Daily Archives: March 25, 2018

March 25: Thoughtless Iconoclasm

Numbers 29:1–40; 1 Corinthians 11:17–12:11; Psalm 24:1–10

When we learn something new about life and faith, it’s tempting to use our knowledge and freedom to tear down religious constructs and artifices—exposing truth in a way that’s not helpful or edifying. If we’re honest, pushing boundaries and living edgy and unfettered gives us a rush.

Paul warns the Corinthian Christians against this attitude: “All things are permitted, but not all things are profitable. All things are permitted, but not all things build up” (1 Cor 10:23). Paul sets up a contrast, juxtaposing the clauses to set apart what should really be the focus of the Corinthians. Paul stresses that instead of flaunting freedom, we should be focused on what is helpful and constructive for the community.

Seeking the good of the other person should be our first reflex. And it’s not simply limited to the Christian community. Paul states: “Therefore, whether you eat or you drink or whatever you do, do all things for the glory of God. Give no offense both to Jews and to Greeks and to the church of God” (1 Cor 10:31–32). This is a tall order in the internet age; when we don’t see someone face to face, it’s much easier to tear them down.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t challenge ideas when the time is appropriate. However, it does mean we should carefully consider our audience and act in a way that will best communicate the message of the gospel. Whatever the case, we should “please all people in all things, not seeking [our] own benefit, but the benefit of man, in order that they may be saved” (1 Cor 10:33).

How are you seeking the good of those around you?

Rebecca Van Noord[1]


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

March 25 Appreciating God’s Gifts

“Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11).

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God is the source of every good gift.

God has given us everything good to enjoy, including rain to make things grow, minerals to make the soil fertile, animals for food and clothing, and energy for industry and transportation. Everything we have is from Him, and we are to be thankful for it all.

Jesus said, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matt. 7:11). James 1:17 says, “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow.” Paul added, “Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude: for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:4–5).

Sadly, unbelievers don’t acknowledge God’s goodness, though they benefit from it every day. They attribute His providential care to luck or fate and His gracious provisions to nature or false gods. They do not honor Him as God or give Him thanks (Rom. 1:21).

The great Puritan writer Thomas Watson wrote: “If all be a gift, see the odious ingratitude of men who sin against their giver! God feeds them, and they fight against him; he gives them bread, and they give him affronts. How unworthy is this! Should we not cry shame of him who had a friend always feeding him with money, and yet he should betray and injure him? Thus ungratefully do sinners deal with God; they not only forget his mercies, but abuse them. ‘When I had fed them to the full, they then committed adultery [Jer. 5:7].’ Oh, how horrid is it to sin against a bountiful God!—to strike the hands that relieve us!” (The Lord’s Prayer [London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1972], p. 197).

How sad to see such ingratitude, and yet how thrilling to know that the infinite God cares for us and supplies our every need. Don’t ever take His provisions for granted! Look to Him daily, and receive His gifts with a thankful heart.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer:  Be generous with your praise for God’s abundant blessings.

For Further Study: Read Genesis 1:29–31, noting the variety of foods God created for your enjoyment.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 97). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

MARCH 25 CONVICTION AND PAIN

Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?

John 3:9

I consider it a good sign that some people are still asking questions like these in our churches: “What should happen in a genuine conversion to Christ?” and “What should a man or woman feel in the transaction of the new birth?”

If I am asked, my answer is this: “There ought to be a real and genuine cry of pain!”

That is why I am not impressed with the kind of evangelism that tries to invite people into the fellowship of God by signing a card. There should be a birth within, a birth from above. There should be the terror of seeing ourselves in violent contrast to the holy, holy God!

Unless we come into this place of conviction and pain concerning our sin, I am not sure how deep and real our repentance will ever be.

The man whom God will use must be undone, humble and pliable. He must be, like the astonished Isaiah, a man who has seen the King in His beauty!

Lord, I pray that many unbelieving people in hard-to-reach nations will realize their need for a Savior and will call upon Your holy name for their salvation.[1]


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

March 25, 2018 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

The Command to Be Strong

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2:1)

As mentioned in the Introduction and the previous chapters of this commentary, Timothy was facing a time of spiritual vacillation and weakness. He may have been questioning his calling or his gifts or the sufficiency of God’s provision. He was mired in difficulties of some sort and could not extricate himself. Whatever the particulars, Paul realized that his son in the faith needed “to kindle afresh the gift of God which” was in him (2 Tim. 1:6). As we noted in the last chapter, he did not need more from God but needed to use, with commitment and confidence, the divine provisions he already possessed. He needed to remember and to exercise the “power and love and discipline” (v. 7) that the Holy Spirit had provided him and provides every believer. He needed to discard his being ashamed of “the testimony of the Lord” and to be willing to join Paul in “suffering for the gospel according to the power of God” (v. 8). He needed, like the apostle, to be “convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (v. 12), to “retain the standard of sound words which [he had] heard from [Paul], in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (v. 13), to avoid faithless church members such as Phygelus and Hermogenes, and to identify with faithful believers such as Onesiphorus and those in his household (vv. 15–16).

Summing up that counsel, Paul said, “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” The verb be strong is an imperative, making it a command. Yet it is a command tempered by Paul’s deep love for Timothy, his son. There was tenderness in Paul’s heart because there is tenderness in God’s heart. Even the Lord’s strongest commands are given in love. He admonishes His children firmly but lovingly, and that is the way Paul admonished his spiritual son Timothy. Because Timothy had “sincere faith” and was nourished in that faith by his godly mother and grandmother (1:5), because he was specially gifted by God and ordained by the laying on of Paul’s hands (v. 6) and the hands of the Ephesian elders (1 Tim. 4:14), and because of the abundant resources mentioned in the remainder of chapter 1, Timothy had no reason for not being strong. Paul was saying to Timothy, “My son, the Lord’s work in Ephesus depends on you, its divinely appointed and divinely endowed minister.” The effectiveness of his ministry depended not simply in his having that call and those resources but in his faithfully using them in God’s power and to God’s glory.

It is an amazing paradox, but fully biblical, that, although God is sovereign and all-powerful, He nevertheless entrusts His adopted children with propagating the saving gospel of His true Son, Jesus Christ.

The verb be strong is also passive, however, indicating that the source of Timothy’s strength was not in himself but in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. A somewhat better rendering would be, “by means of the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Just as we are saved solely “by grace … through faith; and that not of [ourselves, but by] the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8), we also are kept saved by the grace of God, who “is faithful and righteous [to continue] to forgive us our sins and [to continue] to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Our only effective spiritual strength is “in the Lord, and in the strength of His might” (Eph. 6:10). We build ourselves up in the “most holy faith” by “praying in the Holy Spirit” and keeping ourselves “in the love of God” (Jude 20–21).

God’s continuing grace in the lives of believers operates in justification and sanctification, in forgiveness and in holiness, and in His grace applied to our service. The same grace that forgives us and makes us holy is the grace that empowers us. Because we belong to Christ, we are continually in the sphere of grace. But to enjoy the sphere of blessing, we must live in the sphere of obedience.

In 2 Timothy 2:2–6, Paul presents four key elements of a strong, obedient, spiritual life, using the vivid analogies of teacher (v. 2), soldier (vv. 3–4), athlete (v. 5), and farmer (v. 6).[1]


1a “You” (sy, GK 5148) continues Paul’s emphatic address to Timothy (1:18) and marks a new section (similarly, 1 Ti 2:1; cf. 2 Ti 3:10; for the phrase “but you,” sy de, see comments at 1 Ti 6:11). The phrase follows the apostle’s reference to the Asiatics’ defection (1:15) and his commendation of Onesiphorus (1:16–18). “Then” (oun, GK 4036; cf. 1:8) grounds Paul’s following instruction in his previous exhortation to Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God” he had received (1:6), to join him in “suffering for the gospel” (v. 8), and to “keep … the pattern of sound teaching” entrusted to him (vv. 13–14). “My son” (teknon, GK 5451) reiterates earlier endearing designations (1 Ti 1:2, 18; 2 Ti 1:2; cf. Tit 1:4).

1b Beginning here, a series of three exhortations ensues. First, Timothy must “be strong”—not timid (1:7)—in “the grace” that is not in himself but “in Christ Jesus” (cf. Stott, Message of 2 Timothy, 49). Paul himself knew how to be “strong” in the Lord (endynamoō, GK 1904; Php 4:13; 1 Ti 1:12; 2 Ti 4:17; cf. Ac 9:22) and earlier had issued a similar exhortation to the Ephesians (Eph 6:10). He had urged Timothy to suffer with him for the gospel “by the power of God, who has saved us … because of his own purpose and grace [charis, GK 5921]” (1:8–9). Timothy must continually rely on God’s gracious enablement as he performs his ministry (cf. 2 Co 9:8; Tit 2:11–14).[2]


2:1 / This opening imperative, which in a general way gathers up the concerns of 1:6–14 and anticipates those that follow (2:2–13), is tied to what has preceded with an emphatic su oun (you then). You then stands in contrast to the general defection of the Asians (1:15) but in keeping with the likes of an Onesiphorus. The oun is at least resumptive (“then”), perhaps consequential (“therefore”), and goes back to the imperatives of 1:13–14.

You, therefore (having already been urged to suffer and keep the trust, and now in the light of the Asians and Onesiphorus), be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The imperative be strong (cf. 4:17; 1 Tim. 1:12; Rom. 4:20; Eph. 6:10; Phil. 4:13) is present tense (i.e., “keep on being”), passive voice, whose proper force is that one is being strengthened by God. The phrase in the grace can be either instrumental (“by means of the grace”) or locative (“in the grace,” so niv). Though it is true that grace is the means by which we are saved and by which we are enabled to walk in God’s will, it is also true that that same grace is the sphere in which all of Christian life is lived (cf. Rom. 5:2). In light of the usage of this phrase in Ephesians 6:10 and elsewhere in the pe, Paul probably intends the latter. He wants Timothy to be strengthened by God himself as he stands inthe grace that he has received. The source of such grace is to be found in Christ Jesus (cf. 1:13).

Thus Paul places the specific imperatives of this appeal (“Don’t be ashamed,” 1:8; “Take your share of suffering,” 1:8, 2:3; “Guard the deposit,” 1:14) within the context of this more general imperative of allowing God to strengthen him for his task of ministry. One should note the similarities with 1:6–7, 8c, and 14.[3]


2:1. Having just shared his disappointment over the growing apostasy spreading through Asia, Paul turned to Timothy and wrote, You then, my son, be strong. Difficult circumstances, our own weaknesses and fears, and the negative attitudes or unfaithfulness of others should not determine our course in life. Just as Paul wrote of the power which comes from the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 1:7), so now he wrote of the strength which comes from Jesus Christ.

No doubt Timothy knew, as Paul did, that he could not find adequate strength within himself to fulfill the responsibilities thrust upon him on to endure the hardships ahead. Our confidence and ability to live successfully as followers of Christ comes when we are strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Paul knew that God’s grace not only saves us; it enables us to carry out the life of faithful obedience.[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 2 Timothy (pp. 37–38). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Köstenberger, A. (2006). 2 Timothy. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, p. 573). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Fee, G. D. (2011). 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus (pp. 239–240). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Larson, K. (2000). I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon (Vol. 9, p. 280). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

March 25 The Function of Salt

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.—Matt. 5:13

Salt has always been valuable in human society, often much more so than it is today. But the particular characteristics of salt that Jesus was referring to in this passage have resulted in various suggestions.

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.

Others emphasize the characteristic of flavor. Just as many foods are tasteless without salt, the world is drab and tasteless without the presence of Christians.

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

Salt also creates thirst. So others believe God intends for His people to live before the world in such a way that others will be made aware of their spiritual dehydration.

While all of these interpretations are reasonable, it’s likely Jesus was primarily referring to salt as a preservative. Christians are a preserving influence in the world; they retard moral and spiritual spoilage. As God’s children and as temples of His Holy Spirit, we represent God’s presence in the earth. We are the salt that prevents the entire earth from degenerating even faster than it already is.

ASK YOURSELF

In what ways are you and your church personifying the various properties of salt, whether by words, actions, or outreaches? Think very specifically. Which of these examples are proving to be the most effective at this, and why?[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 93). Chicago: Moody Publishers.