Daily Archives: May 31, 2017

May 31, 2017 Truth2Freedom Briefing Report (US•World•Christian)

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May 31, 2017 |

BLOOMBERG

President Donald Trump is expected to pull the United States from a landmark global climate agreement, a White House official said Wednesday, though there could be “caveats in the language” announcing a withdrawal, leaving open the possibility that his decision isn’t final.

The Pentagon claimed success in intercepting a mock intercontinental ballistic missile in a crucial test Tuesday of a long-troubled system that’s taken on increased urgency with North Korea’s escalating nuclear weapons program.

Russia attacked Islamic State targets in Syria with cruise missiles fired from a warship and submarine, the Defense Ministry in Moscow said.

A permanent installation honoring World Trade Center rescue and recovery workers who risked their health in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks will be added to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in lower Manhattan.

A suicide truck bomb in Kabul killed as many as 80 people and wounded 350 on Wednesday morning near a diplomatic enclave in the worst attack on the Afghan capital in 10 months.

Call them cyborgs. Morgan Stanley is about to augment its 16,000 financial advisers with machine-learning algorithms that suggest trades, take over routine tasks and send reminders when your birthday is near.

Canada’s economy accelerated in the first quarter to a 3.7 percent annualized pace behind what is one of the most broad-based quarterly expansions since the recession.

India’s economy grew at the slowest pace in more than two years in the first quarter, dragged down by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cash ban in November and the weight of the country’s bad bank debts.

AP Top Stories

Kenya’s president on Tuesday opened the country’s largest infrastructure project since independence, a Chinese-backed railway costing nearly $3.3 billion that eventually will link a large part of East Africa to a major port on the Indian Ocean as China seeks to increase trade and influence.

The rescued Chibok girls will not be going back to their rural home town to complete their schooling, Nigeria’s minister for women said on Tuesday. Speaking at a ceremony welcoming 82 newly rescued girls to a government rehabilitation facility in Abuja, Aisha Alhassan said all the girls will be heading back to class in September, without specifying where.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s top security adviser has urged China to play a bigger role in restraining North Korea’s nuclear and missile development programs, Japan’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

The ideal retirement age is no longer 65. A recent Gallup poll of 1,019 adults found that Americans are now hoping to retire at an average age of 66. This is a significant change from as recently as 10 years ago, when more people hoped to retire before age 65.

Researchers at the CDC found that, in recent years, the rate of death from Alzheimer’s disease increased by more than 50 percent, from about 16 deaths per 100,000 people in 1999 to 25 deaths per 100,000 people in 2014.

The holy month of Ramadan started on Saturday, May 27, as Muslims all over the world are began their month-long daytime religious fast.

There’s a new piece of Android malware on the loose and it’s a doozy. Originally discovered by researchers at Check Point last week, the malware has been dubbed “Judy” and is potentially one of the most widely spread pieces of Android malware we’ve seen to date. It’s currently believed that upwards of 36.5 million Android devices may have already been infected.

As the U.S.-led coalition ratchets up operations in Syria, there are concerns that it will result in a rerun of what happened in Iraq, where $1 billion in weapons supplied to local fighters is unaccounted for.

The mayor of Paris said Monday that a “clear solution” has been found with organizers of a festival for black feminists, an event that had aroused her ire because four-fifths of the festival space was to be open exclusively to black women.

BBC

A powerful vehicle bomb has hit the diplomatic area of the Afghan capital, Kabul, killing at least 80 people and injuring 350.

Kenya has opened a major new railway between the port city of Mombasa and the capital, Nairobi, 18 months early. President Uhuru Kenyatta said during the launch that the $3.2bn Chinese-funded line signalled a new chapter in the country.

Margaret Court has said “tennis is full of lesbians”, following a row over her earlier remarks on gay marriage. Australian Court, a 24-time Grand Slam singles champion and now a Christian pastor, also said that transgender children were the work of “the devil”.

French officials have used the state of emergency imposed after the Paris attacks of 2015 to curb peaceful demonstrations, a rights group says.

The United Nations humanitarian chief has said Yemen is facing “total social, economic and institutional collapse”.

WND

A NEW teaching aid that recommends schoolchildren as young as seven “write a letter to a terrorist” to help understand their motives has been condemned as “dangerous and misguided”.

The grim tally of 49 shot over Chicago’s Memorial Day weekend, historically one of the most violent times of the year here, is oddly the latest sign the city may be turning a corner in the fight against gun violence, an improvement over last year’s total of 7 killed and 61 injured.


The Briefing 05-31-17

Fulfilling campaign promise, Trump admin drafts policy reversing Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate

Spiritual but not religious? The importance of theology in Atlanta school district’s yoga controversy

A worldview far, far away: Myth, religion, and the 40th anniversary of the release of Star Wars

The post The Briefing 05-31-17 appeared first on AlbertMohler.com.


Top News – 5/31/2017

Law enforcement just won a major victory at the Supreme Court
the Supremes have unanimously wiped the provocation doctrine off the books. Writing today for a unanimous Supreme Court, Justice Samuel Alito overturned that 9th Circuit decision, dismantled the provocation doctrine, and ruled in favor of the officers. The provocation doctrine “is incompatible with our excessive force jurisprudence,” Justice Alito declared.

Above-normal Atlantic hurricane season is most likely this year
Forecasters at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center say the Atlantic could see another above-normal hurricane season this year. Forecasters predict a 70 percent likelihood of 11 to 17 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 5 to 9 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 2 to 4 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).

Huge bomb in sewage tanker kills at least 80, wounds hundreds in Afghan capital
A powerful bomb hidden in a sewage tanker exploded in the morning rush hour in the centre of the Afghan capital on Wednesday, police said, killing at least 80 people, wounding hundreds and damaging embassy buildings. The victims appeared mainly to have been Afghan civilians.

Russia fires cruise missiles at Islamic State targets from Mediterranean
A Russian warship and submarine have fired four cruise missiles from the Mediterranean at Islamic State targets near the Syrian city of Palmyra, the Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.

Pentagon successfully tests ICBM defense system for first time
The U.S. military on Tuesday cheered a successful, first-ever missile defense test involving a simulated attack by an intercontinental ballistic missile, in a major milestone for a program meant to defend against a mounting North Korean threat.

Cholera outbreak kills 532 in Yemen: WHO
In a Twitter post on Wednesday, the WHO said more than 65,300 suspected cases of cholera have been recorded in 253 districts in the country.

The Pope’s Marxist Head of the Jesuits
Pope Francis has been planting Marxists throughout the Church, including at the top of the troubled religious order to which he belongs. In 2016, the Jesuits, with the blessing of Pope Francis, installed as its general superior a Venezuelan, Fr. Arturo Sosa Abascal, whose communist convictions have long been known.

Kabul bomb: Diplomatic zone attack kills dozens
A powerful vehicle bomb has hit the diplomatic area of the Afghan capital, Kabul, killing at least 80 people and injuring 350. It struck close to the German embassy in Zanbaq Square, with civilians said to be the main casualties. The morning rush-hour blast was so strong it blew out windows and doors hundreds of metres away.

Swiss court convicts man over ‘defamatory’ Facebook likes
A court in Switzerland has fined a man for “liking” comments deemed to be defamatory that were posted on Facebook. The landmark case involved comments made about Erwin Kessler, the head of an animal protection group. He was accused of being anti-Semitic and racist, media reports say.

Russia fires cruise missiles at IS targets in Syria
A Russian warship and submarine in the Mediterranean have fired four cruise missiles at so-called Islamic State (IS) positions in central Syria. The strike – the first of its kind since November – targeted militants and heavy weapons near the city of Palmyra, the Russian defence ministry said. The militants had been redeployed from the IS stronghold of Raqqa, it added.

Syria conflict: US sends arms to Kurdish forces fighting IS
The US says it has started distributing weapons to Kurdish forces fighting so-called Islamic State (IS) in Syria. Pentagon spokesman Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway said the Kurdish fighters had received small arms and vehicles from the US military. The weapons aim to help them drive IS from its Syrian stronghold, Raqqa.

UN chief Guterres says climate deal is essential
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said it is “absolutely essential” that the world unite to combat the threat from climate change. Speaking in New York, Mr Guterres said if any country doubted the need for the 2015 Paris climate accord, then other countries must “stay the course”. He was speaking after US President Donald Trump refused to join other leaders of the G7 group of rich nations in reaffirming support for the accord.

Iranian-backed forces amassing near U.S. training base in Syria
Hundreds of Iranian-backed militiamen, fighting alongside government troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad, are amassing near a U.S.-training base located near the country’s border with Iraq, the Defense Department confirmed Tuesday. Pro-Assad fighters supported by Tehran have begun conducting patrols near the southern Syrian town of At Tanf, which is home to a U.S. training camp for moderate Syrian militias battling the Islamic State, said Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis.

Arctic air base gets $40 million upgrade in face of increasing missile threats
For the first time ever, the Pentagon will try to shoot down an intercontinental-range missile Tuesday. The move is partly a response to North Korea… Its official news agency said Tuesday morning that dictator Kim Jong Un threatened, “to send a bigger gift package,” to the U.S. A new Russian military base in the Arctic is also putting attention on the Pentagon’s northernmost base, located in Greenland, which was originally built as a buffer during the Cold War.

Illinois House Passes Automatic Voter Registration Bill
The AP reports that bill passed unanimously in the House 115-0 and is now headed to the Senate to review the changes made since it passed the Senate the first time. The bill, SB1933, would automatically register eligible voters if they visit the secretary of state’s offices or other state agencies. The bill also allows people to opt out of registering to vote.

49 shot in Chicago over Memorial Day weekend — and that’s a sign of progress
The grim tally of 49 shot over Memorial Day weekend, historically one of the most violent times of the year here, is oddly the latest sign the city may be turning a corner in the fight against gun violence.

U.S. Missile Defense Test Over Pacific Ocean a Key Milestone
The Pentagon successfully tested a U.S. long-range interceptor missile over the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday in an exercise aimed at helping gauge American readiness to counter a potential threat from North Korea.

Delingpole: Climate Mob Threatens Trump – ‘Quit Paris and You’re Toast!’
The international climate mob have made President Trump an offer he can’t refuse: “Stay in Paris – or the U.S. gets it!”

Blackburn’s Browser Act: Google, Facebook Need Data Consent
Google and Facebook are actively trying to stop a proposed law that would force them to acquire consent from users before collecting their personal information. The “Browser Act,” introduced May 18 by Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, mandates that people must explicitly give permission to internet service providers (ISPs) and websites wanting to use their browsing history and other data for business purposes.

Venezuela’s Socialist Disaster is Being Financed by Goldman Sachs 
Nothing to see here.  Just another failed attempt at socialism.  The opposition forces are finally figuring it all out too.  The government is in control, not the people, and Julio Borges is blaming Goldman Sachs for financing the all-but-failed democratic socialist nation.

Sean Hannity strikes back at critics by going after Rachel Maddow
Fox News host Sean Hannity on Tuesday promoted a campaign targeting MSNBC host Rachel Maddow’s advertisers after a handful of the conservative television personality’s sponsors abandoned his program last week over his relentless promotion of a conspiracy theory.


White House Readies for Total War with ‘Fake News’ Media

According to Jim Stinson of LifeZette, the Trump team is fed up with fabricated news so they’re preparing an aggressive operation to fight and defeat the liberal media. Stinson writes:

The White House appears to be preparing for a grueling, sustained conflict.

But not with North Korea. Instead, the White House is prepping for a major counteroffensive against the U.S. news media.

The first sign of a new White House strategy to fight back against hostile press coverage came after a Washington Post story that made serious allegations, using anonymous sources, that Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner met with Russian officials and asked about a “back channel” to discuss Syria with Moscow.

Unlike other recent reports on Russian collusion hysteria, the Trump team did not sit idle and allow the story to dominate the day unchallenged. Shortly after the story was published, Fox News published a story of its own, citing administration officials, that contradicted the Post report. The Fox report suggested the Russians, not Kushner, suggested a back channel.

View article →


Desperate liberals resort to witchcraft to ‘bind’ President Trump

See Berean Research’s White Paper on Occult-Sorcery

Liberals use tarot cards, chants, spells in their desperation to oust a sitting president

By Marsha West

“I don’t believe in the devil,” she admits, “but I do believe our country has gone to hell, and I am willing to try anything to save us.” Trying anything means she’s willing to join forces with those who practice the magical arts, to include shamans, witches, and warlocks.  These days the preferred term for witch is Wiccan. It matters not what witch’s call themselves. A witch by any other name is still a sorcerer who is hooked by the occult.

The Left is desperate to remove Donald Trump and “all those who abet him” from office, even if it means locking arms with the devil (he does exist) to accomplish their goal.  Ms Wagman must not have heard that New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) “prayer warriors” have tried their hand at “binding” for decades, only they bind demons who inhabit those who, they believe, are demon possessed.  I don’t want to get too far afield, but “Christians” who have embraced the NAR cult tried spiritual warfare prayer on Barack Obama. For all their attempts to bind the demon of…whatever you want to call it (NAR gives them titles like “demon of lust”), Obama still managed to remain in power for eight years. So much for spiritual warfare prayer warriors possessing the power to bind demons. Now the Left is having a go at binding, not demons, but conservatives they loathe.

Wagman informs us:

The “Spell to Bind Donald Trump” was first performed in February. I joined in April. I followed the clear, easy instructions posted online (just Google “Bind Trump” or check out the #Bind Trump Facebook page).

Hate drove Diana Wagman to participate in this craziness. Listen to the extremes Trump-haters will go to in their effort to thwart his agenda:

I found an orange candle in a box of multicolored ones we use for our Hanukkah menorah. I printed the required tarot card off the Internet and propped it up. I cut an unflattering photo of POTUS out of the newspaper, and I burned it while chanting the words of the spell.

My husband was watching “SportsCenter” in the other room. I stood at the kitchen sink. It took less than five minutes. More time was required to get the components together, although that wasn’t difficult — no eye of newt or boiling cauldron required.

Tarot cards…chants…spells? Hard to imagine that in their desperation to oust a sitting president, a large number of liberals would actually participate in an occult ritual.  But they have. Makes one wonder what these people will come up with next. A Trump voodoo doll, perhaps? Oh wait!  You can purchase a Not My President Donald Trump voodoo doll with pins on Amazon.

I’ll close with what Almighty God says about those who take part in the magical arts:

There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the LORD your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the LORD your God has not allowed you to do this.  Deuteronomy 18:10-14 (emphasis added)

http://bereanresearch.org/occult-sorcery/


How the Self-Esteem Craze Took Over America

Here’s a fascinating longform article about the self-esteem nonsense that took over America in the 80s and 90s. “If you grew up, or raised a child, during the 1980s or 1990s, you almost certainly remember this sort of material, as well as goofy classroom exercises focusing on how special each individual child was. A certain ethos took hold during this time: It was the job of schools to educate, yes, but also to instill in children a sense of their own specialness and potential.” Turns out it was mostly nonsense.


What We Need Most

Kevin DeYoung: “The biggest need in your life, and in mine, is to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. I’m convinced that more evangelism, more prayer, more fruitfulness, more holiness will flow from the fountain of our lives only when we start drinking more deeply of Christ.”


4 Practical Threats to the Church Today

There’s a lot we could say about threats to the church today, but I think Jared has aptly identified four common ones here.


Ladybug Wings (Video)

This little video shows the amazingly intricate process through which ladybugs deploy their wings and fold them up again.


Time for a Populist Bioethics Commission

Wesley J. Smith outlines some of the current concerns in bioethics and suggestions a possible way forward. “The discussions, such as they are, remain contained within the rarified atmosphere of scientific symposia, where they are conducted by the very people intent on pursuing these technologies.”


Who Was Joan of Arc? (Video)

“According to a recent survey, one out of every eight Americans thought that Joan of Arc was the wife of Noah! But the truth about Joan is a little more complex, a lot more interesting, and many years after Noah’s spouse. Here’s a quick video that explains more about her…”


Obsessed with Calories

Where did our calorie obsession come from? And is it really as important as we make it out to be?


Tiger Woods and the Danger of Building a Brand

There are lots of ways to apply this to the Christian world. “Perhaps the deepest lessons of the Woods story are the dangers when the gap between public image and private reality becomes too wide. We all wish to be liked and respected. Yet when image and truth become decoupled, when you participate in the sordid while colluding in the pretence that you are purer than the driven snow, the edifice is always likely to come crashing down.”


Flashback: Well-Planned, Hard, Sweat-Inducing Prayer and Work 

Prayer and work belong together. They are like two oars that, when used together, keep a rowboat moving forward. If you use only one oar—praying without working or working without praying—you will row in circles.


House Of Cards: Netflix Is One Of The Poster Children For Tech Bubble 2.0

How can a company that is going to generate $2,000,000,000 in negative free cash flow in 2017 be worth 70 billion dollars?  Netflix has soared in popularity in recent years, but so have their financial losses.  Just like during the original tech bubble, investors are ignoring basic fundamentals and are greatly rewarding firms that are bleeding giant mountains of cash year after year just because they are trendy “tech companies”.  But somewhere along the line you actually have to quit losing money if you are going to survive.  Just ask tech bubble 1.0 victims Pets.com, Webvan and Etoys.com.  The investors that poured enormous amounts of money into those companies ended up losing everything, and similar tragedies will play out as tech bubble 2.0 bursts. (Read More…)


This article is Part 2 in a series of three articles investigating the Seth Rich murder. Read Part 1 HERE.

Part 1 developed the following: Hillary’s campaign, lax on cybersecurity and working with the DNC to make sure Sanders did not have a chance of winning, invited multiple attacks from both hackers on the outside and from leakers on the inside. 

Part 2 makes clear the multiple hacks and multiple leaks that plagued Hillary’s 2016 presidential campaign came from multiple sources.

The breakthrough in this series of articles is the attempt to apply intelligence analytical techniques to sort out the various known cybersecurity attacks on the Democrats during the 2016 presidential campaign to determine the rogue agent responsible for each separate known cybersecurity attack.

Article Image

Will the Crazy Global Debt Bubble Ever End?

05-30-2017 • LewRockwell.com by Charles Hugh Smith

We’ve been playing two games to mask insolvency: one is to pay the costs of rampant debt today by borrowing even more from future earnings, and the second is to create wealth out of thin air via asset bubbles.

The two games are connected: asset bubbles require leverage and credit. Prices for homes, stocks, bonds, bat guano futures, etc. can only be pushed to the stratosphere if buyers have access to credit and can borrow to buy more of the bubbling assets.

If credit dries up, asset bubbles pop: no expansion of debt, no asset bubble.

The problem with these games is the debt-asset bubbles don’t actually expand the collateral (real-world productive value) supporting all the debt. Collateral can be a physical asset like a house, but it can also be the ability to earn money to service debt.

Credit card debt, student loan debt, corporate debt, sovereign debt–all these loans are backed not by physical assets but by the ability to service the debt: earnings or tax revenues.

Can the Universities Be Saved?

Where is the one place in America where free speech is commonly suppressed, where there is often as much indoctrination as education, and where radical-left ideologies reign almost unchallenged? It is our college and university campuses.

View Article


 

Mid-Day Snapshot

May 31, 2017

Climate Alarmism Minus Perspective Equals Fake News

Yes, Glacier National Park is turning “green.” But why? The NY Times doesn’t ask.

The Foundation

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclination, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” —John Adams (1770)

ZeroHedge Frontrunning: May 31

  • Trump Faces Instability as Russia Probe Expands to Inner Circle (Read More)
  • Huge bomb in sewage tanker kills at least 80, wounds hundreds in Afghan capital (Read More)
  • Russia fires cruise missiles at Islamic State targets from Mediterranean (Read More)
  • Trump blasts Russia probe, urges testimony from former adviser Page (Read More)
  • Activist probing factories making Ivanka Trump shoes in China arrested (Read More)
  • Franken: ‘Everything Points’ to Collusion Between Trump, Russia  (Read More)
  • This Is What the Demise of Oil Looks Like (Read More)
  • Oil Slumps on Investor Skepticism Over Output Cuts (Read More)
  • Euro-Area Inflation Slows More Than Forecast Before ECB Meeting (Read More)
  • Masayoshi Son Is Betting $100 Billion to Conquer the 24th Century  (Read More)
  • The Billionaire Gadfly in Exile Who Stared Down Beijing (Read More)
  • Morgan Stanley’s 16,000 Human Brokers Get Algorithmic Makeover  (Read More)
  • Michael Kors gives weak forecast, to shut some stores (Read More)
  • Tillerson’s Enigmatic Chief of Staff Wields Power, Not the Spotlight  (Read More)
  • South Korea defense ministry ‘intentionally dropped’ THAAD units in report: Blue House (Read More)
  • Top to Bottom: Pay for 500 CEOs (Read More)
  • Goldman Sachs Gave Big Hand to Venezuela ‘Hunger Bonds’ Movement (Read More)
  • What Gap? Female CEOs Earn More Than Male Chiefs (Read More)
  • Bain Doubles Down on Risky Gymboree Bet Even as Bankruptcy Looms (Read More)
  • Another Warning Sign Flashes for Subprime Auto Loans (Read More)
  • Injunction Request Aims to Stop German Role in ECB’s Bond Buying (Read More)
  • Uber Fires Engineer in Bid to Contain Legal Battle With Google (Read More)

Top Headlines – 5/31/2017

Day before deadline, Trump hasn’t decided whether to sign embassy waiver

American envoy to UN Haley to travel to Israel next week

US says ‘no formal mechanisms’ yet for Israeli-Palestinian talks

Obama treated Israel ‘as part of the problem,’ says ex-envoy Oren. With Trump, ‘it’s love, love, love’

Report: China open to ‘active role’ in advancing Mideast peace process

Leading Strategic Analyst: Eagerness to Resolve Conflict With Palestinians Will Not Make Israel Safe

Netanyahu: Israeli land swaps with Palestinians won’t bring peace

Netanyahu: We must retain full military control of West Bank

Barghouti: ‘Do not open negotiations with Israel without a precondition for the release of all prisoners’

Study: ‘The occupation costs Israel tens of billions of shekels’

Palestinian Authority Paid Out Over $1 Billion for Terror Over the Past Four Years

New IDF training facility to simulate combat with Hezbollah

Trump wants to sell lots of weapons to Riyadh. Why are Israel (and its friends) staying mum?

Question on Saudi democracy gives State Department pause

Report: After Iranian elections, Tehran-Hamas ties warming up

Hamas: Iran resuming support? ‘Fake news’

Iranian-backed forces amassing near U.S. training base in Syria

Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin says he is convinced Syrian Pres. Bashar al-Assad did not use chemical weapons

Syria conflict: US sends arms to Kurdish forces fighting IS

The Final Push for Mosul: ‘Matter of Time’ Until ISIS Flag Falls in Iraq’s Second City

ISIS targets the young, then the old in twin Baghdad bombings

Dozens of Iraqis killed as Isis targets Baghdad during Ramadan

Philippines urges Islamist rebels to surrender as battle enters 8th day

ISIS-linked terrorists in Philippines take hundreds of hostages, most Christian, priest says

Priest kidnapped by ISIS in Philippines, issues video pleading for his life and hundreds of others

Egypt’s Coptic Christians Declare: ‘We Take Pride to Die’ for Jesus Amid ISIS Terror Attacks

Egypt president approves contentious NGO law

Yemen facing ‘total collapse’ as fighting continues, UN warns

Police in Germany ‘foil asylum seeker suicide attack’

Extremist who killed 2 in Portland anti-Muslim attack says it was ‘patriotism’

North Korea releases dramatic images of ‘successful’ ballistic missile test

North Korea Says New Missile Landed Within 7 Meters of Target

North Korea warns of bigger ‘gift package’ to US after missile test

US Amb. to UN Haley: US, China debating when UN should act on N.Korea

Japan urges China to do more to pressure North Korea

‘Shocked’ South Korea leader Moon orders probe into U.S. THAAD additions

Successful U.S. missile interceptor test cast as warning to North Korea, Iran

U.S. Missile Defense Test Over Pacific Ocean a Key Milestone

Arctic air base gets $40 million upgrade in face of increasing missile threats

Oliver North: North Korean Missile Could ‘Shut Down Hawaii For Decades’

Moscow threat as Moldova expels five Russian diplomats

Russians discussed potentially ‘derogatory’ information about Trump and associates during campaign

Obama loyalist Brennan drove FBI to begin investigating Trump associates last summer

Trump’s personal attorney summoned in Russia probe

Trump’s communications director is out as larger shakeup looms

5 presidential scandals with Jews in the hot seat

White House mounts staunch defense of Kushner

Gregg Jarrett: Jared Kushner gets mugged by the media mob

Spicer: Trump frustrated by ‘fake news,’ relationship with Merkel ‘fairly unbelievable’

Trump to world leaders: Call me on my cellphone

Trump’s use of private cellphone raises security concerns

Trump responds to Merkel criticism with furious tweet saying Germany does not pay its way

German FM says US ‘older and bigger’ than current conflict

Comedian sorry for severed ‘Trump’ head clip

Confusion over laptop flight ban as US denies EU reports that proposals have been scrapped

Construction Just Began On The ELT, The World’s Largest Ever Telescope

NASA photos of Jupiter make for stunning animation

NASA To Send Spacecraft To The Sun: Here’s The Technology That Will Make Solar Probe Plus Mission Possible

Budget cuts could mean end for new earthquake warning system

5.7 magnitude earthquake hits near Bristol Island, South Sandwich Islands

5.3 magnitude earthquake hits near Puerto Madero, Mexico

5.3 magnitude earthquake hits near Kuripan, Indonesia

5.2 magnitude earthquake hits near Sola, Vanuatu

5.0 magnitude earthquake hits near Hirara, Japan

5.0 magnitude earthquake hits near Nadi, Fiji

Sheveluch volcano on Kamchatka, Russia erupts to 27,000ft

Popocateptl volcano in Mexico erupts to 19,000ft

Sakurajima volcano on Japan erupts to 15,000ft

Sinabung volcano in Indonesia erupts to 11,000ft

Moscow storm kills 16 and injures nearly 170

Massive mudslide rolls through Tajik Valley in Tajikistan

Mexican sewage becomes ‘chemical’ attack on U.S. Border Patrol agents

Blood-sucking vampire bats are terrorising Brazilians while they sleep, with one dead and dozens fighting rabies

Ukraine Doctor Pioneering ‘Three-Parent’ Babies

Plastic surgery clinics hacked; 25,000 photos, data online

Church of England to Vote on Offering ‘Baptism’ for Transgender People to Mark New Identity

Roger Oakland – Buried in Unmarked Graves

Apostle JB Makananisa Repeatedly Slaps Woman During Deliverance Session

Prophetess Mattie Nottage Casts Out Devils by Making Farting Noises

Further examination of NAR Kenotic Jesus and NAR Spirit of Sonship/Adoption

Lauran Breaks Free of Beth Moore: A Testimony

Steven Furtick Ad-libs “Worship” Song About Perry Noble

Jury selection continues Wednesday in Word of Faith Fellowship member’s trial

Planned Parenthood Annual Report: Abortion Biz Killed 328,348 Babies in Abortions in 2015

152,000 Jews and Christians Sign Covenant Affirming Eternal Undivided Jerusalem

Posted: 31 May 2017 07:03 AM PDT

On Thursday, the Jerusalem Covenant, a document affirming the eternal unity of Jerusalem as the chosen heart of Israel and the Jewish people, was presented…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Meet the man who was dead for 90 Minutes and Came Back!

Posted: 31 May 2017 06:45 AM PDT

A doctor was left stunned last year after a patient who plummeted down a staircase and “effectively died” for 90 minutes was “brought back from the dead”…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

DISTRESS OF NATIONS: 60 Days, 62 Dead in Desperate Venezuelan Uprising

Posted: 31 May 2017 06:41 AM PDT

In the second month of almost daily protests against Venezuela’s socialist government, thousands of opposition supporters marched towards the center of the capital Caracas Tuesday,…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Rabbi Claims Arch of Ba’al, With Shadowy Ties to New World Order, May Be Messiah’s End-of-Days Gateway

Posted: 31 May 2017 06:28 AM PDT

A pagan arch erected in Italy one month before the meeting of the world’s most powerful leaders in the same country may be the portal…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Cyclone “Mora” slams into Bangladesh: at least 6 killed, 20,000 homes damaged

Posted: 31 May 2017 06:20 AM PDT

Cyclone “Mora” has made landfall at 00:00 UTC (06:00 local time) on May 30, 2017, between the fishing port of Cox’s Bazar and the city…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

DAYS OF LOT: Nudity Has Become the Normal!

Posted: 31 May 2017 06:04 AM PDT

(Reported By Laila Mickelwait)  Paris Jackson poses topless on Instragram. Emily Ratajkowski appears in Sports Illustrated wearing only body paint. The 1980s hit television show…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

The Prophetic Significance of This Year’s Pentecost Celebration

Posted: 31 May 2017 05:57 AM PDT

(By Rabbi Charles Ian Luge) Last night, Tuesday, May 30 at 7 p.m., we celebrated Shavuot (Pentecost). We counted the omer and anxiously waited for…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

At least 80 killed & over 350 wounded in explosion in Afghan capital’s embassy district

Posted: 31 May 2017 05:43 AM PDT

At least 80 people have been killed and over 350 injured in a powerful car bomb blast that ripped through a diplomatic district in Afghanistan’s…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Faceless fish discovered in deep waters off Australia…

Posted: 31 May 2017 05:37 AM PDT

Faceless fish and other weird and wonderful creatures, many of them new species, have been hauled up from the deep waters off Australia during a…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

The Danger of Trees with No Fruit!

Posted: 30 May 2017 07:52 PM PDT

(By Ricky Scaparo) In this segment, we will show you how the world is looking for authentic and real fruit-bearing Christians to provide the answers…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Iranian-backed forces amassing near U.S. base in Syria…

Posted: 30 May 2017 06:34 PM PDT

Hundreds of Iranian-backed militiamen, fighting alongside government troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad, are amassing near a U.S.-training base located near the country’s border…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

One death and 40 others bitten by vampire bats attacking humans in Brazil

Posted: 30 May 2017 06:18 PM PDT

A man has died and more than 40 people are being treated for possible rabies exposure in northeast Brazil – after vampire bats started to…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Sea of Galilee’s Record-High Salinity Shows Biblical Lake in Danger of Becoming Desolate as Prophesied

Posted: 30 May 2017 06:04 PM PDT

The Regional Council of the Jordan Valley published its annual report with the disturbing finding that the salinity of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) is…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

iPhones could soon be fitted with artificial intelligence…

Posted: 30 May 2017 06:00 PM PDT

APPLE is reportedly planning to install an artificial intelligence chip in upcoming iPhones.  The tech giant is said to be working on a chip called…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

School Principal and Secretary Placed on Leave After Praying for Student Inside Public School Classroom

Posted: 30 May 2017 05:55 PM PDT

An elementary school principal and a secretary were placed on paid administrative leave after reportedly praying for a student inside of a classroom last Tuesday, according to at least two…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

‘Miracle Boy’ Survives after Nine Minutes Underwater

Posted: 30 May 2017 05:41 PM PDT

In what’s being called a “miracle,” a 4-year-old boy in England is expected to make a full recovery after falling into a swimming pool and…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Preparing for War? Russia to upgrade rocket artillery by 2020 as tensions with NATO rise

Posted: 30 May 2017 05:38 PM PDT

Russia has revealed it will upgrade its rocket artillery brigades by 2020 as tensions with NATO increase. The announcement was made by Russian Missile Troops…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

North Korea ‘developing Carrier Killers’ as US prepares to send Third warship to peninsula

Posted: 30 May 2017 05:34 PM PDT

North Korea is planning to develop a missile capable of downing an aircraft carrier as the US prepares to send it’s third warship to the…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Christians Arrested in India for Taking Kids to Bible Camp

Posted: 30 May 2017 05:25 PM PDT

Government authorities in India have arrested as many as 11 people for transporting dozens of Christian children to a Bible camp this month in the…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Arctic air base gets $40 million upgrade in face of increasing missile threats

Posted: 30 May 2017 05:18 PM PDT

For the first time ever, the Pentagon will try to shoot down an intercontinental-range missile Tuesday. The move is partly a response to North Korea,…

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UPDATE: US Successfully Shoots Down Mock Warhead Over Pacific

Posted: 30 May 2017 05:15 PM PDT

The Pentagon successfully tested a U.S. long-range interceptor missile over the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday in an exercise aimed at helping gauge American readiness to…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Many signs are indicating another tech bubble is coming soon!

Posted: 30 May 2017 11:10 AM PDT

Stocks limped across the finish line before the Memorial Day break, with technology stocks pushing the major indexes to new highs. The S&P 500 gained…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Researchers Test Self-Destructing Genetically Engineered Moths

Posted: 30 May 2017 11:06 AM PDT

Researchers in a New York cabbage patch are planning the first release on American soil of insects genetically engineered to die before they can reproduce….

Read more at End Time Headlines.

DEVELOPING: Preparations being made for test of ICBM intercept and ‘upgraded kill vehicle’

Posted: 30 May 2017 09:35 AM PDT

For the first time in nearly three years, the ground-based missile defense system will attempt to hit a mock target during a test involving a…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

New Antibiotic Re-Engineered to kill Resistant Bacteria

Posted: 30 May 2017 09:29 AM PDT

The frightening spread of antibiotic-resistant superbugs threatens to return medicine to the pre-antibiotic era, with the return of deadly infectious diseases long thought vanquished. Each…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Ungodly Counsel Corrupting Churches

Posted: 30 May 2017 09:24 AM PDT

(By Bert Farias) When the widow obeyed the word of Elisha to go around and collect empty vessels from her neighbors the oil was multiplied…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

PROPHECY WATCH: ‘The Temple Mount Is in Our Hands!’ Hope Reborn for the Third Temple

Posted: 30 May 2017 09:18 AM PDT

The capture of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount 50 years ago sent shockwaves throughout the Jewish world. It also raised hopes for the building of the third…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Robot ‘preacher’ can beam light from its hands and give automated blessings to worshippers

Posted: 30 May 2017 09:10 AM PDT

A robot ‘preacher’ that beams lights from its hands and can give automated blessings to the faithful has been launched in the town that gave…

Read more at End Time Headlines.


What is The Gospel?


Who Do You Think That I Am?

Selected Scriptures

Code: A335

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

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

Consider what the Bible says about Him:

JESUS IS GOD

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

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

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

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

JESUS IS HOLY

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

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

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

JESUS IS THE SAVIOR

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

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

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

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

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

JESUS IS THE ONLY ACCEPTABLE OBJECT OF SAVING FAITH

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

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

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

JESUS IS LORD

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

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

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

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

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

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

JESUS IS THE JUDGE

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

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

HOW WILL YOU RESPOND?

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

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


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Jesus Is Not Ashamed of You

Hebrews 2:11 contains one of the most surprising statements in the New Testament. It says Jesus is not ashamed to call us His siblings. Why does the Bible make this statement, and how can it possibly be true? Before we answer those questions, we need a basic understanding of shame.

Webster’s Dictionary defines shame as a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety. A second definition of shame is “a condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute.” In her mini-book, HELP! I Feel Ashamed, Sue Nicewander provides a biblically-based definition.

…shame is “a painful [guilty] feeling due to the consciousness of having done or experienced something disgraceful … the feeling of being caught doing something bad or … of being seen while sinning.” Dr. Ed Welch describes shame-consciousness as “being exposed, vulnerable, and in desperate need of covering or protection. Under the gaze of the holy God and other people.”

Before Adam and Eve sinned in the garden there was no shame. They were “naked and not ashamed.” There were no other humans to hide from and there was no reason to hide from God. They were in perfect fellowship with Him. But then they sinned…and shame entered their world. As descendants of the first man and woman, shame is part of our world.

Shame generally takes two forms.

Nicewander says shame often occurs in two forms.

  • “I am bad because of what I have done.” In this case, personal sin produces guilt, and out of guilt may come feelings that biblical counselors typically call “sin shame.”
  • “I am bad because of what other people have done.” The sins of other people hurt you in ways that may cause feelings that biblical counselors often call “provoked-shame.”

In other words, shame may follow our own sinful actions, from accepting blame or failure, or it may be provoked by the sins of others against us. Regardless, feeling ashamed often results in feeling inferior or unworthy—beneath others, never worthy of their love.

Shame has good purposes.

Three purposes quickly come to mind.

  • Feeling ashamed over our own sin can be used by the Holy Spirit to lead us to repentance and genuine change. This was true of King David. Listen to his confession in Psalm 51.
  • Shame may also deter us from sinning in a certain way again. In Romans 6:21, the apostle asks the believer, “But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.”
  • A desire to not be ashamed at the Judgment Seat of Christ is often a fuel to our perseverance and faithfulness. See, for example, 2 Timothy 2:15 and 1 Peter 4:16.

But shame may be used against us.

Shame is a gift from God, but it may also be a tool of the devil to defeat and cripple us, and a means for ill-willed people to manipulate us. Men and women who have experienced various forms of abuse usually experience this when they assume the guilt of those who abused them. They somehow believe their abuse was their fault and, therefore, carry at least some of the guilt. This is often untrue, but the power of shame still controls them. Another example is when you have been betrayed. Perhaps you dared to trust a friend or two with your secret thoughts or struggle, only to have them turn out to be a Judas or a gang of Pharisees who then used your transparency against you, to make you feel ashamed, to control you, to exalt themselves over you, to hurt you, or even destroy you, so that your shame would no longer be an embarrassment to them.

But all of this leads us to again ask, “Why does the Bible say that Jesus is not ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters?” If we are ashamed of our past actions or sins we are guilty of in our present, or carry the weight of the shame others have imposed upon us, then why would Jesus not also be ashamed of us?

In the same Hebrews passage, we are told that Jesus had to be made like us in every respect (flesh and blood) in order to make propitiation for our sins and to become a merciful and faithful high priest, one who understands our temptations. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Heb. 2:18). Let us for a moment consider the temptation to let shame control you, or your sins and failures define you. Does Jesus understand this temptation, and how does His work remove our shame?

How does Jesus deal with our shame?

The redeeming work of Jesus deals with our shame in three ways:

  1. Jesus died for the sins that we are guilty of and, therefore, has taken our shame away. Peter wrote: He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed (1 Peter 2:24). For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit (1 Peter 3:18). The Son of God paid the penalty we deserved for our sins.
  2. Jesus experienced the worst possible shame. Though completely sinless, He was treated as if He were the ultimate sinner. He was put to shame in our place. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah predicted the shaming of Jesus. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not (Isaiah 53:3). The author of Hebrews exhorts us later in his letter to keep our eyes focused on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb 12:2). Jesus despised the shame—OUR SHAME. He took our shame upon Himself, despised it, paid for it, endured it, and has taken it away!
  3. God continues to forgive us based upon the sufficiency of the death of His Son. The promise of God’s ongoing forgiveness of our sins because of Jesus is one we most likely turn to every day. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Does Jesus understand YOUR shame?

Yes, He does! Because of His mercy and grace, God accepts your heartfelt confession of sin, repentance, and faith in Jesus as your Sin-bearer and Shame-bearer, and welcomes you into His family—as an adopted son or daughter—and as a brother or sister of Jesus. And Jesus is not ashamed to call you His brother or sister.

Have you brought your sin and shame to Jesus? Have you been set free from its prison? If not, Jesus stands ready to welcome you with open arms if you will turn to Him today. And when you do, He will not be ashamed of you.

[This post is adapted from a recent sermon by the same title preached at Cornerstone Community Church in Mayfield Heights, Ohio.]

Source:

An Open Letter to Those Frustrated by Their Progress in Sanctification

Dear friend,We all love it when life leaps into forward gear and we make all kinds of progress. Problems just seem to fall away. Perhaps in your life you’ve had a season like that, a season when your life seemed to shine and flourish. Maybe it was when you first became a believer or during some period when you were very well nurtured by good community and wise input.Then there are those seasons where things go very slowly. You wonder, “Is this all there is? Why do I keep struggling with the same old things? I keep losing my temper, or feeling anxious, or being clumsy in relationships . . . ” What vision does God give us for what our lives are supposed to look like, especially when we’re dealing with the long, hard struggle part of being a Christian? Let me say two things.

First, often when we hear the words sanctification, growth, and transformation, we have an idealized image of what that might look like. Though each of us may picture slightly different things, I doubt for most of us that the image includes three quarters of the book of Psalms which portray life where faith and hope happen in the midst of honest struggles—hard struggle, a sense that “I need God to hear me.” Psalm 28, for example, says, “If you don’t hear me, God, I will die!” It is not unusual for life to be difficult. We bump up against things in the world around us that are intimidating or overwhelming or discouraging. We see things within ourselves that we wish would change, but we keep failing in some way. The Psalms are about that. They’re about struggle with hard things in our world and in ourselves. And the Psalms are a window into the heart of Jesus Christ himself. If sanctification means becoming like Christ, then the way we struggle is as much a part of our sanctification as some idealized image of what we hope that we would become. Struggling honestly, actually needing help, is what the Psalms are about.

The Lord is enough. You can go through hard things and not lose your faith.

Second, there are particular kinds of growth and strength that may be happening in our lives that we don’t even see. Jesus’s first four Beatitudes are about needing help: feeling your need, grieving the wrong in the world, submitting to God’s will, hungering for all wrongs to be made right. Living such weakness doesn’t necessarily feel like growth. And the second half of the Beatitudes can also happen in ways that you’re not always aware. The fifth Beatitude says that the merciful are blessed because they’ll receive mercy. In your life—in part because you struggle, in part because you know God’s mercies to you—your heart may be becoming more generous to other people. You have less of a sense of me, me, me, of my rights and prerogatives, what I want to accomplish, that I need to own this piece of turf, need to get credit. You have a growing sense that other people really matter. You can be gracious to them in their shortcomings and their heartaches. Are you gradually decentering off yourself?

And think about the sixth Beatitude, about the pure heart. That means that you go into conversations as less conniving, less fearful, less manipulative, less comparative, less performance oriented. You’re able to simply be truer to what it actually means to care for others. You look out for their interests as well as your own.

Or think about being a peacemaker, the seventh Beatitude. You are less prone to leap into conflict, less prone to be defensively self-righteous when someone criticizes you. You may be changing into a more gracious person, and others see it in you more than you see it in yourself.

And, finally, consider the final Beatitude, about persevering and having courage in the face of suffering and difficulty. You’re able—in a deep-down way—to say “It’s okay that life is a long, hard road.” You don’t have to always get your way. Not everybody has to agree with you. You aren’t living for your dreams and your bucket list. The Lord is enough. You can go through hard things and not lose your faith.

Now none of those things—becoming a more generous-hearted person, having more simplicity in the way you approach people, being the one seeking to solve conflict instead of instigate it, and having courage and perseverance—are splashy transformations. They’re just good, quiet, strong, steady fruits of the Lord working in our lives.

I do think that if you add these two things together—realism about the ongoing struggle that makes you actually need the Lord and then contentment with these quiet, unspectacular graces that are about living a human life that’s worth living—then sanctification can, in fact, go forward even when you’re going through a hard patch in life.

David


May 31, 2017: Verse of the day

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The Witnesses to the Incarnation

John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ ” For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. (1:15–16)

In keeping with his purpose in writing his gospel (20:31), John brought in other witnesses to the truth about the divine, preexistent, incarnate Word, the Lord Jesus Christ. He first called on John the Baptist, who also testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ ” John’s testimony will be related in more detail beginning in verse 19. Here the apostle John merely summarizes it. John the Baptist, of course, had died long before this gospel was written. But as noted in chapter 2 of this volume, there was still a John the Baptist cult in existence. So as he did in verse 8, the apostle notes John the Baptist’s inferiority to Christ—this time in the Baptist’s own words. In contrast to some of his followers, he understood clearly and accepted gladly his subordinate role.

That John cried out speaks of the bold, public nature of his witness to Jesus; he was “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight!’ ” (Matt. 3:3). He was the herald, proclaiming the arrival of the Messiah, and calling people to repent and prepare their hearts to receive Him. Acknowledging Jesus’ preeminence John said of Him, “He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.” Jesus, the Expected (lit., “coming”) One (Matt. 11:3; Luke 7:19–20; John 6:14) came after John in time; He was born six months later (Luke 1:26) and began His public ministry after John began his. Yet, as John acknowledged, Jesus had a higher rank than he did, for He existed before him. The reference here, as in verses 1 and 2, is to Jesus’ eternal preexistence (cf. 8:58).

Then John called on the testimony of believers, including himself and all who have received the fullness of blessing from the one who is “full of grace and truth” (v. 14). Because in Christ “all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col. 2:9), He provides for all His people’s needs (Rom. 5:2; Eph. 4:12–13; Col. 1:28; 2:10; 2 Peter 1:3). That abundant supply will never be exhausted or diminished; grace will continually follow grace in a limitless, never-ending flow (cf. 2 Cor. 12:9; Eph. 2:7).[1]


16 Following the reference to John the Baptist in v. 15, the evangelist resumes his line of thought from v. 14. The one and only Son is “full of grace” (v. 14), and out of his “fullness” they had all “received one blessing after another.” Not only had they received grace when they came to him in faith, but their experience of the goodness of God was one of continuous blessedness. The NIV rendering of charin anti charitos (“one blessing after another”; lit., “grace instead of grace”) makes clear the progressive blessings that come in the Christian life. Each experience of the grace of God is replaced by the next, like the manna that came fresh every morning. John’s point is that at the heart of new life in Christ is a constant supply of grace. It is interesting that John uses the term “grace” only here in the prologue (vv. 14, 16–17) and no place else. (Contrast the writings of Paul, who uses charis, GK 5921, over one hundred times in his letters.)[2]


1:16 All who believe on the Lord Jesus receive supplies of spiritual strength out of His fullness. His fullness is so great that He can provide for all Christians in all countries and in all ages. The expression grace for grace probably means “grace upon grace” or “abundant grace.” Here grace means God’s gracious favor which He showers on His beloved children.[3]


The Unique Christ

John 1:15–18

John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ ” From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.

In France every child who goes to Sunday school learns John 3:16, as children do the world over. He recites it like this: “Car Dieu a tant aimé le monde qu’il a donné son Fils unique.” Literally translated this means: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his unique Son.” Unique means being without a like or equal, single in kind or excellence, matchless. It is an important word, and it is particularly important at just this point in our study since it occurs twice in the space of five verses. In Greek the word is monogenes; the New International Version says “One and Only”; the French say unique. In each case, however, the same teaching is in view.

In verse 14 John speaks of having beheld Christ’s glory, “the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father.” In verse 18 we are told, “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” We see at once, then, that Jesus is unique because there is no one quite like him (in fact, with the exception of the Father himself, not at all like him) and because he can do for men what no one else can do.

Jesus is unique in every aspect of his being. He is unique in his person, birth, doctrine, works, miracles, death, resurrection, and future triumphs. In the verses that are included within these two uses of the word in John’s first chapter (vv. 15–18), four things are singled out particularly: (1) Jesus is unique in his origins; (2) he is unique as the channel of God’s blessings; (3) he is unique as the source of grace and truth; and (4) he is unique because he is the only one in whom you and I may see God. We need to look at each of these carefully.

Unique in His Origin

In the first place, Jesus Christ is unique in his origins, for John the Baptist, who is actually speaking these words, declares, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me’ ” (v. 15).

It is possible on a theoretical level at least that this verse could have three meanings. William Barclay points out that since Jesus was actually six months younger than John, the Baptist could be saying, “He who is my junior in age has been advanced before me.” John could also be saying, “I was in the field before Jesus, I occupied the center of the stage before he did; my hand was laid to the work before his was; but all that I was doing was to prepare the way for his coming; I was only the advance guard of the main force and the herald of the king.” John could have been saying either of those two things. But in actual fact it is highly unlikely that these were any more than fleeting thoughts in his mind. John the Baptist was impressed with the uniqueness of Christ’s person, and the phrase should therefore mean (as the evangelist intends it to mean) that Jesus was entirely without historical origins. He was preexistent. This is clearly the equivalent of declaring him to be God.

Unique in his origins! How exalted this makes the Lord Jesus! Donald Grey Barnhouse has written in The Cross through the Open Tomb: “The history of every other human being begins at birth: but the Lord Jesus Christ exists eternally as the Second Person of the Godhead. Before He was born at Bethlehem, He lived; He was one with the Father in essence and being. Before He came to earth as a baby, He walked among men and revealed Himself to them. The Old Testament, which was completed four centuries before His birth, contains many stories of His appearing among men before He came as babe, child, and man.” Abraham saw Christ in his day; for Jesus declared, “Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). He later added, “before Abraham was born, I am” (v. 58). Isaiah saw Jesus when he had his vision of the Lord high and lifted up (Isa. 6:1–3), for John refers to this vision, saying, “Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him” (John 12:41). There were others.

It is no wonder, therefore, that in almost every instance in which the writers of the New Testament refer in depth to Christ’s person they refer almost instinctively to his preexistence. The author of Hebrews begins by writing: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe” (Heb. 1:1–2). Paul in the Book of Philippians writes: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:5–8).

Some people consider Jesus Christ only a man, and indeed he is a man. Some point to him only as an example, and he is that also. But if that is all you can see in Jesus Christ, then your view of him is entirely misleading. For the first and most important thing to be said about him is that he is without any historical beginnings and that this is the equivalent of calling him God. Everything he did and said takes its meaning from this great truth and flows from it.

Source of All Blessings

The second point made in these verses is that Jesus is the unique channel of all God’s material and spiritual blessings. This is what is meant when we are told, “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another” (v. 16).

On one level this verse is a statement that all men have been recipients of God’s grace. This is “common grace,” the type of grace discussed previously. Everything truly good that comes into your life—health, prosperity, knowledge, friendships, good times, whatever it is—comes from God. This is true whether or not you recognize him as the source of such blessings.

In the Book of Hosea there is a story that illustrates this truth. Hosea was a preacher, and God had told Hosea to marry a woman who was to prove unfaithful to him. He was to do this as an illustration of the relationship between God and Israel because God had taken Israel to himself as a wife and she had proved unfaithful spiritually. The object and goal of the illustration was that Hosea was to remain faithful to her and love her, even after she had left him, because God remains faithful even when people turn from him to serve other gods.

The time came, some years after Hosea’s wife had left, that she fell into poverty and ended up living with a man who no longer had enough money to take care of her. At this point God said, “Hosea, I want you to go down to the marketplace and buy the things she needs, because that is the way I do with my people. They run away from me, and I pay the bills.” So we read in Hosea, “Their mother has been unfaithful and has conceived them in disgrace. She said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my food and my water, my wool and my linen, my oil and my drink.’ … She has not acknowledged that I was the one who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil, who lavished on her the silver and gold” (Hos. 2:5, 8). So it is! We run from God, but he pays the bills; he still takes care of us. He takes care of you. We need to learn that Jesus Christ is unique as the source of all material and spiritual blessings, even when we fail to acknowledge his goodness or thank him for them.

There is another sense in which Jesus is the source of all blessing, however. He himself is a blessing; and the true Christian—not the non-Christian—has an opportunity to be enriched by him personally. We are apt to tire of his presence because of the sin in us and to be lured by the pleasures of the world. The world does have pleasures. The trouble is simply that they do not satisfy us long or satisfy us completely. They are much like a Chinese dinner: you eat it, it tastes good, but an hour later you are hungry again. Jesus Christ is not like that. He said, “If you are thirsty, come to me and I will give you satisfying water. If you are hungry come to me; I am the bread of life. He who drinks of me and feeds on me will never hunger and never thirst.” Have you done that? Are you doing that today?

If you have once known the Lord Jesus Christ and have turned back to the world’s pleasure for a time, I guarantee that the world will prove increasingly insipid and empty to you. One hymnwriter knew this experience at one point in his life, and he has left us a poignant verse about it. He wrote:

How tedious and tasteless the hours

When Jesus no longer I see!

Sweet prospects, sweet birds, and sweet flowers,

Have all lost their sweetness for me!

Is that your experience? It need not be, for you can turn to Christ again and find him truly satisfying. Another hymn writer composed a verse which tells the other side of the story.

Hast thou heard Him, seen Him, known Him?

Is not thine a captured heart?

Chief among ten thousand own Him,

Joyful, choose the better part.

What has stript the seeming beauty

From the idols of the earth?

not a sense of right or duty,

But the sight of peerless worth.

Draw and win and fill completely,

Till the cup o’er flow the brim;

What have we to do with idols

Who have companied with Him?

Jesus! Unique in his origins, unique as the source of all material and spiritual blessings.

Knowledge of God

Finally, in verses 17 and 18 the apostle John records two other things about the uniqueness of Jesus. First, he says that Jesus is unique as the source of grace and truth. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (v. 17).

This verse suggests a contrast that gives the words “grace and truth” a slightly different meaning than they had three verses earlier. The contrast is between the law with all its regulations and the new era of salvation by grace through faith apart from the works of the law that has come with Jesus Christ. It is a great contrast. Under the law, God demands righteousness from people; under grace, he gives it to people. Under law, righteousness is based on Moses and good works; under grace, it is based on Christ and Christ’s character. Under law, blessings accompany obedience; under grace, God bestows his blessings as a free gift. The law is powerless to secure righteousness and life for a sinful race. Grace came in its fullness with Christ’s death and resurrection to make sinners righteous before God.

Then, in the last place, we are told that the Lord Jesus Christ is unique because he is the only One in whom you and I may see God. John puts it like this: “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known” (v. 18).

No one in the ancient world would have disagreed with the first part of that statement—“No one has ever seen God”—for, as William Barclay notes in his commentary, “In the ancient world men were fascinated and depressed and frustrated by what they regarded as the infinite distance and the utter unknowability of God. … Xenophanes had said, ‘Guesswork is over all.’ Plato had said, ‘Never man and God can meet.’ Celsus had laughed at the way that the Christians called God ‘Father,’ because ‘God is away beyond everything.’ At the best, Apuleius said, men could catch a glimpse of God as a lightning flash lights up a dark night—one split second of illumination, and then the dark.” Even the Jews would have thought this way, for they knew that God had spoken to Moses in the Old Testament, saying, “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live” (Exod. 33:20). There would have been no disagreement at all when John the Baptist declared that no one could see God.

Yet John did not stop with that statement. It is true that no man can see God and live, as God said to Moses; but it is also true that in Christ God came to men in a way that enabled men to know him. In Jesus Christ the character of God may be known. There is no true knowledge of God apart from him. Do you want to believe that God is loving? Good! But do not base your belief on some fantasy of your imagination. What could be less reliable than that? Instead, base it on the revelation of God’s love in Christ and at Calvary. Do you want to believe that God is powerful, able to bring a transformation in your life? If so, do not depend on your own wishful thinking. Look to Jesus Christ. He will reveal it; because the same One who died for your sin also rose again in power and now lives to apply that same death-conquering power to the lives of those who follow him. Are you searching for wisdom? Look to the One who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our “righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30).

Three Problems

What is your reaction to these things? Do you know the truth of them personally? One of the most memorable sermons that I have ever come across was preached by the late Emil Brunner at the Fraumünster Kirche in Zurich, Switzerland. It was based on the phrase “faith, hope, and love.” The points were these. Every man has a past, a present, and a future. Every man has a problem in his past, a problem in his present, and a problem in his future. The problem in our past is sin, but God has an answer to that problem. The answer is faith, faith in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The problem in our future is death, but God has an answer to that problem also. The answer to that problem is hope, hope in Christ’s return based on the fact of his historical resurrection and his promises. The problem in our present is hate, and God’s answer to that problem is love. It is the love of Christ lived out in the lives of those who trust him.

Brunner was entirely right. And he was right not only in highlighting the three great problems; he was right in pointing to the unique Christ as the answer. Has Christ become the answer to the problems in your life? He is the only One who will ever answer them completely.[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). John 1–11 (p. 44). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Mounce, R. H. (2007). John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 374). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1468). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Boice, J. M. (2005). The Gospel of John: an expositional commentary (pp. 97–102). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

May 31 – Making Worthless Things Valuable

“The names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax-gatherer; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him” (Matt. 10:2–4).

✧✧✧

In God’s hands you can be a precious and effective instrument.

The story is told of a great concert violinist who wanted to prove a point, so he rented a music hall and announced that he would play a concert on a $20,000 violin. On concert night the music hall was filled to capacity with music lovers anxious to hear such an expensive instrument played. The violinist stepped onto the stage, gave an exquisite performance, and received a thunderous standing ovation. When the applause subsided, he suddenly threw the violin to the ground, stomped it to pieces, and walked off the stage. The audience gasped, then sat in stunned silence.

Within seconds the stage manager approached the microphone and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, to put you at ease, the violin that was just destroyed was a $20 violin. The master will now return to play the remainder of his concert on the $20,000 instrument.” At the conclusion of his concert he received another standing ovation. Few people could tell the difference between the two violins. His point was obvious: it isn’t the violin that makes the music; it’s the violinist.

The disciples were like $20 violins that Jesus transformed into priceless instruments for His glory. I trust that you have been encouraged to see how God used them despite their weakness, and I pray that you have been challenged by their strengths. You may not be dynamic like Peter or zealous like James and Simon, but you can be faithful like Andrew and courageous like Thaddaeus. Remember, God will take the raw material of your life and will expose you to the experiences and teachings that will shape you into the servant He wants you to be.

Trust Him to complete what He has begun in you, and commit each day to the goal of becoming a more qualified and effective disciple.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer:  Make a list of the character traits you most admire in the disciples. Ask the Lord to increase those traits in your own life.

For Further Study: Read 1 Timothy 1:12–17, noting Paul’s perspective on his own calling.[1]


Twelve Disciples Called (10:1–4)

10:1 In the last verse of chapter 9, the Lord instructed His disciples to pray for more laborers. To make that request sincerely, believers must be willing to go themselves. So here we find the Lord calling His twelve disciples. He had previously chosen them, but now He calls them to a special evangelistic mission to the nation of Israel. With the call went authority to cast out unclean spirits and to heal all kinds of diseases. The uniqueness of Jesus is seen here. Other men had performed miracles, but no other man ever conferred the power on others.

10:2–4 The twelve apostles were:

  1. Simon, who is called Peter. Impetuous, generous-hearted, affectionate man that he was, he was a born leader.
  2. Andrew, his brother. He was introduced to Jesus by John the Baptist (John 1:36, 40), then brought his brother Peter to Him. He made it his business thereafter to bring men to Jesus.
  3. James, the son of Zebedee, who was later killed by Herod (Acts 12:2)—the first of the twelve to die as a martyr.
  4. John, his brother. Also a son of Zebedee, he was the disciple whom Jesus loved. We are indebted to him for the Fourth Gospel, three Epistles, and Revelation.
  5. Philip. A citizen of Bethsaida, he brought Nathanael to Jesus. He is not to be confused with Philip the Evangelist, in the book of Acts.
  6. Bartholomew. Believed to be the same as Nathanael, the Israelite in whom Jesus found no guile (John 1:47).
  7. Thomas, also called Didymus, meaning “twin.” Commonly known as “Doubting Thomas,” his doubts gave way to a magnificent confession of Christ (John 20:28).
  8. Matthew. The former tax-collector who wrote this Gospel.
  9. James, the son of Alphaeus. Little else is definitely known about him.
  10. Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus. He is also known as Judas the son of James (Luke 6:16). His only recorded utterance is found in John 14:22.
  11. Simon, the Canaanite, whom Luke calls the Zealot (6:15).
  12. Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of our Lord.

The disciples were probably in their twenties at this time. Taken from varied walks of life and probably young men of average ability, their true greatness lay in their association with Jesus.[2]


The Setting

10:1. And he called to himself his twelve disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every sickness and every infirmity. Matthew seems to take for granted that the readers of his Gospel already know that The Twelve, taken as a group, had been chosen earlier, though he himself does not record this call. According to Luke 6:12, 13, 20 this company of twelve had been called just previous to the preaching of the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Mark 3:13, 14). Now, perhaps somewhat later (during the same summer, namely, of the year a.d. 28?), Jesus sends these men out on a mission tour. They were to be his official ambassadors or “apostles,” clothed with authority to represent their Sender. That exactly twelve men, no more and no less, were chosen for this task must mean that the Lord designated them to be the nucleus of the new Israel, for the Israel of the old dispensation had been represented by the twelve patriarchs (Gen. 49:28).

Very interesting and instructive surely is the fact that the very men who had been urged to pray that the Lord of the harvest might thrust out laborers into his harvest (9:38) are now placed in the forefront of these laborers (cf. 18:18). They are, moreover, given authority over “unclean spirits” (cf. Rev. 6:13), probably designated by that name because not only are these spirits themselves filthy but among men they are also the instigators of filthy thoughts, words, and deeds.

Exactly what does Matthew mean when he says that Jesus gave to The Twelve “authority” [that is, power plus the right to exercise it] “over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every sickness and every infirmity”? Does he wish to say that by means of, and as a result of, casting out these demons the disciples acquired the authority to heal every sickness and every infirmity? If that is the sense it would almost seem as if every sickness and every infirmity is somehow caused by demons. Now in connection with 9:32 it has already been shown: a. that according to the Gospels in certain cases diseases were indeed associated with demon possession, but also b. that this was by no means always true. At times a physical affliction is ascribed to Satanic influence rather than specifically to demon-possession (Luke 13:16; cf. Job 2:7). Often neither Satan nor his underlings are even mentioned in connection with human illnesses. It is true that in a very general and indirect way every manifestation of human distress, whether physical or spiritual, can be ascribed to Satan, for had Adam as head of the race resisted the temptation these evils would not now be in evidence (Gen. 2:16, 17; 3:3, 6, 19; Rom. 5:17). All this hardly suffices to justify the conclusion: “Matt. 10:1 means a. that every sickness and every infirmity is directly caused by demons, and b. that the disciples by receiving authority to drive them out acquired the power to heal every disease.”

Grammatically it is entirely legitimate to interpret 10:1 differently, namely, that Jesus gave to The Twelve “authority over unclean spirits, so that these men were able and were instructed to cast them out, and he gave them authority to heal every sickness and every infirmity.” The shortened manner in which this is expressed in 10:1 may be considered one of the many instances of abbreviated discourse.

The similarity of 10:1 to 4:23 and 9:35 shows that in faithfully carrying out their assignment The Twelve are truly representing their Master, for they are doing what he himself is doing and what they have been ordered to do. In the same manner Jesus himself represents the Father (John 5:19).

  1. Now the names of the twelve apostles are as follows:

first, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and

James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother;

  1. Philip and Bartholomew;

Thomas and Matthew the tax collector;

James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;

  1. Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

In the New Testament the names of The Twelve are listed four times (Matt. 10:2–4; Mark 3:16–19; Luke 6:14–16; Acts 1:13, 26). Acts 1:15–26 records the manner in which Judas Iscariot was replaced by Matthias. As to the Gospel lists, each begins with Peter (so does Acts) and ends with Judas Iscariot. Even the arrangement within the four references shows but little variation. When theoretically the twelve names are viewed in each case as consisting of three groups of four, the following result is obtained:

In Matthew’s summary Andrew’s name is listed immediately after that of his brother Peter; the brothers James and John are mentioned next. This completes the first group of four. These four may well have been Christ’s first disciples (see N.T.C. on John 1:35–42; and see above on Matt. 4:18–22). The second group of four begins with Philip and Bartholomew (=Nathanael), called to be Christ’s disciples immediately after the first group of four (John 1:43–51); and concludes with Thomas and Matthew. In the final group the first three names are those of “obscure” disciples, that is, men about whom little (Thaddaeus) or next to nothing (James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Cananaean) is known; the last name is that of the traitor Judas. Does this obscurity and (in one case) perversity account for the fact that these four are mentioned last? Or are they mentioned last because they were the last to be called? We do not know.

In Mark’s list the sequence for the first group of four is the same as in Matthew’s with the exception that Andrew is now placed last. In Mark’s second four we find “Matthew and Thomas” instead of “Thomas and Matthew.” With respect to his last four, Matthew’s and Mark’s lists are identical.

Luke’s Gospel list follows Matthew’s for the first four names, Mark’s for the second four. With respect to the last four names Luke goes his own way, reversing the order of the two middle names as listed in both Matthew and Mark. Besides, he substitutes the name “Judas the son [or: the brother] of James” for Thaddaeus, undoubtedly having in mind one and the same person. Hence, here Luke has the sequence: “James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the one called the Zealot, and Judas the son [or: the brother] of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.”

Luke’s list in the book of Acts has the sequence “Peter and John and James and Andrew,” for the first four; “Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew,” for the second four; and ends with “James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James.” The name of Matthias is added in verse 26.

Therefore, not only do the four lists contain the same twelve names (with the exception already indicated: in Acts 1 Matthias instead of Judas Iscariot); they even (again, with exception as noted) have the same names in each group of four.

According to Mark 6:7 Jesus sent out the twelve “two by two.” In Matthew, as the “and” within each pair and the omission of “and” between each pair indicates, the grouping is in pairs: “Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew,” etc. Exception: “and” also occurs between the first two pairs, perhaps because these are two sets of brothers. The possibility that on the journey Philip and Bartholomew actually traveled together, and so also Thomas and Matthew, Peter and Andrew, etc., must be allowed. Yet, there can be no absolute certainty about this, all the less so because the grouping varies somewhat in the four lists, as has been indicated. At any rate the old rhyme makes it easy to remember the names, and also reminds one of the fact that the men were actually sent out in pairs.

Peter and Andrew, James and John,

Philip and Bartholomew,

Matthew next and Thomas too

[or: Thomas next and Matthew too],

James the Less and Judas the Greater,

Simon the Zealot and Judas the Traitor.

As to the individuals that composed this group of twelve, no one is mentioned more often than colorful, impetuous Peter. His original name was Simon (or Simeon). He was the son of Jonas (or John). By trade he was a fisherman, with his brother Andrew dwelling first in Bethsaida, afterward in Capernaum. Jesus, by whose grace and influence he was to be gradually transformed from a rather unstable person to a faithful, dependable witness, prophetically changed his name from Simon to Cephas (Aramaic), the same as Peter (Greek: Petros), meaning rock. For a description of Peter’s character and personality see especially on 4:18–22; 26:58, 69–75; and N.T.C. on John 13:6–9; 18:15–18, 25–27; ch. 21. Two New Testament books are by tradition credited to Peter, namely, the epistles called I and II Peter. As was shown earlier (see pp. 41, 44, 53) the Gospel writer Mark has not unjustly been called “Peter’s interpreter.” Here in Matt. 10:2 to the name of this disciple, who is variously called Simon, Peter, Simon Peter, and Cephas, is prefixed the word “first.” He was indeed the leader of the group. In this connection see on 16:16–19. It is hard to overestimate Peter’s meaning for the history of the early church.

It was Andrew, also a fisherman, who brought his brother Peter to Jesus (see N.T.C. on John 1:41, 42). For other references to Andrew see above (on 4:18–22); also study Mark 1:16, 29; 13:3; John 6:8, 9; 12:22. See also below under Philip.

James and John, too, were brothers, sons of Zebedee. Matthew mentions these two fishermen not only here and in 4:21, 22 (see on that passage), but also later on (17:1; and cf. 20:20, 21). There are also several references to them in the other Gospels. Because of their fiery nature Jesus called James and John “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17; cf. Luke 9:54–56). James was the first of the apostles to wear the martyr’s crown (Acts 12:2). While he was the first to arrive in heaven, his brother John was in all probability the last to remain on earth. On the life and character of John, considered by many (I believe correctly) as being “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20) see N.T.C. on the Gospel according to John, Vol. I, pp. 18–21. Five New Testament books have by tradition been assigned to John: his Gospel, three epistles (I, II, and III John), and the book of Revelation.

Philip was at least for a while a fellow townsman of Peter and Andrew, that is, he too was from Bethsaida. Having himself responded to the call of Jesus, he found Nathanael, and said to him, “The one about whom Moses wrote in the law and about whom the prophets wrote, we have found, Jesus, son of Joseph, the one from Nazareth” (John 1:45). When Jesus was about to feed the five thousand he asked Philip, “How are we to buy bread-cakes that these (people) may eat?” Philip answered, “Bread-cakes for two hundred denarii would not be sufficient for them so that each might get a little something” (John 6:5, 7). Philip apparently forgot that the power of Jesus surpassed any possibility of calculation. To deduce from this incident the conclusion that Philip was a coldly-calculating type of person, more so than the other apostles, would be basing too much on too little. In the Gospels Philip generally appears in a rather favorable light. Thus, when the Greeks approached him with the request, “Sir, we would see Jesus,” he went and told Andrew, and these two, Andrew and Philip, brought the enquirers to Jesus (John 12:21, 22). It must be admitted that Philip did not always immediately understand the meaning of Christ’s profound utterances—did the others?—but to his credit it must be said that with perfect candor he would reveal his ignorance and ask for further information, as is also clear from John 14:8, “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be content.” He received the beautiful and comforting answer, “… He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

Bartholomew (meaning: son of Tolmai) is clearly the Nathanael of John’s Gospel (1:45–49; 21:2). It was he who said to Philip, “Out of Nazareth can any good come?” Philip answered, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him he said, “Look, truly an Israelite in whom deceit does not exist.” This disciple-apostle was one of the seven persons to whom the resurrected Christ appeared at the Sea of Tiberias. Of the other six only Simon Peter, Thomas, and the sons of Zebedee are mentioned.

The references to Thomas combine in indicating that despondency and devotion marked this man. He was ever afraid that he might lose his beloved Master. He expected evil, and it was hard for him to believe good tidings when they were brought to him. Yet when the risen Savior in all his tender, condescending love revealed himself to him it was he who exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” For more information on Thomas see N.T.C. on John 11:16; 14:5; 20:24–28; 21:2.

Matthew has already been discussed in some detail (see on 9:9).

About James, the son of Alphaeus, by Mark (15:40) called “James the Less,” which by some is interpreted as meaning “James the younger,” but by others as “James small in stature,” we have no further positive information. It is probable, however, that he was the same disciple who is referred to in Matt. 27:56; Mark 16:1; and Luke 24:10. If this be correct, his mother’s name was Mary, one of the women who accompanied Jesus and stood near the cross. See N.T.C. on John 19:25. It has already been shown that the Alphaeus who was the father of Matthew should probably not be identified with Alphaeus the father of James the Less. See above, footnote 113 on p. 95.

Thaddaeus (called Lebbaeus in certain manuscripts of Matt. 10:3 and Mark 3:18) is in all probability the “Judas not Iscariot” of John 14:22 (see on that passage); cf. Acts 1:13. From what is said about him in John 14 it would seem that he wanted Jesus to show himself to the world, probably meaning: to get into the limelight.

The second Simon is called the Cananaean, the latter being an Aramaic surname meaning enthusiast or zealot. In fact Luke calls him “Simon the Zealot” (Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13). In all probability this name is here given him because formerly he had belonged to the party of the Zealots, which party in its hatred for the foreign ruler, who demanded tribute, did not shrink from fomenting rebellion against the Roman government. See Josephus Jewish War II.117, 118; Antiquities XVIII.1–10, 23. Cf. Acts 5:37.

Finally, there was Judas Iscariot, generally interpreted as meaning “Judas the man from Kerioth,” a place in southern Judea. The Gospels refer to him again and again (Matt. 26:14, 25, 47; 27:3; Mark 14:10, 43; Luke 22:3, 47, 48; John 6:71; 12:4; 13:2, 26, 29; 18:2–5). He is at times described as “Judas who betrayed him,” “Judas one of the twelve,” “the betrayer,” “Judas the son of Simon Iscariot,” “Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son,” or simply “Judas.” It is probably useless to speculate about the reasons which induced Jesus to select this man as one of his disciples. The basic answer may well be embedded in such passages as Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23; cf. 4:28. This man, though thoroughly responsible for his own wicked deeds, was an instrument of the devil (John 6:70, 71). While other people, when they felt that they could no longer agree with or even tolerate Christ’s teachings, would simply disassociate themselves from him (John 6:66), Judas remained, as if he were in full accord with him. Being a very selfish person he was unable—or shall we say “unwilling”?—to understand the unselfish and beautiful deed of Mary of Bethany, who anointed Jesus (John 12:1 ff.). He was unable and unwilling to see that the native language of love is lavishness. It was the devil who instigated Judas to betray Jesus, that is, to deliver him into the hands of the enemy. He was a thief; yet it was he who had been entrusted with the treasuryship of the little company, with the predictable result (John 12:6). When, in connection with the institution of the Lord’s Supper, the dramatic moment arrived—forever commemorated in Scripture (Matt. 26:20–25; John 13:21–30) and emblazoned in art (Leonardo da Vinci, etc.)—in which Jesus startled The Twelve by saying, “One of you will betray me,” Judas, though having already received from the chief priests the thirty pieces of silver as a reward for his promised deed (Matt. 26:14–16), had the incredible audacity to say, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Judas served as guide for the detachment of soldiers and the posse of temple police that arrested Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. It was by means of perfidiously kissing his Master, as if he were still a loyal disciple, that this traitor pointed out Jesus to those who had come to seize him (Matt. 26:49, 50; Luke 22:47, 48). As to the manner of Judas’ self-inflicted demise, see on Matt. 27:3–5; cf. Acts 1:18. What caused this privileged disciple to become Christ’s betrayer? Was it injured pride, disappointed ambition, deeply intrenched greed, fear of being put out of the synagogue (John 9:22)? No doubt all of these were involved, but could not the most basic reason have been this, that between the utterly selfish heart of Judas and the infinitely unselfish and outgoing heart of Jesus there was a chasm so immense that either Judas must implore the Lord to bestow upon him the grace of regeneration and complete renewal, a request which the traitor wickedly refused to make, or else he must offer his help to get rid of Jesus? One thing is certain: The shocking tragedy of Judas’ life is proof not of Christ’s impotence but of the traitor’s impenitence! Woe to that man!

What points up the greatness of Jesus is that he took such men as these, and welded them into an amazingly influential community that would prove to be not only a worthy link with Israel’s past but also a solid foundation for the church’s future. Yes, he accomplished this multiple miracle with such men as these, with all their faults and foibles, as described on pp. 246, 247. Even when we leave out Judas Iscariot and concentrate only on the others, we cannot fail to be impressed with the majesty of the Savior, whose drawing power, incomparable wisdom, and matchless love were so astounding that he was able to gather round himself and to unite into one family men of entirely different, at times even opposite, backgrounds and temperaments. Included in this little band was Peter the optimist (Matt. 14:28; 26:33, 35), but also Thomas the pessimist (John 11:16; 20:24, 25); Simon the one-time Zealot, hating taxes and eager to overthrow the Roman government, but also Matthew, who had voluntarily offered his tax collecting services to that same Roman government; Peter, John, and Matthew, destined to become renowned through their writings, but also James the Less, who remains obscure but must have fulfilled his mission.

Jesus drew them to himself with the cords of his tender, never-failing compassion. He loved them to the uttermost (John 13:1), and in the night before he was betrayed and crucified commended them to his Father, saying:

“I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them to me, and they have kept thy word.… Holy Father, keep them in thy name which thou hast given me, in order that they may be one, even as we are one.… I do not make request that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Consecrate them in the truth; thy word is truth. Just as thou didst send me into the world, so have I also sent them into the world. And for thy sake I consecrate myself, in order that they also may be truly consecrated” (John 17:6–19, in part).[3]


Commissioning the Twelve (10:1–4)

Commentary

1 He whose word (chs. 5–7) and deed (chs. 8–9) were characterized by authority now delegates something of that authority to twelve men. This is the first time Matthew has explicitly mentioned the Twelve (cf. v. 2; 11:1; 20:17; 26:14, 20, 47), who are introduced a little earlier in Mark (3:16–19). This commission appears to be the culmination of several previous steps (Jn 1:35–51; see comments at 4:18–22). Indeed, Matthew’s language suggests that the Twelve became a recognized group somewhat earlier. At the same time, this commission was a stage in the training and preparation of those who, after Pentecost, would lead the earliest thrust of the fledgling church. Twelve were chosen, probably on an analogy to the twelve tribes of Israel (cf. the council of twelve at Qumran, 1QS 8:1 ff.), and they point to the eschatological renewal of the people of God (see comments at 19:28–30).

The authority the Twelve received enabled them to heal and drive out “evil [akathartos, lit., ‘unclean,’ GK 176] spirits”—spirits in rebellion against God, hostile to man, and capable of inflicting mental, moral, and physical harm, directly or indirectly. This is the first time in Matthew that demons are so described, and only again at 12:43 (but see comments at 8:16). “Every kind of disease and sickness” is exactly the expression in 4:23; 9:35. The authority granted the Twelve is in sharp contrast to the charismatic “gifts [plural] of healing” at Corinth (1 Co 12:9, 28), which apparently were individually more restricted in what diseases each could cure.

2–4 For the first and only time in Matthew, the Twelve are called “apostles.” Apostolos (“apostle,” GK 693), cognate with apostellō (“send,” GK 690), is not a technical term in the background literature. This largely accounts for the fact that as used in NT documents it has narrower and wider meanings (cf. NIDNTT, 1:126–37). Luke 6:13 explicitly affirms that Jesus himself called the Twelve “apostles”; certainly Luke shows more interest in this question than the other three, partly in preparation for his work on the Acts of the Apostles. But in the NT, the term can mean merely “messenger” (Jn 13:16) or refer to Jesus (“the apostle and high priest whom we confess,” Heb 3:1) or elsewhere (esp. in Paul) denote “missionaries” or “representatives”—i.e., a group larger than the Twelve and Paul (Ro 16:7; 2 Co 8:23). Nevertheless, the most natural reading of 1 Corinthians 9:1–5; 15:7; Galatians 1:17, 19 et al. is that even Paul could use the term in a narrow sense to refer to the Twelve plus himself (by special dispensation, 1 Co 15:8–10).

Lists of the Twelve are found here and in three other places in the NT:

Matthew 10:2–4

 

Mark 3:16–19

 

Luke 6:13–16

 

Acts 1:13

 

1.

 

Simon Peter

 

Simon Peter

 

Simon Peter

 

Peter

 

2.

 

Andrew

 

James

 

Andrew

 

John

 

3.

 

James

 

John

 

James

 

James

 

4.

 

John

 

Andrew

 

John

 

Andrew

 

5.

 

Philip

 

Philip

 

Philip

 

Philip

 

6.

 

Bartholomew

 

Bartholomew

 

Bartholomew

 

Thomas

 

7.

 

Thomas

 

Matthew

 

Matthew

 

Bartholomew

 

8.

 

Matthew

 

Thomas

 

Thomas

 

Matthew

 

9.

 

James son of Alphaeus

 

James son of Alphaeus

 

James son of Alphaeus

 

James son of Alphaeus

 

10.

 

Thaddaeus

 

Thaddaeus

 

Simon the Zealot

 

Simon the Zealot

 

11.

 

Simon the Cananaean (NRSV)

 

Simon the Cananaean (NRSV)

 

Judas brother of (or son of) James

 

Judas brother of (or son of) James

 

12.

 

Judas Iscariot

 

Judas Iscariot

 

Judas Iscariot

 

[vacant]

 

Many significant things arise from comparing these lists.

  1. Peter is always first, Judas Iscariot always last. Matthew uses “first” in connection with Peter. The word cannot mean he was the first convert (Andrew or perhaps John was) and probably does not simply mean “first on the list,” which would be a trifling comment (cf. 1 Co 12:28). More likely it means primus inter pares (“first among equals”; see comments at 16:13–20).
  2. The first four names of all four lists are those of two pairs of brothers whose call is mentioned first (cf. 4:18–22).
  3. In each list, there are three groups of four, each group headed by Peter, Philip (not to be confused with the evangelist), and James son of Alphaeus respectively. But within each group the order varies (even from Luke to Acts!) except that Judas is always last. This suggests, if it does not prove, that the Twelve were organizationally divided into smaller groups, each with a leader.
  4. The commission in Mark 6:7 sent the men out two by two; perhaps this accounts for the pairing in the Greek text of Matthew 10:2–4.
  5. Some variations in order can be accounted for with a high degree of probability. For the first four names, Mark lists Peter, James, John, and appends Andrew, doubtless because the first three were an inner core privileged to witness the raising of Jairus’s daughter and the transfiguration and invited to be close to Jesus in his Gethsemane agony. Matthew preserves the order suggested by sibling relationships. He not only puts himself last in his group but mentions his less-than-savory past. Is this a sign of Christian humility?
  6. Apparently Simon the Cananaean (Matthew, Mark) is the same person as Simon the Zealot (Luke, Acts). If so, then apparently Thaddaeus is another name for Judas the brother of (or son of) James (see comments below).

Not much is known concerning most of these men (see Reflections below). For interesting but mostly incredible legends about them, see Hennecke (New Testament Apocrypha, 2:167–531).

Notes

1 The construction ὥστε (hōste, “so that”) plus an infinitive to indicate purpose is extraordinary (cf. BDF, para. 391 [3]; Zerwick, Biblical Greek, para. 352) but cannot easily be taken any other way.

Reflections

Simon Peter. Simon is probably a contraction of Simeon (cf. Ge 29:33). Natives of Bethsaida on Galilee (Jn 1:44), he and his brother Andrew were fishermen (Mt 4:18–20) and possibly disciples of John the Baptist before they became disciples of Jesus (Jn 1:35–42). Jesus gave Simon the name Cephas (in Aram.; “Peter” in Gk. [Jn 1:42]; see comments at 4:18). Impulsive and ardent, Peter’s great strengths were his great weaknesses. NT evidence about him is abundant. Tracing Peter’s movements after the Jerusalem Council (Ac 15) is very difficult.

Andrew. Peter’s brother is not nearly so prominent in the NT. He appears again only in Mark 13:3; John 1:35–44; 6:8; 12:22, and in late and unreliable traditions. The Johannine evidence shows him to have been quietly committed to bringing others to Jesus.

James and John. James was probably the older (he almost always appears first). But as he became the first apostolic martyr (Ac 12:2), he never achieved his brother’s prominence. The brothers were sons of Zebedee the fisherman, whose business was successful enough to employ others (Mk 1:20) while his wife was able to support Jesus’ ministry (Mt 27:55–56). His wealth may help account for the family’s link with the house of the high priest (Jn 18:15–16), as well as for the fact that he alone of the Twelve stood by the cross. The brothers’ mother was probably Salome (cf. Mt 27:56; Mk 15:40; 16:1), and her motives were not unmixed (see comments at 20:20–21). Perhaps the sons inherited something of her aggressive nature; whatever its source, the nickname “sons of thunder” (Mk 3:17; cf. also Mk 9:38–41, Lk 9:54–56) reveals something of their temperament. John may have been a disciple of John the Baptist (Jn 1:35–41). Of James we know nothing until Matthew 4:21–22. John was undoubtedly a special friend of Peter (Lk 22:8; Jn 18:15; 20:2–8; Ac 3:1–4:21; 8:14; Gal 2:9). Reasonably reliable tradition places him after the fall of Jerusalem in Ephesus, where he ministered long and usefully into old age, taking a hand in the nurture of leaders like Polycarp, Papias, and Ignatius. Broadus’s summary does not seem too fanciful: “[The] vaulting ambition which once aspired to be next to royalty in a worldly kingdom [Mt 20:20–23] now seeks to overcome the world, to bear testimony to the truth, to purify the churches, and glorify God.”

Philip. Like Peter and Andrew, Philip’s home was Bethsaida (Jn 1:44). He too left the Baptist to follow Jesus. For incidents about him, see John 6:5–7; 12:21–22; 14:8–14. In the lists he invariably appears first in the second group of four. Polycrates, a second-century bishop, says Philip ministered in the Roman province of Asia and was buried at Hierapolis.

Bartholomew. The name means “son of Tolmai” or “son of Tholami” (cf. Jos 15:14 LXX) or “son of Tholomaeus” (cf. Josephus, Ant. 20.5 [1.1]). Many have identified him with Nathanael on the grounds that (1) the latter is apparently associated with the Twelve (Jn 21:2; cf. 1:43–51), (2) Philip brought Nathanael to Jesus (Jn 1:43–46), and (3) Philip and Bartholomew are always associated in the lists of apostles. The evidence is not strong, but if it is solid, we also know he came from Cana (Jn 21:2). He is remembered for Jesus’ tribute to him (Jn 1:47).

Thomas. Also named “Didymus” (Jn 11:16; 21:2), which in Aramaic means “Twin,” Thomas appears in gospel narratives only in John 11:16; 14:5; 20:24–29. Known for his doubt, he should also be known for his courage (Jn 11:16) and his profound confession (Jn 20:28). Some traditions claim he went to India as a missionary and was martyred there; others place his later ministry in Persia.

Matthew. See comments at 9:9; Introduction, section 5.

James son of Alphaeus. The extra phrase distinguishes him from James son of Zebedee. If we assume (and this is highly likely) that this James is not the same as “James the brother” of Jesus (see comments at 13:55), we know almost nothing about him. Assuming Matthew = Levi (see comments at 9:9), Matthew’s father was also called Alphaeus (Mk 2:14); and if this is the same Alphaeus, then James and Matthew are another pair of brothers among the Twelve. Some have argued that Alphaeus is an alternative form of Cleophas (Clopas), which would mean that “James son of Alphaeus” is the same person as “James the younger” (Mk 15:40) and that his mother’s name was Mary (Mt 27:56; Mk 15:40; 16:1; Jn 19:25). But such connections are by no means certain.

Thaddaeus. The textual variants are difficult. The longer ones (e.g., KJV, “Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus”) are almost certainly conflations. “Thaddaeus” has the support of early representatives from Alexandrian, Western, and Caesarean witnesses (cf. Metzger, Textual Commentary, 26). Through elimination he appears to be identified with (lit.) “Judas of James”—which could mean either “Judas son of James” or “Judas brother of James.” The former is perhaps the more normal meaning; but the author of the epistle of Jude designates himself as “Jude [Gk. Ioudas], … a brother of James” (Jude 1, where adelphos [“brother”] is actually used). If Jude is the apostolic “Judas of James,” then the meaning of the latter expression is fixed. On the other hand, if canonical Jude is the half brother of Jesus and full brother of Jesus’ half brother James (see comments at 13:55), then “Judas of James” most likely means “Judas son of James.” “Thaddaeus” comes from a root roughly signifying “the beloved.” Perhaps this apostle was called “Judas the beloved” = “Judas Thaddaeus,” and “Thaddaeus” was progressively used to distinguish him from the other Judas in the apostolic band. Only John 14:22 provides us with information about him. Later traditions are worthless.

Simon the Zealot. Matthew and Mark have “Simon the Cananaean” (NRSV; Kananaios, GK 2831; not “Canaanite,” which would suggest a pagan Gentile; cf. the different Gk. word in 15:22: Chananaios). “Cananaean” (qanʾân) is the Aramaic form of “Zealot” specified in Luke—Acts. The Zealots were nationalists, strong upholders of Jewish traditions and religion. Some decades later, they became a principal cause of the Jewish War in which Rome sacked Jerusalem. The Zealots were probably not so influential in Jesus’ time. The nickname may reveal Simon’s past political and religious associations; it also distinguishes him from Simon Peter.

Judas Iscariot. Judas’s father is called “Simon Iscariot” in John 6:71; 13:26. Scholarly interest has spent enormous energy and much ingenuity on the name “Iscariot.” Explanations include (1) “man of Kerioth” (there are two eligible villages of that name [cf. ZPEB, 3:785; IDB, 2:830]); (2) transliteration of Latin sicarius, used to refer to a Zealot-like movement; (3) “man of Jericho,” an explanation depending on a Greek corruption; (4) a transliteration of the Aramaic eqāryaʿ (“falsehood,” “betrayal”; cf. C. C. Torrey, “The Name Iscariot,” HTR 36 [1943]: 51–62), which could therefore become a nickname for Judas only after his ignominy and not at this point in his life; cf. S. Morschauser, “A Note on Iskariot: ‘The Pariah,’ ” Journal of Higher Criticism 10 (2003): 66–74; (5) “Judas the dyer,” reflecting his occupation (cf. A. Ehrman, “Judas Iscariot and Abba Saqqara,” JBL 97 [1978]: 572–73; Y. Arbeitman, “The Suffix of Iscariot,” JBL 99 [1980]: 122–24); (6) as an adaptation of the last, “Judas the redhead” (Albright and Mann). The first and fifth seem most likely; the second is perhaps most popular. Judas was treasurer for the Twelve but not an honest one (Jn 12:6, 13:29; see comments at 26:14–16; 27:3–10). Matthew and Mark add the damning indictment—“who betrayed him.” Luke 6:16 labels him a traitor.[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 164). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1238). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Vol. 9, pp. 449–456). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 275–280). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

MAY 31 – THINK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AS A MORAL FLAME

For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace: …But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you….

ROMANS 8:6, 9

One of the most telling blows which the enemy ever struck at the life of the Church was to create in her a groundless fear of the Holy Spirit! He has been and is so widely misunderstood that the very mention of His Name in some circles is enough to frighten many people into resistance.

Perhaps we may help by examining that fire which is the symbol of the Spirit’s Person and Presence.

The Holy Spirit is first of all a moral flame. It is not an accident of language that He is called the HOLY Spirit, for whatever else the word holy may mean it does undoubtedly carry with it the idea of moral purity. And the Spirit, being God, must be absolutely and infinitely pure!

It follows then that whoever would be filled and indwelt by the Spirit should first judge his life for any hidden iniquities; he should courageously expel from his heart everything which is out of accord with the character of God as revealed by the holy Scriptures.

At the base of all true Christian experience must lie a sound and sane morality. No joys are valid, no delights legitimate where sin is allowed to live in life or conduct. No transgression of pure righteousness dare excuse itself on the ground of superior religious experience.

“Be ye holy” is a serious commandment from the Lord of the whole earth. The true Christian ideal is not to be happy but to be holy. The holy heart alone can be the habitation of the Holy Spirit![1]


The Holy Spirit Changes Our Nature

For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwell-s you. (8:5–11)

In verse 4 Paul speaks of the believer’s behavior, contending that he does “not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” As in verses 2 and 3, the conjunction for in verse 5 carries the meaning of because. The point is that a believer does not behave according to the flesh because his new heart and mind are no longer centered on the things of the flesh and ruled by sin.

In God’s eyes, there are only two kinds of people in the world, those who do not belong to Him and those who do. Put another way, there are only those who are according to the flesh and those who are according to the Spirit. As far as spiritual life is concerned, God takes no consideration of gender, age, education, talent, class, race, or any other human distinctions (Gal. 3:28). He differentiates people solely on the basis of their relationship to Him, and the difference is absolute.

Obviously there are degrees in both categories. Some unsaved people exhibit high moral behavior, and, on the other hand, many saints do not mind the things of God as obediently as they should. But every human being is completely in one spiritual state of being or the other; he either belongs to God or he does not. Just as a person cannot be partly dead and partly alive physically, neither can he be partly dead and partly alive spiritually. There is no middle ground. A person is either forgiven and in the kingdom of God or unforgiven and in the kingdom of this world. He is either a child of God or a child of Satan.

In this context, the phrase according to refers to basic spiritual nature. The Greek could be translated literally as those being according to, indicating a persons fundamental essence, bent, or disposition. Those who are according to the flesh are the unsaved, the unforgiven, the unredeemed, the unregenerate. Those who are according to the Spirit are the saved, the forgiven, the redeemed, the regenerated children of God. As the apostle points out a few verses later, the unsaved not only are according to the flesh but are in the flesh and are not indwelt by the Holy Spirit, The saved, on the other hand, not only are according to the Spirit but are in the Spirit and indwelt by Him (v. 9). Here in verse 5 Paul is speaking of the determinant spiritual pattern of a persons life, whereas in verses 8–9 he is speaking of the spiritual sphere of a person’s life.

Phroneō, the verb behind set their minds, refers to the basic orientation, bent, and thought patterns of the mind, rather than to the mind or intellect itself (Greek nous). It includes a person’s affections and will as well as his reasoning. Paul uses the same verb in Philippians, where he admonishes believers to “have this attitude [or, “mind”] in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (2:5; see also 2:2; 3:15, 19; Col. 3:2).

The basic disposition of the unredeemed is to “indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires” (2 Pet. 2:10). The lost are those “whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things” (Phil. 3:19). The things of the flesh includes false philosophies and religions, which invariably appeal, whether overtly or subtly, to the flesh through self-interest and self-effort.

But those who are according to the Spirit, Paul says, set their minds on the things of the Spirit. In other words, those who belong to God are concerned about godly things. As Jonathan Edwards liked to say, they have “holy affections,” deep longings after God and sanctification. As Paul has made clear in Romans 7, even God’s children sometimes falter in their obedience to Him. But as the apostle said of himself, they nevertheless “joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man” (Rom. 7:22). Despite their many spiritual failures, their basic orientation and innermost concerns have to do with the things of the Spirit.

Phronēma (the mind) is the noun form of the verb in verse 5, and, like the verb, refers to the content or thought patterns of the mind rather than to the mind itself. It is significant that Paul does not say that the mind set on the flesh leads to death, but that it is death. The unsaved person is already dead spiritually. The apostle is stating a spiritual equation, not a spiritual consequence. The consequence involved in this relationship is the reverse: that is, because unredeemed men are already spiritually dead, their minds are inevitably set on the flesh. Paul reminded the Ephesian believers that, before salvation, they were all once “dead in [their] trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1).

There is, of course, a sense in which sin leads to death. “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God,” Isaiah declared to Israel, “and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear” (Isa. 59:2). Earlier in the book of Romans Paul explained that “the wages of sin is death” (6:23) and that “while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death” (7:5; cf. Gal 6:8).

But Paul’s emphasis in the present passage is on the state of death in which every unbeliever already exists, even while his body and mind may be very much alive and active. “A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God,” Paul explained to the Corinthian believers, “for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Cor. 2:14).

Some years ago I conducted the funeral for a baby girl killed in an automobile accident. Before the service the mother kept reaching into the casket, taking the lifeless little body in her arms and caressing her and crying softly to her. The baby, of course, could no longer respond to anything in the physical realm, because there was no life there to respond.

The unsaved person is a spiritual corpse and consequently is completely unable, in himself, to respond to the things of God. Unless the Holy Spirit intervenes by convicting him of sin and enabling him to respond to God by faith and thus being made alive, the unsaved person is as insensitive to the things of God as that baby was to the caresses and cries of its mother.

But the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. Again Paul states an equation, not a consequence. The mind set on the Spirit, that is, on the things of God, equates life and peace, which equates being a Christian. The mind set on the Spirit is synonymous with Christian, a person who has been born again, given spiritual life by God’s grace working through his faith.

The mind set on the Spirit is also synonymous with spiritual peace, that is, peace with God. The unsaved person, no matter how much he may claim to honor, worship, and love God, is God’s enemy-a truth Paul has already pointed out in this epistle. Before we were saved, he states, we were all enemies of God (5:10). Only the person who has new life in God has peace with God.

The obvious corollary of that truth is that it is impossible to have a mind set on the Spirit, which includes having spiritual life and peace, and yet remain dead to the things of God. A professing Christian who has no sensitivity to the things of God, no “holy affections,” does not belong to God. Nor does a merely professing Christian have a battle with the flesh, because he is, in reality, still naturally inclined toward the things of the flesh. He longs for the things of the flesh, which are normal to him, because he is still in the flesh and has his mind wholly set on the things of the flesh.

An unbeliever may be deeply concerned about not living up to the religious standards and code he has set for himself or that his denomination or other religious organization has set, and he may struggle hard in trying to achieve those goals. But his struggle is purely on a human level. It is a struggle not generated by the love of God but by self-love and the subsequent desire to gain greater favor with God or men on the basis of superior personal achievement. Whatever religious and moral struggles he may have are problems of flesh with flesh, not of Spirit against flesh, because the Holy Spirit is not in a fleshly person and a fleshly person is not in the Spirit.

As Paul has illustrated from his own life in Romans 7, a true Christian battles with the flesh because his mortal body still hangs on and tries to lure him back into the old sinful ways. But he is no longer in the flesh but in the Spirit. Speaking of true believers, Paul said, “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please” (Gal. 5:17). But “if we live by the Spirit,” he goes on to say, “let us also walk by the Spirit” (v. 25; cf. v. 16). In other words, because a believer’s new nature is divine and is indwelt by God’s own Spirit, he desires to behave accordingly.

It is important to note that, when he speaks of sin in a Christians life, Paul is always careful to identify sin with the outer, corrupted body, not with the new, inner nature. A believer’s flesh is not redeemed when he trusts in Christ. If that were so, all Christians would immediately become perfect when they are saved, which even apart from the testimony of Scripture is obviously not true. The sinful vestige of unredeemed humanness will not fall away until the Christian goes to be with the Lord. It is for that reason that the New Testament sometimes speaks of a Christian’s salvation in the future tense (see Rom. 13:11). Referring to those who were already saved, Paul says later in this chapter, “Having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:23). As the apostle explains to the Corinthians, “It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15:42–44).

No matter how self-sacrificing, moral, and sincere the life of an unredeemed person may be, his religious efforts are selfish, because he cannot truly serve God, because his mind, is set on the flesh. Paul again (cf. v. 6) uses the term phronem̄a (the mind), which refers to the content, the thought patterns, the basic inclination and orientation of a person. This inclination, or bent, of the flesh is even more deep-seated and significant than actual disobedience, which is simply the outward manifestation of the inner, fleshly compulsions of an unregenerate person.

Every unredeemed person, whether religious or atheistic, whether outwardly moral or outwardly wicked, is hostile toward God. An unsaved person cannot live a godly and righteous life because he has no godly and righteous nature or resources. He therefore cannot have genuine love for God or for the things of God. His sinful, fleshly mind does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so. Even an unbeliever whose life seems to be a model of good works is not capable of doing anything truly good, because he is not motivated or empowered by God and because his works are produced by the flesh for self-centered reasons and can never be to God’s glory. It clearly follows, then, that if the fleshly mind does not and cannot subject itself to the law of God, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Men were created for the very purpose of pleasing God. At the beginning of the practical section of this epistle Paul says, “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:1–2). In a similar way he admonished the Corinthians, “whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to [God]” (2 Cor. 5:9; cf. Eph. 5:10; Phil. 4:18). He exhorted the believers at Thessalonica “to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you may excel still more” (1 Thess. 4:1).

After describing the spiritual characteristics and incapacities of those who are in the flesh, Paul again addresses those who are not in the flesh but in the Spirit. As Jesus explained to Nicodemus, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). Sinful human flesh can only reproduce more sinful human flesh. Only God’s Holy Spirit can produce spiritual life.

A test of saving faith is the indwell-ing presence of the Holy Spirit. “You can be certain of your salvation,” Paul is saying, “if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.” Oikeō (dwells) has the idea of being in one’s own home. In a marvelous and incomprehensible way, the very Spirit of God makes His home in the life of every person who trusts in Jesus Christ.

The opposite of that reality is also true: But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. The person who gives no evidence of the presence, power, and fruit of God’s Spirit in his life has no legitimate claim to Christ as Savior and Lord. The person who demonstrates no desire for the things of God and has no inclination to avoid sin or passion to please God is not indwelt by the Holy Spirit and thus does not belong to Christ. In light of that sobering truth Paul admonishes those who claim to be Christians: “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you-unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Cor. 13:5).

And if Christ is in you, Paul continues to say to believers, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. In other words, if God’s Spirit indwell-s us, our own spirit is alive because of righteousness, that is, because of the divinely-imparted righteousness by which every believer is justified (Rom. 3:21–26). In light of that perfect righteousness, all human attempts at being righteous are but rubbish (Phil. 3:8).

Summing up what he has just declared in verses 5–10, Paul says, But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwell-s you. It was again the Holy Spirit who was the divine agent of Christ’s resurrection. And just as the Spirit lifted Jesus out of physical death and gave Him life in His mortal body, so the Spirit, who dwells in the believer, gives to that believer new life now and forever (cf. John 6:63; 2 Cor. 3:6).[2]


The Carnal Man and the True Christian

Romans 8:5–8

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

In my first study of Romans 8, in which I surveyed the entire chapter, I said that in my opinion verses 5–14 are the most important of all if we consider them from the perspective of the weakness and need of the church of Jesus Christ at the present time. This is because they correct a mistaken but very popular understanding of what it means to be a Christian. This mistaken view, as we have already seen, divides people into three classes: (1) those who are not Christians, (2) those who are Christians, and (3) those who are Christians but who are living in an “unsaved” manner. The latter are often called “carnal Christians.”

Not long ago I received a book written by two of my friends that (rather uncritically, I think) assumed this mistaken notion. It was a book for laymen and was intended to help them mature as Christians so they could function as leaders in the local church. It encouraged them to move beyond being mere “Christians” to being “disciples” of Jesus Christ. At one point it said, “All followers of [Christ] are his sheep, but not all sheep are his disciples.”

I have respect for my friends and applaud their intentions in this book. They are right in wanting laymen to assume their proper role in the church’s life. But the problem lies in their procedure. They have adopted the three-category view, and this, I am convinced, inevitably leads the reader to think that—although it may be wise and perhaps even beneficial to become serious about the Christian life—becoming a “disciple” of Jesus Christ is, in the final analysis, merely optional. This conclusion is fatal, because it encourages us to suppose that we can be careless about our Christianity, doing little and achieving nothing, and yet go to heaven securely when we die.

I suppose it is this that has bothered me the most, the idea that one can live as the world lives and still go to heaven. If it is true, it is comfortable teaching. We are to have the best of both worlds, sin here and heaven, too. But if it is not true, those who teach it are encouraging people to believe that all is well with them when they are, in fact, not even saved. They are crying, “Peace!” when there is no peace. They are doing damage to their souls.

Two Classes of People

We come to this problem in the paragraph of Romans 8 that begins with verse 5, because in these verses, for the first time in the letter, the apostle gives a careful definition of the “carnal” person. The idea occurs five times in verses 5–8 (“sinful nature” in niv). It has already occurred three times in verses 3–4.

“Carnal” is a rather straightforward translation of the Greek word sarx, which means “flesh.” But sarx is one of those words that has several natural meanings. Basically, it refers to the fleshly parts of the body, which is why “carnal” (from the Latin word caro, meaning “meat”) is used to translate it. But the meaning quickly goes beyond this in Bible passages to refer to certain aspects of what it means to be a human being. One thing it means is to be weak. This is a characteristic Old Testament usage, as in the words, “All flesh is grass” (kjv; niv has “All men are like grass,” to convey the real meaning). To be “fleshly” also means to be human rather than divine. This is because “God is spirit” (John 4:24), and we are mere flesh. A third thing “flesh” means is to be sinful. This is the most important meaning of sarx in the New Testament. It is why, in Romans 8, for instance, the word is translated by the New International Version as “sinful nature.” It means to be a merely sinful man, that is, man apart from the regenerating and transforming work of the Holy Spirit of God in salvation.

This is what we have to keep in mind as we study Romans 8. For what Paul is talking about here is the difference between those who are Christians and those who are not. That is, he is speaking of two kinds of people only, not three. Specifically, he is not speaking of how a “carnal Christian” is supposed to move beyond a rather low state of commitment in order to become a more serious disciple of the Lord.

The Carnal or Unsaved Person

What is it that most characterizes an unsaved person? These verses define the unbeliever in four important ways: (1) in regard to his thinking, (2) in regard to his state, (3) in regard to his religion, and (4) in regard to his present condition.

  • His thinking. The first verse of this paragraph concerns the unbeliever’s thinking, telling us that “those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires” (v. 5). Here is a case in which the New International Version rendering of sarx by “sinful nature” has both a bad and a good side.

The bad side is this: When we hear the words flesh or carnal, most of us naturally think of what we term “fleshly sins,” things like sexual promiscuity, drunkenness, a preoccupation with money perhaps, materialism, desire for praise from other human beings, pride, and other such vices. The term does include such things, and they are much of what the world sets its mind on. To replace “flesh” by “sinful nature” causes most of us to overlook these very things. We can forget that if our minds are set on these rather than on spiritual things, we are not Christians.

But the translation of sarx as “sinful nature” has a good side, too, because it frees us from thinking only of what we call fleshly sins. The word includes those sins, as I said, but it also includes many things that we do not associate with being fleshly. Take a very moral person, for example. He or she does not indulge in debauchery. Does this mean that such a person is therefore thinking spiritually rather than according to the sinful nature? Not at all. In an unsaved state, the cultured, well-spoken moral person is as devoid of the Spirit of God, and is therefore as lost, as any other.

Paul himself was once an example. Recall how he summarized his early life in the great testimony passage from Philippians. He said that before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he believed that he was right before God. He describes himself as being: “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless” (Phil. 3:5–6). This is a portrait of a moral man. But it is no less a portrait of one whose mind was set on what his sinful self desired. What did Paul desire? He desired to prove himself to God, to prove that he was worthy of God’s favor, to show that he could earn heaven. Nothing is so characteristic of the thinking of the unbeliever as this delusion.

  • His state. The next verse of this paragraph describes the state of the unbeliever. It is “death” (v. 6). Paul is not speaking of physical death, of course. He is speaking of spiritual death, and what he means is that the unsaved person is as unresponsive to the things of God as a corpse.

The Bible tells us that the power, wisdom, and glory of God are clearly revealed in nature: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Ps. 19:1). The unsaved person does not see this. He may use the word God at times, but the word does not really mean anything to this person. He would far rather believe that the universe came into being by evolution or chance or in any other way rather than being created by a God who demands a proper respect and right moral conduct from those he has created.

The unbeliever’s condition is even worse when it comes to the truths of the Bible. Either he cannot understand them at all or else they seem utterly foolish to him. Why? It is because it takes the Holy Spirit to provide such understanding. The Bible says, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14).

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones relates a classic case of this lack of spiritual understanding in an incident from the lives of William Wilberforce, the man who led the movement to abolish slavery throughout the British Empire, and William Pitt the Younger, who at one time was prime minister of England. Wilberforce was a Christian. Pitt was only a formal Christian, like so many others of that day. However, these two parliamentarians were friends, and Wilberforce was concerned for his friend’s salvation. In those days there was a great preacher in London whose name was Richard Cecil. Wilberforce thrilled to his ministry and was constantly trying to get his friend Pitt to go with him to hear Cecil. Pitt kept putting Wilberforce off, but at last after many invitations Pitt agreed to go. Cecil was at his best, preaching in his most spirited manner. Wilberforce was ecstatic. He couldn’t imagine anything more enjoyable or wonderful. He was delighted that Pitt was with him. But as they were leaving the service afterward, Pitt turned to his friend and said, “You know, Wilberforce, I have not the slightest idea what that man has been talking about.” Clearly, Pitt was as deaf to God as if he were a physically dead man.

  • His religion. At first glance it might seem strange to speak of the “religion” of those who operate according to the sinful nature, since we have just shown that they are unresponsive to God. But strange as it may seem, the unsaved do have a religion. The third verse of the paragraph speaks about this. It tells us that “the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so” (v. 7).

Not long ago I was reading an article in which the writer was speculating on the nature of things to come and in one place talked about religion. He used a phrase that struck me. He said that in the future we are likely to see a growth of “a la carte religion,” meaning that people will choose the items they like from a potpourri of religions and then combine them to make their own comfortable little religious systems. I liked that description, because it struck me as something I had already observed. I had noticed that in our largely irrational age it is a common thing for people to hold many mutually inconsistent ideas, the only force holding them together being their own individual attractions to them. But, as I have thought about it, it seems to me that this is what all religions already are in one sense. They are collections of human thoughts held for no other reason than that they are comfortable. They are comfortable because what they actually do is to protect their adherents from the only truly valid claims of God.

This is why Paul says that people in their unsaved state are hostile to God and why they do not submit to his law. The two go together. They do not submit to God’s law because they are hostile to him, and because they are hostile to God they inevitably try to construct a religion that will protect themselves from him.

  • His present condition. The last thing Paul says of the unsaved, or “fleshly,” individual is that a person like this “cannot please God” (v. 8). How could he, if he is hostile to God and is doing everything humanly possible to resist and trample down his just law? Pleased with the wicked? Of course not. God is displeased with unbelievers constantly.

Characteristics of the Christian

The apostle is not writing only of unbelievers in these verses, however. He is also writing of Christians, contrasting them with unbelievers. He lists two of the Christian’s contrasting characteristics specifically.

  1. The Christian’s thinking. In verse 5 the apostle contrasts the unbeliever and the Christian in terms of their thinking, saying that the unbeliever has his mind set on what the sinful nature desires but that the Christian has his mind “set on what the Spirit desires.” This is a profound way of speaking, for it eliminates many misconceptions of what it means to be a Christian while it establishes the truly essential thing.

First, it eliminates the idea that the Christian is someone who is merely very “religious.” To be religious and to be mindful of the things of the Spirit are two entirely different things. The Pharisees were religious, excessively so, but they killed Jesus. Before he was saved, Paul was religious, but he expressed his religion by trying to do away with Christians. Ironically, one function of religion is to try to eliminate God, as we have seen.

Paul’s way of speaking also eliminates the idea that a Christian is anyone who merely holds to right theological beliefs. Much popular Christianity makes this destructive error, suggesting that as long as you simply confess that you are a sinner and believe that Jesus is your Savior and “receive him,” whatever that means, you are right with God and will certainly go to heaven. Do not get me wrong here. I know that there are degrees of understanding on the part of Christians and that many true Christians are yet babes in Christ, perhaps because they have never been given adequate teaching. Many might be unable to describe their faith in any terms more adequate than those I have just given. I do not want to deny that they are Christians. But what I do want to say is that it is possible to confess those things and still not be a Christian, simply because being a Christian is more than giving mere verbal assent to certain doctrines. It is to be born again. And since being born again is the work of God’s Spirit, it is right to insist that those who are truly born again will have their minds set on what God desires.

Finally, Paul’s way of speaking eliminates the idea that a Christian is someone who has attained a certain standard of approved conduct.

What, then, does being a Christian mean? It means exactly what Paul says. The Christian is someone who has been born again by the work of the Holy Spirit and who now, as a result of that internal transformation, has his mind set on what the Spirit of God desires. If we are Christians, it does not mean that we have attained to this standard, at least not fully. But it does mean that we want to. Do you remember the illustration of the path? Being on the path does not mean that we have arrived at our destination. If it did, we would already be completely like Jesus. But it does mean that we are moving along this path, that we are following Jesus, who is going before us, that we are trying to be like him.

Having our minds set on what the Spirit desires takes us back to verse 4, in which the purpose of God in saving us is spelled out as our fully meeting the just requirements of the law. That is what the Spirit desires, and if we are Christians, our minds will be fixed on doing exactly that.

  1. The Christian’s state. The second specific characteristic of the Christian is his state, described as “life and peace” (v. 6). It is the opposite of “death,” which describes the non-Christian. The Christian is a person who has been made alive by God’s Spirit. Spiritual matters make sense to him now. Before, he was dead in his sins; now he is alive to a whole new world of reality. And he is at peace—peace with himself, as he never was before, in spite of many heroic efforts to convince himself that he was. Above all, he is at peace with God.

The word peace, as Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out, corresponds to the points of verse 7 step by step. “The natural man, the carnal mind, is ‘enmity against God, is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.’ But of the Christian, you say at once: ‘He can be subject to it, he is subject to it, he desires to be subject to it, and he goes out of his way to subject himself to it.’ He ‘hungers and thirsts after righteousness,’ he desires to keep the commands which God has given.”

Signs of the New Life

I come to the end of this study, to the application, and it is very, very simple. Everything I have said is directed to one end only, and that is to have you look into your heart and take stock of whether or not you are a true Christian. I do not mean whether or not you are an exemplary Christian or a well-instructed Christian, certainly not a perfect Christian (no creature like that exists), but whether or not you are truly born again. Has the Holy Spirit of God made you alive in Jesus Christ so that your thinking, state, religion, and present condition have been changed?

More than two hundred years ago, when preaching in this country was vastly superior to what it generally is today, Jonathan Edwards wrote “A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections” in which he examined the “signs” of God’s gracious work in a person and attempted to distinguish between signs that are true and certain and signs that are not. His subheads in the first part of the essay read:

Great effects on the body are no sign.

Fluency and fervor are no sign.

That they are excited by us is no sign.

That they come with texts of Scripture is no sign.

Religious affections of many kinds are no sign.

Joys following in a certain order are no sign.

Much time and zeal in duty are no sign.

Much expression of praise is no sign.

Great confidence is no certain sign.

Affecting relations are no sign.

Edwards was convinced, no doubt rightly, that none of these things, as powerful or moving as they may sometimes be, in itself proves that the person is being acted upon by God, rather than by the mere emotion of the moment, or that the individual is saved.

What is a sure sign, then? The answer boils down to whether the person has his or her mind set on the things of the Spirit of God and whether this is moving, as it must, in the direction of a true righteousness.

Are you born again? Do you have a new nature? Have you passed out of death into life, from being dominated by the sinful nature to being controlled by the Spirit of God? If you do not know the answer to that question, do not let the matter rest until you know that you really are in Christ. Nothing in all life comes close to that matter in importance. Pursue it with all your strength. And if by the grace of God—perhaps through the application of his Word to your heart through this study—you realize that you are not yet a new creature in Christ, call out for salvation. Trust that, as God has been gracious in opening your eyes to your true condition, he will also work in grace to bring you out of death into the utter newness of the Christian life.

Who is a Christian?

Romans 8:9–11

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

A few years ago, at one of the early Philadelphia Conferences on Reformed Theology, John Gerstner was speaking on the parable of the five wise and five foolish virgins from Matthew 25. He was arguing that, although each of these women seemed to be what we would today call believers, only five were actually taken to be with the bridegroom when he came, which means that only five were saved. He pointed out that: (1) all had been invited to the wedding banquet; (2) all belonged to what we would call the visible church; (3) all professed to have the bridegroom as their Lord; (4) all believed in the Lord’s “second coming”; (5) all were waiting for Jesus; and (6) all even fell asleep while waiting. Nevertheless, five were not accepted. And when they cried to Jesus, “Lord, Lord, open the door for us,” he replied, “I do not know you” (see Matt. 25:11–12).

The point of Gerstner’s message was that professing Christians should examine themselves to see if they really are Christians, knowing that a mere profession of faith is not enough. The study was so powerful that a number of people told me afterward that they did indeed begin to wonder whether they had truly been born again.

Self-Examination and Assurance

Perhaps you began to wonder about your own state at the end of the previous study. There I was trying to show that (according to Romans) there are not three categories of people in this life—those who are Christians, those who are not Christians, and those who are Christians but live as if they were not—but rather only two types—those who are dead in their sins and are therefore as unresponsive to God as dead people, and those who have been made spiritually alive by the Holy Spirit and are therefore following Jesus Christ in true discipleship. I acknowledged that Christians do sin, sometimes very badly. But a person who is on the path of discipleship gets up again and goes forward with Christ, while the unbeliever does not. In fact, the unbeliever is not on the path of true discipleship at all.

If teaching like this shakes you a bit, it is probably good for you to be shaken—particularly if you have been taking sin lightly. The Bible says that we are to examine ourselves to make sure of our calling (2 Peter 1:10). We should not be at ease in this matter. We should not rest until we are sure that we really do rest in Christ Jesus.

Yet we are studying Romans 8, and if you remember my introductory study, you will recall that the chapter’s purpose is not to instill doubt in believers but rather the exact opposite. It is to give them assurance. Romans 8 teaches that if you are truly in Christ, nothing in all creation will be able to separate you from God’s love (v. 39). I suppose that is why, having called us to examine ourselves by sharply contrasting those who live according to the sinful nature and those who live according to the Spirit (vv. 5–8), Paul continues by showing, in a most encouraging manner, who a Christian really is (vv. 9–11).

His outline is simple. He talks about the Christian’s past, present, and future. The past is discussed in verse 9. The present is discussed in verse 10. The future is discussed in verse 11.

The Christian’s Past

Verse 9 discusses the Christian’s past. It is important, because it makes clearer than any other verse in this chapter the very point I have been making: that the description of those who are not controlled by the sinful nature but who live in accordance with the Holy Spirit applies to all Christians, not just to so-called spiritual ones. In other words, there is no ground for the doctrine of the “carnal Christian” here. Notice the apostle’s ruthless logic: (1) if you do not have the Spirit of Christ, you do not belong to Christ; (2) if you belong to Christ, you have the Spirit of Christ; and (3) if you have the Spirit of Christ, you will not be controlled by the sinful nature but by the Spirit. In other words, if you belong to Jesus, you will live like it. If you do not live like it, you do not belong to him, regardless of your outward profession.

But this is meant to be encouraging, as I said, which is why Paul begins the first sentence as he does. He is writing to the believers in Rome and says to these believers, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit.” That is, he is assuming that these professed Christians really are Christ’s, and he is trying to explain the difference their new identification with Jesus has made and will make in the future.

What difference has it made? Well, when we look to the past, which is what the apostle does first, we see that as Christians we have been lifted out of our former sinful or fleshly state and into the realm of the Spirit. We are now “in the Spirit,” and, as Paul also says here, the Spirit is “in” us.

This is an absolutely critical thing, for it means that being a Christian is not merely a matter of adopting a particular set of intellectual or theological beliefs, however true they may be. It involves a change of state, which is accomplished, not by us, but by God who saves us. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, “It is not that a man just changes his beliefs and no more. No, he was in the realm of the flesh, and he is now in the realm of the Spirit. He was dominated by the flesh before, and governed by it. … He is now in a realm which is governed and controlled and dominated by the Spirit.” You and I cannot make this change ourselves. It is something God does.

Paul said the same thing in Romans 5, where he wrote that the Christian is no longer under the reign of sin unto death but instead has come under the reign of God’s grace in Christ. The fact that it is “of grace” shows that God has done it.

This change also means that being a Christian is not a matter merely of living in a Christian manner either, important as that also is. If you are a Christian, you will live like one. That is what we have been seeing throughout our studies of Romans 5–8 and were discussing in the previous study especially. But living like a Christian, at least in an external, observable sense, does not in itself mean you are one. Many unbelievers live outwardly moral lives.

A Christian is someone who has been delivered from one realm, the realm of sin and death, and has been transferred to the realm of God’s Spirit, which is life. This, of course, is something God has himself done, and it means that “salvation is of the Lord” and that it is all of grace. It is because of this—because salvation is of God and not of ourselves—that it is possible to speak of the Christian’s eternal security, as Paul does. The only reason we can be assured of our salvation is because salvation is a work of God, whose ways are always perfect, whose promises are never broken, and who does not change his mind.

The Christian’s Present

Verse 10 describes the Christian’s present state, saying that “if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.” In some versions of the Bible the word spirit in this verse is printed with a capital S, as if referring to the Holy Spirit, but this is certainly an error. The verse is referring to our spirit and should be printed with a lowercase s, as in the New International Version. It is a reference to our being born again.

The difficulty of this verse is with the clause “your body is dead because of sin.” What does this mean? “Body” (Greek, sōma) clearly refers to our literal human bodies, not to some “mortal principle” within us. But in what sense is this body dead, since our mortal bodies are in this life clearly alive? Some have taken “your body is dead” to teach that the tendency of the body to draw us into sin has been completely destroyed or overcome. I discussed this several times in my treatment of Romans 6 and 7, where Paul does speak of having died to the past and of having been made alive to God. But the difficulty with this view is that in the earlier chapters it is the “self” who has died, that is, the old self. And when Paul speaks of the body, as he does in Romans 6:11–14, his point is not that the body is dead but, on the contrary, that it is the source of our continuing troubles and struggles. We have to overcome it.

In view of this, it seems best to take “your body is dead because of sin” to refer to the fact that our physical bodies have the seeds of literal death in them and will eventually cease to live: “For the wages of sin is death …” (Rom. 6:23). Yet the contrast in verse 10 is the important thing. Although our physical bodies will die and are, in a certain sense, as good as dead now, our spirits have been made alive by the Holy Spirit whom the Father has sent to do precisely that.

What does it mean to have our spirits made alive by the Holy Spirit? Paul is talking about the present experience of the Christian, remember. So he means that by the new birth the Spirit has made us alive to things we were dead to before.

  1. Alive to God. The first thing we have become alive to is God himself. Before we were born again, we may have believed in God. Indeed, the Bible says that only the fool does not. But God was not real to us. We had no true sense of who he was or what he was like. When we prayed—if we did pray—God seemed far off and unresponsive. However, when we were born again this changed. Now, although there is still much we do not know about God and although his ways are still often strange and puzzling to us, we do not feel that God is unreal. On the contrary, he is more real to us even than life itself. We know that God loves us and is watching over us. We trust his wise management of our earthly affairs. God is particularly close in sickness and sorrow. We know that in the hour of our death we will pass from this world to the presence of the Lord.
  2. Alive to the Bible. We have not only become alive to God as the result of the Holy Spirit’s work; we have also become alive to the Word of God. It is in the Bible that God speaks to us clearly, regularly, and forcefully. Before we were born again, the Bible was a strange and closed book. Little in it seemed to make sense. We even found it to be boring. As Christians that has changed also. Today, when we read the Bible, we know that God himself is speaking to us in it. And not only does the Bible make sense; we know that it is true. Whatever the world may believe, whatever our nonbelieving teachers or friends may tell us to the contrary—we know that the words of the Bible pass the high standard of absolute truth and will endure forever, even when heaven and earth have passed away (Matt. 5:18).

We also find the Bible to be effective in our lives. We find that it changes us. We echo the words of Paul to young Timothy, when he said, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17).

  1. Alive to the Spirit of God in other Christians. Finally, we have also become alive to the Spirit of God in other Christians. For just as the Spirit of God bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16), so does the Spirit within us bear witness with the Spirit in other believers that we are fellow members of the one spiritual family of God and that these others are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

I would suggest the following as excellent tests of whether a person is a Christian—whether you are a Christian.

First, is God real to you? I do not mean, “Do you understand everything about God and God’s ways?” Of course, you do not, for you will never understand God completely. I simply mean: Is God real to you. When you pray do you know that you are really praying to him and that he is listening to you and will answer you? When you worship him in church, is it a real God you are worshiping?

Second, is the Bible a meaningful and attractive book to you? I do not mean, “Do you understand everything you read there?” Obviously you do not. But does it seem to be right when you read it? Are you attracted to it? Do you want to know more?

Finally, are you drawn to other Christians? Do you want to be with them? Do you enjoy their fellowship? Do you sense how much you and they have in common? If God is not real to you, if the Bible is not attractive, and if you are not drawn to other believers, why do you think you are a Christian? Probably you are not. On the other hand, if these things are true of you, you should be encouraged by them and press on in following after Jesus Christ.

The Christian’s Future

Verse 11 describes the Christian’s future, pointing forward to his or her physical resurrection. It is true, as verse 10 has said, that the “body is dead because of sin.” But although we die we shall all nevertheless rise again. The text says that “if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.”

There are two common mistakes in the interpretation of this verse that we should not fall into. Lloyd-Jones discusses them. The first misunderstanding is that the text is speaking not of a future physical resurrection but of some kind of moral resurrection now. True, there is a kind of “resurrection” in which we who have been dead in sin have been brought into newness of life and are now increasingly putting to death the deeds of the body and living to Christ and righteousness. But that is not what Paul is thinking of here. The comparison between the resurrection of Christ and our own resurrection makes his real meaning clear. The point is that God will raise us just as he raised Jesus.

The second mistake is to think of this in terms of “faith healing,” which some have done, supposing it to be a promise of perfect health for those who believe God will heal them. This idea is simply foreign to the context.

The verse is speaking about a future resurrection, and it is regarding it as certain for all who are in Christ. Indeed, it could hardly be stated with greater certainty, for in developing the point the apostle brings in each member of the Trinity, as if to say that our final resurrection is as certain as God himself. Earlier we had a statement relating to the deity of Christ. When Paul spoke of the Holy Spirit he spoke of him as both “the Spirit of God” and “the Spirit of Christ” (v. 9). Things equal to the same thing are equal to each other. So these two verses together assert Christ’s deity. Here, however, it is not just the divine Christ but also the divine Father and divine Spirit who are in view. All three combine to guarantee our final resurrection. At the resurrection, being freed completely from sin’s dread penalty, power, and presence, we shall be with God in heaven forever.

Such is the past, present, and future of the Christian.

Ironside and the Gypsy

Whenever I think of the past, present, and future of the Christian, as our text in Romans causes us to do, I remember an anecdote told by the great Bible teacher and former pastor of the Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, Harry A. Ironside. It is told in his study of Ephesians 2:1–10, which provides a similar description of what it means to be a Christian.

Ironside was riding on a train in southern California one Saturday when a gypsy got on and sat beside him. “How do you do, gentleman,” she said. “You like to have your fortune told? Cross my palm with a silver quarter, and I will give you your past, present, and future.”

“Are you very sure you can do that?” Ironside asked. “You see, I am Scottish, and I wouldn’t want to spend a quarter and not get my full value for it.”

The gypsy was very earnest. “Yes, gentleman,” she said. “I can give you your past, present, and future. I will tell you all.”

Ironside then said, “It is not really necessary for me to have my fortune told, because I have had it told already. It is written in a book. I have the book in my pocket.”

The gypsy was astonished. “You have it in a book?” she said.

“Yes,” said Ironside, “and it is absolutely infallible. Let me read it to you.” He then reached in his pocket, pulled out his New Testament and began to read from chapter 2 of Ephesians: “ ‘As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.’

“That is my past,” he said.

The woman had been startled when he pulled the New Testament from his pocket and now tried to get away. “That is plenty,” she protested. “I do not want to hear more.”

“But wait,” Ironside said. “There is more. Here is my present, too: ‘But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. …’ ”

“No more,” the gypsy protested.

“But,” said Ironside, “you must hear my future, and you are not going to have to pay me a quarter for it. I am giving it to you for nothing. It says, ‘… in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.’ ”

By now the gypsy was halfway down the aisle of the train, saying, “I took the wrong man!”

We are dealing with a different text here, of course, and the specifics of the past, present, and future described in Romans 8:9–11 vary from what is said about them in Ephesians 2. But it is the same idea. Christians are people whose past has been altered. Before, they were dead in sin; now they are alive in Christ. Their present has been altered, too. They have been awakened to the reality of God, the beauty of the Scriptures, and the presence of the Spirit of God in other Christians. Theirs is a whole new world. Finally, they have a changed future before them. For in time death will be overcome, and they will be raised in a new resurrection body, like the resurrection body of Jesus, and will be with God and Jesus Christ forever.

Are you a Christian? By all means, ask that question of yourself. Be sure of the answer. But when you are sure, be sure of this truth, too: that nothing in heaven or earth will ever separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus, and that your future will be even better than is your life with Jesus now.[3]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (pp. 415–420). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: The Reign of Grace (Vol. 2, pp. 805–820). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

MAY 31 – LIVE RIGHT OR DIE

Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord…that they may rest from their labours.

Revelation 14:13

We modern Christians seem to be a strange breed in many of our ways. We are so completely satisfied with earthly things and we enjoy our creature comforts so much that we would just rather stay on here for a long, long time!

Probably most of us do not tell God about that kind of desire when we pray. But I have made a practice of writing many of my earnest prayers to God in a little book—a book now well worn. I remind God often of what my prayers have been.

One prayer in the book—and God knows it well by this time—is an honest supplication:

O God, let me die rather than to go on day by day living wrong. I do not want to become a careless, fleshly old man. I want to be right so that I can die right! Lord, I do not want my life to be extended if it would mean that I should cease to live right and fail in my mission to glorify You all of my days!

I would rather go home right now than to live on—if living on was to be a waste of God’s time and my own!

Lord, it’s true that shelter and security are key human pursuits as we strive to provide for ourselves and our families. But help me find a balance between focusing too much on myself and not enough on You and Your plan for this world.[1]


14:13 Believers who die during this period will not miss the blessings of the Millennial Kingdom. Man says, “Blessed are the living.” God says, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.” And, “Their works follow them.” Everything done for Christ and in His name for others will be richly rewarded—every kindness, sacrificial gift, prayer, tear, word of testimony.[2]


A Heavenly Voice

14:13

This passage is read and applied at funerals to comfort those who mourn the loss of a near relative or friend. The words presented in the form of a beatitude and supported by the Spirit’s testimony are precious to God’s people. They convey a message of encouragement and support whenever Christians face death. Indeed, they are designed to remove the fear of death, because Christ having triumphed over death and the grave blesses his followers who die in him.

The world that is hostile toward God and his people is destined to perish; by contrast the saints who die in the Lord are entering eternal bliss. God’s enemies are facing downfall and ultimate destruction (vv. 8–12), while the saints enter eternal rest in the presence of their Lord.

  1. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their toils, for their works will follow them.”

John fails to identify the speaker, as is often the case in Revelation. Here is a voice that utters the second beatitude in the Apocalypse out of a list of seven (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14). The Lord, an angel, or an anonymous speaker uttered these beatitudes.

The voice tells John to write. It was a command he had heard on earlier occasions when Christ ordered him to write and the Spirit uttered a promise to the churches (2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14; see also 1:11, 19; 19:9; 21:5). This beatitude is aimed at the dead, namely, those who die in the Lord. In other words, the phrase the dead can be used to describe unbelievers (20:5), but the qualifier die in the Lord clarifies its meaning. Believers whose eyes are fixed on Jesus, who is the author and perfecter of their faith (Heb. 12:2), do not fear death, while unbelievers are filled with fear of judgment and damnation (Rev. 6:15–17).

What is the significance of the phrase from now on? Should it be interpreted with the first clause “Blessed are the dead” or with the entire sentence? Are only the saints who die a martyr’s death called blessed or are all believers blessed? And when does the now begin?

All the saints who look forward to residing in the heavenly Jerusalem, “whose architect, and builder is God,” are commended (Heb. 11:10). Here John adds the clarifying clause “who die in the Lord” to specify a relationship to Jesus. This relationship was a comfort to the persecuted Christians in Asia Minor in John’s day. Next, it is comfort to all believers who know that Christ welcomes them at the portals of heaven. And these words encourage those Christians who even now or in the future endure the full impact of persecution, injustice, insult, and slander because of Christ’s name (Matt. 5:11–12). In short, the heavenly voice speaks reassuring words not merely to those who die a martyr’s death but to all God’s people. Everyone who in faith looks to Jesus is in the now period.

The Holy Spirit affirms the words spoken by the heavenly voice, for he assures the saints that they will rest from their earthly toils that they performed on behalf of the Lord. God does not forget their works, for in heaven he crowns them with his blessing of grace and glory (Rev. 6:11; Heb. 6:10). The saints will not lose their rewards (1 Cor. 9:25; 2 Tim. 4:8). Thus through the Spirit Jesus tells the persecuted saints in Philadelphia that he will give them a new name, that is, the name of God and the name of the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven (Rev. 3:12). And last, Jesus says that at his return he will reward everyone according to what he or she has done (22:12).[3]


How They Died

And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’ ” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.” (14:13)

Having lived with perseverance, the Tribulation saints will die with promise. This is the sixth time in Revelation that John heard a voice from heaven (cf. 10:4, 8; 11:12; 12:10; 14:2); he will hear such a voice three more times (18:4; 19:5; 21:3). The voice (probably that of God, not an angel) commanded John to write. Twelve times in Revelation John is told to write (cf. 1:11, 19; 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14; 19:9; 21:5); the apostle was under a divine mandate to record the visions he saw.

The heavenly voice ordered John to write, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.” That includes martyrs such as Antipas (2:13), those seen underneath the heavenly altar (6:9–11), and the “great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes … the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9, 14). These martyrs are blessed not only because they lived life to the fullest in obedience and trust, but also because they died in the Lord. They will experience in death the fullest reward, because “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones” (Ps. 116:15). With Paul, they will be able to cry out triumphantly, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55).

The voice informed John that not only those already dead, but also those who die from now on are blessed. The martyred believers from that point until the end of the Tribulation will have nothing to fear. Their deaths, too, will be blessed.

The Holy Spirit is quoted directly in Revelation only here and in 22:17. His emphatic “Yes” (the Greek particle nai indicates strong affirmation) shows that He agrees with the heavenly voice that the dead are blessed. As their sustainer and comforter, who loves them and is grieved by their pain, the Holy Spirit longs to see that suffering end. He adds two further reasons for the Tribulation martyrs’ blessedness.

First, the Spirit declares them blessed because they may rest from their labors. Kopos describes hard, difficult, exhausting toil. It can also refer to bother, annoyance, or trouble. Certainly the Tribulation saints will experience the whole gamut of the word’s meanings. They will be filled with deep sorrow as they watch those they love—children, parents, spouses, and friends—suffer torment and death. Their lives will be a hard, difficult, dangerous struggle for survival. Not having the mark of the beast, they will be excluded from society, be unable to buy or sell, and live lives on the run as hunted fugitives. Death, granting rest from all the difficulties and sorrows of their lives, will come as a welcome relief. In stark contrast are the damned, who will know not a moment’s rest throughout all eternity (14:11).

The Holy Spirit also pronounces the Tribulation martyrs blessed because their deeds follow with them. Erga (deeds) refers to their service to the Lord. When these believers go to heaven, the record of their diligent labor will follow along with them. The Bible teaches that God will reward believers in heaven for their earthly service to Him. Hebrews 6:10 reads, “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.” Facing imminent execution, Paul triumphantly declared, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7–8). First Corinthians 3:12–14 describes God’s testing of believers’ works. The “gold, silver, [and] precious stones” (v. 12) will be preserved, while the “wood, hay, [and] straw” (v. 12) will be destroyed. What is left will form the basis for believers’ rewards (vv. 13–14).

The dead who have lived in obedience and trust will be blessed with rest and reward after they die. Those who live now for wanton pleasure are dead even while they live (1 Tim. 5:6). Being “dead in [their] trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1), they face the horror of eternal damnation in hell. The sobering truth is that the choices people make in this life will irreversibly chart the course of their eternal destinies. A Christless eternity of unrelieved torment or the blissful rest and reward of heaven: that is the choice faced by every person.[4]


13 A fourth voice comes from heaven (an angel’s or Christ’s?), pronounces a beatitude, and evokes the Spirit’s response. This is the second beatitude in Revelation (cf. comments at 1:3). Its general import is clear, but how are the words “from now on” to be understood? Do they mean that from the time of the vision’s fulfillment onward (i.e., the judgment of idolaters and the 144,000 with the Lord on Mount Zion), the dead will be blessed in a more complete manner (so Alford)? Or do they refer to the time of John’s writing onward (so Beckwith)? If the latter, why from that time? While either interpretation is grammatically possible, the preceding verse, which implies an exhortation to Christians in John’s day, favors the latter view. John expects the imminent intensification of persecution associated with the beast, and the beatitude indicates that those who remain loyal to Jesus when this occurs will be blessed indeed.

Apart from 22:17, this is the only place in Revelation where the Spirit speaks directly (cf. Ac 13:2; Heb 3:7; 10:15). The beatitude is no doubt intended to emphasize the reality of the martyrs’ future. Their blessedness consists in “rest” from the onslaught of the dragon and his beasts and the assurance that their own toil (kopos, GK 3160; cf. 2:2) for Christ’s name will not be in vain but will be remembered by the Lord himself after their death (Heb 6:10; cf. 1 Ti 5:24–25).[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. 2372). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Vol. 20, pp. 413–414). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2000). Revelation 12–22 (pp. 103–105). Chicago: Moody Press.

[5] Johnson, A. F. (2006). Revelation. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 724–725). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

May 31 – Trusting God for Protection

… but deliver us from evil.—Matt. 6:13b

If you realize the great danger that temptation poses to your soul, this petition will be a plea for God to provide a protection you can’t give for yourself. You will ask God to watch over your entire being so that in whatever you do or say, see or hear, and wherever you go, He will guard you from sin.

Joseph understood that even though ungodly forces intend certain things for our evil, God can use those things for good (Gen. 50:20). But we may not react to every such situation as Joseph did. Therefore we must seize the promise that “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13; cf. John 17:15).

When you sincerely pray “deliver us from evil,” you implicitly submit to your only protection from sin, God’s Word. “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Submitting to God is in essence submitting to His Word. “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You” (Ps. 119:11).

In a fallen world we are inadequate to deal with sin’s powerful effects. Therefore we must confess the weakness of our flesh and the absolute powerlessness of our own resources to rescue us from sin’s grasp.

ASK YOURSELF
Let this be a new day of triumph for you—a fresh start with God, knowing that His eternal might is greater than the allure of any sinful desire. Why continue on in ways that invariably lead to guilt, coldness, and defeat in your life? Choose the way that leads to unknown adventures with the Lord. Be delivered from evil as you take hold of the Father’s hand and just walk away.[1]

But deliver us from the evil one. This is the prayer of all who desperately desire to be kept from sin by the power of God. It is the heart’s cry for daily salvation from the power of sin and Satan in one’s life.[2]


And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one. Probable meaning: “If it be thy will do not permit us, weak as we are by nature and prone to sin, to enter into situations which in the natural course of events would expose us to temptation and fall (cf. 26:41), but, whatever be thy way with us, deliver us from the evil one.” Though it is true that here as before (5:37) both the neuter “from evil” and the masculine “from the evil one” are possible, and, as Calvin points out, “There is no necessity of raising a debate on this point, for the meaning remains nearly the same,” nevertheless, both because in the consciousness of Christ the devil was very real (see proof on p. 309), and because one naturally associates temptation, mentioned in this petition, with the tempter (see especially 4:1), I, along with many others, give the preference to the rendering “the evil one.” Though it is true that God himself never tempts man to sin (James 1:13), it is also true that there is good reason to ask him not even to permit us voluntarily to run into temptation; for example, by establishing a dangerously close alliance with the world, becoming “unequally yoked” with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14–16); or by going into the opposite extreme and withdrawing ourselves entirely from society (contrary to Matt. 5:14; Phil. 2:15); by becoming so absorbed in our daily affairs that the spiritual atmosphere which should characterize our home is neglected, by serving on so many good-cause committees that matters even more important are not attended to; etc. It is God alone who knows how many tests of faith, and how severe, each saved sinner can endure, as he is constantly being assaulted by the devil (Eph. 6:12; 1 Peter 5:8), the world (John 15:19), and his own “flesh” (that is, whatever in himself is not a fruit of redeeming grace, Rom. 7:23; Gal. 5:17). Instead of going down to defeat in this struggle, may he remain watchful at all times, and in any event, may he triumph completely over the evil one (Rom. 16:20; 1 Thess. 5:23).—For more with respect to Satan and his crafty methods see N.T.C. on Ephesians 2:2 and 6:11, 12.

The logic of the petition is clear. An analogous request would be, “Lord, grant that I may be so careful in observing the rules of health that I may not become ill, but whatever in thy providence befalls me, keep me close to thy side that my faith may not fail.” Here, too, however, “we,” “our,” and “us” should be substituted for “I,” “my,” and “me.” The supplicant is constantly including others in his prayers.[3]


God’s Protection

And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (6:13a)

Peirasmos (temptation) is basically a neutral word in the Greek, having no necessary connotation either of good or evil, as does our English temptation, which refers to inducement to evil. The root meaning has to do with a testing or proving, and from that meaning are derived the related meanings of trial and temptation. Here it seems to parallel the term evil, indicating that it has in view enticement to sin.

God’s holiness and goodness will not allow His leading anyone, certainly not one of His children, into a place or experience in which they would purposely be induced to commit sin. “Let no one say when he is tempted,” says James, “ ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone” (James 1:13).

Yet James had just said, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials (peirasmos), knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (vv. 2–3). There is an interpretive problem, therefore, as to whether peirasmos in Matthew 6:13 is translated temptation or trial. As James tells us, God does not tempt. So why ask Him not to do what He would never do anyway? Yet James also tells us we should rejoice when trials come and not seek to avoid them. So why should we pray, do not lead us into temptation?

I affirm with Chrysostom, the early church Father, that the solution to this issue is that Jesus is here not speaking of logic or theology but of a heart desire and inclination that cause a believer to want to avoid the danger and trouble sin creates. It is the expression of the redeemed soul that so despises and fears sin that it wants to escape all prospects of falling into it, choosing to avoid rather than having to defeat temptation.

Here is another paradox of Scripture. We know that trials are a means for our growing spiritually, morally, and emotionally. Yet we have no desire to be in a place where even the possibility of sin is increased. Even Jesus, when He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, first asked, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me,” before He said, “yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39). He was horrified at the prospect of taking sin upon Himself, yet He was willing to endure it in order to fulfill the will of His Father to make possible the redemption of man.

Our proper reaction to times of temptation is similar to Christ’s, but for us it is primarily a matter of self-distrust. When we honestly look at the power of sin and at our own weakness and sinful propensities, we shudder at the danger of temptation or even trial. This petition is another plea for God to provide what we in ourselves do not have. It is an appeal to God to place a watch over our eyes, our ears, our mouth, our feet, and our hands-that in whatever we see, hear, or say, and in any place we go and in anything we do, He will protect us from sin.

Like Joseph we know that what men and Satan mean for evil God will turn to the good of His children (see Gen. 50:20); but we are not certain that, like Joseph, we will be completely submissive to and dependent on God in our trials. The implication of this part of the prayer seems to be: “Lord, don’t ever lead us into a trial that will present such a temptation that we will not be able to resist it.” It is laying claim to the promise that “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13).

This petition is a safeguard against presumption and a false sense of security and self-sufficiency. We know that we will never have arrived spiritually, and that we will never be free of the danger of sin, until we are with the Lord. With Martin Luther we say, “We cannot help being exposed to the assaults, but we pray that we may not fall and perish under them.” As our dear Lord prayed for us in His great intercessory prayer, we want, at all costs, to be kept from the evil one (John 17:15).

When we sincerely pray, do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil, we also declare that we submit to His Word, which is our protection from sin. “submit therefore to God,”James says. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Submitting to God is submitting to His Word. “Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee” (Ps. 119:11). So the believer prays to be kept from overwhelming solicitation to sin, and if he falls into it, to be rescued from it. Deliver is actually in the form of a command.

In a cursed world where we are battered by evil all around us, we confess our inadequacy to deal with evil. We confess the weakness of our flesh and the absolute impotency of human resources to combat sin and rescue us from its clutches. Above all we confess our need for the protection and deliverance of our loving heavenly Father.[4]


13 The word peirasmos (“temptation,” GK 4280) and its cognate verb rarely if ever before the NT mean “temptation” in the sense of “enticement to sin” (whether from inward lust or outward circumstances) but rather “testing” (see comments at 4:1–12). But testing can have various purposes (e.g., refinement, ascertaining the strength of character, enticement to sin) and diverse results (greater purity, self-confidence, growth in faith, sin); as a result, the word can slide over into the entirely negative sense of “temptation.” See comments on the cognate verb in 4:1. The word sustains the unambiguous meaning in James 1:13–14, which assures us that “God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone [i.e., with evil]” (cf. Mt 4:1, 3; 1 Co 7:5; 1 Th 3:5; Rev 2:10). In this light, peirasmos cannot easily mean “temptation” here in v. 13, for that would be to pray that God would not do what in fact he cannot do, akin to praying that God would not sin.

But if peirasmos here means testing, we face another problem. The NT everywhere insists that believers will face testings or trials of many kinds but that these should be faced with joy (Jas 1:2; cf. 1 Co 10:13). If this is so, to pray for grace and endurance in trial is understandable; but to pray not to be brought to testings is strange. For detailed probing of the problem and interaction with the sources, see C. F. D. Moule, “An Unsolved Problem in the Temptation-Clause in the Lord’s Prayer,” RTR 33 (1974): 65–75.

Some have argued that the testing is the eschatological tribulation, the period of messianic woes (e.g., Jeremias, Prayers of Jesus, 104–7) characterized by apostasy. The petition becomes a plea to be secured from that final apostasy and is reflected in the NEB’s “do not bring us to the test.” But not only is peirasmos never used for this tribulation unless carefully qualified (and therefore Rev 3:10 is no exception, regardless of its interpretation), but one would at least expect to find the article in the Matthean clause. Carmignac (Recherches sur le “Notre Père,” 396, 445) so reconstructs the alleged Hebrew original that he distinguishes “to testing” from “into testing,” interpreting the latter to mean actually succumbing. The prayer then asks to be spared, not from testing, but from failing. Unfortunately, his linguistic arguments are not convincing.

Many cite b. Ber. 60b as a parallel: “Bring me not into sin, or into iniquity, or into temptation, or into contempt.” It is possible that the causative form of the Lord’s Prayer is, similarly, not meant to be unmediated but has a permissive nuance: “Let us not be brought into temptation [i.e., by the devil].” This interpretation is greatly strengthened if the word “temptation” can be taken to mean “trial or temptation that results in fall”; this appears to be required in two NT passages (Mk 14:38; Gal 6:1; cf. J. V. Dahms, “Lead Us Not into Temptation,” JETS 17 [1974]: 229).

It also may be that we are forcing this sixth petition into too rigid a mold. The NT tells us that this age will be characterized by wars and rumors of wars (see comments at 24:6) but does not find it incongruous to urge us to pray for those in authority so “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives” (1 Ti 2:2). While Jesus told his disciples to rejoice when persecuted (Mt 5:10–12), he nevertheless exhorted them to flee from it (10:23) and even to pray that their flight should not be too severe (24:20). Similarly, a prayer requesting to be spared testings may not be incongruous when placed beside exhortations to consider such testings, when they come, as pure joy.

“Deliver us” (rhyomai, GK 4861) could mean either, on the one hand, “spare us from,” “preserve us against,” or, on the other hand, “deliver us out of,” “save us from” (BDAG, 907–8). Both are spiritually relevant, and which way the verb is taken depends largely on how the preceding clause is understood. The words tou ponērou (“the evil one,” GK 4505) could be either neuter (“evil”; cf. Lk 6:45; Ro 12:9; 1 Th 5:22) or masculine (“the evil one,” referring to Satan; Mt 13:19, 38; Eph 6:16; 1 Jn 2:13–14; 3:12; 5:19). In some cases, the Greek does not distinguish the gender (see comments at 5:37). However, a reference to Satan is far more likely here for two reasons: (1) “deliver us” can take either the preposition ek (“from”) or apo (“from”), the former always introducing things from which to be delivered, the latter being used predominantly of persons (cf. J. B. Bauer, “Liberanos a malo,” Verbum Domini 34 [1965]: 12–15; Zerwick, Biblical Greek, para. 89); and (2) Matthew’s first mention of temptation (4:1–11) is unambiguously connected with the devil. Thus the Lord’s model prayer ends with a petition that, while implicitly recognizing our own helplessness before the devil, whom Jesus alone could vanquish (4:1–11), delights to trust the heavenly Father for deliverance from the devil’s strength and wiles.

The doxology—“for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen”—is found in various forms in many MSS. The diversity of what parts are attested is itself suspicious (for full discussion, see Metzger, Textual Commentary, 16–17; cf. Hendriksen, 337–38). The MS evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of omission—a point conceded by Davies (Setting, 451–53), whose liturgical arguments for inclusion are not convincing.

The doxology itself is theologically profound and contextually suitable and was no doubt judged especially suitable by those who saw in the last three petitions a veiled allusion to the Trinity: the Father’s creation and providence provides our bread, the Son’s atonement secures our forgiveness, and the Spirit’s indwelling power assures our safety and triumph. But “surely it is more important to know what the Bible really contains and really means than to cling to something not really in the Bible, merely because it gratifies our taste, or even because it has for us some precious associations” (Broadus).[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 160). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1225). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Vol. 9, pp. 336–337). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 395–396). 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. 207–208). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

MAY 31 – GOD ALREADY KNOWS!

O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me…. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.

—Psalm 139:1, 3

In the same way, God, in one effortless act, knows instantly (not a little at a time, but instantly and perfectly) all things that can be known. That’s why I say that God cannot learn. As I said before, if we realized that God couldn’t learn, we could shorten our prayers quite a bit and step up their power. There is no reason to tell God things that He knew before you were born!

God knows the end from the beginning and He knew it long before it happened. Long before your parents met, God knew what you would be doing at this very moment. Before your grandparents met, before England was a nation, or the Roman Empire dissolved, or the Roman Empire was formed, God knew all about us. He knew everything about us—every hair on our head, our weight, our name, our past. And He knew it before we were born.

He knew it before Adam was. And when Adam walked in the garden with God, God knew all about Adam, all about Eve, all about their sons, all about the human race. God never gets astonished, astounded or surprised, because He already knows. You can walk down the street, turn the corner and get the surprise of your life. But God never turned the corner and got surprised, for the simple reason that God was already around that corner before He turned it. God already knew before He found out! God knows all things. AOGII113-114

Lord, I’m thankful that with You there are no surprises, nothing You don’t know ahead of time. Thank You. Amen. [1]


139:1, 2 First, he begins with the omniscience of God. God knows everything.

There is nothing He does not know.

Though limitless the universe and gloriously grand,

He knows the eternal story of every grain of sand.

But here it is His knowledge of the individual life that is particularly in view. In 1988 it was estimated that there were 5,000,000,000 people in the world. Yet God is intimately acquainted with each one. He knows all about every one of us.

He has searched us and known us! Words and deeds, thoughts and motives, He knows us inside out. He knows when we sit down to relax and when we rise up to engage in the varied activities of life. He can tell what we are thinking, and even anticipates our thoughts.

139:3 He sees us when we walk and when we lie down; in other words, He keeps a constant watch on us. None of our ways is hidden from Him.[2]


139:1 searched me and known me. Cf. the appeal in vv. 23, 24. He is the all-knowing God who has an intimate understanding of the psalmist, as of all His creation.

139:2 you discern my thoughts. God is omniscient. Thoughts may be the most private areas of life, but they cannot be hidden from the Lord (1 Chr. 28:9; Jer. 17:10; John 2:25).

139:3 You search out my path … lying down. Lit. “You have measured my traveling and my stretching out [to rest].” This is a merism for the thoroughness of God’s knowledge. See note on 49:2.[3]


139:1 This psalm contains the clearest expression of the attributes and character of God to be found in the Psalter. One could hardly describe the omniscience and omnipresence of God more effectively. As David meditated upon God’s omniscience, which includes actions (vv. 2, 3), words (v. 4), and thoughts (v. 2), it was apparently more than he could comprehend (cf.Rom. 11:33).[4]


The omniscience of the Lord (139:1–6)

139:1. The theme of verses 1–6 is announced in the opening verse: the Lord knew David penetratingly. David said God’s knowledge came as if He had scoured every detail of David’s life and thus knew him intimately.

139:2–4. Samples of how well God knew David are stated here. The Lord (You is emphatic in Heb.; cf. v. 13) knew every move he made; the two opposites of sitting and rising represent all his actions (this is a figure of speech known as a merism; cf. vv. 3, 8). God knew not only David’s actions; He also knew his motivations (thoughts; cf. v. 17). Afar evidently refers not to space but to time.

The daily activities of the psalmist were also thoroughly familiar to the Lord. The opposites of going out in the morning and lying down at night represent the whole day’s activities (another merism; cf. vv. 2, 8).

But the one sample that epitomizes God’s omniscience is in verse 4. Before the psalmist could frame a word on his tongue, the Lord was thoroughly familiar with what he was about to say. (The Heb. for “word” is millâh and the similar-sounding word for completely is kūllāḥ)

139:5–6. David’s initial response to this staggering knowledge was that he was troubled. Like many who respond to the fact of God’s omniscience, he thought it was confining, that God had besieged him and cupped His hand over him.

Moreover, this kind of knowledge was out of David’s control—it was too wonderful for him. The word “wonderful” is in the emphatic position, at the beginning of the sentence. On the meaning of “wonderful” as “extraordinary or surpassing,” see comments on 9:1. In other words divine omniscience is too high for humans to comprehend (also cf. comments on 139:14).[5]


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

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 769). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 994). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

[4] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Ps 139:1). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[5] Ross, A. P. (1985). Psalms. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 891). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

May 31 – Our Ultimate Example

“And while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.”

1 Peter 2:23

✧✧✧

Jesus Christ, as the sinless sufferer, is the only model we need as we endure life’s trials.

Prior to his death in 1555, the English Reformer and martyr Hugh Latimer expressed his convictions this way: “Die once we must; how and where, we know not…. Here is not our home; let us therefore accordingly consider things, having always before our eyes that heavenly Jerusalem, and the way thereto in persecution.” Latimer knew much about how to face suffering, but he knew that Jesus Himself was the final model regarding how to deal with suffering and death.

That model is summarized in today’s verse, which is a quote from the Suffering Servant passage in Isaiah 53. All the horrible physical and verbal abuse Christ endured just prior to the cross, along with the evil tearing down of His perfectly virtuous character, was unjustified, and yet He did not strike back. As the Son of God, Jesus had perfect control of His feelings and powers.

Jesus found the strength to endure such an abusive final trial when He “kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” Literally, Jesus kept handing Himself and all His circumstances, climaxing with His death on Calvary (Luke 23:46), over to the Father. The Son had complete trust in God, the just and fair Judge of the entire earth (see Gen. 18:25).

We can follow His example and endure persecution and unjust suffering without answering back, whether it be in the workplace, among relatives, or in any social setting. The key is simply entrusting our lives, by faith, to a righteous God who will make everything right and bring us safely into His glory (1 Peter 5:6–10).

Stephen and Paul are notable role models for how we can triumph over life’s persecutions and hardships, even death. But those great men were themselves merely “fixing [their] eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Heb. 12:2). We must do the same.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: As you daily experience life’s normal difficulties and challenges, ask God to help you better remember the perfect example Jesus set in facing the worst of pain and suffering.

For Further Study: Read Hebrews 1:1–2 and 4:14–16. Compare and contrast what these passages tell us about Christ’s deity and humanity. ✧ What do they reveal about the superiority of His example?[1]


2:23 He was patient under provocation. When He was reviled, He did not pay back in kind. When blamed He did not answer back. When accused He did not defend Himself. He was wondrously free from the lust of self-vindication.

An unknown author has written:

It is a mark of deepest and truest humility to see ourselves condemned without cause, and to be silent under it. To be silent under insult and wrong is a very noble imitation of our Lord. When we remember in how many ways He suffered, who in no way deserved it, where are our senses when we feel called to defend and excuse ourselves?

When He suffered, He did not threaten. “No ungentle, threatening word escaped His silent tongue.” Perhaps His assailants mistook His silence for weakness. If they had tried it they would have found it was not weakness but supernatural strength!

What was His hidden resource in bearing up under such unprovoked abuse? He trusted God who judges righteously. And we are called to do the same:

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore, “if your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him a drink, for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:19–21).[2]


  1. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

As a disciple of Jesus, Peter personally can testify to the suffering of Jesus. He was present in the courtyard of the high priest when Jesus was tried by the Sanhedrin (see Matt. 26:57–75; Mark 14:53–72; Luke 22:54–62). Peter was fully acquainted with the trial before Pontius Pilate; the chief priests and elders accused Jesus of many things but he made no reply (refer to Matt. 27:12–14). And Peter knew that when Jesus hung on the cross he suffered without complaint (Matt. 27:34–44). The content of verse 23 is such “as we might have expected to be written by an eyewitness” who reflected on the prophecy of Isaiah 53:7–9 (also see 5:1).

Peter depicts the patience and endurance of Jesus and suggests that we follow Jesus’ example. However, the tendency to retaliate when we are insulted is always present. For instance, Paul reacted instantaneously to the command of the high priest Ananias, who ordered “those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth” (Acts 23:2). Paul invoked the judgment of God: “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall” (v. 3). By contrast, Jesus prayed for his enemies: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34; and see Acts 7:60).

In the last part of verse 23 Peter states the reason for Jesus’ meekness. Writes Peter, “Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” That is, Jesus did not invoke God’s wrath upon his persecutors and demand retaliation. Jesus knew that his suffering was divinely ordained. He had to take upon himself the curse that was resting on the human race in consequence of man’s sin. Jesus was fully aware of God’s righteous judgment against sin (see 2 Cor. 5:21). For this reason, Jesus entrusted himself and his cause to God, the righteous judge.[3]


2:23 reviled. To “revile” is to pile up abusive and vile language against someone. Though verbally abused, Christ never retaliated with vicious words and threats (3:9; cf. Mt 26:57–65; 27:12–14; Lk 23:7–11). entrusting Himself. “To entrust” was “to hand over to someone to keep.” Christ was “delivered” to Pilate (Jn 19:11); Pilate “handed Him over” to the Jews (Jn 19:16); Christ “handed over” Himself to God, suffering in surprising silence, because of His perfect confidence in the sovereignty and righteousness of His Father (cf. Is 53:7).[4]


2:23 when he suffered, he did not threaten. It is common to long for retaliation in the face of unjust criticism or suffering, but Jesus behaved like the meek lamb of Isa. 53:7. He could do so because he continued entrusting both himself and those who mistreated him entirely to God, knowing that God is just and will make all things right in the end. Likewise believers, knowing that God judges justly, are able to forgive others and to entrust all judgment and vengeance to God (cf. Rom. 12:19). Every wrong deed in the universe will be either covered by the blood of Christ or repaid justly by God at the final judgment.[5]


2:23 entrusted himself Peter uses Isa 53:7 to highlight Jesus’ exemplary behavior in the face of threats and physical suffering. As the faithful Suffering Servant, Jesus illustrates how God’s people—both slaves and freepersons—should endure hardship.

the one who judges justly Peter likely draws this from Isa 53:10, which notes that the Suffering Servant’s anguish pleases Yahweh because of its results. God, who observes that the righteous are suffering, will ultimately reward their endurance and punish those who are afflicting them (see Rev 6:9 and note).[6]


2:23 reviled: Although He was insulted and abused, Jesus remained in control of His words and did not utter slanderous remarks in return. threaten: Although He suffered physical pain, Jesus did not cry out that He would get even or even that He desired to inflict pain on those who were causing Him agony. committed Himself: The Greek does not have Himself, and thus does not say whom or what Jesus kept giving over to God. Most likely, He constantly entrusted both Himself and His revilers to the power of God in order to let God deal with both as a righteous judge. When we pray, we are to forgive (i.e. release to God) any offenses. It is not ours to “get even” (Mark 11:25, 26).[7]


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

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2265). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude (Vol. 16, p. 110). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (1 Pe 2:23). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2409). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (1 Pe 2:23). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[7] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (pp. 1682–1683). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

May 31 – A Powerful Return

[Christ] will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

Philippians 3:21

Today’s verse assures us that Jesus Christ has the power to do the amazing things He has promised us. Since He can subject the entire universe to His sovereign control, He certainly has enough power to raise our bodies and make us like Him. He has the power to providentially create natural laws and to miraculously overrule them. He has the power to give life and to take it. The apostle Paul said, “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet” (1 Cor. 15:24–25).

The same power that will recapture the entire fallen universe and give it back to God is what makes it possible for us to become like Christ. Where is your focus? I hope it is on heaven and that you have not been distracted.[1]


3:21 When the Lord Jesus comes from heaven, He will change these bodies of ours. There is nothing vile or evil about the human body in itself. The evil lies in the wrong uses to which it is put.

But it is a lowly body, a body of humiliation. It is subject to wrinkles, scars, age, suffering, sickness, and death. It limits and cramps us!

The Lord will transform it into a body of glory. The full extent of the meaning of this we do not know. It will no longer be subject to decay or death, to the limitations of time or of natural barriers. It will be a real body, yet perfectly suited to conditions in heaven. It will be like the resurrection body of the Lord Jesus.

This does not mean that we will all have the same physical appearance! Jesus was distinctly recognizable after His resurrection, and doubtless each individual will have his or her own individual physical identity in eternity.

Also, this passage does not teach that we shall be like the Lord Jesus as far as the attributes of God are concerned. We shall never have all-knowledge or all-power; neither shall we be in all places at one and same time.

But we shall be morally like the Lord Jesus. We shall be forever free from sin. This passage does not give us enough to satisfy our curiosity, but it is enough to inspire comfort and stimulate hope.

According to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. The transformation of our bodies will be accomplished by the same divine power which the Lord will later use to subdue all things to Himself. He is “able to save” (Heb. 7:25). He is “able to aid” (Heb. 2:18). He is “able to keep” (Jude 24). Now in this verse we learn that He is able to subdue. “This is … our God forever and ever: He will be our guide even to death” (Ps. 48:14).[2]


Focusing on Expectations

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. (3:20–21)

The underlying motivation for pursuing Christlikeness is the hope of the return of Jesus Christ. Since Christ is in heaven, those who love Him must be preoccupied with heaven, longing for Christ to return and take them to be with Him (1 Thess. 4:17).

Paul had little interest in the comforts and pleasures of this world, as the following passages indicate:

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. (2 Cor. 4:8–10)

In everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things. (2 Cor. 6:4–10)

Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern? (2 Cor. 11:23–29)

This view led him to the conviction that made him write, “I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better” (1:23).

It is consistent for believers to have a heavenly focus, because our citizenship is in heaven. Politeuma (citizenship) appears only here in the New Testament, though Paul used the related verb in 1:27. It refers to the place where one has official status, the commonwealth where one’s name is recorded on the register of citizens. Though believers live in this world, they are citizens of heaven. They are members of Christ’s kingdom, which is not of this world (John 18:36). Their names are recorded in heaven (Luke 10:20; cf. Phil. 4:3; Heb. 12:23; Rev. 13:8; 21:27); their Savior is there (Acts 1:11; 1 Thess. 4:16); their fellow saints are there (Heb. 12:23); their inheritance is there (1 Peter 1:4); their reward is there (Matt. 5:12); and their treasure is there (Matt. 6:20).

Though they do not yet live in heaven, believers live in the heavenly realm (Eph. 2:6); they experience to some degree the heavenly life here on earth. They have the life of God within them, are under the rule of heaven’s King, and live for heaven’s cause.

Paul’s reference to citizenship may have been especially meaningful to the Philippians, since Philippi was a Roman colony. The Philippians were Roman citizens, though obviously living outside of Rome, just as believers are citizens of heaven living on earth.

It is from heaven that we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. To the disciples who watched as Christ ascended into heaven the angels said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). In John 14:2–3 Jesus Himself promised, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” Because of those promises, believers are to be “awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:7), and “to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10). Until He returns, believers “groan within [themselves], waiting eagerly for [their] adoption as sons, the redemption of [the] body” (Rom. 8:23).

The hope of Christ’s return provides believers with motivation, accountability, and security. In this promise there is positive motivation to be found faithful when He returns to reward believers; to be accountable to God for living lives that produce gold, silver, and precious stones instead of wood, hay, and straw (1 Cor. 3:12). There is a corresponding negative reality, as John wrote: “Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward” (2 John 8). Finally, the promise of Christ’s return provides security, since Jesus promised, “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:39–40).

Believers are not to wait for Christ’s return with attitudes of passive resignation or bored disinterest. Instead, they are to eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Believers are not waiting for an event but a Person. Apekdechomai (eagerly wait) is often used to speak of waiting for Christ’s second coming (e.g., Rom. 8:19, 23, 25; 1 Cor. 1:7; Gal. 5:5; Heb. 9:28). It describes not only eagerness, but also patience.

As noted above, Christ’s return marks the end of believers’ struggling pursuit of the elusive prize of holy perfection, for it is then that He will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory. It is then that the eagerly awaited redemption of the body will take place (Rom. 8:23). It is “when He appears [that] we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2). Until then, the new creature (2 Cor. 5:17) is incarcerated in the unredeemed humanness (“the body of this death”; Rom. 7:24) from which it longs to be liberated.

For believers who die before Christ’s return, death means the temporary separation of the spirit from the body. The body goes into the grave, while the spirit goes immediately into the presence of God (1:21, 23; 2 Cor. 5:6, 8). Heaven is currently occupied by “the spirits of the righteous made perfect” (Heb. 12:23). Those believers who live from Pentecost to the Rapture will have their spirits joined to their resurrection bodies at the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:15–17). The Old Testament believers and those saved during the Tribulation will receive their resurrection bodies at Christ’s second coming (Dan. 12:2; Rev. 20:4).

Christ will totally transform the bodies of all believers, each group at its appointed time (cf. 1 Cor. 15:22–23), to make them fit for heaven. Believers’ bodies will have a new schematic; they will be refashioned and redesigned. Christ will change the present body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory. Like Christ’s resurrection body, believers’ resurrected bodies will be recognizable. They will be able to eat, talk, and walk, but will not have the physical restrictions of our present bodies. After His resurrection Christ appeared and disappeared at will, even entering a room whose doors were locked (John 20:19). Paul gives the most detailed description of believers’ resurrection bodies in 1 Corinthians 15:35–49:

But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So also it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living soul.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.

The combination of a redeemed spirit and a glorified body will enable all believers to perfectly manifest the glory of God. Sin, weakness, sorrow, disappointment, pain, suffering, doubt, fear, temptation, hate, and failure will give way to perfect joy (Matt. 25:21), pleasure (Ps. 16:11), knowledge (1 Cor. 13:12), comfort (Luke 16:25), and love (1 Cor. 13:13).

Salvation involves far more than mere deliverance from hell. God’s ultimate goal in redeeming believers is to transform their bodies into conformity with the body of His glory. They will “become conformed [summorphos; the same word translated conformity in v. 21] to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29; cf. 1 John 3:2). “Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Cor. 15:49).

Their transformed bodies will permit believers finally to be the perfect creation God intends for them to be for the joy of perfect fellowship with Him forever. Describing heaven, John wrote, “I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them’ ” (Rev. 21:3; cf. John 14:1–3; 1 Thess. 4:17). Those bodies will also allow believers to see God. In the Beatitudes Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8), while John wrote that in heaven “there will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads” (Rev. 22:3–4). Believers’ resurrection bodies will also be perfectly suited for the eternal service they will render to God (cf. Rev. 7:15).

Lest any doubt Christ’s power to transform believers’ bodies, Paul notes that He will accomplish it by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. Hupotassō (subject) means “to arrange in order of rank” or “to manage.” Christ will have the power to rule the millennial kingdom (Rev. 12:5, 19:15; cf. Isa. 9:6; 32:1; Zech. 14:9). By His power Christ will also transform the earth’s topography (Zech. 14:4–8) and the natural kingdom (Isa. 11:6–9). Paul’s point is that if Christ can subject the entire universe to His sovereign control (cf. 1 Cor. 15:24–27), He has the power to transform believers’ bodies into His image.

As they run the spiritual race (Heb. 12:1), believers must look to godly examples for inspiration and instruction. They must also look out for those enemies of the truth who would lead them astray. Finally, they must focus on the glorious hope that is theirs at the return of Christ—the transformation of their bodies into conformity with His. Then, regenerated fully in soul and body, they will be suited to eternal, holy glory and joy.[3]


You Shall Live Again

Philippians 3:21

… who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Once I discussed the relative importance of the two most significant Christian doctrines with one of my friends. They were the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We came to the conclusion that although the death of our Lord is the heart of the gospel both doctrinally and in terms of the evangelistic message, the resurrection is of at least equal importance with it historically in terms of the evidence for Christ’s claims.

The evangelist Reuben A. Torrey called the resurrection of Jesus Christ “the Gibraltar of Christian evidences, the Waterloo of infidelity.” Torrey was entirely right. The resurrection of Jesus is the great historical fact upon which all the Christian doctrines are suspended and before which all honest disbelief must waver. If it can be shown that Jesus of Nazareth actually rose from the dead, as the Scriptures claim and as Christians have always confessed, then the Christian faith rests upon an impregnable foundation. If it stands, they stand. If the resurrection falls, the other truths fall also. It was a recognition of this truth that caused Paul to write to the Corinthians, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised” (1 Cor. 15:14–15).

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a bit like a clothesline that supports the clean wash. If the line falls, the doctrines of the faith fall. Where the resurrection stands, everything else stands with it.

The Other Doctrines

What does the resurrection prove? It proves all that needs to be proved. It proves the essential doctrines of Christianity.

In the first place, it proves the deity of our Lord. When he lived on earth Jesus claimed to be equal to God and that God would raise him from the dead three days after his execution by the Jewish and Roman authorities. If he were wrong in this, his claim would be blasphemy. If he were right, the resurrection would be God’s method of substantiating it. Jesus did rise from the dead, and his resurrection is God’s seal on Christ’s claims to divinity. This is why Paul, who knew that Jesus had been raised, writes that “through the Spirit of holiness [Jesus] was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4).

Then too the resurrection proves our justification before God. The Book of Romans states that Jesus “was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). Jesus had claimed that his death would atone for human sin. He had said that he had come “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). He died as he said. But the question remained: Could it be true that the death of this one man would be acceptable to God for others? Three days pass; Christ rises; his claim is established. By the resurrection God shows that he has accepted Christ’s atonement forever.

The resurrection also proves that the believer in Christ can have a supernatural victory over sin in this life, for Christ lives to provide the supernatural power for it. The author of Hebrews says, “Therefore he [Christ] is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Heb. 7:25). In the same way Jude says that he “is able to keep [them] from falling” (Jude 24).

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is also the unshakable evidence for our own resurrection. Because he lives we shall live also. That is why Paul says, in the verse we have now come to in our study of Philippians, Christ “by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Phil. 3:21).

This verse teaches several important things: 1) Jesus is living, 2) because he lives we shall live, and 3) because he was transformed we shall be transformed. Moreover, we know all of these things through the fact of his own resurrection.

Jesus is Living

In the first place, Jesus is living. This great fact first gripped the disciples and friends of Jesus. During the days following the resurrection all of them moved from blank and enervating despair to firm conviction and joy. Thereafter this unshakable truth transformed their life and ministry.

During the last century the well-known critic of the Gospels, Ernst Renan, wrote that belief in Christ’s resurrection arose from the passion of an hallucinating woman, that is, of Mary Magdalene. He meant that Mary Magdalene was in love with Jesus and deluded herself into thinking that she had seen him alive when she had actually seen only the gardener. This idea is preposterous. The last person in the world that Mary or any of the others expected to see was Jesus. To their minds Jesus had died forever, and their hopes had died with him. The only reason Mary was in the garden on that Easter morning was to put spices around his dead body.

Moreover, even if Mary had believed in some sort of resurrection through the force of love, there is no evidence that the disciples could have been similarly deluded or that they anticipated anything of the kind. Many despaired; some, like the Emmaus disciples, were scattering. Thomas, for one, was adamant in his disbelief. Yet, we find that within a matter of days after the Lord’s alleged resurrection all of them were absolutely convinced of what beforehand they would have judged entirely impossible. And they went forth to tell about it, persisting in their conviction even in the face of threats, persecution, and torture.

Torrey summarizes the evidence like this. “The most significant fact of all is the change in the disciples—the moral transformation. At the time of the crucifixion of Christ we find the whole apostolic company filled with blank and utter despair. We see Peter, the leader of the apostolic company, denying his Lord three times with oaths and cursings. But a few days later we see this same man filled with a courage that nothing could shake. We see Peter standing before the very council that had condemned Jesus to death, and saying to them: ‘Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, doth this man stand before you whole’ (Acts 4:10). A little further on, when commanded by this council not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus, we hear Peter and John answering: ‘Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard’ (Acts 4:19, 20). … Something tremendous must have happened to account for such a radical and astounding moral transformation as this. Nothing short of the fact of the resurrection, of their having seen the risen Lord, will explain it.”

Certainly Paul was at one with this first great conviction of the disciples when he made the resurrection of Jesus the basis of the Christian’s own faith and spiritual confidence.

We Will Also Live

The second important thought in our text is that because Jesus lives we shall live also. Jesus had said, “I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14: 2–3). In 1 Thessalonians Paul writes, “We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (1 Thess. 4:14).

At this point two truths must be made clear: 1) Apart from the resurrection of Jesus Christ there is no certainty of life beyond the grave for anyone, and 2) On the basis of the resurrection of Jesus Christ the believer can have a perfect confidence. The writings of philosophers have many arguments for immortality, but at best they offer only a speculation that such things may be so. One philosopher has called the doctrine of immortality “a candle flickering at the end of a dark tunnel.” Another has called it “a star shining dimly on the blackest of nights.” This is the philosophical hope of immortality, but it does not give confidence. It is a probability but not a certainty. The only sure evidence of our resurrection is the resurrection of Jesus himself, who said, “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19). His resurrection makes the difference.

In the year 1899, two famous men died in America. One was an unbeliever who had made a career of debunking the Bible and arguing against the Christian doctrines. The other was a Christian. Colonel Ingersoll, after whom the famous Ingersoll lectures on immortality at Harvard University are named, was the unbeliever. His death was sudden and came as an unmitigated shock to his family. His body was kept in the home for several days because Ingersoll’s wife could not bear to part with it; and it was finally removed only because the corpse was decaying and the health of the family required it. At length the remains were cremated, and the display at the crematorium was so dismal that some of the scene was even picked up by the newspapers and communicated to the nation at large. Ingersoll had used his great intellect to deny the resurrection. When death came there was no hope, and the departure was received by his friends and family as an uncompensated tragedy.

In the same year the evangelist Dwight L. Moody died, and his death was triumphant for himself and his family. Moody had been declining for some time, and his family had taken turns being with him. On the morning of his death his son, who was standing by the bedside, heard him exclaim, “Earth is receding; heaven is opening; God is calling.” “You are dreaming, Father,” his son said. Moody answered, “No, Will, this is no dream. I have been within the gates. I have seen the children’s faces.” For a while it seemed as if Moody was reviving, but he began to slip away again. He said, “Is this death? This is not bad; there is no valley. This is bliss. This is glorious.” By this time his daughter was present, and she began to pray for his recovery. He said, “No, no, Emma, don’t pray for that. God is calling. This is my coronation day. I have been looking forward to it.” Shortly after that Moody was received into heaven. At the funeral his family and friends joined in a joyful service. They spoke and sang hymns. They heard the words proclaimed, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin; and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:55–57). Moody’s death was a part of that victory.

I do not mean to imply that the death of every Christian is equally glorious. Not all feel the force of these doctrines and live them in the moment of their homegoing, but death is still partially transformed even for those who do not. For a Christian death can be victorious. There is no hope apart from our Lord’s resurrection. In the light of his resurrection, as we go out to the cemeteries to look at the graves of our parents, sisters, brothers, wives, husbands, friends, and children, we hear the Lord Jesus say, “Your parents shall live again; your brother shall live again, your son shall live again.” And we know that even now they live in Christ’s presence.

Jesus lives, and so shall I.

Death! thy sting is gone forever!

He who deigned for me to die,

Lives, the bands of death to sever.

He shall raise me from the dust.

Jesus is my Hope and Trust.

Jesus lives and death is now

But my entrance into glory.

Courage, then, my soul, for thou

Hast a crown of life before thee;

Thou shalt find thy hopes were just;

Jesus is the Christian’s Trust.

To Be Transformed

The last teaching of our text is that we shall be transformed. Because Jesus was transformed, we shall be transformed. Thus, Paul says that Jesus will change our lowly bodies and fashion them like his glorious body.

This is a great comfort to those who have lost Christian loved ones. There is always a horror to death as we know it. It is connected to sin. Even the Bible knows it as the ultimate enemy of humans. In death, and often before it, the body of a person is destroyed. Sometimes it is wasted by sickness; sometimes it is crushed in the abrupt terror of an accident. Often the last sight we have of a Christian friend is of a wasted body caught by the grim hands of death. Yet in none of these grim experiences have we heard the end of the story. The last reel has not been shown. We know that we shall meet again in Christ’s presence. We shall meet in transformed bodies, and the former sadness will fade to a small and insignificant thing in the light of the unending joy of eternity

Apart from the resurrection of Jesus himself there are only three resurrections recorded in the four Gospels—the resurrection of the son of the widow of Nain, the resurrection of the daughter of Jairus, and the resurrection of Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus. Each began in mourning and sorrow; each ended in exuberant joy. What made the difference? Nothing but the coming of Jesus! Jesus said of himself, “I am the life,” and where life meets death, death is vanquished. Death was vanquished, and it will be abolished forever for us when Jesus Christ returns.

Perhaps you are saying, “Can I really believe that is possible? Is Jesus really able to do the things claimed?” Of course, he is! Think of the things for which the Bible tells us he is able. It says that “he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him” (2 Tim. 1:12), “he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Heb. 2:18), he “is able to keep you from falling” (Jude 24), he “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph. 3:20), “he is able to save completely those who come to God through him” (Heb. 7:25). Can he do these things? Of course, he can. In the same way he is able to raise up our bodies, transforming them “by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control” (Phil. 3:21).[4]


21 Christians await the resurrection, described here in terms of the transformation of, literally, “the body of humiliation” (to sōma tēs tapeinōseōs, a Hebraic genitive). Paul is not denigrating bodily existence (“our vile body,” KJV). His language derives from the reality that our perishable bodies succumb to the humiliation of death by which we return to dust (1 Co 15:35–58). He also assumes that this earthly dress is unfit for heavenly habitation. Our earthly physicality requires a divinely wrought transformation (metaschēmatizō, “change the outward form of,” GK 3571; NIV, “transform”) to make it fit for heavenly existence. When Christ subjects all things to himself (including the emperors of this world, 1 Co 15:24), God will then claim the final victory over death.[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 168). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1977). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2001). Philippians (pp. 259–263). Chicago: Moody Press.

[4] Boice, J. M. (2000). Philippians: an expositional commentary (pp. 220–225). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[5] Garland, D. E. (2006). Philippians. In T. Longman III (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 248–249). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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