Daily Archives: June 6, 2017

June 6, 2017: Verse of the day

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10 The psalmist sings about the superiority of God’s presence. One day of fellowship with God is a thousand times better than anything else. The psalmist esteems service as a temple guard as superior to receiving public recognition and wealth.[1]


84:10 And what is it like, being in heaven? Well, a day in His courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. Which is just another way of saying that there is no comparison. We simply cannot conceive the glory, the joy, the beauty, the freedom of being where Jesus is. And it’s a good thing we can’t. Otherwise we would probably be unhappy to remain here and to get on with our work.

Better to be a doorkeeper in the house of your God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. As Spurgeon said, “God’s worst is better than the devil’s best.” And not only better but more enduring. Note the contrast between the house of our God and the tents of wickedness. One is a permanent dwelling, the other is pitched for a relatively short while.[2]


84:10 stand at the threshold. One day standing at the door of the temple, or just being near even if not inside, was better than a thousand days fellowshiping with the wicked.[3]


84:10, 11 a day … a thousand: Nothing in the pilgrim’s daily experience can be compared to a day spent in the worship of God in the holy temple. a doorkeeper … dwell in the tents: The role of a menial servant in the house of his God is more desirable than a life of luxury with those who practice wickedness. Sun and shield means “splendid shield.” Grace and glory may be rephrased as “glorious grace.” Whereas the anointed king was a “shield” (v. 9), the greater Shield is God Himself. No good thing will He withhold: This is the observation of a wise and righteous person; time after time, God gives good gifts to His people.[4]


[1] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 637). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 678). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 84:10). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 704). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

 

JUNE 6 – GOD’S SPIRIT IS A GENTLE, LOVING SPIRIT

To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame….

REVELATION 3:2 1

Genuine holiness of life and spirit can be put into the place of testing without fear! Whenever there is a breakdown of holiness, that is proof there never was any real degree of holiness in the first place.

Whenever Satan has reason to fear a truth very gravely, he produces a counterfeit. He will try to put that truth in such a bad light that the very persons who are most eager to obey it are frightened away from it. Satan is very sly and very experienced in the forming of parodies of truth which he fears the most, and then pawns off his parody as the real thing and soon frightens away the serious-minded saints.

I regret to say that some who have called themselves by a kind of copyrighted name of holiness have allowed the doctrine to harden into a formula which has become a hindrance to repentance, for this doctrine has been invoked to cover up frivolity and covetousness, pride and worldliness.

I have seen the results. Serious, honest persons have turned away from the whole idea of holiness because of those who have claimed it and then lived selfish and conceited lives.

But, brethren, men of God have reminded us in the Word that God does ask and expect us to be holy men and women of God, because we are the children of God! The provision of God by His pure and gentle and loving Spirit is still the positive answer for those who hunger and thirst for the life well pleasing to God![1]


3:21 The overcomer is promised that he will share the glory of Christ’s throne and reign with Him over the millennial earth. Those who follow Him in humility, rejection, and suffering will also follow Him in glory.[2]


21. “To the one who overcomes, I will grant [the privilege] of sitting with me on my throne, just as I myself overcame and sat with my Father on his throne. 22. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.”

John wrote the familiar words “the one who overcomes” as a repetition of the preceding letters and then writes the promise that Jesus gives to the overcomer. It indicates that Jesus gives this promise in the first place to the Laodiceans and then to all believers. What an astounding grace and mercy extended to a church that receives from the Lord no praise at all! Yet these people, provided they repent and overcome, will be given the privilege of being seated with Christ on the Father’s throne (Matt. 19:28; Luke 22:28–30).

The language must be understood to convey a symbolical message. We are unable to comprehend the significance of the privilege to sit next to Jesus on the throne. Therefore, to ask whether the throne is large enough to accommodate Christ’s followers is futile. The message supported by other passages in Scripture is that glorified believers have the honor and duty to judge the twelve tribes of Israel, the world, and angels (Matt. 19:28; Luke 22:30; 1 Cor. 6:2–3); and they will rule with Christ (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 5:10; 20:4, 6; 22:5). Jesus’ promise is based on the vision that Daniel received: “Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him” (Dan. 7:27). Jesus looks backward to his suffering, death, and resurrection when he says that he too overcame. He remarks that he took a place on the throne at the right hand of the Father (Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 12:2; see also Mark 16:19; Eph. 1:20). Yet the difference is that Christ performed his mediatorial work on our behalf and has been given the honor of occupying the seat next to the Father. On the other hand, Jesus looks forward and tells us that when we overcome, we will take a place next to him at his invitation. That will be glory indeed.

The chapter concludes with the well-known refrain to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. And that means the entire church receives Christ’s message of praise, reproof, and promise. Note also that at the end of the seven letters to the seven churches there is an indirect reference to the Judgment Day.[3]


The Counsel

He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (3:21–22)

The wonderful promise to he who overcomes (all believers; 2:7, 11, 26; 3:5, 12; 1 John 5:5) is that Christ will grant to him to sit down with Him on His throne, as He also overcame and sat down with the Father on His throne. To enjoy fellowship with Christ in the kingdom and throughout eternity is sufficient blessing beyond all comprehension. But Christ offers more, promising to seat believers on the throne He shares with the Father (cf. Matt. 19:28; Luke 22:29–30). That symbolizes the truth that we will reign with Him (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 5:10; 20:6; cf. 1 Cor. 6:3).

The right to sit with Christ on His heavenly throne is but one of the many promises made to overcomers in the letters to the seven churches. Overcomers are also promised the privilege of eating from the tree of life (2:7), the crown of life (2:10), protection from the second death (2:11), the hidden manna (2:17), a white stone with a new name written on it (2:17), authority to rule the nations (2:26–27), the morning star (2:28), white garments, symbolizing purity and holiness (3:5), the honor of having Christ confess their names before God the Father and the holy angels in heaven (3:5), to be made a pillar in God’s temple (3:12), and to have written on them the name of God, of the new Jerusalem, and of Christ (3:12).

As did the other six letters, the letter to the Laodiceans closed with Christ’s exhortation, He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The message to the apostate church is obvious: repent, and open up to Christ before the night of judgment falls. The implication for true believers is that, like Christ, we must compassionately call those in the apostate church to repent and receive salvation in Jesus Christ (cf. Jude 23).[4]


21 The promise to the overcomers concerns the sharing in Christ’s future reign in the eschatological kingdom: “I will give the right to sit with me on my throne.” Such a joint reign with Christ has already been referred to earlier in the book (1:6, 9; 2:26–27) and also appears later (5:10; 20:4–6). The kingdom reign is also a theme in other NT writings (Lk 22:28–30; Ro 8:17; 2 Ti 2:12). As Christ overcame through his suffering and death (Jn 16:33) and entered into the highest honor God could bestow—that of being seated at his “right hand” of sovereignty (Mk 16:19; Ac 2:22–36; Rev 22:1)—so believers who suffer with Christ, even to the point of death, will share in the honor of Christ’s exalted position. The distinction between the Father’s throne and Christ’s throne is no mere rhetoric. On the contrary, it differentiates aspects of God’s program in history (1 Co 15:24–28). Christ is reigning now, for there is a sense in which the eschatological or messianic kingdom of God was inaugurated in Christ’s earthly ministry, death, and resurrection. But the promise here, as elsewhere in the NT, foresees a final earthly consummation of the kingdom that awaits Christ’s return.[5]


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

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2360). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Vol. 20, pp. 175–176). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1999). Revelation 1–11 (p. 141). Chicago: Moody Press.

[5] Johnson, A. F. (2006). Revelation. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 638). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

JUNE 6 – WITHOUT FEELING?

Singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.

Ephesians 5:19

I do know something of the emotional life that goes along with conversion to Jesus Christ. I came into the kingdom of God with joy, knowing that I had been forgiven.

I have had people tell me very dogmatically that they will never allow “feeling” to have any part in their spiritual life and experience.

“Too bad for you!” is my reply.

I say that because I have voiced a very real definition of what I believe true worship to be: “Worship is to feel in the heart!”

In the Christian faith, we should be able to use the word feel boldly and without apology. What worse thing could be said of us as the Christian Church if it can be said of us that we are a feelingless people?

I think we must agree that those of us who have been blessed within our own beings would not join in any crusade to “follow your feelings.” But if there is no feeling at all in our hearts, then we are dead!

Lord, if we didn’t have feelings, we’d all be like robots. Thank You for creating us as whole people—intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. It is a joy to worship You with feeling![1]


5:19 Now the apostle gives four results of being filled with the Spirit. First, Spirit-filled Christians speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. The divine infilling opens the mouth to talk about the things of the Lord, and enlarges the heart to share these things with others. While some see all three categories as parts of the Book of Psalms, we understand only psalms to mean the inspired writings of David, Asaph, and others. Hymns are noninspired songs which ascribe worship and praise directly to God. Spiritual songs are any other lyrical compositions dealing with spiritual themes, even though not addressed directly to God.

A second evidence of the filling is inward joy and praise to God: singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. The Spirit-filled life is a fountain, bubbling over with joy (Acts 13:52). Zacharias is an illustration: when he was filled with the Holy Spirit, he sang with all his heart to the Lord (Luke 1:67–79).[2]


19. speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. The term psalms in all probability has reference, at least mainly, to the Old Testament Psalter; hymns, mainly to New Testament songs of praise to God and to Christ (verse 14 above, in which Christ is praised as the Source of light, containing perhaps lines from one of these hymns); and finally, spiritual songs, mainly to sacred lyrics dwelling on themes other than direct praise to God or to Christ. There may, however, be some overlapping in the meaning of these three terms as used here by Paul.

The point to note is that by means of these psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, Spirit-filled believers must speak to each other. They are not merely reciting what they have committed to memory. “Daughter, do you know that your Redeemer lives?” said the director to the soloist. After an affirmative answer he continued, “Then sing it again, and this time tell us about it.” She did, and there were tears of joy and thanksgiving in every eye. Continued: singing and making melody from your heart to the Lord. The idea of some that in the two parts of this one verse the apostle has reference to two kinds of singing: a. audible (“speaking”) and b. inaudible (“in the stillness of the heart”), must be dismissed. If that had been his intention, he would have inserted the conjunction and or and also between the two parts. The two are clearly parallel. The second explains and completes the first: when believers get together they should not be having wild parties but should edify each other, speaking to one another in Christian song, and doing so from the heart, to the praise and honor of their blessed Lord. They should make music with the voice (“singing”) or in any proper way whatever, whether with voice or instrument (“making melody”). Cf. Rom. 15:9); 1 Cor. 14:15; James 5:13. For further details of interpretation see N.T.C. on Colossians and Philemon, pp. 160–163 where a closely similar passage (Col. 3:16) is discussed more at length.[3]


The Consequence with Ourselves: Singing

speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; (5:19)

The Spirit–filled life produces music. Whether he has a good voice or cannot carry a tune, the Spirit–filled Christian is a singing Christian. Nothing is more indicative of a fulfilled life, a contented soul, and a happy heart than the expression of song.

The first consequence of the Spirit–filled life that Paul mentioned was not mountain–moving faith, an ecstatic spiritual experience, dynamic speaking ability, or any other such thing. It was simply a heart that sings. When the believer walks in the Spirit, he has an inside joy that manifests itself in music. God puts music in the souls and then on the lips of His children who walk in obedience.

When missionaries began evangelistic work among an Indian tribe I visited high in the Andes of Ecuador, they were frustrated for many years by lack of results. Suddenly the Spirit of God began to move and a large number of Indians were converted within a short time. In addition to a hunger for God’s Word, one of the first evidences of their new life in Christ was a great desire to sing His praises. I listened as they stood for hours in their thatched–roof church and sang hymn after hymn. The song from their hearts was the most inescapable characteristic that set those believers apart from everyone else in their pagan village.

The Spirit’s music is not hindered by a monotone or enhanced by a musical degree or magnificent voice. Spiritual joy will shine through a song sung with the raspy, off–pitch voice of a saint who is rejoicing in the Lord, and it will be absent from the song sung with technical skill and accuracy, but with a voice that rejoices only in self.

One of the greatest distinctions of Christianity should be in its music, because the music God gives is not the music the world gives. In Scripture, the word new is used more frequently in relation to song than to any other feature of salvation. God gives His new creatures a new song, a different song, a distinctive song, a purer song, and a more beautiful song than anything the world can produce.

“Sing for joy in the Lord, O you righteous ones,” says the psalmist; “praise is becoming to the upright” (Ps. 33:1). It is because we have been made righteous, purified from sin, and have become partakers of God’s own holiness that we sing. No one but a Christian has any legitimate reason to sing. God Himself puts a song in our mouths, “a song of praise to our God” (Ps. 40:3). Because we have salvation we sing songs of salvation. “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless His name; proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day” (Ps. 96:1–2; cf. 149:1).

One day the four living creatures and the twenty–four elders will fall down before Jesus Christ, the Lamb, and sing “a new song, saying, ‘Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:8–9). God’s new song is the song of redemption.

When God delivered Israel out of Egypt, all the people came together and sang a song to the Lord (Ex. 15:1–18). After they finished, Moses’ sister, Miriam, led the women in further singing and dancing (vv. 20–21). After Deborah and Barak delivered Israel from the Canaanites, they “sang on that day” (Judg. 5:1). Of the 38,000 people who ministered at the Temple in Jerusalem, 4,000 were musicians; and in Nehemiah we read of antiphonal choirs (Neh. 12:31, 38). Throughout the Old Testament, and particularly in the Psalms, we read of many kinds of musical instruments that God’s people used to praise Him.

The last thing Jesus and His disciples did after the Last Supper was to sing a hymn before they went out to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was arrested (Matt. 26:30). While they were imprisoned in Philippi, “about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25). On the heavenly Mount Zion the 144,000 who will have been purchased from the earth will sing “a new song before the throne” of Christ (Rev. 14:3).

In Ephesians 5:19 Paul explains among whom, from where, with what, to whom, and how Spirit–filled believers are to sing.

Among whom do believers sing? The primary audience for our singing is to be fellow believers, one another. Throughout Scripture the singing of God’s people is shown to be within the fellowship of believers. No music in the Bible is ever characterized as being or intended to be evangelistic. God may use the gospel content set to music to bring the truth to the lost and thus lead them to Himself. Since the message is so powerful, the open heart may receive it even though it comes with a melody. But that is not the intent for music, and when emotions are played on without a clear or complete presentation of God’s truth to the mind, such music can be counterproductive by producing a feeling of well–being and contentment that is a counterfeit of God’s peace and that serves to further insulate an unbeliever from the saving gospel.

It should be noted that the many contemporary entertainers who think they are using their rock–style music to evangelize the lost are often doing nothing more than contributing to the weakening of the church. Evangelizing with contemporary music has many serious flaws. It tends to create pride in the musicians rather than humility. It makes the gospel a matter of entertainment when there is not one thing in it that is at all entertaining. It makes the public proclaimers of Christianity those who are popular and talented in the world’s eyes, rather than those who are godly and gifted teachers of God’s truth. In using the world’s genres of music, it blurs the gap between worldly Satanic values and divine ones. It tends to deny the power of the simple gospel and the sovereign saving work of the Holy Spirit. It creates a wide generation gap in the church, thus contributing to the disunity and lack of intimacy in the fellowship of all believers. It leads to the propagation of bad or weak theology and drags the name of the Lord down to the level of the world. The music of the gospel is certainly not a legitimate means for making money or seeking fame, and it must never be allowed to cheapen what is priceless, or trivialize what is profound.

The songs of faith are not for the world to sing or really even to hear. The unsaved person has no comprehension of the praises we sing, because he has no presence of God’s Spirit within him. He cannot sing the song of redemption because he is not redeemed. Christian singing is an expression of individual and corporate worship, of celebrating life together in Jesus Christ.

For over a thousand dark years of its history (c. 500–1500) the church in general did not sing. From shortly after New Testament times until the Reformation, what music the church had was usually performed by professional musicians. The music they presented could not be understood or appreciated by the average church member. In any case, they could only sit and listen, unable to participate. But when the Bible came back into the church during the Reformation, singing came with it. Martin Luther and some of the other Reformation leaders are among the greatest hymn writers of church history. Where the true gospel is known and believed, music is loved and sung. God’s Spirit in the heart puts music in the heart.

How do believers sing? When they are filled with the Spirit, they are to be speaking … in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody. Speaking comes from laleō, is an onomatopoeic word that originated from chatter or babble, probably of little children first learning to talk, saying sounds such as “la, la, la.” It was also used of the chirp of birds or the grunts and other noises of animals. In its most basic sense, the term simply meant to make a sound.

Trumpets (Rev. 4:1) and even peals of thunder (10:4) are said to be speaking. The psalmist called God’s people to join all the earth in shouting “joyfully to God” (Ps. 66:1). Speaking here includes any sound offered to God from a Spirit–filled heart. The music from an organ or choir is no more acceptable to God than the sounds of a guitar or home–made flute. The sound that pleases Him is the sound that comes as a result of a heart submissive to His Spirit and that sings or plays to His glory.

Psalms refers primarily to the Old Testament psalms put to music, but the term was also used of vocal music of any sort, such as solos and anthems. The early church did most of its singing directly from the psaltery, using various tunes familiar to the congregation—a pattern followed for hundreds of years by many European and American churches, and still used in some congregations today. The psalms primarily speak about the nature and work of God, especially in the lives of believers. Above everything else, they magnify and glorify God.

Hymns refers primarily to songs of praise, which in the early church were probably distinguished from the psalms, which exalted God, in that they specifically praised the Lord Jesus Christ. Many biblical scholars believe that various New Testament passages (such as Col. 1:12–16) were used as hymns in the early church. Spiritual songs were probably songs of testimony that covered a broad category that included any music expressing spiritual truth.

In the church today we could classify renditions of Psalms 23 and 84 as psalms, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” and “The Old Rugged Cross” as hymns, and “O How He Loves You and Me” and “I’d Rather Have Jesus” as spiritual songs. The intent of the writer here, however, is simply to give latitude for all kinds of musical expression to exalt the Lord.

Singing is from adō, which simply means to sing with the voice. But in the New Testament it is always used in relation to praising God (see also Col. 3:16; Rev. 5:9; 14:3; 15:3).

The human voice is the most beautiful of all instruments. Its various tones, inflections, and moods seem almost limitless. Because it is itself human, it can speak to us as no other form of music.

Yet the sound God is looking for in His children is the sound made out of a Spirit–filled heart—whether the voice that makes the sound is rough and unpolished or smooth and highly trained. That is why every believer is just as capable as any other believer of singing the praises that God puts in his heart.

The gift of a good voice or of other musical talent does not demand, as many argue, that it should necessarily be used for performing special music in the church. The gift of music no more demands public display than does the gift of carpentry, cooking, medicine, or any other. That which is done to glorify God is done for that purpose alone, and its being noticed or unnoticed is secondary and incidental. Whether we sing alone in our home or car, sing with a few friends around the piano or with guitars, or sing in a large choir leading hundreds of people in worship, we should do it from a Spirit–filled heart that seeks no glory but God’s.

Psallo (making melody) is related to the term from which we get psalm and literally means to pluck on a stringed instrument, particularly a harp, with the fingers. The word, however, came to represent the making of any instrumental music. The Spirit–filled heart expresses itself in any sort of vocal or instrumental music, in both singing and making melody.

Much music in the church today truly honors God and blesses those who hear it. And whether given as psalms about God’s greatness, as hymns of Christ’s redemption, or as spiritual songs of testimony of God’s power, help, or comfort, such music is to be an expression of the Spirit–filled church. Whether given through the voice in singing or through instruments in making melody, that is the music that honors, glorifies, and pleases God.

Our Lord Himself will sing one day, and in our very midst. He said to His Father, “I will proclaim Thy name to My brethren, in the midst of the congregation I will sing Thy praise” (Heb. 2:12). But even now, when our hearts are filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus sings songs of praise to the Father through us. Therefore when we quench the Spirit, we quench the song of Christ to the Father in our life.

From where do believers sing? The songs of salvation originate with your heart. The Greek form of this phrase allows for several meanings. There is no preposition here in the Greek, and in such cases the preposition is determined by the case of the noun—which here has several possibilities, all of which seem appropriate to the context. If the case of heart is taken as an instrumental of cause, the idea is that our hearts cause us to sing and make melody to God. As an instrumental of means, the idea is that our hearts are the channels through which we sing praises. As a locative, the idea is that the singing is centered in our hearts.

A person who does not have a song in his heart cannot sing from his heart or with his heart. He can only sing with his lips, and neither his music nor his message will have the power of the Spirit to bless others in Christ’s name.

Even as Christians we will not have a true song in our hearts unless we are under the Spirit’s control. It is possible to sing for pride, to sing for acclaim and fame, and to sing for money—but such singing is Spiritless singing. A person who comes to worship while bitter toward God, angry with a loved one or friend, or in any other way is out of harmony with God’s Spirit should not participate in singing God’s praises. Hypocrisy can neither praise nor please the Lord. When peoples’ hearts are not right with God, He has a way of turning their “festivals into mourning” and their “songs into lamentation” (Amos 8:10). Through the same prophet God said, “Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an everflowing stream” (5:23–24). “Stop your songs until your hearts are right,” he was saying.

Our music cannot be like the music of the world, because our God is not like their gods. Most of the world’s music reflects the world’s ways, the world’s standards, the world’s attitudes, the world’s gods. To attempt to use such music to reach the world is to lower the gospel in order to spread the gospel. If the world hears that our music is not much different from theirs, it will also be inclined to believe that the Christian way of life is not much different from theirs. Christians cannot honestly sing the world’s philosophies nor can the world honestly sing the Christian’s message, because they sing from utterly different hearts. The Christian’s heart and music belong to God and His righteousness, while the world’s heart and music belong to Satan and his unrighteousness.

Because the Christian’s music is God’s music, it will be sung in heaven throughout all the ages to come. And because the world’s music is Satan’s music, it will one day cease, never to be heard again. The sounds of the world’s “harpists and musicians and flute–players and trumpeters will not be heard … any longer” (Rev. 18:22). To those who make music that is not His, God declares, “I will silence the sound of your songs, and the sound of your harps will be heard no more” (Ezek. 26:13). In hell, the ungodly will not even have their own music.

The pulsating rhythms of native African music mimics the restless, superstitious passions of their culture and religion. The music of the Orient is dissonant and unresolved, going from nowhere to nowhere, with no beginning and no end—just as their religions go from cycle to cycle in endless repetitions of meaningless existence. Their music, like their destiny, is without resolution. The music of much of the Western world is the music of seduction and suggestiveness, a musical counterpart of the immoral, lustful society that produces, sings, and enjoys it.

Rock music, with its bombastic atonality and dissonance, is the musical mirror of the hopeless, standardless, purposeless philosophy that rejects both God and reason and floats without orientation in a sea of relativity and unrestrained self–expression. The music has no logical progression because it comes from a philosophy that renounces logic. It violates the brain because its philosophy violates reason. It violates the spirit, because its philosophy violates truth and goodness. And it violates God, because its philosophy violates all authority outside of self.

Not only the titles and lyrics of many rock songs but the names of many rock groups shamelessly flaunt a godless, immoral, and often demonic orientation. The association of hard rock with violence, blasphemy, sadomasochism, sexual immorality and perversion, alcohol and drugs, and Eastern mysticism and the occult are not accidental. They are fed from the same ungodly stream. A leading rock singer once said, “Rock has always been the devil’s music. It lets in the baser elements.” Another testified, “I find myself evil. I believe in the devil as much as God. You can use either to get things done.” Putting a Christian message in such musical form does not elevate the form but degrades the message to the level already established in the culture by that form.

A great majority of young people in modern Western society are continually assaulted with a philosophy set to music that simultaneously destroys their bodies, short–circuits their minds, and perverts their spirits. A young man who was converted out of that involvement once said to me, “Whenever I hear rock music, I feel a tremendous urge to get drunk or go back on drugs.” The association was so strong that simply hearing the music triggered his old addictions.

Many of the physical and emotional effects of rock music can be demonstrated scientifically. Howard Hansen of the Eastman School of Music once wrote, “First, everything else being equal, the further the tempo is accelerated in music from the pulse rate toward the upper limit of practical tempo, the greater becomes the emotional tension.” He says further that “as long as the subdivisions of the metric units are regular and the accents remain strictly in conformity with the basic patterns, the effect may be accelerated but will not be disturbing. Rhythmic tension is heightened by increase in dynamic power.”

Several years ago a college in Colorado made a study of the effects of music on plants. Plants exposed to beautiful, soothing music thrived and turned toward the speaker. In an otherwise identical environment, another group of the same type of plant was exposed to acid rock. Those plants turned away from the speaker and within three days had shriveled and died. Further experimentation proved that the sound waves of the rock music had actually destroyed the plants’ cells.

Whether or not human cells are destroyed by rock music, things of even greater value are destroyed. When fast tempo, unrhythmical beat, high volume, and dissonance are coupled with wild shrieks, blasphemous and lewd lyrics, and suggestive body movements, the brain is bypassed, the emotions are mangled, the conscience is hardened, and Satan has an open door. Even the ancient pagan Aristotle wisely observed: “Music represents the passions of the soul, and if one listens to the wrong music he will become the wrong kind of person.”

Scripture’s admonition that “all things be done properly and in an orderly manner” (1 Cor. 14:40) applies to music as well as to everything else. God created an orderly universe, and anything that is confused and disorderly is out of harmony with the universe and with its Maker. “Watch over your heart with diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov. 4:23). Paul commanded believers: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things” (Phil. 4:8).

The Spirit–filled Christian is happy, peaceful, assured, and productive regardless of the circumstances. Whether he is freely worshiping among fellow believers on Sunday morning or sitting in painful stocks in a dungeon at midnight like Paul and Silas (Acts 16:24–25), his heart will always be singing and making melody.

In his great allegory Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan pictured the pilgrim, Christian, falling into the slough of despond, straying into doubting castle, and enduring many other hardships, frustrations, and failures. And though the expression “filled with the Spirit” is not used in the story, each time Christian is delivered we see him going on his way singing. Every time he came back under the Spirit’s control he had a song in his heart.

To whom do believers sing? Although believers sing among themselves, their songs are to be directed to the Lord. Our singing and making melody is not for the purpose of drawing attention to ourselves or of entertaining others but of rejoicing in and praising God. Whether we are singing a solo, singing with a choir, or singing with the congregation, our focus should be on the Lord, not on ourselves or other people. He is the audience to whom we sing.

At the dedication of the first Temple, “all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and their sons and kinsmen, clothed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps, and lyres, standing east of the altar, and with them one hundred and twenty priests blowing trumpets in unison when the trumpeters and the singers were to make themselves heard with one voice to praise and to glorify the Lord” (2 Chron. 5:12–13). Because the Lord was pleased with their heart–felt and harmonious worship, “the house of the Lord was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God” (vv. 13–14). It should be the heart desire of all Christians that their praise of God in music, and in every other way, be “in unison” and that they “make themselves heard with one voice to praise and glorify the Lord”—because that is the only way God’s people can acceptably praise and glorify Him.

Johann Sebastian Bach, probably the greatest musician of all time, said,

“The aim of all music is the glory of God.” In his own life and work the great composer and organist sought to live out that aim, and through the music he dedicated solely to God countless generations of believers have been blessed.

The words of every Christian song should be biblical—distinctly, clearly, and accurately reflecting the teaching of God’s Word. It is tragic that much music that goes under the name of Christian is a theological mishmash, often reflecting as much of the world’s philosophy as of God’s truth. Much is little more than personal sentimentality colored with Christian words.

Music that honors the Lord also blesses his people. A beautiful, soothing piece of music can calm nerves, remove fear and anxiety, reduce bitterness and anger, and help turn our attention from ourselves and the cares and problems of the world to God.

David not only was a man of God but a skillful musician. We are told that “whenever the evil spirit from God came to Saul, David would take the harp and play it with his hand; and Saul would be refreshed and be well, and the evil spirit would depart from him” (1 Sam. 16:23). The music blessed Saul emotionally (he was “refreshed”), physically (he was made “well”), and spiritually (“the evil spirit would depart from him”).

Seventeenth– and eighteenth–century physicians often prescribed music for mentally disturbed patients. They even recommended certain types of music to treat certain types of disorders. Music does have “charms to soothe a savage breast.” Working from a more scientific basis, modern behaviorists have proved those ideas to be sound. They have determined what kind of music makes a person more relaxed in a dentist’s chair, what kind helps production in an office or assembly plant, what kind helps reduce impatience in an elevator, and so on. Music has been found to affect the muscles, nerves, and the flow of body fluids, including blood, saliva, and lymph. It can influence metabolism, heart rate, and pulse for either benefit or harm.

It is not possible to submit the spiritual effects of music to scientific testing, but it is beyond question that music that focuses the heart on praising God can help heal the spiritual ills of His people.[4]


19 Following and grammatically dependent on the finite verb “be filled” is a series of participles (continuing through v. 21). Several versions (e.g., NIV, NJB, NLT) render each participial phrase as a new sentence, while the NASB and NRSV preserve the grammatical form. Precisely what nuance do these adverbial participles convey? Though some understand this in an instrumental sense (we are filled with the Spirit by means of doing the following actions), I think “result” better captures Paul’s uses of the participles. When believers allow God’s Spirit to fill them with God’s fullness, as a result they will engage in these behaviors. God’s Spirit will enable his people to become praising, grateful, and submissive people. We must note here also, in keeping with this entire section, that the results are corporately experienced.

First, the Spirit’s filling results in musical worship, literally, “continually speaking to each other in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” Here is the horizontal dimension of worship: it is speaking “to one another,” affirming in the congregation God’s mighty acts and his presence. Can we distinguish among these three types of speaking? “Psalms” in the NT refers to both the OT book of Psalms (Lk 20:42; 24:44; Ac 1:20; 13:33) and Christian songs of praise, often translated “hymns” in English versions (1 Co 14:26). “Hymns” refers to religious songs or songs of praise (used only here and in Col 3:16). “Songs,” described here as “spiritual,” denotes sacred songs (cf. Rev 5:9; 14:3; 15:3); more pointedly, “spiritual songs” are generated by the Holy Spirit. All in all, the three terms are roughly synonymous for Christian songs of praise to God, incorporating, as seems natural, appropriate entries from the OT Psalter. We have no warrant to limit this singing either to preexisting songs or to spontaneous ones composed on the spot under the inspiration of the Spirit; both are probably in view.

Paul adds two parallel participles that virtually repeat what he has said, though with an important qualification as to how believers ought to engage in such singing. Such “singing” (cf. Rev 5:8–9; 14:2–3; 15:2–3) and “praising” (NIV, “make music”; the word psallō, GK 6010, means “to sing songs of praise”; cf. Ro 15:9; 1 Co 14:15; Jas 5:13) must be performed “in your heart to the Lord.” The “heart” must be engaged. Singing that results from the filling of the Spirit will engage the core of the singers’ beings—their essential inner selves (see commentary on “heart,” 1:18). Singing will involve the worshipers’ minds, they will be fully engaged, and they will sing with conviction.

Paul also affirms the vertical dimension of worship. Spirit-filled music is made “to the Lord,” as though Christ is the audience—certainly the object of the singers’ devotion. Spiritual music leads the congregation to the worship of Christ as Lord; its goal is not to entertain the saints. If church music does not meet these qualifications—edifying each other and honoring the Lord—it is not spiritual music and risks being harmful if it replaces a counterfeit for the genuine.[5]


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

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1946). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Ephesians (Vol. 7, pp. 240–241). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (pp. 256–263). Chicago: Moody Press.

[5] Klein, W. W. (2006). Ephesians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 144–145). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

June 6 – Wealth and Heart Attitudes

The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!—Matt. 6:22–23

Expanding on the previous three verses, Jesus uses the eye as an illustration of the heart. The lamp, or lens, of the body is the eye; that’s how we receive light. The heart is the eye of the soul, and it is through our hearts that God’s truth, love, peace, and every spiritual blessing comes to us.

Words closely related to the word for “clear” include liberality and generosity. So the implication is that if our heart is generous (clear), our spiritual life will be flooded with spiritual understanding.

However, if our eye is diseased or damaged, no light can enter, and our “whole body will be full of darkness.” If our hearts are burdened with material concerns, we’ll become “blind” and insensitive to spiritual concerns. The eye is our window—when it’s clear, light shines through; but when it’s corrupt, it prevents light from entering.

The eye that is bad is the heart that is selfishly indulgent. The person who is materialistic and greedy is spiritually blind. Because he has no way of recognizing true light, he thinks he has light when he doesn’t. It’s because he’s self-deceived that Jesus says, “How great is the darkness!”

This principle is both simple and sobering: the way we look at and use our money is a sure barometer of our spiritual condition.

ASK YOURSELF
Blind spots are certainly easy to develop in our hearts, whether about money or any other aspect of belief and practice. How can you safeguard yourself from letting your personal blind spots become ingrained attitudes, poisoning your ability to see clearly what God wants to do in your life?[1]

A Single Vision

The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! (6:22–23)

These verses expand on the previous three, and the eye becomes an illustration of the heart. The lamp, or lens, of the body is the eye, through which all light comes to us. It is the only channel of light we possess, and therefore our only means of vision.

The heart is the eye of the soul, through which the illumination of every spiritual experience shines. It is through our hearts that God’s truth, love, peace, and every other spiritual blessing comes to us. When our hearts, our spiritual eyes, are clear, then our whole body will be full of light.

Haplous (clear) can also mean single, as it is translated in the King James Version. An eye that is clear represents a heart that has single-minded devotion. Bishop John Charles Ryle said, “Singleness of purpose is one great secret of spiritual prosperity” (Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: St. Matthew [London: James Clarke, 1965], p. 56).

Words that are closely related to haplous mean “liberality” (Rom. 12:8; 2 Cor. 9:11) and “generously” (James 1:5). The implication in the present verse is that if our heart, represented by the eye, is generous (clear), our whole spiritual life will be flooded with spiritual understanding, or light.

If our eye is bad, however, if it is diseased or damaged, no light can enter, and the whole body will be full of darkness. If our hearts are encumbered with material concerns they become “blind” and insensitive to spiritual concerns. The eye is like a window which, when clear, allows light to shine through, but, when dirty, or bad, prevents light from entering.

Ponēros (bad) usually means evil, as it is translated here in the King James Version. In the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) it is often used in translating the Hebrew expression “evil eye,” a Jewish colloquialism that means grudging, or stingy (see Deut. 15:9, “hostile”; Prov. 23:6, “selfish”). “A man with an evil eye,” for example, is one who “hastens after wealth” (Prov. 28:22).

The eye that is bad is the heart that is selfishly indulgent. The person who is materialistic and greedy is spiritually blind. Because he has no way of recognizing true light, he thinks he has light when he does not. What is thought to be light is therefore really darkness, and because of the self-deception, how great is the darkness!

The principle is simple and sobering: the way we look at and use our money is a sure barometer of our spiritual condition.[2]


22, 23. The eye is the body’s lamp. Therefore, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be illumined. But if your eye is in poor condition, your whole body will be dark. If then the (very) light in you is darkness, how great (is) that darkness. Jesus does not mean that the eye is the source of light for our body, but that it is, as it were, the light-bringer, the guide on which the entire body depends for illumination and direction. It is because of the eye that a man is able to make use of the light. Therefore, in this secondary sense, the eye may itself also be called the body’s light or lantern.

This implies, however that the eye must be single, that is, in this connection, without any speck, hence, sound. It must be able to see clearly. If the eye is diseased, the body will be full of darkness and thus not able to function properly. It is a well-known fact that lack of sufficient light from sun, moon, stars, lamps, etc., makes it difficult to see things. Yet, a sound eye quickly adjusts to the darkness. But if the eye itself, the very organ of light (in the sense already explained), is in poor condition, the darkness will be great indeed. In that case, even if the sun were shining, not much would be gained. At best, everything would be indistinct, a huge blur.

Implication on the basis of verses 19–21: Just as a person has a natural eye (the one eye representing both eyes here) to illumine his physical existence and to bring him into contact with his earthly environment, so he has a spiritual eye, namely, the mind, to brighten his inner life, to guide him morally and spiritually, and to keep him in contact with the heavenly Father. But if the “light” that is in him be darkened—for example, by means of his inordinate yearning for earthly treasure—, then how great must be that darkness, the very organ of light-reception having been obscured by sin. By missing what should have been his goal, namely, the promotion of God’s glory, this person misses everything![3]


The Lamp of the Body (6:22, 23)

Jesus realized that it would be difficult for His followers to see how His unconventional teaching on security for the future could possibly work. So He used an analogy of the human eye to teach a lesson on spiritual sight. He said that the eye is the lamp of the body. It is through the eye that the body receives illumination and can see. If the eye is good, the whole body is flooded with light. But if the eye is bad, then vision is impaired. Instead of light, there is darkness.

The application is this: The good eye belongs to the person whose motives are pure, who has a single desire for God’s interests, and who is willing to accept Christ’s teachings literally. His whole life is flooded with light. He believes Jesus’ words, he forsakes earthly riches, he lays up treasures in heaven, and he knows that this is the only true security. On the other hand, the bad eye belongs to the person who is trying to live for two worlds. He doesn’t want to let go of his earthly treasures, yet he wants treasures in heaven too. The teachings of Jesus seem impractical and impossible to him. He lacks clear guidance since he is full of darkness.

Jesus adds the statement that if therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! In other words, if you know that Christ forbids trusting earthly treasures for security, yet you do it anyway, then the teaching you have failed to obey becomes darkness—a very intense form of spiritual blindness. You cannot see riches in their true perspective.[4]


22–23 “The eye is the lamp of the body” in the sense that through the eye the body finds its way. The eye lets in light, and so the whole body is illuminated. But bad eyes let in no light, and the body is in darkness (v. 23). The “light within you” seems ironic. Those with bad eyes, who walk in darkness, think they have light, but this light is in reality darkness. The darkness is all the more terrible for failure to recognize it for what it is (cf. Jn 9:41).

This fairly straightforward description has metaphorical implications. The “eye” can be equivalent to the “heart.” The heart set on God so as to hold to his commands (Ps 119:10) is equivalent to the eye fastened on God’s law (Ps 119:18, 148; cf. 119:36–37). Similarly Jesus moves from “heart” (v. 21) to “eye” (vv. 22–23). Moreover, the text moves between physical description and metaphor by the words chosen for “good” and “bad.” Haplous (“good,” v. 22, GK 606) and its cognates can mean either “single” (vs. diplous, “double,” 1 Ti 5:17, GK 1487) in the sense of “single, undivided loyalty” (cf. 1 Ch 29:17) or in cognate forms “generous,” “liberal” (cf. Ro 12:8; Jas 1:5). Likewise, ponēros (“bad,” v. 23, GK 4505) can mean “evil” (e.g., Ro 12:9) or in the Jewish idiomatic expression “the evil eye” can refer to miserliness and selfishness (cf. Pr 28:22; see Hagner). Jesus is therefore saying either (1) that the man who “divides his interest and tries to focus on both God and possessions … has no clear vision, and will live without clear orientation or direction” (Filson)—an interpretation nicely compatible with v. 24; or (2) that the man who is stingy and selfish cannot really see where he is going; he is morally and spiritually blind—an interpretation compatible with vv. 19–21. Either way, the early crossover to metaphor may account for the difficult language of v. 22.

At the physical level, the “whole body” is just that, a body, of which the eye is the part that provides “light” (cf. R. Gundry, Soma [Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1976], 24–25). At the metaphorical level, it represents the entire person who is plunged into moral darkness. The “light within you” is therefore the vision that the eye with divided loyalties provides, or the attitude characterized by selfishness; in both cases it is darkness indeed. This approach, which depends on the OT and Jewish usage, is much to be preferred to the one that goes to Hellenistic literature and interprets “the light within you” in a Neoplatonic sense (e.g., H. D. Betz, “Matthew 6.22–23 and Ancient Greek Theories of Vision,” in Text and Interpretation [ed. Best and Wilson], 43–56).[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 166). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 413–414). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Vol. 9, pp. 346–347). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1226). 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. 212–213). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

JUNE 6 – GOD’S WISDOM OR YOURS

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.

—Isaiah 53:6

The crux of your life lies right there. It doesn’t matter whether you know this little wisp of systematic theology or not; that isn’t the point. The point is that it’s either got to be God’s wisdom or yours. It’s either God’s way or yours. All that you and I have lived for, hoped for and dreamed over in our heart of hearts—life, safety, happiness, heaven, immortality, the presence of God—hinges on whether you’re going to accept the ultimate wisdom of the Triune God, as revealed in the Scriptures and in His providential working in mankind. Or are you going to go your own way?

The most perfect definition of sin that I know of is given by Isaiah in 53:6: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.” Turning to our own way is the essence of sin. I turn to my way because I think it is wiser than God’s way….

This is the crux of our life. This is the difference between revival and a dead church. This is the difference between a Spirit-filled life and a self-filled life. Who’s running it? Who’s the boss? Whose wisdom is prevailing—the wisdom of God or the wisdom of man? AOGII135-136

Lord, how foolish I am when I trust in my own limited knowledge instead of Your infinite wisdom. Take over and be the Boss today. Amen. [1]


53:4–6 The remnant now knows and acknowledges the truth about Him. They confess: “It was our griefs He bore, our sorrows He carried, yet as we saw Him on the cross, we thought He was being punished by God for His own sins. But no! It was for our transgressions, for our iniquities, and in order that we might have peace, in order that we might be healed. The truth is that we were the ones who went astray and who walked in self-will, and Jehovah placed our iniquity on Him, the sinless Substitute.”

Until that time when the remnant acknowledges Him, we who are Christians can confess:

He was wounded for our transgressions,

He bore our sins in His body on the tree;

For our guilt He gave us peace,

From our bondage gave release,

And with His stripes, and with His stripes,

And with His stripes our souls are healed.

He was numbered among transgressors,

We did esteem Him forsaken by His God;

As our sacrifice He died,

That the law be satisfied,

And all our sin, and all our sin,

And all our sin was laid on Him.

We had wandered, we all had wandered,

Far from the fold of “the Shepherd of the sheep”;

But He sought us where we were,

On the mountains bleak and bare,

And brought us home, and brought us home,

And brought us safely home to God.

Thomas O. Chisholm

Our Lord Jesus suffered all five kinds of wounds known to medical science: contusions—blows by a rod; lacerations—scourging; penetrating wounds—crown of thorns; perforating wounds—nails; incised wounds—the spear.[2]


4–6 This central stanza of the fourth Servant Song has a number of general characteristics. The first is the frequency of the first person plural. This occurs of course several times in vv. 1–3 as well. Who are the speakers here? Probably the amazed onlookers of the first stanza, who appear from 52:15 to be predominantly, if not exclusively, Gentiles. Then there is in vv. 4 and 5 the use of the emphatic pronoun “he,” normally reserved in chs. 40–55 for God, again strongly suggestive of the incarnation (see comment on 52:13). Note also the frequency of nouns and verbs suggesting both pain and punishment.

The passage also emphasizes the sins of the onlookers, with one of the most vivid analogies—even in this illustration-saturated book—given in v. 6. Here is a picture of the willful and yet purposeless waywardness of sin, with probably a suggestion that this is an offense against love as well as holiness, for the divine shepherd is a tender, loving image in the Bible (cf. esp. 40:11). This aimless yet determined wandering is marvelously conveyed in the music of Handel’s Messiah, with its jerkily wandering melody, and likewise, in total contrast, the deeply moving affirmation of atonement at great cost with which the verse ends.

It is that costly atonement that provides the dominant theme of this stanza. Verse 4a views our punishment figuratively in terms of the visitation of disease (see comments at v. 3), while v. 4b shows the onlookers coming to the grievously wrong conclusion that the Servant is suffering for his own sins at the hand of God. Verse 5 shows that they have now accepted for themselves the objective fact declared in v. 4a. Piercing and crushing are both appropriate terms for the crucifixion, the first literal and the second figurative; and both are aptly summed up as “wounds” later in the verse.

Oswalt (in loc.) points out the significant fact that the metaphors of vv. 4 and 5 are precisely those of 1:5 and 6. Peace and healing view sin in terms of the estrangement from God and the marring of the sinner that it causes. Verse 6 may well derive its language from the Day of Atonement ritual (cf. Lev 16:21–22); for as God was the author of the ritual (cf. Lev 17:11), the high priest was simply his agent for transferring the sins of the people symbolically to the scapegoat. So there is a divine smiting of the Servant (cf. v. 4) but this is for our sins, not his.

Whybray’s view that the Servant does not suffer vicariously for the sins of others is dependent in large part on his identification of the Servant with Deutero-Isaiah. Certainly on the basis of such an identification the idea that he is punished instead of his fellow exiles seems quite ridiculous. Once this identification is challenged, however, much of Whybray’s argument loses its force.

Finally, we should note the element of conversion conveyed in vv. 4–5. The onlookers put aside their premature judgment on the matter and accept that the sufferings of the Servant are not only penal but also substitutionary. Kidner (in loc.) notes “the expressions, all we … we all, which give the verse an identical beginning and end in the Hebrew; grace wholly answering sin” (emphasis his).[3]


53:6 All of us … Each of us … us all. Every person has sinned (Ro 3:9, 23), but the Servant has sufficiently shouldered the consequences of sin and the righteous wrath deserved by sinners (cf. 1Ti 2:5, 6; 4:10; 1Jn 2:2). The manner in which God laid our iniquity on Him was that God treated Him as if He had committed every sin ever committed by every person who would ever believe, though He was perfectly innocent of any sin. God did so to Him, so that wrath being spent and justice satisfied, God could then give to the account of sinners who believe, the righteousness of Christ, treating them as if they had done only the righteous acts of Christ. In both cases, this is substitution. See notes on 2Co 5:21.[4]


53:6 All we … every one. The servant, who alone was sinless, was uniquely qualified to bear the sins of others, and all people contributed to his pain. like sheep. Stupid and helpless. the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. See Lev. 16:21–22; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:25.[5]


53:6 All of us have wandered about like sheep The metaphor of wayward Israel as a flock of sheep without a shepherd is a common motif used in prophetic literature (see Isa 56:11; Jer 13:20; 23:1; 49:20; Ezek 34:1–10; Zech 10:2).

This imagery emphasizes Israel’s willful wandering from Yahweh, their punishment of scattering through exile, and the future hope of the ingathering under a new divinely appointed shepherd (see Isa 40:11 and note, and note on Ezek 34:11).

 

have wandered about Sheep tend to get lost and be unaware of the consequences of their actions. Israel (and by extension all humanity) have wandered away from God.

let fall on him the iniquity of Rather than people suffering the consequences for their own sinful actions, their iniquities are placed upon the Servant. He bears the punishment for their mistakes.[6]


53:6 All we. Even as we sinned, so He died for us (2 Cor. 5:14, 15). See theological note “Definite Atonement” on p. 1875

sheep … astray. See 1 Pet. 2:25.

laid. The guilt of our sins was transferred to Jesus, and He offered Himself as a sacrifice in our place. As Paul wrote, God “made him to be sin who knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21).[7]


[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. 979–980). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Grogan, G. W. (2008). Isaiah. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, pp. 800–801). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Is 53:6). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1338). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Is 53:6). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[7] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1224). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

June 6 – Integrity Enjoys God’s Favor

“Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials.”

Daniel 1:9

✧✧✧

God’s favor is the rich reward of obedience.

God delights in granting special grace and favor to those whose hearts are set on pleasing Him. For example, “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” and was spared the ravages of the Flood (Gen. 6:8). Joseph found favor in His sight and was elevated to prominence in Egypt (Gen. 39–41). God granted Moses and the children of Israel favor in the sight of the Egyptians, and they were able to plunder Egypt in the Exodus (Ex. 11:3; 12:36).

When Daniel chose to obey God by not defiling himself with the king’s special diet (Dan. 1:8), he demonstrated great courage and integrity. God responded by granting him favor and compassion in the sight of Ashpenaz, the commander of the king’s officials. The Hebrew word translated “favor” speaks of goodness or kindness. It can also include a strong affection from deep within. “Compassion” means a tender, unfailing love. Together these words tell us that God established a special relationship between Ashpenaz and Daniel that not only protected Daniel from harm in this instance, but also helped prepare him for his future role as a man of enormous influence in Babylon.

Today God’s favor is the special grace He grants His children in times of need. It is especially evident when their obedience brings persecution. The apostle Peter wrote, “This finds favor [grace], if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly…. If when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor [grace] with God” (1 Peter 2:19–20).

Daniel knew that refusing the king’s special diet could lead to serious consequences, but he was more interested in obeying God’s Word than avoiding man’s punishment. He had the right priorities, and God honored his obedience, just as He will honor yours.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: Let the prayer of Moses be yours today: “Let me know Thy ways, that I may know Thee, so that I may find favor in Thy sight” (Ex. 33:13).

For Further Study: Read Genesis 39. What were the results of God’s favor upon Joseph?[1]


1:9 God honored Daniel’s trust and allegiance by sovereignly working favorably for him among the heathen leaders. In this instance, it prevented persecution and led to respect, whereas later on God permitted opposition against Daniel which also elevated him (Da 3, 6). One way or another, God honors those who honor Him (1Sa 2:30; 2Ch 16:9).[2]


1:9 God gave Daniel favor God influences the disposition of foreign palace officials[3]


1:9 God gave Daniel favor. This is a specific answer to Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple in 1 Kin. 8:50.[4]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Da 1:9). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Da 1:9). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[4] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1464). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

June 6 – Examine Yourself

Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

James 4:4

Are you still hanging onto the lifestyle you followed before you became a Christian? As today’s verse reveals, if you didn’t make a conscious effort to cut yourself off from this world when you came to Christ, you have reason to question whether your salvation was genuine.

First John 2:15 says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” When you become a Christian, your desire should be to cut yourself off from the world. Certainly the world will continue to tempt you from time to time, but you’re to forsake the devil’s evil system.

To say that a person can come to Christ without making a break from the world is a lie. There must be a change of lifestyle! It’s not an easy thing to do—Paul commanded us not to live as we did before we came to Christ (Eph. 4:17). But we can live this life because we have a new nature.[1]


4:4 James condemns the inordinate love of material things as spiritual adultery. God wants us to love Him first and foremost. When we love the passing things of this world, we are being untrue to Him.

Covetousness is a form of idolatry. It means that we strongly desire what God does not want us to have. That means that we have set up idols in our hearts. We value material things above the will of God. Therefore, covetousness is idolatry, and idolatry is spiritual unfaithfulness to the Lord.

Worldliness is also enmity with God. The world does not mean the planet on which we live, or the world of nature about us. It is the system which man has built up for himself in an effort to satisfy the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. In this system there is no room for God or His Son. It may be the world of art, culture, education, science, or even religion. But it is a sphere in which the name of Christ is unwelcome or even forbidden, except, of course, as an empty formality. It is, in short, the world of mankind outside the sphere of the true church. To be a friend of this system is to be an enemy of God. It was this world that crucified the Lord of life and glory. In fact, it was the religious world that played the key role in putting Him to death. How unthinkable it is that believers should ever want to walk arm-in-arm with the world that murdered their Savior![2]


4. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

Note the following points:

  • “You adulterous people.” The New International Version makes the text direct and personal with the pronoun you. In the original the first word is an address and means “adulteresses.” This is difficult to interpret literally, especially when the context indicates that James is not introducing a moral issue. As in the preceding verses (4:1–3), we need to understand the phrase you adulterous people figuratively or, more precisely, spiritually.

James is writing to Jewish Christians who are familiar with the term adulteress applied to the marriage relationship of God as husband and Israel as the unfaithful wife. For example, God told the prophet Hosea, “Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord” (Hos. 1:2).

Jesus calls the Pharisees, Sadducees, and teachers of the law “a wicked and adulterous generation” (Matt. 12:39; 16:4; and see Mark 8:38; italics added). Moreover, indirectly Jesus refers to himself as the bridegroom (Matt. 9:15 and parallels) and Paul says that Christ is the husband of the church (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:22–25; also consult Rev. 19:7; 21:9).

  • “Friendship with the world is hatred toward God.” James puts this statement in the form of a question and appeals to the intuitive knowledge of his readers. What husband permits his wife to have an illicit affair with another man? And what do you think of a wife who forsakes marital love by engaging in adulterous relations? What do you think is God’s reaction when a believer becomes enamored with the world? God is a jealous God (Exod. 20:5; Deut. 5:9). He tolerates no friendship with the world.

What does the word world mean? It represents “the whole system of humanity (its institutions, structures, values, and mores) as organized without God.” It is the meaning Paul conveyed when he wrote his second letter addressed to Timothy: “For Demas, because he loved this present world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica” (2 Tim. 4:10).

James is forceful in saying that a person cannot be friendly with the world and with God at the same time. The world does not tolerate friends of God, for they are considered enemies. The reverse is also true. God regards “a friend of the world” an enemy.

  • “An enemy of God.” What a terrifying expression! A friend of God who endures the enmity of the world can always take comfort in the words of the sixteenth-century reformer John Knox, who said, “A man with God on his side is always in the majority.” But the person who meets God as his enemy stands alone, for the world cannot help him. The author of Hebrews concludes, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31).

Who is an enemy of God? The Christian has been placed in the world, even though he is not of the world (John 17:16, 18). The apostle John warns, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). When a person purposely turns to the world to become part of it, he has made a conscious choice of rejecting God and the teaching of his Word. Therefore, anyone who deliberately chooses for the world and against God meets God as his enemy.[3]


Hostility Toward God

You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (4:4)

Adultery is the sin of violating a marriage covenant by having sexual intimacy with someone other than a spouse. In referring to adulteresses, James uses the term metaphorically in a way that his Jewish readers would clearly understand (cf. Matt. 12:39; 16:4; Mark 8:38), referring to men as well as women. He is not talking about sexual but spiritual infidelity, as the term is often used in the Old Testament of God’s unfaithful people, Israel. Through Jeremiah, the Lord said, “I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also” (Jer. 3:8; cf. 2 Chron. 21:11, 13; Ps. 73:27). Similarly, Ezekiel spoke of Judah as an “[adulterous] wife, who takes strangers instead of her husband!” (Ezek. 16:32). As an object lesson, the Lord commanded Hosea: “Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land [that is, Israel] commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord” (Hos. 1:2).

Scripture nowhere uses the terms adulterer or adulteress figuratively of Gentiles, because only Israel had a covenant relationship with God to be unfaithful to, just as husbands and wives have the covenant relationship of marriage. Gentiles could be spiritual fornicators, as it were, but not adulterers—a contemptible distinction reserved for Israel, the unfaithful wife. Whether they turned to pagan gods and idols or simply turned to the world as their supreme love, to do so was to be unfaithful to the Lord and commit spiritual adultery, a figurative name for apostasy.

Jesus spoke of unbelieving Israel of His day as “an evil and adulterous generation” (Matt. 12:39; cf. 16:4; Mark 8:38). It was because most Jews, even those who were religious, had turned away from the Lord and His revealed Word to gods of their own making and to their own man-made traditions that they did not receive Jesus as their Messiah. They used their traditions to interpret Scripture, and in doing so they strayed from and often contradicted Scripture, becoming blinded to God’s truth and even to His own Son (Matt. 15:1–9; Mark 7:1–13; Col. 2:8; cf. John 5:39–40). Despite fierce claims of faithfulness to Judaism and the God of Judaism, they were adulterous and apostate.

The same can be said of those who claim to be Christians and attach themselves to the church but have no saving relationship to God or love for Him or His Word. They were found even in the early church, and James calls them adulteresses. There is no middle ground. As will be discussed below, you can no more spiritually have two gods than you can legally have two spouses.

Friendship translates the noun philia, which is used only here in the New Testament. Its verb form, phileō, is often rendered “love” (e.g., Matt. 6:5; 10:37; 1 Cor. 16:22) and is even used of the Father’s love for the Son (John 5:20) and of the Father’s and the Son’s love for those who have saving faith (John 11:3; 16:27; Rev. 3:19). Though they are often used as synonyms in the New Testament, the more common and stronger verb for love (agapaō) seems to be more volitional, whereas phileō is more emotional. James uses philia to describe intense and deep affection for the evil world system.

The related noun philos (friend) was used of close personal relationships. Perhaps the clearest definition of this word is reflected in Jesus’ teaching in John 15:13–19, where the highest volitional love (agapē) and the highest emotional, affectionate love (philos) are both willing to give the ultimate sacrifice for those who are loved. “Greater love [agapē] has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends [philos],” those for whom he has philos love (v. 13). He then explains that love for Him is tested by obedience to His Word: “You are My friends [philos] if you do what I command you” (v. 14). At their highest, both loves involve the bonds of self-sacrifice and of obedience. They also involve personal intimacy.

No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends [philos], for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. (vv. 15–16)

Jesus’ true friends are those who have received Him as Lord and Savior, who share a common cause, common interests, and common objectives. And those who truly love Him will also “love one another” (v. 17). Finally, He explains that those who truly love Him will not love the world or be loved by the world, since the world is the hostile enemy of God. Jesus confirmed that reality when He said, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you” (vv. 18–19; cf. 17:14). Thus did the apostle John command believers:

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15–17)

Those, on the other hand, who do not belong to Christ belong to the world. They have a longing to be involved with the world’s drives, impulses, attractions, and people, for which they have a determined and habitual attachment. For that reason, James cannot be referring to believers who are temporarily attracted by the things of the world and fall into sin for a while. He is not speaking of occasional spiritual weakness in Christians but of the continual, willing, enjoyed, and ungodly drives of unbelievers. A believer could never be called an enemy of God.

Kosmos (world) does not refer to the physical earth or universe but rather to the spiritual reality of the man-centered, Satan-directed system of this present age, which is hostile to God and God’s people. It refers to the self-centered, godless value system and mores of fallen mankind. The goal of the world is self-glory, self-fulfillment, self-indulgence, self-satisfaction, and every other form of self-serving, all of which amounts to hostility toward God.

Therefore, James continues, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Boulomai (wishes) connotes more than just wanting a desire or wish to be fulfilled. It carries the stronger idea of choosing one thing over another. Similarly, kathistēmi (makes himself) means to appoint, make, or ordain, also indicating conscious intent. Whether he recognizes it in his own mind or not, a person who wishes to be a friend of the world system has chosen to make himself an enemy of God. In his heart, his desire for the world supersedes any supposed positive ideas he may have about God. He does not have a neutral relationship with God, as an impartial bystander or a distant admirer, but is in the fullest sense His enemy. And to be God’s enemy is to remain in spiritual darkness, daily grow more fit for eternal death, and have the sovereign King of the universe as your foe.

Anyone who does not belong to God belongs to the world, and everyone who belongs to the world does not and cannot belong to God. Friends of the world are controlled by the spirit of the world and have no part with the Spirit of God. On the other hand, Paul makes clear that believers “have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God” (1 Cor. 2:12).

Friendship with the world and friendship with God are mutually exclusive. “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” Paul asks rhetorically (2 Cor. 6:14).

Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you.” (vv. 15–17)

Christians have a nature so utterly distinct from the lovers of the world, the followers of Satan, that they should never entertain any of the ways or hold any of the loyalties that characterize unbelievers.

Believers not only are to be separated from the world but dead to the world. Like Paul, they should say, “May it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14). Contrary to Demas, who “loved this present world” and deserted Paul and the church (2 Tim. 4:10), we are to “deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12).

For believers to pursue worldly things goes against the grain of their new nature, and they cannot be comfortable or satisfied until they renounce those things and return to their first love. It is because believers are susceptible to temporary worldliness that Paul warns, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2; cf. 1 Pet. 1:14–16), and, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2). Christians are “to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries” (1 Pet. 4:2–3).

On the other hand, when unbelievers outwardly identify themselves with Christ and His church but do not truly belong to Him, they eventually become uncomfortable. They are like “the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns,” who, as Jesus explains, “is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Matt. 13:22). As James makes so clear, they cannot produce the fruit, the good works, that are necessary proofs of saving faith (James 2:17–20). “Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?” he later asks. “Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Neither can salt water produce fresh” (3:11–12).

The Old Testament has much to say about the enemy of God. David testified, “Surely God will shatter the head of His enemies, the hairy crown of him who goes on in his guilty deeds” (Ps. 68:21), and Solomon declared, “Let the nomads of the desert bow before him, and his enemies lick the dust” (Ps. 72:9). Isaiah proclaimed, “The Lord will go forth like a warrior, He will arouse His zeal like a man of war. He will utter a shout, yes, He will raise a war cry. He will prevail against His enemies” (Isa. 42:13), and Nahum said, “A jealous and avenging God is the Lord; the Lord is avenging and wrathful. The Lord takes vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserves wrath for His enemies” (Nah. 1:2, cf. v. 8).

The New Testament also has much to say about the enemy of God. Luke reports that when Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark

had gone through the whole island [of Cyprus] as far as Paphos, they found a magician, a Jewish false prophet whose name was Bar-Jesus, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence. This man summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for so his name is translated) was opposing them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze on him, and said, “You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord?” (Acts 13:6–10)

Elymas was a sorcerer, a medium who contacted demonic spirits under the guise of summoning up the dead. Under Satan’s influence he sought to undermine the faith of Sergius Paulus, and in doing so incurred that severe rebuke and condemnation by Paul. For all unbelievers, “it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31).

Reciting the blessings and benefits that come to believers because of their salvation and justification before God, Paul told believers in Rome, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom. 5:10). Later in that letter he further explained,

For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. (8:6–9)

The enemy of God is fleshly and by definition devoid of the Holy Spirit (Jude 19).

Looking forward to the future resurrection of believers, when the Lord Jesus Christ takes His own fully to Himself, Paul writes, “But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet” (1 Cor. 15:23–25; cf. Heb. 1:13; 10:13; Nah. 1:2). Jesus will then reign during the Millennium, after which, in the final judgment, all of His remaining enemies, demonic and human, will be cast forever into the lake of fire and brimstone (Rev. 20:8–10).

It is doubtless true that most unbelievers do not consider themselves enemies of God. Many believe that, because they are not openly hostile to God, they actually are friendly toward Him. They may even acknowledge His existence and His goodness, truthfulness, and power. But pleasant, sentimental thoughts about a sovereign divine Being are far from a saving relationship to the true God.

Many unbelievers claim to be sincerely searching for God and simply have not found Him yet. But Paul, quoting David, puts a lie to that claim, saying, “There is none who seeks for God” (Rom. 3:11; cf. Ps. 14:2). Such people may well be searching for what they can get from God—His love, provision, security, hope, and other blessings—but they do not want God Himself. They want a god of their own making to do their own bidding, tolerate their sin, and take them to heaven anyway. They do not want His forgiveness, His righteousness, or His lordship and, consequently, do not really want Him.

Many unbelievers who claim to know God and belong to Christ are outwardly moral, helpful, and friendly. Like the rich young man who told Jesus he had kept all the commandments from his youth (Luke 18:21), they think they have lived basically good and acceptable lives. And for that very reason, they do not feel in need of salvation or of the perfect righteousness of Christ, with which God credits those who trust in His Son.

Some unbelievers who masquerade as Christians have considerable knowledge of the gospel and give it lip service. But, as cited earlier, Peter says of such people that “it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them” (2 Pet. 2:21).

Unbelievers may regularly participate in Christian worship services and other church activities. They may even feel bad about their sins, recognize their imperfection, and, like the governor Felix, have a certain concern about their standing before God, but they never desire to forsake their sin or confess Christ as Lord and Savior (Acts 24:25). Regardless of their outward appearance and profession, the “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil. 3:18) are all of the unredeemed, the unregenerate, those who oppose Jesus Christ, His gospel, and His church, “whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things” (Phil. 3:19).

Before salvation, all Christians were themselves “formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds” (Col. 1:21). But their salvation changed them from enemies of God into His friends. Scripture nowhere refers to believers as enemies of God. Earlier in this letter James clearly identified faith in God with the friendship of God, saying, “the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,’ and he was called the friend of God” (James 2:23; cf. Gen. 15:6; 2 Chron. 20:7; Isa. 41:8).

Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matt. 6:24; cf. Amos 3:3). You cannot, of course, serve God and any other master. Therefore, an enemy of God cannot possibly be a believer, even an unfaithful believer, who, despite his unfaithfulness, will eternally be God’s friend. As believers, we often stumble, doing those things we know we should not and not doing things we know we should. But like Paul, we hate the sins we commit and desire our lives to be pure and holy (see Rom. 7:15–25). Christians can certainly be drawn into the world and its ways, think worldly thoughts and do worldly things, but they can never be happy or content there. [4]


4 In prophetic style, James calls his hearers “adulterous.” The image of an adulteress for people who, turning away from the true God, give themselves to other “gods” has a rich background in the OT, where it is the most common image for apostasy. Israel is like a wandering, faithless wife who turns away from Yahweh, her husband, to go after other gods (e.g., Jer 2:1–3; 5:7; Eze 6:9; 16:1–63; Hos 1:2–3). In the NT Jesus calls those who reject his ministry and teaching an “evil and adulterous generation” (Mt 12:39; 16:4; cf. Mk 8:38). Both the OT’s use of the image and Jesus’ use of it speak of those who, consumed in their own interests, have turned away from faithful love of God. The image is extended to false teachers in 2 Peter 2:14, which asserts that evil, false prophets have “eyes full of adultery,” and the book of Revelation uses the image (in the form of Jezebel) of false teaching as well (2:20–22).

James seizes on the image to speak of divided loyalty, asking, “Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?” He then reiterates, “Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” To embrace the world in friendship is “hatred” (echthra, GK 2397) or “enmity” toward God. The term speaks of being the enemy of someone, or hostile to them, such as when Pilate and Herod were enemies (Lk 23:12), and such relational hatred is one of the deeds of the flesh (Gal 5:20). Christ, on the other hand, breaks down such hostility (Eph 2:14, 16). Most egregious of all is to have a posture of hostility toward God himself (Ro 8:7), as James describes here. Yet the choice of the world and its ways over God and his wisdom constitutes just such a posture, and a choice, either for God or the world, must be made. One cannot have it both ways.[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 175). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2236). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of James and the Epistles of John (Vol. 14, pp. 134–135). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1998). James (pp. 191–198). 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, p. 254). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.