Daily Archives: June 24, 2019

June 24 Whom Shall I Fear?

Scripture Reading: Psalm 27:1–14

Key Verse: Psalm 27:1

The Lord is my light and my salvation;

Whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the strength of my life;

Of whom shall I be afraid?

No matter what kind of life you’re leading, the issue of uncertainty will always be present. Especially in the wake of current world events, you’re probably realizing the magnitude of how uncertain these times are. So the question arises: How will you respond in the face of uncertainty?

David responded by keeping his focus on the Lord. He didn’t look about him and wonder where Saul was at every moment. To have lived a life with such fear and anxiety would not have been living at all. David knew that.

As we face possible economic hardship, adversity, and opposition, we can stand firm because of one thing: God is our defender. When fearful thoughts start to assail you, recite Scriptures like Psalm 27:1 over and over again. Basing your life on the confidence of David means barricading your mind with the Word of God.

Father, I am so thankful that You are with me in every situation. I rejoice that I have nothing to fear![1]


[1] Stanley, C. F. (2006). Pathways to his presence (p. 183). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

June 24 Merged into His Fullness

Scripture Reading: Exodus 3:1–10

Key Verse: Psalm 66:12

You have caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; but You brought us out to rich fulfillment.

God uses the vexing route of brokenness to merge us into His fullness.

  • Moses would have never seen the miracles of the Red Sea and the wilderness unless he had been weaned from the self-sufficiency of his youth.
  • David would have never known the intimacy and care of God if he instantly stepped into the royal palace following his victory over Goliath.
  • Joseph would have never grasped the magnificent sovereignty of God in feeding the nations if his brothers had not sold him into forced slavery.

God does not lack great and mighty things to show us. He waits on humble, hungry men and women who have admitted their inadequacy and have no other hope but Himself.

He achieves that transformation by striking at the root of self-sufficiency—pride. Pride gets in God’s way. It expresses itself in some form of manipulation or overconfidence. It seeks to exalt self and cherishes the admiration of others.

The riches of God’s storehouse are distributed to the meek of heart, the weak in spirit. The tightly clenched hand of pride cannot receive it. Only brokenness can release the grip.

Father God, help me release my grip on the things of this world so that I can receive the riches of Your storehouse. I have no other hope but You. You are my adequacy.[1]


[1] Stanley, C. F. (1999). On holy ground (p. 183). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

June 24 Staying Alert

Scripture reading: 2 Samuel 11:1–27

Key verse: Proverbs 4:23

Keep your heart with all diligence,

For out of it spring the issues of life.

King David was on top of the world; his years of hiding from Saul were over. Both the Northern and the Southern Kingdoms were united. Israel was victorious in battle and, for the first time in years, secure from her enemies. Then David’s moment of weakness struck. Here are lessons for all. David had become complacent in his success. Instead of leading his army in battle as was his custom, he stayed behind, sending his captains.

We must always be alert for Satan’s snares. We never grow so spiritually mature that we are excluded from his assaults. The moment we depend too heavily on our strength, position, or integrity, we are ripe targets for failure.

David failed to do spiritual battle when temptation surfaced. He looked at Bathsheba and kept looking. All of us have moments of weakness when temptation strikes with hurricane force. It is in the initial stages, however, that the battle is won or lost (2 Tim. 2:22; Matt. 26:41). Our only defense is by a sheer act of the will—trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ (James 4:7)—to resist the devil’s deceitful overtures.

Be on the alert against Satan. He is “a roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8), but he can be resisted when you depend on God (Ephesians 6:13).

Heavenly Father, help me resist the attacks of the enemy today. Keep me alert against Satan and his diabolical strategies.[1]


[1] Stanley, C. F. (2000). Into His presence (p. 183). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

June 24, 2019 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

False Teaching Characterizes Those Who Do Not Belong to the Lord

Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord abstain from wickedness.” (2:19)

The last danger of false teaching mentioned here is that it fits those who are unsaved and ungodly.

Paul again makes his point by contrast. Nevertheless, he continues, the firm foundation of God stands. Unlike those who trust in a satanic scheme of religion, those who are truly saved, who are God’s spiritual children and genuine disciples of Jesus Christ, are part of the firm foundation of God.

In this context, the firm foundation of God seems most likely to refer to the church. In the previous letter to Timothy, Paul speaks of “the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15, emphasis added). The foundation of Christ’s church stands on the truth, “and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it” (Matt. 16:18).

On that promise, we have God’s seal. A sphragis (seal) was a sign of ownership, and God has placed His divine seal of ownership on the church. In the end times, those “who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads” will be tormented by the locusts (Rev. 9:4). It is also doubtless that God’s seal on their foreheads will protect believers from taking the mark of the beast (see Rev. 13:16).

God’s seal of ownership is on the church in two ways. First, every member of the body of Christ, the church, has God’s divine assurance of election, in that “the Lord knows those who are His.” The source of this quotation is not certain, but is possibly from the book of Numbers. When some Israelites were about to rebel against the Lord and His appointed leaders Moses and Aaron, Moses declared to Korah and the other rebels, “The Lord will show who is His, and who is holy, and will bring him near to Himself; even the one whom He will choose, He will bring near to Himself” (Num. 16:5).

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me,” Jesus assures us; “and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:27–28). Like Satan, false teachers can cause great confusion and apprehension among God’s people, but they cannot corrupt or destroy His people, because “God has chosen [us] from the beginning for salvation” (2 Thess. 2:13a).

The New Testament is replete with such guarantees. “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me,” Jesus promises, “and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:37–40). God chose us for salvation in Christ “before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4), and those “whom He [God] foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (Rom. 8:29–30).

The second way in which God has placed His seal on the church is through personal sanctification, personal holiness. Paul therefore says, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord abstain from wickedness.” This quotation may be adapted from the same passage in the book of Numbers, in which Moses later warned the godly: “Depart now from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing that belongs to them, lest you be swept away in all their sin” (Num. 16:26). Those who did not separate themselves from the wicked rebels were destroyed with them when “the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up” (v. 32).

This second aspect of sanctification is both an exhortation and an affirmation. The exhortation is: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19–20). Peter likewise admonishes, “Like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior” (1 Peter 1:15).

But our sanctification is also divinely affirmed. In the verse in 2 Thessalonians cited above, in which Paul assures believers that God has chosen them for salvation, he adds, “through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (2:13b). Despite our many failures and our frequent unfaithfulness, God will graciously complete our sanctification. “For I am confident of this very thing,” Paul testified, “that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).[1]


19. Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth firm. We know too well, by experience, how much scandal is produced by the apostasy of those who at one time professed the same faith with ourselves. This is especially the case with those who were extensively known, and who had a more brilliant reputation than others; for, if any of the common people apostatize, we are not so deeply affected by it. But they who in the ordinary opinion of men held a distinguished rank, having been formerly regarded as pillars, cannot fall in this manner, without involving others in the same ruin with themselves; at least, if their faith has no other support. This is the subject which Paul has now in hand; for he declares that there is no reason why believers should lose heart, although they see those persons fall, whom they were wont to reckon the strongest.

He makes use of this consolation, that the levity or treachery of men cannot hinder God from preserving his Church to the last. And first he reminds us of the election of God, which he metaphorically calls a foundation, expressing by this word the firm and enduring constancy of it. Yet all this tends to prove the certainty of our salvation, if we are of the elect of God. As if he had said, “The elect do not depend on changing events, but rest on a solid and immovable foundation; because their salvation is in the hand of God.” For as “every plant which the heavenly Father hath not planted must be rooted up,” (Matt. 15:13,) so a root, which has been fixed by his hand, is not liable to be injured by any winds or storms.

First of all, therefore, let us hold this principle, that, amidst so great weakness of our flesh, the elect are nevertheless beyond the reach of danger, because they do not stand by their own strength, but are founded on God. And if foundations laid by the hand of men have so much firmness, how much more solid will be that which has been laid by God himself? I am aware that some refer this to doctrine, “Let no man judge of the truth of it from the unsteadfastness of men;” but it may easily be inferred from the context, that Paul speaks of the Church of God, or of the elect.

Having this seal. The word signaculum (which denotes either “a seal” or “the print of a seal”) having led into a mistake some people who thought that it was intended to denote a mark or impress, I have translated it sigillum, (a seal,) which is less ambiguous. And, indeed, Paul means, that under the secret guardianship of God, as a signet, is contained the salvation of the elect, as Scripture testifies that they are “written in the book of life.” (Ps. 69:28; Philip. 4:3.)

The Lord knoweth who are his. This clause, together with the word seal, reminds us, that we must not judge, by our own opinion, whether the number of the elect is great or small; for what God hath sealed he wishes to be, in some respect, shut up from us. Besides, if it is the prerogative of God to know who are his, we need not wonder if a great number of them are often unknown to us, or even if we fall into mistakes in making the selection.

Yet we ought always to observe why and for what purpose he makes mention of a seal; that is, when we see such occurrences, let us instantly call to remembrance what we are taught by the Apostle John, that “they who went out from us were not of us.” (1 John 2:19.) Hence arises a twofold advantage. First, our faith will not be shaken, as if it depended on men; nor shall we be even dismayed, as often happens, when unexpected events take place. Secondly, being convinced that the Church shall nevertheless be safe, we shall more patiently endure that the reprobate go away into their own lot, to which they were appointed; because there will remain the full number, with which God is satisfied. Therefore, whenever any sudden change happens among men, contrary to our opinion and expectation, let us immediately call to remembrance, “The Lord knoweth who are his.”

Let every one that calleth on the name of Christ depart from iniquity. As he formerly met the scandal by saying, “Let not the revolt of any man produce excessive alarm in believers;” so now, by holding out this example of hypocrites, he shews that we must not sport with God by a feigned profession of Christianity. As if he had said, “Since God thus punishes hypocrites by exposing their wickedness, let us learn to fear him with a sincere conscience, lost anything of that kind should happen to us. Whoever, therefore, calleth upon God, that is, professeth to be, and wisheth to be reckoned, one of the people of God, let him keep at a distance from all iniquity.” For to “call on the name of Christ” means here to glory in Christ’s honourable title, and to boast of belonging to his flock; in the same manner as to have “the name of a man called on a woman” (Isa. 4:1) means that the woman is accounted to be his lawful wife; and to have “the name of Jacob called on” all his posterity (Gen. 48:16) means that the name of the family shall be kept up in uninterrupted succession, because the race is descended from Jacob.[2]


19 Nevertheless (mentoi, GK 3530; only here in Paul), God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription (lit., “bearing this seal,” sphragis, GK 5382; cf. Ro 4:11; 1 Co 9:2): “The Lord knows those who are his” (Nu 16:5 [LXX]). This is true about God (1 Sa 16:7), a comfort for believers (Ps 139), and a message of judgment to unbelievers (Mt 7:23). The second phrase is “everyone who confesses [names] the name of the Lord [cf. Joel 2:32] must turn away from wickedness” (cf. Nu 16:26 [LXX]). In 1 Timothy 6:19, Paul calls generosity “a firm foundation [themelion kalon, GK 2529] for the coming age.” “Solid” (stereos, GK 5104) occurs elsewhere in the NT only in Hebrews 5:12, 14 and 1 Peter 5:9.

The terms “solid foundation,” “stand firm,” and “seal” all highlight the unshakable nature of the truths of Scripture invoked by Paul (on “foundation,” see Quinn and Wacker, 683–86; on “seal,” see ibid., 661–63, 686). Here this refers to God’s knowledge (Augustine [Corrept. 7.16; The City of God 20.8] ties this in to the doctrine of election) and sovereign preservation of his own and the need for believers to base their Christian confession on true repentance and a resulting lifestyle. The “inscription” is perhaps that which would be written on a building, a common thing in ancient life (cf. the house metaphor in vv. 20–21).

What are the two foundational truths highlighted by Paul? First, despite growing defections and the resulting disillusionment, God is not deceived—he has known his own all along (Nu 16:5; cf. Jn 6:70–71; 12:4–6; 13:10; 17:12). The thrust of the present statement is clear: Hymenaeus, Philetus, and their company do not belong to God’s people (see comments at 3:13). Chained and nearing the end of his life, Paul draws comfort from the sovereign omniscience of God. Second, just as wilderness Israel had to distance itself from Korah’s rebellion, the Ephesian believers must separate themselves from the false teachers (Nu 16:26). Truth and falsehood must not be allowed to coexist.[3]


19  This observation poses a dilemma for the reader (Timothy first) that has actually been in the making since Paul’s paradoxical contrasting of his trials with the unbound “word of God” in 2:9. The tension has been maintained by the positive/negative contrasting of Timothy and the false teachers, and their respective messages: “the word of truth” (v. 15 = “the word of God,” v. 9) versus “their word” (v. 17). The strong affirmation of the power of God’s word and the contrast technique employed to this point lead to the statement of the danger of the heresy for believers, and to the dilemma: If this danger exists in the church of God, how can the church continue to exist? In the two images that follow, Paul addresses the theological antinomies magnified by the present stressful situation, not by resolving the tension, but instead by affirming the Lord’s control within the situation along with the believer’s responsibility to respond positively to that control.

In v. 19a Paul contrasts (“nevertheless”) the disruption caused by the heretics with the picture of a strong edifice constructed by God. The architectural term used here, “foundation,” reinforced by the adjective (“firm”) has various meanings elsewhere in the NT. Paul applied the term metaphorically in combination with other images in discussions of the formation of the church: in 1 Cor 3:10–13 Christ crucified is the “foundation”; in Eph 2:20, Christ is the cornerstone and the apostles and prophets the “foundation.” The term in this passage is left unspecified, which has generated several interpretations of “the foundation.” However, the orientation of the other Pauline uses75 and the parallel architectural description of the church in 1 Tim 3:15 (see discussion and notes) suggest that the reference here is to the church or the people of God. Just as the term could refer to a part of the foundation, the whole foundation, or even to the building,77 here in figurative usage the language of the part, denoting stability and strengthened by the adjective (“firm”), comes to represent the whole edifice built upon it.

In the themelios imagery an echo of Isa 28:16 is probable:

2 Tim 2:19a: “Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation (themelios) stands firm”;

Isa 28:16 (LXX): Therefore thus says the Lord, “Behold, I lay for the foundations (themelia) of Zion a costly stone, a choice, a corner-stone, a precious stone, for its foundations (themelia); and he that believes on him shall by no means be ashamed.”

In the early church, this OT text became an important OT christological testimony (Rom 9:33; 1 Pet 2:6). Its application here as an ecclesiological testimony appears at first to be a departure from the christological trend, but it is rather an adaptation of it. Paul responds to the turbulent situation facing Timothy by drawing on the part of the well-known OT statement that emphasizes the certainty of God’s acts, and applies it to the stability of the church. Yet as the context suggests (2:8, 11), it is precisely the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ that anchors this “foundation” and that can stabilize the tottering “faith of some” (v. 18); and the application of the Isaiah text elsewhere allows its fainter christological echo here to be heard. The reference to Isa 26:13 in the next part of the verse (see below) strengthens the likelihood that this echo of the Isaiah themelios text is intentional, however light.

In demonstration of the truth of the statement just made, Paul extends the architectural imagery further, by inviting Timothy to imagine a “seal” authenticating the foundation (v. 19b). Seals were used commonly to identify legal ownership of property and, like signatures in modern practice, to guarantee authenticity, genuineness and integrity or to preserve the secrecy of the contents of a letter or of some product. From the actual custom of placing a seal on something for these purposes (with a signet ring, cylinder seal, or carved stone) there developed the figurative use of the concept. In the NT both the literal (e.g. Matt 27:66; Rev 5:1; et al.) and figurative uses are evident: Paul speaks of the Corinthian believers as his “seal” of authentic apostleship (1 Cor 9:2) and of the Spirit as the “seal” of God’s ownership of the believer (verb; 2 Cor 1:22). In ecclesiological contexts, such as 2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13; 4:30, it is often argued that “sealing” refers to water baptism through which God’s ownership was professed and the Spirit conferred, but this is debatable and the linkage between the belief in the gift of God’s Spirit to believers and the rite of water baptism remains unclear.83 In any case, the emphasis is on that which the metaphor of sealing denotes, namely, ownership and authenticity. Similarly, in the present passage “seal” is used in a figurative sense to denote God’s ownership of “the foundation” (= the church) just mentioned. The metaphor functions flexibly here (for “sealing” did not usually pertain to stones), calling to mind a mark or inscription in the stone of the foundation that identifies the builder. Since the introduction of the imagery into this discourse is meant to assure Timothy of the permanence of God’s church despite the presence in it of false teachers and their followers, it is rather difficult to bring baptism into the thought of “sealing.”85

The content of the “seal” follows in two statements constructed of traditional biblical materials. These statements in effect bring together theology in what is affirmed and ethics in the response Timothy (and others) is called to make in the crisis situation. The first statement is:

2 Tim 2:19c: “the Lord knows those who are his” (egnō kyrios tous ontas autou).

This repeats the LXX wording of one part of Num 16:5, making only one change from “God” (ho theos) to “Lord” (kyrios):

Num 16:5: “And he spoke to Korah and all his assembly, saying, ‘God has visited and known those that are his (egnō ho theos tous ontas autou) and who are holy, and has brought them to himself; and whom he has chosen for himself, he has brought to himself’.”

The reason for that change is debated. But with the “stone Christology” already latent in the discourse, it seems likely that the shift from theos to kyrios reflects another case in which an OT feature linked with YHWH is transferred by Paul to Christ (cf. Titus 2:14). The anarthrous kyrios (frequent in the LXX and typical in Numbers) that occurs here is best explained as conforming to the LXX pattern.

Both the OT context and the present context must be compared to appreciate the full weight of the citation’s claim that “the Lord knows those who are his.” In both cases authority is disputed. Then, there is the issue of loyalty—to God in the OT context and to Christ in the present setting (vv. 9–13) and to their appointed servants. The situation in Numbers 16 is one of dispute and confrontation: Moses and Aaron, leaders chosen by God, had been challenged by Korah and his companions (Levites to whom the privilege of the priesthood had not been given), who demanded the right to serve God as priests in the community. In response, Moses declared that God knows those who truly belong to him, meaning the people God had chosen, and that he would make it known. Korah presented a challenge to Moses’ and Aaron’s authority, and in so doing rebelled against God; God confirmed his choice of Moses and Aaron by the destruction of Korah and all who sided with him.

The reader familiar with the OT background is compelled to view the present situation in a similar light: characters such as Hymenaeus and Philetus with their false teaching present the apostolic ministry with a leadership challenge. So, the points of contact are apparent. But how much of the paradigm is to be brought across to the situation in Ephesus? The result of the OT story was the dramatic destruction of the rebels; it is not hard to see how the story accessed by the citation might function as a warning in the way that the wilderness allusions in 1 Corinthians 10 did for the Corinthian community. The statement of Moses quoted here was a statement of vindication, and pointed forward to judgment. Because God distinguishes, one must ensure one’s proper alignment with him. Positively, for Timothy and other readers the force of the citation comes in the reminder that the Lord knows his people personally and will distinguish between true and false followers and preserve the community of faith formed around him. Finally, the OT story serves as a paradigm that acknowledges the rebellion of some within the community and the Lord’s continued presence within it; but the statement is both a consolation and a warning. Christ is present as protector and redeemer but also as a judge who will vindicate his truth and his people. The parenetic force of this reminder for Timothy (cf. 1:6–8) should not be missed.

The second segment of OT materials (2:19d) serves a function similar to 1 Cor 10:14, which follows the OT story there with the admonition to “flee from idolatry.” Here the next OT citation completes the content of the “seal”:

2 Tim 2:19d: and “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness” (kai apostētō apo adikias pas ho onomazōn to onoma kyriou).

Echoes of several OT texts are possible in this statement, and they must be traced as we decide its thrust.

First, “to confess [name] the name of the Lord” is an idiom occurring in the LXX on several occasions.91 Although presumably the basic sense was to make entreaty to the Lord (more typically expressed with “call upon [the name of] the Lord”; cf. Rom 10:13), it denotes acknowledging the name of YHWH (Isa 26:13) or mentioning the name as if to summon him (Amos 6:10), and in one case is used to describe blasphemy of the Lord (Lev 24:16).

This variety of usage leads to two suggested sources of the phrase cited here. Most regard the reference as an echo of Isa 26:13, where a positive acknowledgment of God is implied:

Isa 26:13: “O Lord our God, take possession of us: O Lord, we know no other beside you: we name your name” (to onomo sou onomazomen).

In this case, the statement, extending the thought of the previous line, calls on the faithful to keep themselves separate from evil and so show their allegiance to God. If, however, “naming the name” intends an echo of Lev 24:16 (11), where the phrase is descriptive of blasphemy, the reference would be to the false teachers in the community, who are then to heed the warning of v. 19d and repent before judgment is executed:

Lev 24:16: “And he that names the name of the Lord, let him die the death” (onomazōn de to onoma kyriou thanatō thanatousthō).

While the presence of false teachers in the community makes contact with the Leviticus text tempting, an echo of Isa 26:13, where a positive acknowledgment of God is implied, is more likely. That acknowledgement signifies covenant membership. Only here, as in 1 Cor 1:2 and Rom 10:9–13, Christ the Lord has replaced YHWH as the object of confession and the determiner of covenant membership. The renewed contact made with the story in Numbers 16 at its point of climax (see below) strengthens this positive connection. It occurs where the people are instructed to choose sides. The command added to the “naming” text in 2 Tim 2:19d is:

“turn away from wickedness” (apostētō apo adikias).

This command in itself recalls several similar LXX texts, but due to the choice of adikias (“wickedness”) over anomian (“lawlessness”) might seem at first glance closest in form to the citation of Ps 6:9 preserved in Luke 13:27. Three differences from our text are to be noted: (1) Ps 6:9 (Luke 13:27) addresses the command to evildoers; (2) the speaker (David; in Luke it is Jesus describing eschatological judgment) is concerned to be separated from them; and (3) both Luke and 2 Timothy employ adikias instead of anomian:

Ps 6:9: “Depart from me all you who do lawlessness” (apostēte apʾ emou pantes hoi ergazomenoi tēn anomian);

Luke 13:27: “Depart from me all you workers of injustice” (apostēte apʾ emou pantes ergatai adikias);

2 Tim 2:19d: “turn away from wickedness” (apostētō apo adikias).

However that lexical choice is to be explained, the main difference is one of perspective. The personal perspective adopted in Ps 6:9 (“turn away from ME”; “YOU who do lawlessness”; also Luke 13:27) equates “separation” with judgment. The perspective adopted in 2 Timothy, however, compares more closely with that of Sir 17:26; Ps 33:15 and Prov 3:7, which equate “separation” with purity and a return to the Lord, so that “separation” from “wickedness” preserves the Lord’s people from judgment:

Sir 17:26: “Return to the Most High and turn away from wickedness” (apostrephe apo adikias).

The sharp focus on God’s people, and indeed on their identity as God’s people, as well as on their preservation, is produced by the allusion to Isa 26:13 and the image of “naming the Name.” The command of separation, although paralleled in various OT texts, is without a precise textual match. But bearing in mind the essential matter of perspective, the climactic command at the end of the story in Numbers (which would have been well known), that orders the people to separate from the rebels, does provide both the thematic (perspective) and verbal contact point (in the verb “turn away”). Num 16:26–27 reports the visit of Moses and the elders of Israel, at the Lord’s command, to Dathan and Abiram, companions of Korah, to urge the people to get away from the rebels before judgment:

“He said to the congregation, ‘Separate yourselves (aposchisthēte) from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, or you will be swept away for all their sins.’ So they got away (apestēsan) from the dwellings of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram; and Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the entrance of their tents, together with their wives, their children, and their little ones.”

This concern—for the people of God to demonstrate their purity—exactly parallels Paul’s concern in the seal-response portion of 2:19c–d. The initial allusion to Num 16:5 draws Timothy into that dramatic OT story of identity where the specter of impending judgment has been raised. The two situations are sufficiently close, and the Korah-story was well enough known in Judaism and the early church. The parallels are obvious: challengers to God’s/the Lord’s representatives (Moses/Paul) have been named, and the people must choose sides, thereby establishing their identity. Consequently, the verbal contact in “turn away”/“depart from” should be taken seriously as an echo of the Korah-story’s climax: the OT story provides a narrative illustration of the concept of “wickedness” (adikia) and the narrative source that gives meaning to the command in v. 19d.

Thus following on from the warning that supplies the first part of the “seal,” the second citation calls Timothy and the faithful of the congregation (“all who name the name of the Lord”) to dissociate themselves completely from the opponents and their teachings (adikia). What the rest of the passage confirms, however, is that the fate of the false teachers is not yet fixed, for they too may turn from evil (see below). The general call to separate from evil that occurs throughout the OT is given specific shape in this instance by the intertextual play between the apostasy faced by Timothy (and Timothy’s own temptation) and the story of Korah’s rebellion in the wilderness. As in the use of wilderness motifs in 1 Corinthians 10, the present passage issues a dire warning by way of Israel’s experience of God’s wrath. But throughout Paul’s churches the christological transfer has been completed and Christ is the Lord of the church’s confession (1 Cor 1:2; Rom 10:13). The Christ event and his installation as Lord make it possible for Paul to interact with this OT textual background christologically, and in the process to define covenant identity and purity of faith in relation to Christ. The equal need for the Lord’s grace and kindness is not passed over but is left to a later point (v. 25).[4]


2:19 / As always in Paul, Satan does not get the last word; God does. Just as in line 4 of the hymn/poem in verse 13, so here, the final word is not the faithlessness of some (v. 18), but the abiding faithfulness of God. With a strong adversative nevertheless, Paul affirms that, despite some defections and falling away, God’s solid foundation stands firm.

It is not altogether certain what, if anything, Paul intended by this metaphor. In other places (see disc. on 1 Tim. 3:15) Paul uses the building metaphor for the church and makes Christ (1 Cor. 3:10–12) or the apostles and prophets (Eph. 3:20) the foundation. In light of the further metaphor in verses 20–21, that may be what he has in mind. But it is altogether likely that he does not “intend” some specific point of reference. The emphasis, as the rest of the verse shows, is on God’s proprietary ownership, on the certainty of eschatological triumph for those who are his. Since the metaphor stands in sharp contrast to the fact that the faith of some is being overturned, Paul clearly intends it to affirm the opposite: What God is doing in Ephesus, saving a people of his own (cf. Titus 2:14) for eternal glory, cannot be thwarted by the activity of the false teachers. In that sense, of course, the implied “building” refers to the church in Ephesus, his chosen people (v. 10).

Those who are Christ’s and cannot be overthrown are recognizable by a double inscription. The Greek literally says, “having this seal” (on this word, see NIDNTT, vol. 3, pp. 497–501). What is intended is the “seal” of ownership that the architect or owner would have inscribed on the foundation stone (similar in some ways to our modern cornerstones).

The double inscription reads: “The Lord knows those who are his” (cf. Num. 16:5, lxx, from Korah’s rebellion). God’s building rests not on the shaky foundation that we know God but that he knows us (cf. 1 Cor. 8:1–3). This is the primary ground of all Christian confidence. God’s action is the prior one: He knows those who are his.

But God’s prior action demands response. Therefore the inscription also reads: “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness” (the language, lit., “to name the name of the Lord,” comes from the lxx—Lev. 24:16; Isa. 26:13; the sentiment of the second part is found in Ps. 34:14; Prov. 3:7). Those who are known by God are in turn expected to turn away from wickedness, that is, depart from Hymenaeus and Philetus and their teaching, who are recognizably not God’s people because they persist in wrongdoing. In their case, false teaching has led to moral corruption (cf. 1 Tim. 6:3–10).

Thus, despite the devastating inroads made by the false teachers, Timothy and the church are to be heartened by this sure word (cf. also how the next two paragraphs conclude: 2:26 and 3:9).[5]


19. Nevertheless—Notwithstanding the subversion of their faith, “the firm foundation of God standeth” fast (so the Greek ought to be translated). The “foundation” here is “the Church” [Alford], “the ground” or basement support “of the truth” (1 Ti 3:15), Christ Himself being the ultimate “foundation” (1 Co 3:11). In the steadfast standing of the Church there is involved the steadfast certainty of the doctrine in question (2 Ti 2:18). Thus the “house” (2 Ti 2:20) answers to the “foundation”; it is made up of the elect whom “the Lord knoweth” (acknowledgeth, recognizes, Ps 1:6; Mt 7:23; Jn 10:14; 1 Co 8:3) as “His,” and who persevere to the end, though others “err concerning the faith” (Mt 24:24; Jn 10:28; Ro 8:38, 39; 1 Jn 2:19). Bengel takes “the foundation” to be the immovable faithfulness of God (to His promises to His elect [Calvin]). This contrasts well with the erring from the faith on the part of the reprobate, 2 Ti 2:18. Though they deny the faith, God abates not His faithfulness (compare 2 Ti 2:13).

having—seeing that it has [Ellicott].

seal—“inscription”: indicating ownership and destination: inscriptions were often engraven on a “foundation” stone (Rev 21:14) [Alford]. This will agree with the view that “the foundation” is the Church (Eph 2:20). If it be taken God’s immovable faithfulness, the “seal” will be regarded as attached to His covenant promise, with the inscription or legend, on one side of its round surface, “The Lord knoweth (it is ‘knew’ in the Septuagint, Nu 16:5, to which Paul here alludes, altering it for his purpose by the Spirit) them that are His”; on the observe side, “Let every one that nameth (as his Lord, Ps 20:7, or preacheth in His name, Je 20:9) Christ.”

departGreek, “stand aloof.”

from iniquity—(Is 52:11). In both clauses there may be an allusion to Nu 16:5, 26, Septuagint. God’s part and man’s part are marked out. God chooseth and knoweth His elect; our part is to believe, and by the Spirit depart from all iniquity, an unequivocal proof of our being the Lord’s (compare De 29:29; Lu 13:23–27). St. Lucian when asked by his persecutors, “Of what country art thou?” replied, “I am a Christian.” “What is your occupation?… I am a Christian.” “Of what family?… I am a Christian.” [Chrysostom, Orations, 75]. He cannot be honored with the name Christian, who dishonors by iniquity, Christ, the Author of the name. Blandina’s refreshment amidst her tortures was to say, “I am a Christian, and with us Christians no evil is done” [Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 5.1]. Apostasy from the faith is sure soon to be followed by indulgence in iniquity. It was so with the false teachers (2 Ti 3:2–8, 13).[6]


Ver. 19.—Howbeit for nevertheless, A.V.; firm foundation of God standeth for foundation of God standeth sure, A.V.; this for the (1611 copy), A.V.; the Lord for Christ, A.V. and T.R.; unrighteousness for iniquity, A.V. The firm foundation of God standeth; i.e., though the faith of some is thrown down like a wall built with untempered mortar, the foundation which God has laid fast and firm stands unmoved and unmovable. This is equally true of individual souls (the αἱ στερεαὶ ψυχαί of Chrysostom), and of the Church, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail. Compare our Lord’s saying, when the Pharisees were offended at him, “Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up” (Matt. 15:13); and those in John 10:28, 29; and 1 John 2:19. Θεμέλιος in classical Greek is always an adjective agreeing with λίος expressed or understood. In the New Testament it is used only as a substantive (Luke 6:48; 1 Cor. 3:10; 1 Tim. 6:19, etc.). Here the word seems to be employed, not so much to denote a foundation on which a house was to be built, as to denote strength and solidity. The elect of God are like foundation-stones, which may not be moved. Having this seal. In Rev. 12:14 the twelve foundation-stones of the new Jerusalem were each inscribed with the name of an apostle. In like manner there are inscriptions, of the nature of seals, on God’s strong foundations, showing their immutable condition. One is, “The lord knoweth them that are his,” taken verbatim from the LXX of Numb. 16:5; the other is, “Let every one that nameth the Name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness.” This is nowhere to be found in the Old Testament. The first part of the verse is indeed equivalent to Κύριε … τὸ ὀνομά σου ὀνομάζομεν in Isa. 26:13, but there is nothing to answer to the second part. The passages quoted by commentators from Numb. 16:26 and Isa. 52:11 are far too general to indicate any particular reference. Possibly the motto is one of those “faithful savings” before referred to. The two inscriptions, taken together, show the two sides of the Christian standing—God’s election, and man’s holiness (comp. 1 John 1:6; 3:7, 8).[7]


19a ὁ μέντοι στερεὸς θεμέλιος τοῦ θεοῦ ἕστηκεν, “Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands firm.” Despite the success of Hymenaeus, Philetus, and the other opponents in leading some of the Ephesians astray (v 18), Timothy and Paul can be encouraged because the foundation of the elect (cf. v 10) will not be moved. θεμέλιος, “foundation” (cf. 1 Tim 6:19), is generally understood to refer to a corporate entity such as the church (1 Tim 3:15), the foundation consisting of the apostles (Eph 2:20) or Christ himself (1 Cor 3:11; cf. Hanson, [1983] 137). This is consistent with Paul’s usage and with the following discussion of the usefulness of vessels in a house (vv 20–21). However, the emphasis in this passage is on individuals. (1) The firm foundation is in contrast to Hymenaeus, Philetus, and those (τινῶν) who have been led astray. (2) While θεμέλιος is singular, the first part of the following seal is the plural τούς, “those.” (3) The second part speaks of “everyone naming the name of [the] Lord.” (4) The discussion of vessels (vv 20–21) leads into Paul’s admonition that Timothy, personally, remove himself from evil and the opponents. Therefore, it is preferable to see the foundation as the individuals who are firmly elect, not being swayed by the heresy.

μέντοι, “nevertheless,” is adversative, separating the opponents from the true believers. στερεός means “firm, hard, solid, strong” (BAGD 766; cf. Heb 5:12, 14; 1 Pet 5:9). στερεός is attributive (Robertson, Grammar, 656) and modifies θεμέλιος. The perfect tense of ἱστάναι is intransitive (BAGD 382 [II2c]) and means “stand firm” (cf. Rom 11:20; 1 Cor 10:12), emphasizing the force of the previous στερεός.

19b ἔχων τὴν σφραγῖδα ταύτην, “having this seal.” The firmness of God’s foundation is described by the seal that God has placed on it. The metaphor is based on the practice of inscribing a seal on the foundation of a building in order to indicate ownership and sometimes the function of the building (cf. the seal of the twelve disciples on the foundation of the new Jerusalem in Rev 21:14). The following two phrases specify what the seal actually says; it was common to have the seal contain a motto or short phrase (Lyall, Slaves, 151).

σφραγίς, “seal” (cf. cognate verb σφραγίζειν, “to seal,” and BAGD 796), can indicate the seal itself or the mark made by the seal (Dan 6:17; Matt 27:66; especially the references in Rev 5:1, 2, 9; 6:1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 12; 7:2; 8:1; 9:4). It is often used figuratively as an indication of ownership, protection, and authentication (cf. Guthrie, 150; G. Fitzer, TDNT 7:939–53; R. Schippers, NIDNTT 3:497–501; O. Tufnell, IDB 4:255; Lyall, Slaves, 148–52). For example, the Holy Spirit is the seal, the guarantee of the promise given to all Christians (2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13). The Corinthians are the seal of Paul’s apostleship (1 Cor 9:2). The sign of circumcision is Abraham’s seal of his righteousness by faith (Rom 4:11; cf. also John 3:33; 6:27; Eph 4:30; Rev 7:3). Because the emphasis is on God’s ownership and protection, it is unnecessary to place weight on the symbol itself as Hanson ([1983] 137) does by identifying the seal as baptism.

19c ἔγνω κύριος τοὺς ὄντας αὐτοῦ, “The Lord knew those who were his.” This is a citation from Num 16:5 LXX. When Korah, Dothan, and the 250 leaders rebelled against Moses’ leadership, he replied, “God has visited and known those who were his [ἔγνω ὁ θεὸς τοὺς ὄντας αὐτοῦ] and who were holy, and he brought [them] to himself, and whom he chose for himself he brought to himself.” Paul has already introduced the topic of election in 1:9 and 2:10, and Arndt makes a good case that this is the meaning of ἔγνω, “knew,” here (CTM 21 [1950] 299–302), citing R. Bultmann (TDNT 1:689–719; cf. 1 Cor 8:3; 13:12; and Gal 4:9). It is God’s prior knowledge in election that assures Timothy that despite the success of the opponents the elect are safe. To read ἔγνω as a present tense is to treat it as a gnomic aorist, a rare use of the aorist that in fact some say does not occur in the NT (cf. Wallace, Greek Grammar, 562). It also seems doubtful that a single event (election) could be represented as gnomic.

19d καί· ἀποστήτω ἀπὸ ἀδικίας πᾶς ὁ ὀνομάζων τὸ ὄνομα κυρίου, “and, ‘Let everyone naming the name of [the] Lord depart from unrighteousness.’ ” The second statement on the seal is one of the most strongly worded demands in Scripture, that obedience to the ethical demands of the gospel are mandatory, not optional. For Paul, to call on the name of the Lord is to depart from unrighteousness (see Comment on Titus 2:11 and Explanation on Titus 2:11–15). The statement does not come from any one OT passage (but cf. Num 16:26). Most of the passages suggested as possible sources seem at best to be remote possibilities, and the idea of “depart from unrighteousness” is too general (cf. Ps 34:14; Prov 3:7; Isa 52:11). Lock (100) sees both statements coming from the account of Korah, but both modified by Jesus (citing Matt 7:23 and Luke 13:27): “Whatever false teachers may say, the solid foundation-stone of God’s Temple has been fixed once for all; and on it are two inscriptions carved first by Moses and renewed by Our Lord: one tells of God’s knowledge, ‘The Lord knoweth them that are His own’; the other of man’s duty, ‘Let every one who worships the Lord depart from iniquity’ ” (97). ὀνομάζων τὸ ὄνομα, “naming the name,” is roughly equivalent to “call(s) on the name” (e.g., 1 Kgs 18:24 [2×], 25; 2 Kgs 5:11; Ps 116:3, 17; Zeph 3:9; Acts 2:21; 1 Cor 1:2), “name” being metonymy for the Lord himself (cf. Isa 26:13). By emphasizing the necessity of righteous living, the seal disqualifies the opponents whose lives are filled with sin. Paul feels no tension, as is often the case in modern discussions, in placing the doctrines of election and sanctification side by side. ἀφιστάναι, “to depart,” is used in the PE elsewhere only in 1 Tim 4:1, where it means “to apostatize.” ἀδικία, “unrighteousness,” occurs in the PE only here (cf. δίκαιος, “righteousness,” in 1 Tim 1:9; 2 Tim 4:8; Titus 1:8; Rom 1:8; 2:8; 2 Thess 2:10–12).[8]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 2 Timothy (pp. 81–83). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon (pp. 226–229). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[3] Köstenberger, A. (2006). 2 Timothy. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 581–582). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] Towner, P. H. (2006). The Letters to Timothy and Titus (pp. 529–537). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[5] Fee, G. D. (2011). 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus (pp. 257–258). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[6] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 425). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[7] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). 2 Timothy (pp. 22–23). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[8] Mounce, W. D. (2000). Pastoral Epistles (Vol. 46, pp. 528–530). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

June 24 Disagreements

scripture reading: Ephesians 4:26–32
key verse: Ephesians 4:32

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

The two friends argued and then went their separate ways without reconciling their differences. That evening neither could sleep. The Bible instructs us to settle our differences before we part: “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity” (Eph. 4:26–27 nasb).

There are obvious reasons why God wants you to solve a disagreement quickly. For one, when you bring the right kind of closure to a hurtful matter, you free yourself and the other person emotionally and spiritually. Those who refuse to extend forgiveness are the losers. Nothing soothes a guilt–worn conscience like the forgiveness and love of God.

When you forgive others, you do what Jesus did for you. You also align your life with His standard of obedience. Forgiveness is not always easy, but it is essential to emotional and physical health. God promises to personally deal with those who have harmed you (Rom. 12:19).

However, many people refuse to wait on Him. They want vengeance, and they want it now. If this is your attitude, ask God to remind you of how your life looked to Him before He saved you. Even if you were six or sixty, you, like all people, deserved death. Yet through the work of His wondrous grace and forgiveness, you were given eternal life.

Dear Lord, help me learn to handle disagreements in a proper manner. Remind me of how my life was before You saved me so that I can show compassion to others who are offensive to me today.[1]


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

24 june (1855) 365 Days with Spurgeon

The desire of the soul in spiritual darkness

“With my soul have I desired thee in the night.” Isaiah 26:9

suggested further reading: Psalm 42

There are times when all the saints can do is to desire. We have a vast number of evidences of piety: some are practical, some are experimental, some are doctrinal; and the more evidences a man has of his piety the better, of course. We like a number of signatures, to make a deed more valid, if possible. We like to invest property in a great number of trustees, in order that it may be all the safer; and so we love to have many evidences. Many witnesses will carry our case in the courts better than a few: and so it is well to have many witnesses to testify to our piety. But there are seasons when a Christian cannot get any. He can get scarcely one witness to come and attest his godliness. He asks for good works to come and speak for him. But there will be such a cloud of darkness about him, and his good works will appear so black that he will not dare to think of their evidences. He will say, “True, I hope this is the right fruit; I hope I have served God; but I dare not plead these works as evidences.” He will have lost assurance, and with it his enjoyment of communion with God. “I have had that fellowship with him,” perhaps he will say, and he will summon that communion to come and be in evidence. But he has forgotten it, and it does not come, and Satan whispers it is a fancy, and the poor evidence of communion has its mouth gagged, so that it cannot speak. But there is one witness that very seldom is gagged, and one that I trust the people of God can always apply, even in the night: and that is, “I have desired thee—I have desired thee in the night.”

for meditation: The light shines best in the darkness (John 1:5); the people of God have proved it when all else has failed them (Psalm 73:21–26; Jonah 2:1–7).

sermon no. 31[1]


[1] Spurgeon, C. H., & Crosby, T. P. (1998). 365 Days with Spurgeon (Volume 1) (p. 182). Leominster, UK: Day One Publications.

24 JUNE 365 Days with Calvin

Praising Christ Inadequately

And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. Luke 11:27

suggested further reading: Luke 18:18–34

Christ corrects what the woman says here. He does this because people are inclined to neglect even those gifts of God that they regard with astonishment and on which they bestow the highest praise.

In applauding Christ, the woman fails to mention what is most important: that in Christ salvation is exhibited to all. Her words are a feeble tribute because they fail to mention his grace and power that are extended to all. Christ justly claims for himself another kind of praise, not that his mother alone is blessed for bearing him, but that he brings to us perfect and eternal happiness.

We fail to do justice to the excellence of Christ until we consider the reason why the Father gave Christ to us. We must perceive the benefits that he brings to us so that we who are wretched in ourselves may become happy in him.

Why does Christ say nothing about himself and mention only the Word of God? He does this to open up all his treasures to us, for without the Word of God Jesus would have no conversation with us, or we with him. In communicating himself to us by the Word, he rightly and properly calls us to hear and keep that Word, so that by faith he may become ours.

We now see the difference between Christ’s reply and the woman’s commendation, for the blessedness that she limits to his mother is a favor that he offers freely to all. He shows us that we ought to have no ordinary esteem for him because all the treasures of life, blessedness, and glory are hidden in him (Col. 2:3). He dispenses those to us by the Word so they may be communicated to those who embrace the Word by faith; for God’s free adoption of us, which we obtain by faith, is the key to the kingdom of heaven.

for meditation: Many people praise Jesus inadequately. They esteem Jesus as a good teacher, an excellent example, and a good man, but they miss the major point of who he is and of his mission. Have you fallen prey to the temptation to focus on aspects of Jesus’ ministry that are peripheral to the atonement, which was his main purpose?[1]


[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 194). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

Monday, June 24, 2019 – AlbertMohler.com

PART I

 The Peace Cross Still Stands: An Analysis of the Supreme Court’s Big Decision for Religious Liberty

PART II

 The Naked Public Square? What’s Behind the Effort to Remove Religious Symbols and Language

PART III

 The Planned Parenthood Democratic Candidate Forum: What Happens When 20 Democrats Can’t Run to the Left Quickly Enough

PART IV

 The Rooster at the Center of France’s Culture War? How Maurice the Rooster Points to the Larger Worldview Divide Between Urban and Rural


DOCUMENTATION AND ADDITIONAL READING

PART I

OPINIONS OF THE SUPREME COURT

 American Legion v. American Humanist Assn.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

 The Turnabout on Religious Freedom, by Barton Swaim

PART II

PART III

PART IV

Core Christianity | Common Questions Christians Ask About Forgiveness

Forgiveness is central to our experience as Christians. It is at the heart of our relationship with God and our relationship with others. Jesus talks about forgiveness a lot and even inscribes it on the template for our prayers (Matt. 6:9-13). At the same time, forgiveness is hard. It’s unnatural. This presents a lot of questions as we try to work out the implications of living faithfully as Christians.

This past Sunday, I preached a sermon from Matthew 18:21-35, where Jesus teaches his followers that God’s forgiveness of us shows us why and how to forgive others. In conclusion, I attempted to answer some of the most common pastoral questions I receive. I share them here hoping they provide some help or at least provoke deeper consideration of the topic. (The rest of the sermon may be accessed here.)

1. What if the person doesn’t ask for forgiveness? Am I still obligated to forgive?

This is an important question because it’s tremendously practical. If you work to faithfully apply the words of Jesus then you will likely encounter people who do not repent, ask for your forgiveness, or even seem like they think they have done anything wrong. How does this change your responsibility to forgive? Does it?

I don’t think it changes our responsibility. The answer to the question is, we can and we must forgive them.

Let’s think about it this way. Forgiveness has two sides, there is the extension of forgiveness and the reception of it. The emphasis in this passage before us is the extension. Jesus is not here talking about receiving forgiveness, but extending it. Certainly to feel the full effect of forgiveness we desire to have both sides sync up, but it does not always happen.

Jesus other teaching supports this view. We have to do our part in the forgiveness. This is what Jesus meant, I think, when he said, “Love your enemies . . . bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28). They don’t stop being our enemies when we bless them. And this is what makes this so powerful. They haven’t asked for our forgiveness, and perhaps they don’t think they have to. They are content being our enemy and making life difficult for us. One has said, “We are to bless them, and that blessing means that our part of the inward forgiveness has happened. The opposite of forgiveness is holding a grudge, but blessing is the opposite of holding a grudge, and so blessing is a kind of forgiving.” (John Piper‘s whole answer is worth the read.)

I find it helpful to consider our Savior’s words when he was on the cross. He said, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus was setting an example for us to follow. He prayed for those who did harm to him. He prayed for their forgiveness. “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).

2. Is there a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation?

Yes. Remember, sin is messy, and cleaning it up is often a lengthy, nuanced process. It’s possible for forgiveness to occur in our relationship with God apart from interaction with the person who sinned against us. There are many reasons why we might not be able to speak with the person and extend forgiveness.

Forgiveness is different from reconciliation. Our reconciliation with another often depends upon the attitude and actions of the one who sinned. Steve Cornell writes:

In many cases, even if an offender confessed his wrong to the one he hurt and appealed for forgiveness, the offended person could justifiably say, “I forgive you, but it might take some time for me to regain trust and restore our relationship.” The evidence of genuine forgiveness is personal freedom from a vindictive or vengeful response (Rom. 12:17-21), but not always an automatic restoration of relationship.

Even when God forgives our sins, he does not promise to remove all consequences created by our actions. Yes, being forgiven, restored, and trusted is an amazing experience, but it’s important for those who hurt others to understand that their attitude and actions will affect the process of rebuilding trust. Words alone are often not enough to restore trust. When someone has been significantly hurt and feels hesitant about restoration with her offender, it’s both right and wise to look for changes in the offender before allowing reconciliation to begin.

We can and must forgive others of their sins against us. But there may be other factors that can prevent full reconciliation and restoration of the relationship.

3. How do I process through forgiving those who have hurt me deeply?

This is a big question that I cannot fully answer here. But, I want to put down a few markers.

First, I want to validate that sin is painful. Being sinned against hurts us. It hurts us because sin is wrong. The Bible validates the destructive effects of sin. You should not feel guilty or wrong about feeling this way.

Second, there is ample compassion, mercy, and grace in Christ for you. When you feel alone and hurt, the tendency is to retreat to yourself and shut off the world because of the pain and feeling that no one understands or can do anything about it. While we are smarting from the sting of sin, we need to remember that our Savior has scars. He has entered into the scrum of this world, and he has felt the deep affliction that comes from sin. In fact, he did this in order to become a merciful and compassionate help to us.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:14–16)

And finally, remember that in the end, God will judge and make everything right. This is our hope. There are limits to human justice. We know that all kinds of wrongs go unpunished in this world. But, we take comfort in knowing that in the end, God will deal with everything in accordance with his inflexible justice, perfect wisdom, and eternal goodness. We can rest in this comfort, because we can rest in God.

4. What are the dangers of a lack of forgiveness?

At the risk of stating the obvious, let’s remember that Jesus commands us to forgive. This is what he tells us to do. So, failing to forgive is a sin. This is the chief danger. If we do not forgive others we are affecting our relationship with God, dishonoring him, and undermining our confidence before him. This cannot be overstated.

Then there are other considerations. A lack of forgiveness will nurse bitterness. It grows with time and begins to affect many other areas of our lives. The Bible warns us against letting a root of bitterness spring up, noting that it causes trouble and by it, many become defiled (Heb. 12:15). We do not have the power to hold a grudge. We will become evil. If you try to repay evil for evil you will yourself be taken in by it. You will become embittered, angry, hardened, vengeful, and even full of self-pity. You will try your best to maintain separation from it, but this evil vortex will pull you in.

It also elevates us to a place of judgment and authority that is frankly above our pay grade. We do not have the right to withhold forgiveness from anyone. We cannot stand in this place of ultimate judgment.

We often buy the lie that holding a grudge will make us feel better. But this is not true. Holding a grudge will only suffocate us, and never liberate us. Choosing to hold a grudge is tremendously powerful, controlling others and you. Forgiving is even more powerful, liberating others and you.

5. How can I grow to be more forgiving?

First, grapple with the weight of personal sin. Remember that we have more in common with the one who did the sinning than we might like to admit. Cast everything in light of our relationship with God. Remember the servant who was forgiven much yet could not forgive others. We have been forgiven ten thousand talents. Certainly, we can grow to be more forgiving of offenses against us.

Second, marvel at the gift of total forgiveness. In Christ, every single sin has been washed away. Our certificate of debt has been completely canceled. Over the top of our bill there reads a divine declaration, signed in blood, “Paid in full.” There remains now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We stand forgiven at the cross. Hallelujah! May this be the model and motivation for our forgiveness.

Oh, to see the pain, written on Your face,
Bearing the awesome weight of sin;
Every bitter thought, Every evil deed,
Crowning Your bloodstained brow.

Rest in the sovereignty of God. We don’t understand why bad things happen, to us or others. But we do know that God promises to work all things together for good for those who love God and are called to his purpose (Rom. 8:30). Joseph was able to both call his brothers’ scheming evil and God’s purposes good (Gen. 50:16ff). Even though we don’t have all of the answers for the “why” questions we do know the answer to the “who” question. God is in complete control, and we rest in his sovereign wisdom and power.

Finally, exult in the privilege of granting forgiveness. When we forgive others we are magnifying the power of the gospel. We are declaring that there is something more important than us in this world. We are declaring the worth of Christ and his commands. We are showing the power of a changed life in the Holy Spirit. How great is it to extend forgiveness to others out of the love that extended forgiveness to us? God’s forgiveness of us shows how and why we forgive others.

This content originally published here. Used with permission. 

— Read on corechristianity.com/resource-library/3/1340

What Does it Mean to Abide in Christ? | Ligonier Ministries Blog

The exhortation to “abide” has been frequently misunderstood, as though it were a special, mystical, and indefinable experience. But Jesus makes clear that it actually involves a number of concrete realities.

First, union with our Lord depends on His grace. Of course we are actively and personally united to Christ by faith (John 14:12). But faith itself is rooted in the activity of God. It is the Father who, as the divine Gardener, has grafted us into Christ. It is Christ, by His Word, who has cleansed us to fit us for union with Himself (15:3). All is sovereign, all is of grace.

Second, union with Christ means being obedient to Him. Abiding involves our response to the teaching of Jesus: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you …” (John 15:7a). Paul echoes this idea in Colossians 3:16, where he writes, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,” a statement closely related to his parallel exhortation in Ephesians 5:18: “be filled with the Spirit.”

In a nutshell, abiding in Christ means allowing His Word to fill our minds, direct our wills, and transform our affections. In other words, our relationship to Christ is intimately connected to what we do with our Bibles! Then, of course, as Christ’s Word dwells in us and the Spirit fills us, we will begin to pray in a way consistent with the will of God and discover the truth of our Lord’s often misapplied promise: “You will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7b).

Third, Christ underlines a further principle, “Abide in My love” (15:9), and states very clearly what this implies: the believer rests his or her life on the love of Christ (the love of the One who lays down His life for His friends, v. 13).

This love has been proved to us in the cross of Christ. We must never allow ourselves to drift from daily contemplation of the cross as the irrefutable demonstration of that love, or from dependence on the Spirit who sheds it abroad in our hearts (Rom. 5:5). Furthermore, remaining in Christ’s love comes to very concrete expression: simple obedience rendered to Him is the fruit and evidence of love for Him (John 15:10–14).

Finally, we are called, as part of the abiding process, to submit to the pruning knife of God in the providences by which He cuts away all disloyalty and sometimes all that is unimportant, in order that we might remain in Christ all the more wholeheartedly.

This excerpt is taken from In Christ Alone by Sinclair Ferguson.

What Is the Eye of a Needle? — Grace to You Blog

In the lead-up to the Truth Matters conference in October, we will be focusing our attention on the sufficiency, authority, and clarity of Scripture. Of our previous blog series, none better embodies that emphasis than Frequently Abused Verses. The following entry from that series originally appeared on September 14, 2015. -ed.

I haven’t always sat under the teaching ministry of John MacArthur. In fact, earlier parts of my Christian walk have been tarnished by over-exposure to some really bad Bible teachers, and attendance in some very man-centered churches. A lot of my expertise in error comes from first-hand experience.

It took longer than I care to admit, but eventually, the reckless handling of Scripture became too hard to ignore. One of the most blatant examples was related to Christ’s interaction with the rich young ruler. Luke 18:22-25 explains the sad end to their conversation.

When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. And Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Based on the simple reading of the text, there shouldn’t be any confusion about what it means to pass a camel through the eye of a needle (the reference also appears in Matthew 19:24 and Mark 10:25). And yet I’ve witnessed pastors do all sorts of exegetical gymnastics to explain away the clear meaning of Christ’s words—not only in my original Australian congregation, but throughout Europe and America, as well. What at first glance seems like a straightforward hyperbolic illustration has been twisted, contorted, and explained away through eisegesis and iffy archeology.

The explanation usually goes something like this: Christ wasn’t referring to the eye of a literal needle—that would be preposterous. Instead, He was talking about a narrow entrance into the city of Jerusalem, a gate known locally as “the eye of the needle.” This gate was so small that a camel could only be brought through with great difficulty, squeezed through on its knees—which depicts how we humbly need to come to the Lord.

That explanation can be quite compelling—after all, humility is necessary—as long as you don’t read the next two verses of Luke’s gospel: “They who heard it said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ But He said, ‘The things that are impossible with people are possible with God’” (Luke 18:26-27).

Christ’s words make the point of His illustration abundantly clear. He can’t mean that the rich man can only attain salvation through humility—getting a camel to stoop and squeeze through a narrow gate might be challenging, but it doesn’t require divine intervention. In context, His point is unmistakable: Manufacturing your own salvation is just as impossible as threading a massive beast of burden through the eye of a sewing needle. Apart from the intervention of the Lord, it cannot be done.

In his commentary on the passage, John MacArthur explains another key flaw with the spurious interpretation:

There is no evidence that such a gate ever existed. Nor would any person with common sense have attempted to force a camel through such a small gate even if one had existed; they would simply have brought their camel into the city through a larger gate. [1] John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Luke 18-24 (Chicago: Moody Press, 2014), 41.

Instead he says,

The Persians expressed impossibility by using a familiar proverb stating that it would be easier for an elephant to go through the eye of a needle. The Jews picked up the proverb, substituting a camel for an elephant, since camels were the largest animals in Palestine. [2] Luke 18-24, 41.

So why go to such great lengths to sidestep the clear meaning of Christ’s illustration? The reasons come into better focus when we consider the most vocal proponents of the “Needle-Gate” theory.

For starters, it’s predominant among many prosperity preachers and televangelists, who understandably don’t want to draw scrutiny and rebuke for their extravagant lifestyles. Christ’s exclamation, “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” (Luke 18:24) would have been a shock to His original audience. As John MacArthur explains, “The idea that wealth was a sign of God’s blessing was deeply entrenched in Jewish theology.” Prosperity preachers today have repeated that lie to pillage the people of God. What better way to insulate their thievery from Christ’s warning than to warp the meaning of His words altogether?

There’s another group that favors the “Needle-Gate” theory, and they’re grounded in the same mindset that Christ originally rebuked. The rich young ruler was a product of the Jewish religious system, and his self-assurance about earning his salvation was a direct reflection of the Pharisees’ man-centered legalism.

Just consider his original question to Christ, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18). As John MacArthur explains, “In keeping with his legalistic system of self-righteousness, he sought that one elusive good work that would push him over the top to obtain eternal life for himself.” [3] Luke 18-24, 37.

In the same way, countless pastors and church leaders today downplay the Lord’s intervening work in salvation and defy Christ’s words in this passage, treating faith as a mere decision, and repentance as nothing more than simply changing your mind. The God-centered gospel of regeneration is substituted with a man-centered decisionism which makes salvation the result of one’s humility—however difficult that may be.

As John MacArthur explains, that betrays the point of Christ’s words, and the truth of the gospel.

The obvious point of that picturesque expression of hyperbole is not that salvation is difficult, but rather that it is humanly impossible for everyone by any means, including the wealthy. Sinners are aware of their guilt and fear, and may even desire a relationship with God that would bring forgiveness and peace. But they cannot hold on to their sinful priorities and personal control and think they can come to God on their own terms. The young man illustrates that reality. [4] Luke 18-24, 41-42.

The “Needle-Gate” theory isn’t exclusive to false teachers—it’s been around long enough and taught widely enough that even some faithful teachers assume this interpretation by not carefully studying the text in context. Tragically, a wrong interpretation of this text not only promotes error, it becomes a missed opportunity for worship. How so?

Luke 18:25 is one of the clearest testimonies from our Lord on the inability of man to do anything to save himself. This doctrine of total inability is a vital component to the gospel; it highlights the impossibility of salvation apart from a sovereign work of God in a person’s heart. More than that it highlights God’s grace in that He does do that work. For that reason this text should lead to humble praise of our God and Savior.

 

In the coming weeks, we’re going to examine several other contested passages and convoluted interpretations, helping you understand what those abuses can lead to. And we’ll look at what God’s Word says, and what it means by what it says. I hope you’ll join us for this enlightening, practical exploration of Scripture’s Frequently Abused Verses.

via What Is the Eye of a Needle? — Grace to You Blog

Quick Shot: “A loving God would not send people to hell” — Cold Case Christianity

Our “Quick Shot” series offers brief answers to common objections to the Christian worldview. Each response is limited to one paragraph. These responses are designed to (1) answer the objection as concisely as possible, (2) challenge the objector to think more deeply about his or her claim, and (3) facilitate a “gospel” conversation. In this article, we’re offering “Quick Shot” responses to the objection, Quick Shot: “A loving God would not send people to hell.”

Response #1:
“What do you mean by ‘loving?’ A loving God must also be just, or His love is little more than an empty expression. If everyone was offered the same experience in the afterlife, how loving (or fair) would it be for Mother Teresa and Hitler to receive the same reward? Most of us can think of someone who should be punished: serial killers, child molesters, rapists. I bet you can also think of someone worthy of punishment, right? How loving would God be to reward these criminals rather than punish them? How fair would that be to their victims? Can a loving God be completely unjust and still considered loving?”


How loving would God be to reward criminals rather than punish them? How fair would that be to their victims? Can a loving God be completely unjust and still considered loving?
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OR

Response #2:
“What do you mean by ‘send’? Our eternal destination is predicated by our choice, not His. God wants us to join Him in heaven, but He won’t force people into his presence who don’t want to be there. Some people hate God; others ignore Him entirely. They don’t choose to seek Him, and they don’t want to spend eternity with Him. God honors those kinds of choices. People who neither seek nor want God in their lives won’t be forced to spend eternity with Him. How much more loving could God be? Don’t you want Him to honor the choices of those who deny Him?”


People who neither seek nor want God in their lives won’t be forced to spend eternity with Him. How much more loving could God be?
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OR

Response #3:
“What do you mean by ‘hell’? Most of us hold a notion of hell that is shaped more by tradition and culture than by the scriptures. For example, the Bible never describes hell as a place where people experience torture. Instead, it’s described as a place where people will be tormented. You can be tormented, for example, by simply making a bad choice (like choosing to deny God’s offer of heaven). The Bible describes levels and degrees of punishment. Some will be punished severely, some will only experience the torment and regret of being separated from God and believing family members for eternity. Have your notions of hell be shaped by popular fiction rather than the scriptures?”


The Bible describes levels and degrees of punishment. Some will be punished severely, some will only experience the torment and regret of being separated from God and believing family members for eternity.
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Our “Quick Shot” series was written specifically for the Cold-Case Christianity App (you can download it on Appleand Android platforms – be sure to register once you download the App). When confronted with an objection in casual conversation, App users can quickly find an answer without having to scroll beyond the first screen in the category. Use the App “Quick Shots” along with the “Rapid Responses” and Case Making “Cheat Sheets” to become a better Christian Case Maker.

For more information about the reliability of the New Testament gospels and the case for Christianity, please read Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. This book teaches readers ten principles of cold-case investigations and applies these strategies to investigate the claims of the gospel authors. The book is accompanied by an eight-session Cold-Case Christianity DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.

J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured Cold-Case Detective, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, author of Cold-Case ChristianityGod’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, and creator of the Case Makers Academy for kids.

via Quick Shot: “A loving God would not send people to hell” — Cold Case Christianity

12 Signs of Mediocrity in a Church — BCNN1 – Black Christian News Network

I suspect this post may offend someone, but that’s not my goal. I want churches to strive for excellence simply because our calling is to do what we do for God’s glory. I fear, though, that many congregations settle for mediocrity. As a church consultant, I’ve learned that these signs are often an indicator that the church overall does not strive for excellence:

1. No plans for evaluation. When I ask church leaders about their strategy for evaluating the worship service, the sermons, the programs, etc., they often have no intentional evaluations. Seldom does a church move far beyond mediocrity when no assessment occurs.

2. Tolerance of mistakes. Granted, no church is perfect. On the other hand, churches that repeatedly have mistakes in the bulletin, misspelled words in PowerPoint presentations and confusion in worship services are sending wrong signals.

3. Poor maintenance of the church grounds. It’s easy for regular attenders to inadvertently miss the out-of-control bushes, the dying flowers and the broken asphalt—but guests may not miss the same stuff. What they see when they enter the lot says something about the church’s commitment to excellence.

4. Poor upkeep of the building. Maintenance is a never-ending chore, but tasks like removing clutter, painting walls and replacing light bulbs are not that difficult. To ignore these jobs is to settle for less than the best.

5. No records of attendance, growth, etc. I understand churches that don’t want numbers-consciousness to trump their God-centeredness, but my concern is the church that pays no attention to numbers. Seldom have I seen those churches strive to improve in many areas.

6. No clear discipleship strategy. Few churches have a defined strategy to lead new believers toward growth and maturity. The church without a plan will wind up with stagnant, non-growing believers (often even among leaders)—and that’s mediocrity.

7. Tolerance of sin. The congregation that permits blatant sin to continue without steps toward redemptive biblical church discipline fosters a church that looks like the world. To ignore sin in the camp is to settle for less than God’s best.

8. No class for membership. Potential members should understand what membership means before they make a commitment to the congregation. Churches without a church membership class are essentially inviting members to join with no expectations. Little zeal toward the church—also known as mediocrity—is often the result.

 

via 12 Signs of Mediocrity in a Church — BCNN1 – Black Christian News Network

June 24, 2019 Morning Verse Of The Day

7:1 — Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

The promises of God are meant to lead us to purity of life. But they do not do so automatically; we have to appropriate them and access their power by choosing to use them as God intended.[1]


Ungrateful

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (7:1)

Having God’s promises provides powerful motivation for believers to separate from unbelievers. Paul’s use of the word therefore is a call for action based on what he has previously written (cf. Rom. 12:1–2; 2 Peter 1:3–8). The apostle moves beyond the commands of 2 Corinthians 6:14, 17 and appeals to God’s promises enumerated in 6:16–18. Those promises should elicit love, gratitude, and thankfulness for His overwhelming generosity. In fact, one of the things that characterizes unrepentant sinners is ingratitude (Luke 6:35; Rom. 1:21; 2 Tim. 3:2)

The endearing term beloved (cf. 2 Cor. 12:19; Rom. 1:7; 12:19; 1 Cor. 10:14; Col. 3:12; 1 Thess. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13) defines who God’s promises apply to. Only His beloved children, accepted by Him because of their union with His beloved Son (Eph. 1:6; Col. 1:13), receive God’s promises.

Paul defined the appropriate act of gratitude in both negative and positive terms. Negatively, believers must cleanse themselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit (cf. Isa. 1:16; James 1:21). The reflexive pronoun heatous (ourselves) indicates that though the cleansing work is God’s (cf. Acts 15:9; Eph. 5:26; Titus 3:5), it does not happen apart from believers’ effort (cf. Phil. 2:12–13). Molusmos (defilement) appears only here in the New Testament. In all three of its uses in the Septuagint, however, it refers to religious defilement. Paul calls believers not only to cleanse themselves from sin and immorality but especially, in this context, from all associations with false religion. That complete cleansing is to be both of flesh and spirit; that is, both inward and outward. False teaching defiles the whole person by pandering to sinful human appetites and corrupting the mind. Therefore, believers must avoid both the fleshly sins and the pollution of the mind that false religion brings.

Positively, cleansing oneself from false religion involves perfecting holiness in the fear of God. Perfecting is from epiteleō, which means, “to finish,” “to complete,” or “to fulfill.” Believers are to pursue the goal of holiness (Lev. 20:26; Matt. 5:48; 1 Peter 1:16) by separating from all the lies and deceptions that would defile them, encouraged by the hope that the goal will someday be achieved (Phil. 1:6; 1 Peter 5:10; 1 John 3:2). Motivating believers’ pursuit of holiness is the reverential fear of God, which is foundational to godly living (Job 28:28; Pss. 19:9; 34:11; 111:10; Prov. 1:7; 8:13; 9:10; 15:33; 16:6; 23:17; Acts 9:31).

The church must confront the world to fulfill the Great Commission given to us by our Lord (Matt. 28:19–20). Yet we must not compromise with false religion to do so. To disobey God’s explicit command to separate from unbelievers is foolish, blasphemous, ungrateful, and forfeits God’s blessing.[2]


1. These promises, therefore. God, it is true, anticipates us in his promises by his pure favour; but when he has, of his own accord, conferred upon us his favour, he immediately afterwards requires from us gratitude in return. Thus what he said to Abraham, I am thy God, (Gen. 17:7,) was an offer of his undeserved goodness, yet he at the same time added what he required from him—Walk before me, and be thou perfect. As, however, this second clause is not always expressed, Paul instructs us that in all the promises this condition is implied, that they must be incitements to us to promote the glory of God. For from what does he deduce an argument to stimulate us? It is from this, that God confers upon us such a distinguished honour. Such, then, is the nature of the promises, that they call us to sanctification, as if God had interposed by an implied agreement. We know, too, what the Scripture teaches in various passages in reference to the design of redemption, and the same thing must be viewed as applying to every token of his favour.

From all filthiness of flesh and spirit. Having already shown, that we are called to purity, he now adds, that it ought to be seen in the body, as well as in the soul; for that the term flesh is taken here to mean the body, and the term spirit to mean the soul, is manifest from this, that if the term spirit meant the grace of regeneration, Paul’s statement in reference to the pollution of the spirit would be absurd. He would have us, therefore, pure from defilements, not merely inward, such as have God alone as their witness; but also outward, such as fall under the observation of men. “Let us not merely have chaste consciences in the sight of God. We must also consecrate to him our whole body and all its members, that no impurity may be seen in any part of us.”

Now if we consider what is the point that he handles, we shall readily perceive, that those act with excessive impudence, who excuse outward idolatry on I know not what pretexts.2 For as inward impiety, and superstition, of whatever kind, is a defilement of the spirit, what will they understand by defilement of the flesh, but an outward profession of impiety, whether it be pretended, or uttered from the heart? They boast of a pure conscience; that, indeed, is on false grounds, but granting them what they falsely boast of, they have only the half of what Paul requires from believers. Hence they have no ground to think, that they have given satisfaction to God by that half; for let a person show any appearance of idolatry at all, or any indication of it, or take part in wicked or superstitious rites, even though he were—what he cannot be—perfectly upright in his own mind, he would, nevertheless, not be exempt from the guilt of polluting his body.

Perfecting holiness. As the verb ἐπιτελεῖν in Greek sometimes means, to perfect, and sometimes to perform sacred rites, it is elegantly made use of here by Paul in the former signification, which is the more frequent one—in such a way, however, as to allude to sanctification, of which he is now treating. For while it denotes perfection, it seems to have been intentionally transferred to sacred offices, because there ought to be nothing defective in the service of God, but everything complete. Hence, in order that you may sanctify yourself to God aright, you must dedicate both body and soul entirely to him.

In the fear of God. For if the fear of God influences us, we will not be so much disposed to indulge ourselves, nor will there be a bursting forth of that audacity of wantonness, which showed itself among the Corinthians. For how does it happen, that many delight themselves so much in outward idolatry, and haughtily defend so gross a vice, unless it be, that they think that they mock God with impunity? If the fear of God had dominion over them, they would immediately, on the first moment, leave off all cavils, without requiring to be constrained to it by any disputations.[3]


7:1 In his chain of OT quotations Paul has stressed the privilege of being a dwelling place of God (v. 16) and the benefits of compliance with the divine will (vv. 17d–18). So he continues, “Since we have these [tautas stands at the beginning of the Greek sentence for emphasis] promises …”—promises (vv. 16, 17d–18), not commands (v. 17a–c). As recipients of such promises of fellowship with God, all Christians (“let us,” as in NIV; not “you must”) are to avoid every source of possible defilement in any aspect of their lives. “Body and spirit” here denotes Christians in their total personality, outwardly and inwardly, in their relations with other people and with God (cf. 1 Co 7:34).

Paul is probably implying that the Corinthians had become defiled, perhaps by occasionally sharing meals at idol shrines or by continuing to attend festivals or ceremonies in pagan temples (cf. 1 Co 8:10; 10:14–22), or even by maintaining their membership in some local pagan cult. If they made a clean break (cf. katharisōmen [GK 2751], aorist) from “the cultic life of the city” (P. Barnett), from pagan life in any and every form, they would be bringing their holiness nearer to completion by this proof of their reverence for God. The Christian life involves separation (6:17), familial fellowship (6:18), and sanctification (7:1).[4]


An Encouragement to Purity and Holiness (7:1)

1 Paul now concludes the exhortation begun at v. 14. He here addresses his readers by the affectionate term “beloved,” rather than by more direct words, as in vv. 14a, 17a, b. Moreover, he adopts a cohortative form of address (“let us …”), consistent perhaps with his earlier identification with them (“we are the temple of the living God”—v. 16). Though absent from them, he identifies himself as though present by his use of the reflexive “ourselves” (“let us purify ourselves …”). This exhortation should be taken with the warmly pastoral appeals made earlier (5:20; 6:1, 11–14). Indeed, the whole parenesis 6:14–7:1 is the end point and climax of the appeal he began at 5:20.

The opening connective “therefore” refers specifically to “having these promises,” that is, to the promises in this passage (vv. 16, 17, and 18). Paul’s exhortation to cultic separation is based on the gracious actions of God arising from his promises now fulfilled (“having these promises”), a principle that applies when Paul presses the demands of Christian living on his readers (see, e.g., Rom 12:1). Imperative rests on indicative, “ought” upon “is.” The doctrine of grace is not abandoned or compromised.

What follows is a single exhortation (“let us purify ourselves …”), followed by the attendant consequence (“perfecting holiness …”). Specifically, Paul exhorts “let us purify [or “cleanse”] ourselves …,” language that specifically picks up “touch no unclean thing” a few verses earlier (v. 17). This is the vocabulary of ritual and is entirely consistent with the thesis we are following, namely, that Paul is here calling on his readers to separate themselves from the temple cults of Corinth. This is confirmed by his words “from everything that contaminates …” Although the noun (“stain, defilement”69) occurs nowhere else in the NT, the verb is to be found in the passage in the First Letter where Paul speaks of the defilement of conscience through a believer’s eating in an idol temple (1 Cor 8:7; cf. v. 10). The combination of “cleanse” and “defilement” appears to clinch the case that this whole passage is directed to the Corinthians’ involvement in the various Greco-Roman and mystery cults of the region. That the totality of one’s being must be preserved undefiled is indicated by Paul’s “of body and spirit”; no part physical or emotional is exempt from Paul’s call for cleansing.

The consequence of that “cleansing” is now stated, namely, “perfecting holiness.” Although the noun “holiness” is rare (1 Thess 3:13; Rom 1:4), the members of the word family are often found within Paul’s writings, including 2 Corinthians. A church is the incorporation of Spirit-indwelt individuals and is itself “the temple of the living God,” as Paul has just observed (see on v. 16a; cf. 1 Cor 12:12–13; 3:16; 6:19). According to his definition in the First Letter, “a church of God” is a body “sanctified in Christ Jesus,” whose members are “called to be saints.” By God’s grace the church enjoys this holy status in the eyes of God who is holy, a status, however, that it is to fulfill in obedience to the will of God (see 1 Thess 4:3). This it cannot do, however, since its members are “unclean” through their participation in the wickedness of idolatry through which they are in fellowship with Belial (vv. 14–16a).

The verb “perfect,” meaning “complete” or “fulfill,” is a present participle that, however, probably does not imply a process of perfection in moral holiness. The holiness that is to be perfected is covenantal rather than developmental or processive in character.76 On the contrary, the action of separation from the idol-worshiping cults (v. 17), which is tantamount to the act of self-cleansing from defilement (v. 1a), should be seen as a prerequisite to the perfection of the church’s calling to be God’s holy temple (v. 16); without this separation the Corinthians cannot be what they are called to be. To infer a theology of moral and spiritual development at this point, although taught elsewhere (see on 3:18), would be to import a theme that is foreign to the present context.

Let the Corinthians respond to Paul’s admonition, literally, “in fear of God.” While his exhortation to them to withdraw from cultic involvement arises from the gracious “promises” of God, let them understand that not to do so would be to invoke the profound displeasure of God their Father, whose temple and people they are (vv. 16–18; cf. 1 Cor 10:22).

Paul has now reached the climax of his excursus on apostolic ministry, calling the Corinthians out of cultic uncleanness. That call is based on God’s appointment to the ministry of reconciliation (5:18–6:2), undergirded by the moral authority of a life lived out in replication of the death and resurrection of Jesus (6:3–10), and, finally, expressed as a direct appeal to the Corinthians to widen their hearts to their “father” in the gospel (6:11–13).

But is this of merely historical interest, with no application beyond those times? The view taken here is that Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, continues to have authority in the consciences of Christians and churches through his letters, which are now part of the church’s canon of Scripture.

How, then, might these words apply? Insofar as Christians live in interface with modern counterparts to the cults of Corinth, which through multiculturalism are also increasing in traditionally “Christian” countries, his admonition has immediate applicability. But there are also implications for cases, for example, in which through entering a marriage or a business partnership a Christian would be brought into overly close association with those who engage in the cultic practices of other religions. Moreover, Christian involvement in non-Christian religious services would appear to be in conflict with the apostle’s teaching in this passage. However, Paul is careful not to encourage wholesale separation from human affairs (cf. 1 Cor 5:9–10), which would involve, for example, situations of employment, neighborhood location, buying, and selling. Nor does he encourage a Christian to withdraw from an existing marriage with a non-Christian (1 Cor 7:12–15).

There is no exegetical basis here for separation from fellow Christians who, in our opinion, may have deviated from biblical norms, though such a basis may be found elsewhere.79 The “unbelievers” in these verses are not Christians but outright pagans.[5]


7:1 / Paul concludes 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1 with a final exhortation to the Corinthians that reiterates the paraenesis in 6:14, 17 and thus closes the ring. In the Greek text, this verse begins with the word “therefore” (Since, oun), which underscores that Paul is drawing an inference from his preceding scriptural argument. Based on the promises quoted in the citation combination of 6:16 and 18, Paul concludes that the Corinthians should, once again, separate themselves from pernicious influences. This is what the apostle means by perfecting holiness, for holiness or “sanctification” denotes “separation.”

The Israelites were originally charged to maintain a holiness through obedience to the law. This obligation is the result of Yahweh’s separating them from other nations, redeeming them from Egypt, and entering into a covenantal relationship with them. As their God, he enjoins them to be holy as he is holy (cf. Lev. 11:44–45; 19:2; 20:7–8, 24–26; 22:32–33; Num. 15:40–41; cf. Exod. 31:13; Ezek. 20:12). Paul merely carries over this conception and applies it to the community that has experienced a second-exodus redemption through Christ.

Hence, when 2 Corinthians 7:1 exhorts the Corinthians to cleanse themselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, we must not think that this is foreign to Paul’s thinking. Although it is true that Paul does not elsewhere use the term “defilement” (molysmos), 1 Corinthians 7:34 does speak of being “holy both in body and in spirit,” and 1 Corinthians 8:7 uses the cognate verb (molynein) metaphorically of defiling the conscience. Furthermore, the purity language of our passage could have been suggested by the image of the church as the “temple of God” (2 Cor. 6:16), which is definitely a Pauline concept (cf. 1 Cor. 3:16).[6]


1. cleanse ourselves—This is the conclusion of the exhortation (2 Co 6:1, 14; 1 Jn 3:3; Rev 22:11).

filthiness—“the unclean thing” (2 Co 6:17).

of the flesh—for instance, fornication, prevalent at Corinth (1 Co 6:15–18).

and spirit—for instance, idolatry, direct or indirect (1 Co 6:9). The spirit (Ps 32:2) receives pollution through the flesh, the instrument of uncleanness.

perfecting holiness—The cleansing away impurity is a positive step towards holiness (2 Co 6:17). It is not enough to begin; the end crowns the work (Ga 3:3; 5:7; Php 1:6).

fear of God—often conjoined with the consideration of the most glorious promises (2 Co 5:11; Heb 4:1). Privilege and promise go hand in hand.[7]


Ver. 1.—Having then these promises. The promises of God’s indwelling and fatherly love (ch. 6:16–18). Dearly beloved. Perhaps the word is added to soften the sternness of the preceding admonition. Let us cleanse ourselves. Every Christian, even the best, has need of daily cleansing from his daily assoilment (John 13:10), and this cleansing depends on the purifying activity of moral effort maintained by the help of God’s grace. Similarly St. John (1 John 3:1–3), after speaking of God’s fatherhood and the hopes which it inspires, adds, “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as he is pure” (comp. Jas. 4:8). From all filthiness; rather, from all defilement. Sin leaves on the soul the moral stain of guilt, which was typified by the ceremonial defilements of the Levitical Law (comp. Ezek. 36:25, 26). The word used for “filth” in 1 Pet. 3:21 is different. Of the flesh and spirit. From everything which outwardly pollutes the body and inwardly the soul; the two being closely connected together, so that what defiles the flesh inevitably also defiles the soul, and what defiles the spirit degrades also the body. Uncleanness, for instance, a sin of the flesh, is almost invariably connected with pride and hate and cruelty, which degrade the soul. Perfecting holiness. This is the goal and aim of the Christian, though in this life it cannot be finally attained (Phil. 3:12). In the fear of God. There is, indeed, one kind of fear, a base and servile fear, which is cast out by perfect love; but the fear of reverential awe always remains in the true and wisely instructed Christian, who will never be guilty of the profane familiarity adopted by some ignorant sectarians, or speak of God “as though he were some one in the next street” (Heb. 12:28; 1 Pet. 3:15).[8]


7:1 ταύτας οὖν ἔχοντες τὰς ἐπαγγελίας, ἀγαπητοί, “since then, beloved, we have these promises.” οὖν, “since then” (or “therefore”), provides a conclusion to Paul’s elaboration on τὰς ἐπαγγελίας, “promises” (cf. the intent of 6:16b, 17b, 18). In Rom 15:8 the promises are messianic, as elsewhere in Paul; but here they have an ecclesiological slant. The use of ταύτας, “these,” standing first as emphatic, clarifies any uncertainty regarding which promises Paul has in mind. Those assurances just mentioned are within the reach of the Corinthians. What God has done is apparent to Paul and, it is hoped, will be so to the Corinthians. The promises are the “indicative” on which the following paraenesis is built. “The thought here follows the movement of indicative [leading to] imperative.”1280 God has fulfilled his promises and will continue to do so if the “imperatives” are carried out. He will walk among his people, but if the Corinthians are to have God dwell among them, then this dwelling must be purified. Hence, Paul exhorts the Corinthians to strive for holy living by basing his call on divine promises.1282

That Paul is ultimately concerned for the Corinthians’ welfare is seen in his calling them ἀγαπητοί, “beloved.” This is not an idle usage by Paul. Although the apostle is using a familiar form of address (BAGD), he is not liberal in its use in his letter-writing habits (only once more in this letter, in 12:19; twice in 1 Cor 10:14; 15:58, twice in Phil 2:12; 4:1, and finally, once in Rom 12:19). Paul was not ashamed to be counted in association with the Corinthians, as will be seen also in our discussion of καθαρίσωμεν, “let us cleanse” (see below). Despite his ill treatment the apostle once again “opens” his heart to them by identifying with them. Whether 6:14–7:1 is from the “previous letter” or, more probably, is in its rightful place in 2 Corinthians, the use of a term of endearment is a pointer to Paul as the author (or redactor) of this piece. Would an interpolator or redactor be so careful as to include the note of “tenderest affection”? It is doubtful that someone quite removed from the original setting would have taken such care and initiative to include ἀγαπητοί, “beloved,” unless he was striving (artificially) for verisimilitude. But according to our theory of the function of 6:14–7:1, the personal appeal is exactly in order. It picks up the call to reconciliation in 5:20.

καθαρίσωμεν ἑαυτοὺς ἀπὸ παντὸς μολυσμοῦ σαρκὸς καὶ πνεύματος, “let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of flesh and spirit.” Paul continues in his desire to be counted on the side of the Corinthians so that he can call them over to his side. After addressing them as “beloved,” he strengthens this bond by using the hortatory subjunctive mood, καθαρίσωμεν, “let us cleanse.” If Paul had not wanted to draw close to the Corinthians, he could have couched the following demand in terms of “you must do.” Rather, he exhorts both the church and himself. In short, “he reaffirms his loving oneness with them.”

The use of καθαρίζω, “cleanse,” reminds us of cultic language.1286 Anything that stands in the way of becoming like God the Father is to be removed. This has been the thrust of 6:14–18. The promise of God’s approval and fellowship is based on the Christian’s desire and effort to be cleansed. It is doubtful if holiness is the goal of this purification process, as Betz interprets. In one sense the Corinthians are holy, for they have received the grace of God. However, Paul desires that they revert to the standard that they were first called to follow (6:1–2). As we observed, Betz appears to overlook the tension in Paul’s joining together of the “indicative” and the “imperative.” By doing so he fails to see that Paul could hold the position he does. The goal of purification is not to strive for holiness1289 but to demonstrate that holiness is the result of salvation. The reflexive verb simply implies a personal stake in the process.

The object of cleansing is to remove every “defilement” (μολυσμός). This is the last hapax legomenon of the passage (though we find its cognate verb in 1 Cor 8:7). The idea of defilement is connected with idolatry (1 Esdr 8:80; 2 Macc 5:27; cf. Jer 23:15 lxx), a point drawn from the previous verses. Paul, in logical fashion, exhorts his readers to purify or cleanse themselves. To accomplish this, the objects or reasons for defilement must be removed.

Paul includes the whole spectrum of possibilities of defilement when he writes “let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of flesh and spirit [σαρκὸς καὶ πνεύματος].” This inclusion of “flesh and spirit” has sparked no small disagreement over the integrity of these words. Gnilka calls this reference “the absolutely untheological use of ‘flesh’ and ‘spirit’ ” (“2 Cor 6:14–7:1,” 58). The point of contention is that this usage does not appear to be “normal” Pauline anthropology, which employs the terms as two powers, not two parts of the human person, as here. For one, Paul usually has in mind the “intrinsically evil” side of humanity when he uses σάρξ, “flesh.” Characteristically, Paul would say that “flesh” is incapable of being cleansed of sin. Likewise, Paul would normally consider πνεῦμα, “spirit,” as “intrinsically good,” not in need of cleansing. Thus, some would maintain that Paul could not have possibly written in this way.

The purification of flesh and spirit also smacks of a Qumranic theology. We read in 1QS III, 8: “By subjecting his soul to all the commandments of God he purifies his flesh.” Gnilka (“2 Cor 6:14–7:1,” 59) interprets this purification and sanctification as a result of the effort of the individual. This dissection of man into flesh and spirit is well attested at Qumran (1QH XIII, 13–14; XV, 21–22; XVII, 25). Once again we have the evidence that the sons of light, who wish to take part in the holy war, must be “perfect in spirit and flesh” (1QM VII, 5). Thus Fitzmyer concludes that 2 Cor 7:1 strongly resembles Essene thought.

But it may be asked if this is necessarily cogent enough to eliminate the possibility that Paul could have penned these words (“defilement of flesh and spirit”). Barrett, for one, does not rule out the possibility that Paul could have used the collocation in a nontheological manner. He could have been using popular language to designate the makeup of a person, both material and immaterial. In Col 2:5 the text speaks of the writer being “absent in the flesh” (τῇ σαρκὶ ἄπειμι) but “present in the spirit” (τῷ πνεύματι … εἰμί). Also, in 2 Cor 7:5 we read that “the flesh” of Paul had no rest, as we compare that with 2:13, where his “spirit” had no peace.

Thus, it is possible that Paul could use σάρξ, “flesh,” and πνεῦμα, “spirit,” in a nontechnical sense. But Jewett has maintained that in 7:1 the text stands in the Jewish apocalyptic tradition, so that “spirit” is none other than God’s spirit given to man. This meaning would be close to Paul in 1 Cor 3:6, 6:17–19. Moreover, as we saw, “flesh” and “spirit” follow each other in 2 Cor 2:13 and 7:5 but in reverse order.

Further light is shed by 1 Cor 7:34, where Paul comments: “Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body [σῶμα] and spirit [πνεῦμα]” (cf. 1 Cor 5:3, 5). This appears to be a concern for the outward and inward man,1300 without being a reproduction of gnostic thought.

These examples are sufficient to show that the expression “defilement of flesh and spirit” does not have to be non-Pauline, however unusual it may be. Paul could have used the combination of flesh and spirit to depict the total picture of human nature of which the “intercommunion of the parts is so close, that when either is soiled the whole is soiled.” He could have taken this from other sources than Qumran. We find such a combination in T. Jud. 13.4 and Isa 31:3 (בשׂר, bāšār, “flesh,” and רוח, rŭaḥ, “spirit”). Thus, even though this was not Paul’s normal mode of expression in v 1, the evidence suggests a loose usage.

ἐπιτελοῦντες ἁγιωσύνην ἐν φόβῳ θεοῦ, “perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” The result of the act of catharsis will be an ἐπιτελοῦντες ἁγιωσύνην, “perfecting in holiness.” The present participle ἐπιτελοῦντες, “perfecting” (from ἐπιτελέω, “bring about sanctification”; BAGD), suggests an advancement in holiness.1304 Paul appears to some readers to be promoting the idea that the Corinthians are to obtain holiness by way of the observance of cultic ordinances. But to take this position suggests that what is being advocated is instant holiness in this life. This is inconsistent with Paul in other places.1306 Rather, the idea of advancing in holiness depicts a repeated act of self-consecration, a constant drive to live as God’s people. There is a goal to be reached when believers are said to bring holiness to completion. To rest content and self-satisfied with an unholy life is to receive the grace of God in vain (2 Cor 6:1–2). Paul struggled (Phil 3:12–16) with the paradox of two kinds of perfection, and in his view, in this context, the Corinthians were set aside (considered holy) for God had called them (2 Cor 1:1); yet they needed to act out their status-in-Christ. This is precisely the paradox of reconciliation, of which we spoke earlier.

The living of the holy life is done ἐν φόβῳ θεοῦ, “in fear of God.” We saw earlier that Paul’s ministry, especially with the Corinthians in mind, was motivated by this reverence (5:11), and both there and here we trace a polemical thrust in his appeal to God to vindicate the teaching. The way a person acts, even after conversion, affects the person’s standing before God (5:10; a testing not—for Paul—in terms of salvation, but in terms of reward). The motive of “right” living remains a part of the apostle’s teaching, and not least when his credibility as an apostle is at stake.

The “fear of God” is a principle of life found in Jewish wisdom literature (Pss 2:11; 5:7; Prov 1:7, 29, 8:13; Eccl 12:13; Sir 1:11–30). It is not clear whether the ἐν, “in,” suggests the sphere in which the perfecting of holiness takes place or the means by which it is accomplished. Probably it is the former, in light of our discussion in 2 Cor 5:11. But the ethical demand is not lost. Christians must fulfill both the negative (cleanse their flesh and spirit) and the positive (complete their holiness) duty. Above all, Pauline believers are summoned to make good their profession by heeding Paul’s apostolic entreaty and “becoming what they are.”

Explanation

If we lay all the critical problems aside, the meaning of this passage is reasonably clear. Those who profess to have accepted God’s grace must not deceive themselves. Rather, through living in a way that is holy (set aside for God’s service), they must seek to be separate (in the twofold sense of “holy,” both negative and positive; see Comment on 1:1). Yet to be effective witnesses, believers must be seen and accessible. That is, they discharge their calling to the world only if they are in the world.

Paul’s exhortation to be separate stops short of exhorting them to become recluses. What Paul apparently had in mind was the breaking of “spiritual ties” with the Gentile world. Until that was accomplished, God’s promises remained stifled. In that event, the Corinthians could not enjoy the full measure of the “sanctified” life, nor practice the quality of life that will receive reward (1 Cor 3:10–15; 2 Cor 5:10). The tie with the world had to be broken so that the temple of God would be pure. An important result of this failure to cleanse themselves was that the true ambassador for God was likewise shut out of the Corinthians’ lives, and they had ranged themselves on the side of the unbelieving world that needs to be “reconciled”—as they did insofar that they were opposing Paul’s gospel.

While this short section has obvious elements of Christian counsel for the believers’ attitudes to the world and society, and its direct application is to contrast Christian and pagan morality, thereby setting out “the ideal of the Christian life,” its primary point should not be lost. Coming between two impassioned appeals to the Corinthian congregation to be reconciled to Paul (6:11–13; 7:2–3), the pericope warns the readers of their danger and cautions them not to remain alienated from the Pauline gospel. Using idioms that betray a preformed piece of teaching on the sacral nature of Christian living (temple, idols, separation, cleansing, holiness) and within a quasi-dualistic frame (God vs. idols; Christ vs. Satan; unbelievers vs. God’s people), Paul enforces a single point: the call to reconciliation involves a whole-hearted commitment and pledge of loyalty to him and to his proclamation as the “divine apostle.” The tone is strident and severe, but evidently such was needed. Paul now moves deftly into a short resumption (7:2–3) to moderate what he may have regarded as too impersonal and rigorous.

At the heart of these verses, which run from 5:11 to 7:3, stands indeed one central theme with three variations. The overarching consideration is to lay a basis for reconciliation with the Corinthian church, and the three elements are (1) the suffering apostolate, (2) the partnership of apostle and people, and (3) a celebration of God’s work of grace in human lives.[9]


7:1. Having, therefore, these promises, my dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of flesh and spirit, and perfect [our] holiness in the fear of God.

  • “… Therefore, … my dear friends.” The content of this verse matches that of the entire preceding passage (vv. 14–18) and is its fitting conclusion, as is evident from the term therefore. The verse relates well to verses 11 through 13, where Paul speaks of his love for the Corinthians and is asking for their love in return. For this reason he addresses his readers with the endearing term my dear children, which in older translations is given as “beloved,” meaning they are loved by him (see 12:19).
  • “Having … these promises.” Paul states that he and his readers are the recipients of God’s promises (compare 2 Peter 1:4). In the Greek text, he emphasizes these promises by placing the word these first in the sentence. That is, the assurances that he has mentioned in the previous verses are from God. And God’s word is absolutely sure and true. He will perform what he has promised.
  • “Let us cleanse ourselves.” If the promises are real, and they are, then it stands to reason that their recipients strive to please the Giver of these promises as much as possible. Consequently, Paul issues an exhortation in which he includes himself and his colleagues to show that they are not above the readers: “Let us cleanse ourselves.” These words are Paul’s free admission of having been contaminated by the surrounding environment of sin.

The exhortation means not that one cleansing keeps us clean forever, but that we constantly must purify ourselves. The Reformers spoke of daily repentance as a way of making progress in our sanctification. Elsewhere Paul writes that the Corinthians were washed, sanctified, and justified (1 Cor. 6:11), but the process of sanctification is continuous because human nature is prone to sin.

Jewish people who were ceremonially unclean had to wash themselves every time they touched something that was impure, and no priest or Levite was permitted to enter the tabernacle or temple unless he washed himself (Exod. 30:20–21). The same principle is true for God’s people when they enter his sacred presence: they must purify themselves by confessing their sins. Paul admits that he is no better than the Corinthians; he also needs to cleanse himself and be pure (compare 1 Thess. 4:7; 1 John 3:3).

  • “From every defilement of flesh and spirit.” Paul wishes to include the entire range of defilement and thus writes the adjective every. Although the noun defilement occurs only here in the New Testament, the verb to defile appears three times (1 Cor. 8:7; Rev. 3:4; 14:4). Paul stresses that pollution affects both flesh and spirit, that is, the entire person. If defilement refers to idol worship, then worshipers at pagan temples risked being unclean in body and spirit, for some rites involved cult prostitutes. “The one who cleaves to a prostitute is one body with her” (1 Cor. 6:16).

What does this have to do with the church in Corinth? Much, because Paul wrote earlier in this segment, “What agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God” (6:16). The Corinthian believers are God’s temple; God dwells with them and makes his presence real by walking among them. Thus, the word choice in verse 1 (let us cleanse ourselves, defilement, holiness) “derives directly from the temple imagery.” God is a jealous God who tolerates no other gods before him (Exod. 20:3–5; Deut. 5:7–9). Paul’s reference to flesh and spirit must be interpreted to signify a complete person in God’s service (see the parallel in 1 Cor. 7:34). The words convey the meaning that a person who is cleansed outwardly with respect to flesh and inwardly in regard to spirit walks with God.

  • “And perfect [our] holiness in the fear of God.” This clause echoes Paul’s exhortation, “Let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement.” He uses the Greek present participle epitelountes (perfecting) as an exhortation to his readers: “Let us strive for perfect holiness.” Paul described the Corinthian believers as “sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:2; compare 1 Thess. 3:13) and indicates that God made them holy through the work of his Son. But sanctification remains a continuous process in which believers must assiduously apply themselves to fostering complete holiness. Paul even delineates how this must be done: “in the fear of God.” Fear and reverence for God provide the motivation for perfecting one’s holiness. In the presence of God the Father, his children should live on this earth as aliens “in reverent fear” (1 Peter 1:17). Our relationship to God should be one of genuine respect and profound reverence. As the Father is holy, so we as his children should reflect his holiness in our lives.[10]

[1] Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (2 Co 7:1). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2003). 2 Corinthians (pp. 257–258). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] Calvin, J., & Pringle, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Vol. 2, pp. 263–265). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[4] Harris, M. J. (2008). 2 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 489). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[5] Barnett, P. (1997). The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (pp. 355–358). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[6] Scott, J. M. (2011). 2 Corinthians (pp. 157–158). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[7] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 311). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[8] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). 2 Corinthians (p. 169). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[9] Martin, R. P. (2014). 2 Corinthians. (R. P. Martin, L. A. Losie, & P. H. Davids, Eds.) (Second Edition, Vol. 40, pp. 372–377). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[10] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Vol. 19, pp. 233–235). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

Human trafficking in America is among the worst in the world

(Fox News) The United States is again ranked as one of the worst countries in the world for human trafficking. According to a recently released report by the State Department, the top three nations of origin for victims of human trafficking in 2018 were the United States, Mexico and the Philippines.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered the Trafficking in Persons report, which is created annually by the State Department to document human trafficking in the year prior, and highlighted the growing focus that government agencies and nonprofit organizations have dedicated to stopping human trafficking. (Read More…)

— Read on themostimportantnews.com/archives/human-trafficking-in-america-among-worst-in-world

June 24 For the love of God (Vol. 2)

Deuteronomy 29; Psalm 119:49–72; Isaiah 56; Matthew 4

 

the last section of isaiah (chaps. 56–66) focuses primarily on the period after the return of the first exiles from Babylon. This, too, was an enormously troubled period, as other Scriptures attest (especially Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, and Zechariah). But some of Isaiah’s vision extends beyond the early years of return to the ultimate hope—the new heaven and the new earth (e.g., 65:17). In some ways the situation of the people described in these chapters mirrors our own: we live between the “already” and the “not yet,” between the glory of what God has already accomplished and what God has not yet done but has promised to do.

The opening verses (Isa. 56:1–8) emphasize two themes:

First, the Lord says that those who wait for his salvation, which is “close at hand” (56:1), must “[m]aintain justice and do what is right” (56:1). The reason, he says, is that his “righteousness will soon by revealed.” In other words, one of the fundamental motives for the righteous behavior of believers is that it anticipates the consummated righteousness that is still to come. Unlike so many of our contemporaries, who live for the day with little serious thought devoted to the future, we are committed to living in a way that anticipates the future. That is part of what it means to “[keep] the Sabbath without desecrating it” (56:2). Isaiah’s readers will not then simply be keeping a rule, however divinely authorized, but will be demonstrating two further things: (a) their allegiance to the Mosaic covenant (and therefore to the God of the covenant), and (b) their living out of patterns of rest that are simultaneously tied to God’s rest (Gen. 2; Ex. 20) and to the rest to come (cf. Heb. 3:7–4:11).

Second, the Lord promises that the blessings to come are open to people whom many have systematically excluded. After all, there were passages in the Law of Moses that excluded the emasculated and the foreigner (especially Moabites and Ammonites), e.g., Deuteronomy 23:1–6 (and cf. Lev. 22:24–25, and the parallel with animals). Still, it is hard to believe that these laws were meant in every case to exclude genuine converts, or the accounts of Rahab and Ruth (the latter a Moabite) would make little sense (Josh. 6:24–25; Ruth 1–4). On the one hand, the community cleansed by the suffering Servant is to touch no unclean thing and come out from “Babylon” and be pure (52:11); on the other, the Lord here insists that the eunuchs and foreigners are to be admitted (56:3–8). The difference, of course, is conversion, in which God gives them “an everlasting name” (56:5), such that they hold fast to his covenant (56:4).[1]


[1] Carson, D. A. (1998). For the love of God: a daily companion for discovering the riches of God’s Word. (Vol. 2, p. 25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

JPMorgan: There Is Now Just One Scenario That Is Positive For Stocks | Zero Hedge

“If the Fed is truly committed to preemptive rate cuts in order to provide insurance why did it not cut its policy rate this week?”

Amid record high asset prices in virtually everything following last week’s dovish FOMC, a fresh concern has emerged: the gaping “alligator jaws” between bond yields and stocks have never been wider, with the latest thrust coming first after Powell’s early June admission that an easing cycle is imminent, following by last week’s even more dovish FOMC announcement, which confirmed that a July rate cut is in the books, and sent stocks to new all time highs, while bond yields tumbled below 2%, the lowest in three years.

The problem boils down to one simple observation: on one hand stocks are telegraphing substantial market upside and, at least in theory, a booming economy, while bond yields – at 3 year lows – are screaming recession.

Some Wall Street strategists, such as Deutsche Bank’s Aleksandar Kocic took on a traditionally whimsical approach to the problem and explained it in the context of Schrödinger paradox… or in his case plates:

In the same way as Schrödinger plates, the economy at the moment is in a superposition of two states – it is both booming and it is headed for a recession. The two states of the economy are entangled. However, we cannot know which state we are in without interfering with it.

And visually:

The extended metaphor – which we discussed extensively yesterday – culminated with the following dilemma:

If the Fed does not cut rates (we open the door), the recession is likely.

If the Fed cuts rates, however (we do not open the door), the recession is averted, but we wouldn’t know if the cuts were needed.

His conclusion: “in either case, Fed actions interfere with the state of the economy and affect the outcome, and in both cases we face the consequences.” What is more troubling is that we have reached a point where the consequences of the Fed’s actions are dire in either case, resulting in either recession or loss of Fed credibility and independence:

In the case of unresponsive Fed it is a recession, while in the case of an accommodative Fed it is the loss of central bank independence and potentially another round of trade wars and even more pressure on the Fed to cut rates with further markets addiction to stimulus and possibly higher inflation etc.

In not so many words, that is the ultimate Catch 22 that the Fed has created: the market and economy are only viable as long as the Fed is backstopping them; once the support goes away, the wave function – to extend the flawed analogy – of the economy and market collapses, and the true state of both is exposed (at the cost of trillion in risk asset losses).

Others have observed the ongoing divergence between risk assets and yields at a more simplistic level, and as Bloomberg observes, the moves have extended the “dueling bull market” theme in which Treasury traders fret about dimming growth while everyone else celebrates an accommodative Fed. Each camp expects it to end badly for the other.

“A race of this pace in both stocks and fixed income is unsustainable,” said Marshall Front, the chief investment officer at Front Barnett Associates. “People who were long bonds are going to have a problem. We’re not going to have a recession or a dip in economic activity that’s going to take us off course, and rates are going to go back up.”

Others are similarly perplexed:

“There’s been a lot of press suggesting that the bond and stock markets are conveying different messages to investors,” said Mark Heppenstall, chief investment officer of Penn Mutual Asset Management. “But to me where we stand in interest rates today, where we stand in persistent low inflation today means that whatever investors are willing to pay for earnings should be higher based on the fact that interest rates are lower.”

To be sure, the recent movement in asset classes has been a gift to those portfolios which are long both sets of assets, modeled on the classic 60/40 stock-bond allocation, and which in Q1 of 2019 enjoyed the best period for the strategy in nearly a decade, and now it looks as though those gains are set to grow come the end of the second.

Meanwhile, as Bloomberg notes, “for the naturally skeptical, it’s hard to watch everything go up at once without conjuring visions of bubbles doomed to pop.” Of course, everything is only going up because the Fed is doing, or at least saying (for now) whatever the market wants to hear, in the process making this decoupling even greater.

* * *

There is another key observation: maybe the surge in both bonds and stocks is not an ill omen, but perfectly self-explanatory. This is the argument made in a Friday note from JPM’s Nikolaos Panagirtzoglou, in which the derivatives strategist writes that while this year’s co-movement of bonds and equities seems rather unusual, “it is actually more common than typically thought. In fact a co-movement between equities and bonds has been in place as a broad trend for most of the past few years. This is shown in Figure 1 which depicts the MSCI AC World index along with the Bloomberg Global Agg total return index currency unhedged. The two indices have been trending up sometimes in tandem over the past six years. More importantly, any significant deviations between the two were not sustained for more than a few months.”

But what explains this “unnatural” co-movement, which – all else equal – telegraph a future beset with both inflation and deflation? In JPM’s opinion the prevalence of fixed-weight allocation frameworks among investors, such as 60:40 risk-parity and balanced funds, retail investors, pension funds and SWFs (e.g. the Norges Bank), “are responsible to a significant extent for this co-movement between equities and bonds.”

Here are the mechanics, as explained by Panigirtzoglou: When the bond market expands because of a strong bond rally  like this year, these fixed weight allocation investors find themselves overweight bonds and underweight equities and thus need to buy equities to rebalance their portfolios in line with their rebalancing thresholds. Via this rebalancing these fixed weight investors push equity prices up and thus a bond rally ends up inducing an equity rally. And the intensification of this year’s bond rally in May and June has put even more pressure on such investors to rebalance away from bonds or deploy available funds into equities.”

This, to an extent, is a paraphrase of the “Fed model” which suggests that the lower rates drop, the higher equities rise as investors are forced into riskier assets to make up for the lack of yield in risk-free securities.

One way to quantify the divergence practically is to look at the allocation to bonds and stocks across the world’s investors. To do this, JPMorgan excludes banks – entities that typically invest in bonds rather than equities – and focuses on the universe of non-bank entities, finding the the amount of bonds held by this group of investors is around $32trillion and unchanged from the end of 2016. This compares to $54tr of cash and $67tr of equities based on DataStream’s global equity index universe. More importantly, on a percentage basis, non-bank investors, which invest in both bonds and equities globally, have an allocation to bonds of 21.1% currently (Figure 2). This 21.1% bond allocation
is just above the post Lehman historical average and well above the 19% low seen in September last year.

This is an important difference to last year. This year’s bond rally which gathered pace in recent weeks has unwound entirely the large bond underweight that had emerged in September last year.

Meanwhile, over on the equity side, the mirror image of this unwinding of the previous bond underweight is that the current equity overweight is significantly smaller from that seen in September last year, which at 45.5% represented a post Lehman high at the time. 

So, according to JPMorgan, despite global equity prices being close to the highs of last September, investors are not as OW in equities as they were last September simply because bond markets rallied strongly this year making them less UW in bonds, or to put it another way:

“this year’s bond rally has been boosting equities by creating more room for investors to increase their equity allocations. This is shown in Figure 3 which shows that investors globally have an allocation to equities of 43.6% currently, which is somewhere in between the post Lehman high of 45.5% seen last September and the recent low of 41.8% seen last December. This 43.6% represents an OW equity allocation as it is above both the 40% post Lehman average and the 43% longer-term historical average.”

But to all those who say that it is only a matter of time before stocks see the prior, post-Lehman highs, JPM says “not so fast”, because while allocations could theoretically approach their previous cyclical extremes, there are two reasons why previous levels are less likely to be achieved.

  1. The first is that already over the previous two cycles, the cyclical peak in equity allocations had already been declining, and the cyclical trough in bond allocations rising, likely reflecting structural and demographic changes over time. Given the structural changes in markets and economies in the post-Lehman environment, this suggests that post-Lehman period comparisons are more relevant.
  2. The second is that G4 central banks may have to shift to even more aggressive QE programs going forward than those seen over the past decade, in order to induce the non-bank private sector to shed even more bonds from here.

So with that in mind, and by looking at Figure 3, one simple way of thinking about the upside for equities from here according to Panigirtzoglou is “to calculate the rise in equity prices needed for investors to become as OW in equities as they were last September.” According to JPM’s calculations global equities would need to rise by 7.8% from here ceteris paribus to make investors as OW in equities as last September. In other words, assuming no further upside for bonds from here, any upside for equities should be limited to high single digits.

There are some more reasons why this this potential single-digit equity upside is facing several challenges.

  1. The first one is the extreme cash UW that has emerged this year as a result of the simultaneously strong rally in bonds and equities. Indeed, this is shown in the next chart below, which shows an implied cash allocation by investors globally of 34.3%, the lowest in the post Lehman period and the lowest since 2007. 
  2. The second challenge is the extremity of this year’s bond rally. It is true that, given the prospect of central banks cutting rates from here, the extremity of this year’s cash underweight and the extremity of this year’s bond rally are perhaps justified.

But what if rate markets got ahead of themselves? What if the gloom scenario postulated by Kocic does not materialize, and “central banks fail to validate market expectations over the coming months?” – this would be the scenario which the Deutsche Bank strategist yesterday wrote would lead to a recession (as the wave function of the “plates” collapses… and so do they).

In a nutshell, to the top JPMorgan strategist, “this is a major risk for equity markets going forward: if central banks fail to validate over the coming months market expectations of universal rate cuts, equities could be hit not only by a potential selloff in bonds that would mechanically make investors more OW in equities, but also by a potential increase in cash allocations as investors cover their currently extreme cash UW.”

To JPMorgan, this potential for market disappointment emerging from the Fed as framed by this discussion (and yesterday, by Deutsche Bank), shows the challenge equity markets are facing going forward.

Said otherwise, as hinted by James Bullard’s letter explaining why he objected to the Fed’s latest decision to keep rates unchanged, the prevailing thesis is that equity markets appear to be pricing in at the moment is of a pre-emptive Fed that is set to provide insurance similar to the 1995 and 1998 episodes. 

But is it?

In a scenario where the Fed and/or other central banks fail to cut by as much as markets expect, perhaps because growth turns out to be better than expected, the upside for equities from better growth news could be offset by a bond selloff via the mechanism described above.

Finally, in the third and most painful for the bulls, scenario where the Fed and/or other central banks end up being rather reactive and cut rates in response to weak growth, equities could follow a weak trajectory similar to more typical previous Fed easing cycles, rather than the strong trajectory seen during 1995 or 1998. For those who need a reminder, it is also the case that the last three recessions all followed within a few months after the Fed’s first rate cut. Furthermore as @Northmantrader recently pointed out, every time the FED cut their rates while unemployment was below 4%, a recession started almost immediately?

In other words, of the above three scenarios only one scenario, that of a pre-emptive Fed that is set to provide insurance similar to the 1995 and 1998 episodes, is positive for equities. 

And here a problem emerges, because as Bullard explained last week, preemptive means cutting rates when growth indicators are still good rather than waiting for growth indicators to weaken. 

And this brings up what JPMorgan believes is the most important question following this week’s FOMC meeting:

“If the Fed is truly committed to preemptive rate cuts in order to provide insurance why did it not cut its policy rate this week?”

* * *

And while not necessarily connected to JPM’s line of reasoning, if perfectly summarizing the zeitgeist on the continued Fed manipulation and intervention in markets, here is a must-read quote from Steve Chiavarone, a portfolio manager with Federated Investors: 

“Everyone, whether they admit it or not, believes that there needs to be some major comeuppance, some cleansing moment, because for whatever reason the good puritan instinct that lies in America feels as though you can only cleanse through some level of pain. There’s an obsession of when the next recession is going to come. What I think has been forgotten is that if you want lower for longer, you also have to accept the longer part of it. And that’s what we’re getting.”

We are indeed, but with the business cycle set to become the longest in history in just one week…

… the questions of just how much longer can the Fed keep indefinitely postponing the “longer” part will only grow louder, until finally not even the monetary Atlas that is Jay Powell, can keep the sky from falling any longer.
— Read on www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-06-23/jpmorgan-there-now-just-one-scenario-positive-stocks

Shocking Before And After Photos Reveal The Truth About The Widespread Crop Failures The U.S. Is Facing In 2019 | The Economic Collapse

Torrential rains have been hammering the heartland of America for months, and at this point vast stretches of farmland in the middle of the country are nothing but mud.  As a result of the endless rain and unprecedented flooding that we have witnessed, millions of acres of farmland will have nothing planted on them at all in 2019, and that is a major national crisis.  But most farmers were able to get seeds planted in the deplorable conditions, and now they are desperately hoping that something will actually grow.  Unfortunately, on farm after farm what is coming out of the ground looks absolutely terrible.  Even if we get ideal weather conditions for the rest of the summer, there is no way that many of these fields will be ready before the first hard frost arrives.  As you will see below, the truth is that we are potentially facing the most widespread crop failures in all of U.S. history.

This is the biggest news story in America so far this year, and the mainstream media is finally starting to understand the gravity of what we are facing.  Just consider the following quote from a recent Quartz article

The stories across the Midwest are wrenching. Scrolling through the #NoPlant19  hashtag turns up dozens of posts about farmers staring out at soggy fields or farm equipment foundering in deep mud. It’s likely many will see their harvests devastated this year, and global grain prices could spike.

But of course a picture is worth a thousand words, and so let me share a before and after photo that a farming couple in Indiana named Kyle and Tori Kline recently shared on Facebook…

According to Tori, the corn was almost above Kyle’s head at this time last year, but today it is barely out of the ground…

“These two pictures speaks volumes to the crisis American Farmers are facing this spring. Kyle is about 6’3” and the corn was nearly above his head. Most corn around our area is lucky to be out of the ground, let alone knee high. It’s just some food for thought for those who think farmers are “rich” or “greedy” or what have you. It’s the reason food and gas prices will be getting higher as the summer goes on. I pray for those who didn’t or still haven’t gotten their crops in – for their safety and mental health. This year will be one to remember.”

Do you think that corn is going to be ready when harvest time rolls around?

And of course the Klines are far from alone.  All over the nation, farmers are facing either dramatically reduced yields or no harvest at all.

Let me share four more extremely disturbing before and after photos that were recently posted to Facebook by TD Hale

We have never seen anything like this before.

Now that you have seen these pictures, are you starting to understand why so many of us have been warning that U.S. agricultural production is going to be way, way down this year?

Corn is not supposed to grow in mud, but due to the horrific weather conditions many farmers in the middle of the country had absolutely no choice in the matter.  For example, corn farmer Scott Labig confessed that he was “ashamed” of what the nightmarish weather conditions forced him to do…

Labig was doing something he had never done in his career. Something his father and his grandfather never did either in their time working this same land for the last century.

“I am ashamed of how I am planting corn today,” Labig told Campbell on the phone. “This is terrible.”

He was putting seeds into mud. How could things actually grow in this mess?

If you do not live in the middle of the country, you may have a difficult time grasping the true scope of what we are potentially facing.

If farmers do not grow our food, we do not eat.  This is not a drill, and widespread crop failures are going to have dramatic implications for all of us in the months ahead.  Food prices are going much higher, and I urge you to get prepared while you still can.

According to John Newton, the chief economist at the American Farm Bureau Federation, we have never faced “anything like this since I’ve been working in agriculture”.  We are truly in unprecedented territory already, and it won’t take very much at all to turn 2019 into a complete and utter national catastrophe.

If the weather is absolutely perfect for the next few months, 2019 will still be a horrible, horrible year for farmers in the middle of the country.

But if the rain doesn’t stop, or if there is too much heat, or if a very early hard frost happens, we could be facing a national nightmare that is beyond what most of us would even dare to imagine.

And guess what?  Over the weekend the middle of the country was pounded by even more severe storms

Hundreds of people were without power in Missouri and Kansas on Sunday as storms ripped through the area, prompting officials to warn drivers to remain off the roads as flash flood warnings were in effect.

Until 8:45 a.m. central time, a flash flood warning was in effect in Missouri’s Trenton, Bethany and Gallatin cities, according to the National Weather Service, while such warnings were in effect until 8:30 a.m. central time in Saint Joseph, Atchison and Savannah.

Just when you think that this crisis cannot possibly get any worse, it does.

Please share this article with your family, friends and those that you care about.  People need to understand what is going on out there.

We are literally watching a massive national crisis unfold right in front of our eyes, and I will do my best to continue to keep you updated.
— Read on theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/shocking-before-and-after-photos-reveal-the-truth-about-the-widespread-crop-failures-the-u-s-is-facing-in-2019