Daily Archives: May 29, 2017

May 29, 2017: Verse of the day


5:6 The next three verses call believers to a life that is consistent with their exalted position. This means watchfulness and sobriety. We are to watch against temptation, laziness, lethargy, and distraction. Positively, we should watch for the Savior’s return.

Sobriety here means not only being sober in conversation and in general demeanor but being temperate as far as food and drink are concerned.

5:7 In the natural realm, sleep is associated with night. So in the spiritual realm, careless indifference characterizes those who are sons of darkness, that is, the unconverted.

Men prefer to carry on their drunken revelry at night; they love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil (John 3:19). The very name “night club” links the ideas of drinking and carousing with the darkness of night.

5:8 Those who are of the day should walk in the light as He is in the light (1 Jn. 1:7). This means judging and forsaking sin, and avoiding excesses of all kinds. It also means putting on the Christian armor and keeping it on. The armor consists of the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet of the hope of salvation. In other words, the armor is faith, love, and hope—the three cardinal elements of Christian character. It is not necessary to press the details of the breastplate and helmet. The apostle is simply saying that sons of light should wear the protective covering of a consistent, godly life. What preserves us from the corruption that is in the world through lust? Faith, or dependence on God. Love for the Lord and for one another. The hope of Christ’s return.[1]

6–8a. Accordingly, let us not sleep as do the rest, but let us remain watchful and sober. For it is at night that sleepers sleep, and at night that drunkards (or that those who get drunk) are drunk. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober.

In view of the fact, then, that the writers and the readers (together with all Christians everywhere) are sons of light and not of darkness, belonging to the day and not to the night (see on verse 5), they are exhorted not to sleep but to remain watchful and sober.

It is clear that the terms to sleep, to be watchful, and to be sober are used metaphorically here. Thus used, their meaning is as follows:

To sleep (cf. Mark 13:36; Eph. 5:14) means to live as if there will never be a judgment-day. Spiritual and moral laxity is indicated. Luke 12:45 pictures this condition vividly. So does the description of the foolish virgins, who had taken no oil in their vessels with their lamps (Matt. 25:3, 8). It means not to be prepared.

To be watchful means to live a sanctified life, in the consciousness of the coming judgment-day. Spiritual and moral alertness is indicated. The watchful individual has his lamps burning and his loins “girded,” and it is in that condition that he looks forward to the return of the Bridegroom. On this read Luke 12:35–40. The watchful person is prepared.

A study of this verb to be watchful (γρηγορέω, whence the proper name Gregory), as used elsewhere, is rewarding. In addition to 1 Thess. 5:6 the passages in which the verb indisputably has a figurative sense are the following: Matt. 24:42; 25:13; Mark 13:35, 37; Acts 20:31; 1 Cor. 16:13; Col. 4:2; 1 Peter 5:8; Rev. 3:2, 3; 16:15.

These passages lead to the following conclusions:

  1. The uncertainty (on our part) of the day and the hour of Christ’s return is a reason for watchfulness (Matt. 24:42; 25:13; Mark 13:35, 37).
  2. Another reason for constant vigilance is the presence of enemies, seen and unseen, who threaten the flock (Acts 20:31; 1 Peter 5:8).
  3. To be watchful means to be spiritually awake (Rev. 3:2, 3; 16:15).
  4. It implies the habit of regular prayer, including thanksgiving (Col. 4:2).
  5. What is probably the fullest description of watchfulness is given in 1 Cor. 16:13, 14: “Be watchful, stand fast in the faith, acquit yourselves like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”

To be sober means to be filled with spiritual and moral earnestness, being neither overly excited on the one hand, nor indifferent on the other, but calm, steady, and sane (cf. 1 Peter 4:7), doing one’s duty and fulfilling one’s ministry (2 Tim. 4:5). The sober person lives deeply. His pleasures are not primarily those of the senses, like the pleasures of the drunkard for instance, but those of the soul. He is by no means a Stoic. On the contrary, with a full measure of joyful anticipation he looks forward to the return of the Lord (1 Peter 1:13). But he does not run away from his task! Note how both here and also in 1 Peter 5:8 the two verbs to be watchful and to be sober are used as synonyms.

The apostle’s exhortation, then, amounts to this: “Let us not be lax and unprepared, but let us be prepared, being spiritually alert, firm in the faith, courageous, strong, calmly but with glad anticipation looking forward to the future day. Let us, moreover, do all this because we belong to the day and not to the night.” The opposite course of action, namely, to be asleep spiritually and morally (instead of being on guard), and to be drunk spiritually and morally (instead of being sober), befits people who belong to the night (the realm of darkness and sin), just as even in the natural realm it is generally at night that sleepers sleep and that drunkards are drunk. (It is clear, of course, that here in verse 7 the words sleepers, sleep, drunkards, and are drunk are used in their primary, literal sense.)[2]

The Distinctiveness of Believers’ Behavior

so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. (5:6–8)

The phrase so then emphasizes the inseparable link between Christians’ nature and their behavior, between their character and their conduct—a truth taught throughout the New Testament (cf. 2:12; 4:1; Eph. 4:1, 17; Phil. 1:27; Col. 1:10). What people are determines how they act; believers are day people and must act accordingly.

On that basis, Paul exhorted the Thessalonians, let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. The apostle did not need to exhort them to be day people, because their nature was permanently fixed by the transforming, regenerating power of God in salvation. But because that new nature is incarcerated in fallen, sinful human flesh (cf. Rom. 7:14–25), it is possible for day people to do deeds of the darkness. Therefore, Paul exhorted the Thessalonians to live consistently with their new natures. The present tense verbs indicate that the Thessalonians were to be continuously awake, alert, and sober. Rather than threaten them with chastening, the apostle appealed to their sense of spiritual dignity. As children of the day and the light, it was unthinkable for them to participate in the deeds of darkness (cf. Eph. 4:1; 5:11).

The term sleep (katheudō; a different word than the one used to refer metaphorically to “death” in 4:13–15) adds yet another dimension to Paul’s portrayal of the night people (the others to whom he refers). As children of the night and the darkness, it is not surprising to find them asleep in spiritual indifference, living as if there will be no judgment. Like the man in the Lord’s parable (Matt. 24:43), who was unaware that he was about to be robbed, they are foolish, unwitting, and unaware of the disaster that threatens to overtake them. That they sleep further compounds their dilemma; not only is the night they exist in pitch black, but they also are in a coma. In verse 7 the apostle will complete his description of their sorry plight by noting that they are asleep in the darkness in a drunken stupor. Sadly, though they are asleep to spiritual reality, night people are wide awake to the lusts of the flesh.

As day people, the Thessalonians had been delivered out of the dark night of sin, ignorance, rebellion, and unbelief. Therefore, it was ridiculous for them to walk in the darkness. There is no place for night life among day people—a truth Paul reinforced in another exhortation:

The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. (Rom. 13:12–14)

The apostle reminded Titus that “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11–12). Redeeming grace is also sanctifying grace.

Living consistent with their nature as day people provides believers with comfort, because living a righteous, godly life brings assurance of salvation (cf. 2 Peter 1:5–10). When day people walk in the darkness, however, they forfeit that assurance and become fearful of God’s judgment. They become “blind or short-sighted, having forgotten [their] purification from [their] former sins” (2 Peter 1:9). Though it is not possible for day people to be caught in the Day of the Lord, it is possible for sinning ones to lose assurance and fear they might be.

Sleep is the natural condition of night people, but day people are to be alert. Grēgoreō (alert), the source of the name “Gregory,” means to be awake or watchful. Unlike the slumbering, witless night people, day people are awake and able to rightly assess what is happening in the spiritual dimension. They heed Peter’s injunction, “Prepare your minds for action” (1 Peter 1:13) and, knowing the Day of the Lord is coming (2 Peter 3:10), they are “diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless” (2 Peter 3:14).

In contrast to the drunken stupor that envelops night people, day people are also sober. To be sober means to be free from the influence of intoxicants. A sober person exhibits self-control, lives a serious, balanced, calm, steady life, and maintains proper priorities. To be sober is to be alert; the two terms are essentially synonyms. Just as sleep and drunkenness define night people’s insensitivity to spiritual reality, so alertness and soberness describe day people’s sensitivity to it. William Hendriksen notes:

The sober person lives deeply. His pleasures are not primarily those of the senses, like the pleasures of the drunkard for instance, but those of the soul. He is by no means a Stoic. On the contrary, with a full measure of joyful anticipation he looks forward to the return of the Lord (1 Peter 1:13). But he does not run away from his task! Note how both here and also in 1 Peter 5:8 the two verbs to be watchful and to be sober are used as synonyms.

The apostle’s exhortation, then, amounts to this: “Let us not be lax and unprepared, but let us be prepared, being spiritually alert, firm in the faith, courageous, strong, calmly but with glad anticipation looking forward to the future day. Let us, moreover, do all this because we belong to the day and not to the night.” (New Testament Commentary: Exposition of Thessalonians, Timothy, and Titus [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981], 125–26; emphasis in original)

The self-evident observation that those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night, further strengthens Paul’s point. He also may have been alluding to a parable told by Jesus:

But if that slave says in his heart, “My master will be a long time in coming,” and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. (Luke 12:45–46)

Both sleeping and getting drunk are things generally done at night. Sleeping refers metaphorically to passive indifference; getting drunk to active sin.

Repeating what he said in verse 6 for emphasis, Paul wrote, But—in sharp contrast to the sleeping, drunken night people—since we are of the day, let us be sober. The apostle’s repetition suggests that their fear of being in the Day of the Lord was a major concern for the Thessalonians. In fact, they were so concerned that Paul had to address the issue again in his second inspired letter to them (2 Thess. 2:1ff.). Once again, he stressed that as day people, the Thessalonians would have no part in the Day of the Lord. Both their nature and their behavior set them apart from the night people on whom the Day of the Lord will descend.

The concepts of alertness and sobriety suggested to Paul the image of a soldier on duty. He therefore viewed day people as having put on the “armor of light” (Rom. 13:12; cf. Isa. 59:17; Eph. 6:13–17). A soldier’s breastplate protected his vital organs, the area where he was most vulnerable. It was the ancient equivalent of a bulletproof vest. The obvious function of a soldier’s helmet (like a modern football or motorcycle helmet) was to protect his head from blows that otherwise might crush his skull. The breastplate of faith and love and the helmet of the hope of salvation equip the Christian soldier to “stand firm against the schemes of the devil …. against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:11–12).

Faith, love, and hope form the supreme triad of Christian virtues (cf. 1:3; 1 Cor. 13:13). They also provide an excellent defense against temptation. Faith is trust in God’s power, promises, and plan. It is the unwavering belief that God is completely trustworthy in all that He says and does.

First, believers can trust God’s Person. He will never deviate from His nature as revealed in Scripture, but will always act consistently with His attributes. The writer of Hebrews declared of God the Son, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8).

Second, believers can trust God’s power. God rhetorically asked Abraham, “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14; cf. Jer. 32:17, 27).

Third, believers can trust God’s promises. “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Num. 23:19).

Fourth, believers can trust God’s sovereign plan, which can neither be halted nor hindered. Through Isaiah the prophet, God declared, “I act and who can reverse it?” (Isa. 43:13).

Faith provides a defense against temptation, because all sin results from a lack of trust in God. For example, worry is the failure to believe that God will act in love on behalf of His people; lying substitutes man’s selfish plans for God’s sovereign purposes; adultery denies God’s wisdom in instituting the monogamous marriage bond. Thus, faith is an impenetrable breastplate, providing sure protection against temptation. But to put it on, believers must study and meditate on the rich depths of God’s nature as revealed in Scripture, and then translate that knowledge into action in their lives.

If faith forms the hard, protective outer surface of a Christian’s breastplate, then love is its soft inner lining. Love toward God involves delight in and devotion to God as the supreme object of affection. It, too, provides a powerful deterrent to sin, since all sin involves a failure to love God. The greatest command, the injunction that sums up the whole law of God, is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). “Love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom. 13:10), because those who genuinely love God will not do what grieves and offends Him. So love and faith form an impregnable barrier against temptation; it is only when one or both are lacking that Christians fall victim to sin. Perfect trust in and love for God leads to perfect obedience.

The final piece of armor is the helmet of the hope of salvation. The salvation in view here is not the past aspect of salvation (justification), or its present aspect (sanctification), but rather its future aspect (glorification). Paul described that future aspect of salvation in Romans 13:11 when he wrote, “Now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.” It is then that believers will receive the eagerly anticipated redemption of their bodies (Rom. 8:23), when the Lord Jesus Christ “will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory” (Phil. 3:21). Focusing on the eternal glory that awaits them (2 Tim. 2:10; 1 Peter 5:10) protects believers against temptation. “Beloved, now we are children of God,” wrote John, “and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2–3).

When faith is weak, love grows cold. When love grows cold, hope is lost. When hope in God’s promise of future glory is weak, believers are vulnerable to temptation and sin. Only those who keep the breastplate of faith and love, and the helmet of the hope of salvation firmly in place can resist effectively the onslaught of the forces of darkness.[3]

6 This verse provides a solid basis (“so then,” ara oun) for the ethical behavior Paul now urges on his readers—a lifestyle free from moral laxity. Mē katheudōmen (lit., “let us not sleep,” GK 2761) represents the ethical insensitivity that besets people in the other realm (“like others”; cf. 4:13). Though it is impossible for the day of the Lord to catch Christians unprepared, it is possible for them to adopt the same lifestyle as those who will be caught unawares. Paul urges his readers not to let this happen.

Conduct in keeping with “the light” and “the day” also includes alertness. Inattention to spiritual priorities is utterly inappropriate for those who will not be subject to the coming day of wrath. Though the Thessalonians were, if anything, overly watchful to the point of neglecting other Christian responsibilities (4:11–12; 2 Th 3:6–15), they were not to cease watching altogether.

Apparently self-control was a great need. Nēphō (“to be self-controlled, be sober,” GK 3768) is found with grēgoreō (“to be alert, watch,” GK 1213) in the noneschatological context of 1 Peter 5:8. Its usage in 1 Peter 1:13 and 4:7 is eschatological. Nēphō denotes sobriety. To counteract what might become a state of wild alarm or panic, Paul urges self-control as a balance for vagaries arising from distorted views of the parousia. Undue eschatological excitement was a serious malady; spiritual sobriety was the cure.

7 To explain his exhortation, Paul appeals to everyday experience. Sleep and drunkenness are most often associated with the night. Thus, he illustrates his figurative use of “sleep” in v. 6 by referring to the normal habit of sleep and uses “drunkenness” to point up his reference to the need for sobriety.

8 Paul resumes his exhortation but drops for the moment the need for alertness, speaking only of sobriety as a countermeasure against spiritual drunkenness. The idea of belonging to the realm of spiritual daylight goes back to vv. 4–5 and becomes the motivation for self-controlled action. So Paul goes on to describe “self-control” in figurative language drawn from Isaiah 59:17 (cf. Eph 6:14–17). Though the breastplate and helmet were Roman military apparel, lexical similarity to the Isaiah passage points to the OT as the probable source for his reference to them here.

The relation of this soldierly figure of speech to sobriety has been a puzzle. Frame, 187, suggests soberness as a prerequisite to effective vigilance by a sentry on duty. Yet vigilance is covered in the earlier word about alertness. Obviously, intoxication prevents effective duty as a sentry, and this thought may supply the answer. To be armed against wild excitement with its disregard for normal Christian responsibilities requires soberness. Paul had earlier spoken of the need for calmness (4:11–12). The Thessalonians had already made significant progress in faith and love (1:3; 3:6), but additional improvement was still needed (3:10; 4:1, 10). So the “breastplate” of faith and love could furnish protection from the problems mentioned in 5:14.

To these Paul adds the “hope of salvation” (cf. 1:10) as the indispensable “helmet.” The anticipated salvation in 5:8–9 includes deliverance from eschatological wrath and being raised to life with Christ (cf. Bruce, 112–13). These three (faith, love, and hope) will strengthen the readers for their present trials (1:3) and doubts (5:14). The Thessalonians can confidently anticipate a future deliverance not to be enjoyed by those in darkness (v. 3) but assured for those in the realm of light (vv. 4–5). Self-control consists of balancing future expectations with present obligations. The well-equipped soldier wears both a breastplate and a helmet.[4]

[1] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2041). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of I-II Thessalonians (Vol. 3, pp. 124–126). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2002). 1 & 2 Thessalonians (pp. 158–162). Chicago: Moody Press.

[4] Thomas, R. L. (2006). 1 Thessalonians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 424–425). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

May 29 – The Characteristics of Hypocrisy (Judas Iscariot)

The twelve apostles included “Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him” (Matt. 10:4).


Hypocrisy is a spiritual cancer that can devastate lives and destroy ministries.

On a recent trip to New Zealand I learned that sheepherders there use specially trained, castrated male sheep to lead other sheep from holding areas into the slaughtering room. Those male sheep are appropriately called “Judas sheep.” That illustrates the commonness with which we associate Judas with deception and death. Pretending to be a friend of Jesus, Judas betrayed him with a kiss and became for all time and eternity the epitome of hypocrisy.

Several characteristics of spiritual hypocrisy are clearly evident in Judas’ life. First, hypocritical people often seem genuinely interested in a noble cause. Judas probably didn’t want the Romans to rule over Israel, and he saw in Christ an opportunity to do something about it. He probably had the common misconception that Jesus was immediately going to establish His earthly Kingdom and put down Roman oppression.

Second, hypocritical people demonstrate an outward allegiance to Christ. Many of those who followed Jesus in the early stages of His ministry deserted Him along the way (John 6:66). Not Judas. He stayed to the end.

Third, hypocritical people can appear to be holy. When Jesus told the disciples that one of them would betray Him, none of them suspected Judas. Even after Jesus identified Judas as His betrayer, the other disciples still didn’t understand (John 13:27–29). Judas must have put on a very convincing act!

Fourth, hypocritical people are self-centered. Judas didn’t love Christ; he loved himself and joined the disciples to gain personal prosperity.

Finally, hypocritical people are deceivers. Judas was a pawn of Satan, whom Jesus described as “a liar, and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Is it any wonder that his whole life was one deception after another?

Judas was an unbeliever, but hypocrisy can also thrive in believers if its telltale signs are ignored. Guard your motives carefully, walk in the Spirit each day, and immediately confess even the slightest hint of hypocrisy.


Suggestions for Prayer:  Ask God to purify your love for Him and to protect you from the subtle inroads of hypocrisy.

For Further Study: Read John 12:1–8. ✧ How did Mary demonstrate her love for Christ? ✧ What objection did Judas raise? ✧ What was his motive?[1]

The Master’s Men—Part 6: Judas

and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him. (10:4b)

Among the twelve apostles, one stands out against the backdrop of the others as a lonely, tragic misfit, the epitome of human disaster. He is the vilest, most wicked man in Scripture. In the lists of apostles he is always named last and, with the exception of Acts 1:13, is always identified as Jesus’ betrayer. For 2,000 years the name Judas Iscariot has been a byword for treachery.

Forty verses in the New Testament mention the betrayal of Jesus, and each of them is a reminder of Judas’s incredible sin. After the description of his death and his replacement among the twelve in Acts 1, his name is never again mentioned in Scripture. In Dante’s Inferno Judas occupies the lowest level of hell, which he shares with Lucifer, Satan himself.

His Name

Judas was a common name in New Testament times and was a second name for one of the other apostles, Thaddaeus. It is a personalized form of Judah, the southern kingdom during the Jewish monarchy and the Roman province of Judea during the time of Christ. Some scholars believe the name means “Yahweh (or Jehovah) leads,” and others believe it refers to one who is the object of praise. With either meaning, it was a tragic misnomer in the case of Judas Iscariot. No human being has ever been less directed by the Lord or less worthy of praise.

Iscariot means “man of Kerioth,” a small town in Judea, about twenty-three miles south of Jerusalem and some seven miles from Hebron. Judas is the only apostle whose name includes a geographical identification, possibly because he was the only Judean among the twelve. All the others, including Jesus, were from Galilee in the north. Judean Jews generally felt superior to the Jews of Galilee; and although Judas himself was from a rural village, he probably did not fit well into the apostolic band.

His Call

Judas is always listed among the twelve apostles, but his specific call is not recorded in the gospels. He first appears in Matthew’s listing, with no indication as to where or how Jesus called him. Obviously he was attracted to Jesus, and he stayed with Him until the end of His ministry, far past the time when many of the other false disciples had left Him (see John 6:66).

There is no evidence that Judas ever had a spiritual interest in Jesus. It is likely that, from the beginning, he expected Jesus to become a powerful religious and political leader and wanted to use the association with Him for selfish reasons. He recognized Jesus’ obvious miracle-working power as well as His great influence over the multitudes. But he was not interested in the coming of the kingdom for Christ’s sake, or even for the sake of his fellow Jews, but only for the sake of whatever personal gain he might derive from being in the Messiah’s inner circle of leadership. Although he was motivated totally by selfishness, he nevertheless followed the Lord in a half-hearted way-until he was finally convinced that Jesus’ plans for the kingdom were diametrically opposed to his own.

Christ chose Judas intentionally and specifically, “for Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him” (John 6:64). Although the disciples did not at the time understand what He meant, Jesus alluded to His betrayal a year or more before it occurred. “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?” Jesus told them soon after the false disciples at Capernaum turned away from Him. John explains that “He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him” (vv. 70–71).

David predicted Christ’s betrayal a thousand years before the fact. “Even my close friend, in whom I trusted, who ate my bread,” he wrote, “has lifted up his heel against me” (Ps. 41:9; cf. 55:12–15, 20–21). Although that passage primarily referred to David, its greater significance applied to Jesus Christ, as He Himself declared (John 13:18).

Zechariah even predicted the exact price of betrayal. “And I said to them, ‘If it is good in your sight, give me my wages; but if not, never mind!’ So they weighed out thirty shekels of silver as my wages. Then the Lord said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued by them.’ So I took the thirty shekels of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of the Lord” (Zech. 11:12–13). At the Lord’s command, the prophet had shepherded the Lord’s people (vv. 4–11), and the wages they paid Zechariah represented the “magnificent price” at which their descendants would value the Messiah Himself.

In His high priestly prayer, Jesus said to His Father, speaking of the twelve, “While I was with them, I was keeping them in Thy name which Thou hast given Me; and I guarded them, and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12). Luther translated “son of perdition” as “lost child,” that is, a child whose nature and intention is to be continually wayward and lost. Jesus lost none of the twelve except the one who was confirmed in his sin and refused to be saved. He chose Judas in order to fulfill Scripture, knowing that Judas would reject that choice.

At the Last Supper Jesus said, “Behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Me on the table. For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!” (Luke 22:21–22). Although our finite human minds cannot understand it, God had predetermined the betrayal, though, at the same time, Judas was held fully responsible for it, because it was by his own choice.

In Judas’s rejection of Christ there is the same apparent paradox of divine sovereignty and human will that exists in the process of salvation. Although a person must receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior with an act of his will (John 1:12; 3:16; Rom. 1:16), every believer who does so was chosen to be saved even before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4; cf. Acts 13:48). In the same way, Judas had the opportunity to accept or reject Christ in regard to salvation, although Christ planned from the beginning for the disbelief and rejection that would characterize this disciple. Those seemingly conflicting truths-just as others found in Scripture-are resolved only in the mind of God. The Bible is clear that Jesus extended to Judas the opportunity for salvation to the extent that his unbelief was his own choice and fault (cf. Matt. 23:37; John 5:40). Judas chose to reject and betray Christ. That is why Christ did not label him as a victim of sovereign decree but “a devil” (John 6:70) and made clear that he did what he did not because God made him do it but rather Satan (John 13:27).

God also predetermined Judas’s successor among the twelve from the beginning. Just before Pentecost, the Holy Spirit led Peter to explain to the apostles who remained, “It is therefore necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us-begnning with the baptism of John, until the day that He was taken up from us-one of these should become a witness with us of His resurrection” (Acts 1:21–22). Out of the disciples who met that qualification, the eleven then chose “two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias. And they prayed, and said, ‘Thou, Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two Thou hast chosen to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.’ And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles” (vv. 23–26). Both God’s sovereign, predetermined choice and the human choice of the apostles were involved in the selection of Matthias.

A few days later, on the day of Pentecost, Peter said to the crowd in Jerusalem, “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know-this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death” (2:22–23). God sovereignly predetermined Jesus’ crucifixion, but the unbelieving Jews were responsible for sending Him to the cross. It was God’s predetermined will to send His Son to die, and it was rebellious man’s determined will to put Him to death.

His Character

Judas’s outward personality must have been commendable or at least acceptable. Before the actual betrayal, none of the other disciples accused Judas of any wrongdoing or criticized him for any deficiency. When after three years of training them Jesus predicted that one of the twelve would betray Him, the other eleven had no idea who it might be. At first, “being deeply grieved, they each one began to say to Him, ‘Surely not I, Lord?’ ” (Matt. 26:22). Then “they began to discuss among themselves which one of them it might be who was going to do this thing.” But they soon lost sight of the betrayal and began to discuss not who was the worst among them but rather “which one of them was regarded to be greatest” (Luke 22:23–24). In any case, Judas was no more suspect than any of the others. In answer to John’s question “Lord, who is it?” Jesus replied, “That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him” (John 13:25–26). Jesus then gave the morsel to Judas, saying, “What you do, do quickly.” Still the others had no idea the traitor was Judas. “No one of those reclining at the table knew for what purpose He had said this to him,” that is, to Judas (vv. 27–28).

Because he was never suspected by the other disciples, Judas must have been a remarkable hypocrite. He had even been selected treasurer of the group and was perfectly trusted (John 13:29). It is probable that, like most of the other disciples, he had led a respectable, religious life before Jesus called him. Perhaps he had not been an extortioner and traitor to his own people like Matthew or a hot-blooded revolutionary and possible assassin like Simon the Zealot, although his coming from Kerioth of Judea might have obscured his background to the other disciples, who were Galileans.

Judas apparently guarded what he said. His only recorded words were spoken near the end of Jesus’ ministry, when he objected to Mary’s anointing Jesus’ feet with expensive ointment. “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii, and given to poor people?” he asked (John 12:5). “Now he said this,” John explains, “not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it” (v. 6). Under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, John was given that insight which he recorded when writing the gospel decades later; but at the time of the incident he had no awareness of Judas’s ulterior motive.

Judas was no more naturally sinful than any other person ever born. He was made of the same stuff as the other apostles, with no less common goodness and no more innate sinfulness. But the same sun that melts the wax hardens the clay, and Judas’s choice not to trust in Jesus became more and more hardened and fixed as he continued to resist the Lord’s love and Word.

Judas was probably one of the youngest disciples and likely an outwardly devout and patriotic Jew Though not as radical as Simon the Zealot, he was anxious for the Roman yoke to be thrown off and expected Jesus to usher in the messianic kingdom that would accomplish that. Rome would be overthrown, and God’s people would be reestablished in peace and prosperity.

But Judas was first of all a materialist, as his stealing bears witness. He wanted the earthly benefits of a restored Jewish kingdom but had no interest in personal righteousness or regeneration. He was perfectly satisfied with himself and came to Jesus solely for material advantage, not for spiritual blessing. Jesus gave him every opportunity to renounce his self-life and seek God’s forgiveness and salvation, but Judas refused. The Lord gave the parables of the unjust sinward and the wedding garments, but Judas did not apply the truths to himself. The Lord taught much about the dangers of greed and love of money and even warned the twelve that one of them was a devil, but Judas would not listen. He did not argue with Christ, as Peter and some of the others did and, in fact, probably openly acted as if he agreed with Him. But the response of his heart was continual rejection. Jesus chose Judas because the betrayal was in God’s plan and was prophesied in the Old Testament; yet Jesus gave Judas every opportunity not to fulfill that prophecy.

Judas was in the third group of four disciples-with James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot-indicating he was among the disciples who were least intimate with Jesus. It is likely he was on the fringe even of his own subgroup, participating no more than necessary, and that from the sidelines. It is doubtful he was close to any of the others. He was thought to be honest, but he developed no close friendships or intimate relationships. He was a loner.

In the Orient, a host would always offer an honored guest the first sop, which consisted of a morsel of bread dipped in a syrup-like mixture of fruit and nuts. At the Last Supper Jesus offered the first sop to Judas. Yet at the very moment the Lord extended special honor to Judas, “Satan then entered into him” (John 13:27). To the very end Jesus loved Judas, but he would have none of what He offered him.

His Progressive Rejection

Judas did not begin his discipleship intending to betray Jesus. He was in full sympathy with what he thought was Jesus’ purpose and plan and was ready to support Him. After each miracle Judas may have expected Jesus to announce His kingship and begin a campaign against Rome, whose vast army, great as it was, would have been no match for Jesus’ supernatural power. Judas kept hanging on and hanging on, expecting Jesus to fulfill his dreams of defeating the despised oppressor. Like a gambler who thinks every loss puts him that much closer to winning, Judas perhaps thought that every failure of Jesus to use His power against Rome brought that ultimate and inevitable goal a bit closer.

For three years Judas hoped, and at the triumphal entry into Jerusalem he must have thought the time had finally come. Obviously, Judas reasoned, Jesus had been building up to a grand climax, waiting for the crowds to fully recognize His messiahship and His right to the throne of David. He would ascend His throne by popular demand, and the Lion of Judah would at Last expel and destroy the eagle of Rome.

But when Jesus rejected the crowd’s crown and instead began to teach even more earnestly about His imminent arrest and death, it was Judas’s hopes and expectations that were expelled and destroyed. He was devastated that Jesus could build up to such a perfect opportunity and intentionally let it slip through His hands. He must have thought Jesus mad to willingly allow Himself to be mistreated and even killed, when with one word He could destroy any opponent. Now he knew beyond doubt that, whatever Jesus intended to do, it had no relationship to his own motives and plans.

Judas started at the same place as the other disciples. But they trusted in Jesus and were saved, and as they surrendered more and more to His control, they grew away from their old ways. They, too, were sinful, worldly, selfish, unloving, and materialistic. But they submitted to Jesus, and He changed them. Judas, however, never advanced beyond crass materialism. He refused to trust Jesus anti more and more resisted His lordship. Eventually he was confirmed in his own way to the point that he permanently closed the door to God’s grace. Like Faust, he irretrievably sold his soul to the devil.

When Jesus turned His back on the crown offered by the multitude, Judas turned his back on Jesus. He could no longer restrain his vile, wretched motives for self-glory and gain. He had given a glimpse of his true self when he showed more concern for the money “wasted” on perfume to anoint Jesus than concern for the Lord’s imminent arrest and death, which the disciples by now knew awaited Him in Jerusalem (John 1l:16).

Judas’s fascination with Jesus had turned first to disappointment and finally to hatred. He had never loved Jesus but only sought to use Him. He had never loved his fellow disciples but rather stole for himself from what small resources they had. Now he turned completely against them.

On the last night Jesus was together with the disciples, He washed their feet with His own hands, to teach them humility and service. As He began He said, “You are clean, but not all of you,” referring to Judas (John 13:10–11). After the object lesson He gave another warning that Judas could have heeded: “I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me’ ” (John 13:18). Jesus grieved over Judas, being unwilling that even this vile man should perish (cf. 2 Pet. 3:9). As the time for the betrayal came closer, Jesus “became troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me’ ” (v. 21). He did not grieve over the loss of His own life, which He willingly laid down. He grieved over the spiritual death of Judas and, it seems, made one last appeal before it became forever too late. He knew Judas’s unbelief, greed, ingratitude, treachery, duplicity, hypocrisy, and hatred. Still He loved him. The death He was about to die was as much for Judas’s sin as for the sins of any person ever born, and it was for Judas that the Lord grieved as only He can grieve. He lamented over Judas in the same way He had lamented over Jerusalem: “How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling” (Matt. 23:37).

Throughout church history, in the name of love and compassion, some people have tried to attribute a good motive to Judas’s betrayal or at least to minimize its evil. But such an attempt flies in the face of Scripture, including Jesus’ own specific words. The Lord called Judas a devil and the son of perdition. To make Judas appear better than that is to make God a liar. Every unsaved person is under Satan’s control and serves Satan’s will. But when Judas accepted the morsel from Jesus’ hands without repentance or regret, Satan took possession of him in a way that is frightening to contemplate (John 13:27).

His Betrayal

Judas did not betray Jesus in a sudden fit of anger. We are not told when the idea first came to him, but apparently the incident of Mary’s anointing Jesus with the perfume prompted him to pursue it. It was right after this that “one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests, and said, ‘What are you willing to give me to deliver Him up to you?’ ” After accepting the thirty pieces of silver, “from then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Him” (Matt. 26:14–16). Luke adds that he sought “a good opportunity to betray Him to them apart from the multitude” (22:6). Judas was a coward, and at that time he assumed the crowds who acclaimed Jesus during the triumphal entry would remain loyal to Him. He wanted no one to know of his treachery, certainly not a hostile multitude. Like the chief priests and scribes who paid him, he was “afraid of the people” (Luke 22:2).

It is difficult to determine the equivalent modern buying power of the thirty pieces of silver Judas received, especially since the specific silver coin is not identified. But at the most generous reckoning, it was a trifling sum for betraying any person to his death, much less the Son of God. The relatively small amount suggests that, in his greed and hatred, Judas was willing to settle for any price. It also suggests the disdain the chief priests and scribes had for Judas. Their hatred for Jesus was public and well known; but Judas was one of Jesus’ disciples and friends, and the Jewish leaders doubtlessly had contempt for his treachery even though they used it to their own ends. The small price further suggests the low value all of them placed on Jesus’ life.

So that His enemies could recognize Jesus in the darkness of Gethsemane, Judas “had given them a signal, saying, ‘Whomever I shall kiss, He is the one’ ” (Mark 14:44). His contempt for Jesus was such that he used that cherished mark of love and friendship as his sign of betrayal.

Judas not only profaned the Passover by receiving blood money but he also profaned Gethsemane, the private place of worship and solace that He knew Jesus loved. “Judas then, having received the Roman cohort, and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons” (John 18:3). Unaware that Jesus knew of his wicked plan, Judas thought to deceive Him by the kiss, reigning love and loyalty. But Jesus already knew the soldiers were coming and “went forth, and said to them, ‘Whom do you seek?’ ” (v. 4). When they said, “Jesus the Nazarene,” He replied, “I am He” (v. 5). As if to reinforce his hateful determination to betray Jesus, Judas proceeded to kiss Him, although it was no longer necessary to identify Him. His supreme act of hypocrisy was to pretend love for Jesus while giving Him over to His enemies. The Greek text of Matthew 26:49 uses an intensive form that suggests Judas kissed Jesus fervently and repeatedly. Yet even in face of this diabolical sham, Jesus called Judas “friend” as He told him, “Do what you have come for” (v. 50). Jesus’ love extended even beyond Judas’s point of no return.

The degree of Judas’s betrayal was unique but not its nature. Through Ezekiel, God rebuked His people for profaning Him “for handfuls of barley and fragments of bread” (Ezek. 13:19), and through Amos He charged them with selling “the righteous for money and the needy for a pair of sandals” (Amos 2:6). Still today men and women will sell out the Lord for whatever they think is worth more.

It may not be for silver,

It may not be for gold;

But yet by tens of thousands,

The Prince of life is sold.

Sold for a godless friendship;

Sold for a selfish aim;

Sold for a fleeting trifle;

Sold for an empty name.

Sold in the mart of science;

Sold in the seat of power.

Sold at the shrine of fortune;

Sold in pleasure’s hour.

Sold for your awful bargain,

None but God’s eye can see.

Ponder my soul the question,

How shall He be sold by thee?

Sold, O God. What a moment

Stilled his conscience’s voice?

Sold, unto weeping angels

Record the fatal choice.

Sold, but the price accepted

To a living coal shall turn;

With the pangs of a late repentance

Deep in a soul to burn.

(Author unknown. Cited in Herbert Lockyer, All the Apostles of the Bible [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1972], p. 110.)

Judas sold Jesus for greed. He was malicious, vengeful, ambitious, and hateful of everything good and righteous. But above all, he was avaricious.

No man could be more like the devil than a perverted apostle. And for the same reason, every false teacher who holds the name of Christ stands in special guilt and is worthy of special disdain.

His Death

“When lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin,” James says, “and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death” (James 1:15). Judas’s sin caused him to sell out Christ, his fellow apostles, and his own soul. When Jesus had been found guilty by the mock trial in the Sanhedrin and was turned over to Pilate, Judas “felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood’ ” (Matt. 27:3–4). But remorse is not repentance. Judas regretted what he had done and recognized something of its horrible sinfulness. But he did not have a change of mind, and he did not ask God to change his heart. He knew he could not undo the damage he had done, but he tried to mollify his conscience by returning the money he had been paid for his wickedness. Because he lived only on the material level, he somehow thought he could resolve his problem by the physical act of giving back the blood money. Then his unforgiven heart turned from vengeance against Christ to vengeance against himself, and he “went away and hanged himself” (v. 5). That did not end the misery of his conscience, however, for his guilt and anguish will last through all eternity.

Apparently Judas failed in his hanging attempt, and Luke reports the consummation of his death. It may have been that the branch to which the rope was tied broke and he fell over a precipice or down a hill, “and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out” (Acts 1:18).

Although they had no compunction about making false charges against Jesus and of unlawfully condemning Him to death, the chief priests’ consciences would not let them put the thirty pieces of silver back into the Temple treasury after Judas threw the money at their feet, “since it is the price of blood” (Matt. 27:6). In perfect fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy (Zech. 11:12–13), “they counseled together and with the money bought the Potter’s Field as a burial place for strangers. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day” (Matt. 27:7–8).

God overruled the wickedness of Jesus’ betrayer and executioners and used it to fulfill His own Word. Even those who bitterly opposed the Lord’s will found themselves unwittingly fulfilling His Word.

Lessons Learned from the Life of Judas

Even wickedness and tragedy can teach valuable lessons, and there is great profit from studying the life of Judas. First of all he is the world’s greatest example of lost opportunity. Judas was among the original twelve men Jesus called to be His apostles, His gospel ambassadors to the world. He lived and talked and ministered with Jesus for three years, hearing God’s Word from the mouth of His own Son and seeing God’s power manifested as never before on earth. No human being has every heard a more complete and perfect declaration of the gospel or seen more perfect obedience to it. Judas heard the perfect gospel and saw the perfect life. To none of the apostles did Jesus give more specific warning about sin-and more repeated opportunity to repent of it and to believe-than He did to Judas. Yet Judas turned his back on grace incarnate.

Today many people have heard the gospel clearly and seen genuine though imperfect examples of its transforming power. Yet they, too, reject it and, like Judas, choose instead to stay in the way that leads to destruction.

Second, Judas’s life provides the world’s greatest example of wasted privilege. He lusted for temporary material possessions and riches when he could have inherited the universe forever. It is a tragically foolish bargain to exchange the riches of God’s kingdom for the pittances the world can offer.

Third, Judas’s life serves as the clearest illustration of love of money being the root of all kinds of evil (see 1 Tim. 6:10). In the unbelievable extreme of greed, he loved money so much that he sold the Son of God for a trifling amount of it.

Fourth, Judas’s life is the supreme object in history of the forbearing, patient love of God. Only God could have known the utter evil of Judas’s heart from the beginning and yet never have withdrawn His offer of grace. At the Last Supper Christ presented Judas the dipped morsel as a gesture of love and honor; and even as He was being betrayed by the kiss, He called Judas “friend.”

The life of Judas provided an essential qualification in preparing Christ for His high priestly role. Judas’s betrayal brought great anguish to Jesus’ heart, and through that and other such torment the Son of God was perfected through His suffering (Heb. 2:10). Christ can understand and sympathize with our suffenngs partly because Judas helped make Christ’s own suffering complete.

Judas was the consummate hypocrite of all time, the supreme illustration of an ungodly life that hides behind Christ while he serves Satan.

Someone has well said,

Still as of old,

Man by himself is priced.

For thirty pieces of silver

Judas sold himself, not Christ.

(Author unknown)[2]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 162). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Mt 10:4). Chicago: Moody Press.


Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth…and he will show you things to come.

JOHN 16:13

The continued neglect of the Holy Spirit by evangelical Christians is too evident to deny or impossible to justify.

Is it not strange that so much is made of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament and so little in Christian writings supposed to be based upon the New Testament? One of the church fathers, in a treatise on the Trinity written in the third century, defended the deity of the Spirit yet said twenty times as much about the Father and the Son as about the Spirit.

It is only fair to admit that there is more in the New Testament about the Son than about the Spirit, but the disproportion is surely not so great as in the writings referred to above, and certainly the all but total neglect of the Spirit in contemporary Christianity cannot be justified by the Scriptures.

In the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit is necessary. There He works powerfully, creatively. In popular Christianity, He is little more than a poetic yearning or at most a benign influence. In the Scriptures He moves in majesty, with all the attributes of the Godhead; here He is a mood, a tender feeling of goodwill.

Everything that men do in their own abilities is done for time alone: only what is done through the Eternal Spirit will abide eternally![1]

16:13 The work which the Lord began was to be continued by the Spirit of truth. He would guide them into all truth. There is a sense in which all truth was committed to the apostles in their lifetime. They, in turn, committed it to writing, and we have it today in our NT. This, added to the OT, completed God’s written revelation to man. But it is, of course, true in all ages that the Spirit guides God’s people into all the truth. He does it through the Scriptures. He will only speak the things that are given to Him to say by the Father and the Son. “He will tell you things to come.” This, of course, is done in the NT, and particularly in the book of Revelation where the future is unveiled.[2]

13. But when he is come, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you into all the truth.

Jesus does not indicate the exact time when the Spirit is going to come. He says, “When” or “whenever.” Though the word for Spirit is neuter in the original, the pronoun which refers to this Spirit is masculine. Hence, it is clear that the Spirit is thought of as a person. See also on 14:16. For the meaning of the expression “Spirit of truth,” see on 14:17.

The function of the Holy Spirit in the Church is described as that of guiding, literally: “leading the way.” The Spirit does not use external weapons. He does not drive; he leads. He exerts his influence upon the regenerated consciousness of the child of God (and here, in particular, of the office-bearers), and enlarges upon the themes which were introduced by Jesus during his earthly sojourn. Thus, he guides into all the truth, that is, into the whole (with emphasis on this adjective) body of redemptive revelation. The Holy Spirit never rides a hobby. He never stresses one point of doctrine at the expense of all the others. He leads into all the truth. Moreover, in the carrying out of this task he stands in intimate relationship to the other persons of the Trinity. We read: For he will not speak of himself, but whatever he hears he will speak. Father and Spirit are one in essence. What the Spirit hears from the Father he, in and through the Word, whispers into the hearts of believers. He is ever searching the depths of God. He comprehends them and reveals them to God’s children (1 Cor. 2:10, 11). In saying what he hears the Spirit is just like the Son, for the latter also speaks what he has heard from (and seen while with) the Father (3:11; 7:16; 8:24; 12:49; 14:10, 24). And he will announce to you the things that are to come. The Spirit will come (16:8); he will lead into all the truth (16:13a); and he will announce the things that are to come (16:13b). For the first, see the book of Acts (particularly chapter 2); for the second, see the epistles; for the third see the book of Revelation. Not as if these three could be so sharply divided. Epistles and Revelation constantly assume the presence of the Spirit; the epistles contain much revelation with respect to the things that are to come (for example, 1 Cor. 15; 2 Thess. 2). But by and large the distinction which was made is a good one. Of course, when the Spirit declares the things that are to come, he does not begin to enumerate a long list of specific, day-by-day occurrences, but he predicts the underlying principles.[3]

13 Though Jesus was unable to tell them more right then, they would learn what he wanted them to know when the Spirit of truth came. This is the fourth time in the discourse that the emphatic demonstrative pronoun ekeinos (“that one,” “he”) is used (14:26; 15:26; 16:8, 13), and it will occur again in the following verse (16:14). That the masculine pronoun is used in direct juxtaposition to the neuter to pneuma (“the Spirit,” GK 4460) is strong evidence that the evangelist understood the Spirit as a person rather than an abstract force.

The Spirit’s role is to “guide [the disciples] into all truth.” The verb hodēgeō (GK 3842) is frequently used in the LXX of the guidance and instruction of God (e.g., “He guides the humble in what is right,” Ps 25:9). The context indicates that the Spirit will continue the revelatory work of Jesus. He is the one who will now become the disciples’ guide and lead them “into all truth.” Sadly, this phrase has often been taken as a validation for all sorts of contemporary truth claims. But the words of Jesus that immediately follow define “all truth” in a less than universal sense. It is not new truth but “the truth that is in Jesus” (Eph 4:21) that will be the focus of the Spirit’s revelatory work.

The Spirit “will not speak on his own” (RSV, “on his own authority”) but “only what he hears.” On a number of occasions Jesus made this same claim about himself (8:26–28; 12:49; 14:10). As the Son spoke only what he heard from the Father, so will the Spirit limit his teaching ministry to “whatever he is told” (Moffatt). We are not to expect new (in the sense of additional) truth from the Spirit but a fuller understanding and appreciation of truth already known. As Paul put it, we have received the Spirit so that “we may get an insight into the blessings God has graciously given us” (1 Co 2:12 Williams).

Not only will the Spirit speak what he hears, but he will also “tell you what is yet to come.” The verb anangellō (GK 334) in earlier Greek meant “to carry back a report.” Brown, 708, notes that in the context the prefix ana suggests repetition and the verb carries the classical meaning of saying over again what has already been said. This would strengthen the case for the Spirit’s work as drawing out the implications of and deepening insight into the truth already proclaimed by Jesus. But what is it that is “yet to come”? Calvin, 2:120, thought the reference was to “the future state of [Jesus’] kingdom, which the apostles saw soon after His resurrection but were then quite unable to comprehend.” Others see a reference to the gift of prophecy that before long would be exercised in the early church (Ac 21:10–12; cf. 1 Co 12:10). More often, it is taken either as the final eschatological events that bring history to a close or as the unique events that would shortly come to pass (the death and resurrection of Jesus). The second option is supported by the subject under consideration in vv. 16–24 and is in keeping with the understanding of anangellō as discussed above.[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.) (pp. 1553–1554). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to John (Vol. 2, pp. 328–329). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[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, pp. 588–589). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified…This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders.

Acts 4:10–11

Of all the people on the earth, the nation of Israel surely was the best prepared to receive the Christ of God. The children of Abraham, they were called to be a chosen people in an everlasting covenant with God, the Father.

Yet they failed to recognize Jesus as Messiah and Lord. There is no doubt that theirs was the greatest moral blunder in the history of mankind. He came to His own people, and they rejected Him!

Jesus taught frankly that He was asking His followers to throw themselves out on the resources of God. For the multitude, He was asking too much. He had come from God but they received Him not!

It seems to be a comfort to some Christians to sit back and blame and belabor the Jews, refusing to acknowledge that they have information and benefits and spiritual light that the Jews never had.

It is surely wrong for us to try to comfort our own carnal hearts by any emphasis that Israel rejected Him. If we do that, we only rebuild the sepulchres of our fathers as Jesus said!

Lord, would I have mocked You? Denied You? Ignored who You really were? I only know that I wholeheartedly worship You today as the King of kings and Lord of lords![1]

4:8–12 First he reminded them that they were unhappy because the apostles had performed a good deed … to a helpless man. Though Peter didn’t say it, the healed man had begged at the gate of the temple, and the rulers had never been able to heal him. Then the apostle delivered a thunderbolt by announcing that it was in the name of Jesus … whom they had crucified that the man was cured. God had raised Jesus from the dead, and it was by His power that the miracle had been performed. The Jews did not have any place for Jesus in their building scheme, so they rejected and crucified Him. But God raised Him from the dead and exalted Him in heaven. The rejected stone thus became the chief cornerstone, the indispensable stone that completes the structure. And He is indispensable. There is no salvation without Him. He is the exclusive Savior. No other name under heaven has been given among men for salvation, and it is by this name alone that we must be saved.

As we read verses 8–12, let us remember that these words were spoken by the same man who had denied the Lord three times with oaths and curses.[2]



8. Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9. If we are questioned today for a good deed done to a sick man and how he was healed, 10. let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, this man stands before you healthy.”

  • “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said.” On the day of Pentecost Peter and the others received the Holy Spirit, who continued to live in them. Nevertheless, the Spirit on special occasions enabled the apostles to speak boldly, for Jesus had told his disciples, “But when they arrest you, do not worry about what you will say or how you will say it. For what you are to say will be given to you at that time, because you are not the ones who are speaking, but the Spirit of your Father is speaking through you” (Matt. 10:19–20). Peter experienced the fulfillment of Jesus’ words when he stood before the Sanhedrin.
  • “Rulers and elders of the people.” Even though Luke mentions that the gathering consisted of rulers, elders, and teachers of the law, Peter addresses only the rulers and elders. Apparently only these two groups of people give leadership and ask questions (compare v. 23; 23:14; 25:15).
  • “If we are [being] questioned today for a good deed done to a sick man and how he was healed.” Peter skillfully changes the trial from a possible criminal investigation to an inquiry about an act of mercy. The verb questioned signifies that Peter regards the trial as an inquiry and so puts it in positive form. “If we are being questioned” means that this inquiry is a fact and is actually happening at the moment. Moreover, it also indicates that Peter is in full control of the situation. He says that he and John have performed a good deed, and he implies that no one can fault them for doing good to a man who was a cripple from birth.
  • “And [asked] how he was healed.” In Greek, the verb to heal can also mean “to save” (see v. 12). In the case of the cripple, the physical healing is obvious; we know that because of his faith in Jesus he also obtained salvation.

Peter realizes that the leaders are interested in the manner of the healing miracle. In response to their question, he gives them a direct answer concerning the source of the healing power and the name in which he and John rendered the miracle. Unafraid of the same judges who condemned Jesus and handed him over to Pontius Pilate, Peter boldly speaks and reveals to them that the man was healed in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. The word name points to the full revelation concerning Jesus. This word appears repeatedly in Peter’s addresses, for he proclaims it to all people.

  • “Let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel.” The phrase let it be known is similar to the injunction pay attention to my words (see 2:14; 13:38; 28:28). Peter expands his audience to include the Sanhedrin and the entire Jewish nation. Once again, Peter adroitly changes the focus of the inquiry from the healed beggar to Jesus Christ, who healed him. The name of Jesus Christ must be made known to every person in Israel.
  • “By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.” Notice that Peter utters the same words he used when he healed the lame man at the gate called Beautiful (3:6). He realizes that although Jesus’ name is an offense to the rulers and elders who condemned him, they posed the question about the manner in which the apostles healed the cripple. Now Peter gives them an honest and straightforward answer. They are unable to understand that Jesus, who died on the cross, has divine power to perform an undeniable healing miracle. But this is exactly the point Peter tries to make. He deliberately uses the double name to point to Jesus’ earthly life and the divine mission of the Christ (the Messiah). To make the identification complete, Peter adds Jesus’ place of residence by which he was known to the people: “of Nazareth.”
  • “Whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead.” In his sermons and speeches, Peter unabashedly tells his Jewish audiences the same thing: “you crucified Jesus, but God raised him from the dead” (2:23–24; 3:15; 5:30). Peter puts the blame for Jesus’ death on the Sanhedrists. Yet he dwells not on the ignominy of condemning an innocent man to death but on Jesus’ resurrection to life. The resurrection message is basic to apostolic preaching and here Peter proclaims it in the presence of Israel’s supreme court.
  • “[Through Jesus’ power] this man stands before you healthy.” One imagines Peter pointing directly at the healed beggar, who is the living testimony to Jesus’ power. Since the miracles Jesus wrought during his ministry are well known throughout Israel, the members of the Sanhedrin are unable to deny the continuing work of the resurrected Jesus. When Jesus rose from the grave, the chief priest bribed the soldiers guarding his tomb and had them say, “His disciples came at night and stole the body while we were asleep” (Matt. 28:13). But their deception is unable to match the glorious power of Jesus that is demonstrated in the healing of the cripple. The healed man is living testimony to the resurrected Christ. Jesus receives the credit for this healing miracle.

11. “He is ‘the stone, which was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the capstone.’ ”

As in all his addresses, Peter bases his message on passages taken from the Old Testament Scriptures. Here he quotes a text from a familiar psalm sung by pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem for a religious festival (Ps. 118:22). With this quotation, Peter reminds the chief priests and Pharisees of the words Jesus spoke to them in the last week of his ministry. Jesus quoted Psalm 118:22–23 and applied the words of this psalm to his audience by saying, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but it will crush the one on whom it falls” (Matt. 21:43–44). At that time the chief priests and Pharisees realized that Jesus was addressing them. Now Peter tells them the same thing. The members of the Sanhedrin are the spiritual builders of God’s house, for which they have to choose the building stones. They reject one of the stones, which they deem unfit; yet God who is the master builder takes this stone and makes it the capstone of the building. This psalm quotation is a graphic illustration of Jesus Christ, who, as Peter writes in his epistle, is “the living Stone, rejected by men but with God chosen and precious” (1 Peter 2:4; see also vv. 6–8).

The members of the Sanhedrin ought to realize that they are the spiritual builders of God’s house in which God has made Jesus Christ the capstone. They are unable to avoid the name of Jesus; this name is inextricably connected with spiritual Israel. Jesus has fulfilled the psalm citation that portrays him as the capstone (Ps. 118:22). Accordingly, the Sanhedrists cannot circumvent the power and the name of Jesus Christ. Salvation is found only in him.

  1. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

We make these observations:

  • Salvation proclaimed. “Salvation is found in no one else.” This text is among the well-known and cherished passages in Acts. Peter challenges his immediate audience but at the same time speaks to all people who seek salvation. He addresses learned and influential men in the Sanhedrin whose work consisted of showing the people of Israel the way of salvation. They did so by telling the Jews to perform works that would earn them salvation. But Peter preaches that salvation can be obtained in no way other than through the name of Jesus Christ. The salvation he preaches comprises both physical and spiritual healing.19 They see the evidence of physical healing in the man who used to be a cripple. But they must understand that spiritual well-being includes forgiveness of sin and a restored relationship with God. No one in Peter’s audience is able to point to any person who grants salvation, because everyone needs salvation himself. Hence, they should realize that they can have peace with God only through Jesus Christ.
  • Name given. “There is no other name under heaven given among men.” The name Jesus reveals the task of the Savior, because the name means “he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). That is, he heals people physically from the effect of sin, but more than that, he removes sin itself so that people can stand before the judgment seat of God as if they had never sinned at all. Jesus makes them spiritually whole by restoring them in true relation to God the Father. Jesus says, “No one comes to the Father but through me” (John 14:6). No person but Jesus has the ability to provide remission of sin. “Through his name everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins” (10:43).

Peter resorts not to an overstatement but rather to a descriptive idiom when he says that there is no other name under heaven than the name Jesus. Nowhere in the entire world is man able to find another name (i.e., person) that offers the salvation Jesus provides. Religions other than Christianity fail because they stress salvation by works and not by grace. The name Jesus has been given to men by God himself to show that salvation has its origin in God.

  • Believers saved. “[No other name] by which we must be saved.” The Greek text is specific. It does not say that we can be saved, for this would indicate that man has inherent ability to achieve salvation. Nor does it say that we may be saved, for then the clause would convey uncertainty. The text is definite. It says: “by which we must be saved.” The word must reveals a divine necessity which God has established, according to his plan and decree, to save us through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, this word signifies that man is under moral obligation to respond to the call to believe in Jesus Christ and thus gain salvation. He has no recourse to salvation other than through the Son of God.

Doctrinal Considerations in 4:11

The translators of the New International Version have chosen the word capstone for the quotation from Psalm 118:22. In the Greek, the literal rendering is “the head of the corner,” which many versions have. This phrase refers to the headstone of the corner. Other translations have the reading cornerstone. In ancient times, the cornerstone was part of the foundation upon which the entire structure of a building or house rested. We use this expression when we dedicate a building and put the cornerstone in place. Figuratively, the word refers to the basic element of a policy (thus, its foundation). Still other translators prefer the word keystone. This term is the name for either the topmost stone that fit into the arch of a doorway or the stone that held the uppermost tier of stones together.

The choice of either cornerstone or keystone (capstone) is not important when we apply the terms to Christ. The Messiah is the first and the last stone of God’s house. Jewish rabbis understood the Old Testament passages that speak of the cornerstone (Ps. 118:22; Isa. 8:14 [stone]; 28:16) to refer to the Messiah. And New Testament writers, following Jesus’ example (Matt. 21:42), applied them to Christ (Rom. 9:33; Eph. 2:20; 1 Peter 2:6).[3]

Be Aggressive in Seizing Opportunities

Peter … said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the very corner stone. And 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.” Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John, and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were marveling, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. (4:8–13)

Instead of being frightened into silence or compromise, Peter displayed great courage and went on the offensive. Submission is not cowardice. He began by indicting them for the incongruity of putting him and John on trial … for a benefit done to a sick man. Hethus turned the tables on the Sanhedrin and subtly accused them of injustice—certainly it couldn’t be wrong to heal a lame man.

Since they had demanded to know as to how this man has been made well, by what name (Or authority) the apostles performed the miracle, Peter told them. He desired them and all the people of Israel to know that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—whom they crucified, but God raised from the dead—the beggar stood before them in good health. In the very citadel of the Sanhedrin’s power Peter put his judges on trial by proclaiming the truth about the living Christ to those responsible for His execution. By pointing out that they executed Jesus but God raised Him up, Peter showed them to be the enemies of God. That approach was frequently employed in Acts (cf. 2:23–24; 3:14–15; 10:39–40; 13:27–30). Peter refused to compromise the gospel by deleting what would offend the Sanhedrin. He spoke courageously because he was devoted to the truth and entrusted the outcome to his Lord. That is an example for all persecuted believers to follow.

One of the most formidable barriers to the Sanhedrin’s acceptance of Jesus as Messiah was that He could not prevent Himself from being killed. That did not fit their conception of the Messiah as a political and military deliverer. As he had done on the day of Pentecost, Peter turned to the Old Testament Scriptures to build his case. He quoted Psalm 118:22, applying it to their rejection of Jesus Christ (cf. Mark 12:10–11; 1 Peter 2:4, 6–8). Peter was not leading the Jews away from God but preaching the very truth of the Old Testament as fulfilled in Jesus. He was the stone which was rejected by them, the builders or spiritual leaders of the nation. Although they rejected Jesus, God made Him the very corner stone through His resurrection and exaltation. Again, Peter puts them in opposition to God—they rejected Jesus, but God gave Him the place of preeminence. He is the cornerstone of God’s spiritual temple, the church (Eph. 2:19–22). They were the ones leading the people away from God.

In verse 12 Peter gives what amounts to a direct invitation to the Sanhedrin to repent and embrace Jesus Christ to be saved. He had already declared that the healing of the lame beggar had been done in Jesus’ name. Now he goes further and proclaims that 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. Saved is a form of the same verb (sozō) used in verse 9 to describe the healing of the lame man. Not only was Jesus the source of physical healing, but He is also the only source of spiritual healing. Deliverance from the devastating effects of sin comes only through Jesus Christ. Peter did not invent that truth; he is merely echoing his Master. In John 14:6 Jesus declared, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.” This same exclusivity is claimed by our Lord in John 10:7–8 when He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers.”

The exclusivism of Christianity goes against the grain of our religiously pluralistic society. A chapel built at the North Pole in February 1959 by the men of Operation Deep Freeze 4 typifies the prevalent attitude today toward religious belief. The structure contained an altar, over which was hung a picture of Jesus, a crucifix, a star of David, and a lotus leaf (Representing the Buddha). On the wall of the chapel was an inscription that read “Now it can be said that the earth turns on the point of faith.”

Christians preach an exclusive Christ in an inclusive age. Because of that, we are often accused of being narrow-minded, even intolerant. Many paths, it is said, lead to the top of the mountain of religious enlightenment. How dare we insist that ours is the only one? In reality, however, there are only two religious paths: the broad way of works salvation leading to destruction, and the narrow way of faith in the only Savior leading to eternal life (Matt. 7:13–14). Religious people are on either one or the other. Sadly, the Sanhedrin and all who followed them were on the broad road to hell.

Peter’s impassioned plea failed to soften the hardened hearts of the Sanhedrin. Yet it was not without some effect. They could not help being impressed with the confidence of Peter and John. They were amazed that uneducated (In the rabbinical schools) and untrained men (Not professional theologians; laymen) could argue so effectively from the Scriptures. That two Galilean fishermen powerfully and successfully argued their case before the elite Jewish supreme court was shocking, so that they were marveling. The explanation slowly dawned on the Sanhedrin, as they began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. No doubt it came back to their memories that the two apostles had been with Jesus in the temple and at His trial (John 18:15–18).

What triggered the Sanhedrin’s recognition was the realization that the apostles were doing what Jesus did. Like the apostles, Jesus had boldly and fearlessly confronted the Jewish leaders with His authority and truth (cf. Matt. 7:28–29). He, too, had no formal rabbinic training (cf. John 7:15–16). Yet in His sure handling of the Old Testament Scriptures He had no equal (cf. John 7:46). Jesus had performed many miracles during His earthly ministry. Peter and John were on trial largely because of a miracle they had performed.

The attempt by the Sanhedrin to suppress the apostles’ teaching had given them a priceless opportunity. They boldly seized it and proclaimed the gospel to the highest officials of the nation. That is how to handle persecution—face it with the boldest proclamation of the truth.[4]

Peter’s Defense and Witness (4:8–12)


8 In a context of a prophetic description of national calamities and cosmic turmoil, Luke has quoted Jesus as declaring:

But before all this, they [your adversaries] will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name.… But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.

Luke 21:12, 14–15

Luke was undoubtedly thinking of many incidents of opposition to the gospel message when he wrote these words. Indeed, he records a number of such happenings in Acts. But certainly when he wrote about Peter’s first defense before the Jewish Sanhedrin—as well as when he wrote about the apostles’ second appearance before the Sanhedrin in 5:17–40—these words were ringing in his ears. For almost every item of Jesus’ oracle is exemplified in Luke’s account of Peter’s situation, attitude, and message here in Acts. The use of the aorist passive (plētheis, “filled,” GK 4437) in the expression “filled with the Holy Spirit” denotes a special moment of inspiration that complements and brings to a functional focus the presence in every believer’s life of the person and ministry of God’s Spirit.

9–10 Peter’s defense focuses on the healing of the crippled man as being (1) “an act of kindness” that was (2) effected “by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead.” Luke uses the verb anakrinomai (“judge,” “call to account,” GK 373), which in classical Greek meant “a preliminary inquiry,” and so may be seen to reflect in its use here something about the nature of first-century Jewish jurisprudence. However, though Luke found this word anakrinomai with its attendant meaning in his sources, his use of the same word in 12:19; 24:8; and 28:18 indicates that he had no great desire to highlight the fact that this first appearance of the apostles before the Sanhedrin was only a preliminary inquiry. Peter’s message is specifically addressed to the “rulers and elders of the people” (v. 8), though it also has “all the people of Israel” in mind (v. 10).

11 The double sense of the verb sōthēnai (“to be saved,” GK 5392, v. 12) to mean both “restoration to health” physically and “preservation from eternal death” spiritually allows Peter to move easily from the healing of the crippled man to the salvation of all humanity—and therefore from a defensive to an aggressive witness.

In Peter’s proclamation two quite early and primitive christological motifs come to the fore. The first is that of “the rejected stone,” which has become “the capstone” of the building. There was in Judaism a frequent wordplay between the words for “stone” (ʾeben) and “son” (bēn), which was rooted generally in the OT (cf. Ex 28:9; Jos 4:6–8, 20–21; 1 Ki 18:31; Isa 54:11–13; La 4:1–2; Zec 9:16) and attained messianic expression in the combination of “the stone” and “Son of Man” images in Daniel (2:34–35; 7:13–14)—and which continued to be used through the early rabbinic period (cf. Gen. Rab. 68.11; Exod. Rab. 29; Tg. Ps-J. on Ex 39:7). It was for this reason, evidently, that Jesus concluded his parable of the vineyard and the rejected son (Mk 12:1–12 par.) with the quotation of Psalm 118:22–23: “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” And it is this motif that Peter, building on the accepted associations of “stone” and “son,” picks up in his quotation of Psalm 118:22.

In Testament of Solomon 22:7–23:4, which is Jewish material from the first century AD, the expression “the stone at the head of the corner” (ho lithos [GK 3345] eis kephalēn gōnias [GK 1224]) unambiguously refers to the final capstone or copestone placed on the summit of the Jerusalem temple to complete the whole edifice. Peter quotes Psalm 118:22 in this connection. Yet there are also instances within contemporary Jewish writings of “stone imagery” referring to a “foundation stone” that use Isaiah 28:16 for support (cf. 1QS 8.4; b. Yoma 54a). Apparently “stone imagery” was used variously in Second Temple Judaism. This same variety is reflected in the NT, for there the three christological stone passages (in addition to Mk 12:10–11 par. and Ac 4:11; cf. Lk 20:18; Ro 9:33; 1 Co 3:11; 1 Pe 2:4–8) have varying nuances. Here, however, while elsewhere in the NT the ideas of a “foundation stone” and a “stumbling stone” (based respectively on Isaiah 28:16 and 8:14) are present, the thought of Jesus as the rejected stone that becomes the capstone or copestone and so completes the edifice is dominant (cf. Ps 118:22).

12 A second early christological motif in Peter’s proclamation is that of “God’s Salvation.” In the longer Isaiah scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls, “God’s Salvation” and “Salvation” appear as Jewish designations for the expected Davidic Messiah (cf. 1QIsa 51:4–5, which uses the third person masculine suffix and pronoun in connection with the expression “my Salvation”). Likewise, “Salvation” is used as a messianic title in other Qumran texts (cf. CD 9:43, 54; 1QH 7.18–19; 4Q174 on 2 Sa 7:14 and in connection with Am 9:11), in various intertestamental writings (cf. Jub. 31:19; also T. Dan 5:10; T. Naph. 8:3; T. Gad 8:1; T. Jos. 19:11, though the provenance of the Greek version of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs is debated), and in the rabbinic materials (cf. b. Ber. 56b–57a).

Luke has already stressed this early christological motif in Zechariah’s hymn of praise (Lk 1:69, “a horn of salvation”), in Simeon’s prayer (Lk 2:30, “your salvation”), and in introducing the ministry of John the Baptist (Lk 3:6, “God’s salvation”). Now in addressing the Sanhedrin, to whom such a messianic designation was doubtless well known, Peter proclaims, “Salvation is found in no one else [i.e., than in “Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead” (v. 10)], for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (v. 12). There was nothing of compromise or accommodation in Peter’s preaching. As this magnificent declaration shows, he was wholly committed to the uniqueness of Jesus as the only Savior. Peter and the other apostles never watered down the fact that apart from Jesus there is no salvation for anyone.[5]

[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.) (p. 1595). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles (Vol. 17, pp. 152–156). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1994). Acts (pp. 133–135). Chicago: Moody Press.

[5] 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. 773–775). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

May 29 – The Need to Forgive Others

… as we also have forgiven our debtors.—Matt. 6:12b

Even as we have been forgiven, we need to forgive. This is the character of righteousness. But because of our sinful flesh, we are often inconsistent with that duty and need constant exhortation (cf. Rom. 7:14–25).

The Lord Jesus’ own example is a powerful motivation for us to forgive others. Paul reminds us, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32; 1 John 2:6). In view of such divine graciousness, our forgiveness of another’s sin expresses one of humanity’s highest virtues: “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression” (Prov. 19:11).

Extending genuine forgiveness to fellow believers benefits the entire body of Christ. Few other things have so weakened the church’s power than unforgiveness among believers. Notably, mutually unforgiven, unresolved sins such as conflicts among members can really hinder a church’s effectiveness. The psalmist warns us, “If [we] regard wickedness in [our] heart, the Lord will not hear” (Ps. 66:18; cf. Matt. 5:23–24; 1 Cor. 1:10–13; 3:1–9).

Harboring an unforgiving attitude is just plain sinful and invites God’s chastening, as does any sin (1 Cor. 11:30; Heb. 12:5–13). But forgiving others brings God’s forgiveness to us, and nothing in the Christian life is more important than that. Puritan Thomas Manton said, “There is none so tender to others as they which have received mercy themselves, for they know how gently God hath dealt with them.”

Is there a relationship in your own life that continues to suffer from your unwillingness to forgive, from your deliberate decision to cling to your hurt and bitterness? This would be a good day to let this burden go, forgiving any who have wronged you—the same way God has forgiven you.[1]

6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. This does not refer to judicial forgiveness from the penalty of sin (that forgiveness is obtained by faith in the Son of God). Rather this refers to the parental forgiveness that is necessary if fellowship with our Father is to be maintained. If believers are unwilling to forgive those who wrong them, how can they expect to be in fellowship with their Father who has freely forgiven them for their wrongdoings?[2]

12. And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. In connection with this petition, which sounds so simple, a few questions are in order:

  1. What is the difference between “debts” (verse 12) and “trespasses” (verses 14, 15)?

Answer: see on verse 14.

  1. Why should we pray for forgiveness, since we no longer sin?

Answer: We do, indeed, sin daily. See p. 317.

  1. Granted that we sin, why must we still daily pray for forgiveness, since through Christ’s atonement we are already cleansed (justified) from every sin?

Answer: It is true that the basis of our daily forgiveness has been established once for all by means of Christ’s atonement. Nothing need be and nothing can be added to that. But this total, objective cleansing needs daily application for the simple reason that we sin every day. A father may have bequeathed a large inheritance to his son. It now very definitely belongs to the son. Nevertheless, this does not mean that the latter is immediately allowed to withdraw the entire huge amount from the bank and spend it all within one week. Very wisely the father included a stipulation limiting the withdrawal privilege to a certain generous amount each month. So also when a person receives the grace of regeneration, this does not mean that all of that which Christ merited for him is immediately experienced by him. If it were, would it not overwhelm and crush his capacities? Rather, “He [God] giveth and giveth and giveth again.” See also John 13:10.

The prayer for forgiveness implies that the supplicant recognizes that there is no other method by which his debt can be wiped out. It is, therefore, a plea for grace.

However, a totally different difficulty arises in connection with “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.” This certainly cannot mean that our forgiving disposition earns God’s pardon. The forgiveness of our debts is based not on our merits—how could we have any?—but on Christ’s, applied to us. Consequently, from our point of view, forgiveness is based on God’s unmerited (not merited by us) favor, that is, on divine grace (Eph. 1:7), compassion (Matt. 18:27), and mercy (Luke 18:13). Nevertheless, our own forgiving disposition is very important. In fact, without it we ourselves cannot be forgiven. For us it is the indispensable condition of receiving the forgiveness of sins. That fact is stated clearly in verses 14 and 15, which, together with 18:21–35, is the best and simplest explanation of 6:12 one could ask for. It is with this as it is with salvation in general. We are not saved on the basis of our faith, as if faith had earning power. We are saved by grace (Eph. 2:8). Yet faith must be present if we are to be saved (hence, “by grace through faith”). Faith and one of its manifestations, namely, the disposition to forgive, are conditions that must be met and exercised if salvation and its component, pardon, are to be received. We must believe, we must forgive. God does not do these things for us. Nevertheless, it is God who plants in our hearts the seed of faith and of the forgiving disposition. Moreover, the power to believe and the power to forgive are from God. At every step—beginning, middle, and end, all along the way—God is both present and active. “With fear and trembling continue to work out your own salvation; for it is God who is working in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12, 13). See also N.T.C. on Eph. 2:8 and on Phil. 2:12, 13. It is exactly as Greijdanus observes, in commenting on the parallel passage, Luke 11:4 (“And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive every one indebted to us”). He writes, “In spite of for, this clause does not indicate the ground upon which God bestows forgiveness, but that which must be complied with for us to enjoy God’s forgiveness of our own sins.”

To be genuine, this forgiveness that we ourselves bestow upon our fellow men must be given gladly, generously, and with finality; not in the spirit of, “I’ll forgive, but I’m telling you that I’ll never forget.” Lord’s Day 51 of the Heidelberg Catechism gives a correct, succinct, and beautiful explanation of the fifth petition: “Be pleased, for the sake of Christ’s blood, not to impute to us, miserable sinners, any of our transgressions, nor the evil which always cleaves to us; as we also find this witness of thy grace in us that it is our full purpose heartily to forgive our neighbor.”

A possible objection to the explanation given must be briefly answered: “Does not this mean, then, that our act of kindness toward the one who has injured us precedes Christ’s act of kindness toward us?”

Answer. In the circle of salvation the beginning is always with God, never with us. See 1 John 4:19; cf. John 13:15; Eph. 4:32; and 1 Peter 2:21. Nevertheless, the forgiving love of Christ not only precedes but also accompanies and even follows the love with which we love him and the neighbor.

Our sincere purpose to forgive those who have injured us, and thus also our experience of the pardoning love and grace of God in Christ, can be enhanced by the following considerations:

Extend forgiveness to others, for

  1. God so commands. Vengeance belongs to him, not to us (Deut. 32:35; Rom. 12:19).
  2. We should follow the example Christ himself has given us (Luke 23:34; John 13:12–15; Eph. 4:32; 5:1, 2; Col. 3:13).
  3. We cannot be forgiven unless we forgive, as has been shown.
  4. The man who injured us needs our sympathy and love. We owe him this love (Rom. 13:8).
  5. Harboring a grudge and planning revenge is not only wicked but also foolish, for it deprives us of the strength we need to do effective work. We should have the forward look (Phil. 2:13).
  6. Forgiving others will impart peace of heart and mind to us, the peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7, 9).
  7. Thus, thus alone, will God be glorified, which should be our aim in all we do (1 Cor. 10:31).

The fourth petition is linked to the fifth, and the fifth to the sixth, by the conjunction and. All three represent human needs, and are closely connected. The connection between the fourth and fifth has already been indicated. Very close is also the relation between the fifth and the sixth, and this in at least the following respect: we are in need not only of forgiveness of past sins, but also of God’s protecting care so that in the future we may not fall into the clutches of Satan.

Between “And lead us not into temptation” and “deliver us from the evil one” there is no conjunction and. On the contrary, the conjunction but shows that the petition simply continues, the negative request being balanced by the positive in one petition. These two are, as it were, the two sides of the same coin. Accordingly, I am in agreement with all those who accept six, not seven, petitions.[3]

God’s Pardon

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (6:12)

Opheilēma (debts) is one of five New Testament Greek terms for sin. Hamartia is the most common and carries the root idea of missing the mark. Sin misses the mark of God’s standard of righteousness. Paraptōma, often rendered “trespass,” is the sin of slipping or falling, and results more from carelessness than from intentional disobedience. Parabasis refers to stepping across the line, going beyond the limits prescribed by God, and is often translated “transgression.” This sin is more conscious and intentional than hamartia and paraptoma. Anomia means lawlessness, and is a still more intentional and flagrant sin. It is direct and open rebellion against God and His ways.

The noun opheilēma is used only a few times in the New Testament, but its verb form is found often. Of the some thirty times it is used in its verb form, twenty-five times it refers to moral or spiritual debts. Sin is a moral and spiritual debt to God that must be paid. In his account of this prayer, Luke uses hamartia (“sins”; Luke 11:4), clearly indicating that the reference is to sin, not to a financial debt. Matthew probably used debts because it corresponded to the most common Aramaic term (ḥôbā˒) for sin used by Jews of that day, which also represented moral or spiritual debt to God.

The Problem

Sin is that which separates man from God, and is therefore man’s greatest enemy and greatest problem. Sin dominates the mind and heart of man. It has contaminated every human being and is the degenerative power that makes man susceptible to disease, illness, and every conceivable form of evil and unhappiness, temporal and eternal. The ultimate effects of sin are death and damnation, and the present effects are misery, dissatisfaction, and guilt. Sin is the common denominator of every crime, every theft, lie, murder, immorality, sickness, pain, and sorrow of mankind. It is also the moral and spiritual disease for which man has no cure. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good who are accustomed to do evil” (Jer. 13:23). The natural man does not want his sin cured, because he loves darkness rather than light (John 3:19).

Those who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ have received God’s pardon for sin and are saved from eternal hell. And since, as we have seen, this prayer is given to believers, the debts referred to here are those incurred by Christians when they sin. Immeasurably more important than our need for daily bread is our need for continual forgiveness of sin.

Arthur Pink writes in An Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1974), pp. 163–64:

As it is contrary to the holiness of God, sin is a defilement, a dishonor, and a reproach to us as it is a violation of His law. It is a crime, and as to the guilt which we contact thereby, it is a debt. As creatures we owe a debt of obedience unto our maker and governor, and through failure to render the same on account of our rank disobedience, we have incurred a debt of punishment; and it is for this that we implore a divine pardon.

The Provision

Because man’s greatest problem is sin, his greatest need is forgiveness-and that is what God provides. Though we have been forgiven the ultimate penalty of sin, as Christians we need God’s constant forgiveness for the sins we continue to commit. We are to pray, therefore, forgive us. Forgiveness is the central theme of this entire passage (vv. 9–15), being mentioned six times in eight verses. Everything leads to or issues from forgiveness.

Believers have experienced once-for-all God’s judicial forgiveness, which they received the moment Christ was trusted as Savior. We are no longer condemned, no longer under judgment, no longer destined for hell (Rom. 8:1). The eternal Judge has declared us pardoned, justified, righteous. No one, human or satanic, can condemn or bring any “charge against God’s elect” (Rom. 8:33–34).

But because we still fall into sin, we frequently require God’s gracious forgiveness, His forgiveness not now as Judge but as Father. “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us,” John warns believers. But, he goes on to assure us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8–9).

During the Last Supper, Jesus began washing the disciples’ feet as a demonstration of the humble, serving spirit they should have as His followers. At first Peter refused, but when Jesus said, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me,” Peter went to the other extreme, wanting to be bathed all over. Jesus replied, “ ‘He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.’ For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, ‘Not all of you are clean’ ” (John 13:5–11).

Jesus’ act of footwashing was therefore more than an example of humility; it was also a picture of the forgiveness God gives in His repeated cleansing of those who are already saved. Dirt on the feet symbolizes the daily surface contamination from sin that we experience as we walk through life. It does not, and cannot, make us entirely dirty, because we have been permanently cleansed from that. The positional purging of salvation that occurs at regeneration needs no repetition, but the practical purging is needed every day, because every day we fall short of God’s perfect holiness.

As Judge, God is eager to forgive sinners, and as Father He is even more eager to keep on forgiving His children. Hundreds of years before Christ, Nehemiah wrote, “Thou art a God of forgiveness, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness” (Neh. 9:17). As vast and pervasive as the sin of man is, God forgiveness is more vast and greater. Where sin abounds, God’s grace abounds even more (Rom. 5:20).

The Plea

Asking forgiveness implies confession. Feet that are not presented to Christ cannot be washed by Him. Sin that is not confessed cannot be forgiven. That is the condition John makes plain in the text just quoted above: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). To confess means basically to agree with, and when we confess our sins we agree with God about them that they are wicked, evil, defiling, and have no part in those who belong to Him.

It is difficult to confess sins, and both Satan and our prideful nature fight against it. But it is the only way to the free and joyful life. “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion” (Prov. 28:13). John Stott says, “One of the surest antidotes to the process of moral hardening is the disciplined practice of uncovering our sins of thought and outlook, as well as of word and of deed, and the repentant forsaking of them” (Confess Your Sins [Waco, Tex.: Word, 1974], p. 19).

The true Christian does not see God’s promise of forgiveness as a license to sin, a way to abuse His love and presume on His grace. Rather he sees God’s gracious forgiveness as the means of spiritual growth and sanctification and continually gives thanks to God for His great love and willingness to forgive and forgive and forgive. It is also important to realize that confessing sin gives God the glory when He chastens the disobedient Christian because it removes any complaint that God is unfair when He disciplines.

A Puritan saint of many generations ago prayed, “Grant me never to lose sight of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, the exceeding righteousness of salvation, the exceeding glory of Christ, the exceeding beauty of holiness, and the exceeding wonder of grace.” At another time he prayed, “I am guilty but pardoned. I am lost but saved. I am wandering but found. I am sinning but cleansed. Give me perpetual broken-heartedness. Keep me always clinging to Thy cross” (Arthur Bennett, ed., The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1975], pp. 76, 83).

The Prerequisite

Jesus gives the prerequisite for receiving forgiveness in the words, as we also have forgiven our debtors. The principle is simple but sobering: if we have forgiven, we will be forgiven; if we have not forgiven, we will not be forgiven.

We are to forgive because it is the character of righteousness, and therefore of the faithful Christian life, to forgive. Citizens of God’s kingdom are blessed and receive mercy because they themselves are merciful (Matt. 5:7). They love even their enemies because they have the nature of the loving heavenly Father within them (5:44–45, 48). Forgiveness is the mark of a truly regenerate heart. Still we fail to be consistent with that mark and need constant exhortation because of the strength of sinful flesh (Rom. 7:14–25).

We are also to be motivated to forgive because of Christp’s example. “Be kind to one another,” Paul says, “tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). John tells us, “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6).

Because it reflects God’s own gracious forgiveness, the forgiving of another person’s sin expresses the highest virtue of man. “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression” (Prov. 19:11).

Forgiving others also frees the conscience of guilt. Unforgiveness not only stands as a barrier to God’s forgiveness but also interferes with peace of mind, happiness, satisfaction, and even the proper functioning of the body.

Forgiving others is of great benefit to the whole congregation of believers. Probably few things have so short-circuited the power of the church as unresolved conflicts among its members. “If I regard wickedness in my heart,” the psalmist warns himself and every believer, “the Lord will not hear” (Ps. 66:18). The Holy Spirit cannot work freely among those who carry grudges and harbor resentment (see Matt. 5:23–24; 1 Cor. 1:10–13; 3:1–9).

Forgiving others also delivers us from God’s discipline. Where there is an unforgiving spirit, there is sin; and where there is sin, there will be chastening (Heb. 12:5–13). Unrepented sins in the church at Corinth caused many believers to be weak, sick, and even to die (1 Cor. 11:30).

But the most important reason for being forgiving is that it brings God’s forgiveness to the believer. That truth is so important that Jesus reinforces it after the close of the prayer (vv. 14–15). Nothing in the Christian life is more important than forgiveness-our forgiveness of others and God’s forgiveness of us.

In the matter of forgiveness, God deals with us as we deal with others. We are to forgive others as freely and graciously as God forgives us. The Puritan writer Thomas Manton said, “There is none so tender to others as they which have received mercy themselves, for they know how gently God hath dealt with them.”[4]

12 The first three petitions stand independently from one another. The last three, however, are linked in Greek by “ands,” almost as if to say that life sustained by food is not enough. We also need forgiveness of sin and deliverance from temptation.

In Matthew, what we ask to be forgiven for is ta opheilēmata hēmōn (“our debts,” GK 4052); in Luke, it is our “sins.” Hill notes that the crucial word to opheilēma (“debt”) “means a literal ‘debt’ in the LXX and NT, except at this point.” And on this basis, S. T. Lachs (“On Matthew 6.12,” NovT 17 [1975]: 6–8) argues that in Matthew this petition of the Lord’s Prayer is not really dealing with sins but with loans in the sixth year, one year before the Jubilee. But the linguistic evidence can be read differently. The word opheilēma is rather rare in biblical Greek. It occurs only four times in the LXX (Dt 24:10 [2x]; 1 Esd 3:20; 1 Macc 15:8); and in Deuteronomy 24:10, where it occurs twice, it renders two different Hebrew words. In the NT, it appears only here and in Romans 4:4. On this basis it would be as accurate to say the word always means “sin” in the NT except at Romans 4:4 as to say it always means “debt” except at Matthew 6:12.

More important, the Aramaic word ḥôbā (“debt”) is often used (e.g., in the Targums) to mean “sin” or “transgression.” Deissmann (Bible Studies, 225) notes an instance of the cognate verb hamartian opheilō (lit., “I owe sin”). Probably Matthew has provided a literal rendering of the Aramaic Jesus most commonly used in preaching; and even Luke (Lk 11:4) uses the cognate participle in the second line, panti opheilonti hēmin (“everyone who sins against us”). There is therefore no reason to take “debts” to mean anything other than “sins,” here conceived as something owed God (whether sins of commission or omission).

Some have taken the second clause to mean that our forgiveness is the real cause of God’s forgiveness, i.e., that God’s forgiveness must be earned by our own. The problem is often judged more serious in Matthew than Luke, because the latter has the present “we forgive,” the former the aorist (not perfect, as many commentators assume) aphēkamen (“we have forgiven”; GK 918). Many follow the suggestion of Jeremias (Prayers of Jesus, 92–93), who says that Matthew has awkwardly rendered an Aramaic perfectum praesens (a “present perfect”): he renders the clause “as we also herewith forgive our debtors.”

The real solution is best expounded by C. F. D. Moule (“ ‘… As we forgive …’: a Note on the Distinction between Deserts and Capacity in the Understanding of Forgiveness,” in Donum Gentilicium [ed. E. Bammel et al.; Oxford: Clarendon 1978], 68–77), who, in addition to detailing the most important relevant Jewish literature, rightly insists on distinguishing “between, on the one hand, earning or meriting forgiveness, and, on the other hand, adopting an attitude which makes forgiveness possible—the distinction, that is, between deserts and capacity.… Real repentance, as contrasted with a merely self-regarding remorse, is certainly a sine qua non of receiving forgiveness—an indispensable condition” (pp. 71–72). “Once our eyes have been opened to see the enormity of our offense against God, the injuries which others have done to us appear by comparison extremely trifling. If, on the other hand, we have an exaggerated view of the offenses of others, it proves that we have minimized our own” (Stott, Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 149–50; see comments at 5:5, 7; 18:23–35).[5]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 158). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1224). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Vol. 9, pp. 334–336). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 391–395). Chicago: Moody Press.

[5] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 206–207). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.