What was once considered mad is now deemed sane, while people once considered sane are now the ones attacked as being mad as hatters and as vicious haters.
What was once considered mad is now deemed sane, while people once considered sane are now the ones attacked as being mad as hatters and as vicious haters.
“I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Phil. 4:11).
Discontent and ingratitude will steal your joy.
True joy is God’s gift to every believer, and yet many Christians seem to lack it. How can that be? Did God fail them? No. As with peace, assurance, and other benefits of salvation, joy can be forfeited for many reasons. Willful sin, prayerlessness, fear, self-centeredness, focusing on circumstances, and lack of forgiveness are the main culprits.
Two of the most common joy-thieves are dissatisfaction and ingratitude. Both are by-products of the health, wealth, and prosperity mentality of our day. That teaching has produced a generation of Christians who are more dissatisfied than ever because their demands and expectations are higher than ever. They’ve lost their perspective on God’s sovereignty and have therefore lost the ability to give thanks in all things.
In marked contrast, when Jesus taught about contentment and anxiety (Matt. 6:25–34), He spoke of food and clothing—the basic necessities of life. But preferences, not necessities, are the issue with us. We’re into style, personal appearance, job satisfaction, earning power, bigger homes, and newer cars. In the name of greater faith we even demand that God supply more miracles, more wealth, and more power.
Amid all that, Paul’s words sound a refreshing note of assurance and rebuke: “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Phil. 4:11). He made no demands on God but simply trusted in His gracious provision. Whether he received little or much made no difference to him. In either case he was satisfied and thankful.
Don’t be victimized by the spirit of our age. See God’s blessings for what they are, and continually praise Him for His goodness. In doing so you will guard your heart from dissatisfaction and ingratitude. More important, you will bring joy to the One who is worthy of all praise.
Suggestions for Prayer: Pray that the Holy Spirit will produce in you a joy and contentment that transcends your circumstances. ✧ Make it a daily practice to thank God for specific blessings and trials, knowing that He uses both to perfect His will in you.
For Further Study: Read 1 Kings 18:1–19:8. ✧ How did Elijah deal with the false prophets of Baal? ✧ How did he deal with Jezebel’s threat? ✧ What caused Elijah’s shift from a spiritual high to a spiritual low?
. . . finish reading Confirmed: World Still Fallen.
(Christian News Network) “As an ultrasound tech, I can tell you from scanning a 5.5 week old ‘fertilized egg’ that I see its heartbeat. At 9 weeks, it’s forming limbs. And [at] 15, I can see the sex in some and the legs, arms, organs—and yes, its a baby, fully,” wrote Melissa Crise.”
A video on social media of Bill Nye, known as “The Science Guy,” asserting that fertilized eggs are not humans, has gone viral and has caused pro-lifers to push back against his claims.
In the video, recently shared by Big Think and having 33 million views as of press time, Nye remarked that eggs accept sperm all the time, but that in order for a fertilized egg to develop, it must attach to the uterine wall.
Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.
Do you realize that many, many persons now take it for granted that it is possible to live for Christ without first having died with Christ?
This is a serious error and we dare not leave it unchallenged!
The victorious Christian has known two lives. The first was his life in Adam which was motivated by the carnal mind and can never please God in any way. It can never be converted; it can only die (Rom. 8:5–8).
The second life of the Christian is his new life in Christ (Rom. 6:1–14). To live a Christian life with the life of Adam is wholly impossible. Yet multitudes take for granted that it can be done and go on year after year in defeat. Worst of all, they accept this half-dead condition as normal!
Another aspect of this attitude is the effort of many to do spiritual work without spiritual power. David Brainerd once compared a man without the power of the Spirit of God trying to do spiritual work to a workman without fingers attempting to do manual labor. The figure is striking but it does not overstate the facts.
The Holy Spirit is not a luxury meant to make deluxe Christians, as an illuminated frontispiece and a leather binding makes a deluxe book. The Spirit is an imperative necessity. Only the Eternal Spirit can do eternal deeds!
Prideful U.S. Olympic Skier Flaunts Homosexuality in Opposition of Pence, VP Says He’s ‘Proud’ of ‘All’ Athletes Feb 10, 2018 01:44 pm
Norwegian Boy Chased, Taken Into Custody by Authorities for Being Homeschooled Feb 15, 2018 11:21 am
New Jersey ELCA ‘Church’ Holds ‘Renaming’ Ceremony for Female Leader Who Wants to Be Called Peter Feb 12, 2018 03:22 pm
Parkland High School Shooting: At Least 17 Killed, Suspect in Custody Feb 14, 2018 06:40 pm
Massachusetts Elementary School Principal Announces That He Identifies as a Woman Feb 15, 2018 01:21 pm
North Carolina to Pay Over $200K to Magistrate for Not Accommodating Her Religious Convictions About Marriage Feb 12, 2018 11:14 pm
Viral Bill Nye ‘Science Guy’ Video Claims Fertilized Eggs Are Not Humans; Pro-Lifers Push Back Feb 14, 2018 03:14 pm
10 Attorneys General, 16 Scholars File Legal Briefs in Support of Screen Printer Who Declined Order for ‘Gay Pride’ T-Shirts Feb 14, 2018 05:48 pm
Scripture Signs Removed From High School Choir Room Following Complaint From Atheist Activist Group Feb 13, 2018 01:55 am
(Denny Burk – Professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College) When horrific evil unfolds before our very eyes, there is a temptation to lose sight of the verities that ought to sustain and comfort us. For those watching the aftermath of the unmitigated evil of yesterday’s shooting in Florida, here are some words of hope to cling to. Hold them close.
1. God is good all the time.
“O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8). “For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting, And His faithfulness to all generations” (Psalm 100:5). “Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting” (Ps. 106:1). “The LORD is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works” (Psalm 145:9).
2. God is near to the broken-hearted.
“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted, And saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). “He heals the brokenhearted, And binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, That I may tell of all Thy works” (Psalm 73:28). “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
3. The delay of God’s justice isn’t the absence of God’s justice.
“He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished” (Exodus 34:7). “But the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:7-9).
(Steve McConkey – 4 Winds USA) Olympic skater Adam Rippon and skier Gus Kenworthy are promoting homosexuality as normal behavior. They are the first openly gay Winter Olympians from the United States.
They have been verbally attacking Vice President Mike Pence. Kenworthy recently appeared on the Ellen Degeneres show criticizing Pence. Hillary Clinton praised the gay athletes and said she will be focusing on them as she watches the Games.
“Adam Rippon and Gus Kenworthy will be used by the Olympic Committee and the press to further the sin of homosexuality,” states 4 Winds Christian Athletics President Steve McConkey. “The Olympic Committee has promoted transgenders, intersex athletes without proper testing, and same sex marriage.
Take a listen to Alisa Childers’ latest podcast, with me, “The New Apostolic Reformation: What It Is and Why We Should Care.”
Alisa’s personal story is inspiring. She’s a lifelong Christian and former CCM recording artist–a member of ZOEgirl–who went through a time of profound doubt about her faith in her mid-30s. She investigated her faith intellectually, developed a well-reasoned and robust faith, and now has an apologetics ministry dedicated to helping others find answers to their tough questions.
I really enjoyed being interviewed by Alisa. She asks great questions. We covered many topics including my response to radio host Michael Brown’s defense of NAR leaders and his claims that the New Apostolic Reformation isn’t the big, concerning movement that critics, like myself, say it is. Here’s the podcast description from Alisa’s website.
There is a movement within Christendom called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). Some Christians believe it’s a true work of God, others are skeptical…others claim it doesn’t exist at all! My guest, Holly Pivec has written two books on the NAR, and talks with me about her concerns regarding the teachings and practices of this growing movement.
Listen to the podcast here.
Holly Pivec is the co-author of A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement and God’s Super-Apostles: Encountering the Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement. She has a master’s degree in Christian apologetics from Biola University.
Confession: Psalm 51:13–19
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will turn back to you.
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed,
O God, the God of my salvation;
then my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will proclaim your praise.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Do good in your favor toward Zion.
Build the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will delight in righteous sacrifices,
burnt offering and whole burnt offering.
Then bulls will be offered on your altar.
Reading: Mark 9:14–29
And when they came to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and scribes arguing with them. And immediately the whole crowd, when they saw him, were amazed, and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” And one individual from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought to you my son who has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down and he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes paralyzed. And I told your disciples that they should expel it, and they were not able to do so.”
And he answered them and said, “O unbelieving generation! How long will I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him to me!” And they brought him to him. And when he saw him, the spirit immediately convulsed him, and falling on the ground, he began to roll around, foaming at the mouth. And he asked his father how long it was since this had been happening to him. And he said, “From childhood. And often it has thrown him both into fire and into water, in order that it could destroy him. But if you are able to do anything, have compassion on us and help us!” But Jesus said to him, “If you are able! All things are possible for the one who believes!” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe! Help my unbelief!”
Now when Jesus saw that a crowd was running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “Mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and enter into him no more!” And it came out, screaming and convulsing him greatly, and he became as if he were dead, so that most of them said, “He has died!” But Jesus took hold of his hand and raised him up, and he stood up. And after he had entered into the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why were we not able to expel it?” And he said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing except by prayer.”
The praying sinner receives mercy because his prayer is grounded on the promise of pardon made by Him whose right it is to pardon guilty sinners. The penitent seeker after God obtains mercy because there is a definite promise of mercy to all who seek the Lord in repentance and faith. Prayer always brings forgiveness to the seeking soul. The abundant pardon is dependent upon the promise made real by the promise of God to the sinner.
While salvation is promised to him who believes, the believing sinner is always a praying sinner.… “Behold he prays” is not only the unfailing sign of sincerity and the evidence that the sinner is proceeding in the right way to find God, but it is the prophecy of abundant pardon. Get the sinner to praying according to the divine promise, and he then is near the kingdom of God. The very best sign of the returning prodigal is that he confesses his sins and begins to ask for the lowliest place in his father’s house.
It is the divine promise of mercy, of forgiveness and of adoption which gives the poor sinner hope. This encourages him to pray. This moves him in distress to cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy upon me” (Luke 18:38).
—E. M. Bounds
The Possibilities of Prayer
Like the father of the child in Mark 9:14–29 and the prodigal son—needy and at the end of themselves—may you, too, cry out, “I believe! Help my unbelief!” Confess your sin today, seek God, and know that you find mercy because He is merciful.
 Van Noord, R., & Strong, J. (Eds.). (2014). 40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
The message John proclaimed was simple, so simple it could easily be summarized in one word: repent (3:2a; cf. Acts 13:24; 19:4). The Greek word (metanoeō) behind repent means more than regret or sorrow (cf. Heb. 12:17); it means to turn around, to change direction, to change the mind and will. It does not denote just any change, but always a change from the wrong to the right, away from sin and to righteousness. In his outstanding commentary on Matthew, John A. Broadus observes that “wherever this Greek word is used in the New Testament the reference is to changing the mind and the purpose from sin to holiness.” Repentance involves sorrow for sin, but sorrow that leads to a change of thinking, desire, and conduct of life. “The sorrow that is according to the will of God,” Paul says, “produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation” (2 Cor. 7:10; cf. v. 9). John’s command to repent could therefore be rendered “be converted.”
John’s message of preparation for the coming of the King was repentance, conversion, the demand for a completely different life. That must have been startling news for Jews who thought that, as God’s chosen people—the children of Abraham, the people of the covenant—they deserved and were unconditionally assured of the promised King. Knowing what they must have been thinking, John later told his listeners, “Do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you, that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham” (3:9). God was not interested in His people’s human heritage but in their spiritual life. “What the King wants from you,” John was saying, “is that you make a complete turnaround from the way you are, that you be totally converted, totally changed.” God calls for radical change and transformation that affects the mind, the will, and the emotions—the whole person. John’s point was simple: “You are in the same condition as the Gentiles. You have no right to the kingdom unless you repent and are converted from sin to righteousness.” He called for a true repentance that results in the fruit of a translated life (v. 8) and that includes baptism with water (v. 11a). Failure to repent would result in severe judgment, as Matthew 11:20–24 and 12:38–41 demonstrate.
Repentance was exactly the same message with which Jesus began His preaching and the apostles began theirs. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand,” Jesus proclaimed; “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15; cf. Matt. 3:2; 4:17; Luke 5:32). Mark 6:12 says of the twelve: “And they went out and preached that men should repent.” In his Pentecost sermon, Peter’s concluding words were, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38; cf. Acts 3:19; 20:21; 26:18).
The close connection between repentance and conversion is also indicated in texts that do not specifically use the word repentance, yet convey the same idea (see Matt. 18:3; Luke 14:33). The best summary statement may be that of Paul in Acts 26:20, where he states that the objective of his ministry was that men “should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.”
The motive John gave for repentance was: the kingdom of heaven is at hand (3:2b). The people should repent and be converted because the King was coming, and He deserves and requires no less. The unrepentant and unconverted cannot give the heavenly King the glory He deserves, do not belong to the heavenly King, and are unfit for His heavenly kingdom.
After four hundred years, the people of Israel again heard God’s prophetic word. Malachi’s prophecy was followed by four centuries of silence, with no new or direct word from the Lord. Now, when His word came to Israel again, proclaiming the coming of the King, it was not the expected word of joy and comfort and celebration but a message of warning and rebuke. The kingdom of heaven is at hand, waiting to be ushered in, but Israel was not ready for it.
Despite many similar warnings by the prophets, many of the people and most of the leaders were not prepared for John’s message. What he said was shocking; it was unexpected and unacceptable. It was inconceivable to them that, as God’s people, they had anything to do to inherit God’s kingdom but simply wait for and accept it. The Messiah was their Messiah, the King was their King, the Savior was their Savior, the promise was their promise. Every Jew was destined for the kingdom, and every Gentile was excluded, except for a token handful of proselytes. That was the common Jewish thinking of the day, which John totally shattered.
But John’s message was God’s message, and he would not compromise it or clutter it with the popular misconceptions and delusions of his own day and his own people. He had no word but God’s word, and he proclaimed no kingdom but God’s kingdom and no preparation but God’s preparation. That preparation was repentance. God’s standard would not change, even if every Jew were excluded and every Gentile saved. God knew that some Jews would be saved, but none apart from personal repentance and conversion.
Although the precise phrase is not found there, the kingdom of heaven is basically an Old Testament concept. David declares that “the Lord is King forever and ever” (Ps. 10:16; cf. 29:10), that His kingdom is everlasting, and that His dominion “endures throughout all generations” (Ps. 145:13). Daniel speaks of “the God of heaven [who] will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed” (Dan. 2:44; cf. Ezek. 37:25), a “kingdom [that] is an everlasting kingdom” (Dan. 4:3). The God of heaven is the King of heaven, and the heavenly kingdom is God’s kingdom.
Matthew uses the phrase kingdom of heaven thirty-two times, and is the only gospel writer who uses it at all. The other three use “the kingdom of God.” It is probable that Matthew used kingdom of heaven because it was more understandable to his primarily Jewish readers. Jews would not speak God’s name (Yahweh, or Jehovah), and would often substitute heaven when referring to Him—much as we do in such expressions as “heaven smiled on me today.”
There is no significant difference between “the kingdom of God” and the kingdom of heaven. The one phrase emphasizes the sovereign Ruler of the kingdom and the other emphasizes the kingdom itself, but they are the same kingdom. Matthew 19:23–24 confirms the equality of the phrases by using them interchangeably.
The kingdom has two aspects, the outer and the inner, both of which are spoken of in the gospels. Those aspects are evident as one moves through Matthew. In the broadest sense, the kingdom includes everyone who professes to acknowledge God. Jesus’ parable of the sower represents the kingdom as including both genuine and superficial believers (Matt. 13:3–23), and in His following parable (vv. 24–30) as including both wheat (true believers) and tares (false believers). That is the outer kingdom, the one we can see but cannot accurately evaluate ourselves, because we cannot know people’s hearts.
The other kingdom is the inner, the kingdom that includes only true believers, only those who, as John the Baptist proclaimed, repent and are converted. God rules over both aspects of the kingdom, and He will one day finally separate the superficial from the real. Meanwhile He allows the pretenders to identify themselves outwardly with His kingdom.
God’s kingly rule over the hearts of men and over the world may be thought of as having a number of phases. The first is the prophesied kingdom, such as that foretold by Daniel. The second phase is the present kingdom, the one that existed at the time of John the Baptist and that he mentions. It is the kingdom that both John and Jesus spoke of as being at hand (cf. 4:17). The third phase may be referred to as the interim kingdom, the kingdom that resulted because of Israel’s rejection of her King. The King returned to heaven and His kingdom on earth now exists only in a mystery form. Christ is Lord of the earth in the sense of His being its Creator and its ultimate Ruler; but He does not presently exercise His full divine will over the earth. He is, so to speak, in a voluntary exile in heaven until it is time for Him to return again. He reigns only in the hearts of those who know Him as Savior and Lord. For those “the kingdom of God is … righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).
The fourth phase can be described as the manifest kingdom, in which Christ will rule, physically, directly, and fully on earth for a thousand years, the Millennium. In that kingdom He will rule both externally and internally—externally over all mankind, and internally in the hearts of those who belong to Him by faith. The fifth, and final, phase is the “eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” which “will be abundantly supplied” to all of His own (2 Pet. 1:11).
Had God’s people Israel accepted their King when He first came to them, there would be no interim kingdom. The kingdom at hand would have become the kingdom of a thousand years, which, in turn, would have ushered in the eternal kingdom. But because they killed the forerunner of the King and then the King Himself, the millennial kingdom, and consequently the eternal kingdom, were sovereignly postponed.
2 John’s preaching had two elements. The first was a call to repent. Though the verb metanoeō (GK 3566) is often explained etymologically as “to change one’s mind,” or popularly as “to be sorry for something,” neither rendering is adequate. In classical Greek, the verb could refer to a purely intellectual change of mind. But the NT usage has been influenced by the Hebrew verbs nāḥam (“to be sorry for one’s actions,” GK 5714) and s̆ûb (“to turn around to new actions,” GK 8740). The latter is common in the prophets’ call to the people to return to the covenant with Yahweh (cf. NIDNTT 1:357–59; Turner, Christian Words, 374–77). What is meant is not a merely intellectual change of mind or mere grief, still less doing penance (see Notes), but a radical transformation of the entire person, a fundamental turnaround involving mind and action and including overtones of grief, which results in “fruit in keeping with repentance” (v. 8). Of course, all this assumes that human actions are fundamentally off course and need radical change. John applies this repentance to the religious leaders of his day (3:7–8) with particular vehemence. (On the differences between biblical and rabbinic emphases on repentance, see Lane, Mark, 593–600.)
The second element in John’s preaching was the nearness of the kingdom of heaven, and this is given as the ground for repentance. Throughout the OT, there was a rising expectation of a divine visitation that would establish justice, crush opposition, and renew the very universe. This hope was couched in many categories. It was presented as the fulfillment of promises to David’s heir, as the Day of the Lord (which often had dark overtones of judgment, though there were bright exceptions, e.g., Zep 3:14–20), as a new heaven and a new earth, and as a time of regathering Israel, as the inauguration of a new and transforming covenant (2 Sa 7:13–14; Isa 1:24–28; 9:6–7; 11:1–10; 64–66; Jer 23:5–6; 31:31–34; Eze 37:24; Da 2:44; 7:13–14; cf. Ridderbos, Coming of the Kingdom, 3–15; Ladd, Presence of the Future, 45–75).
The predominant meaning of “kingdom” in the OT (Heb. malkût, GK 4895; Aram. malkûta, see GK 10424) is “reign”; the term has dynamic force. Similarly in the NT, though basileia (“kingdom,” GK 993) can refer to a territory (4:8), the overwhelming majority of instances use the term with dynamic force. This stands over against the prevailing rabbinic terminology, in which “kingdom” was increasingly spiritualized or planted in men’s hearts (e.g., b. Ber. 4a). In the first century, there was little agreement among Jews as to what the messianic kingdom would be like (cf. Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The One Who Is to Come (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007]). One popular assumption was that the Roman yoke would be shattered and there would be political peace and mounting prosperity. For excellent surveys of this history of interpretation of “kingdom of God/heaven” from the OT documents through to Matthew, see Christian Grappe, Le Royaume de Dieu: Avant, avec et après Jésus (Geneva: Labor et Fides, 2001); Rick Brown, “A Brief History of Interpretations of ‘The Kingdom of God’ and Some Consequences for Translation,” Notes 15 (2001): 3–23; Hannan, Nature and Demands.
Except at 12:28; 19:24; 21:31, 43, and in some MSS of 6:33, Matthew always uses “kingdom of heaven” instead of “kingdom of God” (this reckoning excludes references to “my kingdom” and the like), whereas Mark and Luke prefer “kingdom of God.” Matthew’s preferred expression certainly does not restrict God’s reign to the heavens. The biblical goal is the manifest exercise of God’s sovereignty, his “reign” on earth and among men. There are enough parallels among the Synoptics to imply that “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven” denote the same thing (e.g., Mt 19:23–24 = Mk 10:23–25); the connotative distinction is less certain.
Classic dispensationalists (e.g., A. C. Gaebelein, John Walvoord) hold that “kingdom of God” is a distinctively spiritual kingdom, a narrower category embracing only true believers, whereas “kingdom of heaven” is the kingdom of millennial splendor, a broader category including (as in the parable, 13:47–50) both good and bad fish. The distinction is unfortunate. It comes perilously close to confusing kingdom and church (see comments at 16:17–19), fails to account for passages where the Matthean category is no less restrictive than “kingdom of God” in the other evangelists, and fundamentally misapprehends the dynamic nature of the kingdom. Equally unconvincing is the suggestion of Margaret Pamment (“Kingdom of Heaven”) that “kingdom of heaven” always refers to the future reign following the consummation, whereas in Matthew “kingdom of God” refers to the present manifestation. To arrive at this absolute dichotomy, Pamment must resort to very unlikely interpretations of numerous passages (e.g., 11:12; parables in ch. 13). Many other proposals are stated firmly but cannot withstand close scrutiny.
The most common explanation is that Matthew avoided “kingdom of God” to remove unnecessary offense to Jews who often used circumlocutions like “heaven” to refer to God (e.g., Da 4:26; 1 Macc 3:50, 60; 4:55; Lk 15:18, 21). The suggestion cannot be ruled out entirely but cannot be given much weight in the light of the fact that Matthew is often happy to refer to “God” directly.
Matthew is a subtle and allusive writer, and other factors appear to be involved: (1) “Kingdom of heaven” may anticipate the extent of Christ’s postresurrection authority. God’s sovereignty in heaven and on earth is now mediated through him (Mt 28:18). (2) “Kingdom of God” makes God the King, and though this does not prevent the other Synoptics from ascribing the kingship to Jesus (cf. Lk 22:16, 18, 29–30), there is less room to maneuver. Matthew’s “kingdom of heaven” assumes it is God’s kingdom and occasionally assigns it specifically to the Father (Mt 26:29), though leaving room to ascribe it frequently to Jesus (16:28; 25:31, 34, 40; 27:42; probably 5:35); for Jesus is King Messiah. This inevitably has christological implications. The kingdom of heaven is simultaneously the kingdom of the Father and the kingdom of the Son of Man. (3) Jonathan Pennington (Heaven and Earth) has shown that Matthew contrasts “heaven” and “earth” as two spheres, two kingdoms—one that embraces all that is God-centered and good, the other all that is in rebellion and characterized by corruption. By preferring “kingdom of heaven” to “kingdom of God,” Matthew is sustaining this powerful antithesis and drawing attention to the quality of the kingdom that both the Baptist and Jesus announce.
This kingdom, John preached, “is near” (ēngiken, lit., “has drawn near,” GK 1581). Jews spoke of the Messiah as “the coming one” (11:3) and the messianic age as “the coming age” (Heb 6:5): John says it has now drawn “near,” the same message preached by Jesus (Mt 4:17) and his disciples (10:7). It is possible, but not certain, that the verb has the same force as ephthasen (GK 5777) in 12:28. There Jesus unambiguously affirms that the kingdom “has come.” That passage makes it clear that it is the exercise of God’s saving sovereignty or reign that has dawned. The ambiguous “is near” (3:2; 4:17), coupled with the dynamic sense of “kingdom,” prepares us for a constant theme: The kingdom came with Jesus and his preaching and miracles, it came with his death and resurrection, and it will come at the end of the age.
Matthew has already established that Jesus was born King (2:2). Later Jesus declared that his work testified the kingdom had come (12:28), even though he frequently spoke of the kingdom as something to be inherited when the Son of Man comes in his glory. It is false to say that “kingdom” undergoes a radical shift with the mention of mystery (NIV, “secrets”; see comments at 13:11). Already in the Sermon on the Mount, entering the kingdom (5:3, 10; 7:21) is equivalent to entering into life (7:13–14; cf. 19:14, 16; see Mk 9:45, 47).
These and related themes become clearer as Matthew’s gospel progresses (cf. Ladd, Theology of the New Testament, 57–90). But two observations cannot be delayed. First, the Baptist’s terminology, though veiled, necessarily roused enormous excitement (v. 5). But assorted apocalyptic and political expectations would have brought about a profound misunderstanding of the kingdom being preached. Therefore Jesus himself purposely used veiled terminology when treating themes like this. This becomes increasingly obvious in Matthew. The second observation relates to the first. Just as the angel’s announcement to Joseph declared Jesus’ primary purpose to be to save his people from their sins (1:21), so the first announcement of the kingdom is associated with repentance and confession of sin (v. 6). These themes are constantly intertwined in Matthew (cf. Goppelt, Theologie des Neuen Testaments, 128–88).
Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.
God has made it plain that hell is a real place—a final abode for people who do not want to love God and serve Him!
The sadness and the tragedy of this fact are that these are human beings, all dear to God because He created them in His own image. Of nothing else in the Creation is it said that it was created in the likeness of God!
Because fallen and perishing man is still nearer to God’s likeness than any other creature on earth, God offers him conversion, regeneration and forgiveness. It was surely because of this great potential in the human personality that the eternal Word could become flesh and dwell among us.
We are assured in many ways in the Scriptures that God the Creator does not waste human personality, but it is surely one of the stark tragedies of life that human personality can waste itself!
A man by his own sin may waste himself, which is to waste and lose that which on earth is most like God. The man who dies out of Christ is said to be lost, and hardly a word in our language expresses his condition with greater accuracy!
Lord, make me sensitive today to opportunities to share Your love with someone who does not have a personal relationship with You.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.—Matt. 5:4
The world still operates according to the old popular song lyrics that say, “Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag, and smile, smile, smile.” This philosophy basically tells us to hide all our problems and pretend to be happy; and of course people apply this outlook to sin all the time.
Nevertheless Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn.” Godly mourning and confession of sins bring the only kind of happiness worth having—godly happiness that no amount of human effort, optimistic pretense, or positive thinking can produce.
There is a real need in today’s church to cry instead of laugh. The foolishness, frivolity, and embracing of the world’s view of happiness in the name of Christianity should make us mourn, because we know the difference between empty happiness and true happiness. God’s rebuke to the self-satisfied and indulgent happy is strong: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” (James 4:8–10).
True happiness does not ignore sin or make light of it; instead it sorrows over sin, turns from it, and flees to God for genuine forgiveness. And in so doing, it finds lasting joy.
|Does this message sound depressing and cheerless to you? Have you bought the world’s line that happiness can be found only by ignoring sin, not by dealing with it? Aren’t you tired, though, of constantly coming up empty, never quite satisfied? Run weeping into the welcoming arms of God’s forgiveness.|
[Abraham] did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God.
Professing to believe what God has said is much easier than really trusting Him. For instance, many people who affirm that “God shall supply all your need according to His riches” (Phil. 4:19) become filled with anxiety when financial troubles come their way.
The Bible also says that if we give sacrificially with the proper motives, God will reward us (Matt. 6:3–4). Many say they believe that principle as well, but they find it difficult to put into practice. Many Christians also fear death, even though God has said He will provide us with the grace we need to face it and will take us to heaven afterward.
Believing God means we acknowledge His glory, which is the sum of all His attributes and the fullness of all His majesty. If He is who He says He is, then He is to be believed. You will grow spiritually when you say to God, “If Your Word says it, I will believe it; if Your Word promises it, I will claim it; and if Your Word commands it, I will obey it.”
Therefore even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you.” And in the same way he sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood. And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (9:18–22)
The second reason for the death of Christ was that forgiveness demands blood. This truth is directly in line with the previous point, but with a different shade of meaning. Blood is a symbol of death, and therefore follows closely the idea of a testator’s having to die in order for a will to become effective. But blood also suggests the animal sacrifices that were marks of the Old Covenant, even, in fact, of the Abrahamic covenant. In the Old Covenant, the death of animals was typical and prophetic, looking forward to the death of Christ that would ratify the second covenant. Even before the old priestly sacrifices were begun, the covenant itself was inaugurated, or ratified, with blood.
As explained in verse 19, Moses sprinkled blood on the altar and on the people (see Ex. 24:6–8). “Look at your great Moses,” the writer is saying, “He himself inaugurated the Old Covenant with blood.” It is hard for us today to understand how bloody and messy the old sacrificial system was. But among other things, the great amount of blood was a continual reminder of the penalty of sin, death.
When He sat with the disciples on that last night before His death, Jesus picked up the cup and said, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:28). He was to ratify the New Covenant through His own blood, just as the Old Covenant was ratified by Moses with the blood of animals.
It is possible to become morbid about Christ’s sacrificial death and preoccupied with His suffering and shedding of blood. It is especially possible to become unbiblically preoccupied with the physical aspects of His death. It was not Jesus’ physical blood that saves us, but His dying on our behalf, which is symbolized by the shedding of His physical blood. If we could be saved by blood without death, the animals would have been bled, not killed, and it would have been the same with Jesus.
Since the Tabernacle was not yet built when Moses ratified the covenant, his sprinkling the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood is obviously meant to be anticipatory. The blood he sprinkled at the initiation of the covenant continued, in a sense, to be sprinkled by the priests in the Tabernacle and Temple as long as that covenant stood.
The purpose of the blood was to symbolize sacrifice for sin, which brought cleansing from sin. Therefore, without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
Again, however, we need to keep in mind that the blood was a symbol. If Christ’s own physical blood, in itself, does not cleanse from sin, how much less did the physical blood of animals. It is not surprising, then, that the Old Covenant allowed a symbol for a symbol. A Jew who was too poor to bring even a small animal for a sacrifice was allowed to bring one-tenth of an ephah (about two quarts) of fine flour instead (Lev. 5:11). His sins were covered just as surely as those of the person who could afford to offer a lamb or goat or turtledove or pigeon (Lev. 5:6–7). This exception is clear proof that the old cleansing was symbolic. Just as the animal blood symbolized Christ’s true atoning blood, so the ephah of flour symbolized and represented the animal blood. This nonblood offering for sin was acceptable because the old sacrifice was entirely symbolic anyway.
Yet this was the only exception. And even the exception represented a blood sacrifice. The basic symbol could not be changed because what it symbolized could not be changed. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement” (Lev. 17:11). Since the penalty for sin is death, nothing but death, symbolized by shedding of blood, can atone for sin. We cannot enter into God’s presence by self-effort to be righteous. If we, on our own, could be good, we would not need atonement. Nor can we enter His presence by being model citizens or even by being religious. We cannot enter His presence by reading the Bible, by going to church, by giving generously to the Lord’s work, or even by praying. We cannot enter His presence by thinking good thoughts about Him. The only way we can enter into God’s presence, the only way we can participate in the New Covenant, is through the atoning death of Jesus Christ, made effective for us when we trust in Him as saving Lord.
God has set the rules. The soul that sins will die. The soul that is saved will be saved through the sacrifice of God’s Son. For this sacrifice there is no exception, no substitute, for this is the real thing. Because they were symbols, God provided a limited and strictly qualified exception (flour) to the old sacrifices. But there can be no exception for the real sacrifice, because it is the only way to God.
Forgiveness is a costly, costly thing. But I often think to myself how lightly we can take the forgiveness of God. I have come to the end of a day and put my head on the pillow to say, “God, I did this and this today,” listing off the things I had done that I knew were not pleasing to Him. I know He knows about them, so there is no use trying to hide them. I also know He forgives them, because He has promised to forgive them, and I thank Him. I fall off to sleep in a few minutes, accepting but not fully appreciating the marvelous grace that made such assurance and peace so easily available to me.
At other times, as I study the Word of God, and look more closely at the great cost that was paid for my salvation, I am overwhelmed. When I meditate on the infinite cost to God to forgive my sins, I realize how often I abuse my loving Father’s grace.
Paul tells us that “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom. 5:20). Then, anticipating how some might distort this truth, he goes on to say, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (6:1). To realize and rejoice in God’s boundless grace is one thing; to presume on it by willfully sinning is quite another. How can we, as forgiven sinners, take lightly or presumptuously, the price paid for our forgiveness? We become so used to grace that we abuse it. In fact, we are so accustomed to grace that when God brings down just punishment we may think it unjust.
God does not forgive sin by looking down and saying, “It’s all right. Since I love you so much, I’ll overlook your sin.” God’s righteousness and holiness will not allow Him to overlook sin. Sin demands payment by death. And the only death great enough to pay for all of mankind’s sins is the death of His Son. God’s great love for us will not lead Him to overlook our sin, but it has led Him to provide the payment for our sin, as John 3:16 so beautifully reminds us. God cannot ignore our sin; but He will forgive our sin if we trust in the death of His Son for that forgiveness.
22 A summary comment draws out the point of the expanded account of the Sinai ritual just given. The phrase “nearly everything” acknowledges a degree of exaggeration, in that cleansing of “things” in the OT law was not always by blood but sometimes by water or fire. Even the details he has listed in vv. 19 and 21 go significantly beyond what the OT text says. But the fact that he goes on to speak of “forgiveness” rather than ritual purity suggests he intends “everything” to include people as well as objects, and in that case the prominence of blood sacrifices in restoring and maintaining people’s relationship with God in the Mosaic law justifies his comment.
The concluding remark that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” is sometimes treated as an independent aphorism, but in fact it is part of the same sentence that sets out the situation “according to the law.” The Levitical laws are based on the belief that sin cannot simply be brushed aside and forgotten but that it needs to be atoned for, and the prescribed method of atonement is by the shedding of (animal) blood; see especially Leviticus 4–5. According to Leviticus 17:11, blood represents life, and its shedding thus represents life poured out; when an animal dies in a person’s place its poured-out life is accepted in place of the death earned by the person’s sins. It is this basic OT principle to which our author appeals to explain why the final, perfect sacrifice made by Jesus on our behalf also needed to be a blood sacrifice; anything less would not be taking the problem of sin seriously. This is why a new covenant that has at its heart the promise “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (8:12) must be established by the death of its “mediator.”
9:22 / Although it is generally true that the shedding of blood is required for ceremonial cleansing in the ot, some exceptions were allowed, and it is apparently these that our author has in mind. Thus, for example, for those unable to afford animal sacrifices, or even turtledoves or pigeons, the offering of fine flour was permitted (Lev. 5:11–13). The central importance of blood to the forgiveness of sins, however, is stressed in Leviticus 17:11, “The life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” It is probably this perspective that enables the author to write that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Blood is necessary for the ratification of a covenant, and particularly in the case of the new covenant with its promise of a definitive forgiveness of sins (cf. 9:15, 26; 10:18).
Two biblical illustrations (9:18–22)
The main theme in these verses can be summed up in the words, not … without blood. The reference to the essential death of the great testator reminds our writer of the way Christ died. His blood was shed.
It is necessary at this stage to comment on the meaning of ‘the blood’ of Christ, found frequently throughout this letter and elsewhere in the New Testament. It is an unmistakable reference to the sacrificial death of Christ, and needs to be seen (as our author is about to present it) against the background of the Old Testament. There are far more references to the ‘blood’ of Christ in the New Testament than to the ‘cross’ or ‘death’ of Christ. Several modern scholars have followed the late-nineteenth-century interpretation offered by B. F. Westcott, that when the New Testament makes use of this term, it is meant to indicate the release of life. Westcott says that in the biblical idea of sacrifice ‘two distinct ideas were included’: ‘the death of the victim by the shedding of its blood, and the liberation, so to speak, of the principle of life by which it had been animated, so that this life became available for another end’. Westcott goes on to say that ‘the Blood of Christ represents Christ’s Life.’
Alan Stibbs, however, has shown that in biblical thought blood shed ‘stands … not for the release of life from the burden of the flesh, but for the bringing to an end of life in the flesh. It is a witness to physical death, not an evidence of spiritual survival’. In this letter to the Hebrews, the phrase ‘resist to the point of shedding your blood’ (12:4) plainly means to die rather than compromise. When this letter refers to the ‘sprinkling’ of the blood of Christ, it means ‘the extension to the persons sprinkled of the value and the benefits of the death of which it is the token’. It refers essentially to our ‘application of, and the participation in, the saving benefits of the death of Jesus’. The ‘shedding’ of Christ’s blood refers to the once-for-all sacrificial death of Christ; the ‘sprinkling’ to our benefit from that death. Our writer is at pains to illustrate the necessity of the ‘shed’ and ‘sprinkled’ blood at two great moments of Jewish religious history. In this way he drives home his main point that without the shedding of Christ’s blood there can be no purification for sinful mankind.
First, in Old Testament times the covenant was ratified by blood (9:18). The first covenant given through Moses had to be ‘inaugurated’ (neb) by the shedding of blood. At that inauguration the blood was sprinkled over the congregation and thus they became the people of the covenant.10 Similarly, says our author, blood was sprinkled on the book of the covenant. Both people and book, congregation and covenant, had the mark of the cross upon them. This theme was given special prominence by the Lord Jesus. As he took the cup at the Last Supper, he referred to his forthcoming sacrifice, the outpoured life, as ‘the blood of the covenant’; it was to be ‘poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’.
Secondly, the sanctuary was sanctified by blood (9:21). That first sanctuary, the desert tent of meeting, used by the Hebrew people during their wilderness journey, had to be cleansed by the sprinkling of blood so that all its furnishings were purified. Under the old covenant nothing was considered as purified unless it had upon it the mark of the shed blood, and our writer sees this as a type or parable of spiritual life. Apart from the sacrificial death of Jesus, the shedding of Christ’s blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.
Harassed by their opponents and threatened by persecution, these first-century Jewish Christians were in danger of falling away (3:12) or of slipping away (2:1) from the moorings of Christian truth. Under the law they appeared to have had so much. Priests had served as their mediator, the sacrificial system had offered some spiritual security, and as Jews they had believed themselves part of God’s chosen people, destined to an assured future. In his pastoral concern our writer emphasizes three assured facts. In Christ we have a forgiveness which covers our past (9:22), a mediator in the present, and an inheritance in the future which no-one can take away (9:15).
These three issues are not confined to the first century; we face them too. In times of crisis and despair our contemporaries suffer from the problem of loneliness, Hemmed in by our circumstances, sickness, bereavement, the breakdown of a marriage, the collapse of business, or the end of a career, we can be terribly lonely. In moments such as these we long for companionship. We cry desperately for the help of almighty God. But if we are not believers how can we approach the holy and righteous God? We need a mediator. Longing for companionship and Understanding in our distress and, worst of all, feeling isolated in the presence of a holy God, we too need someone who will go between man and God. It must be one who is not remote but alongside us.
Moreover, modern man is also confronted by the problem of death. This writer shares with his readers a message of serene confidence about the future. The teaching of this epistle not only had great things to say to its first readers; its message has striking relevance in the contemporary world. Verse 15 reminds us that Jesus Christ is the answer to man’s problem of guilt, loneliness and death. Our past sin is forgiven: a death has occurred which redeems. Our present access is assured: Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant. Our future inheritance is imperishable: those who are called … receive the promised eternal inheritance.
And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.
There are many in the churches of our day who talk some of the Christian language but who know God only by hearsay. Most of them have read some book about God. They have seen some reflection of the light of God. They may have heard some faint echo of the voice of God, but their own personal knowledge of God is very slight….
When Jesus was here upon the earth, the record shows that He had work to do and He also knew the necessity for activity as He preached and healed, taught and answered questions and blessed the people. He also knew the fellowship of His brethren, those who followed Him and loved Him. But these were the incidental things in Jesus’ life compared to His fellowship with and personal knowledge of the Father. When Jesus went into the mountain to pray and wait on God all night, He was not alone, for He knew the conscious presence of the Father with Him.
In our modern Christian service we are constantly pressed to do this and to do that, and to go here and go there. How often we miss completely the conscious presence of God with the result that we know God only by hearsay! ITB023-024
Lord, draw me away today to spend time alone with You, that I might have a conscious sense of Your presence, knowing you by experience and not by words alone. Amen.
“The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
1 John 4:8
God’s love is unconditional and righteous.
We hear a lot today about love from books, magazines, TV, and movies. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think that our society is the most loving on earth. Much of the “love,” though, is nothing more than lust masquerading as love, or selfishness disguised as kindness. But today’s verse tells us that “God is love”; the character of God defines love. To clear up any confusion about love, we need only to look at who God is. And then, of course, we need to seek to love others as God loves us.
First, God’s love is unconditional and unrequited. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). God loved us when we were sinners, when we had no righteousness and we didn’t—and couldn’t—love Him back. God doesn’t love us because we deserve it or because we love Him, but because it’s His nature to love.
God’s love doesn’t mean He winks at sin, though. Just as earthly fathers discipline sinning children, “those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives” (Heb. 12:6). True love doesn’t indulge unrighteousness, it confronts it. This kind of tough love isn’t always fun, but it’s for the best: “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (v. 11).
We’ll study God’s love more in the next lesson, but now it’s only natural to examine how we ourselves are doing in demonstrating love. Is our love unconditional, or do we withhold love from those who hurt us? Do we love only those who love us back? Jesus says, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them” (Luke 6:32). Loving those who love us is easy. Christ loved those at enmity with Him, and He expects us to love our enemies too.
Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for His great love toward us and for its greatest manifestation in the Person of Christ.
For Further Study: First John has much to say about God’s love for us and our love for Him and others. Read the entire book, noting each instance of the word love.
YOU cannot, though you may think you can, preserve a moderation in sin. If you commit one sin, it is like the melting of the lower glacier upon the Alps; the others must follow in time. As certainly as you heap one stone upon the cairn to-day, the next day you will cast another, until the heap, reared stone by stone, shall become a very pyramid. Set the coral insect at work, you cannot decree where it shall stay its work. It will not build its rock just as high as you please; it will not stay until there shall be soil upon it, and an island shall be created by tiny creatures. Sin cannot be held in with bit and bridle.
Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. (3)
By his use of the term beloved, Jude displayed his sincere pastoral concern for his readers (cf. Rom. 1:7; 12:19; 1 Cor. 4:14; 15:58; Eph. 5:1; Phil. 2:12; James 1:16, 19; 2:5; 1 Peter 4:12; 1 John 2:7; 3:2, 21). That concern was not a shallow form of sentimentalism, but a heartfelt expression of affection for God’s people. It also embodied a concern born out of a deeply held conviction for the crucial importance of God’s truth.
Jude initially made every effort to write regarding the common salvation he shared with his readers. Effort (spoudē) connotes hastening or speed, and could mean Jude hurried in vain to write, or that he tried hard but could not complete what he originally planned to say. Whatever the case, the presence of false teaching restrained him, impressing him with the urgent need to call the church to battle. His initial notion was to speak positively of the shared blessings of salvation. But that very salvation was under assault by apostates, hence his change of subjects.
Like Paul, who wrote to the Corinthians, “For necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:16, nkjv), Jude felt the necessity—a heavy burden or mandate—to write.Agchō, the root of the noun rendered necessity, means literally “compress.” Jude recognized that he was a watchman for the truth (cf. Ezek. 3:16–21) who could not simply watch in silence as his readers slipped into error. His fervent passion for sound doctrine, especially regarding the gospel, made even the thought of false teaching a heavy burden on his heart (cf. 2 Cor. 11:28). And he and his readers would not be able to share a common salvation if they lost the gospel.
Jude also had a deep love for his readers—meaning that he was dedicated to their spiritual well-being. Accordingly his tone conveyed a genuine care similar to that of Paul, who wrote to the Ephesian elders: “Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears” (Acts 20:31; cf. Col. 1:29).
Jude could not resist appealing (parakaleō, “exhorting, encouraging”) to his readers that they contend earnestly for the faith. The powerful expression contend earnestly translates a present infinitive (epagōnizomai) and stresses the need to defend the truth continually and vigorously (cf. 1 Tim. 1:18; 6:12; 2 Tim. 4:7). It is a compound verb from which the English agonize is transliterated. From Jude’s day until now, true believers have always had to battle for the purity of the salvation gospel.
In referring to the faith, Jude is not speaking of a nebulous body of religious doctrines. Rather, the faith constitutes the Christian faith, the faith of the gospel, God’s objective truth (i.e., everything pertaining to our common salvation). It is what Luke wrote about in Acts 2:42, noting that the early believers “were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (cf. 1 Cor. 15:1–4; 2 Thess. 3:6). Paul admonished Timothy to protect that faith: “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you” (2 Tim. 1:13–14; cf. 1 Tim. 6:19–20).
In life and ministry, God’s truth is paramount (cf. Pss. 25:5, 10; 71:22; 119:142, 160; Prov. 23:23; John 4:24; 8:32; 2 Cor. 13:8; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Tim. 2:15). To manipulate and distort that truth, or to mix it with error, is to invite God’s eternal wrath. That’s why Paul told the Galatians, “If any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!” (Gal. 1:9). And the apostle John told his readers,
Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. (2 John 9–11)
Jude further defines the faith in succinct, specific terms as that which was once for all handed down to the saints.Hapax (once for all) refers to something that is accomplished or completed one time, with lasting results and no need of repetition. Through the Holy Spirit, God revealed the Christian faith (cf. Rom. 16:26; 2 Tim. 3:16) to the apostles and their associates in the first century. Their New Testament writings, in conjunction with the Old Testament Scriptures, make up the “true knowledge” of Jesus Christ, and are all that believers need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3; cf. 2 Tim. 3:16–17).
The authors of the New Testament did not discover the truths of the Christian faith through mystical religious experiences. Rather God, with finality and certainty, delivered His complete body of revelation in Scripture. Any system that claims new revelation or new doctrine must be disregarded as false (Rev. 22:18–19). God’s Word is all-sufficient; it is all that believers need as they contend for the faith and oppose apostasy within the church.
3 The statement “I had to write,” which follows his original intention to write on a common theme, suggests that Jude is under constraint to write due to an urgent need. His prior intention to enlarge on a theme of salvation more than likely was eclipsed by news of problems in the Christian community. His imperative has a ring of urgency to it: the readers are to “contend [earnestly]” (epagōnizesthai, a strengthened form of “agonize”; GK 2043) for the faith. Here Jude employs an athletic metaphor—specifically, one from the gymnasium. The image calls to mind a wrestling match. For the believers the implication is that they are presently engaged in an intense moral struggle over truth. With “all the energy and watchfulness of an athlete in the arena” (so A. Plummer, The General Epistles of St. James and St. Jude [New York: Armstrong & Son, 1893], 387), they should “agonize” over the Christian faith.
The “faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” is the Christian teaching handed down to the Christian community by way of apostolic tradition, a teaching that is normative. This apostolic deposit establishes what is authoritative Christian truth, not what is currently theologically fashionable. This “once for all” character is eternally bound up with the nonnegotiables of the historic Christian faith—the self-disclosing, transcendent Creator-God; the incarnation, atonement, resurrection, future judgment, absolute lordship of Christ. Because divine revelation has been historically mediated, apostolic witnesses are central to the unique and once for all quality of Christian claims. The test, then, of Christian character is faithfulness to the apostolic witness.
3 / Dear friends is a free translation of agapētoi, lit. “beloved ones,” that is, “beloved by God, and beloved by me, because we share in divine love.” Although agapētoi was an expression in general use, Christians gave the Greek term a new depth of meaning, for it described the quality of the Father’s feeling for Jesus: “This is my beloved (agapētos) Son” (Matt. 3:17; kjv, rsv).
Jude did not set out to compose this particular letter. He had wanted to write (graphein: present infinitive, which could suggest “in a leisurely manner”) on the general subject of the salvation we share. That “common salvation” (kjv, rsv) was one that belonged to all believers equally. It included sharing the same Christ (Acts 4:12), the same grace (Eph. 2:8), the same justification with God (Rom. 3:22), and the same entrance by faith (2 Pet. 1:1). But Jude’s intention to enlarge on such themes to edify his readers was overtaken by events. News suddenly reached him that his Christian friends were threatened by a dangerous heresy. The report made him snatch up his pen there and then to write (grapsai, aorist infinitive) a very different letter from the one he had originally proposed.
I had to write (anankēn eschon grapsai): The compulsion (anankēn) to write at once was as clear as if he had been given a verbal order to do so. In obedience to that inner constraint, and out of love for his Christian friends, he writes without delay to urge them to contend for the faith. The Greek word for urge is parakalōn, from parakalein, to call (kalein) alongside (para). Jude would prefer to be alongside his friends in their peril, but since he is unable to be with them in person, he does the next best thing by sending a letter.
He bids them contend—an athletics metaphor. Believers are expected to be spiritually fit, prepared at any time to meet spiritual challenges, which may arise suddenly and from an unexpected quarter.
Jude’s readers are exhorted to engage in a determined and costly struggle to maintain the faith (pistis). Here pistis is a reference not to the personal faith of the individual, its usual sense in the nt, but to the body of Christian truth. This body of belief, Jude says, was once for all entrusted (paradidōmai, to commit, hand over) to the saints, to the people of God as a whole, not just to apostles or to later leaders. The faith is not something we discover for ourselves, still less is it something constructed from our own ideas. It is the truth about God in Christ that has been handed down from believer to believer in an unbroken chain, stretching back to the teaching of Jesus himself as recorded in the nt. Each individual Christian has the dual responsibility of maintaining that truth unadulterated and of carefully handing it on to others.
Wonderfully, every Christian is qualified to share in this salvation. Quite possibly, the people Jude is trying to deal with had an élitist view of their spiritual standing and maturity, and saw themselves as being more free and confident in their morality than other, less mature, law-bound believers. But Jude emphasizes that the offer of salvation is wide open, for it is a ‘common faith’, and ironically it is open even to the very people who are so scornfully denying it to others.
Two factors underlie the greater urgency which Jude senses. Circumstances have arisen which ought to call the Christians to a steady defence of the faith, and he is deeply alarmed that they might not have the backbone to conduct that defence. He gives four reasons why we should be uncompromising in our defence of the Christian good news.
By faith Jude means those things which we believe, rather than the fact that we believe them; it is objective rather than subjective. To many commentators, this is proof of the lateness of the letter, but there is nothing here to suggest that Jude is talking about a creed or a lengthy doctrinal basis. He means the simple Christian truths which, from the earliest Christian writings, have been seen as the gospel that saves us.
Disputes over the content of the gospel are common in churches, and the New Testament letters show that this has always been the case and is not necessarily anything to be avoided. Those letters also indicate the form that such disputes take. Sometimes people subtract from the gospel. The clearest New Testament examples of this are a denial of the resurrection (1 Corinthians) or of the return of Christ (2 Peter). On other occasions, the deadly danger is a desire to supplement the message. Thus the New Testament calls on Christians to resist new teaching (Galatians) or new spirituality (Colossians). But the defence against those who want either to supplement or to dilute the Christian message (at those or any other points) must be our rock-solid adherence to the faith, the whole faith, and nothing but the faith.
The same debate continues today. It is commonplace to remove elements of biblical teaching which are culturally embarrassing, on the subjective criterion that they were ‘culturally conditioned’. Hence items of belief and patterns of behaviour which were normative for the first Christians are treated as interesting but irrelevant curios. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to spot those who wish to prune the gospel.
The opposite danger is also alive, but much more difficult to isolate. The great twentieth-century theologian Karl Barth was once asked what he thought was the single greatest obstacle to reconciliation between the Reformed churches and the Roman Catholic Church. He replied:
I think the greatest obstacle could be a very small word which the Roman Church tacks on to every one of our propositions. This very small word ‘and’. When we say Jesus, the Catholics say Jesus and Mary. We seek to obey our sole Lord, Christ. The Catholics seek to obey Christ and his earthly vicar, that is to say the Pope. We believe that the Christian is saved by the merits of Jesus Christ; but the Catholic adds: and by his own merits, that is to say, his good works. We think that the only source of Revelation is the Scriptures; the Catholics add: and Tradition. We say that knowledge of God comes from faith in his word, as it is expressed in Scripture. The Catholics add: and from Reason.
For Jude, the faith has been irrevocably fixed for us. Neither superstitious additions nor secular diminution should shake the Christian from holding that foundation teaching in its closed entirety.
Jude says that the faith was entrusted to us. He uses a word that had become almost a technical term in Christian circles to describe how God gave the church the message through the apostles. Jude understands that God is the author of the good news, and the apostles would be among the saints who received it. The ultimate responsibility for the gospel lies with God, which is why it is such a terrible thing to change it. ‘It is not a thing invented, but given; not found out by us, but delivered by God himself; and delivered to our custody that we may keep it for posterity.’
It is easy to become thoughtless about that, as if it were obvious and to be taken for granted that God would give us an unchangeable gospel. But it is a remarkable privilege. The psalmist says with wonder, ‘He has revealed his word to Jacob, his laws and decrees to Israel. He has done this for no other nation; they do not know his laws. Praise the Lord.’
We can begin to see Jude’s concern. If God has given us a gospel, and if he is not going to give us another one, we must guard it as highly precious.
The faith was entrusted, Jude says, once for all. The word has the meaning of finality and definiteness. So there is no room to think that God grants extra insights and additions down the years of Christian history. Of course, each generation of Christians has had to express that message in the context of fierce arguments, and the Christian creeds and confessions of faith were often geared to answer particular problems in the language of their day. The creeds record not the sum of what Christians believed, but the points which heretics doubted! Those who formulated the creeds knew that they were being forced to crystallize issues in words that were not in the Bible, and did so trembling with fear, solely to defend the authoritative gospel.
The acid test of our contemporary expression of Christianity is whether it addresses the questions and issues of our day in a relevant manner without losing the distinctive cutting edge of being a ‘once for all’ faith. That is difficult today, because the relativistic assumption is that all cultures are equally valid, and should share one another’s insights. Jude would warn us to take great care at this point, for the people he opposed are still with us. Their hallmark is that they share this relativism. They drift from authentic Christian historical moorings, and see Christianity in terms of a development or process towards an understanding of God, expressed only in contemporary terms. They may well quote the Bible, but they will quote it selectively for illustration, never for authoritative instruction. The successors to Jude’s opponents will appear even-handed and generous in their attitude to any religious insight, as long as that insight does not claim finality.
It should therefore be no surprise that Jude has been so long neglected, for he claims that very ‘once for all’ authority. We have all the more reason to pay attention to him, for the relativism which is at the heart of his opponents is now at the heart of our culture too, and shapes the thinking and viewpoint of even biblically minded Christians. Jude’s heretics will seem to make sense to our world, where Jude himself will appear narrow and dangerous. Because we are cultural beings, it will be more natural for us to form alliances with the world than with him.
The faith … was once for all entrusted to the saints. Who are the saints? All those who are Christians, who have been declared righteous or holy by God. In the New Testament, ‘saint’ is almost a definition of a Christian, and the writers would have found it strange that we tend to identify sainthood with a few special people. The Christian’s name, ‘saint’, is ‘at once an honour, an exhortation, and a reproach. It tells of his high calling, it exhorts him to live up to it, and it reminds him of his grievous shortcomings.’
The root of the idea lies in Daniel 7.
In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
… I approached one of those standing there and asked him the true meaning of all this.
So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: ‘The four great beasts are four kingdoms that will rise from the earth. But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it for ever–yes, for ever and ever.’
In that important passage, one idea is central for Jude: the saints are those believers who wait for the coming of the Son of Man in power. Once again, Jude has identified the Christians with the people of God, and has told us that our true identity lies in looking for Jesus Christ to return in power. What marks out a ‘saint’, then, is a desire to live life today in the light of what will happen in the future.
3. Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.
Observe these points:
Jude addresses his readers with a common greeting of that day: “dear friends” (also see vv. 17, 20). Literally translated the term means “beloved.” He puts this greeting in the context of the address (“to those … who are loved by God,” v. 1) and the blessing (“mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance,” v. 2).
As a pastor, Jude clearly distinguishes between the recipients of his letter and the false teachers. He expresses his love to the readers, but also tells them to be aware of the pernicious teachings of these heretics. The term beloved demonstrates his affection for the members of the Christian church, who through Jesus Christ experience the love of God the Father.
Because of his pastoral love, Jude composes his letter and writes, “Although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith.” Jude indicates that circumstances caused him to change the content of the letter he was planning to write. We have only a few words about the content of this intended epistle: “the salvation we share.” We do well not to speculate what Jude would have written. But what does he mean by the phrase we share? The letter itself is too brief to provide any evidence that Jude is addressing both Jewish and Gentile Christians. If we lack support for making a distinction between Christians of Jewish and Gentile backgrounds, we have to look at the purpose of Jude’s epistle for an answer to this question. Writing his letter to strengthen the believers in their faith, Jude refers to the common bond of salvation they possess (compare Titus 1:4; also see Acts 2:44). Moreover, he intimates that this bond helps them withstand the false teachers in their community who do not possess salvation. In verses 3 and 4 a contrast is evident between the salvation the believers share and the condemnation God reserves for the godless men.
Jude reveals his personal interest in the spiritual life of the readers. He says, “I felt I had to write.” He notes the necessity of exhorting the believers to contend for the faith. Notice that at the beginning and the end of his letter, Jude mentions the same subject. In the opening of his epistle he urges the readers “to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” He concludes his epistle with this exhortation: “But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit” (v. 20).
What is this faith Jude mentions? In view of the context, we understand the word faith to mean the body of Christian beliefs. It is the gospel the apostles proclaimed and therefore is equivalent to “the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42). Thus, it is not the trust and confidence that the individual believer has in God, for that is subjective faith. In this passage Jude speaks of Christian doctrine, that is, objective faith.
The context in which Jude discusses faith relates to its deposit in the community of the saints. Jude writes about “the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” The saints, of course, are the members of the church. They have received God’s revelation, just as the Jews, as Paul says, “have been entrusted with the very words of God” (Rom. 3:2). God delivered his truth to Jesus Christ (see John 3:34), and Jesus committed God’s truth to the apostles, who in turn entrusted it to the believers.
What is the deposit of faith? The apostles transmitted the gospel to the church, which in turn proclaimed it throughout the world (1 Thess. 1:6–8). “The idea of tradition, of the gospel as an authoritative message committed to and handed down in the Church, was integral to Christianity from the start.” The apostolic teaching as a body was transmitted once for all to the church (compare Luke 1:2; Rom. 6:17; 1 Cor. 11:2).
Jude urges his readers “to contend for the faith.” He encourages the believers not only to fight for the faith, but also to depend on that faith for spiritual help. The New Testament concept to contend is familiar to his readers. In brief, it means to exert oneself without distraction to attain a goal. It means self-denial to overcome obstacles, to avoid perils, and if need be to accept martyrdom. Jude implies that the members of the church must exert themselves in spreading the gospel and defeating heresy (see 2 Tim. 4:7).
Jesus, with Thy Church abide;
Be her Savior, Lord and Guide,
While on earth her faith is tried:
We beseech Thee, hear us.
May she holy triumphs win,
Overthrow the hosts of sin,
Gather all the nations in:
We beseech Thee, hear us.
—Thomas Benson Pollock
Practical Considerations in 3
The task of the pastor is first and foremost to feed the people the living Word of God. On the Lord’s Day and on other occasions he must faithfully preach and teach the Scriptures (2 Tim. 4:2). He must proclaim the gospel to strengthen the believer in his faith and to lead the sinner to conversion. He must call the people to repentance, plead on their behalf for remission of sins, and urge them to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20). His task is to administer the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper and to be a leader in prayer (Acts 6:4). He must give leadership in the work of evangelism and mission to extend the church of Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:19).
The pastor’s role is to counsel, exhort, and encourage the people “to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” The pastor seeks to maintain order and discipline in the church; he opposes any person who through doctrine and life wants to lead the believers astray. With appointed leaders, the pastor is a watchman on the walls of Zion (Ps. 122:7–8). He is to promote the well-being of God’s people.
 Lucas, R. C., & Green, C. (1995). The message of 2 Peter & Jude: the promise of His coming (pp. 172–176). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
 Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude (Vol. 16, pp. 370–372). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
Exodus 37–38; John 6:25–51; Song of Solomon 5:1–4
The Bible is a passionate book. It’s about a God who is impassioned for His people and who ultimately sends His Son to die for them so that they can be saved from themselves. And it also portrays the passion seen in romantic love.
Song of Solomon 5:1–4 is full of wit, wordplay, and euphemism. It’s dramatic, like a play. The man is full of zeal for the woman he loves, and the woman is excited to see her man. And this isn’t a Michael Bolton ballad or Kenny G song. There is haste. There is anxiety—you can almost hear the heart palpitations. This isn’t the stuff for the unmarried, and it is definitely not the stuff for kids or teenagers. This is true romance as God designed it.
The woman says, “I slept, but my heart was awake” (Song 5:2). She may be asleep, but her love for the man is not. That is both the type of love we must have in marriage and the type of love we must have for our God—never sleeping, always wide awake.
Jesus makes a similar contrast between subtle love (or necessary love) and real love: “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness and they died. [God provided them the manna shortly after the exodus (Exod 16).] This is the bread that comes down from heaven [being Jesus and His message], so that someone may eat from it and not die” (John 6:49–50).
What fills our minds and keeps our hearts awake at night says who we really are; we will dedicate ourselves to what we care most about. Let us dedicate ourselves to love of family, others, and Christ.
What are you wrongly in love with right now? What can you do to refocus your love?
John D. Barry
 Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.