v. 17), permanence (v. 18), and pertinence (v. 19) of Scripture, Jesus now shows its purpose. From the context of those preceding three verses it is clear that He is still speaking of “the Law and the Prophets,” the Old Testament Scriptures. In saying that true righteousness exceeds the kind displayed by the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus said that, whatever they did with man-made tradition, they did not live up to the standards of Scripture.

The implied truth of Matthew 5:20 is this: The purpose of God’s law was to show that, to please God and to be worthy of citizenship in His kingdom, more righteousness is required than anyone can possibly have or accomplish in himself. The purpose of the law was not to show what to do in order to make oneself acceptable, much less to show how good one already is, but to show how utterly sinful and helpless all men are in themselves. (That is one of Paul’s themes in Romans and Galatians.) As the Lord pointed out to the Jews in the first beatitude, the initial step toward kingdom citizenship is poverty of spirit, recognizing one’s total wretchedness and inadequacy before God.

The Identity of the Scribes and Pharisees

Like Ezra (Ezra 7:12), the earliest gramraateōn (scribes) were found only among the priests and Levites. They recorded, studied, interpreted, and often taught Jewish law. Although there were scribes among the Sadducees, most were associated with the Pharisees.

Israel had two kinds of scribes, civil and ecclesiastical. The civil scribes functioned somewhat like notaries, and were involved in various governmental duties. Shimshai (Ezra 4:8) was such a scribe. The ecclesiastical scribes devoted their time to study of the Scriptures, and came to be its primary interpreters and articulators.

Yet, as Jesus repeatedly made plain, they failed to understand what they studied and taught. With all their exposure to God’s Word, being superficially immersed in it continually, they missed its profound spiritual intent.

The influential, rigid Pharisees were particularly confident in their system of righteousness. The Jews had a saying, “If only two people go to heaven, one will be a scribe and the other a Pharisee.” Those men were completely convinced that God was obligated to honor their devoted and demanding works. In comparing themselves with the standards they had established-and especially in comparing themselves with the average Jew, not to mention Gentile-they could not imagine God was not favorably impressed with their goodness.

Yet, like many serious and capable scholars throughout the history of the church, the Pharisees of Judaism were also blind to the meaning of the words they diligently studied and discussed.

The Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees

The standard of righteousness that the scribes and Pharisees taught and practiced differed from God’s righteousness in several important ways. It was external, partial, redefined, and self-centered.

External

First of all the scribes and Pharisees concerned themselves entirely with external observance of the law and tradition. They took little consideration of motives or attitudes. No matter how much they may have hated a person, if they did not kill him they were not guilty of breaking the commandment. No matter how much they may have lusted, they did not consider themselves guilty of adultery or fornication as long as they did not commit the physical act.

In Matthew 23 our Lord gives a graphic picture of the external character of that religion. “You clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence” (v. 25). The Lord prefaced those words with, “Woe to you, … hypocrites,” labeling those leaders with their sin. They saw nothing wrong with having evil thoughts as long as they did not carry out those thoughts externally. They did not think God would judge them for what they thought but only for what they did.

Yet that is precisely the sort of righteousness Jesus declared to be the worst sort. He condemned such externalism because those who practiced it were really thieves, self-indulgent, unclean, lawless, murderous, and enemies of God’s true spokesmen (Matt. 23:25–31). Jesus’ next teachings in the Sermon on the Mount show that God’s first concern is with the heart-with such things as anger, hatred, and lust-not just with their outward manifestations in murder or adultery (Matt. 5:22, 27–28). Hypocrisy cannot substitute for holiness.

God’s concern about religious ceremony is the same. Jesus is soon to teach that if, for example, our giving, our prayer, and our fasting are not done out of a humble, loving spirit, they count for nothing with Him (6:5–18). Ritual cannot substitute for righteousness.

The scribes and Pharisees were proud that they had “seated themselves in the chair of Moses” (Matt. 23:2), that is, that they were the custodians and teachers of the law God gave to Moses. “All that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them” (v. 3). By their ungodly system of works righteousness, Jesus told them, “You shut off the kingdom of heaven from men; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in” (v. 13). On another occasion He told the Pharisees, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).

Partial

The righteousness practiced by the scribes and Pharisees also fell short of God’s righteousness because it was partial, woefully incomplete. Again Matthew 23 gives an example: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weigh tier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness” (v. 23). Those religious leaders were meticulous in tithing the smallest plants and seeds from their gardens, though that was not specifically commanded in the law. Yet they had total disregard for showing justice and mercy to other people and for being faithful in their hearts to God. They were much concerned about making long, pretentious prayers in public, but had no compunction about taking a widow’s house away from her (v. 14).

To some extent this second evil was caused by the first. They disregarded such things as justice, mercy, and faithfulness because those things are essentially the reflections of a transformed heart. It is impossible to be merciful, just, and faithful without a divinely wrought change. No external formality can produce that.

Quoting God’s scathing words to their forefathers, Jesus told them, “In vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men. Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men” (Mark 7:7–8). Yet they considered themselves to be Israel’s religious elite and the objects of God’s special affection.

Redefined

In many ways the scribes and Pharisees were like neoorthodox and liberal theologians of our own day. They took biblical terms and redefined them to suit their own human perspectives and philosophy. They reworked biblical teachings, commands, and standards to produce variations in keeping with their own desires and capabilities.

Even such commands as “Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy; for I am holy” (Lev. 11:44) they interpreted not as a call to pure attitude of heart but as a requirement to perform certain rituals. They knew they could not be holy in the same way God is holy-and had no desire to be-so they simply changed the meaning of holiness.

Self-Centered

Not only was the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees external, partial, and redefined, but it was also completely self-centered. It was produced by self for the purposes of self-glory. Above all else, those leaders sought to be self-satisfied, and their system of religion was designed to enhance that self-satisfaction by providing ways to accomplish external, showy things about which they could boast and be proud. Their satisfaction came when they received approval and commendation from men.

In stark contrast, the godly person is broken about his sin and mourns over the wicked condition of his inner life, the unrighteousness he sees in his heart and mind. He has absolutely no confidence in what he is or in what he can do, but longs for the righteousness only God can give out of His mercy and grace.

But the person who is righteous in his own eyes sees no need for any other righteousness, no need for salvation, mercy, forgiveness, or grace. Just as their self-righteous forefathers had not wanted the grace God offered in the Old Testament, the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day did not want the grace the Messiah now offered. They wanted to rule their own lives and determine their own destinies and were not ready to submit to a King who wanted to rule their inner as well as their outward lives. “Not knowing about God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:3).

The Righteousness God Requires

The righteousness God requires of His kingdom citizens far surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees. The term surpasses is used of a river overflowing its banks, emphasizing that which is far in excess of the normal. The Lord requires genuine righteousness, real holiness that far exceeds anything human and that exists only in the redeemed heart. The psalmist wrote, “The King’s daughter is all glorious within; her clothing is interwoven with gold” (Ps. 45:13). When the inside is beautiful, outward beauty is appropriate; but without inner beauty, outward adornment is pretense and sham.

God has always been concerned first of all with inner righteousness. When Samuel was ready to anoint Jesse’s oldest son, Eliab, to be Saul’s successor, the Lord said, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).

God not only requires inner righteousness but perfect righteousness.

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). To be qualified for God’s kingdom we must be as holy as the King Himself. That standard is so infinitely high that even the most self-righteous person would not dare claim to possess it or be able to attain it.

The Righteousness God Gives

That impossibility leads the sincere person to wonder how such a holy heart is obtained, to ask the question Jesus’ disciples one day asked Him, “Then who can be saved?” (Matt. 19:25). And the only answer is the one Jesus gave on that occasion: “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (v. 26).

The One who demands perfect righteousness gives perfect righteousness. The One who tells us of the way into the kingdom is Himself that way. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6), Jesus said. The King not only sets the standard of perfect righteousness, but will Himself bring anyone up to that standard who is willing to enter the kingdom on the King’s terms.

“A man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, … since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified” (Gal. 2:16). To be justified is to be made righteous, and to be made righteous by Christ is the only way to become righteous.

“But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe” (Rom. 3:21–22). Faith had always been God’s way to righteousness, a truth that the scribes and Pharisees, the experts on the Old Testament, should have known above all other people. As Paul reminded his Jewish readers in Rome, “For what does the Scripture say? ‘And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness’ ” (Rom. 4:3). He quoted from the Book of Genesis (15:6), the earliest book of the Old Testament. The first patriarch, the first Jew, was saved by faith, not by works (Rom. 4:2) or the act of circumcision (v. 10). Abraham “received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be reckoned to them” (v. 11).

The uncircumcised includes those before as well as after Abraham. He was the father of the faithful, but he was not the first of the faithful. “By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous” and “by faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God” (Heb. 11:4–5). It was also only by faith that Noah found salvation (v. 7).

“For if by the transgression of the one [that is, Adam], death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17).

“As sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (v. 21).

The righteousness God requires, God also gives. It cannot be deserved, earned, or accomplished, but only accepted. By offering Himself for sin, Christ “condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us” (Rom. 8:4–5). God gave the impossible standard and then Himself provided its fulfillment.

The writer of Romans had considerably more claim to man-made righteousness than most of the scribes and Pharisees to whom Jesus spoke. “If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more,” wrote Paul; “circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless” (Phil. 3:4–6).

But when the apostle was confronted by Christ’s righteousness, he was also confronted by his own sinfulness. When he saw what God had done for him, he saw that what he had done for God was worthless. “Whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” (vv. 7–9).

For those who trust in Him, Christ has become “to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). When God looks at imperfect, sinful believers, He sees His perfect, sinless Son. We have become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4) and possess in ourselves the very righteous life of the holy, eternal God. Admittedly, until our flesh is also redeemed (Rom. 8:23) that new righteous self is in a battle with sin. Even so, we are righteous in our standing before God in Christ, and have the new capacity to act righteously.

If even God’s own law alone cannot make a person righteous, how much less can man-made traditions do so? Those who insist on coming to God in their own way and in their own power will never reach Him; they shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. No church, no ritual, no works, no philosophy, no system can bring a person to God. Those who, through a church, through a cult, or simply through their own personal standards, try to work their way into God’s grace know nothing of what His grace is about.

It is tragic that many people today, like the scribes and Pharisees, will try any way to God but His way. They will pay any price, but will not accept the price He paid. They will do any work for Him, but they will not accept the finished work of His Son for them. They will accept any gift from God except the gift of His free salvation. Such people are religious but not regenerated, and they shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.

“I am not setting God’s law aside,” Jesus said. “I will uphold God’s law, and I will strip it of all the barnacles of man-made tradition with which it has been encrusted. I will reestablish its preeminence, its permanence, and its pertinence. I will reaffirm the purpose God had for it from the beginning: to show that every person is a sinner and is incapable of fulfilling the law. The one who lowers the standards to a level he can fulfill will be judged by God’s law and excluded from God’s grace.”[2]


Faith, Justification, and Good Works

Verse 19 is mostly negative, addressing the failure to practice and teach what is right. In the last verse of this section, we come to what is positive. But strikingly, the positive is no more encouraging than the negative. It is stunning, sobering, even frightening in its rigor. “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (v. 20). More even than the Pharisees and teachers of the law? Aren’t they the most upright and moral of all people? Aren’t they known everywhere for their good works?

Jesus’ statement is especially sobering in contrast to what he has just said. In the preceding verse he said that failing to practice the law or teaching others to break it would result in a dishonorable place in God’s kingdom. But here he says that without a righteousness surpassing even that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, the alleged disciple will have no place in God’s kingdom at all.

Here I have to correct the way I wrote about this verse a quarter of a century ago. When I handled this verse for the first time in a series of messages that eventually appeared in my book The Sermon on the Mount: An Exposition, I taught that the righteousness referred to in verse 20 is the divine righteousness that comes to us by God imputing it to us on the basis of Jesus’ death. Nothing I said about the need for imputed righteousness was wrong in itself. We do need that righteousness. Without it we are lost. But as I have indicated several times earlier in this series, this is not the way “righteousness” is used in Matthew’s Gospel.

In Matthew, “righteousness” means an actual conformity to God’s demands in Scripture, both externally and also internally, as the next verses in the Sermon on the Mount will show. But how are we to match that to what we have heard about justification through Christ’s work on our behalf?

The answer is that although justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ is the core of the gospel and utterly essential—Luther called it “the doctrine by which the church stands or falls”—it is not the whole of the gospel, and it is not what Jesus is talking about here. It is true that God justifies the ungodly on the basis of Christ’s work, but that is not all God does. God also regenerates the one who is being justified. Thus, there is no justification without regeneration, just as there is no regeneration without justification. The important point is that the re-created person will actually live a moral life superior to that of the Pharisees.

Regeneration is what Jesus was talking about when he told Nicodemus, “You must be born again” (John 3:7). It is what Paul was writing about when he told the Ephesians, “God … made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions” (Eph. 2:4–5). On the basis of this distinction, Paul then speaks of two kinds of works, those we are capable of by ourselves (like the righteousness of the Pharisees) and those that are produced in us by the new life of Christ within. Paul wrote, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:8–10). As D. A. Carson rightly observes, “Verse 20 does not establish how the righteousness is to be gained, developed or empowered; it simply lays out the demand.”

How then is this superior, practical righteousness to be gained, developed, and empowered? It is by coming to Christ, finding both justification and new life in him, and then by obeying and serving God by God’s own power. We are not capable of obeying and serving God by our own strength. We will be able to do it only because “it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Phil. 2:13).

The wonderful thing about this is that when we find ourselves doing good works, we will not take credit for ourselves (which is what the Pharisees did, judging themselves to be persons who were morally superior to other people). Instead, we will give all the glory to God by whom this righteousness is attained and by whose power alone these good works can be done. Moreover, we will marvel at the wisdom of God, which made such a great salvation possible, and we will say, as Paul did in Romans, “To him be the glory forever! Amen” (Rom. 11:36).[3]


20 And that teaching, far from being more lenient, is nothing less than perfection (see comments at v. 48). The Pharisees and teachers of the law (see comments at 2:4; 3:7; Introduction, section 11.f) were among the most punctilious in the land. Jesus’ criticism is “not that they were not good, but that they were not good enough” (Hill). While their multiplicity of regulations could engender a “good” society, it domesticated the law and lost the radical demand for absolute holiness demanded by the Scriptures.

What Jesus demanded is the righteousness to which the law truly points, exemplified in the antitheses that follow (vv. 21–48). The law, for instance, forbids adultery. Someone might truthfully say that he has kept that law. But if that law points forward to such righteousness as prohibits adultery in one’s heart, the stakes are higher than can be met by even the most law-abiding Pharisee. Contrary to Helmut Flender (Die Botschaft Jesu, 45f.), v. 3 (poverty of spirit) and v. 20 (demand for radical righteousness) do not stand opposite each other in flat contradiction. Verse 20 does not establish how the righteousness is to be gained, developed, or empowered; it simply lays out the demand. Messiah will develop a people who will be called “oaks of righteousness … for the display of [Yahweh’s] splendor” (Isa 61:3). The verb “surpasses” suggests that the new righteousness outstrips the old both qualitatively and quantitatively (Bonnard; see comments at 25:31–46). Anything less does not enter the kingdom.[4]


5:20 To gain entrance into the kingdom, our righteousness must surpass the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees (who were content with religious ceremonies which gave them an outward, ritual cleansing, but which never changed their hearts). Jesus uses hyperbole (exaggeration) to drive home the truth that external righteousness without internal reality will not gain entrance into the kingdom. The only righteousness that God will accept is the perfection that He imputes to those who accept His Son as Savior (2 Cor. 5:21). Of course, where there is true faith in Christ, there will also be the practical righteousness that Jesus describes in the remainder of the Sermon.[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 109). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 274–282). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Boice, J. M. (2001). The Gospel of Matthew (pp. 84–85). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, p. 179). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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

APRIL 10 – ONLY GOD’S GOODNESS

How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.

—Psalm 36:7

Why were we created? Was it that we deserved to be created? How can nothing deserve something? There was a time when there was no human race. How therefore could a human race that hadn’t existed deserve something? How could a man that wasn’t yet created earn anything or pile up any merit? It couldn’t be so. God out of His goodness created us. Why were we not destroyed when we sinned? The only answer is that God, out of His goodness, spared us. The cordial, kind-intentioned God spared us.

Why would God the Eternal Son bleed for us? The answer is, out of His goodness and lovingkindness. “Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings” (Psalm 36:7). Why would God forgive me when I’ve sinned and then forgive me again and again? Because God out of His goodness acts according to that goodness and does what His loving heart dictates that He do. AOG046

Loving Father, I bow today in humble dependence on Your goodness, undeserving as I am. Amen. [1]


7[8] The rendering of the NEB—“Gods and men seek refuge in the shadow of thy wings”—is exegetically possible but cannot be the intended meaning. The NIV modifies this to “both high [ʾelōhîm] and low among men.” It seems that there is an antithesis drawn between God and human beings. The psalmist exclaims, “God, how priceless is your unfailing love [so that] human beings may find refuge in the shadow of your wings.” Notice also the ambivalence of the NIV: “Both high and low among men find [text note: Or love, O God! / Men find; or love! / Both heavenly beings and men / find] refuge in the shadow of your wings.” See Allen, 1:289: “how precious is your lovingkindness, O God, that human beings find refuge in the shadow of your wings.” See also Dahood, 1:217: “O Yahweh, how precious is your kindness! Gods and men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.”[2]


36:7 Nothing that enters human life is more precious than the lovingkindness of God. It is eternal, sovereign, infinite, causeless, and unchanging. And nothing can ever separate the child of God from it. In 1743 John Brine wrote:

No tongue can fully express the infinitude of God’s love, or any mind comprehend it: it “passeth knowledge” (Eph. 3:19). The most extensive ideas that a finite mind can frame about Divine love are infinitely below its true nature. The heaven is not so far above the earth as the goodness of God is beyond the most raised conceptions which we are able to form of it. It is an ocean which swells higher than all the mountains of opposition in such as are the object of it. It is a fountain from which flows all necessary good to all those who are interested in it.

This is why the children of men find refuge under the shadow of His wings. Unfortunately, not all men choose to enjoy God’s loving protection. But the privilege is available to all, and people from every nation, class, and culture have found rest, refreshment, and safety under those incomparable wings.[3]


36:7 the shadow of Your wings. Although some would take this as referring to wings of the cherubim over the ark, it is probably more generally a reference to the protective care of a parent bird for its young (Dt 32:11; Pss 17:8; 91:4; Ru 2:12; cf. Jesus’ allusion to the word picture in Mt 23:37).[4]


36:7 How precious is The term yaqar means “precious,” “rare” (1 Sam 3:1), or “valuable” (1 Kgs 7:11). While God’s love is vast and all encompassing, it is as precious as a rare stone.[5]


36:7 wings. This seems to refer to the wings of the cherubim of God’s throne, as represented by the beings depicted as covering the ark of the covenant with their wings (Ex. 25:10–22). Otherwise, God is perceived as the protector of His people, like a mother bird who protects her young brood (cf. Ruth 2:12).[6]


[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. 339). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 602). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 36:7). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 36:7). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 870). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

April 10 – Living in a Hostile World

Having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.

1 Peter 2:12

 

You may not have realized it before, but living as a Christian in this world is like being a foreigner without a permanent home or citizenship. The apostle Peter referred to believers as “sojourners and pilgrims” (1 Pet. 2:11). You should consider yourself as a temporary citizen and abstain from participating in the world’s ungodliness.

That’s an important perspective to maintain as hostility toward Christianity mounts in our society. Many unbelievers treat immorality as an alternative lifestyle and believe man can solve his problems any way he chooses.

To live in such a society, you need to arm yourself with a trust in the power of righteousness to triumph over persecution and suffering. During times of hostility, you’re to have confidence and not get caught up in turmoil.[1]


Godly Outward Deportment

Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. (2:12)

In order to effectively evangelize, Christians’ transformed inner lives must be visible to the outside world. Peter thus commanded his readers to keep their behavior (daily conduct) at a high level. Excellent translates a word (kalēn) rich and varied in significance, usually meaning “beautiful of outward form.” At least six other English words and expressions offer insight into its meaning: lovely, fine, winsome, gracious, fair to look at, and noble. The term connotes the loveliest kind of visible goodness. Gentiles (ethnos) refers to “nations,” or the unsaved world (cf. Luke 2:32; Rom. 2:14; 15:9–12, 16; 1 Cor. 5:1; 12:2, kjv; Gal. 3:8; 1 Thess. 4:5; 3 John 7). If Peter’s readers were to witness effectively among the Gentiles, it was essential for them to manifest behavior beyond reproach.

In the first century, the label evildoers (kakopoiōn) brought to mind many of the specific accusations pagans made against Christians—that they rebelled against the Roman government, practiced cannibalism, engaged in incest, engaged in subversive activities that threatened the Empire’s economic and social progress, opposed slavery, and practiced atheism by not worshiping Caesar or the Roman gods (cf. Acts 16:18–21; 19:19, 24–27).

In the very thing in which they slander, believers must live the opposite way, proving unbelievers wrong and demonstrating the validity of the gospel (Matt. 5:16; Titus 3:8). On the platform of such credibility, personal witness has an impact. Observing the exceptional life of such believers, some will believe, be saved, and glorify God in the day of visitation.

Day of visitation is an Old Testament concept (cf. Judg. 13:2–23; Ruth 1:6; 1 Sam. 3:2–21; Pss. 65:9; 106:4; Zech. 10:3) referring to occasions when God visited mankind for either judgment or blessing. The prophet Isaiah wrote of divine visitation for the purpose of judgment: “And what will ye do in the day of visitation, and in the desolation which shall come from far? to whom will ye flee for help? and where will ye leave your glory?” (Isa. 10:3, kjv; cf. 23:17). On the other hand, Exodus 3:2–10 tells of God’s visitation to announce Israel’s eventual deliverance from Egypt, which would be a blessing for His people. Similarly, Jeremiah prophesied God’s visitation to deliver the Jews from Babylon: “For thus says the Lord, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place’ ” (Jer. 29:10; cf. 27:22). The Old Testament records several other instances in which God visited people for blessing and judgment.

Usually in the New Testament visitation indicates blessing and redemption. In the immediate aftermath of John the Baptist’s birth, his father Zacharias prophesied, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people” (Luke 1:68; cf. v. 78; 7:16). On the other hand, concerning the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70, Jesus said, “They will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:44). Because the Jews rejected Christ’s visitation of salvation, it turned to a visitation of judgment (cf. Matt. 11:20–24; 21:37–43; Rom. 11:17, 20; 1 Thess. 2:14–16).

God’s redemption is inherent in Peter’s reference to the day of visitation. The apostle used the expression to show that because of observation of Christian virtue and good works in the lives of believers, some would be privileged to glorify God when He also visited them with salvation.

A stirring twentieth-century example of how godly living can influence the salvation of unbelievers comes from the events in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in the Philippines during World War II. American missionaries Herb and Ruth Clingen and their young son were prisoners of the Japanese for three years. Herb’s diary told how his family’s captors tortured, murdered, and starved to death many of the camp’s other inmates. The prisoners particularly hated and feared the camp commandant, Konishi. Herb described one especially diabolical plan Konishi forced on the Clingens and their fellow inmates near the end of the war:

Konishi found an inventive way to abuse us even more. He increased the food ration but gave us palay—unhusked rice. Eating rice with its razor-sharp outer shell would cause intestinal bleeding that would kill us in hours. We had no tools to remove the husks, and doing the job manually—by pounding the grain or rolling it with a heavy stick—consumed more calories than the rice would supply. It was a death sentence for all internees. (Herb and Ruth Clingen, “Song of Deliverance,” Masterpiece magazine [Spring 1989], 12; emphasis in original)

But divine providence spared the Clingens and others in February 1945 when Allied forces liberated the prison camp. That prevented the commandant from carrying out his plan of shooting and killing all surviving prisoners. Years later the Clingens “learned that Konishi had been found working as a grounds keeper at a Manila golf course. He was put on trial for his war crimes and hanged. Before his execution he professed conversion to Christianity, saying he had been deeply affected by the testimony of the Christian missionaries he had persecuted” (“Song of Deliverance,” 13). Effective evangelism flows from the power of a righteous life.[2]


12 The readers are further charged: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” If any in the Christian community misconstrue being the new Diaspora—i.e., “aliens and strangers”—to mean escapism or isolation, Peter dispels that illusion. In truth, responsible earthly citizenship struggles with how most effectively to “advertise” or bear witness to the transcendent values of the kingdom of God. The veracity of Christian truth-claims, one may infer from Petrine teaching, is demonstrated to the extent, and only to the extent, that the Christian lifestyle is ethically viable. This will entail translating Christian ethics in relevant ways to the pagan mind-set—ways suggested in the material that immediately follows (2:13–3:7).

The implication is this: Christian witness will be upheld by the quality of “goodness” unbelievers observe in the Christian community. Whether or not pagans convert to the Christian faith is in God’s hands, but this is not Peter’s immediate concern. Rather, he insists that, even if pagans malign or accuse believers wrongly, on the day of moral reckoning—literally, on “the day of overseeing” (hēmera episkopēs)—they themselves will have to acknowledge the qualitative difference among Christians, thereby “glorifying” God.

One might legitimately argue that doing good deeds that glorify God was the heart of Jesus’ teaching, based on Matthew’s representation (5:16): “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Peter, at least late in life, seems to concur: the essence of the Christian lifestyle is leading a virtuous life, demonstrating the Christian ethic in a manner that shows it to be qualitatively different.[3]


2:12 Not only must we exercise discipline in the area of fleshly indulgence, but we must also maintain our conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that is, the pagan world. In our day we must not pattern our lives after the world. We should be marching to the beat of a different drummer.

Almost inevitably we will be criticized. At the time Peter wrote this Letter, writes Erdman:

… the Christians were being slandered as irreligious because of not worshiping the heathen gods, as morons and ascetics because of refraining from popular vices, as disloyal to the government because of claiming allegiance to a heavenly King.

Such criticism cannot be avoided. But under no circumstances should believers give the world a valid reason for such reproach. All slanders should be refuted by an unbroken record of good deeds. Then the accusers will be compelled to glorify God in the day of visitation.

A day of visitation is any time the Lord draws near, either in grace or in judgment. The expression is used in Luke 19:41–44. Jesus wept over Jerusalem because it did not know the time of its visitation, that is, Jerusalem did not realize that the Messiah had come in love and mercy. Here it may mean: (1) The day when God’s grace will visit the critics and they are saved, or (2) the day of judgment when the unsaved will stand before God.

Saul of Tarsus illustrates the first interpretation. He had shared in accusing Stephen, but Stephen’s good deeds triumphed over all opposition. When God visited Saul in mercy on the road to Damascus, the repentant Pharisee glorified God and went forth, like Stephen, to influence others by the radiance of a Christ-filled life. Jowett says:

The beautiful life is to raise men’s thoughts in homage to the glorious God. When they behold the Divine realized in the human, they too are to be wooed into heavenly fellowship. They are to be wooed, not by the eloquence of our speech, but by the radiance of our behavior. By the imposing grace of noble living we are to “put to silence the ignorance of foolish men,” and that silence will be for them the first stage in a life of aspiring consecration.

In the second interpretation, the thought is that unsaved people will be compelled to glorify God in the day of judgment. They will have no excuse, for they not only heard the gospel, they saw it in the lives of their Christian relatives, friends, and neighbors. God will then be vindicated through the blameless conduct of His children.[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 115). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter (pp. 139–141). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] Charles, D. J. (2006). 1 Peter. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 319–320). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 2262–2263). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

April 10 – Disappointing the Lord

“Then all the disciples left Him and fled.”

Matthew 26:56

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In defecting from Christ in an hour of crisis, the eleven disciples displayed certain marks of faithlessness.

Sometimes no amount of truth and logic will ever persuade someone to change their mind. We all know that is true from times we have debated another person on a particular topic. Nothing we say will convince them that their plans may be wrong or their opinions unsound. Jesus knew that far better than us as he continued to face the hostile crowd in Gethsemane.

As the Son of God, Jesus could confidently tell the crowd that “All this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled” (Matt. 26:56). The Son knew that, completely apart from the armed mob’s evil motives and intentions, the Father was sovereignly using the situation to accomplish His righteous and gracious purposes.

But Jesus’ words to the crowd obviously gave little comfort or reassurance to His own disciples. They finally realized Christ was going to be seized. Fear and panic gripped them when they further realized they might have to risk suffering and death with Him. Therefore, each of the eleven “left Him and fled.”

The disciples’ faithless desertion reveals several common characteristics of weak commitment. First, any believer who neglects God’s Word and prayer will be unprepared and unfaithful when testing comes. Second, a weak disciple is likely to be impulsive, like Peter, and respond to a crisis with faulty human discernment. Third, a defective disciple tends to be impatient, like Jesus’ men, refusing to listen to His promises and unwilling to wait for His deliverance.

It’s easy to criticize Jesus’ disciples for their faithless lack of resolve in letting Him down and running away when things became difficult. But if you are an honest follower of Christ, you know that you have sometimes compromised or run away when your faith was tested. As a result, you need to confess your failings and lean more than ever on God’s Word, prayer, and the strength of the Holy Spirit to help you stay the course (Eph. 5:15–21).

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Suggestions for Prayer: Commit yourself today to be faithful to Christ, no matter what circumstance confronts you, and pray for strength.

For Further Study: John 14 comes from a section of the Gospels called the Upper Room Discourse. Read this chapter, and identify the verses in which Jesus promises peace. ✧ What additional Helper does He promise to send believers? ✧ What is the key to obedience (vv. 23–24)?[1]


The Defection of the Disciples

At that time Jesus said to the multitudes, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me as against a robber? Every day I used to sit in the temple teaching and you did not seize Me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left Him and fled. (26:55–56)

With an overtone of sarcasm Jesus pointed up the subterfuge and cowardice of the multitudes who now confronted Him in the garden. “Am I so dangerous,” He said to them, “that you had to come out in such great numbers and with swords and clubs to arrest Me as against a robber? Am I so elusive that you had to capture me by stealth in the dead of night? You know very well that every day I used to sit in the temple teaching. Why did you not seize Me then?”

Jesus knew that no amount of truth or logic would dissuade His enemies from executing their plot against Him. They knew their charges were spurious and unjust and that they had had countless opportunities to arrest Him publicly. But when evil men are determined to have their way, they will not be deterred by such considerations as truth, justice, legality, or righteousness.

Jesus then told the crowd what He had just reminded Peter of: All this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled. “Whatever your personal reasons and motivations may be,” He was saying, “you are unwittingly accomplishing what your own Scriptures have said through the prophets that you would do to your Messiah. Completely apart from your own evil intentions, God is sovereignly using you to accomplish His righteous and gracious purposes. And in doing so, He will demonstrate that His infallible Word through the prophets will be fulfilled.”

Those words obviously gave little comfort or courage to the disciples. At last it dawned on them that their Lord was finally a captive of His enemies and that He would neither do anything Himself nor allow them to do anything to interfere. Although the leaders of the multitude had said they sought only Jesus (John 18:5), the disciples were fearful they would be arrested as accomplices, and therefore all the disciples left Him and fled.

The “little faith” disciples did not trust Jesus to save them and were afraid to risk suffering and perhaps even dying with Him. Just as He had predicted earlier that evening, when the Shepherd was struck the sheep scattered (Matt. 26:31).

It is easy to criticize the disciples for their faithlesshess and cowardice. But every honest believer knows that at times he has run from possible embarrassment, ridicule, or mockery because of his association with Christ. We have to confess that we, too, have left our Lord and fled when the cost of discipleship has seemed too high.

Just as there are common marks of false disciples there are common characteristics of defective disciples, as the eleven proved to be on this occasion. First of all, they were unprepared. All of them, including the three Jesus chose to accompany Him into the garden, had fallen asleep at this time of Jesus’ great struggle. Because they confused good intentions with spiritual strength, they were powerless when testing came. They were overconfident and felt no need of prayer. Had they taken to heart the Lord’s marvelous promises in the Upper Room discourse (John 13–17), they would have had the divinely provided wisdom and strength to meet the crisis.

But because they had paid little attention to Jesus’ teaching and had neglected prayer, the disciples discovered they were unprepared and inadequate. It is an absolute spiritual law that a believer who neglects the study of God’s Word and neglects fellowship with Him in prayer will be unprepared. (cf. Matt. 26:41). When testing comes he will be weak, afraid, unfaithful, and ineffective.

A second mark of a defective disciple is impulsiveness. The eleven disciples, and Peter in particular, reacted on the basis of emotion rather than revelation. They did not look at the situation from the perfect perspective of God’s truth but from the imperfect and distorted perspective of their own understanding. Therefore, instead of acting on the basis of God’s Word and in the promised power of His Spirit, they reacted on the basis of their emotions and in the weakness of their own resources.

The believer who fails to saturate himself in God’s Word and to have fellowship in God’s presence becomes a captive of circumstances. His thinking is based on the emotions of the moment, and his actions are based on the impulses of the moment.

A third mark of a defective disciple is impatience. Because the disciples refused to take Jesus’ truth and promises to heart, they became anxious and impatient when things did not go as they thought they should. They could not wait for the Lord’s deliverance and so devised their own.

Many Christians take the easy route of fleeing from trouble rather than trusting God to see them through it. Instead of trusting the Savior to deliver them, and in so doing to demonstrate His grace and power, they try to avoid trouble at any cost and thereby bring reproach upon Him.

A fourth mark of a defective disciple is carnality. The disciples, typified by Peter, depended wholly on their own fleshly power to protect them. Because he refused to trust His Lord’s way and power, Peter had nothing to rely on but his sword, which was pathetically inadequate even from a human perspective.

When believers lose their fleshly weapons or discover those weapons are ineffective, they sometimes simply flee in desperation.

The major participant in this garden scene was Jesus Himself, and in Matthew’s account we see His triumph even while His enemies were taking Him captive. Through their evil plot to put Him to death He would accomplish the divine plan for giving men eternal life.

All of His disciples deserted Him, and one betrayed Him, yet the divine work of redemption continued to be fulfilled on schedule, precisely according to God’s sovereign and prophesied plan. As the disciples’ faithfulness decreased, Jesus’ demonstration of power and glory increased. As the plans of His enemies seemed to prosper, the plan of God prospered still more in spite of them.

It is not clear exactly when it happened, but perhaps right after Judas’s kiss, Jesus took the initiative and confronted the multitude. To assure His enemies that He was not trying to hide or escape, and perhaps to strip Judas of any credit for identifying Him, He said, “Whom do you seek?” When they replied, “Jesus the Nazarene,” He said, “I am He,” and at that those words “they drew back, and fell to the ground” (John 18:4–6). “I am He” translates egō eimi, which literally means “I am,” the covenant name of God (see Ex. 3:14).

The exact reason for the multitude’s temporary immobility is not revealed, but doubtless it was caused by the overwhelming power of Christ. Although the Jews in the group would have associated Jesus’ words with the name of God, on a previous occasion when He claimed that name for Himself they were enraged rather than fearful and tried to stone Him to death (John 8:58–59). And that name would have had no significance at all to the 600 Roman soldiers. In addition, it seems almost certain that many of the men in that huge crowd could not hear what Jesus was saying. Therefore their instantly and involuntarily falling to the ground as one man was not caused so much by fear as by a direct, miraculous burst of the power of God. It was as if the Father were declaring in action what He had previously declared in words: “This is My beloved Son” (Matt. 3:17; 17:5). The multitude was able to rise only when God’s restraining hand was lifted.

Perhaps while they were still lying dazed and perplexed on the ground, Jesus again “asked them, ‘Whom do you seek?’ ” and they again replied, “Jesus the Nazarene” (John 18:7). He then said, “I told you that I am He; if therefore you seek Me, let these go their way” (v. 8), referring to the disciples.

The multitude that night reacted to being cast to the ground much as the homosexuals of Sodom reacted to being struck blind. Those wicked men were so consumed by their sexual perversion that even in blindness they persisted to the point of exhaustion, futilely trying to satisfy their lust (Gen. 19:11). In a similar way the men who came to arrest Jesus were so bent on their ungodly mission that they crawled up out of the dirt as if nothing had happened, determined at all costs to carry out their wicked scheme. Though not to the degree of being indwelt by Satan as was Judas, the entire multitude was subservient to the prince of this world.

Jesus had already unmasked the duplicity and cowardice of the leaders of the multitude when He asked why they had not arrested Him earlier in the week. He not only had been in Jerusalem every day but had been the locus of public attention on several occasions, most notably when He entered the city triumphantly and when He cleansed the Temple of the money changers and sacrifice merchants.

In His confrontation with Judas, the Lord also demonstrated His majesty and His sovereignty. He not only had predicted Judas’s betrayal but had declared that even that vile act would fulfill God’s prophecy (Matt. 26:21, 24). When the moment of arrest came, He faced it without resistance, anger, or anxiety. He was as perfectly confident of following His Father’s plan and of being under His Father’s care at that moment as when He performed His greatest miracles or was transfigured on the mountaintop.

In His confrontation with Peter and the other disciples, Jesus demonstrated His perfect faithfulness in face of their utter faithlessness. While they demonstrated their absence of trust in the Son, the Son demonstrated His absolute trust in His Father.[2]


Alone, He Bore It All Alone

The last sentence of this account is a sad one. Despite their protests about standing by him to the end, the disciples fled into the darkness of the garden. The text says, “Then all the disciples deserted him and fled” (v. 56). Jesus had said that the writings of the prophets had to be fulfilled, but here, even before he had fulfilled the most important prophecies by dying, the disciples fulfilled at least one of them by fleeing. Jesus had referred to it on the way to the garden: “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered” (Matt. 26:31, quoting Zech. 13:7).

Moments before, they had been sleeping rather than praying. Now they were fleeing rather than standing by their Lord. Do you want to know what you are made of, what kind of courage you have? Look at these men in that moment. That is what you are. Like them you are weak and fearful, more concerned for your own well-being than for Jesus. But look at them again a few weeks later, after the resurrection. Look at Peter, who struck with his sword, fled into the darkness, and then told a servant girl he did not even know the Lord. See him at Pentecost as he stands before some of these very people, saying, “Let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Look at Peter and John before the Sanhedrin, the same judicial body that condemned Jesus to death. They cry, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

What a difference the presence and power of Jesus Christ makes. He is able to turn cowards into heroes, foolish persons into those who are wise, and sinners into saints. He will do it for you if you will turn from your foolish self-confidence, embrace the gospel, and lean on him for your daily strength and courage.[3]


After questioning the display of force by those who arrested him, Jesus said, “This has all taken place [see comments at 1:22; 21:4] that the writings [or ‘Scriptures’] of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Mark (14:49) simply has “But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” Matthew gives us more, doubtless because he is more interested in the prophetic nature of the Scriptures (see Introduction, section 11.b). “The writings of the prophets,” therefore, probably does not exclude the Law and the Writings, for elsewhere Moses and David are also considered “prophets.” The reference is to the Scriptures (as in v. 54), their human authors being considered primarily as prophets, not lawgivers, wise men, or psalmists.

All the disciples then fulfill one specific prophecy (see comments at v. 31) and flee. Mark 14:51–52 adds the account of the young man who flees naked. Probably at this time Jesus is bound (Jn 18:12).[4]


26:56 Yet the Savior realized that man’s wickedness was succeeding only in accomplishing the definite plan of God. “All this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Realizing there would be no deliverance for their Master, all the disciples forsook Him and fled in panic. If their cowardice was inexcusable, ours is more so. They had not yet been indwelt by the Holy Spirit; we have.[5]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Mt 26:54–55). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Boice, J. M. (2001). The Gospel of Matthew (p. 579). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, p. 614). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1304). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers (Week Six: Monday)

Monday

Confession: Psalm 119:169–76

Let my cry come before you, O Yahweh;

give me understanding according to your word.

Let my plea come before you;

Deliver me according to your word.

Let my lips pour out praise,

because you teach me your statutes.

Let my tongue sing of your word,

because all your commands are right.

Let your hand be my help,

because I have chosen your precepts.

I long for your salvation, O Yahweh,

and your law is my delight.

Let my soul live that it may praise you,

and let your ordinances help me.

I have wandered like a lost sheep; seek your servant,

because I do not forget your commands.

Reading: Mark 15:6–20

Now at each feast he customarily released for them one prisoner whom they requested. And the one named Barabbas was imprisoned with the rebels who had committed murder in the rebellion. And the crowd came up and began to ask him to do as he customarily did for them. So Pilate answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the king of the Jews?” (For he realized that the chief priests had handed him over because of envy.) But the chief priests incited the crowd so that he would release for them Barabbas instead. So Pilate answered and said to them again, “Then what do you want me to do with the one whom you call the king of the Jews?” And they shouted again, “Crucify him!” And Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted even louder, “Crucify him!”

So Pilate, because he wanted to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas. And after he had Jesus flogged, he handed him over so that he could be crucified. So the soldiers led him away into the palace (that is, the governor’s residence) and called together the whole cohort. And they put a purple cloak on him, and after weaving a crown of thorns they placed it on him. And they began to greet him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they repeatedly struck him on the head with a reed, and were spitting on him, and they knelt down and did obeisance to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him, and they led him out so that they could crucify him.

Reflection

Socrates, having expressed his idea of a perfect character—a truly virtuous man—ventured to predict the reception such a person (if such a one could ever be found) would meet with from the world. He thought that this man’s practice would be so dissimilar to others, his testimony against their wickedness so strong, and his endeavours to reform them so importunate and unwelcome that—instead of being universally admired—he would be disliked and hated. Humankind was too degenerate and too obstinate to bear either the example or the reproof of such a person, and would most likely revile and persecute him and put him to death as an enemy to their peace.

In this instance, the judgment of Socrates accords with the language of the Old Testament and the history of the New Testament. Messiah was this perfect character. As such Isaiah describes Him. Isaiah likewise foresaw how He would be treated, and foretold that He would be “numbered with transgressors.” He would be despised and rejected by the very people who were eye-witnesses of His upright and benevolent conduct. And thus, in fact, it proved. When Jesus was upon earth, true virtue and goodness were visibly displayed, and thereby the wickedness of humankind became conspicuous. For those He knew “preferred a robber and a murderer to him.” They preserved Barabbas, who had been justly doomed to die for enormous crimes, and in his stead they nailed Jesus to the cross.

—John Newton

The Works of John Newton

Response

Jesus’ perfection and sacrifice affects sinful people in one of two ways: It drives them away or it changes them. How has it changed you?[1]

 

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