Daily Archives: June 1, 2017

June 1, 2017: Verse of the day

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49 Mary is in awe of the “Mighty One,” whose great power has been exercised in her life. The word “great” (megala, GK 3489) recalls “glorifies” (megalynei, GK 3486) in v. 46. God’s “name” is, according to the common ancient meaning, his whole reputation or character.[1]


1:49 the Mighty One Like Hannah, Mary praises God’s attributes by using names that reflect His character (compare 1 Sam 2:2).[2]


1:49 He who is mighty: God is One who protects and fights for His children (Pss. 45:3; 89:8; Zeph. 3:17). holy is His name: God is unique and set apart from all other beings (Lev. 11:44, 45; Ps. 99:3; Is. 57:15).[3]


[1] Liefeld, W. L., & Pao, D. W. (2007). Luke. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 66). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Lk 1:49). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[3] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1251). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

June 1 – Examining Your Faith

“Prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22).

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God wants you to know whether your faith is genuine or not.

Our studies this month center on James 1:19–2:26, which deals with the issue of true faith—a most important consideration indeed. Knowing your faith is genuine is a wonderful assurance, but thinking you’re saved when you’re not is the most frightening deception imaginable. In Matthew 7:21–23 Jesus speaks of those who call Him Lord and even do miracles in His name but aren’t redeemed. Second Timothy 3:5 speaks of those who have “a form of godliness” but deny its power. They’re religious but lost. Sadly, many people today are victims of the same deception. They think they’re Christians, but they’re heading for eternal damnation unless they recognize their true condition and repent.

Deception of that magnitude is a tragedy beyond description. But you need never fall prey to it because James gives a series of tests for true faith. This month we’ll be applying one of those tests: your attitude toward God’s Word. That’s an especially crucial test because the Word is the agency of both your salvation and sanctification. The Holy Spirit empowered it to save you, and He continually works through it to conform you to the image of Christ. That’s why Peter said, “You have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God. … [Therefore] like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Peter 1:23–2:2).

Jesus Himself characterized believers as those who abide in His Word and obey His commandments. They receive the Word with an attitude of submission and humility. However, unbelievers resist and disobey the Word (John 8:31, 43–45). Psalm 119:155 says, “Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek Thy statutes.”

As you study this test of true faith, ask yourself, Do I pass the test? I pray that your answer will echo the words of the psalmist: “I have inclined mine heart to perform thy statutes forever, even unto the end” (Ps. 119:112).

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Ask God for clarity and confidence about your faith in Christ.

For Further Study: Read the book of James, noting the instructions he gives regarding Christian living.[1]


1:22 It is not enough to receive the implanted word; we must obey it. There is no virtue in possessing the Bible or even in reading it as literature. There must be a deep desire to hear God speaking to us and an unquestioning willingness to do whatever He says. We must translate the Bible into action. The word must become flesh in our lives. There should never be a time when we go to the Scriptures without allowing them to change our lives for the better. To profess great love for God’s word or even to pose as a Bible student is a form of self-deception unless our increasing knowledge of the word is producing increasing likeness to the Lord Jesus. To go on gaining an intellectual knowledge of the Bible without obeying it can be a trap instead of a blessing. If we continually learn what we ought to do, but do not do it, we become depressed, frustrated, and callous. “Impression without expression leads to depression.” Also we become more responsible to God. The ideal combination is to read the word and obey it implicitly.[2]


22. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

In the next four verses, we see the following parts:

A direct command

The command has a negative and a positive part. “Do not merely listen.… Do what it says.” Here is a more literal translation of the text: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (RSV). The New International Version reverses the order because in actual experience hearing comes before doing. Also, the phrase and so deceive yourselves applies only to hearing. Therefore, the choice to place the words do what it says separately at the end of the verse is commendable, for it shows emphasis.

First, let us look at the term hearers. This expression is closely linked to the word disobedience in the Greek. The writer of Hebrews joins the verb to hear and the noun disobedience in the same breath. “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For … every violation and disobedience received its just punishment” (2:1–2). James also warns his readers to pay attention to the Word of God. If they neglect to hear God’s message, they deceive themselves. They merely listen to the preaching of the gospel and at the conclusion of the worship service walk away as if the Word of God has nothing to say to them.

Next, to all of us James says, “Do what it says.” The Christian faith is always active and stands in sharp contrast to other religions that practice meditation and general inactivity. In one of his epistles, John delineates the Christian’s duty to be active. Says he, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18; also consult Ezek. 33:32).[3]


22 In 1:22–25 James comes to the heart of a major problem among those he addresses (see 2:14–26) and a point eminently relevant to the church of any age. There are, of course, various ways a person can interact with the word of God. Yet here James asserts that listening to the word without actively applying it to life is deficient interaction. Thus he exhorts his readers to become doers of the word, not only hearers. His concern is strikingly similar to Paul’s concern in Romans 2:13: “it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified” (NASB). The point is clear. If one merely listens to the word taught and takes no action to incorporate it into the patterns of life, this does not constitute true receptiveness. God’s word should change behavior, not just stimulate the mind. The concept of doing the word is Semitic and anticipates the discussion of “faith and works” in 2:14–26.

In fact, those who hear the word without acting on it “deceive themselves” (paralogizomenoi [GK 4165] heautous). The word translated “deceive” can carry the meaning “cheat” or “defraud,” but based on the analogy to which we will turn momentarily (1:23–24), deception, or the idea of misleading, clearly is in view. Paul uses this term in Colossians 2:4 of being deceived by persuasive arguments. So the sense of James’s assertion is comparable to one saying, “If you think it is OK to listen to the word without acting on it, you are fooling yourself![4]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 165). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2223). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of James and the Epistles of John (Vol. 14, p. 60). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] Guthrie, G. H. (2006). James. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 226–227). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

JUNE 1 – GOD WOULD PRODUCE CHRIST’S BEAUTY IN OUR LIVES

And be renewed in the spirit of your mind:…put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

EPHESIANS 4:23, 24

God is faithful—He is never going to be done with us in shaping us and fashioning us as dear children of God until the day that we will see Him face-to-face!

Truly, in that gracious day, our rejoicing will not be in the personal knowledge that He saved us from hell, but in the joyful knowledge that He was able to renew us, bringing the old self to an end, and creating within us the new man and the new self in which can be reproduced the beauty of the Son of God!

In the light of that provision, I think it is true that no Christian is where he ought to be spiritually until that beauty of the Lord Jesus Christ is being reproduced in daily Christian life.

I admit that there is necessarily a question of degree in this kind of transformation of life and character.

Certainly there has never been a time in our human existence when we could look into our own being, and say: “Well, thank God, I see it is finished now. The Lord has signed the portrait. I see Jesus in myself!”

Nobody will say that—nobody!

Even though a person has become like Christ, he will not know it, because humility and meekness are also a part of the transformation of true godliness![1]


4:23 A second lesson the Ephesians learned at the feet of Jesus was that they were being renewed in the spirit of their mind. This points to a complete about-face in their thinking, a change from mental impurity to holiness. The Spirit of God influences the thought processes to reason from God’s standpoint, not from that of unsaved men.

4:24 The third lesson is that they had put on the new man once for all. The new man is what a believer is in Christ. It is the new creation, in which old things have passed away and all things have become new (2 Cor. 5:17). This new kind of man is according to God, that is, created in His likeness. And it manifests itself in true righteousness and holiness. Righteousness means right conduct toward others. Holiness is “piety towards God, which puts Him in His place,” as F. W. Grant defines it.[2]


22–24. (having been taught) that with respect to your former manner of life you must put off the old man, which is being corrupted through deceitful lusts, and must be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new man, created after (the likeness of) God in true righteousness and holiness.

What the Ephesians had been taught “in Christ” was this, that nothing less than a radical change in their mental outlook and manner of life was necessary, a complete turnabout. Their former manner of life (2:2, 3; 4:17–19; 5:8, 14; cf. Col. 1:21; 2:13; 3:7) must cease. The directive which, from the moment of their vital contact with Christ, was meant to control their entire being in all its manifestations, and to confront them every day and every hour, was curt and crisp: “Put off the old man,” that is, “the old nature, whatever you are apart from grace” (Col. 3:9; cf. Rom. 6:6), and “Put on the new man,” that is, “the new nature, whatever you have become, must be, and can become because of grace” (Col. 3:10; cf. Gal. 3:27). It was a summary formulation of a tremendously large order. In a sense, they had already put off the old man and put on the new man, namely, when they had given their hearts to Christ, and had professed him openly at the time of their baptism. But basic conversion must be followed by daily conversion. Even though in principle the believer has become a new creature (or “creation”), he remains a sinner until he dies. The old nature, with which the Ephesians had been on such intimate terms for so many years, is not easy to shed. Getting rid of it is difficult and painful. It amounts, in fact, to a crucifixion (Rom. 6:6). This is true all the more because it is always promising so much. It is being “continually corrupted” through lusts’ illusions, those deceptive evil desires with their mighty promises and minimal performances. This corrupting deceptiveness is present, moreover, wherever the old nature is represented, whether in the unbeliever or in the believer. Cain’s murder of his brother, a deed which had appeared so attractive when planned, brought nothing but a curse. Absalom’s prospective crown, so dazzling at first, resulted in his gruesome death. The vineyard, so luscious and so conveniently located that Ahab, in order to obtain this coveted prize, had not hesitated to sacrifice Naboth’s life, brought ruin to the king’s household and posterity. The thirty pieces of silver which had shimmered so brightly in Judas’ scheming, once in his possession had burned his hands, tortured his soul, and sent the traitor himself scurrying on his way to hanging and to hell. And, not to omit one of God’s chosen ones, David, in a moment of weakness, filled with passionate delight in the thought of pleasant days ahead with the object of his lustful yearning, was forced to listen to the words of the Lord which like thunder-bolts fell from the lips of the prophet: “You are the man. The sword will not depart from your house.” Truly, the old nature flaunts a golden cup, but upon inspection it is found to contain nothing but filth and abomination (cf. Rev. 17:4). Hence, the Ephesians had been warned most solemnly to put off the old man, to fight him with unrelenting and undiminished vigor in order to divest themselves completely of him.

But while “the old man” is wholly evil, “the new man” is wholly good. He is “created after (the likeness of) God.” Cf. Col. 3:10. Other explanatory passages are Eph. 2:10; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15; and Titus 3:5. Day by day this new creation is advancing “in true righteousness and holiness.” The Colossian parallel (3:10) adds “full knowledge.” Grace restores what sin has ruinously impaired. God not only imputes but also imparts righteousness to the sinner whom he pleases to save. Thus, the believer begins to perform his duties toward his fellow-men. But righteousness never walks alone. It is always accompanied by holiness, so that the regenerated and converted person performs his duties with reference to God also. Cf. Luke 1:75; 1 Thess. 2:10; Titus 1:8. Moreover, the righteousness and holiness which God bestows are true, not deceptive, as are the lusts spawned by the old nature. They bring life to its true, predestined fulfilment. They satisfy.

As to the figure underlying “putting off” and “putting on,” it refers, of course, to what one does with a garment. Frequently such a robe indicates a person’s nature or character: either good (Job 29:14; Ps. 132:9; Isa. 11:5; 61:10) or evil (Ps. 73:6; cf. Ps. 35:26; 109:29). How it clings to him! The figure is by no means confined to Scripture. It has become part of general literature. It also occurs in the prayers of God’s children: “Disrobe us of ourselves and clothe us with thyself, O Lord.”

Both the putting off of the old man and the putting on of the new man are necessary. Some people constantly stress the negative. Their religion is one of don’t. Others turn their backs upon every don’t, and take peculiar pride in overstressing the positive. Scripture avoids both of these extremes. Ephesians contains many a do and many a don’t. Here in this life both are needed. They are inseparable and point to simultaneous activities. That is what Paul means when he states that the Ephesians had been taught to “put off” the old man and to “put on” the new man. A person can do very little with one scissorblade. Twin blades, operating in unison, compose the scissors that will work. He who says “Yes” to Christ is saying “No” to Satan. But though both are necessary, Paul’s emphasis throughout is on the positive: “Overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21; cf. 13:14). So it is also here in Eph. 4:22–24, for we are taught that the only way in which one can progressively succeed in putting off the old man and putting on the new man is by being renewed in the spirit of one’s mind. This renewel is basically an act of God’s Spirit powerfully influencing man’s spirit, here, as also in 1 Cor. 4:21; Gal. 6:1; and 1 Peter 3:4, mental attitude, state of mind, disposition, with respect to God and spiritual realities.[3]


Become the New Self

and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (4:23–24)

In contrast to the depraved, reprobate mind of the unregenerate person (vv. 17–18), the Christian is renewed continually in the spirit of [his] mind (cf. Col. 3:10). Ananeoē (to be renewed) appears only here in the New Testament. The best rendering of this present passive infinitive is as a modifier of the main verb put on, so that it would read “and being renewed in the spirit of your mind, put on the new self.” This makes clear that such renewal is the consequence of “laying aside the old self” and is the context in which one may put on the new self. Salvation relates to the mind, which is the center of thought, understanding, and belief, as well as of motive and action. The spirit of your mind is explained by one commentator as intending to show that it is not in the sphere of human thinking or human reason, but in the moral sphere, that this renewal occurs. John Eadie says:

The change is not in the mind psychologically, either in its essence or in its operation; and neither is it in the mind as if it were a superficial change of opinion on points of doctrine or practice; but it is in the spirit of the mind; in that which gives mind both its bent and its material of thought. It is not simply in the spirit as if it lay there in dim and mystic quietude; but it is in the spirit of the mind; in the power which, when changed itself, radically alters the entire sphere and business of the inner mechanism.

When a person becomes a Christian, God initially renews his mind, giving it a completely new spiritual and moral capability—a capability that the most brilliant and educated mind apart from Christ can never achieve (cf. 1 Cor. 2:9–16). This renewal continues through the believer’s life as he is obedient to the Word and will of God (cf. Rom. 12:1–2). The process is not a one–time accomplishment but the continual work of the Spirit in the child of God (Titus 3:5). Our resources are God’s Word and prayer. It is through these means that we gain the mind of Christ (cf. Phil. 2:5; Col. 3:16; 2 Tim. 1:7), and it is through that mind that we live the life of Christ.

The renewed spirit of the believer’s mind is a corollary to putting on the new self, which is the new creation made in the very likeness of God and has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. That which was once darkened, ignorant, hardened, callused, sensual, impure, and greedy is now enlightened, learned in the truth, sensitive to sin, pure, and generous. Whereas it was once characterized by wickedness and sin, it is now characterized by righteousness and holiness. In Colossians 3:12, Paul calls believers “the chosen of God, holy and beloved.”

It is essential to expand the concept of the new self so that it may be understood more fully. The word new (kainos) does not mean renovated but entirely new—new in species or character. The new self is new because it has been created in the likeness of God. The Greek is literally, “according to what God is”—a staggering statement expressing the wondrous reality of salvation. Those who confess Jesus Christ as Lord are made like God! Peter says we become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4).

In Galatians 2:20, Paul declares, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” The image of God, lost in Adam, is more gloriously restored in the second Adam, the One who is the image of the invisible God (cf. 2 Cor. 4:4–6), where Paul describes Christ as the image of God, the treasure that dwell-s in us.

If believers have received the divine nature—the life of Christ, the likeness of God in this new self by an act of divine creation (cf. Col. 3:10)—it obviously must have been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. In the Greek, the word truth is placed last to contrast with deceit (v. 22), and the best rendering is that of the niv : “true righteousness and holiness.” God could create no less (see Luke 1:75).

Righteousness relates to our fellow men and reflects the second table of the law (Ex. 20:12–17). Holiness (hosiotēs, sacred observance of all duties to God) relates to God and reflects the first table (Ex. 20:3–11). The believer, then, possesses a new nature, a new self, a holy and righteous inner person fit for the presence of God. This is the believer’s truest self.

So righteous and holy is this new self that Paul refuses to admit that any sin comes from that new creation in God’s image. Thus his language in Romans 6–7 is explicit in placing the reality of sin other than in the new sell He says, “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body” (6:12) and, “Do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin” (6:13, emphasis added).

In those passages Paul places sin in the believer’s life in the body. In chapter 7 he sees it in the flesh. He says, “No longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwell-s me” (v. 17), “Nothing good dwell-s in me, that is, in my flesh” (v. 18), “I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwell-s in me” (v. 20), and “… the law of sin which is in my members” (v. 23).

In those texts Paul acknowledges that being a new self in the image of God does not eliminate sin. It is still present in the flesh, the body, the unredeemed humanness that includes the whole human person’s thinking and behavior. But he will not allow that new inner man to be given responsibility for sin. The new “I” loves and longs for the holiness and righteousness for which it was created.

Paul summarizes the dichotomy with these words: “So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind [synonymous here with the new self] am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh [synonymous here with unredeemed humanness contained in our sinful bodies] the law of sin” (Rom. 7:25). It is this struggle that prompts the anticipation for “the redemption of the body” described in Romans 8:23 (cf. Phil. 3:20–21).

We are new, but not yet all new. We are righteous and holy, but not yet perfectly righteous and holy. But understanding the genuine reality of our transforming salvation is essential if we are to know how to live as Christians in the Body of Christ to which we belong.

The remaining portions of the epistle contain exhortations to the believer to bring his body into obedience to the will of God.

Many rescue missions have a delousing room, where derelicts who have not had a bath in months discard all their old clothes and are thoroughly bathed and disinfected. The unsalvageable old clothes are burned and new clothes are issued. The clean man is provided clean clothes.

That is a picture of salvation, except that in salvation the new believer is not simply given a bath but a completely new nature. The continuing need of the Christian life is to keep discarding and burning the remnants of the old sinful clothing. “Do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness,” Paul pleads; “but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Rom. 6:13).

The many therefores and wherefores in the New Testament usually introduce appeals for believers to live like the new creatures they are in Christ. Because of our new life, our new Lord, our new nature, and our new power, we are therefore called to live a correspondingly new life–style.[4]


Jesus, the Great Divide

Ephesians 4:20–24

You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Have you ever thought how significant it is that in the Western world we do not reckon time from some fixed point in the past to which we add on year by year but from a midpoint from which we figure both forward and back? The Jewish calendar begins from what it regards as the date of creation and moves on from that point. So does the Chinese calendar. But not the Christian calendar! We begin with an approximation of the year of the birth of Jesus Christ and then number in two directions—backward in a receding series of years, which we call b.c. (“before Christ”), and forward in an increasing accumulation of years, which we call a.d. (anno Domini, “in the year of the Lord”). By this strange reckoning we testify that Jesus of Nazareth is the dividing line of history.

Jesus is the great divide in more than a historical sense. He is also a personal dividing point for everyone who has been saved by him. This is what Paul has in mind as he moves in his treatment of practical Christian conduct from the gentile world, as it was (and is) apart from Christ, to the new standards of Christianity. Having described the world in its darkness, alienation, and futility, Paul now exclaims, “You, however, did not come to know Christ that way” (Eph. 4:20).

This is Paul’s introduction to what is going to be an extensive description of the Christian life. So it is important to notice that it begins with a reference to Christ himself and not to anything that might be supposed to come out of the depraved hearts or futile efforts of mere human beings. Some people think that a new life or a new beginning in life can emerge from self-discovery. The human potential movement, visible in such organizations as EST, Mind Dynamics, Lifespring, and Scientology, teaches this. Some think that a change can be found through personal enlightenment. They seek it through mysticism and the newly resurgent religions of the East. Still others retain belief in the nineteenth-century notion of inevitable progress.

Real change comes in none of these ways. The only truly transforming power that has ever come into the world is that of the person and teaching of Jesus Christ, and the only true and lasting changes that ever take place in an individual life take place through believing in and learning from him.

Jesus is the great divide, not only historically but also in the lives of countless people.

The School of Christ

As Paul begins to explain this he uses three verbs, all having to do with education, and he follows them with a reference to “the truth that is in Jesus.” Together they create an image of what we might call the school of Jesus Christ. The way these verbs are used is interesting. Marcus Barth calls them “baffling” in his excellent treatment of them and considers them examples of “an extraordinary use of language.”

The first verb is emathete. The phrase in which it occurs should be rendered literally “you learned Christ” (niv, “came to know”). The reason this is “extraordinary” is that the idea of learning a person, rather than a mere fact or doctrine, is found nowhere else in the Greek Bible. Nor has it been found in any other pre-biblical document. What does it mean? Well, it probably means more than merely learning about the historical Jesus or becoming acquainted with his doctrines. It is probably to be taken along the lines of Jesus’ words when he said in his great prayer to the Father, recorded in John 17, “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (v. 3). It means that Christians are Christians because they have entered into a personal relationship with the living Lord Jesus Christ. It is a learning of him that changes them at the deepest possible level.

The second verb is ēkousate and occurs in the phrase “you heard him.” The New International Version says, “you heard of him,” but “of” is not in the text and at this point the niv is probably in error. The point is not that we have heard of Christ but rather that we have heard him speak. How so? How have we heard Jesus? The answer—though this is perhaps also a bit baffling—is that we have heard him in Scripture, particularly as it has been expounded to us by preachers of the gospel. I emphasize preaching because this is the way the Ephesians, to whom Paul is actually writing, must have heard Christ. As Paul preached Jesus, they heard Jesus himself through Paul’s exposition.

This is hard for the world to understand. The minds of this world’s people are clouded and their eyes blinded, as we saw in the story about William Pitt the Younger and Wilberforce. Yet Christians know exactly what this means. You read the Bible or hear the Word of God preached and, suddenly, sometimes quite unexpectedly, you are aware that Jesus is talking to you personally. This is not mere subjectivity; it is supernatural. For Jesus does speak. He speaks to change the life and thinking of his people.

The third verb is edidachthēte. It is a heightened form of the common Greek word for instruction and occurs in the phrase “you … were taught in him.” The puzzling thing about this expression is the words “in him.” Normally we would expect the sentence to say “taught by him,” or “taught about him,” But it actually says “in him,” and it probably means that Jesus is the atmosphere within which the teaching takes place. We might say that Jesus is the school, as well as the teacher and the subject of instruction.

Some years ago Marshall McLuhan popularized the phrase “the medium is the message.” He used it in reference to forms of communication such as television. In Christ’s school we have a case where the Medium really is the Message—and the environment too. Christ is everything. John Stott says in his comments on this passage, “When Jesus Christ is at once the subject, the object, and the environment of the moral instruction being given, we may have confidence that it is truly Christian. For truth is in Jesus. The change from his title ‘Christ’ to his human name ‘Jesus’ seems to be deliberate. The historical Jesus is himself the embodiment of truth, as he claimed.”

Notice that although Paul is speaking of the knowledge of Christ and his ways in the deepest, most personal, and most profound sense, it is nevertheless in terms of knowing or learning of Christ that he speaks. Why is this? It is because in the previous verse he has described the condition of the secular or gentile world as due chiefly to ignorance. He was pointing out that the depravity of the gentile world was due to its willful ignorance of God. The world has hardened its heart against God and so is alienated from him intellectually and in every other way. It follows, then, that when Paul speaks of the difference Jesus makes he does so in exactly parallel terms. The world is ignorant of God, but Christians have come to know him. The secular mind is hostile to Christ’s teaching, but the believer joyfully enrolls in and continually makes progress in Christ’s school.

What is the Difference?

We come to specifics now and ask in concrete terms precisely what difference the coming of Christ and his revelation mean to us. How shall we describe the geography to the right and to the left of this great historical divide? I suggest the following five alternatives.

  1. God and atheism. I am aware, of course, that there are many religions in the world other than Christianity, and I would even argue that they exist because of the God of Christianity. Not knowing the true God has left a vacuum at the center of the human personality which people everywhere try to fill with religion. But religion itself is empty—“vain” is Paul’s word—and it leads to frustration, the kind of thing Edward Gibbon meant when he described the religions of the ancient world either as “equally true” (in the minds of the common people), “equally false” (in the minds of the philosophers), or “equally useful” (in the minds of the magistrates). Mere human debate on this issue leads at best to skepticism and at worst to outright disbelief or atheism. Christ shows that there is a God and that the true God is the God of the Bible.

I am impressed with the fact that in his early apologetic writing this is the place where Francis Schaeffer starts. He starts with the existence of God, and his classic statement of this foundational point is that “God is there, and he is not silent.” It is evident why we must start at this point. If God exists and we can know he exists, then everything else follows from that premise. The Bible begins this way: “In the beginning God. …” Everything else follows that. If God does not exist or if we cannot know he exists, then nothing follows except chaos.

Jesus shows us that God exists and that this God, the true God, is the God of the Bible. This is the God he himself believed in and about whom he taught. He taught that God is all-powerful, and he declared that after he had died, this God, the God of the Old Testament, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, would raise him from the dead. This was a stupendous claim, a seemingly impossible claim. But the God of Jesus stood the test. He did raise Jesus from the dead, and thus both by his teaching and by his resurrection we know that there is a God and that the God proclaimed by Jesus is that God.

  1. Plan or accident. Is life part of an important, divine plan, or is it just an accident? That is the second issue that hinges on the person of Christ. The proponents of atheistic evolution, of whom there are many in our day, argue that everything that exists, including ourselves, has come about entirely by chance. There has been no guiding Mind or plan. It just happened. One day, for no real reason, certain inorganic compounds (like hydrogen, water, ammonia, and carbon dioxide, which were existing for no real reason) united to form bio-organic compounds (like amino acids and sugars). These bio-organics united to form bio-polymers, which are large molecules such as proteins, and these in turn became the first living cells, like algae. From this point life just progressed upward.

This is an utter absurdity, of course. “Chance” is no thing. It can “form” nothing. So if the choice is between a plan and an accident (or chance), there is really no choice. There must be a plan, and in order for there to be a plan there must be a Planner, who makes it.

The world does not see the absurdity of tracing everything to chance, and therefore in this area as in others Jesus is the point of division.

If there is no plan and everything is the product of mere chance (whatever that may be), then nothing at all has meaning. The world itself is meaningless. History is meaningless. You have no meaning, and neither do I. Everything is just an accident, and whether we live or die, achieve or fail to achieve in this life, is irrelevant. Moreover, since the universe does not care, there is no reason why we should care either. People do not want to acknowledge this, of course. After all, regardless of their world-and-life view (or even the absence of one), they are all nevertheless made in the image of God and therefore sense that they have meaning anyway.

But my point is that it is only in Jesus Christ that we know this. Otherwise we might as well say, as the ancients did, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” This is precisely the manner in which many of our contemporaries are living—and they have empty lives to show for it.

  1. Truth or ignorance. When I mentioned Francis Schaeffer’s statement, “God is there, and he is not silent,” it was for the sake of the statement’s first part: God is there. Now I return to it for the second part, which tells us not merely that God exists but that we can know he exists and that we can know many other things besides. We can know because of God’s authoritative speaking or revelation.

Without the knowledge of God in Jesus Christ the world cannot know anything with real certainty. This must have seemed particularly strange to the Greeks of Paul’s day. The Greeks had produced nearly all the great philosophers, and the ancient world prided itself on their wisdom. Still, the best philosophers knew (at least in part) how ignorant they were. Plato said somewhat wistfully, on one occasion, “Perhaps one day there will come forth a Word out of God who will reveal all things and make everything plain.” But the Greeks did not know where that Word was—until the early preachers of the gospel told them. They remained ignorant. And our world, which has heard the Word proclaimed but has rejected him, has moved in the direction, not of increasing certainty about absolutes, but of uncertainty.

I have frequently said that in our day people no longer even believe in truth, strictly speaking. They speak of truth, but they mean only what is true for me (but not necessarily for you) or what is true now (but not necessarily tomorrow). This means that in the final analysis there is no truth. A philosophy like this is the opposite of revelation, and the ignorance that results is so deep that it does not even know it is ignorance.

  1. Life or oblivion. What is in store after death: eternal life or personal oblivion? Here too Jesus Christ’s coming into the world has made a difference.

What is the one great fear of men and women apart from Jesus Christ? It is death. People fear death for two reasons.

First, they do not know what stands on the far side of that dark portal, if anything. They are ignorant. Francis Bacon was thinking of this when he said, “Men fear death as children fear the dark.”

Second, in spite of their willful ignorance of God, they sense deep in their beings that he is there, that they have offended him, and that beyond the door of death they must give an accounting to him. I think this is what bothered Samuel Johnson when he described his horror at the death of a friend: “At the sign of this last conflict I felt a sensation never known to me before: a confusion of passions, an awful stillness of sorrow, a gloomy terror without a name” (The Rambler, no. 54).

But let me say: Of all the fears people have in the face of death the least to be feared is oblivion—to die and be no more. The reality of facing God is far worse. To face God apart from Christ is to face judgment. Only in Christ can we pass over the dividing line between the kingdom of wrath and condemnation to that of life and light.

  1. Blessing or cursing in this life. I have been speaking of the difference Jesus makes for eternity, but I end by saying that Jesus makes all the difference in this life too. Do you remember that great scene in the book of Joshua in which, in obedience to the remembered command of Moses, Joshua gathered the people of Israel at Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim? The area between the mountains was a natural amphitheater, and the people were to stand on the opposing mountains while the law of God, containing blessings and cursings, was read to them. Mount Ebal was to be the mountain of cursing, and as the curses of God upon all who break his law were read, the people were to say, “Amen.” Mount Gerizim was the mountain of blessing. From this mountain the Levites read the blessings of God which were to be upon all who loved him and kept his commandments.

How were the people to keep them? They had no strength to do it. What were they to do if they did break the commandments? How were they to escape the curses of God which hung over them? In the bottom of that amphitheater, between the two mountains, there was an altar which pointed to the atonement to be made one day by Jesus Christ. That is what would deliver them from the curse and keep them in blessing. Christ alone could do it. Christ alone can bring blessing.

I do not fully understand how he does it, but he does. What was our life b.c. (before Christ)? Wrath and disaster. What is it a.d.? It is the way of mercy and blessing. What a Savior![5]


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

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1938). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Ephesians (Vol. 7, pp. 213–215). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (pp. 177–179). Chicago: Moody Press.

[5] Boice, J. M. (1988). Ephesians: an expositional commentary (pp. 159–164). Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library.

JUNE 1 – GOD’S GRACE IS ETERNAL

Much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.

Romans 5:15

It is a typical and accepted teaching in Christian churches today that Moses and the Old Testament knew only God’s law, and that Christ and the New Testament know only God’s grace.

I repeat: That is the “accepted” teaching of the hour—but I also hasten to add that it is a mistaken concept, and that it was never the concept held and taught by the early Christian church fathers.

God has always been the God of all grace, and He does not change. Immutability is an attribute of God; therefore, God at all times and in all of history must act like Himself!

He is the God of all grace; therefore, the grace of God does not ebb and flow like the ocean tides. There has always been the fullness of grace in the heart of God. There is no more grace now than there was previously, and there will never be any more grace than there is now!

The flow of God’s grace did not begin when Christ came to die for us. It was part of God’s ancient plan of redemption and was manifested in the blood and tears and pain and death at Calvary’s cross!

Lord, I am a recipient of Your abundant grace, and without it I would perish. I pray that others will see Your grace in my life today.[1]


5:15 The first contrast is between the offense of Adam and the free gift of Christ. By the trespass of the first man, the many died. The many here refers, of course, to Adam’s descendants. Death here may include spiritual as well as physical death.

The free gift abounds much more to the many. The free gift is the marvelous manifestation of the grace of God abounding to a race of sinners. It is made possible by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ. It was amazing grace on His part to die for His rebellious creatures. Through His sacrificial death, the gift of eternal life is offered to the many.

The two manys in this verse do not refer to the same people. The first many includes all who became subject to death as a result of Adam’s trespass. The second many means all who become members of the new creation, of which Christ is the Federal Head. It includes only those to whom God’s grace has abounded—that is, true believers. While God’s mercy is showered on all, His grace is appropriated only by those who trust the Savior.[2]


The Contrast In Effectiveness

But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. (5:15)

The first contrast is clearly stated as being between the free gift of Christ and the transgression of Adam, acts that were totally opposite.

By definition, all gifts are free, but charisma (free gift) refers to something given with special graciousness and favor, and therefore could also be appropriately rendered “grace gift.” When used of what is given to God, the term refers to that which is right and acceptable in His sight; when used of that which is given by God, as here, it refers to that which is given completely apart from human merit. In regard to Jesus’ atoning sacrifice, both meanings are involved. Going to the cross was Jesus’ supreme act of obedience to His Father and therefore was wholly acceptable to the Father. His going to the cross was also the supreme act of divine grace, His free gift offered to sinful mankind.

Transgression is from paraptom̄a, which has the basic meaning of deviating from a path, or departing from the norm. By extension, it carries the idea of going where one should not go, and therefore is sometimes translated “trespass.” The one sin of Adam that was bequeathed to all his posterity and that brought the reign of death on the world was a transgression from the one command, from the single norm for obedience, that God had given.

The impact of the free gift and of the transgression are distinct to themselves. By the transgression of the one, that is, Adam, the many died. Perhaps for the sake of parallelism, Paul uses many in two different senses in this verse. As will be seen below, he uses the term all with similarly distinct meanings in verse 18. In regard to Adam’s act, many is universal and inclusive, corresponding to the “all” in verse 12. Because all men, without exception, bear in themselves the nature and mark of sin, they are all, without exception, under the sentence of death (as he has made clear in earlier chapters).

By eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam departed from God’s standard and entered a divinely-forbidden realm. And instead of becoming more like God, as Satan had promised, man became more unlike His Creator and separated from Him. Instead of bringing man into the province of God, Adam’s transgression delivered him and all his posterity to the province of Satan.

The heart of Paul’s comparison, however, is that Christ’s one act of salvation had immeasurably greater impact than Adam’s one act of damnation. Much more, he says, did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. The divine provision of redemption not only is an expression of the grace of God the Father but of the grace of God the Son, the one Man, Jesus Christ.

The sin of Adam brought death. But the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, did more than simply provide the way for fallen mankind to be restored to the state of Adam’s original innocence. Jesus Christ not only reversed the curse of death by forgiving and cleansing from sin but provided the way for redeemed men to share in the full righteousness and glory of God.

John Calvin wrote, “Since the fall of Adam had such an effect as to produce ruin of many, much more efficacious is the grace of God to the benefit of many; inasmuch as it is admitted, that Christ is much more powerful to save, than Adam was to destroy” (Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979], p. 206). God’s grace is greater than man’s sin. Not only is it greater than the one original sin of Adam that brought death to all men but it is greater than all the accumulated sins that men have ever or will ever commit.

It might be said that Adam’s sinful act, devastating as it was, had but a one-dimensional effect-it brought death to everyone. But the effect of Christ’s redemptive act has facets beyond measure, because He not only restores man to spiritual life but gives him the very life of God. Death by nature is static and empty, whereas life by nature is active and full. Only life can abound.

Contrary to its use in the beginning of this verse regarding Adam, the term many now carries its normal meaning, applying only to those for whom Christ’s gracious gift of salvation is made effective through their faith in Him. Although Paul does not mention that qualifying truth at this point, He has just declared that believers are “justified by faith” and are introduced “by faith into this grace in which we stand” (5:1–2). That, of course, is the cardinal truth of the gospel as far as man’s part is concerned; it is the focus of Paul’s teaching in this epistle from 3:21—5:2.

Many of the Puritans and Reformers ended their sermons or commentary chapters with a statement about the passage’s “practical use.” The practical truth of Romans 5:15 is that the power of sin, which is death, can be broken, but the power of Christ, which is salvation, cannot be broken. “Our Savior Christ Jesus,” Paul declared to Timothy, “abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10).

Jesus Christ broke the power of sin and death, but the converse is not true. Sin and death cannot break the power of Jesus Christ. The condemnation of Adam’s sin is reversible, the redemption of Jesus Christ is not. The effect of Adam’s act is permanent only if not nullified by Christ. The effect of Christ’s act, however, is permanent for believing individuals and not subject to reversal or nullification. We have the great assurance that once we are in Jesus Christ, we are in Him forever.[3]


[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. 1699). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (pp. 302–304). Chicago: Moody Press.

June 1 – Postscript on Forgiveness

If you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.—Matt. 6:14–15

Believers should forgive others because they have received forgiveness from God themselves (cf. Eph. 1:17). We can’t claim to know God’s parental forgiveness—that which keeps our fellowship with the Lord rich and open—apart from forgiving others in heart and word.

Paul had this in mind when he wrote, “I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost [of sinners], Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience” (1 Tim. 1:16). An unforgiving spirit not only is inconsistent for one who has been totally forgiven by God, but also brings the chastening of God rather than His mercy.

Jesus states the truth of verse 14 in a negative way when He says, “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” The sin of an unforgiving heart and a bitter spirit (Heb. 12:15) forfeits blessing and invites judgment.

We must seek to manifest the forgiving spirit of Joseph (Gen. 50:19–21) and of Stephen (Acts 7:60) as often as needed (Luke 17:3–4). To receive pardon from the perfectly holy God and then refuse to pardon others when we are sinful people is the epitome of abuse of mercy. “Judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). So be sure you are practicing forgiveness of others.

ASK YOURSELF
What breaks down in your relationship with God when you withhold forgiveness from those who have wronged or mistreated you? How does it choke out your openness and freedom in the Lord’s presence?[1]

6:14, 15 This serves as an explanatory footnote to verse 12. It is not part of the prayer, but added to emphasize that the parental forgiveness mentioned in verse 12 is conditional.[2]


14, 15. For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Though in the teaching not only of Paul (Rom. 3:24; Eph. 2:8; Titus 3:5) but certainly also of Christ (Matt. 5:1–6; 18:27; Luke 18:13) salvation rests not on human accomplishments but solely on the grace and mercy of God, this does not mean that there is nothing to do for those who receive it. They must believe. Included in this faith is the eagerness to forgive. Unless the listeners forgive men their trespasses, they themselves will remain unpardoned.

In verse 12 sins were called debts, that is, that which we owe, and for which we must suffer punishment unless payment is made, satisfaction rendered, by ourselves or by another. Here, in verses 14 and 15, these sins are called trespasses, deviations from the path of truth and righteousness. Now whether these deviations are of the milder character, as in Gal. 6:1 and perhaps also in Rom. 5:15, 17, 18, or whether they are far more serious, as in Eph. 1:7; 2:1, they must be forgiven. Moreover, as far as it is in his power to do so a follower of Jesus should make not only his brothers in the Lord but also men in general the objects of his forgiving love, as is clear from the fact that the very word “men,” that is, human beings, is spelled out in full, and this both in verse 14 and in verse 15.

The question might be asked, “But in the process of bringing about forgiveness and reconciliation, does the entire obligation rest upon the person who has been sinned against? Does not the offender also have an obligation?” The answer is, “Indeed, he does.” He must repent and with the message of this repentance he must gladden the heart of the one whom he has injured (Luke 17:3, 4). But this does not remove the latter’s obligation to do all in his power to open wide the gate toward reconciliation. If in that case there is no co-operation from the other side, the blame will rest not on the offended person but on the offender, who originally inflicted the injury.[3]

God’s Postscript

For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. (6:14–15)

The prayer lesson concludes with a reminder that follows the teaching of forgiveness in verse 12. This is the Savior’s own commentary on our petition to God for forgiveness, and the only one of the petitions to which He gives added insight. Thus its importance is amplified.

For if you forgive men for their transgressions puts the principle in a positive mode. Believers should forgive as those who have received judicial forgiveness (cf. Eph. 1:7; 1 John 2:1–2) from God. When the heart is filled with such a forgiving spirit, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. Believers cannot know the parental forgiveness, which keeps fellowship with the Lord rich and blessings from the Lord profuse, apart from forgiving others in heart and word. Forgive (aphiēmi) means literally “to hurl away:”

Paul had this in mind when he wrote, “I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost [of sinners], Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience” (1 Tim. 1:16; cf. Matt. 7:11). An unforgiving spirit not only is inconsistent for one who has been totally forgiven by God, but also brings the chastening of God rather than His mercy. Our Lord illustrates the unmerciful response in the parable of Matthew 18:21–35. There a man is forgiven the unpayable debt representing sin and is given the mercy of salvation. He then refuses to forgive another and is immediately and severely chastened by God.

But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. That states the truth of verse 14 in a negative way for emphasis. The sin of an unforgiving heart and a bitter spirit (Heb. 12:15) forfeits blessing and invites judgment. Even the Talmud taught that he who is indulgent toward others’ faults will be mercifully dealt with by the Supreme Judge (Shabbath 151b).

Every believer must seek to manifest the forgiving spirit of Joseph (Gen. 50:19–21) and of Stephen (Acts 7:60) as often as needed (Luke 17:3–4). To receive pardon from the perfectly holy God and then to refuse to pardon others when we are sinful men is the epitome of abuse of mercy. And “judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).

There are petitions for the believer to ask from God, but there are also conditions for the answers to be received. Even more, our prayers are to be primarily concerned with the exaltation of the name, kingdom, and will of the Lord Jesus Christ. Prayer is primarily worship which inspires thanks and personal purity.[4]


14–15 These verses reinforce the thought of the fifth petition (see comments at v. 12). The repetition serves to stress the deep importance for the community of disciples to be a forgiving community if its prayers are to be effective (cf. Ps 66:18). The thought is repeated elsewhere (18:23–35; Mk 11:25). (On the possible literary relation with Mk 11:25, see Lane, Mark, 410–11.)[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 161). 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. 339–340). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 397–398). 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, p. 209). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

JUNE 1 – WHAT A GREAT CONSOLATION!

And what can David say more unto thee? for thou, Lord GOD, knowest thy servant.

—2 Samuel 7:20

It is a great consolation to me that God knows instantly, effortlessly and perfectly all matter and all matters… all causes and all relations, all effects and all desires, all mysteries and all enigmas, all things unknown and hidden. There are no mysteries to God….

I’m not worried about these satellites they’re shooting around the earth. I’m not worried about Kruschev [former leader of the Soviet Union] or any of the rest of those fellows over there with names you can’t pronounce. Because God’s running His world and He knows all about it. He knows where these men will die, He knows where they will be buried and He knows when they’ll be buried. God knows all hidden things, “dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto” ([1 Timothy] 6:16).

And He also knows His people. You who have fled for refuge to Him, Jesus Christ the Lord, He knows you, and you’re never an orphan. A Christian is never lost, though he may think he is…. The Lord knows where he is. The Lord knows all about him. He knows about his health and knows about his business. Isn’t it a consolation to you that our Father knows it all? AOGII116-117

Yes, Father, it is a huge consolation to me that You know all there is to know. I rest in that comfort today. Amen. [1]


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

June 1 – Integrity Means No Compromise!

“O Lord, who may abide in Thy tent? Who may dwell on Thy holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart.”

Psalm 15:1–2

✧✧✧

To love Christ and to be characterized by ever–increasing fidelity to biblical truth is the heart of true integrity.

Christian integrity has been defined as the absence of compromise and the presence of biblical convictions. In the words of the psalmist, it is to work righteousness and to speak truth from the heart (Ps. 15:2).

Many people in Scripture demonstrate exemplary integrity. For example, Jesus spoke of Nathanael as an Israelite “in whom is no guile” (John 1:47). To be without guile is to be truthful and unpretentious, which is another way of saying Nathanael had integrity. What a wonderful commendation!

Like Nathanael, Daniel was a man of uncompromising integrity, and in our studies this month Daniel’s example will demonstrate the power, characteristics, and blessings of biblical integrity. You will also see how God uses even the most difficult circumstances to test and refine your integrity.

This is an especially timely topic for our day because the spirit of compromise is flourishing all around us: in politics, in sports, in business, and sadly, even in the church. But Scripture calls us to an uncompromising standard that reflects the integrity of Christ Himself. As the Apostle John said, “The one who says he abides in [Christ] ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6).

This month you will see some of the challenges that await those who refuse to compromise their biblical convictions, as well as the blessings that come to them. As you do, I pray that the Lord will strengthen and encourage you, and that you will be one who truly “walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart.”

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: Make King David’s prayer yours today: “Guard my soul and deliver me; do not let me be ashamed, for I take refuge in Thee. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for Thee” (Psalm 25:20–21).

For Further Study: Read Daniel 1, 3, and 6 in preparation for our studies this month. Make a list of the character traits you see in Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed–nego that are worthy of imitation.[1]


15:1 The individual God chooses as His companion is the subject of Psalm 15. Although it does not say so in this Psalm, the basic qualification for entrance into God’s kingdom is to be born again. Apart from the new birth, no one can see or enter the kingdom. This birth from above is experienced by grace, through faith, and takes place completely apart from any meritorious works on man’s part.

Taken by itself, the Psalm seems to imply that salvation is somehow connected with a man’s righteous character or noble deeds. But taken with the rest of Scripture, it can only mean that the kind of faith that saves is the same kind of faith that results in a life of holiness. Like James in his epistle, David is here saying that genuine faith in the Lord results in the kind of good works described in this Psalm.

Incidentally, the Psalm does not profess to give a complete catalog of the virtues of the citizen of Zion. The portrait is suggestive but certainly not exhaustive.

15:2 First of all, the citizen of Zion walks with integrity. The man of integrity is a man of moral soundness. He is complete, well-rounded, and balanced.

Second, the citizen of Zion does what is right. He is careful to maintain a conscience that is void of offense. He would rather go to heaven with a good conscience than stay on earth with a bad one.

You can depend on this man to tell the truth from his heart. He would rather die than lie. His word is his bond. His yes means yes and his no means no.[2]


15:1 in your tent The Hebrew word used here, ohel, is a technical term referring to Yahweh’s tabernacle (Exod 26:1–37; 2 Sam 6:17). It is also used to refer to the Temple Mount (Ps 27:4–6). These questions were likely asked by, or of, worshipers visiting the temple or tabernacle of God.

your holy mountain Referring to the Temple Mount, Mount Zion, which was understood to be the dwelling place of Yahweh (43:3).

15:2 blamelessly The Hebrew word used here, tamim, indicates purity or innocence (2 Sam 22:24). It is used to describe God’s word and His Law (Ps 19:7; Deut 32:4). See note on Job 1:1.

what is right The Hebrew word tsedeq can refer to righteousness or justice. See note on Ps 4:1.

He who speaks honestly The Hebrew word used here, emeth, can mean truth or faithfulness; both are characteristics of Yahweh and His law (19:9; 25:5; 86:11; 119:142).

The requirement here is not just an outward expression of truth (Prov 8:7; 12:19); it is an inward position of the heart. According to Hebrew thought, the heart was considered the center of a person’s character. Yahweh tells Samuel that He looks at the heart rather than the outward appearance (1 Sam 16:7). Job worries that his children might curse God “in their hearts” (Job 1:5). The Israelites were to love Yahweh with their whole hearts (Deut 6:4).[3]


[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.) (pp. 564–565). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 15:1–2). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

June 1 – A Change of Nature

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

2 Corinthians 5:17

When you receive Jesus Christ, are born again, and enter into God’s kingdom, you become a totally different individual. The change that occurs when you’re saved is more dramatic than the change that will occur when you die because then you already have a new nature and are a citizen of God’s kingdom. Death simply ushers you into God’s presence.

In his epistles, the apostle Paul says that when God transformed us, He gave us a new will, mind, heart, power, knowledge, wisdom, life, inheritance, relationship, righteousness, love, desire, and citizenship. He called it “newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). Some teach that when a person becomes a Christian, God gives him something new in addition to his old sin nature. But according to the Word of God, we don’t receive something new—we ourselves become new![1]


5:17 If anyone is in Christ, that is, saved, he is a new creation. Before conversion, one might have judged others according to human standards. But now all that is changed. Old methods of judging have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

This verse is a favorite with those who have recently been born again, and is often quoted in personal testimonies. Sometimes in being thus quoted, it gives quite a false impression. Listeners are apt to think that when a man is saved, old habits, evil thoughts, and lustful looks are forever done away, and everything becomes literally new in a person’s life. We know that this is not true. The verse does not describe a believer’s practice but rather his position. Notice it says that if anyone is in Christ. The words in Christ are the key to the passage. In Christ, old things have passed away and all things have become new. Unfortunately, “in me” not all this is true as yet! But as I progress in the Christian life, I desire that my practice may increasingly correspond to my position. One day, when the Lord Jesus returns, the two will be in perfect agreement.[2]


  1. So, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. The old things passed away, and look—the new things have come.

Verses 16 and 17 are the logical conclusion of the preceding passage (vv. 14–15), are analogous, and show both a negative and a positive contrast (vv. 16 and 17 respectively). Because these two verses convey a parallel message, the last one depends on and is influenced by the first. The Greek clauses are short and in translation have to be augmented with the verb to be in the first sentence.

Let us look first at the word so, which introduces a summary of what Paul has been saying earlier about the unity believers have with Christ. He died for them and was raised, and they in turn live for him (v. 15). When Paul writes, “If anyone is in Christ,” he expresses the fact that numerous people in Corinth and elsewhere are true believers.

Next, the phrase in Christ occurs some twenty-five times in Paul’s epistles and signifies the intimate fellowship believers enjoy with their Lord and Savior. To be in Christ connotes being part of Christ’s body (1 Cor. 12:27), and Christ brings about a radical transformation in the believer’s life. Instead of serving the ego, the Christian follows Christ and responds to the law of love for God and the neighbor.

Some translators want to see balance in this sentence and thus link the word anyone in the first clause with the pronoun he (“he is a new creation”) in the second. But most expositors, rightly so, see the new creation not as being limited to a person but as extending to the total environment of this individual (compare Gal. 6:15; Rev. 21:5). That is, when people become part of the body of Christ at conversion, their lives take a complete reversal. They now abhor the world of sin and former friends are hostile to them. Their preconversion lifestyle is history, and “the old things have passed away” (see the parallel in Isa. 43:18–19). For converts, the life in Christ is a constant source of daily joys and blessings; the body of believers provides them with ready support and help; and self-assurance and trust certify the genuineness of their composure.

Scholars debate whether Paul borrowed the phrase a new creation from the rabbis of his day. Even if he did, these Jewish teachers never associated this phrase with moral renewal and regeneration. According to them, renewal occurred with respect to remission of sins, but not in the sense of the transformation that Jesus Christ brings about in the life of believers. For converts to the Christian faith, the old things no longer attract, for new things have taken their place through Christ. Although temptations always surround them, believers pray the sixth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matt. 6:13), and they know that God supplies strength to resist evil.[3]


Burden for the Lost

Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (5:16–17)

The overarching reason Paul defended his integrity, the one that incorporated all the rest, was so that he could continue to reach the lost. He passionately longed to see people come to saving faith in Christ. In the pagan cultural center of Athens, for example, Paul found that “his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols” (Acts 17:16). To the Romans he wrote, “I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles” (Rom. 1:13). In his first inspired letter to them, Paul made it clear to the Corinthians that his mission was “to preach the gospel” (1 Cor. 1:17); in fact, as he wrote later in that epistle, “I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:16).

But perhaps the most poignant glimpse of Paul’s burden for the lost comes in a shocking statement in his letter to the Romans:

I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh. (Rom. 9:1–3)

So intense was the apostle’s desire to see his lost fellow Israelites saved that he was willing to forfeit, were that possible, his own salvation to bring that about. Not surprisingly, his constant “desire and … prayer to God for them [was] for their salvation” (Rom. 10:1). Paul’s burden for the lost moved him to defend his integrity, lest he lose his credibility and with it his ability to effectively preach the gospel.

These two verses define when Paul’s burden for the lost began. The conjunction hōste (therefore) points back to verses 14 and 15, which describe salvation. After his conversion, the way Paul viewed people changed radically. From then on, he did not recognize (oida; lit. “know,” or “perceive”) anyone according to the flesh; he no longer evaluated people based on external, worldly standards, as the false teachers did (cf. 2 Cor. 5:12; Gal. 6:12). The proud Pharisee, who once scorned Gentiles, and even those Jews outside of his group (cf. John 7:49), now looked beyond mere outward appearances. His prejudice and hatred gave way to a love for all, including “Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman” (Col. 3:11).

Not only did Paul’s view of people change but also his view of Christ. He had once known Him according to the flesh; he had made a human assessment of Him, concluding that He was merely a man. Worse, he had decided Jesus was a false messiah; a heretic and a rebel against Judaism; one worthy of death. As a result, Paul dedicated his life to persecuting His followers. As he later confessed,

So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities. (Acts 26:9–11)

Yet after his conversion Paul knew Him in this way no longer. The assessment of Paul the apostle was radically different than that of Saul the Pharisee. No longer did he view Jesus as an itinerant Galilean rabbi and self-appointed messianic impostor who was the enemy of Judaism. Instead, he saw Him for who He really is, God incarnate, the Savior, the Lord of heaven, the true Messiah who alone fulfills all Old Testament promises and provides forgiveness for sin. The transformation in Paul’s view took place in one blinding moment when he met the risen Lord on the road to Damascus. And when his assessment of Jesus changed, so did his assessment of everyone else. He knew that the same profound change that took place in his life would take place in the lives of all those who put their faith in Christ.

Therefore, in a conclusion also deriving from verse 15, Paul wrote, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature. God’s grace and mercy are wide enough to encompass anyone, even the most vile, wicked sinner—even the foremost of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15–16). But God is only “the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26; cf. Gal. 3:26). His substitutionary death becomes their death, and His resurrection life their life.

The familiar Pauline expression in Christ succinctly and profoundly summarizes all the rich blessings of salvation (cf. Rom. 8:1; 16:3, 7; 1 Cor. 1:30; Gal. 3:28; Eph. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; 4:21; Col. 1:2, 28; Philem. 23). Everyone who is in Christ becomes a new creature (cf. Gal. 6:15). Kainos (new) means new in quality, not just in sequence; believers’ “old self was crucified with Him” (Rom. 6:6); they have therefore laid “aside the old self … and put on the new self” (Eph. 4:22, 24; Col. 3:9–10).

The transformation wrought by the new birth is not only an instantaneous miracle but also a lifelong process of sanctification. For those so transformed, everything changes; the old things have passed away. Old values, ideas, plans, loves, desires, and beliefs vanish, replaced by the new things that accompany salvation. The perfect tense of the verb ginomai (have come) indicates a past act with continuing results in the present. God plants new desires, loves, inclinations, and truths in the redeemed, so that they live in the midst of the old creation with a new creation perspective (cf. Gal. 6:14). That perspective, as it is nourished and developed, helps believers gain victory in the battle against sin and conforms them to the image of Jesus Christ.

So Paul defended his integrity in order to preach with boldness, knowing that he was trusted. In addition, his reverence and gratitude to the Savior who had done so much for him, his deep concern for the church, passionate devotion to the truth, desire for righteousness, and longing to see the lost come to the Savior compelled him to maintain his integrity. Because he did so, he could confidently challenge the Corinthians, “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God” (1 Cor. 4:5).[4]


17 Paul next states the second outcome of the death and resurrection of Christ. Whenever a person comes to be part of the body of Christ by faith, there is a new act of creation on God’s part. One set of conditions or relationships has passed out of existence (parēlthen, aorist); another set has come to stay (gegonen, perfect). And v. 16 indicates that the principal area of change is that of attitude toward Christ and other people. Knowledge “from a worldly point of view” has given place to knowledge in the light of the cross (cf. Gal 6:15). When a person becomes a Christian, he or she experiences a total restructuring of life that alters its whole fabric—thinking, feeling, willing, and acting. Anyone who is “in Christ” is “Under New Management” and has “Altered Priorities Ahead,” to use wording sometimes found in shop windows or (in England) on road signs.[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 170). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1841). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Vol. 19, pp. 192–194). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2003). 2 Corinthians (pp. 194–196). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[5] Harris, M. J. (2008). 2 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 481). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.