Daily Archives: May 20, 2017

May 20, 2017: Verse of the day

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16–17 Judah’s pattern of disobedience is rehearsed again. Because the people have lost their bearings and forgotten their way, the Lord exhorts them to return to the foundations, to the ancient paths, to the sure foundations of their ancestors. (Compare the description of false deities in Dt 13:6; 28:64 as gods which “neither you nor your fathers have known,” and note the call in Pr 22:28 not to “move an ancient boundary stone set up by your forefathers.”) This is where they will find respite and rest for their souls (language apparently borrowed in Mt 11:28–30), but in keeping with their history they said, “We won’t go that way!” (Compare the response to Isaiah’s invitation in Isa 30:15: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.”)

So the Lord reached out to them once more (v. 17), warning them through watchmen (= prophets; cf. Eze 3:17–21; 33:1–9), who urged them to listen to the sound of the alarm, but they said, “We won’t listen!” (e.g., 18:12; note the call to the people to turn back and do right, followed by their negative response; on this, cf. already 2:25; note also God’s heart on all of this in 7:13b and par.).[1]


6:16 Here is the image of travelers who are lost, stopping to inquire about the right way they once knew before they wandered so far off it.[2]


6:16 the ancient paths. The way of faithfulness revealed to Moses and the earlier prophets. the good way. The proper life of faith-driven obedience. walk. A metaphor for patterned living (cf. Ps. 1:1). We will not walk describes strong rebellion against revealed truth.[3]


6:16 the ancient paths A metaphor for the proper way to worship Yahweh according to the laws of the Pentateuch. Compare Jer 18:15.

We will not walk The people’s refusal is direct and explicit; it is open rebellion against following Yahweh.[4]


6:16 ancient paths. This phrase describes the traditional religious life of the Israelites from the time of Moses; it is the task of priests and prophets to direct the people.[5]


6:16 Jeremiah admonishes the people to remember the old traditions of faith and obedience. By returning to those ancient paths and walking in them they could find rest. They defiantly refuse![6]


6:16, 17 Old paths probably refers to the Sinai covenant and the Book of Deuteronomy, as Jeremiah called the people back to former days of steadfast devotion. The people obstinately refused to walk rightly and find rest. They also refused to listen to the alarming sound of the trumpet, denying that any danger existed.[7]


[1] Brown, M. L. (2010). Jeremiah. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah–Ezekiel (Revised Edition) (Vol. 7, p. 153). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1385). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Je 6:16). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1270). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

[6] 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., Je 6:16). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[7] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 889). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

May 20 – Desiring Christ’s Presence (Thomas)

The twelve apostles included “Thomas” (Matt. 10:3).

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The follower of Christ will have an intense desire to be in Christ’s presence.

When you think of Thomas, you probably think of a doubter. But if you look beyond his doubt, you’ll see he was characterized by something that should mark every true believer—an intense desire to be with Christ.

John 10:39–40 tells us Jesus and His disciples left Jerusalem because of threats on Jesus’ life. While they were staying near the Jordan River, Jesus received word that His dear friend Lazarus was sick. He delayed going to Lazarus because He didn’t want merely to heal him, but to raise him from the dead.

Lazarus lived in Bethany—just two miles east of Jerusalem. So when Jesus decided to go there, His disciples were deeply concerned, thinking it would surely be a suicide mission (John 11:8). Despite the danger, Thomas said, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him” (v. 16). That’s a pessimistic attitude, but it also shows his courage and his desire to be with Christ, whether in life or death. An optimist would expect the best, making it easier to go. Thomas expected the worst but was willing to go anyway.

I believe Thomas couldn’t bear the thought of living without Christ. He would rather die with Him than live without Him. That’s also evident in John 14, where Jesus told the disciples He was going away to prepare a place for them. Thomas responded by saying in effect, “Lord, we don’t know where you’re going or how to get there. Please don’t go somewhere we can’t go!” (v. 5). He didn’t understand what Jesus was going to do. All he knew was that he didn’t want to be separated from his Lord.

Can you identify with Thomas? Is Christ such an integral part of your daily decisions and activities that life without Him is unthinkable? Do you love Him so much you long to see Him? That was Thomas’s passion. May it be yours as well.

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank the Lord for His presence and power in your life. ✧ Demonstrate your love for Him by communing with Him often.

For Further Study: Read John 14:1–31. ✧ What did Jesus say about His return? ✧ Who would comfort and instruct the disciples in Christ’s absence?[1]


Thomas

Probably since the first century, Thomns has been known primarily, if not almost exclusively, for his doubt; and “doubting Thomas” has long been an epithet for skeptics. But a careful look at the gospel accounts reveals this disciple was a man of great faith and dedication.

As with several other apostles, all that is known of him besides his name is found in John’s gospel. While Jesus was ministering on the other side of the Jordan River near Jericho, the report came that Lazarus had died. On hearing the news, Jesus said to His disciples, “I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him” (John 11:15). Even after witnessing so many miracles, including the raising of the dead, the twelve were still lacking in faith, and Jesus determined to perform this last great miracle for their benefit. He had already decided to go back to Judea, despite reminders by the disciples that it would cost His life (vv. 7–8). Because Bethany was a near suburb of Jerusalem, for Jesus to go there was almost as dangerous as His going into Jerusalem. Fully realizing the danger for all of them, “Thomas therefore, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with Him’ ” (v. 16).

Thomas, and doubtlessly the other disciples as well, believed that, because of the hostility of the Jewish establishment, going to Jerusalem would be virtual suicide. But he took the initiative to encourage the twelve to go with Jesus and suffer the consequences with Him. He was obviously pessimistic about the outcome of the trip, but the pessimism makes his act all the more courageous. As a pessimist, he expected the worst possible consequences; yet he was willing to go. An optimist would have needed less courage, because he would have expected less danger. Thomas was willing to pay the ultimate price for the sake of His Lord.

Such unreserved willingness to die for Christ was hardly the mark of a doubter. Thomas was willing to die for Christ because he totally believed in Him. Thomas was perhaps equalled only by John in his utter and unwavering devotion to Jesus. He had such an intense love for the Lord that he could not endure existence without Him. If Jesus was determined to go to jerusalem and certain death, so was Thomas, because the alternative of living without Him was unthinkable.

Herbert Lockyet has commented: “Like those brave knights in attendance upon the blind King John of Bohemia who rode into the battle of Crécy with their bridles intertwined with that of their master, resolved to share his fate, whatever it might be … so Thomas, come life, come death, was resolved not to forsake his Lord, seeing he was bound to Him by a deep and enthusiastic love” (All the Apostles of the Bible [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1972], p. 178)

Thomas had no illusions. He saw the jaws of death and did not flinch. He would rather face death than face disloyalty to Christ.

In the Upper Room following the Last Supper, Jesus urged the disciples not to be troubled in heart and assured them that He was going to prepare a heavenly place for them and would come again and receive them to Himself, in order that they might forever be with Him. He then said, “And you know the way where I am going” (John 14:1–4). Puzzled at this, Thomas asked, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” (v. 5).

Only a few days earlier Thomas had declared his determination to die with Christ if necessary. His devotion to Christ was unqualified, but like the other disciples he had almost no understanding of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, for which his Master had been preparing him for three years. Thomas had little comprehension of what Jesus had just said, apparently assuming Jesus was only talking about taking a long journey to a distant country. He was bewildered, saddened, and anxious. Again the disciple’s pessimism and also his love are revealed. His pessimism made him fear that he might somehow be permanently separated from his Lord, and his love for his Lord made that fear unbearable. Understanding Thomas’s heart as well as his words, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (v. 6). “If you know Me,” Jesus was saying, “you know the way. And if you are in Me, you are in the way. Your only concern is to be with Me, and I will take you wherever I go.”

The third text in which John tells us about Thomas is by far the best known. When Jesus was crucified and buried, all of Thomas’s worst fears had seemed to come true. Jesus had been killed, but the disciples were spared. Their Master was gone, and they were left alone, leaderless and helpless. For Thomas it was worse than death, which he had been perfectly willing to accept. He felt forsaken, rejected, and probably even betrayed. From his perspective, his worst pessimism had been vindicated. Jesus’ promises had been empty-sincere and well meaning, no doubt, but nevertheless empty. Because he loved Jesus so much, the feeling of rejection was all the more deep and painful. The deepest hurt is potentiated by the greatest love.

When the other disciples told Thomas they had seen the Lord, he probably felt like salt had been poured into his wounds. He was in no mood for fantasies about His departed Lord. It was unbearably painful trying to adjust to Jesus’ death, and he had no desire to be shattered by more false hopes. When Thomas heard that Jesus was raised from the dead and alive, he declared, “Unless I shall see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).

A person who is depressed, especially if he is naturally pessimistic, is hard to convince that anything will ever be right again. Because he is convinced his plight is permanent, the idea of improvement not only seems unrealistic but can be very irritating. To the person confirmed in hopelessness, even the idea of hope can be an offense.

But Thomas’s attitude was basically no different from that of the other disciples. They, too, were incredulous when first told of Jesus’ resurrection. When Peter and John ran to the tomb and found it empty as Mary had said, “as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead” (John 20:9). Even with evidence of the resurrection, they did not search for a risen Lord but went back home (v. 10). When Christ appeared to the ten disciples (Judas was dead, and Thomas was elsewhere), who huddled behind closed doors “for fear of the Jews,” they were not certain that it was the flesh and blood Jesus until after He “showed them both His hands and His side” (vv. 19–20). Nor had the two disciples to whom Jesus appeared on the Emmaus road believed the reports of His resurrection (Luke 24:21–24). None of the disciples believed Jesus was alive until they saw Him in person.

Because they all doubted His promise to rise on the third day, Jesus allowed Thomas to remain in his doubt for another eight days. When He then appeared again to the disciples, He singled out this dear soul who loved him enough to die for Him and who was now utterly shattered in spirit. “Reach here your finger, and see My hands,” He said to Thomas, “and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:26–27). In one of the greatest confessions ever made, Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” Now all doubt was gone and he knew with full certainty that Jesus was God, that Jesus was Lord, and that Jesus was alive! The Lord then gently rebuked Thomas, saying, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” (vv. 28–29). But His rebuke was fully as much of the other disciples as of Thomas, because his doubt, though openly declared, had been no greater than theirs.

If Jesus is not God and is not alive, the gospel is a foolish and futile deception, the furthest thing from good news. “If Christ has not been raised,” Paul told the Corinthian skeptics, “your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins … If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:17, 19).

Tradition holds that Thomas preached as far away as India, and the Mar Thoma Church, which still exists in southwest India and bears his name, traces its origin to him. He is said to have had died from a spear being thrust through him, a fitting death for the one who insisted on placing his hand in the spear wound of his Lord.)[2]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 153). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Mt 10:3). Chicago: Moody Press.

MAY 20 – GOD WOULD IMPART HIMSELF WITH HIS GIFTS

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.

2 CORINTHIANS 9:8

Have you had any part in the modern cheapening of the Christian gospel by making God your servant? Have you allowed leanness to come to your soul because you have been expecting that God would come around with a basket, giving away presents?

I feel that we must repudiate this great modern wave of seeking God for His benefits. Anyone can write a best-selling book now—just give it a title like “Seventeen Ways to Get Things from God!”

I would say there are millions who do not seem to know or understand that God wants to give Himself! He wants to impart Himself with His gifts. Any gift that He would give us would be incomplete if it were separated from the knowledge of God Himself.

If I should pray for all of the spiritual gifts listed in Paul’s epistles and the Spirit of God should see fit to give them, it would be extremely dangerous for me if, in the giving, God did not give Himself as well.

It is a fact that God has created an environment for all of His creatures. Because God made man in His image and redeemed him, the heart of God Himself is the true environment for the Christian. If there is grief in heaven, I think it must come because we want God’s gifts but we do not want God Himself as our environment![1]


While it is possible to give without loving, it is not possible to love without giving. God gives His Son to all believers, but as previously noted, He blesses in a unique way generous, cheerful givers. In fact, He blesses such believers on such a grand, immense, staggering scale that it beggars language to express it. Trying to convey the magnanimity of God’s generosity, Paul resorted to hyperbole, using a form of the word pas (all) five times in verse 8. God’s gracious giving has no limits; it is off the scale.

Since giving naturally seems to result in having less, not more, it takes faith to believe that giving will open up God’s blessing. Christians must believe that what God has promised to do He is able to do. Dunateō (is able) literally means “has power.” God’s power is great (Deut. 4:37; 9:29; Neh. 1:10; Pss. 66:3; 79:11; Jer. 32:17; Nah. 1:3; Rev. 11:17) and is exhibited in creation, providence, miracles, salvation, the resurrections of Jesus Christ and believers, and in the eternal destruction of the wicked in hell. Not surprisingly, then, Paul expressed his concern “that [the Corinthians’] faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:5).

Human wisdom teaches that prosperity comes from grasping for wealth, not from giving it away. But faith trusts in God’s promise to bless the giver and in His ability to keep His promises, knowing that He is able to “do exceeding abundantly beyond all that [believers] ask or think” (Eph. 3:20), guard and preserve them (2 Tim. 1:12; Heb. 7:25; Jude 24), help them when they are tempted (Heb. 2:18), and raise them from the dead (Heb. 11:19). Believers, like Abraham, must be “fully assured that what God [has] promised, He [is] able also to perform” (Rom. 4:21).

God gives back magnanimously so as to make all grace abound to Christians who give generously. He gives so freely and abundantly that His children will always have all sufficiency in everything. In this context, that refers primarily to material resources, because the harvest must be of the same nature as the seed. Having sown material wealth by their giving, believers will reap an abundant harvest of material blessing in return. God graciously replenishes what they give so that they lack nothing; He will continuously provide the generous giver with the means of further expressing that generosity.

To the Cynic and Stoic philosophers of Paul’s day autarkeia (sufficiency) meant independence from people and circumstances. They viewed such independence as essential to true happiness. But the believer’s sufficiency does not come from independence from circumstances but rather from dependence on God. As Paul wrote to the Philippians, “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).

The reason God gives back to those who give is not, as prosperity teachers falsely imply and exemplify, so people can consume it on their own desires with bigger cars, homes, and jewels. God supplies them so they will have an abundance for every good deed. The Lord will fully supply cheerful givers with what they need to use for what is good work to the honor of the Lord. He constantly replenishes what they expend so the cycle of giving and ministering to others can continue. Generous givers are the people whose lives are most full of righteous deeds.[2]


For God is able to make all grace abound toward you, so that in everything you may always have enough of everything and you may abound in every good work.

Power. “For God is able to make all grace abound toward you.” Here are two preliminary observations:

First, in the preceding verse Paul teaches that God is love, and in the present verse that God is all-powerful. That is, God expresses his love to his people through his power.

Next, throughout this verse the concept all appears five times: all, everything, always, everything, and every. With this concept, Paul attempts to describe God’s infinite goodness and greatness.

The first item Paul discusses is that God has power “to make all grace abound toward you.” God is involved in all the intricacies of a person’s life, even in the decision one makes to give for a certain cause. Paul wrote that the Macedonians received God’s grace so that their decision to give resulted in a wealth of generosity (8:2). In the service of the Lord grace begets grace, although the believer’s grace in joyful giving can hardly be compared with God’s abounding grace to the believer. God showers his love on the joyful donor, who is unable to match God’s grace. He grants the gift of salvation, spiritual gifts, the fruits of the Spirit, and innumerable material blessings. In conclusion, all the spiritual and physical gifts are included in the word grace. The Corinthians were fully aware of Paul’s teaching on this point (see, e.g., 1 Cor. 1:4–7; 12; 2 Cor. 4:15; 6:1).

Sufficiency. “So that in everything you may always have enough of everything.” If we take these words literally, they appear too good to be true. Does God give the joyful Christian everything to meet all his or her material needs (compare Phil. 4:19)? True, God’s grace is all-sufficient to meet our every need any time. But when he grants us his grace, it is always meant to glorify him in his church and kingdom on earth:

It is given to us and we have it, not that we may have, but that we may do well therefore. All things in this life, even rewards, are seeds to believers for the future harvest.

A Christian who because of God’s grace always has enough of everything (compare 1 Tim. 6:6–8) must give within the framework of loving God and neighbor (Matt. 22:37–40). The spiritual and material flow of gifts coming from God to the believer may never stop with the recipient. It must be passed on to alleviate the needs of others in church and society (Gal. 6:10; 1 Tim. 6:17–18; 2 Tim. 3:17). The believer must always be a human channel through which divine grace flows to enrich others.

Paul writes the word autarkeia, which in this context means “sufficiency.” This cannot be interpreted as self-sufficiency or self-reliance, for we are completely dependent on God to supply us in every need. God provides us sufficiency for the purpose of our dependence on him and the support of fellow human beings.

Service. “And you may abound in every good work.” Twice in this verse Paul relates the verb to abound to God and to us. God makes his grace abound so that we may abound in performing good deeds. Fully trusting God to provide the necessary means, we may support the causes that promote his message at worship on Sundays. We support missions and evangelism, and in society we apply his divine message. God’s grace (singular noun) appears in varied forms; similarly, our good work (also a singular noun) includes all our activities.26[3]


8 One way God’s approval of cheerful givers (v. 7b) finds expression is in the provision of both spiritual grace and material prosperity (“all grace”) that will enable them constantly and generously to dispense spiritual and material benefits (“you will abound in every good work”). As regularly as the resources of the cheerful giver are taxed by generous giving, they are replenished by divine grace. This gives such a person a “complete sufficiency” (pasan autarkeian; NIV, “all that you need”) born of dependence on an all-sufficient God. In the writings of the Cynics and Stoics, on the other hand, this same term (autarkeia, GK 894) denoted an intrinsic self-sufficiency that made a person independent of external circumstance.

But autarkeia may also mean “contentment,” as in 1 Timothy 6:6 (“godliness with contentment is great gain”). Some commentators thus interpret v. 8 to mean that God supplies generous people with multiplied material blessings, so that, content as they themselves are in every circumstance (cf. Php 4:11), they may be able to shower multiplied benefits of every kind on the needy. But to restrict “all grace” to temporal benefits seems unnecessary.[4]


9:8 Here we have a promise that, if a person really wants to be generous, God will see that he is given the opportunity. Grace is here used as a synonym for resources. God is able to supply us with resources so that we will not only have a sufficiency ourselves, but so that we will be able to share what we have with others and thus have an abundance for every good work.

Notice the alls of this verse. All grace, always (that is, at all times), all sufficiency, all things, every good work.[5]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2003). 2 Corinthians (pp. 315–316). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Vol. 19, pp. 313–314). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] Harris, M. J. (2008). 2 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 508). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1854). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

May 20 – What Is God’s Kingdom?

Your kingdom come.—Matt. 6:10a

“Kingdom” is not so much a geographical territory as it is a sovereign dominion. When Christians pray “Your kingdom come,” they are asking God to rule through Christ’s future enthronement, His coming reign over the earth. The Greek for “come” indicates a sudden, instantaneous coming and here refers to the coming millennial kingdom (Rev. 20:4). Jesus is not speaking of some indirect effort by human good works to create a godly society on earth.

God’s coming kingdom will be a kingdom on earth but not a kingdom of this present world system. Jesus told Pontius Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). No human kingdom fits with God’s, which is why even the best measures to improve society are mere holding actions that only retard sinful corruption until Christ returns to establish His perfect kingdom.

Jesus came to “preach the kingdom of God” (Luke 4:43), and there is no other gospel but the good news of His kingdom. Even during His final days on earth He was faithful to teach the apostles things concerning that kingdom (Acts 1:3).

Yes, the kingdom has a past element that encompasses the Old Testament patriarchs (Matt. 8:11). The kingdom was also present during Jesus’ earthly ministry because He, its king, was “in [people’s] midst” (Luke 17:21). In a sense that is true today as believers are members of God’s invisible kingdom. But the particular focus of our prayers regarding the kingdom should be future, as we hope for the visible one to come.

ASK YOURSELF
What will you miss the least about earthly life when the fullness of His kingdom becomes your forever reality? Doesn’t that give you something to really look forward to? Let the genuine hope of this occurrence bolster your hope as you live through the coming day.[1]

God’s Program

Thy kingdom come. (6:10a)

Frances Havergal wrote these beautiful words of tribute to her Lord in her hymn “His Coming in Glory:”

Oh, the joy to see Thee reigning,

Thee, my own beloved Lord.

Every tongue Thy name confessing,

Worship, honor, glory, blessing,

Brought to Thee with glad accord.

Thee, my Master and my Friend,

Vindicated and enthroned,

Unto earth’s remotest end,

Glorified, adored, and owned.

Our greatest desire should be to see the Lord reigning as King in His kingdom, to have the honor and authority that have always been His but that He has not yet come to claim. The King is inseparable from His kingdom. To pray Thy kingdom come is to pray for the program of the eternal Deity to be fulfilled, for Christ to come and reign as King of kings and Lord of lords. His program and His plan should be the preoccupation of our lives and of our prayers.

But how self-centered our prayers usually are, focused on our needs, our plans, our aspirations, our understandings. We are often like tiny infants, who know no world but the world of their own feelings and wants. One of the greatest struggles of the Christian life is to fight the old sinful habits, with their constant and unrelenting focus on self.

Even problems and issues outside of ourselves can cloud our supreme concern for God’s kingdom. It is our responsibility to pray for our families, pastors, missionaries, national and other leaders, and for many other people and things. But our prayers in every case should be that God’s will be done in and through those people, that they would think, speak, and act in accordance with God’s will. The best we can pray for any person or for any cause is that God’s kingdom be advanced in that person or that cause.

The holy purpose of the divine Father is to exalt Christ in the consummation of history when the Son rules and reigns in His kingdom. The Talmud is right in saying that if a prayer does not name the kingdom of God, it is not a prayer (Berakoth 21a).

The greatest opposition to Christ’s kingdom, and the greatest opposition to Christian living, is the kingdom of this present world, which Satan rules. The essence of Satan’s kingdom is opposition to God’s kingdom and God’s people.

Basileia (kingdom) does not refer primarily to a geographical territory but to sovereignty and dominion. Therefore when we pray Thy kingdom come, we are praying for God’s rule through Christ’s enthronement to come, His glorious reign on earth to begin. Come translates the aorist active imperative of erchomai, indicating a sudden, instantaneous coming (cf. Matt. 24:27). It is the coming millennial kingdom (Rev. 20:4) of which the Lord is speaking, not an indirect effort to create a more godly society on earth through the progressive, human-oriented work of Christians.

To pray Thy kingdom come is to pray for God’s kingdom, the kingdom over which He, and He alone, is Lord and King. It will be a kingdom on earth (v. 10a), but it will not be a kingdom of this world-that is, of this present world system. “My kingdom is not of this world,” Jesus told Pilate (John 18:36). No human kingdom could dovetail with God’s kingdom, even partially. Sinful man could not be a part of a divine reign. That is why we do not advance God’s kingdom by trying to improve human society. Many good and worthy causes deserve the support of Christians, but in supporting those causes we neither build the earthly kingdom of Jesus Christ or bring it closer. Even the best of such things are but holding actions that help retard the corruption that will always and inevitably characterize human societies and human kingdoms-until the Lord returns to establish His own perfect kingdom.

The kingdom of God, or of heaven, was the heart of Jesus’ message. He came to “preach the kingdom of God” (Luke 4:43). There is no other gospel but the good news of the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. Always and everywhere He went, Jesus preached the message of salvation as entrance to the kingdom. He even stated that He “must preach the kingdom … for I was sent for this purpose” (Luke 4:43). For the forty days that Jesus remained on earth between His resurrection and ascension He spoke to His disciples “of the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

God’s kingdom is past, in the sense that it embodied Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matt. 8:11). It was present in the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, in the sense that the true divine King was present “in the midst of you” (Luke 17:21, lit.). But the particular focus of our praying is to be on the kingdom that is yet to come.

God now and always has ruled the kingdom of the universe. He created it, and He controls it, orders it, and holds it together. As James Or comments, “There is therefore recognized in Scripture … a natural and universal kingdom or dominion of God embracing all objects, persons, and events, all doings of individuals and nations, all operations and changes of nature and history, absolutely without exception.” … (cited by Alva J. McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom [Winona Lake, Ind.: bmh Books, 1980], p. 22). God’s is an “everlasting kingdom” (Ps. 145:13), and even now “His sovereignty rules over all” (Ps. 103:19; cf. 29:10; 1 Chron. 29:11–12; etc.).

But the most obvious fact of life is that God is not now ruling on earth as He rules in heaven (Matt. 6:10c)-and it is the divine earthly kingdom we are to pray will come. Our praying should be for Christ to return and to establish His earthly kingdom, to put down sin and enforce obedience to God’s will. The Lord will then “rule them with a rod of iron” (Rev. 2:27; cf. Isa. 30:14; Jer. 19:11). After a thousand years His earthly kingdom will blend into His eternal kingdom, and there will be no distinction between His rule on earth and His rule in heaven (see Rev. 20–21).

The Greek of this verse could be translated “Let Thy kingdom come now.” There is therefore a sense in which we pray for God’s kingdom to come presently. In a present and limited, but real and miraculous way, God’s kingdom is coming to earth each time a new soul is brought into the kingdom.

First of all, the kingdom comes in this way by conversion (Matt. 18:1–4). So prayer should be evangelistic and missionary-for new converts, new children of God, new kingdom citizens. Conversion to the kingdom involves an invitation (Matt. 22:1–14), repentance (Mark 1:14–15), and a willing response (Mark 12:28–34; Luke 9:61–62). The present existence of the kingdom on earth is internal, in the hearts and minds of those who belong to Jesus Christ, the King. We should pray for their number to mightily increase. Praying for the kingdom to come, in this sense, is praying for the salvation of souls. Every believer should seek others who can sing, “King of my life, I crown Thee now, Thine shall the glory be” (“Lead Me to Calvary,” by Jennie Evelyn Hussey).

The kingdom for which we are to pray, and of which we now have a taste, is of infinite value. “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field” or a “pearl of great value” which a person sells all his possessions to buy (Matt. 13:44–46). Its value is so great that each of those parables emphasizes that the procurer sold all he had to purchase salvation (cf. Matt. 10:37).

Second, the kingdom comes now through commitment. The desire of those already converted should be to respond to the rule of the Lord in their lives now so that He rules in them as He rules in heaven. When we pray as Jesus teaches, we will continually pray that our lives will honor and glorify our Father in heaven.

The call for the kingdom to come is also related to the second coming of the Lord. John says in the last chapter of Revelation: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (22:20).

In that day, our prayers will finally be answered. As the hymn by Isaac Watts begins, “Jesus shall reign where’ere the sun does its successive journeys run. His kingdom spread from shore to shore, ’til moon shall wax and wane no more.” Paul emphasizes that waiting for the kingdom to come in its final form is not so much looking for an event as for a person-the King Himself (1 Thess. 1:10).[2]


10a. Thy kingdom come. For the meaning of the concept “kingdom of heaven” or “of God” see pp. 249, 250. The second petition implies the following:

  1. It is only when the heavenly Father, on the basis of the Son’s atonement, and through the operation of the Holy Spirit, rules in men’s hearts that true and lasting betterment in individual, family, social, national, and international conditions can be expected (Ps. 20:7; Zech. 4:6).
  2. This is a prayer. In the history of missions it has been demonstrated again and again that the coming of the entrance of the reign of God into human hearts requires earnest prayer (Matt. 7:7; Mark 9:29; Acts 4:31; 13:3).
  3. Until the moment of the second coming there is need for this prayer; for, though the kingdom is here already (Luke 17:21), it is still absent from many hearts. In fact, there is every reason to doubt that progress in evangelization is keeping pace with progress in iniquity.
  4. The transforming grace and power of God is required before a man changes from the ardent yearning, “My kingdom come,” and from the boast, “By my own effort I am already on the way to the realization of this goal,” to the humble petition, “Thy kingdom come.” As to the boasters and their fall, think of Korah and his company (Num. 16), Sennacherib (Isa. 37:10–13, 37, 38), Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 4:30–33), Edom (Obad. 1–4), Haman (Esther 3–7; especially 5:11, 12), Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:21–23), and “the rich fool” of the parable (Luke 12:18–20).
  5. Prayer for the establishment of the kingship of Christ in human hearts does not exclude the necessity of work. There must be preaching, visits to the homes, Bible translation and distribution, follow-up work, etc. Cf. Acts 20:17–38; 1 Thess. 2:9–12.
  6. “Thy kingdom come” is clearly a prayer for the progress of missionary activity (Rev. 6:2);

Jesus shall reign where’er the sun

Does his successsive journeys run;

His kingdom stretch from shore to shore

Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

(Isaac Watts)

  1. The desire of the supplicant is, however, not only that the kingdom mar come extensively but also that it may more and more be established intensively, that is, that he himself and all those already converted may increasingly acknowledge God in Christ as their sovereign Ruler:

Fill thou my life O Lord my God

In every part with praise,

That my whole being may proclaim

Thy being and thy ways.

Not for the lip of praise alone,

Nor e’en the praising heart

I ask, but for a life made up

Of praise in every part.

(Horatius Bonar)

Just as the first petition already implied the second, so the second implies the third, for God’s kingdom will not come unless his will be done. [3]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 149). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 379–381). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Vol. 9, pp. 330–331). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

MAY 20 – GOD WAS, THAT’S ALL!

Thy throne is established of old: thou art from everlasting.

—Psalm 93:2

God never began to be. I want you to kick that word “began” around a little bit in your mind and think about it. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1), but God Himself never began to be! “Began” is a word that doesn’t affect God at all. There are many concepts and ideas that don’t touch God at all, such as the concept of beginning or creation, when God spoke and things began to be. “In the beginning God created”—but before the beginning, there wasn’t any “beginning”; there wasn’t any “before”! The old theologians used to say that eternity is a circle. Round and round the circle we go, but back before there was any circle, God was!

God didn’t begin to be—God was. God didn’t start out from somewhere—God just is….

But there never was a time when God was not! No one said, “Let God be”! Otherwise, the one who said “Let God be” would have to be God. And the one about whom He said “Let him be” wouldn’t be God at all, but a secondary “god” who wouldn’t be worth our trouble. God, back there in the beginning, created. God was, that’s all! AOGII057-058

Lord, You are beyond my comprehension and worthy of my praise. Thou art from everlasting, the great I AM. Amen. [1]


Yahweh’s Kingship on Earth (93:1c–2)

Commentary

1c–2 The Lord established his kingship on earth when he created the “world” (tēbēl; cf. 24:1). The doctrine of God the Creator stands in stark contrast to the pagan teachings on chaos, primordial forces, and random happenings. Yahweh is the Creator-God. He has “established” (tikkôn) the world, and it will not reel and totter under the duress of hostile forces (10:6; 104:5), for Yahweh has established his rule over it. The nations may rage against his rule, but it will not fall (2:1–4; 46:6). His throne is “established” (nākôn, GK 3922, v. 6, from kûn, as is tikkôn above). Yahweh is “from all eternity” (90:2), but his rule over earth has a historical dimension (“long ago”; cf. Isa 44:8; 45:21; 48:3, 5, 7–8); therefore the psalmist considers that the “throne” was established when creation took place.[2]


93:1, 2 The songs that will be sung when Jesus is crowned Lord are all ready—and this is one of them. It anticipates the glorious day when Israel’s Messiah proclaims Himself King. He will be clothed with majesty, in contrast to the lowly grace which characterized Him at His First Advent. He will openly clothe Himself with the strength that is needed to reign over the world. And world conditions will then be established on a firm, stable basis, no longer subject to vast moral and political convulsions.

Of course, the throne of Jehovah has always existed, but it has not been as clearly manifest as it will be when the Millennium dawns. The King Himself too is eternal, and as His authority had no beginning, so it will have no end.[3]


93:2 from everlasting. God has no beginning; He is uncreated. This conception of the eternal kingship of God stands in stark contrast with the theology of Mesopotamia and Canaan. In these neighboring regions, the power of the gods varied according to changes in the political arena.[4]


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

[2] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 708). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 692–693). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 941). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

May 20 – Rejoicing Through the Spirit

“If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”

1 Peter 4:14

✧✧✧

The indwelling Holy Spirit allows us to rejoice, no matter how greatly we suffer or are persecuted.

One of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of the past half century has been the discovery of the DNA molecule, which carries unique and essential genetic information about all living beings. The most well–known practical application of DNA has been the “fingerprinting” technique in which genetic information from one DNA sample is compared with that of another. If the information matches, it’s highly probable, but not absolutely certain, that the samples identify the same individual.

While discoveries about DNA’s ability to more precisely determine physical identity have been newsworthy, God long ago established His infallible truth regarding spiritual identity. The apostle Paul gives us the basic criterion by which we can know if we are believers: “However you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Rom. 8:9). This reinforces Jesus’ teaching to Nicodemus about being born again (John 3:3–6). Therefore, all genuine believers will know the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence.

The Spirit’s presence in our lives is one final reason we have to rejoice in trials and sufferings. Peter calls the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of glory” because as deity the Spirit has glory as an essential attribute. Although that glory doesn’t manifest itself today as it did in the Old Testament (e.g., the cloud in the tabernacle), the Spirit’s indwelling a Christian is nonetheless real for any who are undergoing a trial.

First Peter 4:14 is referring to a special grace that goes beyond the normal indwelling of the Spirit. It is much like the extraordinary power that Stephen realized before and during his stoning (see Acts 6:15; 7:55–60). God’s Spirit gave him amazing composure and strength and lifted him above normal pain and fear. The Holy Spirit also blesses us with abundant grace, specially suited to our times of need. Therefore, it should be hard for us to react with any attitude but rejoicing, no matter how difficult our trials.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, who ministers daily in your life.

For Further Study: Read Exodus 3:1–6. What was unique about the bush? ✧ How did Moses react to God’s glory?[1]


Exult in Suffering

but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. (4:13–14)

To the degree is a generous way to translate katho (“as,” “according to which”) and thus to show that Christians’ eternal reward is proportionate to their earthly suffering (cf. Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:16–18; Heb. 11:26; 2 John 8; Rev. 2:10). That is a reasonable relationship since suffering reveals faithfulness to their Lord Jesus Christ, who Himself noted this relationship between suffering and reward, saying,

Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets. (Luke 6:22–23)

Peter further enriches the endurance of those who are persecuted by stating that they share the sufferings of Christ. That is not in any redemptive sense; neither does it refer only to spiritual union with Him, as Paul describes in Romans 6. But it refers to believers experiencing the same kind of sufferings He endured—suffering for what is right. R. C. H. Lenski rightly elaborates the meaning of Peter’s expression:

The readers [of 1 Peter] are only in fellowship with the sufferings of Christ. This is a thought that is prominent and fully carried out by Paul in Rom. 8:17; II Cor. 1:7; 4:10; Phil. 1:29; 3:10; Col. 1:24. It goes back to Christ’s word (John 15:20, 21).

We fellowship Christ’s sufferings when we suffer for his name’s sake, when the hatred that struck him strikes us because of him. Never is there a thought of fellowshiping in the expiation of Christ’s suffering, our suffering also being expiatory. In Matt. 5:12 persecution places us in the company of the persecuted prophets (high exaltation indeed); here it places us in the company of Christ himself, into an even greater communion or [koinōnia]. Is that “a strange thing” or to be deemed strange? It is what we should deem proper, natural, to be expected, yea, as Peter says (following Matt. 5:12), a cause for joy. (The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude [reprint; Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1966], 203)

Christ who suffered at the hands of wicked men even though He was without sin (Isa. 53:9; Matt. 26:67; 27:12, 26, 29–31, 39–44; John 10:31, 33; 11:8; Acts 2:23) promised believers it would be their privilege to suffer in the same way when He said, “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also” (John 15:20).

To the degree that believers suffer unjustly, they should, as their Lord did, keep on rejoicing, a sentiment completely unacceptable to those who have no hope of heavenly reward, but affirmed by the Lord when He declared,

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt. 5:10–12)

The revelation of His glory will come in “the day that the Son of Man is revealed” (Luke 17:30), which refers to Christ’s return. The Lord resumed the full exercise of His glory after He ascended to heaven, but He has not yet revealed it on earth for everyone to see (cf. Matt. 24:30; Phil. 2:9–11; Rev. 19:11–16). (Peter, James, and John did get a preview of that glory when they witnessed Christ’s transfiguration [Mark 9:2–3; cf. 2 Peter 1:16–18].)

Peter’s second use of rejoice (chairō) in verse 13 is qualified by exultation (agalliaō), a reference to rapturous joy. When Christ returns, believers will rejoice with exultation (cf. the discussion of joy in chapter 3 of this volume), and do so in proportion to their share in His sufferings in this life. Those who share His sufferings will also share His glory (5:1; cf. Matt. 20:20–23). The saints’ suffering for righteousness proves them, refines them, and earns for them “an eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17) so that the greater their suffering the stronger their hope, and the richer their joy (cf. 2 Cor. 4:16–18; James 1:2).

The name of Christ is the cause of evil hatred directed toward believers (Matt. 10:22; 24:9). In the early days of the church, His name first became synonymous with the Savior Himself and all that He represents (cf. Luke 24:47; John 1:12; Acts 2:38; 4:17, 30; 9:15; 19:17). In Peter’s sermon before the Sanhedrin, he asserted, “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Later the apostles “went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (5:41). In His vision concerning the conversion of Saul of Tarsus and his subsequent preaching as Paul the apostle, Christ told Ananias of Damascus, “I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake” (9:16). It is not the name “Christ” that offends the ungodly, but rather who He is and what He said and did that causes hostility from them.

That animosity is summed up in the word reviled (oneidizō), meaning “to denounce,” or “to heap insults upon.” In the Septuagint it described hostility heaped at God and His people by the godless (Pss. 42:10; 44:16; 74:10, 18; cf. Isa. 51:7; Zeph. 2:8). In the New Testament it refers to the indignities and mistreatments Christ endured from sinners (Matt. 27:44; Mark 15:32; Rom. 15:3). In the first century, unbelievers were often exasperated and infuriated that believers were so frequently speaking of Christ, whose indictment of sinners they despised (cf. Acts 4:17–18; 17:1–7).

However, all the hatred and violence of the world against Christians does not diminish their blessedness. Actually they are more blessed for such suffering, not only for the eternal reward they will receive but for the present blessing, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on them. It is not merely because of suffering that the Holy Spirit will rest on believers, as when He came on and departed from an Old Testament prophet, but rather that He, already being in believers permanently (Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 6:19–20; 12:13), gives them supernatural relief in the midst of their suffering. Because the Spirit is God, divine glory defines His nature (cf. Pss. 93:1; 104:1; 138:5). Glory recalls the Shekinah, which in the Old Testament symbolized God’s earthly presence (Ex. 24:16–17; 34:5–8; 40:34–38; Hab. 3:3–4). When the tabernacle and the ark of the covenant were brought to Solomon’s newly dedicated temple, “the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord” (1 Kings 8:11). As the brilliant cloud of the Shekinah rested in the tabernacle and the temple, so the Holy Spirit lives in and ministers to believers today. Rests (from the present tense of anapauō) means “to give relief, refreshment, intermission from toil” (cf. Matt. 11:28–29; Mark 6:31), and describes one of His ministries. “Refreshment” comes on those believers who suffer for the sake of the Savior and the gospel. The Spirit gives them grace by imparting endurance, understanding, and all the fruit that comes in the panoply of His goodness: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22–23).

That kind of refreshment and divine power came upon Stephen, a leader in the Jerusalem church and its first recorded martyr. As he began to defend his faith before the Jewish leaders, they “saw his face like the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15). His demeanor signified serenity, tranquility, and joy—all the fruit of the Spirit—undiminished and even expanded by his suffering and the Holy Comforter’s grace to him. The Sanhedrin became enraged as Stephen rehearsed redemptive history to them from the Old Testament, an account that culminated in the atoning work of Jesus the Messiah. Stephen’s Spirit-controlled rest was evident as “he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God’ ” (Acts 7:55–56). As his enemies stoned him to death, Stephen “called on the Lord and said, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’ Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’ Having said this, he fell asleep” (vv. 59–60). Truly the Spirit of glory elevated him above his suffering to sweet relief. That powerful work of the Spirit was the cause of Paul’s later testimony in 2 Corinthians 12:9–10, “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”[2]


  1. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

Notice the following points:

  1. Celebrate

“But rejoice.” With the term but Peter introduces a contrast. He places the emphasis on the command rejoice. Instead of looking negatively at their suffering, Christians need to look positively to Jesus and rejoice in their lot. Peter says, “Rejoice and continue to rejoice.” He is fully aware of the apparent contradiction. (Paul remarks that while experiencing numerous hardships in their ministry, he and his fellow servants of God are “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” [2 Cor. 6:10].) Peter tells the readers that when suffering for the sake of Christ is their lot, they should place their affliction in the context of joy. Rejoice! Here is the reason:

  1. Participate

“You participate in the sufferings of Christ.” What a privilege, what an honor for Christians to participate in Christ’s sufferings! Especially in the epistles of Paul, the thought of suffering for Christ’s sake is prominent. The apostles are not saying that the sufferings of Christ are incomplete until Christians, too, have suffered. Christ’s atoning sacrifice is complete and our participation in his suffering has nothing to do with that sacrifice. However, Christ identifies with his people and when they suffer for his cause, he suffers. When they teach and preach the gospel, when they witness for Jesus, and when they encounter affliction for his sake, they participate in the sufferings of Christ. Then, because of their relationship to Christ, they rejoice and are jubilant (compare Acts 5:41).

  1. Jubilate

“So that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” In the original, Peter writes a combination of two verbs, both of which express the concept joy. The resultant translation is “overjoyed.”

Why are Christians overjoyed? Once again Peter directs our attention to the imminent coming of Jesus Christ (see 1 Cor. 1:7). At the return of Christ, the believer will see the glory and splendor of the coming age in its fullness (refer to Matt. 25:31). Christ is the victor and all his followers share in his victory. Together they participate in Christ’s glory (Rom. 8:17). Therefore, when we contemplate the glory we shall inherit with Christ, we are unable to refrain from “exulting, jubilating, skipping and bubbling over with shouts of delight.”

Charles Wesley has given us a well-known hymn that captures the joy, adoration, and victory we experience when we think of Jesus’ return. Thus, we sing:

Rejoice, the Lord is King:

Your Lord and King adore;

Rejoice, give thanks and sing,

And triumph evermore:

Lift up your heart, lift up your voice,

Rejoice, again I say, rejoice.

  1. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
  2. Insults

In the next few verses, Peter writes a sequence of conditional sentences. He uses the particle if to indicate that he is describing reality. With the clause if you are insulted, he is pointing to actual insults to which the Christians have to submit. They meet verbal and not physical abuse from unbelievers.

  1. Name

Why are Christians insulted? Simply put, because of the name of Christ (compare James 2:7). A common theme in the New Testament is that followers of Christ must endure verbal insults because of Jesus Christ. The concept name of Christ includes the ministry of preaching, teaching, baptizing, praying, and healing. The apostles spoke in the name of Christ and demonstrated in word and deed that Jesus had delegated his power and authority to them (for example, see Acts 4:7–12). Because Christians confessed the name of Jesus Christ among Jews and Gentiles, they were mercilessly persecuted (see Acts 5:41; 9:16; 15:26). In the early Christian community the single word name was synonymous with the Christian religion.

  1. Beatitude

Twice in this epistle Peter writes, “You are blessed.” Both beatitudes are in the context of suffering (3:14; 4:14). Here the beatitude forms the second part of a conditional sentence. If the harsh reality of verbal abuse is the one side of the proverbial coin, the reward of heavenly bliss is the other side. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explains the term blessed in these words: “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven” (Matt. 5:12).

  1. Spirit

This last part of the verse is difficult to explain. First, the text itself shows variations in the New King James Version, which has the reading, “For the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified” (also see the KJV). All other translations delete the second sentence. The New International Version has this translation: “For the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” At least two translations have another addition: “the Spirit of glory and power” (Moffatt and RSV [margin]). Although this addition has the support of several textual witnesses, translators generally tend to avoid it.

We also face grammatical difficulties in interpreting this part of the text. The literal wording of the text (“the spirit of glory and the Spirit of God rests on you”) has a double subject with a verb in the singular. Evidently the context demands that we supply the word spirit for the first part, so that we read, “the spirit of glory.” But is this spirit of glory different from or identical to the Spirit of God? Explanations of this sentence vary.

  1. Interpretations

First, note that the last part of verse 14 is a quotation from Isaiah 11:2, “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him.” Because Isaiah prophesies about Christ in this text, some commentators have deduced that Peter is implicitly referring to the Trinity. In other words, the phrase spirit of glory points to Christ (compare John 1:14). Thus, both the Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of God rest upon the individual Christian.

Another explanation is that the term glory is a reminder of the glory of God filling the tabernacle in the desert (Exod. 40:34–35). Thus the phrase glory of God is descriptive of the Spirit of God. A Jewish Christian reader, then, would understand the term as a suitable description of the presence of God.

A third interpretation is to identify the word spirit and make its repetition explanatory. This repetition appears either as an expansion, “the Spirit of glory, yes, the Spirit of God, is resting on you” (MLB); or as a relative clause, “that glorious Spirit which is the Spirit of God is resting upon you” (NEB).

In the context of suffering for the name of Christ and the mention of Christ’s glory (v. 13), the first explanation has merit indeed. The suffering Christian knows that the Spirit of (the glorious) Christ and of God is resting upon him.[3]


13 Rather than be shocked or surprised at suffering, the readers are told to rejoice. The writer is not hereby glibly suggesting that one rejoices in suffering qua suffering. It is rather “in the Lord” (Php 4:4) that one rejoices. Believers “participate in the sufferings of Christ” (cf. Php 3:10, which speaks of “the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings”), based on the believer’s union with Christ, and therefore can emit a response of “rejoicing.” The believer is united with Christ in his death as well as his resurrection (Ro 6:5–14), not in the sense of paying for our sins, as only the Son of God could do, but in the sense that “our old self was crucified with him … that we should no longer be slaves to sin … but alive to God” (Ro 6:6, 11). Rejoicing and shock stand at opposite ends, and a deep awareness of our union with Christ—and all that it entails—preserves the Christian from surprise that metastasizes into disenchantment and disillusionment. To expect suffering, it should be emphasized, is not to welcome it in some blindly fatalistic way; it is, however, to be realistic about our union with Christ.

The attitude of rejoicing in the context of suffering is further magnified by the cognizance of the coming revelation of Christ’s glory. Peter writes, “so that you may be overjoyed [lit., ‘that you may rejoice exultingly’] when his glory is revealed,” using the same strengthened form of “rejoice” (agalliaō, GK 22) as earlier (1:6, 8), and in the same context (Christ’s return). His theological rationale squares with that of Paul: “if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Ro 8:17); “if we endure, we will also reign with him” (2 Ti 2:12). Suffering for Christ is a privilege and not a penalty (so Barclay, 258). In Petrine thinking, eschatology informs Christian ethics.

14 Peter further reminds his readers that they are “blessed” if they are “insulted [oneidizō, GK 3943; used of Jesus’ experience on the cross, Mk 15:32] because of the name of Christ.” His assertion is expanded with the somewhat strange statement that “the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” This language is frequently used in the book of Exodus to describe the glory of the Lord as it descended on Mount Sinai (24:16), in the desert (16:10), on the tabernacle (29:43; 40:34) and ark (Lev 16:2), or when it filled the temple (2 Ch 7:3). Indeed Paul resorts to similar language and imagery in describing the glory of the new covenant (2 Co 3:7–18). Significantly, Stephen’s countenance is depicted in this way in Luke’s account of his martyrdom (Ac 7:55; cf. 6:15). Peter would seem to be suggesting that the presence of God is particularly notable in those times when the saints are being persecuted. The Spirit glorifies Jesus (Jn 16:14); therefore, as believers experience persecution on account of Christ, they are filled with the Spirit’s presence, and in so doing they are glorifying God.[4]


4:13 The privilege of sharing Christ’s sufferings should cause us great rejoicing. We cannot of course share His atoning sufferings; He is the only Sin-Bearer. But we can share the same kind of sufferings He endured as a Man. We can share His rejection and reproach. We can receive the wounds and scars in our bodies which unbelievers would still like to inflict on Him.

If the child of God can rejoice today in the midst of suffering, how much more will he rejoice and be glad when Christ’s glory is revealed. When the Savior comes back to earth as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, He will be revealed as the Almighty Son of God. Those who suffer now for His sake will be honored then with Him.

4:14 The early Christians rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Christ (Acts 5:41). So should every Christian who has the privilege of being reviled for Christ’s sake. Such suffering is a true indication that the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon us. This is the Holy Spirit who rests upon persecuted Christians as the glory cloud rested on the tabernacle in the OT, indicating the presence of God.

We know that the Spirit indwells every true child of God, but He rests in a special way upon those who are completely committed to the cause of Christ. They know the presence and power of the Spirit of God as others do not. The same Lord Jesus who is blasphemed by the persecutors is glorified by His suffering saints.[5]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter (pp. 251–254). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude (Vol. 16, pp. 174–176). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] Charles, D. J. (2006). 1 Peter. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 349–350). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2278). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

May 20 – Godly Leaders

Note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.

Philippians 3:17

Godly leaders are vital to the church because we need to see Christianity lived out before us. Paul told Timothy, “Be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). A spiritual leader must live an exemplary life because he is to show others the path. People can see perfection in Christ and can read about Paul, but they also need someone they can watch and talk to. They need to see virtue, humility, unselfish service, a willingness to suffer, devotion to Christ, courage, and spiritual growth in the life of someone close to them.

A great burden on my heart is that pastors and elders in every church will be the kind of examples God commands them to be. It is extremely important to teach the truth, but it is equally important for that teaching to be undergirded by a virtuous life.[1]


Following After Examples

Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. (3:17)

For the third time in this chapter Paul affectionately addresses the Philippians as brethren (cf. vv. 1, 13). The phrase join in following my example literally reads in the Greek text “be fellow imitators with me.” Paul urged the Philippians to imitate the way he lived. He was not putting himself on a pedestal of spiritual perfection (cf. the discussion of vv. 12–16 in the previous chapter of this volume). Instead, he was encouraging the Philippians to follow him, an imperfect sinner, as he pursued the goal of Christlikeness.

The New Testament records Paul’s failures as well as his triumphs. Outraged at his abusive treatment at the hands of the high priest, he cried out, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck?” (Acts 23:3)—an outburst for which he promptly apologized (Acts 23:5). Because of his struggle with pride, the Lord gave Paul a thorn in the flesh (2 Cor. 12:7). Three decades after his conversion, he still thought of himself as the foremost of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15).

Had he been perfect, Paul would not have been an example believers could follow. We need to follow someone who is not perfect so we can see how to overcome our imperfections; someone who can show us how to handle the struggles of life, its disappointments, and its trials; someone who can show us how to handle pride, resist temptation, and put sin to death. Christ is the perfect standard, model, and pattern for believers to emulate. But Christ never pursued perfection; He has always been perfect. Paul was a fellow traveler on the path toward the unattainable spiritual perfection, and thus a model for believers to follow. He modeled virtue, morality, overcoming the flesh, victory over temptation, worship, service to God, patient endurance of suffering, handling possessions, and handling relationships.

Moving beyond himself, Paul commanded the Philippians also to observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. Skopeō (observe) is the verb form of the noun translated “goal” in verse 14, and could be translated “fix your gaze on.” Paul is in effect saying, “Focus on those whose walk (daily conduct) is according to the correct pattern—the one you have in us.” That would include Timothy and Epaphroditus, whom the Philippians knew, as well as the overseers and deacons at Philippi (cf. 1:1). The word us, however, is most likely a literary plural, a humble way for Paul to refer to himself.

Paul’s example was available to the Philippians in print, as it is to believers today. But they had also observed his life firsthand during his stay in Philippi. Believers have always needed examples of godly living as patterns. Those examples are the pastors and elders of the church, who are to “show [themselves examples] of those who believe” (1 Tim. 4:12) by modeling humility, unselfish service, willingness to suffer, devotion to Christ, courage, and dedication to spiritual growth.

Those who teach and preach the Word must handle it accurately. That is especially important today, when the correct interpretation of Scripture has been hopelessly blurred and seemingly any view is tolerated. Paul exhorted Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). But accurate teaching of the truth must be backed up by a godly life.[2]


  1. Deeply moved by what he is about to write, Paul addresses the Philippians with the endearing word Brothers (see on 1:12; cf. 1:14; 3:1, 13; 4:1, 8, 21). He continues, join in being imitators of me. Should not brothers show that they belong to the same spiritual family, and are, therefore, really brothers? Should not their attitude of heart, speech, and conduct remind one of the same model? “Let me be that model,” says Paul, as it were, and this in self-renunciation over against self-complacency; in humble, Christ-centered trust instead of arrogant self-esteem; in idealism versus indolence (Phil. 3:7–14); and thus also in spirituality as contrasted with sensuality, that is, in heavenly-mindedness as opposed to worldly-mindedness (verses 18–21).

But is selection of himself as an example consistent with Christian humility? Answer:

(1) Before pointing to himself as an example, the apostle had reminded the Philippians of Christ as the chief example (Phil. 2:5–8). Accordingly, they knew that what Paul meant was simply this, “Be imitators of me, as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).

(2) The apostle was not placing himself on a pedestal, as if he were perfect, but, quite the contrary, was urging his friends to strive after perfection, in the full realization that they were still far removed from the ideal, as was he himself.

(3) Surrounded by immorality on the part both of pagans and of nominal Christians (see verses 18 and 19), these Philippians needed a concrete example of Christian devotion, a picture-lesson. The apostle had every right to point to himself as such an example.

(4) The justifiable character of his exhortation becomes even more clearly evident when it is seen in the light of what immediately follows, showing that when Paul urged the Philippians to imitate him, he was not thinking of himself alone but of himself in company with others, such as Timothy (Phil. 2:19–24) and Epaphroditus (2:25–30). Note the pronoun we instead of I in the continuation: and watch closely those who are walking according to the example that we have set you. Instead of fixing your attention upon individuals who have confused Christian liberty with license, focus it upon those who are safe guides of Christian conduct. Let them be your example (see N.T.C. on 1 Thess. 1:7).[3]


17 The command to “join … in following [Paul’s] example” (cf. 1 Co 4:6; 11:1; 1 Th 1:6; 2 Th 3:7) and the mention of a “pattern” (typos, GK 5596) confirms that Paul has been setting patterns, both negative and positive, before the Philippians. They are to follow the positive examples. Urging imitation rather than issuing authoritative prescriptions is far more effective in accomplishing this goal.

The verb “observe, take note of” (skopeō, GK 5023) recalls the blepō (“consider,” GK 1063) in 3:2. The preposition syn (symmimētēs, “join … in following my example,” GK 5213) suggests that they be unified in their imitation of him. The NIV’s “the pattern we gave you” may suggest that Paul is using the literary plural to refer to himself. Williams, 215–16, comments, however, that the singular would have defeated his purpose: “He wants to show the unity they have in their example. It is not just himself, but others who follow this model.” The other examples are Timothy and Epaphroditus, both of whom are well-known in Philippi. They set the example, forfeiting everything to serve Christ, with the hope of attaining the resurrection through him. The Philippians may not be able to abandon the Jewish-privilege system to know Christ, but they can let go of the Roman cultural advantage and abandon the power and status of the Roman Empire.[4]


3:17 Now Paul turns to exhortation, first by encouraging the Philippians to be followers, or imitators of himself. It is a tribute to his exemplary life that he could ever write such words. We often hear the expression in jest, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Not so the apostle! He could hold up his own life as a model of wholehearted devotion to Christ and to His cause.

Lehman Strauss comments:

Paul considered himself the recipient of God’s mercy that he might be a “pattern”; thus his whole life, subsequent to his conversion, was dedicated to presenting to others an outline sketch of what a Christian should be. God saved Paul in order that he might show by the example of his conversion that what Jesus Christ did for him He can and will do for others. Was not this the special object our Lord had in view in extending His mercy to you and me? I believe He has saved us to be a pattern to all future believers. Are we serving as examples of those who have been saved by His grace? May it be so!

And note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. This refers to any others who were living the same kind of life as Paul. It does not mean to mark them out disapprovingly, as in the next verse, but to observe them with a view to following in their steps.[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 157). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2001). Philippians (pp. 254–255). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Philippians (Vol. 5, pp. 179–180). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] Garland, D. E. (2006). Philippians. In T. Longman III (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, p. 247). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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