Daily Archives: December 16, 2017

December 16 Christ’s Eternal Existence

“Thou, Lord, in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Thy hands; they will perish, but Thou remainest; and they all will become old as a garment, and as a mantle Thou wilt roll them up; as a garment they will also be changed. But Thou art the same, and Thy years will not come to an end” (Heb. 1:10–12).

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Christ existed before the beginning of the world; thus He is without beginning.

Jesus Christ is no creature. To be able to lay the foundation of the earth and create the heavens in the beginning implies that He must have existed before the beginning. The Apostle John testified to this when he said, “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1). Christ is eternal.

Jesus is also immutable, which means He never changes. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever.” We need to hang on to this truth as we approach a day when much of what we know will change drastically.

One day what looks so permanent will fold up. Like the people Peter warned, we are tempted to think that “all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4). But Hebrews 1:11 tells us that one day Jesus will discard the heavens and the earth, just as we would a useless garment.

Even more amazing, verse 12 specifies that Christ will roll up the heavens. Revelation 6:14 says, “The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.” During the time of the Tribulation period, the heavens, as if stretched to all corners, will roll up like a scroll.

But we can be confident that although creation will perish, Jesus will not, and He will create a new heaven and a new earth. Living creatures, worlds, and stars are subject to decay, but not Christ. He never changes and is never subject to change. What confidence that should give us for the daily issues of life we face each day!

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank the Lord for His unchanging plan for your life and for His ability to keep it.

For Future Study: Read 2 Peter 3, and develop an approach to answering charges unbelievers make about Biblical prophecies regarding the end times.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 363). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

DECEMBER 16 WISE CHRISTIANS USE EVERY MEANS OF GRACE

That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

TITUS 3:7

Every human being is in a state of passing from what he was to what he is to be—and this is as true of the Christian as of every other person.

The new birth does not produce the finished product. The new thing that is born of God is as far from completeness as the new baby born into this world an hour ago.

That new human being, the moment he is born, is placed in the hands of powerful molding forces that go far to determine whether he shall be an upright citizen or a criminal. The one hope for him is that he can later choose which forces shall shape him, and by the exercise of his own power of choice he can place himself in the right hands.

It is not otherwise with the Christian. He can fashion himself by placing himself in the hands first of the supreme Artist, God, and then by subjecting himself to such holy influences and such formative powers as shall make him into a man of God.

Or he may foolishly trust himself to unworthy hands and become at last a misshapen and inartistic vessel, of little use to mankind and a poor example of the skill of the heavenly Potter.

The wise Christian will take advantage of every proper means of grace: he has but to cooperate with God in embracing the good. God Himself will do the rest![1]


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

Top Weekly Stories from ChristianNews.net for 12/16/2017

‘Pope Francis’ Claims Angel’s Greeting to Mary as Being ‘Full of Grace’ Meant She Was Without Sin   Dec 09, 2017 12:30 pm

ROME — In one of the feasts and celebrations marked on the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar leading up to Christmas, Catholics around the world observed the Feast of Immaculate Conception on Friday, a day in which those who follow the religion commemorate their belief that Mary was conceived in her mother Anne’s womb without original sin. Jorge Bergoglio, also…

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R.C. Sproul, Reformed Theologian and Founder of Ligonier Ministries, Dies at 78   Dec 14, 2017 07:34 pm

SANFORD, Fla. — Dr. R.C. Sproul, a well-known Reformed theologian and founder of the Florida-based Ligonier Ministries, died on Thursday. He was 78. Ligonier released a statement advising that Sproul died following a nearly two-week compounded battle with already existing respiratory issues. Updates on his hospitalization prior to the announcement outlined that…

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Palm Springs Becomes First City Council in Nation to Be All Homosexual, Bisexual or Transgender   Dec 09, 2017 04:01 pm

Photo Credit: Palm Springs City Government/Facebook PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — The City of Palm Springs, California has sworn in a man who identifies as a woman, as well as a woman who identifies as bisexual, making its city council all-“LGBT” as its other three members identify as homosexual. Lisa Middleton, a man who identifies as a woman (pictured), and…

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Man Who Identifies as Woman Lifts 600lbs, Wins Medal in Women’s Weightlifting Competition   Dec 10, 2017 08:59 pm

Photo Credit: Lifting Life ANAHEIM, Calif. — Concerns are being raised after a 39-year-old man who identifies as a woman became the first New Zealander to earn a medal at the annual World Weightlifting Championships, held this year in California. As previously reported, Gavin Hubbard of New Zealand spent over 30 years living as a man and competing in men’s…

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US Supreme Court Declines to Hear Appeal of Sheriff’s Deputies Fired for Wife Swapping   Dec 13, 2017 12:18 pm

WASHINGTON (AFP) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday let stand a Louisiana sheriff’s firing of two of his deputies for swapping wives and families, refusing to review lower court rulings in a case that raised eyebrows. Brandon Coker and Michael Golden, who worked in the southern state’s Bossier parish, discovered the loves of their lives—in the arms of each…

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Mississippi Supreme Court to Decide if Lesbian Can Be Considered Parent of Woman’s Child Following ‘Divorce’   Dec 12, 2017 04:25 pm

JACKSON, Miss. — The Mississippi Supreme Court is set to rule on a case involving two “divorced” women who are locked in a custody battle as one of the women contends that she should also be recognized as the child’s mother, even if she is not the biological parent. Christina Strickland is seeking equal custody of Kimberly Day’s six-year-old son Zayden, who was…

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Christian Club Sues University After Being Booted for Requiring Its Leaders to Align With Beliefs   Dec 14, 2017 11:47 am

(Fox News) — A Christian student group is suing the University of Iowa for discrimination after they were booted off campus for requiring student leaders to embrace Christian religious beliefs—including a clause on sexual morality. The university stripped The Business Leaders in Christ of their status on campus after a member claimed he was denied a leadership…

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UK Teacher Punished Over ‘Slip of Tongue’ in ‘Misgendering’ Student Takes School to Employment Tribunal   Dec 11, 2017 01:03 pm

OXFORD, U.K. — A math teacher in the U.K. who was recently punished for saying “Well done, girls” to a group of students in forgetting that one of the girls prefers to be identified as a boy has taken his case to an employment tribunal. Following an investigation, Joshua Sutcliffe, an associate pastor at Christ Revelation Church in Oxford, was found to have…

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Atheist Group Objects to Class Creation of Cross Memorials as Part of City’s Remembrance of Fallen Veterans   Dec 09, 2017 07:36 pm

Photo Credit: WTVC-TV RINGGOLD, Ga. — The nation’s most conspicuous professing atheist organization has expressed objection to the creation of cross memorials at a Georgia high school as part of a city effort to remember fallen soldiers. The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter earlier this year to the attorney for Catoosa…

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Judge Rules Govt. Will Not Be ‘Injured’ by Allowing ‘Transgender’ Enlistment in Military Jan. 1   Dec 11, 2017 07:40 pm

WASHINGTON — A federal judge has denied the Trump administration’s request to place a hold on her order allowing those who identify as the opposite sex to enlist in the military beginning Jan. 1. “In sum, having carefully considered all of the evidence before it, the court is not persuaded that Defendants will be irreparably injured by allowing the accession of…

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December 16, 2017: Afternoon Verse Of The Day

The General Instruction

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints. (6:18)

The four alls introduce the five emphases Paul makes regarding the general character of the believer’s prayer life: the variety, the frequency, the power, the manner, and the objects of prayer.

the variety of prayer

Proseuchē (prayer) refers to general requests, while deēsis (petition) refers to those that are specific. The use of both words points to the idea that we are to be involved in all kinds of prayer, every form of prayer that is appropriate. Scriptural precept and allowance suggest we may pray publicly or privately; in loud cries, in soft whispers, or silently; deliberately and planned or spontaneously; while sitting, standing, kneeling, or even lying down; at home or in church; while working or while traveling; with hands folded or raised; with eyes open or closed; with head bowed or erect. The New Testament, like the Old, mentions many forms, circumstances, and postures for prayer but prescribes none. Jesus prayed while standing, while sitting, while kneeling, and quite probably in other positions as well. We can pray wherever we are and in whatever situation we are in. “Therefore I want the men in every place to pray” (1 Tim. 2:8), Paul said. For the faithful, Spirit-filled Christian, every place becomes a place of prayer.

the frequency of prayer

The Jewish people of Paul’s day had several prescribed times for daily prayer, but the coming of the New Covenant and the birth of the church brought a new dimension to prayer as it did to everything else. Jesus said, “Keep on the alert at all times, praying in order that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place” (Luke 21:36). Among other things, the earliest Christians in Jerusalem “were continually devoting themselves … to prayer” (Acts 2:42). The God-fearing Cornelius, to whom the Lord sent Peter with the message of salvation, “prayed to God continually” (Acts 10:2). In many of his letters Paul urged his readers to regularly devote themselves to prayer (Rom. 12:12; Phil. 4:6; Col. 4:2; 1 Thess. 5:17). The apostle assured Timothy, his beloved son in the Lord, that he prayed for him “night and day” (2 Tim. 1:3). The early church knew the importance of prayer, and God honored their prayers, even when faith was sometimes weak—as in the case of those who were praying for Peter’s release from prison but did not believe Rhoda when she reported that he was knocking at the door (Acts 12:12–15).

David said, “Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and murmur, and He will hear my voice, … God will hear and answer” (Ps. 55:17, 19). There is no time when we do not need to pray and no time when God will not hear our prayers. In many ways prayer is even more important than knowledge about God. In fact, only through a regular and sincere prayer life can God’s Holy Spirit add spiritual wisdom to our knowledge. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “our ultimate position as Christians is tested by the character of our prayer life.” A person may be a Bible school or seminary graduate, a pastor or a missionary, but his deep knowledge of and relationship to God are measured by his prayer life. If knowledge about God and the things of God do not drive us to know Him more personally, we can be sure that our true motivation and commitment are centered in ourselves rather than Him. Jesus’ deepest prayer for His disciples was not that they simply know the truth about God but that “they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent” (John 17:3). Studying and learning God’s Word in the right spirit will always drive the believer to know Him more intimately and to commune with Him more faithfully in prayer.

To pray at all times obviously does not mean we are to pray in formal or noticeable ways every waking moment of our lives. Jesus did not do that, nor did the apostles. And it certainly does not mean we are to devote ourselves to ritualistic patterns and forms of prayer that are recited mechanically from a prayer book or while counting beads. That amounts to no more than the “meaningless repetition” that characterizes pagan worship (Matt. 6:7).

To pray at all times is to live in continual God consciousness, where everything we see and experience becomes a kind of prayer, lived in deep awareness of and surrender to our heavenly Father. To obey this exhortation means that, when we are tempted, we hold the temptation before God and ask for His help. When we experience something good and beautiful, we immediately thank the Lord for it. When we see evil around us, we pray that God will make it right and be willing to be used of Him to that end. When we meet someone who does not know Christ, we pray for God to draw that person to Himself and to use us to be a faithful witness. When we encounter trouble, we turn to God as our Deliverer. In other words, our life becomes a continually ascending prayer, a perpetual communing with our heavenly Father. To pray at all times is to constantly set our minds “on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2).

The ultimate purpose of our salvation is to glorify God and to bring us into intimate, rich fellowship with Him; and to fail to come to God in prayer is to the deny that purpose. “What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also,” John said, “that you also may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). Our fellowship with God is not meant to wait until we are in heaven. God’s greatest desire, and our greatest need, is to be in constant fellowship with Him now, and there is no greater expression or experience of fellowship than prayer.

the power of prayer

The most important and pervasive thought Paul gives about prayer is that it should be in the Spirit. This supreme qualification for prayer has nothing to do with speaking in tongues or in some other ecstatic or dramatic manner. To pray in the Spirit is to pray in the name of Christ, to pray consistent with His nature and will. To pray in the Spirit is to pray in concert with the Spirit, who “helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom. 8:26–27). As the “Spirit of grace and of supplication” (Zech. 12:10), the Holy Spirit continually prays for us; and for us to pray rightly is to pray as He prays, to join our petitions to His and our will to His. It is to line up our minds and desires with His mind and desires, which are consistent with the will of the Father and the Son.

To be “filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18) and to walk in His leading and power is to be made able to pray in the Spirit, because our prayer will then be in harmony with His. As we submit to the Holy Spirit, obeying His Word and relying on His leading and strength, we will be drawn into close and deep fellowship with the Father and the Son.

the manner of prayer

Whenever he prays, the believer should be on the alert with all perseverance and petition. Jesus told His disciples to watch and pray (Matt. 26:41; Mark 13:33; cf. Luke. 18:1). Paul counseled the Colossians to “devote [themselves] to prayer” (Col. 4:2). The Greek verb behind “devote” (proskartereō) means to be steadfast, constant, and persevering. It is used of Moses’ faithful endurance when he led the children of Israel out of Egypt (Heb. 11:27). To be devoted to prayer is to earnestly, courageously, and persistently bring everything in our lives before God.

The parables of the persistent neighbor and the importunate widow were both told by Jesus to illustrate the manner in which His followers should pray. At the end of the first parable He said, “And I say to you, ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened” (Luke 11:9). At the end of the other parable He explained, “Now shall not God bring about justice for His elect, who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them speedily” (Luke 18:7–8).

To dispersed and persecuted Christians in the early church, Peter wrote, “Be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer” (1 Pet. 4:7). To pray in the right manner is to pray sensibly, with our minds and our understanding as well as our hearts and spirits. “I shall pray with the spirit and I shall pray with the mind also” (1 Cor. 14:15), Paul said.

To pray in the right manner also involves praying specifically. “Whatever you ask in My name,” Jesus promised, “that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:13). God answers prayer in order to put His power on display, and when we do not pray specifically, He cannot answer specifically and thereby clearly display His power and His love for His children. To pray, as young children often do, “God bless the whole world,” is really not to pray at all. We must think about particular people, particular problems, particular needs, and then pray about those things specifically and earnestly, so that we can see God’s answer and offer Him our thankful praise.

Most Christians never get serious about prayer until a problem arises in their own life or in the life of someone they love. Then they are inclined to pray intently, specifically, and persistently. Yet that is the way Christians should always pray. Sensitivity to the problems and needs of others, especially other believers who are facing trials or hardships, will lead us to pray for them “night and day” as Paul did for Timothy (2 Tim. 1:3).

Because the greatest problems are always spiritual, our greatest prayer concern and concentration—whether for ourselves or for others—should be for spiritual protection, strength, and healing. It is certainly appropriate to bring physical needs before our heavenly Father, but our greatest focus should be for spiritual needs—for victory over temptation, for forgiveness and cleansing of sins already committed, for unbelievers to trust in Christ for salvation, and for believers to have greater dependence on Him. The context of Paul’s call to prayer is that of spiritual warfare, and the Christian’s prayer should, above all, be about that warfare. Our greatest concern for ourselves and for other believers should be for victory in the battle against the enemy of our souls. Our deepest prayers for our spouse, our children, our brothers and sisters, our fellow church members, our pastor, our missionaries, and all others would be that they win the spiritual battle against Satan. Examining the prayers of Paul throughout his epistles yields the insight that he prayed for the spiritual well-being of the people of God (see, e.g., 1 Cor. 1:4–7; Phil. 1:9–11; Col. 1:9–11; 2 Thess. 1:11–12).

Many years ago a saint of God prayed:

O Lord, in prayer I launch far out into the eternal world, and on that broad ocean my soul triumphs over all evils on the shores of mortality. Time, with its amusements and cruel disappointments, never appears so inconsiderate as then. In prayer, O God, I see myself as nothing. I find my heart going after Thee with intensity, and I long with vehement thirst to live with Thee. Blessed be the strong winds of the Spirit that speed me on my way to the new Jerusalem. In prayer all things here below vanish and nothing seems important but holiness of heart and the salvation of others. In prayer all my worldly cares and fears and anxieties disappear and are as little in significance as a puff of wind. In prayer my soul inwardly exalts with thoughts of what Thou art doing for Thy church, and I long that Thou shouldest get Thyself a great name from sinners returning to Thee. In prayer I am lifted above the frowns and flatteries of life to taste the heavenly joys. Entering into the eternal world I can give myself to Thee with all my heart forever. In prayer I can place all my concerns in Thy hands to be entirely at Thy disposal, having no will or interest of my own. In prayer I can intercede for my friends, ministers, sinners, the church, Thy kingdom, with greatest freedom and brightest hope as a son to his Father and as a lover to his beloved. And so, O God, help me to pray always and never to cease.

the objects of prayer

Elsewhere Paul commands us to pray for unbelievers, for government leaders, and for others, but here the focus is on all the saints. It is only saints, Christian believers, who are involved in the spiritual warfare for which God provides the armor Paul has just been describing and who are able to pray in the Spirit.

It is not inappropriate to pray for ourselves any more than it is inappropriate to pray for physical needs. But just as the Bible primarily calls us to pray about spiritual needs rather than physical, it primarily calls us to pray for others rather than ourselves. Even when he was concerned about his own needs, Paul does not mention that he prayed for himself but that he asked other believers to pray on his behalf, as he does in the next two verses (Eph. 6:19–20). The greatest thing we can do for another believer, or that he can do for us, is to pray. That is the way the Body of Christ grows spiritually as well as in love. When one member of the Body is weak, wounded, or cannot function, the other members compensate by supporting and helping strengthen it. Samuel said to the people of Israel, “Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you” (1 Sam. 12:23). With God’s own Holy Spirit to indwell us and help us even when we do not know how to pray (Rom. 8:26), how much more do we as Christians sin against God when we fail to pray for fellow saints?

The spiritually healthy person is devoted to the welfare of others, especially fellow believers. On the other hand, the root of both psychological and spiritual sickness is preoccupation with self. Ironically, the believer who is consumed with his own problems—even his own spiritual problems—to the exclusion of concern for other believers, suffers from a destructive self-centeredness that not only is the cause of, but is the supreme barrier to the solution of, his own problems. Usually such selfishness isolates him from the other believers, who if they were intimately involved in fellowship with him, would be regularly praying for his spiritual welfare.

Praying for others with sincerity and perseverance is, in God’s immeasurable grace, a great blessing and strength to our own souls. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones reported that before the outbreak of the Spanish civil war that country was experiencing such an epidemic of neuroses that psychiatrists could hardly handle them all. But the war, terrible and destructive as it was in most respects, had the unexpected effect of “curing” many of Spain’s thousands of neurotics. When they became concerned about the welfare of their families, friends, and country instead of their own, their neuroses disappeared and hospitals and clinics were almost emptied of such cases. “These neurotic people were suddenly cured by a greater anxiety,” an anxiety that reached beyond their own selfish welfare. (The Christian Soldier [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977], pp. 357–58.)[1]


18 Abandoning the metaphor of the soldier’s equipment, Paul now instructs the believers to engage in prayer “on all occasions” and “with all kinds of prayers and requests.” The formidable nature of the battle against the evil powers underscores the need for prayer. Prayer is a key weapon in the battle; it gets more attention in Paul’s summary than the other weapons do. Yoder Neufeld, 305, observes, “Prayer is ‘militarized’ and drawn into the struggle with the powers.” Paul employs the common verb for prayer, proseuchomai (GK 4667), which means “to petition the deity.” The tense of the verb “pray” is present: believers are to keep on praying. “All kinds of prayers and requests” (the two terms are roughly synonymous) should accompany this continual praying. They ought to pray “on all occasions” or at every appropriate time (kairos, GK 2789); recall Paul’s use of kairos in the phrase “making the most of every opportunity” (5:16). And they ought to pray “in the Spirit,” suggesting prayers that are consistent with the Spirit’s desires and are energized by the Spirit. Schnackenburg, 282, puts it well: “Our human praying only achieves power and effectiveness in the strength of the divine Spirit.”

What is more, believers ought to pray in a continually watchful mode (“be alert”); alertness ought to rouse their prayers into action. Jesus also connected these ideas: “Be always on the watch, and pray” (Lk 21:36). Who knows what will require urgent prayers and petitions? The enemy will not let up. Watch and pray! This alert praying should be accompanied by, literally, “all perseverance” (en pasē proskarterēsei [GK 4675], NIV, “keep on”). This noun, another hapax, means “firm persistence” (BDAG, 881). Do not be quitters; discipline yourselves in prayer.

Finally Paul adds an object for their prayers: “for all the saints.” “Saints” comprise God’s people—those who belong to him (see commentary at 1:1; 15; 2:19; cf. 1 Co 1:2). Perhaps to counter the normal tendency to pray mostly for their own concerns, Paul reminds his readers that they need to remember the entire body of Christ in their prayers. Pray for other believers, particularly those in the thick of the spiritual battles.[2]


6:18 / Although the military imagery continues into this verse—arm yourselves and be alert—the prayer to which the readers are summoned should not be taken as a seventh piece of the Christian’s armor. God has given his splendid armor to the believer, but the “putting on” and the utilization of that armor in battle calls for discipline in prayer in the Spirit. According to Stott, “Equipping ourselves with God’s armor is not a mechanical preparation; it is itself an expression of our dependence on God, in other words, of prayer” (p. 283).

The prayer that the believers are admonished to utter has some significant qualities about it. First, it is to be unceasing: pray … on all occasions. The Christian warrior, although heavily armed, can only stand firm against the enemy through the agency of prayer. Praying is done in the Spirit. To do so is not to be transposed into some ecstatic or euphoric condition beyond the senses but to live in the realization that the Spirit is the believer’s helper (5:18) and intercessor (Rom. 8:15, 16, 26, 27). “It is an approach to God relying not on our own piety, but on the help which God in his Spirit offers to us” (Mitton, p. 228).

The Greek, and most English translations (rsv, niv), employ the two expressions prayers (proseuchē and “supplication” or requests (deēsis). Most commentators feel that “prayer” always addresses God, whereas “supplication” may be used to address either God or humankind. The gnb “asking for God’s help” takes the Greek as a request to God and not as intercession on behalf of human beings.

Second, prayer is to be intense. Be alert and always keep on praying. In other words, maintain a spirit of watchfulness and perseverance. A Christian warrior must not be caught off guard. This exhortation toward constancy and watchfulness in prayer and the Christian life is common to the nt (Luke 18:1; Rom. 12:12; 1 Cor. 16:13; Phil. 4:6; Col. 4:2; 1 Thess. 5:17; 1 Pet. 5:8). But since this phrase falls between two other exhortations, it is not entirely clear where “perseverance” (keep on praying) belongs. Should it go with the idea of praying constantly with all alertness, or does it relate to the following phrase, in which believers are summoned to intercede for others? Beare suggests that alertness refers to the believer’s spiritual conflict but that this, in turn, leads to “persevering intercession on behalf of all his comrades in the fight” (p. 746).

Third, prayer is unlimited. Always keep on praying for all the saints. Since all believers are involved in a spiritual battle, prayer must transcend its narrow individualism and encompass the entire body of Christ. As members of an army, believers must manifest a concern for all who are fighting along with them. Here the apostle’s concerns are not unlike those in 1 Peter, where, in a similar context of warning his readers about the devil, Peter writes: “Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (5:9).[3]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (pp. 378–383). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Klein, W. W. (2006). Ephesians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, p. 169). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Patzia, A. G. (2011). Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon (pp. 290–291). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

DECEMBER 16 THE SECRET WORKING OF GOD

That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Titus 3:7

I do believe in the secret and mysterious working of God in the human breast. I must believe it after finding the forgiving and converting grace of God in the Savior, Jesus Christ.

My father and mother held high human standards, but completely without any thought of God. My parents appeared to be without any spark of desire after God—attitudes that were cold, earthy, profane.

Can you tell me why, then, at the age of seventeen, as a boy surrounded by unbelief—100 percent—I could find my way to my mother’s attic, kneel on my knees, and give my heart and life in committal to Jesus Christ?

I cannot tell you why. I can only say that I know there is such a thing as the secret workings of God within the human being who has a sensitivity to hear the call of God. In my own case, I do have the testimony that my conversion to Jesus Christ was as real as any man’s conversion has ever been!

My fellow man, if the Spirit of God is still tugging at your heart, thank God—and follow the light!

Lord, most believers know from personal experience about Your “secret workings” within the human heart. I pray today that You will do a work in the heretofore hardened hearts of criminals and terrorists around the world. And may the angels in heaven rejoice at the outcome![1]


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

December 16 The Mustard Seed, Part 2

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.—Matt. 13:31–32

A further lesson from this parable is that God’s kingdom will grow to become a blessing to the rest of the world. The tree that develops from the mustard seed symbolizes the kingdom, which in this age is Christ’s true church. The metaphor of birds nesting suggests the positive idea of providing protection and safety for others.

Daniel interpreted a vision with parallels to this parable: Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in which “there was a tree in the midst of the earth and its height was great. The tree grew large and became strong and its height reached to the sky, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. Its foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches, and all living creatures fed themselves from it” (Dan. 4:10–12). As Daniel explained to the king (vv. 20–22), his empire (the tree) brought unrivaled advancement and prosperity to many areas of world endeavor: architecture, the arts, economics, and others. The birds and animals in the vision that benefited from the tree’s provisions were other world nations (cf. Ezek. 31:3–6).

For Jesus and His followers the parallel between the vision and the parable is obvious—God’s kingdom will grow from small beginnings into a huge tree and will provide shelter, protection, and blessing for the whole world. When believers are obedient to God and when nations seek to pattern their ways after His Word, they can bless everyone around.

ASK YOURSELF

How are you seeing this nesting, sheltering function of the kingdom at work in your church? What kind of excitement could ensue if individual Christians saw more clearly the potential blessing their efforts could produce? What are some of the possibilities?[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 359). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

December 16 Peace on Earth?

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.

Luke 2:14, nasb

As we hear so often at Christmas, the beginning of [Christ’s] earthly life was heralded by angels who announced peace on earth (Luke 2:14).

There never really has been peace on earth, in the sense we think of it. Wars and rumors of wars have characterized the entire two millennia since that first Christmas, and all the time before it.

That announcement of peace on earth was a two–pronged proclamation. First, it declared the arrival of the only One who ultimately can bring lasting peace on earth (which He will do when He returns to bring about the final establishment of His earthly kingdom).

But more important, it was a proclamation that God’s peace is available to men and women. Read the words of Luke 2:14 carefully: “‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.’”

Who are those with whom He is pleased? The ones who have yielded their lives to the authority of His government.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 377). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

December 16, 2017: Morning Verse Of The Day

18  “Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
19  Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Is 43:18–19). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.


43:18 The Lord commanded the people not to remember the past (46:9, 10). The kingdom of Israel inaugurated at the first Exodus and the conquest of the Promised Land would be insignificant compared to the new kingdom God would establish. former things refers to the prophecies of judgment by Isaiah and other prophets (42:9, 21–25; 43:9, 10; 46:8, 9; 48:3). the things of old: For a related passage, see 65:16.[1]


43:18 You must not remember the former things After evoking strong memories of the exodus event in Isa 43:16–17, God instructs the exiles to stop dwelling on the past. The “former things” previously seemed to refer to the judgment against Israel predicted earlier in Isaiah, so the instruction may have two parts: stop dwelling on your punishment (exile) and don’t yearn for the former days of Israel’s power. Rather, attention should now be focused on God and His miraculous redemption.[2]


43:18–19 The original exodus did not exhaust God’s power but provided a pattern of new exodus-like deliverances. The Jewish exiles should not live in the past but should look for God to bring them home from Babylon through another “exodus.” a way in the wilderness. Where there is no clear path forward, God creates one. rivers in the desert. Where there is no natural relief or refreshment, God provides it.[3]


43:18, 19 former things … things of the past … something new. Deliverances of the nation in the past will pale into insignificance in comparison with the future deliverance the Lord will give His people (42:9; 48:6; Jer 16:14, 15).[4]


18–19 The “earlier” and “past” times are those in which Israel struggled to be a nation among the nations (1 Sam 8:5, 20). A new era has dawned, and Israel is instructed to turn her back on the old ways, not to remember them as a pattern for her current life. YHWH calls attention to the real goal for his use of the Persian’s political and military power, the “new thing” he is building. The emphasis in these passages on “a way in the wilderness” and “rivers in a wasteland” is in deliberate contrast to the predicted wasteland (5:5–10; 6:11) and exile (5:13; 6:12) that had become reality for Israel in the sixth century b.c.e.[5]


[1] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 851). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[2] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Is 43:18). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1319). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Is 43:18). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Watts, J. D. W. (2005). Isaiah 34–66 (Revised Edition, Vol. 25, pp. 676–677). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

DECEMBER 16 THE WONDER, THE MYSTERY, THE MAJESTY

And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.

—Matthew 17:6

“Awesome wonder and overpowering love” in the presence of that ancient Mystery, that unspeakable Majesty, which the philosophers call the Mysterium Tremendum, but which we call our Father which art in heaven….

The evangelical rationalism which tries to explain everything takes the mystery out of life and the mystery out of worship. When you have taken the mystery out you have taken God out, for while we may be able to understand Him in some measure, we can never fully understand God. There must always be that awe upon our spirits that says, “Ah, Lord God, Thou knowest!”—that stands silent and breathless or kneels in the presence of that awful Wonder, that Mystery, that unspeakable Majesty, before whom the prophets used to fall, and before whom Peter and John and the rest of them fell down as if dead, before whom Isaiah recoiled and cried, “I am a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5). WMJ005-006

Lord, the disciples heard Your voice and fell on their faces before You, as did Isaiah when he caught a glimpse of Your glory. May I be overwhelmed today with a glimpse of the Mysterium Tremendum. Amen.[1]


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

December 16 Seeing the Majesty of Christ

“When [Christ] had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

Hebrews 1:3

✧✧✧

God has exalted Christ above everyone and everything.

Christ in His majestic glory is “heir of all things” (Heb. 1:2). That’s why it is His right to have the title deed to the earth, spoken of in Revelation 5:1–7. There He opens that deed and takes possession of what is rightfully His as heir of all things.

Hebrews 1 further describes Christ as “the radiance of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature…. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high; having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels did [God] ever say, ‘Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee’? And again, ‘I will be a Father to Him, and He shall be a Son to Me’? And when He again brings the first–born into the world, He says, ‘Let all the angels of God worship Him’ ” (vv. 3–6; compare v. 13). Because Christ is the unique Son of God, the angels are called to worship Him.

The Father said of the exalted Christ, “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His Kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy companions” (vv. 8–9). Christ is the eternal, righteous God. He is also the Creator who lives forever and remains the same (vv. 10–12).

If you see Christ in His majesty the way the writer of Hebrews did, you’ll want to make the words of Charles Wesley’s hymn “Rejoice—The Lord Is King!” your own:

Jesus the Savior reigns, the God of truth and love;

When He had purged our stains He took His seat above:

Lift up your heart, lift up your voice!

Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: Both angels and the redeemed worship the exalted Christ. Use Psalm 103 as the basis of your prayer of worship.

For Further Study: Hebrews 1:10 shows Christ to be the Creator. Based on this and Psalm 148, what honor is He owed?[1]


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

December 15 Daily Help

TO give to others is but sowing seed for ourselves. He who is so good a steward as to be willing to use his substance for his Lord, shall be intrusted with more. Friend of Jesus, art thou rendering to him according to the benefit received? Much has been given thee—what is thy fruit? Hast thou done all? Canst thou not do more? To be selfish is to be wicked. God forbid that any of us should follow the ungenerous and destructive policy of living unto ourselves. Jesus pleased not himself. All fulness dwells in him, but of his fulness have we all received. O for Jesus’ spirit, that henceforth we may live not unto ourselves!

TO give to others is but sowing seed for ourselves. He who is so good a steward as to be willing to use his substance for his Lord, shall be intrusted with more. Friend of Jesus, art thou rendering to him according to the benefit received? Much has been given thee—what is thy fruit? Hast thou done all? Canst thou not do more? To be selfish is to be wicked. God forbid that any of us should follow the ungenerous and destructive policy of living unto ourselves. Jesus pleased not himself. All fulness dwells in him, but of his fulness have we all received. O for Jesus spirit, that henceforth we may live not unto ourselves![1]


[1] Spurgeon, C. H. (1892). Daily Help (p. 353). Baltimore: R. H. Woodward & Company.

December 15, 2017: Evening Verse Of The Day

The Violation

If, however, you are fulfilling 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. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not commit murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. (2:8–11)

Not only is partiality, or favoritism, contrary to God’s character, inconsistent with the Christian faith and with God’s choosing the poor (and, conversely, consistent with the rich persecuting the poor and the righteous), it also is contrary to God’s royal law. In and of itself, it is sin, a transgression of the divine law.

Verse 8 is far-reaching and goes well beyond the issue of favoritism. In the Greek, the clause introduced by If is first-class conditional, meaning that If could be translated “Since,” or “Because.” Such a clause represents a reality that is assumed and self-evident. The meaning therefore is: If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture—and you are—then, as the law requires, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Royal carries the ideas of supreme and sovereign, indicating the absolute and binding authority of the law. When a sovereign king gives an edict, it is incontestably binding on all his subjects. There is no court of appeal or arbitration. According to the Scripture indicates that God’s sovereign, royal law and His biblical commands are synonymous. What James calls the royal law is, in essence, the sum and substance of the complete Word of God, summarized in Matthew 22:37–40 as perfectly loving God and loving one’s neighbor. Paul says, “Love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom. 13:10; cf. vv. 8–9). When one loves God with perfect devotion, he does not break any of His commands. When one loves his neighbor perfectly, he never violates another person. Thus perfect love keeps all the commands, thereby fulfilling the whole law.

“A new commandment I give to you,” Jesus said, “that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34). In the same vein, Paul explains that “he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom. 13:8–10). John admonishes: “Beloved, let us love one another,” reminding us that “love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7).

The particular royal law James focuses on is “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” which is found in Leviticus 19:18 and is what Jesus Himself declared to be the second greatest commandment, next to “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37–39; Deut. 6:5; Lev. 19:18). Jesus also makes clear who our neighbor is. He is anyone whose need we can meet, just as the Good Samaritan selflessly and generously met the need of the man he unexpectedly came upon on the road to Jericho, who had been robbed and beaten (Luke 10:30–37). The Samaritan ministered to him personally and even provided for his further care by others until he was fully well.

The purpose behind that law is obvious. Because we love ourselves, we do not want to be killed, lied to, stolen from, or abused. And if we love others with that same degree of love and concern, we will never do those things to them, thereby fulfilling God’s royal law. Most important, to love others in that way reflects our heavenly Father’s own nature and character. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God,” John says; “and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7–8; cf. v. 11).

Contrary to what many teachers claim today, Scripture does not teach that we must learn to love ourselves before we can properly love others. Quite to the contrary, it simply acknowledges that it is basic human nature to love ourselves, for “no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it” (Eph. 5:29). Because we naturally love ourselves so much—whose mouth we are careful to feed, whose body we take care to dress, whose looks we are concerned about, whose job and career occupy our minds, whose life we are determined to make comfortable and happy—that is the same concern we should have for others. And when we determine to occupy ourselves with such love for others, thus fulfilling God’s sovereign law, we will have no problem with partiality (cf. Phil. 2:3–4).

Loving, godly impartiality does not relate to the highly popularized self-esteem and narcissistic self-admiration that are so much promoted today, allegedly in the name of biblical Christianity. The Christian who knows, understands, and fully accepts Scripture realizes that, in himself, he is a vile and wretched sinner who deserves only condemnation and hell, and that it is only by God’s immeasurable grace that he is saved, secured, blessed, and destined for an eternity in heaven with the Lord. The love that Moses, Jesus, and James talk about pertains to the God-given and God-blessed love that is concerned about meeting the genuine human needs of others—their physical needs; their protection; their growth in grace, holiness, and Christlikeness—in the same practical and beneficial ways in which we naturally and legitimately seek to meet our own needs.

You are doing well could perhaps better be translated, “You are doing excellently.” To love others as we love ourselves is to do more than just love satisfactorily. It is to love as our heavenly Father loves and as He wants His children to love. The writer of Hebrews tells us that, by showing “hospitality to strangers, … some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Heb. 13:2). But whether they are angels or not, when we impartially help other believers, the Lord will say to us, “to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me” (Matt. 25:40). And if one day the Lord says to us, “Well done” (Matt. 25:21, 23), it will not be for our talents, our generous giving, our leadership ability, or any other such thing, but for our love of Him and of others, especially other believers, demonstrating our faithfulness and obedience to His Word.

Like the preceding one, verse 9 of James 2 begins with a Greek first-class conditional clause, But if you show partiality, which has the meaning: “If you show partiality, and you do, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” As mentioned before, some believers in the churches to which James wrote obviously were guilty of such partiality. But as will be shown below, the main thrust here is against unbelievers in the church, pseudo-Christians who were masquerading as believers.

Show partiality is a verb form (used only here in the New Testament) of the noun rendered “personal favoritism” in verse 1. The form indicates that James is not speaking of occasional favoritism but of habitual, blatant partiality. Those engaging in it were committing serious sin and were thereby convicted by the law as transgressors (cf. Deut. 1:17; 16:19). Their lives were characterized by breaking God’s law, testifying to their unbelief. And just as loving one’s neighbor as one’s self fulfills God’s “royal law according to Scripture” and gives sure evidence of being God’s child, so does habitual partiality transgress that divinely revealed law and give sure evidence to the contrary.

Partiality is not merely a matter of inconsiderateness or discourtesy but is a serious sin. In this verse James speaks of it in two forms, or aspects. Hamartia, translated simply sin, pertains to missing the mark of God’s standard of righteousness, whereas parabatēs (transgressors) refers to someone who willfully goes beyond God’s prescribed limits. In the one case, a person comes short; in the other, he goes too far. Both are sinful, just as adding to or subtracting from God’s revealed Word are both sinful (Rev. 22:19).

More than that, whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. In order to become a lawbreaker and a sinner, it is only necessary to disobey a single commandment, for we are obligated to keep God’s whole law, not merely part of it. If we fail—as we all do—we are therefore guilty of breaking all of it. To break any of His commands is to defy His will and His authority, which is the basis of all sin. God’s law is unified; it all hangs together and is inseparable. It is like hitting a window with a hammer. You may hit it only once, and that rather lightly, but the whole window is shattered. In the same way, some sins are relatively light and some are extremely vile. But breaking even “one of the least of these commandments” (Matt. 5:19) shatters the unity of God’s holy law and turns the guilty person into a transgressor.

Paul wrote of this same truth in Galatians 3:10–13:

For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “He who practices them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.”

As an illustration, James quotes from Exodus 20:13–14 and Deuteronomy 5:17–18: For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not commit murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. James chose two of the most serious social sins, in both cases the breaking of which demanded the penalty of death. Perhaps he chose those in order to illustrate the extreme sinfulness of partiality. But he could have used any of God’s laws to make the same point. It only takes the breaking of one commandment, any commandment, to become a transgressor of the law. “For truly I say to you,” Jesus said,

until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:18–19; cf. 23:23; Gal. 5:3)

The Jews tended to regard the law as a series of detached commands. To keep one of those commands was to gain credit. To break one was to incur debt. Therefore, a man could add up the ones he kept and subtract the ones he broke and, as it were, emerge with a moral credit or debit balance.

That philosophy, of course, is common to every works-righteousness system of religion. The idea is that acceptance or rejection by God depends essentially on the moral standing of the person himself. If he does more good than bad, he is accepted by God. If the scale tilts the other way, he is rejected.

That totally unbiblical notion is firmly believed by many, many people, including many who name the name of Christ. God’s standard, however, is perfection. Jesus declared, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). God will accept nothing less. But because no sinful human being can possibly attain to that perfection, God has graciously provided for it to be imputed through the vicarious atonement of His sinless Son.

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.… For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.… But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.… For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (Rom. 5:1, 6, 8, 10–11)

Many Jewish leaders in New Testament times had tried to use the truth of God’s grace to vitiate His law. Recognizing that no person could possibly keep every commandment for an entire lifetime, they rationalized that God’s grace therefore led Him to overlook most disobedience. Some rabbis even taught that obedience to just one essential commandment was sufficient to satisfy God. Such warped, ungodly reasoning removes the sinfulness of sin and corrupts not only God’s law but also His grace. It was their self-righteousness that prevented them from seeing their need for a Savior, which is why those Jewish leaders so vehemently opposed Jesus Christ and the gospel of substitutionary atonement that He both proclaimed and fulfilled.

Both testaments, however, clearly affirm that there is no grace in God’s law. Without exception, breaking of His law requires judgment and appropriate punishment. There is no such thing as a small, inconsequential, or unpunishable sin.[1]


10–11 To drive home the point, James stresses there are no small parts of the Law that can be treated lightly. Modern biblical scholars speak of the danger of having “a canon within a canon,” meaning an elevation of the parts of Scripture as more important than other parts. By their actions, those whom James addresses were not taking this part of the Law seriously. So James states plainly that to “stumble” on this one law constitutes being guilty. The word rendered “stumble” (ptaiō, GK 4760), which could also be translated “trip,” was used figuratively to speak of sin (e.g., Ro 11:11; Jas 3:2).

Jewish teachers of the era emphasized the unity of God’s law. For example, in 4 Maccabees 5:19–21 Eleazar, upon being commanded by the pagan king to eat unclean food, replies that there are no small sins, for to break the Law in small matters or great is equally serious. Paul also reflects this sentiment in Galatians 5:3, where he writes, “Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law” (see Moo, 114). For James and those of his day, the importance of the whole Law, and the Law’s unity, was grounded in the authority of God, who gave the Law. The same God who gave the command not to commit adultery also gave the command not to commit murder. Thus these laws are linked by the action and authority of the Giver. Consequently, if a person does not commit adultery and yet does commit murder, the Law has been broken, since one point of the Law has been violated.[2]


2:10 / The reason behind this conclusion is a truism: Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. The statement does not mean that it is just as bad no matter which commandment one breaks (e.g., stealing a shoe is as bad as murder) but rather that if one breaks a law one demonstrates an underlying attitude toward the lawgiver and thus is simply a criminal. Deuteronomy 27:26 puts it this way, “Cursed is the [one] who does not uphold the words of this law by carrying them out.” The particular offense may have been more or less serious, but the person stands under a curse whichever commandment he or she has broken. James’ argument is important in that he is showing that the rebellion against God is more important than the specific act and that no deliberate transgression of God’s teachings is unimportant.[3]


2:9–11. This section deplores the violation of the royal law. If the readers truly practiced favoritism, they committed sin and stood convicted as lawbreakers. Leviticus 19:15 had warned against the practice of favoritism, against either the poor or the rich. It appealed for fair treatment of our neighbors.

Lawbreakers describes persons who have stepped over a line or a limit. Lawbreakers had mockingly stepped over God’s boundaries and performed a forbidden practice.

Verse 10 shows why those who practice partiality are lawbreakers. Some Jews saw God’s law as containing many detached requirements forbidding such actions as murder, adultery, and robbery. They failed to see its unity. They may have felt that strict obedience at one point would compensate for disobedience elsewhere.

God’s Law is not like a setup of ten bowling pins which we knock down one at a time. It more resembles a pane of glass in which a break at one point means that the entire pane is broken.

The primary application of verse 10 was to one who showed partiality for the rich over the poor. Violating this single commandment made a person a lawbreaker. We should apply the statement of verse 10 in other areas where we are tempted to praise ourselves for obedience at one point while neglecting to consider the points where we grievously disobey God’s teachings.

The Bible does not say all sins are equal. Stealing a candy bar is not the same as committing adultery. Thinking about murder is not as bad as committing the act. Every sin does bring guilt. It takes only a single sin to make a person a sinner. No act of obedience can compensate for acts of disobedience.

It applies to a hit man for mobsters who prides himself on his marital fidelity while he ruthlessly murders mob enemies. It applies to a citizen caught running a red light who excuses his disobedience by claiming that he had previously stopped for ten thousand red lights. It applies to professing Christians who feel that giving $500,000 for equipping a new church facility will secure their salvation after years of indifference. Disobedience of one section of God’s Law makes a person a sinner. No amount of imagined or actual obedience can compensate for that fact!

Verse 11 shows the unity of the Law lies in its origin in God. The commandments prohibiting both adultery and murder originated with God. To resist one requirement of the Law is to resist God, the authority beneath its requirements.[4]


Keep the Royal Law

2:8–11

What does the Bible say about favoritism and discrimination? Perhaps a Jewish Christian asked James this question and then suggested that Scripture should be the measure of all things. Apparently James anticipates this type of question, which was commonly asked in Jewish circles. With the Old Testament in hand, James answers the reader who questions him and thus proves his point.

8. If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.

James goes to the heart of the matter and avoids details. That is, he is not interested in searching the Scriptures to find a particular command on the sin of favoritism. Rather, he states the fundamental principle of God’s law to which Jesus referred when he was questioned by an expert in the law. The expert asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (Matt. 22:36). Instead of listing a specific command, Jesus summarized the law for him and said, “Love the Lord your God … and … love your neighbor as yourself” (vv. 37–39; and see Deut. 6:5; Lev. 19:18).

  • Condition

James calls attention to only the second part of the summary, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He stresses this part, just as Paul does in his epistles (Rom. 13:9; Gal. 5:14; and compare Matt. 19:19). But the implication is the same: the entire law is summarized in expressing love for one’s neighbor. Keeping the second part of the summary means fulfilling the first part as well. The two parts are inseparably connected (1 John 4:20–21).

James calls the summary of the law “royal.” He does not elaborate and he refrains from explaining the word in context. He puts the sum and substance of the law in a conditional sentence that states a simple fact. He says, “If you really keep the royal law … you are doing right.” The believer who fulfills the supreme law of God, given in the Scriptures, is doing God’s will and keeps himself from falling into the sin of favoritism.

  • Charge

God shows no favoritism (Rom. 2:11), but shows his love to the poor as well as to the rich. If God is impartial, then the believers also should show love to all people without discrimination.

Perhaps James has in mind the broader context of the Old Testament teaching, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18). In this context Moses tells the Israelites, “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly” (Lev. 19:15).

James, however, refers to the sin of favoritism that the readers are committing. Therefore, he adds that by being partial (Deut. 1:17) they stand convicted by the law of love. The summary of the law condemns them as lawbreakers. The readers are actually working at sin, says James. And they do so by stepping across the boundary that has been given to keep them from sin, namely, the law. No one is able to say that he stepped across the line in ignorance, because the law specifically forbids showing partiality (Lev. 19:15). Transgressing the law of God is a serious offense to God that makes the sinner stand before him as a lawbreaker. The charge is leveled against the transgressor. When the law convicts him, no one can claim to be a partial transgressor. He is guilty.

10.For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.

Consider the following issues:

  • “The whole law.” James uses a sentence that states a condition. He says, “If anyone of you tries to keep the entire law of God, but stumbles in regard to one of the commandments, he is guilty because the whole law condemns him.”

The Jews in the time of James made a distinction between the more important laws and those that were less significant. For example, they considered the law on sabbath observance most pressing. But other commandments, like the one against swearing, they did not consider very important (see Matt. 5:33–37; James 5:12).

Even though James initially wrote his epistle to Christians with a Jewish background, he excludes no one from the obligation to observe and keep the law of God. Every reader of his letter ought to take note of the unity of God’s law. We cannot maintain that keeping the commandment, “You shall not kill,” is more important than the one that says, “You shall not covet.” Scripture does not allow us to add value judgments to the commandments. In fact, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus teaches that nothing from the law will disappear “until everything is accomplished” (Matt. 5:17–19). And Paul refers to the obligation of obeying the whole law (Gal. 5:3). Thus, in his discussion on the law, James, too, stresses that God’s law is not made up of individual commandments but that it displays unity.

  • The unity of the law

Certainly, the law consists of numerous commandments, but transgressing one of them means breaking the law of God. If I stub my toe, not only my toe but also my whole body hurts. Every part of my body is integrally related to the whole. “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it” (1 Cor. 12:26). If I break one of God’s commandments, I sin against the entire law of God.

God himself has originated and formulated his law. He also enacts and enforces it, because through the law he expresses his will. God said, “Do not commit adultery.” He also said, “Do not murder.” These two commandments are part of the law, that is, the Decalogue (Exod. 20:13, 14; Deut. 5:17, 18), and bear the same divine authority as the rest of God’s law.

The order of the two commandments is the reverse of the grouping given in the Hebrew Bible and the modern translations. But in the Septuagint the order is the one which not only James has adopted. Luke in his Gospel (18:20) and Paul in his letter to the Romans (13:9) have this same sequence.

James has selected the two commandments that are mentioned first in the section of the law that pertains to the neighbor (see Matt. 19:18–19 and parallels). The simple logic is that if a person keeps the one commandment but violates the other, he is nonetheless a lawbreaker and God declares him guilty.

Doctrinal Considerations in 2:8–11

Too often we look at the commandments from a negative point of view. We do so because most of them are cast in a negative form: for example, do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal. But the Ten Commandments have a positive side, too. They teach us that within the boundaries of God’s protective laws we have perfect freedom. As fish thrive in water because water is their natural habitat, so the child of God flourishes in the setting of the law. He realizes that God has graciously given him these laws for his protection and safety. He knows that “the law of the Lord is perfect” and that “the precepts of the Lord are right” (Ps. 19:7, 8). He experiences the love of God in these commandments, so that he in turn can express his love to God and his neighbor.

Why does the believer keep the law of God? He keeps the law because in this way he is able to show his gratitude to God. The law of God, then, is a rule of gratitude for the believer.[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1998). James (pp. 111–115). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Guthrie, G. H. (2006). James. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 236). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Davids, P. H. (2011). James (p. 61). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Lea, T. D. (1999). Hebrews, James (Vol. 10, pp. 283–284). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[5] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of James and the Epistles of John (Vol. 14, pp. 80–83). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

December 15: After the Storm

Jeremiah 29:1–30:24; Romans 6:1–14; Proverbs 20:13–30

As we blink and squint in the light that emerges after a storm, we marvel that the sun was there all along and we just couldn’t see it. The same is true during times of difficulty. When we’re in pain or worried, it seems impossible to find God, but in retrospect, it always seems obvious: God was there all along.

Jeremiah prophesied to God’s people about their unraveling. The people heard words from Jeremiah’s mouth that must have seemed hopeless and full of despair. But in Jeremiah 29, we catch a glimpse of the light that comes after: “Build houses and live in them, and plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and father sons and daughters … and multiply there, and you must not be few” (Jer 29:5–6).

Even in exile, God will continue to guide His people. Because of their sins, they have endured (and lost) war and have been driven away from the land that God gave them; but God remains with them nonetheless. They may need to experience the pain of exile to understand the consequences of turning away from God, but God still plans to be good to them. He will provide for them.

We witness a parallel picture in Rom 6. After describing the death that sin brings into the world and the current sad state of humanity, Paul presents a full vision of living without sin—of conquering the very problem that drove God’s people into exile: “What therefore shall we say? Shall we continue in sin, in order that grace may increase? May it never be! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom 6:1–2).

Even with the grace God has offered us, Paul encourages us to live the vision God has created through Jesus—one that strives to be sinless. Likewise, Jeremiah does not offer empty words without the command that God’s people follow Him with their entire beings (Jer 29:8–14).

We have all made mistakes. We’ve all lost ourselves in the storms—in storms we caused and storms that came upon us for no apparent reason. But what’s certain in both instances is that God is with us and desires for us to be one with Him.

What storm are you currently in, coming out of, or anticipating? What is God teaching you through it? What is He asking of you?

John D. Barry[1]


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