Daily Archives: May 6, 2017

May 6, 2017: Verse of the day

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12:23 he enlarges nations. This may have the negative sense of “disperse” or “scatter,” making the second line antithetical to the first. Sometimes God makes nations great and then destroys them, while other times he first scatters a nation and then gives it peace or leads it in an orderly way.[1]


12:23 / The remaining verses of chapter 12 focus on the collision between the power of God and the great nations and leaders of the earth. If verses 16–21 speak of the power of God over leaders at a more local level, verses 23–25 declare his sovereignty over those great nations (goyim) that have pretensions to world domination and control. These claims fade before the realities of God’s sovereign power as creator. It is God who makes nations great and who enlarges them. He is also the one who destroys and disperses them.[2]


[1] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 890). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] Wilson, G. H. (2012). Job. (W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston, Eds.) (p. 131). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

May 6 – Gaining Spiritual Stability (Peter)

The twelve apostles included “Simon, who is called Peter” (Matt. 10:2).

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Jesus can make an impulsive and vacillating Christian as stable as a rock.

The first disciple Matthew’s Gospel names is “Simon, who is called Peter.” He was a fisherman by trade, but Jesus called him to be a fisher of men. John 1:40–42 records their first encounter: “One of the two who heard John [the Baptist] speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He found first his own brother Simon, and … brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas’ (which translated means Peter).”

“Peter” means “stone.” “Cephas” is its Aramaic equivalent. By nature Simon tended to be impulsive and vacillating. Apparently Jesus named him Peter as a reminder of his future role in the church, which would require spiritual strength and stability. Whenever Peter acted like a man of strength, Jesus called him by his new name. When he sinned, Jesus called him by his old name (e.g., John 21:15–17). In the Gospel of John, Peter is called “Simon Peter” seventeen times. Perhaps John knew Peter so well, he realized he was always drifting somewhere between sinful Simon and spiritual Peter.

For the next few days we will see how Jesus worked with Peter to transform him into a true spiritual rock. It was an amazing transformation, but not unlike what He desires to do in every believer’s life.

You might not have the same personality as Peter, but the Lord wants you to be a spiritual rock just the same. Peter himself wrote, “You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). That occurs as you “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Make that your continual aim.

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Suggestions for Prayer:  List the areas of your Christian walk that are inconsistent or vacillating. Make them a matter of earnest prayer, asking God for wisdom and grace as you begin to strengthen them.

For Further Study: First Peter was written to Christians in danger of severe persecution. Read that epistle, noting the keys to spiritual stability that Peter gives.[1]


The Master’s Men—Part 1: Peter: A Lesson in Leadership

Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, (10:2a)

In his book Quiet Talks on Service, S. D. Gordon gives an imaginary account of Jesus’ return to heaven after His ascension. As the angel Gabriel greets Jesus he asks, “Master, You died for the world, did You not?” to which the Lord replies, “Yes.” “You must have suffered much,” the angel says; and again Jesus answers, “Yes.” “Do they all know that you died for them?” Gabriel continues. “No. Only a few in Palestine know about it so far,” Jesus says. “Well, then, what is Your plan for telling the rest of the world that You shed Your blood for them?” Jesus responds, “Well, I asked Peter and James and John and Andrew and a few others if they would make it the business of their lives to tell others. And then the ones that they tell could tell others, and they in turn could tell still others, and finally it would reach the farthest corner of the earth and all would know the thrill and power of the gospel.” “But suppose Peter fails? And suppose after a while John just doesn’t tell anyone? And what if James and Andrew are ashamed or afraid? Then what?” Gabriel asks. “I have no other plans,” Jesus is said to have answered; “I am counting entirely on them” (cited in Herbert Lockyer, All the Apostles of the Bible [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1972], p. 31).

Though it is a fantasy, that story dramatizes a great truth about the gospel. The only plan the Lord has for reaching the world is for those who know Him to witness about Him to others. The life-changing power of the gospel is in the atoning death of Jesus Christ and can be applied in a life only through the convicting and recreative work of the Holy Spirit. But the declaration of the gospel is in the hands of those who have already experienced the new life and are willing to tell of it to others.

Society routinely sets standards of qualification for a myriad of enterprises. Businesses establish qualifications for their employees, and the more responsible the job, the higher the qualifications. Advertisements for jobs often list requirements such as self-motivation, ability to work under pressure, minimum typing speed, several years’ work experience, and willingness to travel. A person must also qualify in order to buy a house or car, get a credit card, enroll in college, or receive a driver’s license.

Scripture makes clear that God’s standards for His people, especially for the leaders who are to model those standards for His people, are extremely high (1 Tim. 3:1–12; Titus 1:6–9; 2 Pet. 3:14). The standard for every believer, in fact, is nothing less than perfection: “You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” Jesus says (Matt. 5:48) Yet Scripture makes equally clear that no person in himself can meet the least of God’s standards. Even after he became an apostle, Paul confessed of himself: “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (Rom. 7:18). In the same epistle he says of mankind in general, “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one” (3:10–12).

The greatness of God’s grace is seen in His choosing the undeserving to be His people and the unqualified to do His work. It should be a marvelous encouragement to every believer to know that, just as Elijah (James 5:17), the apostles had a nature like ours. Because there was no other way, God chose to bestow sanctifying grace on those who believe in His Son and by His own power to transform them into men and women of great usefulness.

We are tempted to become discouraged and disheartened when our spiritual life and witness suffer because of our sins and failures. Satan attempts to convince us that those shortcomings render us useless to God; but His use of the apostles testifies to the opposite. They did not lead the church in turning the world upside down because they were extraordinarily talented or naturally gifted, but because-in spite of their human limitations and failures-they surrendered themselves to God, whose power is perfected in man’s weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).

That has always been God’s way, since He has never had anything but imperfect and sinful men through whom to work. Soon after God delivered Noah and his family through the Flood, Noah became drunk and acted indecently. Abraham, the father of the faithful, doubted God, lied about his wife, and committed adultery with her maid. Isaac told a similar lie about his wife when he thought his life was in danger. Jacob took advantage of his brother Esau’s weakness and extorted the birthright from him. Moses was a murderer, and in pride he struck the rock instead of speaking to it as God had instructed. His brother, Aaron, the first high priest, led Israel in erecting and worshiping the golden calf at the very time Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the law from God. Joshua disobeyed the Lord by making a treaty with the Gibeonites instead of destroying them. Gideon had little confidence in himself and even less in God’s plan and power. Samson was repeatedly beguiled by Delilah because of his great lust for her. David committed adultery and murder, was an almost total failure as a father, and was not allowed to build the Temple because he was a man of blood. Elijah stood fearlessly before 850 false prophets but cowered before one woman, Jezebel. Ezekiel was brash, crusty, and quick to speak his mind. Jonah defied God’s call to preach to the Ninevites and resented His grace when they were converted through his preaching.

Apart from the brief ministry of His own Son, the history of God’s work on earth is the history of His using the unqualified. The twelve disciples who became apostles were no exception. Even from the human standpoint they had few characteristics or abilities that qualified them for leadership and service. Yet God used those men, just as He did Noah, Abraham, and the others, in marvelous ways to do His work.

Writing to the factious, worldly Corinthians, Paul insisted that neither he nor Apollos were anything in themselves. “What then is Apollos?” he asks. “And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth” (1 Cor. 3:5–7).

The New Testament does not teach Christian leaders to follow the individual methods or styles of the apostles. It does not explain their methods or give details of their specific strategies for evangelism or other ministry. The focus of apostolic power in the New Testament is always on the Lord. As with the lowliest believer, the apostles’ power and effectiveness were exclusively the work of the Holy Spirit.

The story is told that after a famous artist finished his painting of the Last Supper he asked a friend to comment on the work. When the friend remarked that the cups were the most magnificent parts of the entire painting, the artist was dumbfounded. He picked up his brush and painted over every cup, explaining, “I failed. I wanted you to see Christ, but you only noticed the cups.” It is a wonderful thing to be a vessel fit for the Master’s use, but the vessel is not the source of spiritual power and should never be the focus of attention.

Emphasizing the methods and practices of famous and visibly successful Christian leaders inevitably weakens the church, and at no time in history has that misguided emphasis been more dominant than it is in much of the church today. When men are elevated, Christ is lowered; and when men’s power and resources are relied on, Christ’s work is weakened.

Someone has commented that a great writer can take a worthless piece of paper, write a poem on it and instantly make it extremely valuable. A famous artist can take a piece of canvas worth fifty cents and by painting a picture on it make it priceless. A wealthy man can sign his name to a worthless piece of paper and make it worth a million dollars. In an infinitely greater way Jesus Christ can take a worthless, corrupted, and repulsive life and transform it into a righteous child of God and a useful worker in His kingdom.

A church in Strasbourg, France, was severely damaged by bombs during World War II. Although a beloved statue of Christ had survived, a ceiling beam had fallen across the arms and broken them off. A local sculptor offered to restore the statue without charge, but the townspeople decided to leave it as it was. Without hands it would be a continuing reminder to them that God does His work through His people. His earthly hands.

Jesus Christ chooses human hands-and minds and arms and feet-as the instruments of His eternal work of redemption. Those who are not offended by His demands for discipleship and who, like the apostles, give their imperfect and flawed lives to Him as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1), become His means for drawing all men to Himself.

Jesus did not intend to proclaim the kingdom alone. His own ministry lasted but three years and did not even extend to all of Palestine. From the earliest part of His ministry He began training the twelve who would continue His work It was in this training of the twelve that the Lord began the process Paul later admonished Timothy to follow: “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).

Jesus chose only twelve men to be His apostles, a seemingly insignificant number for the task ahead. They would be pitted not only against the evil, unbelieving system of the world but against Satan and his demon system.

History is full of amazing exploits by a few men against great odds. Sometimes the few have been victorious, and often they have gone down in tragic defeat. In either case they are remembered and admired for their courage. Against supernatural enemies, however, man can never be successful in his own power, no matter how great his courage. On the other hand, when God empowers His people, no obstacle or enemy can withstand them.

Shamgar, a judge of Israel, killed 600 men with an ox goad. With only 300 men filtered from an original force of 32,000, Gideon, another judge, routed an uncountable number of Midianites and Amalekites, whom the Lord caused to slaughter each other in panic. Still another judge, Samson, slaughtered 1,000 Philistines with only the jawbone of a donkey as a weapon. Jonathan and his armor bearer, who was probably only a boy, killed twenty armed Philistines who were waiting for them at the top of a hill; and that victory led to the defeat of the entire Philistine army by Israelites armed only with farm implements. In one day Elijah singlehandedly slaughtered 850 pagan prophets on Mount Carmel.

The Lord can display His divine power through a handful of men, or even one man, just as surely as through a multitude-so the small number of the apostles was no hindrance to the work of the gospel.

Henry Drummond, the Scottish author and evangelist who wrote the well-known booklet The Greatest Thing in the World, was once invited to speak to an exclusive men’s club in London. He began his talk with a provocative analogy that those men easily understood: “Gentlemen, the entrance fee into the kingdom of heaven is nothing; however, the annual subscription is everything.”

Because Jesus Christ paid the total price for salvation, it costs nothing to become His disciple. But to follow Him as a faithful disciple costs everything we have. We are not only saved by Christ’s blood but are bought with it and therefore belong totally to Him (1 Cor. 6:19–20; 7:23).

The twelve men Jesus called as disciples and transformed into apostles were willing to pay everything. They turned their backs on their occupations, their life-styles, their homes, their own plans and aspirations. They committed themselves totally to following Jesus Christ, wherever that would lead and whatever that would cost.

They were a committed few among the unbelieving many. From early in His ministry, and especially after He began performing miracles, Jesus never lacked for an audience. The multitudes followed Him wherever He went, so much so that He often had difficulty being alone by Himself or with the twelve. The crowds were attracted by the ring of authority in His voice, by the uniqueness of His message, by the wonder of His miracles, and by His concern for common people and for the sick, diseased, and sinful.

In the broadest sense they were disciples (mathētēs), which has the root meaning of follower or learner. But that term does not necessarily carry the idea of commitment, as is clear from several gospel accounts. The morning after Jesus fed the five thousand (plus women and children), many of the people who were fed followed Him back to Capernaum. When He saw them, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled” (John 6:26). A short while later He said to the same group, “You have seen Me, and yet do not believe” (v. 36). Among this crowd were “many … of His disciples” (v. 60) who were disturbed when they heard Jesus say, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (vv. 54). After Jesus further explained what He meant, they were even more offended, and “as a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore” (v. 66). Those disciples were only observers and hearers who had no desire to trust and follow the Lord.

Those disciples accepted Jesus as a great teacher and wonder worker, but only on the physical level. They were quite willing for Him to heal their bodies and fill their stomachs, but they did not want Him to cleanse their sins, recreate their hearts, and transform their lives. They gladly came to Him for the “food which perishes,” but they had no appetite for “the food which endures to eternal life” (John 6:27).

Jesus’ teaching was not “difficult” (v. 60) because it was hard to understand but because it was hard to accept. The people knew that Jesus was not talking of eating and drinking His physical body and blood but of accepting everything that He was, said, and did. His statement was difficult for them to accept for the very reason that they did understand it.

As in Jesus’ time and throughout history, false disciples today are willing to accept whatever of the gospel fits their personal inclinations and life-styles. They are willing to be identified as Christians, belong to a church, be active in its work, and give money to its support. But they have no intention of giving themselves to Jesus Christ as Lord and Master. When such a demand is made of them, or even suggested, they vanish as quickly and permanently as those disciples at Capernaum.

Jesus’ difficult teachings offended them and caused them “to stumble” (John 6:61). “Stumble” translates skandalizō, which means to put up a snare or stumbling block, and is the term from which we get scandal. The original meaning pertained to a trap held up by a stick. When an animal grabbed food that was attached to the stick, the stick would fall, causing the trap to capture or kill the animal. The offended disciples at Capernaum understood clearly that to accept Christ’s demand to eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to receive eternal life meant to give up their old life-which they would not relinquish even for heaven. Consequently, they had nothing more to do with Jesus.

After the crowd left, Jesus asked the disciples, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” (v. 67). He “knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him” (v. 64), but He wanted to make sure that the twelve realized in their own minds the cost of true discipleship. Peter replied for the group, saying, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. And we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God” (vv. 68–69)

Except for Judas, the twelve decided to eat Christ’s flesh and drink His blood, whatever the cost. They had no idea of the particulars of the cost, but they placed themselves in the Lord’s hands, confident that in Him and only in Him, was eternal life and everything else of any value.

The twelve men Jesus chose as His apostles had in their hands the full responsibility for initially taking the gospel to the rest of the world. The church was “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone” (Eph. 2:20). Jesus promised them, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26). Through the Holy Spirit the apostles received God’s divine revelation and were the ones responsible for writing most of the New Testament. It was therefore to “the apostles’ teaching” to which the true and faithful church has always devoted itself, beginning in Jerusalem immediately after Pentecost (Acts 2:42). Through them the doctrine of the New Covenant was established, explained, and proclaimed.

The apostles not only were the channels of Christian theology and evangelism but were also the first examples of godly, virtuous living for the church to follow God confirmed their authority as true apostles “by signs and wonders and miracles” (2 Cor. 12:12); and as “His holy apostles” (Eph. 3:5) they received, taught, recorded, and exemplified the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As mentioned in the previous chapter, the third phase of the disciples’ training under Jesus was what might be called their internship, which began immediately after their conversion and calling and preceded their final commissioning and sending after His ascension (Acts 1:8). It is this third phase of training that occupies Matthew in chapter 10. By this time the disciples had been under Jesus’ instruction for perhaps eighteen months, but they had not participated directly in the ministry. Until now they had only been observers and learners. Now they began to have direct involvement as the Lord sent them out two by two (see Mark 6:7) to try their wings in the work for which He had given them authority.

The apostles were essential for the future of the Christian faith, because they were the only ones called and empowered to build the foundation of God’s only plan for telling the world of redemption through His Son. It was time for them to be more than mere hearers and observers, so they were given “authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness” (10:1). But their first responsibility was to “preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’ ” (v. 7), for which message their miraculous works would be divine authenticating signs. As Nicodemus acknowledged regarding Jesus, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2).

“How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” asks the writer of Hebrews. “After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will” (Heb. 2:3–4). The Lord Jesus Christ was the first preacher of the gospel, and the apostles (“those who heard”) confirmed what He preached, and God the Father confirmed their testimony by the divinely empowered “signs and wonders … various miracles and … gifts of the Holy Spirit” that accompanied their preaching. The word of the apostles was miraculously attested as they laid down the foundation for the church.

The apostles were ordinary men. As far as we know, the only one who was materially prosperous was Matthew, who gained his wealth by legally but unethically extorting taxes for Rome. None of the twelve was highly educated or had prominent social, political, or religious status. Details about some of them remain unknown to us today, except for their names, because neither Scripture nor secular history has much to say about them.

Yet there has never been a task in the history of the world equal to that of those common men whom the Lord chose to be His first agents of ministry in setting in motion the advancement of the kingdom of God on earth. They had the monumental assignment of finishing the foundation work of the church that the Lord Himself had begun. Luke mentions this transition of responsibility in the introductory words of Acts: “The first account [i. e., the gospel of Luke] I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God” (1:1–3).

A number of truths about the apostles can be learned simply from the scriptural listings of their names. First of all, in the four New Testament lists of the apostles (Matt. 10:2–4; Mark 3:16–19; Luke 6:14–16; and Acts 1:13; cf. v. 26), Peter is always named first. In Matthew 10:2 the first does not refer to the order of selection, because Jesus called Andrew, Peter’s brother, before He called Peter (John 1:40–42). In this context, prōtos (first) indicates foremost in rank. The apostles were equal in their divine commission, authority, and power; and one day they will sit on equal thrones as they judge the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28). But in terms of function, Peter was the first, the foremost member of the twelve. Prōtos is used with the same meaning in 1 Timothy 1:15, where Paul speaks of himself as the “foremost of all” sinners. In Revelation 1:17, Christ speaks of Himself as “the first [prōtos] and the last.” No group can function properly without a leader, and Peter was the leading member of the twelve from the beginning.

Second, all four lists of the apostles are divided into the same three subgroups. The first group includes Peter, Andrew, James, and John; the second includes Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, and Matthew; and the third includes James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot. The names are in different orders within the groups, but they always include the same four names, and the first name in each group is always the same, suggesting that each group had its own identity and leader. The first group includes those Jesus called first (though not in the individual order), the second includes those He called next, and the third group those He called last.

We know a great deal about the men in the first group, much less about those in the second, and almost nothing about those in the third-except for Judas, who betrayed Jesus, committed suicide, and was replaced by Matthias just before Pentecost (Acts 1:26). There is not only a decreasing amount of information about the members of each group but also a decreasing intimacy with Jesus. The first four constituted Jesus’ inner circle of disciples; and of those four, Peter, James, and John were especially close to Him. Little is said about His direct instruction or work with the second group, and almost nothing about close contact with the third. He loved all the apostles equally, empowered them equally, and promised them equal glory; but because of the physical limitations common to all men, He was not able to give them equal attention. It is impossible for any leader to be equally close to everyone with whom he works. By necessity he will spend more time with and place more responsibility on certain people who are particularly capable and trustworthy.

The first group included two sets of brothers, Peter and Andrew and James and John, all of whom were fishermen. Matthew was a tax collector, but we know nothing of the occupations of any of the other seven. The two sets of brothers were acquainted even before Jesus called them, because they fished near each other on the Sea of Galilee (see Matt. 4:18–21).

The temperaments of the apostles about whom we know the most were very much different. Peter, for example, was impulsive, a natural leader, and a man of action. Almost invariably he was the first to react to something that was said or done by saying or doing something himself. John, on the other hand, appears to have become quiet and pensive under Christ’s tutelage. In the first twelve chapters of Acts we read of Peter and John working closely together during the early days of the church. It must have been a helpful learning experience for both of them, with Peter anxious to charge ahead and John wanting to think things over first. Peter did all the preaching. Men of equal status and office and even of similar giftedness may have different functions relative to the uniqueness of their gifts.

Thomas was clearly the most skeptical of the twelve (John 20:25), and Simon the Zealot’s very name indicates he was a radical Jewish revolutionary, dedicated to driving out the Roman oppressor. Before he met Christ he doubtlessly would have willingly plunged a knife into the heart of Matthew, a traitorous collaborator with Rome.

Simon Peter

The first, Simon, who is called Peter, (10:2a)

All of the twelve, including Judas, were integral parts of the Lord’s plan. But Peter was by far the central figure, both during the three years of Jesus’ earthly ministry and during the early years of the church after Pentecost. Jesus spent more time with Peter than with any of the others, partly because Peter was constantly at the Lord’s side. He was never far from Jesus and was continually asking Him questions, giving advice, and even giving commands. Apart from that of Jesus, no name is mentioned more often in the New Testament than Peter’s. No other person speaks as often or is spoken to as often. No disciple was reproved as often or as severely as Peter, and only he was presumptuous enough to reprove the Lord. No other disciple so boldly confessed Christ or so boldly denied Him. No other disciple was so praised and blessed by Jesus, and yet no other did He call Satan.

How could Jesus take such an ambivalent, inconsistent, and self-centered man and make him into the first-the prōtos-of the apostles? From the gospel record we can discern at least three instructive elements that were instrumental in the Lord’s preparation of Peter: the right raw material, the right experience, and the right lessons.

The Right Raw Material

Peter had the right raw material from which Jesus could fashion the sort of leader He intended Peter to be. Peter was a big beginning; he had potential. But while he was in control of his own life, his beginnings never got further than that and his potential was not always easy to see.

But one of Peter’s qualifications for leadership is seen in his continually asking questions of Jesus. He always wanted to know the what, when, where, and why of everything the Lord said and did. Many of his questions were superficial and immature, but they reflected a genuine concern about Jesus and His work. A person who does not ask questions has little chance for success as a leader, because he has no desire or willingness to inquire about what he does not understand. When the other disciples failed to understand something, they appear to have been more likely to keep quiet or simply discuss their doubts and questions among themselves. Peter, on the other hand, was never reluctant to ask Jesus about whatever was on his mind.

When Peter did not understand what Jesus meant when He said that it is “not what enters into the mouth [that] defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth,” he asked, “Explain the parable to us” (Matt. 15:11, 15). When he was concerned about the reward he and his fellow disciples would get for leaving all and following Jesus, he did not hesitate asking about it (Matt. 19:27). Peter wondered about the fig tree that Jesus caused to wither (Mark 11:21) and, with James, John, and Andrew he asked Jesus to explain when and how the Temple would be destroyed (Mark 13:4). After Peter was told that he would be a martyr for the Lord, he asked about John’s fate: “Lord, and what about this man?” (John 21:21). Peter’s questions seldom received the answer he expected, because they usually were self-centered or completely missed the primary truth Jesus was explaining. But the Lord used even his poor questions to patiently train him in leadership. Peter’s questions, immature as many of them were, gave the Lord an opportunity to help him grow.

Second, Peter showed initiative, another necessary ingredient of leadership. Just as he was usually the first to ask Jesus questions, he was also usually the first to respond to questions Jesus asked. When the Lord asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter immediately replied, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:15–16). When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Peter therefore having a sword, drew it, and struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear” (John 18:10). Even though his actions were often misguided, Peter was ready to respond in what he thought was Christ’s behalf.

Third, Peter positioned himself in the middle of the activity. He was a natural participant, never content to be on the sidelines. He stayed as close to Jesus as possible and wanted to be a part of everything that happened. Even when he denied the Lord, he was at least as near to Jesus as he could be, whereas all the other disciples were nowhere to be found. When they were told of Jesus’ resurrection, Peter reached the tomb after John only because John was a better runner (John 20:4). Peter was always there.

The bold fisherman was a native of Bethsaida and later moved to Capernaum, where he and his father, John (or Jonas), and brother, Andrew carried on their trade. Because he had a mother-in-law, we know that Peter was married when Jesus called him (Matt. 8:14), and from Paul’s comments in 1 Corinthians 9:5, it is likely that Peter’s wife traveled with him throughout his apostolic ministry.

Even Peter’s names give insight into his character. He was given the common name Simon by his parents, but Jesus changed his name to Peter (Cephas in Aramaic) which means stone (Matt. 16:18). By nature Peter was vacillating and unstable, and when the Lord named him Peter, the other disciples doubtlessly had great reservations about the appropriateness of his new name. But the new name was perhaps a gentle and encouraging reminder to Simon of the kind of man Jesus called him to become.

Peter is usually referred to as Simon when the purpose is simply to identify him or something related to him-such as his house or mother-in-law (Mark 1:29–30), his boat (Luke 5:3), or his fishing partners (Luke 5:10). He is also referred to as Simon whenever he is reprimanded for sin or displays special weakness, as when he questioned Jesus’ advice to go “out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4). When Jesus came back from prayer in the garden and found the disciples sleeping, He said, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour?” (Mark 14:37). After the resurrection Peter disobediently returned to his fishing, and when the Lord confronted him three times about his faithfulness, each time He addressed him as Simon (John 21:15–17). He used his old name to point out that he was acting like his old self.

In John’s gospel Peter is called by both names together (Simon Peter) some seventeen times. Perhaps because John knew Peter so well he used the two names to depict both the old and the new characteristics of his friend, which were often intermixed and difficult to distinguish.

The Right Experiences

A second element in preparing for leadership is having right experiences. The Lord brought into Peter’s life all the experiences necessary to develop his leadership ability.

First of all, Jesus gave Peter wondrous revelations. When Peter first confessed that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus explained to him. “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 16:16–17). When many of Jesus’ followers forsook Him because of His teaching about the cost of discipleship, using the figure of eating His flesh and drinking His blood, the Lord asked the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Peter’s response on that occasion seems also to have been inspired of God as he said. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.” (John 6:66–68).

Jesus was transforming Peter by letting him know that God wanted to use his mouth to proclaim the great delivering truth of the gospel. One day he would stand up boldly and say, “Men of Judea, and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give heed to my words” (Acts 2:14). And one day he would take a pen and write God’s revelation in the form of two New Testament epistles.

Second, Peter was given great honor and reward. After Jesus explained to Peter that the truth of his confession was revealed to him by the Father, He said. “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:18). The lord used Peter to preach the great sermon at Pentecost to tire Jews assembled there from all over the world, and He used Peter to bring the gospel to Cornelius, the first Gentile convert. Peter unlocked the doors of the gospel to both the Jews and the Gentiles.

All of the apostles opened the door to the kingdom as they, preached the gospel of salvation, and every time any man of God preaches Christ he, too, unlocks those kingdom doors to let men in.

Third, Peter experienced great rebuke. A short while after Jesus honored Peter by the declaration just mentioned above, Peter himself proved that our Lord’s reference could not have been to him, since he was then anything but a solid foundation on which Christ could build His church. Perhaps feeling proud and overconfident as the leading disciple, he demonstrated that his mouth could be used by Satan as well as by God. When the Lord “began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day, … Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You’ ” But his severe rebuke of Jesus brought an even more severe rebuke from Jesus: “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s” (Matt. 16:21–23).

A great danger of leadership is not knowing its limits. Many dictators and demagogues were once capable public servants, but great honor and power caused them to believe the right of leadership lay in themselves rather than in their privileged office. When Peter began elevating his own position and understanding, he found himself serving Satan rather than God. Great potential for being used by God also brings great potential for being used by Satan.

Fourth, Peter experienced what might be called great rejection, not by Jesus but of Him. Peter’s extreme self-confidence again caused him to fail Jesus exactly at the point where he thought he was strongest. Just as confidence in his own wisdom resulted in his rebuke by Jesus, his confidence in his own dependability resulted in his rejection of Jesus. When Jesus predicted that all the disciples would fall away when He was arrested, Peter again contradicted Him, asserting, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away” When Jesus went on to say that Peter’s falling away would occur that very night and would, in fact, happen three times, Peter protested even more strongly: “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” Following his lead, “all the disciples said the same thing too.” Jesus, of course, again proved right and Peter again proved wrong. While he warmed himself in the courtyard of the high priest, Peter not only denied the Lord three times, but progressively denied Him more vehemently (Matt. 26:31–35, 69–75).

Fifth, Peter experienced a great recommissioning. When Jesus confronted him with the lack of love, Peter assured the Lord three times that he did indeed love Him, and Jesus three times reinstated him and charged him to care for His flock. Jesus had not given up on Peter. He reassured His faltering disciple that his calling still stood and commanded him again just as He had in the beginning, “Follow Me!” (John 21:15–19).

The Right Attitudes

A third element in Jesus’ training of Peter was teaching him the principles of godly leadership. First of all, because leaders can easily become domineering, they have a special need to learn submission. When the Capernaum tax collectors demanded a two-drachma Temple tax from Jesus, He commanded Peter to go and catch a fish, in whose mouth would be a stater, exactly enough to pay the tax for both Jesus and Peter (Matt. 17:24–27). From that experience Peter learned a lesson not only in submitting to Jesus but to human authorities. In his first letter he wrote, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. … Honor all men; love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king” (1 Pet. 2:13–15, 17).

Second, Peter needed to learn restraint, of which he needed a double portion. As already mentioned, when the Roman soldiers came with the officers of the chief priests and the Pharisees to arrest Jesus in the garden, Peter drew his sword and began to fight-even though the Roman cohort alone may have numbered 500 or more men. Jesus told Peter to put away his sword and to let God’s divine plan take its course (John 18:10–11).

Third, Peter needed to learn humility; and again he needed a double portion. Only a few hours after he proudly boasted, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away,” Peter denied the Lord three times-although he was in little, if any, danger (Matt. 26:33, 69–75). But he eventually learned his lesson, and many years later wrote, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5).

Fourth, Peter needed to learn to sacrifice, and Jesus promised him, “ ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself, and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.’ Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, ‘Follow Me!’ ” (John 21:18–19). When Peter became concerned that John might not have to pay such a costly sacrifice, Jesus told him sternly, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” (vv. 21–22). For the second time on this occasion Jesus commanded Peter to follow Him, this time using the emphatic su (“you”).

That was the last time Jesus had to command Peter to follow Him. From then on, Peter obeyed whatever the cost. He even learned to rejoice in his suffering for Christ, and wrote, “To the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. … If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God. … Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (1 Pet. 4:13–14, 16, 19).

Fifth, Peter needed to learn love. It was lack of genuine love that caused Peter to deny His Lord, and it was about that love that Jesus pressed him three times. The Holy Spirit led Peter and John to minister together in the early years of the church, and Peter no doubt learned many lessons in true love from the great apostle of love.

Jesus’ washing the disciples’ feet not only was an example of humility but of the source of humility-love. Service to others, no matter how costly or demeaning, is neither humble nor godly if done from any motive but love (cf. 1 Cor. 13:3). Peter records the lesson he learned: “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8)

Sixth, Peter needed to learn courage. Because Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s suffering pointed to great sacrifice, it also pointed to need of great courage. When Peter was brought before the high priest and the Sanhedrin, or Council, for preaching the gospel, he was no longer the fearful coward he had been in the high priest’s courtyard the night of Jesus’ arrest. Now confident in his Lord rather than in himself, he stood boldly and declared, “Let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead-by this name this man [the one Peter had healed in Solomon’s portico] stands here before you in good health. He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the very corner stone” (Acts 4:10–11; cf. 3:1–8). When the Council again charged Peter and John not to continue preaching, the apostles replied, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard” (v. 19–20). At the subsequent prayer meeting in Jerusalem they prayed for continued boldness; and “when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak the word of God with boldness” (v. 31).

Peter often learned his lessons slowly, but he learned them well. He took the initiative to seek someone to replace Judas among the apostles (Acts 1:15–17), became the first spokesman of the church at Pentecost (2:14), was the first to defend the gospel before the Sanhednn (4:8), was the first to enact church discipline (in dealing with the deceit of Ananias and Sapphira, 5:3–9), confronted Simon the magician when he attempted to pervert God’s power to his own advantage (8:18–23), healed Aeneas and raised Dorcas from the dead (9:34, 40), was the first to take the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10), and wrote two marvelous epistles in which he humbly included all the lessons Jesus had patiently taught him.

Peter was a man God touched with His grace in a special way. As a “wandering heart” that God finally captured and claimed for Himself, Peter would have sung joyfully the words of Robert Robinson’s beloved hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”:

O to grace how great a debtor

Daily I’m constrained to be!

Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,

Bind my wandering heart to Thee.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,

Prone to leave the God I love;

Take my heart, O take and seal it,

Seal it for Thy courts above.

Tradition reports that Peter died a cruel death. And before he himself was crucified, he is said to have been forced to witness the crucifixion of his wife. In his Ecclesiastical History, the early church Father Eusebius writes that Peter stood at the foot of his wife’s cross and kept repeating to her, “Remember the Lord. Remember the Lord.” After she died, it is said he pleaded to be crucified upside down, because he was unworthy to die as his Lord had died.

Peter’s life can be summed up in the last words of his second epistle: “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To Him be glory, both now and forever. Amen” (2 Pet. 3:18).[2]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 139). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (p. 141). Chicago: Moody Press.

MAY 6 – LEAN BACK ON THE KEEPING POWER OF GOD

…Kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

1 PETER 1:5

Christian believers need always to be leaning back very strongly on the keeping power of God!

The Apostle Peter says plainly that those who are elect, begotten, obedient and believing have this power of God reflected in their daily lives.

Elect: that is God’s business and it was His business before we knew anything about it!

Begotten: that is God’s business as we believe in His Son!

Obedient and believing: we who are kept by the power of God through faith unto an inheritance!

So there we are—and as Christians, we are not only rich but nobly rich! Rich with riches which need no apology. Riches which have no taint of having come to us through defiled hands.

I wonder when we will begin to behave and to live on the level of our spiritual riches instead of acting like poverty-stricken creatures trying to crawl under a leaf so we will not be seen?

Let’s let the world know how rich we really are! Let’s tell it—we are being kept by the power of God unto an inheritance reserved in heaven for us!

That is the full-time business of the child of God![1]


The Security of the Believer’s Inheritance

reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1:4b–5)

Having pledged that the believer’s spiritual inheritance was permanent in nature, Peter adds to his readers’ security by declaring that the believer’s inheritance is reserved in heaven. Its nature is fixed and unalterable and so is its place. Reserved (tetērēmenēn) means “guarded” or “watched over.” The perfect passive participle conveys the idea of the already existing inheritance being carefully guarded in heaven for all those who trust in Christ. Not only will that inheritance not change, but no one will plunder it. The reality of a guarded and imperishable eternal inheritance is precisely what Jesus referred to when He said,

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:19–21)

Heaven is the securest place in all the universe. The apostle John characterizes it as a place where “nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev. 21:27; cf. 22:14–15).

Not only is the inheritance divinely guarded, those who possess it are also protected by the power of God from doing anything to forfeit it or be severed from it. God’s power is His sovereign omnipotence that continuously protects His elect. If God is for believers, no one can successfully oppose them (Rom. 8:31–39; Jude 24). All the details of this promise are to provide the believer with an undying hope of heaven, so as to provide joy and endurance.

The Christian’s continued faith in God is evidence of His keeping and protecting work (John 8:31; Col. 1:21–23; Heb. 3:6, 14; James 2:17, 20–26; 1 John 5:4, 11–13). At conversion, God energizes faith in believers’ hearts, and as He keeps them He continues to energize their faith (Ps. 37:24; John 10:28; Phil. 1:6). By His grace, God’s omnipotent, protecting power and the believer’s perseverance of faith always work hand in hand (cf. Dan. 6:1–23).

This security for the believer and his inheritance both look beyond this life and human history for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Salvation (sōtērian) means “rescue” or “deliverance,” and here it denotes the full, final, eternal life God has not yet consummated. The New Testament implicitly reveals a threefold chronology for salvation. The past aspect of salvation is justification; it comes when one believes in Christ (Rom. 10:9–10, 14–17) and is delivered from the penalty of sin. The present aspect of salvation is sanctification. Believers are continually being delivered from the power of sin (1 John 1:9). Ephesians 2:8 declares, “For by grace you have been saved.” The Greek literally says, “you are having been saved.” Salvation thus is a past occurrence with continuing results in the present. Third, salvation also has a future aspect, glorification (cf. Rom. 13:11). Whenever a believer dies, God completely and finally delivers him from the presence of sin (cf. Heb. 9:28) and instantly brings him into his eternal inheritance in His heavenly presence. Paul eloquently expressed to Timothy his personal confidence in the certainty of his future inheritance: “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (2 Tim. 4:18; cf. Acts 26:18; Eph. 1:11, 14, 18; Col. 1:12).

The book of Hebrews has much to say about the believer’s future inheritance. In reference to angels, the writer rhetorically asks, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?” (1:14). Later on the writer says this concerning Christ and the new covenant: “For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” (9:15; cf. v. 28).

The future aspect of salvation is particularly said to be ready, that is, complete and already awaiting the believer’s arrival. But future salvation is also connected to the end of human history. Peter says it is to be revealed in the last time. God will not make believers’ inheritance fully complete until the last episode of redemptive history, namely the return of Jesus Christ (cf. Matt. 25:34). After the rapture, all believers receive rewards at the judgment seat of Christ:

For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. (1 Cor. 3:11–14; cf. 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Tim. 4:1, 8)

And the fullness of the Christian’s eternal inheritance will be realized at the end of the millennial kingdom when God creates the new heaven and new earth (Rev. 21:1–27):

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever. (Rev. 22:1–5)

Just as originally the Lord Himself was the inheritance of the Levites (Josh. 13:33), the priestly tribe of Israel, so He also is the inheritance of the royal priesthood of Christ (1 Peter 2:9). The psalmist knew with certainty that he would inherit God: “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me” (Ps. 16:5–6; cf. 73:23–26). The prophet Jeremiah, even in the midst of the most difficult times, firmly grasped the same concept: “ ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I have hope in Him’ ” (Lam. 3:24). Christians are also heirs of God with Christ: “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:16–17).

Christians possess some of the benefits of salvation in this life, but the great fullness of redemption is yet to come. God has promised unfathomable glories in the eternal perfection of heaven that will one day be the conscious experience of every believer. He is the source of the believer’s inheritance; it came because of His mercy and by the gracious means of the new birth; and it remains perfect and eternally secure, a reality all believers can fix their hope on.[2]


1:5 Not only is the inheritance guarded for Christians, but they are kept or guarded for it. In this life an heir may die before an inheritance is divided. But the same grace that preserves the heavenly inheritance preserves us as heirs to enjoy it. God’s election of His people can never be frustrated. Those who were chosen in eternity past are saved in time now and kept for eternity to come. The believer in Christ is eternally secure.

But there is a human as well as a divine side to eternal security. We are kept by the power of God—that is the divine side, but it is through faith—that is the human side. This does not mean that a person is saved only as long as he exercises faith. Where there is true faith, there will be continuance. Saving faith always has the quality of permanence.

The child of God is guarded by the power of God for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. This refers to salvation in its future tense. It has often been pointed out that there are three tenses of salvation: (1) A Christian was saved from the penalty of sin the moment he first trusted the Savior (Eph. 2:8). (2) He is saved daily from the power of sin as he allows the Savior to live His life through him (Rom. 5:10). (3) He will be saved from the presence of sin at the time of the Rapture (Heb. 9:28). His body will be changed and glorified, and be forever free from sin, sickness, and death. This future tense of salvation also includes the time when the saints will return to earth with Christ and will be clearly shown to be children of God (1 Jn. 3:2).[3]


5 Salvation, whether in its past, present, or future manifestation, is a core Petrine concept (sōzō, GK 5392, 3:21; 4:18; diasōzō, GK 1407, 3:20; sōteria, GK 5401, 1:5, 9–10; 2:2). While it entails the individual, it does not emphasize the individual over the community. The salvation that comes from God, furthermore, has both temporal as well as eschatological dimensions.

This multi-perspectival view of salvation and inheritance, it should be noted, fits the theme of sojourning and pilgrimage. In the OT, the chief means of typologizing the believer’s inheritance was Canaan, the promised possession (e.g., Lev 20:24; Dt 15:4; 19:10; 20:15), though the Lord himself is the occasional object of such language (e.g., Dt 10:9; Pss 16:5; 73:26). The promised “land” only had meaning, however, against the background of Israel’s wandering in the desert and exile in Babylon. Salvation for Israel was past (i.e., deliverance from Egyptian bondage), present (in its “exilic wandering”), and future (blessings predicated on obedience to divine commands), and it retains these multiple dimensions in the new covenant for the chosen people of God.[4]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter (pp. 36–38). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 2251–2252). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Charles, D. J. (2006). 1 Peter. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 301). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

MAY 6 – THE ETHICS OF JESUS

And ye shall be witnesses unto me.

Acts 1:8

The teachings of Jesus belong to the Church, not to society, for in society is sin, and sin is hostility to God!

Christ did not teach that He would impose His teachings upon the fallen world. He called His disciples to Him and taught them, and everywhere throughout His teachings there is the overt or implied idea that His followers will constitute an unpopular minority group in an actively hostile world.

The divine procedure is to go into the world of fallen men, preach to them the necessity to repent and become disciples of Christ and, after making disciples, to teach them “the ethics of Jesus,” which Christ called “all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20).

The ethics of Jesus cannot be obeyed or even understood until the life of God has come to the heart of a man or woman in the miracle of the new birth.

The righteousness of the law is fulfilled in those who walk in the Spirit. Christ lives again in His redeemed followers the life He lived in Judea, for righteousness can never be divorced from its source, which is Jesus Christ Himself!

Lord, pour out Your Spirit upon our nation today, that men and women will be convicted of sin and turn their lives over to You.[1]


The Mission

“you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (1:8b)

Rather than engage in useless speculation over the time for the coming of the kingdom, the apostles were to focus on the work at hand. Witnesses are those who see something and tell others about it. I once witnessed an attempted murder. When I testified in court, they wanted to know three things: what I saw, heard, and felt. I was reminded of 1 John 1:1–2, where John writes, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life … we have seen and bear witness and proclaim to you.” A witness for Jesus Christ is simply someone who tells the truth about Him. The apostles, as Peter points out, “were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).

This was the foremost purpose for which the empowering of the Holy Spirit came. And the early church was so effective that they “upset the world” (Acts 17:6). Jesus commands all believers to be His witness in the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19–20).

So many Christians sealed their witness to Christ with their blood that marturēs (witnesses) came to mean “martyrs.” Their blood, as the second-century theologian Tertullian stated, became the seed of the church. Many were drawn to faith in Christ by observing how calmly and joyously Christians met their deaths.

There is a sense in which believers do not even choose whether or not to be witnesses. They are witnesses, and the only question is how effective their witness is. If the church is to reach the lost world with the good news of the gospel, believers must “sanctify Christ as Lord in [their] hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks [them] to give an account for the hope that is in [them]” (1 Peter 3:15). Titus 2 indicates that how Christians live their lives lays the platform of integrity and believability on which effective personal witness is built. In that text, Paul writes that we are to so live “that the word of God may not be dishonored” (v. 5), “that the opponent [of the Christian faith] may be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us” (v. 8), and “that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect” (v. 10), so that we may make it possible that the saving gospel comes winsomely to all.

Beginning in Jerusalem, the apostles carried out the Lord’s mandate. Their witness spread beyond there to all Judea and Samaria (The neighboring area), and finally even to the remotest part of the earth. Verse 8 provides the general outline for the book of Acts. Following that outline, Luke chronicles the irresistible march of Christianity from Jerusalem, into Samaria and then through the Roman world. As the book unfolds, we will move through those three sections of the expansion of the church.

This beginning was to dramatically alter the course of history, and the spread of the gospel message has continued past Acts to reach all the earth. Today, believers continue to have the responsibility for being Christ’s witnesses throughout this world. The sphere for witnessing is as extensive as the kingdom—all the world. That was and is the mission for the church until Jesus comes.[2]


1:8 Having suppressed their curiosity as to the future date of this kingdom, the Lord Jesus directed their attention to what was more immediate—the nature and sphere of their mission. As to its nature, they were to be witnesses; as to its sphere, they were to witness in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

But first they must receive power—the power of the Holy Spirit. This power is the grand indispensable of Christian witness. A man may be highly talented, intensively trained, and widely experienced, but without spiritual power he is ineffective. On the other hand, a man may be uneducated, unattractive, and unrefined, yet let him be endued with the power of the Holy Spirit and the world will turn out to see him burn for God. The fearful disciples needed power for witnessing, holy boldness for preaching the gospel. They would receive this power when the Holy Spirit came upon them.

Their witness was to begin in Jerusalem, a meaningful prearrangement of the grace of God. The very city where our Lord was crucified was first to receive the call to repentance and faith in Him.

Then Judea, the southern section of Palestine with its strong Jewish population, and with Jerusalem as its chief city.

Then Samaria, the region in the center of Palestine, with its hated, half-breed population with whom the Jews had no dealings.

Then the end of the then-known world—the Gentile countries which had hitherto been outside the pale as far as religious privilege was concerned. In this ever widening circle of witness, we have a general outline of the flow of history in Acts.

  1. The witness in Jerusalem (Chaps. 1–7)
  2. The witness in Judea and Samaria (8:1–9:31)
  3. The witness to the end of the earth (9:32–28:31)[3]

8 The mandate to witness that stands as the theme for the whole of Acts is here explicitly set out. It comes as a direct commission from Jesus himself—in fact, as Jesus’ last word before his ascension and, therefore, as a mandate that is final and conclusive. All that follows in Acts is shown to be the result of Jesus’ own intent and the fulfillment of his express word.

This commission lays an obligation on all Christians and comes as a gift with a promise. It concerns a person, a power, and a program—the person of Jesus, on whose authority the church acts and who is the object of its witness; the power of the Holy Spirit, which is the sine qua non for the mission; and a program that begins at Jerusalem, moves out to “all Judea and Samaria,” and extends “to the ends of the earth.” The Christian church, according to Acts, (1) is a missionary church that responds obediently to Jesus’ commission, (2) acts on Jesus’ behalf in the extension of his ministry, (3) focuses its proclamation of the kingdom of God in its witness to Jesus, (4) is guided and empowered by the very same Spirit that directed and supported Jesus’ ministry, and (5) follows a program whose guidelines for outreach have been set by Jesus himself.

Whereas the geographical movement of Luke’s gospel was from Galilee through Perea to Jerusalem, in Acts the movement is from Jerusalem through “Judea and Samaria” and on to Rome. The joining of Judea and Samaria by one article in the Greek (en pasē tē Ioudaia kai Samareia, “in all Judea and Samaria”) suggests a single geographical area that can be designated by its two ethnological divisions. And the fact that neither Galilee nor Perea is included in 1:8 as a place to be evangelized (even though 9:31 speaks in summary fashion of a growing church in “Judea, Galilee and Samaria”) is probably because Luke has already shown in his gospel how Jesus had earlier evangelized those areas. So here Jesus’ mandate to witness not only gives us the theme of Acts but also a basic table of contents by its threefold reference to “Jerusalem,” “all Judea and Samaria,” and “the ends of the earth.” To be sure, Luke’s development is fuller and subtler than its succinct form here. Nevertheless, in what follows he shows through a series of vignettes how the mission of the church in its witness to Jesus fared at Jerusalem (2:42–8:3), throughout Judea and Samaria (8:4–12:24), and as it progressed until it finally reached the imperial capital city of Rome (12:25–28:31).[4]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1994). Acts (pp. 19–21). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1578–1579). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Longenecker, R. N. (2007). Acts. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, pp. 718–719). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

May 6 – The Satisfaction of True Giving

When you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.—Matt. 6:3–4

The most satisfying, God-blessed giving is that which we do and then forget about. We do not wait for or want recognition—we’re not even concerned whether the recipient is grateful or not. The act should be so discreet that even our left hand will not realize what happened.

The Old Testament describes giving as a part of God’s cycle of blessing. Proverbs says, “The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered” (11:25). God blesses our giving, and when that occurs we can give some more out of the additional resources He gives. The Lord, through Moses, told the Israelites, “You shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God with a tribute of a freewill offering of your hand, which you shall give just as the Lord your God blesses you” (Deut. 16:10).

Appeals from all sorts of charities, ministries, and causes—some legitimate, others illegitimate—bombard Christians today, perhaps in a greater way than ever before. Having discernment on how to allocate your giving resources can be very difficult. But first of all, you should give systematically to your local church: “On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper” (1 Cor. 16:2). Then you can be alert for opportunities to give other amounts directly to individuals in need.

Willing and generous giving has always and should always characterize God’s faithful people.

ASK YOURSELF
Are you being faithful to contribute the firstfruits of your giving—regularly, repeatedly—to the church where you are fed each week? Does this seem like a painful thing to do, or does it instead stir gratitude within you? As you pray, ask God to lead you with wisdom, sensitivity, and generosity to other people and ministries He wants to bless through you.[1]

The Practice and Reward of True Giving

But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you. (6:3–4)

To not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing was possibly a proverbial expression that simply referred to doing something spontaneously, with no special effort or show. The right hand was considered the primary hand of action, and in a normal day’s work the right hand would do many things as a matter of course that would not involve the left hand. Giving to help those in need should be a normal activity of the Christian, and he should do it as simply, directly, and discreetly as possible.

The most satisfying giving, and the giving that God blesses, is that which is done and forgotten. It is done in love out of response to a need, and when the need is met the giver goes on about his business, not waiting for or wanting recognition. What has been done should even be a secret to our left hand, not to mention to other people. Whether the person we help is grateful or ungrateful should not matter as far as our own purpose is concerned. If he is ungrateful, we are sorry for his sake, not our own.

It is said that there was a special, out-of-the-way place in the Temple where shy, humble Jews could leave their gifts without being noticed. Another place nearby was provided for the shy poor, who did not want to be seen asking for help. Here they would come and take what they needed. The name of the place was the Chamber of the Silent. People gave and people were helped, but no one knew the identities of either group. (Cf. Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, vol. 2 [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972], p. 387; Joachim Jeremias,Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969], p. 133; and William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, 2 vols. [rev. ed.; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975], 1:171, 188.)

Matthew 6:3 has often been interpreted to mean that all good works are to be done in absolute secrecy. But true righteousness cannot be kept entirely secret, and should not be. “How blessed are those who keep justice, who practice righteousness at all times!” (Ps. 106:3). Isaiah says, “Yet they seek Me day by day, and delight to know My ways, as a nation that has done righteousness, and has not forsaken the ordinance of their God” (Isa. 58:2). John tells us, “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him” (1 John 2:29).

Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus had specifically commanded, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). The question is not whether or not our good works should be seen by others, but whether they are done for that end. When they are done “in such a way” that attention and glory are focused on our “Father who is in heaven” rather than on ourselves, God is pleased. But if they are done to be noticed by men (6:1), they are done self-righteously and hypocritically and are rejected by God. The difference is in purpose and motivation. When what we do is done in the right spirit and for the right purpose, it will almost inevitably be done in the right way.

The teachings of Matthew 5:16 and 6:1 are often thought to conflict with each other because it is not recognized that they relate to different sins. The discrepancy is only imaginary. In the first passage Jesus is dealing with cowardice, whereas in the second He is dealing with hypocrisy. A. B. Bruce gives the helpful explanation, “We are to show when tempted to hide and hide when tempted to show.”

Never in the history of the church have Christians been so bombarded with appeals to give money, many of them to legitimate and worthwhile causes. Knowing how and where to give is sometimes extremely difficult. Christians are to give regularly and systematically to the work of their local church. “On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper” (1 Cor. 16:2). But we are also called to give directly to those in need when we have opportunity and ability. Both the Old and New Testaments make it clear that willing, generous giving has always characterized the faithful people of God.

God does not need our gifts, because He is entirely sufficient in Himself. The need is on our part and on the part of those we serve in His name. Paul told the Philippian church, “Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account” (Phil. 4:17).

Giving is described in the Old Testament as a part of God’s cycle of blessing. “The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered” (Prov. 11:25). As we give, God blesses, and when God blesses us we give again out of what He has given. “You shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God with a tribute of a freewill offering of your hand, which you shall give just as the Lord your God blesses you” (Deut. 16:10). We are to give freely out of what God has given freely.

The cycle applies not only to material giving but to every form of giving that is done sincerely to honor God and to meet need. The way of God’s people has always been the way of giving.

From Scripture we learn of at least seven principles to guide us in nonhypocritical giving. First, giving from the heart is investing with God. “Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return” (Luke 6:38). Paul echoes Jesus’ words: “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully” (2 Cor. 9:6).

Second, genuine giving is to be sacrificial. David refused to give to the Lord that which cost him nothing (2 Sam. 24:24). Generosity is not measured by the size of the gift itself, but by its size in comparison to what is possessed. The widow who gave “two small copper coins” to the Temple treasury gave more than all the “many rich people [who] were putting in large sums” because “they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:41–44).

Third, responsibility for giving has no relationship to how much a person has. A person who is not generous when he is poor will not be generous if he becomes rich. He might then give a larger amount, but he will not give a larger proportion. “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much” (Luke 16:10). It is extremely important to teach children to give generously to the Lord with whatever small amounts of money they get, because the attitudes and patterns they develop as children are likely to be the ones they follow when they are grown. Giving is not a matter of how much money one has but of how much love and care is in the heart.

Fourth, material giving correlates to spiritual blessings. To those who are not faithful with mundane things such as money and other possessions, the Lord will not entrust things that are of far greater value. “If therefore you have not been faithful in the use ofunrighteous mammon, who will entrust the true riches to you? And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?” (Luke 16:11–12).

Many young men have dropped out of seminary because they could not handle money, and the Lord did not want them in His ministry. Others have begun in the ministry but later dropped out for the same reason. Still others remain in the ministry but produce little fruit because God will not commit the care of eternal souls to them when they cannot even manage their own finances. Spiritual influences and effectiveness have a lot to do with how well finances are handled.

Fifth, giving is to be personally determined. “Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). Righteous giving is done from a righteous and generous heart, not from legalistic percentages or quotas. The Macedonian Christians gave abundantly out of their deep financial poverty because spiritually they were rich in love (2 Cor. 8:1–2). The Philippian believers gave out of the spontaneous generosity of their hearts, not because they felt compelled (Phil. 4:15–18).

Sixth, we are to give in response to need. The early Christians in Jerusalem shared their resources without reservation. Many of their fellow believers had become destitute when they trusted in Christ and were ostracized from their families and lost employment because of their faith. Years later Paul collected money from the Galatian churches to help meet the great needs that continued to exist among the saints in Jerusalem and that had been intensified by famine.

There have always been charlatans who manufacture needs and play on the sympathy of others. And there have always been professional beggars, who are able to work but would rather not. A Christian has no responsibility to support such people and should take reasonable care to determine if and when real need exists before giving his money. “If anyone will not work,” Paul says, “neither let him eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). Encouraging indolence weakens the character of the one who is indolent and also wastes the Lord’s money. But where real need does exist, our obligation to help meet it also exists.

Seventh, giving demonstrates love, not law. The New Testament contains no commands for specified amounts or percentages of giving. The percentage we give will be determined by the love of our own hearts and the needs of others.

All of the previous principles point to the obligation to give generously because we are investing in God’s work, because we are willing to sacrifice for Him who sacrificed Himself for us, because it has no bearing on how much we have, because we want spiritual riches more than financial riches, because we have personally determined to give, because we want to meet as much need as we can, and because our love compels us to give.

As in every area of righteousness, the key is the heart, the inner attitude that motivates what we say and do. Public righteousness is not to be rejected, but it is to be done in the spirit of humility, love, and sincerity. “For we are [God’s] workmanship,” Paul reminds us, “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

Also as in every area of righteousness, Jesus Himself is our supreme and perfect example. He preached His messages in public, He performed His miracles of healing, compassion, and power over nature in public. Yet He continually focused attention on His heavenly Father, whose will alone He came to do (John 5:30; cf. 4:34; 6:38). Even though He was one with the Father, while He lived on earth as a man Jesus did not seek His own glory but that of His Father (John 8:49–50).

When we give our alms … in secret, lovingly, unpretentiously, and with no thought for recognition or appreciation, our Father who sees in secret will repay us. The principle is this: if we remember, God will forget; but if we forget, God will remember. Our purpose should be to meet every need we are able to meet and leave the bookkeeping to God, realizing that “we have done only that which we ought to have done” (Luke 17:10).

God will not miss giving a single reward. “There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13). The Lord knows our hearts, our attitudes, and our motives, and every reward that is due us will be given.

It is God’s perfect plan and will to give rewards to those who faithfully trust and obey Him. And it is not unspiritual to expect and anticipate those rewards, if we do so in a spirit of humility and gratitude-knowing that God’s rewards manifest His grace to the undeserving. We can meet His merciful requirements for rewards, but we can never truly earn them.

The greatest reward a believer can have is the knowledge that he has pleased his Lord. Our motive for looking forward to His rewards should be the anticipation of casting them as an offering at His feet, even as the twenty-four elders one day “will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power’ ” (Rev. 4:10–11).[2]


6:3, 4 When a follower of Christ does a charitable deed, it is to be done in secret. It should be so secret that Jesus told His disciples: “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” Jesus uses this graphic figure of speech to show that our charitable deed should be for the Father, and not to gain notoriety for the giver.

This passage should not be pressed to prohibit any gift that might be seen by others, since it is virtually impossible to make all one’s contributions strictly anonymous. It simply condemns the blatant display of giving.[3]


3–4 The way to avoid hypocrisy is not to cease giving but to do so with such secrecy that we scarcely know what we have given. Jesus’ disciples must themselves be so given to God (cf. 2 Co 8:5) that their giving is prompted by obeying God and having compassion on others. Then their Father, who sees what is done in secret (Heb 4:13), will reward them. The verb “to reward” (apodidomai, GK 625), with God as subject, here and in vv. 6, 18, is different from that used in v. 2. Bonnard rightly notes it has a sense of “pay back,” and this is compatible with “reward” (see comments at 5:12). “Openly” (KJV), here and in vv. 6, 18, is a late gloss designed to complete the antithetic parallelism with “secretly” or “in secret.” Jesus does not discuss the locale and nature of the reward, but we will not be far from the NT evidence if we understand it to be “both in time and in eternity, both in character and in felicity” (Broadus).[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 135). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 356–360). Chicago: Moody Press.

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

[4] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, p. 198). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

MAY 6 – EXALTED WORSHIP

Above it stood the seraphims…and one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

—Isaiah 6:2-3

Now, because we are dealing with worship, let us consider the joys and delights of the heavenly creatures, the seraphim, around the throne of God….

We know very little about these created beings, but I am impressed by their attitude of exalted worship. They are close to the throne and they burn with rapturous love for the Godhead. They were engrossed in their antiphonal chants, “Holy, holy, holy!”…

The key words then and the keynote still of our worship must be “Holy, holy, holy!”

I am finding that many Christians are really not comfortable with the holy attributes of God. In such cases I am forced to wonder about the quality of the worship they try to offer to Him.

The word “holy” is more than an adjective saying that God is a holy God—it is an ecstatic ascription of glory to the Triune God. WHT071-072

Lord, I come before You this day and cry with the seraphim, “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts.” May I always approach You with such an attitude of worship. Amen. [1]


6:2–5 Attending Him were celestial beings called seraphim, with “four wings for reverence and two for service.” These celebrate the holiness of God and require that God’s servants be cleansed before serving Him.

The vision produced deep conviction of sin in the prophet, then brought him to the place of confession.[2]


2 This is the only biblical passage where heavenly beings are called “seraphs.” It is evident from references in Scripture to angels, archangels, principalities, powers, cherubim, seraphim, and so on, that great variety existed among the heavenly beings created by God. This should occasion no surprise, for the created earth, too, is the scene of great diversity.

The seraphs are bright creatures, for the word means “burning ones”; yet they hide their faces from the greater brightness and glory of the Lord. Matthew 22:30 does not explicitly deny that angels have sex organs, so covering their feet as a euphemism for these cannot be completely ruled out. Covering the feet may also suggest humility.

3 There is no indication of the number of seraphs seen by Isaiah. Many scholars think he was present at an act of worship in the temple, perhaps at the new year, and that the antiphonal singing of the Levitical choir was echoed by the heavenly seraphs of his vision. This is conjectural but cannot be ruled out. The apostle Paul evidently believed that angels are present at Christian worship. It is interesting that the chief passage in which this idea appears (1 Co 11:2–16) deals with veiling and unveiling in the presence of God, referred to also here.

The trisagion, or threefold ascription of holiness (cf. Rev 4:8), has been interpreted in reference to the Trinity since the early fathers. Cautious commentators, including Calvin, are inclined to play this down somewhat. He says (in loc.), “The ancients quoted this passage when they wished to prove that there are three persons in one essence of the Godhead. I do not disagree with their opinion; but if I had to contend with heretics, I would rather choose to employ stronger proofs.” It is best for us simply to say that—in the fuller light of the NT—we can see the aptness of this threefold expression, which also places added stress on the holiness of the heavenly King. We go to the NT for clear Trinitarian teaching and to the OT for hints of it.

The theme of divine holiness is of towering importance in Isaiah (see Introduction, pp. 448–49). This man of God could never forget the disclosure of transcendent purity he encountered when he was called to prophetic service (cf. Eze 1).

The language of fullness, employing the same Hebrew verb (mālēʾ; GK 4848), occurs three times in these verses (vv. 1, 3–4), twice in application to the temple and once to the whole earth. So this passage, insisting as it does on the awesome transcendence of the sovereign God, also emphatically teaches his immanence. His transcendence is not remoteness or aloofness but is known through his presence in his created world and temple. Divine transcendence and immanence are always held in balance in biblical theism. Isaiah himself expresses this later when he says (12:6), “Great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”

The word “glory” (kābôd; GK 3883) is used of God in his manifestation to his creatures. The essence of deity is inscrutable, but something of his glory can be seen if God is pleased to disclose it (Ex 33:17–23; Eze 1:28). The Targum on Isaiah also employs the word in v. 1, with its rendering “I saw the glory of the Lord.” After quoting Isaiah 6:10, John said that Isaiah “saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him” (Jn 12:41). This NIV rendering takes “his” to be Jesus, which is consistent with the context. This amazing statement is in fact altogether consistent with the high Christology of the NT writers, for Jesus is God incarnate, and the same God is revealed in both Old and New Testaments. This may in fact suggest that John understood the trisagion in Trinitarian terms.[3]


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

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 944). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Grogan, G. W. (2008). Isaiah. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, pp. 506–507). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

May 6 – Trials’ Lessons: Contentment

“Considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt …”

Hebrews 11:26

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Trials can show that material things are inadequate to meet our deepest needs.

We rely every day on material possessions—cars, computers, pagers, telephones, microwaves, radios, and TVs. These familiar conveniences make us feel as though it’s quite a hardship to cope without them. Therefore it’s difficult to avoid the pitfall Jesus warned about in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [riches].”

Materialism can exert such a powerful influence on us as believers that the Lord will sometimes subject us to trials just so He can remove us from the grip of the world’s devices and riches. Various trials and sufferings will almost invariably reveal how inadequate our possessions are to meet our deepest needs or provide genuine relief from the pains and stresses of life. And this realization ought to become more and more true of you as you grow in the Christian life. I have observed that mature believers, as time goes by, become less and less attached to the temporal items they’ve accumulated. Such stuff, along with life’s fleeting experiences, simply fades in importance as you draw closer to the Lord.

Moses is a wonderful example of someone who learned through trials these important lessons about materialism (Heb. 11:24–26). He spent forty years in Pharaoh’s household and was brought up to be an Egyptian prince. But he was willing to leave a position of prestige and power so he could experience something of the sufferings of his fellow Israelites, who were living as slaves in Egypt. God in effect made Moses a participant in Israel’s trials, content to rely on Him, not on the comforts and advantages of materialism: “By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen” (Heb. 11:27).

The Lord might need to get our attention in similar fashion, so that we learn one of the key lessons from life’s trials: to rely on His unlimited spiritual wealth, not on our finite and fading material possessions.

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Suggestions for Prayer: Ask the Lord to make you more willing to rely on His strength and less willing to lean on material things.

For Further Study: Read 1 Timothy 6:6–11. According to Paul, what does contentment involve?[1]


Faith Rejects the World’s Plenty

Considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. (11:26)

Living in Pharaoh’s palace, Moses had everything material he could have wanted. He had more than enough food, possessions, and money. Discoveries such as the tomb of King Tutankhamen, who lived only a hundred or so years after Moses, have shown us how vastly rich Egypt was at its peak. Moses had access to a great deal of wealth, and likely had much in his own possession. He had all the things the world holds dear. He must have been strongly tempted to hold on to them; but he did not.

Considering (hēgeomai) involves careful thought, not quick decision. Moses thought through his decision, weighing the pros and cons. He weighed what Egypt had to offer against what God offered. When he reached a conclusion it was well-founded and certain. God’s offer was infinitely superior in every way. In the eyes of the world no reproach (being ridiculed and persecuted) would be worth sacrificing riches for. Yet Moses believed that the worst he could endure for Christ would be more valuable than the best of the world.

It is interesting that the writer of Hebrews speaks of Moses’ considering the reproach of Christ, since he lived nearly 1500 years before Christ. Christ is the Greek form of Messiah, the Anointed One. Many of God’s special people in the Old Testament are spoken of as being anointed. Anointing set aside a person for special service to the Lord. It is possible, therefore, that Moses was thinking of himself as a type of messiah, a deliverer. If so, verse 26 could read, “considering the reproach of his own messiahship as God’s deliverer, …” It is also possible that the reference is to Moses as a type of Christ, just as Joseph and Joshua are types of Christ.

I believe, however, that the meaning is just as it seems to be in most translations—with “Christ” capitalized. That is, Moses suffered reproach for the sake of Jesus Christ, the true Messiah, because he identified with Messiah’s people and purpose long before Christ came to earth. Every believer since Adam’s fall has been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, no matter in what age he has lived. It is also true, therefore, that any believer at any time who has suffered for God’s sake has suffered for Christ’s sake. In a sense, David suffered just as surely for Christ’s sake as did Paul. In one of his psalms, David says, “The reproaches of those who reproach Thee have fallen on me” (Ps. 69:9). From the other side of the cross Paul made a similar statement: “I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus” (Gal. 6:17). The Messiah has always been identified with His people. In a very real sense, when Israel suffered, Messiah suffered, and when Moses suffered, He suffered. In their afflictions on His behalf, He was afflicted. A comparison of Matthew 2:15 with Hosea 11:1 shows that Messiah is identified intimately with His people. Hosea refers to Israel, Matthew to Jesus Christ. Both Israel and Christ are the son called out of Egypt.

All Christians should willingly bear the same reproach. “Hence, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach” (Heb. 13:13). Everyone who has stood with God by faith, who has lived for Him and turned his back on the world’s plenty and gone the way of God’s direction, has received the reproach of God and of His Anointed, His Christ. It belongs to all who suffer for God’s sake. The church bears the reproach of Christ. After being flogged by the Sanhedrin, the apostles “went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). Moses would have agreed with what Peter wrote: “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Pet. 4:14). Moses rejected the treasures of Egypt and took his stand with God’s Anointed.

We do not know how much Moses knew about God’s future great Deliverer. But he had considerably more light than Abraham, and Jesus tells us plainly that Abraham looked forward to Jesus’ day and rejoiced (John 8:56). In the same way, Moses looked forward to Jesus.

God’s reward is always greater than the world’s. “God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). He supplies according to His riches, not just out of them. A millionaire who gives ten dollars to help someone in need is giving out of his riches but not according to them. If he gave a hundred thousand dollars, however, he would be giving according to his riches. Moses surely saw the reward of a blessed life, but the emphasis is best seen as being on the eternal reward.

“Better is the little of the righteous than the abundance of many wicked” (Ps. 37:16). It is not a sin to be rich, but it is a sin to want to be rich. if we work hard and honestly and to God’s glory, and become wealthy in the process, fine. But if we set our minds on getting rich, we have the wrong motivation. Paul told Timothy, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang. But flee from these things, you man of God; and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness” (1 Tim. 6:10–11). In other words, if along the way God happens to make us rich, wonderful. If in His wisdom he keeps us poor, also wonderful. It should make us no difference, as long as we are in His will. It made Moses no difference. For forty years he enjoyed the riches of Egypt. For the rest of his life, he forsook them, because they interfered with his obedience to God and would have prevented his receiving immeasurably greater riches when it came time for eternal rewards.

Portia, a beautiful and wealthy heiress, is the heroine of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. She had many suitors of noble birth who wanted to marry her. But her father’s will decreed that her husband would be chosen by a certain test. She would belong to the one who chose the right chest out of the three that were prepared. One chest was made of gold. On it was inscribed, “Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire,” and inside was a skull. The second chest was of silver, with the inscription, “Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves,” and inside was the picture of a fool. The winning chest was made of lead and held Portia’s picture. On the outside was the inscription, “Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.” All of her suitors but Bassanio chose one of the first two chests, because both the precious metals and the inscriptions were so attractive. Bassanio picked the one of lead and got Portia’s hand in marriage, because he was willing to give everything he had for the sake of the one he loved.

That is the attitude every Christian should have about Christ. We should be willing to forsake and hazard all we have for the sake of God’s will, knowing with Moses and with Paul that our “momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17; cf. Rom. 8:18).[2]


11:26 Third, he turned his back on the treasures in Egypt. Faith enabled him to see that the fabulous treasure houses of Egypt were worthless in the light of eternity. So he chose to suffer the same kind of reproach as the Messiah would later suffer. Loyalty to God and love for His people were valued by him more that the combined wealth of Pharaoh. He knew that these were the things that would count one minute after he died.[3]


26 “The reproach of Christ” is often taken to be an echo of LXX Psalm 119:5, where the psalmist tells how the other nations “mock your anointed one [Israel],” but it is unlikely our author could expect his readers to understand the familiar name “Christ” in this corporate sense, particularly as he will again use the phrase “his [Christ’s] reproach” in 13:13.

“Looking ahead” translates ἀποβλέπω, apoblepō, literally, “look away” (GK 611); cf. 12:2 where the readers are exhorted to “look away” to Jesus (ἀφοράω, aphoraō [GK 927], a related verb), a metaphor that equally suggests setting this world’s experiences in a wider perspective.[4]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Hebrews (pp. 353–355). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2199). 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. 161). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

May 6 – Abundant Comfort

Just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.

2 Corinthians 1:5, nasb

When we suffer, Christ is with us to comfort us during our heartache. The degree to which He has already experienced the same suffering, and even more, is the reason He is able to comfort us.

The test of your character is your response to the severest times of suffering and persecution. When suffering becomes too intense, the easy response is to get angry and blame God. When persecution becomes too severe, the easy way out is to compromise your faith. To respond in either manner will cause you to miss out on the richest fellowship available to you. That’s because the deepest moments of spiritual fellowship with the living Christ are the direct result of intense suffering.

Suffering always drives us to Christ because we find in Him our merciful high priest who sympathizes “with our weaknesses” (Heb. 4:15) and who “is able to aid those who are tempted” (2:18). So view your sufferings as opportunities to be blessed by Christ as you find comfort in His fellowship.[1]


The Parameters of Comfort

For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. (1:5)

Though God is the God of comfort who comforts His children, there is an important condition for receiving that comfort. God does not promise comfort to those who suffer for their unrepentant sin, but to those who suffer for Christ. Those who experience the sufferings of Christ … in abundance will find that God’s comfort is abundant through Christ. Thus, God’s promised comfort extends as far as believers’ suffering is for the sake of Christ.

Peter stated the conditions for receiving God’s comfort in 1 Peter 4:12–16:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.

Believers will receive comfort in this life and rewards in eternity “to the degree that [they] share the sufferings of Christ.” When they “are reviled for the name of Christ, [they] are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God” will strengthen and comfort them. But then Peter cautions, “Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler,” since the promise of divine comfort does not extend to such people. Sinning Christians can expect God’s chastening instead of His comfort (cf. Heb. 12:5–11).

Paul counted it a privilege to share the sufferings of Christ. He wrote later in this epistle that

we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you. (4:8–12)

He reminded the Galatians, “I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus” (Gal. 6:17). To the Colossians he wrote, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Col. 1:24). In Philippians 3:10 he expressed his longing to “know [Christ] and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (cf. Rom. 8:17). That believers will suffer for Christ is a constant New Testament theme (cf. Matt. 10:22; Luke 14:27; John 15:18–20; Acts 5:41).[2]


1:5 The reason Paul can comfort others is that the comforts of Christ are equal to the sufferings that are endured for Him. The sufferings of Christ here cannot mean the Savior’s atoning sufferings. These were unique, and no man can share them. But Christians can and do suffer because of their association with the Lord Jesus. They suffer reproach, rejection, hostility, hatred, denial, betrayal, etc. These are spoken of as the sufferings of Christ because He endured them when He was on earth, and because He still endures them when the members of His Body experience them. In all our afflictions, He is afflicted (see Isa. 63:9). But Paul’s point here is that there is a rich compensation for all these sufferings, namely, there is a corresponding share in the consolation of Christ and this consolation is abundantly sufficient.[3]


5 This verse supplies the reason (hoti, “for”) why suffering equips the Christian to mediate God’s comfort. Whenever Christ’s sufferings were multiplied in Paul’s life, God’s comfort was also multiplied through the ministry of Christ. The greater the suffering, the greater the comfort and the greater the ability to share with others the divine sympathy. “The sufferings of Christ” (cf. Gal 6:17) cannot refer to the atoning passion of Christ that Paul regarded as a historical fact, a completed event (Ro 5:8–10; 6:10). They probably included all the sufferings that befall the “person in Christ” (12:2) engaged in the service of Christ (cf. 4:11–12). These sufferings endured in union with Christ and for the sake of Christ apparently included both physical afflictions (Ac 14:19; Gal 6:17) and spiritual suffering (2 Co 11:28). They are Christ’s sufferings not simply because they are similar to his, but because they contribute to the fulfillment of the suffering destined for the church as the body of Christ (Ac 14:22; Col 1:24) or because Christ continues to identify himself with his afflicted church (cf. Ac 9:4–5).[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 143). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2003). 2 Corinthians (pp. 24–25). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1820–1821). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Harris, M. J. (2008). 2 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 441). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.