Daily Archives: June 5, 2017

June 5, 2017 Truth2Freedom Briefing Report (US•World•Christian)


Jun. 5, 2017 |


Four U.S. Arab allies led by Saudi Arabia pushed ahead with plans to isolate Qatar in an unprecedented escalation designed to punish one of the region’s financial superpowers for its support of Islamist groups and ties with Iran.

Oil erased earlier gains as a diplomatic clash involving OPEC members Saudi Arabia and Qatar was seen having limited impact on the group’s policy.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson again urged China to do more to rein in North Korea, saying it should use its growing clout responsibly.

As global defense chiefs debated what “America First” and China’s rise meant for Asia’s future, regional officials focused on a more immediate concern: terrorism.

Philippine security forces and its gaming regulator will investigate possible security lapses by Resorts World Manila after a gunman set fire to its casino in the capital and fumes choked at least 36 people to death on Friday.

New York city Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito — both Democrats — shook hands on an $85 billion spending plan for the next fiscal year that includes about $30 million to create thousands of permanent and summer jobs for city youth.

Concrete and metal barriers are being erected along the sidewalks on some of London’s bridges after terrorists used cars and vans to target pedestrians for the second time in just over two months.

The current U.S. economic expansion is one of the longest on record. The longer it lasts, the more likely growth will become tepid and uneven, raising angst about its sustainability.

United Airlines will suspend flights to Venezuela next month, a move that further cuts off access to the Latin American nation engulfed in violent political protests and economic chaos.

AP Top Stories

More than 1,500 people were injured, three seriously, after a bomb scare triggered a stampede among Juventus fans watching the Champions League final in Turin.

Gold hit a six-week high on Monday, buoyed by disappointing U.S. jobs data on Friday that dimmed the prospects for an aggressive run of interest rate increases in the world’s biggest economy.

In 2016, 33 lions freed from circuses in Peru and Colombia were transported to South Africa to live out their days in a wildlife refuge. Last week, poachers broke into the sanctuary, killing two of the big cats.

Shi’ite paramilitaries have captured the Iraqi town of Baaj from Islamic State, further shrinking the northern region under jihadist control as part of a U.S.-backed campaign to retake the city of Mosul, the Iraqi military said on Sunday.

Experts forecast that over the next five years, 20-25 percent of malls in the U.S. will close permanently. The Labor Department reported that 6,000 retail jobs were lost last month.

Top US and Australian officials warned on Monday that battle-hardened and angry foreign fighters may return to Southeast Asia from the Middle East and take up arms in their own countries.

Efforts to rescue up to 2,000 civilians trapped by fighting between troops and Islamist militants in a southern Philippine city failed Sunday when a proposed truce ended in a hail of gunfire and explosions, authorities and witnesses said.

Banging empty pots as symbols of hunger, opponents of President Nicolas Maduro tried Saturday to bring their fight for his departure to more of Venezuela’s poor. But the protest march — designed to go from a middle class area of Caracas to a poor one — was broken up by police firing tear gas, water cannon and buck shot.

Yemeni government forces fought Saturday to capture a rebel-held presidential palace in the southwestern province of Taez after clashes that killed 27 people.

SpaceX on Saturday blasted off a shipment of food and supplies for the astronauts living at the International Space Station using for the first time a vessel that had flown before.

A climber who has become the first person to reach the top of California’s El Capitan rock without a rope has described his intense satisfaction. His ascent of the 3,000ft rock-face in Yosemite National Park on Saturday has been described as one of the greatest solo climbing feats.


A judge in Chile has sentenced 106 intelligence officers for the kidnapping and murder of 16 leftist activists in 1974 and 1975.

West African regional group Ecowas has in principle approved Morocco’s membership application despite the country being in North Africa.

India’s space agency has successfully launched its heaviest rocket. The 640-tonne rocket blasted off from a launching site off the Bay of Bengal in Sriharikota.


ACT! For America is planning a nationwide “March Against Sharia – March for Human Rights” on June 10 that so far has 28 cities signed up to participate. Organizers say they will be taking a public stand against female genital mutilation, honor violence, the blasphemy and apostasy laws, among other elements of Shariah that are increasingly showing up in American society.

The Trump administration’s newest move to build a security wall along the nation’s southwestern border has been delegated to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, or USACE, which has launched an initiative to assess the capabilities of construction and engineering firms seeking lucrative awards in the ambitious endeavor.

High schools across America are being pressured to offer time off school, in-school prayer rooms, and special dietary demands by Muslim students observing the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

The Briefing 06-05-17

ISIS claims terror attack in London as British intelligence reveals UK home to 23,000 jihadists

Comedy and morality: When transgressive humor outpaces even the far left

Does “mindset” affect poverty? The complicated, reciprocal relationship between worldview & economics

Foreign policy realism and the legacy of Pres. Carter’s National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski

The post The Briefing 06-05-17 appeared first on AlbertMohler.com.

Top News – 6/5/2017

President Rivlin on Italy’s National Day: Time for our Friends to Recognize Jerusalem as our Capital
“We might have some disagreement over the borders of Israel’s capital,” Rivlin conceded, “But we all agree that Jerusalem is and will remain Israel’s capital. It is time to translate this truth into a fact.”

Historic-artifact replica, or demonic harbinger?
..why is a reconstruction of a gateway to a temple of a pagan god whose rites were marked by child sacrifice and ritual prostitution being so persistently publicized at globally important gatherings? One rabbi, a member of the nascent Sanhedrin attempting to recreate the ancient Jewish legal body, sees dire implications in the repeated use of the arch.

The Left’s Unilateral Suicide Pact
A rethinking of immigration policies is off the table. Nothing that an Islamic terrorist can do will ever shake the left-wing commitment to open borders — not mass sexual assaults, not the deliberate slaughter of gays, and not, as in Manchester, the killing of young girls.

Zion Oil Company begins drilling in Israel
a Texas-based company, has announced that it has spud [started to drill] the Megiddo-Jezreel #1, a deep, on-shore well located in Israel’s Jezreel Valley, near Beit Sh’ean. “We anticipate drilling through at least four different geologic strata with oil and gas potential,” stated Victor G. Carrillo, Zion’s CEO. “It has been a complicated and difficult multi-year journey to get to this point, but our entire team is very excited to see this project finally come to fruition.”

Shooting and explosion in possible terror attack in Australia
One person was killed in a suburb of Melbourne, Australia Monday afternoon and another taken hostage by a gunman who claimed he was acting on behalf of the ISIS terror group.Police say an explosion was heard on Bay Street in Brighton at roughly 4:30 p.m. local time.

Israel’s alleged 1967 nuclear ‘doomsday operation’ plan to be revealed
One of Israel’s greatest wartime secrets is due to be revealed on Monday – a so-called last gasp nuclear “doomsday operation” to avoid defeat in the imminent 1967 Six Day War.

Senate Committee Launches First New Clinton Corruption Investigation
Senate Committee on the Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley has launched a new investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s effort to thwart a Bangladesh government corruption probe of Muhammad Yunus, a Clinton Foundation donor and close friend of the Clintons. The Iowa Republican’s effort is the first new official inquiry of Clinton since her unexpected loss in the 2016 presidential election to President Donald Trump. Trump’s supporters often chanted “lock her up” during his many boisterous campaign rallies.

Five countries cut links with Qatar
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have severed their ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism and opening up the worst rift in years among some of the most powerful states in the Arab world. Saudi Arabia accused Qatar of backing militant groups – some backed by regional arch-rival Iran – and broadcasting their ideology, an apparent reference to Qatar’s influential state-owned satellite channel al Jazeera.

London terror attack: May calls assault attack on free world, threat level remains severe
“It is now clear that, sadly, victims came from a number of nationalities. This was an attack on London and the United Kingdom, but it was also an attack on the free world,” she said in an interview with BBC.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are for everyone, Pope Francis says
Pope Francis addressed around 50,000 members of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement during an ecumenical prayer vigil inside Rome’s Circus Maximus on June 3.

Poll: Major Majority of Israelis Want Sovereignty in Jerusalem, Not ‘Peace Deal’
While it is often reported that most Israelis favor a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an entirely different picture emerges once Jerusalem is added to the equation, a new survey has found.

Ambassador Haley: UNHRC Must Stop Wrongly Singling Out Israel Or We’ll Quit
US envoy to the UN Nikki Haley on Friday wrote in a Washington Post op-ed the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is singling out Israel for relentless condemnations, while truly heinous regimes such as Venezuela and Cuba go scot-free because they are members of the Council.

Analysis: Upheaval in Gulf as UAE, Saudi, Bahrain sever Qatar ties
On Monday…the tiny Gulf State of Bahrain announced it was cutting ties with Qatar and closing its sea and air borders with the country. Minutes later Al-Arabiya announced the Saudi Arabia and the UAE would follow suit and Qatari citizens would have 14 days to leave the country. An hour later Egypt joined in the sanctions. The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain…accusing Qatar of supporting “Iranian backed terror groups,” spreading “strife” and “instability” and supporting “al-Qaeda ideology.”

Report: PA halts payments to 250 Hamas-linked prisoners freed by Israel
Hamas-linked media reported on Monday that the Palestinian Authority had stopped paying salaries to some 250 Palestinian security prisoners released from Israeli jails due to their affiliation with the Gaza-based terrorist group. The report by Hamas organ al-Risalah allegedly cited a PA source who said the former prisoners facing stipend cuts from the Palestinian Authority were residents of the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem and all associated with Hamas.

Israel expects change in UN voting patterns, Netanyahu says after Africa trip
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned Monday morning from less than 12 hours in Liberia, stating that his appearance at the 15 member ECOWAS summit opened numerous doors for Israel in Africa. Netanyahu met with 10 African leaders…meeting each for about 30 minutes. Netanyahu told reporters…that in each of the meetings he told the African leaders that Israel expected a change in their voting patterns in international forums.

Denmark freezes $8m. in Palestinian NGO funding
Denmark has frozen $8 million in donor funding it had earmarked for 24 Palestinian and pro-Palestinian NGOs, pending an investigation to ensure that the funds will be used for peaceful and constructive purposes. The country’s Foreign Ministry on Friday issued a statement about the suspension of funding, which is organized through the umbrella organization of the Al-Bireh-based Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat.

Colombia peace deal: Rebels threaten demobilisation delay
Colombia’s Farc rebels have threatened to delay their demobilisation, saying the government has repeatedly broken the terms of last year’s peace deal. Farc leader Rodrigo Londono, known as Timochenko, made the warning after the arrest of a rebel – a move that went against the terms of the deal. President Juan Manuel Santos said there had been “confusion” over the arrest and the situation was being resolved.

London attack: Tech firms fight back in extremism row
Technology companies have defended their handling of extremist content following the London terror attack. Prime Minister Theresa May called for areas of the internet to be closed because tech giants had provided a “safe space” for terrorist ideology. But Google said it had already spent hundreds of millions of pounds on tackling the problem. Facebook and Twitter said they were working hard to rid their networks of terrorist activity and support.

Russia tests Zircon hypersonic missile system, which it says makes U.S. defenses obsolete
Russia declared today its first test of a hypersonic missile, a year ahead of schedule. Defense analysts proclaimed the test made U.S. missile defense systems obsolete…The Russian international news site Sputnik suggested the missile, named Zircon, could be installed on Pyotr Veliky, the country’s nuclear-powered missile strike ship. Analysts stated the missile concept can fly at 4,600 miles per hour — that’s 6 times the speed of sound — and would be practically impervious to missile defense systems…

Chinese working on gigantic warship unlike anything the world has ever seen
The Chinese government is reportedly working to develop a revolutionary new warship that would merge the size and strength of large conventional ships with the ability to submerge underwater. In an article for Popular Science, Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer wrote there are reports “circulating on Chinese websites—including the Wuhan city government site—mention that Chinese institutions are conducting studies on gigantic submersible arsenal ships.”

Putin Hints JFK Was Murdered By The “Deep State” Which Is Now After Trump And Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin strongly denied he had any compromising material about U.S. President Donald Trump in a televised interview broadcast on Sunday.  “Well, this is just another load of nonsense. Do you think we’re gathering compromising information on all of them right now or something? Have you all lost your senses?”

Japan Holds Evacuation Drills Amid Growing Concerns Over North Korea’s Missile Tests
The Japanese government is actively attempting to help the public prepare for the worst by putting on its website a list of tips in case a missile lands in Japanese territory. The tips include “take shelter in a robust building nearby” and “move away from windows or, if possible, move to a room without windows.”

California Senate Passes Bill Allowing Third Gender Option on IDs
California lawmakers voted to pass a bill Wednesday that will add a third gender option – non-binary – on state identification cards.

 Outrageous-Palestinian Authority Forces Christians to Fast In Public during ramadan
The PA has called on Palestinian police to arrest anyone seen eating in public, including Christians, during Islam’s month of Ramadan, which started this week.

U.S. schools ‘bowing’ to Islam during Ramadan
High schools across America are being pressured to offer time off school, in-school prayer rooms, and special dietary demands by Muslim students observing the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. One campus in Brooklyn has agreed not to serve food at its prom until after sundown while another school in upstate New York is setting up prayer rooms to satisfy the demands of students who observe Ramadan.

The Death Of American Manufacturing In 1 Simple Chart
Manufacturing’s share of all U.S. employment fell to an all-time record low of 8.48% in May. While blame has been laid at the foot of globalization and technology, in fact it has been an almost non-stop decline since the end of World War 2.

It Begins! Close Obama Ally Convicted of 18 Felonies! Faces Life In Prison!
Close Obama ally, Florida Democrat Corrine Brown, faces what could amount to life in prison after being convicted of 18 felonies! As she was stealing scholarship money from school children, Corrine Brown flew with Obama, partied with Pelosi, and campaigned for Clinton, and she was a Superdelegate!

The Real Unemployment Number: 102 Million Working Age Americans Do Not Have A Job

Did you know that the number of working age Americans that do not have a job right now is far higher than it was during the worst moments of the last recession?  For example, in January 2009 92.6 million working age Americans did not have a job, but we just found out that in May the number of working age Americans without a job increased to just a shade under 102 million.  We’ll go over those numbers in more detail in a moment, but first I want to talk a bit about the difference between perception and reality.  According to the bureaucrats in the federal government, the “unemployment rate” in May was the lowest that we have seen in 16 years.  At just “4.3 percent”, we are essentially at “full employment”, and so according to them anyone that really wants a job should be able to find one pretty easily. (Read More…)

Did CNN just stage a protest in London for the camera? (VIDEO)

The “fake news” critique (with regard to CNN particularly) is a legitimate one. It’s not a pro-Left bias at this point, CNN seems to have become a propaganda outfit.

Earlier today Drudge pointed out that The New York Times referred to The Drudge Report as an “unofficial source.” Yet it cited CNN in the same piece as a legitimate news organization. That CNN has hosts now refering to the president as a piece of excrement is OK.

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Why the Democrats are making a big mistake by obsessing over Russia


The Democrats are in many respects a regional party now. The current obsession with Russia and the effort to take Trump down, at what seems almost any cost has become clinical. The Dems seem to have divorced themselves from reality and now wring their hands – gollum like – as they contemplate Trump’s downfall. It’s weird. It is bad for the country to say the least. And it isn’t good for the Dems.

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Debbie Wasserman Schultz Allegedly Uses Voice Changer To Call Law Firm Suing DNC – Forgets To Disable Caller ID

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CNN Caught Stage-Managing Scene in London Aftermath

06-05-2017 • https://www.youtube.com

CNN stages Muslim protest in London. Look at them stage-managing the scene after another horrible event, a clear violation of journalistic ethics. Media analyst Mark Dice has the story.

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Central Banks Now Own A Third Of The Entire $54 Trillion Global Bond Market

Two weeks ago we asked a question: maybe behind all the rhetoric and constant (ab)use of sophisticated terms like “gamma”, “vega”, CTAs, risk-parity, vol-neutral, central bank vol-suppression, (inverse) VIX ETFs and so forth to explain why despite the surging political uncertainty in recent years, and especially since the US election…

… global equity volatility, both implied and realized, has tumbled to record lows, sliding below levels not even seen before the 2008 financial crisis, there was a far simpler reason for the plunge in vol: trading was slowly grinding to a halt.

That’s what Goldman Sachs found when looking at 13F filings in Q1, when it emerged that the gross portfolio turnover of hedge funds had retreated to a record low of just 28%. In other words, few if any of the “smart money” was actually trading in size.

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Trump: ‘I Am Calling It What We Need and What It Is, a TRAVEL BAN’

CNSNews reports:

In four tweets on Monday morning, President Donald Trump doubled down on his “travel ban” and criticized his own Justice Department for watering down the original ban – out of political correctness, he said.

The four tweets, printed below, started coming at 6:30 a.m.

— “People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN.

— The Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to S.C.”

–The Justice Dept. should ask for an expedited hearing of the watered down Travel Ban before the Supreme Court – & seek much tougher version!

–In any event, we are EXTREME VETTING people coming into the U.S. in order to help keep our country safe. The courts are slow and political!”

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Global Warming. The Bible Has The Answer

Peter further warned, “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10) While this will certainly be global warming, it will neither be gradual nor the result of auto emissions.

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US Schools Bowing to Islam During Ramadan

Educators across nation pressured to open prayer rooms, accommodate fasting

High schools across America are being pressured to offer time off school, in-school prayer rooms, and special dietary demands by Muslim students observing the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

One campus in Brooklyn has agreed not to serve food at its prom until after sundown while another school in upstate New York is setting up prayer rooms to satisfy the demands of students who observe Ramadan.

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Why You Should Be Skeptical of Global Warming Alarmists

According to Terry Jarrett of LifeZette the cause of so-called global warming may be solar activity, not carbon dioxide as we’ve been led to believe. Jarrett writes:

When it comes to the global warming debate, both alarmists and critics agree on one thing: The earth has warmed by roughly 0.8 degrees Celsius over the past 150 years. It’s the cause of this warming, however, that remains in dispute. And while the public is constantly bombarded with messages about the evils of carbon dioxide emissions, there are actually compelling reasons to believe that contemporary global warming has been driven by rising solar output, not carbon dioxide.

To start with the basics, when the sun’s ultraviolet radiation strikes the earth’s surface, it is re-emitted as heat in the form of infrared radiation (IR). Carbon dioxide is one of the atmospheric gases that absorb and re-radiate this heat.

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50 Years Ago Today, The God Of Abraham Provided Israel With The Miracle Of The 6 Day War Victory

In the early morning of June 5, Israel launched a preemptive aerial strike on Egyptian air force bases in response to Egypt’s ongoing provocations.

“They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance. For they have consulted together with one consent: they are confederate against thee:” Psalm 83:4,5 (KJV)

EDITOR’S NOTE: 50 years ago today, 5 Muslim nations conspired to attack the nascent state of Israel sure in their knowledge that utter destruction would swiftly follow. It did, only it was Israel that did all the destroying. For 6 days and night, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob gave Israel the greatest and most unprecedented victory in military history. And on the  seventh day, they rested. Now where have we read that before? Israel’s return to the land is a total fulfillment of prophecy, with more to come. Lots more to come.

Every military jet in the Israeli Air Force, except for 12, took off, flying low to avoid radar detection and observing complete radio silence. They bombed and incapacitated the runways of 11 Egyptian air force bases, as well as the aircraft on the ground.

In just four hours, Israel demolished two-thirds of the entire Egyptian air force, the largest in the Arab world.

Israel then issued a final offer to Jordan: if you stay out of the war, Israel will not retaliate – even though that meant that the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and other Jewish holy sites would remain under Jordanian control.

But Jordan had received disinformation from Egypt, claiming massive, successful attacks inside Israel, and Jordan joined the war against Israel.

Thousands of mortar shells rained down on Jewish areas in Jerusalem, hitting civilian locations including Hadassah Hospital and Mount Zion church. Controlling the highlands of the West Bank, Jordan easily shelled civilian targets all the way to Tel Aviv and carried out airstrikes against the coastal cities of Netanya and Kfar Saba.

Syria and Iraq also joined the war, targeting Haifa’s oil refineries and Jewish communities beneath the Syrian-controlled Golan Heights.

Israel retaliated and attacked Jordanian, Syrian, and Iraqi air bases. Stretched thin in a war on three fronts – Egypt in the south, Jordan in the east, and Syria in the north – it would soon be clear whether Israel’s military would hold, or break.

This video was produced by Jerusalem U in partnership with The Jerusalem Post, the Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Jewish National Fund, the Israel Action Network, the European Jewish Congress and the Center for Israel Education. For more on the dramatic events and impact of the Six Day War, visit sixdaywarproject.org. source

Mid-Day Snapshot

June 5, 2017

Jihadi Déjà Vu in London

These grisly scenes will continue to play out unless and until political leaders are willing to truly combat this rabid ideology.

The Foundation

“It is the madness of folly, to expect mercy from those who have refused to do justice; and even mercy, where conquest is the object, is only a trick of war; the cunning of the fox is as murderous as the violence of the wolf.” —Thomas Paine (1776)

ZeroHedge Frontrunning: June 05

  • Saudis, U.A.E., Bahrain and Egypt Cut Ties With Qatar (Read More)
  • Saudi-Led Alliance Cuts Ties With Qatar (Read More)
  • Saudi, Egypt lead Arab states cutting Qatar ties, Iran blames Trump (Read More); Qatar asks citizens to leave UAE within 14 days: embassy (Read More)
  • London Fortifies Bridges to Protect Pedestrians From Attack (Read More)
  • Bank at Center of U.S. Inquiry Projects Russian ‘Soft Power’ (Read More)
  • Democrat Questions Russia Link as Comey Heads to Hill (Read More)
  • Chats by Metals Trader Reveal Spoofing ‘Tricks from the Master’ (Read More)
  • Draghi Seen Taking Slowest Possible Path Out of ECB Stimulus (Read More)
  • Kushners Hunt for a Loan to Pay Back Chinese Investors (Read More)
  • ‘Pink Slime’ case against ABC a challenge to press in era of ‘fake news’ (Read More)
  • Dems to Clinton: Stay out of the spotlight (Read More)
  • Iraqi Forces Disrupt ISIS Supply Route (Read More)
  • California Localities Primed for Legal Recreational Cannabis Use (Read More)
  • What can $75,560 get you in California? A prison cell (Read More)
  • Deutsche Bank asks for more time for U.S. query on Trump, Russia (Read More)
  • Why Aren’t American Teenagers Working Anymore? (Read More)
  • John Paulson Goes From Hot to Not as Most Client Money Vanishes (Read More)
  • Trump’s London Tweets Shock U.K. But Can’t Distract From Comey (Read More)
  • Mexican Peso Rebounds as Ruling Party Win Eases Political Risk (Read More)

Top Headlines – 6/5/2017

Embassy location ‘part of peace process,’ Ambassador Haley says

Shifting Mideast an ‘opportunity’ for Israel, top US official says

Slashing of West Bank home plans frustrate settlers

40,000 people show support for Israel at Manhattan parade

Migrants from former USSR connecting to Judaism overseas

Atop holy mount, Samaritans mark biblical festival of Shavuot

Giant Ramadan lantern lights up Jerusalem

Shin Bet arrests terrorists suspected of planning attack at Temple Mount

Israeli researcher refutes NYT report that Israel had nuclear bomb in ’67

IDF’s Six-Day War ending proclamation: ‘We have crushed the enemy’

US Holocaust museum releases online encyclopedia of Nazi sites

Gaza Dating Site Matches Widows to Men Seeking 2nd (or 3rd) Wife

Palestinian man beaten, injured by soldiers during arrest

Bnei Brak resident arrested after calling for attack on TLV Gay Pride parade

Morocco king skips W. Africa summit because Israel attends

Israel and Senegal mend fences after UN resolution spat

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE sever ties to Qatar over ‘terrorism’

Arab Gulf nations, Turkey condemn London attack

Iran condemns London attack as ‘alarming signal’

Islamic State ‘backfiring’ on West, Iran leader charges

Islamic State claims deadly London attack as dozen arrested

UK leader: Islamic extremism must be contained after attack

After London attack, May vows to fight ‘evil ideology of Islamist extremism’

British Prime Minister Calls For International Internet Regulations To Combat Terrorism

London terror attack: British officials eye burka ban and stripping citizenship

Theresa May says the internet must now be regulated following London Bridge terror attack

London terrorist had twice been referred to police over his extremist views

Britain attacks: Lack of pattern puts officials on edge

Netanyahu on London Terror Atrocity: ‘Fight This Scourge That Knows No Bounds’

‘Bloodshed will end,’ Trump vows after London attack

London attacks: Trump vows to protect US from ‘vile enemy’

Trump blasts London mayor, political correctness after terror attacks

Acting US ambassador to Britain praises London mayor after Trump’s criticisms

CNN Host: Trump ‘A Piece of $#@!’ for His Response to London Attack

MSNBC Anchor Wonders If Trump Trying To Provoke A Terror Attack To Prove A Point

Putin says joint efforts to fight terrorism should be stepped up after London attacks

In shadow of London attack, Ariana Grande leads star-studded Manchester benefit

Trump quietly slashes number of refugees from Obama’s target despite court order

Turin bomb scare sparks stampede, leaving 1,500 injured

Portland pro-Trump, anti-Trump demonstrations converge, sparking violence

Putin: Claim that Russia has damaging information on Trump ‘nonsense’

Was Obama administration illegal spying worse than Watergate?

Top Democrat says there’s smoke, but ‘no smoking gun’ yet in Russia probe

‘Kushnergate’ is a big fat nothing-burger

Conservatives torch Comey’s credibility ahead of Senate hearing

The U.S. Government heads to the cloud to keep America safe

Iran’s leader lashes out at Trump, Saudis for anti-Tehran alliance

IAEA report: Iran honoring nuclear deal but nearing violation

North Korea says rejects new sanctions, to continue nuclear program

5.2 magnitude earthquake hits near Iwo Jima, Japan

Sabancaya volcano in Peru erupts to 25,000ft

Klyuchevskoy volcano on Kamchatka, Russia erupts to 17,000ft

Sinabung volcano in Indonesia erupts to 11,000ft

Marapi volcano in Indonesia erupts to 10,000ft

A hysterical, crazed, politically correct global meltdown

Al Gore: Trump’s Paris climate decision ‘reckless,’ indefensible’

Tel Aviv City Hall goes green to protest US climate accord pullout

Vice President Pence urges Congress to complete Obamacare repeal

100,000 Nebraskans May Lose Their Last Remaining Obamacare Insurance Provider

Ontario Passes Law Allowing Gov’t to Seize Children From Parents Who Oppose Gender Transition

March for Marriage Organizers ‘More Hopeful’ With Trump as Ally in the White House

Two rescue lions in South Africa dead in apparent witchcraft killing


Jackie Alnor – TBN Trial: Carra Crouch: “Blamed, Branded and Broken”

Bethel Church peddling New Breed heresy (Part 2)

What Your Church Needs to Know Before Doing a Priscilla Shirer Study

Todd Bentley exposed for reading out bogus ‘confirmed’ resurrection testimony

California pastor arrested on child molestation charges

Cambodia’s Child Sex Industry Is Dwindling—And They Have Christians to Thank

Watch the Damning Planned Parenthood Video Banned by YouTube

Evangelical Lutherans Overwhelmingly Vote To Approve Declaration Of Unity With Roman Catholics

Illinois Purges Foster Families Who Don’t Facilitate Transgenderism

Iowa Supreme Court Rules Mother May Sue Doctors for ‘Wrongful Birth’ of Disabled Child

13-Y-O Girl Kills Herself After Christian Parents Allow Her to Live as Transgender Boy

Muslims Take Over New York Street – Start Praying in Front of Trump Tower for Ramadan

Theresa May says the internet must now be regulated following London Bridge terror attack

8 Filipino Christians Killed for Refusing to Recite Islamic Creed

DEVELOPING: Multiple fatalities after gunman opens fire at business headquarters in Florida

Posted: 05 Jun 2017 06:53 AM PDT

Police are investigating ‘multiple fatalities’ following a mass shooting at business premises on a busy industrial estate in Orlando in Orange County, Florida.  Orange County…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

China is creating a gigantic warship unlike anything the world has ever seen

Posted: 05 Jun 2017 06:46 AM PDT

The Chinese government is reportedly working to develop a revolutionary new warship that would merge the size and strength of large conventional ships with the…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Another deadly storm hits Russia just days after the deadliest storm in Moscow history

Posted: 05 Jun 2017 06:38 AM PDT

A powerful storm hit Sverdlovsk Region on Saturday, killing at least one person and injuring three others. Over 30,000 people were forced to go without…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Are You Ready For Your Hardware Update for the Brain?

Posted: 05 Jun 2017 06:32 AM PDT

Emily Borghard has a computer inside her skull, but you wouldn’t know it to look at her. A small bump behind her left ear, the only…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Prostate cancer drug trial breakthrough could DOUBLE life expectancy

Posted: 05 Jun 2017 06:26 AM PDT

A treatment that could more than double the life expectancy of prostate cancer sufferers has been hailed as a once-in-a-career discovery.  Researchers believe giving patients…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Israeli Scientists Verify Miraculous Bible Event

Posted: 05 Jun 2017 06:21 AM PDT

Israeli scientists have discovered evidence for an event recorded in the Bible that took place thousands of years ago. University researchers in Israel say they…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

This Evil Megatrend Will Precede the Antichrist

Posted: 05 Jun 2017 06:16 AM PDT

(By Mike Shreve) It is very apparent that we are living in the last days. Speaking of the coming of the Lord and the catching…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

UPDATE: Death toll could rise in London Bridge terror attack: 7 dead, 21 critical

Posted: 04 Jun 2017 06:53 PM PDT

Authorities said 21 people remained in critical condition Sunday after a rampage at the iconic London Bridge and a nearby market that left seven dead…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

UK eyes burka ban and stripping terror suspects’ citizenship after attacks

Posted: 04 Jun 2017 06:47 PM PDT

After yet another deadly terrorist attack swept through the streets of Britain late Saturday, lawmakers and leaders were scrambling to take back the reins and…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

How Steph Curry Carries the Bible With Him On and Off the Court

Posted: 04 Jun 2017 06:21 PM PDT

To say that LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers got outplayed by the Warriors in game 1 of the 2017 NBA finals would be a…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

5,000 Canadians March in Support of Trump, Against Liberal Trudeau Administration

Posted: 04 Jun 2017 05:42 PM PDT

A group of up to 5,000 Canadian citizens marched on Canada’s capital on Saturday in support of U.S. President Donald Trump’s conservative agenda and against…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

MSNBC Anchor Asks If Trump Trying To Provoke A Domestic Terror Attack ‘For His Own Gain’

Posted: 04 Jun 2017 05:29 PM PDT

Sunday, MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts asked twice if President Donald Trump is trying to provoke a domestic terrorist attack in order to “prove himself right”…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Defiant North Korea claims ‘We will not flinch from building up nuclear force’

Posted: 04 Jun 2017 05:23 PM PDT

North Korea has denounced the latest round of sanctions placed on it by the UN Security Council as a “hostile act,” and will continue developing…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

CNN host calls Trump ‘piece of sh–‘ after president calls for tougher actions against terrorists

Posted: 04 Jun 2017 05:17 PM PDT

After Donald Trump posted a tweet Saturday urging “smart, vigilant and tough” actions in response to the London Bridge attack, CNN host Reza Aslan, best…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Deadly 23.6 inches of rain within 11 hours floods Taiwan, shuts down nuclear plant

Posted: 04 Jun 2017 12:44 PM PDT

Brutal amounts of rainfall hit northern Taiwan today, June 2, 2017, killing at least 1 person, leaving 2 missing and injuring more than 20. Heavy…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Strong and shallow Magnitude 6.0 earthquake strikes Balleny Islands off Antarctica

Posted: 04 Jun 2017 12:32 PM PDT

A strong and shallow M6.0 earthquake hit the Balleny Islands off Antarctica on June 4, 2017.  The earthquake hit close of the epicenter of a…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Russia says North Korea’s nukes are a ‘direct threat’

Posted: 04 Jun 2017 12:24 PM PDT

A top Russian official said Sunday at a security conference in Singapore that North Korea’s nuclear ambitions are a “direct threat to Russia.”  Russian Deputy…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Ontario Passes Law Allowing Gov’t to Seize Children From Parents Who Oppose Gender Transition

Posted: 04 Jun 2017 12:14 PM PDT

Canada’s Ontario province has passed legislation that allows the government to seize children from families that refuse to accept their child’s chosen “gender identity” or…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Japan Holds Evacuation Drill Amid Tension From North Korea

Posted: 04 Jun 2017 12:10 PM PDT

A town in western Japan conducted an evacuation drill Sunday amid rising fear that a North Korean ballistic missile could hit Japanese soil.  More than…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Muslims Take Over NYC Street, Start Praying in Front of Trump Tower…

Posted: 04 Jun 2017 12:06 PM PDT

Muslims continued on with their civilization Jihad as they took over the street in front of Trump Tower during ‘Iftar’ or ‘breaking their Ramadan fast’….

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Trump urges end to political correctness in wake of London attack

Posted: 04 Jun 2017 12:02 PM PDT

U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday urged the world to stop being “politically correct” in order to ensure security, after three attackers drove a van…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

What is The Gospel?

Who Do You Think That I Am?

Selected Scriptures

Code: A335

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

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

Consider what the Bible says about Him:


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/articles/A335
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CultureWatch: Evil, and Humanity Without God

The latest Islamic terror attack – this time at London Bridge – has in one sense sort of dampened what I was going to say here. But I will say it anyway. In the face of such blatant evil, it may seem that this is not the time to speak about the evils of the West.

So let me first preface my remarks before going any further. I for one hate the stupid claims of moral equivalence which the leftists – and some clueless Christians – routinely make: “Yeah, Islam has a few bad eggs, but the West is no better”. I think Islam is an evil political ideology which needs to be firmly resisted.

And I also think that at least in principle, things like freedom, democracy, rule of law and genuine pluralism are good things which are well worth defending and preserving. I of course am also aware that all these social goods largely only work when they remain on the foundation they were built on. And in the West that foundation was the Judeo-Christian worldview.

But as the West becomes increasingly secular, rejecting its Christian roots, all these goods become much harder to sustain. The American Founding Fathers repeatedly insisted on this; they knew that without a deep-rooted faith, the great American experiment could not last long.

All these points I have argued at length elsewhere, so I will leave it at that. So let me now return to the topic I originally wanted to write about. And that topic is, as my title suggests, the ultimate futility and folly of life without God, and the stark Judeo-Christian truths about the reality of sin and evil.

What sparked all this was – as is often the case with my articles – a confluence of two things happening at around the same time. The first was a quote I read which really stuck out, even though it was written in a somewhat different context. The second was a short glimpse of a television documentary.

The quote comes from a book which may seem to have little to do with this big picture theme that I am discussing here. But it actually does. It comes from James Packer’s excellent 1992 volume, Rediscovering Holiness. The copy I have is the revised 2009 edition put out by Regal.

In the opening chapter Packer speaks about the importance of holiness, and how it is related to our very humanity: “All members of our fallen race who, because they do not know Jesus Christ, still live under the power of that self-deifying, anti-God syndrome in our spiritual system which the Bible calls sin, are living lives that are qualitatively subhuman. Sin in our minds says otherwise, but in this, as always, sin is lying.”

But what he said next is what caught my attention. Of course it has been said often by others, but it is a nice summary of the reality of man without God, or, rather, man in enmity against God:

The twentieth century will doubtless go down in history as the century of secular humanism. It began with the euphoric, sin-spawned confidence that human endeavor in science, education, the harnessing of nature, and the increase of wealth would generate human happiness to the point of achieving something like heaven on earth. It ends, however, with none of these hopes realized, but with sickening memories of many great evils committed, and with hearts everywhere full of restless and gloomy unease regarding humanity’s future prospects and life’s present worth.

hitler 4The documentary I briefly watched at the same time nicely confirmed all this. I happened upon a few documentaries on the National Geographic channel. I assume they are on regularly. But just watching a few minutes of them was gruesome enough.

We speak of man’s inhumanity toward man, and it was on full display during WWII. The docos focused on life in the German concentration camps – it was horrific indeed. Much can be said, but let me mention just one episode: the prisoners were picking the lice from their own bodies and eating them as a response to their starvation.

If these docos were almost too horrible to watch, imagine how horrible the reality was to have lived through. But one key point I wish to make here is that the demonic horrors of what the Germans and Japanese did in WWII were all very recent.

Historical perspective is crucial here. This happened a relatively short time ago – it did not happen in prehistoric times. This did not occur in the Dark Ages. It happened in civilised Europe, and elsewhere. Recall that the war ended just over 70 years ago. So all these despicable atrocities were happening only seven or eight short decades ago.

This is not part of our deep, dark past. This is recent history – very recent history. As Packer and others noted, last century was meant to be something utterly utopian as human progress made everything better and better. The secularists really believed that progress and perfection were right around the corner.

Well, a couple of world wars, the spectre of nuclear annihilation, the scourge of political Islam, to name but a few ominous developments, threw a real spanner into all that groundless optimism. This delusional belief in human progress and the perfectibility of man was blown out of the water last century.

And things are not looking any better this century. Human beings are capable of the most horrific evil. They always have been. We are not getting better and better. We remain the same: self-centred individuals who like to pretend we are not so bad.

There are two main points I want to emphasise here. The first is the biblical reality and realism about sin and evil. As Chesterton put it, “Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.”

Or as C. S. Lewis put it:

When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse he understands his own badness less and less. A moderately bad man knows he is not very good: a thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right. This is common sense, really. You understand sleep when you are awake, not while you are sleeping. You can see mistakes in arithmetic when your mind is working properly: while you are making them you cannot see them. You can understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk. Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do not know about either.

The second main point I want to stress is how very thin the veneer of civilisation is. We think we are such refined, clever and decent people. We really do think that we are good people. But we are not. Jeremiah had it right when he said “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9).

And recall what German society was like when Hitler came to power. Germany in the 1930s was among the most cultured, polished, sophisticated and enlightened nations around. If any nation could claim to have progressed to a point of the ideal society, the Germans could have.

Yet for all their progress, refinement and culture, they handed us Hitler on a platter. They gave us the Nazis, the death camps, and the Holocaust. Of course I am not picking on Japan and Germany here. I am picking on fallen humanity. I am picking on every nation and every person without God.

Sinful man may have a veneer of civilisation but inside he is full of demonic evil. Alexander Solzhenitsyn also had to deal with one of the most evil, most cruel, and most demonic systems ever – godless communism. He too knew all about sin and evil as he lingered near death in the Soviet Gulag for eight years.

Yet even in the face of all this diabolical evil, he rightly understood, as a Christian, what the real story was. He knew where real evil comes from. It is not just in certain nations or in certain political ideologies or in certain worldviews. Said Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago:

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

And again:

It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. Even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained; and even in the best of all hearts, there remains a small corner of evil.

Yep, ultimately evil lies in every single human heart, and the only way to deal with it is to get a new heart. A heart transplant is what is needed, and that is what the gospel message offers. God cleans us up on the inside, takes away our heart of stone, and gives us a heart of flesh.

Those who come to Christ in faith and repentance get to participate in this great exchange. But barring that, no amount of civilisation, no amount of progress, and no amount of self-effort will reduce evil in the world – or in ourselves – and make things better. We need to learn from history here.

The German and Japanese horrors took place not that long ago. And we in the West are fully capable of repeating all this evil. Our hope does not lie within. It comes from without. God offers the change we need. Whether we accept that or not is up to us.

[1691 words]

The post Evil, and Humanity Without God appeared first on CultureWatch.

Special Revelation and the Work of the Spirit

Code: B170605

God told me.

The Holy Spirit laid it on my heart.

The Spirit is compelling me.

Those phrases and others like them are frequently thrown around the church today without giving many people pause. In fact, it seems the Holy Spirit’s primary role is laying burdens on believers and compelling them to deliver specific, timely messages to the church.

But how do we know when it’s actually the Holy Spirit, and not just a heavy conscience, a strong personal desire, or emotion-driven enthusiasm? For that matter, what’s to say it wasn’t simply some bad pizza? For all the talk about the Holy Spirit directing us, speaking to us and through us, and compelling us this way and that, how do we know when God is truly leading us?

We recently asked John MacArthur about how we can discern the Spirit’s ongoing work in the lives of believers. Here’s what he said:

We ought to look for the Holy Spirit’s leadership, but we must be cautious about assigning to Him responsibility for our words and actions. Our feelings are not necessarily a trustworthy source of information, nor are they an accurate indication that God has a special message to deliver to us or through us.

God’s people need to be circumspect when it comes to His leadership, particularly through subjective impressions and inclinations. Moreover, we need to be wary of those who highjack the prophetic seat and presume to speak for God.

In the days ahead, we’re going to look at some landmark teaching from John MacArthur regarding the propensity of many believers to look for eternal truth in all the wrong places. You won’t want to miss this engaging, insightful series that deals with the pitfalls of subjectivity and postmodernity, and the sufficiency of Scripture.


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B170605
COPYRIGHT ©2017 Grace to You

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New Thinking in Public: “Evangelicalism in One Lifetime: A Conversation with Os Guinness”

Monday, June 5, 2017
In this interview, Dr Mohler interviews author British evangelical Os Guinness.

Os Guinness is a prominent evangelical author, speaker, and social critic. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy in the social sciences from Oxford University. He is also founder of the Trinity Forum Society and has served as a guest scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Studies and as a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institute. He is the author or editor of more than thirty books, including A Free People’s Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future, which was the topic of a previous Thinking in Public conversation. His most recent book is Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion.

See previous episodes of Thinking in Public here, including most recently Dr. Mohler’s interview with US Senator Ben Sasse on his new book, The Vanishing American Adult:

Vanishing Adulthood and the American Moment: A Conversation with Senator Ben Sasse

June 5, 2017: Verse of the day


Peter’s Text at Pentecost

Joel 2:28–32

“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, among the survivors whom the Lord calls.”

It is hard to handle prophecy. This is because the prophecies often seem obscure to us; and even if their meaning is clear, we cannot always be sure to what period of history the words apply. To confuse matters further, the Bible itself sometimes takes the prophecies in more than one way. They can be applied to a current event in Israel, for example; but they can also be referred to a future Day of the Lord.

While recognizing this, we know nevertheless that many Old Testament prophecies are interpreted to us by the New Testament, so that, whatever our problems may be with other passages, these at least are certain. Of these clear passages, none is more certain than Joel 2:28–32, a passage interpreted by the apostle Peter as applying to the events at Pentecost. After the ascension of Jesus the apostles waited in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus had told them to do (Acts 1:4–5). On Pentecost, the second of the three chief Jewish festivals, these were gathered together in one place, when suddenly, as Acts says, “a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting” and “they saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:2–4).

When the people of Jerusalem heard the sound, they came together, and Peter preached the first sermon of the Christian era. Briefly, he denied that the disciples were intoxicated, which is what some were saying, and instead interpreted the event as the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. “This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. … And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ ” (Acts 2:17, 21).

Quite clearly, we cannot interpret Joel 2:28–32 apart from Peter’s interpretation. We need to see: (1) the need for this particular outpouring of God’s Spirit, (2) Joel’s promise of it, (3) the fulfillment of the promise in Acts, and (4) the result of that fulfillment.

A Wistful Longing

The roots of the promise are in Numbers 11:29, in the midst of a story about Moses. It was a bad time for Moses. The people had been complaining of their wilderness diet of manna, and Moses, perhaps in sheer physical weariness, was overcome with the burden of leading the people and dealing with their complaints. God sympathized with him and told him to select seventy of the elders of Israel and bring them with him to the Tent of Meeting. God promised, “I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone” (Num. 11:17). That is what happened. These men received the Holy Spirit and began to prophesy. It was a sign to the people that they had received this gift and were therefore chosen by God to minister alongside Moses.

Two of these elders were not with the others at the Tent of Meeting, but the Spirit of God came on them as well, and they also prophesied. This bothered some who were closest to Moses. One young man ran up to him saying, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”

Joshua, who had been Moses’ close aide since youth, said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”

Moses’ reply was the roots of the promise found in Joel. He answered wistfully, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (vv. 27–29).

The incident shows that in this early period God’s Spirit was not given to all his people in the way he is now. God was with his people, but his Spirit did not come on them or dwell in them. Instead, he came on certain individuals for specific purposes. Sometimes he left them, as happened in the case of Saul (1 Sam. 16:14). The first reference in the Bible to any individual’s possession of the Holy Spirit is in Genesis 41:38, where Pharaoh asks concerning Joseph, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” This was because of Joseph’s ability to interpret Pharaoh’s dream. The craftsmen who helped build the tabernacle are said to have been “filled … with the Spirit of God” (Exod. 31:3). Joshua is described as a man “in whom is the spirit” (Num. 27:18). The judges Othniel (Judg. 3:10), Gideon (Judg. 6:34), Jephthah (Judg. 11:29), and Samson (Judg. 13:5; 14:6, 19; 15:14) were also in this category. So probably was Deborah, who served as a judge and functioned in the name of the Lord, though it is not specifically said of her that she was filled with the Spirit (cf. Judg. 4:4–7). The Holy Spirit indwelt both Saul and David (1 Sam. 10:9–10; 16:13) and presumably all the prophets, though (like Deborah) this is not said specifically in every case.

In the Old Testament period the Holy Spirit was not the common gift of God to all his people. So when Moses intoned, “I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them,” he was expressing a very real need and longing. It was not until God had spoken to the people through Joel that there was even a promise of such universal blessing.

A Glorious Promise

God’s promise through Joel is striking because it is the book’s first mention of spiritual rather than mere physical blessing. It is understandable that material things are emphasized—material prosperity (v. 19), national security (v. 20), the restoration of lost years (v. 25)—because the locust plague was a material disaster and it formed the focal point and occasion of the prophecy. Still, we are glad to find spiritual blessings too, for we know, as our Lord taught, that it is folly for a man “to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul” (Mark 8:36).

Joel’s emphasis is on the universal nature of this gift, for he shows that it is for “all people” as opposed to being for some only as it had been previously. Lest we miss this, the point is spelled out in detail. It will be for the young (“your sons and daughters”) and the old (“your old men”), the strength of the nation (“your young men”) and servants (“even on my servants, both men and women”).

This is truly a momentous thing, for it is a way of saying that in the church age, which the coming of the Holy Spirit would inaugurate, all would be ministers of God, not merely a special corps of workers. Of course, there will be different tasks to do and different gifts given to enable God’s people to do them. Some will prophesy. Some will dream dreams. Still others will see visions. Men and women, young and old, slaves and free men will not necessarily do the same work. But all will have work to do and will be indwelt by God’s Spirit so that the work can be done effectively.

In the Reformation era this was termed the “priesthood of all believers,” and it was seen to establish a proper relationship between clergy and laity. John R. W. Stott points out in One People that there had developed within the church (as today) a division between “clergy” and “laity” in which the clergy were supposed to lead and do the work of Christian ministry while the people (which is what the word “laity” means) were to follow docily—and, of course, give money to support the clergy’s work. This is not what the church is to be, and where this view prevails the church and its ministry suffer. They suffer by the loss of the exercise of those gifts given to the laity. The Spirit is to help each serve others. The laity serve the church and the world. The clergy serve the laity, particularly in helping them to develop and use their gifts (Eph. 4:11–13).

Stott points out that three false answers have been given to the question of the relationship of clergy to other Christians. The first is clericalism. It is the view already referred to, namely, that the work of the church is to be done by those paid to do it and that the role of the layman is at best to support these works financially. How did this false picture arise? Historically it resulted from the development of the priesthood in the early Roman church. In those days the professional ministry was patterned after the Old Testament priestly system with the mass taking the place of the blood sacrifices. Only “priests” were authorized to perform the mass, and this meant that a false and debilitating distinction between clergy and laity was drawn. Those who favor this view say that it goes back to the days of the apostles. But this is demonstrably false. As reflected in the New Testament, the early church often used the word “minister” or “ministry” to refer to what all Christians are and must do and never used the word hiereus (“priest”) of the clergy. Elton Trueblood points out that “the conventional modern distinction between the clergy and laity simply does not occur in the New Testament at all.”

There are historical reasons for the development of clericalism then. But these in themselves are not the whole or even the most significant things. The real causes of clericalism lie in human failures. Sometimes the clergy want to run the show, to dominate those who attend church. This often leads to outright abuse or tyranny. If we need an example, we can find one in the New Testament in the person of Diotrephes “who loves to be first,” according to the apostle John who wrote about him (3 John 9). A warning against this pattern is found in 1 Peter in a passage conveying instruction to church elders: “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” (5:2–3). The chief biblical example is the Lord Jesus Christ who, though Lord of creation, nevertheless put on a servant’s garment and performed a servant’s job in washing his disciples’ feet.

Again, there is the willingness of laymen to “sit back” and “let the pastor do it.” Stott quotes a remark of Sir John Lawrence to this effect: “What does the layman really want? He wants a building which looks like a church; a clergy dressed in the way he approves; services of the kind he’s been used to, and to be left alone.” This is not what Joel 2:28–32 envisions.

The second false answer to the relationship of clergy to laypersons is anti-clericalism. Since the clergy sometimes despise the laity or think them dispensable, it is no surprise that the laity sometimes return the compliment by rejecting the clergy.

This is not always bad. We can imagine situations in which the church has become so dominated by a corrupt or priestly clergy that a general housecleaning is called for. Again we can think of areas of the church’s work that are best done by laymen, for which the clergy is not at all necessary. But these are not grounds for anticlericalism as the normal stance of Christian people. On the contrary, where the church wishes to be biblical it must recognize not only that gifts of teaching and leadership are given to some for the church’s well-being but also that there is ample biblical teaching about the need for such leadership. Judging from Acts and the various Pauline epistles, it was the apostle Paul’s regular practice to appoint elders in every church and entrust to them the training of the flock for ministry (Acts 14:23; 20:17). In the pastoral epistles the appointment of such leaders is specifically commanded (Titus 1:5), and the qualifications are given (1 Tim. 3:1–13; Titus 1:5–9).

Some who have captured the idea of ministry as belonging to the whole church have begun to wonder on this basis whether there is room for clergy. But their insight, good as it is, does not lead to this conclusion. As Trueblood says, “The earliest Christians were far too realistic to fall into this trap, because they saw that, if the ideal of universal ministry is to be approximated at all, there must be some people who are working at the job of bringing this highly desirable result to pass.”

The final false model of the relationship between the professional clergy and laymen is what Stott calls dualism. Dualism says that clergy and laymen are each to be given their sphere, and neither is to trespass on the territory of the other. This describes the traditional Roman Catholic system in which a “lay status” and a “clerical status” are very carefully delineated. It is also true of certain forms of Protestantism. In such a system the sense of all being part of one body and serving together in one work evaporates and rivalry enters in instead.

What is the true pattern? Ephesians 4:11–13 describes it well, for in pointing out that apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are to equip the saints for the work of ministry, it is saying that the proper relationship of clergy to laypersons is service. The clergy are to equip the saints, that is, assist them and train them to be what they should be and do the work they should do, which is the proclamation of the gospel to the world. In this pattern of service we have no lesser example than that of Jesus who, as noted above, “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).


Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came on all believers. All began to speak and witness to others. A new era was inaugurated. It is said of the church at this period that “all the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people” (Acts 2:44–47).

In each of nine cases in which it is said that the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, the consequence of that filling was a witness to Jesus Christ. The first of these cases is Pentecost. We are told that “all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit” and that they at once began to witness (Acts 2:4–13). Peter did so officially and most effectively. The second case is Peter’s being “filled with the Holy Spirit” just before he addressed the Sanhedrin on the occasion of his first arrest (Acts 4:8). He preached Jesus. The third case is the description of a prayer meeting in which the believers “were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31). Acts 6:3, the fourth reference, says that deacons were chosen on the basis of their being “full of the Spirit.” At first glance this seems to be an exception, for nothing tells us that they then witnessed to Christ. But it is important to note that the verse does not describe them as being filled with the Spirit but only says that they gave evidence of having been filled with the Spirit (past tense). How was this known? The passage does not say how specifically, but it may well have been because they were already active as witnesses. Besides, the account of the choice of these deacons is immediately followed by the story of the death of the deacon Stephen, which certainly contains an effective witness to the grace of God in Christ’s ministry.

The fifth example of a person being filled with the Spirit is Stephen who, “full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” and testified of this fact: “Look, … I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55–56). Paul is twice said specifically to have been “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:17; 13:9). The first time was at his conversion when Ananias came and placed his hands on him. Paul recovered his sight, was baptized, and “at once … began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). The second time was when Paul confronted Elymas, the sorcerer, and pronounced a judgment on him in the name of Jesus. Barnabas is said to have been “full of the Holy Spirit.” He was a preacher. The ninth example is the company of disciples at Antioch who were “filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” and who doubtless revealed this by continuing to spread the gospel even after Paul and Barnabas had been expelled from their region (Acts 13:52).

This is the clear and distinguishing mark of a person being filled with the Holy Spirit, and it is the sense in which the words in Joel—“Your sons and daughters will prophesy”—must be taken. There may be prophecy in the sense of foretelling things to come. Paul, Peter, John, and some others did that. But in the sense that all will prophesy, what is involved is proclamation of God’s truth concerning the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.

Jesus said that this was to be the Spirit’s work. “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you” (John 16:12–15).

A Blessed Result

The result of the coming of the Holy Spirit and the consequent testimony to Jesus by those who were so filled was repentance. We are told that after Peter preached, “about three thousand” repented of their sin, were baptized, and were added to the number of the early Christians (Acts 2:37–41). Later we read, “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).

Repentance brings us back to Joel and the purpose of Joel’s prophecy. Joel had been calling on the people to repent of specific sin, the sin of worshiping other gods and of failing to give the true God the worship and obedience he deserves. God had promised blessing if the people would repent. Would they? Could they? The answer to that question is perhaps unknown in the context of the prophecy itself. But it is important to note that at the same time that God calls for repentance he promises a day in which he will pour out his Spirit on all people, and when that happens, as it does at Pentecost, repentance is the first evidence in the lives of people generally. Thousands are convicted of sin, repent of it, and turn to Jesus.

It is the same today. Repentance is always the first visible evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence and activity. Where he is at work, repentance and a resulting belief in Jesus as Savior follow. We should pray for repentance first in our own hearts and then in those of our contemporaries.[1]

28–32 [3:1–5] The introductory formula with which this section begins clearly places the events that follow it after those detailed in 2:1–27. Since the previous section dealt with the near future, it may be safely presumed that the events prophesied here lie still further ahead. Indeed, these chapters disclose the Lord’s eschatological intentions (3, 4, MT). Two primary thoughts are included: the Lord’s promise of personal provision in the lives of his own (2:28–32) and the prediction of his final triumph on behalf of his own at the culmination of the history of humankind (ch. 3).

The Lord first promises that he will pour out his Spirit in full abundance and complete refreshment. Hosea prophesied that the Lord must pour out his fury on an idolatrous Israel (5:10). Joel sees beyond this chastisement to a time in the distant future (cf. Eze 36:16–38) when, in a measure far more abundant than the promised rain (cf. 2:22–26), God will pour out his Holy Spirit in power. In those days (cf. Jer 33:15) that power will rest on all (i.e., human) flesh (cf. Isa 40:5–6; 66:23; Zec 2:12–13).

God’s covenantal people are primarily in view. Joel goes on to point out that what the Lord intends is that his Holy Spirit will be poured out, not on selected individuals for a particular task but on all believers, young and old, male and female alike, regardless of their status. It will be a time of renewed spiritual activity: of prophesying, of dreams, and of visions (cf. Nu 12:6).

Accompanying the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in those days and as visible signs of his supernatural and overseeing intervention in human history, God will cause extraordinary phenomena to be seen in nature. Thus the totality of everyone’s experience will be affected. Although the heavens are mentioned first, the order that follows is one of ascending emphasis, beginning with events on earth (blood, fire, and smoke) and moving to signs in the sky (the sun and moon).

Joel’s depiction of the phenomenal events concerned with the day of the Lord is indebted to stock phraseology available since Israel’s redemption out of Egypt at the time of the exodus event. Miraculous occurrences in the heavens (Ex 10:21–23; 14:19–20; cf. Ps 105:28) and on earth (Ex 19:16, 18; cf. Jdg 5:4–5; Ps 114:3–5; Hab 3:6) during the movement from Egypt to the Promised Land were seen as part of God’s arsenal of weapons of judgment that will ultimately lead to the full blessing of his people.

Such occurrences were not only repeated in the course of Israel’s subsequent history (Jos 10:9–15; Jdg 5:20–21) but also became standard imagery for the prophetic oracles of judgment (e.g., Isa 13:10, 13; Eze 32:7–8; Am 5:18–20). From there they passed on naturally into the graphically intense and more universalistic outlook of the emerging apocalyptic prophecies dealing with the end times (e.g., Isa 24:1–3, 19–20; 60:19–20; Zep 1:14–18; Zec 14:3–7). These in turn developed into the full-blown apocalyptic literature of the intertestamental and NT eras (e.g., Apocalypse of Zephaniah 12:1–8; Rev 6:8–9; 11:15–19; 14:19–20). Similar conclusions can be reached concerning Joel’s use of blood, fire, and smoke—all well-known symbols of warfare and its attendant evils (e.g., Nu 21:28; Jdg 20:38–40; Isa 10:16; 28:11; Zec 11:1).

As I pointed out in the discussion at 1:15, the term “day of the Lord” deals with judgment. This is particularly true in the case of the enemies of Israel, whether Babylon (Isa 13:6, 9), Egypt (Jer 46:10; Eze 30:2–4), Edom (Ob 15), or all nations (Joel 3:14–15; Ob 15; Zep 1:14–18; Zec 14:3–15; Mal 4:5–6; cf. 1 Th 5:2; 2 Th 2:2; 2 Pe 3:10). It can also be true for Israel-Judah (Isa 2:12–22; Eze 13:5; Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11; Am 5:18–20; Zep 1:7; Zec 14:1–2).

As to the time of judgment, it can be present (Joel 1:15), lie in the near future (Isa 2:12–22; 13:6, 9; Jer 46:10; Eze 13:5; Joel 2:1, 11; Am 5:18–20), be future-eschatological (Eze 30:2–3; Zep 1:7, 14–18; Mal 4:1–6), or be purely eschatological (Joel 3:14–15; Zec 14:1–21; 1 Th 5:1–11; 2 Th 2:2; 2 Pe 3:10–13). So teachings concerning the judgment associated with that day can apply anywhere along the continuum that culminates in the final day of the Lord. With such an understanding believers are assured of God’s sovereign control of the flow of history and his ultimate good intentions for them. Such knowledge should bring a continuing realization of the necessity of trust and godly living.

Theologically, the scope of these passages makes it clear that the eschatological day of the Lord is the culmination of God’s judging and restoring process. It involves the time of great affliction for God’s people (Da 12:1; Mt 24:15–28) and of earth’s judgment (Isa 26:20–21; Rev 6; 8–11; 14:14–16:21), and it closes with the return of the Lord in glory (Rev 19:11–16) and the battle of Armageddon (Rev 16:16; 19:17–21; cf. Eze 38–39). Joel’s use of the term, then, is in harmony with the totality of Scripture. By “the day of the Lord” is meant that time when God, for his glory and humanity’s good, actively intervenes in human affairs in judgment against sinners and on behalf of his own people.

The day of the Lord also deals with deliverance for God’s people and the hope of a final blessed state (Joel 2:31–32; 3:16–21; Zep 3:9–20; Zec 14:3; Mal 4:5–6). The eschatological prophecies dealing with these two themes are characteristic of OT kingdom oracles.

Thus in v. 32 the second of the twin themes associated with kingdom oracles comes into full view. Along with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, there will be the outworking of salvation for those who truly trust God as their Redeemer. To “call on the name of the Lord” is to invoke his name in approaching him (cf. Ge 4:26; 12:8), but especially to call on him in believing faith (Pss 99:6; 145:18; Ro 10:13). For such a one there will be not only physical deliverance but also spiritual transformation and the blessedness of peace and prosperity. While salvation-deliverance will be the experience of the one who truly “calls on the name of the Lord” (cf. 2:26) in that day, it is God himself who will summon that remnant.

Before leaving this chapter, we must briefly examine the issue of the citation of these words by Peter in his famous address at Pentecost (Ac 2:17–21). While several theories have been advanced as to the relation between these two passages of Scripture, the position taken here attempts to strike a balance between the extreme views of a total fulfillment at Pentecost and the complete lack of any relationship.

Although the full context of Acts 2 does not exhaust the larger context of Joel 2:28–3:21, we can scarcely doubt that Peter viewed Joel’s prophecy as applicable to Pentecost, for he plainly said that such was the case (Ac 2:16). Moreover, both his sermon and subsequent remarks are intimately intertwined with Joel’s message (e.g., cf. Joel 2:30–31 with Ac 2:22–24; Joel 2:32 with Ac 2:38–40).

The precise applicability of Joel’s prophecy to Pentecost can be gleaned from some of the Petrine interpretive changes and additions to Joel’s text. Thus, under divine inspiration Peter added to Joel’s words relative to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit kai prohēteusousin (“and they will prophesy”; cf. Joel 2:29 with Ac 2:18). The intent of Joel’s prophecy was not only the restoration of prophecy but that such a gift was open to all classes of people. The Spirit-empowered words of the apostles on Pentecost were, therefore, evidence of the accuracy of Joel’s prediction. (They were also a direct fulfillment of Christ’s promise to send the Holy Spirit [see Lk 24:49; Jn 14:16–18; 15:26–27; 16:7–15; Ac 1:4–5, 8; 2:33].)

Again, Peter affirmed that Joel’s more general term ʾaḥarê-kēn (“afterward”) is to be understood as en tais eschatais hēmerais (“in the last days”; cf. Joel 2:28 with Ac 2:17). The NT writers made it clear that both Israel’s future age and the church age are designated by the same terms: “the last [latter] days [times]” (1 Ti 4:1; 2 Ti 3:1–8; Heb 1:1–2; Jas 5:3; 1 Pe 1:5, 20; 4:7; 2 Pe 3:1–9; 1 Jn 2:18; Jude 18). Accordingly, the point of Peter’s remark in Acts 2:16 must be that Pentecost, as the initial day of that period known as “the last [latter] days,” which will culminate in those events surrounding the return of Jesus the Messiah, partakes of the character of those final events and so is a herald and earnest of what surely must come. Pentecost, then, forms a corroborative pledge in the series of fulfillments that will culminate in the ultimate fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy in the eschatological complex.

It must also be noted that the outpouring of the Spirit is an accompanying feature of that underlying basic divine promise given to Abraham and the patriarchs, ratified through David, reaffirmed in the terms of the new covenant, and guaranteed in the person and work of Jesus the Messiah (cf. Ge 12:1–3; 15; 17; 2 Sa 7:11–29; Ps 89:3–4, 27–29; Jer 31:31–34; Ac 2:29–36; 26:6–7; Gal 3:5–14; Eph 1:10–14; Heb 6:13–20; 9:15).

Christ’s prophetic promise was directly fulfilled; Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled but not consummated. It awaits its ultimate fulfillment but was provisionally applicable to Pentecost and the age of the Spirit as the initial step in those last days that will culminate in the prophesied the day of the Lord.[2]

[1] Boice, J. M. (2002). The Minor Prophets: an expositional commentary (pp. 143–149). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[2] Patterson, R. D. (2008). Joel. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Daniel–Malachi (Revised Edition) (Vol. 8, pp. 336–338). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

June 5 – Being Slow to Anger

“Let every one be … slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:19–20).


If you resent God’s Word, you cannot grow in righteousness.

Have you ever started reading your Bible, thinking everything was fine between you and the Lord, only to have the Word suddenly cut deep into your soul to expose some sin you had neglected or tried to hide? That commonly happens because God seeks to purge sin in His children. The Holy Spirit uses the Word to penetrate the hidden recesses of the heart and to do His convicting and purifying work. How you respond to that process is an indicator of the genuineness of your faith.

“Anger” in James 1:19–20 refers to a negative response to that process. It is a deep internal resentment accompanied by an attitude of rejection. Sometimes that resentment can be subtle. Paul described those who “will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires” (2 Tim. 4:3). These are the people who drift from church to church in search of someone who will tell them what they want to hear, or a congregation that wants a pastor who will make them feel good about themselves instead of preaching the Word and setting a high standard of holiness.

Sometimes resentment toward the Word ceases to be subtle and turns to open hostility. That happened when the crowd that Stephen confronted covered their ears, drove him out of the city, and stoned him to death (Acts 7:57–60). Countless others throughout history have felt the fatal blows of those whose resentment of God’s truth turned to hatred for His people.

Receiving the Word includes being “quick to hear” what it says and “slow to anger” when it disagrees with your opinions or confronts your sin. Is that your attitude? Do you welcome its reproof and heed its warnings, or do you secretly resent it? When a Christian brother or sister confronts a sin in your life, do you accept or reject their counsel?


Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank God for the power of His Word to convict you and drive you to repentance. Welcome its correction with humility and thanksgiving.

For Further Study: Read 2 Timothy 4:1–5, noting the charge Paul gave to Timothy and his reason for giving it.[1]

1:19a The rest of this chapter gives practical instructions as to how we can be firstfruits of His creatures. It sets forth the practical righteousness which should characterize those who have been born again by the Word of Truth. We know that we were begotten by the word in order to manifest the truth of God. So then, let us now discharge our responsibility.

We should be swift to hear. This is an unusual command, with almost a trace of humor in it. It’s like saying, “Hurry up and hear!” It means that we should be ready to hear the word of God, as well as all godly counsel and admonition. We should be teachable by the Holy Spirit. We should be slow to speak. It is surprising how much James has to say about our speech! He cautions us to be guarded in our conversation. Even nature itself teaches us this. Epictetus noticed so long ago: “Nature has given to man one tongue, but two ears, that we may hear from others twice as much as we speak.” Solomon would have agreed heartily with James. He once said, “He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction” (Prov. 13:3). He also said, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Prov. 10:19). Compulsive talkers eventually transgress.

1:19b, 20 We should be slow to wrath. A man who is quick-tempered does not produce the kind of righteousness which God expects from His children. Those who lose their temper give people a wrong impression about Christianity. It is still true that “he who is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Prov. 16:32).[2]

19. My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,20. for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

Throughout the letter in general and here in particular, James talks directly to his readers. He tells them what to do and what not to do. Here he says, “Take note of this.” And what should they know? In typical Semitic parallelism he states the proverb:

Everyone should be

quick to listen

slow to speak

slow to become angry.

Speakers who have the talent to express themselves fluently and eloquently are much in demand. They receive recognition, admiration, and acclaim. James, however, puts the emphasis not on speaking but on listening. That is more important than speaking.

Listening is an art that is difficult to master, for it means to take an intense interest in the person who is speaking. Listening is the art of closing one’s mouth and opening one’s ears and heart. Listening is loving the neighbor as oneself; his concerns and problems are sufficiently important to be heard.

James cautions his readers to be fully aware of the words they speak. In effect, he echoes the saying of Jesus, “But I tell you that men will have to give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:36–37; consult Eccles. 5:1–2; Sir. 5:11).

When James says that we must be slow to speak, he does not advocate that we take a vow to be silent. Rather, he wants us to be wise in our speaking. Jewish proverbs prevalent in the days of James were these: “Speak little and do much”; “It is wise for learned men to be silent, and much more for fools”; “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent” (Prov. 17:28). Solomon said something similar in this proverb: “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise” (Prov. 10:19).

Careless words often accompany an angry mood. Of course, there is a place for righteous anger, but the psalmist tells us to know the limit of righteous anger: “In your anger do not sin” (Ps. 4:4; Eph. 4:26; and see Matt. 5:22). James pleads for restraint in respect to anger.

We have our excuses ready for being angry: too busy, too much pressure, a family trait, or even “I can’t help it.” James rules out excuses when he says, “Be … slow to become angry.” That is, we must be able to give an account of every word we speak. “A quick-tempered man displays folly” (Prov. 14:29) and anger is sin (Eph. 4:31; Col. 3:8; Titus 1:7). An angry man listens to the voice of the evil one and not to the voice of God.

James is direct. Says he, “Man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” Anger hinders the prayers of a believer (1 Tim. 2:8) and thus prevents him from promoting the cause of Christ. In effect, he has given “the devil a foothold” (Eph. 4:27). Consider Moses, who became angry with the Israelites but did not listen to the instructions God had given him. He showed disobedience and thus was not permitted to enter the Promised Land (Num. 20:10–12, 24; 27:14; Deut. 1:37; 3:26–27).

When we live the righteous life that God desires of us, we listen carefully and obediently to the Word of God. When we plan to do or say something, we ought to ask whether our actions and words promote the honor of God and advance the cause of justice and peace for our fellow man. When we permit anger to guide us, we are no longer guided by the law of God. “An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins” (Prov. 29:22). Instead the believer ought to control his temper, pray for wisdom, and keep the law of God.

21. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Here is the conclusion to this section: an uncontrolled tongue and temper drive a man deep into sin and far from God. Therefore, a spiritual housecleaning is needed so that God’s Word, whether in written or spoken form, can enter man’s life.

The verse teaches these points:

  1. A command

“Get rid of all moral filth,” says James. He uses the word filth figuratively to describe moral uncleanness (see Rev. 22:11). In the Old Testament the word appears in Zechariah 3:3–4 (LXX, with slight variation).58 The high priest Joshua stood before the angel of the Lord and was dressed in filthy clothes. The angel commanded the ones standing before him to remove Joshua’s filthy clothes, for they represented sin. And Joshua received clean clothes.

James orders his readers to get rid of all moral filth that soils their souls and to put aside prevailing evil that blights their lives (compare Eph. 4:22, 25, 31; Col. 3:8; 1 Peter 2:1). He wants them to put away internal filth and external evil. He commands them to get rid of the evil that prevails around them and influences them.60

  1. An imperative

When the house has been swept and dusted, it cannot remain empty (Matt. 12:43–45). Therefore, James tells his readers to receive the Word of God that has been planted in them. Note that they already had been given the message of salvation that as a plant had taken root in their souls. Once again, the writer resorts to an illustration from nature. A plant needs constant care. If a plant is deprived of water and nurture, it will die. Thus if the readers who have heard the Word fail to pay attention, they will die a spiritual death. The Word needs diligent care and application, so that the readers may grow and increase spiritually.

“Humbly accept the word.” James prompts them to receive the Word of God and tells them how to do so. They must accept it humbly, not in weakness but with meekness. As they accept the Word, their hearts must be free from anger, malice, or bitterness. Instead they ought to demonstrate gentleness and humility.

  1. A result

The Word of God faithfully proclaimed and attentively received is able to save those who hear it. That Word has the power to transform lives because it is living and active (Heb. 4:12).

The word save has a much deeper meaning in Scripture than we often give it. The verb to save implies not merely the salvation of the soul but the restoration of life. For example, when Jesus healed the woman who had suffered from a flow of blood for twelve years, he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you” (Mark 5:34). The Greek actually says, “Your faith has saved you.” To save, then, means to make a person whole and complete in every respect. And that is what the Word of God is able to do for the believer. The gospel is the power of God working in everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16). The gospel saves![3]

Belief That Behaves—Part 1
A Proper Reception of the Word

(James 1:19–21)

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. (1:19–21)

Here James presents a third test of a true believer. The first was his response to trials (1:2–12). The second was his response to temptation (1:13–18). The third is his response to the truth revealed in the Word of God (1:19–27).

When the true disciple hears God’s Word, there is an affection for its truth and a desire in his heart to obey it. One of the most reliable evidences of genuine salvation is that hunger for the Word of God (cf. Ps. 42:1). In 1:19–27, James focuses on two major truths relating to that evidence. First, saving faith is marked by a proper reception of Scripture as the Word of God (vv. 19–21). Second, it is marked by a proper reaction to the Word, reflected in an obedient life. The present chapter deals with the first element; chapter 7, with the second.

Just as a newborn baby does not have to be taught to hunger for its mother’s milk, the newborn child of God does not have to be taught to hunger for God’s Word, his spiritual food and drink. That is the natural impulse of his new spiritual life, of his new creation. To use another metaphor, his spiritual dial is tuned to the frequency of Scripture.

Our Lord stated: “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8:31). Genuine discipleship is evidenced by ongoing obedience to Scripture.

Jesus warned, “Take care what you listen to. By your standard of measure it shall be measured to you” (Mark 4:24; cf. Luke 8:18). Jesus’ true disciples are to pay keen attention to the content of what they hear and read, measuring every idea, every principle, and every standard against the infallible and sovereign authority of God’s Word. Believers are not, however, left only to the limits of their own diligence and understanding but are enabled by God’s indwelling Holy Spirit to accurately interpret what they hear in light of the Word. “To you,” the Lord assures us, “it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. … Blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear” (Matt. 13:11, 16; cf. 19:11). Paul also assures us that “we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God. … He who is spiritual appraises all things” (1 Cor. 2:12, 15; cf. vv. 9–10). When our faith is real, we are connected to the living God, from whom flows into us the supernatural life and power that makes us responsive and receptive to His Word.

The psalmist declared, “How blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord. … With all my heart I have sought You; do not let me wander from Your commandments. … I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in all riches” (Ps. 119:1, 10, 14). True believers love God’s Word, and their highest joy is to understand and keep it and thereby please their Lord.

Jesus also said:

“He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.” (John 14:21–24; cf. 15:7; 17:6, 17)

The person who is truly related to Christ through saving faith responds gladly to His Word. Conversely, the person who has no interest in hearing, much less obeying, God’s Word gives evidence that he does not belong to Him.

“If you abide in Me,” Jesus promised, “and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples” (John 15:7). In his first letter, John writes, “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:10; cf. 2:24; 3 John 11).

Just as it is the inner desire of the believer to know and obey God’s Word, it is the natural desire of the unbeliever to disregard and disobey it. Although unbelievers sometimes refer to certain passages of Scripture to support their own beliefs, standards, and objectives, they do not cherish it and submit to it as God’s authoritative Word. At best, it is simply one resource among many others they may or may not agree with but will use to their advantage when it appears noble or seems helpful. Because of Scripture’s deep and convicting truths, they naturally rebel against it, since it exposes their sinfulness, lostness, and condemnation under God. “Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so [unbelievers typically] oppose the truth, [because they are] men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith” (2 Tim. 3:8). They are like Alexander the coppersmith, who vigorously opposed Paul’s teaching in Ephesus (see 2 Tim. 4:14–15). Like the various bad soils in Jesus’ parable—those on the roadside, on rocky places, and among thorns (Matt. 13:18–23)—unbelievers ultimately reject the gospel along with the rest of God’s Word. They reject His truth with their minds and with their hearts. Consequently, “Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek Your statutes” (Ps. 119:155).

The Jews who rejected Jesus as the Messiah did so because they refused to believe the inspired Scriptures they had been divinely given. Jesus made it unmistakably clear to them that

the Father who sent Me, He has borne witness of Me. [But] you have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that bear witness of Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. (John 5:37–40)

A short while later, He said, “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me” (John 6:45). Still later, Jesus excoriated His enemies, telling them unambiguously: “You seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. … Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. … He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God” (John 8:37, 43, 47; cf. 10:26–27). Belief in God’s Word and belief in Jesus Christ are inseparable. To believe in one is to believe in the other; and to disbelieve one is to disbelieve the other.

So the believing mind and heart receives and submits to God’s truth. It is not that believers can merely sit back and passively understand, appreciate, and apply His truth without sincere determination and effort. Just as the Lord did not save us apart from our initial trust in Him, neither does He bless our lives as believers and give us spiritual growth apart from our continuing trust in Him. And just as the Word was the power of our new birth, so is it the power of our new life. Consequently, James reveals three attitudes that are necessary for believers to rightly receive God’s Word: willingness to receive it with submission (James 1:19–20), with purity (v. 21a), and with humility (v. 21b).

Willingness to Receive the Word with Submission

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. (1:19–20)

This you know refers back to the truths just expressed: first, the general truth of the power of the Word in regenerating believers in the early church and making them entirely new creations; and, second, the subsidiary and marvelous truth that those believers became, in fact, “the first fruits among His creatures” (v. 18). From the apostle’s teaching as well as from their own experience, they knew what it was to be transformed by the incorruptible seed of the Word and given eternal life in the very family of God as His own child (cf. 1 Pet. 1:23–25).

At this point, James makes a clear transition in emphasis. Because we have experienced the transforming power of God and have been made new creatures, we are to continually submit to His Word, allowing it to continue its divine work in and through our lives. In James 1:18, Scripture is called “the word of truth”; in verse 21, “the word implanted”; in verse 22, simply “the word”; in verse 23, figuratively, as “a mirror”; and in verse 25, “the perfect law, the law of liberty.”

Scripture not only is given to bring men to salvation but also is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17). By the continual, faithful hearing of the life-giving and life-sustaining Word, our divinely indwelt hearts are stimulated to obey the Word with willing submission to its teachings and truths. We exult with David that “the law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Ps. 19:7–8). “I have inherited Your testimonies forever,” another psalmist writes, “for they are the joy of my heart” (Ps. 119:111).

By addressing his readers as my beloved brethren James clearly indicates his deep compassion and concern for them. Like every wise Christian teacher, he is not simply trying to convince their minds in a purely intellectual way but also is trying to reach their hearts. His affection for them is equally as strong as his obligation to them. Few things can make a teacher’s work more effective than a genuine love for those being taught. Love can break down barriers—intellectual as well as spiritual ones—that no amount of fact and reason may do. And no matter how well the mind may understand and acknowledge a truth, it will be of little spiritual benefit to the believer or to the kingdom if the heart is not inclined to personally embrace and submit to it.

In the second half of verse 19, James gives three important commands for the believer who is willing to receive God’s Word with submissiveness. All three are deceptively simple. First, we must be quick to hear, that is, be a careful listener, making sure that we pay attention in order to get the message right. “Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise,” the writer of Proverbs observes; “when he closes his lips, he is counted prudent” (Prov. 17:28). In another place he asks rhetorically, “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Prov. 29:20). In any field of knowledge we learn by listening, not by speaking (cf. Ps. 119:11; 2 Tim. 2:15).

James’s appeal is for believers to seize every opportunity to increase their exposure to Scripture, to take advantage of every privileged occasion to read God’s Word or to hear it faithfully preached or taught. The sincere, eager desire for such learning is one of the surest marks of a true child of God. When he is specially blessed, he turns to the Word to find passages of thanksgiving and praise. When he is troubled, he searches for words of comfort, encouragement, and strength. In times of confusion, he searches for words of wisdom and guidance. When he is tempted, he searches out God’s standards of purity and righteousness for power to resist. The Word is the source of deliverance from temptations and trials. It becomes the most welcome friend, not only because of what it delivers us from but also because of what it delivers us to—glorious, intimate, and loving communion with our heavenly Lord.

Periodically, every Christian should do a personal inventory regarding his hunger and thirst for God’s Word. He should ask himself with determined honesty, “Is my real delight, like the psalmist’s, truly in the law of the Lord; and do I meditate on it day and night?” (cf. Ps. 1:2); and, “If we miss reading Scripture before the day begins, do we notice a difference in the day and in ourselves?” Can we sing with Charles Wesley,

When quiet in my room I sit,

Thy book be my companion still;

My joy Thy sayings to repeat,

Talk o’er the records of Thy will,

And search the oracles divine

Till every heartfelt word is mine.

J. A. Motyer has perceptively written,

We might wonder why the ever-practical James does not proceed to outline schemes of daily Bible reading or the like, for surely these are the ways in which we offer a willing ear to the voice of God. But he does not help us in this way. Rather, he goes deeper, for there is little point in schemes and times if we have not got an attentive spirit. It is possible to be unfailingly regular in Bible reading, but to achieve no more than to have moved the book-mark forward: this is reading unrelated to an attentive spirit. The word is read but not heard. On the other hand, if we can develop an attentive spirit, this will spur us to create those conditions—a proper method in Bible-reading, a discipline of time, and so on—by which the spirit will find itself satisfied in hearing the Word of God. (J. A. Motyer, The Message of James [Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1985], 64–65)

The true believer will be marked by such an attentive spirit, which will find a way to be in Scripture regularly, not for the purpose of filling an allotted devotional time but to grow in the knowledge, understanding, and love of the truth—and through and above that, to grow in the knowledge, understanding, and love of the Lord Himself. He will be eager to attend Bible preaching and study, so that his heart and mind can again be exposed to God’s truth. He will be eager on the Lord’s Day to fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ and to worship Him.

Second, the believer who willingly receives the Word with submission must be slow to speak. That characteristic is a companion of the first. You cannot listen carefully while you are talking, or even while you are thinking about what to say. Many discussions are fruitless for the simple reason that all parties are paying more attention to what they want to say than to what others are saying.

In this context, therefore, it seems that slow to speak includes the idea of being careful not to be thinking about one’s own thoughts and ideas while someone else is trying to express God’s. We cannot really hear God’s Word when our minds are on our own thoughts. We need to keep silent inside as well as outside.

The primary idea here, however, is that, when the appropriate time to speak does come, what is said should be carefully thought out. When we speak for the Lord, we should have the gravest concern that what we say not only is true but is spoken in a way that both edifies those who hear and honors the Lord in whose behalf we speak. We should pursue every opportunity to read the Word ourselves, to hear it preached and taught, and to discuss it with other believers who love, honor, and seek to obey it. At the same time, we should be cautious, patient, and careful when we have opportunity to preach, teach, or explain it to others. It is doubtless for that reason that James later warns, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment” (James 3:1).

After many years of preaching and teaching the Word, I must confess that, although the exercise of preaching is the manifestation of my spiritual gift and certainly brings rich satisfaction, I cannot honestly say that I relish preaching and teaching or bask in the light of it. I do not rush into the pulpit with any sort of personal exhilaration or joy. There is always a certain reluctance in my heart, not a reluctance to fulfill my calling but a reluctance based on the great weight of responsibility to handle accurately and proclaim the truth of God (2 Tim. 2:15).

According to one of his biographers, when the great Scottish Reformer and theologian John Knox was first called to preach, “He burst forth in most abundant tears, and withdrew himself to his chamber. His countenance and behavior from that day until the day he was compelled to present himself to the public place of preaching, did sufficiently declare the trouble of his heart” (William Barclay, The Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975], 50).

When a famous Roman orator was asked by a young man to teach him the art of public speaking, the young man continued an incessant flow of meaningless talk that allowed the great teacher no opportunity to interject a word. When they finally reached the point of discussing a fee, the orator said, “Young man, to instruct you in oratory, I will have to charge you a double fee.” When asked why, he explained, “Because I will have to teach you two skills: the first, how to hold your tongue; the second, how to use it.”

It is tragic when new converts, especially celebrities, are immediately encouraged to begin speaking publicly, not simply to give testimony to their salvation, but to begin giving advice and counsel about other aspects of Christian doctrine and practice for which they are not biblically or experientially prepared. Not only does it tend to foster pride and false confidence in the new convert but almost inevitably offers shallow, and often erroneous and spiritually dangerous, ideas to those who hear them. Well aware of that danger, Paul warned Timothy that an overseer, or elder, should not be “a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil” (1 Tim. 3:6). Later in that letter he adds, “Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others” (5:22; cf. Ezek. 3:17–18; Acts 20:26–28; Heb. 13:17).

Judging from James 1:26 and 3:1, some believers in the churches to whom James wrote were accustomed to saying and teaching whatever happened to come into their minds, without giving it careful thought or checking it against Scripture. Many of the would-be teachers were perhaps sincere but poorly taught and unprepared. Some were proud and arrogant (see 4:6) and enjoyed hearing their own voices and being considered teachers and leaders. Some, being discontent, were given to criticizing and wrangling with each other (see 3:14; 4:1–2, 11; 5:9). And, although James does not mention the problem specifically, it would seem certain that there were also unbelieving false teachers who were deceptively undermining the doctrine and faith of church members, causing great confusion and damage.

The man of God whom God has anointed to preach and teach His Word is compelled to do that with both willingness and joy. But he also is to do it with a sense of awe, always making sure—by careful and patient study, preparation, and prayer—that he says nothing in God’s name that does not accurately reflect God’s Word.

Third, the believer who willingly receives the Word with submission must be slow to anger. Anger is a very natural emotion that is an all but automatic response—even for believers who are not spiritually prepared—to anything or anyone that harms or displeases them. Orgē (anger) does not refer to an explosive outburst of temper but to an inner, deep resentment that seethes and smolders, often unnoticed by others. It is therefore an anger that only the Lord and the believer know about. Therefore, it is a special danger, in that it can be privately harbored.

In this context, James seems to be speaking particularly about anger at a truth in the Word that displeases, that confronts sin or conflicts with a cherished personal belief or standard of behavior. It refers to a disposition hostile to scriptural truth when it does not correspond to one’s own convictions, manifested—even if only inwardly—against those who faithfully teach the Word.

As already noted, anger also was reflected in the general discontent and dissension within some of the congregations to whom James wrote. “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?” he asks. “Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel” (4:1–2). People desired to have their own opinions confirmed, their own ways approved, their own likes and dislikes accepted by others. Self-will was supreme, personal hostility was rampant, and the spiritual damage was enormous. Instead of working together in love in each other’s behalf, they fought each other to have their own ways, regardless of the consequences to Christ’s church or to their own spiritual well-being.

But James’s emphasis here seems to be on those who hear the truth and resent its exposing their personal false ideas or ungodly lifestyles. Paul asked believers in Galatia, “So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Gal. 4:16). In the minds of some church members, the answer doubtless was “yes.” In reality, of course, Paul’s persistently telling them God’s truth, without compromise or omission, was the kindest and most helpful thing he could do for them. That is the kindest and most helpful thing anyone can do for someone else.

But throughout the history of the church—in fact, throughout the history of fallen mankind—even believers have resented God’s truth and the messenger who brought it. Sometimes a pastor must therefore be severe in challenging and rebuking that resentment. “Now some have become arrogant,” Paul told the church at Corinth, “as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power. What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness?” (1 Cor. 4:18–21).

In a similar but somewhat less specific way, James was trying to contain and defuse the personal resentment and hostility that plagued some, perhaps all, of the churches his letter would eventually reach. Many of the believers in those churches would have been under his pastoral care in Jerusalem before the church there was scattered after the martyrdom of Stephen (see Acts 8:1; 11:19).

There is, of course, a just anger, a holy indignation against sin, Satan, and anything that dishonors the Lord or assaults His glory. Jesus was intensely angry when He saw His Father’s house, the holy temple in Jerusalem, turned into “a place of business,” and He expressed His anger twice by driving out those responsible for the desecration (John 2:14–16; cf. Matt. 21:12–13).

But mere personal anger, bitterness, and resentment can never serve the cause of Christ, for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God, that is, does not accomplish what is right in God’s eyes. That is especially true when the hostility is against the truth of God’s Word, for that in reality is against God Himself.

Willingness to Receive the Word with Purity

Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, (1:21a)

As will be discussed further in the next section, the main verb of this sentence is receive. And because this verb (dechomai), as well as the related participle (from apotithēmi, putting aside), are in the aorist tense, the action of the participle is understood to precede that of the main verb. In other words, putting aside [more literally, “having put aside”] all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness is a condition for receiving the word implanted. Before God’s Word can produce His righteousness in us, we must renounce and put away the sin in our lives that stands between us and that righteousness.

Paul uses the same figure several times in his letters. He admonishes believers at Ephesus: “In reference to your former manner of life, you [must] lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 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” (Eph. 4:22–24). To Christians in Colossae, he says, “Put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (Col. 3:8–10). The writer of Hebrews declares, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1). Similarly, Peter writes, “Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Pet. 2:1–2).

Filthiness translates rhuparia, which refers to any sort of moral defilement or impurity. It is closely related to a term used of wax in the ear, which impairs hearing, and is therefore especially appropriate in this context. Moral filthiness is a serious barrier to our clearly hearing and comprehending the Word of God.

Wickedness is from kakia, which denotes moral evil and corruption in general, especially in regard to intent. It pertains to sin that is deliberate and determined. It may reside in the heart for a long time before being expressed outwardly, and may, in fact, never be expressed outwardly. It therefore includes the many “hidden” sins that only the Lord and the individual are aware of.

Although perisseia can carry the idea of remains, or surplus, in this context it seems better rendered as the “abundance,” “excess,” or “prevalence” of wickedness. The idea is that of confessing, repenting of, and eliminating every vestige and semblance of evil that corrupts our lives, reduces our hunger for the Word, and clouds our understanding of it. When that is done, we can indeed receive “the word of God, … not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in [us] who believe” (1 Thess. 2:13).

Willingness to Receive the Word in Humility

in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. (1:21b)

Finally, James declares that true believers willingly receive God’s Word in humility. Humility translates prautēs, which is often rendered as “meekness” or “gentleness.” The adjective form is most commonly rendered “meek” or “gentle,” as in the third Beatitude (Matt. 5:5). But humility seems most appropriate here, because the idea is clearly that of selfless receptiveness, of putting self, as well as sins, aside. The noted Greek scholar W. E. Vine describes prautēs as “an inwrought grace of the soul; and the exercises of it are first and chiefly toward God. It is that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting” (An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words [New York: Revell, 1940], 3:55).

Among other things, humility includes the very important quality of teachableness, which obviously is of utmost importance in regard to hearing and understanding God’s Word. The faithful Christian is to receive the word implanted with a submissive, gentle, and teachable spirit, cleansed of pride, resentment, anger, and every form of moral corruption.

Implanted is from emphutos, which has the literal meaning of planting a seed in the ground. Here it is used metaphorically of God’s Word being implanted and taking root in the heart of a believer (the “good soil” of Matt. 13:8, 23) at the time of salvation. With the Holy Spirit to interpret and empower, it becomes a vital element in the new spiritual life of the child of God, for “the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). The Word of God is the gospel in its fullness and “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16).

Yet, despite its already being within us, we must continually receive it, in the sense of allowing it to direct and control our lives. It was in this way that the noble-minded Jews of Berea “received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things [preached by Paul and Silas] were so” (Acts 17:11).

Able to save your souls first refers back to our initial salvation, in which the Word brought the truth of the gospel to an unsaved heart, showing us the way of salvation and saving us from the penalty of sin (cf. 1 Pet. 1:23). It is also able to save by being a constant resource of God’s truth that the Holy Spirit uses to guard believers’ souls from being snatched out of God’s family by protecting us from the power and dominion of sin. Finally, it is able to lead us to ultimate and complete salvation, when we are glorified with Christ in heaven, forever separated from the presence of sin. It is that comprehensive truth that Paul declares in assuring us that “now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed” (Rom. 13:11). It is the divine power behind the truth of Scripture that is able to initiate salvation, keep it alive and growing, and finally bring it to final glory, complete and perfect. We have been saved (justified) through the power of the Word of God; we are kept saved (sanctified) through the power of the Word; and we will be ultimately, completely, and eternally saved (glorified) through the power of the Word. [4]

Righteous Living through the Word (1:19b–21)


19b The triple exhortation “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” is proverbial in nature. The virtue of being a ready listener who knows how to control the tongue, and the corresponding moral danger of being a hothead, hasty talker, are widespread in both Hellenistic and Jewish literature. Davids, 92, suggests that pas anthrōpos (GK 476), translated as “everyone” by the NIV, points to a Jewish background, and passages such as Proverbs 13:3 immediately come to mind: “He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin” (see also Pr 15:1; 29:20; Ecc 7:9). Yet this triple challenge also brings to the surface James’s deep concern over the divisiveness among the people he addresses. Time and again James deals with the proper use of the tongue in the community, which is a hallmark of one walking according to God’s way of wisdom (e.g., 2:12; 3:1–12; 4:1–3, 11–12; 5:9).

20 James then offers a basis for the exhortation: “for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (NASB). Passionate outbursts of anger do not “achieve” or “bring about” or “carry out” God’s righteousness. The verb has to do with work or effort of some kind. However, what does he mean when he speaks of “the righteousness of God,” for at least four interpretations are possible. The phrase could refer to God’s character as righteous, his justification, his eschatological justice (cf. 5:7), or his standard of right living (Laws, 81; Davids, 93). Of these the final option is to be preferred, since it is only in living according to God’s standard that human beings can “accomplish” or “work” his righteousness (Moo, 84). Consequently, the idea here is that when we allow anger to control us, spewing out poisonous emotional garbage onto our fellow believers, this falls far short of what God has designed for our relationships in the community of faith.

21 The “Therefore” (dio) at the beginning of v. 21 is very strong and shows that what this author is about to say is inferred from the previous statement. James is saying, “Based on this need to live up to God’s standard by being self-controlled in our interactions with one another, here’s what you need to do,” and he follows first with what needs to be put aside and then with what needs to be embraced. The word translated “get rid of” (NIV) is, in reality, a participle, which the NASB translates more accurately with “putting aside.” This term was used at times in the ancient world to refer to taking off clothes, but it occurs in the NT in a figurative sense of “laying aside” something spiritually bad, such as lying (Eph 4:25), malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, slander (1 Pe 2:1), or anything that would hold us back from following Christ fully (Heb 12:1). Accordingly, “moral filth” (rhyparia, GK 4864) translates the figurative sense of a term that literally refers to dirt or filth. In its figurative uses it can connote bad behavior, moral uncleanness, greed, or sordid attitudes or actions. The “evil that is so prevalent,” which is also to be laid aside, Laws, 81, translates pointedly with “the great mass of malice” and refers to the malicious and vulgar wagging of the tongue with which the author is concerned (3:1–12; cf. 1 Pe 2:1; Davids, 94). These community-corroding attitudes and actions must be done away with, for they are out of line with God’s righteous standard and, therefore, inappropriate for his community.

On the other hand, we are to replace these filthy rags of wickedness with something: “humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” The term rendered “humbly” connotes a posture of gentleness or meekness, as opposed to an aggressive haughtiness that forces its opinion and desires on others. Given the context and James’s emphasis on community dynamics, the term as used here might carry the nuanced sense of courtesy or being considerate of others. In its one other use in the book, the word is contrasted with envy and selfishness, which bring about evil and disorder (3:13). Thus in James’s putting forth of this concept, it has to do with living life well relationally in the community of faith, which is a manifestation of God’s wisdom.

It is not surprising that James integrates humility with receptiveness to God’s word. In v. 18, James has already pointed out that we were “birthed” by the word of truth. He now challenges us to an attitude of ready openness to the “word planted in you.” The term rendered “planted in you” is an adjective modifying “word” (logos, GK 3364) and can also carry the idea of “inborn,” which fits with the imagery of v. 18. The word God used to give us birth is now a part of who we are as people (cf. Jer 31:31–34). Although Davids, 95, asserts that “inborn” is unrelated to receiving, the same could be said of something already “implanted.” What James has in mind here is a heart that the dictates of God’s wise word may influence. This word “can save,” alluding to the future aspect of our salvation. The word is able to bring us all the way to the consummation of our salvation at the end of the age.[5]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 169). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 2222–2223). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of James and the Epistles of John (Vol. 14, pp. 56–59). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1998). James (pp. 65–77). Chicago: Moody Press.

[5] 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. 225–226). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the LORD.

PSALM 107:43

To think rightly of God we must conceive of Him as being altogether boundless in His goodness, mercy, love, grace, and in whatever else we may properly attribute to the Deity.

Since God is infinite, whatever He is must be infinite, also; that is, it must be without any actual or conceivable limits. The moment we allow ourselves to think of God as having limits, the one of whom we are thinking is not God but someone or something less than and different from Him.

It is not enough that we acknowledge God’s infinite resources; we must believe also that He is infinitely generous to bestow them!

The first is not too great a strain on our faith. Even the deist will admit that the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth, must be rich beyond the power of man to conceive. But to believe that God is a giver as well as a possessor takes an advanced faith and presupposes that there has been a divine revelation to that effect which gives validity to our expectations. Which indeed there has been—we call this revelation the Bible!

Believing all this, why are we Christians so poverty-stricken? I think it is because we have not learned that God’s gifts are meted out according to the taker, not according to the giver!

Though almighty and all-wise, God yet cannot pour a great gift into a small receptacle![1]

43 The conclusion to this psalm transforms the hymn of thanksgiving and praise to a wisdom psalm. The righteous will become wise by studying the acts of the Lord in human affairs. Even in adversity, the righteous person learns to know God better and to trust that he will make all things well. His acts of love (NIV, “the great love”) are constant. The fool rages against God, but the wise will keep these things in the heart.[2]

107:43 Perhaps the psalmist has Pr 8:1–36, Ecc 12:13, 14, or Hos 14:9 in mind as he pens these concluding words.[3]

107:43 Let the Wise Attend to These Things. The final verse closes by inviting whoever is wise (i.e., those who genuinely seek to be skillful in godly living; see Introduction to Proverbs: Character Types in Proverbs) to attend to these things, specifically, to the many ways in which God has displayed his steadfast love. Such a meditation will increase one’s wisdom.[4]

107:43 wise Wisdom in the ot refers to knowing and observing God’s commands with reverence. See note on Ps 104:24.

let them consider The psalmist implies that the key to wisdom is a steady focus on Yahweh’s steadfast love. God is just, but also merciful, so loyalty to Him and His law is truly wise.[5]

107:43 Whoever is wise. The retelling of the history of Israel is for a purpose: to learn from it the steadfast love of God [6]

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

[2] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 802). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 107:43). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1081). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 107:43). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 961). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.


Nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.

1 Timothy 6:17

I think a lot of people in our congregations get confused when some learned brother advises us that we must all join in a fervent fight against “materialism.”

If men and women do not know what materialism is, how can they be expected to join the battle?

Materialism in its crisis form occurs when men and women created in the image of God accept and look upon matter as “the ultimate”—the only reality.

The advice, “We must fight materialism,” does not mean that everyone should get a sword and run after a fellow named Material and cut him down.

What it does mean is that we should start believing in the fact of God’s Creation and that matter is only a creature of the all-wise and ever-loving God! The believer is not deceived into believing that the physical things we know and enjoy are the ultimate end in themselves.

Dear Lord, You are the reality that so many people today fail to see. Make me more sensitive to Your spiritual realm all around me.[1]

6:17 Paul spoke earlier at length about those who desired to be rich. Here he deals with those who are already rich. Timothy should command them not to be haughty. This is a temptation to the wealthy. They are apt to look down on those who do not have a great deal of money as being uncouth, uncultured, and not very clever. This, of course, is not necessarily true. Great riches are not a sign of God’s blessing in the NT, as they were in the OT. Whereas wealth was a token of divine favor under the law, the great blessing of the new dispensation is affliction.

The rich should not trust in, literally, “the uncertainty of riches.” Money has a way of sprouting wings and flying away. Whereas great resources give the appearance of providing security, the fact is that the only sure thing in this world is the word of God.

Therefore, the rich are exhorted to trust in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. One of the great snares of riches is that it is difficult to have them without trusting in them. Yet this is really a form of idolatry. It is a denial of the truth that God is the One who gives us richly all things to enjoy. This latter statement does not condone luxurious living, but simply states that God is the Source of true enjoyment, and material things cannot produce this.[2]

  1. Truly, believers are rich in terms of the age to come, that age which will be ushered in by Christ’s glorious epiphany! What a contrast between them and those who are rich only in terms of this present age. Let wealthy church-members beware lest the word “only” should apply to them! Paul does not say that their wealth is limited to this earthly sphere, but he warns them. Says he:

As for those (who are) rich in terms of this present age, charge them not to be high-minded, nor to have their hope set on (the) uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything for (our) enjoyment.

Not those who are eager to become rich, as in verse 9, are here addressed, but those who are actually rich. By immediately adding, “in terms of this present age” (an expression used only here and in 2 Tim. 4:10; Titus 2:12), the apostle is already beginning to fix the mind of the reader and hearer upon the transitory character of earthly wealth. He means, “this present era which will soon be past.” Timothy, then, must tell these people: (a) what should not be their attitude (verse 17a); and (b) what should be their attitude (verses 17b, 18, 19).

As to a., they must not be high-minded but humble (Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:12); and they must not have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches, that is, on their riches, which, as a matter of fact, are very uncertain. Rich church-members, then, must be neither snobbish nor smug.

As to b., they should have their hope fixed on God (this is the best reading; better than, “on the living God”). This God is ever true to his promise. He is the God of love. He richly provides. Note play on words: “As for those (who are) rich, charge them … not to have their hope set on … riches, but on God, who richly provides.” Not only is God rich (Ps. 50:10–12), so that with him wishing and having are one and the same, but he ever gives “according to his riches” (Eph. 1:7; cf. Titus 3:6), not only “of his riches.” For God’s munificence, by virtue of which he provides us with all things necessary both for body and soul, for time and eternity, see also Acts 14:17; James 1:17; and innumerable passages in the Psalter, such as 37:25; 68:19; 81:16b; and see Psalms 103, 104, 107, 111, 116, 145, etc. Moreover, all these things are given to us in order that we may not only “partake of” them (1 Tim. 4:3), but may also enjoy them. When we sing, God sings along with us (Zeph. 3:17).[3]

The Danger to Avoid

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. (6:17)

The first danger facing those who are rich is that they will become conceited. Conceited is from hupsēlophroneō, a compound verb meaning “to think lofty,” “be haughty,” or “have an exalted opinion of oneself.” Looking down on those lower on the economic ladder is a distressing trait of fallen human nature. Rich people are constantly faced with the temptation to put on airs of superiority. Riches and pride are frequently found together, and the wealthier an individual is, the greater the temptation. It is exceedingly difficult to be wealthy and have a humble spirit. The temptation is to view others as mere servants, since wealthy people tend to hire others to do everything for them. Proverbs 18:23 describes what often transpires: “The poor man utters supplications, but the rich man answers roughly.” That happens because “the rich man is wise in his own eyes” (Prov. 28:11).

The opposite of being conceited is having “humility of mind” (Phil. 2:3). That virtue was scorned by the haughty Greek culture, with its glorification of pride. Paul wants the rich in the Ephesian assembly to avoid that cultural iniquity and be humble.

Ezekiel 28:1–5 illustrates one who fell prey to pride due to his wealth:

The word of the Lord came again to me saying, “Son of man, say to the leader of Tyre, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “because your heart is lifted up and you have said,” ‘I am a god, I sit in the seat of gods, in the heart of the seas’; yet you are a man and not God, although you make your heart like the heart of God—behold, you are wiser than Daniel; there is no secret that is a match for you. By your wisdom and understanding you have acquired riches for yourself, and have acquired gold and silver for your treasuries. By your great wisdom, by your trade you have increased your riches, and your heart is lifted up because of your riches.””’

James warns against such an attitude in the church:

My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? (2:1–4)

A second danger facing the rich is the temptation to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches. To base their hope on the uncertainty of riches, instead of God, is foolish. Proverbs 11:28 warns that “he who trusts in his riches will fall.” Proverbs 23:4–5 adds, “Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it. When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings, like an eagle that flies toward the heavens.” Once again, this is especially a temptation for the rich. Those who have a lot tend to trust in it, while those who have little can’t trust in what they have, and so are more likely to turn to God in hope that He will supply.

In the parable of the rich fool, the Lord Jesus Christ warned of the foolishness of trusting riches (Luke 12:16–21):

And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a certain rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’And he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.’ ” But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

Rather than trusting in riches, believers are to fix their hope on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. God provides far more security than any earthly investment. Psalm 50:10–12 describes His incalculable wealth: “Every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird of the mountains, and everything that moves in the field is Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine, and all it contains.” God is not stingy; He richly supplies His children with all things to enjoy. Ecclesiastes 5:18–20reads,

Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward. Furthermore, as for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God. For he will not often consider the years of his life, because God keeps him occupied with the gladness of his heart.

The highest form of joy for the believer is to bring glory to the Lord. True gladness, then, comes when believers give heed to Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:19–21:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.[4]

17 Almost as an afterthought (note the preceding benediction), the apostle adds a closing “command” (on parangellō, see comments at v. 13) for “those who are rich in this present world” (cf. 2 Ti 4:10; Tit 2:12), which may refer to people who do not have to work for a living. Earlier in ch. 6, Paul elaborated the benefits of “contentment”in contrast to the false teachers’ desire to “get rich,” warning against the “love of money” (vv. 6–10).

While this previous section was addressed primarily to the poor, Paul now counsels Timothy directly on how to deal with wealthy people in the Ephesian congregation. There is evidence of a sizable contingent of well-to-do believers under Timothy’s charge (cf. 2:9; 5:13). At the same time, there were slaves (6:1–2), widows in need (5:3–16), and people from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. Paul’s primary concern is that such people not succumb to the sin of arrogance (hypsēlophroneō, GK 5735, “be arrogant”; cf. Ro 11:20: hypsēla phronei) and place their confidence in material things. It is wrong to base one’s self-worth on one’s possessions. Also, wealth is an “uncertain” (adēlotēs, GK 84, occurring only here in the NT) object of trust. As Paul wrote earlier in ch. 6, “we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it” (v. 7). In the seven letters of Revelation, the risen Christ excoriates the church of Laodicea for claiming to be rich while really being poor (Rev 3:17–18).

Positively, rich believers are to “put their hope in God,” who “richly [plousiōs, GK 4455, a wordplay] provides”the entire Christian community (cf. 2 Ti 1:7, 9, 14) with “everything [lit., all things] for our enjoyment [apolausis, GK 656; with a negative connotation in Heb 11:25].” Gratitude rather than conceit is the proper response to material blessings from the Lord.[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.) (pp. 2102–2103). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles (Vol. 4, pp. 209–210). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 1 Timothy (pp. 279–281). Chicago: Moody Press.

[5] Köstenberger, A. (2006). 1 Timothy. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, p. 558). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

June 5 – Using Wealth Wisely

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.—Matt. 6:19–21

There is a great potential for your possessions to become idols when you accumulate them for yourself. But possessions that are wisely, willingly, and generously used for kingdom purposes can be a means of accumulating heavenly possessions. When they are hoarded and stored, they not only become a spiritual hindrance but also are subject to loss through moth, rust, and thieves.

In ancient times, wealth was frequently measured in part by clothing. The best clothes were made of wool, which the moths loved to eat. Wealth was also often held in grain. The Greek word for “rust” means “an eating.” That’s the application here, since grain was often ruined by rats, mice, worms, and insects. Also, almost any kind of wealth can be stolen. Many people in those days buried their nonperishable valuables in the ground, away from the house, often in a field.

Nothing we own is completely safe from destruction or theft. But when our time, energy, and possessions are used to serve others and to further the Lord’s work, they build up heavenly resources that are completely free from destruction or theft.

Make sure you are living by this principle: “Honor the Lord from your wealth, and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine” (Prov. 3:9–10).

How many of your worries revolve around financial issues? What kind of stress and strain does this place on your mind and spirit—whether your problem involves being anxious about the prospects of the money you have, or anxious about the money you don’t have?[1]

A Single Treasure

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (6:19–21)

Lay up (thēsaurizō) and treasures (thēsauros) come from the same basic Greek term, which is also the source of our English thesaurus, a treasury of words. A literal translation of this phrase would therefore be, “do not treasure up treasures for yourselves.”

The Greek also carries the connotation of stacking or laying out horizontally, as one stacks coins. In the context of this passage the idea is that of stockpiling or hoarding, and therefore pictures wealth that is not being used. The money or other wealth is simply stored for safekeeping; it is kept for the keeping’s sake to make a show of wealth or to create an environment of lazy overindulgence (cf. Luke 12:16–21).

It is clear from this passage, as well as from many others in Scripture, that Jesus is not advocating poverty as a means to spirituality. In all of His many different instructions, He only once told a person to “sell your possessions and give to the poor” (Matt. 19:21). In that particular case, the young man’s wealth was his idol, and therefore a special barrier between him and the lordship of Jesus Christ. It provided an excellent opportunity to test whether or not that man was fully committed to turning over the control of his life to Christ. His response proved that he was not. The problem was not in the wealth itself, but the man’s unwillingness to part with it. The Lord did not specifically require His disciples to give up all their money and other possessions to follow Him, although it may be that some of them voluntarily did so. He did require obedience to His commands no matter what that cost. The price was too high for the wealthy young ruler, to whom possessions were the first priority.

Both testaments recognize the right to material possessions, including money, land, animals, houses, clothing, and every other thing that is honestly acquired. God has made many promises of material blessing to those who belong to and are faithful to Him. The foundational truth that underlies the commandments not to steal or covet is the right of personal property. Stealing and coveting are wrong because what is stolen or coveted rightfully belongs to someone else. Ananias and Sapphira did not forfeit their lives because they kept back some of the proceeds from the sale of their property, but because they lied to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3). Holding back some of the money was selfish, especially if they had other assets on which to live, but they had a right to keep it, as Peter makes plain: “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control?” (v. 4).

God expects, in fact commands, His people to be generous. But He also expects, and even commands, them not only to be thankful for but to enjoy the blessings He gives-including the material blessings. The Lord “richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17). That verse is specifically directed to “those who are rich in this present world,” and yet it does not command, or even suggest, that they divest themselves of their wealth, but rather warns them not to be conceited about it or to trust in it.

Abraham was extremely rich for his day, a person who vied in wealth, influence, and military power with many of the kings in Canaan. When we first meet Job he is vastly wealthy, and when we leave him-after the testing that cost him everything he possessed outside of his own life-God has made him wealthier still, in flocks and herds, in sons and daughters, and in a healthy long life. “And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning” (Job 42:12–17).

The Bible gives considerable counsel for working hard and following good business practices (cf. Matt. 25:27). The ant is shown as a model of the good worker, who“prepares her food in the summer, and gathers her provision in the harvest” (Prov. 6:6–8). We are told that “in all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty” (14:23) and “by wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches” (24:3–4). “He who tills his land will have plenty of food, but he who follows empty pursuits will have poverty in plenty” (28:19).

Paul tells us that parents are responsible for saving up for their children (2 Cor. 12:14), that “if anyone will not work, neither let him eat” (2 Thess. 3:10), and that “if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8).

During his exceptionally long ministry, which spanned most of the eighteenth century, John Wesley earned a considerable amount of money from his published sermons and other works. Yet he left only 28 pounds when he died, because he continually gave what he earned to the Lord’s work.

It is fight to provide for our families, to make reasonable plans for the future, to make wise investments, and to have money to carry on a business, give to the poor, and support the Lord’s work. It is being dishonest, greedy, covetous, stingy, and miserly about possessions that is wrong. To honestly earn, save, and give is wise and good; to hoard and spend only on ourselves not only is unwise but sinful.

Some years ago, I happened to have contact with two quite wealthy men during the same week. One was a former professor at a major university who, through a long series of good investments in real estate, had accumulated a fortune of possibly a hundred million dollars. But in the process he lost his family, his happiness, his peace of mind, and had aged far beyond his years. The other man, a pastor, also acquired his wealth through investments, but they were investments to which he paid little attention. Because of his financial independence, he gave to his church over the years considerably more than he was paid for being its pastor. He is one of the godliest, happiest, most fruitful, and contented persons I have ever met.

The key to Jesus’ warning here is yourselves. When we accumulate possessions simply for our own sakes-whether to hoard or to spend selfishly and extravagantly-those possessions become idols.

It is possible that both our treasures upon earth and our treasures in heaven can involve money and other material things. Possessions that are wisely, lovingly, willingly, and generously used for kingdom purposes can be a means of accumulating heavenly possessions. When they are hoarded and stored, however, they not only become a spiritual hindrance but are subject to loss through moth, rust, and thieves.

In ancient times, wealth was frequently measured in part by clothing. Compared to our day of mass-produced clothes, garments represented a considerable investment. Rich people sometimes had golden threads woven into their clothing, both to display and to store their wealth. But the best clothes were made of wool, which the moth loves to eat; and even the richest persons had difficulty protecting their clothes from the insects.

Wealth was also often held in grain, as we see from the parable of the rich farmer who said, “I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods” (Luke 12:18). Brōsis (rust) literally means “an eating,” and is translated with that meaning everywhere in the New Testament but here (see Rom. 14:17; 1 Cor. 8:4, “eating”; 2 Cor. 9:10, “food”; and Heb. 12:16, “meal”). It seems best to take the same meaning here, in reference to grain that is eaten by rats, mice, worms, and insects.

Almost any kind of wealth, of course, is subject to thieves, which is why many people buried their nonperishable valuables in the ground away from the house, often in a field (see Matt. 13:44). Break in is literally “dig through;” and could refer to digging through the mud walls of a house or digging up the dirt in a field.

Nothing we own is completely safe from destruction or theft. And even if we keep our possessions perfectly secure during our entire lives, we are certainly separated from them at death. Many millionaires will be heavenly paupers, and many paupers will be heavenly millionaires.

But when our time, energy, and possessions are used to serve others and to further the Lord’s work, they build up heavenly resources that are completely free from destruction or theft. There neither moth nor rust destroys, and … thieves do not break in or steal. Heavenly security is the only absolute security.

Jesus goes on to point out that a person’ished possessions and his deepest motives and desires are inseparable, for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. They will either both be earthly or both be heavenly. It is impossible to have one on earth and the other in heaven (cf. James 4:4),

As always, the heart must be right first. In fact, if the heart is right, everything else in life falls into its proper place. The person who is right with the Lord will be generous and happy in his giving to the Lord’s work. By the same token, a person who is covetous, self-indulgent, and stingy has good reason to question his relationship with the Lord.

Jesus is not saying that if we put our treasure in the right place our heart will then be in the right place, but that the location of our treasure indicates where our heart already is. Spiritual problems are always heart problems. Sinful acts come from a sinful heart, just as righteous acts come from a righteous heart.

When the exiles who came back to Jerusalem from Babylon began turning to God’s Word, a revival also began. “Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people” and various leaders took turns reading “from the law of God” (Neh. 8:5–8). Through hearing God’s Word the people became convicted of their sin, began to praise God, and determined to begin obeying Him and to faithfully support the work of the Temple (chs. 9–10).

Revival that does not affect the use of money and possessions is a questionable revival. As the Tabernacle was being built, “everyone whose heart stirred him and everyone whose spirit moved him came and brought the Lord’s contribution for the work of the tent of meeting and for all its service and for the holy garments” (Ex. 35:21). As plans were being made to build the Temple, David himself gave generously to the work, and “the rulers of the fathers’ households, and the princes of the tribes of Israel, and the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, with the overseers over the king’s work, offered willingly … Then the people rejoiced because they had offered so willingly, for they made their offering to the Lord with a whole heart, and King David also rejoiced greatly” (1 Chron. 29:2–6, 9).

G. Campbell Morgan wrote:

You are to remember with the passion burning within you that you are not the child of to-day. You are not of the earth, you are more than dust; you are the child of tomorrow, you are of the eternities, you are the offspring of Deity. The measurements of your lives cannot be circumscribed by the point where blue sky kisses green earth. All the fact of your life cannot be encompassed in the one small sphere upon which you live. You belong to the infinite. If you make your fortune on the earth-poor, sorry, silly soul-you have made a fortune, and stored it in a place where you cannot hold it. Make your fortune, but store it where it will greet you in the dawning of the new morning. (The Gospel According to Matthew [New York: Revell, 1929], pp. 64–65)

When thousands of people, mostly Jews, were won to Christ during and soon after Pentecost, the Jerusalem church was flooded with many converts who had come from distant lands and who decided to stay on in the city. Many of them no doubt were poor, and many others probably left most of their wealth and possessions in their homelands. To meet the great financial burden suddenly placed on the church, local believers “began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need” (Acts 2:45).

Many years later, during one of the many Roman persecutions, soldiers broke into a certain church to confiscate its presumed treasures. An elder is said to have pointed to a group of widows and orphans who were being fed and said, “There are the treasures of the church.”

God’s principle for His people has always been, “Honor the Lord from your wealth, and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine” (Prov. 3:9–10). Jesus said, “Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return” (Luke 6:38). Paul assures us that “he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully” (2 Cor. 9:6). That is God’s formula for earning dividends that are both guaranteed and permanent.

At the end of His parable about the dishonest but shrewd steward, Jesus said, “I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the mammon of unrighteousness; that when it fails, they may receive you into the eternal dwellings” (Luke 16:9). Our material possessions are “unrighteous” in the sense of not having any spiritual value in themselves. But if we invest them in the welfare of human souls, the people who are saved or otherwise blessed because of them will someday greet us in heaven with thanksgiving.[2]

19, 20. Do not gather for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves dig through and steal. But gather for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consume, and where thieves do not dig through and steal. First the negative command is issued, then the positive (cf. verses 5, 6; 7–9; 16, 17; 19, 20; 25, 26, 28; 31, 33; and 7:1, 5). How absurd (see d above), Jesus is saying, to “treasure up” for oneself perishable earthly “treasures,” and while doing this to lose the imperishable heavenly riches! Earthly treasures are vulnerable because of deterioration and defalcation.

As to the first, deterioration, the moth consumes them. Moths, skippers, and butterflies belong to the large order of insects called Lepidoptera, that is, insects with scale-covered wings. In distinction from butterflies, moths a. constitute the largest division of this order, b. are largely nocturnal, and c. have antennae that are not club-shaped. The reference here in 6:19–21 is to the tiny insect that deposits its eggs in woolens. It is in the larval stage that it feeds on the cloth until the garment, etc., becomes moth-eaten and is destroyed (Isa. 51:8; Luke 12:33; James 5:2). Rust probably indicates the corrosion of metals, their being gradually gnawed into by the action of chemicals.

In all probability, however, the terms “moth” and “rust” represent all those agencies and processes that cause earthly treasures to diminish in value and finally to cease completely to serve their purpose. Thus, bread becomes moldy (Josh. 9:5), garments wear out (Ps. 102:26), fields (particularly neglected ones) become weed-infested (Prov. 24:30), walls and fences break down (Prov. 24:31), roofs cave in so that houses begin to leak (Eccl. 10:18), and gold and silver become tarnished and perish (1 Peter 1:7, 18). Add the havoc brought about by termites, hurricanes, typhoons, tornadoes, earthquakes, plant diseases, soil erosion, etc. The list is almost endless.

As to the second, defalcation, thieves break through and steal. Through the clay wall of the houses of which Jesus was thinking the thief rather easily digs an entrance and steals the ill-guarded treasures. Inflation, oppressive taxation which may amount to confiscation, bank failures, stock market slumps and crashes, expenses in connection with prolonged illnesses, these and many similar woes have the same effect. Besides, man’s body, including that of the strongest, gradually wears away (Ps. 32:3; 39:4–7; 90:10; 103:15, 16; Eccl. 12:1–8). When he dies, all the earthly treasures on which he had pinned his hopes vanish with him.

Completely different are “the treasures in heaven” (cf. 19:21), that is, those blessings that are reserved for us in heaven (1 Peter 1:4), that are heavenly in character, but of which we experience a foretaste even now. Beginning, as is proper, with the enumeration of some of these as Jesus himself describes them, one thinks of our standing with God as being fully pardoned (Matt. 6:14), answered prayer (7:7), the enrolment of our names in heaven (Luke 10:20), the Father’s love (John 16:27), a welcome not only to the “mansions” of heaven but to the Savior’s own heart (John 14:2, 3), a full share in Christ’s own peace (John 14:27), his own joy (John 15:11), and his own victory (John 16:33), and the Holy Spirit’s permanent indwelling (John 14:16, 26; 15:26). See also all the spiritual blessings mentioned in the beatitudes (Matt. 5:1–12). Paul is thinking of these same treasures, and describes them sometimes in the same, sometimes in his own terms: our “being justified by faith” (Rom. 5:1), “answered prayer” (2 Cor. 12:8, 9), “the love of God shed abroad in our hearts” (Rom. 5:5), “the crown of righteousness” with which the Savior will welcome us (2 Tim. 4:8), “the peace of God that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7), “rejoicing in God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:11), “the victory” (1 Cor. 15:57), and “his Spirit in the inner man” (Eph. 3:16; cf. Rom. 8:14, 16, 26, 27). The enumerations are merely illustrative, not exhaustive.

There is a degree of difference with which spiritual (as over against material) blessings are emphasized in the New Testament as compared with the Old. With the coming of Christ heaven as it were touches the earth. See N.T.C. on Ephesians, p. 73.

That the heavenly treasures are moth-proof, rust-proof, and burglar-proof (verse 20), in other words, that they endure forever in all their sparkling luster, as the irremovable possession of the children of the heavenly Father, is the teaching of Scripture throughout, for it tells us about:

a faithfulness that will never be removed (Ps. 89:33; 138:8),

a life that will never end (John 3:16),

a spring of water that will never cease to bubble up within the one who drinks of it (John 4:14),

a gift that will never be lost (John 6:37, 39),

a hand out of which the Good Shepherd’s sheep will never be snatched (John 10:28),

a chain that will never be broken (Rom. 8:29, 30),

a love from which we shall never be separated (Rom. 8:39),

a calling that will never be revoked (Rom. 11:29),

a foundation that will never be destroyed (2 Tim. 2:19),

and an inheritance that will never fade out (1 Peter 1:4, 5).

The following questions may well be asked, however, “But if it is wrong to gather treasures on earth, does this mean, then, that making provision for future physical needs is always and absolutely wrong?” “Must all trade, commerce, and industry, carried on for the purpose, at least in part, of making a profit, be condemned?” “Are all rich people to be considered reprobates?” To all three questions the answer is, “No.” God did not condemn Joseph for advising Pharaoh to store up grain for future use (Gen. 41:33–36). Nor were Solomon and Agur wrong in pointing to the ant as an example of the common sense revealed in providing during the summer for the needs of the winter (Prov. 6:6; 30:25). Nor did Paul make a mistake when he wrote 2 Cor. 12:14b and 1 Tim. 5:8. Business and banking are encouraged, by implication, in Christ’s parables (Matt. 25:14–30; Luke 19:11–23). The rich man Abraham (Gen. 13:2) was a friend of God (Isa. 41:8; 2 Chron. 20:7; James 2:23). Rich Zachaeus (Luke 19:2) was accounted worthy to be called “a son of Abraham” (Luke 19:9); and wealthy Joseph of Arimathea was a follower of the Lord (Matt. 27:57).

Nevertheless, the accumulation of wealth is fraught with spiritual danger (Matt. 19:24; Luke 12:16–21; 1 Tim. 6:10). To be sure, money can be a great blessing, if it is not an end in itself but a means to an end, namely, a. to prevent one’s own family from becoming a burden to others (1 Tim. 5:8), b. to help those who are in need (Prov. 14:21; 19:17; Acts 4:36, 37; 11:27–30; 24:17; Rom. 15:25; 2 Cor. 8:4, 9; Gal. 2:10; 6:10; Eph. 4:28), and c. to encourage the work of the gospel both at home and abroad (Mark 15:41; Luke 8:2, 3; Acts 16:15, 40; 1 Cor. 9:9; Phil. 4:15–17; 1 Tim. 5:17, 18), all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). However, money can also be a snare (Mark 14:11; Luke 22:5; Acts 8:18, 20).

Naturally, if a person’s real treasure, his ultimate aim in all his striving, is something pertaining to this earth—the acquisition of money, fame, popularity, prestige, power—, then his heart, the very center of his life (Prov. 4:23), will be completely absorbed in that mundane object. All of his activities, including even the so-called religious, will be subservient to this one goal. On the other hand, if, out of sincere and humble gratitude to God, he has made God’s kingdom, that is, the joyful recognition of God’s sovereignty in his own life and in every sphere, his treasure, then there is also where his heart will be. Money, in that case, will be a help, not a hindrance. Something of this nature Jesus must have had in mind when he said, 21. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The “heart” cannot be in both of these places at the same time. It is an either-or proposition! See verse 24.[3]

6:19, 20 In verses 19–21 Jesus contravenes all human advice to provide for a financially secure future. When He says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth,” He is indicating that there is no security in material things. Any type of material treasure on earth can be either destroyed by elements of nature (moth or rust) or stolen by thieves. Jesus says that the only investments not subject to loss are treasures in heaven.

6:21 This radical financial policy is based on the underlying principle that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. If your money is in a safe-deposit box, then your heart and desire are also there. If your treasures are in heaven, your interests will be centered there. This teaching forces us to decide whether Jesus meant what He said. If He did, then we face the question, “What are we going to do with our earthly treasures?” If He didn’t, then we face the question, “What are we going to do with our Bible?”[4]

19 The present tense prohibition mē thēsaurizete (GK 2564) conceives of the “storing up” as a process, a practice that must be stopped (similarly at v. 25).

The love of wealth is a great evil (1 Ti 6:10), calling forth frequent warnings. For heirs of the kingdom to hoard riches in the last days (Jas 5:2–3) is particularly shortsighted. Yet, as with many of Jesus’ prohibitions in this sermon, it would be foolhardy so to absolutize this one that wealth itself becomes an evil (see Lk 14:12; Jn 4:21; 1 Pe 3:3–4 for other statements that cannot properly be absolutized). Elsewhere the Scriptures require a man to provide for his relatives (1 Ti 5:8), commend work and provision for the future (Pr 6:6–8), and encourage us to enjoy the good things the Creator has given us (1 Ti 4:3–4; 6:17). Jesus is concerned about selfishness in misplaced values. His disciples must not lay up treasure for themselves; they must honestly ask where their heart is (vv. 20–21).

This verse does not prohibit “being provident (making sensible provision for the future) but being covetous (like misers who hoard and materialists who always want more)” (Stott, Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 155). But it is folly to put oneself in the former category while acting and thinking in the latter (cf. France, “God and Mammon”).

The “treasures on earth” might be clothing that could be attacked by moths. Fashions changed little, and garments could be passed on. They could also deteriorate. “Rust” (brōsis, GK 1111) refers not only to the corrosion of metals but to the destruction effected by rats, mildew, and the like. Older commentaries often picture a farm being devoured by mice and other vermin. Less corruptible treasures could be stolen. Thieves could “break in [dioryssousin, “dig through,” referring to the mud brick walls of most first-century Palestinian homes] and steal.”

20–21 By contrast, the treasures in heaven are forever exempt from decay and theft (cf. Lk 12:33). The words “treasures in heaven” go back to Jewish literature (m. Peʾah 1:1; T. Levi 13:5; Pss. Sol. 9:9). Here it refers to whatever is of good and eternal significance that comes out of what is done on earth. Doing righteous deeds, suffering for Christ’s sake, forgiving one another—all these have the promise of “reward” (see comments at 5:12; cf. 5:30, 46; 6:6, 15; 2 Co 4:17). Other deeds of kindness also store up treasure in heaven (10:42; 25:40), including willingness to share (1 Ti 6:13–19).

In the best MSS, the final aphorism (v. 21) reverts to second person singular (cf. vv. 2, 6, 17; see comments at 5:23). The point is that the things most highly treasured occupy the “heart,” the center of the personality, embracing mind, emotions, and will (cf. NIDNTT, 2:180–84), and thus the most cherished treasure subtly but infallibly controls the whole person’s direction and values. “If honor is rated the highest good, then ambition must take complete charge of a man; if money, then forthwith greed takes over the kingdom; if pleasure, then men will certainly degenerate into sheer self-indulgence” (Calvin). Conversely, those who set their minds on things above (Col 3:1–2), determining to live under kingdom norms, discover at last that their deeds follow them (Rev 14:13).[5]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 165). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 409–413). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Vol. 9, pp. 343–346). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

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

[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. 211–212). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


The LORD by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens.

—Proverbs 3:19

It tells us in Proverbs 3:19 and Jeremiah 10:12 that the Lord founded the earth, established and stretched out the heavens by wisdom, understanding and discretion. Those are two of many verses in the Bible that tell us about the wisdom of God….

It is necessary to our humanity that we grant God two things at least: wisdom and goodness. The God who sits on high, who made the heaven and the earth, has got to be wise, or else you and I cannot be sure of anything. He’s got to be good, or earth would be a hell and heaven a hell, and hell a heaven. We have to grant goodness and wisdom to God, or we have no place to go, no rock to stand on, no way to do any thinking or reasoning or believing. We must believe in the goodness and in the wisdom of God, or we betray that in us which differentiates us from the beasts—the image of God Himself.

So we begin with the assumption—not a guess, not a hope, but a knowledge—that God is wise. AOGII124-125

Lord, I do believe and will place my confidence in the fact that You are both infinitely wise and infinitely good. What need I fear? Amen. [1]

3:19, 20 These two verses describe the wisdom of God in creation, in judgment, and in providence. In creation He founded the earth and established the heavens. With understanding, He opened up the fountains of the great deep at the time of the Flood. By providence, He lifts the water from the ocean into the clouds, then distributes it again as rain upon the earth.

And who is the active agent of the Godhead in doing all this? It is Christ, the Wisdom of God (John 1:3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2).[2]

19–20 Wisdom, understanding, and knowledge are also valuable to God, for by them he created the universe. How wisdom was used in creation and how it pictures Christ, the Wisdom of God, is discussed in the comments on 8:22–23 (see also J. Emerton, “Spring and Torrent in Ps. 74:15,” VTSup 15 [1965]: 125). This section shows that the wisdom that directs life is the same wisdom that created the universe; to surrender to God’s wisdom is to put oneself in harmony with creation, the world around one (Fritsch, IB, 4:804). The two verses concentrate first on the foundation of heaven and earth.[3]

3:19, 20 Solomon is indicating that wisdom is basic to all of life, for by it God created everything. Since God used it to create the universe, how eager must we be to use it to live in this universe.[4]

3:19–20 For an extended description of wisdom as the means by which the Lord worked in creation, see the speech of personified Wisdom in 8:4–36. The essential point is that God has built the principles of wisdom into the structure of the world itself; wisdom is the ordering principle by which everything functions and does not devolve into chaos. Thus, when one lives without integrity, one violates the very rules whereby everything is held together. One cannot do this and thrive. This idea is developed at length in 8:22–31.[5]

3:19, 20 These verses are linked to vv. 13–18 by the repetition of “wisdom” and “understanding” in vv. 13 and 19 and focus on the effectiveness of wisdom.

3:19 by wisdom … by understanding. God’s wisdom is so effective that it was used to create earth and heaven.

earth … heavens. God’s wisdom produced the well-ordered world of earth beneath and heaven above, implying also all creation between earth and heaven.

3:20 deeps broke open … clouds drop the dew. The word translated “broke open” is the same word used in Gen. 7:11 for God’s opening the terrestrial source of water. Since “dew” does not drop from clouds, the Hb. word refers here, as in a few other places, to rain. Thus God provides water from the terrestrial and celestial sources. The point of vv. 19, 20 is that since God’s wisdom created such a well-ordered world for Him, God’s wisdom can surely create a well-ordered world in our lives.[6]

[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.) (pp. 799–800). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Ross, A. P. (2008). Proverbs. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, p. 67). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Pr 3:19). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1140). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (pp. 1019–1020). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

June 5 – Integrity Stands on Principle

“And the king appointed for them a daily ration from the king’s choice food and from the wine which he drank, and appointed that they should be educated three years, at the end of which they were to enter the king’s personal service…. But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.”

Daniel 1:5, 8


Godly integrity is built upon the foundation of biblical authority.

From the world’s perspective, King Nebuchadnezzar had much to offer his Hebrew captives: the best food, the best education, and high positions in his kingdom. But Daniel’s perspective was quite different. He did not object to receiving a pagan education because God had given no direct prohibition against that, and a Babylonian education had much to offer in the areas of architecture and science. But as with anyone receiving a secular education, Daniel would have to exercise discernment in sorting out the true from the false and the good from the bad.

It was when Daniel was asked to violate a direct command from God that he drew the line and took his stand on biblical principle. That’s the character of godly integrity. It bases decisions on the principles from God’s Word, not on mere preference, intimidation, or peer pressure. Seemingly Daniel had every reason to compromise: he was young, away from home, and facing severe consequences if he defied the king’s order. Yet he was unwavering in his obedience to God.

Although Daniel couldn’t obey the king’s order, he handled the situation in a wise and respectful manner by seeking permission to abstain from eating what God had forbidden. From his example we learn that standing on principle will sometimes put us at odds with those in authority over us, but even then we can love and respect them.


Suggestions for Prayer: Pray for those in authority over you who may want you to do things that would displease the Lord. ✧ Pray for wisdom and grace to maintain a loving attitude toward them while still standing on biblical principles.

For Further Study: Read Acts 5:17–29. How did the apostles respond to the authorities who commanded them to stop preaching the gospel?[1]


1:1–7 The scene is the court of Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon following his attack on Jerusalem in the third year of Jehoiakim’s reign. Nebuchadnezzar ordered several Jewish young men to be prepared to serve him as men of wisdom and knowledge. Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Their Chaldean names were Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. As part of their preparation, they were to eat of the king’s delicacies and drink of his wine. These foods probably included meats that were unclean, according to the OT law, or perhaps they were connected with idol worship.

There is a seeming discrepancy between verse 1 and Jeremiah 25:1. Here Nebuchadnezzar is said to have besieged Jerusalem in the third year of Jehoiakim’s reign. The Jeremiah passage says that the fourth year of Jehoiakim was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar. This may be explained by the difference between Jewish and Babylonian reckoning.

1:8–12 Daniel nobly refused to eat them. He asked if he and his friends could eat vegetables and drink … water instead. Ashpenaz, the chief of the eunuchs (not understanding Jewish customs nor their God), was horrified at this idea, noting that his own head would be endangered if the plan didn’t work! After all, he was responsible for them.

1:13–21 Daniel’s request was nonetheless granted. At the end of the probationary period of ten days, they stood before … the king and proved to be ten times better than all the wise men of Babylon. They were therefore accepted by the king. God graciously gifted them with knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom, and to Daniel he granted understanding in all visions and dreams.[2]

A Young Man Decides

Daniel 1:3–21

Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility—young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.

Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine.

At the time of the Protestant Reformation, the two greatest reformers, Martin Luther and John Calvin, each issued commentaries on Daniel. Luther produced two studies, published in 1524 and 1544. Calvin produced one, published in 1561. It is a striking fact that in spite of Luther’s great popularity, which continues to this day, Luther’s books on Daniel have never been translated into English, while Calvin’s massive work, running to a thousand pages in the original Latin, was available in English within ten years.

Why has the text of Calvin’s commentary proved so popular? There may be many reasons, but most people feel that it is because of the passionate and moving way in which the great expositor linked the times of the exiled Daniel to his own.

Calvin lived in an age of ecclesiastical and political warfare in which many thousands suffered greatly for their faith. In Germany in 1546, Charles V began a war to stamp out Lutheranism. In France, between 1540 and 1544, Francis I attempted the same thing, massacring the Waldensians as part of his misconceived program. In 1545 he burned twenty-two villages and killed three thousand men and women. Others were sent to the galleys. In 1562, the year after Calvin’s commentary appeared, the eight Wars of Religion began, the destruction of which was so great that Europe did not recover for two centuries. Thousands became exiles during this period. Many fled to Switzerland where Calvin, who was himself an exile, lived.

Calvin’s commentary breathes with compassion for these people, and as a result it has always appealed to those who consider themselves exiles in a strange land. Indeed, it appears even more broadly than this. For Daniel was a man of God in worldly Babylon, and Christians are always God’s people in the midst of those who do not honor and in fact oppose their divine King.

Calvin dedicated his book to the “pious Protestants of France” and urged Daniel upon them as a great encouragement.

I have the very best occasion of showing you, beloved brethren, in this mirror, how God proves the faith of his people in these days by various trials; and how with wonderful wisdom he has taken care to strengthen their minds by ancient examples, that they should never be weakened by the concussion of the severest storms and tempests; or at least, if they should totter at all, that they should never finally fall away. For although the servants of God are required to run in a course impeded by many obstacles, yet whoever diligently reads this book will find in it whatever is needed by a voluntary and active runner to guide him from the starting point to the goal; while good and strenuous wrestlers will experimentally acknowledge that they have been sufficiently prepared for the contest.… Here then, we observe, as in a living picture, that when God spares and even indulges the wicked for a time, he proves his servants like gold and silver; so that we ought not to consider it a grievance to be thrown into the furnace of trial, while profane men enjoy the calmness of repose.

A Secular Environment

In order to understand Daniel we must realize that the Babylon to which Daniel and his three friends were taken was a secular, worldly place, as I attempted to show in the last study, and that their initial experiences there were intended to blot out of their minds the remembrance of the true God and their homeland. We see this in several ways. For one thing, Nebuchadnezzar ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to choose young men who would be easily molded by their new environment. Again, he attempted to lure them with the delicacies of food the great city of Babylon could provide.

Chiefly we notice Nebuchadnezzar’s intentions in the altering of the young men’s names. The Hebrew names of these young men were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. They were changed to Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. It should be immediately evident to anyone with even a limited knowledge of Hebrew that the Jewish names of these men each contains a name of God and has a spiritual meaning. Daniel and Mishael both contain the syllable el, which means “God” and is the basis of the frequently appearing (plural) name Elohim. Daniel means “God is my Judge.” Mishael means “Who is like God?” The other two names, Hananiah and Azariah, both contain a shortened form of the name Jehovah. Hananiah means “Jehovah is gracious.” Azariah means “Jehovah is my helper.” The very names of these men were reminders of their heritage and a challenge to them to remain faithful to the Lord. But now, deported into a strange, pagan land, their names are changed. And the names they are given all contain a reference to one of the false gods of the ancient Babylonians, Aku and Nego. It was a way of saying that these who had been servants of the Jewish God were now servants and worshipers of the gods of the pagan pantheon.

Yet the change accomplished nothing. Nebuchadnezzar changed the men’s names, but he could not change their hearts. They remained faithful to the true God of Israel, as the story shows.

I apply that to our own age. One thing the world seems always to try to do—it has happened in the past, and it is happening in our own time—is to take Christian words and rework them to convey the world’s ideas. I suppose it is one of the devil’s subtlest tricks. It happens in liberal theology. “Sin” used to mean rebellion against God and his righteous law or, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it, “any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God” (A. 14). But today it means ignorance or merely the kind of oppression that is supposed to reside in social structures. “Jesus” is no longer the incarnate God who died for our salvation, but rather our example or what might even be termed an evolutionary peak of the human race. “Faith” is awareness of oppression and beginning to do something about it, and so on. Of course, in the secular world the readjustment of words is even more ridiculous and extreme, as the recent use of the term “born again” in advertising slogans shows.

This is a great danger, I admit. But although it is a danger, if the truth of what is behind these words remains strong in the minds and hearts of those who really know the truth, then the vitality of the faith will remain regardless of the world’s corruptions. Christians will persevere because God will strengthen them to stand against the culture.

Daniel’s Decision

The most important verse in the first chapter of Daniel is verse 8, which says, “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine.”

What is your reaction to that? Remember that Daniel was a young man at this time. We know from the later development of the story that he lived for a very long time beyond this—through the rule of four emperors. He was probably in his nineties when he died. So at this point he was probably between fifteen and seventeen. It was at this young age that he was taken away from his own country and culture, plunged into the strange but exciting life of the great world capital, and lured to loyalty by the best of all possible educations and by provision of the very food served to Nebuchadnezzar. Yet Daniel refused to partake of this food. As I say, what is your reaction to that? Do you find it a very little thing? Do you see Daniel’s decision as the immaturity and foolishness of youth? Would you have acted as Daniel and his friends did in these circumstances, or would you have gone along with your great benefactor’s desires? Would you have said, “After all, why should we live by Jewish dietary laws while in Babylon? Let’s eat and drink. It’s just a small thing”?

Well, it was a small thing. Yet that is just the point. For it is in the small matters that great victories are won. This is where decisions to live a holy life are made—not in the big things (though they come if the little things are neglected), but in the details of life. If Daniel had said, “I want to live for God in big ways, but I am not going to make a fool of myself in this trivial matter of eating and drinking the king’s food,” he never would have amounted to anything. But because he started out for God in small things, God used him greatly.

I have titled this chapter “A Young Man Decides” because it is particularly in youth that the most significant and life-forming decisions are made. Are you a young person? Then you should pay particularly close attention to this point. Most young people want their lives to count, and most Christian young people want their lives to count for God. Youth dreams big. That is right. You should dream big. But youth is also often impatient and undisciplined, and young people are tempted to let the little things slide. You must not do that if you are God’s young man or God’s young woman. God will make your life count, but this will not happen unless you determine to live for him in the little things now. You know what Jesus said: “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (Luke 16:10). Being wholly given over to God now is the essential and best possible preparation for future service.

Why We Must Be Holy

In the last chapter I pointed out that Daniel is a story of the struggle of the world’s people and culture against God’s people and God’s culture, and it is. But it is also a story of men who lived for God by choosing the path of personal discipleship and holiness. This is no contradiction, because it is only such persons who actually embody the spiritual standards of “the city of God.” It is only these who make any lasting difference in the world.

A great evangelical bishop of England, John Charles Ryle, wrote a classic study of holiness in which he urged holiness upon all who call themselves Christians. After some opening passages in which he describes holiness as separation to God, devotion to God, service to God, being of one mind with God and wanting God’s will—Ryle went on to show why holiness, the kind of holiness exercised by Daniel, is so necessary. He listed eight reasons.

  1. “We must be holy, because the voice of God in Scripture plainly commands it.” Peter wrote, “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’ ” (1 Peter 1:14–16). This is not optional. God did not say, “I would like you to live a holy life; but if you are not too excited about that particular lifestyle, don’t worry about it. We’ll work on something else.” God said, “Be holy, because I am holy.” We must be holy because the holy God commands it.
  2. “We must be holy, because this is the one grand end and purpose for which Christ came into the world.” You say, “But I thought Jesus came to save us from our sins.” Yes, he did come for that. But the Bible also says, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Eph. 5:25–27). Many Christians think they would like the benefits of salvation without the obligation to live for Christ, but they cannot have them because Christ came to make them holy just as much as he came to save them from the penalty of their sins. If you are fighting against holiness, you are fighting against nothing less than the purpose of God in the Atonement.
  3. “We must be holy, because this is the only sound evidence that we have a saving faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” How is that so? Well, James in his letter speaks of two kinds of faith: a living, saving faith and a dead faith that saves no one. The devils have a dead faith; that is, they believe there is a God and that Jesus is his Son, sent to save his people. But they do not trust him personally. They do not live for him. A living faith does live for him and therefore shows itself in good works. That is why James says, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:26).

Ryle used this point to comment on so-called “death-bed” conversions, judging that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred these “conversions” are illusory. He said, “With rare exceptions, men die just as they have lived. The only safe evidence that we are one with Christ, and Christ is in us, is a holy life.”

  1. “We must be holy, because this is the only proof that we love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.” Jesus was quite plain on this point. He said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15); “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me” (v. 21); “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching” (v. 23); “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14). How could the point be more clearly spoken? If you love Jesus, you will obey him; you will be holy. If you do not obey him, you do not love him—whatever your profession. Do you love Jesus? We have a chorus in which we sing, “Oh, how I love Jesus,” but you do not love him if you do not do what he says.
  2. “We must be holy, because this is the only sound evidence that we are true children of God.” Do you remember how Jesus made this point when he was talking with the Pharisees? They claimed to be children of Abraham and therefore in right standing before God. But Jesus said, “If you were Abraham’s children, then you would do the things Abraham did” (John 8:39–40). Paul said the same thing in Romans, noting that “those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Rom. 8:14). The Spirit of God does not lead you to sin. The Spirit of God does not lead to disobedience. If you are led by God’s Spirit, you will lead a holy life, and the evidence of that holy life will be sound evidence that you are God’s son or daughter.
  3. “We must be holy, because this is the most likely way to do good to others.” Many people today have some desire to do good to others, and many of our social and benevolence programs are an expression of that praiseworthy desire. But I ask, “Do you help others by advancing a low moral standard—one that is easy for them to live up to? Do you help others by whittling down the righteous standards of the Old Testament law or the New Testament precepts? Not at all! You help others by upholding the highest possible standards and above all by living according to those standards yourself. There are several places in the New Testament in which the godly conduct of a believer is said to be the best hope of doing good to someone else. For instance, Peter writes, “Wives, … be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives” (1 Peter 3:1–2). No doubt many besides husbands have been won to Christ by the consistent, holy behavior of some Christian.
  4. “We must be holy, because our present comfort depends much upon it.” Not all suffering is directly related to a suffering person’s sin. Christ’s words about the man born blind (John 9:3) should disabuse us of attempts to make that an easy, one-to-one relationship. But although all suffering does not come directly from one’s sin, the reverse is true: All sin produces suffering.

We do not think this way naturally. In fact, we think just the opposite. We come up against one of God’s commandments, think that we would like to do something else, and immediately reason that if only we could do what we really want to do we would be happy. We think that we would be absolutely miserable obeying God. That was the devil’s argument in his temptation of Eve, but it is as diabolical now as it was then. To heed it is to forget whence our good comes. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). If we turn from this good, we do not turn to happiness but away from it.

  1. “Lastly, we must be holy, because without holiness on earth we shall never be prepared to enjoy heaven.” The author of Hebrews wrote, “Without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). Revelation speaks of heaven, saying, “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev. 21:27).

Can I Be Holy?

The objection I am likely to get is that these points are all very well and good but that it is just not possible for you to live a holy life in your circumstances. “If I did the right thing in my job, I’d lose it,” you say. Or, “None of my friends would speak to me.” Or, “I’d never get ahead.” Or, “I just can’t be holy; I’ve tried it and I fail.”

If you are thinking this way, let me turn back to Daniel, who was not only resolved not to defile himself with the king’s food and wine but was also willing to put the matter to the test and prove God able in his circumstances. Daniel said to the guard who had been appointed over him, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see” (Dan. 1:12–13).

The guard agreed to this test, and at the end of the ten days the young men looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. Moreover, it was not only in their appearance that Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah excelled. They also excelled in knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. The text concludes by noting that at the end of the three years of training, when the king brought his young protégés in for testing, Nebuchadnezzar “found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom” (v. 20).

Do not say, “If I live for God, I’ll lose out.” You may lose out on some of the things the world offers, which are not good for you anyway, but you will experience a richness of God’s bounty. The Bible says, “Seek first [God’s] kingdom and [God’s] righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33).[3]

The Main Characters (1:3–7)


3–7 This unit introduces the protagonists of the story line of the book of Daniel. Four young men taken captive from Judah are identified by name as among those Israelites belonging to the royal family and Hebrew nobility deported to Babylonia (v. 3). All four bore theophoric names (v. 6) associating them with the God of the Israelites: “Daniel” (“God is my judge”), “Hananiah” (“Yah[weh] has been gracious”), “Mishael” (“Who is/what is God?”), and “Azariah” (“Yah[weh] has helped”).

The name “Ashpenaz” (v. 3) is an attested proper name in Aramaic known from an incantation bowl dating to ca. 600 BC (cf. Collins, Daniel, 134). The name is associated with “lodging” in some manner and may mean “innkeeper.” His title, “chief of [the] court officials,” indicates a position of oversight vested with some degree of royal authority (since he was in a position to make a decision concerning Daniel’s request concerning food rations without appealing to a superior; v. 8). Ashpenaz probably served both as a type of chamberlain overseeing the accommodations (i.e., “room and board”) for the captives and headmaster in terms of supervising the education of the captive foreign youth and approving them for “graduation” into the civil service corps upon completion of their prescribed period of training.

The policy of incorporating capable foreign captives in the civil service corps as officials of the king was widespread in the ancient world (cf. BBCOT, 730). Such practice had the benefit of depleting the leadership ranks in subjugated territories as well as harnessing that administrative potential in civil service to the ruling nation. Wiseman (Nebuchadrezzar and Babylon, 81) has suggested that in Babylonian practice such “diplomatic hostages” were sometimes educated for eventual return to their homeland as loyal supporters of the Babylonian regime. This training or education was essentially a programmatic indoctrination of the captives in the worldview of a conquering nation (see Lucas, 53). The reprogramming included studies in the language and literature of the host nation (v. 4), a special diet, and training in royal protocol (v. 5). The goal or desired outcome was reorientation of the exiled individual in the thoughts, beliefs, and practices of the suzerain nation.

Typically, this reorientation included a change of name symbolic of the loyalty of the subject to a new king, his nation, and his gods. Accordingly, Daniel and his three friends became (v. 7): “Belteshazzar” (“Bel [i.e., Marduk, the supreme god of the Babylonian pantheon] protects his life”), “Shadrach” (perhaps “command of Aku” [i.e., the Sumerian moon-god] or “I am fearful of Aku”), “Meshach” (perhaps “Who is what [the god] Aku is?”), and “Abednego” (“servant of the shining one” or “servant of Neg[b]o” [i.e., Nabu, son of Marduk and patron deity of the scribal guild]; cf. Goldingay, 18, on naming and renaming in the OT).

Two things stand out in the passage: the exceptional qualifications of the young men chosen for the civil service training and the extensive nature and duration of that diplomatic training. Concerning the former, it is likely that Daniel and his friends were teenagers when they were taken captive from Judah and exiled to Babylonia, the presumption on the part of the Babylonians being that young boys generally would be more teachable and would be in a position to give more years of fruitful service to the state. Natural good looks and physical prowess were commonly associated with leadership in the biblical world (cf. 1 Sa 9:2; 16:18). The three expressions referring to intellectual capabilities (v. 4, “aptitude for … learning, well informed, quick to understand”) should probably be regarded as synonyms for “gifted learners” rather than signifying distinctive aspects of the human intelligence (cf. Miller, 61). The cumulative effect of the triad simply stresses the emphasis King Nebuchadnezzar placed on inherent intellectual ability.

According to Wiseman (Nebuchadrezzar and Babylon, 86), Babylon prided itself on being the “city of wisdom,” a title that earlier belonged to Assur as the capital of Assyria. The schools of King Nebuchadnezzar’s day would have continued to copy “sign lists … word lists, paradigms and extracts of legal terminology … religious documents of all kinds … fables, and omens of various categories including those about devils and evil spirits … as well as texts of possible historical interest.” The language of the Babylonians (v. 4) would have been the Akkadian dialect known as Neo-Babylonian. Beyond this, Daniel and his friends would have known several other languages, including Hebrew, Aramaic, and probably Persian.

Akkadian was a cuneiform writing system made up of wedge-shaped characters, commonly etched on clay tablets. The language was cumbersome and required learning hundreds of symbols, many with multiple syllabic values. Collins (Daniel, 140) has observed that length of Babylonian education varied depending on the specialization of the student (in some cases from ten to eighteen years). He further comments that the three-year instructional program for Daniel and his friends seems “unrealistically short for anyone who had no previous training in Akkadian letters.” Those who have studied the Akkadian language might be inclined to agree!

Mastery of Akkadian was accomplished by copying simple exercises set forth by an instructor, then advancing to the copying of important literary texts, and finally to the composition of original documents of various sorts. As Baldwin, 80, notes, to study Babylonian literature was “to enter a completely alien thought-world.” This Mesopotamian worldview was polytheistic in nature, superstitious in character, and pluralistic in practice. Lucas (Daniel, 53) summarizes that “the learning process intended for these Judean exiles was thus one of induction into the thought-world and culture of Babylonia.” This makes all the more remarkable the fact that Daniel and his friends were able to devote themselves to the study of Babylonian language and literature without compromising their faith in Yahweh and their Hebrew worldview. Baldwin, 80, aptly reflects, “evidently the work of Jeremiah, Zephaniah, and Habakkuk had not been in vain.” Likewise, the Christian church needs individuals of faith who are “students” of the “language and literature” of modern culture both for the sake of effective gospel outreach (cf. Ac 17:22–28) and for discerning the spirits in terms of maintaining sound doctrine (cf. 1 Jn 4:1).[4]

The Plot (1:8–17)


8–17 The plotline of a story unfolds in the arrangement of events recorded in the narrative. The basic ingredient of a good story plot is conflict moving toward resolution. The opening scene of Daniel reports such conflict. The conflict for Daniel and his three friends is an ideological or moral conflict dilemma. This type of conflict usually occurs within the protagonist(s) of the story and generally focuses on issues of worldview and ultimately “good” versus “evil.” Specifically, the issue here is the royal food and wine that Daniel and his friends were required to eat and drink (v. 8). The rejection of the royal food by Daniel and his friends foreshadows further episodes of conflict as the story of the Hebrew captives progresses, conflicts with other characters (e.g., the Babylonian wise men; 3:8–12; 6:1–5), and physical danger in the form of execution by fire (3:11) and exposure to wild beasts (6:7).

The expression Daniel “resolved” (v. 8) is an idiom expressing a deliberate act of the will motivated by a deep-seated personal conviction (Heb. śîm + lēb, “to set the heart”; cf. NASB’s “Daniel made up his mind”). The word “defile” (Heb. gāʾal) occurs fewer than a dozen times in the OT and may refer to moral or ceremonial impurity (e.g., Isa 59:3; Mal 1:7, 12). Wallace, 42–43, observes that Daniel believed “faith in God and the forgiveness of God had made him clean”—clean from the idolatry and moral pollution of the surrounding world. To eat the king’s food would compromise God’s forgiveness and draw him back into the very same “world” from which he had been cleansed.

The royal food rations posed a problem for Daniel and his friends for several possible reasons. First, the law of Moses prohibited the obedient Hebrews from eating certain types of food, and there was no assurance that such fare would be left off the menu (cf. Lev 11; Dt 12:23–25; 14). Yet the Mosaic dietary restrictions do not include wine, also rejected by Daniel and his friends.

Second, the royal food rations would have probably been associated with idol worship in some way (either by the food’s having been offered to idols or blessed by idolatrous priests). Yet Daniel and his friends do not refuse all the royal food rations (as though only meat and drink but not “vegetables” were dedicated to the Babylonian gods). On both counts the royal food would have been regarded as ritually unclean on theological grounds, and hence the eating of such food would constitute an act of disobedience against Yahweh and his commands.

Beyond this, it is possible that Daniel simply interpreted the eating of the royal food rations as a formal demonstration of allegiance to the Babylonian king. Baldwin, 83, and Felwell, 40, suggest that Daniel’s motivation for rejecting the king’s menu was political in the sense that eating the royal provisions was tantamount to accepting the lordship of the Babylonian king, whereas Daniel and his friends owed loyalty to Yahweh alone as their “king” (cf. 3:17–18; on the issue of cultural assimilation see BBCOT, 731). But again, Daniel and his friends do agree to certain provisions of royal food, thus weakening the argument of political allegiance to King Nebuchadnezzar by virtue of the “meal custom” of the biblical world. Longman, 53, suggests that the food-rations test was essentially a means by which Daniel and his friends might demonstrate that their healthy physical appearance (and hence their intellectual gifts) was the miraculous work of their God—not King Nebuchadnezzar’s palace food or the Babylonian pantheon. As J. H. Sims (“Daniel,” in A Complete Literary Guide to the Bible, ed. L. Ryken and T. Longman [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993], 333–34) points out, whatever the motivation for rejecting the royal food rations, the greater issue theologically is that of divine nurture versus human nurture—on whom or what will the Hebrews rely for sustenance in their captivity?

The question of conformity to the surrounding culture was of paramount concern for the Diaspora Hebrews. To what degree, if any, should the displaced Israelites make accommodation to the surrounding dominant culture? What place was there for the Hebrew distinctives of religious monotheism and ethical absolutism based on the law of Moses in the religious pluralism and moral relativism of the Gentile superpowers? Rather than react in open defiance of the king’s decree, Daniel and his friends arranged a compromise with Ashpenaz and his appointed guardian (vv. 10–14). The alternative to eating the king’s food was a “rations test,” with the Hebrew captives to be fed a diet of vegetables and water (v. 12), against the control group of those young men eating the royal provisions (v. 13). Goldingay, 20, interprets the “ten-day” testing period pragmatically as a standard round number of days that would not arouse the suspicion of Ashpenaz’s superiors and yet be long enough for the effects of the test to be observed.

The example of nonconformity by Daniel and his friends became a model for the Israelite response to Gentile culture in later Judaism. For example, the characters of both Judith and Tobit are portrayed as pious Jews who observe strict adherence to the Mosaic law in the books of the apocryphal OT literature that bear their names. Separation from Gentile culture was an important component in an emerging “Diaspora theology” for the Hebrews during the intertestamental period. By the time of the NT, the Jewish worldview was tainted with attitudes of particularism, exclusivism, and superiority in reaction to the influences of Hellenism.

This “Judaism against Gentile culture” paradigm made Jesus’ apparent laxity toward the Mosaic law and his accommodation to Gentile culture difficult to interpret and accept. The church, as the counter-culture agent of God’s kingdom in the world, has no less difficulty in discerning and practicing what Jesus meant when he instructed his followers that though they were in the world, they were not to be of the world (Jn 17:14–18; see the discussion of the Christian’s interface with culture employing Niebuhr’s classic Christ and culture paradigms in Longman, 62–69).

In the process we learn that God’s providential rule of history is not restricted to nations and kings, as God caused Ashpenaz, the chief official, “to show favor and sympathy to Daniel” (v. 9). The passage is reminiscent of Joseph, who “found favor” in Potiphar’s eyes (Ge 39:4), and Esther, who “pleased [Hegai] and won his favor” during her preparations for the royal beauty contest (Est 2:9). The repetition of the verb “gave” (Heb. nātan; GK 5989) echoes God’s deliverance of King Jehoiakim to the Babylonians (v. 2). The NIV’s “God had caused” (v. 9) fails to convey the full theological freight of the original (cf. NASB, “Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion …”). Literally, “God gave Daniel for favor and mercies before the chief official.” Even as God gave Jehoiakim to the Babylonians for judgment, God gave Daniel to Ashpenaz for grace.

This language of divine intervention is in keeping with the theme of Daniel established in the opening verses, namely God’s sovereignty. As Seow, 27, notes, “the sovereignty of God is thus affirmed; the theological paradox of judgment and grace is maintained … God is the narrator’s ‘lord’ … God is at work and ever providing.” In fact, God’s testing and providing are key themes of the OT and justify his name as “Yahweh Yirʾeh” or “Jehovah Jireh” (“The Lord Will Provide,” Ge 22:14).

The four Hebrews passed the rations test, actually emerging “healthier and better nourished” than their counterparts, whose diet consisted of the royal food (v. 15). For the third time in the chapter we read that God “gave” (Heb. nātan; v. 17). In this instance, as a result of their resolve not to defile themselves with the royal food, God granted Daniel and his friends “knowledge and understanding” (v. 17a). The term “knowledge” (Heb. maddāʿ) implies academic learning (cf. v. 4, “quick to understand”), and the word “understanding” (Heb. haśkēl) suggests both “aptitude for learning” (cf. v. 4) and insight with respect to prudence or sound judgment.

In other words, the food rations episode offers practical commentary of sorts on Proverbs 1:7a: “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (cf. Ps 111:10). Baldwin, 84, has summarized that even small acts of faith and self-discipline, when undertaken out of loyalty to godly principle, set “God’s servants in the line of his approval and blessing. In this way actions attest faith, and character is strengthened to face more difficult situations.” (But see Goldingay, 20, who denies the cause-and-effect relationship between faithfulness and reward.) The added statement in v. 17b that Daniel received a special divine endowment to understand or interpret visions and dreams foreshadows those “more difficult situations” he will face in the key role he plays as interpreter of dreams and seer of visions in the rest of the book.[5]

Foreshadow of the Outcome (1:18–21)


18–21 The conclusion of the first court story is a fortuitous one for Daniel and his three friends. After their three-year program of study in the “arts and sciences” of Babylonia, the Hebrews appear before King Nebuchadnezzar for an interview and subsequent appointment to posts of civil service (v. 18). All four pass their oral examination with “honors” and are deemed by the king to be superior to all the other wise men of the kingdom in “wisdom and understanding” (v. 20). The expression “ten times better” is a common idiom in the OT for expressing hyperbole in dialogue (e.g., Ge 31:41; Nu 14:22; Ne 4:12).

Induction into the civil-service corps of the king meant candidates had to be “qualified to serve in the king’s palace” (v. 4). Once the qualifications of the four Hebrews were certified, they “entered the king’s service” or received administrative appointments as civil servants (v. 19). The same word (lit., “stand,” ʿāmad) is used in both statements to express the idea of entering the king’s service. To “stand” before the king is an idiom for serving the king (cf. 1 Ki 10:8; 12:8) and connotes both loyalty to the crown and adherence to royal protocol and etiquette (cf. Miller, 61).

The purpose of the final section of the first court story is twofold. First, we learn that there is a difference between learning as an “acquired skill” and wisdom as a divine gift (v. 20; cf. v. 17). Daniel and his friends learned the secret lore of the Babylonian magicians and priests, but they clearly understood the God of Israel to be the source of all knowledge and wisdom (cf. 2:20). The rest of the court stories of Daniel give testimony to the four Hebrew captives’ reliance on God as the fountainhead of knowledge and wisdom, unlike their Babylonian counterparts, who relied on occultic arts and all the gods and demons associated with Babylonian religion (e.g., 2:20–23, 28; 4:18, 24; 5:12). Much like Joseph, who served Pharaoh in Egypt, Daniel and his friends recognized that it is God in heaven who reveals mysteries to his faithful servants (2:28; cf. Ge 40:8; 41:16).

Russell, 32, sums up the outcome of the king’s examination of the Hebrew apprentices by noting that “even in this highly skilled field [i.e., Babylonian ‘arts and sciences’] Daniel and his friends were so obviously better than them all! By the goodness of God they could beat the Babylonian experts at their own game. The secrets of Babylon were no secrets to Yahweh who made them known to whomsoever he willed.” The experience of Daniel and his friends anticipates the instruction of the apostle Paul about the “only wise God” (Ro 16:27) and his son Jesus the Messiah, who is the “wisdom from God” for the Christian (1 Co 1:30).

Second, the chronological notice in v. 21—attached as an addendum to the opening court story explaining how Daniel and his friends came to be royal officials in Babylonia under King Nebuchadnezzar—attests to the “staying power” of Daniel (cf. Wallace, 47–48). The first year of King Cyrus of Persia is dated to 539 or 538 BC, depending on the source consulted. This means Daniel held an administrative post in the royal court of Babylon for more than sixty years, and his time spent in Babylonian captivity was nearly seventy years (given his deportation in 605 BC; cf. 1:1). Earlier the prophet Jeremiah had predicted that the Hebrew captivity would cover seven decades (Jer 25:11–12; 29:10). The reference to the accession year of Cyrus to the throne of Babylon probably marked the end of this enforced exile of the Hebrews by the Babylonians (so Goldingay, 27; Lucas, 56).

In reality, Daniel’s longevity testified both to God’s sovereignty over the nations and his faithfulness to his people Israel. Even as Daniel outlasted the kings of the Babylonian Empire, so God’s people were sustained in captivity and eventually permitted to return to their homeland of covenantal promise (2 Ch 36:22–23; Ezr 1:1–4). Likewise, the presence of the Israelite named Daniel in the royal court of seven Babylonian monarchs and the first king of Persia was a tangible reminder that God is the one who sets up kings and deposes them (Da 2:21).[6]

[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. 1078–1079). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Boice, J. M. (2003). Daniel: an expositional commentary (pp. 19–25). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Hill, A. E. (2008). Daniel. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Daniel–Malachi (Revised Edition) (Vol. 8, pp. 48–50). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[5] Hill, A. E. (2008). Daniel. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Daniel–Malachi (Revised Edition) (Vol. 8, pp. 51–54). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[6] Hill, A. E. (2008). Daniel. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Daniel–Malachi (Revised Edition) (Vol. 8, pp. 54–56). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

June 5 – Living in Light

You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.

Matthew 5:14

The apostle Paul looked at the evil pagan world and concluded that its self–centered, useless thinking leads to darkened understanding and a hard heart. That, in turn, leads to insensitivity to sin and shameless behavior, which then leads to unblushing obscenity. And it’s not really much different today.

As believers we shouldn’t even dabble in any of the evils characteristic of unbelievers. We are to be a light on a hill, separate from the evil around us. We are to be different. A city that’s set on a hill can’t be hidden. We must stand as salt and light. But if we’re corrupted by the system, we become useless.

Our blessed Lord Jesus Christ purchased us at the cost of His own life. He gave us a new nature that is holy, undefiled, and sanctified forever. He simply asks us to live up to what He has given us by discarding our old lifestyle and taking on our new one.[1]

5:14 Jesus also calls Christians the light of the world. He spoke of Himself as “the light of the world” (John 8:12; 12:35, 36, 46). The relationship between these two statements is that Jesus is the source of light; Christians are the reflection of His light. Their function is to shine for Him just as the moon reflects the glory of the sun.

The Christian is like a city that is set on a hill: it is elevated above its surroundings and it shines in the midst of darkness. Those whose lives exhibit the traits of Christ’s teaching cannot be hidden.

5:15, 16 People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on a lampstand so that it will give light to all who are in the house. He did not intend that we hoard the light of His teaching for ourselves, but that we share it with others. We should let our light so shine that as people see our good works, they will glorify our Father in heaven. The emphasis is on the ministry of Christian character. The winsomeness of lives in which Christ is seen speaks louder than the persuasion of words.[2]

As to light Jesus says: 14a. You are the light of the world. Light in Scripture indicates the true knowledge of God (Ps. 36:9; cf. Matt. 6:22, 23); goodness, righteousness, and truthfulness (Eph. 5:8, 9); joy and gladness, true happiness (Ps. 97:11; Isa. 9:1–7; cf. 60:19). It symbolizes the best there is in learning, love, and laughter, as contrasted with darkness, that is, the worst there is in dullness, depravity, and despair. When light is mentioned, sometimes one quality—for instance, revealed knowledge—is emphasized; then again another, depending on the context in each case. In certain instances the meaning of the word “light” may even be broader than any one quality would indicate. It may be sufficiently comprehensive to include all the blessings of “salvation” (cf. Ps. 27:1; Luke 1:77–79). So, perhaps, also here in 5:14.

The statement, “You are the light of the world” probably means that the citizens of the kingdom not only have been blessed with these endowments but are also the means used by God to transmit them to the men who surround them. The light-possessors become light-transmitters. Collectively believers are “the light.” Individually they are “lights” (luminaries, stars, Phil. 2:15). Both ideas may well have been included in the words as spoken by Jesus, though the emphasis is on the collective.

However, Christians are never a light in and by themselves. They are light “in the Lord” (Eph. 5:8). Christ is the true, the original “light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5; 12:35, 36, 46; 2 Cor. 4:6; cf. Ps. 27:1; 36:9; 43:3; Isa. 49:6; 60:1; Luke 1:78, 79; 2:32). Believers are “the light of the world” in a secondary or derived sense. He is “the light lighting” (John 1:9). They are the light lighted. He is the sun. They resemble the moon, reflecting the sun’s light. Apart from Christ they cannot shine. The electric bulb does not emit light all by itself. It imparts light only when connected and turned on, so that the electric current generated in the power-house is transmitted to it. So also as long as Christ’s followers remain in living contact with the original light they are a light to others (cf. John 15:4, 5).

Now since it is the business of the church to shine for Jesus, it should not permit itself to be thrown off its course. It is not the task of the church to specialize in and deliver all kinds of pronouncements concerning economic, social, and political problems. “The great hope for society today is in an increasing number of individual Christians. Let the Church of God concentrate on that and not waste her time and energy on matters outside her province.” This is not to say that an ecclesiastical pronouncement revealing the bearing of the gospel upon this or that not specifically theological problem is always to be condemned. There may be situations in which such an illuminating public testimony becomes advisable and even necessary, for the gospel must be proclaimed “in all its fulness” and not narrowly restricted to the salvation of souls. But the primary duty of the church remains the spreading forth of the message of salvation, that the lost may be found (Luke 15:4; 1 Cor. 9:16, 22; 10:33), those found may be strengthened in the faith (Eph. 4:15; 1 Thess. 3:11–13; 1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:18), and God may be glorified (John 17:4; 1 Cor. 10:31). Those who, through the example, message, and prayers of believers, have been converted will show the genuine character of their faith and love by exerting their influence for good in every sphere.

Continued: 14b–16. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp and place it under the peck-measure, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. So let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven. In connection with the symbol of light two ideas are combined here: The followers of Christ must be both visible and radiant. They must be “in the light” and must also send out rays of light. The first idea is conveyed by the city situated on a hill. Such a city, with its walls and fortresses, “cannot be hidden.” It is clearly visible to everybody.

The second idea is set forth by the figure of the lamp set on the lampstand (not “a candle put on a candlestick,” A.V.). Such a lamp “gives light”; it “shines.” The lamps of that day can be seen today in any large museum and in many private collections. The author at this moment is looking at one of these terra cotta saucer-shaped objects. This one happens to be about five and one-half inches long, four wide, and one-and-a-half high. It has a handle on one end; on the other a nozzle-shaped extension with a hole for a wick. In the top of the lamp’s upper surface there are two holes, one for adding oil, the other for air.

What Jesus is saying, then, is this, that no one would be foolish enough to light such a lamp—evidently for the purpose of illumining the surroundings—and then immediately place it under the peck-measure. Any sensible person would of course set the lit lamp on the lampstand. Such a lampstand was generally a very simple object. It might be a shelf extending from the pillar in the center of the room (the pillar that supported the large crossbeam of the flat roof), or a single stone projecting inward from the wall, or a piece of metal conspicuously placed and used similarly. The point is that the lamp, already lit and placed on the stand, would give light “to everyone in the house.” This is understandable when it is remembered that the houses of the poor, the very people whom Jesus was addressing (Luke 6:20), had only one room.

Now what a lamp is to a house the follower of Christ should be to the world. A lighted lamp should be given the opportunity to send out its rays. Similarly the followers of Jesus should “let their light shine” in order that men may see their conduct, their “good works.” It is on these works, considered as products of faith (see on verse 17) that the Lord places the emphasis, for “actions speak louder than words.”

It is not at all necessary nor even advisable in the present connection to make a separation between works done in obedience to the first table of the law and those performed in conformity with the second. In the teaching of Jesus these two go together even though it is true that the first is basic (Matt. 22:34–40; Mark 12:30, 31; Luke 10:25–28). When such excellent works, of whatever nature, are done out of gratitude for salvation obtained by grace through faith they are pleasing to God. This is true whether they consist of taking hold of God in prayer (Matt. 6:6; cf. Isa. 64:7) and trusting him (Matt. 6:24–34); or of helping those in need (25:34–40) and loving even one’s enemies (5:44).

That some of these good deeds are seen by men is unavoidable. Even unbelievers will at times hear the songs of praise sung by God’s children. Worldly people will take note of the quiet trust in God manifested by believers in times of trial and distress. They will at times express astonishment about the manner in which Christians will go out of their way, risking danger and even death, in order to extend help to the sick and dying. Tertullian (fl. about a.d. 200) wrote: “But it is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. ‘See,’ they say, ‘how they [the Christians] love one another,’ for they themselves [the non-Christians] are animated by mutual hatred; ‘see how they are ready even to die for one another,’ for they themselves will rather put to death” (Apology XXXIX).

It is a fine thing that these good works are seen by men. That is exactly what Jesus wants. Rightly considered, it is even what those who perform them want, but not in order to gain honor for themselves, in the sense of 6:1, 5, 16. On the contrary, Jesus says, “… and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” The end, therefore, and also to a certain extent the result, of seeing such good works, will be that men, influenced by God’s Spirit, will ascribe to God the reverence that is his due for having caused the light to shine forth from human lives (Isa. 24:15; 25:3; Ps. 22:23; cf. 1 Cor. 10:31).

A word must be added about this phrase, in the Gospels here used for the first time, “your Father who is in heaven” (literally “in the heavens”). A highly respected author writes, “It is true indeed that even in the Old Testament God is sometimes addressed as Father, but then not to express the personal relation between God and the individual believer but as an indication of the relation between God and the covenant people Israel; compare, for example, Isa. 63:16.” I fail to see the correctness of this statement. Even in the Old Testament God is recognized as the Father not only of the nation (besides Isa. 63:16 see also 64:8; Mal. 1:1, 6; and cf. Num. 11:12), but even of individual believers, holding them in his tender embrace and caring for them: “A Father of the fatherless and a Judge of widows is God in his holy habitation” (Ps. 68:5). “He will cry to me, Thou art my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.… My lovingkindness will I keep for him forever” (Ps. 89:26, 28). Although it is true that in Ps. 103:13 God is not directly addressed as “Father,” yet the idea of his fatherhood in relation to individuals is clearly implied: “As a father pities his children, so Jehovah pities those that fear him.” To them he is more precious than any earthly father: “Though my father and my mother have forsaken me, yet Jehovah accepts me” (Ps. 27:10). See also 2 Sam. 7:14, 15 (cf. 1 Chron. 28:6). Jesus, then, builds on this Old Testament foundation—was it not his own Spirit that inspired this book?—and in the Gospels causes the term as applied to God, to stand out in all its tenderness (“Father”) and majesty (“who is in heaven”). See further on Matt. 6:9. All those, whether of Jewish or Gentile origin, who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior, are privileged, in addressing God, to say, “Our Father who art in heaven.”[3]

Being Light

Jesus also calls us to be light. You are the light of the world. Whereas salt is hidden, light is obvious. Salt works secretly, while light works openly. Salt works from within, light from without. Salt is more the indirect influence of the gospel, while light is more its direct communication. Salt works primarily through our living, while light works primarily through what we teach and preach. Salt is largely negative. It can retard corruption, but it cannot change corruption into incorruption. Light is more positive. It not only reveals what is wrong and false but helps produce what is righteous and true.

In his introduction to the book of Acts, Luke refers to his gospel as “the first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach” (1:1). Christ’s work always has to do with both doing and speaking, with living and teaching.

David wrote, “For with Thee is the fountain of life; in Thy light we see light” (Ps. 36:9). “God is light,” John reminds us, “and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:5–7). Light is not given simply to have but to live by. “Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path,” the psalmist tells us (Ps. 119:105). God’s light is to walk by and to live by. In its fullest sense, God’s light is the full revelation of His Word-the written Word of Scripture and the living Word of Jesus Christ.

God’s people are to proclaim God’s light in a world engulfed in darkness, just as their Lord came “to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death” (Luke 1:79). Christ is the true light, and we are His reflections. He is the Sun, and we are His moons. A free rendering of 2 Corinthians 4:6 could be, “God, who first ordered the light to shine in the darkness has flooded our hearts with His light. We now can enlighten men only because we can give them knowledge of the glory of God as we have seen it in the face of Jesus Christ.” God sheds His light on the world through those who have received His light through Jesus Christ.

The Jews had long claimed to have God’s light, and He had long called them to be His light. But because they had ignored and rejected His light, they could not be His light. They were confident that they were guides “to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness,” but Paul told them they were blind guides and lamps without light. “You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself?” he asks (Rom. 2:19–21). They had the light, but they were not living by it. “You who preach that one should not steal, do you steal?” Paul continues by way of illustration. “You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery?” (vv. 21–22). We are to prove ourselves “to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom [we are to] appear as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15).

By its nature and by definition light must be visible in order to illuminate. Christians must be more than the largely indirect influence of salt; they must also be the direct and noticeable instruments of light.

Both in the daytime and at night, a city set on a hill cannot be hidden. It is exposed for all to see. By day its houses and buildings stand out on the landscape, and at night the many lights shining out of its windows make it impossible to miss. A secret Christian is as incongruous as a hidden light. Lights are to illuminate, not to be hidden; to be displayed, not to be covered. Christians are to be both subtle salt and conspicuous light.

God did not give the gospel of His Son to be the secret, hidden treasure of a few but to enlighten every person (John 1:9). Many reject the light and reject those who bring it, but just as God offers His light to the whole world, so must His church. It is not our gospel but God’s, and He gives it to us not only for our own sakes but the entire world’s. True believers are salt and light, and must fulfill that identity.[4]

14–15 As in v. 13, “you” is emphatic—namely, You, my followers and none others, are the light of the world. Though the Jews saw themselves as the light of the world (Ro 2:19), the true light is the Suffering Servant (Isa 42:6; 49:6), fulfilled in Jesus himself (Mt 4:16; cf. Jn 8:12; 9:5; 12:35; 1 Jn 1:7). Derivatively, his disciples constitute the new light (cf. Eph 5:8–9; Php 2:15). Light is a universal religious symbol. In the OT as in the NT, it most frequently symbolizes purity as opposed to filth, truth or knowledge as opposed to error or ignorance, and divine revelation and presence as opposed to reprobation and abandonment by God.

The reference to the “city on a hill” is at one level fairly obvious. Often built of white limestone, ancient towns gleamed in the sun and could not easily be hidden. At night the inhabitants’ oil lamps would shed some glow over the surrounding area (cf. Bonnard). As such cities could not be hidden, so also it is unthinkable to light a lamp and hide it under a peck measure (v. 15, NIV, “bowl”). A lamp is put on a lampstand to illuminate all. Attempts to identify “everyone in the house” as a reference to all Jews in contrast with Luke 11:33, referring to Gentiles (so Manson, Sayings of Jesus, 93), are probably guilty of making the metaphor run on all fours, especially in view of the Gentile theme so strongly present in Matthew.

But the “city on a hill” saying may also refer to OT prophecies about the time when Jerusalem or the mountain of the Lord’s house, or Zion, would be lifted up before the world, the nations streaming to it (e.g., Isa 2:2–5; cf. chs. 42, 49, 54, 60). This allusion has been defended by Grundmann, Trilling (Das wahre Israel, 142), and especially K. M. Campbell (“The New Jerusalem in Matthew 5.14,” SJT 31 [1978]: 335–63). It is not a certain allusion, and the absence of definite articles tells against it; if valid, it insists that Jesus’ disciples constitute the true locus of the people of God, the outpost of the consummated kingdom, and the means of witness to the world—all themes central to Matthew’s thought.

16 Jesus drives the metaphor home. What his disciples must show is their “good works,” i.e., all righteousness, everything they are and do that reflects the mind and will of God. And people must see this light. It may provoke persecution (vv. 10–12), but that is no reason for hiding the light others may see and by which they may come to glorify the Father—the disciples’ only motive (cf. 2 Co 4:6; 1 Pe 2:12). Witness includes not just words but deeds; as Stier (Words of the Lord Jesus) remarks, “The good word without the good walk is of no avail.”

Thus the kingdom norms (vv. 3–12) so work out in the lives of the kingdom’s heirs as to produce the kingdom witness (vv. 13–16). If salt (v. 13) exercises the negative function of delaying decay and warns disciples of the danger of compromise and conformity to the world, then light (vv. 14–16) speaks positively of illuminating a sin-darkened world and warns against a withdrawal from the world that does not lead others to glorify the Father in heaven. “Flight into the invisible is a denial of the call. A community of Jesus which seeks to hide itself has ceased to follow him” (Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship, 106).[5]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 174). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1218). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Vol. 9, pp. 284–287). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 244–245). 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. 170). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

CultureWatch: Relativism and Totalitarianism

Ideas have consequences. And bad ideas have bad consequences. One bad idea is that of moral relativism: the idea that there are no objective moral absolutes, and morality is ultimately a matter of personal preference. If there are no objective moral standards which we all can appeal to, then those with the most power end up being the ones who are the most “right”.

The weakest and most powerless end up being the ones who are “wrong”. Thus might makes right, and we have seen this far too often in history. One longstanding moral absolute which has been renounced to our own peril is that of the sanctity of life and the dignity of each human being.

relativism 5When this moral absolute is denied and trashed, then the powerful exploit and crush the weak. We have seen that with slave owners who dehumanise and depersonalise slaves. We of course saw that with the Nazis who declared Jews and others to be non-persons.

And we still see this at work today with adults who deny the unborn the right to life. In all three cases the more powerful among us have stamped into the ground those who have been considered to be less than human. All this flows from the bad idea of moral relativism.

And all dictators can tyrannise the masses this way as well, believing that they are somehow above the law while the hoi polloi must be subject to it. Only objective transcendent laws which all must be subject to – including the rulers – are sufficient to help guard against tyranny and oppression.

The Christian religion of course fully is based on the notion of transcendent universal truths and transcendent moral absolutes. We are not left to float in a sea of relativism, but we are all to be subject to objective truth and objective morality.

And that will certainly have a bearing on our political life. For example the Christian-based Magna Carta of 1215 sought to put limits on the power of the king by appealing to a higher law, the law of God. Temporal human laws must be subject to eternal divine laws.

And the Scottish Presbyterian minister Samuel Rutherford (1600–61) penned an important book on this back in 1644: Lex, Rex: The Law and the Prince. In it he argued that everyone is subject to the law – not just the ruled but the ruler as well.

The book was an attack on the absolute power of kings, arguing that the king too is subject to transcendent law. It was also a call for limited government and constitutionalism. Others could be appealed to here, but the concept of the rule of law – one which states that we are all subject to the law – clearly comes out of the Judeo-Christian worldview.

It was still seen in operation at the Nuremberg Trials in which the Nazi claim that they were just following orders did not cut it. They too were subject to a higher law than Nazi law. But increasingly in the heavily secularised West the very concept of the rule of law or a higher law is disappearing.

The process by which all this has come about is too lengthy to recount here, but a very good brief summary statement is found in the 1975 book, The Law above the Law by John Warwick Montgomery. He writes:

It has been well said that in the 18th century the Bible was killed (by unwarranted destructive criticism, as in Paine’s Age of Reason); in the 19th century God was killed (Nietzsche’s “death of God” and the substitution of the Uebermensch, the Superman, who “transvalues all value”); and in the 20th century Man has been killed (in the most destructive wars in history). This degeneration is not accidental; each step logically follows from what has preceded: the loss of the Bible leads to the loss of God, for in the Bible God is most clearly revealed; the loss of God leaves Man at the naked mercy of his fellows, where might makes right.

Relativism has done its work, and now the civilising impact of Christianity over the centuries is quickly being lost. We are quickly heading back to a new dark ages, and to a place again where might makes right. As Michael Novak put it in his 1994 Templeton Prize Address:

“Vulgar relativism is an invisible gas, odorless, deadly, that is now polluting every free society on earth. It is a gas that attacks the central nervous system of moral striving. The most perilous threat to the free society today is, therefore, neither political nor economic. It is the poisonous, corrupting culture of relativism.”

All we are now left with are feelings, emotions, safe places, trigger warnings and the cult of victimisation. Because of the curse of mental and moral relativism, critical analysis has given way to emoting. People now run their lives based solely on how they happen to feel at the time.

And an “aggressive emotivism,” as Dwight Longenecker calls it, is no match for the host of tyrants already out there, or hoping to soon come on the scene. Indeed, such emotivism becomes its own dictator, shouting down anyone accused of causing offence or displeasure. His helpful piece, penned a few years ago, is well worth quoting from:

Pope Benedict XVI coined the phrase “the dictatorship of relativism” and the rise of boo-hurrah morality illustrates the tyrannical nature of the current moral climate. Two kinds of emotion alternate in this tyranny. First is the emotion of the passive victim. When something displeases we get the firestorm of emotions: trauma, tears, tantrums, and irrational rage.
This tsunami of emotion disorients anyone who supposes there is a rational or authoritative foundation for morality, and immediately puts them on the defensive. Along with the turbulent emotions is a sense of victimhood. The opposition is put off balance. No one wants to be a meanie. No one wants to be seen to be the aggressor. The emotional blackmail works like a charm. The one who asserted or even so much as suggested an objective moral standard is put in the position of the comforter, the apologizer. He is the bumbling parent confronted with the tantrum throwing child or the befuddled bridegroom confounded and confused by the suddenly weeping wife.
Once the enemy goes to defend the wounded, weeping victim smells blood and is on the attack. The petitions are circulated. The lawyers are contacted. The lawsuits are launched. Apologies are demanded and resignations are forced. The emotivist army marches forth bristling with righteous indignation. They are no longer the wounded victims. They are the rampaging and righteous champions of the underdogs, the mistreated, and the misunderstood. They do not care about the majority vote for they are the brave pioneers who are destined to overturn the oppressive majority. They do not care for the process of law or democracy. Their cause is greater than all that. The surge in their hearts tells them so.

And this emotivism is the direct result of the loss of universal truth and moral absolutes. Moral relativism can only result in people emoting against one another. Feelings trump fact, and emotions rule:

Why has the moral debate in America descended to emotivism? Because where there is no objective truth there can be no intelligent debate. If there is no such thing as right and wrong, then it is pointless trying to have a discussion on what is right and wrong. All that remains is your opinion against my opinion and therefore the one who best uses the tools of emotional blackmail and bullying will prevail.
Nor will their prevalence stop at bullying their foes into silence. What began as emotional blackmail will continue into active use of force. They will move from emotivism to activism. The lawsuits will be followed with other forms of financial, legal, and finally physical force. In the face of emotive violence the government takes over and decides what is legal, and what is legal is not necessarily moral, for any idea of morality has long since disappeared. When the only morality that remains is that which is legal, then those who make the laws determine what can be done or not done. At that point what is legal will inevitably be that which pleases those who make the laws, and when the law is made by those who benefit from the law, the triumph of emotive totalitarianism begins.

As I said at the outset, bad ideas have bad consequences. And the bad idea of moral relativism is unleashing a torrent of bad consequences. Only a return to transcendent values can put an effective check on personal and political tyranny. Without transcendent truth and universal morality, we are all doomed to emotional blackmail and the rule of the powerful over the weak.

We have been there before and it sure was not pretty. We need to learn from the lessons of history before it is too late.


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