Daily Archives: March 18, 2018

March 18: Is This “Bad” from God?

Numbers 20–21; 1 Corinthians 3:1–4:21; Psalm 18:31–50

God has granted us incredible grace in the salvation that Jesus’ death and resurrection offers, but that very grace is often used as a theological excuse. It’s dangerous to say that bad things come from God, but there are times when they actually do. What makes them good is how He uses them to help us grow. The great grace God offers doesn’t mean our sins go unpunished.

We see God directly issue what seems “bad” in Num 21:5–7. First we’re told: “The people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us from Egypt to die in the desert? There is no food and no water, and our hearts detest this miserable food’ ” (Num 21:5). Then, Yahweh sends poisonous snakes that bite the people, causing them to die (Num 21:6). Why would a good God do such a horrific thing?

In Numbers 21:1–4, the people had experienced a miraculous victory against the Canaanites living in Arad—a people they were losing to, and should have lost to, until Yahweh intervened. Yahweh showed Himself to be loyal and true; yet, the people still rebelled.

When Yahweh punishes the people with the snakes, it’s not because He wants to; it’s because He needs to. And the result is worth it. The people say to Moses, “We have sinned because we have spoken against Yahweh and against you. Pray to Yahweh and let him remove the snakes from among us” (Num 21:7). In their response, they show faith in Yahweh and His ability to change the situation. They also show faith in the leader He appointed to them: Moses.

God sent this “bad” thing because He knew it would be a good thing (compare 1 Cor 11:30–32). This knowledge should make us boldly proclaim, as the psalmist does, “For who is God apart from Yahweh and who is a rock except our God?” (Psa 18:31).

What currently seems “bad” that is really a result of God responding to your disobedience?

John D. Barry[1]

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

March 18 Praying for Christ’s Rule

“Thy kingdom come” (Matt. 6:10).


When you pray, “Thy kingdom come,” you are praying for Christ to reign on earth as He already does in Heaven.

When we hear the word kingdom, we tend to think of medieval castles, kings, knights, and the like. But “kingdom” in Matthew 6:10 translates a Greek word that means “rule” or “reign.” We could translate the phrase, “Thy reign come.” That gives a clearer sense of what Christ meant. He prayed that God’s rule would be as apparent on earth as it is in Heaven.

God’s Kingdom was the central issue in Christ’s ministry. He proclaimed “the gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 4:23) and instructed His followers to make the Kingdom a priority in their own lives (Matt. 6:33). He told parables about its character and value (Matt. 13) and indicted the scribes and Pharisees for hindering those who sought to enter it (Matt. 23:13). After His death and resurrection, He appeared for forty days and gave the disciples further instruction about the Kingdom (Acts 1:2–3).

When we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” we are praying for Christ’s sovereign rule to be as established on earth as it is in Heaven. In one sense the Kingdom is already here—in the hearts of believers. That Kingdom consists of “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). But in another sense the Kingdom is yet future. In Luke 17:21 Jesus says, “Behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst” (cf. John 18:36). Their King was present, but they rejected Him. Someday He will return again to establish His Kingdom on earth and personally reign over it. That’s the aspect of the Kingdom we pray for in Matthew 6:10.

Sin and rebellion are now rampant, but when Christ’s Kingdom comes, they will be done away with (Rev. 20:7–9). In the meantime, the work of the Kingdom continues, and you have the privilege of promoting it through your prayers and faithful ministry. Take every opportunity to do so today, and rejoice in the assurance that Christ will someday reign in victory and will be glorified for all eternity.


Suggestions for Prayer:  Praise God for the glorious future that awaits you and all believers. ✧ Pray with anticipation for the coming of Christ’s eternal Kingdom.

For Further Study: Read Matthew 13:1–52. What parables did Jesus use to instruct His disciples about the Kingdom of Heaven?[1]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 90). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.


From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

John 6:66

Our Lord Jesus Christ called men to follow Him, but He plainly taught that “no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father” (John 6:65).

It is not surprising that many of His early followers, upon hearing these words, went back and walked no more with Him. Such teaching cannot but be deeply disturbing to the natural mind. It takes from sinful men much of the power of self-determination. It cuts the ground out from under their self-help and throws them back upon the sovereign good pleasure of God—and that is precisely where they do not want to be!

These statements by our Lord run contrary to the current assumptions of popular Christianity. Men are willing to be saved by grace, but to preserve their self-esteem, they must hold that the desire to be saved originated with them.

Most Christians today seem afraid to talk about these plain words of Jesus concerning the sovereign operation of God—so they use the simple trick of ignoring them!

Dear Lord, I do not want to be counted among those who turn their backs on You. I want to follow You, Lord. Guide me today.[1]

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

March 18, 2018 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ” 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 5:24–34). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

In the Commotion, Jesus Was Interruptible (5:25–34)

As he escorted Jesus back toward his house, Jairus’s heart must have leaped with joy at the thought that his daughter would soon be healed. The concerned father undoubtedly did everything he could to speed the journey along. Yet, the congestion of the crowds (v. 24) made it impossible to walk quickly. At least they were heading in the right direction, making slow but steady progress.

Suddenly, to Jairus’s certain dismay, their journey came to an abrupt halt. There, in the crowd, was a woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse. In some ways, this woman was the antithesis of Jairus. He was a highly respected leader of the synagogue. She was a social outcast who, due to her condition, had been ostracized from Jewish religious life. While Jairus had known twelve years of joy and happiness with his daughter, this woman had experienced twelve years of heartache and rejection due to her ailment. Yet, she and Jairus shared this in common: they both knew Jesus was their only hope.

The cause of the woman’s hemorrhage of blood is not stated. Her repeated attempts to find an effective cure had clearly failed. No matter how many doctors she consulted, having spent all that she had trying to find a solution, her condition only worsened. The Jewish Talmud listed eleven possible remedies for such an infirmity. These included superstitious prescriptions like placing the ashes of an ostrich egg in a cloth sack, or carrying around a barleycorn kernel procured from female donkey dung. Undoubtedly, this desperate woman had tried every potential cure. Financially drained and emotionally exhausted, she suffered both the physical discomfort and the social humiliation caused by many years of continual bleeding.

There were even greater ramifications for someone in her condition. According to Leviticus 15:25–27, any such discharge rendered a woman ceremonially unclean. Women had to wait seven days after any bleeding stopped before they were permitted to offer the prescribed sacrifices (vv. 28–29). For more than a decade, this woman had experienced no reprieve, meaning she was not able to participate in either temple or synagogue worship during those years. She had been ostracized due to the perpetual state of her uncleanness. Her experience was almost like that of a leper; even her associations with family and friends had to be maintained from a distance.

After hearing about Jesus, she determined to find Him, believing He could deliver her from an otherwise incurable predicament (cf. Luke 8:43). She desperately pressed her way through the crowd—clearly violating the acceptable boundaries for those who were ceremonially unclean. Finding Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak. For she thought, “If I just touch His garments, I will get well.” Like Jairus, she was compelled to approach Jesus by both the urgency of her need and the strength of her faith. Yet, hoping to avoid notice, she came just close enough to touch “the fringe of His cloak” (Luke 8:44). In Numbers 15:37–41, the Israelites were instructed to sew tassels on the bottom of their cloaks as a visible symbol that they belonged to God (cf. Deut. 22:12). These tassels served a dual purpose. They reminded the Jews of their commitment to serve the Lord, while simultaneously testifying to the world that they were part of God’s chosen people. Religious hypocrites, like the Pharisees, tried to exalt themselves by lengthening their tassels (Matt. 23:5). Jesus, by contrast, would have worn a robe with traditional tassels attached to the bottom.

Believing she would be healed, the woman reached out to grasp the tassels of the Lord’s robe. Her faith was not in His clothing, as if His robe had magical power, but in Him. She knew about His miracles and therefore had no doubt that He could heal her infirmity. Her unwavering faith was instantly rewarded. As Mark records, immediately the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. The very moment she touched His garment, her body was restored. What twelve years of medical appointments could not cure, the power of God healed in an instant.

Jesus had a purpose for this woman’s life that went beyond her physical healing. She had come incognito, hoping to shrink back unnoticed into the crowd. But Jesus intended to bring her out in order to draw her to Himself. Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the power proceeding from Him had gone forth, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My garments?” That Jesus perceived the power proceeding from Him reveals an important truth about the nature of God. Divine power is not an impersonal cosmic force somehow detached from its sovereign source. Rather, God is personally engaged in every act of power—from creation to redemption to the providential sustaining of the universe (cf. Heb. 1:3). He feels it all. For this woman, the personal expression of the Lord’s power immediately healed her physical infirmity. Jesus knew her spiritual condition still needed to be addressed.

With that in mind, Jesus turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My garments?” His question was not motivated by ignorance (since He knew whom He had healed) but in order to pull the woman out of the crowd. True to form, His disciples did not understand what He was doing. Looking around, they said to Him, “You see the crowd pressing in on You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’ ” The verb translated pressing (sunthlibō) means to compress or jam. It indicates Jesus was crammed in by the crowd, being touched and enclosed by the people on all sides. From a human point of view, the disciples (through their spokesman Peter—cf. Luke 8:45) asked an obvious question. There were so many people in close proximity to Jesus that it seemed impossible to single out just one. From the divine perspective, the Lord knew precisely to whom He was referring. And He looked around to see the woman who had done this. She had wanted to hide, but she knew Jesus was speaking directly to hear. And so, the woman fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth.

For the past twelve years, she had faced the fear of embarrassment and rejection. The fearing and trembling she felt in that moment was of a different kind altogether. Her heart was gripped with a holy fear as the reality of what had just happened to her began to sink in. Realizing she was in the presence of deity, she came and fell down before Him and publicly related the whole truth about both her malady and her healing (cf. Luke 8:47). The Lord responded to her public confession by affirming the authenticity of her faith. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction.” The word affliction (masti) literally means “whip” or “scourge,” illustrating the traumatic nature of the trial this woman had endured. But Jesus’ words transcended her physical condition, indicating that this physical daughter of Abraham had become a spiritual daughter of God (cf. John 1:12). The common Greek word for physical healing was iaomai. That is the term Mark used when he wrote that the woman was healed of her affliction. Luke used a synonymous term, therapeuō (from which the English word “therapeutic” is derived), when he noted that this woman “could not be healed by anyone” (Luke 8:43). But the word used for being made well in verse 34 (cf. Matt. 9:21–22; Luke 8:48) is sōzō, a term usually used in the New Testament for being saved from sin.

The Gospels often use sōzō to demonstrate a connection between a person’s faith and their salvation. For example, when a penitent prostitute washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, He told her the same thing He told this woman, “Your faith has saved you” (Luke 7:50; cf. Mark 10:52; Luke 17:19). The Greek in both places is identical, though most English translations do not render them in the same way. While Jesus healed many people who did not exhibit genuine faith (and thus were made well only in a physical sense), there were also those who expressed saving faith in Him. In such cases, their bodies were not only delivered but also their souls. Jesus’ response to this woman, connecting the word sōzō with her faith, suggests she was healed of more than just a physical affliction. Because she had been saved, she could now truly go in peace. Her bodily healing enabled her to be reunited with her family and restored to the synagogue. More importantly, her salvation meant she was now reconciled to God.

Though Jesus was on His way to Jairus’s house, He was willing to be interrupted in order to help this woman. From a human perspective, He had more pressing needs to meet. Jairus’s daughter was on death’s doorstep, and this woman’s medical condition was not life-threatening. The commotion of the crowd and the urgency of the moment made it difficult to stop. Yet, from the divine perspective, Jesus knew she was one of His elect (cf. John 6:37). Consequently, He welcomed the interruption, taking the necessary time to minister to her, not only by healing her body but also by saving her soul.[1]

34 Jesus addressed the woman as “daughter”—the only occurrence in the Gospels of Jesus’ addressing a woman by that word. It was intended to ease her fear and provide assurance that her action was not wrong. Jesus may also be identifying her as a member of his true family in accordance with his comments in 3:31–35 about those who are his true mother and brothers and sisters. He made clear to her that it was her faith (in Jesus, or God) that had healed her (cf. 2:5; 5:36; 9:23–24; 10:52). The Greek word translated “healed” is sōzō (GK 5392, “saved”). Here both physical healing and spiritual salvation are in mind. In Mark’s gospel the two go together closely (cf. 2:1–12).

The phrase “Go in peace” is a traditional Jewish formula of leave taking (“shalom”; cf. Jdg 18:6; 1 Sa 1:17). The word “peace” here “means not just freedom from inward anxiety, but the wholeness or completeness of life that comes from being brought into a right relationship with God” (Anderson, 154, emphasis his; cf. TDNT 2:911).

By Jesus’ last statement to the woman—“be freed from your suffering”—he actively participated in her healing and confirmed God’s will to make her well. This may also be Jesus’ encouragement to go out and live her life in accord with the freedom and peace she has now been given.[2]

5:34. The first thing we note in this verse is that Jesus called her daughter, a word used only in this passage in the New Testament. He claimed the same special relationship with her that Jairus had with his little daughter—infinitely precious, unbearably sorrowful at the thought of loss. She had come to him as an outcast, fearful of rebuke because of her status. Instead, she had found not only physical healing but spiritual healing as well.

Your faith has healed you. Not magic or superstition, but faith in the person of Jesus had healed her. The word for “healed” is the same as the word for “saved,” indicating the physical and spiritual aspects of her healing. Go in peace. Only now could she go in peace—a bodily peace from which all traces of disease had been removed and a spiritual peace in which all hostilities with God had been removed through the work of Christ.

We learn something, as well, from what is not said in this section. Jesus did not rebuke the woman for touching him. As with the Sabbath laws, Jesus was giving the Jews a message about his kingdom. As Stock notes, “The story subtly shatters the legal purity system and its restrictive social conditioning” (Stock, Mark, p. 172). If Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, then he is Lord of the purity laws as well.[3]

34. He said to her, Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your illness. Lovingly Jesus calls her “Daughter,” even though she may not have been any younger than he was. But he speaks as a father to his child. Moreover, he praises her for her faith, even though that faith, as has been indicated, was by no means perfect; and even though, as verse 27 indicates, it was he himself who, through his earlier marvelous words and deeds, had brought about that faith. Her faith, though not the basic cause of her cure, had been the channel through which the cure had been accomplished. It had been the instrument used by Christ’s power and love, to effect her recovery. Cf. Eph. 2:8. Is it not marvelous that Jesus, in speaking to this woman, says nothing about his own power and love, the root-cause of her present state of well-being, but makes special mention of that which apart from him she would neither have possessed nor have been able to exercise? Moreover, by saying, “Your faith has made you well,” was he not also stressing the fact that it was his personal response to her personal faith in him that cured her, thereby removing from her mind any remnant, however small, of superstition, as if his clothes had contributed in any way to the cure?

By means of these cheering words Jesus also opened the way for the woman’s complete reinstatement in the social and religious life and fellowship of her people. Now she can go and continue to travel the rest of her life “in peace,” that is, with the smile of God upon her and the joyful inner knowledge of this smile. Cf. Isa. 26:3; 43:1, 2; Rom. 5:1.

Probably even more is included in this encouraging command, “Go in peace.” In view of the immediately following words, namely, “Be—meaning Be and remain—healed of your illness (literally: your scourge),” and in view of the fact that in all probability Jesus spoke these words in the then current language of the Jews (Aramaic), have we not a right to conclude that nothing less than the full measure of the Hebrew Shalom, well-being for both soul and body, is here implied?

Although none of the evangelists report the woman’s reaction to these gracious words of the Savior, is it unrealistic to affirm that her soul was flooded not only with relief but also with boundless gratitude, the kind of emotion experienced by the inspired composer of Ps. 116 (see especially verses 12–19)? Jesus had healed her. He had imparted to her a double blessing: restoring her body and causing her soul to testify, so that faith concealed had become faith revealed. Now she was able to be, and undoubtedly had become, a blessing to others, to the glory of God.

A few days after a certain minister preached on this section of Scripture (Mark 5:25–34 and parallels), he received the following poem from a lady who had composed it after hearing the sermon:

“Who touched me?”

’Twas the voice of the Master,

And the woman’s heart beat faster and faster.

Trembling she came and bowed her head.

“I touched thee, Lord,” was what she said.

But the Master answered, “Go thy way,

Thy faith has made thee whole this day.”

“Have you touched me?”

I heard it. ‘Twas the voice of the Master,

And O my heart beat faster and faster.

“You came with the throng to God’s house today,

But I felt not your touch as you went your way.”

I was ashamed and bowed my head.

“Reach out a bit farther next time,” he said.[4]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2015). Mark 1–8 (pp. 257–262). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Wessel, W. W., & Strauss, M. L. (2010). Mark. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 774–775). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Cooper, R. L. (2000). Mark (Vol. 2, p. 88). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[4] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Mark (Vol. 10, pp. 209–211). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

Islamism Is Spreading In America’s Prisons On The Taxpayers’ Dime | Kalam at The Daily Caller

by Ahnaf Kalam
Daily Caller
March 16, 2018


In recent years, a number of Western countries have had to grapple with the question of radical Islamism spreading behind prison walls. As authorities are beginning to realize, many of their maximum-security prison facilities, which contain the most dangerous, violent criminals in their societies, have inadvertently served as hotbeds of radicalization.

In Britain it was recently revealed that Khalid Masood, who in March 2017 murdered five people and injured dozens more on Westminster bridge in an ISIS-inspired jihadi attack, had likely been radicalized during his time in British prisons by ‘self-styled emirs.’ In Australia, similar reports of ‘Jailhouse Jihad’came out of the SuperMax Detention Center in New South Wales, where inmates are often violently coerced by their fellow Muslim inmates towards extreme and violent interpretations of Islam.

Here in the United States, certain programs attempt to combat extremism behind prison walls, including the adoption of federally-appointed religious chaplains responsible for curating and distributing religious material to prisoners. But among the Muslim chaplains appointed by the Federal Bureau of Incarceration is one Mutahhir Sabree, who has served as an imam at prisons in Estill, Williamsburg, Bennettsville, and Edgefield, South Carolna; Jesup, Georgia; and Tallahassee and Mariana, Florida. In fact, since 2007, Sabree has held 29 contract positions throughout the US Department of Justice.

Sabree is also, however, the U.S. Director of Operations for Islamic Online University (IOU), an organization founded by the notorious Salafi imam Bilal Philips. Philips has in the past been banned from several countries including Great Britain, Australia, Denmark, Germany, Kenya, and Bangladesh for his ‘extremist views’. He was also named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings. No less unsettlingly, the British Prison Services have banned Philips’s book, “The Fundamentals of Tauheed,” from its detention facilities—putting it alongside other banned texts by prominent Islamist leaders Hassan al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb, and Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

One of IOU’s programs is its Prison Initiative, directed by Sabree, which seeks to distribute IOU coursework to Muslim and non-Muslim inmates in prisons across America. According to its website, the professed goal is to assist Muslims in preparing for life after their release by offering them the “true, peaceful and authentic teachings of Islam” in the face of an increase in terrorist groups who “falsely attribute themselves to Islam.” Prison Initiative’s website boasts of over 1100 registered inmates, with 500 currently enrolled and taking classes in 22 U.S. states.

Despite a disclaimer on its website claiming that IOU has a strict zero-tolerance policy for extremism and terrorist-related activities, a quick look through the contents of its coursework paints a very different picture. One module deals solely with “contemporary issues” and contains exactly the type of hateful and illiberal rhetoric one might expect from a Salafi whose extreme views have had him banned from six countries.

A section discussing homosexuality begins by pointing out that ‘homosexuality’ was once defined as a mental illness by the Association of Psychiatrists, before adding that certain glands in the brains of homosexuals shrink because of their “deviant” lifestyles. Diseases such as AIDS, students are told, are a punishment for homosexuals’ behavior.

Another section denounces those who leave Islam, describing apostasy as a crime akin to treason against the state, and therefore, deserving of a death sentence in order to maintain social order.

Sabree, in addition to his own work with IOU, also has close ties with the American Salafi preacher Sheikh Yusuf Estes, who also worked as a chaplainunder the Federal Bureau of Prisons through the 1990s. In December 2017, Estes was denied entry into Singapore after the authorities determined his views were “unacceptable” and “contrary” to Singapore’s secular and multi-religious values.

Government-appointed chaplains and religious organizations were placed in prisons to provide inmates with spiritual guidance and to prepare them for a functional life after their release. But organizations like IOU take advantage of this open door and, in fact, use prisons to their advantage in order to radicalize the most susceptible members of society. If the United States wishes to avoid the same problems plaguing prisons across the Western world, then it should perhaps begin by ensuring that Islamists like Mutahhir Sabree are not radicalizing a generation of American inmates — all on the taxpayers’ dime.


Ahnaf Kalam is a writer for Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.


Related Topics:  Ahnaf Kalam This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete and accurate information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.


Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.

ACTS 27:25

The Bible assumes as a self-evident fact that men can know God with at least the same degree of immediacy as they know any other person or thing that comes within the field of their experience.

The same terms are used to express the knowledge of God as are used to express knowledge of physical things:

“O TASTE and see that the Lord is good.”

“All thy garments SMELL of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia.”

“My sheep HEAR my voice.”

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall SEE God.”

These are but four of countless such passages from the Word of God. And more important than any proof text is the fact that the whole import of the Scripture is toward this belief.

We apprehend the physical world by exercising the faculties given us for the purpose, and we possess spiritual faculties by means of which we can know God and the spiritual world if we will obey the Spirit’s urge and begin to use them.

That a saving work must first be done in the heart is taken for granted here. The spiritual faculties of the unregenerate man lie asleep in his nature; they may be quickened to active life again by the operation of the Holy Spirit in regeneration![1]

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

March 18 Anticipating Physical Persecution

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.—Matt. 5:10

The Greek word that is translated “persecuted” and “persecute” in Matthew 5:10–12 has the basic meaning of chasing, driving away, or pursuing. From that meaning developed the connotations of physical persecution, harassment, abuse, and other unjust treatment.

The believer who possesses the qualities described in the first seven beatitudes will be willing to face persecution “for the sake of righteousness.” He will have an attitude of self-sacrifice for the sake of Christ. He is exemplified by a lack of fear and shame and the presence of courage and boldness. The tense of the Greek verb indicates that the believer has a continuous willingness to endure persecution if it is the price of godly living.

Under the demands of this beatitude many Christians break down in their obedience to the Lord; here is where the genuineness of their response to the other beatitudes is most strongly tested. It is where we are most tempted to compromise the righteousness we have hungered and thirsted for. It is here where we find it convenient to lower God’s standards to accommodate the world and thereby avoid conflicts and problems we know obedience will bring.

But God does not want His gospel altered under pretense of its being less demanding, less righteous, or less truthful than it is. He does not want witnesses who lead the unsaved into thinking that the Christian life costs nothing.

Do a spiritual inventory and make sure you are willing to pay the cost for the sake of righteousness.


What causes us to wish that Christian faith weren’t so costly? When our hearts lead us to compromise in order to avoid detection and possible derision, what lies are we really telling ourselves? And why doesn’t the secretive safety provided by these actions leave us feeling satisfied?[1]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 86). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

March 18 The Lost Sheep

There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety–nine just persons who need no repentance.

Luke 15:7

At the beginning of the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus asks, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety–nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4). Jesus’ point is that any shepherd would seek a lost sheep, for it is not only a matter of duty but also of affection.

After finding the one sheep, the shepherd in this parable went home and invited people over to celebrate with him. The shepherd’s joy was so great he had to share it.

Today’s verse is the conclusion to this parable and a hope for Christians today. Just as a shepherd rejoices over the lost sheep, our Great Shepherd rejoices over the repentant sinner, for He has found His lost sheep.[1]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 90). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

March 18, 2018 Morning Verse Of The Day

Positive Proof from the Old Testament

Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations shall be blessed in you.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. (3:6–9)

Paul’s positive proof that the Old Testament teaches salvation by faith rather than works revolves around Abraham, father of the Hebrew people and supreme patriarch of Judaism.

The Judaizers doubtlessly used Abraham as certain proof that circumcision was necessary to please God and become acceptable to Him. After first calling Abraham to leave his homeland of Ur of Chaldea, the Lord promised, “And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:2–3). Abraham and his descendants were later commanded to be circumcised as a sign of God’s covenant and a constant illustration of the need for spiritual cleansing from sin: “This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised” (Gen. 17:10). (The cutting away of the foreskin on the male procreative organ signified the need to cut away sin from the heart—sin that was inherent, passed from one generation to the next; cf. Deut. 10:16; Jer. 4:4; Col. 2:11.)

Putting those two accounts together, the Judaizers argued, “Isn’t it obvious that if the rest of the world, that is, Gentiles, are to share in the promised blessings to Abraham, they must first take on the sign that marks God’s people, the Jews? If all the nations of the earth will be blessed in Abraham, they will have to become like Abraham and be circumcised.”

“But that doesn’t follow,” Paul replied in effect. Quoting Genesis 15:6, he asked, “Don’t you know that even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness? Had they conveniently ignored the fact that Scripture precisely ascribed righteousness to Abraham by faith and that God commanded Abraham to be circumcised many years after He had reckoned Abraham to be righteous because he believed God?”

When some ten years passed after God’s first promise and his wife, Sarah, was still childless, Abraham prayed, “O Lord God, what wilt Thou give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezar of Damascus?” The Lord then took Abraham “outside and said, ‘Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:2, 5–6). It was at least fourteen years after that occasion (see Gen. 16:16; 17:1) before the command for his circumcision was given.

Paul used the same argument in his letter to the Roman church. Speaking of believers “whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered, … whose sin the Lord will not take into account,” he asked,

Is this blessing then upon the circumcised, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say, “Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.” How then was it reckoned? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised; and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be reckoned to them, and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised. (Rom. 4:7–12)

The Judaizers, like most other Jews of that day, had completely reversed the relationship of circumcision and salvation. Circumcision was only a mark, not the means, of salvation. God established circumcision as a physical sign to identify His people and to isolate them from the idolatrous, pagan world around them during the time of the Old Covenant. Circumcision is an external, physical act that has no effect on the spiritual work of justification. God gave the sign of circumcision to Abraham long after He had already declared him to be righteous because of his faith.

It has always been true that “he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter” (Rom. 2:28–29). Physical circumcision was a matter of earthly, ceremonial identity with God’s people, whereas salvation is a matter of spiritual identity with Him; and if the earthly symbol had no genuine spiritual counterpart it was worthless. Even under the Old Covenant, circumcision itself carried no spiritual power.

Since the Fall, proud mankind has been naturally inclined to trust in himself, including his ability to please God by his own character and efforts. The Jews of Jesus’ day put great stock in circumcision and physical descent from Abraham. When Jesus told a group of them, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” they replied, “We are Abraham’s offspring, and have never yet been enslaved to anyone” (John 8:31–33). Their answer was obviously absurd from a historical standpoint. The Jewish people had been in severe bondage many times throughout their history and were at that time under the iron rule of Rome. Even more foolish, however, was their thinking that mere physical descent from Abraham made them acceptable to God. In one of His most powerful denunciations of bankrupt Judaism, Jesus said: “I know that you are Abraham’s offspring; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you.… If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham. But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do.… You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father” (John 8:37, 39–40, 44).

By counting on ceremonial nationalism, legalistic Jews imagined they were in the spiritual as well as racial heritage of Abraham, whereas they were really in the spiritual heritage of Cain, who, in rejecting God’s way, not only followed his own way but also Satan’s. Jesus’ point on that occasion was that, no matter what physical lineage a person may have, if he does not have faith in God he is not a spiritual descendant of Abraham. Abraham was secondarily the physical father of the Jewish people. He was first of all the spiritual father of everyone, of whatever race or nationality, who believes in God (Rom. 4:11). Just as with Abraham, “to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness” (v. 5).

It should be noted also that Abraham is not only the pattern for justification by faith but for obedient living by that faith.

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.… By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your descendants shall be called.’ He considered that God is able to raise men even from the dead; from which he also received him back as a type. (Heb. 11:8–10, 17–19)

By faith Abraham followed God to an unknown land and by faith he was willing to give back to God the son who alone could be the means of fulfilling the divine promise. Abraham, as every true believer before and after him, understood faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (v. 1). By faith Abraham even looked forward to Christ. Jesus told the unbelieving Jews in Jerusalem, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56).

To reemphasize the absolute importance of what he was saying, Paul added, Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. He was making the same point to the believing Jews in Galatia that Jesus made to the unbelieving Jews in Jerusalem: Only genuine believers, those who are of faith, have any claim to a spiritual relationship to Abraham, or to God. Jews with no faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are not true sons of Abraham, whereas Gentiles who believe in Him are.

Lest Christians think that, because His chosen people have rejected Him, the Lord will reject them, Paul declares unequivocally, “I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be!” Then he repeats the declaration, “God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew” (Rom. 11:1–2). God still has marvelous future plans for the Jews as a people. But at no time of history—before or after His special calling of the Jews—has any person been brought into saving relationship to God by any other means than faith.

Personifying God’s Word, the apostle goes on to say, the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham—which is an exposition of Genesis 12:3: “All the nations shall be blessed in you.” Gospel means “good news,” and God’s good news to mankind has always been salvation by faith alone, prompted by the power of His grace. Salvation by works would not be good but bad news. All the nations, Jews and Gentiles alike, are justified and blessed for the same reason Abraham was justified and blessed: their faith. So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. To be blessed means to be the recipient of all that divine love, grace, and mercy bestows on those who are in Christ (cf. Eph. 1:3; 2:6–7).

At the Jerusalem Council, James said, “Brethren, listen to me. Simeon [Peter] has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name. And with this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written, ‘After these things I will return, and I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen, and I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, in order that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name’ ” (Acts 15:13–17; cf. Amos 9:11–12).

When Gentiles are saved, they are saved as Gentiles, just as Jews are saved as Jews. But no one from either group is saved or not saved due to racial or ethnic identity. Those who are saved are saved because of their faith, and those who are lost are lost because of their unbelief. A Gentile has absolutely no advantage in becoming a Jew before he becomes a Christian. In fact, by expecting salvation through the rite of circumcision, a person, whether Jew or Gentile, nullifies the grace of God and declares, in effect, that “Christ died needlessly” (Gal. 2:21).[1]

Father Abraham Has Many Sons

Galatians 3:6–9

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” (Gal. 3:7–8)

Some of the simplest Bible songs for children contain some of the soundest theology. Consider the chorus taken from Galatians 3:

Father Abraham had many sons,

And many sons had Father Abraham;

And I am one of them, and so are you,

So let’s all praise the Lord!

TheSo let’s all praise ththat—turning into a sort of sanctified “Hokey Pokey”—but its basic theology is profound. It is so profound, in fact, that I had no idea what it meant when I was a child. I first heard the song at camp, and I thought to myself, “Father Abraham had many sons? I thought Jacob was the guy with all the kids!”

Father Abraham was an important figure to the Judaizers, the goody-twoshoes of the apostolic church who believed in justification by faith plus the works of the law. If the Judaizers taught any Bible songs when they went to Galatia, they probably taught one that went like this:

Father Abraham had many sons,

And many sons had Father Abraham;

And I am one of them, but you are not,

So let’s all get together for a little procedure we like to call circumcision.

The Judaizers were serious about this. Belonging to God meant being a child of Abraham. So, for example, when the Jews wanted to prove to Jesus that they were children of God, they said, “We are offspring of Abraham.… Abraham is our father” (John 8:33, 39). Therefore, if the Gentiles wanted to belong to God, they had to become children of Abraham.

The only way to become a true child of Abraham, said the Judaizers, was to be circumcised as he was. This was taught right in the Scriptures. God said to Abraham, “This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised” (Gen. 17:10). What could be plainer? Until the Gentiles were circumcised, they had no right to call Abraham their father—or to call God their Father, for that matter.

The Man of Faith

Undoubtedly the reason the apostle Paul has so much to say about Abraham in Galatians 3 and 4 is that the Judaizers made such a fuss over him. They claimed that Father Abraham and all his children belonged to God, not by faith alone, but by works of the law.

In addition to misunderstanding the gospel, the Judaizers were also guilty of misunderstanding the Old Testament. Therefore, in order to refute their performance-based version of Christianity, Paul had to go back to the Hebrew Scriptures. In verses 1 through 5, his argument for justification by faith alone appealed to experience—the Galatian experience of the Holy Spirit. In verses 6 and following, he argues for faith alone on the basis of biblical history, using Abraham as a test case: “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” (Gal. 3:6).

Paul’s choice of an Old Testament text was inspired. The Judaizers loved to go back to Genesis 17, where God’s covenant with Abraham was signified by circumcision. But Paul went back even further, to God’s promise of a child in Genesis 15.

God made Abraham quite a few promises in his time: “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you’ ” (Gen. 12:1). Then God promised to make him into a great nation, to bless him, and to make his name great (Gen. 12:2–3). Abraham believed God’s promises. No sooner had he received his instructions than he “went, as the Lord had told him” (Gen. 12:4). In its short biographical summary of this period in Abraham’s life, the book of Hebrews says: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb. 11:8–10). So Abraham left the land of his fathers and journeyed by faith to the Promised Land.

Some years later, God came to Abraham with another promise. This time it was the promise of a son. Frankly, it was hard to believe. In the past, God had promised him land, but Abraham still did not own any property. Now he was promised an heir, but he still didn’t have any children. And he wasn’t getting any younger either! In fact, he was pushing one hundred. Abraham, a father, at that age?

To show Abraham what he had in mind, God took him outside and showed him the stars. He said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said, “So shall your offspring be” (Gen. 15:5). What God promised to do for Abraham was impossible. Yet Abraham believed that God would make it so. He took the promise the way every divine promise ought to be taken: by faith. As the Scripture says, “He believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:6). Or, as Paul quoted it for the Galatians, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Gal. 3:6).

What Paul emphasized was the result of Abraham’s faith. His faith was “counted” or “credited” (elogisthē) to him as righteousness. When Abraham believed, God reckoned that he was righteous. To put it in financial terms, he accounted him righteous. Trusting God was like opening a bank account. Immediately, God transferred righteousness into Abraham’s account.

This does not mean that Abraham was actually righteous, only that he was declared righteous. He was considered to have a right standing before God. To use the proper theological term, God “imputed” righteousness to Abraham. God is the one who has the legal right to state whether a man is righteous or unrighteous, and in this case, he considered Abraham righteous through his faith.

A good example of what it means to be declared righteous comes from the life of the astronomer William Herschel (1738–1822). As a young boy growing up in Hanover, Germany, Herschel loved listening to military music. Eventually he joined a military band. But when the nation went to war, he found himself marching into battle, totally unprepared for the horrors of war. During a period of intense fighting he deserted his unit and fled from the field of battle. The penalty for desertion was death, so Herschel could no longer remain in Germany. He fled to England to pursue further studies in music and science. Eventually he became a famous man, renowned throughout Europe for his musical abilities as well as his scientific discoveries.

William Herschel had left his past behind him, and for many years he gave little thought to the death sentence that remained over him. But then another German arrived in Britain: George, head of the House of Hanover, crowned King of England. King George knew the secret of Herschel’s past and summoned him to appear before the royal court. With great trepidation, the scientist arrived at the palace, where he was told to wait in a chamber outside the throne room. Finally, one of the king’s servants brought Herschel a document. Anxiously, he opened it and read the following words: “I George pardon you for your past offenses against our native land.”

Herschel had received a royal pardon. The fact of his desertion was not overlooked, yet he was acquitted, and therefore he was justified in the eyes of the law. In a similar way, Abraham received a royal pardon from the King of all kings. He was declared righteous. Unrighteous though he was, his faith was counted for righteousness by God.

Although everyone agrees that Abraham was righteous, not everyone agrees how he got that way. Some Jewish writings—outside the Bible—depict him as a man whose righteousness was a reward for his obedience. His right standing before God was not a gift; it was something he had to earn. According to the book of Sirach (44:19–21), for example, the promises God made were a response to Abraham’s faithfulness. Other rabbis said he had to pass through ten trials in order to merit God’s favor. Thus the first book of Maccabees asks, “Did not Abraham prove steadfast under trial, and so gain credit as a righteous man?” (1 Macc. 2:52). Paul’s answer to this question was a resounding “No!” Abraham was steadfast under trial, true enough, but he never gained any credit from God for his works of obedience. God counted him righteous by faith, and nothing else.

The striking thing about Abraham is that he was justified before he did any works. If Abraham had been justified by works, then he would have had something to brag about. But “what does the Scripture say?” Paul asks in his letter to the Romans. Simply this: “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” (Rom. 4:3). He was justified not as a worker, but as a believer. Faith was the instrumentality of his justification.

In particular, Abraham did not have to get circumcised to be justified. This is the genius of Paul’s argument against the Judaizers: God counted Abraham righteous before he had even heard of circumcision! In Romans, Paul asks if the blessing of God’s forgiveness is “only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised” (Rom. 4:9). His answer is: “We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised” (Rom. 4:9–10). In other words, the great patriarch was justified while he was still an uncircumcised Chaldean!

Like Father, Like Son

The fact that Abraham was justified as a Gentile made him the perfect example to use for the Galatians, who had been wrestling with two questions: Whom does God accept, and on what basis? For his answer, Paul took Abraham’s history and applied it to their situation, and to ours: “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham” (Gal. 3:7).

No doubt this statement enraged the Judaizers when they heard it. Their claim to fame was that they were the children of Abraham, while others were not. “We have been circumcised,” they gloated, “so we are the sons of Abraham!” Paul picked up their vocabulary and smacked them with it, declaring that the only real children of Abraham are those who believe. Paul not only taught this; he insisted on it. Grammatically, verse 7 reads like this: “The ones of faith, these are the sons of Abraham.” All who believe—and only those who believe—are children of Abraham. Membership in Abraham’s family is not hereditary. Father Abraham’s true sons and daughters are not the people who keep the law, but the people who live by faith. Their family resemblance is spiritual rather than physical.

Practically speaking, this means that God will accept us only on the same basis he accepted Abraham. Like father, like son. If Abraham was justified by faith, then his children have to be justified by faith too. Therefore, we will never become children of God by what we do, but only by what we believe.

What, then, must we believe? Notice the object of Abraham’s faith: he put his trust in God. “Abraham believed God” (Gal. 3:6), and this was credited to him as righteousness. What Abraham believed was not simply God’s promises, which he could hardly believe, but God himself. Abraham put his faith in the faithful God—the God who made him the promise. When Abraham didn’t know where he was going, or how he was going to get there, he trusted God to get him where he needed to be. When he didn’t have any children, or any reason to think he ever would, he believed that God would make good on his promise. Against all hope and beyond all doubt, Abraham committed himself and his whole life to God. The Scripture says, “No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness’ ” (Rom. 4:20–22).

If we are to become children of Abraham, and therefore children of God, we must have the same faith, and we must put it in the same place. We must trust the God who keeps every promise he has ever made. We trust him for guidance, believing that he will show us the way we should go. We trust him for providence, believing that he will take care of whatever we need. We trust him for deliverance, believing that he will bring us through times of trial. We trust him for everything, just as Abraham did. But most of all we trust him for salvation through his Son. Now that God the Son has come into the world, to believe God is to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ, “receiving and resting upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.”

To have faith is to believe the good news of the cross and the empty tomb. It is to accept what the Bible says about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. It is to trust in “Jesus Christ as crucified,” as Paul said back in verse 1. It is to believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and was raised from the dead to give us eternal life.

These are the things we must believe if we want God to accept us the way he justified Abraham: “But the words ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Rom. 4:23–25). When we place all our trust and confidence in the God who raised the crucified Christ from the dead, then God credits Christ’s righteousness to our account. He imputes Christ’s righteousness to us, so that we are righteous in his sight by faith. Thus we become true children of Abraham, and of God.

The Same as It Ever Was

This faith is not just for Abraham and the Galatians, but for everyone. In verse 6 Paul proved that justification by faith was God’s plan for Abraham. In verse 7 he showed that people like the Galatians could become Abraham’s children by the same faith. Then in verse 8 he proves that justification by faith alone has always been God’s plan for all people everywhere: “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed’ ” (Gal. 3:8).

This quotation takes us even further back in Abraham’s story, to the very first promise God ever made to him: “And I will make of you a great nation, … and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:2–3). There is also an echo in Galatians from Genesis 18:18, where God said, “Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him.”

By quoting from Genesis in this way, Paul teaches something important about the Bible. The promises in Genesis come from the mouth of God, but for Paul, what the Bible says and what God says are one and the same. So Paul says, “The Scripture … preached” (Gal. 3:8), even though God was the one doing the talking. This is one place where, as the great Princeton theologian Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (1851–1921) put it, “God and the Scriptures are brought into such conjunction as to show that in point of directness of authority no distinction was made between them.” The Bible is God’s word written. This is why the Scripture is alive. It has the power to announce because God speaks in it with a living and powerful voice. The words on the pages of the Bible come straight from the mouth of God.

Because it was written by God—through human authors, of course—the Bible speaks with one mind and one message. That one message is justification by faith alone. God’s plan of salvation, the covenant of grace, runs from Abraham right through to Christ: “The Scripture … preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham” (Gal. 3:8). What God said to Abraham was nothing less than a proclamation of the gospel. Christians sometimes sing about “the old, old story of Jesus and his love.” The story is older than some people realize. It goes back at least to the days of Abraham. Indeed, it goes all the way back to Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:15), who were the first to hear it. Ultimately, the good news of the Old Testament is the good news about Jesus Christ.

The gospel is the good news about God forgiving sins and granting eternal life. These are the very things Abraham believed. He did not know Jesus Christ by name, but he trusted him nonetheless. He believed that God would forgive his sins and grant him eternal life. He had faith, in other words, in both the atonement and the resurrection.

Consider Abraham’s actions on Mount Moriah, where God told him to offer his beloved son Isaac as a sacrifice. Children love to question their parents about travel arrangements, and Isaac was no exception. As they hiked up the mountain, it dawned on him that something was missing. “Behold, the fire and the wood,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (Gen. 22:7). Abraham believed that God would provide the atoning sacrifice. So he answered, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son” (Gen. 22:8). Abraham was right: God provided a ram, caught in the thicket, which Abraham offered in place of his son (Gen. 22:13). He had faith in God’s gift of an atoning sacrifice.

Abraham also had faith in the resurrection. Before he went up the mountain with Isaac, he “said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you’ ” (Gen. 22:5). Abraham went up the mountain, knife in hand, fully intending to sacrifice his son. Yet there was not the slightest doubt in his mind that Isaac would walk back down the mountain with him. How could this be? The Scripture tells us what Abraham was thinking: “He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back” (Heb. 11:19). Father Abraham believed in God’s power over death. He trusted God to forgive sins and grant eternal life. Thus the gospel according to Abraham included both the atonement and the resurrection.

All Abraham’s children believe the same gospel. His true sons and daughters are the people of faith. If the gospel was good enough for Abraham, it is good enough for us. We trust the atoning death and the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, as God planned from the very beginning. His way of dealing with us in our sin is eternally the same.

One of the implications of this is that the doctrine of justification by faith is not some kind of theological novelty. In their fascination with Rome, some evangelical Christians now question the importance of Reformation theology. In particular, they wonder if it was really necessary to divide the church over the doctrine of justification. What does it matter, they wonder, whether I am saved by faith alone or by faith plus works? Who cares whether God makes me righteous or declares me righteous, as long as I am righteous in the end?

To those who doubt the necessity of the Reformation doctrine of justification, we testify—with Paul as well as Abraham—that justification has always come only by faith. Justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone has always been the very heart of God’s plan for the salvation of sinners. Thus Ernst Käsemann has rightly concluded that “justification remains the centre, the beginning and the end of salvation history.”

Paul could not have expressed this point more forcefully than he did in these words: “the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith” (Gal. 3:8). The Old Testament had the foresight to predict the coming of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. The Scriptures not only predicted that he would come, but also prophesied the precise way that he would save. He would justify sinners by faith, exactly as God justified Abraham.

So Let’s All Praise the Lord!

This plan of salvation is for all people everywhere. It is universal. It is for all nations. The blessing of justification was never for the Jews alone; it was always intended for the whole world. In Galatians 3:8 Paul refers to the “Gentiles” and to the “nations.” In fact, these are two different translations for the same term. The word does not refer to political states, but to people groups. Through Abraham, God’s blessing would come to every ethnic community in the world, to every tribe, people, and language. This was the agenda that Jesus established for the church, to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). It later became Paul’s agenda for world missions. This explains why he went to places like Galatia to proclaim the good news about Jesus Christ that God had first announced to Abraham.

Preaching the gospel to every people group remains the church’s agenda to this very day. To think and to act biblically is to think and to act globally. We preach the whole gospel to the whole world, knowing that it is the will of God for Jesus Christ to stake his claim on every ethnic community on the face of the earth. In the words of another children’s song, which is also profound in its theology:

Jesus loves the little children,

All the children of the world;

Red and yellow, black and white,

They are precious in his sight;

Jesus loves the little children of the world.

If the little children of the world want to become sons and daughters of Abraham, they must come to Jesus Christ by faith. The gospel we preach to the nations is the gospel of justification by faith.

In verse 9 Paul summarizes what he has been saying to this point: “So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Gal. 3:9). This verse speaks of a common blessing. We are blessed with Abraham, so that all his blessings become our blessings. By faith, we become the object of the blessing God promised to Abraham. Thus he becomes our brother as well as our father. This is part of the doctrine of the communion of the saints. God offers one salvation in one Christ, to be shared by one people, Abraham included.

The blessing Paul has in mind is the gospel blessing God announced to Abraham: to be justified, or accepted as righteous in God’s sight. Timothy George asks, “What was it that the Scriptures ‘foresaw’and ‘preached beforehand’ to Abraham? Simply this: the good news of salvation was to be extended to all peoples, including the Gentiles, who would be declared righteous by God, just like Abraham, on the basis of faith.”

Abraham received many blessings from God in his time. He obtained an inheritance in the Promised Land. He was given a child, and through the child, he became the father of many nations. But the greatest blessing he ever received was to be justified.

Earlier I mentioned the pardon that William Herschel was granted by King George of England. There is more to the story. The document the king gave to Herschel began by pronouncing him “not guilty,” but it went on to say that for his outstanding service to humanity as a musician and scientist, Herschel would be granted a knighthood. From that point on he was one of King George’s knights, honored throughout the United Kingdom as Sir William Herschel. When Herschel was justified, not only was he declared righteous, but he also became a friend of the king.

This was Abraham’s experience too, and it can become our experience. We can receive the same blessings that Abraham experienced. We can be made right with God. We can become a personal friend of the Creator of the universe, and live with him for all eternity. All that is required is faith in Jesus Christ. If we want the same blessing Abraham received, we have to receive it the same way. Abraham was justified as a man of faith. He was not justified as a circumcised Jew, but as a believer. Therefore, the legacy of Father Abraham is inherited by faith: “those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Gal. 3:9).

We do not have to be circumcised in order to be justified before God. We do not have to keep the law. We do not have to become culturally Jewish. We do not have to do anything, only believe. It is those who believe in Jesus Christ who receive the blessing God promised to Abraham. Thus it is by faith alone that anyone sings the words of the song, so profound in its theology:

Father Abraham has many sons,

And many sons has Father Abraham;

And I am one of them, and so are you,

So let’s all praise the Lord![2]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Galatians (pp. 72–76). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Ryken, P. G. (2005). Galatians. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (pp. 94–105). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

March 18 Placing Others Above Yourself

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.”

Philippians 2:3


One important way to prevent factionalism in the church is to regard other members as more important than yourself.

Humility of mind” is a distinctive New Testament expression. There were similar terms in secular writings, but none that exactly fit the purposes of the New Testament writers. One form of the Greek word was used to describe the mentality of a slave. It was a term of derision, signifying anyone who was considered base, common, shabby, or low. Among pagans before Christ’s time, humility was never a trait to be sought or admired. Thus the New Testament introduced a radically new concept.

In Philippians 2:3 Paul defines “humility of mind” simply as seeing others as more important than yourself. But how often do we really consider others that way? Frequently, even within the church, we think just the opposite of what Paul commands. For example, we are sometimes prone to criticize those with whom we minister. It is naturally easier for us to speak of their faults and failures than it is to refer to our own.

But Paul’s attitude was different. He knew his own heart well enough to call himself the worst of sinners: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (1 Tim. 1:15). The apostle was also humble enough to realize that in his own strength he was not worthy of the ministry to which he had been called: “I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle” (1 Cor. 15:9).

Your knowledge of others’ sins and graces is based on their outward words and actions, not on what you can read from their hearts. But you, like Paul, do know your own heart and its sinful shortcomings (cf. Rom. 7). That ought to make it much easier to respect and honor others before yourself. And when you do that, you are helping prevent factionalism in your church and contributing to the edification of fellow believers.


Suggestions for Prayer: Examine your life and ask God to help you turn from anything that would be keeping you from “humility of mind.”

For Further Study: Read Genesis 13, and notice what happened between Abraham and his nephew Lot. How did God reassure Abraham after his graciousness toward Lot?[1]

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


The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.

—Zephaniah 3:17

Now the Bible teaches that there is something in God which is like emotion. He experiences something which is like our love, something that is like our grief, that is like our joy. And we need not fear to go along with this conception of what God is like. Faith would easily draw the inference that since we were made in His image, He would have qualities like our own. But such an inference, while satisfying to the mind, is not the ground of our belief. God has said certain things about Himself, and these furnish all the grounds we require.

The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

This is but one verse among thousands which serve to form our rational picture of what God is like, and they tell us plainly that God feels something like our love, like our joy, and what He feels makes Him act very much as we would in a similar situation; He rejoices over His loved ones with joy and singing.

Here is emotion on as high a plane as it can ever be seen, emotion flowing out of the heart of God Himself. POM110-111

Oh, Lord, do You really rejoice over me with singing? I often give You more cause for grief than for joy. Help me live in a way that is worthy of Your love. Amen.[1]

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

March 17 Daily Help

POOR sinner, do take heart, remember God knows, as we know not, where thou art. If thou art in the deepest pit in the forest, his almighty eye can see to the bottom. Ay, and in one of the favored moments of the day of salvation—that time accepted—he will send home a promise so sweetly that all thy fetters shall break off in an instant—thy night shall be scattered—thy dawn begin; and he will give thee the oil of joy for mourning and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Believe now, and thou shalt be comforted now; for the time of faith is the time of comfort.[1]

[1] Spurgeon, C. H. (1892). Daily Help (p. 80). Baltimore: R. H. Woodward & Company.

March 17, 2018 Evening Verse Of The Day

Summary Exhortation

Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. But let all things be done properly and in an orderly manner. (14:39–40)

Paul concludes the chapter with a summary exhortation for the Corinthians to hold prophecy in the superior position in their services, but not to despise or reject legitimate speaking in tongues. And whatever they did in the Lord’s name should be done in the right way.

In their assemblies they were collectively to desire earnestly [second person plural] to prophesy, because prophecy is the great edifier, the great instructor and teacher. Prophecy is so important because edification is so important. Again, as the verb form proves, Paul is not suggesting that individuals seek the gift of prophecy (see comments in chap. 37 on 14:1).

But, although secondary to prophecy, legitimate tongues that are legitimately exercised should also be recognized as of the Lord, and not ridiculed or forbidden. Do not forbid is also in the plural and does not advocate individual seeking of tongues, but refers to the church as a group allowing the proper gifts to be exercised. Tongues was a limited gift, both in purpose and in duration, but it was the Lord’s gift, and, as long as it was active, was not to be despised or hindered.

Right revelation should be obeyed in the right way, and right gifts should be exercised in the right way. The basic meaning of euschēmonōs (properly) is gracefully, becomingly, harmoniously, beautifully. Orderly has the meaning of “in turn” or “one at a time” (cf. v. 27). God is a God of beauty and harmony, of propriety and order, and all things that His children do should reflect those divine characteristics.[1]

39–40 Paul is now ready to sum up this lengthy section. His message is consistent with ch. 14: the Corinthians should be “eager to prophesy” (cf. 14:1; see comments), but they should also “not forbid speaking in tongues.” And regarding the exercise of spiritual gifts as well as all worship matters in general, everything should be done “in a fitting and orderly way” (v. 40). If things are done in an orderly way there will be no abuses of the gifts, and the congregation will be built up in the faith. That, of course, is what the gifts are all about.[2]

14:40 / Thus, Paul finally states the point that he has made repeatedly and in several different ways: Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way. A pedestrian reiteration of Paul’s point would be: contributions to worship fit as they are complementary and edify the whole congregation; they are orderly as they bring order, not disorder, and contribute to the patterned upbuilding of the church. Such are God’s ways and such is God’s will (see 14:4–5, 12, 19, 26, 31, 33a).[3]

39. So, my brothers, eagerly desire to prophesy and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40. But let all things be done decently and in order.

Here are Paul’s concluding remarks on this lengthy discourse on prophesying and tongue-speaking. The expression so introduces a summary statement that is followed by the words my brothers. Notice that after the stern admonition, Paul speaks pastorally by calling the members of the Corinthian church “my brothers,” a designation that includes the sisters (compare vv. 6, 20, 26).

Paul writes three clauses in the imperative mood as final remarks on the sensitive topic of prophecy and tongues. First, he repeats verse 1 almost verbatim by saying, “Eagerly desire to prophesy.” He uses the present tense for the main verb and the infinitive to indicate continued action. Paul urges the readers to have the constant desire to prophesy according to his directives given in the earlier parts of this chapter (see 1 Thess. 5:20).

Next, he admonishes the Corinthians not to forbid people to speak in tongues. Paul himself has stated that speaking in tongues is a gift of the Holy Spirit and, accordingly, he cannot prohibit the speaking of tongues. If he were to prohibit anyone, he would be grieving the Spirit of God and extinguishing the Spirit’s fire (Eph. 4:30; 1 Thess. 5:19). He himself possesses this gift (v. 18) and wishes that everyone would have it (v. 5).

Nonetheless, throughout this entire chapter Paul has defined clear limitations for tongue-speaking. He allows tongue-speech, provided the presentation is interpreted, beneficial for the hearers, intelligible, orderly, and given in the context of love. Apparently some of the church members were forbidding others from speaking in tongues, so that Paul now has to rectify the matter.

Thirdly, Paul once more reminds his readers that everything must be done in an appropriate and orderly manner (vv. 26–33; compare 16:14). This last reminder reveals that the opposite was true in the church of Corinth, where impropriety and disorder seemed to be not the exception but the rule.[4]

14:40 Paul’s final word of admonition is that all things must be done decently and in order. It is significant that this control should be placed in this chapter. Down through the years, those who have professed to have the ability to speak in tongues have not been noted for the orderliness of their meetings. Rather, many of their meetings have been scenes of uncontrolled emotion and general confusion.

To summarize, then, the Apostle Paul sets forth the following controls for the use of tongues in the local church:

  1. We must not forbid the use of tongues (v. 39).
  2. If a man speaks in a tongue, there must be an interpreter (vv. 27c, 28).
  3. Not more than three may speak in tongues in any one meeting (v. 27a).
  4. They must speak one at a time (v. 27b).
  5. What they say must be edifying (v. 26b).
  6. The women must be silent (v. 34).
  7. Everything must be done decently and in order (v. 40).

These are the abiding controls which apply to the church in our day.[5]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians (pp. 394–395). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Verbrugge, V. D. (2008). 1 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 389). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Soards, M. L. (2011). 1 Corinthians (p. 311). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Vol. 18, pp. 517–518). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1803). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.