Daily Archives: December 9, 2017

December 9 The Sustaining Power of Christ

“[Christ] upholds all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3).

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Christ, by His almighty power, holds together all creation.

We base our entire lives on the constancy of physical laws. When something like an earthquake disrupts the normal condition or operation of things even a little, the consequences are often disastrous. Can you imagine what would happen if Jesus Christ relinquished His sustaining power over the laws of the universe, for it is He in whom “all things hold together” (Col. 1:17)? We would go out of existence, our atoms scattering throughout the galaxy.

If He suspended the laws of gravity only for a brief moment, we would lose all points of reference. If any of the physical laws varied slightly, we could not exist. Our food could turn to poison; we ourselves could drift out into space or get flooded by the ocean tides. Countless other horrible things could happen.

But the universe remains in balance because Jesus Christ sustains and monitors all its movements and interworkings. He maintains cohesion. He is not the deists’ “watchmaker” creator, who made the world, set it in motion, and has not bothered with it since. The reason the universe is a cosmos instead of chaos—an ordered and reliable system instead of an erratic and unpredictable muddle—is the upholding power of Jesus Christ.

The entire universe hangs on the arm of Jesus. His unsearchable wisdom and boundless power are manifested in governing the universe. And He upholds it all by “the word of His power.” The key to the Genesis creation is seen in two words: “God said.” God spoke, and it happened.

When I contemplate Christ’s power to uphold the universe, I’m drawn to the wonderful promise of Philippians 1:6—“I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” When Christ begins a work in your heart, He doesn’t end there. He continually sustains it until the day He will take you into God’s very presence. A life, like a universe, that is not sustained by Christ is chaos.

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Ask God to remind you of Christ’s sustaining power when you endure your next trial.

For Further Study: Read Job 38–39 for a greater appreciation of what Christ does to uphold the universe.[1][1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 356). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

December 9 SUPERNATURAL GRACE: GOD WORKS THE MIRACLE

…He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to my Father.

JOHN 14:12

I don’t mind telling you that it is my earnest faith that all that is worthwhile in Christianity is a miracle!

The trappings and paraphernalia and outward dressings of Christianity are unnecessary—we could get along nicely without them.

But there is a series of miracles, throbbing and beating within the divine message of God, and within the hearts of those who believe truly—and that’s about all there is to the Christian faith.

When Peter wrote that God “according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” he arrived at a major miracle of the New Testament.

Peter was witnessing about a major miracle, that is, being born again—begotten again! Supernatural grace has been the teaching of the Christian Church from Pentecost to the present hour.

It is sad that some men are being forced from their pulpits because they have insisted upon preaching the supernatural quality of the acts of God. We stand with them in the belief that pure religion is a continuing perpetuation of a major miracle, and we cannot settle for just the mental quality of things.

The new birth is the creating of a new man in the heart, where another man has been. It is the putting of a new man in the old man’s place, and we are born anew! It is a vital and unique work of God in human nature.[1][1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

Sexual Revolution Working Out Great, Reports Nation Full Of Perverts

U.S.—The aftermath of the sexual revolution is working out just splendidly, reported a nation filled with perverts, pedophiles, and sexual predators Friday afternoon. The country currently reaping the consequences of decades of declining sexual morals reported it would do it all over again in a heartbeat, further stating that it was “really proud” of the […]

. . . finish reading Sexual Revolution Working Out Great, Reports Nation Full Of Perverts.

The Sin No One Wants to Talk About

There is a sin that is often overlooked, ignored, or unseen. It can take many forms, affect many different sorts of people, and be called by many names. In James 2, it is called the sin of partiality.

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? … If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (Jm. 2:1-48-10)

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Source: The Sin No One Wants to Talk About

December 9, 2017 Worldview and Apologetics in the News

Donald Trump’s Christmas Statement Shows How Little He Understands About Christianity

Christian baker vs. the state of Colorado: Most anticipated Supreme Court case begins oral arguments

Ravi Zacharias Responds to Sexting Allegations, Credentials Critique 1  Ravi’s statement is here.

U.S. Department of Justice to Investigate Planned Parenthood, Business Partners’ Sale of Baby Body Parts

Christian News reports:

Photo: Kelsey Lucas/Visualsey/The Daily Signal

The U.S. Department of Justice has taken steps to investigate the abortion giant Planned Parenthood and its business partners, requesting unredacted documents from the Senate Judiciary Committee in light of Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley’s letter and report submitted last year.

“The Department of Justice appreciates the offer of assistance in obtaining these materials, and would like to request the Committee provide unredacted copies of records contained in the report, in order to further the Department’s ability to conduct a thorough and comprehensive assessment of that report based on the full range of information available,” wrote Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs Stephen Boyd in the letter, obtained by Fox News and The Hill.

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Source: U.S. Department of Justice to Investigate Planned Parenthood, Business Partners’ Sale of Baby Body Parts

Planned Parenthood Finally Under Investigation by DOJ For Profiting From Aborted Human (Baby) Tissue

Absolute Truth from the Word of God

This article on the upcoming DOJ investigation of Planned Parenthood and their profiting from sale of aborted baby tissue is actually about two issues.

  1. The immoral selling of human baby’s tissue for profit and Abortion itself
  2. The lying press – FAKE NEWS

I have chosen two Fake News sites:  NY Times and CNN.

I have also chosen two  Conservative websites: The Federalist and Lifenews

I want the reader to see the stark difference in reporting – not just biased, but LIES – FAKE NEWS.

I found this news in my email from ACLJ, who I subscribe to in order to keep up with the latest REAL news. Then I researched other Conservative sites on this topic.

Let’s look at thefederalist (A Conservative site)

FBI Finally Investigates Planned Parenthood’s Human Remains Trafficking Scheme

Few mainstream sources have reported that the FBI appears to be readying a probe into Planned Parenthood…

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December 9, 2017: Afternoon Verse Of The Day

4  Restore us again, O God of our salvation,
and put away your indignation toward us!
5  Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
6  Will you not revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you?
7  Show us your steadfast love, O LORD,
and grant us your salvation.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 85:4–7). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.


Laments and Prayer for Restoration (85:4–7)

4–7 The situation has since changed. As long as God’s people are on earth, they will be subject to the vicissitudes of life. The psalmist laments the recent problems that have deprived God’s people from enjoying his favor. He interprets them as expressions of God’s “displeasure” (kaʿas, v. 4). Kaʿas may result from God’s anger (Eze 20:28) or be a part of the human situation (“vexations,” “grief”; cf. 1 Sa 1:7, 16; TWOT 1:451). It seems that their grief did not result from God’s displeasure, for the psalm contains no confession. Instead, God tests his people, and in this test they cry out to him. The prayer includes two sets of petitions and a set of questions:

A   Prayer (v. 4)

B   Questions (vv. 5–6)

A′  Prayer (v. 7)

The lamenting community prays that the Lord will “restore” (v. 4; cf. v. 1) them by extending the benefits of his love to all of life. They pray for renewed expressions of his “unfailing love” (ḥesed, GK 2876, v. 7). The renewal of ḥesed is synonymous with the enjoyment of God’s “salvation,” because “salvation” (yēšaʿ; see 27:1) extends the benefits of God to his people: victory, peace, and enjoyment of this life and the life to come. The repetition of “our salvation” (v. 4; NIV, “our Savior”) and “your salvation” (v. 7) forms an inclusio (see Reflections, p. 544, Yahweh Is My Redeemer).

Between the petitions the people lament the new problems by asking question upon question. The questions are antithetical, as the questions in v. 5 pertain to his anger, whereas those in v. 6 pertain to the effects of withholding divine favor. From the people’s vantage point, the Lord goes from anger to anger (v. 5). It seems as though they can do nothing to please him. Yet they confess that God’s restoration was the work of his hands, and they cast themselves on his mercy (v. 6). The personal pronoun “you” (v. 6) is emphatic: “Is it not you who can revive us again?” His favor will result in the change from grief to joy (cf. 104:29–30). They await the renewal of his love (ḥesed, v. 7; see Reflections, p. 271, The Perfections of Yahweh).[1]


85:4 This former demonstration of God’s pardoning mercy is the basis for a plea that He repeat it. Faith is not satisfied with history; it wants to see God in current events. Although the psalmist does not engage in confession, it is implicit in the prayer, “Restore us.…” When God restores, He first brings His people to repentance, then He forgives their sins, and then He terminates the punishment that resulted from His indignation.

85:5 Any time spent away from the Lord seems like an eternity of misery. But the poignant plea of verse 5 takes on special meaning in the lips of the nation of Israel with its centuries of persecution and dispersion: “Will You be angry with us forever? Will You prolong Your anger to all generations?”

85:6 Spiritual declension results inevitably in a loss of joy. Broken fellowship means that the believer’s song is gone. Rejoicing cannot coexist with unconfessed sin. So here the prayer goes winging up to heaven. “Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?” The Spirit’s renewal sets the joy-bells ringing once again. Every great revival has been accompanied by song.

85:7 When God restores His people it is a gracious demonstration of His mercy. But no more than any of His other dealings with us. It is love that chastens us, that disciplines us, that corrects us, and that brings us back at last. And how steadfast is that love that bears with us in all our wanderings, our backslidings, and our disobedience. There is no love like the love of the Lord.

And revival is a granting of salvation from the Lord—here not salvation of the soul but deliverance from all the consequences of unfaithfulness—dispersion, captivity, affliction, powerlessness, and unhappiness.[2]


4–7 Pleading: the end of wrath and the gift of salvation. Salvation means deliverance—in this case deliverance from God’s displeasure (‘vexation’, 4), anger (as personally felt, 5). Only in this way can there be revival/renewal with its consequent joy in God (6); and it can only come about through his changeless love and free gift (7). In the matter of revival/renewal we are dependent on his sovereign will. 4 Restore us again, ‘Turn back to us’—the heart of the matter (3, 5) is that he should be reconciled to us.[3]


85:4–7 Restore and Forgive Us Again. The next section appeals to the benevolence God has claimed and shown, asking him to restore us again, i.e., put away your indignation toward us. For God to be angry with us forever would be contrary to this revealed character; therefore the people pray, show us your steadfast love (proclaimed in Ex. 34:6), and grant us your salvation. The specific “salvation” (see note on Ps. 3:2) is for God to turn away his anger, to forgive his people corporately (see notes on Num. 14:13–19; 14:20–35), and to revive them, i.e., to renew their genuine hold on the covenant and make the land fruitful.[4]


[1] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, pp. 639–640). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 679–680). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Motyer, J. A. (1994). The Psalms. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 541). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1045). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

December 9: GIFTS AND GRACES

…gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will.

Hebrews 2:4

I go back often to Genesis 24 for the illustration and the figure in the Old Testament reminding us of the adornments of grace and beauty that will mark the believing Body of Christ. Abraham sent his trusted servant to his former homeland to select a bride for Isaac.

The adornment of Rebekah’s beauty consisted of jewels and the raiment that came as gifts of love from the bridegroom whom she had not yet seen.

It is a reminder of what God is doing in our midst right now. Abraham typifies God the Father; Isaac, our Lord Jesus Christ, the heavenly Bridegroom. The servant who went with the gifts into the far country to claim a bride for Isaac speaks well of the Holy Spirit, our Teacher and Comforter.

He gives us, one by one, the gifts and the graces of the Holy Spirit that will be our real beauty in His sight. Thus we are being prepared, and when we meet our coming Lord and King, our adornment will be our God-given graces!

Lord, it will be such an exciting day when You come for Your Bride, the Church. I pray that I will personally be ready to present myself to You, clean in body, mind and spirit.[1][1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

December 9 Parable of the Sower: Unresponsive Hearers

When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.—Matt. 13:19

The hard-packed soil beside the road represents the unresponsive hearer who “does not understand” the gospel, solely because of his or her own hardheartedness. The person has continually resisted the gospel or anything else related to true spirituality because of an insensitive, impervious heart.

The Word lies on the surface of the unresponsive heart, exposed to attack by Satan. Such a hearer’s lack of repentance insulates him or her from Christ’s help and leaves them victim to assault by the enemy of the soul.

Such people remind us of the fools who hate wisdom and instruction (Prov. 1:7) and say there is no God (Ps. 14:1). They are often self-satisfied and self-righteous, and the gospel is simply veiled to them because “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel” (2 Cor. 4:4).

Satan uses various means to snatch away the seed sown: false teachers who promote spiritual lies, fear of human opinion that opposes Christianity, pride that blinds people to their real needs, and all sorts of other sinful prejudices against the truth of God’s Word. All of these realities ought to prompt us toward prayer for and reaching out to the lost so that God may save some.

ASK YOURSELF

If lack of repentance is the key ingredient in shielding people from their need for Christ, we must continually guard ourselves from this hardened condition, even after being saved. Would this be a good time to deal directly with any unconfessed sin, turning away from it and back to the mercies of God?[1]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 352). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

December 9 What Matters Most

Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth,Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.

Philippians 1:18

The word “preached” in today’s verse means “to proclaim with authority.” Regardless of the personal cost, Paul was determined that Christ be proclaimed with authority.

Even when Paul’s detractors preached the true gospel, it had an impact. A selfishly motivated preacher can still be used of God because the truth is more powerful than the package it comes in.

Paul lived to see the gospel proclaimed—he didn’t care who received the credit. That’s to be the attitude of every pastor, teacher, elder, deacon, leader, and layperson in the church. In all that he suffered, Paul didn’t quit, lash out, break down, or lose his joy. That’s because the cause of Christ was being furthered and His name proclaimed. It was all Paul cared about. That’s an attitude the grace of Christ instills in all who would be godly.[1][1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 370). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

December 9, 2017: Morning Verse Of The Day

The Interrogation

Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” (18:33–38a)

Leaving the Jewish leaders standing outside, Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus. Luke 23:2 provides the background to his question, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Realizing that they had to come up with a charge that would impress a Roman judge, the Jewish leaders “began to accuse [Jesus], saying, ‘We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.’ ” The charges, of course, were completely false; Jesus had actually said the opposite: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21). Their goal was to portray Him as an insurrectionist, bent on overthrowing Roman rule and establishing His own.

Pilate could not overlook such a threat to Roman power. His question, “Are You the King of the Jews?” was in effect asking Jesus whether He was pleading guilty or not guilty to the charge of insurrection. “Pilate’s question seeks to determine whether or not Jesus constituted a political threat to Roman imperial power” (Andreas J. Köstenberger, John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004], 527). In all four gospel accounts this is the first question Pilate asks Jesus, and in all four the pronoun “You” is emphatic. The Greek text literally reads, “You, are You the King of the Jews?” Pilate was incredulous; from a human perspective, Jesus did not look like a king. And if He was a king, where were His followers and His army? And how was He a threat to Rome?

Jesus could not answer Pilate’s question with an unqualified “Yes” or “No” without first defining exactly what His kingship entails. His counterquestion, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” was intended to clarify the issue. If Pilate was saying this on his own initiative, he would be asking if Jesus was a king in the political sense (and hence a threat to Rome). Jesus’ answer in that case would be no; He was not a king in the sense of a military or political leader. He had earlier rejected the crowd’s attempt to make Him such a king (6:15). But neither could the Lord deny that as the Messiah He was Israel’s true king.

Pilate’s sharp retort, “I am not a Jew, am I?” reflects both his disdain for the Jewish people, and his growing exasperation with the frustrating, puzzling ethnic case set before him. His further elaboration, Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me, makes it clear that the governor was merely repeating the charge leveled against Jesus by the Jewish leaders; the accusation was theirs, not Rome’s. Exactly why they had done so still eluded Pilate. He knew perfectly well that the Jews would not have handed over to him someone hostile to Rome unless they stood to gain from doing so.

Attempting once again to get to the bottom of things, Pilate asked the question that he should have asked at the outset: what have You done? Unlike Jewish practice (see the discussion of 18:19 in the previous chapter of this volume), Roman legal procedure allowed the accused to be questioned in detail (Köstenberger, John, 527). Pilate understood that the Jewish leaders had handed Jesus over to him because of envy (Matt. 27:18). What he still did not understand was what Jesus had done to provoke such vehement hostility from them and what, if any, crime He had committed.

Since it was now clear that Pilate was merely repeating the charge of the Jewish leaders, Jesus answered his question. He was a king, but not a political ruler intent on challenging Rome’s rule. “My kingdom is not of (Greek ek; “out from the midst of”) this world,” He declared. Its source was not the world system, nor did Jesus derive His authority from any human source. As noted earlier, He had rejected the crowd’s attempt to crown Him king. He also passed up an opportunity to proclaim Himself king at the triumphal entry, when He rode into Jerusalem at the head of tens of thousands of frenzied hopefuls.

To reinforce His point, Jesus noted that if His kingdom were of this world, then His servants would be fighting so that He would not be handed over to the Jews. No earthly king would have allowed himself to have been captured so easily. But when one of His followers (Peter) attempted to defend Him, Jesus rebuked him. The messianic kingdom does not originate from human effort, but through the Son of Man’s conquering of sin in the lives of those who belong to His spiritual kingdom.

Christ’s kingdom is spiritually active in the world today, and one day He will return to physically reign on the earth in millennial glory (Rev. 11:15; 20:6). But until then His Kingdom exists in the hearts of believers, where He is undisputed King and sovereign Lord. He was absolutely no threat either to the national identity of Israel, or to the political and military identity of Rome.

That the Lord spoke of being handed over to the Jews is significant. Far from leading them in a revolt against Rome, Jesus spoke of the Jews (especially the leaders) as His enemies. He was a king, but since He disavowed the use of force and fighting, He was clearly no threat to Rome’s interests. The Lord’s statement rendered the Jews’ charge that He was a revolutionary bent on overthrowing Rome absurd.

Jesus’ description of His kingdom had left Pilate somewhat confused. If His kingdom was not an earthly one, then was Jesus really a king at all? Seeking to clarify the issue, Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus’ answer was clear and unambiguous: “You say correctly that I am a king.” The Lord boldly “testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate” (1 Tim. 6:13). Unlike earthly kings, however, Jesus was not crowned a king by any human agency. For this I have been born, He declared, and for this I have come into the world. Jesus had not only been born like all other human beings, but also had come into the world from another realm—heaven (cf. 3:13, 31; 6:33; 8:23; 17:5). Taken together, the two phrases are an unmistakable reference to the preexistence and incarnation of the Son of God.

Jesus’ mission was not political but spiritual. It was to testify to the truth by “proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 4:23). Christ proclaimed the truth about God, men, sin, judgment, holiness, love, eternal life, in short, “everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). What people do with the message of truth Jesus proclaimed determines their eternal destiny; as He went on to declare, “Everyone who is of the truth hears (the Greek word includes the concept of obedience; cf. Luke 9:35) My voice.” Jesus is “the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through [Him]” (14:6). In 10:27 He added, “My sheep hear My voice and I know them, and they follow Me.” Only those who continue in His Word are truly His disciples; only those who are truly His disciples will know and be set free by the truth (8:31–32).

Jesus’ words were an implied invitation to Pilate to hear and obey the truth about Him. But they were lost on the governor, who abruptly ended his interrogation of Christ with the cynical, pessimistic remark, “What is truth?” Like skeptics of all ages, including contemporary postmodernists, Pilate despaired of finding universal truth. This is the tragedy of fallen man’s rejection of God. Without God, there cannot be any absolutes; without absolutes, there can be no objective, universal, normative truths. Truth becomes subjective, relative, pragmatic; objectivity gives way to subjectivity; timeless universal principles become mere personal or cultural preferences. All fallen mankind has accomplished by forsaking God, “the fountain of living waters,” is “to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13). Pilate’s flippant retort proved that he was not one of those given by the Father to the Son, who hear and obey Christ’s voice.[1]


Jesus Before Pilate

John 18:33–38

Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

“What is truth?” Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.”

The previous study dealt with two puzzling aspects of the Roman trial: one, the contrast between what we know from secular sources regarding Pilate’s character—insensitive, impetuous, rude—and the way the four Gospels indicate he actually conducted the trial; the second, that Pilate pronounced Christ innocent and yet condemned him to be crucified. These elements make a study of the Roman trial quite difficult and suggest levels of mystery that are possibly unfathomable.

There is one aspect of the Roman trial that is not the least bit mysterious, however. It is the tendency of human nature meticulously to go through all the external forms required by a situation while at the same time denying the very reality the forms stand for. There are two examples of this in the second segment of Christ’s trial. On the one hand, there is the example of the Jewish rulers who, we are told, “to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover” (John 18:28). Here were men engaged in a most vile act, the judicial murder of Jesus; yet they were concerned about being ceremonially defiled. They had convicted an innocent man of crimes worthy of death, breaking scores of their own laws in the process. They were about to seek a parallel conviction from Pilate by illegally and unconscionably changing the nature of the accusation made against their prisoner. Yet they were concerned about a ritual purification.

The other example of this human tendency is Pilate, who made a great show of justice while actually allowing mob action to force his acquiescence in the death of a man whom he knew was innocent.

The Formal Indictment

Some students of the Roman trial of Jesus have insisted that the real trial was before the Jewish Sanhedrin and that this was merely an informal hearing. But their argument overlooks the actual stages of the trial as they are recorded for us by the New Testament authors. A Roman trial had four essential elements: the indictment, the examination, the defense, and the verdict. Each of these is present in Christ’s trial. The official nature of the proceedings is indicated by Pilate’s opening words: “What charges are you bringing against this man?” (v. 29). As Chandler observes, “This question is very keenly indicative of the presence of the judge and of the beginning of a solemn judicial proceeding. Every word rings with Roman authority and strongly suggests administrative action.”

Pilate’s question seems to have caught the Jewish leaders by surprise, however. For instead of replying with a formal indictment, as they should have been prepared to do, they attempted to evade the question by answering: “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you” (v. 30).

At the very least, the reply of the leaders suggests that the priests and scribes regarded their own trial as sufficient and were coming to Pilate merely to secure a formal signature to effect the execution. They were saying, “You should accept the judgment that he is worthy of death merely because we say so.” On the other hand, there may be more to it than this, as was argued in our earlier treatment of the Jewish trial. As we saw in that study, we can hardly suppose that the Jewish Sanhedrin launched into the trial of Jesus at this relatively late hour in Passover week without some understanding with Pilate that he would hear the case and concur in their verdict early on this particular morning. It is clear that the Jews expected a perfunctory endorsement of the verdict already arrived at by their own court. When Pilate surprised them by apparently intending to open the case anew and conduct a formal hearing, they were temporarily caught off guard and replied with this evasion.

Pilate said that if they were unwilling to make a formal accusation, they obviously did not need him and therefore should prosecute the case according to their own laws and inflict whatever penalties they were legally entitled to impose. It is possible that at this point Pilate did not understand that the Jews were seeking the death penalty in Jesus’ case, but it is far more likely that he understood this all too well and was speaking as he did merely to remind the priests that they were under the rule of Rome and would have to conform to Rome’s rules if they wished to have Christ executed. In a later incident involving the apostle Paul, the same principle was stated: “It is not the Roman custom to hand over any man before he has faced his accusers and has had an opportunity to defend himself against their charges” (Acts 25:16).

The unanticipated stubbornness of Pilate clearly thwarted the Jews in their designs. But they were resourceful and, therefore, produced an accusation on the spur of the moment. John does not record it; he passes instead to the heart of the accusation and Pilate’s examination of Jesus on this point. But Luke gives the accusation in full. It has three parts. “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be the Christ” (Luke 23:2).

This is not the crime of which Jesus had been convicted in their own court. Chandler writes, “In the passage from the Sanhedrin to the Praetorium, the indictment had completely changed. Jesus had not been condemned on any of the charges recorded in this sentence of St. Luke. He had been convicted on the charge of blasphemy. But before Pilate he is now charged with high treason. … Why? Because blasphemy was not an offense against Roman law, and Roman judges would generally assume cognizance of no such charges.

“The Jews understood perfectly well at the trial before Pilate the principle of Roman procedure so admirably expressed a few years later by Gallio, proconsul of Achaia, and brother of Seneca: ‘If it were a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness, O ye Jews, reason would that I should bear with you: but if it be a question of words and names, and of your law, look ye to it; for I will be no judge of such matters.’ This attitude of Roman governors toward offenses of a religious nature perfectly explains the Jewish change of front in the matter of the accusation against Jesus. They merely wanted to get themselves into a Roman court on charges that a Roman judge would consent to try. In the threefold accusation recorded by the third Evangelist, they fully accomplished this result.”

The first charge was that Christ was “perverting the nation.” This was indefinite. Had Pilate taken it seriously, it would have had to have been supported by specific examples of sedition. Still, it was a real offense. It was, in fact, the precise charge that the Jewish court had tried to prove against Jesus in reference to his claim to be able to tear down the temple and rebuild it in three days. The Jews had been unable to prove this in their court because of the contradictory testimony of their witnesses.

The second charge was also serious. In fact, it was more serious than the first in that it was a specific treasonable act under Roman law governing a captive state. The only problem with this charge is that it was clearly false. On an earlier occasion the nation’s leaders had attempted to trap Jesus on this very issue, but he had acquitted himself admirably. They had come to him with a trick question, asking, “What is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (Matt. 22:17). They reasoned that if he said yes, they could denounce him to the people, saying, “What kind of Messiah is this who counsels abject subservience to Rome?” On the other hand, if he replied no, they could denounce him to Rome, saying “You have an insurrectionist on your hands.” But what did Christ answer? He asked for a coin and demanded of his questioners, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?” (v. 20). When they replied, “Caesar’s,” he gave that ruling that has become the classical biblical statement of the separation of church and state, involving the proper responsibilities of and to each. He said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (v. 21). In this charge the leaders were therefore guilty of the most flagrant and malicious of lies.

The third charge was the greatest and most serious of the three, that Jesus had claimed to be “Christ, a king.” It was serious because it was true. It was also serious because it was the claim about which Rome was most sensitive and against which she was most on her guard. When Pilate heard this charge he gathered his robes about him, motioned for Jesus to follow him, made his way back into the palace (which John alone records) and began the examination, the second part of every Roman trial. Not content with receiving the formal accusation alone, Pilate now sought to determine whether the charges preferred against Jesus were true.

The Examination

Each of the Gospel writers records the question with which Pilate began his interrogation. It is simply, “Are you the King of the Jews?” (Matt. 27:11; Mark 15:2; Luke 23:3; John 18:33). With this question Pilate, it would appear, impatiently brushed aside the two lesser charges as unworthy of serious consideration and proceeded at once to examine Jesus on that charge which, if true, would unmistakably brand him Caesar’s enemy.

John records Christ’s full reply. As we read it, it seems like an evasion—“Is that your own idea or did others talk to you about me?” (v. 34)—but actually Jesus’ reply is much to the point. For having heard the charge first from the lips of the Jews and now from Pilate himself, Jesus wishes to know first of all in what sense the question is being put to him. What was the nature of the charge? If the question were being asked from a Roman point of view, one answer would be given; for Christ was not a king from Rome’s perspective. On the other hand, if the question were being asked from a Jewish perspective, quite another answer would be given; for Jesus was the Jews’ Messiah.

Pilate’s reply, while abrupt, is nevertheless also directly to the point at this stage in the examination. He asks, “Am I a Jew? It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” (v. 35). This means, “I am no Jew. I ask my question as a Roman administrator and, as such, purely religious questions have no interest for me. What I want to know is: What have you done that might affect the sovereignty of Caesar?”

The Defense

At this point, although the interrogation continues, Jesus begins his defense by introducing what in modern law would be called a plea of confession and avoidance. This is a plea which admits, either in words or in effect, the truth of the accusation but which nevertheless introduces some new matter to avoid the guilt which normally would follow. For example, we may imagine a case in which a man is on trial for murder. The judge asks, “Did you shoot and kill John Smith on the date in question?” The defendant might answer, “Yes, I did, your honor; but you should know that I discovered him in my dining room near an open window trying to steal my silver chest and that when I discovered him he came at me with a knife. My plea is justified homicide and self-defense.” Here the defendant admits to the killing but pleads extenuating circumstances. In the same way, the Lord now admits to the charge of having claimed to be a king but describes his kingship in such a way that it is seen to be no threat to the legitimate claims of Caesar.

Jesus first explains the nature of his kingdom negatively: “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place” (v. 36).

We do not know whether Pilate understood what Jesus was saying in this reply, but one phrase immediately caught his attention, the phrase “my kingdom.” Jesus seemed to be saying that this was not an earthly kingdom, but Pilate could take no chances on this crucial issue. He therefore picked up on this phrase and (probably) advanced on Christ threateningly to demand sternly, “You are a king, then!” (v. 37).

This time Jesus replies to the question with a positive affirmation: “You are right in saying that I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (v. 37).

Jesus’ defense has two parts. One is a negative definition of his kingdom. It is “not of this world.” The proof is that his disciples did not fight to prevent his arrest by the Jewish authorities. The other is a positive definition of the kingdom. It is of “the truth.” That is, it is a kingdom ruling over people’s minds and aspirations. Chandler writes, “His was not an empire of matter, but a realm of truth. His kingdom differed widely from that of Caesar. Caesar’s empire was over the bodies of men; Christ’s over their souls. The strength of Caesar’s kingdom was in citadels, armies, navies, the towering Alps, the all-engirding seas. The strength of the kingdom of Christ was and is and will ever be in sentiments, principles, ideas, and the saving power of a divine word.”

Pilate could not fully appreciate this instruction. “Truth?” he asked. “What is truth?” Then he turned away, convinced at last that whatever Jesus’ peculiar ideas, he was certainly no worse than any other religious fanatic and was, at least from Rome’s point of view, perfectly innocent of any capital offenses.

The Verdict

The last phase of the Roman trial followed immediately upon Pilate’s examination of Jesus and Jesus’ defense. John tells us that, having concluded this examination, “he went out again to the Jews, and said, ‘I find no basis for a charge against him’ ” (v. 38). Absolvo! Non fecisse videtur! Standing alone these phrases indicate the close of the trial and mark it as being an official court proceeding.

Pilate had tried and acquitted Jesus. Why then did he not release him or, if need be, place him in protective custody as a later Roman ruler did with the apostle Paul when his life was threatened (Acts 21:31–33; 23:12–24)? This is the question that the human race has asked of Pontius Pilate for nearly two thousand years. Pilate was guilty of nothing at all up to this point. In fact, he had conducted the trial with precision, wisdom, and dispatch. He had reached the right verdict. But now, in spite of his calling as a Roman governor and judge, the high example of many thousands of Roman administrators before him, and the power of the legions in Palestine, he failed to do the right thing by immediately setting Christ free. The mood of the crowd forestalled him. Then he settled down into a series of irregular and illegal proceedings that eventually ended in the prisoner’s execution. Pilate was a coward. This is the only proper analysis of his character and the ultimate explanation of why he failed to do right in this situation.

What does this mean? It means that in the true, eternal issues of the case it is Pilate who was judged by the Lord and found wanting. I have titled this chapter “Jesus before Pilate,” but we must never forget that in another and far more important sense it is also “Pilate before Jesus.” In the former Jesus was tried and found innocent. Rightly so. In the latter Pilate was tried and found guilty.

So are all who stand before Christ. He is the only perfect person who ever lived. His standard for us is perfection. We all fall short, each one. For “there is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Rom. 3:10–12). We stand condemned. But it is for such condemned men and women that Christ died. He died to bear the punishment for their sin and thereby free them from God’s righteous judgment and curse.

Has he done that for you? He has if you are a subject of his kingdom, which you have entered (if you have entered it) by a believing response to his truth and person. That response entails the belief that Jesus is who he says he is (the Son of God) and did what he said he would do (die for your sin), coupled with a personal commitment to follow him as your Savior and Lord.[2]


37 Pilate’s response may be taken as a statement (“You are a king, then!”) or as a question (“So you are a king?”; NASB, NRSV). The exact nuance is difficult to determine, but Pilate seems to be saying that Jesus’ claim to a kingdom, even though this kingdom is not of this world, makes Jesus a “king” after all. Pilate is not making a formal declaration as much as he is suggesting a conclusion in which he invites Jesus to concur—So you are a king after all; is that not true? (Lindars, 559, says that when the particle oukoun is accented on the second syllable it loses its negative force and becomes inferential.)

Jesus does not give a direct answer. It was Pilate, not Jesus, who had used the term “king.” Nevertheless, he was not incorrect in doing so. Jesus neither refuses the title nor accepts it in the way Pilate meant it. For Pilate, “king” is a political term; for Jesus it means something quite distinct. Jesus is king in the sense that he entered this world “to testify to the truth.” A spiritual kingship deals with spiritual matters. If truth is to reign, the king will be the one who proclaims that truth. Note the strong contrast between “you say” and “for this reason I was born.” (The Greek pronouns sy and egō stand at the beginning of the two respective clauses.) “Born” and “came into the world” both refer to the ministry of Jesus on earth. The purpose of the incarnation is to testify to the truth. Earlier Jesus said that he came into the world “for judgment” (9:39). The revelation of truth has the effect of judging in the sense that those who refuse the truth place themselves outside the scope of God’s redemptive work, while those who accept the truth are forgiven. The reason so many resist the truth is that it carries with it the power of condemnation.

“Everyone on the side of truth,” declares Jesus, “listens to me.” To understand and accept truth is to recognize further truth when it comes (EDNT, 1:53, notes that in this verse akouō, GK 201, is to be understood “in the sense of an obedient listening”). To refuse the truth is to forfeit the moral sensitivity necessary to distinguish between truth and error. Since truth has a moral claim, the denial of truth leads to moral blindness.[3]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2008). John 12–21 (pp. 328–331). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Boice, J. M. (2005). The Gospel of John: an expositional commentary (pp. 1426–1432). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[3] Mounce, R. H. (2007). John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, pp. 624–625). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

December 9: A PERSONAL LOVE EXPERIENCE

O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is.

—Psalm 63:1

They can change the expressions in the hymnals, but whenever men and women are lost in worship they will cry out, “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee” (Psalm 63:1). Worship becomes a completely personal love experience between God and the worshiper. It was like that with David, with Isaiah, with Paul. It is like that with all whose desire has been to possess God.

This is the glad truth: God is my God.

Brother or sister, until you can say God and I, you cannot say us with any meaning. Until you have been able to meet God in loneliness of soul, just you and God—as if there were no one else in the world—you will never know what it is to love the other persons in the world.

In Canada, those who have written of the saintly Holy Anne said, “She talks to God as if there were nobody else but God and He had no other children but her.” That was not a selfish quality. She had found the value and delight of pouring her personal devotion and adoration at God’s feet. WHT089

May I know today that personal love experience with You, my God. I will seek You early, for You are my God. Amen. [1][1] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

December 9 Christ’s Outward Appearance

“… Being found in appearance as a man.”

Philippians 2:8

✧✧✧

Many people view Christ only as a man, but He is God.

After winning a gold medal at the 1924 Olympics in Paris, Scottish runner Eric Liddell served as a missionary in China; he died in a prison camp during World War II. The camp’s prisoners loved Eric, for he served them so unselfishly. It was only at his funeral that they first learned he was an Olympic hero. They had had no idea of his full identity.

Most people didn’t realize Christ’s full identity either, for He was “found in appearance as a man” (Phil. 2:8). At first glance that phrase seems like a repetition of the end of verse 7, “being made in the likeness of men.” We could paraphrase verse 8 to read, “He was discovered to appear as a man.” The difference between that and verse 7 is a shift in focus. In verse 8 we view the humiliation of Christ from the viewpoint of those who saw Him. Christ was the God–man, but as people looked at Him, they saw the “appearance” (Greek, schema, “outward form”) of a man. Paul was implying that though Christ appeared to be a man, there was much more to Him that could not naturally be seen.

For Christ to become man was humbling enough. For Him not to have been recognized must have been humiliating. He performed miracles and taught authoritatively, yet the typical responses were: “You are a Samaritan and have a demon” (John 8:48) and, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” (John 6:42). Because their minds were darkened by sin, people recognized His humanity but could not see His deity. They could not recognize who He really was. They not only treated the King of kings as a man but as the worst of men—a criminal.

Unlike people who don’t recognize Christ’s true identity, let’s honor Him through a life of worship and obedience.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: Worship Christ for who He really is—the King of kings and Lord of lords. Praise Him for this truth in your prayer time.

For Further Study: Christ was not only fully man but also fully God. Read the following verses in which Christ Himself bears testimony that He is God: Luke 22:69–70; John 10:30, 37–38; 12:45; 14:7–10. What else should one find in these verses?[1][1] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

December 8 Daily Help

BE it ever in your remembrance, that to keep strictly in the path of your Saviour’s command is better than any outward form of religion; and to hearken to his precept with an attentive ear is better than to bring the fat of rams, or any other precious thing, to lay upon his altar. If you are failing to keep the least of Christ’s commands to his disciples, I pray you be disobedient no longer. “To obey,” even in the slightest and smallest thing, “is better than sacrifice.” It is a blessed thing to be teachable as a little child, but it is a much more blessed thing, when one has been taught the lesson, to carry it out to the letter.[1]

 

[1] Spurgeon, C. H. (1892). Daily Help (p. 346). Baltimore: R. H. Woodward & Company.

December 8, 2017: Evening Verse Of The Day

The Extent of Man’s Sinfulness

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. (1:28–32)

Because fallen mankind did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over in still another way, in this case to a depraved mind. The God-less mind is a depraved mind, whose predetermined and inevitable disposition is to do those things which are not proper.

The basic meaning of adokimos (depraved) is that of not standing the test, and the term was commonly used of metals that were rejected by refiners because of impurities. The impure metals were discarded, and adokimos therefore came to include the ideas of worthlessness and uselessness. In relation to God, the rejecting mind becomes a rejected mind and thereby becomes spiritually depraved, worthless and useless. Of unbelievers, Jeremiah wrote, “They call them rejected silver, because the Lord has rejected them” (Jer. 6:30). The mind that finds God worthless becomes worthless itself. It is debauched, deceived, and deserving only of God’s divine wrath.

The sinful, depraved mind says to God, “Depart from us! We do not even desire the knowledge of Thy ways. Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him, and what would we gain if we entreat Him?” (Job 21:14–15). Although God-less people think they are wise, they are supremely foolish (Rom. 1:22). Regardless of their natural intelligence and their learning in the physical realm, in the things of God they are devoid even of “the beginning of knowledge,” because they lack reverential fear of Him. They are merely “fools [who] despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7; cf. v. 29).

Even God’s chosen people, the Jews, fell into that foolishness when they rejected or neglected the revelation and blessings He had showered on them so uniquely and abundantly. “For My people are foolish, they know Me not,” the Lord declared through Jeremiah; “they are stupid children, and they have no understanding. They are shrewd to do evil, but to do good they do not know” (Jer. 4:22; cf. 9:6). Those who reject the true God are wholly vulnerable to “the god of this world [who] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4).

The catalog of sins Paul proceeds to mention in Romans 1:29–31 is not exhaustive, but it is representative of the virtually endless number of vices with which the natural man is filled.

The first two terms in the nasb text, all unrighteousness and wickedness, are comprehensive and general, synonyms that encompass the entire range of the particular sins that follow. Some versions include fornication between those first two terms, but that word is not found in the best Greek manuscripts. The idea is certainly not inappropriate to the context, however, because fornication is universally condemned in Scripture and is frequently included by Paul in lists of vices (see 1 Cor. 6:9; Gal. 5:19; Col. 3:5). Fornication is implied in the sin of impurity, which has already been mentioned in the present passage (1:24).

The sins mentioned in the rest of the list are basically self-explanatory: greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful. The Greek term behind untrustworthy means literally to break a covenant, as reflected in some translations. Unloving relates especially to unnatural family relationships, such as that of a parent who abandons a young child or a grown child who abandons his aging parents.

Reiterating the fact that rebellious, ungodly men are without excuse, Paul declares that they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death. The apostle has already established that, since the creation of the world, God has made Himself known to every human being (vv. 19–21). People do not recognize God because they do not want to recognize Him, because they willingly “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (v. 18). “This is the judgment,” Jesus said, “that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:19–20).

Whether they recognize it or not, even those who have never been exposed to the revelation of God’s Word are instinctively aware of His existence and of His basic standards of righteousness. “They show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them” (Rom. 2:15).

In most societies of the world, even in those considered uncivilized, most of the sins Paul lists here are considered wrong, and many are held to be crimes. Men inherently know that such things as greed, envy, murder, deceit, arrogance, disobedience, and mercilessness are wrong.

The absolute pit of wickedness is reached, Paul says, when those who are themselves involved in evils also give hearty approval to others who practice them. To justify one’s own sin is wicked enough, but to approve and encourage others to sin is immeasurably worse. Even the best of societies have had those within them who were blatantly wicked and perverse. But a society that openly condones and defends such evils as sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, and the rest has reached the deepest level of corruption. Many of the most socially advanced societies of our own day are in that category. Sexually promiscuous celebrities are glamorized and the rights of homosexuals are ardently defended. These acts of sin are in direct contradiction to the revealed will of God.

A certain species of ants in Africa builds its nests in deep subterranean tunnels, where its young and its queen live. Although they may be great distances from the nest foraging for food, worker ants of that species are able to sense when the queen is being molested and they become extremely nervous and uncoordinated. If she is killed, they become frantic and rush around aimlessly until they die.

What better illustration could there be of fallen man. Even in his sinful rejection and rebellion, he cannot function properly apart from God and is destined only for death.[1]


28–32 Here the second key word of v. 18 (adikia, NIV, “wickedness; NASB, “unrighteousness,” GK 94) reappears (v. 29), indicating that this section is to be given over almost totally to a picture of the havoc wrought in human relations because of suppressing the knowledge of God. Paul describes the sinful world that we know all too well from experience. There is a wordplay in the Greek—people “did not think it worthwhile” (edokimasan, GK 1507) to retain God in their knowledge, so God in turn gave them over to a “depraved [adokimon, GK 99] mind,” which led them in turn to commit all kinds of sin. It is God’s function to judge, but human beings have usurped that prerogative in order to sit in judgment on him and dismiss him from their lives. The prior emphasis on the mind is in accord with the appraisal of our Lord, who traced the wellspring of sinful acts to the inner life rather than to environmental factors (Mk 7:20–23). The depraved mind is explained in terms of what it approves and plans—“to do what ought not to be done,” namely, what is “offensive to man even according to the popular moral sense of the Gentiles, i.e., what even natural human judgment regards as vicious and wrong” (TDNT 3:440).[2]


Verses 28–32

Paul’s opening statement in verse 28 this time includes a play on words between ouk edokimasan (‘they did not think it worth while’) and adokimon noun (‘a depraved mind’). It is not easy to reproduce it in English. One might say that ‘since they did not see fit to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to an unfit mind’.

And their depraved mind led this time not to immorality but to a whole variety of antisocial practices, which ought not to be done (28), and which together describe the breakdown of human community, as standards disappear and society disintegrates. Paul gives a catalogue of twenty-one vices. Such lists were not uncommon in those days in Stoic, Jewish and early Christian literature. All commentators seem to agree that the list defies neat classification. It begins with four general sins with which these people have become filled, namely every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. Then come five more sins which they are full of and which all depict broken human relationships: envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice (29). Next come a couple on their own, which seem to refer to libel and slander, although jbp offers a characteristically imaginative translation: ‘whisperers-behind-doors’ and ‘stabbers-in-the-back’. These two are followed by four which seem to portray different and extreme forms of pride: God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful. Now comes another independent couple of words, denoting people who are ‘inventive’ in relation to evil and rebellious in relation to parents (30). And the list ends with four negatives, senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless (31), which jb rather neatly renders ‘without brains, honour, love or pity’.

Verse 32 is a concluding summary of the human perversity Paul has been describing. First, they know. Yet again he begins with the knowledge possessed by the people he is depicting. It is not now God’s truth that they know, however, but God’s righteous decree, namely that those who do such things deserve death. As he will write later, ‘the wages of sin is death’ (6:23). And they know it. Their conscience condemns them.

Secondly, they nevertheless disregard their knowledge. They not only continue to do these very things, which they know deserve death, but (which is worse) they actively encourage others to do the same, and so flagrantly approve the evil behaviour of which God has expressed his disapproval.

We have come to the end of Paul’s portrayal of depraved Gentile society. Its essence lies in the antithesis between what people know and what they do. God’s wrath is specifically directed against those who deliberately suppress truth for the sake of evil. ‘Dark as the picture here drawn is,’ wrote Charles Hodge, ‘it is not so dark as that presented by the most distinguished Greek and Latin authors, of their own countrymen.’ Paul was not exaggerating.[3]


28. And since they did not deem it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to (their) worthless disposition, to do what is improper …

Here for the third and last time our attention is focused on the correlation between man’s rejection of God and God’s rejection of man. For the two previous references to this correlation see verses 24 and 26. Men’s arrogance comes to the fore in the expression, “They did not deem it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God,” the very knowledge to which reference was made in verses 18–21; note especially, “For although they knew God” (verse 21). Instead of regarding this knowledge about God which they were deriving from his revelation in nature to be a precious treasure, they were constantly attempting to suppress it (verse 18) and, as is stated here in verse 28, regarded it as a negligible entity. They did not deem it to be worthwhile to pay any attention to God and to his revelation. So they continued on their sinful way, as described in verses 21–27 (the way of idolatry and immorality). In fact, the improper things the apostle has in mind probably also covered those mentioned in verses 29–32. Note that an evil “disposition” or “mind” or “attitude” results in evil deeds.

29–31.… having become filled with every kind ofunrighteousness, wickedness, greed, depravity;being full ofenvy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice. (They are)gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of (novel forms of) evil, disobedient to (their) parents, senseless, faithless, loveless, pitiless.

The list of vices mentioned in Rom. 1:29–31 should be compared with similar lists elsewhere in Paul’s writings: Rom. 13:13; 1 Cor. 5:9–11; 6:9, 10; 2 Cor. 12:20, 21; Gal. 5:19–21; Eph. 4:19; 5:3–5; Col. 3:5–9; 1 Thess. 2:3; 4:3–7; 1 Tim. 1:9, 10; 6:4, 5; 2 Tim. 3:2–5; and Titus 3:3, 9, 10.

Whether there were factors other than identity of authorship (for example, already existing lists) that account for this resemblance is difficult to ascertain.

The most simple and logical way to divide the twenty-one vices mentioned in Rom. 1:29–31 is to list them in three groups:

  1. one group of four vices (in the original each in the dat. s.), these four being introduced by the words “having become filled with every kind of”;
  2. one group of five vices (all in the gen. s.), introduced by “being full of”; and
  3. one group of twelve items, beginning with “gossips.”

The final four items in this group of twelve form a kind of sub-group, each member beginning with ἀ-privative (equal to English prefix un, dis-, or suffix -less).

The 4–5-12 grouping is also accepted by Cranfield, Murray, Ridderbos, Robertson, etc.

It will be noticed that no longer is there any specific reference to sins of sex, since that subject has been fully treated in the preceding verses.

Group of Four

unrighteousness. See on verse 18.

wickedness. This describes those people who take delight in doing what is wrong.

greed. This is covetousness, over-reaching, the craving for more and more and still more possessions, no matter how they are obtained. At times, as in Eph. 5:3, the word applies to ravenous self-assertion in matters of sex, at the expense of others.

depravity. This is badness in general. It is hard to distinguish it from wickedness.

Group of Five

envy. This is the keen displeasure aroused by seeing someone having something which you begrudge him.

murder. Envy often leads to murder. This was true in the case of Cain who murdered Abel (Gen. 4:1–8; 1 John 3:12). It was true also with respect to those who demanded Christ’s crucifixion (Matt. 27:18; Mark 15:10). And was it not envy that caused the brothers of Joseph to plan his death? See Gen. 37:4, 18.

strife. This refers to a quarrelsome disposition and its consequences.

deceit. This is cunning, treachery.

malice. This indicates malignity, spite, the desire to harm people.

Group of Twelve

gossips. The “whispering” slanderers are meant. They do not—perhaps do not dare to—come out in the open with their vilifying chatter, but whisper it into someone’s ear.

slanderers. What the gossips do secretly, the slanderers do openly.

haters of God. The word used in the original more often refers to those who are hated by God. However, the word is also used at times, as it is here, to indicate those who hate God.

insolent. See also 1 Tim. 1:13. This marks overweening individuals. They treat others with contempt, as if they (these insolent ones) and they alone, amounted to anything, and all others amounted to nothing.

arrogant. These fellows consider themselves “supermen.”

boastful. Such people are constantly bragging about themselves. Think of Lamech (Gen. 4:23, 24), of Sennacherib (2 Chron. 32:10–14); and of those described in Isa. 10:8–11; 14:13, 14.

inventors of (novel forms of) evil. The reference is to those who take special delight in inventing “original” methods of destroying their fellowmen.

disobedient to (their) parents. Read Exod. 20:12; Lev. 19:3; Prov. 20:20; Matt. 15:4; 19:19; Eph. 6:2.

And now the little sub-group of four:

senseless. These are the people that are “void of understanding.” But this is not merely a mental weakness; it is also a moral blemish. They are stupid because they have all along been unwilling to listen to God! See Matt. 15:16; Mark 7:18; Rom. 10:19 (cf. Deut. 32:2).

faithless. They are “not true to the covenant,” hence are perfidious, not to be trusted. See Ps. 73:15; 78:57; 119:158.

loveless. The meaning is: without natural affection. It was not at all unusual for pagans to drown or in some other way to destroy unwanted offspring. In this connection think of present-day abortion, for which all kinds of excuses are being invented.

pitiless. The reference is to people without mercy, cruel persons, ruthless ones. Think not only of the robbers in the parable of The Samaritan Who Cared (Luke 10), but also of the priest and the Levite, the two who “passed by on the other side.”

32. And although they know the ordinance of God that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only continue to do them but also approve of those who practice them.

What Paul is saying is that the perpetrators of the crimes, either implied or expressed in verses 29–31, must not be regarded as being so innocent that they cannot distinguish between right and wrong. On the contrary, they know—have an awareness of the fact—that according to God’s ordinance, his decree, those who practice such vices are worthy of death.

How do they know this? They know it because a righteous and holy God has revealed himself to them in nature (1:21) and in conscience (2:14, 15); in fact, is constantly doing this. Accordingly, they sense the fact that God will call them to account, and that continuing in their evil way will result in perdition for them. Nevertheless, in spite of this awareness, they not only continue to practice these vices and to perpetrate these crimes but even applaud others who do the same.

There are those who see a problem here; as if the apostle were saying that rejoicing to see other people engage in wickedness while you yourself abstain is even more wicked than taking part in such evil practices yourself. Having created this problem, they then try to solve it.

But is it not true that what Paul is actually saying is that those who not only practice these vices but also applaud others who engage in them are even worse than those who simply practice them? For example, a person might commit a wicked deed. Afterward he is sorry. Perhaps he even warns others. But here is another person who not only commits evil and continues to do so, but who in addition encourages others to copy his example, applauding them when they do so. Certainly such an individual has reached the climax of perversity.

Having reached the close of the chapter, and looking back, we should not forget that Paul’s real purpose in writing it was to show that man’s (here particularly the Gentile’s) wickedness is so great that only God is able to rescue him. Only when man accepts the divinely appointed way of salvation, namely, that of embracing God by faith, can he be saved. To God alone be the glory![4]


1:28 Because of men’s refusal to retain God in their knowledge, either as Creator, Sustainer, or Deliverer, God gave them over to a debased mind to commit a catalog of other forms of wickedness. This verse gives deep insight into why evolution has such enormous appeal for natural men. The reason lies not in their intellects but in their wills. They do not want to retain God in their knowledge. It is not that the evidence for evolution is so overwhelming that they are compelled to accept it; rather, it is because they want some explanation for origins that will eliminate God completely. They know that if there is a God, then they are morally responsible to Him.

1:29 Here, then, is the dark list of additional sins which characterize man in his alienation from God. Notice that he is full of them, not just an occasional dabbler in them. He is trained in sins which are not fitting for a human being: unrighteousness (injustice); sexual immorality (fornication, adultery, and other forms of illicit sex); wickedness (active evil); covetousness (greed, the incessant desire for more); maliciousness (the desire for harm on others; venomous hatred); full of envy (jealousy of others); full of murder (premeditated and unlawful killing of another, either in anger or in the commission of some other crime); full of strife (wrangling, quarreling, contentiousness); full of deceit (trickery, treachery, intrigue); full of evil-mindedness (ill-will, spite, hostility, bitterness); whisperers (secret slanderers, gossips);

1:30 backbiters (open slanderers, those who bad-mouth others); haters of God (or hateful to God); violent (despiteful, insulting); proud (haughty, arrogant); boasters (braggarts, self-paraders); inventors of evil things (devisers of mischief and new forms of wickedness); disobedient to parents (rebellious to parental authority);

1:31 undiscerning (lacking moral and spiritual discernment, without conscience); untrustworthy (breaking promises, treaties, agreements, and contracts whenever it serves their purposes); unloving (acting in total disregard of natural ties and the obligations that go with them); unforgiving (irreconcilable or implacable); unmerciful (cruel, vindictive, without pity).

1:32 Those who abuse sex (1:24), who pervert sex (1:26, 27), and who practice the other sins listed (1:29–31) have an innate knowledge not only that these things are wrong but also that they themselves are deserving of death. They know this is God’s verdict, however much they seek to rationalize or legalize these sins. But this does not deter them from indulging in these forms of ungodliness. In fact they unite with others to promote them, and feel a sense of camaraderie with their partners-in-sin.[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (pp. 107–110). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Harrison, E. F., & Hagner, D. A. (2008). Romans. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 50). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Stott, J. R. W. (2001). The message of Romans: God’s good news for the world (pp. 78–79). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[4] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Vol. 12–13, pp. 79–82). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1679–1680). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

December 8: The Gospel for Barbarians and Fools

Jeremiah 14:1–15:21; Romans 1:1–17; Proverbs 15:1–33

It’s dangerous when we feel entitled. We may come to believe our communities are righteous while all those outside are not. This can even take place inside our faith communities—popularity or various achievements can create subtle feelings of superiority. We begin to believe it’s something we’ve done that brings us favor.

As he writes to the church in Rome, Paul explains that it’s not anything we do, anything we are, or anything we obtain that makes us right with God. His calling verifies this: “I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. Thus I am eager to proclaim the gospel also to you who are in Rome” (Rom 1:14).

Ethnicity was a big obstacle for the early church to overcome, as the church was now made up of both Jewish and Gentile believers. God promised Abraham that through him “all the peoples on earth will be blessed” (Gen 12:3). Christ’s redemptive work had finally made this blessing a reality. God’s favor was no longer reserved for those who might be educated or wise. Paul emphasizes that God can redeem those who—to us—might seem unlikely recipients of redemption.

But most important, our standing before God is not based on our goodness. Paul is eager to proclaim the gospel in Rome because it is belief in Jesus, the fulfillment of the promise, that makes believers righteous before God—“the gospel … is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). Christ’s righteousness has become our righteousness.

If anything, this fact should eliminate any sense of entitlement we might harbor and prompt us to walk in humility with believers and non-believers alike. Our relationship with God is intimately tied to how deeply we understand our need for God. The gospel frees us of any need to attain or achieve. For this, we should be incredibly thankful to God and live with humility for Him.

Do you put stock in the things you think make you a “favored” Christian?

Rebecca Van Noord[1]

 

[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.