Daily Archives: May 13, 2017

May 13, 2017: Verse of the day


Salvation From the Presence of Sin

looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus; (2:13)

One of the marvelous truths implied in this promise is that one day, when our salvation is perfected, we will be glorified, made fully like our Lord in purity and righteousness. “Beloved, now we are children of God,” John assures us, “and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. [But] we know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2).

That future blessed encounter with our Lord will bring total and permanent removal of sin from our lives. Not even a trace will remain. Paul could therefore say to believers in Philippi, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” because he had the overwhelming “desire to depart and be with Christ” (Phil. 1:21, 23). The apostle could also say to believers in Rome “that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:22–23).

Looking for translates a participle form of prosdechomai, which carries the meanings not only of longing and waiting but also of eager and certain expectation. Hope translates elpis, which, like prosdechomai, includes the connotation of confident certainty. It is an especially blessed, or happy, hope of believers because Paul is not speaking about a fond human wish but about a divinely promised certitude. That certitude is the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus. It is for that reason that the apostle calls it, and that Christians throughout the centuries have called it, the blessed hope, the hope that is above all other hopes.

Appearing is from epiphaneia, which has the root ideas of uncovering, unveiling, and disclosing. Paul uses the term both of Jesus’ first and second comings. At the first “appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus,” He “abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). At His second appearing, He will “judge the living and the dead” and establish His earthly kingdom (2 Tim. 4:1). In the meanwhile, His people are to “keep the commandment without stain or reproach until [that second] appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Tim. 6:14, emphasis added) and are to rejoice that “in the future there is laid up for [them] the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award … to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8, emphasis added).

I do not think Paul is speaking specifically of the Rapture—the time when, just before the seven-year Tribulation, Christ will appear and receive all believers, both living and dead, to Himself (1 Thess. 4:13–17) —as distinguished from His coming in judgment at the end of the Tribulation to establish His millennial kingdom, when “the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds” (Matt. 16:27). It seems rather that the apostle is here referring to Christ’s second coming in general, when He will appear in glory and power rather than in humility and submission as in His first coming.

Paul is focusing on the culmination of our salvation, which will be perfected and completed when our Lord calls us up to the place He has prepared (cf. John 14:1–3), when “we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:51–53; cf. Matt. 24:30–31; 25:31). Paul therefore could assure us that “now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed” (Rom. 13:11). Even while we remain on earth, “our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself” (Phil. 3:20–21). Even when we come back to earth to reign with Him, we will be untemptable and untouchable by sin. In the New Jerusalem, “there shall no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His bond-servants shall serve Him; and they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. And there shall no longer be any night; and they shall not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall illumine them; and they shall reign forever and ever” (Rev. 22:3–5).

The rendering of the nasb (the appearing of the glory) is a more accurate rendering than that of the kjv (“the glorious appearing”). In this context, glory, like “grace” (2:11), “kindness,” and “love” (3:4) is not simply a description of Christ but also a personification. In his incarnation, His first appearing, Christ was grace personified. In His second appearing, He will be glory personified. He will be the blazing Shekinah glory that Peter, James, and John saw partially revealed at Jesus’ transfiguration (Matt. 17:1–8).

Our great God and Savior is one of the many plain declarations in Scripture of the deity of Jesus Christ (see, e.g., John 1:1–18; Rom. 9:5; Heb. 1:1–3). Some interpreters hold that in this passage God and Savior refer to different beings, the first (great God) to the divine Father and the second (Savior) to the human Son, Christ Jesus. But that explanation has several insurmountable problems. Besides the other clear affirmations of the divinity of Christ in Scripture are several grammatical reasons found in this passage itself. First, there is but one definite article (the, tou), which indicates the singularity and identity of God and Savior. Second, both of the singular pronouns in the following verse (“who,” hos; and “Himself,” heauton) refer back to a single person. And, although the Old Testament makes countless references to God the Father as great, in the New Testament that description is used only of God the Son (see, e.g., Matt. 5:35; Luke 1:32; 7:16; Heb. 10:21;13:20). Perhaps most importantly, the New Testament nowhere speaks of the appearing or Second Coming of God the Father but only of the Son.

Salvation From Possession by Sin

who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. (2:14)

Fourth, and finally, salvation delivers us permanently from sin’s possession.

The unregenerate person is in total bondage to sin. Paul asked believers in Rome, “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Rom. 6:16). Because “we have become united with [Christ] in the likeness of His death,” he explains earlier in this chapter, “certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin” (6:5–7).

Our gracious Lord gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from our bondage to sin, delivering us from every lawless deed. Redeem is from lutroō, which refers to the releasing g of someone held captive, such as a prisoner or a slave, on receipt of a ransom payment.

Paul reminded the elders from Ephesus of their obligation to “be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). Peter reminded his readers, “You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ”(1 Pet. 1:18–19).

The purpose of the Son of God coming to earth in His incarnation was “to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). As a divine sacrifice, He “gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Gal. 1:4). Like Paul, every believer can say with full assurance: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20). He graciously “gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Eph. 5:2; cf. v. 25; 1 Tim. 2:6).

Paul first speaks negatively, focusing on Christ’s redeeming us from every lawless deed, from the “fleshly lusts, which,” as Peter declares, “wage war against the soul” (1 Pet. 2:11).

Positively, Christ also redeems His people in order to purify for Himself a people for His own possession. Paul explains that marvelous truth more fully in his letter to the church at Rome. “Thanks be to God,” he exults,

that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. (Rom. 6:17–22)

In order to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” (Eph. 5:25–26). The Lord’s people “are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 1 Cor. 6:19–20).

Just as we formerly were possessed and enslaved by sin, now we are possessed by and enslaved to Jesus Christ. His possession of His people is not temporary but permanent. The Lord Himself made that truth abundantly clear. As already noted, Jesus repeatedly emphasized that a person who believes in Him will be saved with divine security. “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me,” He said, “and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out …. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:37, 39–40). On a later occasion Jesus repeated the promise of eternal security: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:27–29). If salvation were temporary, subject to being lost, then, by definition, it could not guarantee eternal life. But even Satan himself cannot rob a believer of salvation. To be able to do so, he would have to be more powerful than the God who made him and who, as Jesus made clear, is “greater than all.”

As God’s redeemed people, we give still further evidence of our salvation by being zealous for good deeds, because “we are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10; cf. Titus 3:8). Good deeds are not to be an adjunct to our Christian lives, something that we do at our convenience, but are to be a natural, integral, and zealous part of our daily living. “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:14). The same Spirit who cleanses us from “dead works” desires to replace them with living works.

It has always been God’s purpose for His people to be righteous and holy as a testimony to His own righteousness and holiness before the unbelieving world. “The Lord has today declared you to be His people, a treasured possession, as He promised you,” Moses proclaimed to ancient Israel, “and that you should keep all His commandments; and that He shall set you high above all nations which He has made, for praise, fame, and honor; and that you shall be a consecrated people to the Lord your God, as He has spoken” (Deut. 26:18–19). Early in His ministry, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told those who believed in Him, “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). Emphasizing that same truth, Peter wrote, “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Pet. 2:12). Again from the Lord’s own lips, we have no less a standard than being “perfect, as [our] heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).[1]

3. verse 13 The Grace of God in Christ is
the Effective Preparer.

We—aged men, aged women, young women, young men, slaves, etc.—should live a Christian life because through the power of God’s grace we are waiting for the blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus.

The grace of God trains us in order that we may live consecrated lives, while we are waiting for the blessed hope. The waiting for or patient looking forward to modifies the living, of which it is an attendant circumstance or further explication. It is “the blessed hope” for which believers are waiting. This is metonymy for the realization of that hope (that is, the realization of our earnest yearning, confident expectation, and patient waiting). We find a similar metonymy in Gal. 5:5; Col. 1:5 (to which some interpreters would add Heb. 6:18).

This hope is called blessed. It imparts bliss, happiness, delight, and glory. The adjective blessed is used in connection with God in 1 Tim. 1:11; 6:15; see on these passages.

Now, even the possession of the hopeful spirit and the exercise of hope is blessed, because of hope’s:

(1) immovable foundation (1 Tim. 1:1, 2; then Rom. 5:5; 15:4; Phil. 1:20; Heb. 6:19; 1 Peter 1:3, 21);

(2) glorious Author (Rom. 15:13; cf. 2 Thess. 2:16);

(3) wonderful object (everlasting life, salvation, glory: Titus 1:2; 3:7; then 1 Thess. 5:8; then Rom. 5:2; Col. 1:27);

(4) precious effects (endurance, 1 Thess. 1:3; “boldness of speech,” 2 Cor. 3:12; and purification of life, 1 John 3:3);

(5) and everlasting character (1 Cor. 13:13).

Then surely the realization of this hope will be blessed, indeed! Read Dan. 12:3; Matt. 25:34–40; Rom. 8:20b; 1 Cor. 15:51, 52; 1 Thess. 4:13–18; 2 Thess. 1:10; Rev. 14:14–16; 19:6–9. In fact, the certainty of the realization imparts strength to the hope, and results in the graces mentioned under (4) above.

Now the realization of the blessed hope is “the appearing in glory.” Note the two appearings. There had been one (see on verse 11; cf. 2 Tim. 1:10). There is going to be another (see N.T.C. on 2 Thess. 2:8; cf. 1 Tim. 6:14; 2 Tim. 4:1, 8). It will be the appearing of … well, of whom? Throughout the history of interpretation that question has divided grammarians and commentators. Are we waiting for the appearing in glory of one Person or of two Persons?

Those who endorse the one-Person view favor the rendering:

“of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus.” (Another reading has “Jesus Christ,” but that makes no difference in connection with the point at issue.) Now if that view be correct, those who accept Scripture’s infallibility have in this passage an additional prooftext for the deity of Christ; and even those who do not accept Scripture’s infallibility but who do accept the one-Person rendering must admit that at least the author of the Pastorals (perhaps erroneously, according to them) held Jesus to be one in essence with God the Father. The one-Person rendering is favored by the A.R.V. margin, Weymouth, Goodspeed, Berkeley Version, R.S.V., and many commentators: Van Oosterzee, Bouma, Lenski, Gealy, Simpson, etc. The great New Testament grammarian A. T. Robertson has given a strong defence of this view, from the standpoint of grammar, basing his arguments upon Granville Sharp’s rule.

Among others, John Calvin was unwilling to choose between the one-Person and the two-Persons rendering. Yet, he emphasized that on either view the purpose of the passage is to state that when Christ appears, the greatness of the divine glory will be revealed in him (cf. Luke 9:26); and that, accordingly, the passage can by no means give any comfort to the Arians in their attempt to prove that the Son is less divine than the Father.

The two-Persons theory is represented, with minor variations, in the versions of Wyclif, Tyndale, Cranmer, A.V., A.R.V. (text), Moffatt, and R.S.V. (margin). It has been supported by a long list of commentators (among whom are De Wette, Huther, White [in The Expositor’s Bible], E. F. Scott, etc.) and especially by the grammarian G. B. Winer.

The rendering then becomes:

“of the great God and the (or “and of the”) Savior Jesus Christ.”

Winer was willing to admit that his endorsement of this view was based not so much upon grammar—which, as even he admitted, allowed the one-Person rendering—as upon “the dogmatic conviction derived from Paul’s writings that this apostle cannot have called Christ the great God.” (Such argumentation encounters difficulty in interpreting Rom. 9:5; Phil. 2:6; Col. 1:15–20; Col. 2:9; etc.) But he should have noticed that even the very context (verse 14) ascribes to Jesus functions which in the Old Testament are ascribed to Jehovah, such as redeeming and purifying (2 Sam. 7:23; Ps. 130:8; Hos. 13:14; then Ezek. 37:23); and that the word Savior is in each of the three chapters of Titus ascribed first to God, then to Jesus (Titus 1:3, 4; 2:10, 13; 3:4, 6). It is therefore evidently the purpose of the author of this epistle (namely, Paul!) to show that Jesus is fully divine, just as fully as is Jehovah or as is the Father.

The one-Person rendering must be considered the correct one. It is supported by the following considerations:

(1) Unless in any specific instance there are strong reasons to the contrary, the rule holds that when the first of two nouns of the same case and connected by the conjunction and is preceded by the article, which is not repeated before the second noun, these two nouns refer to the same person. When the article is repeated before the second noun, two persons are indicated. Examples:

  1. a. The article, preceding the first of two nouns and not repeated before the second: “the brother your and fellow-partaker.” The two nouns refer to the same person, John, and the expression is correctly translated, “your brother and fellow-partaker” (Rev. 1:9).
  2. Two articles, one preceding each noun: “Let him be unto you as the Gentile and the tax-collector” (Matt. 18:17). The two nouns refer to two persons (in this case, each representing a class).

Now, according to this rule the disputed words in Titus 2:13 clearly refer to one Person, namely, Christ Jesus, for when translated word for word the phrase reads:

“of the great God and of Savior our Christ Jesus.” The article before the first noun is not repeated before the second, and therefore the expression must be rendered:

“of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus.”

No valid reason has ever been found which would show that the (Granville Sharp) rule does not apply in the present case. In fact, it is generally admitted that the words which in the original occur at the close of 2 Peter 1:11 refer to one Person, and must be rendered, “our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” But if that be true, then why should not the essentially identical idiom in 2 Peter 1:1 and here in Titus 2:13 be rendered, “our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (or “Christ Jesus”)?

(2) Nowhere in the entire New Testament is the term epiphany (appearing or manifestation) used with respect to more than one Person. Also, the one Person to whom it refers is always Christ (see 2 Thess. 2:8; 1 Tim. 6:14; 2 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 4:8; and 2 Tim. 1:10, where the reference is to the First Coming).

(3) The phraseology here in Titus 2:13 may well have been framed in reaction to the type of language that was often used by the heathen with respect to their own idol-gods, whom they regarded as “saviors,” and particularly to the phraseology in connection with the worship of earthly rulers. Was not Ptolemy I called “Savior and God”? Were not Antiochus and Julius Cesar addressed as “God Manifest”? Paul indicates that believers look forward to the Appearing of the One who is really God and Savior, yes “our great (exalted, glorious) God and Savior, namely, Christ Jesus.”

The real “point” of the passage, in connection with all that has preceded, is that our joyful expectation of the appearing in glory of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus effectively prepares us for the life with him. How does it do this? First, because the Second Coming will be so altogether glorious that believers will not want to “miss out on” it, but will want to “be manifested with him in glory” (Col. 3:4). Secondly, because the blissful expectation fills believers with gratitude, and gratitude produces preparedness, by God’s grace.

4. verse 14 The Grace of God in Christ
is the Thorough-going Purifier.

Our great God and Savior Christ Jesus to whose appearing in glory believers look forward with such hope and joy is the One who gave himself for us in order to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people, his very own, with a zest for noble deeds.

For the meaning of “who gave himself for us in order to redeem us” see on 1 Tim. 2:6, “who gave himself a ransom for all.” Anyone who doubts the necessary, objective, voluntary, expiatory, propitiatory, substitutionary, and efficacious character of the act of Christ whereby he gave himself for us should make a diligent, contextual study of the following passages:

Old Testament


New Testament






Gen. 2:16, 17


Matt. 20:28


1 Cor. 7:23


Heb. 9:28


Ex. 12:13


Matt. 26:27, 28


2 Cor. 5:18–21


1 Peter 1:18, 19


Lev. 1:4


Mark 10:45


Gal. 1:4


1 Peter 2:24


Lev. 16:20–22


Luke 22:14–23


Gal. 2:20


1 Peter 3:18


Lev. 17:11


John 1:29


Gal. 3:13


1 John 2:2


2 Sam. 7:23


John 6:55


Eph. 1:7


1 John 4:10


Psalm 40:6, 7


Acts 20:28


Eph. 2:16


Rev. 5:12


Psalm 130:8


Rom. 3:25


Eph. 5:6


Rev. 7:14.


Isaiah 53


Rom. 5


Col. 1:19–23




Zech. 13:1


1 Cor. 6:20


Heb. 9:22




He gave nothing less than himself, and this for us, that is, in our interest and in our stead. The contemplation of this sublime thought should result in a life to his honor. Furthermore, by his sacrificial death he merited for us the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Apart from that Spirit it would be impossible for us to live the sanctified life.

Christ gave himself for us with a twofold purpose: the first negative (see Ps. 130:8), the second positive (see 2 Sam. 7:23). Negatively, he gave himself for us “in order to redeem us,” that is, in order to ransom us from an evil power. The ransom-price was his own precious blood (1 Peter 1:18, 19). And the power from which we are delivered is that of “lawlessness” (see N.T.C. on 2 Thess. 2:3), that is, indwelling disobedience to God’s holy law, in whatever form that disobedience makes itself manifest (“all lawlessness”).

Positively, he gave himself for us “in order to purify for himself a people,” that is, in order by means of his blood and Spirit to purify us (Eph. 5:26; Heb. 9:14; 1 John 1:7, 9), so that, thus purified, we are fit to be a people, his very own (see footnote  and cf. Ezek. 37:23). Formerly Israel was Jehovah’s peculiar people; now the church is. And just as Israel was characterized by zeal for the law (Acts 21:20; cf. Gal. 1:14), so now Christ purifies his people with this very purpose in mind, namely, that it shall be a people for his own possession “with a zest for noble deeds,” deeds which proceed from faith, are done according to God’s law and unto his glory (cf. 1 Peter 3:13).

In summary, verses 11–14 teach us that the reason why every member of the family should live a life of self-mastery, fairness, and devotion is that the grace of God in Christ has penetrated our moral and spiritual darkness and has brought salvation to all men; that this grace is also our Great Pedagogue who leads us away from ungodliness and worldly passions and guides us along the path of holiness; that it is the Effective Preparer who causes us to look forward with eagerness to the Appearing in glory of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus; and, finally, that it is the thorough-going Purifier, so that, redeemed from all disobedience to God’s law, we become Christ’s peculiar treasure, filled with a zest for excellent deeds.[2]

13 Paul concludes his series of exhortations with a doxology, seeking to motivate believers by putting their present efforts into eternal perspective. He does so by evoking their expectation of the “blessed hope” (elpis, GK 1828; cf. Col 1:5; Gal 5:5; see also Tit 1:2; 3:7) of the “glorious appearing [epiphaneia, GK 2211; cf. epiphainō in v. 11] of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (cf. 1 Th 4:13–18). Since “blessed hope” and “glorious appearing” are governed by the same article, they refer to the same event. While Jesus appeared in lowly form at his first coming, his return will be glorious.

The final phrase in v. 13—correctly rendered in the NIV as referring to one person, “Jesus Christ” (cf. Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996], 276; Knight, 321–26; Mounce, 426–31; Marshall, 277–82)—represents a remarkably high christological confession (cf. M. J. Harris, “Titus 2:13 and the Deity of Christ,” in Pauline Studies, ed. D. A. Hagner and M. J. Harris [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980], 262–77; Harris, Jesus as God [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992], 173–85, 301–13). While the Greeks were freely bestowing the epithets “savior” and “god” on human benefactors and rulers, the Romans were slower to deify emperors. Jews like Paul, in light of their strong monotheism, would never have done so apart from divine revelation (cf. Baugh, 506).

14 This same Savior whose return we await as our “blessed hope” is the one who, at his first coming, “gave himself for us” (echoing Mk 10:45 par. Mt 20:28; cf. Gal 1:4; 2:20; Eph 5:2; 1 Ti 2:6) for a dual purpose: (1) to “redeem [lytroō, GK 3390; adapting Ps 129:8 and Eze 37:23 (LXX); cf. Lk 24:21; 1 Pe 1:18; see also apolytrōsis in Ro 3:24; 8:23; 1 Co 1:30] us from all wickedness [anomia, GK 490; cf. Ro 4:7; 6:19; 2 Co 6:14; 2 Th 2:7],” and (2) to “purify [katharizō, GK 2751; cf. 2 Co 7:1; Eph 5:26] for himself a people that are his very own [laon periousion, GK 3295, 4342; Ex 19:5; cf. Dt 4:20; 7:6; 14:2; 26:18; 1 Pe 2:9], eager to do what is good.” “Eager” (zēlōtēs, GK 2421; Dt 26:18; cf. Gal 4:18; Eph 2:10; 1 Pe 3:13) refers to enthusiasm (1 Co 14:12), not fanaticism (Gal 1:14; cf. 3:1–2 below).

In the context of slavery, both literal (vv. 9–10) and spiritual (“from all wickedness,” v. 14), redemption terminology was not a dead metaphor. Only Jesus was able to break the chains of sin and its deadly consequences by his substitutionary sacrifice. By using OT language, Paul places the NT church in salvation history that reaches from OT Israel to the NT community of God, made up of both believing Jews and Gentiles.[3]

2:13 While living as aliens in the world, we are inspired by a magnificent hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. By this are we to understand the Rapture, when Christ appears in glory to the church and conveys it to heaven (1 Thess. 4:13–18)? Or does it refer to Christ’s coming to reign, when He appears in glory to the world, puts down His foes, and sets up His kingdom (Rev. 19:11–16)? Basically we believe Paul is speaking of the first—Christ’s coming for His bride, the church. But whether it is His coming as Bridegroom or as King, the believer should be prepared and looking for His glorious arrival.

2:14 As we await His Return we never forget the purpose of His First Coming and of His self-sacrifice. He gave Himself not only to save us from the guilt and penalty of sin but to redeem us from every lawless deed. It would have been a half-way salvation if the penalty of sin had been canceled but its dominion in our lives was left unconquered.

He also gave Himself to purify for Himself His own special people. The 1611 King James quaintly says “a peculiar people.” Too often we are a peculiar people, but not in the way He intended! He didn’t die to make us an odd or strange people, but a people who belong to Him in a special way—not to the world or to ourselves. And He gave Himself for us that we might be zealous for good works. We should have enthusiasm to perform acts of kindness in His name and for His glory. When we think of the zeal of men for sports, politics, and business, we should be provoked to jealousy and inspired to good deeds.[4]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1996). Titus (pp. 117–122). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles (Vol. 4, pp. 372–377). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[3] Köstenberger, A. (2006). Titus. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, p. 619). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 2141–2142). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

May 13 – Being Zealous for the Lord (James, son of Zebedee)

The twelve apostles included “James the son of Zebedee” (Matt. 10:2).


God can use overzealous and ambitious people for His glory.

Like Peter and Andrew, James and John were fishermen. One day as Jesus walked the shores of the Sea of Galilee, He saw them in a boat with their father Zebedee and some hired servants. When Jesus called them to follow Him, they immediately left the boat and went with Him (Mark 1:19–20).

James and John were zealous and ambitious men—so much so that Jesus nicknamed them “Boanerges,” which means, “Sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). At times their great zeal got the better of them. In Luke 9:54, for example, after a Samaritan village had rejected some of the disciples, James and John asked Jesus for permission to call down fire from Heaven to incinerate the whole village! On another occasion they sent their mother to ask Jesus to give them the most prominent places in His Kingdom (Matt. 20:20–28). They wanted power, prestige, and honor, but Jesus promised them suffering and, in James’s case, a martyr’s grave.

James was probably the eldest of the two brothers. His name is listed first whenever their names appear together in Scripture. Perhaps he was also the most zealous and passionate of the two, since he was the first apostle to be martyred. When King Herod decided to persecute the early church, he had James put to death with a sword (Acts 12:2). When he saw how much that pleased the Jewish people, he had Peter arrested but didn’t kill him. Apparently James was a bigger threat than Peter. That tells us something about the powerful ministry he must have had.

Like James and John, some Christians have a zeal that prompts them to run ahead of the Holy Spirit. If that’s true of you, be thankful for your zeal, but also be careful to allow the Spirit to govern what you do and say. However, if you’ve slipped into spiritual complacency and your life isn’t much of a threat to Satan’s kingdom, you need to repent and become more zealous for the Lord!


Suggestions for Prayer:  Ask God to give you a holy zeal that’s motivated by love and governed by His Spirit.

For Further Study: Read John 2:12–22. ✧ How did Jesus demonstrate His zeal for God’s house? ✧ Why were His actions necessary?[1]

10:2 the names of the twelve apostles. The 12 are always listed in a similar order (cf. Mk 3:16–19; Lk 6:13–16; Ac 1:13). Peter is always named first. The list contains 3 groups of 4. The 3 subgroups are always listed in the same order, and the first name in each subgroup is always the same, though there is some variation in the order within the subgroups—but Judas Iscariot is always named last. Peter … Andrew … James … John. The first subgroup of 4 are the most familiar to us. These two sets of brothers, all fishermen, represent an inner circle of disciples often seen closest to Jesus (see note on 17:1).[2]

10:2 Apostles (plural of Gk. apostolos; used only here in Matthew; see note on Rom. 1:1) describes those commissioned to be Jesus’ special representatives, while “disciples” (Matt. 10:1) was also used more broadly to refer to anyone who believed in Jesus. Peter heads all the lists of the Twelve (cf. Mark 3:16–19; Luke 6:13–16; Acts 1:13) and serves as their spokesman. Peter, along with James and John, made up Jesus’ inner circle.[3]

10:2 apostles. The Gk. word apostolos designates an authorized representative or emissary whose word has the authority of the sender (cf. 2 Cor. 8:23, where it is translated “messengers,” and 2 Cor. 1:1 note). Here the Twelve receive authority to do exactly what Jesus has been doing (vv. 7, 8).[4]

10:2 In the early church an “apostle” (apostolos, Gk.) is a representative of the authority of the risen Lord. The term describes the function of the Twelve (cf. Mark 3:14–19; Luke 6:13–16; John 1:40–49) who are sent out by Jesus. The Twelve made up the body of authoritative leaders in the church. James, the brother of Jesus (Gal. 1:19), Silvanus (1 Thess. 1:1), Andronicus and Junia (Rom. 16:7), Barnabas and Paul (Acts 14:4, 14), and others are designated “apostles,” though not in the same technical sense that the Twelve are. Peter specifies that an apostle must be an eyewitness of Jesus’ life and activity from the time of His baptism to the resurrection/ascension (Acts 1:22).[5]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 146). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Mt 10:2). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1839). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1687). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

[5] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Mt 10:2). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.


Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.

TITUS 2:12

The period in which we now live may well go down in history as the Erotic Age. Sex love has been elevated into a cult. Eros has more worshipers among civilized men today than any other god. For millions, the erotic has completely displaced the spiritual!

Contributing factors are the phonograph and radio, which can spread a love song from coast to coast within a matter of days; the motion picture and television, which enable a whole population to feast their eyes on sensuous women and amorous young men locked in passionate embrace (and this in the living rooms of “Christian” homes and before the eyes of innocent children!). Add to these the myriad of shrewdly contrived advertising campaigns which make sex the not too slyly concealed bait to attract buyers for almost every imaginable product; and degraded columnists who have consecrated their lives to the task of the publicizing of soft, slinky nobodies with the faces of angels and the morals of alley cats.

Now if this god Eros would let us Christians alone I for one would let his cult alone for the whole spongy, fetid mess will sink some day under its own weight and become excellent fuel for the fires of hell. But the cult of Eros is seriously affecting the Christian church.

When God’s sheep are in danger the shepherd is morally obliged to grab his weapon and run to their defense. For much of this century timidity disguised as humility has crouched in her corner while the spiritual quality of evangelical Christianity has become progressively worse year by year. How long, O Lord, how long?[1]

Salvation From the Power of Sin

instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, (2:12)

As ultimately important as salvation from the penalty of sin is, Paul’s major emphasis in this passage is on salvation from its power. In Jesus Christ, God’s redeeming grace breaks sin’s power and dominion in our lives and gives us a new nature that desires holiness.

Instructing is from paideuō, which carries the closely related meanings of teaching, training, discipling, educating, and nurturing. It is the term from which we get pedagagy. The subject of instructing is“the grace of God,” which, as has been pointed out, is personified in Jesus Christ, the incarnation of God’s grace, who has appeared and brought salvation (v. 11). Revealed and personified in Christ, God’s sovereign saving grace not only is a deliverer but also a teacher, a guide, a counselor. When we were saved, we immediately came under the tutelage of God through His Holy Spirit and through His Word. “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world,” Paul explained to believers in Corinth, “but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words” (1 Cor. 2:12–13). “We have,” the apostle goes on to say, the very “mind of Christ” (v. 16).

In chapter 3 of his letter to the church at Rome, Paul describes the total depravity of every human being apart from Jesus Christ. Quoting from the Psalms, he says: “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one” (Rom. 3:10–12; cf. Pss. 14:1–3; 53:1–4). Because of that total bondage to sin, “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (v. 18; cf. Ps. 36:1). “A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Cor. 2:14, emphasis added).

Paul reminded believers in Ephesus of their former condition of uninterrupted sinfulness, saying, “You were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest” (Eph. 2:1–3). It was only because of God’s “being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, [that He] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus” (vv. 4–6). The person who “is in Christ, … is a new creature; the old things [have] passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor. 5:17).

As emphasized in two of my books, The Gospel According to Jesus (Zondervan, 1988) and Faith Works (Word, 1993), when a person is genuinely saved, truly converted and given new life in Jesus Christ, there is a transformation not only of nature but of living. It is not possible—as those who oppose what they call “lordship salvation” strongly insist—to be saved from the penalty of sin and not be saved from its power and dominion. Because of a Christian’s new nature and the indwelling Holy Spirit, he simply cannot continue to live in unmitigated sin, bereft of any outward evidence of his new, holy, and righteous nature and of the presence of Christ’s own Holy Spirit within him.

By His divine grace, Jesus Christ completely reprograms our computers, as it were. He throws away the old disks and deletes the previous programs and files—all of which were permeated with errors and destructive “viruses”—and graciously replaces them with His own divine truth and righteousness. “I have been crucified with Christ,” Pau l testified to the churches of Galatia, “and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20).

Scripture does not teach that sinless perfection is possible in the earthly lives of believers. Although Paul could say sincerely, “I am conscious of nothing against myself,” he immediately went on to say, “yet I am not by this acquitted” (1 Cor. 4:4). He clearly testified that he had not “already become perfect.” But “I press on,” he said, “in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:11–14).

Nevertheless, a person who is divinely born again is no longer under the pervasive dominion of sin and of Satan. He has a radical new nature and is called and enabled to reflect that new nature in a radically new way of living. By the work of God the Father, we “are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). The “grace and truth [that] were realized through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17) during His earthly ministry are to be realized and evident in the lives of those who bear His name and His nature. They have “laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created [them]” (Col. 3:9–10).

Our present earthly life is a time of sanctification, a two-sided process of becoming less and less like our old and sinful self and more and more like our new and Christlike self. “Just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness,” Paul explained to believers in Rome, “so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification” (Rom. 6:19).

Because sanctification is both negative and positive, separating believers from sin and to righteousness, so, therefore, is Christ’s gracious instructing of believers.

Negatively, the Lord instructs us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires. Christ’s own power, through the work of His indwelling Holy Spirit, not only warns us about but enables us to resist and renounce sin. “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts,” Paul admonishes, “and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:12–14).

To deny carries the idea of a conscious, purposeful action of the will. It means to say no. It is to confess and consciously turn away from that which is sinful and destructive and to move toward that which is good and godly. It includes the commitment a believer makes when he first acknowledges his sin and receives Christ as Savior and Lord as well as the countless other decisions he makes to deny and forsake the ungodliness and worldly desires that continue to find their way back into his life.

Those who hold the reductionist notion that a person can be delivered from hell without being delivered from sin contradict the clear teaching of Christ and His apostles. Both John the Baptist and Jesus Himself, the Messiah whom John heralded, began their ministries with calls to repentance (Matt. 3:2, 8, 11; 4:17). In the same way, the first work of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus would send in His name, would be to convict men of sin (John 16:8). After the promised Spirit had descended at Pentecost, those who heard Peter’s sermon “were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins’ ” (Acts 2:37–38).

Christians do not habitually and continually practice sin, because when a person genuinely believes in Jesus Christ, there is a divinely empowered separation from ungodliness and worldly desires. Ungodliness translates asebeia, which here refers to lack of true reverence for and devotion to God. It is “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven” (Rom. 1:18). A person whose life is characterized by ungodliness cannot be truly saved, no matter how vocal and orthodox his profession of Christ may be.

The apostle John warns: “Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He [Christ] is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God” (1 John 3:7–10).

After giving a long list of “the deeds of the flesh … which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these,” Paul declares “that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God …Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:19–21, 24).

Worldly desires refers to sins that, although we may not actually have committed, we nevertheless long to commit. These desires include all of the countless sinful lusts and cravings that characterize the natural man. They include “youthful lusts” (2 Tim. 2:22), “fleshly lusts” (1 Pet. 2:11), and all other “foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction” (1 Tim. 6:9). When we “walk by the Spirit, [we] will not carry out” the worldly desires “of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).

On the positive side, Christ graciously instructs us to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age. Having been declared and made righteous by our justification through Christ, and made capable of righteous behavior by our confession and God’s forgiveness of sin, we therefore are to practice righteousness in our sanctification. God has ordained our lives in Christ to be lives of ever increasing righteousness, holiness, and goodness. “As sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5:21).

Sensibly translates the adverb sōphronōs, which carries the basic idea of having a sound mind. Paul has used other forms of that word four previous times in this letter in referring to a quality that should characterize elders/overseers (1:8), older men (2:2), young women (2:5), and young men (2:6). The Christian who lives sensibly has control over the issues of life. As noted in chapter 3 of this commentary under the discussion of 1:8, the sensible believer does not allow circumstances or the irresponsible influence of others to distract him or affect his own judgment. He not only is careful not to become involved in things that are immoral or unspiritual, but also avoids things that are simply trivial and unproductive. By the enablement and power of the Holy Spirit in his redeemed inner person, he brings the unredeemed flesh under control.

Christ also graciously instructs us to live righteously, faithfully obeying the Word of God, the divine standard of what is right, without reservation. And Christ graciously instructs us to live godly, which has the obvious meaning of close fellowship with our heavenly Father.

Our gracious instruction could be seen as three dimensional. The first, living sensibly, could relate to the divine and continuing change within us. The second, living righteously, connects with our changed relationship toward others, both saved and unsaved. The third, living godly, may refer to our changed relationship to God Himself. We are no longer His enemies but His children. We no longer ignore Him, blaspheme Him, or use His name in vain but instead honor Him in reverent adoration, praise, and worship.

All three of those changes, individually and collectively, give distinct evidence in the present age of our spiritual rebirth. They are living and powerful testimony, within the church and before the world, of the saving and transforming power of Jesus Christ.

For many people, the only inducement to listen to the gospel is seeing its transforming power producing holiness, love, peace, and the other fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23) in the lives of believers. As Paul declares a few verses later in this letter to Titus, divinely transformed lives are genuinely “zealous for good deeds” (2:14). Faithful believers are therefore to be “careful to engage in good deeds,” because “these things are good and profitable for men” (3:8). We are saved in order that God might demonstrate His glorious grace, which produces in us the desire to do what is right and good—thereby giving glory to our Lord and righteously impacting the lives of the unsaved in His name. “For this reason,” Paul explained to Timothy, “I found mercy [salvation], in order that in me as the foremost [of sinners, v. 15], Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:16). As our Lord commands, we are to “let [our] light shine before men in such a way that they may see [our] good works, and glorify [our] Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).

Contrary to the contention of the Pharisees and of most manmade religions, no amount of good works can produce a right relationship with God. It is rather the opposite: only a right relationship with God (secured through personal trust in His Son, Jesus Christ) can produce truly good works. “For by grace you have been saved through faith,” Paul explains in his letter to the church at Ephesus, “and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:8–10, emphasis added). The transformed living that the apostle describes in Titus 2:1–10 can only become reality through the divine and gracious work of salvation described in verses 11–14.[2]

2. verse 12 The Grace of God in Christ is
the Wise Pedagogue.

The words which convey this thought are: training us in order that, having renounced ungodliness and those worldly passions, we in the here and now may live lives of self-mastery and fairness and devotion.

Grace trains. See on 1 Tim. 1:20. The verb used in the original is from the same stem as is the noun pedagogue. A pedagogue leads children step by step. Thus, grace, too, gently leads and guides. It does not throw things into confusion. It does not suddenly and forcefully upset the social order. For example, it does not abruptly order masters to free their slaves; nor does it unwisely command slaves to rebel forthwith against their masters. On the contrary, it gradually causes masters to see that the encroachment upon the liberty of their fellows is a great wrong, and it convinces slaves that resort to force and vengeance is not the solution to every problem. Grace trains by teaching (Acts 7:22; 22:3), chastening (1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 2:25; then Luke 23:16, 22; 1 Cor. 11:32; 2 Cor. 6:9; Heb. 12:6–11; Rev. 3:19), counseling, comforting, encouraging, admonishing, guiding, convicting, rewarding, restraining, etc.

The purpose of all this is stated first negatively, then positively (which is a Pauline style-characteristic). Negatively, it induces us to renounce or reject (the verb has here the same meaning as in Acts 3:13; 7:35) ungodliness, impiety, wickedness (see on 2 Tim. 2:16). Study the vivid description of “ungodliness” in Rom. 1:18–32 (note the very word in Rom. 1:18; cf. 11:26). Such ungodliness is idolatry plus immorality, both terms taken in their most comprehensive meaning. When grace takes over, the sinner repudiates ungodliness. This repudiation is a definite act, a decision to give up that which is displeasing to God. No one sleeps his way into heaven. Rejecting ungodliness implies the renunciation of “those worldly passions”—strong, sinful desires—as well. (See word-study of the term passion or desire in connection with the exegesis of 2 Tim. 2:22.) According to scriptural usage, such worldly or sinful desires include the following: inordinate sexual desire, the liquor-mania, excessive yearning for material possessions, self-assertiveness (hence, quarrelsomeness, vanity, the lust to dominate), etc. Briefly, it refers to inordinate longing for pleasure, power, and possessions. See also 1 John 2:16, and on Titus 3:3.

Positively, grace trains us in order that “in the here and now” (this present age; cf. 1 Tim. 6:17; 2 Tim. 4:10; then Rom. 12:2; 1 Cor. 1:20; 2 Cor. 4:4; contrasted with the coming age in Eph. 1:21; cf. Mark 10:30) we may live lives which display a changed relation:

  1. to oneself: “selfmastery,” making the proper use of such desires or drives as are not sinful in themselves, and overcoming those that are sinful;
  2. to the neighbor: “fairness,” honesty, justice, integrity in dealing with others;
  3. to God: “devotion,” godliness, true piety and reverence with respect to him who alone is the proper Object of worship.[3]

12 God’s grace, rather than giving license to unbridled liberty, “teaches” (paideuō, GK 4084; cf. 1 Ti 1:10; 2 Ti 2:25) us, first, “to say ‘No’ to [arneomai, GK 766; unlike the false teachers who deny God by their actions, 1:16; cf. 2 Ti 3:5] ungodliness” (asebeia, GK 813; see 2 Ti 2:16; cf. Ro 1:18; 11:26) in general and to a variety of “worldly passions,” and second, to live in a “self-controlled” (sōphronōs, GK 5407), “upright” (dikaiōs, GK 1469; see esp. 1 Th 2:10), and “godly” (eusebōs, GK 2357; cf. 2 Ti 3:12; see also Tit 1:1) manner in the present age. Development of virtue as the purpose and goal of education (paideia) was common in Greek thought (see the references in Johnson, 241). The difference here is that in Christian teaching, it is not human self-effort but divine grace that enables—even requires—virtuous and godly living (cf. Kelly, 245).

While not advocating asceticism (cf. 1 Ti 4:3–5, 7–8; see also Col 2:16–23—as Marshall, 272, rightly points out, “renouncing of worldliness” is not asceticism), Paul’s call to self-denial (properly understood) and a commitment to a godly, disciplined life is in keeping with Jesus’ teaching that his followers must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow him (e.g., Mk 8:34 par.). The pattern of negative instruction followed by positive exhortation is frequent in Paul’s writings (e.g., Ro 6:5–14; Gal 5:16–26; Col 3:8–14). The triad “self-controlled, upright and godly” may contextualize Christian teaching in a Greek context, in which such virtues were highly prized.[4]

2:12 The same grace that saves us also trains us in the school of holiness. There are “No-No’s” in that school which we must learn to renounce. The first is ungodliness, which means irreligion. The second is worldly lusts—not just sexual sins, but also the lust for wealth, power, pleasure, fame, or anything else that is essentially worldly.

On the positive side, grace teaches us to live soberly, righteously toward others, and godly in the pure light of His presence. These are the virtues that should characterize us in this world, where everything about us is going to be dissolved. It is the place of our pilgrimage and not our final home.[5]

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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1996). Titus (pp. 112–117). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles (Vol. 4, pp. 371–372). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] Köstenberger, A. (2006). Titus. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 618–619). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2141). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.


And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead.

Revelation 1:17

In the Old Testament, whenever the living God revealed Himself in some way to humankind, terror and amazement were the reactions. People saw themselves as guilty and unclean by comparison!

In the book of Revelation, the Apostle John describes the overwhelming nature of his encounter with the Lord of glory. Although a believer and an apostle, John sank down in abject humility and fear when the risen, glorified Lord Jesus appeared before him on Patmos.

Our glorified Lord did not condemn John. He knew that John’s weakness was the reaction to revealed divine strength. He knew that John’s sense of unworthiness was the instant reaction to absolute holiness. Along with John, every redeemed human being needs the humility of spirit that can only be brought about by the manifest presence of God.

Jesus at once reassured John, stooping to place a nail-pierced hand on the prostrate apostle, and saying: “Do not be afraid. I am the Living One. I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades” (see Revelation 1:17–18).

Lord, only through Your divine presence in my life do I have spiritual power to serve others in Your name. Fill me anew today, O Lord.[1]


When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. (1:17a)

In a manner similar to his experience with the glory of Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration more than six decades earlier (cf. Matt. 17:6), John was again overwhelmed with terror at the manifestation of Christ’s glory and fell at His feet like a dead man. Such fear was standard for those few who experienced such unusual heavenly visions. When an angel appeared to him, Daniel reported that “no strength was left in me, for my natural color turned to a deathly pallor, and I retained no strength. … and as soon as I heard the sound of his words, I fell into a deep sleep on my face, with my face to the ground” (Dan. 10:8–9; cf. 8:17). Overwhelmed by the vision of God that he saw in the temple, Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isa. 6:5). Ezekiel saw several visions of the Lord’s glory and his response was always the same: he fell on his face (Ezek. 1:28; 3:23; 9:8; 43:3; 44:4). After the Angel of the Lord appeared to them and announced the birth of Samson, “Manoah [Samson’s father] said to his wife, ‘We shall surely die, for we have seen God’ ” (Judg. 13:22). Job had a similar reaction after God spoke to him: “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5–6). On his way to Damascus to persecute Christians, Saul of Tarsus (better known as the apostle Paul) “saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me” (Acts 26:13). In response, Saul and his companions fell prostrate in the road (v. 14). After witnessing the terrifying calamities that follow the opening of the sixth seal, unbelievers during the Tribulation will cry out in terror “to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’ ” (Rev. 6:16–17).

In stark contrast to the silly, frivolous, false, and boastful claims of many in our own day who claim to have seen God, the reaction of those in Scripture who genuinely saw God was inevitably one of fear. Those brought face-to-face with the blazing, holy glory of the Lord Jesus Christ are terrified, realizing their sinful unworthiness to be in His holy presence. Summarizing the proper response to God’s holiness and majesty, the writer of Hebrews exhorts believers to “offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28–29).[2]

  1. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. And he placed his right hand on me saying: “Fear not, I am the First and the Last.”

Seeing Jesus in glorified appearance proved to be too much for John, not so much because of human frailty as because of his awareness of his utter unworthiness to see Christ’s glory. He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, which is a common posture of the saints who are permitted to be in the presence of holiness. John had seen his glory on the mount of transfiguration, and when they heard the voice from heaven, he and his companions fell face down on the ground (Matt. 17:6). Scripture reveals that saints in both and New Testament eras had similar experiences. The truth is that human beings are unable to face divine majesty: sinners prostrate themselves and acknowledge the presence of sinlessness.

Lying on the ground, John appeared to be dead. Yet his senses were alert, for he was fully aware of Jesus standing next to him. The Lord appeared to him, not to slay him, but to show him his divine power and majesty, which John should report to the churches. Both John and the churches had to become aware of Christ’s awesome appearance and to do so in preparation for the message Jesus had for them. Jesus placed his right hand on John and ordered him not to fear. The hand of the Lord touched John to establish physical contact and his voice told him not to be afraid. Daniel also was touched and raised after seeing heavenly visions, and he too was told not to fear (Dan. 8:18; 10:10, 12). By touching John, Jesus endowed him with strength to face the future; at the same time he spoke words that were an echo from the past: “Fear not.” Jesus had often commanded his disciples to stop being afraid, whether it was on the stormy lake of Galilee (Matt. 14:27); on the mount of transfiguration (Matt. 17:7); on a missionary journey (Acts 18:9); or in custody (Acts 23:11). Jesus never deserts his own people.

In the words “I am the First and the Last” John recognized Jesus, who is the “I am” (e.g., see John 8:58). Jesus is also the first as the Creator (John 1:1–3), the author of salvation (Heb. 2:10), and the firstborn from among the dead (Col. 1:18). He is the also the one who will bring all things to completion; thus by being the fulfillment of all things he is the end. He is the first and the last, the beginning and the end. What an encouragement to know that Jesus stands at the beginning and at the end of human history and that he is always with the saints.[3]

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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1999). Revelation 1–11 (pp. 49–50). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Vol. 20, pp. 99–100). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.


Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.

—Acts 17:25

The problem of why God created the universe still troubles thinking men; but if we cannot know why, we can at least know that He did not bring His worlds into being to meet some unfulfilled need in Himself, as a man might build a house to shelter him against the winter cold or plant a field of corn to provide him with necessary food. The word necessary is wholly foreign to God….

To admit the existence of a need in God is to admit incompleteness in the divine Being. Need is a creature-word and cannot be spoken of the Creator. God has a voluntary relation to everything He has made, but He has no necessary relation to anything outside of Himself. His interest in His creatures arises from His sovereign good pleasure, not from any need those creatures can supply nor from any completeness they can bring to Him who is complete in Himself….

So lofty is our opinion of ourselves that we find it quite easy, not to say enjoyable, to believe that we are necessary to God. But the truth is that God is not greater for our being, nor would He be less if we did not exist. That we do exist is altogether of God’s free determination, not by our desert nor by divine necessity. KOH052-053

Lord, You don’t need me, yet You love me and choose me to be Your child. I don’t deserve it, but I accept and thank You for Your gracious gift of life and love. Amen. [1]


neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things; (17:25)

Paul points out the absurdity of imagining that God, the creator and ruler of the universe, should need to be served by human hands, as though He needed anything. Job 22:2–3 asks, “Can a vigorous man be of use to God…. Is there any pleasure to the Almighty if you are righteous, or profit if you make your ways perfect?” God declares to Israel:

I shall take no young bull out of your house, nor male goats out of your folds. For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird of the mountains, and everything that moves in the field is Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine, and all it contains. (Ps. 50:9–12)

Far from needing anything from men, God gives to all life and breath and all things. Psalm 104:14–15 reads:

[God] causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the labor of man, so that he may bring forth food from the earth, and wine which makes man’s heart glad, so that he may make his face glisten with oil, and food which sustains man’s heart.

To the Romans Paul wrote, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36). He commanded Timothy to “instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17). “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above,” notes James, “coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow” (James 1:17).

Nor does God give only to His children. Jesus said in Matthew 5:45 that God “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” God blesses all men, even the most hardened sinners, with the benefits of common grace.[2]

24–25 The substance of Paul’s Athenian address concerns the nature of God and the responsibility of people to God. Contrary to all pantheistic and polytheistic notions, God is the one, Paul says, who has created the world and everything in it: he is “the Lord of heaven and earth” (v. 24; cf. Ge 14:19, 22). He does not live in temples “built by hands” (en cheiropoiētois); nor is he dependent for his existence on anything he has created. Rather, he is the source of life and breath and everything else that humanity possesses (v. 25). Earlier in the fifth century BC, Euripides asked, “What house built by craftsmen could enclose the form divine within enfolding walls?” (Fragments 968); and in the first century BC, Cicero (Verr. 2.5.187) considered the image of Ceres worshiped in Sicily worthy of honor because it was not made with hands but had fallen from the sky. While Paul’s argument can be paralleled at some points by the higher paganism of the day, its content is decidedly biblical (cf. 1 Ki 8:27; Isa 66:1–2) and its forms of expression are Jewish as well as Greek (cf. Isa 2:18; 19:1; 31:7 [LXX]; Sib. Or. 4.8–12; Ac 7:41, 48; Heb 8:2; 9:24 on the pejorative use of “built with hands” for idols and temples).[3]

17:24, 25 Missionaries tell us that the best place to begin in teaching pagans about God is the account of creation. This is exactly where Paul began with the people of Athens. He introduced God as the One who made the world and everything in it. As he looked around on the numerous idol temples nearby, the apostle reminded his hearers that the true God does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He dependent on the service of men’s hands. In idol temples, the priests often bring food and other “necessities” to their gods. But the true God does not need anything from man, because He is the source of life, breath, and all things.[4]

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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1994). Acts (p. 326). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Longenecker, R. N. (2007). Acts. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 983). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1638). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

May 13 – Fearless Preparation for Trials

“God has not given us a spirit of timidity [fear], but of power and love and discipline.”

2 Timothy 1:7


The true follower of Christ has no reason to fear potential sufferings and trials.

Concerning frustration and fear at the 1992 Winter Olympics, speed skater Dan Jansen said, “What happened was I skated a race that I can only describe as tentative. I looked good. I didn’t slip. Yet something kept me from going flat out.” The favored Jansen, haunted by well–publicized failures to win medals in 1988 or 1992, finally overcame his fear and triumphed in 1994 in the 1,000–meter speed–skating event.

Believers’ can also react with intense fear and painful disappointment to life’s trials if they are not prepared for the possibility of difficulties. But many centuries ago Proverbs 29:25 encouraged God’s followers not to be afraid: “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” Paul exhorted Timothy in a similar way when he wrote the words of today’s verse.

In Matthew 10:29–31, the Lord Jesus provides a wonderful reason for His disciples not to serve Him under a cloud of fear. The point of His common–sense illustration is simple. If the Father cares for small birds and numbers each hair on our heads, He is certainly concerned about our physical and spiritual welfare and the ultimate good of our souls. No matter how bad the situation is or how prolonged the trial may seem, God is able to sustain us.

Later Jesus provided an excellent summary of His teaching on fear with these familiar words to the Twelve: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27). With such a strong promise and reassurance that the Holy Spirit will always be present, how can any of us who profess Jesus Christ make room for debilitating fear, no matter what tough tests and persecutions may yet face us?


Suggestions for Prayer: If you have a particular situation or person in your life that causes you much fear and anxiety, pray that God would strengthen you and remove the cause of that fear.

For Further Study: Read Psalm 118:5–9. Memorize verse 6 or another one in this brief passage that will be a helpful resource should you face persecution.[1]

Consider Your Resources

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. (1:7)

A second means for guarding against being ashamed of Christ is to consider our divine resources. The Greek verb (didōmi) behind has not given is in the aorist active indicative tense, showing past completed action. God already has provided for us the resources.

The Lord may withhold special help until we have special need. Jesus told the Twelve, “When they deliver you up, do not become anxious about how or what you will speak; for it shall be given you in that hour what you are to speak. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you” (Matt. 10:19–20). But God provided everything we need for everyday faithful living and service when we first believed.

From a negative perspective, we can be sure that any spirit of timidity we might have is not from God. Both testaments speak of a fitting and proper fear of God, in the sense of awe and reverence. But deilia is a timid, cowardly, shameful fear that is generated by weak, selfish character. The Lord is never responsible for our cowardice, our lack of confidence, or our being shameful of Him. The noun deilia (timidity) is used only here in the New Testament and, unlike the more common term for fear (phobos), carries a generally negative meaning.

The resources we have from our heavenly Father are power and love and discipline. When we are vacillating and apprehensive, we can be sure it is because our focus is on ourselves and our own human resources rather than on the Lord and His available divine resources.

Dunamis (power) denotes great force, or energy, and is the term from which we get dynamic and dynamite. It also carries the connotation of effective, productive energy, rather than that which is raw and unbridled. God provides us with His power in order for us to be effective in His service. Paul did not pray that believers in Ephesus might be given divine power but that they might be aware of the divine power they already possessed. “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened,” he wrote, “so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:18–20). Through Christ we have the resource of God’s own supernatural power, the very power He used to raise Christ from the dead.

Although Old Testament saints were not indwelt by the Holy Spirit in the same degree of fullness that New Testament believers are (cf. John 14:17), they did have the resource of God’s Spirit providing divine help as they lived and served Him. They understood, as Zechariah declared to Zerubbabel, that their strength was not by human “‘might nor… power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6).

It is of utmost importance to understand that God does not provide His power for us to misappropriate for our own purposes. He provides His power to accomplish His purposes through us. When our trust is only in Him, and our desire is only to serve Him, He is both willing and “able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Eph. 3:20).

God also has given every believer the resource of His own divine love, which, like His power, we received at the time of our new birth. In his letter to the church at Rome, Paul exulted, “The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5).

The love we have from God is agapē, the volitional and selfless love that desires and works for the best interests of the one loved. It is not emotional and conditional, as philos love often is, and has nothing in common with erōs love, which is sensual and selfish. The love we have from God is constant. It does not share the ebb and flow or the unpredictability of those other loves. It is a self-denying grace that says to others, in effect, “I will give myself away on your behalf.” Directed back to God, from whom it came, it says, “I will give my life and everything I have to serve you.” It is the believer’s “love in the Spirit” (Col. 1:8),the divinely bestowed love of the one who will “lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). It is the “sincere love of the brethren” by which we “fervently love one another from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22), the “perfect love [that] casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). It is the love that affirms without reservation or hesitation: “If we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:8). Above all, it is “the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:19).

Our spiritual lives are measured accurately by our love. If our first love is for self, our life will center on seeking our own welfare, our own objectives, our own comfort and success. We will not sacrifice ourselves for others or even for the Lord. But if we love with the love God provides, our life will center on pleasing Him and on seeking the welfare of others, especially other Christians. Godly love is the first fruit of the Spirit, and it is manifested when we “live by the Spirit [and]… walk by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22, 25).

Sōphronismos (discipline) has the literal meaning of a secure and sound mind, but it also carries the additional idea of a self-controlled, disciplined, and properly prioritized mind. God-given discipline allows believers to control every element of their lives, whether positive or negative. It allows them to experience success without becoming proud and to suffer failure without becoming bitter or hopeless. The disciplined life is the divinely ordered life, in which godly wisdom is applied to every situation.

In his letter to the church at Rome, Paul uses the verb form of the term, admonishing, “I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment [sōphrone], as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” (Rom. 12:3). In his first letter to Timothy (3:2) and in his letter to Titus (1:8; cf. 2:2), he used the adjective form to describe a key quality that should characterize overseers, namely, that of being prudent and sensible.

When we live by the godly discipline that our gracious Lord supplies, our priorities are placed in the right order, and every aspect of our lives is devoted to advancing the cause of Christ. Because of his Spirit-empowered discipline, Paul could say, “I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:26–27).

The great spiritual triumvirate of power, love, and discipline belong to every believer. These are not natural endowments. We are not born with them, and they cannot be learned in a classroom or developed from experience. They are not the result of heritage or environment or instruction. But all believers possess these marvelous, God-given endowments: power, to be effective in His service; love, to have the right attitude toward Him and others; and discipline, to focus and apply every part of our lives according to His will.

When those endowments are all present, marvelous results occur. No better statement affirming this reality can be found than in Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus, to whom he said,

For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. (Eph. 3:14–21; emphasis added)[2]

The ministry is, indeed, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and this is the Spirit of power (Acts 1:8; 6:5, 8). Accordingly, Paul continues, For God gave us not a Spirit of timidity but of power and love and self-discipline.

In this passage some (in agreement with A.V., A.R.V., R.S.V.) spell Spirit with a small letter (“spirit”), while others capitalize. The former sometimes argue that the descriptive genitive (“… of power and love and self-discipline”) rules out any reference to the Holy Spirit.116 But the use of such a genitive does not in itself settle the question, for a similar modifier is also used in passages which undoubtedly refer to the Holy Spirit. Thus, Jesus, in speaking about the coming Helper or Comforter, calls him “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13). There are other similar phrases in which many interpreters find a reference to the Holy Spirit (Is. 11:2; Zech. 12:10; Rom. 8:2; Eph. 1:17; Heb. 10:29). Moreover, the idiom, “not the Spirit of … but (the Spirit) of …” is used by Paul in other passages which, in the light of their specific contexts, seem to refer to the Holy Spirit, though not every interpreter is ready to grant this (Rom. 8:15; 1 Cor. 2:12). And besides, do not charisma (verse 6) and pneuma (verse 7), in the sense of Holy Spirit, go hand in hand?

The gist of Paul’s argument, then, would seem to be as follows:

“My dear child, Timothy, fight that tendency of yours toward fearfulness. The Holy Spirit, given to you and me and every believer, is not the Spirit of timidity but of power and love and self-discipline. Avail yourself of that limitless, never-failing power (δύναμις cf. our “dynamite”), and you will proclaim God’s truth; of that intelligent, purposeful love (ἀγάπη see N.T.C. on John, Vol. II, pp. 494–501), and you will comfort God’s children, even to the extent of visiting me in my Roman prison; and of that ever-necessary self-discipline or self-control (σωφρονισμός, note the suffix; hence, sound-mindedness in action, a word used only here in the New Testament, see footnote ), and you will wage God’s battle against cowardice, taking yourself in hand.”

If a person fears Satan’s persecuting power more than he trusts God’s ability and ever-readiness to help, he has lost his mental balance. Surely, Timothy has not reached that point! Let him then hold on to the truth. Let him cling to it by giving it away … as did Lois and Eunice![3]

7 As Paul reminds youthful Timothy (1 Ti 4:12; cf. 1 Co 16:10), “God did not give us a spirit of timidity” (pneuma deilias, GK 1261; only here in the NT; cf. Lev 26:36 [LXX]; Ps 55:5 [LXX]; Sir 4:17; cf. the similar wording in Ro 8:15; see C. C. Ryrie, “Should a Christian Be Afraid?” BSac 110 [1953]: 76–81). Jesus had similarly encouraged his followers not to be afraid (Mt 8:26 par. Mk 4:40; Jn 14:27). John noted that “perfect love drives out fear” (1 Jn 4:18). God has given us a spirit of “power” (dynamis, GK 1539; elsewhere in the PE only in v. 8 and 3:5; cf. Mic 3:8), “love” (agapē, GK 27; v. 13; 2:22; 3:10), and “self-discipline” (sōphronismos, GK 5406; cf. 1 Ti 2:9, 15; 3:2; Tit 1:8; 2:2, 4–5, 12). This triad shows that the power exercised by church leaders must be constrained by love (cf. Eph 4:15) and self-discipline.[4]

1:7 Facing martyrdom himself, Paul takes time out to remind Timothy that God has not given us a spirit of fear or cowardice. There is no time for fearfulness or timidity.

But God has given us a spirit of power. Unlimited strength is at our disposal. Through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, the believer can serve valiantly, endure patiently, suffer triumphantly, and, if need be, die gloriously.

God has also given us a spirit of love. It is our love for God that casts out fear and makes us willing to give ourselves for Christ, whatever the cost may be. It is our love for our fellow men that makes us willing to endure all kinds of persecutions and repay them with kindness.

Finally, God has given us a spirit of a sound mind, or discipline. The words a sound mind do not completely convey the thought. They might suggest that a Christian should be sane at all times, free from nervous breakdowns or other mental ailments. This verse has often been misused to teach that a Christian who is living close to the Lord could never be afflicted with any kind of mental ills. That is not a scriptural teaching. Many mental ills can be traced to inherited weaknesses. Many others may be the result of some physical condition not connected in any way with the person’s spiritual life.

What this verse is teaching is that God has given us a spirit of self-control or self-mastery. We are to use discretion and not to act rashly, hastily, or foolishly. No matter how adverse our circumstances, we should maintain balanced judgment and act soberly.[5]

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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 2 Timothy (pp. 16–18). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles (Vol. 4, pp. 229–230). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] Köstenberger, A. (2006). 2 Timothy. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, p. 569). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2110). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

May 13 – Depending on Divine Resources

Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.

Philippians 3:15

Unfortunately, in every church some Christians are content with their spiritual state. Instead of recognizing their need, they expend their energies justifying the level they have attained.

Today’s verse basically says that if some believers don’t yet understand the importance of pursuing growth, God will have to reveal it to them. I pour my heart out in my messages, but I realize that some of my listeners will continue to live uncommitted lives. When you reach that point with someone you’re ministering to, you just have to ask God to reveal Himself to that individual.

In pursuing Christ, we all need to depend on divine resources. There will be times in the race when you don’t have the proper attitude, and God will have to reveal that to you so you can move on.[1]

How to Know the Will of God

Philippians 3:15

All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.

How can you know God’s will? How is it possible for a person to know the mind of God? If God has a plan for your life, how does he reveal it to you? How does a sinful, finite human being come to know what a holy and infinite God desires?

Our starting point for finding the biblical answers to these questions is the text we have now come to in our exposition of the Book of Philippians. In the verses immediately preceding verse 15 Paul has written of the aspirations that should characterize our Christian conduct. He has spelled out his statements personally lest we should think that he is recommending for others what he has not applied to himself. He has written of his desire to forget the past and to press on in his upward calling, “straining toward what is ahead … to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” At this point, however, he turns directly to his readers and admonishes them to be likeminded. He adds, “And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you” (v. 15). In this verse Paul says that in spiritual things the Philippians could be totally certain of God’s guidance.

I believe that this verse can be rightly applied to every aspect of our lives, for all of life bears on God’s calling. Several years ago an amateur pilot explained to me how airliners are kept on their course by radar. A pilot cannot always see what is coming, particularly in bad weather. At best he can see only about a hundred miles. Yet he can fly his aircraft safely in all kinds of weather, for the course is marked out by radar. If he deviates either to the right or to the left, the radar warns him accordingly. It is thus that God guides us. Our text does not mean that we shall always be able to see more than one step ahead in our Christian lives. It does not mean that we shall even always be able to see ahead at all. But it does mean that God has a plan for our lives and that he promises to reveal the steps of that plan to us.

The Nature of God

The basis for this assurance lies in the nature of God. For it is God’s nature to reveal himself and his purposes to us. Quite a few years ago when I was in seminary I learned the famous definition of God contained in the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth” (answer to question 4). The first time a person hears that definition I suppose he inevitably thinks that just about everything that could possibly be said about God is wrapped up in it, for the definition is so long. Yet, as I began to memorize and study it, I learned that it was far from comprehensive. For one thing, there is no mention of God being love, and God is certainly infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his love. I would like to say, “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, truth, love, and desire to reveal himself to humans.”

In one sense all that God has ever done has been directed to this end. When God made the world it was to reveal himself to those who would eventually live in it. Creation reveals God. Hence, Paul tells us, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). When God caused the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be written, this too was to reveal himself to us. Finally, just as God revealed his power in nature and his purposes in Scripture, so did he reveal his personality in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. That is why Jesus could properly say, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

It is God’s nature to reveal himself, and God’s revelation always involves a disclosure of his will for the individual person. On this basis Donald Grey Barnhouse used to say that it was actually impossible for a Christian who wanted to know the will of God for his life not to know it.

Wanting to Do It

This statement brings us to the first of the biblical principles by which a Christian may unquestionably come to know God’s will. If you really want to know God’s will, you must be willing to do his will even before you know what it is. This is clearly taught in John 7:17: “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” In this verse, although Jesus was speaking literally of the rejection of his doctrine by the Jewish leaders, he was actually teaching the greater principle that knowing the will of God consists largely in being willing to do it.

If we are going to come to the point where we are willing in advance to do God’s will, we must recognize first that in ourselves we do not want to do it. If you are saying to yourself, “Oh, but I have always wanted to do the Lord’s will,” you are kidding yourself. For “the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so” (Rom. 8:7). There is a great deal of the sinful mind in all of us.

We are a bit like the Israelites when they first came out of Egypt. They were a huge company. The Bible says that there were 600,000 men, and in addition to that there were the women and children. So the total must have been in the neighborhood of two million. This great host had been led into the desert where the temperature goes above 100 degrees in the daytime and often falls below freezing at night. In these circumstances the people would have perished from the extremes of temperature if God had not performed a miracle to save them.

The miracle was the miracle of the cloud, which signified God’s presence with the people and led them in their wanderings. The cloud was large enough to spread out over the camp of the Israelites. It provided shade during the daytime; it gave warmth by night, when it turned into a pillar of fire. It was the banner by which they regulated their march. When the cloud moved the people moved, and when the cloud stopped they stopped. One of our great hymns describes it by saying,

Round each habitation hovering

See the fire and cloud appear,

For a glory and a covering,

Showing that the Lord is near.

Thus, deriving from their banner

Light by night and shade by day,

Safe they feed upon the manna,

Which he gives them when they pray.

The cloud was the single most distinguishing feature of their encampment.

We can imagine how it would be when the cloud moved forward and how weary the people would have become of following it. We read in the final verses of Exodus, “In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted” (Exod. 40:36–37). Sometimes it moved often, at other times not at all. We may imagine a family coming to a stop under the cloud’s guidance in the middle of a hot afternoon and immediately beginning to unpack their baggage. They take down their bedding and set up their tent. Then, no sooner has it all been arranged, than someone cries out, “The cloud is moving.” So they repack their baggage and start to go on again. One hour later the cloud stops. They say, “We’ll just leave our things packed this time and sleep on the ground.” Well, they do. The cloud stays that night and all the next day and all that week. As they are going into the second week the family says, “Well, we might as well get it over with.” They unpack. Immediately the cloud begins to move again.

The people must have hated the moving of the cloud by which God guided them. But no matter how much they hated the cloud they still had to follow its guidance. By this means God was molding a nation of slaves into a disciplined force that would one day be able to conquer the land of Canaan. He was teaching them obedience.

It is the same with us. Neither you nor I naturally want God’s will. We want our will. We will always hate God’s way, and particularly his way of training us to be soldiers. But we must go through it. Through that training we must learn to say, “Father, even though I do not naturally want your will, nevertheless, I know that it is the best thing for me; and it is necessary for my spiritual training. Lead me in the way I should go.” To know God’s will we must come to the point where we first want to do it.

Walking by God’s Word

The second principle for knowing the will of God is that nothing can be the will of God that is contrary to the Word of God. The God who is leading you now is the God who inspired the Bible then, and he is not contradictory in his commandments. Consequently, nothing can be the will of God for you that is not in accordance with his Word.

God’s will is expressed in great principles. Take John 6:40, for instance. I call this verse the will of God for all unbelievers. It says, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day.” If you are not a Christian, God is not interested in telling you whether you should accept a job with General Motors or with Du Pont. He is not interested in telling you whether you should marry Sally or Mary, or Henry or John, or whether you should enlist in the army. He is interested in whether or not you will believe in Jesus Christ and receive him as your personal Savior. God’s will for you starts at this point. You must accept this demand before you can begin to go forward on any other level.

Another passage is Romans 12:1–2. It is an expression of God’s will for the Christian. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” If you are a Christian, you can take it as an unchangeable principle that anything that contributes to your growth in holiness is an aspect of God’s will for you. And anything that hinders your growth in holiness is not his will. God is interested in having you become like his Son, the Lord Jesus.

Colossians 3:23 is an expression of God’s will for your work. It says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” I think this is especially applicable to young people. A member of my congregation once remarked that all too often young people interpret a difficulty in their work or their schooling as an indication that what they are doing is not God’s will for them; actually, she said, it is probably God’s indication that they should work harder at it. This verse tells us that God wants us to do well in everything.

A principle that is closely related to this one is found in Ephesians 6:5–6: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.” This is for you if you have a difficult boss or a difficult teacher. The Bible says that it is God’s will that you avoid gossiping about him or her and, instead, work as well as you are able under his or her guidance. And you should do it, not only when he is watching, but when he is not watching—as working for the Lord, not for men.

Perhaps you are saying, “Well, these principles are good, but they do not touch the small things I am wrestling with.” You want to know whether you should go to certain movies as a Christian, make friends with the people at work, join in social drinking, or some other thing. Let me give you a final principle that covers most of these. Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” God says you are to pursue the best things in life. If these things are the best things for you, then do them. If not, you are to go another way. Just be sure that you take your guidelines from Scripture.

Looking to the Lord

The third principle is also important. It is the principle of daily and even hourly fellowship with the Lord. Psalm 32:8 states it this way: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” The King James Version says, “I will guide you with my eye.” Clearly, if God is to guide us with his eye, he must first catch our eye. This means that we must look to him regularly throughout the day.

Let me illustrate this by a story. I have a friend who is a gospel singer and who for many years was a bachelor. He once said, “You know, Jim, it is always easy to find a Christian girl to marry, and it is always easy to find a beautiful girl to marry. But it is not always so easy to find a beautiful, Christian girl to marry.” He eventually found a beautiful, Christian girl and married her. She was “perfect in every way” but one. The one imperfection lay in the fact that at times she talked with a very shrill voice, especially in the presence of company. Because he was a baritone, her voice often grated on his ears. This was the making of a serious problem in their marriage.

The Lord had given him a great deal of tact, along with his many other talents, and he used his tact to go about the problem in this way. One day he came to his wife and said to her, “Dear, did you know that the first thing that a drama coach teaches an actress is to lower her voice? By nature a woman’s voice is shrill, but it becomes warm and pleasing when it is lowered about an octave. A drama coach will teach an actress to say a phrase, count down eight notes, repeat it again, and then practice that repeatedly. I think your voice would be improved if you would do that.” When my friend’s wife agreed, they arranged a signal by which she would be reminded to lower her voice in the presence of company. The signal was for him to tuck in his chin.

My friend told me that there were times when this produced the funniest effect you could imagine. They would be sitting around the dining room table talking, and his wife’s voice would be rising higher and higher. He would tuck in his chin and look at her. Then, often right in the middle of one of her sentences, she would catch his eye. She would notice his chin, and her voice would drop like a lead marshmallow and then go on at a pitch one octave lower.

She saw the sign when she looked at her husband. It must be the same in our daily walk with the Lord. The Lord knows we shall go astray because it is our nature. We will always do things that displease him, but we must get into the habit of looking to him often—in church, in our quiet time, in the various periods of our day—to catch his eye, to notice his sign. If we do, we shall find him watching and he will direct us and guide us with his eye.

God’s Paths

There is only one more point that I need to make, and it is not difficult at all. If you are serious about knowing the Lord’s will and honestly seeking it, then you must be prepared for the Lord to guide you into new ways. If there is one thing that I have most learned about the Lord’s guidance it is that he does not often lead us in old ways. God is creative; he is creative in his plans for his children.

David Wilkerson, the author of The Cross and the Switchblade and a minister who has been greatly blessed in a unique ministry to teenagers in New York City, tells in the opening chapter of his book how he was led in new paths in his ministry. He had been a Pentecostal preacher in central Pennsylvania, and by his personal standards he was doing quite well. The church had grown and there were several new buildings. Yet he was discontented. One day he decided to spend the late evening hours praying instead of watching television. He sold the television set after much hesitation and began to spend time with the Lord. Eventually, out of these times of prayer he was led to begin his work helping the youth caught up in drug addiction and delinquency in Manhattan. God’s will for David Wilkerson meant leading a country preacher into the heart and heartbreak of the city.

It will also be true for you. If you will seek God’s will, determining to do it even before you know what it is, if you will look to him while responding to his voice in the Bible, then God will reveal his way and direct you in ever widening and ever more interesting paths. He will be close to you, and he will lead you in the way that you should go.[2]

Pursuing the Prize Requires a Proper Recognition

Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; (3:15)

Paul was not in the spiritual race alone; it includes all Christians, described here by the phrase as many as are perfect (cf. Heb. 10:14). The apostle is not speaking of practical perfection; that would contradict what he said earlier in the passage. Practical perfection does not come until believers are glorified. Rather, in a play on words, he describes believers as those who are positionally perfect in Christ. Since this is a polemic passage directed against those who taught that perfection is attainable in this life, Paul’s use of perfect may be a bit double-edged, with a tinge of sarcasm. Those false teachers were not perfect in practice, and also were not perfect in position.

Every true Christian must have this same attitude that Paul had. Phroneō (have this attitude) literally means “to think this way,” “to be intent on this,” or “to set one’s mind on this.” It might be translated “continually think like this.” Like Paul, believers must be totally focused on making the maximum effort to pursue the prize of Christlikeness. We know how Christ thinks because the Scripture gives us His mind (1 Cor. 2:16). When we think biblical, divine thoughts, viewing all of life from the Lord’s perspective, those thoughts will move our behavior to become like His (cf. Col. 3:16).

But Paul was an experienced pastor and knew that not all believers would share the strength and relentlessness of his focus on pursuing the prize. To them Paul says, if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you. Those who refuse to heed Paul’s message will hear that same message from God. He will correct them through His Word, His Spirit, or through chastening. God will do whatever it takes to make believers recognize their need to pursue the prize of Christlikeness. He will also provide the resources they need to do that (2 Peter 1:3).[3]

15 Paul may speak ironically, if the NASB rendering of teleios (GK 5455) as “perfect” is correct—“Let us therefore, as many as are perfect [teleioi], have this attitude.” If one thinks one has already arrived, then surely God will inform one of this as well. It is a mark of the perfect person not to reckon himself or herself perfect. But teleios may also mean “mature,” as the NIV translates it, and Paul is more likely to refer to the maturity of their thinking (cf. 1 Co 3:1–3; 14:20). Those who think differently see no need to live a cruciform lifestyle and do not understand that self-renunciation is an intrinsic feature of Christian maturity.[4]

3:15 As many as are mature should share Paul’s willingness to suffer and die for Christ and to bend every effort in the quest for likeness to the Lord Jesus. This is the mature view of the Christian faith. Some would call it extreme, radical, or fanatical. But the apostle states that those who are full-grown will see that this is the only sane, logical, reasonable response to the One who shed His lifeblood for them on Calvary.

If in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Paul realizes that not all will agree with him in adopting such a dangerous philosophy. But he expresses the confidence that if a person is really willing to know the truth of the matter, God will reveal it to him. The reason we have such an easy-going, complacent Christianity today is because we do not want to know the truth; we are not willing to obey the demands of ideal Christianity. God is willing to show the truth to those who are willing to follow it.[5]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 150). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] Boice, J. M. (2000). Philippians: an expositional commentary (pp. 202–208). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2001). Philippians (p. 249). Chicago: Moody Press.

[4] Garland, D. E. (2006). Philippians. In T. Longman III (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, p. 246). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1975–1976). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.