Daily Archives: January 20, 2018

January 20 Rejoicing in Assurance

“You were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance” (Eph. 1:13–14).

✧✧✧

The Holy Spirit is God’s first installment on your eternal inheritance.

The Holy Spirit’s ministry in your life is multifaceted and profound. Among other things, He brings salvation, conviction, guidance, and strength. He indwells and equips you for spiritual service and gives assurance of your salvation. He is your Helper and Advocate. He is the Spirit of promise who seals you until the day when your redemption will be fully realized (Eph. 4:30).

Sealing speaks of security, authenticity, ownership, and authority. Ancient kings, princes, and nobles placed their official seal on documents or other items to guarantee their inviolability. To break the seal was to incur the wrath of the sovereign whom it represented (cf. Dan. 6:17; Matt. 27:62–66).

A seal on a letter authenticated it as being from the hand of the one whose seal it bore. Legal documents such as property deeds and wills were often finalized with an official seal. Those who possessed the sealed decree of a king had the king’s delegated authority to act on that decree.

Each of those aspects of sealing is a picture of the Spirit’s ministry. He is God’s guarantee that your salvation is inviolable and that you are an authentic member of God’s Kingdom and family. You are His possession, having been purchased with His Son’s precious blood (1 Cor. 6:20). You are His ambassador and so have delegated authority to proclaim His message to a lost world (2 Cor. 5:20).

The Spirit is the “pledge” of your eternal inheritance (Eph. 1:14). The Greek word translated “pledge” in that verse (arrabōn) was used for a down payment or earnest money given to secure a purchase. Rejoice in the assurance that God, who cannot lie (Titus 1:2), has given you His Spirit as a guarantee that He will keep His promises.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer:  Praise God for the security of your eternal inheritance. ✧ Praise the Spirit for His many ministries in your life. Be sensitive to His leading today, so that your ministry to others will be powerful and consistent with His will.

For Further Study: Read Esther 3, 8. What role did the king’s signet ring play in the decree of Haman (chapter 3)? The decree of Ahasuerus and Mordecai (chapter 8)?[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 32). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

JANUARY 20 WISDOM: KNOWING THE TRUE FEAR OF THE LORD

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge….

PROVERBS 1:7

A truth fully taught in the Scriptures and verified in personal experience by countless numbers of holy men and women throughout the centuries might be condensed thus into a religious axiom:

“No one can know the true grace of God who has not first known the fear of God!”

The first announcement of God’s redemptive intention toward mankind was made to a man and a woman hiding in mortal fear from the presence of the Lord.

The Law of God was given to a man trembling in terror amid fire and smoke, quaking at the voice of thunder and sound of the divine trumpet.

Even the famous annunciation, “On earth peace, goodwill toward men,” was given to shepherds who were “sore afraid” by reason of the sudden overwhelming presence of the heavenly host.

The presence of the divine always brought fear to the hearts of sinful men, a terror having no relation to mere fear of bodily harm.

I do not believe that any lasting good can come from religious activities that do not root in this quality of creature-fear. The animal in us is very strong and altogether self-confident. Until it has been defeated God will not show Himself to the eyes of our faith.

It is sad but true that the love of God affects a carnal heart not at all; or if at all, then adversely, for the knowledge that God loves us may simply confirm us in our self-righteousness![1]


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

January 20, 2018 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

Believers: Testimony Believed

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (1:12–13)

The conjunction de (but) is a small fulcrum that marks a dramatic shift. The world’s hatred of God and rejection of Christ in no way overrules or frustrates God’s plan, for He makes even the wrath of men praise Him (Ps. 76:10). There will be some who receive Him. Those whom God willed for salvation before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4; 2 Tim. 1:9) will in faith embrace Christ. As He declared in John 6:37, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”

Lambanō (received) could be translated “take hold of,” “obtain,” or “grasp.” To receive Christ involves more than mere intellectual acknowledgment of His claims. The last clause of verse 12 refers to those who received as those who believe in His name. The concept of believing in Christ, another important theme for John, will be developed in several passages in his gospel (6:29; 8:30; 9:35–36; 12:36, 44; 14:1; 16:9; 17:20; cf. 1 John 3:23; 5:13). His name refers to the totality of Christ’s being, all that He is and does. Thus, it is not possible to separate His deity from His humanity, His being Savior from His being Lord, or His person from His redemptive work. Saving faith accepts Jesus Christ in all that Scripture reveals concerning Him.

Though people cannot be saved until they receive and believe in Jesus Christ, salvation is nonetheless a sovereign work of God on the dead and blind sinner. John simply states that no one would come to believe in Jesus unless He gave them the right to become children of God. They are saved entirely by “grace … through faith; and that not of [themselves], it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8–9), because “God has chosen [them] from the beginning for salvation” (2 Thess. 2:13). Thus they were born again (John 3:3, 7; 1 Pet. 1:3, 23) not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. Those three negative statements stress the fact that salvation is not obtainable through any racial or ethnic heritage (blood), personal desire (flesh), or man-made system (man). (See also Matt. 8:11–12; Luke 3:8; Gal. 3:28–29.)

The great truth of election and sovereign grace is here introduced appropriately at the very foundation of John’s mention of salvation. Our Lord Himself will speak of this truth in 6:36–47; 15:16; 17:6–12.

Because all bear the guilt of unbelief and rejection, the phrase but of God means that salvation, that is, receiving and believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, is impossible for any sinner. God must grant the power supernaturally and with it the divine life and light to the lifeless, darkened sinner.[1]


The Free Offer of the Gospel

John 1:12

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

We have seen two very important themes in the prologue to John’s Gospel: the glory of Jesus Christ, and the depravity of man. The glory of Jesus is described in verses 1–9. The depravity of man is shown by man’s rejection of Jesus when he came. These two themes leave us at the end of verse 11, with a very depressing picture. Men as a whole did not know Jesus; and, by and large, his own people, the Jews, who should have known better, rejected him. Are we to think then that no one believed? No, that would be a false inference. So John hurries to point out that although the Lord of glory was unknown by the world at large and was rejected by the nation of Israel, nevertheless, there were some who did receive him. He writes, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).

This is a glorious verse, especially since it comes, as it does, after the dismal picture of the preceding verses. It is a verse for you personally. It reminds us here at the very beginning of the Gospel—even before the account of the crucifixion and the resurrection—that the gospel of salvation by grace apart from the keeping of the law is today offered freely to all men, and it points to the glorious privilege of those who receive it.

God’s Children

We need to look at this statement in parts, beginning with the part declaring that those who believe become God’s children. How are we to understand this? If we are to understand it rightly, we need to recognize first that people are not (or do not become) God’s children naturally. The ideas of the universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man have been popular themes in the past. But this is not biblical teaching. It is true that Paul told the men of Athens: “We are his offspring” (Acts 17:28), but that is not the same thing as saying that we are God’s legitimate children. And what is more, in that verse Paul was actually only quoting a Greek poet, either Aratus or Cleanthes, obviously in order to establish a point of contact with his Greek hearers. In his own teaching, by contrast, he stresses that we become God’s children only by means of the new birth.

It is also true that there are verses in the Old Testament that speak of the nation of Israel as God’s child or of the Jews as God’s children. In Exodus 4:22 Israel is called the “firstborn” son of God. David says in the Psalms: “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him” (Ps. 103:13). Isaiah has written, “O Lord, you are our Father” (Isa. 64:8). Jeremiah says, “I thought how I would set you among my sons, and give you a pleasant land, a heritage most beauteous of all nations. And I thought you would call me, My Father, and would not turn from following me. Surely, as a faithless wife leaves her husband, so have you been faithless to me, O house of Israel, says the Lord” (Jer. 3:19–20 rsv). Although this is true, we must note that these verses are not talking about the Babylonians, Egyptians, Syrians, or even Americans. They are talking about God’s relationship to Israel and, thus, about a special relationship that they had to God and that was possessed by no other people at that time. Moreover—and this is much to the point—not one of these verses makes the relationship of father to son the relationship of God to any individual Israelite.

The true biblical teaching is seen most clearly in the great discussion of this theme by Jesus Christ as recorded in the eighth chapter of the Gospel. The starting point of the discussion, as John records it, was the question of freedom. Jesus had said, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Because this was a touchy theme in a country that was then under the rule of the Roman armies, Jesus’ Jewish hearers reacted to Christ’s words violently, saying, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” (v. 33). Jesus did not bother to refute their absurd contention although he could have. They had been slaves to the Egyptians, Babylonians, Syrians, Moabites, Edomites, Ammonites, Philistines, Greeks, and Romans. There had almost never been a power in the ancient Near East to which they had not been in bondage at some time or other. But Jesus did not speak about this. He was speaking of a slavery to sin.

Even this was a sore spot with Jesus’ hearers, as it is to people today. So they answered by becoming vicious, probably accusing Jesus of being illegitimate. “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself” (v. 41). At this point Jesus nailed down the whole subject by denying that they were in any sense God’s children. For, “If God were your Father, you would love me.… You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire” (vv. 42, 44).

Now if the Jews, who had a special historical relationship to God, could not be called his children even by Jesus Christ, who was himself a Jew, how much less can this be true of the rest of us. It is true that not all men are children of the devil. A person becomes a child of the devil in the same way that another becomes a child of God; that is, by a moral commitment to him and to his principles. Nevertheless, a man is not naturally a child of the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ either. According to the Bible he becomes a child of God only through a new birth.

By Whose Authority?

The second important part of the verse is the part that declares that we become God’s children not on the basis of any human authority but on the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. The verse says, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

The importance of this is that it gives the one who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ great boldness. On one of the military campaigns of the emperor Napoleon, when Napoleon had dropped the reins of his horse in order to read papers, the horse reared up and nearly unseated him. A corporal of the grenadiers, a very lowly soldier, leaped forward and caught the bridle of the emperor’s horse so that in a few seconds he had brought the animal under control. Napoleon turned to the corporal and said, “Thank you, Captain.”

“Of what company, sire?” asked the soldier who had just been called a captain.

“Of my guards,” answered Napoleon.

In an instant the young man threw aside his musket and walked across the field toward the headquarters of the general’s staff, tearing off his corporal’s stripes as he went. He took his place among the emperor’s officers. Someone asked what he was doing, and he replied that he was a captain of the guards.

“By whose authority?” they asked him.

“By the authority of the emperor,” the young man answered.

It all depends upon the authority of the commander involved. If one of the soldier’s friends had called him a captain, the two corporals might have had a good laugh together, but that would have been all. The title bestowed by the friend would have meant nothing. However, when the emperor gave the order, the corporal seized upon it instantly and was then received as a captain by the staff. In the same way, our position before God as God’s children depends upon the highest authority in the universe, the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, before whom every knee shall bow. And we can be as bold in seizing our rank as Napoleon’s soldier was.

Will we step back into the ranks and boast, “Jesus has called me God’s child,” but fail to assume the privileges and responsibilities of that position? Or will we take him at his word and come to God to enjoy all the privileges of being his own? If you have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and understand this verse properly, then you will come to God as his child with great boldness.

Faith in Christ

At this point someone might say, “That is wonderful. It must be a great privilege to be God’s child. But how do I become God’s child? How does this special relationship become mine?” The answer, which is the same answer given throughout the New Testament, is that you become a child of God through faith. This means that you must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and also believe that by means of his death and resurrection he is your Savior.

The letter to the Hebrews says: “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). Romans tells us that “a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’ ” (Rom. 1:17). Ephesians says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith” (Eph. 2:8). In Romans 10 we read, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (vv. 9–10). It is the same in the opening verses of John’s Gospel.

There is one more truth to be seen. When you believe in Jesus Christ there must be also a verbal expression of that belief. The Bible does not acknowledge any such thing as secret discipleship. On the contrary, it teaches that Christ must be professed publicly. The reason, of course, is that verbal testimony indicates the reality of that faith, just as the cry of the newborn child reveals the existence of life to the doctor and the mother. The verses just quoted, Romans 10:9–10, say that if we “confess” with our mouth the Lord Jesus and “believe” in our hearts that God has raised him from the dead we shall be saved. Confession is proof that belief in the Lord Jesus Christ is genuine.

Have you confessed your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ publicly? One of the most famous characters in the New Testament was a man who came to Jesus by night and held a long conversation with him, yet left Christ’s presence without any outward confession of faith. As a result, we do not know whether he was genuinely converted or not. His name was Nicodemus.

Nicodemus came to Jesus as a result of Christ’s preaching, as many people travel to hear great preaching today. We know this because he referred to Christ’s teaching and miracles in his opening remarks: “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him” (John 3:2). In other words, he was very impressed. This alone was no evidence of his conversion, however, and Christ’s reply to him was in essence a rebuke. The one thing that Jesus was not was a teacher sent from God. There had been thousands of teachers sent from God in the previous history of the world, and there have been thousands of teachers since. He was not one of them. He was God sent to teach, and to die, and to rise again. So he corrected Nicodemus by telling him that unless he was born again, he would never be able to understand things that were spiritual.

Nicodemus was puzzled. “How can a man be born when he is old?” he asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” (v. 4). Jesus answered by showing that the new birth was spiritual and that it would express itself as faith in his death and resurrection. How much of this entered into the heart of Nicodemus? We do not know, for Nicodemus left no outward expression of his belief. He had heard great preaching, but so have thousands of other unbelievers. Later he would say to the Jewish leaders who were plotting against Jesus, “Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?” (John 7:51). But many unbelievers have argued for the due process of law and for civil liberties. We even see him bringing spices to Joseph of Arimathaea in order to embalm the body of Jesus on the day of his crucifixion (John 19:39), but many a guilty, unbelieving conscience has donated a stained-glass window or a chapel to Jesus.

Was he one of God’s children? We do not know. His witness to the Lord of glory is missing, and we search in vain for his confession.

How different, on the other hand, is the account John gives us of the woman of Samaria, just one chapter later. Donald Grey Barnhouse, in Epistle to the Romans, has pointed out that the contrast between these two personalities is striking. “The one is the story of a man, the other of a woman. The one is seemingly a seeker, the other is found by Christ, almost by accident, but definitely by design. The first was a Jew, the second a Samaritan. The one was an aristocratic Pharisee, the other a village harlot. The one wanted Jesus to talk to him, the woman tried to avoid the probing truth and attempted to change the subject. The one came at midnight, the other at noon.”

Both Nicodemus and the woman heard great truths during their conversation with the Lord Jesus, but the effect of his words on them was different. Nicodemus questioned Christ, but he showed no verbal response to Christ’s teaching. The woman tried to evade Christ’s questions. But at last she believed and thereafter showed signs of her faith and transformation. Who was Jesus? To the woman he was revealed to be God’s Messiah. So we read, “Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’ ” (John 4:28, 29). We are told that the men then went to Jesus and asked him to remain with them, and that as the result of his words and of the testimony of the woman many others believed in him also.

The importance of public confession arising out of true faith in the Lord Jesus Christ can hardly be overestimated. It is true that there is a type of confession that is insincere. It is this type of confession that the apostle James refers to when he speaks of a faith without works that is dead (James 2:20, 26). But there is also a sincere confession that will always arise out of a life transformed by Jesus. Have you told others of your faith in him?[2]


12 Although his people as a nation did not accept the divine Word, some as individuals did. To all those who did receive him, he gave “the right [the authority] to become children of God.” People are not by nature God’s children. They become his children by receiving Jesus Christ. God’s attitude toward all humanity is that of a father, but unless they receive his Son they cannot become his children. John always refers to believers with the word tekna (“children.” GK 5451) rather than huioi (“sons,” GK 5626), the latter term being reserved for Jesus alone.

Those who received him are further identified as those who “believed in his name.” Here we see the customary use of the verb pisteuō (“to believe,” GK 4409) followed by eis (GK 1650) and the accusative, a construction that appears thirty-six times in John. To believe is to place one’s faith “into” (eis) another person. Faith for John is a definitive action. By contrast, pisteuō with the dative case means no more than to believe that something is true. It involves the intellect but not the will. The construction John uses indicates “allegiance as well as assent” (Barrett, 164). To believe in the “name” of Jesus is to accept all that his name declares him to be.[3]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). John 1–11 (pp. 34–35). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Boice, J. M. (2005). The Gospel of John: an expositional commentary (pp. 73–78). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[3] Mounce, R. H. (2007). John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 372). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

JANUARY 20 GOD’S FAITHFUL VOICE

And take heed to yourselves…and cares of this life.

Luke 21:34

In a day when judgments are soon to come upon the earth, we are often warned by doctors that we eat too much—and that we worry too much. More of us suffer from mental illness than suffer from major physical illnesses.

In our self-centered lives, even those who are professing believers are prone to think they will hear the trumpets of woe in time to do something about all this. But at that time, it will be too late!

The voice of God is a quiet voice. The voice of God’s love and grace is constant—never strident, never compulsive. God has sent His messengers to every generation. He has spoken urgently and faithfully through His prophets, through the concerns of preachers and evangelists, even through the sweet voices of the gospel singers. Further, God has spoken through witnessing men and women: plain, sincere, loving men and women transformed by a spiritual birth which is from above.

This is the voice of God we hear in this day of grace—the voice of the Savior calling wandering sinners home.

Loving Father, I am humbled that You have called me, a hopeless sinner, to Yourself. Enable me to reach out today to someone who has been putting You off.[1]


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

January 20 Satan Tests Jesus’ Ultimate Allegiance

Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain.—Matt. 4:8a

Satan’s final temptation was a last-ditch effort to corrupt and derail Christ and His saving mission. The greatest of all adversaries sought to complete a sinister bargain in which extremely attractive and enticing possessions were offered to Jesus in exchange for His subservience to Satan.

The location (“a very high mountain”) where Satan took Jesus no doubt allowed them to have a comprehensive view of the earth for hundreds of miles in every direction. But their vantage point was clearly spiritual and supernatural as well. They would have seen the power and dominance of Rome, the glories of Egypt, and the splendor of various Greek city-states. All the wonders of the ancient world, including the magnificence of Jerusalem, would have been included.

As the King of kings, Jesus already had the rights to own and govern all the world’s kingdoms, but Satan tried to twist that reality for his own purposes. He wanted Jesus to leap ahead of God’s promised plan and reign as a king before it was fully time to do so—and at the unthinkable cost of worshiping him. If our enemy can tempt Jesus to be impatient and impulsive and grasp things prematurely, that is all the more reason for us to be on guard against such attacks.

ASK YOURSELF

Timing is everything. And Jesus displayed an infallible sense of what to do—and when—in every situation. Is there anything in your own life that you’re trying to speed ahead with, whether God wants you slowing down or not? Find peace in His timing. It’s always perfect—more perfect than we think.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 28). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

January 20 Why God Saves

That grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.

2 Corinthians 4:15

Many people think the main reason God saves people is so that He can keep them out of hell, or so that they can experience His love or lead happy lives. But all those reasons are secondary.

God saves people because it is an affront to His holy name that someone should live in rebellion against Him. That people experience salvation is not the main issue with God—it is His glory that is at stake.

The apostle Paul said of Jesus, “God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9–11). Salvation is for God’s glory.

God is glorified when people believe His gospel, love His Son, and accept His diagnosis of their greatest need, which is forgiveness of sin. You certainly benefit from God’s provision of salvation, but you exist for the glory of God.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 31). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

January 20, 2018 Morning Verse Of The Day

Proof of His Divine Love

And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (14:28–31)

The fourth proof of Jesus’ deity was His demonstration of divine love. Although Mark and John report Jesus’ walking on the water, only Matthew tells of this incident concerning Peter.

Peter’s if did not reflect doubt that it was actually his Lord, because going out onto the water to join an unidentified ghost was the last thing Peter would have done. He was naturally impetuous and brash, and more than once his overconfidence got him into trouble—including trouble with the Lord. But it would have taken more than brashness for this life-long fisherman to have ventured out on the water without benefit of a boat, because no one on board better knew the dangers of Galilee storms than Peter. He had probably been thrown into the water at times by high winds or waves and had seen others experience the same trauma. He was no fool, and it is highly unlikely that impetuosity would have so easily overridden his reason and instinctive caution.

It seems much more probable that Peter was overjoyed to see Jesus and that his supreme concern was to be safely with Him. Mere impetuosity might have caused him to jump out of the boat, expecting Jesus somehow to come to his rescue. But he knew better, and he therefore asked the Lord, Command me to come to You on the water. He knew Jesus had the power to enable him to walk on the water, but he did not presume to attempt the feat without His express instruction. Peter’s request was an act of affection built on confident faith. He did not ask to walk on water for the sake of doing something spectacular, but because it was the way to get to Jesus.

Peter did many things for which he can be faulted. But he is sometimes faulted for things that reflect love, courage, and faith as much as brashness or cowardice. For instance, although he denied the Lord while in the courtyard during Jesus’ trial, he was nevertheless there, as close to Him as he could get. The rest of the disciples were nowhere to be found. On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter’s suggestion was unwise but it was prompted by sincere devotion: “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (Matt. 17:4). He genuinely loved Jesus and sincerely wanted to serve and please Him. Peter did not resist Jesus’ washing his feet because of pride, but because, in his deep humility, he could not conceive of His Lord washing the feet of anyone so unworthy. And when Jesus explained the significance of what He was doing, Peter said, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head” (John 13:9).

Peter was continually in the Lord’s shadow and footsteps. By reading between the lines of the gospel accounts it is not difficult to imagine that Peter sometimes followed so closely behind Jesus that he bumped into Him when He stopped. Peter sensed in Jesus’ presence a wonderful safety and comfort, and that is where Peter now wanted to be. It was safer to be with Jesus on the water than to be without Him in the boat.

Peter’s love for Jesus was imperfect and weak, but it was real. Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, and each time Peter responded affirmatively. Jesus did not contradict Peter’s answer but reminded him of his obligation to care for his Master’s sheep and warned him of the great cost his love would demand (John 21:15–18). Tradition has it that when Peter was about to be crucified, he requested being put on the cross upside down, not feeling worthy to die in the same way as his Lord.

Jesus’ telling Peter to come confirms the disciple’s right motive. Jesus never invites, much less commands, a person to do anything sinful. Nor is He ever a party to pride or presumption. With the greatest of compassion, Jesus told Peter to come, highly pleased that he wanted to be with his Lord.

As much as anything else, it was Peter’s great love for Christ that made him the leader of the disciples. He appears to have been the closest to Christ, and is always named first in lists of the twelve. Just as the Lord never rejects weak faith, but accepts it and builds on it, He also never rejects weak and imperfect love. With great patience and care He takes the love of His children and, through trials and hardships as well as successes and victories, builds that love into greater conformity to His own love.

Jesus’ telling Peter, “Come!” was an act of love. John declared, “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us.” In fact, he goes on to say, “God is love” (1 John 4:16; cf. v. 8). It is God’s nature to be loving, just as it is water’s nature to be wet and the sun’s to be bright and hot. He loves his own with an infinite, uninfluenced, unqualified, unchanging, unending, and perfect love.

Christians most perfectly reflect their heavenly Father when they are loving, especially to each other. “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar,” John continues to explain; “for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20).

Although Peter was sincere, he did not comprehend the reality or the extremity of what he was asking to do. From the relative safety of the boat the feat did not seem so terrifying; but once Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus, the situation appeared radically different. Peter temporarily took His eyes off the Lord and, seeing the wind, he became afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” His faith was enough to get him out of the boat, but it was not enough to carry him across the water.

Faith is strengthened by its being taken to extremities it has never faced before. Such strengthening is basic to Christian growth and maturity. “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial,” James says; “for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12). The Lord takes us as far as our faith will go, and when it ends we begin to sink. It is then that we call out to Him and He again demonstrates His faithfulness and His power, and our faith learns to extend that much further. As we trust God in the faith we have, we discover its limitations; but we also discover what it can yet become.

When Peter was beginning to sink, he was probably fully clothed and would have had great difficulty swimming through the high waves. And in his fright he could think of nothing but drowning. But as soon as he cried out … “Lord, save me,” he was safe, because immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him.

When Jesus rebuked him, saying, O you of little faith, why did you doubt? Peter must have wondered at the question. The reason for his doubt seemed obvious. He was bone weary from rowing most of the night, scared to death by the storm and then by what he thought was a ghost, and now it seemed he was about to drown before he could reach the Lord. He had never been in such a situation before, and it may be that his actually walking a few feet on the water added to his shock.

But Peter’s weak faith was better than no faith; and, as in the courtyard when he denied the Lord, at least he was there and not holding back like the rest. He at least started toward Jesus, and when he faltered, the Lord took him the rest of the way.

Jesus had been interceding for Peter and the others while He was on the mountain, and now He came directly to their aid in the midst of the storm. The Lord goes before us and He goes with us. When we get frustrated, anxious, bewildered, and frightened, Satan tempts us to wonder why God allows such things to happen to his children. And if we keep our attention on those things we will begin to sink just as surely as Peter did. But if we cry out to the Lord for help, He will come to our rescue just as surely as He did to Peter’s.

Peter would one day write, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:6–7).[1]


29–31 How far Peter got is unclear (see Notes, v. 29), but at Jesus’ command he walked on the water (the plural “waters” in Greek may be in imitation of Hebrew, which uses “water” only in the plural; cf. Mk 9:22; Jn 3:23). But his outlook changed: when he saw the wind (synecdoche for the storm), he began to sink (v. 30). It was not that he lost faith in himself (so Schniewind), but that his faith in Jesus, strong enough to get him out of the boat and walking on the water, was not strong enough to stand up to the storm. Therefore, Jesus calls him a man “of little faith” (v. 31; see comments at 6:30; 8:26; esp. at 17:20); and his rhetorical question—“Why [see Notes] did you doubt?”—helps both Peter and the reader recognize that doubts and fears quickly disappear before a strict inquiry into their cause. Thus Peter in this pericope is both a good example and a bad example (cf. Brown et al., Peter in the New Testament, 83). His cry for help is natural, not a liturgical creation—Did not liturgy have to choose some formulas on which to build?—and Jesus’ rescuing him is akin to God’s salvation in the OT (Pss 18:16; 69:1–3; 144:7).[2]


14:30–31. But only a moment later, what Peter could see with his physical eyes (the violent, stormy sea) became larger in his mind than what can be seen only through the “eyes” of a faith-filled heart. There is a healthy, respectful fear we need to have before the Lord (Prov. 1:7), but the fear we feel toward anything that seems bigger than the Lord is a sign of small faith. Peter’s underdeveloped faith feared the storm more than the Lord, so the Lord allowed him to sink into a dark, angry sea. Jesus was always teaching his disciples. Every moment, every conversation, and every demonstration were intended to develop his church’s foundational leaders.

In that moment of terror, Peter called out with the most basic expression of faith possible: Lord, save me! (cf. 8:25). The Lord loves that kind of cry, because it is a sign that the person has come to the end of self-reliance and realizes there is nowhere else to turn but to the Lord. Whether from the unbeliever who knows he is helpless on his own or from the believer who has been self-striving for years and has only met with frustration and failure the simple cry, “Save me!” is music to the Father’s ears (cf. Pss. 18:16; 69:1–3; 144:7).

The Messiah answered Peter’s cry immediately by reaching out and grabbing him. Then Jesus said calmly, You of little faith … why did you doubt? The issue here was not the amount of Peter’s faith, but Peter’s culpability. The smallest faith in the right object is effective. Jesus was chiding Peter, not his faith. The problem was that his faith was supplanted by doubt. In all this time, even Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends, had not learned to trust the king fully.

Jesus had also used the phrase you of little faith to address the disciples when he calmed the storm in 8:23–27 (also in 6:30; 16:8; Luke 12:28). Two important tests of faith for Jesus’ disciples have now happened on a stormy sea. Given the awe with which most cultures view the power of nature, Jesus knew that if they could see him as greater than nature, they would be closer to mature faith.[3]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Vol. 2, pp. 442–444). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 393–394). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Weber, S. K. (2000). Matthew (Vol. 1, pp. 222–223). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

JANUARY 20 THE BUSINESS OF THE CHURCH IS GOD

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

—John 17:3

The Church is born out of the gospel and that gospel has to do with God and man’s relation to God. Christianity engages to bring God into human life, to make men right with God, to give them a heart knowledge of God, to teach them to love and obey God and ultimately to restore in them the lost image of God in full and everlasting perfection.

Our Lord, in defining eternal life, summed up the supreme goal of human existence: “That they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” And Paul revealed the one overpowering interest of his life when he wrote “That I may know him.”

The business of the Church is God. She is purest when most engaged with God and she is astray just so far as she follows other interests, no matter how “religious” or humanitarian they may be. SOS079-080

Lord, may I make You my business today, and may the lost image of Your perfection be revealed to me in all its fullness. Amen.[1]


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

January 20 Are You Gentle?

“Walk … with all … gentleness.”

Ephesians 4:1–2

✧✧✧

To become more gentle, begin by looking closely at your attitudes.

We’ve determined that gentleness is essential for those who want to walk worthy. How can you tell if you’re gentle? I’ll give you some practical questions so you can evaluate yourself honestly.

First of all, are you self–controlled? Do you rule your own spirit (Prov. 16:32), or does your temper often flare up? When someone accuses you of something, do you immediately defend yourself, or are you more inclined to consider whether there’s any truth in what’s being said?

Second, are you infuriated only when God is dishonored? Do you get angry about sin or when God’s Word is perverted by false teachers?

Next, do you always seek to make peace? Gentle people are peacemakers. Ephesians 4:3 says they are “diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” If someone falls into sin, do you condemn or gossip about that person? Galatians 6:1 instructs us to restore sinning brothers “in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted.” Gossip and condemnation divide believers; forgiveness and restoration unite them. Gentle people don’t start fights; they end them.

Fourth, do you accept criticism without retaliation? Whether the criticism is right or wrong, you shouldn’t strike back. In fact, you can thank your critics, because criticism can show you your weaknesses and help you grow.

Finally, do you have the right attitude toward the unsaved? Peter says, “Always [be] ready to make a defense to every one who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15). If we’re persecuted, it’s easy for us to think, They can’t treat me like that—I’m a child of God. But God wants us to approach the unsaved with gentleness, realizing that God reached out to us with gentleness before we were saved (Titus 3:3–7).

Consider carefully your answers to these questions, and commit yourself to being characterized by gentleness. Remember that “a gentle and quiet spirit … is precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:4).

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: If any of these questions have pointed out deficiencies in your gentleness, ask God to strengthen those areas.

For Further Study: Paul was often criticized by those who wanted to usurp his authority over the church. Study Paul’s response to such people in 2 Timothy 2:24–26. ✧ Think about this passage’s application to events in your life.[1]


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

January 19 Daily Help

HOW encouraging is the thought of the Redeemer’s never-ceasing intercession for us. When we pray, He pleads for us; and when we are not praying, He is advocating our cause, and by His supplications shielding us from unseen dangers. We little know what we owe to our Saviour’s prayers. When we reach the hill-tops of heaven, and look back upon all the way whereby the Lord our God hath led us, how we shall praise Him who, before the eternal throne, has pleaded our cause against our unseen enemies. “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.”[1]


[1] Spurgeon, C. H. (1892). Daily Help (p. 23). Baltimore: R. H. Woodward & Company.

The Lord’s Glory

Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. (3:20–21)

In culmination of all he has been declaring about God’s limitless provision for His children, Paul gives this great doxology, a paean of praise and glory, introduced by Now unto Him.

When the Holy Spirit has empowered us, Christ has indwelt us, love has mastered us, and God has filled us with His own fullness, then He is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think. Until those conditions are met, God’s working in us is limited. When they are met, His working in us is unlimited. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father. And whatever you ask in My name, 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 14:12–14).

There is no situation in which the Lord cannot use us, provided we are submitted to Him. As is frequently pointed out, verse 20 is a pyramid progression of God’s enablement: He is able; He is able to do; He is able to do exceeding abundantly; He is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask; He is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think. There is no question in the minds of believers that God is able to do more than we can conceive, but too few Christians enjoy the privilege of seeing Him do that in their lives, because they fail to follow the pattern of enablement presented in these verses.

Paul declared that the effectiveness of his own ministry was that “my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor. 2:4), because “the kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in power” (4:20). Throughout his ministry the apostle was concerned about “giving no cause for offense in anything, in order that the ministry be not discredited, but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God” (2 Cor. 6:3–7). Everything Paul did was in the power of God, and in the power of God there was nothing within the Lord’s will that he could not see accomplished. That same power works within us by the presence of the Spirit (Acts 1:8).

When by our yieldedness God is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, only then are we truly effective and only then is He truly glorified. And He deserves glory in the church and in Christ Jesus, not only now, but to all generations forever and ever. The Amen confirms that worthy goal.[1]


A Great Doxology

Ephesians 3:20–21

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Bible study is a kaleidoscopic experience. The lessons we learn and the experiences we have are multiple. At times the Bible humbles us, making us conscious of our sin. At other times it thrills us as we think of all God has done in Christ for our salvation. Some Bible passages instruct us. Some rebuke us. Some stir us up to great action. In some passages we seem to gain a glimpse into hell. In others, a door is opened into heaven.

The last is the case as we come to the closing verses of Ephesians 3. They are a great doxology, perhaps the greatest in the Bible. In the verses just before this Paul has reached a height beyond which neither reason nor imagination can go. He had been speaking of God’s purposes for his redeemed people, and he had expressed the wish that we should “be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (v. 19).

This is beyond comprehension; we cannot even begin to imagine how we can be filled with God’s own fullness. We stand on the edge of the infinite. And yet, Paul is still not satisfied. He has prayed that God will do something we cannot even imagine; and now, having exhausted his ability to speak and write along that line, he bursts out in praise to God who, he says, “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (v. 20).

What an amazing doxology! In the last study I spoke of Paul’s ascending requests for the Ephesians as a “prayer staircase.” But here is another staircase, a “doxology staircase.” Ruth Paxson makes this vivid by arranging the doxology as a pyramid (kjv).

Unto him

That is able to do

All that we ask or think

Above all that we ask or think

Abundantly above all that we ask or think

Exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think

According to the power that worketh in us

A verse of this scope deserves careful consideration.

The first thing the apostle says about God is that he is able to do something. The word for “do” is poieō, which actually means “to make, cause, effect, bring about, accomplish, perform, provide, or create,” as one Greek dictionary has it. It points to God as a worker, which means, as John Stott says, that “he is neither idle, nor inactive, nor dead.”

What a contrast then between this God, the true God, and the so-called gods of the heathen! In Isaiah’s day the people of Israel had fallen away from the worship of the true God and were worshiping idols, and God gave Isaiah words for that situation. He described the idols. They are, he said, nothing but pieces of lumber carved up by the worshiper. “They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand” (Isa. 44:18). God calls an idol just “a block of wood” (v. 19). He issues this challenge:

“Present your case,” says the Lord .

“Set forth your arguments,” says Jacob’s King.

“Bring in your idols to tell us

what is going to happen.

Tell us what the former things were,

so that we may consider them

and know their final outcome.

Or declare to us the things to come,

tell us what the future holds,

so we may know that you are gods.

Do something, whether good or bad,

so that we will be dismayed and filled with fear.

But you are less than nothing

and your works are utterly worthless.”

Isaiah 41:21–24

According to these verses, the proof of the true God’s existence is that he is able to do things. The idols can do nothing, not even evil.

Ask and Receive

The second thing Paul says about God is that he is able to do what we ask. That is, the ability of God to work is not related merely to his own concerns and interests but extends to the concerns and interests of his people. It is a statement about prayer.

Most of us are probably quite cautious in our prayers, unless we have learned to pray through a lifetime of growing in this discipline. So often we hold back in asking, afraid of embarrassing either God or ourselves. But that is not the kind of prayer God commands in the Bible.

To be sure, we do often pray wrongly. James says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3). But for every verse that warns us about wrong prayers there are others which by example and precept teach us to pray frequently and with confidence. A favorite of mine is 1 John 3:21–22: “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.”

That verse is a great prayer promise. It says that (1) if we are praying with a clear conscience, that is, if we are being honest and open before God, and (2) if we are doing what God in his Word has commanded us to do, and (3) if we are seeking to please God in every possible way, then we can know that what we ask of God we will receive. We can know, to use Paul’s words, that God “is able to (and will) do … [what] we ask.”

What about our thoughts? Have you ever had the experience of thinking about something you would like to ask God for, but not asking him because you had no real confidence that the thing was God’s will for you? I have. There are things I pray for with great confidence. I know it is God’s will for me to conquer sin, to bless my preaching of his Word, and many such things. There are other things that I would like to see happen—the type of things God blesses and that I think would please him—but I do not always pray for them, because I have no real confidence that God wants to do them through my life and ministry or that he wants to do them now. So I hold back, only thinking about them and only occasionally mentioning them as possibilities in my prayers.

I do not know whether I am right in this. I may be wrong. I should probably be much bolder in what I pray for. But whether that is the case or not, it is a comfort to come to a verse like this and read that “God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. It says that God is able to do those things that I only think about but am afraid to ask for.

All We Can Ask or Think

Paul’s doxology would have been great if he had stopped at this point, for it would be wonderful to know that God is able to do what we imagine (or think) as well as what we explicitly ask for. But at this point we are only halfway up this great ascending staircase. The next thing Paul tells us is that God is able to do all we can ask or think. It is not a question of God being only fifty percent or even ninety-nine percent able. God “is able to do … all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”

It is God’s ability to do all we can ask or imagine that encourages us to stretch forward spiritually and ask for more. My father-in-law was a banker in New York City, and he frequently passed on to me the kind of jokes bankers tell one another. One was about a loan officer who tried to run a gas station in his retirement years. He had been a successful banker, but failed at running a gas station. Whenever a customer came in and asked for ten gallons of gas, he would respond, “Can you get by with five?” Paul tells us that God is not like that. He does not give half of what we ask for (if we ask rightly), but all. Indeed, it is his ability to give all we ask or imagine that encourages us to come with big petitions.

More Than We Ask

It is greater even than this, for Paul has amplified his doxology to say that God is able to do even more than all we might ask or imagine. I put it to you: Is that not your experience of God? Have you not found it to be true that whatever you ask of God (assuming you ask rightly and not with wrong motives, as James warns), God always has something bigger and greater for you—something more than you asked for? It is generally something different, something you would not have anticipated.

That would have been the testimony of all the great biblical characters. I think of Abraham. God called Abraham when he was a pagan living in Ur of the Chaldeans. He told him that he would make him into a great nation, that he would bless him and that he would make him to be a source of blessing to others. I do not know what Abraham would have understood by that at first. In time he probably came to see that the blessing to others would come as a result of the work of the Messiah who would be born in his life. But I suppose that at the beginning he just thought about having a large family which would eventually become a nation similar to those around it. Through most of his life his prayers would have focused on his lack of even one son, and he would have repeatedly asked God to give him children.

How did God answer? We know the story. We know that God did eventually give him a son, a son born to him and Sarah in their old age. And we know that Abraham had other children after that—Genesis 25:2 lists six—and that Abraham’s immediate clan grew substantially so that, at the time of the battle against the four kings of the East, Abraham was able to muster 318 trained men of war to pursue them.

But that is only the most obvious of Abraham’s blessings. In Abraham’s case the “much more” would have included the fact that Isaac, the son of promise, became a type of Jesus Christ and was used to teach Abraham about the future work of Christ, and that the nation promised to Abraham was not limited to his natural descendants, the Jews, but included the entire family of God collected from among all nations throughout all human history. These are the people who have become “as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore” (Gen. 22:17).

Certainly Abraham would testify that God is able to do more than we can ever ask or think.

Moses would say the same thing. God told Moses that he was going to cause Pharaoh to let the people of Israel leave Egypt, where they had been slaves for four centuries. Moses did not want to go. He had failed once, and did not want to fail again. But when God insisted and when he showed Moses that he would work miracles through him, changing his staff into a serpent and then back again and making his hand leprous and then healing it again, Moses went.

Could Moses have anticipated the full extent of the plagues God brought on Egypt: the turning of the water of the land to blood, the multiplication of frogs, gnats, and flies, the plague on the livestock, the boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and eventually the death of the firstborn? Could he have anticipated the miracles of the Exodus: the parting of the Red Sea, the destruction of the Egyptians, the cloud that accompanied the people during their years of wandering and protected them, the manna, the water from the rock, and other miracles? Could Moses have guessed that God would appear to him again and give him the law or that he would work through him to give us the first five books of the Bible?

Moses would not even have dreamed of these things. He would have testified freely that God is able to do more than we can ask or imagine.

David would speak along the same lines. God called him from following after the sheep. He made him the first great king of Israel, replacing Saul. He blessed him beyond his greatest dreams. At the end of his long and favored life God announced that through his descendant, the Messiah, his house and kingdom would be established forever. David replied, “Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And as if this were not enough in your sight, O Sovereign Lord, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant. … What more can David say to you? … How great you are, O Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears” (2 Sam. 7:18–20, 22).

David would have joined others in confessing that God is able to do more than any of us can possibly ask or think, and that he does do it.

Is this not your experience? Life may not have gone exactly as you would have planned it for yourself; you may have had many disappointments. But if you are really trying to obey God and follow after him, can you not say that God’s fulfillment of his promises toward you has been more than you have asked?

Immeasurably More

There is one more statement in Paul’s doxology in which he says that God is not only able to do more than all we can think but that he is able to do immeasurably more than we can contemplate. The word translated “immeasurably” (niv) is another of Paul’s coined words: hyperekperissou. It occurs only here and in 1 Thessalonians 3:10 in Greek literature. It can be rendered “exceeding abundantly” (kjv), “infinitely more” (Phillips), “far more abundantly” (rsv), “exceeding abundantly beyond” (nasb), and so on.

How can this be? Even though Abraham, Moses, David, and others may not have anticipated the full measure of what God was going to do in their lives, what they experienced is measurable. It may take time, but it can be spelled out. Was Paul just carried away in this passage? Was he exaggerating for effect? I do not think so. After all, in the previous chapter, in a complementary passage, Paul wrote that “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6–7). In this verse Paul uses the word “incomparable” rather than “immeasurable” but his thought is much the same and indicates to my mind how the word in Ephesians 3:20 should be taken. Paul is not thinking of earthly blessings here. He is going beyond these to think of the blessings of God’s inexhaustible kindness toward us through Christ in eternity. Since eternity is immeasurable, so also are the works that God will do for us in the life to come.

In this sense the doxology ends as the prayer ended just a verse before, with reference to our being filled forever to the measure of all the fullness of God, which is immeasurable.

Power and Glory

After a doxology like this we may be so overwhelmed by the promises implied in it that we find ourselves thinking that it cannot possibly apply to us—for others maybe, for Abraham (he was a giant in faith) or Moses or David—but not for normal people like ourselves. Paul does not allow this. He ties it down to our experience by showing that the power of God which is able to do these things is the same power that is already at work in all who are God’s children. It is “according to his power that is at work within us.”

In other words, although we have not realized the full extent of God’s working—and never will, precisely because God is infinite in his workings—what we are yet to experience is nevertheless of the same substance as what we have already known, if we are genuine believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Our salvation in Christ is a resurrection from the dead, for we were “dead in … transgressions and sins” (Eph. 2:1), and it is precisely that resurrecting power of God that we are to go on experiencing. It is by that power and not by our own that these great promises are to be accomplished.

What can be added to this? Nothing but the final, direct ascription of praise to God, which is what Paul does. “To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!” John Stott says, “The power comes from him; the glory must go to him.” And so it shall![2]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (pp. 112–113). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Boice, J. M. (1988). Ephesians: an expositional commentary (pp. 113–119). Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library.

January 19: The Million Dollar Question

Genesis 31, Matthew 23:37–24:28, Ecclesiastes 7:13–21

“Why do bad things happen to good people?” This is an ancient question, though often asked as if it’s new. The Preacher in Ecclesiastes says, “There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing” (Eccl 7:15).

Answers to this age-old question do exist, the simplest is that since people gave into temptation near the beginning, havoc—caused by humans and by evil spirits—has taken hold. The time between now and when God takes full control of the world again is just grace; the moment He does is the end for all evil, including those who have not chosen Christ as their Savior.

The only way to fix the world is to rid it of all evil, but the Preacher doesn’t offer this deductive explanation. Instead, he notes that life is a series of balancing acts, and he uses hyperbole to make his point (Eccl 7:16–17).

The Preacher goes on to say, “For the one who fears God shall come out from both of them”—that is, the bad and good experiences (Eccl 7:18). The real answer to that age-old question is as profound as the original: learn to respect God.

We won’t ever truly understand the complexities of good and evil, or the interactions of light and darkness—just like we will never understand our ever-changing universe—but there is solace in the knowledge that in the end, it’s about respecting God. And the first step towards doing that is having a relationship with Christ.

In what ways are you currently not respecting God’s role in your life? How can you change that?

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.