Daily Archives: April 22, 2017

April 22, 2017: Verse of the day


One with Other Christians

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (3:28)

Paul focused on the existing, well-defined distinctions of his society that drew sharp lines and set up high walls of separation between people. The essence of those distinctions was the idea that some people-namely Jews, free men, and males in general-were better than, more valuable than, more significant than others. The gospel destroys all such proud thinking. The person who becomes one with Christ also becomes one with every other believer. There are no distinctions among those who belong to Christ. In spiritual matters, there is to be made no racial, social, or sexual discrimination-neither Jew nor Greek, … slave nor free man, … male nor female.

It is not, of course, that among Christians there is no such thing as a Jew Gentile, slave, free person, man, or woman. There are obvious racial, social, and sexual differences among people. Paul, however, was speaking of spiritual differences-differences in standing before the Lord, spiritual value, privilege, and worthiness. Consequently, prejudice based on race, social status, sex, or any other such superficial and temporary differences has no place in the fellowship of Christ’s church. All believers, without exception, are all one in Christ Jesus. All spiritual blessings, resources, and promises are equally given to all who believe unto salvation (cf. Rom. 10:12).

It was only with great difficulty that Peter finally learned that there are no racial distinctions in Christ, “that God is not one to show partiality” among Jew or Greek, “but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right, is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:35). Among the five prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch was “Simeon, who was called Niger,” which means black (Acts 13:1). Paul’s beloved son in the faith was Timothy, whose father was Gentile and whose mother and grandmother were Jewish (Acts 16:1; 2 Tim. 1:5).

Likewise there are no distinctions according to social or economic status. Paul told the Christian slave to be obedient to his master, “as to Christ,” and he told the Christian master, a free man, to “give up threatening, knowing that” the Master of both “is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him” (Eph. 6:5, 9).

James warned, “My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? … If you show partiality, you are committing sin” (James 2:1–4, 9). The oneness of the Body of Christ focuses on common spiritual life and privilege, as Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph. 4:3–7).

Nor are there spiritual distinctions according to sex. There is neither male nor female. In recognizing believing women as the full spiritual equals of believing men, Christianity elevated women to a status they had never known before in the ancient world. In matters of rule in the home and in the church God has established the headship of men. But in the dimension of spiritual possessions and privilege there is absolutely no difference.

MacArthur New Testament Commentary

April 22 – Risking True Peace

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9).


True peace exists only where truth reigns.

People often define peace as the absence of conflict, but God sees it differently. The absence of conflict is merely a truce, which might end overt hostilities but doesn’t resolve the underlying issues. A truce simply introduces a cold war, which often drives the conflict underground, where it smolders until erupting in physical or emotional disaster.

James 3:17 says, “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable.” Godly wisdom, purity, and peace go hand in hand. Peace is wisdom in action and is never established at the expense of righteousness. Peace brings righteousness to bear on the situation, seeking to eliminate the source of conflict and to create right relationships. Feuding parties will know true peace only when they are willing to admit that their bitterness and hatred are wrong and humbly seek God’s grace to make things right.

Some people equate peacemaking with evading issues, but true peace can be very confrontational. In Matthew 10:34 Jesus says, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” That may seem to contradict Matthew 5:9, but it doesn’t. Jesus knew that sinful people have to be confronted with the truth before they can experience peace. That can be a painful and difficult process because people usually have a hostile reaction to the gospel before they finally embrace it. Even believers will sometimes react negatively when confronted with God’s truth.

Being a Biblical peacemaker has its price. You can expect to upset unbelievers who openly oppose God’s Word, as well as believers who compromise its truth for the sake of maintaining “peace” among people of differing doctrinal persuasions. Some will call you narrow-minded and divisive for dealing with controversial issues. Some will misunderstand your motives or even attack you personally. But that’s been the path of every true peacemaker—including our Lord Himself. Take heart, and be faithful. Your efforts to bring peace show that you are a child of God.


Suggestions for Prayer:  Ask God for the boldness never to compromise His truth. ✧ Pray for those you know who are suffering for the sake of the gospel.

For Further Study: Read Luke 12:51–53, noting how the gospel can bring division even among families.[1]

Happy Are the Peacemakers

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (5:9)

The God of peace (Rom. 15:33; 2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 4:9) has emphasized that cherished but elusive reality by making peace one of the dominant ideas of His Word. Scripture contains four hundred direct references to peace, and many more indirect ones. The Bible opens with peace in the Garden of Eden and closes with peace in eternity. The spiritual history of mankind can be charted based on the theme of peace. Although the peace on earth in the garden was interrupted when man sinned, at the cross Jesus Christ made peace a reality again, and He becomes the peace of all who place their faith in Him. Peace can now reign in the hearts of those who are His. Someday He will come as Prince of Peace and establish a worldwide kingdom of peace, which will eventuate in ultimate peace, the eternal age of peace.

But one of the most obvious facts of history and of human experience is that peace does not characterize man’s earthly existence. There is no peace now for two reasons: the opposition of Satan and the disobedience of man. The fall of the angels and the fall of man established a world without peace. Satan and man are engaged with the God of peace in a battle for sovereignty.

The scarcity of peace has prompted someone to suggest that “peace is that glorious moment in history when everyone stops to reload.” In 1968 a major newspaper reported that there had been to that date 14,553 known wars since thirty-six years before Christ. Since 1945 there have been some seventy or so wars and nearly two hundred internationally significant outbreaks of violence. Since 1958 nearly one hundred nations have been involved in some form of armed conflict.

Some historians have claimed that the United States has had two generations of peace-one from 1815 to 1846 and the other from 1865 to 1898. But that claim can only be made if you exclude the Indian wars, during which our land was bathed in Indian blood.

With all the avowed and well-intentioned efforts for peace in modern times, few people would claim that the world or any significant part of it is more peaceful now than a hundred years ago. We do not have economic peace, religious peace, racial peace, social peace, family peace, or personal peace. There seems to be no end of marches, sit-ins, rallies, protests, demonstrations, riots, and wars. Disagreement and conflict are the order of the day. No day has had more need of peace than our own.

Nor does the world honor peace as much by its standards and actions as it does by its words. In almost every age of history the greatest heroes have been the greatest warriors. The world lauds the powerful and often exalts the destructive. The model man is not meek but macho. The model hero is not self-giving but self-seeking, not generous but selfish, not gentle but cruel, not submissive but aggressive, not meek but proud.

The popular philosophy of the world, bolstered by the teaching of many psychologists and counselors, is to put self first. But when self is first, peace is last. Self precipitates strife, division, hatred, resentment, and war. It is the great ally of sin and the great enemy of righteousness and, consequently, of peace.

The seventh beatitude calls God’s people to be peacemakers. He has called us to a special mission to help restore the peace lost at the Fall.

The peace of which Christ speaks in this beatitude, and about which the rest of Scripture speaks, is unlike that which the world knows and strives for. God’s peace has nothing to do with politics, armies and navies, forums of nations, or even councils of churches. It has nothing to do with statesmanship, no matter how great, or with arbitration, compromise, negotiated truces, or treaties. God’s peace, the peace of which the Bible speaks, never evades issues; it knows nothing of peace at any price. It does not gloss or hide, rationalize or excuse. It confronts problems and seeks to solve them, and after the problems are solved it builds a bridge between those who were separated by the problems. It often brings its own struggle, pain, hardship, and anguish, because such are often the price of healing. It is not a peace that will be brought by kings, presidents, prime ministers, diplomats, or international humanitarians. It is the inner personal peace that only He can give to the soul of man and that only His children can exemplify.

Four important realities about God’s peace are revealed: its meaning, its Maker, its messengers, and its merit.

The Meaning of Peace: Righteousness and Truth

The essential fact to comprehend is that the peace about which Jesus speaks is more than the absence of conflict and strife; it is the presence of righteousness. Only righteousness can produce the relationship that brings two parties together. Men can stop fighting without righteousness, but they cannot live peaceably without righteousness. Righteousness not only puts an end to harm, but it administers the healing of love.

God’s peace not only stops war but replaces it with the righteousness that brings harmony and true well-being. Peace is a creative, aggressive force for goodness. The Jewish greeting shalom wishes “peace” and expresses the desire that the one who is greeted will have all the righteousness and goodness God can give. The deepest meaning of the term is “God’s highest good to you.”

The most that man’s peace can offer is a truce, the temporary cessation of hostilities. But whether on an international scale or an individual scale, a truce is seldom more than a cold war. Until disagreements and hatreds are resolved, the conflicts merely go underground-where they tend to fester, grow, and break out again. God’s peace, however, not only stops the hostilities but settles the issues and brings the parties together in mutual love and harmony.

James confirms the nature of God’s peace when he writes, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable” (James 3:17). God’s way to peace is through purity. Peace cannot be attained at the expense of righteousness. Two people cannot be at peace until they recognize and resolve the wrong attitudes and actions that caused the conflict between them, and then bring themselves to God for cleansing. Peace that ignores the cleansing that brings purity is not God’s peace.

The writer of Hebrews links peace with purity when he instructs believers to “pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). Peace cannot be divorced from holiness. “Righteousness and peace have kissed each other” is the beautiful expression of the psalmist (Ps. 85:10). Biblically speaking, then, where there is true peace there is righteousness, holiness, and purity. Trying to bring harmony by compromising righteousness forfeits both.

Jesus’ saying “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34) seems to be the antithesis of the seventh beatitude. His meaning, however, was that the peace He came to bring is not peace at any price. There will be opposition before there is harmony; there will be strife before there is peace. To be peacemakers on God’s terms requires being peacemakers on the terms of truth and righteousness-to which the world is in fierce opposition. When believers bring truth to bear on a world that loves falsehood, there will be strife. When believers set God’s standards of righteousness before a world that loves wickedness, there is an inevitable potential for conflict. Yet that is the only way.

Until unrighteousness is changed to righteousness there cannot be godly peace. And the process of resolution is difficult and costly. Truth will produce anger before it produces happiness; righteousness will produce antagonism before it produces harmony. The gospel brings bad feelings before it can bring good feelings. A person who does not first mourn over his own sin will never be satisfied with God’s righteousness. The sword that Christ brings is the sword of His Word, which is the sword of truth and righteousness. Like the surgeon’s scalpel, it must cut before it heals, because peace cannot come where sin remains.

The great enemy of peace is sin. Sin separates men from God and causes disharmony and enmity with Him. And men’s lack of harmony with God causes their lack of harmony with each other. The world is filled with strife and war because it is filled with sin. Peace does not rule the world because the enemy of peace rules the world. Jeremiah tells us that “the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick [or wicked]” (Jer. 17:9). Peace cannot reign where wickedness reigns. Wicked hearts cannot produce a peaceful society. “ ‘There is no peace for the wicked,’ says the Lord” (Isa. 48:22).

To talk of peace without talking of repentance of sin is to talk foolishly and vainly. The corrupt religious leaders of ancient Israel proclaimed, “Peace, peace,” but there was no peace, because they and the rest of the people were not “ashamed of the abominations they had done” (Jer. 8:11–12).

“From within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man” (Mark 7:21–23). Sinful men cannot create peace, either within themselves or among themselves. Sin can produce nothing but strife and conflict. “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing,” James says. “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:16–18).

Regardless of what the circumstances might be, where there is conflict it is because of sin. If you separate the conflicting parties from each other but do not separate them from sin, at best you will succeed only in making a truce. Peacemaking cannot come by circumventing sin, because sin is the source of every conflict.

The bad news of the gospel comes before the good news. Until a person confronts his sin, it makes no sense to offer him a Savior. Until a person faces his false notions, it makes no sense to offer him the truth. Until a person acknowledges his enmity with God, it makes no sense to offer him peace with God.

Believers cannot avoid facing truth, or avoid facing others with the truth, for the sake of harmony. If someone is in serious error about a part of God’s truth, he cannot have a right, peaceful relationship with others until the error is confronted and corrected. Jesus never evaded the issue of wrong doctrine or behavior. He treated the Samaritan woman from Sychar with great love and compassion, but He did not hesitate to confront her godless life. First He confronted her with her immoral living: “You have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband” (John 4:18). Then He corrected her false ideas about worship: “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father. You worship that which you do not know; we worship that which we know, for salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:21–22).

The person who is not willing to disrupt and disturb in God’s name cannot be a peacemaker. To come to terms on anything less than God’s truth and righteousness is to settle for a truce-which confirms sinners in their sin and may leave them even further from the kingdom. Those who in the name of love or kindness or compassion try to witness by appeasement and compromise of God’s Word will find that their witness leads away from Him, not to Him. God’s peacemakers will not let a sleeping dog lie if it is opposed to God’s truth; they will not protect the status quo if it is ungodly and unrighteous. They are not willing to make peace at any price. God’s peace comes only in God’s way. Being a peacemaker is essentially the result of a holy life and the call to others to embrace the gospel of holiness.

The Maker of Peace: God

Men are without peace because they are without God, the source of peace. Both the Old and New Testaments are replete with statements of God’s being the God of peace (Lev. 26:6; 1 Kings 2:33; Ps. 29:11; Isa. 9:6; Ezek. 34:25; Rom. 15:33; 1 Cor. 14:33; 2 Thess. 3:16). Since the Fall, the only peace that men have known is the peace they have received as the gift of God. Christ’s coming to earth was the peace of God coming to earth, because only Jesus Christ could remove sin, the great barrier to peace. “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace” (Eph. 2:13–14).

I once read the story of a couple at a divorce hearing who were arguing back and forth before the judge, accusing each other and refusing to take any blame themselves. Their little four-year-old boy was terribly distressed and confused. Not knowing what else to do, he took his father’s hand and his mother’s hand and kept tugging until he finally pulled the hands of his parents together.

In an infinitely greater way, Christ brings back together God and man, reconciling and bringing peace. “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fulness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Col. 1:19–20).

How could the cross bring peace? At the cross all of man’s hatred and anger was vented against God. On the cross the Son of God was mocked, cursed, spit upon, pierced, reviled, and killed. Jesus’ disciples fled in fear, the sky flashed lightning, the earth shook violently, and the veil of the Temple was torn in two. Yet through that violence God brought peace. God’s greatest righteousness confronted man’s greatest wickedness, and righteousness won. And because righteousness won, peace was won.

In his book Peace Child (Glendale, Calif.: Regal, 1979), Don Richardson tells of his long struggle to bring the gospel to the cannibalistic, headhunting Sawi tribe of Irian Jaya, Indonesia. Try as he would, he could not find a way to make the people understand the gospel message, especially the significance of Christ’s atoning death on the cross.

Sawi villages were constantly fighting among themselves, and because treachery, revenge, and murder were highly honored there seemed no hope of peace. The tribe, however, had a legendary custom that if one village gave a baby boy to another village, peace would prevail between the two villages as long as the child lived. The baby was called a “peace child.”

The missionary seized on that story as an analogy of the reconciling work of Christ. Christ, he said, is God’s divine Peace Child that He has offered to man, and because Christ lives eternally His peace will never end. That analogy was the key that unlocked the gospel for the Sawis. In a miraculous working of the Holy Spirit many of them believed in Christ, and a strong, evangelistic church soon developed-and peace came to the Sawis.

If the Father is the source of peace, and the Son is the manifestation of that peace, then the Holy Spirit is the agent of that peace. One of the most beautiful fruits the Holy Spirit gives to those in whom He resides is the fruit of peace (Gal. 5:22). The God of peace sent the Prince of Peace who sends the Spirit of peace to give the fruit of peace. No wonder the Trinity is called Yahweh Shalom, “The Lord is Peace” (Judg. 6:24).

The God of peace intends peace for His world, and the world that He created in peace He will one day restore to peace. The Prince of Peace will establish His kingdom of peace, for a thousand years on earth and for all eternity in heaven. “ ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope’ ” (Jer. 29:11). Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The one who does not belong to God through Jesus Christ can neither have peace nor be a peacemaker. God can work peace through us only if He has worked peace in us.

Some of the earth’s most violent weather occurs on the seas. But the deeper one goes the more serene and tranquil the water becomes. Oceanographers report that the deepest parts of the sea are absolutely still. When those areas are dredged they produce remnants of plant and animal life that have remained undisturbed for thousands of years.

That is a picture of the Christian’s peace. The world around him, including his own circumstances, may be in great turmoil and strife, but in his deepest being he has peace that passes understanding. Those who are in the best of circumstances but without God can never find peace, but those in the worst of circumstances but with God need never lack peace.

The Messengers of Peace: Believers

The messengers of peace are believers in Jesus Christ. Only they can be peacemakers. Only those who belong to the Maker of peace can be messengers of peace. Paul tells us that “God has called us to peace” (1 Cor. 7:15) and that “now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18). The ministry of reconciliation is the ministry of peacemaking. Those whom God has called to peace He also calls to make peace. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us” (2 Cor. 5:19–20).

At least four things characterize a peacemaker. First, he is one who himself has made peace with God. The gospel is all about peace. Before we came to Christ we were at war with God. No matter what we may consciously have thought about God, our hearts were against Him. It was “while we were enemies” of God that “we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Rom. 5:10). When we received Christ as Savior and He imputed His righteousness to us, our battle with God ended, and our peace with God began. Because he has made peace with God he can enjoy the peace of God (Phil. 4:7; Col. 3:15). And because he has been given God’s peace he is called to share God’s peace. He is to have his very feet shod with “the gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15).

Because peace is always corrupted by sin, the peacemaking believer must be a holy believer, a believer whose life is continually cleansed by the Holy Spirit. Sin breaks our fellowship with God, and when fellowship with Him is broken, peace is broken. The disobedient, self-indulgent Christian is not suited to be an ambassador of peace.

Second, a peacemaker leads others to make peace with God. Christians are not an elite corps of those who have spiritually arrived and who look down on the rest of the world. They are a body of sinners cleansed by Jesus Christ and commissioned to carry His gospel of cleansing to the rest of the world.

The Pharisees were the embodiment of what peacemakers are not. They were smug, proud, complacent, and determined to have their own ways and defend their own rights. They had scant interest in making peace with Rome, with the Samaritans, or even with fellow Jews who did not follow their own party line. Consequently they created strife wherever they went. They cooperated with others only when it was to their own advantage, as they did with the Sadducees in opposing Jesus.

The peacemaking spirit is the opposite of that. It is built on humility, sorrow over its own sin, gentleness, hunger for righteousness, mercy, and purity of heart. G. Campbell Morgan commented that peacemaking is the propagated character of the man who, exemplifying all the rest of the beatitudes, thereby brings peace wherever he comes.

The peacemaker is a beggar who has been fed and who is called to help feed others. Having been brought to God, he is to bring others to God. The purpose of the church is to preach “peace through Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:36). To preach Christ is to promote peace. To bring a person to saving knowledge of Jesus Christ is the most peacemaking act a human being can perform. It is beyond what any diplomat or statesman can accomplish.

Third, a peacemaker helps others make peace with others. The moment a person comes to Christ he becomes at peace with God and with the church and becomes himself a peacemaker in the world. A peacemaker builds bridges between men and God and also between men and other men. The second kind of bridge building must begin, of course, between ourselves and others. Jesus said that if we are bringing a gift to God and a brother has something against us, we are to leave our gift at the altar and be reconciled to that brother before we offer the gift to God (Matt. 5:23–24). As far as it is possible, Paul says, “so far as it depends on [us],” we are to “be at peace with all men” (Rom. 12:18). We are even to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, “in order that [we] may be sons of [our] Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:44–45).

By definition a bridge cannot be one-sided. It must extend between two sides or it can never function. Once built, it continues to need support on both sides or it will collapse. So in any relationship our first responsibility is to see that our own side has a solid base. But we also have a responsibility to help the one on the other side build his base well. Both sides must be built on righteousness and truth or the bridge will not stand. God’s peacemakers must first be righteous themselves, and then must be active in helping others become righteous.

The first step in that bridge-building process is often to rebuke others about their sin, which is the supreme barrier to peace. “If your brother sins,” Jesus says, “go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church” (Matt. 18:15–17). That is a difficult thing to do, but obeying that command is no more optional than obeying any of the Lord’s other commands. The fact that taking such action often stirs up controversy and resentment is no excuse for not doing it. If we do so in the way and in the spirit the Lord teaches, the consequences are His responsibility. Not to do so does not preserve peace but through disobedience establishes a truce with sin.

Obviously there is the possibility of a price to pay, but any sacrifice is small in order to obey God. Often confrontation will bring more turmoil instead of less-misunderstanding, hurt feelings, and resentment. But the only way to peace is the way of righteousness. Sin that is not dealt with is sin that will disrupt and destroy peace. Just as any price is worth paying to obey God, any price is worth paying to be rid of sin. “If your right eye makes you stumble,” Jesus said, “tear it out, and throw it from you; … And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matt. 5:29–30). If we are unwilling to help others confront their sin, we will be unable to help them find peace.

Fourth, a peacemaker endeavors to find a point of agreement. God’s truth and righteousness must never be compromised or weakened, but there is hardly a person so ungodly, immoral, rebellious, pagan, or indifferent that we have absolutely no point of agreement with him. Wrong theology, wrong standards, wrong beliefs, and wrong attitudes must be faced and dealt with, but they are not usually the best places to start the process of witnessing or peacemaking.

God’s people are to contend without being contentious, to disagree without being disagreeable, and to confront without being abusive. The peacemaker speaks the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). To start with love is to start toward peace. We begin peacemaking by starting with whatever peaceful point of agreement we can find. Peace helps beget peace. The peacemaker always gives others the benefit of the doubt. He never assumes they will resist the gospel or reject his testimony. When he does meet opposition, he tries to be patient with other people’s blindness and stubbornness just as he knows the Lord was, and continues to be, patient with his own blindness and stubbornness.

God’s most effective peacemakers are often the simplest and least noticed people. They do not try to attract attention to themselves. They seldom win headlines or prizes for their peacemaking, because, by its very nature, true peacemaking is unobtrusive and prefers to go unnoticed. Because they bring righteousness and truth wherever they go, peacemakers are frequently accused of being troublemakers and disturbers of the peace-as Ahab accused Elijah of being (1 Kings 18:17) and the Jewish leaders accused Jesus of being (Luke 23:2, 5). But God knows their hearts, and He honors their work because they are working for His peace in His power. God’s peacemakers are never unfruitful or unrewarded. This is a mark of a true kingdom citizen: he not only hungers for righteousness and holiness in his own life but has a passionate desire to see those virtues in the lives of others.

The Merit Of Peace: Eternal Sonship In The Kingdom

The merit, or result, of peacemaking is eternal blessing as God’s children in God’s kingdom. Peacemakers shall be called sons of God.

Most of us are thankful for our heritage, our ancestors, our parents, and our family name. It is especially gratifying to have been influenced by godly grandparents and to have been raised by godly parents. But the greatest human heritage cannot match the believer’s heritage in Jesus Christ, because we are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17). Nothing compares to being a child of God.

Both huios and teknon are used in the New Testament to speak of believers’ relationship to God. Teknon (child) is a term of tender affection and endearment as well as of relationship (see John 1:12; Eph. 5:8; 1 Pet. 1:14; etc.). Sons, however, is from huios, which expresses the dignity and honor of the relationship of a child to his parents. As God’s peacemakers we are promised the glorious blessing of eternal sonship in His eternal kingdom.

Peacemaking is a hallmark of God’s children. A person who is not a peacemaker either is not a Christian or is a disobedient Christian. The person who is continually disruptive, divisive, and quarrelsome has good reason to doubt his relationship to God altogether. God’s sons-that is, all of His children, both male and female-are peacemakers. Only God determines who His children are, and He has determined that they are the humble, the penitent over sin, the gentle, the seekers of righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers.

Shall be called is in a continuous future passive tense. Throughout eternity peacemakers will go by the name “children of God.” The passive form indicates that all heaven will call peacemakers sons of God, because God Himself has declared them to be His children.

Jacob loved Benjamin so much that his whole life came to be bound up in the life of that son (Gen. 44:30). Any parent worthy of the name loves his children more than his own life, and immeasurably more than all of his possessions together. God loves His children today as He loved Israel of old, as “the apple of His eye” (Zech. 2:8; cf. Ps. 17:8). The Hebrew expression “apple of the eye” referred to the cornea, the most exposed and sensitive part of the eye, the part we are the most careful to protect. That is what God’s children are to Him: those whom He is most sensitive about and most desires to protect. To attack God’s children is to poke a finger in God’s eye. Offense against Christians is offense against God, because they are His very own children.

God puts the tears of His children in a bottle (Ps. 56:8), a figure reflecting the Hebrew custom of placing into a bottle the tears shed over a loved one. God cares for us so much that He stores up His remembrances of our sorrows and afflictions. God’s children matter greatly to Him, and it is no little thing that we can call Him Father.

God’s peacemakers will not always have peace in the world. As Jesus makes clear by the last beatitude, persecution follows peacemaking. In Christ we have forsaken the false peace of the world, and consequently we often will not have peace with the world. But as God’s children we may always have peace even while we are in the world-the peace of God, which the world cannot give and the world cannot take away.[2]

5:9 A blessing is pronounced on the peacemakers: they shall be called sons of God. Notice that the Lord is not speaking about people with a peaceful disposition or those who love peace. He is referring to those who actively intervene to make peace. The natural approach is to watch strife from the sidelines. The divine approach is to take positive action toward creating peace, even if it means taking abuse and invective.

Peacemakers are called sons of God. This is not how they become sons of God—that can only happen by receiving Jesus Christ as Savior (John 1:12). By making peace, believers manifest themselves as sons of God, and God will one day acknowledge them as people who bear the family likeness.[3]

9 Jesus’ concern in this beatitude is not with the peaceful but with the peacemakers. Peace is of constant concern in both Testaments (e.g., Pr 15:1; Isa 52:7; Lk 24:36; Ro 10:15; 12:18; 1 Co 7:15; Eph 2:11–22; Heb 12:14; 1 Pe 3:11). But as some of these and other passages show, the making of peace can itself have messianic overtones. The Promised Son is called the “Prince of Peace” (Isa 9:6); and Isaiah 52:7—“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’ ”—linking as it does peace, salvation, and God’s reign, was interpreted messianically in the Judaism of Jesus’ day.

Jesus does not limit the peacemaking to only one kind, and neither will his disciples. In the light of the gospel, Jesus himself is the supreme peacemaker, making peace between God and man, and man and man. Our peacemaking will include the promulgation of that gospel. It must also extend to seeking all kinds of reconciliation. Instead of delighting in division, bitterness, strife, or some petty “divide and conquer” mentality, disciples of Jesus delight to make peace wherever possible. Making peace is not appeasement. The true model is God’s costly peacemaking (Eph 2:15–17; Col 1:20). Those who undertake this work are acknowledged as God’s sons. In the OT, Israel has the title “sons” (Dt 14:1; Hos 1:10; cf. Pss. Sol. 17:30; Wis 2:13–18). Now it belongs to the heirs of the kingdom, who, meek and poor in spirit, loving righteousness yet merciful, are especially equipped for peacemaking and so reflect something of their heavenly Father’s character. “There is no more godlike work to be done in this world than peacemaking” (Broadus). This beatitude must have been shocking to Zealots when Jesus preached it, when political passions were inflamed (Morison).[4]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 125). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 209–218). Chicago: Moody Press.

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

[4] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, p. 165). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me.

Galatians 2:20

God has revealed so many glorious contradictions in the lives and conduct of genuine Christian believers that it is small wonder that we are such an amazement to this world.

The Christian is dead and yet he lives forever. He died to himself and yet he lives in Christ.

The Christian saves his own life by losing it, and he is in danger of losing it by trying to save it.

It is strange but true that the Christian is strongest when he is weakest and weakest when he is strongest. When he gets down on his knees thinking he is weak, he is always strong.

The Christian is in least danger when he is fearful and trusting God and in the most danger when he feels the most self-confident.

He is most sinless when he feels the most sinful, and he is the most sinful when he feels the most sinless.

The Christian actually has the most when he is giving away the most; and in all of these ways, the Christian is simply putting into daily practice the teachings and example of Jesus Christ, his Savior and Lord!


Heavenly Father, the biggest contradiction is that I am a sinner and You are sinless. Yet You have redeemed me by Your death and resurrection. I praise You, Lord.[1]

Legalism’s most destructive effect is that it cancels the effect of the cross. I have been crucified with Christ, Paul testifies, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. To go back under the law would be to cancel one’s union with Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and therefore to go back under sin.

I died to the Law, Paul explains, because I was crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live. The old man, the old sell is dead, crucified with Christ, and the new man lives (cf. Col. 3:9–10). Now I … live to God, because Christ lives in me (cf. Rom. 8:9). The life I received by faith I now also live by faith. The Greek verb behind live is in the perfect tense, indicating a past completed action that has continuing results. When a believer trusts in Christ for salvation he spiritually participates with the Lord in His crucifixion and in His victory over sin and death.

That is why, the apostle continues, the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God. The true Christian life is not so much a believer’s living for Christ as Christ’s living through the believer. Because in Christ “all the fulness of Deity dwell-s in bodily form” (Col. 2:9), the fulness of God also dwell-s in every believer, as “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4).

I do not have such a divine life and the magnanimous privilege of being indwelt with the living, powerful Son of God because of anything I have done or merited, but only because He loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.

The surpassing motive, therefore, for all spiritual devotion and obedience is gratitude to the sovereign, gracious Lord. The statement who loved me refers to the motive behind God’s saving grace. The New Testament is replete with teaching on this great truth (see, e.g., John 3:16; Rom. 5:8; Eph. 2:5). The gift of love was not taken from Christ, but He delivered Himself up for me, says the apostle. This is reminiscent of our Lord’s words in John 10:17–18, “I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down of My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.”[2]

2:20 The believer is identified with Christ in His death. Not only was He crucified on Calvary, I was crucified there as well—in Him. This means the end of me as a sinner in God’s sight. It means the end of me as a person seeking to merit or earn salvation by my own efforts. It means the end of me as a child of Adam, as a man under the condemnation of the law, as my old, unregenerate self. The old, evil “I” has been crucified; it has no more claims on my daily life. This is true as to my standing before God; it should be true as to my behavior.

The believer does not cease to live as a personality or as an individual. But the one who is seen by God as having died is not the same one who lives. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. The Savior did not die for me in order that I might go on living my life as I choose. He died for me so that from now on He might be able to live His life in me. The life which I now live in this human body, I live by faith in the Son of God. Faith means reliance or dependence. The Christian lives by continual dependence on Christ, by yielding to Him, by allowing Christ to live His life in him.

Thus the believer’s rule of life is Christ and not the law. It is not a matter of striving, but of trusting. He lives a holy life, not out of fear of punishment, but out of love to the Son of God, who loved him and gave Himself for him.

Have you ever turned your life over to the Lord Jesus with the prayer that His life might be manifest in your body?[3]

19–20 These verses contain four propositions: (1) “Through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God”; (2) “I have been crucified with Christ”; (3) “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me”; and (4) “the life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Determining the meaning of each of these statements will aid in understanding Paul’s intention in this section.

Stating “through the law I died to the law” further expounds the assertion Paul made at v. 18 that he is not a transgressor of the law. When Paul speaks of “dying to” something elsewhere, he means to say metaphorically that all relationship to that entity has been cut off (cf. “died to sin,” Ro 6:2, 10–11; “died to the law,” Ro 7:2–6). So here he contends that the believer cannot be a transgressor of the law because one who has trusted Jesus Christ has been cut off from any (intended redemptive) relationship to the law. Paul does not indicate that the believer is cut off from the law in any and every sense—the context of this statement is the propositio, in which he sets forth his thesis statement regarding justification and observance of the law—but in both the “legalistic” connotation and in the sense of the law functioning as the nomistic guideline for life (as argued by Paul’s opponents), the believer is “dead” to the law and thus no longer in relationship to it (cf. Burton, 132–33; Bruce, 142). This death to the law came about “through the law,” i. e., the believer’s death to the law is through the law because he died in Christ’s death (Ro 7:4). Paul will further expand on this statement in the probatio section of 3:19–4:7, particularly at 3:19–25.

“I have been crucified with Christ” speaks to the believer’s incorporation into the work of Christ. This is the basis of Paul’s earlier statements regarding the believer’s death to the law and living for God. This is a “Spirit-ual” identification with Christ (i. e., “of the Spirit,” “sourced” in the person of God’s Holy Spirit) in his death. It indicates that union with Christ by faith includes one’s being united with him in his experience of death to the old order, to the law.

The statement “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” extends this incorporation into Christ beyond death to the law to life in Christ. The Christian’s life is “hidden with Christ” (Col 3:3). The believer is transferred by virtue of incorporation with the crucified Christ to the sphere of resurrection life in him (cf. Matera, 103; Bruce, 144). The believer’s life is now lived out under the ethic and guidance of Jesus Christ by means of the Holy Spirit. Just as sin was the operative power of the former life, exercised through the law and the self, now Christ lives both in and through the believer.

Paul goes on to explain, “The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” The present life in the mortal body is, for the believer, a life that is lived “in Christ.” This is life lived in union with Christ, through faith in him who is the “Son of God.” This is a life of commitment to him who “loved me and gave himself for me.” The title “Son of God” both defines Jesus’ identity as God’s Servant and describes the close bond between him and the Father. It also emphasizes the greatness of Jesus’ sacrifice, as he gave himself up to be crucified in order to provide redemption for lost humanity. This sacrificial activity made the way clear for the faith life of union with Christ Paul describes here.

In these verses Paul has expressed the crux of his theology of the Christian life: the believer has died to the law by virtue of incorporation into Christ, with whom the believer has been co-crucified. Life is now lived in union with him in a daily existence of faith “outworked” (cf. 5:13–6:10). The law has no dominion over the believer, who lives now in the ethical sphere of Christ’s life by his Spirit, whose power it is that energizes and empowers one by faith in Christ’s person and work.[4]

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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Galatians (p. 60). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1880). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Rapa, R. K. (2008). Galatians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, pp. 586–587). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.


It is a gracious thing in our relationship with the heavenly Father to find that He loves us for ourselves and values our love more than galaxies of new created worlds.

The added blessing is to discover His faithfulness for what He is today we shall find Him tomorrow, the next day and the next year!

Actually, the fellowship of God with His redeemed family is beyond all telling. He communes with His redeemed ones in an easy, uninhibited fellowship that is restful and healing to the soul.

He is not sensitive nor selfish nor temperamental. He is not hard to please, though He may be hard to satisfy. He expects of us only what He has Himself first supplied.

He is quick to mark every simple effort to please Him, and just as quick to overlook imperfections when He knows we meant to do His will. Surely He loves us for ourselves!

Unfortunately, many Christians cannot get free from their perverted notions of God, and these notions poison their hearts and destroy their inward freedom. These friends serve God grimly, as the elder brother did, doing what is right without enthusiasm and without joy, and seem altogether unable to understand the buoyant, spirited celebration when the prodigal comes home. Their idea of God rules out the possibility of His being happy in His people!

How good it would be if we could learn that God is easy to live with, the sum of all patience, the essence of kindly goodwill![1]

13:8 The connection of this verse with the preceding one is not clear. Perhaps the simplest way to understand it is as a summary of the teaching, the goal, and the faith of these leaders. The gist of their teaching was this: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The goal of their lives was Jesus Christ—the same yesterday, today, and forever. The foundation of their faith was that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah), the same yesterday, today, and forever.[2]

8 This famous verse has neither verb nor immediate link with what precedes and follows to clarify what is its intention in context. Probably it is to be understood as summing up the faith of the church’s founders (its epigrammatic form suggests a well-memorized creedal “motto”), which the readers are now called to imitate. Following the mention of the “outcome” of these earlier leaders’ lives, it serves to reassure the readers that, whereas their founding fathers may have died, Jesus remains and always will remain a secure foundation for their faith. The unexpected word order that separates the first two time references from the last—“Jesus Christ yesterday and today the same, and forever”—is perhaps intended to emphasize that the fact that he has proved unchanged so far (“yesterday and today”) assures us he will remain the same for the future. Following the assurance of vv. 5–6, this verse thus locates the reliability of our unfailing God more specifically in the unchangeability of Jesus—and thus, as so often in this letter, places Jesus alongside God without distinction. (Cf. 1:12, where our author has quoted the description of God’s unchangeability in Ps 102:27 [using the same phrase “the same”] as though speaking of the Son; for the threefold division of time, cf. the doxologies of Rev 1:4, 8; 4:8.)[3]

13:8 Jesus the Messiah (Christ) is eternally trustworthy in his position as high priest and as Son of God—yesterday active in creation (e.g., 1:2–4), today offering salvation (e.g., 4:7–10), and forever reigning in heaven (e.g., 10:12). This verse may be a transition from 13:7 (their leaders trusted in this Christ, and Jesus remains trustworthy) to v. 9 (strange teachings are departures from the Jesus who is always the same).[4]

13:8 Though human leaders pass from the scene, Jesus Christ is “the same” (1:12) “yesterday” (in which God spoke through prophets, 1:1), “today” (as God summons us to enter His rest through faith; 3:7, 13; 4:7), and “forever” (1:8; 7:17, 21, 24, 28). He is the strong anchor amid sufferings and uncertainties (6:19).[5]

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

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2209). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] France, R. T. (2006). Hebrews. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 185). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2385). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 2221). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

April 22 – Jesus on Divorce

It was said, “Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce”; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.—Matt. 5:31–32

Jesus no more approves of divorce than did Moses (cf. Matt. 19:6). Adultery, another reality God never condoned, is the only reason under the law that allows for dissolving of a marriage, with the guilty party to be put to death (Lev. 20:10). Because Jesus mentions this here and again in Matthew 19:9, God must have allowed divorce to replace execution as the penalty for adultery at some time during Israel’s history.

Divorce is never commanded; it is always a last resort, allowed when unrepentant immorality has exhausted the patience of the innocent spouse. This merciful concession to human sinfulness logically implies that God also permits remarriage. Divorce’s purpose is to show mercy to the guilty party, not to sentence the innocent party to a life of loneliness. If you are innocent and have strived to maintain your marriage, you are free to remarry if your spouse insists on continued adultery or divorce.

Jesus does not demand divorce in all cases of unchastity (immorality, primarily adultery in this context), but simply points out that divorce and remarriage on other grounds results in adultery.

Our Lord wants to set the record straight that God still hates divorce (Mal. 2:16) and that His ideal remains a monogamous, lifelong marriage. But as a gracious concession to those innocent spouses whose partners have defiled the marriage, He allows divorce for believers for the reason of immorality. (Paul later added the second reason of desertion, 1 Cor. 7:15.)

How could you be an encouragement to a couple whose marriage is on the verge of collapse? How could you show Christ’s mercy to those who have been wounded the greatest?[1]

Divorce and Remarriage


And it was said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of dismissal”; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the cause of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (5:31–32)

The many confused and conflicting ideas in our day about the biblical teaching on divorce are not caused by any deficiency in God’s revelation but by the fact that sin has clouded men’s minds to the straightfoward simplicity of what God has said. When people read God’s Word through the lenses of their own preconceptions or carnal dispositions, a confused and perplexing picture is the only possible outcome. The confusion is not with God but with man.

British physician David Graham Cooper in his book The Death of the Family (New York: Pantheon, 1970) suggests the best thing society could do is to abolish the family altogether. He claims it is the primary conditioning device for a Western imperialistic world view. An advocate of women’s liberation, Kate Millet, maintains in her book Sexual Politics (New York: Doubleday, 1970; Ballantine, 1978) that “the family unit must go because it is the family that has oppressed and enslaved women.” City after city and even some states are passing legislation that grants increasing rights to homosexuals. From every side the family is being directly attacked or indirectly undermined.

Yet the famous Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Armand Nicoli says that

certain trends prevalent today will incapacitate the family, destroy its integrity, and cause its members to suffer such crippling emotional conflicts that they will become an intolerable burden to society. If any one factor influences the character development and emotional stability of an individual, it is the quality of the relationship he or she experiences as a child with both parents. Conversely, if people suffering from severe nonorganic emotional illness have one experience in common, it is the absence of a parent through death, divorce, or some other cause. A parent’s inaccessibility, either physically, emotionally, or both, can profoundly influence a child’s emotional health. (“The Fractured Family: Following It into the Future,” Christianity Today, 25 May 1979)

Dr. Nicoli identifies six trends or situations that are the most destructive of the family. They include mothers of young children working outside the home, frequent family moves, the invasion of television, lack of moral control in society, and lack of communication in the home. But he says that by far the major cause of emotional problems and the major detriment to the family is divorce. “The trend toward quick and easy divorce, and the ever-increasing divorce rate, subject more and more children to physically and emotionally absent parents.” If the trend is not reversed, he says, “the quality of family life will continue to deteriorate, producing a society with a higher incidence of mental illness than ever before.”

The harmful effects of divorce on children, parents, and on the family and society as a whole would be more than enough reason to be concerned about the problem. But the supreme tragedy of divorce is that it violates God’s Word.

In many churches the problems of divorce and remarriage are minimized or ignored. Church standards and policies either do not exist or they are accommodated to the whims of the congregation. Often when those problems are faced, they are not dealt with on a firm scriptural basis. Many church leaders admit having no clear understanding of what the Bible precisely teaches about the rightness and wrongness of divorce.

Only four basic interpretations of the biblical data on divorce and remarriage are possible, and all four are found to be held in various Christian circles. The strictest view is that divorce is not permissible under any circumstance or for any reason. The opposite position contends that both divorce and remarriage are permissible for any reason or none. The other two views lie between those extremes. One is that divorce is permitted under certain circumstances but remarriage is never permitted. The other is that both divorce and remarriage are permitted under certain circumstances.

The Bible, of course, actually teaches only one of those four possibilities, and that view is taught by Jesus here in Matthew 5:31–32. Like many people today, the Jews of Jesus’ day, typified by the scribes and Pharisees, had developed their own standards for divorce and remarriage-which they taught as God’s standards. In this passage Jesus continues to correct the erroneous doctrines and practices of the rabbinic traditions and to replace them with the truth.

The Teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees

And it was said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of dismissal.” (5:31)

It was said continues to refer to “the ancients” mentioned in verse 21, the rabbis and scribes who had developed the commonly accepted Jewish traditions over the previous centuries-primarily during and after the Babylonian Exile. This is our Lord’s way of setting in place what is antithetical to the teaching of God.

In Jesus’ day the dominant rabbinic position on divorce, and by extension on remarriage, was the most liberal of the four views mentioned above: permissibility on any grounds. The only requirement was the giving of a certificate of dismissal.

By that period of Jewish history divorce had become so easy and casual that a man could dismiss his wife for such trivial things as burning his meal or embarrassing him in front of his friends. Often the husband did not bother to give a reason, since none was required.

The rabbinic justification for such easy divorce was based on an erroneous interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1–4, the Bible’s first mention of a certificate of dismissal.

When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house, and she leaves his house and goes and becomes another man’s wife, and if the latter husband turns against her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her to be his wife, then her former husband who sent her away is not allowed to take her again to be his wife, since she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance.

The focus of that passage is not the question of whether or not divorce is permitted. It does not provide for divorce, much less command it. It is rather the statement of a very narrow, specific law that was given to deal with the matter of adultery. It shows how improper divorce leads to adultery, which results in defilement. Through Moses, God recognized and permitted divorce under certain circumstances when it was accompanied by a certificate, but He did not thereby condone or command divorce. God’s permission for divorce was but another accommodation of His grace to human sin (see Matt. 19:18). “Because of your hardness of heart,” Jesus explained to the Pharisees on another occasion, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way” (Matt. 19:8).

The certificate did not make the divorce right, but only gave the woman some protection. It protected her reputation from slander and provided proof of her legal freedom from her former husband and her consequent right to remarry.

A literal rendering of the Hebrew word translated “indecency” in Deuteronomy 24:1 is “the nakedness of a thing.” Some interpreters say it refers to repeated indecent exposure, but Alfred Edersheim (Sketches of Jewish Social Life [(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976], pp. 157–58) says that the word includes every kind of impropriety and describes a generally poor reputation.

The only other place in the entire Bible where that Hebrew term is used is in the previous chapter of Deuteronomy: “And you shall have a spade among your tools, and it shall be when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and shall turn to cover up your excrement. Since the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp to deliver you and to defeat your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy; and He must not see anything indecent among you lest He turn away from you” (23:13–14). “Anything indecent” comes from the same Hebrew word as “indecency” in 24:1.

The meaning of the word in Deuteronomy 24 includes every kind of improper, shameful, or indecent behavior unbecoming to a woman and embarrassing to her husband. It cannot refer to adultery, because death was the penalty for that, even if it occurred during the engagement period (Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22–24).

What kind of indecency, then, would lead to the certificate of dismissal? It must have been sins of unfaithfulness and promiscuity that stopped just short of actual adultery. At any rate, Deuteronomy 24 is clear that if the woman remarried and was divorced again, or even if her second husband died, she could not be remarried to her first husband, because she had been “defiled.”

The Lord’s primary purpose in Deuteronomy 24:1–4 was not to give an excuse for divorce but to show the potential evil of it. His intention was not to provide for it but to prevent it. Verses 1–3 are a series of conditional clauses that culminate in the prohibition of a man ever remarrying a woman he has divorced if she marries someone else and is separated from that second husband either by another divorce or by death. Because her first divorce had no sufficient grounds, her second marriage would be adulterous. Even if her second husband died, she could not go back to her first, “since she [had] been defiled” (v. 4). She was defiled (more literally, “disqualified”) because of the adultery brought about by her second marriage-which is the primary point of the passage. Moses is saying, then, that the divorce for indecency or promiscuity creates an adulterous situation.

In God’s eyes, therefore, the granting of a certificate did not in itself make a divorce legitimate. Far from approving divorce, Deuteronomy 24:1–4 is a strong warning about it. The passage suggests, or perhaps assumes, that a divorce on proper grounds, accompanied by a certificate, was permitted. It does not offer a divine provision for divorce, but rather shows that divorce often leads to adultery. Even on the grounds of adultery, divorce was tolerated in the law of Moses only as a gracious alternative to the capital punishment that adultery justly deserved (Lev. 20:10–14).

The most popular school of rabbinic tradition in Jesus’ day, as reflected in the Targum of Palestine (written in the first century a.d.), interpreted Moses’ words in Deuteronomy 24:1 as a command. What God had provided as reluctant permission had been turned into a legal right.

The Teaching of the Old Testament

The Bible’s teaching on divorce cannot be understood apart from its teaching on marriage. Immediately after woman was created, God declared, “For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). Marriage was God’s plan, not man’s, and in the deepest sense every couple that has ever been married, whether believers or not, participates in a union established by the Creator Himself. Marriage is God’s institution.

From the beginning, God intended monogamous, life-long marriage to be the only pattern of union between men and women. “Cleave to” carries the idea of firm, permanent attachment, as in gluing. In marriage a man and woman are so closely joined that they become “one flesh,” which involves spiritual as well as physical oneness. In marriage God brings a husband and wife together in a unique physical and spiritual bond that reaches to the very depths of their souls. As God designed it, marriage is to be the welding of two people together into one unit, the blending of two minds, two wills, two sets of emotions, two spirits. It is a bond the Lord intends to be indissoluble as long as both partners are alive. The Lord created sex and procreation to be the fullest expression of that oneness, and the intimacies of marriage are not to be shared with any other human being.

One of the most immediate and damaging consequences of the Fall was the destruction of the blissful, loving, and caring relationship between husband and wife. In the garden, Adam and Eve had ruled together, with him as the head and her as his helper. Adam’s headship was a loving, caring, understanding provision of leadership. Eve’s role was that of loving, willing submission and support. Both were totally devoted to the Lord and to each other.

But problems in marriage, like problems in every other area of earthly existence, began with the Fall. Man’s first sin brought a separation from God, a separation of man and nature, and a separation of husband and wife. God’s curse on Eve and all women after her was, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you shall bring forth children; yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gen. 3:16). The curse on Adam and every man after him was, “Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you” (v. 17).

The Fall distorted and perverted the marriage relationship. Henceforth the wife’s “desire” for her husband would no longer be the desire to help but the desire to control-the same desire that sin had for Cain (see Gen. 4:7, where the identical Hebrew construction is used). For the man’s part, his “rule” over his wife henceforth would be one of stern control, in opposition to her desire to control him. At the Fall the battle of the sexes began, and women’s liberation and male chauvinism have ever since been clouding and corrupting the divine plan for marriage.

One of the most tragic consequences of that battle is the propensity to divorce. But in light of God’s perfect plan for marriage-the plan followed but for a brief while in the Garden of Eden-it is clear that divorce is like a person cutting off an arm or leg because he has a splinter in it. Instead of dealing with whatever trouble arises between husband and wife, divorce tries to solve the problem by destroying the union.

On an even deeper level, divorce destroys a union that God Himself has made. That is why Jesus said unequivocally, “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matt. 19:6). The union of marriage is one which God, as its Creator, never desires to be broken. Divorce is a denial of His will and a destruction of His work.

The seriousness with which God takes marriage is seen in the penalty for adultery. All sexual intercourse outside of marriage is sinful and defiling, but any illicit sexual activity that involved married persons was punishable by death (Lev. 20:10–14). Two of the Ten Commandments relate to the sanctity of marriage. Not only is the act of adultery forbidden but even the intent of it in coveting another man’s wife (Ex. 20:14, 17).

In fact, nowhere is God’s high view of the sanctity of marriage more clearly emphasized than in the last of the Ten Commandments: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife” (Ex. 20:17). For a married person even to desire another partner was a grievous sin. As Jesus affirms in Matthew 5:28, adultery is forbidden to both the body and the mind. In Leviticus 18:18 God went a step further and forbade polygamy Every violation of lifelong, faithful, monogamous marriage was forbidden by the divine law.

God established marriage as the physical, spiritual, and social union of one man with one woman, a life-long, indivisible union that is never to be violated and never to be broken. He confirms His absolute hatred of divorce in Malachi 2:13–16.

And this is another thing you do: you cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and with groaning, because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. Yet you say, “For what reason?” Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit. And what did that one do while he was seeking a godly offspring? Take heed then, to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth. “For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong,” says the Lord of hosts. “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.”

The man who puts away his wife does what God hates. He “covers his garment with wrong,” a literal rendering of which would be, “he covers his garment with violence.” It brings to mind the picture of a man who murders someone and is caught with the blood of his victim spattered on his clothes. “Not one has done so [divorced] who has a remnant of the Spirit,” Malachi tells us. That sentence represents a Hebrew phrase that is difficult to translate, but I believe that rendering gives the right sense of it. God’s Holy Spirit is never a party to divorce.

Many people today claim to be led of the Lord to get a divorce and to have His peace after they leave their spouses. But, “I hate divorce,” God continues to declare through Malachi, “so take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously” (v. 16). Without exception, divorce is a product of sin, and God hates it. He never commands it, endorses it, or blesses it.

The Pharisees used an erroneous interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1–4 to defend their idea of divorce, conveniently interpreting that passage as a command for divorce (Matt. 19:7). In fact, the passage neither commands nor condones divorce. It simply recognizes it as a reality, as do other Old Testament passages. In Isaiah 50:1, for example, God challenges the nation of Israel for their spiritual fornication: “Thus says the Lord, ‘Where is the certificate of divorce, by which I have sent your mother away? Or to whom of My creditors did I sell you? Behold, you were sold for your iniquities, and for your transgressions your mother was sent away.’ ”

Jeremiah 3:1 contains a similar reference: “God says, ‘If a husband divorces his wife, and she goes from him, and belongs to another man, will he still return to her? Will not that land be completely polluted? But you are a harlot with many lovers; yet you turn to Me,’ declares the Lord.”

Far from encouraging divorce, most references to divorce in the Old Testament put restrictions on it. For example, Deuteronomy says about a husband who falsely accuses his bride of “shameful deeds” that “they shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give it to the girl’s father, because he publicly defamed a virgin of Israel. And she shall remain his wife; he cannot divorce her all his days” (22:14, 19). In the same chapter we read: “If a man finds a girl who is a virgin, who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her and they are discovered, then the man who lay with her shall give to the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall become his wife because he has violated her; he cannot divorce her all his days” (vv. 28–29).

Divorce was clearly taught to be a defilement for a priest. “They [priests] shall not take a woman who is profaned by harlotry, nor shall they take a woman divorced from her husband; for he is holy to his God. … A widow, or a divorced woman, or one who is profaned by harlotry, these he may not take; but rather he is to marry a virgin of his own people” (Lev. 21:7, 14).

In the Old Testament God does not condone or bless divorce. In one unique case (Ezra 10:3–5) God actually commanded divorce through His priest, Ezra, because the existence of His covenant people was threatened (cf. Deut. 7:1–5); but that single exception did not negate His hatred of divorce. Ezra’s call for divorce is an extreme historical example of following the lesser of two evils, and it applied only to the covenant nation of Israel in that one situation.

The entire book of Hosea is a picture of God’s forgiving and patient love for Israel, dramatized by Hosea’s forgiving and patient love for his wife, Gomer. Gomer prostituted herself, forsook Hosea, and was unfaithful to him in every possible way. But the heart of the story is that Hosea was faithful and forgiving no matter what she did, just as God is faithful and forgiving no matter what His people do. God looks on the union of husband and wife in the same way He looks on the union of Himself with believers. And the way of God should be the way of His people-to love, forgive, draw back, and seek to restore the partner who is willing to be restored.

Although Hosea’s and Gomer’s marriage is primarily a symbol of God’s relationship to His people Israel, it is also an apt illustration of how to deal with a wayward marriage partner. God’s forgiving love seeks to hold the union together. That is certainly Christ’s attitude in His relationship to the church, as He repeatedly forgives His bride and never casts her away (Eph. 5:22–23).

There must be forgiving love and restoring grace in a marriage. That alone makes marriage a proper symbol of God’s forgiving love and restoring grace. That is the magnificence of marriage. To pursue divorce is to miss the whole point of God’s dramatization in the story of Hosea and Gomer, the whole point of our Lord’s love for His church, and thus the whole point of marriage. God hates divorce.

The Teaching of Jesus

but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the cause of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (5:31–32)

Jesus affirms exactly what Moses taught in Deuteronomy 24:1–4-that unjustified divorce inevitably leads to adultery. To the legalistic, self-righteous scribes and Pharisees Jesus was saying, “You consider yourselves to be great teachers and keepers of the law, but by allowing no-fault divorce you have caused a great blight of adultery to contaminate God’s people. By lowering God’s standards to meet your own, you have led many people into sin and judgment.”

The Pharisees interpreted Moses’ instructions to mean, “If you find something distasteful about your wife, divorce her.” They saw the paperwork as the only issue. Jesus knew their warped interpretation and thus confronted them.

The error in their thinking is highlighted in 5:27–30. They prided themselves on the fact that they did not commit adultery. But Jesus said, “I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has commiteed adultery with her already in his heart” (v. 28). In verses 29–30 He showed them that no sacrifice is too great to maintain moral purity. Then in these present verses (31–32), He again indicts them for adultery because they were committing it by putting away their wives. The ease of divorce made it possible to avoid open adultery. Only a little paperwork was required to legalize their lust.

But Jesus confronted them with a proper interpretation of God’s law. He said that every time a man without proper cause turned his wife loose to remarry, he forced her into adultery, which made him guilty also. In addition, the man who married the former wife and the woman who married the former husband were likewise guilty of adultery. The result was multiplied adultery! Jesus’ whole point is that divorce leads to adultery.

Some interpreters maintain that apoluō (divorces), which has the basic meaning of let loose, or let go free, refers only to separation, broken engagement, or desertion. A common view of this passage is that Jesus is referring only to divorce during the betrothal period, such as that mentioned in Matthew 1:18–19. But when used in the context of a man and wife, the common meaning of apoluō was always divorce-not merely separation or the breaking of an engagement (cf. Matt. 19:3, 7–9; Mark 10:2, 4, 11–12; Luke 16:18).

The term cannot refer only to a broken betrothal for several reasons. First, the background of the passage is Deuteronomy 24, which does not deal with broken betrothal but with broken marriage. To take the betrothal period as a limiting factor in a passage that deals strictly with marriage and divorce (based on its Old Testament roots) gives an illegitimate and nonhistorical restriction. If Christ has in mind the betrothal period He would then be adding something to the Old Testament standard, rather than commenting on and affirming it-which would have been out of step with His stated purpose for this section of the Sermon on the Mount (see 5:17–18).

Second, the indissoluble union in a Hebrew marriage began at betrothal, not consummation, as illustrated by Joseph and Mary. He was her “husband” during the betrothal period. The Old Testament punishment of death for adultery was the same for both participants, and it applied whether the adultery was committed during betrothal or after consummation of the marriage. Prior to betrothal, a man and woman who committed fornication were only required to marry each other (Deut. 22:28–29). In that cultural context betrothal was clearly an element of marriage.

Third, it is clear that the Jews who heard Jesus use the term understood Him to mean divorce, because there was never any need to clarify what was meant. Deuteronomy 24:1–4, to which Jesus refers in Matthew 5:31, had to do strictly with marriage and divorce, not betrothal, mere separation, or desertion. Jesus was not adding to or modifying what Moses had said, but simply clarifying it.

By divorcing his wife on grounds other than adultery, a husband makes his innocent former wife commit adultery if she remarries-as it is assumed she would. Further, as Jesus makes explicit in Mark 10:11–12, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.” Jesus’ statement that whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery (cf. Luke 16:18) completes the picture. A man or woman who has no right to divorce has no right to remarry. To do so initiates a whole chain of adultery, because remarriage after illegitimate divorce results in illegitimate and adulterous relationships for all parties involved.

When the detrimental effects on children, other relatives, and society in general are added, we see that few practices match divorce for destructiveness. It not only causes further sin but also confusion, resentment, hatred, bitterness, despair, conflict, and hardships of every sort.

In Matthew 19 Jesus quotes God’s declaration in Genesis 2:24 that “For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh” (Matt. 19:5). “Consequently,” He goes on to say, “they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (v. 6). The Pharisees’ response, “Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate and divorce her?” (v. 7) again betrayed their misinterpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1–4. Jesus had to explain, “Because of your hardness of heart, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way” (v. 8). God never “commanded” divorce but only “permitted” it as a concession to sinful, self-willed mankind. It is true that in Mark 10:5 Jesus speaks of Deuteronomy 24:1–4 as a commandment. But the teaching there is not a command to divorce but a command not to remarry the defiled person who has been divorced.

The condition except for unchastity is not a way out that God provides, but is the only grounds for divorce that He will recognize. Some say that this “exception clause” allows divorce for Jews only, and only in the case of the sin of consanguinity (marrying a near relative, a practice forbidden in Lev. 18). This view is propounded by those who wish to believe that there are no biblical grounds at all for divorce by Christians. They point out that the exception clause appears only in Matthew and maintain that to interpret it otherwise would be to contradict or add to the law governing the sin of adultery.

Of course, God has only to say a thing once for it to be true, so the fact that the exception clause appears only in Matthew has no bearing on proper interpretation. In fact, the exception clause would have been inappropriate in the contexts of Mark 10 and Luke 16. In Matthew 5 and 19 the clause is included to correct the Pharisees’ misrepresentation of God’s law regarding adultery. The exception clause in those passages amplifies Jesus’ teaching on divorce in Mark 10 and Luke 16-it does not contradict it.

Jesus gives no more approval for divorce than did Moses. The Old Testament ideal has not been changed. The permissions for divorce in the Old Testament economy were designed to meet the unique, practical problems of an imperfect, sinful people. God never condoned divorce, because what He joins together is not to be separated by man (Matt. 19:6). Adultery, another reality that God never intended, is the only thing that can break the bond of marriage. In fact, under the Old Testament law, adultery would necessarily dissolve a marriage, because the guilty party was put to death (Lev. 20:10).

Because Jesus specifically mentions divorce being permissible on the ground of adultery (Matt. 5:32; 19:9), and because He also specifically says that He did not come to contradict or annul the least part of the law (5:18–19), it seems evident that sometime during Israel’s history divorce was allowed to take the place of execution as legitimate penalty for adultery. No Old Testament passage specifically authorizes divorce, but that does not mean God did not give specific revelation about it. Based on His own recognition and regulation of divorce, and His divorce of Israel and Judah (Jer. 3:8), we can assume that divine instructions for divorce had been given orally or by written revelation not preserved in Scripture. God divorced Israel and Judah for spiritual adultery rather than put them to death. Also Joseph, a righteous man, was prepared to divorce Mary rather than stone her for her presumed adultery (Matt. 1:19).

Why did God allow divorce to replace the death penalty? The answer may be that Israel had so completely immersed herself in immorality that there was not sufficient desire for righteousness left in the people to carry out executions for that offense. Ultimately, God in His mercy chose Himself not to enforce the death penalty. That is consistent with the divine nature revealed in Jesus, who challenged the Pharisees who were about to stone a woman for adultery and then forgave her Himself (John 8:7). Apart from the death penalty, divorce became the divine alternative, tolerated only because of the hardness of the human heart, as Jesus states in Matthew 19:8.

Divorce was never commanded, even for adultery. Otherwise God would have given His notice of divorce to Israel and Judah long before He did. A legitimate bill of divorce was allowable for adultery, but it was never commanded or required. It was a last resort-to be used only when unrepentant immorality had exhausted the patience of the innocent spouse, and the guilty one would not be restored.

If God permitted divorce rather than death as a merciful concession to man’s sinfulness, why would He not also permit remarriage, since remarriage would be perfectly allowable under the original law of death for the adulterer? After all, the purpose of divorce was to show mercy to the guilty party, not to sentence the innocent party to a life of loneliness and misery.

Unchastity (porneia) refers to any illicit sexual intercourse, whether or not either of the parties is married. It was a broad term that included adultery, as other texts using a form of porneia indicate (“immorally,” 1 Cor. 10:8; “immorality,” Rev. 2:14; cf. 1 Cor. 5:1). Because Matthew 5:31–32 focuses on marriage and divorce, the primary unchastity involved here would be adultery. But porneia also included incest, prostitution, homosexuality, and bestiality-all of the sexual acts for which the Old Testament demanded the death penalty (Lev. 20:10–14). In other words, any of those corrupt and perverted sexual activities was a permissible ground for divorce.

Jesus does not advocate divorce in such cases, much less demand it. He simply says that divorce and remarriage on any other grounds always leads to adultery. As God, Jesus hates divorce (Mal. 2:16), but by implication He acknowledges that there are times when it does not result in adultery. The innocent party who has made every effort to maintain the marriage is free to remarry if his or her spouse insists on continued adultery or divorce.

Jesus sets the record straight that God still hates divorce and that His ideal is still monogamous, life-long marriage. But as a concession to sin and as a gracious provision for those who are innocent of defiling the marriage, He allows divorce on the single ground of unchastity.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul adds one more legitimate ground for divorce and subsequent remarriage. “But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, let him not send her away. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, let her not send her husband away” (7:12–13). After giving the reason for that instruction, he adds, “Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace” (v. 15). The Greek word translated “leave” (chōrizō) was often used for divorce. Thus if an unbelieving spouse deserts or divorces a believer, the believer is no longer bound and is free to remarry. (For further study on this passage, see the author’s commentary First Corinthians [Chicago: Moody, 1984], pp. 164–68.)[2]

Jesus Censures Divorce (5:31, 32)

5:31 Under OT law, divorce was permitted according to Deuteronomy 24:1–4. This passage was not concerned with the case of an adulterous wife (the penalty for adultery was death, see Deut. 22:22). Rather, it deals with divorce because of dislike or “incompatibility.”

5:32 However, in the kingdom of Christ, whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery. This does not mean that she automatically becomes an adulteress; it presupposes that, having no means of support, she is forced to live with another man. In so doing she becomes an adulteress. Not only is the former wife living in adultery, whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.

The subject of divorce and remarriage is one of the most complicated topics in the Bible. It is virtually impossible to answer all the questions that arise, but it may be helpful to survey and summarize what we believe the Scriptures teach.


Divorce was never God’s intention for man. His ideal is that one man and one woman remain married until their union is broken by death (Rom. 7:2, 3). Jesus made this clear to the Pharisees by appealing to the divine order at creation (Matt. 19:4–6).

God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16), that is, unscriptural divorce. He does not hate all divorce because He speaks of Himself as having divorced Israel (Jer. 3:8). This was because the nation forsook Him to worship idols. Israel was unfaithful.

In Matthew 5:31, 32 and 19:9, Jesus taught that divorce was forbidden except when one of the partners had been guilty of sexual immorality. In Mark 10:11, 12 and Luke 16:18, the exception clause is omitted.

The discrepancy is probably best explained as that neither Mark nor Luke record the entire saying. Therefore, even though divorce is not the ideal, it is permitted in the case where one’s partner has been unfaithful. Jesus allows divorce in this case, but He does not command it.

Some scholars see 1 Corinthians 7:12–16 as teaching that divorce is acceptable when a believer is deserted by an unbeliever. Paul says that the remaining person is “not under bondage in such cases,” i.e., he or she is free to obtain a divorce (for desertion). The present writer’s opinion is that this case is the same exception granted in Matthew 5 and 19; namely, the unbeliever departs to live with someone else. Therefore, the believer can be granted a divorce on the scriptural grounds only if the other party commits adultery.

It is often contended that, although divorce is permitted in the NT, remarriage is never contemplated. However, this argument begs the question. Remarriage is not condemned for the innocent party in the NT only for the offending person. Also, one of the main purposes of a scriptural divorce is to permit remarriage; otherwise, separation would serve the purpose just as well.

In any discussion of this topic, the question inevitably arises, “What about people who were divorced before they were saved?” There should be no question that unlawful divorces and remarriages contracted before conversion are sins which have been fully forgiven (see, for example, 1 Cor. 6:11 where Paul includes adultery in the list of sins in which the Corinthian believers had formerly participated). Pre-conversion sins do not bar believers from full participation in the local church.

A more difficult question concerns Christians who have divorced for unscriptural reasons and then remarry. Can they be received back into the fellowship of the local church? The answer depends on whether adultery is the initial act of physical union or a continued state. If these people are living in a state of adultery, then they would not only have to confess their sin but also forsake their present partner. But God’s solution for a problem is never one that creates worse problems. If, in order to untangle a marital snarl, men or women are driven into sin, or women and children are left homeless and penniless, the cure is worse than the disease.

In the writer’s opinion, Christians who have been divorced unscripturally and then remarried can truly repent of their sin and be restored to the Lord and to the fellowship of the church. In the matter of divorce, it seems that almost every case is different. Therefore, the elders of a local church must investigate each case individually and judge it according to the Word of God. If, at times, disciplinary action has to be taken, all concerned should submit to the decision of the elders.‡[3]

(3) Divorce and remarriage (5:31–32)


31–32 The introductory formula “It has been said” is shorter than all the others in this chapter and is linked to the preceding by a connective de (“and”). Therefore, though these two verses are innately antithetical, they carry further the argument of the preceding pericope. The OT points toward insisting not only that lust is the moral equivalent of adultery (vv. 27–30) but that divorce is as well. This arises out of the fact that the divorced woman will in most circumstances remarry (esp. in first-century Palestine, where this would probably be her means of support). That new marriage, whether from the perspective of the divorcée or the one marrying her, is adulterous.

The OT passage to which Jesus refers (v. 31) is Deuteronomy 24:1–4, whose thrust is that if a man divorces his wife because of “something indecent” (not further defined) in her, he must give her a certificate of divorce, and if she then becomes another man’s wife and is divorced again, the first man cannot remarry her. This double restriction—the certificate and the prohibition of remarriage—discouraged hasty divorces. Here Jesus does not go into the force of “something indecent.” Instead he insists that the law was pointing to the sanctity of marriage.

The natural way to take the “except” clause is that divorce is wrong because it generates adultery except in the case of fornication. In that case, where sexual sin has already been committed, nothing is laid down, though it appears that divorce is then implicitly permitted, even if not mandated (see the paraphrase in Stonehouse, Witness of Matthew, 203).

The numerous points for exegetical dispute (e.g., the meaning of porneia [“fornication,” or, in the NIV, “marital unfaithfulness,” GK 4518], the force of the “except” clause, and the tradition history behind these verses and their relationship to 19:3–9; Mk 10:11–12; Lk 16:18) are treated more fully at 19:3–12. The one theory that must be rejected here (because it has no counterpart in 19:3–12) is that which takes the words “makes her an adulteress” to mean “stigmatizes her as an adulteress (even though it is not so)” (B. Ward Powers, “Divorce and the Bible,” Interchange 23 [1938]: 159). The Greek uses the verb, not the noun (cf. NIV, “causes her to become an adulteress”). The verbal construction disallows Powers’s paraphrase.[4]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 121). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 307–318). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1221–1222). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 185–186). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.

—Lamentations 3:22

All men are recipients of God’s mercy. Don’t think for a minute that when you repented and came back from the swine pen to the Father’s house that mercy then began to operate. No, mercy had been operating all the time…. So, remember that if you hadn’t had the mercy of God all the time, stooping in pity, withholding judgment, you’d have perished long ago. The cruel dictator is a recipient of the mercy of God. The wicked murderer is a recipient of the mercy of God. And the blackest heart that lies in the lowest wallow in the country is a recipient of the mercy of God….

All men are recipients of the mercy of God, but God has postponed the execution, that is all. When the justice of God confronts human guilt then there is a sentence of death, but the mercy of God—because that also is an attribute of God, not contradicting the other but working with it—postpones the execution.

Mercy cannot cancel judgment apart from atonement. When justice sees iniquity, there must be judgment. But mercy brought Christ to the cross. I don’t claim to understand that. I’m so happy about the things I do know and so delightedly happy about things I don’t know. AOG085-087

Lord, when I realize how much we deserve Your judgment, I am once again in awe of Your great mercy. Thank You for the message of the cross. Amen. [1]

3:22 lovingkindnesses. This Heb. word, used about 250 times in the OT, refers to God’s gracious love. It is a comprehensive term that encompasses love, grace, mercy, goodness, forgiveness, truth, compassion, and faithfulness.

3:22–24 His compassions never fail. As bleak as the situation of judgment had become, God’s covenant lovingkindness was always present (cf. vv. 31, 32), and His incredible faithfulness always endured so that Judah would not be destroyed forever (cf. Mal 3:6).[2]

3:22 God’s steadfast love (his “covenant mercy” or beneficial action on his people’s behalf) never ceases, even in the face of Judah’s unfaithfulness and the resulting “day of the Lord” (cf. Joel 2:1–2; Amos 5:18; Zeph. 1:14–16). mercies. Or “compassion.” This type of mercy goes the second mile, replacing judgment with restoration. never come to an end. God is willing to begin anew with those who repent.[3]

3:22 The loyal love of Yahweh does not cease The speaker appeals to Yahweh’s covenant love to justify his hope.

The Hebrew term used here for Yahweh’s covenant love is chesed. This phrase could be referring to the eternal nature of Yahweh’s chesed or to chesed as the essential quality of Yahweh’s nature that allows Him to restrain His wrath and justice from bringing a total end. Some English translations follow the ancient Aramaic versions here, which read “The kindnesses of Yahweh never cease”; others follow the traditional Hebrew text, which says “Because of Yahweh’s mercies [or great love], we are not consumed.” Deciding which reading to follow is part of the task of a field of study known as textual criticism. The difference between what the Hebrew reads and what the Aramaic translators may have read is only one letter. The poetic parallelism with the rest of the line (which reads literally, “His mercies never come to an end”) supports following the Aramaic reading.[4]

3:22 steadfast love. On the Hb. word (hesed), see note on Ps. 36:5. The plural form, used here, recalls many acts or perhaps the riches of divine love. Cf. Is. 55:3.

mercies. God’s covenant devotion is always joined with His compassion. Though the Lord may withhold mercy temporarily (see 2:2), that is not the end of the story. His people are not finally consumed because God’s compassion is not consumed. God’s wrath toward His people must come to an end because His compassion cannot end (4:22; Hos. 11:8).[5]

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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (La 3:22–24). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1487). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (La 3:22). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1372). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

April 22 – The Church Testifies to the Resurrection

“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand.”

1 Corinthians 15:1


The true church has consistently testified to the power of the Resurrection.

Kenneth Scott Latourette observed in his History of the Expansion of Christianity: “It was the conviction of the resurrection of Jesus which lifted his followers out of the despair into which his death had cast them and which led to the perpetuation of a movement begun by him.”

This statement was true for the church at Corinth, even with its many problems. The apostle Paul opens his well–known chapter on the Resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 by implicitly affirming the Corinthians’ testimony to that doctrine. Simply by receiving the gospel and having their lives transformed, the believers at Corinth demonstrated the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. And that resurrection is what empowered the gospel. Paul did not need to explicitly remind the Corinthians of Christ’s rising to life until verse 4, “He was raised on the third day.” The apostle was confident at the outset that the Corinthians had already believed in the truth of the Lord’s resurrection.

The fact that the Corinthian church continued to exist, though beset with problems of immaturity and other weaknesses, was a solid witness to the power of the gospel of the risen Christ. Only a living Savior could have converted some of the hardened sinners of Corinth—extortioners, idolaters, the sexually immoral—into a community of the redeemed. Paul was concerned and distressed about many of the things that did and did not happen in the church at Corinth, but he did not hesitate to call the core group of members there “brethren.”

In spite of many challenges from skepticism, persecution, heresy, and unfaithfulness, the church through the centuries has continued to testify to the reality of Christ’s resurrection. The true church celebrates that truth often, not just on Easter Sunday. Actually, because the church gathers on Sunday, the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week (when Jesus rose), we remember the Resurrection every week. Praise the Lord for that reminder the next time you worship on the Lord’s Day.


Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God that His church was faithful in the past to testify to the truth of the Resurrection.

For Further Study: Read Acts 4, and list some things that suggest a testimony to the power of the Resurrection.[1]

The Testimony of the Church

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. (15:1–2)

The first testimony is not stated explicitly but is implied. The very fact that the Corinthian Christians themselves, and all other Christians everywhere, had received the gospel and believed in Jesus Christ and had been miraculously changed, was in itself a strong evidence of the power of the gospel, which power is in the resurrection of Christ.

By addressing them again as brethren (cf. 1:10; 2:1; 3:1; 10:1; etc.) Paul assures those to whom he writes that he recognizes them to be fellow Christians. The term not only expresses his spiritual identity with them but also his love (cf. 15:58).

The apostle tells them that what he is about to say is nothing new to them, but is simply the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received. Not until verses 3–4 does he specify what the heart of the gospel is: “that Christ died for our sins … and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day.” The point of the first two verses is that the Corinthian believers were themselves living evidence that this doctrine was true. The fact that they came out of the spiritual blindness and deadness of Judaism or paganism and into the light and life of Christ testified to the power of the gospel, and therefore to the power of the resurrection. It also testified that they already believed in the truth of Christ’s resurrection. It was the gospel of the resurrection of Jesus Christ that Paul had preached to them, that they had received, and in which he assures them they now stand and by which they are saved, delivered from sin’s power and condemnation. Because of the reality of Christ’s resurrection and of their trust in it, they were now a part of His church and thereby were evidence of the power of that resurrection.

Paul’s qualifying phrase—if hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain—does not teach that true believers are in danger of losing their salvation, but it is a warning against non–saving faith. So a clearer rendering would be, “… if you hold fast what I preached to you, unless your faith is worthless or unless you believed without effect.” The Corinthians’ holding fast to what Paul had preached (see 11:2) was the result of and an evidence of their genuine salvation, just as their salvation and new life were an evidence of the power of Christ’s resurrection. It must be recognized, however, that some lacked the true saving faith, and thus did not continue to obey the Word of God.

Paul’s teaching about the security of believers was unambiguous. “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (Rom. 8:29–30; cf. vv. 35–39; 5:9–10; 9:23; 1 Cor. 2:7; etc.). It is only by God’s power that we are saved and only by His power that we are kept saved. Our salvation is kept by Christ’s holding us fast, not primarily by our holding Him fast. Our holding onto Him is evidence that He is holding onto us.

A professing Christian who holds to orthodox doctrine and living and then fully rejects it proves that his salvation was never real. He is able to let go of the things of God because he is doing the holding. He does not belong to God and therefore God’s power cannot keep him. Such a person does not hold fast the word because his faith is in vain. It was never real. He cannot hold fast because he is not held fast.

Our Lord repeatedly spoke of sham believers who had useless, non–saving faith. The parable of the sower (Matt. 13:1–23) tells us that some of the seeds of the gospel fall on shallow or weedy soil, and that tares often look like wheat, but are not (13:24–30, 34–43). Jesus spoke of many kinds of fish being caught in the same net, with the good being kept and the bad being thrown away (13:47–50). He spoke of houses without foundations (7:24–27), virgins without oil for their lamps, and servants who wasted their talents and so were “cast out” (25:1–30). He warned of gates and paths that seem right, but that lead to destruction (7:13–14).

Some of the Corinthians apparently had intellectually and/or outwardly acknowledged Jesus’ lordship, savior-hood, and resurrection, but had not trusted in Him or committed themselves to Him. They believed only as the demons believe (James 2:19). They acknowledged Christ, but they had not received Him, did not stand in Him, were not saved by Him, and did not hold fast to His word, which Paul had preached to them. As Jesus made clear in the illustrations just cited above, many people make positive responses of one sort or another to the gospel, but only genuine faith in Jesus Christ results in salvation.

Many people have useless faith. “Many” will say, “Lord, Lord,” in the day of judgment, but be excluded because of their empty, sham faith (Matt. 7:22–23; 25:11–12). Those who forsake Christ and His church prove that they never really belonged to Him or to His true Body (cf. 1 John 2:19). It is those who “abide in My word,” Jesus said, those who hold fast the word, who “are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8:31; cf. 2 Cor. 13:5; 2 John 9). The truly justified and righteous not only are saved by faith but continue to “live by faith” (Heb. 10:38). Obedience and continuous faithfulness mark the redeemed.

The fact that, despite their great immaturity and many weaknesses, the Corinthian church even continued to exist was a strong testimony to the power of the gospel. Who but the risen, living Christ could have taken extortioners, thieves, adulterers, fornicators, homosexuals, liars, idolaters, and such thoroughly worldly pagans and transformed them into a community of the redeemed? Despite their shortcomings and failures, and despite the presence of false followers in their assembly, Christ lived in and through the true saints. Paul was ashamed of much of what they did and did not do, but he was not ashamed to call them brethren.

Though it is largely a subjective proof, the endurance of the church of Jesus Christ through 2,000 years is evidence of His resurrection reality. His church and His Word have survived skepticism, persecution, heresy, unfaithfulness, and disobedience. Critics have denounced the resurrection as a hoax and fabrication, but have never explained the power of such a fabrication to produce men and women who gave up everything, including their freedom and lives when necessary, to love and to follow a dead Lord! His living church is evidence that Christ Himself is alive; and He could be alive only if He had been raised from the dead.

H. D. A. Major, former principal of Ripon. Hall, Oxford, has written,

Had the crucifixion of Jesus ended his disciples’ experience of Him, it is hard to see how the Christian Church could have come into existence. That Church was rounded on faith in the Messiahship of Jesus. A crucified Messiah was no Messiah at all. He was one rejected by Judaism and accursed of God It was the Resurrection of Jesus, as St. Paul declares in Rom. 14, which proclaimed Him to be the Son of God with power (The Mission and Message of Jesus [New York: Dutton, 1946], p. 213).

Church historian Kenneth Scott Latourette wrote in History of the Expansion of Christianity,

It was the conviction of the resurrection of Jesus which lifted his followers out of the despair into which his death had cast them and which led to the perpetuation of the movement begun by him. But for their profound belief that the crucified had risen from the dead and they had seen him and talked with him, the death of Jesus and even Jesus himself would probably have been all but forgotten (vol. 1 [New York: Harper & Row, 1970], p. 59).

A follower of Buddha writes of that religious leader, “When Buddha died it was with that utter passing away in which nothing whatever remains.” Mohammed died at Medina on June 8,632, at the the age of 61, and his tomb there is visited yearly by tens of thousands of Muslims. But they come to mourn his death, not to celebrate his resurrection. Yet the church of Jesus Christ, not just on Easter Sunday but at every service of immersion baptism, celebrates the victory of her Lord over death and the grave.[2]

15:1, 2 Paul reminds them of the good news which he had preached to them, which they had received, and in which they now stood. This was not a new doctrine for the Corinthians, but it was necessary that they should be reminded of it at this critical time. It was this gospel by which the Corinthians had been saved. Then Paul adds the words if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. It was by the gospel of the resurrection that they had been saved—unless, of course, there was no such thing as resurrection, in which case they could not have been saved at all. The if in this passage does not express any doubt as to their salvation, nor does it teach that they were saved by holding fast. Rather, Paul is simply stating that if there is no such thing as resurrection, then they weren’t saved at all. In other words, those who denied bodily resurrection were launching a frontal attack on the whole truth of the gospel. To Paul, the resurrection was fundamental. Without it there was no Christianity. Thus this verse is a challenge to the Corinthians to hold fast the gospel which they had received in the face of the attacks which were currently being made against it.[3]

1 There is no peri de here (see Overview, 7:1–40), which more or less seals the fact that Paul is now responding to an issue that some visitors from Corinth have reported to him. As with some of the other topics dealt with in this letter, he starts answering the problem even before he defines it in v. 12. (Cf. a similar pattern in the discussion on eating sacrificed food in idol temples in chs. 8–10 and the problem about the spiritual gifts of speaking in tongues and prophecy in chs. 12–14.)

Paul begins by telling the Corinthians that he is going to review for them the basic message of “the gospel” (euangelion, GK 2295). This is the good news that the apostle himself preached to them when he lived among them for eighteen months (Ac 18:1–18). It is the gospel that they eagerly accepted from him and on which they have taken their stand.[4]

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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians (pp. 398–401). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1803–1804). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Verbrugge, V. D. (2008). 1 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 391). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

April 22 – Purposeful Suffering

The forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever.

Hebrews 6:20

Christ’s purpose in gathering up our sins on the cross and enduring the darkness of death was to open the way to God. The apostle Peter said that Christ died “that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18). God demonstrated that truth symbolically by ripping the Temple veil from top to bottom, opening the Holy of Holies to immediate access by all worshipers (Matt. 27:51). As priests, all believers now may come into the presence of God (1 Pet. 2:9; Heb. 4:16).

The Greek verb translated as “He might bring” (1 Pet. 3:18) states the purpose of Jesus’ actions. The verb was often used when someone was being introduced. The noun form of the word refers to the one making the introduction. In Jesus’ day, officials in the ancient courts controlled the access to the king. Once convinced of a person’s right of access, the official would introduce that person into the king’s presence. And that’s exactly the function Jesus performs for us now. As He said, “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). He came to lead us into the Father’s presence.[1]

God gave Abraham the security of His Person, His purpose, and His pledge. All these He also gives to us who have believed in Christ. But He gives us yet another, His Priest. As our High Priest, Jesus serves as the anchor of our souls, the One who will forever keep us from drifting away from God.

Jesus’ entering within the veil signifies His entering the Holy of Holies, where the sacrifice of atonement was made. Under the Old Covenant it was made yearly by the high priest. Under the New is has been made once for all time by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Our anchored soul is, in God’s mind, already secure within the veil, secure within His eternal sanctuary. When Jesus entered the heavenly Holy of Holies, he did not leave after the sacrifice as did the Aaronic high priests, but “He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3). In other words, Jesus remains there forever as Guardian of our souls. Such absolute security is almost incomprehensible. Not only are our souls anchored within the impregnable, inviolable heavenly sanctuary, but our Savior, Jesus Christ, stands guard over them as well! How can the Christian’s security be described as anything but eternal? Truly we can trust God and His Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, with our souls. That is good cause to come all the way to salvation and to enjoy its security.[2]

6:20 Jesus has gone into the inner shrine also as our forerunner. His presence there insures the ultimate entrance of all who belong to Him. It is no exaggeration to say that the simplest believer on earth is as certain of heaven as the saints who are already there.

D. Anderson-Berry writes:

The word translated “forerunner” is found nowhere else in the New Testament. This expresses an idea never contemplated in the Levitical economy, for the high priest entered the holiest only as a representative. He entered where none could follow. But our Forerunner is a pledge that where He is, we also shall be. As Forerunner He (1) announced our future arrival there; (2) took possession of heaven’s glories on our behalf; and (3) has gone to be able to bid His people welcome when they come, and to present them before the Majesty of heaven.

The fourth figure is that of High Priest. Our Lord has become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. His eternal priesthood guarantees our eternal preservation. Just as surely as we have been reconciled to God by His death, so surely are we saved by His life as our Priest at God’s right hand (Rom. 5:10).

This mention of Jesus as High Priest in the order of Melchizedek reminds us that this subject was interrupted at 5:10 when the author digressed on the extended warning against apostasy. Now he is ready to resume his theme that Christ’s high priesthood is superior to Aaron’s. He has skillfully returned to the main flow of argument.[3]

20 The metaphor of the inner sanctuary of the tabernacle leads to a further extension of the imagery, and this time one that brings us right back to the main theme of Christ as our high priest. The sanctuary is not just the place where the “anchor” is fixed but also the place where our high priest has gone in “on our behalf,” as the OT high priest went in each year on the Day of Atonement on behalf of the rest of the people to make atonement for their sins. He is identified again by his human name, Jesus, as he was also in 3:1 and 4:14 when his high priestly office was introduced (and cf. the language of “going through” into heaven in 4:14). But unlike the OT high priests, whose privilege of entering the sanctuary was shared with no one else, our high priest has gone in as the “forerunner” (so rightly TNIV; NIV, “who went before us”), a term not used elsewhere in the NT but used in secular Greek especially for the advance guard of an army; it picks up the theme of the “pioneer” in 2:10, and especially as it will be developed in 12:2, where Jesus has run the race ahead of us. Where Jesus has gone, he prepares the way for his people to follow (cf. Jn 14:2–3); and in 10:19–20, we will be exhorted to do so. And his right to enter the sanctuary derives from his status, declared by God’s oath, as a “high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” Thus we are brought right back into the “difficult” argument begun at 4:14 and abandoned at 5:10, and this time the author will have no hesitation in developing his thesis from Psalm 110:4. It all hinges on the mysterious figure of Melchizedek.[4]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 127). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Hebrews (pp. 168–169). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2177). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] France, R. T. (2006). Hebrews. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 89). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.