Daily Archives: June 7, 2017

June 7, 2017 Truth2Freedom Briefing Report (US•World•Christian)


Jun. 7, 2017 |


President Donald Trump said Wednesday he will nominate former Justice Department official Christopher A. Wray as FBI director, a day before the man he fired from that post, James Comey, testifies before the Senate.

Donald Trump’s closest friends and allies have begun to publicly warn the president that his Twitter tirades are fueling mayhem in the White House and risk jeopardizing his presidency.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lined up behind Qatar in its feud with Saudi Arabia and regional allies, offering to mediate a resolution of a crisis that has thrown one of the world’s most strategically important regions into turmoil.

Canada is ready to move ahead without its closest global ally if forced to choose between relying on international partners or an increasingly isolationist U.S., a top minister said.

Islamic State claimed its first attack in Iran, as suicide bombers and gunmen struck at the heart of the country’s political and religious establishment on Wednesday.

India kept interest rates unchanged as expected, as the central bank shrugged off slowing growth and vowed to continue to assess whether a drop in inflation to a record low in the $2 trillion economy was transitory.

South Korea’s new president is suspending the installation of remaining components of a controversial U.S. missile shield pending an environmental impact assessment, Yonhap News reported, leaving the system incomplete while North Korea steps up its missile development.

China’s deployment of missiles able to deliver nuclear warheads to U.S. bases on Guam were among the military advancements highlighted in an annual Pentagon report.

Household borrowings have surged to a record $12.73 trillion, and the percentage of debt that is overdue has risen for two consecutive quarters.

From safety-deposit boxes in leafy west London to high-security facilities housing gold and silver in Frankfurt, companies that store valuables are expanding to meet demand.

With about a quarter of all adults now having a tattoo in the U.S. and the U.K., one Swedish startup intends to become the Expedia for getting inked.

AP Top Stories

Nearly 75,000 passengers were stuck when a contractor mistakenly unplugged a power cord at the airline’s data center. All flights out of London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports were canceled after the power outage affected British Airways’ IT systems. There will now be an investigation into the incident.

American warplanes bombed an Iranian-backed militia that entered a supposed no-go zone near a U.S garrison in southern Syria on Tuesday, U.S. officials said.

The White House says Donald Trump won’t invoke executive privilege to block James Comey from testifying before the Senate Intel Committee.

US-backed fighters gained ground against the Islamic State group in the streets of Raqa, a day after their months-long offensive finally broke into the jihadists’ Syrian bastion.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday ordered the military to “crush” Islamist militants still occupying parts of a southern city, as photos emerged of bombed buildings and mangled corpses.

The Russian military said it scrambled a fighter jet Tuesday to intercept and escort a U.S. strategic bomber flying over the Baltic alongside the Russian border.


Twin attacks on the Iranian parliament and Ayatollah Khomeini’s mausoleum in the capital, Tehran, have killed at least 12 people and injured many more.

Indonesia has so many islands it has never been able to fully count or name them. A 1996 law estimated the number of islands in the world’s biggest archipelago at 17,508. But the government is now hoping to get a definite number in time for a United Nations meeting in August.

Customs officials in Shanghai have arrested a woman attempting to smuggle two suitcases into China that were almost entirely made of cocaine. The scan showed her luggage was darker in color than normal, and also that it was unusually heavy even when it was empty. Testing revealed the luggage was made of more than 22lb of cocaine.

The Philippines has temporarily banned its workers from travelling to Qatar after several Arab countries broke off diplomatic ties with the Gulf state.

Germany’s cabinet agreed to move military forces from Turkey to Jordan amid dispute.

Germany’s energy utilities look set to receive refunds of billions of euros after the government’s tax on their use of nuclear fuel rods was declared illegal by the country’s top court.

Bald men in Mozambique could be the targets of ritual attacks following the recent killing of three bald men for their body parts. “The belief is that the head of a bald man contains gold.”


A judge sentenced three Muslim refugee boys in the sexual assault of a 5-year-old girl in Idaho, but nobody knows the length or terms of the sentence because the judge has barred everyone in the courtroom, including the victim’s own parents, from speaking about the case.

A massive worldwide malware attack called “Fireball” is being reported by experts who estimate it already has infected and taken over 250 million computers. And it’s growing.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan – who wants the U.K. to cancel Donald Trump’s upcoming state visit because the president’s “policies go against everything we stand for” – once tried to overturn Britain’s ban on Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

Brain death may no longer be a life sentence if one Philadelphia-based biomedical startup has its way. The company, Bioquark, plans to initiate a study later this year to see if a combination of stem cell and protein blend injections, electrical nerve stimulation, and laser therapy can reverse the effects of recent brain death. They’re literally trying to bring people back from the dead.

The Briefing 06-07-17

Girls need a big dose of dad: Research links detached fathers and risk-taking daughters

Counterintuitive or common sense? Research shows access to contraceptives increases teen pregnancies

Who rates Hollywood’s movies, and what is their criteria? Behind the scenes of the movie rating system

Science, “intelligence genes,” and the quest to understand humanity in merely naturalistic terms

The post The Briefing 06-07-17 appeared first on AlbertMohler.com.

Top News – 6/7/2017

Netanyahu pledges Israel will never give up Golan Heights
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated on Tuesday morning at a youth conference of the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and the Galilee: “I came to tell you that the Golan Heights will always remain under Israeli sovereignty. We will never leave the Golan Heights. It is ours.”

Battle for Britain’s Soul
Many British Christians are understandably frustrated and weary. We have been warning our leaders for so long about the Islamic threat along with the dangers of discarding God’s laws. But, as in the days of Jeremiah, their response is to declare ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace: or tell us that the new morality is good for us because it satisfies our need for ‘diversity and equality’. Of course, if you throw God out of the equation, who’s to judge what is right and wrong?

Top Israeli intel official: Threat of Iran’s Mideast dominance ‘immediate’
The threat from Tehran’s growing strength in Syria should be the number one focus of concern for Israel and the West, a top Israeli intelligence official said…“The Iranian nuclear issue will of course always be a very high priority,” Intelligence Ministry director-general Chagai Tzuriel told The Jerusalem Post…“But the negative potential built-in the nuclear agreement will become more threatening as time goes by, while the threat of Iranian dominance in the region is immediate.”

Palestinian expert: Hamas might end up biggest loser in Qatar dispute
The rupture in relations between Qatar and a number of its Arab neighbors could hurt Hamas, a Palestinian expert said Tuesday. “Assuming that the Arab states continue to pressure Qatar, Hamas could lose the different forms of political, financial and logistical support it receives from Qatar,” said Ghassan Khatib, a vice president of Bir Zeit University. “That would be really bad news for Hamas.”

Philippines bank BPI hit by glitch which debited accounts
The Bank of the Philippines Islands (BPI) says a major system glitch led to customers being hit by unauthorised money withdrawals and deposits. The problematic transactions reached up to thousands of pesos. Some users claimed on social media that their accounts had even gone into the red. BPI chief executive Cezar Consing apologised on Wednesday morning in an interview with a local TV station.

Germany backs pullout from Incirlik airbase in Turkey row
Germany’s cabinet has agreed to move military forces from Turkey to Jordan amid a diplomatic dispute. Turkey has repeatedly refused to allow German MPs to visit the 260 soldiers stationed at the Incirlik airbase. The Ankara government is angry that Germany gave asylum to soldiers accused of involvement in a botched coup.

Pentagon: Beijing Is Arming Its Manmade Islands in South China Sea
China is outfitting its manmade island outposts in the South China Sea with warplane hangars and weapons, the Pentagon said Tuesday in its annual assessment of Beijing’s military. Once finished, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force intends to base three regiments of warplanes there, says the report, which was “generated” on May 15 and released to the public today.

Sears and Walmart sell ‘Free Palestine’ paraphernalia
Sears and Walmart are selling clothes and accessories calling for the liberation of Palestine and an end to “the Israeli occupation.” The web stores of both American retail giants offer a variety of clothing options, including tank tops, short-sleeve shirts and long-sleeve shirts. The shirts feature a fist with the colors of the Palestinian flag above the text, “Free Palestine. End Israeli occupation.”

Netanyahu doubles down on settlements
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has iterated his support for the settlement enterprise, saying, “I have the right, after decades, to be the first prime minister to build a new community in Judea and Samaria.”…Netanyahu referred to the two most pressing issues for settlers—the building taking place today and the possibility that they could be evacuated from their homes as part of an agreement with the Palestinians.

Pro-Assad alliance threatens to hit U.S. positions in Syria
A military alliance fighting in support of President Bashar al-Assad said on Wednesday it could hit U.S. positions in Syria, warning that its “self-restraint” over U.S. air strikes on government forces would end if Washington crossed “red lines”. The threat came in a statement in the name of the “commander of the operations room of the forces allied to Syria”, and was circulated by a military news unit run by the Lebanese group Hezbollah, one of Assad’s military allies.

Massive malware attack enslaves 250 million computers
A massive worldwide malware attack called “Fireball” is being reported by experts who estimate it already has infected and taken over 250 million computers. And it’s growing.

IRAN ATTACK: ISIS claims responsibility for pair of assaults in Tehran
ISIS claimed responsibility for a pair of Wednesday attacks in Tehran in which suicide bombers and teams of gunmen stormed Iran’s parliament and the nearby shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, killing at least 12 and injuring dozens of others.

British PM: Ready to Curb Human Rights Laws to Fight Extremism
British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Tuesday she would be willing to weaken human rights protections to make it easier to deport or curb the movements of suspected terrorists who there is not enough evidence to prosecute. May used one of her final speeches in an election campaign which has turned into a debate about national security to step up her rhetoric against radical Islamic extremism, pledging to ensure security services had the powers they needed.

Police Discover Pipe Bombs Stored in Aqsa-Mosque
“Masked protesters who were inside the mosque threw stones and fireworks at police,” a police statement said. “Suspicious pipes that could be filled with homemade explosives were also found at the entry to the mosque.”

Do stars fall quietly into black holes, or crash into something utterly unknown?
Astronomers in the United States, at the University of Texas at Austin and Harvard University, have put a basic principle of black holes to the test, showing that matter completely vanishes when pulled in.

Saudi Arabia Gives Qatar 24 Hour Ultimatum As Analysts Warn Of “Military Confrontation”
Saudi Arabia has given Qatar a 24 hours ultimatum, starting tonight, to fulfill 10 conditions, among which ending all ties Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

Syphilis cases hit highest level since 1949 amid rise in risky sex
Syphilis cases have reached the highest level since 1949 following a rise in unsafe sex as fears about HIV have faded, new figures suggest.

US Intelligence Says Russian Hackers Are To Blame For Qatar Crisis: CNN
It appears there is nothing in this world that Russian hackers can’t do.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Offered Resignation Amid Trump Tensions
As the White House braces for former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony Thursday, sources tell ABC News the relationship between President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has become so tense that Sessions at one point recently even suggested he could resign.

Russian fighter intercepts U.S. bomber over Baltic Sea
Russia scrambled a fighter jet on Tuesday to intercept a nuclear-capable U.S. B-52 strategic bomber it said was flying over the Baltic Sea near its border, in an incident that had echoes of the Cold War.

13 Alabama counties saw 85 percent drop in food stamp participation after work requirements restarted
Thirteen previously exempted Alabama counties saw an 85 percent drop in food stamp participation after work requirements were put in place on Jan. 1, according to the Alabama Department of Human Resources.

Mid-Day Snapshot

June 7, 2017

MSM Hopes Comey Hearing Precipitates Trump Impeachment. It Won’t.

The former FBI director’s testimony before the Senate Thursday is likely to result in no new information.

The Foundation

“Republics are created by the virtue, public spirit, and intelligence of the citizens. They fall, when the wise are banished from the public councils, because they dare to be honest, and the profligate are rewarded, because they flatter the people, in order to betray them.” —Joseph Story (1833)

June 5, 2017
ALAN KEYES — So, the other shoe has finally dropped on Mr. Trump’s pledge to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, as U.S. law requires. Like Barack Obama and all the other presidents before him, he has signed a waiver postponing compliance with that requirement, which the law also allows…. (more)

June 5, 2017

CLIFF KINCAID — Under the Graham family, the previous owners of the Washington Post, it was always a liberal Democratic Party newspaper. Everyone knew that. Under Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, it has become a left-wing rag, running stories against the Trump administration that are so extreme as to be laughable. The paper’s descent is something to see, especially in regard to Iran’s aggressive and terroristic behavior in the Middle East…. (more)

June 5, 2017
BBC NEWS — Two of the three men who carried out Saturday night’s terror attack in London have been named by police. They said Pakistan-born Khuram Butt, 27, of Barking, London, had been known to police and MI5 but there had not been any intelligence about an attack…. (more)

June 5, 2017
NEWSMAX — British police arrested a dozen people Sunday in a widening terrorism investigation after attackers using a van and large knives turned a balmy evening of nightlife into a bloodbath and killed seven people in the heart of London. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility…. (more)

June 5, 2017

WASHINGTON TIMES — The gruesome van-and-knife rampage in London spurred calls Sunday on both sides of the Atlantic for further homefront offensives in the war on terrorism, with Prime Minister Theresa May endorsing a crackdown on pockets of Islamic extremism in the United Kingdom and President Trump renewing his push for a temporary travel ban in the U.S…. (more)

June 5, 2017
MCCLATCHY DC — Washington will be riveted this week by the drama surrounding former FBI Director James Comey’s expected congressional testimony. But Republicans elsewhere in the country say they couldn’t care less. Interviews with GOP activists across the country, including around a dozen attendees at this weekend’s North Carolina Republican convention, reveal deep mistrust of Comey, who was investigating possible connections between Russia and the Trump campaign before the president fired him…. (more)

June 5, 2017
NEWSMAX — Former Vice President Al Gore warned that President Donald Trump’s decision to leave the Paris climate agreement would likely lead to the end of the world, The Washington Times reported Sunday…. (more)

June 5, 2017
BOB UNRUH — Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, known for his blunt talk on social issues, once remarked that the purpose of a military is to “kill people and break things.” The U.S. military’s reason for existence is now in view as it deals with the social-engineering that took place under President Obama…. (more)

June 4, 2017
WASHINGTON TIMES — Suspected terrorists driving a van mowed down pedestrians on London Bridge late Saturday, and stabbed other victims in a nearby London market neighborhood, British police said. Britain’s Sun newspaper said there were as many as six fatalities and more than 20 people wounded. The BBC reports that at least 30 individuals have been taken to the hospital with others treated by medics on the scene…. (more)

June 4, 2017
DAILY MAIL — Police are today seeking the identities of three Jihadi terrorists who were shot dead by armed police after killing seven people and injuring dozens of others in a horrific van and knife rampage through central London last night. The men, described as being ‘of Mediterranean origin’, mowed down up to 20 revellers as they careered across London Bridge in an ‘S shape’ at 50mph before they began ‘randomly stabbing’ people in nearby Borough Market…. (more)

June 4, 2017
WORLDNETDAILY — London Bridge was evacuated Saturday night after a van crossed a curb and plowed into crowds and at least three terrorists exited and went on a stabbing rampage…. (more)

June 4, 2017
ANDREW C. MCCARTHY — When did the definition of “leadership” in America become “the courage and foresight to ignore the United States Constitution”? The fact that the sun rose again this morning was less predictable than the media-Democrat hysteria over President Trump’s entirely reasonable decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Convention on climate change…. (more)

June 4, 2017
WASHINGTON EXAMINER — Listen closely to the cant and jargon of modern environmentalism, and in the empty invocations of “science,” you are witnessing the rites of a religious faith. If the screams after President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement seemed overwrought, it’s because Trump hadn’t merely adopted a policy the other side disagreed with; he’d committed a secular, liberal, sacrilege…. (more)

June 4, 2017
GEORGE WILL — As changing technologies and preferences make government-funded broadcasting increasingly preposterous, such broadcasting actually becomes useful by illustrating two dismal facts. One is the immortality of entitlements that especially benefit those among society’s articulate upper reaches who feel entitled. The other fact is how impervious government programs are to evidence incompatible with their premises…. (more)

June 4, 2017
NEWSMAX — Comedian Alec Baldwin reached out to Kathy Griffin to offer words of consolation in light of the backlash she received over her photo shoot where she held a fake bloody severed head of President Donald Trump, the Washington Examiner reported Saturday…. (more)

June 3, 2017
CLIFF KINCAID — A top official of the Communist Vietnamese dictatorship spoke on Wednesday at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. The speech was entitled “Opportunities and Challenges to Peace, Security, Cooperation and Development in the Asia-Pacific and the Growth of Vietnam – – U.S. Comprehensive Partnership.” It was advertised on the Heritage website with a beautiful scenic photo, apparently of Vietnam, carrying the caption “In the midst of complex issues, Vietnam is working to find the best path forward to guarantee the prosperity and security of its people.” It sounds like heaven on earth…. (more)

June 3, 2017
ASSOCIATED PRESS — A former top spy agency official who was the target of a government leak investigation says the National Security Agency conducted blanket surveillance in Salt Lake City during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah, according to court documents…. (more)

June 3, 2017
BBC NEWS — Leo Varadkar is set to become the Republic of Ireland’s next taoiseach (prime minister) after winning the leadership of the Fine Gael party. The 38-year-old will become the first gay taoiseach and will also be the country’s youngest ever leader…. (more)

June 3, 2017
NEWSMAX — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Friday said President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate pact was a “dishonor” to God and wondered how he would explain the impact to his grandchildren, The Washington Free Beacon reported Friday…. (more)

June 3, 2017
NEWSMAX — North Korea is accelerating its push to acquire a nuclear-armed missile capable of threatening the United States and other nations, and the U.S. regards this as a “clear and present danger,” U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Saturday…. (more)

June 3, 2017
JOE WILSON — In the aftermath of President Trump’s announcement Thursday afternoon that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate-change accord, a fierce debate has raged between globalist climate-change activists and American economic pragmatists over whether the decision is right for America and for the world at large…. (more)

June 3, 2017
WORLDNETDAILY — Since well before former President Barack Obama signed onto it as an executive agreement (because he knew the Senate wouldn’t ratify it), a number of large American corporations have supported the Paris climate accord. As the time neared when President Donald Trump would announce whether he would keep his campaign promise to withdraw from it, some signed an open letter advising him not to…. (more)

June 3, 2017
CHERYL CHUMLEY — Kathy Griffin, the sometimes comedian who was just ousted from her sometime CNN hosting slot – – and fired from New Year’s Eve broadcasting duties – – after she posed for pictures while holding a faux bloodied head of President Donald Trump, may have apologized for her outrageous behavior…. (more)

June 2, 2017

WESLEY PRUDEN — Uncle Sugar doesn’t live here any more, and he didn’t leave a forwarding address. This is the message, spoken loud and clear by Donald Trump Thursday in the White House Rose Garden, and it’s just now getting through to the easy riders out there…. (more)

June 2, 2017
ART MOORE — He prayed alongside well-known Muslim Brotherhood figures, including the leaders of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR…. (more)

2h ago2h ago

What is The Gospel?

Who Do You Think That I Am?

Selected Scriptures

Code: A335

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

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

Consider what the Bible says about Him:


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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CultureWatch: Two Humanities, Two Destinies

I remember some years ago a very liberal Christian attacked me for suggesting that there are actually two classes of humanity: the people of God, and those who are not God’s people. He thought that this was an unloving, judgmental and divisive thing to believe and say.

He believed that we are all one big happy family, and there should be no talk about two humanities, or two destinies, or the saved and the lost, or the righteous and the unrighteous, or sinners and saints. He felt that God was an inclusive God who embraces everyone, and we make things hard on sinners if we speak of two humanities.

Sadly many folks believe this lie, including some very popular Christian leaders of today. One noted writer whose books and films have been adored by countless Christians is William Paul Young. But he is one of those who believe that at the end of the day we are included in God’s love.

He is a universalist in other words, who thinks we all are ultimately saved, whether we like it or not. And the very hell he seeks to deny is where millions of folks will go, including those who believe his false teachings. I have written about his older book The Shack as well as his newest book. See here:


two roads 4Many others have written about him and his damaging views, including James De Young. In addition to his earlier helpful writings about William Paul Young, he has recently penned an article which looks at his long-standing universalism which is well worth reading: burningdowntheshackbook.com/truth-versus-lies/

One sure way to dispel this faulty notion of one humanity which is all happily reconciled to God is to simply read what the Word of God has to say about this. When we do, we find that from Genesis to Revelation there is always talk about two humanities.

We have the saved and the unsaved. The godly and the ungodly. The righteous and the unrighteous. The redeemed and the lost. And this is found in the earliest biblical accounts of man. Just as soon as Adam and Eve fell, God told them about a divided humanity which would be continuous, extending throughout the generations. Genesis 3:15 says:

And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.

Here we have talk about a godly seed or line, and an ungodly seed or line. And the fact that God chooses some people to be his own also demonstrates how we have two main groups of people. The choice of Israel over all other nations is a prime example of this. We find this often discussed in Scripture.

In Exodus 8:22-23 for example we read this: “But on that day I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, the Lord, am in this land. I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This sign will occur tomorrow.”

Other texts speak of the crucial division between Israel and non-Israel. Exodus 11:6-7 says, “There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal. Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.”

And we find this in Leviticus 18:3: “You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices.” Consider as well Leviticus 20:22-26:

Keep all my decrees and laws and follow them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them. But I said to you, “You will possess their land; I will give it to you as an inheritance, a land flowing with milk and honey.” I am the Lord your God, who has set you apart from the nations. You must therefore make a distinction between clean and unclean animals and between unclean and clean birds. Do not defile yourselves by any animal or bird or anything that moves along the ground—those that I have set apart as unclean for you. You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.

The wisdom literature is of course filled with talk of the two humanities. Let me offer just a few of these passages:

-Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers.
-Psalm 11:5 The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion.
-Psalm 37:17 for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous.
-Psalm 37:37-38 Consider the blameless, observe the upright;
a future awaits those who seek peace.
But all sinners will be destroyed;
there will be no future for the wicked.
-Proverbs 3:33 The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous.
-Proverbs 10:3 The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.
-Proverbs 15:29 The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.

The prophets too spoke about this. Let me offer just two texts, the first one being Daniel 12:10: “Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.”

The second is Malachi 3:18:

Then you shall again discern
Between the righteous and the wicked,
Between one who serves God
And one who does not serve Him.

Things remain the same when we get to the New Testament. The gospels often dwell on this. Jesus led the way in emphasising this. As he said in Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

And consider Matthew 25:31-46 which speaks about the judgment between sheep and goats. Other gospel texts that can be mentioned include:

-Mark 8:35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.
-John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God
-John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

And in John 8:31-47 we read about the dispute concerning whose children Jesus’ opponents are. In verse 39 they say, “Abraham is our father”. But in verse 44 Jesus replies, “you are of your father the devil”. Whom, sure sounds like two different lines there – a godly and an ungodly line.

Jesus and the disciples also spoke about the two humanities in terms of the future resurrection and judgment. As we find in Acts 24:15: “I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.”

Paul too speaks in such terms. In 1 Corinthians 1:18 he writes, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” And in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 he says, “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Peter also speaks about the two humanities. For example, 1 Peter 2:10 puts it this way: “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” And this is clearly spelled out in the book of Revelation. Consider Revelation 20:11–15:

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

This is just a small selection of the numerous passages which clearly delineate the two humanities and the two destinies. We are not all one big happy family of God. We are all born sinners, but only those who repent and put their faith in God can claim to be part of his household.

People may squabble over competing sports teams and boast about which side they are on. And folks can claim allegiance to a nation or a philosophy or a lifestyle, over against all the others. But the one thing that really matters is which side you are on when it comes to the two humanities.

That is the most important issue we need to deal with. Moses put it this way: “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Joshua put it this way: “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).

Jesus put it this way: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). And John put it this way: “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12).

Please choose wisely.

[1910 words]

The post Two Humanities, Two Destinies appeared first on CultureWatch.

Seven Personality Types of Sick Churches

Sick churches become dying churches.

Dying churches become closed churches.

Those statements are factual unless some type of change or intervention takes place. But intervention or change is unlikely unless the church recognizes that it is sick.

In simple terms, we must first be aware that many of our churches are sick.

In order to help create greater awareness, I have described illustratively seven personality types of sick churches. For certain, no one church is a perfect illustration of any one type. But I am confident you will recognize churches that have taken on one of these seven as a dominant personality type.

  1. The Denier. Several years ago I did a consultation at a church in the Midwest. The church’s worship attendance had declined by over 60 percent the past ten years, but most of the members I interviewed told me the church was fine. That church will be “fine” all the way to its closing.
  2. The Deflector. In these churches you hear constant complaints about what others outside the church are doing wrong. It’s the denomination’s fault. It’s the culture’s fault. It’s the young people’s fault. And, too many times, it’s always the pastor’s fault. Thus the church’s pattern is a series of short-term pastorates.
  3. The Cool Kid. These churches are rarely viewed as sick. They are typically growing numerically, and often are seen as the cool church in town. But their growth is largely tied to a single ministry, like bus ministries of the past, or to a charismatic leader. When the charismatic leader or the hot ministry goes away, the church declines dramatically. This illness is particularly dangerous because of its superficial appearance of robust health.
  4. The Nostalgic. The nostalgic church lives in the past. It longs for “Brother Bill,” the pastor of thirty years ago. The members are convinced if they would just return to music styles and programs of the past, everything would be fine. These churches grow increasingly unhealthy because they exert so much effort to resist change.
  5. The Street Fighter. These churches are downright mean. Their business meetings are more like a street fight. Bullies and critics often control the church, while the majority of the members remain silent in cowardly fear. The healthier members exit quickly, exacerbating the sickness of the mean church.
  6. The Autopilot. These churches do things they way they’ve always done them because they know of no other way. They don’t necessarily resist change, because they don’t even see the need for change. As long as we do the church the way we did it in 1974, we will be fine.
  7. The Living Dead. There are few active members left in these churches. Most of the members recognize the church is sick, because the worship center is 83 percent vacant. Often the remaining members become desperate and somewhat open to change. Unfortunately, it is usually too late to do anything. The church is on the precipice of death.

I share these less-than-pleasant realities with the prayerful hope they could be used by God as a wake-up call to leaders and members of sick churches. And in my next post, I will share the dismal topic of the six stages of church death with that same hope and prayer.

Source: Seven Personality Types of Sick Churches

Free E-Book: The Case for the Creator by Lee Strobel

One of my favorite features on Truthbomb is our Free Apologetics E-book Library located here.

We have recently added a Free PDF version of Lee Strobel’s book The Case for a Creatorfrom Northwestern Theological Seminary’s free online resources. 

For those who haven’t read this work, it features compelling arguments for the existence of God.

You can get it here.

Muslims Angry That Group Puts Up ‘Perfect Man’ Billboard That Tells The Truth About Mohammad

A billboard on the east side of Indianapolis is catching the eyes of drivers, along with the ire of local Muslim groups.

You can spot the sign from the southbound lanes of I-465 near the Washington Street exit. It claims to list the “perfect man,” but opponents say it degrades the Muslim prophet Mohammad.

“I was a little disappointed when I saw that,” said Farial Khatri of the Islamic Society of North America.

Opponents say the billboard’s bullet points are meant to disparage the Muslim faith and its primary prophet, Mohammad. “We’ve seen them in New York and several others cities on billboards as well as other transit ads,” said Kahtri.

There’s no company name or identifying group on the display, but Google “Truthophobes,” a word seen at the bottom of the billboard, and you’ll find a range of websites rife with anti-Muslim messages.

“We do support free speech, but we do realize this is also rooted in bigotry,” said Kahtri.

Other groups say they want to do more than just speak out against the display. The Muslim Alliance of Indiana says it’s planning to raise money to put up its own billboard nearby to spread a message of peace and kindness.

Let’s see if there is any truth to the ‘perfect man’ billboard, shall we?

The billboard then lists six bullet points about Mohammed to describe him. The points include: “Married a 6-year-old,” “Slave owner & dealer,” “rapist,” “Beheaded 600 Jews in one day,” “13 wives, 11 at one time” and “Tortured & killed unbelievers.”

Let us review and compare each point with history to see if this billboard is ‘hate speech’ or the truth.

  • Did Mohammad married a 6-year old?: Did Mohammad really marry a 6-year old girl? Yes, according to the online Muslim community Ummah. “Prophet married Aisha when she was 6-years-old and consummated his marriage with her when she was 9. He was then, 54 years old.” source Result: TRUE
  • Was Mohammad was a slave owner and trader?: Much could be written about Muhammad’s prolific and well-documented relationship with slaves, but one of the most insightful examples comes from this hadith (which is repeated elsewhere):

    The Prophet sent for a woman from the emigrants and she had a slave who was a carpenter.  The Prophet said to her “Order your slave to prepare the wood (pieces) for the pulpit.”  So, she ordered her slave who went and cut the wood from the tamarisk and prepared the pulpit, for the Prophet.  When he finished the pulpit, the woman informed the Prophet that it had been finished.  The Prophet asked her to send that pulpit to him, so they brought it.  The Prophet lifted it and placed it at the place in which you see now. (Bukari 47:743)

    According to this hadith, the very pulpit that Muhammad preached Islam from was constructed from slave labor on his command! source Result: TRUE

  • Was Mohammad a rapist?: It is against Islam to rape Muslim women, but Muhammad actually encouraged the rape of others captured in battle. This hadith provides the context for the Qur’anic verse (4:24):

    The Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) sent a military expedition to Awtas on the occasion of the battle of Hunain.  They met their enemy and fought with them.  They defeated them and took them captives. Some of the Companions of the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) were reluctant to have intercourse with the female captives in the presence of their husbands who were unbelievers.  So Allah, the Exalted, sent down the Qur’anic verse: (Sura 4:24) “And all married women (are forbidden) unto you save those (captives) whom your right hands possess.” (Abu Dawud 2150, also Muslim 3433)

    Actually, as the hadith indicates, it wasn’t Muhammad, but “Allah the Exalted” who told the men to rape the women in front of their husbands – which is all the more reason to think of Islam differently from other religions. source Result: TRUE

  • Did Mohammad behead 600 Jews in one day?: Muhammad and his band of immigrants arrived in Medina in 622 completely dependent on the hospitality of the three Jewish tribes that lived there alongside the Arabs.  In less than two years, two of the tribes that had welcomed him, the Banu Qaynuqa and the Banu Nadir would be evicted, losing their land and their wealth to the Muslims as soon as their guests gained the power to conquer and confiscate.  Muhammad accomplished this by deftly exploiting his opponents divisions. The Banu Qurayza trible, all Jewish, were put to death by beheading with the approval of Mohammad. source Result: TRUE
  • Did Mohammad have 13 wives?: According to Anas ibn Malik, the Prophet Muhammad used to visit all eleven of his wives in one night; but he could manage this, as he had the sexual prowess of thirty men. The historian Al-Tabari calculated that Muhammad married a total of fifteen women, though only ever eleven at one time; and two of these marriages were never consummated. This tally of fifteen does not include at least four concubines. According to Merriam-Webster, a concubine is “a woman with whom a man cohabits without being married”, and has a “social status in a household below that of a wife.” All of Muhammad’s concubines were his slaves. Al-Tabari also excludes from the fifteen several other women with whom Muhammad had some kind of marriage contract but who, due to legal technicalities, never became full wives. source Result: TRUE
  • Finally, did Mohammad torture and kill unbelievers?: For the answer to this one, we shall simply quote the Qu’ran 5:33, which says

    “The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement.”

    There are 108 more verses that call for the execution and torture of the non-believer, and you can read them hereResult: TRUE

So as you can clearly see, while the ‘Perfect Man’ billboard might be an inconvenient truth for Muslims today, it is indeed 100% true. Far from being a perfect man, Mohammad spread his religion of Islam by the sword while he raped, pillaged and plundered his way across the Middle East. This is not hate speech, this is historical fact.

And if you are looking for a Perfect Man, the Bible says you can find Him here:

“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 (KJV)

This world’s only perfect man is Jesus of Nazareth.

Source: Muslims Angry That Group Puts Up ‘Perfect Man’ Billboard That Tells The Truth About Mohammad

June 7, 2017: Verse of the day


“Behold the Man!”

John 19:1–5

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they struck him in the face.

Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”

The eighteenth and nineteenth chapters of John’s Gospel deal with the trials of Jesus of Nazareth beginning with his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane and culminating in his crucifixion, as recorded in John 19:16–30. But strictly speaking, what we have in the first part of chapter 19 is not a trial. In fact, we have not been dealing with a trial in any strict sense since Pilate’s initial verdict of acquittal recorded in verse 38 of the preceding chapter. Jesus is still in the hands of the Roman procurator; the words that were to deliver him over to be crucified have not been uttered. But the trial actually ended earlier when Pilate said, “I find no basis for any charge against him.”

What occurs in the interval between the formal verdict of acquittal (John 18:38) and the execution of Jesus (John 19:16–30) is a series of attempts by Pilate to escape the people’s wishes. He knew Jesus was innocent of the charges brought against him; but since the rulers wanted Jesus crucified, Pilate (1) sent Jesus to Herod hoping that Herod would solve his dilemma, (2) attempted to release Jesus instead of Barabbas in honor of Jewish custom, and (3) caused Jesus to be beaten, hoping by this means to evoke pity from the leaders and mob. None of these stratagems worked. But each, as we have already begun to see, shows much about the nature of the human heart and its sin as well as about God’s plan for the redemption of the race through Jesus’ crucifixion.

Each event is pregnant with meaning, for never in the entire history of the world has so much, done in so short a time, been so significant.

What Man is This?

It was asked on an earlier occasion when Jesus had stilled the wind and waves on the Sea of Galilee, “What manner of man is this?” We may well ask the same question as we see him brought forth by Pilate after the merciless scourging by the soldiers of Rome. Here was One who, though he had been beaten unjustly, nevertheless bore himself with such dignity that the invitation of Pilate to “behold the man” is to see that which clearly overwhelms us. We hear the invitation: “Ecce homo (Behold the man!)” We look, and we conclude, “Never in all the history of the world has there been one like Jesus!”

Let me challenge you to behold him. Behold him first before Pilate, and ask, “Who is this one who stands before Pilate, beaten to the point of death, wearing a purple robe, crowned with thorns, ridiculed as the carnival King of the Jews?”

First of all, he is an innocent man. No crime has been proven against him. And not only has he already been pronounced innocent by Pilate, he is to be pronounced innocent several times more. It was the verdict of all who had dealings with him in these hours. First, Judas declared, “I have sinned, for I have betrayed innocent blood” (Matt. 27:4). Second, Pilate’s wife sent to the Roman procurator, saying, “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him” (Matt. 27:19). Third, Pilate himself declared Christ innocent: “I find no basis for a charge against him” (John 18:38). Fourth, Herod found Christ blameless, for Pilate reported of Herod’s verdict, “Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death” (Luke 23:15). Fifth, the dying thief expostulated, “We are punished justly; for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:41). Sixth, the centurion in charge of the crucifixion said, “Surely this was a righteous man” (Luke 23:47). Lastly, the crowds at the cross, seeing the earthquake and the other supernatural signs accompanying his death, exclaimed, “Surely this was the Son of God” (Matt. 27:54).

This is the verdict of all who have looked at Jesus of Nazareth closely. It is the verdict of God and man, friend and foe, ancient and modern—as pointed out in a previous study.

As we look at Jesus before Pilate we also notice that he is a brave man. He had been beaten mercilessly, yet there is nothing cringing or compromising about his bearing. We have never seen a scourging, so it is hard to imagine the suffering involved in it. We should remember that the victim was stripped of clothing and tied to a post in a way that fully exposed the back. Being struck with a long leather thong (into which sharp pieces of lead, bone, and rock had been inserted) literally tore the person’s back into strips. Besides, the beating was so prolonged that few remained conscious throughout the ordeal and some died. Jesus bore this. Yet it was after his suffering that Pilate led him forth and called the people to “Behold the man!”

Was there wonder, even admiration in Pilate’s voice as he said this? There is room to think so. I suspect that William Barclay is on the right track when he writes: “It must have been Pilate’s first intention to awaken the pity of the Jews. ‘Look!’ he said. ‘Look at this poor, bruised, bleeding creature! Look at this wretchedness! Can you possibly wish to hound a creature like this to an utterly unnecessary death?’ But even as he said it, we can almost hear the tone of Pilate’s voice change and see the wonder dawn in his eyes. And instead of saying it half-contemptuously, to awaken pity, he says it with a dawning wonder and an admiration that will not be repressed.” In wartime soldiers will frequently admire the bravery of a defeated enemy, wondering how they themselves might bear up under similar suffering were the roles reversed. Did Pilate, an old soldier, perhaps inwardly respect Christ’s fortitude?

But it is not only bravery that we see in the man before Pilate. There is also majesty, and such majesty as befits the Son of God. Behold the man? Yes. But behold the King, too! And here we do not mean merely the mock king of the soldiers’ devising. We mean the true King, the King of kings, whose dignity and grace shone through even in the moment of his greatest physical humiliation. This was a great man. But this was also God, as the resurrection was soon to indicate (Rom. 1:4).

Before the Crowds

Jesus appeared that day not only before Pilate. He also appeared before the crowds. Indeed, this seems to be the reason for the scourging; for with the stage presence and sense of audience psychology characteristic of a great trial lawyer, Pilate first seemed to pronounce him innocent and then suddenly produced him to have the crowd see him in his beaten and humiliated state. We know what Pilate expected—an upsurge of pity from the fickle mob. But Pilate miscalculated, for there broke forth a new round of hatred and hostility against Jesus.

Why was this? Why did the presence of Jesus incite such violent hatred? Some writers have suggested that it was an easily understood pattern of psychological reaction: the people saw mirrored in the beaten and disfigured Jesus that moral deformity that they saw, or feared to discover, in themselves. It would be similar to that distaste that so many show for the poor, the deformed, or the dead. There is fear that they will be like them. But this is not the real explanation of the crowd’s increasing opposition to and hatred of Jesus. The thing that bothered them about Jesus on this occasion was what had bothered them all along. It was his sinlessness, the awareness of which was heightened by the entirely unwarranted scourging of Jesus and their culpability in that injustice. None care to admit it, but there is in the unsaved person’s heart that which leads people to oppose true righteousness.

In his commentary on John, Harry Ironside tells of a meeting of the Synod of the Free Church of Scotland many years ago. One minister was invited to preach the sermon on a particular Sunday morning, and he gave a marvelous oration on the beauty of virtue. He concluded, “Oh, my friends, if virtue incarnate could only appear on earth, men would be so ravished with her beauty that they would fall down and worship her.” Many went out saying, “What a magnificent oration that was!”

The same evening another man preached. He did not preach about virtue and beauty. He preached Christ and him crucified. As he closed his sermon he said, “My friends, Virtue Incarnate has appeared on earth, and men instead of being ravished with his beauty and falling down and worshipping him, cried out, ‘Away with him! Crucify him! We will not have this man to rule over us!’ ” The second man was right. We do not like to hear it. We resent those who tell us. But the truth is that the natural man hates God’s holiness and will do anything rather than allow the light of Christ to penetrate his own deep darkness.

The Masses Today

Third, I want you to “behold the man” as he appears before the masses today. It is the same man, the same Jesus of Nazareth. But while it is true that some do hate him and openly seek to destroy his influence and even his good name, most in our day simply ignore him and thus add insult to injury, suggesting by their neglect that he is hardly worthy of attention.

Those who work on the campuses of our country think this is the case. I received an appeal letter from the head of a large Christian college organization. It said in part, “Some of these institutions and their faculty are openly hostile to the Christian faith. Their students ridicule the Bible and those who believe it. At other schools, God is simply ignored.” I would like to have asked this leader how he would balance the percentages. Are most hostile? Or are most unconcerned? I believe that most are unconcerned, or at least try to be. And if this is true on the campuses, it is even more true of the nation at large. Most people will talk about anything but Christianity. And if we were to judge matters by the secular press and other media, we would be hard pressed to know that Jesus even existed, let alone discover anything accurate or significant about him.

To these we wish to say, “Behold the master! Do not look away. Do not be too busy. It would be tragic were you to gain the whole world and lose your soul.” Yet this is precisely what many will do. They will be lost and not even know they are lost until the reality of the final judgment comes grimly upon them.

Jesus spoke of this shortly before his crucifixion. In the sermon given on the Mount of Olives in the middle of his last week in Jerusalem, Jesus used three gripping parables to teach what the final judgment would be like for such people. One parable was about ten virgins who had been invited to a wedding banquet. Five were wise and five were foolish. The five wise virgins prepared for the banquet by buying oil for their lamps. The five foolish virgins did not. As they waited in the long evening hours all the attendants fell asleep. Suddenly a cry went forth, “Behold the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him.” They rose, but the five foolish virgins had no oil for their lamps. On the advice of the wise they set out to buy some. But while they were getting their oil the bridegroom came and the wedding party followed him into the house and the door was shut. Later the five foolish virgins returned and called at the door, “Lord, Lord, open to us.”

But he answered, “Truly, I do not know you.”

Jesus concluded, “Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour” (Matt. 25:13).

The second parable was about three servants. Their master was to go on a journey. So he called the servants to him and gave each money: to the first, five talents; to the second, two talents; and to the third, one talent—each according to his ability. Then he went away, and the servants who had received five talents and two talents respectively invested the money while the third servant hid his talent in the ground. After a long time the master returned and asked for an accounting. The man who had received five talents produced those talents plus five more. The servant who had received two talents produced two talents plus two more. But the one who had been given only one talent returned only that one to the Lord, saying, “Master, I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you” (Matt. 25:24–25). The master condemned that servant, taking away his talent and casting him forth “into the darkness” (v. 30).

Finally, the Lord told the parable of the separation of the sheep from the goats. The goats are the lost, and they are condemned because they neglected to feed the Lord when he was hungry, give him drink when he was thirsty, welcome him when he was a stranger, clothe him when he was naked, visit him when he was sick, and comfort him when he was cast in prison. They say, “But when did we see you hungry or thirsty or lonely or naked or sick?”

He replies, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these [my brothers], you did not do for me” (v. 45). On the other hand, he welcomes those who did these things for his brethren.

Each of these parables, though quite different from the others in detail, is nevertheless one with them in its essential features. In each case, there is a sudden return of the Lord which demands an accounting. In each case, there are some who are prepared for his coming and others who are not. In each case, there are rewards and judgments. Most remarkable of all, in each case those who are lost are totally amazed at the outcome. The foolish virgins are astounded that the bridegroom will not open the door to them. The wicked and lazy servant clearly expected the master to be pleased with his zero-growth performance. The goats cannot believe that they have actually rejected Jesus. They say, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?” (Matt. 25:44). They are overwhelmed as he sends them away unto “eternal punishment” (v. 46).

Thus it will be with our generation. We have more opportunities to learn about Christ in our day than ever before in human history. Books and magazines and radio programs and movies and television have all told about him. The call has gone forth, “Behold the man! Look to this one for salvation. He loves you, he died for you. He rose again. Turn from your sin and place your trust in him as your Savior!” But many go blithely on and will be overwhelmed in the day of God’s reckoning.

Behold the King

Today is the day of God’s grace. And the wisdom of the just in this day consists, as Paul expressed it, in knowing nothing among men save “Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Now we see him offered to us for salvation. His death is our life. But the day is coming when this period of grace will end, and the One who was judged by the tribunals of this world will be Judge.

One author writes, “How long may it be before we hear the sound of another ‘Ecce homo!’? But if we then lift up our eyes, a different form will present itself to our view than that which we saw on Gabbatha. The King of Glory will then have exchanged the robe of mockery for the starry mantle of divine Majesty, the wreath of thorns for a crown of glory, and the reed for the scepter of universal dominion.” What will it be in that day? Will it be judgment? Or will the rod be extended as a symbol of his gracious favor as he declares, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matt. 25:34). The answer depends on how you behold him now and whether you will surrender to him as your Lord.[1]

5 Jesus emerges into the bright light of the morning “wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe.” Though it is probably more conjecture than exegesis to discuss the precise nuance of Pilate’s declaration, a good case can be made from the context that what he said was something like, “Here he is, poor fellow! Isn’t it ridiculous to consider this hapless creature as holding any pretensions to kingship?” While Pilate may have spoken with feigned contempt, John and others across the centuries have understood “the man” quite differently. Morris, 793, writes that “John intends ‘the man’ to evoke memories of Jesus’ favorite self-designation.” Tasker, 208, says that as Christians reread these famous words, they see in them “humanity at its best, the suffering Servant in whom God delights.” Others discern an allusion to Zechariah 6:12 (“Here is the man whose name is the Branch”). In the Latin Bible the phrase is translated Ecce homo, which has provided the name for the famous arch that marks the starting place of the Via Dolorosa.[2]

[1] Boice, J. M. (2005). The Gospel of John: an expositional commentary (pp. 1465–1470). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[2] Mounce, R. H. (2007). John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 627). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


June 7 – Receiving the Word in Humility

“In humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).


A humble heart is a teachable heart.

Scripture speaks of a past, present, and future aspect of salvation. You have been saved from the penalty of sin (salvation), are being saved from the power of sin (sanctification), and will ultimately be saved from the presence of sin (glorification). At first glance James 1:21 may sound like it’s written to unbelievers, urging them to receive the Word, which is able to redeem them. But the phrase “save your souls” carries the idea that the implanted Word has the ongoing power to continually save one’s soul. It’s a reference to the present and ongoing process of sanctification, which is nurtured by the Spirit-energized Word of God.

The Word was implanted within you by the Holy Spirit at the time of your salvation. It is the source of power and growth for your new life in Christ. Your responsibility is to receive it in purity and humility so it can do its sanctifying work.

“Humility” in James 1:21 could be translated “meekness,” “gentleness,” or “having a willing spirit”, but I prefer “teachability.” If your heart is pure and humble, you will be teachable and will set aside all resentment, anger, and pride so you can learn God’s truth and apply it to your life.

When Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15), He was addressing this very issue. If you love Him, you will desire to obey Him and will receive His Word so you can know His will for your life. As you receive the Word, the Holy Spirit empowers you to live according to its principles.

Paul said, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another … and whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col. 3:16–17). That’s the essence of a Biblical lifestyle and the fruit of receiving the Word in humility. May God bless you with a teachable spirit and an ever-increasing love for His truth.


Suggestions for Prayer:  Ask God to keep your heart tender towards Christ and His Word.

For Further Study: Read Nehemiah 8. ✧ Who read God’s Word to the people? ✧ How did the people respond? ✧ Would you characterize them as receivers of the Word? Explain.[1]

1:21 Another way to manifest ourselves as firstfruits of His creatures is to lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness. These vices are likened to soiled garments which are to be set aside once for all. Filthiness includes every form of impurity, whether spiritual, mental, or physical. The expression “overflow of wickedness” may refer to those forms of evil which are a holdover from our unconverted days. It may refer to sins which overflow from our lives and touch the lives of others. Or it may refer to abounding evil, in which case James is not so much describing an excess of evil, but the intensely wicked character which evil has. The over-all meaning is clear. In order to receive the truth of the word of God, we must be morally clean.

Another requirement for the reception of divine truth is meekness. It is all too possible to read the Bible without letting it speak to us. We can study it in an academic way without being affected by it. Our pride and hardness and sin make us unreceptive and unresponsive. Only those with submissive, humble spirits can expect to derive the maximum benefit from the Scriptures. “The humble He guides in justice, and the humble He teaches His way” (Ps. 25:9). “But on this one I will look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isa. 66:2).

James speaks of the Scriptures as the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. The thought is that the word becomes a sacred deposit in the Christian’s life when he is born again. The margin of the RV reads “the inborn word.” This word is able to save your souls. The Bible is the instrument God uses in the new birth. He uses it in saying the soul not only from the penalty of sin, but from its power as well. He uses it in saving us not only from damnation in eternity, but from damage in this life. It is doubtless this present, continuing aspect of salvation James is speaking of in verse 21.[2]

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

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

The verse teaches these points:

  • A command

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

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

  • An imperative

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

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

  • A result

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

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

Willingness to Receive the Word in Humility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 171). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

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

[3] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of James and the Epistles of John (Vol. 14, pp. 58–59). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1998). James (pp. 75–77). Chicago: Moody Press.

[5] Guthrie, G. H. (2006). James. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 225–226). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me….


“Things have come to a pretty pass,” said a famous Englishman testily, “when religion is permitted to interfere with our private lives.”

To which we may reply that things have come to a worse pass when an intelligent man living in a Protestant country could make such a remark. Had this man never read the New Testament? Had he never heard of Stephen? or Paul? or Peter? Had he never thought about the millions who followed Christ cheerfully to violent death, sudden or lingering, because they did allow their religion to interfere with their private lives? But we must leave this man to his conscience and his Judge and look into our own hearts. Maybe he but expressed openly what some of us feel secretly. Just how radically has our religion interfered with the neat pattern of our own lives? Perhaps we had better answer that question first.

One picture of a Christian is a man carrying a cross: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”

The man with the cross no longer controls his destiny; he lost control when he picked up his cross. That cross immediately became to him an all-absorbing interest, an overwhelming interference. There is but one thing he can do; that is, move on toward the place of crucifixion![1]

19–20 These verses contain four propositions: (1) “Through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God”; (2) “I have been crucified with Christ”; (3) “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me”; and (4) “the life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Determining the meaning of each of these statements will aid in understanding Paul’s intention in this section.

Stating “through the law I died to the law” further expounds the assertion Paul made at v. 18 that he is not a transgressor of the law. When Paul speaks of “dying to” something elsewhere, he means to say metaphorically that all relationship to that entity has been cut off (cf. “died to sin,” Ro 6:2, 10–11; “died to the law,” Ro 7:2–6). So here he contends that the believer cannot be a transgressor of the law because one who has trusted Jesus Christ has been cut off from any (intended redemptive) relationship to the law. Paul does not indicate that the believer is cut off from the law in any and every sense—the context of this statement is the propositio, in which he sets forth his thesis statement regarding justification and observance of the law—but in both the “legalistic” connotation and in the sense of the law functioning as the nomistic guideline for life (as argued by Paul’s opponents), the believer is “dead” to the law and thus no longer in relationship to it (cf. Burton, 132–33; Bruce, 142). This death to the law came about “through the law,” i. e., the believer’s death to the law is through the law because he died in Christ’s death (Ro 7:4). Paul will further expand on this statement in the probatio section of 3:19–4:7, particularly at 3:19–25.

“I have been crucified with Christ” speaks to the believer’s incorporation into the work of Christ. This is the basis of Paul’s earlier statements regarding the believer’s death to the law and living for God. This is a “Spirit-ual” identification with Christ (i. e., “of the Spirit,” “sourced” in the person of God’s Holy Spirit) in his death. It indicates that union with Christ by faith includes one’s being united with him in his experience of death to the old order, to the law.

The statement “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” extends this incorporation into Christ beyond death to the law to life in Christ. The Christian’s life is “hidden with Christ” (Col 3:3). The believer is transferred by virtue of incorporation with the crucified Christ to the sphere of resurrection life in him (cf. Matera, 103; Bruce, 144). The believer’s life is now lived out under the ethic and guidance of Jesus Christ by means of the Holy Spirit. Just as sin was the operative power of the former life, exercised through the law and the self, now Christ lives both in and through the believer.

Paul goes on to explain, “The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” The present life in the mortal body is, for the believer, a life that is lived “in Christ.” This is life lived in union with Christ, through faith in him who is the “Son of God.” This is a life of commitment to him who “loved me and gave himself for me.” The title “Son of God” both defines Jesus’ identity as God’s Servant and describes the close bond between him and the Father. It also emphasizes the greatness of Jesus’ sacrifice, as he gave himself up to be crucified in order to provide redemption for lost humanity. This sacrificial activity made the way clear for the faith life of union with Christ Paul describes here.

In these verses Paul has expressed the crux of his theology of the Christian life: the believer has died to the law by virtue of incorporation into Christ, with whom the believer has been co-crucified. Life is now lived in union with him in a daily existence of faith “outworked” (cf. 5:13–6:10). The law has no dominion over the believer, who lives now in the ethical sphere of Christ’s life by his Spirit, whose power it is that energizes and empowers one by faith in Christ’s person and work.

21 As a result of all of this, Paul says, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” In typical rhetorical fashion, Paul ends the propositio by refuting the charge of his opponents against him (cf. Betz, 126; Longenecker, 94). The faith life of the believer does not in any way nullify the grace of God. In context, the specific “grace” being referred to by Paul and his accusers is undoubtedly the covenant grace of God toward Israel as expressed through the Mosaic legislation. But, contrary to the theology of the Judaizers, righteousness does not come by means of law observance. If that were so, Paul says, “Christ died for nothing!” If God had intended the law as the means of providing his redemptive grace, there would have been no need for Christ’s crucifixion and death. But the law could not provide and was never intended to provide this righteousness. This righteousness could only come through the gracious promise of God, and now specifically as realized in the person and work of Jesus Christ.[2]

2:20 The believer is identified with Christ in His death. Not only was He crucified on Calvary, I was crucified there as well—in Him. This means the end of me as a sinner in God’s sight. It means the end of me as a person seeking to merit or earn salvation by my own efforts. It means the end of me as a child of Adam, as a man under the condemnation of the law, as my old, unregenerate self. The old, evil “I” has been crucified; it has no more claims on my daily life. This is true as to my standing before God; it should be true as to my behavior.

The believer does not cease to live as a personality or as an individual. But the one who is seen by God as having died is not the same one who lives. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. The Savior did not die for me in order that I might go on living my life as I choose. He died for me so that from now on He might be able to live His life in me. The life which I now live in this human body, I live by faith in the Son of God. Faith means reliance or dependence. The Christian lives by continual dependence on Christ, by yielding to Him, by allowing Christ to live His life in him.

Thus the believer’s rule of life is Christ and not the law. It is not a matter of striving, but of trusting. He lives a holy life, not out of fear of punishment, but out of love to the Son of God, who loved him and gave Himself for him.

Have you ever turned your life over to the Lord Jesus with the prayer that His life might be manifest in your body?

2:21 The grace of God is seen in His unconditional gift of salvation. When man tries to earn it, he is making it void. It is no longer by grace if man deserves it or earns it. Paul’s final thrust at Peter is effective. If Peter could obtain favor with God by Jewish observances, then Christ died for nothing; He literally threw His life away. Christ died because man could obtain righteousness in no other way—not even by law-keeping.

Clow says:

The deepest heresy of all, which corrupts churches, leavens creeds with folly, and swells our human hearts with pride, is salvation by works. “I believe,” writes John Ruskin, “that the root of every schism and heresy from which the Christian Church has suffered, has been the effort to earn salvation rather than to receive it; and that one reason why preaching is so ineffective is that it calls on men oftener to work for God than to behold God working for them.”[3]

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

[2] Rapa, R. K. (2008). Galatians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, pp. 586–587). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1880). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.


Be thou an example…in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

1 Timothy 4:12

The Christian churches of our day have suffered a great loss in rejecting the example of good men, choosing instead the “celebrity of the hour” for their pattern.

We must agree that it is altogether unlikely that we know who our “greatest” men are.

One thing is sure, however—the greatest man alive today is the best man alive today. That is not open to debate.

Spiritual virtues run deep and silent. The holy and humble man will not advertise himself nor allow others to do it for him.

The Christian who is zealous to promote the cause of Christ can begin by living in the power of God’s Spirit, and so reproducing the life of Christ in the sight of men. In deep humility and without ostentation, he can let his light shine.

To sum it all up: The most effective argument for Christianity is still the good lives of those who profess it!

Lord, I pray that You will enable me to be an example of Your love and humility in every situation today, tomorrow and the weeks that follow.[1]

4:12 At the time of this Letter, Timothy was probably between thirty and thirty-five years of age. In contrast with some of the elders in the assembly at Ephesus, he would be a comparatively young man. That is why Paul says here, “Let no one despise your youth.” This does not mean that Timothy is to put himself on a pedestal and consider himself immune from criticism. Rather, it means he is to give nobody occasion to condemn him. By being an example to the believers, he is to avoid the possibility of justified criticism.

In word refers to Timothy’s conversation. His speech should always be that which should characterize a child of God. He should not only avoid such speech as is distinctly forbidden, but also such as would not be edifying for his hearers.

In conduct refers to one’s entire demeanor. Nothing about his deportment should cause reproach on the name of Christ.

In love suggests that love should be the motive for conduct, as well as the spirit in which it is carried out and the goal toward which it strives.

In spirit is lacking in most modern versions and commentaries that follow the critical text. However, the words do occur in the traditional and majority texts. Guy King decries the fact that enthusiasm, his insightful understanding of the phrase, is a:

… quality strangely lacking from the make-up of many Christians. Plenty of enthusiasm for a football match, or for an election campaign, but so little of it for the service of GOD. How the magnificent enthusiasm of the Christian Scientists, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Communists should put us to shame. Oh, for the flaming zeal again that once the church knew. This fine spirit will greatly help Timothy as he seeks to consolidate the position and to advance the line.

In faith probably means “in faithfulness,” and carries the idea of dependability and steadfastness.

Purity should characterize not only his acts but his motives as well.[2]

12. Let no one despise your youth.

It may be assumed that about the year 51, when Timothy joined Paul who was on his second missionary journey, the former had reached the age of 22–27 years of age. It is hardly probable that the apostle would have permitted a man even younger than that to join him in such a difficult task. Besides, we know that Timothy must have reached a degree of maturity even during Paul’s first missionary journey, for it was then that he had “confessed his faith.” If this calculation be correct, then Timothy is now—i.e., about the year 63—somewhere between 34 and 39 years of age. According to Ireneus, the first stage of life embraces thirty years and extends onward until forty years (Against Heresies, II. xxii). Hence, Timothy was still “a young man.” Besides, he must have been considered very young for the position which he occupied: apostolic representative and as such chief over all the presbyters in the churches of Ephesus and surroundings. These presbyters (as the very name implies), in ancient Israel, in the later synagogue, and also in the early church—which in many ways copied the synagogue—were generally old or at least elderly men. And here is Timothy, a much younger man and moreover a person of natural reserve and timidity, wielding authority over those who were his seniors by perhaps 10–40 years! Hence, the command, “Let no one look down upon you”—the Greek idiom says, “Let no one think down upon you”—was called for. Timothy must not permit anyone to despise him because of his youth. He must see to it that he is respected because of his office. But he must attain this end not by “acting big” or bragging about his credentials, but by conducting himself as a man of sage counsel and consecrated, practical wisdom. Respect for the man will mean respect for his office! Hence, Paul continues, But become the believers’ model in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. In an altogether natural and organic manner he must win the respect of all the believers. Note that Paul does not really say that Timothy should become a model for the believers, that is, for them to follow (see N.T.C. on 1 Thess. 1:7; 2 Thess. 3:9), but that ever increasingly he should become a model of what the believers are; and this in five respects:

  1. in speech, that is, in personal conversation (for preaching see the next verse).
  2. in conduct, that is, in customs, habits, ways of dealing with people, etc.
  3. in love, that is, in deep personal attachment to his brothers and in genuine concern for his neighbors (including even his enemies), always seeking to promote the welfare of all.
  4. in faith, that is, in the exercise of that gift of God which is the root from which love springs (note: love here probably indicates the horizontal relationship; faith, the vertical).
  5. in purity (see also 1 Tim. 5:2), that is, in complete conformity, both in thought and act, with God’s moral law.[3]

An Excellent Minister Is a Model of Spiritual Virtue

Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. (4:12)

The single greatest tool of leadership is the power of an exemplary life. The Puritan Thomas Brooks said, “Example is the most powerful rhetoric” (Cited in I. D. E. Thomas, A Puritan Golden Treasury [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1977], 96). Setting an example of godly living that others can follow is the sine qua non of excellence in ministry. When a manifest pattern of godliness is missing, the power is drained out of preaching, leaving it a hollow, empty shell. A minister’s life is his most powerful message, and must reinforce what he says or he may as well not say it. Authoritative preaching is undermined if there is not a virtuous life backing it up.

The New Testament has much to say about the crucial role of example. To the Corinthians Paul wrote, “I exhort you therefore, be imitators of me” (1 Cor. 4:16; cf.. 11:1). In Philippians 3:17 he said, “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us,” while Philippians 4:9 says, “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you.” He reminded the Thessalonians that

our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit. (1 Thess. 1:5–6; cf.. 2 Thess. 3:7–9)

The writer of Hebrews exhorted his readers to “remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith” (Heb. 13:7).

By cautioning Timothy not to allow anyone to look down on his youthfulness, Paul warned him that because he had no long record to establish credibility, he would have to earn the respect of his people. The Greeks, as did most cultures, subordinated youth to age. If a man did not have age, he would have to earn respect.

Paul refers to Timothy as young, although it was now some fifteen years since they first met on the apostle’s second missionary journey. Timothy was probably in his early twenties at that time. Although he was now in his late thirties, he was thirty years the junior of the aged apostle (Philem. 9) and still considered young by the standards of Greek culture. Luke describes Paul as a young man in Acts 7:58, though he must have been over thirty. Neotēs (youthfulness) was used to describe anyone under the age of forty. To offset that youthfulness, Paul exhorted Timothy to be an example of those who believe. Tupos (example) means “pattern,” or “model.” By so doing, he would gain the respect of his people. Paul lists five areas in which Timothy was to make every effort to be an example to the church.

First, Timothy was to be an example in speech. The conversation of an excellent minister must be exemplary. In Matthew 12:34–37, Jesus warned,

For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man out of his good treasure brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth what is evil. And I say to you, that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned.

A man’s speech reflects what is in his heart.

All types of sinful speech must be avoided by a man of God. That includes any deviation from truthfulness, as Paul makes clear in Ephesians 4:25 when he says, “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor.” Nothing more surely reveals a sinful soul and more swiftly destroys a leader’s credibility than lies. Absolute honesty is essential for one who speaks on behalf of the “God who cannot lie” (Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18), and who hates lying (Prov. 6:16–17; 12:22). Ephesians 4:26 forbids angry speech, verse 29 impure speech, and verse 31 slanderous words. Such speech reflects an impure heart. To be called an excellent minister, one’s speech must be “good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29).

Second, Timothy was to be an example in conduct. An excellent minister is required to be a model of righteous living who manifests his biblical convictions in every area of his life. A biblical message paired with an ungodly lifestyle is nothing but blatant hypocrisy. Worse, people will tend to follow how the man lives, not what he teaches. On the other hand, a godly life brings power and authority to a man’s message.

Scripture is replete with exhortations to godly living. James writes, “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom” (James 3:13). Peter had much to say on the subject: “Like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior” (1 Peter 1:15); “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12); “Keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:16).

Third, Timothy was to be an example in love. Biblical love is far different from the emotion our culture calls love. It involves self-sacrificing service on behalf of others regardless of how one feels. In John 15:13 our Lord said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” That verse sums up the essence of ministry as self-sacrificial love. The excellent minister gives his time and energy to the people he is called to serve, devoting his whole life to seeing them strengthened and built up in the Lord.

No personal sacrifice is too great, as Paul noted in Philippians 2:17: “But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.” He could readily say, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (Which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Col. 1:24). His love was so great for those he served that he was willing to love even if that love was not returned. He reminded the Corinthians of his love for them (2 Cor. 2:4; 11:11) and even adds, “I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls. If I love you the more, am I to be loved the less” (2 Cor. 12:15)? His love for the church made him feel the pains of suffering all the time (cf.. 2 Cor. 1:5–11; 6:4–10; 11:23–29; 12:7–10).

Paul reminded the Thessalonians that

we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having thus a fond affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. (1 Thess. 2:7–12)

In Philippians 2:25–30, Paul commended Epaphroditus, who, like the apostle himself, had nearly died from his strenuous service in the cause of Christ. And since an excellent minister works with eternity in view, he sees the sacrifices of love he makes as small.

Fourth, Timothy was to be an example in faith. Faith here does not refer to belief, but to faithfulness or unswerving commitment. An excellent minister is consistently faithful. He does not swerve off the track; he does not deviate from his course. “It is required of stewards,” Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:2, “that one be found trustworthy.” This essential virtue of loyalty separates those who succeed in having a powerful influence from those who do not.

Finally, Timothy was to be an example in purity. Hagneia (purity) refers primarily to purity in the area of sexuality, both in actions and in the intentions of the heart. Nothing so ravages a ministry as sexual impurity. That is certainly evident in the list of standards for an overseer who is “above reproach.” Heading that list is the requirement that he be a “one-woman man” (1 Tim. 3:2). Leaders are especially vulnerable in that area, since it is a priority area of qualification, and thus a common avenue of attack by Satan. An excellent minister must heed Paul’s admonishment to Timothy to “flee from youthful lusts” (2 Tim. 2:22).

Anyone who is not able to set a pattern of godly virtue in those areas does not belong in church leadership. Since a leader’s life sets the standard for others to follow, an unqualified leader inevitably lowers the standard of godliness in the church.[4]

12 Some may disparage Timothy’s teaching on account of his relative youth (neotēs, GK 3744; cf. Mk 10:20 par. Lk 18:21; Ac 26:4; he may have been in his late thirties at the time of writing [Irenaeus, Haer. 2.22.5]; see Introduction). While Timothy may not be considered too young for leadership in Western culture today, leaders in the ancient world were usually older people respected in the community and endowed with ample life experience. Without being legalistic, today’s churches could learn from first-century practice and be slow to put young men in charge of congregations (cf. “must not be a recent convert,” 3:6).

Timothy, the trusted apostolic delegate who had been nurtured in the faith from his youth, is to counter his age liability by setting an “example” (typos, GK 5596; cf. Ac 20:18–21, 33–34; 1 Co 10:6; Php 3:17; 1 Th 1:7; Tit 2:7; 1 Pe 5:3). Specifically, Paul singles out five areas in which Timothy must strive to conduct himself in an exemplary manner: “speech,” “life” (NASB, “conduct”), “love,” “faith,” and “purity” (cf. 6:11; 2 Ti 2:22).

(1)  “Speech” translates logos (GK 3364), which the NIV renders “preaching” in its closest parallel in this letter (5:17). This connection becomes explicit in 2 Timothy 4:2: “Preach the Word” (kēryxon ton logon, GK 3062, 3364; cf. 2 Ti 2:17; 4:15).

(2)  Unlike the lives of the heretics, Timothy’s “life” (anastrophē, GK 419; cf. Gal 1:13) must not be divorced from his preaching; rather, he is to “watch [his] life and doctrine closely” (v. 16; cf. 1 Co 9:22),so that he may be a great blessing to others and help preserve them from all harm. As noted in ch. 3, the requirements there likewise focus primarily on character and conduct. The vital connection between a leader’s life and teaching is often severed today.

(3)  Another vital ingredient is “love” (agapē, GK 27), the cardinal Christian virtue (1 Co 13). Too often, leaders who ought to set a godly example are competitive, opinionated, and selfish. Yet love is concerned with the well-being of others and deals kindly with one’s opponents (2 Ti 2:24–25).

(4)  Next, as Paul has stated at the outset, it is “faith,” not controversies, that is the operative principle of God’s work. This faith is to be sincere and unhypocritical (1:5; cf. 2 Ti 1:5). Like love, it is ultimately a gift of God (cf. Eph 2:8–9; “faith” and “love” are also linked in 2:15; 6:11; 2 Ti 1:13; 2:22; 3:10; Tit 2:2; 3:15; only here does “love” precede “faith”). It must be held on to; the false teachers have “shipwrecked” whatever faith was theirs (1 Ti 1:19; cf. 6:10, 21). Moreover, faith is linked with “a good conscience” (1:5, 19).

(5) Finally, “purity” (hagneia, GK 48) of heart is also essential for a church leader (as it is for every believer; cf. 2 Ti 2:22; see comments at 5:2). Love can only spring from a pure heart (cf. 1:5). This purity of motive contrasts with that of the false teachers, whose motives are anything but pure (cf. 5:9–10). Purity of heart is also extolled in the OT (e.g., Ps 24:3–4). Jesus called “the pure in heart” blessed in his Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:8).

These are the areas of godliness Timothy is to cultivate. Guthrie, 109, aptly notes that “the qualities in which Timothy is to excel are those in which youth is so often deficient. Yet for that reason they would stand out the more strikingly. It would become evident to the Christian believers that authority in the community is contingent on character, not on age.” Like the physical strength and skill sought by an athlete, these virtues do not appear at once; rather, they require diligent practice over time. In Timothy’s day, as in ours, it is imperative that those called to lead do so by example.[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. 2093). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles (Vol. 4, pp. 157–158). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 1 Timothy (pp. 171–174). Chicago: Moody Press.

[5] Köstenberger, A. (2006). 1 Timothy. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 536–537). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

June 7 – Serving Only One Master

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

Just as we cannot have our treasures both in earth and in heaven or our bodies both in light and in darkness, we cannot “serve two masters.” The Greek word for “masters” is often translated “lord,” and often refers to a slave owner.

By definition, a slave owner has total control of the slave. For a slave there is no such thing as partial or part-time obligation to his master. He owes full-time service to his master. He is owned and totally controlled by and obligated to his master. To give anything to anyone else would make his master less than his master. It is impossible to “serve two masters” and fully or faithfully be the obedient slave of each.

In this way we can’t claim Christ as Lord if our allegiance is to anything or anyone else, including ourselves. And when we know God’s will but resist obeying it, we give evidence that our loyalty is to someone or something other than Him. But the person whose master is Jesus Christ can say that when he eats or drinks or does anything else, he does “all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). Make your allegiance to Christ your priority each and every day.

What alternative “masters” compete the hardest for your devotion? How has the inviolable truth of this “no man can serve two masters” statement been proven true in your life and in your observation of others? But why do we seem so intent on trying to have it that way anyway?[1]


   You Cannot Serve God and Mammon (6:24)

The impossibility of living for God and for money is stated here in terms of masters and slaves. No one can serve two masters. One will inevitably take precedence in his loyalty and obedience. So it is with God and mammon. They present rival claims and a choice must be made. Either we must put God first and reject the rule of materialism or we must live for temporal things and refuse God’s claim on our lives.[2]

24. 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 look down on the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon. The man with the misplaced heart (verse 21) and misdirected mind (verses 22 and 23) also suffers from a misaligned will, a will not in line with God’s will (verse 24). He imagines, perhaps, that he can give his full allegiance to the two goals of glorifying God and acquiring material possessions, but he errs. He will either hate the one and love the other, or vice versa. By “God” is meant the heavenly Father, as representing the Trinity, and as revealed to us by Jesus Christ. By “Mammon,” a word of uncertain derivation, is meant wealth, property, as Luke 16:5, 9, 11 clearly indicates. Think of money, real estate, victuals, clothes, etc. Here in Matt. 6:24, as well as in Luke 16:13, wealth of property is, however, personified: it is presented as a master to whom a person is devoted and whom he loves. Today also people will say, “He has become the slave of his holdings.”

If a person loves God he will show this by being devoted to him, placing everything—money, time, talents, etc.—at his disposal, serving him. It is clear, therefore, that loving God is not merely a matter of the emotions but of heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matt. 22:37; Mark 12:30). To love God requires service and even sacrifice (Matt. 10:37–39). So described, it becomes all the more evident that this supreme, self-sacrificing, enthusiastic allegiance cannot be rendered to two parties. Whoever renders it becomes a worshiper, and the One to whom it is rendered becomes his God. Moreover, since there is only one true God, it follows that Mammon-worship is idolatry (see a on p. 343).

The psychological tension that is built up in the soul of a person who imagines for a while that he will be able to love and serve both masters becomes so severe and unendurable that in attitude, word, and deed he will sooner or later begin to show where his real allegiance lies. Either the one master or the other will win out, actually has been “on top” all the while, though, perhaps, the individual in question was not fully aware of this. In the crisis the agitated soul, out of love for the one master, will begin to show that he hates the other, perhaps even to the point of being willing to betray him. Think of Judas Iscariot. Was it not Mammon that led him to deliver Christ into the hands of the enemy? See Matt. 26:14–16; John 12:6. And on the other hand, think of Paul. There came a time in the life of this former persecutor when he began to look down on whatever of personal merit, earthly possessions, and prestige he at one time had prized so highly. Whatever used to be gain had now become loss (Phil. 3:7 ff.).

Another point, already implied in the preceding, is now brought to the foreground more definitely, namely, that the person who, because of his lack of trust in the heavenly Father, devotes his time and talent to the piling up of earthly treasures, hence to the worship of Mammon, confuses values. He is “all mixed up” with respect to priorities. He attaches primary significance to that which is secondary, and vice versa (see c on p. 343)[3]

A Single Master

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (6:24)

The third choice relates to allegiance, to masters. Just as we cannot have our treasures both in earth and in heaven or our bodies both in light and in darkness, we cannot serve two masters.

Kurios (masters) is often translated lord, and refers to a slave owner. The idea is not simply that of an employer, of which a person may have several at the same time and work for each of them satisfactorily. Many people today hold two or more jobs. If they work the number of hours they are supposed to and perform their work as expected, they have fulfilled their obligation to their employers, no matter how many they may have. The idea is of masters of slaves.

But by definition, a slave owner has total control of the slave. For a slave there is no such thing as partial or part-time obligation to his master. He owes fulltime time service to a full-time master. He is owned and totally controlled by and obligated to his master. He has nothing left for anyone else. To give anything to anyone else would make his master less than master. It is not simply difficult, but absolutely impossible, to serve two masters and fully or faithfully be the obedient slave of each.

Over and over the New Testament speaks of Christ as Lord and Master and of Christians as His bondslaves. Paul tells us that before we were saved we were enslaved to sin, which was our master. But when we trusted in Christ, we became slaves of God and of righteousness (Rom. 6:16–22).

We cannot claim Christ as Lord if our allegiance is to anything or anyone else, including ourselves. And when we know God’s will but resist obeying it, we give evidence that our loyalty is other than to Him. We can no more serve two masters at the same time than we can walk in two directions at the same time. We will either … hate the one and love the other, or … hold to one and despise the other.

John Calvin said, “Where riches hold the dominion of the heart, God has lost His authority” (A Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke, vol. 1 [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979], p. 337). Our treasure is either on earth or in heaven, our spiritual life is either full of light or of darkness, and our master is either God or mammon (possessions, earthly goods).

The orders of those two masters are diametrically opposed and cannot coexist. The one commands us to walk by faith and the other demands we walk by sight. The one calls us to be humble and the other to be proud, the one to set our minds on things above and the other to set them on things below. One calls us to love light, the other to love darkness. The one tells us to look toward things unseen and eternal and the other to look at things seen and temporal.

The person whose master is Jesus Christ can say that, when heats or drinks or does anything else, he does “all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). He can say with David, “I have set the Lord continually before me” (Ps. 16:8), and with Caleb when he was eighty-five years old, “I followed the Lord my God fully” (Josh. 14:8).[4]

24 John Stott (Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 158) comments, “Jesus now explains that behind the choice between two treasures (where we lay them up) and two visions (where we fix our eyes) there lies the still more basic choice between two masters (whom we are going to serve).” “Money” renders Greek mamōna (“mammon,” GK 3440), itself a transliteration of Aramaic māmônā (in the emphatic state; “wealth,” “property”). The root in both Aramaic and Hebrew (mn) indicates that in which one has confidence, and the connection with money and wealth, well attested in Jewish literature (e.g., m. Peʾah 1:1; b. Ber. 61b; m. ʾAbot 2:7; and not always in a negative sense), is painfully obvious. Here it is personified. Both God and Money are portrayed, not as employers, but as slave owners. A man may work for two employers; but since “single ownership and full-time service are of the essence of slavery” (Tasker), he cannot serve two slave owners. Either God is served with a single-eyed devotion, or he is not served at all. Attempts at divided loyalty betray not partial commitment to discipleship but deep-seated commitment to idolatry.[5]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 167). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1226). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Vol. 9, pp. 347–348). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 414–415). Chicago: Moody Press.

[5] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, p. 213). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

June 7 – Integrity Conquers Fear

“The commander of the officials said to Daniel, ‘I am afraid of my lord the king, who has appointed your food and your drink; for why should he see your faces looking more haggard than the youths who are your own age? Then you would make me forfeit my head to the king.’ But Daniel said to the overseer whom the commander of the officials had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, ‘Please test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance be observed in your presence, and the appearance of the youths who are eating the king’s choice food; and deal with your servants according to what you see.’ So he listened to them in this matter and tested them for ten days.”

Daniel 1:10–14


People of biblical integrity tend also to be people with unashamed boldness.

I love to read the biographies of great missionaries and other godly people whose lives reflect an uncommon commitment to Christ and whose boldness in the face of difficulties sets them apart from their peers. Daniel was such a man. From his youth he delighted in doing God’s will and proclaiming God’s Word with boldness. He shared David’s perspective in Psalm 40:8–9, “I delight to do Thy will, O my God; Thy Law is within my heart. I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great congregation; behold, I will not restrain my lips, O Lord.”

In stark contrast to Daniel’s boldness was Ashpenaz’s fear. Although he thought kindly of Daniel, Ashpenaz feared for his life if Daniel and his friends were to appear pale and malnourished after he granted them exemption from the king’s special diet. So with characteristic wisdom and boldness, Daniel suggested a simple test designed to relieve Ashpenaz’s fears and prove God’s faithfulness. Tomorrow we will see the results of that test (v. 15). But for today I pray that you will have the boldness of Daniel as you take every opportunity to proclaim God’s Word.


Suggestions for Prayer: Like Daniel you may be facing a situation that requires a special measure of boldness. If so, ask the Lord to strengthen you as you set your heart on doing His will.

For Further Study: Read Ephesians 6:19–20; Philippians 1:19–20. What was the source of Paul’s boldness?[1]

The Plot (1:8–17)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other words, the food rations episode offers practical commentary of sorts on Proverbs 1:7a: “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (cf. Ps 111:10). Baldwin, 84, has summarized that even small acts of faith and self-discipline, when undertaken out of loyalty to godly principle, set “God’s servants in the line of his approval and blessing. In this way actions attest faith, and character is strengthened to face more difficult situations.” (But see Goldingay, 20, who denies the cause-and-effect relationship between faithfulness and reward.) The added statement in v. 17b that Daniel received a special divine endowment to understand or interpret visions and dreams foreshadows those “more difficult situations” he will face in the key role he plays as interpreter of dreams and seer of visions in the rest of the book.[2]

A Young Man Decides

Daniel 1:3–21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Secular Environment

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

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

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

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

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

Daniel’s Decision

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

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

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

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

Why We Must Be Holy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can I Be Holy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 7 – The Importance of Repentance

Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.

Acts 2:38

No one can come to Jesus Christ unless he repents. Jesus began His ministry proclaiming the need for repentance (Matt. 4:17), and both Peter and Paul continued to proclaim it. Repentance is a conscious choice to turn from the world, sin, and evil. It is crucial!

If you came to Jesus Christ thinking all you had to do was believe but didn’t have to confess your sin or be willing to cut yourself off from the evil of this world, you have missed the point of salvation. Many people’s lives haven’t changed at all since they supposedly believed in Christ. For example, some acted immorally and still act immorally. Some committed adultery and continue to commit adultery. And some committed fornication and continue to commit fornication. Yet according to 1 Corinthians 6:9–10, fornicators and adulterers will not inherit the kingdom of God. If you are really saved, you will make a conscious attempt to break away from the things of the world.[1]

2:38 Peter’s answer was that they should repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. First, they were to repent, acknowledging their guilt, and taking sides with God against themselves.

Then they were to be baptized for (or unto) the remission of their sins. At first glance, this verse seems to teach salvation by baptism, and many people insist that this is precisely what it does mean. Such an interpretation is impossible for the following reasons:

  1. In dozens of NT passages, salvation is said to be by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:12; 3:16, 36; 6:47; Acts 16:31; Rom. 10:9, for example). No verse or two could conceivably contradict such overwhelming testimony.
  2. The thief on the cross had the assurance of salvation apart from baptism (Luke 23:43).
  3. The Savior is not stated to have baptized anyone, a strange omission if baptism is essential to salvation.
  4. The Apostle Paul was thankful that he baptized only a few of the Corinthians—a strange cause for thankfulness if baptism has saving merit (1 Cor. 1:14–16).

It is important to notice that only Jews were ever told to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins (see Acts 22:16). In this fact, we believe, is the secret to the understanding of this passage. The nation of Israel had crucified the Lord of glory. The Jewish people had cried out, “His blood be on us and on our children” (Matt. 27:25). The guilt of the Messiah’s death was thus claimed by the people of Israel.

Now, some of these Jews had come to realize their mistake. By repentance they acknowledged their sin to God. By trusting the Lord Jesus as their Savior they were regenerated and received eternal forgiveness of sins. By public water baptism they dissociated themselves from the nation that crucified the Lord and identified themselves with Him. Baptism thus became the outward sign that their sin in connection with the rejection of Christ (as well as all their sins) had been washed away. It took them off Jewish ground and placed them on Christian ground. But baptism did not save them. Only faith in Christ could do that. To teach otherwise is to teach another gospel and thus be accursed (Gal. 1:8, 9).

An alternative interpretation of baptism for the remission of sins is given by Ryrie:

This does not mean in order that sins might be remitted, for everywhere in the New Testament sins are forgiven as a result of faith in Christ, not as a result of baptism. It means be baptized because of the remission of sins. The Greek preposition eis, for, has this meaning “because of” not only here but also in such a passage as Matthew 12:41 where the meaning can only be “they repented because of [not in order to] the preaching of Jonah.” Repentance brought the remission of sins for this Pentecostal crowd, and because of the remission of sins they were asked to be baptized.

Peter assured them that if they repented and were baptized, they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. To insist that this order applies to us today is to misunderstand God’s administrative dealings in the early days of the church. As H. P. Barker has so ably pointed out in The Vicar of Christ, there are four communities of believers in the Book of Acts, and the order of events in connection with the reception of the Holy Spirit is different in each case.

Here in Acts 2:38 we read about Jewish Christians. For them, the order was:

  1. Repentance.
  2. Water baptism.
  3. Reception of the Holy Spirit.

The conversion of Samaritans is recorded in Acts 8:14–17. There we read that the following events occurred:

  1. They believed.
  2. They were baptized in water.
  3. The apostles prayed for them.
  4. The apostles laid their hands on them.
  5. They received the Holy Spirit.

In Acts 10:44–48 the conversion of Gentiles is in view. Notice the order here:

  1. Faith.
  2. Reception of the Holy Spirit.
  3. Water baptism.

A final community of believers is made up of disciples of John the Baptist, Acts 19:1–7:

  1. They believed.
  2. They were rebaptized.
  3. The Apostle Paul laid his hands on them.
  4. They received the Holy Spirit.

Does this mean there were four ways of salvation in the Book of Acts? Of course not. Salvation was, is, and always will be on the basis of faith in the Lord. But during the transition period recorded in Acts, God chose to vary the events connected with the reception of the Holy Spirit for reasons which He knew but did not choose to reveal to us.

Then which of these patterns applies to us today? Since Israel nationally has rejected the Messiah, the Jewish people have forfeited any special privileges they might have had. Today God is calling out of the Gentiles a people for His Name (Acts 15:14). Therefore, the order for today is that which is found in Acts 10:


Reception of the Holy Spirit.

Water baptism.

We believe this order applies to all today, to Jews as well as to Gentiles. This may sound arbitrary at first. It might be asked, “When did the order in Acts 2:38 cease to apply to Jews and the order in Acts 10:44–48 begin?” No definite date can be given, of course. But the Book of Acts traces a gradual transition from the gospel’s going out primarily to Jews, to its being repeatedly rejected by the Jews, to its going out to the Gentiles. By the end of the Book of Acts the nation of Israel had been largely set aside. By unbelief it had forfeited any special claim as God’s chosen people. During the Church Age it would be reckoned with the Gentile nations, and God’s order for the Gentiles, outlined in Acts 10:44–48, would apply.[2]

38. Peter answered them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—as many as the Lord our God will call to himself.”

We make these observations:

  • Repentance. The people ask Peter and the rest of the apostles how they can receive remission of sin and find salvation. What does Peter tell them? He speaks no words of rebuke. Rather, he utters the same word spoken by John the Baptist at the Jordan and by Jesus during his ministry: “Repent” (see Matt. 3:2; 4:17). The imperative repent implies that the Jews turn from the evil they have perpetrated, have an intense abhorrence for the sins they committed, experience a complete turnabout of their lives, and adhere to Jesus’ teaching.

Repentance signifies that man’s mind is changed completely, so that he consciously turns away from sin (3:19). Repentance causes a person to think and act in harmony with Jesus’ teachings. The result is that he breaks with unbelief and in faith accepts God’s Word.

  • Baptism. Peter continues and says, “Be baptized every one of you.” In Greek, the imperative verb repent is in the plural; Peter addresses all the people whose consciences drive them to repentance. But the verb be baptized is in the singular to stress the individual nature of baptism. A Christian should be baptized to be a follower of Jesus Christ, for baptism is the sign indicating that a person belongs to the company of God’s people.

Repentance, baptism, and faith are theologically related. When the believer who repents is baptized he makes a commitment of faith. He accepts Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and knows that through Christ’s blood his sins are forgiven. Indeed Peter instructs the people that baptism must be “in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” Forgiveness of sins takes place only through Christ in consequence of his death and resurrection (see Rom. 6:1–4). As forerunner of Jesus, John the Baptist preached repentance from sin and then baptized the people who turned from sin (Mark 1:4).

  • Name. Peter asserts that the believer must be baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” The instruction appears to go contrary to the words of the Great Commission, in which Jesus tells the apostles to baptize believers in the name of the Triune God (Matt. 28:19–20). Notice, first, that the term name includes the full revelation concerning Jesus Christ (see also 8:12; 10:48; 19:5). That is, this term points to his person and work and the people he redeems. In other words, Peter is not contradicting Jesus’ baptism formula; rather, he stresses the unique function and place Jesus has in regard to baptism and the remission of sins. Next, Peter uses the double name Jesus Christ to indicate that Jesus of Nazareth indeed is the Messiah. As Jesus fulfills the prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah, so the baptism in his name is a fulfillment of the baptism of John (see 19:1–7). John’s baptism was with water only, but that of Jesus is with water and the Holy Spirit (compare Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5).
  • Gift. “And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Within the early church, this text proved to be no contradiction to the words of John the Baptist: “I baptize you with water, but [Jesus] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1:8, NIV). In the first century, Christians saw John’s baptism as the shadow and that of Jesus as reality. Accordingly, the person who was baptized in the name of Jesus pledged his allegiance to Christ, particularly with the confession Jesus is Lord (Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 12:3).

What is this gift of the Spirit? Peter puts the noun gift in the singular, not in the plural. By contrast, Paul writes to the Corinthian church about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, among them wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, prophecy, tongues, and interpretation (1 Cor. 12:8–11, 28–31; 14:1–2). But to the people who were present at Pentecost Peter says that the baptized believer will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The expression gift appears in the passage about the outpouring of the Spirit on the Samaritans; Simon the sorcerer tried to buy this gift with money (8:20). The term also occurs in the account of Peter’s visit to Cornelius, who with his household received the gift of the Holy Spirit (10:45; see also 11:17). From these passages we are able to learn that this gift refers to the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. Notice, however, that in 2:38–41 Luke makes no mention of the converts speaking in tongues (2:4) or of the apostles laying their hands on the converts so that they might receive the Spirit (8:17). We assume, therefore, that “speaking in tongues and laying on of hands were not considered prerequisites for receiving the Spirit.”

The context of the Pentecost account indicates that the gift of the Spirit is not dependent on baptism. The two clauses “be baptized” and “you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” are separate statements. In a detailed study of this point Ned B. Stonehouse observes, “One may conclude with confidence that Acts 2:38 is not to be understood as teaching that the gift of the Spirit was conditional upon baptism.” A study in Acts on baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit reveals that these two are related but do not necessarily follow each other. Hence, in verse 38 Peter instructs the people to repent and to be baptized; then he adds the promise (in the future tense) that they “will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

  • Promise. In the next verse (v. 39) Peter relates to his audience that “the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—as many as the Lord our God will call to himself.”

What is the meaning of the word promise? Luke, who reports Peter’s words, refrains from providing details. The definite article preceding the noun promise seems to indicate that Peter has the specific promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit in mind. The promise refers to the prophecy of Joel 2:28–32, which was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. Before his ascension Jesus tells the apostles, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the promise my Father made, of which you heard me speak” (1:4; see also Luke 24:49). And the exalted Christ pours out the promised Holy Spirit he received from God the Father (Acts 2:33).

The phrase for you and your children is an echo of God’s promise to Abraham to be a God to him and his descendants for generations to come (Gen. 17:7). Likewise, the promise of the Holy Spirit goes far beyond the Jews and their children who were present in Jerusalem at Pentecost. From the moment of arrival, the Holy Spirit remains among God’s people until the end of time. The Spirit leads believers to Jesus Christ and lives within their hearts, for their physical bodies are his temple (1 Cor. 6:19).

“And for all who are far off—as many as the Lord our God will call to himself.” Peter and his fellow Jews consider themselves God’s covenant people, who are the first to receive the blessing of salvation. But through the work of Christ the Gentiles also are included in God’s covenant. Peter himself eventually realizes the import of the words he utters at Pentecost when he reports to the Jews in Jerusalem about his visit to Cornelius in Caesarea. Concludes Peter, “If then God gave them the same gift as he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” (11:17). Years later, Paul writes to Gentile members of the church about their exclusion from the covenant and says, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13, and see v. 17).

Two concluding remarks are in order. First, the term far off includes both time and place. God’s promise extends throughout the generations until the end of the world. It also reaches people from every nation, tribe, race, and language, wherever they dwell on the face of this earth. Peter’s words are in complete harmony with those of Jesus: “Make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19). And second, God is sovereign in calling his own people to himself. Salvation originates with him and he grants it to all those whom he, in his sovereign grace, effectively will call. These words of Peter correspond to and have their counterpart in Joel’s prophecy: “And it will be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (v. 21; Joel 2:32).[3]

The Appeal

Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.” And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” (2:37–40)

Peter’s conclusion to the main body of his sermon was devastating. He charged his listeners with rejecting and executing their Messiah—the very One whom God had made both Lord and Christ (v. 36). When they heard this—Peter’s statement in verse 36—they were pierced to the heart. Katanussō (pierced) appears only here in the New Testament. It means “to pierce,” or “to stab,” and thus depicts something sudden and unexpected. Stunned by their inability to evade the indictment that they were guilty of heinous behavior before God, they were overcome by grief and remorse.

There were several reasons for their anguish. First, as already noted, was the realization that they had executed their Messiah. The One for whom they had longed for centuries, the One who was the hope of all their personal and national promises, had finally come. Instead of welcoming Him, however, they rejected Him and handed Him over to their bitter and hated enemies, the Romans, for execution.

Second, they themselves had done it. It would have been bad enough to learn that Messiah had been killed. Far worse was the knowledge of their own complicity in the crime. That no doubt produced in them a deep sense of guilt. They could not imagine a greater sin than killing their Messiah.

A third cause for their anguish was fear of Messiah’s wrath. Peter had announced to them in no uncertain terms that the same Jesus they had crucified was now alive (vv. 24, 31, 32). Worse still, he had quoted to them a passage from Psalm 110 that spoke of the vanquishing of Messiah’s enemies. What greater enemies of God existed than those who killed His Messiah?

Finally, they were devastated by the understanding that what they had done could not be undone.

Overwhelmed with anguish, despair, remorse, and guilt, they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” They sought desperately for a way to make right what they had done, and avoid Messiah’s wrath. They were at the same point Paul was when he cried out on the Damascus road, “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:10). Their words are reminiscent of those of the Philippian jailer, who asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). Their state of mind illustrates perfectly that of the convicted sinner. They had a deep sense of their own guilt, and a panicky fear of God’s wrath. They had a strong desire to be saved from that wrath, and a willingness to submit to God’s will. Such conviction of sin is a part of every genuine conversion.

The book of Zechariah illustrates that truth. Zechariah 12:10 describes the first step in the restoration of Israel—conviction of sin: “And I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.” Only after that conviction does the cleansing of sin described in Zechariah 13:1 take place: “In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity.” Conviction is the key used by the Holy Spirit to open the heart to salvation.

An indictment for sin is an essential part of any gospel presentation. People need to be convicted of sin before they will see the need for a savior. No matter how morally upright they may be, all unbelievers are guilty of the vile sins of rebellion against God (cf. Acts 17:30) and rejection of Jesus Christ (John 16:8–9). Genuine conviction is produced by the Spirit of God, in conjunction with the Word of God, which is “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

The Holy Spirit, through Peter’s powerful preaching, had brought them to the point of desperation. Peter now answers their question with the only correct answer: repent. Metanoeō (repent) is a rich New Testament term. It speaks of a change of purpose, of turning from sin to God (1 Thess. 1:9). It is an essential component of a genuine conversion. Both John the Baptist (Matt. 3:2) and the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 4:17) called for repentance. It is an oft-repeated theme in Acts (3:19; 5:31; 8:22; 11:18; 17:30; 20:21; 26:20).

Although Peter’s hearers feared God’s judgment, true repentance involves more than fear of consequences. Commentator Albert Barnes rightly notes that “false repentance dreads the consequences of sin; true repentance dreads sin itself” (Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament: Acts-Romans [1884–85; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker, n.d.], 52. Emphasis in original). True repentance hates sin for what it is—an affront to God. Knowing that sin is evil and that God hates it motivates the truly repentant person to forsake it. Genuine repentance thus forsakes sin and turns in total commitment to Jesus Christ. (For a discussion of repentance, see my books The Gospel According to Jesus, rev. ed. [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994], and Faith Works [Dallas: Word, 1993].)

It is difficult for modern readers to grasp the magnitude of the change facing Peter’s Jewish hearers. They were part of a unique community, with a rich cultural and religious history. Despite long years of subjugation to Rome, they were fiercely nationalistic. The nation had rejected Jesus as a blasphemer and executed Him. Now Peter calls on them to turn their back on all that and embrace Jesus as their Messiah.

By calling on each of them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ Peter does not allow for any “secret disciples” (cf. Matt. 10:32–33). Baptism would mark a public break with Judaism and identification with Jesus Christ. Such a drastic public act would help weed out any conversions which were not genuine. In sharp contrast to many modern gospel presentations, Peter made accepting Christ difficult, not easy. By so doing, he followed the example of our Lord Himself (Luke 14:26–33; 18:18–27). Baptism was always in the name of Jesus Christ. That was the crucial identification, and the cost was high for such a confession.

The meaning of Peter’s statement that baptism is for the forgiveness of sins has been much disputed. Those who teach baptismal regeneration—the false teaching that baptism is necessary for salvation—see this verse as a primary proof text for their view.

That view ignores the immediate context of the passage. As already noted, baptism would be a dramatic step for Peter’s hearers. By publicly identifying themselves as followers of Jesus of Nazareth, they risked becoming outcasts in their society (cf. John 9:22). Peter calls upon them to prove the genuineness of their repentance by submitting to public baptism. In much the same way, our Lord called upon the rich young ruler to prove the genuineness of his repentance by parting with his wealth (Luke 18:18–27). Surely, however, no one would argue from the latter passage that giving away one’s possessions is necessary for salvation. Salvation is not a matter of either water or economics. True repentance, however, will inevitably manifest itself in total submission to the Lord’s will.

Second, such teaching violates the important hermeneutical principle known as analogia Scriptura (The analogy of Scripture). That principle states that no passage, when correctly interpreted, will teach something contradictory to the rest of Scripture. And the rest of Scripture unmistakably teaches that salvation is solely by faith (cf. John 1:12; 3:16; Acts 16:31; Rom. 3:21–30; 4:5; 10:9–10; Phil. 3:9; Gal. 2:16).

Third, after condemning the ritualistic religion of the scribes and Pharisees, our Lord would hardly have instituted one of His own. F. F. Bruce remarks, “It is against the whole genius of Biblical religion to suppose that the outward rite [of baptism] had any value except in so far as it was accompanied by true repentance within” (The Book of the Acts [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971], 77).

Fourth, this interpretation is not true to the facts of Scripture. Throughout the book of Acts, forgiveness is linked to repentance, not baptism (cf. 3:19; 5:31; 26:20). In addition, the Bible records that some who were baptized were not saved (Acts 8:13; 21–23), while some were saved with no mention of their being baptized (Luke 7:37–50; Matt. 9:2; Luke 18:13–14). The story of the conversion of Cornelius and his friends very clearly shows the relationship of baptism to salvation. It was only after they were saved, as shown by their receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44–46), that they were baptized (vv. 47–48). Indeed, it was because they had received the Spirit (And hence were saved) that Peter ordered them to be baptized (v. 47). That passage clearly shows that baptism follows salvation; it does not cause it.

In 1 Corinthians 15:1–4, the apostle Paul summarizes the gospel he preached and by which the Corinthians had been saved. There is no mention of baptism. Further, in 1 Corinthians 1:14–16, Paul rejoiced that he had baptized none of the Corinthians except Crispus, Gaius, and the household of Stephanas. That statement is inexplicable if baptism is necessary for salvation. Paul would then in effect be saying he was thankful that only those few were saved under his ministry. The apostle clearly distinguishes baptism from the gospel in 1 Corinthians 1:17, where he says that “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel.” How could Paul have made such a statement if baptism was necessary for salvation?

While the preposition eis (for) can mean “for the purpose of,” it can also mean “because of,” or “on the occasion of” (A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Baker, reprint of the 1930 edition], 3:35–36; H. E. Dana and J. R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament [Toronto: Macmillan, 1957], 104). The latter is clearly its meaning in Matthew 12:41, which says that the people of Nineveh repented because of the preaching of Jonah.

The order is clear. Repentance is for forgiveness. Baptism follows that forgiveness; it does not cause it (cf. 8:12, 34–39; 10:34–48; 16:31–33). It is the public sign or symbol of what has taken place on the inside. It is an important step of obedience for all believers, and should closely follow conversion. In fact, in the early church it was inseparable from salvation, so that Paul referred to salvation as being related to “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4:5).

Complete forgiveness of sins is the blessed joy and privilege of every believer. That glorious truth fills the pages of the New Testament. In Matthew 26:28, our Lord said, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.” In Luke 24:47, He reminded the disciples that “repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” Therefore, “in Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7). Paul wrote to the Colossians that “when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions” (Col. 2:13). The apostle John says simply, “Little children, your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake” (1 John 2:12. See also Acts 5:31; 10:43; 13:38; 26:18; Rom. 4:7; Eph. 4:32; Col. 1:14; 1 John 1:9.)

Salvation would not only bring them forgiveness, but they would also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For this they had been waiting; the gift of the Spirit, according to Joel 2:28–29, would mark the beginning of messianic times.

Dōrea (gift) refers to that which is free and unmerited. Contrary to much contemporary teaching, Peter attached no condition to receiving the Spirit except repentance. Nor did he promise that any supernatural phenomena would accompany their reception of the Spirit. It should be noted as well that the gift of the Spirit does not come through water baptism (Acts 10:47).

The marvelous gift of the Holy Spirit was not merely for those in Peter’s audience that day. The promise of the Holy Spirit, Peter informs them, is for you and your children, and for all who are far off. They and their children, the nation of Israel, would receive the Spirit, as the Old Testament promised (Isa. 44:3; Ezek. 36:27; 37:14; Joel 2:28– 29). They would share that blessing, however, with those who are far off—the Gentiles (cf. Eph. 2:11–13).

Peter’s description of those who would receive the Spirit as those whom the Lord our God shall call to Himself describes God’s sovereignty at work in salvation. It presents the necessary balance to his statement in verse 21 that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” A biblical view of salvation does not exclude either human responsibility or divine sovereignty, but allows them to remain in tension. We must resist the attempt to harmonize what Scripture does not, content in the knowledge that there is no ultimate contradiction in God’s mind.

Luke adds that with many other words Peter solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” Luke has given us only a synopsis of Peter’s sermon, which obviously lasted far longer than the few minutes it takes to read this passage. It is likely as well that Peter engaged in a dialogue with the crowd following his sermon, as the statement kept on exhorting indicates. The gist of his exhortation was that they should be saved from this perverse generation through repentance and faith in Christ. Perverse translates skolios, which means “bent,” or “crooked,” and hence evil and unrighteous.

Peter’s condemnation echoed that of our Lord. In Matthew 12:39 and 16:4, He described them as an “evil and adulterous generation.” In Matthew 12:45 He referred to them as “this evil generation,” while in Luke 11:29 He commented that “this generation is a wicked generation.” In Mark 9:19 He condemned them as an “unbelieving generation,” while Matthew 17:17 and Luke 9:41 add the word “perverted” to “unbelieving.” Finally, in Mark 8:38, Jesus denounced them as an “adulterous and sinful generation.”

Many thousands from that generation were to perish during the Jewish revolt, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70. Peter’s appeal for immediate response was timely.[4]

38 Peter’s answer to the people’s anguished cry presents interpreters with a set of complex theological problems that have often been treated only as grist for differing theological mills. But Peter’s words came to his hearers as the best news they had ever heard—far better, indeed, than they deserved or could have hoped for. And these words remain today as the best of good news and should be read as the proclamation of that news, not just as data for contemporary theological discussions.

Peter calls on his hearers to “repent” (metanoeō, GK 3566). The term implies a complete change of heart and confession of sin. With this call he couples the call to “be baptized” (baptisthētō, GK 966), thereby linking both repentance and baptism with the forgiveness of sins. So far this sounds familiar, for John the Baptist had proclaimed a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mk 1:4), and Jesus made repentance central in his preaching (cf. Mt 4:17; Mk 1:15) and baptized (cf. Jn 3:22; 4:1–2). Furthermore, Judaism also had repentance at the core of its message and emphasized baptism (at least for proselytes). But while there is much that appears traditional in Peter’s exhortation, there is also much that is new and distinctive—in three ways in particular.

One distinctive feature in his preaching is that Peter calls on “every one” of his audience to repent and be baptized. Jews thought corporately and generally viewed the rite of baptism as appropriate only for proselytes (though some sects within Judaism baptized Jews). But like John the Baptist (cf. Mt 3:9–10)—and probably Jesus, though in distinction to Judaism generally—Peter called for an individual response on the part of his hearers. So he set aside family and corporate relationships as having any final, saving significance and stressed the response of the person individually, without, however, denying the value of corporate relationships but placing them in a “new covenant” perspective.

A second feature is that Peter identifies the repentance and baptism he is speaking about as being specifically Christian in that it is done “in the name of Jesus Christ” (epi tō onomati Iēsou Christou). The expression was probably not at this time a liturgical formula. It appears variously in Acts with the prepositions epi (“on”) as here (though there are variations in the textual tradition), en (“in”) as in 10:48, and eis (“into”) as in 8:16 and 19:5. What it means, it seems, is that in repenting and being baptized a person calls on the name of Jesus (cf. 22:16) and thereby avows his or her intention to be committed to and identified with Jesus.

A third feature in Peter’s preaching is the relation of the gift of the Holy Spirit to repentance and baptism. “The gift of the Holy Spirit” is another way of describing what the disciples had experienced in “the coming of the Holy Spirit,” which Jesus called “the baptism of the Holy Spirit” (cf. 1:4–5, 8). All three expressions are connected with God’s promise to his people and used interchangeably in Acts 1 and 2.

We must, however, distinguish between “the gift” of the Holy Spirit and what Paul called “the spiritual gifts” (ta pneumatika, GK 4461, 1 Co 12:1; 14:1) of that selfsame Spirit. “The gift” is the Spirit himself, given to minister the saving benefits of Christ’s redemption to the believer, while “the spiritual gifts” are those spiritual abilities that the Spirit gives variously to believers “for the common good” and sovereignly, “just as he determines” (1 Co 12:7, 11). Peter’s promise of “the gift of the Holy Spirit” is the result of repentance and baptism. This primary gift includes a variety of spiritual gifts for the advancement of the gospel and the welfare of God’s people. But first of all, it has to do with what God’s Spirit does for every Christian in applying and working out the benefits of Christ’s redemptive work.

In dealing with the various elements in this passage, some interpreters have stressed the command to be baptized so as to link the forgiveness of sins exclusively with baptism. But it runs contrary to all biblical religion to assume that outward rites have any value apart from true repentance and an inward change. The Jewish mind could not divorce inward spirituality from its outward expression. And wherever the Christian gospel was proclaimed in a Jewish milieu, the rite of baptism was taken for granted as being inevitably involved (cf. 2:41; 8:12, 36–38; 9:18; 10:47–48; 18:8; 19:5; see Heb 10:22; 1 Pe 3:18–21). But Peter’s sermon in Solomon’s Colonnade (3:12–26) stresses only repentance and turning to God “so that your sins may be wiped out” (v. 19) and makes no mention of baptism. This shows that for Luke, and probably also for Peter, while baptism with water was the expected symbol for conversion, it was not the indispensable criterion for salvation.

A few commentators have set Peter’s words in v. 38 in opposition to those of John the Baptist in Mark (1:8 par.) and those of Jesus (Ac 1:5), where the baptism of the Holy Spirit is distinguished from John’s baptism and appears to supersede it. But neither the Baptist’s prophecy nor Jesus’ promise necessarily implies that the baptism of the Spirit would set aside water baptism. Certainly the early church did not take it that way. They continued to practice water baptism as the external symbol by which those who believed the gospel, repented of their sins, and acknowledged Jesus as their Lord publicly bore witness to their new life, which had been received through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In line, then, with the Baptist’s prophecy and Jesus’ promise, baptism with the Holy Spirit is distinguished from baptism with water. But baptism with the Holy Spirit did not replace baptism with water. Rather, the latter was given a richer significance because of the saving work of Christ and the coming of the Spirit.

A difficult problem arises when we try to correlate Peter’s words here with the accounts of the Spirit’s baptism in 8:15–17 (at Samaria), 10:44–46 (in the home of Cornelius), and 19:6 (at Ephesus). In v. 38 the baptism of the Spirit is portrayed as the logical outcome of repentance and water baptism; in 8:15–17; 10:44–46; and 19:6, however, it appears to be temporally separated from conversion and water baptism—either following them, as at Samaria and Ephesus, or preceding them, as with Cornelius. Sacramentalists take this as a biblical basis for separating baptism and confirmation, and charismatics see it as justification for viewing the baptism of the Spirit as a second work of grace after conversion.

Lest too much be made of this difference theologically, we should first take into account the historical situation of vv. 37–41 and attempt to understand matters more circumstantially. Assuming that Luke shared Paul’s view of the indissoluble connection between conversion, water baptism, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit (cf. Ro 8:9; 1 Co 6:11), we may ask, What if the Pentecost experience, particularly in regard to the sequence and temporal relations of conversion, water baptism, and Holy Spirit baptism, had been fully present in each of these latter three instances?

What would have been the situation with respect to the Samaritans (8:4–8, 14–17), who had been converted through the instrumentality of Philip, one of the Hellenists expelled from Jerusalem at the time of Stephen’s martyrdom? Samaritans had always been considered second-class citizens by the Jews of Jerusalem, who kept them at arm’s length. What, then, if it had been the apostles residing at Jerusalem who had been the missionaries to Samaria? Probably they would have been rebuffed, just as they were earlier when the Samaritans associated them with the city of Jerusalem (cf. Lk 9:51–56). But God providentially used Philip, who himself had been rebuffed at Jerusalem (though for different reasons), to bring them the gospel. The Samaritans received him and believed his message.

But what if the Spirit had come on the Samaritan believers at their baptism by Philip? Undoubtedly, whatever feelings some of the Christians at Jerusalem had against Philip and the Hellenists would have rubbed off on the Samaritan believers and they would have been doubly under suspicion. But God providentially withheld the gift of the Holy Spirit until Peter and John—two leading apostles who would have been accepted by both the new converts of Samaria and the established congregation at Jerusalem—laid their hands on the Samaritans. Thus in this first advance of the gospel outside Jerusalem, God worked in ways conducive both to the reception of the good news in Samaria and the acceptance of these new converts at Jerusalem—ways that promoted both the outreach of the gospel and the unity of the church.

Or take the conversion of Cornelius (10:24–48). What if, in Peter’s ministry to this Gentile, the order of events Peter had set down after his sermon at Pentecost had occurred (2:38): (1) repentance, (2) baptism, (3) forgiveness of sins, and (4) reception of the gift of the Holy Spirit? Some at Jerusalem might have accused Peter of manipulating the occasion for his own ends, as his lengthy defense before the Jerusalem congregation in 11:1–18 takes pains to deny. But God in his providence gave the gift of his Spirit, coupled with such signs as would convince both Peter and his possible critics at Jerusalem, even before Cornelius’s baptism, so that all would attribute his conversion entirely to God rather than allow their prejudices to make Cornelius a second-class Christian.

As for the incident recorded in 19:1–4, this, along with the other two passages just mentioned, will be dealt with later in addressing those accounts. Enough, however, has been said here to suggest that we should understand Peter’s preaching at Pentecost as being theologically normative for the relation in Acts of (1) conversion, (2) water baptism, and (3) the baptism of the Holy Spirit—with the situations at Samaria, in the home of Cornelius, and among the twelve whom Paul met at Ephesus (which is something of a case all to itself) to be more historically conditioned and circumstantially understood.[5]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 176). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1586–1587). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles (Vol. 17, pp. 104–107). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1994). Acts (pp. 70–75). Chicago: Moody Press.

[5] Longenecker, R. N. (2007). Acts. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, pp. 749–751). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.