Daily Archives: February 26, 2018

February 26 Enjoying a Bountiful Harvest

“… bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10).

✧✧✧

Your fruitfulness is directly related to your knowledge of divine truth.

Every farmer who enjoys a plentiful harvest does so only after diligent effort on his part. He must cultivate the soil, plant the seed, and then nurture it to maturity. Each step is thoughtful, disciplined, and orderly.

Similarly, bearing spiritual fruit is not an unthinking or haphazard process. It requires us to be diligent in pursuing the knowledge of God’s will, which is revealed in His Word. That is Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1:9, which he reiterates in verse 10.

The phrase “increasing in the knowledge of God” (v. 10) can be translated “increasing by the knowledge of God.” Both renderings are acceptable. The first emphasizes the need to grow; the second emphasizes the role that knowledge plays in your spiritual growth.

As your knowledge of God’s Word increases, the Holy Spirit renews your mind and transforms your thinking. As you gaze into the glory of the Lord as revealed in Scripture, you “are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18). You “have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (Col. 3:10).

One of Satan’s ploys to retard spiritual productivity is to get Christians preoccupied with humanistic philosophy and other bankrupt substitutes for God’s truth. That’s why he planted false teachers at Colosse to teach that knowing God’s will is inadequate for true spirituality. Paul refuted that claim by affirming that Christ is the fullness of Deity in bodily form (Col. 2:9). In Him “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). He is all you need!

Scripture commands you to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). Is that characteristic of your life? Are you looking forward to a bountiful spiritual harvest?

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank God for the privilege of knowing His will and studying His Word. ✧ Prayerfully guard your mind from sinful influences. Saturate it with God’s truth.

For Further Study: Read the following passages, noting the effects of God’s Word: Psalms 119:9, 105; Acts 20:32; Romans 10:17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:14–17; Hebrews 4:12–13; 1 John 2:14.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 69). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

FEBRUARY 26 THE IMPORTANCE OF RIGHT RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our Spirit, that we are children of God.

ROMANS 8:16

Many men and women are seeking counsellors to aid them with their confessed feelings of emptiness and inadequacy. Each seems to have a plea about becoming a “whole person.”

The importance of coming back into right relationship with God cannot be overestimated as we seriously think and study and pray.

By the mysterious operation of the Spirit of God in the new birth, that which is called by Peter “the divine nature” enters the deep-in core of the believer’s heart and establishes residence there. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his,” for “the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Rom. 8:9, 16).

Such a one is a true Christian, and only such. Baptism, confirmation, the receiving of the sacraments, church membership—these mean nothing unless the supreme act of God in regeneration also takes place!

Religious externals may have a meaning for the God-inhabited soul; for any others they are not only useless but may actually become snares, deceiving them into a false and perilous sense of security.

“Keep thy heart with all diligence” is more than a wise saying; it is a solemn charge laid upon us by the One who cares most about us![1]


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

The Briefing — Monday, February 26, 2018

BLOOMBERG

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a Trump administration appeal aimed at ending deportation protections for young undocumented immigrants, steering clear for now of the debate over the fate of hundreds of thousands of people.

Xi Jinping’s decision to cast aside China’s presidential term limits is stoking concern he also intends to shun international rules on trade and finance, even as he champions them on the world stage.

China’s Communist Party’s Central Committee announced Sunday it was seeking to end a constitutional provision that bars the head of state from serving more than two consecutive terms. That would remove the only formal barrier to Xi, who is also party leader and commander-in-chief of the military, staying in power indefinitely.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, Christianity’s holiest site, was closed to visitors on Sunday in an unprecedented move to protest proposed Israeli tax and land policies governing church-owned property.

President Donald Trump said he plans to have a military parade through Washington including flyovers by warplanes if it can be done at a “reasonable” cost.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and his colleagues may be willing to accept inflation rising as high as 2.5 percent as they seek to extend the almost nine-year economic expansion.

Johnnie Walker is rolling out a female version of its iconic logo, an attempt to draw more women to the world’s best-selling scotch and acknowledge a broader push toward gender equality. A limited U.S. edition of the whisky will have a striding woman on the label — rather than the traditional top-hatted man — and carry the name Jane Walker.

After more than half a decade of negative interest rates, rising property values in Denmark have left the average family with net assets of $314,000, according to the latest report on household wealth. “Right now, net assets are at a record-high level.”

AP Top Stories

State leaders of both parties worried aloud Sunday about the security of America’s election systems against possible cyberattacks ahead of this fall’s midterm elections, aware that Russian agents targeted more than 20 states little more a year ago, and the Trump administration has taken a mostly hands-off approach to the continued interference.

China reacted with anger on Saturday to new U.S. sanctions aimed at increasing pressure on nuclear-equipped North Korea, saying the unilateral targeting of Chinese firms and people risked harming cooperation on the problem.

Papua New Guinea sent troops and rescue workers Monday to respond to a powerful 7.5-magnitude earthquake in the Pacific nation’s mountainous interior, with unconfirmed reports of fatalities and warnings of aftershocks and landslides.

If Iran uses its Iraqi Shia Militias, Afghans, and Pakistanis, as well as its own forces in attacks on Israel, there is likely to be war between Israel and Iran by 2019.

An Iraqi court has sentenced 16 Turkish women to death by hanging for joining Islamic State, a judiciary spokesman said on Sunday.

Russian hackers attacked South Korean government computers during the Winter Olympics, but made it look like the attack was carried out by the North, US intelligence agencies believe.

The UN Security Council approved a resolution demanding a 30-day truce to allow aid deliveries and medical evacuations with the support of Syrian ally Russia after last-minute negotiations.

Iran said on Sunday that attacks will continue on Damascus suburbs held by “terrorists”, but elsewhere Iran and Syria will respect a U.N. resolution demanding a 30-day truce to allow aid access and medical evacuation, Iranian news agencies reported.

Two car bomb explosions killed at least six people and wounded 43 others including civilians on Saturday in Yemen’s southern city of Aden, security officials and witnesses said, in an attack later claimed by the extremist Islamic State group.

A well-prepared California hiker missing for six days in the icy backcountry of Yosemite National Park was found in good health after an extensive search, officials said.

China and India are engaging in an air force buildup along their shared border. Beijing has been deploying more advanced jets along its border with India. “China is upgrading its Western Theater Command in order to confront any threat from India,” the Global Times reported, citing images posted by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Sales of new U.S. single-family homes fell for a second straight month in January, weighed down by steep declines in the Northeast and South, which could raise concerns the housing market is slowing down.

BBC

Taiwan retailers have seen a rush on toilet paper over the weekend, as word spread of an imminent sharp price rise. Shoppers used social media to post pictures of empty shelves where the product would usually be.

Two car-bomb attacks have killed at least 38 people in the Somali capital Mogadishu.

Saudi Arabia has for the first time opened applications for women to join its military.

WND

Thousands of gun enthusiasts flocked to the Florida State Fairgrounds for the Florida Gun Show event. Manager for the Florida Gun Show, George Fernandez, says they’ve never seen such a big crowd.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says 21 members of staff have left their jobs for sexual misconduct in the last three years. The ICRC’s director-general, Yves Daccord, said the individuals had paid for “sexual services” and had resigned or were dismissed from the aid agency.


1) How changes in America’s political landscape represent changes in America’s moral landscape

NPR (Scott Shafer) –
California Democrats Decline To Endorse Another Term For Sen. Dianne Feinstein

LA Times (Seema Metha and Phil Willon) –
California Democrats snub of party icon Dianne Feinstein could be a speed bump, or a signal

LA Times (Christine Mai-Duc) –
California Democrats agree they have too many candidates for Congress. What to do about them is the problem

2) Can Americans be financially coerced to underwrite labor unions when they are opposed to positions taken by unions?

LA Times (David Savage) –
Supreme Court’s conservatives appear set to strike down union fees on free-speech grounds

3) Why the words ‘spiritual emotion’ are nonsensical when it comes to the issue of gratitude

Wall Street Journal (Jennifer Breheny Wallace) –
How to Raise More Grateful Children

February 26, 2018 Mid-Day Snapshot

Mid-Day Snapshot

Feb. 26, 2018

The Officer Who Didn’t Fail to Do His Duty

Not one but four sheriff’s deputies failed students and faculty in Florida. Other officers bravely responded.

The Foundation

“Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of.” —James Madison (1788)

Yes, Things Are Falling Apart, But Don’t Panic. Here’s Why …

Should we be concerned about increasing immorality in the schools, and on television, and in politics? Sure. Where appropriate, we should stand for righteousness. And, of course, we should instruct our kids how to think biblically about the sin they will most certainly encounter. But if we’re constantly outraged, disgusted, discouraged, or panicked, then we haven’t come to grips with the Bible’s grim description of the world, and we aren’t fully trusting in our coming, conquering, reigning king.

It’s been a rough couple months. The shootings in Parkland and Vegas. The ongoing political vitriol constantly spewed by both sides. Constant reminders of the racism that so many people experience on a daily basis. Planned Parenthood still operating relatively freely.

Truth be told, life is pretty brutal, right?

Every so often I hear someone say in despair, “What is this world coming to?”

This kind of comment usually comes in response to a doomsday report of some kind.

You know the kind I’m talking about (none of these things are actual stats, BTW)…

  • Statistics show that kids are more sexualized now than ever, and that 70% of kids will have sex before graduating high school!
  • A new report says that 45% of Americans think that God wants them to be happy more than anything else!
  • A pew poll report shows that church attendance is at the lowest mark in twenty years!

When we hear these kinds of reports and stats, our gut instinct can be to throw our hands up in despair, panic, or disgust.

We are shocked at the behavior of young people these days. Shocked at the levels of immorality at universities. Shocked at the apathy of people toward spiritual things. Shocked at the spike in gay marriages. Shocked at the smut being produced by Hollywood. Shocked at the increase in sexual promiscuity in our culture.

What is this world coming to?!?

Whatever happened to the good old days, when a fella could leave his car unlocked without fear of having his stereo stolen? Whatever happened to the days when kids would actually respect authority? Whatever happened to the good old days when young men and women actually treated each other with courtesy, instead of trying to sleep around with each other?

I would venture to say that many conservative television shows, and radio shows, and blogs, and podcasts, perpetuate the “what is this world coming to?” attitude. It’s not uncommon for talk radio hosts to spend three hours lamenting the decay of morals in the world.

But we shouldn’t be shocked or dismayed.

The world is coming to exactly what Jesus said it would come to, and this actually gives us a lot of hope.

Living In A Godless World

The simple reality is, we live in a godless world. Of course, I don’t mean that there isn’t a God, or that the true and living God is not active in our world. I mean that the natural state of every person is wickedness, godlessness, and evil. It has always been this way, and it always will be this way.

 

In Genesis 6:5, God looked down on the earth and was grieved by what he saw:

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

God brought the great flood upon the earth because the wickedness of man was great. Every intent, every desire, every thought, bent toward evil. Doesn’t sound that different from today, does it?

Acts 17:16 says, “Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.”

As Paul walked through the city of Athens, he became acutely aware that the city was absolutely jam packed with false gods. Athens was not a moral, upright, virtuous city. It was a city full of idolatry.

When we see evil and wickedness in the world, we shouldn’t throw our hands up in despair. We shouldn’t be shocked or surprised. Evil and wickedness is not an anomaly; it’s the norm.

The evil we see in the world isn’t a new phenomenon. It’s not like things have suddenly gotten out of control in the last fifty years. Wickedness has been standard practice since Cain killed Abel.

So why does this give us hope? Hold on, I’m getting there.

It Gets Worse

Not to be a Debbie Downer, but things are going to get worse. Before Jesus returns, evil and wickedness is going to increase in the world. Speaking of the last days, Jesus said:

And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. (Matthew 24:12)

Lawlessness and wickedness and godlessness isn’t going to decrease, it’s going to increase. In fact, it’s going to increase to such a degree that many Christians will find their love for Christ going cold.

That’s some serious, intense, lawlessness. Contrary to what the Beatles proclaimed, it’s not getting better all the time. It’s not going to get better, it’s going to get worse.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11, Paul spoke of the “man of lawlessness”:

The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.

At some point, the “lawless one” will come, and he will come in power, with false signs and wonders. He will be so impressive, so powerful, that many unbelievers will be deceived by him. The wickedness promoted and perpetuated by the lawless one will be on a colossal, sickening scale.

It’s already bad, and it’s going to get worse. But don’t throw up your hands in despair. There’s good news.

But Don’t Despair!

The good news is that, in spite of the wickedness which fills the world, the gospel of Jesus Christ will continue saving sinners! Yes, evil is powerful, but Jesus is more powerful!

Yes, Satan prowls about like a roaring lion, but Jesus is the great lion slayer.

Jesus encouraged Peter that the church would not be overcome, and would even stand against hell itself:

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)

Jesus isn’t particularly concerned with the most recent Barna report, or church growth study, or the state of Hollywood. He will build his church, and there is absolutely nothing that can stop him.

Even as Jesus talked about the spike in lawlessness, he also promised that the gospel would be proclaimed in ALL nations:

And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)

And when the big, bad, man of lawlessness appears, Jesus will take care of him too:

And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. (2 Thessalonians 2:8)

When Jesus returns, he will utterly decimate the man of lawlessness. Farewell, lawless one! King Jesus has arrived!

So Don’t Lose Hope

Should we be concerned about increasing immorality in the schools, and on television, and in politics? Sure. Where appropriate, we should stand for righteousness. And, of course, we should instruct our kids how to think biblically about the sin they will most certainly encounter.

But if we’re constantly outraged, disgusted, discouraged, or panicked, then we haven’t come to grips with the Bible’s grim description of the world, and we aren’t fully trusting in our coming, conquering, reigning king.

Yeah it’s bad. Yeah, it’s gonna get worse. But the gospel will continue to triumph, Jesus will remain on the throne, and Jesus will finally rid the world of wickedness.

This article first appeared on Stephen Altrogge’s website, The Blazing Center, and is used with permission.

The post Yes, Things Are Falling Apart, But Don’t Panic. Here’s Why … appeared first on The Aquila Report.

CultureWatch: Transgenderism and Scripture

Perhaps 40 or 50 years ago I could have gotten away with writing a few articles on homosexuality from a biblical point of view. But as the militant movement spread, and its tentacles reached everywhere, including in the churches and in theology, Christians have had to write much much more.

That has certainly been true of me. I have now penned three books on the topic of homosexuality (well, two and a half, with the first one being a debate book with a homosexual activist). And as an indication of just how important this whole issue has become, I have now written 837 articles on the matter as well!

And now transgenderism is in the same place. A few years ago no one was talking about it, but now it is everywhere, and again, it is seeking to undermine biblical morality and scriptural absolutes. Thus I may end up having to write some books on this topic as well. In fact, I already have 134 articles penned on the subject of transgenderism.

Of course there is plenty of overlap with these two issues, and much of what has been said about the former can just as easily be said about the latter, since it has by and large proceeded from and is based on the homosexual ideology. But here I want to focus on one verse that is quite relevant, and tie it back to our most basic biblical passage on human sexuality.

The particular passage I will dwell on is Deuteronomy 22:5, while the basic passage is from the opening chapters of Genesis. Let me first look at this original creation account of human sexuality. Gen. 1:27 says this: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Denny Burk in his helpful book, What Is the Meaning of Sex? puts it this way:

The creation norm described in Genesis involves biological complementarity for the purposes of procreation. Hence, God commands the couple, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28). There is no spectrum here. There is a functioning biological dichotomy between male and female that enables procreation. In other words, what God calls “good” is binary sexual complementarity. This original situation does not present us with a spectrum. Rather, it presents us with sexual dimorphism.

Telford Work in his discussion of Deut. 22:5 says this about God’s original intentions:

The social construction of gender is grounded in the divine construction of both sex and gender. Sexual differentiation is a gift bestowed at our creation (Gen. 1:27; 2:18–25). Humanity uniquely images God (1:26) in unique human relations with God, one another, oneself, and the rest of creation (1:26–4:1). Both of Genesis’s creation stories stress that gender informs the relations that constitute humanity in God’s image, and vice versa.

All of our understanding of God’s intentions for human sexuality must be seen against the backdrop of this original design for humanity. Indeed, Jesus appealed to these texts in Genesis more than once and considered them to be foundational and normative.

So whether we are debating the issue of adultery, homosexuality, or any other type of sexuality, the original intention of God must be our unmovable point of reference. That is obviously true with the trans agenda therefore. Christians must approach this topic in light of the Genesis accounts as well.

Let’s now turn to the more specific passage found in Deuteronomy. Deut. 22:5 says this: “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this.” Up until recently one could easily see that transvestism was being covered here in particular, but likely as well, homosexuality in general.

Now we can certainly tie in this new sexual activity, transgenderism. Let me cite some commentators here. P. C. Craigie says in his commentary that transvestitism and associated behaviours may seem to be relatively harmless, but they are not:

“First, transvestitism tends to be associated with certain forms of homosexuality; second, in the ancient world, it is probable that transvestite practices were associated with the cults of certain deities. In either or both instances, the practice of transvestitism would be an abomination to the Lord your God.”

Or as Ajith Fernando remarks, the “point addressed here is breaking God’s order for gender distinction. Of course, we know that in Christ male and female are equal (Galatians 3:28). But equality in status does not eliminate differences in physical matters and roles.”

He goes on to remind us that we need to take some caution as to types of clothing worn today: “When it comes to clothes, norms as to what is feminine and what is masculine vary according to culture. Scottish people wear kilts, which is a pleated skirt… So we must beware of making rules about clothing without thinking of the cultural backgrounds.” He goes on to say however that we should not mistake sameness with equality, reminding us of the strong wording in this passage about eliminating or blurring gender distinctions.

In True Sexual Morality Daniel Heimbach says this: “God also absolutely prohibits trying to confuse gender identity by cross-dressing…. The ban specifically addressed cross-dressing, but the moral issue was trying to confuse gender differences and acting as if they do not really matter. But gender difference matters very much to God. He is the one who made Adam a man and Eve a woman.”

Finally, let me share some further thoughts, this time from Richard Davidson. In his very important 2007 book, Flame of Yahweh: Sexuality in the Old Testament he notes how the cult of Ishtar had male functionaries wearing female clothing and makeup, as did some of the Canaanite fertility cults. He then writes:

The wording of the legislation goes beyond a cult setting to include any and all circumstances of men dressing like women and vice versa. The cross-dressing described in this passage is called an abomination, detestable thing…. [being] violations of the creation order….
Thus cross-dressing is morally/cultically repugnant to God not only because of its association with homosexuality and the fertility cult rituals but also – and primarily – because it mixes/blurs the basic distinction of gender duality (male and female) set forth in creation. Because of the grounding of this prohibition in the creation order, it may be concluded that the intent was for this legislation to be permanent (transtemporal) and universal (transcultural) in its application.

Conclusion

Gender distinctions are part of the created order. Whenever we try to violate the creational order we are rebelling against our Creator. Pretending we can simply choose what sex we are is an affront to the Lord and the way he has made us.

Other non-theological issues, such as genuine intersex cases, will have to be discussed elsewhere. And that I have done in other articles and books. But they have little or nothing to do with the bulk of the trans agenda. Let me just offer one more quote on the intersex issue, again from Denny Burk:

Does the phenomenon of intersex undermine a complementarian view of gender? No, it does not. Scripture defines what’s normative for us, not any anomaly that we find in fallen creation. The phenomenon of intersex should call forth our compassion and our love for our neighbors who carry in their persons a painful reminder of the groaning of creation. It should not call forth from us a revision of the binary ideal of Scripture. That binary ideal is the matrix from which a binary ideal of gender roles emerges as well.

As I said, just as the homosexual debate became so broad and far-reaching that entire books had to be penned to defend the biblical position on this, the same with transgenderism: to do it full justice, one has to look at the social, scientific, biological and social issues along with the biblical data.

Also, more passages than just the one from Deuteronomy would need to be examined. But this is just one in a series of articles attempting to do just that. And who knows, I may yet end up with a few books on this topic as well.

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The post Transgenderism and Scripture appeared first on CultureWatch.

‘Doubting Evolution Is like Believing the Earth Is Flat’

(Answers In Genesis) To misrepresent and discredit creationists by comparing their position to a belief in a flat earth is a straw-man fallacy. The fact that some people in history believed the earth to be flat highlights the fallibility of man’s reasoning. Throughout history, scientists’ confident assertions have later been disproven, such as the common medical practice of bloodletting or the futile quest of alchemists to turn common metals into gold.

Scientists today are not exempt. We often elevate people in white lab coats as if their conclusions were inerrant. But an extensive education and high IQ can’t overcome any human’s inherent limitations. Scientific findings today are often contested or disproven. …

No matter how precisely the scientific method is followed or how carefully the variables are controlled, the margin for error cannot be eliminated. How much greater the margin for error when scientists seek to make conclusions about events of the past?

Particle-to-person evolution is a belief system built on assumptions about the past. It cannot be tested by the scientific method. Therefore, those who doubt it are not anti-science. Rather than trusting man’s philosophy about the past, biblical creationists trust the Word of the Creator.

Detractors of the Bible might point to passages like Isaiah 11:12Revelation 7:1, and Revelation 20:8 to claim that the Bible teaches a flat earth. But the phrase, “the four corners of the earth,” must be interpreted within its context, and figurative language must be recognized. When the historical-grammatical approachis followed, “the four corners of the earth” is identified as a figure of speech describing the whole word using the cardinal directions (such as on a compass) from north and south to east and west. The passages are all within prophetic books, which are known for using poetic language.

Interpreting the Bible literally doesn’t mean ignoring figurative language of which the Bible is rich (e.g., 1 Samuel 2:8 and Psalm 75:3 poetically describe the earth as sitting on pillars that God founded). After all, if someone says the sun has set, we don’t accuse him of not understanding that it is the earth that is spinning around the sun.

Being inspired by God the Creator, Scripture describes our globe accurately—including its shape. Passages like Job 26:10Proverbs 8:27, and Isaiah 40:22 describe the earth’s shape accurately.

Astrophysicist Dr. Jason Lisle made some observations about these passages:  View article →

Source: ‘Doubting Evolution Is like Believing the Earth Is Flat’

Israel Has Only Had 2 School Attacks in 44 Years, Here’s How They Make Sure Their Kids Are Safe

(The Western Journal) In the wake of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting that claimed 17 lives last week, there has been a renewed debate surrounding gun control and children’s safety, leading some to make a comparison to the changes Israel made in response to a terror attack more than four decades ago.

In 1974, Palestinian terrorists took over the Netiv Meir Elementary School in what has been called the “Ma’alot Massacre,” which left 22 children dead and many others injured.

The attack forced Israel to come up with a solution in order to prevent such a situation from ever happening again. The nation requires its schools to have a security system, and that policy is still going strong after 40 years. View article →

Source: Israel Has Only Had 2 School Attacks in 44 Years, Here’s How They Make Sure Their Kids Are Safe

6 Questions I’m Hearing Again from Young People Raised in Evangelical Churches

I heard these questions from young people in the 1980s, but they tended to die down (at least among young people in my denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, who were then in the midst of our conservative resurgence). With no desire to use this post to enter into theological debates, I want to review some of the same questions I’m beginning to hear again—often, among college students raised in Christian homes.

  1. “How do I know the Bible is true?” Few young people I know are willing to accept their parent’s faith at face value. They respect the Bible, but that doesn’t mean they always accept it as truth.
  2. “If God is love, won’t He accept love in any relationship?” Some young folks accept the Bible’s description of God as love, but they turn to other sources to define that love. They thus broaden their definition beyond biblical parameters.
  3. “Does it really matter whether I go to church?” “If my faith is between me and God,” some say, “I don’t really need to be part of a church.” A spirit of individualism overshadows any sense of needing other believers as witnesses and encouragers.
  4. “Might there be more than one way to God?” Often raised among followers of other world faiths, many young people struggle understanding why God would judge their friends and classmates.
  5. “Who cares what denomination the church is?” The question is an honest one for a generation raised in local churches that often themselves exhibited little denominational connection or loyalty.
  6. “How do I know if this whole ‘religion thing’ isn’t just manmade?” They hear that thinking from others at times, and few believers have taken the time to try to answer that question.

Maybe these questions aren’t so new after all. Perhaps they’re simply a reminder of an important truth for church leaders: just because we tried to answer the questions in one generation doesn’t mean they won’t come around again. And, if we aren’t willing to hear and tackle the questions, we’ll lose another generation.

Source: 6 Questions I’m Hearing Again from Young People Raised in Evangelical Churches

Fed Up With Deadly Violence, Nation Demands Common-Sense Abortion Control

U.S.—After yet another violent week in which more than 10,000 unborn children lost their lives, fed up citizens nationwide are demanding lawmakers adopt common-sense abortion control in America. Coordinated marches over the weekend saw swarms of people filling city streets across the country. “We’re one of just a handful of countries in the world with […]

. . . finish reading Fed Up With Deadly Violence, Nation Demands Common-Sense Abortion Control.

February 26, 2018 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

The Preeminence of Christ

(1:2–3)

In these last days [God] has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. (1:2–3)

Someone has said that Jesus Christ came from the bosom of the Father to the bosom of a woman. He put on humanity that we might put on divinity. He became Son of Man that we might become sons of God. He was born contrary to the laws of nature, lived in poverty, was reared in obscurity, and only once crossed the boundary of the land in which He was born—and that in His childhood. He had no wealth or influence and had neither training nor education in the world’s schools. His relatives were inconspicuous and uninfluencial. In infancy He startled a king. In boyhood He puzzled the learned doctors. In manhood He ruled the course of nature. He walked upon the billows and hushed the sea to sleep. He healed the multitudes without medicine and made no charge for His services. He never wrote a book and yet all the libraries of the world could not hold the books about Him. He never wrote a song, yet He has furnished the theme for more songs than all songwriters together. He never founded a college, yet all the schools together cannot boast of as many students as He has. He never practiced medicine and yet He has healed more broken hearts than all the doctors have healed broken bodies. This Jesus Christ is the star of astronomy, the rock of geology, the lion and the lamb of zoology, the harmonizer of all discords, and the healer of all diseases. Throughout history great men have come and gone, yet He lives on. Herod could not kill Him. Satan could not seduce Him. Death could not destroy Him and the grave could not hold Him.

Fulfillment of Promises

The Old Testament tells us in at least two places (Jer. 23:18, 22 and Amos 3:7) that the prophets were let in on the secrets of God. Yet at times they wrote those secrets without understanding them (1 Pet. 1:10–11). In Jesus Christ they are both fulfilled and understood. He is God’s final word. “For as many as may be the promises of God, in Him they are yes; wherefore also by Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us” (2 Cor. 1:20). Every promise of God resolves itself in Christ. All the promises become yes—verified and fulfilled. Jesus Christ is the supreme and the final revelation.

In these last days. The last days are days of fulfillment. In the Old Testament the Jew saw the last days as the time when all the promises would be fulfilled. In these days Messiah would come and the Kingdom would come and salvation would come and Israel would no longer be under bondage. In the last days promises would stop and fulfillments begin. That is exactly what Jesus came to do. He came to fulfill the promises. Even though the millennial, earthly aspect of the promised Kingdom is yet future, the age of kingdom fulfillment began when Jesus arrived, and it will not finally be completed until we enter into the eternal heavens. The Old Testament age of promise ended when Jesus arrived.

Has spoken to us in His Son. Jesus Christ is the revelation of God climaxed. God fully expressed Himself in His Son. That affirms Christ as being more than just human. It makes Him infinitely superior to any created being, for He is God manifest in the flesh. He is the final and last revelation of God, in whom all God’s promises are fulfilled.

We have looked at the preparation for Christ and the presentation of Christ. Now we will look at His preeminence. In this brief but potent section (1:2–3) the Holy Spirit exalts Christ as the full and final expression of God—superior to and exalted above anyone or anything. In these verses we see Christ as the end of all things (Heir), the beginning of all things (Creator), and the middle of all things (Sustainer and Purifier).

When the question is brought up as to who Jesus Christ really was, some people will say He was a good teacher, some will say He was a religious fanatic, some will say He was a fake, and some will claim He was a criminal, a phantom, or a political revolutionary. Others are likely to believe that He was the highest form of humankind, who had a spark of divinity which He fanned into flame—a spark, they claim, that all of us have but seldom fan. There are countless human explanations as to who Jesus was. In this chapter we are going to look at what God says about who Jesus was, and is. In just half of verse 2 and in verse 3 is a sevenfold presentation of the excellencies of Jesus Christ. In all these excellencies He is clearly much more than a man.

His Heirship

Jesus’ first excellency mentioned here is His heirship: In these last days [God] has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things. If Jesus is the Son of God, then He is the heir of all that God possesses. Everything that exists will find its true meaning only when it comes under the final control of Jesus Christ.

Even the Psalms predicted that He would one day be the heir to all that God possesses. “But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain. I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, ‘Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee’ ” (Ps. 2:6–7). Again we read, “ ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Thine inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron, Thou shalt shatter them like earthenware’ ” (Ps. 2:8–9). And still again, “ ‘I also shall make him My first-born, the highest of the kings of the earth’ ” (Ps. 89:27). “First-born” does not mean that Christ did not exist before He was born as Jesus in Bethlehem. It is not primarily a chronological term at all, but has to do with legal rights—especially those of inheritance and authority (which will be discussed in more detail in chapter 3). God’s destined kingdom will in the last days be given finally and eternally to Jesus Christ.

Paul explains that all things not only were created by Christ but for Him (Col. 1:16) and that “from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36). Everything that exists exists for Jesus Christ. What truth better proves His equality with God?

In Revelation 5, God is pictured sitting on a throne, with a scroll in His hand. “And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals” (v. 1). The scroll is the title deed to the earth and all that is in it. It is the deed for the Heir, the One who has the right to take the earth. In New Testament times Roman law required that a will had to be sealed seven times, to protect it from tampering. As you rolled it up, you sealed it every turn or so for seven times. The seals were not to be broken until after the person whose will it was had died.

John continues his vision: “And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?’ ” (v. 2). Who, the angel wondered, is the rightful heir to the earth? Who has the right to possess it? “And no one in heaven, or on the earth, or under the earth, was able to open the book, or to look into it” (v. 3). Perplexed and saddened, John “began to weep greatly, because no one was found worthy to open the book, or to look into it; and one of the elders said to me, ‘Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals’ ” (vv. 4–5). As he continued to watch, he “saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth” (v. 6). Jesus Christ, the Lamb, came and took the scroll out of the right hand of God. Why? Because He, and He alone, had a right to take it. He is Heir to the earth.

Chapter 6 of Revelation begins the description of the Tribulation, the first step in Christ’s taking back the earth, which is rightfully His. One by one Christ unrolls the seals. As each seal is broken, He takes further possession and control of His inheritance. Finally, “the seventh angel sounded; and there arose loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever’ ” (11:15). When He unrolls the seventh seal and the seventh trumpet blows, the earth is His.

In his first sermon, at Pentecost, Peter told his Jewish audience, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36). This carpenter who died nailed to a cross is, in fact, the King of kings and Lord of lords. He will rule the world. Satan knew this truth when he approached Jesus in the wilderness and tempted Him to take control of the world in the wrong way, by bowing down to Satan. As the temporary usurper of God’s rule over the earth, Satan continually tries every means of preventing the true Heir from receiving His inheritance.

When Christ first came to earth He became poor for our sakes, that we, through His poverty, might be made rich. He had nothing for Himself. He had “nowhere to lay His head” (Luke 9:58). Even His clothes were taken from Him when He died. He was buried in a grave that belonged to someone else. But when Christ comes to earth again, He will completely and eternally inherit all things. And, wonder of wonders, because we have trusted in Him, we are to be “fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:16–17). When we enter into His eternal kingdom we will jointly possess all that He possesses. We will not be joint Christs or joint Lords, but we will be joint heirs. His marvelous inheritance will be ours as well.

Some Still Reject Him

Amazingly, though Christ is the Heir of all God possesses, and though He offers to share His inheritance with anyone who will trust in Him, some still reject Him. Many rejected God as He revealed Himself in the Old Testament. Now God has perfectly revealed Himself in the New Testament of His Son, and people continue to reject Him.

Jesus illustrated this tragedy in a parable.

There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey. And when the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. And the vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them. But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and seize his inheritance.” And they took him, and threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers? They said to Him, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers, who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.” Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner stone; this came about from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it. And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.” Matt. 21:33–44)

That parable needs no explanation.

To willfully reject Jesus Christ brings on the utter damnation and destruction of a vengeful God. To Israel that parable says, “Since what you have done was so blatant, not only rejecting and killing the prophets but rejecting and killing the Son, the promise has been taken away from you and given to a new nation, the church.” Israel was set aside until the time of her restoration.

His Creatorship

The second excellency of Christ mentioned in Hebrews 1 is His creatorship: through whom also He made the world. Christ is the agent through whom God created the world. “All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:3). One of the greatest proofs of Jesus’ divinity is His ability to create. Except for His complete sinlessness, His total righteousness, nothing more sets Him apart from us than His creatorship. Ability to create belongs to God alone and the fact that Jesus creates indicates that He is God. He created everything material and everything spiritual. Though man has stained His work with sin, Christ originally made it good, and the very creation itself longs to be restored to what it was in the beginning (Rom. 8:22).

The common Greek word for world is kosmos, but that is not the word used in Hebrews 1:2. The word here is aiōnas, which does not mean the material world but “the ages,” as it is often translated. Jesus Christ is responsible not only for the physical earth; He is also responsible for creating time, space, energy, and matter. Christ created the whole universe and everything that makes it function, and He did it all without effort.

Sir John C. Eccles, nobel laureate in neurophysiology, said that the odds against the right combination of circumstances occurring to have evolved intelligent life on earth are highly improbable, but he went on to say he believed that such did occur but could never happen again on any planet or in any other solar system (“Evolution and the Conscious Self,” in The Human Mind: A Discussion at the Nobel Conference, John D. Rolansky, ed. [Amsterdam: North Holland, 1967]). If you do not recognize a Creator you have quite a problem explaining how this marvelous, intricate, immeasurable universe came into being.

Yet thousands upon thousands of men believe that man emerged out of primeval slime. Man just evolved—that wondrous creature whose heart beats 800 million times in a normal lifetime and pumps enough blood to fill a string of tank cars running from Boston to New York; that same man whose tiny cubic half-inch section of brain cells contains all the memories of a lifetime; that same man whose ear transfers sound waves from air to liquid without losing any sound.

A.K. Morrison, another brilliant scientist, tells us that conditions for life on earth demand so many billions of minute interrelated circumstances appearing simultaneously, in the same infinitesimal moment, that such a prospect becomes beyond belief and beyond possibility.

Consider the vastness of our universe. If you could somehow put 1.2 million earths inside the sun, you would have room left for 4.3 million moons. The sun is 865,000 miles in diameter and is 93 million miles from the earth. Our next nearest star, Alpha Centauri, is 5 times larger than our sun. The moon is only 211,463 miles away, and you could walk to it in 27 years. A ray of light travels at 186 thousand miles per second, so a beam of light would reach the moon in only 1 ½ seconds. If we could travel at that speed, it would take 2 minutes and 18 seconds to reach Venus, 4 ½ minutes to reach Mercury, 1 hour and 11 seconds to reach Saturn, and so on. To reach Pluto, 2.7 billion miles from earth, would take nearly 4 hours. Having got that far, we would still be well inside our own solar system. The North Star is 400 trillion miles away, but is still nearby in relation even to known space. The star Betelgeuse is 880 quadrillion miles (880 followed by fifteen zeroes) from us. It has a diameter of 250 million miles, which is greater than that of the earth’s orbit.

Where did it all come from? Who conceived it? Who made it? It cannot be an accident. Somebody had to make it, and the Bible tells us the Maker was Jesus Christ.

His Radiance

Third, we see Christ’s radiance, the brightness of the glory of God. And He is the radiance of His glory. Radiance (apaugasma, “to send forth light”) represents Jesus as the manifestation of God. He expresses God to us. No one can see God; no one ever will. The only radiance that reaches us from God is mediated to us from Jesus Christ. Just as the rays of the sun light and warm the earth, so Jesus Christ is the glorious light of God shining into the hearts of men. Just as the sun was never without and cannot be separated from its brightness, so God was never without and cannot be separated from the glory of Christ. Never was God without Him or He without God, and never in any way can He be separated from God. Yet the brightness of the sun is not the sun. Neither is Christ God in that sense. He is fully and absolutely God, yet is a distinct Person.

We would never be able to see or enjoy God’s light if we did not have Jesus to look at. Standing one day before the Temple, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). Jesus Christ is the radiance of God’s glory, and He can transmit that light into your life and my life, so that we, in turn, can radiate the glory of God. We live in a dark world. There is the darkness of injustice, of failure, privation, separation, disease, death, and of much else. There is the moral darkness of men blinded by their godless appetites and passions. Into this dark world God sent His glorious Light. Without the Son of God, there is only darkness.

The great tragedy, of course, is that most men do not want even to see, much less accept and live in, God’s light. Paul explains that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). God sent His light in the Person of Jesus Christ, that man might behold, accept, and radiate that light. But Satan has moved through this world to blind the minds of men and prevent the light of the glorious gospel from shining on them.

Those, however, who receive His light can say, “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). That is what happens when God comes into your life.

The hymn writer said, “Come to the light. ’Tis shining for thee. / Sweetly the light has dawned upon me.” What a wonderful thing to realize that Jesus Christ, who is the full expression of God in human history, can come into our lives and give us light to see and to know God. His light, in fact, gives us life itself, spiritual life. And, His light gives us purpose, meaning, happiness, peace, joy, fellowship, everything—for all eternity.

His Being

Christ’s next excellency is His being. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature. Jesus Christ is the express image of God. Christ not only was God manifest, He was God in substance.

Exact representation translates the Greek term used for the impression made by a die or stamp on a seal. The design on the die is reproduced on the wax. Jesus Christ is the reproduction of God. He is the perfect, personal imprint of God in time and space. Colossians 1:15 gives a similar illustration of this incomprehensible truth: “He is the image of the invisible God.” The word “image” here is eikōn, from which we get icon. Eikōn means a precise copy, an exact reproduction, as in a fine sculpture or portrait. To call Christ the Eikōn of God means He is the exact reproduction of God. “For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col. 2:9).

His Administration

Also in Hebrews 1:3 is given the fifth of Christ’s excellencies, His administration, or sustenance. He upholds all things by the word of His power. Christ not only made all things and will someday inherit all things, but He holds them all together in the meanwhile. The Greek word for upholds means “to support, to maintain,” and it is used here in the present tense, implying continuous action. Everything in the universe is sustained right now by Jesus Christ.

We base our entire lives on the continuance, the constancy, of laws. When something such as an earthquake comes along and disrupts the normal condition or operation of things even a little, the consequences are often disastrous. Can you imagine what would happen if Jesus Christ relinquished His sustaining power over the laws of the universe? We would go out of existence. If He suspended the law of gravity only for a brief moment, we would all perish, in unimaginable ways.

If the physical laws varied, we would have an unbelievable mess. We could not exist. What we ate could turn to poison. We could not stay on the earth; we would drift out into space. We would get flooded by the oceans periodically. Countless other horrible things would happen, many of which we could not even guess.

Consider, for example, what instant destruction would happen if the earth’s rotation slowed down just a little. The sun has a surface temperature of 12,000 degrees Fahrenheit. If it were any closer to us we would burn up; if it were any farther away we would freeze. Our globe is tilted on an exact angle of 23 degrees, providing us with four seasons. If it were not so tilted, vapors from the oceans would move north and south and develop into monstrous continents of ice. If the moon did not retain its exact distance from the earth the ocean tides would inundate the land completely, twice a day. After the first flooding, of course, the others would not matter as far as we would be concerned. If the ocean floors were merely a few feet deeper than they are, the carbon dioxide and oxygen balance of the earth’s atmosphere would be completely upset, and no animal or plant life could exist. If the atmosphere did not remain at its present density, but thinned out even a little, many of the meteors which now harmlessly burn up when they hit the atmosphere would constantly bombard us. We would have to live underground or in meteor-proof buildings.

How does the universe stay in this kind of fantastically delicate balance? Jesus Christ sustains and monitors all its movements and inter-workings. Christ, the preeminent Power, maintains it all.

Things do not happen in our universe by accident. They did not happen that way in the beginning. They are not going to happen that way in the end, and they are not happening that way now. Jesus Christ is sustaining the universe. He is Himself the principle of cohesion. He is not like the deist’s “watchmaker” creator, who made the world, set it in motion, and has not bothered with it since. The universe is a cosmos instead of chaos, an ordered and reliable system instead of an erratic and unpredictable muddle, only because Jesus Christ upholds it.

Scientists who discover great and amazing truths are doing nothing but discovering a few of the laws that Jesus Christ designed and uses to control the world. No scientist or mathematician, no astronomer or nuclear physicist, could do anything without the upholding power of Jesus Christ. The whole universe hangs on the arm of Jesus. His unsearchable wisdom and boundless power are manifested in governing the universe. And He does it by the word of His power, without effort. The key to the creation story in Genesis is in two words, “God said.” God spoke and it happened.

When I think about Christ’s power to uphold the universe, that truth goes right to my heart. We read in Philippians 1:6 the wonderful promise, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” When Christ begins a work in your heart, He holds onto it and sustains it all the way through. We can imagine Jude’s excitement when he wrote, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24–25). When your life is given to Jesus Christ, He holds it and sustains it and one day will take it into God’s very presence. A life, just as a universe, that is not sustained by Christ is chaos.

His Sacrifice

The sixth excellency of Christ is His sacrifice: When He had made purification of sins. What a tremendous statement!

The Bible says the wages of sin is death. Jesus Christ went to the cross, died our deserved death for us, and thereby took the penalty for our sin on Himself. If we will accept His death and believe that He died for us, He will free us from the penalty of sin and purify us from the stain of sin.

It was a wondrous work when Jesus Christ created the world. It is wondrous that He sustains the world. But a greater work than making and upholding the world is that of purging men of sin. In Hebrews 7:27 we are told that Jesus “does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.” In the Old Testament the priests had to make sacrifice after sacrifice, for themselves and for the people. Jesus made but one sacrifice. He not only was the Priest, but also the Sacrifice. And because His sacrifice was pure, He can purify our sins—something that all the Old Testament sacrifices together could not do.

And not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?… but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. (Heb. 9:12–14, 26b)

Jesus Christ dealt with the sin problem once and for all. It had to be done. We could not communicate with God or enter into fellowship with Him unless sin was dealt with. So Christ went to the cross and bore the penalty of sin for all who would accept His sacrifice, believe in Him, and receive Him. Sin was purged, wiped out.

This truth must have seemed especially remarkable to those to whom the book of Hebrews was first written. The cross was a stumbling block to Jews, but the writer does not apologize for it. Instead, he shows it to be one of the seven excellent glories of Christ. His words are as straightforward as those of Peter: “[You know] that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:18–19).

We are all sinners. And either we pay the penalty for our own sin, which is eternal death, or we accept Jesus Christ’s payment for it in sacrificing Himself, for which we receive eternal life. If the desire of our heart is to receive Him as Savior, to believe in and to accept His sacrifice, our sins are washed away at that point. The Bible says that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness for sin (Heb. 9:22) and that “the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Jesus came as the perfect Sacrifice. The man whose sins are forgiven has them forgiven only because of Jesus Christ. But the blood of Jesus Christ will never be applied to us unless by faith we receive Him into our lives.

Yet again, there are people who reject Him! Hebrews 10:26 warns, “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” If we reject Jesus Christ there is nothing in the universe that can take away our sin, and we will die in it. Jesus said to such persons, “[You] shall die in your sin; where I am going you can never come” (John 8:21).

His Exaltation

The last of Christ’s excellencies mentioned in this passage is His exaltation. He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. The Majesty on high is God. The right hand is the power side. Jesus took His place at the right hand of God. The marvelous thing about this statement is that Jesus, the perfect High Priest, sat down. This is in great contrast to the priestly procedure under the Old Covenant. There were no seats in the Tabernacle or the Temple sanctuaries. The priest had no place to sit because God knew it would never be appropriate for him to sit. His responsibility was to sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice, over and over again. So the priests offered sacrifices daily—and never sat down. But Jesus offered one sacrifice, and said, “It is finished.” He then went and sat down with the Father. It was done. What could not be accomplished under the Old Covenant, even after centuries of sacrifices, was accomplished once by Jesus Christ for all time.

Jesus’ sitting down at His Father’s right hand signifies at least four things. They are, briefly:

First, He sat down as a sign of honor, “that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:11). To be seated at the right hand of the Father is honor indeed.

Second, He sat down as a sign of authority. “[He] is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him” (1 Pet. 3:22). He sat down as a ruler.

Third, He sat down to rest. His work was done. “But He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:12).

Fourth, He sat down to intercede for us. “Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Rom. 8:34). He is seated at the right hand of the Father making intercession for all of us who belong to Him.

Here we have God’s portrait of Jesus Christ. We have seen the preeminent Christ in all His offices. We have seen Him as prophet, the final spokesman for God. We have seen Him as priest, atoning and interceding. We have seen Him as King, controlling, sustaining, and seated on a throne. This is our Lord Jesus Christ.

A man who says that Jesus Christ is anything less than this is a fool and makes God out a liar. God says that His Son is preeminent in all things.

What does this mean to us? It means everything. To reject Him is to be shut out from His presence into an eternal hell. But to receive Jesus Christ is to enter into all that He is and has. There are no other choices.[1]


Prophet, Priest, and King

Hebrews 1:2–4

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. (Heb. 1:3)

It is hard for us to understand how remarkable it was for the first generation of Christians to put their faith in Jesus Christ. This is especially true of the Jews who had not personally known Jesus but converted to Christianity. We can imagine the kind of arguments that unbelieving Jews would have employed to dissuade their new faith. They would have pointed out that Jesus was just a man, the son of a poor carpenter from a backwater village in Galilee. They might have echoed Nathaniel’s comment, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). It was a time of unrest and of heady passions, they may have pointed out, and this man Jesus was just one of many zealous leaders of his day. Worst of all, his failure as a Messiah was proved by his humiliating execution as the worst sort of criminal. The fact that he was crucified—the most despicable of all deaths—proved that he was rejected by God. Jesus may have been a decent enough man, though he obviously got carried away by his short-lived fame. The real problem was his fanatical disciples, who made outlandish claims about his resurrection and started a heretical religion that actually worshiped the poor man.

If this is the kind of argument the Jewish Christians were subjected to, it likely was a potent one. Especially since believing on Christ came at such a high cost—exclusion from Jewish society and perhaps even violent persecution in the days to come—many might have reconsidered their religious options.

The Epistle to the Hebrews was written because of this kind of pressure. Then, as now, faith in Jesus came at a price. You could not be a Christian without carrying a cross and suffering at the hands of the world. Therefore, it had to be worth it to believe on Jesus Christ. This is what the writer of Hebrews wanted to impress upon his readers. In the book’s opening lines, he directs us to the supremacy of our Lord. He knows that if we perceive Jesus in the marvel of his person and his work—as God’s Son and as our Savior—then instead of doubting or trembling in fear we will respond with words like those from the great hymn: “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto him against that day.”

Verses 2–3 contain seven statements of Christ’s supremacy. This number seems deliberate, because verses 5–14 go on to list seven Old Testament citations that are ascribed to Christ. Seven was the number for perfection or completion, and that is the writer’s point here: the perfect supremacy of Christ. Furthermore, the seven statements of verses 2 and 3 may be organized along the lines of the three great Old Testament offices that are perfected and completed in Christ: prophet, priest, and king. This is a helpful and biblical way of thinking about our Lord. He is prophet in that he perfectly reveals God to us. He is priest in offering himself for our sins, cleansing us, and interceding for us with God. He is our king, reigning now in heaven and ruling over us as our Sovereign Lord.

Christ as the True King

It is with the last of these, Christ as king, that the writer of Hebrews begins his sevenfold exclamation of the supremacy of Christ. Verse 2 says, “In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” In these first two of the seven statements, we see Jesus as Lord both in his person and in his work.

First, he is “appointed the heir of all things.” This is something that follows from Christ’s being God’s only Son. In Israel, it was the firstborn son who had the right of inheritance. This means that “as the heir, all things already belong to the Son in principle, just as they will actually and finally be his at the end.” This was God the Father’s appointment, his purpose in creation: that his Son should be blessed and glorified in receiving all things. This is also the ultimate purpose of our redemption: “His inheritance is the innumerable company of the redeemed and the universe renewed by virtue of his triumphant work of reconciliation.”2The writer of Hebrews goes on to say, “through whom also he created the world.” Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is Lord and King because of his divine role in creation. Not only was the world made for him, but it was made by him. There can hardly be a stronger claim for lordship than this. If you are the one who made something, and for whom it was made, then you are its rightful lord. So it is in the case of Jesus Christ. Paul says the same thing in Colossians 1:16: “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” Hebrews 1:3 adds that even now “he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”

Those Jewish Christians who first received this letter were being tempted to renounce Christianity. But Jesus fulfills and gathers to himself all that the office of king ever meant in Israel. He is the true king, the Lord of all, and the faithful of Israel are those who worship and serve him.

We need to embrace the same truth. Jesus is king over the church and over the Christian people, no less than when the Israelites of David’s day looked to his authority and obeyed his commands. But how seldom people think of Jesus this way. When he walked upon this earth in his humanity, Jesus did not look like a king. He did not ride a great stallion; his coming was not heralded by trumpets; he did not hold court in a palace of gold. This is why people scoffed at his kingship. Pontius Pilate said, “Are you the King of the Jews?” It was not so much a question as a taunt. Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:33, 36). Does this mean that while you have to respect earthly rulers, you can afford to ignore Jesus’ kingdom since it is merely spiritual? James M. Boice answers,

Nothing is farther from the truth, for when we say that Christ’s kingdom is not of this world, what we are really saying is that Christ’s kingdom is of heaven and therefore has an even greater claim over us than do the earthly kingdoms we know so well.… Over these is Christ, and we flout His kingship not merely at the peril of our fortune and lives but at the peril of our eternal souls.

Jesus was appointed heir of all things, which were made through him and are even now sustained by him. But this is seen only by God’s Word, and only with the eyes of faith. Jesus is enthroned, not upon an earthly throne, but “at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3). We can see this only by faith. Believing on Christ as our king, we must obey him by faith, and we must be comforted amidst our trials in the knowledge that one day soon he will come to manifest his kingdom over all creation, destroying his enemies with the rod of his might (Ps. 2:9), and inviting his faithful servants to enter into the joy of his kingdom (Matt. 25:21). As the writer of Hebrews points out in 2:8–9, quoting from Psalm 8, “At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.” This is the cause of our unbelief and fear. But by faith we know that he is even now “crowned with glory and honor,” and someday soon every eye will see him, every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:10–11).

Christ as the Final Prophet

This passage exalts Christ not only as Lord of all, but also as the One who perfectly reveals God in all his glory. He is the true king, but also the final prophet: “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3).

Hot and brilliant as the sun is in the heavens, we would never see it or feel its warmth without the radiating beams that come to the earth. So it is with God and his Son, who is the radiance of his glory. Without the Son we remain in the dark regarding the glory of God. But with the Son we have an ideal, indeed, a perfect revelation of God. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:6 that we see “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” We do not see God in Christ through drawings that purport to represent his features, much less through an actor who tries to represent the way Jesus must have been. We see God in Christ through the Bible’s teaching of his person and work, of his holy zeal and compassionate love, of his heavenly words and mighty, saving works.

As the Son, Jesus is a better revelation than that which came through the prophets. It is one thing to know a chosen servant. You can learn a lot about a master by what you see in those who work for him. But as Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains, “A servant may be able to say everything that is right about his lord and master, he may know him well and intimately, but he can never represent him in the way that the son can. The son is a manifestation of the father by being what he is. Thus our Lord himself, while here on earth, represented and manifested the name of God in a way that is incomparable and greater than all others, because he is the Son of God.” John 1:18 tells us, in a striking assertion of Jesus’ deity: “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”

Jesus is the perfect prophet—the one who fully reveals God’s glory—because he is not only similar to God the Father, but also is “the exact imprint of his nature.” The Greek word here is charaktēr, which gives us the word “character.” It refers to the stamp or imprint made by a die or seal. The best example is a coin with the imprint of a ruler’s face; in the same way, Jesus bears God’s image or imprint. Paul says, “He is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). The point is the trustworthiness with which Jesus reveals God to us. There is an exact correspondence between what we see in him and what is true of God. “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father,” Jesus explained (John 14:9).

Furthermore, Jesus “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3). Jesus wields divine power because as God’s Son he is fully God. As the true and great and final prophet, he is able not merely to reveal God’s will but also to establish God’s will upon the earth.

This description of Jesus as the great and final prophet helps us to gain a proper understanding of the relationship of the Old Testament to the New. The reason the Hebrew Christians should not revert from Christ back to Judaism is not that the Old Testament was wrong. Through the long line of prophets, God left his people with his revelation for their salvation. But the chief message of that revelation was of a Savior yet to come, the true prophet who would not only point to salvation but would also accomplish it. Isaiah spoke of a child who would be born, a son who would be given, and said that he would be called “Wonderful Counselor” (Isa. 9:6). He added, “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord” (Isa. 11:2–3). The way to be a true follower of Isaiah and the other prophets was and is to believe their message, to receive in faith the One for whom they prayed, who is the head of their order and the fulfillment of their age-old longing.

Christ as the Perfect Priest

We need to give homage to Jesus, God’s Son, as the King who is Lord of all. And we need to listen to him as the true and final prophet who perfectly reveals God’s glory. But there is a third office Jesus perfects and completes, that of the priest. Apart from his ministry in this office we may bow to God, and we may listen to God, but we can never be accepted by God and draw near to his presence. Therefore, the writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the true and perfect priest, who makes atonement for our sins. He writes, “After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3).

The theme of Christ’s priestly office will occupy much of the Book of Hebrews, and it is a message we must understand if we want to be saved. Jesus fulfills the priestly office because he offers the one true sacrifice to take away our sin. This is what the angel said about him to Joseph even before his birth: “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Yes, Jesus rules within us by his spirit, and he speaks to us as prophet through the gospel. But these are possible only because as Lamb of God he laid down his life for our sins, making purification for us upon the cross. Then, as the true and final priest, he went into heaven to present his own blood to God to secure our full, perfect, and final forgiveness.

This sevenfold exclamation of praise to God’s Son is completed with the statement that “he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3). There were no seats in the temple at Jerusalem. The priests offered sacrifices for the purification of the people day and night without ceasing because the problem of sin had not yet been solved. They never sat down. But when God’s Son, the true priest whom the old covenant priests merely represented, shed his blood for us, his atoning sacrifice was the one to which all the others had merely pointed. He sat down, because there was no more sacrifice to be made, God’s Son having offered his infinitely holy and precious blood once for all. That being the case, if the readers of Hebrews wanted the benefits of the Old Testament sacrifices, then they must not turn away from Christ but hold fast to his death for their salvation.

God’s Son “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3). Since this is a throne, naturally we think of his kingly office. But it is also as our priest that Jesus takes up his heavenly royal seat. The King who rules on the throne of heaven is the very priest who sacrificed himself for our salvation and whose presence there bears everlasting testimony to our forgiveness. As Charles Wesley says in his great hymn “Arise, My Soul, Arise”:

Five bleeding wounds he bears,

received on Calvary;

they pour effectual prayers,

they strongly plead for me.

“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,

“forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,

“nor let that ransomed sinner die!”

Crown Him with Many Crowns

Verse 4 completes what in the Greek text is a single sentence that runs from the beginning of verse 1. It says, “Having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” This seems like an odd ending, but there are two explanations. The first is that Jewish spirituality in that day had an excessively high view of angels. The Jews connected angels with the great events of the Old Testament, believing that God gave Moses the law through angelic mediation and that it was an angel voice that spoke to Moses from the burning bush (Ex. 3:2).

The writer of Hebrews does not quarrel with these facts but rather with their interpretation. He acknowledges that angels are ministering spirits God sends for our help (Heb. 1:14). But that God employed angels does not mean that we should exalt them, as many Jews seem to have been doing. The angels, like the prophets, were servants of the old covenant. But Jesus Christ is the Son who fulfills the old covenant. He is the Christ, the Messiah, which means “Anointed One.” He fulfills the three anointed offices of the Old Testament: prophet, priest, and king. Therefore, the only way to fulfill all that the Old Testament taught, the only way to realize all that the Israelite fathers had looked to with hope, was to trust in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Upon the throne of heaven, he is exalted above even the angels, and his name—that is, his title or position—is more excellent than theirs.

There is another possible reason why the writer brings in angels, one that resonates with our own spiritual environment. People are fascinated by angels. Book about angels are bestsellers, and many people adorn themselves with angelic jewelry. The reason is that people know they need a mediator with God. They need someone to open a doorway to heaven and to the blessing and power of God. They need supernatural help for their otherwise insurmountable problems. People in the first-century church, just as in our own time, found in angels an appealing and non-demanding form of spiritual hope and comfort (see Col. 2:18). The fact that we don’t know much about angels makes them attractive for our veneration; we can fill in the details as we want them to be.

What this passage reveals about Jesus Christ is a cause for much greater comfort and hope than we could ever gain through the mystical worship of angels. When the Bible presents God’s Son as the true prophet and priest and king, God is showing us that Jesus Christ is and does all that our souls could ever need. Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the long-expected Anointed One, who enters into the God-given offices of the Old Testament so that he might save us to the uttermost. Charles Hodge expresses this well, explaining how Jesus Christ perfectly fulfills all our needs so that we might enter with him into the blessings of eternal life:

We as fallen men, ignorant, guilty, polluted, and helpless, need a Saviour who is a prophet to instruct us; a priest to atone and to make intercession for us; and a king to rule over and protect us. And the salvation which we receive at his hands includes all that a prophet, priest, and king in the highest sense of those terms can do. We are enlightened in the knowledge of the truth; we are reconciled unto God by the sacrificial death of his Son; and we are delivered from the power of Satan and introduced into the kingdom of God; all of which supposes that our Redeemer is to us at once prophet, priest, and king.

Jesus is the perfect and all-sufficient answer from God for our everlasting blessing. The significance of this for the original readers is obvious: If you have a Savior like this, you never let him go. If you have to lose your job, your family, your possessions—even your life—then so be it. Jesus said, “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:24–25). What great profit it is, then, to gain Christ, and eternal life with him, even if all the world needs to be lost.

What this passage tells us about Christ reminds us not merely that we must hold to him in faith, but also how to draw near to him in faith. This comes through our understanding of his three offices as prophet and priest and king.

Jesus is our King. We need to be ruled and governed, protected and led. Let us therefore bow before him and crown him Lord of all, flying his banner at the gates of our hearts and forsaking all other kingdoms and rulers. Jesus is our Prophet. We need truth; he is the Truth and he speaks the truth. Let us therefore come to his Word seeking light and forsaking all the false prophets who would lead us astray. Jesus is our Priest. So we should readily come to him for cleansing, for forgiveness, for interceding prayers, and for a full and loving reconciliation with God the Father. Let us therefore confess our great need for his blood and for his ongoing priestly intercession in heaven. Let us lay hold of the cross, forsaking all claim to any merit of our own. In all these ways, through his three offices, let us commit ourselves to Jesus Christ alone, who is able to save us to the uttermost, to the glory of God the Father.[2]


1:3 / The third and fourth phrases in this characterization of Christ turn to the manner in which the Son is a true expression of the father. The Son (lit., “who”) is the radiance of God’s glory. The word radiance or “radiant light” means intense “brightness.” Barclay effectively paraphrases: “The Son is the radiance of his glory just as the ray is the light of the sun.” Again a parallel exists between the personification of wisdom, this time in the apocryphal book the Wisdom of Solomon (7:25f.): “For she is a breath of the power of God, and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; … she is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness” (rsv). Other nt writers hold a similar view of Christ. In the prologue of the Gospel of John, Christ is designated “the true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world” (John 1:9), in whom “we have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father” (John 1:14). For John, as for our author, Jesus expresses the brilliant glory of God. Paul, too, speaks of the light that Christ brought, referring to “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6; cf. 4:4).

The next phrase, he is the exact representation of his being, is simply a more explicit way of expressing what the author has just said. The Son is a perfect representation of God’s being “just as the mark is the exact impression of the seal” (Barclay). The thought is again reminiscent of Christology elsewhere in the nt, for example in Paul’s statements that Christ is “the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4) and “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15); although in these two instances, the Greek word (eikōn, from which comes the English word “icon”) is different from that used here. John expressed the same idea in the words “anyone who has seen me [Jesus] has seen the Father” (John 14:9). It is to be noted further that it is God’s own being that is expressed so accurately, the word being here to be understood as “substance” or “essence.” These two parallel phrases at the beginning of verse 3 obviously speak of the uniqueness of the Son. They also point to the extraordinary connection between the Father and Son. In order for the Son to be the kind of direct, authentic, and compelling expression of the Father described in these phrases—for him to be the radiance of God’s glory and the impress of his very essence—he must participate somehow in the being of God itself, that is, he must himself be deity to accomplish the wonderful mission described here. Our author would have us conclude, without denying the distinction between Father and Son, that the Son is of the same order of existence as God, and so with God over against all else that exists.

As the Son was instrumental in the creation of the universe (v. 2), so the continuing significance of the Son is seen, in the fifth phrase, in his sustaining all things by his powerful word. Philosophers of every age are prone to ask what it is that underlies reality—that is, what dynamic sustains and makes coherent all that exists. Our author, further revealing his christocentric perspective, finds the answer in the mighty word of the Son. This view also finds parallels in Paul and John. When John uses “Word” (logos) to describe Jesus, he uses a term that has both Jewish and Greek associations. For the Greek Stoic philosophers logos was the underlying principle of rationality that made the world orderly, coherent, and intelligible. Without using the technical term logos, Paul argues in similar fashion: “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17). Although the author of Hebrews does not use the specific term logos in this passage, the idea that Christ sustains the universe, is behind it all, and keeps it all going (as the present participle sustaining indicates), is parallel.

Our author, however, is not content simply to mark off the incomparable character of the Son against all others and all else, as he has done in the first five phrases. He wants also to get to one of the main points of the epistle, the atoning work of the Son, for this, too, is vitally a part of and dependent upon the Son’s uniqueness. What makes these the last days is that “once-and-for-all” (to borrow language that will be encountered later in the epistle) he … provided purification for sins. This indeed is the preeminent work of the Son. The “cleansing of sins” (a literal translation) may seem strange in the midst of glorious clauses pointing to the deity of the Son. This phrase, after all, describes the work of the high priest and, though impressive in itself, would seem familiar enough to a Jewish reader. With the insertion of this clause, however, the author anticipates a main argument of the book (cf. chaps. 9 and 10): the work of the high priest is not efficacious in itself but rather foreshadows the priestly work of the one who alone can make atonement for sins. Only God in the Son can accomplish the sacrifice that makes possible the cleansing and the forgiveness of sins (see Rom. 3:24–26). Thus the cleansing of sins rightly belongs with phrases that describe the uniqueness of the Son in his relationship to God.

When he had thus accomplished the purpose of his incarnation, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. The words of this final and climactic clause convey a sense of completion and fulfillment of God’s purpose. They are drawn from a messianic psalm of the ot (Ps. 110) that is exceptionally important to our author’s argument. Psalm 110:1 is cited or alluded to here and in 1:13 (more fully); 8:1; 10:12–13, and 12:2. Psalm 110:4, the Melchizedek passage, is cited or alluded to in 5:6, 10; 6:20; and throughout chapter 7 (vv. 3, 11, 15, 17, 21, 24, 28). Why is this psalm so important to our author? Two main arguments of the epistle can be supported by Psalm 110: the incomparable superiority of Christ (as revealed in his exaltation to the right hand of God) and the extraordinary high priesthood of Christ (as paralleled and prefigured by Melchizedek). The ascension of Christ to the position of power and authority at the side of the Father is the vindication of the true identity of the one who suffered and died in accomplishing the forgiveness of sins. This view is found often in the nt and is regularly associated with the ascension of Christ. “He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe” (Eph. 4:10); Christ, “who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him” (1 Pet. 3:22). Jesus alludes to Psalm 110:1 in the synoptic tradition (see Mark 12:36 and 14:62, both with parallels in Matthew and Luke). What the psalmist promised now had come to pass—hence the note of completion and finality. That he has sat down signifies the completion of his atoning work (cf. 10:11–12).[3]


The majestic Christ

1:1–3

We live in a society which recognizes the necessity of good communication. In the world of commerce millions are spent on persuasive advertising; it has become a highly developed technique and one of recognized financial importance. Politicians know how vital it is to communicate effectively. Diplomats recognize the immense dangers that can arise in international affairs when there occurs a serious ‘breakdown in communications’. Stresses in family life frequently arise in situations when the partners in a marriage merely talk to each other but fail to communicate.

The letter to the Hebrews begins by asserting the greatest single fact of the Christian revelation: God has spoken to man through his word in the Bible and through his Son, Jesus. In Christ God has closed the greatest communication gap of all time, that which exists between a holy God and sinful mankind.

In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

Some first-century Jewish Christians had abandoned their faith because they no longer recognized Christ’s deity and equality with God. The author’s first task is to expound and exalt God’s Son. He reminds them of eight things about Jesus.

  1. Jesus is God’s prophetic voice

It is naturally important in these circumstances for the author to emphasize the continuity of the Old and New Testaments. Christ does not break with the great Jewish past. He comes to bring it to fulfilment. Without him the Old Testament revelation is partial, fragmentary, preparatory and incomplete. God spoke at different times by different means. He used many and various ways. But in Christ he spoke fully, decisively, finally and perfectly. The first-century Christians must listen to him, the greatest prophet of all times. Ezekiel portrayed the glory of God, but Christ reflected it (1:3). Isaiah expounded the nature of God as holy, righteous and merciful, but Christ manifested it (1:3). Jeremiah described the power of God, but Christ displayed it (1:3). He far surpassed the best of prophets of earlier times, and these wavering Christians must listen to his voice.

Although we are glad to acknowledge that something essential, new and eternally effective has been accomplished by Christ, we are not to set one Testament against the other, but recognize that ‘all Scripture is God-breathed’. The way in which this letter unites both Testaments is a persuasive reminder of the authority of Scripture, a truth which is just as much exposed to attack now as in previous generations. The early Christian communities found themselves harassed by a number of zealots who wanted to discard the Old Testament revelation, and the problem is certainly not confined to antiquity. In our day, those who take seriously the message of the Old Testament as well as the New, and who are determined to submit themselves to its teaching, are hastily dismissed in some circles as unintelligent obscurantists or unthinking fundamentalists. A commitment to Scripture demands that we grapple honestly with any difficulties our contemporaries have about the biblical narratives, but the teaching of this letter encourages us to reaffirm our confidence in the God who has spoken clearly to mankind in Scripture and in his Son.

‘Attending to the word’ is a key theme in Hebrews, especially in the opening and closing sections of the letter. These Christians cannot hope to press on to mature spiritual experience if they ignore, minimize or despise it. Christ is God’s greatest prophet with a distinctive message for these last days. His coming inaugurated a new era. In him the last days have most certainly begun; the phrase conveys the superiority of the message and the urgency of the times.

  1. Jesus is God’s Son

Those Jewish Christians whose faith in Christ was faltering may have come to regard him merely as a good man, a captivating teacher, or an impressive leader. He was all that, but much more. He is the Son of God. The theme of Sonship is a recurrent one in this letter. We are here reminded of the message of the Son (1:2). Later passages discuss the superiority of the Son, his reign, mission, achievement, obedience, nature and perfection. One interpreter of the letter’s teaching entitles his commentary Sonship and Salvation. It is an excellent reminder of this epistle’s leading ideas. Because these two ideas are inseparably united, apostasy is so serious and disastrous. Without the work of the Son there is no salvation. Those who deliberately and persistently spurn the Son of God (10:29) are inevitably exposed to spiritual atrophy. How can they possibly be brought to repentance when there is no salvation outside Christ? They have refused to walk in the only way ordained by God. They have opposed the truth revealed by God. They have despised the life approved by God. How can man hope to be saved if he rejects the Saviour?

  1. Jesus is God’s appointed heir

Christ was appointed heir of all things. Possibly this idea of the inheritance of Christ is drawn from Psalm 2:8, later to be used in the unfolding argument: ‘I will make the nations your heritage.’ But surely by describing Christ as ‘heir of all things’, he intends to convey to us the idea that the Lord Jesus will inherit not only this earth but the entire universe. The Son obviously comes into a rich inheritance. Moreover, in other contexts the New Testament says that believers share this inheritance. The seventeenth-century commentator John Trapp says, ‘Be married to this heir and have all.’

  1. Jesus is God’s creative agent

The author takes his readers directly from Christ’s destiny in the future to his role in the beginning of creation. He is at pains to emphasize that the Lord we have trusted was no mere Galilean preacher. He shared actively in the creative work of Almighty God. It is all closely linked with the idea of inheritance; in other words, ‘what the Son was to possess he had been instrumental in making’ (Moffatt). Surely a Christ whose hands had shaped the universe and summoned the galaxy of stars into being could hold these Jewish Christians in days of testing and guide their steps through times of adversity. If the chaos before creation could be overcome, surely he could control their destiny and provide their immediate needs.

  1. Jesus is God’s personified glory

For the Hebrew people the glory of God was a visible and outward expression of the majestic presence of God. When the law was given at Sinai ‘the glory of the Lord’ settled on the mountain. Likewise, the glory of God became manifest at ‘the tent of meeting’; it was a visible sign to God’s people of his continuing presence. Later, when the ark of the covenant was captured, the Hebrew people lamented, ‘The glory has departed.’12 Now, says the author of this letter, in these last days this same glory has been seen in the person of Christ who reflects or is ‘the radiance of God’s glory’ (niv). The word used (apaugasma) can mean either ‘radiation out from’ or ‘reflection back’. These early Christians knew only too well that their non-Christian Jewish neighbours refused to acknowledge the deity of Christ. Wistfully, they recalled the great moments of their history when God’s glory had been manifest. Some may even have thought with pride about the Jerusalem temple, doomed to destruction in ad 70; surely the glory of God was manifest there in its ceaseless ritual and sacrificial cultus! But the author of this letter reminds his readers that nowhere has the glory of God been more perfectly manifest than in the person of God’s Son. In Christ all the majesty of God’s splendour is fully revealed.

  1. Jesus is God’s perfect revelation

How can this writer impress upon his readers the message of Christ’s person? He insists that Jesus bears the very stamp of God’s nature. All the attributes of God became visible in him. The stamp vividly presents the picture of an image or superscription on a coin or medal. It exactly and perfectly matches the picture on the die. The verbal form of the word used here (charaktēr) means ‘to engrave’. In other words, if man wants to see God he must look to Christ. How could the first-century Jews, who were opposing these Jewish Christians, hope to know God if they were turning their backs upon Christ in whom God is perfectly revealed? The terms used in this great introductory passage of the letter clearly expound the unity of Christ’s nature with the Father and yet maintain the distinction of his person. The word translated ‘nature’ (hypostasis) here describes the very essence and actual being of God. As Hughes points out, ‘the radiant light of God’s glory’ suggest ‘the oneness of the Son with the Father’ while ‘the perfect copy of his nature’ maintains ‘the distinctness of the Son from the Father’ though, as this commentator observes ‘oneness and distinctiveness are implied in each’.

  1. Jesus is God’s cosmic sustainer

This letter’s introductory exposition of the superiority and adequacy of Christ moves on to its dramatic climax as mention is made of Christ’s present work in the universe. He keeps the planets in orbit by his authoritative and effective word of power. It is the author’s compelling way of emphasizing Christ’s equality with God. Every Jew passionately believed that Almighty God kept the entire universe in the hollow of his hand. He is not only creator but sustainer. Quite deliberately this is described as part of Christ’s present role. The word of authority which has been proclaimed by the Lord as prophet is the same word which holds the universe in order.14 It is important for the writer to emphasize that Christ’s word is powerful and able to do what he determines. He speaks in the universe and what he commands is done. He has spoken in their hearts and what he demands can most certainly be accomplished whatever opposition and persecution they may encounter. In the strong hands of such a Christ they are eternally secure.

Possibly our vision of Christ is limited. We are in danger of confining him to our restricted experience or limited knowledge. We need a vision of Christ with these immense cosmic dimensions, a Christ who transcends all our noblest thoughts about him and all our best experience of him. These first-century readers would be less likely to turn from him in adversity if they had looked to him in adoration. The opening sentences of the letter are designed to bring them and us to our knees; only then can we hope to stand firmly on our feet.

  1. Jesus is God’s unique sacrifice

In presenting this impressive opening exposition of God’s Son, the author rightly emphasizes Christ’s work in redemption as well as creation. This is to become a central theme in his later exposition. At this point our attention is turned from who Christ is to what he did. Philip Hughes reminds us that there is a contrast here which ought not to be missed. Jesus is ceaselessly ‘the radiant light of God’s glory and the perfect copy of his nature’ (jb). He continously upholds ‘the universe by his word of power’. But when he gave himself up on the cross Jesus shed his blood once for all at a single point in time. No repetition of this saving act will ever be necessary, nor can anything that we do serve to procure our own salvation. Christ is God’s unrepeatable sacrificial provision for the greatest problem of mankind—sin. Our author explains that Christ’s saving death on that first Good Friday was a finished work.

This cosmic Christ effected such purification entirely alone. Some manuscripts emphasize this aspect of his sacrificial work with the words ‘by himself’. Whether this reading is original or not, the truth is certainly supported in a host of different contexts through the epistle. In his own person he did for sinful man what man could never achieve for himself. The law said, ‘Do this.’ It demanded man’s work. But Christ came and effected by his saving death man’s purification from sin. His message was, ‘Trust this.’ Man was urged to believe in Christ’s work, not his own. It was not to be achieved by the multiplicity of good works, but by Christ’s work.

When this eternal work of purification was brought to its triumphant conclusion in the death and resurrection of Christ, our Lord sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (1:3). The first readers of this letter were not likely to miss the implication of this statement and, if they did, its author was to press home its meaning in a later passage (10:11–12). The Old Testament priest’s cultic work had constantly to be repeated because it was only temporarily beneficial. But Christ ‘offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins’. The priest stood because his task was never complete. He could never hope to bring it to the moment of final achievement. Only Christ’s sacrifice could be eternally effective. He sat down to indicate that the work was finished. On that day when he bore our sins in his own body, he cried, ‘It is finished.’

This letter’s introductory exposition of the supremacy of Christ has already indicated that he is unique in his teaching (1:2), nature (1:2–3) and work. This chapter goes on to assert that he is unique in his status. He is superior to angels (1:4). He has ascended to the throne of God. The right hand is the place of special honour. This sacrificial, saving work is recognized and authenticated by God. He is given the seat of distinctive privilege. The Son who was humiliated on earth (12:3) is enthroned in heaven.

The first few sentences of Hebrew confront the reader with one of the most important issues in the contemporary theological debate, the doctrine of the person of Christ. It seems that in every generation some different aspect of biblical teaching is exposed to rigorous scrutiny and fresh examination. In the present century people have questioned the doctrine of God, and the ‘God is dead’ theologians have had their say. Man is said to have ‘come of age’ intellectually and no longer to stand in need of his earlier religious props and ecclesiastical supports. In the sixties Honest to God was a distillation of ideas which had been the preoccupation of some theologians for a decade or two, but it took the English-speaking world by storm and, like most storms, caused considerable havoc and damage. More recently, however, possibly in the wake of earlier doctrinal aridity, cynicism, and even unbelief, the biblical doctrine of Christ has been exposed to severely critical treatment and the incarnation declared by some radical theologians as an unacceptable doctrinal idea.

This letter’s lofty teaching about the person and work of Christ, expounded with the aid of arresting titles of Jesus, is a stark challenge to modern humanitarian Christologies, most of which tend to reduce Jesus to an inspired man with a unique sense of religious destiny, or an outstanding example of benevolent concern and altruistic service, or a fervent zealot with a passion for liberation, usually interpreted in political terms. Whilst preserving the important truth of Christ’s essential humanity, this letter presents its readers with a revelation of Jesus in his matchless deity. He is the enthroned Lord, worthy of all our honour and worship.

In contrast to this clear uncompromising teaching, the contributors to The Myth of God Incarnate are generally dismissive about the New Testament assertions concerning the deity of Christ, arguing that, whilst such ideas were perfectly appropriate in their first-century context, there is no reason why twentieth-century believers need accept them. Don Cupitt has written further on the subject, maintaining, for example, that the title ‘Son of God’ does not imply that Christ was divine. He begins by asserting that ‘everything in our historical knowledge is relative and merely probable, and nothing is certain’ and then goes on to ask what possible ‘evidence could there be which could oblige us to admit that a certain historical figure though in every observable respect human was really more than human—was even co-equal with God?’19 But Hebrews introduces us to a Christ whose perfect sinless nature is a unique revelation, whose sacrifice is alone effective for our salvation, and whose authority in heaven and on earth is without rival. As we are about to see in the succeeding verses, the angels worship the exalted Christ because they recognize his deity. We believers hasten to offer our adoration because, in addition, we have personally experienced his salvation. No wonder that, throughout the centuries, Christians have taken upon their lips the confession of a transformed doubter, released from his cynicism: ‘My Lord and my God.’[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Hebrews (pp. 9–20). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Phillips, R. D. (2006). Hebrews. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (pp. 16–25). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

[3] Hagner, D. A. (2011). Hebrews (pp. 23–26). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Brown, R. (1988). The message of Hebrews: Christ above all (pp. 27–35). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

FEBRUARY 26 “BE STILL AND KNOW”

Be still, and know that I am God.

Psalm 46:10

Prayer among evangelical Christians is always in danger of degenerating into a glorified “gold rush.” Almost every book on prayer deals mainly with the “get” element. How to get things we want from God occupies most of our space.

Christians should never forget that the highest kind of prayer is never the making of requests.

Prayer at its holiest moment is the entering into God to a place of such blessed union as makes miracles seem tame and remarkable answers to prayer appear something very far short of wonderful, by comparison.

We should be aware that there is a kind of school where the soul must go to learn its best eternal lessons. It is the school of silence. “Be still and know,” said the psalmist (46:10).

It might well be a revelation to some Christians if they were to get completely quiet for a time—a time to listen in the silence for the deep voice of the Eternal God!

Heavenly Father, I desire my prayer time to be more than a “wish list.” Help me to spend more time listening for Your voice than making personal requests.[1]


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

40 Days to the Cross: Week Two – Monday

Confession: Psalm 6:1–4

O Yahweh, do not rebuke me in your anger,

and do not discipline me in your wrath.

Be gracious to me, O Yahweh, because I am feeble.

Heal me, O Yahweh, for my bones are terrified.

My soul is also very terrified.

But you, O Yahweh, how long?

Turn, O Yahweh; deliver my life.

Save me for the sake of your steadfast love.

Reading: Mark 10:32–45

Now they were on the road going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going on ahead of them. And they were astounded, but those who were following him were afraid. And taking aside the twelve again, he began to tell them the things that were about to happen to him: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him and flog him and kill him, and after three days he will rise.”

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask you.” And he said to them, “What do you want that I do for you?” So they said to him, “Grant to us that we may sit one at your right hand and one at your left in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking! Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” And they said to him, “We are able.” So Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup that I drink, and you will be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

And when they heard this, the ten began to be indignant about James and John. And Jesus called them to himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their people in high positions exercise authority over them. But it is not like this among you! But whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be most prominent among you must be the slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Reflection

Elevation is pleasing to all, but humility is the step to it. Why do you put out your foot beyond you? You have a mind to fall, not to ascend. Begin by the step, and so you have ascended. This step of humility those two disciples were loth to have an eye to, who said [to the Lord], “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory” (Mark 10:37 nrsv). They sought for exaltation; they did not see the step. But the Lord showed them the step. For what did He answer them? “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” (Mark 10:38 nrsv) He does not simply say, “Let him deny himself, and follow me.” But He says, “[Let him] take up [his] cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 nrsv)

What is, “Let him take up his cross”? Let him bear whatever trouble he has; so let him follow me. When he begins to follow me in conformity to my life and precepts, many will contradict him, many will hinder him, many will try to dissuade him—even those who are, as it were, Christ’s companions. They who hindered the blind men from crying out were walking with Christ. Whether there be threats or caresses—or whatever hindrances there be—if you wish to follow, turn them into your cross. Bear it, carry it, and do not give way beneath it. There seems to be an exhortation to martyrdom in these words of the Lord. If there be persecution, ought not all things to be despised in consideration of Christ? The world is loved; but let Him be preferred by whom the world was made.

—Augustine of Hippo

Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament

Response

The call to take up your cross is a radical one. Is your life marked by transformation? Are you willing to bear troubles, conflicts, or even persecution on His behalf? Are you willing to share the good news of Jesus with others?[1]


[1] Van Noord, R., & Strong, J. (Eds.). (2014). 40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

February 26 Spiritual Hunger’s First Object—Salvation

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.—Matt. 5:6

The first objective of spiritual hunger by the lost sinner is salvation. The righteousness the unbeliever begins to hunger for—after he or she sees their sin, mourns over it, and gently submits self to God—is the righteousness that repents of sin and submits to the lordship of Christ.

In the Old Testament, righteousness is often a synonym for salvation. Through Isaiah, God declared, “My righteousness is near, My salvation has gone forth” (Isa. 51:5). Daniel said, “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Dan. 12:3).

In Jesus’ day, the great obstacle to receiving the gospel for so many members of His Jewish audience was self-righteousness—their confidence in their own works to achieve a self-styled holiness. They believed that as members of God’s chosen nation of Israel, they were assured of entrance into heaven. But Christ taught them that they would not find the path to salvation unless they hungered and thirsted for the Father’s righteousness instead of their own. And that is the case for everyone today, no matter what race, religion, or economic status.

ASK YOURSELF

It’s easy for the wonder and majesty of our salvation to be lost on us as time goes by. Let today be another opportunity to realize how empty you were before and how full He has made you in Christ. Put your worship into prayerful words.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 65). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

February 26 Handling God’s Word

These words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.

Deuteronomy 6:6–7

Spiritual growth cannot occur without the regular intake of God’s Word, just as physical growth cannot occur without regular food intake—that’s why eating is a daily necessity! Going to church on Sunday to hear a message and then hoping that it is enough to last for the whole week is like eating dinner on Sunday and expecting it to sustain you until the following Sunday. You need to eat every day of the week. The same is true spiritually: there must be a daily feeding on the Word of God for optimum growth.

Mature Christians know that there is even greater glory in giving out the Word than in feeding on it. As you proclaim the Word, you cement it in your life. In this way, the saying “The more you give away, the more you keep” is true. I have found that I tend to remember the things I teach to others but forget the things I read and never pass on. So give a high priority to passing on to others what you’re learning from God’s Word each day.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 69). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

February 26, 2018 Morning Verse Of The Day

Do You Make Men Thirsty?

Matthew 5:13

In Matthew 5:13 we come to a new section of the Sermon on the Mount. We pass from a basically abstract definition of the Christian to a functional one. Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”

We all know the difference between an abstract definition of a thing and a functional definition, if we think about it. For instance, almost every dictionary definition of a word is abstract. We turn to the word “hunger” in Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary and read, “an uneasy sensation, occasioned normally by the want of food.” However, we could also define hunger functionally. We could also say, “Hunger is the one and a half billion people in this world who live always on the verge of starvation and who die at the rate of 15,000 daily as the result of malnutrition.” The second definition is anything but abstract. And, of course, it is better. In the same way the dictionary tells us that “justice” is “the principle of rectitude and just dealings of men with each other.” But we could also say that justice is enacting good laws, caring for the poor, raising children properly, and many other things.

We have the same thing in the sphere of theology. The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks the question, “What is God?” And it answers, “God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” But it is also true, even more true, that God is Jesus Christ who died for our sin and who rose again for our justification.

The second definition in each of the cases I have mentioned gives us an understanding of the term in action; it produces the effect that Jesus produced by his further, functional definitions of the true Christian. “You are the salt of the earth.” “You are the light of the world.” By these definitions Jesus was saying that while it is true that the Christian is to be poor in spirit, mournful for sin, meek, thirsty for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, and disposed to make peace, nevertheless he is never to be these things in isolation from a very real and sharply antithetical world. He is to manifest those characteristics in the world. And what is more, he is to practice these things in a way that will affect the world positively, as salt affects the medium to which one applies it.

A Decaying World

This is of great significance for our understanding of the nature of true Christianity, especially in our present day. Jesus was saying, “Those who are my disciples should affect the world positively by the way in which they live.” But as I view the world today, there is not nearly enough of this positive action for good in the world by Christians, even though many people are aware that something of this nature is precisely what the world needs.

At the end of the nineteenth century there was a feeling of confident optimism in the western world, based on the belief that an ongoing biological and philosophical evolution would eventually solve all man’s troubles and lead to something closely akin to the Greeks’ “Golden Age.” The idea was that all of human life was advancing and rising upward. Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes perceptively of this age, “It is indeed pathetic to read the prognostications of the thinkers (so-called), the philosophers and poets and leaders, towards the end of the last century. … Wars were going to be abolished, diseases were being cured, suffering was going to be not only ameliorated but finally eradicated. It was to be an amazing century. Most of the problems were going to be solved, for man had at last really begun to think. The masses, through education, would cease giving themselves to drink and immorality and vice. And as all the nations were thus educated to think and to hold conferences instead of rushing to war, the whole world was very soon going to be paradise. That is not caricaturing the situation; it was believed confidently.”

Today, however, there are not many people who think like that. Where there was once a confident optimism, there is now real pessimism and acute despair. Even the ones who are still confident in some areas express their more limited optimism guardedly. There is an awareness that something more than a theory of progress is necessary, that there must, in fact, be something akin to a new life embodied in a new breed of men. This is what the gospel of Jesus Christ offers. And yet, what do we find? Instead of the active, permeating, preserving, and transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ always operating in the world through all Christians, too many Christians are sitting on the sidelines without the “savor” provided by the Lord Jesus Christ and fit only—if we are to take Christ’s words literally—“to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”

I am well aware that there are good historical reasons why an evangelical church that once gave fuel and impetus to the greatest social movements the world has seen has come to be outdistanced by others and at times even to be hostile to the applications of the gospel to the contemporary world. Daniel O. Moberg, author of the book, Inasmuch, lists ten reasons in his historical study of the neglect of the social aspects of the faith by evangelicals: a preoccupation with valid theological battles, a misinterpretation of the prophecies that in the last days things on this earth will get worse to mean that they will never in any circumstances get better, a belief that social concerns are antithetical to a concern for the salvation aspects of the church’s message, a concern for personal piety, the idea that politics are intrinsically “dirty,” a growing conformity to the world’s standards in business and political life by Christians, and other things also. But the explanation does not excuse the situation in which we find ourselves today. Nor does the situation itself negate the moral imperatives of Christ’s teachings.

According to Jesus, the Christian is clearly to influence his society. And this must be true wherever the principles of the gospel impinge upon the religious, political, economic, or social issues of the Christian’s community.

Uses of Salt

All this falls into a much clearer focus when we consider the actual uses of salt, particularly those that were most valued in ancient times.

First, in Christ’s day and for many centuries thereafter (in fact, until nearly modern times), salt was the most common of all preservatives. There were no refrigerators in ancient times, no deep-freeze units. The Mediterranean world was largely tropical. In such a climate and in the face of such conditions, salt was used to keep things from going bad and becoming rotten, particularly meat. It was able to resist spoilage and keep putrefaction at bay. When Jesus said that those who followed him were the salt of the earth, therefore, he was teaching that the world apart from God is rotten because of sin, but that through his power his disciples were able and actually obliged to have a preserving and purifying effect upon it.

Do you see this clearly? If you do, the principles involved in this statement will keep you from the two opposing errors that have always gone along with programs to express the Christian’s social responsibility. The first error is the thought that the world is basically good and will gradually become better and even perfect through Christian social action. In opposition to this understanding, Christ says that the world is basically rotten. This means that even though it may appear healthy for a time, it is dead spiritually. It means that the life has gone out of the body and that the microbes of sin will eventually (if left to themselves) reduce it to a stinking, unapproachable carcass.

The other error is the view that because this is so, because the world is rotten, the Christian should try to disassociate himself from the world as much as possible, retreating to a monastery or to one of our white (or black), middle-class, self-protecting churches. And he should let the world go to hell. The answer to this error is that the Christian is to be a preserving force in the world wherever God has placed him. The salt never did any good when it was sitting on one shelf and the meat on another. To be effective, the salt had to be rubbed into the meat. In a similar way, Christians must allow God to rub them into the world. And this means that they must be Christians at work, Christians in politics, Christians at home, Christians everywhere else that a normal life in their own society would take them.

“Oh,” someone says, “that would mean that I would have to be taken out of the salt shaker and spread around, and I might get dirty and even seem to dissolve or disappear!” Yes, that is what it means. But God is the One who provides the flavor, and the flavor does not disappear when the salt is dispensed or dissolved.

In fact, there is even a sense in which the salt must dissolve if the flavor is to be released, and for this reason God sometimes shakes the salt shaker through persecutions so that the salt will fall out and let this happen. Sometimes it will mean that we shall have to dissolve to our own interests, that we shall have to extend ourselves in areas of the world where we do not see many Christians. We shall feel lonely and even depressed, but that is where the salt is active.

I should add a fact that is well known to the medical world. If a body does not give off salt through perspiration, what happens? It retains water, and it becomes bloated. In the same way, the church will become bloated and desperately unhealthy if the salt is not dispersed in this work of preservation.

Source of Flavor

There is a second thing that salt is good for, and that is to provide flavor. The Christian, through the life of Jesus Christ within and the verities of the gospel, is to lend flavor to a flavorless, insipid world. The pleasures of the world are unsatisfying without Jesus Christ. They fill for a time. But they are rather like a Chinese dinner, and the person is soon left empty again. Consequently, those who pursue them are doomed to a constant and relentless search for that which will never satisfy the true hunger and desire of their soul. Christians are to be present as those who know something different and whose satisfaction in Christ can be seen and known by their unbelieving contemporaries.

Unfortunately, it often has been the other way around. Non-Christians have looked at Christians and have said, “What an insipid bunch of people; I would never want to be like one of them.” The nineteenth century poet and critic A. C. Swinburne wrote of Jesus: “Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean; the world has grown grey from thy breath.” Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “I might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen I knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers.” And the poet and author Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote in his diary, as if he were expressing an exceptional fact, “I have been to church today, and am not depressed.”

Those are honest remarks by people who have seen an insipid Christianity. And if they or their followers are to see something different, they must see it in the only place it can or will be seen—in us. They must see it in you and in me. Do you go around with a long face as if the world and everything you know are depressing? Or do you go about as one who bears within the Spirit of the living God? The second is your true responsibility. It is by doing that, that you show forth the flavor of Christ and Christianity.

Thirst of the Soul

The third thing that salt does is to make one thirsty. And this leads us to ask: Do you make anyone thirsty for Jesus Christ? The non-Christian tends to feel self-satisfied even if he is not, and he naturally goes through life telling himself that circumstances are wonderful. But when a Christian comes into his sphere of vision, there should be that evidence of joy, satisfaction, and peace that makes him look up and say, “That’s what I want; that is what I want to be like!” Can that be said of you? Do you make men thirsty for Jesus Christ?

In ancient times during the Feast of Tabernacles in the city of Jerusalem it was the custom for the priests to go to the pool of Siloam each day and to return bearing large containers of water that were then emptied upon the altar in the temple. This happened for seven days during the feast. On the last day the ceremony was repeated seven times. On that day, during the Feast of Tabernacles in the year that he attended, Jesus Christ stood up and cried in a loud voice, “If a man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:37–38). It is true, Jesus Christ can satisfy the great thirst of the human soul. Your responsibility is not to satisfy the thirst yourself, but to point men to Jesus Christ. If you do that, out of you will flow his life and character, and others will see him and be satisfied.

A Common Substance

I am sure you already have anticipated the last point of this study, for you have doubtless recognized that salt is one of the most common things of life. It is found everywhere. And hence, when Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth,” he was saying, “I delight to use little things.” He did not say, “You are the gold of the earth.” He did not say, “You are the uranium of the earth.” He did not even say, “You are the lead,” although Christians sometimes resemble lead far more than we like to admit. He said, “You are the salt”—a common substance. It is from the common things—from the weak, the foolish, the despised, the things that are not (1 Cor. 1:26–29)—that God brings the greatest glory to his name.

We see that throughout Scripture. When God made man in the Garden of Eden, what did he use? Gold? Silver? Iron? No, he used dust. But he breathed into the dust the divine breath of life. When God spoke to Moses in the desert to call him to come forth to be the deliverer of the people of Israel from Egypt, how did he reveal himself? In a dazzling theophany? In thunder and lightning? In an overpowering vision? No, he revealed himself in a burning desert bush. When God called David to deliver the Israelites from the Philistine tyranny, did he make use of Saul’s armor? No, he used a sling and a few small stones. And when Jesus Christ was born, God did not allow him to be born in the courts of the Caesars or of a woman of noble ancestry and great culture. He chose a peasant girl, who was probably illiterate, and she gave birth to Jesus Christ in a stable.

God uses the small things and the small people. God uses you and me that he might do his work in the world. As a matter of fact, the smaller you can become, the more effective his work in you will be. Do you know what we are to be? We are to be picture frames within which Jesus Christ is to be seen. God is not interested in its being a gold frame or a beautifully carved frame. He is just interested in its being an empty frame, because he knows that when you come to him with that, he can put Christ there. And when people look at you, they will see Jesus.[1]


Salt of the Earth and Light of the World

(5:13–16)

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure, but on the lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (5:13–16)

In these four verses the Lord summarizes the function of believers in the world. Reduced to one word, that function is influence. Whoever lives according to the Beatitudes is going to function in the world as salt and light. Christian character consciously or unconsciously affects other people for better or for worse. As John Donne reminds us, “No man is an island.”

An ancient Greek myth tells of a goddess who came to earth unseen but whose presence was always known by the blessings she left behind in her pathway. Trees burned by forest fires sprouted new leaves, and violets sprang up in her footprints. As she passed a stagnant pool its water became fresh, and parched fields turned green as she walked through them. Hills and valleys blossomed with new life and beauty wherever she went. Another Greek story tells of a princess sent as a present to a king. She was as beautiful as Aphrodite and her breath was as sweet as perfume. But she carried with her the contagion of death and decay. From infancy she had fed on nothing but poison and became so permeated with it that she poisoned the very atmosphere around her. Her breath would kill a swarm of insects; she would pick a flower and it would wither. A bird flying too close would fall dead at her feet.

Andrew Murray lived an exceptionally holy life. Among those on whom his influence was the greatest were his children and grandchildren. Five of his six sons became ministers of the gospel and four of his daughters became minister’s wives. Ten grandsons became ministers and thirteen grandchildren became missionaries.

Woodrow Wilson told the story of being in a barbershop one time. “I was sitting in a barber chair when I became aware that a powerful personality had entered the room. A man had come quietly in upon the same errand as myself to have his hair cut and sat in the chair next to me. Every word the man uttered, though it was not in the least didactic, showed a personal interest in the man who was serving him. And before I got through with what was being done to me I was aware I had attended an evangelistic service, because Mr. D. L. Moody was in that chair. I purposely lingered in the room after he had left and noted the singular affect that his visit had brought upon the barber shop. They talked in undertones. They did not know his name, but they knew something had elevated their thoughts, and I felt that I left that place as I should have left a place of worship.”

Many years ago Elihu Burrit wrote, “No human being can come into this world without increasing or diminishing the sum total of human happiness, not only of the present but of every subsequent age of humanity. No one can detach himself from this connection. There in no sequestered spot in the universe, no dark niche along the disc of nonexistence to which he can retreat from his relations with others, where he can withdraw the influence of his existence upon the moral destiny of the world. Everywhere his presence or absence will be felt. Everywhere he will have companions who will be better or worse because of him. It is an old saying, and one of the fearful and fathomless statements of import, that we are forming characters for eternity. Forming characters? Whose? Our own or others? Both. And in that momentous fact lies the peril and responsibility of our existence. Who is sufficient for the thought? Thousands of my fellow beings will yearly enter eternity with characters differing from those they would have carried thither had I never lived. The sunlight of that world will reveal my finger marks in their primary formations and in their successive strata of thought and life.”

In Matthew 5:13–16 Jesus talks about the influence of His people on the world for God and for good. In His high priestly prayer Jesus said to His Father, “I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.… As Thou didst send Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:15–16, 18). John wrote, “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world” (1 John 2:15). Christ’s kingdom people are not to reflect the world but they are to influence the world; they are to be in it but not of it.

When we live the life of the Beatitudes some people will respond favorably and be saved, whereas others will ridicule and persecute us. In the words of Paul, we will manifest “the sweet aroma of the knowledge of [Christ] in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life” (2 Cor. 2:14–16). In either case our lives have profound effects, and even persecution is not to alter our function in the world. We “are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that [we] may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).

Though Jesus was speaking before a great multitude of people on the hillside, His teaching about kingdom life was primarily for His disciples, for those who believed in Him. His concern was for the all of the multitude, and in hearing His teaching on godly living many of them may have been drawn to faith. But the principles He teaches here are appropriate only for believers, for they are impossible to follow apart from the power of God’s own Spirit.

Here is a mandate for Christians to influence the world. The Beatitudes are not to be lived in isolation or only among fellow believers, but everywhere we go. God’s only witnesses are His children, and the world has no other way of knowing of Him except through the testimony of what we are.

The figures of salt and light emphasize different characteristics of influence, but their basic purpose is the same. They will both be studied from the aspects of the presupposition of the world’s corruption and darkness, the plan for believers’ godly dominion in the world, the problem of the danger of failure, and the purpose of glorifying God.

The Presupposition: Corruption and Darkness

The world needs salt because it is corrupt and it needs light because it is dark. G. Campbell Morgan said, “Jesus, looking out over the multitudes of His day, saw the corruption, the disintegration of life at every point, its breakup, its spoliation; and, because of His love of the multitudes, He knew the thing that they needed most was salt in order that the corruption should be arrested. He saw them also wrapped in gloom, sitting in darkness, groping amid mists and fogs. He knew that they needed, above everything else, … light” (The Gospel According to Matthew [New York: Revell, 1929], p. 46).

The biblical world view is that the world is corrupted and decayed, that it is dark and darkening. “Evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived,” Paul warns (2 Tim. 3:13). The world cannot do anything but get worse, because it has no inherent goodness to build on, no inherent spiritual and moral life in which it can grow. Year after year the system of evil accumulates a deeper darkness.

A college student told me his professor had recently told the class that marriage was on the decline because man was evolving to a higher level. Marriage was something that man needed only at the lower stages of his evolutionary development. Now that man had ascended farther up the evolutionary scale, marriage was falling off just as his prehensile tail had done millions of years ago.

Any person who knows the history of mankind, even the history of the past hundred years, and thinks that man is evolving upward is “deceiving and being deceived,” just as Paul said. Man has increased in scientific, medical, historical, educational, psychological, and technological knowledge to an astounding degree. But he has not changed his own basic nature and he has not improved society. Man’s knowledge has greatly improved, but his morals have progressively degenerated. His confidence has increased, but his peace of mind has diminished. His accomplishments have increased, but his sense of purpose and meaning have all but disappeared. Instead of improving the moral and spiritual quality of his life, man’s discoveries and accomplishments have simply provided ways for him to express and promote his depravity faster and more destructively. Modern man has simply invented more ways to corrupt and destroy himself.

Many philosophers, poets, and religious leaders at the end of the last century had great optimism about man’s having come of age, about his inevitable moral and social improvement. They believed that Utopia was around the corner and that man was getting better and better in every way. The golden age of mankind was near. Wars would be a bad memory, crime and violence would disappear, ignorance would be gone, and disease would be eradicated. Peace and brotherhood would reign completely and universally. Few people today hold to such blind, unrealistic ideas.

It was not many generations after the Fall that “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). Because wickedness was so great, God destroyed every person but eight—and they were far from perfect. A few generations after that, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah became so rotten from the offspring of those eight that God destroyed them with fire and brimstone. Another day of judgment is coming when God will again rain fire on earth, but that destruction will be a holocaust such as men have never dreamed of. “The present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men … the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Pet. 3:7, 10).

Man is infected with the deadly virus of sin, which has no cure apart from God. Yet unlike their attitude toward physical diseases, most men do not want their sin cured. They love their decadence and they hate God’s righteousness (cf. John 3:19–21). They love their own way and they hate God’s.

Man’s knowledge is increasing by quantum leaps, but his increased knowledge is mechanical knowledge, inanimate knowledge, lifeless knowledge, knowledge that has no bearing on the inner man (cf. 2 Tim. 3:7). His knowledge does not retard his corruption but rather is used to intensify and defend it.

Bertrand Russell devoted most of his 96 years to the study of philosophy. Yet at the end of his life he acknowledged that philosophy proved to be a washout, and had taken him nowhere. Nothing he had thought or had heard that other philosophers had thought had changed the world for the better. He felt that the basic causes of man’s problems, not to mention the solutions, had evaded the best minds of every age including his own.

Some scientists have proposed that by surgery or careful electronic stimulation of the brain, a person’s bad impulses can be eradicated, leaving only the better part of his nature. Others propose that the ideal, crime-free, problem-free person will be developed by genetic engineering. But every part of every man is corrupt. He has no inherent, naturally good traits that can be isolated from the bad. His total nature is depraved. David knew that he was sinful from the moment of his conception. “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Ps. 51:5). There is no good part in man from which a better can be constructed or from which his corrupt part can be isolated. Isaiah said, “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint” (Isa. 1:5), and Jeremiah labeled the heart as “more deceitful than all else” and as “desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9).

We go on from war to greater war, from crime to greater crime, from immorality to greater immorality, from perversion to greater perversion. The spiral is downward, not upward (see Rom. 1:18–32). Despair and pessimism reign in our day, because the honest person knows that man has not been able to retard his descent. He hopes that he can just live out his own life before someone pushes the button that blows mankind into oblivion.

A leading news magazine reported a few years ago that Americans tend to see themselves as potential saints rather than real-life sinners. Another leading magazine reported, “Today’s young radicals in particular are almost painfully sensitive to … wrongs of their society, and they denounce them violently. But at the same time they are typically American in that they fail to place evil in its historic and human perspective. To them evil is not an irreducible component of man; it is not an inescapable fact of life, but something committed by the older generation, attributable to a particular class or the establishment and eradicable through love or revolution” (Time, 5 December 1969).

Just as every person is affected by the sin problem, every person also contributes to the sin problem.

The Plan: The Dominion of His Disciples

The church cannot accept the world’s self-centeredness, easy solutions, immorality, amorality, and materialism. We are called to minister to the world while being separated from its standards and ways. Sadly, however, the church today is more influenced by the world than the world is influenced by the church.

In both verse 13 and verse 14 the pronoun you is emphatic. The idea is, “You are the only salt of the earth” and “You are the only light of the world.” The world’s corruption will not be retarded and its darkness will not be illumined unless God’s people are its salt and light. The very ones who are despised by the world and persecuted by the world are the world’s only hope.

The you in both verses is also plural. It is His whole body, the church, that is called to be the world’s salt and light. Each grain of salt has its limited influence, but it is only as the church collectively is scattered in the world that change will come. One ray of light will accomplish little, but when joined with other rays a great light is created.

Some years ago a magazine carried a series of pictures that graphically depicted a tragic story. The first picture was of a vast wheat field in western Kansas. The second showed a distressed mother sitting in a farmhouse in the center of the field of wheat. The accompanying story explained that her four-year-old son had wandered away from the house and into the field when she was not looking. The mother and father looked and looked all day but the little fellow was too short to see or be seen over the wheat. The third picture showed dozens of friends and neighbors who had heard of the boy’s plight and who had joined hands the next morning to make a long human chain as they walked through the field searching. The final picture was of the heartbroken father holding his lifeless son who had been found too late and had died of exposure. The caption underneath read, “O God, if only we had joined hands sooner.”

The world is full of lost souls who cannot see their way above the distractions and barriers of the world and cannot find their way to the Father’s house until Christians join together as salt and light and sweep through the world in search of them. Our work is not simply as individual grains of salt or as individual rays of light but as the whole church of Jesus Christ.

Are stresses being rather than doing. Jesus is stating a fact, not giving a command or request. Salt and light represent what Christians are. The only question, as Jesus goes on to say, is whether or not we are tasteful salt and effective light. The very fact that we belong to Jesus Christ makes us His salt and light in the world.

Christ is the source of our savor and of our light. He is “the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man” (John 1:9). “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world,” He said (John 9:5). But now that He has left the world His light comes to the world through those whom He has enlightened. We shine forth the reflected light of Christ. “You were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord,” Paul tells us; “walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8). “For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col. 1:13).

We are God’s salt to retard corruption and His light to reveal truth. One function is negative, the other positive. One is silent, the other is verbal. By the indirect influence of the way we live we retard corruption, and by the direct influence of what we say we manifest light.

Both salt and light are unlike that which they are to influence. God has changed us from being part of the corrupted and corrupting world to being salt that can help preserve it. He has changed us from our own darkness to be His agents of giving light to others. By definition, an influence must be different from that which it influences, and Christians therefore must be different from the world they are called to influence. We cannot influence the world for God when we are worldly ourselves. We cannot give light to the world if we revert to places and ways of darkness ourselves.

The great blessings emphasized in verses 3–12 lead to the great responsibilities of verses 13–16. The blessings of heaven, comfort, inheriting the earth, being filled with righteousness, being given mercy, being called God’s children, and being given heavenly reward bring the responsibility of being His salt and light in the world.

being salt

Salt has always been valuable in human society, often much more so than it is today. During a period of ancient Greek history it was called theon, which means divine. The Romans held that, except for the sun, nothing was more valuable than salt. Often Roman soldiers were paid in salt, and it was from that practice that the expression “not worth his salt” originated.

In many ancient societies salt was used as a mark of friendship. For two persons to share salt indicated a mutual responsibility to look after one another’s welfare. Even if a worst enemy ate salt with you, you were obliged to treat him as a friend.

Salt was frequently used in the ancient Near East to bind a covenant, somewhat in the way an agreement or contract is notarized in our day. When the parties to a covenant ate salt together before witnesses, the covenant was given special authentication. Though no particulars are given in the account, we learn from 2 Chronicles 13:5 that God made a covenant of salt with David. God prescribed that all sacrificial offerings in Israel were to be offered with salt “so that the salt of the covenant of your God shall not be lacking” (Lev. 2:13).

In numerous ways Jesus’ hearers—whether Greek, Roman, or Jewish—would have understood salt of the earth to represent a valuable commodity. Though most could not have understood His full meaning, they knew He was saying that His followers were to have an extremely important function in the world. Whatever else it may have represented, salt always stood for that which was of high value and importance.

Many suggestions have been made as to the particular characteristics of salt that Jesus intended to associate with this figure. Some interpreters point out that salt is white and therefore represents purity. As the “pure in heart” (v. 8), Jesus’ disciples are to be pure before the world and are to be God’s means of helping purify the rest of the world. Their glistening white moral and spiritual purity is to contrast with the moral discolor of the world. Christians are to exemplify the divine standards of righteousness in thought, speech, and actions, remaining “unstained by the world” (James 1:27). All that is certainly true; but it does not seem to the point, because saltiness, not the color of salt, is the issue.

Others emphasize the characteristic of flavor. That is, Christians are to add divine flavor to the world. Just as many foods are tasteless without salt, the world is drab and tasteless without the presence of Christians. Someone has even said, “We Christians have no business being boring. Our function is to add flavor and excitement to the world.” Christians are a means of God’s blessing mankind, including unbelievers, just as He sends His sun and rain on the righteous and unrighteous alike.

There are certain senses in which that principle is true. An unbelieving marriage partner is sanctified by a believing spouse (1 Cor. 7:14), and God offered to spare Sodom for the sake of only ten righteous people, if that many could be found within it (Gen. 18:32).

The problem with that view, however, is that, from the earliest days of the church, the world has considered Christianity to be anything but attractive and “flavorful.” It has, in fact, often found the most spiritual Christians to be the most unpalatable. In the world’s eyes, Christians, almost above all others, take the flavor out of life. Christianity is stifling, restrictive, and a rain on the world’s parade.

After Christianity became a recognized religion of the Roman Empire, the emperor Julian lamented, “Have you looked at these Christians closely? Hollow-eyed, pale-cheeked, flat-breasted, they brood their lives away unspurred by ambition. The sun shines for them, but they don’t see it. The earth offers them its fullness, but they desire it not. All their desire is to renounce and suffer that they may come to die.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes reportedly once said that he might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen he knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers. Sometimes the world is turned away from the church because Christians are hypocritical, self-righteous, judgmental, and truly boring by any standard. But even when the church is faithful—indeed, especially when it is faithful—the world does not value whatever taste or aroma it sees in Christianity. Paul reminds us that Christians are an “aroma from life to life” and “a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved,” but are an “aroma of death to death” among “those who are perishing” (2 Cor. 2:15–16).

Because salt stings when placed in a wound, some interpreters believe that Jesus meant to illustrate just the opposite characteristic to that of flavor. Christians are to sting the world, prick its conscience, make it uncomfortable in the presence of God’s holy gospel.

That analogy also has merit. The church frequently is so concerned with trying to please, attract, and excuse that its witness against sin is obscured and all but lost. We may be so concerned with not offending others that we fail to confront them with their lostness and their desperate need to be saved from their sin. A gospel that does not confront sin is not the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Some years ago a young couple who came to me to be married said they knew the Lord had brought them together and given them to each other. The woman claimed to have been a Christian all her life, but her concept of salvation was that of trying to please God by doing the best she could. She admitted that, although she had filed for divorce because her husband had been unfaithful, she was still married to him. On further questioning, she admitted that she had been committing fornication with the young man she now wanted to marry. The young man claimed to be born again, but he saw no great wrong in their relationship and no reason why they should not be married in a Christian service. I told them that God could not possibly have brought them together because they were living contrary to His revealed will—and worse, trying to justify it. At that point they both got up and angrily stormed out of the office.

The church cannot stand for the Lord if it does not stand for His Word, and when it stands for His Word its witness will often sting.

Salt also creates thirst. Partly because it increases the body’s craving for water, salt tablets often are given to those who do hard work in excessive heat. Without proper intake of fluids, dehydration and even death may result. God intends for His people so to live and testify before the world that others will be made more aware of their spiritual dehydration and danger. A person may see our peace in a trying circumstance, or our confidence in what we believe, and thereby be persuaded to try our faith.

I believe that all of the foregoing analogies have some validity. Christians are to be pure; they should add a certain attractiveness to the gospel; they should be true to God’s Word even when it stings; and their living should create a thirst for God in those who do not know Him.

But I believe the primary characteristic Jesus emphasizes is that of preservation. Christians are a preserving influence in the world; they retard moral and spiritual spoilage. When the church is taken out of the world at the rapture, Satan’s perverse and wicked power will be unleashed in an unprecedented way (see 2 Thess. 2:7–12). Evil will go wild and demons will be almost unbridled. Once God’s people are removed it will take only seven years for the world to descend to the very pits of hellishness (see Dan. 9:27; Rev. 6–19).

Until that day Christians can have a powerful influence on the welfare of the world. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes, “Most competent historians are agreed in saying that what undoubtedly saved [England] from a revolution such as that experienced in France at the end of the eighteenth century was nothing but the Evangelical Revival. This was not because anything was done directly, but because masses of individuals had become Christians and were living this better life and had this higher outlook. The whole political situation was affected, and the great Acts of Parliament which were passed in the last century were mostly due to the fact that there were such large numbers of individual Christians found in the land” (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971], 1:157).

As God’s children and as the temples of His Holy Spirit, Christians represent God’s presence in the earth. We are the salt that prevents the entire earth from degenerating even faster than it is.

Helen Ewing was saved as a young girl in Scotland and gave her life completely to the lordship of Christ. When she died at the age of 22 it is said that all Scotland wept. She had expected to serve God as a missionary in Europe and had become fluent in the Russian language. But she was not able to fulfill that dream. She had no obvious gifts such as speaking or writing, and she had never traveled far from home. Yet by the time she died she had won hundreds of people to Jesus Christ. Countless missionaries mourned her death because they knew that a great channel of their spiritual strength was gone. She had risen every morning at five in order to study God’s Word and to pray. Her diary revealed that she regularly prayed for over three hundred missionaries by name. Everywhere she went the atmosphere was changed. If someone was telling a dirty story, he would stop if he saw her coming. If people were complaining, they would become ashamed of it in her presence. An acquaintance reported that while she was at Glasgow University she left the fragrance of Christ wherever she went. In everything she said and did she was God’s salt.

being light

Jesus also calls us to be light. You are the light of the world. Whereas salt is hidden, light is obvious. Salt works secretly, while light works openly. Salt works from within, light from without. Salt is more the indirect influence of the gospel, while light is more its direct communication. Salt works primarily through our living, while light works primarily through what we teach and preach. Salt is largely negative. It can retard corruption, but it cannot change corruption into incorruption. Light is more positive. It not only reveals what is wrong and false but helps produce what is righteous and true.

In his introduction to the book of Acts, Luke refers to his gospel as “the first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach” (1:1). Christ’s work always has to do with both doing and speaking, with living and teaching.

David wrote, “For with Thee is the fountain of life; in Thy light we see light” (Ps. 36:9). “God is light,” John reminds us, “and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:5–7). Light is not given simply to have but to live by. “Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path,” the psalmist tells us (Ps. 119:105). God’s light is to walk by and to live by. In its fullest sense, God’s light is the full revelation of His Word—the written Word of Scripture and the living Word of Jesus Christ.

God’s people are to proclaim God’s light in a world engulfed in darkness, just as their Lord came “to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death” (Luke 1:79). Christ is the true light, and we are His reflections. He is the Sun, and we are His moons. A free rendering of 2 Corinthians 4:6 could be, “God, who first ordered the light to shine in the darkness has flooded our hearts with His light. We now can enlighten men only because we can give them knowledge of the glory of God as we have seen it in the face of Jesus Christ.” God sheds His light on the world through those who have received His light through Jesus Christ.

The Jews had long claimed to have God’s light, and He had long called them to be His light. But because they had ignored and rejected His light, they could not be His light. They were confident that they were guides “to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness,” but Paul told them they were blind guides and lamps without light. “You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself?” he asks (Rom. 2:19–21). They had the light, but they were not living by it. “You who preach that one should not steal, do you steal?” Paul continues by way of illustration. “You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery?” (vv. 21–22). We are to prove ourselves “to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom [we are to] appear as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15).

By its nature and by definition light must be visible in order to illuminate. Christians must be more than the largely indirect influence of salt; they must also be the direct and noticeable instruments of light.

Both in the daytime and at night, a city set on a hill cannot be hidden. It is exposed for all to see. By day its houses and buildings stand out on the landscape, and at night the many lights shining out of its windows make it impossible to miss. A secret Christian is as incongruous as a hidden light. Lights are to illuminate, not to be hidden; to be displayed, not to be covered. Christians are to be both subtle salt and conspicuous light.

God did not give the gospel of His Son to be the secret, hidden treasure of a few but to enlighten every person (John 1:9). Many reject the light and reject those who bring it, but just as God offers His light to the whole world, so must His church. It is not our gospel but God’s, and He gives it to us not only for our own sakes but the entire world’s. True believers are salt and light, and must fulfill that identity.

The Problem: Danger of Failure

but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. (5:13b)

Much salt in Palestine, such as that found on the shores of the Dead Sea, is contaminated with gypsum and other minerals that make it taste flat and even repulsive. When a batch of such contaminated salt would find its way into a household and be discovered, it was thrown out. People would be careful not to throw it on a garden or field, because it would kill whatever was planted. Instead it would be thrown onto a path or road, where it would gradually be ground into the dirt and disappear.

There is a sense in which salt cannot really become unsalty. But contamination can cause it to lose its value as salt. Its saltiness can no longer function.

Jesus is not speaking of losing salvation. God does not allow any of His own to be taken from Him. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand,” Jesus assures us (John 10:27). Christians cannot lose their salvation, just as salt cannot lose its inherent saltiness. But Christians can lose their value and effectiveness in the kingdom when sin and worldliness contaminate their lives, just as salt can become tasteless when contaminated by other minerals. It is a common New Testament truth that although true believers are identified as righteous, godly, and salty, there are times when they fail to be what they are (cf. Rom. 7:15–25), which Peter says leads to loss of assurance (2 Pet. 1:9–10), not loss of salvation.

With great responsibility there is often great danger. We cannot be an influence for purity in the world if we have compromised our own purity. We cannot sting the world’s conscience if we continually go against our own. We cannot stimulate thirst for righteousness if we have lost our own. We cannot be used of God to retard the corruption of sin in the world if our own lives become corrupted by sin. To lose our saltiness is not to lose our salvation, but it is to lose our effectiveness and to become disqualified for service (see 1 Cor. 9:27).

Pure salt does not lose its saltiness, that which makes it valuable and effective. Christians who are pure in heart do not become tasteless, ineffective, and useless in the kingdom of God.

Light, too, is in danger of becoming useless. Like salt, it cannot lose its essential nature. A hidden light is still light, but it is useless light. That is why people do not light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure, but on a lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. The exemplary woman praised in Proverbs 31 does not let her lamp go out at night (v. 18). There was always illumination for anyone in the household who had to get up or find his way home during the night. A light that is hidden under a peck-sized basket cannot even be used to read by; it helps neither the person who hides it nor anyone else.

Whether we hide our light because of fear of offending others, because of indifference and lovelessness, or because of anything else, we demonstrate unfaithfulness to the Lord.

The Purpose: to Glorify God

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (5:16)

The word (kalos) for good that Jesus uses here does not so much emphasize quality—though that obviously is important—as it does attractiveness, beautiful appearance. Letting our light shine before men allows them to see our good works, the beauty the Lord has worked in us. To see good works by us is to see Christ in us. That is why Jesus says, let your light shine. It is not something we create or make up, but something we allow the Lord to do through us. It is God’s light; our choice is whether to hide it or let it shine.

The purpose of letting our light shine and reveal our good works is not to bring attention or praise to ourselves but to God. Our intent should be that, in what we are and in what we do, others may see God in order that they may glorify [our] Father who is in heaven. Jesus’ speaking of the Father emphasizes God’s tenderness and intimacy, and speaking of His being in heaven emphasizes His majesty and holiness, as He is pictured dwelling in the splendor of His eternal holy home. Our good works are to magnify God’s grace and power. This is the supreme calling of life: glorifying God. Everything we do is to cause others to give praise to the God who is the source of all that is good. The way we live should lead those around us to glorify (doxazō, from which we get doxology) the heavenly Father.

When what we do causes people to be attracted to us rather than to God, to see our human character rather than His divine character, we can be sure that what they see is not His light.

It is said of Robert Murray McCheyne, a godly Scottish minister of the last century, that his face carried such a hallowed expression that people were known to fall on their knees and accept Jesus Christ as Savior when they looked at him. Others were so attracted by the self-giving beauty and holiness of his life that they found his Master irresistible.

It was also said of the French pietist Francois Fenelon that his communion with God was such that his face shined with divine radiance. A religious skeptic who was compelled to spend the night in an inn with Fenelon, hurried away the next morning, saying, “If I spend another night with that man I’ll be a Christian in spite of myself.”

That is the kind of salt and light God wants His kingdom people to be.[2]


13 Salt and light are such common substances (cf. Pliny, Nat. 31.102: “Nothing is more useful than salt and sunshine”) that they doubtless generated many sayings. Therefore it is improper to attempt a tradition history of all gospel references as if one original stood behind the lot (cf. Mk 4:21; 9:50; Lk 8:16; 11:33; 14:34–35). Equally, the suggestion that Jesus is referring to the “covenant of salt” (Lev 2:13; Nu 18:19; 2 Ch 13:5) seems unlikely. Where that expression shows up in the OT, it seems to be connected with the permanence or stability of God’s covenant with his people. Here, however, Jesus says that his disciples are “salt.” There is no mention of covenant, and, far from symbolizing stability, the salt of which Jesus speaks loses its effectiveness.

The reality is that “salt” is not a technical word with only one set of associations. It can even be connected with judgment (Lot’s wife is turned into a pillar of salt, Ge 19:26; one might ruin an enemy’s field by sowing it with salt, Jdg 9:45). Salt was used in the ancient world to flavor foods and even in small doses as a fertilizer (cf. Eugene P. Deatrick, “Salt, Soil, Savor,” BA 25 [1962]: 44–45, who wants tēs gēs to read “for the soil,” not “of the earth”; but notice the parallel “of the world” in v. 14). Sometimes the word is simply referring to a commodity (Ezr 6:9) or identifies a place (2 Sa 8:13). Above all, salt was used as a preservative. Rubbed into meat, a little salt would slow decay. Strictly speaking, salt cannot lose its saltiness; sodium chloride is a stable compound. But most salt in the ancient world derived from salt marshes or the like rather than by evaporation of salt water, and therefore contained many impurities. The actual salt, being more soluble than the impurities, could be leached out, leaving a residue so dilute it was of little worth.

In modern Israel, savorless salt is still said to be scattered on the soil of flat roofs. This helps harden the soil and prevent leaks; and since the roofs serve as playgrounds and places for public gathering, the salt is still being trodden under foot (Deatrick, “Salt, Soil, Savor,” 47). This explanation negates the attempt by some (e.g., Lenski, Schniewind) to suppose that, precisely because pure salt cannot lose its savor, Jesus is saying that true disciples cannot lose their effectiveness. The question “How can it be made salty again?” is not meant to have an answer, as Schweizer rightly says. The rabbinic remark that what makes salt salty is “the afterbirth of a mule” (mules are sterile) rather misses the point (cf. Schweizer). The point is that if Jesus’ disciples are to act as a preservative in the world by conforming to kingdom norms, if they are “called to be a moral disinfectant in a world where moral standards are low, constantly changing, or nonexistent …, they can discharge this function only if they themselves retain their virtue” (Tasker).[3]


[1] Boice, J. M. (2002). The Sermon on the Mount: an expositional commentary (pp. 61–66). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Vol. 1, pp. 235–247). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] 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. 168–169). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

FEBRUARY 26 IF WE’VE LOST MAJESTY

They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and talk of thy power; to make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of his kingdom.

—Psalm 145:11-12

If you want to pray strategically, in a way which would please God, pray that God might raise up men who would see the beauty of the Lord our God and would begin to preach it and hold it out to people, instead of offering peace of mind, deliverance from cigarettes, a better job and a nicer cottage….

What good is all our busy religion if God isn’t in it? What good is it if we’ve lost majesty, reverence, worship—an awareness of the divine? What good is it if we’ve lost a sense of the Presence and the ability to retreat within our own hearts and meet God in the garden? If we’ve lost that, why build another church? Why make more converts to an effete Christianity? Why bring people to follow after a Savior so far off that He doesn’t own them?

We need to improve the quality of our Christianity, and we never will until we raise our concept of God back to that held by apostle, sage, prophet, saint and reformer. When we put God back where He belongs, we will instinctively and automatically move up again; the whole spiral of our religious direction will be upward. AOG194-195

Lord, may I learn to see You not as a functional God who fulfills my requests but as a beautiful God of glorious majesty. May I hold that concept out for others to see, that they might also behold Your majesty. Amen.[1]


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

February 26 God Is Faithful to Keep Us

“Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.”

1 Thessalonians 5:24

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God is faithful in forgiving our sins and securing our salvation.

We have learned that God protects us from temptation, but what happens when we don’t rely on God and give in to sin? John has the answer: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). The Lord says in Jeremiah 31:34, “I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” God has promised to forgive, and He is faithful to do so.

God’s faithfulness stands out especially in His preserving His people for glory. He secures our salvation. Paul says, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). God will preserve us so that we may be “without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” because He is “faithful” (1 Thess. 5:23–24).

There was once a boy whose dad left him on a downtown street corner and told him to wait there until he returned in about half an hour. But the father’s car broke down, and he could not get to a phone. Five hours went by before the father managed to get back, and he thought his son would be in a state of panic. But when the father returned, the boy was standing in front of the corner dime store, looking in the window and rocking back and forth on his heels. The father threw his arms around him, apologized, and said, “Weren’t you worried? Did you think I was never coming back?” The boy replied, “No, Dad. I knew you were coming. You said you would.”

God is always faithful to His promises. The father in the story was unable to keep his promise because of circumstances out of his control. But God is able to overcome any circumstances to keep His word. With a simple faith like that boy’s, we can always say, “I knew you would do it, God. You said you would.”

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Suggestions for Prayer: Ask God for simple faith to trust Him whatever the situation.

For Further Study: David rejoices in God’s faithfulness in Psalm 103. Make a list of all the ways God demonstrates His faithfulness in this psalm.[1]


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

February 25 Daily Help

THERE are some that are like what is fabled of the swan. The ancients said that the swan never sang in his life-time, but always sang just when he died. Now, there are many of God’s desponding children, who seem to go all their life under a cloud; but they get a swan’s song before they die. The river of their life comes running down, perhaps black and miry with troubles, and when it begins to touch the white foam of the sea there comes a little glistening in its waters. So, beloved, though we may have been very much dispirited by reason of the burden of the way, when we get to the end we shall have sweet songs.[1]


[1] Spurgeon, C. H. (1892). Daily Help (p. 60). Baltimore: R. H. Woodward & Company.