Daily Archives: May 24, 2017

May 24, 2017 Truth2Freedom Briefing Report (US•World•Christian)


May 24, 2017 |


Pope Francis joined an international chorus urging Donald Trump to meet U.S. commitments on climate change in talks at the Vatican Wednesday. Francis gave the U.S. president a copy of his 2015 encyclical calling for urgent, drastic cuts in fossil-fuel emissions after a half-hour meeting in his private study.

President Trump proposed selling off more than half of the U.S. emergency oil stockpile, potentially putting more crude on the global market and undermining OPEC’s efforts.

OPEC and its allies came one step closer to agreeing to extend their oil supply deal after a ministerial committee recommended another nine months of cuts.

Moody’s Investors Service cut its rating on China’s debt for the first time since 1989, challenging the view that the nation’s leadership will be able to rein in leverage while maintaining the pace of economic growth.

China, Canada and the EU are joining forces to advance the Paris Agreement while President Trump is still deciding whether the U.S. should stick with the landmark deal on climate change.

Republicans and Democrats welcomed a scaled-back vision of one of President Trump’s signature campaign promises: a “big, beautiful wall” on the 1,933-mile U.S.-Mexico border.

While U.S. President Donald Trump may have doubts about the NATO, Americans and Europeans increasingly support the security alliance, according to a new survey.

Saudi Arabia blocked access to several Qatari news websites after they carried fake articles about Gulf efforts to isolate Iran, stories Qatari officials said were the result of a hack.

Soldiers guarded the U.K. Parliament and Prime Minister May’s office, as authorities rolled out the biggest homeland deployment of troops in decades to prevent an “imminent” terrorist attack.

Morgan Stanley said it will cut back on using recruitment bonuses to poach established financial advisers as a new rule throws the industry’s traditional hiring practices into doubt.

The renewable energy industry employed 9.8 million people last year, up 1.1 percent from 2015, led by the solar photovoltaic business, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency’s annual report on the industry.

AP Top Stories

Chinese tourist numbers to South Korea plunged by two-thirds in April after Beijing banned tour groups over Seoul’s deployment of a US missile defence system, official statistics showed.

A massive landslide that went into the Pacific Ocean is the latest natural disaster to hit a California community that relies heavily on an iconic coastal highway and tourism to survive, and it adds to a record $1 billion in highway damage from one of the state’s wettest winters in decades.

Donald Trump’s proposal to reduce spending by $3.6tn, mostly by slashing antipoverty programs that provide social safety nets for the poor, ran into bipartisan opposition on Capitol Hill, where a number of Republican lawmakers rejected the cuts as “draconian” and “nonstarters”.

China and Russia on Monday launched an ambitious project to jointly develop a long-haul jet to challenge Boeing and Airbus, just two weeks after the successful test flight of the first made-in-China large passenger plane.

A British minister said Wednesday it was “irritating” that details about the Manchester concert bombing had been leaked to US media before being released in Britain, saying she had spoken to US authorities.


Taiwan’s top judges have ruled in favor of gay marriage, paving the way for it to become the first place in Asia to legalize same-sex unions.

President Rodrigo Duterte has said martial law on Mindanao Island could be extended across the Philippines, while the army fights Islamist militants.

Four climbers have been found dead inside a tent on Mount Everest, taking the death toll this season to 10. The bodies were discovered by a rescue team sent to retrieve the body of a Slovak climber who died on the mountain on Sunday.

At least 30 migrants, some of them young children, have drowned after falling into the sea off the Libyan coast, Italy’s coastguard said. The overcrowded boat was carrying about 500 migrants when it suddenly listed, sending about 200 people into the water

Romania has been criticized over its lack of commitment to tackling domestic violence in a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.

The death toll from Tuesday’s raid by Bahraini police on the home of the Sunni-ruled kingdom’s most prominent Shia cleric has risen to five. The interior ministry said 286 people were also arrested after officers came “under attack by members of a terrorist cell” in the village of Diraz.

Qatar has blamed hackers for a story on its state news agency website that quoted the emir as criticizing US “hostility” towards Iran.


Living with your parents is one thing, but hitting them up for weekly financial support when you’re a grown adult? It might sound extreme, but that’s what Gen Y-ers in Spain have been doing for years – and resorting to legal action when their cash-strapped folks say no. While the 2014 case of American teen Rachel Canning suing her parents was considered an anomaly, in Spain it is far more common for young people to expect handouts to continue into their 20s and even their 30s.

More than four in five (81 percent) now rate the state of moral values in the U.S. as only fair or poor.

Teenagers who live in large cities could be at greater risk of having psychotic experiences, according to research examining the impact of urban life on mental health.

The Briefing 05-24-17

Manchester bombing and the nature of terrorism: How terror assaults a society’s stability and security

Why Christians must uphold together the biblical teaching of chastity and the sanctity of human life

Confirming a lie: An entire moral revolution in the new term “gender conformation surgery”

The post The Briefing 05-24-17 appeared first on AlbertMohler.com.

Top News – 5/24/2017

ObamaCare on federal exchanges increased by average 105% since ’13: report
The cost of an individual ObamaCare policy has increased by an average 105 percent from 2013 to 2017 in all 39 states that have used the federal exchange, the Trump administration said Tuesday. The average monthly premiums increased from $224 in 2013 to $476 in 2017, according to the report. The HHS official said the cost doubled in 20 of the states and tripled in three of them.

Brennan: ‘I Don’t Know’ If There Was Collusion
“I saw interaction,” Brennan said. “But I don’t know. I don’t have sufficient information to make a determination whether or not there was cooperation or complicity or collusion.”

On Tuesday, May 23rd, the orbiting Solar and Heliospheric Observatory observed a CME leaving the sun: movie. NOAA analysts say the plasma-filled cloud could deliver a glancing blow to Earth’s magnetic field midday on May 26th

Scientists now able to ‘SEE through walls’ using Wi-Fi
…an undergraduate physics student at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), told Business Insider: “It can basically scan a room with someone’s Wi-Fi transmission. “If there’s a cup of coffee on a table, you may see something is there, but you couldn’t see the shape. “But you could make out the shape of a person, or a dog on a couch. Really any object that’s more than four centimetres in size.”

Putin vows to PUNISH ISIS after Manchester bombing as he vows ACTION and backs Britain
VLADIMIR Putin has vowed to crush barbaric Islamic State (ISIS) and stated they will not go unpunished following the massacre at Manchester Arena by a suicide bomber which left 22 people dead.

Trump leaves Israel with no mention of Palestinian state, settlements or embassy
Trump, who flew from Tel Aviv to Rome on the third leg of his first trip abroad as president, made no mention in seven public appearances in Israel of a Palestinian state, a two-state solution or settlements, something one senior government official said was a refreshing break from Trump’s predecessor. On the other hand, the president also made no mention of his campaign pledge to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The Six Day War – Salvation and Miracle
PM Netanyahu says Six Day War was ‘a salvation and miracle,’ promises Temple Mount will always remain in Jewish hands. “We will not go back to a situation in which we can look at the Western Wall, but cannot approach it,” Netanyahu said. “The desire to pound Israel is not something which is based on facts.” “Again and again, they try to erase our roots, to deny our historical connection to Jerusalem, and to destroy our sovereignty over it.

North Korea threat: US official warns ‘inevitable’ regime develops ICBM
North Korea’s testing over the last year indicates Kim Jong Un is intent on proving the isolated regime’s capability. The North’s public claims suggest it could conduct its first flight of an intercontinental ballistic missile this year.

Pope Francis, Trump hold landmark first meeting
Pope Francis and U.S. President Donald Trump finally met at the Vatican Wednesday in a friendly encounter which included an emphasis on protection of life and freedom of conscience. According to a May 24 Vatican communique, Pope Francis and Trump expressed satisfaction “for the good existing bilateral relations between the Holy See and the United States of America, as well as the joint commitment in favor of life, and freedom of worship and conscience.”

Ancient Pools in Jerusalem Succored Jewish Pilgrims to Temple 2,000 Years Ago
Jerusalem contains a large number of these ancient pools. A massive cistern named the Pool of Israel—more than 360 feet long, 111 feet wide and 78 feet deep—is situated next to the Temple Mount. The Pool of Hezekiah lies among the houses of the Christian Quarter.

Israel’s next security concern: A Middle East arms race
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that he was concerned by a Middle East arms race following the signing of an enormous arms deal between US President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia last week. “I’m not at peace with the arms race in the Middle East. The arms sales in the region have reached $215 billion and this is no small sum,”…pointing to other countries in the region such as Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Iran who have made some “non-negligible” arms purchases in the Middle East.

Trump meets Pope in Vatican after stops in Israel, Saudi Arabia
US President Donald Trump met Pope Francis, one of his most high profile critics, at the Vatican on Wednesday and after an exchange of gifts he promised he would not forget the pontiff’s message during their half-hour discussion. Trump and the pope have expressed opposing views on issues such as immigration and climate change and the two men exchanged sharp words during the presidential campaign last year.

Taiwan’s top court rules in favour of same-sex marriage
Taiwan’s top judges have ruled in favour of gay marriage, paving the way for it to become the first place in Asia to legalise same-sex unions. The highest court ruled that current laws preventing members of the same sex from marrying violated their right to equality and were unconstitutional. It gave parliament two years to amend existing laws or pass new ones.

Moody’s downgrades China’s credit rating
China’s credit rating has been cut over fears that growth in the world’s second-biggest economy will slow in the coming years. Moody’s, one of the world’s big three ratings agencies, cut China by one notch to A1 from Aa3. It was the first time the agency has downgraded the country since 1989.

Jerusalem celebrates 50 years to its unification
Jerusalem Day celebrations began on Tuesday in the capital with various events and concerts well into the night and continue in full force on Wednesday as the city marks 50 years to its unification. The President’s Residence hosted a musical event on Tuesday evening titled “Singing for you Jerusalem,” which featured a variety of artists and songs about the city. At Safra Square, the Jerusalem Symphonic Orchestra performed with Israeli singers Miri Mesika, David D’Or and Kobi Aflalo.

Syrian army says Islamic State’s ‘minister of war’ killed
The Syrian army said on Wednesday it had killed Islamic State’s “minister of war” among other senior figures in the group in operations east of the northern city of Aleppo. A Syrian military source cited by Syrian state media identified the war minister as Abu Musab al-Masri, without saying exactly when or where he was killed. He was named among 13 senior Islamic State figures killed in Syrian army operations east of Aleppo, including men identified as Saudi and Iraqi nationals.

Mindanao: Churchgoers ‘taken hostage’ amid Marawi siege
A priest and several churchgoers have been taken hostage by gunmen in Marawi city, on the island of Mindanao in southern Philippines, as thousands of residents fled ongoing unrest that prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in the region. The violence erupted on Tuesday after the army raided the hideout of Isnilon Hapilon, a commander of the Abu Sayyaf group, which has pledged allegiance to ISIL.

Europe’s denial of Islamic terrorism threat perplexes security specialists
The Manchester massacre underscores complaints from counterterrorism analysts that Europe has fallen into denial about the threat of Islamic terrorism. For instance, London Mayor Sadiq Khan is on record as saying terrorism is “part and parcel” of urban life.

GEORGE FRIEDMAN: A US attack on North Korea is imminent 
The US is preparing to attack North Korea, according to Geopolitical Futures founder George Friedman — setting the stage for a difficult, messy war with potentially catastrophic consequences.

UK Deploys Army As Terror Threat Raised To Highest, May Warns “More Attacks Imminent”
In response to the Monday terrorist attack, Prime Minister Theresa May raised the UK’s terror alert to the highest “critical” level, resulting in the deployment of armed forces on the street of Britain, and warning that “not only an attack remains highly likely but that a further attack may be imminent.”

Britain raises terror threat level after concert carnage
Britain prepared to deploy soldiers at key sites on Wednesday, having raised its terror threat level to maximum after a suicide bomber massacred 22 people at a pop concert in Manchester.

US Journalism’s New “Golden Age”?
The mainstream U.S. media is congratulating itself on its courageous defiance of President Trump and its hard-hitting condemnations of Russia, but the press seems to have forgotten that its proper role within the U.S. democratic structure is not to slant stories one way or another but to provide objective information for the American people.

Congressional Aides Fear Suspects In IT Breach Are Blackmailing Members With Their Own Data
“I don’t know what they have, but they have something on someone. It’s been months at this point” with no arrests…”there are a lot of members who could go down over this.”

Exclusive — Rand Paul Explains Move to Force Vote Opposing Saudi Weapons Deal
…Paul previously used this exact tactic—forcing a Senate vote on a Saudi weapons deal—toward the end of the Obama administration to limited success. While only a quarter of the Senate backed him up, in the end the Obama administration changed part of the deal.

CONFIRMED: Leaked Classified Docs Show Obama Intel Agency Illegally Spied on Americans For Years
A new bombshell report from Circa News via leaked classified documents confirms what we have suspected to be true about the Obama administration. Obama’s Intel agency conducted illegal searches on Americans for years.

At The Vatican Today Pope Francis Gave President Trump The Gospel…Of Climate Change

Pope Francis gave President Trump a copy of his 2015 encyclical calling for urgent, drastic cuts in fossil-fuel emissions after a half-hour meeting in his private study

“And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.” Revelation 17:5,6 (KJV)

If Pope Francis was a Bible believing Christian, he would have spoke to President Trump about his soul and his eternal destiny. If Pope Francis was a Bible believing Christian, he would have given him the gospel of the grace of God as first preached by the apostle Paul. But Pope Francis is neither a Bible believer nor a Christian, so what is he? He is a king over the country of Vatican City, and when the president arrived he did what any other worldly king would do. He talked politics, and the gospel of Climate Change in particular.

Pope Francis joined an international chorus urging Donald Trump to meet U.S. commitments on climate change in talks at the Vatican Wednesday

Pope Francis gave President Trump a copy of his 2015 encyclical calling for urgent, drastic cuts in fossil-fuel emissions after a half-hour meeting in his private study.

Francis’s choice of gift suggests he is adding his voice to those pressing Trump not to renege on the Paris accord, which is the cornerstone of global efforts to limit climate change. The Vatican said in a statement that the talks focused on international affairs and the promotion of peace, with particular emphasis on health care, education and immigration.

The king of Vatican City receives the President of the United States:

Here is the Whore of Babylon in all her devilish pomposity. Enjoy!

10 Things You May Not Know About the Vatican

The Vatican and Vatican City are many things to many people, but God has a rather unique name for it. The Bible calls the Roman Catholic Vatican system the “Whore of Babylon”, and describes her in graphic detail in Revelation 17 and 18 in your King James Bible.

So here are 10 fun facts that you should know about the “mother of harlots” that is the Vatican.

  • 1. Vatican City is the smallest country in the world. Encircled by a 2-mile border with Italy, Vatican City is an independent city-state that covers just over 100 acres, making it one-eighth the size of New York’s Central Park. Vatican City is governed as an absolute monarchy with the pope at its head. The Vatican mints its own euros, prints its own stamps, issues passports and license plates, operates media outlets and has its own flag and anthem. One government function it lacks: taxation. Museum admission fees, stamp and souvenir sales, and contributions generate the Vatican’s revenue.
  • 2. St. Peter’s Basilica sits atop a city of the dead, including its namesake’s tomb. A Roman necropolis stood on Vatican Hill in pagan times. When a great fire leveled much of Rome in A.D. 64, Emperor Nero, seeking to shift blame from himself, accused the Christians of starting the blaze. He executed them by burning them at the stake, tearing them apart with wild beasts and crucifying them. Among those crucified was St. Peter—disciple of Jesus Christ, leader of the Apostles and the first bishop of Rome—who was supposedly buried in a shallow grave on Vatican Hill. By the fourth century and official recognition of the Christian religion in Rome, Emperor Constantine began construction of the original basilica atop the ancient burial ground with what was believed to be the tomb of St. Peter at its center. The present basilica, built starting in the 1500s, sits over a maze of catacombs and St. Peter’s suspected grave.
  • 3. Caligula captured the obelisk that stands in St. Peter’s Square. Roman Emperor Caligula built a small circus in his mother’s gardens at the base of Vatican Hill where charioteers trained and where Nero is thought to have martyred the Christians. To crown the center of the amphitheater, Caligula had his forces transport from Egypt a pylon that had originally stood in Heliopolis. The obelisk, made of a single piece of red granite weighing more than 350 tons, was erected for an Egyptian pharaoh more than 3,000 years ago. In 1586 it was moved to its present location in St. Peter’s Square, where it does double duty as a giant sundial.
  • 4. For nearly 60 years in the 1800s and 1900s, popes refused to leave the Vatican. Popes ruled over a collection of sovereign Papal States throughout central Italy until the country was unified in 1870. The new secular government had seized all the land of the Papal States with the exception of the small patch of the Vatican, and a cold war of sorts then broke out between the church and the Italian government. Popes refused to recognize the authority of the Kingdom of Italy, and the Vatican remained beyond Italian national control. Pope Pius IX proclaimed himself a “prisoner of the Vatican,” and for almost 60 years popes refused to leave the Vatican and submit to the authority of the Italian government. When Italian troops were present in St. Peter’s Square, popes even refused to give blessings or appear from the balcony overlooking the public space.
  • 5. Benito Mussolini signed Vatican City into existence. The dispute between the Italian government and the Catholic Church ended in 1929 with the signing of the Lateran Pacts, which allowed the Vatican to exist as its own sovereign state and compensated the church $92 million (more than $1 billion in today’s money) for the Papal States. The Vatican used the payment as seed money to re-grow its coffers. Mussolini, the head of the Italian government, signed the treaty on behalf of King Victor Emmanuel III.
  • 6. Popes did not live at the Vatican until the 14th century. Even after the construction of the original St. Peter’s Basilica, popes lived principally at the Lateran Palace across Rome. They even left the city altogether in 1309 when the papal court moved to Avignon, France, after King Philip IV arranged for a French cardinal to be elected pope. Seven popes, all French, ruled from Avignon, and the papacy did not return to Rome until 1377, by which time the Lateran Palace had burned and the Vatican started to be used as a papal residence. Much repair work needed to be done, however, because the Vatican had fallen into such disrepair that wolves dug for bodies in the cemetery and cows even wandered the basilica.
  • 7. The Swiss Guard was hired as a mercenary force. The Swiss Guard, recognizable by its armor and colorful Renaissance-era uniforms, has been protecting the pontiff since 1506. That’s when Pope Julius II, following in the footsteps of many European courts of the time, hired one of the Swiss mercenary forces for his personal protection. The Swiss Guard’s role in Vatican City is strictly to protect the safety of the pope. Although the world’s smallest standing army appears to be strictly ceremonial, its soldiers are extensively trained and highly skilled marksmen. And, yes, the force is entirely comprised of Swiss citizens.
  • 8. At several times during the Vatican’s history, popes escaped through a secret passageway. In 1277, a half-mile-long elevated covered passageway, the Passetto di Borgo, was constructed to link the Vatican with the fortified Castel Sant’Angelo on the banks of the Tiber River. It served as an escape route for popes, most notably in 1527 when it likely saved the life of Pope Clement VII during the sack of Rome. As the forces of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V rampaged through the city and murdered priests and nuns, the Swiss Guard held back the enemy long enough to allow Clement to safely reach the Castel Sant’Angelo, although 147 of the pope’s forces lost their lives in the battle.
  • 9. The majority of Vatican City’s 600 citizens live abroad. As of 2011, the number of people with Vatican citizenship totaled 594. That number included 71 cardinals, 109 members of the Swiss Guard, 51 members of the clergy and one nun inside the Vatican walls. The largest group of citizens, however, was the 307 members of the clergy in diplomatic positions around the world. With Benedict XVI residing as a pope emeritus in the Vatican, the population will increase by one when a new pope is named.
  • 10. The Vatican Observatory owns a telescope in Arizona. As Rome expanded, light pollution from the city made it increasingly difficult for astronomers at the Vatican Observatory—located 15 miles from the city at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo—to view the night skies, so in 1981 the observatory opened a second research center in Tucson, Arizona. The Vatican conducts astronomical research with a state-of-the-art telescope that sits atop Mount Graham in southeast Arizona.

Who are Family Research Council’s ‘Watchmen on the Wall’?

Amy Spreeman of Berean Research tells us who these people are and exposes their agenda:

Wouldn’t it be great if men and women who are dead in their sins would just stop being wicked and start respecting  professing Christians? At first blush, the idea of transforming America’s ever-sickening, vile culture sounds like a great plan. And giving pastors a support network of Watchmen on the Wall to help them fight the culture wars would be a really good thing, right?

In Washington D.C. on Capitol Hill, The Family Research Council is hosting a Watchman on the Wall National Briefing for pastors to transform America. FRC President Tony Perkins says this is not a political event, but a spiritual one. He’s invited dozens of guest speakers, including Harbinger and Shemitah author Jonathan Cahn, Bishop Larry Jackson (part of Apostle Rick Joyner’s MorningStar TV Network), Word of Faith prosperity preacher Jentezen Franklin, David Barton, Circle Maker author and pastor Mark Batterson, and radio host Dr. Michael Brown.  Click on the image for the full list of speakers:

View article →

Don’t Judge Me!

According to David Hutchison, Christians must identify certain behaviors as sinful and we must judge in at least three other senses which includes evaluating the teachings of those who claim to speak in the name of the Lord. He reminds us that “There are contexts in which Christians must judge, but we must judge justly.” Now to his piece over at Theology Matters:

Standing for biblical truth elicits many negative responses from those outside the church as well as from some within. This is not surprising since Jesus told His disciples that they would be hated on account of Him (John 15:18-19, 1 John 3:13). While we may simply shrug this off as part of the reality of life, what is more challenging to navigate is the suggestion that by using the word “sin” for certain activities, we violate Jesus’ command not to judge. In popular sentiment, “do not judge” means that one cannot say any behavior is wrong. This understanding is pervasive, but it is severely flawed.[1]

There are pitfalls of judging that we must avoid, but doing so does not mean we cannot call sin what God has called sin. In fact, if we refuse to do so, we act as God’s judge, claiming that our perspective on the situation trumps His own. Similar to the rejection of God’s testimony in 1 John 1:10 and 5:10, this is tantamount to calling God a liar. We must call sin, sin, but we must also remember that God knows all of the details of the situation. We never will, and we often lack key information. As John 7:24 notes, we must not judge by mere appearances but must make a just judgment. If we wish to do so, we are wise to listen well and listen long, remembering the folly of giving an answer too quickly (Proverbs 18:13).

View article →

‘We Can Use Peace’: Trump and Pope Francis Meet

News Max reports:

Photo credit CNBC.com

President Donald Trump and Pope Francis, two leaders with contrasting styles and differing worldviews, met at the Vatican on Wednesday, setting aside their previous clashes to broadcast a tone of peace for an audience around the globe.

Trump, midway through a grueling nine-day, maiden international journey, called upon the pontiff in a private, 30-minute meeting laden with religious symbolism and ancient protocol. The president, accompanied by his wife and several aides, arrived at the Vatican just after 8 a.m. local time. The president greeted Francis in Sala del Tronetto, the room of the little throne, on the second floor of Apostolic Palace.

Upon completing their meeting, the pope gave the president a medal featuring an olive branch, a symbol of peace, among other gifts.

“We can use peace,” the president responded.

View article →

The New, Truly Confused Evangelicals (Part 2) – Eric Barger

View Video

Can America endure its snowflakes, demons and Democrats?

It is hard not to join those who have concluded that it is the last days promised outpouring of demons issued from the pits of hell to prepare a dying world for its satanically induced final benediction.

View Article

They Are Killing Small Business: The Number Of Self-Employed Americans Is Lower Than It Was In 1990

After eight long, bitter years under Obama, will things go better for entrepreneurs and small businesses now that Donald Trump is in the White House?  Once upon a time, America was the best place in the world for those that wanted to work for themselves.  Our free market capitalist system created an environment in which entrepreneurs and small businesses greatly thrived, but today they are being absolutely eviscerated by the control freak bureaucrats that dominate our political system.  Year after year, leftist politicians just keep piling on more rules, more regulations, more red tape and more taxes.  As a result, the number of self-employed Americans is now lower than it was in 1990(Read More…)

Winning the Battle is Different than Winning the War

This writer has been getting questions from friends and subscribers as to whether the financial crisis that we have been writing about is now past – if a tough, successful Republican businessman turned President can solve these problems in short order. Is the strength in the US stock market and present weakness in gold telling us that the financial storm has passed? Should they sell their gold, buy more stocks, and sit back and enjoy life? Have the good times finally returned to America? This writer would answer these questions in the strongest terms possible – no, no, no, and no!

The truth is, the strength in the economy was lied about and completely fabricated by Obama and the establishment to help Hillary get elected. The truth is, the unemployment rate in the US is about 24% – not the official 5%. The truth is, the world is saddled with the biggest debt bubble in world history (in the quadrillions of dollars) and that bubble is very close to imploding. The truth is, the US stock market has been propped up (manipulated) the past two years by the Fed, Wall Street, and the powers-that-be right up through the election to aid Hillary and the Democrats in the election – and would have long since collapsed without that support.

The truth is, much of Europe and a major part of the European banking system is on the verge of collapse. The truth is, that (in spite of the US dollar’s present strength) much of the world is about to move away from petrodollars, and global oil transactions will be denominated in Chinese renminbi, Russian rubles, and other currencies – which will greatly weaken the US dollar. The truth is, much of the world’s real estate market is in a huge bubble, and real estate is already declining in many parts of the world and will be very soon in the US, where home ownership is declining sharply.

The truth is, the global Establishment powers-that-be in America and Europe know that they are about to lose control of this gargantuan, highly leveraged quadrillion dollar debt pyramid that they have been building since Bretton Woods in 1944 – a debt pyramid that greatly enriched the wealthy elites of America and Europe at the expense of the middle class and many smaller nations. The truth is, all of this is why they have been pushing the world toward the brink of war: with Russia in Eastern Europe, in the Middle East, and with China in the South China Sea. That is how they ended the Great Depression – with WWII.

(Excerpt from McAlvany Intelligence Advisor, December 2016)

Mid-Day Snapshot

May 24, 2017

MSM: Trump Robs the Poor

According to the Leftmedia telling, he’s hurting the very people who supported him by cutting their benefits.

The Foundation

“The government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like the state governments, whose powers are more general.” —James Madison (1794)

ZeroHedge Frontrunning: May 24

  • Trump Meets With Pope Francis After Policy Clashes (Read More)
  • Fed Minutes to Offer Clues on Debate Over Path of Rate Increases (Read More)
  • Manchester bomber had ‘proven’ links to Islamic State (Read More)
  • U.K. Chides U.S. for Leaking Manchester Bombing Probe Details (Read More)
  • Manchester Bomber, Salman Abedi, Is Thought to Have Traveled to Syria (Read More)
  • ‘No defeat, no pity’: Manchester unites (Read More)
  • China Handed First Moody’s Downgrade Since 1989 on Debt Risk (Read More)
  • Defiant Duterte threatens harsh measures as thousands flee Philippines unrest (Read More)
  • OPEC Boss Embraces Shift to Top Diplomat (Read More)
  • Trump’s Budgets Will Suffer a Double Whammy Thanks to Fed Policy (Read More)
  • Icahn Guides Trump’s Policy and Scores $60 Million (Read More)
  • Why Little Alaska Airlines Has the Happiest Customers in the Skies (Read More)
  • In Modern Cyber War, the Spies Can Become Targets, Too (Read More)
  • Bahrain protester ‘killed in raid on sit-in’ near Shia cleric’s home  (Read More)
  • SpaceX Technician Says Concerns About Tests Got Him Fired  (Read More)
  • FCC Won’t Take Action Against Stephen Colbert Over Trump Jokes (Read More)
  • Tiffany Tumbles After Jeweler Reports Surprise Sales Decline (Read More)
  • At least 20 migrants die at sea, rescues ongoing: Italy Coast Guard (Read More)
  • Chocolate tied to decreased risk of irregular heart rhythm (Read More)

A La Carte (May 24)

Today’s Kindle deals include just a couple of deals. We will hope for more tomorrow.

What 1,000 Americans Avoid Most

Christianity Today reports on a new study showing the rise of shame over guilt as what people fear the most. The implications for our presentation of the gospel are profound. Thankfully, the gospel addresses shame just as much as it addresses guilt.

Towards a Theology of Place

Dan DeWitt: “Why pray if God knows everything? Why do anything if God is sovereign? I know, I know. Some of you are right now judging me for not more strongly affirming a reformed understanding of sovereignty. To be clear, I do affirm God’s sovereignty. That doesn’t mean I understand it. I don’t pretend to.”

Is Your Church an Institution?

Ray Orlund: To call anything an ‘institution’ today can be its death sentence, including a church. Should we be ashamed of the institutional aspects of our churches?”

Don’t Waste Your Life Following Your Passion

This is very true: “The truth is finding your passion is most often the product a lot of faithful work that is pursued to the glory of God because it is your duty.”

What Is This Thing Called Church?

Darren Carlson, president of Training Leaders International, recently observed, “The greatest problem in missions right now is disagreement over what constitutes a local church.” That’s not a small statement.

Disentangling Privilege

Every day we read about privilege—who has it and who doesn’t. This article engages with the idea in helpful ways.

Can Self-Forgetfulness Make Us Happier?

Randy Alcorn looks at a concept I find very helpful to consider.

Flashback: The Hardest Sins to Talk About

The hardest sins to talk about are those we see someone commit, but we receive no invitation to speak.

Until you see the cross as that which is done by you, you will never appreciate that it is done for you. —John Stott

Top Headlines – 5/24/2017

‘We can use peace’: Trump and Pope Francis meet

Donald Trump receives frosty reception in first meeting with Pope Francis at Vatican

Donald Trump hails Vatican meeting with Pope Francis as ‘an honour’

Trump envoy expected back next week in Israel as US seeks to ‘move fast’ on peace

Report: Trump to present peace initiative within a month

In Bethlehem, Abbas and Trump speak of Mideast peace prospects

Abbas tells Trump he’s ‘ready to begin negotiating immediately’ with Israel

Why can’t Abbas stop paying families of ‘martyrs’?

Hamas against Trump’s speech in Jerusalem: ‘Encourages hatred towards the Palestinian people’

Hamas: Trump ‘encouraging apartheid’

Aggressive Surge in Israeli Settlement Activity Under Netanyahu Imperils Trump Peace Push

Trump ‘to do everything’ for Middle East peace

Trump on Mideast peace: ‘It’s a tough deal, but we will get there’

Trump’s success is not being Obama, but he still really wants peace

‘Trump made no mention of two-state solution’

Trump Leaves Israel With Hope for Peace, but No Plan for It

With boundless optimism but few specifics, Trump lays out Mideast peace vision

Trump seeks ‘common sets of principles’ to build momentum for peace, official says

Trump: Holocaust was most savage crime against God and his children

7 awkward moments from Trump’s Israel trip

Trump’s Middle East Trip Was a Big, Surprising Success – and the Iranian Regime is Nervous

Iran extends hand to new Hamas leader Haniyeh

At Western Wall, Rivlin opens Jerusalem Day jubilee

Deputy FM calls on Jews to ascend Temple Mount on Jerusalem Day

New Six Day War artifacts hint at a battle on the Temple Mount

The Czech parliament adopts a resolution condemning UNESCO’s politicization and the decisions against Israel

BDS fail: Canadian university rejects Israel boycott

Qatar says state news website hacked, fake article published

Qatar news agency claims it was hacked after Emir quoted saying ties with Israel ‘good’

Turkish police say seeking 144 people over links to failed coup, 35 detained

Assad retakes Homs, capital of the Syrian revolution

Car bomb explodes in Syria’s Homs, army destroys another near Damascus

Philippines’ Duterte declares martial law in region besieged by ISIS-linked extremists

Manchester bomber ‘likely’ had accomplices, UK minister says

British prime minister raises nation’s threat level, saying another attack ‘may be imminent’

Britain raises terror threat level to ‘critical,’ deploys army

Morrissey attacks politicians and the Queen over Manchester terrorism response

Manchester terror attack ignites security fears ahead of summer event season

Manchester attack: Nations around the world must stop appeasing the Islamists

Salman Abedi named as the Manchester suicide bomber – native to Manchester… radicalised in Lybia… returned a few days ago

Fox uses Manchester terror attack by UK native to justify Trump’s Muslim ban

Europe’s denial of Islamic terrorism threat perplexes security specialists

The World Is Too Comfortable with Terror

In Manchester, Jews have been preparing for an attack for years

Manchester attack: Social media calls for travel ban after UK tragedy

Trump calls Manchester attack perpetrators ‘evil losers’

Trump calls on allies to ‘obliterate this evil ideology’ after Manchester bombing

Greg Laurie on Manchester Terror Attack: ‘There Is a Spiritual Element in Play Here’

Gates: Manchester Bombing Is a ‘Harbinger’ of More Terror Attacks in the West

‘Wake Up America’: TX Sheriff Rants On Terror After UK Attack

Manchester Attack Changes the Conversation for Trump’s Trip

Manchester attack opens the door for Trump’s anti-terrorism message at NATO

NATO, no longer obsolete, braces for Hurricane Trump

Brussels-bound Trump armed with demands for NATO

Iranian president ‘hopeful’ Europe won’t follow Trump’s lead on Iran

US envoy tells UN forum North Korea is “a pariah and an outlier”

North Korean diplomat tells UN that United States is real aggressor

Los Angeles Times Publishes Op-Ed on Performing Witchcraft Against Trump

Monica Lewinsky writes obituary for Roger Ailes’ era of ‘gutter’ journalism

Sean Hannity Still Shilling DNC Staffer Murder Story As Fox News Retracts

Clinton deputy Podesta blames Russia, fake news and FBI probes for 2016 loss

Comey ‘ready’ to talk to special counsel in Russia probe

Ex-CIA chief: Worries grew of Trump campaign contacts to Russia

Senate Intelligence Committee issues new subpoenas to Flynn’s businesses

Ex-Trump adviser Page rips Obama-era ‘surveillance,’ wants to testify in public

NYC’s De Blasio: ‘Children Will Die’ Because of Trump’s Budget

Greece fails to secure fresh bailout funds

Moody’s downgrades China rating to A1 from Aa3, citing concerns over a slowing economy and growing debt

Proposed Rules Would Allow US to Track and Destroy Drones

Jeff Bezos lays out his vision for city on the moon, complete with robots

5.1 magnitude earthquake hits near Akutan, Alaska

Sheveluch volcano on Kamchatka, Russia erupts to 18,000ft

Sinabung volcano in Indonesia erupts to 15,000ft

Sakurajima volcano on Japan Erupts to 14,000ft

Langila volcano in Papua New Guinea erupts to 10,000ft

Massive rockslide buries stretch of iconic California highway

Record rain for parts of eastern Australia

South Africa’s Western Cape declares drought disaster

Merkel vows to convince climate change ‘doubters’

Greece battles locust plague on Agios Efstratios island

S. Korean military court convicts gay soldier over sex

Loss of Faith Among Top 4 Reasons Young Adults Are Committing Suicide: Family Policy Institute

Mike Ratliff – God’s truth is absolute truth

“Harsh Words,” “Put Downs,” and “Divisive Things” that Jesus Said

Ergun Caner – from Jihad to Jesus?

‘Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath’ Gets Two-Hour Special

Americans Who Believe the Bible Is the Literal Word of God Are Not in Decline, Says Expert

Woman Dies Trying to Remove Uterus in Quest to Become a Man

Four Iowa Planned Parenthood Locations Closing After State Cuts Funding to Abortion Facilities

6 Statistics That Show How Much America Has Changed in a Half-Century

Posted: 24 May 2017 08:19 AM PDT

(By John Miltimore) Since the political scientist Charles Murray will be speaking at Intellectual Takeout’s upcoming gala, I thought it fitting to read his best-selling…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Jesus Christ Excluded From Facebook Bullying ‘Protection List:’

Posted: 24 May 2017 08:09 AM PDT

While Facebook has recently been tightening its anti-bullying policies and banning users for posting offensive photos, one name that is not receiving protection from the…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

4 in custody, military deployed as May warns next attack could be ‘imminent’

Posted: 24 May 2017 07:59 AM PDT

Four people are in custody in connection with Monday’s deadly concert bombing, as British authorities continue to conduct “extensive” searches while investigating the “network” behind…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Is This a Harbinger of Things to Come in the Middle East?

Posted: 24 May 2017 07:51 AM PDT

Climate change will worsen food and water shortages in the Middle East and north Africa, and risk triggering more conflict and mass migration, with serious…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

France to extend state of emergency, vows new security laws

Posted: 24 May 2017 06:10 AM PDT

French President Emmanuel Macron has requested that parliament extend the state of emergency until November 1. The president also called for the introduction of legislation…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

President Trump’s Speeches in Israel Ended With No Talks On a Two-State Solution

Posted: 24 May 2017 06:05 AM PDT

During his meeting with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas Tuesday and in speeches throughout the day, President Donald Trump notably omitted any mention of…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

UPDATE: The Entire Country Of Philippines May Be Placed Under Martial Law

Posted: 24 May 2017 06:01 AM PDT

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday he wouldn’t rule out placing the entire country under martial law if the threat of Islamic State spreads….

Read more at End Time Headlines.

NJ accidentally activates nuclear warning alert system on TVs…Causes Mass Panic

Posted: 24 May 2017 05:56 AM PDT

A false alarm that went out to some people’s television sets Tuesday might have scared some in New Jersey.  A nuclear power plant warning issued…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Pope Gives Trump Book on Protecting Environment…

Posted: 24 May 2017 05:53 AM PDT

Pope Francis joined an international chorus urging Donald Trump to meet U.S. commitments on climate change in talks at the Vatican Wednesday.  Francis gave the U.S….

Read more at End Time Headlines.

DEVELOPING: Gunmen take priest, churchgoers hostage in Philippines, vow to kill captives

Posted: 24 May 2017 05:38 AM PDT

Militants stormed a cathedral in the Philippines, taking a priest and several parishioners hostage and are vowing to kill the captives “if government forces unleashed…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Trump Proposes Selling Off Half Of U.S. Emergency Oil Reserve

Posted: 24 May 2017 05:34 AM PDT

The White House plan to trim the national debt includes selling off half of the nation’s emergency oil stockpile and the entire backup gasoline supply,…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

More than 700 Confederate Monuments across US Aren’t budging!

Posted: 24 May 2017 05:29 AM PDT

After the church shooting in South Carolina, the old granite Confederate Memorial Fountain that had sat for a century in Hill Park became a flash point….

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Tourist with measles rode Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls

Posted: 24 May 2017 05:25 AM PDT

A tourist from India who visited Niagara Falls and went for a ride on the famous Maid of the Mist tour boat this month has…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Taiwan court rules in favor of same-sex marriage, first in Asia

Posted: 24 May 2017 05:20 AM PDT

Taiwan’s constitutional court declared on Wednesday that same-sex couples have the right to legally marry, the first such ruling in Asia, sparking celebration by activists…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

The Number Of Self-Employed Americans Is Lower Than It Was In 1990

Posted: 23 May 2017 07:47 PM PDT

(Reported By Michael Snyder) After eight long, bitter years under Obama, will things go better for entrepreneurs and small businesses now that Donald Trump is…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

North Korea attack drones carrying biological, chemical weapons can strike Seoul within 1 hour

Posted: 23 May 2017 07:37 PM PDT

North Korea’s military has 300 to 400 attack drones capable of carrying biological and chemical weapons that could reach the South Korean capital of Seoul…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

This Scientist’s Doomsday Earthquake Scenarios Will Terrify You

Posted: 23 May 2017 07:34 PM PDT

It’s 102 degrees, just north of Palm Springs. White wind turbines, two stories high, dot the desert landscape all of the way to the base…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Texas Democrat Crafting ‘Articles of Impeachment’ Against Trump

Posted: 23 May 2017 06:44 PM PDT

The Democrat who took to the House floor to call for President Trump’s impeachment said he is moving forward in the process.  Congressman Al Green…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Trump Says He Prayed for Wisdom From God While Touching Western Wall

Posted: 23 May 2017 03:51 PM PDT

President Donald Trump reportedly prayed to have God’s wisdom as he touched the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem Monday.  Johnnie Moore, a…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Philippines President Duterte declares martial law on Mindanao island

Posted: 23 May 2017 03:45 PM PDT

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has declared martial law for 60 days on the island of Mindanao, after clashes between the army and militants linked to…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

‘Superbug’ Fungus Is Spreading Across the United States

Posted: 23 May 2017 03:40 PM PDT

Over the past nine months, the number of US cases of an emerging, multi-drug resistant fungus has ballooned from 7 to more than 122. What’s…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Pope Francis and Donald Trump Set to Meet this Wednesday

Posted: 23 May 2017 03:36 PM PDT

When President Donald Trump visits Pope Francis on Wednesday, at the halfway point of a trip the White House has cast as a pilgrimage of…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

5,000 Troops Deployed Into Streets Of Britain

Posted: 23 May 2017 03:31 PM PDT

Troops are to be deployed onto Britain’s streets amid fears a further terror attack ‘may be imminent’.  Theresa May announced the move this evening, less…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

UK Terror Threat Level Raised to Critical – More Attacks May Be Imminent

Posted: 23 May 2017 03:27 PM PDT

The UK terror threat level has been raised to its highest level of “critical”, meaning further attacks may be imminent, Theresa May has said.  The…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

5 Reasons Why Trump’s Israel Trip Has Many Christians Cheering

Posted: 23 May 2017 12:40 PM PDT

President Trump’s historic trip to the Middle East has many on social media praising his decision to visit Israel on his first foreign trip as…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Heroic Homeless Man Rushed in to Help While Others Fled After Manchester Bombing

Posted: 23 May 2017 12:34 PM PDT

Sometimes, we look at our predicaments in life and wonder how in the world God could possibly use us to be a light in the world….

Read more at End Time Headlines.

What is The Gospel?

Who Do You Think That I Am?

Selected Scriptures

Code: A335

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

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

Consider what the Bible says about Him:


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Truth2Freedom Blog Disclaimer

This post was originally posted on: https://truth4freedom.wordpress.com

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

“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

— Augustine

This blog is an aggregator of news and information that we believe will provide articles that will keep people informed about current trends, current events, discussions and movements taking place within our church and culture.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107,material here is distributed without profit for research and educational purposes.

A headline link on this blog post doesn’t necessarily mean that there is agreement or approval with all the views and opinions expressed within the headline linked article. Caution is also warranted with regards to the advertisements and links that are embedded within the headline linked article.

*Please note that the preceding blog post content is formed by my personal conviction, values, worldview and opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

Measuring Your Spiritual Growth

Code: B170524

In the entryway to my parents’ home, there is what looks like a giant ruler bolted to the wall. It functions as a growth chart for their grandchildren, marking the incremental changes in their height through the years. And without fail, the kids are eager to see how much they’ve grown since their last measurement, delighted with their progress.

It is likely that somewhere in your childhood home—possibly near a doorframe—there are similar marks that measured your growth.

Whether it’s marking your height as a kid, or measuring your weight loss as an adult, it’s natural to want to quantify the progress you’re making. And it extends beyond just our physical condition. Many people fastidiously track their retirement accounts, their sleep habits, and even their gas mileage. If you can measure it, it’s certain that someone, somewhere is paying close attention to the numbers.

What if we could bring the same kind of scrutiny to our spiritual lives? Is there a reliable barometer of our spiritual growth—some way to track the trajectory of our sanctification? We put those questions to John MacArthur recently. Here’s what he had to say:

As John explained, spiritual growth is not measured incrementally, over short periods of time. Just consider the volatility of today alone—you might have begun your day in devotion and praise for the Lord, but it likely didn’t take long for you to succumb to temptation and sin.

Rather than tracking those lurching highs and lows, we need to consider the overall trend of our lives. Are we sinning less over time? Are we breaking old habits and gaining victory over sin in areas of life that were once dominated by defeat? And are we growing in our appreciation for just how sinful we are? Is the Spirit revealing new areas of sin in our lives, and are we attacking that sin biblically? If you want to get a sense of how you’re growing spiritually, you need to start with those questions.

At the same time, we need to remember that spiritual growth does not happen by osmosis. We can’t expect to grow if we’re not faithfully returning to the only true source of spiritual nourishment: God’s Word. And as John will explain next time, feeding on Scripture means a lot more than simply reading it.


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B170524
COPYRIGHT ©2017 Grace to You

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

May 24, 2017: Verse of the day


55:10, 11 God’s word is just as irresistible and effective as the rain and snow. All the armies in the world cannot stop them, and they accomplish their intended purpose. God’s Word never fails to achieve its aims:

So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.[1]

55:10, 11 rain … snow … My word. Moisture from heaven invariably accomplishes its intended purpose in helping meet human physical needs. The Word of God will likewise produce its intended results in fulfilling God’s spiritual purposes, especially the establishment of the Davidic kingdom on earth (vv. 1–5).[2]

55:10–11 As the rain and the snow cannot fail to nourish the earth, so God’s word of promise cannot fail to bring his people into the richness and fullness of eternal life. Human good intentions fail, but God’s promises succeed (cf. 40:6–8). The word of God not only describes a glorious future, it is God’s appointed means to create that future (cf. Ezek. 37:1–14).[3]

55:11 It shall not return to me without success Yahweh’s word cannot fail to bring about the desired results (compare 40:8). The word of God contains very real power to accomplish His will. Creation happened through divine speech in Gen 1 (compare Psa 33:6, 9), and Yahweh brought life back into lifeless bones through the prophetic words of Ezekiel (Ezek 37:1–14).[4]

55:10, 11 rain. The rain falls abundantly and of its own accord, and in a familiar but mysterious way produces plants and useful crops, evidently for the purpose of supplying people’s needs. The divine purpose in this is applied figuratively to the word of God in order to distinguish it from fallible human thoughts and plans. It also speaks of the Lord’s word as His decree by which He governs history. It never returns without accomplishing God’s sovereign purposes. Cf. 40:8.[5]

55:11 It is the divine origin (or character) of God’s word, and not some magical power, which causes it to accomplish the purpose for which it is sent (cf. Heb. 4:12).[6]

10–11 The declaration of vs 8–9 not only looks back to v 7 but on to vs 10–13, to shame us out of our small expectations. God’s thoughts are more far-reaching and more fertile, as well as higher, than ours. The comparison of his word with rain andsnow suggests a slow and silent work, transforming the face of the earth in due time. The reference is to his decree (cf. e.g. 44:26; 45:23) rather than his invitation or instruction, which can be refused (48:18–19; cf. the similar imagery to that of v 10 in Heb. 6:4–8).[7]

55:10, 11 bring forth: For a similar reference, see 2 Cor. 9:10. God’s word is similar to rainfall; it produces fruit (Ps. 147:15–20). Just as water enlivens and strengthens a withering rose, God’s word produces life in the hearts of sinners.[8]

55:10–11. Having spoken of the future time of blessing (the Millennium) and the salvation which leads to it, the Lord then assured believers that His Word … will accomplish what He says it will. His word is like rain and snow that water the earth and help give it abundant vegetation. In the Near East dry hard ground can seemingly overnight sprout with vegetation after the first rains of the rainy season. Similarly when God speaks His Word, it brings forth spiritual life, thus accomplishing His purpose.[9]

[1] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 982). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Is 55:10). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1342). 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 (Is 55:11). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1228). 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., Is 55:11). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[7] Kidner, F. D. (1994). Isaiah. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 664). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[8] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 865). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[9] Martin, J. A. (1985). Isaiah. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 1111). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

May 24 – Saluting an Unknown Soldier (James, son of Alphaeus)

The twelve apostles included “James the son of Alphaeus” (Matt. 10:3).


God often uses ordinary people to accomplish great things.

Like most Christians, James the son of Alphaeus is an unknown and unsung soldier of the cross. His distinguishing characteristic is obscurity. Nothing he did or said is recorded in Scripture—only his name.

In Mark 15:40 he is called “James the Less,” which literally means “Little James.” That could refer to his stature (he might have been short), his age (he might have been younger than James the son of Zebedee), or his influence (he might have had relatively little influence among the disciples).

In Mark 2:14 Matthew (Levi) is called “the son of Alphaeus.” Alphaeus was a common name, but it’s possible that James and Matthew were brothers, since their fathers had the same first name. Also, James’s mother is mentioned in Mark 15:40 as being present at Christ’s crucifixion, along with other women. She is referred to as the wife of Clopas in John 19:25. Since Clopas was a form of Alphaeus, that further supports the possibility that James and Matthew were related.

From those references we might conclude that James was a small, young man whose personality was not particularly powerful. If he was Matthew’s brother, perhaps he was as humble as Matthew, willing to serve the Lord without any applause or notice. Whichever the case, be encouraged that God uses obscure people like James and rewards them accordingly. Someday James will sit on a throne in Christ’s millennial Kingdom, judging the twelve tribes of Israel—just like the other, more prominent disciples (Luke 22:30).

No matter how obscure or prominent you are from a human perspective, God can use you and will reward you with a glorious eternal inheritance.


Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank the Lord for all those people unknown to you whom He has used to shape your life for His glory. ✧ Seek to be more like James, serving Christ faithfully without applause or glory.

For Further Study: Read Luke 9:23–25. What did Jesus say is necessary to be His disciple? ✧ Read Luke 9:57–62. What were those men unwilling to give up to follow Christ?[1]

James the Son of Alphaeus

The first-named of these unknown apostles is James, who is distinguished from the other apostle James (the son of Zebedee, v. 2) and from James the half brother of Jesus by being identified as the son of Alphaeus. In Mark 15:40 he is referred to as “the Less.” Mikros (“less”) can also mean smaller or younger. Used in the sense of smaller, the name may have been another means of distinguishing him from James the son of Zebedee, who was clearly larger in influence and position and possibly also in physical stature. In the sense of younger, it may have indicated his youthfulness in comparison to the other James.

As just mentioned, this James was considerably less than James the son of Zebedee in the realm of influence. He may have had outstanding traits such as boldness or courage, but, if so, he would likely have been called “the Bold” or something similar, rather than “the Less.” He could have been older than the other James; but if that were true, he would probably have been called “the Elder,” since that description would have been less confusing and more respectful of his age. It is also possible, of course, that he was smaller in stature. But the most probable meaning of “the Less” would seem to be that of youthfulness, coupled with that of his subordinate position in leadership.

Because Matthew’s father was also named Alphaeus (spelled Alpheus in Mark 2:14), James and Matthew may have been brothers. Or this James may have been a cousin of Jesus. Clopas was a form of Alphaeus, and if Jesus’ “mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas” (John 19:25), was James’s mother, he would have been Jesus’ first cousin. That possibility is also supported by Mark 15:40, which tells us that the mother of James the Less was named Mary. It is possible that he was both Matthew’s brother and Jesus’ cousin. In either case or both, this James’s low profile testifies to his humility, since there is no indication that he tried to take personal advantage of any such relationship.

James was not distinguished as a gifted leader, either before or after his calling and training. We can assume he faithfully fulfilled the Lord’s work during his ministry, and we know that he will one day sit on a heavenly throne and join the other twelve in judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28). But his apostleship had no relationship to outstanding ability or achievement. He was an unextraordinary man, used in unextraordinary ways to help fulfill the extraordinary task of taking the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.

After 2,000 years, James the son of Alphaeus remains obscure. We do not know a single word he spoke or a single thing he did. The early church Fathers claimed that he preached in Persia (modern Iran) and was crucified there as a martyr for the gospel. If that is true, one can only wonder what would have happened to that country and to world history had those people responded favorably to the gospel.[2]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 157). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

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


…I am come that they might have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

JOHN 10:10

If the only interest we have in the deeper spiritual life is based on curiosity, it is not enough—regardless of our education or scholarship!

In our day we have seen a great revival of interest in mysticism, and supposedly a great interest in the deeper life. But I find that much of this interest is academic and is based on curiosity. We become interested in aspects of the deeper Christian life much as we become interested in mastering the yo-yo or folk songs or dabbling in Korean architecture or anything else that intrigues us. You can go anywhere now and buy a book about the deeper life because there are curious persons who are swelling the market.

It has been suggested that we should not “waste our time” in trying to help those who are merely curious. But I differ at this point, because it is Jesus’ blood that makes the difference and it is because of this hope by the blood of Jesus that any of us may be worthy to listen. We must leave the sorting out to God! The testing in the matters of spiritual life is by the Spirit of God, not by pastors and preachers. We dare not withhold the open secret of the victorious life because there are those who are merely curious and without true desire.[1]

10:10 The purpose of the thief is to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. He comes for purely selfish motives. In order to gain his own desires, he would even kill the sheep. But the Lord Jesus does not come to the human heart for any selfish reason. He comes to give, not to get. He comes that people may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. We receive life the moment we accept Him as our Savior. After we are saved, however, we find that there are various degrees of enjoyment of this life. The more we turn ourselves over to the Holy Spirit, the more we enjoy the life which has been given to us. We not only have life then, but we have it more abundantly.[2]

Life, More Life

John 10:10

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

I am pausing in our study of the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel to give particular attention to verse 10; for it contains an idea that has become popular in some Christian circles, and it is important that we understand it. The idea is that of the abundant life. Verse 10 suggests it: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

What is the full or abundant life? It is not necessarily a long life, although there are verses that promise a long life to some, such as to those who honor their father and mother (Exod. 20:12; cf. Eph. 6:2–3). It is not necessarily a life free from sorrow or sickness either, although God certainly does spare us many sorrows that we might otherwise have and often preserves us from sickness. It is not a life of sickly piety, where everything is “beautiful” or “precious” or “just wonderful.” The abundant life, as Scripture speaks of it, is, above all, the contented life, in which contentment comes from the confidence that God is equal to every emergency and does indeed supply all our genuine needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

The contented life is the life of the sheep who finds himself in the hands of a good shepherd. There may be dangers; in fact, there will be dangers. There may be storms at times, even drought and famine. Still, in the hands of a good shepherd the sheep is content and life is bountiful.


Contentment means satisfaction, and satisfaction means to have enough. This understanding is reinforced by the meaning of “abundance” in English and in most ancient languages.

Our English word “abundance” comes from the two Latin words ab and undare which mean “to rise in waves” or “to overflow.” The first translation gives a picture of the unceasing rise of the waves upon a seashore. There the waves rise again and again. One wave surges forward and exhausts its force on the sand, but another follows and another and another. Thus it will continue as long as time lasts. The other picture is of a flood. This makes us think of a river fed by heavy rains, rising irresistibly until it overflows its banks. The abundant life is, therefore, one in which we are content in the knowledge that God’s grace is more than sufficient for our needs, that nothing can suppress it, and that God’s favor toward us is unending.

The Greek word for “abundance,” perissos, has a mathematical meaning and generally denotes a surplus. In this sense it is used of the twelve baskets of food that remained after Christ’s feeding of the five thousand, as related in Matthew’s Gospel (14:20). It is translated “remains.” The comparative is used to say that John the Baptist excelled the Old Testament prophets in dignity and importance (Matt. 11:9) and that love is more important than all sacrifices (Mark 12:33).

Made Alive

Before one can know the abundant life, he must first know life. That is, he must first be made alive through faith in Christ. Christ is speaking of this when he says, “I have come that they may have life.” It is only after this that he adds, “and have it to the full.”

Are you aware that you have been made alive spiritually? You should be just as certain of this as you are that you have been made alive physically. In fact, one whole book of the Bible has been written so that Christians (who have been made alive through the new birth) might be certain of it and might grow in Christ on the basis of that assurance. The book is 1 John, and John tells us that this is his purpose in writing. He says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). A few verses earlier he tells us that God has given life to all who believe on Jesus as God’s Son and that they can be assured of this because God himself tells them that this is what he has done.

The Twenty-Third Psalm

This brings us to the abundant life itself, and in order to discuss it in its fullest biblical framework I want to take you to the Twenty-third Psalm. This psalm is, above all, the psalm of the contented life. When it begins by saying “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want” this is precisely what it is talking about. Not to be in want is to be content, and this state can exist only when the sheep is in the care of a good shepherd. In the psalm David tells us that he is content in the Lord in reference to five things.

First, he does not lack rest. He indicates this by saying, “He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.”

In the small but very rewarding book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23,  author Phillip Keller, who was himself a shepherd, tells of the difficulty there is in getting a sheep to lie down. Sheep do not easily lie down, he says. In fact, “It is almost impossible for them to be made to lie down unless four requirements are met. Owing to their timidity they refuse to lie down unless they are free of all fear. Because of the social behavior within a flock sheep will not lie down unless they are free from friction with others of their kind. If tormented by flies or parasites, sheep will not lie down. … Lastly, sheep will not lie down as long as they feel in need of finding food. They must be free from hunger.” Freedom from fear, tension, aggravation, and hunger! These are the four necessities. And the important thing, as Keller points out, is that it is only the shepherd himself who can provide them.

This is an interesting picture. For when the psalm begins with the sheep at rest it begins with a picture of sheep who have found their shepherd to be a good shepherd, that is, one who is able to meet their physical needs and to provide them with release from anxiety. Moreover, it is interesting that it begins at this point. For the other advantages of the contented life—guidance, comfort, safety, provision, and a destiny—come only to one who has found the Lord adequate to his every need.


Second, the psalmist tells us that he does not lack guidance. For “he leads me beside quiet waters” and “he guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

Sheep are stupid creatures. In fact, they are probably the most stupid animals on earth. One aspect of their stupidity is seen in the fact that they so easily wander away. They can have a good shepherd who has brought them to the best grazing lands, near an abundant supply of water—still they will wander away over a hill to where the fields are barren and the water undrinkable. Or again, they are creatures of habit. They can have found good grazing land due to the diligence of the shepherd; but then having found it, they will continue to graze upon it until every blade of grass and even every root is eaten, the fields ruined, and themselves impoverished. This has actually happened to sheep and the land they graze on in many parts of the world—Spain, Greece, Mesopotamia, North Africa, parts of the western United States, and New Zealand.

No other class of livestock requires more careful handling and more detailed directions than do sheep. Therefore, a shepherd who is able to give good guidance is essential for their welfare. He will move the sheep from field to field (before deterioration sets in) and will always stay near water. He will chase strays. He will plan the grazing to fit the seasons of the year. In the same way, we too need the Good Shepherd. We do not lack guidance if we will but have it.


Third, David tells us that he does not lack safety, even in the presence of great danger. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

This verse often has been taken as providing words of comfort for those who are dying; and it is not wrongly used in that way. God certainly is a source of comfort in death. Primarily, however, the verse speaks of the shepherd’s ability to protect the sheep in moments of danger. The picture in this verse is of the passage from the lowlands, where sheep spend the winter, through the valleys to the high pastures where they go in summer. The valleys are the places of richest pasture and of abundant water. But they also are places of danger. Wild animals lurk in the broken canyon walls to either side. Sudden storms may sweep down the valleys. There may be floods. The sun does not shine so well into the valleys. So there really is shadow, which at any moment might become death’s shadow. It is through such experiences that our Lord leads us in safety.

In the book that I referred to earlier, Keller notes how often Christians speak of their desire “to move on to higher ground with God,” wanting to move above the lowlands of life and yet not realizing that mountaintop experiences are entered into only by passing through the valleys. Strong faith comes from having faith tested. Patience comes from having lived through tribulations. This means that life will not necessarily be smooth under the direction of our Shepherd. He will sometimes lead us through rough places. Nevertheless, as we go through them we can know of his ability to keep us from falling and to present us before the presence of his Father with great joy.

Keller writes: “The basic question is not whether we have many or few valleys. It is not whether those valleys are dark or merely dim with shadows. The question is how do I react to them? How do I go through them? How do I cope with the calamities that come my way? With Christ I face them calmly. With His gracious Spirit to guide me I face them fearlessly. I know of a surety that only through them can I possibly travel on to higher ground with God.”


Fourth, Psalm 23 speaks of the shepherd’s provision for each physical need of the flock. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

Keller thinks that the reference to preparing the table refers to the shepherd’s advance preparation of the high tablelands or mesas where the sheep graze in summer. If so, it refers to the elimination of hazards, the destruction of poisonous plants, and the driving away of predators—all before the sheep arrive. If it does not refer to this, it must be taken merely of God’s provision of peace and feeding even when enemies lurk nearby. In such a time, says David, God anoints him with oil and fills his cup of wine to overflowing.

In biblical imagery oil and wine speak of joy and prosperity; for the growing of olives and grapes and their transformation into oil and wine take time and gentle care. In times of domestic turmoil or war these tasks were forgotten.

Moreover, oil and wine well suited the inhabitants of a dry and barren land and were therefore highly valued. In Palestine, where the sun shines fiercely most of the year and the temperature continually soars up into the hundreds, the skin quickly becomes cracked and broken, and throats become dusty and parched. Oil soothes the skin, particularly the face. Wine clears the throat. Therefore, when a guest arrived at the home of a friend in Palestine in Christ’s or David’s day, hospitality demanded the provision of oil and wine so that the ravages of travel might be overcome and friends might make merry in each other’s company. David spoke of this elsewhere when he prayed, “O Lord … let your face shine on your servant” (Ps. 31:14, 16). A shining face was the face of a friend. In another passage he thanks God for “wine that gladdens the heart of man, [and] oil to make his face shine” (Ps. 104:15).

David knew of God’s great love and provision; his face shone, and his heart was made merry because of it. Oh for the shining face and the merry heart today! Far too many have scowling faces and gloomy hearts, but that is not what God intends for his children. Instead, if we will allow him to lead us to the high pastures of the Christian life we will find our table prepared, our heads anointed with purest oil, and our cups overflowing with the wine of joy.

A Heavenly Home

Finally, having spoken of all these provisions, David adds no less gladly that he does not lack for a heavenly home. He is blessed in this life, but it is not in this life only that he knows God’s goodness. He will know it forever. Thus he declares, “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Ps. 23:6).

To have a sure home is one of the great desires of the nomadic people who have generally occupied that area of the Near East bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, and the great Arabian desert. T. E. Lawrence, who gained fame as Lawrence of Arabia during World War I, has written of this eloquently in his classic Seven Pillars of Wisdom. He tells in the opening pages of that book how, because of the geography of this area, one tribe after another came out of the desert to fight for the lush Judean highlands, which contained the best trees, crops, and pastures. The Israelites in their conquest of Palestine under Joshua were just one of these peoples. When one group (like the Israelites) succeeded, the conquered people generally moved just a bit south into the Negev (which was also good land but not quite as good as that to the north) and displaced others. Those who were displaced in turn displaced others, and those displaced still others, with the result that there was always a constant movement around the entire area. The last of the peoples would be forced back into the desert with nothing before them but Damascus. At some point all the peoples of the Near East had this background. So, for most of them, Damascus with its ample rivers and fields became the symbol of true abundance at the end of life’s pilgrimage. It symbolized home.

For us who know the Good Shepherd there is also a similar longing; but the longing is not for Damascus or any other earthly home. Our longing is for that great and final home that the Lord Jesus Christ has himself gone to prepare for us. He has said, “I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2–3). With such a promise we know that we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Of our state in that home John the evangelist later wrote in the Book of Revelation: “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 7:16–17).

The blessings of this life and heaven too! Nor can we forget that this was achieved for us by One who himself became a lamb in order to die for us so that we might be able to enter into the fullness of such a great salvation.[3]

10 Using vivid language, Jesus says that the Jewish establishment (the “thief”) has as its purpose “to steal and kill and destroy.” But this is not true of Jesus the shepherd—he has come so that his followers “may have life, and have it to the full.” The former are life denying, while Jesus is life affirming. The life that Jesus came to provide is not physical but spiritual. Yet that which is spiritual naturally overflows into every aspect of physical existence. Life embraces all that it means to be alive in this world and firmly attached by faith to the living Lord. Fullness of life is the reward of faith. It is by trusting Jesus and forgetting self that real life—physical and spiritual—breaks into one’s consciousness like the dawning of a new day (cf. Mk 8:35 par.).[4]

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

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1525). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Boice, J. M. (2005). The Gospel of John: an expositional commentary (pp. 747–752). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Mounce, R. H. (2007). John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 502). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


And so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.

Romans 5:12

All of history and the daily newspaper testify that the human race lies in ruin—spiritually, morally and physically.

The long parade of gods, both virtuous and obscene, and a thousand varieties of vain and meaningless religious practices declare our spiritual degeneration, while disease, old age and death testify sadly to the completeness of our physical decay.

By nature, men and women are unholy; and by practice we are unrighteous. That we are also unhappy is of small consequence.

But it is of overwhelming importance to us that we should seek the favor of God while it is possible to find it, and that we should bring ourselves under the plenary authority of Jesus Christ in complete and voluntary obedience.

To do this is to invite trouble from a hostile world and to incur such unhappiness as may naturally follow. Add the temptation of the devil and a lifelong struggle with the flesh, and it will be obvious that we will need to defer most of our enjoyments to a more appropriate time!

Loving Father, there is nothing more important to do while we are alive than to accept You as our Savior. I pray especially today for believers in hostile countries, that their inner joy in knowing You will override any pain that is inflicted upon them or their families.[1]

5:12 The rest of chapter 5 serves as a bridge between the first part of the letter and the next three chapters. It is linked with the first part by picking up the subjects of condemnation through Adam and justification through Christ, and by showing that the work of Christ far outweighs in blessing what the work of Adam did in misery and loss. It is linked with chapters 6–8 by moving from justification to sanctification, and from acts of sin to the sin in human nature.

Adam is portrayed in these verses as the federal head or representative of all those who are in the old creation. Christ is presented as the Federal Head of all those who are in the new creation. A federal head acts for all those who are under him. For example, when the President of a country signs a bill into law, he is acting for all the citizens of that country.

That is what happened in Adam’s case. As a result of his sin, human death entered the world. Death became the common lot of all Adam’s descendants because they had all sinned in him. It is true that they all committed individual acts of sin as well, but that is not the thought here. Paul’s point is that Adam’s sin was a representative act, and all his posterity are reckoned as having sinned in him.

Someone might object that it was Eve and not Adam who committed the first sin on earth. That is true, but since Adam was the first to be created, headship was given to him. So he is seen as acting for all his descendants.

When the Apostle Paul says here that death spread to all men, he is referring to physical death, even though Adam’s sin brought spiritual death as well. (Vv. 13 and 14 show that physical death is in view.)

When we come to this passage of Scripture, certain questions inevitably arise. Is it fair that Adam’s posterity should be constituted sinners just because he sinned? Does God condemn men for being born sinners; or only for those sins which they have actually committed? If men are born with a sinful nature, and if they therefore sin because they are born sinners, how can God hold them responsible for what they do?

Bible scholars have wrestled with these and a host of similar problems and have come up with a surprising variety of conclusions. However, there are certain facts that we can be sure of.

First, the Bible does teach that all men are sinners, both by nature and by practice. Everyone born of human parents inherits Adam’s sin, and also sins by his own deliberate choice.

Second, we know that the wages of sin is death—both physical death and eternal separation from God.

But no one has to pay the penalty of sin unless he wants to. This is the important point. At enormous cost, God sent His Son to die as a Substitute for sinners. Salvation from sin and its wages is offered as a free gift through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Man is condemned on three grounds: He has a sinful nature, Adam’s sin is imputed to him, and he is a sinner by practice. But his crowning guilt is his rejection of the provision which God has made for his salvation (John 3:18, 19, 36).

But someone will ask, “What about those who have never heard the gospel?” This question is answered in part, at least, in chapter 1. Beyond that we can rest in the assurance that the Judge of all the earth will do right (Gen. 18:25). He will never act unjustly or unfairly. All His decisions are based on equity and righteousness. Although certain situations pose problems to our dim sight, they are not problems to Him. When the last case has been heard and the doors of the courtroom swing shut, no one will have a legitimate basis for appealing the verdict.[2]

  1. Wherefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all mankind, since all sinned, and then, instead of completing this statement, he first of all enlarges on one of its elements, namely the universality of sin. Not until he reaches verse 18 does he return to the sentence he started to write. He reproduces its thought in a modified form: “Consequently, as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all,” and then he finally, in substance, completes the sentence as follows, “… so also one act of righteousness resulted for all men in justification issuing in life.”

Now it should be admitted that such a break in grammatical structure is in line with Paul’s style and personality. See N.T.C. on Luke, p. 6. Yet it is not today, nor has it been in the past, an unusual style phenomenon.

For example, a minister, making an announcement to his congregation, regarding a picnic, might start out as follows:

“Since tomorrow we’ll all be attending the church picnic.…”

He wishes to continue with, “We urge all to come early and to bring along food enough for your own family and, if possible, even something extra for poor people who may wish to join us.”

But before he can even say this he notices that his words about a church picnic tomorrow are being greeted with skepticism. So, instead, he continues as follows:

“I notice that some of you are shaking your heads, thinking that there can be no picnic tomorrow. Let me therefore assure you that the early morning prediction about a storm heading our way has been canceled. A new forecast was conveyed to me just minutes before I ascended the pulpit. According to it, the storm has changed its course and beautiful weather is expected for tomorrow. So we urge all to come early, etc.”

With all this in mind, the various elements of verse 12, and also the verse viewed as a unit, may be interpreted as follows:

Wherefore,” that is, in view of the fact that, through his sacrificial death and resurrection life, Jesus Christ has brought righteousness, reconciliation (peace), and life, etc. See 5:1–11.

“just as through one man sin entered the world …”

The one man is obviously Adam. See verse 14. Cf. Gen. 2:16, 17; 3:1–6. In what sense is it to be understood that through Adam’s fall sin entered the world? Only in this sense that gradually, over the course of the years and centuries, those who were born inherited their sinful nature from Adam, and therefore committed sins? Without denying that this indeed happened, we must nevertheless affirm that there was a far more direct way in which “through one man sin entered the world.” On this same third missionary journey, not very long before Paul composed Romans, he wrote letters to the Corinthians. In one of them (1 Cor. 15:22) he says, “As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.” In Rom. 5:15 he writes, “By reason of the trespass of the one the many died.” He obviously means that the entire human race was included in Adam, so that when Adam sinned, all sinned; when the process of death began to ruin him, it immediately affected the entire race.

Scripture, in other words, in speaking about these matters, does not view people atomistically, as if each person were comparable to a grain of sand on the seashore. Especially in this present day and age, with its emphasis on the individual, it is well to be reminded of the truth expressed in the words which, in a former generation, were impressed even upon the minds of children:

In Adam’s Fall

We Sinned All

Moreover, when we bear in mind that this very chapter (5) teaches not only the inclusion of all those who belong to Adam—that is, of the entire human race—in Adam’s guilt, but also the inclusion of all who belong to Christ, in the salvation purchased by his blood (verses 18, 19; cf. 2 Cor. 5:19; Eph. 1:3–7; Phil. 3:9; Col. 3:1, 3), and that this salvation is God’s free gift to all who by faith are willing to accept it, we shall have nothing to complain about.

  1. “and death through sin, and so death spread to all mankind …”

Solidarity in guilt implies solidarity in death, here, as in 1 Cor. 15:22, with emphasis on physical death. Sin and death cannot be separated, as is clear from Gen. 2:17; 3:17–19; Rom. 1:32; 1 Cor. 15:22. In Adam all sinned; in Adam all died. The process of dying, and this not only for Adam but for the race, began the moment Adam sinned.

“since all sinned.”

In all probability this refers to sins all people have themselves committed after they were born. Such personal sinning has been going on throughout the centuries. Paul is, as it were, saying, “I know that one man, and in him all men, sinned, for if this were not true how can we account for all the sinning that has been going on afterward?”

This interpretation gives to the word sinned the meaning it has everywhere else in Paul’s epistles. Why should “all sinned” mean one thing (actual, personal sins) in Rom. 3:23, but something else in 5:12? Besides if here in 5:12 we explain the words all sinned to refer to the fact that all sinned in Adam, would we not be making the apostle guilty of needless repetition, for the sinning of all “in Adam” is already implied in this same verse; note “through one man sin entered the world.”

To these two reasons for believing that this interpretation of the words “since all sinned” is the right one, a third can be added: it now becomes clear why Paul did not, at this point, complete the sentence beginning with “Wherefore,” but went off on a tangent. The statement “since all sinned” could easily arouse disbelief, especially in the minds of those who attached great importance to the proclamation of the law at Sinai. The question might be asked, “If to sin means to transgress the law, how can Paul say that since the time of Adam all sinned? Until the giving of the law at Sinai there was no law, and therefore no transgression of the law, no sin.” The apostle considers this possible objection to be of sufficient importance to justify the break in grammatical structure to which reference was made in the beginning of the explanation of verse 12 (see p. 176).[3]

Sin Entered The World Through One Man

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, (5:12a)

Therefore connects what follows with what has just been declared, namely, that as believers we have been reconciled to God by the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ (vv. 8–11). Now Paul begins the analogy of Christ with Adam, the common principle being that, in each case, a far-reaching effect on countless others was generated through one man.

In the case of Adam, it was through one man that sin entered into the world. It is important to note that Paul does not say that sin originated with Adam but only that sin in the world, that is, in the human realm, began with Adam. Sin originated with Satan, who “has sinned from the beginning” (1 John 3:8). John does not specify when that beginning was, but it obviously was before the creation of Adam and Eve, because they were tempted by Satan.

After He placed Adam in the Garden of Eden, “the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die’ ” (Gen. 2:15–17). Adam was given but one, simple prohibition by God, yet the consequence for disobedience of that prohibition was severe.

After Eve was created from Adam and joined him in the garden as his wife and helper, Satan tempted her to doubt and to disobey the command of God. She, in turn, induced her husband to disobey, and they sinned together. But although Eve disobeyed first, the primary responsibility for the sin was Adam’s, first of all because it was to him that God had directly given the command, and second because he had headship over Eve and should have insisted on their mutual obedience to God rather than allow her to lead him into disobedience.

The one command was the only point of submission to God required of Adam. Except for that single restriction, Adam had been given authority to subjugate and rule the entire earth (Gen. 1:26–30). But when Adam disobeyed God, sin entered into his life and generated a constitutional change in his nature, from innocence to sinfulness, an innate sinfulness that would be transmitted to every one of his descendants.

Paul’s argument begins with the assertion that, through Adam, sin entered into the world. He does not speak of sins, plural, but of

sin, singular. In this sense, sin does not represent a particular unrighteous act but rather the inherent propensity to unrighteousness. It was not the many other sinful acts that Adam eventually committed, but the indwelling sin nature that he came to possess because of his first disobedience, that he passed on to his posterity. Just as Adam bequeathed his physical nature to his posterity, he also bequeathed to them his spiritual nature, which henceforth was characterized and dominated by sin.

God made men a procreative race, and when they procreate they pass on to their children, and to their children’s children, their own nature-physical, psychological, and spiritual.

John Donne wrote these well-known lines in his Meditation XVII,

No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It toils for thee.

Mankind is a single entity, constituting a divinely ordered solidarity. Adam represents the entire human race that is descended from him, no matter how many subgroups there may be. Therefore when Adam sinned, all mankind sinned, and because his first sin transformed his inner nature, that now depraved nature was also transmitted to his posterity. Because he became spiritually polluted, all his descendants would be polluted in the same way. That pollution has, in fact, accumulated and intensified throughout the ages of human history. Instead of evolving, as humanists insist, man has devolved, degenerating into greater and greater sinfulness.

Ancient Jews understood well the idea of corporate identity. They never thought of themselves as isolated personalities or as a mass of separate individuals who happened to have the same bloodline as their families and fellow Jews. They looked at all other races in the same way. A given Canaanite or Edomite or Egyptian was inextricably connected to all others of his race. What one of them did affected all the others, and what the others did affected him-in a way that is difficult for modern, individual-oriented man to comprehend.

It was on that basis that God frequently punished or blessed an entire tribe, city, or nation because of what a few, or even just one, of its members did. It was in light of that principle that Abraham asked the Lord to spare Sodom if only a few righteous people could be found there (Gen. 18:22–33). It was also on the basis of that principle that God held all Israel accountable and eventually destroyed Achan’s family along with him because of that one man’s disobedience in keeping for himself some of the booty from Jericho (see Josh. 7:1–26).

The writer of Hebrews knew that his Jewish readers would understand his statement about the tithes that Levi paid to Melchizedek. “Without any dispute,” he declared, “the lesser is blessed by the greater. And in this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on. And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him” (Heb. 7:7–10; cf. vv. 1–3; Gen. 14:18–20). In other words, although Melchizedek lived many years before Levi, the father of the priestly tribe, was born, along with all other descendants of Abraham, Levi, by being in the seed in Abraham’s loins, shared in the tithe paid to the ancient king.

In the same way, although with enormously greater consequences, the sin of Adam was passed on to all of his descendants. When he sinned in the Garden of Eden, he sinned not only as a man but as man. When he and his wife, who were one flesh (Gen. 2:24), sinned against God, all of their descendants-that is, the entire human race in their loins-would share in that sin and the alienation from God and subjection to death that were its consequence. “In Adam all die,” Paul explained to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 15:22). As far as guilt is concerned, every human being was present in the garden with Adam and shares in the sin he committed there.

The fact that Adam and Eve not only were actual historical figures but were the original human beings from whom all others have descended is absolutely critical to Paul’s argument here and is critical to the efficacy of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If a historical Adam did not represent all mankind in sinfulness, a historical Christ could not represent all mankind in righteousness. If all men did not fall with the first Adam, all men could not be saved by Christ, the second and last Adam (see 1 Cor. 15:20–22, 45).

Death Entered the World Through Sin

and death through sin (5:12b)

The second element of Paul’s argument is that, because sin entered the world through one man, so also death, the consequence of sin, entered the world through that one man’s sin.

God did not create Adam as a mortal being, that is, as subject to death. But He explicitly warned Adam that disobedience by eating the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil would make him subject to death (Gen. 2:17). And, contrary to Satan’s lie (3:4), that was indeed the fate that Adam suffered for his disobedience. Even before human sin existed, God had ordained that its wages would be death (Rom. 6:23; cf. Ezek. 18:4). Death is the unfailing fruit of the poison that entered Adam’s heart and the heart of every one of his descendants.

Even tiny babies can die, not because they have committed sins but because they have a sin nature, the ultimate consequence of which is death. A person does not become a sinner by committing sins but rather commits sins because he is by nature a sinner. A person does not become a liar when he tells a lie; he tells a lie because his heart is already deceitful. A person does not become a murderer when he kills someone; he kills because his heart is already murderous. “For out of the heart,” Jesus said, “come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders” (Matt. 15:19).

Sin brings several kinds of death to men. Death is separation, and Adam’s first death was spiritual separation from God, which Adam experienced immediately after his disobedience.

“You were dead in your trespasses and sins,” Paul reminded the Ephesian believers, “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” (Eph. 2:1–2). The unsaved are “darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart” (Eph. 4:18). The unregenerate are very much alive to the world, but they are dead to God and to the things of God.

A second, and obvious, kind of death that sin brings is physical, separation from fellow human beings. Although Adam did not immediately lose his physical life, he became subject to physical death the moment he sinned.

A third kind of death that sin brings is eternal, an immeasurably worse extension of the first. Referred to in Scripture as the second death (Rev. 21:8), this death not only brings eternal separation from God but also eternal torment in hell.

The unbeliever has reason to fear all three deaths. Spiritual death prevents his earthly happiness; physical death will bring an end to opportunity for salvation; and eternal death will bring everlasting punishment. But no kind of death should be feared by believers. They are saved permanently by Christ from spiritual and eternal death, and their physical death (or rapture) will usher them into His divine presence. For believers Christ has removed the fear of death (Heb. 2:14, 15).

Death Spread to All Men Because All Sinned

and so death spread to all men, because all sinned- (5:12c)

A third element of Paul’s argument is that death was transmitted to all men, without exception. No human being has ever escaped death. Enoch and Elijah, who escaped physical and eternal death, nevertheless were spiritually dead before they trusted in the Lord. Even Jesus died, not because of His own sin but because of the world’s sin that He vicariously took upon Himself. And when He took sin upon Himself, He also took upon Himself sin’s penalty.

Sinned translates a Greek aorist tense, indicating that at one point in time all men sinned. That, of course, was the time that Adam first sinned. His sin became mankind’s sin, because all mankind were in his loins.

Men have learned to identify certain physical and mental characteristics in human genes, but we will never discover a way to identify the spiritual depravity that has been transmitted from generation to generation throughout man’s history. We know of that legacy only through the revelation of God’s Word.

Paul does not attempt to make his explanation wholly understandable to his readers, and he himself did not claim to have full comprehension of the significance of what the Lord revealed to and through him. He simply declared that Adam’s sin was transmitted to all his posterity because that truth was revealed to him by God.

Natural human depravity is not the result but the cause of man’s sinful acts. An infant does not have to be taught to disobey or be selfish. It is born that way. A young child does not have to be taught to lie or steal. Those are natural to his fallen nature, and he will express them as a matter of course unless prevented.

“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,” David confessed, “and in sin my mother conceived me” (Ps. 51:5). That condition was not unique to David, and in another psalm he testified that “the wicked are estranged from the womb; these who speak lies go astray from birth” (Ps. 58:3). Jeremiah declared that “the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). Eliphaz asked Job rhetorically: “What is man, that he should be pure, or he who is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?” (Job 15:14).

Every person who is not spiritually reborn through Christ (John 3:3) is a child of Satan. Jesus told the unbelieving Jewish leaders: “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

As already noted, although Eve disobeyed God’s command first, Adam was more accountable for his disobedience, because “it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression” (1 Tim. 2:14). Adam had no excuse at all. Without being deceived, and fully aware of what he was doing, he deliberately disobeyed God.

Some object to the idea that they sinned in Adam, arguing that they not only were not there but did not even exist when he sinned. But by the same token, we were not physically at the crucifixion when Christ died, but as believers we willingly accept the truth that, by faith, we died with Him. We did not literally enter the grave with Christ and were not literally resurrected with Him, but by faith we are accounted to have been buried and raised with Him. If the principle were not true that all sinned in Adam, it would be impossible to make the point that all can be made righteous in Christ. That is the truth Paul makes explicit later in this letter (5:15–19) and in his first letter to Corinth: “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22).

Others argue that it is not fair to be born guilty of Adam’s sin. “We did not asked to be born,” they argue, “nor did our parents or their parents or grandparents before them.” But neither was it “fair” that the sinless Son of God suffered the penalty of sin on behalf of all mankind. If God were only fair, Adam and Eve would have been destroyed immediately for their disobedience, and that would have been the end of the human race. It is only because God is gracious and forgiving, and not merely just, that men can be saved. The magnitude of Paul’s analogy is mind-boggling, and its significance cannot be fully comprehended but only accepted by faith.

Habakkuk had great difficulty understanding the Lord. At first he could not understand why God did not bring revival to His chosen people Israel. He cried out, “How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and Thou wilt not hear? I cry out to Thee, ‘Violence!’ Yet Thou dost not save” (Hab. 1:2). Even less could he understand why God would punish His own people through the hands of the Chaldeans, who were pagans and immeasurably more wicked than the Israelites. “Thine eyes are too pure to approve evil,” the prophet reminded the Lord, “and Thou canst not look on wickedness with favor. Why dost Thou look with favor on those who deal treacherously? Why art Thou silent when the wicked swallow up those more righteous than they?” (1:13).

Finally realizing that the Lord’s ways are beyond human comprehension, Habakkuk testifies, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail, and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold, and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength” (3:17–19).

Habakkuk learned that when we cannot understand the Lord’s ways, we must avoid the quicksand of human reason and stand in faith on the rock of God’s righteous character.

It may, however, help to understand something of God’s purpose for offering salvation to fallen mankind by considering the angels. Unlike man, they were not created in God’s image or as procreative beings (Matt. 22:30), and when they fell with Lucifer (Rev. 12:7–9), they fell individually and were immediately damned to hell forever, with no opportunity for redemption.

God created the angels to serve Him and give Him glory. Because they were created holy, they fully understood such things as God’s holiness, righteousness, and majesty. But they had no comprehension of His grace, mercy, compassion, or forgiveness, because those characteristics have meaning only where there is the guilt feeling of sin. It is perhaps for that reason that the holy angels long to look into the gospel of salvation (1 Pet. 1:12). It is impossible even for the holy angels to fully praise God, because they cannot fully comprehend His greatness.

For His own divine reasons, however, God created man to be procreative. And when Adam fell, and thereby brought his own condemnation and the condemnation of all his descendants, God in mercy provided a way of salvation in order that those who would experience His grace would then have cause to praise Him for it. Paul declares that it is through redeemed saints, saved human beings, “that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places,” that is, to His heavenly angels (Eph. 3:10).

Because the purpose of creation is to glorify God, it is fitting that God would fill heaven with creatures who have received His grace and His mercy, and have been restored to His divine likeness to give Him eternal praise.[4]

Union with Jesus Christ

Romans 5:12

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—

The last ten verses of Romans 5 are a new section of the letter. They deal with mankind’s union with Adam on the one hand, a union which has led to death and condemnation, and with the believer’s union with the Lord Jesus Christ on the other. This latter union leads to life and righteousness. This is a difficult section of the letter, possibly the most difficult in all the Bible. But it is also very important.

Union with Christ! The Scottish pastor and theologian James S. Stewart called union with Christ “the heart of Paul’s religion,” adding that “this, more than any other conception—more than justification, more than sanctification, more even than reconciliation—is the key which unlocks the secrets of his soul.” John Murray went even further, saying, “Union with Christ is the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation.”2 Yet, strangely, this is a widely neglected theme even in many otherwise helpful expositions of theology. Arthur W. Pink states the situation fairly:

The subject of spiritual union is the most important, the most profound, and yet the most blessed of any that is set forth in the sacred Scriptures; and yet, sad to say, there is hardly any which is now more generally neglected. The very expression “spiritual union” is unknown in most professing Christian circles, and even where it is employed it is given such a protracted meaning as to take in only a fragment of this precious truth. Probably its very profundity is the reason why it is so largely ignored. …

Many preachers avoid such subjects, thinking it better to avoid matters that most of their hearers may be unable or unwilling to understand. But it is not wise to neglect anything God has seen fit to reveal to us, particularly something as important as this. And, in any case, union with Christ cannot be neglected in any faithful exposition of Romans.

The Theme in Context

Where are we in our exposition of this letter? How does Romans 5:12–21 fit into its context?

At this point it may be worth thinking back to what I said at the beginning of this volume when I introduced the very first words of chapter 5. I rejected the view that Romans 5 introduces an entirely new section of the letter in the sense that in chapters 1–4 Paul has been speaking about justification and that now, in chapters 5–8, he speaks about sanctification. He does speak about sanctification, of course, but not as a radically new theme. On the contrary, as I pointed out (the word therefore in Rom. 5:1 is a clue to this), Paul is carrying forward the argument begun earlier, showing that the work of justification, about which he has been speaking, is a sure thing and will inevitably carry through to the believer’s full glorification in heaven at the end of life.

Thus far, Paul’s arguments have had to do with the nature of our justification:

  1. We can be assured of salvation because God has made peace with us through the atoning work of Jesus Christ.
  2. We can be assured of salvation because, through that same work of Christ, we have been brought into a new relationship with God in which we continue to stand.
  3. We can be assured of salvation because of the sure and certain hope that we shall see God.
  4. We can be assured of salvation because of the way we are able to endure sufferings in this life.
  5. We can be assured of salvation because God sent Jesus Christ to die for us, not when we were saved people but when we were enemies.
  6. We can be assured of our salvation because, if God has justified us, which is a greater thing and demands more of God than glorification, he will surely do the lesser.

But now we have something new, as I said at the beginning of this study—and yet not new, because the apostle’s objective remains the same: to enhance our assurance. We have seen that Romans 5:1–11 argues the certainty and finality of salvation from the nature of justification by faith. Now Paul also argues that when God saved us through the work of Christ, justifying us by faith, justification was not the only thing involved. Justification is immensely important, of course. But in addition to justification, and in conjunction with it, we were also united to Christ in what theologians have come to call “the mystical union.” This union with Christ has been revealed to us, although we do not fully understand it.

In my opinion, Paul has anticipated this theme in the verses we have already studied, although I did not point it out at the time and the point is hidden in most of our translations. I am referring to verse 10, which says, “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”

In the Greek text the last three words are not “through his life,” as we have them in the New International Version (or “by his life,” as in most others), but literally “in his life.” Is this important? Yes, in my opinion. For, when we say “through” or “by” his life, the words seem to mean either or both of two things to us: (1) that we are saved through Christ, that is, by his work on the cross, and/or (2) that we are saved through faith in that atonement. But this is not the idea here. The first part of verse 10 does say this, but the second part goes beyond it, making a contrast. The argument is: If God has saved us through the death of Christ (through faith in his atonement), he will certainly save us by our being “in his life.” At this point of the letter we may not fully understand what that means. That is why verses 12–21 explain it. But I am making the point that union with Christ, which Paul develops in verses 12–21, is suggested earlier.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, “The word ‘in’ means ‘in the sphere of,’ or ‘in the realm of,’ or ‘in connection with’ his life.”

This union with Jesus makes possible the sequence of deliverances from sin, death, and the law, and the resulting spiritual victories that Paul will unfold in the next three chapters of Romans.

Probing the Mystery

Union with Christ is difficult to understand, however, and the treatment of it in Romans 5:12–21 is particularly mind-stretching. So I want to probe this doctrine a bit before we actually get into the verses. There are two important points to keep in mind.

First, the union of the believer with Christ is one of three great unions in Scripture. The first is the union of the persons of the Godhead in the Trinity. Christians, as well as Jews, speak of one God. Yet, on the basis of the revelation of God in Scripture, we who are Christians say we also believe that this one God exists in three persons as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We cannot explain how these three persons of the Godhead are at the same time only one God, but the Bible teaches this and we believe it.

The second mystical union is that of the two natures of Christ in one person. The Lord Jesus Christ is one person. He is not a “multiple personality.” Nevertheless, he is also both God and man, possessing two natures. The theological formulation of this truth at the Council of Chalcedon (a.d. 451) said that Jesus is “to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into persons, but one and the same Son.” If you understand that completely, you are a better theologian than I am. But though I do not fully understand it, I believe it since it seems to be what the Bible teaches.

We have a similar situation in the case of the union of believers with Christ. Probably we are never going to be able to understand this union fully either. But it is important. Therefore we should hold to it and try to gain understanding.

The second important point to keep in mind as we study this doctrine is that the union of the believer with Christ is not a concept that was invented by Paul; rather, it was first taught by Jesus and then built upon by the apostle. True, Jesus did not use the term “mystical union.” But he taught it in other words and through analogies, which are frequent in Scripture, particularly in the later portions of the New Testament. Let me list a few examples.

  1. The vine and the branches. The most important passage on this theme is the teaching in John 15. It occurs in one of Jesus’ final discourses prior to his arrest and crucifixion. Jesus said, “I am the true vine. … Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:1, 4–5).

The emphasis in this passage is upon the power of Christ nourishing and working itself out through his disciples. Paul touches on this image in Romans 11:17–21, where he speaks of Jewish “branches” being broken off an olive tree so that Gentile “branches” might for a time be grafted in. He is thinking along similar lines in Galatians when he speaks of the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22–23).

  1. The Lord’s Supper. On the same evening that Jesus spoke about himself as the vine and his disciples as the branches, he gave instructions for observing the Lord’s Supper in which he said, “This is my body” and “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:26, 28). The sacrament clearly symbolizes our participation in the life of Christ. In the same way, Jesus discoursed on the bread of life (“I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” [John 6:35]) and challenged the woman of Samaria (“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to everlasting life” [John 4:13–14]).

The emphasis in this image is on empowering (as in the analogy of the vine) and permanence. By faith, Jesus becomes a permanent part of us, just as surely as what we eat.

  1. A foundation and the structure built upon it. Jesus initiated this image when he spoke of himself as a solid foundation for building a successful life: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock” (Matt. 7:24–25).

Paul made ample use of this image. He told the Corinthians, “You are … God’s building. … For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:9b, 11). He told the Ephesians, “… you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone” (Eph. 2:19–20). In the next verse the building becomes a temple: “In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord” (v. 21). Notice the words “in him.” It is only because we are “in Christ” that this is possible.

This image also shows that being joined to Christ means that we are at the same time joined to one another. We are part of the church.

  1. The head and members of the body. This was one of Paul’s favorite ways of speaking. “And God placed all things under [Christ’s] feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Eph. 1:22–23). “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. … Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Eph. 4:11–12, 14–16).

In these verses (and others like them) the emphasis is upon two things: (1) growth and (2) the proper functioning of the church under Christ’s sure direction. In 1 Corinthians Paul uses this image to show that each Christian is needed if the church is to function properly (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12–27).

  1. Marriage. By far the greatest of all illustrations of the union of the believer with Christ and of Christ with the believer is marriage, in which a man and a woman are joined to form one flesh and one family. This image is in the Old Testament—Hosea, for example. There God compares himself to the faithful husband who is deserted by Israel, the unfaithful wife (Hosea 1–3). Jesus picked up on this theme when speaking of a marriage supper to which all who have faith are invited (Matt. 22:1–14). However, it is chiefly Paul who develops the theme in what is probably the best-known passage from Ephesians, mixing it with the image of the church as Christ’s body.

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. … This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

Ephesians 5:22–28, 32

The emphasis in this image is upon a love-bonding. This is indeed the one true “marriage made in heaven.” It is a marriage not only for this life but for eternity.

Looking Back and Looking Forward

In the studies that follow we are going to be looking at the doctrine of our union with Christ in detail, comparing it initially with our corresponding but contrasting union with Adam. But I close here by trying to put our union with Christ in its widest possible setting, remembering that it is included at this point of the letter to assure us of our security. This is what we find as we look both backward and forward at this union.

Here I quote from the best statement of these themes I know: a chapter on “Union with Christ” in Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray:

  1. Election. “The fountain of salvation itself in the eternal election of the Father is ‘in Christ.’ Paul says: ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world’ (Eph. 1:3, 4). The father elected from all eternity, but he elected in Christ. We are not able to understand all that is involved, but the fact is plain enough that there was no election of the Father in eternity apart from Christ. And that means that those who will be saved were not even contemplated by the Father in the ultimate counsel of his predestinating love apart from union with Christ—they were chosen in Christ. As far back as we can go in tracing salvation to its fountain we find ‘union with Christ’; it is not something tacked on; it is there from the outset.”
  2. Redemption. “It is also because the people of God were in Christ when he gave his life a ransom and redeemed them by his blood that salvation has been secured for them; they are represented as united to Christ in his death, resurrection, and exaltation to heaven (Rom. 6:2–11; Eph. 2:4–6; Col. 3:3, 4). … Hence we may never think of the work of redemption wrought once for all by Christ apart from the union with his people which was effected in the election of the Father before the foundation of the world. … This is but another way of saying that the church is the body of Christ and ‘Christ loved the church and gave himself for it’ (Eph. 5:25).”
  3. Regeneration. “It is in Christ that the people of God are created anew. ‘We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works’ (Eph. 2:10). … It should not surprise us that the beginning of salvation in actual possession should be in union with Christ because we have found already that it is in Christ that salvation had its origin in the eternal election of the Father and that it is in Christ salvation was once for all secured by Jesus’ ransom blood. We could not think of such union with Christ as suspended when the people of God become the actual partakers of redemption—they are created anew in Christ.”
  4. Glorification. “Finally, it is in Christ that the people of God will be resurrected and glorified. It is in Christ that they will be made alive when the last trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible (1 Cor. 15:22).”

This great scope of salvation from the electing counsels of God in eternity past to the glorification of the sons of God in eternity future is based on the union of the believer with Christ, and it is for this that the doctrine is so important for us. Assurance of salvation! Security in Christ! This is what we are dealing with in this doctrine, as also in the great middle chapters of Romans. While there are many things meant to encourage us in that security, the greatest of all is that we are “in Christ.”

The question you must ask yourself is: “Am I really in him? Am I a Christian?”

How can you know? You cannot look into eternity past to pry into God’s hidden counsels. You cannot look into eternity future to see yourself as one who has been glorified. All you have is the present. But if you probe the present, you can know. Do you remember the marriage illustration? Ask yourself: “Am I married to Jesus?” You are—if you have taken the vow, promising to “take Jesus to be your loving and faithful Savior, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, for this life and for eternity,” and if you are living for him. God has pronounced the marriage. And what God has joined together no one will ever put asunder.[5]

12 The one man through whom sin entered the world is not immediately named (reserved until v. 14). The same procedure is followed with the other man to be considered: he too is called a man before he is named (v. 15). Except for two non-theological references (Lk 3:38; Jude 14), every mention of Adam in the NT comes from the pen of Paul. In 1 Timothy 2:14, he makes the point that Adam, unlike Eve, was not deceived but sinned deliberately. In 1 Corinthians 15, as in the Romans passage, he institutes a comparison between the first and the last Adam but confines the treatment to the issue of death and resurrection, even though sin is dealt with somewhat incidentally (vv. 17, 56), whereas in Romans 5, both sin and death are named immediately and are woven into the texture of the argument throughout. In the earlier letter, Paul makes the significant statement, “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Co 15:22), in line with Romans 5:12. Paul has already referred to the inevitable connection between sin and death in the only previous mention of death in Romans (1:32), except for reference to the death of Christ (5:10). But here in v. 12 he pictures sin and death as entering the world through one man, with the result that death permeated the whole of humankind. It was the opening in the dike that led to the inundation, the poison that entered at one point and penetrated every area of humanity’s corporate life.

If Paul had stopped with the observation that death came to all humanity because all sinned, we would be left with the impression that all sinned and deserved death because they followed the example of Adam. But subsequent statements in the passage make it abundantly clear that the connection between Adam’s sin and death and what has befallen the race is far closer than that. Paul says that the many died because of “the trespass of the one” (v. 15; cf. vv. 18–19). Clearly the gist of his teaching is that just as humankind has become involved in sin and death through Adam, it has the remedy of righteousness and life only in Christ.

What, then, is the precise relation of Adam in his fall to those who come after him? Paul does not say, unless he provides the information in the last clause of the verse. The NIV uses the word “because,” which is certainly the meaning of eph’ hō in 2 Corinthians 5:4 and probably also in Philippians 3:12. The Vulgate rendering of the Greek is in quo, which could be understood as meaning “in which” (i.e., death) or “in whom” (i.e., Adam). The former does not make sense and the latter is so far removed from the antecedent (“man”) as to be dubious, though this was Augustine’s conclusion (see Notes).

Now if the correct translation is “because all sinned,” why did not Paul go on to say specifically that all sinned in the first man? That he could have done so seems clear from v. 19: “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” Was it the sudden breaking off to follow another line of thought (vv. 13–14) that prevented the full statement? Or was it Paul’s reluctance to gloss over human responsibility, which he had already established in terms of universal sin and guilt (3:23)? Experience demonstrates that despite the inheritance of a sinful nature from Adam, people are convicted of guilt for the sins resulting from it, i.e., for the sins they themselves commit. Conscience is a factor in human life and the Holy Spirit does convict of sin (cf. Jn 16:8). Perhaps, then, as some hold, while the emphasis on original sin is primary in the light of the passage as a whole, there is a hint that personal choice and personal sin are not entirely excluded (cf. “many trespasses” in v. 16).

That we could have sinned in Adam may seem strange and unnatural to the Western mind. Nevertheless, it is congenial to biblical teaching on the solidarity of the human race. (For a famous example of corporate solidarity in the OT, see the story recorded in Jos 7:16–26.) When Adam sinned, the race sinned because the race was in him. Similar views are found in Jewish writings perhaps a half century after Paul: in 2 Esdras 7:118, “O Adam, what have you done? For though it was you who sinned, the fall was not yours alone, but ours also who are your descendants” (cf. 2 Esd 3:7, 21), and 2 Baruch 54:15, “Adam sinned first and has brought death upon all who were not in his own time” (cf. 2 Bar 17:3; 23:4). To put it boldly, Adam was the race. What he did, his descendants, who were still in him, did also. This principle is utilized in Hebrews 7:9–10: “One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.”

The doctrine of original sin and the punishment of Adam’s progeny for Adam’s sin would be an intolerable doctrine if any of his progeny had actually lived a life without sin. In fact, however, as Paul has made abundantly clear in 1:1–3:21, every human being is guilty of sin. The author of 2 Baruch, quoted above, also puts emphasis on our own responsibility: “each of us has become our own Adam” (2 Bar 54:19); all human beings consistently repeat for themselves the sin of their forefather. Sin is part of the natural makeup of the children of Adam, and they cannot escape living out their Adamic nature.

If one is still troubled by the seeming injustice of being born with a sinful nature because of what the father of the race did and being held accountable for the sins that result from that disability, one should weigh carefully the significance of reconciliation as stated by Paul: “that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them” (2 Co 5:19, emphasis added). The sins committed, which owe their original impetus to the sin of the first man, are not reckoned against those who have committed them, provided they put their trust in Christ crucified and risen. God takes their sins and gives them his righteousness.[6]

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

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1697–1698). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Vol. 12–13, pp. 176–179). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (pp. 292–298). Chicago: Moody Press.

[5] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: The Reign of Grace (Vol. 2, pp. 552–560). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

[6] Harrison, E. F., & Hagner, D. A. (2008). Romans. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, pp. 95–97). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

May 24 – Three Aspects of the Divine Will

Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.—Matt. 6:10b

God’s Word reveals three aspects of His will. First is His will of purpose—His sovereign, ultimate plan for the universe. “Surely, just as I [God] have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand” (Isa. 14:24; cf. Eph. 1:9–11). It has been within God’s purpose to allow sin to affect the world for a time. But that situation will end precisely according to His plan and foreknowledge.

Within God’s will of purpose is His will of desire. This will is more specific but not always fulfilled in the present age. For example, Jesus desired His people, the Jews, to be saved. However, only a relative few believed in His message. Jesus prayed, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together … and you would not have it!” (Luke 13:34). Like the Jews, most Gentiles are also unwilling to come to Christ for salvation (John 5:40; cf. 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9).

Third is God’s will of command, which is His desire that believers obey Him fully, as only they of all people can, with the help of the Spirit (see Rom. 6:16–18). Pride is the great enemy set against all of God’s will. But for us to obey His will, we must forsake self-will and “prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2; see also v. 1).

Understanding the many-layered aspects of God’s will is not nearly as important as being obedient to every aspect you do know. Don’t you long for His purpose, desire, and command to be met with full acceptance in your own life? Submit to Him in some new way today. Conform to His will.[1]

The Third Petition

10b. Thy will be done, as in heaven so on earth. The will of God to which reference is made is clearly his “revealed” will, expressed in his law. It is that will which is done in heaven, but not yet to any great extent on earth. On the other hand, the will of God’s “decree” or “plan from eternity” is always being realized both in heaven and on earth (Dan. 4:35; Eph. 1:11), and cannot be the subject of prayer. (Incidentally, the statement that God’s revealed will is being perfectly obeyed in heaven—hence not only by heaven’s angels but also by the hosts of the redeemed—implies that the very moment a soul is translated from this sinful earth to heaven it has been freed from every vestige of sin.) It is the ardent desire of the person who sincerely breathes the Lord’s Prayer that the Father’s will shall be obeyed as completely, heartily, and immediately on earth as this is constantly being done by all the inhabitants of heaven.

As to “completely,” the story of King Saul shows that incomplete obedience, in which man sets his own will over against the divine, does not receive God’s approval and may have serious consequences (1 Sam. 15:1–3, 7–9, and note especially verses 22 and 23). As to “heartily,” note the words of Deut. 26:16 and Matt. 22:37. And as to “immediately,” the cherubim in Ezekiel’s vision of the throne-chariot, each cherub being equipped with four faces, and the chariot itself with wheels within wheels, so that its “drivers” were always ready to take it wherever the Lord wanted it to go, furnish a vivid illustration of the kind of obedience in which heaven delights (Ezek. 1; 10). Examples of human obedience: Noah (Gen. 6:22), Abraham (Gen. 11:28–32, cf. Acts 7:3; Gen. 12:1, cf. Heb. 11:8; Gen. 22:2 ff., cf. James 2:23); Joshua (Josh. 5:13–15); Samuel (1 Sam. 3:1–10); Simon (Peter) and Andrew (Matt. 4:19, 20); Simon (Peter) once more (Luke 5:5); James and John (Matt. 4:21, 22); Peter and the apostles (Acts 5:29); Mary of Bethany (John 11:28, 29); Paul (Acts 16:6–10; 26:19); and the Philippians (Phil. 2:12). The greatest example of all is Jesus Christ himself (Luke 2:51, 52; John 15:10; 17:4; Phil. 2:5–8; and Heb. 5:8). It was he who in the garden said, “Not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39). As to the manner in which obedience is rewarded, from a host of passages that could be listed the following few should suffice: Josh. 1:8; Matt. 7:7, 8; John 7:17; 8:29; 14:21, 23; 15:10; Phil. 2:9, 10; Heb. 12:1, 2; and Rev. 3:20.

The petitions for the fulfilment of human needs follow. Although it is true that between the first three petitions, pertaining to God, and the last three, pertaining to man, there is a rather sharp division, the two are not to be regarded as wholly separate. If the believer is to take an active part in the hallowing of God’s name, the coming of his kingdom, and the doing of his will—such an active part being certainly implied in the first three petitions—he must have bread (Luke 10:7, cf. 1 Tim. 5:18; Gal. 6:6; Eph. 4:28; Phil. 4:15, 16). Jesus, accordingly, is not forgetful of the physical needs of his disciples (see Matt. 6:25–34; 25:34–40; Mark 10:29, 30; cf. Acts 24:17; 2 Cor. 8:8 f.; James 2:15, 16), both in order that they may live and be happy, and that they may be able vigorously to support kingdom causes. This introduces[2]

God’s Plan

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (10:b)

Many people wonder how God’s sovereignty can be related to praying for His will to be done. If He is sovereign, is not His will inevitably done? Does our will override His will when we pray earnestly and sincerely? That is one of the great paradoxes of Scripture, a paradox about which Calvinists and Arminians have debated for centuries. It should be evident that this paradox, like those of God’s being three in one and Jesus’ being wholly God and wholly man, must be left to the infinite mind of God, because it is far beyond the finite human mind to comprehend. But what seems a hopeless contradiction to us is no dilemma to God. We hold both truths, seemingly paradoxical, in perfect tension with faith in the infinite mind of God, who resolves all things in perfect, noncontradictory truth (Deut. 29:29).

It is absolutely clear from Scripture that God is sovereign and yet not only allows but commands that man exercise his own volition in certain areas. If man were not able to make his own choices, God’s commands would be futile and meaningless and His punishments cruel and unjust. If God did not act in response to prayer, Jesus’ teaching about prayer would also be futile and meaningless. Our responsibility is not to solve the dilemma but to believe and act on God’s truths, whether some of them seem to conflict or not. To compromise one of God’s truths in an effort to defend another is the stuff of which heresy is made. We are to accept every part of every truth in God’s Word, leaving the resolution of any seeming conflicts to Him. Attempting on a human level to resolve all apparent paradoxes in Scripture is an act of arrogance and an attack on the truth and intent of God’s revelation.

When we pray Thy will be done, we are praying first of all that God’s will become our own will. Second, we are praying that His will prevail all over the earth as it [does] in heaven.

Wrong Understanding of God’s Will

Many people, including many believers, wrongly understand this part of the Disciples’ Prayer. Seeing God’s sovereignty simply as the absolute imposition of a dictator’s will, some believers are resentful. When, or if, they pray for His will to be done, they pray out of a feeling of compulsion. God’s will has to be done, and He is too strong to resist; so what would be the point of praying otherwise? The logical conclusion of most people who look at God in that way is that there is no point to prayer-certainly not to petitions. Why ask for the inevitable?

Other people are more charitable in their feelings about God. But because they, too, believe His will is inevitable, they pray out of passive resignation. They pray for God’s will to be done simply because that is what the Lord tells them to do. They are resignedly obedient. They do not pray so much out of faith as out of capitulation. They do not try to put their wills into accord with the divine will, but rather shift their own wills into neutral, letting God’s will run its course.

It is easy for Christians to fall into praying that way. Even in the very early days of the church, when faith generally was strong and vital, prayer could be passive and unexpectant. A group of concerned disciples was praying in the house of Mary, John Mark’s mother, for the release of Peter from prison. While they were praying, Peter was freed by an angel and came to the house and knocked on the door. When a servant girl named Rhoda came to the door and recognized Peter’s voice, she rushed back inside to tell the others, forgetting to let Peter in. But the praying group did not believe her, and thought she had heard an angel. When Peter was finally admitted, “they saw him and were amazed” (Acts 12:16). They apparently had been praying for what they did not really believe would happen.

Our own prayer lives often are weak because we do not pray in faith; we do not expect prayer to change anything. We pray out of a sense of duty and obligation, subconsciously thinking that God is going to do just as He wants to do anyway. Jesus gave the parable of the importunate widow-who refused to accept the status quo and persisted in begging, despite receiving no response-for the very purpose of protecting us against that sort of passive and unspiritual resignation. “Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart” (Luke 18:1).

The very fact that Jesus tells us to pray Thy will be done on earth indicates that God’s will is not always done on earth. It is not inevitable. In fact, lack of faithful prayer inhibits His will being done. In God’s wise and gracious plan, prayer is essential to the proper working of His divine will on earth.

God is sovereign, but He is not independently deterministic. Looking at God’s sovereignty in a fatalistic way, thinking “What will be will be,” absolutely destroys faithful prayer and faithful obedience of every sort. That is not a “high” view of God’s sovereignty, but a destructive and unbiblical view of it. That is not the divine sovereignty the Bible teaches. It is not God’s will that people die, or why would Christ have come to destroy death? It is not God’s will that people go to hell, or why would His only Son have taken the penalty of sin upon Himself so that men might escape hell? “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). That sin exists on earth and causes such horrible consequences is not evidence of God’s will but of His patience in allowing more opportunity for men to turn to Him for salvation.

Other people, overemphasizing the importance of man’s will, look at prayer as a means of bending God’s will to their own. They think of God’s providence as a sort of cosmic vending machine, which they can operate simply by inserting the required claim on one of His promises. As Elton Trueblood observes, “In some congregations the Gospel has been diminished to the mere art of self-fulfillment. Some current religious authors, far from emphasizing what it means to believe that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, write chiefly of themselves. Egocentricity is all that is left when the objective truth about the revelation of Christ is lost or even obscured.”

But Jesus undercuts that notion throughout His model prayer. True prayer focuses on Thy name, Thy kingdom, Thy will. Amy Carmichael wrote, “And shall I pray to change Thy will, my Father, until it accord to mine? But no, Lord, no; that shall never be. Rather I pray Thee blend my human will with Thine.”

There is a tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s will, between God’s grace and man’s faith, but we dare not try to resolve it by modifying God’s truth about either His sovereignty or our will, His grace or our faith. God is sovereign, but He gives us choices. God is sovereign, but He tells us to pray Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And James reminds us that “the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (5:16).

Right Understanding of God’s Will

David sang of the angels who did God’s will. “Bless the Lord, you His angels, mighty in strength, who perform His word, obeying the voice of His word!” (Ps. 103:20). That is the way God’s will is done in heaven, and that is the way believers are to pray for God’s will to be done on earth-unwaveringly, completely, sincerely, willingly, fervently, readily, swiftly, and constantly. Our prayer should be that every person and thing on earth be brought into conformity with God’s perfect will.

A part of the right understanding of and attitude toward God’s will is what might be called a sense of righteous rebellion. To be dedicated to God’s will is, by definition, to be opposed to Satan’s. To pray Thy will be done, on earth as it is heaven is to rebel against the worldly idea that sin is normal and inevitable and should therefore be acquiesced to or at least tolerated. It is to rebel against the world system of ungodliness, the dishonoring and rejecting of Christ, and also the disobedience of believers. Impotence in prayer leads us, however unwillingly, to strike a truce with wrong. To accept what is, is to abandon a Christian view of God and His plan for redemptive history.

Jesus knew the end from the beginning, but He did not accept the situation as inevitable or irresistible. He preached against sin and He acted against sin. When His Father’s house was profaned, “He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the moneychangers, and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, ‘Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a house of merchandise’ ” (John 2:14–16; cf. Matt. 21:12–13).

To pray for God’s will to be done on earth is to rebel against the idea, heard today even among evangelicals, that virtually every wicked, corrupt thing that we do or that is done to us is somehow God’s holy will and should be accepted from His hand with thanksgiving. Nothing wicked or sinful comes from the hand of God, but only from the hand of Satan. To pray for righteousness is to pray against wickedness. To pray for God’s will to be done is to pray for Satan’s will to be undone.

To pray for God’s will to be done is to cry with David, “Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered; and let those who hate Him flee before Him” (Ps. 68:1) and with the saints under God’s altar, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, wilt Thou refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Rev. 6:10).

To pray rightly is to pray in faith, believing that God will hear and answer our prayers. I think the greatest hindrance to prayer is not lack of technique, lack of biblical knowledge, or even lack of enthusiasm for the Lord’s work, but lack of faith. We simply do not pray with the expectation that our prayers will make a difference in our lives, in other people’s lives, in the church, or in the world.

There are three distinct aspects of God’s will as He reveals it to us in His Word. First, is what may be called His will of purpose-the vast, comprehensive, and tolerating will of God expressed in the unfolding of His sovereign plan that embodies all of the universe, including heaven, hell, and the earth. This is God’s ultimate will, of which Isaiah wrote, “The Lord of hosts has sworn saying ‘Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand’ ” (Isa. 14:24; cf. Jer. 51:29; Rom. 8:28; Eph. 1:9–11; etc.). This is the will of God that allows sin to run its course and Satan to have his way for a season. But in God’s appointed time sin’s course and Satan’s way will end exactly according to God’s plan and foreknowledge.

Second, is what may be called God’s will of desire. This is within His will of purpose and completely consistent with it. But it is more specific and focused. Unlike God’s will of purpose, His will of desire is not always fulfilled; in fact, it is very unfulfilled in comparison to Satan’s will in this present age.

Jesus greatly desired that Jerusalem be saved, and He prayed, preached, healed, and ministered among its people to that end. But few believed in Him; most rejected Him, and some even crucified Him. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” He prayed. “I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!” (Luke 13:34). That was the repeated experience of God’s Son, who came to earth that men might have life, and have it more abundantly. Like the unbelieving Jews in Jerusalem, most people were not willing to come to Jesus for that abundant life (John 5:40; cf. 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9).

Third, is what may be called God’s will of command. This will is entirely for His children, because only they have the capacity to obey. The will of command is the ardent desire of the heart of God that we who are His children obey Him completely and immediately with a willing heart. “Do you not know,” Paul says, “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? But thanks be to God 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” (Rom. 6:16–18).

God’s will of purpose embraces the ultimate end of this world, Christ’s second coming and the setting up of His eternal kingdom. His will of desire embraces conversion; and His will of command embraces the commitment and obedience of His children.

The great enemy of God’s will is pride. Pride caused Satan to rebel against God, and pride causes unbelievers to reject God and believers to disobey Him. For God’s will to be accepted and to be prayed for in sincerity and with faith, self-will must be forsaken in the power of the Holy Spirit. “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:1–2).

When we pray in faith and in conformity to God’s will, our prayer is a sanctifying grace that changes our lives dramatically. Prayer is a means of progressive sanctification. John Hannah said, “The end of prayer is not so much tangible answers as a deepening life of dependency. … The call to prayer is a call to love, submission, and obedience, … the avenue of sweet, intimate, and intense fellowship of the soul with the infinite Creator.”

The believer’s call is to bring heaven to earth by hallowing the Lord’s name, letting His kingdom come, and seeking to do His will.

In verses 11–13a Jesus gives three petitions. The first relates to our physical life and the present (daily bread), the second to our mental and emotional life and the past (debts), and the third to our spiritual life and the future (temptation and evil).[3]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 153). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Vol. 9, pp. 331–332). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 381–386). Chicago: Moody Press.


O Lord GOD, thou hast begun to shew thy servant thy greatness, and thy mighty hand: for what God is there in heaven or in earth, that can do according to thy works, and according to thy might?

—Deuteronomy 3:24

God is the source of all the power there is. There isn’t any power anywhere that doesn’t have God as its source, whether it be the power of the intellect, of the spirit, of the soul, of dynamite, of the storm or of magnetic attraction. Wherever there is any power at all, God is the author of it. And the source of anything has to be greater than that which flows out of it.

If you pour a quart of milk out of a can, that can has to be equal to or greater than a quart. The can has to be as big as or bigger than that which comes out of it. The can may contain several gallons, though you may pour out only a quart. The source has to be as big or bigger than that which comes out of it. So if all the power there is came from God—all the power—therefore, God’s power must be equal to or greater than all the power there is. AOGII074-075

Lord, why do we worry and fear so much when we are the dear children of the One who has such power? Strengthen me today with the promise of Your power. Amen. [1]

23–25 Although Moses was the great lawgiver and the ruler of Israel, he addresses his God as the “Sovereign Lord” and regards himself as his “servant.” Moses realized that he had only begun to comprehend his great God’s majesty because God had only begun to manifest himself to Moses and his people. The phrase “your greatness and your strong hand” refers to Yahweh’s awe-inspiring character and his impressive interventions in Israel’s behalf.

Moses breaks out in praise of his incomparable God because there were no gods like him. His question, “For what god is there in heaven or on earth …,” is a rhetorical question asked for emphasis. Moses was addressing the “marketplace of ideas” that existed in his day. He was referring to the conception of pagans (and certain Israelites) for the sake of argument. He was not granting the existence of other powerful gods and concluding that Yahweh is the winner out of many; rather, he was emphasizing that Yahweh is unique and unparalleled, the one and only true God (cf. 4:32–39). Moses pleaded (3:23) for God to allow him to witness personally the fulfillment of God’s promise to provide Israel with a land (Ge 12:1; 13:14–17; 15:18–21; 17:8; 26:3–4; 48:3–4).[2]

3:24 O Lord God: The Hebrew has the word for “Lord” or “Master” followed by the personal name of God, Yahweh. This phrase indicates the depth of Moses’ relationship with the Lord (9:26). what god is there … mighty deeds: Moses began his prayer with praise for God’s holiness and power (Ex. 15:11). God is incomparable; there was none like Him (Is. 40:25, 26).[3]

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

[2] Grisanti, M. A. (2012). Deuteronomy. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Numbers–Ruth (Revised Edition) (Vol. 2, pp. 513–514). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 238). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

May 24 – Stephen: Godliness in Suffering

“But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”

Acts 7:55


Because Stephen was so consistently Spirit–filled, it was natural for him to react in a godly way to persecution and death.

The cliché “Garbage in, garbage out” provides a good clue to the essence of the Spirit–filled Christian life. Just as computers respond according to their programming, we respond to what fills our minds. If we allow the Holy Spirit to program our thought patterns, we’ll be controlled and renewed by Him and live godly lives. And that’s exactly how Stephen consistently and daily lived his life.

The expression “being full” is from a Greek verb (pleroo) that literally means “being kept full.” Stephen was continuously filled with the Holy Spirit during his entire Christian life. This previewed Paul’s directive in Ephesians 5:18, “but be filled with the Spirit.” These words don’t mean believers are to have some strange mystical experience, but simply that their lives ought to be fully controlled by God’s Spirit.

Stephen gave evidence of his Spirit–filled godliness as He was about to die from stoning. Acts 7:55–56 says he looked to Jesus and let his adversaries and any witnesses know that he saw Christ standing at the right hand of God. Stephen did not focus on his difficult situation but fixed his heart on the Lord, which is what all believers must do: “Keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col. 3:1–2).

Stephen’s spiritual sight was incredible and enabled him to see the risen Christ and be certain of his welcome into Heaven the moment he died. We won’t have that kind of vision while we’re still on earth, but if we are constantly Spirit–filled like Stephen, we will always see Jesus by faith and realize His complete presence during the most trying times (John 14:26–27; Heb. 13:5–6).


Suggestions for Prayer: Pray that God would direct your mind away from mundane distractions and toward Him throughout this day.

For Further Study: Stephen established a magnificent pattern during his short ministry in Acts 6. Read that chapter, and jot down several positive things you see about how he did things.[1]

  1. But Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit and looked intently into heaven. He saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56. He said, “Look, I see heaven open and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.”

Observe these points:

  • Faith. Amid the storm lashing the hall of the Sanhedrin, Stephen appears to be an island of serenity. Once again Luke reports that Stephen is full of the Holy Spirit (see 6:5, 10), who now causes him to look heaven-ward. Incidentally, Luke employs the same words for the phrase to look intently into heaven as he used to describe the apostles looking toward the sky at the time Jesus ascended (1:10).

Stephen is permitted to see God’s glory, not in a vision, but in reality. At the beginning of the trial Stephen’s face had a heavenly glow like the face of an angel (6:15). At the conclusion of the trial he sees God’s glory. Although Scripture asserts that no one is able to see God and live, God’s glory has often been revealed to man (compare Ps. 63:2; Isa. 6:1; John 12:41).

In addition to observing God’s glory, Stephen sees Jesus standing, not sitting, at the right hand of God. We do not need to make much of the possible difference between standing and sitting. The standing position possibly denotes that Jesus is welcoming Stephen to heaven (see 1 Kings 2:19). The expression “at the right hand of God” refers to the highest honor given to Jesus at the time of his ascension.

Stephen’s trial resembles that of Jesus. When Jesus stood trial before the Sanhedrin, the high priest asked him whether he was the Son of God. Jesus answered in the affirmative and added that his audience would see “the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64; see also Heb. 1:3, 13).

  • Fulfillment. “Look, I see heaven open and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.” Stephen is inviting his audience to look up to heaven and see Jesus in person at his place of honor. He calls Jesus “the Son of man,” which is the title Jesus used exclusively for himself to reveal that he fulfilled the messianic prophecy that speaks about the rule of the Son of man (Dan. 7:13–14). According to the Gospel accounts, people never refer to or address Jesus by that name. Stephen’s remark is the exception to that practice. Why does he use this title? Because Stephen fully recognizes that Jesus as the Son of man has fulfilled the messianic prophecy (Dan. 7:13–14) and has been given all authority, power, and dominion in both heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18)
  • Effect. The effect of Stephen’s invitation to look into heaven is not one of wonder and reverential fear on the part of the Sanhedrists but one of anger and hate. The Jews regard Stephen’s words as blasphemy. Just as the high priest at Jesus’ trial tore his priestly garments and cried out, “He has blasphemed” (Matt. 26:65), so the members of the Sanhedrin deem Stephen to have blasphemed the name of God. In view of their Hebrew creed, “Hear, O Israel! the Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” (Deut. 6:4), Stephen no longer teaches monotheism. When Stephen says that he sees Jesus standing next to God, they bear him say that Jesus is God. Therefore, Stephen is a blasphemer.

In conformity with the law of Moses, anyone who blasphemes the name of God must be put to death; the members of the assembly must throw stones at him so that he dies (Lev. 24:16). In short, the members of Israel’s supreme court say that the charges of blasphemy, which the Hellenistic Jews have brought against Stephen, are proven to be true now that Stephen claims that Jesus is God.

  • Heaven. Where is heaven? If we visualize Stephen standing in the hall of the Sanhedrin, he would not have been able to look up into the sky. The text gives no indication that the meeting had moved outdoors at this point. How do we explain the appearance of Jesus to Stephen? God opened Stephen’s eyes so that he could see heaven and gave him the ability to view heaven as if it were in proximity to Stephen. Somewhat of a parallel is Paul’s conversion experience on the way to Damascus. Paul heard Jesus’ voice but his companions heard only sound (9:7; also compare 2 Kings 6:17). Heaven, then, is up and around us in a dimension that we are unable to see. When God opens the eyes of believers, as some Christians experience on their deathbed, he permits them to look into heaven.[2]

A Spirit-filled believer keeps “seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1). In the midst of his circumstances, Stephen gazed intently into heaven. He was looking for Jesus (cf. 1:10, 11), and he did not look in vain. He saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Stephen was one of the few in Scripture blessed with a glimpse into heaven, along with Isaiah (Isa. 6:1–3), Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:26–28), Paul (2 Cor. 12:2–4), and John (Rev. 4:1ff.). God opened Stephen’s eyes to see the blazing Shekinah glory that revealed the presence of God the Father, with Jesus standing at His right hand. To him was granted the privilege of being the first to see Jesus (Before Paul and John) in His glorified state after His ascension.

Elsewhere in the New Testament, Jesus is described as being seated at the right hand of God (Matt. 22:44; 24:64; Luke 22:69; Acts 2:34; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 10:11–12; 12:2). He is seated in terms of His redemptive work, which is forever completed (Heb. 10:12). Stephen sees Jesus standing to show His concern for him. He also stands to welcome Stephen into heaven.

So enthralled was Stephen with his beatific vision that he burst out, Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God. For the Sanhedrin, such a statement was the last straw, their tolerance for this blasphemer was exhausted. Stephen’s use of the phrase Son of Man may have been the sharpest dagger, because it took them back to the trial of another prisoner. Like Stephen, Jesus was accused of blasphemy by false witnesses, yet He kept silent. Finally, in frustration, the high priest demanded that He speak: “ ‘I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven’ ” (Matt. 26:63–64). For that so-called blasphemy of claiming to be the Son of God and Son of Man who would sit on God’s right hand, they had executed Jesus. Stephen’s vision and words describing who he saw throws that claim Jesus made right back in their faces. Jesus claimed He would be at the right hand of God; Stephen now asserts that He is there! They must either execute Stephen too or admit they were wrong when they had Jesus murdered.[3]

55–56 While the content and tone of his address infuriated the council, Stephen’s solemn pronouncement as he was dying raised again the specter of blasphemy and brought his hearers to a frenzied pitch: “Look,” he announced, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (v. 56). Only a few years before, Jesus had stood before this same tribunal and was condemned for answering affirmatively the high priest’s question about his being Israel’s Messiah and for saying of himself, “You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Mk 14:62). Now Stephen was saying, in effect, that his vision confirmed Jesus’ claim and condemned the council for having rejected him. Unless the council members were prepared to repent and admit their awful error, they had no option but to find Stephen also guilty of blasphemy. Had he been judged only an impertinent apostate (cf. 5:40), the thirty-nine lashes of Jewish punishment would have been appropriate (cf. m. Mak. 3:10–15a). To be openly blasphemous before the council, however, was a matter that demanded his death.

Luke’s description of Stephen as “full of the Holy Spirit” (v. 55) is in line with his characterizations of him in ch. 6 (vv. 3, 5, 8, 15). The identification of Jesus as “the Son of Man” is used outside the Gospels only here and at Revelation 1:13; 14:14 (cf. Heb 2:6, though probably not as a christological title but as a locution for “man” in line with Ps 8:4). In the canonical gospels Jesus alone is portrayed as having used “Son of Man” with reference to himself (the apparent exceptions in Lk 24:7 and Jn 12:34 are, in actuality, only echoes of Jesus’ usage). Jesus used the expression both as a locution for the pronoun “I” and as a titular image reflecting the usage in Daniel 7:13–28 (esp. vv. 13–14). As a title it carries the ideas of (1) identification with mankind and suffering and (2) vindication by God and glory. The title was generally not attributed to Jesus by the church between the time when his sufferings were completed and when he would assume his full glory. Here, however, an anticipation of Jesus’ full glory is set within a martyr context (as also at Rev 1:13; 14:14); and so the use of “Son of Man” as a title for Jesus is fully appropriate.

The juxtaposition of “the glory of God” and the name of Jesus in Stephen’s vision, together with his saying that he sees “heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God,” are christologically significant. Unlike the Greek understanding of doxa (“glory”) as akin to “opinion,” the Hebrew OT and Greek LXX viewed “the glory of God” (Heb. kebôd YHWH; Gr. doxa theou) as “the manifestation or revelation of the divine nature” and even as “the divine mode of being” itself (cf. TDNT 2.233–47). The bringing together of “the glory of God” and the name of Jesus, therefore, suggests something about Jesus’ person as the manifestation of the divine nature and the divine mode of being. Likewise, inasmuch as God dwells in the highest heaven, the open heaven with Jesus at God’s right hand suggests something about his work as providing access into the very presence of God.

Stephen’s reference to Jesus “standing” at the right hand of God, which differs from the “sitting” of Psalm 110:1 (the passage alluded to here), has been variously understood. Dalman (Words of Jesus, 311) argued that it is merely “a verbal change,” for both the perfect infinitive estanai (“to stand,” GK 2705) and the present infinitive kathēsthai (“to sit,” GK 2767) connote the idea “to be situated” (Heb. ʿamād), without any necessary implication for the configuration of posture. The majority of commentators, however, have interpreted “standing” to suggest Jesus’ welcome of his martyred follower, who like the repentant criminal of Luke 23:43 was received into heaven the moment he died. Dispensational commentators have taken Stephen’s reference to Jesus’ “standing” as supporting their view that the distinctive redemptive message for this age was not proclaimed until the Pauline gospel (either at its inauguration, its close, or somewhere in between), and so in the transitional period between Israel and the church Jesus is represented as not yet having taken his seat at God’s right hand. Others speak of Jesus as “standing” in order to enter his messianic office on earth or as “standing” in the presence of God, in line with the common representation of angels in God’s presence.

More likely, however, the concept of “witness” is what is primarily highlighted in the portrayal of Jesus as “standing” at Stephen’s martyrdom. F. F. Bruce, 168, has aptly noted that “Stephen has been confessing Christ before men, and now he sees Christ confessing His servant before God. The proper posture for a witness is the standing posture. Stephen, condemned by an earthly court, appeals for vindication to a heavenly court, and his vindicator in that supreme court is Jesus, who stands at God’s right hand as Stephen’s advocate, his ‘paraclete.’ ” Yet in accepting such an interpretation, one does well to keep Bruce’s further comment, 168–69, in mind:

When we are faced with words so wealthy in association as these words of Stephen, it is unwise to suppose that any single interpretation exhausts their significance. All the meaning that had attached to Psalm 110:1 and Daniel 7:13f. is present here, including especially the meaning that springs from their combination on the lips of Jesus when He appeared before the Sanhedrin; but the replacement of “sitting” by “standing” probably makes its own contribution to the total meaning of the words in this context—a contribution distinctively appropriate to Stephen’s present role as martyr-witness.[4]

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

[2] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles (Vol. 17, pp. 278–279). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1994). Acts (pp. 221–222). Chicago: Moody Press.

[4] Longenecker, R. N. (2007). Acts. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, pp. 829–831). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

May 24 – Enemies of the Cross

Many walk, of who I have told you often, and now tell you weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ.

Philippians 3:18

The most dangerous enemies to the cause of Christ are not those who openly oppose the gospel, but those who pretend to be friends of Christ, claim to identify with Him, and in some cases, reach positions of spiritual leadership.

Being on guard against hidden enemies is a constant theme in the New Testament. Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15). He also predicted that in the last days “many false prophets will rise up and deceive many” (Matt. 24:11).

The apostle Paul was constantly dealing with the influence of false teachers. He warned the Ephesian elders: “Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.” (Acts 20:31). Do you want to know how to acquire the ability to discern enemies of the cross? Know the Word. If you don’t know the Word, you are open to being misled.[1]

3:18 Just as verse 17 describes those whom believers should follow, this passage tells of those we should not follow. The apostle does not identify these men specifically. Whether they were the Judaizing false teachers mentioned in verse 2, or professed Christian teachers who turned liberty into license, and used grace as a pretext for sin, he does not say.

Paul had warned the saints about these men previously, and he does so again with weeping. But why the tears in the midst of such a stern denunciation? Because of the harm these men did among the churches of God. Because of the lives they ruined. Because of the reproach they brought on the name of Christ. Because they were obscuring the true meaning of the cross. Yes, but also because true love weeps even when denouncing the enemies of the cross of Christ, just as the Lord Jesus wept over the murderous city of Jerusalem.[2]

18, 19. The apostle supports his urgent appeal by continuing, deeply moved, For many are pursuing a walk of life, of whom I told you often and now tell you even weeping (that they are) the enemies of the cross of Christ. The wicked life of these persons who wished to be regarded as Christians belied the confession of their lips. They deceived themselves, exerted a most sinister influence upon those who listened to them, kept unbelievers from becoming truly converted, and dishonored God. They may have been traveling “missionaries.” They were numerous—note the word many—, from which, however, it does not follow that they constituted a considerable proportion of the membership of the Philippian church. If that had been the case, the apostle could not have praised this church in such glowing terms (see Phil. 4:1). Nevertheless, they were a real menace. Paul, while present among the Philippians, had often warned against this class of deceivers. He considers them not just enemies but the (note the definite article here) enemies of the cross of Christ. If the friends of the cross are those who show in their lives that they have caught the spirit of the cross, namely, that of self-denial (Matt. 20:28; Luke 9:23; Rom. 15:3; Phil. 2:5–8), then surely the enemies of the cross are those who manifest the very opposite attitude, namely, that of self-indulgence. The friends of the cross do not love the world. In fact, the world is crucified to them, and they to the world, and this because they glory in the cross (Gal. 6:14; cf. 5:24). The enemies of the cross love the world and the things that are in the world (1 John 2:15). They set their minds on earthly things (Phil. 3:19).

Because of his great love for the Philippians the apostle actually weeps when he reflects on the fact that these enemies of the cross are trying to seduce the members of the first church established in Europe. He weeps as did Mary of Bethany because of her brother’s death (John 11:31, 33; see N.T.C. on John 11:35), and as did Mary Magdalene on the morning of Christ’s resurrection (John 20:11). One of the secrets of Paul’s success as a missionary was his genuine, personal interest in those whom the Lord had committed to his spiritual care. Because his love for them was so real and tender, his heart was stirred to its very depths when danger threatened them. Besides, the apostle was not only a man of penetrating insight and rugged determination but also of profound, surging emotion.

Paul’s Deeply Emotional Nature

Various phases of the apostle’s intensely emotional personality are exhibited in the book of Acts and in the epistles. Here was a truly great soul! What he did he did with all his might, never in a merely detached manner. Having formerly persecuted the followers of Jesus, after his conversion Sorrow, hearty and profound, walked with him (1 Cor. 15:9; 1 Tim. 1:15). That to such a bitter persecutor Christ had revealed himself as a loving Savior baffled him. He just could not get over it (Eph. 3:8; 1 Tim. 1:16). It caused his heart to overflow with lasting, humble gratitude! For this and for other reasons his epistles are full of magnificent doxologies (Rom. 9:5; 11:36; 16:27; Eph. 1:3; 3:20; Phil. 4:20; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:15; 2 Tim. 4:18) which are the spontaneous utterances of the man who wrote, “For the love of Christ constrains us” (2 Cor. 5:14). Having been “laid hold on” by Christ, the apostle in turn was eager to burn himself out for the salvation of others (1 Cor. 9:22; 10:33; 2 Cor. 12:15). His heart ached intensely because so many of his own people (Israelites) were not saved (Rom. 9:1–3; 10:1). Anxiety for all his churches pressed upon him daily (2 Cor. 11:28). How fervent and touching were his prayers for them (Eph. 3:14–19; 1 Thess. 3:9–13). How he loved them, so that he could write, “We were gentle in the midst of you as a nurse cherishes her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we gladly shared with you not only the gospel of God but also our own souls … For now we really live if you stand fast in the Lord” (1 Thess. 2:7, 8; 3:8). How earnest were his pleadings (2 Cor. 5:20; Gal. 4:19, 20; Eph. 4:1), and how tactful! Though for their own good he was able to rebuke the wayward very sharply (Gal. 1:6–9; 3:1–4), even this was a manifestation of the love of his great, throbbing heart. Is it any wonder that, when occasion demanded it, out of the eyes of a man with such an ebullient spirit and loving heart there welled forth fountains of tears (Acts 20:19, 31), so that not only here in Phil. 3:18 but also in 2 Cor. 2:4 these are mentioned? And is it at all surprising that, on the other hand, on one occasion the tears of his friends, because of his imminent departure and the afflictions in store for him, well-nigh broke his heart (Acts 21:13)? Truly Paul’s weeping when he writes about the enemies of the cross of Christ is as glorious as is the joy, joy, joy that sings its way through this marvelous epistle!

Speaking about these enemies of the cross of Christ Paul continues, whose end is destruction. This is their appointed destiny, for God has ordained that “their end shall be according to their works” (2 Cor. 11:15). This end is the fruit of their wicked lives (Rom. 6:21). It is the wages earned by their sin (Rom. 6:23). Destruction, however, is by no means the same as annihilation. It does not mean that they will cease to exist. On the contrary, it means everlasting punishment (Matt. 25:46), for this destruction is an everlasting destruction (2 Thess. 1:9). This destruction begins even in the present life, but is climaxed after death. Paul continues, whose god is their belly (cf. Rom. 16:18). Instead of striving to keep their physical appetites under control (Rom. 8:13; 1 Cor. 9:27), realizing that our bodies are the Holy Spirit’s temple, in which God should be glorified (1 Cor. 6:19, 20), these people surrendered themselves to gluttony and licentiousness. They worshipped their sensual nature. In this they were prompted, no doubt, by causes such as the following: immoral background (cf. 1 Peter 1:18), wicked pagan surroundings, licentious incipient gnosticism (see N.T.C. on 1 Tim. 4:3), perversion of the doctrine of grace (Rom. 3:8; 6:1), and, last but not least, evil lusts within the heart (James 1:14). The apostle further characterizes them as those whose glory is in their shame: Their pride was in that of which they should have been ashamed. Not only did they carry out their wicked designs, but they even boasted about them. They were the persons who set their minds on earthly things. Being carnal, “after the flesh,” they pondered the things of the flesh (Rom. 8:5). Now the mind of the flesh is “enmity against God” (Rom. 8:7), and these people were “the enemies of the cross of Christ.” In a parallel passage the apostle shows us what these earthly things were on which these people set their minds, namely, immorality, indecency, lust, evil desire, greed, evil temper, furious rage, malice, cursing, filthy talk (Col. 3:2, 5, 8).[3]

Fleeing from Enemies

For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. (3:18–19)

The apostle warned that in pursuing the spiritual prize of Christlikeness it must be recognized that there are many examples to be avoided. The enemies of which Paul warned do not appear to have been openly hostile to the Christian faith. Like their evil master, Satan, they were deceptive, disguising themselves as messengers of Christ, angels of light, and servants of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:13–15). They became part of the church, possibly even in leadership roles. Their subtlety made them exceptionally dangerous.

The New Testament constantly warns of the danger posed by false teachers. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15). In the Olivet Discourse He added, “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many” (Matt. 24:4–5). Acts records the false teachers Simon Magus (Acts 8:9–24) and Elymas (Acts 13:8–11), while Paul dealt with Hymenaeus and Alexander at Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:20). The apostle warned both Timothy (1 Tim. 1:4) and Titus (Titus 3:9) to avoid false teachers who dabbled in myths and genealogies. Both Peter (2 Peter) and Jude wrote of the danger of false teachers. John also warned his readers to beware of false teachers:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. (1 John 4:1–3)

In his second epistle he added, “Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 John 7).

Sadly, because of apathy toward the truth and shallow biblical knowledge, the church today lacks discernment. It is astonishing and disturbing to see the things Christians believe and the people they follow. A lack of consistent and long-term precise biblical exposition from the pulpit has led to a lack of precise biblical thinking and discernment. The tragic result is the widespread victimization of the church by enemies of the Cross of Christ. (For a further discussion of the lack of discernment in the church, see John MacArthur, Reckless Faith: When the Church Loses Its Will to Discern [Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1994].)

Unlike the godly examples of verse 17, the walk (daily conduct) of the false teachers is not to be imitated. Some see the phrase of whom I often told you as a reference to 1:28. More likely, however, it refers to warnings Paul gave the Philippian church when he was with them in person. He gave a similar warning to the elders from the Ephesian church:

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. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. (Acts 20:28–31)

Paul warned the Philippians that false teachers are enemies of the cross of Christ. But he did so not with gladness, but with weeping. This is the only place in the New Testament that Paul speaks of himself as crying in the present tense. He was a sensitive, passionate man, and the plight of lost sinners or the threat to his beloved congregations often brought him to tears (cf. Acts 20:19, 31; Rom. 9:2; 2 Cor. 2:4). Paul was heartbroken as he recognized the havoc the false teachers could cause in the Philippian church. He no doubt also wept over the false teachers’ fate (cf. Rom. 9:2). The damnation of the enemies of the Cross, their destructive impact on the church, and the reproach they brought on the cause of Christ caused Paul grief.

Paul described the false teachers as enemies of the cross of Christ. The term cross is not limited to the actual wooden instrument of death (1 Cor. 1:17–18, 23; 2:2; Gal. 3:1; 6:14; Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20; 2:14; 1 Peter 2:24), but signifies Christ’s atoning death in all its aspects. The false teachers were against salvation!

Paul did not label the specific enemies of the cross of Christ who were troubling the Philippians. There are, however, only two options: they were either Jews or Gentiles, or both. The Jewish false teachers who identified with the church were known as the Judaizers (cf. Acts 15). They argued that the gospel alone was insufficient to save; circumcision and keeping the Law were also necessary. Paul forcefully denounced them in 3:2 as “dogs, … evil workers,” and “the false circumcision.” Though they thought of themselves as the sheep of God’s pasture, the Judaizers were actually mangy, scroungy mongrels. Their spiritual descendants—those who add works to salvation—plague the church to this day.

Since Paul did not specifically identify these enemies of the cross as Judaizers, they may have been Gentiles. Some Gentile false teachers held to the dualistic philosophy prevalent in contemporary Greek thought. Those heretics, forerunners of the dangerous second-century heresy known as Gnosticism, taught that spirit was good and matter was evil. Since the body is made of matter, it is intrinsically evil. Salvation ultimately involves not the redemption of the body, but deliverance from it. Thus, since the body is incurably evil, it does not matter what one does with it. Its desires can be satiated; a person can be a glutton, a drunkard, a homosexual, or an adulterer. All those things, the heretics taught, were inconsequential, since they affected only the body, not the spirit. The Judaizers added to the gospel; the Gentile false teachers subtracted from it.

That same spirit of antinomian libertinism lives on today. There are those in the contemporary church who teach that saving faith need not result in a life of holiness. Since Jesus’ death paid for believers’ sins, they argue, it does not matter how they live. Some even teach that all who profess faith in Christ are saved—even if they later become atheists.

Paul gave four marks of the enemies of the cross in verse 19.

the doom they face

whose end is destruction, (3:19a)

Having rejected the one and only truth of salvation—the cross of Christ—all false teachers face the same fate. Their end (the Greek word telos refers here to their ultimate destiny) will be eternal destruction (torment, punishment) in hell (Matt. 25:46; 2 Thess. 1:9). The Judaizers deserved this fate because they added human works to the cross of Christ. To believe the truth about Him but also to believe that human works are necessary for salvation is to be damned forever. The Gentile heretics deserved their fate because they stripped the cross of Christ of its power to transform lives. The result is a dead faith, unable to save (James 2:14–26).

the deity they serve

whose god is their appetite, (3:19b)

Appetite translates koilia, which refers anatomically to the abdomen, particularly the stomach. Here it is used metaphorically to refer to all unrestrained sensual, fleshly, bodily desires (cf. 1 Cor. 6:13). The false teachers were condemned because they did not worship God but bowed down to their sensual impulses. It could be a reference to the Judaizers’ emphasis on keeping the Jewish dietary laws. Or if the false teachers in view were Gentiles, it could refer to their unrestrained pursuit of sensual pleasures. Jude described such people as “ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4).

the disgrace they bear

whose glory is in their shame, (3:19c)

Shockingly, the false teachers boasted in the very things that brought them shame. This is the most extreme form of wickedness—when the sinner’s most wretched conduct before God is his highest point of self-exaltation. The Judaizers boasted in their “rubbish” (3:8)—as Paul himself had done before he learned to count all that “as loss for the sake of Christ” (3:7). The Gentile libertines also boasted—of their supposed freedom to pursue sensual desires. They were most proud of their worst perversions (cf. 1 Cor. 5:1–2).

the disposition they display

who set their minds on earthly things. (3:19d)

Their earthly focus offers evidence that the false teachers were not saved. James asked, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4). “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). The Judaizers focused on ceremonies, festivals, feasts, sacrifices, new moons—“things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” (Col. 2:17). The libertines focused on the passing sensual pleasures of the world.

The enemies of the Cross, whether they add to the gospel or take away from it, are to be avoided, never imitated.[4]

Walking with the Living Christ

Philippians 3:16–19

Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.

Have you ever noticed that the way a person walks quite often reveals his character? A proud person will walk erect, his head held high. A coward will often slink away or perhaps walk along with a smug, blustery air. Sometimes novelists make use of this fact to describe their characters. Heroes walk with confidence; villains slouch, sneak, creep, or swagger. The need to describe such forms of walking has enriched language. Roget’s Thesaurus lists dozens of English synonyms for walking. The Zulu language, according to Eugene A. Nida of the American Bible Society, contains at least 120 distinct words for similar ideas—to walk pompously, to walk with a swagger, to walk crouched down as when hunting, and so on. These truths are an acknowledgment that the way people walk reveals something of their ambition, state of mind, and values.

It is for this reason, perhaps, that Christians are called to an exemplary walk in the Bible. They are told to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Eph. 4:1). They are to walk “wisely” (Eph. 5:15), “with respect” (1 Thess. 4:12), and “in the light” (1 John 1:7).

In Philippians Paul writes in the same vein, “Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things” (Phil. 3:16–19). In these verses Paul speaks twice of the Christian’s walk and once of the unbeliever’s walk, teaching that the walk of the believer in Jesus Christ is to reveal the true nature of his calling.

Our Former Walk

The first thing that we must understand about the walk of the Christian is that it is to be different from the walk he had before becoming Christ’s follower. In other words, the standards you had before you became a Christian are to be replaced by new standards now. Why is it that Paul speaks here of those who are enemies of the cross of Christ? It is not simply because he knew such people and thought of them just at this moment in the writing of the letter. It is because he knew that this is the way we all were before we became followers of Jesus Christ, and he wished to stress it. He wanted his readers to know that their new calling was to be entirely different.

Paul says that the non-Christian is first an enemy of the cross of Christ. That means that he is an opponent of the Christian gospel. He resists it and wants others to resist it also. Second, his end is destruction. This means that his path does not lead to peace, happiness, success, or self-satisfaction—in spite of what unbelievers think—but to misery, discontent, unrest, and eventually to a permanent separation from God. Third, his God is his stomach. The old King James and the Revised Standard versions say “belly.” The New Scofield Bible says “appetite.” But the meaning is identical. The phrase points to one who is possessed by his own selfish appetite and who sees no need for God as a higher principle beyond it. Fourth, the non-Christian takes pride in things that should be his shame. This means that his values are reversed, and he finds himself declaring good what God calls evil and calling evil that which God calls good (cf. Isa. 5:20).

Moreover, these words are intensely practical. For this reversal of values matches our own contemporary standards. In our day America is preoccupied with sex and the self; it is committed to a materialism designed to satisfy the individual’s selfish desires. Our values are becoming so reversed that honesty is increasingly novel, chastity is despised and mocked, and a word in behalf of law, justice, or personal integrity is often ignored or laughed down. This is the way things are, but it should not be surprising. The Bible says that this is the natural walk of human beings apart from Christ—although Christian values or other high ethical standards sometimes temper it—and it is away from this natural walk and to Christ that God calls the Christian.

This is the true meaning of conversion. Some people speak of conversion as if it were synonymous with justification or being born again. Actually it means to turn around. It implies not only regeneration but discipleship as well. Before you believed, you were going down a path that led away from God. It led to destruction, as Paul says. Then God saved you. He reached down and in grace turned you around, reversing your values to his values, and setting you on a path of his choosing. Because of this reorientation “the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17). If you are to walk as a Christian, you must begin with this primary reversal of your standards.

Walking with Others

A second important thought about the proper walk of a Christian occurs in Philippians 3:17. Paul writes, “Join with others in following my example.” Here the apostle to the Gentiles says as clearly as he can that the walk of the believer must always be a walk with, and therefore in harmony with, other Christians.

The same truth is taught in verse 16, although it is somewhat hidden by the English translation. Paul’s charge to the Philippians to “walk by the same rule” (kjv) is conveyed in a phrase based on the colorful Greek word stoichein, which means “to walk in a row.” The masculine noun of this word means a “row,” as a row of houses, a rank of soldiers, a wall of trees, and so on. The feminine noun stoicheia was the word used for the alphabet since it is composed of an orderly row of letters. In all these instances the words imply an ordered and harmonious arrangement. Hence, when Paul speaks in this way to Christians he is implying that their life together should also be harmonious. The successful walk of the Christian depends not only on his own goals or on his own doctrine; it also depends upon the success of his walk with other Christians.

One of the illustrations of C. S. Lewis makes this transparently clear. Lewis imagines the church of Jesus Christ to be something like a fleet of ships sailing in formation. To sail well they need a common goal, a common destination. Spiritually this means that the goal must first be set for the Christian by the Lord Jesus Christ and that the Christian must always be conscious of it. Then, too, each individual ship must be in order. This corresponds to the Christian’s personal morality, and it is also essential. Third, each ship must be managed in such a way that it does not collide with the others or get in their way. This last point is the one made in this part of Philippians. The ships must sail together, or, as Paul would say, they are to sail by the same rule, minding the same thing.

None of this means that the Christian ceases to be an individual before God, of course. But it does mean that he must be conscious of the other individuals. He must be concerned for them and cooperate with them in common Christian objectives.

The Lord’s Company

Then we must also walk with the Lord, for we take our orders from him and not from one another. The ship sailing in formation does not take its directions from the ship beside it but from the admiral on the deck of the flagship. Similarly, Christians must take their orders from the Lord Jesus Christ.

This will not come through a mystical experience. It will come only through a knowledge of God’s Word. The psalmist had learned this and said, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:1–2).

Think of the blessings that are promised to an individual as the result of a personal and prayerful study of God’s Word. First we become Christians by exposure to the truths in the Bible. Peter said that we are “born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). He is using the facts of sex as an image, saying that the Word of God operates on our heart as the male sperm does on the ova in the uterus of a woman. The uterus is our heart; the ova is faith. The sperm of God’s Word penetrates our hearts to bring forth the life of eternity.

Has God’s Word done that in you? Nothing else will do it, not the word of a person, however wise, not philosophy, not history, not science. In John 3:6 God’s Word says, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” If you are to experience the divine life, you must experience it in the only way it can come—through the Bible as the Holy Spirit penetrates your heart through Scripture. This is the first great blessing of Bible study.

The second is our sanctification, for it is by a study of the Bible and fellowship with God that we are made increasingly as he would have us to be. John 17:17 says, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” The verb “to sanctify” means “to make holy”; so when Jesus asked God to sanctify his followers through God’s truth, he was praying that they might become holy through a study of God’s Word. Unfortunately, Christians often seek holiness anywhere but by God’s Word. They seek it through reading other literature, by attending religious services, by special emotional experiences, even at times through mysticism. Sometimes these things are helpful—some of them more than others. But they are not the straight path to an upright and holy life. God’s methods of sanctification are all wrapped up in Scripture.

Third, the Word of God is the primary means by which God reveals his will to us. God’s Word contains unshakable facts and great principles, and through these God teaches us that certain things are his will for us and other things are not.

I have often been struck personally by how relevant Scripture can be to a particular problem. Take St. Augustine as an example. In his youth Augustine’s greatest problem was immorality, and although he wanted deliverance from his sins he knew that he did not want it until he had satisfied his sexual appetite completely. In his Confessions he tells that he prayed, “Lord, make me chaste,” while he knew that he was actually adding under his breath, “but not quite yet.” He wrestled with this hindrance to his belief for years. At last, while Augustine was near Milan in Italy, God brought him to the end of his resistance and spoke to him through two verses that were uniquely directed to his need. They were Romans 13:13–14. He came upon them quite suddenly by what the world would call chance. “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” God used these words to speak directly to the heart of St. Augustine.

Do you want to know how relevant the Bible can be to your life and how God can use it to reveal his will to you? Then you must spend time reading it daily. If you are a Christian, God has a path marked out for you. You will find it only as you discover his will for you through Scripture.

A final function of God’s Word, as we fellowship with him in it, is to keep us from the counterfeits of truth. Whenever the truth of the gospel is preached, the devil will immediately set about to erect a counterfeit beside it, an idol that looks like the real thing but that is dead because it omits the life-giving heart of the gospel.

The author of the Book of Hebrews faced a similar problem as he wrote to the people of his day. He was writing to people who had some knowledge of true Christianity but who were still clinging to a form of Judaism that taught that a person is made pleasing to God by good works. They knew some of the Bible, but they did not know it well. Hence, they were not only fooled by the counterfeits; they were also unable to receive the deeper teaching that the author of Hebrews wished to share with them. At length he says, “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Heb. 5:11–14).

We are almost all in the first of those categories. There is much we need to know, but we do have the Bible. Shall we neglect it or not? Christian friends, let us fill up our souls with the Bible. For only then shall we continue to walk as we ought to walk with God. Only then shall we see clearly the way we should go.[5]

18 Paul now switches back to a negative example presented by those whose lives do not conform to the cross. Who they might be is irrelevant to Paul’s argument. They are believers who simply serve as a foil. The enemies are not those on the outside but those on the inside—those who bear the name of Christian but who live no differently from unredeemed pagans. Since Christ’s path to the cross was characterized by humility and obedience, the enemies of the cross are those who stubbornly refuse to humble themselves and accept low status, to live out the foolish wisdom of the cross and suffer for Christ. Their earthly orientation puts their belly, their own concerns (see 2:1–4, 19–21), above all others. The Philippians are not to become like them. If they do, Paul’s joy over them will turn to bitter tears.

19 Those whose lifestyles are just the opposite of the selfless life of Christ are destined for “destruction” (apōleia, GK 724)—the fate of outsiders (1:28)—and not resurrection glory, which is the destiny of believers. They are the antithesis of Paul’s description of Christians in 3:3. Instead of serving God in Spirit, they serve their belly as god. Instead of boasting in Christ Jesus, they glory in their shame. Instead of renouncing their confidence in the flesh, they set their mind on earthly things.

The reference to “belly” (NIV, “stomach”) is not a sardonic reference to Jewish opponents overly preoccupied with food laws. It refers, “by metonymy, to a greedy and dissipated lifestyle” (Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans [NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996], 931; cf. Ro 16:17–18). The satiation of one’s appetites becomes a measure of happiness. Athenaeus (Deipn. 97c) uses the term “glutton”: “you glutton, whose God is your belly, and with no whit for anything else”; Seneca (Ben. 7.26) derisively refers to persons who are “slaves of their bellies” (cf. Xenophon, Mem. 1.6.8; 2.1.2). In Paul’s words to the Philippians “belly” becomes a picturesque reference to “the flesh,” to a self-centered, self-indulgent existence controlled by illicit desires. Their own glory holds them spellbound, betrays the gospel, and destroys Christian community. Unable to discern the differing things (1:9–11), they choose what is shameful and what fails to bring glory to God. Rather than setting their sights on the prize and on the upward call of God, “they have their eyes fixed on their own navel; their god is themselves” (Collange, 138).[6]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 161). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

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

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Philippians (Vol. 5, pp. 180–182). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2001). Philippians (pp. 255–259). Chicago: Moody Press.

[5] Boice, J. M. (2000). Philippians: an expositional commentary (pp. 209–213). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[6] 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.