Daily Archives: January 8, 2018

January 8 Matching Your Practice to Your Position

“[God] chose us … that we should be holy and blameless before Him” (Eph. 1:4).


The challenge of Christian living is to increasingly match your practice to your position.

God chose you in Christ to make you “holy and blameless” in His sight. To be “holy” is to be separated from sin and devoted to righteousness. To be “blameless” is to be pure, without spot or blemish—like Jesus, the Lamb of God (1 Peter 1:19).

Ephesians 1:4 is a positional statement. That is, Paul describes how God views us “in Him [Christ].” God sees us as “holy and blameless” because Christ our Savior is holy and blameless. His purity is credited to our spiritual bank account. That’s because God made Christ “who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).

Despite our exalted position in God’s sight, our practice often falls far short of His holy standard. Therefore, the challenge of Christian living is to increasingly match our practice to our position, realizing that sinless perfection won’t come until we are fully glorified in Heaven (Rom. 8:23).

How do you meet that challenge? By prayer, Bible study, and yielding your life to the Spirit’s control. Commit yourself to those priorities today as you seek to fulfill the great purpose to which you’ve been called—the “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).


Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank God that He does not expect you to earn your own righteousness but has provided it in His Son. ✧ Ask His Spirit to search your heart and reveal any sin that might hinder your growth in holiness. Confess that sin, and take any steps necessary to eliminate it from your life.

For Further Study: Read Philippians 1:9–11. ✧ What ingredients must be added to Christian love to produce sincerity and blamelessness? ✧ What is the primary source of those ingredients (see Ps. 119:97–105)? ✧ What specific steps are you going to take to add or increase those ingredients in your life?[1]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 20). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.


O come, let us worship and bow down….

PSALM 95:6

An old creed says that we worship one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.

If we could set forth all of God’s attributes and tell all that He is, we would fall on our knees in adoring worship.

The Bible tells us that God dwells in light that is unapproachable, whom no man can see or has seen, and whom no man can see and live.

It says that God is holy and eternal and omnipotent and omniscient and sovereign, and that He has a thousand sovereign attributes. And all of these should humble us and bring us down!

I have come to believe that no worship is wholly pleasing to God until there is nothing in us displeasing to God. If there is anything within me that does not worship God, then there is nothing in me that worships God perfectly.

Note that I am not saying that God must have a perfection of worship or He will not accept any worship at all. I would not go so far; if I did, I would rule myself out. But, I do say that the ideal God sets before us is to worship as near to perfectly as we can. Faith and love and obedience and loyalty and high conduct of life—all of these must be taken as burnt offerings and offered to God!

True worship seeks union with its beloved, and an active effort to close the gap between the heart and the God it adores is worship at its best![1]

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

Heresy Hunters Guide (Part 1): Why God has called Christians to be ‘Heresy Hunters’.

Christians are called to love Jesus the way he asked us to:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15

Sadly, not only do many Christians neglect this command in the church today, the results of ignoring Jesus’ Words regarding false teachers has spiritual consequences:

  1. Unloving towards both God and neighbour;
  2. Exposing the church to more apostacy;
  3. Representing a bad witness to a lost and dying world;
  4. Spiritually harming many people in the church and in the community;
  5. Watering down and complicating the simplicity of the gospel and the Christian confession of faith;
  6. Making evangelism harder regarding new converts finding safe churches where the gospel is not tainted by false teaching or associated with false teachers.

It seems many choose to turn a deaf ear to Paul’s warning:

“I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from…

View original post 1,593 more words

John MacArthur on the Irreducible Elements of the Gospel

Code: B180108

The gospel is the great nonnegotiable of Christian truth. We aren’t allowed to add to, subtract from, embellish, or rejigger the sacred message of how sinful men can be reconciled to a holy God.

That’s why the apostle Paul reserved his sternest warning for anyone who would dare to mess with the message: “If any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed” (Galatians 1:9).

The preacher is left with one option when it comes to faithful gospel proclamation—and it’s not an elusive option reserved for scholars. Paul expected his audience to be able to clearly differentiate between the one true gospel and all the other pretenders. It is an expectation implicitly placed upon all believers. With that in mind, we recently asked John MacArthur to identify and explain the essential truths of saving faith—the irreducible elements of the gospel.

Our destinies hinge on the unshakable nature of those truths. Any variation in just one of them and the hope of eternal life completely collapses.

If you present a different god than the God of Scripture, you are effectively calling people to idolatry. If you preach another Christ you do not have the Lord; you have a liar or a lunatic. If salvation by grace through faith alone is corrupted with even the smallest amount of works-righteousness, “Christ will be of no benefit to you” (Galatians 5:2). If we don’t repent from our former sinful ways, we will perish (Luke 13:3,5).

In the days ahead we’re going to take a closer look at those core elements in presenting the gospel. Moreover, we’ll examine how they fit together into a coherent biblical message—presented simply, clearly, logically, and faithfully. There’s nothing more important for a Christian to be right about than how we can be right with God.


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B180108
COPYRIGHT ©2018 Grace to You

You may reproduce this Grace to You content for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Grace to You’s Copyright Policy (http://www.gty.org/about#copyright).

Nation’s Progressives Suddenly In Favor Of Electing TV Personalities As President

U.S.—Moments after Oprah Winfrey gave a rousing speech at the Golden Globe Awards Sunday night in what some claimed to be the soft launch of her 2020 presidential bid, the nation’s progressives declared they were now in favor of TV personalities running for president. Millions of Democrats who denounced Donald Trump for his lack of […]

. . . finish reading Nation’s Progressives Suddenly In Favor Of Electing TV Personalities As President.

Cleanse Yourself


Video Notes: 

We can apply what we learn from these battles in the Old Testament to the many struggles we face as Christians with sin and temptation in our own lives. Here’s the principle: If you want to do a great work for God, you must deal first with sins that remain embedded in your life.

Listen to these words of Paul to Timothy, a young Christian leader: “If anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21).

Timothy, you want to be useful to the Master? You want to be ready for every good work? You want to be a vessel for honorable use? Well then, here is what you must do: Cleanse yourself of all that dishonors God. “Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).

Here is a great motive for pursuing holiness of life, for waging war against the sin that remains in your life. Think what you could be for the Lord. Think what you might do. Think how he might use you if the sins that have gained power over you were driven out! Don’t let an impure heart put you on the sidelines of usefulness to God! Any great work of God begins with a person who gets serious about the pursuit of holiness.

[Taken from Pastor Colin’s sermon When God Says ‘No’—Part 2 ]


The post Cleanse Yourself appeared first on Unlocking the Bible.

January 8 An Upward Look by a Downcast Soul, Part 1

By James Boice on Jan 08, 2018 12:00 am

It is hard for me to imagine that a book about depression would be very popular, but in 1965 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, published a book entitled Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, which turned out to be one of the most highly valued and widely circulated books he ever wrote.1 Perhaps you have seen it. The only conceivable reason it has been so popular is not that the subject itself is attractive, but that so many people, including Christians, are depressed and looking for solutions.2

Read more…

January 8, 2018 : Afternoon Verse Of The Day

Positive Hope in Jesus Christ

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”—in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (3:13–14)

Turning again to the positive, Paul reminds the Jewish believers in Galatia of the fact that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having been a curse for us.

Redeemed is from exagorazō, a word commonly used of buying a slave’s freedom. Christ justifies those who believe in Him by buying them back from their slavery to sin. The price He paid was the only one high enough to redeem all of mankind, the “precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:19).

The curse of the Law was the punishment demanded because no man could keep from violating its demands, but Christ took that curse upon Himself as a substitute for sinners and became a curse for us in His crucifixion, for it is written (Deut. 21:23), “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.”

In ancient Judaism a criminal who was executed, usually by stoning, was then tied to a post, a type of tree, where his body would hang until sunset as a visible representation of rejection by God. It was not that a person became cursed by being hanged on a tree but that he was hanged on a tree because he was cursed. Jesus did not become a curse because He was crucified but was crucified because he was cursed in taking the full sin of the world upon Himself. “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Pet. 2:24; cf. Acts 5:30).

That truth was extremely hard for most Jews to accept, because they could not imagine the Messiah’s being cursed by God and having to hang on a tree. First Corinthians 12:3 suggests that “Jesus is accursed” was a common, demon-inspired saying among unbelieving Jews of that day. To them, Jesus’ crucifixion was final and absolute proof that He was not the promised Messiah.

But for those who trust in Him, the two words for us become the two most beautiful words in all of Scripture. Because God sent His Son to bear the penalty for man’s sin, every person who puts his trust in the crucified Savior has had the curse borne for him.

Jesus’ sacrifice was total and for all men, in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. On man’s part, the curse is lifted by faith, which God, on His part and by grace, counts as righteousness on the believer’s behalf, and the river of blessing begins to flow as the rushing water of God’s grace engulfs the believer. Jesus Christ bore the curse, Paul affirms, to bring the blessing of Abraham … to the Gentiles. Salvation was for the purpose of God’s blessing the world. All that God desired for and promised to Abraham of salvation and its benefits would spread to the nations. A coordinate purpose clause is added—so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith (cf. Acts 1:4–5; Eph. 1:13), who comes as the resident, indwelling Person to bless us with power.

All of this blessing is through faith. Justifying faith involves self-renunciation, putting away all confidence in one’s own merit and works. Like the Israelites who had Pharaoh’s pursuing army behind them and the impassable Red Sea in front of them, the sinner must acknowledge his sinfulness and his total inability to save himself. When he sees God’s justice pursuing him and God’s judgment ahead of him, he realizes his helplessness in himself and realizes he has nowhere to turn but to God’s mercy and grace.

Justifying faith also involves reliance on and submission to the Lord. When a sinner sees that he has no way to escape and no power in his own resources, he knows he must rely on God’s provision and power. Finally, justifying faith involves appropriation, as the sinner gratefully receives the free gift of pardon Christ offers and submits to His authority.

Justifying faith does not have to be strong faith; it only has to be true faith. And true faith not only brings salvation to the believer but glory to the One who saves.

When a person receives Christ as Lord and Savior, he receives the promised blessing and the promised Spirit, which Paul describes in Ephesians as being “blessed … with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (1:3). This blessing gives a testimony of praise to “the glory of His grace” (1:6). God receives glory when His attributes are on display, and nowhere is His grace more evident than in the sending of His only Son to be crucified on man’s behalf, the Sinless paying the debt of the sinful. Believers are “raised … up with Him, and seated … with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward [them] in Christ Jesus” (2:6–7).

Men are redeemed in order to exhibit God’s majestic being before all creation. His supreme purpose is to demonstrate His glorious grace against the backdrop of man’s sinfulness, lostness, and hopelessness. The very purpose of the church is to “stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy” and to praise “the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, … [for His] glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever” (Jude 24–25).[1]

13–14 Paul’s point about justification by faith is now established. He again alludes to the “curse” brought about by employing the law as a means of justification (cf. v. 10). Here in v. 13, after suddenly changing the subject from curse to redemption, Paul joins the concept of the curse as found in Deuteronomy 27:26 (referred to in v. 10) to the concept of curse as found in Deuteronomy 21:23. He interprets the former in terms of the latter by means of the Jewish exegetical principle of gezerah shawah (a verbal analogy from one verse to another; cf. Fung, 147–48). Paul adapts his citation of Deuteronomy 21:23 to the curses of Deuteronomy 27:26 in order to make the factual statement (“everyone is accursed who hangs on a tree”) an anathema (“cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”). So Paul is able to demonstrate that Christ’s death fit both the demands of the law for disobedience and the extension of the promise made to Abraham to all who express faith as Abraham did. Because the sinless Christ paid the price for sin in his death on the “tree,” anyone exercising faith in him and that death is redeemed, and hence justified. One who exercises faith in the work of Christ believes the promise of God (for forgiveness), and God credits it to him as righteousness. This is referred to as an “exchange curse”: Jesus takes on himself the curse of sin and the law and extends his righteousness to those who trust in him (cf. 2 Co 5:21). So God fulfills the Abrahamic covenant in the cross of Christ, and Gentiles are included in the community of God’s people in the newly inaugurated age of the Spirit received by faith.[2]

Christ a curse for us (v. 13)

In what is without question one of the most remarkable statements in the New Testament on the death of Christ, Paul says in verse 13, ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” ’ (ESV). The cross was a scene of redemption, an idea with which Paul’s first-century readers were more familiar than we are today. To redeem someone (a slave, for example) was to secure his or her freedom by the payment of a price. And it was in order to redeem us, to secure our freedom from the curse of the law, that Jesus died on Calvary.

What a price he paid for it! He redeemed us from the curse of the law, says Paul, by ‘becoming a curse for us’ (v. 13). The penalty of our law-breaking was transferred to him. For a wrath-deserving people he became the wrath-bearer, an accursed one, bearing the curse that should have been borne by us.

In confirmation of that, Paul quotes yet another Old Testament Scripture (Deut. 21:23): ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’ When a criminal under Old Testament law was put to death by being hanged on a tree it pointed to the fact that he or she was under the curse of God. The nailing of Jesus to the cross symbolized the very same thing. Frequently in the New Testament the cross of Calvary is thought of and spoken of as a tree (Acts 5:30; 13:29; 1 Peter 2:24). That is because the Christ who died there was under the curse of God—redeeming us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.[3]

3:13 / Paul believes that the change in the relationship between law and faith within Judaism results from Christ’s death, which Paul interprets in various ways throughout his letters. As M. D. Hooker has noted, none of the images Paul uses to speak about the cross “is complete in itself” (Not Ashamed of the Gospel: New Testament Interpretation of the Death of Christ [Carlisle: Paternoster, 1994], p. 45). Here it serves the apostle’s purpose to interpret Christ’s death as one in which Christ became a curse. This description should be understood in the context of the following scriptural quotation. Paul uses metonymy: Christ did not become as the law is (the curse of the law); Christ took on the position of those under the law—he became accursed. Citing Deuteronomy 21:23, Paul describes Christ’s death as one who was accursed, cut off from his people and from God. This place of curse is one that Paul and others were in until Christ redeemed them. Through his death Christ delivered believers from the “curse of the law” and thereby severed the relationship between faith in him and law. There is no need to follow law, for those who believe in Christ are released from law.

The quotation from Deuteronomy 21:23 contains the word “curse,” as did the first quotation (3:10, citing Deut. 27:26). In the scriptural context of each quotation the word “curse” indicates exclusion from the community. In Deuteronomy 27:26 all the people say “amen” to the curse, thereby affirming their stand against the behavior cursed and their willingness to shun anyone disobeying the law. The context of the Deuteronomy 21:23 quote is instruction about the burial of a criminal’s corpse: when someone is convicted of a crime punishable by death and so executed and hung on a tree, the corpse must not remain all night upon the tree but should be buried that day, for “anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse.” The exposed corpse of a dead criminal would defile the land God gives as an inheritance. The language of curse in relation to Christ’s death serves Paul’s point of emphasizing that through the Galatians’ faith in the death of Christ (3:1) they already are descendants of Abraham (3:7). He affirms that Christ’s death released believers from the curse of potentially being excluded from the people of God and effected inclusion within the people of God for those in Christ.

Paul’s use of Deuteronomy 21:23, in which the cursed person is a criminal deserving death, and his statement that Christ’s death was in our stead (for us), make plain that Paul thinks that Christ died for our sins. Nevertheless, Paul does not say explicitly that Christ died for our sins; he does not state directly that Christ’s death was a “sin offering” (cf. Rom. 8:3–4). The mechanics of salvation are beyond the rational realm. It is probably best to take Paul’s words as metaphorical. He seeks to explain his conviction that Christ’s death has effected the end of the law and opened the way for all to benefit from being the people of God. Paul’s focus is not on the manner in which Christ’s death made salvation available but on the fact that salvation is in Christ, apart from the law, and that those who believe in Christ are now incorporated into Christ.

Paul’s use of the first person plural pronoun us does not indicate that the Galatians had been following the Jewish law before they came to faith in Christ. In fact, we know that they had been pagans (4:8). Rather, Paul is describing the stages of God’s salvation plan, which he will describe in more depth in the subsequent verses. Before Christ everyone, Jew and pagan, was in slavery to the law (cf. 3:23), for whether one was a Jew or a pagan, there was no other way to deal with sin than through the law one knew (cf. Rom. 2:14). The ancient world understood law in a general sense to be that which reflected justice. As Aristotle says, “ ‘The just’ therefore means that which is lawful or that which is equal and fair” (Eth. nic. 5.1.8 [Rackham, LCL]). Law was a way of measuring and achieving justice. By broadening the field to speak about law in general Paul asserts that the Galatians have already followed the law. This is an effective rhetorical strategy, for the conclusion is plain that through believing in Christ crucified (cf. 3:1), the Galatians have already once turned from following law.[4]

The Alternative of Faith (verses13,14)

This second alternative introduces Jesus Christ. It tells us that Jesus Christ has done for us on the cross what we could not do for ourselves. The only way to escape the curse is not by our work, but by His. He has redeemed us, ransomed us, set us free from the awful condition of bondage to which the curse of the law had brought us. Verse 13: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us. These are astonishing words. As Bishop Blunt put it: ‘the language here is startling, almost shocking. We should not have dared to use it. Yet Paul means every word of it.’ In its context, in which it must be read, the phrase can mean only one thing, for the ‘curse’ of verses 10 and 13 is evidently the same curse. The ‘curse of the law’ from which Christ redeemed us must be the curse resting upon us for our disobedience (verse 10). And He redeemed us from it by ‘becoming a curse’ Himself. The curse was transferred from us to Him. He took it voluntarily upon Himself, in order to deliver us from it. It is this ‘becoming a curse for us’ which explains the awful cry of dereliction, of God-forsakenness, which He uttered from the cross.

Paul now adds a scriptural confirmation of what he has just said about the cross. He quotes Deuteronomy 21:23: for it is written, ‘Cursed be every one who hangs on a tree’ (verse 13b). Every criminal sentenced to death under the Mosaic legislation and executed, usually by stoning, was then fixed to a stake or ‘hanged on a tree’ as a symbol of his divine rejection. Dr. Cole says the quotation means ‘not … that a man is cursed by God because he is hanged, but that death by hanging was the outward sign in Israel of a man who was thus cursed’. The fact that the Romans executed by crucifixion rather than hanging makes no difference. To be nailed to a cross was equivalent to being hanged on a tree. So Christ crucified was described as having been ‘hanged on a tree’ (e.g. Acts 5:30; 1 Pet. 2:24), and was recognized as having died under the divine curse. No wonder the Jews at first could not believe that Jesus was the Christ. How could Christ, the anointed of God, instead of reigning on a throne, hang on a tree? It was incredible to them. Perhaps, as Bishop Stephen Neill suggests, when Christ crucified was preached, Jews would sometimes shout back ‘Jesus is accursed!’, which is the dreadful ejaculation mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:3.

The fact that Jesus died hanging on a tree remained for Jews an insurmountable obstacle to faith, until they saw that the curse He bore was for them. He did not die for His own sins; He became a curse ‘for us’.

Does this mean that everybody has been redeemed from the law’s curse through the sin-bearing, curse-bearing cross of Christ? Indeed not, for verse 13 must not be read without verse 14, where it is written that Christ became a curse for us, that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. It was in Christ that God acted for our salvation, and so we must be in Christ to receive it. We are not saved by a distant Christ, who died hundreds of years ago and lives millions of miles away, but by an existential Christ, who, having died and risen again, is now our contemporary. As a result we can be ‘in Him’, personally and vitally united to Him today.

But how? Granted that He bore our curse, and that we must be ‘in Him’ to be redeemed from it, how do we become united to Him? The answer is ‘through faith’. Paul has already quoted Habakkuk: ‘he who through faith is righteous shall live’ (verse 11). Now he says it himself: ‘We … receive the promise of the Spirit through faith’ (verse 14).

Faith is laying hold of Jesus Christ personally. There is no merit in it. It is not another ‘work’. Its value is not in itself, but entirely in its object, Jesus Christ. As Luther put it, ‘faith … apprehendeth nothing else but that precious jewel Christ Jesus.’ Christ is the Bread of life; faith feeds upon Him. Christ was lifted up on the cross; faith gazes at Him there.[5]

redeemed us from the curse of the law. Redeem means “to buy out of slavery by paying a price.” This word was used when someone purchased a slave for the purpose of freeing them. When Jesus died on the cross, he took our curse upon himself. Through his substitutionary atonement, Christ paid the penalty of the curse. When we believe in him, he frees us from the slavery of the law.[6]

13. The penitent sinner does not need to despair, however. To be sure, he is by nature under the curse of the law, as has been indicated. From this pitiable situation he is unable to deliver himself. But God has provided the remedy: Christ redeemed us—Gentiles as well as Jews (see verse 14)—from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us. Christ purchased us free from the curse of the law. He bought us back from the sentence of condemnation which the law pronounced on us and from the punishment of eternal death which it exacted (Gen. 2:17; Deut. 30:15, 19; John 3:36; Rom. 5:12; 8:1; Eph. 2:3). He rescued us by the payment of a ransom (Exod. 21:30), the ransom price being his own precious blood (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23; Rev. 5:9; cf. 1 Peter 1:18, 19). He became a curse—that is, “an accursed one”—for us.

It is, indeed, difficult to conceive of the majestic Christ as being accursed. What! Jesus anathema? In the face of 1 Cor. 12:3 how would one dare to say that? This becomes all the more a problem when we consider that we generally—and rightly—associate the curse with sin, and Christ had no sin (Isa. 53:9; John 8:46; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22). The only solution is the one supplied by the beautiful words of Isa. 53:6: “Jehovah laid on him the iniquity of us all”; cf. also verses 10–12. Christ’s curse-bearing, then, was vicarious: “Him who knew no sin he made to be sin for our sake, in order that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). This eminently scriptural truth of Christ’s substitutionary atonement is being denied by ever so many people. It has been called “butchershop theology.” Nevertheless, not only is it taught here in Gal. 3:13 in unmistakable language but it is the doctrine of Scripture throughout (Exod. 12:13; Lev. 1:4; 16:20–22; 17:11; Ps. 40:6, 7; 49:7, 8; Isa. 53; Zech. 13:1; Matt. 20:28; 26:27, 28; Mark 10:45; Luke 22:14–23; John 1:29; 10:11, 14; Acts 20:28; Rom. 3:24, 25; 8:3, 4; 1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23; 2 Cor. 5:18–21; Gal. 1:4; 2:20; Eph. 1:7; 2:16; Col. 1:19–23; Heb. 9:22, 28; 1 Peter 1:18, 19; 2:24; 3:18; 1 John 1:7; 2:2; 4:10; Rev. 5:9; 7:14).

In support of the idea that Christ became a curse for us Paul appeals to Deut. 21:23: for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanging on a tree.” In its Old Testament context, however, that passage does not refer to death by crucifixion, which was not known among the Israelites as a mode of capital punishment. It refers, instead, to the custom according to which after a wrong-doer had been executed, his dead body was nailed to a post or tree. But if, in the sight of God, the hanging of a dead body was a curse, how much more would not the slow, painful, and shameful death by crucifixion of a living person be a curse, especially when that dying one was experiencing anguish beyond the power of description! See Matt. 27:46.[7]

3:13 To redeem is to buy back, or to deliver by paying the price. The curse of the law is death—the penalty for breaking its commandments. Christ has delivered those under law from paying the penalty of death demanded by the law. (Paul is undoubtedly speaking primarily of believing Jews when he uses the pronoun us, although the Jews were representatives of the entire human race.)

Cynddylan Jones says:

The Galatians imagined that Christ only half purchased them, and that they had to purchase the rest by their submission to circumcision and other Jewish rites and ceremonies. Hence their readiness to be led away by false teachers and to mix up Christianity and Judaism. Paul says here: (according to the Welsh translation) “Christ hath wholly purchased us from the curse of the law.”

Christ redeemed men by dying in their place, enduring the dreadful wrath of God against sins. The curse of God fell on Him as man’s Substitute. He did not become sinful in Himself, but man’s sins were placed upon Him.

Christ did not redeem men from the curse of the law by keeping the Ten Commandments perfectly during His lifetime. Scripture does not teach that His perfect obedience to the law is reckoned to us. Rather He delivered men from the law by bearing its dreadful curse in death. Apart from His death there could be no salvation. The law taught that when condemned criminals were hanged on a tree, it was a sign of their being under the curse of God (Deut. 21:23). Here the Holy Spirit sees in that passage a prophecy of the manner in which the Savior would die to bear the curse for His creatures. He was hung between heaven and earth as though unworthy of either. In His death by crucifixion, He is said to have been hanged on a tree (Acts 5:30; 1 Pet. 2:24).[8]

3:13. The positive side of Paul’s argument emphasized that there is hope for all who have broken the Law and are therefore under its curse. That hope is not in man but in Christ who redeemed us from the curse of the Law. But how did Christ redeem (exēgorasen, lit., “buy out of slavery”; cf. 4:5; see chart “New Testament Words for Redemption” at Mark 10:45) man? The answer is by becoming a curse for us. This is a strong declaration of substitutionary redemption whereby Christ took the penalty of all guilty lawbreakers on Himself. Thus the “curse of the Law” was transferred from sinners to Christ, the sinless One (cf. 1 Peter 3:18), and He delivered people from it. The confirming quotation from Deuteronomy 21:23 refers to the fact that in Old Testament times criminals were executed (normally by stoning) and then displayed on a stake or post to show God’s divine rejection. When Christ was crucified, it was evidence He had come under the curse of God. The manner of His death was a great obstacle to faith for Jews until they realized the curse He bore was for them (cf. Isa. 53).[9]

This salvation comes through Christ (vv. 13–14). These two verses beautifully summarize all that Paul has been saying in this section. Does the Law put sinners under a curse? Then Christ has redeemed us from that curse! Do you want the blessing of Abraham? It comes through Christ! Do you want the gift of the Spirit, but you are a Gentile? This gift is given through Christ to the Gentiles! All that you need is in Christ! There is no reason to go back to Moses.

Paul quotes Deuteronomy again, “He that is hanged is accursed of God” (Deut. 21:23, nkjv). The Jews did not crucify criminals; they stoned them to death. But in cases of shameful violation of the Law, the body was hung on a tree and exposed for all to see. This was a great humiliation, because the Jewish people were very careful in their treatment of a dead body. After the body had been exposed for a time, it was taken down and buried (see Josh. 8:29; 10:26; 2 Sam. 4:12).

Of course, Paul’s reference to a “tree” relates to the cross on which Jesus died (Acts 5:30; 1 Peter 2:24). He was not stoned and then His dead body exposed; He was nailed alive to a tree and left there to die. But by dying on the cross, Jesus Christ bore the curse of the Law for us; so that now the believer is no longer under the Law and its awful curse. “The blessing of Abraham” (justification by faith and the gift of the Spirit) is now ours through faith in Jesus Christ.

The word redeemed in Galatians 3:13 means to purchase a slave for the purpose of setting him free. It is possible to purchase a slave and keep him as a slave, but this is not what Christ did. By shedding His blood on the cross, He purchased us that we might be set free. The Judaizers wanted to lead the Christians into slavery, but Christ died to set them free. Salvation is not exchanging one form of bondage for another. Salvation is being set free from the bondage of sin and the Law into the liberty of God’s grace through Christ.

This raises an interesting question: how could these Judaizers ever convince the Galatian Christians that the way of Law was better than the way of grace? Why would any believer deliberately want to choose bondage instead of liberty? Perhaps part of the answer is found in the word bewitched that Paul uses in Galatians 3:1. The word means “to cast a spell, to fascinate.” What is there about legalism that can so fascinate the Christian that he will turn from grace to Law?

For one thing, legalism appeals to the flesh. The flesh loves to be “religious”—to obey laws, to observe holy occasions, even to fast (see Gal. 4:10). Certainly there is nothing wrong with obedience, fasting, or solemn times of spiritual worship, provided that the Holy Spirit does the motivating and the empowering. The flesh loves to boast about its religious achievements—how many prayers were offered, or how many gifts were given (see Luke 18:9–14; Phil. 3:1–10).

Another characteristic of religious legalism that fascinates people is the appeal to the senses. Instead of worshiping God “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24), the legalist invents his own system that satisfies his senses. He cannot walk by faith; he has to walk by sight and hearing and tasting and smelling and feeling. To be sure, true Spirit-led worship does not deny the five senses. We see other believers; we sing and hear the hymns; we taste and feel the elements of the Lord’s Supper. But these external things are but windows through which faith perceives the eternal. They are not ends in themselves.

The person who depends on religion can measure himself and compare himself with others. This is another fascination to legalism. But the true believer measures himself with Christ, not other Christians (Eph. 4:11ff). There is no room for pride in the spiritual walk of the Christian who lives by grace; but the legalist constantly boasts about his achievements and his converts (Gal. 6:13–14).

Yes, there is a fascination to the Law, but it is only bait that leads to a trap; and once the believer takes the bait, he finds himself in bondage. Far better to take God at His Word and rest on His grace. We were saved “by grace, through faith” and we must live “by grace, through faith.” This is the way to blessing. The other way is the way to bondage.[10]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Galatians (pp. 78–79). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Rapa, R. K. (2008). Galatians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 596). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Campbell, D. (2009). Opening Up Galatians (pp. 56–57). Leominster: Day One Publications.

[4] Jervis, L. A. (2011). Galatians (pp. 91–92). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book.

[5] Stott, J. R. W. (1986). The message of Galatians: Only one way (pp. 80–82). Leicester, England; Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[6] Anders, M. (1999). Galatians-Colossians (Vol. 8, p. 37). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[7] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Galatians (Vol. 8, pp. 130–131). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[8] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1882–1883). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[9] Campbell, D. K. (1985). Galatians. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 598). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[10] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, pp. 700–701). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.


But now in Christ Jesus ye…are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

Ephesians 2:13

Only a believing Christian can testify, “I am a sinner—saved by the grace of God!” But that is not the whole story. All that we have is cut of His grace. Jesus Christ, the eternal Word who became flesh and dwelt among us, is the open channel through whom God moves to provide all the benefits He gives, both to saints and to sinners—yes, even to sinners!

Even though you may still be unconverted and going your own way, you have received much out of the ocean of His fullness. You have received the pulsing life that beats in your bosom.

You have received the brilliant mind and the brain without which you could not function. You have received a memory that strings the events you cherish as a jeweler strings pearls into a necklace.

When we say to an unbelieving man, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” we are actually saying to him: “Believe on the One who sustains you and upholds you and who has given you life. Believe in the One who pities you and spares you and keeps you. Believe on the One out of whom you came!”

Lord, You are such a merciful God! Your offer of salvation is available to all men, women and children. You send Your rain on both the just and the unjust. Lord, open my eyes to those in my sphere of influence who don’t know You.[1]

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

January 8 Jesus’ Deity—Central to the Gospel

A voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”—Matt. 3:17

The truth that Jesus Christ is God’s perfect Son is a key feature of the gospel message. The author of the letter to the Hebrews makes this clear at the outset of his writing:

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. 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 He ever say, “You are My Son, today I have begotten You”? And again, “I will be a Father to Him and He shall be a Son to Me”? And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, “And let all the angels of God worship Him.” And of the angels He says, “Who makes His angels winds, and His ministers a flame of fire.” But of the Son He says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom.” (1:1–8; cf. Col. 1:15–19; 2:9)

The New Testament presents God more as the Father of Jesus (John 14:6–11; Phil. 2:9–11) than as the Father of believers (Matt. 6:9). We cannot worship God unless we also worship Christ as one with Him (cf. John 5:23).


Are you as “well-pleased” with the Son—your Savior—as the Father is? And are you willing to declare it, as if boomed from the heavens? Pray that God would renew your love for Him today and fill you with boldness to pronounce your devotion at every opportunity.[1]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 16). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

January 8 Fulfilling the Law

Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Matthew 5:48

Jesus faced much opposition during His ministry when He didn’t agree with contemporary Jewish theology (Matt. 15:1–3). Because it was hypocritical, He denied the Pharisees’ so–called devotion.

Many in His day were saying, “Is Jesus saying new truth?  Is He really speaking for God? He doesn’t say what the Pharisees say. He, in fact, says the opposite of what we’re taught.”

Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17). Jesus did not condemn Old Testament law, but He did condemn the tradition that had been built up around it. The religious leaders had so perverted God’s law that Jesus declared, “I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (v. 20).

Whose righteousness are you depending on? Your own or Christ’s?[1]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 19). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

January 8, 2018 : Morning Verse Of The Day

6:23 This verse amplifies the previous one:

the commandment is a lamp—for guidance

the law is a light—for protection

reproofs of instruction are the way of life—for teaching.[1]

6:23 the commandment … the teaching … discipline. These all identify the Word of God, which provides the wisdom leading to abundant and eternal life.[2]

6:23 In Ps. 119:105 the same metaphor is applied to the law as such. The wise person accepts the revealed law, and depending on it, examines nature and the experiences of life. In this way, wisdom supplements the law from its own perspective.[3]

6:23 Illumination of God’s Word—Illumination is the last of three important steps taken by God in communicating His Word to us. The first step was revelation which occurred when God spoke to the Bible authors. The second step was inspiration, that process whereby God guided them in correctly writing or uttering His message. But now a third step is needed to provide understanding for men and women as they hear God’s revealed and inspired message. This vital step is illumination, that divine process whereby God causes the written revelation to be understood by the human heart.

This third step is needed because unsaved people are blinded both by their fallen, fleshly nature (1 Cor. 2:14) and by Satan himself (2 Cor. 4:3, 4).

The Person behind this illumination is the Holy Spirit. Just prior to His crucifixion, Christ promised to send the Holy Spirit, who would illuminate both unsaved people (John 16:8–11) and Christians (John 14:26; 16:13, 14).

An important example of the Holy Spirit’s using God’s Word to illuminate sinners is seen at Pentecost, where three thousand people are saved after hearing Simon Peter preach about Christ and the Cross (Acts 2:36–41).

But Christians also need this illumination to help them fully grasp the marvelous message in God’s Word. Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit will show these tremendous truths to us as we read the Scriptures (1 Cor. 2:10; 2 Cor. 4:6).[4]

The Function of the Law



“The absence of God’s holy Law from modern preaching is perhaps as responsible as any other factor for the evangelistic impotence of our churches and missions. Only by the light of the Law can the vermin of sin in the heart be exposed. Satan has effectively used a very clever device to silence the Law, which is needed as an instrument to bring perishing men to Christ.”

“It is imperative that preachers of today learn how to declare the spiritual Law of God; for, until we learn how to wound consciences, we shall have no wounds to bind with gospel bandages.”

Walter Chantry Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic?

“The Law is the God-given light to illuminate the dark soul of man.”

Mark A. Spence

“Unless we see our shortcomings in the light of the Law and holiness of God, we do not see them as sin at all.”

J. I. Packer[5]


6:23 — For the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light .…

We live in a dark world, and without becoming familiar with God’s Word and learning how to effectively shine its light on our problems, we will certainly stumble in the blackness.[6]

[1] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 807). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Pr 6:23). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 881). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[4] The Open Bible: New King James Version. (1998). (electronic ed., Pr 6:23). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Comfort, R. (2003). The Evidence Bible: Irrefutable Evidence for the Thinking Mind, Notes. (K. Cameron, Ed.) (p. 816). Orlando, FL: Bridge-Logos.

[6] Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Pr 6:23). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.


My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?

—Psalm 42:2

One of the big milk companies makes capital of the fact that their cows are all satisfied with their lot in life. Their clever ads have made the term “contented cows” familiar to everyone. But what is a virtue in a cow may be a vice in a man. And contentment, when it touches spiritual things, is surely a vice….

Religious complacency is encountered almost everywhere among Christians these days, and its presence is a sign and a prophecy. For every Christian will become at last what his desires have made him. We are all the sum total of our hungers. The great saints have all had thirsting hearts. Their cry has been, “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?” Their longing after God all but consumed them; it propelled them onward and upward to heights toward which less ardent Christians look with languid eye and entertain no hope of reaching.

Orthodox Christianity has fallen to its present low estate from lack of spiritual desire. Among the many who profess the Christian faith, scarcely one in a thousand reveals any passionate thirst for God. ROR059-061

Oh, Lord, deliver me from the complacency that is so prevalent both around me and within me. Give me an unquenchable thirst for You that I may cry out for You along with the saints of long ago. Amen.[1]

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

January 8 Divinely Chosen and Called

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.”

Ephesians 4:1


We didn’t choose God; He chose us.

What is “the calling with which [we] have been called”? It is simply the position we have now as Christians. Paul said the Christians at Corinth were “saints by calling” (1 Cor. 1:2). Peter instructed his readers to make certain about God’s calling and choosing them (2 Peter 1:10). Our calling is a high calling (Phil. 3:14), “a holy calling” (2 Tim. 1:9), and “a heavenly calling” (Heb. 3:1).

Who called us? Jesus has the answer: “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44). Jesus also said, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you” (15:16). Those “whom [God] predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (Rom. 8:30). God called out to us, we responded in faith, and He saved us.

Suppose after investigating all the different religions of the world, a person chose Christianity. If Christianity were nothing more than a simple, personal choice to be saved, this person would have a certain level of commitment—that is, “Since I’ve decided to do it, it’s worth doing.” But if I’m a Christian because before the world began, the sovereign God of the universe chose me to spend eternity in His presence, that creates a much greater level of commitment.

If a single woman approached a bachelor, told him he had characteristics she admired, and asked him if he would be interested in marrying her, there would be something missing in that courtship. But suppose he approaches this woman first and says, “I have gone from one end of the world to the other, and your character and beauty surpass all others. Will you marry me?” We know then that nothing is missing.

Magnify that illustration by considering God’s perspective. We didn’t ask God if we could get in on a salvation deal. Out of all the people in the world, He chose us to receive His mercy! That’s a high, holy, heavenly calling. Such a calling demands a response of commitment, doesn’t it?


Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for His grace in choosing and calling you.

For Further Study: Read Romans 8:29–39. How did Paul respond to the knowledge of God’s calling for his life? ✧ How should God’s calling affect your attitude?[1]

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

January 7 Daily Help

SUPPOSE you see a lake, and there are twenty or thirty streamlets running from it: why, there will not be one strong river in the whole country; there will be a number of little brooks which will be dried up in the summer, and will be temporary torrents in the winter. They will every one of them be useless for any great purpose, because there is not water enough in the lake to feed more than one great stream. Now, a man’s heart has only enough life in it to pursue one object fully. Ye must not give half your love to Christ, and the other half to the world. No man can serve God and mammon.[1]

[1] Spurgeon, C. H. (1892). Daily Help (p. 11). Baltimore: R. H. Woodward & Company.

January 7, 2018 : Evening Verse Of The Day

Pursuing the Prize Requires a Proper Motivation

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (3:14)

As noted earlier, this verse is the heart of the passage. The present tense verb translated I press on denotes Paul’s continuous effort to pursue the “impossible dream” and defeat “the unbeatable foe.” The root meaning of the preposition kata (toward) is “down.” Paul again expressed his single-minded focus, saying, “I continually bear down on the goal (skopos; “a mark on which to fix one’s eyes”).”

That prize was what motivated him to run to win (1 Cor. 9:24). Believers will not receive the prize (Christlikeness, with all its eternal benefits) until the upward (lit. “above,” denoting both the source of the call and to where it leads) call of God in Christ Jesus ushers them into God’s glorious presence in heaven. As noted above, perfection is not attainable in this life. The finish line is the threshold of heaven, where the rewards will be handed out (cf. Matt. 5:12; Luke 6:23; 1 Cor. 3:12–15). It is not until Christ “appears, [that] we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2).

Like a runner triumphantly pumping his fist in the air as he approaches the finish line, Paul declared at the end of his life, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day” (2 Tim. 4:7–8). Only “in the future” in heaven would Paul receive “the crown of righteousness” (Christ’s righteousness perfected in him); only then would he receive the prize which he so diligently pursued.[1]

14 Paul has not arrived but continues to pursue the goal. The verb diōkō (GK 1503) pictures him intensely pressing forward. Elsewhere he uses the verb diōkō negatively to mean persecution (Ro 12:14; 1 Co 4:12; 15:9; 2 Co 4:9; Gal 1:13, 23; 4:29; 5:11; 6:12; 2 Ti 3:12). Ironically, then he formerly “pursued” (persecuted) the church (3:6); now he pursues Christ. His goal is the upward call of God. He understands his life in terms of God’s call (1 Co 7:14–24), but the upward or “heavenward” call does not refer to his vocation as a “high calling.” Paul uses anō in Galatians 4:26 and Colossians 3:1–2 to refer to the heavenly dimension. In the context, the call comes at the end of the race, not at the beginning, and does not refer to any vocation or to the divine initiative of bringing a person to faith (Ro 11:29; 1 Co 1:26; 7:20; Eph 1:18; 4:1, 4; 2 Th 1:11; 2 Ti 1:9). Instead, it is the call to come up, a call to heavenly existence (Rev 11:12). Philo (Planting, 23) uses the phrase to refer to those who are called upwards (anō kaleisthai) to God. If Paul has in mind the chariot races of Rome (cf. E. M. Blaiklock, Cities of the New Testament [London: Pickering & Inglis, 1965], 43–44), the upward calling would refer to the summons to the winner to approach the judge’s elevated stand and receive his prize. This call is the prize that awaits him at the end of the race (2 Ti 4:7–8), and he visualizes the heavenly judge at the end of the age calling him to “come up” to receive it.[2]

3:14 / I press on toward the goal, he says, using a noun (Gk. skopos) not found elsewhere in the nt. There is a prize to be awarded, and he aims to secure it; he looks forward to hearing the president of the games call him up to his chair to receive it. On a special occasion in Rome this call might come from the emperor himself; how proudly the successful athlete would obey the summons and step up to the imperial box to accept the award! For Paul, the president of the games was none other than his Lord; the prize was that for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus, or, more simply, “the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (rsv). In similar language Paul can speak later of “the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day” (2 Tim. 4:8).

The word translated prize (Gk. brabeion) is used in 1 Corinthians 9:24, “all the runners run, but only one gets the prize.” But there is no such exclusiveness about this prize; it will be given, as Paul goes on to say about the wreath of victory in 2 Timothy 4:8, “not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” Paul aims to win his prize, but there is a prize for everyone who finishes this race; Paul recommends his example to his readers (1 Cor. 9:24), so that they may make his ambition their own.

And what can the prize be but that final gaining of Christ for the sake of which, as Paul has said, everything else is well lost?[3]

3:14. With this focus he pursues his goal intently. His goal is to win the prize for which God had called him in Christ Jesus. He wants to hear God call his name and summon him to the victory stand, where he will meet Jesus face-to-face and know him in perfect intimacy. Earthly prizes do not last. Eternal prizes do. The goal can never be realized on earth. It is a goal that pulls us heavenward. Note 1 Corinthians 9:25: “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” In the late 1950s, Jim Elliot, former husband of author Elisabeth Elliot, gave up his life to reach a hostile tribe in the jungles of Ecuador. His words have been immortalized: “He is not a fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” While Paul was not spiritually where he thought he would ultimately be, he intended not to be distracted by anything as he pursued his goal (Heb. 12:1–2). Both discipline and determination are required to accomplish this objective.[4]


14. So Paul continues, I am pressing on toward the goal. By derivation, the word translated goal is that on which one fixes his eyes. Throughout the race the sight of that pillar at the end of the track encouraged the contestant to redouble his exertions. He was ever running goal-ward, that is, in accordance with the line from his eyes to the goal.

In the spiritual race that goal is Christ, that is, ethical-spiritual perfection in him (see Phil. 3:8, 12). With all his heart the apostle desired to be completely raised above sin. He sought eagerly to promote the glory of God by every tool at his disposal, particularly by being a witness to all men (Acts 22:15, 21; 26:16–18), that he might by all means save some (1 Cor. 9:22)


Never does the runner forget the prize (1 Cor. 9:24, 25; 2 Tim. 4:8; Heb. 12:2). Hence, Paul continues, for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. At the end of the race the successful runner was summoned from the floor of the stadium to the judge’s seat to receive the prize. This prize was a wreath of leaves. At Athens after the time of Solon the Olympic victor also received the sum of 500 drachmai. Moreover, he was allowed to eat at public expense, and was given a front-row seat at the theater.

Probably some of these facts were in the background of Paul’s thinking when he stated that he was pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. However, underlying figure and spiritual meaning do not completely correspond here—do they ever?—, for though the prize in both cases is awarded at the end of the race, the upward call of which the apostle is here speaking was issued already at his conversion, hence not only at the end of the race. Here as elsewhere in Paul there is the effective gospel call. It is the heavenward call, the holy calling, a calling to holiness of life. Thus God is summoning Paul upward continually. See N.T.C. on 2 Thess. 1:11, p. 162, footnote 162 there; also N.T.C. on 2 Tim. 1:9. Nevertheless, the prize which corresponds to this call, and is given to those in whom this call has performed its work, is awarded when the race is over and has been won. Then Paul, too, together with all the saints, is called upward to meet the Lord in the air and to remain forever with him in the new heaven and earth (1 Thess. 4:17). It is only in Christ Jesus that this upward call, this holy calling, is possible. Without him it could neither have been given nor obeyed. Apart from his atoning sacrifice the glorious prize to which the call leads the way could never be awarded.

Is there a real difference between goal and prize? In a sense they are the same. Both indicate Christ, perfection in him. Nevertheless, goal and prize represent different aspects of the same perfection; as follows,

  1. When this perfection is called goal, it is viewed as the object of human striving. When it is called prize it is viewed as the gift of God’s sovereign grace. God imparts everlasting life to those who accept Christ by living faith (John 3:16). He imparts perfection to those who strive to attain it. Though it is true that this believing and this striving are from start to finish completely dependent on God’s grace, nevertheless it is we who must embrace Christ and salvation in him. It is we who must strive to enter in. God does not do this believing and striving for us!
  2. The goal rivets the attention on the race that is being run or was run; the prize upon the glory that will begin in the new heaven and earth. Thus, bringing sinners to Christ, and doing this with perfect devotion, pertains to the goal. Perfect fellowship with these saved ones on and after the day of the great consummation pertains to the prize. Hence, it is correct to distinguish between goal and prize, as Paul also does both here and, by implication, in 2 Tim. 4:7, 8.

With this glorious prize in mind—namely, the blessings of everlasting life; such as perfect wisdom, joy, holiness, peace, fellowship, all enjoyed to the glory of God, in a marvelously restored universe, and in the company of Christ and of all the saints—Paul is pressing on toward the goal.[5]

3:14 Looking at himself as a runner in a race, Paul describes himself as exerting every effort toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

The goal is the finish line at the end of the race track. The prize is the award presented to the winner. Here the goal would be the finish of life’s race, and perhaps more particularly the Judgment Seat of Christ. The prize would be the crown of righteousness which Paul elsewhere describes as the prize for those who have run well (2 Tim. 4:8).

The upward call of God in Christ Jesus includes all the purposes that God had in mind in saving us. It includes salvation, conformity to Christ, joint-heirship with Him, a home in heaven, and numberless other spiritual blessings.[6]

3:14 goal: This word specifically refers to the marker at the end of a race on which runners intently fix their eyes. The prize is the reward for victory. Paul evidently takes to heart what he teaches in 1 Cor. 9:24. upward call: In the NT this speaks of the divine call to complete salvation. It may refer to the judgment seat of Christ, the place of reward. Paul does not say that he is pressing on for the call of God but rather for the prize of that call. He is not working for his salvation but rather for a reward.[7]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2001). Philippians (pp. 248–249). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Garland, D. E. (2006). Philippians. In T. Longman III (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, p. 245). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Bruce, F. F. (2011). Philippians (pp. 121–122). Peabody, MA: Baker Books.

[4] Anders, M. (1999). Galatians-Colossians (Vol. 8, p. 245). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[5] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Philippians (Vol. 5, pp. 174–175). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[6] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1975). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[7] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1554). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

January 7: A Time for Everything

Genesis 12–13, Matthew 10, Ecclesiastes 3:1–8

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Eccl 3:1).

The Bible’s most famous poem has inspired writers for generations, yet has not been improved upon. In a few short, simple lines, the Preacher ponders the whole of life: birth, death, weeping, laughing, mourning, dancing, breaking down, and building up. The buoyancy and familiarity of the text could cause us to gloss over the poetic brilliance of “the matter[s] under heaven.” But when we get to “a time to hate” and “a time to kill,” the romance is—well, killed. Are all these emotions and events really ordained by God? The strength of the poem is in contrast and repetition. By laying the seasons side by side, the Preacher effectively captures the span and cycle of human life. He isn’t providing a list of experiences that we should check off our holistic life to-do list. Rather, he is emphasizing an absolute need for reliance on God.

Although evil seems to wield power in our lives and in the lives of those around us, God is present. He is there when we experience delights, and He is present when tragedy and sin overwhelm us. When we experience the death of those we love, send a soldier off to war, or experience hate, we can know that God is still making Himself known to fallen people in a fallen world.

We must pray for the Spirit to help us judge the seasons and respond appropriately to Him—with wisdom, like the Preacher advocates. We can live confidently, because “He has put eternity into man’s heart” (Eccl 3:11). Nothing assures us more of this than His provision of a way out of life’s seasons through His Son.

What season of life are you currently in? How are you helping friends in difficult seasons? How are you celebrating with friends in joyful seasons? How can you bring the good news of Christ to bear in both situations?

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.