Daily Archives: April 6, 2019

April 6 The Refining Process

Scripture Reading: Matthew 26:36–46

Key Verse: Matthew 26:41

Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

One of the most reassuring traits of Jesus is the fact that He can relate to us. Regardless of how discouraged we might be or how weak and weary we feel, Jesus knows how we feel because He, too, felt likewise. But our weakness is not a sin. It is actually our pathway to strength.

While Jesus never sinned, He struggled like everyone, including in His prayer life. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus wanted to know if there was another way for God to accomplish His great plan without this impending painful separation.

Jesus was weak and weary, yet His trust in His heavenly Father remained firm. He knew this day was coming and this was God’s purpose for His life on earth, but it did not make the situation any easier. Jesus did not take up the cross lightly.

Jesus knew that His suffering was necessary to bring the world back into personal relationship with God. But it was still hard. It was still agonizing. Despite Jesus’ knowledge of how His death and resurrection would impact mankind forever, He struggled to pray. However, Jesus was without sin. The struggles in His prayer life, much like ours from time to time, show how struggling is a natural by-product of entering a battle for God’s kingdom.

But the struggles produce a refining process in us that glorifies our Lord and sharpens us more into His image.

Lord Jesus, You struggled with human weakness, with weariness, with temptation, and yet You didn’t sin. Give me the strength to rise above temptation too.[1]

[1] Stanley, C. F. (2006). Pathways to his presence (p. 101). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

April 6 Secured by Christ

Scripture Reading: Galatians 6:13–15

Key Verse: Ephesians 2:14

He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation.

God calls us to serve Him out of love and devotion, not out of work or obligation. The Pharisees prided themselves in the fact that they kept the whole law. They believed that would please God and secure their salvation.

The sad point is that whenever you base anything—a marriage, a friendship, a job, or more important, your relationship with God—on works, you never know where you stand. There is always a degree of doubt involved because you are driven to achieve standards set by yourself and others.

Jesus set a new standard for your relationship with God: “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). God never meant for the Jews to view the law as a pathway to salvation. Instead, it was given as preparation for the coming of Christ.

We can be sure of our salvation because we are secured by Christ and not by our performance. Some people say salvation by grace alone is “cheap talk.” But nothing is cheap about the Cross. Jesus Christ, the most valuable person who has ever lived, loves you so much that He willingly laid down His life that you might experience eternal life with Him. It is His gift of love to you.

Lord, thank You for laying down Your life so that I can experience eternal life with You. Thank You for Your gift of love. Help me realize Your grace is not cheap.[1]

[1] Stanley, C. F. (1999). On holy ground (p. 101). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

US Military ‘blowback’ from Iran to Libya explained

Rick Sanchez explains the populist anti-immigrant sentiment on the rise in Germany, Hungary, Sweden, Austria and Italy and discusses the hand of US geopolitical bullying in causing the migrant crisis in Europe. Then investigative journalist and author Max Blumenthal joins to discuss his new book, “the Management of Savagery,” which explores the foundations of mass immigration and populist backlash in the globalist warmongering of elites in the US and NATO.

I’ve Repented So Why Do My Past Sins Keep Haunting Me?

We can’t erase the past, so instead of trying to forget it, rejoice in God’s grace that delivered you from your guilt and the power of your sin and the continuing guilt and power of your sin today. I think of Paul who always thought of himself as the chief of sinners because he had slaughtered Christians. That was what Paul was doing, so he could say, “My identity in myself, if I have to look at myself, is chief of sinners, but that’s not my real identity. My real identity is in Christ, seated with him in heavenly places. While I was dead in trespasses and sins, by nature a child of wrath, he delivered me.” That’s his new identity. ​

The Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 1 says,

And if you call on Him as Father, who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were redeemed from the futile ways you inherited from your forefathers. Not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but was made manifest in the last time for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God, having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart since you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable through the living and abiding Word of God for all flesh is like grass and all of its glory like the flowers of grass, the grass withers and the flower fades, but the Word of the Lord remains forever and this Word is the gospel that was preached to you. (1 Pet. 1:17-25)

A wonderful story a pastor friend told me; he had a woman come to him and she would always cry during the service and afterward he called her and said he said, “can I talk to you, you’re really struggling with something. And she said, “I can’t really be forgiven.” She said, “I had an abortion and I can’t get it out of my mind I’m that person who aborted her child.”

He said, “You know, based on James, if you confess your sins one to another God will forgive you.” He declared to her, “your sins are forgiven in Christ’s name.” And she says, “but what about the abortion that I had?” And he said, “What abortion?” God forgives and he really does forget even when we don’t.

Adapted from an answer given on Episode 115 of the Core Christianity Radio Show. 

Source: I’ve Repented So Why Do My Past Sins Keep Haunting Me?

Keiser Report: The Too Big to Fail Investment Universe (E1367)

Check Keiser Report website for more: http://www.maxkeiser.com/ In this episode of the Keiser Report, Max and Stacy discuss the recent Bank of America report, ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Investment Universe’. The report provides dozens of charts and data points looking at where the investment universe stands ten years after the financial catastrophe.

The Easter Story: Important Facts All Christians Need to Know | Crosswalk.com

The story of Easter is the story of an empty tomb. No one knows with complete certainty where the tomb of Jesus was located, but this shouldn’t be surprising. After the resurrection, the location of the tomb didn’t matter anymore since Jesus was no longer in it.

What is Easter?

On Easter, or Resurrection Sunday, we celebrate what is arguably the most important event in all of human history: Jesus rising from the dead. All of Christianity and all eternity hinges on the truth of the resurrection. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then our faith is lacking in meaning and is just another interesting philosophy. But if the resurrection is true, then it is the clearest proof that Jesus is exactly who he claimed to be – the Son of God and the Savior of the world. All of the evidence points to the truth of the resurrection, and the result is changed lives.

Why is the timeline important?

“Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” Matthew 26:53-54

Throughout Scripture, events happen in a certain order for a certain reason, and God often works not only through what happens, but through how and when things happen. The order of events, in this case, shows a fulfillment of prophecies and reveals why Jesus is called the ‘Lamb of God.’

Immediately before the crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus sat at the Passover meal with his disciples and explained how the meal represented not only the past, but also what was about to happen in the following days. Jesus had to make the ultimate sacrifice at the time of Passover. He also had to be taken down from the cross before sunset, because this was the beginning of the Sabbath. Each event fit inside a larger picture of what God had been doing through his people for centuries and set the stage for what he had planned for the next few thousand years.

What did the Last Supper really mean?

“Do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19

Christians everywhere celebrate what we call ‘communion’ or the ‘Lord’s Supper’ because of what happened the night before the crucifixion. Jesus and his disciples were celebrating the Passover together, and a small part of this observance involves drinking a cup and the breaking and eating of unleavened bread. The entire observation of Passover is a remembrance of how God delivered the Jewish people out of slavery in Egypt, and each element is a symbol of that. As they celebrated this meal, Jesus reaffirmed the original meaning of deliverance from physical slavery while adding to it the meaning of freedom from spiritual slavery. His broken body is represented in the bread, and his blood in the cup. In him and through his sacrifice, the symbolism has now been fulfilled.

What happened in the garden of Gethsemane?

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42

The garden of Gethsemane is a grove of olive trees that is still there today. Some of the trees are over 2,000 years old and would have been young trees at the time Jesus was there on the night he was arrested. Located in Jerusalem, the Temple Mount is just a short walk away across the Kidron Valley. As Jesus prayed in the garden, he could see the temple, and could likely hear the hustle and bustle of people gathering for the Passover.

It is here that he prayed the most agonizing prayer ever to be lifted up. After the Last Supper with his disciples, he took them out to pray in the garden where he predicted Peter’s denial and prayed for God’s will to be done in him.

Why was Jesus put on trial?

“And they began to accuse him, saying, ‘We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.’” Luke 23:2

Jesus went through several trials, and all of them were legally out-of-line, even by ancient standards. His first trial was before the Sanhedrin, the leading council of Israel, where he was charged with blasphemy for claiming to be God. The meeting of the council was called at night, and all the witnesses brought against Jesus were poor witnesses at best.

The council had no authority to sentence him to death, so they brought him to Pilate, the Roman governor who held that power. Pilate found no cause for getting involved in what he saw as a local religious dispute, so when he found out that Jesus was from Galilee, he sent him off to Herod, the leader of Galilee, who was also in Jerusalem for the Passover. Before Herod, Jesus was mocked and beaten and then sent back to Pilate. Pilate finally allowed his crucifixion in order to “satisfy the crowd” (Mark 15:15).

There was no legal reason for Jesus to be crucified. He had not blasphemed or opposed paying taxes. Yet, it was God’s will that Jesus die on our behalf to take away our sin. There was no stopping the plan of God, no matter how painful. Out of this pain and even in this dark hour, a path was being laid for the resurrection and the glorious hope of eternal life and triumph over the grave.

Why was Jesus crucified?

The crucifixion of Jesus is one of the most horrifying, yet most startlingly beautiful things that has ever happened. Crucifixion was not unique to Jesus but was a common Roman practice. Criminals, outlaws, and others were regularly crucified in the Roman world. Perhaps the most striking thing about the method of his death was that it was so strikingly common. Crucifixion was not an unusual sight for the people of Israel under Roman occupation. What was unusual is that this man had committed no crime worthy of crucifixion.

In fact, he had committed no crime at all.

The Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, was a soldier and a politician known to be cruel in his methods and by no means a softhearted man. Yet even he expressed regret for allowing the crucifixion of Christ to proceed.

Where was he crucified?

“They came to a place called Golgotha (which means ‘the place of the skull’).” Matthew 27:33

Jesus was crucified on a hill known as ‘The Skull’ outside of Jerusalem. Some Bible versions translate this as Calvary (Latin) or Golgotha (Aramaic). It seems to have been a common place for these types of executions. It could have been so named because the hill looked like a large skull, or because of the many executions that regularly occurred there.

How did Jesus die?

“Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last.” Luke 23:46

To say the death of Christ was excruciating is no stretch, as the word excruciating itself is derived from the word crucifixion. It literally means ‘the pain of a crucifixion.’

Suffering from blood loss, extreme pain, and muscle spasms from being nailed to a cross, the victim eventually lost the strength and ability to continue taking air and died from suffocation. The moment Jesus died, it would seem that all was lost and his vision of God’s kingdom had died with him.

But the story was not yet over.

What happened when he died?

When Jesus died, the hope of his followers was also on the verge of death. The one who they followed and believed in had died the death of a common thief. Yet there were many other things that occurred which the Bible tells us of:

“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, ‘Surely he was the Son of God!’” Matthew 27:51-54

Where was Jesus buried?

“At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.” John 19:41

After the crucifixion, a man named Joseph of Arimathea asked for the body of Jesus to be placed in his tomb. Joseph was a wealthy man, a member of the council, and a follower of Jesus. After they had hastily prepared his body for burial, a large stone was rolled in front of the entrance, and Roman guards were placed in front of it.

Jesus had gained quite an energetic following, and there was concern that someone may attempt to steal the body, claiming that Jesus had returned from the dead. These guards would fulfill their duty to ensure that the stone stayed in place and that no one would move it.

They never anticipated it being moved from the inside.

How did the resurrection happen?

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!” Luke 24:5-6

The moment that death was defeated is the moment that Jesus arose from the dead and walked out of that borrowed grave! We don’t understand how this happened; only that through the power of God, it did happen! The first people to see the empty tomb and to see him resurrected were women who had followed him: “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus” (Luke 24:1-3).

How can you be saved?

“In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” 1 Peter 1:3

The death and resurrection of Jesus means that there is hope in this hopeless world; that there truly is a God; and that not only does he understand us, but he became one of us. He took our sins upon himself and is alive today. Romans 10:9 says that “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

It is that simple. If we truly believe he is who he says he is and that he rose from the dead as he said he would, it will forever change the way we think and live.

This is the time of year that life begins to bloom around us. Spring replaces winter, and as the air begins to warm there is a sense of rejuvenation and refreshing—a feeling that the old is being made new all over again. It is fitting that we celebrate the resurrection at this time of year, and also fitting that we embrace the new life offered to us through our living Savior.

Source: The Easter Story: Important Facts All Christians Need to Know

Kids Aren’t Born Trans — Christian Research Network

“I underwent my own “sex change” in April 1983. I had no idea then that I would be here today talking about the subject, or that the evidence against “born that way” had started oozing out as early as 1979, four years before I was mutilated.”

(Walt Heyer – CNSNews)  People who pursue a cross-sex identity aren’t born that way, and children should not be encouraged to “transition” to the opposite sex, according to a reference work endorsed by the American Psychological Association.

Yet every day I hear from another parent who tells me that a child’s therapist, after an appointment or two, strongly recommends that the parent allow the child to change his or her name and personal pronouns, live as the opposite sex, and get on the track toward irreversible medical interventions.

Laura Haynes, a licensed psychologist in California, recently reviewed the APA Handbook of Sexuality and Psychology and highlighted its research findings about transgender children.

Among those findings, cited on page 744 of Volume 1:

—“In no more than about one in four children does gender dysphoria persist from childhood to adolescence or adulthood,” with the majority of affected boys later identifying as gay, not transgender, and up to half of affected girls identifying as lesbian, not transgender. View article →


Homosexual Agenda

via Kids Aren’t Born Trans — Christian Research Network

Assange – Year 7: How Ecuador-US ties changed post-asylum granting

Wikileaks claims to have obtained a ‘press strategy’ agreed on by Ecuador and the UK – in the event its founder Julian Assange is extradited to US. Rumours are circulating that he’s about to be kicked out… and potentially handed by UK to US.

Half of Pastors Worry Speaking Out on Social Issues Will Offend People | Christianity Today Magazine

Protestant clergy feel the pressure around addressing LGBT identity and same-sex marriage, but that doesn’t mean they’ll change their message.

Protestant pastors aren’t as concerned about religious liberty as they were just a few years ago, amid high-profile cases challenging Christian convictions on abortion and marriage, but they increasingly feel the tension around whether and how to address hot-button moral and social issues.

According to a comprehensive new religious freedom and pluralism report released by the Barna Group this year, 9 out of 10 Christian pastors say helping Christians have biblical beliefs about specific issues is a major part of their role as clergy.

But they sense the pressure from all sides: Many express being subject to scrutiny from outside their congregations as well as within them. “The stakes are high in the public square,” the researchers wrote. “The issues pastors feel most pressured to speak out on are the same ones they feel limited to speak on,” with LGBT issues and same-sex marriage at the top.

Half of Christian pastors feel occasionally or frequently limited in their ability to speak out by concerns they will offend people, Barna reported.

Pastors also recognize how shifting views on sexuality will continue to impact the religious liberty landscape. Barna found that three-quarters (76%) of US clergy believe religious freedom is becoming less valued, and just under half (44%) predict that other freedoms will be at risk in the coming decade.

Religious Freedom Fears

Pastors from non-mainline Protestant traditions—generally evangelical groups like Southern Baptists, Pentecostals and charismatics, non-denominational Christians, and those from Wesleyan-Holiness backgrounds—are more likely than leaders from other traditions to believe that clergy play a unique role in defending religious freedom …

Continue reading

Source: Half of Pastors Worry Speaking Out on Social Issues Will Offend People

Mike Huckabee identifies ‘biggest threat’ to moral fiber of US, why it’s the Church’s fault

(Photo: NRB)Former Governor Mike Huckabee, the host of Huckabee on TBN, appears at Proclaim 19, the NRB International Christian Media Convention in Anaheim, California.

Redefining gender and sexual identity is the “greatest threat” to the moral fiber of America, said former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, and the fault lies with the Church.

“The biggest threat to biblical principles today is the failure to apply a biblical standard of maleness and femaleness,” Huckabee told The Christian Post during a sit-down interview last week in Anaheim, California. “We are creating this illusion that there is no gender, there is no identity, and I’m blaming the Christian Church.”

The 2008 and 2016 Republican presidential candidate explained that California’s introduction of “no-fault divorce” in 1970 created the mindset that marriage “wasn’t really that important” and that one “could go in and out of it without a second thought.” Prior to that time, some kind of marital fault had to be demonstrated before a divorce could be granted.

“That’s when we first started losing that sense of sacredness of what marriage meant,” he argued. “So I’m not really that surprised that same sex-marriage has become in vogue because the Christian Church were the ones who essentially abdicated a strict responsibility about what biblical marriage should look like.”

“Once you’ve destroyed that, why can’t you have any and everything?” he continued. “The gender dysphoria we’re seeing today is largely due to the fact that the Church has failed to present very clearly the words of Jesus and Genesis 5:2: ‘Male and female He created them.'”

Huckabee pointed out that society today celebrates single parenting and posits the idea that fathers “really aren’t necessary” when it comes to raising children.

“There are some people who are in single parenthood, not because they want to be, but because they were forced to be. And we ought to give [them] all the support,” he clarified. “But we should never pretend that it is as good as a loving mother and father in a home where a child sees both genders play out their norms because that’s the modeling of behavior that would be ideal for a child to grow up in.”

Huckabee, who served as a Southern Baptist pastor before entering politics, said that in order for things to change, the Church needs to clearly present a biblical view of gender and identity — even though it’s not considered “politically correct.”

“People are afraid that if they are really biblical, it will alienate people and I think that’s nonsense,” he contended. “Yes, it will alienate some people who are more interested in preserving the lifestyle they have chosen than a lifestyle that will be practical and will work. But it will also be a lifesaver for the people who are really looking for genuine truth.”

Source: Mike Huckabee identifies ‘biggest threat’ to moral fiber of US, why it’s the Church’s fault

President Trump Speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition 2019 Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas…. — The Last Refuge

Today President Trump is speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition 2019 Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Global News Livestream LinkAlternate Livestream Link


via President Trump Speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition 2019 Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas…. — The Last Refuge

April 6 The Wings of Grace

Scripture reading: 1 Corinthians 9:24–27

Key verse: Hebrews 12:1

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.

In the Scriptures, the Christian life is compared to a race. Paul called us to run the race so we may win (1 Cor. 9:24). The author of Hebrews told us to run our race with endurance (Heb. 12:1).

The only means by which believers can triumphantly run and finish the course God assigned for each of us is to run on the wings of grace. The legs of performance eventually grow weak. The muscles of legalism and religion weigh us down and become rigid hindrances. Our problem is that we can understand the need for grace in salvation and glorification, but we tend to rely on other means in the interim—our sanctification on earth.

Justification, the securing of a favorable verdict by Christ’s death, is by grace. Glorification, the consummate conforming of our bodies and souls to Christ’s glorious image, is by grace. Sanctification, the process of growing in Christlikeness, is also by grace.

In His grace, God supplies all the gear you need for running the spiritual race—His Spirit, His Word, prayer, and fellowship with other believers.

Be strong in grace. Throw off the leg irons of works and religion, and receive the power of God’s grace.

Dear Lord, thank You for supplying all the spiritual gear I need for running the race—Your Spirit, Your Word, prayer, and fellowship with other believers.[1]

[1] Stanley, C. F. (2000). Into His presence (p. 101). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Towards A Globalist Utopia: “Negative Rates Are Coming, Whether You Like It Or Not” | ZeroHedge News

Authored by Ritesh Jain via WorldOutOfWhack.com,

There is nothing that a human mind can’t conceive. It can shoot for the stars or dive in the ocean which twinkles in the shadows of stars and ascend back with sparkling mind bearing uncanny ambition only to float contended.

Today, we live in fear of losing wealth, we worry what economic consequences would do to our cash, we look through a microscope and scrutinize every word, every policy, every regulation or find something to put above ‘every’ and list out the glaring negatives with a slight trace of approval. If only one could notice the lens of the microscope, would then one could tell reel and real apart.

Such is the case of negative interest rates. It is dealt differently by different flock of loaded individuals, generally in ways which would not only prevent losses but essentially gain cash. This flock stands on one side of the transaction contemplating means to win regardless of the loss that still deliberating other doomed flock endures. Well, this is how the world works. It is a Bernoulli trial. But there exists a splash of humble wit folks floating beneath the starry sky delighted by the victory of each one and beaten down none.

Theory? Without thinking too much, negative rates indicate that the economy is unable to generate sufficient income to service its debt. Almost always, all roads leads us back to debt sustainability levels. In order for an economic system to reduce debt, it requires growth or inflation or currency devaluation. For an economic system to exercise one of the two (growth not included), capital transfer is to be facilitated. This capital movement in negative rates environment is from the savers to the borrowers. Your invested value, the money you gave to borrowers would have a value lower than the face value. Barbaric! Savers should be the winners not the borrowers!

So each flock as per their liking would act in a way that makes them the gaining side. In real world scenario, one flock could be investors who when yields falls even deeper into negative territory scoop a profit through capital gain. Flock of foreign investors may try to earn through currency appreciation. Another flock would focus on real rates even though they are negative as that would preserve their capital under deflationary conditions when nominal yields would decrease their capital. Who would want that!

Investopedia gave an example, “In 2014, the European Central Bank (ECB) instituted a negative interest rate that only applied to bank deposits intended to prevent the Eurozone from falling into a deflationary spiral.”

Let’s recall a real practical example. The case of Switzerland.

Paul Meggyesi of JP Morgan said, “The defacto negative interest rate regime lasted until October 1973. The negative interest rate was re-introduced in November 1973 at 3% per quarter and then increased to 10% per quarter in February 1978. All though this period capital inflows were being sustained by the global monetary turmoil/inflation that characterized the first years of floating exchange rates, not to mention the SNB’s singular focus on   promoting monetary and price stability through money supply targeting. Ultimately the SNB abandoned these purely technical attempts to curb capital inflows and embraced a much more effective policy of currency debasement, namely it abandoned money supply targeting in favor of an explicit exchange rate target that required huge amounts of unsterilized intervention, money supply expansion and ultimately inflation. (Suffice to say this policy lasted only until 1982, when the Swiss realized that inflation was too high a price to pay for a weak currency).”

He continued “Negative interest rates will only deter capital inflows if they are sufficiently large to offset the capital gain an investor expects to earn through capital appreciation. CHF rose by 8% in nominal and real terms in 1972-1973. Appreciation in 1973 – 1978 was 62% in nominal and 29% in real terms.”

In fact, during global financial crisis many central banks reduced their policy interest rates to zero. A decade later, today, still many countries are recovering and have kept interest rates low. Severe recessions in the past have required 3 – 6 percent point cuts in interest rates to revive the economy. If any crisis were to happen today, only a few countries could respond to the monetary policy. For countries with already prevailing low or negative interest rates, this would be a catastrophe.

Today, around $10 trillion of bonds are trading at negative yields mainly in Europe and Japan as per Bloomberg.

Poisons have antidotes, and sometimes one need to gulp down the poison to witness the mystique surrounding the life and glide with accidental possibilities, the possibilities which one wouldn’t seek if they remain wary of novel minted cure.

Here enters a splash of humble wit folks! They want a win – win. So these folks came up with an idea, an idea with legal and operational complication but they have swamped themselves with research to find ways to not stumble in future and yes they do have a long way to go but we have a start. These folks are our very adored IMF Staff.!

They are exploring an option that would help central banks make ‘deeply negative interest rates’ feasible option.

Excerpt from their article ‘Cashing In: How to make Negative Interest Rates Work’:

“In a cashless world, there would be no lower bound on interest rates. A central bank could reduce the policy rate from, say, 2 percent to minus 4 percent to counter a severe recession. When cash is available, however, cutting rates significantly into negative territory becomes impossible.”

“…Cash has the same purchasing power as bank deposits, but at zero nominal interest. Moreover, it can be obtained in unlimited quantities in exchange for bank money. Therefore, instead of paying negative interest, one can simply hold cash at zero interest. Cash is a free option on zero interest, and acts as an interest rate floor.

Because of this floor, central banks have resorted to unconventional monetary policy measures. The euro area, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, and other economies have allowed interest rates to go slightly below zero, which has been possible because taking out cash in large quantities is inconvenient and costly (for example, storage and insurance fees). These policies have helped boost demand, but they cannot fully make up for lost policy space when interest rates are very low.”

“… in a recent IMF staff study and previous research, we examine a proposal for central banks to make cash as costly as bank deposits with negative interest rates, thereby making deeply negative interest rates feasible while preserving the role of cash.

The proposal is for a central bank to divide the monetary base into two separate local currencies—cash and electronic money (e-money).

E-money would be issued only electronically and would pay the policy rate of interest, and cash would have an exchange rate—the conversion rate—against e-money. This conversion rate is key to the proposal. When setting a negative interest rate on e-money, the central bank would let the conversion rate of cash in terms of e-money depreciate at the same rate as the negative interest rate on e-money. The value of cash would thereby fall in terms of e-money.

To illustrate, suppose your bank announced a negative 3 percent interest rate on your bank deposit of 100 dollars today. Suppose also that the central bank announced that cash-dollars would now become a separate currency that would depreciate against e-dollars by 3 percent per year. The conversion rate of cash-dollars into e-dollars would hence change from 1 to 0.97 over the year. After a year, there would be 97 e-dollars left in your bank account. If you instead took out 100 cash-dollars today and kept it safe at home for a year, exchanging it into e-money after that year would also yield 97 e-dollars.

At the same time, shops would start advertising prices in e-money and cash separately, just as shops in some small open economies already advertise prices both in domestic and in bordering foreign currencies. Cash would thereby be losing value both in terms of goods and in terms of e-money, and there would be no benefit to holding cash relative to bank deposits. This dual local currency system would allow the central bank to implement as negative an interest rate as necessary for countering a recession, without triggering any large-scale substitutions into cash.”

Negative rates are coming whether we like it or not. There is only so much growth we can get in steady state among rising debt levels. The only hurdle to implementing negative rates is currency in circulation and that’s why more and more countries are trying to outlaw cash. Interesting and profitable times ahead for those who understand the brave new world.

Source: Towards A Globalist Utopia: “Negative Rates Are Coming, Whether You Like It Or Not”

On Samuel, Social Justice, And The Prophetic Office Of The Church (2) — The Heidelblog

In the first part of this two-part series, I sketched some of the background to explain how and why, in our late-modern period, it seems plausible to so many to regard the institutional church as an agent for social change. On the face of the New Testament, this would seem rather implausible since neither Jesus nor the Apostles preached a message of “social justice,” which I defined in part 1. This absence of a clear, unequivocal message of social justice in the New Testament has led to some rather clumsy attempts to wedge a message of social justice into the New Testament. One sees interpreters doing this to Paul’s letter to Philemon concerning the slave Onesimus. It is reasonable to interpret Paul as inventing to persuade Philemon to free Onesimus but if Paul intended to upend the institution of Greco-Roman slavery, he whiffed. Recently I heard an attempt to interpret 1 Peter 2:21–22 through the lens of social justice but that interpretation must be judged a failure since it quite misses Peter’s intention altogether. For an alternative interpretation see this commentary. 1 Peter 2:18 is quite clear and it must condition our understanding of Peter’s use of Christ as example.

Our Lord Jesus Christ has three offices: Prophet, Priest, and King. This is an ancient Christian way of understanding the person and work of Christ. In the Heidelberg Catechism (1563) the Reformed churches confess this threefold office (triplex munus):

31. Why is He called Christ, that is Anointed?

Because He is ordained of God the Father and anointed with the Holy Spirit to be our chief Prophet and Teacher, who has fully revealed to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption; and our only High Priest, who by the one sacrifice of His body, has redeemed us, and ever lives to make intercession for us with the Father; and our eternal King, who governs us by His Word and Spirit and defends and preserves us in the redemption obtained for us.

Our Lord Jesus, of course, is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophetic office, which began with Moses. God the Son, in his pre-incarnate state, revealed through Moses the office of prophet that was to be patterned after Moses (Deut 18:15–22). The function of the prophet was to announce only God’s Word to the people. The Lord gave to the people a test to determine a true prophet from false prophets. If the word they spoke came true, it was from the Lord.

The office of prophet was part of the establishment of the temporary, Old Covenant (Mosaic), theocracy. In this temporary, national people of God, the Lord instituted on top of his moral law (revealed already in nature, in the garden) temporary civil (political) laws and temporary ceremonial (religious) laws. The rabbis counted 613 of them. In Galatians 3:15–29 the Apostle Paul characterizes the entire Mosaic period of redemptive history as distinct in character from the Abrahamic in that it was a temporary addition to the permanent Abrahamic covenant of grace. Like Moses, the prophets led this national, temporary people and administered the Mosaic covenant until the people demanded a king.

That national people had distinct, temporary civil and religious duties and the line between them was nonexistent We know this from the explicit teaching of Hebrews 7:11–14: read more»

via On Samuel, Social Justice, And The Prophetic Office Of The Church (2) — The Heidelblog

Four Things Youth Workers Would Tell Parents About Teenagers, Social Media, and Technology | Core Christianity

When we think about Psalm 23 and the Lord as our shepherd, we often have a soft, snuggly feeling. Indeed, the images of lying down in green pastures and walking beside still waters connote a tranquility and comfort. God is indeed a good, kind shepherd who leads us to the peace of Christ.

At the same time, we find fierce images in Psalm 23 as well. The Lord carries a rod, a weapon for defense. With this instrument the Lord protects us from the darkness outside of us. He also wields a staff, which is meant to discipline and pull a sheep back when he starts to walk astray. In this way, God shields us from the darkness inside of us.

As earthly parents, while God calls us to be comforters and nurturers, God also calls us to be protectors. There is darkness in the world to which our children are naive. There is darkness in our sinful hearts which our children do not have a great deal of self-awareness of in their youth.

In no arena do we see both the darkness outside and inside play out more than in the space of technology and social media. These devices can be wonderful ways to connect with friends and family. They also can be the scenes of some of the worst acts and deeds we observe in teenage behavior.

In support of the parent’s role as a defender of his or her kids, I wanted to offer this very hard, very blunt article about obvious technological realities that nearly every youth worker would affirm but that most parents are unaware of.

Before you read on, I think it is important to say that this article might shock and disturb you. I want to offer two reminders. In this life, your child will not be able to escape exposure to evil. Furthermore, your child will sin every day of his or her life, no matter your efforts. Yet Jesus has defeated both the evil in the world and the sin in our hearts. His gospel is greater than any trouble your child might find.

1. Behind your back, kids will tell their youth pastor that they resist technological restrictions at home, but they know their parents are doing the wise thing.

I have heard of children resisting their parents to the point of death on any technology restrictions. “Why do you hate me? Why are you ruining my life?” Oh yes, almost any parent of an adolescent has heard similar laments. I have seen students shut their parents out for weeks because they limited their Netflix viewing to a certain number of minutes per day.

At the same time, teenagers will admit to youth workers that they respect and often appreciate that their parents set up these boundaries. Some kids tell us that they feel some sense of relief when their parents will not let them use their phones on family trips or when they take phones up at night. Many kids are addicted to technology and they cannot imagine giving up devices at any point, but social media in particular creates as much anxiety and stress for them as any source in their lives. While they will never admit this to parents, they know that boundaries and protections on technology are good.

2. If your son has unfettered access to the internet, he is almost definitely looking at pornography.

I remember traveling to visit a friend in college. I walked into his house and discovered that pornographic magazines were in every single room of the house. As a committed Christian, I vowed to keep my eyes pure for the next 48-hours. That resistance lasted about three hours. For most teenage boys — and I mean 98% — the allure of readily available porn is overpowering. This is why God tells us to “flee sexual temptation,” meaning to physically remove yourself from the situation (1 Cor. 6:18).

For a teenage boy to have a phone with no internet restrictions means he is walking around with an endless supply of pornography in his pocket all the time. When he lies down to sleep at night or goes into a bathroom stall, all of the porn he could ever want is sitting their enticing him all of the time. iPhones and other smart devices have very effective parental controls to eliminate your son’s access to anything inappropriate. (Side note: checking your kid’s Internet history is not a sufficient measure. It is easy to selectively erase internet history.)

3. If your son or daughter has SnapChat, they are being exposed to awful things or being enabled to do awful things.

This is a tough one to swallow and your child will deny it, but I promise you this is true. If your daughter has SnapChat, she is being solicited for naked pictures of herself. We have had many teenage girls confirm that a normal experience for a teenage girl today is for a boy to ask her for naked pictures. We have not had a single girl deny this. Most kids will deny this to their parents because they are afraid that their parents will take away their social media access. These “virtual sexual assaults” (as I call them) begin in middle school and are normal going forward.

Meanwhile, as saddening as this may be to hear, if your son has SnapChat, he is going to face two mighty temptations. First, as sweet and pure as your son may be, he will live with a temptation to ask a girl for naked pictures. The boys I know who have gotten in trouble for this have all been “nice boys.” Compliant, seemingly innocent Christian boys. If the cream of the teenage moral crop is susceptible to it, then everyone is. Secondly, girls tend to be a lot more assertive today than they were in past generations. In the context of SnapChat, this means that some girls — without provocation — will send boys naked pictures of themselves as a means of drawing their attention.

I cannot emphasize enough how insidious SnapChat is and how important it is to eliminate your child’s access to it.

4. Your child may not go looking for trouble but it will come looking for them.

Some teenagers who do not have access to the Internet still get pornographic images sent to them via group texts. Even worse, a pretty common incident involves a child sending an inappropriate image of herself or himself. That student sends it to a group of students. Whether your child wanted it or not, they now have child pornography on their phone. If they send it to someone else, they have now distributed child pornography. No parent nor child wants to deal with the potential consequences of this kind of problem that comes looking for them.

On most phones, you can turn off multi-media messaging (MMS messaging) so that your child can text with words, but cannot send or receive any images. Your child will probably claim that you have unnecessarily ruined their life, but you will likely protect them from a great deal of danger.

Making hard decisions and setting up tough boundaries like this will be met with resistance….to put it mildly. As we seek to shepherd our child in a way that reflects God’s divine parenthood over us, we can take heart in knowing that God is your child’s ultimate Good Shepherd. Fear not. There is no way for you to keep up with every single technological change and vice – it simply isn’t possible. But God’s ability to redeem far outweighs your caution and diligence, even superseding your child’s capacity to get in trouble. The Lord goes before you and your child every single day to redeem, protect, and transform him or her. When your child crosses lines via technology (regardless of how bad we may think those transgressions are in the moment), the Good Shepherd will use those mistakes to form your child through the outpouring abundance of his grace and mercy.

This content was originally published here. Used by permission of Rooted Ministry, a ministry aimed at “educating, equipping, and encouraging student ministry leaders through conferences, communications, and connections.” You can read more about Rooted Ministry here

Source: Four Things Youth Workers Would Tell Parents About Teenagers, Social Media, and Technology

40 Facts That Prove That America’s Moral Collapse Is Spinning Wildly Out Of Control | ZeroHedge News

Authored by Michael Snyder via The Economic Collapse blog,

According to a brand new survey that was just conducted by the Pew Research Center, 77 percent of all Americans are either “very worried” or “fairly worried” about America’s moral health.  Of course the truth is that we should all be deeply concerned, because we can see evidence of the cancerous moral decay that is eating away at the foundations of our society all around us.  In life, each one of us gets to make choices, and some of those choices can lead to very bad outcomes.  We all have old friends that “got on the wrong path”, and their lives ended up becoming cautionary tales.  Well, the same principle applies to nations as a whole.  America has been given very clear choices between good and evil, life and death, blessings and curses over and over again, and we have consistently made the wrong choices.  If we stay on this road, there is only one result that will be possible.

As long as we are drawing breath, there is always an opportunity to turn things around That is true for individuals, and it is also true for our entire nation.  But if we continue running toward evil, it is only a matter of time before exceedingly painful consequences overtake us.

The following are 40 facts that prove that America’s moral collapse is spinning wildly out of control…

#1 America has killed more than 60 million children since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973.  The federal government endorses this activity by heavily funding the country’s leading abortion provider, and after that abortion provider harvests the organs of the dead children, the federal government also heavily funds the research that is conducted on those harvested organs.

#2 According to a Quinnipiac University poll from last year, 63 percent of all Americans want to keep Roe v. Wade in place.

#3 America is a global leader in sexual depravity.  If you doubt this, just check out what is going on in Cleveland at the end of this month.

#4 Americans are now more likely to die from an opioid overdose than they are from a car accident.

#5 In the city of Baltimore, approximately one out of every four babies is born as an opioid addict.

#6 Overdosing on drugs has now become the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50.

#7 McDonalds feeds approximately 70 million people a day globally. Pornhub gets more than 78 million visits a day.

#8 The teen birth rate in the United States is higher “than in any other industrialized country in the world”.

#9 According to the CDC, approximately 110 million Americans have a sexually-transmitted disease right now.

#10 The CDC also tells us that there are approximately 20 million new sexually transmitted disease cases in the U.S. every single year.

#11 The number of married couples with children in the U.S. just reached a 56 year low.

#12 According to the United Nations Population Fund, 40 percent of all births in the U.S. now happen outside of marriage. But if you go back to 1970, that figure was sitting at just 10 percent.

#13 At this point, approximately one out of every three children in the United States lives in a home without a father.

#14 Approximately one-fourth of the entire global prison population is in the United States.

#15 By the time an American child reaches the age of 18, that child will have seen approximately 40,000 murders on television.

#16 According to a study conducted by the Mayo Clinic, nearly 70 percent of all Americans are on at least one prescription drug.  An astounding 20 percent of all Americans are on at least five prescription drugs.

#17 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, doctors in the United States write more than 250 million prescriptions for antidepressants each year.

#18 Over half a million people are homeless in the United States right now, but more cities than ever are passing laws making it illegal to feed them.

#19 One recent study found that the average American spends 86 hours a monthon a cell phone.

#20 A different study found that one-third of all American teenagers haven’t read a single book in the past year.

#21 Americans are obsessed with material things and are willing to go deep into debt to get what they want.  At this point, 480 million credit cards are in circulation in this country. That number has risen by nearly 13 percent since 2015.

#22 37 million credit card accounts in the U.S. are “seriously delinquent” at this moment.

#23 According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately two-thirds of all Americans in the 15 to 24-year-old age bracket have engaged in oral sex.

#24 It has been reported that one out of every four teen girls in the U.S. has at least one sexually transmitted disease.

#25 It has been estimated that 30 percent of all Internet traffic now goes to adult websites.

#26 According to the Pentagon, 71 percent of our young adults are ineligible to serve in the U.S. military because they are either too dumb, too fat or have a criminal background.

#27 The city of San Francisco handed out a total of 5.8 million free syringes to drug addicts in 2018.

#28 During one seven day stretch last summer, a total of 16,000 official complaintswere submitted to the city of San Francisco about piles of human feces littering the streets.

#29 When you include unfunded liabilities, the true size of our national debt is 222 trillion dollars.  What we are doing to future generations of Americans is beyond criminal.

#30 The suicide rate in the United States is up 34 percent since the year 2000.

#31 Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for Americans from age 15 to age 24.

#32 We are literally destroying the planet that we have been given.  It is being projected that the total amount of plastic in the oceans of the world will exceed the total weight of all fish by the year 2050.

#33 There are more than 850,000 registered sex offenders in the United States today.

#34 The number of American babies killed by abortion each year is roughly equalto the number of U.S. military deaths that have occurred in all of the wars that the United States has ever been involved in combined.

#35 About one-third of all American women will have had an abortion by the age of 45.

#36 Approximately 3,000 Americans lost their lives as a result of the destruction of the World Trade Center towers on 9/11.  Every single day, more than 3,000 American babies are killed by abortion when you include all forms of abortion.

#37 One very shocking study found that 86 percent of all abortions are done for the sake of convenience.

#38 An average of more than 100 churches are dying in the United States every single week.

#39 Only about 27 percent of all U.S. Millennials currently attend church on a regular basis.

#40 The number of Americans with “no religion” has increased by 266 percent over the last three decades.

Source: 40 Facts That Prove That America’s Moral Collapse Is Spinning Wildly Out Of Control

The Abortion Debate: Dr. Mike Adams vs. Abortion Doctor — Cross Examined – Christian Apologetic Ministry | Frank Turek | Christian Apologetics | Christian Apologetics Speakers

Dr. Mike S. Adams takes on Dr. Willie Parker, an abortion doctor who has performed thousands of abortions. This debate took place on February 21, 2019 at UNC Wilmington. Although Dr. Parker claims to be a Christian, he says in his book that there are no moral absolutes and there is no right interpretation of Christianity. So much for sin then.

While Dr. Parker does claim, oddly, that the parable of the Good Samaritan somehow supports his work as an abortionist, this debate does not hinge on scripture passages, but on the distinction Dr. Parker tries to make between a human being and a person. That false distinction was used to defend chattel slavery when the Dred Scot Supreme Court decision declared that blacks were only three-fifths of a person.

“Human” is discovered by the science of genetics. “Person” is defined by whoever is in power at the time, maybe even just five lawyers on a court. If human beings don’t have a right to life, only what we define as “persons” do, then none of us are safe.

Watch the debate here:


via The Abortion Debate: Dr. Mike Adams vs. Abortion Doctor — Cross Examined – Christian Apologetic Ministry | Frank Turek | Christian Apologetics | Christian Apologetics Speakers

April 6, 2019 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

The Epistle of Joy

(Philippians 1:1–2)

Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1:1–2)

We live in a generally sad world, a fallen world well acquainted with despair, depression, disappointment, dissatisfaction, and a longing for lasting happiness that often never comes to pass. Moments of pleasure and satisfaction are scattered through the general pain and sorrow of life. Many people have little hope that their situation in life will ever change much, if any, for the better. Hopelessness tends to increase with age. Long years of life often become long years of sorrow, unfulfillment, loss of loved ones and friends, and often physical limitations and pain. Such decreasing times of happiness tend to produce a morbid sadness and lessening satisfaction with life.

Most people define happiness as an attitude of satisfaction or delight based on positive circumstances largely beyond their control. Happiness, therefore, cannot be planned or programmed, much less guaranteed. It is experienced only if and when circumstances are favorable. It is therefore elusive and uncertain.

Spiritual joy, on the other hand, is not an attitude dependent on chance or circumstances. It is the deep and abiding confidence that, regardless of one’s circumstances in life, all is well between the believer and the Lord. No matter what difficulty, pain, disappointment, failure, rejection, or other challenge one is facing, genuine joy remains because of that eternal well-being established by God’s grace in salvation. Thus, Scripture makes it clear that the fullest, most lasting and satisfying joy is derived from a true relationship with God. It is not based on circumstances or chance, but is the gracious and permanent possession of every child of God. Therefore it is not surprising that joy is an important New Testament theme. The verb rejoice (chairō) appears ninety-six times in the New Testament (including those times when it is used as a greeting) and the noun joy (chara) another fifty-nine times. The two words appear thirteen times in Philippians.

A biblical theology of joy includes many features. First, joy is a gift from God. David declared, “You have put gladness in my heart, more than when their grain and new wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety” (Ps. 4:7–8); “You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (Ps. 16:11).

Second, God grants joy to those who believe the gospel. Announcing Christ’s birth to the shepherds, the angel said, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10–11). Jesus told His disciples, “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15:11). Christ came to proclaim a gospel that would give true supernatural joy to those who receive Him as Savior and Lord.

Third, joy is produced by God the Holy Spirit. “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking,” Paul said, “but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17). In his letter to the Galatian churches, the apostle wrote, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22–23).

Fourth, joy is experienced most fully as believers receive and obey God’s Word. The prophet Jeremiah exulted, “Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I have been called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts” (Jer. 15:16). The apostle John wrote his first letter so that, among other things, his and his readers’ “joy may be made complete” (1 John 1:4).

Fifth, believers’ joy is deepened through trials. The full reality of joy is experienced when it is contrasted with sadness, sorrow, and difficulties. “You also became imitators of us and of the Lord,” Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 1:6). In his second letter to the believers at Corinth, Paul spoke of being “sorrowful yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6:10). James counseled believers to “consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials” (James 1:2), and Peter encouraged them with these words:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials. (1 Peter 1:3–6)

Sixth, believers’ joy is made complete when they set their hope on the glory of heaven. They are always to be “rejoicing in hope” (Rom. 12:12). Peter reminded them that, “though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). Later in that letter he exhorted, “To the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation” (1 Peter 4:13). Jude concluded his brief letter with the beautiful benediction: “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24–25).

The love bond between Paul and the Philippian believers may have been stronger than the one he had with any other church. It was in large measure because of the joy that their love brought to him that the theme of Paul’s letter to the Philippians is joy. The depth of their relationship with him encouraged the apostle during his imprisonment and added to his joy. He was concerned about their unity, their faithfulness, and many other important spiritual and practical matters. But his overriding concern was that their sorrow over his afflictions would be tempered by their joy over his faithfulness to the Lord and the great reward that awaited him in heaven. Paul wanted them not to be sad, but to share in the fullest measure his deep, abiding joy in Jesus Christ. It is a noteworthy testimony to the maturity of the Philippian believers that, although Paul warned and encouraged them, he made no mention of any theological or moral problem in the church at Philippi. That also brought the apostle joy.

In the first two verses the apostle described himself and Timothy as servants of Jesus Christ, the Philippian believers as saints in Jesus Christ, and offered his salutation to them in the name of their Lord.

The Servants

Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus (1:1a)

Paul is the beloved apostle who wrote thirteen New Testament epistles and is arguably the most noble and privileged servant of Jesus Christ the world has ever known. Yet, he refered to himself and Timothy simply as bond-servants of Christ Jesus. He made no mention of his apostolic authority or his being chosen to record part of God’s written Word. He viewed himself and every believer primarily as a slave of the Lord.

Perhaps the most concise and clear look at Paul anywhere in the New Testament comes from the apostle himself later in this letter. Speaking of his life in Judaism, he wrote,

I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. [But] if anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil. 3:4–11)

Paul’s human credentials were remarkable. He was the epitome of Jewish manhood, an exemplary, traditional, zealous, and legalistic “Hebrew of Hebrews.” In the eyes of his peers, he was blameless and righteous. But after his conversion he saw those things for what they were in God’s eyes: mere rubbish. What he had considered to be positives before God he came to realize were actually destructive negatives. His former imagined righteousness was really unrighteousness, which he gladly forsook to gain the true righteousness that comes only “through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” (3:9).

Timothy shared that righteousness, as a fellow bond-servant of Christ Jesus. He was Paul’s son in the faith (1 Tim. 1:2), not only a protégé, but also a cherished companion, to whom the apostle would bequeath an extraordinary spiritual legacy and ministry. His two inspired letters to Timothy were written several years later, the first after the apostle had been released from his first imprisonment in Rome and the second during his second imprisonment there.

Bond-servants translates the plural of the oft-used Greek word doulos, which describes a person owned by someone else and thus subservient to and dependent on that person. Paul used it of himself at the beginning of three of his epistles (Rom. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Titus 1:1), and in each case it precedes the mention of his apostleship. James (James 1:1), Peter (2 Peter 1:1), and Jude (Jude 1) use it in the same way.

When used in the New Testament of a believer’s relationship to Jesus Christ, doulos describes willing, determined, and devoted service. It reflects the attitude of an Old Testament slave who refused the opportunity for freedom and voluntarily resubmitted himself to his master for life. The Mosaic Law provided that “if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,’ then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently” (Ex. 21:5–6). Speaking of all faithful believers, Paul declared, “Now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter” (Rom. 7:6). To the Corinthians he explained, “For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave” (1 Cor. 7:22).

In that spirit Paul and Timothy did not think of being bond-servants of Christ Jesus in anything but positive terms. Nor did they think of themselves as bond-servants of the church, of Rome, or of any other person or institution, but exclusively of Christ Jesus. Paul reminded the elders from the Ephesian church of that single-minded devotion when he met them near Miletus: “I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). That devotion is required of every believer, but especially of those called to the ministry. Even if a pastor’s or teacher’s primary devotion is to the church, it will inevitably bring some measure of compromise, disappointment, and spiritual failure. But devotion to Christ Jesus can never be disappointing or in vain. If his ministry is concerned with other believers’ standards and opinions, a pastor will invariably stray from the gospel to some form of compromise. But devotion and obedience to the Lord and to His Word will just as invariably keep him on a godly and faithful course.

Paul’s physical bonds were not really marks of his bondage to Rome but to his Lord. His imprisonment by Rome symbolized his bondage to Jesus Christ. “My imprisonment in the cause of Christ,” he explained, “has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and … most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear” (1:13–14). It was Jesus Christ who would assign all his duties and meet all his needs. He had the same spirit of devotion to Christ that David’s servants had to him as king: “Then the king’s servants said to the king, ‘Behold, your servants are ready to do whatever my lord the king chooses’ ” (2 Sam. 15:15). Jesus declared unambiguously that “no one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matt. 6:24). And because the Lord is such a loving Master, His servants can testify with Paul, “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Cor. 12:9).

The Saints

to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: (1:1b)

Paul addresses his letter to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi. Like qodesh, its Hebrew equivalent, hagios (saints) refers to someone who is set apart; specifically believers, who are set apart by God for Himself. Both words are often translated “holy.”

Unfortunately, saints are often thought of as being a special, higher order of Christians who accomplished extraordinary good deeds and lived an exemplary life. In the Roman Catholic system, saints are revered people who are officially canonized after death because they have met certain demanding requirements. But Scripture makes it clear that all the redeemed, whether under the Old or New Covenant, are saints, set apart from sin to God.

When God commanded Ananias to lay his hands on the newly converted Saul (Paul) so that he would regain his sight, he answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem” (Acts 9:13). A few verses later Luke writes that “as Peter was traveling through all those regions, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda” (Acts 9:32). In both instances it is clear that saints refers to all believers in those cities (cf. Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:2). That Paul even referred to the worldly, immature believers at Corinth as saints indicates beyond dispute that the term has no relationship to spiritual maturity or character. To them he wrote, “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours” (1 Cor. 1:2). Like all other believers, the Christians at Corinth were not saints because of their spiritual maturity (cf. 1 Cor. 3:1–3), but because they were “saints by calling,” a reference to their call to salvation (cf. Rom. 8:29–30).

All believers are saints, not because they are themselves righteous, but because they are in their Lord, Christ Jesus, whose righteousness is imputed to them (Rom. 4:22–24). A Buddhist does not speak of himself as in Buddha, nor does a Muslim speak of himself as in Mohammed. A Christian Scientist is not in Mary Baker Eddy or a Mormon in Joseph Smith or Brigham Young. They may faithfully follow the teaching and example of those religious leaders, but they are not in them. Only Christians can claim to be in their Lord, because they have been made spiritually one with Him (cf. Rom. 6:1–11). “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,” Paul wrote, “even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4–6). To the Galatians he declared, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). In Paul’s letters, the phrase “in Christ Jesus” occurs fifty times, “in Christ” twenty-nine times, and “in the Lord” forty-five times. Being in Christ Jesus and therefore acceptable to God is the believer’s supreme source of joy.

Overseers and deacons are called to lead the church. As is clear from Acts 20:17, 28 and Titus 1:5, 7, overseer is another term for elder, the most common New Testament name for the office (cf. Acts 11:30; 14:23; 15:2, 4, 6, 23; James 5:14). Elders are also referred to as pastors (or shepherds; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1–2), pastor-teachers (Eph. 4:11), and bishops (cf. Acts 20:28, marg.; 1 Tim. 3:2, marg.). Their high qualifications are set forth in 1 Timothy 3:1–7 and Titus 1:6–9. Overseers, or elders, are first mentioned in relation to famine relief money sent by the church at Antioch to the elders in Judea by the hands of Barnabas and Saul (Acts 11:30). They mediate the rule of Christ in local churches by preaching, teaching, setting godly examples, and giving Holy Spirit-guided leadership.

Although their role is primarily one of practical service rather than preaching and teaching, deacons are required to meet the same high moral and spiritual standards (1 Tim. 3:8–13) as elders. The distinction between the two offices is that elders are to be skilled teachers (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:9).

The Salutation

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1:2)

Paul used this common greeting in several of his letters to churches (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Eph. 1:2; Col. 1:2–3; 2 Thess. 1:2) as well as in one letter to an individual (Philem. 3). It is an expression of the apostle’s deep love for fellow believers, even the immature ones in Corinth who caused him such grief. But he must have felt an especially deep sense of joy and gratitude for the saints in Philippi who, in stark contrast to those in Corinth, had brought him immeasurable satisfaction and comfort.

The saving, eternal grace that is granted to penitent, believing sinners is the supreme divine gift, and everlasting peace is its greatest blessing. The source of both is God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This salutation expresses Paul’s abiding love and concern for the faithful believers in Philippi and serves as an introduction to the many specific causes for rejoicing that he mentions throughout this tenderest of all his epistles.

The common New Testament salutary connection of God our Father with the Lord Jesus Christ repeatedly emphasizes the oneness of nature between the two (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3, 9; 2 Cor. 1:2–3; Gal. 1:1, 3; Eph. 1:1–2; Phil. 1:2; Col. 1:3; 1 Thess. 1:1, 3; 1 Tim. 1:1–2; 2 Tim. 1:2; Titus 1:4; Philem. 3; Heb. 1:1–3; James 1:1; 1 Peter 1:3; 2 Peter 1:1–2; 1 John 1:3; 2 John 3; Jude 1). God the Father shares His essential divine being with the Lord Jesus Christ. The emphasis on this equality establishes the deity of our Lord Jesus, which is the central truth of Christianity.[1]

Of Servants and Saints

Philippians 1:1

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:

Space is at a premium in journalism. If an editor has two writers, each with equal insight and each maintaining an identical position, the best writer is the one who can express his thought in the shortest space. A writer who can do in one column what another can only do in two is twice as good a writer from the journalist’s point of view. If the apostle Paul were living today, he would make a good journalist. Of course, his editor would have to shorten his copy in places because Paul does go off on excursions now and then. But when he is writing carefully, one or two sentences can convey relationships that take volumes to analyze.

To some extent this is true of the verse before us. Paul begins his letter as any writer in antiquity would begin a letter. He starts with his name and the name of the one who is with him. He identifies himself for the benefit of his readers. He identifies his readers and offers a prayer on their behalf. Paul writes: “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons.”

But Paul is more than an ancient writer. He is also a Christian, and more than that, a Christian theologian. Hence, when he writes these things, he writes them not as mere civilities—as you or I would say, “Dear John” or “Dear Lois,” “Sincerely and cordially” or “with kindest regards”—but he writes them to communicate Christian truth and to teach the deepest and most significant Christian relationships.

A Servant of Jesus Christ

When Paul introduces himself and Timothy as “servants of Christ Jesus,” he uses a word that literally means a “slave.” Paul wanted to say that he was Christ’s slave and that he wished to serve him as any obedient servant serves his master. No doubt Paul was implying that what was true for himself should also be true for any Christian. He taught that we are “not our own”; we are “bought at a price” (1 Cor. 6:20). Therefore, we are to glorify God in our body and in our spirit which are God’s.

It is a spiritual law that no one can become a servant of Jesus Christ until he realizes that by nature he is a slave to sin. In antiquity there were three ways a person could become a slave. First, he could become a slave by conquest, by being vanquished in a war between opposing armies. Thus, to give an example, many of those who took part in the Athenian invasion of Sicily became slaves of the Sicilians when the Greeks were defeated at Syracuse in 413 b.c. Second, a person could become a slave by birth. Any child born of slaves automatically became a slave as well. Third, a person could become a slave because of debt. Many poor people sold their children into slavery in order to pay a debt. This was so common, in fact, that the Jewish people even had a law to lessen the forces of custom. Every fifty years, in the year of Jubilee, those who had become slaves because of debt were automatically set free. These laws are spelled out in Leviticus 25.

It is striking against this background that the Bible teaches that all men have become slaves to sin in ways similar to those by which a person could become a physical slave in antiquity. The Bible teaches that human beings are born in sin. David writes, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Ps. 51:5). This verse has nothing to do with any supposed sinfulness of the sex act, as some branches of the Christian church have taught. Sex is not sinful but good. It merely teaches that there was never a moment of his life when David was not a sinner, and there was never a part of him that was free from its contamination. The Bible also teaches that we are slaves by conquest. Sin rules over us, so that we cannot do the things we would. Hence David prays for deliverance from willful sins, asking that they not “rule” over him (Ps. 19:13). Solomon speaks of the sinner being bound by “the cords of his sin” (Prov. 5:22). Then, too, we are sinners by debt. For this reason Paul speaks of the wages of sin, telling us that the account can only be paid by death (Rom. 6:23).

Paul knew that he had been a slave to sin in each of these ways, and every person must realize the same thing in some form before he can taste God’s deliverance. A person must know that he is sick before he will go to see the doctor. In the same way a person must know that he is enslaved spiritually before he will turn to the One who alone can set him free.

Just as there were several ways of becoming a slave in ancient times, so were there several ways of becoming free from slavery. A person could earn freedom. He could buy it. Or it could be given to him by someone able to pay the price of his redemption. Three ways! But although there were several ways of becoming free from slavery in ancient times, in spiritual terms there is only one way of deliverance—to be bought by the One who alone can pay sin’s price. No one will ever buy his own salvation. Our acts of righteousness are debased coinage in the sight of God. No one will ever earn his salvation. We can do nothing to merit God’s grace. But what we cannot earn and cannot buy, God will give freely on the basis of the sacrifice of Christ. The Bible says that “the wages of sin is death,” but it also teaches that Jesus paid that price on Calvary. It declares, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). This is a great deliverance, and Paul knew it personally.

Someone who has not experienced this redemption from sin will want to argue that this is merely an exchange of slavery to one master for slavery to another. But this is far from an accurate picture. No Christian would ever compare the two except in terms of a total allegiance. It is true that we have been slaves to sin, as all men are, and that we are now servants of Christ. But the second service is not at all like the first. It is a bondage of love and gratitude, a relationship that we could compare quite closely to marriage. If you are married, you know that a person is not autonomous in marriage. You are not free to do anything you want—to marry another, to leave the home, abandon the spouse. But you are free—free to serve, free to give, free to love your family. It is thus that Christ rules us; it is thus that he rules you. He is your Lord; you are his bride. He is the master; you are his to do his bidding. This will never be slavery. It is the way of joy and peace and genuine spiritual satisfaction.

Jesus Christ—Jehovah

One other truth needs to be seen in this phrase: the ease with which Paul substitutes the name of Jesus for the name of God—Jehovah. This phrase is not unique with Paul. When he refers to himself and to Timothy as “servants of Christ Jesus,” he is not coining a phrase in order to define the relationship. He is borrowing a phrase from the Old Testament and giving it specifically Christian content.

The student of the New Testament cannot forget that the great Old Testament figures were called servants of God, “servants of Jehovah.” The opening verses of Joshua speak of “Moses the servant,” and in Judges 2:8 Joshua himself is called the “servant of the Lord.” David is called “my servant” or “his servant” several times in the Psalms (78:70; 89:3, 20). One also finds the phrase “my servants” or “his servants the prophets” (Ezra 9:11; Jer. 7:25; Dan. 9:6; Amos 3:7). This phrase was familiar to Paul and all the Jewish people. How significant then that Paul substitutes his own name for those of the servants of God in Old Testament times and the name of Jesus for the name of Jehovah. Paul did not teach a new religion. He did not teach a new God or a new and contradictory revelation. The God who had spoken long ago through the prophets was speaking in Paul’s day through Jesus Christ and the testimony given to him by the apostles and the ministers of the gospel. Who is he? He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and is one with him. When we serve Jesus we serve the Father also.

Saints in Christ Jesus

Next we read of the “saints in Christ Jesus,” those to whom the apostle Paul is writing. These were the Christians at Philippi. They were not special Christians; they were people like you and me. Hence, the title applies to us, as it does to every Christian. Paul writes to the saints at Rome, to the saints at Corinth, to the saints at Ephesus, and so on. In every case he means believers.

A great deal of trouble had been caused for many seeking to understand what the Bible says about being a saint by the erroneous assumption that the word refers to personal holiness. It does not. The one who is a saint in the biblical sense will strive to be holy, but his holiness, however little or however great it may be, does not make him a saint. He is a saint because he has been set apart by God.

The biblical word for saint refers to consecration. This meaning is very evident in the Old Testament where the Bible speaks of the sanctification of objects. In Exodus 40 Moses is instructed by God to sanctify the altar and the basin in the midst of the tabernacle. Moses was to make saints of them. Clearly, the chapter does not refer to any intrinsic change in the stones of the altar or the basin but to the fact that they have now been set apart for a special use by God. Jesus prayed for the disciples in John 17, saying, “For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified” (John 17:19). This does not mean that Jesus made himself more holy, for he was holy. It does mean that he separated himself for a special task, the task of providing salvation for us by his death.

In the same way the Bible teaches that those who are Christians have been set apart by God. These constitute “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” who should show forth the praises of him who has called them out of darkness “into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). If you are a Christian, God has set you apart in this way. David was an adulterer, but before God he was a saint. For God had set him apart unto himself. Jeremiah was a rebellious prophet, but before God he was a saint. For God had set him apart unto himself. The church at Philippi had a woman who was a merchant, one who was a slave girl, and a man who was a violent soldier. Yet these were saints in Christ. Are you a Christian? If so, you are a saint, and so am I—regardless of our station in life. We are so, not because of what we have done, but because we have been separated unto God in Jesus.

An illustration of this truth comes from the life of the late Harry Ironside of Chicago. During the early days of his ministry before there were airplanes, Dr. Ironside used to travel many miles by train. On one of these trips, a four-day ride from the West Coast to his home in Chicago, the Bible teacher found himself in the company of a party of nuns. They liked him because of his kind manner and his interesting reading and exposition of the Bible. One day Dr. Ironside began a discussion by asking the nuns if any of them had ever seen a saint. They all said that they had never seen one. He then asked if they would like to see one. They all said that they would like to see one. Then he surprised them greatly by saying, “I am a saint; I am Saint Harry.” He took them to verses of the Bible such as this one to show that it was so.

So it is with us. Your name may sound funny when you preface it with the title “saint.” But you may rest assured that it does not sound funny to God—whether you are a Saint George, a Saint Lucy, or a Saint Harriet. God knows us all by name, and it is he who calls us saints in Christ Jesus.

Overseers and Deacons

Finally, Paul also mentions the church officers: the overseers, who were the pastors of the local congregations, and the deacons, who were the officers elected to care for the needy and the sick. These labored with local believers in the spread of the gospel and the strengthening of Christians.

It has often been taught by higher critics of the New Testament that the pastoral letters—1 and 2 Timothy and Titus—could not have been written by Paul because they give evidence of a more highly developed church structure than was possible in Paul’s time. They speak of the offices of overseer and deacon, and these are supposed to have been a later development in church history. How significant in the light of this criticism is the fact that the same offices occur in the Book of Philippians, a book that only the most foolhardy of scholars would deny to be written by Paul and one that by even the most critical rating must be dated before the year a.d. 65, and probably by a.d. 60 or 61.

Moreover, the office of overseer is reflected in the Dead Sea Scrolls, all of which date from before a.d. 70 and many of which are considerably older. On this point William F. Albright has written:

The repudiation of the Pastoral Epistles of Paul, now commonly assigned by critical scholars to the second quarter of the second century A.D., becomes rather absurd when we discover that the institution of overseers or superintendents (episkopoi, our bishops) in Timothy and Titus, as well as in the earliest extra-biblical Christian literature, is virtually identical with the Essenef institution of mebaqqerim (sometimes awkwardly rendered as “censors”).

If anything, the evidence seems to show that the offices of overseer and deacon, far from being an invention of the post-apostolic church, were actually always present and in a completely natural way. The offices did not exist because of a rigid revelation from God or because of a carefully developed theory of the structure of the church. They existed because they were needed. If the church was to be guided, there must be those who could oversee the work. These were bishops, overseers. If the poor were to be helped, there must be men entrusted with that work. These became known as deacons. All of these worked together.

The most important word in this phrase is the small word “with.” Many who hold office want to dominate those who are in their charge. They want to be “over” them, or at least to go “before” them in terms of prestige or honor. It should not be so with Christians. Paul says that the officers of the congregation worked with the believers, and he subordinates his own role and that of Timothy by picturing both of them as the servants of all.

That is the secret of forward progress for the life of a Christian congregation. The saints must be servants, and there must be a division of labor coupled with a working together in Christ for the furtherance of the gospel and the strengthening of other believers. This was God’s way of blessing the little church at Philippi. It is God’s way of blessing your church and mine. You do not need to be a deacon, a presbyter, or an elder. But you can work together with God’s saints for spiritual ends. God wants you to do it. God wants you to witness to Christ together and to work with others to help those who need your material and spiritual assistance.

Grace and Peace

Philippians 1:2

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

These words convey a warm Christian greeting. Yet, they sound strange to modern ears, largely because few in our day know what grace or peace means. If grace means anything at all to most people, it may indicate charm, good manners, or attractiveness. Peace may refer only to peace as an alternative to warfare. Actually, the words mean much more. In Paul’s usage they refer to the deepest of spiritual realities.

A Common Greeting

The words Paul used to greet the church at Philippi were actually quite common in Paul’s day. The word translated “grace” was a normal gentile address that meant “greetings.” We know this from the use of the word in the thousands of Greek papyri found in the Near East by archaeologists and in letters written by officials of the Roman empire. An ancient letter might begin like this one from the emperor Claudius to the people of Alexandria in Egypt: “Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus Imperator, Pontifex Maximus, holder of the tribunician power, consul designate, to the city of Alexandria: greetings.” The last word is like Paul’s word for grace. Similarly, the common greeting among the Jewish people was “peace” (shalom). One of the kings of Persia used this form of address to write to the people of Jerusalem under Ezra (Ezra 4:17). This was also the common word of greeting in Jesus’ day.

At the same time, however, it is important to note that the words are transformed in Paul’s hands so that they carry Christian meanings. The normal gentile greeting in Greek was cherein, a verb; but Paul uses the noun form of the same root, charis. The difference is slight, but there is a great change in meaning. For in Christian speech Paul’s word charis was always associated with the grace of God. The emperor Claudius was merely sending greetings to the citizens of Alexandria. Paul was saying, “God’s grace be with you.” In a similar way, although the word itself is unchanged, peace cannot be understood merely as a common salutation. In Paul’s mouth it must always have some reference to the fruits of justification, the result of the reconciliation of the Christian with God.

A great New Testament scholar Johannes Weiss wrote of these two words, “The fact that these terms connect themselves with the ordinary Greek and Hebrew greetings does not exclude the employment of ‘grace’ in its specifically Christian and Pauline sense in which it denotes the unmerited divine operations of love, which is the source and principle of all Christian salvation. Similarly, ‘peace’ is not to be understood primarily in the technical sense of Romans 5:1, as the first-fruit of justification; but we may be sure that, in Paul’s mind, the whole state of tranquility and general well-being which was implied in ‘peace’ attached itself at the root to the fact of reconciliations with God.”

Unmerited Grace

The first greeting that Paul has for the Christians at Philippi, then, is grace, and he used it with its full Christian meaning. God’s grace! The unmerited favor of God toward humanity.

It seems unnecessary to emphasize that grace is unmerited, for that is the definition of grace. Yet we must emphasize it. For man always imagines that God loves him for what he is intrinsically. We imagine that God has been gracious to us because of what we have done—because of our piety, our good deeds, our repentance, our virtue. But God does not love us because of that, and he is not gracious to us because of that. Paul says that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Christ died for people who were hideous in his sight because of sin. We are like that. If we are ever to understand the grace of God, we must begin with the knowledge that God has acted graciously toward us in Christ entirely apart from human merit.

There is a wonderful illustration of the nature of grace in the life of John Newton. John Newton had been raised in a Christian home in England in his very early years. But he was orphaned at the age of six and lived with a non-Christian relative. There Christianity was mocked, and he was persecuted. At last, to escape the conditions at home, Newton ran away to sea and became an apprentice seaman in the British navy. He served in the navy for some time. At last he deserted and ran away to Africa. He tells in his own words that he went there for just one purpose: “to sin his fill.”

In Africa he joined forces with a Portuguese slave trader, and in this man’s home he was very cruelly treated. At times the slave trader went away on expeditions, and the young man was left in the charge of the slave trader’s African wife, the head of his harem. She hated all white men and took out her hatred on Newton. He tells that she exercised such power in her husband’s absence that he was compelled to eat his food off the dusty floor like a dog.

At last the young Newton fled from this treatment and made his way to the coast where he lit a signal fire and was picked up by a ship on its way to England. The captain was disappointed that Newton had no ivory to sell, but because the young man knew something about navigation, he was made a ship’s mate. He could not even keep this position. During the voyage he broke into the ship’s supply of rum and distributed it to the crew so that the crew became drunk. In a stupor Newton fell into the sea and almost drowned.

Toward the end of the voyage near Scotland Newton’s ship encountered heavy winds. It was blown off course and began to sink. Newton was sent down into the hold and told to man the pumps. He was frightened to death. He was sure the ship would sink and he would drown. He worked the pumps for days, and as he worked he began to cry out to God. He began to remember verses he had been taught as a child, and as he remembered them he was miraculously transformed—he was born again! He went on to become a great preacher and teacher of the Word of God in England. It was this John Newton who wrote:

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,

That saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found;

Was blind, but now I see.

Newton was a great preacher of grace, and it is no wonder. For he had learned what Paul knew and what all Christians eventually learn: Grace is of God, and it is always unmerited. It is to the undeserving—to you and to me—that the offer of salvation comes.

Abounding Grace

Grace is unmerited, but grace is also abounding. Romans 5:20 says that “where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” At one time I came across an item in the Washington Evening Star that told of a young man who had suddenly become a millionaire. The young man had been working as a four-dollar-an-hour waiter in Clearwater, Florida, and had suddenly inherited a three million dollar share of his father’s lumber business. Suppose now that on the day before the settlement of his father’s estate the owner of the restaurant had decided, entirely on his own initiative and without any real reason on the part of the young man, to increase the young man’s salary to five dollars an hour. That would have been grace, but it would have been a very small thing. In place of this, however, the young man received three million dollars. Instead of a small raise, he experienced what we might call “grace abounding.”

It is the same in the economy of God. God tells us that we have not the slightest claim upon him. We deserve hell at his hands, and anything he might do for us, however insignificant, is grace. But God’s grace is not insignificant, and it certainly does not stop with a single act. It is not a dollar-an-hour grace. It is a grace that has made us millionaires in Christ.

Moreover, the Bible teaches that God’s grace will go on overflowing throughout this life until the moment of our bodily resurrection and, indeed, throughout eternity. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:14–15: “We know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” It was by grace that the worlds were hung in space and the earth was disposed for human life. It was by grace that the mountains were created and the world was filled with life. By grace humans are made in God’s image with every capacity for fellowship with him. By grace humans received the biblical revelation after the fall. By grace God chose Israel for a special purpose in history. It was grace that sent the Lord Jesus—to live a life that revealed the Father and to die for human sin. Grace leads us to trust in Christ. Grace sent the Holy Spirit to be our teacher and our guide. Grace has preserved the church through the centuries. Grace will bring forth the final resurrection. Grace will sustain us throughout eternity as we live in unbroken fellowship with God and grow in the knowledge of him.

Grace unmerited! Grace abounding! It is the knowledge of such grace that inspired Paul to write: “Grace to you!” Yes, grace be unto you. Grace be multiplied.

Peace with God

But grace is not the only word in Paul’s greeting to the Philippians. His second word is “peace.” Just as grace was the common greeting for the Gentiles, peace was the common greeting among the Jewish people: Shalom! How thoughtful of Paul to combine the two in his characteristic greeting to Jewish-Gentile churches!

Just as Paul had a deeper meaning in mind for the word “grace,” so he had a deeper meaning in mind for the word “peace.” Shalom in the writings of the apostle Paul can never be understood merely as a common salutation. Peace comes from God. Grace is the unmerited and abounding favor of God toward men and peace is the result of that favor. It is the result of the reconciliation of man and God through Jesus’ death—peace obtained at the cross of Christ.

I have often marveled in studying the New Testament at the significant moments in the life of Christ where the promise of peace occurs. The promise of peace to men occurs first at the birth of Jesus in the words of the angels: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14). The angels taught that we would know peace through him. Jesus speaks of peace to the disciples just before his crucifixion: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). Finally, “peace” is the first word that Jesus speaks to the disciples after his resurrection as they are assembled in the upper room. He said, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19).

Peace with God! Think of it. We are not naturally at peace with God. We are at war with God, either passively or actively, and being at war with God we are also at war with each other and ourselves. That is why we experience so much misery and why there is so much unrest in the world. But God gives peace, perfect peace. He does it in Christ. He will give you peace if you will come to him in Jesus.

Most of this applies largely to the unbeliever. But we must also apply it to our everyday lives as Christians. Christians trust God for their salvation from the penalty of sin. They must also trust him for a daily victory over sin and for a constant provision for all needs; that alone brings the peace that passes human understanding. Paul writes a little later on in the epistle: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6–7). Do you know this peace of God? Or are you filled with anxiety? If you are, you need to trust completely in what God has already done for your salvation and then learn to lay all your requests before him. If you will do that, the peace of God will “guard your heart and mind through Christ Jesus.”

Grace Before Peace

The final point is this: grace comes before peace. Paul writes, “Grace and peace to you.” Not “peace and grace to you.” In God’s order of things, God’s hand is always there in grace before any spiritual blessing. That is so in order that salvation might be entirely of him.

We see this throughout Scripture. In Genesis 6–8 we read of the great flood and of God’s intervention to save Noah and his immediate family. We read of Noah’s sacrifice and of God’s promise never again to destroy the earth by water. All these things are marvelous. But before any of them ever happened, we read of God’s grace. “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8).

The Book of Genesis also tells of God’s great blessing on the life of Abraham. Abraham was to be the father of many nations. He was the first to receive the rite of circumcision. God promised that in his seed all the families of the earth would be blessed. We are told that by Abraham’s faith God accounted him as being righteous. But before any of these things—before the promise, before the sacraments, before faith—God came to Abraham in grace, calling him out of Mesopotamia into Palestine and establishing a permanent relationship with him.

Exodus tells of the blessing that came to Israel at Sinai and later in the promised land. The young nation received the law and a kingdom. But before any of this we read of God’s gracious deliverance of Israel from captivity in Egypt. Thus Moses writes, “In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed” (Exod. 15:13).

So it has been in all ages. It is the story of David and Solomon, of Moses and the prophets. It is my story and yours, if you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. Did you seek God? Did you find any of the fruits of salvation before God himself was at work in your heart? Of course you did not. If you did anything at all, you ran away from God. And he had to pursue you like the hound of heaven. We never seek God. When we find God, it is only because God comes to us first in grace.

Perhaps God is coming to you in this moment. If so, you must respond to his grace. God will pour out not only peace but love and joy, and he will give access into his presence and the sure hope of life beyond the grave.[2]

Captivated by Christ Jesus

Philippians 1:1–2

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Phil. 1:1–2)

What do you hear in the opening lines of the apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi? Are these words just stock boilerplate “preliminaries,” to be skimmed over quickly to get to the meat of the matter? Should we process them the way we do a form letter’s impersonal “To Whom It May Concern,” or the fake familiarity of “Dear Valued Customer” in computer-generated mass mailings, sent by marketers who consider us “dear” and “valued” only because they want our dollars?

The openings of Paul’s letters do sound alike. Their basic components can be found in almost any piece of first-century Greek correspondence: author, recipients, and a greeting (good wishes or a blessing). It would be a mistake, however, to dismiss Paul’s handling of this standard template as though it were the thoughtless product of a mechanical “mail-merge” function. As similar as they seem, each of Paul’s letter openings actually introduces key themes to be developed in the rest of the epistle, just as the opening lines of John Milton’s Paradise Lost foreshadow the tragic story that follows:

Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit

Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste

Brought death into the world, and all our woe,

With loss of Eden, till one greater Man

Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,

Sing Heav’nly Muse.

As these words give a premonition of Adam’s fall and its dire effects, while promising rescue through a second Adam, so Paul begins his “conversation” in correspondence with the Philippian congregation with a preview of his agenda for writing. The apostle “tweaks” the Hellenistic epistle template to lay the groundwork on which he will build his pastoral counsel to his friends in Philippi.

The Backstory of the Church at Philippi

Chains and armed guards prevented Paul from carrying on a face-to-face conversation with the Christians of Philippi, so his epistle had to serve as his side of a dialogue between himself, this congregation’s founding father, and his beloved children in the faith. Paul and the Philippians shared a history that had forged a strong bond between them. These believers would have heard every word from Paul’s pen against the backdrop of that relationship. To pick up the subtle previews embedded in Paul’s opening greeting, we need to do some detective work to place ourselves, as much as possible, into the context that the Philippian believers inhabited day by day. We need to comb through the epistle, the book of Acts, and other ancient records reflecting life in Philippi, picking up clues to the situation that prompted Paul to send this missive of warm love and surprising joy.

By the time that Paul, Silas, and their team reached Philippi, this city in eastern Macedonia already had a colorful history. Four centuries earlier, the city had been taken over by King Philip II of Macedonia, father of Alexander the Great—hence the name Philippi. In the century before Paul arrived, Julius Caesar’s nephew Octavian and the general Marc Antony defeated Caesar’s assassins in a decisive battle fought just outside Philippi, and the victors celebrated their triumph by constituting Philippi a Roman colony. That meant that citizens of Philippi had the same legal rights and privileges as citizens of Rome, the capital of the empire. Many retired army veterans settled in Philippi, adding to the city’s “Roman flavor,” which was reflected in its architecture and its language. Although surrounded by Greek-speaking communities in the eastern Mediterranean, Philippi had Latin as its official language. Not surprisingly, Philippi prided itself on its religious devotion to the Roman emperors, in addition to worshiping indigenous pagan deities. Yet one choice was missing from the smorgasbord of religious options offered in Philippi: there was no synagogue, apparently because the Jewish community was so small that it lacked the minimum quorum of ten males required by rabbinical tradition.

These influences molded the Philippian mind-set that Paul and Silas met as they traveled west along a major Roman road (Via Egnatia) to this significant Macedonian city, located north of the Aegean Sea on the eastern side of what is now Greece. Outside the city gate they found a riverbank where women whose hearts hungered to know the God of Israel had gathered for prayer. One of these was Lydia, a textile importer from Thyatira in Asia, across the Aegean Sea. She believed the gospel as the Lord opened her heart, and offered her spacious home as the missionaries’ ministry base (Acts 16:11–15). Later, Paul’s exorcism of an evil spirit from a slave girl enraged her owners, who had profited from her “gift” for fortune-telling (16:16–18). The owners gathered a mob and played on Philippi’s pride in its privileged link to Rome by accusing Paul and Silas of advocating “customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice” (16:21). To quell the disturbance, Philippi’s magistrates ordered beating and incarceration. By the next morning, however, an earthquake and an urgent midnight conversation had brought the jailer and his family from spiritual death into everlasting life (16:25–34).

When Paul wrote his letter a dozen years later, some who heard it read aloud had probably lived through those (literally) earth-shaking events. Was Lydia still hosting the church in her home, as she did at first? Was the jailer sitting in the congregation with his family, recalling Paul’s bleeding back as the words “the same conflict that you saw I had” (Phil. 1:30) were spoken? Was he replaying in his mind the missionaries’ surprising songs in the night as he heard Paul’s new report of his current chains and contagious joy (1:18–26)? Was the slave girl there, too, in her right mind, set free by the name of Jesus, to whom every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, as every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord (2:10–11)? Were there Roman citizens who had once praised the emperor as lord and savior but who now rejoiced in a higher citizenship and awaited a greater Savior and Lord: for “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (3:20)?

Paul had a deep affection for this church. The letter is laced with terms of endearment and expressions of longing for reunion with his friends, to whom Paul says, “I hold you in my heart.… I yearn for you with all the affection of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:7–8), and whom he calls “my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown” (4:1).

On the other hand, the members of the Philippian church would also be aware that their congregation had problems. One flaw, which Paul will address later in the letter, was a subtle self-centeredness that showed itself in competing priorities and interpersonal frictions. He keeps returning to this concern:

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Phil. 2:3–4)

Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.… (2:14–15)

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel.… (4:2–3)

Such rivalries and misunderstandings jeopardized the Philippians’ unity at the very time when external pressure from persecution made it all the more imperative that they be “in full accord and of one mind” (Phil. 2:2). Although the physical threat of suffering (1:27–30) and the spiritual threats of Judaizing legalism (3:2–11) and lawless sensuality (3:18–19) lurked in the background, the frictions and fissures that divided these believers weighed most heavily on Paul’s heart. Putting it bluntly, the members of this otherwise wonderful church were not jumping for joy at the prospect of being slaves, which is precisely the way that Paul unapologetically characterized himself and Timothy. Slaves, after all, had to do what other people wanted. Greeks spoke of them as “talking tools” or “thinking tools,” like a plow or a hammer, only more versatile and able to perform a variety of tasks. Slaves had to submit their personal preferences, opinions, convenience, schedules—even their physical health and safety—to the agendas and whims of their masters. Who would volunteer for such a powerless position, unless compelled by armed force or economic necessity?

Later in this letter Paul will explicitly correct the Philippians’ self-centeredness. In these opening sentences, he takes a very gentle approach to the sensitive subject of their resistance to the calling of slaves. He presents himself and Timothy as men who have found freedom in being slaves, captivated by Christ. Then he gives reasons to believe that becoming Christ’s slave is the road to lasting joy.

Paul makes these points by mentioning one name three times in these two verses: Christ Jesus … Christ Jesus … the Lord Jesus Christ. This threefold repetition foreshadows how thoroughly Paul will extol Christ as the only theme worth preaching (Phil. 1:15, 17, 18), the only master worth honoring (1:20), the only cause to make life worth living and death worth dying (1:21). To each mention of Jesus’ name Paul attaches a distinctive phrase:

Servants of Christ Jesus

Saints in Christ Jesus

Graceand peace from … the Lord Jesus Christ

These three phrases are keys that unlock the mystery of how Paul and Timothy could find joy in being captivated as Christ’s slaves, and how we can experience that same joy.

Servants of Christ Jesus

The epistle’s opening verse expresses Paul’s first point: The heart of joy is selflessly serving King Jesus and others for his sake.


Paul’s emphasis on servanthood can be seen in two small but significant variations to the standard opening of a first-century letter. First, with respect to authorship, Paul groups Timothy’s name with his own, and then shares with Timothy the title servants or, more precisely, slaves. In other letters Paul included the names of his colleagues with himself as virtual coauthors (2 Corinthians, Colossians, Philemon, and 1 and 2 Thessalonians). But when he attached titles to names, he affixed one title to himself and another to his colleagues. We read, for example, of Paul the apostle and Timothy the brother (2 Corinthians; Colossians), or of Paul the prisoner and Timothy the brother (Philemon). Only in Philippians does Paul open an epistle by associating a colleague with himself and then link their names with a shared title, “slaves of Christ Jesus.” Why would he do this here and not elsewhere—and, specifically, why choose the title slaves to describe himself and Timothy?

The Philippians need to see dramatized in Paul and in Timothy the counterintuitive truth that these men bear God’s authority because Christ has captivated them as his slaves. Paul and Timothy are living proof that those whom Jesus saves he enslaves. In their self-centered preoccupations and competing agendas, Paul’s Philippian friends need to see what joyful slavery looks like, up close and personal.

The claim that Jesus enslaves those he saves may sound harsh and uninviting: what kind of “salvation” is it that deprives us of our cherished autonomy and subjects us to the will of Another? But consider the link between being saved and being enslaved by Jesus from this perspective: everybody is somebody’s slave. Despite the inflated claim of William Ernest Henley’s Victorian poem “Invictus,” none of us can honestly say, “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” No matter how much you would like to think otherwise, your every plan and action is driven by a desire to avoid pain or achieve gain by pleasing or placating some “lord” or other. The master you serve may be success or money, or what money can buy. Your lord may be affection or romance, or reputation and respect. You may be enslaved by other people’s opinions, terrified at the prospect of rejection or ridicule, or perhaps you are haunted by the specter of life alone.

You also have to face the fact that every master other than Jesus will exploit and disappoint you in the end. Not all are as obvious as the evil spirit that had seized the Philippian slave girl and forced words out of her mouth. Not all are as blatant as the slave girl’s owners, who treated her as a moneymaking piece of property. But every master other than Jesus will use you and then discard you. When we realize that we all serve one master or another and that other masters inevitably abuse and fail us, suddenly we find that there is nothing as liberating as being a slave of King Jesus. The church father Chrysostom commented: “One who is a slave of Christ is truly free from sin. If he is truly a slave of Christ, he is not a slave in any other realm.…”

Being Jesus’ slave not only frees us from every abusive master, but also confers delegated authority. Roman society had taught the Philippians to hear nothing but powerless subservience in the term slave. But Paul had introduced them to the Old Testament Scriptures, where the title “slave” or “servant of the Lord” was applied to leaders such as Moses, Joshua, and David. Those ancient servants were previews of the ultimate Servant of the Lord foretold by Isaiah, who would accomplish God’s will through obedience and suffering. In this letter Paul uses the title “servant [slave]” just one more time, to describe the Christ who was in the form of God and then took “the form of a servant” and offered the ultimate obedience in death on a cross (Phil. 2:6–8). The Lord delegates authority to his slaves, to accomplish his will and shepherd his people. More than that, the Lord honors the slave’s role by assuming it himself in his incarnation.

So Paul starts by inviting the Philippians to follow his and Timothy’s lead, tasting the freedom of bowing to Christ’s lordship. Paul is in custody, probably in Rome, awaiting the outcome of his appeal to Caesar himself. Paul is going to show them how being a slave of Jesus has set his heart free to accept any outcome to his legal case, as long as Christ gets glory through Paul’s response to his circumstances. He says in Philippians 1:20: “It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” Paul is so captivated by Christ that all he cares about is seeing his Savior exalted.

Timothy shares the same single-minded focus on pleasing the Master. Paul names Timothy side by side with himself because he intends to send Timothy soon to Philippi. Timothy is so captivated by Christ that he cares more about his fellow Christians than about his own comfort or safety (Phil. 2:19–24). In Timothy’s coming they will experience Paul’s love, for Timothy is Paul’s spiritual son, and sons resemble their fathers. More importantly, Timothy seeks the interests of Jesus Christ and therefore expresses the compassion of Jesus himself.

What would it do for our unity as the body of Christ, for our patience with others who see things differently, if we were to think like Paul and Timothy, to see ourselves as slaves of Christ Jesus? How would it impact our personal and family priorities in the way we spend our free hours and our dollars?

The best way to learn the joy of being Jesus’ slave is by watching it worked out in practice. In the midst of our seminary poverty, my wife gave me a book entitled How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step-by-Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot (now in its nineteenth edition). It avoided mechanics’ jargon and had clear, cartoon drawings. Its humor was entertaining. Yet this manual could not compare with standing alongside a real mechanic and watching him work on an engine. The same is true of the process of getting your heart inside the freedom of joyful slavery: you need to watch how “the pros” do it. The Philippians could watch Paul and Timothy “show how it’s done,” as could other churches. The competitive Corinthians needed to learn humility by watching Paul’s and Apollos’s collaboration in ministry: “I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6). The author to the Hebrews urged that congregation’s readers to recall the example of past shepherds “and imitate their faith” (Heb. 13:7).

Do you have in your circle of acquaintances some “skilled mechanics” in serving Jesus, models in servitude, so that you can watch them and see how it’s done? Who are the fathers or mothers, older brothers or sisters in following Jesus whom you are watching as apprentices watch a craftsman—those about whom you say to yourself, “When I grow up, I want to be like him or her, quietly caring for others’ needs first”?

Paul stated explicitly to Titus that he expected older Christian women to pass along to younger women the wisdom and spiritual maturity that God had granted them through years of learning and practicing the Word of God (Titus 2:3–5). No doubt he expected older men—and not only those who held the office of elder—to fulfill the same modeling and mentoring roles as those who had learned spiritual maturity: “sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness” (2:2). Although years do not automatically confer wisdom (which is ultimately God’s gift, not our achievement, Prov. 2:6; James 1:5), Scripture honors the aged: “Gray hair is a crown of glory” (Prov. 16:31). Many churches today, in a commendable desire to meet the distinctive needs of different groups—children, youth, and adults in various life phases—run the risk of segregating generations, making it hard for those who are younger to get to know those who are more mature. As individuals, too, we may gravitate toward people like us, who share our current interests and issues. When we do, we forgo a rich resource of wisdom that the Lord has prepared in the lives of those who are walking the path of faith ahead of us. Both for our congregations and for ourselves, the biblical model of spiritual nurture through godly examples calls us to honor the elderly and to pursue ways to glean the life lessons that they have to share with us.

Overseers and Deacons

The second adjustment that Paul makes to his customary opening is that he addresses this epistle not only to the church but also to its leaders. This is the only letter that Paul opens with a greeting to the church’s officers, its “overseers and deacons.” Paul writes nothing randomly. Why, then, this greeting to the church’s elders—overseers is another term for elders (Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5–7; 1 Peter 5:1–2)—and deacons? We cannot be sure, but the profile of the congregation that we have seen suggests that Paul’s purpose is to send hints to the congregation and to the leaders themselves.

First, to the members of the congregation, Paul presents a reminder: “When you are tempted to dig in and insist on getting your own way, remember that Jesus has embedded you in a network of authority and accountability, for your own good. You have overseers who are charged to watch out for your well-being and to correct you when you stray. And you have deacons, servants (diakonoi), who show you how to care for others with the compassion of Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve (diakoneō) (Mark 10:45). Learn the joy of servitude by watching your leaders.” Elsewhere Paul instructs Christians “to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work” (1 Thess. 5:12–13). In contrast to some in our day, who consider church membership to be optional or even suspect, the apostles expected the followers of Jesus to be recognizable not only by their public profession of faith, but also by their commitment to the Christian community and their glad submission to the shepherds that Jesus appoints for his flock (Acts 2:41; 5:13–14; Heb. 13:7, 17).

Second, to the overseers and deacons, Paul drops the hint, “Brothers, as you exercise the authority that Jesus has delegated to you, remember that, like Timothy and me, you are ‘slaves of Jesus Christ.’ To be leaders in Jesus’ kingdom is to be slaves of all, serving those whom you shepherd.” In Philippians 4:3 Paul will lay on the shoulders of one leader, whom Paul considered his “genuine yokefellow,” the heavy burden of helping estranged sisters reconcile with each other. Such intervention demands a spirit of selfless sacrifice. As one commentator observed, “Paul directs his opening greetings to leaders in the church (overseers and deacons) because they were the potential solution to the problem of disunity in the church.”

So Paul and Timothy, as “slaves of Christ Jesus,” are living proof that the heart of joy is selflessly serving King Jesus and others for his sake. This servant’s heart must be seen in the church’s leaders and in its members. But what makes serving Jesus so strong a source of delight that even Roman imprisonment could not dampen Paul’s joy? The answer is found in Paul’s second use of the name of Christ Jesus.

Saints in Christ Jesus

Paul’s second use of Jesus’ name suggests why being Christ’s slaves generates joy: The heart of joyful service is being set apart to stand awestruck before the beauty of King Jesus.

When Paul calls his Philippian friends saints, he evokes a picture of privileged access into the very temple of God. We hear the word saints repeatedly, but do we pause to ponder what it means? We may say about someone with extraordinary patience, “Oh, she’s a saint.” But what does the Bible mean by saint?

In our English Bibles, the noun saint and the adjective holy are two ways of talking about the same thing. Although saint and holy do not look alike in English, they represent the same family of words in the biblical languages, Hebrew (qadosh) and Greek (hagios). These terms describe the purity that befits the privilege of standing in the presence of God. When the Lord appeared to Moses at the burning bush, God’s presence made the ground under Moses’ feet “holy,” requiring that Moses shed his sandals (Ex. 3:5). On the yearly Day of Atonement, Israel’s high priest—with elaborate sacrificial and cleansing rituals—passed through the Holy Place, the sanctuary’s outer chamber, into the inner chamber, the Most Holy Place (Ex. 26:33–34; Lev. 16). The turban on his head bore a gold plate engraved, “Holy to the Lord” (Ex. 28:36). The Lord himself is supremely holy, as his awesome seraphim chant thrice over (Isa. 6:3–5). Isaiah trembled to realize that the Lord’s holiness—his consuming purity—was lethal to defiled people. Even the high priest’s sons were consumed by fire when they treated regulations pertaining to the sanctuary in a cavalier way, for the Lord said, “Among those who are near me, I will be sanctified [treated as holy]” (Lev. 10:1–3).

We might say that holiness is “dangerous privilege”: dangerous because the all-Holy God is not to be treated casually, but also privilege because we were created to be near him, beholding his beauty and attending to his desires. Our popular usage of saint contains a grain of truth: a saint is a special person, set apart by God and granted access to God’s holy presence. Yet, amazingly, the Bible calls people who are not pure or free of defiling sin holy and saints. God called Israel to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:5–6). Though those Israelites were stiff-necked and prone to wander, still he pitched his tent in the middle of their camp. He had picked Israel out of all the nations and separated them as his own property, so they were saints, a people holy to the Lord (Deut. 7:6).

Surprising Saints

Paul’s personal pedigree included his belonging to this special people, Israel (Phil. 3:5). But in opening this epistle, Paul surprises us by applying this precious title of privilege to a congregation that was composed of all sorts of people from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds. Since the Jewish community in Philippi was so small, most if not all of these “saints” must have been Gentiles, raised in pagan religions. Lydia, the first Philippian believer in Jesus, was a God-fearer (esv: “worshiper of God”) (Acts 16:14). God-fearers were Gentiles who embraced the Jewish belief in one God and tried to follow the Ten Commandments, but did not fully convert to Judaism’s dietary and other ceremonial obligations. Then there was the jailer, whom no one would have called a saint before the earthquake at midnight. Only after Christ shook his world did he wash his prisoners’ wounds. Before that, he hadn’t cared.

Now Paul applies the glorious title saints to Lydia and the jailer alike. How could the Creator, who is pure clear through, allow soiled, sinful people such as Lydia and that jailer, or Paul and Timothy, or you and me, to stand in his presence, admiring his glory and attending to his wishes? How could people like us even survive in the presence of such all-consuming purity? The answer lies in Paul’s second use of Jesus’ name: we are in Christ Jesus.

United to His Holiness

We may be so accustomed to Paul’s formula “in Christ” or “in Christ Jesus” that we fail to notice the momentous reality that it conveys. Paul uses this phrase or something like it (“in the Lord” or “in him”) over twenty times in this brief letter, the highest concentration in any of his correspondence except Ephesians and Philemon. He uses it to describe the Christian’s reason for rejoicing (Phil. 3:1; 4:4, 10) and source of encouragement (2:1). Being “in Christ” is the protective environment in which God’s peace guards our hearts from worry (4:7). “In the Lord Jesus” is the atmosphere in which Paul lays his plans for the future (2:19). But at its core, “in Christ” is Paul’s shorthand for the truth that men and women and boys and girls who trust in Jesus are bound tight to him, so that his obedience and sacrifice and resurrection life become theirs. His death on the cross becomes their death under sin’s condemnation and their death to sin’s domination. His resurrection declares their right standing before God the Judge and ushers them into a new life of freedom to love God. No wonder Paul’s desire was to be found “in” Christ, not claiming a righteousness of his own but resting instead in the righteousness that comes through faith in Christ (3:9).

That little word in traces the source of our hope to the fact that God has united believers to his Son, and thus given us a share in all that Jesus has accomplished, including Jesus’ worthiness to stand in his flawless integrity before his Father. One commentator interpreted Paul’s audience as “all in Philippi … who are holy through their union with Christ Jesus.” That captures Paul’s point well. Only because Jesus was holy straight through, from start to finish, can we stand in the presence of the all-holy God and delight in his beauty rather than being incinerated by his white-hot purity.

For All the Saints

God’s grace, which makes us fit to bask in his beauty, embraces “all the saints.” Paul will include “you all” in his prayers, his confidence, his gospel partnership, and his longing (Phil. 1:4, 7, 8). Each “you all” is intentional: Paul embraces every believer in Philippi, and they need to do the same to one another. The rifts in the church in Philippi were not as deep as the party spirit at Corinth, where Christians sounded like children arguing at recess: “I’m on Paul’s team,” “I’m with Apollos,” “I’m all for Peter,” “I’m on Jesus’ side” (1 Cor. 1:12). Even though the fissures in Philippi were not the chasms of Corinth, the Philippian church needed Paul’s call to unity (Phil. 1:27; 2:1–4).

When our priorities compete and our preferences clash in the church, we tend to reduce Paul’s all to some. We may say to ourselves, “I find it easy to serve with some of the saints, give thanks for some of the saints, and pray for some of the saints. But there are others … I’m not saying they are not saints, of course. But we rub each other the wrong way. We need to give each other plenty of space. You understand.”

Paul says, “No, I do not understand. Since your status as saints is ‘in Christ Jesus’ and in his grace alone, I insist on embracing you all in my love, and I expect you all to do the same to each other.” Later he will marshal reasons for our commitment to unity: “If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Phil. 2:1–2). Our backgrounds and life experience may be so different that we do not naturally fit together. But if we are “saints in Christ Jesus,” our lives have been supernaturally and inextricably interwoven.

Yet this single-minded, single-hearted unity is not easy to live out in practice in the daily frictions that try our patience with one another. When things don’t go our way, it is easy to pull up stakes and move on to the next congregation, rather than to stay and work through hurt feelings or competing visions. What force is strong enough to hold us together, when our self-centeredness and our culture’s individualism threaten to pull us apart? Paul’s third use of Jesus’ name answers that question.

Grace and Peace from Christ Jesus

Paul’s opening blessing shows that Christ’s grace and peace have the power to turn selfless service into lasting joy.

The typical first-century letter followed the identification of author and readers with the Greek word chairein. Chairein meant “Rejoice”; but as often happens with commonly used expressions, in epistle openings chairein had faded into a colorless “Greetings.” (How many people think “God be with you” when they say, “Goodbye”?) Yet Paul doesn’t write meaningless Greek. He replaces chairein with a like-sounding Greek word, charis, which captures the heart of the gospel: “grace.”

On the part of his dear friends at Philippi Paul is invoking nothing less than the favor of God, the embrace of the Father, lavished as a free gift on those who deserve condemnation. Paul is pleased that these folks are “partakers with me of grace” (Phil. 1:7). Both their faith in Christ and the privilege of suffering for his sake are gifts of God’s grace (1:29).

Grace from the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ is the source of that astonishing exchange that Paul had described in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For our sake [God] made [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” In his epistle to the Philippians he portrays each side of this exchange of grace. In chapter 2 we hear that Christ, who was “in very nature God” (niv), took a servant’s nature and died on a cross (Phil. 2:6–8). In chapter 3 we hear the other side of the exchange: Paul is found in Christ, receiving right standing with God through faith in Christ (3:9). This is the amazing “trade”: Jesus the innocent condemned and punished, and we the guilty declared right in God’s sight.

The result is peace, the reconciling reality that secures our place in God’s heart. Nothing but God’s grace could give us peace with God. Our insults to his honor created a chasm of antagonism between us and our Creator, and this terrible divide will not disappear just by our pretending it isn’t there. This is also true in our relationships with each other. When someone has hurt you, it doesn’t “make the problem go away” for the offender to ignore the pain he has inflicted, and to say glibly, “Well, let’s just move on now.” The injury has to be acknowledged, and the pain has to be dealt with. Peacemaking always has its price, even among human beings. The aggressor must pay the price of humbling himself and admitting the wounds that his words or deeds have inflicted. When possible, he makes amends. The victim, too, pays a price: the price of releasing resentment rather than holding the offender’s guilt as a weapon to be wielded against him in the future.

The wonder of the gospel is that, though we must admit with grief that we have offended our good Creator, the God whose honor we have violated has come to absorb the pain that should be ours. Paul reminded the Christians at Ephesus that Jesus is the ultimate Peacemaker and that the price of peace was his death: he “reconcile[d] us both to God in one body through the cross” (Eph. 2:14, 16). The peace that Christ secured for us frees us to pay the price of making peace and keeping peace with each other, to put others’ needs and interests above our own.

Grace and peace belong to those who approach God as “Father” and who bow to Jesus Christ as “Lord.” God’s grace and peace impart not only forgiveness but also transformation of the direction and affections of our hearts. God is not so incompetent as to leave us forgiven but unchanged in the poisonous self-centeredness of our hearts. The people on whom God the Father and his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, set their invincible love will never again be satisfied to be locked into our own interests, fixated on our own reputations, or enslaved to our own self-image. Christ’s glory becomes our heart’s chief delight, and his love for others ignites our compassion.

To receive grace and peace from the Father and the Lord Jesus is to discover the joy of belonging to the Master who made and redeemed us for himself. The Book of Common Prayer captures the paradox of our status as slaves of Christ when it speaks of God “whose service is perfect freedom.” The authors of the Heidelberg Catechism were right to affirm that the Christian’s only comfort in life or death is “that I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.”14 To belong to Another—to be captivated by Christ Jesus—is true liberty.

Subverting Our Self-Centeredness

At first glance, these two brief verses seemed so matter-of-fact, didn’t they? They looked like the preliminaries that we could skim over quickly. Now that we have listened more closely, however, we discover that from his opening syllables Paul has gently brought us into the heart of the matter, subtly subverting our instinctive self-centeredness.

We like to be lords. Even if we cannot make others do our bidding, at least we want to call the shots for our own lives. But Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ, turn upside-down our assumption that freedom is found in getting our own way. Have you experienced the liberation of surrendering to the mastery of Jesus the Christ, the eternal Son of God who became a slave, to free you from yourself and from the masters that drive you?

God designed us for togetherness and created us for community. But indifference, isolation, and competition have seduced us into thinking that freedom is found in “looking out for Number One,” keeping options open, and avoiding long-term commitments. Paul and Timothy challenge our self-defensive individualism, throwing their arms wide to embrace “all the saints in Christ Jesus.” None of us stands alone. Each needs the support and accountability of the rest of the body of Christ. Are there any “saints in Christ Jesus” whom you have trouble loving as brothers or sisters? Do you honor and heed the shepherds and servants in whose care God has placed your spiritual well-being? Do you pray for them, encourage them, and respect them as they protect the church’s unity and purity?

Do you realize how much you need the grace of God in order to have peace with God? To enjoy a reconciled relationship with the holy God, we need grace that we have not earned and could never deserve. Does the matchless condescension of the Lord Jesus Christ so grip your heart that you are humbled and hope-filled at the same time?[3]

Greeting (1:1–2)

1 Paul adapts and makes distinctively Christian the conventional greetings found in Hellenistic letters: “A to B, greetings,” followed by a wish for good health. He does not extend to the Philippians the friendly good wishes of a private individual but the blessings of “grace and peace” generated by what God has done through Christ’s death and resurrection.

He names Timothy as his cosender. Timothy was present at the founding of the Philippian church (Ac 16:1–12) and had been dispatched by Paul on subsequent occasions to strengthen the Macedonian churches (Ac 19:22; 20:3–6), so that they already knew of his irreproachable, Christlike character (Php 2:22). Paul commends him in 1 Thessalonians 3:2 as “our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ” and praises his devotion to the cause of the gospel (Php 2:19–24).

In the salutations of his three letters to the Macedonian churches (1:1; 1 Th 1:1; 2 Th 1:1) Paul does not identify himself as an apostle. Here he identifies himself and Timothy as “[bond] servants” (douloi, “slaves,” GK 1528) of Christ Jesus. We need not speculate that Paul omitted the title “apostle” because his relationship with the Philippians was warmer than with other congregations, which made mention of his apostolate unnecessary. Elsewhere in his greetings, he distinguishes his own role from that of his cosender, who is identified only as “our brother” (1 Co 1:1; 2 Co 1:1; Col 1:1; Phm 1). Identifying himself with Timothy as “bond servants” is suggestive. The term could be a title of honor, drawing on the OT image of God’s chosen servants who are his accredited messengers (see Ps 105:42 [Abraham]; Ex 14:31; Nu 12:7; Jos 14:7; Ps 105:26 [Moses]; Ps 89:20 [LXX 88:21; David]; and 2 Ki 17:13, 23; Jer 7:25; 25:4; Am 3:7 [the prophets]). The Philippians, however, are more likely to connect the term to slavery, which was ubiquitous in the ancient world. Identifying himself and Timothy as slaves drives home the point that they are not ministry volunteers but are in bondage to Christ, who owns the title deed to their lives.

Since Paul ends his letter with a greeting to the church from those of “Caesar’s household” (4:22), he may be making a deliberate if allusive contrast. Those who belong to the household of Caesar are slaves and freedmen (slaves who have been manumitted but who are still legally obligated to their former masters). Their status is embedded in the status of their masters. Slaves who belonged to wealthy, influential families were more powerful and enjoyed greater privileges than many free persons. Belonging to an imperial household would give a slave and a freedperson high status that would make them worthy of special mention in the final greetings. Roman colonists perhaps would have appreciated that fellow believers belonged to the imperial family, but Christians would understand that being a slave in Christ Jesus’ household carried infinitely higher status than being a slave in Caesar’s household (cf. Ro 1:1, where the term “slave” [NIV, “servant”] appears in the salutation).

Slaves frequently served as agents or managers for their masters, and the title can convey Paul’s authority as Christ’s manager. Paul understands all Christians to be Christ’s slaves since they all were bought at a price (1 Co 6:20). He has no interest in emphasizing his status and makes no pretensions to some special dignity. Introducing himself and Timothy as Christ’s slaves at the outset must be intended to highlight lowly service and humility, an emphasis that echoes throughout the letter. Paul exhorts the Philippian Christians to “in humility consider others better than [themselves]” (2:3), poetically describes Jesus as taking the form of a slave (2:7) and dying a slave’s death on the cross (2:8), and recalls how Timothy has “slaved” (edoulesen, GK 1526; NIV, “served”) in the work of the gospel (2:22). This salutation sounds a leitmotif in the letter and sets an example of the proper role of those functioning as leaders in the church. Paul does not govern his flock with a stick in his hand. He has learned to obey his master as a humble slave, and he leads others from below.

The Philippians are named hagiois (GK 41, “saints”), those dedicated to God and set apart for God’s service. The people of Israel were called the “saints of the Most High” (Da 7:18), referring to their vocation (cf. Lev 19:2; Dt 7:6; 33:3; Ps 31:23). The designation “saint” represents consecration to service rather than any moral qualification. Barth, 11, puts it well: “Holy people are unholy people who nevertheless as such have been singled out, claimed, and requisitioned by God for his control, for his use for himself who is holy.” Their membership in this holy community is attributable solely “to the call of divine grace in Christ” (TDNT 1:107), given to them as those who were “washed, … sanctified, … justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Co 6:11). The Christians in Philippi are not simply another voluntary association of members joined by common interests; they are God’s “treasured possession” out of all the peoples (Ex 19:5–6).

“In Christ” is theological shorthand that evokes “simultaneously the gift of salvation and the accompanying divine demand (e.g. ‘stand firm in the Lord,’ Php 4:1),” and it describes “the life of faith under Christ’s lordship in a world where other powers and temptations were present” (M. A. Seifrid, “In Christ,” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne et al. [Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1993], 436). Being “in Christ” means that, though their earthly address may be Philippi—a Roman colony set up, as every colony was, to foster the majesty of Roman culture, religion, and values—they live in the Lord, who reigns supreme over heaven and earth. Their fate is bound to Christ and to others who are bound to Christ with them.

Paul addresses “all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi.” The only other salutation in which he specifically addresses “all” is in Romans 1:7 (“to all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints”); D. A. Black (“The Discourse Structure of Philippians,” NovT 37 [1995]: 23 n. 21) suggests Paul does so there because he wishes to instill a greater sense of unity “to a Roman Christian community that consists of churches meeting in various private homes.” The addition of “all” here may disclose a similar concern for Christians’ unity in Philippi.

Philippians is the only letter where Paul mentions church officials in his salutation (“with the overseers and deacons”). It is hardly surprising that a community would have leaders and lieutenants to help carry out its work, and the Roman genius for order and organization may have emerged in this church so that they developed specialized functions (cf. Carolyn Osiek, Philippians, Philemon [Nashville: Abingdon, 2000], 35). Why are these officials singled out, since they do not reappear by name in the letter? What is their role in the church?

“Overseers” (episkopoi, GK 2176) was a term employed for officers in different types of societies and organizations (see Ac 20:28). Since “overseers” is plural, Paul cannot have a monarchical bishop in view. Fee, 67, comments that the preposition “with” suggests that Paul does not regard them as “ ‘over’ the church, but they are addressed ‘alongside of’ the church, as a distinguishable part of the whole, but as part of the whole, not above it or outside it.” John Chrysostom (Hom. Phil. 1.1) assumes that they were likely the elders of the congregation. Lightfoot, 96–97, lays out the argument that “bishops” are identical to “presbyters.” Paul may have avoided the latter term because of its historical associations with Judaism and because he preferred words that conveyed a more functional meaning (cf. Collange, 40). Paul uses the term “deacon” (diakonos, GK 1356) variously to refer to Christ (Ro 15:8), the secular ruler (Ro 13:4), himself (1 Co 3:5; 2 Co 3:6; 6:4; 11:23; Col 1:23), and his coworkers (Phoebe, Ro 16:1; Epaphras, Col 1:7; Tychicus, Col 4:7). In the NT, the cognate verb is connected to offering service at table (Mk 1:31; Lk 10:40; 22:26–27; Jn 2:5, 9), and it retains its general sense of lowly service (Mk 10:45). If the “deacons” had a separate function from the “overseers,” they may have been responsible for administering social service (see Ac 6:1–6; Ro 12:7; 15:25; 16:1–2; 2 Co 8:4).

Collange makes the intriguing suggestion that the terms “overseers” and “deacons” refer to the individuals’ functions and not to self-sufficient offices into which men could be fitted. It is not surprising that the elders bore the title of “overseers,” a common secular title, but Paul may have combined it with “servants” to make it clear “that the function of oversight was of value only as a service for the building up of the community and that therefore it would require much humility” (Collange, 40). Paul reminds them that leadership brings the responsibility to serve. The most that can be said with complete confidence is that they had roles of supervision and service that were distinctive in the community (see further my “The Absence of an Ordained Ministry in the Churches of Paul,” PRSt 29 [2002]: 183–95).

2 Paul extends greetings to the Philippians from “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” “Grace and peace” are not ordinary good wishes from a friend but blessings effected by the new spiritual reality wrought by Christ’s death and resurrection (cf. Ro 5:1; 15:13; Eph 2:14; Col 1:20). Paul offers a wish-prayer that will be fulfilled jointly by God our Father, who graciously forgives, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who bestows peace on his disciples (Jn 14:27; 16:33; 20:21). “Grace” is the source of Christian life, and “peace” is its consummation.

The “familiar drone of its liturgical declamation,” as Bockmuehl, 57, describes it, may cause readers to skip over this greeting and pay no heed to its Christological bang. The peace offered through Jesus Christ rivals that of the peace established and propagated by the emperor, who is portrayed in Roman imperial propaganda as the world’s great savior and benefactor. The emperor’s peace is built on the backs of conquered peoples who must submit to political oppression, religious crackdowns, and impoverishing taxation. Christ’s peace comes through his own death for others, which was driven by God’s fatherly love. It brings true peace—reconciliation to God and to one another. Proclaiming Christ as Lord with “the name that is above every name” (2:9) can only evoke hostility from the many “so-called lords” in the world (1 Co 8:5). Caesar and his loyalists would regard this confession as high treason because it means that Caesar is not lord.[4]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2001). Philippians (pp. 9–16). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Boice, J. M. (2000). Philippians: an expositional commentary (pp. 17–28). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[3] Johnson, D. E. (2013). Philippians. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (1st ed., pp. 3–19). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

[4] Garland, D. E. (2006). Philippians. In T. Longman III (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 188–191). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

April 6 The Power of the Cross

scripture reading: Colossians 3:1–17
key verse: Colossians 1:13

He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.

We are a power–conscious people. Businesspeople meet for power lunches. Politicians strive to gain ever–increasing legislative power. Individuals with common causes group together to wield more clout. The military spends billions to develop and deploy Armageddon–scale weaponry. But there has never been—and will never be—anything that rivals the awesome power of the gospel.

The gospel has the power to deliver from death. Because Christ paid the penalty of sin—which is death—and emerged from the tomb, the gospel is the only power that can liberate humankind from the horror of eternal, spiritual death. The gospel alone can transfer you from the domain of death and darkness into the kingdom of life and light (Col. 1:13).

It has the power to liberate from sin’s bondage. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, the power of the gospel transforms your behavior, unchaining you from the grip of habits and passions. You are free to obey a new Master.

The gospel also has the power to radically alter every relationship. Instead of your striving for self–dominance or self–protection, the gospel empowers you to reorient your life toward selfless giving, living, loving, and serving.

May the power of the gospel be evident in my life, Lord. Release me from the grip of sinful habits and passions. Help me give, live, love, and serve selflessly.[1]

[1] Stanley, C. F. (1998). Enter His gates: a daily devotional. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

The Top Ten Evilest People of All-Time | American Spectator

Have you ever wondered who the evilest people to ever walk this earth are? Adolf Hitler always seems to be the go-to reference in such conversations. It is a difficult thing to quantify. Do we do it statistically — that is, according to who killed the most people — or should it be based on their evil influence on history? My list relies on both. Of course, it’s totally subjective, but those making the Top Ten might surprise you. So, starting in reverse order, I give you a list of people who will make you feel better about yourself:

10. (tie) The Kims: Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Jong-un

This is quite possibly history’s worst political dynasty. In addition to starting the Korean War that killed 3 million people and their refusal to officially end that conflict, this grandfather-son-grandson trio has created one of the most repressive regimes in the world. Without the protection of a meaningful constitution and the Rule of Law, citizens are frequently starved, beaten, imprisoned, murdered, indoctrinated, and forced to worship the Supreme Leader. At least North Korea serves as a nice answer for millennials who ask, “Dad, what was the Soviet Union like?”

9. The Sanhedrin of Jesus’ Day

Somebody from the Bible should make this list, and while there are a number of fine nominees, I decided it should be the majority of those who were members of the Sanhedrin in Jesus’ day. Why? Many who reject Jesus as the Son of God do so because they didn’t see his miracles or hear his teaching. By contrast, the Sanhedrin saw and heard both. Rather than believing in Jesus when they saw him perform miracles, their hatred for him grew. John 12:9-11 tells us that when they learned that Jesus had resurrected Lazarus, like a mafia they plotted to kill Lazarus so that there would be no evidence of such a miracle. They knew he was innocent but campaigned for his crucifixion anyway. That is a startling level of hard-heartedness.

8. Ivan Grozny

Grozny is typically translated into English as “terrible,” but it’s a terrible translation. Even so, the translation works for the man in question. “Ivan the Terrible” was certainly one of the worst human beings to ever live. The first of three Russians on this list — we could populate the list exclusively with Russians — Ivan appears to have enjoyed killing. In 1570, he surrounded the Russian city of Novgorod with his Oprichniki (Russia’s first political police force), and in a six-week-long orgy of violence, he all but wiped the city out. Ivan himself participated in the bloodshed, using axes and anything else that might be readily available to hunt and kill his subjects. We are confident that if Ivan had access to more efficient means of killing people — guillotines, guns, bombs, or gas chambers — he would statistically rank with the most murderous people of all-time. An interesting bit of trivia concerning Ivan: he proposed to Queen Elizabeth I of England. She politely declined. Elizabeth made a good call there.

7. Vladimir Lenin

A godless madman, Lenin is the father of communist Russia. In this, he should not be confused with George Washington. Lenin seized power in a coup d’état, had the royal family murdered, launched a civil war that killed 8 million people, consolidated power, created a police state, and murdered millions more. Lenin made Stalin, who was even more bloodthirsty, possible. Like most on our list, his infamy has not yet eclipsed his fan base. Lenin remains popular in many parts of the world. His body is currently preserved under glass and on display in a mausoleum dedicated to him in Red Square, Moscow. Russian schoolchildren, old communists, and tourists will line-up for as much as a mile to see him. Too bad there isn’t someone there to stand next to the dead maniac and say to each and every one of them: “This is the man who destroyed your country… This is the man who destroyed your country… This is the man…”

6. Muhammad

Historian Andrew Hussey says that Islam resembles “a ruthlessly efficient war-machine rather than a religion.” This description fits. The religion’s founder, Muhammad, was a misogynist, liar, raider, and pillager of the worst sort: murdering, stealing, raping, enslaving — he did all of it. This aspect of Islam has never faded. Today, Islam is the world’s second largest religion — Christianity is first — and its converts are often made at the point of a sword. While many Muslims practice the religion peacefully, those who most closely follow Muhammad’s teachings also follow his life’s example. Where Jesus modeled peace and love, Muhammad did nothing of the sort. As a consequence, we may thank him for not only Islamic wars of conquest, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and ISIS, but also the terror of 9/11, the 7/7 subway bombing, the Madrid train bombings, Charlie Hebdo, the November 2015 Paris attacks, the Bastille Day attack in Nice, and countless other terrorist attacks. Come to think of it, Muhammad may deserve a less favorable ranking on our list.

5. Adolf Hitler

Had Hitler never acquired the power of state, it is likely that he would have lived out his life in obscurity as a civil servant or as a sketch artist. Unfortunately for humanity, he seized power and initiated a global war that saw the deaths of no less than 50 million people. Hitler’s rant, Mein Kampf, remains a playbook for fascists and his anti-Semitism has been greatly admired and modeled in the Arab World.

4. Josef Stalin

Statistics alone get Stalin a high ranking on our list. Stalin was evil. Brutal, petty, jealous, paranoid, and utterly without conscience, he killed — numbers vary wildly — no less than 25 million people through purges, collectivization, state-induced famines, and bureaucratic incompetence. Simply put, Stalin had no regard for human life whatsoever. Remarkably, if you visit Russia today, you will discover that there is a nostalgia for the iron-fisted days of Koba.

3. Mao Zedong

A few years ago, I attended a lecture given by a Chinese economist at the University of Beijing. I was pleasantly surprised when he was somewhat critical of the policies of Chairman Mao. This was, I thought, an indication that we were speaking freely, honestly, about the past. As the lecture continued, he said something like: “Critics of Mao’s reforms point out that his measures for implementation were excessive.”

This irritated me. Genocide is more than an “excessive measure.” I couldn’t let this go.

“‘Excessive?’” I said, so that the full room of students and business executives could hear me. “I’ll say! Let’s be clear, Mao killed between 40 and 70 million of his own people.”

Silence. Total silence. I felt like Ann Coulter at Berkeley. One Chinese student sitting next to me, a fellow who had been quite friendly only moments before, literally backed away from me. The economist paused, looked around the room and at the doors, and then continued nervously. No one argued the point. It was as if I had said nothing. They were afraid. This is what societies with a history of violence and repression look like even after they have liberalized a bit. The lingering cultural memories of Chairman Mao, the Cultural Revolution, and Tiananmen Square are not just things of the past. They shape the present — unless, of course, you want to read about them on the heavily censored internet. In that case, they simply never happened.

This incident probably explains why the Chinese government recently denied me an entry visa.

2. Margaret Sanger

The founder of Planned Parenthood, an organization as evil as the Einsatzgruppen, Sanger championed abortion and eugenics. More than 61 million children have been aborted in the United States alone since Roe v. Wade in 1973. Of these, Planned Parenthood is responsible for no less than 8 million abortion deaths. Statistically, Sanger has earned her spot on this list. These days abortionists don’t just kill children, they celebrate it as a moral good. That this is heinous should (but doesn’t) go without saying. And this brings me to a question: with assaults on statues being in fashion, how has Sanger’s statue in the Smithsonian survived?

1. Karl Marx

To our knowledge, Karl Marx never personally killed anyone. No doubt you could sit down with him, enjoy a good German beer, argue the dialectic, and leave physically intact. But Marx is the author of one of the greatest evils to be set loose on humanity. An admirer of Charles Darwin — he sent an inscribed copy of Das Kapital to the British scientist — Marx saw history and economics much the same way that Darwin saw biology: as driven by godless, impersonal forces. His theories gave rise to secular socialist utopian regimes that would kill more than 100 million people in the 20th century alone. That’s more than all religious wars in all previous centuries combined. This is to say nothing of the material, intellectual, and spiritual assassination of entire generations. Such governments have a very a low view of man, seeing him as mere brick and mortar for the building of the perfect socialist state. As Stalin said, “You can’t make an omelet without cracking a few eggs.” Socialists have cracked millions of eggs but have yet to make any omelets. Standing at Marx’s graveside in London recently, I tried to unite a few of the world’s workers to topple his statue. Unfortunately, their union didn’t allow manual labor.

Source: The Top Ten Evilest People of All-Time